Until One Is Committed


William Hutchinson Murray

(This is a repeat of a previously published post)

The best description I ever heard of the China adoption process was that putting the dossier together was like doing your taxes over and over and over and over and over and over . . . again and again and again and again . . . . At the beginning of each adoption journey, a slew of documents needed to be assembled upfront: a home study, birth certificates, marriage certificate, medical reports, police reports, financial statement, adoption statements, immigration forms, etc. – there were nearly 20 documents required in all. Each one of those documents had to be notarized in the state where they originated, then each notarized document went to the Secretary of State of that state for the notary to be certified. After that, the entire stack, by now a couple of inches high, was sent by courier to the U.S. State Department in Washington, D.C. for each document to be certified again, and finally the whole thing was again sent by courier to the Chinese Embassy for each document’s final certification and approval. Four copies had to be made of every page and certification for the entire dossier and only then could it finally be sent to China and put in line for us to be matched with a child.

The process took several months to complete, and along the way, there was always the possibility for China to tweak or change their requirements. For example, we were almost done with the dossier for Meiling’s adoption when China suddenly announced that physicals could no longer be more than six months old, and ours were seven months old at that point. Panic! But, our doctor squeezed us in, and every other part of the certification process worked flawlessly (for a change) and in just a few short weeks our dossier was finally complete and off to China in late May of 1996. Matches and referrals were taking only three or so months then, so our hopes were high that by the time we returned home in August from taking our son to college we would have news of a daughter.

However, when we returned home and called our agency the news was not good; in fact, it was very bad. China had shut down adoptions for families that already had children, which of course included us. Our agency was moving families into other adoption programs, but China had been the only program that would accept us because of our ages (we were each over 40 years old). What had happened, we later learned, was a power struggle over the international adoption program had broken out between two different political bureaus in China, and adoptions had ground to a halt while they fought it out and reorganized. (We also learned our agency was convinced at the time that the entire program was going to collapse.)

All of our hopes and love, and quite a bit of money, had gone into the adoption process for more than a year, including all of the work of assembling our dossier. I was in graduate school at the time, and my work began to suffer because I could barely concentrate. Brett unhappily slogged off to work each day as well. Our son was at college in another state, so it was just the two of us at home each evening, and we were glum, depressed, and unsure of what to do or how to proceed.

On one particularly bad day, one of my professors emailed me the quote above, and told me to “hang in there.” I shared it with Brett that evening, and we talked about how deeply committed we still were to adopting from China and had been from the start. All sorts of unexpected and serendipitous events had happened and helped us along the way to make our adoption dream come together so far, and we decided that rather than pull out we would stay with it to the end and see what happened, no matter the outcome. We both felt in our hearts that our daughter was waiting for us there.

The William Murray quote was a turning point for us. And, it has proven prescient ever since. When we have committed to something, whether it was adding an additional child to our family again through adoption, getting ourselves out of debt, moving to Hawai’i, or planning a trip – when we have committed ourselves, as the quote says, Providence has always moved too. Things we couldn’t have imagined have happened to help make our plans a reality, and we were given the drive, vision, and persistence to see our dreams come true and our goals reached.

Commitment has been the step where we’ve gone from “do you think?” or “should we?” to “let’s do this” and then started figuring out how to accomplish it. The path to success has not always been straight or smooth or easy, but time and experience have shown that the unexpected does and will occur along the way to help, especially when we need it most. As each journey continues we begin to see things in different ways and act on them accordingly, with our commitment to finishing growing stronger the further along we get.

As the new year began in 1997 we were still waiting, but Brett and I had reached the depths of despair. There had been no positive word from our agency for weeks, and we felt like we were hanging on to hope by our fingernails. We had enjoyed having our son home for Christmas, but he returned to school on January 9. So, when the phone rang on the morning of January 10 I assumed it was him asking about something he had forgotten and wanted us to send. I had been lying on our sofa, crying and asking God for some kind of a sign, that if there was to be no adoption to let us know somehow and we would let it go, but if there was hope then we would continue to hang on. When I answered the phone that morning it was not our son but our social worker: “Laura, there’s a baby girl waiting for you in China,” and on March 12, 1997, in the hallway of a hotel in China, we met our little Meiling for the first time and she was ours.

This was the only picture we received of Meiling before we met her.

Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!

Sunday Morning 7/3/2022: 4th of July

I am really not feeling the Fourth of July this year, and not just because we’re outside of the U.S. I feel like the person on Twitter who said that this year it feels like we’re celebrating someone’s birthday while they’re in hospice. The last two weeks of Supreme Court decisions have felt almost personal as they ran roughshod over previously settled decisions, ones several of these justices swore under oath they had no intention of overriding, with the majority’s logic flipping from decision to decision (we have to do this because of history but no, history can’t be a factor with this one), etc. The more I continue to learn as well about what happened on January 6, 2021, has also been deeply unsettling. I have no idea what’s going to happen in the coming months and years, but I feel great despair about the direction our country is going and how we are already losing freedoms many fought and died for, and that we have been blessed with for so many years.

On a brighter note, we rented an apartment in Nashville and will move in the second week of August! Our daughter-in-law sent us a link early in the week indicating the available apartments at hers and our primary location choice, and we noticed that one of the one-bedroom units was not only in our price range but available for occupancy the day after we arrived in Nashville! So, we applied online, were accepted a few days later, and will now only have to stay in a hotel one night before moving in. Our idea is to unload our boxes from Massachusetts into the apartment on move-in day in the morning, then head to Costco and buy a mattress and a few other supplies so we can sleep there that night. The next day we’ll start unpacking the boxes and do some grocery and supply shopping, and then the day after that we’ll drive to Memphis and pick up our IKEA furniture and start getting that set up (Brett weirdly enjoys assembling IKEA stuff). Fingers crossed everything goes as planned, but our arrival week is going to be crazy (our DIL will also be moving into her apartment the same week). We only hope buying a car will go smoothly once we get there. We got our financing approved this past week, but so far we’ve either been quoted prices w-a-y over the MSRP or the car(s) we’re interested in are “in transit” or sold before we can complete anything and we’ve been told there could be anywhere from a 90- to 120-day wait for the next batch of cars to arrive. Sigh. We may end up buying a car when we’re in Massachusetts and bringing it down with us to Tennessee as Nashville dealers have all been a complete bust but we hope we don’t have to do that.

Some of our IKEA furniture choices.

I can’t honestly say I’ve been miserable since we arrived in SMA in May, but whether it’s been the altitude, the heat, the dry air, a lack of sleep (it can be very noisy around here during the night), occasional vertigo, or the current constant noise throughout the day (neighbors have been having their rooftop patio renovated the past three weeks and it’s been constant sawing and tile cutting going on the entire day, every day, starting at 8:00 a.m.), I just never have had my usual energy and feeling of well-being. I think I may also be/have been suffering from allergies caused by one or more of the plants in our compound. I felt bad enough one day last week (run down, sore throat, cough, and sinuses) that I took a Covid test but it came back negative so who knows what’s going on?

An unexpected afternoon rain on Friday was refreshing and cleared pollen and dust out of the air.

This morning I am thinking about:

  • What we accomplished: 1) Getting our apartment lined up in Nashville was the big accomplishment this past week. The one we’ve rented is the same square footage as the crazy-landlord house we lived in on Kaua’i, but costs so much less each month, actually a full $1000 less a month than what he’s currently charging for rent, and the apartment comes with a washer and dryer and a dishwasher (can you guess what I’m excited about?). 2) Getting our car financing set up this past week was easy, and it’s great that whenever we finally find a car we’ll be ready to go.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am looking forward to feeling better and hopefully getting a handle on what’s been bothering me – that’s my focus now. We didn’t do the San Miguel de Allende historical tour this past week so maybe that will happen this week.
Surrealism in the sink: Peaches, plums, mango, and raspberries getting washed in an antibacterial solution. Anything that will not be peeled or that will be eaten raw gets the treatment.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We spent very little on food this week, around $75 for fruit at the frutería – mangoes, cantaloupe, peaches, plums, figs, and raspberries – and a few items from City Market following our brunch on Friday. It will all get us through the next couple of weeks except for maybe one or two more stop at the frutería. 3) We will be paying more initially but but decided we will save overall by buying a car versus leasing. We currently don’t know what we’ll be doing when we leave Nashville, and felt it would overall be better financially to own a newer car at that point rather than having to start over after finishing up a lease. The car payment will be higher than the lease payment would have been, but we plan to pay off the loan in two years. It’s sort of weird to think this is probably the last car we’ll ever buy. 4) Our son and daughter-in-law booked and paid for our hotel room in Nashville as a small treat for us – we appreciate the savings!
  • Good things that happened: 1) The kennel sent a video of our puppy this past week and Kai looks healthy, happy, and fluffy, and we love how his little tail never stops wagging. We are very excited about meeting him in August! He will be almost six months old at that point, and the kennel is going to take care of having him neutered before we pick him up. One of our first tasks once he’s back in Nashville will be to get him groomed as he’s going to be very shaggy at that point! 2) Brett and I enjoyed a tasty lunch date at Raices on Wednesday afternoon. I had the Amor Amarillo (“love yellow”): chicken, beans, and cheese inside a fresh, handmade tortilla with yellow mole sauce. A pepper leaf was grilled to the outside of the tortilla to add extra flavor – yum! I should have ordered two of them, it was so good. Brett had the enchiladas verdes I had the first time we ate there and we both repeated our previous tea and lemonade drinks. We’re already planning our next visit. 3) We also had a delicious brunch on Friday at Turk Mediterranean Street Food, another nearby restaurant. I had a beef and lamb wrap and Brett had a falafel wrap, and he got a second wrap for free because unknown to us it was “Falafel Friday” (we brought it home and shared it for dinner). We had a lovely, long chat with the owner (originally from the U.S.) while we were there and he helped us think in a different and more positive way about possibly living in San Miguel de Allende in the future. The BIG (and fun) surprise though was during our conversation the owner and I figured out we grew up about three blocks from each other! Seriously! Talk about a small world. 4) The emergency J6 hearing on Tuesday was very compelling. 5) Our daughter-in-law was sworn in this past week as an official Consul for the nation of Japan. She will receive her diplomatic passport later this month to begin her position in Nashville. We’re so proud of her!

We enjoyed some good eating last week at Raices and TURK. The culinary scene in SMA is one thing I can’t complain about – so much creative, delicious food at affordable prices. The beautiful mosaic was part of the floor at TURK.

I am going to take a few weeks away from the blog again, although I will continue to post on the Occasional Nomads Instagram page and keep up my reading list. It feels a bit like we are now marking time in San Miguel de Allende with our focus more on getting to Nashville and getting settled there for the next two years. I also feel like the direction of the blog needs to change and adapt a bit and want to think about that for a while as well, with the focus of the blog less about travel, travel, travel, and more about creating an alternative (retirement) lifestyle and making it work. Although we plan to continue traveling while we’re in Nashville (visiting Mammoth Caves & Great Smoky Mountains National Parks – with some misgivings as visitors are now allowed to bring loaded guns into National Parks – and a couple of Civil War battlefields; touring Washington, D.C. with our granddaughter and DIL; visiting Asheville, N.C.; and doing a big family reunion at Walt Disney World in 2023) Brett and I will mostly be enjoying our time with family in Nashville and setting up where we’ll be going and what we’ll be doing next. I’d like the blog to focus more about that and keep track of our steps as it will be one of the most significant changes we’ll make in our lives.

Although I might not be feeling the holiday spirit this year, I hope others are and I wish all a happy Fourth of July, and a fun but thoughtful time with family and friends. I’ll be back in a few weeks.

Could We Live Here?

Brett’s and my frame of mind right now.

“Could we live here?” is a game Brett and I have played in every place we’ve visited. Only twice has the answer has been in a heartbeat (most of the UK and Japan), but usually we give a location a lot more thought no matter how much we like it (places like Strasbourg or Bordeaux in France as well as Florence, Lisbon, and Buenos Aires), weighing the obvious negatives along with the positives (the negatives have so far always won). There have also been a few places we’ve known right away that we either couldn’t or didn’t want to live (India, Rome, London, and Sydney, although all were fun to visit).

We’ve been playing the game again during our stay in San Miguel de Allende, and now over halfway through our time here we’ve started debating whether this might be a place we could eventually settle down. The strongest reason for moving here is the low cost of living. We could, as I told Brett the other day, “live in the style we’ve always dreamed of being accustomed to” including having a beautifully furnished home with multiple bedrooms, a gourmet kitchen, a housekeeper (and gardener), and so forth all at a price that would be unaffordable in the U.S. This would also be a place I could continue to live well if Brett predeceases me, and his navy pension disappears.

There are negatives of course: the dry climate and heat, the language, and the distance from our kids being the primary ones. A couple of weeks ago you couldn’t have paid me to move here because of the hot, dry, dusty weather, but my feelings have been changing as things have cooled off. Just after we arrived I would have loved to live in the complex where we are now, but after seeing more of the city this place has moved down the list a bit. We love our apartment and the neighbors but know we could have much more, in a better location.

We could live in a purple house in SMA!

There are loads of positives to living full-time in San Miguel de Allende. Besides the low cost of living, there’s also world class affordable dining as well as good health and dental care. So far there’s nothing we use or want that we can’t find here. There are two international airports each about an hour’s drive away that can get us back to the U.S. and then on to our kids or international destinations. The city is home to a lively expat community and the ability to connect with others who share our interests (to be honest though, the number of expats who descend on the city every winter seems kind of overwhelming). There is art, culture, history, and classes galore from language to cooking.

It sounds like the perfect place for us except we feel absolutely no joy or potential excitement whatsoever about living here full time. None. It’s just not “us” and that’s the sticking point.

Brett and I have been nomads since we met in 1977. During our years when Brett was in the navy we learned how to make any location a home, how to overcome obstacles encountered, and make friends and create a good life. We’re heading to Nashville in just over a month but our time there, as with a military posting, will be temporary, and we’re already beginning to feel some pressure to figure out where we’ll go or what we’ll do after that. Traveling full time is still on the table, but Brett will be in his mid-70s, and I won’t be far behind, and settling down doesn’t sound as bad as it once did. We have much to decide and choices to make, and we want (and need) to get it right . . . stay tuned!

Brunch Every Friday: Panio

We had every intention of enjoying a Middle Eastern brunch last Friday. There’s a highly recommended restaurant right down the road from us and on the way to the supermarket, and after reading their menu and checking out the prices we were looking forward to it.

And then on Friday morning the housekeeper showed up an hour and a half earlier than expected. We were both still in our pajamas, but we welcomed her in, quickly got dressed, grabbed our shopping bags, and headed out the door. About half way down the hill I turned to Brett and said, “You know, I really don’t feel like eating Middle Eastern food this time of the morning.” He agreed, and after a short discussion we decided to head to Panio instead, the nearby French bakery, figuring at the least we could get a delicious pastry and a good cup of coffee before heading to the market.

Panio has a small dining room at the side of the bakery

To say we were surprised by Panio’s breakfast menu would be an understatement. We were presented with a full page of breakfast dishes, from omelettes to Eggs Benedict to Mexican specialities to pancakes and French toast, all at reasonable prices. After going through everything and with a little back and forth, Brett decided on the French toast (his favorite breakfast) and I chose the banana-walnut pancakes with bacon.

My pancakes came with banana and pecans instead of walnuts – I almost felt like I was back in Hawaii – and with four big, smoky, crisp slices of bacon! Brett’s French toast came with whipped cream and berries (so I gave him two slices of my bacon). We each had an Americano, perfectly made, hot, and absolutely delicious.

The cost for this glorious, filling breakfast was $20.50 USD, including the tip. My pancakes and bacon breakfast was only $6.54 USD, less than what I’d probably have paid in the U.S. for just the four slices of bacon!

Walking into Panio is like entering a bakery in Paris.

It was a good thing we’d eater before we shopped the bakery or we would have left with a lot more than these four items! We were tempted though.

Following breakfast, our tummies full, we perused Panio’s bakery selections and left with a bag of meringues, a bag of the best butter cookies we’ve ever had, some wine crackers, and two blueberry tarts to enjoy Saturday morning.

We’ll do Middle Eastern this week.

PANIO ATELIER DU PAIN: Salida a Celaya 67-69, Zona Centro, 37700 San Miguel de Allende

Sunday Morning 6/26/2022: Not the Best Week

Although it’s been cooler here this week it’s also been very dry, and our lady at the fountain hasn’t been pouring any water from her jug into the one below. Almost 75% of the year’s rainfall here typically falls in June but there’s been just one day and one evening of rain all month so far.

This has personally been a nothing burger of a week for us. We decided to mostly stay home this week to help my back heal, and I am happy to say it is much, much better; in fact, I’ve gone to bed most evenings forgetting it’s even been bothering me. I got reminded of it almost every morning though and it usually took a couple of hours to work out the kinks, but yesterday I awoke without any pain at all – yeah! Reducing our activity and all seemed to have made things better, and hopefully my back issues will soon be nothing but a distant memory.

Some of the things we’ve bought the past few weeks: Small (18″) mirrors with tinwork frames; Dia de Los Muertos themed t-shirts; authentic Talavera pottery mugs; and colorful shopping bags. Everything but the mugs are gifts for someone in our family, and nothing cost over $15.

We went out last Wednesday afternoon to do some shopping and try to find some specific things we want to take back with us to the U.S. as gifts. We shopped with a list and found what we were looking for but also found two other items at prices we couldn’t resist. We bought three t-shirts, two for the Meiling’s and YaYu’s partners and one for our grandson, two small mirrors framed with tin work (the unplanned items, but they were just $12.50 each) and a small hand-carved and painted wooden heart with wings. Some of the things we’ve bought since we’ve been here will be put away for Christmas, but many are gifts for family members or fun things for the grandkids. We’ve bought a few things for ourselves too since we’ve been here: my embroidered dress, blouse, and straw hat; two authentic Talavera pottery coffee mugs; a small piece of original art; the bean pot; and Brett gave me a silver ring. Shopping here has sort of been like dining out – so many things are beautifully made and very affordable and it takes a lot of effort not to buy them. The only thing I still have my eyes on is a pair of silver earrings in the window of the silversmith down the street. We have no idea how much they cost though, and if they turn out to be more than we want to pay they won’t be purchased. We’re otherwise winding down the shopping now because Brett’s afraid buying anything more will mean we may have to purchase an additional suitcase! For now though, everything we’ve gotten will go into the bags we came with (I will carry the bean pot onto the plane).

This morning I am thinking about:

  • Things we accomplished this past week: 1) Other than finishing up our gift shopping, going to brunch on Friday, and doing our food shopping afterwards I don’t think we accomplished much of anything. 2) We both finished books and downloaded new ones from the library. I’ve read 27 books so far this year and I’m happy with that!
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) We’re looking forward to having our neighbor Jenny over for dinner this evening. We’re serving lamb burgers! 2) We’re going to have lunch at Raices mid-week and we’re both excited about that. I want to try their yellow mole. 3) We may try to take a two and a half hour walking tour of San Miguel de Allende one morning, depending on the weather. We’re hoping after being here for a month we’ll get more out of it and have a better understanding of much of what we’ve only been admiring up until now. 3) Other than brunch on Friday, everything else will be spontaneous (rain is predicted for several days, so somewhat difficult to plan ahead of time).
We did our food shopping for the next two weeks at City Market. All of this, including imported wine and cheeses, came to $124 USD. The most expensive item was the canister of Costco peanuts (for Brett). Every time I see the total after we shop I’m convinced we’d be fools not to move here.
We gave into temptation this week and purchased a stack of buñuelos, fritters sprinkled with cinnamon sugar. If we’re careful (LOL) they’ll last all next week. We’ve been enjoying the pastries, cookies, and such here because they are always far less sweet than what we’d find in the U.S.
  • The ways we saved: 1) We didn’t do anything special this week to save other than make an effort to eat all the leftovers in our refrigerator to make sure nothing had to be thrown out before we shopped. 2) We did all our shopping with purpose (and a list) and did not go crazy. We once again stayed under budget with both our food and souvenir shopping. We have put a higher than usual amount into savings since we arrived here
  • Good things that happened: 1) The weather has been delightfully cool this past week, perfect for walking and sleeping at night. It has been a pleasure to go out versus the chore it was when it was hot. It’s still very, very dry though. 2) The frutería down the street had peaches, figs, and mangoes available this past week at ridiculously low prices, and we enjoyed figs with our cheese and crackers this past week and I had peaches on my cereal – yum! The mangoes here are so, so sweet. I didn’t really care all that much for the mango variety available in Hawaii (and they were ridiculously expensive as well), but can’t get enough of the ones available here. 3) The pain in my back is gone! The vertigo remains but is not as bad as it was.
All the figs in this photo cost less than 30 cents. Each one was perfectly ripe, sweet, and a wonderful treat!

After the Supreme Court decisions handed down this past week, all I can say is that the United States that Brett and I knew, served, and trusted is over. Miranda rights are gone. Women’s autonomy has been crushed, and unfettered gun ownership appears to be the greatest right of all. Privacy rights are on the line, with hints (threats?) that contraception, marriage rights, and others will be reexamined in the future. Only Loving v. Virginia seems to be off the table for some reason, interesting because it was decided on the same legal reasoning as Roe v. Wade. Some may be happy about last week’s decisions, but as a country I’m afraid we’re never going to back to some of the freedoms and protections we have enjoyed and to what we thought was normal. Tomorrow’s expected decision is the scary one for me though, the Court’s ruling involving the EPA. Their decision will decide whether the EPA, an executive agency, can issue and enforce an environmental rule that they haven’t yet made or issued; the Court will be ruling on a hypothetical rule that the EPA might issue in the future. This is no longer “calling balls and strikes” or adjudicating a previous case ruling, but ruling on something that hasn’t happened yet and is therefore being done for purely political reasons. That we’ve come to this should scare all Americans because the ramification are enormous.

Sorry to end on such a low note, but that’s the sort of week it’s been. I’m not sure next week is going to be any better, but we still have the power and right to organize and vote (even though that’s sadly being threatened in places as well). In the meantime, I still hope good things happed for everyone in their lives and that more will be coming your way in this next week.

Dining Out Is In Again In San Miguel de Allende

The food was delicious and affordable at this restaurant but we disliked the ambiance. The “drenched burrito” above was $7 USD and so big Brett and I had to share it.

One of the things we love most about traveling is enjoying the cuisines of different places we visit. Although we cook most of our meals “at home” when we’re on the road, no matter where we go we make a point of having enough in our monthly budget to eat out at least once a week.

Our typical monthly allowance for dining out is $150 – $175/month for the two of us. In some places we’ve visited that’s been more than enough to enjoy incredible meals in upscale restaurants, like steak in Argentina or charcroute in France. However, we typically enjoy the adventure of finding lower cost restaurants, and we love dining on street food or specialties from small stands, which help us balance spending more one week with less in other weeks without damaging our budget. For example, in Japan we may go to a restaurant for big bowls of noodles or a tonkatsu (pork cutlet) set one week, then balance that expense the following week or two with stops for karaage (fried chicken) or takoyaki (octopus dumplings) from neighborhood stands that we can bring home and eat. It’s a system that has worked well for us.

Treats are affordable as well: Two cups of hot Mexican cocoa and six freshly made churros for the two of us or four huge scoops of gelato that tasted like we were back in Italy were only $6 USD each.

Our time so far in San Miguel de Allende has turned all that on its head though, and the low cost of eating out here frankly shocked us at first. We quickly discovered we had a choice to make: stay with our once a week eating out and save, or eat out more often and enjoy the variety of dining choices and low prices. The latter choice has won out, and has meant that we’ve sometimes eaten out three times in a week, all without going over our monthly budget. Meals for the two of us, tip included, are rarely over $20, and all the meals we’ve eaten out so far when averaged out come to less than $15. And, for that amount we’ve eaten some pretty terrific food.

Our Father’s Day outing was our most expensive meal yet: $30 USD including tip. However, the food was absolutely delicious and the servings were HUGE. My order came with seven jumbo coconut shrimp (each took four bites to eat) and Brett got enough freshly cooked and shelled crab to feed a family.

We’re constantly surprised by the amount of food we get for our money here and have yet to leave a restaurant not feeling completely full, sometimes to the point where we have no desire to eat the rest of the day. Portions have consistently been large or even huge (for us) and a great value for what we’re spending (unlike back in the U.S. where I usually leave a restaurant feeling like I could have made it myself for less). For the most part we’ve enjoyed the ambience of the restaurants we’ve eaten at and there are a few we hope to visit again before we leave. We’ve had a lot of fun reading reviews and choosing new restaurants we want to try, especially for brunch every Friday. We’ve stayed away from dining out at night not just because of the cost but because I don’t want to be walking on cobblestones in the dark. However, there doesn’t seem to be a price differential between lunch and dinner. We also have yet to try a taco stand or buy tamales from a street vendor, but that’s coming up soon.

We could spend more here if we wanted because there are restaurants that charge a LOT more than what we’re willing to pay. We know though that we don’t have to do that in order to enjoy some very delicious and beautifully presented food. We also know all this culinary goodness will end when we’re back in the U.S. where we’ll once again rarely eat out or even pick up take out. But as long as we’re here in San Miguel de Allende we plan to enjoy ourselves and continue to let others do the cooking a couple of times each week.

Brunch Every Friday: El Pegaso

I chose El Pegaso for our brunch location this week after searching for a place in San Miguel de Allende for chilis rellenos, possibly my favorite Mexican dish. El Pegaso went to the top of the list, not only for their menu selections but because of its location in a convenient, easy-to-walk-to downtown location.

The restaurant seemed full when we arrived, with lots of local and other Mexican families and couples dining. However, we were fortunate that the owner was standing in front chatting with a friend, and he stepped up and asked if we’d mind eating up on the rooftop terrace. We of course said yes! and were soon seated at a table with lovely views.

My bolillo, still warm, disappeared soon after I snapped this picture!

Service was prompt and gracious, and we were first presented with a basket containing warm, fresh bolillos, a sort of French bread roll found all over in Mexico. Brett decided he would have Eggs Benedict this time, and he was again asked how he would like his eggs cooked (soft, medium, or hard), something we’ve never experienced in all our years of ordering Eggs Benedict in the U.S. I asked the waiter if it would be possible to order chilis rellenos, and he suggested I might like to try chilis en nogadas. I had no idea what those were but thought, why not?

El Pegaso’s chilis en nogadas

Chilis en nogadas turned out to be one of the most delicious meals I’ve ever eaten in my life. The dish consisted of two big, roasted poblano chilis which were stuffed with picadillo, a seasoned meat hash made with tomatoes, potatoes, and raisins. The stuffed chilis were covered in a walnut cream sauce, topped with pomegranate seeds, and served on a bed of lettuce at room temperature. The colors of chilis en nogados – red, white, and green – represented the colors of the Mexican flag, and the dish is apparently most popular during late August and early September during Mexican independence festivities (and when pomegranates appear in the markets).

Brett’s beautiful presented and perfectly cooked Eggs Benedict

Brett’s Eggs Benedict were again perfection, and he especially loved the spiced fried potatoes that came along on the side. We stuck to our usual drinks of coffee for Brett, iced tea for me.

Our meal at El Pegaso was our most expensive brunch yet, coming in at $28.02 USD with tip included. The chilis en nogadas alone cost a whopping $13.73 USD. Would I spend that amount again to eat El Pegaso’s chilis en nogadas? Yes and without hesitation – they were that amazing.

EL PEGASO: Corregidora 6, Centro, San Miguel de Allende

Sunday Morning 6/19/2022: Happy Father’s Day!

Some of this past week’s color from our walks through the city. The purple house is my new favorite!

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads out there! This holiday always sort of throws me because I always forget it’s the third Sunday of June versus the second one, like Mother’s Day. Anyway, I knew it was coming up this month so Googled to make sure I got it right. Brett and I are heading out shortly for brunch at Mario’s Mariscos (shrimp), a nearby seafood restaurant we’ve heard nothing but good things about since we’ve been here. It’s a little spendier than some other restaurants we’ve been to, but worth it to spoil Brett a bit on his day.

A week ago I was beginning to wonder if there was something seriously going wrong with my health. I was sluggish and sleepy, and occasionally would have a round of vertigo. Breathing had become difficult at times too. I tested negative for COVID, but Brett and I began to wonder if I should perhaps see a doctor. Then Monday afternoon a big noisy thunderstorm rolled through bringing with it loads of lightening, thunder, rain, and hail. The storm cleaned out the air and also brought along cooler temperatures that have happily hung around . . . and I have felt fine ever since! I’m sleeping more soundly at night, apparently catching up this past week on all the sleep I wasn’t getting while it was so hot. The air is clean and I’m breathing easier again as well (I grew up in Los Angeles County in the 50s and 60s when the smog was at its worst and my lungs were permanently affected; air pollution anywhere can make breathing difficult for me now). Unfortunately, the vertigo is still with me, although not as bad as it was. We’ve been following the weather in Nashville and noted that temperatures this past week have been near 100 degrees with very high humidity – not looking forward to that!

Of course, once one health problem gets solved it seems another pops up. Somehow this past week I strained my back. I have no idea what I did but it has hurt like the dickens and laid me up for a couple of days. It’s one of those parts of your body you don’t think about until it gets hurt and then discover it’s needed to do everything: walking, standing, sitting, turning over in bed, getting out of bed, coughing, etc. I have been giving my back as much rest as possible and it is getting better although it’s still annoying (and painful at times). I learned something new to add to my Need It But Don’t Have It Because We’re Traveling file though: how to make a homemade heating pad out of a dishtowel (fold and microwave for 40 seconds; repeat as necessary). Getting old is not for sissies.

  • What we accomplished this past week: 1) We’ve purposefully enjoyed what’s mostly been a very relaxing week including a couple of full days relaxing in the apartment (because my back hurt so much). 2) I booked our August return flight tickets to Boston, departing from the nearby city of Querétaro versus traveling all the way back to Mexico City. WenYu and her partner will pick us up at the Boston airport so we don’t have to rent a car there. 3) I also reserved our hotel stays (two nights) for our road trip from Boston to Nashville, but still have to choose a hotel in Nashville for our arrival there. 4) We watched the January 6 hearings via streaming each day they were available. 5) I finished a book I didn’t enjoy very much , one that almost became an effort to read (unusual because it was a mystery). I finished it just in time for two books I’ve been waiting for to come off of hold from the library!
He passed us as we walked through Centro on our way to brunch on Friday!
  • What we’re looking forward to next week: 1) We again have no big plans for the coming week other than going out for brunch on Friday and making our weekly trips to the supermarket and the frutería down the street. We may go out to lunch one day, and we’d like to go looking for more fountains, but no decision has been made yet about which part of the city to visit. 2) The J6 hearings so far have been gripping television and well as shocking at times but we’re looking forward to learning more this coming week.
  • The ways we saved: 1) I don’t think we did anything special or out of the ordinary this past week to save but still stayed within our weekly budget. Our daily spending average has already dropped by over 30% compared to May and keeps going down. 2) Besides choosing hotels for our Boston to Nashville trip that came in under our budget, both hotels offer free breakfasts, and one hotel has an evening cocktail & snack buffet which can substitute for dinner. We used the senior discount at both hotels and received an additional discount by signing up for the hotel chains’ rewards programs.
The balcony looks more inviting with the plants our neighbor brought us.
  • Good things that happened: 1) Our lovely neighbor Jenny brought us a couple of plants for our balcony this past week. It looks much fresher and greener now and has become a favorite place for Brett to sit and read. 2) The weather has cooled off, and has stayed cloudy, breezier, and cooler, making a real difference in how both of us feel. 3) I found and bought a beautiful hand-embroidered shirt at a small stall in the Mercado Artesanias, where the woman running the stall did the embroidery (by hand). I can’t remember feeling so good or happy about a clothing purchase. 4) Meiling let us know she will be coming up to WenYu’s place while we’re there for another mini-reunion – we’re so excited to get to see her again!
Mural Of the Week (found outside a vet’s office)

Although they’re charming and add to the character of San Miguel de Allende, I’m finding the cobblestone streets to be frankly problematic at times, and I think they may be one of the things that have contributed to my back problems. In some places where we walked this past week the road has been nothing but uneven rocks stuck in the ground and we’ve had to walk very, very carefully not to trip and fall – there’s no way to maintain a natural gait – and I feel I may have twisted and turned in ways that gradually strained my back. Unfortunately, one of the worst of these streets is right outside our apartment complex so anytime we go out we have to deal with rock walking. Thankfully there are sidewalks through much of the city, but we often have to cross or walk in the street and over these exceptionally rocky streets from time to time. I keep telling myself they’re worth it though, especially when they take me to places and views like these:

Iglesia de San Francisco

We’ve now been in San Miguel de Allende for a month – the time has flown by. We still have seven weeks left in our stay though, and we known there’s still much to see and discover here. Each week though has been a gift, and we continue to look forward to the beauty, knowledge, and surprises that will continue to come our way during the rest of our stay.

San Miguel de Allende: City of Fountains

San Miguel de Allende is a city of fountains. They come in all shapes and sizes, with some still providing water while others are dry. All are a delight to stop and admire, and it’s been exciting to discover new ones.

Though often dry today, the fountains have lost none of their history and charms.  They provided, of course, the water the town was founded around but also locations to provide an opportunity to gossip.  Some of that gossip rippled into international consequences with the notion of gaining freedom from Spain – San Miguel Times.

Below are seven fountains we’ve come across so far (in no particular order), but we’ve learned there are more than 30 fountains all together in the city, so there are many more to discover and we’re actively looking now!

Brunch Every Friday: Lavanda Cafe

After foregoing two weeks of dining at Lavanda (we were too tired to go one week, and they were closed for vacation the next) we finally were able to dine there this past Friday. Often voted the #1 brunch location in San Miguel de Allende, Lavanda (“lavender” in Spanish) proved to be worth the wait.

We’d heard we might have to stand in line outside to get a table, but that may happen only during the high tourist season as we arrived a little after 11:00 a.m. and were seated on the rooftop patio in less than five minutes. The cafe was fairly full though. Once seated, Brett had a view of church roofs and domes over the patio wall, while I looked out on the patio, where we were seated at one of three tables available. Although the sun was shining brightly we were covered by a canvas shade and stayed cool throughout our meal.

Besides offering top-notch dining, Lavanda also offers a large menu of coffee and tea drinks, including some infused with lavender. Brett and I both ordered lavender coffee (I had already had one of their lavender lattes which was very tasty) and we agreed it was the best cup of coffee we’d enjoyed so far in San Miguel de Allende.

Lavender coffee is brewed with lavender, which adds a very, very subtle flavor

When Eggs Benedict appear on any menu, I order them, so what I was having for brunch was a foregone conclusion. My two perfectly poached eggs came topped with a lovely Hollandaise, along with thinly sliced bacon, toasted brioche, steamed spinach, and sliced avocado. Brett chose Eggs Toscano for his meal, two perfectly poached eggs served with fresh mozzarella, sliced tomatoes, fresh basil, and toasted ciabatta bread. If you look closely in the pictures of Brett’s meal it’s possible to see the eggs were poached in a pouch to give them a distinctive look, something we’d never seen before.

Eggs Benedict for me . . .
. . . and Eggs Toscana for Brett!

We rate Lavanda 10 out of 10 with its wonderful service, delicious food and beautiful presentation, all in a lovely setting in which to enjoy it. It did turn out to be our most expensive dining experience so far, $22.24 USD including tip, but worth every penny in our book.

Before we left, we debated whether or not we should buy some of the coffee we had enjoyed with our brunch. However, as we left the restaurant and checked the board when we saw the price, $1450 MEX ($70.91 USD), and we passed. We assumed that was the price per kilo, but how ever much coffee it was at that price, there was no way we were ever going to fit that into our budget. We’ll just have to stop by again and order another drink some day.

LAVANDA CAFE: Calle Doctor Ignacio Hernandez Macias 87, Zona Centro, San Miguel de Allende, 37700, Mexico