Monday, February 25, 2013

Good morning.......

We're getting back to the hum drum of daily life so that must mean it's time to get back on our horses soon and get out of Dodge.      We had a couple of trips planned in the MH but I felt the need to stay put for a bit and enjoy what we have in "The Bubble".    We'll head out in about 2 weeks.  
Meanwhile, Andy and Mason came on the coldest weekend of the year but we burned truck loads of $$$$ and had the pool in the 90's and the hot tub at 98 so they swam and played all day.    They are amazing little fish, bobbing and diving and (hopefully) only came  out to pee !!!    

Meanwhile, I am totally inspired by the colorful memories of Costa Rica and I'm honing my shaky skills once again.     I have several great  Red Eyed Tree Frog shots that I hope to capture.  

This is rendered with colored pencil.    I am not comfortable with watercolor so I revert to either graphite or CP.   I like the fiddly details and CP allows me to work it over and over.   The frog is far from complete but I may try another practice pose and then decide which one to do for  real.    I am  enjoying it but finding that my eyes are giving me fits.  
I just ordered a reading/craft light......I researched before deciding on the BlueMax lights and I'll let you know if they are better than the Ott lights as advertised.    If so, I may replace some of the other lighting in the house.     I suspect that cataracts are creeping into my lovely blues and I need to get that checked out.  

I actually played golf the other day....and didn't do so bad after taking about 2 weeks off.    With the knee and traveling and apathy, my game has suffered.   When I'm out there, I feel determined to do some serious work and get back to enjoying my clubs once again.   But I'm basically lazy.  

AND, for those of you wondering how I'm doing on the change in my diet......well.......    it's a sad story.    I had my labs done before we went to CR.    Both the Dr and I anticipated great numbers and the staff thought I looked so healthy and thinner (note....not thin, but thinner ).    So, we came home, I got the results in the mail and there was NO CHANGE.!!    6 months of not eating meat, fish, chicken, sugar, artificial sweeteners, dairy and NOTHING CHANGED.    I was more than disappointed.   Granted, I did lose weight, I do feel better, I sleep better but I still can't believe that my CHOL is exactly the same.....Now, granted, the numbers aren't so bad but still.........So, that tells me that it's not what I eat, it's who I am......and unless I take statins, (which I won't ), I can't change anything.    So, altho I'm not really eating meat yet or sugar (well, just a bit) and only have had a bit of cheese , I have eased up and I'm a bit more relaxed about the food thing.    And I've gone back to my favorite Starbuck mochas.       That's more info than you wanted this morning so I'm done................

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Looking back and ahead......

I am left with memories of the colors of Costa Rica.   It is an impoverished country but they brighten their lives with pastel painted houses and gorgeous tropical flowers.     Despite the abundance and varieties of orchids, I came to like the heliconias the best.    They vary by size and shape and come in colors from a light coral with yellow to a deeper red with orange.   This one I snapped in the lobby of the hotel as we waited for our ride to the airport.   

 I'll never forget the brilliant scarlet macaws.   They are large, noisy, vibrant and curious.  

How can I not like the red eyed tree frog as my favorite jungle creature?    He seems to symbolize Costa Rica and his image is everywhere.   
 The greenery was oversized, magnificent and sculptured.

And, guess who is in the area??    They arrived yesterday at Universal, just in time for the rain but it will a nice respite from the ugliness of the news and coldness of the  snow.   I can't wait to hear about their trip to the Hogwarts Castle today.   

Monday, February 11, 2013

Over but not forgotten...........

 We are home.    It was a memorable 10 days and we are left with privileged experiences and opportunities.........................and one of us is still harboring a respiratory bug but it didn't slow us down one bit.    
Mindy, the artist, has been involved with the Sloth Sanctuary for many many years and includes it on her tours.    Judy, the owner, is originally from Alaska and married a Costa Rican and they bought beautiful land and settled in.    They received a sick and injured sloth and cared for it and thus began a life that now includes over 150 of these delightful creatures.   They receive sloths regularly and try and release as many as possible.   They have tiny babies in incubators to the oldest and original, Buttercup,    

 comfortable in her swinging lounge.   She is 18 years old.    I won't go into sloth details but they are very interesting in their habits and life cycle.    We did see one in the wild on our drive one day.  
The grounds are beautiful and so well cared for with birds and flowers.    Students come from the world to study and they welcome volunteers for short periods but mostly it is maintained by staff and supported by tours and donations.   If you go on a cruise and dock at Limon, CR, this visit is an option and I highly recommend it. 
 Oprah is this little girls name.     She is a different type than Buttercup as you can see by the hair.  

 After we arrived and had a wonderful lunch, we were informed that we were to be filmed as part of a documentary by the Discovery Channel.    Mindy drew and spoke to the camera and us about the details of a sloth and what to notice to make it authentic.   ( I have no intention of drawing one but I learned a lot while she was being filmed.)    We all had our cameras and Nancy instructed us on capturing a particular angle or exposure.  
 I tried to stay out of range as much as possible but with two cameras shooting, it was not easy.    It should be out in about a year.    Look for me, I'm easy to spot with the bad hair.  

 Leaving the Sanctuary, we headed to the coast and passed miles and miles of banana plantations.   They keep them in the blue plastic to protect them.  
 We stayed overnight on the Caribbean Coast in a lovely tropical hotel.    We all said that we would have liked 2 nights there but soon it was off to another rainforest and research center.   Nancy, the photographer, had a lovely butterfly choose her  in the Butterfly house.    
And so, we headed back to San Jose, a farewell dinner and the trip home the next day.   Our group was very interesting, very compatible and I learned so much about the country and the eco systems and how serious Costa Rica is in safeguarding their unique habitats and rich diversity.  
I would go back in a minute............but first I need to get rid of this bug.      

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flying objects

One day we headed out to a farm that rescues macaws.    The gentleman has a huge aviary but with no roof so the birds fly free.    Over the years, they have bred and the babies come back as well.    He stands and calls them and they fly to him, for peanuts of course !    It was amazing.    It was hard to get crisp pics, even with a tripod due to all the movement.    Due to time, I am uploading pics just as they are with NO editing..,.They are what you see.  

Besides the scarlet macaws, there were some chestnut mandible toucans.....

Trying to capture them in flight was very hard..    They are very large birds and were swooping within inches of our heads.   

There was also a great green macaw which is endangered and rare in the wild.    

He also acquired two jaguars about 15 years ago as they were destroying cattle in the area and were to be killed, so he took them in.   They are magnificent.....they are also very endangered.  
He raises brahman cattle and has a large water buffalo which Nancy had to ride.  
Yesterday, we went on a boat ride down the river nearby.        Along the way we saw this Green Iguana....He was about 3 ft long with a turquoise head and kept making strange motions with his head.....
Nearby was this smaller Green Iguana.    As the larger one advanced, we figured they were male and female and

we saw what we thought was pretty rough mating....note the smaller one on the bottom.    He kept biting the neck.    We stayed for awhile and he dragged it about.    It wasn't until we got back and viewed the pics, that Mindy said they were two males so instead of a romantic interlude, we witnessed a murder !!!!!!
A bit farther down the river, we saw this Emerald Basilisk along the bank.....about 2 feet long but not a good pic.  
We also went for a walk thru another rainforest ....we saw some lizards and many many orchids.   We were also in a cacao field and they made chocolate they way the early Indians made it.  

These are cacao pods....about the size of an acorn squash.  
Yesterday on the grounds, our guide found this lovely green and black frog.   About average frog size.   

Pretty flower but have no idea what it is.  
Today is our last day at the Lodge.   These are the walkways that connect our rooms with the main lodge.   Helpful in the torrential rain of which we have had not a drop.....they say this is unusual but we appreciate it.    I came down with a good head cold but I think it's fading and it hasn't hindered me at all.....
Today some of us stayed behind for art lessons and some drove to Waterfall gardens.   They said it was beautiful but we enjoyed the down time.    Tomorrow we head closer to the coast to see the sloths.  

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Into the creepy world ..............

We left San Jose and on our way to Selva Verde Lodge, we stopped at a small local chocolate company called Cibu.    We were treated to a sampling with explanations BEFORE dinner.    The owners are using local products and gaining an excellent reputation in the international chocolate world.   
 Of course, we ordered some to take home.         We arrived after dark at this lodge in the middle of a rainforest.   It is quite rustic, rather like a Boy Scout camp with fairly comfortable accomodations.   The food is simple:    rice and beans, salad, fresh fruit and juices and fish or chicken.   I'm eating local so enjoying some desserts (flan ! ) and fish.    There is no A/C, TV or radio and at times, it would be nice  to have A/C in the rooms but there is always a breeze and the humidity is not bad.    I use bug spray but most don't....and they still bite me.     We went for a 3 hr  hike into the rainforest.    Aside from learning about the flora, we saw a snake, a red frog and spider monkeys.   That apparently is a rare thing.

 We had to go over a long bouncy suspension bridge.

 We saw an owl butterfly.....
 Later, our guide and a hotel guide, set up a photo opportunity with a red eyed tree frog and a blue jean frog.   The little red frog is very very tiny and is the same one I spotted in the forest.....less than an inch.

 The tree frog is larger....maybe 2 plus inches.    They are nocturnal so more cooperative in the light of day.

We spend time with Nancy on the outings, learning to shoot in different situations and then spend time with Mindy with art lessons in the afternoon during Happy Hour !!    They are a fun pair and I'm getting very comfortable with my camera and lens.     Gotta run....heading out on a boat ride  to look at birds.    

Sunday, February 3, 2013


So far, so wonderful.     After a short flight from Orlando into San Jose (the kids were oohing and ahhing during the roller coaster descent, the adults not so much ! ) we arrived to  dry sunny weather.    The Hotel Bougainville is lovely with art and sculpture filling every space and an 8 acre garden to wander freely about.
We met our eclectic group and I think we are a well matched group.    Mindy, the botanical artist from Gainesville and Nancy, the professional photographer from Durango are a perfect pair to guide us through this adventure.    Others in our group are a husband and wife from NJ...he a child psychologist and she a tutor....they both dabble in drawing birds and animals.    A Dr in research genetics from Yale who recently retired and also lives in Gainesville.   She layers microscopic pics of the cell structure of a plant and overlays a photo of the plant....all done using slide film.   She is having a show at the Natural History Museum in Gainesville in April.    A younger artist from NJ who does beautiful botanical art but earns her way by doing massage, reflexology and ancient body therapies.   A lovely woman who lives in Peru and Toronto and travels widely and does gorgeous colored pencil work....but mostly she adores her grandchildren.   She does work for Crayola and Thermos.   She is so interesting.   A tall , serious woman from Alberta Canada is a teacher of science of some sort and draws constantly and does very beautiful botanical art.    She is very happy in the warm climate.     And then there's us !     We also have a guide named Jimmy who has a degree in Tourism.   He is young and easy on the eyes.   He knows everything about the country, the flora and fauna and even photography.
 I am learning slowly about photographing flowers and they don't always turn out .    Blogger is giving me fits this morning so I am only posting a few to give you an idea.    These were taken using two different cameras, 3 different lens by two different people.   No tripod, just trying different settings.  And it was windy yesterday so much of what we did is not so great blown up....

This interesting item is a seed pod, hanging from a tree mostly barren of leaves.   We managed to grab one and Jimmy cut it open.   Normally, it dries a bit, pops open and the seeds are eaten and carried off by the birds.
 To discourage birds from opening them too soon, they are filled with a milky, sticky burning liquid which each of us managed to get on our fingers....its like tree sap and doesn't want to come off.   We asked Jimmy the name and he said scientific or common.....we said common and he said "whores balls" sounds better with a spanish accent.

 We got in our comfortable 20 passenger bus with our driver and headed over to Lenkester Gardens.   There we met the director and a lovely botanical artist from Italy who divides her time between the two countries.   Her work is light and fresh and lovely.    I had hoped to pick up a small card but the gift shop was closed by the time we finished.    This Botanical garden is known worldwide for its work with orchids and has over 1800 species.       It was very cloudy out so the colors seem subdued but you get the idea.  

One of the more interesting plants that we see everywhere, including in large pots at the hotel, is the helliconia.   It grows to be about 3 feet long and is a brilliant reddish orange.   
 It is related to the bird of paradise.
Today, we will leave here and stop at a small chocolate factory and then a Toucan Preserve before arriving at the rain forest.    No TV there so no Superbowl but since we can't even keep track of the days or the news of the world, we are enjoying our hours absorbed in the beauty of nature.

PS:   For those of you wondering about the hair.......and I know there are many....   It got whacked off some more and the grey is gone....well, diminished and altho I asked for blonde repeatedly, it isn't.   Its a light brownish, touched with my grey, a light blond and is gradually fading to an all over lightish brownish shade....sort of.   I prefer not to look at it or dwell on it but I still do a doubletake when I look in the mirror and wonder who I am.

PPS:   Not sure when we'll have internet again.... tried a new app for the iPhone...Mag light with magnifying glass.....or something like that.   Gives off a very bright light , useful for searching for things in the dark while your spouse is still asleep, or highlighting small things and it magnifys an object  for the camera.....try it, its free.