Tuesday, November 27

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

"How are thy leaves so verdant"
Yea, yea, yea. Of course they're verdant, they're artifical.
Ever since I saw the big rig pull up with all the freshly chopped down (slain) Christmas trees, piled up one on top of each other, I lost my desire to have a "real" dead tree. I know, people grow them for this sort of thing, but what a wasteful tradition. Anyway, I've had an artificial tree for years, a green one. When I was young, my dad bought one of the first aluminum silver trees. One year, I'd do the whole thing in blue and white, the next year, maybe red and gold. I had fun decorating that special tree. My dad pitched it it all in the trash when I got married and he thought I wasn't coming back anymore. I was tramatized.

My first Christmas in Costa Rica, I wanted a tree. I had no idea where to find one but by some Christmas miracle, there was one at this little store and it was perfect. It was about six feet tall and came in a big four foot long box. I bought it before I realized I would be carrying it back to my place on my only mode of transportation at the time, a bicycle. Oh, what fun. I had to work hard to get that tree back to my apartment dodging potholes, cars, whatever. The photo is my first Christmas in Costa Rica when I still had Homey (my heart, the Pek-a-poo). Homey didn't make it to the next Christmas (a car hit him). Brindy (the Pit) managed to become the neighborhood puta (ho) and blessed me with the three monsters I have now. Hootie (my African Grey parrot) is not in this photo and he is no longer with me. I like to think Hootie is flying high with the Lapas (Red Scarlet Macaws).

I was sort of dreading dragging out all Christmas decor and tree. Once I got someone to get it out from the box underneath the t.v., it all started coming back to me. Looking through the old decorations and remembering Christmas' past. My first Christmas in Costa Rica was a special one. This year, five years later, it still feels special. Special in the way that it may never come again like it is right now. Somedays, I long to be back home where people talk like me and my family is near.

This year, I don't fuss with the lights. If they don't work, they're trash. No switching out bulbs until I'm totally stressed. Especially since one cord "bit" me with an electrical shock. This year, I will adorn my "verdant" tree with all colored lights and gold and white for everything else. Mostly, angels, balls, bows and garland. I will appreciate my efforts every night I adore my tree in all it's splendor and sparkle. That is, if/when I get it decorated. I belabor the whole ordeal.

I will remember my family and friends and what it has taken to spend my fifth Christmas here. I will think of my sisters, decorating their trees and wish I was home for Christmas. Better yet, My Christmas Wish is that they were HERE for Christmas!

Saturday, November 24

Black Friday

I never understood what Black Friday was until I got involved with the stock market. It was pretty sad the half-day of trading after Thanksgiving. I couldn't watch since my portfolio is in the pits.

I was actually comatosed from too much turkey and dressing. I way over did it. I made the turkey dressing using the Stove Top mix (3 boxes) but I added my own concoction of finely chopped bell peppers, onions, broccoli and carrots. I cooked it all down in the stock made from the turkey parts and added it to the dressing mix. I used the turkey stock instead of water the box calls for to make the dressing. I added about four slices of cut up toast to soak up some of the juices and then baked it for about 20 minutes. Dawg, it was good. Almost better than the traditional Jiffy Mix cornbread way my family makes it. There were some that didn't like dressing that were eating it and loving it. I've never used peppers or broccoli in it before but hay, I'm in Costa Rica and have that freedom to go beyond conventional.

I watched my fellow N. Americans storm the stores in the U.S. on the t.v. looking for bargains. Where do they get all that MONEY!! Credit cards, no doubt. It's odd to see what the hottest items are selling over there. Stuff we don't even have here. I am free of the frenzy of shopping living here. I buy what I need and as for gifts, my family and friends understand I am living on NO INCOME. Gifts will be small and hopefully, thoughtful. I'm a crafter and this time of year I should shine. We'll see how motivated I get.

Typically, I put up Christmas decorations about now. Living here, I have scaled back on the outside lights as not to be to flashy. I don't need robbers. I now wait for someone to come take my heavy t.v. off the box of decorations so I can get started. I'm in no hurry after all, we are on Pura Vida time.
Happy Holidays.

Photo taken last year in Puntarenas around Christmas time.

Thursday, November 22

Happy Thanksgiving to All

And let the cooking commence! Of course, it's not a recognized holiday here but with all the Gringos, all the restaurants are offering the traditional Thanksgiving dinner, reservation only at most. My friend, Dan at Sunrise Restaurant, loves to have his friends, employees, and patrons come eat at his place for a private buffet Thanksgiving dinner. Turkeys are expensive here and a 20 pounder can set you back over $60. He bought three big 'uns year. A traditional Thanksgiving dinner costs big bucks here, if you can find the stuff.

This year is like an almost instant replay of last year. I volunteered to cook two turkeys since I have a big oven. It's almost become a tradition now. Last year, I calculated the cooking time and thought I'd have time to go to the beach. I didn't consider when cooking a bird in a bag, the time is shortened. I returned to a burnt smell wafting from my house. I was in a panic since THAT WAS the featured dish! It was fine but the meat did fall of the bone. Dan liked that, not much carving to do. I learned then, it's hard to screw up cooking a turkey. Dan was a real sport about it.

This year I am ready. I consulted with Hal (a fabulous cook) and got the calculations figured out converting Kg to Lb and the cooking time. That's the hard part for me. In talking with him, I remembered what went wrong last year (cooking them in a bag) and now I am ready to commence the turkey cooking. Dan and his crew are making all the stuff like mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad, etc. He bought two pecan pies at Denny's (FORTY DOLLARS!) and some apple pies. I'm making some side dishes like the gravy and turkey dressing plus my (almost) famous three chocolate brownies with chocolate icing topped with a cherry. Oh yeah, and some deviled eggs to keep it southern. It helps keep my culinary skills honed. After all, I do profess to be a housewife without a husband when people ask "what do you do" (I hate that question almost as much as "why did you move here"!).

I've got every big dish in my house washed and ready to be loaded with goodies. A big thermos to keep the gravy hot. That's the hardest part, transporting all of it and getting that turkey cooked just before the carving time. I am still having panic attacks thinking that maybe I am forgetting something but that's just my nature.

Times like these, I do stop to think of all the things I am grateful for (like having running water in my house today) and there's too many to list. Mostly, I am grateful I have the opportunity to live where I choose and to live debt free. At Mas x Menos grocery yesterday, I saw a gringa with a one inch stack of credit cards. She was shuffling through them trying to decide which one to use. That USED TO BE me! No more. I have a new way of life living here. AND I love it!
(I can hear the "Free Bird" song playing in background)
BTW - Today is drop dead gorgeous day in paradise!

Happy Thanksgiving Y'all.

Wednesday, November 21

Thunder Rolls and the Lightning Strikes

If you live near here or maybe all Costa Rica, you were probably thinking we are out of the rainy season only to be woke up at around 3 a.m. by the worst thunder and lightning storm I've witnessed this year. Talk about ending with a bang! It was so strong, the windows in my house were rattling, a real earthquaker! All my dogs went under the bed for safety. I woke long enough to close some windows and unplug my computer. I fell back to sleep thinking we got off lucky this year. We had more rain than last year but not as much rain as I've seen living here the last five years.

It's turning HOT here at the beach and this little storm was a reminder of what we didn't get this year. Soon it will be "hotter than four-hundred hells"* and we'll be praying for some rain.
*One of my Dad's favorite expressions.

Picture video off YouTube - "Thunder Rolls" - Garth Brooks

Oprah's Favorite Things Show

This was the first give-away episode I've watch since having newly discovered Oprah is televised here on ABC. What a great show. The sponsors supplied every member of the audience with all the items featured. This special show was in Macon, Ga. and Oprah turned on her southern accent. When I get around fellow southerners, the same 'thang' happens to me.

What a great concept. Oprah gets to play Santa and the sponsors get their products showcased. 45% of the population in Macon turn on The Oprah Show everyday. This was Oprah's way of showing her appreciation for this loyal audience. Here is the link to her special show.

My most favorite thing was also the most expensive. It is made by LG ("Life's Good"). I had never heard of LG before moving to Costa Rica but it is worldwide. LG Group was formerly called GoldStar and comes from South Korea. This "wonder frig" has a LCD TV, DVD Hook-up, radio, slideshow for pics, 5-day weather forecast, and 100 built-in recipes. I wonder if the CR version is in Spanish. The cost in the U.S. - $3,799.

What will they think of next? I'll be keeping my old timer frig until it croaks. It doesn't have a built in t.v. or even makes ice but it works and I so appreciate that. Life's Good.

Tuesday, November 20

"Somewhere over the Rainbow"

This post is for Sally, www.abroadincostarica.com, and all those that have the holiday blues and want to be "home" for Christmas.
All those reasons that drew you to Costa Rica are still here.

Sunday, November 18

SURF Sunday

These guys were out there making a game of criss-crossing on the wave.

More surf photos - www.flickr.com/photos/ticamachatourscostarica/sets

Saturday, November 17

"Where the Streets Have No Name"

"Where the Streets Have No Name" and
"I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For"
These two U2 song titles pretty much sum up our recent trip to San Jose to go see the doctor.

My girlfriend, Trish, and I decided to team up and go get our tests done on the same day at a clinic that came with good references in San Jose. We both were way overdue for these female tests. We had the address of the clinic and phone number and we left Jaco early, in plenty of time to make our appointment.

I've driven that mountain road many times now but somehow, I heated up my clutch and it started sticking to the floorboard. Totally unnerving when big rigs were barreling down on my bumper. The gas stations are few and far between but we found one around the Atenas area. Everything was fine. He said it was just hot so we continued on our venture and I was conscious not to "ride" my clutch. I drove barefoot so I could grab the clutch with my toes and pull it up, if need be.

We both know San Jose just o.k. and had the address but everyone we asked told us that 25th Street was right "here" next to 24th. How on earth does anyone ever get around downtown? Even the locals don't know the system. Come to find out, we were looking on the wrong side of town. Odd numbered streets are on one side of SJ and even on the other. I think I knew that at one time but it was so odd (and foreign) that I totally didn't believe it (or remember it).

The car was parked in the secure garage at Scotia Bank. I'm not sure if we were suppose to park there but we did. Trish has had her tire punctured at one of the local parking lots (by the Embassy) so we felt safer parking at the bank. After walking the streets and asking everyone for directions, we hopped in a taxi and set out to find 25th Street. You have to have nerves of steel to drive in downtown San Jose but being a passenger in a taxi is almost equally unnerving. You just haven't lived until you've taken a taxi through downtown. Nothing can describe "the rush".

We finally arrived at the clinic in the 'bowels of hell' and were 30 minutes late (yes, I know that's a harsh description). The receptionist explained to us in Spanish that when we didn't arrive, the doctor waited five minutes and then left. She would return at 3:30 in the afternoon. Talk about two HOT Machas!!(Machas=blonds in Costa Rica) We both felt like we'd been drug through hell to get there and the doctor couldn't wait for the next appointment at least? To think of all the endless times we have waited for someone in Costa Rica set us on fire. Not to be rude, we just told her we would NOT be back in our best Gringa Spanish.

Another taxi trip back to my car and we were left with the rest of the morning to find something to do with our extra time. Of course, we went shopping. Costa Rica goes all out for Christmas and it was nice to see the Universal store all dressed up.

The trip back home was pretty much uneventful except one 18 wheeler overturned and a couple of side of the road washouts - huge drop-offs. We had picked up a dog in Pavas to return to his Jaco owner so we had to make a few stops for "Mule-e". He had been hit by a car three weeks ago and needed to go there for intensive surgery and recovery. Trish and I happened to be the first one's making that trip so we brought Mule-e back home to Jaco.

Anyone that knows anything about Costa Rica knows it's the paradise paved with potholes. One got me on this trip and I busted something having to do with the suspension/stability. My car rattled the whole way back like the undercarriage was about to fall off. I got out and checked and saw this "thing" that looked 'not normal' but decided it was drivable and not repairable on the road.
Hell bent to get back home before dark, we were.

One thing about leaving Jaco, no matter how "bad" (crime, hookers, drugs, etc.) everyone says it is here in Playa Jaco/Hermosa -
We were both so glad to be done with the trip and be back in our territory. We booked an appointment at CIMA Hospital for the next go around. They speak English and are Gringa friendly there, plus it's easy to get to and near a shopping mall. I'll pay up for THAT!

Tuesday, November 13

Totally Inspiring

Thank you God for Blogs. What a miracle way for people to connect from ALL OVER THE WORLD. I recently received an inspiring note from a Florida girl who had lived (and surfed) in Costa Rica years ago but her home now is on the Big Island in Hawaii. Just a glance at her blog is a kick in the pants for me. How can one woman do SO MUCH. She surfs, she's a triathlete AND she is a new mom (and I think I have a lot to do???).
She's one of those "Super Moms".
What's amusing is she still dreams of Costa Rica. I still dream of Hawaii. I loved living there. Hawaii is a photographer's paradise but so is Costa Rica.
I need to get busy!
You GO Girl!!! And thanks for renewing my enthusiasm. "Mucho Mahalo"


Tortilla Recipe

Ever have a hankering for REAL homemade tortillas?
La Gringa's Blogicita over in Honduras has published this amazingly detailed recipe on just how to do it. She has a real cool blog and sometimes when I'm reading it, I forget she's NOT in Costa Rica. Very similar to how things are here in Costa Rica.
p.s. "hankering" is a real word.

Saturday, November 10

Napping Pura Vida Style

Do you ever run out of things to blog about?
I have. I am hoping something sparks my interest soon (besides surf photos).
Any ideas or feedback?

Friday, November 9


What's next...

Thursday, November 8

Monday, November 5

Harry Surfing Costa Rica

Remember Harry? He was the surfer from Brazil who experienced the heartbreak of "Brok'in da Board Beach" his last day in Costa Rica. This is a YouTube video he posted from a previous trip.
Great photos and I just love the music.

Sunday, November 4

SURF Sunday - "Peace"

This surfer's name is Peace. I knew when he showed up, it would make for some great shots. Lots of color! He is wild on the water and made the bad waves today look rippin!
He's from Limon, Costa Rica and surfs in tournaments. Thanks Peace.

"If I could turn back time" - SURF Sunday

For you youngsters, that's a Cher song. Only if I could turn back time, I'd sure be in my glory these days living in Costa Rica.
We don't turn back the clock here. We are on "Pura Vida" time and the time always stays the same. I did notice that it gets dark about 5:30 p.m. now. It seems like that changed overnight.
As forewarned, today is "SURF Sunday" and I am featuring some girl surfers. One is on a surf board and the other is on a boogie board. Girls Rule!
"If I could turn back time, if I could find a way..." (sing along now)
For all you guys out there that can't go surfing, this one's for you. Dollars to donuts, you all click it to enlarge photo! Boys will be boys.

Friday, November 2

All Saint's Day

This is the day when the Saints are remembered and flowers are placed on gravesites all over Costa Rica. It's a beautiful tradition in the Latin American culture.

Halloween isn't really observed here in the American tradition of trick or treating but the Costa Rican children are catching on more and more as the years pass.
I heard of a story where a little girl was dressed in costume and went to a Gringo's house to trick or treat. She announced "Halloween, Halloween" (instead of the usual "trick or treat") and the owner of the house (dressed in a wolf costume) opened the door slowly, hairy hand reaching from behind the door and then he showed himself in full wolf form. The little girl screamed and wet her pants. I guess she wasn't expecting the "trick" part of it all, she just wanted the candy.

Thursday, November 1

"Costarrican Cowboy"

Photos taken at dusk. I had better shots but they were blurry. I'm still figuring out how to compensate for the exposure. Those white dots in the background are lights from the houses on the mountain. That mountain lights up like a Christmas tree at night now. Many houses have been built in the last five years. One day this ranch will be gone, too. It's on the beach.