Semana Pasqua

We are half way thru the second week of Easter, or, as they call it here, Semana Pasqua, which means the Easter holidays are drawing to a close.

I cannot describe the crush of people who come to Puerto Vallarta during this time.  Here, in Riviera Nayarit, our beaches go from something that normally looks like this


to this


There is almost an electrical charge in the air as the mood in the entire bay shifts to a slightly happier albeit busier plane.  Yes, it is true, traffic picks up, or grinds to a complete halt, depending on how one wants to view it and that table at our favourite restaurant may not be quite so easy to get.   There are waits at gas stations.  Grocery stores tend to be out of a few, (or a lot of!) things.   You know, all the stuff one would normally associate with the sudden influx of an enormous amount of people.   Think Summer Rental with John Candy.


Visitors to the bay, naturally, are all in high spirits.  They are on vacation after all.  As locals, we have learned to embrace rather than dread the crowds knowing that they are helping our economy perk along.  (Though, I must admit I have found it easier to embrace the crowds when we make sure to have purchased anything we think we might need in advance).


We were blessed again this year, to have had a full house over Easter, and our guests truly appreciated our quiet oasis after a full day of being entertained by all that Vallarta has to offer.


Today, our Easter guests have all headed back to Guadalajara and Mexico City and the house is quiet, for a few minutes, while we are in between check-outs and check-ins.

I can say with certainty that since we started in this business, life has never been dull, and without exception, the people we have met are exceptional!  The season will come to an end in a few weeks and we will spend the summer doing the usual maintenance, getting ready for what is already shaping up to be an even busier season than this year.




Good Friday, 2016

It is shaping up to be another fantastic weekend here at Casa Madera!   Easter guests began arriving yesterday and will continue to do so over the next couple of days.   Our rooms have been cleaned, dusted and freshened in anticipation of another full house.  Alexa is readying herself as the official greeter and the cats are peering in thru open doors as we do last minute prep to the rooms.    I tell myself they are taking an interest in our business, though, I suspect all they are really only looking for the next quiet place for an afternoon nap


Kevin is already enjoying a round of golf at Flamingos Golf Club,


and I intend to turn an afternoon of total freedom into one of frustration as I try to sew straight lines with my sewing machine.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the idea of sewing.  Taking a piece of fabric, any fabric, and turning it into something useful is a very rewarding experience.  Turning that same fabric into something useful AND beautiful, with nice seams and straight lines, to me, is a form of art.  One that I aspire to.


I must say that I was very fortunate this year to have had several guests who are practiced seamstresses and who were kind enough to share their tips and ideas for making my sewing experience a much happier one!   Ladies, I will be thinking of you this afternoon as I attempt to put all of your advice into practice.  Perhaps this time, I will get the measurements for those curtains correct!


You may think me strange, but even an afternoon making poor decisions about where to make that cut, bad measuring and miscalculated seam allowances, can feel like time well spent.  I can also state that in spite of all my sighing, cursing, toe tapping, groaning and seam ripping, sewing is a relaxing experience for me.   I think that is because when I am sewing, I think of nothing else.  There are no random thoughts cluttering my head.   Seriously,  all I think about is how to turn this latest mistake into something useable!

These chair slings practically cut themselves!  Loved the straight lines!DSCN9415

On the upside, every mistake I make teaches me something.  Lately, I have been applying the  lessons I have learned at my sewing machine to the bigger picture of “real life”.   And, it works.  In sewing, as in life, if there is something worth doing, it is worth doing right so that it turns out well. So, Heather, stop with the shortcuts, dig in and learn to do it right the first time.

It totally goes against my nature as I am always looking for the most efficient, simplest and easiest way to perform a task.  Sewing is teaching me that sometimes the simplest, easiest and most efficient way of doing things is to slow it down.  Take your time.  Stop looking for shortcuts.   Do it right the first time.   Learn from that process.  And remember, if it is worth doing, it is worth doing well.  And to do it well, you have to do it right.

Happy Easter everyone, and whatever you choose to do this weekend, take time to slow it down and enjoy the process.  As they say, life is not about the destination, it is about enjoying the journey.   DSCN6193

Our Favourite Fried Chicken

If you are like Kevin and I, we don’t eat as much fried food as we used to.  But our love of fried foods still dwells within us!  The big difference being, that now, if we are eating something fried, it had better be good!  No longer do we settle for mediocre fast food fare to satisfy our cravings (though I will admit to a weakness for the onion rings at Carls Junior lately).   Mostly when we want something fried, we want the best darn fried food we can find, and for food snobs like us, that usually means making it at home.   

Enter Bon Appetit magazine and their recipe for southern-style fried chicken.   Originally published in 2012, I only discovered this recipe last year.   (Go ahead and make fun.  Food nerds like us are thrilled to have back issues that we can read at our leisure as many times as we like.)   The recipe actually calls for the chicken to be fried in oil stove top, so I balked at trying it for a long time.  Both Kevin and I, being career insurance people, know very well just how dangerous a pot of hot oil on the stove can be.  

However, their claim that this is “the only Fried Chicken recipe we will ever need” had us searching for a good deep fryer at every store we entered for the next 6 months.  This is not Canada, and while they are easy to find now, 3 years ago when we started looking, it was like hunting for hens teeth.

We eventually convinced ourselves that we live in a concrete house, with marble counters and finally, we talked ourselves into making this without a deep fryer!!  We should have videoed our first attempt, as I am sure all the precautions and worry we took were worth a sit com series but in the end, the finished product was well worth the effort and worry!   Juicy inside with a crispy crust, and the hot vinegar pulls it all together.

You will need to start the vinegar a week in advance, and the chicken does have to sit overnight, so there is some planning inovolved, but I promise you it will be worth it!   We are used to doing it stove top now, and are  happy with the results but if you prefer using a deep fryer,  just be sure that your oil is at the magical 350F before adding the chicken.  I am sure you will get the same results.    The real key to this is to use a smaller chicken and to let it sit in the dry brine over night.

I have tweaked the recipe a bit from the original, which you can find at

Here is my version of Skillet Fried Chicken:
(serves 4, 1 serving is approximately 616 calories)

2 tablespoons kosher salt, divided
5 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
3/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1 3 – 4 lb chicken cut into 10 pieces, back removed
1 cup milk

1 teaspoon vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 egg

3 cups flour
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1 litre canola oil for deep frying (more or less, depending on size of your pan)

  • Whisk 1 Tbsp. salt, 2 tsp. black pepper, paprika, cayenne, garlic powder, and onion powder in a small bowl. Season chicken with spices. Place chicken in a medium bowl, cover, and chill overnight.
  • Let chicken stand covered at room temperature for 1 hour. Whisk buttermilk, egg, and 1/2 cup water in a medium bowl. Whisk flour, cornstarch, remaining 1 Tbsp. salt, and remaining 1 Tbsp. pepper in a 9x13x2″ baking dish. 
  • Pour oil into a 10″–12″ heavy straight-sided skillet (not nonstick) to a depth of 3/4″.  Heat over medium-high heat until thermometer registers 350°.  You can try propping the thermometer in the pan, but I never have luck with that.  I just keep it close and check the temperature of the oil frequently.  Meanwhile, set a wire rack inside a large rimmed baking sheet. 
  • Working with 1 piece at a time (use 1 hand for wet ingredients and the other for dry ingredients), dip chicken in buttermilk mixture, allowing excess to drip back into bowl. Dredge in flour mixture; tap against bowl to shake off excess. Place up to 5 pieces of chicken in skillet. Fry, turning chicken with tongs every 1–2 minutes and adjusting heat to maintain a steady temperature of 300°–325°, until skin is deep golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 165°, about 10 minutes for wings and breasts and 12 minutes for thighs and legs. 
  • Using tongs, remove chicken from skillet, allowing excess oil to drip back into skillet; transfer chicken to prepared rack. 
  • Repeat with remaining chicken pieces; let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving.

    And voila, better than takeout any day!  Oh, and don’t forget the Spicy Vinegar!  

    1 cup white vinegar
    1 habanero chile
    1 serrano chile

    Slice chiles into quarters, lengthwise and place with vinegar in resealable jar.  Seal and shake.   Let sit at room temperature for 1 week before using, shake daily.  After that it will keep almost forever in the fridge.