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Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Mandarin Salad Incident

You didn't know there could be a story behind a leafy green salad containing nuts and fruit, did you? On my side of the family there are plenty of nuts and fruity folk, so there is also - most definitely - a story.

My sister invited us to dinner years ago and wowed my husband and son with an uncommonly delicious salad.  It was a simple fresh lettuce salad, but it had these divine, crunchy, sweet toasted almonds scattered throughout, plump mandarin oranges, and a subtle dressing that when combined with the nuts and fruit made our taste buds sing. My family raved about my sister's salad for months afterwards. (This salad was as memorable and more edible than my sister's signature Thanksgiving Day WaldorK Salad... that's right... I said WaldorK -  but that's a story for another time.)

 I pestered and needled my sister to provide me with the recipe to the fabulous Mandarin Salad that was so unforgettably tasty. She repeatedly offered to write it down... later. She promised to deliver, but never followed through. After constant nagging and whining from me, she finally caved in and shared the ingredients in detail over the phone. I made sure to run through it twice - double checking for any mistakes. She assured me I had copied it exactly.

My son's birthday was around the corner and he requested the Mandarin Salad as one of his five courses. I make it a point to follow our mother's tradition of creating whatever culinary feast my children want for their birthdays. It is a very special occasion and we make a big deal out of the meal. (The year that Carolyne asked for Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, frozen french fries, and store-bought cupcakes with black plastic spiders atop was not MY idea and nothing I could say would convince her otherwise. Oh well, it was certainly very easy for me!)

I happily whipped up the amazing Mandarin Salad for my sweet son's 10th birthday. When we sat down to eat my son looked at me after taking one bite and said in a tiny, disappointed voice, "Yours isn't as good as Aunt Anna's, Mom. I don't know what you did wrong, but this is NOT the same."
Everyone agreed; it was not as good.

I went back to the recipe and checked every ingredient - every measurement.
Yes, I'm sure I had followed it to a T.
So, I called my sister and complained.

"Mine wasn't as good," I confessed.

"Well, I don't know why not," she replied wryly.

"You did something different," I accused.

"Well, I did not!" she replied in a fake defensive tone.

"Well then... I don't know what I did wrong. Tim really wanted this for his birthday and I made it exactly the way you told me and it sucked."

There was momentary silence on the other end.

"Oh, I didn't know you were making it for Tim's birthday," my sister said sheepishly.

"Yes, I made it for him because he specifically asked for it. In fact, he has begged me to make your stupid salad for months. I thought it would be a treat if I made it for his birthday. I don't know what I could have done wrong," I said irritably.

"Oh, Meri... now I feel horrible!"

Large intake of air. "You left out a step... I knew it!" I squealed.

"Not just a step," my sister admitted, "an ingredient, too."

 It was small and may seem insignificant... but that one excluded ingredient made all the difference in the world in how that salad tasted.

Now why, might you ask, would anyone leave out an ingredient or a step in a recipe? Well, let me tell you... it's so that she can be the only one that makes the salad the best of all! Now, I can understand not sharing a recipe in total with someone you don't like... in fact, that seems plumb reasonable to me. Call it a Southern thing. But to cheat your very own sister and ruin your nephew's birthday dinner? I think the Devil might have a very special hot seat for those kinds of people.

Luckily for me, this same sister is the only one in the family that suffers from EGC - or Extremely Guilty Conscience. So for years following, I tortured her with the memory of the Mandarin Salad Incident and the disappointment that my child suffered at his very own special birthday meal. And it payed off - the desired effect was delightful to me... although, she did finally tell me to "Stuff it!" since I apparently HAD the recipe all along in my West of the Rockies Cookbook and never knew it. Boy, did I feel dumb.

This Mandarin Salad recipe is fairly easy and takes only a few ingredients... ALL of which I will share with you... ALL of which I have found in the larger Mexican grocery stores. It's worth the effort. It is a nice change from the typical garden salad. And now I always get compliments! .

In case you're wondering, I am very close with my sisters and this kind of teasing and prodding is a characteristic of our relationship. When we are together, we laugh like hyenas over our antics and other family members shake their heads hoping that we were, in fact, left on our parent's doorstep as infants and it's not a genetic disorder.



  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Dash pepper
  • 1/4 cup veggie oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • Dash of hot pepper sauce


  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds
  • 3 Tablespoons sugar... (this is the ingredient my sister omitted in case you're wondering. Don't omit! Don't!)
  • 1/2 head iceberg lettuce
  • 1/2 head Romaine lettuce
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 1 (11 oz.) can mandarin oranges, drained
Almond preparation: In a small pan, cook almonds and sugar (don't omit!) over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. The nuts easily burn, so watch carefully... stirring often. When sugar is syrupy, pour coated almonds onto a heat safe plate or wax paper to cool.

Mix lettuces, celery and onion in a salad bowl.

Just before serving, add the almonds and oranges. Toss gently with dressing.

To save time, you can mix the dressing well in advance and chill AND you can prepare the almonds and keep in plastic baggie or sealed container until ready to use.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mazatlan Aquarium

Carolyne was kissed by this handsome bull,
but they were both too fast for my camera!
Nursing Jim is not a full time job... unless you ask him.  Regardless, on Saturday Tim hopped a bus to the Old Harbor to play computer games with Jason. I slipped away with Carolyne and we met up with Lori and Amy from Third Day to enjoy a morning at the Mazatlan Aquarium. Jim stayed home and nursed his scar, ate the lunch I left for him and probably sang the Blues. It's okay... I made sure he had plenty of pain meds before I left him alone. In reality, he probably enjoyed the peace and quiet and only cursed me when he couldn't reach for something easily. Moving around these days is a very slow and painful process for my husband.

The Mazatlan Aquarium was completely worth the trip. The aquarium portion of the park is fairly small, but with amazing and interesting collections of colorful marine life, shells and whale bones. The outdoor gardens and paths are thick with flowering trees, plants and goldfish ponds . Tropical bird aviaries are homes to a variety of macaws, parrots and other biting birds... I didn't want to be that close to their beaks, personally. And I suppose because we are typical Americans our favorites were the seal and parrot shows. The price? It cost Carolyne and I less than $6 USD each.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jim's Surgery and the Fake Nurse's 20 Step Program

It's over with. Jim had his out-patient surgery and he is currently on the mend. I'm thinking maybe I need another solo trip to Guanajuato. Just kidding.

We scheduled a surgery date with the Urologist we had heard rave reviews about in Mazatlan, Dr. Aduelo. He speaks beautiful English and had just returned from the U2 concert in Mexico City. He said even his Lady Gaga loving kids thought that U2 and the spectacle surrounding the event ROCKED! Pretty cool. Dr. Aduelo suggested that Jim come in the very next morning for his cyst amputation. Yes, this was an amputation... not just an extraction. The difference is about 5 cm. In other words, the cyst was very large. Since Jim decided he needed mental time to prepare, the surgery was scheduled for... the day after. Wow.

Dr. Aduelo suggested that we use the Hospital Clinica del Mar. He rents space from the hospital and it is cheaper than Sharp's Hospital, the expat favorite. The facilities were clean, professional, and tranquil. The surgery took about an hour.

The doctor prescribed medication prior and I had gone to the pharmacy to pay for them and pick them up. One drug, Mobic, was an injection ampule. It was Jim's pain meds. Very necessary. Never mind that I have never given an injection in my life.  No biggie... I watched a YouTube video on how to bestow his "happy place" cocktail. I was now a real fake nurse. My theatre degree has taken on a new meaning.

How I learned  to administer an IM injection for fake nurses... (real nursy talk for "shot in the butt"):
  1. Break glass head off ampule (glass vial); suck serum from ampule into the syringe by pulling plunger up.
  2. Make sure all air is out of syringe by thumping syringe with middle finger.
  3. Squish plunger down a bit to ensure any baby bubbles are removed; meds squirt out a tad.
  4. Draw an imaginary cross on bun - Hot Cross Buns.
  5. Pick a spot on the right upper quadrant of Hot Cross Buns.
  6. Take alcohol saturated cotton pad and swirl around on right upper quadrant part of bun to sterilize poking area.
  7. Smile sweetly and tell patient to relax.
  8. Take butt skin between thumb and index finger of left hand and pull tight.
  9. Make sure bevel (or hole) on needle is poking up.
  10. Tell patient to relax.
  11. Jab needle down at 90* angle (needle points to Hell) in the taut skin between thumb and index finger.
  12. Tell patient to relax.
  13. Pull plunger on syringe up a bit. (This is called 'aspirating' in nursy language). If you see blood enter the syringe you are in a vein and the fake nurse should rapidly withdraw the syringe, abandon  the procedure, and have a strong alcoholic beverage. If you do NOT see blood, the fake nurse may proceed.  
  14. Slowly push the plunger down. Don't wiggle because your husband patient will might complain. Keep as still as possible, even if your hands are shaking violently because you have never done this before.
  15. Tell your patient to relax.
  16. Once medicine has entered butt area completely, withdraw needle rapidly.
  17. Put alcohol soaked cotton pad on hole left in bun and push down (hard if your patient is still complaining) to stop bleeding.
  18. BandAid.
  19. Kiss.
  20. Strong alcoholic beverage for fake nurse; patient can't have any due to antibiotics.
Jim's last injection was today and this fake nurse is SO happy!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


We've studied it for homeshool. The great Galapagos and the swimming marine iguanas.
What we didn't know was that iguanas also dive and swim in the channel in Mazatlan. It's true.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

April Cruising Expenses for Three Years

For the month of April, we stayed in a marina most of  the month, paid for fuel, bought parts, had the engine aligned, bought a used storm sail and had fore-stay built to handle the storm sail. Can you say BROKE THE BUDGET????

We found out that Marina La Cruz takes credit cards and charges them in US dollars, so no ridiculous "out of country" fees... which I refuse to pay to the blood sucking credit card company. We carry a credit card solely for the purpose of NOT carrying large amounts of cash. If you're thinking about cruising in the future, you might consider taking credit cards that don't charge international fees to use them AND that you can use in the foreign ATM's.

Speaking of cash and ATMs, due to our trans-exit time falling during Semana Santa (the Easter week preceding Easter), cash machines were limiting the amount of cash you could pull out daily from the ATMs. Thus, the credit card came in real handy. Next month when we pay it you shall see the cruising kitty damage that we incurred. It's not pretty... but neither is this month.

Keep in mind when you are looking at the  2009 numbers that we began calculating our expenses after provisioning and outfitting the boat fully for a year long cruise. Our boat was a 35' Cal Cruiser. In 2009, we spent $16,761.25USD, including a haul in/out, bottom paint job, new Engle freezer, and three road trips to the USA. To get a full overview of the year, you can go to:

For 2010, we sold our 35' Cal and bought a 41' Tartan TOCK in Mazatlan... 'fixer upper' is a mild way of putting it. We bought it for a good price, but spent 5 months in a marina repairing her. So, our numbers for 2010 are a bit whacked. But it goes to show you what buying a boat and outfitting it for cruising can cost you. Keep in mind that we're cheap.

In 2010, our expenses ran $41,943.02USD. (This number does not include the purchase of HOTSPUR or the sale of WINDFALL) Our rebuild cost alone was $10,341.20USD. Boat equipment was $8,131.31. And, we were living aboard her for the entire time. Had we not had the equipment costs and the re-build costs, our year-end for 2010 aboard the bigger boat HOTSPUR would have been substantially less: $23,470.51. To see a full overview of 2010 expenses, go to:


2009 - USD20102011

Groceries            $379.56  $683.7$566.53
Boat Hardware       $18.49$190.49$20.08
Transportation          $177$49.51$47.28
Dining Out/Tips     $76.76$213.28$123.58
Internet/Skype          $35$10$43.86
Tourism                $30.77
Laundry                      $22$22.14$60.35
Mail                            $40
Clothing              $101.22$84.47
Extra Tips                        $25$15
Marina/Mooring    $125.52$1,367.24
Education                  $13$43.86
Insurance/Tax          $150$195$195
Computer Hosting         $49.95
Booze                              99.34$188.33
Medical                   $3.20 $28.43$224.74
Boat Repair                      $1,583.18$740.35
Gifts                              $30.57$57.01
Dinghy Dock                  
Boat Fuel                      $382.79
Propane                          $15
Boat Equipment    $811.85$24.59$550
Fabric/Crafts                     $40$11.40
MISC                              $168.87$18.93

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

The Little Things in Life

What to talk about...
What to talk about...
What to talk about when you're NOT cruising...

Jim is better. His case of hives finally tamed and then disappeared. Unfortunately, he wore the back scratcher down to a fine point. Now we'll have to "stab" our future backside itches away. His surgery is slated for the end of the month. I had a funny blog post written up about his cyst, but I asked him to read it before I posted it and he nixed it. When I asked him why he said he didn't "like me making fun of him." Now he tells me.

The kids are doing school work. They are always eating. It could be a sign of growth. Could be.

And Marina Mazatlan now has a new full size grocery store just a stone's throw away from our dock. It's not as big as Mega or Sorianas, but it is so wonderfully convenient that we won't have to go further than our own back yard unless we need to provision for a trip... which is nothing more than a fuzzy dream at this point.  And even then, to go anywhere else for provisioning would be just to save a few pennies, as I think the new market is just a squidgen more than say- Sorianas. It is a convenient jaunt also from the Fonatur-Singlar Marina, too.

Santa Fe is the name of the chain. Fresh produce, dairy, meat, dry goods, beer & wine, and even a bakery are available to its patrons. This may not seem like such a big deal to anyone who has never caught the bus every other day to the large grocery store, hauling loads of food back on the bus for children to wait home with their mouths wide open, and then STILL forgetting at least one ingredient needed for dinner that night... but to me this is heaven. I can even send the kids. And our refrigerator doesn't have to be busting at the seams all the time either. There is absolutely no need to buy what we won't eat in the next two days.

Lori perusing the frozen food section.
Wow, I really came up with something to talk about. And it wasn't that hard. So, is it that I'm an optimist (make lemonade, cup half full, peddling Panglossian poop) or is it just that I am easily amused (simply a simpleton)? Because I'd like to believe that I am complex, we'll just stick with:
d. all of the above.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Jim's Condition and Change of Plans

I would love to tell you that we're sailing Mexico, discovering new and uncharted islands... but we're not. We're still in Mazatlan. Looks like we may stay here for quite some while.

Jim has a wicked case of hives, probably from the antibiotic he was taking. He's so uncomfortable that he's going to wear the back scratcher out. And we're not going anywhere anytime soon because Jim will need minor surgery. I repeat... minor. Out-patient. Not serious. To remove a cyst. So,... if you thought "Man Cold" was bad? Don't know about "Man Cold"? If you haven't seen it, you must. Here's the You Tube Link:

It was not our intention to spend the summer in Mazatlan, but it looks like we may take advantage of Marina Mazatlan's 24 cent per foot per month rate for the duration. Maybe we can rent a house inland for the months of August and September. Guanajuato is appealing to me. Getting the kids enrolled in language school is a priority. Gotta run - we're headed to the marina today.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Cruising Dream Requires Recipe for Cream Puffs

Cream Puff Recipe - originally from Laura s/v JAM and then adapted by Meri s/v Hotspur
 - Makes 9 standard puffs or 20 or so mini-puffs
  • 2 (3.5 ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix (I use chocolate)

  • 2 cups heavy cream (Media Crema if you're in Mexico)

  • 1 cup milk (do NOT use powdered; I know from experience!)

  • PUFF
  • 1/2 cup butter

  • 1 cup water

  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 4 eggs

    Powdered sugar sprinkled atop or melted chocolate chips drizzled on top.


    1. Mix together instant pudding mix, cream and milk. Cover and refrigerate to set.
    2. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C). (Laura's recipe says 400* but my boat oven does best and cooks faster on 425*)
    3. In a large pot, bring water and butter to a rolling boil. Using a wooden spoon, stir in salt and then flour... mixing rapidly until the mixture forms a ball and is no longer sticking to sides of pan.
    4. Using same wooden spoon, beat in the eggs one at a time, mixing rapidly after each so that egg doesn't cook in pan.
    5. Let cool for 15 minutes.
    6. Drop by 1/4 cups (Or by Tablespoon for mini-puffs) onto an lightly-greased baking sheet.
    7. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown. Centers should be dry.
    8. When the shells are still warm, split with knife and fill with the pudding mixture.
    9. Sprinkle or drizzle topping.