2016 in pictures Pt. II

Hold on to your seats folks – here’s the second half of 2016 in pictures.

July/August

We headed back to Europe for the Summer and over the course of six weeks we visited the UK, Switzerland, France, Andorra and Spain with our friend Susan. We saw family and friends along the way and explored new views. Fabulous fun!

We reunited with our Sacred France friends in the Languedoc for 10 days which was fantastic fun. It was special to continue to explore the unique history and energy of the region through the eyes of our dear friend Kathleen McGowan. We celebrated our 11th Wedding anniversary while exploring the deeply significant village of Minerve. Lots of sparkling, lots of laughter, lots of great times with fabulous friends – new and not so new!

Following our escapades in France and Andorra we headed to Spain to see my brother Jason, Amber and little Zeph in time for her birthday near Barcelona. While in the area we visited Girona and the incredible monastery at Monserrat.

After leaving Barcelona we drove down the coast to Valencia for a night and on to the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Southern Spain to stay with our fabulous friend Terry near Lanjaron for a week. Time spent at El Rincon is always magical and it was wonderful to take a slightly slower pace for a week. We did spend a day exploring the magical Alhambra Palace and Gardens in Granada though. At the end of the week we drove north to Toledo (just south of Madrid) for a night and on to the airport the next day so Susan could fly back to Mexico. Matt and I then continued to drive north through the Pyrenees and Basque country back to the Dordogne. Incredible scenes en route!

Back home in Cladech, we also spent precious moments with my other brother Robin, Marie Helene and our nephew James and our cats Ronnie and Reggie. Cladech is home and it’s always wonderful to arrive, but so so hard to leave.

The final stop on our epic Summer was a few days back in the UK visiting family and friends. We had a big Ash family reunion and it was great to see Matt’s cousins Liz, Debbie and their family – all back in the UK together which is rare! Our dear friends Liz and Kevin were visiting from Boston and we managed to squeeze in a sublime lunch in Richmond. And of course, no visit home would be complete without time with the Guildford gang – great to see Nic, Peterkin and Bob too.

September/October

After all that travelling it was good to get home to Mexico. September is a big month in Mexico as it’s when we celebrate Independence day and since the movement began here in San Miguel the celebrations here are huge!

Joseph and Eduardo finally moved into their new home and we helped them to kit out their kitchen….and I started cooking for them…still hoping one of them might actually learn to cook before we leave the country next year!

In October I headed back to the UK for a week. Great to see friends and family again!

And we celebrated Eduardo’s birthday

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November

A big month of Day of the Dead celebrations (BIGGER than Halloween here!), dinner parties, visits from friends and Thanksgiving.

We celebrated Joseph’s big 40, a visit from Ed over Thanksgiving and our friends Amanda, Rody, Michelle and James visiting from Portland.

December

And so we made it to December. I started a month with a thrilling three day trip to Hermosillo in Northern Mexico to see some clients…who I now count as friends too! I was able to be a part of their amazing Game of Thrones themed Christmas gathering….and Mexican’s know how to work hard and party hard too! We then escaped to Puerto Vallarta for a fun weekend with Amanda, Rody and lots more friends on the beach.

We then escaped to Puerto Vallarta for a fun weekend with Amanda, Rody and lots more friends on the beach.

San Miguel looks gorgeous at this time of year with the Christmas decorations up and lots of celebrations taking place in town.

We’re getting ready to cook a big Christmas dinner for friends and our Mexican family. Wherever you are…have a peaceful joy-filled Christmas and a fabulous New Year!

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2016 in pictures, Pt. I

January

We said farewell to a wintry Blighty and arrived in San Miguel de Allende! Celebrated our birthday’s and settled into life in the high desert!

February

Our great friend and colleague Traci visited from Iowa – and escaped the winter! We had fun exploring the town, visiting with friends and watching Eduardo participate in a Storytelling Festival showcase.

 

March

Miranda made a quick trip to San Francisco and spent time with clients and friends!

Back in San Miguel is was Easter season – Semana Santa – which is taken VERY seriously in this town. Parades every day…some more reverent than others – each is colourful and unique.

April

Not too much happened this month as Miranda prepared for conference season at work! But in between all that, we enjoyed cherished moments with friends and more exploring!

 

May

Summit time meant that Miranda was in Miami for a week or so working hard and having fun!

And not long after returning to San Miguel we had four of our friends from Romania visit for 10 days. It was great to see SMA through their eyes. We also spent a wonderful weekend on a friend’s ranch and made the most of the warmer weather! Hot Springs, Mariachi bands on our roof and birthday celebrations made it a great month!

June

The beginning of rainy season here in the high desert – hot days, balmy nights and some welcome moisture.

We had a new neighbour for the month – one of Joseph’s closest friends from San Angelo – Matt. Matt is a Spanish teacher and came down to SMA for a month to hone his language skills. Both Matt’s hit it off…bit of a bromance going on…and enjoyed afternoons putting the world to rights over a few beers on our roof. They also have a shared passion for Monty Python…lets just say that there were a LOT of laughs in our house in June!

Part II coming soon! 

Beach time

This past weekend our friends Amanda and Rody invited us to join them for some beach time in Puerto Vallarta. Never one to pass up some sun, sea and sand we boarded a plane in Leon for the short flight to the coast and a welcome respite from the SMA winter. Three nights gave us enough time to recharge our batteries, get some Vitamin D and have lots of fun with a great group of folks.

Amanda and Rody have been visiting PV in the winter for years – escaping the cooler climate of Portland, Oregon. They know PV like the back of their hands and were amazing hosts – knowing exactly what was worth exploring and what wasn’t. We were perfectly happy sitting on the beach, getting to know new friends and enjoying long lingering dinners at some incredible restaurants. Puerto Vallarta really has so much to offer. It’s easy to see why so many return here year after year.

On our first night we had dinner at Hacienda San Angel – once owned by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. In fact, they owned separate haciendas that were joined by a bridge. Well known for having a fiery relationship, one of them would knock down the bridge every time they had a massive argument..and then they’d reconcile and build the bridge once again. The hacienda was so beautifully furnished and is now a superb restaurant. That night we were entertained by frankly the most sublime mariachi band we’ve heard to date…and we’ve listened to quite a few since moving to Mexico. This group was a cut above the rest! Dinner included a lot of great fish courses…something we are somewhat starved of here up in the mountains so we made the most of being on the coast. I think Red Snapper is my new favourite fish!

We also discovered a new favourite breakfast haunt….La Palapa. Situated right on the beach, we loved their eggs benedict and french toast…nearly as good as our local Lavanda here in SMA.

The following evening we visited Cafe des Artistes and enjoyed another incredible dinner under a forested canopy. Each dish was an adventure for the senses and was cooked perfectly. Afterwards we walked back down the hill and along the boardwalk to Twisted Palms for a night cap before trying to find some of our SMA friends favourite club….Dreams…need I say more?! Boys…they wouldn’t let me in!

Perhaps one of the most magical adventures of our trip was the afternoon at Ocean’s Grill – a restaurant built into the side of a cliff in a private cove. Getting to the restaurant is an adventure in itself….a local bus ride to the end of the route followed by a water taxi out to the restaurant and a somewhat precarious climb in waves from the water taxi up to the timber building. Loved every minute. Once we got up to the restaurant we were able to sit back, relax and admire the view. At times it felt like we were in a Bond movie…enjoying a unique, luxurious experience! We both ordered the fresh grilled octopus which was so tender and delicious. After an afternoon spend chatting and snoozing on a huge couch overlooking the bay, we made the return journey to PV.

The second week in December marks one of the biggest religious celebrations in the Latin American calendar – Our Lady of Guadalupe’s Feast Day. Thousands of people participate in nightly parades honouring the patron saint of the Americas. In PV the parades go on for hours and end at the main church in town which is dedicated to Guadalupe. The streets surrounding the church turn into a massive party with hundreds of food stalls for a 4-5 block radius offering everything from tacos to churros and everything in between. This is how to do feasting in style!

Our final evening in PV saw us heading to the heart of the feast celebrations for tacos, baked potatoes and churros – delish. Amanda and Rody have their favourite food stalls which were all fabulous…even if we were still somewhat full from our Ocean Grill exploits earlier in the day! What I loved about our meander through the streets was the opportunity to once again witness Mexican family values – such reverence for all generations coming together to remember, feast and honour! It was a great way to finish off our weekend on the coast. Given half a chance we’ll be back again soon!

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A huge thanks to Amanda, Rody, Al, Julie and Tony for showing us around PV and to Rosie, Megan and Vanessa for fun times together!

Hermosillo fun

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Take 250 people who love to self-manage themselves and what do you get? Nearsoft.

Nearsoft is a self-managed IT outsourcing organisation based in Hermosillo in North West Mexico. When we moved in Mexico earlier this year I was determined to make sure that I took the time to visit our friends at Nearsoft to see the secrets of their success with my own eyes. I’m so grateful that the People Team at Nearsoft decided that the run up to Christmas was the perfect time for me to pay them a visit!

The company has been growing rapidly over the last few years and has achieved 12x growth using the tools of Freedom at Work™ and self-management where people engage in peer-to-peer relationships, make decisions together and support each other’s individual and collective growth.

To say that I was impressed by Nearsoft is an understatement. They have created something so rare. Over the course of my few days in Hermosillo I asked so many of the team what their secret sauce is….no one could give me an answer. Freedom at Work comes relatively naturally to the team. They are all mature thinkers and understand to whom and to what they are responsible. Many teammates commented that one of the reasons they love working at Nearsoft is the ability to determine their own destiny because each person is trusted to get the job done. All said that this was in stark contrast to previous jobs in command and control style organisations.

When people arrive at Nearsoft, they may have a job description but this doesn’t mean they can’t explore other interests and activities. In exploring the WorldBlu 10 Principles of Organizational Democracy™, Nearsoft utilised the principle of Choice through project exchanges, mentoring, work sharing, and discussions, where employees get the chance to learn and decide how they want to develop their career and/or change their role. By doing all they can to ensure employees are in the right role, the company ensures that all individuals are happy, engaged, and working at their best.

It’s not unusual to find groups of Nearsoftians getting together for dinner at the weekend or going to see a movie together. This year a number of teammates are expecting babies and they recently held a giant baby shower for all the expectant mothers. In addition, they actively hire women (unusual in the IT sector) and have implemented a number of practices to make it easy to flexibly manage their work schedule around the needs of their children. The office games room turns into a play area for some of the children after school and children are included in holidays such as Halloween.

One of the things I love about Mexican culture is the great sense of family values. Family is number one here. And family come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. By the time I left Hermosillo, I realised that the secret sauce at Nearsoft is that they behave like a family who express unconditional love and Ubuntu – lifting the company higher in the process.

At a time when our sense of freedom and democracy is being challenged by certain ‘politicians’ and mass media who often negatively portray Mexicans as lazy and unworthy, Nearsoft shows the real story…the story the media choose to ignore. To anyone wondering what it really is like to work in an organisation where everyone is valued….take a look at Nearsoft. They are the real deal.

And being Mexicans – they work incredibly hard, and play hard too. We spent days collectively strategizing future needs for the organisation and their clients and by night we explored the town including some of the amazing food Hermosillo has to offer. I even attended my first baseball game in years and the icing on the cake was joining the company End of Year Party….Game of Thrones style. It was epic! I can’t remember the last time I went to a work Christmas party – being a remote team, it’s hard to get together at Christmas.

Our fabulous friends at Nearsoft took me into their hearts and made me a part of their family. I can’t thank all the Nearsoftians enough. You’re all a part of the WorldBlu family too.

 

What a whirlwind!

Weww! It’s been a full few weeks starting with our friends from Portland, OR visiting town for a week in mid-November, followed by Joseph’s 40th, then our friend Ed visiting from LA over Thanksgiving week, a trip up to Hermosillo to visit my friends at Nearsoft and finishing off with a fabulous few days on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. Our feet haven’t touched the ground lately!

We love having friends in town because it gives us a good excuse to get out and explore new places. While Ed was here we went back to our favourite breakfast spot – Lavanda – always a favourite. We also discovered the great burgers at Birdie’s Burgers…yummy. Most of all it was fun to be able to share this magical town with a dear friend.

Lots of writing to catch up on. Watch out for more over the next few days.

Gratitude

 

This time last year we were in the throes of painting our home in the UK, packing up, and preparing to move to Mexico for a year or so.

As I look back over the last year, I am in awe of how far we have come….how far we have come thanks to the kindness of our family and friends. From our family back in the UK who helped us to pack up the house in the depths of winter (thanks Matthew, Steve, Helena and Darcy!), to my long-suffering sister in law, MH, who has been holding the fort while we’re away. And I’m very grateful for my fabulous Uncle Nigel and Auntie Jackie for looking after the car, the desk and anything else we’re thrown at them!

My heart overflows with gratitude for our dear friends Susan and Larry who have helped give us a roof over our heads here in Mexico and of course to Joseph and Eduardo…we wouldn’t be here in the first place if they hadn’t moved to San Miguel de Allende. These guys are our brothers and sister from another mother (so to speak!) and we adore them all!

This year has really been about the power of friendship. Here in San Miguel we have discovered a group of friends who have filled our cup, expanded our views and opened their hearts. I’m so grateful for their unconditional love and support. We have loved every minute of getting to know folks from all over the world and making the most of our time here.

I’m also so grateful for our WorldBlu team and friends who continually inspire me to grow and expand my thought. They challenge me, lift me up and only want the best for us all.

And to my Sacred France brothers and sisters – thank you for another amazing year of growth, expansion and fun in France. You make me laugh, you make me cry and you hold a space for healing.

As we all know, this year has been challenging globally and politically but that doesn’t mean life should come to a screeching halt – rather it’s an opportunity to try to see more of the good, less of the bad and return to the warmth of those closest to us who love and value us for who we are – wherever we are in our life experience.

As we sit at table and rejoice in the

mercy and goodness of the one God, may

the bonds of friendship be strengthened,

may our fellowship be a light in the darkness,

and—most importantly—may we

remember that in opening ourselves to each

other we open ourselves to God.

– Traditional, Islam

San Miguel de Allende is for foodies!

e1276e8a-9667-40fb-9cd5-986beda76e09San Miguel de Allende really is a mecca for foodies. Just last year The Independent – a well respected newspaper in the UK – published a fantastic article about the rise of the food industry here. And it was a pretty accurate article.

Since moving here we probably haven’t taken advantage of all the food that this town has to offer but we do have our favourites:

The taco stand on Insurgentes (near the Biblioteca)

Tacos Don Felix – amazing Mexican food!

Lavanda – fab place for breakfast

Nirvana Spa – perfect for a long lingering weekend lunch in the country

Grandpa & Sons – Lovely sliders and lovely ambience at Fabrica La Aurora arts centre

Luna Rooftop Tapas Bar at the Rosewood – perfect for sundowners and tapas

Basiliaia – fabulous tacos

Cumpanio – Fabulous little french bakery and restaurant – makes us feel like we’re home. Try the truffle french fries!

Nectar – our favourite little veggie cafe where you can eat surrounded by hummingbirds

Antonia’s Bistro – one of the newest places in town with great views and fabulous food!

Pizza Pig – the best pizza in town – but we’re biased…the place is owned by our wonderful friend Timo!

Actually the list is endless. There is no shortage of international food here from german food at Berlin to an Indian restaurant (run by a Brit), sushi, chinese…and of course Mexican! We could eat at a different place each night and still not visit everywhere in town.

Last week we had some friends in town so we took advantage of several really fun nights out catching up over good food.

The Restaurant is a great place for burgers on Thursday evenings. Best burger I’ve had in a long long time!

Garufa is an Argentine restaurant which had great steaks even if the service was awful! Nevertheless it’s worth it for the flank steak alone!

Berlin is a small bar serving hearty german food – perfect for those cold winter nights.

Perhaps one of the top restaurants in town is Aperi. A fine dining experience housed in a contemporary courtyard. We gathered there last Friday to celebrate Joseph’s 40th birthday over an 8-course tasting menu that was phenomenal. We particularly enjoyed the foie gras, duck confit, truffle and mushroom pasta, pork belly and beetroot, raspberry and hibiscus dessert. All small plates that were mighty on taste and texture-and works of art. What a night!