Mango-Lime Ice

 It’s true.   Mango Season is here again and we at Casa Madera plan to take full advantage of this yummy fruit again this year!   As with tomatoes, there is no better mango than a tree ripened mango.   Their juicy goodness is beyond compare.  If you haven’t had the pleasure,  I invite you to join us here next June to experience the height of Vallarta’s Mango Season for yourselves.

We have several trees in our neighbourhood and we often see people with long sticks wandering down our street in hope of knocking down a few ripe ones.   Mango picking is fun, but be sure your picking partner is not standing under the branch you are knocking mangoes from!!  (Thinking of a particular Monty Python skit here….).

If foraging for mangoes is not your style, don’t worry.  They are easily found in the stores and are very inexpensive now too.   Depending on where you  live,  (Canada, for instance) you might find the frozen mangoes have a better flavour than the fresh ones and we are sad for you.

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Seriously, Mangoes were 12 pesos a kilo in the market this week. That’s less than 50 cents a pound!

So, what do we do with all these lovely beauties,  you ask.  Well, for breakfast,  we like them cubed, topped with a little of our home made greek yogurt and sprinkled with coconut.  Its a great way to start the day.  Kevin and I ate mangoes this way for breakfast every day last week and will do the same next week, and maybe even the week after that too.IMG_1474

As an afternoon snack, they taste great sprinkled with some lime juice and Tajin, which is a mixture of chile powder and salt that accents the mango beautifully.   For those of us who cant wait, this is a good way to get a head start on mango season as it makes an underripe mangoes taste especially good.

But, back to the rest of the mangoes sitting on our counter… all of them are now ripe, which means I have enough to make one of our our summer favourites – Mango-Lime Ice.  Just mangos, limes and a bit of sugar.   Your first taste will tell you this is well worth the effort.

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OH!   DONT FORGET TO READ THE  COOKS NOTE AT THE VERY BOTTOM… (you’re welcome)

Mango Ice

4 – 5 ripe mangoes (or about 1 1/2 kilos or 3 1/2 pounds of frozen mangoes)

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 to 1/1/2 cups of sugar, depending on your taste and ripeness of the mangoes.

Cube mangoes and place in bowl of food processor along with the lime zest and juice.

Process until mixture is fairly smooth.  Some small pieces of mango remaining are ok.  Taste and add sugar as needed.  Pulse a couple of more times to blend in sugar.

Pour into 8 x8 pan, cover with plastic wrap and pop in the freezer.

Freeze until the mixture is firm, but not fully frozen, about 2 hours.

Scrape out of pan and into food processor and pulse until mixture becomes slushy.  Pour slush back into the pan.  Freeze 1 hour, process in food processor and repeat freezing and processing once more.  These extra rounds in the food processor give your Mango-Lime Ice the fluff it needs.  Otherwise, you will end up with a frozen chunk of mango puree that you cant dig out of its container.  (Why, yes, I did learn this the hard way, thanks for asking.)

Freeze for at least 1 hour before serving.

This will keep, covered, in freezer for about 2 weeks.  But, if you are like us, you will finish it off long before that.

****  COOKS NOTE – I would be remiss if I did not tell you that after the first freezing, you can actually take some of that semi frozen mango mix and put it in a glass.  Add an ounce of tequila , a couple tablespoons of simple syrup and voila!  MANGO MARGARITA!!!   *****

Why We Like Sonigas!

Every once in awhile, and often when least expected, someone in the business of Customer Service will absolutely blow my socks off with a standard of care far above and beyond my wildest expectations.   Such has been our experience with Sonigas and this is my opportunity to publicly thank them for their excellent service.

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Street view from a truck!

Our propane (el gas) is delivered to our house by truck.  Getting the tank filled is as simple as flagging down a passing gas truck.  Many of our visitors have experienced Kevin or I suddenly yelling “GAS!!” and racing out the front door to stop the truck as it passes our casa.   Yeah, we could just call the office, but where would the fun be in that?

Our propane consumption has been increasing at an alarming rate over  the past 6 months.  Where $500 pesos used to last us 6 weeks or longer, the last $1000 pesos we added was gone in less than 3 weeks.  A week later, another $500 pesos worth of gas – gone!!

Even with a house full of guests, this is a LOT of gas!

We checked all our lines for leaks several times, and found none.  When we bought the last batch of gas, we asked the guys from the Sonigas truck for their recommendation.   They suggested we call their office and ask them to send a technician out to have a look.

So, I did, and they promised to send someone out that afternoon to have a look.   I admit, I was skeptical.  We have heard that promise many times  before, and “this afternoon” often means “tomorrow”.    Sometimes it actually means “call us again next week”.    You can imagine, then, how delighted we were to have a technician at our door just a couple of hours later!

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Our propane tank, catching some rays.

The technicians name was Gabriel.  He was polite and thoroughly professional.  I really did think he was an angel!  He checked all our connections, lines and appliances for leaks.  He found one small leak, which he fixed.  He was not convinced that one tiny leak could be the source of our problems, so he marked the gas meter and left strict instructions to call again in a few days if the gas dropped more than a couple of points.

Which I did, our meter having fallen from 30 to 15 in just 7 days.   We and our guests do love to cook, but not THAT much!

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Our rooms have the cutest stoves.

A different technician this time,  just as professional and thorough in checking as Gabriel was.  Every stove was pulled (we have 4), all the lines checked and again, a miniscule leak was found.  He fixed that, but questioned that this tiny leak would cause that much propane loss.  He also gave us a quick lesson in the care of our propane tank.  Did you know it likes to be in the sun?  We didn’t, and had allowed our trees to grow quite wild around it.  He suggested that we cut all the branches back and allow the sun to reach it to prevent premature rust issues.  Ok.  Done.

 

With the second small leak now fixed, we flagged the truck down on its way past the other morning.   I was surprised when the  drivers asked if the leak issue had been solved.  I told them that the technicians had checked everything, but were unable to find the reason for our disappearing propane.  I joked that Kevin would just have to take me out to dinner more often so I wouldn’t be using our gas stove so much.

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Eatng out… no cooking, no dishes!

The next day, we received a phone call from the Sonigas office telling us they were not completely satisfied that our problem had been dealt with and they were sending an independent contractor with additional technical equipment to search for our leak.  I had to repeat all this back to her to be sure I understood because this NEVER happens, but yes, she confirmed that THEY wanted to send someone else out to check for us, if it was alright with us.  UMmmm, ok.

Sergio Martinez arrived that very afternoon with the usual  tricks of the trade designed to find and repair gas leaks, plus several more.  He was here a couple of hours and found no new leaks.  He even went so far as to call the office, to confirm the last couple of deliveries, thinking that the pump on the gas truck may be improperly calibrated.  Wow.

He taught us the calculation so we can be sure that we are getting all the gas we are paying for and told us to do the calculation BEFORE we pay for the gas each and EVERY time!   I asked if the drivers would not be offended that we were checking on them, and he said “no,  they are probably wondering why you aren’t already doing it.”  Ok, I will do it, but it will feel weird.  He just smiled.

The Calculation:  read your meter before gas goes in and after.  Subtract one from the other and multipy that number by how many litres your tank holds.  That will give you the number of litres pumped into your tank, which should match the number of litres on your bill.  Simple.  

We are leak free, by the way, and the calculation has confirmed the truck is pumping the correct amount of gas into our tank.  After much frustration and discussion, we have narrowed the source of our disappearing gas to our hot water heater.  It works well, but it is old, and perhaps inefficient.  So, we have drained and cleaned it and if that doesn’t work, we could be calling  Sr Martinez  (soinstalaciones@yahoo.com) to install a new  hot water tank.

Sonigas has won us over as loyal clients and I can promise that we will be calling Sergio Martinez for any future gas/pluming/electrical work.

I should also mention that ALL of this care and attention we have received from Sonigas has been free of charge and always with a smile.  In a world where the negative often overshadows the positive, I could not allow the opportunity to tell a happy story and to say THANK YOU to a business that offers such excellent customer service slip by me.

Thank you, Sonigas!!
Thank you, Sonigas!!

The Journey to Casa Madera – We have the house….what the heck do we do now?

August 25, 2011 – I am enjoying coffee this morning on our balcony at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta surveying our front yard and trying to remember what it looked like 20 ago when we moved in.  It is difficult as we have made so many changes over that time.  New iron fence, a few more plants, grass; they all contribute to fogging the memory.  It has been an amazing 20 months since we signed the papers and took over the stewardship of this house.  It was a few more months until we really took ownership of our home….months

December 9, 2009 – We are sitting in the office of Notario #4 with our realtor, the listing realtor, the mortgage company representative and the Notario’s assistant.  Our search is at an end.  After months of looking, making an offer and then waiting for all of the paperwork to be completed we are about to sign the final papers.  We were excited but also a little terrified!

Signing the papers. Are those smiles of joy or trepidation?

We were about to take on a project that neither one of us had ever thought about 4 years previous.  We wanted a house that could be used as a Bed and Breakfast and we found it.  It was perfect.  All the guest rooms would be separate from the main dwelling so no one actually had to walk through our living space to get to their room.  The pool was right by the guest rooms.  The rooms had front and back doors.  It looks like the house was designed specifically for this purpose.

After many explanations of the various documents, many photos & many signatures, the deed was done.  The keys were handed over and we went to look at our new abode.

The house that would become Casa Madera

Everybody feels something different when they walk through the front door of their new home for the first time.  For some it is the elation of having a house for the first time.  A house to raise a family in and build their lives together.  For us it was different.

It was the feeling of incredible terror!  We had just walked into a 3,000 square foot mass of concrete that needed some serious upgrading before we could even hope to get our dream up and running.  However, it was now ours.  Two people who had spent the last 20 odd years working in Insurance.  Heather, a gamer who would try anything in a home handyperson kind of way and me, who is anything but a handy kind of guy.  We spent that first 30 minutes looking at our castle and realizing we were about to be taken on the ride of our lives.

Over the next 3 days we moved all of our stuff into the house.  Now all of our stuff is kind of a liberal term.  We moved down with the Toyota Rav 4 filled to the brim but that was all we brought with us.  I still cannot believe it took 3 days to move everything in but apparently we had bought a lot in a year.

Before we could set anything up or put anything away the house had to be cleaned.  It was filthy.  So after buying new brooms, mops and cleaning supplies we went to work.

A rare sight, me with a mop!

The second day our new bed was delivered so we spent our first night in the house.  That was more than a little different.  We had been living in the interior courtyard of a condo complex where you might hear a cat meowing after dark but that was it.  We spent the first night and a few more after that going “what the hell was that?”  Some noises were easy to identify, crickets, frogs, the odd cow but there were others that just defied description.  We don’t notice those anymore.

After getting everything moved in and put away it was time to try to figure out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.  We would sit under the palapa and just stare at everything.  We had no clue of what to do or where to start.

Tearing out the kitchen in room number 1

Do we deal with the green pool first?  Do we deal with a bedroom?  We just had no idea.

The pool, what a lovely colour

It was few days before we started to work out a plan.  The bedrooms had to be demolished.  The woodwork was termite ridden and rotten.  The rooms were dark and dirty.  The bathrooms were disgusting.  They needed a complete overhaul but nothing could be done until we had ripped everything out.

So we started with our back room.  It had a full kitchen which was at least 20 years old and looked 40.  So I started taking out the kitchen while Heather started on the wall unit.  It was difficult figuring out how they had everything installed and removing screws that had been in place for many, many years but it started to come together.

Bathroom sink and vanity

For 3 days we worked on this room.  It was hot and dirty work but we did feel a sense of accomplishment when we were finished.  The problem then was what do we do with it?

The first bedroom after the kitchen tear out

It was that day a friend of ours came by and said he had a fellow working at his house building his wood fired pizza oven.  He was almost finished with and he wondered if we would consider taking him on.  He did concrete and tile work.  He could do other things too but we would need to make sure he knew what we wanted. We needed somebody to help us with this so we said yes.

And thus began the tale the Oswaldo…..