Nate Delivers a Blow to Costa Rica

Tropical Storm Nate created havoc in many parts of Costa Rica on October 4th and 5th.  Strong winds swept across the land knocking over trees.  Torrential rains plummeted the country.  There was major flooding causing landslides, taking out roads, bridges and houses.  Many homes and business were flooded.  In some areas power was out for several days. The Southern Zone, where we live, was hit especially hard.  The damage was catastrophic!  Raging rivers overflowed their banks taking whatever was in their path with them.  Our neighbor Gib recorded we had 26 inches of rain in 24 hours!

In the throes of the storm, I was returning to Costa Rica from the States.  My flight was scheduled to land in San Jose in the early evening of October 4th.  Well, that didn’t happen; the pilot made one attempt and aborted the landing.  He wasn’t a particularly communicative pilot, so we really didn’t know what was going on except that bad weather had closed the airport.  My flight was diverted to Managua, Nicaragua, where we had to spend the night!  That was an adventure, for sure. Fortunately, I met some very nice people, particularly three ladies who were also traveling alone.  We ended up sticking together.  It’s always fun to make new friends!

On the morning of October 5th, my flight landed in San Jose during very heavy rains.  Eddie was waiting for me at the airport.  He had stayed overnight at our favorite B & B in La Garita, which is about a 10 minute drive from the airport.  He informed me that we were going to have to stay at Margarita’s because all the roads to the beach were closed due to damage from the storm.  Well, we ended up having to stay at Margarita’s until Saturday morning, October 8th!  Thank goodness for our neighbors, Toni and Gib.  They took care of our cat, Rusty and our little dog, Olivia and checked on our house until we could get home.


Celebrating Eddie’s 60th birthday at a little Italian place in La Garita


A huge boulder fell on the Caldera (toll road) which is our usual route home


The Caldera had to be closed so that the boulder could be dynamited

The Tarcoles Bridge, also known as the crocodile bridge, was closed during the height of the storm due to high winds and water level.  We heard the river rose to about four feet below the bridge.  The photo to the right was taken during the dry season; the people on the bridge are looking at the huge crocodiles swimming below.  I took the photo on the left from the truck when we were driving back home (same side of the bridge).  You could see the debris…showing how much the river overflowed its banks.  Unbelievable!  The town of Tarcoles had flooding and we heard that many residents were afraid that the crocodiles would be swimming into their houses, so they spent the night in the trees.  Not sure if that was true or not, but those crocodiles are dangerous.  A few years ago, a drunk guy went swimming in the river and was mauled alive by the crocodiles.  It was all caught on film and the news showed it over and over.  A couple of days later, the head was found on a beach and that was all that was left of that man.  We saw the head recovery on T.V. and it was quite graphic…no censorship here!


The Costanera (the coastal highway) was washed away about 8 miles north of Parrita


A temporary fix was completed on the washed out section of the Costanera and the road opened Saturday morning


The Costanera, just south of Parrita.  Believe it or not, there is a road under all this water! 


In this same area, a semi-truck driver thought he could make it; we watched it being swept across the road by the raging water on the news when we were staying at Margarita’s


The MaxiPali in Quepos, which is about 30 miles north of us. We shop there quite a bit.


We had one landslide on our mountain road


The little slide on our driveway. Fortunately, the water didn’t divert into the house this time!


Checking out the damage on our favorite beach five days after the storm


The photos above are of Dominical beach.  The two on top are where the Baru River mouth is located.  Several people’s homes where swept away.


 A bridge on the main mountain road to San Isidro de General was destroyed

Further south (about an hour and a half drive), the areas around Palmar Sur and Sierrpe were devastated.  A couple hundred homes were completely flooded and families lost everything. Community support (locals and expats together) in surrounding areas have banded together to bring aid to these families.  Within two weeks, volunteers have cleaned up the water damage and mud in most of the homes.  The families have been given food, new bedding, cook tops, dishes, linens, clothing and other essentials to start them over.  The volunteer coordinators of the TS Nate Relief Effort are truly amazing!


Rusty and Olivia like to cuddle up


Rusty watching the monkeys in the trees


This group of white-faced monkeys are very shy.  They keep their distance.


After the wrath of TS Nate, we enjoyed a pretty sunset.

Chillaxing by the Pool


There has been some very nice weather here lately in Costa Rica’s Southern Zone giving opportunity to enjoy the outdoors, the views and to just chillax by the pool.  Even Wylder, Rusty and Olivia take time for some sunbathing in the morning.  As we are now in the rainy season, mornings are not to waste as many afternoons and/or evenings are rainy.


A beautiful day!

We all know that for ultimate chillaxation, a good, cold beer goes a long way.  However, Costa Rica is in its beer infancy, so to speak, with Imperial, Pilsen and several other national brews dominating the store shelves.  Craft beers and brewpubs have recently started making their way onto the scene, but it’s just a drop in the bucket compared to the U.S.  So, I have got my butt in gear and started to make my own brew again.


Bottles are being sanitized for bottling of the first batch of beer.


Bottling of a batch of Nut Brown Ale is underway.


Filled bottles are capped.

This first batch should be ready to try around Labor Day, just in time for some more chillaxing by the pool!

Some comfortable cushions are always nice to have when you want to sit on the edge of the pool and get your feet wet!  So, Ellen decided she would make her own with some outdoor fabric she brought in from the States.


Sewing up the cushion covers


Here are the cushions with foam inserts ready to have the final seam sewn.

As you know, we grow our own bananas on our property and we recently found this oddity.  A set of conjoined bananas…not sure if they were identical twins though.  This was a first for us!



….like two bananas in a peel!  They tasted great.

Bananas, Tile and Turtles, Oh My!

The year before we started the construction of our house, we took the opportunity to do some basic landscaping on our lot.  We (really our workers) planted a bamboo hedge along the driveway, a few ornamental plants and a lot of trees — mostly fruit trees, including bananas.  Fast forward a couple of years and now we have bananas coming out of our ears!  Don’t get me wrong…we like bananas and so it’s not a bad problem to have.  Apparently, we have a great spot for growing bananas because the trees really thrive and produce some of the best bananas on the planet.  We make banana bread, banana pancakes, banana cookies, and put bananas in our daily fruit smoothie.  We have given away a ton of bananas to friends, neighbors and even strangers that we meet just walking down the street.  Everyone says our bananas are amazing.  We are lucky!


Some of the banana trees on our property


This rack still has a long way to go before it is ready to harvest.


Unfortunately, it is typical for the whole rack to ripen all at once.  We are drowning in bananas!

In an effort to add some color and beautify the open stairway next to the kitchen, we decided that adding some ceramic tile would do the trick.  We had in mind to use some colorful Mexican tile, but finding that in Costa Rica would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.  So, we got on the computer to search for Mexican tile and found a great online retailer of ceramic tile in San Diego (Tierra Y Fuego).  We had our order shipped to Florida, where the warehouse for ‘Get It Here Jerry‘ is located.  Jerry and Lowell Thomas provide a great service to those living here in the Southern Zone with their freight consolidation business.  Several weeks later, we were able to pick up our order of tile from Jerry in Uvita.


The wall is ready for the tile to be laid down


Eddie is applying the grout


The final result!

One of our favorite things to do is to go walking on the beach.  When the tide is right (near low) we will head down to the beach with the dogs for a nice walk in the early morning.  Usually we are the only ones there at that hour.  Olivia and Wylder love to run around and chase the birds and the little crabs that burrow in the sand.  On our beach walk this morning we had a special surprise.  We saw a group of about 30 newly hatched turtles frantically scurrying from their nest towards the relative safety of the ocean.  Since it was low tide, it was a long way to the ocean!  Beginning now through the next several months is the nesting season for the Olive Ridley sea turtle.  Females return to the same beach where they were hatched to lay their eggs in the sand.  We watched and assisted as needed to make sure all of the hatchlings made it to the water.  Even the dogs helped out by chasing away several hawks nearby that would have certainly snatched up some of the baby turtles if we had not been there.  It was quite a sight to see and we felt like we did a good service to help the baby turtles survive.  We happened to be in the right place at the right time.


Keeping Busy

It’s been a while since we have posted an update…not sure where the time goes!  We spend a lot of time hiking on our hill, walking on the beach, chilling out by the pool and enjoying our fabulous view.  Our projects and hobbies keep us pretty busy, too.


The carport is still a work in progress. Getting things organized is taking some time. Eddie built closets to house his tools and supplies.  He needed more shelves for the one closet and decided to make a removable unit.  He welded together the frame and used treated wood for the shelves.  I helped with the painting.  This project took quite a while.  The oil based primer took several days to dry.  Everything needed two coats of primer and then two coats of paint.


Another time consuming project…an enclosure to protect (and hide) the propane tanks. I think that Eddie really likes to weld.  He keeps thinking up projects where he can do it!  The wooden front is removable; it just pulls off for easy access to the tanks.  Not sure how Eddie managed it, but the enclosure has the same finished texture as the outside of the house.  Very impressive!

When I’m not cleaning or reading a book, I’m making beaded macrame jewelry.  Recently my friend Liz sent me a photo of a gorgeous beaded rope bracelet that she saw in the Portland Museum gift shop.  I could tell that it was much thicker than the macrame rope bracelet that I have been making and I was determined to figure out how to make one. After a bit of research online, it was quite a surprise to find out that the bracelet was crocheted!  It took hours and hours of  watching several YouTube tutorials, taking notes, ripping out my work and starting over to FINALLY figure it out!  It’s a challenge to get it started, but after a couple of rows, it becomes easier.  I’m currently working on my second one, which is shown in the photo.  It will be fun to create new patterns and finish them in different ways.



Rusty is never too far away when we are working on something.  He is a good supervisor!

As we have mentioned before, the torrential rains can cause a lot of problems.  Drainage of the rain water from the properties and road above us were eroding parts of our driveway.  When we had our driveway regraded, we had the backhoe guy add some boulders to help slow down the water that cascades into our gutter.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t enough, so Eddie built a little wall using concrete and river rock.  So far, it has worked, but the true test will be in October, which is typically when we have the most rain.


Time for a little treat!  Olivia (little white and black dog) doesn’t like to take her Nexgard, so Eddie has to bribe her with some cheese.  Of course, everyone has to have a little bit, even Rusty.

One of Rusty’s favorite spots to relax.          Wylder likes to watch out for critters.


Olivia spotted this huge crab and alerted me before I stepped on it.  I didn’t even see it until it went into attack mode.  We talked about eating him for lunch, but he disappeared as quickly as he appeared.  This is the first time we have seen a crab like this one.  (Eddie took the photo.)


Every morning we eat breakfast on the patio – rain or shine!


Checking up on the fruit trees on the upper part of our lot.


A rain storm coming in from over the ocean.


Thunder and Lightning

The rains have arrived!  So far in May we have recorded 30 inches of rain.  Lately we have had several thunder and lightning storms.  The one the other night seemed to be right over us.  The thunder was deafening!  We have lost power and Internet several times this past week.  About two weeks ago, it was raining pretty hard in the evening.  Eddie heard a loud reverberating thud and went outside to investigate.  He discovered that part of a tree had fallen, but it was too dark to investigate further.  The next morning, we found that a large tree had split in half.


Rusty is checking out the damage.


Unfortunately, the tree was too damaged to save and we had to hire the tree climber to cut it down.  It’s such a shame as the monkeys really like the fruit from this tree.  Fortunately, the monkeys stopped by the day before the tree was cut down, so they were able to eat a fair amount of the fruit.


The upside is that our view of the mountains has improved.


Approximately a year and a half ago we noticed a few papaya trees growing where our builder’s workers had their temporary kitchen.  The other day, we noticed that a papaya was ripe and ready to eat.  The interesting thing is that the papaya is round unlike the rest of the papaya we have seen in Costa Rica.  It tastes slightly different, too.  Eddie asked our gardeners if this type of papaya was rare as we haven’t seen it in the farmer’s markets or grocery stores.  They told him that it was a common type found in the fincas (countryside).  So, Eddie did a little bit of research and discovered that the University of Costa Rica developed the kind of papaya that we see in the stores.


Last week, we took Rusty to our veterinarian in Quepos (a 30 minute ride) for his annual check-up, which included two vaccines.  Rusty isn’t particularly fond of riding in the truck and it helps to have Wylder along.  This time, Rusty didn’t meow his elongated meow all the way there!  But, as you can see in the photo, Rusty was not thrilled.


We were pleased to find out that Rusty has lost two pounds!  He is now close to his target weight, which should be around 11 or 12 pounds.  It was lunch time when we finished with the vet appointment and we decided to stop by a little café called the Brooklyn Bakery.  (They have the best bagels and sourdough bread.  Both of which we buy on a regular basis.)  It was Rusty’s first experience in an eatery and he wasn’t quite sure what to make of it.  He hid under the chair most of the time.


By the time we returned home, poor Rusty was rather traumatized.  It took him a few days to recover from the vaccines!


Olivia, Rusty and Wyler all get along quite well.  We have so much fun watching them play and relax together.  They are just too cute!  We can’t help but to take a lot of photos of them.


Eddie has been working on welding another set of doors for the closet in the carport.  This set are sliding doors.  The projects around the house seem to be never ending.  There is always something to do!


… and Now The Dry Season is Almost Over

If you are following this blog, you know it has been awhile since our last post.  It’s not that we have been incredibly busy, but rather there has not been that much new to report on.  So, sorry about the long dry spell.

Early in January, our son Erik, came for a visit.  It was great to have him here and spend time together.  Erik has been to Costa Rica several times before, and has done many of the adventure activities available.  So, being a little tired from working, he just wanted to take it easy and relax.


We did some walking on the beach.


Checked out Dominical’s own microbrew pub, Fuego.

Erik was only able to be here for a week, but timed his visit so he was here for Ellen’s birthday.  Toni and Gib threw a party to celebrate, and as always, it was a blast.

2017 Birthday

Our new dog, Wylder, is adjusting well to her new surroundings.  She, Olivia and Rusty all get along well together.  IMG_1612e

We got Wylder in Nosara, located on the Nicoya peninsula, where there is a little less wildlife than in our neck of the woods.  One day, she and Olivia went barking after some animal just down the hill from the pool.  I quickly called them back, but I guess not quick enough as Wylder got a taste of what we have here.  She came back with a gash across her nose from what we think was a pizote (aka coati), a member of the racoon family.  Wylder’s nose was bleeding quite a bit and I was concerned about infection.  It was a Friday afternoon and Ellen had taken the truck to go to her beading/craft class.  So, I called Doctor Fabiola, a local vet who makes house calls!  She came up to the house on her motorcycle and tended to Wylder’s nose.  Fortunately, it healed up fine without any problems.


This is how Wylder’s nose looked the next day.  The liquid bandage that was applied did not stick too well (the nose tissue is too soft for stitches).  So, it just had to heal on its own.

In early February, we had the honor of attending a baby shower for Geovany’s daughter (Geovany and his crew does our gardening).  We were excited to have the opportunity to get to know some more of our Tico neighbors and see how they put on a baby shower.


We had a fun time at the shower.  Three weeks later, mom gave birth to a 8lb. 7oz. baby girl!


Some of the guys get to know a little of what it is like to be pregnant, when they are asked to tie their shoes!

One important project that was completed is the construction of a retaining wall and drainage system where we had a landslide last August when almost 11 inches of rain fell in just 5 hours.  The wall will stabilize the area from having any further problems in the future.


The retaining wall as viewed from down below


Rain water from the pool deck and surrounding areas will now be channeled and piped down the hill.

In mid-February, Ellen flew to the states and I followed at the beginning of March for a visit with family and friends in North Carolina.  For me, this was a long overdue trip as I had not been back for 18 months.  It was great to see everyone!IMG_0635e

One of the things that I did while in North Carolina was to assist Erik with finding a car to replace his 17 year old car.  We had fun looking around at cars and finally made a deal on a nice 2013 Camry.


Erik with his sweet new ride!

While away in North Carolina, we had a great, young Canadian couple house sit for us.  They took great care of our place and loved our pets like they were their own.  It gave us peace of mind to know that all would be OK while we were away.

Another project that got finished up recently was the construction of a stairway to make it easier to access the upper portion of our property.  We have a variety of fruit trees planted up there and so wanted a way to get up there without killing ourselves.


Juan and Vergilio did a nice job constructing this stairway out of river rock.

Our first big pineapple was recently harvested  from up there!


One early morning with nobody in sight, the dogs had a fun run on the beach!

So, that pretty much brings you up-to-date for now.  This dry season has been a hot one, for sure!  So now everyone is looking forward to when the rains start to come back again, which should be in a few more weeks.  Pura vida!

The Dry Season is Here…FINALLY!

Amazingly the rains continued into December.  We received 14.75 inches!  Most of it happened within the first week.  We were beginning to think that the rainy season would never go away!  Slowly, but surely, the heavy rains have petered out and the sun has returned.  It was not a moment too soon for me…cabin fever was setting in and had me wishing for a mall close by for some shopping therapy. img_1567e

The rainy season didn’t seem to affect Eddie much…he spent time catching up on the indoor projects as well as doing some cooking.  He had some fun making pizza and it was delicious!

For several months we had been looking for a piece of furniture for our living area for extra storage and to display a few trinkets.  We had trouble finding something ready-made, so Eddie designed a hutch and a furniture maker built it. It took three months start to finish, but it was worth the wait.


The piece is made from Cenizaro wood.  The glass shelves for the top were too big and we had to have them re-cut. 

In mid-December, we drove to Nosara in Guanacaste to pick up the newest addition to our family, our dog Wylder, who had finished her training.  Wylder is 15 months old and a mix of Belgium Malinois  and Dutch Shepherd.  She is an awesome dog!  img_0416e

Wylder has adjusted quite well to her new home.  Olivia seems very happy to have another dog around the house and Rusty seems glad to have another “buddy,” too.  All three of them are getting along well.img_0460e

As Christmas approached, Toni (our neighbor just up the hill) suggested that we have a little Christmas party for all the Tico children on our mountain and for the children of our workers who live in our town.  Word spread quickly and before we knew it, we were planning for a huge crowd.  Toni offered to host the party.  Her husband Gib put up their snow village complete with motorized cable cars and a beautiful Christmas tree.  Toni, Liz and I came up with some activities for the children – decorating gift bags (for all the treats) and cut-out sugar cookies, and a piñata filled with candy.  We wrapped some small gifts for each child and Toni’s son played Santa’s Elf.  The weather cooperated and we had a gorgeous sunny day!

Last week, we took Rusty and Wylder to the veterinarian for check-ups.  We found out that Rusty weighs almost 14 pounds!  Wow!  He should really weigh about 11 pounds, so he has been put on a diet.  And, he is NOT happy about it.  The experience going to the vet seems to have brought Rusty and Wylder closer together.


A selfie with Rusty on the way to the vet. Rusty doesn’t like to ride in the truck.


On the way home…they both survived!


Now they are best buddies!


Walking the dogs on our crowded beach.


Wonder how many calories are in this bug?

New Year’s Eve at Toni and Gib’s.  Toni (on the left) and Liz (on the right) of me. Toni calls us the Tres Amigas.  We have a lot fun doing things together!


A pineapple growing in our garden.  Looks like something took a nibble.


Enough Already! Rain, Rain Go Away!

There’s no doubt, November has been a rainy month.  Over 40 inches fell, making it the wettest month this year (about 200″ total).  There have only been two days this month without any rain!  When Hurricane Otto was heading our way last week, we all were expecting a deluge.  To our surprise, total rainfall in our area was only a few tenths of an inch.  Other parts of Costa Rica and Nicaragua were not so lucky.  However, after Otto passed and headed out into the Pacific, we have had nothing but rain…16 inches in the past four days.  Historically the rains taper off by Thanksgiving and the dry season is in full swing by December.


This morning our rain gauge showed 5.8 inches for the previous 24 hours.


This has been our view for quite some time.  Most days we can’t even see the beach.

So, what have we been doing to occupy our time when the rain has been falling?

We went to our friend’s party with a great mariachi band.


and had lots of fun…img_0368

We celebrated Thanksgiving with our friends on our hill.  Gib, our host, cooked a fabulous turkey on his grill.img_0376img_0377

We had a jam session with bongos and drums.


Ellen worked on macrame jewelry.img_1495e

Here are some of her creations.  Beautiful!

Of course we watched lots of movies and TV shows.


Eddie did some repairs in the master bathroom.img_1478e

And we did some napping, too!img_1491eimg_1486

I imagine that soon we will be complaining about too much hot sun and wishing it would rain a little (we hope)!  Pura vida!

U.S. Passport Renewal in Costa Rica


Our U.S. Passports were due to expire in May 2017, so we needed to get them renewed before our next trip back to North Carolina.  So how does one go about that in Costa Rica?  The U.S. Embassy provides passport renewal services and the following is the process of how we did it.

The first step is to make an appointment at the embassy.  So, we went online to the embassy’s website (, clicked on the “U.S. Citizens Services” tab and selected “Passport.”  There we found a link to download the Passport Renewal Application (DS-82) and another link to request an appointment.  A screen with available appointment dates and times appeared; we selected one for each of us (separately) which were a couple of weeks out.  An appointment confirmation is emailed to you which needs to be printed and brought to the appointment.  We then printed and filled out the application form to bring with us.  Other items needed for the appointment are your current passport, new passport photograph and payment of $110 (cash or credit card, no checks).

A single passport photo is required which meets the new regulations (such as no eye glasses allowed).  You can get this done inside the embassy for about $2, which is what we decided to do since we wanted to make sure the photos passed muster.  It was quick and easy.


United States Embassy is located on Ruta 104, northeast of La Sabana park in San Jose.

On appointment day, we drove into San Jose early and arrived at the embassy about one hour before our appointed times.  We found a small public parking lot on the side street directly adjacent to the embassy.


U.S. Embassy building

As we approached the building, we saw a very long line of people waiting to get inside.  Everyone in this line appeared to be Costa Rican, so we asked the guard at the entrance where we should go for passports.  He said the line was for visa applicants and that we should go directly to the door at the top of the stairs.


Entrance door to U.S. Embassy on the left

There we were met by another officer who confirmed our appointments.  He asked to see our passports and appointment confirmations.  Inside the door is the security area with x-ray and metal detector like at the airport.  No cell phones, remote keys or other electronic devices are allowed past security, so they put your stuff in a locked pouch, give you the key and keep the pouch until you leave.

Once inside, we saw the photograph station.  The line was short and we were on our way with photos in hand after a few minutes.  In the same area, we noticed an electronic kiosk that appeared to give you a number, but we were told we did not need to do that and to proceed ahead past the long lines of visa people waiting to get into the next area.  We walked through the door and asked the attendant where to go for passports.  She directed us to the passport windows on the left, which were not busy at all.  It was interesting to note that most everyone we saw or spoke to up to this point was Costa Rican.  We approached one of the windows and spoke to the woman (finally an American).  She took our completed forms, passports, new photos and reviewed them.  All was in order, so we were directed to the next window to pay the passport renewal fee and return with the receipts.  When we returned, we received renewal confirmations and were told that our new passports would be ready within 10 business days.  We were on our way in less than 15 minutes.


To our surprise, we were notified after just five days (by email) that our passports were ready for pickup.  Passports can only be picked up between 8:00 – 11:00 a.m., no appointment needed.  All new passports have 52 pages and an RFID chip embedded in them.

All About Rusty

We have a lot of fun with our cat Rusty.  We adopted him as a kitten (eight weeks old) about a year ago from a local rescue organization.  He has grown into a very complex cat that has many talents.  As a Costa Rican cat, Rusty has adapted to life in the jungle.

Rusty the Helper

Rusty the Hunter

Rusty the Explorer


Rusty the Cool Cat

Rusty the Covert Cat

Rusty the Napper (This is his best talent.)

Rusty is best friends with our little dog Olivia.  They enjoy playing and grooming each other.  Being that Rusty has spent most of the time around dogs, he thinks he is part dog.

Rusty has become one big boy!  The other day, he weighed in at a whopping 13 pounds.  He outweighs Olivia by three pounds.


Rusty is missing Olivia who sometimes spends the night with her boyfriend Zorro, the miniature poodle that lives next door.