Sorry for the lack of blogging of late.  First Barry caught "the cold" that seems to be going around San Pedro a couple of days before Christmas.  Then, just when I was feeling smug and thinking I was past the point of catching it thanks to my superior immune system, I started feeling the tell-tale scratchy throat on Thursday afternoon.  By Friday, it hit me with the full range of cold symptoms, with a bad cough being the most prominent feature.  Ugh.  That keeps BOTH of us from sleeping.  

Needless to say, we'll be staying in tonight, and instead of bubbly, I'll be ringing in the new year (minus a couple of hours) with a shot of Nyquil.  I also discovered that a hot mug of local honey, coconut rum, and fresh-squeezed lime juice makes a soothing toddy for a raspy throat, so I might start with that at cocktail time.  

Fortunately, Barry recovered enough to go out and get his last 22 miles on the bike today to finish with 7502 miles for the year, his highest mileage year ever.  Whatta guy!  I had to settle for a mere 2127 miles, but I'll take it.  It's my best cycling year since 2004.
Picture
From this...
Picture
From this...
Picture
...to this
Picture
...to this
Here's hoping that everyone has a safe and fun time celebrating tonight and a happy, healthy New Year!  
 
We were invited to a Christmas afternoon potluck at Bob and Helene's home, not too far down the road from us.  Barry had been especially excited about this as he loves potluck meals.  Unfortunately, he was still suffering from his "Christmas cold" and didn't want to infect anyone, so I had to go solo. I had been planning to ride my bike down, but since I was bringing a hot casserole dish (bulgur with spinach and feta) and a plate of cookies, gratefully accepted a ride from Tim and Jean in their Polaris to avoid any food mishaps (thanks guys!!!)
Picture
Casual Christmas attire for a warm day
That means, once again, a severe dearth of photographs in this posting, as I am just no good at socializing, eating, drinking, and taking pictures all at the same time.  Sorry about that, folks.  I chose to concentrate on the first three of those activities, and only snapped this one shot of Jodie and Sunny.  Loved Sunny's reindeer antlers! 
The party was so much fun!  I knew only a few people there ahead of time, but met many more and had some good conversations and a lot of laughs.  Bob and Helene roasted a turkey and a ham, and along with all the side dishes and desserts others had brought, I ate way too much.  The sparkling Pinot Grigio that Gale and John brought was also a favorite of mine.  Who knew it could be purchased right at Super Buy South?

As I was leaving, Helene generously suggested that I take a plate of turkey and fixings for Barry, so I loaded one up to bring home, along with a couple of desserts.  I know he would much rather have been there in person, but at least he got to sample some of the goodies, and there was even enough turkey left for me to have a turkey sandwich for lunch today!  

In the shuffle of fixing the plate and gathering my things to take home, I managed to leave the glass top for my casserole dish at Bob and Helene's (it has a separate plastic lid that can be used after the contents cooled, and that is what I put on to take it home), so I'll have to take another trip down soon to retrieve it. 

Hopefully we can get Barry up and about soon so the blog photography will pick back up again!
 
Warm wishes 
to friends old and new 
for a wonderful Christmas!
from Barry, Emily, and Paisley
 
Normally we almost always ride our bikes to town together to run our errands, but this morning, Barry woke up with a sore throat, so I was on my own while he rested, drank tea, sucked on zinc, and tried to stave off a cold.  Yes, even in the tropics, viruses happen.  

Since he wasn't around to do the photography, I apologize that this is an almost photo-free blog posting.  I was just too hot and sweaty while riding around to want to prolong my journey even more by taking photos.

My first stop was to drop off cookies for a couple of friends down south.  Baking in such a humid environment is an adventure in and of itself, not to mention wrapping plates in bubble wrap and transporting them in a bike basket on a hot, sunny, and humid day.  I honestly didn't expect it to be quite this warm on Christmas week, especially considering it was quite a bit cooler many days in October and November.  This week it's been 80 degrees by 8 am every morning.  Oh well, it's the thought that counts, right?  Fortunately, everyone was at home and this little Christmas elf was able to make her deliveries.

Next I stopped at Maria's for some vegetables to make some chicken soup for the sickie back at home.  I also left a plate of cookies for Maria, since she was in town at the time.  She's been so good to us since we moved here I wanted to say thank you, though I never could thank her enough for her kindness and generosity.

On the way through town I stopped in Central Park for some water, and snapped a photo of the new town clock.  Much has been written about this ill-conceived and poorly placed architectural mistake elsewhere, so I will refrain from saying more, other than that the addition of the electronic billboards really takes the cake.  Tacky, tacky, tacky.  I didn't realize we were in Vegas, baby....
My next stop was at Orchid Tree to pick up Christmas cupcakes I'd ordered awhile back as a surprise for Barry.  Unfortunately, after traveling home in the heat in a bike basket on the bumpy road, they looked WAY worse for the wear, icing had melted, and a couple had tipped over.  Definitely not picture-worthy.  Again, it's the thought that counts, and I am sure they will taste much better than they look.  I plan to find out by helping him out with the eating part!

Finally, after an unplanned stop at Casa pan Dulce for a loaf of sinful garlic bread to accompany the chicken soup (I'll get you for this, Ruthie!), my time in town was complete.  I arrived home dripping sweat and ready for a rendezvous with the pool, which had rarely felt better.

The chicken soup is now well underway and is smelling really good.  I put a hot pepper in to help with Barry's congestion, so hopefully he will be feeling much better by Christmas Day.  He was also sick last Christmas, where it actually snowed in Ocean Isle Beach, North Carolina, so at least we are guaranteed a much warmer holiday this time around.
 
While we have been complete slouches in the Christmas decorating department for our first Christmas here in Chico Caribe (Grand Caribe's little companion building), not everyone around us has.  Barry strolled around the resort with his camera in hand to show that at least a few good folks (including the Grand Caribe staff, of course!) are displaying admirable Christmas spirit.  Enjoy!
Picture
Tim & Jean in the H building show some spirit
Picture
Don't know these folks in the E building, but I like what they did with their half-round balcony
Picture
Closer up
Picture
Christmas tree in Grand Caribe lobby
Picture
Cowboy Doug's Bar & Grill all decked out
Picture
Grand Caribe at night
 
Today we read on Facebook about the Isla Bonita school first-ever "lighted golf cart Christmas caroling parade" happening tonight in San Pedro Town.  It sounded promising, and since we'd had to skip the official San Pedro Christmas parade over the weekend since it was raining (hard), we decided it would be fun to give this one a try and to see some of the Christmas decorations in town at the same time, since we don't get to town in the evenings too often.  

The parade was advertised to start at 5 pm, so we hustled to get everything together to ride our bikes into town after Paisley's afternoon playtime on the beach.  Barry wanted to try riding our bikes instead of taking the water taxi back, as we've always done when we've been in town after dark in the past.  We would take our headlamps for riding back in the dark.  When we tried them out, mine wouldn't light; it appeared the batteries were dead.  When I removed them, I noticed some corrosion on one of them; must have been the salty, humid air here.  I should never have left the batteries in the headlamp when I wasn't using it -- my bad.  So we'd need to make an extra stop in town for more Triple-A batteries before heading home.

We had a nice ride into town along the beach and bought a four-pack of batteries at Caye Supplies, a fine variety store in town.  After many purchases there when we first moved here and needed quite a few basic household items, we heard from our friend Robert recently that we could be getting a 5% local discount, so starting today, I asked for it (we'd bought a few items there earlier today on our grocery ride also) and got it.  Sure do wish I'd known this before as we could have saved a little money early on.  Better late than never, I guess!  

After picking up the batteries, we started cruising around town looking for the parade.  No sign of it.  However, parades and other events are known to start a bit behind schedule in Belize, so we didn't worry.  Barry snapped a few photos of holiday lights in town while we waited around.
Picture
San Pedro Town Council building
Picture
Official San Pedro Christmas tree in Central Park
Picture
Replacing the batteries in my headlamp
Picture
Festive holiday decor
Picture
Front Street
By this time it was getting dark, and we continued riding around the main streets of town a couple more times to make sure we hadn't missed the parade.  Unfortunately, we saw no signs of it, and we didn't know where the school was or where the parade was supposed to start.  The nice picture on Facebook simply said it would be on the streets of San Pedro starting at 5pm.  All we can figure is that it started south, and we didn't ride south of the old football field.  Or the start was delayed more than an hour.

We were disappointed, but didn't want to wait around too much longer since we figured we might never find it, and we were getting hungry, so we decided to head back.  Part of the purpose of the trip was to test out our headlamps and riding home from town after dark, so we could at least accomplish that.  

It was plenty light in town with street lights, so we didn't need the headlamps until we crossed the bridge.  At that point, we put on our headlamps to continue the rest of the journey back to our condo, another two miles or so.
Picture
Just north of the bridge - the last street light
Barry took off pretty quickly, but when I started riding, I immediately realized I couldn't see anything.  It was like riding completely blind, on a road full of potholes like moguls and puddles as well, where sight is an extremely important sense to have in order to dodge 'em!  I started clicking my headlamp and ended up putting it into a low-beam mode, which provided even less light, and I couldn't get it back to full power.  Yikes!  Barry, in the meantime, had completely disappeared up ahead somewhere.  Hmmm, tonight was not going so well. 

I turned around and walked my bike back a short distance to the Paradise Theater, where there was enough light to see what I was doing.  I twiddled with the headlamp until I got the high power restored.  About that time, Barry rolled up.  He had finally realized I wasn't with him and come back looking for me, thank goodness.  We played around with the angle of my headlamp and realized that I had had it angled completely wrong to see the road (duh!)  Once I angled it properly, I could see great!  Whew...I had a momentary panic when I thought I was going to have to ride back completely blind -- and mostly on the beach path (which can be very narrow in places), no less.  That would not have worked at all!

The ride back now that I could see was actually a lot of fun.  I rode behind Barry so had the benefit of his light as well.  It was definitely a little more challenging than riding in the light of day, but we had no problems and made it back just fine.  We did hear a lot of barking dogs along the way, so I guess dogs don't like small moving lights in the night.  Fortunately, they were all behind fences.  

I'll be interested to find out if this parade actually did occur and where we went wrong!  Maybe next year....
 
I was busy cooking dinner, so my sunset viewing was limited to the gorgeous photos my favorite blogger (www.sanpedroscoop.com) posted on Facebook that I checked out in amazement as I was waiting to turn the fish.  Turns out, Barry was outside snapping away at the same time and got some pretty dramatic sunset photos himself.  It was so hard to pick just a couple of photos to showcase here that we probably went a little overboard, but each one of these made us ooh and ahh.  Mother Nature surely put on a show tonight!

The photos are ordered in time, from earliest to latest.  Watch the colors deepen as you scroll through.  No Photoshop required here; it's really this gorgeous!
Picture
Sunset over Grand Caribe, Ambergris Caye, Belize
Picture
I think this one is my favorite - wow!
 
Both Barry and I enjoy cooking and love to eat.  Who doesn't, right?  Since moving to Belize, we have had fun learning about some new taste treats.  For instance, we researched online to learn about Yampi Root, which we'd never even heard of, until Maria gifted us with a couple of them recently.  I was surprised to find very good information on Yampi on Livestrong.com as well as a soup recipe I used them in.  It was delicious and very rich (a little bowl goes a long way) and would be good made with white potatoes as well.
Picture
Those little brown tubers in front are yampi. Who knew? I surely didn't!
We had also never heard of Sapodilla fruit until we ate lunch with Ruthie and Chunky recently.  I can't even recall how the topic came up, but Ruthie asked if we'd ever tried them.  When she described their appearance, I realized that we had seen them at Maria's fruit and vegetable stand that very morning and wondered what they were.  They look amazingly like a russet potato.

According to Wikipedia, the flesh of this tropical fruit ripens only after it is picked and, when ripe, has an "exceptionally sweet and malty" flesh (the peel is not eaten), and many liken its flavor to "caramel, or a pear candied with brown sugar".  Well, yum indeed!  With that in mind, I could hardly wait to give it a try and picked up a couple at today's market run (actually, bike ride). 
Picture
Nope, not potatoes, not kiwi, either. Amazing, huh?
One of the two we bought was soft to the touch, indicating that it was ripe enough to eat.  So, with only a little fear and trepidation, we cut it open and tried it out.
Picture
No, that's not a cockroach, just the (inedible) seed!
Hmmm, not bad!  Very sweet, a little grainy; I can see how it could be likened to pears with brown sugar.  However, I prefer my fruit with a bit more tarty tang, so I am wondering if a squeeze of lime juice might have improved it just a bit?  I bet it would be an interesting baking ingredient -- maybe a sapodilla coffee cake?

Another taste treat I recently discovered is that Belikin's holiday brew, Sorrel Stout, with its cherry-like taste, is an absolutely perfect pairing with Barry's dark chocolate bark.  Score!  I've enjoyed his chocolate with red wine in the past, but since I'm too frugal to buy wine here (it's price-y!), I haven't had the pleasure of this tasty combo since leaving the US.  Now I've found my substitute.  I sure wish Belikin would see fit to keep Sorrel Stout available year-round! 
And last but not least, I tried a new fish recipe tonight -- coconut crusted fish fillets with mango salsa.  But mangoes aren't in season right now, so I made it with fresh pineapple instead.  It was messy to cook (I sauteed it in extra virgin Belizean coconut oil - yum!), but delish in the belly!  Oh, and I should mention that I made the coconut coating with one Barry cracked open and grated awhile back.  We'd been saving the grated flakes in the freezer.  Again, yum, and more local eating!
Accompanying our meal was this amazingly delicious garlic bread that Ruthie bought us from Casa Pan Dulce.  I stuck it into the freezer until we had an appropriate meal.  This stuff is seriously dangerous and addictive.  It positively melts in your mouth.  It's so good we almost killed the entire loaf!  No wonder I'm gaining weight down here, despite running and riding my bike like a fiend!
Picture
Thank you, Ruthie (I think!!!) Yum yum yum!
 
Picture
White Ibis on Ambergris Caye
Today was a typical Sunday with a bike ride up to Grand Belizean Estates in the morning.  Barry got going early and came home to pick me up after his first 12-mile loop.  I enjoyed my coffee and a bit of Facebook, then joined him for his second 12-mile loop.  Since I took my rain jacket in my backpack, we were assured of no rain, and indeed, although it was mostly overcast, the sun came out for part of the time.  The winds were from the north, so we had a great tailwind on the way back, and the tide was much lower today than it had been a few days ago, so riding on the beach was back to being lots of fun as the path wasn't blocked by seagrass. 
On his first loop, Barry saw a couple of new birds he was unfamiliar with.  He was able to identify one when he returned home and did a little research: a Plain Chachalaca.  Unfortunately, he didn't have his camera with him, so no photo.  The second bird he couldn't positively identify, so perhaps we'll see it again one day.  

After some computer time and lunch, we headed out for a bit more beach cleanup.  The beach we'd worked on the other day had accumulated a bit more plastic, and we needed to finish it up since we'd run out of garbage bags last time.  We almost filled up two more bags, but that beach is looking fine now!  We just started on the next beach south and will work on that one next.  As I was reaching for some trash on the other side of the sandy path, I got stung by a couple of small ants, so I was ready to get back and put some anti-itch cream on my fingers, so that was enough for one day.

We ended the afternoon with our usual Paisley playtime out on the beach.  She got to meet a nice little girl today and gave her face a thorough washing, in between time after time of fetching her Kong.  I wish I had her energy!

And on a completely different note...

The last couple of days have been interesting and very eye-opening regarding what happens when you write a public blog for all the world to see.  

One of the local message boards here on Ambergris Caye posted our blog entry from a couple of days ago entitled Stock Day at Super Buy on the board.  A local Belizean misinterpreted it and took offense, thinking that we were demanding parking lots, more bike racks, and complaining about stock being delivered to the store.  She chastised me by saying that things were totally the opposite here on the island as in the US and I'd adjust eventually.  I was really surprised by this interpretation as I thought of what I'd written as simply observations that might interest folks back home, since shopping here is so different from in the US.  I did complain about the way some golf carts park blocking bike racks, but I didn't intend to gripe about the other things at all.  Yes, it can be a bit chaotic, but of course stores need to be stocked, and big parking lots aren't needed for a small population.  If everyone shows some courtesy during the busy times here when town does get a bit crowded, we can all get along just fine.

I wrote a rebuttal statement on the forum since I was so taken aback by how she interpreted what I'd written.  This was followed by comment after comment from people who read my blog, virtually all supportive.  I also got a slew of supportive comments on Facebook, and several additional private messages on the forum.  I honestly had no idea how many people were reading this "little" blog!  

As I stated in the forum, we started this blog as a way of sharing our new life here in Belize with our friends and family back in the United States, many of whom may never get to visit this beautiful country.  By sharing our day-to-day experiences on this blog, we attempt to give an even-handed and fair picture of what life here is like and how it contrasts to our previous life in North Carolina.  We are not trying to stir the pot or be controversial, just honest.  The vast majority of what we post here is positive, but every now and then, we're going to have an honest gripe.  We have no intention of censoring those sorts of comments, as no place is perfect, and there are definitely quirky and frustrating things that occur here, as they do anywhere.

We just wanted to take the time out to say thank you to the many readers we're only now realizing we have.  In addition to our original audience of friends and family back home, some of our new readers live on Ambergris Caye (or other parts of Belize) now, some are considering moving or buying property here in the future, and some simply enjoy visiting the island on vacation.  We're glad you find the blog interesting and informative, and we appreciate your support.  There are certainly other blogs that are more thorough than ours regarding life in San Pedro, but if you enjoy what we have to share, we welcome you here any time.  We appreciate and read all the comments you leave, and respond to most of them, so please check back later if you've left one, especially if you've asked a question.

Thanks again for your support and kindness!

Emily & Barry
 
We were kind of slack on the picture-taking, but we had a fun visit with Chunky and Ruthie today.  Barry and I first hit the public library, Maria's fruit stand, and Super Buy South for a few groceries.  We then rode over to Coral Bay Villas to meet Chunky and Ruthie before lunch, and the four of us made our way on our bikes up north.  After a quick stop at Casa Pan Dulce for some rolls and garlic bread, we continued on to our condo, where we dropped off groceries and locked up our bikes.  Before we could get going over to Lazy Croc, it started pouring; a typical Belizean rainstorm that seems to come up out of nowhere.  Wasn't it sunny just a few minutes ago?  Yes, I thought so!

We chatted for a few minutes while waiting for the rain to taper off, during which time Paisley gave Ruthie's legs a thorough washing (she loves the salt).  Sure enough, within minutes, the rain had stopped, and we were able to walk over to the "the Croc", where we all indulged in far too much food.  It was fabulous as always.  Thankfully, there were no dessert specials to tempt me this time, but I was stuffed from hot wings and baked mac-n-cheese.  Barry still managed to choke down a slice of the Drunken Rum Cake.  Since the Croc will be closed next weekend for Christmas, we were glad to get a lunch in today.  And it's always fun to spend time with Chunky and Ruthie.  Thanks for joining us, guys, and for the garlic bread...ooh la la!  
Picture
Barry, Ruthie, and Chunky checking out the menu while friendly Vanessa greets us
Picture
Emily, Ruthie, and Chunky
Picture
Messy but delicious grub!