A former high school classmate and cherished old friend when reconnecting with Roger through Facebook quoted the old saying: "When God closes a door, he opens a window." The years have seen a number of life changes for us that make that adage ring true. After being blessed with good fortune, a wonderful son and great experiences, we decided to look out that window and prepare for more of what this wonderful life has to offer. We hope through our blog to share our journey from this point forward with family, with friends and with many others. Hopefully we'll make some new friends along the way. We hope you find our tales of some interest, even amusement and perhaps an inspiration for you to treat each and every day as an opportunity and an adventure to share with those who are an important part of your life.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

At Last...A Courtyard!

 Long time readers of our blog (or those who've explored the archives) are probably aware that the Yazells originally planned to retire to the central highlands of Mexico.  As twelve year residents of Arizona, we had many opportunities to visit, explore and fall in love with the culture and architecture of Mexico.   Also, as homeowners in a land replete with sunshine, we had come to appreciate the mixing of indoor conveniences and lifestyles in a semi outdoor setting.  We always thought that the ideal home would offer us the opportunity to create an open courtyard accessible from the main living/dining/working areas of the house.  Our new home in Ecuador offered us an opportunity to bring that dream to a reality.  As the realtor took us through a prospective house and bought us through the dining/kitchen area out to a plain and simple rear courtyard containing an Ecuadorian laundry and calaphon, Suzanne turned to me and pointed to the middle of the back wall and said "We can fit our chiminea very well here, don't you think?"  My reply was "Oh yea and won't our tile murals look great on these walls?"

This is what the back courtyard looked like when
we  first purchased our new home in Ecuador

Within a week of our closing, our architect-friend Marcello was looking over a photo of a chiminea on our laptop and we were sketching our thoughts on how we wanted this space in the rear to be developed.   Chimineas are, at best, uncommon here.  The fact was that Marcello had never designed one nor had his crew ever built one.  But he thought our idea was great so less than two weeks after that, we were cutting into the rear wall, inserting some rebar and getting ready to pour a semi-circle of concrete on a handmade elevated platform and mold.   Project Casa Yazell Courtyard was underway!

Here's a very brief photo journal of what transpired over the next several weeks:

After the concrete platform dried,
the masonry work began in earnest!

Adding the support base would enable the temporary
 table frame and support platform to be removed.
The space underneath would accessible from one side and
used for firewood storage.

Marco and his helper add the cement finish.
After that cured, there would be hand cut stone for the base.
We also had some shelves added to hold some of Suzanne's favorite Tonala pottery pieces.

The finished Chiminea as it is now seen from our guest bedroom.
A nice piece of first time work by our architect and his crew!

After our container arrived, the finishing touches were added.
Viva la courtyard!

Naturally we have to have a grill! (It came on our container)
 The window behind the grill is where our kitchen is.
Note the hummingbird feeder...we have guests every day!

Although the chiminea was the major piece of construction, there was also some other work involved.  We removed the Ecuadorian laundry sink, built a small wall, added cabinetry to enclose the calaphon and propane tanks.  Roger installed some ceramic light fixtures to replace bare bulbs, ran gas line extensions to our indoor laundry and for the gas grill.  The entire courtyard also got some fresh paint and an electric fence was installed on the top of the wall for security.  After the container arrival, it was also quite a chore to mount our tiles on the concrete walls.   We got it all done, added some plants including a wall mounted orchid (a housewarming gift from local friends).  The storage area under the chiminea now regularly holds two to three bundles of well dried Ecualyptus for firewood and our courtyard is utilized almost every day!

The courtyard even has a breakfast nook we enjoy almost every morning!
.  The simple wooden table and chairs was our sole dining furniture 
for weeks while we awaited our container arrival.

From an early morning coffee and a breakfast that includes hummingbird guests to a late evening glass of wine in front of the roaring fire, the courtyard at Casa Yazell has become one of our favorite places to be.  It's yet another dream come true as we continue "juntos en el camino de la vida!"


  1. How beautiful! You guys are so creative. It's amazing what you've been able to do in such a short time.

  2. Love your blog and have been following you since the beginning. Your home is looking great! May I ask why you decided on Cuenca vs. San Miguel? Thanks!

    1. Thanks for your loyal readership! A great question and we'll cover the reasons for making Ecuador our final choice soon in an upcoming blog. The fact is we still have fondness for San Miguel and hope to visit there again, maybe next year or more likely, the year following (The Wine Guy has a strong yen to also head to wine country down south!)

  3. It's beautiful! You must feel so great to be transforming this into a home! Keep having fun! Z