Yesterday one of the security guards here, Oscar, brought by three pit bull puppies he and his wife have been raising.  I've been chatting with him about these pups, and he had promised to bring them by to meet Paisley on his day off.  He was true to his word, much to my delight.  The puppies were absolutely adorable!  

Paisley always gets a bit intimidated by puppies, for some reason, and is never aggressive or overly rambunctious around them (unlike her behavior around some adult dogs).  It was funny to watch them all together, and I had a blast watching and holding the puppies.  Who doesn't love puppies?
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Little Paisley looks huge next to these tiny pups!
 
Paisley's best canine buddies here in Belize are moving back to the US today.  Van Gogh and Picasso are large dogs that scared the dickens out of sixteen-pound Paisley at first, but they soon became good buddies.  Despite his tough appearance and huge size (90 lbs!), Van Gogh is extremely gentle and protective and kept Paisley out of harm's way from any strange dogs that came around.  Late yesterday afternoon, Tyler brought them around to say goodbye and play with Paisley one last time.  Paisley adores Tyler as much as her four-footed friends.  She's going to miss these big guys!
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Picasso (L) and Van Gogh
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Tyler (center) with Van Gogh, Picasso, Cinello, and Paisley. I'm laughing hard at Van Gogh defending his toy from Paisley!
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Paisley kept stealing this toy of Van Gogh's when he would look away from it. Note the devilish look on her face!
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"It's mine, all mine!"
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Tyler taunts Paisley with Van Gogh's toy. You can see how scared she is of Van Gogh. :-)
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Van Gogh -- a gentle giant
The photos below are from a couple of days ago but didn't make the blog since we were concentrating on the approaching storm at that point.
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(L to R) Picasso, Barry, Tyler, Van Gogh, Paisley, Lucky, and Doris
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Lucky herding Paisley. She thinks Paisley is a little goat or sheep!
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Van Gogh -- you will be missed
 
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Looking northeast from our veranda. You can see how high the seagrass came at high tide. Normally it is washes up only to the level of the palm trees.

Fortunately, it appears that Rina has passed Ambergris Caye, and indeed all of Belize, with no more than a very high tide.  The official San Pedro weather station reported just under an inch of rain, most falling in the wee hours last night, and some this morning.  Bernie's weather station on top of Chico Caribe reports a 28 mph wind gust at 8:19 am as the highest wind we've received so far, and interestingly, that was right when Barry and I were doing our morning run.  

The run was challenging because the tide was at or near its highest point at that time, and we both ended up with wet shoes after running through puddles; soft, wet sand; small waves, and sopping seagrass on what is usually clear beach.  You can see in the photo above how high the tide came from where the seagrass is deposited.  This tide cut off much of our running trail and made a mess out of what was left of it.  Barry finally gave up on the beach and cut over to the road, but I stuck it out.

At one point on the way back, I hopped up on the trunk of a slanted coconut palm to avoid getting my feet soaked again, then jumped back down onto the sand when the wave receded.  This was on a shoreline that gets minimal wave action normally due to the offshore reef.  I can still hear small waves washing up on our usually placid beach outside our condo at 2:30 pm, but the tide is quite a bit lower than it was this morning. 

This afternoon is lightly breezy with no rain; in fact, the sun is even peeking through milky clouds and the sea is turquoise again.  Rina has lost intensity and should be moving north very soon and leaving Belize behind.  Unfortunately, I am sure she will leave behind some beach erosion as her legacy here, but it could have been much worse.
 
We're starting to breathe a sigh of relief as it looks as though Hurricane Rina will go north of us here on Ambergris Caye and head towards Cancun.  Coastal Belize is under a Tropical Storm Warning, but our condo is built to handle winds in that range easily (reinforced concrete construction & hurricane doors), so we will be able to stay put.  

We rode our bikes to town this morning in a stiff breeze to stock up on groceries, and it seemed that everyone was out and about as the streets were jam-packed.  Nearly all businesses were open, and we even ordered another large batch of whole-wheat tortillas to be made tomorrow, so I guess Popular Tortilla Co. doesn't expect a hurricane.  

Schools were cancelled today, which surprised me, but there is a voluntary evacuation of both Ambergris Caye and Caye Caulker, so I guess the authorities wanted to give folks a chance to get off the islands if they wished to.  Regular water taxi service has been suspended, and ferries to the mainland are free for folks wishing to evacuate, but no boats are coming back into San Pedro.

The water level is as high as we've ever seen it here, and small waves are making it over the reef and onto our beach, which rarely happens; usually the water along the shoreline is dead calm.  It is interesting to hear the waves wash to shore, since we normally can only barely hear the roar of the waves far out on the offshore reef.  Here are a few photos Barry took around lunchtime from outside our condo.  
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Large waves over the reef today
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Our beach is strewn with debris from the high tide earlier this morning.
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Here is a small wave coming towards shore. Okay, it's not really surf-worthy yet!
It's actually a gorgeous day here, as you can see.  I'll continue reporting on the storm here as long as we have internet access.  Our building is on a generator, but our DSL line runs through two other buildings that are not on generators, so if they lose power, we lose internet.  Stay tuned!
 
Above is part of our haul from today and yesterday's bike rides into town.  We stocked up more than usual since Hurricane Rina has closed down the Belize City port, and it may be a few days before more food barges make it out to the island.  I was delighted to find sweet potatoes (the purple things in the photo).  I've read that they're white inside here, so they probably aren't bursting with beta-carotene like the ones back home in North Carolina, but I still look forward to trying them.  We also got bell peppers, romaine lettuce, zucchinis, and carrots, which are in the fridge and not shown in the photo.  We're going to be eating well for awhile!

Here are a couple of other tasty items we've whipped up recently:
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My fish fillets with almonds and papaya sauce and spinach/bulgur bake
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Barry's dark chocolate bark with walnuts and dried cranberries, made with Belizean Goss Chocolate. Yum!
 
So this turned out to be home improvement weekend!  We had an accent wall (with a bit of wrap around onto another wall) painted on Saturday, and today we picked up the new desk we had built in town, with the help of Mr. Raymond and the Grand Caribe Polaris.  

One thing I absolutely LOVE about tropical island living is that I can decorate with vivid, bright colors.  I am a color fanatic and find this extremely uplifting.  Happy, bright colors never fail to bring a smile to my face, and here in Belize, color is everywhere.  I love this!

We have been doing our own painting for years, but decided to splurge this time and have Marcus do the work for us.  We supplied the paint and supplies, and he did the hard labor.  He did a fantastic job, and we couldn't be more pleased.

Barry picked this color ("Sun Lemon"): a very bright, sunny yellow.  I figured since I picked all the furniture and fabric, it was his turn to choose, and he did a great job.  I LOVE THIS COLOR!  I've been a yellow fan as long as I can remember and have fond memories of my yellow bedroom growing up.  It was a lot more muted a shade, but all yellows are happy colors for me. In fact, I did a little research on the color yellow and found the following: 

Yellow shines with optimism, enlightenment, and happiness. Shades of golden yellow carry the promise of a positive future. Yellow will advance from surrounding colors and instill optimism and energy, as well as spark creative thoughts.  Yellow stimulates mental processes, the nervous system, activates memory, and encourages communication.  Yellow is the symbol for liberalism in many countries.  Yellow is psychologically the happiest color in the color spectrum.

Okay, cool.  Did I mention I like yellow?

It was also wonderful to get a desk into the room.  Now our electronics are neatly organized, and I was able to unpack a plastic drawer of desk/office supplies I'd shipped down and fill up the drawers.  It also provides a much more comfortable typing position than on the table since we had it built 28", the perfect height for a laptop, versus the standard desk (and table) height of 30", which requires a keyboard drawer unless you're tall.
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The obligatory boring "before" photo.
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Marcus doing a great job painting
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Let the sun shine in, baby!
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The new desk
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The wall looks a little greenish with this camera, but you get the picture.
We still need artwork on the walls, but our great room feels so much warmer now, and even when it's raining out, it will be like having the sun shining indoors!
 
So now that our mystery insects have been identified as midges (thanks Ken!), we've been besieged (blessed) with dragonflies trying to eat up the little suckers.  All day today, there were swarms of dragonflies flying around our building.  I love dragonflies, so this was NOT a problem.  Judging by the number of midges at our windows tonight, the dragonflies should stick around for awhile too.  

There seem to be two main varieties of them here on Ambergris Caye.  Brown ones, with shorter, stockier bodies; and larger, skinnier green striped ones (my favorites).  I put out my hand and even got one to land.
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Brown dragonfly
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Green stripey dragonfly
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Hi, little guy!
And finally, moving up the predator chain, a local critter I picked up this week...
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"Mmmm...me wants dragonflies!"
 
Just a little before Halloween and we've suddenly had an onslaught of these flying insects.  Yesterday morning they were on our veranda ceiling by the hundreds, then they started dying, and we were able to sweep up piles of them outside this morning.  They look like mosquitoes but don't bite and mostly just seem to hang out in clusters together, rather than swarm around bothering anyone.  

Can anyone enlighten us as to their identity?
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On the veranda ceiling
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Lots of dead ones on the veranda floor this morning
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Close up
 
Last night we attended a seafood cook-off fundraiser for SAGA Humane Society.  It was held at Crave restaurant, and several restaurants and individuals entered seafood dishes for people to sample and to vote on for an extremely reasonable donation of only $10 BZD ($5 US) per person.  We met Rebecca, who writes the San Pedro Scoop blog we enjoy so much, saw a thinned-down Zac, who runs Healthy Belize, and met a few new folks as well.  It is always tough moving to a new town where you don't know anyone, and we're both a little shy about starting up conversations, but it was a good experience for a couple of old fogeys to get out and do something different.
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Getting set up
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We entered the raffle, but alas, did not win anything
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Even a dog was in attendance
The line was long, but we were in the right place at the right time and nabbed good spots in line so were served quickly.  Unfortunately, all the seats had been claimed, but I don't mind standing to eat seafood!
The food was all delicious, so it was hard to pick a favorite.  The winner ended up being lionfish cakes, in the bottom middle of the plate above.  Barry voted for the bacon wrapped stuffed jalepeno shrimp (upper right), and I voted for the conch and shrimp ceviche (top center).  His choice came in second place, and my pick didn't place, but it really didn't have a chance since they ran out of it early, so a lot of folks did not get to try it.  Turns out it was made by Lily's Treasure Chest, whose ceviche I love anyway, so no wonder I liked it best!  But I would have happily eaten seconds of any of the dishes.

We left early (yes, I said we are old fogeys) and caught the water taxi back, which we really enjoy doing.  A cold front had come through, and it was pleasantly cool and very breezy.  A nice evening indeed!
 
Today we were looking for some bar end attachments for Barry to give him more than one hand position on his bike to keep his hands from going numb.  This required riding onto portions of the main road just south of the bridge (which is currently under construction) and onto side roads that are not in the best of shape, to put it mildly.  Between the construction barriers and the puddles from all the rain, this is true "adventure cycling"!
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Main road under construction. It will be great when it is paved!
By the way, we never did find the bar-ends, so it looks like another trip to Belize City's Hop Sing bicycle shop is in our future.