Writing about: Family Travel, kids, places, food…

Month: July 2008 (Page 1 of 2)

The Sun Will Come Out

As I posted yesterday, our UU church was the scene of a tragic shooting this Sunday. Two people are dead and others seriously hurt. Our friend Tammy is still in critical condition but the news is positive so we are hopeful she will be back to laughing and chasing preschoolers around the playground soon.

Last night two of my sons and I attended a big candle light vigil held at the neighboring church. The parking lot was full so we had to walk through our church to get there. It was actually very healing to do so but incredibly sad. There is an aura of heaviness now. The other church was packed with people. I started to notice many women wearing head scarves and men in yarmulkes and to realize I didn’t know a lot of these folks. It turns out the local mosque and synagogues, plus other local churches, had rallied together to bring large amounts of food to nourish our community and be of support. There were hundreds of people of varying faiths coming together in this large Presbyterian church just to hug us, hold candles, listen to our laments, and demonstrate in their presence the support for goodness and love of all.

Our minister spoke and the president of the UU church, Rev. William Sinkford gave a moving speech and shared that at the same time we were having our candle light vigil, other UU churches around the world were doing likewise. This really impacted my 13 year old Ben and helped him to recognize and feel joy about being a part of such a large and wonderful community. At the end of the service the song The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow started to play and the children who had practiced so hard and were putting on the play Annie went up on stage. They sang that song with such determination and hope it had most in the audience in tears again. Good shines through.

The gunman killed our congregants because he doesn’t agree with our open stance to accepting and loving everyone. He disagrees with being “liberal” and is anti-gay. Well what a showing last night to present a visible force against such hatred and negative ideology. Many of the represented religions may disagree with elements of our beliefs but our shared belief in loving and accepting all and seeing the goodness in life was what came through last night as we all stood holding candles to light our world. One mentally ill and deranged person can not stop goodness from going forward. The sun WILL come out – hatred isn’t going to stop that!

Home “safely.”

We decided to leave a few weeks early and so arrived home last week. It was an interesting re-entry back to US and home base. I thought I was ready to leave Costa Rica because between the scary driving, threat of crime and high prices, I was thinking longingly of home.

Today though something horrific has happened in my home and I am alternately wishing I was back “safely” in Costa Rica and very glad to be here. Our loved Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist church was the scene of a shooting today. A gunman entered the church with a guitar case which he opened up and randomly fired at people who were innocently watching a big children’s production of Annie during our service.

My family was not at the service although last night we had discussed going. This morning we were still feeling lazy so stayed at home and made muffins in our pjs. Why we make these decisions and how the smallest decision can change our entire life is a total mystery and scares the heck out of me at times such as this. Even my 18 year old son who normally attends every week did not go as he was staying at a friend’s home.

As of now one person is dead (he put himself in front of the shooter to protect children) and a few others are clinging on. One of them is a mom of two adorable little boys who were sitting next to her in the sanctuary when it happened. Please hold them and all the congregation in your hearts. We are going to need some healing here.


I cannot help but compare this to Costa Rica. There we lived with an armed guard 24 hours and the worry of theft and car jacking etc. I wrote previously about how draining that was but you know it is crime that I can understand. People are very poor and steal to provide for their families and themselves. I can even understand the thefts to gain money to support their drug or alcohol problems. But senseless and random shooting at children and parents in a church is just incomprehensible. No words for it.

Finally good food

After all these weeks we actually found two really good restaurants within about three days of each other and I have a new type of food I love. I’m sorry to say that Costa Rica is not a foodie vacation spot as the food here is, well, bad – sorry CR!

There is basically one main “typical” dish that is on every menu and this consists of black beans, rice, fried plantains, sometimes a fried egg, and may include fried white cheese or chicken. Some versions of this are quite nice but after our 10th restaurant where this is the primary food we have become somewhat disillusioned with black beans! There is fish available — one type — corvina (sea bass) and this is done in about 5 different ways at just about every restaurant and served with fries and if lucky, a slice of tomato and lettuce leaf. But on to better things.

When leaving Irazu Volcano the other day (will post about that soon) we saw a sign marked Volcano Museum and Restaurant so pulled in. The place was empty except for three gamboling Labradors and a sweet youngish couple. We sat in a covered patio outside (it is chilly up there but warm with the sun hitting the patio roof) and there was a large children’s play area and swings etc. The little ones loved it and the dogs turned out to be big softies who mooched politely with huge brown eyes gazing at our food. We were forced to share tidbits and the dogs rolled, leaned against us, and allowed children’s hugs and loves. And the food was really good. Excellent soups and salads and a fried cornmeal pancake thing with locally made soft cheese that was very rich but delicious. The vegetables were all supposed to be locally grown which was nice and believable given the surrounding mountain sides are all fields of various crops.

Max with one of the restaurant labs:


So then the next discovery actually came from two restaurants, both having Peruvian food. I am searching for a cook book with these recipes as we had the most delicious food. Potatoes figure prominently and are often paired with seafood, which given I’m British and love my fish and chips, seems like a natural connection!

A couple of dishes: sauteed baby octopus in various spices over mashed potatoes with loads of crunchy fried garlic pieces; mixed shellfish with a roasted red pepper sauce over garlic mashed potatoes, flash fried (like a fajita pan) potatoes, peppers and squid; slightly spice seafood soups with different (and delicious) spices that I’m going to have to look up, steak with cheese and mushrooms (actually much nicer than it sounds), and ceviche with mixed seafood and sweet potatoes, corn and red onions.

Usually I can identify ingredients and spices in the types of food I eat often such as Indian/Thai/Italian… but this had new things that were really good and have me wanting to explore recipes. So if anyone knows a good cook book for Peruvian food or a restaurant in the US please let me know!

Slopes of Irazu that are filled with fields of crops:




Posted to Costa Rica by KateG on July 18, 2008 12:44 AM


Had another fun outing the other day to the National Biodiversity Institute – INBioparque.



This was our second trip as we had enjoyed it the first time and wanted to take Grandma back. The park is a research institute that has opened sections up to the public as a “theme” park. It actually is comprised of a lake with fish and alligators, butterfly garden, small aquarium, maze, snakes, spiders, children’s playground (two of them that had grass underneath instead of the usual concrete), and a great farm area. In the farm this time they had a big petting zoo area with a very exuberant man running it. He leaped around dressing us up in Costa Rican hats and aprons for Charlotte and I and then kept pushing animals into our arms and even chicks onto shoulders; parrot style.


He gave the little ones a bottle of milk to feed the baby kids and lambs and the animals went at it with gusto. Ben enjoyed holding the rabbits and keeps saying he thinks we should get a couple of them (he has forgotten the damage our previous bunnies did around our house to curtains, electrical cords and even chewing all the buttons off a remote control!).


Max and Charlotte rode a horse and enjoyed that. And the cow there is a big softy and moans loudly to be petted and have its ears rubbed. So the children had a lovely time and we enjoyed the good weather and wandering around a nice park. Oh and we also found this one area that we hadn’t been in last time that was an exhibit about all the medicines the institute has produced from rain forest herbs and “granny” folk remedies. They actually have created medication in pill form for all kinds of illnesses and these are available in the pharmacies here.


Charlotte’s Web:



One of the largest cities in Costa Rica, after San Jose, is Heredia. Actually it is hard to determine where one leaves off and the other starts as the towns run into each other in this area.


Heredia has a big university and is a busy place. It has a lovely square complete with church, fountains and pigeons. One of the children’s favorite things is to buy bags of corn and feed the pigeons and to eat the shave ice from the carts there. We have learned to limit the leche on the shave ice as they liberally pour powdered milk, condensed milk and syrup over ice. It’s delicious for the first few bites but the sugar rush leaves you shaking for hours!

Pictures here of Heredia church:





Parque Diversiones

Today we headed off again and took the children to Parque Diversions which is on the way to San Jose and just off the highway. It is a big amusement park we accidentally heard about last week and really wish it had been more widely published or even in one of the many guidebooks we read! Not a word in any of the books that I can see. Oh well.

Unfortunately it is the local school’s mid-term holiday and so the place was packed – no tourists here (probably as it isn’t in the darn books). There were quite a lot of large rides as well as the smaller, kid ones that Charlotte and Max enjoyed. Ben and his dad took off to ride roller coasters but given the crowds only managed two rides in 2.5 hours so were a bit discouraged. The rains came as they do everyday and we waited out under umbrellas and thick trees so were fine. It was too crowded to go inside the food areas with wall-to-wall people so we made do with popcorn, ice cream and the wonderful unripe mango strips that are sold here. We love these. It’s like a big cup of shaved pieces of green mango and then you choose toppings which usually include lemon/lime, salt and pepper, vinegar and hot chillis. Given how much we all love normal, sweet mangos (and those are delicious here too) it’s funny how we have also developed a taste for these too. Even the kids happily chomp thru cups of pickly mango. Yum.


Within the park there is an older, traditional town square with buildings that were dated from mid 1800s. There were dancing exhibitions and Charlotte was mesmerized by the swirling outfits of the Costa Rican dancers.


So it was a nice day but if we had a chance to do it again I would certainly NOT go when schools are not in session if possible. Crowds and the extreme noise and wait times on rides were not pleasant.

A beautiful tiled mural in the traditional town square at the park:


La Paz Waterfall gardens

We spent the day yesterday at the Waterfall Gardens and we all thought it one of the best days out we have had here. The waterfalls are about one hour from Santa Barbara on the upper slopes of Poaz Volcano.


We spent some time wandering around the grounds looking at hummingbirds, butterflies, monkeys, and in the aviary. These huge exhibits you walked around in were really lovely and filled with wildlife and beautiful trees and flowers. The butterfly exhibit currently “only” had about 2000 butterflies in it and sometimes they have up to 5000 (honestly 2000 was enough to keep you wanting to swat them away from your face – smile).

Beautiful Grounds


The morphos were really docile and landed on us easily. Plus the exhibits of caterpillars and cocoons were amazing and very well marked. We saw loads of them in various stages of forming cocoons or coming out. Neat and I have to say they had more exhibits than did the actual Butterfly Farm.


The birds were neat and Ben even had parrots land on his head as he was wearing a bright red baseball hat and they seemed interested in it. There were quite a few toucans and one of them decided the path was off limits to people. It pecked nastily at feet (not mine as I have to say I’m no bird lover and thus waved my umbrella at him before he got a run at me). Mark got bitten on the leg so let us hope they don’t carry some kind of nasty avian flu or rabies.

Max on the way down to a waterfall.

Snakes, frogs, monkeys, and tons of hummingbirds were all easily seen and we even got to ride in an ox-cart. The driver said the children and I should stand in it for pictures and suddenly decided we should also have a ride and took off. Tricky holding on as it tilted backwards and there was no back to the cart. Then both oxen of course had to produce copious amounts of dung just a foot or so from our line of vision to the front. But despite that it was quite fun and the children enjoyed it despite the smell.


So after all that we hit the falls. There are steep steps and paths that lead down into the valley and you walk down and along the river and falls. It’s very narrow and wet and slippery but there is a good handrail the whole way. Charlotte did pretty well but Mark carried her down most of it. Grandma and I did alright but were very tired at the end. It didn’t help that we were trying to hold the huge umbrellas over our heads as we walked. I thought at first it was raining but we realized that it was actually a cloud that we were walking into. The falls are at about 4200 to 5200 feet and it gets a little chilly there; more so when you are wet. Of course we didn’t have all the snazzy hiking gear and fancy rain jackets that lots of the numerous American visitors there did. We actually looked more like the Costa Ricans who seemed dressed as casually as we were. And it was just fine. Little damp but we dried quickly and the samples of hot coffee at the ending gift shop were very welcome.


We also ate lunch there at the buffet and it was pretty good (but then we were very hungry and tired so may have had jaded taste buds). They had a nice fireplace in the restaurant and it was lovely to sit looking at that and then over the valley at the rolling clouds/fog that had the place socked in.
Oh and at the end of the trail we were sitting waiting for the shuttle bus to take us back to our car and there were lots of coatimundis and a lone racoon wandering around the hillside and eating bananas. The mothers had a few babies each and they were really sweet. Our children were delighted.


Posted to Costa Rica by KateG on July 11, 2008 3:37 AM

Birds up on Poaz Volcano


Ben shot some nice bird pictures yesterday when we were up at La Paz Waterfalls on the side of Poaz Volcano.


This toucan was a little crazy. It sat on the ground and attacked our feet when we were trying to get past. It really went after Mark and bit him on the leg!



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