scenes from the europe of mexico

Nearly a month after our trip to Guanajuato, I still haven’t uploaded all of our photos. But it’s now or never, so here’s a taste of the place I can only describe as the closest to Europe you’re going to find in Mexico. Cobblestone streets. Quaint alleyways. Squares bustling with mariachi singers and outdoor diners. I’d honestly never heard of the place, so I was surprised to overhear so much American English being spoken around town. A hidden gem, no more. But not yet a tourist trap either. Go quick!











Posted in FS Life, Mexico, Travel | Leave a comment

our mexican digs

We were leaving our first post when I realized I’d never gotten around to really decorating. We were kind of busy those years. I blame the baby in our house, and then one in my belly. I blame our long medevac and then the fact that my husband moved back stateside early. But still, I swore I’d never do that again. It’s important that a home feels like a home, especially in this lifestyle.

I did a passable job of accomplishing this during our stint in DC, in a house we bought, with furniture we bought, but now we’re at post once again, six months in actually, and have I gotten things set up in a way I’m happy with yet? Nope.

I kept waiting to share scenes from our home with you three loyal blog readers until I did consider the place finished, but finally I’ve accepted that this probably isn’t going to ever happen. So, without further ado, scenes from our somewhat homely home…



The entryway, again.
The entryway, again.


Living room.
Living room.


The play room.
The downstairs play room.
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Dining room.
The kitchen.
The kitchen.


Upstairs landing.


Flynn's room.
Flynn’s room.


More of Flynn's room.
More of Flynn’s room. 
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Master bedroom.


Master closet, which is actually even bigger than it appears.
Master closet, which is actually even bigger than it appears.
Master bathroom.
Master bathroom.
Mom's bedroom.
Mom’s bedroom.


Jonah's bedroom.
Jonah’s bedroom.

Not pictured: maid’s quarter, many bathrooms and small backyard. But you get the idea.

Posted in House, Mexico, Personal | 7 Comments

ode to the oxxo

A 7-11 like convenient store, Oxxos are ubiquitous in Mexico, or at least in Guadalajara. You can’t go two blocks without seeing one. I would know, because Flynn tells me. Some kids watch movies or sing songs to pass the time on car trips. Not my kid. He counts the Oxxos.

Why the Oxxo obsession?

Not surprisingly, because they’re everywhere, there’s an Oxxo between our house and Flynn’s school, and Flynn’s grandma lets him stop there many days to buy a small treat. So Flynn considers Oxxo to be just about the most magical place in the world. He’s even influenced his brother, who, at one and a half, says only a handful of words. But Oxxo is one of them.

Admittedly, even to adults, Oxxo is pretty great. It’s like a 7-11, but more. You can buy your cell phone and pay the bill there. You can get bus tickets. You don’t have to get out your car like a fool for your M&Ms and Coke Zero — you can just go through the drive through. Because, why not?

Long live the Oxxo.

Posted in food, FS Life, Kids, Mexico | 1 Comment

on the shores of lake chapala

We hit most of the major sites when Andy’s parents were in town for the holidays, including one that we haven’t included here  before: Chapala. The town, which combined with neighboring Ajijic is home to more American and Canadian expats than anywhere else in the world, features a lively boardwalk along the lake.


Our visit was a fairly quick one, mostly focused on food. There was lunch.




There was the mango on a stick snack that I managed to convince Flynn was a lollipop.


IMG_4780And then, because you can’t not do it when in Chapala, Flynn tried some fried crickets.



Verdict: “yucky.”

Posted in Mexico, Travel | 1 Comment

goodbye to a globetrotting beagle

163252_646071680014_3255071_nIt’s a sad and quiet day at our house.

Last night, unexpectedly, our 11-year-old beagle Abbey passed away. She joined our family six years ago, adopted from a shelter in Brooklyn before our Foreign Service life.

5066_576041216624_3682846_n We don’t know much about her life before us other than that it was not a completely happy one. She brought some neuroses along as a result, like jumping up for “Abbey hugs” and trying to guilt you out of walking out the door.


She lived with us in our tiny apartment, hiding under our coffee table and howling most of the day while we were away at work, but by some miracle our neighbors never complained. She loved dog parks and chasing pigeons. She did not love the snow.

10391987_595793966954_7477666_nShe came along to DC and tolerated the addition of a baby to our clan.


She helped out as a dirty diaper detector.


She did not like the long plane ride to Benin, but once we got there she loved her huge yard filled with lizards. Much to her regret, she never did catch one.


As her baby owner grew a little older she realized he could be of use, dropping food from his high chair and even helping take a birthday cake from the table.


That baby owner was also not a bad playmate. And most importantly, he came with a dog loving nanny which meant Abbey never had to spend another day howling at home alone.



That little boy grew to love Abbey so much that she inspired his Halloween costume two years later.


Abbey came with our family back to DC, and then on to Mexico, and along the way welcomed a second little boy owner into the fold.


And now, just after he learned to say her name, she’s gone.

We’re sad and in shock. We still instinctively hurry picking up keys or putting on shoes, trying to keep her barking at our departure to a minimum. Flynn still carries his snacks high in the air to try to keep her from getting them. We’re still vacuuming up dog hair. And there will be a beagle shaped hole in our bed tonight, and for many nights to come.

She was a handful, but we loved her.

Posted in Abbey Q. Howley, FS Life, Kids, Personal | 6 Comments

where in the world


“Kazakhstan! That’s where Dad got me an egg surprise!”

Yep, our three year old is an expat kid. And a magnetic world puzzle map is my opinion the perfect expat kid present.

Eventually when I have time it’ll be hung on a wall. And when I have even more time I will put together some cutouts of the little faces of his little friends; I envision him placing them atop the various countries in which they’re scattered, and moving them as transfer seasons come and go.

For now, we just talk about his friends and where in the world they all are.  As we put together the puzzle, Flynn wonders if M and A get tired of eating bananas (Dominican Republic). He hopes his friend L has his own pony (Turkmenistan).  He thinks R and H are pretty lucky to be moving to the place with the big gorilla (Democratic Republic of the Congo).

And he wonders why Mexico is represented by a snake. He’s never seen a snake in Mexico.  Me neither, I tell him. What sort of picture would he recommend instead? “Maybe a pinata,” he says. “No, not a pinata. A churro.” I agree.


Posted in FS Life, Kids, Mexico, Toddler | 1 Comment

IKEA in Mexico?

Look familiar?


photo 2

No, IKEA hasn’t opened up shop in Mexico. This is just our local neighborhood IDEA. Subtle, eh?

photo 1

Judging by how quickly my photo taking was shut down, I’m guessing this is a not entirely kosher copycat venture. Yet they are a real business with a functional website and everything. They have the exact same sort of floor plan, winding you through a big warehouse with mock rooms. Some of their stuff is identical to what you’d find in IKEA. Literally, the same. Other stuff is in style of IKEA, but a little different.

photo 3

No Swedish meatballs, though. Bummer.

(Interested to know more? This blogger is more dedicated than me.)

Posted in Mexico | 3 Comments

letters to santa

photo 1

In Mexico, kids don’t send their letters to Santa through the mail. Instead, they roll them up, tie them onto the strings of red and green colored helium balloons, and then release them into the air. Off to the North Pole they float. Maybe not the most environmentally sound of practices, but both of my children were enthralled by the several balloon release events we found ourselves attending.

photo 2
Up, up and away.
Posted in Baby, FS Life, Holiday, Kids, Mexico, Toddler | Leave a comment