26 November 2011

137: Rancho Party, Casa Construction & Pizza!

Last weekend we threw a fiesta to inaugurate the Rancho. We had about 50 people, mostly Ticos (Costa Ricans) and a few Gringos thrown in for good measure. Nephew Scott is here visiting with his fianceé Stacy. John smoked some Texas barbeque and grilled some Tico style chorizo. I had meant to take lots of photos, but once the party started I totally forgot. We had a great time and I think everyone had fun. With so many people, we just didn't get enough time to sit and visit with everyone.

Scott and Stacy left Sunday for the beach at Manuel Antonio and Corcovado National Park. We haven't heard a word since. If they still plan to fly back home on Monday, I suspect they may find their way back to our place sometime today.

The construction started on the casa this week, so we've been busy getting bids on materials, looking at tile and flooring options, etc. Our work crew started early Monday and they've spent lots of time bending steel re-bar for the the re-enforced concrete columns. We've decided we are going to go with a colonial style roof, made out of clay tile. This will give us great insulation and with a radiant barrier beneath it, the house will always be cool and comfortable.

While we where shopping for construction material, John found the outdoor Pizza/Bread Oven he'd been wanting to get to put next to the rancho. It was delivered it on Tuesday and by Wednesday we had to halt some of the progress on the house so a couple of guys from the construction crew could build a concrete base to set the oven on. Do we have our priorities in order, or what?

Thursday, John scoured the neighborhood for the kindling and logs the power company left behind when they cut trees down last month to put in new concrete power poles. He chopped some of the wood and we now have a nice stack of firewood for the oven. He didn't really have the right tools for chopping wood, so we picked up a big axe at the local hardware store. The hardware store didn't have the maul and wedge he really needs to do the job right. So, we'll keep looking until we find one.

Once the oven construction is done, we'll plan a Christmas luncheon for the crew and they can make their own individual pizzas.

I roasted a couple of Thanksgivings Day Chickens this year, instead of spending $40-$60 USD for a 15-18 lb. turkey. It was great with just garlic mashed potatoes and a salad.

Yesterday, we finished the paperwork and the final step required to apply for our building permit from the city. I turned in all the papers, insurance and plans to the city clerk and she said to allow 30 days processing time before they issue the permit. I won't repeat what John said when I told him 30 days, let's just say it was colorful! Our contractor called his buddy that just so happens to work for the city, in the building permits department. How handy is that?? The buddy said, "No way will it take 30 days, it's more like a week to 10 days." Whew, this means the workers can continue prepping the lot and assembling material. They just can't start to erect the house's structure until the permit is in hand.

Hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday with family and friends.

Read the whole story...

15 November 2011

126: La Casa, La Bodega, Paperwork & Red Tape

What a week! The construction crew finished a nice little bodega for us last week that will give us a place to store tools and materials during the construction of the casa.
They even installed an outdoor sink we can use in the future for cleaning garden tools. It's just a basic area for general outdoor clean-up.
A couple of weeks ago, we started the process of gathering all the documents required to get our building permit. It appears this is going to be a never ending list of documents and red tape.

Yesterday we picked up the final set of plans for the house from our civil engineer along with a list of the materials we will need to get started.
Just to give you an idea of how complicated it is to get a building permit from the city, here is a list of everything we have to get and the complex process of pulling it all together.
  1. Plano Catastro (Cadastral Plan): This is a comprehensive survey of the metes-and-bounds of the real property, certified by the National Registry. It requires a trip lasting several hours to obtain the document from the National Registry office for our Province.
  2. Visado por la Municipalidad of Atenas (Visa from the Municipality): This is an official authorization to apply for a building permit and it requires all of the following documents:
    1. Certification Registral de la Propiedad (Certified Registration of the Property): This document shows who owns the property and it is also issued by the National Registry. Fortunately, it can be combined with the same trip to get the Plano Catastro.
    2. Personeria Juridica (Legal Entity Status): This document defines who has the rights to act as legal representative for the Sociedad Anonima. In our case, our property is owned by our S.A., and in actuality this is the same as a corporation in the States. (We did this for liability reasons and to make future inheritance easier.) Fortunately, getting this document can also be combined with the trip to get the Plano Catastro.
      1. Since we used a Personeria Juridica, we will also need copies of our passports to show the same identification as listed on the Personeria Juridica document.
      2. In addition to the original Personeria Juridica, we will also need a photocopy for their files
  3. Sellado por la Oficina de Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA) (Office of Water and Sewer): Official seal on the Plano Catastro indicating water can be made available to the property. Oh and, of course an extra photocopy of this document with the Office of Water and Sewer's seal.
  4. Certification de la Contaduria Municipal (Certification from the Municipal Accountant's Office): This document certifies all of our property taxes are paid up to date.
  5. Constancia de Póliza de Riesgos del Trabajo (Proof of Labor Risk Insurance): This is an insurance policy issued by the Instituto Nacional de Seguros similar to workman's comp.
  6. Constancia de la Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social (Certification from the CR Social Security Office): This document certifies we are up to date on all social security obligations.
  7. Planos de Construcción (Construction Plans): The plans must be presented with the signature of the professional responsible for the work and it must have the approval from the Federal Chamber of Engineers and Architects of Costa Rica.
  8. Contrato de Servicios Professionales (Professional Services Contract): A copy of this document must be signed by the owner and labor professional.
  9. Visado por el Ministerio de Salud (Visa from the Ministry of Health): This is an official approval of the construction plans by the Ministry of Health.
As you can imagine, the process is very complicated, requiring multiple visit to all of the entities mentioned above. It took us more than 5 days just to get the water company to come out to our place and verify water could be provided to a piece of property that has had a water meter installed now for several years. Go figure.

Naturally each one of these entities requires multiple photocopies of various document, and no, they can't use their photocopier to make the copies. You have to go to a little gift store that makes their living charging to make photocopies for you so you can take them to all the entities around town.

Today, we submitted the documents to the city for their Visado (number 2 above) and they told us it would take about 10 days. Once we have this, we can submit the rest of the documents and wait several more days for the actual Building Permit.

We met with our builder this afternoon and gave him his set of plans and the initial list of building material. Tomorrow morning we meet with both the builder and our civil engineer to go review the plans, timeline and expectations. It is very important to make sure we are all on the same page.

The dry season is just about to start and we can expect almost no rain for the next 6 months. With a little luck, our building contractor expects the casa can be finished in 4, or 5, months time. Then we can move all the furniture and boxes we brought from the State into the new house and finally unpack, once and for all.

All I can say is you must keep your sense of humor through all of this. The red tape is so complicated it’s funny. So far, we've managed to be patient and keep everything in perspective. I know there is light at the end of this tunnel, just so long as it isn't the headlamp of the train.

¡Pura Vida!

Read the whole story...

08 November 2011

119: Texas BBQ Sauce in Costa Rica... Wow!!

We are planning a fiesta to celebrate our new Rancho and we've been trying to plan our menu. One of the things we have both been craving is good old Texas barbecue with some of John famous Texas BBQ Sauce. We talked about trying to make it with some of the local ingredients, but decided it will be next to impossible to replicate the taste with what's available.

So, the other day we needed to go to the local membership warehouse called PriceSmart (think Sam's Club or Costco) to pick up some bulk items and low and behold, if John didn't spot Kraft Original Barbecue Sauce (the actual base for his Texas BBQ Sauce) sitting on a shelf. Of course we grabbed two extra large bottles, thinking we just might be able to do this if we can fine a few other ingredients.

Today, we needed to get our old 1994 Isuzu Rodeo's (Suzie) annual vehicle inspection. While we were out, we decided to pick up a few essentials for the fiesta next week. So, on the off chance we could actually find Colgin's Liquid Hickory Smoke, another key ingredient for the BBQ sauce, we went to the AutoMercado in Alajuela. The AutoMercado is a high-end grocery store that stocks lots of imported goodies. Unbelievably, there, camping out on one of the shelves, sat both Colgin's Liquid Hickory Smoke and Mesquite Smoke. We were really amazed at the price. In the states Colgin's sells for $1.80 and the AutoMercado carries it for only $2.65. Considering that a batch of John's famous Texas BBQ sauce will last us months, this is really a bargain and we don't mind paying the extra for the imported goods.

If you'd like the recipe for John's Texas BBQ Sauce click on the link.

Read the whole story...