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Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween in Costa Rica

Our North American Halloween is not a celebration in Costa Rica. Instead, November 2nd is All Soul's Day - a very important day in the Catholic and Tico calendar. Locals honour their departed, flowers are placed on gravestones, and masses are held in the churches. It's different from the Mexican Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).

We finally abandoned Halloween when we lived in Canada. We got fed up with having to buy overpriced junk candy to give to kids that we didn't even know. And the doorbell rang for so long and upset our cat. So we became one of those households that turned the outdoor lights off on October 31st.

But here, in our little town of Atenas, a bit of the Halloween tradition is carried on. Every year, we have two Halloween goblins show up at our gate and we are happy to carry on the traditions from their home country (the U.S.A.).

It almost didn't happen this year ... we had a major rain and lightning storm for most of the afternoon. Our laneway out to our gate was flooded, making it impossible to walk to the gate to open it.

In the nick of time, the storm abated, the water receded and we were able to greet our goblins.


Friday, October 28, 2016

Farmacias San Gabriel

For our health needs, we use a combination of the Costa Rican public health care program (known as Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social) and private medical care.

If a medication we require is not available from Caja, we try the local pharmacies (farmacias). A prescription is not usually required - it depends on what the drug is I assume.

A couple of weeks ago, one medication I wanted was nowhere to be found in any of the Atenas farmacias so we drove to Farmacias San Gabriel, located at the Rio Grande gasoline station (estacion gasolinera) entrance. There, Dr. Ernesto helped me out. He speaks excellent English, far better then my Spanish!

They didn't have what I wanted in stock but he said he would order it and deliver it to me the next day. The following morning, he phoned me to see if we were at home and within thirty minutes Dr. Ernesto himself drove up to our house with my medications - and no charge for the delivery! I paid him cash (exact change, please) because they are not yet set up for accepting credit cards outside of the pharmacy.

Needless to say, we were very, very impressed with Dr. Ernesto. I highly recommend Farmacias San Gabriel. In future, I can place my order via e-mail which is a plus for us because we don't live that close to this particular drug store.


Telephone: 2446-2046

Hours: Monday to Thursday: 8am to 9pm        Friday to Sunday: 8am to 10pm

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Caught in the Act

Our cat, named Cat, is notorious for tossing things off counters and tabletops. Nothing that weighs less then a pound is safe from him. We can hear him in the middle of the night - crash! It's a bit of a problem because it wakes us up.

Today, I got photographic evidence of the furry culprit.

Having moved a calculator and two watches to the edge of the table, they are seconds away from being swept to the floor by Cat.


And here he is with the fallen watches, one of which was in his mouth seconds earlier. Oh, that's our machete on the chair rungs.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Chicken Pot Pie

It has been raining non-stop all day. Sometimes it comes down as a torrent, other times it is more of a misty Pacific Northwest type of rainfall. In fact, at this time of year in Costa Rica, where we live in the Central Valley, the weather reminds me of our winter weather in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Everything is so lush and green. It has been long sleeve shirts and long pants weather the last few days, as I find it quite cool. We have been running the ceiling fans in order to keep the air moving and help with indoor dampness.

It is definitely chicken pot pie weather - some good old fashioned hearty comfort food. Click here to see the recipe I followed. For the pastry crust, I also used her pastry recipe, which features a very easy method of incorporating the chilled butter into the flour. Those methods of using a pastry blender or two knives to cut in the butter never did work very well for me.

I made two pies. One is for our dinner tonight and the other went over to Diane and John's house. They are flying home to Costa Rica from a trip to Canada, arriving this evening, so they will have something to nosh on if hungry or they can reheat it tomorrow.

I loaded the pies with spinach, peas, broccoli, carrots, onions and garlic, and lots of chicken. From my own herb garden, I picked rosemary, oregano and tarragon and added those, along with salt, pepper and smoked paprika.

Here is how their pie turned out:


Some of the gravy leaked out the top but I think that is not a problem, taste wise. Realize that I have a funny little stove (an Atlas) with four heat selections: high, bake, grill and warm. With trial and error and an oven thermometer, I have learned to preheat the oven on "high", put the baking in the oven, turn to "bake", set a timer and then finish on "grill" if the top needs further browning.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

It's That Time of the Year

Closing in on the end of October, we are in the deepest part of our green, or rainy season. And it will continue into November, or part of November.

Costa Rica has essentially two seasons ... dry and wet .. roughly six months each. Wet (and beautifully green) from about May to November, and dry from November to May ... with some variations. The dry season is the high season for tourists from the frozen northern climes.

Coming from the Pacific Northwest (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), we don't mind rain at all and, in fact, embrace our rainy days here ...

This does not mean it rains for days on end for six months. For four or five months of the green season, mornings and early afternoons are sunny and maybe, perhaps, rain might fall later in the afternoon. I am only referring to where we live in the Central Valley and at our elevation.

These recent days, for us at our elevation, we are experiencing rain earlier in the day. I hung our wash out this morning before 8:00am but the sun and winds were not in alignment and so some of my laundry did not totally dry. We hung the still damp things inside the house and will put them out on the line again tomorrow.

Some people have clothes dryers here that they use carefully because electricity is expensive.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Canadian Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is not a holiday celebrated in Costa Rica .... so as expat Canadians we tend to forget about it. If you wanted to prepare a traditional Canadian Thanksgiving dinner, you might be hard pressed to find a turkey to cook. Frozen turkeys are imported in time for the USA Thanksgiving and also Christmas but they are very expensive.

Our friend and neighbor didn't forget us though. Sharon stopped by our house this past weekend with this for us:

Included in the pretty bag were Sharon's homemade muffins and brownies - what a treat. The card reads, "Dear Diana and Lance, Happy Thanksgiving to you, our wonderful vesinos (neighbors), con abrazos (with love), Sharon and Diogi". Diogi is Sharon's Border collie that we have cared for from time to time.

I must not forget the USA Thanksgiving, since Sharon is from Washington State. She might like some British Columbia Nanaimo bars. We live in the best neighborhood with wonderful neighbors.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Eyes on Costa Rica - Update/October 4, 2016

On November 13, 2012, I started to maintain a record of where visits to my blog were coming from. Aided by a widget called RevolverMaps which can be seen under the heading of VISITS SINCE 9/29/2016 as a spinning globe in the right hand column of the blog, this included identification of individual countries and their dependencies, subdivisions (states, provinces, etc.) within the countries; and cities, towns or other places within the subdivisions.

Since my last blog entry on this topic (April 15, 2016), the total number of recorded countries and dependencies has risen to 114; the most recent additions being Paraguay, Greenland, Guam and, most recently (October 1), Isle of Man. Earlier today, the number of recorded visits from over 3100 different places surpassed 24,000 – the 24000th visit coming from Norman, Oklahoma. TOTAL PAGEVIEWS as seen in the right hand column exceeds 89000. This indicates that the average visitor has looked at between 3 and 4 different pages of the blog.

Why “VISITS SINCE 9/29/2016” and not “VISIT COUNTER” as it read before?

RevolverMaps identifies each place from where a visit occurs with a little red dot (or some other color of choice) on the spinning globe. By navigating from the blog to RevolverMaps itself, the same collection of dots can be viewed on a 2D flat map projection. Here is a snapshot taken on September 29, 2016.

Unfortunately, while tinkering with the blog on my new iPad, I somehow managed to break the link between the blog and RevolverMaps. The break could not be mended – or at least we could not figure out how to mend it. The solution was to reinstall RevolverMaps with the consequence that the visitor count and the placement of little red dots had to start all over again. Here’s a snapshot taken earlier today:

No more clutter of dots but all was not lost. Records up to the time of the break had been backed up in a separate database. It was fairly easy to modify this database setting numbers as they were on September 29 as initial conditions and then enabling the addition of new numbers reported by RevolverMaps to the initial numbers. Under the old scheme, new numbers provided by RevolverMaps would be used to overwrite rather than add to existing numbers because all the initial numbers were zero.

The above being said, it became apparent that there was no harmony between TOTAL PAGEVIEWS as seen in the right hand column and RevolverMaps visits as seen in the right hand column. Over 89000 page views does not reconcile with less than 100 visits. The heading VISITS SINCE 9/29/2016 provides a hint as to the reason why. The widget that records total page views is independent of RevolverMaps and has been in service since before the inclusion of RevolverMaps in November 2012. The link with this widget has not been broken (at least not yet).

Sunday, October 2, 2016

A Tropical Storm

October and November will be the rainiest months during our green season, with the dry season starting in December and running through to about May. By then, we will be wishing for rain to bring back all the lush greenness of this beautiful country.

It doesn't rain twenty-four hours for days on end. Usually, our mornings are sunny and clear - with clouds building up in the early afternoon. Then we may experience an hour or so of rain, quite often torrential with lightning and thunder. Doing laundry and hanging it on the line outside to dry must be done first thing in the day. I had my wash out by 7:30 am today. We prefer to do shopping in the mornings also.

There are many different micro-climates in Costa Rica and I am referring to the climate we experience at our elevation and our part of the country (Atenas).

I made this video last week during a late afternoon storm. It was severe enough to cause flooding in our backyard.