Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Costa Rican Tamales for Christmas

I'm taking a short break from blogging about our last trip to share this video we stumbled across. Many people are aware that tamales are a Christmas tradition in Mexico, but did you know they are also a tradition in Costa Rica? This video takes you into a Costa Rican home as they prepare their Christmas tamales. It's quite interesting to watch.

The video was made by Kimberly Beck, an American who moved with her husband to the Caribbean side of Costa Rica on a farm they manage themselves. Her blog, 10 Degrees Above, has great information on living in Costa Rica, and I've found it useful to read through many of her posts in preparation for our eventual move. The blog is also full of gorgeous pictures from Costa Rica as well. Be sure to check out their Photography Workshops in Costa Rica and their online store featuring cool products with their photographic images on them.

I want to take this time to wish you all a Very Merry Christmas! I hope you will be spending it with those you love. Is anyone going somewhere special? Leave a comment below to let us know where, and with whom, you'll be spending your Christmas this year!

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Scary Walk to the Beach

Ojochal, Costa Rica Vacation Day 5     April 10, 2012

Gary and I started the day bright and early with a 5:30 am walk! The sun was up, the birds were singing, and we wanted to get some exercise, so we headed out while the three girls stayed in bed, fast asleep. We walked up the hill past our lot, then down toward Dave & Helene's house where we had gone for Easter dinner a few days earlier (see previous post). Dave was out walking with his dog, so we stopped to chat for a bit. I also happened to spot this cool beetle with bright orange spots!

Photo of colorful beetle in Ojochal, Costa Rica
Colorful Costa Rican Beetle

I really would never have considered myself a bug person before coming to Costa Rica, but there are so many interesting types of bugs here! Now I get excited when I see something cool and different.

The rest of the day was spent with another couple we had met last time we were here in Ojochal--Rad and Renate. Last year, they had purchased property, and this year, they had made the move from Florida to Costa Rica!

They took us to Playa Ballena which is an absolutely gorgeous beach. But as is usually the case, the best spots are often the hardest to get to!

Photo of Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Walk to Playa Ballena

Would you have walked across this bridge to get there?

Photo of boardwalk Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Bridge to Playa Ballena

 We took the chance, and I must say it was a little scary on some parts:

Photo of walk to Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
The boardwalk was pretty long and dilapidated!

 But, the beach was well worth the walk down the broken boardwalk:

Photo of Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Playa Ballena, Costa Rica

Photo of Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Playa Ballena, Costa Rica

Photo of Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Our friends, their dog, and the girls on the beach

Photo of Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Ahna & Chloe took off on a walk

Photo of Playa Ballena, or Ballena Beach, in Costa Rica
Looking back towards Playa Ballena.

Did you notice we were the only ones on that huge beach?! What a relaxing day.

Well, I guess we weren't the ONLY ones on the beach!

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After the beach, we headed over to Rad and Renate's for a light snack and some more fun conversation. What a great day we had.

By the way, we are very excited to announce that we are now representing the company that we bought our property from! So, if you have any interest in seeing if Costa Rica might be a good option for you, please check out our new website: There you will find lots of great information and even more gorgeous pictures of Costa Rica and all it has to offer. We also would love to send you a FREE, no-obligation DVD. Click here to request your free copy now!

And be sure to like us on Facebook!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

ATVing, Morphos, and Sloths!

Ojochal Vacation Day 5   April 9, 2012

Finally Monday was here! We had all been looking forward to our ATV excursion. We chose to go with Adventure Motorsports which is located in Uvita, about 15 minutes north of Ojochal. We had an awesome time and spent about 5 hours running up and down mountains, past coffee and banana farms, through streams, and swimming in waterfalls. It was one of our favorite days on the trip!

The above photo isn't us, but I thought it was a great picture of one of the streams we crossed.
La Familia
Stopping for some refreshments

We also encountered some gorgeous views:

The famous "Whale's Tail"
During the trip, we came across this tree with fruit. Our guide stopped and picked a bunch for us to try--delicious! He told us what the name is, but I have since forgotten. If anyone knows, please comment on it!  I put a close-up of the fruit in the bottom right corner of the photo.

Towards the end of the trip, we made it to this oddly shaped waterfall.

As is usually the case, it's never easy to get to the best spots, and this spot was no different. We had to walk a little through the jungle and squeeze between a barbed wire fence. Don't tell anyone, ok?

At the top of the waterfall was this lazy river that we enjoyed cooling off in--and I do mean cooling off. The water was COLD!

And I love this picture of Abby. It really brings home the scale of things and how majestic the rock and greenery really are.

I have to mention that we also saw TWO stunning, elusive Blue Morpho butterflies during our trip. Of course my camera was not ready when the butterflies floated by, but here's what a Blue Morpho looks like:

They are large butterflies, with a wingspan of about 5-8 inches. The vivid blue on the top of their wings shimmers in the sun, and is a gorgeous sight to behold! It really was awe-inspiring to see these beauties in flight.

Ok, I know this is a long post, but I have just one more thing to mention. After we cleaned up from exploring all day, Gary and I headed back out to Uvita to hit the bank and get some more groceries. On our way there, we saw cars pulled alongside the road, and people milling about. We thought it was an accident, until we got closer and saw the real culprit:

It was a 3-toed sloth crossing the road! It's amazing it hadn't been run over because it took several minutes for it just to get into the grass from where it was in my first picture. But he made it safely across.

Needless to say, after such a busy day, we slept very well that night!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Exploring Windows and Making New Friends

Ojochal Vacation Day 4    April 8, 2012

On Sunday, we woke up to a gorgeous Easter morning. We ate breakfast, then headed out early to Playa Ventanas, expecting to see quite a few people there due to the holiday. We were wrong--there was hardly anyone there, which was fine with us! We parked the car, then started the walk to the beach, which is quite circuitous--over a river (or should I say through the river, since the bridge was still not repaired from last year), up a steep hill, through some woods, down the other side of the hill (which was still damp from the rain and VERY slippery), then out to the beach. We were all laughing pretty hard by the time we made it--several close calls on that downward slope!

But, the beach is so worth it!

Looking to the Left

Looking to the Right
Looking back towards Land

Playa Ventanas is so named because of the windows (ventanas) in the rock. During low tide you can walk through them to the beach on the other side--if you're brave enough! I went partially in, but felt claustrophobic with the waves rushing in, the darkness inside the caves, and knowing there was a lot of rock over my head.

The Girls at the Mouth of one of the Windows
Ahna & Chloe just inside one of the Windows
Braver People about Mid-Way in the Window
I also came across this pile of beach debris that was home to a bunch of hermit crabs. There were so many, and such diversity in their shells and sizes!

While the girls and I were having fun body surfing in the waves, Gary was talking with a couple he met who were from North Carolina. They were visiting the area and really liked it a lot. They also introduced us to a short cut back to our car! Kinda took the fun out of the walk back, but it was A LOT shorter and easier.

After cleaning up at home, we headed over to Dave and Helene's house for Easter Dinner. We arrived to a good amount of ex-patriots already there--most being from Canada. We had a wonderful time meeting more of our future neighbors and eating all the wonderful food. So many interesting people live here!

Although there weren't any other youngsters there, our girls still had a good time. Chloe made friends with our hosts' dog. And don't you love the view off of their back patio?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

How do you say "Band-Aid" in Spanish?

Ojochal Vacation Day 3  April 7, 2012

Our first night sleeping in Ojochal found us waking up occasionally to the sounds of the abundant wildlife. We had fallen asleep to the sounds of insects and frogs calling back and forth to each other, then woke up to birds and howler monkeys. Ahhh, doesn't get much better, if you ask me! Below is a video of the early morning sounds. It was taken from the balcony off our bedroom. This video is meant to be heard, not really seen (you can play it while you continue reading this post!); however, if you watch it, you'll slowly see it get brighter as the sun comes up to start a new day.  Be sure to turn your volume up!

The sun comes up early in Costa Rica, so Gary and I found ourselves waking up about 5 am. The view from our bedroom was awesome--there's nothing like sitting up in bed and seeing the vibrant green rain forest and sparkling blue ocean in front of you!

The kids stayed asleep much later than we did, but slowly they started filtering downstairs. I finally went to wake Abby up around 8:30, but she fell back asleep. At 9, her sisters went upstairs and ran into her room and screamed which woke her right up! We all had a good laugh at that--except for maybe Abby.

Breakfast was a huge pineapple we had picked up from a roadside stand, cereal, toast, and Costa Rican coffee. The pineapple was to die for. We kept commenting on how juicy and sweet it was as we gobbled up more.

We had planned today as a "down day" to recuperate from the travel yesterday. We decided to head out to the nearby town of Uvita (about a 15 minute drive) to look around the farmers' market and hit the "big" grocery store. As we were getting ready to go, Chloe decided she wanted to put a flower in her hair, so she and Ahna went looking around the yard for something pretty.
Gary walking up the driveway. You can see how steep things are!

 Now, Chloe is known as the family klutz. If someone is going to get hurt, it will be her. And sure enough, the next thing we know, Chloe is face down in the dirt. Because the house is built on a hill, the yard has 3 levels, and Chloe had not descended one of the hills correctly (after her fall, she noticed the stairs a few feet away). Now the skin on her hands, knees, and upper chest were shredded, and she was bleeding pretty good.

So, while she was in the kitchen trying to clean the dirt out of her wounds, I was running around the house looking for band-aids for her. The best thing I could find were some cotton pads which we taped on with scotch tape. Needless to say, she looked a little scary, and we promised we'd find her some band-aids before she went out in public.

As we headed out to Uvita, we stopped at the local grocery store, and I looked in there for some band-aids--but how do you say "band-aid" in Spanish? I figured since "band-aid" is a trademark name, they would know what I was looking for, but no. So in bits of Spanish, English, and sign language I tried to explain, but "no comprende." Then I see a box of generic band-aids sitting behind the counter. I point and say the color of the box in Spanish, and she understands. Then she asks me how many I want. Hmm, I want the whole box, but the box is open, so now I'm a bit confused. Then I realize they sell them by the "each", not box. So I somehow end up with 5. I think cinco was the first number I could think of; however, I did learn that the Spanish word for band-aid is tirita.

So, off to Uvita we head. We were a little underwhelmed with the farmers' market. It had more "ex-pat" jewelry makers than Tico farmers selling produce, but the lack of sellers could have been due to it being Holy Week, which Costa Ricans take very seriously. We did find some yummy fruits and veggies to take home with us, though.

Checking out the Selection
 From the farmers' market we headed over to the grocery store to get some food for the week. I also wanted to get more band-aids as Chloe's wounds were in need of new ones, plus some wound cleansing spray, as it looked like there was still dirt imbedded in some of her cuts. This time I knew to ask for "tiritas", but figuring out how to say "wound cleanser" was the new obstacle. For some reason, band-aids and medicines, even aspirin, are kept behind a counter, so you need to talk with someone to get them. So, with a mix of Spanish, English, and sign language, I was able to get some anti-bacterial spray. Plus they sold me a whole box of band-aids this time!

The store rivaled a decent grocery store here in the States, and the prices went along with that. If you want to eat like an American in Costa Rica, it can be expensive! But if you don't mind eating like a Tico (Costa Rican), the cost is usually not too bad. While in the store, we ran into one of our (future) neighbors and his wife. Originally from Canada, they had recently completed their move to CR. Their house is about 1/2 mile or so from ours. They were planning a large gathering of people for Easter over at their house, so they invited us all to come. We gladly said yes!

After the store, we decided to eat lunch at one of the local restaurants, which are called "sodas". The food was really good and centered around rice and beans with a choice of meat or seafood.

One of our lunch plates
Once finished, we decided to head back to the store for the cold things we needed. The girls and I had been standing outside for a few minutes while Gary picked up the last couple of items, when our waiter came running around the corner to find us. Seems Chloe had left her anti-bac spray on the table. I was so impressed that this young man ran to find us and return it to us! But that seems to be the norm in Costa Rica--everyone is so super nice.

Once back at the house, the kids went in the pool to cool off while Gary and I went up to our property to check it out. It had been a year since we had seen it last! Some water management work had been done, and the weeds newly cleared. It looked really good, and it felt really good to be standing on it once again.

Me standing on one of the corners of our property
For dinner we headed to one of the more elegant restaurants in town--Citrus. We had never been, but had heard so much about it. The rain started as we were leaving the house, and it was coming down pretty good. The rain brought out the frogs--HUGE frogs just siting in the middle of the road! We didn't even notice them at first until we saw some jump to get out of the way of the car. Because the road is dirt, they just looked like rocks in the road. They were quite fun to watch, and I hope we did not run over any.

Citrus is a beautiful restaurant, and we thoroughly enjoyed our meal. We opted for the full experience and had appetizers, tropical drinks, dinner, and dessert. The bill for the 5-star meal--including tip? About $130. We thought that was pretty awesome!

Our Table at Citrus

Inside View of Citrus
My Main Dish--Sea bass, fresh steamed veggies, and rice
After dinner, it was back to the house for pool time, then off to bed.


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Family Vacation to Ojochal, Costa Rica

Yes, this is LONG over-due, but sometimes life gets in the way! I hope you will forgive the lapse in time from the actual trip to my blog posts, and that you will still be able to get some enjoyment and information from our adventures. So with that being said, let's get to the good stuff!


DAY 1-2 / APRIL 5-6

You can imagine our excitement--the day is FINALLY here! It's the Thursday before Good Friday, so Gary is at work, and our youngest, Abby is in school. I decided to pull Abby out early from school, and took her and Chloe (our middle daughter) to In N Out Burgers for lunch. We were expecting Gary to be home from work in a few hours, so we figured we had some time to spare; however, on our way home from lunch, Gary called and said he was getting off early and would be home in about an hour. YIKES! We hadn't planned for that one.

We raced home and dashed around the house putting everything together. We ended up leaving the house 15 minutes earlier than our original plan (in other words, Gary's coming home a couple hours early =  a whopping 15 minute earlier departure). About 5 minutes into our trip, Chloe realized she left her iPod at home. How would she be able to live without her "tunes" for almost 2 weeks?? Gary graciously turned around so she could bring it with her. So now we were actually leaving later than originally planned.

Our eldest daughter, Ahna, was living in Los Angeles at the time, very close to LAX, so we picked her up around 7:45 pm when we got into town, and went out for dinner at a nearby BJ's. It was a fun, celebratory meal.

Our 3 Beautiful Girls (notice the matching lipstick!) during Dinner at BJ's

After dinner, we headed over to the airport. Our plane didn't leave until 2:35 am, and we were getting pretty bored (see picture below) so we spent the time doing power walks around the top story of the airport, and racing each other going up and down the stairs.

This has to be one of my all-time favorite pictures. It is NOT staged! It's all three girls waiting so patiently for the plane. hahaha
Our plane ride was uneventful, and we arrived in San Jose, Costa Rica about 9:30 in the morning. We usually try to get a flight on TACA airlines. We love their customer service, and they still include hot meals (plus free alcoholic beverages) on their flights! We also happened to score this awesome row of seats with tons of extra leg room.

Getting ready to take off!

Now for the drive to Ojochal. About an hour from the airport, we stopped at the Tarcoles River for some lunch in a tourist trap restaurant, but we definitely needed the break as everyone was a bit cranky, tired, and hot. After lunch, we all enjoyed looking at the crocodiles in the river.

Bridge over the Rio Tarcoles. Everyone is looking for crocodiles!
Here is what we saw:

Back on the road, we were stopped at a police checkpoint, but Abby was asleep in the backseat between her two sisters, and she had drool coming out of her mouth, which was wide open. Plus the air conditioner in the car wasn't working that well, so she was, shall we say, glistening quite a bit. I think the policeman took one look at her and let us go. Smiley

Finally (it's about a 3 1/2 hour drive from the airport on a good day) we arrived in Ojochal! The house we were renting, Casa Faust, was really nice with lots of room. We were all excited to get showers! Shortly after arriving, the rain started, and then the power went out. Thankfully the showers still had hot water, and it was light enough to see what we were doing.

Casa Faust--our home for the next week!
Gary in the pool at Casa Faust
Casa Faust is located about 1/4 mile or so from our lot, and it offered very similar views to what we will have! The property is managed by Ojochal Vacation Rentals, so if you're interested in a lovely home to vacation in, be sure to contact them and tell them I sent you!

Dinner was at Jardin Tortuga which is a funky, jungle pizza place. It's like eating in a huge tree house. If you look closely in the pictures below, you'll notice it's all open-air, as are most of the restaurants. We love being surrounded by the sights and sounds of the rain forest everywhere we go--even in restaurants! Gary and I remembered the pizza being better last time we were there, but it was still good this time. We met a couple there visiting from Florida and talked with them for quite a while. Also, we ran into our friends from a year ago--Jerry and Susanne! It was great to see them. We had been connected via Facebook, and had planned to get together later in the week, but it was so nice to run into them early and get an extra visit.

Jardin Tortuga

The girls at Jardin Tortuga
After dinner, we went home and collapsed into our beds at 8:30, looking forward to waking up to an ocean view and another day in paradise!