Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Out in front of the Telcel (phone company) office, there is usually a tiny little old lady stationed right by the front door selling something. I had to go to the office to renew my banda ancha card and, on the way out I decided to stop and find out what she was selling. She told me what it was but I hadn't a clue what she said. I told her I didn't know what she meant, so she opened up the basket and inside were these little golden loaves. She told me again what they were but all I got was that they were made of corn and she made them. I was feeling pretty flush since we had just left the fruteria where we bought a large cucumber, a yellow and a red bell pepper, eight good-size shallots, and about a dozen limons for 20 pesos (about $1.65) so I decided to splurge and spend the 30 pesos on one of her loaves. Got it back to the boat and cut into it.
Lulu and I each tried a piece. It was so good. It's a very moist, sweet corn bread of sorts. Didn't need any butter or anything on it and it was so moist that it was easy to eat even with nothing to drink alongside. We ended up eating the whole thing. Decided I need to go back and get another one, maybe tomorrow, and try harder to find out what it's called. This stuff would go great with coffee in the morning or even for dessert. If I can find out the name, we can probably find a recipe somewhere. Not that we begrudge the little old lady her money, but she won't always be available.
Lulu went to the dentist to get a tooth looked at. She felt like she'd chipped it and was worried that it might be a good spot for a cavity to get started. The dentist checked it out, smoothed the rough edge down a bit and told her that, if she was pretty sure she could keep it clean, it shouldn't cause any problems at all. Cost for this service? $0.00 pesos or about $0.00 US. That's right. She wouldn't take any money.
After we took our groceries back to the boat, we headed back downtown to see the big cultural sale and craft show. It's a yearly event. Artisans from all over Mexico gather under tents and sell their wares for about a week. We looked at a lot of handicrafts. We also sampled about 6 different kinds of mole, the uniquely Mexican sauce made primarily of chocolate and chiles. There were about 6 booths selling mole base in either solid or powdered form as well as other spices.
We also found something we've been looking for for awhile. We wanted a rug to cover what little bit of floor we have. We'd seen boats with Oriental rugs that looked really cool. But we needed what essentially amounts to a short hall runner. We thought it'd be kind of cool to have a Mexican rug rather than Asian and today we found it.
On another tack entirely, I have to tell you about the tequila we bought last week. We had gone to the beach on the north end of town (Cerritos) for a late lunch at The Last Drop. I had heard that they make their own tequila so I figured we needed to give it a try. We each ordered a shot. It was amazing! It was a smooth as a timeshare salesman's line and as sweet as the deal he's offering. Absolutely no bite at all (unlike the timeshare guy's deal). Tasted like no other tequila we've ever had. It was so good that we bought a liter to go. The waiter just held a water bottle under the spigot on the barrel and filled it up. Here are the three amigos:
Mayorazgo, on the left, is the main tequila we've bought since we've been down here. Under 100 pesos and tastes as smooth as tequilas costing twice as much. Next is Los Osuna which you may remember from the blog about the tour of the Los Osuna agave farm and distillery. On the right is the water bottle filled with The Last Drop's house special tequila. This one is the best of the three as far as I'm concerned.
I cooked up some Creamy Chicken and Greens with Roasted Poblano and Caramelized Onion a couple nights ago and we had enough for two dinners. It's a really good recipe. You ought to try it at home. Tonight Lulu's making a vegan dish: Spicy Peanut Noodle Salad with Cucumbers, Red Peppers, and Basil. We're loving the recipes we've been using from Serious Eats and The Homesick Texan.
Monday, March 5, 2012
Okay, let me just start by saying that, at the moment, I'm less than impressed with molcajetes. This may, and probably will change as I gain experience but right now....
But first, let's start with the seasoning process. As I said before, molcajetes are made from volcanic basalt. Beware of the cheap-o imitations made in whole or in part from concrete. These will never get properly seasoned. Seasoning basically consists of getting rid of all the grit that's going to slough off when you start grinding two volcanic rocks (the molcajete and the tejolote) together.
I checked Google to find out what the seasoning procedure was. I found a couple of youtube videos showing how to do it. Some folks opted for the industrialized easy way out and attacked the bowl with a very stiff wire brush on an electric grinder followed by a rinse with a high pressure washer. This would probably do the trick in a relatively short time. But these kitchen tools have been around for hundreds, maybe thousands of years and this approach just seems kind of, well, disrespectful. Other, more traditional methods were primarily geared around grinding uncooked rice to a fine powder as many times at it takes to have the rice powder not come out gray looking from the pumice dust. This could be just a couple times or as many as eight times, maybe more. After the dry rice procedure, rice mixed with a little water is ground up, forming a paste. When the paste stays white, you're ready to go.
I was just about to break out the rice when I found an even more traditional method. Lesley on The Mija Chronicles explains the right way to season a molcajete as well as the way she did it (aka: the wrong way). In this method, you start by grinding cracked corn to dust (4 times), then dried beans (4 times), then dry rice (4 times), and finally rice and a bit of water (3 times). This made sense to me . It's sort of like starting with 60 grit sandpaper and working your way down to 220 grit.
So, armed with my grains, my brush and my stone-age tools, I got to work.
First the corn:
Repeated this 3 more times and then it was finally time for the rice/water slurry. For some reason, I didn't take pictures of this step but I'm sure by now you can imagine what it looked like. The final step in seasoning a molcajete is actually seasoning it. Everyone agrees that you grind up garlic and salt. After that, some recommend coriander, some oregano, some other stuff. I used what was on hand: garlic, salt and oregano. And, as long as I was grinding up the stuff anyway, might as well make some salsa, right?
I wasn't following any actual instructions for this. I just sort of had a vague idea that you put the vegetables in the molcajete and ground them all up together. So, I coarsely chunked up a couple of jalapeños, three tomatoes, an onion, and a handful of cilantro. To this I added some salt and started grinding.
Well, it didn't go quite as I hoped. Whenever we're in a restaurant down here (I almost said a Mexican restaurant), the salsa Mexicana that is served is obviously just cut up with a knife. Salsa Mexicana is what we commonly refer to in the US as Pico de Gallo. It's simply raw tomatoes, chiles, onions, garlic, and cilantro chopped up and mixed together. And it's chopped up with a knife, not a molcajete. I'm pretty sure I now know the reason for this. It's all about the skin.
In the few salsa-in-a-molcajete procedures I saw on youtube, they started with roasted vegetables. This is only partly to impart a char flavor. The bigger reason is that roasting the tomatoes and peppers under the broiler until they're blackened, and then letting them steam inside a bag for a few minutes, makes it really easy to peel the skins off. Why do we want the skins off? Because they're freakin' tough, that's why. I ground and I ground my raw vegetables in that molcajete and still the skins held together. Finally, on Lulu's suggestion, I dumped the whole mess in the string-pull food processor and chopped it up properly. But, hell, if I was going to use the food processor, why bother with the molcajete at all. No good reason, that's why.
So, my first molcajete experiment was a bust. Next time I'll roast and skin the vegetables like I'm supposed to. And maybe up the tomato to jalapeño ratio too. Either that or just make some quacamole. That shouldn't be too tough to grind up. I am happy to say that I haven't found any grit in the salsa yet.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Saturday, February 25, 2012
If you read the comments following some of the blogs, you may have seen some strange ones if you got to them before I deleted them. They generally sound like someone for whom English is not their first language, being complimentary about how interesting and well-written my blog is. Very nice except the thing is, it's all SPAM (and not the kind I like with fried eggs).
I was led to believe that Blogger had a pretty good spam filter for comments. So, I decided to turn off that annoying word verification deal you get when you try to post a comment. I hate that thing. Especially now that they use two words which are almost unreadable. But, unfortunately, I immediately started getting inundated with spam. The Blogger filter caught some of it but it's such a piece of crap filter that on a given day, I might receive 5 comments, all worded almost exactly (and in some cases exactly ) the same. Two would get trapped in the filter and the other three would get through. I'd like to see the algorithm that allows this. Must be something like:
some stuff is in the comment sometimes
divert to trash sometimes
Anyway, I'm sorry to say that I've had to turn the word verification back on. If it's any consolation, Blogger gets a ton of complaints from bloggers about this current verification program they're using. I don't know that they actually give a crap, but at least they get complaints.
Oh, and guess what? Lulu gets back tomorrow. YAY!
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
This is what it was supposed to look like:
This is what mine actually looked like:
Now there are a couple of reasons why mine doesn't look as good. The main reason is because I'm not a food stylist. Next, in the recipe, he used those pretty slices of steak. I couldn't find the same cut at our little Santa Fe market so I got some other cuts. Nice pieces of beef but very, very thin so it was virtually impossible to cook them to carmelized perfection on the outside and still be medium rare on the inside. Also, although those slices are pretty, they'd be a pain in the butt to eat without a knife so I cut mine into bite-size pieces and tossed them with the rest of the ingredients. Also, the dressing. The recipe calls for salsa mixed with sour cream and I did that. It was pretty. But, after removing my steaks from the pan, there was no way I could let all that crusty, spicy goodness that was stuck to the bottom of the frying pan just get washed down the drain. So, I poured a little cheap red wine in the pan to deglaze it and this resulted in a rich, brown sauce that I added to the dressing, turning it into an ugly, lumpy brown liquid. Looked like hell. And, it added a bit of a withered look to my salad.
However, the damn thing tasted great. I got to use up a red bell pepper that had been hanging around a little too long (not called for in the recipe), a dab of sour cream that has been lurking in the bottom of the refrigerator, and most of the salsa that I made a few days ago but haven't eaten. AND, there's enough left over for dinner tomorrow night (maybe lunch, too).
As I was walking back to Siempre Sabado yesterday afternoon, it seemed to me that she looked like she was listing a bit to port. Down below, a glance at the inclinometer confirmed that we were indeed leaning to the left. Not a lot, but some.
As I explained in an earlier post, mounting a ceramic filter at the point of use didn't work very well since the foot pump just didn't have the oomph to suck the water through the 0.9 micron pores in the filter element. Pushing the water through the filter with the foot pump was even less satisfactory. However, I also knew that I didn't really want to run every drop of water from the dock hose through the ceramic filter to fill my tank with ultra-filtered water because, if the dock water had any suspended solids in it, it would take forever to fill the tank because the ceramic filter would plug up so quickly. You might remember that I went through a similar experience with fuel filters.
So, here's what I ended up doing...
All the water going to the tank is first run through a Rotoplas 1 paper filter. In the earlier post I referred to this as a 5 micron filter. It isn't. It's a 50 micron filter which is still pretty freaking small. I connected this in series with my new TurMix ceramic filter. The Turmix doesn't have nearly as much information on the ceramic element as the other ceramic filter I bought, but I'm assuming (hoping) that it is as good or better. One thing it does have that the other unit didn't is an active silver element in the center for control of pathogenic bacteria. Nice touch.
Here's what the system looks like:
Notice the belt and suspenders approach here? The little squirt bottle is BacDyn, a local product with an active ingredient of colloidal silver for disinfection. We give the tank fill tube a few squirts of this prior to filling. Then, from the right: white supply hose carrying dock water; black Rotoplas filter housing containing 50 micron element for removing most of the suspended solids from the water; bright and shiny TurMix ceramic filter with silver element for removal of very small particles as well as most bacteria; and then the clear hose into the tank.
From the tank, we draw water through another Rotoplas filter housing. The difference is that this one uses an activated charcoal element with yet again, more colloidal silver and, presumably, a finer micron count than the 50 micron filter.
This water goes from the tank, through the filter, through the foot pump and out the faucet. This secondary filter is just protecting us from anything that might have already been in the tank before we started filtering our incoming water.
I just checked my stash and I see that we have tons of the 5 and 10 micron filter elements I bought in the US for the unit that filters our watermaker's backwash water and they will fit the Rotoplas housings quite nicely. It should be a few years before we have to buy any new filter elements.
This is what the new filters looked like before I started running water through them today
And here's what they looked like after filtering roughly 50-60 gallons (a scientific wild-ass guess) of water:
You can see that the primary filter doesn't show much of anything but the ceramic is coated all around with a light coating of brown stuff. This stuff washed off easily with just a wet dishrag. For the record, it took me 3X as long to fill the tank with filtered water as it did with unfiltered but, fortunately, I didn't have to stop partway through to clean the filter to restore flow.
So that's our filtration system. When we're making water with the watermaker, the only filter that will matter is the final one. But, I'll let you know in a few months how everything is panning out after we have a little experience under our belts.
Monday, February 20, 2012
Oh, my baby left me.
She took off to I-Oh-Way.
I said my baby left me.
She took off to I-Oh-Way.
I miss her so bad.
Glad she'll be back this coming Sunday.
I've had a sort of low grade case of the blahs lately. I'm sure having Lulu gone contributes but it really started a couple of weeks ago when I got hit with what I'm now pretty sure was a case of H1N1, at least, judging from the swine flu that hit me in Newport a couple years ago. Symptoms were the same: every muscle in my body ached. The only remedy was to lay down and take some NSAIDs (non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). It only lasted 24 hours but the repercussions of my NSAID use lasted somewhat longer. For those of you who are bothered by TMI (too much information), you might want to skip down a couple paragraphs where I'll talk about something else. But, for those who want to learn from my mistake, stay with me. I'll be as non-graphic as possible.
First off, my choice of NSAID was ibuprofen. We generally turn to ibuprofen for muscle pain and aspirin for headaches, sore throats, etc. We don't use acetaminophen and I haven't had a lot of luck with naproxen sodium either. So, true to form, I took ibuprofen. You might want to google ibuprofen to check out the possible side effects. When it comes to the end of the line, digestively-speaking, aspirin has one side effect and ibuprofen has the opposite effect. Well, I ate almost nothing on the day of my H1N1 and took a lot of ibuprofen. Enough so that said side effect set in. So, although the pig flu was gone by the next day, I continued to feel like crap. It took the better part of a week for things to, well, get moving again, so to speak. During that week, I really felt crappy (again, so to speak). Anyway, that's all behind me now (okay, enough of this 'so to speak' stuff - I almost said 'crap' but that would have just compounded the problem). But still, I've just been feeling a little off.
This morning when I got up, my legs were sore like I'd been hiking although I hadn't walked hardly anywhere in some time. Also, my left wrist hurt. Not sure what that's all about. But anyway, I decided to take coach's advice and walk it off. I felt badly in need of some exercise.
So, I grabbed my pack and my shopping list, strapped on my Chacos and hit the road. Walked briskly (at least for the first couple miles) to Home Depot and bought some water filters. Then on to the Telcel store to renew my banda ancha (the little USB cell modem that allows me to post these things). From there it was on to Mega to buy a few grocery items and then the long walk back to the marina. I didn't have my pedometer with me but, if I remember right from when Lulu and I clocked this trip once, it's about 8 miles total. By the time I got back to the boat, my legs and feet were aching bad. But at least now they had a good reason. It seems to have worked. I'm pretty much over my ennui now.
I stopped in at a Similare Farmacia to get some pills during my walk. You know, even though, as a whole, the Mexican people are very friendly, warm and polite, there are times when they are downright rude. I know that's a generalization and I hate to say it because it opens things up for some very prejudiced comments, but that's just how it seems sometimes. I'm standing there at the counter, waiting my turn. The pharmacist is explaining how to use a lice-fighting shampoo to the lady ahead of me. Then another lady customer comes in and joins in the conversation. Meanwhile, I'm waiting. This goes on for quite awhile. My presence has not yet even been acknowledged. Then this older guy who the pharmacist obviously knew comes in. And he just starts telling the pharmacist what he wants. Then the first lady pays for her shampoo, the second lady lets the pharmacist know what she wants, and he proceeds to work with them while I stand there politely. Finally I'd had enough and just left. There are a lot of Similare stores around. I've seen this in other places. Street taco stands are a good example. If there is room to belly up and shout out your order, that's what happens. No waiting your turn. If there's a line forming to the right, someone will come in from the left and GET WAITED ON! Not always, but often. It's maddening. And don't get me started on grocery stores. But then again, shoppers with grocery carts in the USA are also incredibly rude and insensitive as I remember it. Generally speaking, of course. I know you're not like that and neither am I. For the record, the next Similare I stopped at treated me very nicely and had what I was looking for.
For what seems like a long time, we've had food on the boat that needed to be used before we went out or bought anything new. I'm mostly referring to meat and fresh vegetables. It was frustrating because we'd be at the store and I'd see something that would taste really good or we'd see a restaurant we wanted to try or we'd just be in the mood for pizza or a burger. But, no, we had food that needed to be used before it spoiled. Well, as of last night, I've used all of that food up. Hot damn! The world is my oyster. I can have whatever I want. But I'll be damned if I can think of anything I want. Oh, now that I'm back at the boat and have been looking through some recipes and articles on the internet, primarily at Serious Eats, I can find lots of stuff I want to cook and eat. But I don't have the makings and I don't want to go back to the store again. So, what am I going to eat tonight? Well, at first I checked out their Ramen hacks and almost decided on either Aloha Ramen or possibly Sweet and Sour Ramen since I have the ingredients for both of them on hand. But I finally decided, screw the ramen, I'll just cut to the chase. So here's what I'm having for dinner tonight.
O'Brien potatoes (wait, let's make that O'Sanchez potatoes since I used an Anaheim chile instead of a bell pepper), over-medium eggs (okay, one of my eggs had a blowout) and fried Spam. Yep, that's how I roll sometimes. I actually like Spam. I know, you'll probably be taking all of my food recommendations with a grain of salt from here on out but, dammit, I've got to be me!
Think it can't get worse? Want to know what I had for lunch? A refried bean sandwich, that's what. Spread a good thick layer of refried beans, straight from the can, on a slice of buttered bread and top with another slice of buttered bread. Taught to me by my old buddy Richie Fuller, a Gunner's Mate from DeSoto, Texas. I served with Richie on the USS Tolovana (AO-64) back in the early 70s and a refried bean sandwich was like manna from heaven when a guy had a serious case of the munchies out at sea. Still love them today. Don't knock it till you've tried it. You might be amazed.
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
I got started on the installation of the ceramic water filter today. Took me a couple of hours to get it all installed. These things take time when your work area is so limited. But, eventually it was all hooked up and ready to be tested.
I started pumping with the foot pump (we don't have an electric pump, by choice). First I had to work the air out of the system before water would actually pump. Well, I never did get all the air out and I'm not sure why. However, I was able to pump water albeit, damn little of it. Our foot pump is double-acting meaning that it pumps on both the downstroke and the upstroke. Only now it was only pumping on the downstroke. The return stroke was really slow as the spring just slowly overcame the resistance of the filter element. The flow on the downstroke was pathetically anemic. There was no way that Lulu was going to be able to put up with this. Rinsing dishes would be a long frustrating exercise. Hell, just filling the tea kettle would take over twice as long as it used to. Well, as the French say, "Crappáge!"
Okay, so maybe the suction on the pump is too weak to pull the water through the filter. But maybe the pressure from the pump would be enough to push the water through. So, I switched the hoses and tried again. Still didn't work very well and besides, now the pressure was enough to cause water to leak out around the o-rings on the swiveling outlet. "Crappáge deux!" Not sure what else to do, I yanked all the new stuff out and put it back together the way it was before. This was a little tricky since I had to cut some of the hoses to get them off the hose barbs and now one in particular was too short. And I didn't have a long enough replacement either. Fortunately, I did have a hose coupler.
So, now what to do? The best solution would be to use the ceramic filter as intended. That is, as a source of drinking water only. Switch a valve, pump the water and fill your cup. But that will require an impossible-to-find-in-Mexico 3-way valve. I guess I could have Lulu pick one up while she's in Iowa and I still may. But the real problem is where the heck would we put this stand-alone filter so that it was serviceable, didn't infringe on our already meager storage space in the galley, and still be handy for filling a cup?
I went to Home Depot again today and bought another filter housing and a couple of 5 micron filters to use on the tank-filling side of things. At this point I think I may at least try plumbing the 5 micron in series with the ceramic filter and run dock water through this combo before it enters the tank. Maybe the 5 micron will cut the cleaning of the ceramic filter down to a reasonable interval, like after each tank fill rather than 2 or 3 times during each fill. If that doesn't work I'm not sure what the next move will be.
So, somewhat dejected, I decided I needed something good for dinner. Didn't really want to go out. I hadn't eaten the leftover chicken yet since I was kind of full after having lunch at Yolanda's yesterday so I still had that to work with. I also didn't want to spend a long time preparing and cooking. Just wanted something good and easy. Decided on arroz con pollo (chicken with rice). I've cooked this before starting with raw chicken and it's really good. But my chicken was already cooked so here's what I did:
Easy Arroz con Pollo
Start with Mexican rice:
-In a saucepan, brown 1 cup of dry rice in about a tablespoon or so of oil, shortening, lard, bacon grease, whatever.
-Stir the rice periodically to keep it from burning.
-Add a chopped-up small onion and stir
-Add a de-seeded chopped up habanero pepper and stir
-Just before the rice is completely browned, add 3 cloves of chopped garlic, stir.-When the rice is mostly golden brown, add 2-1/2 cups of chicken broth and stir ONE LAST TIME!
-Bring to a boil and then lower heat so the mixture just simmers. DO NOT STIR!
-Continue simmering, uncovered, until most of the broth has boiled off. DO NOT STIR!
-Toss the chopped up, boned chicken pieces on top of the rice, cover the pan, lower the heat way down and start the timer for 20 minutes.
-When the timer goes off, turn the heat off, stir the chicken in and fluff up the rice. Cover the pan and let sit for 5 minutes or so. You'll notice when you go back and stir the rice again after the 5 minutes, that the stuff that was stuck to the bottom of the pan no longer is. The bottom is nice and clean. I don't know why this happens but it always does, at least for me.
That's it. Enjoy. I know I did and I will again tomorrow because there are leftovers. And by the way, the basic Mexican rice recipe is good w/o chicken as well. Add other vegetables to it if you want. Just remember to toast the rice and always use an onion and a flavorful broth. Everything else is optional and up to your imagination.
Monday, February 13, 2012
Sunday, February 12, 2012
Well, Lulu took off to the airport about 11:00 this morning. She's headed to Iowa City where she'll spend 2 weeks visiting her mom as well as her brother and his wife. Although she's been assured that it's been an uncommonly mild winter in Iowa, I'm sure she'll be in for a shock to her system. The first shock came before she even left the boat when she had to put on *gasp* shoes and socks!!!! But, at least she got a pretty good flight. Mazatlán to Cedar Rapids, Iowa with a stop in Houston. Total flying time is only about 5-1/2 hours and she has an hour or so layover in Houston. Not bad. The flights from La Paz to Iowa via Los Angeles often take over 24 hours altogether, including layovers. Yuck!
My first official act as a temporary bachelor, or, in sailor parlance, a single-hander, was to take the bus to the produce stand to get some fresh stuff. While there, I stopped next door at the roast chicken place and got a chicken and sides. I should have gotten a photo so you could see what a production this is. There are 3 wood-fired grills running and they are piled with beautiful butterflied grilled chickens. A whole chicken, hacked up into serving pieces, a stack of corn tortillas, a baggie of really good salsa, a baggie of shredded lettuce, and another baggie of Mexican rice cost $80 pesos (just over $6.00 US). So, here's my bounty:
Total cost for all of this: $153 pesos or about $11.77 (US). Compare this to our going away dinner yesterday. We went to a sort of fancy restaurant near here. We'd heard good things about it and the food was, in fact, pretty good. However, we each had a bowl of tortilla soup and then split a Vietnamese beef roll. We also had 2 beers each. Our dinner, light as it was, cost $300 plus tip. I spent half that on today's haul. The longer we're in Mexico and the more places we eat, the less interested we are in the tourist places. That's not to say that we won't go back to Fat Fish for ribs again, but that's because the ribs and the price are great. But I think we'll skip Pancho's and Munchkin's and the rest of the places in the Gold Zone. We're much more enamored of the little places that cater to the locals more than to tourists.
So, dinner tonight: chicken tacos (for one) at home.
Friday, February 10, 2012
Whenever I try laying off writing anything until I have something to say, invariably I eventually start getting comments urging me to write something. Then, even though I don't really have anything new to say, I write something anyway. And it's usually about food. Now I like food and I like writing about food and I know that there are even readers out there who like reading about food, but since I don't really want this blog to turn into a meal-by-meal diary of what we ate in Mexico or anywhere else, I occasionally have to think of something else to write about.
I was sitting here pondering that very question a few minutes ago. Then I got a comment from new readers Mike and Melissa of Little Cunning Plan. Melissa mentioned that they are still dreaming and are happy that we are living our dream and allow them and others to follow along and live the dream vicariously. That's good stuff to hear. It wasn't that long ago that we were doing the same thing. Reading cruisers' blogs and dreaming about when we'd be doing instead of reading about.
And then Lulu came back aboard after taking a shower and said, "We live in paradise."
Having just walked past the hot tub on my way back to the boat after my shower, I had to agree. So today I thought I'd just write a little bit about the idyllic life we're leading. This is not meant as a boast, but rather just as a prod to those who dream of one day following in our footsteps or the footsteps of others like us. Keep the dream alive. It's worth it.
As I've written before, Lulu and I have different sleeping habits. I tend to rise somewhere between 6:30 and 7:00 while she likes to sleep in until 8:30 or 9:00. And that's OK. We can get up whenever the heck we feel like it. Except on days that we plan to get underway or have some sort of pressing errand to run, there is absolutely no pressure to get up at any time other than when we feel like it. That's one of the first mental adjustments we had to make. And, it goes hand-in-hand with the fact that it matters not at all when we go to bed. Can't fall asleep? So what? It's not like we're going to perish tomorrow from lack of sleep. If we get sleepy, we can take a nap. It's weird after so many years of working and raising kids when it actually mattered a lot when you went to bed and when you got up. And it mattered if you didn't get enough sleep one night because you'd feel like crap at work all the next day. It just doesn't matter now.
So, what do we do all day? Well, occasionally we'll have some chore or another to do. Certainly this summer when we haul the boat out of the water we'll be putting in more hours working on her than we do now. But, she's basically in pretty darn good shape. Oh, there are always things to do but not so many that we need to work long hours every day to get them done like we had to while we were still in Newport, OR and trying to get the boat ready to go. Lulu's generally more ambitious than I am. She usually has at least one small project to do. Today it was cleaning the inside of the dinghy, which didn't take long since it was already pretty clean. I occasionally have times when I try to get at least one thing done a day. The last few days, however, I've been on a "I don't feel like doing anything but read a book" regime. And the thing is, that's OK. I still have a little bit of lingering guilt when I do nothing at all, but I'm working on getting over the last vestiges of that guilt. I do have plans for a couple of bigger jobs while Lulu's in Iowa the next couple weeks. Jobs that are easier when there's only one person aboard as I'll have tools and stuff strewn all over.
So I've read several books over the last couple weeks. I'm currently reading the second in the Joe Pitt series. Vampyres and zombies, what's not to like? Lulu doesn't spend as much time reading as I do. Most of her "downtime" is spent working on her micromacrame. She's getting pretty fast and fancy with her bracelets.
Some days, like yesterday, that's pretty much all we did. Oh wait, I take that back. We took the hand cart over to the Weber BBQ store to retrieve our filled propane bottles and picked up our laundry, all clean and folded, from the lavandería at Marina Mazatlán. Also stopped at the store to get some tomatoes to make salsa for dinner. So I guess we did do something.
Some folks just can't handle this kind of schedule. They have to be moving and doing stuff all the time. Some of them chide us for staying in one place for such a long time. But, to each their own or, in nautical parlance, "different ships, different long splices". We know folks who just got to Mexico and are already planning for a trip across the Pacific to the fabled south seas this spring (that's in, like, 2 months). We wish them fair winds and flat seas but I believe we'll take the slower route. In some cases these folks either have a finite amount of time for their trip, a finite amount of money for their trip, or are just young enough that sitting around doing nothing has no appeal for them yet. No worries. The world is big enough for all of us.
Lest you think that we're going to waste yet another day, let me tell you that we do have plans for today. About 2:00 we're going to walk down to the zona dorada to a restaurant/bar on the beach called Diego's. A couple of gringos we've run into occasionally here at the marina have a blues band that plays at Diego's on Friday afternoons. We feel it's our duty to help support them. Afterwards we plan to stop for fish and chips at El Fish Market. We've heard good things about El Fish Market but have never been. Then, we'll walk back to the marina and settle in for the evening.
So, get up when we want, go to bed when (if) we want, do nothing or do something, eat out or cook at home, sail off to La Paz or spend another month in Mazatlán, we can do pretty much anything we want to do. And, no matter what we're doing, knowing that makes everything perfect. Well, that and the beautiful weather.
Tuesday, February 7, 2012
I had every intention, a couple of days ago, to make some sausage and peppers for dinner. I'm very susceptible to written treatises on food and I just finished reading a book by John Irving called "Last Night In Twisted River". One of the protagonists was a cook. At one point in the book, he whipped up some peppers and sausages for a drunk friend. It sounded so good I just had to make some. I was lucky enough to find some kielbasa as well as another sausage of some type at Mega Foods one day. Normally, about the only sausage you find down here is chorizo or turkey hot dogs so I was pretty stoked to find real sausage.
However, on the day I planned to cook it, Mike and Melissa from s/v Tortue stopped by on their way to town.
"We're going down to see the shrimp ladies. Do you want us to pick you up anything?"
Well, what could we say? Of course we want you to pick us up something. We'll take a kilo of the medium large shrimps, without heads. They returned later in the afternoon with our kilo of shrimp. Cost all of $100 (about $7.69 US for 2.2 pounds of headless shrimp). Now, you and I both know that shrimp does not keep well. The sausages would have to wait.
I decided to cook up a version of camarones al mojo de ajo (garlic shrimp), since that's the way we like it best. I found a recipe on the internet that sounded good and easy. Along with the shrimp, I cooked up some Mexican rice. We ate like kings.
The rice was damn near as good as the shrimp. The thing with Mexican rice is that you first saute the rice in a little oil until the grains start to get a nice golden brown color. Then add chicken broth instead of water along with some chopped onions, garlic, and peppers. Then just cook it until it's done.
Now, it's not like we always have everything on hand to make all these dishes. Fortunately, there's a store not too far away. Santa Fe is like a very large convenience store. Not nearly the inventory of a supermarket, but way more than you typical convenience store. But the best part about a trip to Santa Fe is that it's a walk that basically never leaves a marina. What's so good about that? Well, always having the water on one side of you makes for some interesting sightseeing while walking. Sure, there are the big ol' boats but the real draw are the iguanas. That's right, iguanas. They love to hang out on the sun-drenched rocks of the rip-rap along the edge of the marina.
But, you didn't come here to read about iguanas, did you? Not unless I'm cooking them up in a tasty BBQ sauce anyway. No, you want to know what we had for dinner tonight. I know you do. So here it is.
After the shrimps and rice, we had shrimp fried rice the next day. And guess, what? There's still enough left to have it again! That means we'll get 3 meals for 2 from 1 kilo of shrimp. At $100(Mx)/kilo, that comes out to $16.67 pesos per plate or about $1.28(US).
But, we couldn't face the final day's shrimp fried rice ration tonight. Too much shrimp in too short a timespan. So, tonight I finally got to try making my sausage and peppers. I found a likely-looking recipe called "Sausage and Peppers in Spicy Ragu on Polenta". Well, I skipped the polenta and cooked up some shell macaroni instead. Other than that, I followed the recipe at least in spirit.
Started with a big pan of peppers, onions, and garlic.
BTW, if you like food as much as we like food, check out this website. It's one of the places that I waste much of my time when I'm not cooking or eating.
Monday, February 6, 2012
Even if we were consummate sailors, I doubt we'd get rid of our diesel jugs. When we got them originally it was to extend our cruising-under-power range. After all, we were just about to head out on a non-stop trip from Neah Bay, Washington to Newport, Oregon and had no idea if we'd have any favorable winds for the trip and had no desire to cross the notorious bars at the entrances of Grey's Harbor, WA and Astoria, OR for fuel. As it turned out, the winds were nearly non-existent and we had to use much of the diesel in our spare jugs.
New we keep the jugs aboard mainly because that's how I like to refuel. I prefer hauling the jugs to and from the fuel dock in the dinghy and then filing the main tank from the jugs. That way I can take the time needed to run all the fuel through a 2 micron filter before putting it into the main tank. Some of the fuel docks we run into are set up more for commercial boats than sailboats and are very difficult to use, especially without messing up your boat on ragged concrete or barnacle-encrusted pilings. But, even at the civilized floating docks, there's always a good chance that you'll have to wait a long time while some big ol' maxi-yacht fills his twin 1000 gallon tanks. Pretty much always room for a dinghy to pull up and use a different pump.
Anyway, the four yellow 5-gallon diesel jugs are here to stay. Up until very recently they have lived on the foredeck, lashed down on either side of the milk crate that holds the rode for our secondary anchor. They ride great but the do take up some deck space that we already have precious little of.
I've seen boats that had modifications made to their lifeline set-up so that they essentially had a basket hanging off each side of the boat to hold their jerry jugs. I didn't really want to go whole hog, but, if I could make a modification so that the jugs could ride up on the caprail and only extend over the side a little ways, I might be interested.
I drew up some plans. As luck would have it, one of Mazatlán's best stainless steel fabricators, Felipe, was going to be at La Isla Marina not long after we pulled in. With the translating help of Mike from s/v Tortue, Felipe and his crew managed to make my design a reality.
Here's what the new jug carriers look like from dead ahead so you can see how far they stick out the sides.
And a shot similar to the first one showing the regained deck space. Obviously the dinghy isn't aboard and it will still completely fill the port side deck but at least we've regained some foredeck space.
Saturday, February 4, 2012
Decided to get off our butts and take a little hike today. We boarded the "Toreo" bus and took it to the end of the line which just happens to be right in front of the entrance to the path up to El Faro (the lighthouse).
We started down at sea level near the blue building in the photo. If you click on the image to increase its size, you'll be able to see the switchback trail heading up the side of the hill. The first part of the walk is on a wide dirt path. Not particularly steep but unrelentingly uphill. The last part is over 300 concrete steps. Gets considerably steeper during this part.
On the way up, I smelled the distinct smell of bread and butter. "Bread and butter?" you say. What the heck does that smell like? Well, in my case it smells a lot like sewage. That is NOT a slur on Lulu's cooking or baking abilities, nor is it a condemnation of my olfactory nerves. No, in my case, much of the reason that I am now retired and able to enjoy this lifestyle is that I spent 32 years in the water and wastewater treatment field. Although I spent the final 9 years of my career working on the clean (drinking water) end of the pipe, before that I cut my teeth (so to speak) on the dirty end of the pipe. Anyway, partway up the hill we got a primo view of the Mazatlán Planta Tratamiento de Aguas Residuales. And, the plant was undergoing an upgrade, an experience I am very familiar with.
Looks like they're building a couple of aerated bio-filters, new primary and secondary clarifiers, a chlorine contact basin and, possibly, a tertiary filtration system. Can't wait to check on it again next winter to see how things are coming along. And what a great vantage point.
Once we got to the top (I think I read that the lighthouse is 477' above sea level), we saw the most welcome sign we may have aver seen: "Se venta agua y refrescos aquí." Water and sodas sold here. Good thing, too, as I'd sweated out about a liter or two on the way up.
Here's a little blurb from wikipedia about the lighthouse:
Mazatlán's lighthouse (El Faro) began to shine by mid-1879. The lamp had been handcrafted in Paris, containing a large oil lamp with mirrors and a Fresnel lens to focus the light. Since the light was static, in the distance it was often mistaken for a star. By 1905 this lamp was converted to a revolving lamp. Today, the 1000 watt bulb can be seen for 30 nautical miles (60 km).
We stayed at the top long enough to get a few photos.
Once back at the bottom, we decided to catch the bus and get off at a really great produce stand on Avenida de La Marina. At the stand, we got a pineapple, cauliflower, mushrooms, 4 kinds of peppers, apricots, plums and peaches for a grand total of $118 MX which is all of $9.00 US. From there we walked up the street a block or two. We decided we either needed to stop and get one of the really beautiful grilled butterflied chickens to-go or visit the taco stand down the street a bit further. Well, the chicken shack had quite a line so we decided to save it for another day and hit the taco stand instead. It was just a little place basically built in a garage and driveway. Don't know what all they had but we knew they had about four or five different kinds of tacos (at $8 pesos - about 60¢ each). Lulu had two tacos de cabeza and one taco de carne asada. I opted for 3 carne asada tacos. As always, they were delicious. However, I sure wish they'd offer flour tortillas at these little places. I prefer the taste but, even more, I like the fact that you can actually finish a taco before the filling breaks through the bottom of the tortilla. Tortillas de maíz just don't stand up. Not sure what I'm doing wrong that the Mexicans are doing right. If they had as much trouble as I do, they would have switched to flour tortillas a few hundred years ago. Before we left, we had to get a photo of the staff. It was a big, happy family and they were more than happy to pose for me.
Thursday, February 2, 2012
A week ago we filled out the paperwork (or rather, had it filled out for us) to renew our Non-Immigrant Resident visas, aka FM3s. Yesterday was the day we were supposed to go down and pick them up at the immigration office. There are fewer people at immigration if you arrive shortly after they open. So, since I also had to drop off an empty propane bottle for filling by 9:00 (or at least that's how I understood it), we ate a very light breakfast, loaded up our paperwork and the propane bottle and headed out.
Right off the bat, we ran into a snag. Seems that I had either bad information or had misunderheard the information. At any rate, the propane place didn't open until 9:30 and bottles had to be dropped off either by 10:30 or the day before. Since it was only 8:30 I wasn't about to stand around and wait so we schlepped the empty back to the boat and started out again. I'll wait and drop the bottle off next week. I was hoping that this minor setback wasn't a prologue of how the day was to go.
We got down to INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración) by about 9:30, signed in, took a number and sat down. When I started pulling my papers out, the guy at the check-in desk came over and asked to see them. Then he told me that you could only pick documents up between 11:00 and 2:00. Oh. Okay. Well I guess we'll just wander around, maybe get a little breakfast.
Off we went. We were looking for somewhere to eat when we happened across this little grocery store that had a couple tables out front as well as a couple inside. There was a small kitchen and the sign said "Desayuno" (Breakfast) so we stopped in.
Lulu ordered huevos con jamón (eggs with ham) and I had huevos rancheros. We each got a cup of hot water and our choice of Nescafe regular or decaffeinated instant coffee. Both our orders came with refried beans and a big hunk of cobija cheese. The food was tasty and cheap and managed to help us while away at least a few minutes while we waited for 11:00 to roll around.
After breakfast, we decided to stroll around this part of town, down by the ferry terminal. We'd never really spent any time here so everything was new. One of the interesting finds was Lulu's castle.
A little more wandering and finally it was close enough to 11:00 to return to INM. When we got there, there were already quite a few folks waiting to pick up documents. Maybe we should have arrived earlier and gotten a number and waited there instead of wandering around after breakfast. But then, we may have never discovered Lulu's castle. I drew number 7 which didn't seem too bad. We took a seat and waited. After awhile I heard them call "Numero seis." Hey, cool, we're next. So I sat on the edge of my seat in anticipation and waited. And waited some more. And then waited a little while longer. Finally they called out "Numero nueve." Did she say "nueve"? That can't be right. I'm sure I didn't miss hearing "siete". While #9 was at the window, a guy who was number eight started getting pretty obnoxious. He complained in a loud voice how they should just shuffle the cards if the numbers didn't mean anything and obviously the system was broken if, indeed there even was a system. Made me proud to be a gringo as I put as much distance between him and I as I could. The good-natured check-in guy, who may or may not have understood English, seemed to be the main target of this guy's sarcasm. Eventually check-in guy picked up the phone. I have no idea who he called but I hope he was calling the girls in back and asking them to put numero ocho at the bottom of the pile.
Next we heard "Numero trece." That's when it dawned on me how it worked. At the front desk where you turn your paperwork in and ask questions, they take each number in turn. But at the document pick-up window they seem to work in bunches of documents. They may have a stack that covers numbers 4 through 10 but that doesn't mean they take them in order. You know you'll be called sometime before the next batch is processed, but, even though you may be number 4, your packet may be last of the batch. So numbers 5-10 might get called before you do.
Ultimately we heard "Numero siete". We went up, had out thumbprints taken, signed a bunch of places and then walked out with our brand new, good until February 22, 2013 FM3s. Numero ocho was still waiting when we left. Now that we've been here a year, we also got something called a CURP number. You have to have this number before you can get the Mexican national health insurance that costs about $250 (US) a year for basic coverage. Now I can also get my "geezer" card. Armed with an FM3 and identification showing you're at least 60, you can get a government-issued card that gives you discounts in all kinds of places for all kinds of stuff. Need to start working on getting the health insurance and the geezer card.
Once we were finished at INM, we walked back to the mercado to catch the bus back to the marina. We've been meaning to buy some huaraches for awhile now and this seemed like as good a time as any. We checked one booth outside but he didn't have anything that fit that we liked. Inside, we happened on a couple of huarache shops right next door to each other. I went in one and, unbeknownst to me, Lulu went in the other. I found some I liked and tried a pair on. Perfect fit first time. How much? 190 pesos. Hmmm... I don't know. I might look around a few other booths first. OK, for you, 180 pesos. Well, being the world-class haggler that I'm not, this sounded good to me so I agreed. Then I also got a pair each for my Mom and Dad. About this time I heard Lulu say "I got some." She'd apparently been doing her own shopping next door. She paid a little more than I did but still, the price range was about $13.00 - $15.00 (US) so I'm not complaining.
Did I talk about Yolanda's before? If not, it's a little lunch shack set up on property inside the condo/marina complex. Originally set up for the local workers, some of the cruisers have discovered it. We learned about something in Mazatlán that we don't remember seeing in La Paz. It's called "comida corrida" and is essentially the "special of the day". Yolanda makes anywhere from one to comidas each day.
Comida corrida today was croquetes de camarón (shrimp croquettes) served with rice and beans and a huge cup of agua de limón. Very satisfying and just the thing to tide us over until the shrimp pizza Lulu fixed for dinner. Hmmm. I wonder if all this shrimp is good for you? Is shrimp a big cholesterol contributor or anything? Sure hope not because tonight I'm fixing shrimp and grits for dinner.
Right now, Lulu and I are just sitting around, listening to music and waiting to head to town later. We have appointments at 3:00 and 4:00 to have our teeth cleaned and checked. So, even if we keel over from clogged arteries, at least we'll go out with nice clean smiles on our faces.