Living consciously in Costa Rica {Part 2}

animal friendly signs in Costa Rica

It’s been almost 2 years since I wrote this post about becoming more intentional in my daily life here in Costa Rica.  Geez.  2 years.  Where have those 2 years gone?  Part of the problem has been, as a new business owner, working many many long 12-14 hour days, 7 days a week.  The other part is still just trying to feel settled into living in a foreign country where nothing seems “normal”.  And accepting the fact that it probably never will feel normal.

But then two things happened that triggered the memory of this list and that feeling that I needed to get my a** in gear as there was really no reason that I couldn’t be more sustainable at this point, living here in Costa Rica.

  1. During my visit to Tamarindo in June, I had dinner with Kevin at my favorite pizza place. To be totally honest, I was still a little hungover from the day before (not something I’m super proud of at nearly 40 years of age but my business coach was quite happy that I finally took a day off and enjoyed myself) so I just ordered a salad but the salad had a hardboiled egg on it. He asked me…why aren’t you vegan?

I really had no good reason to give him at this point.  Before, in Tamarindo, it was because getting to Automercado was such a hassle (and consumed my entire paycheck).  And even then, I couldn’t always find what I needed.  Now living in Quepos where everything is so easily walkable (and much cheaper taxis than Tamarindo) and with a weekly farmer’s market year round, I just didn’t have a good reason other than…I like grilled cheese sandwiches. Especially after finding the vendor with the freshly made sourdough bread at the farmer’s market and another vendor with the artisan cheese. That being said, while there’s still a lot of products that I can’t find, I’ve started to learn the workarounds and am now 99% vegan.  The only time I eat butter, cheese or eggs is if I go out with friends.  And even that is rare because I am still working more often than not…something I’m diligently working on reducing!

  1. As I briefly mentioned in a recent post, I happened to have a conversation with someone who told me that his actions have no impact on anything else in the world. To say that I was stunned would be an understatement. A BIG understatement. He proceeded to explain to me that it was just me and my “little clique of friends” who think that we need to be more sustainable in our daily lives.  At the time, I just couldn’t think of any response to tell him other than: “With that mentality, you probably picked the wrong country to live in”.  Okay, I admit, that may have been a little harsh.

But really, Costa Rica is an eco country.  It’s not perfect, it’s definitely got its problems of greenwashing.  But overall, the country as a whole is trying to make a difference.  The majority of the people here respect the environment and understand what’s at stake if we don’t.  When you go to Automercado and don’t have a bag, they try to sell you a reusable one.  All over the country are signs asking people to slow down in their cars because of animal crossings.  There are signs not to feed the wildlife. 25% of the land is protected and can’t be built on (compare that to just 8% in El Salvador of which 2% is primary forest).

animal friendly signs in Costa Rica

So here’s a quick update to the list I created originally in November 2012:

Positive Expressions – 2012 Needs Improvement – 2012 September 2014 Update
No car I have shipped a lot of products from the States here Still no car (although some days I really wish I had one), and now finding very nice “mules” to bring me items from the States
I don’t use the air conditioning in my home.  Fans and fresh air only Food choices – a lot of what I eat is not grown locally No air conditioning in my home now but my fans are never turned off (mold will grow rapidly if I turn them off). Most everything is fresh and local.
Preparing and sharing healthy, vegetarian meals with friends Since the move, started eating eggs and cheese again I’ve gone back to being 99% vegan (only eating eggs/cheese when I go out socially). And most items come from the Saturday farmer’s market and the local vegetable market
Supporting locals: restaurants and artisans Finding other ways to give back to the local community Working with a few nonprofits at reduced rates
Using my hemp napkins for water glasses (since the cold water melts all over the place) People should buy stock in paper towels as I’ve gone through more   rolls in 6 months than I did in a few years of living in California Still have my hemp napkins and my Circle of Life reusable bag that goes with me everywhere. A lot less paper towel usage since I have now just learned to live with the ants
Saved a garrobo from drowning in the pool A lot of ants have died on my watch (hence the extreme paper towel   usage) There’s very little killing in my house now that the ants have become roommates. It’s gotta be a gigantic cockroach or monster spider to get me to whack it with my shoe and even then, I sometimes still manage to let them live
Only doing large loads of laundry so as to not waste electricity and water Having to wash clothes more often, even when they haven’t been worn   because everything gets a funky smell here from the humidity With the fans and leaving my windows open at all times, there’s a lot better circulation in my home. Plus, I don’t have a dryer so everything is dried by the sun (even if it does sometimes take 3 days)
Buying local, organic, shade grown coffee Not being able to find much organic produce Some of the farmer’s at the feria are organic but most is still conventionally grown
Sharing the beauty of Costa Rica/Nicaragua with others through photos and writing Not being able to really spend time on my personal projects, writing   and sorting through the hundreds of photos I take each month Having hired an assistant, I’m working less nowadays which has freed up my time to both work on my personal projects.
Paying an above average wage to my housekeeper Getting back on the yoga mat With my new found free time, I exercise more and still pay a living wage to my housekeeper…now I just wish I could pay her to come more frequently!

 

My goal is to continue to provide you with updates on living more intentionally in Costa Rica.  I want this blog to not just be about the crazy backwards upside down not-normal things that happen here.  My hope is to lead by example and that by choosing to live simply, sustainably, ecofriendly — whatever you want to call it, we can each find the beauty of simplicity and pura vida in our daily lives.

Pura vida…Chrissy

It’s the little things that matter

I know the last few posts have been a little bit of a downer…showing the darker side of paradise…And it was totally my intention this year to create more positive than negative posts.  If you look back to January, you’ll see they were all fun and happy posts.  But then reality sets in as it often does.

So I’m counterbalancing the last few posts with a quick but important blog about being grateful for the little things…

Like my friend Adrienne, co-owner of Cafe Milagro, who, out of the blue, surprised me with yellow lemons one day.

yellow lemons in Costa Rica

The Cheesecake Factory-like avocado rolls that I just had at Sunset Place in the Quepos Marina.  Drank it with a Havana Club mojito and it was perfection!

avocado rolls in Costa Rica

The fritos I recently found in my little pulperia (haven’t seen those since moving here)

fritos in Costa Rica

Or the Mug Root Beer that I just found at my little Costco (again, at least 2 years since I had one of those).

Alright, admittedly, the last two items are junk food and not something I’d normally eat but it’s just such a treat…and a reminder that I live in such a different world.  Both in that they normally don’t exist here but also to be grateful for the little things.  That’s what really matters.

It’s also a learning opportunity for us all.  In California, I never would have thought that there weren’t yellow lemons, fritos or root beer in other places of the world.  I mean, there’s Starbucks and McDonald’s everywhere, right?  Wouldn’t it only make sense that other things like yellow lemons and fritos are everywhere as well?

I had a funny conversation with a Tica friend recently who said to me: “Maybe yellow lemons just can’t grow here.”  No!!!  They just don’t exist here.  If we can grow limes, we can grow lemons!

I enjoyed making all kinds of delicious creations with the yellow lemons and eating the fritos alongside my homemade veggie burger.  And what was most fun was introducing Root Beer floats to a Tico friend.  Not just because it was something he had never experienced but I was reminded of going to A&W out in the Palm Springs area with my dad many years ago, and enjoying root beer floats with him.

It’s the little things that matter.

Pura vida…Chrissy

More food miracles in Costa Rica

I wrote about recent food miracles here in this post on my business page but I just have to share with you all another food miracle that recently came into my life…something I haven’t seen in 20+ months since moving to Costa Rica…Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups!!  I nearly started crying in the store.  There was only bag and it quickly made its way into my shopping basket.

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The cashier told me that it’s rare to find them here in Costa Rica (so I’m not crazy!) and that he actually likes them (the first Tico to tell me that the combination of peanut butter and chocolate does not gross him out).

It’s a Costco size bag of Reese’s so upon returning home, it immediately went into my freezer and I’ll be able to enjoy these little treats for many months to come.  I am SO excited!

Since moving to Manuel Antonio, everything just seems to be coming together.  Life is so very sweet.  After all, as I’m writing this from my terrace, I can see the bright blue Pacific in front of me, there’s a monkey eating a banana (from a tree next to the building), a blue morpho fluttering around my house, latino music blasting from one of my neighbor’s home’s and beautiful blue skies and sunshine overhead.  And knowing that there are Reese’s in my freezer makes it that much sweeter.

I am one lucky girl.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Ask the universe and you shall receive

yellow lemons in Costa RicaSometimes, magic happens here on the Rich Coast.  You just have to put your request out into the universe and practice patience (not a strength of mine however).  But the other day, my property owner asked me if I liked “lemons”.  Remember, there is no difference between the words lemon and lime for Costa Ricans.  It’s all the same – it means little green limes.  I said, sure, I like them.  So she brought me a bag of small, very yellow, lemons.  I assumed these yellow lemons were the ones that were either green or orange inside (the wannabe lemons) but I was grateful as lately, all the green limes I’ve been getting at the store never ripen and have no juice inside.

But then I cut into the little yellow “limon” and it was pure yellow inside.  I couldn’t believe my eyes!  I had been working about 15 hours a day at the time and the thought did enter my mind that I might be hallucinating.  I asked Grettel where she got the lemons and she said there’s a tree up on the mountain above the property.  Wow, a wild yellow lemon tree.  Based on the size, I’m thinking these might be meyers.

yellow lemons in Costa Rica 2Can you believe it??  Meyer lemons in Costa Rica! The house where I chose to live has an actual yellow lemon tree on the property!  Unbelievable!

Then another day, Grettel showed me the upstairs unit and I saw, for the first time in 18 months, a normal, full size frig.  The apartment was vacant at the time and I asked Grettel if we could exchange it for the little frig that I have in my house.  She said that was a possibility and so I’m still hoping that will come to fruition at some point soon!  The weird thing is, the day before, I said (to myself), I wish I had a normal frig.  That was because my frig was packed full, so much so that I could barely get the door closed. I even started storing beers in the freezer (they don’t explode because the freezer just doesn’t get cold enough).

I also recently just found real sourdough bread.  Mmmmmm, it smells and tastes just like the bread San Francisco is famous for!

sourdough bread in Costa RicaBut I did recently get some unfortunate news.  The supermarket that I always go to, that has the best quality and variety of products that I like (really the only one that has the quality and variety of products I need), closed.  I saw the owner’s daughter a few days before it closed and she told me they had sold the building.  However, once the dust settles and she takes a little break, she was considering opening a small shop that has items that are hard to get here since she already has all the contacts.  Like coconut oil.  And chia seeds.  We exchanged contact info and she told me she’d be in touch.

I stocked up on as much as I possibly could before the store closed but at some point, I’m going to run out of my “normal” food and I don’t know what I’ll do at that point.  I just have to hope that the universe has a plan…

Pura vida…Chrissy

More on the Yellow Lemons in Costa Rica (or lack thereof)

Limon signIt’s been awhile since I wrote about how there are no yellow lemons in Costa Rica.  But just to prove my point that this is not a rant that only I am on…

On my blog’s daily stats, I can see how people arrived to my page and what pages they viewed.  Sometimes it’s facebook or through the email subscriptions but often times, it’s through a Google or Bing search.  And the stats give me not only the number of people who came through that channel but also the exact search term they were using when they landed on my page.

And at least once per week, there has been a search term that contains the words lemon and Costa Rica.  I’m not joking!  So I am not the only one that is confused by the lack of yellow lemons available here in this country.  I know some of you think I’m a little crazy for incessantly complaining about this issue but now you know…there are other people asking the same question!

Pura vida…Chrissy

The Cashew Tree

Thanks for your comments and feedback from my last post…It was a bit more heavy than what I normally write so I thought with this one, I’d write about something a little fun and more interesting…Enjoy!

Ok…So am I the only one that didn’t know how cashews grow? Seriously, check this out…is it not one of the weirdest things you’ve ever seen? No wonder cashews are so expensive and hard to find in Costa Rica!

Cashew tree

And from what I was told…growing them isn’t all that hard. It’s what you have to do after they’ve grown that is difficult. So the apple part up top can be eaten or put into juice. But it’s getting the cashew out of the shell that is the challenge – because along with the cashew, there is a substance inside it that will burn you if you touch it! I won’t be harvesting cashews anytime soon but I sure will appreciate them more when I eat them!

Cashew nuts

Pura vida…Chrissy

Traditional Costa Rican Empanadas

Making Costa Rican Empanadas 1During my travels last month, I had a 6 a.m. flight out of San Jose the morning I flew to Bocas del Toro in Panama.  So I arrived the day before and stayed at a friend’s house.  Which is when I had my first, freshly made Costa Rican empanada.  She told me that the empanadas I can get in Tamarindo are not the same as the ones she was preparing.  The ones in Tamarindo are made by people from Argentina and I think they differ because the traditional Costa Rican empanadas are made with corn flour and the ones from Argentina are made with wheat flour.

It seemed like within only a few minutes, she had mixed the ingredients together and was forming them into little balls that she then flattened out and filled with a basic white cheese (probably Turrialba cheese) and then folded them over in half and placed them in the pan that was lightly coated with oil.

And pronto, the empanadas were complete and we enjoyed them with a cup of tea. (Remember, it’s cold in San Jose – hot tea is a must when visiting there!).

Costa Rican Empanadas 2

Be sure to try a traditional empanada on your next Costa Rican vacation!

Pura vida…Chrissy

Cooking Woes in Costa Rica

One final post on cooking here in Costa Rica and then we’ll return to fun adventures…

  • Chickpea flour
  • Maca
  • Goji berries
  • Cashews
  • Agave Syrup
  • Coconut oil
  • Graham crackers

These are just some of my cooking challenges.  I find all these great, healthy vegan, and often times gluten-free recipes but can’t actually make any of them because of a lack of ingredients available at the stores here in Tamarindo (and probably also throughout most of Costa Rica).  I wanted to make chickpea flatbread with rosemary.  I figured – I have chickpeas, I have rosemary – so what could be the problem?  Oh yes, I need a coffee or spice grinder to make the chickpea flour because I can’t buy it here.  I might be able to find a coffee grinder…somewhere.  But “where” is the keyword.

And yes, even cashews are on that list of unattainable items.  It seems crazy to me that I can’t find them and I sometimes feel like I’m losing my mind as I’m searching through the walnuts, pecans and almonds on the grocery store shelves.  I mean really – how do cashews not exist here?  I’ve always wanted to make cashew cheese and once again, I now have the time but not the ingredient. *Sigh*

Do you know I can’t even buy coconut oil at Automercado?  It doesn’t exist!!  I’m sure it’s all being exported to the US but still, can’t we have a few bottles here?  So many of my recipes call for it and it’s just crazy that in a country that produces massive amounts of coconuts, my only oil options are Canola, Olive and Crisco.  Every once in awhile, I can find sesame.

But…to find the limeade in the lime…I can buy contraband Cuban products here. : )

Havana Club

Pura vida…Chrissy

Waste Not, Want Not

Kevin is always asking me, “are you going to finish that?” when I look like I’m finished eating.  Normally, I’m done. When we were traveling, the food, even half orders, were often too much for me to eat.  And so he finishes what I don’t eat.  I know he likes to eat the food I can’t, but I also know it’s because he doesn’t like to see food go to waste.  The latter is probably more accurate.

Think back to those childhood days when your parents told you to eat everything on your plate because there were starving people in the world.  And as much as I hate to admit it, our parents were right.  In 2010, there were 925 million hungry people in the world with 17.2 million of them in the US.  That’s about 1 in 7 people, given the current population statistics.

So one afternoon, after making a batch of fresh almond milk, Kevin looked at the “pulp” (the leftover almonds), and asked me, “what are you going to do with that?”  Not really knowing, I did what I always do – I googled “almond milk pulp recipes”. Back in California, I always wanted to do something with the pulp but time was never on my side.  I felt like I was doing a good thing by making the almond milk fresh but taking it to the next level and doing something with the pulp was out of my “time budget”.

Of course, I ran into the same problem that I always run into here…I now have the extra time but most of the recipes I found either had kitchen equipment (like a dehydrator) or food (almond butter, agave) that I’d never find here in Tamarindo.  Not even at the Automercado.  So more googling was necessary in order to make substitutions.

Eventually, I found three recipes that while not perfect with ingredients and equipment, I thought I could tweak them easy enough to make a decent creation.

Another waste that I’m trying to reduce is the tamarindo pulp that I have after making juice…anyone have thoughts on how to reuse that?  Let me know!

Vegan Almond Coconut Macaroons
Vegan Almond Coconut Macaroons

And then there is the issue of food scraps.  Since I’m vegetarian, most of my food scraps could be turned into compost.  But living in a 2 story loft doesn’t afford me that option.  I already have a terrible problem with ants and my balcony is about 8″ wide.  Plus, I think there are raccoons that can access my balcony – I think that because one day I looked out to see that something had used my balcony as its bathroom – both types were left behind for me to clean up.  Did I forget to warn you not to be eating while reading this post?  Sorry about that.

compost

Anyways, I don’t know what to do with my food scraps.  I could leave them out for the raccoons but I’d rather not encourage them to come onto my balcony.

Pura vida…Chrissy

Inspiring Vegetarianism in Costa Rica

I’ve hired a few sales and marketing associates for my business and one of them happens to live in the area.  So a few times a week, Kevin comes to my house to work.  Having him help me on projects allows me time to not only focus more on the bigger projects for my business and clients but also frees up some of my personal time.

As I mentioned in my post about living more consciously, one of things I wanted to focus on was food.  And now I have that chance to prepare healthy and delicious vegetarian meals for me and him.   And, of course, any neighbors that happen to be walking by and smelling what I’m creating.  Still haven’t gone completely vegan but gone are the days of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

What I love is providing these nutritious meals to someone who would otherwise be eating meat at almost every meal.  And to hear how much he likes the meals, he feels full and he’s excited to see what I create next.  On our third day of work at my house, he told me, “I’m sort of becoming a vegetarian”.  I smiled as that was the unspoken plan.  To introduce him to good tasting meals that don’t contain a once-living animal.  I don’t think he’ll ever give up meat completely (I have to be realistic here) but I feel good that I’m introducing him to great food that he would not otherwise have tried.  And just like Mikey, “he likes it”.  His favorites thus far seem to be the Portobello mushroom burger with yuca chips, vegan sushi salad (the rolls didn’t slice right so I made it into a salad!), magic cookie bars, grilled cheese (gouda) and apple sandwich and of course, my famous chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies.

During our travels, I also introduced him to tofu.  Tofu isn’t really well-known here in Costa Rica and so he had no knowledge of the stigma associated with tofu.  Because of this, I had him try one of the dinners at Arenas del Mar that had tofu, eggplant and zucchini in an Asian sauce.  And he loved it.  Of course, it was deep-fried in macadamia nuts so that could have also been the reason – who doesn’t love deep-fried macadamia nuts?

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I love creating “compassionate” meals and sharing them with others.  The best part is the subtle knowledge that I’m imparting…that vegetarian food is not only healthy but delicious and filling as well.

Pura vida…Chrissy