Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Deckin' These Here Halls.

If you haven't picked up on this yet, I an fond of hiding silly joke links within my posts. If you see bold type, click it. It's an "interactive" blog. And this one post in particular has a poo-ton of links, so get on that.

As mentioned in my last post, since Mexicans don't celebrate Thanksgiving, they've pretty much had their trees and lights up for Christmas since November 1st. To say we're behind in the game here at Casa de Gringo is an understatement.

Sunday I dragged our two VERY HEAVY tupperware containers of Christmas decorations up the stairs.

Being built into the side of a mountain, our house is almost all stairs. I'm glad that no one in this family has arthritis, and also that I seem to have superhuman strength when it comes to dragging really heavy stuff up stairs. Particularly if its really heavy stuff that I have an emotional investment in. The Christmas tree qualifies as such.

Fiance's mum would be super happy to know that I've noted a definite change in personality this year. Fiance used to be a bit of a stick in the mud about Christmas (last year I bargained to have a piddly "12 days of Christmas," and promptly thereafter took everything back down). It would seem his heart grew three sizes in the past month. I suspect because the peer pressure of his Mexican co-workers has changed his mind a little about the joy of festivity (Or festivus. Which I typed just to put that joke link in. You're welcome.) The point I'm making here is two fold: 1. Our Mexican friends are an awesome band of Whos, and 2. The day after Thanksgiving (wherein I was a sincere lump of ick while detoxing from Bubba-losing anxieties) He asked me; "Hey, I thought you would have put up all the Christmas stuff by now. What's the hold up?"

Well hey, he asked for it.

I really like decorating for the holidays. It's setting stuff up and organizing, basically. Which my OCD rattled brain can delve into for HOURS. I was that little kid that said she wanted to play "My Little Ponies," but really only wanted to spend like five hours setting up their little world. Cardboard tubes and popsicle sticks for houses, lincoln logs made up corrals, and of course there was always a plastic pizza table. Don't act like you don't know what I'm talking about when I say there was a plastic pizza table. You know exactly what I'm talking about. Once the set up was done, I lost all interest in making the ponies actually interact with their space. Also, as long as we're talking about childhoods, do you read "Girls With Slingshots?" (It's an online comic.) This sums up my childhood pretty succinctly:
(click it if it's too tiny to read, it'll get bigger.
Also, yes, yes I did do that to my barbies. Sorry mum.)

As my devoted 'helpers' looked on...

like two peas in a pod. a pod which is on a couch.

... I spent the afternoon fluffing up and assembling the tree, hanging lights, and plugging in the best invention in the history of ever:

I didn't get paid for that endorsement, so you know. They're just really flipping awesome.

We have a small *kinda fake* fire place right next to where our tree is, so it makes an awesome nook of Christmas Joy. But above the fire place was a little bare. Cue today's internet tutorial:

(click picture to see the tut)

Now, I don't scrapbook, so I didn't have the fancy BIG papers like the original poster (though if you're so inclined, she has a link to her own etsy monster* where you can buy a pre-arranged pack of paper from her for this project), but I do have a calendar of one-a-day-origami papers that have sadly in the past few months, largely gone unfolded. Challenge accepted.

I selected 12 sheets from the calendar that were green, red or yellow, and differing patterns. Then I paired them up and glued them back to back (I didn't want instructions for how to make a little paper frog showing on the finished product)

Then I stuck them under some heavy board games to dry flatly, and went to take care of some other items. (I am compelled to note that Fiance owned the Thomas Kinkade puzzle before we ever met. I hate the work of Thomas Kinkade and would never be so daft as to fund more of it being created through buying his chinsy puzzles. NEVER. Do you hear me Tommy-boy? Your 'art pieces' are over-processed, cheapened Bob Ross knock-offs. I said it. And I'd say it again. Happy little trees 4 LYFE.)

"some other items," in no particular order, included writing in my practice diary for the Spanish classes Fiance and I are taking (I'm writing about getting my temporary Mexican Residency in that one... I know there's probably a ton of typos, that's the point, our tutor will school me on 'em), day dreaming about the min-pin puppy at the local pet store and thinking how awesome it would be to have a Mini-Mac, and filling my cup with coffee from the third pot so far today. Caffeine problem? No. Not me.

The rest was pretty easy from there. I'm super pleased with the result, and it all took maybe an hour including the dry time for the glue. Now that it's hung up, I like that there's something in the space, but I might make a second, smaller one to fill the space just a little bit more. For now though, Christmas portraits!

Mac, in his handsome Christmas Jingle-Bell collar from my mum.
Looking slightly worried because...

Bubs was super in the mood for playing tag. And he plays with nails. So he may need a re-shoot once he gets the piss and vinegar out of his system. Stay tuned for that.

Now that Christmas cheer is officially established in the house, I'm back to other crafty-crafts. I had a second attempt at slippers (you may remember the first pair I tried my hand at here). These look cute with jeans while I bop around the house, but I still haven't quite figured out the right formula for proper footwear. I've decided to give up for the time being and put "silly" slippers on my Christmas list.

Lately we've had some date nights, because Fiance had some time off from work over Thanksgiving, which was SUPER nice. I'd like to provide some date night-reflections:

1. Great date idea - Go to a sushi restaurant. Sit at the bar and watch the sushi chef work for a few minutes in total awe (it's REALLY interesting. Promise). Order two rolls that you know you're going to like, strike up a conversation with the chef while he works. After that, tell him you want a surprise. Whatever he wants to make. IT WILL BE AMAZING, GUARANTEED.
We've done this twice now, and we will do it again. It's great.

2. While driving home from a date night, we stopped at a stop sign (Fiance might not like that I'm going to share this story, but I promise, it's not throwing him under a bus, it's more endearing than anything.). It is really common here that people sell stuff at street corners, and this one was no different. The man who approached our window was selling roses, and asked Fiance if he'd like to buy me some, in Spanish. Fiance politely declined, and then in Spanish, the peddler said "What, don't you love her?"

It was a quick sentence, and it had been a long day, and so I don't blame him for what came next. But Fiance hadn't caught/ understood the question, and so his reply to "don't you love her?" was "No, no thank you." And we drove away. I had just enough time to make eye contact with the peddler as he looked at me and shrugged a "well that sucks for you. sorry." kind of look.

I think it's the look I got from the dude that effected me, more than Fiance's actual response, because I knew what had happened. But last week I finally spilled what was on my mind. And Fiance, because he's awesome, dutifully followed up with three straight days of flowers.

What happens next? Does the hippo see them? Is the poor, mute zebu successful in communicating the imminent danger to the other passengers?!

You'll just have to stay tuned.

Bye bye moo moo, bye bye moo moo, bye bye moo moo, zebu.

if you haven't been checking out those links like I told you to, you're probably wicked confused right now. start clickin, you'll pick it up.

*In regards to my OWN esty monster: It's still down. I need a car before I can get reliable transportation to and from a Mexican post office when I make sales. I'm aiming for a new-year re-vamp. Keep your eyes peeled.

The second, smaller star makes it officially awesome.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Jingle Bells: More than just a Christmas tune.

As I sit here, eating a piece of leftover pumpkin bread, I can report that our first Thanksgiving in Mexico was both fantastic and absolutely horrible. But before I go on, let me preface this with: Bubba is currently, as I type this, sitting in my lap. So, as they say: "It Gets Better." (that link is unrelated to our dilemma, but it's an awesome cause).


Some of our Mexican friends were very curious about the holiday of Thanksgiving - specifically how and why we celebrate it, so we decided to invite them over for our celebration. And that was perfect, since part of Thanksgiving is all about filling your house with good food and good people. It was also perfect, because when you explain to someone that Thanksgiving is a holiday which we, as a culture, celebrate by cooking more food than we need, and then trying to consume as much of it as we can before the football game is over (Ahem. Go Pack Go.) ... that kind of blind consumerism is why the rest of the world hates us. Just so you know. Better that they just experience it in real time.

why yes, we did carve a potato/carrot to look like a turkey head. that's how we roll.

The day of Thanksgiving, as I said, was GREAT. Fiance had the day off and was excited to throw our 18 pound turkey (we named him Oscar) on the grill, and I had been baking since Monday, so our buffet of Thanksgiving awesomeness was already shaping up really well.

I set up a few tables with some festive plates and tiny pumpkin centerpieces (maybe this is silly, but since most of Mexico put up Christmas decorations the day after Halloween, it was super important to me that they understood we hadn't done so yet because there was another holiday in the way that had it's own color scheme. Which I suppose is a fancy way of saying that I care about what others think of me. At least I own it). We found a copy of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," and set it up to loop. And since we anticipated two little ones coming to join us - Little Dudette (who just turned 3 - it was an awesome birthday party), and another 2 year old gal we'll call The Kiddo - we even set up a traditional kiddie table with some crayons and activities to color in.

And then there was more cooking! I'm happy to say everything turned out fantastically. We wanted to make sure that our friends got the full Thanksgiving experience, so we had quite a spread: turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, crock pot applesauce, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, home made gravy, pumpkin pie, pecan pie, pumpkin cheesecake, ginger snaps and pumpkin "whoopee pies" (which are really just pumpkin cookies with whipped cream in the middle).

It was/ still is a lot of food, and as long as they weren't just lying to be nice, everyone seemed to really enjoy it. For many/ maybe all, this was the first time they had ever tried turkey, and while it tasted a bit weird to Fiance and I, (because we cooked it on the gill - needed the oven space for sides. It was good, just not what we're quite used to.) our Mexican guests decimated that bird. We have no turkey left overs. From an 18 pound bird! Little Dudette seemed particularly taken with the idea of eating pavo (Spanish for turkey), and reserved herself one of the legs.

Come to think of it, later in the evening she insisted that I wing her around like she was flying... kinda glad she didn't throw all that up. Ha. Close call.

And after dinner, Fiance took up the traditional role of the desert pusher - you know, the person who insists you have a slice of pie even though you have so much food in your stomach that you are wondering how impolite it could possibly be to just undo the top button of your pants. I took up helping the little girls with their art project.

The Kiddo was super confused about this whole "snap a picture" idea.
I blame my American accent, not her understanding of saying "cheese."

I get that a good chunk of people reading this may be unhappy that I decided to go with this particular project. And I understand why. My reasoning, is that this is an experience that both Fiance and I had as little kids on Thanksgiving, one I wanted to share.
I also wanted something simple for a 2 and 3 year old to do and occupy themselves, and later, they served as decent props for me to try and explain in my weak Spanish the history of the first Thanksgiving. There was also some serious confusion about what a Pilgrim is; thankfully Snoopy helped me out with that one. (tangental note: Snoopy is a really bossy jerk. Poor Woodstock.) If it eases your minds at all, our Mexican friends have a pretty good understanding of the history of how Native Americans were treated by the white settlers, and this was simply a childhood craft. Trust me, they got that.

We also made hand turkeys, though I confused the little girls pretty throughly when I asked them to put their hand down on the coloring paper in order to trace. So after that we fed the dog a ton of cookies in exchange for high fives, and all was well again.

In the end, we had a blast, good food was made, our friends learned about American Culture (it was super fun to be an expert for a night), and we have leftovers out our ears. Let's be honest, leftovers is kind of the best part of Thanksgiving.

Now. *big sigh*
The horrible part of the day started with an adorable white kitten.* And the Mexican idea of cat ownership. Which is thus:
A mama cat brings kittens into your yard for shelter. If you want, now you have cats. Until they get old and leave or you get sick of them and toss them back on the street. Whichever is soonest. And then you don't have cats anymore. Until the next time. And even if you really do consider a particular cat to be your pet, it's an outdoor pet. It comes around for food and sometimes you pet it, but ultimately it's fine on its own.

I named her Tellulah. I should probably have not named her at all, but Tellulah seemed appropriate.
Tellulah's been around our house for a week or so now. There are a ton of street cats in Mexico, so this is by no means out of the ordinary, and she was in the company of at least 7 other cats. But I'd been noticing that Tellulah was always the last one to run away when I shoo'd them out of our trash can. And that she would mew at me when I walked by on the street instead of just giving me that judging stare that street cats have perfected. Oh, and I noticed that she was really small, and that she had lost half of her floofy white tail in some kind of horrific accident. Which made me pity her.

And suddenly, Tellulah and I were friends - because I caught the Thanksgiving spirit, and decided to give Tellulah an entire hotdog, bit by bit. By the end of it, she was sitting in my lap purring and kneeding my leg while she chewed up her piece processed pig intestine. This made me pity her even more, because I got a pretty good close up of her ribs through her floofy fur, and of that little black nubbin/scab that is now the end of her tail. So throughout the day, I took to looking out at our trashcan and saying hello to Tellulah when I had a second, throwing her a french fry or a little head scratch. And I started thinking of ways to admit to Fiance that I named the disgusting little street cat... and of how I could ask him to let me take her to the vet to get her tail stump checked out. I started wondering how I could help this street cat find a warm home with kitty kibble instead of a cold trash can with a container of moldy sour cream.

Let me be clear that I did not have a thought of "gee, I wish I could keep Tellulah as my own." Because let's be real; Bubba and Mac are plenty. Critters have always had an ability to tug at my heartstrings, and while Tellulah was no different, with a little bit of age I have come to understand that adopting every way-ward stray is less "charitable heart" and more "crazy cat lady."

Anyway, after everyone had left and we were cleaning up, I went out the kitchen door to say hello to Tellulah again, and to check the washing machine (Our laundry is outside. This is common here). When in those 30 seconds or so that I had the kitchen door open... Bubba made a run for it.

I followed him pretty quickly, listening for the sound of the jingle-bell on his collar and calling for Fiance to bring me the key to the gate which Bubba so easily fit through but that I need to unlock to pass by. He made it across the street and through a neighbor's gate before I caught up to him and carried him back to the house by the scruff of his neck. Fiance and I sighed a big sigh of relief, put him down on the floor, and went back to cleaning up.

What we weren't thinking about, was that I had left through the kitchen door for the Bubba reconnaissance mission. Fiance had run out of the house's front door to give me keys. We both came back in through the kitchen door... and the front door was still wide open.

It must have been a half hour before I walked past to see the door was still open. And of course, by that time, Bubba had run back off into the night.

Back into the neighborhood went Fiance and I - both a little panicky. Bub had plenty of time to put distance between me and his collar's jingle bell. It was super late at night, and since our neighbors had a much different understanding of cat ownership than we do, there were a few awkward conversations when they came out to us shining a flashlight under their car. We walked up and down the street, shaking a dish of cat food and praying that wherever he was, he'd move enough for that jingle to lead us to him. Two hours later saw us no success.

We returned to the house, and I decided to sleep on the couch with the front door window open; hoping that if he came back I'd hear it and be able to let him in. Let's be real, sleeping didn't happen, but a whole lot of worry did.

I'll spare you the grueling list of horrific scenarios that went through my head. I laid on the couch stiff as a board willing every other sound but cat meows and jingle bells to cease, for four long hours. And then I heard a jingle.

And I got even more still, and I held my breath, and I had almost convinced myself that I was only hearing things that I wanted desperately to hear, not sounds that actually existed. And then I heard it again. And I jumped up and ran to the door and into the street barefoot and reclaimed my super-fat-by-comparison orange kitty from amidst the gang of skin and bone street cats he was galavanting with, and brought him inside and marched upstairs to Fiance and said simply "he came back."

And then I cried a little bit of happy, thankful tears and we all snuggled into bed together even though Bubba was dirty and smelly from his adventure. His adventure that was really very short compared to some unfortunate pets and families, but certainly long enough for Fiance and I.

Have you ever had a pet run away? What did you do?
Was there a happy ending? (I very much hope there was)

Today, we fitted Bubba with a new ID tag and a collar that has TWO jingle bells on it, just in case. He seems to feel pretty handsome in his new ensemble.

*As an additional happy ending to our tale, one of the neighbors we encountered while looking for Bubba told me "oh, I hope you find him. I've been looking for my cat too. She's little and white, and missing half her tail." I wasn't in a genial enough mind-set to ask what her real name is, but Tellulah is back in her own warm home with kitty kibble now. And that's pretty flipping awesome.


Bubba running away was a bit of a Debbie Downer post topic. In an effort to make sure you're 100% smiles by the time you click away from I need to tell you about my new favorite hobby. It involves this song. (I choose the youtube video that is just lyrics. Because the actual music video has a lot of... suggestive dancing... and I like to keep my reader's comfort in mind)

I like this song. A lot. And I know. I KNOW. If I was in the states when I first heard this song, I would probably not like it. But I LOVE THIS SONG. Because it's in English, and sometimes that's just a really nice reprieve for my brain. And because the lyrics are hilarious.
New hobby comes in at about 2:09.

When this song plays on the radio, everyone in this house over a weight of 12 pounds knows that when we get to "wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle wiggle yeah!", you better be shaking your butt. It might be Mac's new favorite thing ever. I may try to catch this on video. Stay tuned.

Do you have a silly house rule? Tell me about it in the comments!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

My Fiance Wants to be a Cowboy. So, SO badly.

He... really. I mean, look at this:
"I'm wearing this wide-brimmed hat because the sun never sets on a badass."
He never actually said that. But he SHOULD have.

We ventured out to Real de Catorce this past weekend, with our friends C&Y. Real is a town that has basically been frozen in time - it's surrounded by mountains on all sides (no joke, you drive THROUGH a mountain to reach it), blocking off a lot of advances you might be used to - like paved roads, reliable electricity, traveling by car, etc. It is a place that has some legitimate historical and religious significance to Mexico. If'n you ever get the chance, I highly suggest you check it out.

It's about a 5-6 hour drive (4 if you're driving with C, who has no qualms about breaking the sound barrier) from Monterrey, and we made the trek after Fiance got out of work on Friday. So we got there pretty late. If you clicked on that link above that takes you to the wiki page for Real de Catorce, you may have picked up that it is a great place to grow Peyote. This brings us to two really interesting observations:
  1. There are a ton of actual Hippies in Real
  2. If you show up at a suspicious time of day, like late at night, you will be met at the end of the tunnel by a swarm of military personnel with very large automatic guns, who want to make sure you've only got the best of intentions (they were very polite, but a long car ride always means I take a nap, and that was quite a wake up call). Anyway, we passed the drug inspection. Like you were worried we didn't.
There is a ton to see and do in Real, and we had just two short days (we stayed Friday night through early Sunday afternoon). Thankfully C & Y were great tour guides, and were happy to put up with our silly gringo tourist-isms (did you see that first picture of Fiance? he wanted to look authentic). I learned a lot. A LOT. And if I can be really honest right here? Like, 100% honest, they weren't exactly FUN lessons, but I am so thankful to have gotten them. In fact, here, let me teach you:

1. Mexicans will tell you that Real de Catorce is very cold, particularly at night. If you are hearing this as a person who grew up in the Frozen Tundra (c), you'll likely be all "cool, let me throw a sweatshirt in my bag." Dude. Cold was no joke. Along those same lines - there are no heaters in the Real de Catorce hotel rooms. Ha. How could you be so silly to think something so advanced as HEAT would be available to you, stupid American? Anyway, this is how I dressed for bed:
thats pj pants, two shirts, skiiing socks, and a sweatshirt with the hood up. which got neatly tucked under the two thick quilts on our bed. and I was STILL freezing.

It was a really nice room though, in an open-air hotel that was pretty and rustic. And had a bathroom in each room that with no ceiling so you could always hear very clearly what the other person was doing in there...

2. Goose down has NOTHING on Llama wool. Nothing. And even though we looked like matching-couple fools, I stayed warm after this purchase. Also, we didn't realize until after the picture that we totally bought a green and a red poncho.. perhaps this will end up as our Christmas cards.

3. Don't forget your hairbrush. Because Fiance will undoubtedly want to take like, a million photos of you, Glamour Shots By Deb style, and you will probably look pretty ratty for most (all) of them. Along those same lines, I learned Fiance can't take a flattering photo of me to save his soul.
Atop my own trusty steed (you don't call mares steeds, do you? well then atop my horse). Thank you for capturing me in only one photo on the horse, and making sure I have the most DERPY face ever in it.
As we arrived at the hotel Friday night. (approx. 11:30 PM) I actually kinda like that photo. I have no idea why.
4. If you become violently ill from eating authentic Mexican food, pepto bismol isn't going to do crap for you. (Ha. Crap, get it? Okay that was a super gross joke, sorry.) If it's Mexican food that made you sick, cowboy up and ask a Mexican for a Mexican remedy. I thought I was going to overdose on peptos in the span of four of five hours to absolutely no avail. But this stuff? Made me feel like a champ in about 15 minutes.

C is Catholic, and as such, grew up taking frequent trips to Real de Catorce. There are two churches there - once for the Virgin Mary, and one for St. Francis of Asisi. He was excited to share these places with us, and even more excited to share some of the legends that are associated with the spaces. My favorite is that St. Francis (San Francisco), cannot stand to be away from the Virgin Mary, and thus, even thought he has his own church, he (both his spirit and the literal statue of San Francisco) travels every night to stay close to her at HER church. The people move him back to his church each day, and the process repeats. It was a touching legend, and much less creepy than the one about the little ghost kid, so that's the one I'm going to share (trust me, the little statue of the ghost child gave me the icks, you don't wanna know).
This is the church of the Virgin Mary. I am so very sorry to admit that I was so wrapped up in hearing the legends associated with the place, I do not know the actual NAME of the church. The second photo is the moving statue of San Francisco, who was at the time, in Mary's church.

This is San Francisco's church. The path leading up to it is a really gorgeous and old cemetary. And since Día de los muertos was celebrated recently, there were hoards of beautiful and fragrant flower arrangements. It's a smaller church, but I liked it best of the two. It just seemed so humble and otherworldly.

I partly wish I had more photos of both spaces to share with you, but while I was there is just seemed so wrong to be snapping photos while others were there to legitimately share themselves with God. So you get four. You understand.

Real de Catorce, as previously mentioned, is nestled in a bowl of mountains. Coupled with the thin air that comes with mountains, and the roads that are not conducive to cars, that equals a lot of really good exercise trudging up and down the mountainside (literally UP and down. My butt got such a workout). But after about half a day, unless you're training for a marathon, you're probably ready to keel over and die. Cue the horses pictured above, which took us out to the first of two mines. There's gold in them thar hills folks. Well, not so much anymore really, but there were two gold and silver mines in the area, and we visited the remains of both.

The morning of the last day we visited the second mine, which is really my favorite part of the whole trip. The second mine is a bit further than you'd probably like to walk, so we hired a jeep. And the driver of the jeep -because we're not in the US where safety practices abound- was happy to tell us that we could climb on top of the jeep to ride down if we like. And we, because we're small children in adult bodies, were all like "Heck YES" (more Napoleon Dynamite, sorry, I'm in a mood today.) It was a beautiful, brisk morning, and the ride down the winding path along the mountain side was fraught with the kind of scenery that you thought only existed in your stock desktop images folder. It was also terrifying, because all that kept you from falling off the top of that jeep when it hit a bump, and hurtling down a couple hundred feet was your own hand-strength and the iron rails on the top of the car. Thank goodness for secure welding practices.

Just some of the view from the way down. Fiance has some great shots on his facebook page, because he was on inside side of the jeep on the way down, so wasn't holding on for dear life and could snap a few more photos. The second pic there is of the devil/demon/dragon (sorry, translating got weird here) that lives in the mountain. You can see his two tiny horns there, and the rest is the slope of his nose.

And then there was this spot where the driver just kind of yelled out the window to duck as he drove through.

When we got to the second mine, we were met by a little boy who informed us he could be our tour guide for 20 pesos (less than two dollars, why not?) He walked us to three different spots that were maybe 100 feet from each other, and mumbled some stuff about why each spot was important through a mouthful of sunflower seeds. But he also showed us this little waterfall right outside the mine, which apparently has very clean water. It was clear in the enthusiasm he exhibited in throwing himself to the ground, that this was his favorite part of his job:
I don't blame him, he did get a pretty enthusiastic reaction from us.
Totally earned his two bucks.

So... wow. There really was a lot to see here, much more than two mines and two churches, and I decided pretty early on that it was important to me to actually experience it instead of living it through a camera lens. But I did catch a few other spots:

another glamor shot, outside what is now a coin/ smelting museum. C told us that a few years ago, it was simply an old, empty building. And if the hotels were all full in Real when you came in to worship at one of the churches, you could sleep there. He had, in fact, done just that a few times.
This is the old cock-fighting ring. Now it hosts concerts (like, mariachi style concerts, no rock bands or anything). I do really love the obvious joke that Fiance went for with the boxing pose in this photo. Judge me if you must.

The only other thing I must mention about this trip, is I had my Spanish moment. The moment in which I realized that I would certainly not call myself fluent in Spanish by any means, but I have become confident that I CAN SPEAK IT. I taught C&Y, completely in Spanish, how to play Rummy 500. It was a fantastic feeling.

Have you studied abroad or visited a place with another language? Did you have this moment?

So that's Real de Catorce. I also have two smaller talking points that I don't have space for anywhere else, so if you care, here they are.

1. For those interested (or who just want to see a doodle), I have learned to back-comb my hair to hide the bald spot for the time being. That's right, I evolved from Donald Trump to Snookie (that is Not SFW really). I'm not ashamed, if you had a bald spot you'd do it too. (I'm totally ashamed.) That said, still taking recommendations on dealing with the bald spot.

2. Mac has a new trick to his repertoire. Which is the very short version to this thought-process: Monterrey is, sadly, not a real safe place. I think we've touched on this before. Mac being here, is not only so that he can stay a part of the family, but also because Fiance and I are both blatantly aware that I spend the better part of my time alone here. Mac, though a lovable puppy once you know him, is intimidating in looks and size. In the off-chance I need that quality in my pup, I want to have the confidence that I can call it up on cue. We also plan to teach him to "smile" on command, but for now... well, even with both of us knowing Mac very well, his bark is kinda crazy, isn't it?
If you're curious, he can also shake, high-five (or high-ten), moon-walk, take a bow, play dead when you "shoot" him, spin, and roll over. He's quite smart.

Mac is typically a very quiet dog, so this was a tough one to teach him. Do you have a pup? What's his coolest trick?