24 April 2018

2018 From Gruesome to garden I

6:34 AM

So there’s the thing. Hubby and I vacation each spring break. We generally go somewhere warm and beautiful, filled with tropical flowers and foliage. This always inspires me come home and whip my garden into condition. This year was no different. If anything I have been more emboldened to dirty my nails, callous my hands, and throw out my back. 

This year I found my personal gardening guru, Monty Don. The UK has had him for inspiration for decades, but I am a new acolyte. Since March I’ve watched [Big Dreams, Small Spaces, and the weekly Gardener’s World] him and followed his advice on my weekend gardening days.

So here’s what’s happening in my gardens. Yesterday I expanded the brick path by the gazebo into a full-fledged patio. I have also decided to treat my Hostas better… so they’re being moved-eventually—to a shadier spot. 

Our long, narrow yard will double in size soon... as our bonus house is now ready for landscaping. Hello double-wide cottage garden. Several plants/cuttings from our main garden will go to build this new space…but there is still lots to purchase. Here’s the plan sketch for bonus cottage garden.

(sorry, couldn't find my most recent sketch)
  • Steps Hedge: Heavenly bamboo to form a screen (8-10 ft), or boxleaf honeysuckle (beautiful color and screening)
  • Giant grass (yet to be named) for texture and winter screening (3-5 feet)
  • Herb bed: herbs - bergamot, rosemary, chives, thyme, basil, peppermint in pots (3 feet)
  • Perennial bed: giant red sedum, lambs ears, hollyhock, day lillies, false sunflower, echinacea, and possibly false indigo (4-6 feet)
  • More perennials: hollyhocks!(2 ft)
  • Under-tree shade bed: hostas, and (existing) english ivy (4-8 feet)
  • Outside fence, full shade planting: Autumn fern, Christmas fern, aucuba japonica (15 feet)
  • Fence hedge: Euonymous, or aucuba japonica, or perhaps a juniper (10-14 feet)
  • Alonge fence: climbing - passion flower, clematis, climbing rose (12 feet
  • Along Fence perennials: lambs ears, sedum, 
  • Ground cover: mondo grass (maybe) or varigated liriope (all over)
  • Raised bed: tomato, shallots, indigo, 

30 March 2018

Vacation Days 4-7

1:00 PM

Taken from my travel journal…Spring Break 2018

Day 4:
There is actually Wifi in the room...it only works at 3am for me, when all the other hotel guests are asleep. I took the liberty of messaging friends and leaving instructions for the mail by the front door, and updated our Facebook profile pic before the Wifi went slow again (at about 4am). Sadly I was unable to update the cover image.

When traveling, no USA news is good  news. Presently my resting heart rate is several beats slower than back home in the states. And let me just say, it is a constant increased rate when home. Yet here, I'm not worried about:
  • being robbed by my neighbor's kid,
  • seeing another dead black guy in the news...brought  down by American Justice
  • being hit by a cell-phone distracted driver while biking to work (they don't do it nearly as much here)
  • Trump
It all makes my heart race and my head ache. When traveling we  do not watch telly, read social media or any USA news papers when on vacation.

A few days hence--last year, that is--we were headed back to the airport from another restful spring break vacation & a 'helpful" American informed us of the United Airlines flight on which the crew bloodied a man's mouth in order to resell his seat. I didn't need to know anything of the latest disappointment coming from America on my last vacation day (and the guy from Ellicot City, Maryland) robbed me of my peace. As he spoke I felt my heart begin to beat faster and I know then that my vacation was already over.

Day 5:

I'm still rather timid in the face of these gigantic, surf-able waves. Even though I brought spare glasses, there's the fear of losing those balanced on my nose (I really am terribly, terrifically blind). Also I could be sucked out to sea, my swimming ability is present yet weak, y'know.

Hubby, on the other hand, is fearless...he likes to body surf the foaming breakers and can power through the strongest currents. He was out today barreling around in front of Hotel Banana Azul (where the right-pulling current is Herculean in strength, in my honest opinion), when he was beckoned to shore by resort staff, waving  frantically.

He was asked to swim "more responsibly" in the strong currents, 'not just for you, but for [the safety of] everyone.' We had to laugh!

Day 6: The Penultimate

I slept almost none last night but instead listened to the rain and fretted a little about various and sundry. I felt my ultra smooth legs under the covers while hubby slept--the multiple tossings and tumblings I've taken against the sand each day has scraped off the winter-dead skin and left me with surprisingly beautiful and soft legs--like a hairless cat or something--and vowed to exfoliate regularly; planned my post-vacation blog posts, and my mentally composed my comic monologue. None sounded very funny in my head at 2 am.

But eventually, happily, my daily alarm went off and I was able to check Facebook and send a message that only took 2 minutes with the weak wifi rather than the usual 5.

Know this:
I feel better than I have felt in a while. I was feeling my mortality (or was it just winter) before we got back to Puerto Viejo. David our host and hotel manager greeted all guests in Spanish or English (as he saw fit), proclaiming 'what a beautiful day' then recounted a few of its virtues; the sun, the air, the people the weather, the nacion, the hope that all of these bring...

Beach Lessons:

  1. Exfoliate (dammit)
  2. Eat slowly (as the Ticos do)
  3. Everyday is a beautiful day (as David says)

Day 7: Travel day

We met Cathy K. and Joel K. on two planes run by Spirit Airlines (the surprisingly good, no-frills airline, where everything is made of plastic). What can I say I like Spirit Airlines. Got home at midnight...... drank water, slept, woke showered, exfoliated. Welcome home!

29 March 2018

Vacation Day 3: Amimodo et al...

11:41 PM
Taken from my travel journal…Spring Break 2018

Well the surf is high and the water is rough…proof:

  1. Six Aussie surfers have taken to riding waves on our beach front this morning
  2. The tumbling I took in the surf yesterday…arms and knees akimbo, toes bent every-which-way
  3. Further proof…muscle soreness this morning!
Another tasty breakfast today and my travel tummy is back to normal.

The Tourists are Here 

There are hundreds—maybe thousands—of people in the village for Semana Santa (saints week that happens from Passover to Easter, a huge Tico holiday). We’ve heard the spectrum of languages: American, French, Aussie, Spanish, Ticos, German, Italian (by far the American accent grates on my ears most).

We went back to Amimodo Garden Restaurant, a favorite from three past trips to Pto. Viejo. They do a mean pasta dish & an even meaner pizza... 

I remain amazed at the diversity of the gardens. This year I’m happy to see that a few of the plants I assumed would invade (a few different types of mint, mostly) did not.

There is also a new sculptural element made of stone and cement…maybe I want this in my expanded gardens, rather than the ‘stone head’ from Big Dreams Small Spaces …hmmm

Vacation Day 2: Environmental Changes

11:18 AM

Taken from my travel journal…Spring Break 2018
We went to Banana Azul (another nearby hotel that we frequent). It’s worrying that there is so much less beach. However, the locals (natives and expats) did not seem bothered in the least. They were nonplussed by the rise and attribute it to the winter storms in February that brought the sea to so many doorsteps and pulled down hundreds of trees…but my question is ‘shouldn’t the  water have receded by March?’
It is a huge shock to see the trees under which we spent so many *happy hours in years past—the damn trees had been uprooted and knocked over by the surf. So much for the climate-change-rising-water-level-deniers. I was IN SHOCK…these trees were some 20 feet from the tide line last year.

My favorite tree (right): With all this, there’s the resiliency of nature…this tree is obviously one that was toppled during the storms, it has grown branches pointing straight up to the sky and its roots grow to elevate the main trunk out of the water.

I’m still not over the constant surrounding by folks on the plane and shuttle, gonna work at avoiding folks for a t least another day.

*Happy Hours, in the it's-five-o'clock-somewhere-sense

28 March 2018

Travel Day 1: Costa Rica Travel - Leaving the USA

10:51 AM
Taken from my travel journal…Spring Break 2018
For Americans traveling to the Caribbean the most popular:
  1. Tee-Shirt: Jurassic Park 
  2. Luggage: Patagonia Duffle Backpack ($125!) 
  3. TV Shows on the plane: Modern Family (seen 3 episodes, myself) and Big Bang Theory (never seen it). 

Catching the Caribe Shuttle from SJO Airport to Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Limon…

Guess what, the Trip Advisor post was spot on! We are sitting in the Denny’s waiting for the Caribe Shuttle to take us on this last leg of our Puerto Viejo travels…

I’m happy and excited even though this may be the last vacation in Costa Rica for a while. See, we’re switching up the travel paradigm…domestic travel in spring break and international travel in summer. 10 days is just not enough time when you’re spending 2 full days on planes trains and automobiles.


  • Ticos: Our Costa Rican friends 
  • Cigarro 
  • Encendedor – lighter ...actually just say Fuego
  • Herbal Tea – te herbario 
  • Mint Tea – Te Menta 
  • Must remember: you have (tienes) I have (tengo), and we have (temenos)!! 
  • Play (deporte): juegando 

We had books on the shuttle!

(7 hours later)

Also, the Caribe Shuttle took us on a 4 hour trip that took 8 hours. Apparently there was possibly some sort of accident on the Nation’s 2-lane super highway that snarled traffic for hours. At one point in the traffic jam we got a full 20km in 2 hours. Butt ached by the time we got to Hotel Perla Negra.

Reception was closed and all was quiet. They left us a note at the desk that read:

“Late Check In: Rob & Simone, Welcome! You are in room 10, the Wifi password is *****, breakfast is from 7a-9a, see you tomorrow”

Aw, I love this place!

Vacation Day 1: At Playa Negra in Puerto Viejo

Rain on the beach L We sprang up like Jack from his Box to dip our toes—indeed our whole selves—in the Caribbean sea. Alas there I rain and it’s still 63 degrees in the morning. We made it half-way to the derelict that I planned to jump off of when the water started bucketing down. We turned back having only strolled half-a-mile.

Grabbed books and headed for pre-breakfast hot beverages. I’m off coffee, so drank dos copas de te menta.

At 7am we broke our fast: toast, Gallo Pinto (beans and rice with a dollop of mayo is the traditional Tico breakfast), fruit, scrambled eggs, and (tropical )fruit juice. I sampled all in moderate moderation then devlared, “from tomorrow on, only scrambled eggs and papaya for me!” The eggs are bright yellow and seasoned to perfection—maybe it’s something as simple as Adobo, but it’s delicious.

Rough plan for today is to avoid people as much as possible…swim a bit, get groceries for lunch/dinner, read more and prep for tomorrow