31 August 2011

Day 51: Major milestone.. we're cooking with gas!

If you've been following our posts for the past 7 weeks, you'll remember we've had to become very creative with a microwave oven, a 2-burner hotplate and an electric skillet, doing double duty as an oven. All this changed this evening.

Our sea container arrived about 10 days ago with the new gas range we purchased several months ago from Lowes. Since Costa Rica does not have natural gas, they gave us the kit to convert the burners to LP (liquid propane). Last week we found the local LP distributor and bought our gas cylinder and John started the task to change out all the natural gas orifices to LP orifices. He quickly discovered the kit we had been given did not have a single one of the ones we needed. So he call Frigidaire in the States and they confirmed we had been given the wrong convesion kit. They told him the sizes he would need and recommended we call their distributor in San Jose to come do the work for us.

We setup an appointment for Monday and when we called to confirm, the distributor informed us it would be Wednesday instead. In the meantime, we contacted a local guy to come run a gas line from our new propane tank, located outside, through the back wall into our kitchen/living room. He came around lunchtime on Tuesday, figured out what kind of connection we needed and then came back in the evening to get us hooked up.

Now all we needed was to get the actual burners converted to LP. The Frigidaire rep finally got here around 5:15 PM this evening and in 30 minutes we were cooking with gas!

I immediately moved the 2-burner hotplate and electric skillet off the counter and into the storage closet. Now, we have just about doubled our counter space and I'm ready to get back into some serious home cooking. One of the first things I want to do is re-activate my sourdough starter so we can have some really good homemade bread in a week, or so. Tomorrow, I'm going to start a big pot of spaghetti sauce and stock the freezer with quick meals.

Love my creature comforts.... Life is Good!

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Life With Suzie

Hey ... it's the old man here, not the nice sweet Tita. Here's the skinny. Some of you know that we have a 1994 Isuzu Rodeo. Some of you may even know the name by which I call said vehicle. It's not Suzie. If you don’t remember the name, perhaps a refresher is in order: http://gooblegobbus.blogspot.com/2008_06_01_archive.html

Tuesday night, after winding down a day of construction workers running all over, dogs acting like maniacs, a smoker billowing apple wood smoke all over the place and finally trying to once again stuff everything back into the garage so that the door could be shut for the night, we retired to our bedroom for a little TV and reading.

After very little of these diversions, we decided to kill the lights and call it a day.

Some time towards midnight, Pat woke up, then woke me up. “The lights are on inside the car.” [This is one of the advantages of living in a shotgun shack. We can see our entire world, out the front window, while lying in bed.]

“{Expletive deleted},” I said, and climbed groggily out of bed. I knew that The {Expletive deleted} Car had been acting up lately, electrically. And one of “her” most annoying traits has become the inside courtesy lights staying on unless all of the doors and the hatch are very tightly closed (i.e., slammed.)

Fumble fumble fumble in the dark, looking for the keys. I unlocked the front door and padded out into the driveway. {Expletive deleted}!! Now I was hopping around with sopping wet socks having forgotten that, duh, in the rain forest, it rains … and the concrete is wet with COLD rain. [Yes, I sometimes wear socks to bed … get over it.]

Got the front passenger side door opened and slammed it. The light went out. Well, that was easy.

Locked up, stripped out of the wet socks and crawled back into bed. I was almost instantly asleep.

“Hey,” Pat said poking me, “the car lights are still on.”

“Urhuuu?” I sat up and looked. Sure enough. The {Expletive deleted} Car’s interior lights were on?!?

No fumbling this time. I knew exactly where I had thrown the {expletive deleted} keys. Pad pad pad, out into the driveway in my bare feet. {Expletive deleted}!! I’d forgotten that the construction workers had been dribbling concrete, sand, rock and all descriptions of sharp-ish things on the driveway throughout the course of their work, earlier in the day. Some of those little sharps kind of weld themselves into the bottoms of your bare feet so no matter how much hopping around you do, there’s just no shaking them. Ow! I leaned up against the car and brushed the offending daggers from my feet.

Well, the second most likely culprit of not being slammed hard enough to ensure that the interior lights go off would be the back hatch glass. Blick! Slam! The lights go out. [Come on … the sound the latch on the glass makes when you push the button is “blick”? Didn’t you know that?]

Anyway, success. Lights out. Back inside … lock ‘er up … crawl into bed. Ahhh. Peaceful sleep.



“Look.” In the darkness I could see her pointing out to the front. The {expletive deleted} interior lights were on again in that {Expletive deleted} Car.

“Arrrrrrrrgh!” I stomped outside. Now I was afraid that all of these episodes might have pulled the old battery down far enough that the car wouldn’t start in the morning. I got in, put the key in the ignition, cursed the FSM and turned it. Well, well. The {expletive deleted} engine started instantly. I ran the rpm up a bit and sat there letting the battery charge back up, shut ‘er down, got out … SLAM!

The lights went out.

“Nooohohohoho you don’t you {Expletive deleted}{expletive deleted}{expletive deleted}{expletive deleted} Car! I know your tricks you piece of {expletive deleted}. So, I waited for the lights to come back on. And waited. I hit the windows with my fist to try to jar it into the state of electrical Botherationus lightus. Nada. I bashed fenders with my ample butt. I rocked it on its springs. Nuttin.

“All right, ya {expletive deleted} … good night.”

I laid down in bed but couldn’t take my eyes off of The {Expletive deleted} Car, outside our window. It just couldn’t keep doing that. I had by now opened and closed every opening of that old heap at least twice. Next thing you know the slamming would have been waking up the kids down the street!

I think that I drifted off a little. You know that in-between state of mind when you’re not quite sure if you’re awake or dreaming or what? I was there. Are those really lights?

Now it was my turn for the jab. “Pat!”


“Are those lights on in the car?”


That ripped it.

Not that the new, calm, Pura Vida serene me would ever fly off the handle and get violent or anything. Perish the thought. But I was headed for The {Expletive deleted} Car with blood in my eye. I threw the driver’s side door open – flipped the hood release – jerked the hood latch free – lifted the hood with more than a little force … and then stood there, in the dark, holding up that hood, with the hood support rod in my other hand, wondering where the {expletive deleted} is that {expletive deleted} little hole where the hood rod goes so that this {expletive deleted} heavy son of a hood doesn’t fall on me and kill me.

Yeah, I know … plan ahead.

Finally, the hood rod slipped onto some hole or another and it seemed sturdy.

With both hands I reached down to the battery wiring and with the strength of a really {expletive deleted} off maniac, jerked the wires off of the battery terminal.

[Had ya going there, didn’t I. Haha. I knew that the terminal clamp was loose because I had installed it without a wrench the other day. But it made good reading, didn’t it.]

Victory! No more lights.

I staggered back to bed. The neighboring farmer’s rooster crowed. And again. And again.

Oh … don’t do this to me. That means that it’s a quarter to 5 and the freakin sun will be up in 45 minutes. Then the dogs will be up and jumping all over to be let out. Then I’ll give up and stay up.

And that’s what happened last night.

So if this episode sounds a little cranky, it’s because, well, I’m cranky today!

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25 August 2011

Day 44: Found my cooking tools & the Rancho construction is well underway.

We have finally finished going through all the boxes on the porch. We pulled the stuff out we have to have now and re-consolidated the boxes for storage until the house is built. I know, don't say it, we should have done a better job of packing so we had all the "must have now" stuff boxed together. Easy for you to say, but you had to have been there when we were packing. It was a zoo, and at the end things were just being thrown into a box, any box. I was so happy to finally see some of my favorite kitchen tools find their way out of a box today and into the casita's tiny kitchen.

John found my pressure cooker! So, I just made a pot of fresh black beans for dinner tonight, without soaking them, in less than an hour.
I also made one of our favorite rice dishes using one of the several cans of "Ro~Tel" John slipped into boxes as packing filler. Way to go John! I Love You!!!

Tomorrow, for breakfast, we can have fresh fruit smoothies with my favorite blender. Yea, life is good and we are starting to organized.

I found the place to get propane for my new gas range yesterday. So, today we took the empty propane cylinder for the grill into town to have it filled and ordered a larger tank for the stove. It is a two-day turnaround to fill a tank. Tropigas first picks up the cylinder from the local agent and takes it to their main filling station. The next day it's filled and re-loaded back onto the truck. Then, sometime the following day, Tropigas returns the full cylinder to the agent and we go back to town to pick it up.

The construction crew showed up for work this morning, in the rain, at 6:45 AM. They have been hard at it all day, excavating for the foundation footings. They work, rain or shine, and only knock off if there is thunder and lightening, or the rain is so heavy they have zero visibility. It's now 5:30 PM, and the crew just finished today's work. Long day!

We have some of the building material stored in the driveway and more will be delivered as needed. Last week we put down a deposit on some really beautiful ceramic floor tile we found right here in Atenas. We still need to do some more shopping to pick out sinks, plumbing fixtures and tile for the counters and bathroom. Oooh.... shopping trip, one of my favorite things!

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24 August 2011

Day 43: Construction on the rancho is starting today!

The crew arrived early this morning to start the construction of our rancho. We are going to build the rancho in a corner area between the casita and where the main house will be located.

This will be our outdoor living area with a covered patio, kitchen and small bathroom. There will plenty of room for the barbeque grill and the stone pizza/bread oven we plan to build later.

Depending on the weather, the construction could take from 4 to 6 weeks. It won't be long before you'll find us spending our days in our outdoor living room, grilling and enjoying time with family and friends.

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19 August 2011

Day 38: Tico street addresses and our missing stuff.

Costa Rica street addresses are almost non-existent. The Tico version of a street address goes something like this: “100 meters north of Juan’s Pharmacy and 200 meters west of the where the big mango tree used to be." What, you don't know where that is? Everyone in town knows that tree was cut down more than 20 years ago. Just ask someone and they point you in the right direction.

The government says they will give all of the streets in Costa Rica a name over the next few years, so everyone will eventually get a “house number on a street,” address instead of the physical description based on landmarks, as they have used for centuries. Until that happens (if ever) we will continue to identify our house as 100 meters from the local elementary school, on the west side of the soccer field. And just to make it a little more obvious, a local guy made us this sign to put on our gate.

Now there are no excuses for not being able to identify our residence and deliver all of our worldly possessions!
We shipped everything in a sea container back on July 6th. Our shipping agent confirmed it arrived in Costa Rica on August 4th and it would be delivered in a week or so. Well "the week or so" has now stretched to more than two weeks. Last week we were told, "Way before Christmas, maybe next Tuesday." On Wednesday we were told, "Tuesday came and went but Christmas isn't here yet. Your container is due at my warehouse tomorrow at 2PM. It will be loaded in a truck and brought to you at 7AM on Friday." Guess what? Late last night, we received another notice, "The container did not show up yet but will early tomorrow."

So here we are, sitting around, waiting for our STUFF. I expect the next message will go something like this, "Well, you see today is Friday and we only work 1/2 day on Friday, and nobody works on the weekend. Maybe we will finish loading your stuff onto our trucks next Monday. Can we reschedule your delivery for Tuesday?"

Do I sound a little frustrated? Ya think? Perhaps the new sign will help and at least they can't say they couldn't find the house.

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13 August 2011

Day 32: Fun day at the beach with the furry kids.

This morning we drove down to Playa Doña Ana, just past the port of Caldera on the Pacific coast. We took our furry kids, Randy and Gus to see what they would think of a Costa Rican beach.

What a beautifully maintained park! We were greeted by one of the park employees offering to trade his baby, iridescent green iguana for one of our dogs. Needless to day, no deal. We chatted with him for a few minutes before walking through the jungle canopy to to beach.

The beach is set up with lots of picnic tables and barbeque pits for grilling. This is a great place for a family outing and it's only about 45 minutes from the house.

Randy was tolerant of the beach, but Gus was terrified of the waves. I guess it will take a few more beach trips for them to get used to the wave action. Maybe they'll learn romp in the waves like the other dogs.

On our way out we managed to get a photo of one of the capuchin monkeys in a tree. Cute little guy.

After the beach, we stopped for a wonderful fresh seafood lunch at El Restaurante Los Lagos. Randy and Gus sat at our feet while we ate and we tossed them a few french fries to reward them for their good behavior.

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11 August 2011

Retirement - Day 30: Hummers on a feeding frenzy!

The hummingbirds are really enjoying the feeders we put up for them. They have been fighting with each other all morning, establishing the pecking order and who gets to the syrup first.

These little guys are so fast, it is really hard to capture their beauty on camera. They sure are fun to watch!

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09 August 2011

Retirement - Day 28: We've got baby geckos hatching and fresh dairy!

Everyday we have been checking the gecko nest and this morning we found a couple of the eggs hatched. One little guy didn't make it, but the other one was resting on the back wall of the deadbolt cavity. Now, if the remaining 6 would just get busy and break out of their shells, we could lock the gate again. Besides, we need them to move out of there and start cutting down on the local insect population.

We made another discovery in the neighborhood today. Every morning around 6 or 6:30 AM, we hear a vehicle out on the street that always sounds it's Italian motor horn. We had assumed it was a mini student bus, picking up the kids for school. Wrong! Today, when John walked the trash bag out to the street, guess who came along? Yep, a little truck with the driver tooting his Italian motor horn. Out come all of our neighbors, with cash in hand, to buy milk & sour cream, fresh from the dairy, and "bollos de pan" (fresh bread.)

I was so happy to see this custom is still alive and well. When I lived here in the 70's this was how our daily bread and milk was delivered. How long has it been since the milkman came to your house?

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05 August 2011

Retirement - Day 24: When life hands you limes, make Key Lime Pie!

True lemons don't grow in Costa Rica. Here, we have several varieties of limes. They grow everywhere. In fact, we have a few trees planted, but they aren't producing yet.

Fortunately for us, friends have been delivering bags of limes to us on a weekly basis. We have far too many limes for two people to consume. I mean really, how many lime cokes can one person drink? How about limeade? Then, there is lime in the salad dressing, or fresh squeezed on chicharrónes (fried pork) and chorizo sausage. The only thing we hadn't made with the limes, was a Key Lime Pie. That changed today!

Graham crackers are not found in Costa Rica, let alone a Graham cracker pie shell. The pie shell can probably be found in one of the high-end super market that caters to expats with expensive imported foodstuff. The lack of Graham crackers was not going to deter me from making us a Key Lime pie.

I remember years ago, my sons' grandmother used to make a crust with Galletas Maria. The Galleta Maria is a very popular sweet vanilla cookie with the crispness of a cracker. You can find it everywhere in Costa Rica, so I decided this would be my substitute for the Rev. Sylvester Graham's cracker. I crushed the galletas until I had about 1½ cups of fine crumbs. I then mixed this with ¼ cup of sugar, ¼ teaspoon of cinnamon and ¾ of a stick of butter, melted.

Now comes the hard part. I still don't have an oven! I pressed the crumbs into a foil pie shell and then baked it for 15 minutes @ 280°F. in my electric skillet. While the pie crust was baking, I mixed all the ingredients for pie filling, using our favorite Key Lime Pie recipe. I poured the filling into the pie shell and put it back in the electric skillet for 10 more minutes, until it was firmly set.

Once the pie had cooled, I needed a topping. Since I didn't have any whipping cream, I made a simple topping from fresh natilla (sour cream) a little sugar and lime zest. Yum!

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04 August 2011

Retirement - Day 23: What a place for a nest of lizard/gecko eggs!

When we got here last month, we opened our gate and found a lizard (lagartija), or gecko, had laid her clutch of eggs in a little cavity in the gate lock. If you look close, you'll see we've got 8 tiny eggs in there.

It's been 23 days since we arrived and there has been no activity in the nest. So, I've been wondering if the eggs are even fertile. I did a little online research and found it can take anywhere from 40 to 80 days for the eggs to hatch. I guess we are going to watch the nest for a few more weeks and hope the little critters hatch and grow up to join the rest of the insect predators in the neighborhood.
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01 August 2011

Retirement - Day 20: Just another day in paradise!

Actually, it's just another perfectly awesome day at home. The temperature today was about 67°F this morning and it's about to reach today's high of 83°F. This is a photo I took a few minutes ago of the view from the front porch. We've got a nice breeze blowing and we'll probably get a nice rain shower this afternoon. Is this perfection, or what?

The hummingbirds have finally discovered the feeders we've hung up for them. This morning we had the typical Tico breakfast on the porch and enjoyed watching the hummers establish the pecking order.

Yesterday, we met with our builder to finalize the design of the rancho we are going to build (this is our outdoor kitchen/bbq/patio.) We hope to get the construction started in the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we are going to start picking out tile and fixtures. As part of the design for the rancho, we plan to build a brick oven for stone baking my sourdough breads and John's wonderful pizzas.

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