Category Archives: Construction

How to Stay Warm in Rural Mexico

Yes, I live in Mexico which is substantially closer to the equator than the U.S. or Canada or Russia for that matter. However, it DOES get cold here. As most homes in Mexico are not insulated, nor do they have a heating system, well, that coldness seeps right into the bones some days.


Our toasty fireplace

I am a very lucky lady in that my husband made us a fireplace which in the most extreme weather conditions, we can light. In our area of central Mexico, that usually happens part of November and most of December. When my husband deems it is not sufficiently cold to light said fireplace, I have developed a few other ways to keep the chill off. 

I expect I shall feel better after tea.

Hot Drinks

Hot tea is my constant companion during the colder months. I’m not too particular about flavors. I like hot jamaica, hot manzanilla, and hot yerba buena, either harvested from my little herb garden or already bagged up bought from the store. Hot tea keeps a body warm.

Hot chocolate is another favorite of mine. I like a nice hot chocolate, made with Abuelita circles, in the evening. When there is fresh goat milk available, even better.

IMG_20190924_093608 (2)

All of those jars are Cafe Oro.

Hot coffee is my morning drink of choice. We’ve been drinking Cafe Oro for years because I use the glass containers as food storage jars in my pantry. They are square you see, and fit nicely lined up on the shelf. However, we are trying out new flavors this month. Some have been amazing, others rather disappointing. 

Este caldito resucita a un muerto

This broth will raise the dead–South American saying


Soup is another requirement for cold days. Not only does it warm you from the inside out, but the long cooking process also heats the kitchen, which is where I am, in front of the fireplace. Bone broth, chicken soup, beef stew, pozole, even menudo on occasion can be found simmering in a big pot in our house. 

Pajamas and Slipper Socks and Sweaters

I have quite an extensive selection of warm pajama bottoms and slipper socks. When I’m teaching classes online, my students can’t see my nether regions, so I swaddle them in furry jammie pants and fuzzy slipper socks. Sweaters work great to cover over that cute strawberry PJ shirt too. 

Throw Rugs and Blankets

Most houses in Mexico do not have carpeting. The tile floor can get mighty cold even with slipper socks on. Strategically placed throw rugs can reduce the amount of time your little feet come in contact with the tile. Think of it as setting up your own giant board game, and you are the plastic piece that needs to move forward and backward only on those throw rug spaces.

Blankets can be used to wrap yourself up in, or hung in doorways and over windows to keep down the draft. I like to fashion myself an entirely separate living space by hanging blankets at all the entrances to the main living area (the kitchen) where the roaring fireplace is doing its best to keep me warm. 


If there is nothing pressing to be done that cold, cold day, you might find me as snug as a bug in a rug in my bed piled high with blankets. I might have company, or I might be alone. My husband doesn’t allow the animals in the house, otherwise, they’d be right there with me, dogs, cat, and possibly a chivito or two. Isn’t that how the Eskimos keep warm?

Space Heater

When I must venture from my cocoon and work in my office which is farther from the fireplace than I would like, I plug in the space heater and put it under my desk. It uses quite a bit of electricity, so I only use it when I just can’t get warm, but it is an option. 

Get Outdoors

Most houses in Mexico are made with brick or block, which means cold walls and indoor temps. It’s great on hot days, but on cold days, not so much. 

If the temperature indoors is lower than the temperature outdoors, I go for a walk in the sunshine. A little bit of exercise raises my body’s internal temperature and I feel warmer, if only for a little while. 

Be Active

To keep that internal body temperature up, you can do some indoor activities as well. Sweeping, the job that never ends, cleaning the bathroom, and dusting are all great cold-weather chores. Some chores should not be done in frigid weather, like hand washing and mopping because getting all wet on top of the cold makes a miserable woman indeed. 

These are some of the ways that I stay warm in rural Mexico. How about you?



Filed under Construction, Cultural Challenges

Showering in Rural Mexico

Today I’d like to talk about showering in Mexico because odds are you won’t get the luxury of a bath unless you are willing to sit in a horse trough in rural Mexico. 

We have a shower and we have hot water, but that hasn’t always been the case. So here are some showering things you might need to know about before stripping down.

C on the shower knob stands for caliente (hot) and F is frio (cold). And even though the hot water control should be on the left side and the cold on the right, that may not be true for the shower you are using. 

bathtub ledge

Showers are often built with small ledges that you can trip over if you aren’t careful. This is so water doesn’t spill out onto the floor. Our shower has a sort of reverse engineering. The shower is slightly lower than the bathroom floor and the floor is angled toward the center drain. Not all showers have that sloping and sometimes you can get quite a bit of water build up around your feet.

If you run out of water during your shower, mid-shampoo, hopefully, there is a barrica (barrel) of rainwater that someone can bring you a bucketful of to rinse out those soapy locks. Running out of water happens more often than you might imagine.


Houses have tinacos (those ugly black round storage containers on the roof) that if you are connected to the town water supply will fill when the water is on. The thing is, water may only run two or three days per week. The tinaco is supposed to store enough water to get you to the next delivery. That’s not always the case. 

If you know ahead of time that there isn’t any water for a shower, you can take a bucket bath. When the occasion calls for it, my husband has been kind enough to heat water on the stove to take the chill off my bucket bath. Most homes have at least one enormous aluminum pot that will quickly heat water for your absolutions. Some have electric water heating devices. Just make sure to unplug it before testing the water temperature with your hand.

heating up water

The typical water application device for a bucket bath is a plastic bowl that we call a scooper. It’s the same plastic container that is used for washing clothes when it’s done with a washboard setup. 

water heater

If you have enough water for showering, then you’ll need to decide if it’s worth the effort to turn on the boila (gas hot water heater) or not. I’m a little afraid of it, having had my eyebrows singed before. 

The procedure for lighting the boila is as follows:

  • Turn the red switch to Piloto (pilot).
  • Push down the red button 10 or 15 times in rapid succession.
  • Open the portal.
  • Light a match.
  • Hold down the red button.
  • Wave the match around inside near the pilot light contraption until it whooshes. 
  • Slowly release the button. 
  • If the flame begins to waver, press the red button firmly down again.
  • When the flame is steady, turn the red switch to Abierto (open)
  • Close the portal.
  • Back away quickly.

After you have successfully lit the boila, then you need to wait around for about 20 minutes until enough water is warm enough for a shower. 

Make sure to turn the boila off after your shower. The contraption is gas-powered. If it is not vented properly, the gas can kill you or at the very least cause carbon dioxide poisoning if left on for an extended period of time.

electric water heater

I’ve also had the dubious pleasure of showering under an electric shower head. Although I loved every minute of the hot water on demand, it still made me very nervous. Water and electricity aren’t exactly the best of friends. However, if it is installed correctly and in working order, then there is no risk of electrocution. 

solar heater

The newest rage in our area is the solar water heater. It mounts on the roof and connects both to the tinaco and pipes that lead into the house. Many people who have this setup say that the water comes out boiling and even the knobs are too hot to touch. Yikes! We choose not to get a solar water heater because there are occasions when we don’t have water in the tinaco. If there isn’t water to run through the solar heater at all times, it can burn up the components. 

If it seems too much effort to get hot water, take heart. If your black tinaco is on the roof, the water is a comfortable shower temperature in the early afternoon. 

Most showers are set up on a gravity system. If the tinaco isn’t far enough from the showerhead, you may not get a lot of water pressure. Rinsing long hair might be complicated with the trickle-down effect. During the rainy season, the rain may be coming down harder than the water comes out of the showerhead. Feel free to take advantage of the heavenly shower Mother Nature has provided outdoors. 

rub a dub dub

Bathing children is somewhat simpler. Babies can fit into the sink off the side of the lavadora (washboard). Small children can splash about in the laundry tub. And several children fit nicely in a horse trough, which comes in metal and plastic for your bathing pleasure. 

Now I’ve heard that there are hot water on demand setups, but I’ve never been to a house that has one. I’ve also been to a plomería that had not just bathtubs, but jacuzzis, so they do exist too. These are just things outside of my own experience in this area of Mexico. 

So there you go! Tips for showing in rural Mexico. Follow these and you’ll be squeaky clean in no time!

Tell me, how do you shower?


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Filed under Construction, Cultural Challenges, Homesteading, Water issues

And moving on to the bathroom…..

Last Thursday, the carpenter and his helper were scheduled to deliver the corner shelf we had commissioned for the bathroom. On Wednesday, he called to ask whether I wanted clear or pebbled amber glass for the doors. The colored glass of course. Okie Dokie then, they’d be there sometime on Thursday.

So since they weren’t there first thing in the morning, I gave them a call to see when they would arrive. The tentative time was about 6 pm that afternoon. Ok, well, that’s a little late and of course since we use solar energy, if the installation required a lot of power, this could be an issue. 

Actually, it was nearly 8 pm when they arrived. Despite our power concerns, they were able to get the installation done in less than an hour. Apparently, the vidriería (glass shop) where they get their glass was closed and that held them up. 

You can see in this picture that the door is a lighter brown than the corner cabinet.

The one issue that did come up, is the color. Despite having the entire kitchen done by them in a specific wood color, the corner shelf was considerably darker when it arrived. As my husband set this project up, I wasn’t privy to what color he specified but he didn’t seem too happy about it. 

Even though it doesn’t match the door or towel holder or anything in the kitchen, it does match the curtain rod we moved from the kitchen to the bathroom, so I am fine with it. It extends from floor to ceiling and unlike the kitchen cupboards, I can reach all but the topmost shelf, which makes me happy. 

It’s too tall to get a fill picture no matter where I stood. This is the upper half.

So my husband paid and the carpenters left. A few minutes later, I got a call saying that we had OVERPAID by $200 pesos and that we could pick the money up at the carpintería on Monday, which we did. Now how often does that happen in Mexico? 

That’s the final project we have scheduled for awhile. We need to change the bathroom sink faucet out since the one that’s there now leaks, but that’s a small thing overall. 

As far as I’m concerned, the inside of the house is completely finished. Now on to the outside!


Filed under Construction, Uncategorized