Saturday, July 31, 2010

CSN Does It Again! CSN Stores GC Giveaway Coming Soon!

I have to admit, I was super excited when I was contacted by CSN Stores and they offered me to review a product, such as a coffee maker or other household item from one of their 200+ stores.

But, I KNOW that my readers are as fond of CSN Stores as I am-and it would be totally selfish of me to want to keep that all to myself, lol. So while I have been fighting a very nasty virus on my computer and waiting for my first paycheck so I can send out all the prizes from my own giveaways these past few weeks, I thought I would give you all the heads up about another giveaway for you coming later this week.

Hoping all my readers have a great week, and stay tuned for the giveaway coming up!

Friday, July 30, 2010

When the Cows Come Home...

While we were in Guatemala, we stayed in the city mostly-albeit on the outskirts of the city. Just a couple of streets over, there was the busy Ruta Atlantico, a major highway that runs through most of the city with thousands of cars and buses passing by daily.

From the roof of our relatives house, we could hear the shouts of the Ayudantes (basically the driver's helper, they collect fares, load cargo and let people know where the bus is headed) as they shouted out the bus routes and let prospective riders know there was plenty of roof left to hitch a ride. To them, plenty of room left often means standing room only with your body pressed against complete strangers-although I did see a few young men hanging precariously out the side and back doors at times too.

We could also hear the loud grinding noise of the brakes-which sound unlike the typical brakes squealing you hear in the States. Yes, they still have those brakes too, but apparently this is "los frenos del motor" (brakes that have something to do with the motor I guess) that make a very loud noise which, I will admit, startled me for the first few times as I honestly thought that old, retired US schoolbus was going to self-destruct because it sounded so loud and terrible.

If we walk up the hill, and turn a corner, we arrive on the Ruta Atlantico. Not very far at all, and the area is often busy with small restaurants, street vendors of food and pirated CD's or DVD's and people wandering around buying their food at the market for the day. When I suggested stockpiling food for emergency to my mother in law, she actually looked at me like I was nuts. In Guatemala, most people buy their food for the day only. While that is wonderful and all, because it is most likely fresh-in case of emergencies or extreme weather conditions it makes it quite difficult since people just don't have food readily available all the time. I suspect most of it has to do with economic reasons-people who are poor can probably only afford to buy that day's food rather than buy a week's worth in one shot. I do give my husband's family credit though, they do actually stockpile beans and corn and buy a year's worth at a time.

Considering how very close they live to the busy highway, I was shocked to turn the corner and head down the hill one day and find the cow pictured above grazing in the grass next to the church where we had my daughter baptized. I don't know who the cow belongs to, but there are several of them that apparently don't stray very far from home, and they let them loose in the neighborhood to graze on the grass and act as the community lawnmower I guess. I thought it was pretty funny, and had to stop to take a couple of quick photos.

Even though this is on the outskirts of the city, and houses are pretty darn close together-the sounds of a rooster crowing at 4 am is not unheard of. As a matter of fact, I begged my hubby to have his mom cook us some fresh chicken using the rooster from across the street who woke me up at the crack of dawn daily. Goats, cows, chickens and roosters blend into the landscape there and seeing them in the city is about as normal as seeing a woman pull out her breast and breast feed her child in full view of everyone. Even if said child is about 3 and should have been weaned long ago. But that, my folks, is another story!

So if you visit Guatemala City in the near future, be prepared for a moo moo here and a cluck cluck there-as it is all perfectly normal! (I will say that some US cities have ordinances which permit chickens and roosters within city limits, there are a few in Maine that do, which I think is pretty cool because having fresh eggs is definitely a plus!)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Black & Decker 18 Volt Cordless Pivot Vac Review

While I was in Guatemala, housework was the last thing on my mind. Sure, I knew I would be coming home to a HUGE mess after leaving teenagers in charge. For the most part, I was correct.

When I was asked to review the Black & Decker 18 Volt Cordless Pivot Vac, I have to admit I was excited. I personally have owned many Black & Decker items over the years and have always been pleased with the quality and durability of their products. I'll be honest, one of my first Black & Decker items in the late 80's early 90's was a Dustbuster that looked exactly like the one in the photo above. I can remember recharging it every night, and using it on a daily basis for quick touch-ups. It was great for vacuuming up pet hair, dry cat food, or even my infant son's spilled Cheerios.

Flash forward a few years and Black and Decker is still making these hand held cordless vacs. The box arrived the day we came back from our trip. It must have been Fate, lol. I have to admit, even though I was extremely curious, I was also suffering serious jet lag and was in no way wanting to start cleaning house.

Finally, by the weekend, my curiosity got the best of me and I had to check it out. The first thing I noticed was that it was heavier than my old Dustbuster. I was a little concerned that my arm would tire out faster using a heavier machine, but it really wasn't that bad at all. I've had multiple surgeries on my right arm, so it tends to tire more easily if I am carrying something heavy, doing a super scrubbing job, or overuse it cleaning or on the computer. My arm did get a little tired out vacuuming out the car, but that was because I didn't stop to take a break and probably should have. Hubby used it easily to finish my car and then go on to his own, all while ooohing and aaahing about how great this vacuum gets into nooks, crannies, and crevices.

The tip is much narrower than the old Dustbuster, so I was able to get into smaller spaces. And the dirt compartment was easy to empty, plus it was clear so I could see right into it. I am still missing my diamond anniversary band from a few years ago, somehow I think it ended up on the floor and got pushed into a corner, and was finally vacuumed up in the process. I must have searched everywhere for that thing, but realized I might have tossed it out when I tossed out the full vacuum bags that my machine uses. With the Black & Decker 18 Volt Cordless Pivot Vac I can actually SEE what I have vacuumed up, so no more $500 wedding bands going into the garbage can.

To me, a vacuum is not a vacuum unless it has sufficient suction, or SS as I call it. Hubby thinks I am nuts, but if it doesn't pass the suction test then it doesn't stay-period. If you have ever tried to vacuum up cat hair embedded into upholstery you will know what I mean. My cats like to lounge on the back of my sofa, and since they are members of the family, I let them sit there and gaze out the windows. But when you have friends coming over, you certainly don't want to have them go home covered in cat hair. Using this Cordless Pivot Vac, I was able to vacuum up all the fur on the sofa without a problem. I don't find the vacuum very loud either, hubby works nights and sleeps during the day. I was able to vacuum in the next room over and he didn't wake up, which was pretty good considering my other vacuum makes a noise similar to jet engines readying for takeoff.

In addition to doing a great job, I like the fact that it folds in half for convenient storage and has 3 stage filtration which keeps the dust from going into the air. One thing about cleaning that I hate is the dust. I am allergic to dust mites and often end up cleaning a little bit and having to stop and take a Claritin to continue because if I don't I end up a weeping, sneezing mess. Included with my cordless vac was a crevice tool and upholstery brush, and the great thing is that the filter can be cleaned in my dishwasher!

Overall, my opinion on the Black & Decker 18 Volt Cordless Pivot Vac is that it really is a great product. The Dustbuster has evolved, and come a long way since I first had one back in the 80's. The only drawback for me personally, due to my arm injuries, is the weight of the hand vac. But for someone who doesn't have hand or arm issues like I do, I don't see any problem. This is a great little machine to have on hand for quick touch ups or daily use between regular vacuuming. I tend to vacuum once or twice a week, and this has really helped cut down on the dust and dirt if I use it daily in between regular vacuuming. Plus, with its narrow edge I am able to get into tighter spaces than my big vacuum can-and able to do a better job cleaning. As far as the price goes, I've seen them in the range of $55-70 depending on where you shop. While not cheap, it is well worth the money spent in time saved cleaning and the great job it does. It works as well as my full sized machine, but I have the added benefit of not having to worry about a cord to plug in, and I love the fact that it is so portable and can go anywhere. It really is what I consider an essential household helper and doesn't disappoint in any way. Thanks to Black & Decker for giving me the opportunity to review such a great product!

*note, I had some photos of hubby at work cleaning the stairs and the car with this awesome vac but the virus on my computer is not allowing my camera to load any more pics on it, saying it does not recognize the drive. Rather than use my own pics (which I prefer to do) I am going to use photos from the Black & Decker website so I don't hold up this review further!

Disclosure: I was provided with a Black & Decker Cordless Pivot Vac free of charge for the purpose of reviewing the product. All of the opinions above are my own, based upon my usage of the product in my home during the last several weeks and my current and prior experience as a consumer of Black & Decker products.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Ice Cream and DripStik to the Rescue!

It's so hot here in the Northeast that every day has become ice cream day, lol! We took my daughter to Friendly's recently and she brought along her DripStik that she uses when the ice cream melts faster than she can eat it. I will tell you, if you have kids and don't want them to get messy with ice cream dripping all over them, their clothing, and your car, house or whatever, these DripStiks are great! Enjoy your Sunday everyone!

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Oh, my Aching Head!

I have had a migraine now for the last few days... and to be honest, the last thing I wanted to do was stare at the computer all night after I'd been on it all day at work.
Usually, when I get a migraine, I can pop a Fioricet or two and it's gone-but there are a couple of times a year where the pills just take the edge off the migraine, but it still lingers, and comes back in the morning with a vengeance... I am pretty sure that this is one of those times.

Unfortunately, the treatment for that is an IV in the hospital. A dark room, cold facecloth on my head, and some sort of drug cocktail flowing through my veins usually gets the job done. I am going to hold off for as long as possible-and I have tons of housework to do in addition to reviews etc... The past 2 days, I haven't even been able to drive, hubby has had to bring me to work. Yesterday he left me the car, and I drove myself home (I don't live far) but my vision was pretty impaired, so don't want to drive again until I can be sure that this thing is gone.

I just woke up about a half hour ago, I thought maybe the lack of sleep this past week and adjusting from layoff schedule to work schedule was my problem. So I am going to relax and do some more laundry and take a nap when my eyes get tired from being on the computer. Wishing you all a great weekend, hope to have more posts up over the weekend!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Guatemalan Headgear

During my time in Central America, I noticed many men (especially those in the pueblos) with sombreros. The younger teenagers ( AKA: hubby's nephews) however prefer baseball caps instead of the traditional sombrero.

Women, however, have a whole different thing going on. And that, my folks is where I would fail miserably. In the market, on the busy street, you name it-I saw Guatemalan women wearing baskets or bags or big old plastic dishes on their heads. The contents were varied, it could be fruits, hot tortillas, masa for the tortillas, groceries, whatever.

My sense of balance is already pretty bad. I can trip over my own two feet at times and the contents of said headgear would be toast. I observed my mother in law one day preparing to go out with one of these contraptions on her head. In her case, it was a HUGE plastic bowl filled with what I thought were white beans that had been soaking in water for hours. (hubby just laughed, because it was actually corn that was going to be made into masa for the tortillas) I didn't want to be rude and take a photo of her, so snapped shots in the city of other women carrying similar cargo on their heads.

I watched intently as she wrapped what looked like a long piece of cloth into a perfect circle and placed it on her head, and then put the huge bowl on top of that. I thought for sure the minute she moved those "white beans" were gonna spill out all over the floor, and my mouth opened wide in amazement as she took off walking at a pretty good clip, up the hill to her other daughter's house so they could prepare the masa.

Jose assured me that she's been doing this for years, and has never dropped anything as far as he knew. I was kind of doubtful, because the woman had broken at least 9 glasses in the time I had been there. ( FYI, the day before I left, a particularly sharp shard of glass jumped up off the floor and embedded itself in my leg- as I pulled it out and tried to stop the bleeding, I jokingly told her I was gonna go home and tell everyone my mother in law tried to stab me --not one to be outdone, my father in law chimed in "And make sure you tell them it was with a cuchillo" aka knife, lol)

So off went my mother in law, and during my time there I never saw her drop anything from her head-she asked me if I wanted to try it, but I had visions of impending migraines and the day's tortillas finding their way to the floor. After the pila spitting incident, I wanted to remain on her good side-so I politely declined.

I know in other countries, women also do this. I wonder why we don't do this here... I can see it now-women in the produce department at the local grocery store stuffing items into their reusable shopping bags and then balancing it on their heads... heck, if you don't have room for that bag of rice in your cart, just stick it on your noggin. Maybe I will try it with a bag of rice at the supermarket-just to observe the onlookers and see the reaction I will get, lol.

Next time I'm in Guatemala, I am gonna try it. Maybe not with a huge bowl of masa, but I'll start with something small. Like a couple of melons from the market. I promise I will take pics... lol... as they say, when in Rome...

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Guatemalan Architechture Photos

Thought I would leave you today with some photos we took of buildings in both Antigua, Guatemala and Guatemala City, Guatemala. Enjoy!~

Monday, July 19, 2010

Oops! I did it again... Washing in Guatemala

No, I am not talking about a song Britney sang a few years back. I am talking about Pilas here. Ok, now you wanna know what a pila is. Well, they have public pilas and there are also pilas in quite a few Guatemalan households. My mother in law's included.

Public pilas, like the one pictured above in Pastores, Guatemala are kind of like a public laundromat. The women bring clothes that need washing to the pila, and wash their clothes along with other women in the village. Not everyone has running water at home, so these community pilas are a big help to those that need to wash clothing, dishes, etc... The signs on the community pila pretty much say not to waste the water, etc...

Now the soap that they use to wash with is nasty. Well, maybe not all the soap they use, I am just saying from experiences that I had at my mother in law's house. They have little bags of powdered stuff and these rounded bars of soap (no wonderful scents, and they actually feel yucky in your hands and leave a residue, echhh!)and they use this soap for a multitude of things-to wash clothing, to wash dishes, and to wash your hands. When I first got there, and had to wash my hands using that stuff it was just plain yucky. I actually wish I had gone to the dollar store before I left for some Softsoap to wash my hands with but I will be prepared for next time I go.

One thing I noticed-the pila has 3 basins. One basin is for washing dishes, the other is for washing clothing. The middle basin is where the water is and also the faucet. Now here in the US, I brush my teeth and wash my hands under the faucet. I thought it was the same in Guatemala. Boy, was I wrong.

My first few days (ok, my first WEEK, lol) there I made a couple of screw ups. Ones that involved emptying the pila and washing it out. See, the middle area where the faucet is (the blue pila pictures) is where the standing water goes for the day. They fill up this basin and use the water to wash their clothing and dishes in the two side compartments using plastic bowls. The side compartments have a drainage system-the middle compartment does not. (hubby does tell me that some pilas have drainage in the middle)I thought that the middle compartment, being under a faucet and all, had a hole with a drain, and the standing water remained in that section because the drain was plugged with something-kind of like a bathtub here in the states.

So, the first few times I washed my dirty hands and brushed my teeth I did it under the faucet. Just like we would do here in the US. I ended up spitting into the middle section then began looking frantically for some sort of plug to let that dirty water out. Only there wasn't any. My mother in law looked on, horrified at what I was doing. Apparently hand washing and teeth brushing are done there, but only after you scoop out enough water in a plastic bowl, put said bowl into one of the side compartments and then spit in the side compartment before dumping the dirty water out and watching it drain out...through one of the side sections.

By now, I had done this not once, but TWICE. Just out of habit, and being totally forgetful, I turned on the faucet and spit into the standing water in the middle. The first time, my mother in law apparently drained the middle section harboring my spit plastic dish by plastic dish, before scrubbing down the pila. After all, that is where the water for the day is supposed to be-and it's not meant to spit in or wash your hands over. After the second offense, my husband was assigned the task. He was NOT pleased, and made sure to remind me every day what I needed to do to wash my hands and brush my teeth.

I guess I don't understand why there is no drain in the middle section. I mean, I am short, and when that water at the end of the day got way, way down I had to literally bend over and almost fall into the pila with plastic bowl in hand trying to get enough water in that bowl to wash my hands or brush my teeth. Note to people who build pilas: you will be making MY pila with a drain on both sides AND in the middle. I don't fancy the idea of using standing water that has been there all day to clean my dishes and pots and pans. Flies, insects etc... often find a resting place in that water as the day goes on, and you might literally find a fly in your soup, lol.

As far as washing the clothes goes, I observed my mother in law and sister in law washing their clothing in the pila. They use this powdered stuff that comes in small bags, and beat the hell out of the clothing to get it clean. Now my grandmother used to hand wash clothing in the kitchen sink, but it was nothing like this. At least she was gentle. These women scrub and scrub and I wonder by the time they get done how any clothing is left. Then it all goes up to the roof top to hang on lines to dry. I don't mind line drying my clothing, although I do have a dryer I opt to line dry at times myself. One of my other sisters in laws was lucky enough to buy a washing machine recently, and I chose to use her machine when laundry time came rather than leave my clothing at one of the lavanderias (washing places) because I had visions of unknown women beating the hell out of my clothing in the pila while I am thinking it is being washed in the machine that they have out front. (which is probably for looks and is not even hooked up lol) Lucky for me, I was able to wash my clothing (well, she did I wasn't allowed to touch her machine) and when I gave her my Purex 3 in 1 sheet which I had packed just for that purpose since it is great to use to wash when on trips and carry in your luggage-you would have thought that I was handing her something completely foreign. Actually, they have Purex there in Hiper Paiz (WalMart CentroAmerica) but they did not have the 3 in 1 sheets there yet that I could see. She expressed doubt that this one sheet would clean my clothing, but I told her to just toss it in and see what happens. Afterwards, she seemed amazed that the sheet worked, and ran to show her husband this wondrous new product from the States. I bet you can guess what she asked us to bring her on our next trip to Guatemala... plenty of Purex 3 in 1 sheets!

Reminder to self: make sure you have a washer of your own, a sink inside your kitchen, and a sink in your bathroom too-the Pila will make a wonderful decoration in my home, but it won't get much use. (unless of course the Guatemalan relatives who come to visit use it) My mother in law will soon be getting her own washer, if hubby has his way. We went to check them out and I was amazed at the ones that were made of plastic... yes plastic! Samsung had a few models for $500+ that looked nice, but they were hard plastic on the outside and on the top door. The more durable metal ones were more expensive and basic models of what we have in the States. No fancy HE metal frontloaders that I could see, all were toploaders. Looks like I will be buying my washer and shipping it down there when the time is right-because I just can't imagine how a plastic washer would hold up after a few years.

So there you have it-my observations on washing clothing, dishes, and personal grooming at the pila in Guatemala. Stay tuned for more posts coming soon!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Guatemalan Market Winners!

Congrats! Each of you is going to win a necklace made of polished stones that I got in the Central Park in Antigua, Guatemala from the indigenous vendors.

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-07-19 00:07:45 UTC

the 2 winners are Hondaray6 and Mandala! I will be contacting you shortly.

Avon Anew Clinical Eye Lift winner!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-07-18 23:51:03 UTC

the winner is MageeBaby! Congrats, off to email you now. I should be sending all prizes out sometime later this week-and will email all winners when their prize has been sent.

Autohotels... A New Twist on Hotel "Services" ADULT post

I interviewed my sister in law Ana during my trip about her job. She works at an Auto Hotel. I asked her a bit about this job, since I had seen several Auto Hotel signs during my trips up and down the Ruta Atlantico and other parts of the city and wondered what it was all about. Ana happens to work at the Flamingo, the night shift, 8 pm to 5 am.

Ana explains that Auto Hotels are hotels where couples go to have sex. They can rent the room for a 2 hour minimum, however if you want to rent the room from 11pm on, it is cheaper if you stay the night and leave early in the morning. No, Ana does not work in the sex industry-she actually has the duty of cleaning the rooms, cooking the meals that the patrons ask for, bringing up bottles of champagne, roses, and things that the hotel sells on the side (think romance package at your local hotel). Ana explained that people wanting to hook up come to the hotel in their vehicle. These hotels are set up so that the vehicle is hidden along with the identity of the patrons. No wife driving by these establishments to see if she recognizes hubby's plates or private investigators hoping to catch a pic or two of the indiscreet lovers. The cars drive right into the garage and stay there until the couple are ready to leave.

Ana said that a lot of foreigners go to where she works. Older women with young Hispanic men, and older men with young Latinas. And even same sex couples. Along with rich Guatemalans of every age. The hotel she works for is pretty expensive and most Guatemalans don't go there because they just can't afford it. There are other less expensive hotels in the area, but none as nice as the Flamingo. There are security guards outside, and the rooms are luxurious and several rooms even have a jacuzzi. Apparently the walls are quite thin though, because Ana and her co-workers hear a lot through those walls-and often spend the night laughing listening to people howling at the moon amongst other things.

Guests that call for room service often disguise their voices-and when room service arrives, the food, champagne or whatever they ordered is passed through a slot in the door. Not like room service here in the States where you open the door, tip the person who brings it to you and then enjoy your meal or champagne. She said that when she brings the stuff up, the patrons inside just slide the door slot open enough to get what they ordered and don't say a word. She laughed and told me it could be your boyfriend or husband inside and you wouldn't even know it.

Lots of nights, her job is boring. She sits around with the other 3 women on duty and they wait for calls to come in for fried chicken, champagne, a bouquet of flowers, etc... Of course, the unpleasant part is after the pair leaves. They have to go in and clean up the room, the hot tub, change the sheets, and she said it can sometimes be kind of gross. The maids wear gloves and take precautions when cleaning out the rooms, but they need to be quick, because sometimes there are lines of cars waiting to get in, especially on the weekends.

I had never heard of an Auto Hotel before I visited Guatemala. Usually here in the States, you have to rent the room for the whole night, irregardless of if you just spend 2 hours or so using it. In Guate, you can get a romance package for 2 hours-more than enough time to do what you are there for and have some fried chicken too before you head home to your significant other or back to your hotel. I guess that works well for those that like random hook ups, but its not my style. On my next visit however, hubby and I told Ana we would rent a room from 11 pm on where she works. We will even have her cook us some chicken ;) lol.

I wonder if Auto Hotels are common in all of Latin America... or if they have places like this in the States as well. Here in Maine, and even when I lived in Rhode Island, I never heard of places like this-but then again, maybe I am a naive middle aged mama. Ana might not be working there when we visit again, this is a temporary job she has while looking for something a bit more permanent. She had a good job as a stitcher in a maquila (clothes factory) but her ex ruined it when he showed up drunk and caused a scene. With 3 teen girls to support, she needed to find work fast, and by filling in for a lady on maternity leave, she is bringing some money into the household as a single mom, and allowing her daughters to continue with their education. She's also re-connected with one of her childhood sweethearts, who never forgot about her, and now that he is divorced they are rekindling their relationship long distance. (he's here in the US, and is a legal resident like my hubby)He really doesn't like her job either, and has been sending her money to help out,until he can take time off and visit her. So now you know about Auto Hotels-and if you happen to visit Guatemala and see one as you pass by, you'll know what they are all about ;)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Adventures in El Centro (City Center) Guatemala CIty

We ended up having to go to El Centro as they call it (downtown business district as we'd say) a few times during our trip. There are certain times of the day that you don't want to be headed in that direction, mainly the morning and afternoon rush hours-which seems funny, because judging by the line of cars headed into or out of the city at those times, no one is rushing anywhere.

In addition to smoke from nasty exhaust systems (the first few times, I kept the windows rolled up, as time went on, my lungs adjusted and I was able to keep the windows down and enjoy the breeze and smog) coming from the buses and ancient cars still on the road, I was surprised by how many people are crowded into the city. I am pretty sure Guatemala City has around 2 million inhabitants, and if I stuck around long enough I probably would have seen my fair share of them. Another thing I noticed, people, especially men, like to sit around in parks and watch other people go by. Parks seems to be a social gathering point for friends, young lovers, people looking for love, and everything in between. If I had more time, I would have enjoyed sitting on a bench and done some people watching myself.

I could never go hungry in Guatemala City, there are food vendors everywhere-from little cornerside lunch stands, 5 star restaurants, comedors (dining rooms) to people selling stuff out of the front room of their homes-it seems everyone is selling something to eat. However, on a somber note: There ARE people going hungry there. Many people live in such extreme poverty that getting just the basic 3 daily meals is a struggle. There were handicapped beggars, children beggars, and elderly beggars. We kept quetzales on hand for those occasions-FYI a quetzal is worth about .12 our money, and hubby or myself or even Deja would hand out quetzales to people needing help along the way. Not everyone got money though, because hubby felt that those that were able to work could in effect do something to earn their money, while the elderly or people without limbs could not. It was hard to pass the street beggars, but most people in the city continued on-walking right past them. Of course, me being white, with blonde hair and blue eyes we were standing targets for every beggar to come out of the woodwork and hit us up for money. Hubby took it in stride, and we both felt good about being able to help-even if sometimes we knew that we were being taken advantage of-it just seemed to come with the territory.

Here you will see a guy getting ready to make Shukos. Shukos FYI are kind of like hot dogs with lots of different toppings-the guy in the photo was setting up his stand for the lunch time rush, and I have to admit, it smelled amazing. No, I did not get a chance to try one-one thing I had to watch out for was vendors selling food that didn't use Agua Pura (purified water). I had made the mistake of ordering from a vendor that didn't, and paid the price for several days until I decided to take my prescribed antibiotics given to me for exactly that purpose. On a good note, I did lose some weight along with my trips to the bathroom. When you see the sign Se Vende Tortillas a los 3 Tiempos, (like the one in the photo above) you know that you can buy your tortillas from this vendor for morning, lunch or dinner-hot and ready to take home to serve with your meal. Since I can't make a decent tortilla, that definitely sounds like an option I would take advantage of. (But my mother in law, as well as all of hubby's sisters and nieces make tortillas-so I doubt I would have to purchase them anywhere else) In the photo, this person is selling tortillas from the front of their home, a few doors down you can buy chiles rellenos, and yet a few more doors down you can buy some tacos. But don't think all of these home sales are licensed by the Department of Health, because most likely they are not.

One thing I do have to mention is that if you DO decide to purchase something from the market, a street vendor, or even cook in your own home-be prepared for flies. At first, I was so grossed out by the tons of flies landing on the food and crawling around that I didn't want to eat. But after a day or two of not eating, I decided what the heck. I mean, we've heard plenty of times about rats in fast food restaurants, and we really don't know what goes on when they are cooking our food at those 5 star restaurants either. Unless you cook it yourself, you cannot really be sure how it is prepared. I did manage to look for vendors that were a bit more sanitary though, and those that had their food covered with tin foil or saran wrap were more likely to get my business than those that did not. Flies even showed up at my mother in law's house, and I begged hubby to let me buy some of those fly strips but we never got around to doing so. Most homes there do NOT have screens, so there is the open window, with bars of course for security-and that is it. Flies and other insects just happen to drop on in, and I told hubby that as soon as we start building our vacation home there I will be looking at screens on the windows-Deja is highly allergic to mosquito bites, and as you can see by the photo, they gave her quite a welcome in her first few days of being in Guatemala. Check out the pic of her arm... all swollen and red. And look at my friend, the mutant cockroach-lucky for me, he was on his back and unable to turn himself around. My mother in law came in and squished him for me because I was too chicken, lol. And I thought June Bugs were huge! Ha, they got nothing on these huge roaches.

The city is a bustling, urban place full of sights, smells (and not all of them pleasant) and people of all shapes and sizes. You will see rich and poor, intermingled and going on with their daily lives. Well-dressed businessmen out for lunch break, buying their favorite food from a local street vendor. Shoe shine boys working diligently while their customers sit reading the local newspaper, La Prensa Libre. Even as you wait at intersections, vendors will come up with something they are trying to sell, or start cleaning your windshield in the hopes they receive a handout. Because the World Cup was going on while we were there, the vendors on the street were selling souvenirs of the different teams, and there were tons of contests and promotions at the fast food restaurants. There were TV's in every business (store, street corner stand, even McDonald's) as all were glued to the World Cup games. It seemed whenever "GOOOOOOOAAAALLL!" was announced, business would stop and everyone would turn to the TV to see who scored. (yup, while waiting for my Big Mac at McD's I even had to patiently wait until people returned to their registers to order...)

So this is part 2 of my adventure... stay tuned for more pics and part 3 soon!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pics from Guatemala-Part 1

When I arrived in Guatemala City this past June 17th, it was pretty late-due to no fault of our own, a thunderstorm in Miami delayed our flight by almost 2 hours. As we passed through the airport, I wondered where the people were...albeit it was late, but apparently there have been some changes and friends and family members now have to wait outside in the pick up area for their loved ones to arrive. With no seating that could be seen, I wondered how my in-laws had been able to stand for almost 3 hours straight, while waiting for us to finally show up. There were no signs outside showing flight status, so they had no idea what happened to the plane or why we were arriving so much later than originally planned.

The first thing I noticed was the heat... it was humid and it was supposed to be winter! Seeing native Guatemalans with long sleeves and jackets on made me start sweating profusely, granted I usually don't wear a jacket myself until its 40 degrees out anyways, lol. The second thing I noticed... the air quality. In addition to the humidity, the air was filled with smoke and the smells of very bad exhaust systems. Apparently Guatemala does not have the same laws we have in regards to emissions control-or if they do, they certainly are not enforced. I noticed vehicles that would have been sent to the junk yard years ago still on the road, and seat belts are not enforced-and neither are car seats for children. I observed whole families piling into ancient autos with kids sitting on parents laps, moms breastfeeding in the back... and no car seats whatsoever. Even my own brother in law had his 4 year old son on his lap as we headed to their house... and in my mind I just kept thinking "We are SO going to get a ticket for this." Even when we were stopped on Ruta Atlantico by one of the (in)famous roadblocks on our way back, the soldiers carrying very big guns didn't give the overcrowded 4 Runner or the obviously unbuckled occupants a second glance, they just peered in, and decided we didn't need to be searched further, and then waved us through.

As time went on, my lungs became accustomed to the pollution and smog in the air and seeing the chicken buses (old, retired US school buses) spewing smoke was old news. I never rode on one there, partly because we had a vehicle during our stay, but also because it was just too darn crowded... people were hanging out the door, on top, you name it, if they could fit, they were brought onto the bus. One funny thing I saw was when we went to my hubby's hometown. The road is very curvy, and ravines without guardrails are the norm. These bus chauffeurs (as they call themselves lol) drive like maniacs on these curves, and they had one very wild looking man on the back, hanging on for dear life as we rounded a particularly dangerous curve. The guy was shirtless, his hair blowing in the wind and a wild look in his eyes... unfortunately, the pants he had gotten from someone were way too big for him, and before our eyes (I covered my daughters lol) his pants began to slide down until they finally found a comfortable resting place around his ankles. The dude continued on for the ride, unable or unwilling to haul his pants back up, with only the gifts that God gave him. Lucky for him, I'd left my camera back at the house.

One thing you will notice is the paint jobs on these buses. Great care goes into naming your bus (either the name of wife, daughter, girlfriend etc... from what I was told people here name their buses AND even their cars or vehicles.) and the designs are amazing, from naked lady silhouettes on one side to the Virgin of Guadalupe on the other-each bus is different and those that ride them regularly pretty much know which bus they need to use to get from point A to point B. It helps (for beginners like me, lol)that the buses also have signs in the front stating their destinations.

The Ruta Atlantico is a major highway, and thousands of cars travel it daily to get to the city center. Not too far from where we stayed, there was MetroNorte, which is kind of a mall and entertainment center. Pizza Hut, Burger King, Pollo Campero and McDonald's are all close by. I felt right at home, lemme tell you. Now I like Guatemalan food and all, but if I was craving a Big Mac I knew just where to go to get what I needed. (trust me, hubby visited there several times for me) One thing I noticed of course, was the usual armed guards everywhere. Stores, pharmacies, you name it, if they can afford it, they have armed guards. When you enter MetroNorte, you receive a parking ticket-you keep that on you, and when you leave, you present the ticket to the attendant. Apparently it is supposed to be a theft deterrent, if the person that stole your car can't produce the ticket at the time they are leaving, then they are stopped by these big, burly guards. So, make sure you keep your ticket on your person (not on the windshield of your auto or in the car, you just might not ever see your vehicle and make sure you don't lose your ticket, so keep it in a safe place. I did not use a purse while in Guatemala, I am not a fan of leaving my purse or other shopping bags in locked locker while shopping in a store-so I just carried my money in my front pocket. Be aware that over there, if you take a purse into the store, (such as Walmart here) you will be required to check it into a locked locker which is guarded by a security guard. You will be given a card or a number, and upon leaving the store after you have made your purchases, you go to claim your purse and other items in the locker. For me, that was a huge pain in the butt the first few times, so I quickly adapted... more on that later.

Another photo on here is the Puente Belice, during the most recent Tropical Storm Agatha, this is basically the only area that had mudslides and damage in the area of the Ruta Atlantico. Looking at it, I can see why-hundreds of homes are built, or should I say, perched precariously on the edges of the cliffs and ravines. While the view is beautiful especially at night, I wonder how these people can live like this. I understand now, why countries such as Haiti (with similar building styles) suffer such a loss of life and so much damage to the infrastructure...just seeing these homes almost ready to plunge into the abyss was enough to make me a nervous wreck. I worry because of seismic activity, and of course mudslides. So many homes we saw are so very close to the edge or even hanging over a bit. The view is gorgeous, but I would rather have a home on solid ground, FLAT solid ground, than worry about plunging down the ravine at some point in the future. One thing though, is necessary, a car with standard transmission is a must when dealing with these roads. There is no way my automatic Mazda 3 could go up some of these hills-so it looks like learning standard transmission is in my future if I plan on driving on future visits to the family.

I have lots more pics and stories to tell, I will be posting as I can since this virus is still on my computer and it shuts my browser down at times. I will also be doing a few reviews, choosing winners tomorrow and sending out prizes. Have a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

I've Got A Virus...

I have a virus... and it is not the kind that anyone really wants. Sigh... even my poor Macbook won't work, and until I am back to work I just can't pay the computer repairman to do what he needs to do to get me up and running again.

That being said, my Macbook is still frozen-this computer is working, but my browser gets hijacked constantly by this Win32 Alureon.H virus that, from what I have read online, is a b...h to remove. Most recommend wiping out your hard drive and re-installing windows. Ugh... considering my disc drive in this computer doesn't work either (that is another story, but had to do with a hot candle, some wax, and a cat jumping onto my computer desk lol) so even if I could FIND the discs in some long forgotten corner I can't use them because the drive won't read anything. Methinks it's time for this PC to hit the graveyard... lol.

I have heard that this virus does compromise personal info, but even my back up computer is out of commission, so I need to get to another computer to change all my passwords soon. In the meantime, I will keep on writing and reviewing and doing what I can until I dig my semi new (as in 3 yrs and still in the box) PC out of the closet. And buy a good virus protection before I set it up, lol. As long as this one still works somewhat I will continue using it, but not do any online payments or banking on it. And if you all get some really strange correspondence from me, email me first because who knows what this root kit trojan backdoor virus or whatever it is called is doing.

Since I have been back, everything seems to have gone wrong. Wonder if I can head back to Guatemala and stay there another week, then come back again and see if things get any better... I will be choosing winners later this week and sending out prizes and doing some reviews soon enough-I am still catching up on emails that came in while I was gone, and it is a slow process since I am also doing laundry, cleaning house, and cleaning the fridge. Geez, when you are gone 19 days and leave kids in charge of the house, things just don't always get done. Well, I am headed to bed now-it's WAY past this old lady's bedtime and I'm exhausted. Good night all!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Venting...and frustrated.

Sigh... I just can never win. First, I head to Guatemala. Left my teen son and his girlfriend in charge of the house. Came home and found my lilac trees were gone, no gas in the grill, a new charcoal grill out of the box but only the lid remains (the bottom grill part is still missing in action), my front door askew and uneven, my bedroom window broken (they still won't admit what happened there, but hubby discovered some of his Tylenol 3 pills missing-sounds like some partying was going on while we were gone)

Not exactly sure what went on while we were gone, but people have told me quite a few BBQ parties and other things I would not have ever allowed while here. There were adults present, but they partied just as much as the kids did. (the girlfriend's family of course... pure Jerry Springer material if I say so myself) Things are missing, and I am trying to make a list of what damages were done so I can justify the reason WHY I told my son and his girlfriend to leave my home to his probation officer since he is just 5 months shy of his 18th birthday. He's had plenty of chances before, and things have not changed a bit. They are now living with her mother and her family...perhaps it's the best thing for them all since they have similar habits. I worry about the grandchildren though, and what will happen to them. I won't be around to monitor the situation like I did at home. And they should not have to pay the price because their parents are losers.

We will know more when I visit the probation officer in a couple of days. I am hurt, disappointed, and angry. And again, unable to trust. They knew the rules...and they broke them. So that is why I have not been uploading pics of my trip or posting my normal fun posts... because I have been dealing with doing an inventory of what has been taken, damaged, etc... Bear with me during these technical difficulties, I will be back soon enough.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Guatemalan Market Giveaway Extended

I am extending the Guatemalan market giveaway until June 17th OOPS I mean July, lol due to lack of entries. One person did not post the mandatory entry, the other one was responding to my daughter's party on July 4th and she happens to live in Guatemala, which is out of the area to win.

I will say the items I got were sold by indigenous vendors in the Central Park in Antigua and they are two pretty necklaces made out of polished stone. One is black, the other is a turquoise blue color. Both are lovely, and they would make a great gift as well. The market was awesome, and I really would have loved to purchase so many things to bring home... but maybe next year. So go ahead and enter, the prizes are still available to win! Good luck!

$10 GC for Coffee goes to...

another Debbie! that must be a lucky name lol... She wanted Dunkin Donuts so that is where I will be getting the card. Congratulations, off to email you now!

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-07-09 19:47:06 UTC

Sorry for the delay! Avon Luminosity Winner is...

Random Integer Generator

Here are your random numbers:


Timestamp: 2010-07-09 19:35:33 UTC

which was Debbie! Congratulations, I will be emailing you in a few. I am still so tired from my trip, and the heat wave here in the Northeast is making me want to sleep even more, lol. I had wanted to post more while in Guatemala, but the prepaid internet connection I was using was very slow, didn't work all the time, and the lights kept going out randomly so I was pretty much using the internet to check my email and post on facebook a few times while I was gone... I'm glad to be back home, and back to a reliable internet connection... I will be posting more reviews and giveaways soon!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh My Tired Eyes Coming Home Giveaway!

As I post this, I am due to be flying back home soon. Now of course with weather and events happening throughout the world, there may be a delay or two but as they say "Tarde o Temprano" I will be there! (Late or Early FYI)

It's been a long trip, and while I generally had a great time, I am tired. My body aches for my waterbed and I miss my cats. I seriously doubt that the cat that stayed at my mom's house who got to pig out on pork chops, steak, hamburger and bacon cooked especially for him will be happy to see me though. I also miss members of the family that stayed back home to hold down the fort, while I was globetrotting so far away. Now I know how hubby feels when he talks to his family-while you can hear their voice just fine, they far away.

My eyes are tired, and I just want to rest. I'm preparing for the culture shock with my return to the States after some time away. Speaking of tired eyes, if you think your eyes are in need of a lift, you should enter this coming home giveaway that I'm posting here. (tell me I am not the only one in need of this lift, lol!)

One of my readers will win the Avon Anew Clinical Eye Lift, a $28 value. (Upper Eye Gel, Under Eye Cream) Surely you want to strengthen your skin while boosting collagen and elastin production. Using this on your upper eye area, it may help diminish the sagging and drooping you get by lifting and tightening the area. A wide-awake, refreshed look is just what I need when I start work next week. (Ladies, if you see me sleeping during our annual Welcome Back meeting, have the person seated next to me nudge me a few times-that should do the trick!)

Okay, I am too pooped (and hung over!) to write more so am getting right to the specifics:

Giveaway starts today, July 5th and ends July 17th at 11:59 PM EST. Giveaway is open to US AND Canadian residents. Winner will be chosen by and will have 48 hours to get back to me with information before I choose another winner. No blog is necessary to win, however I must have a way to contact you if you do win, so be sure to leave an email in your comment if you don't have one available in your profile!

MANDATORY ENTRY- I avoid having my pics taken for my blog like the plague, so there are very few pics of me here. But I may have mentioned in a post or two what my eye color is. So... even if you don't know, guess what color my eyes are. That's it!

If you want additional entries, just do the following: (and make sure to claim all your entries, if it says +2 leave two comments!)

+3 for each: blog follower, subscribe to feed, or follow in a reader

+2 tweet about this giveaway, can be done daily, leave me a link to tweet please!

+1 be a current Twitter follower (micaela6955)

+5 for each: grab my button or blog about this giveaway (leave a link please)

Ok people, that is it! Once I recoup from jet lag and the time difference, I will be back to blogging and checking emails a bit more frequently. Thanks for understanding :)

DISCLAIMER: I received no financial compensation for this product. As an Avon Rep., I was able to purchase the product at a discount, and I have decided to give it away to a lucky blog reader. Each person is different, and the product may or may not do what it claims- I've used it myself but have not seen a huge difference yet. Results may vary.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Happy Fourth of July!

From my family to yours.... Happy Fourth of July! Wishing you all a great holiday, enjoy your day and make it special!

Friday, July 2, 2010

"Fijese que la Fractura es grande..."

Sigh... I can never win. Here I am in Central America, enjoying the sights, sounds and of course the food. Prior to my trip, I had done everything-required shots, travel meds, dental visit and cleaning... you name it.

One day, I happened to bite into an Oreo-type cookie that they sell here. I immediately felt something hard, and spit it out to take a look. Geez, it looked like bone, but what would a piece of bone be doing in a cookie, right? As I swirled my tongue around in my mouth I felt a very sharp tooth-much sharper than it should be. A visit to the nearest mirror confirmed my worst suspicions-my tooth had broken.

The piece I held in my hand was pretty darn big, and from what the mirror showed me, the entire back section of a molar had given way and broken off. While the piece was not rotted, it did look like a small hole was in the tooth, contributing to the weakness. Surely the $400+ cleaning and Xrays I had done at the end of May would have shown this, but the dentist never mentioned it. He did mention a cavity in ANOTHER tooth, but not this one. As you can see above, the piece is as big as the end of a pen-and it's a pain in the butt to try to eat with that side of my mouth now.

Hubby's dad had suggested a dentist that worked on Tues and Thurs evenings in a small building outside the chicken plant. I had visions of a wrinkled old man who smelled of chicken manure pulling out my tooth using rusty pliers. Lucky for me, both times we visited, he wasn't there.

Yesterday we went to a dentist who my brother in law uses. The office was clean, he had an assistant who was very nice, and he himself was very nice to look at too ;) He spoke some English, and could write it as well. I scoured the wall for diplomas, etc... something showing he'd had an education in dental procedures before I let him touch my teeth lol. After seeing the framed diplomas and scanning the office for cleanliness, I sat down in the chair. First up, the Xray. Similar to home, the assistant placed the xray in my mouth, pointed the machine to where she wanted it, and Voila! Within a few moments, the dentist was holding it up to the light and examining my broken tooth while shaking his head. This wasn't going to be good...

"Fijese, Dona Michele, que la fractura es grande" he murmured, before he told me to open up again and peered into the recesses of my mouth. I mentioned that I would like to save the tooth if possible-and he said it could be done with a root canal and a crown on top for 2500Q, (around $300 our money-def. a bargain) but since I was leaving on Tuesday, there would not be enough time to get it done. An extraction was mentioned, which would be cheaper, but if I could save the tooth, I should do so. I looked around for any sign of gas or something to put me out should they want to yank the tooth. (since this thing is most likely coming out in pieces, I knew it would NOT be painless and I am a wimp as far as dental pain goes) Finally, I just told him that a temporary filling should do it. He agreed, and said it should last a month or two until I can get it done at home.

So I endured 3 shots of novicaine and a drill (which did produce some pain) along with what looked like plaster being shoved into the mouth to form a tooth. Yesterday in the market, I watched with envy as hubby and his brother ate tacos and other goodies while I was confined to soft stuff and was too sore to eat anyways. Aside from being extremely jealous as they were chowing down, I wanted to make sure that I ate soft stuff for the next few days AND chewed on the opposite side of my mouth too.

This morning, I decided it was time to eat. I heated up a few of the chile rellenos I had gotten yesterday in the market (they are soft and perfect to eat with tooth pain lol) and proceeded to eat my meal. All was going just fine, and I was extremely engrossed in the Brazil-Netherlands World Cup game with my father in law when all of a sudden I noticed something hard in my mouth. It couldn't be... he'd said it would last a month! Sure enough, the whole filling he put in as a temporary restoration came out of my tooth and I sit here now with a huge, gaping hole wondering what on Earth to do next.

Everyone says to go back to the dentist and have him fix it... and while he was extremely nice to look at, I am not quite sure if another temporary restoration would be the answer. As long as no infection is present, I am going to go with chewing on the other side and waiting for a visit with my specialist back in the States. I could always go to Antigua or to the city (we are in the city but on the outskirts) and get something done there, but with my daughter's party on Sunday I definitely don't want a swelled up cheek due to an extraction... ïf things get pretty bad, my father in law is already talking to one of his friends who has a friend who looks at teeth in his spare time... um, they say good things come to those that wait, and in this case, I definitely believe waiting is a GOOD thing.