Sep 19, 2014

Travel: Conde Nast's Recommended San Miguel de Allende, Mexico and Me

When John Scherber allowed me to reprint an article about an expat's life in San Miguel de Allende , I did not dream that we would actually come to San Miguel de Allende. Not only had I not been aware that it existed, I did not imagine that it would be hard (and expensive) to get here or that it was actually an beautiful as it is.  Not that I doubted John but it took the top rating from Conde Nast and an article in the NYT to convince me that this might be worth taking what travel time my husband and I have left to come to this part of Mexico.

San Miguel de Allende has been a expatriates dream come true for almost 50 years and was founded around 500 years ago. It was designated by UNESCO as a world heritage site. But as the NYT's article points out, it is the contrast of the new sophisticated San Miguel with the very old Mexican traditions that makes it such a charming place to be. Times said think of a mango next to paprika and turmeric. In the article written by Scherber he said:
The Méxican community and the expat community, largely U.S. and Canadian, struggle a bit to understand each other’s values and way of life. It is difficult to mistake members of one community for those of the other. 
After being here for a few days I can see how that is very true.

We are staying on Correo, the street than runs in front of the pink cathedral. Everything west and south of us feels very rich and sultry. But when we go north for a few short blocks we are in old Mexico. A very large market features meats, vegetable, necklaces and Oaxaca rugs. The native people trade and buy everyday necessities as tourist fondle the trinkets. Interestingly enough, it is the only place in the town that I have seen a public restroom...good to know.

This shop sold antique masks. I paid to take this picture!
That is a first for me!
At the NYT's recommendation we visited places that carried hand embroidered blouses and purses. We bought hummingbird feeders at a La Silvestra just down the hill from our hotel and trinkets from a hole in the wall shop near Calle Dr. Hernandez Macias. But we have found that every street is a treasure waiting to be discovered and that perfect find might be just around the corner. I honestly cannot say that there are any bad places to explore...just different.

We visited the Fábrica La Aurora Centro de Arte y Diseño yesterday. Information said it was a ten minute walk from the husband and I questioned that after what seemed like a very long hike. It was recommended to us by an expat friend that lives here. Artists come to San Miguel to work and this is one of the places the very finest display their art and teach as well. I loved it.

While we spend our days marveling over the uniqueness of this place, our lunch (or tea time) and evenings have been spent eating our way through as many restaurants as going back some wonderful cuisine. At last count locals say there are over 200 restaurants to choose from so we do pay attention to ratings and that sort of thing. So far we have not been disappointed.

Breakfast a Cafe Lavender on Hernandez Macias

Franciscan run Temple de San Francisco
Dinner delight?

Wall carving on front of Temple de San Francisco 
Last night we were the only people in the restaurant called Olio so we received the royal treatment. We were offer an appetizer featuring the worms (maggots) they put in tequila to make sure it is strong enough. The story I have heard is if the worms die, the tequila is ready. When we were served, the creatures were front and center, deep fried and crunchy. I must admit that I would not eat them again but I am glad I tried them just once.

The first night we arrived we ate at The Restaurant located on Sollano 16. I had a brined pork chop that was the best thing I have ever eaten hands down. This has to be one of the best in San Miguel but who knows. Go to this website and be amazed.

We stop in the afternoon at tea time (2:00 pm) for a small bite to eat and then head home for a siesta, quite time and a glass of wine. I love this pace of life and could live like this forever I suppose.

But, in the end, I belong in Oregon. It too feeds my need for beauty.


Sep 15, 2014

Travel: Mexican Independence Day in San Miguel de Allende, Mx

Honestly, we don't plan this sort of thing. Because we are not Mexican Citizens we did not realize that when we made reservations for our vacation, we would be arriving in San Miguel Allende on Mexican Independence Day. Really, we need to start paying closer attention....or not.

See, the wonderful thing about running around blindly is that you do run into some very cool things. That is what happened to us today.

We arrived in San Miguel this afternoon. This beautiful old city was in the midst of a huge celebration. Today is Mexican Independence Day! Paper flags hung over the streets and a crowd had gathered in the plaza in front of the cathedral. Stages were set up for performances and for speeches and singing of the national anthem. It was, in fact just amazing and beautiful.

If I were to compare it to our 4th of July, it actually seemed like a lot more fun. The center of the city was alive and businesses remained open for shopping. Restaurants were crowed and this evening the celebration was beginning to come alive. There will be fireworks and I can hear the band playing in the distance. While we seem to gather in families on the 4th, this community of families gather in the square.

San Miguel is about 1hr 40 minutes from Guanajuato, Mexico

Lunch in Delores Hildago, Mx.
We are staying at a place called Casa Mia Suites on Correo just a few blocks from the Cathedral and a short walk to the center of town. Our room is just wonderful. Because we are on the 3rd floor we can look out over the city. I think we scored without even trying.

Viva Mexico!!!
San Miguel Roof Tops

Sep 12, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell's 10,000 Hours to Succeed and an Aging Writer

Outliers: The Story of Success
I pretty sure that Malcolm Gladwell did not invent the 10,000 hours notion. But that is where I read about the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to master a skill. In the book Outliers he told about the Beatles skill in music being related to the time they played for 8 hours a day while employed in Hamburg. 

The whole concept just boggles the mind. Just think how much time you would have to spend at the keyboard, for example, to master your typing skill and to become a proficient writer. I have been writing for about 8 years now (I think). Even if I spent 2 hours writing 7 days a week, 365 days a year for those 8 years I would not even be half way there. And I have not done 2-hours-7-days-a-week-365-days-a-year...not even close.

But I find that very comforting in many ways. My expectation or even disappointments are tempered by the fact that I, although I have given a lot of time to writing, am not close to being as good at it as I will be when I am 80 (good Lord willing and creek don't rise).

In an article written by Karen Austin over at The Age Above Me she talks about changes in the aging mind and shifts in abilities. One of the skills she discusses is writing. It turns out that very good writing is not affected by age. Very good writing was attributed to good health, education and intellect. Here was her advice:
Even though writers do not have a Grandma Moses icon to inspire them to achieve later in life, there are many people who continue to compose or start to compose online  and offline in their 70s, 80s and 90s. Invite your friends and relatives who are a generation above you to put their ideas in writing. 
If you have a plan to write the great American novel, do not delay. If you wait until your sunset years, expect the task to take you a little more time and the writing to be a little less complex in diction, sentence style and overall structure. 
Putting age aside, if we have a dream or a desire to do something, we need to get on with it. As Austin points out, it does not get easier but many things are possible.

Getting my 10,000 hours in would be a true accomplishment I think. At least I would bragging rights...I like bragging rights a lot.

Just a thought.


About Karen Austin: 

Wichita, Kansas, United States
After teaching college English teacher for 30 years, I decided to turn my attention to the generation above me. I recently earned a master's in Aging Studies from Wichita State University, so now I'm a gerontologist. I volunteer at a skilled nursing center. I also teach classes in Aging Studies for WSU.

Sep 11, 2014

The Google Man Rode in on a Beautiful White Horse!

English: Google Logo officially released on Ma...
English: Google Logo officially released on May 2010 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am like most bloggers...I have this love/hate relationship with Google. I do know that without them I would be nothing...not saying I am something now...but still they do help me think I am something.

I have been a blog writer for many years and have owned 4 different domains at different times. I suppose that is all good on me but don't ask me how I did it, where I bought them or even how to pay for them. My attitude from the beginning of blogging has been the same as the one I brought to my Apple computer when the very first one ever produced sat on my kitchen counter and Steve Jobs held Apple user group meetings here in Portland Oregon. I just point and click...ask me to join and I was interested. I am not afraid of anything. There you have it.

So getting back to the domains and how to pay for them I need to tell you about the guy and his beautiful white horse. I know his name but I won't put it here because I don't want to embarrass him with too much praise. OK...I give...his name is Ivaylo.

I owned a blog called The Left Side of  My Brain. I wrote on it when Sarah Palin ran for vice-president alongside that guy from Arizona...his name escapes me. She drove me nuts enough to prompt me to buy a domain just so I could rant a little with hardly anyone noticing. Then we moved on and I abandoned the blog. Once a year bills would come for the domain and I could never figure out how to turn off the automatic payment. Finally, this last week I found a place where I could ask Google the question and it would be sent to someone that knew the answer. I was asked to leave my phone number.

Imagine my surprise when the phone rang a couple of days later and a real, live talking Google guy said my name and offered to help me! Oh my goodness and here I thought that there were no real people at Google. I pictured this warehouse full of servers where a small man wearing glasses made sure that the backup generator came on when the electricity went off. I thought it was probably located in Christmas Valley, Oregon. Boy was I wrong. I could just see the man's beautiful white horse.

So the Google Guru and I spent the morning talking on the phone. We used an app that allowed him to see my screen called Join Me.  I was guided through deleting that old blog, paying for a lapsed blog. The big problem occurred in both cases because I was unable to access my Google Administrator account.  I took notes so I may not have to go through this process again in a year or so. No guarantees though.

Today I love Google and Google guy, who ever you really are. Thank you again. My life is very, very good! Oh and by the way, the Google guy said I was very tech savy for a woman my age. I think that was a compliment!


Note: My new/old blog address is It Crossed My Mind Blog. I plan on writing stories there.

Sep 9, 2014

How to be the Perfect Grandmother? I Have No Idea!

There is a book I have in a basket next to me desk called How To Be The Perfect Grandma written by Bryna Nelson Paston. I received it several years ago as a prize or gift or something. It is hilarious but honestly very true. On the cover the author says "Listen politely, then do what you want....Pick Your Battles...and Never, ever ever let anything bad happen to the kid on your watch, but if it does, lie." I love this by line but lying...I don't know about that.

You would honestly think that after 23 years of being a grandmother and raising three children that I would have it down wouldn't you? Let me tell you right now it is never going to be perfect...never!

When  my oldest son's now ex-wife was pregnant, I thought how hard could it be...I am soooo smart when it comes to children. Boy was I wrong. The belief that if you don't drop the baby, burn the baby or lose the baby, you are golden, was about as wrong as it gets. And to be perfectly clear, I will not take Paston's advice and lie. Children are pretty precious to me.

There have been many times over the last 23 years when just opening my mouth turned out to be a bad idea. If you are new to this game let me tell you that unsolicited advice and even some solicited advice can get you in big trouble. I have learned to just say "I really don't know." more often than anything else. I don't know what to put on bee stings, how late a 18 month should stay up and I certainly don't know about hives, allergies or even washing clothes. There are traps and tests that every experienced grandmother knows to avoid like the plague. Even we experienced grandmothers step in the poop once in a while.

Sometimes I make an honest to goodness really bad mistake because I really, really don't know. My ex-daughter-in-law said to me once that she thought I knew everything and could fix anything. I was never sure if that was a jab or honestly how she felt. At any rate that statement scared me to death. See, I didn't think she had been listening and the idea that she would actually do what I said was frightening. You see what I mean. I probably made one of those honest to goodness really bad mistakes with her because I didn't know that she paid attention!

I made my grandson sick the other day. I fed him a corn dog when we were out to eat. He usually doesn't eat gluten food and I didn't realize how much gluten was in a corn dog. That frightened me to death. I don't know what I was thinking. But when he got home, he was sick and very sad...darn. Of course I apologized but I lost a lot of trust in myself and with my children with that one mistake. Darn again!

But my mother did not raise a dummy. I will be asking a lot more questions in the future. I will be reading up on gluten intolerance to become more knowledgable. Better to be safe than to make the children sick. Oh, the grandchild was up the next morning, healthy and ready to wear his new clothes to school. I was so glad he felt better. Poor baby!

So, if you want to be the perfect Grandmother, don't do what I say ever...I just don't know what I am talking about. I probably never have. Well, maybe a little bit!