How to Get Rid of That Unsightly Unfinished Look

Those of you who have already retired in Mexico will know about the unsightly unfinished details that plague homes in Mexico. Let’s face it. Bare light bulbs are depressing. While there is no hope for what I euphemistically call our “cottage,” some homes and apartments do come close to being finished and just need a little help. One of my friends lives in such a place and she has given me permission to pass her simple, inexpensive home decor solutions on to you so that when you retire in Mexico you will feel more at home in your first residence.

Home Decor Tricks for Those Who Retire in Mexico

1.

We’ll start with the most common and most obvious problem: Bare light bulbs. They are so depressing and it’s not necessary to spend years in Mexico, slowly becoming desensitized to how terrible they look. My friend’s solution? Buy fancy paper called amate at the stationary store and roll and glue it into tubes, then glue loops of natural looking twine onto one end to hang it over the bulb. The sheets cost around 30 pesos a piece which, as she says, is quite reasonable for a lamp shade. She sometimes had to improvise with dental floss to attach the shade to the base that the bulb screws into.

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2.

Let’s continue with a problem closely related to that of the bare bulbs. Bare wires sticking out of walls or ceilings where a light bulb or switch was intended, but has never been installed. My “cottage” has tons of these, but as I said there is no hope that my home will ever look finished. In my friend’s case her ceiling was white, so she cut out rounds of white foami (a soft, flexible foam sold in sheets in stationary stores to be used for art projects) and glued those over the unsightly wires. _____________________________________________________________

3.

The electrical breaker box is mounted right in the middle of the most visible wall in my friend’s apartment. Can you see where it is? _____________________________________________________________
No. You have to look for it because she has covered it up with a color-coordinating table runner made of stiff fabric. The edges are tacked down so that if needed the cloth can be peeled back to allow access to the breaker box. _____________________________________________________________

4.

When you first retire in Mexico you often need to get some privacy covering on windows for which curtains aren’t the best option. (You’re going to move again soon, you don’t have a way to sew them, there is no way to easily mount a curtain rod, you don’t have the money for curtains yet, you don’t have time to get curtains made, etc.) In my friend’s case, her apartment is on the ground floor of a small, well kept apartment building in a neighborhood where there is a housing shortage. People would come, peek in the windows, then knock on the door several times a day asking for information about renting in the building.

My friend’s solution is to cut squares of tissue paper, glue them onto a large sheet of white tissue paper and tape this into the windows she wishes to cover. It gives a stained glass effect that lets light in.
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5.

In her bathroom she used the same trick to add some color and hide ugly paint marks in the shower window. (There is another classic problem in Mexican rental housing – – paint splattered everywhere. Nobody ever seems to use a drop cloth or to mask windows.)

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6.

Q: What is the shell covering on the bathroom wall above the mirror? _____________________________________________________________

A: A rusty nail! _____________________________________________________________

7.

My friend used masking tape and lighter colored paints on a darker background to create a tile-effect on the wall behind her stove. The paint helps disguise splatters. _____________________________________________________________

8.

Here my friend has hung manta (unbleached, cotton) over the bricks surrounding her back patio. The manta provides a calming privacy screen. _____________________________________________________________

9.

If you do feel like making curtains, ribbon tabs look nice, slide well on the curtain rod, and are easy to attach to the curtain material by hand. _____________________________________________________________

10.

What is the problem my friend hasn’t yet been able to solve? Lumps of cement stuck on top of the floor tiles from sloppy work when the wall tiles were laid. I wish she did have a trick for this one because my cottage has a lot of this unsightly unfinished effect. When you retire in Mexico, if you figure out a solution for this one, please send me an email and tell me how you did it.

Note: Use your own discretion as to the safety of any of these tricks that you choose to employ. For example, be sure that the paper covering the light bulbs can’t become hot and catch on fire. In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of property, health, data or profits arising out of or in connection with the use of this web site.

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Retire in Mexico: Make Your Bed a Mosquito Free Zone

Keep the Whining Wings Away and Sleep Peacefully When you Retire in Mexico

Even if you have screens on your doors and windows when you retire in Mexico you are likely to have mosquitoes in your house at certain times of year. If you are sitting there thinking, “No I won’t. She’s exaggerating,” you are obviously still in the U.S. Trust me. There will be mosquitoes. Since you probably chose to retire in Mexico so that you can relax and enjoy yourself you will need to get your sleep. Additionally, dengue fever exists in certain parts of Mexico and you definitely want to avoid that.

The Savvy Expat Uses a Mosquito Net 

To keep the tenacious little things away hang a mosquito net over your bed. I know this sounds obvious, but it is amazing how long it took us to get one. You can buy them at the market or where ever the locals shop. There are different styles and you can pick the one you like the best.

The Hoop

The prettiest ones hang off of a single hoop. They look like giant bridal veils. You hang the string connected to the hoop from your ceiling, then spread the netting around your bed.

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The advantage of these is that they are tall and you only have to hang the entire net from one hook–oh and it looks kind of cute, like a ferry princess bed draping. The disadvantage is that if you get a mosquito inside it’ll be harder to see among all of the netting pleated around the hoop and may be hung too high to reach without standing up on your bed and flailing around to smash the tiny intruder.

The Cube

My favorites are the cube-shaped ones. These are like square tents that hang over your bed. They have four tabs, one on each corner, to hang them up. The disadvantage to these is that you have to figure out how to tie all four tabs in a way that the net will hang squarely over your bed. If you move your bed around you can end up with a lot of holes in the wall! Also, the strings leading to the tabs might get in your way. If you have a ladder you could solve all of this by hanging it from the ceiling. The advantage is that it’s easy to spot and kill a mosquito who sneaks in. Also, it is easy to get in and out of the net. You just lift of one side, slide in, then drop it down behind you.

When you hang a cube type net hang it a few inches “low” so that the bottom of the net bunches up around the edge of your mattress. This makes a seal so that the mosquitoes can’t sneak under the netting if your pillow or blankets push the net out a little while you are sleeping. You don’t want your net hanging along the outside edge of your bed because mosquitoes like to hang out under beds and will find it quite handy to slide right up between your mattress and your net.

The Material

When you are purchasing your mosquito net you can select between a durable, less breathable fabric (top two pictures shown at right) or a more breathable “snaggy” fabric (bottom two pictures shown below right). There are advantages and disadvantages of both and you may end up wanting both for use at different times of year. A lighter fabric will allow more air to move through, which may be of highest priority during the hot, humid, pre-rainy season nights. Unfortunately, sometimes lighter fabrics can get tangled around your feet at night, causing you to have to sit up in bed and lay them down around the edge of your mattress. This is because they are so light that they don’t naturally fall straight down into a pile and they are impossible to “kick” into place. Trust me, I’ve tried. Some of these lighter fabrics are also teensy weensy knits and can snag on zippers or rough feet etc., causing holes or runs in your fortress walls.

A heavier fabric is the opposite. Generally, I prefer a heavy fabric because it tends to fall into place around the edge of the bed no matter how many times I get up in the middle of the night and I can get it into place with a flick of my toes. I almost never have mosquitoes finding entrances through places where the net is tweaked. Also, my heavier mosquito net has no holes or snags in it.

When you first thought, “Gee, I think I want to retire in Mexico” did you picture yourself at the market picking out your mosquito net?

Retire in Mexico and Return to Your Childhood Days

It’s funny, but a mosquito net adds a kind of exclusive, cozy feel to your bed. The sunny morning light makes the white fabric glow warmly, making the room beyond fade into shaded impressions of your bedroom. Shafts of afternoon sun slice yellow squares onto the fabric walls that protect you. I know what time it is when I wake up from my nap by where the shaft of golden sunlight is hitting my netting. I could put marks on it and make myself and indoor nap clock.

Remember when you were little and you liked to nap in small, private places; behind the couch, in an emptied drawer, in a pillow and blanket fort? You can be in your net, hearing mosquitoes whining around your bed, knowing that you are in your own personal space, safe and comfy, and they can’t get you!

The Savvy Expat Can Also Use a Fan  

A fan is also invaluable at keeping mosquitoes away. If you can build your own home when you retire in Mexico I recommend that you install ceiling fans above your beds. Get fans that can turn slowly, blowing mosquitoes away but not making you feel as if you are sleeping in an arctic draft.  

If you don’t have ceiling fans you can get a free-standing fan and aim it so that it blows the air across your body. If you can, position the fan so that it sort of blows over your shoulder, missing your head, but keeping mosquitoes away. The only problem with fans is that they can sometimes cause you to get a stuffy nose, which is why I won’t part with my mosquito net. I’m sure you’ll agree. After all, if you wanted a cold you could stay in the icy north and forget all about your plan to retire in Mexico.

I only got three mosquito bites while I was writing this page. (I’m not kidding.) …Hey, now there’s a good idea. I need a mosquito net for my desk!

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Live or Retire in Mexico: Scorpions

Are the Scorpions Keeping you from Living or Retiring in Mexico?

Everyone facing the decision to live or retire in Mexico, sooner or later asks herself how bad the scorpions will be. I know because I’ve spent four years in terror of the little arachnids.


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Our house is terrifying for those fearful of scorpions. The roofing and exposed rafters provide many square meters of scorpion habitat. I spent months wondering when one was going to fall on me at night as I slept.

Since one of the main reasons to retire in Mexico is to get some rest, you won’t want to have the same experience. You’ll be glad to know that accumulated experiences have caused me to readjust the way I see them and I hope that what I’ve observed of scorpion behavior will help you to enjoy a smoother transition to Mexico.

Before I Retire in Mexico I Have a Few Questions about Scorpions

When do they come out?

They don’t seem to come out unless forced out, usually by rainwater getting into their hiding places, which tends to happen at the beginning of the rainy season in June or during hurricane season in (June through November).

Scorpions are nocturnal, so it’s a good idea to wear flip-flops in the house at night.

Is there anything I can do to help keep them of my house?

Yes. Don’t leave things stacked up against walls or on shelves for long periods of time without moving them and cleaning under them. Occasionally clean around and under furniture, using a light bleach solution.

Outside, scorpions like to hide in narrow places between pieces of dead wood or under rocks. Whenever you are going to pick up a rock or move something wooden be aware that you might see a scorpion and keep your hands where you can see them.

How dangerous are they, really?

Not all scorpions are deadly, but in Mexico there various Centruroides species which are deadly to humans if untreated. If you don’t get stung by a poisonous species, you may have the unpleasant experience of being stung and it’ll hurt and… that’s it.

(For more information see:
http://www.emedicine.com/med/topic2081.htm)

What happens if I get stung? How will I know if the scorpion that got me is poisonous or not?

If you get stung, don’t panic.

Go calmly to the nearest hospital or clinic prepared to treat for scorpion stings (it’s a good idea to know ahead of time which hospital you will go to in case of scorpion sting.) Hail a taxi so that you don’t have to drive. If you want to, you could put ice on the sting during the ride to slow the poison, but this is not necessary.

Should I be checking my clothes and shoes before putting them on?

Probably not, but if you happen to be in an area where you know there are lots of scorpions, you could do this. This is also a good idea if the clothes or shoes have been sitting unused for a while. How long is a while? You decide. You don’t want to make yourself crazy with paranoia, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.

How do I kill a scorpion if I see one?

Stay calm and take a moment to plan how you will smash the scorpion. It will generally sit still, so you have time to think. Make sure there is no chance that the scorpion could fall on you or that it’s tail could “reach around” to sting you while you are smashing it. Once you have your plan, squash it. It’s that simple.

Scorpion Welcome Wagon for the Recently Retired in Mexico

Scorpions are not the stealthy predators we picture them to be. They are actually community oriented and ignorant of the danger they present to others. The scorpions in your house will reward you for your decision to live in Mexico by organizing themselves into an efficient welcome wagon team.

For most of the year, they’ll remain in the hidden cracks and crannies of the exterior walls of your house. You’ll never see them as you go about your business. That is, you’ll never see them until you have a guest staying at your house.

Becoming aware that you are hosting a visitor, they’ll send their field representative out to extend their warmest wishes. They want to deliver their heartfelt “bienvenidos” in person, so they’ll time their greeting so that it is the guest who will meet them sashaying along, tails slightly curled up in a hearty salute.

The guest–who will have only recently gotten over their own fear of scorpions enough to visit you in your new retirement wonderland–will call out, “Is that a scorpion?”

“Let me see.” You’ll respond nonchalantly.

You’ll go to look and sure enough, it’ll be a scorpion. (They’re quite unmistakable, after all.)

“We haven’t seen one in over a year.” You’ll say as you aim your sandaled foot directly over the hunching creature.

Now there is a corollary to scorpion sightings, which goes as follows: the less the guest believes you, the more likely he is to see a second field representative during his stay at your house.

But seriously, it seems scorpions stay in their little hidy-holes as long as they are dry. In June, when it starts to rain, they are driven out. As long as you don’t leave things stacked up in corners or along walls for long periods of time and keep your eyes peeled after a the first hard rains you won’t have any unpleasant surprises.

Just the other day we had one of those rains where we had to go around the house putting Tupperware and bowls under the leaks in the roof. It was the first rain of the season that required bowls (a 6 bowler, actually) and sure enough, near one of the leaks a large black scorpion was crouched. He was not a field representative of the local Welcome Wagon society and rather than sashaying across the floor he was trying to blend into the corner formed by the wall and the floor. He died a quick death.

You may have noticed that I haven’t included any recounts of wild chases under and through furniture nor ducking and jumping clear of charging scorpions. There is poetic justice in the scorpion-human relationship; scorpions don’t attack, they hunker. Once you have spotted a scorpion, you have won. It will hold still while you take aim and carefully squash it.

So, the coast is clear. You can make the decision to live or retire in Mexico, especially since you know that it’s your guests who will probably run the risk of getting stung. Just don’t come down at the beginning of the rainy season, and don’t invite friends until you you’re ready to see a scorpion.

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