Author Archives: czelazek

Moving: what remains

The more you move your stuff, the more it turns into junk from being lifted, banged into doorways, and jostled in a truck. Scratches, dents, loosened joints, dust and smudges on upholstery and rugs. And the more we move our stuff, the more we fall apart too: sore backs, bruised hands, and strains that seem to take much too long to heal at our age. Ice packs, ibuprofen, heating pads, and miracle creams will all be dragged out after a day of moving.

Some people hire movers but I’ve never had that luxury. I hear they box everything up, load it, drive it and then unload it at your destination. In the blink of an eye, your worldly goods are gone and then reappear. All you have to do is write a check and then unbox things and put them away.

For me, for us, we are still healthy enough to do it ourselves. And we’re frugral. We think of what we could do with the thousands of dollars that would go to a mover, and then we start collecting boxes from the liquor store and getting ready to tackle the job. I do most of the packing and unpacking, and my husband does most of the heavy lifting. Right now, we don’t own anything that the two of us can’t move, even given that one of us can’t seem to get a good grip on heavy things.

I’ve been on a minimalist path for several years. Our things, my things, are down to the essence. They are the things that make life easier and are used every day like our beautiful glass electric kettle, well-seasoned cast iron skillets, a roasting sheet that started its life as a metal cafeteria tray, and cookware that my mother bought in the 1960s. They knew how to make pots and pans back then as evidenced by me using pans every day that are as old as I am. Sure, the handles get loose once in a while and I have to pull out a screwdriver to tighten them. But that seems like a minor ailment for pots over 50 years old. My hand-crank pasta maker and rosamorada rolling pin are coming along, even though the KitchenAid stand mixer and food processor were sold.

What else has made the cut? Art that we have purchased on our travels or from local folks. Clothing and shoes. Some colorful vintage serving platters and vases. Proper Oregon Pinot Noir wine glasses, made by Riedel. Oregon Pinot Noir might be hard to come by here, but when it comes, we’re ready. Silver-plated flatware that belong to an aunt and was kept cradled in a wooden box until I decided it should be used every day. Apart from kitchen things and art, we have boxes of love-letters from our long-distance courtship, a shelf of well-loved books, a folder of recipes, decent hand tools, and a rocking chair once owned by my paternal grandfather, who died before I was born. Its joints were already a bit loosey goosey and I’m thinking it may need a bit of tightening after the final few thousand miles of jostling.

What’s left makes me realize who I am and what is important: cooking in my kitchen with practical well-loved implements; beautiful art, be it a painting or a platter; and memories. These are the essence of what’s left and they tell you about my essence. They tell you that I make homemade pasta and I can do it without plugging in an appliance. They tell you I savor a glass of wine. They tell you I love to look at beautiful things and enjoy the memories of where and when they were purchased. They tell you that I cherish my history, and like to think about my deceased parents and my immigrant grandparents. I’ve sold and donated a lot of their things so what remains is more important, makes life more sweet and more clearly focused.

I’m down to this essence of me. And getting ready to furnish a house. Yes, we need beds, nightstands, lamps, tables and chairs. We need couches, wastebaskets, soap holders, and appliances. We will select those things with care and hopefully won’t bring in anything that is not of our essence. We will have only the things that are us.


Construction updates

Our house is really progressing! They are currently working on the covered patios and starting on the garage. Cabinets and doors are being made. Tile has been ordered. Granite, sinks, faucets, toilets have been selected. Here are some updated photos.

Paint color ideas?

Our house in context.

Covered patios underway.

View toward covered patios

Drawing of one wall of the kitchen.

Kitchen ceiling — how cool is that molding?

Welcome 2019. The year of augering in

Beinvenidos 2019! Welcome 2019! The year of augering in

New Year’s Eve. 2017/18. Lovely dinner with friends at their cozy hacienda-style home in Ajijic, followed by live music and fireworks on the malecon. Chilly. Warming up with Herradura reposado tequila and wearing a shiny “Happy New Year” headband. On the way home, kids hitting piñatas with sticks at the Seis Esquinas plaza and families tending bonfires in front of their houses, sipping ponche or tequila.

New Year’s Eve. 2018/19. On a Volaris flight from SeaTac to Guadalajara. A red eye. No sleep, but I did bring 12 grapes for each of us to eat a midnight. Before we landed around sunrise, I thought about the past year and what I would like in the new one.

We arrived in Mexico in October 2017. 2018 was the year we decided to stay. Big decision. A big year! A year of driving across two countries (over 3,000 miles each way). A year old selling things — house, furniture, lamps, jewelry, things. A year of packing the rest and moving it around. A year of never quite knowing where something is: is it in the car, in a box here at our rental, in a box in our Laredo Texas storage unit or did I sell it or give it away? I have no idea and it all won’t be clear until things are finally in one place and unboxed in our new house, mid-2019.

2018 was a year of leaving well-loved people and places. A year without routine, unmoored, wandering. A year of finding new people, places, and routines, new possibilities, new interests. 2019 will be the year for deepening my connection to those new people, places, possibilities and interests, of finding a niche. It will be a year of finding a new and different comfort zone, having moved far out of the old one. I will grow, as I have in 2018.

I had a dear friend who died in 2005. He often used the term “auger in” to describe what he’d do after a long season of river-rafting or guiding fisherman in Alaska or selling Christmas trees. He’d say he was going home to sit by the woodstove and auger in. <<I loved this term and looked it up recently and The Google informed me that it meant to crash a plane! Yikes, that was not the intent when Ric used it. Have you ever used this term???? If so, I want to know what you think it means. >> This year, I want to auger in, in the way Ric meant it. I want to burrow, nest, find my warm comfortable spot after more than a year of trying things out, shedding the past and moving about. I want to burrow into the now and find my new place in this world.

What do you want for 2019? How will you make it happen? Cheers and best wishes!

Updates from Ajijic

The Lake is extremely high and the birds are enjoying the equipment on the flooded playground.

For those who are wondering, our house is coming along quickly. See photos below. We are in the process of picking out sinks, granite, tile, faucets, toilets and all that fun stuff. So many choices!

Kitchen. How cool is that ceiling??

Living room. There will be a fireplace in the center of the far wall.

Pool being dug. Cool moldings on the wall and roof tops.

The tool used to make the cool moldings.

And, we ran a charity 5K …. at 5K elevation. I met my goals of not falling on the cobblestones and not being last.

Day 7/8 — border, fog, frustration, arrival

Day 7/8 — Border, fog, frustration, arrival

Day 7, we went to our storage unit in Laredo, packed up the car and headed to the border.  The customs guys pulled us over and rummaged around in our car to discover our four cases of wine.  Two cases over the duty-free limit that a person is allowed to bring in.  We knew this was a risk and we had to pay a 90% duty on the value of the wine. The customs’ office credit card machine was broken but luckily my husband had enough pesos stashed to pay the import fees.  We finished there around 11 and were on target to get to our hotel early. We were looking forward to free beer coupons at the Fairfield Inn, Saltillo, and thought we might even have time to run on the treadmill.  Weather was a drizzly wet one, with some fog.

We started getting stuck in traffic South of Monterrey.  A young Mexican guy in a car next to us motioned for me to roll down our window.  When I did, he said, “So you like the Cubs on purpose?”  He had seen our Cubs sticker and evidently was also from Chicago.  We exchanged the usual, “Next year!” comments.  The traffic stopped and we were foiled by a wreck from entering the toll road (cuota) and shuttled by the police onto the free road (libre), which was pretty much at a standstill.  Our navigation told us we would arrive around 5 p.m.  After not moving and breathing diesel fumes for some hours, we drove across the median and headed back to Monterrey, where we followed directions to the cuota, hooray.  By then it was already about 5 p.m., and the fog was getting thick.  By the time we got to the toll plaza, the road was closed and workers told us it would be closed at least until tomorrow, due to fog, and to return to Monterrey.  En route, I called to make a hotel reservation (“marca uno para ingles,” thank goodness) while my husband navigated the insane traffic.

So we landed at the Wyndham Garden hotel in a giant suite, where we gratefully collapsed after a dinner in the hotel’s little restaurant.

Day 8, we left early, with plenty of time to make it to Ajijic before dark. The weather had cleared and we encountered only a tiny bit of the prior night’s fog. Of course, we then came to a traffic standstill, probably due to construction (hard to tell what causes these things). Everyone was getting out of their trucks (mostly semi-trucks; only a few of us passenger vehicles) and using the the highway to relieve themselves (no comment of whether we did or not). This delayed us at least an hour and after that, we were racing darkness to get to our destination.

More traffic stoppages, some rain, and potholed roads extended our driving time. We rolled into Ajijic well after dark. We unloaded our car into our AirBnB and rushed over to Casa Domench for dinner — we missed the music but luckily the owner and kitchen staff had not gone home yet. We were fed, we drank wine and we were happy to be back.

Day 5/6 – deep in the heart of Texas

Day 5/6 (I think); El Paso to Junction to Laredo

Yep, we have spent more than an entire day driving through Texas. One big place.

In El Paso, we had dinner at Twin Peaks, the local version of Hooters. Twin Peaks, get it? Young female servers in midriff-baring, low-cut, tight plaid sports jerseys and shorts. I got to try the Beyond Meat veggie burger, which was pretty good.

The stars at night are so big and bright….deep in the heart of Texas. T or F? True!

Junction, TX: Big Hungry Cafe, Scene 1:

Me: I’m not a meat eater. Do you have any sandwiches or anything without meat?

Server: Um. I don’t think so. (Pause). We have a salad bar.

Texas Hill Country. I’ve never seen more road-kill deer anywhere. Maybe because people feed them with special feeders full of corn and then “hunt” them? Maybe.

We unloaded our trailer at a storage unit in Laredo, returned the trailer to a general store out of town. We had a late lunch at a sushi restaurant, where I felt right at home when the waiter asked me, “Algo de tomar?” Then we retuned to the storage unit and staged for the trip to Mexico: what goes in the car and what waits here until our house is completed?

Bonus: our friends at Fairfield Inn provided us with some “included” beer for happy hour while our clothes were spinning in the guest laundry.

So far, so good.