Red Wing, Minnesota

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I met 3 of my 5 sisters in Red Wing, Minnesota last Wednesday. No.2 Sis, No.4 Sis, No.7 Sis and I wanted to go to the nearby casino.

I was the biggest loser, of course, but that doesn’t bother me. Since the casino is on the Native American reservation, I figure all the monies I lose are reparations for my ancestors stealing Native lands. And since my Mom’s people came over on the Mayflower, I have 300-plus years of land-grabbing to make up for.

After losing at the casino (No.7 was the big winner, since she only lost $15) we went back into the town of Red Wing to see the world’s largest boot. It’s located at the Red Wing Shoe Museum. It’s a size 638D, and they say it’s too big for the Statue of Liberty to wear. How is it that I’ve lived an hour away from Red Wing for most of my life and I never knew it housed the world’s largest boot?

WORLD'S LARGEST BOOT

WORLD’S LARGEST BOOT

FROM LEFT, ME, NO.4, NO.2, AND NO.7

FROM LEFT, ME, NO.4, NO.2, AND NO.7

After the Red Wing Shoe Museum, we went to a local confectionary. It was full of the whimsical fairy-tale paintings of Juliet Crozier, including this one of The Old Lady Who Lived In a Shoe. How apropos.

THE OLD LADY WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, BY JULIET CROZIER

THE OLD LADY WHO LIVED IN A SHOE, BY JULIET CROZIER

We also had a fun oil and vinegar tasting at this shop. We each left with multiple bottles of both flavored oil and vinegar. I think my grocery list this week will be full of greens for salads. Quite unusual for me.

RED WING OLIVE OILS AND VINEGARS

RED WING OLIVE OILS AND VINEGARS

Oh, my. It turns out Red Wing has another “world’s largest”. At the Red Wing Pottery Museum we saw one of the three world’s largest jugs. It holds 70 gallons.

NO.2 SIS STANDING BY WORLD'S LARGEST JUG

NO.2 SIS STANDING BY WORLD’S LARGEST JUG

Back at home, I decided to unbox my new crockpot and make some slow-cooked beef fajitas. They turned out pretty good. When I took the liner out of the crockpot to clean it, I saw this.

OOPS

OOPS

The packing cardboard had been between the heater and crock throughout the 5 hour cooking cycle. I didn’t burn down the place, but my neighbors would be so scared if they knew me better.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

It’s Hard To Have Roommates

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No.2 Sis: Where’s the butter?

Me: By the toaster.

No.2 Sis: No. There’s an empty plate by the toaster.

Me: Maybe the butter’s gone?

No.2 Sis: We had two plates of butter. The clean plate and the messy plate. The empty plate is the messy plate.

Me: Is the empty plate round or square?

No.2 Sis: Square.

Me: That’s the clean plate. I finished off the messy plate a couple of days ago. Then the clean plate turned messy. And I finished that off too.

No.2 Sis: (low growl)

Me: It’s hard to have roommates. They will eat the butter while your back is turned.

I’ve been living with No.2 Sis since returning from Costa Rica 12 days ago. Besides eating all the butter, I’ve had a nasty cold. Bad roommate. Sis is avoiding me to avoid getting sick.

I have a new apartment lined up. It’s kind of cottagey, in that it has it’s own outside entrance, with a little porch. The manager told me I can plant whatever I want on the grounds near my unit. Isn’t that great? I don’t want to overdo, so I’ll start with a pot or two.

I told No.1 Sis that I was going to go without a car for as long as possible, as a money-saving measure. I lasted 8 days.

Since I loved my previous Honda, Gypsy Blue, I went to the nearest Honda dealer and started test-driving used cars. I drove a CRV (who informed me his name was Butch). I really liked him, but he had 109,000 miles on him. A little old for me.

Then I drove a 2013 Fit hatchback with 31,000 miles and the angels sang! I bought her immediately. I couldn’t pick her up for a few days though, since I didn’t think to arrange for insurance before-hand. Oops.

Insurance turned out to be a hassle. I had cancelled my policy when I went to Costa Rica, because I didn’t have a car there. Apparently, that flagged me as some sort of flake (imagine) to the insurance company, and they tripled my rate! I’ll go with Progressive for now. Thanks Flo!

I know you’re wondering what the name of the new car is. Her name is Baby. Awww!

RANDOM PHOTOS OF THE VERANDA AT THE RENTAL HOUSE AT ESTERILLOS OESTE, COSTA RICA

RANDOM PHOTOS OF THE VERANDA AT THE RENTAL HOUSE AT ESTERILLOS OESTE, COSTA RICA

Stay tuned…

P.S. I’m still answering salespeople and waitresses’ questions with si, and telling them gracias. That should wear off soon, right?

 

 

 

Gravity Checker

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Seen on Pinterest: I hate gravity. It always brings me down.

Gravity has brought me down a couple of times recently. The first time was in the grass, so I wasn’t hurt.

The second time, I was crossing the main road and tripped over absolutely nothing. And I went down hard, mostly on the more arthritic of my two knees. We were near a blind corner, so No.2 Sis quickly hauled me to my feet and I limped to the side of the road.

In a few days, the bruise blossomed into this.

KNEE BLOSSOM

KNEE BLOSSOM

I needed a vacation from Paradise.

Our good friend and Soul Sister, “V”, flew into Costa Rica to see us, and we all went to a rented house in Esterillos Oeste, near the Pacific coast.

THE BEACH AT ESTERILLOS OESTE

We found the house on Airbnb. It was a Tico-American hybrid (had screens, but couldn’t flush the toilet paper) with three bedrooms, a refreshing pool, and an ocean view.

ESTERILLOS OESTE RENTAL

ESTERILLOS OESTE RENTAL

It also had a back veranda with a gorgeous jungle view, and a semi-feral veranda cat named “Buster”.

After we came home to San Luis, No.2 Sis wasn’t feeling well, so we asked our amigo/driver, Roberto, to take us to Liberia. No.2 was hospitalized, and No.1 and I found ourselves on a fiesta parade route any time we tried to do anything.

COSTA RICAN TRAFFIC JAM

COSTA RICAN TRAFFIC JAM

No.2 was released from the hospital a few days later, with a diagnosis (you’ll have to ask her) and about six prescriptions.

No.2 misses her house, her kids and her grandkids (not in that order). No.1 Sis and I were the only ones planning on staying in Costa Rica permanently anyway, but we’ve all decided to go back to the USA for good. We leave tomorrow.

I have mixed feelings about returning. On one hand, I’m worried about finances (the USA is so expensive) and the political climate (Goddess help us). On the other hand, I’m excited to see my women, my posse, my Soul Sisters (you know who you are)!

Home tomorrow!!!

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

 

 

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

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January and February are the “windy season” in Costa Rica, at least near Lake Arenal where we live.

No.1 Sis was barely handling the 30 mile-per-hour wind. Then it escalated to 60 miles-per-hour and sustained that speed constantly for four days.

We lost power, we lost the internet, we lost the phone, we lost half a dozen trees, we lost the ability to go outside for a walk… and No.1 Sis lost her freaking mind.

She booked the last hotel room she could find in Tamarindo, and told us she was leaving. No.2 Sis and I could come along if we wanted to, but no matter what, she was getting out.

So we called our driver, Roberto, and went to Tamarindo, on the southern Pacific coast.

We stayed at the Mono Loco (The Crazy Monkey).

MONO LOCO

MONO LOCO POOL

We walked around town, and went to a different restaurant for every meal. Such a nice change from living in a town that’s two blocks long and has only two restaurants.

MAYAN STATUE

MAYAN STATUE

This restaurant’s replica of a pre-columbian statue is holding an axe in one hand and a human head in the other. Gosh, I wish I could’ve known the ancient Mayans. They seem like such a cozy people.

PLAYA TAMARINDO

PLAYA TAMARINDO

We went to the beach. A beach! We sat in the shade and used 100 SPF sunblock. We all got sunburned. It was awesome!

We went to a casino in Tamarindo, too. No.1 Sis and I lost; No.2 Sis won. Not that much fun.

After a few days, No.2 Sis and I were ready to return to San Luis. I’m not too sure No.1 Sis was ready, but she came home with us anyway.

The winds are back down to 30 miles-per-hour, and the sun comes out occasionally.

I think we’ll make it.

RAINBOW OVER LAKE ARENAL

RAINBOW OVER LAKE ARENAL

 

Stay tuned…

Last Woman Standing

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No.2 Sis looked out at the rain, and the trees being whipped by 30 mile per hour winds and said, “I hear that Costa Rica is such a beautiful country. We must not have seen very much of it.”

TODAY'S VIEW OF LAKE ARENAL AND THE MOUNTAINS BEYOND

TODAY’S VIEW OF LAKE ARENAL AND THE MOUNTAINS BEYOND

This is true. We haven’t toured at all in the months that we’ve lived here.

NEIGHBORING CASITA IN STORM

NEIGHBORING CASITA IN STORM

Instead, we’ve taken turns being sick. This latest bug was delivered by No.3 Bro and his girlfriend just before Christmas.

Then No.1 Sis came down with it. She passed it to her son, Dude, who was visiting. No.2 Sis got it next.

I’m the last one standing. I haven’t gotten it, knock on wood.

We managed to get a grocery order delivered in spite of the lack of an address. The driver called several times to describe where he was, and we guided him to Casa Amarilla.

I’m thinking we should have asked how much the zucchinis weighed before we ordered two of them.

10 POUND ZUKE

10 POUND ZUKE

Know any good zucchini recipes?

Stay tuned…

Tumbling Around The World

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My first trip to Europe was during The Second Great Depression, in the late 1990’s. The depression wasn’t a European financial depression, but a personal, emotional depression. A story for another time.

I went to England with No.1 Sis and No.2 Sis. We were sharing a small hotel room in Birmingham. The room had two beds, a double and a single.

I was sitting on the edge of the double bed, and No.2 Sis was standing with her back to me, facing the single bed.

No.2 suddenly lost her balance and started to fall into my lap. I tried to catch her (okay, maybe I pushed her) and she fell head-first, bottom-up onto the single bed.

Meanwhile, the force of the catch/push knocked me backward on the bed, forcing my feet high into the air.

No.1 Sis applauded. She asked how long had we been working on our tumbling act, and could we do an encore?

Just a couple of days ago, I was sitting on No.2 Sis’ couch. She was facing me when she picked something up near my feet.

As her center of gravity shifted, she started falling head-first into my lap. I put my hand flat on her face, and pushed her upright. No tumbling today.

CHEESES

CHEESES

While in the U.S., I bought three blocks of sharp cheddar cheese. It cost me less than $10. We brought them back to Costa Rica.

I can’t even find sharp cheddar in Costa Rica, but this much cheese would’ve cost around $50.

I’m still eating mostly like an American, and it’s expensive. At least the Tasty Gates of Hell are inaccessible to me.

Stay tuned…

 

 

4 Reasons I Can’t Retire In The U.S.A.

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I’m on a short visit to the U.S.A. to take care of No.2 Sis after she’s had surgery. Being back in freezing Minnesota has really driven home the reasons I can’t retire here.

HOUSING COSTS:

I’ve mentioned before that my rent in Costa Rica is $675 and my house payment in Minnesota was $1500. Both houses are similar in size and layout, with 2 bedroom-and-bath suites on opposite ends of the house.

When you add utilities in, the cost differential is even greater. In Minnesota, you need heat in the winter and and air conditioning in the summer. That ran me about $100-125 every month, year round. $100 per month in Costa Rica pays for all my utilities, PLUS internet, PLUS my land line phone, AND a security service for the house.

Of course, my utilities would be higher if I had air conditioning, but so far I’ve been okay without it.

MEDICAL COSTS:

My health insurance, still bought from the U.S.A., is a continuation of the group coverage I had at my last job at “The Company”. It costs me $680 per month, and I pay an additional maximum out-of-pocket of $2500 per year. That basically puts my cost at $890 per month.

Once I no longer qualify for the continuation of my work insurance, my per month cost may go up as much as another $400 per month.

When I qualify for residency in Costa Rica (which has, admittedly, been a moving target) I expect my premiums to be around $200 every month, with no further out-of-pocket expenses. That will be a per-year savings of (where’s my calculator?) $5760 over my current medical costs.

MAIL SERVICE:

Mail service in the U.S.A. is excellent (as opposed to Costa Rica, where’s it pretty much nonexistent). That’s both good and bad.

Since I’ve been home, I’ve ordered a few things to be delivered to No.2 Sis’s house. A puzzle book, a small dehumidifier, a clip-on lens for my i-phone camera (damn you, late night infomercials!), a puzzle book, ink cartridges for my printer, toothbrush heads, health supplements that promised to make me young again (damn you, late night infomercials!), a puzzle book, a Magic Jack, an herbal remedy for vertigo, a new Kindle, a puzzle book…

Okay, not having mail service in Costa Rica is really a big money-saver for me.

FOOD:

I don’t really like the food in Costa Rica, which has been really great for me. I’ve lost 25 pounds, and my blood glucose levels are back in the healthy range. Of course, I’ve lost the will to  live, but still, I think it’s a net positive.

And in Costa Rica, there’s no access to the Tasty Gates of Hell.

TASTY GATES OF HELL

TASTY GATES OF HELL

Stay tuned…

 

 

Focus On Jesus

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I’m pretty sure that I’ve mentioned that I’m a delicate tundra flower. Now that I live in Costa Rica, this delicate tundra flower is becoming a delicate tropical flower.

My most delicate part is my stomach, or is it my inner ear? In any case, I am prone to rather bad motion sickness.

No.1 Sis and I met a group of ex-pat women who live around Lake Arenal. They meet for lunch once a month, on one side of the lake or the other.

This month, lunch was on the opposite side of the lake from where we live. Renee, an ex-pat who lives near us, volunteered to drive us to the lunch. Very nice.

I applied a motion sickness patch before we left, and I figured that would keep me on an even keel. No such luck. We live in a mountainous area, and I’m not sure which was worse, the ups and downs, or all the curves. I just tried to focus straight ahead.

The conversation didn’t help at all either. No.1 Sis asked Renee about earthquakes, and Renee described in great detail (the shaking, bouncing, inability to stand up…) a 6.8 Richter scale earthquake she had experienced.

Yes, even talking about motion can make me queasy.

Because my patch had not protected me from feeling sick on the trip around the lake, I added another one for the trip to the airport a couple of days later. I double-patched.

Roberto, the driver, picked me up at 9:00 for the 90 minute trip to the Liberia airport. I sat directly behind him, so it was difficult to focus on the horizon. Instead, I focused on the picture clipped to his visor. It was a picture of Jesus.

JESUS

JESUS

It would have made me happier to focus on a picture of George Clooney, but alas, only Jesus was available.

Every time I started to feel queasy, I’d tell myself, focus on Jesus. Focus on Jesus.

When we were nearly to the airport, I notice the rear view mirror perfectly framed my neck wattle. Good Lord! Focus on Jesus! Look away from the mirror and focus on Jesus.

Thank Goddess, the double patch got me safely and comfortably to the airport, and through the bumpy flight itself (no thanks to hurricane Otto).

And I never thought I’d say this, but thank you Jesus.

Stay tuned…

 

 

 

Wherever You Go, There You Are

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Like everyone else who undertakes a geographical cure for all their problems, I believed moving to Costa Rica would make me into a new person. A better, more ideal version of myself.

And like everyone else who’s tried it, I found that to be utterly and indisputably false.

I was going to begin every day with an early morning walk. No.1 Sis has been doing this, by the way, so I wouldn’t even have to walk by myself. Instead, I start every day with an early morning nap. After the first light wakes me up, I put a pillow over my eyes and go back to sleep for another hour or so.

I was going to eat healthy, and cook for myself. My eating improved a great deal when No.2 Sis was here to help cook, and I’ve lost 20 pounds and cut my blood sugar in half.

But I’m slipping. I’m partial to Elvis sandwiches. That’s peanut butter and bananas on bread. And when No.1 Sis tried to throw away a package of vanilla Oreo cookies, I almost dove into the garbage to get them.

When I told people I was retiring to Costa Rica, they asked what I was going to do with myself. I had planned to take on-line courses. Spanish, of course, and painting and photography.

My Spanish course expired before I finished it (still procrastinating, harrumph). I had to sign up to take it again.

The cute waiter at the local restaurant has been giving us some tips, though. I told him, in Spanish, that his Spanish was very good. He looked confused for a moment (as he often does when I speak Spanish). Then he laughed and complimented my English.

At the end of the meal, he gave us our check, and a list of Spanish phrases to practice. I gave him my payment for the meal, and a generous tip. Did I mention that he’s very cute?

I’m taking a watercolor course, too. I’m almost through with that. Through watching it, that is. I haven’t picked up a brush since I started (watching) the course.

As far as photography goes, I haven’t signed up for a course yet. I think I’ll finish watching my watercolor class before I start watching a photography class.

Speaking of photography, No.1 Sis called me early one morning to tell me there was a troop of howler monkeys in the trees across the street from her house. I went outside and took a few pictures of them from my porch, but they just looked like black blobs in the trees.

I walked down the hill to Sis’ house (still in my pajamas) to see if I could get some good shots from the balcony off of her Queen bedroom. The monkeys were just a little bit bigger black blobs. But look at her view!

NO.1 SIS' VIEW

NO.1 SIS’ VIEW

 

And that’s an 180 degree view, unobstructed by the three-story apartment building  (affectionately known as “The Monstrosity”) that’s next to me.

Hell, if I’m going to be an under-achieving lie-about, I might as well be an under-achieving lie-about in Costa Rica. You can’t find a nicer geographical cure than this.

Stay tuned…

Meet The Neighbor

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No.1 Sis and I walked down to the main road, merely yards from our houses, to wait for the bus into The Big City. There was already a man standing there. He was tall and scruffy and had no teeth.

MR. NO TEETH (ARTIST'S RENDERING)

MR. NO TEETH (ARTIST’S RENDERING)

We nodded politely to Mr. No Teeth and wished him a good morning. He realized he was among fellow Americans, and started to tell us his Costa Rica story.

Mr. No Teeth had arrived in C.R. about the same time we did, seven weeks ago. He spent the first week at motel on the Caribbean coast.

I felt some stinging sensations on my feet.

As he was leaving the motel to catch the bus to San Luis, he locked the keys in his room, as per the landlord’s instructions. Unfortunately, he realized too late that he had locked his only suitcase in the motel room, too.

The feet-stinging was getting more frequent. I looked down, and saw that my feet were swarming with fire ants. I shook and stamped my feet to try to dislodge the little buggers.

Mr. No Teeth continued his story without interruption. He narrated how, even though he had locked all his worldly possessions in his motel room, he didn’t want to miss the bus. He left the bag inside and got on the bus, which took him hundreds of miles away.

Meanwhile, the ants were stinging me like crazy. I bent over in half, a feat I can only accomplish in the most dire of emergencies, and started picking ants off my feet and crushing them, one at a time. My alarmed No.1 Sis dug through her backpack and found some bug spray.

Mr. No Teeth continued his story, oblivious to all the panicked gyrations occurring a few feet in front of him.

He indicated the outfit he was wearing. It was, he said, a thirty year old tee shirt given to him by his wife (now ex-wife) and warm-up pants loaned to him by his neighbor.

The ants coughed a little at the the bug spray, and then laughed, crawling deeper into my shoes. I took off my shoes and beat my own feet with them.

Mr. No Teeth called the motel after arriving here in San Luis. He asked the landlord to mail his suitcase to him. It’s been six weeks now, and he still hasn’t received his bag. Imagine that.

I wanted to go up to him, grab him by the thirty year old tee shirt and scream in his face, “You don’t knowingly drive hundreds of miles from everything you own, then ask for it to be mailed to you IN A COUNTRY WITHOUT MAIL SERVICE, YOU STUPID GIT!”

He was fortunate that I was still preoccupied with doing the roadside Hokey Pokey.

The Hokey Pokey. It really is what it’s all about.

MORE OF "DOWNTOWN" SAN LUIS

MORE OF “DOWNTOWN” SAN LUIS

Stay tuned…