Friday, August 21, 2015


Happy Blouses!

Happy Blouses make me a Happy Girl...

Thursday, August 20, 2015


Over a year ago I developed a huge callous beside the nail on my pointer finger. Since that hand is always holding a pen or paintbrush, I wasn't too surprised or concerned. But then it started working its way around the entire cuticle bed. Now that was weird! So, when I went in for my annual check up with my dermatologist last summer, I pointed it out to her. "That's not a callous, that's a wart." "Can you get rid of it?" "Well, I can freeze it for you." "Does that hurt?" "Yep." "What's plan B?" "I can give you something to put on it." "Sounds like a plan!"

I went home with a prescription for salicylic acid, and instructions to apply it twice daily, and be sure it only touches the wart, not the skin around it. Well, I had to use my spastic left hand to apply it, so that's easier said than done. Guess what? It hurts like hell when you put it on normal skin. Plus, she didn't mention that once the acid dries, your finger appears to be covered in a mound of crusty white aphids. Not attractive! I put up with this poop for a year, and ended up no better off than when I started. So, when I went back for this year's check up I told her "Enough of that. Just freeze the darn thing!"  "Oooo-kaaay. But, when I do that, I have to do it every three weeks." "Are you kidding me?" "No. Warts are very resistant. Especially these cuticle warts." "Well forget that! I know what frozen skin looks like. My husband has to have it done all the time. I'm better off just living with the wart!"

She finished up my exam and was heading to the door when she paused and turned back. "There is one other thing you could try." What, amputation? "You could try putting a piece of duct tape on it." "Duct Tape?""Duct Tape. There have been studies, and it seems to work," she said with a shrug and a smile.

I followed her instruction, cutting a piece just large enough to fit over the wart itself. When I took it off 48 hours later, the wart was all but gone! At first I was elated. But then I felt like screaming and punching something, or someone. Why didn't she tell me this last year? Would she really have let me go through with having it frozen every three weeks if I'd agreed to it? Why didn't I figure this out myself? I should have known! Why? Because two or three years ago I ended up with a plantar wart. Felt like I had a rock or marble in my shoe all the time, but was actually just a teeny-tiny dot on the bottom of my foot. I did some research on the nets and found one study that compared the satisfaction rates from people who had tried everything from surgery, acid and freezing to duct tape. Guess which one got the highest rating? Yep, Duct Tape! I put a little piece on my foot and the relief was almost immediate. A short time later, it was gone. Unfortunately, my brain just never connected the dots between that tiny speck on the bottom of my foot and this big ol' crusty mess on my finger. DOH!!!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015


There's an artist named Jane LaFazio, whose blog I have followed for quite some time. My interest in her ramped up several notches when I came across this article in a magazine last fall, and discovered that she and and a few of her artist friends had hosted a couple of retreats in San Miguel de Allende -- a place I'd always dreamed of going. Now, imagine my astonishment when I was wandering around our hotel in San Miguel early one morning, and came across this in one of the parlors...

Later I found owner Barbara and asked her if she actually knew Jane LaFazio. "Oh yes! She's hosted art retreats here at Casa de las Noches for several years now. They made that totem at the last one." "Um, do you know if there's another one coming up this year?" "Yes, but I'm afraid she's booked up a year in advance." Dagnabbit! Turns out there is an amazing, light-filled art studio up there on one of the rooftop verandas.

Not only that, Barbara is currently looking into acquiring one property that would be geared towards hosting just these kinds of retreats, and another that would be for long term stays -- guests who wished to stay for a month or longer.

Now, from the very first morning when we woke up to that delicious chill in the air, John and I had been joking about coming to spend every August here in San Miguel. Texas is hell in August! Of course, we were only teasing...or were we? I have absolutely no desire to ever own two houses at once again. I can barely handle the upkeep on one! Nor do I wish to spend my remaining days as an expat, away from our families and not really belonging in either country. But what if we could find an economical place to stay for just one month each year. How would we fill our days? How do we fill our days in Texas each August? Hiding in our air conditioned house!

Anywho, back to our final, blissful, unscheduled day in San Miguel. At breakfast friend Helen asked if we had ever made it over to Fabrica La Aurora. No, we hadn't. She said it was a fabulous facility that used to be a textile mill, but is now filled with galleries, shops, art studios, gardens and three lovely restaurants. They liked it so much they went there twice! So that's where we headed. We got there right at 10:00, their official opening time. Should have known better, as almost none of the shops were open yet. Fortunately, their lovely courtyard cafe was!

That gave us time to peruse the jewel of a little magazine we found in their entry area, free of charge! It was called the San Miguel Walking and Shopping Guide (May-Sept. 2015), and inside it had a map dividing the city into ten different color-coded walking routes. Then there was a whole section in the book corresponding to each route. Not only did they tell you the best shops in each section, they also gave historical information about any important landmarks you might pass, as well as tips on all the best places for a meal, beverage, or snack. Why, oh why, didn't we discover this on our first day here? Of course, if we ever came here and stayed longer, we could devote one day to each of the ten routes, and have ten different adventures! By the time we finished pouring over that, the shops were beginning to come to life.

Fortunately for us, Thursday is "In-Studio" day, so in addition to finding lots of great gifts to take home, we got to see some of the artists in action, including one who was teaching a mosaic workshop.

Come to find out, many of the artists (most, if not all, English-speaking) teach workshops periodically. I picked up several brochures, including one for an artist who teaches mixed-media encaustic workshops. That might be fun, if I ever came and had a bit more time, right? We finished up our visit with lunch at another of their lovely cafes, then Hubby and I split up to each spend our last afternoon trying to fit in all the things we most wanted to see and do. An impossible task.

That evening we met back up with the rest of our group for a lovely farewell dinner at a nearby Italian restaurant, and then it was time to go back and pack up.

Dear San Miguel de Allende, I feel like I've barely scratched your surface! But maybe, just maybe, I'll be back!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


I've spent a bit more time playing with my post-travel journal this week. After we got home from the trip, tour organizers Larry and Cynthia sent us a nice little postcard, thanking us for joining them on this adventure. Ours had a picture of one of Diego Rivera's lily paintings, much like the one on my journal's cover, so I decided to glue that inside. That got me to thinkin' about Frida's nickname for Diego -- El Sapo, or The Toad. If you've ever seen photos of him, you'll understand where the moniker came from. Next thing I knew, I was sketching this:

I also had a postcard and business card already in my stash that I wanted to use. From New Mexico, not old, but I didn't care. They reminded me of the colors of Mexico.

Madre Tierra (Mother Earth) is a shop where I bought some earrings, and I used the sack they came in as the background for the facing page.

The border at the top and bottom of the page was part of a Dia de los Muertos stamp set from The Paper Source, which a very sweet person gave me for Christmas.  While staring at the little square photo, I got to thinking about farm animals, and about how strange it was that we were awakened by roosters every single day we were there, right in the heart of the city, with not a blade of grass to be seen. They must have been Rooftop Roosters. Patio Poultry.

And so, I finished the page off using a couple of chicken stamps that I carved awhile back.

Maybe after-the-fact travel journaling isn't such a bad idea after all. There's something to be said for having plenty of time, and your entire stash of supplies, at your disposal!

Monday, August 17, 2015


Breakfast was earlier on Day 5 of our San Miguel adventure, for we had to be loaded onto the vans by 9:00 for the outing to Guanajuato, about an hour and a half away. I didn't know much about the place, other than what I'd read in a book written 25 years ago, and was expecting another small town out in the middle of nowhere. Wrong! Actually, it's a good bit larger than San Miguel, and the most "European" city in Mexico, the birth place of Diego Rivera, and home to Teatro Juárez, a gorgeous fin de siècle opera house that hosts international productions (a bit of weenie-wagging on the part of former dictator Diaz).

First stop was this scenic overlook, where tour guide Francisco gave us the lay of the land.

The houses are stacked one atop another, up the sides of the hills, and are even more colorful (if that's possible) than the ones in San Miguel!

Guanajuato is known for its silver mines, so there was a ton of nice silver jewelry available, but I was more interested in this place...

the birthplace of Diego Rivera. Not only did it house many of his paintings and sketches, it also had a huge mural that depicted the entire history of Mexico, from left to right, and the people who influenced it. Our guide Francisco claimed that, though Diego was certainly not a handsome man, he was much like Francisco himself -- irresistible to women!

Lunch was at an elegant place near the town center, with no English on the menus. I recognized the words ceviche and camaron on the appetizer section and pointed to both. Luck was on my side. The ceviche was made with a white fish this time, not quite as yummy as the salmon, but still pretty good. The "camaron" dish was three crusty shrimp tacos with caramelized onions, served on jicama tortillas! Perfect for all you no-carbers. Me, I kinda like my carbs.

It was 6:30 or 7:00 before we finally made it back to the hotel. Luckily, we had a mini-siesta on the bus home. Soon as we had cleaned up, we headed back downstairs to chat up people about dinner recommendations, and to ask the young local girl at the desk to look up the address for that bar we'd been searching for ever since we arrived. She got a funny look on her face when John told her the name, and asked why we wanted to go there. John told her a friend recommended it, and asked if she had been there herself. "No, but I've heard of it. It's just a bar! Where Mexicans go. To drink! You don't want to go there." Actually, yes, he really does. "But. But. It's just not cute!" Not a problem, believe me. She finally handed us the address. No wonder we couldn't find it! John's bozo friend told us the wrong street. It's not on Carreo. It's on Mesones!

So this was dinner.

It's called a molcajete, due to the traditional mortar and pestle bowl it's served in, and I don't really know how to describe it. Just take my word for it. It's not very photogenic, but it is very, very good! Over dinner we came to a conclusion. We'd been on tours with buses and vans and schedules every single day since we got there, and had another full-day outing planned for the following day -- our last day in San Miguel. And, as much as we'd like to see the places they were going to, what we both really, really needed was one entire day with no agenda, free to do as we please. Coming to that decision was like having a load lifted off our shoulders!

Afterwards, we began the trudge up Mesones street, stopping at a couple of shops along the way. At one we asked the owner if he was familiar with El Gato Negro. "Why do you want to go there? It's just a bar." WE KNOW! With a shrug of his shoulders, he directed us further up the street.

At last we found it, and even though I'm not a drinker, they had me hooked as soon as I heard this drifting out over those swinging double doors.

The music only got better from there!

Sunday, August 16, 2015


We got a sneak-peek at Lex and Nate's new house last night. They closed on it a couple of months ago, but rented it back to the previous owners for awhile. They finally moved out a couple of weeks ago, and in that brief time the kids have managed to replace the entire roof and have all new siding installed and painted...

Looks sky blue here, but actually more of an aqua color.

added ceiling fans, repainted all the inside walls, and replaced the backsplash tile in the kitchen...

and most amazing of all, gutted both bathrooms!

In the master bath the old fashioned shower/tub combo was replaced with a new walk-in shower...

while in the other one they installed this extra deep soaking tub.

Only a few odds and ends left to take care of, which is good, 'cuz Friday is moving day! So proud of them for not settling for someone else's dreams and choices. A house should reflect the tastes and passions of the people living in it now. Put your mark on it, and make it your own!

Today we get to meet up with the other two kids, to see if we can't move this visa process along. The Epic Sudanese Adventure approacheth!