Monday, January 30, 2012

Fake It 'Til You Make It

We're coming to you live from San Pedro, Garza García, in Mexico.  I know sometimes I say we live in Monterrey, and I see that this could be pretty confusing.  Let me clarify: We live in the Skokie of Monterrey's Chicago, and that Skokie's name is San Pedro, Garza García.

For a girl who's always been a suburban-ite, it's a little less daunting to live in San Pedro than the city proper.  Particularly with the traffic.  We're on the other side of a mountain from actual Monterrey, which might make it seem to you like we're eons away, but it's really like a 10 minute drive to the tunnel that would take us there.

If you're one of our Mexican friends reading this, let me be really clear that I am not slamming living in Monterrey, or Apodaca, or San Nicolas, or Guadalupe, or any other spot over yonder (I was actually pointing toward the city as I typed that, then realized that NO ONE CAN SEE ME).  I'm more slamming my own inability to live in a crowded city-type place, and I'm a big scaredy-pants about driving like a crazed hellion.  Truths.  I tell them.

There are some definite pros and cons to living over here. 
  • Pro: SP has a big population of ex-pats.  Which is not to say that everyone here is American - you're likely to run into Italians, Germans, and Japanese corporate execs on a pretty regular basis.  English tends to be the internationally recognized language of business, and that tends to show up in really helpful places here.  
  • Con:  Because the businesses of San Pedro know that all these ex-pat people are typically higher up, the cost of living can be astronomical.
  • Pro:  As Fiance would say "We're in the only city in Latin America that has a Lambourgini, Mazarati, and Ferrari dealership all in the same city."  I guess that's a very Fiance type of pro, it doesn't really affect me.  But it is interesting to walk down the street past a Cartier Diamond, Louis Vuitton, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana Store all in the same row.
  • Con:  Businesses here expect that you're rich enough to pay someone to do everything for you (or to pay for anything above).  So why would you need pieces and parts of a whole?  You wouldn't.  This includes crafts, sewing, etc.  There is one store this side of the mountain that has a section for "fashion fabrics," and there is nowhere to find paint or basic tools.   Not even a home depot.
  • Pro:  Literally everything delivers.  If I wanted, I could call Wal-Mart and they would deliver our groceries.  You can order beer and booze to be brought to your house for a party.  We could call a groomer that would pick up Mac and Bubba and bring them back in a few hours smelling pretty and with trimmed nails.  Of course, all of these things cost a pretty penny, but we take a lot of pleasure in having taco delivery at our fingertips.
  • Con:  If your car doesn't have enough hitch in it's giddy-up, you're not making it up the mountain you live on.  Especially if it's raining.
  • Pro:  The selection of international cuisine here is awesome.  The sushi is of particular quality thanks to the high concentration of Japanese businessmen.
  • Con:  Unlike every neighborhood on the other side of the mountain, there are no taco/flauta/churro carts on every corner.  In fact, it's kinda hard to find good Mexican food in San Pedro.
  • Pro:  Living in the mountains will occasionally give you the days when you can look out your window and literally say "I am living in the clouds."  Just like a care bear.  Which makes my inner kid of the 80's soul happy.
  • Con (and post topic):  When people live in money, they are most certainly not leaving the house looking anything less than perfectly groomed.
Sigh.

Do you know me in real life?  Have you ever seen me in anything other than a hooded-sweatshirt and jeans (business casual for work or going to a wedding does not count)?    A hoodie and jeans has been my standard uniform since college. Comfy, you can move in it, and if you're struck with an urge to suddenly be super artsy, you don't have to fret too much if you spill paint on yourself.

Women here wear customarily 6-inch stilettos to go to Wal-Mart.
That is not an exaggeration.

Generally speaking, Fiance and I don't buy into this need to be dressed to the nines every time we step out of the house.  Though I've noticed he's much less apt to wear a t-shirt if we're going to dinner (and he always wears cologne), even if it's Burger King.  I won't go out without makeup and my hair dried into something passing as a style.  

But every once in a while we just break down.  In an effort to flipping FIT IN for a night, we'll go full-tilt.  Have you ever herd of the phrase "Fake it until you make it?"  I feel like living here leaves us in a constant cycle of trying (see previous post on my feeble attempts to make tortillas).

Fiance just bought new leather shoes (leather and the shoe industry are big in Monterrey), so we needed to break them in.  Saturday seemed as good a night for this as any.  So Saturday afternoon I was all, meh, I'll hop in the shower and be ready to go in like an hour.  LIES.  

How many products do you use getting in and out o the shower for a night out?  Because this little exercise lead me to actually make a count.
  1. Shampoo
  2. Conditioner
  3. Body wash
  4. Face wash
  5. Shaving cream
  6. Vitamin
  7. Face wash
  8. Oil for hair roots
  9. Oil for hair tips
  10. Heat protectant for when drying hair
  11. Hair mousse
  12. Hair spray
  13. Foot cream
  14. Lotion
  15. Face lotion
  16. Toothpaste
  17. Mouthwash
  18. Deodorant
  19. Perfume
19?!  Are you kidding me?  And that is to say nothing of the razor, loofah, hair dryer, curling iron, pumice stone, nail clippers/ files/ paints, and oodles of make-up that also got dragged out of the cupboard for this excursion.  There is so much to process.  

First, and most importantly, there is some kind of wickedly scathing remark about the state of true feminism and societal expectations on women.  But I don't want to get into that one here.  

Second.  It took me 2.5-3 hours to wade through all that and actually be "ready."  How the hell do the women of San Pedro do this every stupid day?

Third, and I am not the only person to have ever had this thought, I know - but where is the women's all-in-one?  Men have had their shampoo/conditioner/body wash combined with moderate success.  Why hasn't anyone engineered a moisturizing soap that would safely clean and condition your hair and skin, perhaps presented in a coconut-lime scented bar-form which comes attached to a double sided loofah?  One side that would help work that soap into a lather, and one side that would shave your legs for you.  God I hate shaving my legs.  I don't think I'v ever successfully shaved my legs.  There is always at least one measly 1" square patch of skin somewhere that I miss, and it will be the first thing I notice after I have just finished getting dressed.  


Whatever.


So 3 hours, 19+ "beauty products," a little blue dress, and one really annoying internet tutorial on "smoky eyes" later, and ba-dah-bing, I go from this:


(Bubba is... less than pleased.)
To this:


Being able to scroll through it that fast... it's a fun transformation certainly.   


We had a blast Saturday night.  Generally speaking, we hit the MAKE portion of Fake it til you Make it square on the head.  By the time we got home, I was convinced that we needed to "fake it" on a much more regular basis.

Then we went to sleep.

And when we got up Sunday, I realized that after the already 3+ hour investment in looking good for the night, I was not willing to put in the hour+ of scrubbing the raccoon-remains of my mascara off my face on anything approaching a regular basis.

Sure makes for a good "Grumpy Coffee" picture though, doesn't it?

Are you a Plain-Jane/ Tom Boy/ other nickname used to insinuate a gal who has better things to do than trowel makeup on her face every day?  
How often do you gussy up?
Is it something you enjoy on occasion?

'cause I did enjoy it a little.  I mean, who doesn't want to look good?

RANDOM SECTION TIME


1.  I've been working on the Save the Dates for our wedding.  Which has become slightly daunting in that, when you have an art background, you (or at least I) imagine that people receiving said Save the Dates expect them to be amazeballs.  Preview? Erm... sure a little one:
That's the front.  Or... some of the front.  I really like this typeface.  If you don't, please don't tell me.


2.  While I was typing that, I tried to shorten Save the Dates by calling them STDs.  "...people receiving said STDs..."  Uh, yep, that isn't gonna fly.


3.  I am almost embarrassed to admit it, but I have been rocking out to some 90's-era music gold in the last few days.  Today it's been N*SYNC.  Specifically, the remix of Girlfriend with Nelly, and Digital Getdown.  For no other reason than I totally had that CD when I was like 14, and it makes me giggle to think now that I had NO idea what the lyrics I was singing along to meant.  HA.  

Friday, January 27, 2012

Let Me Draw Your Spirit Animal

Okay, the title I just gave this post makes me think of Professor Trelawney.

Moment of truth folks - when I sit down to write a usual blog post, it takes me a few hours.  And today... well today I have stuff I actually want to get done.

So I propose an audience-participation-type post.  Ready?
  1. Go here.
  2. Discover your spirit animal (or your kid's spirit animal, or your pet's spirit animal.  I don't care, have fun with it).  Try not to weep in joy at how perfectly this simple exercise embodies your personality and existence into one beautifully described beast.
  3. Post your spirit animal's full name in the comments.
  4. I'll read the comment, and create masterful pieces of art*
  5. You return to this post later and I will have added a portrait of the majestic beast which represents the very essence of your soul.
  6. You have until Saturday at midnight central time to make the above 5 steps happen.

It's  win-win...win-win-win.  I don't have to spend 6 hours toiling over internet links worthy of the blog, I get drawing practice, and still time to dink around with other crafty endeavors... and you get a new facebook profile picture.  Or, you know, just a laugh.  Whatever works.

What're you waiting for?  You've got a spiritual journey to embark upon.  Get to clickin!

*Example of aforementioned Masterful pieces of art created by moi:
My spirit animal - Pandora the Hairy Zebra.


EDIT:  HERE THEY COME FOLKS:

Dim Sum, The Stubborn Rabbit


 Dancer, the Foxy Sloth (yes, she's on a pole.)

Gomer, the Stingy Llama

 Pandora, the Banana-Eating Sloth

Dancer, the Intelligent Rhino

Sammie, the Hairy Banana Slug (I don't know why I channeled Conan O'Brien, but there you go.)


Dim Sum, the Not-So-Shabby Dingo


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Getting Accustomed to Mexico

Usually I exaggerate a bit in the dramatic comic reenactments of my adventures.  Comedic effect and all.  But friends, I can assure you, this 100% happened in exactly this manner yesterday morning:




yes, he did eat a roach that was covered in dog vomit. 
and yes, I praised the crap out of that.


just for the joke, I kinda wish I would have had a tiny paper Dixie cup...


Roaches, man.  They just DON'T DIE.  I think that's why they squwick me out so darn bad.  I would have taken a picture, but I think it's much easier to find humor in a comic about a twice-vomit covered bug split in two and crawling around in different directions than it is to see it in all its real-life glory.  Disgusting isn't a strong enough word.  But when Fiance saw this comic last night he laughed so hard he cried.  I feel I've taken the better route in my story-telling.

I think I've mentioned it before, but roaches down here are different than roaches you'd see in the midwest US.  For one, there isn't a lot of hardship for a roach here - it never freezes, and homes aren't as weather-sealed as up north, so they have pretty much constant access to food.  Thus, they are more or less, giant roaches.  Since there isn't that weather-sealing priority for homes, it's not a sign that your house is dirty or disgusting if you spot a roach or two.  Infestation is another thing, but this is the first roach-invader we've seen since we moved in, so I'd say we're doing pretty well.  All that said, seeing one is still a rough thing to get used to.

What a way to start off a blog post.  Hey, check out all this cartoon vomit and cockroach grossness!  Yay!  So let's move on then.  In fact, let's talk about preparing food right after that.  Yes, that seems a logical step.

It's safe to say that any place you might let your rump rest for a period of time is going to tie some of it's customs to your heartstrings.  For Fiance and I - and probably for you, this is true of regional foods.  

Growing up in Wisconsin I have a love for good, fresh dairy, and pretty much every time I cross into that state our first stop is to grab cheese curds so fresh they squeak when you chew 'em.  

The short time I spent in Texas gave me a love and longing for good barbecue.  Pulled pork sandwiches... ugh.  

And Mexico.  Darn near everything in Mexico is delicious.  Particularly noteworthy - because they are the base of pretty much everything- are the tortillas.  They are so good and so fresh, it's really unfair that anything they sell in the states could be called a tortilla, because it sullies the name of such a perfect little part of all the food down here.

That said, it became clear pretty early on that one of us was going to have to learn how to make tortillas from scratch.  Because once our time here ends, that is just not a treat either of us are willing to give up completely.

I've had a LOT of our Mexican friends offer to teach me how to make authentic tortillas.  Which is great, BUT.  But - it is SUPER hard to learn a new skill in a lingo you're not 100% on.  Particularly a skill that seems so easy, but really has a lot of little details.  Along those same lines, learning in that manner doesn't give me a recipe.  It gives me "meh, eyeball how much of everything you put in this bowl." I don't work well without set rules, and that would make it hard to replicate the tortillas again after my lesson.  That's a lot of 'buts' and whining.  Sorry.

Anyway, I was hashing all of this over with my Anonymous Texican Friend (a friend from grad school who happens to be second-generation Mexican-American), and she very bluntly stated:

Dude, why don't I just send you my grandmother's tortilla recipe? It's definitely authentic, and when I copied it out, I wrote it in English.  But it's a secret family kind of thing, so you know that blog of yours...

And that's why ATF shall remain Anonymous.  Also, sorry, but it's also why I won't be sharing HOW I made the tortillas.  However, I can share that yesterday I did make flour tortillas.  And I can share that I will probably be finding bits of flour stuck in my ears, nose, and every crevice in the kitchen for the next thirty years.

The little balls of tortilla dough, and the tortilla press I bought when we first got here.  
I was SO excited to finally use it.

I learned a thing or two about the art of tortilla making, and about myself.  Gather round the warm comforting glow of your computer screen while I share, folks:

  • The tortilla press is a load of crap.  Bust out the rolling pin.

  • If I had shared with my professors that pictured below is my understanding of what passes for a circle in art school, I would never have gotten a degree.


  • Thank goodness nothing sticks to metal countertops, because I SUCK at remembering to flour the counter between balls.  That said, the rolling pin is not so anti-stick.  Bugger.

  • Every stove-top in Mexico has one of these griddle-space built in.  They've proven useful for all sorts of stuff, but their actual intended purpose is totally for making tortillas.

  • There is no real good way to flip a tortilla while it cooks on this incredibly hot surface except with your fingers.  Only burnt myself twice (okay, four times).

  • Warm tortillas and honey:  I challenge you to find a better food.  Ha.  You lose. 


Let's go back to rolling out 'circular' tortillas.  I struggle to think of a time I have so consistently fail-sauced, so many times in a row.  I made 36 tortillas yesterday, and I think out of all 36, the best and only circle I managed is the one pictured above with the honey.

 It ended up being a rather fun game though.  Like when you look at the clouds and try to decide what they're shaped like.  Here are some of my better finds:

I was actually really worried this was an omen.

you know you spend too much time on the internet when this 
is the first thing that pops into your mind.

And... yeah.  Sorry parents and/or relatives reading this.
I ended up re-rolling this one.

I really don't.

There's a lot of patience involved in making those little lumps of dough into perfect flat pieces of heaven.  And apparently a lot of practice.  Every little Mexican lady I've ever seen baking them make it seem SO incredibly easy.  Hmmpf.  Show offs.  Fiance and I had tacos last night to try out the first batch.  They went over okay.  I mean, they taste pretty good, but it's hard to make a taco on top of a zig-zag shaped tortilla, you know?  Guess I'll just have to make more.  *sarcastic bummer*

Did I miss a funny tortilla shape?  Point it out in the comments!



Long story short - A thousand thanks to my ATF.  And, if you're looking to get me a gift - I could use one of these.

Random Section Time!

1.  Street Cats of San Pedro Update:  Zombie was sleeping in the pile of dirty clothes in the garage (where our laundry chute opens up to, and where the washer and dryer are) and scared the crap out of both of us when I dumped said pile in the washer.  She can run like a flash of lightning!


2.  I present, with no further context or commentary, Mac's favorite way to sleep:


Does your dog sleep like this? Does your dog talk in his sleep?  
Because this is literally every night with Mac and it cracks us up.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rubbing It In.

I hear that winter has finally arrived in the U.S. over the past week.

I can't say I miss the unending, bleak outlook that winter tends to drag out, way up north.  But I do miss the fun in the first snow of the year:

The way it's all crisp, the way it smells so fresh, the way it makes everything look clean.  The small happiness that bursts in your head as you make the first fresh tracks in a plot of snow.  Or the joy of your big lummox of a dog barreling with absolute abandon through that same untouched space, with his head down low and his mouth open so he can eat snow while running.  And his elated, yet ridiculous, snow covered face when he comes back to you, tail wagging 100 miles an hour, wearing his wussy little jacket because he gets too cold, too easily.


About a week in, it gets old, and you're ready for it to melt.  Particularly if you didn't even get a measly snow-day out of the deal.



Over the past week here in Mexico... we turned the A/C back on.
I'd say I'm sorry for rubbing it in, but that would be a lie.


We celebrated the warm spell with a fantastic weekend.  Including my second-ever game of poker.  I'd say I did pretty well for myself.  I'd also say that this is likely because the friends we played with were, for the most part, fairly new to poker as well... but I don't want to discredit my mad poker skills.  So pretend I didn't just say that.

I mean, lookit all those chips!  Those are MINE.  And the black ones are worth 20.  Clearly I'm awesome.
money money money money.... Mooooooney!

Poker is quickly becoming fun to me, but yesterday it was simply too nice to stay inside.  And so, while you were probably either digging your car out of a drift, or bundling your little ones up so they had limited arm mobility, but were insulated enough to make a snow fort...

We went to the park.



The bright, sunny, lush green park.  I wore a tank top.

 We had a blast.  If there is one thing I can say about the big city we live in, it is that they see a lot of value in preserving green spaces for the people.  Monterrey is filled with parks - at least one every other block - with well-groomed lawns and clear pathways for pedestrians, cyclists, or skaters.  Many not only host jungle gyms for children, but also outdoor equipment for adults to use for their workouts - all free of charge.

Now, this preservation requires some help on the part of the people using those spaces too:
 And it's a good thing I saw that sign, because when I asked 
Fiance to take that picture above of me next to a palm tree...
...what a good dog.
We bopped around for quite a while.  We were goofy, and it was awesome. 

Mac had a good time too, obviously.  He doesn't really enjoy neighborhood walks because we're on the side of a mountain,and there are no streets that go sideways, there are only streets that go UP the mountain, and streets that go DOWN the mountain.  Being my dog, Mac is about as lazy as I am, so inclines are just not his style.  Thus, he was elated to hop out of the car when we got to the park where  the terrain was mostly flat.  

Our pup was super funny to have along for the walk, because he is so clearly NOT a Mexican pet.  If you have a dog that you take for walks here, it is a teeny purse-sized dog, and you walk it more for the idea of showing off your tiny luxury dog than anything else.  If you have a big dog, it lives in your garage/ yard, and it protects things, and you don't really see it as a pet, but more for the utility of protecting your stuff.  

And in either of those situations, you don't have a mutt.  You have a pure-bred puppy with papers, kept to breed standards.  So Mac, a giant dog who looks kinda like a doberman lacking cropped ears and docked tail, walking along with people in a public park got a lot of stares.  A lot.  Somewhere he's caught on the 35mm film of every student in a beginning photography class we passed.  

for your reference: what Mac is "supposed" to look like.

After the camera barrage, he saw his first skateboard gang. He was flummoxed to say the least.
(the very last skater in the gang is in the top right corner of the photo there...)
And before we left the park we even got some time in for Mac's favorite past-time:  Hunting things that can clearly see you, but pretending they totally can't see you.  The day's subject:  Mexican Pigeons.




That's a happy pup folks.  Can't wait to bring him to the park again.
Feel free to live vicariously through our sunny Sunday.  If for no other reason than I don't feel quite as mean talking about our wonderfully winter-free weather when it's taken in that context instead of "ooh lookit how much better everything here is than in your silly snow-pocalypse."

Random Section Time!

1.  We watched The Immortals last night.  Have you seen it?  I really like movies about Greek Mythology, because really the Greeks had honed the way to turn out a good story to perfection.  But The Immortals?  UGHHHHH.  (that clip is an example of the totally unnecessary violence - though this one scene is much more artistically done than the whole rest of the movie's gore.)

It just, it just pissed me off.  Why is it so violent?  And when did I become the prude who thinks there is way too much unneeded violence in movies these days? I would guess somewhere between The Expendables and The Immortals. Jeeze, why are we showing that part where you claw out a dude's eye? that is not artistic nor expanding the plot, and I can't even watch it. Seriously.  It ruined everything for me.  So there's that - Immortals.  Boo.

2.  The Dreaded 29 Update:  We're still at -4, 25 to go.  I blame my inability to remember to weigh myself until after I ate breakfast this morning, but still.  0 change is a bit of a bummer.  Here's hoping it shall motivate me to be better about not having the giant bubble tea.  Maybe just the little bubble tea.  Or probably no bubble tea is the better way to go honestly.

3.  Sometimes I watch movies during the day not so much to watch them, but to have noise keep me company in the background.  Today's selection is Can't Hardly Wait.  If you haven't seen it, you need to go rent it/ buy it right the hell now.  Not because it's a good film, just because you will have fun.  

Better than The Immortals anyway.