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We Survived Tropial Storm Alma

For the last 2 and a half days, Ashlee, Brian, the kids, Taylor, and I have been confined to the house, due to two straight days of torrential down-pours. I'm not talking wussy Arizona or California rains either, I am talking massive downpours lasting for 2 days straight with no breaks. At times we had no electricity (which means no TV and no internet), the streets were flooded with almost a foot of water ( leaving us to take turns to have someone go buy food) and we had no hot water leaving Ashlee and I refusing to take showers. Good times! I have to say that we did come out of the whole thing virtually unscathed (except for the fact that Abby and Pakers bedroom has mud running down the walls) and I am proud of us for "weathering" through. :)

My heart goes out to Ashlee and Brian who spent over 2 days vacation bunkered down with us. I am sure they will never want to visit again. I also feel for my husband who was so excited to go sport fishing with Brian, but whose trip was canceled due to the storm.

Ashlee and Brian, thank you for coming to visit us. We had a great time. Here is to POPS; chicken, rice and beans; smelling like mildew; bathing in the pool; and chocolinas. Have a safe trip back, and I am so sorry to say it is sunny today.

For more information on the storm we weathered you can visit....FOX NEWS

Manuel Antonio

We took Ashlee and Brian to Manuel Antonio, another rain-forest preserve about an hour and a half away from Jaco. We heard this was a great place to view animals, but we really had no idea what a great experience we were going to have. Once we settled the argument over whether or not we needed a guide ---(of course, the guys thought we didn't need one and the girls thought we did)---we saw sloths, monkeys, iguanas, lizards, raccoons, and a paca---without paying the 60 bucks for a guide. I guess that makes up for the ferry trip, guys.

At one point we were walking on the path when all of a sudden a bunch of branches started shaking hard and getting closer and closer to us. Even the boys were freaked. You can imagine a scene from Jurassic Park if that helps. Finally two coatimundis ran flying out of the bush straight for us. We all screamed, but they ran right around us into the forest on the other side of the path. That has been one of the highlights of our trip so far.

Abby is learning so much about the rain-forest and the different animals here. We are so blessed to have this opportunity.

A Holy Adventure: Puntarenas

We are pretty sure we earned our way into heaven today....this is why.

We haven't been to church since we arrived here over two weeks ago because the nearest church is two hours away by bus. After a long discussion Saturday night, Ashlee, Brian, Taylor and I decided that we would have an adventure tomorrow and go to church---despite the fact that we know nothing about the area, nor how to get there. Here is a play by play of today's events.

5:00 am - We all wake up and get dressed to go to the town bus stop in hopes of catching an early morning bus to Puntarenas, the closest town with a church.

5:40 am- After a short walk we all arrive at the local bus stop, just in time to watch the prostitutes walk home after a good nights work.

6:00 am- Our bus arrives and we're happy to see that we could all find seats together. The kids eat cookies and bread for breakfast.

6:02 am- Abby turns and says "mom, why are we going so fast?" I said "ummmm.... I a not sure." Abby replied....."Are we going to crash?" I said...."no, no, we will be fine." Abby came back with...."mom, I think we are going to crash, we are going way too fast!" I agreed. We were going way too fast!

6:35 am- Someone gets off the bus---the doors never shut. Are they broken? Did the driver forget to shut them? Taylor and I have second thoughts about sitting close to the exits with kids.

6:37 am- Abby announces Parker smells like mildew, leaving Ashlee and I in a fit of laughter.

7:30 am- We enter the outskirts of Puntarenas. We all start realizing that we have no clue where the church is. I decided I was going to ask someone before we got too far into the city. I turned and asked the man behind me where the Mormon church was. He replied in spanish... "right there!" Pointing as we passed it. Taylor jumps up, yells "Parada!" to the driver, and we all exit just in front of the church.

7:32 am- All of us realize that we have no idea what time church starts. The gates to the building is locked. No one is there.

7:40am- Waiting around is pointless. We are all in consensus to walk the highway in hopes of finding a restaurant or somewhere to chill until we find out when church starts.

7:50am- There are no restaurants in sight. Walking seems more pointless than waiting. We don't know what to do. Brian walks back to the church to hopefully find someone. Sheri sees two white shirted guys over the horizon in the opposite direction. They are missionaries.

7:55am- We meet the missionaries and learn that church starts at 9am. One missionary is a white guy. He is from Benson, Arizona and lived in the same area Taylor and I did when we were in Tucson eight years ago. The other is from one of the areas taylor served his mission at in Peru.

9:00am- Church starts, everyone is very welcoming. The branch ( a church congregation that is not large enough to carry the status of a ward) had only about 30-40 attendees.

10:20am- The first church meeting (called sacrament) is over. We are all ready to leave, but Abby wants to go to primary ( the children's sunday school class) and we didn't want to set a bad example so we stayed for the entire 3 hours of church.

12:00am- Church is over, it was a good experience but long since Ashlee and I only understood about half (or less) of what was said. We go back to the bus stop and decide that we might as well continue on with our adventure since we came all the way out there. Taylor wants to take the ferry across the gulf to a peninsula an hour and a half away.

A lady from church sees us on the road, picks us up, and takes us to the ferry depot. We think she felt bad for us. She seems to act as if she is not sure why we would ever ride the ferry.
12:25 pm- We arrive at the dock. The dock man says the boat leaves in 5 minutes but we need tickets. Taylor and Brian run to the ticket booth, point to the boat and buy tickets without asking about where it was going or what was over on the other side. Ashlee and I wonder why we are taking the ferry, but we trust the boys, and get on the boat. The kids are starved, they eat cookies, soda, and bread for lunch.

2:00pm- We begin to approach the port, and notice that there is absolutely nothing there. Our dreams of eating were crushed. We dined on more cookies, and the bread we had packed that morning.
2:10pm- We get off the ferry, and our fears were confirmed. There was no where to eat without a long drive. We notice that tons of people are getting on the ferry we just exited. Afraid it would fill up and that we would be stranded, the boys pay for us to get back on the ferry. We get back on to the ferry and eat more bread and cookies. The boat fills with a mass of people.

3:30 pm- The ferry leaves again for Puntarenas. Ashlee falls asleep, the kids are whining, we are all starved.
5:00 pm- We catch a taxi back to the town bus station.

5:05 pm- Ashlee and Sheri decide to go find a restaurant while Taylor and Brian go get tickets for the bus home. (We hadn't eaten anything but cookies and bread all day.) When Taylor and Brian return, they are smiling. The 7:00pm bus has been canceled. No buses will be running for the rest of the day to Jaco. We are stranded.

5:10pm- We decide we are going to eat, and then figure out what we are going to do. We ate some great (and cheap) food and feel much better.

5:30pm- With full tummies, we ask the owner of the restaurant what we should do or if he knew of any taxis that would take us all the way back to Jaco. He calls his friend. His friend agrees to take us and quotes us 50 bucks for a ride. We agree.

6:30pm- We all arrive home and decide we now all smell like mildew. We sit back and laugh about our crazy day. We promised each other that tomorrow we would take it easy.

Why is everyone staring at me?

The main form of transportation (after bicycles and walking) here is buses. A ride that costs 20 bucks in a taxi is 1 dollar (30 cents per person) on the bus. However, these buses can get packed....and I mean packed. We are talking no standing room left at all...not an inch. The kids love riding the bus (as long as we get a seat) and beg to ride it every time one rides by. Parker hangs his head out the window as Abby waves to anyone on the street. We have found that when we ride the local buses, we are usually the only gringos on it. We are 4 specs of white in a sea of brown.

The other day we were riding on the bus and suddenly Abby whispered in my ear...."mom, why is everyone staring at me?" Confused, I turned around to indeed find a bus full of Latinos staring at her in adoration and shock that we were taking the local bus. (Most white people ride in taxis or rent their own cars.) I turned around, smiled, and told her it was because she had beautiful blue eyes. She was content with that and smiled back.

The whole incident did not make me feel uncomfortable at all. I think everyone in the bus was glad to see gringos participating in the same daily activities that they do. Many asked us where we are from, and were extremely complimentary of our family even when Parker pulled the emergency stop string above the window and made the bus stop on the highway. Overall the Costa Ricans have been warm to our presence and happy to share their culture with us.

P.S. For all you Nelsons out there, Ashlee and Brian have arrived safely, just in time for the Festival of Arts week here in Jaco. I am sure I will have a post on that later.

The gringos are coming---Playa Herradura

Playa Herradura is a beach about 5 miles away from our condo here. It is currently the up-and- coming spot, because it is gorgeous. We took a taxi in, and as we drove into this once sleepy town, we could tell that the gringos have pretty much taken it over. A gorgeous Hilton resort had been thrown up, and massive amounts of condos and vacation homes (Gringo style) are being built. It reminded me of Arizona, during the housing boom peak.

Speaking of which, it has become apparent to us that the increase in tourism here in Costa Rica is really starting to take a toll on many of the natives. Every neighbor, taxi driver, and person we talk to mentions how sad it is that many of their treasured areas are now filled with resorts, tennis courts, and condos. I wouldn't say any of them are bitter about it, (probably because many of them are reaping the financial benefit from it) but you can read the sadness on their faces anytime the "growth" is mentioned.

Anyhow, the small town of Herradura, does provide us with a clean, virtually empty beach, perfect for kids. The waves at the beach by our house are dangerous, in fact people literally drown there every week, so this was a relief to be able to let the kids go in the smooth, reef protected waters. Here is Herradura...

Fun with Frogs

Its currently the rainy season here in Costa Rica, meaning less crowds and cheaper prices, but lots of rain. Everyday around 6 o'clock a torrential downpour begins and lasts until about 10 at night. This is to most peoples detriment here, but we actually enjoy this, because by 6 o'clock the kids are so tired, we are winding down the day anyhow. It gives us an opportunity to sitback, relax, and enjoy the peaceful sounds of the rain.

Along with the rains comes---frogs---lots of them---all over. Tonight we had one actually jump into our house to escape the downpour. Earlier today, Parker found a frog and we decided we were going to have a little fun with him. Here is a clip.

Comida Costariccence

One of my goals while here in Costa Rica is to add a few new dishes to my dinner repertoire. (I am notorious for fixing the same meals over and over again.) Anyhow, since we are really trying to live the Costa Rican lifestyle (yes, I washed clothes by hand yesterday) I have been talking to the ladies around here to learn how to fix typical plates fixed in the region.

Two things that make this difficult is 1) there is no such thing as a recipe here: people just know how to cook the food and 2) if I do remember the name of the ingredients from my discussions with neighbors, finding it in the grocery store can be a challenge. For example, my neighbor was saying that i need to put salsa in my gallo pinto. I was looking all over to find "salsa" or what us Americans call salsa. After about 20 minutes, I asked the store clerk where the heck the salsa was adding that I couldn't find it anywhere. She first gave me the are you stupid look and then showed me to a whole partial isle filled with Costa Rican Salsa. (It was in a bottle and it was a sweet semi-spicy brown liquid---not what I was expecting.) I would have never have found it. It is times like this that I am glad I have learned spanish---so I could redeem my poor tourist butt.

Anyhow.... the photo above is the one meal that I have mastered thus far. Gallo Pinto con Bistec. Notice the cool coconut drinks. Our neighbor used his machete to get them down off of their tree and opened them. I had no idea that coconuts had so much liquid inside. It literally was a full serving of a sweet water (not milk) type liquid.

Anyhow...if anyone is interested in making this Costa Rican staple. Here is my "recipe."

Gallo Pinto
1) Soak red beans in water on low heat until cooked. (2-3 hours)
2) Fry uncooked rice to prevent them from sticking once cooked.
4) Boil Rice as you would in the US. 2 cups water for 1 cup rice.
5) Mix Drained-Cooked Beans into cooked rice. Fry in a pan with a small amount of oil.
6) Sprinkle about half a packet of Consome' de pollo (latin chicken broth mix) into the rice and beans mixture. This is available at Vallarta in Cali, Food City in Arizona. Might be able to use American chicken broth mix. It looks the same to me, but who really knows.
7) Add a small amount (maybe 4 table spoons???)of costa rican salsa. (Good luck finding this one in the US, but you can probably use el pato sauce or something in its place. Just make sure it is not salsa with chucks.)
8) Mix well, salt, and pepper to taste.

1) Buy flank steak, sautee with a small amount of cut onions. Sweet peppers can be added if you desire.
2) Serve when cooked.

Also good with this meal, cut pineapple and mango; bread from the panaderia, topped with queso crema. Queso crema is basically cream cheese but it is less cheesy tasting and has the texture of butter in the states. I think when we get back home i am going to try and mix butter with cream cheese to try to recreate it.

And she swims....

Good Job Abby! We are proud of you.

Abby Finds A Sloth---Taylor Talks to it.

One Gross Dad....Watch the video. (You might need to press play, then hit pause so it can load. Then hit play again.)

A 20 minute taxi ride took us to a Costa Rican National Rain-forest today. The park had hiking trails that trekked through the middle of dense jungle terrain. There were two main paths...one the park ranger told us was "muy peligroso" with crocodiles and snakes. The other trail had more birds. Hiking with the kids we thought we would maybe just stick to the bird trail this time.

Anyhow...the kids had a great time. There was absolutely nobody around, allowing the kids to run-a-muck and do what ever they wanted. They were troopers and completed the whole trail. Here are some more videos and a sideshow from our adventure.

First time Surfing and Taylors Thoughts

Today I tried surfing, and have to admit it was a total bust. A tico lifeguard ended up coming and standing in front of me on shore because I got caught in a strong rip tide. Embarrassing! I am just lucky that he didn't actually come in.

Since I can never get Taylor to write on here, I am linking you to his shared blog. To read his thoughts about our trip go to blandlife. (For the grandma's and grandpa's out there you can click on the "blandlife" words above and it will take you to the post.)

Oh, and as a side note: Taylors humor is very sarcastic and dry. Please keep that in mind when you read.

P.S. Parker cried the whole time I was in the water. See above.

Some interesting things about Costa Rica Living

Here are some interesting things that I have learned about Costa Rica.

1) Tangerines are called mandarins (mandarines) here. Limes are limónes. And you can't buy lemons here... or at least I have never seen them. So, if you want a lime, ask for a limón (lee-mone).

2) In Costa Rica, it is not uncommon to give coffee to babies (in their bottle, with milk) and to young children. I find this astonishing! That is one cultural thing I will not embrace---Parker caffeinated up---yeah, right.

3) There are few street signs in Costa Rica and even fewer addresses. Just about all addresses are in terms of a well-known building or landmark like the local Catholic Church, cemetery, or another fixed location. Some addresses are phrased in terms of building that may have burned down 20 years ago! Also, when you see an address that says 200M west of something, that normally means 2 blocks and NOT a true 200 meters. Our address in Escazu is 400m W of Paco (the mall) 200 S of La Dona Restaurant.

4) Pedestrians do not have the right away on the streets. If you are in the way, a car will just keep going. It is your fault for being in his way anyhow.

5) No one knocks on doors here, because everyone has gates. If you want to get someone's attention to come and answer the gate you yell....Upe!

6) Milk, eggs, and some meats are sold in the store without refrigeration. This goes against everything I have been taught, but it seems that nobody gets sick so maybe us Americans just over react on things like that.

Im sure there will be more. Ill let you know when I think of them.

Relaxing at the Beach

Today was another kickback day. I am thinking we are going to have more of those than adventurous days, because to be honest thats what Taylor and I like to do most....take it easy.
Below are some photos from today. Just so you know, these photos are not photo-shopped. There really were only about 6 or 7 people on the mile long stretch of beach by our house.

So at the risk of losing friends who have to deal with LA beaches... here are a few of our beach photos. Sorry!

One cute Pic

This was so cute...I couldn't help myself. The kids swimming at our condo.

Estamos Aqui!

Well...we are here. After a full day of traveling, we finally arrived at 10 pm yesterday in Costa Rica. The poor kids were absolutely starved when we got here (they hadn't eaten since 1pm), and they were so thrown off by the traveling that they were crying for food (literally,) yet not able to sleep. So we sent Taylor out on a midnight mission to find some food.

Well, when he was gone the power to the enire town went out leaving Jaco' in complete darkness. The kids continued to cry in the dark meanwhile Taylor was out finding food at 11pm! Yikes! However the power eventually turned back on and Taylor returned with 3 hamburgers and a Coca Cola. What a manly-man! He did say he was nervous being on the street when the lights went out. So if Taylor (the I am scared of nothin' guy) was "nervous", then it must have been pretty crazy. Okay...enough scaring my mom and dad.

Anyhow, once we ate and went to bed, everything was great! Today, we went grocery shopping and walked around town to try and get an understanding of the place. We found the bank, the stores, the surfshops, and of course walked the beach.

Just so everyone knows...Our condo is not a resort but is not bad either. Its pretty much a regular latin american condo with all the basics. We have a gas stove, a sink to wash clothes by hand, a refrigerator, microwave, and internet (Taylor is watching the D-backs play as I write). Our showers have hot water, our toilets flush, so pretty much we have everything we need. Oh yeah, and it has a small pool too---a huge added bonus .

One thing I love is how Latin America is so cheap. We went out for a light breakfast this morning and paid less than 5 dollars. There is also a spa down town that looks very nice. We haven't checked the rates yet but I am assuming they are pretty reasonable also. Taylor said he wants to get me a massage or something for mothers day. I might take him up on that this week.

Speaking of which... we would like wish our mothers (Jan and Marsha) a happy mothers day! We would call you but we haven't found a phone yet....sorry. Thank you for all of your love and hard work you have put into us over the years. It is something we never understood until we became parents ourselves. We miss you and will write again soon with pics.

P.S. Did you know the blogger web site pulls up in spanish here on my computer? It apparently knows I am here.

Spiderman meets Superman

So yesterday, I was grocery shopping with Parker who insisted on wearing his outrageous spider man slippers out that day. Because we are starting the terrible two stage, I decided to let this go and choose my battles. (Just for a mental pic... they are those huge fluffy type slippers with humongous spider man heads on the front.)

Anyhow, while we were in the pasta section, I hear the voice of the guy next to me say...."hey little guy....cool shoes"...obviously directed at Parker. I turned, told Parker to say thank you, and then looked up to greet the man. Immediately I was taken back as I realized who the spider man fan was. No he wasn't a bird, nor a plane....he was superman. (Also, known to some as Dean Cain.)

I politely smiled. He said, "cute kid", and politely smiled back. And with that we parted ways--me to to the sauces, him to the noodle area.

I cant wait until Parker is old enough to understand how cool it was that Superman himself was talking to him. Hopefully this post will remind me to tell him sometime. Meanwhile, maybe we need to invest in some Superman slippers as well.

Goodbye Pepperdine

Friday was my last day at work. I made some great friends during my time at Pepperdine and learned a lot.

Things I will miss about work:
1) My best work friend Mary Jo. We sat across from each other in the deans office and were forced to stare one another down all day. Usually that's a recipe for disaster, but in this case it made a beautiful friendship.
2) Office Birthday parties.
3) The ocean view lunches.
4) Believe it or not, JRW's stories.
5) All the nice people I met along the way.

Things I won't miss about work:
1) Eating breakfast on the run.
2) Catalog Season.
3) Emails... although I do appreciate technology, I am still a fan of the old-fashion face to face chat, or occasional phone call.
4) Getting dressed up everyday.
5) Forwarding the phones. :)

Here are some photos from my last day.

Click to play Last Day at Work
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