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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!
 
Taking a little time out from blogging to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas!

From our home to yours,
Emily, Barry, and Paisley

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Merida, Mexico -- December 2012
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Photo courtesy of Pampered Paws -- Dec. 2012
 
This year Thanksgiving "went to the dogs" as Fido's, an ever-popular San Pedro restaurant, bar, and live music venue, teamed up with Saga Humane Society for a fundraiser featuring singer-songwriter Kelly McGuire.  Fido's and Kelly are both such Ambergris Caye traditions that I am embarrassed to admit we've never experienced either, so we were looking forward to a good time for a good cause, and we were amply rewarded with a unique and fun Thanksgiving evening.  I'd been asked to take photos for the Saga website, so I figured I would kill two birds with one stone by doing our own blog of the event as well.
We left home on our bikes a bit early so we could eat dinner before the Saga event really got cranking at 6pm.  Barry got our steeds safely locked to one of the huge anchors right outside Fido's on the ocean front.  Fortunately, his pinched nerve and upper back issue has finally healed up, or most of the way, and he can ride his bike again.  We're both very happy about that!
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Yay, Barry is back on the scene!
We got a table right by the sea and started with a special drink of the evening -- vodka with watermelon juice.  Yum!
Here's the menu for the special Thanksgiving dinner.  The Cochinita Pibil was tempting, but we both ordered the traditional turkey dinner, which was $40 BZ ($20 US) and also included dessert (and a rum punch, as it turned out) -- neither of which were mentioned on the menu.  So it was quite a good deal.
The dinner was delicious.  The Candied Plantains tasted very similar to candied sweet potatoes, which I love.  It was also nice to get real mashed potatoes with lumps!
These two cute felines were making the rounds and became our best friends while we were eating our dinner.  I gave them a small taste of turkey.  Some kids at the next table gave them quite a nice portion of turkey a little later, so I think they made out pretty well for the night!
As I mentioned above, the menu didn't say that a rum punch was included with our Thanksgiving special, so we drank it between the entree and dessert.  Not a problem!
Dessert was a version of Key Lime Pie that had the texture of frozen Cool Whip with added lime juice and green food coloring.  Not our favorite interpretation of the traditional island dessert, but we managed to choke it down!
After dinner, I spoke to the Saga board members and volunteers at the event, and Barry and I both started taking more photos.
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Here I am talking to Grant, a Saga board member. Notice I wore my Saga tee-shirt!
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Saga booth
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Lots of excellent raffle prizes from local donors
Kelly McGuire was great!  Although his music had a lot of country in it (and I'm not normally a country music fan), it had an islandy flare I really liked, reminiscent of Jimmy Buffet.  Lots of songs of sailing and boats, which we appreciated given our past (we used to own a 30' sailboat), and songs mentioning Belize.  Kelly lives in Texas but is much loved here and comes to the island frequently enough that a lot of the folks in the audience knew all the words to his songs.  It's obvious that he loves Ambergris Caye as much as it loves him.  Some of his songs were upbeat and fun, and some were more touching.  The one about daddies and daughters definitely wet my eyes -- and his too, he said.  He did two great sets and spent plenty of time talking to the audience, promoting Saga, and drawing raffle tickets for great prizes.
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Kelly playing guitar and singing in a perfect island setting at Fido's
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Kelly McGuire
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We had great seats on stools at this small bar area with a perfect view of Kelly on stage.
A lot of Kelly CDs and merchandise was being sold to audience members, with a portion of the proceeds going to Saga!
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Grant working the Kelly retail table
Ari was working the crowd and selling lots of Saga raffle tickets.
Kelly auctioned off one of his "Boats in Belize" bags with CDs and a Boats in Belize shirt to the highest bidder.  There were several bidders, and the bag brought a high bid of $140 US, all of which Kelly donated to Saga.  Awesome!
Here are the winning bidders in the auction with Kelly!
Kelly invited all the dads with daughters in the house to get up and dance when he sang his sentimental daddies and daughters song.  Not all of these are daddies with daughters, but a few were.  There was one really young girl dancing with her mom and dad, but they were just to the right of this photo.  Really sweet!
Two of our building neighbors put in an appearance, which is pretty impressive considering that they are the only others from our building on the island right now!
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Our neighbor Mike with a friend. One word, Mike: sunscreen! ;)
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Our upstairs neighbors John and Caitlin (center and right) with a friend
And just a few more random shots from the night...
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Belize flag up high in Fido's palapa
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The bar at Fido's. I like that they have draft beer as it's not always easy to find in Belize; most beer is bottled.
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Some young audience members helped Ari and Kelly with the Saga raffle drawing
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A great crowd inside...
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...and out on the deck
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It seemed like everyone on the island was here, but I know there were numerous parties going on. A busy night indeed!
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More Kelly crooning
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Entrance to Fido's from street and Saga booth on right manned by Saga volunteers LouAnn and Bob
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Wall of cool old anchors at Fido's
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Black orchid -- national flower of Belize. Guess where I took this photo?!
As Kelly was finishing up his second set, we took off.  It was almost 9pm after all, and these two old farts have to get their beauty sleep!  But first, a bike ride back to our condo (with our headlamps).  The taxi and golf cart traffic north of the bridge was the worst we've ever experienced heading home after a dinner out.  Maybe because it was Thanksgiving, or maybe the whole Mayan calendar fascination brought extra folks to the island, but it wasn't as much fun a ride home as usual.  Oh well, we still had a fine Thanksgiving night on the island, and Saga raised a lot of money to help the dogs and cats of San Pedro.  It's all good!  
Hope all our friends and family in the US had a very Happy Thanksgiving.  We miss you!
 
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?!
 
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.  
 
We normally don't go out for Valentine's Day, but for our first one in Belize, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner out at the Funky Monkey, just a mile or so south.  Actually, it was my idea, as most meals out are.  Dale had posted about their Valentine's special meal on Facebook, and it sounded tasty -- and reasonable at only $40 BZD per person, including dessert, so it was a date.  Of course we'd be riding our bikes.  We left early while it was still plenty light.
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Leaving our condo
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The Funky Monkey at the Cloisters
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Locking up the bikes at the restaurant
We arrived early enough to catch the tail end of Happy Hour, so we started at the bar with a couple of two-for-one rum & pineapple juices from bartender Javier, then moved over to a table.  Right before the end of Happy Hour, Barry ordered us another round of half-price drinks to see us through our meal.
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My Valentine for the past 27 years!
While we were waiting on our dinners, we noticed a paperback swap bookshelf right near our table.  Barry suggested I go over and check to see if they had the next book in the James Patterson series I've been reading.  Since it's a newer book, I couldn't find it at the San Pedro Public Library or the Aquarius used book shop in town.  Of course I never expected to find it on a small bookshelf -- I mean; what are the odds?
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What a serendipitous find!
Much to my delight and amazement, what should I spy but the very book I'd been looking for?  Although I didn't bring a book to swap, of course, Dale was kind enough to let me take it home -- I'll just bring it right back when I am done.  
Our dinners arrived, and they were lovely.  Grilled shrimp, garlic mashed potatoes, and sweet glazed carrots, and a pretty hibiscus flower to top it off.  
As we started eating, all of a sudden we started feeling bites.  And seeing mosquitoes around and on us.  Before we knew it, they were practically swarming.  We were slapping right and left, and it was taking all the joy out of eating our meal.  Thankfully, about this time, Javier came by and asked us how our meals were, so we were able to let him know about the evil mozzies.  He quickly brought insect repellent, and Dale also came by and lit a coil under our table.  Instantly, the little devils were gone, just as fast as they appeared.  This is seriously good stuff -- nice scent and DEET-free!
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Avon Skin-So-Soft with Picaridin
Now we could really enjoy our dinners!  They also served us a Valentine's Day dessert -- red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting.  Scrumptious!
On the way home, we used Barry's headlamp to guide our way.  Mine, unfortunately, has crapped out since its last use.  The case was already cracking, but tonight, only the lowest light power worked, and that's not nearly enough light for biking in the dark.  Looks like it's time for a replacement.
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Funky Monkey at night
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Barry lighting the way for our return trip
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Sign in the Funky Monkey...says it all!
 
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!!!)
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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!
 
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.
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San Pedro Town Council building
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Official San Pedro Christmas tree in Central Park
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Replacing the batteries in my headlamp
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Festive holiday decor
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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.
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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....