Advanced Planning

When I was at Home Depot the other day, I happened to find myself in the curtain aisle staring at the exact same type of almost effective blackout curtains as I have in Miranda. In a rich dark pink. Pink only on sale. Patience with temporary solutions in the bedroom had paid off! Only… how would I install them? Until I answered that question, I decided not to buy them.

The house came with vertical blinds on almost all the windows. They’re really not great window coverings. I did a YouTube search for how to upgrade vertical blinds in a rental and came up with this fantastic video (by a fellow Quebecer)!

The hooks! That’s what I used in Miranda!

I figured that if Parisina (fabric and craft store like Hobby Lobby or Michaels) didn’t have them, no one in Mérida would. So I went there a couple of nights ago (the night I had sushi). I asked for “ganchos para cortinas” and showed them the above picture. First sales clerk told me to go to the back and ask at the fabric cutting table. I did so and the second lady pulled a baggie of them from under the counter. I could only buy a bag of fifty, which I decided was okay because I want to buy blackout curtains for the guest room and I need a better window covering in the office. Cost for the baggie of hooks? I was almost embarrassed to go to the till — 6 pesos!

Now, I was just missing the curtains and I planned to pick them up Saturday — today! At the same time, I was going to do a Bodega Aurrea and Chedraui run for another project, which I’ll get into below. I got up earlier than I would have liked and knocked out a job in record time, then set off around 11:30. Here’s my map of my errands today:

When I got in a mere two hours later, I carefully removed the slats from the blinds in my bedroom. I would have liked the double layer of darkness protection, but they flap so badly I can’t have the windows open in there! I then hung the curtains from the blinds’ rail using the hooks. Not perfect as the curtains don’t move well, but this will do just fine as I can at least have the windows open during the day to air out the room.

The light doesn’t do justice to the colour, which perfectly matches the blanket on my bed. The pop of colour helps immensely as well. I’d love to find a giant area rug that colour. The problem with the bedroom is that it is very empty and so it echoes badly. I don’t think that outside noises are as loud as they actually seem to be. A fluffy rug would definitely help to dampen the noise. Eventually, I’ll get a bigger bed, which will help as well (still in no rush — fearful I won’t find on my budget a bed as comfy as the twin I’m sleeping on now!).

Really, I’d probably be better off sleeping downstairs in the maid’s room, which would be much darker and quieter, but I love having my little suite upstairs. Another thing I’m considering is getting a four-poster bed and lining it with a double layer of blackout and noise-dampening curtains. Of course, that would mean I’d have to run the AC at night, but I’m starting to think that’s an inevitability. The ceiling fan alone isn’t going to be enough in the summer — it would need a cross-breeze from the windows — but I need the windows closed because of the noise. The AC run on high would both cut the humidity and give me some white noise so, really, I should accept that that’s the solution.

The other project I was working on was to make a bunch of meals for my new crockpot. I Googled something like “crockpot freezer recipes” and the first link was exactly what I wanted, 20 easy meals with real ingredients to be batch prepped and put in the freezer. The night before, you take a bag out to thaw and in the morning, pop it in the crockpot to cook all day. Twenty meals meant to feed four people each was an insane quantity of food for a single person to prepare at once so I narrowed the list down to 15, eliminating anything with ingredients, like dried onion soup mix, that I knew I couldn’t get here. I then put together my shopping list for the recipes I wanted to make and decided that I’d get what I could at Bodega Aurrera and then go to Chedraui if I needed to for the more “exotic” ingredients, like fresh ginger and also for some beef as I already had tons of pork and chicken at home. I was also ready to substitute for local ingredients, of course.

To my surprise, Bodega had everything I needed and I didn’t have to compromise on the quality of anything — I was even happy with the beef I found. I was so pleased because that meant I didn’t have to make an extra stop for just a few things. I only made three substitutions. I don’t eat green peppers and the coloured peppers were almost as expensive as in Canada and looked awful. Instead, I went with poblano peppers, which have a similar-ish flavour to green, but are a bit more robust (and occasionally you get one that’s hot!). I also subbed a bag of frozen mangos for a bag of frozen peaches (even if there had been fresh peaches available, which there weren’t, I wasn’t going to be blanch, peel, and dice them!). Finally, locals use a granular brown sugar more like “Sugar in the Raw” than the moist stuff we use NOB and I bought that for the recipes that needed brown sugar.

I got in, had a quick lunch of fried chicken from Bodega, put up my curtains, had a nap (I’m getting to that age), and then got going on the food prep! I put out everything I thought I’d need as I still thought I was doing close to 15 recipes, but I hadn’t planned my meat well and most of my chicken was frozen in portions that would require a double batch.

So I further narrowed things down to five recipes, with one being a double batch. That was still a lot of meals sorted and there would be a variety of flavours.

The first thing I prepped was Ginger Peach Chicken, substituting mango. I’ll be having this one tomorrow! I didn’t have quite enough chicken for it so I added some pork chops as I had too much of those for another meal and not enough for two meals! I didn’t make any other tweaks to this one as it seemed to be a good balance of salty, sweet, and spicy.

Next up was beef and broccoli. The thinly sliced beef here seemed perfect for that. I used the Chinese style “soy” sauce that I found at Bodega — no actual soy in it but the flavour was right and Japanese style soy sauce wouldn’t have been rich enough. I bought a bag of broccoli to have it waiting in the freezer for whenever I decide to make this one (hard to get nice fresh broccoli here).

Up next was pork chops with apples and sweet potatoes. Slight hiccup, no sweet potatoes. Hopefully I can find some ahead of making this, otherwise I’ll just do without. I had to use the thinly sliced pork instead of thicker chops, so it will be interesting to see how it turns out. I found gala apples at Bodega that looked too mealy for eating out of hand but which should be lovely in this. Only place I goofed is I thought I had tons of balsamic vinegar, but I only had one tablespoon of the three needed! So I added two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar instead.

The double batched item was garlic lemon chicken as I knew it would be super versatile. I subbed oregano for the parsley for more of a Greek taste and my friend Vicki who is the exact opposite of a vampire will be happy that I doubled the garlic. 😉 Oh, and I had lemons in the freezer, otherwise this one would have gotten a pass as I would have had to go to a higher end grocery story to find lemons (no, lime is generally not a substitute for lemon and vice-versa!).

Finally, I look forward to black bean fajitas. I’ll try to be super organized and remember to take that one out during the day to cook overnight so I can pair it with fresh corn tortillas for a super healthy breakfast! For this one, I used the poblanos instead of bell peppers and I also added a pinch of salt. I had the cumin and chili powder on hand for this recipe. Had I not, I wouldn’t have made it as those two spices can be very difficult to find here. I’d probably have good luck with the cumin since it’s used in Lebanese cuisine, which is popular in Mérida, but I know that chili powder is a tough one.

I thought I’d have to use the freezer on the other fridge, but I managed to get everything into the kitchen freezer! Don’t think I can get anything else in it, but boy is that a lovely sight!

All this food prep took only just over an hour (!) and barely generated any dishes (!!!). I am already a huge fan, but let’s see how things taste before I do it again. 🙂

I’m glad I went to Bodega today because remember those adorable turquoise baskets with a woven pattern that I found for my fridge? I saw them again in lime green, which I wasn’t crazy about, and a pretty orangey red that didn’t go with anything else in the house. So when I saw them today in purple and pink, I had to grab four of each of those colours! They were so inexpensive that it didn’t matter that I didn’t have a need for them right then and there. I know a use will materialise somewhere in the house!

It’s been a very, very full day and I have to work tomorrow so time to reheat last night’s leftovers, crash with a movie, and hope that tomorrow’s mango ginger pork chicken is yummy. 🙂

Adventures in the Labyrinth

My neighbourhood of Chuburná de Hidalgo is recognised as being a veritable labyrinth of short streets, streets at odd angles, and one ways. It is an absolute nightmare to drive in, but a fun one in which to ambulate. Of course, I’m terrible at taking pictures when I go out exploring because I tend to not remember to bring my phone. 🙁

Yesterday’s adventures took me to the northwest part of the neighbourhood.

Even though I was picking up something heavy, it was going to be much easier to walk than take the truck, so I headed out mid-afternoon with my wheelie cart. That sounds like a good idea in theory, but the sidewalks, when they exist, are terrible and the streets are narrow, so it’s actually quite difficult to walk with a wheelie cart and not be in the way of cars while minimising how much you have to lift the cart up or down. That’s why I never bothered getting one in Maz, but it makes sense to have one here for a few places I go to regularly.

The item I was going to pick up was a brand new still sealed in the box Crockpot for about $200 less than I would pay at Costco (I think the lady just couldn’t be bothered to return it after not needing it):

My current food management lack of system is not working for me and I’m going to try the “prep a bunch of meals on a weekend afternoon and fill the freezer for the weekday” method, where you put everything into gallon Ziplocs, thaw overnight, and then throw the contents in the Crockpot the next morning. I also like the idea of being able to cook whole joints of meat in the crockpot without heating up the house too much. At any rate, I’ve been wanting for ages to try crockpotting with a bigger unit than what I currently and was kind of waiting for a large programmable oval with removable liner to fall into my lap so I guess it’s time!

Today was going to be an Errand Day. I really needed to do a Costco run and also pick up something I saw on the garage sale site. There was going to be no good way to plan my route and backtracking was inevitable, so I just got on it.

First stop was Scotiabank and I also needed to go to a HSBC, with the one in Gran Plaza making the most sense. I’m starting to know my immediate area well and I knew that to get to Gran Plaza, I’d have to take Calle 9 and that there’s a Scotiabank almost at the corner of Calle 9 and Prolongación Paseo de Montejo. Since it was on the wrong side of Prolongación, I parked on side street off of Calle 9 and walked a block and a half and back to the ATM, approaching it from behind. Sounds convoluted, but was really the most efficient way of doing that.

Then, I headed to Gran Plaza (3) by way of Pemex (2) for fuel. I hadn’t taken my truck out since the last week of December (!) and forgot that I’d parked her while she was nearly on E! I did my withdrawal at HSBC and had lunch at the food court, then headed out to DHL in Xcumpich (4). It would have made sense to do Costco first, but we’re back to boiling temps and I didn’t know how long the DHL visit would take. So I didn’t want to chance parking for any length of time with food in the truck.

That was smart thinking since I was at DHL for a quite a while, but everything finally got sorted and I was able to continue on to Costco (5). Costco was a mad house. I could not believe how many people were there early on a Tuesday afternoon. That was good in a way since it eliminated any desire on my part to browse. I came in for what I needed (almond milk! peanut butter! English muffins! meat!), a few treats (chocolate almond milk! sausage! cheese!) and got out much more quickly than I expected, although I had to forgo the mango smoothie as the food court line was super long and I needed to get home, unload, and then go to my final stop of the day.

That final stop was actually not that far away, but with the one ways, I had to do quite a few more turns than if I’d walked.

What was I going to pick up? Well, my current areas of interest in the house for sprucing up are the entrance and my bedroom. I’ve been watching the various sales sites for extremely specific things and even had rough drawings made out to send to the carpenter for a quote if I didn’t find anything this month.

One of the things I wanted was a small dressing table with a couple of drawers and a mirror for my entrance. I’ve noticed that I always put on and take off my head scarves by the door, so I wanted storage for them there, as well as place underneath to stash my bags and a few pairs of sandals, plus a mirror for a final spot check. I had a very clear idea in mind of the size and shape of what I wanted and this was exactly it!

The perfect colour and cute vintage distressed look are a bonus! The lady was super nice and held it for me for a few days until I could get there. I’m so pleased and my entrance now looks so neat instead of having a bunch of stuff piled on a table. All the lettering on the découpage bits is in French, by the way (click the picture to embiggen and see the details). 🙂

Now, time to focus on the bedroom! Hopefully, I can get back to Home Depot this week as I found there last week something I’d despaired finding but couldn’t buy right then as I didn’t have measurements. Stay tuned for another not so riveting instalment of “Yes, I’ll Make a Better Effort to Take Out My Camera Next Time!”