Although we tend to turn in pretty early (especially by Mexican standards!) we actually did venture out after dark in San Cristobal, Chiapas, Mexico.  It's a very lively city at night, and the lights for the holiday season made it especially festive.  This building with its colored lights, rotating through a rainbow of colors, was one our favorites.
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Do you prefer it in red?
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Or blue?
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Or perhaps green?
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Or basic white?
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Or maybe bright pink?!
The colored lights seemed to show up best on the blue background.
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"Feliz Ano Nuevo" (Happy New Year)
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Tis the season
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This church looked pretty lit up at night
One of the highlights of our time in San Cristobal, and indeed on our entire sixteen-day Mexico trip, was happening upon a paper lantern ceremony purely by chance.  I'd seen pictures and video of such ceremonies in Thailand, but never dreamed of seeing one in person in Mexico.  It was a small gathering and not very organized as the lanterns were sent up at all different times, but it was still beautiful and magical.  I can only imagine what a very large lantern ceremony would be like (for example, see these amazing images).  Our pictures are not very good quality, but hopefully you will get the idea.  It was much better in person with everyone cheering and pointing.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
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People working together to get the lanterns launched
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Up they go
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Fire in the sky
Next up -- the beautiful birds we saw on our trip.
 
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We attended Bob and Helaine's (which I probably spelled wrong -- my apologies) annual Christmas potluck yesterday afternoon, and it was a great time!  I had gone last year as well, but Barry had a bad cold and had to stay home.  I was glad that he could attend this year and enjoy the food, friends, and festivities.

I transported the casserole I'd made down the beach in my bike basket.  It was a fun way to get to a party on a warm, breezy Christmas Day on the island.

There was a great crowd and lots of new people (and several pooches!) to meet, plus some familiar faces.  The second floor porch catches wonderful breezes and is a great place to hang out and chat.  The chicken wing I'm chowing down on here was made by Cheri of Lazy Croc, so you know it had to be good!

There were plenty of appetizers to munch on while the final dinner preparations were being made indoors.  I was saving my appetite for the meal so only tried the one chicken wing.

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The beautiful view from the porch
Jean made some excellent "Island Sangria" which of course I had to try.  I love sangria, and this was fruity and delicious!
Here's the dish I made -- my own creation. I was inspired by a recipe for a similar dish with spinach and bulgur wheat.  I substituted chaya leaves (which I'd never heard of until moving to Belize) for the spinach, brown rice for the bulgur, and added feta, oregano, and the tomatoes on top for a "Christmasy" look. 
The entire spread was awe-inspiring!  Plenty of a variety of delicious homemade treats to go around, including turkey, stuffing, gravy, and plenty of side dishes.  There was also a huge crockpot full of mashed potatoes (not shown in this photo).
Our groaning plates...
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Barry's
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Mine
Almost identical.  I think we we both tried a little bit of just about everything.  It was all yummy, but I could have eaten the challah bread (baked by Scott) all day long!
It got strangely quiet about this time.  I do believe that everyone was enjoying their Christmas dinner!  
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The outdoor crew
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The indoor crew, including Bob & Helaine's Dobie, Bess
Just when we thought we couldn't eat another bite, the desserts came out.  My favorite part!
Not pictured -- a gorgeous glazed pound cake came out late, so I cut a thin slice to take home and try later.  It will be my treat for today.
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Yum.
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Barry's plate -- he is thorough with his desserts!
Here I am with Helaine, a tiny and incredibly fit lady who can kick my butt in yoga...she's amazing.  We really appreciated the invitation to this excellent potluck.  Gatherings like this help so much when you're far from family during the the holidays.
Time to head home and get Paisley out on a walk!
 
Although we knew that September 10th is a holiday in Belize, St. George's Caye Day, we hadn't actually planned on attending the parade.  I knew there was going to be a parade, because, well, Belizeans have parades for just about every occasion!  They need absolutely no excuse to gather and celebrate, and I remembered finding out that there was a September 10th parade last year after we'd already missed it.  But we had no idea what time it started.  

Turns out it started right as we were finishing up our shopping at Greenhouse.  We were literally trapped, as the police and fire truck were coming right along Middle Street as I exited the store with my purchases.  No problem -- the parade was colorful, festive, and fun, though ear-splittingly loud (sirens, drums, and pounding music).  It was a much shorter, smaller parade than the mama of them all, the Independence Day parade on September 21, which we blogged about last year.  

Thank goodness we were trapped on the shady side of Middle Street as it was another very hot and sunny day.  The poor kids marching, playing instruments, and dancing with their school groups were dripping and swabbing their faces with hand towels, and I felt for them in their polyester uniforms.  Hot!

But I'll let the pictures tell the story...
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Here comes the parade -- there's no escaping now!
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Miss San Pedro
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All the kids were so cute!
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The kids did a great job with the drums, but they were LOUD!
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And speaking of loud, the music blaring from these speakers was ear-splitting...I felt bad for the kids marching right behind this truck!
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My poor ears! The noise didn't seem to bother any of the locals -- perhaps they are already half deaf from past celebrations!
Here is where we got trapped -- I'm the one in the ball cap between two young men in the middle of the photo.
Between today and September 21st, everyone in Belize will be in a festive spirit as the "September celebrations" are a really big deal here.  As they should be -- this is a young country that is very proud of its independence.  
 
Today I spent most of the afternoon at Cowboy Doug's Bar and Grill here at Grand Caribe attending the "Lobstermania" closing party.  And what a fine party it was!  It was fun to see San Pedro friends and hang out chatting in the bar.  The morning clouds cleared out, and the afternoon got sunny and hot.  There was plenty of good food to go around and good music courtesy of Zac and Tanya.  I enjoyed a few rum drinks, a lobster sausage, and a few hot French fries (thanks Debra and Bill for sharing!)  Barry came by with Paisley during the afternoon to say hi, and her little nose was twitching with all the good food aromas coming from the grill!
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A beautiful afternoon after a cloudy morning
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All guests welcome -- even inflatable ones!

Party like a lob-star!

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Christine -- Miss Lobsterfest 2012
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Cowboy Doug
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Chee was working very hard to keep the orders straight
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Josh -- cool as always
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Dov had a huge plate of food -- not sure where he puts it!
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Kids enjoying the Grand Caribe pool
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Andrew worked his butt off!
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Ribs on the grill
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Some of the prizes to be won in the various games
I started with a pineapple juice and rum and a lobster sausage -- definitely a different use of lobster!
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Lobster sausage with SPICY bbq sauce
I was super happy when our good friends Debra and Bill showed up.  They don't make it up our way all that often, so it is always a treat to see them.
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Debra and Bill -- love you guys!
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Andrew's grill was busy
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Zac arrives!
The Grand Caribe folks all worked so hard today...thank you all!

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Another Lob-Star
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Debra and I were staying out of the sun and chatting it up
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Leisa and a friend "making muscles"
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Barry finally made an appearance
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Tanya with her drum
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Ribs coming out of the kitchen...mmmmm
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Tanya and Zac providing musical entertainment
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What a setting, and a beautiful afternoon
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Audience appreciating the entertainment
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Laurie, aka Tacogirl, trying to figure out her camera
Oceana also showed up with a booth, and I joined their organization and bought a cute t-shirt.  It's such a great cause for those who care about the world's oceans and marine life.
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My t-shirt
And speaking of our animal friends, there were several canine friends in attendance at the party:
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Callie
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And our Paisley
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JJ
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Our little devil dog
It was a great day and a great way to end San Pedro's Lobsterfest 2012.  Thanks, Cowboy Doug, Leisa, Tacogirl, and all the Grand Caribe folks who made this day possible!
 
Today we had the pleasure of attending a very special celebration for Jana and CJ, who are visiting San Pedro from Texas for a month of vacation.  They both recently celebrated a milestone birthday (we won't say which one!) and invited a group of folks to join them for a day on the Lady Leslie catamaran to snorkel and sail to Caye Caulker.  We were lucky enough to be included, and we had a blast!  

After all the rain we've been getting lately on the island, it was touch-and-go up until the last minute, and Jana had warned us they might have to postpone the trip.  When I woke up just before 6 am to a heavy downpour, I feared the worst, but it passed over quickly, and Jana informed us on Facebook that the sail was on.  Fortunately, no more rain fell, and the day turned out to be just right -- mostly sunny but with enough shade to keep us from getting completely fried.

Since there was no water taxi at the appropriate time this morning, Barry and I loaded up our backpacks with towels, sunscreen, and other necessary items, and hiked into town after our breakfast.  We'd worked up a good sweat by the time we made it to the dock near Wet Willy's, but with all the food we ended up eating during the day, we were very glad we'd gotten our exercise in early.
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Lady Leslie
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Captain Martin
Barry and I had taken this same trip on the Lady Leslie on our first visit to San Pedro in May 2010, and we had great memories of it.  In addition to Captain Martin and his son Jody, another crew member, Ricky, was aboard today.  These guys are the best and really know their stuff.  We have recommended them to a lot of people.  Jody's sister Jessie also cuts my hair at Leslie's Salon in town.  They're just a super nice local family.
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Jody Leslie
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Barry on board
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Jody briefing the whole gang on where we'd be going and the rules onboard
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A perfect day for a sail after so much rain
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This is the life
After leaving San Pedro, our first stop was Hol Chan Marine Reserve.  Snorkeling was optional, but I wouldn't have missed it.  There were a ton of fish of all sizes, a couple of sea turtles, a moray eel, and much beautiful coral.  It was the best snorkeling experience I've ever had, in part because my mask stayed on and didn't keep filling with water as I've had problems with in the past.  It was a nice long snorkel as well, with Ricky as the guide for our part of the group, and we got to see so much.  I thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite a few foot cramps and turning into a prune by the end!  Barry is not as crazy about snorkeling as I am so stayed behind along with some of the others to take some photos and just enjoy hanging out on the deck of the Lady Leslie.  I do wish he'd joined me, but he has problems with foot cramps as well, so he might not have enjoyed himself too much.
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The water looked like a swimming pool today
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Our group with Ricky before heading out
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Lots of other groups were in the reserve as well
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Here we are snorkeling close to the reef
When we got back to the boat, we were swimming among a school of large horse-eye jacks, and a couple of HUGE groupers were right in there too.  You can see the dark gray forms of the fish in this photo.  It was surreal!
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Huge grouper to the right and forward of me
I wish I had taken my waterproof camera along for some underwater shots, but I was too afraid of dropping it.  I am hoping that Debra (Taking Belize blog) got some good shots of the many sights we saw as she was snapping away under water.

After drying off, we enjoyed fresh pineapple slices Jody brought around.  Nothing like snorkeling to help you work up an appetite.  A bit more sunscreen was in order as well.
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Very refreshing!


Our next stop, much briefer, was Shark Ray Alley.  I didn't get in this time, but we enjoyed watching the nurse sharks come eat the chum behind the stern of the boat.  I never get tired of watching them go after it.  Ricky also held a sting ray up for a few brave folks to touch.  
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Nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley
Finally it was full-steam ahead to Caye Caulker.
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Caye Caulker
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Debra, me, Laurie, Bill, and Tim on the dock at Caye Caulker
A few of us misunderstood and thought our lunch was at the Lazy Lizard at the Split, so we headed down there. 
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The sandy streets of Caye Caulker
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A Caye Caulker character with a very creative headdress
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But where is the rest of our party?
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A few lost souls...
About this time, Laurie got a text that we were supposed to be at Wish Willy's!  Not sure how we got confused, but perhaps it was the rum punches and panty rippas we had after snorkeling....  Fortunately, it was only a short walk back down the road.
It was right across the way from the Humane Society, where this sweet pooch took a liking to Barry.  Wish we could have played with him and his bone!
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Our table at Wish Willy's
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Veggies fresh off the grill
Our meal was wonderful -- a lobster tail (my first of the newly opened season), shrimp skewer, chicken, veggies, rice and beans.  Yum!
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Our hosts with the most...CJ and Jana flashing some serious Belize dinero
After the fine lunch, we had a bit of extra time before we had to be back on the boat, so we wandered around, and I bought a beaded ankle bracelet from a lady Debra liked.  Debra had one on one ankle already but bought another for her second ankle!
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This one seems to fit just right...sold!
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Laurie and me
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Laurie took this funny photo of Barry and me
At last we had to board the boat again and make our way back to Ambergris Caye.  But not without a bit more food.  The crew made us fresh sushi, which was absolutely delicious, and we had melt-in-your-mouth orange cake (aka "crack cake" said Jana) made by Casa Pan Dulce.  Could we possible eat any more today!?  
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Birthday cake
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Like I really need this...but did I eat it? But of course!
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Barry took so many photos of me I felt bad and took this one of him
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Girls gone wild
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Chillin' on the Lady Leslie on the way back to San Pedro
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An attractive ketch at anchor - the color of the sea
Sadly, all too soon we were pulling into the dock and saying goodbye to everyone.  What a wonderful day it was, though. Many thanks to Jana and CJ for their generosity in arranging such a memorable event and for inviting us along!
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What a great day
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Thanks Jana and CJ -- you guys rock!
 
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Waiting on the water taxi
Friday was our 27th wedding anniversary, so we decided we'd splurge on a dinner at Red Ginger at the Phoenix.  We had stayed at the Phoenix on our very first trip to San Pedro in celebration of our 25th anniversary and had our anniversary dinner at Red Ginger then, so it seemed fitting to go back again two years later.  Given all the rain lately and puddly roads, we even splurged on the water taxi instead of taking our bikes.  This meant that I could actually wear a dress and not arrive at the restaurant sweating and messy! 

The restaurant was just as attractive and classy as we remembered, and the food every bit as good -- and a visual treat as well.  I enjoyed a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc, a rare treat as pricey as wine is here in San Pedro.   Since it was our anniversary, they even gave us one of our desserts on the house.  Thanks Red Ginger!  

Our waiter told us he'd done some wedding photography in the past, so we were happy to have him to take our photo together. 

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Celebrating 27 years!
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Complimentary plantain chips and spicy chipotle aioli came with the meal
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Barry's black bean soup -- he stirred it a bit before he remembered to take a photo
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I got the special - Grouper with Asian Peanut sauce. Seriously good!
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Barry had cheese enchiladas, which came with a lovely large side salad
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This is the same table we sat at two years ago
We shared a molten chocolate cake and caramel apple cheesecake for dessert.  Very decadent!
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A delightful dinner and evening!
 
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My birthday was yesterday, and I chose one of my very favorite places to go for dinner here on Ambergris Caye, Aji.  Neither Barry nor I had any desire to go into town, since we knew it would be packed with tourists and locals partying like crazy for Easter weekend.  Every now and then we enjoy that type of atmosphere, but those times are few and far between as we've gotten older.  Normally we prefer quiet and peaceful to noisy and rowdy -- maybe we get that from living in the woods on acreage for so many years.  

Aji definitely provided the quiet and peaceful setting we craved, and it was a perfect night with gentle ocean breezes and no bugs.  An added plus is that we can so easily walk there as it's just a couple hundred yards up the beach from our condo.  And since I didn't have to ride my bike to get there, I could wear a dress. 

I started with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, one of my favorite wines.  Barry had a Panty Ripper (coconut rum and pineapple juice).  Our server then brought out a plate of lovely homemade bread with some tomato sauce and cilantro for us to enjoy while awaiting our dinners.  Yum!

For our entrees, I choose the curried coconut conch with veggies and coconut rice, and Barry had pasta with spicy tomato sauce and chicken.  Both dishes were delicious and beautifully presented.

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My curried conch, veggies, & rice
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Bread with tomato sauce & cilantro
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Barry's pasta
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I was a happy birthday girl
Since it was a special occasion, we splurged and got dessert -- not just one, but two!  We tried the chocolate rum cake and the coconut pie.  The key lime pie is amazing too, but since we'd tried that before, we wanted to try the two we hadn't had.  Both were scrumptious!  Barry liked the chocolate rum cake best.  It was deliciously moist, very rummy, and delicious.  However, the coconut pie blew me away because it was absolutely packed with fresh coconut, unlike any coconut pie I've ever had before, since they are usually made with dried, sweetened "angel flake" coconut and more "cream" than coconut.  The crust also seemed to have a lime syrup on the outside.  Manna of the gods!  Chef Hugo is truly a talent.
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We forgot to take a photo until we'd had the first bite of each delicious dessert!
After dinner as we were taking the short walk down the beach home, the full moon was rising over the ocean, amid clouds.  It was a dramatic and beautiful sight to see and a lovely ending to my birthday evening.

A birthday bash on the beach

The previous Sunday, our condo neighbor Danny threw a surprise birthday party on the beach for his wife Judy.  It was a spirited celebration with plenty of food, a band, and plenty of adult beverages.  Just the right size for a party, I thought, and a good mix of locals, snowbirds, expats, and visitors to the island.
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Party just getting started with some ceviche and the early arrivals
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Our host Danny in the purple bandanna
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Talking to Jim (the second wine glass is Barry's!)
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Plenty of ceviche and chips
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Even Zeke came to the party!
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Danny talking with our neighbors John and Caitlyn
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The band
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Our building, Jim and I still chatting it up, Sammy hoping from a handout from the birthday girl Judy (in the multi-colored top)
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Flor in pretty floral dress contemplating her beverage selection
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More food kept appearing...
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...and I kept eating!
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Someone gave Sammy a snack!
After sunset, Barry brought Paisley out but kept a tight hold on her.  She would have gone bonkers for all the finger food!
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Barry and Paisley
Turns out that Danny is quite the musician and singer and joined the band for several numbers.  Even Cowboy Doug got in on the action!  
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Danny at the mike!
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Go, Cowboy!
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Cowboy Doug and Danny collaborate
Judy, the birthday girl, was getting into the spirit of the evening by now and was bustin' a move with a friend!
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Danny with our internet guy Mr. Norman and his wife
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Emily and Leisa enjoying the music
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Judy gets some assistance with cutting the cake
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Danny, Judy, and friends
We enjoyed hanging out with our Grand Caribe friends, tapping our feet to the music; and since the party was right on the beach behind our building, the trip back home was an easy one.