This morning we got going earlier than normal (for us) and fought a stiff breeze to bike up north to Grand Belizean Estates for some birding. Barry had such good luck seeing so many birds last Sunday while I was sick that I was hoping for a repeat performance, but for some reason, the birds were not quite as plentiful this week. Perhaps it was simply too breezy for them to be out and about. We had to be patient and look harder than usual, but we did end up seeing a couple different types of herons, several egrets, cormorants, plovers, a Greater Yellowlegs, Killdeers, Common Black-Hawks, Tropical Kingbirds, mockingbirds, grackles, and a couple of ducks (possibly American Coots, but too far away to identify). Most interesting was a pair of parrots that chattered loudly as they flew overhead, then into the dense roadside foliage, allowing us only a quick glimpse of their green backs, so no hope of making an identification this time. Perhaps we will get a chance to see them again one day.
Just outside GBE, Barry spotted this small fellow, which we later identified as a White-Collared Seedeater, on a weedy shrub by the sandy road. A new bird for our life lists!
On our way back, we stopped at Aji for a delicious Mediterranean omelet breakfast. Chef Hugo served us himself, and we had a delightful breeze through the trees in this perfect tropical setting. We could make a habit of this, and may!
I've been noticing the large leaves on these trees turning color here and there and find it very interesting. I always assumed no leaves turned in the tropics, but apparently there are exceptions. I don't know what tree this is -- perhaps a reader can enlighten me?
As we got back to Chico Caribe, we noticed this medley of herons amidst the copious seagrass that has floated towards shore this morning. Unfortunately, it is filled with plastic trash -- the scourge of Belize. Belize is a study in contrasts -- the beautiful right alongside the ugly.
In addition to all the bottles the renters next door gifted us with, they left us with a lot of assorted foodstuffs that they had left over as they headed back to the US. We aren't proud; as expensive as most food is here, we were happy to get it. They really must like cheese, as they had a ton of it to give us. Yum! So, we've been busy with cheese cookery.
Last night I made four-cheese mac-n-cheese with brie, smoked cheddar, a mystery hard cheese they left us, and some white cheddar we had in the fridge.
And tonight we collaborated on a veggie pizza with chevre, plenty of it, onions, and peppers, and Barry's homemade crust. Mmmmm...I just love chevre. What a treat! Accompanied with Cabernet Sauvignon Barry bought me for Christmas, I was in heaven. I think Barry liked it too, but he was too busy chewing to say much!
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!!!)
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!
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
We ride our bikes down to Maria's fruit stand south of San Pedro every couple of days to replenish our fruit and veggie supplies. Maria and Jose are so nice to us, and, if she is there, Maria always throws in a few "freebies" since we are regular customers. Here is what we got for today for $30 BZD ($15 US). I carried the lovely Canna Lilies (freebies!) back sticking out of the top of my backpack, and they held up pretty well.
Sometimes it just seems like the powers that be are conspiring against you. We had been looking forward to the annual San Pedro Lighted Boat Parade all day, and thought we had the perfect plan. In addition to parade day, it was Barry's birthday, so a nice meal at one of our favorite restaurants was in order. We'd take the water taxi into town plenty early enough to get into Wild Mango's right in time for a drink, then have an early dinner when they started serving at 6pm. What we forgot is that for some inexplicable reason, there is no southbound water taxi in the 4 to 5 pm hour, which seems strange to me since that is getting on prime cocktail time. We got out to the Grand Caribe dock in a light sprinkle, only to see on the posted schedule that there is a 3:40 taxi and a 5:40 taxi, but no 4:40 taxi. Sigh!
At least we got to see this lovely rainbow as we contemplated what to do next.
We headed back into the condo to hang out for another hour. I poured a Belikin, and we sat and talked until time to head out for the 5:40 taxi. Now, in the past, it seemed that the taxi was always quite a bit later than the posted time; like fifteen to twenty minutes later. So, we didn't really rush and left our condo bound for the dock at 5:45. Another boo-boo. Right as we were walking towards the dock, the taxi zoomed by, leaving us in the sand. If anyone else had been departing, we could have made a run for it, but we were the lone southbound travelers. Foiled again, Batman!
So now what? We realized that our plans were completely shot; we'd be lucky to get a table outside anywhere on such a busy party night; and we only had our bikes or feet to take us the two miles into town unless we called a land taxi, which would have taken awhile and cost more than we cared to spend. So, we started walking down the beach. Since we'd thought we were taking the water taxi, I didn't have on my best walking sandals and knew I'd have a blister or two long before we made it to town.
We cut over to the road right around Legend's Burger House, and not long after, we were offered a golf-cart ride by some kind locals heading in for the parade. Raul and his wife told us that they managed the Cocotal Inn right up the way from our condo. During the ride, we enjoyed talking to their grandson in the back seat and realized that we've seen him riding his bike to school when we go on our morning runs. What an articulate and polite young man and so different from many kids his age in the US. They were very kind folks and got us to town much more quickly than we'd have made it all on foot, so we were very grateful for the ride (as were my only semi-blistered feet!)
Once in town we wasted no time hoofing it the rest of the way down to Wild Mango's, but as we figured, they only had one table left, and it was inside, so we decided to try Caliente's. We really wanted to sit outside so that we could view the parade from the table. Their deck tables were full, but they were able to accommodate us by moving a small table out to the balcony from inside. Perfect! We had a nice view of the water through the docks, as well as inflatable Santa on the roof of a dive/tour shop.
We had a good, hearty dinner and a couple of drinks. I really liked their "Pedro Collins", like a Tom Collins but made with rum, and only $8 BZD ($4 US)!
At one point there was a shower during dinner. Fortunately, like most showers in Belize, it was quite brief, and we'd finished eating, so our food didn't get diluted.
Let the parade begin! Barry raced out to a nearby dock to snap most of these shots, while I stayed and watched from Caliente's deck, and had a nice chat with a Canadian couple at the next table. We were impressed with the work that went into decorating these boats, and the pictures can't really do them justice.
After the last boat had passed by and Barry was coming back up to join me, he ran into our neighbors Tim and Jean, who kindly offered us a ride home in their large Polaris. We had been planning on walking around some in Central Park and taking the water taxi back, but a ride sounded great. Jean mentioned that there was a cupcake stand in the park, and we hadn't had dessert, so they stopped so we could nab a couple of birthday cupcakes, along with a few more photos in the park. Although I had hoped we could walk around a little more and see more of the booths and decor, there's always next year. It will give us something to look forward to, and I am sure we'll plan a bit better so that we can get to town earlier. San Pedro really knows how to throw a festive party, and it's fun to be among a sea of smiling faces.
So fortunately, the night ended on a happy note, and I think the birthday boy enjoyed himself. The cupcakes, which we devoured when we got home, were yummy too!
After riding our bikes into town for groceries, and paying our friend Robert a quick visit at Royal Palm Villas, we headed home for lunch. Before we started making our usual sandwiches, Barry got on his laptop and went into Facebook, where he saw that the Lazy Croc had posted a photo of their special -- Smokehouse Shepherd's Pie. It looked amazing, and only took us a few seconds to make the executive decision to head over there for lunch. After all, "the Croc" is dangerously close -- almost within smellin' distance, but not quite (thank the gods!) They were also having sweet potato pie today, one of my favorites, so off we went.
The Shepherd's Pie was even better than it looked in the photo. It was so filling that I had to get the sweet potato pie to go; hopefully I'll have more room after dinner. It was the perfect warming lunch for an overcast, blustery, cool day on Ambergris Caye. How cold was it? We're talking low 70s, people!
We had fun today at lunchtime when new friends Robert and Maureen introduced us to friends of theirs, Sharon and Richard. The four of them made their way north on their bicycles to have lunch with us at the Lazy Croc, our next-door neighbor restaurant. Both couples hail from Vancouver and have condos at Royal Palm Villas, south of San Pedro, while we live approximately two miles north of town.
Many pictures were taken, much good barbeque was enjoyed, and we even got to see a couple of crocs this time! We had never managed to see a croc when we'd dined here in the past. Barry and I topped off our barbequed chicken sandwiches and baked beans with a (shared) piece of Cheri's amazing homemade pecan pie. Yum! This is a dangerous place to live right next door to, and not only because of the crocs!
If you read our previous blog post, you'll know that we met the local known as "Fish Johnson" last night at Cholo's, and he promised to bring us some shrimp today. At around 3 pm, he showed up outside our condo yelling "fresh seafood"! Not only did he have shrimp, but he had fresh lobster (out of the shell and cleaned) and snapper fillets, so we bought it all. We have plenty of leftovers to eat up in the fridge, so everything went right into the freezer, after we divided it up into single-meal portions in a bevy of ziploc bags. "Fish" is quite a San Pedro character, and we're glad to be on his customer list. This solves one of our shopping dilemmas as it is easier than finding and buying seafood in town and transporting it back by bicycle.