Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Serial Killers in Panama
Here's a link for the best series of reports. Actually, this reporter in Panama is the person who pursued the mystery of the disappearance of a US citizen and stumbled onto a bigger story.
So, they also had a sailboat - I wonder if there is a cruiser missing now? Their M.O. was to kill the owner of a property and them assume the property - so is that how they got a sailboat?
Anyway, read the series of reports. Jonesy and I have often talked about who some of these people we meet in Colombia and Central America really are. It's a great place to disappear and we've met some "interesting" folks along the way.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
1000 Fabulous Knit Hats
The actual patterns for my hats are not included, but you will be able to see my versions as well as the hats knit by other crafty folks from my patterns.
No, I don't make a dime from the sales of this book, but it is exciting all the same.
Friday, July 23, 2010
Empanadas Cooking Class
Last Sunday, at the 1:00pm "Mexican Train" domino game activity - I won! Not that that's such a big deal, but it was fair compensation for not being able to attend the 2:00pm "Champagne Sisterhood" event at the swimming pool. Sometimes there are such tough decisions to be made by us cruisers here at summer camp. Heck, I even had my bottle of sparkling wine cooling in the refrigerator, but by the time we were finished with dominoes, the gals of the sisterhood had already made great headway in consuming their own bottles of the bubbly.
Now, there were some wild shenanigans that evening when those totally blotted females inticed their significant others to drink large amounts of adult beverages at the bar during 4:oo - 6pm Happy Hour and beyond. Later, when Jonesy and I were safely on our boat we could hear quite a lot of whooping-it-up at the Cayuca Club bar. Then, a group of about 10 campers tippytoed down the dock and "mooned" the folks on another boat who were having a quiet dinner party for 4. Nope, I didn't get a photo.
For last Monday evening's 6:00pm "Cruisers Potluck" I took a giant bowl of my family's favorite Sweet 'n Sour Meatballs with Pineapple and Bell Peppers and hot rice. It was a big hit! Thankfully, a canoe came by that morning with fresh pineapples. The week before I made a Banana Cream Pie type dessert with a granola crust similar to rice krispie treats - another success (cruisers are easy to impress when it comes to food).
And yesterday afternoon was the Empanadas Cooking Class in Spanish!
At 2:00pm we gathered in the kitchen of the Cayuca Club restaurant and were quickly handed knives to dig in and help. Carmen and Miriam communicated our instructions in Spanish and it took our collective cruising-fried brains to translate. Actually, I DID learn a lot of Spanish.
First: Dice up about 1 pound of potatoes, 1 pound of boneless chicken breast filets, 1 green pepper (bell/sweet), 1 cup of carrot, 1 cup of onions, and mince 2 large cloves of garlic.
So..I diced potatoes. What? ALL those potatoes? Geez, it was so hot in the open air kitchen! That kitchen towel over my shoulder is for wiping off the sweat.
Next: Heat up about 1 liter of water and cook the carrots and potatoes for about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile: In 2 tablespoons of oil, saute the chicken until no longer pink, then add the onions, peppers and garlic. Stirring, add about a teaspoon of salt, a dash of black pepper, and approx. a tablespoon of chicken soup base powder. Cook and saute a few more minutes. Drain the carrots and potatoes and add to chicken mixture.
Corn dough: Put about 1 1/2 pounds of Harina de Maize nixtamelesado (MaSeCa brand is best) which is the flour to make tortillas. Add about 1/2 cup of water and mix with your hands. Add about 2 tablespoons of tomato paste or a small amount of Anchiote paste to color dough, and 1 tablespoon of chicken soup base powder. Add water in small (tablespoon or so at a time) amounts and continue to mix until the dough is the right consistancy - this takes experience.
Empanadas: With wet hands, take a golfball sized lump of dough and roll into a ball in your hands. Pat and turn the ball until it is a flat disk about 2 to 2 1/2 inches in diameter smoothing the edges well. At this point you can either pat into shape in your hands (experienced only), lay on a cloth on the table and pat, or put it between two pieces of plastic and smash with a dinner plate until the dough is about 5 1/2" in diameter.
Place a couple of spoonfuls of filling onto the round. Using the corner of the cloth, fold the round in half.
Press & pull gently to form dough around filling and to seal edges.
And voila! An Empanada!
Fry: In a generous amount of heated oil, fry the empanadas until golden and crisp. Enjoy!
So - where's the chilies and spice you might ask? Not in Guatemala. Although we are quite close to Mexico, the typical foods here are not spicy. They do sell hot sauces and some fresh hot peppers, but any food that you are served comes without spice, but there is always a bottle of some sort of picante sauce.
We went to town today and were lucky to get the ONLY head of broccoli available from the many produce vendors. So, we're set to make our broccoli, raisin, and walnut salad for tomorrow's pig roast. Yummy!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Bamboo Trip Rio Cienaga
Just a 1/4 of a mile or so downriver from our marina is a smaller tributary river named Rio Cienaga. Early in the morning, before the heat of the day, Jonesy and I plus two other sets of cruisers, set off on our adventure.
Thankfully, there hadn't been a lot of rain in the last couple of days so there really wasn't a current to flow against us. In fact, in some places it was flat still. The jungle grows up along the banks, but right beyond that farm fields. We saw sugar cane, corn, and banana trees growing among the lush vegetation. Occasionally we would pass a home site complete with dogs, chickens, and once, a ferrocious Tom turkey gobbling in full display!
Now, this house up on stilts is well prepared for the occasional flood. All along the way we encounted hummingbirds and butterflies of many colors. The giant Blue Morpho Butterfly was fairly commonly seen, as was groups of bright orange smaller butterfles which gathered around the flowering trees.
At one point, I was studying a large tree which stood out in a clearing when I suddenly realized that on the left side of the tree was a group of the large hanging nests of the Montezuma Oropendola birds! The males are bright yellow and black and make a very unique call while hanging upside down from their nests. You can actually see the nests in this photo if you look at the lowest left side branch. These nests are about 3 feet long!
Oops! A freshly fallen tree blocked our path. Thankfully, we had our saws with us to cut the bamboo so a branch was cut which enabled us to pass underneath and continue our journey.
Here are some more of the purple wild orchids with the frilly petals which were growing on another interesting plant - which was growing on another plant. And look at this flower! It was huge - about 10 inches across and covered with ants!
The color of the river water was at times muddy, and at other places it was the color of dark tea or weak coffee. There must have been a lot of tannin from the decaying vegetation.
Here's a clear shot of some banana trees. You know, we aren't able to buy good bananas here even though they are grown commercially. All the 'good' bananas get exported. What is available for us to buy are the 'culls' or second quality fruit. Same with the coffee. The locals are content with instant coffee and it is usually just us gringos who want to buy the beans.
Finally we reached the area with bamboo patches. This is a beautiful yellow bamboo with large diameter stalks - perfect for crafting enterprises.
I struggled with the saw for only a few moments before a fellow camper here at Mario's Marina Summer Camp for Cruisers (Chris from s.v. Lone Star) came to my rescue and cut down one stalk. Yes, just one. That's because it was about 40 feet tall! He cut off the top, and cut the rest into 2 pieces for me too. What a guy!
We loaded the two long stalk pieces onto our 14 foot boat and off we went back to the marina. The bamboo is stowed on deck of our boat under our shade tarps to dry. Then, we will have one of the local guys slice it into the right sizes for me. They have power tools after all and this stuff is tough.
Now for some knitting...here's a new hat design
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
The knit REALLY hit the fan
Until that fateful day. "What was that awful smell?" we both wondered. A nose-guided search of the aft stateroom revealed the source. Yep. It was that storage cubby. The one where Jonesy kept his sweaters (both handknit by me) and his sweatshirts. The odor? Strange colored molds and mildews had grown on the damp clothes. But what was worse was the condition of the red wool gansey sweater. It had GIANT HOLES in it! WHAT?
We soon realized that there was a little shaft of sunlight shining down from the top of the cabinet. That's not a good thing. When our bank of solar panels were installed, Jonesy drilled a hole in the rear arch to thread the electrical lines down through the support poles - and then ran the lines thru the cabinet. Oops. Everything washed up just fine - except for this red sweater which was on top. But the worst part was that we had all the metal work cleaned while in Cartegena and they used a strong acid (Oxalic acid) to remove rust. That nasty chemical oozed down the line and devoured the sweater.
I was determined to rescue the sweater. I still had a skein and a small ball left of the yarn. So I asked the Gansey experts on the Gansey List Yahoo group for advice. As soon as we pulled into the marina here I put the mess in a large washtub of fresh water and a little baking soda to neutralize the acid and let it soak. But...the acid had seeped into much more of the yarn than I had realized. As soon as the fabric got wet it started to dissolve right in front of my eyes.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
It's a MOTH
We've discovered a great road for hiking through the surrounding countryside. There's no traffic on it as most local folks don't have cars and this is primarily a road to service a gas pipeline. Transportation is by boat throughout this region.
So here's Jonesy, and a forest of trees. What kind of trees? Rubber trees! Much of this area is planted with tall skinny trees which are tapped to get the natural rubber. It sure looks labor intensive and we have seen groups of workers in other plantations.
The white sap feels like silicone caulking. You can see where the workers have slashed the tree trunks.
There are small houses scattered throughout this area some of which are quite rustic. They range from tidy concrete block structures for the higher income folks to huts made from local materials such as poles, thatch and rough cut wood. Chickens and children roam free.
Today, we heard a loud animal-type noise and stopped to try and figure out what it was. Jonesy thought it was a puppy whining because there was a little white pup sitting on a nearby porch. But his lips weren't moving. Nope. It was the large green parrot sitting just a few feet from him on a fence wire! I think it was a Mealy Parrot of the race guatemalae according to my bird book.
We also spotted a pair of Orange-Crowned Orioles singing and hopping around up in the trees. Our bird book doesn't put them this far north of Panama but there was no mistaking them as we got a long, close look at them.
Sometimes just walking isn't enough. When you see a Tarzan vine you just gotta take a swing don't ya?
This blog post (and our sanity) is made possible by our new best friend - the big boy diesel generator. The electrical power goes off several times a day here so the marina has it's own back-up generator. On those super hot & muggy days this baby is a life saver because we can run our air conditioning on the boat. We don't need A/C all the time - it hasn't been on in a couple of days now, but when we want it it's marvelous to be able to turn it on and dry out.
On the knitting front, I've finished up a couple of more pairs of Monster Socks. These are a little more wild than earlier socks. The puple and green pair were an exploration of combining yarns in chunkier, thick stripes with a couple of 2-row stripes added.
These blue and yellow are even wilder still. They have a picot hem top, some fair isle peerie designs and a touch of garter stitch patterning. Not boring socks - to knit or to wear.
Well, it's raining again - another thunderstorm. Which is a good thing because not only does it cool us down, but it also refills the well here at the marina for our water supply.
Also, the rain is good for the wild orchids which have just started to bloom from the vines on the trees.
Sadly, mango season is winding down. I'll miss them - but not the "bombs" falling from the trees when we're outside! Whew! There are mango trees everywhere and you could hear them bouncing down the tin roofs or splashing into the swimming pool.
Wednesday, July 07, 2010
Monday, July 05, 2010
Shopping in Rio Dulce & Christmas Stocking #3
Well, as you can see it certainly is bustling. One of the few paved highways in this part of Guatemala runs right through the center of town. Actually, it is the only street except for a couple of 1 block long intersecting streets.
As this is a main highway, all the truck traffic runs right through the town - all day long. Watch out! It's easy to get run down. Also, you have to keep an eye (and nose) out for the cattle trucks. This is cattle grazing country and stake trucks crammed full of terrified cattle creep through town. These beasts must have upset tummies from the ride because they certainly have "issues". Everyone warned us to stay several feet away from these trucks so we don't get doused. Eeeeew!
Right up on the edge of the street are vendors selling fried chicken, empanadas, and fried potatoes cooked on the spot. Yes, the same street where the cows cruise by regularly. That's why we choose to buy our fresh handmade tortillas from the ladies down one of the side streets. They pat out each tortilla from the corn dough then cook them on a hot griddle. For about $1.25 US, I get a stack of tortillas about 10 inches high! Delicious! The Guatemalan tortillas are thicker than the ones we had in Mexico too so they really make a filling meal.
No. I don't know why these men were riding along and playing their guitars in the back of this truck. There wasn't a parade or anything. Just another day of interesting cross-country traffic through town including trucks full of produce such as these pineapples.
The town, once a remote outpost (hence the name Fronteras because it was the frontier of civilization), is located at the base of a new concrete bridge. This modern marvel spans up and over the Rio Dulce river just at the point where it widens into Lake Izabel. Up until this bridge was built recently, travelers would have to use a ferry to cross the river.
This is a photo of the view from the top of the bridge (we huffed and puffed walking out in the tropical sun to catch this view) looking back towards where we are docked. That little island out there is home to hundreds of egrets, herons, and cormorants.
And this is a photo looking up at the bridge from the river. Sometimes we see lines of people standing on top of the bridge with tour busses stopped. These are often Guatemalan tour busses with local people out traveling through their own beautiful country.
Because this is primarily an agricultural area, the town has a disproportionate number of farm supply stores. So, do you need a cowhide burro saddle? Those beasts of burden still earn their keep here in the countryside of Guatemala. I thought that these small saddles would make really cool bar stools! What do you think?
Of course, there are things to buy that are not necessities - like beautiful woven and or embroidered textiles. Guatemala is famous for their textiles such as the one shown in this photo. I fell in love with the colors and patterns of this cotton weaving. Yep. I bought it for about $12.50 US. I'm thinking of incorporating some of these motifs in a knitting design!
And speaking of knitting...just a couple of photos of the third and last Mix-It-Up Christmas Stocking pattern for the Holiday Mystery Gifts group that I designed. This
is one is worked in the Intarsia colorwork method which allows multiple colors to be worked in each round. To show how some of the motifs look, I worked different motifs on each side of the leg.
All of my stockings were knit with Knit Picks Wool of the Andes 100% Peruvian wool yarn in worsted weight. The 3000+ members of the group now have all 3 patterns. Out of 3000 folks how many do you think will actually knit a stocking before Christmas? I don't know either - but some have already started and are posting photos of their progress. Whooo hoooo!