Family Time in California

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted anything.  I’ve been enjoying time in California with my daughter and her family, and practicing bass when they are off to work/school/daycare. But, I pull out the camera now and then so I have collected a few things to share. It’s taken me a long time though to find time and inclination to write anything though. (I’m working hard to learn bass so I can sub in my husband’s band. It’s going well but it’s a lot to learn.)

One evening we went to Paradise Ridge winery. They are open on Wednesday evenings so people can bring or buy food, drink wine, and enjoying a beautiful evening watching the sun get low in the sky. This is where my daughter got married so it was interesting to be back, now with her two children.

On another day we went to the beach. It was hot in town but cooler at the beach, and it felt even colder in the strong winds that tried to blow sand in your face anytime you faced them. Marian was reported to be afraid of the waves but she apparently got over that. She would run straight into the waves at every opportunity and Amy had her hands full chasing her and keeping her from harm.

On another day the in-laws and I visited  Quarry Hills botanical gardens    It is the middle of summer and not many things were blooming but the grounds were beautiful and we really enjoyed walking around and exploring. The nearby vineyards were also beautiful and there are lots of grapes on the vines.

Things seem crazy expensive to me, as usual.

A few other random photos

All good things, however, must come to an end. The time came for me to head back to San Francisco for a flight to Seattle to visit my other daughter, where I just arrived last night.

The flight to Seattle was one of the most beautiful flights I can remember. We had a good view of San Francisco in the evening light with fog softening the edges of the city and making the distant hills purple and gray, and just beautiful. As we flew north the sunset colors only intensified until everything in Washington state had a rosy glow, including a spectacular snow covered Mount Rainier.

Speaking of all good things coming to an end, I just got word of a death. My biological mother has been married for 60+ years and just lost her husband. This has to be a very difficult time for her so please, if you can, send some love.

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Beautiful Boquete

We have been driving up to Boquete a couple times a week for Joel’s band gigs. It’s almost always a very beautiful drive, and yesterday was especially gorgeous. It had rained in the morning which is unusual, but the sun came out in the afternoon and it was a travel magazine worthy scene.

I think I fell in love with Panama when I first saw the lush, green mountains from the airplane window. I still appreciate the beauty that is around us every day from the woods behind our house, to the view of Volcan Baru as we leave our neighborhood, to the many other scenes that we enjoy on a daily basis.

We stopped at the visitors center just above the downhill that takes you into the town of Boquete. This is the most well known view of Boquete from up there.

There was a large family of coati on and just behind the wall. They were very cute and totally unafraid of people. I’m sure visitors had fed them and tamed them, but I felt better keeping a little bit of distance.

Some days the beauty around you overwhelms everything and anything that might be bothering you.

Mi vida dificil!

My life, however, may not allow as much time for blogging. I have a trip back to the US planned in a few days, but maybe when I’m there we’ll have beautiful summer days and of course there will be the grandchildren. And, I have another huge project going on that is taking up all of my time. The bass player in Joel’s band likes to travel, but when he’s gone the band can’t play unless they can find a substitute which isn’t possible most of the time. So, I decided to step up and learn to play the bass. I have a lot of classical piano background in my very distant past but this is something new. My goal is to be ready to go by September which requires a lot of practice. But, so far it’s going well and this could be a huge amount of fun!

You just never know where life might take you! 😀


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The Package Arrives in the US from Panama

On June 6th, I went to the local post office and mailed a small package to my daughter in Seattle. There are details in the post here.

On June 29th my daughter got a notice from the post office that a package had arrived. Apparently the postman tried to deliver it while they were at work and didn’t leave it at the door, not sure why because I didn’t request that on my end.

But, 23 days later, the package was at my daughter’s post office! So, it worked, and in just slightly over the 3 weeks that we expected. I wouldn’t mail anything critical or time sensitive in the Panamanian mail service but if time isn’t a consideration, Panamanian mail is a good option. It cost me $2 to mail a manila envelope with a little Cuban dress for my granddaughter, and now she has it just in time for their warm summer weather.

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Vanilla Pudding

Yes, it’s green. Do you remember the recipe I shared for chocolate pudding made with avocado? I figured if you could make chocolate pudding or mousse, you could make it with other flavors so I tried vanilla. It’s pretty much the same recipe but with tablespoons of vanilla instead of teaspoons, and no cocoa. (1 avocado, 1/4 cup milk, tbsp vanilla, 1/4 cup sugar or sweetener, put in blender)

It’s good, sort of, but you can definitely taste the avocado which is not the case with the chocolate. But, if you “borrow” some cinnamon and sugar mixture that your husband has stashed in the kitchen for cinnamon toast, it’s quite good. I used stevia for a sweetener and I think this, as well as the chocolate pudding, are better with some real sugar.

My neighbor hasn’t been over for three days, but she’ll probably bring me more avocados this weekend.

Mi vida dificil en Panama, overloaded with avocados 😀

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Live Like a Panamanian

When discussing the cost of living in Panama, it is often said that it’s expensive unless you want to “live like a Panamanian”. I got to thinking… what exactly does this mean? So, I posed the question to the busy “Expats in Panama” group on Facebook and got many interesting responses.

First, a couple thoughts. There is Panama City and then there is the rest of the country, and they are very different in many ways. Panama City is a large busy city and it’s expensive. Rent can easily be $1000/month and more for anything most expats would find acceptable. It has all the traffic and hassles that go with a large city. But, they also have the best in shopping, restaurants, health care, entertainment, and the other big city advantages. For us, at our age, it wasn’t appealing, but I can see how for many others it would be wonderful.

The rest of the country has many options. Do you want to be around a lot of other expats? If so, you will likely pay more. Do you want to be in the mountains or on the beach, in a city or in the country? How is your Spanish? How much do you want to assimilate into the Panamanian community and culture? All these are factors to consider when looking for a suitable place for you. I know someone who paid $125/mo for a small but comfortable house in a small town down the road, and spent $.35 to ride the bus to David. But, nobody out there spoke English. The dogs ran free, the roosters crowed, and the neighbors had community events and parties with loud music. He loved it. Someone else might hate it.

Back to the question of living like a Panamanian – here are some of the main points made in the responses.

  • In the US we have everything available to buy, and at the click of a mouse most of it can appear at your door PDQ. This is not so in Panama. It might be hard to find something of the type or quality you want, if its available at all.  Most expats learn that there is something they can’t find here, but how critical is this for your happiness? A Panamanian will make do with what is available and what they can afford.
  •  Housing – Air conditioning and hot water are not standard. A typical Panamanian house is smaller than what most of us are used to. Construction is typically cement floor, block walls, tin roof, and minimal to no wood. Of course if you want to spend more you can have whatever you want, but the typical construction makes a lot of sense in this climate. Dishwashers and clothes dryers are also available, but you won’t find them in most houses. Many Panamanians live in smaller houses with more people and less frills.
  • Many Panamanians rely on buses and taxis for transportation. In Panama City this makes sense. In other areas it’s convenient to have a car because waiting for the bus takes more time. But, the community is set up to make it work. Many take the bus to the supermarket and then a taxi home with their bags. There are always taxis outside the supermarkets for just this purpose. If you are shopping at multiple stores, there are places to check your bags so you don’t have to carry them around. There are inexpensive buses that go everywhere, including residential areas and small neighborhoods.
  • One person brought up the lack of holistic health care services, midwifery services, and sustainably grown chemical free food. As more expats request things though, I have seen many options become available but if a particular service or product is very important, be sure to research this ahead of time. Panamanians use doctors and mainstream medical care, but most also have knowledge of plants and traditional remedies passed down through generations.
  • If there is some food from home that you crave, it might not be available here. It’s fun to learn local dishes, but others may want what is familiar at least some of the time. If you eat like a Panamanian and shop where they shop, it’s cheaper than buying imported goods in the supermarket.
  • One of my favorite answers – “It means stretching $4 for three days worth of food right before your paycheck but then when the paycheck comes it’s time to go to bar and buy drinks for everyone.😂😂😂”

The main point – what do you need to be happy? Will you see “living like a Panamanian” as a downgrade? I see Panamanians who don’t have much, live in tiny homes with dirt floors, outhouse in the back, outdoor kitchen, conditions that most of us would probably consider very primitive but they are laughing with their neighbors, hanging out with their families, and generally enjoying life to the fullest.

Those of us from the US, on the other hand, have been taught that we need to work hard, get the good job, the good looking partner, the big house, fancy car, and the big TV with 500 channels. Are we happy though? Or, are we stressed by running on that hamster wheel to just keep up? Or worse, did we not run fast enough or bad luck came along and we fell down, and are now living on the street?

And, how does a Panamanian really live? It depends on who you look at. Yes there are poor people, but there are also people with lots of money. There is a thriving middle class. I see my neighbors upgrading their homes, getting better cars, and doing very well. There are jobs for everyone, maybe not easy high paying jobs, but if someone wants to work they can find something. There is education and opportunity. My friend was worrying about paying for the next semester of university – $25. She got it together though, and will graduate soon with credentials to be a teacher. I see cohesive, loving families and strong community ties. I see a lot of happy, optimistic people enjoying life and looking forward to the future.

Live like a Panamanian? Oh yes, sign me up for that! Oh my yes, and thank you from the bottom of my heart. I have never been so happy.

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It Must be Panama When….

One day there are cows wandering down the road.

Another day it’s a horse in the road

You reach for a cooking utensil and find a baby lizard sleeping on one.

A tiny but very cool bug visits you on your outside table one night.

Another night, you find this interesting spider on your table fan.

You are at a restaurant and there is a dog wandering around. The owner said he’s been hanging out for a few days but nobody knows where he came from.

You are on your terrace at night and the cocelecas start singing in the neighbor’s yard (nothing to see, but turn up your sound)

You come out for breakfast and the parrots are going nuts in the tree overhead. You can only see a couple of them but it sounds like there are many! (look closely in the middle of the frame and you can see the silhouette of a couple of them walking along the branches)

Just a few things from the last few days here. We’ve been busy with the usual activities, and I have a new project underway. It’s taking up all my free time lately but hopefully will bear fruit in a few months. Meanwhile I always enjoy the little things that keep life interesting.

Also, the dog is doing really well. She even jumped up on the couch yesterday so she is feeling much more comfortable. (She’s been here three weeks now.) She continues to be very loving with us and very confrontational with anyone outside the fence. Good dog, well done.

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Deal on Las Olas Beach Resort

Oferta Simple has another deal out today. Click HERE if you feel like spending some time at the beach. $45

I try to only share things I know, that I have seen or experienced myself which is why I haven’t shared any of the other many deals that come through Oferta Simple. If you want though, you can sign up with them and you’ll get a daily email with the latest deals on all sorts of things.

Las Olas resort is at La Barqueta, the closest beach to David. Unless it’s a holiday or weekend you may have the whole beach to yourself. It’s really beautiful and pretty much untouched. But, warning!!! There are dangerous waves and rip currents and people have drowned out there, so go into the water with extreme caution.

The resort itself is nice, maybe a bit on the older side but spacious and comfortable.  It’s also usually very quiet. We have wondered how they manage to stay in business because every time we have been there, there were very few guests. We think they should bus people down from the mountains for a weekend party with a buffet, music, dancing, etc since there is plenty of space, a swim up bar in the swimming pool, and a beautiful location.

The waves were pretty big

But, if you want some quiet time, you might love this. As I remember, they have some books and games for entertainment, and there is a restaurant on site that has good food. Bring a book and chill out, or in the cooler parts of the day go walking. I’ve seen some news from a bird watching group who have seen a lot of cool birds and wildlife in the area including scarlet macaws. There is also a tennis court. Bring sunscreen though! The Panamanian sun is intense.

The pictures are some I’ve taken out there in the past, and a search of La Barqueta on the blog will bring up more posts with photos. Beach, clouds, water, mountains in the distance… irresistible to a photographer!

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Rain, a Movie, and a Lizard

What do these have to do with each other? Nothing at all. They just happen to be my latest batch of pictures.

My good friend took me to the movies yesterday for my birthday. TIP (this is Panama). The website said Wonder Woman was showing with subtitles at 3:15, so off we go. When we arrive we see that it started at 3, and it was dubbed. Another friend suggested to keep an eye on the theater’s Facebook page where it said the afternoon times were 1:55 and 4:30, and there were two evening showings with subtitles. The staff told us there was only one at 9PM (not 9:30 as it said on Facebook).

Short version, do not believe everything you see on line. It’s probably best to call the theater. We ended up seeing the Mummy which was entertaining (but stupid). But, it was subtitled which is preferable because unless you are good at understanding full speed Spanish, it would be hard to follow a movie that is dubbed. We also knew to bundle up. I don’t know why they want to run the AC at such frigid temperatures. Even with long pants and my heaviest sweatshirt I was cold. But other than that, the theater was comfortable, we almost had the place to ourselves, and it cost $2.10 each with the retired people discounts.

Joel bundled appropriately for the movie

After the movie we got a bite to eat, and headed home just in time for one of the famous Panamanian downpours. It comes down so hard and fast that the streets quickly become flooded and it’s challenging to drive. I was very happy for my friend’s driving skills as she navigated us safely home! We joked about the Panamanian car washes on the downtown streets.

The crazy downpours never last long though. By the time we got home the rain has stopped and in spite of the confusion about movie times, we had a wonderful afternoon.

I was driving home on another morning when the view of the mountains was so beautiful I had to pull over and get a photo. This is what we see every time we come and go from our neighborhood, sometimes covered with clouds, sometimes clear, or often partly covered with clouds and mountains peaking out between them.

We have Jesus lizards here, so called because they can walk on water. They have feet with long toes and a bit of webbing, and if they run fast enough they can run across the surface of the water for a fair distance. I’ve seen some spectacular green ones in other parts of the country but here I’ve only seen the brown ones, not as colorful but still very cool. I usually see them by the river but in the last few weeks I spotted a large one in the yard, and then later a medium size one. When I was gardening the other day, I spotted this fellow who appears to be a tiny baby Jesus lizard. The photo doesn’t show it as well as it could but it had the right markings, the odd shaped head, and the very long toes, none of which are typical of any of the other lizards that usually hang out in my yard.

We seem to be getting more rain than usual this year. Some folks in Boquete say it is breaking records, and some areas up there had more rain in the month of May than Seattle gets in an entire year. I see someone on line occasionally who wants to move to the mountains for the less humid climate. Oh my are they in for a rude surprise. Even in summer, the not rainy season, the mountains get some rain and the fog and mist rolls through frequently. Thankfully I like the rain, my skin loves the humidity, and my eyes love looking at everything when it is lush and green.

It’s 4:30, I’m sitting on my terrace enjoying the gentle rain, and it’s 80F degrees. Mi vida dificil en Panama.

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Fidget Spinner deal

What is a Fidget Spinner?? Apparently it’s the latest toy, a little triangle thing that you can hold in the center and spin. Oferta Simple has an offer today (click the link). You can get yours for $5 (instead of $10) but you have to go to Panama City, a store in El Congrajo for this deal. 

According to the ad, the gadget helps reduce stress, it’s addictive, high quality, helps you concentrate, de-stress, and relax. You can use it at work, in class, or at home. It’s even good for people with ADD or autism. It is designed for comfort in your fingers and easy spinning. Pretty good for $5 huh?

Now you know what a fidget spinner is. I didn’t know myself until recently. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to de-stress or have something to fidget with, so I’ll leave it to the stressed people in Panama City to report back on how it works for them.

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Chocolate Avocado Mousse

It sounds crazy but trust me, this is really good!

There is a recipe on the Food Network.  It’s really easy, and flexible so you can adjust things to your taste. Mine turned out with a very dark chocolate flavor which I like.

Basically, put a very ripe avocado in the blender (without the skin and pit, of course). Add any milk of your choice so it is liquid enough to blend well. Add chocolate (I used bakers chocolate since that is what I had on hand, and it was fine), sweetener of your choice to taste, some vanilla and a pinch of salt. Blend until creamy. That’s it! Put it in the fridge for a while, or if you leave it for a day it’s even thicker.

I used stevia since I try to keep my sugar intake at a minimum. I took out a portion and added confectioners sugar and stirred it in, and my husband liked that better (he’s less of a fan of the real dark chocolate).

Here in Panama we need avocado ideas. It is avocado season and they are literally falling off the trees. My neighbor heard me talking with his wife so he ran out back and grabbed me a bag full. They are large and delicious, and their tree is loaded.

If you live in the US, on the other hand, you might do better with traditional pudding. My daughter lives in California and avocados are in season there now also. Sheesh! I don’t think I’ve ever seen them here for more than $1 and that is when they are out of season.

But, if you live where avocados are falling off the trees and you need something yummy and new to do with them, here’s an idea. I have used frozen avocados and they are fine in smoothies, so I think they would work well in this recipe as well.

Life in Panama… always something interesting!

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