Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Party Time!

Belizean friends of ours, Kim and Ruth, invited us to attend a birthday party for their two sons, Sean and Randall, who were turning 2 and 7 years old respectively. (As an aside, Kim is the owner/operator of Bessa Decor, the same company that built all our kitchen cabinets, counters, island, side cabinet, and desk.)

The party was held on the property where Kim has his shop. A building, which will eventually be a block factory, was transformed into a party place that would make any little kid squeal (and probably few adults too).

There was the bouncy house...

...and balloons...

...and beautiful hand-made birthday cakes.

The hostess with the mostest, Ruth:

Our host, Kim (right) chatting with David.

One of the birthday boys, Sean. Look at those cheeks and all that curly hair!

And his older brother, Randall -- the other birthday boy.

But the kids weren't the only ones in for a good time. For the grown-ups, there was a DJ and an open bar with a generous supply of various beers, vodka, rum and who knows what else...

...and amazing, amazing food. I'll get to that in a minute.

The guests mixed and mingled...

...and some new friends were made.

And this little guy had pretty much everyone smiling as he tottered by.

But let's get back to the food. For starters, there was conch ceviche. I forgot to take a picture, because I was too busy eating. After that came the pulled pork tacos with two different types of toppings.

I thought that was enough food to keep me for a week, but then the main courses made their appearance. There was a choice of half a chicken or pork ribs. Both dishes came with sides of beans and a green salad.

The ribs were to die for and it turns out the Kim was the one who made them, along with a bunch of the other items. I'm going to see if he'll give me the recipe for the pork glaze. Seriously, I could eat these every blessed day. For those who had the chicken, it also got rave reviews. A handful of us were seriously petioning Kim to think about opening a restaurant, like in Ranchito.

And while you could serve yourself from the grills they had set up, Ruth and her sister were speed demons delivering ready made plates right to the tables and always making sure everyone had plenty to drink.

But after the meal was over, the real fun began. Time to break open the pinata.

Sean was the first one to give it a few whacks.

Kim tried to give him some pointers...

...but Sean had his own idea...just get on and ride it!

Randall took his shots, then each child got to have a go at it. Yells of encouragement from the crowd helped the kids really throw themselves into it.

And while a teeny bit too small to take part in the whole pinata deal, this cutie was certainly impressed with the efforts of the other kids...

...especially when all the candy and confetti flew out.

And I'd like to mention that in spite the candy, the bouncy house, the general excitement and fun taking place, every single child was incredibly well behaved.

After singing Happy Birthday, each guest was given a piece of cake and a gift bag filled with all kinds of candies and sweets.

Seriously, this was an EVENT, and we had the very best time. We rolled out of there around 5pm (pets to feed, you know), but heard the party was still going strong at 7:30.

This morning I was still thinking about those ribs.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Slices of Life from Belize: July 23, 2013

And the rain, rain, rain, came down, down, down...* 

Ah, the rainy season in Belize. Contrary to what some people think, it doesn't rain incessantly this time of year in Corozal. We have plenty of days of mostly sunny skies. Oh, and a tad bit of humidity. How does an average "feel like" temperature of 110-115 degrees sound?

But when it does rain, boy, it RAINS. Most of the storms seem to arrive at night, just when you've managed to drift off to delightful REM sleep. Then, off in the distance, you'll hear a roll of thunder, the palm trees start rustling, and the rain comes down by the bucketful. It will teem so hard and ping off of the metal shutters and roofs to the point that we have to practically yell to be heard. And just when you think, "Boy, can it rain any harder?" Mother Nature replies, "Why yes, yes it can."

I follow two different weather feeds, along with the National Hurricane Center reports. And while the Hurricane Center seems pretty accurate, the other feeds never agree. I can't tell you the number of times we've checked all the forecasts, looked up at the sky before going to bed to see the moon and stars, and think we're in the clear. Nope. The weather gods turn on the water spigots.

Last year was the first time we went through the rainy season, and we learned some valuable lessons. The most important was that when storms come across the bay from the east our porch would get soaked. The rain would blow in so fast that even with a squeegee and mop, it was impossible to keep dry. And I can tell you for a fact that tile floors are slippery when wet. Not that I'm a klutz or anything.

Before Tropical Storm Ernesto rolled through we finally hit upon a solution:

A big tarp. Yeah, I know it doesn't look like the prettiest thing, but you know what? It did and does do an excellent job keeping the rain out.  

Once last year's rainy season was over, we modified the tarp a bit:

We cut it into three sections and had grommets placed around the edges. Carabiner hooks go through the grommets and get attached to the eye bolts on the walls. Now it makes it easy to get in and out of the door, plus raise/lower any piece as we need. David even attached some PVC pipe to the large pieces, to make rolling up the tarps easier. After adding some Velcro straps, we now have a quick release system as well. Just love having a MacGyver kinda' guy.

*How many of you remember Winnie the Pooh and The Blustery Day?

Property Tax Update

Back in April, I posted about trying to pay our property taxes. Our house and lots had been in our name for a year, but when we went to see how much we owed for taxes, we were told our stuff wasn't in the system yet. 

We've stopped by the Land Department a few times since then to find out if any progress had been made. Last week we received good news: we were in the system! The bad news: no calculations had been done yet to determine how much we would need to pay. Advice from the clerk: stop by again in about another week. 

It's Belize baby -- one step at a time.

Permanent Residency Update

While we're chatting about follow-ups, might as well share where we are with our quest to become Permanent Residents. As you might recall, we submitted our packet to Immigration last month. 

The next step is to have an interview with the Special Branch department of the police here in town. 

But before that happens, they have to receive our packet from the Special Branch headquarters in Belmopan. They have our packet so they can check with Interpol to ensure we're not wanted criminals somewhere. 

So much like our situation with the Land Department, we check in every week to see if our packet has arrived. Will be sure to let you all know how that goes, whenever it happens.

Bronte and Olivia

Because of the rain we've been having, our pet kids have been known to spend more time indoors than normal. That, in turn, makes them antsy...

An intrepid balancing act on the gate lock
...and seemingly possessed by evil spirits:

But after blowing off some of the excess energy, life gets back to normal until the next storm blows through.

A Few Quick Bites

Over the last couple of weeks I've played around with some new recipes.

First I did a twist on a BLT:

These are tostadas, crispy tortillas spread with home-made avocado mayo and topped with bacon, lettuce and tomatoes. 
And just to keep the healthy vibe going, I put together a veggie pasta salad.

But a little bit of healthy cooking goes a long way in my kitchen, so then I made a loaf of whole wheat brioche.

Actually, I guess I could pass this off as healthy with the whole wheat element, if you can overlook the butter. Hey, it was only six tablespoons.


Sunday, July 7, 2013

Corozal Lobster Fest 2013

Yesterday was Corozal's 2nd Annual Lobster Fest. David and I checked it out, along with our friends, Colleen, Bruce, and Dianna, and thought I would share a few pics from the event.

This year's shindig was held on the street that fronts the area known as Miami Beach.

Granted, there's no sand, so no beach, but it's right on the bay and comes with some great views.

It was great to see all the families and little kids running about. Some happier...

...than others. 
But what street fair wouldn't be complete without a jumpy house to make even the crankiest kid have fun?

I was fascinated by this guy's dreadlocks. The way they moved when he shook his head was very cool. 

But, of course, the main reason everyone was there was for the lobster. Here are a bunch that were just cut and put on the grill.

Actually, this was the only place selling lobster, so they were doing a booming business.

Throw in a few rounds of ice-cold Belikins and some quality pool time, and we had all the makings of a great day.

Friday, July 5, 2013


Here in Corozal, what we might lack by way of gourmet ingredients, we make up for during this time of year with lobster season.

Restaurants run special lobster dishes, my Facebook friends have been posting some of their homemade lobster delights, and we even have a Lobster Fest happening tomorrow.

In short, it's a crush of love for this crustacean.

But here's the thing (actually, two): I have never cooked lobster and, if memory serves me, I've only eaten it once in my life...and that was probably 30 years ago.

How could this be? Well, I vividly remember going to the grocery store with my mom and seeing lobsters climbing all over one another in a large aquarium. Their poor claws were cuffed with rubber bands, and I just wanted to set them free. Yes, I was a goofy, weird child.

As I got older and learned more about cooking, I discovered that the way one cooks a lobster is generally when they are alive and kicking, and dropping them into a pot of boiling water. The other method I read about calls for you to insert the sharp tip of a chef's knife into the live lobster's head.

Not gonna' happen. If I bought a live lobster, it would have a name before it even left the store and there was no way I could bring about its demise. Now clearly my logic has lots of flaws. I eat all kinds of other foods that come from the sea and land that obviously were alive at one point. But I guess the difference is that when I buy shrimp, or beef, or pork, or whatever, I don't have to kill it first before I eat it. Yes, not only was a goofy, weird child, but I'm a goofy, weird adult. And a wussy baby.

But with all the pomp around here about lobster, I wondered if there was some solution I could come up with that didn't require me to commit lobstercide.

After perusing a number of recipes, I landed on the idea of poaching lobster tails...

...in butter, then adding a bunch of other yummy things like garlic. And tomatoes. And pasta.

I had pasta dough already in the freezer, so the only thing I had to do was use the pasta machine to roll it out and cut it (after I thawed it out, of course).

While that was drying out a bit, I chopped up my tomatoes and garlic, then took one stick of butter and cut into about tablespoon size pieces.

I enlisted David to take pictures of this lobster-palooza and cook the pasta. Truly a man of many talents. He was also hungry, which helped.

For the lobster tails, I wanted to get the shells off. Using a pair of kitchen shears, I tackled the top of the shell first...

...then the belly side.


And I didn't freak out for even one second.

Next, I cut the lobster into chunks...

...and started up my butter poach. In a medium saute pan, I put in 1 tablespoon of water and brought that to a simmer. One by one,  the chunks of butter were added.

You want to make sure each chunk is whisked in, before adding the next. Also, keep the heat on the low side so the butter won't burn.

Once all the butter was incorporated, I added the lobster chunks.

Over the next five minutes, I gently spooned the melted butter over the lobster meat and turned the meat bits over one time about halfway through the poach.

While that was going on, David had dropped the pasta into a pot of boiling, salted water. After about six minutes, it was good to go, drained, and put into serving bowls.

The lobster bits got placed on top of the pasta, and the last touches were put on the sauce.

I added the minced garlic and chopped tomatoes and let that all simmer for just a minute.

The tomatoes let go of some of their juices and softened a bit.

Then all that lovely, buttery sauce got poured over the lobster and pasta, and a bit of chopped basil completed the dish.

So? How did it taste? Not bad; not bad at all. Needless to say it was rich, with the butter sauce. We both thought it could have used a smidge more salt and a little kick, like maybe from some crushed red pepper flakes.

While eating it, I thought that if the lobster was cut into smaller bits, it and the butter, tomato, garlic, basil sauce might work great with some grilled pieces of bread -- rather like a bruschetta.

Would I make lobster again? Probably. We're lucky that it's easy to get this time of year, and it makes a nice change of pace for our dinner menus.

Am I ready to take down a live, whole lobster?