the places I visit on the island paradise where I live

Dec 31, 2011

Christmas Charity from Dive Choice Mexico

Karen Bloemhoff and Ricardo Garcia buy new toys all year from the money they make from selling donated items. They work tirelessly so the less fortunate children of Cozumel each have a new toy for the holiday season. From the above You Tube video, you can see just how appreciative the children are. Karen and Ricardo run Dive Choice Mexico, a dive operation. For more information on their personalized dive services, click on Dive Choice Mexico.

Karen also runs a very successful property management service and works for one of the local real estate companies. They are married and also have a baby. Just thinking of all they do makes me tired! They are an inspiration to us all here. Hailing from The Netherlands, Karen is a warm and kind hardworking entrepreneur.  Thanks, Karen and Ricardo, for all you do for these children.

Happy New Year! We know a bunch of children in Cozumel will be celebrating 2012 with their spanking new toys!

Dec 25, 2011

Christmas Cozumel Style

Cozumel the island of the Golondrinas, or swallows
Dinner with friends on Christmas Eve was a great event, the food fabulous and the company even better. Sorrisi's offered two menus ... one a fixed price of $49 usd and the other $39 usd. The more expensive option included surf and turf, a lobster ravioli and tuna tartare and dessert. We were a party of 5. I don't eat desserts but everybody, especially the guys, loved both desserts, lovingly made by the owner from family recipes from Sicily. I was the only taker of the less expensive option, as I really wanted the cabrese salad with tomato and fresh mozzarella. They drizzle a dressing over the cheese that is amazing, and their fresh mozzarella is really fresh and tasty. It also came with a pasta of spinach with a red sauce. The sauce was extremely good. I couldn't really appreciate the chicken with mushroom sauce and potatoes, as after eating the rest, I was just too full. Great night with great friends, new and not so new! We had a wonderful time. The owner happens to be a really charming guy from Sicily and always goes out of his way to give me great service with a smile. Many thanks!

Christmas tree on Melgar at Cozumel

The photos are all compliments of This is Cozumel. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Taken at Cozumel Museum

Cozumel clock tower decorated for Christmas

Dec 22, 2011

The Meaning of Christmas in Cozumel

Artwork by Sarah Williams Pritchett
Cozumel is a small town. We have a group of people, both Mexican and foreigner, who look out for and care about each other. There is a flurry of activity now. The tourists have begun to arrive. For us locals, that is a mixed blessing. The roads become more congested and a lot of people who have no idea how to drive here are on the roads. But business is up. People are selling. Diamonds are being purchased, along with souvenirs and booze. 

Through the car window on east side of Cozumel

The weather is amazing, and I thank God every day that I live in such a beautiful place. It isn't perfect. We know that. Unfortunately petty crime tends to go up this time of year. As the island grows, we get the warts that go along with being just a little bigger small town.

I am looking forward to dinner with friends for Christmas Eve, brunch with a group of ladies I know for Christmas morning ... and dinner with more friends Christmas evening. Thank you to all of you who have come in to my life here in Cozumel. Thank you to my husband, this Christmas season.

I feel a sense of gratitude. Business is picking up and we all have the Humane Society Christmas party to look forward to on the 28th. Don't forget to buy tickets and head on down to the Money Bar! More information on the Humane Society in Cozumel can be found here. You can also find them on Facebook

Photo courtesy of Humane Society of Cozumel Island

Merry Christmas, Cozumel!

Nov 27, 2011

Ironman a Big Success in Cozumel

Dailene Erickson (photo courtesy of Scuba Tony Anschutz)
Ironman Cozumel is now over for 2011. A good time was had by all. The winner of the Triathalon event was Michael Levato, who is a professional triathlete. More information on Michael can be found here.

Mike & Amanda Lovato (photo courtesy of Madeleine Mason)

It is so exciting that we now have Ironman in Cozumel, and next year we will have two Ironman competitions, including a 70.3 Ironman in September and the full event again in November.

The women's competition winner was a woman from Switzerland. Ironic as I have been reporting on Switzerland this week on my Gargoyles & Graffiti blog

Simone Benz, winner of Female Ironman 2011 with Luisa Prieto, our mayor's wife

Congratulations again to Dailene who keeps up with the pros. She placed very well again this year. Go, Dailene! Dailene has a shop, Cabrilla's Cozumel, that repairs bikes, sell sportswear (great shirts and shoes) and other items. They even have Ironman T-shirts. Her shop is located on 11 between 10 and 5. And if you have any questions, you can reach Dailene on her facebook page at

Love the sombrero (photo courtesy of Amber Hightower)

Tony Anschutz was too busy this year to compete, with his dive business and getting married!! But he was still there cheering the contestants on, and taking photos and video. And if you would like to get in the water and dive with Tony, his website is:

Everyone I know who dives with Tony has nothing but great things to say!

Ironman swimmers

Nov 24, 2011

Thanksgiving Cozumel Style

We just got back from our fourth year eating at Rock 'n Java for our Thanksgiving Day feast. Turkey, ham, green bean casserole, both sweet and mashed potatoes and pecan pie for dessert. I took my dessert to go; I was so full. More information on all the great things at Rock 'n Java can be found here.

I don't call Cozumel Mexican Mayberry for nothing. As we arrived at the restaurant, one of my friends Nancy was outside with her husband, son and some friends. I already knew she would be there as we spoke in the afternoon. While eating, we saw at least ten people we know ... from good friends to acquaintances and I even got to meet someone new on my way out. So great to live in a small town!

I remember Thanksgivings from my childhood at my grandmother's house. Her furniture, inherited from Uncle Joe, was too big for the room so we had to squeeze around the heavy antique chairs to get in them. Once seated, you were there for the duration. The only one getting up was my grandmother and maybe one of her friends. My grandmother had a habit of asking someone she knew (usually from her Church) with nowhere else to go to spend Thanksgiving with us. They always volunteered to help and since they were seated next to Grandma, they were the only two who could get out of the room until it was over. 

I remember the smell of the turkey, sage stuffing, spaghetti and cheese (nobody has ever made it better than my grandmother.) It was the one day every year that I ate too much.

Now most everyone is gone - my grandmother, my parents, and all my grandmother's friends. My brother is in Florida. My nieces are in California and England. 

But this year, like the last four, I spent with my husband and a good friend, DeLea.  My husband's niece joined us for the second year running. For me, Thanksgiving is a day of remembrance and giving thanks (and enjoying friends and family!) 

me after Thanksgiving dinner

P.S. Happy Thanksgiving from Cozumel!

Nov 19, 2011

Ironman Coming to Cozumel Next Sunday

The test run for the roads of Ironman will be tomorrow. For about two hours, all the roads that will be closed for the event will be closed to see how we can do a better job of traffic flow. There will be some people that will need to leave the island that day on flights and by ferry, and last year proved especially challenging. A few renters in the south were desperate enough to try to get a boat to get to the airport.

After the test run, my husband says there will be a parade in honor of 20 de Noviembre, which is Revolution Day, so it should be interesting. Then next Sunday we will actually have Ironman, at the tail end of the Thanksgiving weekend.

Our very own Dailene Erickson will be competing in the women's competitions. We wish her all the luck in the world, not that she will need it. She has trained all year and is in tip top shape. Go Dailene!!!

Dailene Erickson from Cozumel on the right

Nov 6, 2011

My New Lenovo Desktop Computer


So psyched! Just bought a new Lenovo desktop computer for my home office. I do at least 50% of my work at home and I've been struggling with an old HP desktop that I bought at the beginning of 2007. Good when I bought it, but really not up to the task these days. I knew when I couldn't even download one disc of Fringe Season 3 for my husband, it was time for a new one.

I found it at the new Sam's Club and I love it. It is cream and white and goes so well with the decor. Has 500 GB and I have figured out how to make Lenovo's fast. Use Google Chrome or Firefox as your browser, instead of Internet Explorer. Now I can post twice as much! Guess what? It is wireless to boot and I bought it for under $7,000 pesos. What a great deal!

Oct 30, 2011

Rina Long Gone

Now that Rina is gone, we get to reassess the water table situation in Cozumel. A lot of homes were flooded from the 6.5" of rain that dropped in about 3 hours. We are all safe. That is the most important thing, but many of the yards and houses still have standing water and are in the process of drying out. 

Possibly more drains need to be placed in Cozumel. That may be something that gets addressed next. It is an ongoing problem on islands and especially for us, as underground is a cenote system. When the cenotes fill up, there is nowhere for the water to go but up.

On the other hand, when I read about so many islands that no longer have potable drinking water, I am grateful for our never-ending water supply. 

Oct 26, 2011

Hurricane Rina Update

Unlike most things in life, preparing for a hurricane reminds me of a dress rehearsal. We prefer that the real show never makes it to Broadway. So we are boarding up, closing and locking our hurricane shutters. We move furniture, angst over whether we need to take everything off the walls, roll up rugs, stack mattresses on top of each other on the beds in the store. We put pallets under our headboards and night tables in the warehouse and hope that no water comes in.

For us at The Magic of Design, getting ready for a hurricane is a major ordeal. We have our personal house to deal with, the easiest by far as we have hurricane shutters. Closed and locked. The store ... being on the second story we don't fear leaving things on the floor, but away from the windows and doors. Towels under doors and tucked into window wells, plywood on the outside. Now our great staff is finishing up with our warehouse and our upholstery shop. More plywood ... and yet we hope it is all for naught. That no hurricane comes our way. That we remain safe.

Looking very good at this point ... Hurricane Rina has been downgraded to a Cat. 2 and may become a 1 before landfall. But with hurricanes, we never know. Better safe than sorry. 

The island of Cozumel is an amazing place. Everybody works together to prepare and if we do get hit, every man, woman and child over 2 will be out for the cleanup. That is just how it is.

A lovely female reporter from the AP interviewed me by phone this morning. Her name is Adriana Gomez. She contributed on the attached article.

Hurricane Rina update

I am even mentioned my name. How cool is that! Thanks, Adriana. 

Oct 20, 2011

Breakfast for Breast Cancer Awareness

Ex-pat community supporting Breast Cancer Awareness
One of my favorite people is Mari on the far left

Yesterday, there was a breakfast at Carlos and Charlie's for breast cancer awareness. About 150 women attended, and about 15 of the attendees were from our ex-pat community. I didn't make it but bought a ticket to support the cause. A lot of women wore pink and came out for a grand old time.

Discussing breast cancer awareness

There were prizes and a large donation was made by Carlos & Charlie's Restaurant. Our mayor's wife, Luisa Prieto, is in charge of DIF, which is the way it works here. I really never understood what DIF is in charge of other than they were involved in matters of children, but DIF is a lot more than that. DIF gets involved in cases of abandoned and abused children. It also is the agency which handles adoptions.

Luisa Prieto and her daughter Malu accepting the check from Carlos & Charlie's

Click here if you want to know more about adopting a child in Mexico. 

Oct 7, 2011

Amigos: a New Hostel in Cozumel

Palapa at Amigo's Hostel

Amigos Hostel Cozumel is located on a quiet street in the heart of the original quadrant of Cozumel, 5 city blocks from the ocean on Calle 7 Sur between Ave 25 & 30 Col. Centro.

Amigos Hostel Cozumel is a new hostel in Cozumel, but Amigos has been around for a long time. It was a bed and breakfast for years, and the owners are old hands at hospitality with hotels in Bacalar and Isla Holbox as well. 

Kathy Kopelman is a dear friend of mine, in addition to being an astute businesswoman. She and her husband Bob have been in Cozumel since 1987. More about their great backgrounds can be found on their website under Meet the Kopelman's here

The Kopelman family at Machu Picchu in Peru

Kathy explained to me recently that they named their first bed & breakfast in Cozumel, Amigos, which we all know means "friend." It was easy to pronounce, everybody knew what it meant and it was at the beginning of the alphabet for the old days when we checked everything by phone book. 

This is the information Kathy supplied on their new concept with their property Amigos, a hostel:

"Dorms are mixed dorms, 4 bunks for 8 total in each dorm ( 2 of those) cost is $12 US per night with all taxes, has private bathroom and second separate sink, lockers.  Our  private room has up to 3 individual beds  or can be king if advised with notice, private is with complete kitchenette and cost is $45 US per room per night..    
Pool, gardens ,   smoking area, large communal kitchen, living area with DISH US  TV, DVD with movies,  hammocks in the garden, area for  moped or  tuk tuk parking.."

We wish them all the success in the world and know it will be a great venture. There is nobody more organized than Kathy. 

Great outdoor area

A dorm room at Amigo's Hostel in Cozumel

Spread the word. You can enjoy a nice room at a great price!

Sep 13, 2011

TripAdvisor Complaints from the BBB

TripAdvisor is not Better Business Bureau accredited. They have had many complaints lodged against them with the BBB, mostly over the last year. This is what a few people had to say. has a forum for Off Topic Chatter, which they say is for an exchange of ideas and opinions. All posts that shine a negative light on the president (even thoughtful, polite ones) are erased and the poster's privileges revoked. They need to warn that only happy posts are allowed.

Tripadvisor is extraordinarily non-responsive. No phone number to call. Just communicating via emails that they clearly don't even read. They are sloppy in their work and essentially hold business owners hostage. They manipulate rankings and I have had customers tell me they left glowing reviews only to never see them materialize. If you write a negative review, however, it is as if there is a jetstream carrying it to the page. Is the only way to be unbiased by leaving a negative review for a property? What about competitors that might write negative reviews? In addition, they posted photos that clearly do NOT reflect my establishment. So, false testimonials from guests I don't believe ever stayed at my establishment and false photos for a different hotel. I do not want to list my hotel name as there have been some who have been retaliated against by this mafia travel site. Either they are just incredibly inept to the point of gross negligence or they are malicious. Either way, they should be put out of business.

Tripadvisor is quite biased and will remove or not even post negative reviews if they are about any of their paid sponsors.

For additional information about TripAdvisor on the Better Business Bureau site, click here

Sep 12, 2011

TripAdvisor Exposed

I read last week that TripAdvisor is being sued under a class action suit in England by a fact checking company. It was on Pauline Frommer's daily blog. You can read about it in length here

Kind of sad another resource we all use turns out to be tainted. I have to believe it is the same in the states and Mexico as well. Recently the Danube Restaurant in Cozumel has dropped from grace with TripAdvisor, as they had too many glowing reviews. TripAdvisor's reviewers (whoever they are) determined that a new restaurant could not have that many excellent reviews, so they have dropped them from #1 to #113 of #114 restaurants in Cozumel. The owner has tried to contact them but to no avail.

So Carey and I put on our thinking caps and tried to help. That is where the tale becomes very dark. First of all, unbeknownst to me until yesterday, TripAdvisor is owned by Expedia .... one of the largest wholesale sellers of airlines tickets and hotels. Isn't this a clear case of conflict of interest? Also, TripAdvisor has the right to put reviews as pending until they post them (or they never post them.) I posted a glowing review that is pending review, so have my friends Gloria and Kandy. Unless you log in to facebook on TripAdvisor's site and are friends with us, you never see these reviews. Yet my cousin wrote a few reviews on Spain restaurants over the last few days, and all of those reviews are posted on their site. They also sometimes post reviews and take them off, back and forth depending on it seems .... the highest bidder? It works like this. TripAdvisor sells membership packages to hotels for $40 a month. Once you are a member, low and behold, your rating shoots way up, or that is the claim in the class action suit.

To muddy the waters even further, in these tough economic times, it seems that some owners are posting horrible reviews on competitor's sites and fake glowing reviews on their sites. TripAdvisor says they can spot the fakes. Well when Carey and I went on to defend Danube Restaurant, their "Destination Experts" ate us for lunch. Said we had ulterior motives and were up to no good, not who we said we were, etc. The sad part is with about two minutes of investigation, they could have qualified us. She is the webmistress of, a labor of love where she takes no advertising money and only promotes those she believes in. I also have a business here in Cozumel and two blogs that could be verified. The guys beating us up about a restaurant in Cozumel were from Santa Fe, New Mexico and even Canada. 

Quite disappointing as I have relied on TripAdvisor over the years when making travel plans. I always knew to take the reviews with a grain of salt as it seems that inexpensive always trumps good quality, but now I know it is much more complicated than that. Any travel site that lists one of the best restaurants in Cozumel as #113 will no longer have my loyalty.

You decide for yourself.

Aug 14, 2011

French Quarter grand opening

 Susan Johnson took over the French Quarter Restaurant & Sports Bar this month, August 2011. She has created a new menu and brought live music to the place. A good time was had by all at the opening party last night. The band is playing again tonight, San Juan Project from Guadalajara. There is a big surprise Susan has for tonight and she is being very tight-lipped, so I don't know what it is .. yet, anyway. I will keep working on that!

San Juan Project from Guadalajara jamming for the opening party

Susan had a soft opening August 1st and has been so busy since then with all the locals and ex-pats coming out to enjoy the place. The big night was last night and there will be a repeat performance tonight.On Friday, the first 50 guests were given free tote bags (really cute.)

Susan modeling the new tote bag

Live music, great food and awesome drinks ... it just doesn't get better than that! Some photos of the party last night.

Susan and friends

Paul & Delfina

Lisa & Teresa Jo

I love the support from the community. Even the owner of Rock 'n Java, Lisa Ramirez, was there to enjoy and she loved the band as reported on facebook!

Susan & Marilu
Masked beauties

Christi & Michaela

Needless to say, the opening was a huge success.

Susan, Cathy Martinez and I worked on the new paint colors, and I was very pleased with the results. Susan wanted the colors to reflect the French Quarter of New Orleans and also coordinate with the existing murals, which are awesome. Cathy found just the perfect shade of gold and Susan and I pondered over the greens and purples until we found just the right selections. Upstairs, we went with a base of cerveza (how appropriate as it means beer) and complimented with tomato and a light blue for accent colors. The paint came out great and reflects the new and improved look Susan is going for.

New gold and green

We wish Susan all the success in the world, and based on the last two weeks, she is already there! 

P.S. Most of the photos were supplied by Katherine Robinson, who did a super job taking wonderful photos. Thanks, Katherine!

Katherine Robinson (in the middle) surrounded by friends
Update August 18th .... ate at French Quarter last night with my husband and friends. Had the pasta with shrimp. It was excellent. My husband had the pulled pork sandwich. He liked that too!

Aug 12, 2011

Hello from Cozumel

The summers in Cozumel are humid, hot and buggy. I tend to get in to my typical routine to stay out of the heat ... coffee and oatmeal in the morning with the a/c blasting in my house, drive to work with the a/c on, stay until 5 working at the furniture and interior design store (also air-conditioned.) I guess you get my drift. It is really hot this time of year.

So while I need to be indoors, I decided instead of always working on my blog about my travels away from Cozumel, I would try to see where I live from a different point of view.
As you can see from the photos below, the weather was a lot cooler in the winter as we prepared for the opening of the Carnival parade.

Preparing for Carnival February 2011
This is dedicated to the wondrous island of Cozumel. May I see it from a different point of view!

Preparing food for Carnival

Carnival hats on Kurt and Susanna

Carnival clown

Flinstones minus their Flinstone mobile

This is a behind the scenes look at Carnival preparation from February of 2011. I walked the streets snapping photos before I went to work at the Humane Society booth. The local Humane Society works at placing all animals they take in and also does neutering and spaying. It is a great group. Information can be found at: Cozumel Humane Society

Joni working the Humane Society Booth

And if you do decide you want to see my photos from other parts of the world,  check out my other blog about all the great architectural features and things that strike my fancy as I travel. It can be found at:Gargoyles & Graffiti