Advertising the Small Town Christmas Fair & Parade

Friday-Sunday, Art & Music Festival in Central Park
 Sunday Night Conclusion with Light Parade
Not advertised this well the last 2 years

There is a good chance you will see some photos of the feria and festival on this blog!   🙂
The 3-day feria is a Christmas Arts & Crafts Fair with a stage for live music.

I missed it last year (2016) and don’t know why except for Angel Tree and preparation for my trip to Sarapiqui over Christmas Week and more Christmas parties.

My excuse for missing it in 2015:  “TOO MANY CHRISTMAS ACTIVITIES!”  🙂  blog post
Or more specifically I was at a Christmas Dinner that night which I won’t do this year!

So I’m bound and determined to see both this year! Some here say “Festival de la Luz” is the best parade of the year. I’ll give my opinion after the 16th.  🙂

Other culture photos in my gallery PEOPLE & FIESTAS


Tamale-Making Class en Español

The meat and some vegetables were cooked ahead of time
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

First, some of our Su Espacio class member ground fresh corn
to prepare fresh tortillas for our coffee break
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica
Felix, one of the twin boys from Germany hand-grinding yellow corn 
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica
Cecelia’s family members made these scrumptious corn tortillas 
which we ate with coffee grown on their farm. Delicioso!
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

All morning people worked on cutting
 and cleaning banana leaves to later
 wrap our tamales in.
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

As with families preparing for Navidad,
everyone including kids had a job to do.
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Washing cilantro & other spices 
from the garden outside
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Cutting up vegetables 
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Cutting up freshly cooked pork
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Cutting up freshly cooked pork
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Using a grater and sieve to make
fresh tomato juice for the recipe
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Listening to instructions from Corinna
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

Felix & Jon take turns stirring the white cornmeal batter for tamale base
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

We all worked and visited all morning – A great together time! 
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Finally we start putting them together!
The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

A family member shows us how to wrap the final tamale.
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

Soon the tables were filled with tamales!
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia,
 Atenas, Costa Rica

And we looked like a tamale factory!  🙂
 The kitchen of Sra. Cecelia, Atenas, Costa Rica

This was an activity sponsored by David & Corinna of Su Espacio as a total immersion Spanish activity. It was totally in Spanish, a lot of fun, cultural learning, tasty, and good use of the Spanish language!  I loved it even though my leg was hurting.

AN ASIDE: On my way walking to Su Espacio to carpool to the farm my right leg that’s been giving me trouble had a spasm as a made a big step up from street to high sidewalk and caused me to fall. I finished my trip in taxi, even though I had a B-12 shot just yesterday! I planned to go back to Dra. Candy’s office after the class where I mainly stayed in a chair. Well, near the end of class, the enthusiastic young German Felix opened the can of Garbanzos (each Christmas tamale has 2 garbanzos representing mama & papa.). Unfortunately he sliced his finger open pretty bad on the tin can. Kindly George took the boys and me with Mama Corinna to Dra. Candy’s office where Felix was treated first by the paramedic on duty this Saturday and Felix’s Papa came and picked him and his brother up to go home (their 6 week home) which is in Roca Verde not too far from me. Small world! They also got medications and/or prescriptions to avoid infections.
Then I was examined by the paramedic who called and consulted with Dra. Candy. I was given a pain shot this time and Rx’s for muscle relaxant and a gel to rub on the hurting areas of my leg. It periodically hurts very bad, especially when I get up from a long sit at desk or walk downhill! I go back Wednesday and we discuss if I need a specialist or maybe a physical therapist which they have many of here. It is a problem that has gotten worse, but I’m confident we will find a solution!  ¡Pura Vida!

And for my permanent display of these same photos see my “People and Fiestas” Gallery titled:
Tamale Making Class.  And for those who would like the recipe, here it is, just for you to make Christmas Tamales in Tennessee!  🙂  ¡Feliz Navidad!  (And good luck finding all the ingredients there!)

Related image

1   paquete de MASA blanca de maíz (´´Doña Juana´´ o ´´Doña Arepa´´),
1,5Kg   de posta de cerdo,
1Kg   de papas,
2Kg   hojas de banano o plátano específicos para hacer  tamales,
0,5Kg de tocino,
0,5Kg de zanahorias,
2 chiles rojos,
1 tomate,
Achote para dar color,
1 lata grande de garbanzos,
1 lata pequeña de guisantes o petit pois,
1 rollo de culantro Castilla,
1 rollo de culantro Coyote,
1 rollo de pabilo (cuerda especial),
1 salsa Lizano,
2 cabezas de ajo,
1 rama de orégano,
2 paquetes de consomé de pollo,
2 ramas de apio,  sal y aceite.

1)    COCINAR LA CARNE DE POSTA DE CERDO. (Doña Cecilia la prepara en la mañana temprano antes de que nosotros lleguemos).
Picamos finamente y cuidadosamente media cabeza de ajos.
Ponemos la carne en una olla con agua suficiente para tapar la carne (la carne la ponemos entera), ponemos también una rama entera de apio, la rama de orégano, y la media cabeza de ajos picados finamente.
Ponemos sal al gusto.
Cocinamos hasta que la carne esté suave.
Después quitamos la carne del caldo, la dejamos enfriar y quitamos la rama de orégano para botarla.
Mientras la carne enfría continuamos con la preparación de las verduras.
2)   (por razones de falta de tiempo, también el paso número 2 lo prepara doña Cecilia en la mañana temprano)
Picamos finamente 3 dientes de ajo.
Pelamos las papas y las picamos en cuadritos pequeños, después las ponemos (las papas) a cocinar con un poquito de agua.
Agregamos los 3 dientes de ajo picados finamente, una cucharita de achote para dar color y sal al gusto. Se cocinan al dente.
3)   Pelamos las zanahorias y las cortamos en rodajas finitas.
Lavamos los chiles y los cortamos en tiritas.
Escurrimos los guisantes y los garbanzos.
Sacar las hojitas de culantro Castilla de la ramita y NO se botan los palitos de culantro.
Conservar estas verduras crudas para el final.
4)   Partimos la carne ya fría en trocitos del tamaño a gusto propio.
Rayamos el tomate sin piel.
Picamos finamente 2 dientes de ajo y los ponemos a dorar con media cucharita de achote.
Después agregamos la carne picada, el tomate rayado sin piel y salsa Lizano al gusto.
Mezclamos bien y doramos por 10 minutos.
5)   Ponemos la masa blanca de maíz en una olla grande.
Pelamos una cabeza de ajos y la licuamos con la rama de apio que quedó, el culantro Coyote y los palitos de culantro Castilla que conservamos del paso número 3.
Colamos o filtramos el líquido y lo agregamos a la masa de maíz que está en la olla.
6)   También agregamos a la masa del paso número 5 el caldo de la carne de posta de cerdo del paso número 1.
Mezclamos y revolvemos bien, agregamos el consomé de pollo y la sal al gusto.
Cocinamos moviendo constantemente hasta que hierva. Si vemos que la masa se seca rápido antes de hervir le agregamos agua.
Posicionamos las hojas de banano en la mesa: una grande y arriba en el centro una pequeña.
En el centro de la hoja ponemos un cucharón de masa y luego agregamos una cucharada de papas del paso número 2, después una tirita de chile con una rodaja de zanahoria, 2 garbanzos, 3 guisantes y una hoja de culantro del paso número 3.
Por último ponemos un trozo de carne, envolvemos las hojas y amarramos con el pabilo.
8)   Una vez que estén armadas las ´´las piñas’’ las ponemos a cocinar sumergidas en agua hirviendo por 30 minutos desde el momento que el agua hierve.
9)   Sacamos las piñas, las escurrimos o filtramos y las comemos.

Christmas in March?

On one of my two walks to town today, I snapped these with my phone.
You do know that the red of Poinsettias is actually leaves & not flowers?

Yes. Poinsettias grow in yards here and in different months.
I’ve seen them in February & March now.

See my Photo Gallery called Flora & Forests


Christmas Day Wildlife Photos

The 6 AM Bird Walk had a different guide, Ronald, and a lot more birds today! Of course most photos are on my SLR camera, but the guide used my phone on his spotting scope for the next three photos below. I have some better ones on my real camera. All the guides here are provided by the Selva Verde Lodge, at a reasonable extra cost or in my case as part of a “Birding Package.”

Snowy Cotinga  (A first sighting for me)
By Nature Guide Ronald on my phone through his spotting scope
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Yellow-throated Toucan (formerly Chestnut or Black-mandibled Toucan)
By Nature Guide Ronald on my phone through his spotting scope
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Mantled Howler Monkey
By Nature Guide Ronald on my phone through his spotting scope
Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
And I haven’t mentioned that I hear them often in the forest here.

Nature Guide Ronald at the front entrance
to Selva Verde before we cross the road
for birds in a botanical garden.
Then, late morning I got out of our lodge reserve to visit Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion which several people had recommended. It is basically a lot of different kinds of feeders on the edge of a thick secondary rainforest with a lot of birds. It provided me with some good close-ups and of a few new birds. So it was worth the 10 km drive down the highway. The father-son project has a great story behind it but I will let you read about it on their website at Dave & Dave’s.
More hummingbirds than I’ve seen almost anywhere else.
Some eating out of that heliconia flower.
Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

There was a group of German photographers there with their big lenses.
Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Dave Senior putting out more fruit for the birds.
Dave & Dave’s Nature Pavilion, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica
Tonight I am going on the “Night Hike” and hope to get another good shot of a red-eyed tree frog. We will see. Animals are unpredictable. The restaurant has had this Christmas tree up since I’ve been here and they play Christmas music.
Christmas Tree
Selva Verde Lodge Restaurant #1
Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Tomorrow I’ve scheduled an early morning boat trip, Guide Evan is going with me. And oh yes, in the rainforest there are still afternoon showers, even in the Dry Season. A shot from my room this afternoon during the short shower to keep everything watered!  🙂

Rain seen from Riverside Room 45, Selva Verde Lodge, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

¡Pura Vida!

And all these photos were made on my cell phone!

Merry Christmas Day!  ~Charlie

Animales Fantasticos!

I saw the first Harry Potter prequel today, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (Animales Fantasticos) and of course you find them in Costa Rica!  🙂

And I also picked up an old dead branch along the road, lightly sprayed with gold paint, and put it in a vase of rocks for my árbolito de navidad (little Christmas Tree) this year and will decorate it with hand-crafted artisan birds. Here’s 4 of the first ones added. There will be more Fantastic Beasts! 🙂

And yes, Costa Rica is into Christmas decorations and the whole celebration in a big way! Every store is heavily decorated and the malls have three story tall Christmas Trees. 


Christmas in San Jose Photos

Big Cities like to do everything bigger and better and San Jose, the capital and largest city in Costa Rica is no exception. See a few photos of Christmas decor and events by Tico Times:

Tico Times photos – this of the lighting of tree at Children’s Hospital


I’m hoping to stay home all day with no interruptions to the many things I want to do and some rest! 

It actually started some a couple of weeks ago, but it is here full force now! I’m having to keep the sliding door screen closed and my garden door with no screen closed because so many leaves, flowers, bugs and dust blow in! This will be the norm through February or March with it getting more dusty the longer we go without rain. And if Turrialba erupts again, we will get ash or gray-black dust! That is just part of living in paradise!  🙂

And the crazy thing is that it is during this windy, sometimes dusty period that we have the most tourists and snowbirds trying to get away from cold weather up north. I think I’ve decided I like the rainy season (Jul-Oct) or “green season” better and it’s two shoulder periods (May-Jun & Oct-Nov) which have very little rain but are greener and more pleasant. So for the next 3 months or so we put up with wind, dust and snow birds! Then tranquility begins again!  🙂

And for my Canadian friends:


día de Navidad: Jesus, Family, Friends and Food!

Christmas Morning Breakfast View
My tamales came from La Coope Supermercado, 2 to a package, 2 meals.

Here’s a recipe for making Costa Rica Christmas Tamales. (Mine didn’t have as many vegetables.)
And to watch them being made, see this YouTube video of a family making them.

I’m sure the homemade ones are better than the ones I got at the Supermercado, but to be honest, I did not care for them. Mine had very few veggies and only a small piece of pork. The cornmeal and lard wrapping is what I don’t like.To much fat and cholesterol and not that tasty. I had to add sauce. These tamales are not part of my tradition unless I find better tasting ones! And maybe a healthier version?

And some more local Christmas decorations:

Maybe typical of governments, but the city hall had one of the few secular
Christmas decoration in town plus their decorated tree in the park.
This is a very contemporary tree with reindeer of all things!
The “Municipal Building” is opposite one corner of Central Park.

And the Catholic Church in center of town had this indoor nativity
and an outdoor one with live people at certain times which I never caught.
More homes have nativities. Jesus is more popular than Santa here!
My nativity collection went fast at the silent auction earlier.

Christmas Dinner with neighbors at Hotel Colinas del Sol nearby.

There is never an excuse for being lonely here! In fact, I sometimes have to work at finding my needed solitude!  🙂

from Charlie in Costa Rica


VIP Star Wars in Costa Rica!

 A STAR WARS Christmas Present . . .

Me and Jason with BB-8 at theater.

One of my Spanish language helpers, Jason Quesada in Atenas, has so far not accepted payment by the hour, just lunches, etc. So for his Christmas gift, regalo de Navidad, I took him with me by bus to Alajuela to see his first ever Star Wars movie. Hard to imagine not having the background of 6 previous movies, but he enjoyed it and I guess the plot kind of stands alone with me giving him a little background on who some of the characters are and a little of what happened in the past.

The new theater is nicer than any I have been to in the States! I bought our tickets electronically with a credit card at kiosk out front not knowing what “Premier” meant, but I chose it because the sound tract was in English with Spanish subtitles. I’m not yet ready for the one with Spanish voices dubbed in.

Well we were both shocked! When we gave the ticket taker our tickets he did not point or give directions to our theater but personally escorted us to the Premier door and introduced us to a hostess.

We entered the VIP private lounge area with restaurant as well as usual movie snacks and luxurious seats around little tables and a bar with bar stools. We were given a menu with a great selection including alcoholic drinks and told we could take the menu to our seats and they would come take our order. Shucks! We had already gotten popcorn and cokes at the regular people snack stand in main lobby. So we decided we might eat lunch in the lounge after the movie.

Then our hostess led us up a short flight of stairs to the Premier Balcony with giant lounge chairs with electronic controls to lift the foot rest or lean back and a little fold out table for food in addition to the built-in drink holder. Wide aisles and lots of space for the recliners! She checked on us twice during the movie to see if we needed anything. Wow! I can’t wait to go back and order from my seat or eat lunch during a movie! But lunch in the lounge after the movie was great too! This is livin!

One little corner of the mall just outside the theater with one of about 6 3-story Christmas Trees. No shopping for me today.
They have finished widening the street out front which helps traffic! The snow park is open outside and
an amusement park is on the roof with a giant Ferris Wheel seen as you drive up. Amazing!
It is the largest mall in Costa Rica and second largest in Central America. (One in Panama a tad larger.)
On the bus ride home I told Jason I really meant to get all 6 of the previous Star Wars movies and watch before seeing this latest sequel. But Netflix does not have and the down-streaming ones on are $16 each (if you order all 6) plus their site said they would not work on my browser if I understood the crazy information right. So I gave up. Jason asked, “Did you try our video store across from the ball fields?” I hadn’t, so we walked by it on our way home from the bus station.  This young man has everything! He had all 6 at about the equivalent of $1.15 each but it would be a few minutes because he had to make copies of number 5 & 6. We waited and I expect to enjoy on my computer the whole Star War series now! Legal? Well. . . just a friend giving me a copy of his DVD.  🙂  Reminds me of the video stores in The Gambia! And we will see what the quality is like.

See also Christianity Today’s online article titled: Why We Get Religious About ‘Star Wars’


Here, Jesus More Popular than Santa!

Nativities are everywhere! Usually called Pasito or Portal here.
Other Spanish names are Nacimiento, Belén, and Pesebre.

I like living where Jesus is more popular than Santa Claus! Though Christmas Trees are around in a few places, especially commercial places, they don’t believe in Santa Claus but rather the baby Jesus, el niño or el niñito who brings some of the Christmas gifts for young children. Read this neat article in Tico Times.  For where gifts come from, Santa is 3rd place after Jesus & Parents in a survey of children!

Tree in Central Park Atenas
Not much! Not a priority!  🙂

It is a religious society and the people even live like followers of Christ! I’m trying not to compare to the States where most of my readers live, but it is tempting!   🙂  The people here are wonderful!

And I do plan to eat at least one tamale this Christmas, a very strong tradition here!

Feliz Navidad!


Too Many Christmas Activities! :-)

Last night I went to the Christmas Dinner with live music at El Balcon del Cafe for a great meal

featuring a Christmas Ham! And a huge assortment of Christmas Cookies! But the best part was joining a lady from my second Spanish class and her 84 year old friend Jean who will become my new next door neighbor tomorrow! She is moving in the house that my sculpture friend Anthony left for his adventures in Spain and Morocco. It is a contemporary with lots of glass to the right of my house as the casita (little house) of another property owner, different landlord.

After the party my taxista had trouble getting through the traffic and bands for the big parade as part of that evening’s Festival de la Luz or Festival of Lights which begins the Christmas celebrations here. I’m now sorry I did not stay downtown for it because I learned later that it is the biggest celebration of the year in Atenas with a stage featuring constant musical entertainment, many booths with crafts and other vendors, the parade, and fireworks. But I was tired and had projects I was working on and decided to go on home. I heard most of it and saw part of the fireworks from my terrace. Next year I will not miss this!

Today our Su Espacio Spanish Class had our Christmas Party Lunch at Fred & Susan’s house two hills over from mine with their swimming pool being the big attraction for most, but also a great lunch! 

I was the only one not in a swim suit – just not my thing!

Thursday after the last Spanish Class at Iglesia Biblica we all go to La Finca Pizza for our end of year celebration and Christmas Party. A new friend and I are having lunch next week and then on Christmas Day I am joining other friends at a nearby hotel restaurant for a big Christmas Dinner again! At Hotel Colinas del Sol. I’m having trouble finding my needed solitude!  🙂


8 Great Holiday Songs in Spanish in case you think “Feliz Navidad” is the only one!  🙂

Peace on earth will come to stay, When we live Christmas every day. – Helen Steiner Rice