Learning To Be a Plant Parent

(Post 127 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

I had an epiphany recently about my belief that I have a black thumb. It’s something I’ve always accepted about myself and never questioned. Even when I had great success as a plant sitter in Spain and in Chelem, I never made the connection between having a black thumb and ignorance. And I’m ashamed to say that I also never made the connection that a plant is a living, breathing thing with its own unique needs. I wouldn’t adopt a dog without doing research on dogs, so what was I doing adopting plants and then treating them all the same? The reason I had success in my assignments is that the plant parents took me at my word that I was a complete noob and left me super detailed instructions and schedules. I needed to do the same thing with any plants I brought into my home.

I’ve had a couple of plants for about a year now. One thing that I’ve found helpful is to give them all names, to remind me that they are individuals. So I have a snake/mother-in-law’s tongue named Bob, a little cactus named Larry, an aloe vera named Vera (original, I know), and two of something named Darryl and Darryl no one has been able to identify that had small leaves and spread and shed like crazy. What I learned from those plants is I like neat plants that stay in one place, have thick leaves, and don’t shed. The cat who comes in and out of the house ended up murdering Darryl and Darryl, so that left me with Bob, Larry, and Vera. Bob is unkillable, but Vera has been struggling.

All my efforts to find a plant mentor had thus far failed. It’s like “plant people” don’t get that it’s not an instinctual thing and that noobs need hand holding. But now that I’m in my own house permanently, I really want to figure this out. House plants would help with air quality and noise control, while softening sharp corners, and would eventually let me graduate to a vegetable garden.

My office is just about done, and I wanted to add a plant, again, for air quality, but also aesthetics, to hide a bunch of cables in a corner. I spent ages on Marketplace looking for a plant seller who might be patient enough to take time to discuss my needs and abilities and find me the perfect plant and planter for my corner. There are lots of plant vendors around my house, of course, but I needed a complete solution, so looking on Marketplace made more sense. I was pleased to find someone very near me after all. I sent her a picture of the corner, explained that sunlight comes from the skylight, and was honest about my lack of plant nurturing skills. She told me that, frankly, the snake plant was made for folks like me and that there’s no shame in not being suited for something that needs more attention. She suggested a chocolate planter to blend in with the floor so as to not draw attention to the cabling there as well as an oak trivet on which to put it. She could deliver the perfectly potted plant to me that evening at 6:30. Sold!

His name is Doug (Thor Ragnarok joke that plants wouldn’t find funny, but a good reminder of my shameful past behaviour).

I couldn’t believe she put little feet on the trivet, to make it easier to glide across the floor.

I also want some cactus and succulents for my bedroom. She had this little guy available for an additional $180, so I added him to my order.

My name is Korg. I’m not made of rocks, but rather am a cactus.

She arrived around 7PM and spent close to 30 minutes talking about the plants in my front garden (same family as the snake plant, to my surprise) and my Madagascar palms that seem to take everyone’s breath away, and giving me some tips to keep Bob and Vera happier — Bob needs a bigger planter and Vera needs more sunlight, so I moved her to my bedroom. Finally, we talked about a veggie garden and she confirmed that I’ve suspected — it is REALLY hard to grow tomatoes in this climate because there’s just too much sun. She said I might be able to manage cherry tomatoes started inside and then put in an area with shade half the day, like my rear patio. Late August or early September is apparently a good time to try for tomatoes, so I’ll add that to my to-do list.

My House Has a Name!

(Post 126 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

Naming your house is a thing here in Mexico, and, frankly, I’ve always named my homes. I had The Shack/House of the Cedars in Quebec, then Miranda, then Haven. I could not find the right name for this property. I kept coming back to Casa de los cedros, because of the three magnificent (and rare for this locale) cedars, but I’ve already had a House of the Cedars, plus the name didn’t speak to me on a personal level.

The perfect name came to me in my dreams last night! It is… Casa del Camino Largo — house of the long journey.

I am going to have a name plaque made to match the address plaque!

(And, *sigh*, I know I have to put this disclaimer before the emails land, that I had the Spanish confirmed by a Mexican friend who is fluent in English. She said it perfectly conveys the English. My subconscious sure knows its Spanish!)

I Bought a Mattress Today

(Post 125 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

Phew, today was a big spending day, but I think that takes me to just about the end of the big expenses for this phase of the house improvements. I was thrilled that all my stops were within walking distance. I set out around 9:30 and was home just as we started to get the full noon sun.

First stop was a framing place to drop off the picture I want to put on my accent wall in my office and which informed all my design choices for the room. It took forever to find the right frame and I was 99% happy with my final choice. I also had framed my painting of Bonita, and that was a much, much quicker frame to find. Not sure where I’m hanging that one just yet, I think up in my new reading corner.

Next stop was Decorama to order custom blinds for said new reading corner, as well as my bedroom. All the current blinds in the house, as well as the patio awning, come from them, so I knew the quality would be super high. To my surprise, I got service in English! I’m happy with my choices. The sales attendant will be dropping by tomorrow tomorrow to double check my measurements and confirm how much bigger than the windows we want to make everything. They said that they can have an upholstered headboard made to match my new bedroom blinds, so I’m definitely going with that option. I ended up going with a neutral I hadn’t thought of for my blinds and which will look great against the purple. I’ll leave it at that until the bedroom reveal in a few weeks!

Final stop was Super Colchones for a mattress. I have now been sleeping in a hammock for three years.

I started to sleep in a hammock for two main reasons:

  • the beds that came with the house weren’t that comfortable and, being in a rental and on a super tight budget, buying a mattress didn’t make sense
  • the hammock would be cooler in summer weather as I was really trying to minimize AC use, again, due to that super tight budget

I continued to sleep in a hammock because:

  • it was hella comfortable — I have no natural padding on my pressure points, so I need a very specific type of mattress to be comfortable. The hammock is like floating, being absolutely weightless
  • in relation to my last point, my sleep improved dramatically
  • it was good for my back and even straightened out my spine a little

Things that annoyed me about sleeping in a hammock:

  • while it is great in hot weather, it absolutely sucks on cold nights. We get plenty of those here in the dead of winter — my room can get down to 10C/50F in late January/early February. I never let the RV get that cold! No amount of adding insulation below me helped me get really warm and I’d end up in this ridiculous burrito of blankets with a hot water bottle
  • the aforementioned burrito made it hard to get up for those nighttime bathroom trips
  • it always felt like I was camping, never truly sleeping at home
  • it spoiled me for the average bed — I had a hard time getting used to a bed in Oaxaca and slept poorly that whole week. I’m going to start travelling again, it’s inevitable, and I want to be reacclimatised to sleeping on a mattress

I’m now also at the point where I’m so used to sleeping in the hammock that my sleep isn’t as good as it was when I first started sleeping in one. Before I start on a full on sleep study and consider medication, my doctor wants me to sleep about three months in a bedroom that feels like a proper sanctuary and which is sufficiently dark and comfortable. Hence the custom blinds and my ending up at a mattress store.

Super Colchones seems to be the MVP of mattress stores here, so I didn’t even look anywhere else. Like in Canada, mattresses are always “on sale” and it’s hard to find a real deal, so I was most focused on getting out the door with something comfortable on budget.

I told the salesman that I’m a side sleeper who needs a bed that can relieve pressure on my hips, shoulders, and knees. The first bed he had me try out was fantastic. It was also 22,000 pesos with the box spring. If that was it, budget be damned, but surely he had some other options? I asked him about a cooler bed — I’d heard about some sort of gel technology for that. He went “Ah!,” and led me to another bed, which was a little too firm under the gel/memory foam top.  He had another similar option, and the third bed was amazing, even better than the first. Before he would tell me the price, he had me try a fourth, the absolute bargain basement mattress that fit all my criteria. After beds one and three, it felt like a one-inch piece of cheap memory foam over plywood (sorry, bed!). He went off to his computer to price bed three for me. 25,000 pesos for the mattress alone, but I’d caught a “sale” and I could have the mattress and box spring for 15,000 pesos. Right on budget, so sold!

I’ll have the bed tomorrow, but blinds, cooling pillows, and sheets will be a while, so I’m not going to get to try it right away.

I had no sooner gotten home, had a quick dip, and changed that the doorbell rang. I almost ignored it, but then heard a big truck outside. I had ordered from Coppel last week, so could that be them, without calling first?! It sure was, with this absolutely stunning and perfect final piece for my office

I want one for my bedroom, or at least something similar! I can’t believe it took me this long to think of putting my books in a glass-doored cabinet. Coppel had this piece sold as a buffet (trinchador) in their dining room section, so well spotted by me. It works perfectly as a bookcase, correctly sized and meant to take a lot of weight. It was a bargain, too, at only 3,500 pesos.

Glad I Know How to Get Things Done Here!

(Post 124 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

It’s been a busy few days trying to get my house and yard back into shape.

Saturday afternoon was a bit of an adventure. I had my handyman scheduled for Sunday with a long list of to-dos, including to fix the roof over my entrance. For this, he needed a few roof tiles, “tejas.” I’d been trying for what felt like forever to find just five tejas. Everyone I contacted would only do bulk orders. I finally found someone on Marketplace who had a few left over from a project. I thought that while the exterminator was here and I had to be out of the house for an hour, I could pop out to pick up the tejas as the seller was quite near me (I was amused that I had to go to a tailor shop to pick up roof tiles!). Well… I had to wait almost 30 minutes for an Uber. And then the Uber to take me home never showed up but I got charged. Turned out there was a problem with the app on Saturday, as it was inundated with requests. This made me realise just how ready I am to get a small, city-friendly car… I was debating what to do — walk home (about 40 minutes), try another Uber, call a taxi, when I saw a taxi parked a block away. I had not had luck with taxis here, but this guy was available for a fare and I was desperate! He got me home fast and didn’t overcharge me. Maybe I broke my bad luck with taxis streak…

Five tejas fit perfectly in my purse, LOL! (And pardon the state of my feet…)

The exterminators messaged me just as I hit Chuburná centro to let me know they were done. I was happy to be able to tell them I was literally two minutes out. When I got in, they gave me instructions, including how to take care of B if she somehow managed to get into the product, and then I settled in on the porch with an Oxxo picnic to wait until I could go in again.

Sunday was another biiiig day. I can’t believe the luck I had to have my guy scheduled for the day after the renos ended! He fixed the roof, painted the patio wall, did maintenance on my automatic gates, and then washed all the terraces. Last month, he had left me with a very long shopping list and he was surprised that I had everything, but was annoyed that he’d forgotten his trowel to do the roof work. I was a bit smug when I told him I’d bought one of those too!

He scraped off all the old grease/gunk before applying new grease.

A tall truck must have hit the corner of my roof.

Much better. I can’t believe how the new tejas fit in perfectly with the old!

This is how my patio wall was left at 3PM on Thursday.

This is how the wall was left at 11AM on Saturday.

And here it is on Sunday. My maintenance guy sanded the surface as smooth as he could and once it was fully dry, you could barely see the hole,

I had a lot of deadlines for Sunday, jobs that kept getting pushed and were due by Monday morning. I worked till past 1AM so that I could ease into my Monday, but, of course, I ended up not sleeping well. Augh…

Monday, I was thrilled when my cleaning lady showed up early to help me get the house back in order. I knew we would not be able to get everything done, so I confirmed that she’d be able to return on Thursday and then set out the priorities. First was to prep for my contractor to come back and help me move some furniture and do a final few things. Well, that didn’t happen. Not a huge deal, but I was going to pay him an extra for that, so he lost out. At any rate, it was a big cleaning day. I worked ahead of my cleaning lady with the shop vac since Amazon kindly delivered a few days early, on Sunday, an accessory kit with crevice, furniture, upholstery, and other tools. I vacuumed all the furniture (the sofa has never looked so good!) and blinds, and then went into the floor corners with the crevice tool before she mopped. Even so, she was going through water like nobody’s business and the floors still didn’t look clean after two passes. We didn’t even get to the kitchen. During all of this, I found time to start putting my bedroom back together and conclude that I need to figure out more storage for the master closet room.

While all of this was going on over the past few days, I was messaging back and forth with a lady on Facebook Marketplace who had an IKEA Poang chair and ottoman for sale, my dream reading chair and which is nearly impossible to find in Mexico. I thought I had one when I moved in, but it turned out to be a fake that broke after enough use for me to know that I wanted the real deal. I tried to get the lady to organise delivery because I simply did not have time, but she’s new to town and had no idea where to start to find a guy with a truck, or a “flete.” I told her, “I really, really want the chair. I need a couple of days and then I will have time to figure out the pickup. Can you pretty please hold it for me?” She very kindly agreed.

Seller photo, I like the rich dark wood and while black would not be my first choice, it is real leather!

Yesterday, Monday, I went through my list of contacts and came across the name of a very nice man who came to remove trash from my yard last year. Hmm… I had the chair pickup to do, as well as trash to remove, and some furniture to move. Three birds with one stone, maybe? I contacted him and asked if he could provide flete service and meet me at noon today, Tuesday, at the lady’s house, which was about 10 minutes from my dentist, where I had an appointment today. He said sure! I came out of the dentist, messaged to reconfirm, and he said, yep, he’d be there at noon. I headed to her place in an Uber and chose to wait under a tree on the corner across from her house. 11:55, five minutes after I arrived, he showed up! I couldn’t believe my luck at having such a solid list of contacts that I can get things done so efficiently here! We loaded up the truck and headed back across town. I enjoyed the trip as this was the farthest I’ve been from home since last March!

At home, they brought the chair and ottoman upstairs for me, then cleared the trash pile. I then had them move my old (VERY heavy) desk pieces into the carport so they are out of the way until I manage to sell them and also move the also VERY heavy double bed from the current guest room to the next guest room! Phew! I hadn’t asked for a quote, but figured all this would be around $1,500. They asked for $1,300. So I’m really starting to know what things cost here. I gave them the $1,500, plus cold Cokes, which I now always have on hand to give to help!.

I really appreciate how I’m starting to have a support team of reliable workers who show up when they say they will and get stuff done. Sometimes, knowing someone is just as important as knowing how to do something. I know lots of people who have been in Mexico for ages who buy into the myth that all Mexicans are unprofessional and unpunctual and who would be shocked that my guys showed up on time today. That’s not how I want to live my life here, always expecting people to disappoint me. I’ve been through a few trash removal guys and I definitely have one now who’ll be my go-to.

I still have a massive to-do list before I can really reclaim my house. Everything in the kitchen needs to be washed. I need to sort out blinds, a bed, and storage for the bedroom. I still have the landing to clean up. The old guest room needs to be empty and cleaned then refilled with what I need to turn it into my play room. And then, the old office needs to be emptied, cleaned, and turned into a neat storage/overflow room. I’m taking it easy from work this week and the screen-free time and physical activity are just what the doctor prescribed (literally) to try to get my sleep patterns back on track.

I’ll sign off with a bonus Bonita pic. She’s rarely a snuggler, but our time together has been so precious these last weeks that she’s taken advantage of every second she has!

My New Bathroom

(Post 123 of 263. Thanks again to those who participated in the Fundrazr. As I mentioned in the post announcing Bast’s passing from COVID, I thank everyone for your generous donations to the original Fundrazr campaign, which resulted in sponsored 263 posts. I will continue to honour the commitment to write those 263 posts, but I will not commit to more. The link above is to a new campaign to help Bast’s family.)

Whomever said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend never had a leg shaving shelf in their shower!

It’s so small — even tighter than the bathroom in my motorhome, believe it or not, but it doesn’t have the annoyances of the master bathroom — the storage niche is slightly slanted so the soap doesn’t fly off, the drainage is adequate and doesn’t flood the bathroom, and there’s water pressure!

The push button toilet with slow closure lid is sooo luxurious. 🙂

I’d consider myself 90% satisfied with this project. My quibbles are cosmetic, not functional. I got a lot of value for my pesos and am very satisfied!