Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Cycling with Eggs!

Just back from my weekly cycle to purchase my organic eggs from Donna of Huevos de Amor.

Beautiful Blue Eggs. 

Donna drives her wares to various locations in Playa Panama. Playa Hermosa and El Coco, where her faithful customers can meet and purchase their pre-ordered eggs and sometimes hard white cheese and grapefruits. For the past month however, Donna's chickens have been going on strike and are laying less and less eggs each week, so much so, that supply does not always meet with demand. Luckily for us, as we consume a lot of eggs, I won the egg 'lottery' this week and was one of the few regulars who were able to have their order filled. 

Once a week, I meet Donna just down the road from the First entrance to Playa Hermosa. It's roughly a 1km ride from our house, nice and easy as it is slightly down hill. The return journey is the one that I struggle with a bit more. I am not really a keen cyclist and never have been. Even as a kid, I was a bit inept and never managed to cycle with one hand particularly successfully, let alone with no hands. Cycle proficiency test? I am not sure if they existed  back in the 70's, did they? And as for wheelies, well forget it, those are just for boys! I hardly even rode a bike as an adult in England, but then the traffic was way too scary. Consequently, my cycling skills are non-existent and I am a bit of a wuss when it comes to passing traffic. 

Luckily, there is very little passing traffic here in Hermosa on a Wednesday morning, or indeed any morning, so I can cycle in relative safety. But on my return journey, laden with 15 freshly laid eggs, I do wobble somewhat: in fact the first time I attempted the expedition, I quickly gave up the two wheels and walked my bike and eggs home instead. I fared a little better on my second trip, cycling all the way back and got home with only one broken egg. Third time, eggs made it home in one piece, but somehow I managed to tear a whole in my bag and nearly lost my keys and YS's mobile phone. 

Today however, I am almost a pro! I cycled back with my bag of eggs hanging from the left handlebar, and my plastics for recycling swinging from the other. At this rate, it won't be long before I can cycle and text at the same time (hmmm, perhaps not!).

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

One of our 'residents' takes a dip.

We were all sat having dinner last night when suddenly we heard a splash! Not a very loud one, but still loud enough for us all to hear. We guessed something must of  just fallen, or flown, into the pool - a bat maybe? 

So YS went over to take a look and guess who he saw taking a dip in the pool?

A quick dip to cool down perhaps?

Our little resident toad, that's who.

Mr Toad, lives in one of our drains, and comes out most evenings to see what is going on.

 YS followed him round the pool, hoping to rescue him, but this amphibian was having none of it and kept kicking his little legs as fast as he could; great escape and evasion tactics!

Needless to say, after a short while, Mr Toad was tiring quickly and appeared to be struggling to stay afloat in the water. He looked like he was searching for the steps so that he could get out of the pool. Fortunately, DH managed to scoop him up in the swimming pool net and set him back on dry land.

Let's hope he doesn't bring his pals Ratty, Badger and Mole with him next time. 

Saturday, 22 February 2014

A 'Fed' with a Penchant for Fables.

I am not complaining, honestly, but quite frequently, we lose our internet connection; at least once a month and it can be gone for days. Just this week, in fact, we lost both TV and internet for what seemed like an awfully long 24 hours.

So just like the olden days, with no technology to amuse ourselves after dinner, we had no option but to talk to each other, relating stories of our day (not around the camp fire though as that would be too silly in this damn heat!!). DH kicked off and told us of a young man, friend of Eduardo the carpenters' apprentice, who died tragically over the previous weekend. Apparently he had had one too many beers and skidded off the road on his motorbike, hit a tree and died instantly. Dreadful waste of a young life. It seems that Saturday nights are notorious for motor vehicle accidents as that is the day that the Tico's let their hair down and enjoy one too many Guaros

DH learned of this tragedy not through Eduardo or Alejandro, the guys he was working with, but by a visiting plain-clothed police officer that was 'investigating' the boys' untimely demise. DH's fanciful portrayal of this lone figure reminded me a lot of Columbo, all inept and wearied, (although I somehow doubt that even Peter Falk's character would wear his trademark raincoat in this weather).

Anyhow, what most interested DH was, not the detectives investigating technique, or lack of, but his extreme concern about a black creature that he had spotted running along the road very late the previous evening: a wild dog-like fiend moving faster than a car could possibly travel. The law-man described the mythical beast as being extremely large in stature with incredibly long legs, and was most curious to know if Alejandro, or those present, had heard or indeed seen, anything strange in recent evenings? Had they heard of anything, or anyone going missing lately? Had they come across any strange smells?

DH scoffed at the officers' tale - can you imagine a 'bobby' back in the UK asking about such nonsense? But here in CR, myths and legends are taken very seriously. Most regions have their own folklore, handed down from generation to generation, and despite DH's mocking, both the carpenter and his apprentice became very pensive after the cop left, believing in the reality of the mythical creature. 

This little snippet of information from DH, led me the following day, to see what I could find out about this 'monster'. From Columbo's description, it looks like he was referring to The Cadejo, a mysterious evil spirit, that is sometimes said to be the devil himself. Up to the size of a cow, the Cadejo is usually depicted as looking like a shaggy dog, with burning red eyes and goats hooves, often lurking in graveyards and dark alleys waiting to attack passing victims. Inflicting insanity on those that either speak to it or turn away from it, the Cadejo has a distinctive sulfurous smell surrounding it. 

It is also reported that the Cadejos are night-time spirits that sometimes appear to travellers. They can be either black or white: the white is there to protect the traveller during his/her journey, whereas the black incarnation materialises in order to kill . 

Perhaps that explains why the detective was more concerned with the appearance of the brute, rather than in actually doing his work and retracing the final hours of an unlucky young man. Perhaps the Cadejo was searching for a victim ...

El Cadejo, its gaze freezing anyone who makes eye contact.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Feliz Cumpleaños a Mí - A Trip to Catarata Llanos del Cortes.

I suppose I should really start by saying it was DH's birthday ten days ago, and it was a BIG ONE!!!! 

Photo: Felíz cumpleaños dear Stella Browning and lots of chocolate to youuuuu !!!!

Sole xx
Cake made by Sole.

Funny how things have changed over the years: before we met, DH celebrated his 21st with a surprise party and a stripper; then for his 30th, he was lucky enough to have another surprise party, this time thrown by me, but no stripper; for his 40th we had  a family weekend away to Mallorca along with his brothers.  And this Big Birthday? Installing a kitchen followed by a BBQ with the carpenter, his son and apprentice as well as Jose, the builder, his wife and granddaughters!

These two little girls certainly kept ES and YS on their toes!

Then last Sunday was my birthday. No milestone for me though this year. Nevertheless, for my treat, we packed up a picnic, some Pepsi's and a few cold beers and took a trip to another waterfall, this time further afield between Liberia and Bagaces. We had been told that it was only a few hundred meters past the bridge at Liberia, but it turns out that it is more like 20km south of the city. 

Catarata Llanos del Cortes

No 'tourist sign' or 'brown sign' like in the UK, to direct you to this hidden gem. Instead, along the Pan-American Highway, "Catarata Llanos del Cortes" is marked by a small hand-painted wooden sign. Naturally, we missed the sign and drove further along to Bagaces, where we stopped and asked a petrol-pump attendant which way we should be heading. 

Quick u-turn and we were back on our way. Turned left at the 'sign', down a dusty dirt track, along with one other lone vehicle, packed to the brim with Tico's. At the gated entrance, we were greeted with a "Pura Vida", the obligatory phrase uttered by the locals - meaning 'Pure Life' - and a hand-written note asking for donations for the school. Dutifully, we deposited a couple of dollars into the grubby hands of the dreadfully smelly man; looking back, however, no school was actually visible in the immediate vicinity! Oh well I am sure our donation was put to good use somewhere. 

A little further on, we arrived at the car park and the universally vital high-vis jacketed attendant directed us to a vacant spot, although the place was pretty much empty. Grabbing our belongings, we followed the unmade rocky path down towards the sound of the gushing water.

The Precipitous Pathway.

When we reached the bottom, we were surprised to find a secluded sandy beach, shaded by beautiful trees, with howler monkeys high above guarding their territory. Apparently not many tourists know of this beauty spot, but I would hazard a guess that today the area was populated by an equal number of Tico's and Gringo's; not many of either though as we easily found a cool, shady space to settle in and relax for the afternoon. 

Firstly we munched on our grub, whilst watching a school of tiny little fish devour the breadcrumbs that the boys were feeding to them. To myself I am thinking "Oh God please don't let these starving fish be piranhas." But then my rational side kicks in and my fears are eased somewhat when I spy a couple of Tico toddlers paddling close-by, (piranhas are surely not picky when it comes to nationality are they??). Of course then my mind goes into overdrive, and I can see crocs hiding in the bushes and anacondas gliding upstream, all waiting to attack; it wouldn't surprise me if 'Jaws' made an appearance too!

Anacondas, Crocodiles and Piranhas. All there, hiding!!

YS and I then  headed for the cool and refreshing water. Delicious. Crystal clear in the shallow bits, so much so that you could see fish darting about, but dark and threatening in the few deep ares of the pool (Stop! That's enough of those ridiculous thoughts! This is real life, not some B-rated movie!). 

We headed for the cascade; neither of us have been behind a waterfall before. For the first time in months, I actually felt cold! The spray from the streaming shower was incredible; the force with which the water falls is immense. YS and I were drenched from the deluge. The rocks were seriously slippy, but we managed to scramble to a parapet and watch the merrymakers through the curtain of water: absolutely wonderful! 

Scrambling to Safety.

Looking Out from Behind the Water.

Taking a Shower.

A few young men full of bravado, perhaps trying to impress their girlfriends, jumped off the nearby rocks into the pool below. A couple of teenage girls attempted the jump too, but ultimately were not brave enough, and instead slid awkwardly into the water.

The boys then decided it was time for exploring the locality. Somehow, they found their way to the top of the waterfall, about 30 metres up, where they found the land was surprisingly flat and full of fields. Being boys, they roamed around a bit until they found themselves at the summit of the shoots, whereby they climbed along the exposed edge, getting a fantastic areal view of the place - meanwhile giving me palpitations! 

Can you spot the boys?

They are at the Top.

By about 4.00pm, the vendor at the little makeshift stall that has been selling ceviche and other snacks all day, starts packing up ready to go. Because the gates close at 5.00pm, other people start to follow his lead and pack up their belongings too, as do we. Although a shady ascent back to the car, the Pipa Frias that are being sold by the car-park attendants daughter are a welcome refreshment when we get to the top.

So Happy Birthday to Me. A great day had by all I think. Topped off by a beautiful sunset on the drive home.

Another Birthday Over. 

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Picture of the Day.

The flies are driving me mad this week - they are everywhere. 

If aliens landed, they would think that DH and I have some kind of nervous twitch: swiping the flies with one hand whilst trying to eat our lunch with the other!

Anyway, whilst looking like a mad person, trying to eat, arms flailing, this little guy landed right next to me.

I thought he was quite pretty in a menacing 'Roy Orbison' kind-of-a-way. Just look at his dark shades!

Roy the Dragonfly

Friday, 14 February 2014

Leave a comment!

Will someone please help me?

Lots of readers have said that they want to leave a comment but that they are unable too.

Well I have searched all the forums, changed this and that as instructed, but it still looks like it is complicated for the reader to leave a comment - unless the reader has a Google account.


What else do I have to do to get a comment?

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Avocado Chocolate Cake

I know this post has nothing to do with Costa Rica, but I just wanted to share it with you.

A chocolate cake made with avocado! 

Not only that, it is made without using butter or eggs! Great for vegans. Not so great if you are trying to cut out sugar as this recipe calls for a lot of sugar. 

It is dedicated to my friend Claudia who gave me the best Chocolate Cake Recipe ever (using beetroot); and also to my pal Priya, who could only cook beans-on-toast a long time ago, but now bakes for every occasion. 

Admittedly finding a ripe, cheap avocado in the UK is not the easiest thing to lay your hands on, whereas here they are plentiful, but if you are lucky enough to stumble upon one, give this cake a try. 

  • Cake
  • 3 cups plain flour
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup soft avocado, well mashed (about one avocado)
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 Tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F, 180 C. Grease 8" cake tin, then sprinkle with flour. Set aside.
  2. Sift together all of the dry ingredients except the sugar.
  3. Mix all the wet ingredients together in a bowl, including the mashed avocado.
  4. Add sugar into the wet mix and stir.
  5. Mix the wet with the dry all at once, and beat with a whisk (by hand) until smooth.
  6. Pour batter into a greased cake tin. Bake for 40-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
  7. Leave to cool in tin before turning out.
  8. Dust with Icing Sugar or alternatively made a chocolate ganache icing and decorate.

As an alternative to making a cake, use the mixture for muffins instead. Just adjust the cooking time to about 20 minutes, depending on size of muffins. 

I apologise for using the US cup sizes, but the recipe was from a US website. 

Even though I am baking my third cake as I write, I have yet to photograph the finished product - it gets devoured as soon as it is cool enough to eat! 


Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Spanish Update No. 3

My second Spanish task, like the first,  was also a failure, hence the reason I did not post an update last week.

Although it has not really been a flop, because instead of just concentrating on verbs, I discovered another way of learning a new language: DuolingoIt's great! My current favourite app. There are written lessons and dictation, along with some speaking practice too. Skill points are gained when you complete each lesson and items that you struggle with are somehow remembered by the system and tested again in an alternative format.

OK, so it was a bit too easy for me to begin with - I managed to get to Level 6 within 2 days, with minimum practice time. And yes, most of the words (thus far) I already know.

But ...  this little self-study programme has given me a bit of a confidence boost. It really has. When spoken to at the local shop, I don't immediately blurt out "No entiondo", but instead try to respond, albeit in pigeon-Spanish! Even this morning, when asked by one of the builders, none of whom speak English,  if I liked to live near the city or the country, I managed to give my answer in Spanglish, and proceeded to tell him a bit about where we lived in England - although I later realised that I kept saying 'yo quiero' (I want) instead of 'me gusta' (I like). But you know what, he didn't seem to mind and understood what I was saying  - or at least he gave the impression of knowing what I was talking about!!

Admittedly, with Duolingo, I have learned some odd phrases this past fortnight: for example, 'el oso bebe vino rojo con carne' and 'yo tengo un vestido blanco y un sombrero rojo pero mi hijo tiene una camisa verde' (I will leave the reader to translate). These remarks might not get me very far in the real world, but they are certainly helping my awareness of Spanish sentence structure, which is very different to English. 

So my goals this week are:

  • to practice with Duolingo at least thirty minutes every day.
  • to only read the Spanish subtitles on TV programmes like The Big Bang Theory or Two and a Half Men rather than enjoy the humour (btw, from what I can translate from sub-titles, the jokes are much funnier in English than in Spanish).
  • speak with a cashier in Spanish at the bank or grocery store.

Not difficult goals, but doable goals!

A New School (again).

Having lived most of my life within a 10 mile radius, I know what to expect from schools in the UK and especially the schools where my boys would be attending. 

But I now am out of my comfort zone and know little about the schools here in Costa Rica, and the education that they offer.

As I have said before, the move from the UK to CR was for a number of reasons, one of which was for the boys to experience a different way of life. I know that it would be unrealistic of me to expect the education here to be of the same standard as back home. However, as a mother, I still want my kids to get the best that we can give them.

So, after only two months of schooling here, and then another two months of 'summer' holidays, we have decided to start the new school year at a different establishment. Not that there was anything wrong with the original one that we chose, far from it, but the kids were not engaged shall we say.

So, instead, the boys will be attending an institute that is nearer to home, which will hopefully lead to more local kids for them to become friends with - most of the children at the other school lived a fair distance from us, so there was little meeting up with friends in their free time. They still can catch the school bus, the thing they liked most about the previous school, and even better, they can walk to and from the bus-stop as it is just down the road. 

Yesterday was their first day ... little response when they got home, other than being tired and hungry, but hopefully this will be the start of new and better things to come. Fingers crossed.