Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Breadfruit x 2

In a comment to the post with pictures of Sweetie playing with Fortuno, Zooms (Free Spirit) remarked that I must have breadfruit trees because of all the huge brown leaves on the grass.

Yes, I do have several breadfruit trees, of 2 varieties, seedless and seeded.

This is a seedless breadfruit

And this is a seeded one

And both varieties have those huge, elaborate leaves, that turn rather ugly brown as soon as they fall down, sometimes even before they fall down, but they richly contribute to my organic compost pile.

These are the leaves of a seedless breadfruit.

And these are the leaves of a seeded one.

I admit that by looking at the trees I can't see the difference between them (though I can see the difference between their fruits, when ripened) but my more experienced in ethno botany friends can, and they tell me that the fruit of the seedless variety needs to be picked BEFORE the fruit falls down, because, when falling it would splash all around the ground and make an unpalatable mess. So I have been privy to observing a few attempts at harvesting the ripe enough fruit straight from the tree. It usually involves a long and straight tree branch with a knife inserted at the top of it. The knife is then attempted to be inserted in the fruit and the fruit swiftly jerked from the tree. Sneaky!

Ursula (the owner of the casita and all the fruits) and Magha (en ethno botanist) plan a strategy to pick a seedless breadfruit on a high branch.

Then you can make tostones from the breadfruit. Some, like Andres, swear, they taste better that tostones made from plantains, but to me they taste equally good, just different: a bit drier, a bit crispier, with a hint of taste of fried potatoes. Andres's mother cooks breadfruit among other starchy veggies for her chicken sopon. And i am sure there are tons of other uses of breadfruit that I haven't yet experienced.

The seeded variety, on the other hand, you not only let fall down to the ground, but let lie down for about two days and then pick the seeds, who look and taste (after being boiled with salt and onion) like chestnuts.
These breadfruit seeds not only have been left out for too long, they also had a misfortune of being driven over by Andres's jeep. So they are not fit for human consumption. But you can see what the seeds look like.

P.S. I call breadfruit fruit, (or fruta in Spanish) but my neighbors in the barrio Los Vegas call it - in Spanish - verdura = vegetable.

Wanderwomen at Las Casas de la Selva

Eye on the Rainforest conducts – besides research in rainforest protection and sustainable forestry - also various educational and edutainment activities.
When I was there on my first visit in March, a group of "Wanderwomen" came for a weekend visit.

They arrived late morning and after choosing their respective accommodations (in tents or in a bunkhouse)

they had a buffet lunch with Las Casas staff and volunteers

After lunch, off they went for a rainforest appreciation tour lead by 3T, Eye on the Rainforest’s president, and an adventureous wanderwoman herself,
To enjoy the vistas of the mountains and valleys

Of wild rivers, waterfalls and naturals swimholes, To learn about many types of trees and a plethora of other plants living there including beautiful wild orchids
When they came back it was a time for a rainforest jewelry making class
And a salsa. merengue and bomba dance class – and practice - after dinner.
Wouldn’t you want to follow their example and enjoy a similar visit to the rainforest with a group of friends – or your family?

Monday, May 19, 2008

My first moon flower!

In March I have planted Moon flower seeds (Ipomoea Alba), because I wanted to create a moon garden. Fortunately (because I moved since) I could not immediately decide where I wanted all of them, so I put only half of the seeds in the flower bed and half in containers. And a few days ago, when I returned home at 5 pm I spotted the first moon flower opening.

The above picture - and the one below show how it looked at 5 pm.

And now the same flower at 5:30 pm : almost fully developed.

And finally at 7 pm:

P.S. And - if I am not mistaken - this is the 100's post of my blog!

Flaming June... in the casita!

When I blogged about visiting Flaming June in Ponce, I mentioned how much the model in the painting reminds me of my daughter... but I did not post a photo of my daughter for you to compare them.
Now daughter came for a visit (Mother's Day, you know, is obliging :-) ) over a long weekend and I managed to catch her sleeping under the mosquito net.

Electric bill and.... linguistic confusion???

When I moved from Aguada to Patillas I asked the electric authority to close my account there, but not on the last day of March, when i moved, but on April 10, because a friend were staying in my Aguada appartment till that time and she needed electricity.

So, come April 11 I went to Guayama to the local office of the same electric authority to enquire whether my account in Aguada had, in fact, been closed. They said it was not. I then asked them to please, pretty please, close it, since I no longer lived there. I also gave them my current adress to send me my deposit.
They asked me if I wanted to have an account at the new place, but I repeated that the adress is solely for them to mail me the last bill and send me back my deposit. I explained that I stayed at the new place temporarily, and my friend, who owned the house wanted to keep the account in her name. OK, they understood. They were very helpful and gave me the amount I owed for March (it was $74) and allowed me to pay it there, but could not give me a meter reading.
Oh, well, a month have passed and I received a very strange electric bill: with a new meter number, for 8 days of use (though only about $8, which was a BIG difference from my first electric bill in Aguada, also for 8 days) + unpaid previous bill suspiciously close to the amount I paid for March in Aguada.
I though it was a serious mistake and planned to go to the electric authority to try to straighten it out, but was under a few deadlines, so I postponed it.
Then I got an email from my friend that it appears I changed the electric account in her house (the casita I live in) from her name to mine, although I was not supposed to do that, but "whatever makes me happy".

No, it did not make me happy at all... but by now I am getting used to Puerto Rico, so it did not make me mad, either.
It just made me shrug my arms in resignation: now it seemed to me a normal occurence on the island dealing with local authorities: EVERYTHING that can - and a lot of things that you can't imagine could -WILL get messed up due to, say, "linguistic confusion"...
Because it can't be a total incompetence, or can it?

Adventure? or comfort? or, perhaps, a bit of both?

Sorry, this is not a good picture. You can't tell there is a sea under the sky, can you?

I love adventure. At least until it becomes more than a tad too uncomfortable. Then I tend to switch to comfort... until it becomes too boring.

And there lies a dilemma: how to make comfort more adventurous and/or adventure more comfortable.

That's what happening to me now: I thoroughly enjoyed the casita, its rustic charms, it's wild garden and even wilder surroundings. It reminded me of my vacations in Poland, when my family rented a converted railway wagon, with a living/dining/kitchen in the middle and 2 (small) bedrooms adjoining 2 (very small) bathrooms at both ends of the wagon. It was fun.

And so was the casita when I was working at a leisurely pace. But when I got into tight deadlines with a necessity to frequently touch base with other people over the phone and Internet, the reality of not having either of these conveniences AND having to climb down and up the mountain lugging my heavy and sizable laptop every time I needed to check something out, quickly became a major nuisance, making my work inefficient.

Some time ago I mentioned falling in love with a view and even considering purchasing a house in an attempt to get more comfort without sacrificing adventure.

Well, as it turned out, the house with a view is not for sale, but it is for rent - after being renovated - and I am to be the lucky renter in about two months, when I come back from a trip abroad.

The house is accessible by car, my cellphone works there, there is satellite TV reception and Internet can be had at least over the phone line - or so I am assured. And it has two tremendous terraces with panoramic views of mountains, two valleys and the Caribbean sea.

The layout is not exactly what I would call suitable for my lifestyle (after all it was built for a jibarro? PuertoRican family, not for a single expat retiree with rather different needs and expectations), but agreeable, nevertheless, and thus it could be a lucky compromise between comfort and adventure .... at least for a while ;-)

P.S. I'll post photos of the house itself when the renovation is complete.

Trouble with cats

Missy, my now 10 year old female calico cat seemed not to be overly happy either with moving to the jungle or with accepting a new and not neutered male kitten, Fortuno.

I know, he looks so young and so Innocent, nobody would suspect him of any mischief... yeah, right!

He is not neutered, because his (and the casita's) owner does not want him to be. She is under the impression that it will make him a better mouser.

Vet says this is wrong, that he'll only make a nuisance of himself, marking his territory with urine and getting into fights with other cats.

Well, he already started marking his territory, which is a nuisance to me, but he is becoming an even bigger nuisance to all my other cats, because he constantly harasses them sexually, no matter whether they are females or males.

Rascal, my big male tomcat (neutered, of course) is patient with Fortuno, because he is used to being used as a gymnastic instrument by kittens, and Fortuno is too small and too short to be able to reach to Rascal's private parts. When he grabs him by a fold of his neck and tries to mount him, he ends somewhere in the middle of Rascal's back and Rascal shakes him down whenever he looses his patience.

But the females are seriously annoyed. Sweetie is more nimble and quicker than Fortuno, so she outruns him. Besides, she has claws, so she can scratch him, too.

But poor Missy, old and no claws, she is seriously bothered by Fortuno's sexual advances. First she started hiding inside the house, to avoid him, but last Wednesday, when I was away all day, and could not order Fortuno to take a time off by locking him in the guest bedroom, I discovered upon returning, that Missy was missing.

Thursday, Friday, Saturday - not a sight of Missy. I alerted all the neighbors in the barrio, even many visitors to the barrio, stopping every day at the neighborhood bar and chatting about my missing cat both in English and my best Spanish. Finally on Saturday one of the Vegas brothers (the barrio is called Los (not Las) Vegas, because it is inhabited by several Vegas brothers) said he heard a cat at the quebrada, high up on the mountain.
I wanted to go there myself to search for her, but he told me the terrain was too difficult for me and he was going to go there on Sunday and fetch the cat if it was, in fact, Missy.

But come Sunday morning and Missy waltzes in , and, as if she has never been missing, jumps up on the kitchen table and takes her favorite place in the fruit bowl woven from palm leaves. Did not even seem to be hungry.

She did that disappearing act once before: four years ago when I went to Spain and left her and Rascal temporarily with my daughter at her Atlanta condo, Misssy jumped one day from the second floor balcony and was lost for over a year. Then, miraculously, after 13 months! almost to the day, she showed up waiting at the condos garage, in the place I park my car whenever I am living abroad.

Cats... sometimes they can give you more trouble than kids, can't they?

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pumpkin harvest

You say "tis" not the season for pumpkin harvest? Well, I did not know it was, either, so I was acting like a total moron when Andres came on Monday morning, climbing the mountain to the casita with his jeep (the only thing, other than legs, to get you there), delivering some of my heavy (cat litter, cat food, canned goods, etc) and nonperishable purchases.

He inspected the property briefly to see if something needed doing and bent over a vine which originated in the tall grass by the slope and started spreading over the grass.

'Do you want to take it out?' he asked.

'Take out what?' I answered with a question.

'The pumpkin' said Andres.

Silly me, I thought he asked if I wanted to kill the plant and said ' no, please, I think it is going to bear fruit some day'.

'It already has' laughed Andres 'and it is big'.

And he lifted that tremendous pumpkin. Which awed me and then scared me, since I had no idea what to do with it and started imagining all the work I would have to do to learn how to cook it and then to eat it. Would it take weeks? Months? After all the thing was as big as a Thanksgiving turkey.

'Please, take it to Las Casas' I offered "generously". 'There are a lot more of you there'.

'Ok, I take half of it' he agreed and cut the pumpkin with a machete, but refused to take any more, so I was left with half of the pumpkin to cook and eat.

The problem is, I did not like any of the American pumpkin dished I ate - like pumpkin pie or anything else involving a heavy dose of sugar.

I remembered that in Poland I liked marinated pumpkin - sort of a pickle, but I never made it myself and did not the recipe.

But there is internet, so I googled "dynia" (pumpkin in Polish) and chose a recipe that used the least amount of sugar. Here goes:

Polish marinated pumpkin

1 medium pumpkin, skin and soft parts from the inside removed, cut up in 1 cm (or about half an inch) squares.

Boil 1 liter of water with 10 tea spoons of brown sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, cloves and allspice. When sugar dissolved add pumpkin and bring to boil again. Add a cup of vinegar and remove from the stove. Spoon immediately into clean glass jars. Ready to eat after a day, but can keep a lot longer, if you pasteurize the jars. It is yummy. So yoummy, in fact, that even Andres, who does not like pumpkin ate it with gusto and asked for more.

The next day I was having lunch at Las Casas and they treated me to some of my pumpkin made by 3t.

3t's baked pumpkin

She used the entire half of this huge pumpkin, removed seeds and the soft stuff from the middle, poured soy sauce over the meat, added pepper and sesame seeds, turned the pumpkin skin up and baked.

It was great! But I did not want the heat from the oven, so I tried a quick and dirty version of it:

Sliced some pumpkin wedges, marinated them in soy sauce, and put into a heavy iron skillet, over a bed of onion and olive oil and sauteed. It was surprisingly good for being a quick and dirty version. And took the same amount of time as the steak I made to go with it.

But I still had more pumpkin and my pumpkin culinary ambitions increased so I googled some "gourmet" and "pumpkin" and found a southern (US southern that is) recipe for a gourmet pumpkin soup, which might have tons of calories, but is to die for.

Here is this recipe, adapted, because I used diced raw pumpkin instead of cooked and mashed.

Gourmet pumpkin soup

In a generous amount of butter saute 1 large onion, 4 large carrots and 3 sticks of celery + a large bowl of diced pumpkin. When soft, add vegetable broth and let it cook slowly for about 20 minutes. Add 2 cups of half and half, 2 tablespoons of curry, some pepper and parsley. Heat briefly and process (in batches, as needed) in a food processor. Serve with fresh parsley and chives. Aah, heaven in your mouth!

I am afraid I might get addicted to pumpkin, which I did not know was so versatile and should never be ruined by making a pumpkin pie of it, brrr.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Sweetie has foud a playmate!

Ursula's casita came with Ursula's newly found cat, Fortuno, a kitten, really, about the same age as Sweetie (7-8 months the vet tells me) and about the same size and shape as her.

At first they did not really know how to react to each other:

then engaged in a little show of one-upmanship:

but after a few days they became pals.

Sunday, May 4, 2008


This is one of my absolute favorites among flowers here in Puerto Rico.

I found this spectacular, well established specimen at Rincon Beach Club.

Enjoy it with me!

Rainy season at a resort

During the break from blogging I went back to the west coast on an unfinished business and stayed briefly at a lovely resort in Anasco, south of Rincon, called Rincon Beach Resort.

The resort has a very nice, wide and uncrowded beach and pleasant amenities: a large pool with a swim up bar and a snack bar nearby, a huge spa, etc. etc.

That's how it is being enjoyed in the rainy season:

Two weeks without blogging!

It ain't easy to blog without internet where your laptop is and without your laptop - and downloaded photos - where you have an internet connection.
So two weeks went before I got internet and laptop together.

I'll try to make a good use of this opportunity and create a couple of posts before the nect hiatus