The best cure for hot weather

Aug 30, 2008

While I was in NC, we walked from the mountain cabin over to Kilwin's in downtown Blowing Rock for a little ice cream. My niece takes after me, with my chocolate obsession. I tend to get a little more of the ice cream in my mouth and less on my face, though, but only a little.

Gael García Bernal (otherwise known as "El Guapo") in a New Film

Aug 29, 2008

I have a slight obsession with Gael García Bernal. When I lived in the US and had NetFlix, I watched all the films they offered with him in the cast. There's something about him that is just super-sexy. Plus, he's a really good actor, and, like Johnny Depp, he tends to select films that have a greater message or challenge him as an actor. He's also a pretty outspoken liberal here in Mexico. All of this adds up to YUM in my book. If you're not on board yet, just take a look at him in Pedro Almodovar's Mala Educación, he's a serious taco de ojo in that one, just disregard the parts where he's playing a transvestite.

Anyway. Since I have this obsession and all, I knew that he was slated to appear in a new film that he's directing called Déficit. Yesterday I looked at the listings for the local theaters, because we've been waiting and waiting to see Tropic Thunder, and there it was! Déficit is playing starting tonight (so is Tropic Thunder).

I definitely want to go see this one! It's been a while since I saw a movie in the theater in Spanish without subtitles, and that experience was pretty good. From looking at the trailer, I think I'll be alright. Sometimes the slang gets lost on me and sometimes the jokes go over my head, but I usually get enough to enjoy the movie and understand what's happening. That is, if I can concentrate on what he's saying! mmmm.

I'm really looking forward to this film because it's also supposed to be about class differences in Mexico. I learned a lot about Mexico from watching some of his other films, like Amores Perros and Y Tu Mamá También. The second one, in particular, touches on the differences in class in Mexico and life in Mexico City.

But mostly, I just like movies with El Guapo in them. By the way, he's done a couple in English and he even played an American in The King, which wasn't that good of a movie, but it was interesting to hear his accent being near perfect. There was something about his cadence that wasn't exactly right, but very, very close. Much closer than Antonio Banderas could ever hope to come. I was pretty impressed with the fact that they didn't change the script to allow for his accent like they did in 10 Things I Hate About You, where they had to qualify that Heath Ledger's character had lived in Australia to account for his inability to master the American accent at that time. Anyway, I digress.

I highly recommend you check out Gael García Bernal if you haven't already, but I will warn you that his movies aren't for children and can deal with difficult or controversial topics.

I've been interviewed!

Aug 28, 2008

I was interviewed for my perspective on moving to Mexico at a young age and as a non-retiree over at Mexico Real Estate Investment. If you've been following my blog, you probably already know more about me than you want to know, but if you just can't get enough, you can read the interview here.

Mmmmmm is for Makkeroni

One of the things I love about living in Playa del Carmen is that lots of Italian people live here, too. No, I don't speak Italian, but I do love to hear them sing/shout at each other and pick out what similarities Italian and Spanish have, but it's more than that. It's the food. Mmmmm, the yummy Italian food.

I guess my love of Italian food started when I worked at the best Italian restaurant in Charlotte, Mama Ricottas. Before I worked there I wasn't a big fan of Italian. I wasn't a big cheese person and I didn't really like pasta. I think it's because I only knew spaghetti and meat sauce like I was served at home and at friends' houses. I had never known the joys of pesto sauce or tomato cream.

I further expanded my Italian food horizons when I lived in northern NJ. In New Jersey they have developed their own twist on Italian food, as well as their own dialect for talking about it. The dialect was always most amusing to me. Having talked to Italians from Italy about how they pronounce Italian words, Jersey's Mutzarel for Mozarella and Managot for Manacotti made me smile even more. I soon caught on and started saying Lasan for Lasagne and Canole for Cannoli, apparently these are not the same... Warning- never try to tell a Jersian that they don't pronounce it right, they would even try to correct an Italian!

Anyway, in Jersey I enjoyed garlic knos (that's Jersian for garlic knots- see what I did there? Man, am I funny) and fresh mozzarella as well as crusty Italian breads. I also learned about grilled calamari (they call it calamat there) over mixed greens, mmm to die for.

I guess that people the world over love Italian food. I remember reading somewhere that it was the most popular ethnic food in the world. So it should come as no surprise that I was happy to find great Italian food in Mexico, go figure!

There are several good Italian places to eat in here, Makkeroni just happens to be close to our house and we really enjoy eating there weekly. We like eating there so much that I finally reviewed it for Playa Eats, where I write reviews of restaurants in Playa del Carmen.

One thing is for sure, Italian food travels. Maybe it's because one of Italy's biggest exports over the last 100 years has been its people. I have seen Italian restaurants in almost every country I have visited. Do you have a favorite Italian restaurant in Playa?

As Seen in the Houston Airport

Can you believe they now have iPod vending machines?

Anna's Moving to Mexico!!!

Aug 27, 2008

I don't know if any of you have been following the blog of my dear friend Anna. She is leaving tomorrow to embark on a tour of the Americas with her Dad, ultimate destination being Cozumel.

I have known Anna for 5 or 6 years now and we are truly kindred spirits. I met her on a dive trip to Cayman Brac in 2003 and she was incredibly easy to talk to and laugh with (something I'm always looking for in a girlfriend). Over the last few years, we really became closer friends. We have a lot in common. We both like working out and eating healthy, keeping up with celebrity gossip, traveling, scuba diving, a nice glass (or three) of good wine, visiting the occasional psychic, live music, sexy Uruguayan men, and, of course, Mexico.

Anna has worked on the side as a dive instructor for the last few years and she always dreamed about leaving her stressful, high-powered job in Manhattan and living an island life (like so many Americans who are chained to their desks). She didn't want to leave the US, though, until she got her American citizenship. As of this summer, she is both American and English, so now's the time for her to head out and get her third passport, or should I say pasaporte.

Anna's last day of work has passed, her apartment has been packed away, her dad has arrived from England to accompany her on the drive. Tomorrow Anna sets out to explore her new life South of the Border. I am so excited for her! Although, I must admit that some of my excitement is selfish- I can't wait to have a good, old friend living just a 35 minute ferry ride away.

Best wishes, Anna, on your drive! I hope you have a safe trip and I can't wait to see you down Mexico way!

Fire Dancers at Coffee Cafe

I spend all together too much time over at Coffee Cafe. ;) It's a great spot for hanging out with friends, taking Spanish lessons, doing business meetings casually, and soaking up some cool music and great food and drinks (not to mention their air conditioning)!

A couple weeks ago we happened to be there on a Friday night and we got to see the Fire Dancers perform. They do a show on Friday and Sunday nights. I snapped a couple shots of them using my little point-n-shoot camera on the no Flash setting. I can't imagine how much cooler these shots could have been with a more hard core camera and a better lens!

Back Home Safe in Mexico

Aug 26, 2008

I just got back from a really nice trip to visit family in North Carolina. I love going back to NC! I guess it has to do with not having lived there in the last 8 years, but I love the people, I love the weather, I love how clean the cities are. I promised pictures, so here are some of them!

This time the whole family gathered to celebrate my cousin Lee's wedding. We had a great time and Lee and Jennifer got married without a hitch. The rehearsal dinner and reception had a decidedly Southern theme, with delicious southern/soul food. They got married in Salisbury, NC, one of the main cities in the Confederacy, so there was plenty of history and beautiful architecture. Plus, Salisbury is the home of Cheerwine Cherry Soda (a regional favorite), so they served Cheerwine, Diet Cheerwine, and various Scuppernong and muscadine wines along with sweet tea at the rehearsal dinner.

I got to spend time with my favorite niece, Lexie. She was a flower girl in the wedding and was exceptionally excited that the other flower girl would be her cousin when Lee and Jennifer were finally married.

We spent the afternoon at a very cool park in Salisbury that had a carousel, a train, a petting zoo and a playground (and more things that we didn't even see or do)! Of course, Lexie had to ride her favorite (the carousel) and she got to ride the train with Daddy Mack, her grandpa.

I got some time to hang out with my sister and do a self-led tour of Salisbury. We discovered a few funny signs around town. My mom was mad we didn't take any pictures of the old mansions, but I waged that you've seen a big mansion. I'm not sure you've seen a sign like this one we found on a house that was evidently being restored to it's glory from it's former use... Can you guess what it was?

And this is not the store you shop in when you want to look fantastic, just when you want to look "not bald."

One of the things I like the most about weddings is getting to dance with my dad! I was an avid swing dancer around 2000-2003, and my dad even took swing lessons. But our love of dancing goes back further than that, my dad used to love to Shag Dance in the 60's and he taught me and my sister. It's a form of swing that was developed at the NC and SC beaches in the 50's and 60's, but was really big in the 60's. Any southern wedding plays plenty of shag songs, since pretty much anyone from the south who is a baby boomer knows how to dance to it. We had to dance to 'My Girl' by the Temptations when they played it, since it was the song we danced to at my wedding.

We also enjoyed watching all the kids dance together!

After the wedding, we all headed up to Blowing Rock, NC, where my parents have a vacation home that they had recently redone. They basically tore it down to the foundation and started again, so it doesn't look anything like the old cabin! The new and improved cabin is now 100% handicap accessible, and much better than their first attempt at converting a traditional home to a universal one. They will most likely be selling their Charlotte home in the future and living in Blowing Rock full time.

I had forgotten how beautiful the NC mountain are! I hadn't been there in God knows how long, and it was great to see some familiar places as well as the changes that had happened since I was in college there. I snapped some pictures of the mountains to show Hans, who commented that they looked just like the photos we snapped of Veracruz, minus the orange orchards!

I'm back safe and sound. I really enjoyed my week of semi-retirement (I say semi because I knew I had to come back to work). My parents offered for us to stay at their mountain house next summer, an offer which is more and more appealing the more I sweat in the heat and humidity here. Two months in the NC mountains sounds like a nice way to spend the summer if you can have beach any time you want it all year round.

Heading North

Aug 14, 2008

I'm off today to go back to NC for 8 days. I'll be going to my cousin's wedding and then spending some time in the NC mountains at my parents' vacation house. Looking forward to some cool weather, I've been melting here. I'll be sure to take plenty of pictures!

Customized Blog Templates

Aug 13, 2008

I actually like playing around in WordPress and Blogger and taking a template from something that's stock to something that's custom. I've done it for a few blogs for myself, but recently I did it for hire!

Check out what I've done for hire:
Kyle Hepp Photography: Photography in Chile

Check out what I've done for myself:
This blog, you're lookin' at it
Playa Eats: Food Reviews in Playa del Carmen

Of course, I also like to do web design in other content management systems as well.
Here's some work I've done in Playa in ModX:
Playa Resale: Consignment Store and Storage

If you're interested in hiring me to help with a new look for your blog, email me at mexpatlife(at)!

Playa Eats: My Latest Endeavor

Aug 8, 2008

I started a new blog about a month ago with Hans and Solomon to review restaurants in Playa del Carmen. We review the places where we eat, which isn't necessarily anywhere tourists would eat, but we like 'em. That's not to say that if we eat at La Parilla or Carlos n' Charlies that we won't review them, it's just to say that we've lived here some time now and haven't felt the urge to go to those places.

Solomon is a real "off the beaten track" guy when it comes to food, so many of his reviews will be of nameless restaurants, taco carts, changarros and more. He's not afraid to wander way up into the Colosio (a neighborhood north of Playa where there aren't many gringos, if any) to get food. Expect his reviews to include directions based more on landmarks, as many of his favorite haunts aren't clearly marked, or their cross streets aren't clearly marked (in Mexico.... imagine!).

Hans and I still occasionally eat on or around 5th or 10th Aves. I intend to post as many reviews that are accessible for tourists as I can. Part of that is motivated by wanting to know where to take family and friends when they visit, and the other part is just wanting to help people eat well when they don't want to stray out into the rest of Playa (or they can't speak Spanish).

Check it out, and if you know of a restaurant that we should visit, let us know!

A Beachy Weekend

Aug 4, 2008

I try to go to the beach at least one day a week here, after all, if I'm not going to the beach, then why do I live here? This weekend I went twice.

On Saturday I went with Hans and Solomon and our dogs to a little beach south of Puerto Morelos. It's not the nicest of beaches, but we can take our dogs on it and it's closer than Tulum, so it was a winner. It's a rocky beach, so we didn't do much swimming.

The boys (all 4 of them) investigate a Trigger Fish that was swimming in the shallows. We weren't sure if he was stuck. He kept swimming in close. Ultimately, we decided that he was just swimming close to shore.

On Sunday I joined my friend Simone and her 2 year old son, Kay (pronounced Kai) at the beach in Puerto Aventuras. I had never been to that beach, so I didn't know what to expect. Boy, was it nice! It's a lagoon, so there are no waves and the sand is powdery. It's the perfect place to take children.

It's impossible to say 'no' to this little guy. He is so cute.

It's almost like the baby pool! The water gets deeper very gradually and there are no waves. You can see schools of little fishies. Kay was able to just walk into the ocean whenever he wanted because he was wearing the water wings and we were sitting right there watching him. This little guy is not afraid of the water at all.

Sometimes we short people have to take photos to prove we're taller than someone else. See, I am just towering over this kid! LOL.

The Quest for a Great Class

Aug 2, 2008

I love taking classes, mostly dance or yoga, but I'm open to others. Since I've been here, where I can walk to most everything that interests me, I've taken several different classes. Some of them I went back to and some of them were, well, weird. Here's a quick review of the classes I've taken and what I thought:

Yoga at The Gym: These classes are awesome. I try to get there 5 days a week. They have classes every day at 8 am, on M-W-F they also have classes at 10 am and 6pm. On T-TH they also have classes at 7 am and 8 pm. There are two teachers, Ellen and Cindy. They both have different styles that compliment each other. Ellen teaches hardcore yoga, a mix of vinyasa and power yoga that kicks your butt. Cindy teaches vinyasa flow that is mellow and helps me recover from kicking my own butt in Ellen's classes!

Yoga/Meditation at Jardin de los Aluxes: This class is held in a beautiful palapa structure in a lush garden on 36th street, just past La Cueva del Chango restaurant. I went hoping for a really hard class, it ended up being a sort of strange mix of meditation techniques. The only actual yoga pose we did was corpse pose, but we did have to dance for 13 minutes and whistle along to a song. The whole time I was trying to keep an open mind and not judge the process until I could see how I felt afterwards. I'm not sure if the classes are always like that (although he did say that the group there had been doing the same class for the last 30 days as some sort of quest for child-like happiness, or something). I left feeling ok, but ultimately I was looking for a physically challenging yoga class, so I didn't go back.

Buddhist Meditation with Diamond Way: I used to do Zen meditation once a week with a group when I lived in NJ, so when I saw that there were meditation classes, or sessions, here, I thought I'd give it a shot. Diamond Way is different than Zen Buddhism in that they chant to Karmapa Chenu, one of their disciples or something. I was used to completely silent meditation, so I found the chanting a little weird and it sort of felt like idol worship to me. I figure I can do silent meditations on my own, so I didn't got back there, either.

Center 8 at Center 8 Studio: This awesome class kicked my butt. Seriously kicked it. I took it on Saturday morning and I'm still super sore two days later! The class started with lots of hip hop dance movements to get us warm, then we did a ton of lunges, arm weights, abs and a little visualization/meditation at the end. This is by far the hardest group class I've taken in years. I will definitely be going back. One of the coolest parts about this class was meeting some longtime Playenses, women who have lived here for 5-10 years or so. Several of them had kids, so it was cool to meet people who have roots set here, rather than just people young people who are here just having some fun.

Salsa Lessons at La Zebra in Tulum: This is by far my favorite place to Salsa dance around here, mostly because the dancing starts by about 8, so I can dance and still get some sleep. The places in Playa often don't start until 11:30, so it's gonna be a long night. I found the instruction here to be excellent and easy to follow along with. The band was great, and dancing right on the beach can't be beat. Plus, they have the best mojitos in the Riviera Maya. They have a sugar cane crusher right on the bar!

Change is in the Air

Aug 1, 2008

Our formerly orange building will now be known as the white and red building. There are lots of changes happening here. Our property manager is a real mover and shaker. The owner of our condo contacted us and asked us to give 1/2 our rent to the property manager this month so he can buy some sun beds, hammocks and chairs for the court yard. We've already gotten a new palapa roof over the seating area by the pool (you can see it in the bottom left corner). Now we're getting even more of a facelift with the paint. Soon I'll be living in "that posh building with the pool" instead of the "sort of sad-looking sponge-painted building with the pool." I have to say, I'll miss the orange since it was, at least, different from the rest of the buildings around.