Archive for May, 2010

My Camera Issy Doomboo

Saturday, May 29th, 2010

Curses!  The trusty Panasonic croaked last night…we’re not sure whether it’s the battery, or the camera.  We’ve been having internet issues until this a.m. (thank you kind neighbors Jack & Penny for letting us tap your network)…we are now back up.  So perhaps I can find the solution on the internet.  The display just kind of went *poof*.  Battery is charged…if anyone has any ideas, I’m all ears.

We’re having the neighbors in tonight for Mexican.  I got a big pork butt from the butchers and roasted it yesterday, pulled it this a.m.  We’re having pork enchiladas, salad, beans and rice, mucho cervesas, some vino courtesy Dominic, and perhaps even some mango daquiris.  My mom brought her camera, so I hope to have pics later.

Must run, the kitchen is awaiting!

~ Blonde Gator

Heuvos Rancheros

Tuesday, May 25th, 2010

I’ve been working on my Heuvos Rancheros.  Blonde Mom brought me my favorite New Mexico Red Peppers (Iguana Man’s brother sends us ristras from New Mexico each year, but you can find them in any good market with ethnic foods)….so I whipped up a batch of Chili Concentrate (see 3rd recipe down)…and made some killer Heuvos this a.m.  I’ll include a photo next time I’m not quite so hungry.  This recipe is enough for 4 people, or one hungry one and two not so hungry:

New Mexico Red Chili Concentrate; 1 large can refried red beans; 1 medium onion, chopped fine; 1/2 red sweet bell pepper, chopped fine, 3 jalepenos, chopped fine; 1/2 tsp. powdered cumin; 4 large flour tortillas (plus extras if you like them on the side, I prefer the smaller tortillas for extras); 1 cup grated cheddar cheese; 8 eggs; butter.

With the back of a spoon, spread the refried beans on the large tortillas.  Preheat the broiler, with the rack about 2 inches down. 

In a saucepan, a pat of butter and lightly saute the onions, red pepper, and jalepeno.  When onion becomes translucent, add 3 tbsp. of the chili concentrate, the cumin, salt and pepper to taste.  Stir until incorporated.  Pour into a bowl and set aside.

Place the tortilla/refried bean in the oven to warm.  In an omelet pan, fry the eggs, 2 at a time, sunny side up, until just jiggly, sprinkle 1/4 cup of the cheese over the eggs, and cover until the cheese is melted and the yolks are still soft.  Remove the tortilla/beans from the oven to a plate, and place fried eggs on top,  add a good couple of dollops of your salsa, and a couple of tablespoons of the chili concentrate.  If you want extra tortillas on the side, put a small pat of butter in the omelet pan and heat the extra tortillas for about 30 seconds to a side.   Repeat the eggs, cheese, chili procedure for the remaining tortillas.  I find it easier to prepare one plate at a time.

A note about the New Mexico Red chili sauce concentrate….I make a batch, usually using 20 peppers at a time.  It keeps very well in the fridge (use a glass storage container as it will stain plastic).  This is the basic, basic red enchilada sauce.  I  use it for enchiladas, tacos, tamales, chili, and of course as a condiment for eggs, etc.  Once you’ve used New Mexico Red chilis straight up, you’ll toss your store bought chili powder.  That link has some other great recipes for NM Reds.

Bon Appetit!

~ Blonde Gator

Blonde Mom Is Here!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

Mom arrived today with her bells on….as I knew she would.  No problems at the airport, she was walked right through, given priority seating on the plane, and was out of the immigration/customs checkpoints in less than five minutes.

We took her to Outback Jack’s (Jack is our Aussie neighbor) for lunch and a much needed rum obscura con Coka Lite in Brasalito…just up the pike.  It was monsooning this afternoon, to the point that the beach (about 50′ away) was barely visible!

Iguana Man lost his butt playing backgammon w/our other neighbor tonight (to the tune of about $.15)….but the deal is the winnings (rounded up to the nearest thousand colones, which is about the equivalent of $2 US) must be given to some down-on-his/her-luck soul in the future, a pay it forward kind of thing that Dominic has come up with….and a wonderful idea it is!

So, life is good…and one hundred percent in the right shape for me, as I’ve missed my Mom horribly.  Shopping commences tomorrow (I’ve stayed away from the  jewelry store that I scoped out, but now that I have my partner in crime, LOOK OUT!).

~ Blonde Gator

I ♥ the Tropics

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

Well, as Blonde Mom arrives tomorrow, I decided to “kick it up a notch” (h/t Emeril) and go all out.  So yesterday, I stopped by the “florist” (actually a little shack on a side road a klick or two up the road). 

I bought a pair of Heliconia chartaceas…which is a New World plant that is native to Brazil and Guiana.  It is cultivated here as a garden plant and for its cut stems.  We also have them in Florida, although I’ve never seen them quite as big as these.  Imagine my shock at the price ~ 1,000 colones each, or about $2 a stem.  I’ve seen them at home, but never purchased them there…sticker shock at $10 – $12 a stem.  Combined with a couple of gingers from the yard (and some not so clever engineering of a plastic coke bottle, bowl, and rocks….suckers are heavy!) I managed to add a little bit of pop to the living room.

Ooh La La...a Center Piece for the Coffee Table

The lady at the shop was working on arrangements for a big wedding at the JW Marriott in Tamarindo…did I mention our friend Jeffrey has taken a job there as the Concierge?  Best of luck w/your new endeavors, Jeffrey!  Anyhoo…here’s a detailed shot of the heliconia, at home we have a variety called “Sexy Pink”…but it is not nearly as large as these, which were nearly 5′ tall before I started chopping the stems.

Heliconia chartacea

It just feels great to have such gorgeous blooms of these heliconias around.  I think what it may be is that I simply miss my orchids! 

~ Blonde Gator

Mi Casa es Su Casa

Saturday, May 22nd, 2010

The view of the front of the house is mostly obscured by a mondo mango tree…but it’s basically a big old two story block.  The view from the back is much better.  Iguana Man has set up shop on the patio above the kitchen turret….there is a hot tub up there that doesn’t work…apparently it leaks into the kitchen, major design flaw. 

The entire top floor is the large master suite, including a nice little office area.  The master bath was originally designed to be open air…but has since been bricked in as the critters found the space to be much too pleasant!  As I am writing this post, I just noticed an iguana chomping the flowers, and I video’d her…(if I can ever get the stupid videos to upload I’ll show you)….she walked around the pool eating this and that, until she saw me, then made a beeline for corner of the house and started climbing….I can hear them on the roof all the time, and one was sunning on the office windowsill yesterday.  So I can imagine what the master bath used to look like…full of lizards!!!

Anyone for a Dip?

As you can see, we have the deck all rigged out…nice chair, eh?  Also, the Oaxacan hammoca, a big fat fan, and pool noodles.  The water exercise classes are soon to commence.  The neighbor’s gardener is in the background.  I was not a fan of the minimalist landscaping…until I realized there are no leaves in the pool…and as there is no daily pool man, that’s a good thing, Martha!

Prepared for Serious Slugging

I brought a few key kitchen items: electric kettle, french press, Cuisinart, monster chef’s knife, omelet pan and roasting pan (we ordered a 6 kilo pork butt from the butcher shop yesterday…it will be delivered next Friday…enchiladas on the way!).  We purchased a couple of things when we got here, a set of dishes, some flatware, etc.  But the kitchen is now pretty well tricked out.  The big bottle on the dining room table is Costa Rican honey….it is delicious!  Did I mention I am now a huge fan of concrete countertops? 

The Kitchen Turret

Living Room

Ready for Blonde Mom

Another small bedroom/bath and the large laundry room/third bath comprise the first floor.  As I said, the master suite takes up the entire second floor, and it is enormous.  The king sized bed (and the 630 count egyptian cotton sheets which miraculously arrived from Houston last week) are nirvana!  I travel with two of my favorite down pillows, much to Iguana Man’s chagrin when packing the car.  Some things I can’t live without.

Master Suite

To the Iguana Man's Lair

Yet another travelling tip….bring laptop locks, which we now fasten to the staircase.  These were invaluable for our peace of mind when travelling while going out to dinner, sight seeing, etc.   Don’t get me wrong, there’s no crime wave or anything, but everywhere there are tourists there are tourist predators, and it pays to be prepared.

So….that is a tour of the Casa Grande.  It is currently for sale, hence the very spartan furnishings (most of which belong to Dominic).  However, it is for rent, and if you are interested, you can contact Dominic D’Arcy at his website…Go For It Services.  If there’s anything you need in the Guanacaste area of Costa Rica, Dominic is THE go-to man.

Yet Another Visitor

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

This one, however, arrived at breakfast time….alighting on the top of the French Press….before flying to the cabinet.

Praying Mantis

Did I mention I got dive bombed by the greeter frog the other night?  He landed on my shoulder and nearly scared me out of my wits. 

We also have little lizards that run around the house, with a (fairly loud) call that kind of goes “eeee, eee, eee, eee, eEEEE”.   They are very territorial, and fight each other for the best lighted territory on the patio…excellent light equals excellent bug slurping probabilities on the wall, you see.  

Life in the tropics is a never ending source of entertainment. 

~ Blonde Gator

The Mystery Visitor to Costa Rica

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Playa Conchal...a scenic training ground for runners

Well, one and all, this is Blonde Gator’s/Iguana Man’s mystery visitor.  I flew in from IAH at around 7:40 Saturday and rode on home with them to the Casa de Iguana y Blonde, where I crashed and began by just doing absolutely nothing.  And I badly needed to after the week I had, and the journey to Houston. 

Monday was when the action truly began, with a little run up and down the gorgeous, horribly overcrowded Playa Penca.  After 30 minutes of this I was done and it was back home.  Later, I hit Tamarindo for a few obligatory souvenirs, and some grub.  I must say the ceviche is excellent.  Over the past week I have found new and exciting uses for limes and lime juice. 

Tuesday was perhaps the greatest adventure of all, however: the zip-lining. After a trip down a heavily pockmarked, washboarded road, we reached a place that offered tours of the jungle canopy via zip lining.  I zipped down nine lines, during which I had some close encounters with some howler monkeys, as you shall see:

A howler monkey, silent for the moment

The zip-lining is an intense experience.  Be in shape, and remember, if you are the slightest bit acrophobic, I wouldn’t recommend it.  But it is a great way to view the jungle!

On the way back, there was this scene in the road:

A nice Tuesday afternoon drive

Today, I decided to plunge myself into the ocean around which my life has centered since 2002, at least!  This after a nice run of about 30 minutes on Playa Conchal.  From there, we have been taking it slow today…and why not?  I have another day to go here under the tropical skies at 10 degrees. 

I have been many places in the world, but in one of life’s ironies, I have never been south of the Rio Grande.  I had never been anywhere in Latin America until this past week.  I definitely will be heading back.  Muchas Gracias to Blonde and the Iguana Man for their hospitality.

 Pura Vida…y’all.

Our First New Visitor has Arrived!

Sunday, May 16th, 2010

We moved to the big house yesterday, and got more or less settled in.  Then, we drove into Libera, had dinner, and went to La Rey, a sort of Costa Rican K-Mart, to pick up some odds and ends for the house….a set of dishes, a mixing bowl, WD-40 (NOTE:  next time put that on the Car-Box list), and 4 knives.  We got the correct information, the prices were quite reasonable…and now we are all set.

Then we headed back to Liberia International Airport…to pick up my friend, whom some of you NB’ers certainly know.  He arrived on Continental Airlines, on-time, and was through Customs & Immigrations in about ten minutes.  Liberia is a small airport, they don’t even have gates, per se, rather they roll the stairs up to the aircraft.  Blonde Mom arrives a week from tomorrow, so I am totally confident that she will be whisked through to us in about 2 minutes flat (Costa Rica conveniently mandates all seniors automatically move to the front of the line, plus I’ve requested assistance for Blonde Mom).

We got back to the house, and as I was showing my guest around…specifically, in the big downstairs bath….he was greeted by another visitor….a fat little two-toned green frog.   As Iguana Man was trying to capture said beastie and return him to his pals outside…the frog jumped (and stuck) on the wall, on Iguana Man, on the wall, on the Iguana Man again.   His description of the frog capture ballet was “I just got leg-humped by a frog”…the frog stuck to everything it’s suckered little toes glommed on to.

We proceeded to adjourn to the patio for some cervesas to wash away the dust of the trail….where the bathroom frog’s compatriots were out in full force…they are incredibly loud….we almost had to shout to be heard over them when two or more started calling at the same time.   Iguana Man finally became annoyed and frog-marched (actually with his foot) one of the beasties into the pool.  That quietened him momentarily.

We think he crawled out of the pool and right back at us…and here is is:

The Welcoming Committee

This morning…one of the beasties toe-humped my guest (crawled into his beach sandals)…quick lesson learned about shaking out one’s shoes before sticking one’s feet in them….our pal Justin got a nasty scorpion sting that way just last week.

Anyhoo, life is grand…shall take some pictures of the casa later.

~ Blonde Gator

Beach Day

Friday, May 14th, 2010

This morning my neighbor and I headed over to the beach.   We were only able to handle about twenty minutes on the actual beach, after taking a dip…as it was a bit windy and the umbrella kept going over.  We needed the shade, as we toasted ourselves on Wednesday.  So…we retreated to the shade of a big old strangler fig, and sat and watched the waves roll in.  (And roll they did…they rolled me….stealthy waves, a whole lot bigger break than I thought when I went out).  We stayed until about noon, enjoying the shade and the breeze.  I missed the shuttle launch, dammit!

Panca Beach, Potrero, Costa Rica

Late this afternoon, another acquaintance of ours, Justin, took us to see the sunset from Pacific Heights.  This was the view looking back at Panca Beach:

Panca Beach, Late Afternoon

As usual, another marvelous sunset (I shall update my sunset/sky photo page one of these days, many new additions):

Yet Another Spectacular Sunset, Pacific Heights, Costa Rica

The wind had really died down, and down the the south there was a fire burning…the smoke blew out to sea, but as the sun set, the flames became visible in the distance.

Smoke (& Fire) on the Water

Here’s to hoping it’s a little bit rainy tomorrow…it’s been about eleven days since it rained (and the wind has been howling, too)….an oddity during rainy season.  The sunsets create some spectacular sky shots.  Note the fire on the bottom right.

An End to Another Beautiful Day

We’re moving to the Casa Grande tomorrow.  And picking up our first visitor in Liberia.

Hope everyone has a super weekend!

~ Blonde Gator

This and That

Thursday, May 6th, 2010

Well…we are more or less settled in, all laundered, and relaxing.   We met our neighbors yesterday…yet another great place in CR.  Here’s a photo of pool (it’s alot bigger than in the photo, it runs around the other side of the whirlpool) and the mango tree…I think I’ll have a mango with lunch today:

Pool and Rancho, Potrero

It is quite lovely here, and I am truly enjoying just taking in the scenery.  There is a big pasture next door to us, with horses and cows.  This morning I noticed a great looking bay foal….I shall try to get close enough to take some pictures while we are here. 

Also, as I was preparing breakfast, I looked out the kitchen window.  There was a bird having at the banana tree (something I’m going to do soon as I am dying for tamales and the banana leaves are great wrappers)…the bird was jumping up about a foot and a half off the ground, and grabbing a piece of the stalk and then plopping quickly on the ground, making a nice long banana “string”.  It’s really fun watching the mating/nesting behaviours of the creatures here.

Another item of interest in the yard is a cashew, or marañón tree.  I recognized it as I have been scouring the Costa Rica books we brought with us, in order to identify “stuff”.  It is quite a lovely tree, the fruit is beautiful and quite ornamental, and the new leaves emerge in a pretty burnt sienna color….I may have to plant one when I get home.

The Cashew Apple

Beautiful, don’t you think?  The cashew “nut” is inside the gray pod on the end…the shell of the cashew is quite noxious per the literature I read, and must be roasted until blackened to remove the shell.   The pulp of what looks like the fruit (but really isn’t) is apparently used to make refrescas (beverages)….although I couldn’t find a recipe for any…go figure.  When we drove through Nicaragua, there were many street vendors selling cashew nuts….I now wish I’d purchased a bag or two, as I’m sure they are absolutely delicious when freshly roasted.  Alas….

~ Blonde Gator