Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Loungin' in sunny San Diego

Every morning it is sunny here! This is something I could get used to. I think I am a California girl! There has never been more talk of me becoming one than this week.
Ernesto's parents were waiting for us at the airport last Sunday and the whole family came over that afternoon for a FOOD EXTRAVAGANZA. Ceviche, buche, bacalao, carnitas, y salsa and beans of course! It has been all about food the whole week.
New years was pretty low key for us. We played games at Ernestos parents house until 1030p and then went to his sisters house for a few hours. They had cousins in from Mexico, so we just sat around talking, champagne hugs and kisses at midnight. Pictures too.
We were roasting on the open fire...........
Our second carne asada of the week was on New Year's Day. I didn't get to eat/make my mom's traditional Pigs in the Blanket (pork, cabbage and sauerkraut) as I usually do, but being outside for a Mexican cookout on January 1st was a good substitute. (Ill make the pork and cabbage when I get back to Costa Rica) Here is the grill master (Neto's dad) hard at work.
There were a lot of cute kids running around. Here are Ernesto's brother and sister's kids Jorge, Maia and Andrea.
..and here I am with the newest addition...Tavo's son Cruz. Do you think I look good with a baby?
Ernesto went to Home Depot so he could whip up TOSTICLE, a set up he learned from my dad, it was quite a hit. Here, Neto's friend Freddy tosses the balls to another post of the opponents.
It was nice not having an agenda all week. We took one afternoon to go ring shopping with Ernesto's mom. Its been three years since I lost my wedding ring. After going to 2 different showrooms, I have determined that it is so much easier when the guy just picks the ring for you. (which is what Ernesto did over 8 years ago, and did such a great job by the way) There were just too many beautiful rings, no way to choose just one. Even though we received insurance $$ for my ring, prices of gold/platinum have tripled since mine was purchased. Luckily Im not wanting a huge ring. After wearing my modest silver Mexico band for 3 years, putting on a big diamond seemed like too much BLING! Then again, maybe I could get used to it! Looking in a jewelry store gave me ideas some ideas.
I am even thinking of just a band, this one was beautiful and very elegant on my finger.Of all the ones I saw, I liked this Art Deco Platinum ring the best.In the end, I decided I am going to have a ring custom made. Its much cheaper (since retailers mark up 3x) and then I can design something unique. Im really wanting an original. Just like me! This Art Deco ring has given me my inspiration......I mean, I am a jewelry designer, right? I have been browsing online too, and have several designs in my head. I will be sure to share it with you when it comes to life.
Ernesto grew up in San Diego, but wanted to do/see something new. He looked online for "things to see" and found the oldest church of California. Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded in 1769.
It is one of 21 Mission churches in California. Here Ernesto checks out the different styles in the little museum.My favorite part was the gardenJade plants are like BUSHES, growing everywhere.
For the last 8 years, whenever we came out here I would bring home pieces of jade plants to grow in my pots. By the time we sold our house I had 25 pots with Jade plants. Yes, I guess you could say its my favorite. You could also say I really miss having a garden......and a house.....and furniture....the list goes on. I threw a dime, along with my wish over my left shoulder into the fountain with St. Anthony. Please make it come true!
We were planning to leave Saturday, but surprise surprise the flights were full. At Christmas time you ask? My dad kept saying " well usually the flights are so open around the holidays, I wonder what is going on?!" I know I know....but what are we going to do? We MUST travel. We are used to it anyway. Im fine sitting in airports. One benefit of staying another day is that we spent the afternoon in Coronado. Here I am on the beach in front of the Hotel del Coronado. The hotel is a San Diego landmark, it was built in 1888.We have been receiving so many questions about our future plans. "What are you doing after Costa Rica, where are you going to live?" Your guess is as good as mine. 6 months from now? hmmmm...the future is wide open. I love that!

Thursday, December 25, 2008


Before I tell you ALL about my wonderful holiday in Ohio, take a look at my Mom and Dad's beautiful living room.....does this scream cozy xmas or what?
This was the first year that I actually had so much time. (being jobless has its benefits:) We arrived in Canton 4 days before Xmas. Quality family time!
On Christmas Eve we enjoyed my Mom's traditional mushroom soup with sauerkraut, a recipe which has been passed down through generations. I have eaten it every Christmas Eve my whole life and I LOVE IT! Neto always says "it's nothing special" but then he fills up his bowl again. I think he really likes it but just likes teasing me more. This is why he also jokes about my mom's homemade bread, he likes to get a rise out of me! (no pun intended)
My mom gave me one present that night, which is not usual. 2 years ago, my sister in law Michelle had my name in the gift exchange and gave me a really cute purse and inside it was scraps of material and a note saying "I promise when I am done with Nursing school I will make you a quilt." Well, she is now a nurse, and this was my wonderful surprise!
Its beautiful...so colorful and so much work! Thanks Michelle, it was worth the wait! We went to an evening mass at 9pm that night and afterwards my aunts and uncles came over for cookies and wine......lots of homemade wine. Everything at my Mom's at Christmas time is tradition and that why I MUST be with my family for Xmas!! Someday I will carry on these traditions at my own house, (and make my own) but until I have kids (having a job and house would help too) I will continue to enjoy the warm Christmas that my mom puts together! I thank God that Ernesto's parents are Jehovah's Witness! haha. We can always spend New Years out in San Diego...It works out perfectly! Xmas morning is always the best! Lounging in a robe, drinking coffee, eating homemade bread...waiting for the rest of the family. At about 10am Santa showed up Xmas morning with a rake for my mom!!
Ok really it was my brother Bill. He had dressed up the night before for a party with his friends kids, and decided he would surprise us...He and Barbie actually got pulled over for speeding on the way to my parents house and the cop let them go. What cop could give santa a ticket on Xmas? We all took turns sitting on Santa's lap telling him our wishlist. Of course as tradition goes, I plee with everyone that we open presents BEFORE we eat dinner, and they say NO, laugh at me and say "you are worse than a little kid Cindy". So we eat.
And then it was time! Present opening time! In the past few years we have tried to take turns and watch each other open our gifts, as opposed to the madness of everyone tearing through at the same time and not seeing what anyone opened. Neto started out with some "self-improvement gifts" like white strips for my teeth, Oil of Olay intensive 14 day skin repair kit, and an electric razor??? What was he trying to tell me?? He was laughing and I was scared to see what was coming next....
I was plesantly surprised when I opened a beautiful coffee mug and a gift certificate to my favortie store...Yep, TJMAXX!! My niece Kelli got me the awesome peacock feather earrings! This was a year of turquoise!! This has been my favorite color for years, but i always have runner-ups that change frequently. This year it is yellow. Last year was orange. Turquoise is the constant....and although I picked theses two gifts out....they were gifts from my dear husband. Isn't it beautiful???
Its a leather clutch if you couldnt tell from the pic. Ernesto and I were at TJMaxx on Xmas Eve morning and the moment I saw these earrings, I knew I must have them! I am in love with these exotic beauties!
Ernesto said that would finish off his xmas shopping for me and he bought them.
They are big bold and beautiful! Gold and turquoise, one of my favorite combos! I also got a pair of turquoise leather gloves that are fabulous!

The best gift's are the one's that require thought. Neto went to Joann Fabrics, picked out a pattern of an apron, and found a material that I love (black and white Damask) and started a sewing project!! It was really sweet. Neto know's what I like. I love that!

All these great gifts, when the only thing on my Xmas list this year was the Canon Rebel Xti. Well I didn't get to unwrap it, but it IS in the mail. This is more of a "family gift" for us. That is what Im calling it. I have BIG plans for this thing!
My parents got Ernesto and I a really good air mattress. We have a place for you to sleep now when you come to visit us in Costa Rica. (when are you coming?)
Bill and Barbie blew up a picture of the whole family when we were together this past summer, framed it and gave to my parents.
I had to do a self timer portrait of the family...dogs included! My brother Tim and his family are missing. I hope one year soon we can all be together on Xmas!
I love this picture of my parents with my niece Kelli. She is only 17 for all of you people asking about her on Facebook......sorry
When Brrrian arrived on Tuesday, he brought a game home with him. Its called BANANAGRAMS and its now my favorite game. You must give it a try!
My whole family got addicted, we must have played it 500 times in the week I was there! My dad is not crazy about it, but that is only because he never wins! haha Its like scrabble, only timed. Everyone takes 11-21 tiles (depending on # of players) and you race to use all your tiles. Of course we had a lot of laughs with some of the words used. We had a dictionary nearby. I realized that Im not the best speller, and I recieved a few comments that I frequently misspell words on my blog. "Don't you use spellcheck?" Well, I will from now on! I apologize, oh faithful readers! Here we are in the middle of a heated game.
This was a wonderful Xmas and its not over yet! We left for San Diego on Sunday
(after waiting in the airport Saturday. Its a bad time to fly standby, but we are used to it. I have flown home standby during the holidays for 8 years! As long as we have ipods and computers, the wait isnt so bad!
More holiday updates on the way from sunny San Diego!!!
Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Transitioning Hot to Cold\North to South

After the Habitat Xmas party on Thursday, which was 80 and sunny...it was a good idea to stop in Atlanta for a couple days before stepping into the cold ass weather of Ohio. Ernesto and I hadn't seen each other for a month (that sucked!) and so we wanted to have a really nice dinner together Friday night.....hmmmmm where to go?? Ernesto wanted me to choose and I WANTED BEEF! (notice the spits of meat on the fire behind us)
Fogo de Chao is one of my favorite restaurants. Its a Brazilian steakhouse and soooo delicious! Big fat juicy meat...and they have THE BEST salad bar ever....Im talking lettuce, tomatoes and cucumber salad....they have artichokes, asparagus, hearts of palm (my favorite) olives, roasted red peppers, cheese, procuitto, etc. So first you fill up on this and then you turn your coasters to green or red to control the meat. When you want the "gauchos" to come around with the different meats on a spit you turn up green
when you want a break "can't...take...another...effing....bite" you turn it to the red side.
They will cut off the meat depending on how you want it cooked.
...and I don't want mine cooked too much.
Yes, and eating extravaganza it was!!! The next day for lunch we met Smita for Indian in Little 5 and then that night met Ernestos friends Jason and Ricardo for Thai at Surin in the Highlands. I really have missed eating out. Saturday morning I left for FREEZING Ohio! Here is the snowy view from the plane.
My Mom had my fur (faux) coat waiting for me, thank God! It was down to 7 degrees! I drank some of my dad's homemade wine to warm me up! He has over 5 gallons in his cellar!
We went to my bother Bill's house to hang out. He has spent the last 3 months renovating his kitchen himself, and this was the "unveiling". It is so beautiful! We made pozole at my mom's and took everything over to his house. I don't have a pic of the whole kitchen, but trust me, it is straight out of a magazine!! You get a glimpse of the rich chocolate cabinets and the "Hostess with the Most" [Corona]...eh Barb....
There were 10 of us and we had such a great time. Laughing so much! I have to say, I have the coolest family!! I miss them so much, I wish we all lived in the same city. (like San Diego) We were all bowling on the Wii and getting crafty too. My niece Kelli is a knitting machine. While I was at Walmart earlier (I know, I cant believe I went there) I got inspired by the turquoise yarn and decided I was going to start a blanket.
Its going to take a long time, but thats something I have an abundance of in Costa Rica, Im going to pack as many projects into my suitcase as possible.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Christmas Pozole

I thought it would be nice to have a Christmas dinner with my friends at the office before heading home to Ohio. I even got creative and sent out an EVITE. I had been wanting to use this design for a long time, I love chandeliers!
Pico de Gallo Salsa
Tortilla Chips (baked in oven)
and for the main course

(a Mexican pork & hominy stew)

I called my mother-in-law for her authentic recipe. Ernesto makes this dish too, but he uses a seasoning packet that is sold in mexican stores (not in Costa Rica) I had to find out what exactly is in that seasoning packet! Yes, it is one of my favorite Mexican dishes. I didn't know this before, but Pozole is a traditional Christmas dish in Mexico, so that worked out perfectly!

The recipe is as follows:
To a big pot add:
2 lbs. pork (include neck cuts, and a pig foot for flavor)
One white onion, cut in half
One whole head of garlic
One spoon of chicken flavoring
Add enough water to cover well and let this cook for about one hour. Skim froth off the top.
While pork is cooking take 6 dried pasilla chillies and cook for 30 minutes with 2 cups water and 2 cloves of garlic. Add this to the blender to puree.
Add chili puree to the pork
Add 2 16oz. cans of hominy
Let cook another 2 hours or until pork is "fall apart" cooked.
Taste and add more salt if needed.

The following ingredients should be chopped and ready for garnishing the stew:
Green cabbage
White onion
Lime wedges
Chile sauce in a bowl for extra spice

To prepare Chile Sauce:
In a frying pan lay down alluminium foil and add about 10-12 dried chile de arbol peppers. blacken peppers on high heat (this will cause you to cough like crazy-so open windows and doors!) Add blackend chillies with 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 cup water and puree. This sauce is added per bowl and is very spicy.Keeping with the Mexican menu (NOT!) Maureen made a delicious Chocolate Peppermint mousse for dessert.

It was my favorite kind of "girls night" Great food and good conversation!

MERRY CHRISTMAS! I can't belive it's only 9 days away!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Encantada en Esterillos

Welcome to my 2 best sunsets I have seen in Costa Rica!!!
PLAYA ESTERILLOS After 4 weekends in San Jose, I thought I would die if I didn't get to the beach. Luckily there was a perfect reason to go. Bobby a friend from Ohio State was in Costa Rica for work, and wanted to see another spot besides San Jose. DUH! After the night out Friday it was pretty hard sticking to our planned 6am departure time. Kate and I were out the door at 710am to pick Bobby up at his hotel and swing by to get Lauren and Maureen. We had to pick a beach that was easy to get to (ie: no ferry) since we were only spending one night. We picked Playa Esterillos on the pacific side, roughly a 2.5 hour drive.  We stopped for smoothies (and baño) at this great place in the mountains and asked the waitress to snap a shot for us. I had been there once before and saw toucans in the trees. No such luck that morning. The view was enough.

Also along the way there is a long bridge over a river full of crocodiles. (No, no I did not shower that morning.)That is not so noticeable in this shot. Especially with the beautiful background (and friends) to distract you. The pictures on ENCANTADA website don't do these ocean cottages justice. IT IS THE CUTEST PLACE! My next campaign is to get my whole family here for a vacation! Here is the entrance to this LUSH little beach escape.
This was our cabin, which had one king and 3 single beds and slept all 5 of us comfortably. Bath w/hot shower (ha! I didn't even use it...who needs a shower when you have a chlorine pool?) little kitchenette front porch...and only a few steps from a gorgeous, non-crowded, black sand 10k beach. HEAVEN! After the quick tour, we were in the sun buy 1157am.....ahhhhhhhhhhhhh
The pool was blue mosaic and the perfect temperature.
 I was in love with the blue planters, boy, do I miss gardening! Encantada has an outdoor grill and is fully equipped with hammocks too! Maureen took full advantage
At 515pm we saw what was the most gorgeous sunset I have seen in Costa Rica to date.After the sun disappeared, the sky turned pink, it was amazing! We took a 5 minute walk to Arena de Fuego, a very cute open-air restaurant and were so happy with the 3 wood fired pizzas we ordered. DE-LISH! 
All of us fell asleep so early, but it was perfect. Do what you want. Anything goes on the beach.
Sunday morning we sat outside on the patio where we enjoyed the included continental breakfast. We leisurely flipped through all the US magazines (thanks Bobby) a luxury I really miss. Ahhh magazine flipping. Domino, Lucky, Martha Stewart, People, Self, Shape. Its the little things really.We finally moved our magazine party out to the beach where we soaked up the sun for several hours. At this point it was time to either eat lunch....or exercise. Maureen and I knew that if we ate first it would never happen. Kate and Lauren had already been out for a couple hours and came back with so many cool shells and sand dollars. (As a matter of fact, I think they got all of them, because I wasn't able to fine even ONE??? Greedy girls.) I didn't bring my running shoes (hello?) so maureen ran and I walked really fast. I was still wanting breakfast even though it was 2pm. Luckily, one of the 3 restaurants within walking distance serve til 4pm! After eating our fill of gallo pinto we moved to a beach bar at the Pelicano for a piña colada! Maureen and I decided it was the perfect family vacation spot. We made a bet who would get more (or any) family members to Costa Rica for a vacation here. Come on ARNOLD's, don't let me loose this bet! It is the perfect spot for a relaxed family vacation. Beach. Pool. Grill. Fishing. Canopy tour nearby. It's Seneca, only a hell of a lot better!! They even have wireless...did you hear that Dad?? You can bring your laptop! Did you read the part about millions of seashells mom? whole sand dollars too?! Ok really, I know my parents are not the ones who need convincing. Tim? Michelle? Jenny? SchaffNer? Kelli? Bill? eh Barb? Brrrian? Schhhirner??? Is June a good month for everyone? I will plan everything, can we just agree on a week?? Who's coming with me? Who's coming with me?
We started our drive back to San Jose right after another PERFECT sunset. This beach trip was exactly what I needed. I will now be ready for the snow in Ohio this weekend!


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