Friday, May 10, 2013

A Food Author is Born

It seems my distractions have been many lately and I've had little time to sit and update on all the comings and goings - the BIG NEWS is this:

I'm currently writing for a new FOOD JOURNAL called HOT PINK APRON  as a regular contributor and this month of May marks my second article published to the site.  I'm having a blast and really am enjoying the new interaction of hobnobbing with like minded foodies out there.

My desire to eat clean combined with my bazillion digestive issues, a MAJOR food allergy and an intolerance to gluten have left me no choice but to become a ninja in the kitchen.

In this case it's paying off as I get to share my experiences in the kitchen with you here and on Hot Pink Apron.

April's Article:  You Can't Name it THAT! Chocolate Cake

May's Article:  A Post for the Histamine Challenged and the Picky Eater

Enjoy & drop me a line with some feedback if you are so inclined!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Squee! I Made the National Post paper AGAIN!

I have to tell you how surprised I am about how much I suddenly love cooking.  It's my new creative outlet born from a quest for whole food, clean eating, no preservatives, nothing processed and allergy friendly.  This past weekend I catered our yoga retreat for 12 people with ease converting more than one person to eating kale and one woman tried beets for the first time since childhood and she liked them!

So I guess since it's close to launch and my first article is handed in and approved I'll let this cat out of the bag:  I'm one of eight women who will be contributing to a new on-line FOOD MAGAZINE titled HOT PINK APRON. 

Here is the link to the National Post - I even have a head shot!

Gotta run I have a cake to make.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Bumming Around Leon, Nicaragua

Leon, Nicaragua is the closest city to our new home in Salinas Grandes.  This is where we will come to  do groceries in the big central market or at the Pali which is believe it or not owned by none other than Wal-mart.  We spent three days here puttering around exploring the down town core.   Leon is not a touristy town it survives on a local economy made up of the Universities and local business and is surrounded by some of the biggest agriculture farms in Nicaragua. 

We stayed at Los Balcones Hotel which was really pretty inside the courtyard and the rooms had HOT WATER so I was stoked - even if it was my first time in a suicide shower. Clearly I survived! 

Me seconds before I tried out the suicide shower.

View from our balcony from our hotel room.
Fin pointing to a bird inside the courtyard of a restaurant while sipping fresh juice.

There are SO many really great restaurants in Leon I will have to write a post just about food.  We tried only a few restaurants this time including a sushi bar that could have been set in Manhattan it was so swank and we are looking forward to exploring and dining when we return next winter.  We ducked into little bistros to enjoy a cold beverage and a light snack often as it was a reprieve form the heat. And well, why not we were on holiday!

We stopped for a cold beer and a snack in one of the many fine food establishments in Leon.

There are several big old Catholic churches including The Cathedral de Leon which is the largest Catholic church in Central America.  It was beautiful inside and was all decked out for the Festival of Mary's Conception on December 8th.  For the week leading up to the feast every evening at dusk the streets were filled with kids lighting firecrackers.  It was quite something to see and hear

Big Daddy P & Fin walking inside the cathedral.

A view from inside the Cathedral looking out at another church across the square.

This is a tribute to Mary.  People hang the hand painted houses to ask Mary to watch over them in their homes.

Outside the steps of the Cathedral

Aside from wandering through the markets and churches and stopping at restaurants we went to the
Museo de Arte Fundación Ortiz-Guardián which was well worth the visit.  They had some beautiful Renaissances art and the second building housed modern art by Central American artists in multiple mediums. This gallery even has a couple of Picasso's sketches!  We were not allowed to take photographs in the gallery ... so you'll just have to come visit us and see for yourself!

Saturday, March 2, 2013

National Post Gastropost - Bacon VRS Buffalo Cauliflower

Hey Michelle,

Congrats — you made it into today's National Post!
In case you can't pick up a copy of the newspaper,
I've taken a PDF,check it out!
Thanks again for picking sides in our
latest tasty battle, and enjoy the rest
of your weekend.
Team Gastropost


Thursday, February 28, 2013

So This Happened Yesterday ...

The funny thing  was that I was having a bad kitchen day and this meal was the one I pulled out of the hat to save dinner and The National Post's Gastropost thought it looked pretty yummy too.

I've been cooking a lot lately and am really enjoying toying and modifying recipes to suit my gluten free, meat free and dairy free diet.  My husband won't eat any of it, he is a meat and cheese kinda guy, but Fin and I and my friends are enjoying the Mother Ship kitchen experiments.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Operation Freedom Forty

So, this is what operation freedom forty looks like people.  Our new house is located nearby the fishing village of Salinas Grandes, which is on the coast of Northern Nicaragua just about a 25 minute drive into the city of Leon.  

We were told in December that our house would be turn key move in ready in February. Looks like we'll be moving in next week!   Don't worry we never believed for a second we'd be closing on this house in 60 days from that day in early December.  We are in fact aiming to move in this fall for the entire winter. 

We are having a zinc roof put on the house.  The metal framing is complete and the zinc will follow hopefully in the next two weeks. The zinc will be covered by a layer of clay tiles. (Seen in the previous post.) The ends of the clay will be filled in with cement to keep the bats and lizards OUT! The inside of the roof will be lined with cane which looks really nice when complete. The cane itself is treated to detract bugs before it is hung.  Any metal framing will be covered with wood and then stained a natural colour.  

Front entrance of the house.  We will build a dip pool out front here. The water will help cool the house.

Nothing moves quickly when building a house in any country.  This house began in early October. The house is only 900 square feet.  If you look closely at  the photo above you can see the workmen are beginning to smooth the walls under and around the windows.

Side view of the house. Ocean to the left.

We have plans to add natural fencing down our lot lines comprised of short palm trees for shade and privacy and cactus for security.  These plants are native to this area and once we are down there living we can spend the time to keep them watered so they will establish.

Other side of the house with side door.  The outdoor bathroom & shower will go on this side.
We have seen plans and actually stayed in a hotel with an outdoor shower that drained into the root bed of the tree which was within the privacy wall of the outdoor bathroom.  We have definite plans to work with a similar model for our second bath.

Of course Big Daddy P has been researching solar power for the hot water heater in the shower and to add to along the line so that we can support the electricity to power the house. Electricity in Nicaragua can be spotty and is very expensive. Besides that, we like the idea of existing off grid as much as possible. 

We have left a large portion of our lot on the back side of the house undeveloped at this time. We want to see how life in Nicaragua will unfold for us before we commit to building anything more. If all is working out great then a two car garage with a full two bedroom two bathroom suite with 360 degree views of the ocean and volcanos will be built on top of the garage as our main living space. That will leave the little house as a full time rental and to house our guests. 

Given that we've bought and built on a kick ass surf break and we are only 2km to Puerto Sandino surf break we anticipate a lot of visitors and a healthy rental return on our investment!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Hate Grocery Store Plastic Bags? Me Too.

If the winter blahs have you trapped in side and you need a project to do I have one for you!  Do you have a stock pile of plastic grocery store bags hanging around?  You don't have a giant dog to pick up after and use up those plastic bags? Well how about a crochet project!

One of our local artists, Mary Helen Ellis, is a client at the yoga studio where I guide classes.  She came in with the most amazing yoga mat bag I had ever seen.  She had crocheted it out of plastic grocery store bags!  Yoga and crocheting or knitting go hand in hand (pun intended) as both lend themselves to the practice and study of movement meditation allowing the hands to be busy while the mind gets to relax. So it was not a surprise to see Mary Helen was mastering both.

I have a disdain for plastic grocery store bags. I usually carry my own reusable grocery bags but when I saw this yoga mat bag I was totally stoked about the possibilities of reusing bags so they don't end up in our landfills or worse yet our beautiful ocean.

Just before Christmas Mary Helen gifted me with my very own hand bag crocheted out of grocery bags.  The gift came with a caveat - that I learn to crochet my own bags.  Mary Helen is a self taught crocheter and she has confidence in my abilities...

Crocheted from plastic grocery store bags by Mary Helen Ellis

This week Mary Helen arrived, true to her word - and left me with the directions to make my very own bags. Thought I'd share them with y'all:

Directions on HOW TO make your own STEP ONE.


To find out more about Mary Helen Ellis & check out her beautiful property check out her website Hawks Rest Cabins.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Casa No Name Salinas Grandes Nicaragua

This is our beach!  Isn't it beautiful?  The sand is very dark, even black in some areas and the seashells are a stark white lying against the sand. We have yet to show a proper post of the land we have bought and the house we are beginning to build in Salinas Grandes, Nicaragua, so here you are.  

Standing on the beach in front of our build looking north.

Standing on the beach in front of our build looking south - note the rancho.
I can't wait to wake up with the sun and walk this expansive stretch of beach. Under the bright full moon we will be able to go out on the beach to keep baby turtles safe as they hatch and make their way to the water. This beach holds many great adventures for us. 

Standing in the scrub between the beach and our build.
Casa No Name ... which knocks the socks off Casa Albatross (our last house owned and dumped after the housing crisis in the USA) has yet to be appropriately titled.  I keep calling it Casa Pequeno (small in Spanish) but we are open to suggestions.... that is your cue to leave us a comment with your suggestion!  So far we have 'Sur' endipity, Sur'fin, Surf Dog and are you ready for Big Daddy P's suggestion; Palicimo Seximo.  Oh dear gawd. 

Front veranda and main entrance to the house.

Side lot. Big Daddy P, Fin and our friend Paul.

Standing inside the house looking at the bedrooms.

These guys are using a water level.

Big Daddy P holding clay roof tiles to be laid over a zinc roof.

The lots are grouped into 10 lots each with a communal area with a rancho shared between the houses. This photo is taken from the rancho adjacent to our lot.  You can see in the photo below our friend Paul's white circular house named Apres Surf.  It's going to be a three story three bedroom three bath house with spectacular views from the top deck.  The fishermen already use Paul's house as a landmark since it is the first house on that stretch of beach.

In the rancho looking at Paul's white house Casa Apres Surf.
That is our build in that clump of trees just over wall line of the community building.

Our friends Sasha, Shamus and Big Daddy P chowing down.

Lobster and fish dinner.
Thank you to Rafael & Donovan our developer / builders for hosting such a delicious dinner in the rancho.  We feasted on fresh local caught fish and lobster.  The fishing co-op is in the town of Salinas Grandes which is a short drive from our house. You can bet Big Daddy P and I will become regular faces at that co-op. Steve is very excited to get spear fishing and has replaced all the spear gun's components already.
Finster entertaining us after dinner in the rancho.

A spectacular end to our day. Squeeeeee! This is our front yard! 

Monday, February 4, 2013

Beach Dogs in Salinas Grandes

There is no shortage of skinny stray dogs in Nicaragua.  When we arrived at the beach in Salinas Grandes to check on our build the first thing to take our hearts were these gorgeous little puppies!  I  hadn't even seen the beach or our lot yet, you would think I'd be running to look, but no, I got all caught up in puppies!  Who can resist a puppy in paradise especially with a three year old girl's sheer delight at her discovery of them?   

There were two pups with a gentle mama and another female pup about a year old from her litter last fall.  Papa dog was floating around, although, he was not nearly as social as the ladies. Ha-ha!  Sounds familiar.

Finley is absolutely smitten with the puppy.

Fin petting / trying to pick up a pup.

The next day when we returned to the site we were with our friends Sasha and Shamus.  They brought along a big bag of dog food for those puppies and their family.  The dogs wasted no time plowing into the kibble.  I swear when we came back again the following day we could see the puppies had filled out, we could see a few less ribs.  Of course the workmen building the three houses are caring somewhat for the dogs. They do get the odd scrap and we fed  beach dogs some pieces of fish from a delicious dinner put on by our builder. Check the next post for that spread!

We can't wait to get down to Nicaragua and have some beach dogs to love.  It's been a long year here in our house since we lost our dog Cecil last January.  A home is just not complete without a dog to love!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Granada & Las Isletas

We took off from Apoyo Lodge  on a Tuesday morning to head into Granada to explore the city center and to take a boat tour through Las Isletas.   This day will forever be remembered as the day our three year old talked non stop from sun up to sun down.  She was so excited and fascinated by everything we did and saw.  She asked us a bazillion questions piled on top of questions, begged me to make the voice of her doll, different from my own,  and even when she was entertaining herself she was lost in her imagination talking away to her babies and singing little songs.  At certain points in the day we asked her to just please try and be quiet for five minutes so we could gather our own thoughts which would just make her laugh at us ..... have you ever asked a three year old to be quiet?  You have.  So you know how successful that was.... 

Our super enthusiastic Finley Mae
Our walk through the main drag of Granada showed off the colonial architecture which is well maintained for the tourists.  There were lots of little outdoor cafes and a good number of tourists hanging out drinking quart sized bottles of Tona. I haven't seen quarts of beer since I lived in Ottawa and we guzzled quarts at The Lafayette!  What I would give to sit and order one of those beers. Instead I'm the gluten intolerant nerd who has to sip on Flor de Cana.  Not so bad a trade.   Donaldo, our driver/ tour guide told us this street was called Calle de Gringo by the Nicaraguans.  We laughed because looking around it was true!

New paint for an old building... cafe in distance.
The Main Square in Granada was so beautiful.
Beside an iron gate or a big heavy wooden door were the family name and or addresses of the home painted on tile.  This one photographed below caught my eye.  I would like to get one for our house whenever we land on it's cleverly chosen name...

Sometimes the big wooden doors leading from the side walks into the residences were open and then we could peek into the courtyards.  The courtyards are filled with tropical plants, fruit trees, big heavy wooden rocking chairs, hammocks and art work.  All the house hold rooms are completely open leading off the center gardens.

Interior of one of the upscale residences in Granada.

Donaldo took us to look at several churches but we stopped and went into this one.  The Guadalupe Church was built in the mid 1600 's was really neat but the main attraction was not to be seen from the ground.

Fin, Big Daddy P and Donlado entering the Guadalupe Church
We paid a small entrance fee and then climbed up and up the scary spiral stairs into the bell tower.

Taaaa Daaaa!  Look at that view.
The view was spectacular! You can see the inner courtyards from here.
Guadalupe Church view from the front bell tower.

Big Daddy P was under the impression Finley could ring the bell...

Fin trying to ring the bell

Then when Big Daddy P and Fin got the bell ringing Donaldo jumped up and asked them to... STOP!  Oops, it was pretty fun and totally worth the photos! 

Steve putting a stop to the bell ringing. 
Donaldo is laughing at us after the bell ringing incident.
I'm posting this day upside down just because that's how I imported the photos ... we actually started our day with the boat ride of Las Isletas. We didn't want to be on the water in the high heat of the day.

We hired a boat and took a water tour of some of the over 300 islands on Lake Nicaragua.  We were told by friends who have been on these tours that we would see an island of monkeys, so we packed some very ripe squishy bananas in my bag to feed the monkeys and that we would see a fortress built to protect Granada from cool!  We saw neither of these things on our tour.  We did, however, see lots of birds and some fishermen catching a fish that looked an awful lot like tilapia.

Everyone rows wooden boats to get around ... even small children going to school!
From the water we had a pretty amazing view of Mumbacho volcano ... not so impressive in my photo!

We started our boat ride off with Fin getting stung by a bee, or something, just as the captain had pulled us under a low over hang of trees.   The captain pulled what looked like a seed pod out of the tree.  The seed pod looked like a skinny banana.  While Steve was tending to Fin trying to calm her down and dry her tears the captain of the boat was insisting I take the seed pod and pull the top off.  I was half paying attention to the captain because I was so caught up in my kid crying her head off - he clearly was not reading my social cues to wait until my child was settled. 

I pulled the top off the seed pod and out came the most amazing flower we've ever seen!  It looked like strings of  fiber optics and I laughed in spite of myself.  The captain was beaming.  Finley leaped across the seats to hold the flower and her bee sting was quickly forgotten!  My bad, I do know that when you are on a boat the captain knows best. 

Finley and the fiber optic looking flower.

So I like to take photographs and I really was selective about sharing - they can tell the story better than I so these Nicaragua posts will be filled with them.  All photos are taken on my iPhone 4S and edited with camera+.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Playa Hermosa Nicaragua

This is Playa Hermosa, one of the most beautiful beaches we visited on this trip.  It has a gentle beach break good for beginners, occasional surfers and as my hubs Big Daddy P calls it, fat guy long board waves. We headed here so the guys could surf some small waves and get ready for the bigger break out front our house...   The weather was cool...I say that and it was about 77 degrees and overcast, which was good for us coming out of NC, we didn't get baked day one out on the beach.  

There are hammocks and chairs amongst all the trees. 
There is a small surf hotel here and a restaurant serving local fare; fish, rice and salad, cold beer  and cocktails.  Coconuts were chopped open for us to drink from with a straw which Fin thought was pretty neat. It looks quiet in the photos but there were more than a handful of people around lounging in hammocks slung from trees.

That is Costa Rica in the back ground.

Playa Hermosa is located about 8 miles outside of San Juan Del Sur down a private road.  There is a gate house and a cover charge of approximately three dollars a person to use the road.   We were told by local gringos the cover charge is to pay for the security of being on a policed road with secure parking upon arrival at the beach.  It was rumoured that cars would get robbed on route to this beach before the gate, cover charge and security were implemented. That information only wigged me out half the drive and then all was forgotten when I saw the beach!  Really dudes, the truck was full of our bags and boards and was completely safe in the lot.  You can't do that in other parts of Central America any more. 

The road itself was pretty good largely due to the the production of Survivor Nicaragua being filmed on this very beach in 2010. Obviously they build up the road to get their crew and equipment in.  Free passable roads leading to awesome surf breaks are one of the perks of TV in the after math of big budget production.   Wait - you didn't really think the survivor contestants were on a beach alone did you? 

Little hermit crabs were all over the beach!
While the guys waited for the swell to fill in, Fin and I explored the beach finding hermit crabs. Sasha showed us how you can hold the shell and softly blow on the crabs under side to get the crab to pop out of the shell.  Pretty cool!

Sasha, Shamus and Steve
Fin writes her name for the FIRST time EVER!

Fin waxing the board with Big Daddy P
Steve was happy for a small swell to fill in.
Steve on left and Shamus on right
Rock snow man found on the beach & brought home with us to NC.

Settling into our first days in Nicaragua experiencing this beach made me feel like I could fully exhale, which is a really neat feeling when you can be so far from the familiar and feel like you are finally home.