Monthly Archives: February 2016

Saturday Morning

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Saturday Morning

There is a site on Facebook called Find It Here Mazatlan which has become every expats’ bible to information and events in the area. It’s also a place where people post items for sale, including garage sales. But these garage sales are very different from the ones in Canada. There were three advertised this morning.

I was fortunate to go to a preview sale for one of them yesterday morning. The proceeds of this sale go to animal rescue programs, and sales are held biweekly. People flock to these sales. Where else can you buy clothing for 20 pesos? Not that I do, but tons of other people do. But I’m a people watcher and I enjoy watching people frantically pushing and shoving to find a treasure in the racks of stained clothing, many of which sport holes and cigarette burns. My big find was a Scrabble game completely intact and in excellent condition for 10 pesos. That’s right! Less than one Canadian dollar!

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Today’s sales were quite disappointing. They were in Centro close to Olas Altas, and the prices were incredibly high. One of them had rooms full of rocks. Bird cages seem to be a popular item, as well as furniture. Yes, the items are very different from those in Canadian garage sales.

Plaza Zaragoza was bustling with activity for the weekly organic market. Booths sported everything from coffee to flowers and everything in between. There were lots of tables set up where you could linger over coffee. There was even some live music.

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Our last stop was at a bakery where they actually sell decent cinnamon buns, and that is a rarity here in Mazatlan. The breads also looked delicious, but that will be for another time.

Back at home I sat out on the terrace for a while practicing Spanish on Duolingo. And now it is writing time………………

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February 25th Happy Birthday Koal!

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February 25th Happy Birthday Koal!

February 25th will always be Koal’s birthday. He may be in doggie heaven but he’ll always be in my heart.

Koal never realized he was a dog. Kyle and Kimmy called him their baby brother. After they grew up and moved out, I’d tell him his brother or sister were coming over and he’d plant himself in the living room window watching for them.

His birthdays were always celebrated with a cake and sparklers. Whenever Koal saw me bake a cake with no icing, he knew it was his special day. He got an entire piece to himself on a plate. Of course we had to keep his fluffy ears away from the sparklers.

And of course he always received presents……….chew toys, squeaky toys, cuddly toys and lots of treats. Perhaps it was a tad overwhelming but he never complained.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been eight years since I baked that last cake…………………

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I Really Miss Baking

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I Really Miss Baking

I admit it. I love my life here but I really miss baking. My freezer in Canada always had brownies, hello dolly squares, blondies and nanaimo squares. Baking cheesecakes and dump cakes was a regular activity. I miss making my mom’s cinnamon twists and shortbread, my Auntie Jan’s honey cake and my Auntie Anne’s carrot pudding. You can’t make sex in a pan the same way. Challah and hamentashen? Impossible!

So many ingredients are not availaeble here. Cool Whip and Angel food cake mix were staples in my cupboard. Cocolate chips, butterscotch chips, peanut butter chips, Heath toffee bits…………oh but I could go on and on. Even butter and marshmallows are of a different consistency here. Flour and sugar are also different.

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I was at a marketplace at La Catrina last week and was excited to see that a lady was selling nanaimo squares and lemon poppy seed loaf. But………..both were the consistency of lead and nowhere near as tasty as what I once baked in Canada.

Let’s talk Rice Crispie squares. I buy them in the package. They’re a little too sweet, but as I mentioned above the consistency of the ingredients changes the result completely. The only puffed wheat cereal you can get here is sweetened, so there goes my mom’s chocolate treats. Pie fillings and ice cream sauces are also unavailable here. There goes carmelitas and dump cakes. What? No Crisco? There goes homemade pie crusts. Graham crackers are nowhere to be found. Yes, baking is a challenge here.

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In the grocery stores cakes that are popular are tres leche, or soaked in milk. Gooey and slimey on the bottom? No, I prefer light and fluffy. Cinnamon buns are non-existent here, and I miss that cream cheese icing on top too. But I did find a Ghirardelli brownie mix the other day at Soriana, and Philadelphia cream cheese. So I’m going to attempt some swirl brownies instead of my usual apple enchiladas. Now if only I had caramel sauce……………..

 

“Home”……Can You Ever Really Go Back?

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“Home”……Can You Ever Really Go Back?

Lately I’ve been having some interesting conversations with people regarding returning “Home.” Our ages and sexes may vary, but one thing we all agree upon is that you can never go back “Home” once you have lived away for a long period of time. You can return to the same physical places, but “Home” just is never the same as when you left. 

Joe South expresses it well in this song: 

Times change and people change.  We may return to that hometown where we hold so many memories, but that’s all they are now. They’re only memories. While some hometowns have dwindled in population and indeed may even have vanished off the map, others have grown and often become unrecognizable.

Each time I return to my hometown of Winnipeg, it feels less and less like “Home”. People who were once important to me have moved away or passed away. Others have moved into new houses, condos or apartments. Even my doctors’ offices have all moved into different buildings. 

Green spaces have been transformed into new roadways and housing developments. My former commutes  have changed and seem so strange and unwelcoming now. The airport is a relatively new facility that I am not at all familiar with. Many of my favorite restaurants have vanished. Large chains have bought up smaller grocery stores. The stores in the malls have changed and big box stores have sprung up everywhere. Even the movie theaters are different and have relocated.

The one thing that does not appear to have changed is the stressful pace of life. The almighty clock still dictates the daily frenzy of activity. I honestly do not miss those frantic days of multi-tasking and logging way too many kilometers on my car in the face of almost impossible time constraints. I have now veered out of that fast lane and have found a calmer and more peaceful way of life. 

Yes, when expats here get together here, the discussion inevitably turns to the topic of “Home.” We have all had similar experiences when we return to our hometowns for visits. And while we all have hometowns elsewhere in other countries, Mexico is now the place we call “Home.”

Carnaval 2016 Mazatlan

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Carnaval 2016 Mazatlan

Carnaval ended yesterday and I, along with hundreds of other residents of this city, breathed a sigh of relief. Traffic has returned to normal as the barricades along the malecon have been removed. Thousands of people no longer crowd Centro and Olas Altas. The deafening noise level of loud music has subsided. The fireworks were amazing, the food incredible and the parades entertaining. And a new queen was crowned.

Carnaval is celebrated in more than two hundred communities throughout Mexico, but Mazatlan has one of the most renowned celebrations. The Spanish brought this tradition to Mexico, and the year 1898 marked the first Carnaval in Mazatlan. Although Mazatlan is a tourist destination for snowbirds, the throngs of crowds are mainly Mexicans. Thousands of people filled the restaurants and bars day and night from February 4th to February 9th. The Sunday parade this year gave stiff competition to the American Super Bowl.

Prior to Carnaval, new structures such as this appeared along the malecon.

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During the event, hotels were packed with tourists. Tickets were sold out quickly for seats in restaurants and boat cruises with the best viewing spots for the fireworks. And the fireworks were spectacular. The re-enactment of the Combate Naval is definitely a highlight.

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I fondly recall my first experience celebrating Carnaval here five years ago. I went on a boat cruise, synonymous with booze cruise, where a few hundred of us piled onto a boat designed to hold far less. But it was easy to get caught up in the excitement with an open bar and a fabulous band. We danced the night away and I vaguely recall seeing the fireworks through a somewhat alcoholic haze. Of course that was long before I moved here. Now that I am a local, I tend to avoid the crowds and the traffic jams as much as possible. But, who knows? Maybe next year I might once again be ready for another boat cruise…………………

I Have…..How Many? Housemates

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I Have…..How Many? Housemates

My current housemates here in Mazatlan are extremely different from my other housemates I’ve had previously in Mexico. Five of them are cats. I share a condo with a woman from Alberta who also happens to rescue cats, have them neutered and then finds homes for them. Occasionally she fosters felines as well.

I’ve never really been a cat lover although I did have one for a brief time when I lived in Winnipeg. Dogs have always been my loves, but my lifestyle here in Mexico is really not conducive to having a dog as a pet. And these are Wanda’s cats, so she is the primary caregiver. I feed them occasionally, but Wanda is in charge of litter boxes and everything else.

Our condo is a spacious three bedroom two-story with a yard on the main level and a huge outdoor terrace on the second level. The cats are able to come and go as they please and always have access to the outdoors. However the cats are not welcome in my bedroom. They are far too mischievous.

Actually there were only supposed to be four, but at my request Elvis, one of the fostered felines, has not been put up for adoption. He has become my favorite. He sleeps on the table when I am on my laptop and sleeps in the hallway upstairs right outside my bedroom door. He also follows me outside when I sit on the wing on the terrace. And whenever I venture into the kitchen he is at my side meowing for food.

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Willy is the baby and is extremely mischievous. His specialties include clawing the leather furniture and batting the sheets down from off the clothesline. He also does his best to sneak into the fridge when the door is open. Willy is playful and delights in wrestling around with the other cats.

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Boots is another hellion. This little ninja is fearless and constantly escapes from the terrace upstairs and then comes to the front door when he gets hungry. He also loves to sit on top of Wanda’s truck and gaze at the activity on our street.

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Bonny is Boots’s sister. This little girl has only one eye and would have been put down had Wanda not taken her in. She’s a little mischief as well, but also can be very affectionate. She often cuddles with me when I watch TV.

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Cleo is a sweetheart who loves to cuddle but does not want to share me with the other cats. She will shove them out of the way in order to get my undivided attention. Cleo doesn’t really play with the others and is rather standoffish.

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Oh yes! There is a sixth cat. Red is kind of a part-timer. He’s a feral cat who prefers to run wild, sometimes for days on end, but returns when he gets hungry. He is neither cute nor cuddly and has nothing to do with the others.

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While these cats are affectionate and entertaining, I miss the unconditional love of a dog. I was blessed to have Koal and Kelsey in my life for many years when I lived in Canada. But for now, cats will have to do.

So…………..I Wonder What’s Next?????

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So…………..I Wonder What’s Next?????

I know. It’s been ages since I’ve written a blog post. No, I haven’t been basking on the beach all the time sipping cervezas. And I haven’t been living in bars at night in the Zona Dorada. Hiding in air-conditioned malls? Nope, not that either. No traveling outside of Mazatlan for the time being. Quite tired of suitcases. I haven’t even been teaching more than a handful of hours a week. So, Karen, what the hell have you been up to?

I am a firm believer that it’s never too late in life to try new things. Relax………….I haven’t taken up parasailing or surfing, although I do enjoy the beach. But January was the start of a brand new year, and my enthusiasm for change kicked in.

So, Karen, you haven’t had enough changes in your life since moving to Mazatlan in June? Moved twice. Taught at three different schools. Found new contacts to assist in dealing with INM and IMMS. Which reminds me that I still have issues with INM to deal with as well as Hacienda.

But this change involves drama, a LOT of drama. By this point in the post, my kids are probably rolling their eyes and thinking, ” Oh no! WTF is our mother up to now?” And those of you who know me are well aware of my struggles in the past with anxiety and depression. Do I really need more drama in my life?

YES! This is GOOD drama! At the tender age of….never mind….I took a stab at acting. The venue was a murder mystery dinner theater at a hotel here in Mazatlan. It’s been an exciting and educational few weeks, but it’s over now. Nonetheless it’s been an amazing experience as I’ve never acted before in my life, and I had the opportunity to work with amazing people.  And the financial remuneration was substantial.

So…………….I wonder what’s next????? I think I’ll head to a beach now to ponder that question.

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