My new casa

As you know, the property on Quebrada is for sale.  Late last month my landlady and new friend Julie suggested that I take a look at a casita her friend had for rent in La Lomita.  An impending sale on Quebrada was in progress, and Julie didn’t want me to be inconvenienced in a rush to look for a new place.  We looked at her friend’s place but, while muy adorable, it was too far out of town. As my faithful readers also know, I’ve been looking at apartments since then.  This afternoon I signed the contract on this casa, with a move-in date of September 1.

Here’s a view of the back of the house:

There’s plenty of room to relax on the back patio.  What’s hard to see is the huge Jacaranda tree in its center, so here’s a close up:

But wait, there’s more!

The two stairways you see in the back of the house lead down to this:

Mine, mine, all mine!  I can foster dogs.  I can have garden parties.  I can plant things.  I can bar-b-que, because to the left of the picture I have this:

This casa (I can call it that because there are no other residences on the property) is in what we’d call a ‘border area’ if we were in the United States.’ Neighborhoods in San Miguel de Allende are called Colonias, Barrios, or Fraccionmentes (and probably several other words I don’t know.) My new place is in Colonia de Allende, a working class Mexican neighborhood that borders Guadiana, a tres’ chic upper class neighborhood – by all of two blocks.  And that’s why I’m not paying Guadiana prices.

Don’t get me wrong.  Guadiana is a beautifull neighborhood.  I’d like to pay Guadiana prices.  But I can’t.

As a pensionada in San Miguel, I can afford funky.  It will take a lot of work – but hopefully not a lot of money – to polish this rustic charmer. It’s enjoyable work though – you know, weeding, watering, decorating, shopping for household stuff, painting, changing locks, getting utilities in my name, moving furniture around – Yikes!  I’m tired already.

BUT – for no practical purpose, because it doesn’t let in any light, I have a copula on the back of the house.  How cool is that?!

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It’s going to be a very busy eight days and I’ll post more pictures later.

But.  Take another look at that garden!

Those lamp posts on the back patio take candles.

How cool is that?!

You know the rules.  No laughing.

Of course they need to be straightened.

Bobby gets his bark on, and other tales of dogdom

Bobby sits quietly in the front window most days observing the world around him.

Around 5:30 tonight, a gentleman parked a couple of these kids at the curb to Bobby’s left

Only his two were older and weighted down with looked like (big) sacks of flour.

From Bobby’s reaction, I guess we’re going to have to introduce him to the stables incrementally.

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I finally found something Mr. Picky likes to eat.

Though, I came to the conclusion a couple of weeks ago that he probably ate table scraps all of his life.  He doesn’t like kibble, he doesn’t want kibble, and he’s not going to eat kibble.  What’s he’s going to do is pick the cheese/tuna/chicken out of the kibble.  No big whoop that’s he’s fond of rotisserie chicken, huh?  And really, who can blame him?  No matter how often the packaging says “real meat”, he knows it’s not true.

Which brings me to a new [to me] diet for dogs.  Known by the tragically academic as “Biologically Appropriate Raw Food”, or BARF, we plebes just call it ‘the raw food diet’, and it makes a lot of sense –

This from the world’s foremost proponent of raw food for pets, Dr. Ian Billinghurst (who naturally has a product to sell):

“The philosophy behind using BARF is that the diet a dog or cat evolved to eat – over many millions of years of evolution – is the best way to feed it. This is the hypothesis accepted by most modern zoos or any zoologist concerned with preserving a species of an endangered animal. It is not the theory endorsed by most pet food companies or the people they train – and that includes unfortunately – many vets. If you want to feed your dog BARF, it means not feeding your dog cooked and or processed food. That is, not feeding your dog a diet based on cooked grains, no matter how persuasive the advertising. Artificial grain based dog foods cause innumerable health problems. They are not what your dog was programmed to eat during its long process of evolution.”

Of course there are a lot of expensive commercial raw food products for us, but you ‘could’ figure it out on your own, new foster mom.

Well, I know Bobby likes meat – the little carnivore! – but the process of figuring out which vegetables or fruit he’ll eat will take much experimentation.  Potatoes?  He doesn’t care  how much butter you fry them in. Carrots?  Euw.  Bananas? “Do I LOOK like a monkey?” Packaged dog jerky? ‘It’s not real’ – so the challenge will be to provide a nutritionally balanced meal for the BobCat.

I do on the other hand have a sweet tooth, so human cookies are just fine.

Woof Woof!

A Drinking Song

Ladies & Gentlemen, please, lift your glasses!

“Here’s to the women whose

mothers told them, ‘You think too much,

You’ll never get a man.’

Here’s to the women whose lovers scold them, ‘You drink too much,

You spend too fast.’

Here’s to the women who wear red dresses,

Dance on tables, shake their tresses –

and, here’s to the women who run and run,

who come undone, 

Who die too young.

Now!

Here’s to the women who last and last.

Who have their fill from life’s banquet table .

Lift your glass, light the light,

Sing a song, make it loud –

 Here’s to the women who are able!”

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I wrote this when I was 30, and I’m posting it now

because occasionally, I still make this toast.

Tonight is one of those nights.

You know who you are.

Two available apartments in San Miguel de Allende

This is a frugal blog, so you’re at or under $500.00 USD on these rentals – but sorry, no pictures this time.

In Guadalupe on Calle CriCri: a one bedroom bottom floor apartment that allows (encourages!) a dog. Behind the metal gates, the big garden is FABULOUS! You share it with the upstairs apartment and it has a separate open air dining room seating 8, a completely roofed outdoor living room with two couches, two comfy chairs, standing lamps, big coffee table, a wet sink, and a humongous hutch for your dishes and … tequila. Mature plants, a garden ‘reception area’ for your guests, another small seating area, and a fountain! Utilities plus gardener included for $500.00.

The reason the outdoor space is so grand is because inside you don’t have a living or dining room, just a table and two chairs in the kitchen. With good finishes, the interior is waaaay small (though the owner will remove the king size bed that’s eating the bedroom.)  If you don’t mind a tiny interior – nicely appointed but small – and love outdoor living, this safe, quirky neighborhood could do it for you.

Here’s your contact:  Angelo at 152-3444.  Tell him that Jackie told you about it.

Next.

A one-bedroom, first floor apartment is open at Chelo’s apartments next to the Oxxo on Ancha San Antonio.  These rent for $300.00, including utilities (I think.)  There are 55 units in this complex and I’m told they are a beginning point for *many* gringos in San Miguel de Allende.  Super safe, with a great location and off-street parking, I learned that people take a one bedroom and wait until a 2-bedroom opens up.  Two-bedrooms rent for $500.00.  And, they go quickly.

While you have a small front porch or balcony at Chelo’sthere is no real garden or common space.  But, with 55 units, you’ll probably make new friends quickly!

Here’s your contact:

Your best bet is to go to the apartments and talk with Pablo, the manager.  Senora Chelo owns and works at her farmacia on the corner of Canal & Hernando Macias, but she’s just going to tell you to go over.  Her number is (415)152-1198 and the email is enterobacter1@prodigy.net.mx

Good luck wherever you land!

 

 

 

 

Do dogs have an internal compass?

I mean this kind:

I think they must, because every dog I’ve ever had picks the exact middle of the bed when I say ‘Night, Night.

I’m ready. How about you, Foster Mom?

Bobby was a little off center last night, but that’s probably because he left his tools in the living room.

My sweet foster dog is leaving September 4 to join his new forever mom, Bella, in Austin Texas.  Once again SAMM, Save a Mexican Mutt,  http://www.saveamexicanmutt.org/ has put together a match made, from Bobby’s point of view, in heaven.  He’ll have a yard, dog play dates, a doting person who thinks he’d make a great Therapy Dog (and so do I), plus the normal stuff: you know, healthcare, security, affection.

Rescued from the pound in San Miguel de Allende by the fabulous volunteers at Adopciones de Amigoshttps://www.facebook.com/AdopcionesDeAmigosl and slated for euthanasia, Bobby was sprung on July 20th and came to stay with me on the 22nd.  Bella and I are writing back and forth about his shy, playful personality.  I’m fattening him up and, along with SAMM, making sure he’s as healthy as possible for his trip.

Bella thinks there’s something 19th century about him and I agree. There are times when I want to put a smoking jacket and a monocle on this kid.

Lord, I shall surely miss him!

Looking at rentals in San Miguel de Allende

For location and price, the apartments that Rosalba, of Rosalba Realty [on Hernando Macias & Umuran] showed me today were sweet. Brand new and located on Guadiana at Moras, but without utilities included, they are out of my price range.  But, why not share?

$450.00 without utilities, looking in from front door

Now you’re looking out from the kitchen back to the front door:

Each of the three apartments available has a small terrace

 

I’ve got a ‘point and shoot’ camera, so it’s hard to show space, but I thought the bedrooms, which include closets, were a good size.

Lovely windows and light in these apartments. There’s a door to the right with access to the little terrace.

The common area, with a washer & dryer.

Street parking, and maybe 8 units total (I didn’t count), here’s the largest at $550.00 USD.

Looking in cady-cornered from the front door.Wait till you see the window across from the dining table

 

Container plants on the terrace outside the round window. Lovely!

View from the kitchen towards the bedroom in the $550 USD apartment

If you don’t know the neighborhoods in San Miguel de Allende, Guadiana is considered top notch.  Secure, walkable, with a beautiful park, these apartments are a good deal for someone with deeper pockets than I have.

I’ll post more rentals as I see them, so check back – or click the “Follow” link and you’ll get emails when I post (which is every 3 or 4 days.)

Meanwhile, here’s your contact for these apartments:

http://www.rosalbarealty.com/

Good luck, wherever you land!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Comonfort: looking for inexpensive household goods

Comonfort is a small town roughly 25 miles outside of San Miguel de Allende, with a main street that is lined with shops and restaurants for blocks.  Mary drove us up yesterday, a Sunday (which is important, because many vendors only set up on Sunday.)

Not a destination for quality, hand-crafted items, this is a place where Mexicans look for planters, lamps, mirrors, kitchen stuff, kids toys, and furniture – because prices are much lower for the same items than in San Miguel.

All prices in a rough approximation to U.S. dollars.  [Right now the exchange rate is hovering around 12.8 pesos to the dollar.  The rate changes every day, sometimes up, sometimes down.]

So, I paid [roughly] $15.00 for three cacti, 2 planters, and a plant stand:

At “Diana’s”, Mary looked at these benches.  The smaller runs $41.00, the larger $62.00.

I looked at this $100.00 desk, because it’s on wheels!

“Diana’s” specializes in some pretty ornate carving and ‘robust’ legs.  For my tastes, her furniture felt a little ‘heavy’.  I prefer the lighter touch of papa Fidel & son at “Arlinqin’s” at Loreto 7:

But lord knows, if you’re looking for cactus, planters, small contemporary lamps, mirrors, kitchen items, ETC. [especially cactus, because I got quotes of $10.00 for a starter cactus in San Miguel de Allende] it’s worth the ride to Comonfort.  As I was window-shopping yesterday, I thought, “This is the kind of place where, after you’ve been here a few times, you’ll find three or four stores which will become your go-to shops for x and x and x.”

Besides, for those of us who used to haunt Olvera Street in Los Angeles, it’s just as much fun!

 

Viva Comonfort!

Mobiliario rústico mexicano

Or, rustic Mexican furniture.

Out today following up on a recommendation to visit the furniture makers at Arliquin, Loreto 7. Thanks, Brigid!

I met the charming father/son duo who make this furniture, but talked mostly with dad Fidel about prices and their ability to tailor pieces to your space.  Mainly interested in the side table to the left in this picture, which runs roughly $14.00 USD.  After purchase, the pieces are sanded down to full finish, and either you can stain or paint them yourself, or throw in another $8.00 and dad or son will do it.

The hutch is $200.00.  (Sliders on drawers cost another couple of bucks.)

At Arliquin these chairs are called the “Reina”.  They cost $36.50 unstained.

I think they’re wonderful, but of course you’re in for the cost of pillows for the seats.  Still ….

I forgot to write down the cost of this book case, but it was just as reasonable:

Sunday Mary and I are going to Comonfort, a small town outside of San Miguel de Allende where she has her go-to place, Diana’s, for furniture. I’ll do ye olde compare & contrast.

Now back to my hang up on hanging lamps.

I love the cobalt in this one in the store next to Arliquin named Arte Magico.

But, when I told the lovely Miriam at Artesanias Chely [at the entrance to the artisan’s market and frente al Hotel Quinta Loreto] the price the kids at Arte Magico quoted – $53.00 – she gasped.

Miriam has this lamp for $25.00:

I could get over my cobalt fixation.

Oh!  Three store owners complemented me on my Spanish today.  I know (and support) their desire to sell merchandise, but I don’t think that was the reason.  As I apologized for my weak Spanish, Fidel told me that I was “claro” in what I can say.  Two women and I talked entirely in Spanish.  One said “Your Spanish is very good” (in Spanish), and the other … well, we just had this easy relationship right away, so when I said “Lo siento” about my skills, she vigorously declared (in Spanish) that she understood me and I spoke *extremely* well.

I don’t.  But as we say in Mexico, “poco y poco.”

Hunting for household goods in San Miguel de Allende

Since Quebrada is for sale and I’ll need to move eventually, it makes sense to me to start looking at what’s available to rent in San Miguel de Allende.

Let’s talk about budget.  I want a first-floor apartment, or a small house, inside a gated wall, with garden space.  It must allow dogs, because I want to continue to foster.  My tap-out budget is $450.00 USD, including electric and water.  In a safe neighborhood with relatively flat streets.

Trust me – every 66 y.o. gringa who’s just moved to San Miguel is my worthy competitor!

Ahem…  Moving on.

Semi-furnished, which means a stove and refrigerator, is considerably less expensive than furnished.   Plus, furnished places are ‘done.’ For those of us yearning for a blank canvas to make a long-term home, semi-furnished is good.

But, it’s pricey to furnish, isn’t it?

Ah, yep, and for my slender budget, the consignment stores here are way out of reach.  They’re fun to visit [amazing what Gringos leave behind] but the prices! Same with estate sales.

So, what’s a girl to do?

Let’s start with lighting.  A lot of semi-furnished rentals have a hanging light bulb as overhead light.  Fortunately, fabulous Moroccan style tin work lamps are (fairly) inexpensive in the shops.

But, if you want to save  even more, and have something you’ve co-designed with a local tin worker, here’s what Kathy wrote to me:

“There is a guy across the street from me who does tin work.  He has a little workshop at the beginning of Hernandez Macias (no signs).  I have had him make a few things for me and I think he’s great. All he needs is a picture or drawing and tell him what you want.  He just finished a wall sconce with wiring for 220 pesos and made a hanging lamp for 300 pesos.  His is the first place on H. Macias on the odd numbered side of the street right a the intersection with Calzada de la Luz.”

In the spirit of frugality, I pass Kathy’s advice on to you.

I plan to visit this gentleman’s workshop soon.

Next stop.  Furniture

I feel guilty when I feel happy

About the Arab invasion of Spain.

Way back in 711 A.D. the Berbers swept into the Iberian peninsula and, conquering the ruling Visigoths, imposed Islam – but what’s more important (to me)  – they brought the Islamic arts.  The Berbers and other Islamic groups themselves borrowed from ancient Persia, but not so much from the lucid geometry of Greece or Rome.  Hence, here in San Miguel de Allende we can trace architectural details from ancient Persia to Islamic civilization to Spain to Mexico.

Like this classic pattern on a window grill in San Miguel, which is really just a simplification of a medieval Persian motif.

Such as this thousand year old book plate:

You don’t have to look far in San Miguel de Allende to see minarets that have been transmuted through the lens of Spanish Catholicism:

But, their origins are happily here in this 9th century mosque in Iraq:

Of course, the Islamic world first gave the globe the pendentive dome –

The Spanish, Portuguese and Italians just gussied it up, like this magnificence in San Miguel de Allende, a quarter block from my front door:

The interior of an Islamic pendative dome looks a lot like a traditional Mexican boveda ceiling:

The design elements of grand Mexican casas rely on the Islamic arch for much of their grace:

Here are some of the decidedly more splendid arches in the Alhambra in Granada, Spain – but, same principle. Sans the fabulous stone incisions, this could be a (million dollar) home in Mexico.

Even Mexican tile design points back toward Persian and Arabic art:

Walking around San Miguel is to see the Islamic arts that I so dearly love expressed in buildings, gates, grills, and ceramics in a chance encounter with design history. For me, these architectural details are the grace notes in colonial Mexico. To see them transmitted down through centuries and civilizations to live on here and now ….

is to feel guilty about being happy that the Arabs invaded Spain.

PS – The native Indian arts of central Mexico owe their lineage to no great civilization.  They are all and totally their own, and equal to the task of blending beautifully with their Spanish/Islamic heritage.

But, that’s another post.