Feliz Ano Nuevo!

May yours be healthy, happy and wise!

If I could give my readers one gift with which to start the new year it would be this book:

love letterDuring the last few months this work single-handedly shifted my philosophical perspective from a long-held atheism to full blown animism ala The Dancing Wu-li Masters. I now whole-heartedly worship the ground I walk on!

And all the critters who walk it with me.  Let’s start 2013’s countdown:

During the fall my San Miguel de Allende foster girl Mia went to her forever home in Calgary, Canada. Here she is with Mom Lynn in her festive new home:

mia christmas 2013While I was in San Miguel my black miniture-schnauzer Asher stayed in Louisville with my friend Peggy and his one-true-love Foosie Mae Belle from the holler. We are all together again.

Here’s Peggy with Foosie looking beautiful in her sparkly pink and Asher looking miffed in his Santa hat.

CIMG2408~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In the “Who Knew?” department, I’ve been turning in to a baker and a cook. As readers know, I’m in Wait Mode for my low-income senior apartment, it’s cold, and without a car (lower carbon footprint!) I have few places to go.  Thus that old thudding feeling of eating too much processed food [isn’t it all!] grew louder and suddently I’m baking quiche, meatloaf, apple cider beef stew and making cookies, pies, and fruit loaves. Today I’ll start on a pear-cranberry crostada –

Oh, yum!

Oh, yum!

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Louisville Pride

Peggy’s 20 y.o. niece Elizabeth is writing for a local web site and getting paid for it. Liz, who grew up here, wrote a good piece on some of Louisville’s charms.  As I read it I realized that I’m living in an incredible little city which is to Kentucky, culturally speaking, what San Franciso is to California, or Miami is to Florida – diverse, artistically alive, foodie-ville, and celebratory with the fabulous Kentucky Derby.

KentuckyDerbyRace

People are friendly. The park system spreads out before us. There’s a roaring local music scene.

Yes, the Ville has the same ills as other U.S. cities its size: a lackluster public transportation system, strip-mall-itis in the burbs, a disappearing tree canopy, and unsafe neighborhoods, but there’s nothing to single it out as being boring, intellectually retrograde, or rigidly conservative.  It’s a surprising place and, while it may not be my end-game (who can ever tell?), I’m proud to be a booster while I’m here.

Y’all come down, now.

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During Wait Mode I’ve mentally redecorated my upcoming 526 sqf apartment in several color schemes. Initially I promised myself I’d go with a pared down, simple Zen environment. Upon returning and looking at the few pieces of furniture I have to move it was obvious that wouldn’t work. The stuff is all consignment and it has scrolling legs and sleighbed looks. Hmmmm.

I’ve decided to let my inner glam loose.

Small interiors cry out for reflective surfaces.  Mirrors work to enlarge a space but I’ll be painting my black 4-drawer dresser SILVER. Here’s a photo from a blog titled “My Champagne Tastes Beer Budget” and she actually used faux silver leaf.

MY CHAMPAGNE TASTE

Martha Stewart [yes, that madwoman!] has a line of paints titled Precious Metals. I’m going to go for a more dialed-back look ala this example from a blog titled Petticoat Junction.

mixed-metallic-pic-monkey_thumbHa ha! And I just treated myself to 2 years of DIY Magazine. Whee ha!

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Cooking, mentally painting furniture, playing with the dogs.  Nothing earth-shattering here as I fold myself back into an American city after nearly a year and a half in Mexico. My fall health visits put me as healthy as a 67 year old woman who still smokes could be, give or take the cartilage that’s failing in my knees, the fact that I need new glasses again, or that my hair grows alarmingly thin. Like most people my age who tell the truth I am a failing wreck, trust my self-wisdom very little, and muddle through old age a little bit dotty and many times surprisingly happy. I don’t expect this will change, even in a “new” year.

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Now if you’re determined to have new revelations in the year to come, then –

happy new year 2014

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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.”

The curious affair of Mexican identity

Google the phrase ‘indigenous people in Mexico’ and you’ll come up with hits in the millions, all basically agreeing that since the Conquest, Mexico’s original inhabitants have been treated like s*&t.

Yet, here is the Mexican flag

The eagle eating a rattle snake while perched on a cactus is the Mexica, or Aztec, founding myth for Mexico City.

Huh?

And, pretty much every single craft sold out of Mexico is made by the descendants of its original inhabitants.

Like this embroidery, stitched by women from the Otami, here in San Miguel de Allende

Gorgeous stuff, huh?

This woman is a member of the Otami tribe living on the outskirts of San Miguel de Allende. I see women and girls dressed like her on the streets every day.  True to consensus opinion, she is at the bottom of the San Miguel de Allende social ladder.

O.K., the U.S. has a Native American population and they’re not faring well either.  But, the entire nation isn’t permeated by their presence – down to the flag – nor profiting from their labor.  From the border to Guatemala, Mexico is selling its native people’s’ artistry to every tourist with a few pesos. Despite the fact that they make up only about 15% of the population, their work has become what it means to be Mexican.

I see lots of little girls dressed like this walking to celebrations here in San Miguel, though you wouldn’t catch a hip, urban teenager dead in it. Nor a chic Mexican woman, if the fashions on the telenovelas are any indication. [Frida Kahlo did it and has reached the status of iconography in Mexico, but she was a bohemian.]

So why are these some sixty-two native groups, centered mainly in central and Southern Mexico, producing most of what the world thinks as uniquely Mexican, treated so badly?

I suspect it’s for the same reason Saddam Hussein furnished his living room in Louis XIV

.I.E., most people in Mexico are a mixture of native Indian and Spanish. When you’re moving up in the Eurocentric western world, you don’t want to be reminded of where the poor half of the family came from. Ignoring that side of the DNA in Mexico is a full time job.  You know, except for the noble savage and let’s-make-a-buck part of it.

[Until his recent demise, Mr. Hussein was movin’ on up too. But, you only have to look at Metropolitan Home to realize Louis XIV sells extremely well to old and new MONEY.]

Granted my view of what appears to be a form of national schizophrenia is limited by the little time I’ve been here. And, the Mexican government deserves props for all kinds of ‘indigenous rights’ – on paper.  Still, it feels a little like being in ‘Alice in Wonderland’ as I observe social attitudes and economic facts on the ground.

Well, I’m sure it’s all much more complicated than what I think.

Isn’t it?