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Mother’s Day; remembering Estée Lauder

May 10 is Mother’s Day in Mexico. Here is a little remembrance of my mom, Agnes. I hope she’s partying in heaven with her sisters.

I remember the smell of my mom’s Estee Lauder perfume. My dad wasn’t the most creative shopper or gift-giver; he always claimed that the lights in the stores hurt his eyes. As I came of age, he would make me go to select his gifts for her. But before that, birthdays and Christmases, he would usually get my mom Estee Lauder soaps, lotion, or colonge. Her purses always smelled strongly of it: cigarettes and Estee Lauder, her signature scent.

My mom wasn’t exactly a hoarder, not like the stuff they show on TV where houses only have tiny paths through stacks of newspaper and trash, but she was definitely a saver. She was a child during the depression and saved everything because you “might need it someday.” My parents moved from Chicago to Oregon when they were in their 70s. I don’t think she sorted through much in the house before moving, just had movers pack everything up. When she moved to Oregon, I found a box of comfrey tea in her cupboard — tea that my grandmother had drunk and that my mom never liked, probably at least 10 years old. Yet it was there and had been moved across the country. All the cupboards and closets were full. A lifetime of accumulation, nice things and junk, shelves and drawers full.

The bathroom storage was particularly stuffed: cottonballs from a store in Chicago that had long been out of business, a lifetime supply of Aquanet hairspray, Cindy Crawford anti-aging lotions from the Home Shopping Network, and lots of worn towels and sheets (because there was no sense using all those brand new ones until the old ones were completely rag-like). And again the smell of Estee Lauder. She had soaps or sachets; towels and sheets were infused with scent.

When my mom died and I had the responsibility to go through her things, I found a fair amout of Estee Lauder colognes and soaps from, I guess, the 60s and 70s, still in their original packaging . Most of them went to the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store, but I kept a box of small rectangular green soaps. Each was wrapped in cellophane with a small bow, the Estee Lauder name carved into it, and they fit into a classy-looking green and gold box. I used the soaps in my homemade laundry detergent, reminding me of my mom.

When we packed to move to Mexico, there was one soap remaining, its edges finally turning brown. I threw it into the bag with our comforter and pillows.

Henry and Agnes, engaged to be married:


Still aspiring to minimalism

Aspiring minimalist

I’ve been an aspiring minimalist for a few years. I’ve been inspired by Courtney Carver and The MInimalists and Marie Kondo (yes, I Marie Kondo’d my clothes, books, etc.). I feel like I hve less stuff than many or most of the people I know. I’ve been getting rid of things for maybe two years. When we decided to move to Mexico for a year, that went into overdrive. Sold, donated, threw out — lots and lots of stuff.

Yet, somehow we still managed to fill a storage unit of things before packing the car with essentials for our year and hitting the road.

Now, I am one month into living in a furnished rental house without most of my stuff. So far, I haven’t really missed anything. Maybe I miss paging through my (pared down) cookbook collection, but hey, there’s the internet where I can find recipes and look at food photos. On Day of the Dead, I wished I had photos of my deceased loved ones with me in order to make an altar. And I wish I had brought more T-shirts. That’s about it.

My questions to contemplate during the next 11 months: When we get back, what will I do with all my stuff? Move it all back into the house? Go through things again and get rid of more? Get rid of whole boxes without opening them up? Will I remember what’s in those boxes (duh, of course I will because they are all labeled neatly and thoroughly)? What will I want to do?

Will this year free me from my attachment to our house and former lifestyle (gardening, food preservation, soap making, beer making, dog fostering)? Will it make me want to move again, to another place, to downsize even further, to change lifestyles? Will I have found other things I like to do as well as home-making things? Will I lose the emotional pull of sentimental items, photos, things owned by my parents? Many of those things have gone already, but how close to the bone can I cut without injuring myself? Or do I have enough distance and callouses now to get out the cleaver?

See prior post:

Art and cheese

Random observations: art, cheese, etc.

We went to a big three-day art fair held at the Chapala Yacht Club. Artisans come from all over Mexico, mostly from rural places where arts and crafts traditions are still hanging on. The fair pays for their transportation and doesn’t charge them any booth fees etc. The variety of art was overwhelming to look at — weavers (some of them weaving right there), yarn work, wood carving, bone carving, paintings, ceramics, yarn art, beadwork, masks, leather goods, and more.

We walked and looked for a long time and finally bought a few small things. We bought lunch at the food booths and enjoyed sitting on the lawn at the Yacht Club, watching birds and boats. After lunch an all-woman mariachi band played and they were fabulous!

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Futbol Sunday

Futbol Sunday

Sundays, there are futbol games on the field by our house. Saturdays, the elderly caretaker mows the grass and refreshes the lines with some kind of white powder. About nine, a car comes and brings tables, coolers, drinks, supplies, and a canopy for the concessioners. The first game starts at ten, the second one at noon. There is a set of bleachers near the concessions but most folks sit in the shade on benches, chairs or the grass along the sidelines.

From the bleachers, we have a nice view of the mountains. This week, there were firecrackers being set off periodically on the top of or on the other side of the mountains. I was reminded of the difference between the speed of light and the speed of sound. Once we saw the flashes of the fireworks, it was a good three seconds before we heard the booms.

I like watching the futbol but also enjoy watching the birds — this time, white pelicans circling and then roosting in a tree near the field — and most of all, people enjoying their Sunday. My favorite to watch are the succession of groups of small kids running toward the concessions, often with a look of glee and a blue 20 peso note crushed tightly in a hand. They return with one of the many forms of sugar available — bolsitas of a variety of candies, small bottles of sugary liquids, or plastic tubes of flavored syrup that look like narrow, unfrozen Fla-Vor-Ice popsicles.

Instead of sugar, we chose beer, papas and pepinos for our snacks. The potato chips are crunchy home-style and you can get them with salt, chili sauce, or fresh lime added to your packet. The cucumbers are sliced longways, put into a plastic bag and served with Tajin (the salt, chile powder, deydrated lime combo that is so delicious and popular).

One can learn a lot of curse words by watching the local futbol games. The team coaches can be the worst offenders, hollering at the referee, but fans can have some clever obscene commentary for the opposing team or referee too. I’ll let you use your imagination about what was said! Our neighborhood team, the Asturias, unfortunately lost this week.

Maybe we will have better luck next Sunday!


Ajiijc plaza:

JWs spreading the word on the plaza. As far as we saw, they weren’t getting many customers.


Near our house:

Our street, looking toward lake:

Futbol field in the AM:

When I tell visitors to bring sturdy shoes, I mean it. Cobblestones!

Street scene.

Our entry-way.

Beets, thunderstorms, futbol

We have had big thunderstorms the last two nights. Our bedroom only has windows into an enclosed courtyard so we can’t see the storms too well. The lightening sure lights up all the skylights in the house, though!

Sundays, local teams play futbol at a field a few blocks from our house. We enjoy watching the matches. Some of the more entertaining play is during breaks when little kids are out honing their futbol skills. From the lakeside bleachers there is also a lovely view of the hills. Beer and food are sold and it’s a fun time.

And, no matter where I live, I’ve got to have my vegetables. Today, I made a salad with some very sweet beets we got at the farmer’s market. Beets, garlic, salt, pepper, oil, vinegar.

And another rooftop view.

Settling in

Settling in

We made trips to the immigration office yesterday and today. Our Residente Temporal applications are now submitted and we wait to be summoned back for fingerprinting. The process required making copies of various things and printing out an online application. While the wait can be a little long (an hour) at the immigration office, the folks there are efficient, nice, and paitent. It’s advisable to bring a book as their few magazines are mostly from 2010 and 2011.

We met with our landlords yesterday and were pleased to discover that we are all Cubs fans. They lived in Chicago many years and two of their three children still live there. The landlords explained all the utilities etc. to us. My husband had already checked out the reverse osmosis/UV water filtration system and we were excited to confirm with them that the water is good to drink.

I was able to go to Zumba on the Malecon today before our immigration office visit. It was a very fun class and I look forward to returning; it’s held three mornings a week. My husband is going to try Tai Chi. We hope to finish our moving-in tasks soon so we can check out the golf opportunities, other classes, and activities.

After the immigration office, we stopped for a lunch of house-made pasta and then went to the Wednesday market and bought some fresh veggies and fish. Next week, we hope to hit the Tuesday organic market which is supposed to be very close to our house. I think we will eat well here.

It’s a mess but here are some pictures from our new place.