05 December 2009

IT LIVES!! (in the tall grass)

I’m not really very fond of bugs. Apart from Fluffy, my pet tarantula, I wouldn’t miss the entire class of critters that bite, sting or chew up the wooden shelves in my garage.

I do enjoy the Spanish word for them: bichos [beach’ ohs]. It just pops off the lips like an English homophone that is usually combined with a tone of venom and the words, “son of a …” Saying their name in Spanish, with the correct tone of voice, helps me get through the day. “Damn bichos!”


Then again, the little nasties sometimes get to pay me back for not showing them “the love.”

On our way back to Atenas from two wonderful days in the Valley of the Quetzals, we were seized with our obsession to look for tiny boxes of hidden trinkets, worth less than a penny, using millions of dollars of Global Positioning System technology, aka, geocashing.

“Oh, look! There’s a cache showing on my GPS, right down there in that little valley! Turn down this road!” said my co-pilot.

“Aarrrrrgh!” sez I.

After 15 minutes of dropping like a rock, down into this verdant valley, my co-pilot again said, “Turn here.”

“That’s a cow path.”

“No it isn’t. There was some gravel there once and there are a few rocks here and there right now,” she retorted. Then she set the hook. “Besides, do you want to log a Did Not Find on the website?” We turned up the cow path road.

Forty-five minutes of bone-jarring single-track later, following her GPS needle, we came to a bridge over the beautiful crashing cataract of the Rio Blanco de Copey. Boy what I would have given for an ultra-light fishing rig and some trout bait.
But we were after a different quarry now – the elusive Tupperware box full of trinkets.

The online hints said that the box was hidden in a “cave near the bridge” and the GPS’s kept dragging us towards a big ol’ rock about 20 feet off the road, sitting in meter-high grass. Having planned ahead, I was wearing shorts, crocs with no socks and no Deet. Ah, but it will just take a second.

It took about 10 minutes. You have to locate the cache, get it out of the cave, open it, look through the trinkets to see if there is one you want to take, leave one of our trinkets behind and sign the log book. Through all of that time, I never felt the little monsters striking into my flesh and injecting their venom.

Pat says they’re called no-see-ums. I think in the Midwest we called them chiggers. Either way, the domestic variety is a poor excuse for their genus, considering the strength of whatever the hell it is those horrid Costa Rican cousins leave behind in your skin. The Costa Rican branch of the chigger species are the Black Mambas of chigger-dom.

Our glee at logging another cache find was soon supplanted with a need to scratch. Our legs had been attacked and we both had numerous little red “pimples” raising up and itching. It’s overwhelming. And, I’ve learned my lesson: no matter how hot and steamy it is in the jungle [hoon’ glay] thou shalt always bathe in Deet and wear long pants.

Today is 4 days later and the only way to ignore the itching is to get my mind off of it by writing dreck like this for you to suffer through. See? I like to share.

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04 December 2009

Is it Christmas yet?

Apparently it is … here in Costa Rica. The Ticos take Christmas decorations very seriously. Every place you look, the decorations are up. Most of them have been up for a week or more. There doesn’t seem to be any of the competitive, “my lights are better than your lights,” here. Everyone just decorates. Some of the decorating is amazing.

During one of our geocaching forays deep into the mountains – where rain forest jungle edges up against forsaken little fincas (farms) -- we saw pockets of grinding poverty where the houses are just slapped together shanties. Many of them are fully constructed of rusty corrugated steel roofing, probably appropriated from unguarded construction sites or reclaimed from the roofs of ancient abandoned barns. But, amid their poverty, their hovels are decorated for Christmas. At least there is a cut-out of the Jolly Old Elf’s visage nailed to the front door. The “rich” peons [pay-owns’] have electricity and if they have electricity they’ve somehow managed to come up with a string of Christmas lights or two, gaily twinkling away, day and night.

In the towns we traveled through, Friday, December 04 is a crazy day of frenzied celebration and city-wide carnival. For, this is the day of the alginaldo [ahl-gee-nahl’-dough]. This is when every person in the country is paid (on the same day) the equivalent of 1 month’s salary, for Christmas bonus, by law. Imagine the craziness in the States if every employed person suddenly had that much cash in hand. Well, it’s crazy like that here, too. On top of the alginaldo, this was the last week of the school year for most of the children. Add that to every city staging a big fiesta / bazaar / carnival / party (usually centered at the town square and the Catholic Church, which is always situated on one side of the town square.) It was so nuts that the main street of the capital, San Jose, was blocked by a sea of surging humanity, already spending and partying, in the middle of the afternoon. We didn’t hang around to find out where that party was going … cripes … we have a flight to catch in two days.

And then … there are our neighbors, bless their hearts.

Imagine, one of them actually has a house that looks to be smaller than ours (if that’s possible). Clearly there is no room inside for a Christmas tree. Sooooooo, the fully decorated and lighted tree is proudly sitting out on their miniscule front porch, half blocking the front door.

But the prize goes to our “almost-neighbor” up the street. Their house isn’t close to being finished yet. This week it was just a framed-in structure with a roof. Yesterday, they started putting up the sheets of blue Styrofoam insulation on the front wall. On the second floor, dead center on the front façade, there will be a huge picture window – some day. Right now, it is just a hole in the framing, surrounded with blue sheathing. Guess what is hoisted up in that opening, blazing away with the latest LED tree lights? Oh, yeah … they might not live there but by god they’re going to decorate.

Fun country.

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29 November 2009

Geocaching: Costa Rica style

For those of you who we haven’t bored to tears with tales of our geocaching hobby, here’s a quick description:

Thousands of participants register at www.geocaching.com and become Geocachers. Geocache people take little containers, filled with everything from trinkets, coins and other tchotchkes, if the container is large, or just a little slip of paper to write your name and the date upon if the container is small. Then the Geocacher takes that container out in the world and hides it. (S)he takes a GPS reading on the exact hiding spot and then publishes those coordinates on the geocaching.com website. Other Goecachers then run out and try to be the first to find a new cache – or, in the case of us slower folk, just finding the durn things, period. Once found, you proudly log your find at the website. There are about 900,000 caches currently hiding, around the world. It’s addictive.

Costa Rica is a new geocaching experience, however.

In the States, thousands of caches are simply plastic 35mm film canisters, stuffed with a log sheet and shoved under the base-shroud of a shopping mall parking lot light. A little boring at times.

It seems that’s not how they do things here in Costa Rica.

Our first shot at a Costa Rican cache was supposed to be one of the most famous ones in the world. This baby is stashed in Manuel Antonio National Park, out along a jungle trail, allegedly far from the maddening crowd. We’d never been to the park, but, hey … no biggie. We’re semi-professionals.

“Where’s my back pack?”
“You left it at the house.”
“How can I carry water and “stuff”?”
“Here’s a cosmetics tote. Put some in there.”

So, we put on our protective long pants, shirts, hats and best hiking boots, grabbed two liters of water, bought our tickets into the park and headed out.

Kind of a disappointment right at the start. The “trail in the jungle” is as wide as most Costa Rican roads; and, it’s flat and nicely graded with fine gravel. On top of that, there were several large tour groups being noisily led to their great adventure by paid guides.

None of that for us! We’re world-famous wilderness explorers!

We got ahead of or behind most of the chattering Germans & Canadians & Americans and finally got to a place where the road-like trail looked like a real trail. Just dirt, roots, bugs, plants and you.

After a short time on the trail, we were sure that none of the tours seemed to be following us. Then, we came up to a very decayed, barely readable Park sign, showing the layout of the trail (a loop) and where the main attractions were along that trail, all marked and numbered. We studied the sign but couldn’t make much out due to severe jungle rot and weathering. Another tour couple came up and headed to the right side of the loop.

“We’re going left,” I declared.

Off we went into the deep rainforest jungle. No fears. The brave Pirate Juan was fully armed with 15 knives (surprised?) and, heck, the whole loop was only 2.5 kilometers. Piece of cake. Pat is in great shape, having been riding her bike 5 to 10 miles a day; and, I’m, well, “Arrrrrgh!”

Climb climb climb climb climb. Damn! Don’t these people know about the proper angle of construction for a trail, or about trail switchbacks? Climb climb. Wow, a body really works up a sweat out here in the jungle, but with 100% humidity, there isn’t much cooling-by-evaporation going on.

Fortunately, I’m wearing one of my best “Coolmax® Moisture Transport™ tee shirts which mechanically pulls the perspiration from your skin and moves it to one of your outer clothing layers, thereby keeping your skin dry and cool.” Unfortunately, my outer clothing layer was some crappy cotton button-down shirt that I grabbed out of the closet. Guess how fast Coolmax can saturate a cotton shirt?

Climb climb. Whoops. We’re over the top of that canyon and now we have to drop down to its bottom.

Drop drop drop drop drop. Huge steps down – the kind where your boot heel is almost touching your butt by the time your other toe touches the next lower trail surface.
Drop drop. Whoops. Down in the bottom. Gotta climb up the other side. Gee, didn’t these people ever hear about how to construct steps so that a normal person can negotiate them?

Climb climb climb. Whoops. Drop drop drop. Whoops. Climb climb climb.

Climb till you can’t breathe. Drop until your knees hurt. Climb. Drop. Climb. Drop.

Damn! Gimme some water. Gimme a GPS reading. Where the hell are we? Whataya mean the jungle canopy won’t let a satellite signal through? They told us that durn Garmin thingy would get a reading inside the Bat Cave even while The Joker jams the signals outside.

Ever sweated so much that your SHOES soaked through? Ever sweated so much that your wallet was so soaked through that the leather softened and your credit cards permanently debossed your name into the leather wherever they touched? Sheeeeit!

Guess how fast we both went through our liter of water, sweating that much? Think we were to the geocache yet?


We must have looked so bad to other people we encountered (all going the other way, coming from the right side of the loop) that we convinced several of them to turn around without any explanation.

This went on for 3 hours.

Know what happens when you run out of sweat? That was just about when we reached the approximate cache site and we drank the last swallows of water. I stopped sweating. Very very bad symptom.

Pat was not quite as bad off as me (remember, she cheats by riding her bicycle back at Houston.) While I meandered around in my heat stroke daze, she tried her best to decipher the hiding place clues and get a reading through the jungle canopy on her GPS. No luck. We decided to bail.

About a (flat) hundred yards down the other side of the loop we ran into one of the tour couples.

“Is it flat this direction or is it all up and down?”
“Uh, its flat and the beach is just over there.”

Another hundred flat yards of staggering and we came out into the shade behind one of the legendary Manuel Antonio beaches. Sun worshipers were frolicking in the surf. Tourists were playing with the monkeys. Fat old Germans were kicked back on their beach chairs, swilling water and eating bratwurst sandwiches (or whatever fat Germans eat.) I’d say, FUCK right here, but this is a family blog.

I plopped down on a beach bench and sloshed sweat from my saturated clothes all over the place. I think I looked pretty wonderful to the tourists. Pat must have looked pretty concerned that her “famous Pirate” was about to croak on some Park bench in the middle of the Garden of Eden for want of a drink of water. Anyhow, she was so convincing to some passers-by that they popped out a full liter of their water and gave it to me. I downed it like a fraternity kid downing a beer.

Thirty minutes later, I could walk. I got over to the cold fresh water showers (?!?) and drenched my head. I was ready to go again – as long as “again” didn’t involve any climbing.

A great first geocache in Costa Rica.

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28 November 2009

You think you’ve gone through a safety inspection of your car? Think again.

If you follow any of my ramblings on the other blog you know a little bit about our old truck that we use to bounce down the roads of Costa Rica. The truck has a name. Pat calls her “Suzie.” I call it “That %$!#&@ car.” Any-hoo, at this time of year in Costa Rica, EVERY car and truck in the country has to pay their annual license plate fee. Oh, but there’s a slight catch. They won’t accept your payment unless you have a new safety inspection certificate. No biggie? Yeah, right.

We made an appointment for one Friday evening because smart Costa Ricans know that not many people want to put up with government inspections when they could get an early start on the weekend, at a time that probably interferes with the first cocktail.

We were forewarned that Suzie’s lights all had to work, as well as the wipers, brakes and … electric windows? Damn. The front passenger window had a bad switch. Ever try to find an electric window switch for a 1994 Isuzu, in a little town in Costa Rica?

Amazingly, the local auto parts purveyor “had a friend” that could come up with a useable switch for “only $90, U.S.” Greeeaaaaat. We placed the order and some little courier boy, on a motor scooter, had it to our local parts shack within hours. These are resourceful people.

Anyway, after 10 minutes work, the window was operating just fine and we headed for the inspection station.

The Costa Rican Vehicle Inspection Station ain’t some ratty gas station or mechanics bay in a back alley. These places are huge, with efficient processing offices to take your fees (up front) and set up your “work order.”

Work order?

We trip-trapped around the back of the monster building and came up to 8 drive-through bays, wide and tall enough for a semi tractor and as long as a football field. The bays are each lined with blinking winking computer screens and control panels for (erk!) real testing equipment.

Our first “agent” did a walk around on Suzie and then started in:

High Beams
Left Turn Signal
Right Turn Signal
Wipers (wipers?)
Windshield washers (washers!?!)
Pop the hood and shake the battery and hoses (geez!)

Open my door and inspect the control panel; my seatbelt; the general interior

Open all the doors and check each seatbelt, buckling it in place.

Walk to the back and repeat the entire “lights routine,” including the brake lights.

“You have a very serious problem.” Damn.


“Your rear license plate light is out.”

“Oh, don’t worry, I’ll get it fixed.”

“You’ll have to get it fixed before I continue with this inspection.” Continue?

Aw, geez.

I’ll spare you the details of racing all over creation trying to find a light bulb for Suzie with little luck. By the time we finally found one and got the light working, the testing facility was closed.

Next day, at the crack of noon, we were back over to the testing station. Pray that the damn light works and that none of the others have shorted out in the mean time (Suzie likes to play that “works today but not tomorrow” game.)

Fortunately, all of the lights worked and we were motioned down the testing bay to the first “station.”

While a Technician stuck the familiar gas sensor rod up Suzie’s tail pipe, another motioned us up a few inches until the front wheels fell several inches into a pit. All of a sudden we could hear the wheels winding up. Then the left side started to rumble and bounce like we were running at high speed over a typical horrible country road. On a plainly visible computer screen, a graphic representation of a front suspension, left side, was bouncing all over the place and registering performance numbers. This was repeated to the right side. At this one station, they had tested the wheel bearings, shocks, springs, tires and ball joints.

Then we were moved up until the rear fell into the pit. Same story but now we were also on a dynamometer. Talk about a test!

Next we roll down the bay to the brake testing station (both front and rear, individually, plus the parking brake.) Then it’s on to the wheel alignment station and the headlight alignment station.

Unbelievably, that %$!#&@ car passed everything.

How many hundred thousand cars in the U.S. would fail this test? We could get all of those wrecks off the road if we had safety inspections like this.

But, then, again, what fun would that be if the Feds took over vehicle testing? All of those crooked cousins that own crooked inspection stations at their crooked gas stations would be out of business. Our economy would be in the tank.

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13 September 2009

Our New Hydroponic Garden

What a busy day! I helped John replace the weather stripping on the French doors that open to the deck. We had some rain water coming in from time to time and hopefully this will fix it. Then we setup a new hydroponic garden in the kitchen breakfast nook.

This summer has been brutally hot, with very little rain. My herbs have really suffered and I'd really like the keep them growing throughout the year. Yesterday, John had the brilliant idea to setup a hydroponic garden. So off we went to buy all the supplies we needed.

Today we setup the garden and cleaned all the soil of the plants to be transplanted. Everything has now been re-planted and we have Sweet Basil, Mint, Greek Oregano and Italian Flat Leaf Parsley all getting used to their new hydroponic home indoors. I really hope I do better with my hydroponic herb garden than I've done in the past with my outdoor gardens. It's so much tastier to cook with fresh herbs.

John also planted a Mother-in-law's Tongue in a 5 gallon hydroponic container similar to one he had several years ago. Mother-In-Law's Tongue (also called Sanseveria or Snakeplant) is known for it's ability to purify the air. I'm not sure how many you have to have planted to enjoy these benefits. In any case, it is a very forgiving plant, it is very low maintenance and it doesn't even care if it's root bound. Sounds like the perfect indoor plant for my black thumb.

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12 September 2009

Random musings late on a Saturday night

I bit the bullet and finally committed to daily exercise of some type at least 3 days a week. In the past 2 weeks I've averaged 5-6 mile bike rides. I rode 4 days last week and 5 days this week. I even talked John into riding with me today.

Last weekend we did a little Geocaching on our way home from grandson's birthday party. Found 2 out of the 4 we went after. Today we went back to one of the caches we found on our first Geocaching adventure to replace a foreign coin we lost by accident (a coin fell out of the cache when we opened the container and disappeared in a pile of rocks.) Rule number one about Geocaching: Take what you want, but replace it with something of equal or greater value.

I must say, I'm becoming a pretty creative cook throughout this process. Last night we had chicken and veggies with a marinara sauce over penne pasta and a salad on the side. Tonight it was grilled pork brisket and grilled zucchini with herb roasted onion and potato wedges.... Total calories: 393, including the cup of 1% milk. Tomorrow night... Scallops in a white wine sauce over whole wheat linguini. If I had the money, I'd open a restaurant for folks wanting to eat really great food and still stay on a healthy nutrition plan.

We are planning our next trip to Costa Rica the Wednesday before Thanksgiving and we'll be returning on December 6th. We can't wait for our Tico family to see how much weight we've lost since our April trip.

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30 August 2009

Our Unique Wedding Anniversary Gift

We decided to give ourselves a unique wedding anniversary gift this year and take up geocaching as a way to get out and get more exercise. So, yesterday we bought a GPSr and we went out on our hunt this afternoon.

We found 3 out of the 4 caches we went after. Not too bad for a couple of newbies. There are only 886,668 more for us to find.

You can get info about geocaching at this link Geocaching

We still plan to go out and share a romantic meal at our favorite French Bistro later this week and then we can go geocaching next weekend to work off the extra calories.

This is going to a great way to burn calories and stay fit. We can do this biking, hiking and walking together anywhere in the world.

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12 August 2009

I hate to exercise....

I have always hated to exercise, but there is no denying it does burn calories. John has started to wear a pedometer and according the steps taken, he is walking more than a mile a day at work.

I've started walking about 1.5 miles, or more, 3 or 4 mornings a week. It is so hot here in Houston, I have to walk before 9 AM or the heat will do me in before I can circle the block

I also managed to drag my bike out of the garage and talked a girlfriend into riding with me. I rode about 6 miles yesterday, but my riding buddy called early this morning to say she was too sore to ride today. She will try to ride with me tomorrow. I really don't want to ride by myself. Let's face it, I'm not a kid anymore and accidents happen. I'd rather be with someone, just in case.

Even though I hate exercise, I've come to terms with it and I'm committed to keep it up. Hopefully, my efforts will start to show up on the scale soon. It sure will be nice when summer is over and we get some nice cool weather for a change. It will make the walking and the biking a lot more enjoyable.

We took our measurements last week. John has lost a total of 22 inches overall and I've lost a total of 24 inches!!

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29 July 2009

Small Plates

I grew up in a family of 7, my parents, 4 siblings and myself. Informal meals were always served on a long counter with 4 bar stools on either side. The counter was actually a half wall between the kitchen and dining room. Food was always served "family style" with lots of dishes and platters placed in the middle of the counter. We would pass the dishes around so everyone could load up their plate for the first serving followed by seconds and sometimes even thirds. This is how I developed my early relationship with food.

When I married and had children of my own, I kept the same habits and found myself serving food to my family the same way I learned as a child. Once the boys got a little older, we all started loading our plates up in the kitchen so we could eat in front of the TV. I know, I know.... this was a terrible thing to do, but it seemed like such a good idea at the time.

Now that we are older and wiser, we have developed new methods to help us stay focused on our new relationship with food. I have retired all the 12" inch dinner plates and started using the 9" inch salad plates to serve all our main entrees. I now plate all food in the kitchen and carry the plate to the dining room table. Serving dishes and platters are left in the kitchen with the pots and pans, so there is no going back for a second helping. The only exception to this rule is when we have company.

I find it really is true... "We eat with our eyes first." So, presentation has a lot to do with meal satisfaction. Here is the photo from last night's home cooked dinner. We split an 8 ounce Ahi Tuna steak, seared rare on the panini grill, dipped in toasted sesame seeds and a sugar-free teryaki sauce. This was served over a bed of stir-fried garlic spinach with key lime juice and a side of brown & wild rice. We also had a small cucumber, onion and grape tomato salad tossed in a creamy Greek yogurt & cider vinegar dressing. It wasn't a lot of food, but it was delicious and more that satisfying. Total number of calories: 397

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16 July 2009

SparkPeople & "Me and My Shadow"

A couple of months ago the morning news show, Good Morning America, ran a segment on weight loss. They interviewed a female doctor that has recently lost over 100 pounds. She had been overweight for years and felt it was important for her to loose the weight and set a healthy example for her patients. She said she owed a lot of her success to the motivation and tools she found on the web site SparkPeople. After the show, I looked up SparkPeople on the web and after reading some of the success stories I decided to sign up as a member. I have have been a yo-yo dieter most of my life, but the tools for tracking nutrition and exercise have made it so easy to stay on top of our daily goals. Now that I have mastered a balanced diet and portion control for the first time in my life, I use the SparkPeople tools to track our food intake and browse the recipes members have contributed to find new and interesting meals.

There is also a community forum for members were we can post stories, words of encouragement, etc. Today there was an interesting story from one of the members that echos my goals for the future.

I asked Trudy, another SparkPeople member, if I could share her post on our blog and she has graciously agreed. Here it is...

"Me and My Shadow...

How does that song go?

I was walking the other day and looked down at the sidewalk and saw this stranger walking with me. I stared at the image and for a brief moment I asked "Who the heck is that?" "This person doesn't have all those lumps and bumps of ugly fat on her that I do"... A brief moment, then tears came to my eyes as it hit me. This was ME.

I weighed myself yesterday. The scales said 141.6...I realized that I had now lost 70 pounds! Then I put on my gift to myself- a pair of size 8 Kymaro jeans I was saving for this moment. Never in my life have I worn a size 8. They look good, yes, I can honestly tell you that. Oh, the journey is not over, far from it with another six pounds to go in order to reach my goal and then toning up my body. All in good time, but for now I reflect on some of the things I have learned on this my journey of a million steps.

I have learned that the prison of shame and guilt that I had built was my own creation and that I had the power to tear it down, or to build it up. It is all up to ME.

I had to learn to take personal responsibility for every bite of food that I put into my mouth, and that I had to eat healthy to BE healthy.

I had to learn that you either do IT (diet/exercise), or you don't -- there's no middle ground and that life is full of choices and I choose to be happier and healthier with mine.

I learned that I could acknowledge myself in ways other than eating. I no longer have to be an "emotional eater" to do that.

I learned to admit to myself that I was fat and unhealthy because I chose to overeat and I chose foods that were unhealthy and fattening.

I learned I just needed to find a diet plan that worked for ME. For me this is the idiot proof diet plan. Eating the right combination of foods, eating small portions knowing I will eat again in two hours, and eating healthy food was and is my key to success.

I learned that I am not a failure even though I may have "failed" when I dieted in the past.

I have learned that "temptations" along my journey are merely a test to my commitment. And, if I give myself the "gift" of an occasional temptation it makes the journey go much better.

I have learned that losing weight is not the end result but the beginning of a new chapter -- complete with new challenges, commitments and dreams!

I have learned that the journey will NEVER be over for me, that this is just the beginning of another journey to a happier and healthier life full of mountains and valleys, but with the help of all my SparkFriends I will accept the hills and valleys and travel with them...with the knowledge that I CAN continue, and I CAN do this, with their help and support."

Thanks to Trudy for sharing...
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13 July 2009

In my last post I mentioned John and I have lost 85 pounds between us. We have changed our eating habits and discovered we can eat just about everything if we limit the quantity and adjust some of the preparation methods. It's not rocket science, but in the past, neither one of us paid much attention to what we put in our mouths. We really enjoy eating, so it became paramount that we find a way to lose weight while satisfying our hunger with tasty foods.

Now that we have been committed to this since February, it has truly become a way of life and I don't think we could ever go back to our bad eating habits again. The price is just too high!

We have adjusted our calorie intake to an average between 1200 and 1500 calories per day. We eat 6 times a day, so we are never hungry. Since this calorie intake is so much less than what a normal body requires, we can't help but drop the pounds. I did a little research to back this up and here are the calorie requirements recommended by the "experts" at our goal weight:

Daily Calorie Requirement for MEN
Height: 5' 10"
Lifestyle: Lightly Actively
Desired Weight: 160
Calorie Requirement: 2000

Daily Calorie Requirement for WOMEN
Height: 5' 3"
Lifestyle: Lightly Actively
Desired Weight: 135
Calorie Requirement: 1600

I am now preparing meals that average 300-350 calories each. We supplement the meals with 3 snacks a day that average 100 calories each. The snacks are eaten mid-morning, mid-afternoon and evening.

We started this journey by joining the Jenny Craig Weight Loss program. In the beginning, we got all our meals and snacks from them and then gradually I started adding in meals I had prepared. Now, I prepare all of the meals and most of the snacks. We still go to our local Jenny Craig center every Saturday to weigh in and keep ourselves on track.

There is a link to our family cookbook at the top of this page. I am going to start sharing all of my low calorie recipes with anyone looking for a healthy, well balanced meal. I will add the letters "*WP*" to the title of each low-cal recipe. I also plan to go back and edit each of recipes I have already posted to add in the nutritional information.

Below the blog postings you will find a ticker tracking tool we are using to mark our progress toward reaching our weight loss goal. At the rate we are going, we expect to be showing off a new wardrobe next year.

Next, I will tell you about all the new recipes I have come up with that make it easy to stick to this lifestyle....

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11 July 2009

Time to start blogging again...

I have been very negligent as of late and I have not kept up with our blog entries. It’s time to bring our readers up to date on what we’ve been doing lately.

In February, John and I decided we had to get serious about our health and weight, so we dramatically changed our eating habits. I am pleased to report we have dropped about 85 pounds between us. You could say we have lost the equivalent of a 10 year old child. This is not a diet, this is a total lifestyle change and I think we will probably eat this way for the rest of our lives. I will blog more about this later.

I’m still without employment, so in late March I was able to take a road trip to Ft. Worth, Texas where John attended a conference. We both managed to come down with bad colds which turned into the coughs from hell.

We took a trip to Costa Rica for 12 days in mid April. Even though we still had our coughs, we had a great time. We really didn’t have any work that needed to be done around the house, so we took the time to visit some places John hadn’t been to before.

We took a day trip to Monteverde where we rode the Canopy SkyTram followed by a walking tour of the jungle canopy. I was really glad I remembered to bring a sweater with me because it gets chilly up in the mountains.The vistas were amazing.We ate lunch in town at a typical Tico restaurant. We ended the day with a visit to the Monteverde Dairy for one of the best ice cream cones in the world. Yummy! The ice cream is not on our normal menu, but everyone needs a little splurge now and then. The secret is in the portion control. We bought some Parmesan cheese and the best smoked cheddar I have ever tasted. This is true smoked cheese, not artificially flavored. I now know I had never had the real thing before.

We have actually found the Costa Rican way of eating is more in line with our new dietary changes.

John had never been to the Pacific side of Costa Rica, so a few days after Monteverde we headed out for Puerto Limon via the Braulio Carrillo National Park where the mountain views were majestic. Once we got to Puerto Limon we headed south through Puerto Viejo and eventually found our way to Punta Uva. We found a wonderful hotel in Punta Uva. The hotel had a nice restaurant, pool and large cabins with hot water, a/c and a veranda. John heard howler monkeys for the first time that evening, so we decided to sit out by the pool where we were serenaded by the local frog population. The restaurant staff accommodated us and served our dinner and drinks poolside.
The next day we headed back to Atenas via the southern route through Turrialba, the Orosi Valley, Cartago and San Jose. Again, the scenery was spectacular.

The only downside of the trip was Isuzu Susie decided we didn’t need any air conditioning, so it just quit working.

Vinicio promised to have it fixed for us before our next trip to CR. He is also going to get trees planted along the east property line. It is great to have such wonderful friends as we have in Vinicio and Maritza.

When we got back to Houston the bathroom scale reported John had lost 5 pounds and I had lost 3.

More to come later…

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23 February 2009

Back to School Again

January came around and I still hadn't found a job, so I decided I would go to school to learn to teach English as a Second Language.

I took a 60 hour course in late January and then on February 8th, I received my TESOL/TESL certification. I've applied at the local school district to teach English to non-native speakers at the Community Education center, but I haven't heard back from them yet. Once we retire to Costa Rica, I can use this skill to tutor Costa Ricans that may want to learn English.

I continue to search for full time employment, but the job market is really tough right now. John continues to stay really busy with his work, but we hope to take a week or two and head back down to Costa Rica for some vacation time in the next couple of months.

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