Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Hurricane Prep

One of the things we do have to deal with down in the Baja is the real threat of hurricanes. While we were building our casita the number one issue that Bill wanted addressed at every part of the build was "where will the water flow?" In our palapa this was especially important as we didn't want the floor to be completely level, but to gently slope out. We were lucky that we had a little storm come through as we were building the additional palapa connecting the main palapa to our house, and saw that, not only were there leaks around that addition, but there was standing water in front of the kitchen sink. We had them tear out that portion of concrete and redo it so the water would flow. Now that we've had our first big storm of the summer we are anxious to hear/see how it fared. Our friend, Monze, is keeping an eye on our place while we're gone and I have an email out to her to get a report.

Our hurricane preparations included sinking a portable water storage (tinaca or pila) into the ground and hooking it up to the city water and our house. It has a pump and will refill automatically; we can get water for our entire home as usual if the city water is shut off, albeit with some major conservation as it's only 1100 liters (~300 gallons). In addition to this we purchased a 7000 watt generator and installed a direct hook-up to our home so we can run our whole house, including one air conditioner if we do not have electricity. We also purchased several gas cans and filled them up with an additive for fuel storage. Unfortunately we realized a little late in the game that it would have been wiser to purchase a dual propane/gas generator instead of just gas, but eventually we will switch this out. For now we've tested everything and it seems to work just fine.

Top right corner you can see the pipe for the water that is flowing into the pila.

In addition to the above we had covers made for all of our appliances in the palapa. Eduardo who has a little open-air shop down the street from us came over and measured, several times, and made us fabulous water proof covers for our fridge, stove, washing machine, island and sofa - which, was too large to get through the door of our casita to store.

Fridge cover complete with a zipper down the middle so we
can get inside if we're there during a storm.

Washing machine

Cabinet - he did a great job on this - the corners are gathered to fit tighter and
he made a flap that goes over the wall, which we have tied down
to a cinder block to prevent "flapping"

You can see the sofa and island covers here. He made gathers to go around the feet of the island and Wayne
told us to put it and the sofa up on cinder blocks. The sofa also has a large piece that comes
from the back and goes underneath and velcros completely around the front and sides.
We covered everything we could with tarps and sand bags.
And last, but certainly not least, we had wooden shutters made to go on all of the windows, except our sliding glass door which has permanent metal bifold doors that can lock from the inside or outside, in case we are there during a storm.

Our friends, Mandy & Jasper, had similar shutters made and we admired them so much we
had Sr. Gabriel make us one too! Eventually we'd like to have these on all of our windows. 

Michael made these shutters for our windows, they are a blank slate for some murals, me thinks!

We were advised the importance of "being there" our first summer to see exactly what happens with our property during a big storm, but we had to get up here and clean out our storage unit and spend some time with my grandson, which took precedence. Next summer we will stay at home and are really looking forward to it.

This year we stayed until the end of July, which is the latest we have ever stayed. Last year we left the first week in June. The town really empties out and just has this peaceful buzz to it that we loved. It got hot, for sure, but we'd find ourselves at the beach most afternoons and it was delightful.

Sarah and I at the violins for kids fundraiser

Hanging on the beach with Suzanne

Blas always "makes a good picture"

The gang all hanging out at the beach - Sasha, Monze, Suzanne, Sarah, Bill and moi

Monday, August 8, 2016


Well we did it....built our little casita in about 4 months! We moved in at the end of March, right smack dab in the middle of tax season. Unfortunately, I got a really bad bug that was going around and was laid up for 2 weeks right at the end of our move. The kitchen was all unpacked but Bill had to do the majority of the moving himself, especially the clean up of our old place. But we made it through and almost immediately we were both commenting to each other how much we LOVED our little spot of heaven! A few months later and we are still saying that. It fits us perfectly and when the weather got hot and sticky we had a super comfy chill space. I was even doing my batch cooking outside in the palapa in 90 degree heat, but with the fans and breeze it was ok.

Towards the end...no doors yet and the wall isn't finished

Looking at the outdoor palapa kitchen & family room from the casita.


Entrance to the casita with the storm shutters.

Front door

Itty Bitty Paint Brush party to paint the gate.

Just one of our fabulous sunsets, oh and check out the purple we painted on the gate.

Comfy chairs and TV!!

Farewell dinner by Sasha at Caffe Encinalito

El baño

A peak into the shower

Utility room.

Garden beds all ready for planting
Digging the hole for the tinaca (back-up water tank)
Many of these beach days with Mike and Cathy

We are now in the USA, spent a little time in LA with my adorable grandson, Justice, and hung out with our friend Susan in Marina del Rey. Bummed I didn't snap one pic of Susan the entire time we were there. But she did join us for this sushi dinner - not exactly relaxing with an 8 month old, but super fun!

Justice flying through the air from one parent to another!

On our way north we stopped to spend a few days with friends, Peace Blossom & Cuco Man in their new home in Scotts Valley (Santa Cruz). They invited our friends over to hang out and it was so great to see hasher/burners Pix, PT, Lumina & Griffin. 

On the streets of Santa Cruz

 We spent the last week in Nevada City pet-sitting for Chris & Christina, Baja friends. We absolutely love it here - got a free week at the gym, hit the farmer's market and went to my first "Dead Revival!" I could live here in a minute - we will be coming back to pet-sit again for 3 weeks in September.

Out for Thai 
Bill photobombing his doppleganger, Chris (who's house we are at)

Next we head up the hill for a couple weeks in Tahoe where we'll be working hard to clear out our storage unit, oh joy! But I'll get to see my son and our friends, and just being in Tahoe is the best 

OK one more of Justice!

Monday, February 1, 2016

Building at warp speed

This is all pretty darn exciting, and being here beats Bill Face-timing me with video to see what progress was being made - although that was pretty awesome, considering he was down here in Mexico and I was in the states! Every day we are at the lot, sometimes 2 or 3 times a day and there are ALWAYS questions for us and decisions for us to make....again, mostly in a foreign language!!

East side of the Casita - "the front"

The roof!

West side of the Casita - "the back"

Most of January the casita roof was drying with supports inside holding it all up. The electrical was being done in the casita and the palapa, but the majority of work was happening in the palapa. We had to finalize where we wanted all of the appliances and counters. I was super nervous about the measurements for the appliances which we had purchased back in November, as once the concrete is poured it's quite a mess to change things. Mexico has adopted the U.S. Black Friday sales to bolster their economy and luckily we found out about it in the nick of time. Bill frequents a little shop in town called Fayla's - he's quite friendly with the owner Estolfo and stops in for a sample of his latest tequila every now and then and to chat it up a bit. I guess Bill was telling him about the house and he told us that the very next day the big, once a year, sales weekend was starting all over Mexico - it's called "El Buen Fin." I told our friends Cathy and Mike about it, since they are also building, and the four of us took a drive into Cabo to hit up Home Depot and see what was what. Boy did we get lucky! We saved a ton of money and bought our refrigerator and stove at Home Depot. At Costco we bought a washing machine and a couple of rocker/recliners for our office area. The Home Depot delivery fee was $95 but we found out we could split it with our friends since they would be delivering to our storage units which were right next to each other. Cathy and Mike had secured a storage unit in town to have a place to store things they were buying for the house. We followed suit and it's been great having a place to put things when we find a good deal. We've been frequenting the consignment stores in Cabo as well, and purchased a fun couch and coffee table for the palapa area.

I was a little concerned that our Home Depot stuff would actually make it to us in Los Barriles. Delivery was supposed to take place in about 10 days but 3 days later I received a call that the truck was on it's way and should be there around 3:30. I had an appointment but let everyone know and Cathy, Mike and Bill headed up to the storage unit to await the delivery. After about 2 hours of waiting and no truck, I called again and found out they were indeed on their way. One of the little problems, though, was that this storage unit, like many things in Mexico, was difficult to find. I told them it was across the street from the Pemex station (gas station) on the left, and after the 2nd tope (speed bump) you turn right, just before the Baja Cactus taco stand...go down a little alley and we would meet them there. Again, this is in broken English and Spanish. The gang went up to wait at the restaurant to get refreshments and waited, and waited, and waited. At dusk they finally went home. Once it was pitch black around 6:45 I got a call in Spanish that the truck was in town, at the bank, and they couldn't find the storage unit. Cathy and Bill zoomed up to meet them on the quad - at the bank and directed them to the storage unit, and guess what? All our stuff was on the truck, woo hoo!!

A field trip was scheduled with Pilar (our builder) and Leo, the artisan who was heading up all the work in the palapa, to go up to the storage unit and take some good measurements. Phew - that was a relief for me as I didn't want to be the one responsible for screwing that up!

Sink is on the right and there will be a cabinet under the counter on the left

The open area is where the washing machine will go - YES, in the kitchen!

Space on the right is for the oven/stove

The masters Leo & Martine!

We were originally told the house would be built in 3 months - neither of us believed this, 
but these guys are working 6 days a week and it just may happen!

Monday, January 25, 2016

Building on the fly....

When one normally builds a home there is an architect involved and plans are drawn up and worked and reworked, but we are anything but normal! We were looking to build a tiny house for the least amount of money possible so this does entail a bit more creativity, so to speak. Pilar took my pencil drawings to an engineer in La Paz, the capital of Baja Sur, and we got a set of engineer's drawings with which to obtain a permit, also done in La Paz. This can also be done in Los Barriles, but it’s cheaper to go right to the source. Pilar requested permits for the casita, the palapa and the wall that will go around the house on the street sides. Wayne recommended we go with Benjamin to build our palapa, he is the brother of Cheppie, one of the primo palapa builders in town. He made us a great deal with the Polynesian weave that is wrapped – Bill’s choice! Before the permits were received they started working on the rebar, which forms the foundation of the casita and Benjamin started bringing supplies over for the palapa.

Rebar for the foundation

Laying the foundation - everything dug by hand

Wayne and Bill with the palapa support poles

It was about this time that I left for 3 weeks to go to L.A. to await the arrival of my first grandchild. Bill was left in charge and because we had no real formal plans there were many decisions to be made on a daily basis. Where the electrical outlets would be, the actual design of the bathroom, the closet, if we wanted 1 or 2 tv’s and 1 or 2 split a/c units. We enlarged the bathroom window and added another window to the front of the house for air flow. And because of the language barrier there were many times when he wasn’t quite sure that everyone really understood each other, which is kind of important when building a house.

Building a cement roof in Mexico takes on the same significance as a barn raising, I guess, and Wayne let Bill know that the next day he should come with a cooler of beer (soda and snacks for the crew) and a chair to experience it. Unfortunately by the time Bill got organized and got over there the roof had been poured! This crew we have is amazing! They are there early, they stay late, and they work weekends! Several people mentioned to me that although everything looked like it was moving fast I should prepare myself for the 2-4 weeks of holiday time that all Mexican’s take in December. Well, not our crew, they were working December 24th until it was dark! They did take that weekend off, but were right back to work on the following Monday.

The palapa was complete before I came home and from the pics I thought it looked great, although a bit smaller than I expected. Bill wasn’t thrilled with the workmanship – but everyone who has seen it likes it. The stain on the support poles is a little darker than we thought it would be, but it looks really good.

Already providing some nice shade for one of the worker's cars.

By the time I got home on December 23rd the roof had been poured and the palapa was done!