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New friends, new words, and meme pas peur!

Fresh as a lettuce : and other delights from Mama's in Mexique

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TODAY'S WORD: fresh as a lettuce

   : to be calm as a cucumber, in French, is to be Cool Raoul (click here).
   : and in Spanish it is to be fresca como una lechuga.


    by Kristi Espinasse

I went to Mexico to see Mama, as we now call her, I and my Mexican brother ("Rocky" in a previous story. Today his identity will be revealed...). Even our sister, Heidi,  is catching on--which just goes to show how far we have come in accepting our mother in the new roles she is taking on in her life. But now that her role as wife has come to an end, we have all been concerned about how she will carry on without Mr John. And when she made the seemingly abrupt decision to leave her condo at the marina to move to the barrio, we were downright alarmed.

Last week, Mom invited us to stay with her in her new casita, located on the outskirts of Puerto Vallarta. There, paved roads end and earthen floors spread out through the lively neighborhood and its eclectic mix of homes, doors and windows thrown open to reveal family life in motion. Not a word of English is spoken. Chickens, pigs and horses roam free along the streets, right past Mama's front door, which she prefers to leave unlocked by day à la "I will not be a prisoner to fear!"

While grateful for Mama's offer to lodge us, my sister and I needed a transitioning phase before spending the night beneath Mama's colorful tin roof. We quickly (and a little guiltily) booked a room at The Marriott, where we could get our dose of hot showers before experiencing Mom's single-tempurature (cold!) plumbing.

There, at the CasaMagna Marriott Hotel and Spa, we would spend the next 4 days as fresh as lettuces beneath the blue skies and warm sunrays of Vallarta. Welcomed by Ernesto (the charming hotel greeter who taught us the wonderful "lettuce" phrase), each day at the Marriott allowed us to relax, while taking care of Mama's paperwork (many thanks to John's belle-fille, Laurie, who took the baton from Heidi, continuing the administrative work back home in Arizona).

It wasn't our first time at the Marriott in Puerto Vallarta, and we recognized so many friendly faces, and were touched when they remembered us back! There was Hilda, the concierge, who helped put me in touch with Lourdes (in charge of the Marriott's social media department. My son Max is looking for an internship. He'd love for it to be in Mexico!). And we ran into Audrey, the wine and Tequila specialist. She is French--from our neighboring town of La Ciotat. Quelle coincidence! She gave me her card and even offered to help put us in contact with her parents, should we decide to move to her hometown).

The cast of friendly characters continued with Francisco at the morning buffet (tamales for breakfast!), Carlos at the terrace restaurant (shrimp fajitas!), and Victor, in charge of poolside refreshments--or swim over to the bar and order a Pina Colada, which Mom did with glee, enjoying it while she floated around the pool and chatted up the guests! Thanks to Mama, our friendships extended out from the hotel staff to our fellow vacationers (a big wave to Kim in California!)

In the evenings we ate at Mikado's -- the Japanese restaurant right in the hotel, where beautiful hostess, Adriana, remembered Mama Jules, who, it turns out, is friends with many of the employees via Facebook. Not to be left out, Heidi and I quickly added Adriana, Hilda, Ernesto, and the others to our Facebook, only to realize just how many of our friends were actually neighbors with Mama Jules!

"Don't worry about your Mama," Francisco assured us. She lives in a place we call 'Beautiful Mountain'. And I live just up the hill!"

As if that weren't comforting enough, we also have Gregorio. Read about our Mexican brother and mystery man at the end of this post! Adios for now and many thanks to everyone at the CasaMagna Marriott Hotel in Puerto Vallarta--"the next best place after Mama's"!



Gregorio, Mama, Francisco, and Heidi. Cheers to the staff at CasaMagna Marriott Hotel and Spa in Puerto Vallarta!

WHO IS GREGORIO? While in Mexico, I posted some photos and a few videos here on Instagram. Some of you were wondering who the dark, handsome man was in those pictures. (I would say tall, dark and handsome, but Gregorio is better known in the ring as "Dragoncito," or The Little Dragon.) He is the state of Jalisco, Mexico's champion for Muay Thai and he is currently Chief of Security for our dear Mama!


Gregorio's next fight is in February 2017 and we are all hoping to be there to cheer him on! If you would like to be there, too, perhaps we could all stay at the Marriott

... and join Mama Jules at the pool, swimming over to the floating bar for refreshments!  What do you think? Let me know in the comments, HERE :-)

It is always good to dream and to have something to look forward to!

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Cynthia Gillespie-Smith

Welcome back, Kristi, and thanks for such a positive post! So happy for all of you that Jules landed on her feet and that Gorgeous Gregorio with his "Don't mess with me" look is watching over Jules. As for meeting up in Puerto Vallarta in February -- DEFINITELY count us in!

Nyla Witmore

Not wanting to be the first to reply at 5:30 am in Boulder, Colorado I decided to click on past posts at the bottom of today's post. To my surprise, a few from a few years back, had slipped by me and I look up to see I have spent nearly an hour in your "words presence". A nice way to start my day...and with a happy heart I start my day. (I too have just returned from Mexico (San Miguel de Allende) and can attest to the wonderful local people and wonderful cuisine.). Ahhhhh..nere's to coming back into reality of coming home.

Sandy Maberly

So happy that Jules is well taken care of. Sounds like she is exactly where she is meant to be and loving it. If she isn't fluent in Spanish already, she will be! So, rest at ease, dear Kristi & Heidi. Mama Jules is living the dream!


So good to "hear" about Puerto Vallarta I discovered.... 8 years ago (from SBA) when I have been there with my US little sister - as I call her, since she is the daughter of a friend of my beloved Mom - for 5 (very short) days.
Great stay, despite the rain..., great and stunning mountainside hotel (Lindo Mar) !
The suburbs are brand new for the plupart of them and the tourists enjoy a lot of very good restaurants, hotels and... tin !
Enjoying your posts, bien que je n'aie pas toujours le temps d'écrire !

Maybe you don't know that Emmanuel & Gwen returned definitely in CA and sold their houses in Les Arcs & Salernes... It's a pity for me, I was so happy to get US neighbors 4 years ago !

Continuez comme ça, chère Kristi !
(and sorry for the mistakes I could have made in English...)

Eileen deCamp

Hi Kristi,

I'm glad you had a nice time with your mom and so happy she has someone looking after her! Good luck to "Dragoncito".....we'll be cheering him on!

Trina from St. Petersburg, FL USA

Ah, see, Rumi was right: "It's rigged, everything in your favor."


Nice post. I am so happy that your mom is in good hands. She has always been able to get back on her feet like a professional boxer. Next year she will be speaking Spanish and enjoying a whole new world with her new friends. We would love to come to
PV for Dragoncito's next fight. The Marriot looks great. Is the ocean warm enough for swimming? Lots of love...Dad

Chris Allin

Dear Kristi,
How comforting and reassuring to read this! It is easy to understand why Jules loves her life in Puerto Vallarta. And good for you and Heidi as you support her new circumstances. Things may change for Jules at some point but right now she is probably where she needs to be. It is good to see her looking so happy...

Glad you are safely home!

Julie Farrar

The world Jules creates around her -- making strangers into friends -- is a lesson we could all learn on a big and small scale.


Hola Krisiti! Sorry I missed you in PV! I live in the Marina, and two minutes from the Marriott! Perhaps I will run into your Mom sometime, as I am a full time resident in PV. Always enjoy reading your blog. 😃😃

Judi in Lake Balboa

What a wonderful time you all enjoyed! And, most importantly, to find your Mama so well loved AND cared for by all her Mexican (&French) friends. That would be such a relief! I think it's great John's belle-fille is taking over the paperwork. It is still swallowing me up one year later- yes, it was the one year anniversary of Chris' passing on 9/21! Hard still to believe after 51 yrs together -there is still a huge hole. I can learn something from Jules-'get out there'. She's one in a million and she's blessed to have you and Heidi cheering on her decided and wonderful way of living life to the fullest!


You and your mom..what genes:)
Me too I am happy for her:)

Patricia Sands

Kristi, I believe you have put all of our uneasiness to rest! It sounds like Jules knows exactly what she is doing and that she already has an amazing support group in her life. With Papa John (and Dragoncito) watching over her, she sounds ready for a new, rewarding chapter ... at seventy, it's still not too late to begin something new. Vamos!

Lynne Schweitzer

Love this posting! I find your mom's lifestyle very intriguing.....and yours too, of course :) Thanks for sharing.


Our Dear Kristi,
Welcome back(!) and THANK YOU for this wonderful post which has just wrapped us in hugs!
And inspiration!For you (and Heidi!) with your gift for making and keeping friends wherever you are!
And very especially,the inspiration that dear Mama Jules gives us to follow your heart and dream,no matter how much of a lifestyle change it might be!
You all are nothing short of awesome!A loving,caring family who are so aware of God's blessings.
We are also blessed to share it all with you.
Natalia. xo

Stacy ~ Sweet Life Farm

I think I would love to join you! Thank you, dear Kristi, for your story and photos have sincerely warmed my heart this crisp fall morning! I am so grateful Jules is surrounded by life, beauty and love.

You, just like your dear Mama, are a beautiful source of inspiration. See you in February?

edie schmidt


What a beautiful place! Sounds like your mom has some wonderful friends so I know
you and your sister must feel better about her move after your visit.
Hope all goes well for you and your husband and your plans for the future.
I enjoyed reading the recent story by Ann Mah about your former winery. in the Travel Section of the New York Times in which Jean-Marc is quoted.

Edie from Savannah

Faye LaFleur

would love to visit with U and Jules and, everybody whose name I recognize from the blog, in Feb., however, had been thinking Paris and Normandy....will have to think about it.
So happy all is well w/ Jules and U had good trip!

Jan Leishman

Thank you for this beautiful story. I am sure Mama Jules will be well looked after (as if she can't look after herself!) by her wonderful Mexican family. Funny thing, but I am called 'Mama Leish' by my daughter and most of her friends! But to my son, I am still 'Mum'.

Pam Luckey

Wow! What a lovely visit, Kristie.and how nice to be reassured that your mom is surrounded by caring friends! I know that you will worry less now.


So happy to hear about Jules new life and friends. Glad you and your sister went to support her and enjoy time together after John's death. Never an easy time. I have fantasized about moving to southern France or Mexico - San Miguel actually - but not very courageous - you and your mother inspire me. If anyone on this site has lived in San Miguel de Allende, I would love to be educated. Thanks in advance.


Almost forgot - kept looking for your pictures in the article on your previous vineyard. It was beautiful - they have kept up your good work.


Thanks for the Rumi .


It all sounds so relaxing.


It seems like Jules has found a new home and is happy. It may feel strange for you,but she seems to know what she is doing...enjoying herself, uncluttered.



Kristi, it sounds like you had a wonderful getaway with your Mama and sister. Jules look gloriously happy, as always. I'm glad she is enjoying her new chosen lifestyle, and I sense that the fact of her safety and security helps to put your mind at ease. I'm also glad to read about the new connections you made while in Mexico with people who are ready to offer assistance in the form of advice and reassurance of safety. Community is so precious, everywhere!

Frederick Caswell

"Jewels" -- belle et amazante! Kristi et son roman -- beaux et amazant! Merci de mon coeur.

Joan L.

It all sounds like a fairy tale, even the Japanese restaurant. I'm living this vicariously and pretending that I'm along for the ride. Glad everyone had such a great time.


Looks like your near future with your "friend" gigolo lol
it runs in the family


Your mother is amazing! Her resilience and joie de vivre are inspiring. I imagine that you have inherited a good bit of that as you have navigated various trials and changes in your life and, but God's grace, will continue to do so. Blessings on your family near and far.

BJ Tuininga

So glad you had such a wonderful nice to see your mom's beautiful smile!
Love to you both,

Hey - Great page - Always love the Photos. Does Gregorio have a Facebook Page or Website.

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