Sunday, July 27, 2008

Beer review: Pilsen Red

As I sit here on a Sunday afternoon, still deciding whether I want to finish up some writing work today or not, I realize there's a Pilsen Red in the fridge with my name on it (literally: esposo and I write our names on our beers in black Sharpie or the other one of us will drink them). Beer can only help the writing process, I think, so what the hell -- I decide to try it out.

I think this may be the best Costa Rican beer I've had so far (beers from the wonderful and now defunct K&S notwithstanding -- theirs were world-class). I usually favor Bavaria Dark, but a friend of ours (marketing manager for Heiniken in Costa Rica) was telling us about the new "Red" and, when we saw it at AutoMercado last night, we decided to give it a try (there were only 5 Pilsen Reds left in the store, if that gives you any clue as to its popularity).

Ok, before I attempt to tell you what this beer tastes like, let me assure you I am no beer critic. I don't know the lingo and couldn't tell you what's "hoppy" and what isn't. I will say that I tend to like dark beers like Guinness, and amber ales like Sierra Nevada. I like my beer to have a bitterness to it; a "bite" is nice. And I cannot drink light beers whatsoever; mostly they taste like what I imagine piss in a bottle would taste like (e.g., Corona, Bud, Miller, Pilsen and Imperial are all crap if you ask me).

So. Pilsen Red. It doesn't have much head, but the color is a nice, light amber. Definitely a nice aroma to it, and very drinkable with a little bitterness one expects in an amber ale. I think it's still a little light (ala regular Pilsens), but I'm not complaining. If you're a beer drinker in Costa Rica missing the wonderful microbrews back home, give this one a try. And let me know what you think.

P.S. I was going to take a picture, but then I realized I left my camera at son's friend's birthday party yesterday. Supposedly someone who knows us picked it up and will be returning it this week, which I hope happens, not because the camera itself is so wonderful, but because I have some great photos of son riding a horse at his other friend's birthday party from yesterday morning.

P.P.S. When I was pregnant with son, I drank a lot of Kaisers (the non-alcoholic beers). Because, you know, when you can't have something, you want it all that much more. I have to say they tasted better than the regular Pilsens or Imperials! You can make a darn fine bloody beer with half a Kaiser, half a glass of V8 or tomato juice, a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and maybe a little hot sauce if you like to kick it up. Actually this also tastes really good with a regular old Imperial; the only way I can drink the stuff!


Moving on

Here we go again. We're moving in October. Not that I didn't know we'd be moving within a year; actually I did know that. And I can't believe a year is almost up. Yesterday I was at a birthday party for one of son's friends, and was talking to one of my friends, just putting the word out there that, you know, we'd be moving by the end of the year and if she just so happened to hear of a place for rent in her area (she lives right next door to the Waldorf school that we're thinking of sending son to next year for kindergarten), you know, P., could you let us know? And P. said, as a matter of fact, H.'s (her daughter-in-law and also my good friend) old house was for rent, maybe you could call the owner and see what's up.

I should say here that I always liked H.'s house. It was where H. and her family were living when we first met through playgroup; we had quite a few playgroups in that house, so I know it pretty well. When H.'s family outgrew the house and moved in next door to P., I immediately wanted to move into her old house. Esposo was against it at the time, as he didn't care for Escazu all that much (and let's face it, Escazu's drawbacks are numerous -- it's crowded, traffic can be a bitch, crime is up in that area all over the place, houses are close together, and everything is more expensive there), so instead we stayed in Ciudad Colon.

And here we are, looking for a house in Escazu (because it also does have its benefits -- close to absolutely everything, such as shopping, restaurants, theaters, close to son's new school [only five blocks away, we could actually walk to and from], close to all of our friends and all of son's friends, which means a lot less driving, and with the price of gas going up, even my thrifty Toyota is getting expensive). And my friend's old house just happens to be for rent again. So this time, esposo called the landlady, who remembered him from playgroup, and she said she'd love to have us, and the house would be available in October (right when our one-year lease is up on this house), and she'd hold it for us and let us know as soon as we could go look at it. I don't really believe in luck, but I do believe in fate. This was meant to be, and it was meant to happen now.

Oh, I forgot to mention that the landlandy, who lives next door, has 10 chihuahuas. If you don't know me personally, you might not know how much I absolutely adore chihuahuas. My best dog that ever lived, Lucy girl, was part chi, and my other baby, Mable, was full chi. And Tiny/Sally is a chi. So I take that as a sign. And of course she doesn't mind our nine dogs because she herself is a dog lover.

You might be asking yourself what the house is like and what rent goes for. This particular house is on a dead-end street near San Antonio, Escazu. It has four bedrooms, three bathrooms, a big kitchen, living room/dining room combo, laundry room, back and front patios, covered garage, plus all the normal hookups. The yard isn't huge, but it is big enough. The rent will be $800 a month. You might think that's expensive, but I can tell you that Escazu is one of the most expensive places to live in the whole country, and actually for a 4Br/3Ba house, that is a really good deal. So I'm looking forward to moving.

And yes, I will miss a lot of things about this house: the wildlife here is amazing; I'll have to say goodbye forever to my Stumpy Stumpleton. The only owl I've ever seen in my life was at this house; when we moved in, a bat was living in our house. Birds come and visit our birdbath, butterflies of all kinds visit our flowers, and tiny hummingbirds play in and out of the purple vervain every day. I'll miss all of them the most. I'll miss the amazing, expansive views to the other side of the valley; I'll miss not being surrounded by neighbors. I won't miss leaking faucets, toilets, and roofs. I won't miss the lack of closets. I won't even miss the space of this house; honestly it is far too big for us anyway. And I certainly won't miss having to drive 30-45 minutes to go to son's playgroup, dinners out, friend's houses, shopping, etc. Last night we were in Escazu having dinner, and I told esposo, won't it be nice when we can drive home in five minutes instead of 45 minutes?

Onward and upward.


Saturday, July 26, 2008

Garden activity

Yesterday I noticed a whole bunch of vultures flying low over the coffee fields to the side and below our house. A couple of them hung out in the trees next door most of the day. I have rarely seen vultures not eating something dead by the side of the road, so it was interesting to see what they do when they're not eating carrion. Here is one of the ones that was sitting about 30 feet away from my back fence:

As I was standing there taking photos of the vulture, I noticed ants going back and forth on the garden wall. I don't know how many of you out there have ever tried to take a photo of teeny, tiny ants in motion and actually have them come out both in focus and at the right depth of field, but I can say that with the silly little digital camera I have it was not easy. I think I took about 20 photos just to get these two. Here are a couple of my "beloved" leaf-cutter ants in action:

And then I spotted this guy: he was a Goliath next to these little Samsons. And was moving even faster, and even more difficult to shoot.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Plant a tree! Or not...

Ok, so yesterday I went to EPA (our version of a Home Depot, only not nearly as good) in Escazu to get a refill for the weed whacker. String trimmer. Whatever the hell they call those things. Out in front of the store was a huge flat of seedling trees in peat pots, with a sign about supporting the plant-a-tree program. I asked someone how much the trees were (figuring they were free, but of course, you never ask if something is free, that would just be rude). The guard outside didn't know (of course, because guards usually don't know anything except guarding), so we went in, did our little bit of shopping, and then I asked the cashier what was the deal with the trees. She didn't know either. I asked the guy who stamps your receipt on the way out to make sure you didn't steal anything, and he didn't know about the trees. I finally managed to track down one guy who finally, at long last, told me I had to go buy a ticket from the ICE if I wanted to purchase a tree, said tickets being 800 colones (about $1.75 more or less). Now, I could call the ICE, or one of the other companies involved in this program, but of course he didn't have the specific number to call. He did, however, hand me a brochure about the program, which had neither phone numbers nor prices of trees nor any indication of where you could go to purchase a tree. Of course at this point I gave up. I mean, how much are people expected to go through for $1.75 trees?

I'm thinking -- call me crazy! -- the thing to do is sell them at the store. You know, the store. Where they're located. Even better: give one away with every $10 purchase or something. Actually get the trees in people's hands so that they can plant them. I guess that's too much to ask.

The whole thing seems like a big corporate write-off to me. The board meeting, I imagine, went something like this: "So, here's the deal guys: we buy some tree seedlings, tell people we're doing this big plant-a-tree project, have the trees right there at the store, but make it incredibly difficult for anyone to actually buy one! That's the brilliant part! No one is going to jump through hoops for a $2 tree, so we can say we're doing all this great stuff for the environment and then, when all of the trees die because no one bought them, we can write them off! Brilliant, right?!? Am I right??"

Sigh. Bureaucracy at its finest.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The miracle worker

Amy's esposo John (not Jhon or Jonh, hahahahahahah -- sorry, Costa Rican joke there!) fixed my computer. Over the phone. And it took hours. I mean, like it took most of the day yesterday. I somehow managed to give my computer a virus, and even though my anti-virus software caught it, it was too late. The virus was a self-replicating Trojan horse (nice!), and had managed to turn off my internet service and also screw up my system restore. Fixing the damage was a little over my head, and my last resort was to turn to Amy and John before I hauled it into some computer shop somewhere*. The last thing I wanted to do was reformat the hard drive, because I'd probably end up losing most of my data. BUT, John fixed it! Hooray, hooray!

A couple of tips he gave me that I'm passing on to you: Install this anti-virus software on your computer. (Don't forget to sign up to get a license number [free]). I had a different anti-virus software program installed, but he says this is the one to have, and if I trust anyone to know what the best one is, it's John. Also, he said to get rid of my firewall. Gasp! Get rid of my firewall? Well, I did it. I felt a little... naked at first, but Amy assures me that Avast will take care of any problems. So there went the firewall.

Anyway, I'm back online. It's very strange to be without internet service for even a day or two. I felt so disconnected. I've totally forgotten what life was like before the internet. Or cell phones, or ipods for that matter...

*Amy and I were talking about how weird it is to take your computer into a computer shop. She likened it to handing over your car, but I thought it was more like handing over your purse. I mean, there's nothing particularly scandalous on my computer or in my purse, but I don't really want perfect strangers poking through either, you know what I mean?

P.S. I don't have Vista, just XP, but I saw this on a friend's Digg list and thought I'd share. Cause it's freakin' hilarious.


Monday, July 07, 2008

New Veg*n Costa Rica forums

I started up a new forum community over here for vegans and vegetarians in Costa Rica, or those thinking about coming here, or even those from outside the country who just want to chat with veg*ns here. Feel free to stop by and sign up (all applications are moderated by moi). I'd love for this to become what esposo and I tried to do many years ago when we first moved here, which is to help the veg*n community connect with each other and share information. So if you know anyone else who would be interested in signing up, please let them know, and hopefully I'll see some of you out there over there!


Sunday, July 06, 2008

Cows can swim, apparently

Did you know cows can swim? My friend Treeza sent me these photos from Wisconsin, where she is dealing with a flooded basement and cows swimming the streets of her neighborhood. While the midwest floods, my beloved Big Sur is burning. What's going on? Well, I have some ideas... global warming, for starters. Yikes. We've got to start taking better care of our planet. It's the only one we've got.


Look who's in the news!

My friends Dave & Monica made the Calgary Herald. How cool! I wrote an article about them here for this website, and I guess someone read it, and now they're on their way to becoming big reality-tv superstars. My favorite kind of superstars (after sweaty Latino musicians, that is).

Four years ago, just as the city's economic boom gained steam and sent house prices skyward, Dave Dolezsar and his wife Monica quit their lucrative oilpatch jobs, sold everything and left Calgary in search of paradise. Read more...


Saturday, July 05, 2008

Video Saturday

Happy Saturday! Here it's raining cats and dogs. Oh man do I need a new dryer! Ok, anyway... thought I'd post a couple of videos for your viewing pleasure, since not much exciting has been happening lately (unless you happened to read my Craigslist post, hee hee...).

This is the CNN en Español's "Destinos" spot on which esposo appears (he's the chef toward the end of the video, in case you don't know him personally). This was shot on location at the hotel where he works. We never did catch it on t.v., but they managed to get a copy at the hotel, which we, of course, uploaded to YouTube.

A reason I wish I was living back in California: This guy was doing some concerts in April at small venues around the state. And I missed all of them. F-ity F F. I think he could just stand on stage and not do much of anything and I'd go just to look at him. Hot, is all I can say.


Thursday, July 03, 2008

Sorry, esposo...

... but I actually made one of Rachel Ray's recipes. I hear all of you out there groaning in unison. Normally, I'm right there with you. Rachel Ray? I hear you saying. Yes, yes, usually the stuff she makes is nothing I'd want to eat. However. Yesterday she was doing a vegetarian show, and actually the eggplant "steaks" looked ... well, not disgusting, at least.

Here's my dilemma (and I'm sure I share it with a lot of moms out there): I'd like my son to eat something besides pizza, spaghetti, or PBJs for lunch. Son loooooves Rachel Ray. When I accidentally happen upon her show while channel surfing, he's all, "Hey! Stop! It's RACHEL!" Oh jeez, yeah I know kid, I know, I was hoping you wouldn't notice... Yesterday, though, as I said, she was doing a vegetarian show, and I thought, well, why not, maybe I can get a new idea or two for something quick and easy to make that son will actually eat. So we watched it together, and though she kept piling stuff on top of the eggplant, son thought it looked good, and I had everything to make it, so I figured, what the heck.

Of course, me being me, I made some changes. I lightly pan-fried the eggplant (which I cut into rounds, not long "steaks") instead of grilling it (we don't have a stovetop grill pan). I made my own hummus (super easy from a couple of cans of garbanzo beans, the juice of one lemon, fresh parsley, salt & pepper, and garlic, and olive oil to get a creamy consistency; plus, I really prefer making my own stuff like that than buying it). I used fresh spinach instead of frozen (I think it probably retains more vitamins and minerals, and since my anemia has been resurfacing lately, I've been on an eating-lots-of-spinach kick). And actually I made my own breadcrumbs out of toast also, though I thought we had a bag of panko around here, but I couldn't find it anywhere. Oh, and I didn't have roasted red peppers so I left those out and used a tomato instead.

Amazingly, these things were really quite good! Son actually ate TWO of them (how many kids do you know that like eggplant, or spinach, or even hummus for that matter?). I think if you used small eggplants and just the hummus and breadcrumbs, it would make really good party hors d'ouvres. So anyway, try the recipe. It was good. I'll have to hand it to Rachel on this one. Sorry, esposo, I know you can't stomach the woman (heee heee, a pun! a pun!).


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Oral "Fun"

Not that kind! Get your minds out of the gutter, people! I'm talking about going to the dentist here.

Let me start by saying I'm not a big fan of going to the dentist. Who is? I rather doubt there are too many people out there who actually look forward to it. A few years ago, one of my wisdom teeth was impacted and got infected, and I had to get an emergency yank-out done here in Costa Rica, and honestly it was the worst experience of my life. Worse than childbirth (and I had my son at home, you know?). Apparently a piece of the tooth broke off as she was trying to get it out, and she ended up digging in my jaw for the broken tooth for like an hour. So, you can imagine I haven't exactly been eager to get back to the dentist's chair.

Though, the last two times I've gone have been relatively uneventful. Last year, I had a cleaning done with Dr. Pedro Diaz at Cima, and I would recommend him highly. My teeth glowed in the dark after he was done with them! I don't think they have ever been that clean in my life (and usually I do go in once a year for a cleaning, just so you know I'm not some disgusting person with falling-out brown teeth or anything). Anyway, he was great, and it didn't hurt a bit. (Also, he speaks perfect English and mostly works with kids.)

Now we live up in the sticks, not at all close to Cima, so I had to find another dentist up my way. I got a recommendation from the CRL list for a dentist here in Grecia, Dra. Haidy Vasquez, so I thought I'd try her out. I've had an ugly, evil tooth of pain bothering me for the past couple of weeks, and though I wasn't looking forward to going to the dentist, it was a necessity. So my appointment was yesterday, and I have to say, I'm also highly recommending her. She was very kind and was the first dentist I've ever been to where I couldn't even feel the lido injection (except for the one on the inner side, you can't get away from that, but still it wasn't bad at all). She was worried I might need a root canal (and in case you're wondering, everyone says they hurt, except my mother, who's had a few so she should know, but if you don't believe me, see for yourself), but it turned out just to be a deep cavity. There are some very old "silver" (mercury) fillings in my mouth, all of which need to be removed (and if any of you out there still have them, you might want to look into getting them replaced with porcelain, because when the mercury leaks and gets into your blood stream it's very bad for you). I foresee Dra. Haidy and I spending a lot of time together!