Mayan Adventure Part 1

You know how I like a bit of excitement, so I flew out of here directly to Cancun to meet Margaret, and have no cell phone.  She was flying direct from Vancouver and wondering how on Earth we were to meet at the airport.  After doing some research I said just go to the Coconuts Bar.  If you do that, I’ll be sitting there.

Margaret’s plane was due about 90 minutes after mine and she worried I’d be bored waiting that long to which I replied, “Don’t worry, I’ll likely have a new best friend by the time you arrive.”

I arrived exhausted in Cancun and found my way through security to the Coconuts Bar and sat on one of their stools, and said sorry but I can only drink water as I have to rent a car, and I have to sit here for one and a half hours.  The waiters were good with that, as it certainly wasn’t crowded.

First a nice Mexican man sat down and had a beer.  Turns out he was waiting for his wife, and has a sister who lives in Vancouver.  As he was very pleasant I said the usual, “oh, um, I don’t have a cell phone and I wonder if I can text my friend who should be landing any minute?”

He said sure, and sent a text to Margaret saying I’m sitting here in the Coconuts Bar.  The nice man left, and an older woman came and sat at the other end of the bar.  I turned to her and we began to chat, and that took a good 45 minutes as she told me all about the princess her stepson was married to.  She kept saying “I never talk like this to strangers.”

Her husband arrived, as did their son and his princess of a wife, and my friend waved and off they went.  A minute later a nice American woman my age named Marie sat down right beside me, and we had a lovely conversation as she’s a left-leaning Democrat.  She’s married to a Mexican who was undocumented for 11 years until they were married so she said it was always very tense.

She was sad to see Margaret arrive, though Margaret and I were thrilled as now our adventure could properly begin.  We left the terminal and were taken to Easyway Car Rental where a little Fiat Mobi standard shift was waiting for me.

At first I couldn’t even turn off the music and went oh my, this should be a challenge on the Mexican highway we’re taking to Akumal.  However Margaret managed to do that, and I got the car into gear and we lurched off into the night, as by now it was around 8:00 PM and dark.

An important part of this story is how neither Margaret nor I know where north, south, east or west are, even at home.  We’d been given directions to the nearest grocery store and drove past it, and soon the new word ‘retorno,’ entered our Spanish vocabulary.

Hence any time one is on the 307, to go in the opposite direction there are no lights, but regularly spaced U turn areas.  However one has to stop fully and then quickly shift from first, to second to third, to fourth, to fifth bracing bracing bracing for the rear-ender as both lanes go like stink.

Through some miracle, we found our way to the resort called Bahia Principe though we weren’t staying there, but in a condo deep inside the complex, rented via Air B and B.

We drove around for quite a while, returned to the gate, and said um, can you help us find this building?  A kind Mexican guard named Fernando hopped onto a motorcycle and lead us straight to the place and showed us where to park.

Exhausted, we fell into a deep sleep.  Margaret’s room was adjacent to the balcony where jungle birds awakened her and she said she felt so happy here.  It was wonderful to wake up to blue sky and full sunshine.

That day we drove deep into the jungle just for the hell of it.  We thought we were looking for the beach, which we felt certain must be on our right.  However after driving on a pot holed road for half an hour, we thought huh!  I wonder where that damned ocean is.

However while completely lost we came upon a hand painted sign that said Cenote Xunaan – Ha.  So we parked right there and walked along a path until we came upon a Mexican in a hut with a fire going outside in the little yard.  He said 70 pesos, or around $5 so we said sure, and walked the path to the cenote.

We were all alone except for a nice couple from Nebraska.  Most of the billboards showing cenote tours are appalling as it appears there are several busloads of people at some of them.  Not here, where an iguana came by to watch us as dipped our feet into the clear, turquoise water.

At the entrance a trio of backpackers had given us a tip that Xca- Cel beach was lovely, and vaguely explained where to find it.  Hell-bound, we got back onto the 307 and went hey you know what, that damned ocean is on this side.  So now we were on the ocean side, and suddenly saw the hand-painted sign for Xca-Cel beach.

This is a beautiful, secluded beach, mostly inhabited by locals, with miles of white sand and gorgeous warm water.  We snorkelled, but didn’t see any fish.  There was another cenote there, which we visited.  It was another quiet one with no tourists, only locals.

By now we were very hungry and got back onto the 307 hoping for food.  Suddenly we saw a sign BAR, and I swerved off the highway and we headed down a long road, all the way to an absolutely darling bar and restaurant right on the sandy beach called the Bikini Beach Bar.

This became one of our favourite hangouts as Carlos made us the most wonderful huge pina coladas and margaritas ever seen.  On our last night we needed a margarita to go, and so on the morning we left we dropped by with their glass and a fond farewell.

Day two saw us heading to Tulum to tour the ruins.  Little did we know we’d be lining up in full sun for half an hour to get through the admission gates, but it was well worth it.  I don’t think I’ve ever been that hot in my life, and I’m from Osoyoos, so that’s hot.

We cracked up some locals at a restaurant as we’d ordered burritos.  They came wrapped in some green leaves which we thought hmm, these are tough but whatever, and tried to eat them.  A nice Mexican mimed no, and we said no?  and then realized oh I see the banana leaves come off, and the burrito is inside.  We were thrilled to be of such entertainment for the locals.

We then decided to drive off into the jungle to the Coba ruins after our lunch.  Our days always included tequila because we’d discovered it’s the only antidote for the sun, so we’d had drinks with our lunch and felt fortified for the trip.

The Coba ruins are quite spread out so at one point we hired a young kid named Jose Luis to pedal us on a tricycle.  He was a dear Mayan kid who explained he’d worked cleaning rooms at the Bahia Principe resort for 70 pesos a day.  We said that is one terrible place, and later I said to Margaret we should’ve made it clear to him we weren’t staying inside the resort itself as he must’ve hated us.

When we left the ruins one highway sign said Tulum and the other Cancun and as Akumal is north of Tulum we agreed we didn’t want to go south, just to have to head north, so would take the route for Cancun.  Surely there would be exits along the way.

This was one of the more interesting drives of our whole trip as we were on a small paved road, thick jungle on each side, the gas tank near E, Margaret’s cell phone out of power, and vultures circling along the way.

The road took us through the tiniest of settlements, just a few thatched roof huts, with some chickens milling about, but no signs for how long this road would go on.  After quite a bit of prayer, we came to civilization and realized we’d made a wide bow and were coming into Playa del Carmen where we got gas.

Three hours after leaving Coba we arrived home in the dark where Margaret said stop at the resort hotel as I need a margarita to go.  She went in and demanded two, they handed them over with some confusion, and we drove to the condo, thanking God.

The next day we snorkelled in a lagoon called Yal Ku, and went for a nice lunch in a giant thatched roofed restaurant in Akumal Bay.  We’d parked in a public lot, and as we’d snorkelled we didn’t bring a lot of money.  We ate and drank and when the bill came I said to Margaret oh dear God I don’t think we have enough money.

We panicked, counted carefully, and saw we could pay the bill.  When we left we realized we had no money to get the car out of the lot.  We’d browsed in a small store before lunch, and sheepishly had to go in and beg them for a return so we could get our car back, which they kindly did.

On our last day in Akumal we thought we should go and check out the beach at the Bahia Principe resort.  We had to pay $15 US to partake in their buffet which wasn’t all that great.  However it’s a lovely resort so it was interesting to walk the grounds and sit by the ocean.

The downside was the ugly fat old half naked people who were staying at the resort.  One grossly overweight couple sat down, ate two big plates of food, and left before we’d even finished our pre-lunch margaritas.  Those were included so we tried to drink as much as we possibly could.

Then sadly it was time to pack and figure out how to drop the car and catch the ferry to Cozumel.  Stayed tuned for Part 2.

I’m off to the Mayan Riviera next Week

Margaret and are going to meet at the Cancun airport, rent a car, and then drive to Akumal, which is about an hour south.  She’s flying from Vancouver, and we have direct flights from Kelowna, so I’ll be there about 90 minutes prior to her arrival.  God willing, of course, given winter travel in Canada.

Nicky’ll stay here with his filthy dog Fuji so that the cats and Louie are properly taken care of.  The little female cat, Iris, now knows how to use the cat door, so all three cats are fairly self-sufficient.  One thing I have to warn Nicky about is if the tuxedos run out of food they swipe the dishes off the shelf, crashing them onto the tile floor.

Here’s something disturbing.  I went to Value Village as it was 50% off and bought some tops, and then I decided to count how many tops I have.  Just on hangers, I have 77!  Add the folded tops in drawers and I must own 100.  This was very upsetting, even at $5 each top, it’s the insane volume that kills me.

So now there are many sections of thrift stores in which I can’t allow myself.  Besides women’s tops, I eschew the nick nacks as I can now shop in my own house for gifts for people.  However I’ve been looking for a small French press to take on my trip, and somehow came home with stone horse head book ends.

Because I don’t have a cell phone Margaret and I have to make concrete plans for meeting in Mexico.  I’m not really worried about it, as I know in the past whenever I’ve urgently needed a phone, I’ve been able to rely on the kindness of strangers.  Most people are so perplexed by the request they just hand me their phones. Of course then I hand it right back saying how do you dial this thing, and making them do it.

We in the Interior of BC are grateful for things such as direct flights to Cancun, however the departure time is a brutal 7:00 AM.  It means I have to get up at 4:00 because I want to leave here at 5:30.  With Nicky driving, and at that hour, I’ll be there in 15 minutes, and will have my boarding pass in hand.

As I’ve just counted my tops I can just imagine the volume of pants, capris, shoes, etc., however I’m already salivating for things I want to buy in Mexico.  One very useful thing is a litre of vanilla extract as it’s cheap there.   I hope that’s not some kind of nightmare at customs.

When I was in Mazatlan several decades ago I bought some leather goods which I hope to be able to buy this time too.  One was an adorable pair of leather sandals and the other a handbag.  Surely just one pair of shoes and one purse will be okay.

The worst of it is having to put on a bathing suit at this gargantuan weight.  However I plan to do as much snorkelling as I can, so I’ll just have to keep the cover-up on right to water’s edge.  I sure hope there are still a few colourful fish left in the world’s reefs.

I see it’s sunny and 28 degrees C in Akumal today, but then some rainy days are coming so one wonders what sorts of clothes to take.  However if out of 100 tops I can’t find a few suitable outfits then I should certainly pack in my shopping addiction entirely.

I’ve Gained 8 Pounds Since December 1st

I finally decided to be brave and got out my scale and stood on it this morning.  My my, it’s amazing what a gallon of egg nog, dozens of cookies, and several boxes of chocolates will do to the figure.  And there’s no way to ignore it any further as I’m off to Mexico early next month and will be putting on the dreaded bathing suit.

One of the final blowouts occurred at mom’s at the end of December as she had a cocktail party for our neighbours and the new orchard owners, the Lepps.  They’re the owners of Lepp Farm Market in Abbotsford, and they came loaded with lovely charcuterie from their store.

We were all given a gift bag of assorted Mennonite sausage to take home, and I just adored the whisky smoked duck breasts, which were covered in a layer of duck fat.  All of it was wonderful.

Then the final blowout occurred on New Year’s Eve when I met my friend Petra at the Eldorado for their Sunday brunch.  It’s $33.95 so you can’t show up and eat like a bird.

Petra and I were quite thrilled with ourselves as we managed to eat two plates of food, then each had a plate filled with desserts.  It was the nicest setting as we had a little table by the window on their closed veranda and looked out over the deep snow onto the lake.

I’ve heard a couple of people tell me about this new fad of “intermittent fasting.”  Apparently one eats during a small window of time, and fasts for the remainder.  My chiropractor said he tries to consume all his food within about six hours or so.  He said he doesn’t eat breakfast, and then eats between noon and 6:00 and that’s it.

Unfortunately 6:00 PM is when my body and mind start plotting.  One goes hey, what’s in that cupboard?  The other tries to reason, loses, and soon I’m sitting on the couch watching CNN and eating a bowl of chips.  So I decided I can’t allow myself one single bad food in the house as I’m not trustworthy.

And speaking of bad, the cats continue on their evil paths.  I’ve lived here for 27 and a half years and never once have I seen a cat on the roof of my garage until today. I know it was George as he’s figured out the cat door, so comes and goes at will, but poor Iris can’t understand how it works.  Why he was up there I have no idea.

Poor Iris has to sit on the window ledge and look out at her uncle Mango and brother George cavorting in the snow.  I’ve had seven cats live here and learn the cat door, and yet this cat, who seems as smart as they were, can’t go through the pet door.  Hopefully one day she will.

To burn off steam from being trapped inside Iris likes to do things like getting up and into the heating vents.  Again this is a first for me as no other cat’s even dreamed of doing something like that.  I’ll be sitting here and hear scrabbling under my feet and it’s the cat deep within the bowels of the house doing God knows what.

But they needed a home and they got one, so I just have to roll with their punches.

Another Year Done

This year will be one of the quietest Christmases ever, as Luke won’t be here due to work.  It’ll be the tiniest of gatherings, and I have masses of food, so we’ll have to bravely eat for two people each.  I’ve already gained quite a bit of weight so figure it won’t make much difference at this point.

I’m just about to put another German cookie recipe into the oven.  This one is called Pfeffernuesse, and it means Pepper Cookies.  They contain black pepper, as well as cardamom, cloves, ginger and cinnamon.  I’ve already made countless batches of the famous Spitzbuben cookies.

These are now de rigueur each Christmas for quite a lot of people.  Most people receiving them for the first time reply with a “holy cow, that’s a good cookie!” then by November are hinting about them.  So it’s my own fault as Margaret has described them as ‘crack.’

After making thousands and thousands of fruitcakes over the decade, last month I made my famous recipe just once, which made six loaves.  I haven’t made them for a couple of years, but Penny said her mom had already asked her about four times about the fruitcakes, so I said no problem.  So four went to Penny and her mom Phyllis, and the other two to mom, and that was all I was able to make myself do.

Then as the events director for the local Liberal riding association, I was tasked with ordering the food for our annual Christmas party.  We invited all volunteers and donors, and sent out invitations stating appies and refreshments would be served, and the MP was going to be in attendance and speak.

70 people replied they were coming, so I ordered enough appies for 70.  Then perhaps 35 people showed up, so that was a terrible annoyance.  If I get an invitation and reply, I usually go, or else let the people organizing it know that I won’t attend.  Oh well.

Many people think all I’ve done these past ten years is be a fruitcake monger. However I’ve also been self-employed providing vocational rehab services to various long term disability insurers.  This has been great as I’ve been working from home since 2007.

However I’ve decided to retire, and now the world really is my oyster as I’ll have time to explore what my heart’s desire is, and do that.  And what a great time for new beginnings, check out this article on why 2018 is a Year of Rebirth.

All shopping is done, parcels sent, gifts wrapped.  Tree has been decorated since December 2nd, and the lights were put up courtesy of Nicky and Denis that same day.  The turkey’s bought and now I just have to clean, the worst task of all.

But it’s a white Christmas, all’s well with my little world, and so from my home to yours, have a very Merry Christmas.

The Marauding Kittens

When Margaret visited a couple of weeks ago she said the kittens reminded her of the twins in The Shining.  She made the comparison because the cats are almost identical, and she said the way they turned their heads in unison seemed spooky.  .For me it’s the destruction that’s the scary thing.

Now that they’re teenagers and quite muscular and strong, when they leap across the table they pull the tablecloth and everything on it right down to the floor.  I’m becoming used to the sound of glass breaking on a tile floor as they like to go into the shelving downstairs in the storage room and rummage around.

When Margaret and I were out doing our usual thrift store shopping, I’d found an adorable vintage Santa spoon rest.  It was $4 which is insane, but I wanted it.  So imagine my dismay to hear a crashing sound and go downstairs only to find my precious spoon rest knocked to the tile floor.

All of the plants have had pieces knocked off, and I’ve had these in vases on the counter, and now that they sprouted some roots I’ve planted them.  I guess I should thank the kittens for providing me with so many new house plants.

I had my monthly Reiki treatment this week, and I have to say it’s a fabulous thing to do.  It’s interesting how mismatched my left and right sides are.  I’ve always known I’m one of those people where if you cut a picture of my face in half, the two sides don’t match.  My right eye is bizarrely smaller than my left.

However it’s not just the physical part but the internal dynamism of each half that’s different as well.  When Joan’s working on my right side, it’s like a lava lamp of colours, yet on my left side it’s just plain old black.  So that’s a goal for her to work on.

Margaret and I looked at condos while she was here, as she hopes to transfer to UBC-O at some point.  Inventory is low, and I have to blame Vancouver for that.  So many people are priced out of Vancouver so they’ve come here, driving up prices and lowering availability.   It appears Luke and Jan bought the last cheap condo in Kelowna.

We looked at a place right across the street from their complex, but it faced the parking lot and the college across the street.  More horrible were the two poor turtles trapped in a fish tank which was absolutely filthy.  I had to get out of there just because I felt so bad for the turtles.

To cheer ourselves up over the lack of condos, we’ve made a plan to go to the Mayan Riviera in February, and so that’s going to be a happy time.  We’re spending five days in Akumal, and five days in Cozumel, so that should give us ample snorkelling in both.

Due to the girth of my mid section, I’ve bought a couple of tank tops which I plan to wear over a black bathing suit bottom.  This may or may not disguise what’s going on in the stomach area, but with a true bathing suit the secret would be out immediately.

And I know there’s no point in saying I’ll lose weight in time for that, as Christmas looms.  I already have plans to pick up my favourite Blackwell Dairy egg nog this Friday.

Good bye to the Orchard

It appears as though the Schiller orchard’s going to change hands after 87 years.  That’s an awfully long time to own something!  My dad cleared the land in 1930 and planted the first crop, which would’ve been cantaloupes, water melons, tomatoes and cucumbers.

Eventually he moved into a variety of fruit trees, like peaches and prunes, and finally it was all apples.  When I grew up I had my favourite gnarly old trees in the orchard, and then Luke and Nicky did, too.  It was sad when every single one of them was pulled out and burned in place.

That was because Washington State grows such huge amounts of apples they can dump them on us for pennies, and so apples weren’t worth growing.  Eleven years ago mom took advantage of a government re-plant program and had the whole place re-planted in peaches, prunes, cherries and nectarines.  Back to the old.

It’s now a very high-producing young orchard, and has been brought into excellent shape by our neighbour Teunis who leased it from mom.  We’ve known him all our lives and of course he knew dad well.  So he was so surprised and thrilled when a red delicious apple tree poked up amongst all of the newly-planted trees.

Last year he said it had five apples, but this year he gave mom a box of probably 30 of them.  He said be sure to tell the new owner he can’t tear out that brave tree.  Teunis pointed out the heat of the ashes as they raked them over the Earth.  I said well that’s dad for sure!  He was quite tenacious when you think of the effort to clear that raw land.

But we have to move on and face reality given mom’s 92 and neither Freddie nor I want to become farmers at our ages.  Certainly none of the kids want to do it, so it’s going to be sold to someone who wants to farm and that’s what dad would want.

Here’s another surprise. Ira turned out to be Iris.  You’ll recall I got two “male” kittens, yet one stayed kind of small and I wondered what the heck.  Then I finally got wise and checked their privates and sure enough, I have brother and sister cats.  George is very affectionate and adorable, but Iris is a bit standoffish.

Some nights both of them sleep with Louie and me, and some nights they’re off someplace else.  They’re almost like Siamese twins in that they do everything together.  It’s so cute when they’re both in the litter box peeing in tandem.

Tonight’s Halloween and I’m going to have to turn off most of the lights and hide as I didn’t buy any chocolate bars.  I just can’t trust myself with 96 tiny chocolate bars, knowing I often don’t get any children at all.  Louie’ll bark and bark as they’re knocking, and I’ll just have to mentally absent myself from the whole scene.

Anyway that shouldn’t be hard as I’m mentally absent a lot of the time anyway.  I’m mostly in some richly-detailed fantasy world and quite happy there.  So the reality and stress of the orchard negotiations have been wearing and annoying.  However it appears to finally be settled.

Thanksgiving Menu

The kittens, George and Ira, have basically destroyed the main floor of the house.  I e mailed this to Gitte, another cat fanatic, and she said it’s just a phase, they’ll get over it.  So I just have too remain calm as I right plants and scoop the dirt back in, get the vacuum, and clean every few hours.

As there’ll just be four of us for Thanksgiving dinner, mom, me, Freddie and Wendy, I thought a roasted chicken might be a good idea.  Mom and I aren’t crazy about turkey, so this might be a nice alternative.  I’ll still make stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and have cranberries.

But for fun, I’m going to try a roasted Brussels sprouts, red onion, apple and bacon side dish.  As well I’m going to make diced yams tossed with honey and baked.  We’ll see how these new concoctions turn out.

Something I made at Christmas and loved is rum mousse.  It’s decadent and rummy and lovely after a heavy meal.  But just in case, I’m also making two pumpkin pies, a la The Joy of Cooking as their recipe is nice and low in sugar, yet delicious.  This can be served with dollops of whipping cream to keep us in a good mood.

Due to the dry weather I had no honey this fall because there was nothing for the bees to forage on by late August onward.  So I started feeding them with jars of sugar syrup, and soon will wrap the hives and get them ready for winter.  It’s fine, as my honey extractor’s still not repaired, so what I would’ve done with more honey I don’t know.

Being the lazy person I am, and not having the extractor, I scrape tablespoons of honey and honeycomb right off the filled frames I’ve stored from the early summer harvest.  It fills the room with fresh pollen scents when I open the lid, and I love to eat the “nectar of the Gods” by the tablespoon.  Imagine my weight.

Recently Superstore had little boxes of 10 figs for $10 and I must’ve had 30 figs on my little tree this year.  Isn’t that great?  I have to overwinter it in the garage, then transplant it next spring as its container is way too small.  Imagine next year’s bounty.

But between the figs, bees, kittens, adult cat and dog, I’ve come to the realisation my dream of chickens is going to have to just remain that.  I noticed I was constantly wondering if the kittens were happy, or if Mango was upset due to the interlopers.  I’d sometimes feel sick inside and realised someone like that doesn’t need chickens.

Because then at night, instead of worrying if the bees are warm enough, I’d have to add the chickens to that.  Young cats are often picked off by the coyotes, and I know chickens are a worry given the raccoon family that lives under my cedar hedge.  Isn’t it upsetting enough to wonder how George and Ira will fare?

So this Thanksgiving I’m very thankful for coming to terms and knowing my limits.