Wednesday, 26 March 2014

The Dolphin.

Spot of lunch at the beach yesterday.

Smelt a bit fishy, as is natural by the sea.

A wake of vultures close to the water's edge.

Curious, yet not totally irregular.

Upon further investigation, 

(Unfortunately with no means of recording),

We beheld our first 'close-encounter' with a dolphin,

Sadly beached and bereft of life.

Once beautiful and graceful,

Now bloated and lacking sight.

Pecked by the waiting winged scavengers,

Its blubber, too thick to penetrate and prey on.

A base and lonesome burial ensued,

A Tico dug grave by the shore.

Attended by no friends nor family,

Just two tourists, with I-phones in hand.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

The Breadwinner.

Well, as they say on Strictly Come Dancing (other reality TV shows are available!), this past week has been what they call "an emotional roller-coaster".

So let's just focus on a positive point  for now.

I have got a job - yay!!! The request came in on Friday night by email, I accepted on Saturday morning and started work on the following Monday. Muy rapido.*

It is in a local school, tutoring two teenage sisters in English, with the goal of getting them up to speed with (some) of their contemporaries and pass their exams at the end of the year. I am only contracted to eight hours of teaching a week, and have already spent triple that amount of time on lesson planning! I also have to assist them with their History assignments as this class is also taught in English. 

Their knowledge of the language is very limited, but the older of the girls, Sasha, comprehends slightly more than her younger sister. Of course what with my Spanish not being great, it can make for some awkward silences while we search our dictionaries, or on-line translations for help. Just for the record, Google Translate can not always be trusted:

Lost in Translation:
On Wednesday, Roselyn, the younger of the two, was absent from our lesson. Sasha passed me a hand-written note saying
"she has broken her knee"
Oh my goodness, how awful for the poor girl. "Como"* (how) I asked her?  "Jugando" (playing) I was told. God, what the hell was she playing I thought to myself. So you can imagine my surprise yesterday morning when Roselyn turned up for class ... with no cast, no crutches or any visible wound even. Remarkable! Must be something to do with the fantastic healthcare that Costa Rica has to offer!

Oops I digress. Anyway, I have been Teacher Stella for one week now. On Monday morning I was full of enthusiasm and gusto, all set to be a female version of Robin Williams in 'Dead Poets Society'; but by Friday afternoon all such thoughts had dissipated. Instead I feel as useless as a chocolate kettle. But hey, time will tell. 

And for now, I am just happy that I have got a job!

*sorry Spanish friends for my lack of accents but not sure where to find them on the keyboard!

Friday, 14 March 2014

Water, Water Everywhere ...

I think it is fairly safe to say that us Brits are obsessed with the weather and its unpredictability. We love to talk about it ... all the time. 

During the damp, grey, winter months, we long for the warm, sunny days of summer. Rose-tinted memories of childhood summer holidays abound, where the sun was always shining and the days were endless. Recollections of playing on an almost deserted beach for what seemed like eternity, perhaps enjoying a donkey ride if you were lucky; days spent strawberry picking, building camps, picnicking and supping on ginger beer (and obviously reading too much Enid Blyton in my case!).

But, if and when those scorching, sultry days do finally arrive in the UK, as a nation in general, we constantly moan about it being too hot and yearn for a thunderstorm and some rain to cool us down. And to be honest, it doesn't take too long for our pleas to be answered. 

Well, nearly seven months in, and remaining true to my roots, I am  still preoccupied with the weather, both in CR and the UK. I have read with great interest the reports and tales regarding the gales, hurricanes and flooding this year so far in Britain, and was pleased to see that last Sunday, BBQ's were uncovered and set-alight for the first time in 2014. Meanwhile here in CR, I am now able to converse in Spanish about the weather, and have been told on numerous occasions that it is not as hot now as it will be in April, when the winds drop. ('Winds' on this occasion translates as 'light breeze' in England). 

But what I am most looking forward to, is the month of May, when apparently the rain comes (see British through and through!). I can't wait. Cool refreshing water from the sky - fantastic (as long as it is only for a day or two). Believe it or not, I actually miss the rain - we saw Evan Almighty for the hundredth time last week and I was slightly envious about the impending precipitation that they were about to endure! Last night, I even dreamt about it!

Or so I thought ...

I don't sleep very well these days, especially as both my neighbours feel the need to keep their outside lights on throughout the night. Then sun arises from about 5 am and the birds all start to sing and nearby dogs start barking - all very lovely but it can be quite annoying when you want to sleep. So about dawn this morning, stirring from my light slumber, I heard water gushing really loudly. "Yippee" I thought, "the rains have come" and drifted off back to sleep for a bit. The cascade continued and after about an hour I realised that I was not dreaming and it wasn't raining; perhaps the neighbour decided that 6.15 am was a good time to water his garden? But I was wrong again. 

Least the Palm Trees were watered with
 all the water pouring down the walls!
Looking out of my bedroom window, I could see a deluge of water streaming out of La Casita, under the door and running down the wall. Rushing out of the house to see what was going on, I found the building flooded and all the rooms were under about an inch of water! Thankfully it has yet to be furnished, so not much damage occurred, but the wooden blinds we have bought, and some doors, were submerged as they still have not been installed. I must have disturbed YS when I got up as he came and helped me start the mopping up session (and bless him, in his sleepy stupor he slipped and fell in the water, landing on his side, bashing his ribs and also stubbing his toe!). ES of course was oblivious to the whole situation and just complained bitterly because I had switched the water off at the mains and he was unable to shower before school. 

The moral of my tale? It would seem that the appeals for rain by us northern-European weather-obsessives, are always answered one or another wherever we are in the world! So be warned England, and enjoy the few hot days of summer when they eventually come! 

Wednesday, 12 March 2014


Trying to link up with bloglovin - let's see if it works, and if it does, you can follow me that way too!
OK lets try again
and again

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Saturday, 8 March 2014

'Zorro' pays a visit.

About a week or so ago, I flew into a panic because a pigeon fluttered into the kitchen. I squawked, it flew out only to reappear moments later and then exit again while my back was turned. Then whilst I was cooking dinner later that night, the daft thing double-backed, swooped down and landed on the fan hanging from our terrace ceiling. And laid an egg! SPLAT! Pigeon egg spattered over the floor directly in front of  the door. YS and I went to investigate and clean it up a bit later, but it had all gone; only a trace of yolk remained, stuck to the tiles.

The Kitchen Iguana's Older and bigger Brother!
The following day, an iguana decided to venture into the house for a nose about; possibly the pigeon-egg eater returning to the scene of the crime and searching for more fallen fragments of food. Unlike many of my Facebook friends who commented on my 'status', that day, I didn't whack the creature with a shoe and make " Lizzzzzzzarrrd piiizzzzaaaa" or even turn my hand at BBQing it. Instead I let the little fellow leave of his own accord in his own good time.

Since we have been in CR, I have squashed a scorpion or two, ran a mile when the large grasshoppers have been flying around and thankfully only seen a snake and a tarantula that were already dead. But as we know all good things come in threes, so I was on tender-hooks waiting for the next creature to hazard a trip into the house. 

Well, it didn't take long. On his way to bed a few nights after the pigeon and iguana incidents, YS came running outside saying that he saw a skunk in his bedroom! 

Yes, a skunk! 
Noun. A cat-sized American mammal of the weasel family, with distinctive black-and-white striped fur. When threatened it squirts a fine spray of foul-smelling irritant liquid from its anal glands towards its attacker.

 I know kids often use diverse tactics in order to delay going to bed, but a skunk sighting was a new one to us. However, YS insisted that he had seen one, under his bed of all places. So armed with the swimming pool net (!) and a torch, DH followed his orders and went in search of the mammal. Nowhere to be seen. Not in YS bedroom, not in ES room and not in ours. If indeed there had been a skunk in the house, where the hell had it gone? 

We searched everywhere, high and low. The damn 'zorro' (as it is known locally) had vanished. Assured that it wasn't lurking behind his curtains, in his wardrobe or even under his pillows, YS finally went to bed; ES once again became surgically attached to Twitter and DH and I settled down to watch TV or whatever. 

It wasn't until a few hours later that I heard a scratching noise, very quiet, but a scratching noise nonetheless. This time I was brave and casually had a look around the house but could find nothing and guessed it must have been something on the TV. Yet when I sat back down, I could still hear the scraping sound. So armed only with the torch this time, DH was roped into investigating further. In reality he didn't really have very far to look as the bedroom doors were all closed and the kitchen and lounge are all open plan. But there, in the corner of the living space, among some boxes (yes, I know, I still have some unpacked boxes, but in my defense they are Christmas decorations that have yet to find a home) was a baby skunk, all curled up and sleepy, looking remarkably cute and cuddly. Well he looked cute and cuddly from afar, as I at this point was sitting on the kitchen table, feet tucked safely under my bottom, just in case!

Anyway, a gentle poke of one of the crates and the little thing woke up and scurried off, out of the back door into the garden. Bless. 

Friday, 7 March 2014

Para Beber?

As you all know, I am a tea drinker. 

Always have been, always will. 

As a young kid, I could never quite understand why my friends chose to "Get busy with the fizzy" at my house after school, in preference to having a nice cup of tea. I was happy enough setting up the SodaStream machine for them, and helping them decide what flavour carbonated drink to have (I am sure we had most of the syrups that were available at the time), but that was about it. Home carbonation products just didn't to it for me. In fact, whilst growing up, I rarely ever chose to drink a cold drink, apart from milk. Tea has always been my tipple of choice (I'm not including alcohol here guys!!). 

Thanks for the pic, Guardian newspaper!
However, in recent years, I have managed to wean myself down to about three cups of tea a day - a brew in the morning with breakfast; tea in the afternoon as a pick me up to get me through the remainder of the day; and a cup of tea before bed. Of course, I am always willing to share a cup or two with anyone who asks, whatever time of the day. And when I say 'tea', I mean proper tea, with milk, absolutely no sugar and served in a nice big mug (although I am partial to a pretty bone china cup and saucer on special occasions). Strangely, I am not that fussy when it comes to teabags as opposed to loose tea served in a teapot; either suits me equally. But, I do absolutely loathe brews such as Early Grey, Chamomile, Lapsang Souchong, or any other airy-fairy fruit-flavoured tea. I do not particularly enjoy iced tea either, although I am working on this. 

Now of course this has presented me with a big problem here in Costa Rica: what am I supposed to drink during the day? I swig at water all the time, but that gets very tedious. I would like to keep my teeth, so I am not happy about supping on Coke or Pepsi on a regular basis. I can't 
really guzzle beer all day (well maybe for a bit, but my waist line does not need to increase further) and cocktails and wine are out of the question too.

So as an alternative, we have been making good use of all the wonderful, cheap fruits that CR has to offer and have been blending away making juices and smoothies since we arrived. Banana smoothies are always a success, and a must as the fruit turns so quickly here, most probably because of the heat: our current favoured choice is banana and tamarindo, with ice not milk. Yesterday you may have read that I concocted a juice with the beautiful manzana de agua; and earlier in the week, I made a pineapple drink whereby I placed the pineapple skin in water and left to ferment for 3 days - when served over ice (unfortunately with some sugar added), it made for a very thirst-quenching beverage.

Today though, I thought I would jump onto the 'Green Juice' bandwagon. I know they have been around for years, but as I said before, tea was my preferential drink back in the UK and I allowed little space, or time, for anything else. Green juices are everywhere and according to every article I have read, they are not only really good for you, but they are extremely refreshing, which is ultimately what I am looking for. I doubt very much that this will be the start of a newer healthier me, detoxing and using juice a solid food supplement, but if it revitalizes and refreshes, so much the better! 

The Green Gremlin!
Not having a juicer, I just blended my choice of green veg with a little water. It could be served like this, with the pulp, but I wanted a thinner consistency, so I poured the mixture through a fine sieve, then using a spatula, pressed the pulp to extract the most liquid possible.

Christening my attempt 'The Green Gremlin', I have to admit that it didn't smell great, nor did it look that appetising either. To be honest, the contents of the glass resembled the mushy peas that might be found in a polystyrene beaker at a fish-and-chip shop. "Pickled egg to go with that sir?"

But appearances can be deceptive and I seriously wished that it would taste better than it looked. After all, I had prpeared the drink, so had only included ingredients that I liked - no Brussels Sprouts in my Green Juice then!! I hoped that by being pulp-free, the juice would be velvety smooth and easy to swallow. Obviously too gloopy for tea, but if I really concentrated, perhaps I could pretend it was a slightly thicker, and non-alcoholic, mojito or apple martini!
Image from

From when YS was about 11 weeks old and onwards, we had to consume anything edible behind his back, as he started to drool at the sight of food. I was over the moon, making up little ice cube moulds of pureed fruit and vegetables for him, something I had rarely done with ES as he had never shown any interest in food. My freezer was full of lovingly-prepared, brightly coloured, nutritious blocks of sustenance. Anna Karmel would have been proud! But very quickly these chunks of cuisine soon became inadequate fare for YS and his switch to solids was rapid.

I now understand why! 

Pulverized vegetables, however healthy, beneficial and nutritious, are in no way, shape or form, enjoyable!!!! They taste of mush - and that is putting it mildly! I am sorry to say that I gagged my way through the Green Gremlin; I had to force myself to drink the whole glass. Within about 10 minutes, I had severe stomach cramps and without going into too much detail, I think the benefits left my body quicker than they had entered! 

But here's the thing:

  • Did I feel refreshed, rejuvenated and hydrated afterwards? No, not really. 
  • Are green juices as tasty as smoothies or natural juices? Most definitely not. 
  • Could green juices ever replace tea? Do I have to answer that question???
  • Will I try this experiment again? Probably, I mean I could have included a rogue spinach leaf, or knob of ginger in my recipe, couldn't I?

Y para beber?  I think for now, I will just casually hitch a ride every now and then on the Green Juice Bandwagon rather than wholeheartedly jumping on it.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Manzana de Agua.

A gift this morning from Rafa.

Manzana de Agua, or water apples.

A Crimson Collection of Manazana.

These little apples are native to some parts of Central America as well as Malaysia. The trees are just blooming here, early summer, and will bear fruit for the next three months.
Milky-white flesh, similar to a radish.

Oval shaped and only about 5 cm long, their skin is green when tender, changing to a beautiful crimson-red when ready, (although they can be white or pink skinned too). The flesh is white and surrounds a large seed, which apparently is easy to cultivate, making it a favourite for people to grow in their gardens. And the smell? Well the aroma is just wonderful, like fresh, fragrant sweet roses.

So, after thanking Rafa for the fruit, YS informs us that he tasted them at school the other day and not only do they look like radishes, which he hates, but that they also taste disgusting!

Great, a whole bowlful for me then.

Or maybe not.

I was not particular enchanted with them either: they are quite watery in texture and slightly sweet to taste, but not as 'apply' as I imagined. Perhaps if I keep them in the fridge and eat them chilled, they will be more appealing and refreshing - we'll see.

In the meantime, I had better find a way to consume them other than as plain ol' fruit. A little internet research and I found quite a few interesting recipes. Ceviche, a favourite here in CR, is a possibility, or with cassava maybe.

But for now, I just blended about ten of the pretty fruit with water and lime juice (no added sugar) and served over crushed ice. Hmm, refreshing!

A Virgin Water-Apple Cocktail!

All that's missing is a dash of vodka ... bit too early in the day for that!! Maybe next time!