Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My New Year's Message - 2015

6:30 am New Year’s Eve – sitting on the stairs out back watching a howler monkey climb through the trees.  We haven’t had monkeys here in 2 years, but this one started howling yesterday at sunset and picked up again at 5:00 am.  Only one that I can see, and he is way in the jungle so photos are just dark and shadowy.  Hopefully a sign of a good year to come.

It is very hard to believe that 15 years ago we were sitting waiting for the world we knew to crash around us that the Y2K ‘bomb’ hit.  Those of us responsible for services and infrastructure spent the day and through the night in ‘command centres’ monitoring events, checking systems, and largely feeling like fools as we quickly came to understand that nothing bad was going to happen - - all dressed up and no place to go!

That really does seem like a lifetime ago.  Half of my son’s life – as he turns 30 in a few weeks.  In the intervening years the world has seen things that have seemed unimaginable – 9/11, the Katrina devastation of New Orleans, the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, and the global economic meltdown.
Perhaps it is a result, or just another happening, but the new millennium has been highlighted by divisiveness, fear and hatred.  In politics, war, social encounter . . . life in general.

America was the land of the free and the home of the brave – now, the place of ultra conservative republicans v. hedonistic democrats.  Canada was proud of a socially progressive society within a fiscally responsible framework – now the social safety net has fallen victim of personal protection and the haves take more from the have nots.  Occupy and Anonymous scream about the 1% that control 50% of the wealth – yet interestingly, the top 10% of the 1% are some of the most progressive and socially minded folks on the planet.  We need to stop looking about to cast blame and start with ourselves and our communities to create positive change.  Our political processes are broken because that is what we have told our politicians we want and expect – division and anger – you can’t have what you want if that means I don’t get what I want - - what happened to compromise for the greater good – despite how it has been viewed in recent years, it is not a loss for everyone.  Kindness and generosity should always be 'in fashion'.

The monkey made me happy and thoughtful – perhaps everyone just needs a monkey to distract and engage them!

So, as 2015 is upon us, I look forward to happier days, healthier ways, less stress and more monkeys.

Happy New Year to friends and family – love you all.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

Feliz Navidad!

We always get asked - what happens at Christmas in Costa Rica?

The answer is - much the same as in Toronto or anywhere else!  People gather to enjoy their family and friends - it's just warmer!

So, some very Costa Rican Christmas images!

Dan and Lisle

Decorations at home

Celebrating at the beach

Ticos like to decorate just like everyone else

Or just let nature take over

But never would they do this

And while it may not be a cold and white Christmas where you are, everyone wants to be here!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014


Today is Licence Plate day.

When you buy a new vehicle, it doesn't come with a plate.  They only register vehicles after they are purchased and plates are issued once the registration is complete.  When you leave the dealership you have this plastic sleeve on the windshield with a paper in it - temporary registration.

So, they said - the plates will be ready in January.  No problem.  Then they call last week - the plates are here in San Jose, will you be in today to get them??   NO!  We are not doing an 8 hour round trip to get plates.  Lisle was going to get then when he took me back to the airport at the beginning of the month.

How about you send them to the dealership in Perez Zeledon (San Isidro)?  That is only an hour away.  Sure - so after waiting and checking, we confirm they are there.  Second trip in a week (our first maintenance was scheduled for last week - had we known we would have postponed for a few days).

Apparently we are not permanently legal!!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Welcome Winter!

The Winter Solstice past last night and we awake to WINTER!

A glorious sunny day with blue sky.

Almost as if it were waiting for winter, the dry season began Thursday last week - like someone flipped a switch.  The 4 weeks previous had been very rainy - making up for a relatively dry October. Then on Thursday, the air was different.  While dark clouds gathered over the mountains, they were brightened by the sun over the ocean.  A gentle rain each of Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening - Sunday beautiful and dry - even overnight!

In celebration Sunday was spent lounging in the pool reading Gone Girl!  Welcome Winter!!!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Montezuma Oropendola

Yesterday morning there was the strangest noise outside and movement in the trees.  The cluster of palms just behind the herb garden was full of birds. Black, short bright coloured beak, yellow fan-tail, about the size if a football.   They were having a party.  In and out of the palms to the trees behind, constantly moving and sounding off.  There were about 20 of them.

As I had never seen them before I went straight to my friend Google - bird black yellow fan tail Costa Rica. The first image it returned was that of the partiers. (don't ya love technology!)

The Montezuma oropendola is a fascinating bird. This large bright yellow tailed bird (18-20 inches) builds pendulous nests, which cluster in colonies of sometimes 140 or more. The most bizarre feature is Montezuma's unforgettable song, of wheezing, gurgling and popping sounds. The male will execute a complete somersault around a branch while simultaneously singing this medley of sounds.

We saw their nests by the hundreds when we visited Tortuguero several years ago, but never saw the birds.

Turns out they are more chestnut than black but my friend Google allows for those sorts of details.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Back in Ojochal

Day 1 coming to a close - sun is setting and dinner needs to start soon

A busy day - unpacking and sorting - Lisle has been here 2 weeks so he has settled in and I am disrupting his organized chaos. Oh well, think everything is away.

The travel was uneventful - first time on Air Canada Rouge - albeit premium service - no complaints - really friendly, good food, very attentive staff, arrived safe and early!

Usually I dread travelling alone as the person next to you wants to chat - sure enough before  we were even away from the gate the conversation started.  Fortunately this guy was really interesting - serial entrepreneur - connected to Google and android phones - who is challenging the world to be a better place - kids learning through independent education - asking big questions and figuring out the answers by themselves - search Andrew Greig and Kids Got SOLE (  The most fascinating 5 hours I have spent in a very long time.

Today has been rainy for the most part - clouds in the lowland towards the ocean - stopped about 4 - and now the power is out - and it is getting dark fast (good thing the Surface has a long battery life - too bad the internet isnt on the battery backup!)

In the dark for 90 minutes - back to life and posting - candles and iPhone flashlight - our saviours!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Ties That Bind

We all have those things that tie us to places.

We have been working to deal with the many complications of our lives - retirement - sale of the house - getting rid of the clutter.

The only real ties are family.  Both my parents are gone, and my son is very self-sufficient.  Lisle's mom died about 20 years ago.  Sadly, his dad passed away early Friday September 5, 2014.
He would have been 95 next month.  We had seen him dwindle over the past few months, and it seems he was waiting for us to return from Costa Rica.  Lisle got to spend time with him on Tuesday and Wednesday as he was alert from time to time.

Today, Monday September 8, 2014, Lisle came home after a day of funeral planning and stuff to find one of our cats had died during the day.  Artemis was 13 and had been overweight - thyroid issues - hip issues - a loving pet.  It was clear on Saturday that she was unwell, so no real surprise - but a shock for him to find her on the living room floor.

Two departures in a few days - a sad time in our house.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Scream Like a Girl!

Yes, I do ... not often, but when it is called for.

Just finished a nice hour in the pool - Lisle and I floating and chatting - time to get out.  He grabs a towel off the chair dries and heads inside.  I pull the float out and lean it against the BBQ.

I grab the towel draped over the patio tub chair from yesterday.  As I draw it to my chest to start drying - PLOP!

This falls out of the towel and lands between my feet - hence the scream!  It is very peeved at being disturbed and just sits there.

Having recovered, it is time to send him back home - a nudge with the pool skimmer usually does it - and it does, except it appears home is under the chair which is where he goes in one long leap and a little scurry.

I pick up the chair - no frog!  Not seriously!!  Lisle can you come look inside the chair?  Sure enough, he had climbed all the way up inside - a few knocks got him down and out.  So he immediately jumped in the pool.  No escape there - I am VERY handy with the skimmer - one swoop and one fling and he was back in the jungle!

A little too close to getting intimate with a frog!!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Masterpiece ....

So, in exactly 5 days, they painted the exterior of the house!  Just like they said.

2 guys - 10 - 11 hours a day - and today was Mothers' Day!

Painted the house really means -
- power-washed the whole exterior
- killed the bees and removed the nest
- scrubbed the bugs off the trim around the windows
- cleaned the eaves out
- cleaned all the exterior ceiling fans
- repainted the black metal exterior light fixtures (having removed and cleaned them first)
- scrubbed all the exterior wood surfaces (no more mold and grit)
- taped all the edges and put plastic over windows and things
- spray painted most of the wall - did roller or brush for the finicky bit around the roof-line
- painted the window trim
- painted the pool pump house and the water monuments
- painted the metal stair and railing at the back
- scrapped every surface (floors, window trim etc) to get any speck of paint splatter off
- swept and washed the floor
- put the remaining paint in cans for us to keep
- cleaned up every night
- walked the whole of the house with us to make certain any little deficiency was corrected - even found and fixed ones we didn't see
- left saying if you notice any issue just call

Absolutely amazing job - nice guys - really professional

And the end product speaks for itself
I know ... I know ... it is still yellow and white - but it is now yellow instead of some extremely sun bleached concept of yellow - and with the new paint, hopefully will resist the sun a bit better.

In case you hadn't got the message - we are thrilled with the whole process and outcome!

Friday, August 15, 2014

San Vito

Yesterday we went to visit San Vito, with our friends Doug and Samira.

San Vito is a splendid relaxed town in the mountains near the Panama border.  

The drive is spectacular on the Interamerican Highway as it hugs the Terraba River inland. Then you cross it and head up the mountain, driving along the ridge for about 50 km with breathtaking views of mountains and valleys on both sides.

It boasts one of the most complete tropical gardens on the planet—Las Cruces Biological Station and the real attraction, the park within, the Wilson Botanical Gardens.  Overseen by the Organization for Tropical Studies (OTS), the very well kept park has many inhabitants including 330 documented species of birds and a wide variety of mammals including sloths, monkeys, deer and anteaters.  

The Wilson Botanical Gardens (JardĂ­n Botánico Wilson) are home to around 1,000 species of tropical plants from Costa Rica and beyond.  The grounds feature endangered species from Costa Rica, as well as from other parts of the globe, many of which appear quite strange and unusual—definitely worth a stop!  Interested visitors can stroll through the well marked, well-maintained 6 miles (10 km) of trails in this 25 acre (10 ha) assortment of gardens.  Throughout the grounds, strategic overlooks allow passers-by to take-in this amazing assortment of biology which includes lily beds, heliconia groves, ferns, gingers, bromeliads, marantas and a mammoth collection of palms. - photos from the garden below.

Spent about an hour walking the path (probably takes 2 - 3 hours in total) when the skies opened.  Fortunately we were not far from shelter and headed there until it subsided.  We all decided we were hungry, so lets pause on the plants and have lunch.

Founded in the 1800's by Italian farmers, the community reportedly has the largest Italian population in Latin America.  In the town many people are obviously of Italian heritage - so no surprise you can find good Italian food!

Pizzeria Liliana is wonderful - mama is in the kitchen putting pizza and pasta in the oven.  A yummy way to pass the middle of the day!  Samira spotted the dozens of Prosciutto hanging in the kitchen - I asked (in Spanish) if they were for sale - "yes - C28000 /kg for a whole one and they are not imported - I make them right here" (again all in Spanish - sorry I am being proud of myself) - Samira went and picked the one she wanted, he took it down and explained he needed 15 minutes to clean it - came back with it all wrapped and ready to go - Costa Rican Proscuitto made by Guido! Yes that was really his name - he gave us his card.

We walked about the town to digest - very civilized place - obviously a centre for agriculture and ranching as the boots and hats were everywhere, but also relatively affluent - little coffee shops and bistros, and all the amenities you could want.

A great way to spend the day!!

El Dia de la Madre

Today is Mothers' Day in Costa Rica.

This is not the made up North American version intended to sell cards.  This coincides with the religious holiday of the Assumption of Mary.  It is a very big deal here - probably bigger than Christmas - everyone honours their Mother with gifts and dinner and time spent together - everything is closed - even the construction workers are absent from the site across the road.

Happy Mothers Day to all!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

In Case You Were Wondering . . .

Painting starts on Monday - if the weather cooperates, it should be a week - I suspect two is likely - guess that means they will be around for the rest of our stay.

New possibility for internet service - ICE is slow (about .5M, and unreliable (although not to bad this time).  $25/m for the stick - - NetsysCR is a new player in the residential market -  - offering 4M for $75/month - came to the house to check reception - need to put an antennae on the house - - no sure what technology it is but the guy went on and on about fibre optic to Uvita and Coronado and an IP land line for the house - Lisle is interested, so it is likely a go - - see what it brings - a new CR adventure!!

Hot sauce is done - - man is it hot!  1.75 pounds of peppers gave us enough for 6 small bottles of sauce - but I think it is almost too hot to use - cut it and expand the output!  Gee - sound like a drug lord!  have to figure it out - - the stuff is potent!

The company that did the landscaping is rebranding and doing new materials - so they were here for a photo shoot - the photographer is a Canadian who has been in CR many years and is well known for her work with resorts and properties - does great shots - really friendly - we sat and had coffee while she was waiting for the right light - - -too sunny or too cloudy was the general state of affairs - can't wait to see the shots - here is one that got sent ahead as a teaser!
Dinner out at Boca Coronada the other night - rainy evening by the river - Lisle got bitten - good food (ceviche mixto and pescado boca coronado - fish in seafood sauce).

Friday was strange weather - socked in - clouds everywhere - rain and wind - chilly!! Temperature mid-day dropped to 23C - - cleared later and  beautiful and sunny today!  32C right now - nice breeze - - PERFECT!!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Nature and Nurture

So, the house needs painting - 3 years old - the pigment on the front - the part that gets the most sun - completely gone - not unheard of, others have complained about it - the story is the workers water it down so they can take the extra unwatered stuff home to sell or use - - i just think they used cheap paint!

Two Ticos came by to give us a quote - this is their business and they have all the equipment - lots of gringos in the area will do this, but i really think more and more that stepping out of the expat community is necessary and important - otherwise we will be gringos forever.  They come recommended.  All outside paint - cover up everything, protect windows and plants - paint the tower - two coats 5 full days - - clean all the exterior wood surfaces.  Think we will get them to start next week.

So while they were here checking the place out - they point to the tower - - bees!

Bees and paper wasps - quite the little community they have set up!

So while the house needs some nurturing and saving from nature, nature is continuing in its bounty

The Philodendrons are massive and just keep growing - this leaf was just part of the other leaf yesterday - then this strange probe
 and then a leaf - -all in 48 hours - the rapid growth of vegetation never ceases to amaze me

Monday, August 4, 2014

What a Difference a Day Makes

Saturday could not have been more different than Friday - overcast from the start, but the rain started about 2pm and was good tropical rain - - constant - heavy at times - above all it was loud - so loud you could bearly hear the sound from the TV/Stereo.  TIP:  we were told that noise cancelling headphones are a necessity for the rainy season!  Guess that is coming in the luggage next trip.

Sunday was better - some sun in the morning - but the rain set in around dinner - - really neat watchign the valley disappear in the clouds before the rain begins.

Keith and Karen's daughter and her partner arrived from Toronto with the new baby (7 weeks old) for a quick visit (9 days) - such a sweetie - Liz walked over to see us (about 30 minutes up and down the hills) with baby Mila in the snugglie - - hiking at 7 weeks - - quite the adventurer and world traveler!

Cooking experiment - showed you the giant pepper bush before - just plucked 2 pounds of hot red peppers from it - - needed to do that before they just rotted - -  trying our hand at hot pepper sauce.  blend the peppers with a head of garlic and a bit of water, some salt and brown sugar - let sit 5 days - add vinegar and cook - strain and bottle.  I'll let you know how it turns out!

Breakfast is underway - fruit salad - papaya and banana - yum
OOOPPSS!  Bananas are too ripe - guess it it a banana, mango, pineapple smoothie with banana muffins - yum yum!  papaya for a salsa with the chicken for dinner!

Friday, August 1, 2014


Well it is Friday - Lisle forgot it was fish day, so no fresh stuff from the fish guy - oh well there's always next week!

Up at 6:30, just after the rain ended - still lots of mist in the mountains - no howlers this morning, but lots of bird chatter.

This morning we planned to meet our new neighbour.  Jeannine dropped by for coffee, tea and fresh banana almond muffins (thank you Lisle - I just don't say that enough!!).  Jeannine and her husband Jean Marc are building the house just up the road.  They have been here with their 2 teen girls learning to live in rural Costa Rica.  The girls go to the public high school in Uvita - the bus picks them up at 5:40 am.  House should be done by Christmas although some are saying March - - they are renting a place a little further up the road.  A really nice way to start the day, learning about her adventures and life - a new relationship!  Next time it will need to be over wine!

Lisle has finished repainting and remounting all the exterior light fixtures.  They were black, but almost white with the sun and salt - look like brand new!

After lunch, Lisle needed to go to town - supplies - a new pool thermometer.  WOW - the rear tire looks really low - it was before and he filled it the other day - - made it to the gas station and then into Uvita to Bridgestone - the guy found the nail in 30 seconds - no problema!  The bill C2,500 - roughly $5.00!  We'll see how it stands up.

Swim in the pool with the new thermometer - cerveza!  Sunset - - dinner - - House of Cards (season 2 is even more manipulative!!)

Of Birds and Bugs and Other Things

so to start off with, the other morning there is this dead bird on the front patio - not the first we have had - they are stupid and fly into the window - but this one looked more like it had just hatched or been unswallowed by something - kind of gross
The next morning, Lisle say - a toad pooped in the door track - I went to clean it - not toad poop - it had legs and was wriggling.

And yesterday it was the visit from the Jesus Christ lizard - they walk on water!!  a rather large one
All of yesterday was spectacular - sunny from first thing in the morning - hot 35C - in the pool with a beer - a beautiful day for a beautiful sunset - of course not - but quite the light show - a storm moved on over the ocean the lightning fingers shot across the sky - wish I was a better photographer - but the sky was neat nonetheless.  a glimpse of the lightning in some of the shots

Then the rain came - good heavy tropical rain - - lasted much of the night -  - finally stopped about 6 this morning.