Feeling Festive

ABC Family’s 24 Days of Christmas has invaded our home and our lives. Once you start with the cheesy holiday movies it’s impossible to stop. I feel like I’ve been in the house watching movies and baking holiday cookies for eternity and there is still a few more weeks to go! We did however manage to break away from the holiday movie watching and decorating a bit this weekend:

Friday night Ross and I drove up to Gloucester after work to attend a fundraising event for a friend who is currently battling a rare form of cancer. It was really amazing to see the whole community come together for such a great cause. I have not lived on Cape Ann for about 10 years now, but this weekend I felt very proud to call it “home”.

The weather Saturday just made me want to crawl under a blanket and stay there until July. Snow in December? Bring it on. Cold wet rain? Blah! We had breakfast out with my sister, bro-in-law and niece.

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After a Bloody Mary (pictured above) Ross was able to convince me to venture out in the cold wet woods to cut branches from pine trees to make garland. While pine trees seem to be everywhere when you aren’t looking for them, they are pretty scarce when you are. We had to hike all the way to the North Pole,  it took awhile but we collected enough pine just before the frost bite set is.

Pine tree branches + green wire = really pretty looking (and smelling!) garland.

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Back in Boston this morning we had an incredible treat… An authentic Costa Rican breakfast with some other gringos who have lived/taught there. I have been pretty homesick for CR lately and it’s amazing how much some gallo pinto, mucho cafe and shared memories can help.

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Can’t forget the Chikys!

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I’m ending this weekend full and happy. Let the holiday movie marathon commence!

Long, Short week

Did anyone else experience this? It was a short week with the holiday Monday, but I felt like it just went on forever. This might be due to the fact that I hardly slept, at all. I did the power yoga classes in Waltham at 6:15am on Wednesday and Friday. I love how doing yoga in the morning makes me feel, but having to wake up at 5:15am to get there is quite a commitment. I’m finally turning into less of a monster more of a morning person, it’s the late afternoon where the over-tiredness really kicks in, and I’ve been totally lagging and craving sweets and junk food by 3pm BAD.This feeling, and the average of 5 hours of sleep I’m getting (http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/excessive-sleepiness-10/lack-of-sleep-weight-gain) counteracts many of the benefits I’m getting from yoga and working out, so I definitely need to work on this!

The problem is, there is just so much I want to do! My commute and work schedule makes for long days to start with. A normal day I leave my apartment in Boston at 7AM and I get home at 6:30pm, so if I want to do anything fun (ie actually live my life) I have to fit it in before or after work, and this week I just tried to get the fun in before AND after. As aforementioned, the before fun was yoga, and the after fun included:

Wednesday night: YAPPY hour at the Liberty Hotel. Swanky hotel, fun outdoor bar, music, mingling AND you don’t have to feel guilty about leaving your dog home all night while you go have fun. Mango seemed a little nervous and out of his element at first but after a few Gin&Tonics special dog treats, he loosened up and had a great time! We’ll be going here a lot this summer.

Thursday night: 1st KICKBALL LEAGUE. Yes, I joined an old-school kickball team with a bunch of people from my company and will be playing Thursday nights this summer. I’m sure there will be plenty of photos to share, in fact this might warrant it’s own separate blog. Randomly, the bar that hosts us post game is a COSTA RICAN bar in Waltham called Boca Bar. I felt instantly at home, and look forward to a weekly Imperial, gallo pinto and dancing to latino music.

Friday Night: We got our Tequila on at Mija in Faniuel Hall with dog park friends. We’ve met a great group of neighbors from the park, and after months of standing around together in rain, sleet and snow trying to force our dogs to play and waiting for them to relieve themselves, we’ve all kind of bonded and even go out drinking without our dogs sometimes (it’s rare that our dogs go out drinking without us though).

So this has been my crazy long short week. Luckily, I got plenty of sleep over the long Memorial Day weekend last week. Ross and I stayed at a B&B in North Conway called the Buttonwood Inn. There is a blog post coming dedicated to this very special place, stay tuned.

This well-deserved lazy Saturday (I’m sorry, but I am SO happy it is raining right now) is going to be spent running errands, cleaning and catching up on that sleep thing.

Do you get the recommended 8 hours of sleep a night, or do you have more of a ‘Carpe Diem, you can sleep when you’re dead’ routine going?

One in a million

Today’s run was one in a million. It was one of those runs that inspires you to keep running consistently even though you hate it it’s challenging both physically and mentally 85% of the time.

I set out in the mid-afternoon sunshine without an exact plan in mind. I ran around the river, and just kept going, enjoying the weather and my stride. I didn’t really glance at my Garmin until I was almost finished, and I was surprised to see I had gone 7 miles. I felt like I could have kept going forever, but do to the fact I have a life and obligations (including a sick puppy at home) I made myself stop, get off my runner’s high and come back down to Earth.

Although most of my runs aren’t this easy and enjoyable, this run made me remember why I put in all that hard work and effort. If you are new to running, or coming off of a rough spell, just keep moving! Need more motivation? Try signing up for a road race. I’m all signed up for the Twin Lights Half Marathon on the North Shore this May. That leaves plenty of time to train!

After some sleepy-time tea and several homemade oatmeal chocolate chip cookies (one for each mile?) I’m ready for bed. Here’s to hoping the puppy has a healthier night.

Cold runs and canolis

Despite the fact that is was a mere 11 degrees yesterday morning, I geared myself up with hat, gloves and 25 layers, and went out for a 5 mile run around the Charles River! I was freezing and so slow, but really enjoyed myself other than that. It was sunny and beautiful and everything I had been missing for the past year.

Today was a little warmer (only 10 layers required ;)) and I was only doing 3 miles, so I thought my run would go a little faster. It didn’t 😦 I’m seeing myself quickly becoming obsessive with my Garmin times. I keep checking my pace constantly, and the traffic lights and cars in the city making me have to stop consistently are not helping with that! I’ve become one of those people who frantically run in place when stopped at a light (I’ve never really liked those people) hoping it will keep my pace up on my watch.

I’ve had a few questions about GPS watches recently, so I’ll just throw it out there that this is my first (I don’t have anything to compare it to) but I am really loving the Garmin Forerunner 110W I got for Christmas. It’s small, comfortable, easy-to-use and has a cute pink stripe.

I don’t think it’s the most technologically advanced GPS watch out there, but if you just want something to track and find out everything you’d ever need to know about your outdoor runs it seems perfect for that and relatively affordable. Now that I have this, I can’t even imagine how I managed to run without it.

In non-running news, we had a special guest last night! Kai, one of our good friends and fellow teachers in Costa Rica was making a east coast appearance (she resides in Oregon). We showed her around our neighborhood and had a great North End Italian dinner in front of a fireplace, while catching up on some gossip and speaking a little Spanish.

Here is a photo of me and Kai about 1 year ago during our orientation in Costa Rica:

And now us (with Ross), freezing our butts off (while canoli shopping) in Boston’s Little Italy:

How ridiculous is the giant hat I’m wearing? It’s also very warm and so comfortable I might not take it off until summer. My sister got it as a Christmas gift for Ross, but he’s unwillingly letting me borrow it until July.

Feliz Navidad

Just a quick note today to wish everyone a very happy holiday! I am so happy to be with friends and family I’ve been missing so much, but a small part of my heart is somewhere in a small Central American town (and probably always will be)…

If you are still looking for a gift, or just something fun to do today, may I recommend this holiday scrub I concocted. Cranberries are not only festive, but they also abundant in antioxidants and anti-aging properties, perfect for pre- and post-holiday imbibing celebrations. It’s easy to make for yourself, and if you put them in some cute jars and they are also perfect homemade gifts:

Christmas Cranberry Scrub (for 1, to make more multiply the ingredients):

Ingredients:
1 Cup Fresh Cranberries
1 TBLS Buttermilk
1/4 Cup Corn Meal (sounds weird, but it’s a great exfoliate)
1 TBLS Brown Sugar
2 TSPS Honey
BLEND all together and place in jar/bowl

Directions:

Wet face with warm water
Scrub well with your natural homemade cranberry scrub
Rinse with warm water
Moisturize
*Optional: Enjoy a cranberry champagne cocktail while doing all of the above
Voila, beautiful holiday skin 🙂

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and the Happiest of Holidays this year 🙂 XOXOXO

Feeling Left Out

So, we’ve spent the last few days in my hometown of Rockport, Massachusetts. It’s been really nice to be home with family and back to everything that was once so familiar, but I’m also feeling kind of out-of-sorts because all of a sudden everything isn’t oh-so-familiar.

It’s hard to explain, but I feel as though I’m looking at everything from an outsider’s point-of-view, and feel as if I don’t really belong, even though this is where I was born and raised. We were both promised and warned this would happen and it has. In one way I have gained a more worldly view, and an appreciation and understanding of living and functioning somewhere else that many people don’t have. I have also been caught up in two totally different worlds, and now realize I don’t feel quite at home in either of them. That is scary, but also slightly empowering.

I’m spending the night drinking wine, making turkey chili, and concocting some delicious holiday desserts. I find a lot of comfort in baking and cooking, and I’m definitely in need of some comfort tonight. If you could use a little extra-Christmas cheer see my easy rum ball recipe below:

Have yourself a merry little Christmas Rum Ball:

1 Package of Vanilla Wafers, crushed (Ziplock bag + Rolling pin= cookie crushed perfection)
1 Cup Condensed Milk
1/4 Cup Baking Cocoa
1 Cup of Shredded Coconut (+ extra for topping)
2 TBLS Spiced Rum (or to taste 🙂 )

1.Stir ingredients in a large bowl

2.Wet hands (the wetness really helps with the sticking) and make small balls with the batter

3. Roll the balls in the extra coconut shreds on a plate

4. Place on cupcake papers and put in freezer to set for a few hours

5. Enjoy (if your’re 21+, of course)!

#1 Dad

Ross is off in San Jose today being the greatest dog-daddy ever. We found out very last minute yesterday that our vet, while able to fill out all Mango’s health forms, isn’t qualified to authorize them. Without authorization, the form is basically null and void, and Mango isn’t able to travel anywhere 😦

Needless to say, I panicked. Ross as usual, stayed cool and calm and got right to researching how to get the form authorized. The only way? Go right to the damn ministry yourself. In San Jose. Another 10 hour bus ride to and from San Jose. They also said it could take up to 2 days for the authorization to be cleared, so we had to do this like yesterday.

Ross left at 5AM this morning and should be home soon, authorization in hand. This is some stuff I’m not going to miss. At home in the States I feel like there would be some other/better way; a scan or fax, electronic signature, a heads-up at least.

I stayed back to get some packing done, and I’ve made a little progress. Mango must have heard all the commotion going on with his immigration papers and gotten worried he’s going to get left behind, because he refuses to get out of my suitcase as I pack:

Hmmmmm, maybe Mango’s on to something here….

But seriously, thank you Ross! We (Mango and I) LOVE you ❤

Don’t Rain On My (Productivity) Parade

After spending 8 days basking in the glorious sunshine on tropical beaches, we arrived back in La Fortuna yesterday to cold, wet, muddy, rainforest.

I don’t mind too much, 8 days in the sun was a lot and my skin could use a break. It’s just so darn difficult to be motivated in cold rain! Since we left the beach at 5AM yesterday and didn’t get back home until around 2pm, I decided to take an easy day and put everything off until today. It seemed like a great idea at the time, until I woke up this morning un-showered (I just couldn’t face the cold water yesterday. You need to build up to that stuff) and surrounded by dirty clothes, a dirty room, dirty dog, and a million things on my to-do list.

Now I’m feeling a little overwhelmed this morning by having to get out of bed and go face the dirty room, and chores that need to be done outside in the pouring rain. Yet I’m determined, and where there’s a will there’s a way, right? Plus if I let cold rain keep me down, what will happen to me in Boston snowstorms? Staying in bed until May isn’t a possibility.

So, here goes nothing:

1. Walk to the Super (in the rain) and buy dog food. Poor Mango had to survive on rice and beans last night like the rest of us.

2. Figure out my dirty laundry issue. And it really is an issue. You see, nearly all of our clothes are dirty right now and 1. The washing machine here is broken which would require us to hand-wash everything (which would probably take more than the 3 days we have left here) and 2. It is pouring rain and there are no driers in this country, we dry all our clothes outside. Again, this won’t happen in 3 days, in this weather our clothes might dry by February. So, do we attempt to wash? Travel home with only dirty clothes? Wet, half-dirty clothes? Leave the clothes? This is TBD.

3. Bring Mango to the Vet and get all his paperwork done for the flight. We have all his vaccines and he’s pretty much up-to=date, but Delta requires the paperwork not be officially filled out until within 10 days prior to flying. Fingers crossed that everything goes smoothly with this. This flight business has been really stressful, and my recommendation would be to never fly internationally with your pet unless it’s an absolute necessity.

4. Start packing things we will bring back and getting rid of everything else that’s just in the way/taking up space.

I think that should do it for this morning at least! Things are a bit crazy here now, but I would never take back the time we got to spend on the beaches of Guanacaste wtih Mango:

Running like crazy:

Chasing Coconuts:

Making new friends:

Sleeping in the sand:

Enjoying ice cold Imperials

Lots of quality family time 🙂

FAQ: How To Obtain Your Costa Rican Drivers License and NOT Lose Your Mind

I successfully obtained my Costa Rican license last week! A big part of me being able to do this so quickly was thanks to the many helpful blogs I read on the topic. Since the Costa Rican rules are always changing and they don’t tend to make this vital information available to the public, other peoples’ blogs were the only information I could find online. I will now share the process I went through in hopes to help someone else who is in need of getting a Costa Rican drivers license ASAP.

* You do not need a CR license if you are just visiting the country, driving with a valid license from your home country/state is just fine (as long as you haven’t over-stayed your 3 months here). If you are here on a resident Visa like me, you will need to get a CR license.

** The process is much easier if you have a valid license from your home country. If it expires or you just don’t have one to begin with, you are required to do all the steps below PLUS take a driving and written exam. In Spanish.

WHAT TO BRING: Valid drivers license, passport, cash. You will also need 3 copies of your drivers license (front and back) 3 copies of the front page of your passport, 3 copies of your most recent entry stamp and 3 copies of your visa (if you have one). Medical form and proof of blood type (if possible: see below)

STEP 1: You need to get to the COSEVI in La Uruca, just North West of San Jose. Get there EARLY to dodge long lines. It opens at 8AM, get there 1/2 an hour before and get your medical exam over with at a clinic next door before the place even opens.

Step 2: Yep, you read that right, you need a medical exam. You have to go to a sketchy medical clinic and pay $40 to have a “doctor” fill out a form stating you are in good medical condition. I’m pretty sure these fake doctors are the only people who have the exact form you need, and the definitely make a lot of money for doing nothing (I was not exam-ed at all, he just filled out the form and let me go).

STEP 3: If you do not have medical proof of your blood type, they will make you do a blood test in their lab there. I felt totally uncomfortable with this as the place didn’t seem all that clean and no one seemed like a professional medical worker. I would DEFINITELY recommend bringing proof from elsewhere. I unfortunately didn’t do this and had to do it there, after which I immediately felt like throwing up/passing out. I’m not good with blood anyway, and having to do this there was a worst case scenario for me.

*** Why do you need blood type? Good question! My host brother said it was so if I died in a car accident here they would clone me. In that case, would my clone be an American or Costa Rican citizen?

STEP 4: GET IN LINE once you are finished throwing up/passing out 🙂 If you don’t have all the copies you need from above, you can pay to make copies at a place in the compound.

STEP 5: Bring all your copies, license and passport to the foreign license department. You will wait in line, they will bring you upstairs and stamp all your copies (without even looking at them). They will send you downstairs and someone will give you a bill.

STEP 6: You have to walk to the BCR (Banco de Costa Rica) in the compound wait in line and give them the bill and pay there (it cost me $4,000 CRC- bring cash just in case)

STEP 7: After paying, bring your receipt back to the department where you got the bill (wear comfortable shoes, it’s all in one compound but it’s a lot of walking). They will ask you a few questions (CR address, height, weight, etc.) Snap an awkward photo of you (they say “don’t smile!” right before they take the picture. If I had known this was a rule I would have practiced my Zoolander face.

After the picture they print your license out in 2 seconds, and you are done and ready to take off on a tour of the Guanacaste beaches (at least that’s what I’m doing)

Tenga Buena Suerte!!!!!!

Mango y La Playa

Ross, Eric, Mango and I are currently beach hopping in Guanacaste, soaking up the last of our Costa Rican sunshine. I’ll be back to blogging soon!

Ready to hit the road! (Eric looks like he’s ready to hit something/somebody)

1st Stop: German Bakery!

Playa Hermosa- We camped on the beach!

Playa Ocatal

We didn’t know this guy, but Mango loved him

Playa Flamingo- Our favorite so far

Tomorrow Conchal… so many beaches so little time!!!