Sunday, November 29, 2009

The Lobster and the Caretaker

Last Sunday, after returning from a day on the beach, Efrain, our caretaker, came to the casitas. He was carrying a gift of two fresh lobsters.

Oh, my. I can’t believe the windfall. I love lobster. Bill on the other hand feels that succulent subtleties of shellfish are wasted on him. The gift that he turned down, I was more than graciously willing to accept with gluttonous pleasure. There was only one problem. I don’t know how to cook lobster, so I ask Efrain how to cook it.

Yeah right. Ask a macho latin man how to cook. Obviously, he didn’t know how to cook it. Marlene, his wife, is the cook of the family. Rather than explain how to prepare the dish to the domestically incompetent gringa, he took the lobster back up to Marlene, and fifteen minutes later, my appetizer arrives hot at the door.

Who’s the dumb (well-fed) gringa now?

Seriously, we are very grateful for Marlene and Efrain’s hard work and generosity. They help make Solrisa a very special and friendly place. Marlene is a great traditional Costa Rican cook. I plan on working with her to come up with a limited menu that she can offer our guests at Solrisa. I can’t imagine anyone any not being thrilled with dinner brought to the door.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rancho Dumpster Diving

Bill and I have been very busy. Working our tails off is what we have been doing. Our latest big project was a rancho by the pool.

A moment of relaxation for Carmen and Copita, or as we call her, Squirt, the little abandoned dog that we rescued a few years ago. She is happy and healthy living with our caretakers. See her little tongue. She's giving you a Squirt kiss.

In Costa Rica, we have to be our own garbage men. Here are our buddies at the dump.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Tossing Toads

Scary things lurk in the jungle here. One night we were coming home from dinner, as I descended the steps to get to the cabins, something scurried across my path in the dark. I couldn’t see what it was because it was dark. Then the bushes beside me started to move and sway.

“Damm, it must be something big.” I’m thinking as I hurried into the cabin.

The next morning, Bill walks out to the pool area and finds a big turd on the first step in our pool. (Time for extra chlorine and super shock.) The real puzzle is what did its business in our pool? Being the ignorant Gringos that we are, we asked Efrain, our caretaker. Efrain, said it was a sapo, or a toad.

It’s really hard to believe that a toad could have so much excrement. I’m thinking, “Toads don’t swim. Toad or frog, it had to be the size of a Chihuahua.”

What ever the little pooper amphibians are, they have another not so endearing trait. They are extremely noisy. Forget the ubiquitous, “Rib-it, rib-it” that you read in children’s books. Think of a foghorn. A few frogs around your pool at night can keep you up all night.

Sleepless in Costa Rica pool owners have resorted to the sport of Toad Tossing or Frog Flinging to rid their pools of the noisy pests. You begin the game by heading out after dark with a flashlight in search of frogs in and around your pool. Once you find one, you grab the pool net skimmer and try to capture the offender. It usually jumps into the pool and starts swimming for the bottom. You submerge the net and chase the frog with it. Once netted, pluck the frog out of the water and launch the creature as far as you can on a free flight away from the pool.

A toad tossing enthusiast neighbor told us of the time she turned toad tossing into a biathlon, when she plunged straight into her pool with her pajamas on.

We all know how well Bill swims. Needless to say, I was a little concerned when one night after dinner, Bill says, “I’m going frog hunting. If I’m not back in ten minutes, send help.”

He heads on out to the pool. I follow with the flashlight.

It wasn’t too hard to find a toad. Catching it on the other hand was challenging. Bill deftly followed the frog underwater with the net. Once caught, he brought him to the surface and out of the water. So far, OK. Bill’s technique failed with the fling however. It looked good, but then, “THUCK!”

You can’t see the toads fly in the dark, but it was perfectly obvious that Bill had tossed this one onto the corrugated steel roof instead of the jungle. Yuck!

That was enough for me. I won’t be doing anymore Toad Tossing or Frog Flinging. I happen to like the little guys to spite their big mouths.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mandarin oranges and guacamole, anyone?

The great thing about having property in Costa Rica is tropical fruit. We have banana and avocado trees and even a few pineapple plants. Citrus rules this time of year. Here is a picture of a very prolific mandarin orange tree. It’s strange to just be able to walk a couple of yards and pick your own fruit.

Lemons are also quite abundant on the property, making it very easy to make our favorite snack of guacamole. Here is a great guac recipe. The lemon juice gives it a snap.

4 peeled and smashed avocados
1/4 cup diced onion
1/3 cup diced tomatoes
juice from one or two lemons, depending on your snap preference
salt to taste

Mix together and grab your favorite dipping chip.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Costa Rica Butterfly Garden

Bill’s been working a lot. Me, I spend most of my time happily walking around in awe and wonder at the simple beauty surrounding me. I find myself contently staring at the shape and colors of a single flower, or gazing at the dramatic coastline.

One of my proud landscaping successes has been the butterfly and hummingbird garden in front of the cabins. My original thought was that cabin guests could sit on their balcony and watch the exotic hummingbirds and butterflies. It worked better than I could imagine. Dozens of fluttering butterflies and a few colorful hummingbirds drift in and out of the garden all day.

The two plants contribute the most to our butterfly habitat in Costa Rica are Latana camara and Stachytarpheta frantzii, or Porterweed, both from the Verbenaceace family. Porterweed is especially effective at attracting butterflies. It is a 2 to 3 meter bush with spiky purple flowers.

I was so pleased with the performance of these two plants that I bought more and expanded Solrisa’s butterfly garden. I planted seven more plants today, just before the thunderous tropical rainstorm that’s pounding on our roof right now started.

There is a dichotomy between power and comfort in a tropical rainstorm. The power is obvious in the amount of water that pours from the sky and the cannons of thunder. The comfort comes from being warm and dry while blanketing sheets of water fall around you. You're surrounded by a misty fog and the rain drowns out most jungle sounds. How idyllic for me, at the moment.

Poor Bill isn’t experiencing any comfort right now. He’s out in the downpour shoveling ditches of slippery, sticky, goopy red dirt to keep our roads from eroding. Good thing the rain is warm here.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Shut the #$*& Up

Our trip from San Jose to San Isidro only had one little glitch. A religious motor-mouth and self-ordained preacher boarded the bus then started TALKING VERY LOUDLY ABOUT HOW GREAT HIS LIFE WAS SINCE FOUND GOD! Granted, Costa Rica is a free speech country and the man had every right to babble on about the Lord's grace in his life, precious little orphans, cute puppies and Jesus saving the world. But come on folks; imagine having to be subjected to a 4-hour, non-stop sermon from a man barking at the top of his lungs while you are a captive on the bus. I’m not exaggerating. I swear the man only took a 30-second breather after an hour of babble. I remember sitting there savoring those few silent seconds while Bill was trying to drown out the pontification with his noise canceling headset.

Can you guess where the orator from hell, not heaven as he may have liked us to think, was sitting? At first I thought he was sitting right in back of us because he was so LOUD, but he was actually two rows back. It means there were only two other people on the bus who were more unlucky than us.

When we stopped at the mid-trip rest area, Bill wanted to tell him to "Shut the #$*& up.” But we were told by a fellow passenger in so many words, this is not done in polite Costa Rican company. I guess Ticos would rather put up with a self-righteous jerk than confront him. So we settled for moving to the back of the bus. I guess it was better than landing in a Costa Rican jail, but certainly not as satisfying.

And, yes, the man kept up his non-stop prattle for another two hours until the end of the bus ride. You got to give it to him for stamina.

That's the end of that Costa Rican snipet.

We’ve arrived at the casitas. They have grown beautifully lush since we landscaped last December. We’ve always been told things grow fast here and our little tropical garden is no exception.

The very first day in Dominical, we ate lunch beside a river filled with crocodiles while an iguana gluttonously eyeballed us, watched a lizard walk on water and saw fish with glowing eyes at the top of their heads. At the cabins the parrots flocked in nearby trees and fireflies put on a light show. The next day this little guy inspected my dishwashing job.