Weekly Photo Challenge: Summer Lovin’


 

The Weekly Photo challenge is Summer Lovin’

“There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart.” ~Celia Thaxter

Living in the tropics there is an eternal summer where….

The fruits are always ripe and I can make delicious banana bread and guacamole.
IMG_1178IMG_3844 More summer lovin ahead!

Día de la Tierra Feliz


On Earth Day, we celebrate all the gifts the world and nature make available to us. We recognize our complete dependence on its bounty. And we acknowledge the need for good stewardship to preserve its fruits for future generations. ~ John Hoeven


IMG_2319

More Earth Day coverage from Ometepe island. Don’t go yet!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon


During that summer–
Which may never have been at all;
But which has become more real
Than the one that was–
Watermelons ruled.
~ Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle,
John Tobias

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Reflections.

IMG_2018The season of watermelons is upon us in Nicaragua. My neighbor gifts us with a watermelon daily.
Read on. More reflections.

Jamaica Rum Punch


Hiron and his daughter, Albia Lugila (our god-daughter) stopped by our house mid-December and invited us to her Quinceañera. In exchange for a bag of frioles and two large Grenadina fruits, they asked us to supply the grand fiesta with liquor…enough liquor to serve over 200 festive party goers.  That’s a lot of liquor! What could we make and how would we transport it to the little community at the base of the active volcano?

After much thought, we decided to make Jamaica Rum punch. It’s not a traditional drink for a grand fiesta, but it would serve many people and keep the cost low. Jamaica is a flower known to many as the Hibiscus flower. It grows abundantly in Nicaragua and has many astonishing health benefits. High in vitamins and minerals, its powerful antioxidant properties help to lower elevated blood pressure, bad cholesterol, and detoxify the entire body. Since Jamaica is high in electrolytes such as chloride, magnesium, potassium and sodium, the juice can be used to replenish electrolytes in the body after exercise, a day in the sun, or in this case a long night of partying and dancing. Of course, we added three gallons of rum to our punch, so it’s hard to say if the rum counteracted the health benefits. Regardless, the Jamaica Rum punch was a BIG hit. We served 20 gallons in less than two hours.

There is a large field of Jamaica near our house. With the permission of the owners and armed with two five gallon buckets, some friends, and lots of energy, we spent a morning picking fresh Jamaica flowers.

IMG_0831A close up of the Jamaica flower…a vibrant, gorgeous red.
IMG_0813An hour later, we had filled two five gallon buckets with Jamaica flowers.
IMG_0810The Nicaraguan way of carrying a bucket of Jamaica flowers.
IMG_0836Opening the flowers, we exposed the seeds. They look like tiny chocolate chips. We dried them in the sun and several days later, Ron planted the seeds to start our own Jamaica field.
IMG_0818Back at our house, we separated the flowers from the seeds. With timed contests, it was clear that Maria had lots of experience separating the flowers and seeds. She was consistently the winner!
IMG_0837The small seed pods are perfect colors for Christmas.
IMG_0838I let Ron find the ratio of water to Jamaica leaves. Math totally frustrates me. We wanted a strong concentrate so we could fill two five gallon buckets with the juice, then add more water, rum, sugar, and lots of pineapple chunks and orange slices. We hoped to end up with 20 gallons of Jamaica Rum punch to take to the party.
IMG_0843Ron planned a 1:1 ratio of water to leaves initially. I boiled the leaves for 5 minutes, then it simmered for 10 minutes. This took all day with the amount of flowers we picked and only one large pot.
IMG_0845When the concentrate was a deep red color, we poured it into a bucket, strained the leaves, then added 3 pounds of sugar per bucket. Whew! That was a long day!
IMG_0844The next day was the Quinceañera.We loaded our two buckets of concentrated Jamaica juice, a borrowed bean bowl for the punch bowl, 20 pounds of ice that I made and stored in our freezer, and an overnight bag into a taxi. Then, we stopped in town to pick up 2 borrowed coolers, more ice, 5 gallons of rum, a 5 gallon container of water, 5 pineapples, 20 oranges, and we were off to the party. 

Let me tell you of a good business for Moyogalpa…an ice machine. No one sells cubed ice on the island. We had to order 12 small bags of blocked ice from a woman named Vicky. She must have a freezer in her house and has a nice little business selling blocks of ice.

Since I sincerely doubt that you will be making 20 gallons of Jamaica Rum punch, the recipe that follows is for a smaller quantity and modified because we have most of the ingredients growing at our house.

                                                    Jamaica Rum Punch
3 quarts of water
1 ( 1/2 inch) piece of ginger, finely grated
1 1/2 cups dried Jamaica flowers, also known as hibiscus, 2 cups of fresh flowers
1 1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice
2 cups of Flor de Cana rum
slices of oranges, pineapple, limes, and other fruit
Ice
Instructions:
Combine water and ginger in a large pot. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and add Jamaica flowers and sugar until the sugar dissolves. (If you are using fresh flowers, add them to the boiling water). Let it steep for 10 minutes. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a large heat-resistant bowl or pot. Stir in lime juice and refrigerate. When ready to serve, add ice, 2 cups of rum, pineapple chunks, and orange slices.

You can find the dried Jamaica flowers at most Latin grocery stores or online.

Rico! I can’t wait until our own Jamaica ( pronounced Him-i’-ca) field is in bloom. I think we’ll make Jamaica wine, next.  By the way…the 15th birthday party was a blast. I think I took over 200 photos…next post coming soon.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Joy


“Old friends pass away, new friends appear. It is just like the days. An old day passes, a new day arrives. The important thing is to make it meaningful: a meaningful friend – or a meaningful day.” ~Dalai Lama

The Weekly Photo Challenge is Joy.  “The years’ end is a perfect time to look back at the year-that-was and happily forward to the year-that-will-be.” Blissful joy to me is a blending of the old with the new.
On my walk to pick Jamiaca flowers this morning, I noticed beautiful Jamiaca flower leaves trapped in the rusty old barbed wire fence. A joyful blending of the old and the new makes a meaningful day for me. I hope your day overflows with joyful and meaningful experiences.

IMG_0804

 

Timeout for Art: Waiting for Mangoes


This week’s Timeout for Art challenge is brought to you by Zeebra Designs and Destinations.  Lisa, I anxiously await your challenge every Thursday. Thank you for the inspiration. I think my waiting for mangoes has come to an end.

Princesa and I share mangoes every morning over the barbed wire fence. She bellows…I respond. She slobbers, then bellows for more. Sometimes she lets me pet her while she’s munching on mangoes.

IMG_2862

While drawing today’s challenge, I was in a contemplative mood, thinking about the cattle and other animals barely surviving on Ometepe Island at the beginning of the rainy season. For six dry months we all endure the heat, dust, and brittle grass. Then…mango season arrives..glorious juicy mangoes enrich all of our lives once again. They nourish our bodies and our souls giving us hope for a prosperous harvest. Princesa and I are both happy….the wait for mangoes has ended.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Hora de Almorzar


The weekly photo challenge is all about lunchtime. Check out the weekly photo challenge HERE. All of the photos, except the vegetable truck, were taken with my new-to-me iPhone 3Gs. It’s lunchtime on Ometepe Island, Nicaragua! Everyone helps to prepare lunch, the largest meal of the day for a Nicaraguan family.

The vegetable truck comes to our door every Friday. We choose the freshest veggies, all homegrown on the island.
DSCN0825

Don Jose, our 78 year young neighbor, hacks away at our fallen tree with his machete. Our neighbors need firewood to prepare lunch.
IMG_2212Stephen gathers our sweet mangoes, while his grandfather cuts firewood. The mangoes will make a tasty dessert.
IMG_0047Meanwhile, Dustin snacks on a juicy jicote, similar to a plum. ( I had to retouch this photo. Dustin wasn’t wearing any underwear or pants. jeje)
IMG_0049
Our chickens wait in line to lay eggs under the pollo grill. We never lack fresh eggs around the finca.
IMG_0072Rafaela isn’t neglected either. She’s neighing for a fresh carrot from the vegetable truck.
IMG_0057Black Jack, one of our three rescue kittens, inspects our produce. “Anything good to eat here?”
IMG_0066The avocados will have to wait for tomorrow’s lunch. They aren’t quite ripe. But, the tangerines are ready!
IMG_0067Don Jose stokes the fire. Lunch is almost ready. “Hora de amorzar?” the kids ask.
IMG_0069Lunch is almost ready. A big pot of gallo pinto, a fresh egg omelet, and lots of handpicked fruit. Everyone helps prepare lunch in Nicaragua. It’s my favorite time of the day, the hora de almorzar.
IMG_0070

 

Weekly Photo Challenge: A Pickle Tree


One day, when we were preparing chicken to grill, our neighbor pointed out the Mimbro tree at the side of our house. It is a very unique and strange tree with little pickle shaped pods that seem to grow right out of the trunk of the tree.

MimbroTo my surprise, the Mimbro fruit has a variety of uses in addition to making a fine marinate for chicken.

Marinate for chicken:
Wash and slice 4-6 Mimbro fruits and add them to the squeezed juice of 3-4 sour oranges. Pour over raw chicken and marinate several hours or overnight. If grilling, baste the chicken in the marinate. If baking, pour the marinade over the chicken and bake as directed.

Cleaning a machete:
The Mimbro is very acidic and the juice can be used to clean the blade of a machete or a dagger.

Bleaching stains:
Because of the high oxalic content in the Mimbro juice, it can be used to bleach stains from hands and remove rust from white cloth.

Brass cleaner:
The juice removes tarnish from brass, too.

Medicinal uses:
The fruit conserve is administered as a treatment for coughs. When boiled into a syrup, the syrup is taken as a cure for fever and inflammation. Amazingly, the syrup alleviates internal hemorrhoids, too.

Who would have thought that the unique “pickle tree” would have so many uses!

 

The Seed Swap


This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our island of volcanic rock, isolated by miles of sweet sea in every direction, was completely separated from the rest of the world. As Ometepe Island emerged from the majestic Lake Cocibolca, new species of plants were introduced by the birds and animals hardy enough to survive the journey. Seeds hitched a ride to the island hidden in the plumage of birds. Insects and spiders probably rode the wind to Ometepe.

Over time, new species of plants and animals were introduced by sweet sea-faring visitors and indigenous tribes who were called by a vision to settle in the land of two hills. The arrival of mankind permanently severed Ometepe Island’s isolation, thus introducing a variety of animal and plant species not native to the area. Today, the steady traffic of ferries to and from the island brings a constant stream of invasive species.

We are also guilty of introducing new species of plants to the island. My friend, Carole, smuggled a sweet potato in her luggage, and now Ron is known as the sweet potato king of the island. Is this a bad thing? I’m not sure. All of the new species smuggled, exchanged, and carried to the island immediately begin to compete with native species, and the native species almost always are on the losing end of the battle. Several years ago, expats started a Tilapia farm on the Maderas side of the island. Some of the Tilapia escaped, reproduced rapidly, and continue to compete for food with the native fish species, Guapote.

Last week, we were invited to a seed swap on the other side of the island. Among the seeds and saplings, we found a Jackfruit tree. A.heterophyllus-jackfruit(1)  In researching the Jackfruit tree, I found that it was introduced in Brazil as a reforestation project. This program was the first Brazilian initiative to recover a forest ecosystem previously devastated by sugarcane and coffee cycles. However, the Jackfruit has become an invasive species. The rainforests have suffered major impacts due to biological invasion, and Brazil had to start management and control of this invasive species.

I don’t want to start an invasion meltdown…it’s quite a dilemma. I enjoy my sweet potato pies and Jackfruit cookies. On the other hand, the introduction of non-native species negatively impacts our fragile ecosystem. The statistics are startling and more attention must be paid to the problem. Awareness is the first step.

Fortunately, most of the seeds and plants at the seed exchange were native species. The locals have an astounding knowledge of the medicinal uses of all the plants and trees on the island and I learned many uses of the seeds, barks, leaves, and roots of the plants. It was a great day on the other side of the island. Enjoy my slideshow trip.