Friday, November 29, 2013

A Hot And Sweaty Thanksgiving......

We sweated our way through another Thanksgiving Day in Panama with a group of nine friends at our house.  It all began around 2 in the afternoon when the first car arrived and our perky, little puppy  ran furiously to the gate barking at them, being the mean guard dog that she is.  But as soon as Clyde let them into the property Coco ran off to hide, since she's still a timid 3-month old in many ways.

After a dinner of turkey and all the usual trimmings washed down with a white wine sangria, the heat was too much to bare and we took the party outside. Everyone pulled up a chair at the bohio (a covered gazebo) and cooled off a bit before we brought out the desserts.  Like any other typical day in Panama the temperatures started out at a cool 75 degrees and climbed to around 88 or so.  The dogs entertained us with Coco the puppy showing off how to successfully tear into a coconut shell with her teeth, apparently a trick Venus the older dog taught her. Although we were unsure how the puppy would handle that many new people at one time, she seemed accepting after a while hoping that someone would drop some food for her to scarf up.

Thanksgiving Day is not a Panamanian holiday but instead it was the holiday of Independence Day from Spain.  The President decided to have the holiday moved to Monday, December 2nd making for a long weekend and an extra day off from work. And from the influence of the gringo population here the locals stores ARE observing Black Friday today, flaunting sale prices in the faces of both Panamanians and gringos alike. But since we're not looking for any big ticket items we'll stay away from the crowded malls today and keep our credit cards safely tucked away.

Online Ad From Multi Plaza Mall In Panama City
 
Aerial View Of Multi Centro Mall In Panama City


Another Online Ad For Multi Centro Mall, Or Half An Ad Anyway
 
 
The Closest Mall....Westland Mall In La Chorrera, About 45-Minutes From Home
Front Of Westland Mall...There Are Three Levels In This Mall


One benefit of living among expats in Panama is that now we get to celebrate not ONE but TWO Thanksgiving Days.  Our Canadian friends celebrate their Thanksgiving six weeks prior to ours so we usually get an invite to someone's house and then get to do it all over again a few months later. The food is pretty similar at both and the local stores have learned to stock up on turkeys, cranberry sauce, canned pumpkin and other stuff to make us gringos happy, although at high prices. Any of the imported products cost more so we usually try to buy local brands and eat more like the locals do to save money. But for those that just gotta have a Sara Lee Cheesecake or Ben & Jerry's ice cream it's all here somewhere, just depends how much you're willing to pay for it. Clyde did splurge on corn starch for the gravy and we had to try three different stores before we found it.  The huge plastic container holds enough to thicken gravy for the rest of our lives and set us back a whole $1.45.  Complaining about his need to find the stuff I told him if he didn't use it for the gravy I was going to powder his bottom with it, which could lead to other things that might be better left unsaid, so I'll leave you hanging here....along the gringo trail.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Our New Little Addition......

Announcing the arrival of our new baby, well sort of but not really since she has fur.  Since adopting two older Doberman a few months back didn't work out with our older Dober-woman we decided to take the puppy route.  So today we brought home a 3-month old furry, bouncy, bundle of joy that we named Coco. By the way Coco is Spanish for "coconut".

Gotta love that sweet face!

I wonder if I will grow into these feet?



She found her first piece of coconut shell
Gotta start practicing for the big time!


We found a breeder in Panama City that raises nothing but Dobies, and still has our pups Mom and Grandmother too.  He assured us that she comes from good lineage all of who are pure bred Doberman. The breeder even offered to bring the dog to us and we chose to meet him in a public place since we wanted to introduce the girls outside of our property on neutral ground. And since she got sick in the breeders car carrier during the trip over a bath was our first order of business which she seemed to tolerate nicely.

Investigating EVERYTHING

I got a new momma!
 


Like a typical puppy, Coco is curious and full of energy poking her snout into everything. She watches Venus carefully and tries to run after her until something more interesting distracts her and off she goes. The tiny little 30-pound Dobie has an acre of land to explore, tons of lizards to chase and lots of new things to learn.....along the gringo trail.

Blurry, but wanted to show
the size difference

Chasing after the "big dog"


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Monkeying Around In The Mountains.......

The phone rang early on Saturday morning as I was in the middle of cooking up some healthy oatmeal pancakes.  It was friends inviting us to join them on a day trip to the mountain town of El Valle de Anton.  And for those of you that have never eaten a tortilla (tor-tee-yah) and think that Valle is pronounced as "valley" let me explain.  In Spanish when you see a double letter L like "ll" it is pronounced like a "y."  Occasionally, and most recently we met some folks that said they were going to "El Valley," and we just cringed.  When I corrected the poor dear she asked me, "where are you getting the Y sound from?" so I had to explain it to her.  Really now, have some people never eaten a "tortilla" chip?  Or maybe they call those "tor-tila" chips? And then to further complicate things some Latin cultures pronounce the "ll" sound as a "g" or "j" sound instead of a "y" but for now we'll leave well enough alone. Oh, and yes Panama does happen to use the later, although we do hear of mix of both here.

Anyway, getting back to my story now so we take off into the mountains with friends to see the Nispero Zoo in El Valle.  The small zoo is named after the "nispero" tree that bears a round, brownish fuzzy fruit that looks similar to a kiwi.  We have one in our backyard and when ripe this fruit has a slightly gritty texture like a pear yet tastes sweet like vanilla and cinnamon when scooped out with a spoon. A strange but magical delight to the taste buds that we enjoy when they're in season. 

On our way up to El Valle we stopped to check in on Fred and Cynthia who are building a house out of four shipping containers. This courageous, determined couple has been working on their dream home for over three years now.  We first came to know Fred from a blog he writes on a regular basis documenting his challenges of being American and building in a foreign country. But he's not just building an ordinary cement block house here, instead he has FOUR shipping containers that he's crafting into a dream home. It's been over a year since we last dropped in for an impromptu, unscheduled, and uninvited visit.  But this charming couple is always gracious and welcoming and gave us and our friends the full tour. If you'd like to read his full story please check out his blog at: http://panamashippingcontainerhouse.com/

Fred And Cynthia's Shipping Container House In Progress
 
Finally we made our way to the Nispero Zoo, home of the illusive "golden frog." The golden frog  despite it's name is actually an extremely rare, very endangered species of toad that lives ONLY in Panama. For more information on this little critter check out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panamanian_golden_frog

Entrance To Nispero Zoo, El Valle Panama


The Famous Golden Frog Of Panama


The zoo is a great place to see some of the common creatures that hide out in the jungles, swamps and waters of Panama. Along with the frogs they had snakes, lizards and cayman (a smaller version of a crocodile) common to the area. Panama is home to many species of monkeys including white-faced capuchins, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys and howlers, the largest of the bunch.  The smallest is the tamarin that weighs less than a pound and looks something like a rat with a long tail.

White-Faced Capuchin Monkey


Big cats like jaguars, ocelots, pumas and margays that are also native to the area were nicely displayed at the zoo too. And since Panama is home to some 940 species of birds the zoo also has an expansive array of these feathered marvels. Colorful toucans, macaws, parrots, parakeets, amazons, quetzals and more. The weather was great and we had just a slight sprinkle of rain cooling us off mid-day that went by quickly.


A Decorative Bench Inside The Zoo Grounds
 
Next stop was to fill our bellies with some lunch at Ty's Sports Bar and Grill.  The restaurant is home to the famous and adorable Mona the Mono, a white-faced capuchin that wears diapers and clothes. Mona sits perched atop a counter inside the restaurant, leashed up to keep her from annoying the customers by stealing their food or sitting on their heads.
 
Mona, the "mono" or in English monkey
 

She just loves to climb up on patrons to groom their heads for bugs, or nibble on hair clips and pony tail holders. Even though she is adorable and I enjoyed seeing Mona up close and personal, I unlike my friends and hubby didn't feel the need to have her climb on my head. Perhaps living with one monkey, oh uh I mean one husband, in the jungles of Panama 24 hours a day is more than enough....along the gringo trail.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When It Rains.....It Pours....In Panama!

The above statement has never been more true!  November is the last of the rainy months in Panama before we hit the four to five month dry season. Despite what you might think, most of us living here actually enjoy the rainy season.  The whole country is covered with a blanket of lush, tropical rain forest with green mountains in the background. Gorgeous tropical plants, fruits trees, shrubs and flowers grow everywhere! Our skin and hair feel moist and supple as we're enveloped in a layer of moisture on a daily basis.  Come the dry season I find myself using lotions and creams more often while all the greenery outside turns brown and dies.

Today began as a bright, sunny day with a gentle breeze blowing as I drove off to the gym.  I brought along my swim suit and toiletries so I could shower there and take a dip in the pool before returning home.  The town turned the water off so as a way to conserve our reserve water in the tank I thought I'd use their well water instead. But soon after I got to the little resort where the gym is I noticed that their power was out. And with no  power they had no water since the pump couldn't pump water from the well.  Being the trooper that I am I proceeded with my workout for over an hour, lifting weights, working on my abs and stretching in the end.  Drenched in sweat since I couldn't use the air conditioner with the power outage, I really needed to cool off in the pool. But by the time I was done exercising it had started to rain hard.  I sat outside on the covered patio having my lunch of a protein shake and an apple, hoping that the rain was just a passing shower. At one point the rain let up a bit so I changed into a bathing suit and cooled off in the pool.

But before long the dark clouds rolled in again along with lightning and thunder so I got out of the pool and took cover.  By this time the lightning and thunder were fierce as the monsoon like rains pummeled down.  I thought about waiting it out but the sky was black and there didn't seem to be an end in sight. Since I was already wet I decided to just wrap a towel around me and drive home in the bathing suit.

The highway was flooded with cars and buses driving through the water like it was nothing, so I followed along behind them. But I'd always heard that driving through water was not a good thing, and I was worried that my car would stop running and I'd be stuck on the side of the road wearing only a bikini. I managed to make it home and stepped out in the heavy downpour to unlock the front gate to our property.  One of our neighbors kids was on his front porch watching this crazy gringo lady fighting with the lock on the gate, totally drenched in a bikini.  As I made my way up the driveway Clyde came out of the house with a large towel for me to dry off with, but I had other ideas.

An afternoon shower in the rain

Washing my hair



Rainwater in my eyes, not good for contacts


Since our water was shut off it might be a fun idea to shower in the rain.   I pulled out the shampoo and body wash I had in my beach bag and soaped up before stepping out in the rain to rinse.  Although the rain was beating down hard it didn't seem to have enough force to rinse me off, so I stood under the edge of the roof where it was running off the house. It still wasn't much better but I had to finish what I'd started, so I added some conditioner to my hair and continued to rinse off.  Clyde ran to get the camera out of the car to snap a few pictures.  After I finished the rinse off with the bathing suit on I decided to pull it off and wash off the rest of me.  Our land is large enough that I was able to be out of sight from the neighbors, but not hidden from the roving photographer.

Our flooded front yard

Side of property that goes back to storage shed, also flooded

And the silly dog had to run out in the rain with Clyde


I had a blast and was smiling the whole time as I ventured out for a refreshing shower in the tropical rains so common here.  Severe lighting and thunder continued along with the rain for hours as it turned our yard into a lake.  I've never in my life seen such downpours of rain or heard such loud thunder, along with lightning that fills the sky as I have living here. It's nice to be safe and dry inside the house now until the next time I get the urge to go singing in the rain naked in Panama....along the gringo trail.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

By The Whey......

We all remember Little Miss Muffet who sat on her tuffet eating her curds and whey, when along came a spider and sat down beside her and frightened Miss Muffet away. But did any of us really know what "curds" and "whey" were at the time?  I know I certainly didn't and until today still really had no idea.

OK so over the past 10 years I've been into exercise and body building using weights.  All of us body builders understand the significance of protein and whey protein has become the popular choice in shakes, bars and other protein supplements. So I understood that whey protein was something good for me, especially when taken after a workout to build muscle.  And muscle is a good thing because it's more efficient to have in the body since it burns more fat and calories.  So the word "whey" was always in my head but "curds" sound like something yukky.

The Curds are rising to the top

Pouring the curds and why into the strainer
 

You can see the curds in the strainer

Cottage Cheese!

A better view of the texture of the cottage cheese


Well since we've moved to Panama I've been unable to find cottage cheese, something I frequently ate back in Texas. After all it was high in protein, low in calories and mixed well with fruit or other things. It was a good source of protein at any time of the day or night and pretty affordable to buy.  Here.....not so much.  I have seen cottage cheese in stores here but in tiny containers at high prices.

Yesterday I finally remembered to look up a recipe for it to see just what went in to making it at home, and boy was I surprised.  All it takes to make cottage cheese is milk, vinegar and a pinch of salt to taste. I poured one gallon of milk into a pot, stuck in a thermometer and heated it to near boiling or 190 degrees.  Then I removed it from the heat, stirred in about half a cup or more of vinegar gently and like magic I began to see white, fluffy curds form and separate from the yellowish whey liquid.  I drained it through a mesh strainer and what I had was cottage cheese.  It was as simple as that.  So curds became a good thing since it's the curds that make up the cottage cheese.

One website said to reheat the leftover whey and as it cooled down it would form softer curds which would turn into ricotta cheese, but mine didn't seem to work.  From other stuff I'd  read because this was the by product of a "softer" cheese made with vinegar instead of "rennet" something used in cheese making, the ricotta step was not possible. If I happen to find rennet somewhere I'll try it with that and perhaps I can use the leftover whey to make ricotta next time.  But since I can't bare to throw any food stuff away, I'll keep the whey and use it in oatmeal, protein shakes or other stuff since it's still a high source of protein. But an interesting tidbit is that the word "ricotta" simply means "to reheat, or recook" in Italian, and is where the cheese got it's name.

So this little Miss Muffet will take her tuffet out to a roadside stand to pick up a fresh piƱa (pineapple) to cut up and mix with my homemade cottage cheese for tomorrow's breakfast....along the gringo trail.

Friday, November 1, 2013

The Seduction Of Words......

After a long day of running around Panama City with friends, we stopped for some cheap Chinese food...$3.50 chicken chop suey and rollos vegetales (egg roles) $3.75 before heading home.  Although I would have loved to crash in front of the television and veg out, it was Halloween night and there was a-party a-waiting! I got all dolled up in my "I Dream Of Jeannie" costume and along with my Master, Major Anthony Nelson, off we went to party at Picasso's in Coronado.

My "Dream of Jeannie"



The crowd was much younger than usual and we only spotted a few people that we knew, so we found a table and sat alone. A few minutes later a women approached our table as asked, "you're name is Terry, right?" to which I answered, "yes."  She went on to say, "my husband and I have been blog followers of yours from way back, two years ago, and you are the reason that we moved to Panama." Statements like that always make me nervous since I don't want to be responsible for someone's decision to move to another country.  We always hope that people do their homework, research, think long and hard before they move here just because we did.  And although we're very happy with our decision to move here, it's not for everyone!

We invited the new couple to sit with us but since they had food and drinks at their table we ended up moving in on them and talked all night.  Since it was hard to talk with music blasting we invited them over for later today to show them our house and talk more. As I've said before the whole experience of this blog has been mind blowing for me.  It's so wonderful to be recognized everywhere we go from this blog and the information that I give to people.  There are so many friends out there that we haven't met yet, and this gives us the opportunity to do so. Some have moved here already while others are still in the process, as we wait patiently for more to arrive.

We offered to take some new friends into Panama City yesterday to show them around the popular tourist sights.  The Panama Canal was our first stop at the Miraflores Locks where we watched a few ships transit that canal, and watched a short 3D movie on the canal operations. After that we stopped for lunch at a favorite Italian bistro before hitting The Amador Causeway, Casco Viejo, Cerro Ancon, Price Smart and Albrook Mall. They were amazed at the gridlock of the city traffic and how well Clyde maneuvered his way around, almost like he was still driving a big, red fire truck.

Terry with Paul and Nancy
 
A ship just beginning it's journey through the canal
 

A view of the food court at Allbrook Mall
 

View of "Panama Centro" from the Amador Causeway

The Bridge of the Americas





The City from Cerro Ancon

A view of the construction of the new
Cinta Costera which will make it much easier
to get into Panama City


Perhaps I need to add a disclaimer to the end of this blog......the author is not responsible for your actions.  Should my words seduce you, lure you, or entice you in to packing up and moving to Panama, you may experience relaxation, lower stress and endless adventures as you set out to create your own adventures.....along the gringo trail.