Friday, August 31, 2012

blue morpho

I live in a place where flocks of bright green parrots chatter in trees, and huge blue butterflies glitter past.
Blue Morpho at a butterfly farm

Blue Morphos are just enough of an uncommon site that seeing one in the wild feels like a special treat.  Even more special is being surrounded but them at a butterfly farm, and we are lucky enough to live right down the road from one.  

it is hard to catch their wings open when you want to take a picture

Morphos are big-- their wing span is 4 or 5 inches.  When a butterfly is that big, you can actually hear it fly past.  It sounds like the flutter of velvet.  The outside of their wings is a plain brown, while the inside is a brilliant shifting blue, so their flight is a staccato of color.

this is from our honeymoon in Costa Rica.  Morphos like fruit.
I still stop in delight every time I see one.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


Rainy season: lots of flowers/ ants in the house. It's a trade off.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Housekeeping in Belize

The ant invasion seems to be wearing down.  This is not really due to my efforts, it has much more to do with the fact that it has been sunny out the last few days and they are returning to their own homes. 
Yesterday one of the priests came to visit, and I apologized for the ant-cleaning mess.  “Oh, “ he said, “they’ve been coming into the rectory too.”  When I asked what they had been doing to combat the ants, he replied, “nothing.”

I have learned that when it comes to cleaning in the tropics, you have to be uptight and relaxed at the same time.  So while I am running around pouring baby powder on each new stream of ants and storing the cat food in the fridge (the only place the ants have yet to breach) I am also admitting to myself that the ants will retreat when they choose.  It’s the way things are in the tropics.

It is an unavoidable fact that life in the tropics includes creatures. .  Geckos, ants, and cockroaches are the big ones, but I have encountered a few scorpions too.  And yes, one part of me is super ashamed to admit the occasional cockroach has been seen in my house.  On the other hand, an occasional cockroach has been seen in my mother-in-law's house, and she is the cleanest person I know.  She goes through gallons of bleach a week and even scrubs the garage floor every Saturday.  My father-in-law knows better then to park his truck there Saturday afternoon. 

Anyways, here are some cleaning tips for the tropics:

1.     Everything molds.  Here is a short list of things that I have found mold on in my house:  clean dry clothes in my dresser, books, my staircase, a wooden crucifix hanging on the wall, leather shoes, paintings.  Tea tree oil, bleach, or sunshine work ok to kill mold, but I prefer to try and prevent it.  This means trying to keep things ventilated, but mostly it means I am super careful about what I bring into the house.  I have some beautiful art work and fancy clothes that stay in the states because I can’t guarantee that they will stay mold free.  Which brings me to my next tip:

2.     Everything should be washable.  No delicate dry clean only silk, no irreplaceable art.  I decorate with things that are washable like cloth, ceramic, or metal, and any photos or prints I want are laminated. All my cushion covers, rugs and curtains can be thrown into the wash.

3.     Clutter is bad.  No food left out (even bread) or dishes waiting in the sink to discourage ants, no dirty clothes piles on the floor to avoid spiders and scorpions.  I try not to encourage dark corners, or at least move things around and vacuum behind them regularly.  I’ve taken a cue from my mother-in-law and put heavy things like the couch and dressers on wheels so they can easily be moved and cleaned behind.

4.     Cardboard is EVIL.  The only cardboard I have in my house is found as book covers, and those are monitored closely.  Why?  Cockroaches. They love cardboard and paper, and can subsist on it alone as a food source.  I am pretty anal about this, which means a lot of repackaging.  For example, if I buy a tube of toothpaste, or a box of Ziploc bags, or a role of plastic wrap, everything is removed from the box and the box is immediately thrown out.  I have found cockroaches in all of those types of boxes in the past, and I have no intention of bringing stowaways from the store into my home.

5.     Plastic containers that seal are good.  Every time I go to the states or someone comes to visit I collect a few more of these.  I have all sizes and pretty much anything that is stored goes into one.  This includes everything from my extra sheets and towels to my shoes to kitchen utensils. 

And you know what?  Even with all these things I still have geckos running up my walls.   That is the point where I just shrug and hope they catch a few mosquitos for lunch.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


Gratuitous puppy photo.... because I'm not taking a picture of ants.
Today is our 4th wedding anniversary. What am I doing?  Oh, just battling the kabillion ants who have decided to move into my house.  I know, so romantic.  It's been raining a lot here, and the ants have decided my nice dry house is preferable to their soggy one.  I have several weapons in my repertoire; baby powder works really well on entrance points, and tea tree oil quickly stops ant highways on countertops and shelves. My house smells...interesting.  I have not yet come up with a solution for ants on my couch, hence the reason I am blogging from the rocking chair.  Sadly, the annoying yard chickens are not the least bit interested in finding and eating ants as they exodus from their ant hills, which puzzles me because I thought chickens ate ants.  Daniel just laughs when I complain, and says that is why I should not get information about chickens from the internet.
Anyways, the good thing about the ants is cooking has become difficult (as anything on my countertops becomes an immediate target) so that means we will have to go out for an anniversary dinner :)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Caye Caulker

Mom came to visit last week, and we spent the last few days at Caye Caulker.

No matter how many times I come, the first view of the turquoise sea and brillant colors always amazes me.

Mom and I on the roof of our hotel

the view from the roof

We spent our time snorkeling, sea kayaking, eating amazing Italian food, and wandering about taking in the light, the colors, and the sea breeze. We stayed in a hotel with AC and cable, and watched Usain Bolt run.  I took 5 hot showers in 2 days.

It was pretty perfect.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

making hay while the sun shines

Farming, man.  It's stressful.
This year we decided for the first time to cut and bale hay.  The thing with this process is the hay needs to be cut, allowed to dry on the ground for a few days, and then baled.  And the thing with living in the tropics, and this being the rainy, hurricane season, is that it rarely goes for more than a few days without raining.

This is the day we cut the grass-- notice, the nice, sunny blue skies.

Adding to the stress is that the farm does not own baling or mowing equipment, so we had to hire them... and Belizeans as a whole are quite relaxed about getting places on time. We spend a lot of time on the phone begging the operators to come RIGHT NOW because clouds were gathering on the horizon, and oh by the way a HURRICANE is supposed to hit tomorrow.  

And here is the baling, under grey skies....

After much worry and prayers to St Isadore (patron saint of farmers) we got all our hay baled and moved under shelter.  The weather held-- it didn't rain for three whole days-- and lucky for us the hurricane decided to go north.  Overall,  I now have much more respect for farmers who do this all the time.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

oh hello

We got a new puppy.  His name is Corozal.

Corozal has very expressive eyebrows.

He is quite the interactive eater.  Multiple body parts must be in contact with the puppy chow during dinner.

Corozal is a 6 week old mastiff mix... which means he will be this size for approximately another 2 seconds before he becomes a 100 pound slobbery pile of muscle.  So we are fitting in as many naps on my lap as we can.   Anyone have any puppy training tips or can recommend some good books?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

from scratch

THIS is home-made marshmallow fluff.   Why?  Because you can't buy it here in the store, and sometimes life necessitates marshmallow fluff.  Namely to add butter and sugar to and make into frosting.  Surprisingly, this was super, super easy to make-- corn syrup, boiled, added to egg whites whipped with a bit of cream of tartar.  Who knew?  

Living here + liking food means that I had to learn to cook totally from scratch.  This has been a long, painful process, because I don't like to cook.  I like to EAT.  So basically desperation has fueled my education.  I realized the other day that I have made a ton of things from scratch since moving here, many of which I honestly did not realize could be made in my own kitchen.  Like marshmallow fluff.  Other things:  ginger ale, bagels, chocolate truffles, oreo cookies, those amazing chocolate lava cake things,  pancakes (I thought using Bisquick was making it from scratch), pasta, granola, not-from-a-box cake AND brownies, and more things I can't remember now.

The take away message here is:  I live in the tropics.  We have a hammock on our back porch.  I cook good food.  Come visit me.

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