Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Driving In Costa Rica, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

Driving in Costa Rica is.................interesting.

I found out from a friend recently that there are no driver's training courses here.  It is very apparent when driving, and Kurt and I only drive from our house to town, which is about three miles away, only about 1 on the highway.  Here are some strange things you will encounter in Costa Rica while driving.  And for those of you who use your phone while driving?  Not even possible here with all the driving distractions.

1.  People do not use blinkers.   And those that do generally turn them on to turn the opposite of which way they are turning.  If you see someone using a blinker properly, they are most likely not from Costa Rica.  We still use our blinkers, but I don't really know why.  Habit, I guess.  So, if you see someone with a blinker on, NEVER EVER assume they are actually turning.  There is a good chance if you do, someone will veer in front of you doing a U-turn to drive in the opposite direction.

2.  Drivers are either insanely aggressive or so timid it's painful.  Speed limit 40?  People will either be driving 70 or 5.  Not kidding.  And the kids (meaning teenagers) in our neighborhood are insane on their motorcycles.  Riding at death speeds with no helmet and laughing hysterically.  I shake my head as they go by on my walks and then I instantly feel like an old person, LOL.  I guess someone died riding like that that lived in our neighborhood, but it has not stopped anyone.

3.  Bikers.  People who ride motorcycles, especially delivery drivers, are truly insane.  They veer in and out of traffic, cutting people off, pass on the wrong side, etc.  I am shocked I have not seen more accidents with bikes while here.  Kurt and I were already hit once and totaled one of the bikes because of crazy drivers and we were not doing anything wrong. Luckily, our insurance is covering it completely.

4.  Driving in busier areas, you will encounter a lot of road issues.  People will cross the road without looking or caring.  People riding bicycles will ride down the center of the road, sometimes with 4+ people on a bike.  they also ride on the side, but will veer into the road where you are driving, simply not paying attention.  Also, at night, people on bikes use no reflectors, so you cannot see them while you are driving.  And even though people seem to love bright colors here, at night while riding their bikes, they tend to wear black from head to toe to compliment their lack of reflectors.  Also in the road, you will encounter various animals.  Cows, horses, snakes crossing, dogs everywhere, toads, cats.  In short, you need to be careful and pay attention while driving.

5.  Downtown Parking Guys.  If you live in an area with a busy downtown, there are guys "working" who seem like they are working for the city.  They don't.  They basically tell you that they will "watch" your car and you have to pay them to do so.  Kurt & I almost never have small coins to give them and they truthfully kind of annoy us since we don't need someone to help us park a scooter or watch it in a lit busy area, so we generally park further down where the parking guys don't go to and walk a couple blocks back down to town.  They basically demand money and to help you and it annoys me.  A friend of ours said, just park and give them a little bit, but I don't want to feed into it.  They all look like they are high and I don't think they are providing any kind of useful service at all.  In fact, one night we parked our scooter and they tried to make us move it as they wanted to keep the space open for a car.  Sorry, not sorry, leaving my scooter.

6.  One interesting tidbit.  Police officers don't pull you over here like they do in the States.  You are not going to see an officer behind you with his lights on.  Basically, they sit on the side of the road, and motion for you to pull over.  There is a great program called Waze where people will mark where officers are doing this to alert you, so you know not to speed through there.  We never speed in our area as there is really no need to, but in other parts of the country where you are on nice, long stretches of road, this program would be helpful.  Officers will also do random checks of passports.  And, they are allowed to pull you over for no reason here, simply to check your passports and make sure you are legal here, or your vehicle is legal.  The only two things the police really seem to care a lot about here are wearing your seatbelt and speeding.  So, if you follow those laws, you should be golden.

Don't get me wrong, driving in the States has it's issues too.  I am glad I almost never have to deal with standstill traffic here, or police officers constantly being on the side of the road with radar guns.  Just wanted to give people an idea of how driving differs here.  I will say one positive is I always have my phone in my purse while driving and won't even glance at it or answer it. 

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Christmas in Herradura 2014

So, this was the first Christmas that Kurt and I were actually home!  Normally, we travelled on Christmas, as it was a down time at work and the one time of the year we could get away for more than a few days at a time.  Now, I live in paradise and truthfully have no desire to leave.  I would like to see family for the holidays, but there is no way I am going back to Michigan in the cold.  Thus, I decided to invite over our neighbor, RJ (who is also from the States) and make my first Christmas dinner ever!

I started preparing dinner the day before.  I prepared the dough for the rolls, the corn side dish made and ready to pop in the oven, the ahi tuna marinade made and put in the frig with the fish, and the cheesecake.  The pasta I waited to make until Christmas.

Here are the recipes and dishes below:

Creamy Baked Corn with Parmesan.  The only thing I changed in this recipe is I made my own half and half since I could not find it in the grocery store here. I also only made half the recipe.  It was a good amount for the three of us with a tiny bit leftover.

Dinner Rolls.  I think I wanted to make these because they looked so amazing in the picture.  This recipe makes 24 rolls, and I only wanted to make 6, so I quartered the recipe.  And when I did that, it still made 12 rolls.  So beware, recipe makes about twice what it says.  Anyway, these were awesome, may be my fav part of the entire meal.  And lots leftover.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake.  Kurt and RJ really like cheesecake, so this was dessert.  I bought a ready made crust.  Yes, I was lazy with that.  It was an Oreo Crust.  I then made the peanut butter filling.  I did not put anything on the top either.  So, basically, I only used the filling portion of this cheesecake.  It is a process too, so be prepared to be at home a while.  The initial cooking is 2 hours 15 minutes and then it has to sit in the oven 2 hours after that with the oven turned off, then be in the frig overnight.  But.  I tried it even though I am not a cheesecake fan and it was awesome.  Had a lot extra, so Kurt has had cheesecake since Xmas like every day. He finally finished it off last night.

Spicy Baked Pasta.  I actually make this about once a week for Kurt and I.  I generally add some extras, like chopped up bell peppers or onions.   I sometimes also make my own pasta sauce out of fresh tomatoes and spices.  Enough leftover for me to have dinner the next day.

Sriracha Lime Ahi Tuna.  I subbed ahi tuna as I like it better and I don't think you can even get salmon here unless it's imported in.  This was super yummy, especially the sauce on top.  I made extra on purpose so I could have leftovers.  Two pieces leftover.

So, we had a very nontraditional holiday meal, which is pretty much the norm for Kurt and I since we don't eat meat.  We had a full house, as RJ brought the pugs friends, his two Yorkies.  I think all the pets enjoyed the meal as well.

The holidays have brought a LOT of people to this tourist area.  It is crazy how different town is right now vs the rainy season.  I have never seen this many people in Jaco in my life, but I have never been here for Xmas either.  It almost makes me want to avoid downtown.  We have found alternate ways to the gym vs going through downtown, and alternate ways to stores we need to go to like the hardware store.  We also ate out in Herradura last night as we did not want to go into Jaco.

Also, weird thing about Xmas here.  Fireworks.  People are obsessed with setting them off.  From before Xmas to even last night.  I don't understand it, and the pugs hate it, LOL. Hopefully it's over soon!  :).

Hope everyone had a nice holiday!  Pura Vida!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Happy Holidays!

So, I loved sending out holiday cards in the States.  However, it is not very cost effective here in Costa Rica, and mail takes weeks to the States, so I have decided to do a holiday blog post instead!

So, Kurt and I had a pretty crazy year!  One filled with the most changes I have ever had in a year in our lives, I would say.

Our nephew Kory passed the bar exam and I did his swearing in with the help of Judge Connie Kelley before I left.  Kory then opened Haskell Law Offices, which allowed me to start making the move to get the heck out of Michigan!  Congrats Kory!

Biggest news, our move to Costa Rica!  Kurt arrived in Costa Rica in early May, after driving from Michigan to Costa Rica with the three pugs and Persian cat and two friends (this took him 9 days and he had to drive through the States as well as Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica).  I moved on May 18, flying from Detroit with our other cat.  We have been here since, getting settled in and used to life in a foreign country.  There are pros and cons, but for the most part, we are happier than we have ever been.  Life not working suits us for sure.  :).  We have slowly been making our house our own, by painting and doing work outside to the yard and pool area.  And as we speak, solar is being put in which will eliminate our household bills (no more electric bill, satellite, cell or home internet bills)! Super excited about that.  We have had friends from the states visit twice now, once over Labor Day and another time in early November.  We had a blast showing them around our little Paradise.  Looking for more guests in the future.  The pugs and cats have adjusted well to life here.  They enjoy being able to spend as much time as possible outside.  Our yard is fenced in, so they can play outside any time they want.  The cats spend a lot of time being lazy in the yard, and Lucie loves to look for creatures to stalk.  Luckily, she is not killing anything.  Yet.  We bought two scooters when we first got here and have fun zipping around on those as well.  We have had wildlife encounters in our yard, from toucans in the tree right outside the window, to macaws flying overhead daily, to poisonous snakes in the yard and a scorpion crawling up Kurt's stomach while he was taking a nap right day!  We are in the jungle, that's for sure........

I have been back to the States twice since I left--the first for a fabulous wedding and the second to visit my Maga in Florida with my Mom.  Both visits were nice, and I was able to stock up on things I cannot get in Costa Rica that I like to use here.   Kurt has not been back to the States at all.

I have been having a blast too cooking and taking care of my house here.  Had no time for that in Michigan, but it's so nice to be caught up on laundry, do dishes by hand in the sink, and cook all the time with fresh ingredients.  I try to buy almost nothing in a can or package, if possible.  We buy all our fruits and veggies at a local market on Fridays, and stuff is super cheap.  For example, a pineapple is around 80 cents!  We also enjoy the variety of restaurants in town, and eat out about twice a week.  Once on half off sushi night, and another night some place else. 

We are looking forward to our first full year in Costa Rica!  I hope everyone has an awesome holiday season and safe and happy New Year!  Pura Vida!

PS  We love hearing how everyone is doing, so feel free to write any time!  We can also call the States, so any time you want or need to talk, let me know and I can call you for free!  XXOO

Thursday, December 11, 2014

TOPE Jaco, Solar Power and End of Rainy Season

I can slowly feel it getting busier in my little town, which corresponds totally with the end of rainy season.  From my reading, when they said rainy season was from mid-May until mid-November, I think I kinda thought on November 15, all rain would just STOP.  Nope, still rains SOME, but for very short periods.  Anyway, going into town now, especially on weekends, I can tell busy holiday season is starting as it is sometimes difficult to even find a parking spot.  Tourists from out of the country as well as in country are flocking to my nice beach town!  :).  Kinda like Manistee was in the summer months, except the Pacific Ocean kicks Lake Michigan's ass.  For one reason, Lake Michigan was always freezing and the Ocean is always warm........

A couple weeks ago, Kurt and I saw signs up in town for an event called Tope Jaco.  We had no idea what it was, so I googled it and found a Facebook page and other info online.  To break it down, basically it is a horse parade through town.  Local farms and owners bring their horses into town with fancy outfits and gear, and take the horses through downtown.  It is estimated it is 300+ horses.  The event starts at 200 PM.  This is 200 PM Tico time though, which meant it started at 530 PM.  We went down around 215 PM and decided to park by the gym to store our helmets and walk into town to have lunch.  Ended up at Pajara Pinta and had wraps and lemonade.  The restaurant is right on main street so we sat there chilling until the event started.

 I was a little annoyed it started late as that meant it was dusk and difficult to take pictures.  So, we went and stood on the street for the event and it was pretty kewl!  SO MANY horses.  More than I have ever seen at once in my life.  It was a neat event.  Apparently it is modeled after a parade held in Spain each year with thousands of horses.  That would be awesome to see as well.

I had posted previously that our solar was delivered.  It was sitting in boxes at my bodega as well as in my house.  Well, they are finally installing.  They had to get approval from the municipality for the project and finally got it last week. In typical Tico fashion, first they were supposed to start on Sat at 7 AM.  No show.  Then Monday at 700 AM.  No show.  Then Tuesday at 700 AM.  No show.  Finally, at 1030 on Tuesday they showed.  Installed the two solar boxes in the laundry room and did a little work outside.  Yesterday they showed at 730 AM (most timely they have been thus far LOL) and did more work on the area in the yard the structure is being built to house the units.  Today they came for like a short period to do some more electrical work and are now not coming back until Monday to start building the structure.  I thought it was amusing because at the start of the project the one guy said three days. My project manager said, no way its being done in three days.  Three days Tico time is what should have been said, haha.  Cant wait until its done and I eliminate my electric bill as well as some other bills.

Thanksgiving, we sat around watching football most of the day (GO LIONS!) and then RJ picked us up and we watched the night game and had dinner at Los Amigos in Jaco.  I had shrimp pad thai which was MUCH more up my alley than traditional Thanksgiving food, which I dont really like at all.  It was a nice night.  The next day, Black Friday, places in town had Black Friday sales, which I thought was funny since they dont celebrate Thanksgiving here.  I ended up going into my fav place, Tico Pod, and buying a new piece of art for a wall in the house that needed one.  No lines or the craziness like in the US, so that was nice for sure.

Haskell Law Offices is hiring an associate as long time attorney (and my good friend) Angie is leaving.  Sad she is leaving, but it is what it is and they have to move on.  I am helping Kory collect resumes and go through them.  He is super swamped so hopefully this takes one thing off his plate.  Jennifer has been setting up interviews with the ones I have found thus far.  Hopefully, he finds someone fairly quickly.  And Angie is staying on to help train the new person for the month of January at a minimum so that is really nice for Kory!

OK, pic below is a water pipe that had burst in town the other day!  It was crazy high water!

Not much else going on!  Hope everyone had a nice holiday.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Toucans, Woodpeckers, Jays, and Squirrels, OH MY!

Had an awesome day two days ago.  I had walked over to the kitchen sink to put something in there, and looked out the huge window that overlooks the backyard.  In the papaya tree, which is about 10 feet outside the window, was a toucan!  We have seen toucans at the house before, but usually pretty high up and far away in trees.  This was SO CLOSE.  The toucan was eating a papaya.  We don't pick them as we were hoping eventually animals would come eat them, and I so lucked out!  I took some pics through the kitchen window as I did not want to go outside and scare the toucan away.  After that, I noticed two more toucan in a tree right behind the papaya tree.  I stood there on and off most of the day watching them.  They are such awesome animals.  While there, I ended up seeing a Hoffmann's woodpecker, and two different Brown Jays, as well as a squirrel.  I guess it was animal day in the backyard!

I have a sinus infection, ugh.  Started yesterday and today, after getting up at 830 AM, I slept the rest of the day on the couch.  We had some more grass squares delivered and Kurt put those in while I slept.  Around 600 PM, I started getting hungry but did not have the energy to cook, so we headed into town to TacoBar and then stopped at the farmacia to get some meds for my ailment.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving in the USA!  It is not a holiday here, but many expats celebrate and many restaurants have turkey and such on the menu.  Since we don't eat meat, Thanksgiving food is not anything I care about anyway.  we are usually in Vegas on Thanksgiving though, this will be the first year in a while we did not go, nor have the desire to go.


 I finally started doing Rosetta Stone again, which is awesome.  Glad to be teaching myself Spanish again. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 17, 2014

Trip to the States

I took a trip to the States from November 10 to November 16 to visit my Mom and Grama in Florida.  My Grama lives in Port Richey Florida in the summer months.  I timed the flights so my Mom and I arrived in Michigan at the same time and left around the same time flying American Airlines.

I grabbed a ride to the airport with my friends Shawn and Chelsea since they were leaving Costa Rica the same time I was.  More on that later.  Trip to airport was fine. I was a tad concerned as there had been news that some landslides on the main highway has put traffic down to one lane, but it did not affect our travels at all.  Had lunch at Smash Burger in the airport with my friends and then my flight took off right on time!  :).  Got to Miami cleared customs and security again and made it to Tampa.  Got my luggage and then waited for my Mom's flight to land. Got her and headed over to Super Shuttle for our ride to Port Richey.  Got there at around 1100 PM.

Had a nice time in Port Richey.  We played Euchre at the club house, went shopping, got my hair cut with Maga at her salon, had my hair colored by my mom....went out to eat at the places we like.  Also all the stuff I had sent to Maga's in the mail we opened and packed up for me to bring back.  Had dinner one night too with Aunt Louise and Gail and Theresa and it was awesome to see all of them too.

My flights back were uneventful.  Took the Interbus shuttle back to Herradura and that went smoothly too.  Was really happy to be back in the nice weather here.  Never thought I would say this ever but Florida was chilly!  Crazy!

Before I left for Florida, we got into a scooter accident.  It was pretty scary.  A truck clipped the back of the scooter and we both flew off.  The truck was speeding around another vehicle as we were turning onto the main highway.  Anyway, I got really bad road rash on my leg and shoulder and my neck and shoulders were pretty sore after that.  Its been over a week and I am finally starting to feel like I am healing.  It could have been way worse though and Im thankful we are alive. People drive HORRIBLE here.  Weirdly, it was someone from the States who hit us.  He brought us home and our scooter in his truck.  We called insurance and they are fixing the bike, picking it up tomorrow.  Glad we have a back-up form of transportation.  I am still having flashbacks and nightmares though.  Ugh.

The weekend before I left, my friend Shawn and his wife Chelsea visited Jaco!  They stayed at the hotel right by my house and loved it.  We hung out with them quite a bit, went to the bar and sang karaoke, watched the Lions game, lots of meals was super fun.  Was super fun to show them around my Paradise.  Cant wait until they come back to visit again!  :)

Kurt painted the living room while I was gone.  He is still finishing up some spots, but I will try and post pics when he is done.  The color is a brownish gray, hard to describe but matches the kitchen perfectly.  I love it.  I hated the old color.

I have lots more to post about, but need to start making dinner so I will post later.  Pura Vida!

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Antoinette's Birthday Fun

Our friends, Antoinette and Doug, asked if we wanted to meet up for sushi last Friday.  Of course we did!  I found out the morning before they got here that it was also Antoinette's birthday, which she had failed to tell me!  Facebook knows all..........

Anyway, luckily, no rain.  We recommended I Love Sushi because they were bringing their puppies and we needed outdoor seating.  Met there, we pulled up and parked just as they were pulling up.  Got an outdoor table.  Food was amazing, and Kurt had a few too many drinks. I had an amazing banana smoothie. It was an fabulous lunch with awesome people.  We had a great time.  walked around Jaco a little afterwards do Doug and Kurt could buy grass seed (almost impossible to find in this country) and Antoinette could look for a shirt she wanted and saw the last time they were here.  She found the shirt, as well as a dress, and the boys got their grass seed that was finally in.  They bought the place out (of all 2 boxes).  I told them we need to do sushi for every birthday.

Had to get something notarized and learned some things about that system.  basically, only lawyers can be notaries in Costa Rica.  Also, not all lawyers are notarizes, it's a specialized training on top of being a lawyer, much more intense that in the US where you basically fill out some documents and send them in.  I was a notary, but I needed m signature notarized so I had to find someone here.  It was easy, just picked a lawyer's office, went in, he spoke English, signed and that was it.  Easy peasy.

We thought we were getting out car back this week, talked to our lawyer again today, and now customs is saying within 20 days.  I would scream, but I look at things differently here and it is what it is.  this is not the country to be pushy or not patient.  Things take time.

A company came to our house today in relation to solar panels.  They also gave us some ideas on conserving energy in the house.  We have to go to the municipality tomorrow to get our wiring and architectural pictures and get them to the guys, and then we go from there.  We are getting panels as well as a system that heats water.  Pretty soon, we will be like totally off the grid!  Also, because of the amount of panels we are getting, we may end up having almost zero bills per month.  Basically, if you use less energy than the panels produce, then ICE, the electric company, buys the energy back from you.  They then apply it to other bills you have, like internet, cell phones, satellite.  So, if we may have no regular utility bills by the time we are done each month.  Our only bills per month then would be food and gas for the car/scooter.  And then other yearly bills like insurances and the like.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Cooking in Costa Rica and Sushi Wednesdays!

I have been cooking a lot in Costa Rica and eating a lot at home.  Trying out a lot new recipes.  Some good, some not.

One of my most recent favorites is falafel burgers.  SO good. The recipe makes exactly enough for Kurt and I for dinner.  I make them and put them over rice, and add some fresh guac and hot sauce to the top.  The first time I added some black beans to the rice as well, so it was kinda a mix of a Costa Rican and Middle Eastern meal.  Have made that twice, both times super good.

Another meal I made recently I really liked was pasta with cauliflower alfredo sauce.  So, healthy alfredo sauce!  Made oregano garlic parmesan toast to go with it.  Kurt was not a huge fan of the cauliflower sauce, but I loved it.  It made a lot, so I froze the remainder.

I also made a homemade spicy marinara sauce to go with pasta, with extra to freeze.  That one was a winner for everyone in the household.  Whoot.   This recipe is flawed that I posted though.  It said to use 4 oz of tomatoes, and I knew that could not be right, that is barely a serving.  So, I upped it to 28 oz as I saw other recipes called for.

I made these pancakes in muffins tins.  You can't see from the pic but they cave in the middle so you can put fruit or whatever in them.  I just put the fruit all over the top for Kurt with syrup.  He liked them a lot, but there were way too many.  Next time need to freeze the remainder or have them the next meal.


We don't drink very often, but the other day at the grocery store, Kurt found Rum and Coke in a can!  He of course has to buy it.  He liked them both, but the Bamboo brand slightly more.  And my vodka drink was super yummy.


We are still eating out only about once a week unless we have friends visiting.  However, I recently discovered that Jaco sushi places have half off on Wednesdays!  So last Wednesday, we ventured out to Tsunami Sushi for half off.  The entire menu is not half off, but about 75% of the sushi rolls are.  We had an awesome meal.  We will def be doing that more on Wednesdays.  Really enjoyed the meal.


Scooters and Pharmacies

So, I posted before about the scooters we got, which we are loving.  This is a good thing, since we have been without a car since August 2.  While our friend was visiting the States, we borrowed his, but since he got back, we have been solely using the scooters. 

Basically, when you move to Costa Rica and drive a car here, you have 90 days to pay the taxes on it.  This is not simple though.  You have to leave the car with a customs agent who has to have someone from the government inspect it and put a *value* on it.  This is not based on USA blue book.  It's their calculation.  You have to turn over a copy of the title as well as the invoice from purchasing the vehicle, your passport copy and some other random items.  Once they determine the value, you pay between 30-50% tax to bring your car into the country.  This seems really high, however, buying a car here is SUPER expensive and will be about 50% higher than the USA anyway, so either way, you are going pay this *tax*.  Anyway, there have been some complications with getting a valuation on our car.  First, our car is a 2013 Nissan Xterra, which apparently has not been valued yet in Costa Rica.  So, this is confusing for them I guess.  We are supposedly going to have the car back next week, but as with anything in Costa Rica, I am not holding my breath or holding anyone to that approximation.  It will be nice to have it back as it is rainy season, so we basically cannot do anything that involves leaving our house if it is raining.  And you totally cannot predict the rain.  Some days, nothing.  Other days, rains all day.  We try to when we see it is sunny, get on the bikes and do what we need to do, like the gym, grocery store, any errands.

Anyway, back when we first started riding the scooters, I started hopping on the back of Kurt's bike because it was just easier.  There is this hill and bump at the end of our street that had gotten worse because of the rain and some work trucks that came through.  The wheel on Kurt's turned weird and the scooter fell.  We were barely moving, so it just kind of tipped over.  Kurt fell one way, I fell the other.  The way I fell, my leg fell on the exhaust? which is very hot.  So, a big part of my leg was burned, like really far down.  I did not even realize this at first.  I thought I had scrapped my leg really badly.  I was shaking it hurt so bad and started to walk home because there was no way in hell I was getting back on the scooter, LOL.  Got home and realized it was burned.  It hurt so bad though, I could not even touch it.  Kurt got some bandages for me and I put those on, but they were not really good since when I would change them over, they would pull skin off that was regrowing.  This was all right before we had Lisa and Brian in town, so I avoided going to the pharmacy to get something.  Once they left, we went to the pharmacy and they gave me a cream that was an antibiotic, pain reliever and something else I can't recall.  This stuff worked immediately.  It made me feel better and it started to heal the area.  So, now it is totally healed for the most part.  However, it is still red and looks crappy.  I am hoping it eventually looks like my actual *leg* again and not like an injury.

I quickly got over my fear of the scooter though and jumped back on.  No falls since.  That part of the road is fixed now and before it got fixed, I was getting off the bike and Kurt would walk it up.  He felt really badly I got hurt and he was not going to fall there again with my on the bike.

Kurt's allergies have started to act up here again, so he took his old Flonase nose spray into the pharmacy to get it filled.  They don't have Flonase here, but they gave him something similar that he says is working.  Whoot.  Love not having to visit a dr to get a prescription. It rocks. 

Wow, time flies in Paradise!  No postings since August 17?

We had our first visitors over the last weekend in August.  Lisa and Brian, two of our friends from Michigan, came to Costa Rica.  Lisa found some insanely low price via Delta to fly out and booked it.  Lisa is a friend of mine from high school in Manistee, and Brian is her husband.  Lisa is also an attorney, like I formerly was in my past life.  They are the ONLY people I know who travelled more than Kurt and I did.  They also are obsessed with animals and have no children, so they are very similar to us. 

Anyway, Lisa and Brian flew into San Jose late, so they spent the night then headed over to Jaco in their rental SUV.  They stayed at Los Suenos, which I recommended since they are Marriott fans.  We got to see the pool area and their room and the place seemed very nice.  They also got a kickass rate because it is "low or green" season here.  Saturday they got here mid afternoon, and Kurt and I headed over on the scooter to find them.  Los Suenos has some killer speed bumps on the scooter!  Found Lisa and Brian by the pool so we laid there a bit and made a reservation online to do Jose's Crocodile Tour in Tarcoles at 4 PM.  We got a call seeing if we could come at 315 instead so we raced over there.  Got there, and the guy who owns the place goes to our gym!  Kewl we know somebody who runs a tour we really like.  The tour was awesome, saw lots of birds and crocs.  We saw this bird I have never seen that is pink, but not a flamingo.  Called a Spoonbill.  Click here to see a pic.  Mine came out blurry as they were far away and it was starting to get dark. 

After that, headed into town for dinner as Lisa and Brian were getting hungry after a long day.  We ate at Taco Bar that night and everyone had a great meal.  After that, stopped at the pharmacy as I needed some bandaids and Lisa needed sunscreen.  While there, we think we saw a prostitute with her pimp getting some medication for a medical "issue".  That was our interpretation anyway, haha.  Called it a night after that, as we knew we were getting up early the next morning.

Got up early Sunday to go to Manuel Antonio National Park and on a hike.  Drive there was easy, parked and paid for our entry ticket.  While in line, we were approached by a park ranger who offered to give us a private tour.  We hired him, and off we went.  He told Lisa if she did not see a sloth, we would get our money back.  This was perfect since seeing a sloth was the main thing Lisa wanted to do while in Costa Rica.  She also wanted to see a tapir, but those are in really remote areas we did not have time to get to this trip.  I have never seen a sloth at Manuel, so I was excited the guide said that!  We saw not only one sloth, but like 8!  It was sloth craziness!  We also saw both capuchin and squirrel monkeys, which was awesome, since squirrel monkeys are rare outside the Osa.  It was an awesome tour. 

Our Guide, Leo, also offered to do the Damas Monkey Island Tour with us the next day, so we set up a meeting place for that and left.  Left there and had lunch at this awesome place called El Avion, which my friend Kim recommended.  It was soooooo good.  I had a lobster burger, and shrimp soup.  Both superb and our view, from the best table in the place, was killer.  I also had a great banana drink.  That night for dinner, we ate at Los Amigos.  Awesome day.

Next day was the Damas Monkey Island Tour.  Had to get up insanely early for this one and met Leo in Quepos.  Headed to the river for the tour.  This tour, Lisa really wanted to see an anteater.  Leo said he would try and find one.  We were also guaranteed to see a crocodile or our money back.  First thing we saw were capuchin monkeys.  We pulled up to the mangroves and the monkeys were jumping all over us and the boat.  It was somewhat chaotic.  They really like bananas.  After that, we saw a boa and the anteater.  The anteater was not what I was expecting though.  It was a variety called the silky anteater, which is a lot smaller than the anteaters I have seen.  It is orange, and the one we saw was pregnant and high up in a tree sleeping, kinda like a sloth does.  Very kewl we saw one though.  The views in the mangroves were relaxing and stunning.  I love the mangroves. 

After the tour, we headed into town to have breakfast at another place with an amazing view.  I have a breakfast burrito that was incredible.  We decided to chill at the beach after that.  Parked and rented chairs.  Then this woman approached us and asked if we wanted massages.  Duh.  Everyone but Kurt got hour massages.  Walked some on the beach, Kurt and Brian drank a few rum and cokes, and Lisa and Brian ended up going parasailing for only $75 total!

 Lisa and I got offered free surf lessons too, but we turned them down since we were both wearing bikinis which are not what you wear to learn how to surf.  All of us got way too much sun.  No clue why I forgot sunscreen, but it was not bad and had faded by the next day.  Dinner that night was without Kurt as he had to co-host his one radio show, so we decided to try a place I have not been to called Pajara Pinta.  It was incredible.  They use all local, natural ingredients.  You can't even order a Coke.  I got this mahi wrap that was awesome.  We also ordered hummus for the table to share.  The lemonade I got was incredible as well.  It was so good I took Kurt there on Saturday night for date night a couple weeks ago.

Lisa and Brian left the next morning, but I would say the trip was a raging success!  Can't wait for more visitors.









Sunday, August 17, 2014

Life Update

Not a lot of posting lately, as life is just happening and nothing ultra exciting is going on.  Which is fine with me, as too much excitement exhausts me.

We fired our yard guy.  Well, told him we did not need his help anymore.  When we first started using him, he worked hard and for the entire day and showed up every day except Sunday.  But as time went on, a lot of things he did started to annoy us.  First, every day, Kurt would get up at 655 AM to unlock our gate.  Kurt is a light sleeper, so basically once he gets up for the morning he cannot come back to bed and sleep.  The guy started just showing sporadically.  Which annoyed Kurt since he was getting up early to let the guy in every day.  And the guy would never tell us ahead of time if he was not showing up.  We talked to him about it, asked him to let us know or text if he was not going to be over.  He did it like once then just started showing when he wanted again.  We might have been able to deal with that, however, shortly after that, his work product started to diminish.  I kept telling Kurt we were being "ticoed", which basically means someone from Costa Rica taking advantage of people not originally from here because of the language barrier or whatever.  He was supposed to work from 7 AM until 4 PM with an hour lunch.  He started showing up later and later, taking longer lunches, leaving earlier, and wanting to be paid for the 8 hour day.  And it is hard to tell if he even is there or not as he works throughout the property.  Also I have no desire to stalk my workers and follow them around to see if things are being done.  We also noticed he was bringing him one kid to work and playing with him instead of working, taking calls, talking on his cell about 50% of the time while working, and taking many breaks to talk to or hang out with the guys working across the street on the neighbor's property.  Anyway, finally enough was enough.  Kurt decided that we are going to work on our own property for a while, and if we get sick of it, hire someone else to do the job.  Lots of people around here need and want the work and will actually do it.  I am not going to pay someone to simply hang out at my property and work at 50%.

Speaking of working on the yard, I actually did some yard work.  Which is very rare.  I don't mind doing almost everything around the house, but I don't usually do yard work as I hate getting dirt on my clothes, in my nails, etc. We had a huge storm the other day and a lot of branches, bromeliads, and leaves fell in the yard.  Kurt was napping, and I went out with the wheelbarrow and started picking everything up.  Once Kurt woke up, he came out and helped me and we got it all done pretty quickly.  The lawn guy would have take an entire day or more I think.  He would pick up a branch, drag it to a pile while talking on his phone.  Take a break, get water, take another call.  Anyway, the yard work is exhausting!  Like another work out for the day.  I could really feel it in my legs the next day as I was working different muscles than a normal workout.

I have been cooking and baking a LOT.  I made mashed potatoes from scratch for the first time in my life the other day.  Kurt was thrilled as mashed potatoes are one of his fav foods.  I also have been making a ton of different muffins and breads as snacks for us.  I also finally bought the ingredients to make my chickpea cookie dough here and its nice to have that snack around again.

We went on this crazy hunt today for a dehumidifier.  Annoying.  Could not find one anywhere, and Kurt was driving me insane as he was getting more and more annoyed.  Certain things that would be simple to find in seconds or order online in the States are difficult to find here sometimes.  I told him to just let me post online on one of my boards and I would figure it out quickly, but instead, we went to like 10 places looking.  Of course, as soon as we got home, I figured it out pretty quickly.  Have a couple leads for used ones we will check out, or we will buy closer to San Jose on our next trip out there.

Still dogsitting for another week or so.  The cats will be happy when this is done with, as they have been stuck in one room since the dogsitting started. Poor kitties.

I found this app that lets me call the States for free on my phone called MagicJack.  Love it.  I am now calling my Mom every Monday night as Kurt is cohosting a radio show with a friend.  He is going to be hosting another show on Fridays soon as well.  I was so excited to find a way to call the States free of charge.

We are going to get an estimate for getting solar power at our house.  The most expensive bill by far here is the electric bill per month.  Supposedly with solar power you can reduce your electric bill by 75% plus.  So we are going to get info on it.

Pura Vida!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Happy Birthday, baby Midas!

Midas is one!

I can't believe how time has flown this past year.  My baby is one!  Luckily for me, he still acts like my baby.  :)

I lost my boy Vito a year ago, which was devastating for me.  Even though he was sick and I knew it was going to happen, it did not make it any easier since Vito was my favorite.  He was such a loving, happy go lucky doggy.

However, I can now see a LOT of Vito in Midas, and I think in a way, Vito is still with us, through Midas.  Midas is so friendly, happy go lucky, and always nice to all humans and other animals.  He is also obsessed with Gretel, just like Vito was.  He is such a sweet dog, never getting angry and always giving lots of kisses and love.  The other day, Gretel tried to push him in the pool and he did not get mad at all.  Oscar and Gretel are always trying to steal his snacks, and he just lets them take his food.  he also will let the other pugs eat before him, and be the third to eat at the pug food dish.  He patiently waits.

Some unique things about Midas.  He LOVES to play fetch. I have never had a pug who fetched.  He can play for hours.  Sometimes he has issues giving me the toy to throw, but he always brings it back!  :).  Midas does what we call "fake bark".  He will want someone's attention, but instead of barking he opens his mouth, acts like he is barking, and nothing comes out.  He will also do fake bark on command.  I know he can actually bark as we have heard it, but he mostly choose to fake bark.  Midas is not big on human food, and does not really beg Kurt for snacks like the others do.  However, if you have anything that is sugary (i.e. candy, cereal, muffins), he will literally freak out and hound you.  Only sugar though.  Anything else is not that exciting to him.  Midas loves Costa Rica and the nice weather.  He spends a lot of time outside, even by himself, just sitting on the porch or running around the yard.  The other pugs like to be inside with us or near us on the porch.  Midas wants everyone outside all the time watching him.

Tomorrow, we are going to either make or buy Midas his own birthday snack.  I will try and take a picture, but I have a feeling the snack will be gone very quickly.......

Happy Birthday, Midas Ezekiel Haskell!  We love you to the moon and back.

Thursday, August 07, 2014


We are dogsitting our neighbor R.J.'s dogs for three weeks (started last Thursday).  He is back in the States getting married.  The dogs are two Yorkies that get along perfectly with the pugs.  But, it is a houseful of pets and kinda crazy!  :).  Luckily, we like dogs more than people..........

I made my own applesauce today.  Apples are not cheap in Costa Rica as the apples we know in the US are not grown here.  However, for some reason, the grocery store had them marked half off today, so I bought some and made awesome applesauce.  It turned out great.  It was pretty simple really, with the exception of the labor of peeling all the apples.  I used 12 apples, so that took me some time.  I had to do two batches too since I did not have a big enough pot to cook them all at once (really need some more kitchen pots here).  Also, used my new food processor and it worked awesome.  Yay!  Here is the recipe:  Also, made another batch of guac while the apples were cooking.  I am a pro, I don't need to even look at the recipe any longer, :).

I also made Vegan Cream of Broccoli soup the other day.  I had broccoli that I needed to use up and this was made.  Super easy and looked yummy, however, it was for Kurt since I don't like broccoli.  I

Next on the list to make is cinnamon bread.  Was going to make tonight, but was kind of worn out from our workout tonight.

We took RJ to the airport on Thursday and afterwards stopped in San Jose to pickup the plates for the scooters.  Got those, then decided to stop at Taco Bar in Escazu for lunch, then Pricesmart to get a membership and Walmart for grass seed.  Pricesmart is like the Costco of Costa Rica.  Americans love it.  Lots of things we are used to from the US, but for reasonable prices instead of the crazy prices the grocery stores charge for American products.  There really is not much American I wanted, however, I really did not want to buy some things in bulk like paper towel, toilet paper.  I also got a food processor much cheaper than they are in Jaco.  We bought a bunch of candy and crap, and were sorry we did after the fact.  Will not be making that mistake next time.  I think it's because we had not seen some of the stuff in so long, we were like OH, that looks good, let's grab that.  Overall, great trip though.  And, we finally found grass seed.  No place in Jaco seems to sell it, or they are out.  Walmart and EPA had it, but WalMart had the kind that I wanted.  Whoot.

Oh!  I finally got mail.  We signed up with this company where you get an address in Miami, and then your mail gets forwarded to Jaco.  You get an email telling you that you have mail and you can pick it up the next day.  All sounds great except that we got an email, went there, nothing. This happened 5 times and they never had our mail.  SOMEHOW a miracle happened today and ALL our mail appeared there.  3 Pinconning Journals (kurt's mom got him a subscription a while back), a card from my sister, and my new drivers license.  Hooray for mail!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

New Pool Chairs

We decided when moving here to simply buy things slowly, as we found exactly what we wanted.  We are in no rush to fill the house with "things", and we have no need for having everything done immediately.   I have been watching Craiglist and Jaco boards on Facebook to see if things come up to buy that speak to me....

I previously went to a wedding in Florida for my friend, Katie.  At that wedding, outside, there were there amazing chairs that I loved.  I told Kurt I wanted one, but in Michigan, you cannot really have outside furniture for most of the year, so it was pointless to get one.  Plus, in MI, the only time I really spent outside was working out, not sitting on my back porch relaxing.  Here, we are on the front porch and in the pool area all the time, so awesome furniture makes sense.

Anyway, I saw some awesome chairs listed and HAD to look at them.  So, we headed to Hermosa Palms today, the area where the chairs were at, which is about 15 minutes from where we live.  It is down this horrible dirt road (this road would seriously drive me insane if I lived in Hermosa).  Got there and LOVED the chairs.  The couple had other stuff for sale too, but nothing that we need for the house, unfortunately.  Made an offer on the chairs, she called to get someone to deliver them, and we are the proud owners of some super kewl pool chairs.  We have already napped and hung out in them.  The pugs quickly figured them out too.  I have a feeling that once Bugsy is better and outside again, he will be loving those chairs and will lie right in the center of them.  :).

Tonight, I was proud of myself.  I really wanted to skip the gym and get fish tacos or a mahi burger from this new place that opened under the gym.  The chef is from this place that closed that I loved called Bohio's.  Bohio's closed because the owner is in prison for money laundering or something and awaiting trial.  So, Bohio's closed, and I guess the chef opened a new place.  It's nothing fancy at all, but I am guessing the food is incredible.  Of course, it's right under the gym and tempts me daily.  Then Kurt says, you know, you really can take a night off from working out, you work out twice a day.  He was NOT helping at all.  Anyway, I said no, I want to work out, and we did, and I made healthy dinners.  That may not be the case next time, LOL.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Car Stuff in Costa Rica

We have an SUV in Costa Rica, a Nissan Xterra, that Kurt drove from Michigan to Costa Rica.  This post is about the maintenance we have had to do on our car while here and the cost.

First, we needed an oil change right after I arrived here since Kurt drove so far to get here.  We took it to a place that you drove up to and they lifted the car in the air, with us inside. No wait.  The cost was about what it is in the States, but we got higher end oil. Super nice guy who owned the place.  Very close to our house in Herradura.

Today, we needed to get a flat repaired and changed, and wanted the car detailed since it was filthy from Kurt's trip down here.  Took it to the local gas station we usually fill up at.  In Michigan, a car detail would cost around $150.00 (for inside and out).  Also, there is generally an appointment that has to be made, and you usually have to leave your car there for hours.  In Costa Rica, drove right up and got in.  Total was $11.00.  They did an awesome job.  The tire patch was $6.00.  The guy fixed the tire, then switched it over for us and put our spare back underneath the car.  Super fast service.  Not sure what the cost for that in the States would have been.  But, I know it would not have been as easy or fast.

We ate at a new place or date night for sushi called Arigato.  I updated my restaurant post to include a review, but thumbs up to this place.  :).  Jaco was crazy busy today because of the holiday.  We lucked out though and got a table right away at Arigato.  SUPER long wait at POPS for ice cream.  Usually we walk right in and up to the counter.

I was a cooking fool today.  I made a new batch of guac and tartar sauce, as well as a strawberry banana bread.  I also made a new recipe of smashed potatoes for Kurt and black bean burgers.  I made a new pudding too which only has three ingredients and was super yummy and healthy. 

I also finished painting the wood for my closet that Kurt is going to build. So, hopefully he starts on that soon.  I would love to hang all my clothes up and stop living out of suitcases.

Bugsy it done with his antibiotic shots at the vet and now gets drops at home only.  We have a recheck appointment on Thursday.  Each time we have gone in though, they seem to think his eye looks better and better.  We have been barring Bugsy from going outside though as we don't want him to get into anything that will bother the eye.  He spends a lot of time in my bathroom in the sink.  Weird cat.  LOL.

Pura Vida!

Friday, July 25, 2014

First Vet Visit in Costa Rica--Bugsy's Adventures

Generally, we keep our gate closed, but it blows open once in a while when not locked.  Two of these times, Bugsy has taken the opportunity to leave the yard and get lost.  Yes, I have such a high maintenance cat that he cannot get home once lost in a field of weeds and trees.  We have two lots located on each side of us that are empty.  One is for sale, and overgrown as the owner does not have it cleared very often.  The other one is more cleared. 

The first time Bugsy got lost, it was on the cleared field and near the edge. I heard him meowing, and found him. I think he got stuck in a rain storm and was scared to come home.  I picked him up and brought him home and that was that.  This time, he went in the other uncleared field.  We could see him on the other side of the fence.  But, you cannot get under our fence or over it, so the only way to get him was to go in the field.  Simpler said than done.  When someone does not clear their lot, there are generally lots of fun things living in it, i.e. snakes, spiders, bugs, all of which could or might not be poisonous.  So, we did not want to walk the 40 feet back that Bugsy was.  Kurt decided to drive.

He drove the SUV back while I stood on the other side of the fence with a flashlight on my iPhone to show him where Bugsy was.  He got there, grabbed Bugsy and put him in the car and backed out.  As soon as he pulled in the driveway, I heard a hissing sound from the tire.  Yep, flat tire from thorns or something in the next door lot.  Ugh.  Thanks Bugsy. 

I thought I noticed his eye looking hurt, but Kurt thought he got into catnip and was just drugged out.  So, we took him in the house and he retired for the night.  We went for a walk since we were too late for the gym after all this mess.

The next day, we looked more closely at Bugsy and it looked like I was right and he had scratched his eye. So, we took him in right away to the vet in Herradura (which is right across from Los Suenos Resort in a little mini strip of stores).  We had been in there before to buy flea and tick stuff and deworming pills (which are monthly here).  The vet there speaks great English.

Took Bugsy in and we were seen right away, even with no appointment.  Bugsy was being a pain in the ass, so they ended up sedating him which made it way easier.  They had to put a dye in his eye to look at the cut, which they thought appeared pretty deep.  However, they made up two eye drops for him, and while he was out, cut all the debris out of his fur that got embedded during Bugsy's great adventure in the lot next door.  Since Bugsy will not take pills, we were told we had to take him back every morning for  days to get a shot for possible infection.

Grand Total for appointment, all followup appointments and all drugs and shots as well as a specialist looking at pics of his eye and progress?  $90.00.  So much cheaper than the US. 

Anyway, Bugsy seems to be doing better daily.  We have taken him two mornings now for his shots and he is much better behaved now.  I think he was mad the first time because they had to take blood, which required shaving him and he hates the sound of the shaver.  He gets really mad if you try to remove his fur, LOL.

So, that was our first vet experience here.  We loved our vets in MI, but I am liking the quick service and prices here even more. Pura Vida!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Restaurant Reviews

I have been living in Costa Rica for a little over 2 months now, and wanted to share a post about places we have eaten and our thoughts.  Some we have eaten at other times before we moved here as well.  It's hard to pick favorites, as we like different places for different reasons and food.  Here goes though.  I will update this list as we try different places as well and will try to post links to those that have websites.

1.  Green Room Café.  We have eaten here twice for dinner since moving here.  A couple local people recommended it to me, and we finally tried it.  Awesome place.  They have a regular menu, and a special menu that is written out on a chalkboard in the restaurant.  There is indoor and outdoor seating.  They have live music on most Friday and Saturday nights.  They also have a lot of local art displayed inside, which I believe is for sale.  I have also heard that they have an organic market there sometimes, but I have not asked when.  I need to do that.  Anyway, both times we ate there, no wait and easy to get a table.  We were told to sit anywhere we wanted to and both times, we sat indoors.  Both times, we ordered the exact same meals, so I guess we must have liked them!  :).  We started with two appetizers, falafel and guacamole.  Both awesome.  Kurt was leery of the falafel, but the second time we ate there, he ate that entire app himself!  The chips served with the guac are really good and taste homemade.  For my meal, I had the best mahi burrito of my life.  It was super spicy and just incredible.  Kurt had a grilled jalapeno and cheese sandwich with fries.  The sandwich is made with thick bread and the fries crispy.  We both had sodas, but one time Kurt had a juice that he really enjoyed. The second time we ate here, our friend RJ joined us.  He started with ceviche and had the mahi tacos, both of which he raved about.  One note, the Costa Ricans seem to like to go heavy with the cabbage on the tacos, so if you are not a fan, order none or ask for light.  RJ took about half of his off the tacos and I would have too if I ordered them.  The website says cash only, but we have paid with a card both times so I think that is an old entry.  We heard no music the first trip there, but the second time there was an acoustic duo playing American type music and they were really good.  Service has been awesome both times.  Prices are very reasonable.  I think our meal each time was around $40, but that was for drinks, 2 apps, and 2 meals.  They also use all local ingredients to cook their meals and make drinks.  I imagine we will be back here many times over.

2.  Taco Bar.  This is one of my fav places to eat in the world.  It is VERY casual, the one in Jaco anyway.  There is a bar you can sit at with swings, or there are tables outside to sit at as well.  We ate here many times before moving here, and we have eaten here twice since moving back.  They have 3 other locations besides the Jaco one, but the only other one I have been to is in Escazu, and I prefer Jaco, just for the casual beach environment.  Anyway, I get the same thing every single time I go here.  Ahi tuna tacos (two) spicy and well done with cheese.  You order at the window, they bring you the tacos on shells, and then you go to the salad bar in the middle of the restaurant to put the toppings on your tacos.  I usually add lettuce, onion, a spicy sauce they have.  They also have these little potatoes that everyone raves about.  Kurt eats a ton of these every trip.  They have bread as well that is pretty yummy.  You can go to the salad bar as many times as you want, so I have seen people go back multiple times for more salad or potatoes.  Kurt gets smoothies there for most meals and raves about those as well, but I usually get a Diet Coke.  We have never had a bad meal here.  We went with another couple last time, and our male friend said it was the best taco bar he has ever been to, which is saying a lot since he is from the land of taco bars, San Diego.  Prices are reasonable here as well, I think our bill is usually around $25.00.  Side note, they have breakfast here as well.

3.  Los Amigos.  Probably the most popular sports bar in Jaco.  Located on a corner near Taco Bar and El Lagar.  They have a huge menu here for a sports bar, with lots of variety in food. Kurt's fav thing here is the menu item called Big Ass Smoothie.  He adds extra protein and its great for workouts.  Anyway, I always get the shrimp pad thai and its incredible.  Kurt gets the mahi rice bowl most trips.  We had a guac app once that I would say was OK.  They served it with crackers in a package, and I thought that was a turnoff as I hate anything in a package.  But, it was decent besides that. We always get awesome service.  We tried to go here to watch one of the Costa Rica soccer games recently and the entire place was reserved ahead of time, so that shows how popular they are.  They have both indoor and outdoor seating and take credit cards.

4.  Caliche's Wishbone Restaurant and Bar.  We have been here twice after moving and had eaten here once prior to moving.  The seating is right on the Jaco strip so its great for people watching.  The appetizers here are awesome.  We have gotten a couple, both with chips and black beans or guac.  Both good.  I always get the mahi burrito here and it's great.  It used to be my fav until I discovered the one I really like at The Green Room (above).  Credit cards accepted.  Great service and have never had a bad meal here.

5.  Graffiti.  We have been here three times, all prior to moving here.  I consider this higher end dining, for Jaco anyway.  This in no way means you have to dress up though and casual is kind of the way of the land in Jaco and Costa Rica in general.  I think I wore a sundress and sandals.  Anyway, the décor in this place is awesome.  All graffiti covering the walls.  It is a small place, so on busy nights, I would recommend reservations.  We were lucky each time and they fit us in, but it was slammed each time we were there.  It is also kind of out of the way and hard to find, so ask around as it is not right on the main strip.  The menu here is on a whiteboard and changes daily and sometimes changes while you are there depending on availability. Every meal I have had here is creative and awesome.  We also split a dessert there one time for Kurt's bday, it was called Elvis something or other and it was truly amazing.  One of the best I have ever had.  Service is always awesome, and the place is just a gem. Credit cards accepted.   Highly recommend for a nicer meal out.

6.  Lemon Zest.  This place is raved about by everyone I encounter and it is a favorite for people.  We ate here once after the move.  I would suggest reservations on busy nights, but we lucked out and got a table.  They have indoor and outdoor seating.  This place is higher end, both in price and ambiance.  I would say it may even be a little snobby for Kurt and I, since we like casual places.  Service was perfect though.  They had a regular menu and specials which are told to you by the waiter.  Truthfully, I would prefer special written down so I don't have to remember them.  I had a seafood soup that was amazing, followed by a coconut shrimp entrée.  Both fabulous and prepared perfectly.  Prices are high for Jaco, but the food is worth it here.  Credit cards accepted.

7.  Jaco Taco.  I have eaten here once, and it was the night I arrived in Costa Rica to live and I was exhausted.  But, they were open as they are 24 hours, and Kurt had no food in the house since he can't cook without me.  Mexican food is very sparse in Costa Rica, so this place is popular when one wants to get a Mexican fix.  Great service, although we were the only table when we were there late at night.  I had a burrito and it was awesome.  It also was a great serving size, as I was starving and it filled me up.  Prices are great, and it's awesome to have a place open all night in Jaco in case you are craving a snack.  Kurt ate here quite often before I moved down, and he liked every meal.  It's a great place to watch the game, and they play American sports so Kurt would watch the Tigers.

8.  Amancio's.  Italian place in Jaco.  Pizza and pastas.  We should have only ordered one pizza.  We thought they were smaller sized, but they were HUGE.  I had a tuna and onion pizza and Kurt had cheese.  We ended up bringing home the equivalent of an entire pizza.  Super good food and exceptional service.  Indoor and outdoor seating, we sat outdoors here.  We also had a yummy bruschetta appetizer.  The credit card machine went down while we were eating, so we had to pay cash, which could have been a problem if we had no cash, but it was fine.  TVs to watch as you eat as well. 

9.  Pizza Pata.  Kurt ate here once before I moved down, and the other day, we were waiting for our travel agent to finish with some other people and he was hungry, so we stopped in.  I ordered a tuna and spinach one slice pizza and Kurt ordered three cheese. The pizza is awesome and a huge serving for one slice.  Cooked while we were there, and the prices were low.  Service was great.  They also have cheese and crushed pepper in packets on the table.  And wow, that crushed pepper was spicy, even for me!  Many say this is the best pizza in Jaco.  I don't have much to compare it to, but I thought it was pretty great.  They also deliver.

10.  Pops.  Chain ice cream place.  Lots of choices, both yogurt and ice cream.  Lots of different shakes, sundaes and other ways to have your ice cream.  I have not had much here, as I usually just go with Kurt and watch him eat.  But, I had a sundae there once with caramel ice cream and it was amazing.  They have waffle bowls for the sundaes made from scratch that were awesome.  Quick service and good prices.

11.  Heladeria El Barco.  Located next to Restaurant El Barco.  Gelato style ice cream served in a variety of ways.  Super yummy.  I have only technically eaten there once and had a cookie gelato that was amazing, one scoop in a cone.  Kurt has tried a lot and likes it all.  They have this meal you can get with a waffle and ice cream on top that looks amazing.  Have not had that yet.
12.  I Love Sushi.  When we ate here the first time, pre-move, it was located on the main highway and not in downtown Jaco.  They have since moved to downtown Jaco.  We ate here one time since moving.  The service was perfect in both locations.  The last time we ate there, the waiter brought out a free appetizer to try, fried green beans, that were awesome.  We both started with miso soup, and split three sushi rolls.  The rolls were all incredible.  Kurt commented it was possibly the best sushi he ever had.  Downfall to this place is price.  It seemed really high priced for Jaco.  Our bill was around $70 and we did not have alcohol, just sodas.  Supposedly, the local favorite place for sushi that has more reasonable prices is Arigato, so we will be trying that next for sushi just to save money.
13.  Dolce Vita.  I met up with a friend for lunch and she suggested Dolce Vita.  This place is located in the marina shopping area in Los Suenos Resort in Herradura.  This place has a menu and also inside, lots of bakery like treats and desserts.  I was not super hungry, so I had a bowl of minestrone soup which came with some amazing bread.  The soup was awesome.  My friend had soup and bread as well.  Service was good and there was seating outside and inside.  Prices were reasonable as well and the views are great there.

14. Surf Dogs.  Ate here once while watching Costa Rica lose in the World Cup.  Boo.  Kurt and I split some appetizers and I had one passionfruit daiquiri.  They have all these premixed units on the wall with different flavors.  Anyway, the daiquiri was incredible and left me buzzed the entire time I was there and after.  So, fabulous drinks.  The food was below average.  I was starving, so it hit the spot, but was your typical bar food that is nothing special.  Service was OK.  Waitress did not come to the table very often to see if we needed more to drink.  The place was slammed though, so I will cut her some slack.   I would prob not eat here again, but would have drinks for sure.

15.  Arigato.  Sushi.  Always busy, and is supposedly THE place to get sushi.  Once seated, I noticed the Happy Hour Specials on the table which look great, but alas, it was not happy hour while we were there.  That's OK though.  Prices were about half of what I Love Sushi were, so that was great.  Rolls were not as "fancy" or filling, but were good just the same.  We ordered two miso soups and three rolls to split.  The miso was awesome and had some little noodles instead of tofu, which Kurt loved.  Super yummy.  Service was great and quick.  Super friendly staff. Highly recommend.

Border Run to Nicaragua from Herradura

In Costa Rica, you have to leave the country every 90 days and re-enter if you are not a resident. Technically, if you have applied to be a resident, you do not have to do this, however, there is another law that says if you do not leave every day and are not a resident, you cannot legally drive and your insurance is invalid.  So, even though Kurt and I have applied for residency, we still had to do this border run in order to still be able to legally drive in the country.

Kurt was coming up on his 90 days on August 1, so we decided to go on Friday together and get on the same schedule.  I had until September since I was in Michigan in June for a wedding, but we want to be on the same time schedule to make things easier.  Hopefully we are approved soon and don't have to keep doing this.

The law used to say that you had to leave for 72 hours before you could come back, but, that is no longer necessary. 

We had two country choices, Nicaragua and Panama.  I read a lot online before doing this and decided that Nicaragua seemed like less of a hassle, so we headed to the border at Penas Blancas. 

Got up early and stopped once to get gas and some snacks. The drive was LONG.  It should have been about 3 hours, but there was a TON of construction and traffic, and it took about 4 hours.  I downloaded this great app called Waze, that a lot of people in Costa Rica use. It was great telling us where police officers were ahead of time, since using a radar detector is not useful in this country since the police do not use radar for the most part.

When we got there, we parked right next the entrance.  You can get a guy to watch your case for a few bucks.  You don't have to, but I would not chance leaving my car there and pissing them off by not paying.  You can also exchange money in case you plan on going into Nicaragua for lunch or seeing the sites.  We exchanged a small amount of money and headed off.  There are a TON of handlers there who want to help you get through the process. Hiring one of them could be helpful, but you can figure it out yourself.  Since Kurt has been through a TON of borders, we decided to forego hiring anyone.  In the meantime, we had to tell about 100 helpers we did not need help.  It is very annoying and they are VERY pushy.  Anyway. First place we went was to pay the Ministerio de  Hacienda Direccion General de Tributacion.  This building was to the right of where we parked and right at the entrance.  Small wait in line.  This was a fee of $7 per person and they gave us a yellow receipt we would have to show later to prove we paid. 

We next went to Costa Rican customs.  To get to this building, you have to walk a ways down the main road outside the first building.  Handlers will again drive you crazy.  There is a form you have to fill out, one per person, to present to the customs person.  Bring a pen!  Got to this building and there was a kind of long line.  Waited, and it went quickly.  Got to the front, and they checked all documents.  There are restrooms outside the customs building.

Next, you have to go to Nicaragua.  You walk a ways down the main road.  You can rent someone to give you a ride in a little cart, but we were not lazy, LOL.  Got harassed by handlers, again.  On the way two police officers stopped us at booths to check our documents.  Got the Nicaragua building, which is off the street to the right.  Have to pay $1 municipality tax and then you head to customs.  There, you pay $12 to enter Nicaragua.  Remember to have a copy of your passport.  I think they ask for that for people from certain countries.  We did not have one, so they sent us to a yellow building outside to get the copy, which cost $12 cents each.  Went back in, waited in line again.  There is a customs form you have to fill out here as well. 

Once you get done there, you can go into Nicaragua.  However, we did not want to go into town as we had a long drive back.  So, we walked to the other side of the building and started the process back into Costa Rica.  You pay another $1 tax to exit, then wait at the window again, and pay the $12.00 fee again to exit the country.

The next step was walking the main road again back to Costa Rican customs.  We had to stop at the two checkpoints again, and for some reason, the one officer gave us a hard time.  Even though the time is not on anything, he kept saying we had to stay in Nicaragua for 4 hours before we could leave.  I knew this was not true.  Of course, there was a handler there who could "help" for $20.  If we gave him $20, the 4 hour rule would not apply.  Since we had no desire to wait 4 hours or go into Nicaragua (lunch and a taxi would have been more that $20), we gave him $20.  He then said it was $20 per person.  We got annoyed and said no and started to walk away.  I guess he changed his mind and wanted to help us, so he took the $20 and the officer smiled and let us through, no problem.  Pura Vida!

Then, you go to the Costa Rican customs.  There, they will ask for your proof that you are leaving Costa Rica within 90 days.  We both had bus tickets that proved we were leaving within 90 days that we got from Rebekah at Solutions Travel in Jaco.  Those worked fine and we were set to leave and drive back to Jaco.

Found our car right away, tipped the guy who watched it, and we were off.  Long drive home, stopped once in Liberia for a snack.

Exhausting day.  Was glad to be home.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Food in Costa

One thing Kurt and I are really enjoying in Costa Rica compared to the US is the food.

I also have a lot more time here to concentrate on healthy eating and cooking, so that helps with this love as well.

Almost everything we buy now is not processed or in a box.  In MI, almost everything I bought, with the exception of fresh fish, was processed.

This is how our eating/shopping habits here have worked thus far.

Every Friday, we go to the veggie and fruit market in Jaco and stock up for the week.  I am getting pretty good at knowing exactly what we need to make it through the week.  We generally buy some variety of the following:  lots of bananas (usually like 12 or so, and this does not even take us through the week sometimes), a zucchini, radishes, potatoes, a couple tomatoes, 6 avocados (which I use to make guac), onions about every other trip, nectarines, limes, kiwi, strawberries, pineapple, and mammon chino.  Kurt also buys this bread he likes, and sometimes, fresh squeezed OJ and fresh baked pie, depending on his mood.  The pies are made by the Mennonites and always look amazing (I may have sneaked a bite of one).  The quality of the food here is amazing compared to the local grocery stores and cheaper.  We love the market.  If we need stuff in between Fridays, we go to another local market that carries just fruit and veggies.  We also buy eggs at this market usually.

Cheese and yogurt we buy from a local dairy farm.  We can also buy milk and eggs there, but have not yet.  I talked about our first experience there in a previous post.

Fish we buy at a local fish market.  They have about 7 types of fish on a regular basis, and so far I have bought tuna, marlin and sea bass.  I should branch out and try something new, but I like those and have stuck with them.  We buy fish about once every other week. 

At the grocery stores, the only food items I really buy are seasonings and spices, toiletries, milk, butter, pet and cleaning supplies. 

I mentioned to Kurt the other day we have so much less garbage to take out here, and he said it is because we are eating so much less in a box.  He is right!  It's so kewl.

We eat so differently here too.  I make Kurt breakfast every morning, which I NEVER EVER did in MI.  Maybe like once every 6 months.  We generally only ate breakfast if we were on vacation.  We eat more eggs here than we ever have, I never even bought eggs in MI because they would go bad before we ate them.  For breakfast, I generally make Kurt eggs with potatoes, or French toast, or pancakes.  I make my own syrup.  I also will cut up fruit for him pre-meal, and sometimes make toast with his meal.  About every other day, I make him a smoothie as well with chia seeds we bought at the Friday market.  The pugs love breakfast time, as Gretel is obsessed with eggs and Oscar is obsessed with nectarines.  Kurt does not really eat lunch.  I will usually eat either a bowl of cereal for a late breakfast.  For lunch, Kurt will just snack on fruits and cheese and stuff like that, but I usually eat cut up carrot slices with guac.  Dinner, we generally have fish (tuna or marlin usually).  With mine, I sometimes fry an egg, have rice, or zucchini.  For Kurts, I roll his fish in a pita and add things like black beans, veggies, potatoes, etc.  I also will sometimes broil fresh broccoli. I like having a snack at night, so I usually make myself banana ice cream, which is banana, ice, a tiny bit of milk and cinnamon in the blender.  I make it thick, and eat it with a spoon.  I sometimes also freeze bananas and mix with some granola for a snack.  We buy the granola at a local health food store.  We drink a lot of water, mixed in with some orange juice for Kurt and Coke Zero for me.  I know, I know.  Shoot me, I still have not kicked the diet pop or caffeine habit.  My one vice.........I am drinking WAY less though.   I have been making beans differently too.  Buy those NOT in a can, and make them myself in the slow cooker.   I make them spicy, adding in cumin, onions, tomatoes, pepper, salt, etc.  I freeze half, and pull out as needed to make meals.  Rice I don't buy in a box either.  Buy that and make a couple cups at a time in the rice cooker. 

We eat out once a week.  We try to eat someplace different each week (although I am aware I will run out of places soon, LOL).  This week, we ate at a place called The Green Room and it was amazing, I absolutely loved it.  I hate a mahi burrito and Kurt has a pepper grilled cheese and fries.  We split from guac and falafel for an app.  Super yummy.  I highly recommend the place if you live in the area and have not been there.  I have heard they have amazing breakfast there too.

In MI, I would not eat breakfast, and neither would Kurt.  For lunch, I generally had a boxed tv dinner type meal, like Lean Cuisine, which I would scarf down at my desk since I barely had time to eat.  Kurt would either not eat, or would order in food, like Mexican or Subway.  We would sometimes eat lunch out.  Dinner, we ate in a lot, but a lot of it was boxed, processed, crap.  What a difference living here has allowed me.  With the extra time on my hands and the markets available everywhere....

So, that is the difference in eating here in Costa Rica.  I can't imagine the positive impact this is having on our bodies, eating so well all the time.

Pura Vida!