Mr. Green Thumb this Week, Dinner is Served

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Central America Caribbean » Costa Rica
September 24th 2005
Published: September 24th 2005
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Mr. Green Thumb Gets to Work

In Beth’s absence this week in addition to the copious amount of marketing work I got done, I also did some gardening, believe it or not! Yes, many of you know my gardening skills. I took Carol, our cleaning lady and her son (see picture with her son “Brianaire”) to La Garita one afternoon, a beautiful town just south of here where there are many garden shops with a variety of plants and flowers. Until my Spanish improves, I thought it important to bring a Spanish speaker and she has a good eye for this stuff. Not mention, she can talk in “technical terms” to the garden people such things that are beyond me like, “Does that plant need sun?” LOL! I was also glad to see another area and now know where to get garden material and plants. I wanted to bring some color to our back yard/patio since all it is right now is a concrete slab with four walls around it. The back wall is stone straight up for about 5 feet then there’s a hard dirt incline up higher near the top with a road beyond it that swings behind our house. The idea is that the wall protects the back of our house from wind, mudslides, etc., and it does.

So, I bought about 25 plants, some flowering some not, with the idea to cover up the dirt area and make it a colorful, fun, but serene area when we turn that space into and outdoor dining area for our guests. What I did, and thought smart of me, was laid out all the plants on the concrete in front of where I wanted them on the dirt area up above, got a small ladder and went to work. It took me about three hours to plant them all but I’m very happy with the outcome. Now I only hope they live. Carol told me to water them right after planting them, though nature took care of that just as I put the last plant into the ground. I took a chance in leaving the puppies around while doing the planting. They just sat and looked at the plants with curious looks on their faces while I did my work. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I stepped into the house to get something, they were both pecking at one of the flowers! They spent the remainder of my time working, in their cage!

In other news….

I am really pleased with the reception I am getting from my blog. So far I’ve had about 300 emails commenting on it (mostly good) and I now appear to have readers from 25 countries (there’s got to be a way to make a buck on this!?!) some of whom give me a hard time if I do not update it regularly! I don’t think my life is that exciting, and living in a foreign country is not nearly as exciting as having a holiday in one. However, it is certainly an “off the beaten path” experience.

Oh, the puppies are driving me nutty. On Thursday, Carol found them in the chicken coop munching on a few of the chickens! Luckily, they only slightly injured the chickens. One of the chickens was on its back and Carol and I thought s/he was near death. However, Gilbert, our contractor happened to come over he and simply grabbed the poor thing by the neck—as Carol and I both said “eewwwwwwww”—and put it back on its legs. The chicken simply went back on its merry way. I guess they really do mean “tough old bird” (A chicken is a kind of bird right?).

The rainy season continues in earnest here with the last few days bringing what I believe is 2 or more inches each day. However, the rain occurs at night which is just fine. It is a good time to read a book, go to bed early, or like me, cuddle up with satellite TV! I’m a total news junkie so each night I sit down with CNN (the only news channel I get) and follow the stupid Iraq war, the newest Hurricane.

It looks like our little slice of paradise will make it into a few travel guides, which is HUGE, so we anxiously look forward to that. It also appears that a few tour operators may put our hotel into their packages which will be tremendous for us if it actually happens. Most exciting for me is that I found out today that I am going to be the “San Ramon reporter” for the Tico Times (, the national English language newspaper, mostly read by ex-pats. No, I won’t be writing daily for
Dinner guestsDinner guestsDinner guests

From left to right, Paul, Carol, Tom, Franz
them as there just isn’t enough news to report on daily from here (oh, and the Tico Times is a weekly paper) but every few weeks I’ll collect local gossip, events, etc., and serve it up to my editor for obvious polishing! When my first article appears, I’ll provide a link to it. Wow, I have an editor and my own “beat!” Call me Clark Kent!

Weekly Ritual….

One of my weekly rituals (sometimes twice a week) is to head across the street to “Mi Rancho,” the local bar and tourist shop and watch the tour buses come in with boat loads of grinos on their “week in a third-world country.” We’re about half way between the famous Arenal Volcano and the capital, San Jose, so it is a perfect spot for a break. I usually sit with Tom, my neighbor, who tries to interest tourists in land in our area. It’s fun to watch him interact with the tourists and he is quite a character. He’s around 70 years, from California, an ex-activist and Green Party member. He’s interesting to talk to and I always learn something.

Okay, one of the coolest things for me when I make this visit is that I was told that my house and MaryEllen and Fernando’s house just down the road are photographed every day by many tourists as they consider it quite a beautiful area apparently. Sometimes, when a tourist is snapping a picture, I’ll approach them and say, “That’s my house.” It feels good to do that.

Food Tasting Goes Slightly Awry….

Friday and Saturday nights were fun. We’re testing a local cook who may cook dinner for our guests (okay, I’ll probably eat too!) as we plan to offer an optional dinner plan. Since I’m no food expert (I wish my friend Jody was here to be a critic!), I invited our cleaning lady Carol and her husband, as well as my neighbors, Franz and Tom (“I’ll eat anything put in front of me.”) to join me for dinner and provide feedback on the cook’s work.

On Friday night, the cook, Edgar, made filet mignon along with rice and vegetables. It was very good and we were all pleased. However, there is one caveat. Just before we were about to sit down and eat, Carol’s son Brianaire locked himself in one of our guest rooms and it took us about a half hour to get him out. While he was able to turn the door locking mechanism (we were peering into the room from a window), we quickly learned that there was a problem with the lock. Therefore, we ended up having to remove the screen from the window in this room. Then, to get into the room, we had to remove each of the narrow window panes that open for air. Brianaire’s father climbed through the window, saying in broken English as Franz helped him get in, “Don’t push me, don’t push me!” Luckily, we have a one-story house! Quite a scene as everyone pitched in to help, all the time trying to keep Brianaire calm! So, dinner was finally served and it was quite good, just not as hot as it would have been if eaten a half hour earlier.

There are few things of note about this dinner. First, filet mignon is not what one expects in the United States. It’s more like flank steak here, but still very good. Second, I had noticed during his preparation, that Edgar had brought with him a wide variety of fruits. I suspected, and was later proven wrong, that we would have some nice fruit after dinner. Instead, Edgar made fruit shakes for us to have with dinner. They were quite good, but we all agreed that fruit shakes are better served during breakfast, or perhaps as a midday refreshment, rather than with dinner. They just don’t seem to go with dinner and with wine. They could work if spiked appropriately though!

Saturday’s dinner was baked fish (tilapia, which is very common here) topped with an avocado-type sauce that Costa Rican’s call tartar sauce. It isn’t tartar sauce as in the U.S. but it was quite good nonetheless. This was a great dinner and we’ll probably use him in the future.

That’s all for now folks. Keep those comments coming as they are much appreciated!

Pura Vida!



26th September 2005

"Casado" vs. "Asado" Redux
Thanks for all the comments on casado vs. asado. I cannot believe you are all that interested in it! :) Yes, the married part that Paul mentions is true and that basically a "casado" is a family plate of Costa Rican food. If you want a basic meat and veggie dish, along with beans and rice, just ask for a casado. Whatever it means, I know I love it! Thanks for reading my blog and especially your comments! Andrew
28th September 2005

Hey Andrew - I just sent you a long e-mail. I spoke with Beth this morning and it was great catching up with her - don't forget to call me today! What happened to Jack - or did I miss something? It was great catching up on the blogs - the place looks great! xoxoxo

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