The Journey to Casa Madera – I said I wanted A cat!

March 7, 2012 – We had to go to Costco the other day to pick up new glasses and supplies for Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  It’s funny, a year ago our supplies at Costco generally involved items we could not buy anywhere else and were limited to foods and wine with the purchase every 6 weeks of dog food for Alexa.

We never bought cat food at Costco.  Zorro was fussy and Costco did not carry Whiskas, the only brand he would eat.  The other problem was the large bag would probably go rancid before Zorro would eat it all.

Zorro, the coolest cat I know.

Now for the first 6 months we had him we did buy the cat litter at Costco but we soon found that he stopped using the litter box and used the jungle.  Typical male, the whole world was his bathroom.

We did not complain about that aspect of Zorro’s existence as it was one less item to clean up and 20 bucks we did not need to spend every 8 weeks or so.  Oh how things have changed…..

July 8, 2011 – My annual trip home to Alberta to see my kids, Allison and Brendan and my granddaughter, Elizabeth.  Always a joyous event to see the kids and to spend time with them.  As always when I go home in the summer my brother Alan, his son Jonathan, Brendan and I journey out into the foothills of Alberta to go fishing.

Well that’s what we call it anyway.  Many would wonder if we actually do any fishing as we rarely come home with any fish but do come home with a fair amount of empties.

This year we made a change to the trip due to high water levels where we normally go and headed out to Jarvis Lake outside of Hinton and spent the weekend camping with Heather’s brother, Neil and her brother-in-law, Denis.  The fishing was no different from normal and we were still having a good time.

It was on Friday afternoon while we were sitting around shooting the bull and enjoying the sun when Neil while checking his Facebook said “hey you have 4 more cats”.  Oops I was not supposed to tell you that.

Lluvia the one and only female

Cats??  What do mean I have 4 more cats???  I can’t wait to hear how Heather could get 4 cats.  I had only been gone for 4 days!

Esperanzo - The Union Leader

It seems that the night before it was absolutely pouring rain as it is apt to do in Nuevo Vallarta in rainy season when Heather heard Alexa making strange noises and pawing at the garage door.  When she went down to investigate she saw a little paw coming under the door.

Blanco - trouble with a capital T!

Now a lot of people at that point would have ignored it and went back upstairs.  However, Heather is not like a lot of people.  She opened the door and into the garage ran 3 kittens.  Well this was a bit of a shock, especially for someone who never wanted a cat.  They were all over her and Alexa.  It was then she made that fatal mistake…..she took them upstairs.

Dulce - he is "special"

Kittens are cute.  Even when they are ugly, they are still cute so I understand the pull to protect them.

It was raining, hard.  This brought Zorro home.  He was not impressed to see the little things in his house so this was a problem.  Heather put them into the library where the door could be closed, added some litter to Zorro’s litter box and gave them food and water while the big mean adult male sat outside the door and tried to figure out how he would get in to deal with them once and for all.

The next morning a girl who would walk a couple of dogs for her neighbour yelled up that she saw something strange over on the other side of our neighbours house.  Heather went down so she could show her what it was.  And there laying in the sodden dirt was one very wet and looking dead black kitten.  Apparently there were 4 kittens not 3.

The kitten was covered in muck, flies and eggs.  Apparently it was dead.  Heather went back to the house and called the Vet.  He said to try a little food around its nose and see if it responds.  He was already coming out to have a look at them and deflea them but it would be an hour or so before he got there.

Heather did as suggested and went down with some wet cat food on her finger and waved it in front of the kitten’s nose.  CHOMP.  The kitten was very much alive but weak.  However it still managed to break the skin and cause a little bleeding.  So Heather picked it up and brought it to the house.

Kitty armour

The Vet examined the kittens and made sure they were good to go.  Heather made a trip to Mezcales to see the Doctor about her finger.  He told Heather that if the kitten dies it has to be brought in to be tested for rabies being as it bit her…..great, just what she needs.

Needless to say I was interested to see these little additions to the household when I arrived home a week later but I still did not want them.  I love cats but one cat was enough, we did not need any more.  Heather had been trying to give them away or find a shelter for them but the only one that might be able to take them wanted a $100.00 US a kitten.  400 bucks!  I don’t think so!  However, looking back…that would have been cheap!

It was two days before I arrived home that Heather made the largest mistake.  She named them.  Blanco, Esperanzo, Dulce and Lluvia.  They should have been known as 1, 2, 3 & 4, not real names.  Nope they had names.  I knew at that point that we now have 5 cats.  One whose main goal in life was to kill the other 4.

We still tried to find someone to take the cats.  No luck.  2 weeks after I got home Heather headed to Alberta for 2 weeks.  I put up posters, I posted on Craigslist.  I put them on various Yahoo group boards.  One phone call.  They wanted a fluffy cat.  Something these weren’t.  Why they would want a long-haired cat in Mexico I will never understand but its their furniture.

When I was not trying to give the kittens away, I was running interference, as was Alexa.  It became her duty to protect the kittens from that dastardly Zorro.  It was entertaining watch though I must admit I was getting tired of constantly keeping the kittens in the library when Zorro was in the house which became more frequent as he stalked the kits.

There were no takers on the kittens even after we had them sterilized and they got their shots.  All that happened was they wormed their way into our hearts.  That and they were great fun to watch.

It was early October and the break through was coming.  Zorro was becoming more tolerant.  He still had to be watched but more time was going by when they were all together before he attacked one.   It was apparent that in about a week the worse would be over and they should all be able to live in peace.  He was starting to play with them and it was not all aggressive, we could hardly wait.

If you are going to be around me you must be clean!

It was a couple of days after that when Zorro did not come home.  We called for him constantly but nothing.  He always answered when he was within earshot.  There was no trace of him anywhere.  Last time I saw  him he was walking across the downstairs hallway by the pool with a lizard hanging out of his mouth, his favourite non Whiskas snack.  We don’t know and never will know what happened to him.  It still makes me sad.  He was a really cool cat and we miss him a lot.

We miss you more than you can imagine!

Now we have 4 cats.  They are growing like weeds and are no end of entertainment though I have to say I never thought a king size bed would be too small!

Are you sure we can't go up there?

The standard Costco shopping trip now consists of: a big bag of cat litter(every 2 weeks), a big bag of cat food(every 3 weeks), a big bag of dog food (every 6 weeks) and maybe some cheese….to go with our whine…..

You know, you kids are really starting to piss me off....

The Journey to Casa Madera – Just where the heck did 2011 go?

December 31, 2011 – It is another beautiful morning in Nuevo Vallarta at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  The sun is coming up over the mountains, no clouds and a lovely 18 degrees.  It is sooooooo boring.  Everyday the same thing.  No clouds, sunshine, beautiful temperatures and an afternoon breeze off the bay.  Do I miss that old Alberta standard, “Don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes”, not a chance!

It has been quite some time since I posted a new entry to this blog and for my regular readers I apologize but I just could not decide what to write about.  A bit of writers block maybe, who knows.  Either way, it is time so I thought I would review the year and see where that takes us.

2011 was our first year of operation and like most new entities it was anything but spectacular.  Heather and I made a commitment to ourselves that we would grow this project organically without a big splash so we knew it will not happen overnight. It would all rely on us, success or failure.  Nothing like pressure.  Especially for me, an introvert, relying on my sparkling personality was not going to be easy!

It was with great trepidation that I went to the airport on January 6, 2011 to pick up Doug and Linda from Leamington, Ontario.  Our first guests staying longer than one night.  To say Heather and I were a bit nervous was an understatement.

We were terrified!  What if they don’t like my cooking, or the way the pressure pump comes on for no reason.  There were a multitude of things that were running through our heads and to top it off my old boss from Peace Hills Insurance and his wife, Bob and Susan were due to arrive 90 minutes after Doug and Linda.  Yikes!

My fears quickly dissipated as I saw Doug and Linda come through the arrivals gate.  It was not hard to pick them out as Doug had broken his leg 10 days before he came down, so I pretty sure the guy in the wheelchair with the full leg cast was my guest.  When they arrived at the house they could not say enough good things about it.  Their comments helped relieve a lot of the pressure we were feeling.

When Bob and Susan travel they always stay in bed and breakfasts’ so the nice comments from Doug and Linda aside, the litmus test was going to be the b and b pros!

We could not have asked for nicer guests to cut our teeth with.  Our fears were alleviated and everybody had a great time.  It was a sad day for Heather and I when they all went home.

Susan, Heather and I with that Vallarta specialty Pescado Zarandeado, quite simply the best fish you will ever eat!

Both couples are returning to stay with us again this year so we cannot ask for any more validation than that.

Heather and I have been in Mexico now for 3 full years and we learn or see something new almost every week.  Some of that knowledge comes from locals and some comes from tourists who have been coming here for years.  Either way, we are like sponges and take what we learn to try to give people the best time they can have with things they may never have done before.

In February we were visited by Don and Charlotte from Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Friends we met when we were still living in the Condo.  We had a great visit with them and look forward to seeing them again this year when they arrive in Puerto Vallarta.

March brought my son, Brendan, down for his 21st birthday with his buddy Ray.  They were quickly followed by Heather’s Aunt, Danny.  It was with the 3 of them that we ventured out into the wilderness to find a set of hot springs armed with directions that said, “take a left at the big road and keep left at the fork”.  Talk about a wing and a prayer.

However we got there and it was well worth the effort.  While rustic, the hot pools were spectacular and now on our list of regular places to visit.

Now this is life!

April was a busy month as Heather’s brother, Kevin and family arrived for 10 days.  A great time was had by all, though I think they really enjoyed the two days that Heather and I were away in Ajijic.

They really enjoyed having our dog Alexa to watch over them and keep the safe.  Alexa rarely sleeps outside at night but she did while we were away.  In front of the door to the kids room, nothing was getting by her there.  Of course they did have to figure out how she was getting out of the yard and following them when the went to the beach.  Only dog I know that weighs 60 pounds and can balance on a 5 and a half-foot high fence that is 4 inches wide while nosing her way through the barbed wire….

May was a very quiet month until the beautiful pine tree outside our yard came down on the roof of the car just as we were about to leave for Guadalajara.  I covered that in the post , “Julio we told you the tree had to come down“, so I will not go over that again.

June was spent trying to get a few things done outside before the rains began.  Mainly redoing the roof.  We had done it the year before but one of the workers working on our kitchen renovation in the winter had been trying to straighten a concrete cage by banging against the roof.  Needless to say the rubber seal did not stand up to the sharp wire edges.

I also took this time to try to paint the mirador.  Now that was work.  The mirador is basically a 2 storey structure on our roof.  While a great idea just for the view, it is virtually impossible to paint.    I think the only way to actually paint it properly would be with scaffolding or hanging off the structure by a rope.  Something that I am just not prepared to do nor let anybody else do though I suspect I could find a lot of volunteers if the price was right!

July I went back to Edmonton for a couple of weeks to remind myself how cold it is even in July.  As usual the weather sucked but seeing my family and friends was great.  How life was to change though as I was sitting around a camp fire with my brother, Al, my son, Brendan, and my brothers in law, Neil and Denis.  Neil had his iPhone out and was on Facebook when he said, “I just saw this post from Heather about finding 4 kittens at your doorstep.  Oops, I was not supposed to tell you!”

4 kittens.  It was a few days before I could actually ask Heather about these kittens.  She advised that yes, we do in fact have 4 kittens but they are cute we should have no problem giving them away.

4 of them, always looking for trouble!

As you can tell they are still here!

On September 2nd Lorne and Heather came down to celebrate their anniversary.  We had a great time while they were here but the highlight was taco night at Cessa’s.  A friend of our introduced us to his stand a few months previous and it has become a regular stopping point for us on the weekends.   I have eaten a lot of tacos in the last few years but there is no doubt, his are the best!  Their short visit was an absolute hoot and as before we were sorry to see them go home.

In October I was washing tile on the main floor prior to putting a new seal coat on it when Zorro went by with a lizard in his mouth.  It turned out to be the last time I saw him as he never came home again.  We don’t know what happened to him and never will I suspect but we miss him terribly and hope that maybe he just ran off on a great adventure.

Zorro taking command of Alexa as usual

In November we were joined by Keith, Sherry and Jordan who spent a few days with us before moving to the Rui Palace for a wedding.  Again we got to do the tourist thing, hanging out on beaches, going for tacos and then trying to find churros.  We love it!

December brought the Christmas season and we always have to go downtown to watch the processions to the main cathedral.  The dancing, the music, the bells and street food make it such an enjoyable night.  We loved being able to share it with my brother Larry this year. If you are ever thinking of coming down here or will be here between December 1st and 12th, you must take these in.

Yesterday I was faced with that trepidation again.  Two new guests we had never met were about to be picked up at the airport.  Dave and Shelly from Yakima.  As usual my fears were for no good reason and we had a lovely visit with them last night.

Tonight they are cooking us dinner and we will ring in the New Year on the beach watching the fireworks from around the bay. It will be a great time.

I love being a tourist in my town especially one with so much to offer.

To those that helped make this year special we thank you and for everybody….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!

Happy New Year from both of us

The Journey to Casa Madera – Replacing The Palapa

September 24, 2011 – It’s hot, very hot today at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  32 degrees with humidity so it feels like 39.  You move, you sweat.  It’s that simple. You cannot escape it unless you lock yourself in the house with your air conditioner on.  We don’t use the air conditioning so we pay the price.

Yes, the price.  The average September day is a 3 shirt day.  You wear one until it gets too heavy and you put on another.  I had never had to stop typing to dry my keyboard in Alberta.  Who knew that fingertips sweated!

That’s just the way it is in late summer in Vallarta.  While our friends in Northern Alberta are trying to protect their tomato’s from frost, we are just trying to stay dry.

Heather and I spend a lot of time on our kitchen patio because of the breeze coming off the ocean or mountains but later in the day as the sun comes around it just is not the place to be.   It is then we head downstairs to relax under the palapa.

The Palapa.  Who knew that a whole bunch of grass that was not cut into fairways or greens would be so inviting.  But it is.  It is shady and cool when the sun is beating down.  It keeps the rain out when it is in torrential downpour mode.  It is a natural roofing material whose price does not go up because maybe half the town needs a new one due to a hail storm like an asphalt shingle.

We have since found out that a Palapa is made from the dried palms that are used in churchs throughout the world on Palm Sunday.

It’s beautiful and we think it is one of the most becoming features of our Bed and Breakfast.  It is our favourite place to serve our guests breakfast.  It was not always like that….

December 20, 2009 – Heather and I are sitting under the palapa enjoying a Corona while surveying the lower floor and deciding what we should do with what.  It has been a long day what with doing insurance work in the morning and doing demolition in the back room in the afternoon.  There was a small breeze coming off the ocean which was rattling the grass in the palapa and causing a great deal of it to fall on our heads!

I don't think this will keep the rain out anymore!

There was no denying the fact that the palapa had to be replaced.  Now!  It was falling down around us so we vowed the next day we would look into getting it replaced.

Three company’s came out to quote on the job with 2 of them being the same price and one being way too high.  The last man who came out to quote, Angel, walked into the area where the palapa was and you could tell that as far as he was concerned, he was going to rebuild this palapa.  He looked at it and asked if we wanted dimension lumberor rustic.  Same price either way.  We said rustic.  He said, give me $20,000.00 pesos and we will start tomorrow. We replied we will pay you the deposit when you arrive.

Glad it's him and not me!

Angel (pronounced Anhel) was the a typical Mexican cowboy.  Long and lanky he weighed maybe 120 pounds if he was lucky.  Looked to be about 60 but who knows.

At 9:00 am the next day the truck pulled up and out jumped about 5 young guys who immediately started tearing down the old palapa.  The grass was crumbling in their hands as they moved up the 2 x 4’s that were the trusses for the main support system.  These guys had no fear, it was something to see.  A good many of the 2 x 4’s were rotten after being exposed to the elements for a good many years.

Bare feet!

That day they removed everything and cleaned up the site.  Angel came by to pick up the deposit and said he would be back in a day or two with the grass.

Looks just a little different

2 days later, a Sunday morning, Heather and I were up on the roof enjoying our coffee when a truck full of palapa grass pulled up in the driveway.  For the next 45 minutes they dumped the grass on the patio along with some tree trunks which were obviously the rustic supports.

The first truck load of grass with the support poles.

We chatted a few minutes when they were done in Spanish and our take was they would be back in the morning to start.

Angel is sitting on the lower beam

And back they were.   They were preparing the trees for use.  The tree bark had been removed but they needed to be ground and cleaned for use.  So for two days we listened to the sound of the hand grinder going up and down these logs.

The next day the whole crew arrived and started to build the support system.  It was fascinating to watch these skinny guys and the old man toss these logs around.  Heather and I would be lucky if we could lift an end of one. They were tossing them around like they were toothpicks.

Once the south side supports were up they started weaving the grass.  It was amazing watching them do this.  Taking a piece of grass and weaving it over the cross member.  The worker would do a whole row and then go along with pruning shears clipping the edges to make sure they were even.

One side done!

It is like watching performance art, except it makes sense and you get a reliable product at the end.  However, the work takes time.  Something neither Heather or I ever realized.  It took a lot longer to do than we ever imagined it would.

Almost finished!

It was about 10 days into construction when Angel told us he had got a job to do a very large palapa for a hotel in Yelapa.  A small village only accessible by boat from Puerto Vallarta.  The size of the palapa escapes me now but we worked it out based on the amount of grass that he needed that it was worth $30,000.00 us dollars.

And everything had to be transported by boat.  We referred to it as the Yelapa Palapa…

Now that's a nice palapa!

It took just over 3 weeks start to finish for our palapa to be completed.  It is beautiful.  It provides shade when you want it.  It keeps out the rain so you can sit in comfort while it is pouring outside.  And most importantly, it has fans installed that help keep you cool when its 35 degrees outside in the shade….

We have the fans now we just need the Corona!