A bit of remodeling–Moving on up

The design of our new living space was intended as a living room/bedroom combination.  We couldn’t move upstairs until the stairs were tiled and the bathroom completed but had to move most things before the handrail on the steps was installed.


The first items to get moved were those in the backroom.  That way, they would already be out of the way when my husband was ready to tile the backroom.  So my treadle sewing machine, the table, and chairs from my mother plus the cupboard where I kept all my fabric scraps found a new spot upstairs. My husband lengthened the shelves in the cupboard so that it was more spacious. It now serves as a mini-kitchen cupboard, the bathroom closet and fabric scrap storage.

Then the piano and the chairs I bought which were at the little house in Sunflower Valley came over.  We had to enlist a helper for the piano because even though it was a spinet and not an upright, it still was as heavy as a horse.  The neighbors thought we were moving out, but we aren’t.  I still will continue to rent in Sunflower Valley because we do not yet have electricity and internet services in La Yacata.  But we won’t be moving the piano again. Of course, now the little house is all drab again.  Guess I’ll have to work on livening things up there for my next project!


Curtains needed to be made for those new curtain rods from Harley the carpenter.  We went to 10 fabric stores in town.  Yes, there are 10 fabric stores in our town. In fact, I would estimate there are at least 30 since Moroleon is known for its textiles.  In 9 out of the 10 we stopped at, I didn’t find anything I liked.  In the 10th store, I found a lovely brown embroidered fabric but the girl working there said they didn’t sell by the meter, but by the roll.  Umm, ok.  Well, I didn’t need a roll of fabric.  I toyed with the idea of ordering fabric online, but in the end, I found a large curtain at the Bodega which I cut into 6 smaller curtains.  I also picked up a bath mat set there. I cut the elastic off the toilet tank topper and made a second little rug for the stair to the bathtub. Who needs a fuzzy toilet tank anyway?

Once the bathroom was finished, it was time to move the bedroom things and occupy our new residence.  Our king size bed went out the front door and was lifted onto Joey’s roof.  The large armoire is made up of two pieces, so it was brought up piece by piece.  The smaller armoire wasn’t so heavy.


I got it into my head that we needed bedside tables. I’m well into middle age and have yet to own a pair of bedside tables. It was time. In the past, I had seen some at the weekly tianguis (flea market). But you know how that goes.  Now that I was in the market, there weren’t any to be found.  We went to a place in town and he did have end tables, only they were $3,200 each, not for the pair.  That definitely was out of our budget. We stopped at the roadside tent where an indigenous man, his wife, twin toddlers and four year old have set up shop or camp or business or something. They had end tables but they were too short.  Our bed is quite a bit higher than the typical beds found around here.  We did end up getting some chairs from this place.  More about that in another post.

We happened on a truck full of furniture one day while picking up the tortillas and we stopped.  The guy had the perfect size bedside tables and we liked the style.  While we were negotiating a price, some lady on a motorcycle came and claimed both.  Drat.  We saw the same guy another day (bought a rocking chair but more about that later) and put in our order for a pair of bedside tables just like the ones that were snatched out from under our noses.  They were ready at the beginning of January.










I also ordered two water stands from the same guy, one for upstairs and one for downstairs.  My husband and son just rolled their eyes at that, but quality craftsmanship is worth the price and the wait in this case.  It was another 2 weeks for the carpenter to finish them and arrange to meet us for pickup.

Things were certainly shaping up!



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A bit of remodeling–The upstairs bathroom


With a teenage son now and plans of a multigenerational home in the future, (ok, so I can’t wait for grandchildren) we decided that a second bathroom would be nice to have. Since this bathroom was on the second floor, it needed to be raised up to include the plumbing underneath which meant making a step for my short legs.

My husband thought we should have a bathtub, which is a rarity here in Mexico.  After pricing the fiberglass tubs, he decided he would make it out of tile.  So he did.  Again, because of my short legs, another step had to be built.  

We had another search for suitable tile to go with the cream and brown color scheme. We found some creamy beige tile that seemed like it would be ok and ordered 12 boxes. When the delivery guy arrived, there were 9 boxes of cream tile and 3 boxes of other tiles.  Of course, my husband didn’t notice this until all the tile had been unloaded.  He refused the order.  He and the delivery guy loaded everything back on the truck.

Over the course of the next 2 days, my husband went back and forth to town to try and get this resolved.  There were only 9 boxes of the cream tile to be found.  So he accepted the 9 boxes and the store manager deducted the cost of the 3 boxes of hideous tile.  Then the 9 boxes were delivered a second time and work could commence.

Because there were now only 9 boxes instead of 12, there was not enough tile to do the bottom of the tub.  His brother B was also tiling his house and had asked to borrow the truck for tile pickup so when they went to pick up B’s tile, my husband bought 2 boxes of brown tile to finish the floor.  I can’t say that I really like it, but it’s not like many people will see it.  It’s at the bottom of the tub.

Then there’s the issue of the tub not having a faucet.  Our shower downstairs has a faucet on the wall, but no tub. I’m not sure why that is.  So, lieu of a faucet, we opted for a shower nozzle on a flexible hose.  I figured it would be just the thing since my son washes his hair every single day but doesn’t always shower. In the event of an actual bath, we could always fill the tub with buckets.  My husband even assured me he would heat the water on the outside cooking grill if need be.  Ok then.  We do plan on getting a boila (hot water heater) eventually, but it will have to wait.

We had a toilet and sink left over from one of my husband’s remodeling jobs.  He installed them but the toilet wasn’t exactly what I had in mind. It had a broken tank cover and was white which so didn’t go with the overall cream and brown classic look I was going for. I know, so picky!

We shopped around a bit, not precisely for the color although that was a big factor, but for a toilet that had a smaller tank. Water conservation is still our number one concern. We found a cream one reasonably priced and brought it home.  

The next step was getting another tinaco (water storage container) and installing it.  Some heaving and ho-ing got it up on the roof.  An afternoon’s work and it had a base. The pipes took a few runs to the ferreteria (hardware store), but it got done.  As it’s on the second floor and not the first floor, it is against regulations for the water delivery truck to fill it, so we are considering a water pump.  Until that happens, ‘algo pa’la soda’ (a little donation towards the purchase of a “soda”) should get the tinaco filled.

The sink faucet was a hassle.  We went hither and yon looking for something that would do.  After we made our choice, my husband installed it only to find that it leaked.  Back we went to return it.  The shop gave us another model.  AND it leaked too.  Remember, water is sacred.  There will be no leaking in our home.  Third time’s the charm I guess.  No leaky faucet with the third model.

The tub ended up being too big for just one shower curtain.  It was a good thing I had bought two, thinking to change out the downstairs shower curtain as well.


Our Harley carpenter made a wooden towel bar the matched the wooden curtain rod.  More on him later.  A mirror positioned just so to reflect back the light from the window and a plant artistically arranged and the bathroom was done.



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Thank you Mom

Today I thought I write about my mom. I know she knows that I love her, but I don’t think she realizes how much of who I am today is because of her.

mom teen 

When my brother and I were kids, we had this mammoth garden.  Well, it seemed mammoth at the time, 2 football stadiums long at least.  During growing season, every weekend and all summer long, we were supposed to go out and weed a row or two.  We also watered the plants bucket by bucket every Monday, Wednesday and Friday evening.  Being older and wiser than my brother, I always tried to get my weeding done before 9 am because it was hotter after that.  Whereas, my brother was just rolling out of bed at 9 am and grumped about, sometimes never even getting around to weeding his row.  Hmm, I wonder who was the smarter one after all?  Anyway, those gardening skills sure have been useful trying to eek out an existence here in Mexico over the years.  Thank you, mom.

My mom paid $5 every Monday for me to take piano lessons for 6 years.  I bellyached and complained about practicing and tried to skate through each Monday’s lesson knowing I could have played better had I just spent a little more time banging out songs during the week.  My brother and mom would disappear someplace during that very long 30 minutes and sometimes were late picking me up and I had to wait hours in the cold, shivering (or at least it seemed like hours, it was probably only 5 minutes or so) for them to come and get me.  My piano has provided me endless hours of comfort since.  Thank you, mom.

My mom would take my brother and me for these endless bike rides, or at least they seemed to last that long.  She’d fill up her basket with wildflowers or maybe a cluster of wild grapes or elderberries.  Our rides often passed the Women’s penitentiary and one time the police came to investigate thinking my mom in her striped purple polyester pants had escaped the compound. While the mountains hereabouts aren’t really bike friendly, I have been known to drag my husband and son on wildflower excursions.  Thank you, mom.

While we had a dryer, more often than not our washed clothes were hung out on the line.  The sun-kissed bed linens were just the thing to snuggle into at night. If was often my job to either hang or bring in the clothes. I am proud to say that here in Mexico, where a dryer is a rarity and everybody hangs stuff out, my clotheslines are a work of art.  You wouldn’t believe how many items I can get to dry on one line.  Another useful skill.  Thank you, mom.

Eight grade Home Ec was a nightmare.  I just could not get the seams to run straight.  My mom spent extra time helping me fix my sewing mistakes and then over the summer, she had me learn how to run her old Singer sewing machine.  I won’t say that it was my favorite memory–those hot, frustrating afternoons!  Only, yet again, it has been a useful ability in my life in Mexico even if my seams still aren’t quite straight.  Thank you, mom.

As an awkward teenager, my mom took the time to help me find makeup that complimented my coloring and clothes that flattered my figure.  We scoured Goodwill and clearance racks looking for quality material, then bought shoes and earrings to create outfits that bolstered my confidence.  While I don’t wear much makeup these days, when I do, I use the same techniques my mother taught me.  And while I don’t do much shopping either, I know how to search out quality and have used that skill to clothe my family.  Thank you, mom.

Things aren’t so easy here in Mexico, as you might well imagine.  Sometimes it’s downright difficult. When a friend commented that she admired the strength and grace with which I was able to deal with adversity, I told her I had learned it from my mom.  So thank you, mom, for all that you did to create the woman and mother than I have become.  Thank you for giving me my independence and teaching me how to create a life of beauty even in the middle of nowhere.  I couldn’t have done it without you.



Filed under Parenting Challenges and Cultural Norms