Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Holiday Parties

Me, eating

When I decided to stay put for Christmas this year, I wondered what the season would be like. Would I feel all alone? Would I be invited to parties? Having been sick with one thing or another for two months, I didn't feel like throwing a party of my own.

My first three Christmases living in Costa Rica, I went back to Florida and spent them with Jim. Then last year he came here. So this is my first year in five that I am spending Christmas in my home.

Well, I needn't have worried about feeling all alone. There are so many parties to go to that I have to say no sometimes, and just stay home to recuperate. I feel blessed to be included in so many festivities.

I kicked off the party season on December 11 by going to Ellen's Chanukah party. That brought back memories as we sang the blessings and lit the menorah. The next day was the PC Club party way up in the mountains of Heredia. Everyone brought delicious food (everyone always brings delicious food to every party I attend), and I led a Yankee Swap of nicely-wrapped white elephant items.

That's me leading the Yankee Swap

The day after that (it was a full weekend) was the CostaRicaLiving (Yahoo group) party in Grecia at La Galeria restaurant, followed by a chocolate fondue party at Debora Shapiro's house. I made new Grecia friends at both parties. The night after that, I was invited to dinner at Barb & Richie's house. The night after that I was happy to stay home and rest my stomach.

Then the following weekend circuit started on Friday with a potluck turkey-dinner meal with my Brujas group (aka my Thursday lunch ladies). Carol Marianne entertained us with pictures of her trip to Nepal and Bhutan, and handed out gifts to us all.

The Brujas

That night I went to Joy's party in Cariari where about 25 of us played games. Saturday I stayed home all day and night, and worked in the kitchen. I made turkey soup (I got to take home the carcass from Friday's meal), and baked cookies and banana/chocolate bread. Sunday I went to Sima's house, where we played charades and laughed til we cried. Then I went to Coco's here in Santa Ana, where I hadn't been for weeks, and watched a tope (horse parade).

Yesterday, a Tuesday, was the office party for two small companies I've done some work for the last few months, then seven of us headed over to Abi's house for her Tamalada, a party where people eat the hundreds of tamales that were made over a two- or three-day period. Abi had a DJ and a dance floor, and we danced and had a great time. Tonight I'm going to another party. Tomorrow night, Christmas Eve, I'll be at Laurie's party in Cariari, and Christmas day I'm going to yet another party. And I think that's it until the New Year's Eve party and then the Hair of the Dog party on New Year's Day.

A pot of tamales, tied up in little packages

Geez, what a life I lead here. One party after another. And, of course, every party features food, desserts and alcohol. I've gotten some great recipes, and I am becoming somewhat of a baker.

It's comforting and fun to spend time with friends, together in a foreign country where most of us don't have family here.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Aruba 2009

For the last 20 years I've been visiting Aruba, give or take a year. It's a lovely vacation paradise with steady trade winds that keep temps around 82 degrees. Aruba is part of the ABC islands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao) that are located north of Venezuela.

When Jim and I were married, we owned two weeks of timeshare at La Cabana on Eagle Beach in Aruba. Over the years of staying there, we became friends with Tom and Peggy from Racine, Wisconsin, who owned a timeshare the same time we did. We sold our timeshare when we got divorced, but because Jim and I have remained good friends with each other and with Tom and Peggy, Tom and Peggy have invited us to vacation with them and to stay on their pullout sofabed. This was the third year (I think) since our divorce that we joined Tom and Peggy.

On Thanksgiving day, we were all supposed to fly into Miami first. Tom and Peggy's flights were delayed, and Jim and I were worried that our friends wouldn't make it on time, but they arrived at the gate, breathless, just as our Aruba-bound plane was boarding. We got into Aruba around midnight, tired from a long day of traveling, but not too tired to walk around the resort and breathe in the humid air.

As one of my Costa Rican friends said, I was going from one paradise to another. It's true. I live in the mountains of Costa Rica, almost 3000 up, where the air is relatively dry except for the rainy season. Still, it was a nice and relaxing change, having a gorgeous beach with sparkling turquoise water just steps away.

Most days we went to the beach and sat under thatched cabanas, reading, napping, going into the water, reading, napping, etc. This would be the last hurrah for my Wisconsin friends who would have to return to a cold and snowy winter.

The second day we were there, we went to one of the pools instead of the beach, the pool where we met years ago. I was seated on the side of my chaise lounge, talking to Jim on his chaise lounge about a foot away from mine, when a maid came up behind me, pushing her cart, not watching where she was going. She rammed her cart into my chaise, which jammed my right foot into Jim's chaise, breaking one of my toes. I know from past experience that there's not much to do for a broken toe. This was my 7th broken toe. It's not that I'm a klutz, I don't think. I have been known to have poor depth perception, but this broken toe was not my fault. Jim and Tom immediately got me ice, which helped keep the swelling down. The toe and foot turned a lovely shades of purple over the next few days. I found a way to walk on the foot by not putting any pressure on my toe. But today, after 2.5 weeks, the toe hurts even more. My friend and chiropractor told me to tape a small cotton ball under the break to relieve the pressure, and that is helping. Not only can't I go salsa dancing for another 3-4 weeks, I can't even wear my dancing shoes.

The highlight of every day in Aruba is always Happy Hour. This year we had a guest join us most days at 4:30. A sweet, friendly tuxedo cat came by, and all of us being cat lovers, we fed her tuna salad from the delicatessen and water. She let us pet her, and when she was ready, she sauntered off. The four of us also had fun playing Pass the Pigs and answering soul-searching questions from a conversation book that I always bring. Jim made incredibly strong rum-and-Cokes for Tom, Jim mostly drank Balashi beer, Peggy and I favored vodka - hers mostly with tonic, and mine mostly with bloody mary mix and a Claussen dill pickle. Yummy! And of course snacks!

Going out to dinner each night was sort of unnecessary because we filled up with snacks at Happy Hour, but we didn't want to miss out on some great meals. Our favorite restaurant this trip was Passions, next door at the Amsterdam Manor. The food and service (that's our waitress Diana in the picture above) were so good, I wrote a glowing review on TripAdvisor. My favorite meal was roast lamb, but the grouper, snapper and steaks were also delicious. Bingo was also a serious contender for best restaurant.

The ten days came to a quick end. We all flew back to Miami, then went our separate ways.