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Thursday, December 20, 2012

Christmas in Atenas, Costa Rica

This will be our second Christmas in Costa Rica and in Atenas. I find the holiday season here a whole lot less hectic than it seemed to be in Canada, even though we had cut back a lot on all the shopping madness during the last few years we lived there.

This year in Atenas, we were fortunate to be asked to participate in a cookie exchange put on by our neighbours Rose Mary and Tony. We came home with nine dozen different kinds of cookies and I never thought we would be able to use them all. Guess what ... they were all gone within two weeks and it wasn't because we gave any away as gifts.

The cookie exchange table.

My contribution was Nanaimo bars, originally created in the lovely city of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. I'm making more tomorrow to give as Christmas gifts to our taxi drivers.

This coming weekend, the Festival of Lights happens in Atenas with the parade on Saturday starting around 6:00 pm. Just go to the park and you will see it. There will be venders in the park selling food,  and, my favorite, light sticks!

Also, Music Atenas is putting on concerts:

This year, we hung lights from our hedge and I also made luminaries from paper bags - so easy. Buy largish size paper bags from your local mercado, add some sand/soil from your garden in the bottom of the bags, roll the tops of the bags down about two times, place tea lights in the sand and light them. Instant and cheap decorations that look good! You can also cut some small designs in the sides of the bags and, instead of using tea lights, small LED lights could be strung through the bags. Of course, this would not work in rainy climates.

Here is a picture of my luminaries:

Monday, December 10, 2012

Painting in Costa Rica

"Simbolico de Atenas"
 2012 Diana Miskell 
Atenas, Costa Rica, is the perfect place for me to be because I paint and specialize in portraits of horses and cattle. Atenas is surrounded by fields of cattle and horses and, what with all the topes (horse parades) and oxcart parades, I have no end of images to capture.

Camara de Turismo y Comercio de Atenas (Chamber of Tourism & Commerce in Atenas), Marietta Arce, publisher of  "Atenas Today", and Parrot Eyes Maps Costa Rica are producing a new 2012 map of Atenas.

An image for the front cover of the map was required and local artists were asked to submit an image that was emblematic of Atenas. These images were voted on and the image with the most votes was the one that would be used on the front of the new map.

I submitted my painting, "Simbolico de Atenas", because to me the oxen, oxcarts and their boyeros symbolize Atenas more than anything else. The old oxcart trail (camino del carretas) ran through Atenas and trains of oxcarts carrying coffee beans travelled down highway 3 to Puntarenas on the Pacific Coast.

I am pleased to say my painting was chosen for the cover of the new 2012 Atenas map. It is acrylic on canvas board, 18x24 inches. Other horse and cattle art that I have created can be seen on my art website at

Barney the Neighbourhood Cat Comes Home

Rose Mary and Tony picked up Barney at the vet's office last Wednesday. They worried that he might run away as soon as the cage door was opened but he was fine and settled down to a bowl of food.

He came down the hill to visit us the same day and has shown up regularly since. He was sleeping on a patio chair this morning so perhaps he stayed overnight. Yesterday, he and and our cat Genny were lying on the grass looking very content and enjoying the sun and breezes - they reminded me of cows in the meadow chewing their cuds.

Cost for neutering Barney: 14,000 colones or about $28 CAD and that included worm pills.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Barney the Cat Update

Barney - Pre-Nutcracker
I've written previously about Barney the Cat and our attempts to get him to the vet and neutered.

Well, it's probably happening right now as I write this! Neighbors Rose Mary and Tony, co-caretakers of Barney along with us, phoned me earlier today to say Barney was at the vet. They used a cat trap to get him - a wise decision after the way he broke out of our airline approved cat carrier.

Apparently, he was plenty mad - and became even angrier when his cage was set down on the floor at the vet's and a puppy gamboled up to the cage to have a sniff. He comes home tomorrow and I'll tell you how he reacts when let out of the cage.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Orchid Show, Grecia

Today we went with friends Diane and John to the Décima Exposicion de Orquideas - Grecia (Tenth Orchid Show - Grecia) held in the Centro de la Cultura de Grecia. The building is easy to find - near the church and park. Only 1000 colones each to get in. It runs from November 30 through to December 2 so you still have time to go tomorrow.

As usual with orchid shows, it was amazing. Beautiful displays of so many orchid species, all flowering. How the exhibitors manage to have their orchids flowering in time for a show is a mystery to me. We wandered around with me drooling. I had to leave my orchid collection behind in Vancouver so I can't resist starting another one here. There are more than 1,400 types of wild orchids growing throughout the rain forests of Costa Rica so we've moved to the right place.

Fortunately, orchids were for sale and I purchased a flowering sized miltonia for the incredible price of 4,000 colones (about $8 CAD/USD). I paid around $25 CAD/USD for a similar miltonia in Vancouver - actually, Lance paid as it was a gift from him to me.

On the way out, I saw a familiar face - that of Jennifer who writes the great blog "A New Life in Costa Rica". Jenn was at the orchid show with her family and friends. We have never met but I've been reading about their move to, and life now, in Costa Rica since before we moved here ourselves. I felt like I already knew them - I certainly recognized them.

It was so wonderful finally meeting Jenn, her daughter and her husband in person. She is just as friendly and outgoing as her posts indicate she must be. 

For lunch, we went to Cafe Delicias, near the park. I ordered a ham and cheese croissant and a lemonade - very good. The others chowed down on a chicken pita, turkey croissant and a green salad that had way, way more stuff in it and with it than just green lettuce.

Oh yes, before lunch Diane and I went into one of the Ropa Americana stores after sending the menfolk to go sit in the park. For 6,000 colones ($12 CAD) I scored three all cotton shirts. Go to the Ropa Americana stores if you want to experience Costa Rica - they are fun, crowded, noisy and you will learn patience and get to practice your Spanish a bit too. By the way, if your better half thinks that spending more than 5 minutes in a clothing store is inexcusable, then you should invite them to stay home.

All in all, this was a five star day! Here are some photos taken today:

This is not an orchid from the show. It is one of mine and finally flowered. It originally had two flowers but something ate one of them. It is labeled "Guarianthe Aurantiaca".

Orchids from the orchid show.

This is my second most scary bridge in Costa Rica so far - it's on a short cut road from Grecia to Atenas.

Scary, but saves about 15 to 20 minutes travel time from Grecia to Atenas and one toll booth.

Three rivers converging into one under the bridge.

Geez, you can see the roaring river through the wood on the bridge.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Walk With Me

Walk with me today from our home in Vista Atenas to the town of Atenas. It's all downhill and will take about 45 minutes. It's a great day for a walk, overcast with a breeze.

East towards Atenas. Highway 3 is on the left.

Restaurante Bar Rill - another popular spot for a good meal - on the south side of Highway 3.


Three doggies having a snooze in a laneway.

I walked across Highway 3 to take this photo of the view facing north. This looks like a mango tree.

Grego's Bar - a good place to meet with friends on Thirsty Thursday nights.

Local pulparia (small grocery store).

Facing north, Highway 3

Bella Vista, newly opened Italian restaurant. Really good pizza and pasta. On the south side of Highway 3.

One of Costa Rica's famous hand painted ox carts.

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If you were going into Atenas, you would turn right here. I was going to the Supermercado Coopeatenas so kept walking straight ahead.

Impatiens plant - they grow wild here, even under sewer grates.

Another road into Atenas.

Soda Dona Elina - we've enjoyed inexpensive and good traditional Tico food here several times.

Atenas' one and only traffic light.

Our one and only gas station, north side of highway 3.

My final destination, the Supermercado Coopatenas,where I picked up a few groceries. Waiting for my taxi when this lovely fellow came over for a pat. In really nice condition.

And that's the end of today's walk. I hope the photos gave you some idea of our lovely town.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

And The Culprit Is ....

... the common opossum. Yes, we finally caught our interloper in the act.

We were awakened last night by the sound of breaking glass outside. Looking out the patio door, we saw an opossum climbing over the patio table, knocking things off it left and right.

It must have been up on the window ledges too because more things had fallen and broken. Genny was sitting inside looking out. I couldn't grab my camera fast enough before it moved on so do not have a photo. May have to sacrifice another pineapple if I want photos.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Last week, I bought a lovely fresh Costa Rican pineapple. I left it outside overnight on the patio table as I did not want to attract fruit flies into the house.

The next morning, this is all that was left of it:

 Pineapple juice and pieces all over the place! Had to hose everything down so ants wouldn't be attracted.

There were chunks of pineapple peel all over the place. I found the green leaf top under the orange tree.
I did the same thing the following week and the same thing happened. Our neighbours have seen a opposum at their house so maybe that is who our thief is. One of these nights, I'm going to sit up with my camera and see who the thief is.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica

This post is in remembrance of my nephew, Allan Michael Miskell, November 10, 1983 - March 22, 2006. He was a gifted musician and would have loved going to the Teatro Nacional.

This past Sunday, November 4, we had tickets for the X Concierto of Los Gavilanes (The Hawks) at the historic National Theatre of Costa Rica (Teatro Nacional de Costa Rica).

Construction was started in 1891 and it opened in 1897. The building is considered the finest historic building in San Jose. The lobby is beautiful, with marble floors and paintings depicting life in the 19th century. There is a very good café on site also.

We went with our neighbors, Rosemary and Tony - the four of us took the 0900 bus from Atenas to San Jose. We had a real cowboy of a bus driver this time - only 48 minutes from Atenas to San Jose, a new record. Rounding some of those mountain s-curves on the bus was a new experience.

Arriving at the Coca Cola bus station in San Jose, it was a short taxi ride to Teatro Nacional. We picked up our tickets and climbed up to the third balcony. We were fortunate to get our tickets at a reduced price through the Atenas School of Music. The concert started at 1030.

Ono Mora, Atenas' very own tenor.

No flash allowed, so it was hard to take a clear photo. The ceiling is completely painted in a mural.

The white panel hanging from the ceiling displays the words to the music, in Spanish of course.

It was amazing to be in this historic theatre listening to a live performance. The orchestra was excellent and, of course, so too were the choir and the invited soloists. Imagine all the people from the past who have sat right where we were sitting.

The concert ended at noon and we started walking towards the Coca Cola bus station, stopping en route at a food fair for lunch. We thought our bus left at 1300 on Sundays but turns out it is 1330. No problem - benches to sit on and people to watch. Cost for one person to ride from San Jose to Atenas: 855 colones or about $1.70 CAD or USD. The buses are very comfortable. Sometimes the driver plays Latin music or has a radio station playing.

There is a fellow who often shows up selling water, pop, snacks and so on and there are no rules against consuming them on the bus - another thing I like about Costa Rica. This guy knows us now and  we get hugs and handshakes - he speaks Spanish, English and French. He always hands us water bottles.

Our bus arrives.
How did the Coca Cola bus station get it's name, you ask? There used to be a Coca Cola bottling facility here, now long gone, but the name remains because navigation in Costa Rica is by landmarks. This is changing in San Jose though - street signs are starting to go up.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Fun With Gumby

Here is Gumby enjoying a ride in a Costa Rican ox cart:

Oh no!! he slips under the wheels!

Poor Gumby.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Genny and the Cane Toad

It is said that cats have nine lives. If this is indeed true, Genny is rapidly using them up. She certainly is chipping away at the only one I have.

This morning she had an encounter with a cane toad, known here as sapo grande. The scientific name is Bufo marinus. They look like this ....

.... and this was a small one that I photographed a year ago. They are poisonous - as eggs, as tadpoles, as adults. The venom is secreted or possibly squirted.

At around 6:30 am today, Lance saw Genny backing away from a toad and she ran up onto the patio. Sure enough, she started drooling profuse salivation which told us she had contacted the venom. We had educated ourselves on what to do for a cat if this happens so we immediately washed her mouth out with two large glasses of water, then wiped the gums, teeth and mouth with a wet cloth. If I had been thinking more clearly, I would have used the garden hose - on a trickle of course - to more thoroughly rinse the poison out.

You have to be very careful not to force any liquids down the animal's throat - it could go into their airway. After this treatment, we watched to see if she would vomit, have difficulty breathing, stagger, convulse - thank goodness, none of this happened.

Given the current state of her overall health, we decided to get her to her vet in Santa Ana as a precaution. They said we did all the right things, including bringing her in for observation. She was due to go back this Thursday morning anyway for more renal blood work, so we opted to leave her in their good hands until then. It's stressful for her to be travelling back and forth.

People who live in Costa Rica and have pets already know about the cane toad but it can't be repeated often enough that we must keep our animals away from them. There is a lot of very good information on the internet also.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Spam on My Blog

I know that some of my blog readers have been experiencing problems leaving comments because of the "word verification" that I had installed on my blog. I've had the same annoying problem myself trying to figure out what the distorted letters/numbers were supposed to be.

So I removed that and then the spam started. In an effort to stem the spam, I installed a block that forwarded all comments to me for review before I allowed them to be posted. Now I just get spam waiting to be vetted by me!

Sorry to say I have had to reintroduce the "word verification" .... but please keep reading my blog! Thanks, everyone.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

October in Costa Rica

This October has been relatively dry. Normally October can be the rainiest month of the year. That doesn't mean it pours rain non-stop day and night though. What usually happens is the morning will be sunny and clouds start to build up early in the afternoon. Then we experience an hour or so of refreshing rain and that's it - at least where we live. The weather patterns will be different in other areas of Costa Rica and at different elevations.

Being here in the green season is very nice. Everything is so lush, the beaches and resorts aren't crowded and hotels and vacation rentals offer lower rates.

We have learned to do our laundry early in the morning so it can line dry before the clouds shuffle in. Having a nice, breezy day speeds things up too. We had torrential rain most of last night but it's nice being cosy in bed and listening to the rain. We have a tile roof so the sound is not bad but I've heard that, with a tin roof, you can't hear a thing inside the house.

I walked to the Coopatenas mercado this morning when it was still clear,  picked up a few groceries, taxied back with Diego and the rain started again as soon as I stepped into the house. It's been pretty much non-stop since then. The temperature inside the house is 73.2F/22.9C. Coming from living in the Pacific Northwest, rain doesn't bother us at all.

Found out that the activities celebrating San Rafael Parish actually start today in the centre of Atenas and continue on until Sunday. I guess the parade we saw last Sunday was an early start.

Our 12 year old cat, Genny, is having health challenges. Two weeks ago she became very ill, stopped eating and drinking and could hardly walk. We initially took her in to see Dr. Olman Solano in Atenas, he took blood samples and injected her with an antibiotic. We highly recommend Dr. Solano. He and his staff are very kind and caring towards animals. His office is located 100 m. east of the ICE office, central Atenas, or 100 m. south of Su Espacio. Phone number 2446-6646, emergency 8995-8585. English spoken. Office hours after 5:00 pm.

By morning, Genny was worse. Since Dr. Solano is at the vet college during the day and only has office hours in the evening, we decided to take Genny to her vet hospital in Santa Ana - Hospital Veterinarios Asociados. I've highly recommended this practice in previous posts. Genny boarded here for a week when we first arrived in Costa Rica.

Dr. Solano's blood results had shown Genny was severely anemic and Dr. Carlos Loria at Hospital Veterinarios Asociados took x-rays and did an ultrasound right away. We knew Genny only had one kidney really working well, the right one. But the ultrasound showed a tumor on that kidney and cysts on the left.

They admitted her and we were able to bring her home three days later. During the three days, we were constantly kept informed via e-mails of results of blood work, etc., diagnosis and recommendations. There is no treatment and no operation available for her. The results of her hospitalization have been wonderful. Since returning home, her appetite has improved greatly, she is very active and alert, still hunting for lizards. Since this is an issue of quality of life, not quantity, she is really living the pura vida! She will still be monitored via blood work though. Barney comes and visits every day or so and they sniff noses and exchange the latest news.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Saint Rafael, Atenas' Patron Saint

The weather this morning was very foggy, so we decided it was a good day to walk into Atenas for breakfast at Kay's Gringo Postres. It's more comfortable to go on a long walk without that tropical sun beating down. The ambient air is comfortable - it's the sun that makes one sweat.

We needed to pick up a few groceries at El Canario mercado, near the church and park. We had no idea there was a festival today so what a nice surprise to see tents and booths were being set up outside the church and in the park. The church bells were ringing.

We were just in time for the religious parade. After some research on the internet, I believe this was the annual festival of Saint Rafael (Raphael?), Atenas' patron saint. The parade consisted of individual groups (of families?), each group carrying the image of a saint, angel or other religious figure. The figures were beautifully decorated with fresh flowers and colourful fabrics.

A priest was walking out in front and behind him was a band of young men playing what sounded to me like lively jazz or New Orleans style music. This was a very happy parade, nothing somber about it. All the images were carried into the church. I think there will also be a cattle auction later on today.

My big regret? I had not brought my camera!! This is a no-no - always, always carry your camera. The priest was taking photos so I wouldn't have offended anyone if I had done so too.

If you are in the Atenas area today, this would be a good festival to go to.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Italian Restaurant in Atenas

Bella Vista is a newly opened Italian restaurant on highway 3. Heading west from Atenas on highway 3, it is on the left, a short distance outside of town. There is a banner sign on the fence but it doesn't face traffic so you will have to watch for it. The building is wood and looks small from the outside but that is deceiving.

We've eaten here twice, both times ordering pizzas made in their wood fired oven. The staff is very welcoming and hard working. The space inside is quite large. There are three separate areas to dine in - one is in front of the pizza oven so you can watch the activity there. There are also tables outside under cover.

White linen napkins are used - a rarity these days. We were served, gratis, bruchettas as an appetizer. The pizzas are thin crust and there is a really good selection of varieties to try. Next visit I plan to try one of the pasta dishes.

They did not have their liquor license on our last visit but apparently it is in the works.

You can also call and order a pizza for pickup. Bella Vista's phone number is 2446-5184. We highly recommend this restaurant.