Return to Valladolid…

There are always places and towns that you visit and often don’t allow yourself enough time to see and experience everything. For us, Valladolid is one of those towns. We generally allow ourselves three days to capture the essence and ambiance of a place. It doesn’t take us long to decided we want to discover more and to make a return trip.

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Main Plaza

On our first occasion to explore Valladolid, we stayed in Casa Tia Micha, a small B&B located on Calle 39 just about three blocks from the ADO bus station and a block off the main plaza, To start the morning, a delicious breakfast was served in the charming garden.  Afterwards, we visited the Casa del Venados (the house of the deer) with its collection of over 3000 pieces of folk art and custom designed furnishings.

After lunch in a plaza restaurant, we headed off to the ruins at Ek Balam – about a 45 minute taxi ride passing through the small village of Temezôn, where beautiful furniture is made. On returning to our room, it was time for a siesta followed by a night out for dinner at the Hotel Meson Marques on the main plaza. The food was outstanding and the service excellent. Many of the dishes were flambéed at the table making for a “petite cinema” around the fountain courtyard; five or six flaming food preparations happening at once on the surrounding portal. Guacamole is even prepared tableside.

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The following morning, we visited the main cathedral and most of the shops around the zocolo, sat in the park and allowed the city’s history, people and culture to embrace us. People watching is one of the joys of a vacation. People’s faces, actions and attire can tell a thousand stories. Reading those stories that are etched in the faces, body language, and actions of native people is fascinating. We are never in a hurry to see and do everything once we know we will be returning for another visit – time to relax…after all, it’s a vacation.

Interior shots of the cathedral – Frescos and Alters

On our recent return to Valladolid, we were joined by our friend Catherine. It was her first trip. I have to admit, when Catherine’s motor gets started after that first cup of coffee in the morning, she doesn’t know when to stop.

We elected to stay at the Hotel Meson Marques this trip. John had reserved a junior suite on the first floor for us and Catherine had a fourth floor single. Having an elevator was a tremendous help. Breakfast each morning was included and selections were plenty. The first afternoon, we took in the main cathedral and shops around the plaza after lunch, ending with a siesta before dinner.

After a leisure three hour dinner, dining under the trees and twinkling stars above the trickling fountain at El Atrio del Mayab restaurant, we were stuffed to the gills. To start, we shared a large guacamole. I had the chicken frijitas, John had the skirt-steak and Catherine ordered Poc Chuc. We decided to share their dessert of wine poached pears with vanilla ice cream on crunchy granola, drizzled with melted chocolate and sprinkled with mini chocolate chips. Need I say more? Back at the hotel, we said our goodnights and turned in.

Next morning, there was a large tour group of French travelers (22 people plus guide and driver) all gathered for breakfast before leaving for Cancun. They were fed by the well trained staff and left quickly. We heard some trumpets and drums out on the main plaza. It was May 1st and there was a ceremony to raise the huge Mexican flag. I’m not sure if they do this on the first of every month, or because it was May Day, but it was quite a little ceremony.

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Heading down the street we encountered a small parade complete with horns, drummers, banners and numerous locals. Once the parade passed by we crossed the street and took the one angled street in Valladolid and followed it through the high rent district to the Franciscan Convent of San Bernardino. I was able to remember my camera and got some really nice photos.

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Water wheel in the cenote

The water wheel in the cenote that supplied the water for the convent was the largest in Mexico. The convent was also used as a fortification. We discovered a huge colony of leaf-cutter ants in the gardens, each worker ant carrying a piece of leaf into the colony to feed the fungus that supplied the nutritional food they needed to exist.

The large market in town was our next stop. Here we purchased some longaniza sausage to bring home and a few spice mixes that John likes to use.

Huge Town Market

Lunch at the corner restaurant where we shared a banana-split covered in whipped cream and served with a chocolate cookie.

DSCN2314Banana Split covered with whipped cream and topped with Cookie and Cherry.        Please note the (3 spoons)

Then an afternoon of relaxing around the pool with piña coladas.

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John found it cool and refreshing.

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Those feet have seen a lot of dancing!

A quick siesta prepared us for another delightful three hour dinner at the hotel restaurant. You can’t say that we don’t eat when we travel. I had large shrimp flambéed in tequila and a local liquor…Excellent! Unfortunately I had left my camera in the room.

The next morning after breakfast, we packed up and walked two blocks to the bus station. Kindles in hand, we boarded our reserved seats up front and had a smooth trip back to Merida. There is still more to discover in Valladolid, but we will save that for another adventure.

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A Little Advertisment Never Hurts!

                                                      The Art of Imagination

Fasten your seatbelts and enjoy the latest book by D.G. Heath. Discover how creative your mind can be. Let your imagination wander – you’ll be surprised.

Now available on Amazon and at book stores near you. Enjoy these short prompts and poems from a writer’s creative point of view. Give it a try and find out how creative you can be. Facts or fiction inspires the imagination.

There is something for everyone, so be prepared for versatility.

Thanks to my fans for your continued support.

D.G. Heath

 Coming Soon

_______________________________________________

                                     Volume II – D.G. Heath Mystery Collection

A Person of Interest – Life of the rich and famous comes to an abrupt end for movie director, Michael Gordon and his wife Margaret. Without a verified alibi, Michael’s son William becomes the main suspect in their deaths. With greed as her guide, his vicious step-sister, Liz, seeks revenge. Plotting to put William in prison for murder and claim the entire family fortune for herself, she carefully weaves her web. Only a guilty verdict will tie the knot that will make her a millionaire. William’s indictment brings this saga to trial, but will the jury be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt?

Accent – What would you do if you overheard someone plotting a murder? Casey heard his accent, but couldn’t see his face and didn’t want to get involved, however, the murderer may have seen her – in fact she’s sure he did.

The police place her in a witness protection program after the attempted murder of fashion designer, Gianni Scarlatti. But that doesn’t stop a professional assassin and master of disguise – he knows how to find her. Will she live to put this dangerous wanted criminal behind bars, or will getting involved be her death?

Vortex – When Nick and Patrick set off on a road trip through several National Parks, it leads them on a psychic journey with a lost treasure, mysterious happenings, a dangerous stalker, revealing confessions, and amazing discoveries. Set in the rugged National Monuments of Death Valley, Zion, Bryce Canyon, and Grand Canyon in the great Southwest, and surrounded by nature’s majestic beauty, Patrick is drawn into the destiny he has been chosen to follow, with a love he never dreamed he would find.

 

What brought us to Merida…

Retirement opportunities in the US were not all that promising. The cost of living itself, did not add up on our agenda. The choice to live in poverty and do nothing or live abroad and have a life of adventure was a no brainer. But finding somewhere that fit our life style and our budget wasn’t easy until we discovered Merida.

Social Life:

We gave up working 24/7 running our own inn and restaurant, to be embraced by a cosmopolitan city full of history, cultural events, an amazing symphony orchestra, multiple sources of entertainment, art galleries, architecture, music and friendly people, blessed with the warmth of the tropics and of course delicious food. Merida is a melting pot of people from numerous cultures and foods from all over the world.

23 Restaurants we enjoy within a four block walk from our casa:

Il Café Italia          Penuela          Amaro           Pita

Chaya Maya           Esvedra         Recova          Bryan’s

La Tratto’s            Apoala           Casa Chica     Impala

Oliva Kitchen         Casa THo       Korean Grill    Manhar Blanca

Dadaumpa            500 Noches    Escondida             Peruano

Oliva Enoteca        Rosa Sur 32   Dos Hermana Republica

Plus even more that we have yet to visit. Just by walking a short diatance, we could eat out twice a week for four months and not repeat any restaurant.

Restaurants in Merida are the perfect place for leisure dining. Rarely are you ever rushed to order and when you are ready to leave you have to ask for the check (la quenta) – and don’t be in a hurry. Quite civilized.

We often spend two to three hours at a restaurant, people watching, eating, chatting with other guests and soaking in the ambiance that is unique to Merida – dining (al fresco). There’s never any hurry – you’re on Mexico-time…it happens when it happens.

Food:

The cuisine choices would cover – Italian, Continental, Mayan, Mediterranean, Yucatecan, Korean, Argentinean, Irish, Thai, Mexican, and American – Anything from steaks to pastas, pizzas, tapas, cochinita pibil, tacos, sea food, botanas, relleno negro, poc-chuc, ceviche, sopa de lima, panuchos, salbutes, sushi rolls and fried rice. And yes, even fried chicken and coconut shrimp – fish almondine, tiramisu or crème brulee.

Is your mouth watering yet? Don’t give up…there’s crab, calamari and Caribbean lobster close by.

We often share an appetizer and a dessert with our two entrees and a bottle of wine plus bottled water and a 20% tip for around $700 pesos. The exchange rate is currently at 18.5 pesos to the dollar.

Wines:

We’ve discovered that Mexico produces some outstanding wines. Strange that we never carried any of them in our 3000 bottle wine cellar at our restaurant. Not only are these wines enjoyable but we find then reasonable priced. An excellent Chardonnay from Santo Thomas at one of our favorite restaurants is only $300 pesos. At the current rate of 18.5 pesos to the dollar, you can see the other reason that Mexican wines are so enjoyable. Many of the wines come from the Mexican Baja coastal valleys. La Cetto makes some excellent reds.

The Casa: 

Affordable housing is important to us since we are retired. Finding the right place takes time. We purchased our two-bedroom, two-bath, 1600 sq. ft. casita with living room, dining room, kitchen, three portals, two courtyards and a pool five years ago.

Property Taxes:

We currently pay $50 USD per year. (most reasonable).                    Our trash is picked up daily at a cost of $16 USD for the full year.       We set the trash bags on the sidewalk each evening or every other evening, and they disappear in less than one hour.Water and electric cost are a third what what they were in the USA for our one bedroom condo. Home insurance is not required. The house won’t burn because it’s made of stone and plaster. It won’t blow down because it is connected to all the houses on the block. To my knowledge, earthquakes don’t happen in the Yucatan.

 Medical:

Medical services here are excellent. Since we are both in good health, I can’t vouch for more than doctor’s visits. Suffice it to say, we hear rave reviews from people who love their doctors and dentists. You can get lab results in less than 24 hours on line, and the labs are usually in the same building as the doctors, which is great for people like us who don’t own an automobile and no longer drive.

Transportation:

Getting around town is easy and inexpensive by taxi and a cheap bus ride in air-conditioned comfort will take you just about anywhere you want to go.

Discounts:

Seniors get special treatment…discounts on several airlines when traveling in Mexico. Discounts on bus travel, prescription and over the counter durgs., movie theatres, and much more.

Season tickets for the symphony generally cost about $15 per performance (orchastra seats).

Close it out:

So, you see, there are many reasons why we have chosen to live abroad in Merida. The language has never been a great issue. After five years we are still learning Spanish with the help of the people we deal with daily and are making some progress – but so are they (learning English). It’s an enjoyable challenge, if frustrating at times. But in the end we can all laugh at ourselves and say…”mas o menos”.

Hasta luego,

David

Easter Memories…

I want to take this time and opportunity to drift down memory lane and reflect on Easters from my past. I know and respect the true meaning of Easter. People, from all walks of life and every corner of the globe, celebrate Easter according to their traditions.

1945-1950…As children, my siblings and I would walk to church on Easter Sunday morning, as we did every Sunday morning. I was a baptized, congregational member of the Camp Bowie Baptist Church at that time (one of the many churches associated with the Southern Baptist Bible Belt in Texas) where we would attend Sunday school, listen to the pastor’s sermon and hang with the other kids while our parents socialized before returning home.

Easter was always a lively time around the Heath household. Mom would boil the eggs and we would dye them, then color them with amazing designs, and place them in Easter baskets so our parents could hide them later for the neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. Meanwhile, dinner preparations were underway. We chipped in and set the table with our family’s fine china and silver. I had the job of creating a centerpiece with chocolate bunnies, colored eggs, and fake chicks (peeps) all nestled in green strips of cellophane.   It was a clucking, bunny-barnyard scene.

I still remember the Easter aromas of honey baked ham, decorated with pineapple, cloves and maraschino cherries, served with baked sweet potatoes topped with toasted marshmallows and accompanied by green beans, black-eyed peas, red cabbage slaw and of course ambrosia salad – my  favorite – followed by lemon meringue pie or German chocolate cake with coconut icing. It’s a wonder we didn’t blossom like butterball turkeys.

1959-1963…As I continued to mature, I decided to change my religious affiliation. I came to the conclusion that parents are wonderfully in charge of making decisions about many aspects during a child’s life, but at a certain age, things start to change. My senior year in high school, I switched churches and my religious concepts. I joined the Ridgley Presbyterian Church on the west side of Ft. Worth, TX. My eyes had opened and I suddenly believed in predestination (and dancing it the church basement). I confess, it wasn’t all about religion.

However, I became interested in music, dance and a young girl who invited me to visit her church. How could I refuse? It was a much larger church and had a big choir. Although I had never been able to carry a tune (not even in a bucket), I decided to join the choir, because Sandra sang in the choir. My voice had change by this time, but I was still considered a tenor. Perhaps I should mention…I played the piano, but refused to read the music. I believe you could say, I sang and played by ear. But here’s the catch…I sat next to a guy who had a great tenor voice. His name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr., who later became known as John Denver. So as long as I sat next to him, I had no trouble hitting the same notes, right on key. If he was out sick, I just lip-synced the words.

Singing Handle’s Mesiah was the highpoint of Easter. It’s still one of the most moving, spiritual works of music I have ever had the pleasure to sing. Wednesday night was choir practice, followed by dancing in the church basement. Louise, my friend Sandra’s mother, used to bake Hot Cross Buns, twisted breadsticks and all kinds of pastries for Easter. Once again, I had to watch my weight, but I was young and very active. One summer, I even taught five Latin dances for Arthur Murray – the rumba, samba, mambo, cha-cha and the tango.

1969 – 1975…I moved to Los Angeles in 1969 and was soon spending Easter at the beach, Laugna Beach, to be precise. My partner and I lived with a millionaire, Pre Columbian art collector in a Tuscan villa overlooking the twinkling lights of LA. He also had a home at the beach. Proctor enjoyed entertaining with a musical promenade around Easter time. Usually, there would be about 300 people milling around with champagne and hors’ d’oeuvres, while listening to a classical concert music performed by piano and cello or violin and harp. Sometimes we would attend a special concert at the Hollywood Bowl to hear a visiting group from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

1976 – 1994…Still in LA, we later moved to Costa Mesa, then Long Beach and finally to Belmont Shores, but never far from the beach, until we built a house in the Tehachapi Mountains, where we spent many Easters high on the mountainside overlooking the San Joaquin Valley – otherwise known as America’s Bread-Basket, with crops that include cherries, grapes, tomatoes, hay, sugar beets, a variety of nut trees, cotton, potatoes and a multitude of other vegetables.

John’s mom and dad retired to our home in the mountains in 1982 and developed a huge vegetable garden and an orchard of apple, pear, nectarine and cherry trees, all on our six acre parcel. Stella would can vegetables and make delicious fruit liquors. But around Easter she would be hard boiling eggs. Not only did she love to dye them but I will never forget her fantastic “Deviled Eggs.” sprinkled with a little paprika – always a traditional Easter treat. And all seven of our cats loved to play with the colorful Easter Eggs.

1992 – 2012…We quit our jobs working for other people and moved to New Mexico – where we built and opened our very own country inn and restaurant, called the Rancho de San Juan, about 38 mile northwest of Santa Fe. At the age of 50, I suppose you could say it was my “mid-life crisis.” Although I never felt we were in a crisis – more like a funk and bored with our other careers. It was time for a change.

We opened for business in 1994, and our first Easter Brunch was packed with celebrities that we never expected. Who would have thought, when we moved to the rural countryside of northern New Mexico that we would be entertaining such people as Ali McGraw, Shirley McLaine, Robert Redford, Anthony Hopkins, Carol Burnett, Gene Hackman, and Marsha Mason. The Rancho became the “Go To” place among Hollywood’s movie and TV stars. It didn’t take long for famous artists, writers, and politicians to seek us out for their special celebrations. John was honored in Nov. 1999, to receive an award from the James Beard House in NYC. The award was signed by Julia Child…who he also had cooked for when we lived in LA.)

2013 – 2018…Retired – Surrounded by five churches and a cathedral we are blessed with the ringing of the bells on Sunday mornings (and other times as well). Most with clear tones and some with cracks, causing them to sound a little off. But even so, it is a sound we have come to love. Now living in the beautiful, colonial city of Merida, tucked into the tropical heart of the Yucatan just 26 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, we enjoy the Easter traditions of the Maya people. As we delight in our long relationship (49 years), we are enjoying the sunset years of life together, serenaded by the cooing of the Mexican mourning doves and the sound of parrots chattering as they take flight from the tall mango tree close by.

Although we are not of the Catholic faith, the bells beckon to attend mass and to view the ancient rituals of the faithful, performed with such precision and grace. We neither one speak Spanish or Latin, but it isn’t necessary to understand what’s happening. It is the call for peace, love, forgiveness and understanding.

Happy Easter Everyone!

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David and John

It’s Auction Time…

No…I haven’t fallen of the end of the world just yet. Although I have been in a whirlwind and probably came close. February was one busy month around our house. I’ve been writing on the second story for my next volume of the Mystery Collection. The first story is finished and resting for the moment. I’ll revisit it once all three stories are done.

Our writers’ group at the library had grown and we now have a pretty steady group of about ten writers. I’ve been put in charge of organizing the meetings so the workshop moves at a pace where most of us have an opportunity to read each week. So far, things have been pretty smooth – so I guess I must be doing something right.

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 The Reading Room at MEL and  Part of  The MEL Writers’ Group 

The Yucatan Symphony is back in full swing with performances four weeks in a row – then we take a month break for other events and Holy Week. Starting symphony again in April and May and ending with the opera performance of Don Giovani in June.

       OSY  – The Yucatan Symphony Orchestra

Meanwhile…The Merida English Library is having an auction in March to generate funds for the renovation and expansion of the current facilities, which are badly needed to host more lectures, children’s activities, writers’ workshops, book signing events and other functions.26221131_1760907013949192_4248082050194665371_o

 

               Architect’s proposed library expansion 

I volunteered to help secure donation for the auction. I did this when I co-chaired the Santa Fe Opera Christmas Dinner and Auction for four years with Isabel Jewell while running our country inn and restaurant in New Mexico. I have to admit I’ve never been too shy about asking people and companies to donate. I remember one year when our business donated lodging in three luxury suites for two nights plus champagne four course dinner for six and full breakfast for six each morning. The package reached a final bid of $10,000 – but the people who won the bid never used the package. The point is…the funds went to a good cause and everyone had fun bidding.

I also collected romantic getaway packages from six Relais & Chateaux resort properties in various locations of the USA, Bermuda, Puerto Rico and Canada/ BC. However, it has been ten years since all that took place and I wasn’t sure I still had the knack to twist a few arms, but felt the need to give it another shot.

I was able to acquire the following items in only two weeks:

A Contemporary Painting / Christofle Silver Platter and Fruit Bowl/ Two Frette Spa Robes, plus Two 1&1/2 hr. Spa Massages/ Gift Certificates of Dinner for 2 at Oliva Enoteca and Apoala restaurants/ Breakfast for Two at Latte Quattro Sette / Art Nuevo Dinner Ring in silver and turquoise/ 2 sets of cufflinks (carnelian and sterling silver & lapis/malachite w/ gold and silver) / Vintage Japanese Kimono Haori Jacket (black silk)/ and last but not least – Two nights lodging at The Fearrington House Relais & Chateaux in North Carolina.

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I currently have two books available to purchase at the library: Tales from a Country Inn and the D.G. Heath Mystery Collection. Each selling for $250 pesos. I decided to dedicate $100 pesos for each book sold to the library expansion funds. I’m not going to get rich and neither will the library, but every little bit helps.

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      Available at the Merida English Library

Several others have acquired numerous fantastic donations and I’m sure the auction on March 13th will be a huge success. Tickets to attend the auction are currently on sale at the Merida English Library.

See how a prompt can lead me – Prompt:  “I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there.”

Hot! It was a sweltering inferno, making it difficult to breath. The sweat dripped from every pore of my body like slime oozing from a snail that someone had just doused with a dash of salt. I tossed and turned in the canvas cot draped in mosquito netting. The night sounds of Africa’s evening predators sounded in the distance. The screeching and screaming of the hungry hoards as the searched for an evening meal, sent chills through my limp torso and my brain, with a sense of fear, had ceased to function.

It was the middle of May in the Serengeti National Park located in the Mara Region of Tanzania, not far from Lake Victoria. This was our first experience of traveling on safari and an opportunity to view the great migration of the Wildebeest. Numbering over a million, in the vast plains area of the park, they headed north across the dry savanna grasslands. “Soon the monsoons – soon the monsoons,” our guides kept saying. That appeared to be the only English they knew. I felt like a wildebeest searching for water in this parched and cracked land of red soil and golden waves of dried grass.

The Maasai people first described the area, as siringet, which means “the place where the land runs on forever”…(5,700 sq. miles of forever). I have never felt the finger of God as Adam did on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. However, when the clouds rolled over head in monstrous billows of charcoal grey stretching for miles, thundering and swirling as they threatened to release a torrent of H2O, we knew we were in for the beginning of the first monsoon showers that can last for days at a time. Night had fallen quickly, but still no hint of moisture – nothing to bring cooling relief.

Then without warning came the chilling roar of an African lion nearby. This was not the MGM lion – this was the real thing. It was followed by a chorus of greetings from several other nocturnal carnivorous predators now circling our campsite in the dark. God’s creatures were closing in to punish us for invading their sanctuary and fowling it with our presence. They had already marked this area with their scent. We were not welcome.

There – in darkness – black as pitch – I couldn’t see them, but I knew they were there. Like the human animal that I am, my sense of smell detected strong odors of urine. The lions were marking a circle around their prey. Our guides had vanished. We had been left as a sacrifice to the gods of the siringet.

                                                              The End (Literally)

Last night was Open Mic Night for writer and others who want to read to an audience. I always try to take something I’ve written. Tonight is dinner at home. Thursday is Merida Writers’ Group at 1:00 pm then pizza on the roof at Escondida that evening with friends.

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Mel, Eddie and John waiting for the second pizza to arrive. This is a medium size. We ordered half and half ( Chelsea and Central Park – these are New York style pizzas with a thick crust and lots of different toppings. They hope to have a wine and beer license soon.

Symphony and dinner out on Friday night. Our friend Catherine arrives from the US on Saturday and we’ll do dinner out on Sunday with her before she embarks on a ten day trip to Pueblo, MX and Veracruz with a group of women. We’re invited to a party on St. Patrick’s Day, so the social calendar for March is starting to fill.

Thanks for letting me rattle on. Not that anyone really wants to read all of this colossal gibberish, but writers have a passion to write and we need to realize that passion at the expense of our readers.

Bless You!

Just when you thought the holidays were over…

Looking for a Holiday?

Get ready to try the month of February. It’s true! Even though February is the shortest month of the year, you can’t beat the number of recognized holidays I found. Don’t you just love Google?

I decided to give you some choices – for all you party animals looking for an excuse to celebrate something.

Let’s start with February 1st – why not?

National Freedom Day is an observance in the United States that honors the signing of a resolution that proposed the 13th amendment of the nation’s constitution on February 1, 1865. Abraham Lincoln, who was the president at the time, signed the resolution to outlaw slavery.

Now that you’ve kicked off the month with one celebration, let’s move on to:

February 2nd.

Groundhog Day or Ground-Hog’s Day is a popular tradition celebrated in the United States and Canada on February 2nd.

It derives from the Pennsylvania Dutch superstition that if a groundhog (DeitschGrundsauGrunddaxDax) emerging from its burrow on this day sees a shadow due to clear weather, it will retreat to its den and winter will persist for six more weeks, and if he does not, due to cloudiness, the spring season will arrive early.

This was also my grandmother’s birthday – so we kept her inside if the sun was shining. I’m not kidding – mom and dad wouldn’t let her out of the house. But we always had a big birthday party and dinner in her honor which she didn’t want to miss. People do the strangest things. My parents weren’t from Pennsylvania, nor were they Dutch.

Oh well…on to February 4th. Rosa Parks Day

Rosa Parks was born on 4 February 1913 in Tuskegee, Alabama, and died in 2005 at the age of 92 in Detroit, Michigan. She became renowned for her refusal, on 1 December 1955, to change bus seats to allow a white person to sit in the front of the bus. This happened in the city of Montgomery, Alabama. Rosa was arrested and charged with a violation of the segregation law of the Montgomery City Code and was fined $10 plus court costs.

Rosa Parks said later, “I had not planned to get arrested. I had plenty to do without having to end up in jail. But when I had to face that decision, I didn’t hesitate to do so because I felt that we had endured that too long. The more we gave in, the more we complied with that kind of treatment, the more oppressive it became.

Something to celebrate and remember the next time you hop on a bus. Cheers to Rosa Parks! Talk about going out on a limb in those days!

Next is a holiday you may not be familiar with if you are living in the USA.

February 5th 2018 – Mexico’s Constitution Day 

February 5th is the official date when the Mexican constitution was formed in 1917 after signing of a convention by Venustiano Carranza. Up until 2006, the day was celebrated in Mexico on 5th February itself. However, following the new labor law, the day is now celebrated on the first Monday of February, irrespective of the date. The day is celebrated to commemorate the formation of a new Mexican constitution.

The constitution of Mexico has undergone several changes. In 1910 the people of Mexico began getting restless with the old constitution established in 1857. This led to the Mexican Revolution in 1910, resulting in the ouster of General Diaz, who was known to be an oppressive ruler. What followed was a series of fights among the Mexican rulers themselves, resulting in assassination of quite a few political leaders. Sound familiar?

In 1913, Pancho Villa formed a huge army which fought inside forces on the side of those in favor of a new constitution, namely Venustiano Carranza. After a long struggle, Pancho Villa was successful in ousting the rebellion forces and Venustiano Carranza was sworn to presidency. Later, in 1917, Carranza signed an important convention which resulted in the formation of the new constitution. The new Mexican constitution laid emphasis on land reforms and fair land distribution among the poor. The constitution is in effect to this date.

The day is one of the major public holidays in Mexico. All the offices, schools and most businesses are closed on this day. The day is celebrated with grand parades across the nation, much like the celebration of Constitution Day in other parts of the world.

A lot of music concerts and other festivities are also arranged on this day, and people can be seen enjoying the day with great pride and honor. Sale of liquor is banned 3 days prior to the day up until the day itself. Exchanging of gifts and pleasantries is also not uncommon on this day, as this is one of the most important festivals in the country.

This is a day of fiestas and mucho celebrations. Come join in the fun!

We now switchback to the USA and…

February 12th – Lincoln’s Birthday.

 

You can enjoy a little celebration on this date or wait until later on President’s Day – February 19th. But who’s counting?

February 13th is Mardi Gras! – 2018

Get out your bangles and beads and don your most outlandish costume – feathers and sequins rule the day.

Carnival is a full week of celebrations, fiestas, musicals, parades and food culmination on Shrove Tuesday the day before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. It’s party time around the world. Some of the largest carnivals and most amazing cities to celebrate in are Rio de Janeiro, South America, New Orleans in the USA and Merida or Mexico City in Mexico.

Ash Wednesday is usually a quiet day of reflection. However this year it falls on February 14th, and we all know what day that is.

 

Valentine’s Day!

 

The Legend of St. Valentine. The history of Valentine’s Day–and the story of its patron saint–is shrouded in mystery. We do know that February has long been celebrated as a month of romance, and that St. Valentine’s Day, as we know it today, contains vestiges of both Christian and ancient Roman tradition.

From Feb. 13 to 15, the Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. … Emperor Claudius II executed two men — both named Valentine— on Feb. 14 of different years in the 3rd century A.D. Their martyrdom was honored by the Catholic Church with the celebration of St. Valentine’s Day.

Don’t forget to purchase roses and chocolates for that special someone in your life and remember “Love conquers all.” Especially with a little champagne.

 

Not that you don’t have enough to celebrate on the 14th, it is also; Arizona Statehood Day

Don’t get too excited. Here are a few facts that might spur you to celebrate anyway.

Arizona is 103 years old this February 14th.

It took 56 years to gain statehood – that, my friends, is perseverance.

Congress wanted to combine Arizona with New Mexico and admit it as a single state, but the people living in the territory of Arizona were not going to have any of that.

Arizona officially became a state on February 14th 1912.

Arizona had only 200,000 residents on that date in history.

It became the 48th territory to become a state – making it one of the youngest states in the union.

February 15th – Susan B. Anthony Day

Let’s go out on a limb for the ladies on this one. You don’t have to be Shirley MacLaine to know who Susan B. Anthony was or to celebrate her date of birth and her accomplishments.

Susan Brownell Anthony is best known for promoting women’s rights and starting up the women’s suffrage in the United States. She was born in west Grove, Massachusetts, on February 15, 1820, and devoted most her life to anti-slavery and women’s rights, including the right to vote. She died on March 13, 1906 in Rochester, NY.

February 16th, 2018 – Chinese New Year’s

If you’ve been saving those fireworks from December 31st, now is the time to put a little sparkle in your life. Light then up and celebrate Chinese New Year’s – 2018, the year of the Dog according to the Chinese zodiac calendar signs.

Personally, I was born in August 1942 – the year of the Horse. However, my partner found his way out of the womb in August 1946 – a year of the Dog. This is his year for luck and good fortune.

We also celebrated Chinese New Year’s in San Francisco in 1970 as a newly joined  couple, and consider that as our anniversary (48 years and counting). And yes…we are both domesticated. What Chinese zodiac sign or you?

February 19th, 2018 is Presidents Day

I told you it was coming. This covers a lot of birthdays lumped into one. Take your presidential pick! (Just not Trump – he wasn’t born, he was hatched) – just like Humpty Dumpty.

Hang on to your hats! February 22nd is the day we all appreciate. It’s Margarita Day! Yippee!

I knew you would like this one. No need to force you into celebrating, just point you in the right direction to the nearest bar. Well, we have our favorite here in Merida and you can rest assured we will be celebrating. After all… we haven’t had enough holidays in February – have we?? Cheers!!

Ooops! I almost forgot: February 24th is Mexican Flag Day. Yikes!

Viva Mexico!!!!

Reflections…

The beginning of a new year is a time to reflect on our accomplishment in the past year. Time appears to fly by so fast that we seem to forget the amazing progress we have made. Although we are all looking toward the future, it is time to do an about-face and reflect on the positive aspects of the previous year. Try doing this for yourself.

Our accomplishments in 2017:

  1. After living in Merida for five years and slowly working on our casa, John was finally able to get his kitchen remodeled last year.

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  1. We also raised and sloped the kitchen portal floor to keep rain water from draining into the kitchen. It was a small engineering feat but we managed to get it accomplished.
  2. The two tall palm trees in our small pool courtyard were beginning to cause problems – invasive roots, messy flowers and fruit falling on the walkway and into the pool, and dangerous heavy palm leaves dropping from twenty feet above without warning, was an issue resolved – we had them cut down and removed – resulting in much less stress and maintenance. The pool garden courtyard has developed a tranquil setting without fear of being assaulted by giant palm leaves.DSCN2218
  3. We helped our friend Catherine fined a home here in Merida and, while she was back in the states, we were able to get it furnished and decorated for her return in December.
  4. John was able to scrape, seal and repaint 50% of our interior walls – a chore that is necessary about every four or five years due to the ground moisture that wicks up the limestone walls – very common in humid climates.
  5. We purchased two new comfortable chairs for our bedroom.
  6. We have accomplished getting our orchid plants established and they are thriving well in the back garden with new flower stalks appearing for 2018.
  7. Although we clean the house every week, we make a point to start from the floor and go up, giving it a thorough scrubbing and dusting before the New Year begins. Pots, pans, dishes, glasses, cupboards, drawers, ceiling fans, lamp shades, A/C units – etc., etc., etc. You name it – it has been cleaned. To make that point even clearer – John is a Virgo.
  8. We were both given a clean bill-of-health to start the year 2018. No major illnesses this past year – we both suffered Dengue fever in 2016.
  9. I was delighted to publish my first two books in the same year. Tales from a Country Inn came out in April and the D.G. Heath Mystery Collection was released in November 2017.

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I hope to have another two books published and released this year.

  1. We traveled to Campeche in November for a short three day visit to the UNESCO World Heritage city. It was most interesting and fun – excellent accommodations, food, service and historical sights.

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I’m sure I’m forgetting half a dozen more accomplishments, but suffice it to say, it was a successful and enjoyable year in spite of all the political turmoil in the USA.

So…now we move forward into 2018 with a positive outlook and more things to accomplish – start making your “bucket list” today. We have! And when you reach age 75, just staying up past midnight is the first accomplishment of the New Year. Yikes! Next year will I’ll be 76 – but who’s counting?

Feliz fin de año 2017!

A traditional saying in Mexico – “Happy end of year 2017” – is like saying you are happy that year is over (and you have lived through it). You may also say “Feliz año Nuevo” – either expression gets the message across.

New Year History

Have you ever wondered why we celebrate the beginning of a new year on January 1st? Well, hold on to your hats my friends. I’m about to give you a little history lesson.

According to the Haab Mayan Calendar, that follows the cycle of the earth in relation to the Sun, the New Year does not begin on January 1st, but actually on July 26th each year. Ooops! Did you sleep through that one? Don’t worry, you can celebrate next July.

However, our Gregorian calendar, that dominates how most of the world calculates what day of the year it is, is through a system inherited from the Romans. The Mayans recorded time using a series of up to 17 cycles, linked to the movements of the Sun and Moon and included the transits of planets and constellations.

Thus, July 25th (El Dia Fuera del Tiempo -The Day Out of Time), is considered more important for the Maya. That is their day to give thanks and to reflect on what has been accomplished and the lessons that are still to be learned. It’s considered a “link day”, when new ventures should wait for the energy of the New Year; it is also a time when anything can happen. Well, after all…I am a mystery writer.

The Resolution

So…now you are linked to the Mayan Calendar – but let me take you in another direction – and the tradition of making a “New Year’s Resolution”. It is said that the Babylonians were the first people to make New Year’s resolutions, some 4000 years ago. It is also recorded that they were the first to hold celebrations in honor of the New Year. However, for them the year began not in January but mid-March when their crops were planted and new life and growth would begin.

This is not a joke I promise – but take you pick…you have three months out of the year to consider – or you could just celebrate all three – there are more but that would put us on overload.

The Babylonians made promises to their gods at the start of each year, to return borrowed objects and pay their debts. The Romans followed in their footsteps and made offerings to Janus, for whom the month of January is named.

I hope I haven’t totally confused you, but I found my research most interesting and wanted to share it with you. New Year’s Eve is the last day of the year and the first New Year’s Eve festivities can be traced back to celebrations in Europe, that date back to before Christianity spread.

In 45 B.C., New Year’s Eve was celebrated on January 1st for the first time in recorded history. That was the year that the Julian calendar, of Julius Caesar, replaced the traditional Roman calendar. Are you still awake? I hope so.

Fireworks! Don’t worry…I’m not even going to go there – well, maybe just a little. Suffice it to say – Fireworks first came from China and spread across Persia through the Ottoman Empire, Africa and into Europe.

Here in Merida, the main plaza becomes a sea of humanity gathered to watch the fireworks display launched from the top of main cathedral…but I’m jumping ahead.

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We began New Year’s Eve at Amaro Restaurant on Calle 59, along with perhaps 200 other dinner guests. Everyone was decked out in their holiday best. Our favorite waiter, Enricque, helped us to secure a table on short notice, when we decided it would be better to dine out than to eat at home. Little did we know that we would end up in the center of the courtyard (one of the best tables in the house).

Amaro’s is located in one of the oldest houses in Merida. The elegant 18th century colonial mansion was the birth place and home of Quintana Roo, who has a state in Mexico named after him.

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Our friends Catherine and Marty joined us to ring in the new year. Some of our symphony friends also joined the celebrations.

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It was a delight to see two fellow authors Joanna Van der Grach Rosado and Marianne Kehoe and their husbands Jorge and Jim at a table nearby.

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It was 9:30 pm as the crowd began to gather.

 

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Live entertainment and great food food added to the evening festivities.

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We began the evening with a delicious guacamole and chips – John and Catherine had the Anchara Steak – Marty ordered the stuffed avocado w/ grilled shrimp. Eating salt cod is another traditional Yucatan dish for the holidays. However, I chose the Chicken Frajitas. Tradition just flew out the window. For dessert we all had the restaurants famous Tres Leches Cake. Followed by a glass of Champagne and 12 grapes.

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The eating of twelve grapes at the stroke of midnight is a tradition that started in Spain. Each person is supposed to eat one grape at each stroke of the clock on a countdown to midnight, while making a New Year’s wish with each grape. This is not an easy game to play, and twelve seconds isn’t a lot of time, but the shorter your wish and the smaller the grape, the easier it is. You are even allowed to repeat the wish more than once.

As for me – I’d rather drink my grapes – preferably the ones with bubbles.

Colors are also associated with the New Year. People decorate their homes with colorful banners of red, yellow, green and white, strung here and there in fiesta fashion.

And here’s one tradition I bet you didn’t know – the color of a woman’s undergarments can indicate her wishes for the New Year. Red if she is seeking romance, green represents a wish for financial gain, and white indicates her desire for a long and healthy life. Perhaps we should inform Victoria’s Secret and see what they come up with for their next fashion extravaganza. I’m not sure what happened to the Yellow, but the red, green and white are the colors in the Mexican flag.

Fireworks

Now you’re talking. Blazing in all the evenings glory, the main cathedral becomes the stage for a display of fireworks on a grand scale at midnight. Families, vendors, expats and tourist converge on the Grand Plaza to watch the spectacle they have been waiting for. The smell of gunpowder drifted on the air above the restaurant as hundreds of gala fireworks burst with sparkling colors in the night sky to the gasp and cheers of the crowd. Children just love this part – and believe me, they are up and out to see it even at the age of two.

My Two New Year’s Resolutions

I will strive to do whatever I can to make this world a better place – to help those who are less fortunate – to spread joy, love and happiness wherever I am – and to work for peace and harmony for all humanity.

I will do my best to write more Amazon reviews on books I have read, and give other writers the recognition and reward they deserve for being a part of the literary community and sharing their stories with us.

I WISH YOU PEACE – LOVE – JOY – AND GOOD FORTUNE FOR 2018!!

Adios 2017 – Hola 2018…

Saturday – Dec. 23rd

Before we say goodbye to 2017, let’s take a quick ride down Paseo de Montejo Avenue. After all…the city spent a lot of money on new decorations and lighting – it would be a shame not to share it with you.

As we wander through the Romaté and the hundreds of people out for the free Christmas entertainment, we locate our horse and carriage waiting at the entrance gates. This is our annual trot down the “avenue of lights”. The horse was a brown and white paint and the carriage was decked out for Christmas.

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Our friends got to watch where they were going – we got to see where we had been,

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Tree trunks were wrapped in lights and the branches twinkled with flickering luminescence on both sides of the divided roadway.

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The leisure ride took us around the Monument of the Patriots (or Monument to the Homeland) and back down the opposite side of the street.

A shower of fireworks launched from the top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel just as we neared and frightened our four legged guide, so we pulled to the side of the road until he had adjusted. The driver explained that his horse was a new one.

Sunday – Dec. 24th

Christmas Eve arrived overnight, and we were busy all day getting dinner prepared for our guests. As usual, I set the table and John did most of the cooking.

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This is the one time of the year that I make my “salty caraway crisp” to nibble on with cocktails.

Caraway Crisp Recipe:

 1 cup butter

1 cup crème cheese

¼ cup heavy crème

2 ½ cups sifted flour

1 Tsp. regular salt

1 egg white 

Caraway seeds

Coarse salt

Cream butter & cheese, add cream, add flour & salt.

Chill till firm & form into 2 or 3 rolls 1″  in diameter.

Wrap in wax paper & chill till hard.

Cut into ¼ ″ slices & place on greased cookie sheet.

Brush with egg white, sprinkle with coarse salt & caraway seeds.

Bake at 350° for 20 minutes – or until the edges start to brown.  

I mentioned in my last blog post, that I would attempt to get some food photos. Thank goodness I don’t work for Gourmet or Food and Wine Magazine – I would be out of a job in no time flat. However, here is my attempt at cookbook photography.

The contented foursome await the dinner bell, as the chef and his assistant are dancing around each other in the kitchen. Guests arrive at 6:30 pm. Dinner ended at 11:20 pm.

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1st Course:  Beet Salad with lettuce, toasted pine nuts and Gorgonzola cheese

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Main Course:  Beef Bourguignon with new potatoes and gingered baby carrots ‘a la Julia Child.’

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Dessert: Pumpkin Spice Cheesecake in a toasted Gram cracker  crust with whipped cream

By the time we got around to dessert, my focus was not so good, but I blame it on the camera…and the wine. Why not?

New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day are up next. This old dog needs a rest in between, so I will bid you Happy Holidays until January 2018. Hope you enjoy a good D.G. Heath mystery story between the holidays. (Ho-ho-ho).

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year’s!

It is time to end this crazy year and get on to the next. Where the time goes, nobody knows. I won’t spent the time and energy trying to recap the year in a nutshell. However, you can rest assured that it was filled with a whirlwind of excitement, travel, laughs, accomplishments, friends, food, love and adventures. Which just goes to prove that retirement, rejuvenation, and reinventing can improve not only your life, but the challenge to live in happiness and fulfilment.

I want to share with you the holiday spirit here in Merida. The avenue, Paseo de Montejo, is ablaze with lights and poinsettias. The city has spent much time and effort to inspire the joy of the season. This is a completely new lighting installation for 2017. We will be taking a horse and carriage ride one evening this weekend to enjoy the sparkle of this installation. Photos to come later.

The Liverpool Galleria Mall is sparkling with Christmas decorations from one end to the other and is full of shoppers carrying bags loaded with gifts, as Christmas carols float on the air above the ice-skating rink. Fountains bubble and spray as colorful lights dance on the waters and kids ride the little train around the upper level while their parents shop. We are planning to make one last trip to the mall and I hope to have photos to share in the next blog

In the main plaza or Zocolo, trees twinkle with hundreds of lights surrounding the life-size nativity scene in the center, and the atrium walkway between the Macay Museum and the main Cathedral, dazzles with a display of ever changing electrically, digitalized patterns of light.

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The music starts ad the show begins.

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The crowd gathers to watch. The lights in the windows of the building across the street change from red to green.

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The passageway is filled with light and music as the display reaches a climax and begins again. The people are dazzled by the artistic performance.

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The Christmas tree, at the Palace of the Governor, stands stately in the central courtyard, where all can visit.

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We barely made it there before they closed the building at 9 pm, and were able to take our friends on a tour of the magnificent murals in this beautiful building with its great architecture.

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The Main Plaza was a fairyland of twinkling lights.DSCN2100

Trees  that circled the lifesize manger were covered  in illumination.

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The camel, horse and even an elephant were transportation for the three kings who came bearing gifts.

Once again we were delighted to gather with our friend Peter for a holiday dinner in his charming old casona here in Centro. His home is over 250 years old; and with grace and texture, it exudes an ambience of an elegant lifestyle long past. The sturdy bones of this mansion, with its aged patina, embraces the warmth, culture and character of the Yucatan. I was able to capture a few photos before other guests made their appearance.

Peter’s home is filled with art and antiques

The main garden courtyard is filled with green trees and flowering plants, surrounded on all sides by the living areas. A lily pond with goldfish and white lilies is approximately 20 feet by 10 feet and three feet deep.

DSCN2077 To the back is a second courtyard where the pool is located.

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The dining room, with its 12 foot high doors, opens to the pool and the lily pond on each side, offering a wonderful cross-breeze most of the year.

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Temperatures that evening were in the low 60s, so the doors remained closed. The huge table, centered in the dining room, can seat sixteen to twenty people comfortably, and there is a large kitchen further back with a big center island. The guests (who were mostly Spanish speaking) were all delightful and entertaining and as always willing to help us with our Spanish.

At Casa de Colores, our residence, it is our fifth Christmas in the Yucatan. It’s hard to believe that we arrived here in August of 2013. However, we only purchased our Christmas tree two years ago.

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It’s not a green tree, but an architecturally designed, handmade Christmas tree that fits well in a small space, and can be stored from year to year. Just what two retired men can handle – no ornaments to pack away, no lights to remove (it came with them attached), and it separates into three pieces. We cover it with a plastic bag to keep the dust off and store it in our guestroom.

I made the decorative swags that hang on our front door with items purchased at Triunfo on Paseo Montejo. Those too are covered and stored each year.

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Pointesetas by the pool and and under the palms in the garden, create a Christmas atmosphere and add to our holiday spirit.

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This year we are celebrating Christmas Eve dinner at home with friends. John has planned the menu and is excited about preparing the meal for six. We begin with a salad of diced beets, Gorgonzola cheese and toasted pine nuts on hearts of Romaine and drizzled with a balsamic vinaigrette.

Followed by a main course of Boeuf Bourguignon, braised in red wine with bacon, onions and Crimini mushrooms, served with boiled new potatoes and baby carrots in butter. The wine we selected is a 2015 – Casa Madero Merlot, from Mexico (of course).

And last but not least, a dessert of pumpkin cheesecake in a graham cracker crust with toasted pumpkin seeds, accompanied by at Cune Manchuela a Blanco Semidulce wine from Spain. Food shots will appear in my January post, if I don’t forget to take them.

Our Christmas gift to each other will be a trip to Antigua, Guatemala in the summer of 2018. We’ll be celebrating two birthdays, five years of living abroad, our sixth wedding anniversary, and 48 years of life together (all in the same trip).

When I met John in 1969, I was 27 and he was fresh out of college at 23 – it was the month of November in the magical city of San Francisco. We returned to the scene of the crime, and were finally married in that same city in August of 2012. It seems like it was only yesterday – time has a way of playing tricks on us.

Picture 020Photo of us – May 1994 –  25 years ago…

And now my friends, it is time to say farewell to 2017 and usher in the New Year with hope and determination to make changes for the best. And that reminds me of this famous quote:

“God give me the strength to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

Forward we charge…and as Yoda would say, “May the force be with you.”

DSCN2124 (3)The Merida Boys – Photo – Dec. 2017

We really haven’t changed all that much since 1994 – maybe a little shorter, a few pounds heavier, and hopefully a lot wiser.

SEASONS GREETINGS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR!

From the Merida Boys (David and John)