A Sunny Christmas Day in Costa Rica

Christmas Day came and with it beautiful sunny weather. We got up, had a big breakfast and then decided to venture out for a Christmas Day walk on the mountain on the other side of our little Rio Oro valley in Santa Ana. We had been told that if we followed one of the roads in the valley far enough the road would slowly turn from a paved road into a smaller dirt track before disappearing into a narrow little path into the jungle.

What could be better than that we thought and headed up along Calle Cebadilla until the road had disappeared and we couldn’t get any further except by foot. So we got out of the car, I strapped little E into the carrier and followed J, my mum and my sister into the jungle. We walked on the beautiful path up along the mountain side for about 40 mins until we suddenly got up to a paved road again. This road snaked its way higher up the mountain along a ridge with beautiful views to both sides, on one side we saw Salitral and on the other side we had our little community along Calle Cebadilla.

The sun was wonderfully warm, the sky blue with a few scattered clouds only and I was spending Christmas day in my beige shorts, new lovely orange top, my walking shoes (that get way too little action at the moment!) and little E as the perfect little accessory in the carrier up on a mountain in Costa Rica. If I would have been shown a picture of me up there two years ago and been told that this is what I would be doing Christmas 2011 I think I would not have believed them. The baby being the biggest surprise, but also that I would still be in Costa Rica. Two years ago we were just wrapping things up in London before our big move in March.

But how lovely life is. Here I am with the most wonderful man and baby in my life, surrounded by gorgeous nature, with my mum and sister visiting me in my paradise in order to celebrate Christmas in the sun together once again. I definitely cannot complain. What a fantastic way to end a very special year, while slowly starting to prepare for  the new year and all the wonders it will bring.

Christmas Eve on the Mountain

So that was Christmas… And it sure passed quickly! Especially this year since this Christmas we had to squeeze in both a Finnish Christmas and a British Christmas over here in Costa Rica.

As you might remember from an earlier post, we picked up our tree ages ago and it has brought much light and beauty into our house for all of December. I was almost a bit worried that it might not keep till Christmas in the heat and in the improvised foot (i.e. bucket with rocks in and fairy lights wrapped around – gorgeous!). We also picked up a gorgeous poinsettia from the farmers market to decorate our porch with. I found two gorgeous ceramic angels at a ceramic shop on the Calle Vieja from Santa Ana to Escazu that sells beautiful handmade things. These are now lighting up a corner in our house as well, making the atmosphere even more Christmassy.

I started to prepare the Christmas present baskets early December already. Little by little the two wicker baskets started to fill up with small presents from over here, but when my sister arrived halfway through December the baskets got a massive boost with tons of presents from back home. My mum’s arrival a few days later again brought many many more presents to be added to the baskets, so many that by Christmas eve they were overflowing of goodies. Most of them for little E. Of course.

Having imported my mum for Christmas meant that this year I would get some delicious Finnish Christmas food! Mum made us lovely “potatislada” and “morotslada” as well as some good old rice porridge (obviously with the almond hidden in it) while I had found a smoked ham (imported from Mexico) in the supermarket and sourced some local hot smoked trout from the German lady we buy all our bread and sausages from at the Santa Ana market. We had baked ginger bread cookies with my sister and I had made a Christmas cake with a tropical twist (added bananas) so our sweet tooth was taken care of. (Well, obviously there was no shortage of sweets anyways with lots brought over from Finland as well as me seeing to it that we had some from the local supermarket as well…)

The lunch was a bit of a shock to J I think. We have rice pudding with sugar and cinnamon on, with ham sandwiches on the side. Heh. A bit of a random mix, but very delicious and typical for Finnish Christmas. In the end J got the almond and according to our family traditions he then gets to pick the first present from under the Christmas tree. I thought it was so nice that he got the almond and got to experience our family tradition in this way. I didnt realise it would send him off on a power trip as “The Almond King” claiming the right to rule over all presents…

Finally at about 6pm, with Christmas music in the background, the tree lights on, candles spread out in every corner of our little house we enjoyed a wonderful Christmas dinner while little E was sleeping. And after dinner there were the presents of course.. My two wicker baskets full of presents had been sitting under the tree just waiting for us for DAYS it felt like, and now it was finally time to dig in. What we realised very quickly was that little E was definitely the Princess of Presents. About 95% of all presents were for her. Im a bit divided about this. Part of me was super excited about it and loved all the lovely things she got. Part of me was a bit shocked by the realisation that my “share” of presents from my parents and sisters and family would from now on actually go to E. Hmm. Well, I guess Ill get over it by next Christmas.

We shuffled off to bed at about 10pm. Such a late night again for someone who is used to crashing into bed at 7pm. But such a wonderful night… Merry Christmas everyone!

Christmas preparations

My Christmas preparations have continued quite successfully over here. I have just baked another batch of gingerbread as well as a soft gingerbread cake with added banana (for the exotic touch) and kicked off the Christmas food shop earlier on with the help of my sister. Two days ago we wrapped up the final Christmas present purchases and tomorrow we will add the final touches of frosting to the cookies we are just baking.

Having been this good with all the preparations, tomorrow we are also heading down to the beach for almost three days of sunshine, surf and as much sleep as possible…🙂 I think I have deserved that now. Especially after my big Christmas party debut yesterday. It was the second time I was out in months and months. I had popped by my department’s Christmas party last week, but that was nothing compared to this. Basically, last time I was in jeans, flat shoes and in and out of there in an hour and a half. This time was a proper dress, high heels and make up party and I must admit I was rather excited about it all. What I hadnt taken into account was how long it had been since I last wore heels. And how much half a glass of champagne can get to you…

Having floated around the party yesterday like the after dark social butterfly I used to be way back in my youth, today was a complete opposite to that. I woke up with a slight hangover from the half a glass of champagne and with knees, calves and throat aching from having stood around chit chatting with dozens of people for three hours. I was just not used to a) high heels, b) talking that much to people, c) staying up past 8pm

But I had a wonderful time. It was so nice to be out and about a bit instead of just at home with the little one. Although, I must say I was soooo looking forward to cuddling up in bed with little E and big J after these three hours out. Just like I am now. The last batch of gingerbread cookies are almost done and I have enjoyed the first slice of my soft gingerbread – banana cake, almost fully my own design🙂 But now it is bedtime for this little lady. Hooray!

And we are one day closer to Christmas eve.

Gingerbread Cookie Workshop in the Sun

Gingerbread CookiesThis is somewhat absurd but here I am in our kitchen in shorts and a t-shirt, baking gingerbread cookies while looking out over the sunny, green central valley of San Jose. The Christmas tree is up, Christmas songs playing in the background, the sweet smell of Christmas in the air from the cookies that are already in the oven, and an even sweeter taste of Christmas on my lips from all the dough I have already eaten… But it still just doesnt feel exactly right. Its amazing what a difference it makes that its sunny and warm outside at Christmas time.

Today E and I have had a lovely morning once again. We got up around 7am, had breakfast, had another little snooze, had some tummy time and some general playtime, had a walk up our mountain and now we are on to the gingerbread baking mentioned above. Little E seems to be liking her bouncy chair more and more nowadays. She can actually sit in it for many minutes now without getting bored and screaming. Such a relief for me to at least be able to put her down a few minutes, and once those minutes have passed in the bouncy chair there is always the bed with the exciting mobile hanging above it that will give me a few more minutes of freedom.  I don’t know what I would do without mr. Elephant and ms. Giraffe (the bouncy chair toys) and mr. Octopus (the main character in the playing mobile).

In time for Christmas I have been glancing at lovely little toys for Emmie anywhere I see some, unfortunately she seems to still be quite limited with regards to what she will actually bother to play with. She doesnt pick things up yet, she just observes them if they are deemed worthy of observation (i.e. are they colourful enough, is there anything more interesting around). So unfortunately I think this Christmas she will still just have to settle for an extra helping of breastmilk and the excitement of looking at all the lovely colours Christmas brings with it.

I would love to show her a white Christmas, but I guess it is much easier this year to just be here in the warmth instead of in a colder country. At least here I dont have to worry about lots of clothes and if she is warm enough etc. And after all, she will appreciate the snow much more once she is a bit bigger and we can actually play in it. I cant wait to take her sledge riding! (Not sure who will be more excited then, mum or baby!) But for now I think a tropical Christmas is not too bad. After all, I can still have gingerbread cookies, a tree, fairy lights, presents, Christmas songs etc etc etc…

But best of all, a tropical Christmas means the new years day surf will not be freezing!


Oh, one more thing.. This is the fantastic recipe I used for the gingerbread cookies! Thank you mum for sending it over!! Its super easy and absolutely delicious…

Boil the following ingredients in a saucepan:

1,5 dl Sugar
1 dl Syrap
2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Ground ginger
1/2 tsk Ground cloves
Add 125g butter chopped into smaller bits and keep stirring.
When the mix has cooled you whisk in one egg
Leave to sit while you mix 1 tsp of baking soda with 5dl of flour.
Mix it all together and leave to sit in the refrigerator over night.
Use a tiny bit of flour when baking the cookies so they dont stick to the table (surface).

It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas

It’s actually beginning to look a lot like Christmas over here. The ticos have started to put up Christmas trees, lights, nativity scenes and all kinds of things on their houses, in the streets and most of all in the shopping centres. But whats different this year is that we are joining in!

On Monday we ventured out Christmas tree hunting in Escazu. J had spotted a possible tree seller along the route he usually runs so we headed up the hill towards the little tree farm in question. Unfortunately we got there a bit late. More than a month late actually, the guy selling the trees informed us. Apparently we should have dropped by at the beginning of November at the latest to reserve a tree if we wanted one from there. Having realised the situation I asked the guy if there was another place that sells trees anywhere nearby. Three kilometres past the monastery restaurant was the reply, so off we went.

Now this sure turned into quite the adventure. Almost as soon as we had passed the monastery the road started to turn into gravel, which then turned into sand/clay and then into large boulders only on some parts of it as it slowly crept its way up the mountain. Higher and higher we went, past small houses, steep drops and little coffee plantations and small fields. The views were amazing but the narrowness of the road, chopped into the side of the mountain was at times a bit alarming. I was very pleased we didnt meet another vehicle while climbing upwards.

After having driven a bit too far down the road, we finally decided to ask a guy on the side of the road who was trying to get his moped going where we could find some Christmas trees. He told us we had gone a bit too far  so we turned around and headed back down the mountain until we saw the little house on a small hill, surrounded by Christmas trees. I am not sure how we missed this on the way up, possibly because I was looking down at the tricky road and not up towards the side of the road where all the trees stood.

As soon as we parked two boys ran out of the house, one teenager and one young boy, eager to show us their trees. We picked one larger one for the living room and one smaller one for our porch and tied them onto the roof of our poor car that had been through so many bumps during this exciting adventure and headed off home with our trophies.

* * *

Back home and I am writing this next to the Christmas tree in the living room. I keep looking at it and all its glittering baubles we have just hung up on its branches, thinking that it does bring a bit of Christmas into the house. However tropical the climate might be over here, this year I decided that that is not going to stop me from trying to get into the Christmas spirit and I think we are succeeding.

Life with Only One Free Arm

Suddenly all those life insurance ads I kept seeing in my FitPregnancy magazine made sense and it dawned on me, I had become a one armed woman as well, also known as a “mother”. It all hit me last night as I was trying to cook dinner while breastfeeding, something I do not recommend, and in addition to the life insurance ads, the feat also reminded me of something Douglas Adams said:

“A learning experience is one of those things that says, ‘You know that thing you just did? Don’t do that.” – Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt

So yes, from now on I will try to time cooking and breastfeeding into different slots of the day..

I honestly had not realised how much carrying I would be doing with little E around. My left shoulder is already complaining out loud about it all while my right wrist has quietly started to disagree with it as well. The question is, which one will give up first.. And all the while this is happening, little E is demanding more lap time than ever. She loves falling asleep in my lap or being carried around the house so that she can constantly be part of everything that is happening. Doesn’t matter if she is awake or asleep, she knows, and I mean she really KNOWS if she is not included anymore (for example, you put her down..) and will object to it LOUDLY. Thankfully she is so cute she can get away with it.

I must say though that I am very much looking forward to the arrival of J’s mother in a weeks time. Grandma will arrive carrying lots of gifts for the little one, but also a few very much anticipated by the one armed mother. Among other things she will be bringing a baby carrier! I have such high hopes for this wonderful thing that will offload my shoulder and my wrist that I don’t dare think about it too much! My expectations might just be too high then and that is never a good thing I have learned from experience. But in any case, I am sure this carrier will mean a world of difference and little E will be able to participate in everything we do without my arms suffering like they are at the moment. (Then again, I do hope my arm muscles will start building up again soon after my low arm activity pregnancy, which would also make a huge difference I am sure..)

In the meantime though I am forced to little by little get used to life with only one free arm. At least it is making all the everyday tasks into new challenges and keeping things interesting over here. (As if they were not interesting enough already with an infant in the house…🙂 )

Getting to Know Each Other

Little E is 12 days old now. How incredible to think she has only been with us for 12 days, it sure feels like she has been with us forever. The first 12 days we have spent getting to know each other. E is such a wonderful little Zen baby. She basically eats, sleeps and poops and seems to be quite happy with life in general. Then again, who would not be with such a leisurely lifestyle as my little princess is enjoying up here on our mountain.

There is so much for me to learn about Little E in particular and babies in general. For example, I hadnt realised how often you need to change diapers. Or how much sh*t babies can produce! Especially at 3am.. That’s usually when Little E decides to show off her skills in this area…

Breastfeeding is also a whole new world that I have tried to embrace whole heartedly. And yes, finally all the battles are starting to pay off and we have managed to set up some kind of pattern that works for both of us. I considered contacting the La Leche League to get some expert advice, but things seemed to sort themselves out before I got down to contacting them. I will be keeping their details though.. Just in case..

Personally I am feeling pretty good, a bit tired due to the new day rhythm Little E is imposing on us, but in general pretty good. And I am very much looking forward to being able to start exercising again, so fingers crossed my doctor gives me the green light in a month when I have my postpartum check up. And I am very much looking forward to using my gift card for a massage. Hopefully they will be happy to change it from a pregnancy massage to a pamper-the-new-mummy massage.

But now my new boss is calling.. At least adjusting to this new hierarchy was pretty quick.