The Magic of Beginnings

As I approach the end of the first full month of living in the house, I’m starting to understand the magnitude of what I’m getting into regarding upkeep of what is practically a mansion to someone who has lived in an RV for the better part of a decade!

But as I suspected, the more settled I get and keep on top of the daily chores, the more time appears to deal with the extra chores, like taking care of the garden. As a case in point, I found a couple of hours in the last few days to weed and also trim cacti (ouch). I love the view from one of my kitchen windows and it’s even better without tons of weeds!

The housekeeping is taking the time that it takes, but I’m on top of it. I do possibly have a house cleaner lined up to come in once a month just to do the floors and bathrooms in depth to start and am just waiting a month or so until I have the funds to pay a lawyer to draw up an employment contract before I hire her (or someone else if she’s no longer available at that time…).

I did the math and I can earn in less than two hours what it would cost me to hire someone for six hours, freeing up four hours to do something else. I doubt I’ll ever want a full service housekeeper (I’m fussy about having my things touched and not put back in the right place), but if I can work up to have six hours of help per week to do the bathrooms, floors, windows, and dusting of the public spaces, that would be fantastic.

I’ve also been doing some cooking. With the fridge not working right, I’m shopping almost daily, which is good for the budget and health since I’m having lots of fresh veggies and meat. I’ve been mostly buying my food at the Super Aki up the street because I don’t have time to shop-shop these days and they’re so convenient. I buy whatever meat and produce looks good that day.

Yesterday, to my delight, they not only had yellow onions, but they were on mega offer. I was sad that I couldn’t stock up (onions need to be stored in the fridge here if not eaten straight away). Mexicans tend to favour white and red onions, neither of which caramelises the way a yellow onion does (but which are nicer raw!), and I can only think of one other time that I’ve seen yellow onions since I got to the area (I don’t even remember seeing them in Maz). So I got a few of those, as it’s been cooler and less humid and I doubt they will spoil practically overnight.

At the butcher counter, I picked out the biggest boneless turkey breast they had, which cost a ridiculous $30 (2CAD) — I really need to compare the cost of turkey to chicken! 300 grams of ground pork was so inexpensive it was almost free ($17 or about 0.80CAD!). Between the two, I had at least six if not eight meals sorted!

I came in and put together a lovely stir fry with the turkey, onion, carrot, zucchini, and turkey, plus garlic I had on hand, adding commercial sweet chili sauce and soy sauce. The pork will go to making spaghetti sauce in a day or two.

Now, the fridge. It is sadly in need of repair. 🙁 I contact LG Mexico and they confirmed that what I’m seeing with the lights on the control panel is a code indicating a problem with the control panel. The guy who sold it to me said that he can try to repair it for a few pesos or pick it up and give me a partial refund, which, after three months, is incredibly fair of him.

I’ve come to the realisation that I approached the fridge purchase with the wrong attitude — sure, I don’t need a fancy new fridge, but if I lose groceries because of poor cooling and freezing, I’m out even more money. Moreover, while I have no certainty that I will be in this house more than two years, it would take some pretty extraordinary circumstances for me to commit to Mérida for less than four years. So since a fridge is going to be a long-term purchase, I’m going to be buying a brand new one rather than taking a chance on another used one or a repair of this one. The new one will probably be smaller than this one and I’m sad that I’ve missed out on all the November sales, but I’ll at least have some peace of mind that it most likely won’t go out on me as well as a proper warranty if it does.

I should be in a position to make a purchase Wednesday next week. I’m again looking for something fairly low frill and bargain brands like Mabe and Daewoo make nice units at affordable prices, less than $6,000 (about 400CAD) for a tad smaller than what I have now. Some even have a water dispenser, which I have to say would be really nice to have (there’s an attachment available to make this feature work with the 20 gallon water jugs)! I’ve only been shopping online and will be going to local stores to see if they have leftover stock or floor models from the November sales at even better prices.

I don’t know yet if I’ll accept a partial refund on the current fridge. I think I will first try to resell it for more than the offered refund, yes, with full disclosure. The freezer on it is very good and when you put the fridge on the coldest settings, it is is the same temperature as the freezer so it could actually work as an upright freezer. I’ve considered keeping it for that, but decided that I don’t need that much freezer space!

Once I’ve got a good fridge sorted, the next priority will be to do a really good pantry-building shop, then to find a washing machine. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get a range by February. I’ve shopped hard for that already since I need one with cast iron grills as well as an oven with not only a broiler, but which also holds its heat. That leaves out anything by low-end brand Mabe, but the next Mexican brand up in terms of quality, Koblenz, appears to have what I want and for less than I’d pay for an international brand like Whirlpool. So that’s something to work hard towards. 🙂 The hot plate continues to serve me well enough, but it really doesn’t generate enough heat. Going to a proper stove will be such a treat!

I’m grateful to have had a really good month of work despite the US Thanksgiving. I was a bit concerned about December since it was such a slow month last year. The promise of another book editing contract eased my worries a bit until everything changed and I was reminded to trust the magic of beginnings. For what else could come with a new house in a new country but a new career?

I started with a new, non-transcription, client when I was in Europe, gradually taking on more tasks. In the spring, they asked me to take on a part-time admin assistant-type role that would have been a dream job. Unfortunately, it was an absolutely terrible time for me to consider taking the job — I had just returned to Canada, was heading back to Haven where I had no internet access and would need to focus on packing, and then I was taking about two weeks to move to Mexico! I was bummed when they said they couldn’t wait for me and had to hire someone else.

Well, that someone else, while great at the job, has even more aptitude for another part of the business and so she’s migrating there and her job is now available to me! We’ve worked out a deal on a retainer so I can feel comfortable dropping one of my transcription clients. I am super excited at the thought of spending half my time doing this sort of work and then spending the other half doing transcription jobs that I actually like and that are truly worth my time.

My big goal for 2018 was to be able to start taking weekends off and this new job will definitely contribute to that. The stars continue to align for me and and I feel so blessed!

A Good Fit

Monday was pretty much a lost day for me since I’d taken it so easy over the weekend. I worked straight through a very, very long (close to 14-hour) day. My only “break” was a Skype meeting with a client mid-afternoon. I finished close to 9PM, opened a bottle of white wine, and actually made a proper dinner that included chopping vegetables.

No, that’s not eggs. It’s tofu! I found a brand of tofu the other day that is shelf stable (!). I wish I’d bought a few more containers since it wound up being so good. I thought I preferred a really firm tofu to make a scramble, but this was wonderfully silky smooth and probably close to the texture of scrambled eggs. I added onions, carrots, and snow peas (the yellow colour and all the flavour come from turmeric). Breakfast for dinner, but with wine instead of coffee. 🙂 I then enjoyed on Netflix the latest episode of the newest Star Trek series, which I’m thrilled with. I still can’t believe that I would have had no legal way to watch it in Canada but I do here.

Tuesday morning, I took a gamble and made a deposit on a custom furniture order. To be honest, I’m pretty sure I got scammed, but if I didn’t, it will be a fantastic purchase that will go a long way towards finishing the setup of my kitchen. The correspondence I had with the guy tonight didn’t inspire confidence, but I will know Friday.

Then, around noon, I headed out to our little village market to meet an expat lady and help her order a turkey. She’d done it on her own the last time and wasn’t entirely satisfied, so she was thrilled when I offered to go with her as a translator.

Here’s the outside of our market:

The city is working on the market and the park around it. It will be a wonderful space once its done. The lady and I aren’t the only ones who think the Mérida central market in centro is an absolute disgrace for Mérida and overdue for a complete overhaul like this.

The turkey ordering went smoothly. I had a printed out instruction sheet to give to the vendor, but I still discussed it with her. I find that it’s sometimes easier to get what you need if you explain why you need it. For example, last time, the expat didn’t get the skin she wanted around the neck and butt of the turkey. I was able to explain to the vendor that the skin is needed to seal the openings after stuffing the bird and was rewarded with a “AH!” of enlightenment in response to that.

Transaction complete, we got some veggies, gabbed, and then I went to see what the Chinese place had to offer. Wonderful grilled chicken, noodles, an egg roll with filling tasted like egg roll filling, and potato wedges made two nice meals for me for just $45 (3CAD).

Today was going to be another big work day, but this morning, I had to go pick up something I found on the classifieds last night. It was one of those things that was too good to pass up and that I can’t believe I spotted.

There is a little nook on the kitchen side of the breakfast bar that is really just wasted space. It’s not even deep enough to put water jugs. I thought that I should have some shelves made to give me more pantry storage space without having to use up “good” floor space.

This is pretty much what I had in mind:

In the photos, it was filthy and hanging from a wall. I’m convinced that if the seller hadn’t posted the dimensions, I would have scrolled passed it. As you can see, the depth is absolutely perfect, the height is such that the top gives me a long shelf, and the length just about perfectly fits the space. What a find, especially at only $350! Yes, I will be painting it. 🙂 I’m going to wait until Friday to see if my custom order comes in as that will get first priority on the turquoise paint I have left. If I don’t have enough turquoise for both, I’ll go get some orange for this one. 🙂

The pickup point for the shelving was actually quite near to me. I headed out around 11:00, pleased that I’ve finally figured out where to aim my garage door opener to have it open the doors at my first click. I’m still unable to do that reliably while sitting in the truck (meaning I have to run into the yard to open and close the door) and am going to try to have the battery changed as I think that could be the problem. But at least now, I’m almost not concerned that a day could come that I wouldn’t be able to get my truck out when I need to. I am going to have to ask the landlady if she knows who set up the system because, surely, there has to be another way besides the remote to open those doors!

Since I was already out, I decided to swing north to Home Depot in the hopes of getting anti-ant stuff as I haven’t had luck at the few places locally where I’ve looked. Ants are pretty much a given down here. I don’t consider them a problem if I forgot crumbs on the counter while cleaning up in the evening and come down in the morning to find a few ants enjoying the unexpected buffet. That’s just a great incentive to keeping a spotless kitchen. But when they start coming out when I’m preparing food, that’s a real problem.

Home Depot not only had the pellets I needed for outside, but also Terro liquid ant baits, which are the equivalent to using a nuke against ants — they work that well.

Getting home from Home Depot is easy, but a detour since you have to go north to the roundabout at the Chedraui and then come back south again. I did quite a loop this morning, but was only gone an hour:

I got in and set the traps out. The ants were in them within minutes. Now, I have to wait a few days and see if things improve. I still have outside to treat with pellets and hope I won’t have to call an exterminator. Again, I don’t consider ants a major issue, but they are a pain and they do bite, so I like to keep them under control. I’m much less tolerant of things like cockroaches. I caught a few here before I moved in (I think they come up drains, which I saw in Truth or Consequences), but I keep a clean house and have never had a roach problem.

After another big work day (for which I am so grateful), I decided to head up Calle 21 to a restaurant I spotted the other day that’s only open in the evenings. I was pleasantly surprised as it looks brand new. The decor is like what I’d expect a Mexican cantina-type restaurant in a tourist town in the US to look like — lots of dark wood, bright colours, tin roof, tasteful decor. It was absolutely impeccable and super cute. Sorry, I forgot my phone or I’d have a picture. The prices and food were both good.

I ordered about the closest you can get to fajitas in the real Mexico, alambre, which is meat (turkey tonight) grilled with onions, poblano (green non-spicy) peppers, and cheese that you can put into a tortilla and doctor up with stuff, which included Tex-Mex style guacamole. I was even brought a grilled sausage (looked and tasted like a fancy hot dog) as a free appetiser. With a drink and tip, I was out of there for under $85 (5.65CAD) and I didn’t even finish everything! I suspect that I may have found my local Miguel’s, but I still have more exploring to do. At any rate, I can’t wait to take guests there.


I seem to have lost a day…

I cannot for the life of me remember what I did on Friday besides do an inordinate amount of typing. Perhaps that was all. I do remember that as the time crept to 7PM, I discovered that one of my Saturday jobs was so easy I still had energy to do it, which would reduce my Saturday work load, which would reduce my Sunday work load, which would reduce my Monday work load…

So I decided to order a pizza from a place that left a flyer in my mail box. $100 plus a $10 tip got me a surprisingly good humongous pizza (and by that, I mean I got FOUR meals out of it!) with three toppings. In the hour that I would have stopped to make dinner, I was able to do the easy job, finishing literally as the doorbell rang.

So now, I’ve found a good cheap pizza place nearby. 🙂 Sometimes, I want more American-style pizza (think Domino’s, Costco’s or little Caesar’s), but sometimes the cheaper Mexican style is fine. This one’s crust was particularly good, even if the cheese wasn’t quite right, and they sliced the onions the way I like them.

Saturday, I was up stupidly early for some reason and got a mountain of work done before noon. I was just done after that. There were so many things I could have done with my day, but I wasn’t going anywhere or in the mood for chores. I broke out the LEGOs and a series on Netflix and wiled away a very rainy afternoon enjoying not having the pressures of maintaining someone else’s home for the first time in a long time.

Today was another heavy work day, but there were things to do. I managed to get the truck out mid-morning (my automatic garage door opener is giving me grief) to go around the block to the Extra (Circle K in the US) to get two 5 gallons of water since I still haven’t figured out home delivery yet. One block closer and I would have walked them home. If delivery doesn’t get figured out soon, I need to find myself a dolly or something because getting the truck in and out of the parking bay and the doors open and shut took about twice as long as the actual purchase of the water!

Around 1PM, I headed out to the sushi restaurant I recently discovered to try their Sunday buffet. It was decent and good value, but I’ll stick to à la carte from now on. I really must be starting to develop Mexican sushi tastebuds because I found their smoked salmon and cream cheese roll quite good!

Then, I went to Superama to see what treasures I could find. It’s really not a place to buy your basics available at any Mexican supermarket, but it is a great place to find good quality butter and imported veggies and cheeses. I had to laugh as I was looking at the cheese when a lady asked if I wanted to try a sample. I ended up buying a nice hunk of Port Salut for a fraction of what I would have paid in Canada. What a treat that will be!

Going through the small home goods section, I found a lightbulb I thought might fit my bedroom lamp (kept forgetting to look for one!) and I also found, to my immense surprise, something I expected to have to hunt for, a two-prong to three-prong adapter:

Even more surprising, it was only $21 for a pack of three!

These will let me plug my three-prong power bars into the house’s myriad of two-prong outlets.

I contacted APC/Schneider Electric, the manufacturer of my UPS (uninterrupted power supply) to ask them about using their equipment in my high voltage power situation. They really came through with their reply. Based on the info I gave them about the new outlet and how it is grounded, they say that the UPS and its surge protection will still work despite my getting the “building wiring fault” warning light. So I should absolutely keep using it and should favour it for plugging in any of my electronics. I can use the other outlets in the house, for example to plug in an iPad charger overnight or a TV, but the high voltage may damage things over time. So I’m best off to only plug in when I need to. I don’t have an expensive TV or stereo, so now I know I don’t have to worry about the high voltage.

I was pleased when the kid at the cash asked me if I wanted to make a withdrawal with my purchase. I forgot to go to HSBC before going to the sushi restaurant and figured that if I needed cash this week, I could just walk to the bank then, not remembering that cash withdrawals are available at some stores. So the kid saved me some time.

My shopping done, I called my second Uber. It’s pretty funny how it’s almost twice as far to get home from Superama by car as it is to walk, but I wasn’t going to walk since I had heavy things like wine in my bag. The trip only cost me $30, so it was well worth it. I think calling Uber will eventually start to feel part of my routine instead of something still a bit dark and mysterious. I don’t know how much fuel I would have spent driving Moya to the restaurant and then Superama and back, but I do know for sure it would have been more than 2CAD! Plus, I didn’t have to worry about getting her in and out of the garage or parking, I got some exercise walking over there, and I got to enjoy the AC in the Uber car!

When I got in, I tested my lightbulb and, yay, it worked! It’s also similar to the bulbs in the ceiling so now I know what I need to buy to replace the ones that don’t work. Poco a poco… 🙂

Then, extra work came in and I had to get cracking or having a 15-hour day tomorrow. I really need to do at least another now and it’s 8:30. Zzz…. I’m so tired but, thankfully, I’m slowly starting to sleep longer stretches here and might be able to get back on track to solid nights. Hopefully!

I’m approaching the two-week mark of being here and still can’t believe how easily I took to the house. It does help that I had access to it for two months, but still, there has been almost no adaptation period and even with all that I still want to do with it, it’s already home.

Days For Dreaming About the Taco Faery

I didn’t do much yesterday since I was in work mode, including having a long client meeting via Skype at 3:30.

At about 5:00, I went out to my neighbourhood’s “downtown” to see what was open around that time — very little! I did see that our central market is under construction/renovation so it should be a much more pleasant place to shop than the one in Centro. It looks quite large too.

I popped into the Super Aki to see if anything would look good for dinner. I picked up a couple of potatoes, onions, and carrots, then went to the meat counter. The butcher was putting out pork “milanesa” (very thin filets very popular in Yucatecan cuisine) that looked very fresh so I asked for two, which came to 17 pesos. Add in my veggies and dinner and lunch for today cost me about 2CAD total! I forgot how much cheaper it can be to shop at the little neighbourhood stores!

I came in, made dinner, scrubbed the kitchen down (something that needs to be done at least once daily due to bugs and mould from the humid climate — living here is making me a much better housekeeper!), and then crashed hard. I actually hadn’t sleep too badly the night before, definitely my best night since I got here, but the lack of sleep has been catching up with me!

Today is more of the same since I have a really big project due in the morning. Early afternoon, a lady came by to pick up those curtains I wasn’t able to return. I only lost 60 pesos, or 4CAD. I can live with that!

I then did some chores to help digest my lunch, including washing some washcloths and unmentionables. My laundry room is amazing… Sure, it’s not pretty, but…

…I have a built-in scrub board!

I don’t know how I lived all those years of washing laundry by hand without having such a thing!

I washed the clothes in my big blue plastic tub, scrubbed on the board, rinsed under the tap, wrung out, and then placed on my clothes drying rack outside.

Before I bring in a washing machine, I want to do a big scrub of that room as it’s only been surface cleaned and then it will be a room I will be happy to spend time in. It’s incredible how few houses I’ve been in in the last few years have space to really work on your laundry, especially scrub out stains. I can’t wait to get myself a few bars of Zote soap (a great stain remover) and to finally be able again to do laundry properly!

Before I got back to work, I had my first tea break since I moved in! Use the good stuff daily, okay? Don’t let it just gather dust waiting for “some day.”

By 6:00, I knew I was in over my head with my current hearing transcription and it was going to be a LATE night. I took a deep breath and called the nearby taco joint to order for delivery an “order” of al pastor meat, which they claimed is enough for about five tacos. I had no trouble placing the order (I’m starting to sense a theme — will the wonder that I’m comfortable using the phone now ever wear off?!)  and hung up feeling hopeful that the taco faery would find me.

Thirty minutes later she (actually he…) did! I had to laugh at the squinty look the delivery guy gave me when he handed me $20 of the $30 owed for change from my $100 note. I had fully intended to give him $10 and was glad for the confirmation that that was a fair tip. My total with tip and delivery (actually not sure if there’s a surcharge for that) was $80, which is just over 5CAD!

They had heeded my request for all the toppings, even including fresh pineapple, but there were none of the salsas and limes I’d asked for. I was bummed for a second before remembering that I have tons of limes and my two favourite salsas (green and avocado) on hand at all times! I am having such a hard time adapting to the local culture… 😀

I had this left over after I’d eaten four tacos (six tortillas between them)!

That will be an amazing breakfast and possibly lunch tomorrow. 🙂

Now, back to that hearing. Why, why, why do these folks not think to rustle their paper away from the microphone?!