Sunday, August 31, 2008

My boy's worms

Yesterday we did son's big fourth birthday party at InBio Parque. It was great! I highly recommend it to anyone here looking for something different for a kid's party. A couple of suggestions, if you do go this route:
  • Make sure you order food for the adults. We did, and it costs extra, but after taking a tour in the hot sun, you at least need to provide the big kids with something.
  • Try to get them to set the kids' food out while they are taking the tour. They didn't do that for us, and both kids and adults started munching on the bags of chips at the table. The guy kept telling me that the food was for after the tour, and I was like, well, it's after, where's the food? Eventually it got there, but it was more than a little irritating to have to wait. The kids were hungry when they got back, and the food should have been ready.
  • The games are dumb. Opt for a longer tour to include both the pond and the butterfly garden.
Otherwise, everyone had a good time and seemed to enjoy themselves, kids and adults alike.

A bilingual guide took the kids to see the farm animals, where they had a ball feeding baby goats and snuggling baby rabbits. I almost bought a golden Polish cockerel chick, but didn't, because we really have no place for a rooster at the moment and without a hen, he will soon get pent-up sexual aggression off of his chest by pecking at me. No thanks. Someday, though, I would really like to have chickens again. Hey, if you want Polish chickens, they do sell them at the farm. The roo chick was 4,000 colones; I think hens are a little more, and full-grown hens and roos quite a bit more.

At the butterfly farm, the guide was explaining the life cycle of butterflies when, at one point, she told the kids that caterpillers looked something like worms. Son piped up and said, "I have worms!" The guide sort of looked at him sideways, saying, "Uh... okay..." and then son continued, saying, "They live in the dirt in our yard!" Ah, okay, those kind of worms... Ha ha...

Oh, and they misspelled his name on his birthday cake. Good thing he can't read yet.

My mother-in-law disappeared toward the end, so while esposo was off hunting for her, my mom and I watched the farmer guy attempt to chase the pot-bellied pig into its pen. The pig, which, as you know, is much, much smarter than a dog (and who would eat a dog? but that's a whole other post...), was having none of it. Every time the pig outmaneuvered the man, the small crowd that had gathered shouted Ole!

Blue morpho butterfly at the butterfly garden

A resident goat gets a pet from P.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The latest dumb thing I did

Funny that the title of this post has been used before. So I guess I tend to do dumb things every now and again. The latest was this morning, garbage day. Last night we bought a big bag of stuff for son's piñata at the store. Esposo put it all in an AutoMercado bag and left it sitting in the pantry/dishwasher room/entryway to the garage where we also keep our bags of garbage. Wednesday is garbage day. So I got up early to take the trash out, and you already know the punch line to this story.

I threw away all of the piñata stuffings. Yep. I did. Dang. Crap pants.

In other news, we picked up my mom at the airport yesterday. She was supposed to get in at 8:45, but somehow the flight got rerouted through Houston and she got in at 2:00. We were sitting at La Candela right across the field from the airport, waiting to see her plane land, at which time we would go over and pick her up, figuring it would take about an hour or so to go through immigration, customs, etc. I get a call on my cell phone, and it's some guy at the airport that my mom has asked to call me. She's already off the plane and waiting for us. Talk about quick! Of course, you can't go from the Santa Ana side straight across the highway and turn left to the airport anymore, which both esposo and I forgot about. So we had to drive all the way down the highway toward the city, make a u-turn at the first exit, and get back on the highway. Which took an extra 10 minutes or so. Well, never mind. We tried be on time, we really did...

Ok, off to buy more piñata stuffings...

Friday, August 22, 2008

So then I almost ran into a nun...

Rant time:

WTH is it with Costa Ricans walking behind moving cars? I do not understand this. If a car is backing up, would not stopping and waiting until it has passed be the prudent thing to do? No. Not here. Apparently. Granted, I have a taller-than-average car, and sometimes it's difficult to see directly behind me. But here again, wouldn't someone walking behind a moving car take that into consideration and STOP, wait for the car to go, and then keep walking? Or at least make sure the person driving the car sees you before you walk right behind it? Sheesh.

Esposo and I were at the Banco Crapional in Grecia when I almost hit a nun. It was not my fault. As I was backing out of the parking lot, I looked to either side of me, didn't see anyone, and proceeded to back out. Within two seconds I hear a banging on the back of my car. I stop, abruptly, and notice that there are now two women escorting a nun down the sidewalk. They bang on my car, I stop, and they keep walking behind my freaking car. I get the feeling this has happened to them in the past, because they don't even bother to stop, give me a sideways glare, nothing. They just keep on walking. I'm like, okay, whatever, and continue to back out after I'm sure they've passed this time. Esposo, however, and typically, freaks out. "What are you doing? Why don't you watch where you're going? Blah blah blah yadda yadda yadda." I'm like, shut up, I didn't even see them. And who walks behind a moving car anyway but a complete idiot? Or a group of idiots?

It wasn't my fault.

I must admit here, however, in the interest of full disclosure, I did hit someone once. But I don't really think it was my fault that time, either. Of course it was in Costa Rica, where people think cars are made of air or something. We (esposo and I) were at a resort in Guanacaste for some press thing. I was seven months or so pregnant -- oh, and I have mentioned that esposo does not drive? So yep, I had driven all the way from Ciudad Colon to Guanacaste, and now we were on the way back home. The driveway next to the reception desk was very narrow, barely allowing for two cars to pass each other. And wouldn't you know it, there was a car parked in the opposite direction, with some Tica yammering on to her friend in the parked car. Esposo got in the car, asked her politely to move, and she just stood there, sort of gesturing me to go around. Though there wasn't enough room to go around. I think I said something along the lines of, move, you stupid bitch, and she again just sort of glanced over at us, then back at her friend and kept on yammering. Well, by this point, I was more than a little irritated, so I started driving. And the passenger side mirror hit her in the arm. Oh well. I figured she deserved it. Was I wrong?

I will give that I am prone to bouts of "road irritation," though I wouldn't say full on "road rage." Mostly this happens near San Jose, and mostly during rush hours. Mostly because people there drive like complete morons. Not all people, but a very high percentage of them. For example, as we were driving C. and I. back to their house in Pavas, a bus had pulled into the intersection when the driver obviously must have known the traffic wouldn't move enough in time for him to leave the intersection clear. He just didn't give a shit. There was a delivery truck next to me, and so when I laid on the horn (hey, you get good at that after living here for a while!) to irritate the bus driver, somehow the morons in the delivery truck got into their thick heads that I was beeping at them. Why, I have no idea. So then at every intersection until we got out of San Jose, they'd pull up behind me or beside me and lay on the horn. Lovely. I know why some people want to shoot other people during rush hour.

On the way back to the highway, there's an on-ramp near the Vetrasa in La Uruca, where the left lane turns left and the right lane goes straight and onto the highway. Though I knew from the get-go that most of the idiots in the left lane weren't actually going to turn left, they just wanted to cut in front of as many people in the (longer) right lane as they could. I was in the right lane, and another delivery truck (coincidence? I think not!) was trying to cut me off, and I wouldn't let him. Yeah, I'm a bitch, whatever. So then he thought it would be funny to tail me the rest of the way with his bright lights on. Only it wasn't so funny when I slammed on my brakes, and then he gave me some room and turned the lights back down. I guess the jefe wouldn't have liked it very much if he'd have crashed the delivery truck for being a stupid ass.

Ooh, I just know my blood pressure is going to go up 10 points when we move back to Escazu...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

When you have nothing to say... pictures. We went to see The Clone Wars yesterday at Cinepolis with C. and I. I would personally have waited for it to come out on video, but son is a big, big Star Wars fan and wanted to go see the movie at the theater as soon as he saw the trailers on t.v. I checked Cinepolis' website first thing in the morning to make sure, absolutely sure, it was playing that day and the times and everything, and saw that it started at 12:30. Perfect.

Of course, by the time we got there, it was almost noon, and the theater wasn't anywhere near opening. The security guard said they didn't open until the afternoon, and gave esposo a number to call for the movie times. The recording said it wasn't playing at all (which I knew had to be wrong). So we had lunch, walked around, and came back around 2:30. Surprise, surprise, the movie had just started! We had the entire theater to ourselves.

Anyway, while walking around Terramall, I spotted a couple of things that just begged for photographs. One was this ad of Sid Vicious (though actually I am a really bad punk rocker because I thought it was Johnny Rotten) in a Converse store:

Billie Joe Armstrong was on the other side of the store. I didn't get a picture of him, though. Here's the original print ad. See how they're all connected at the feet? Clever, eh... (It looks so tiny! Click to enlarge and see everybody. That's the dude Ian Curtis from Joy Division on the far left; Billie Joe on the far right, and if you really care who everyone else is, I will be more than happy to look up that information for you.)

Then we went over to one of my favorite stores, Aliss, where we picked up a couple of sets of silverware (less than $20!) and I bought two new pairs of shoes (less than $10 for two pairs of great shoes! Granted, I already had one pair in tan, but bought another in black because they are my favorite shoes and I lost a heel on one shoe of the tan pair). While looking around the "women's" section (why they call it that, I'm not sure, because most of the clothes looked like things teenagers would wear), C. spotted this shirt. For those of you out there with gout, I think you'll want to be picking up a few in different colors.

G.out Fitters!

Afterwards, we hit my favorite quilt shop, KG Quilts in San Pedro. The regular guy who is usually there wasn't, and the two women in there were not, let's say, incredibly friendly. Or fast. Esposo was bitching and moaning about how we were going to get stuck in work traffic if we didn't get out of there, so my tactic was to let the kids run around the store screaming so that they'd move a little more quickly and get us to leave. Guess what? It totally worked! C., I think, may have been a little surprised that most of the fabrics she said she liked I already had some of at home. Ok, yes, I admit that I love fabric! I can't help it. I got some nice tone-on-tone purples and greens and some of a butterfly print (that I already have in blues and blacks) in two different colorways. And some black-and-white toile. I love toile. And some batting. They have some bolts of Jane Sassaman fabric that I probably would have picked up more of if esposo hadn't been bugging me to leave. Oh well, that just means I'll have to make another trip out there!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another damn fine falafel

Yesterday we finally finalized son's birthday party plans, which will be held at Inbio Parque. I thought it was a good deal -- the party itself was about $200, which included the cake, a piñata (though I am going to put my own not-so-disgustingly-sweet treats in there), lunch for all the kids, a guided tour (in English!) through Inbio Parque's farm and butterfly garden, and a host for the party. We ponied up another $100 for savory and sweet pastries for the adults (because it just seems weird to me to have a kid's party and not give the adults anything to eat, though apparently that is not uncommon), and I still need to buy things for the gift bags (too late to get anything from Oriental Trading Co., damn!). I really think the kids and the adults will enjoy the party there. Plus, they can spend as much time walking around the park as they like after the party's over.

Afterwards, we went with C. and her daughter I. to have some lunch. We were trying to find Ganesha in Heredia (since it's sort of close to Inbio Parque), but the sign was gone and the windows shuttered. I fear Ganesha is no more, sadly. On the way to look for Ganesha, however, C. spotted a little falafel place (across from the McDonald's near National University), and we all love a good falafel, and we were all about starving at that point, so we decided to check it out.

Well, it was excellent! The guy who runs it is awfully nice, even going so far as to give us some free samples of falafel (which were light and fluffy, while still crunchy on the outside and not greasy in the least) and coffee as we were ready to pull a Violet Beauregarde down the street afterwards. We ordered in total two vegetarian plates (which had hummus, baba ghanouj, salad, falafel, a type of garlic spred, and yummy salty pickles, plus pita bread), a shwarma sandwich for C., and two falafel sandwiches for esposo and me. Plus drinks, and after-meal coffee for esposo. All of it came to about $25. (The kids had french fries from the KFC next door!)

I think the falafel in themselves were some of the best I've ever had. I've never had a falafel so soft and smooth on the inside, while so crunchy on the outside without being greasy and overpowering. Mr. Hassan makes them right there -- in fact, the only equipment he has in his establishment is a grill and a deep fryer, plus that skewer thing they cook meat on. The baba ghanouj was exceptionally creamy and delicious, with a hint of smokiness. (C. says that she hates eggplant, and had never had baba ghanouj before yesterday, and loved it even more than the hummus.) I loved the salty pickles, but I could see how some might find them a bit too salty. Falafel sandwiches had the falafel (of course), plus lettuce, onions, tomatoes and tahini sauce. I will admit that their falafel sandwiches still aren't quite as good as my favorite favorite falafel sandwiches over at Little Israel, but the falafel itself I think is better than Little Israel's (if that makes any sense). I wish I could stick Hassan's falafel balls in Little Israel's sandwiches...

Shwarma Hassan has been open a little over two months, and is run by just the nicest people you might ever meet. So if you're in Heredia and looking for something yummy, give them a try. There are only a few tables in this modest establishment, but it's really quite good food and I hope they stay around longer than Ganesha did! Let me know if you try them and what you think!

Monday, August 11, 2008

Conversation with a four-year-old

I'm out of Silk, so instead I'm making hot tea for breakfast in lieu of coffee today.

"Do you know that te is tea, Mommy?"

"I did know that. Do you know what te frio is?"

"It's iced tea."

"How about te caliente?"



Friday, August 08, 2008


A good picture of my dear friend Stumpy Stumpleton, in his usual position hanging off of the gutter at the back of the house waiting for scraps. You can see his tail has grown completely back, but it does have a weird extra "tip" at the end:

Isn't he cute? And it bears repeating: I am going to miss him so much when we move.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Stop touching his hair!

Ok, I'll admit this up front: my son is an anomaly. He is a blonde-haired, green-eyed boy in a sea of brown-haired, brown-eyed children. But that isn't his fault. (It's the fault of some whacked-out gene somewhere back in the gene pool.) And if you looked at esposo and I and our son, on first glance, you might be tempted to wonder whose kid he really is (take a better look, and you'll see how much he actually resembles both of us). Ok, so he's blonde. I get it. He's different. He's cute. Blah blah blah.


This does not give people the right to touch his hair! He's not a freakin' Buddha, for you-know-what's sake! They will not gain some magical power by touching his hair. It is not more likely that their children will be blonde if they touch his hair. It doesn't feel any different, I can assure you. So WTF is up with everyone touching his hair? He absolutely hates it when people do that (random strangers, we're talking about here), and if someday he hauls off and yells at or otherwise is nasty to someone who touches his hair out of the blue, I would not blame him in the least. I have wanted to, on occasion, to yell at people myself, such as the woman in front of us in line at the grocery store yesterday, who of course, had to turn around and ooh and ahh at son's hair and then she touched it. He nearly screamed. I just looked at her like, well, you didn't ask, what did you expect? Get a clue, woman!

When I was pregnant (and I'm sure a lot of you moms out there can relate), I can't tell you how many total strangers wanted to touch my belly. Like you would do that to someone who wasn't pregnant? Is it a good luck thing? Most of the time I would say no. My friends usually didn't even ask such a thing (probably, I suspect, because they all had the same experience at one time or another). (And the ones that did ask, well obviously that didn't bother me, because they were my friends. There's a big difference between your girlfriend rubbing your big, pregnant belly and a complete stranger.) I mean, ladies, do people just go up to you in the supermarket and grab your boobs? No, of course not, and if they did, you'd be calling the police, right? If someone came up to you in a parking lot and started petting your hair, you'd freak out, wouldn't you? I would! Where is the personal space?

While I'm rambling, I remember back when son was newly-born, and (again with the complete strangers!), because he wasn't bundled in a parka from head to toe, people would always say things like, isn't that baby cold? We got so sick of hearing it (cause, ya know, newborns don't have good circulation in their hands and feet, that doesn't mean they're cold), that esposo one day told some random woman in the AutoMercado parking lot, this isn't freaking Alaska! I laughed my ass off.

I guess that's what I need, a good retort. Or maybe just the guts to tell people, he doesn't like it when people touch his hair. Though I think if he screams at them, they'd get that, loud and clear.

In other news, we have the coolest grasshoppers in this yard. I know that I probably should be trying to get rid of them, but they don't eat that much and they really are pretty to look at. I took a picture of the one on the left, and didn't even notice the camoflauged one on the right until I downloaded the photos to the computer:

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

At least the floor is clean

On Sunday, I had a minor flooding in my laundry room. The roof leaks (has ever since we moved in), and the floor has been getting a big pool of water in it every time it storms. On Monday, that pool spread its way through the entire house. Oh, what a mess.

This house is sort of weird (Costa Rican "architecture," what can I say), so explaining this is going to be difficult and/or sound really strange. Our laundry room looks like a converted exterior space that had a roof put on, and then it looks like the garage was built as an afterthought. So in the laundry room, you have gutters that would normally be on the outside of a house running inside the house. I know, weird, right? I'll have to take a picture, because I'm sure you're saying to yourself, what the hell is she talking about? Anyway, these gutters (as all gutters do) were full of leaves and sticks and mud, and basically overflowing to the point of no return. All of the water then spilled out of the gutters (poured out, rather, I couldn't even keep up with dumping out buckets, which were inadequate to hold all of the water to begin with) and onto the laundry room floor. When the laundry room floor was full, the water started seeping into the hallway, then down the stairs into my office.

At the same time, water was pouring into the garage, coming in through the hallway that connects the garage to the rest of the house, then into the kitchen, dining room, and living room. There was so much water inside the house that it started overflowing the door jambs and going outside the house.

Also, have I ever mentioned that we are on the edge of a valley? Basically our house (and our neighbor's house across the street) are the highest things around for miles. And you know about lightning seeking out the highest object? Yep. So lighting pretty much strikes the house antenna every time there is a thunderstorm. So here I am, with a four-year-old, water on every floor, trying to keep my son in his bed where it's dry while I go around unplugging everything electrical and hoping lightning doesn't hit the house while I'm standing in water.

I finally manage to get esposo (who is at work, naturally!) to call the landlord, who calls the handyman to come over and clean out the gutters. He is then nice enough to sweep out and sop up the water in my entire house. I mean, talk about going above and beyond the call of duty. By the time the evening rolled around, son was asleep and I finally started to relax. Most of the house had dried out (thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for tile floors, is all I can say!), though even this morning there was a small pool of water in the living room. And the handyman came back this morning and fixed the roof, so hopefully flooding season is over at this house.

A benefit to all of this? Realizing, as esposo says, "It's just stuff." Yes, some of it important stuff; yes, some of it expensive stuff, but in the end, stuff. Stuff can be replaced. Children and pets can't. I can't even begin to imagine what trauma people go through during a real flood; watching the water rise and take everything, knowing you are absolutely powerless to stop it.

As the water was flowing into my office, I started taking everything I could off of the floor and moving it to higher ground (aka, my bedroom, the only room in the house that didn't flood). One of the things I found was a photo of me and esposo at Margaritaville in California. The frame is pretty much destroyed, but the picture seems okay. I love this picture of us: in it, I'm happy and thin, esposo is handsome and young. We used to go to this place all the time; it was out in the valley, away from it all. We had so many, many good times there. I can see why pictures are usually the thing that people miss the most after a flood or a fire.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Costa Rican food

Esposo writes about Costa Rican food in the latest issue of Nature Landings (which you can pick up for free around Costa Rica; AutoMercado usually has them):
"Costa Rica frequently receives praise for its natural richness and tropical diversity. The same is true of the foods we eat on a daily basis. Our tropical climate yields a variety of vegetables, fruits and lesser-known delicacies that we use in many ways, some unique to Costa Rica." Read more...

Monday morning update

Hey, y'all! Sorry I haven't been posting in a while. I've been amazingly busy with work; I'm actually working on four projects at once. This never happens. And in my business (freelance writing and editing), you take work when you can get it, because there are months that can go by with absolutely nothing. So. Here I am, blogging, when I should be working. But the coffee isn't ready yet.

My allergies have been kicking up to miserable proportions lately. It's weird, because I guess if you have allergies to pollen and dust and stuff, you can become allergic after a time in a new environment. Growing up in the midwest, I had summertime allergies. Then I moved to California, and had no allergies for a few years, and then got really bad hayfever. Then I moved to Costa Rica, and had no allergies for almost five years. And a couple of years ago, here I am, suffering from seasonal allergies again. Ugh. In the middle of rainy season, it starts. I wake up nearly unable to breathe. So I end up having to take a Benadryl every night before I go to bed. This can't be good for the long term. And in the short term, the inside of my nose is so dried out that [warning: this might be gross for some of you, if you want to skip to the next paragraph!] it cracks and bleeds. So which is worse, painful nosebleeds or not being able to breathe? If anyone out there has any suggestions on better ways to deal with allergies, I'm all ears.

A friend of mine was surprised that I'm allergic to lots of things, but not animals. Thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that, otherwise I'd be in terrible trouble, considering I sleep with two cats and at least one dog every night!

In other news, my mom is coming down for a month at the end of August. She was supposed to be here for son's birthday in July, but discovered at the last minute that her passport had expired. So we had a little mini-party for son and his playgroup friends, but we're still planning a "real" birthday party for when she gets here. InbioParque looks promising, though I found it not a little ironic that the food they provide for kids' parties includes hamburgers, hot dogs, and chicken nuggets, since raising meat is one of the biggest environmental problems on our planet, and cutting down rainforests in South America for cattle pastures a huge threat to biodiversity. I am pretty sure the reason for their menu is that parents in Costa Rica (and let's face it, pretty much everywhere else, too) aren't that enlightened when it comes to children's food. [As an example: every time we go to Gymbo Fiestas for a play day and they're setting up for a party later in the day, the amount of absolute sugary, fattening crap they put out for little kids is appalling.] We'll have to see what we can do on the food front if we decide to have a party there. Otherwise, I really like InbioParque.

And I'm adding the Grist podcast to my blog; check it out! (If you want your own, find it here.)