A note of gratitude

For the next few months, I’ll be working with an intern who will split her time helping me and a local client.  Sam will finish up her studies at Bethel University in Minnesota in December and I’m so in awe of her as she’s actually finishing a semester early and has a double major and triple minor.  Plus, she did a semester in Segovia, Spain!

The Quepos Chamber of Commerce has created a program in which students from Bethel could come live in Quepos and work with local businesses. We set Sam up with a host family in Boca Vieja (one of the barrios in town) and from what she has told me, they are a lovely family.  They provide her with breakfast and dinner and they all watch 3-D movies together in the evenings.  She is also traveling with another student who is a friend so I’m hoping when she’s not working, she’ll have the opportunity to explore Costa Rica with him.

I asked her if the Tico culture is similar to the Spanish culture and she said well, the culture in Spain is laidback but the Ticos take the easygoing lifestyle to a whole other level.  Not that that was a bad thing…just so totally different from what she’s accustomed to in the States.

misc stuff

Prior to her arrival, I had asked her if she could bring a few small things for me…a kitchen sponge, nail polish, a new tank top and a few other little items.  She was happy to do so and when we met for lunch on one of her first days here, she gave me the bag and inside were also a few extra items.  She told me that her and her mom had looked through some of my posts and saw there were certain things that either I couldn’t find here or just couldn’t afford here.  I am so very grateful for her kind thoughtfulness. And this week, I’m enjoying freshly made almond milk and peanut butter and my house smells lovely from the lemon verbena candle (one of my favorite scents!)  Soon, I’ll be making some pancakes to pour the maple syrup over and giving myself a fun fresh pedicure with the nail polish.

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

When Life Gives You Limes…

I was so excited the other day when I went into Automercado and saw the fruit in the photo above.  I really thought they had gotten a shipment of lemons in.  But they turned out to be yellow oranges.

When I used to travel with Troy, he’d tell me that limon is both lemon and lime – that they’re the same. I never understood what he meant.  After all, one is yellow and one is green.  And they taste different.  But I never had to actually buy lemons until moving here. I always just thought that we had a translation issue and that he didn’t understand that I wanted a yellow lemon not a green lime.

But I have come to accept the lemon situation here in Costa Rica.  Although I’m still hoping to find a lemon tree at a nursery.  I just don’t understand how, in a country that produces so many limes, why they cannot plant a few lemon trees as well or import them.  They import apples and pears, why can’t they import lemons!

So I’m embracing the lime.  I put lime slices in my water (mainly because it tastes a little funny which has made me add Pur/Brita water filter to my list of things I need from the States), I squeeze it into freshly made hummus, I put it on rice, I add it to my cold cucumber/avocado soup and recently I made Lime/Ginger bars (a spin on lemon bars) and they all turn out pretty good.  Of course, I still want yellow lemons.

On the bright side, unlike lemons, the limes don’t have seeds.

Pura vida…Chrissy 

All I want for Christmas…

I’ve found my dream “oven”.  Okay, so admittedly, it’s just slightly larger than my toaster oven but it’s closer to a real oven when compared to what I’m currently trying to use.  Here’s the problem – it’s at William Sonoma and while they do ship to Costa Rica, they don’t ship electrical items.  Oh, such a let down!  Here I was thinking all my cooking problems had been solved.  It would fit perfectly on my kitchen cart and it came with three different types of pans.  And there were additional accessories you could purchase as well, including a pizza stone…I’m so dying for stone bakeware.  Cookies taste so much better on stone baking pans.

My heart felt like it was breaking when I realized I couldn’t ship it.  We use 110 here so I don’t understand why electrical items can’t be shipped!

My other new problem is, just as I suspected, the poor quality pots and pans that I purchased when I moved in are already deteriorating.  Such a bummer.  And really, I’m not sure that cooking with the material peeling off and getting into my food is really all that safe.

Fortunately, pots and pans can be shipped here and so once I have a little more money, I’ll look into purchasing a set.  The shipping/customs fees, I know, will be expensive but probably less expensive than the possible effects from the potential carcinogens I’m currently exposing myself to with the peeling pans.

Pura vida…Chrissy

The downside to not having a dryer

Do you remember those commercials from the 80’s that showed a woman hang drying her clothes outside and how, supposedly, they were so fresh smelling and soft?  She would actually bring the sheets up to her nose and smell them and then smile?  Well, that was just bad advertising.  I still can’t figure out when in the wash cycle I’m supposed to put in the softener (yes, I know it’s during the rinse but there seems to be two different rinses and LG refuses to help me since I’m not in the US) and so my towels and sheets, after being hung out to dry, are so rough and stiff.

Even when I do add the softener during what I think is the correct cycle, the laundry still dries rough and stiff.  Until someone can bring me a downy softener ball, I really need to figure out how to get soft sheets and towels again.  Maybe more softener is needed, maybe I should try putting it in the beginning of the cycle with the soap?

I don’t know…What I do know is that I’m frustrated that my once soft items are now so incredibly coarse.  I know hang drying is so much better for the environment and I’m happy that my ecological footprint has been decreased but can’t I still have soft sheets and towels?  Isn’t there a way to have both?

A friend posted the photo above on Facebook a few days ago – I thought it was pretty funny.  I left a comment with my concerns above and she recommended adding baking soda or beating them while drying to break up the fibers. And another one of her friends recommended Ecover fabric Softener and Maggie’s Soap Nuts but she didn’t know that I live in Costa Rica and there’s no way I’ll find either of those products.

Just to make matters worse, the other day I went out to do a wash (my washer is outside) and when I opened the dispenser drawer for the soap, there were about 50 gigantic ants inside and some very strange cream colored oval shaped things.  I don’t know what they were…I don’t want to know what they were.  I just know I was horrified.

But to end this post on a funny note…The other thing is I always have to do my laundry first thing in the morning so it will dry before the rain begins.  The other day I was working in my hammock because my housekeeper, Laura, was cleaning inside and it started to rain.  The drying line was only a few feet behind me but being in the hammock, I have a tendency to get into somewhat of a blissful state, ignoring what is happening around me.  Fortunately, Laura ran outside to remind me “las ropas!”

Pura vida…Chrissy

Walking Around Town

You develop new perspectives when you don’t have access to a car and the ability to just drive from Point A to Point B.  I’m realizing there’s actually a lot that I’m missing when I have a car and not walking around town.  I recently purchased a hammock and this past Sunday decided to walk into town to the Hardware store.  There are two, right next to each other, just on the way out of Tamarindo.  It’s a bit of a far distance from my house but it was sunny outside so I figured why not.  Save the money from not using a taxi and enjoy a leisurely walk.

I guess because it was Sunday, both hardware stores were closed.  But on the return, I decided to go to the Automercado (grocery store) to try to find real vanilla extract and as I was walking up to the entrance, I noticed a sign on the road outside that seemed to say they delivered (it’s in Spanish so I deduced what it was saying).  Not to sound totally lazy but when the real “rainy season” hits here, a food delivery option could be a real blessing.  And honestly, they do have a better selection there than at the 2001 market.  Like they had real vanilla.  Which is so odd to me that it was difficult to find since vanilla is actually grown here in Costa Rica.  But I guess the real stuff is all exported elsewhere and the locals are left with the imitation stuff.

While I was there, I also asked the produce guy if they ever get “limon amarillo” (lemons) but he smiled and replied, no, they import them from the States on occasion but it’s not a frequent product in the store.  No one here believes me when I tell them there is a difference between lemons and limes!  I think I’m going to have to add “lemon tree” to my list of “what I need from the States”.

I then passed by the police station and stopped in to ask them for their local number (mind you, their office is the size of a very small walk in closet).  And he proceeded to tell me that they are always open, at any hour, all days of the week.  Well, I hope so!  They’re a police station, after all!  I’m remaining optimistic that they are on call at any time of the day or night and hopefully I’ll never have the misfortune to find out.

I was also surprised at how many surf shops and tourist shops I walked by.  Really, it was just surf shop after surf shop after surf shop.  I don’t understand how these places stay in business.  I found another place to do yoga, just down the road from my house and a few more restaurants that I’d like to check out.

Overall, the walk into town was good.  Although it was 95 degrees and 60% humidity.  And I probably should have been wearing walking shoes, not flip flops.  But that would have meant having to wear socks and like I mentioned in a prior post, I’m really against that concept. 🙂

Pura vida…Chrissy

What I need from the States

You would think that with the 10 large bags of luggage I brought with me and the 4 boxes that I shipped, I’d have everything that I need.  But I’m finding that even while living at the hotel, there were still some things that I was missing from home.  Fortunately, I had an intern, Sean, coming from the States last week who kindly offered to bring me a few things.

The local yoga studio sold Prana yoga eco-mats ($60) but I shipped a Hugger Mugger cotton yoga rug to Sean.  Even in the air-conditioned studio, it is still hot and humid and downward dog is a lot easier if my hands and feet aren’t sliding around the mat.  I also shipped him an eye pillow since I can’t find those anywhere.  If I knew how to sew, I could probably make decent money selling them in the towns where yoga is popular.

Then, of course, there is the Q-tip issue that you may remember from a few weeks ago.  I haven’t found a reuse for the generic ones but I’m sure at some point, they will come in handy.  But never again are they going in my ear.

I am still looking for biodegradable softener and Sean brought me a stain remover.  The one I bought here is a large bottle of liquid which seems wasteful since it just pours out and I have no control over how much comes out of the bottle.  I also just found liquid dish soap (but it was expensive).  I’m still not sure how best to use the strange tub of hard soap that a friend talked me into buying when I first arrived.  He said that’s what he uses so I bought it, but it doesn’t seem to work as well as liquid soap!  I also desperately need a Downy softener ball.  It doesn’t seem like there is a tray to put softener into at the start of the wash cycle and since I’m line-drying, all my clothes, sheets and towels have a very rough texture to them.

The Automercado (which is like Costa Rica’s version of Whole Foods/Whole Paycheck) has more of what I was looking for and a better selection but it also costs you your entire paycheck, just like Whole Foods.  However, they do seem to have a nicer selection of fresh fruits and vegetables, they carry garbanzo beans and sundried tomatoes so I can make hummus (the other markets do not) and they even have Kashi cereal and Back to Nature products  But like I said, that all comes at a really big price.

I actually did find my cat’s special dry food at the local vet.  Although it was their only bag so, even though I brought a bag with me, I still bought it in case they don’t get another shipment in soon.  It was more expensive than what I paid at my vet in California ($24 for a small sized bag).  His wet food is another story – I seriously doubt I’ll be able to find him quality wet food and since that’s his primary source of nutrition, I’m not sure what I’m going to do.  But I did plan for that and brought an entire plastic bin of canned wet food for him so I have time to figure it out.  I’m also having a difficult time finding cat litter.  One grocery store didn’t care it at all.

I also brought full size bottles of all my favorite toiletries (shampoo, moisturizer, etc) but at some point I’m going to run out and I’m not sure what I’ll do then.  I also don’t know what I’m going to do about makeup.  I don’t often wear makeup but I recently had to spend $50 on eye makeup at the pharmacy (the only place that seems to sell it) and it nearly killed me to spend that much since the brands were Maybelline and Max Factor!  The photo below is of the selection I had to choose from.  That’s it.  One small glass case.  I had Sean bring me a brown eyeliner because all the pharmacy had was black.

All the major brands of sunscreen are easily found here but it’s not cheap.  A bottle is about $20.  So thankfully Sean brought me one and hopefully that will last until my next friend visits.  I also had him bring me a pack of razors since my brand doesn’t seem to be carried here.

I’d also like someone to bring me either Skippy Peanut Butter or Trader Joe’s Crunchy Almond Butter (they only have Jif here and I’ve always been a Skippy girl).  Oh, and that really good trail mix from TJ’s that has the chocolate chips, almonds, peanuts, cranberries and butterscotch chips.  And I’d like a case of almond or soy milk.  Even with shipping fees, it will probably still be less expensive than buying it here at $5/carton.  I can make my own almond milk but I’m afraid to even look at what the cost of almonds is.  With the number of expats living here in Tamarindo, if they were to open a TJ’s here, it could potentially be their best selling store. : )

The one thing I almost purchased before moving but didn’t was a mattress cover.  I knew I’d have problems getting one here but it was just so huge and my luggage was already bulging at the seams!  The mattress cover at the hotel just wasn’t what I’m used to and the bed at the house didn’t even have a mattress cover.  Thankfully, I recently learned that Macy’s ships to Costa Rica and ordered a cover from them along with a fiberbed (like a featherbed but no geese were harmed in the production).  I did bring my own sheets, comforter and pillows but ordered a second set of sheets from Macy’s as there is no dryer in the new house and that means I have to sun dry my sheets.  Being in the rainy season, that could get a little complicated.  Things don’t dry here very quickly.  Actually, even after days of drying, clothes still have a tendency to feel wet.  And yes, they sell sheets in the stores here but the ones I saw were 180 thread count which could be compared to sleeping on sandpaper.

I’m also finding that with the ants and other interesting insects, I need more storage containers for food.  I have a few Pyrex and OXO pop containers but any time I open anything that’s not refrigerated, I have to put it into a container and I’m running out!

But the bigger question really is – do I miss all the conveniences that I had in the States?  Not really.  I’ll learn to make do with what I have and figure out workarounds along the way.  The customs fees that Macy’s tacked on were worth it as a one-time purchase but not something I can sustainably do in the future.  And hopefully more people will come to visit and they will just need to bring an extra bag to fit all of the bags of trail mix in.

Pura vida…Chrissy

A trip to the doctor

Well, it was only a matter of time before I did something stupid and ended up at the doctor.  Now that I’m living here, I’m trying to be so much more mindful of everything I do…whether it’s holding on to my camera (so it doesn’t end up in the river like it did last year and I know how difficult it will be to get a new one) or being careful not to hurt myself (because I no longer have health insurance), I’m really trying to be careful!  But, it was just inevitable that at some point, something would happen.

This afternoon, I put a cotton swab into my ear and when I took it out, the cotton was no longer attached to the stick. *&^% is all I could think about as I put my finger in my ear and poked around, hoping I could find the little piece of cotton and pull it out.  Nope.  I searched on the floor for it but it wasn’t there either.

It seemed like the cotton was expanding because within an hour, I could no longer hear out of my left ear.  So I hopped in a cab and went to the nearby emergency clinic.  No one there really spoke English so I tried out my Spanish in addition to using hand motions to describe what happened and fortunately, they understood.

The really funny part (besides the actual incident that brought me there) was that no one asked me for my name or to fill out any paperwork.  I didn’t have to sign any forms to release them from any liability.  No worries, right?

15 minutes later, the cotton was out of my ear and I went back to reception to pay.

It was high tide at the beach and the road was muddy from the storm so I took a taxi both ways.  No, I was not being lazy.  I could just imagine myself being swept into the ocean or slipping on the muddy road and hurting myself!

Cost for a taxi and emergency medical services: $59

I’ve started a list of things I need people to bring me from the States…I’m adding “Real Q-Tips” to the list.

Pura vida…Chrissy