Tuesday, August 30, 2011


This street is two blocks from our house
 Great Dismal Swamp fire... The East Coast Earthquake of 2011... Hurricane Irene...When it is all said and done, we have been fortunate to escape any serious damage doled out by Mother Nature. The fire resulted in poor air quality for southeastern Virginia and the earthquake provided a glimpse into what it might be like to live in California, although Californians roll their eyes when any comparison is made to their earthquakes. Irene has proven to be another story. From North Carolina to Vermont, wind and water have combined to become a deadly force. At least 42 people have died as a result of her fury. With over four billion dollars in damage and millions without power, there is a renewed sense of the power of these destructive natural disasters. Many of our neighbors evacuated to western Virginia. These are people who normally "ride out the storm." We can only imagine what the result would have been had this been a Category 3 hurricane rather than a Category 1.  People were waiting in line for hours to have a chance to purchase a gas generator.  After every power outage we swear that we will get one. This time we decided to make the investment in order to keep the refrigerator and a few lights running, and maybe a fan. We had no luck until Friday night, when we heard that a certain chain store that sells automotive equipment would be receiving a substantial shipment between 7:30 and 8:00PM. We arrived at 6:30, waited patiently, and purchased a generator. We went to bed that night knowing that we would at least have some electricity after the storm.

We expected to have water in our basement, and the generator would be a huge help in pumping out the water. Fortunately, the earth did her work and absorbed the rainwater (all 10 inches or so!). This fact alone amazes me. The damage to our home can be measured in multiple roof shingles blown throughout the neighborhood. No leaks, no structural damage.

The fan was truly a blessing during the 24 hours we ran our shiny, new, blue generator.

...and the Dismal Swamp Fire? Although dealt a blow by Irene, small areas continue to smolder.

image from WVEC news

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Not to complain....but

 The Great Dismal Swamp, mostly known to the people of southeastern Virginia and the outer banks of North Carolina or to those who know the history of the Underground Railroad, is smoldering out of control. Started by a lightning strike a few weeks ago, the fire has consumed well over 6,000 acres and can only be extinguished with about six or so inches of rainfall, which can only be achieved with a tropical storm in these parts. Today we have a RED alert, which means the air quality is unhealthy. No kidding! There have been swamp fires before, but this is the worst in the 24 years we have been in Virginia. Even the dogs want to stay inside.

Be careful. You might just get what you wish for.  Enter Irene.

If all goes as predicted, Irene will pass uncomfortably close to Norfolk. We are most fortunate in that most hurricanes which come our way, usually strike the Outer Banks first and are subsequently weakened. However, the last Category 2 to hit us was Isabel and there was considerable damage. Our home is a century-old sturdy brick structure and we were spared serious damage, but we were without electricity for 8 days. Thus far, we are in the 'cone of uncertainty' for Irene. The forecast could get much better or far worse. Either way we should get significant rainfall. If there is a silver lining, it will be that at least we can breathe healthier air.

P.S. Sure wish we were in Mérida.

Images from Weather Underground and Virginian Pilot

Saturday, August 20, 2011

The Tide is in

The long overdue light rail system for the city of Norfolk, Virginia opened with much fanfare on Friday. The Tide, named after an old moniker for the region that encompasses seven cities in Southeastern Virginia  (Tidewater), began its run with free rides for the entire weekend. The city was so overwhelmed and overjoyed with the turnout that extra trains were brought in to accomodate the crowds, who stood in line for up to an hour at times, to hop on board for the roughly 7.5 mile line. I decided to walk down to the York Street station, which is only three blocks from our home, to snap a few photos and possibly take a ride. When I got to the station and pulled out my

The Chrysler Museum of Art
camera, I realized that the battery was back at the house being charged. I turned around, walked home, retrieved the battery and set out again for this adventure. I had to wait about 20 minutes for a train that was standing room only (I once saw a streetcar in Prague that was packed so tightly it appeared as if the faces of some of the passengers were smashed up against the windows). Being slightly claustrophobic, I swore never to board a train in that city. I made two stops before exiting the Tide downtown. I think I'll wait until the the free rides end, which has been extended another full week due to the ebullient crowds.
A train arrives downtown

Monday, August 15, 2011


Not sure why, but we just wanted a bench in the entrance sala.
Although the previous owners of our home tastefully decorated, after 
living in the house for a while, we wanted to make a few changes that will reflect our traditional tastes, but with a nod to Mexico. We were able to do this by shifting around some of the pieces of furniture that remained and adding a few new items that we found in Mérida. The design process is not complete by any means.  It has seemed, at least in our previous homes, that we never get to the point where we say "all done." There remains that one chair or table that we would like, or the 
room that needs painting, or a painting for a particular wall. Having collected English and European antiques for a period in our lives, and having operated an antiques business for a number of years, it would not be wrong to assume that we have some rather large pieces of furniture and other items that will be sold before our permanent move to Mérida. We will keep a few small accessories that we can pack in a suitcase or load in the car. The rest will go. Casa de Las Lechuzas will not be over-the-top or over done. There will not be a lot of clutter. We like the clean lines and streamlined furniture in contemporary homes, but when it comes down to it, we're simply more at home with our style. And, it's been fun looking for things that make us go "oh yeah." Given the predilection of Yucatán termites for yummy wooden furniture, we have  made sure the wood furniture we buy has been treated or is made of local woods that are resistant. We're also incorporating some iron pieces, as in the dining table, and in the beds which are yet to be made or found.

Moroccan-style mirror

...and the outdoor living room

Saturday, August 13, 2011

We've Got It Bad. Is That Good?

Some of you may have seen this from the L.A. Times. Funny and true.

Do you sleep cradling the phone? Sneak peeks at twitter during meetings? Shudder at going without Internet? You're not alone. // Anecdotally, our Internet use seems to have spawned real addictions. And, according to several recently released surveys, we've got it bad. // More than half of Americans would rather give up alcohol, caffeine and chocolate for a week before parting temporarily with their cellphones, according to a survey by technology firm TeleNav Inc.

Sorry honey

One-third would give up sex; 22 percent would give up their toothbrushes (versus 40% of iPhone users, who evidently love their phone more than clean teeth); and 21 percent would rather go shoeless before separating from a mobile phone. Sixty-six percent sleep with their smartphones by their side.

Coming down fast

University students who faced a daylong Internet and media blackout began to display symptoms of withdrawal, a recent survey by the University of Maryland reported. One student said she was "itching like a crackhead" after going cold turkey for 24 hours. "I truly feel sorry for the Amish," another opined. "I cannot even express how bored and out of touch with society I felt."

Thanks for letting me share.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Is Mommie Dearest at work here?

Pepsi is NOT the national drink of Mexico. That distinction would go to Coca-Cola


Thursday, August 4, 2011

A "colorful" evening in Mérida

On this evening in July, the sky was a gorgeous backdrop for sights around the Grand Plaza