Since Barry has been rehabilitating a torn muscle and pinched nerve in his upper back for over a month now (he's improving at last, but it's been slow going), I've been having to do a lot of things solo lately.  Yesterday it was a bike ride into town to attend the Saga Humane Society's 9th Annual Halloween party and fundraiser in Central Park.  

There was something for everyone:  delicious donated homemade food, cold drinks, free biodegradable doggie poop bags and dog collars, t-shirts and jewelry for sale, raffle tickets to benefit Saga, and the highlight, a doggie costume contest full of the cutest pooches I've ever seen!  I couldn't take Paisley because of the difficulty getting her there with only my bicycle, but that made it much easier to take photos to try to capture all the fun everyone was having.  Hope you enjoy the slideslow!
I did my part to help by buying a Saga t-shirt (below), a bunch of raffle tickets (didn't win anything, but I never do), a delicious cupcake topped with marshmallow creme, and an ice-cold Belikin.  The service provided by volunteers was outstanding!
With all the dogs and cats Saga houses awaiting adoption, in addition to the many other services they provide the community, they are always in need of funds.  There was a great turnout for the party, so I suspect a good amount was raised for this excellent cause.  In addition to the Saga website, did you know they have a Facebook page as well?  Come on, give it a "Like"!

Also, make sure to check out San Pedro Scoop's Halloween Party blog for more party and costume contest pictures, because really, who can get enough of dogs in costumes?!
 
During Paisley's play time on the beach a couple of days ago, Barry started throwing a small coconut for her to retrieve.  She loves to chase these and tear them up.  But before she got going on that, she sniffed something under our dock and made a bee-line underneath to retrieve it.  We laughed out loud when we saw the treasure she hauled out.  A full-sized coconut, almost as big as she is!  She never fails to make us laugh with her silly antics.
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Paisley's new treasure
She actually managed to carry it over the sea wall, where Barry rolled it for her a few times, and she ran after and chomped on it.  I guess there was enough coconut meat in it to provide some delicious flavor as she tore it apart.  She just loves to deconstruct coconuts, I know not why.  It's a dog thing.
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MUST TEAR UP...NOW!
Soon the retrieval game moved to the water, where Barry would toss the coconut from the dock, and she'd rush in after it.  We were amazed that she was able to retrieve it once it filled with water.  It was pretty heavy, but she was able to "swim it in".
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Tough little pup
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Mine...all mine!
 
Last year was the first time we'd ever been in Belize in the month of October.  It was not our favorite month.  I remember it as being gray and rainy and still, with not nearly enough breeze to keep the mosquitoes and sand flies away.  I remember plowing through deep pond-sized puddles on the road north of the bridge as we traveled from our condo to town and back again, time after time.  I remember washing our bicycles over and over since the puddles were deeper than our bottom brackets.  About the only thing positive I can recall about last October was that it was cooler than the summer months.  October, we were not sorry when you melted away into November.

What a difference a year makes.  This October has been much drier, sunnier, and the breezes a bit more constant.  There have been a few mosquitoes and sand flies, but nothing like last year.  It has been, really, gorgeous and bright, with only a few days that tourists wouldn't love.  Those folks who got cheap low-season rates for October vacations here are no doubt feeling a bit smug.  Hurricanes?  Nope.  Tropical storms?  Not even close.  

The biggest difference in the October of 2012 and the October of 2011, though, is the roads.  Sure, less rain has helped, but thanks to a big effort by the new town council, the road north of the bridge (at least as far as Grand Caribe), was graded and filled with load after load of gravel this summer.  And it's holding up well.  There are a few areas where potholes and "moguls" are developing, but this is nothing even close to the "great lakes" of October '11.  And in a few of the larger holes, more heavy-duty gravel was dumped just in the past week or so, after a few wet days made a bit of a muddy mess in a couple of lower-lying spots.  This rocky gravel isn't the most bike-friendly stuff I've ever seen or ridden on (thank goodness for wide beach cruiser tires), but it certainly beats putting one's legs up and going "wheeeeeee!" through deep, silty puddles you can't see the bottom of.
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This was a big, wide puddle a little over a week ago but was quickly filled!
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Rocky gravel fill
But I'll shut up now and let the photos tell the rest of the story.

October 2011

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Huge puddle behind our condo

October 2012

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Same area behind our condo - dry

October 2011

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At Reef Village looking towards Kama Lounge -- what a mess this made of us and our bikes!
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Same view and a very different road this year thanks to weather and lots of packed fill

October 2011

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Looking south towards Legend's -- tough going for golf carts and bikes

October 2012

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Looking south towards Legend's now -- smooth sailing!

October 2011

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Reef Village -- notorious for having a terrible road out front

October 2012

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Reef Village now -- still some small bumps but the "great lakes" are GONE.

October 2011

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Outside The Cloisters and Funky Monkey Bar & Grill -- cyclist dodging huge puddles

October 2012

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Road is far better and even the telephone & electric wires have been cleaned up!
In addition to changes in the road, the Funky Monkey at the Cloisters is no more, but a new restaurant. Feliz, is busily preparing for opening soon, and we happened by as the new sign was being painted.
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Sign being painted
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Sign for "Feliz"
We also happened to meet the new proprietor, Kevin.  He's currently working on planning the menu and is hoping to keep prices reasonable so ex-pats and locals, as well as tourists, will be able to afford to eat and drink there.  Great idea!  It will be nice to have another choice of eateries in our north of the bridge neighborhood.

All in all, I'd say the changes between this year and last are for the better!
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Emily talking to Kevin
UPDATE October 20:  I was biking by again today, and the Feliz signs are complete.  Very cute and colorful, don't you think?
 
The other day I stopped at a small fruit stand for limes, or so I thought.  I bought a bag of four lime-sized, lime-colored looking fruits, only they were peeled.  "Okay..." I thought, "that's a little different," but that's how the oranges next to them at the stand were prepared.  In Belize we often see peeled and prepared fruit for sale, so I really didn't give it much thought.  The little boy I bought them from seemed to speak only Spanish, so he wasn't going to argue when I held up the clear plastic baggie they were in and said "I'll take these limes too", as I was already buying bananas.  He may have snickered behind my back, though!

When I got home and showed them to Barry, we quickly realized that they weren't limes.  I was sick with a cold so didn't really feel like investigating at that time, so I stuck them into the refrigerator until I felt better.  They kept well, and today, three days later, they still looked about the same as the day I bought them.  I rinsed one off and decided to give it a try.  
Hmmm...it was sour, firm, a bit grainy, definitely stringy, and tasted a lot like a plum, but not a ripe, juicy plum like I am used to in the United States.  Unlike the plums I'm used to, it got sweeter as I got closer to the seed.  And I definitely needed the dental floss after eating it -- this thing was fibrous!

I still wasn't quite sure what I'd eaten, so I took the photo above and posted it on Facebook, asking if any of my San Pedro friends knew what it was.  And not surprisingly, Rebecca (SanPedroScoop) quickly replied that it was a Golden Plum.  She also said that I should eat it with salt and pepper.  Salt and pepper?!  I guess I shouldn't knock it until I've tried it, but I'm not so sure about that part.  I promise to try it with my second one, though.

I did a little research online, but information on this fruit is not too easy to find.  I found a photo of a tree seedling, Spondias spp, that is probably the tree that bears this fruit.  This site also said they are called hogplums (maybe they are used as feed on farms?) and governors plums (I like that one better!) in addition to golden plums.  And I found a photo of golden plums growing on a tree in Ceiba Jungle Camp on the mainland of Belize.

I guess it's a good thing that these little fruits turned out not to be limes.  As with so many things here in Belize, the unfamiliar ends up turning into a new learning experience!
 
Last Thursday night in San Pedro, Karen Waldrup, an up-and-coming country singer/songwriter, performed at Wet Willies as a fundraiser for the Mama Vilma's family home charity.  We missed it, but San Pedro Scoop and Tacogirl both did excellent write-ups.  Fortunately, for me and for Mama Vilma's House, Cowboy Doug came to the the rescue and quickly set up a second fundraiser at Grand Caribe for Sunday afternoon.  I wouldn't miss this one -- it was right next door, and Cowboy always throws a great party in the perfect setting that Grand Caribe offers.  Check it out:
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Grand Caribe
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Perfect seaside setting
Everyone was right -- Karen is a real talent!  Country music is not my favorite genre, but I would classify her as more of a folk musician than what I think of as "country".  And actually, reading her bio, she considers herself an eclectic mix of "folk, rock, country and blues".  Yes, much more my taste!  Karen has a sweet, soulful voice, and is one of those singers who could sing the phone book and make it sound good.  When she's mega-famous one day, I can say that I actually shook her hand (thanks to Laurie for introducing me to her!)  I have no photo evidence, but let me tell you -- this sweet, feminine, southern charmer has a firm handshake.  She means business!
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Karen Waldrup
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She was set up on the roof of Cowboy Doug's
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She had a great rapport with the audience
Thanks to "Carbunkle/Scoop Productions" for encouraging Karen to come to our little island of Ambergris Caye -- it was a real treat for all who had the opportunity to hear her play and sing.  And it was very generous of her to give her time for this fundraiser.

In addition to music, there was plenty of time for fun at the pool.  The kids, canines, and big kids too, were all having a blast on a gorgeous day with wall-to-wall sunshine.  The little taste of rainy season/autumn I blogged about last week was very short-lived.  
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Love this bowling set!
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Kids enjoying the pool and bowling
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Kids of all ages having fun
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Big kids enjoying the day
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Jean and Laurie hoola-hooping
And Cowboy Doug's Bar and Grill was really cranking out the food, drinks, and Ryder Cup on the flat-screen.  Those of us from the US were sorely disappointed in our team's performance, but I enjoyed watching parts of it and chatting with Leisa.  She really knows her golf!
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Happy doggies
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Cowboy Doug
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Ryder cup fans at Cowboy Doug's Bar & Grill -- Leisa in the green
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Cranberry & rum was refreshing on a hot day
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Someone had had enough!
Raffle tickets were sold to benefit Mama Vilma's House, with several local businesses donating bar tabs and other goodies.  I bought some tickets but, as usual, did not win anything.  Jean bought a ton of tickets and won two raffles.  All for a great cause, of course!
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Drawing for the raffle winners
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Jean was a very lucky lady
One of the unexpected surprises of the day was a performance by Barrett Schmidt.  This adorable twelve-year old has the sweetest voice and can really play the guitar!  He took the stage after Karen finished her set, and the minute he started strumming and crooning, everyone looked up and started whispering "Wow, this kid is GOOD."  He really is.  Listening to his angelic voice took me back to my childhood, swooning over Donny Osmond and Bobby Sherman.   

I chatted with his dad for a couple of minutes and found out that Barrett has his own web site (I guess everyone does these days):  Barrett Acoustic.  His family lives in San Pedro, and he is currently performing at Fido's on Friday nights at 8pm.  So check him out if you are visiting.  And seriously, this kid needs to enter American Idol when he's old enough if the family happens to be living in the US at that time.  He's also got two younger brothers, I hear, so perhaps a modern-day version of the Osmonds or the Jacksons could be coming along in the future if they share his gift for music!
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Barrett Schmidt
Cowboy suggested I accompany him up to the third floor of the "H" building for some photo-ops, so I was able to get some views of the entire scene from up high.
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Grand Caribe scene from up high
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View from H building
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Barrett performing on the roof of Cowboy Doug's
It was a fine party planned on only a couple of days notice, and I feel so fortunate that I got to enjoy the music of two talented musicians.  It's a special treat when music and fundraising come together with sunshine and a festive setting.  Win-win-win!

For more on Karen Waldrup, check out her website and Bravo TV's Platinum Hit.