Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Mexico City - Settling In For A Week Of Exploring


Headed out this morning in the car towards Monterrey.  We were fortunate to be able to keep the car in the parking lot at the office in town.  From there we took a taxi on the street to the airport.  Standard fare is 250 pesos.   There is no public transport to the Monterrey airport.  

The airport is growing incredibly fast.   The new AeroMexico terminal is very comfortable, super large and modern.  Here is a shot walking in the doors. 

Wierd check in procedures.  We had to go to the automated teller to get our boading passes and then to the counter to check bags.  I think they are attempting to train customers to do their own work.

Sitting at the gate I had time to check my emails only to hear an announcement that our flight would be delayed because of heavy traffic in Mexico City.   It wasn't much, an additional 30 minutes and off we went.

After an hour we arrived to the Big Tamal.   Boarded an airport taxi and headed to our hotel.  We got an excellent rate at the Holiday Inn that includes breakfast.  I mentioned that yesterday.  Here is our room complete with a sitting area,  small refrigerator and microwave, coffee maker, very complete.

This is the World Trade Center looming over our hotel room.  I think we are going over tomorrow for a tour.

We ordered some extra hangers, printed out a bill to pay at the bank around the corner and off we headed.   At the bank I activated my new debit card at the ATM while Juan was on the phone activated our new credit cards (renewals).  Living in Mexico is so easy.   After, we started looking for a place it eat.  That didn't take long.  Look at this food stand!  I had two black bean and nopal tacos with a mean avocado sauce.  Juan had a chili relleno taco and a carne asada.  Fun being out and about.

Did a bit of set up shopping.  We got a bottle of vodka for 62 pesos.  While at the corner store I asked if they had ground coffee.  Even though we get coffee service I prefer to make my own.  She said she didn't but the house cross the street sells fresh ground coffee.  Sure enough, they had Mexican and Italian coffees for sale.   One kilo of Mexican blend is 190 pesos.  Still looking.  Came back to the hotel for a quick nap and now we are off again.  

Monday, March 30, 2015

Spring Break - The Big Tamal


That's right.  Two round trip tickets to Mexico City for a week.  Got a great deal on tickets at less than $100 each round trip.  The Holiday Inn Napoles was a super discounted price too at 60% off.  The room has excellent wifi, a complete gym and a full breakfast.  Our favorite restaurant, La Strega is two blocks away so we can make it home with little effort.

One event per day on the agenda such as the pyramids, museum of anthropology, among other things.  Shopping malls and movies are around the corner as well and you can imagine the treats we will eat.  I want to go to Bellas Artes one day and then have lunch in Chinatown.  

Too much fun to be had in D.F.  Our flight leaves mid-morning tomorrow and we come home next Tuesday for some relaxation around the quinta.  The weather is cooperating and on Friday this week the high will be 35C in Monterrey.  Let's hope the pool is warm enough for a swim or two.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Vegan Blueberry Banana Bread And Vegan Wheat Bread Recipies


Here are my two best recipes.   The banana bread is easy and you can use apple sauce in place of any liquids in sweet bread recipes.  The whole wheat bread recipe I found on line.  Very hard to find these recipes without oil, sugar, eggs, and milk but they do exist. 

The key to the whole wheat bread, which by the way if baked in a decent sized loaf pan makes excellent sandwish bread, is lots of kneading.  The instructions are so easy you can't mess it up.  Same goes for the pizza crust recipe.   One site, Yummly.com, has tons of recipes and always pops up in the search but they really don't have any true vegan recipes.   

Banana Blueberry Bread
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups mashed bananas (very ripe)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
1/2 cup fresh blueberries 

Mix dry and then add all other ingredients.  Bake in the oven for 50 - 60 minutes at 375F 

Vegan Wheat Bread Recipe

1 ¾ cups + 3 Tablespoons warm water
2 Tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup
2 ¼ teaspoons, or one ¼ ounce package active dry yeast

4 cups whole wheat flour
1 ¾ teaspoons salt

1) Activate the yeast

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the warm water, maple syrup and yeast. Let the mixture sit for about 10 minutes so the yeast activates.

2) Whisk together the dry ingredients

In a medium mixing bowl whisk together the whole wheat flour and salt.

3) Assemble the dough

Add the water mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a sticky ball.

4) Knead the dough and let it rise

Transfer the dough to a clean surface. Knead for 12 to 15 minutes while adding flour only if the dough gets too sticky to work with. Form the dough into a ball and lightly coat it with oil. This will reduce the dough's tendency to dry out while it rises. Place it in a bowl, cover with a plastic bag and let it rise in a warm place until it's doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours. Alternatively, place in the refrigerator for about 12 to 24 hours. Remember that we want our dough to double in size regardless of whether it spends a full 24 hours in the refrigerator or rises at room temperature. Feel free to let it rise in the refrigerator for some of the time and outside of the refrigerator the rest of the time.

5) Let the dough rise once more

Degass the dough by pressing on it with dampened hands several times until no more gas comes out of the dough. Form the dough into a ball again and let it rise until it's doubled in size, about 1 ½ hours. If you did your last rise in the refrigerator, do this rise at room temperature and allow 4 hours of rise time.

6) Proof the dough

The dough can now be proofed by gently forming it into a lightly oiled loaf pan and allowed to sit covered with a plastic bag until it reaches about 80% to 90% of it's intended size, which should be about 40 minutes. The proofing stage is where the dough takes most of it's shape. It's important to leave room under the plastic bag so the dough can rise sufficiently.

7) Bake the vegan wheat bread to perfection

Preheat your oven to 375F (191C). 

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Back To The Road Again


Digging the trench to install the water lines.  Work has been halten like everywhere else because of the rain.  Next will be the sewer drain.  Not sure when but progresss is progress.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

What A Wedding - I'm Beat


Most of you know I don't stay up late and I'm in bed by 10 p.m.  Yesterday we went to a wedding and if you've ever attended a Mexican wedding it lasts all night and that's no exaggeration.  I didn't attend the church wedding.  I waited until later for the dinner and reception.   

It was one of the best weddings I've ever been to and it was very close to home.  Less than 10 minutes from home.  It looks like the kind of place I want to have my 60th birthday party.

We spent time with the newlyweds, family and friends.  The party went on until after 1 a.m. although we left after 12:30.  I can't go home and go to sleep, I need about an hour to unwind and relax.  

Poncho and Mich (pronounced Mitch, just hitched)

The happy couple as they entered the reception.

First dance!

Several groups of friends were with us.

Finishing desert and then time to . . . 

Dance and party!

All night long!  

There were all kinds of party favors including hard hats for the YMCA dance, the robot on stilts came and danced with us, the conga line, and lots of LED hats, sunglasses and other favors (too many to remember after a few whiskey on the rocks).  But we had a good time.

Today I washed the car, the trailer, and worked around the house until we had a surprise visit from two of Juan's sisters.  Nobody ever surprises us with a visit and we just weren't ready but it turned out to be a fun afternoon.

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Week In Sixty Seconds


Okay, so the sun came out for two hours today.  Before I left I opened all the windows and doors, turned on all the ceiling fans, and left the front and back door open in hopes of airing out the humid cement block house.  Two lousy hours of sunshine and the rains started again.  Three more days of rain before we have a week of sunshine.  Enough of that.

Here is the week in pictures, enjoy:

Recovering from an accident!

Banana, blueberry nut bread.  No sugar, no oil, no milk and no eggs.  100% vegan

The fruits of my labor.  160 students take the TOEFL.  The official Test of English as a Second Language.  Not an easy task that has taken me two years to achieve.  Now on to the next step.

Even with all the rain and cold, Spring insists on doing its work that continues after 4 billion years.  A beautiful rose appears year after year in March.  The poor rose bush receives little to no attention.  Doesn't need it.  Mother Nature knows what to do.

My first ever Smart phone.  I ask you though, why do I not feel so "smart" now?

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Short Rv Trip - Very Short


Okay.  Thanks for the comments and they were motivating.  Although we won't go far, we will have wifi on this trip and it should be a good one.  

I am setting up the rv in the driveway this weekend and we will spend the night out there.  Doesn't sound far away but as Croft can attest to, the weather is not on our side.

The sun will shine tomorrow and then on Friday a cold front moves in with thunderstorms and rain throughout the weekend.

Hey, sleeping on wheels, the Mr. Heater keeping me warm, wifi and a cold vodka on the rocks.  Who could ask for more not to mention the company!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Take Me Now


To a place far far away where the sun is always shining and the rain does stop once in awhile.  Nothing new to report except the same ole thing.  Rain and cold, cold and rain.  Fed up.

I'm ready to abandon everything, hook up the trailer and head to all points southwest like Sonora, New Mexico or Arizona.  

That's all I have to say.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Pictures of the Accident


Here are pics of the accident.  No real damage to the SUV but the woman who rear ended the SUV totaled her vehicle.  The SUV was pushed 25 feet.  Amazing how just the right hit in just the right place can mean a minor scratch versus a totaled out car.

Back of the SUV

The rear ender.  Her company said it was totaled.  I think it looks repairable. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Everybody's Gone and A Short Hospitalization


We said our goodbyes to Mercedes and Pico de Gallo (a cute chihuahua).   She headed off to Galveston, Lafayette and then to the state of Florida before heading back to her home in New Jersey.  A good time had by all and it was fun having a dog in the house again.  Bill and Bonnie headed back to Texas and according to what I have heard, everyone who came to Mexico had a great winter or still are, and have had no issues.  Good.

Celebrating Mercede's birthday!

Juan didn't have any issues with his accident until yesterday morning when he woke up with severe back pain.   I gave him some aspirin and sent him off to work.   Later that day he said he was going to see a doctor and called the insurance company first.   Next thing I knew he was in a private hospital, had x-rays, and then was getting an IV for a muscle relaxer.   

Boy, even hospitals in Mexico know how to make a buck or in this case a peso.  They really reaped the benefits of private healthcare insurance at least on the part of the car insurance company.   

Now he is home for a week of rest, a neck brace and a harness around his torso.   He's fine but has some vertebrae that are out of whack and with the help of these devices he should be fine. 

We have a three-day weekend and will be hanging around the house.  Monday we celebrate Benito Juarez although the actual day is the 21st they have moved it to Monday the 16th.  It will be interesting to see if the border is busy seeing world currencies have taken a major hit.  

Supposedly, this will change on the 18th as the Mexican Fed will start feeding money into the system at a rate of 200 million dollars per month which should bring the exchange down to around 14.78 in the next month.   Mexico has a large dollar reserve at 168 billion dollars as well as 4 million ounces of gold.  I'm going to bet that Regiomontanos (people from Monterrey) will flock to the border for shopping and a short vacation. 

Monday, March 9, 2015

Lots Of Visitors


Marina and David came to visit yesterday.  They had been making their way up from Puerto Escondido and had spent Saturday night in Matehuala.   The spent the morning coming over the mountains and arrived to the house around 3 p.m.  We went out for a drive to Allende to pick up the key to the gate.  Bonnie and Bill will be staying there tomorrow night.   We had dinner at El Pariente last night on our way back home.   Tacos and enchiladas.  

Today our CouchSurfing friend, Mercedes, came to visit.  She found her way without any issues and brought along her little friend Pico de Gallo.   I will take Mercedes downtown tomorrow for a quick tour and then back to the house.  We will be grilling steaks with Bonnie and Bill as their farewell dinner.

The weather turned to s)(*U today.  This morning when we woke up there was thunder and lighting along with a steady rain.  We headed out to the gym and then work.  When I came home Marina and David had already headed out for the border.   I went to bed because I am coming down with something.  It lingers but hasn't really hit yet so I started taking the Tamiflu regimen in hopes to head it off.  The virus here hits in two parts.  First a sore throat, headache and cough.   That clears up and a few days later it goes full blown.   I refuse to let it happen.  

So, off to bed and more later.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Overnighter To Chihuahua


Tomorrow I'm giving a plenary and a workshop here in Chihuahua.   I arrived around 10 am to the hotel after a non-eventful flight on AeroMexico.  I do wonder though what people do in the bathroom.  This aircraft was an Embraer 145 so it has only one small bathroom in the back.  In the front of the cabin is a lit sign that says it is occupied.  Well, after several cups of coffee in the morning it was time.   First one guy went by and he spent 15 minutes in there.   As I started to get up another guy went in before me.  He too spend around 10 minutes in there.  However, he came out with his cell phone in his hand and no earphones.  I wonder if he was texting or calling and I don't even know if that is possible at 28,000 ft.  Anyway, it hacks me off considering there were 75 people on the plane.   

The hotel reminds me of one of Ceausescu's monumental buildings in Romania.  The hotel is the largest in the city and they really haven't built any new luxury hotels in the city for over 15 years.  Mammoth hallways, huge rooms and the food is super expensive.  I think the breakfast buffet is the most expensive in Mexico at 225 pesos.   Yikes!

There is another section just like this on the other side of the elevator!


I worked in my room most of the day and then headed out to do some sightseeing.  In my rush to get away from my work I left the camera at home.   I went downtown and walked around for awhile, had a coffee in the square that was one of the best from a small coffee shop.   I had considered taking the bus but the taxi was only 60 pesos.   I stopped at a Soriana and picked up some fruit for breakfast and I had a fresh whole wheat bolillo with avocado for dinner tonight.   

Tomorrow I head home around 3:30.  Marina and David are coming on Sunday, Bonnie and Bill along with some other rvers should pull in on Monday and the CouchSurfer should be arriving about Monday also.  We may just have a party.

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

More Cold Fronts - But Spring Is Here!


The weather this winter has been a really doozie!  It's up and down.  Today the high was 23C and tomorrow it will be 30C.   Don't get excited and a warning to Bill and Bonnie who will be coming this way soon, check the weather.  It will hit 0C here at the ranch on Thursday night and stay that way for a few days.  Trees are all in bloom but I'm sure they will be fine.  We cover up our plants and flowers that are on the well in the front of the house when the fronts come through.

I spoke with Contessa today.  Colin is at an international guitar fest in Culiacan and ran into some care problems.   He wanted me to help translate but I got to them too  late.   However, I had a nice chat with Contessa and we got caught up on what is going on here and there.

Still lookin' good!

The SUV hit 300,000 kms this week and also it's ten year anniversary.   Hmm, leave well enough alone?   I'm still going to look around but I think we will stick with the Durango for awhile as it has been nothing but trouble free except for one issue a year ago November.  We towed thousands of miles with it and when it starts to act funny I think it sends a message to hook up and take the rv for ride.

Yesterday morning at the gym, I saw a kid (he's 24 now) who used to work out with me a few years ago.  When I first met him he was a stick and had little to no inkling of what his future held for him.  I encouraged him to continue to work out and he always felt that being skinny was his enemy.  I told him just the opposite.   

So when he showed up yesterday I didn't recognize him.   I went to take a sip of my coffee and he was sitting nearby and said, "Usted no quiere hablar conmigo?" jokingly of course.   Then it dawned on me who he was.   Get this.  This kid didn't have a pot to piss in, his dad sells tacos and his mother is a housewife.   He didn't think he would make it through the university.   He told me he is now in his 10th and final semester of mechanical engineering, looking for a job and finishing his 12 level of English at an institute in Monterrey.  For four years now he takes the bus to the state university that offers him a 50% scholarship, studies all day, comes home and works.  Because it is his last semester it is reverse, he works mornings and studies afternoons until 9 p.m. and takes the bus back.  We're talking over an hour on the bus.  

The next time you hear a Mexican say there are no opportunities, remind them that it's about desire and perseverance.  He's done now, will get a good job and in five years he'll be making $4000 dollars a month, easily.   Hard work, conviction, desire and perseverance.   Remember Juan's story, anybody can do it.  It's not about where you come from, the odds against you, but wanting to make a change.  I wish him well and told him to send me his resume as I have many contacts in companies and am more than willing to pass it on to those I know in HR.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Saturday Event and Something Bizarre


More crappy weather.  It's still cold and wet.  Tomorrow the sun will shine until next weekend and it will turn yucky again.  Funny though, the trees are in bloom and the grass I planted last year is growing.  Oh Mother Nature, I try to understand her and I am sure we are doing things that affect her.

Saturday I had another mega event but here in Monterrey.  I left the house in the the fog, 3C and wet.   I got downtown in good time only because I left early.   I doubted many teachers would show up because of the cold but with a promise of a full breakfast and and a wonderful coffee break they came in record numbers.

The book's auther was here for the plenary and I did support talks to groups of 100.  It was great and the good thing is that after all these years many in the crowd are recognizable faces.   A lot of fun and sharing of information.   We had a raffle at the end including a new IPod.  

Now for the bizarre.  We have a Sony Bravia flat screen in the studio that we never use.   In the bedroom sits a Philips 27" that was purchased in 1996.  We use it for the news and DVDs.  I decided it was time to ring out the old and ring in the new.   The remote control quit working.  It does everything but turn the television (or what do we say now? screen, flat screen, video device) and off.  I switched out the remote batteries, nothing.   I unplugged it to reset it, nothing.  

I decided to go on line and do some research.  I found the manual and began reading.  I didn't see much of anything except for a million features I never knew it had.  Then came the trouble shooting section.  Here is what it has for the remote control:

  • To determine if the problem is with the remote control or not, press a button on the TV.
  • Check the polarity of the batteries or replace the batteries.
Slide the cover to open.
  • Point the remote control at the remote control sensor located at the front of the TV.
  • Keep the remote control sensor area clear from obstacles.
  • Fluorescent light can interfere with remote control operation; try turning off the fluorescent light.

I went through each one until I got to the last one.  Juan has a regular bulb on a dimmer, the only incandescent bulb in the house, and I have an LED.  We turned off our table lamps and bingo.  The remote turns off/on the television.  I'm guessing it's something in the electronics of the LED bulb.  Who knew!