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Sunday, November 29, 2020

Clouds, Bananas, Lunch and Another Spider - Costa Rica

This past week, we had lunch in Atenas with our friends Diane and John. We met them at El Fogon Campesino restaurant and, as usual, the food was excellent. The portions are very large. El Fogon has safe Covid-19 practices in place so we feel comfortable there. It’s open air so we are not enclosed inside.

My shrimp salad.

Lance’s chicken dish.

My favourite bananas are the very sweet so called “finger bananas”. They are small and the perfect size for a snack. I read somewhere that if the cut end of a banana is wrapped in plastic wrap or foil paper, they will keep from going too brown too soon. I don’t know if this really works, but I am trying it out with the last bananas we bought.

Lance found a YouTube video of the condominium complex we live in. You can see our house at about the 51 second mark in the lower right hand corner of your screen. It goes by quite fast - it has a large brown shingle roof, which is rare in Costa Rica. The architecture of many of the houses in this complex may be of interest to some viewers. In many cases, the design is somewhat free form. This is because in the area where we live there is no need to worry about artificial cooling or artificial heating.

Living in the tropics as we do, one gets used to the various forms of insect life that we share our house and planet with. This beauty was on one of our commodes - I just went and used another bathroom.

We saw a beautiful cloud formation over our house yesterday (Saturday):

I made some gallo pinto:

And that was how our week went. Other then going to Atenas for lunch and shopping at stores we feel are very safe, we keep to ourselves. Remember - keep your distance and wear your masks!

(Click on any of the photos to enlarge).

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Orchids and Spiders - Costa Rica

When we still lived in Cloverdale, British Columbia, Canada - I had a small orchid collection. When we decided to move to Costa Rica, the collection went to a new home.

It was very easy to start a new collection here because Costa Rica is home to about 1,400 orchid species, 20% of which are endemic (they live nowhere else on this planet). In fact, the national flower of Costa Rica is the orchid guaria morada (Cattleya skinneri). I have several of these.

Some of my orchids were purchased at orchid shows, others I confiscated from friends who were having trouble looking after them. They never saw them again of course. So now my collection numbers twenty-six orchids. They are not all different species and some I have not been able to identify. I have three vandas with different coloured blooms.

Our current house came with some orchids and I’ve been able to take some divisions for my own collection. It’s so easy keeping these gorgeous plants in a tropical climate - they live outdoors all year around.

Most of my orchids are hanging from the atrium outside our bedroom. Some I keep closer - the ones that need a bit of TLC - so I can keep an eye on them. I walked around the other day and took photos of my colección de orquídeas. Nothing is blooming at the moment.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

The other day, Lance spied a spider that we have never seen before. I took a photo and my friend Claudia, who is (amongst many other things) a protozoologist and she identified it for me. Behold, here is the spiny-backed orb weaver, or Gasteracantha cancriformis, Araneidae:

Although you cannot see it here, it also has an iridescent sheen to it. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - October 2020

 During October, visits to this blog were received from the following region and 21 countries:

For all years, the total number of identified countries from which visits have been received remains unchanged.

The following is a summary of the weather for the month in the area where we live:

After September's results, I surmised that we could look forward to increased rainfall in October. This supposition turned out to be correct. Not only did we get more rainfall than in September but we also got more rainfall than in any other month this year or for that matter the last two years. With two months to go (November and December), the total rainfall this year has now exceeded that for all of both 2018 and 2019.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Out and About in Grecia, Costa Rica - Recent Ramblings

Our mechanic, Carlos, had our Subaru Forester for a few days recently to do the front brakes. In order to go into Grecia, we needed a taxi and our friend, Minor, helped us with that. This time he sent a taxi driver whose nickname was Pipo. Pipo had a good laugh when we called him that. I’m not sure what it means.

Before getting out of his taxi, I asked him for his phone number and he wrote it on the 1,000 colon note he gave us as change for the fare. You can just see the number on the upper left. The bill is very worn. Lance put it in his pocket. Click on photos to enlarge.

Walking along the street, we came up to an elderly lady selling small goods on the sidewalk. Lance didn’t buy anything but put the 1,000 mil note (about two dollars) in the dish she used for donations. I said, Wait! what? you gave her Pipo’s phone number and we want to call him to take us home! What to do? Take the bill away from her?

So what Lance did was show her another 1,000 note and then pointed out the phone number on the first bill and indicated he would do a trade. She thought that was so funny and we all had a good laugh.

Further along the street, we came upon a fellow selling Covid-19 face masks in all kinds of interesting patterns. I asked him how much - precio? A wag leaning against a building yelled out “one thousand dollars” - more laughs. I bought a mask with a nice pattern for 1,000 colones, not dollars.

We bought some groceries at Peri Mercado (a grocery store) and waited on the sidewalk until Pipo arrived. Grecia on a Saturday can be very busy with people and cars everywhere - lots of noise and activity. It’s very vibrant. I took a couple of photos. The lady sitting down in the first picture was selling juicy red tomatoes. You can see the twin spires of the cathedral in the distance. A landmark for people like me who have no sense of direction.

The second photo is of one of the entrances into the Mercado Municipal de Grecia, or the central market. It’s huge inside with many, many shops selling just about everything.

I found a YouTube video featuring the indoor market:

Once we had our vehicle back from Carlos, we decided the next day to drive into Grecia and have breakfast at Arte Latte. I think they have the best breakfasts around and certainly one of the best locations - across from the park and the cathedral. Great spot for people watching. They are under new management and have a new menu.

Lance ordered the carga de energia, or energy plate. I opted for the saludable, or heathy option. The portions are generous and include good coffee and an orange juice. My choice included tropical fruit with yoghurt, egg whites scrambled, slice of ham and, for some unfathomable reason, potato chips scattered over the top.

Lance’s plate included a corn tortilla, gallo pinto, fried queso, shredded beef, ham slice and the best sweet plantains I’ve ever had. The shredded beef, or carne mechada, was so good that I looked up a recipe on line so that I can make it at home. 

There were bags of coffee for sale and I bought one - Don Cayito. It has won three awards of excellence, well deserved. The bag has a little hole at the top where the wonderful aroma wafts out.

Even with Covid-19, we can still go out and about by carefully choosing where we go, always wearing a mask and frequently washing our hands.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Call For Entry - Art Show - International Andalusian & Lusitano Horse Association (IALHA)

 I recently saw a call for entry from the IALHA - you can see it here - and I decided to submit a painting.

For my model, I chose a photographic image of the PRE horse Eclipse XLII, owned by Ganadera AG/Andre Garnier, Costa Rica. I obtained permission from the photographer, Juan Sanchez, to use his photo as my reference. Juan also lives in Costa Rica.

So just what is a PRE horse, an Andalusian horse and a Lusitano? This article by eHorses Magazine explains it all.

One of the requirements for entry was to submit up to four high resolution images (500 kb or larger) of my painting. For this, I needed a professional photographer. Enter Walt “Stryke” Clayton - a photographer par excellence who lives in the Grecia area. A USA citizen, he was raised in Argentina and has done film work for National Geographic. Read his web page - it’s really interesting.

So this famous person came to our house for a photo shoot. Here he is setting up all his gear in the room where I keep my paintings and art supplies. Click to enlarge any of the photos on this page.

My photos had to include one of me with the painting, the painting itself and I decided on two closeups of my work.

Deadline is October, 31, 2020 and I got my entry in on time. The IALHA board will be choosing three entries from all the ones received, and then one final winner.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Eyes on Costa Rica and Weather Records - September 2020

During September, visits to this blog were received from the following 20 countries:

For all years, the total number of countries from which visits have been received remains at 130.

The following is a summary of the weather for the month in the area where we live:

September was marked by a bit more rain and more rainy days than any previous month this year. The high, low and average temperatures were rather unremarkable. Though not a given, we can look forward to increased rainfall in October.

Click HERE to see our location relative to the Pacific Ocean, Caribbean Sea and capital city of San José in more detail. In good driving conditions on the fastest routes, we are about 1 hour and 15 minutes from the Pacific, 5 hours from the Caribbean and 50 minutes from San José. Generally, our temperatures year round are much more moderate than on either coast and tend to be marginally warmer than San José.

Note: Previously, I have expressed the amount of rainfall in any given month in both inches and centimeters (“CM”). The convention appears to be to express such amounts in both inches and millimetres (“MM”).

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Breakfast with Garlic - Costa Rica

Yesterday, Saturday, September 26, 2020, we decided to go out for breakfast. The week had been sort of busy - Lance had a dentist appointment on Monday, his birthday was on Wednesday and our gardener Jaime was here that day also. On Tuesday we went to Ekono to buy Lance some new clothes. Came away with two shirts 70% off! 

I ordered Lance two pairs of Lee jeans online  Sometimes it is easier to shop this way then to drive around looking for the right shop and then never finding the correct size. I have an account with Aeropost in Miami. I have my orders shipped there, pre-alert them as to what will be arriving, and they calculate the shipping costs from Miami to our Aeropost counter in Grecia plus the duty and taxes for Costa Rica. When our order is ready to be picked up in Grecia, I’m notified by e-mail.

So we had breakfast at Restaurante La Casona del Maiz  in La Garita on ruta 3, not a very long drive from our house in Grecia. We have eaten there on more then one occasion and their breakfasts are always good. It’s an open air restaurant, they follow Covid-19 protocols very well, and everyone was wearing a mask. They had a table full of local products for sale - tomatoes, baked goods, and a big bag of garlic for one mil (1,000 colones, about $2.50 Canadian). I decided to buy one of the garlic bags.

Back at our vehicle, I checked our bill and saw that the garlic was not included. I went back inside with a one mil note to pay for them. Turns out that the bag of garlic was included with our meal!

I counted the heads of garlic - there appears to be twenty! I don’t believe this is garlic from China. The bulbs aren’t dried out, they have red line patterns and they look different then the Chinese imported ones.

Lance’s birthday dinner was the one he always asks for - his mother’s macaroni and cheese! It’s really good. I bought a small tres leches cake for dessert.

Our cat, named Cat, absolutely hates dogs. Yesterday, a neighbour dog got out of its yard and started to come up our laneway. Our Cat fluffed up his fur, arched his back and literally charged right down to the dog - by the way, it was a miniature Doberman Pinscher. Cat stood on his hind legs, his front legs open wide and launched a full attack on that dog’s face. The dog yipped, yelped, cried and went running home. We didn’t have time to grab Cat before all this took place. It’s the third time he has attacked dogs. In Atenas, he took on three dogs in our yard, taught two of them a good lesson and the third one wisely ran off before he was next. I wish he wouldn’t do this. One day he will meet his match.

As everyone knows, Costa Rican coffee is excellent. I’m always trying the different brand names. We like a darker roast. My recent purchase was this one:

We drink our coffee black and Volio brand has a deep, dark taste.