A Cold Night on the Town

It has been grey and cold and miserable here for about a week. I don’t complain about the heat, so I’m allowed to complain about the cold. 😀 It’s worse in the house since it retains the cold — I’ve woken up many nights having to find socks or an extra blanket. I really have a hard time getting going in this sort of weather so with my huge typing marathon last weekend and just general busyness this week meant that I haven’t gone out just to have some fun in quite a bit. Even though I was exhausted by the end of the afternoon, I was determined to head out and have some fun!

There were two things going on in Centro that seemed interesting, so I quit around five and headed out on foot. I had to turn around quickly, though, and swap my light cotton cardi for my fleece hoodie! I would regret not packing socks as well!

My first stop was the Remate de Paseo de Montejo, and then Plaza Grande in the heart of Centro, about a 5.5KM journey. I decided to walk there and bus back.

The Monumento a la Patria is really pretty when it’s lit up at night.

At the Remate Pasejo de Montejo was the “Festival del Sabor” — festival of flavours, with a bunch of food trucks and live music. I haven’t yet mastered photos in the dark with bright lights, so I don’t have much to show you about this fun event.

I looked at all the food options and knew I wanted tacos (yes, I do eat as many tacos as you might think I do…). BUT I’ve pretty much only been having al pastor tacos since I got here since they are the most ubiquitous and I’m sorta kinda tired of them. So I wanted to try something different. The lady in charge of this truck had time to chat about their offerings.

I ended up ordering three tacos with poc chuc (pork marinated in sour orange) and crumbled longaniza, which was described to me as a smoked sausage and which is very similar to chorizo. I declined cheese since I still can’t wrap my brain around a taco having cheese. They came topped with a really hot red sauce and some cabbage. I added guacamole, lime, some spicy green peppers, and garlic sauce. They were really good and a welcome change of pace!

My tastebuds needed to drown in something refreshing after that, so of course, my next stop was the beer tent! I knew from my previous experience drinking Patito craft beer that it would be expensive, but totally worth it. I had the stout, which was very delicious and extinguished my tastebud bonfire.

As I sat at a table enjoying my beer, a lady came and asked if she could join me and reserve the rest of the chairs for her friends. Of course! She pulled a beer out of her purse, clinked my glass, and teased me about my expensive tastes, which was hilarious since she was drinking Modelo, which is one of the higher end/more expensive commercial beers. She was pleased that I got the joke. Very nice lady, but we didn’t chat long since the music started. Unfortunately, I can’t stay long at these events with music since they are incredibly loud and bassy, which makes me ill. So I decided to continue on to Plaza Grande.

Stage at the food fest.

I grabbed some gelato on my walk, going full out for two scoops and a cone. Do I know how to live it up or what? 🙂

The cathedral was lit up with pretty coloured lights:

At Plaza Grande, there was a Chinese circus-type thing going on. Lots of acrobatics and music.

I watched that for a bit and then walked around Plaza Grande waiting for the next show, which was supposed to start at 8:00.

I actually got a seat for that. By the time the show started, it was well past 8:30 and the audience was frozen. There were a lot of complaints from the people around me. And then, we’d been promised a demonstration of a Mayan sport and instead the event started with a light show against the cathedral that told the story of Mérida, which is celebrating its 456th birthday this year. This would have been a good time if it hadn’t been so cold and the audio had been much, much better (even the native Spanish speakers shouldn’t understand most of what was said).

By 9:00, I gave up on seeing the Mayan show because I was absolutely done for the day and falling asleep in my seat! The crowd had considerably thinned out by this point as others fled the chilly night.

I went around the corner and jumped on a bus that was about as cold inside as is an igloo (yes, I’ve been in an igloo).

This bus was in terrible shape, but, thankfully, the driver didn’t drive like a maniac! There was tons of traffic coming out of Centro and I could have walked that bit faster, but we finally picked up speed and I was glad that I’d taken the bus as I really was tuckered out. I think the bus rate raise to a whopping $13 (almost double) is going to happen and that will dampen my enthusiasm about taking the bus (imagine what it will do for those here who earn minimum wage!), but as long as it translates into newer (read safer) buses, it really should go through. At any rate, I was glad that after all the walking I did, I was able to get home so easily and cheaply.

I remain amazed and impressed by all the free things there are to do daily in Mérida! Unfortunately, so many of those things are in the evenings and I’m just done in by that time. 🙁 But I am subscribed to a ton of newsletters and Facebook pages, so I know what’s going on and have no trouble finding something to do when the mood strikes me to go out!

A Kitchen to Cook In

I’ve finally got my new kitchen all set up just the way I like it! The room isn’t perfect, but I’ve got it arranged perfectly to work with what I have and it is the second room (after the master bathroom) that actually feels “done.” I’m sure I’ll keep doing tweaks, but having had a chance to spend so much time in it before buying the final pieces, I’m super close!

Before I share some photos, I want to talk about my philosophy of kitchen organisation. I have a huge issue with the current trend of very minimalist (and usually white) kitchens that are open to the rest of the house.

One of my favourite TV shows is “Grand Designs.” Recently, I watched their “House of Year 2017” programme and host Kevin McCloud articulated well my opinion on current kitchen trends. The gist of it is that kitchens are such a part of our living space now that they become furniture and we need to put away all the tools to keep the lines clean and simple.

Well, I believe that a kitchen is supposed to be a working room, not a precious magazine layout. I cannot stand kitchens where I have to put away ten times in a day something just because it doesn’t look nice on a counter. When I’ve got a pan on the stove, I don’t want to have to open a drawer and rummage to find a spoon. When I’ve got a handful of garbage, I don’t want to have to open (and dirty) a door to get to the garbage can. When I go grocery shopping, I don’t want to have to move tins around in a bottomless cupboard to see what I have.

So I’m all for open shelving and crocks of things on display in my kitchen. Moreover, I live in a humid tropical climate in which air flow is critical. So an open display kitchen makes a lot more sense than one where things are stored in cabinets to grow mildew in the dark.

But at the same time, I can’t stand excess clutter in my kitchen. It boggles me how people will have useless decorative objects on display in their kitchens and all their tools behind doors or in drawers. I buy the very best tools I can afford and when I can, I choose the prettiest too. This way, what I have out can look nice at the same time as being useful. And since I don’t have more than I need in my kitchen and use my things regularly, they are always clean.

All that to say, I know that the vast majority of my readers will not find my kitchen to their taste — it is too “cluttered,” too colourful, too full of disparate elements, too much the antithesis of what decor magazines and shows in the US and Canada say a kitchen should aspire to be. And that is precisely why I love it so much — because it is a customisable space that I was able to build to suit my specific needs and tastes, not the trend du jour.

So all that out of the way, here’s my kitchen! You can open up all the photos to full size and then click on it to really zoom in and see all the details if you’re curious.

My favourite thing about my kitchen is that it is a separate room that I can close off from the rest of the house. But at the same time, I can leave the door and windows to the dining room open and still chat with people. Best of both worlds!

I love how perfectly that shelving unit fits here.

My second favourite thing about this room is how bright it is, day and night. I was going to wait until daytime to take the pictures, but figured why wait? 🙂

The room really is huge, but it’s not really well laid out. It’s clear that it’s actually two rooms that were put together, so there are awkward bump-outs. Existing features — the ceramic countertop, stove hook-up, large storage cupboard, and outlets all dictated where certain things could be placed.

Let me take you around clockwise from the above photo. So here’s my fridge again, which I’m of course in love with. 🙂 I’m enjoying the water dispenser so much!

Next is my pantry bookcase. I’m still in the process of building up my pantry, so this and the turquoise shelving unit have so far been plenty of space. The hook on the bump-out was there when I moved in and is the perfect spot for my apron.

The built-in ceramic countertop area is next on our tour and is in the other room. It is best used for storage because it is against outside walls. If I prepare food on those counters and miss a spot cleaning up, I have ants within minutes. This is why I went with a food prep island, which I’ll get into below. There’s heaps of cabinet space under the counters, but that area is absolutely unusable as it is very smelly and damp. I’ve tried every method I could think of to dry out the space and fresh it up, but it’s proving to be an impossible task. It’s a shame that the kitchen has these cabinets instead of just shelves under a counter, as I’ve seen in a lot of other houses, but it is what it is.

To the left of the sink, I keep my garbage bin, which gets emptied at least once a day. I also keep my dish pan. Dishes are rinsed before going into it. When it’s full, I wash them. This makes it easier to only have one sink basin and keeps me from accumulating too many dirty dishes.

To the right of the sink is the dish rack. It’s more sanitary in this climate to let dishes air dry than to dry them with a cloth and put them away not 100% dry. So the dish rack is always out and usually full since I cook and wash dishes throughout the day.

Across from that is the microwave. There is nowhere else in the kitchen to plug it in, so it has to live there. Next to the microwave is my cubbies with utensils. You’ll notice it’s blushing now. 🙂 That project isn’t done! Then, I have a series of containers holding cooking utensils. I only had the pink bucket and orange crock for years, but found adorable square buckets at Bodega and decide to use one to expand my storage a tad.

I wish the stove was centred under the window, with counter space on each side, but it is what it is. That fan above works, but notice the short extension cord? It doesn’t reach the outlet! I’d really like to speak with the designer of this kitchen. 😀 I am going to get a short extension cord to make it reach because it’s nice having the light right above the stove. My stove continues to be great. 🙂

One thing I never figured out in Miranda was the perfect place to put my Ove Gloves, the only oven mitts that can handle hot cast iron. I do wish they were a tad easier on the eyes, but I’d rather burn my eyes than my hands! 😉 I did some research and found out that 3M makes Command Hooks with a clip, but couldn’t find them locally or on Amazon to ship to Mexico. So I instead found suction cup clips that actually seem better than the Command Hook clips. They are large and sturdy and I’m so far very happy with them.

Command Hooks bought locally are on the other side of the stove to hold my BBQ lighter for lighting the oven and my chainmail scrubber for my cast iron cookware.

My custom kitchen cart is next on this tour and is working perfectly for its intended purpose. I keep my coffee making supplies in another one of those cute square buckets I recently found. I had to replace my kettle very recently since the element on my previous one was literally disintegrating! I was very disappointed since the previous kettle had been working so well for me, but the new one is very similar, just one step up in quality. I used to make breakfast on the island, but now that I can take my toast, turn around, and use the island, I do that. Coffee and tea still get made on the cart.

The big cabinet comes next. The top and bottom cupboards are full of empty containers and jars and things I don’t use much. They are really cavernous and will need a proper organisational makeover at some point but work fine for now.

I used more Command Hooks in the cabinet since I knew the hooks wouldn’t damage it. On one side is a hook for my cutting mats.

On the other, one holds my sieve.

My favourite part of the large cabinet is the drawer that holds plastic bags, wrap, and a variety of tools, including my cheese grater and a mandoline. By the way, I love having my pots laid out like that — no rummaging to find the one I need (or its lid!).

Finally, here’s the cabinet that holds dishes and small appliances. It’s just enough room for what I use regularly. I have a bit of overflow in the dining room buffet. I parked my grocery cart (which was not intentionally turquoise — that’s all they had!) there for now since there’s space for it, it’s out of the way, and it’s too pretty to park out of sight!

Finally, in the middle of the room is my stainless steel island. I knew from the first visit to this house that I wanted a stainless steel island as it would be the easiest to keep sanitary for food prep, not because of the appearance. You have no idea how many times I came this close to buying a wooden island with a tiled top, rather like my counters, but I knew I’d regret it.

I shopped really hard for my island and ended up buying it from Costco. I contacted a commercial stainless steel furniture manufacturer here in Mérida and they admitted they couldn’t beat Costco’s price for a comparable table and their prices for a more customised piece were well beyond my budget. I also had no luck finding one used. I am very happy with what I got as it’s the perfect width and length for the space.

On the shelf below, I put four baskets to hold dish towels and cleaning rags, with the basket on the far left being my laundry hamper for the ground floor. I was surprised by how many stores I had to visit to find something suitable and have determined that Bodega Aurrera is the place for me to find pretty and affordable plastic containers. Unfortunately, stores like Walmart and Chedraui are moving to the very bland palette that is ubiquitous NOB and products at little local shops tend not to be made of the best plastic.

I stuck another suction cup clip on the end of the table to hold the drying mat I use when I have too many dishes for the drying rack:

I didn’t expect to be able to buy the table in December (never mind it and all my appliances!), but a client sent me a generous bonus that covered almost the entire purchase. When I went to check out, Costco told me that if I added just one more peso’s worth of merchandise to my cart, I’d get 500 pesos off. So I added a set of Pyrex containers with snap-on plastic lids that were on sale for 500 pesos and got an addition 499 pesos off them. 🙂 I was really missing good storage containers and these have gotten a surprising amount of use since I got them!

While I’m still getting used to a kitchen where I can’t just turn from the stove to grab something out of the fridge or a cupboard (okay, a kitchen that probably has the square footage of my entire last home), I am pleased with how quickly I’ve stepped into a routine with it. Since there is a home for everything and so much space to spread out, it is super easy to keep the kitchen clean and tidy. I’ve been doing really well at keeping the island clear for food prep and at resetting my kitchen every night. As time and the budget loosen, I’m starting to look at recipes again and to really cook in a way that I haven’t in a long time. That shrimp salad I made tonight is something I’ve been craving for ages and while so simple, did need a surprising amount of prep room.

I really loved my kitchen in Miranda and had it “just so.” It was quite difficult the three winters I had to cook in other homes, even if I was using my own things for two of those seasons. Cooking in other people’s kitchens for the better part of a year in Europe really made me crave not just my own utensils, but my own space that I could lay out as I pleased. Having this room done really makes the house feel like it’s my home now, not Miranda. I’m done being maudlin about that and ready to look towards the future and the life I’m going to build here. This kitchen is almost exactly the room of my dreams and I look forward to seeing what culinary masterpieces I create in it!