Getting Some Repairs Done

Several months ago, my son began gathering pieces to put together his own computer. We ordered one piece each paycheck and then had to wait until all the pieces to arrive to begin to assemble it. He and my husband spent about a week doing just that. Only it just wouldn’t turn on. So we called my brother who knows more about this sort of thing. He and my son tried to troubleshoot via Skype but were unsuccessful.

One morning, we stopped by this guy who knows more about electronics and he said he’d take a look at it. So we fired up the truck and brought the pieces to him. Only my son had left the manuals and the computer fan behind. Leaving him to start work on the computer, we headed back for those.

On the way there, the truck suddenly stopped. Since we had just put some gas in, we knew it wasn’t that. I spent the next 15 minutes pushing the truck up and down the road to see if it would start. It didn’t. Azul the vet happened by. After another 15 minute round of pushing, he took my husband home for the motorcycle. Then we took the pieces back to the repair shop to see how things were going.

There were still some problems with the computer. We decided to try and fix the truck while they continued working on it. My husband stopped at a mechanic and described the problem who diagnosed it as the pastilla and gave my husband an old one to go and buy the piece. So to the auto parts store we went. The piece was $230, but I only had $215 in my pocket. The register lady said that was fine.

Back to the truck we went. It was now high noon and hot as the blazes. My husband climbed under the hood and went to work. It took about 45 minutes to get the piece changed. Meanwhile, the guy who helped move my piano upstairs happened by. Once the piece was changed, he took over my role of pushing up and down the road until the truck started. Then he followed my husband home to to leave the motorcycle and brought him back to the truck.

Back to the computer repair shop we went. The repair guy said he did everything he knew how to do and took us to someone who knew more about computers. Immediately upon opening the case, the repair guy #2 found the problem. Of course, the most expensive piece was damaged. It could have been damaged via shipping. It could also have been damaged when my husband and son were trying to assemble it. It might even have been damaged when my son and the repair guy were working on it.

Repair guy # 2 said that he would work on it a bit and to come back in an hour. We came home and my husband fiddled with the truck some more. The timing was still off and it was bucking quite a bit. He got it more or less right and we headed back.

Repair guy # 2 had bad news for us. While he was able to repair the damaged part, there was additional damage that he hadn’t seen right away and it couldn’t be fixed. We would need to order a new piece.

My to my son’s disappointment, I didn’t have enough money to do so and told him he would have to wait for the next paycheck. We asked how much we owed repair guy number 2 for his time. He said we didn’t owe him anything.

Then we went back to repair guy #1 to pick up the computer monitor. We showed him the damaged piece and asked how much we owed him for his time. He and my son had spent about 4 hours working on it. He also didn’t charge us. Home again we went.

My brother saved the day. He sent me enough money to order the replacement part and it arrived in about a week. My husband and son decided that they would get repair guy #2 to assemble the computer components this time. So they did. He charged $200 pesos and it was ready in about 2 hours. My son was ecstatic!

I also had some repairs that needed to be done. My treadle sewing machine was giving me problems. The thread kept getting tangled in the bobbin. My husband spent several hours trying to fix it. We even bought a new bobbin in the hopes that was the problem. Nope. We went to a repair shop in town. They said that a repairman could come to the house the following day and take a look at it. He neither appeared nor called. I was a little short on cash with the unexpected repairs to the truck and computer, so I had to wait until the next paycheck.

This time we took the sewing machine to another repair shop. He said that he’d look at it and to stop back the next day. We did but he hadn’t had time to fiddle with it. So he said to come back the following day. So we did. And he still hadn’t had a chance to work on it. He said he’d do that right that moment and to come back in a few hours. This time he’d fixed it.

So we took the machine back to the base and tried it out. The first few stitches were perfect than wham–it jammed up. After about 15 minutes, my husband was able to get it working again, but it seems like this will be a reoccurring problem. Sigh.

Then the puzzle I had been working on got wet in the last sudden rain shower we had. The colorful top pieces came off about 50 pieces. I bought some glue and my husband started in on repairs. It took him several days to fix that.

The last repair was to my favorite picture frame. While we were installing the solar system, it fell off the cabinet. Fortunately, the Vidrieria (glass store) will cut glass to size. So when we went for the glass to cover my now repaired puzzle, we also got a replacement glass for the frame.

With the repairs done, it was time to work on getting the upstairs plumbing fully functional.

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Lady’s Arrival

My husband got it in his head that he wasn’t complete without a horse. Our last horse, Buttercup, had been traded for some of the sheep we currently have. Instead of making this purchase on his own, like he did with Alto, he decided to talk to my son and me about this possibility. The next day, he drove me to Jacales to see the horse he was thinking of buying. She was lovely but too thin for her height, which was considerable. The owner couldn’t say exactly how old she was, but she still had her baby beard, so we are estimating that she is under a year old.IMG_20180522_105910.jpgWe took Zombie girl and a new sheep my husband had traded one of the black boy twins for to the market in Purandaro to sell. We also took Mary but she didn’t weigh enough for her to be worth selling, so we brought her home again.IMG_20180523_093108.jpgMy husband asked two different guys with trucks that have high rails how much they would charge to go and get this horse in Jacales. One said $300 and the other said $400. Both were overpriced for the distance. Our own truck, which would get there and back on $200 pesos of gas, doesn’t have high sides and there was a risk the horse might jump out on the way and get injured.

My husband decided to investigate a road that runs from La Ordena to El Moral as a possible way to bring the horse to our house without being on such a large road since he was considering bringing it home with my son leading her on the motorcycle.

I’m always up for an adventure, so we were off to La Ordena. We asked an elderly lady with her umbrella if we were on the right road. Her eyebrows went sky-high.  Yes, this was the road, but she wouldn’t say if it were passable even by moto.  On we went. Just as we came to a fork in the road, we encountered a small herd of bulls. We pulled to the left crossroad and got out of their way. We had red shirts on and all. Well, my husband had on a red shirt, mine was sorta purple but I’m not sure what sort of color spectrum bulls have and wasn’t taking any chances.IMG_20180524_124722.jpgAfter they passed, we headed down this road that although rough, was still drivable until suddenly it wasn’t. Going just a little further was a mistake and we headed back the way we came in the blistering heat and no floppy hat for me. Halfway back, we ran into another cattle herd, a bit larger this time. My husband turned the moto around and we backtracked until we found some bushes we could hide in. You may laugh, but my husband has a healthy fear of bulls, having grown up in rural areas. While he felt confident that if he were charged, he could climb a mesquite tree, he wasn’t so sure about my mesquite climbing abilities.IMG_20180524_130414.jpgWe hid there for about 10 minutes until we were sure the coast was clear. My husband decided that he would not be bringing his new horse this way after all.

While we were waiting for my check to be deposited since the sheep sale was short of the $8000 asking price, I asked my husband what name he thought he’d give her. We’ve had Black Beauty, Spirit, Shadow, Joey, Alto and Buttercup to date. I suggested Lady. His response was “Black Lady, like Michone” (from the Walking Dead.) Umm, no. That’s not what I had in mind at ALL! I offered a few other suggestions, but Black Lady stuck.

Early Friday morning, he headed to get the guia (permit) to move the horse. Every year, my husband, who has a registered brand, adds an imaginary horse to his patente (registration). This new horse could, therefore, be registered as one of those horses without a problem since she came without papers or brand.

In the end, he decided to pay someone with a properly railed truck to bring Lady home. He cleared out Joey’s old stall and escorted his new pride and joy in. She seems to really like it with us but gets nervy when we out of sight while she is tied outside.IMG_20180527_081452.jpg Since the rainy season is fast approaching, we hope she’ll be able to fill out some on all the lush greenery found in La Yacata for those few months. I’m not sure exactly how my husband plans on feeding her in the dry season, so we’ll see how it goes. For now, he picks up an armful of freshly cut alfalfa every two days from a truck that cruises around town for $120 pesos per week.  He also gets a full back of corn leaves in exchange for a costal (feed bag) and 5 pesos from the guy who sells elotes (corn on the cob) from the back of his truck in town. Then we still have some dried alfalfa bales and a few dried corn bales which should keep Lady and the sheep happy until the heavens open up.IMG_20180523_153455.jpg

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Father’s Day in Mexico

Mexico has been a patriarchal society since pre-conquest times. Yet Father’s Day isn’t as popular in Mexico as Mother’s Day. Only about 50% of Mexican households celebrate Father’s Day, compared to 78% of households that celebrate Mother’s Day.  

According to Walmart, sales are only slightly higher than Valentine’s Day (El Dia del Padre no es Tan Padre). The Mexico City tourism president says this difference in spending is because the father provides the only income for the family and therefore chooses not to spend money on himself.  I don’t know about that. In our town, the women provide the main income for their families.

What I think is more likely, is that in many families, the father is somewhere else working.  One study estimates 9% of Mexican households are without a father in the house.  I find that figure extremely low. Another study says that nearly 35% of male immigrants to the US have children in Mexico under the age of 15. Again, I think that figure is too low.  There isn’t a reliable way to gather this information from undocumented workers or those that are only temporary workers (6 months in Mexico, 6 months in the US).  Those figures don’t include fathers who have gone away to work but are still in Mexico, either at the border or in larger cities.

Although, the father is still “el jefe de la familia” in the Mexican family whether or not he is living full-time under the same roof as his children there is perhaps less motivation to celebrate the holiday in his absence.  

Just like in the US, Father’s Day is the third Sunday in June. Instead of gifts, most families celebrate by having Dad’s favorite meal and letting him be to watch the afternoon soccer game in peace.

tree planting

Planting a tree on Father’s Day.

Since the extremely long school year found in most of Mexico means that students are not out for summer vacation yet, most schools have a Father’s Day event the following Monday.  Activities are usually planned that are a bit more dynamic than those expected for Mother’s Day. There are sack races, father/child soccer games, tree planting excursions and maybe a little bottle of tequila in the gift bag.

What are the Father’s Day traditions where you live?

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Southern Comfort, Mexican Style – Church Dinner on The Grounds

In rural eastern North Carolina where I grew up, church dinners on the grounds are staples of summer. Church Homecomings are scattered throughout late spring, summer, and early fall with seemingly coordinated timing so that no two are on the same Sunday. After all, folks might want to go to more than one, depending on which church their extended family attends (or attended).

Homecoming – when everyone who ever went to a particular church comes home and brings all the young’uns and the grandbabies. It’s like a big ole family reunion.  The laughter, the hugs, the embarrassing stories of youth, watching the kids run around on the same grounds you ran around on as a kid – it makes for a truly delicious bit of nostalgia. And the food. Oh my, the food.

Although technically a potluck dinner, a Southern country church dinner on the grounds is no average run of the mill potluck where people show up with just a skimpy little side dish. No, ma’am. The rule is you bring enough to feed your entire family and at least two other people so that out of town folks don’t feel so much pressure to perform. Because it is definitely a performance. I wouldn’t say the ladies are competitive, but heaven help the poor fella who yumyums someone else’s fried chicken if his own wife made fried chicken that day.

When the last amen is said, there’s no dilly-dallying. Dozens of country boys with uncomfortably snug neckties dutifully follow their wives, mothers, and sisters to the parking lot and return heavily laden with casserole dishes and Tupperware buckets and tubs. They follow the perfectly manicured finger of the church lady in charge who is pointing everyone to the correct table. Advice for the younger men:  Remember the color of the dish you are carrying, what’s in it, and what table you put it on because you absolutely must put your wife or girlfriend’s food on your plate even if you have to search for it. The only acceptable excuse is that it was finished by the time you got to it.

More than a dozen eight-foot tables are stretched end to end piled high with everyone’s best dishes. First up – meats and main courses including sliced ham and roast beef, chicken pastry, pulled pork, lasagnas, and at least ten variations of fried chicken, followed by potato salads, seven layer salads, jello salads of every color, deviled eggs, collard greens with ham hocks, squash casseroles, macaroni and cheese, baked beans, scalloped potatoes (technically au gratin because, cheese), green bean casseroles, succotash, broccoli a dozen ways, corn on the cob, raw veggies with ranch dip, plates of sliced red tomatoes fresh off the vine,  alongside a divinely heady selection of homemade pickles and relishes. Lots of biscuits, yeast rolls, breadsticks, and cornbread both baked and fried. And of course, plates of ham biscuits are scattered throughout just in case you needed a snack while waiting in line.  

And desserts, lawdamercy! What can I say? It’s an irresistible confectionary dream or diabetic nightmare depending on your perspective.  Banana pudding with toasted meringue, coconut cream pie with real whipped cream, cheesecake, chocolate layer cake, German chocolate cake, caramel cake, carrot cake, strawberry shortcake,  Boston cream pie, lemon meringue pie, pecan pie, chess pie, apple pie, blueberry pie, peach pie (my fave!), puddings, trifles, cookies, brownies, and homemade ice cream. Oh, my! *I make most of these exquisite Southern specialties at home from scratch because I love to do it, but for folks who can’t make them at home, really SadFace because there is no bakery here that sells them.

So, when the little Mexican church we attend announced an “Anniversary Celebration” complete with a potluck dinner on the grounds, this little ole Southern girl’s heart was just all aflutter with excitement and anticipation.  Oops. Hold the phone.

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Sign up sheet?  What do you mean, I can’t bring deviled eggs? All my Mexican friends love them.  I can’t bring a seven layer salad either? They love that too!

Nope, tacos. Tacos? OK, so back up and punt.  

Right now friends SOTB are saying, “yum!” and friends NOTB are going “huh?” We aren’t talking about those crunchy shells with meat-like filling that some consider tacos which I do love and recreate here in Mexico from scratch with healthy ingredients. Shhhh!  But no. A real Mexican taco is made with soft tortillas, usually corn but sometimes flour so you can fold them or roll them up depending on your age and eating style, often with una copia, a second tortilla to give a little extra support.  Basically, a tortilla is cornbread that’s been rolled out like a pie crust and lightly toasted so you can pile it up with all kinds of deliciousness.

So, the day arrived. We brought a large casserole dish of chicharrón en salsa verde (recipe below) and a 13×9 simple chocolate cake.  I forgot that a lot of Mexican women don’t bake, and ovens are often absent from Mexican homes. Mine was the only dessert other than the official celebratory anniversary vanilla sheet cake.  Faux pas? Maybe, but it was eaten, every crumb.

From the moment the church service was over and the people began setting up tables, the air was buzzing with a familiar church dinner electric excitement as people greeted friends they hadn’t seen in months or years. The menfolk paraded through the crowd with pots and pans full of the aforementioned deliciousness made by their wives and mothers and sisters into the sanctuary turned fellowship hall, and followed the perfectly manicured finger of the church lady in charge pointing them to the correct tables to display their chicken tinga, chicharrón en salsa roja, res con papas, nopales, rajas con crema and so on.  

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Kids eagerly scrambled to find their places at big round tables, to nibble on corn chips and frijoles refritos, to hear instructions from the church lady, and the blessing from the pastor.  

And then, the most familiar tantalizing aroma tickled my nostrils as the top was removed from a nondescript metal box near the table. Carry me back, cochinita pibil (“Buried Little Pig”)! No time to discuss that now, but we absolutely will be comparing Down East pit-cooked barbeque to cochinita pibil in an upcoming post, and I’ll be asking my brother-in-law for the recipe for his famous sauce. Stay tuned.

This is what happens when I am unable to write for a long time; I can’t stop.  Here I am already well over a thousand words and haven’t even gotten to a recipe yet!  So, here is my husband’s very spicy, strongly seasoned recipe. This is definitely NOT a “no pica” salsa, but there were some habañero salsas on the table that were even spicier. Remember our motto, always make it yours. Use fewer serranos, less garlic, less onion if you like.  Or more. Remove the seeds if you want. Or not. Up to you.

Nico’s Chicharrón en Salsa Verde

12 tomatillos

12 serranos

One medium onion

One small head of garlic or 5-6 large cloves

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp black pepper

½ tsp dried herbs of choice (we used epazote & oregano)

½ kilo (1 lb) chicharrón (fried pork rind)

Place the tomatillos (whole), serranos (whole with stems removed), garlic (whole peeled cloves), and ¾ of the onion (rough chopped) in a large stockpot and just barely cover with good water. Bring to a soft rolling boil and cook until the tomatillos are soft but not bursting, about ten minutes.

Please be careful with this step and use proper precautions. If your blender cannot handle very hot liquids, allow the veggies to cool completely before blending.  You know that, right?

Transfer the veggies to a blender along with a cup of the liquid, the salt, pepper, and remaining quarter of the onion, chopped. Reserve the remainder of the liquid in a separate bowl. Blend on medium speed for one minute.

Return the salsa to the stockpot and let simmer for about five minutes, adding more liquid if the salsa gets too thick. Using a small piece of the chicharrón, taste and adjust seasoning if needed. Keep hot until time to serve, then break up the chicharrón and stir into the salsa.  

This is the point where Southern and Mexican diverge. I love the crunchy chicharrón by itself and have eaten it plain since childhood. As an adult, I like to use the salsa as a dip with a little sour cream. But I my husband loves it this way, and it is a very popular dish. Enjoy!

***Y’all, just a little side note. As I was proofreading this article, the voice in my head had a decidedly more pronounced Southern accent than usual. Weird, huh?

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Read more Southern Comfort Mexican Style by Neva here.

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