Archive for the ‘Interests’ Category

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.

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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.

Banana Muffins on a Rainy Saturday

Yesterday we did our weekly supermarket shop. Obviously I forgot a few essentials as I dont seem to be able to get my act together and make a list, but I got most of the stuff I wanted when it comes to supermarket stuff and today is our market day so today we are picking up the fruit and the vegetables for the week. I didnt really think I would be a fan of weekly shops, I like popping in now and then to pick up stuff, but I must say it is growing on me..

Anyhow, one of the things I forgot to top up was my flour reserve. We had some old bananas kicking about from last weeks fruit shop and I really wanted to use them to make some banana bread. Unfortunately, due to the lack of a shopping list I didnt have enough flour at home to make banana bread. I also realised I didnt have an oven form for loafs, so I had to come up with something else. Roaming around on the internet I found a lovely Swedish food blog with a delicious sounding recipe for banana muffins! And fortunately, the flour I had at home was enough for half a batch of delicious banana muffins!

I whipped it all up and had the first part of my small batch in the oven when J came home. It smelt lovely… Second batch was coming up as well, but I decided to do mini muffins instead of normal sized ones. Unfortunately thanks to my wonderfully short memory and attention span, I left them in a tiny bit too long and they gained a bit too much colour for my liking. 😦

But we ended up with 7 delicious, golden brown muffins to enjoy while the doggies could have the semi burned mini muffins I thought. I shared one between them and my gosh did they like them! I have since then been followed around by two little doggies, looking up at me with sad puppy eyes, begging for more of the deliciousness I had before.. Extraordinary. This reaction is right up there along with empanadas and chicken, possibly even higher!

In summary, take a look at this simple recipe for banana muffins, its perfect for a rainy Saturday afternoon when you need some banana sunshine in cupcake form. Dog approved as well.

16 normal sized or 8 large ones

You need :
150 grams soft butter
2 dl sugar (I used brown sugar)
1 tsp vanilla sugar
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
3 bananas (ripe, ripe, ripe)
4 dl flour (I used coarse wheat flour)

This is how you do it:
Use an electrical whisk and mix butter and sugar to an even paste. Mix in the vanilla sugar and the baking powder. Add the eggs, one at a time while whisking. Mash the bananas and mix them in with the wheat flour. Fill the cupcake shapes so they are 3/4 full. Place in the oven at 200 degrees C for approximately 15 min. If you make American sized cupcakes, again, fill the shapes to 3/4 only. They will rise a bit. Add 1o mins to the cooking time.

Cravings…

I always thought the whole thing about cravings while pregnant was a topic that had just been blown out of proportion and that surely you cannot have such massive urges to eat random things simply because of your growing bump. Well lo and behold, here I am now at 4 months with a fairly interesting palate and a need for the most random foods.

Over the last few years I have had some big changes in my diet, the biggest one according to me being the move away from being an avid coffee drinker to loving tea (green tea and oolong now being my favourites). But nothing prepared me for these changes.

OrangesI kicked off my pregnancy with purely wanting soda crackers, toast and potatoes as everything else made my stomach turn and shivers of disgust go through my body. Looking at the nutritional values of the things I was eating would make a starving child look well nourished, and needless to say I lost over a kilo between the 6th and 10th week. During this time I did though soon moved over to loving oranges to lessen my nausea. Oranges in the morning, during the day and in the afternoon, orange juice whenever possible and lemon in every water glass. Later on I heard that apparently the acidity from citrus fruits helps you feel less nauseous, but also that vitamin C plays a big role in this. without just listening to my body I would never have realised this so big respect to the body and it knowing what it wants.

Around this time I also completely stopped drinking tea. It was like I hit a wall and I just didnt have ANY interest in this lovely hot beverage anymore.. Quite surprising as I had up till then been having a happy 5 cups a day most likely. Reading about it I soon found out though that you should not have too much caffeine in your diet while pregnant and I guess this was again my body’s way to align itself with its new situation.

Pistachio NutsMy next big craving was pistachio nuts and beet root.. Not together, but still.. Hmm.. Considering my previous cravings of such low nutritional value it was with relief that I found out that both items are great sources of nutrients! Pistachios are high in oleic acids, carotenes and vitamin E while at the same time being packed with many important B-complex groups of vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, pantothenic acid, vitamin B-6, and folates.They also contain important minerals like copper, manganese, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium.. Once again, pretty impressive craving by my body..

BeetrootsBeetroots then again are apparently loaded with vitamins A, B1, B2, B6 and C with the greens showing a higher content of iron compared to spinach.  They are also an excellent source of calcium, magnesium, copper, phosphorus, sodium, choline, folic acid, iodine, manganese, organic sodium, potassium, fiber and carbohydrates in the form of natural digestible sugars. And actually, its iron content, is of the highest and finest quality that makes excellent food that is blood building! (and apparently you increase the amount of blood in your body by approximately 40% during pregnancy!)

Interestingly enough my latest craving is salami.. Yesterday I had wonderful salami empanadas as my second breakfast and that same evening I was spoiled with a few slices of pepperoni pizza… Mmm.. It definitely hit the spot but I am still to find a good nutritional excuse for this craving..

Weekend at Arenal

It’s been terribly long since I last wrote and I do apologize sincerely about that.. I had all these great ambitions and intentions to write lots on my blog this year but it all seems to be going down the drain lately, mainly due to being too busy! Such a shame that when there are lots of things to write about, you usually don’t have the time to write about it all!

Anyways, since I am today just sitting on the terrace in the lovely cool breeze, looking at the clouds rolling in over the central valley, I decided to invest some time in updating my blog and some of the other forums of expression I use. It is Semana Santa over here, the holy week, or Easter as it is also known. Santa Ana is beautifully quiet since all the Ticos are on the beach, and I cannot even begin to describe how wonderful it is to have the town almost to yourself.. It almost makes up for yet another year of not being able to eat any Easter eggs because of the chocolate issue.

We have just had J’s parents here for almost two weeks and it has been very nice to see them again. So strange and yet so wonderful to see them in “our” setting over here, instead of the usual London setting. I think they also very much enjoyed the change in scenery as not a day went past without comments like “well, its absolutely wonderful”, “oh look at that beautiful bird, isnt it wonderful”, “ah, absolutely beautiful” and a whole long list of other appraisals of this and that. It is actually very nice to again have the pleasure of seeing Costa Rica through the eyes of someone who hasn’t seen it yet. It is such a shame how we do tend to just get accustomed to what we have around us and forget about the wonders of nature and life when we see it on a daily basis.

Arenal Volcano ViewThis month’s highlight up till now has definitely been the trip to Arenal that we made with J’s parents. Driving up towards Fortuna early Friday morning through Atenas and the winding back roads was a fantastic experience, just like arriving in Fortuna turned out to be as we caught the first glimpse of the majestic Arenal Volcano.

And it just got better when we got to the hotel which was located just at the foot of the volcano, I could even see Arenal through the window while lying in bed! Breathtaking views and gorgeous settings. I would highly recommend Hotel Los Lagos to anyone heading up that way.

We spent three beautiful days at the hotel, splashing about in the wonderful hot springs, enjoying the sun on loungers that we had moved over to our own secluded little spot next to the topmost spring, admiring the horses and other animals that lived on the hotel grounds and getting completely spoiled at the spa (I had a wonderful Volcanic Mud Wrap and a Deep Facial in a room with a beautiful terrace overlooking the jungle)

Unfortunately I was not feeling very well on Friday and ended up with a headache all Saturday (which the Volcanic Mud Wrap did wonders to soothe) but who can really complain about details like that when you get to recuperate in such wonderful settings.

I am definitely heading up here with my family when they are next in town, and I must say I really want more of those wonderful spa treatments..

But for now I am blissfully peaceful on my own terrace, enjoying a beautiful Easter Friday with the dogs while looking forward to J getting off work. Happy Easter!