An appetizer that you’ll find on the menu at almost every Nicaraguan restaurant is tostones con queso.
After two years of retirement I’ve officially re-joined the work force. Well…sort of.
When our friends Suze and Doug aren’t in Nicaragua enjoying a cold Tona or a smooth Flor de Caña at their vacation home – Casa Culebra – they delight in sharing it with tourists, travellers, wanna-be-expats and adventure seekers like you.
Something that’s very unique about Suze and Doug’s vacation home is the complimentary concierge service they provide for their guests.
This is where I come in.
As vacation concierge it is my responsibility to ensure guests of Casa Culebra have the best Nicaraguan vacation experience possible.
A couple of weeks before guests arrive in town I send them an introductory email letting them know I will be available before and during their stay to assist with all of their vacation needs.
I help with airport transfers, rental car reservations and grocery shopping. I provide recommendations on where to eat and drink. I also assist with activity planning and reservations for excursions.
You name it, I’m on it!
Perched high on the hill in the jungle, with a view of the ocean, just minutes from three beautiful beaches Suze and Doug’s home is really quite spectacular.
With two king size master suites it is ideal for honeymooners, one or two couples or a family of four.
Casa Culebra is located just 20 minutes outside of San Juan del Sur in the development of Balcones de Majagual. Balcones de Majagual was designed by the British architect Matthew Falkiner. Matthew also designed the very exclusive eco-lodge - Morgan’s Rock - which is located just around the corner on a neighbouring hillside.
Just down the hill from Casa Culebra you’ll find the stunning and pristine beach of Majagual.
And just around the corner is the ever popular surf beach of Playa Maderas.
It’s often difficult to leave the tranquility of Suze and Doug’s luxury jungle home, only to return to my “Nica-chic” casa where the dogs and the roosters roam, but unfortunately staying overnight with the guests doesn’t fall under the category of “other duties as required”.
Casa Culebra is a beautiful home located in one of the most beautiful areas in Nicaragua.
If you want to experience an absolutely amazing, stress free Nicaraguan vacation choose Casa Culebra. Tell Suze I sent you. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed!
To check availability and make a reservation follow this link to the Casa Culebra listing on VRBO.
An avocado a day keeps the cardiologist at bay.
There are literally dozens of avocado varieties to choose from, many of which can be found in Nicaragua. Choosing a ripe avocado is easy. Don’t be too preoccupied with the colour. Some avocados are ripe when they are dark green, others need to be slightly black and one variety even turns dark purple when it is ripe. The key to choosing the right avocado is how it feels. Gently squeeze one in your hand. Avoid using your fingertips, so you don’t bruise it. The perfect avocado should give just a little when you squeeze it.
How to Eat It:
Cut the avocado in half and remove the pit. You can then cut the fruit into slices or simply scoop it out from the skin. The most popular way to eat avocado is in guacamole. I actually like my avocado served with a little lime juice, salt and pepper. Avocado is delicious in salads. You also can spread it on burgers and sandwiches. For added nutrition try adding a slice or two of avocado to your next smoothie. With avocado the opportunities are endless.
Avocado has a mild, yet very unique flavour. The texture is creamy and melts in your mouth. In my opinion avocado makes almost everything taste better.
Avocados grow on trees. Each variety has a different harvest season. We can almost always find avocado at our local market, but price and variety vary according to the season. Depending on the size we typically pay between $1 -$2 USD per avocado.
Some people regard avocados as a superfood.
- They contain 18 essential amino acids that form a complete protein that your body can readily absorb.
- The Omega-3 fatty acids in avocado are similar to olive oil. These fats help boost your healthy HDL cholesterol levels and keep your heart healthy.
- High levels of carotenoids like beta-carotene deliver Vitamin A to your body for eye and reproductive health.
- Avocados have 50% more potassium than a banana.
- A healthy dose of Vitamin C, E, selenium, zinc, magnesium, folate and soluble fibre are an added bonus.
Elisha and I were in Cuba staying with a good friend of ours when he held up a piece of fruit as large as his head and asked me if I liked aguacate. I told him that I had never tried it. Later that night as I was scarfing down a huge bowl of avocado garnished with lime, oil and salt I told my friend that avocado is one of my favourite foods. He looked very puzzled. I explained to him that even though his “aguacate” was the same shape and colour as an “avocado”, I didn’t make the correlation earlier because in Canada avocados are the size of an apple, not my cranium.
The infamous Chia Pet that magically grows green fur in a matter of days might be the first thing you think of when hear the word chia, but these tiny seeds are actually full of nutrients.
And the good news is you don’t actually need to sprout chia seeds on a silly little terracotta tchotchke to enjoy their health benefits. Chia seeds are similar to the more nutritionally famous flax seed, but are superior in many ways.
Chia seeds can be found in every Nicaraguan market and are not considered a trendy health food product, rather just a normal Nica staple. One pound of chia seeds – which is enough to last me six months – cost just $7 USD at the local market.
Chia seeds are very similar to flax seeds in a number of ways – but unlike the flax seed – chia is so rich in antioxidants that the seeds don’t deteriorate, which means they can be stored for long periods of time without becoming rancid.
How to Eat It:
There are three ways to eat chia – dry seeds, sprout it or make a chia gel.
The dry seeds are crunchy and slightly nutty. They are good in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies, salads or just about anything you want to add a slight crunch to.
To sprout chia follow the basic steps on the video. The use of a Chia Pet is not required, but does add to the fun factor.
Chia gel is made by stirring about 3 tablespoons of seeds into a cup of water. 30 minutes later you have a gel that will last up to a week in the fridge. Chia gel can be substituted for half of the butter in baking recipes. Ground seeds can be used to thicken soups and sauces. Chia has many uses…these are just a few to ignite your imagination.
When eaten on their own chia seeds have a slightly nutty flavour, but when combined with other foods they are virtually flavourless.
Eating chia is an easy way to inject a little extra nutrition into your diet without even noticing.
- Chia seeds are rich in polyunsaturated fats, especially omega-3 fatty acids. Your heart will thank you for eating them.
- A 1-ounce shot glass of chia seeds contains a third of your daily recommended fibre intake. That same shot glass holds between 20% and 50% of your daily recommended dose of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and manganese.
- Antioxidants are so high in chia seeds that they have a shelf life of two years. Imagine what it does for your body?
- Chia seeds also pretty good at making you feel full. Once you’ve tried putting a few tablespoons in a cup of water you won’t have to ask why.
No matter how many times I watch the Duck Dynasty Chia Pet video I laugh out loud.
On January 14, 2014 our neighbour Justin Orlando Romero Mora turned two. And on Sunday, January 19th I had the privilege of attending his birthday party.
When Gordon and I received the invitation to Justin’s birthday party we expected there to be a piñata, some candy and a cake. But holy moly, this pirate themed birthday celebration was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced or could have imagined.
Often times I’ve walked by thatched roof beach restaurants on a Sunday afternoon to witness a birthday party going on. To be an invited guest, instead of a curious onlooker was pretty exciting.
I arrived at El Buen Gusto shortly after 3 pm. The decorations were impressive to say the least.
Right away I spotted the birthday boy and his mama enjoying some popcorn.
Next I noticed the massive (and elaborately decorated) cake.
The party started with piñata smashing. Kids big and small took turns hitting with all their might in hopes that they’d be lucky one to send the candy flying.
Endless ice cold Coca Cola and Fresca, popcorn and ice cream were served. There was a game of musical chairs. And a few kids participated in a dance off.
Justin wasn’t the only one that got spoiled. Each child was given more gifts than I could count – pirate paraphernalia, goody bags stuffed with cookies, chocolate and candy, rubber balls, hula hoops and more!
And for the parents and older guests? Bacon wrapped filet mignon dinner and a very special take away gift.
Unfortunately by the time the kids gathered round the cake to sing Happy Birthday the guest of honor had had enough.
It was a real treat, honour and pleasure to have been a part of this incredible celebration for Justin. This event is definitely on top of my list of favourite Nicaraguan cultural experiences. A birthday party I’ll never forget, that’s for sure!
Cacao beans are available at our local market in San Juan del Sur for C$38 ($1.52 USD) per pound. Online prices in the USA are “slightly” more expensive. The average cost is about $17 per pound, but if you buy a 10 pound bag you can get them at a discounted price of $11 per pound.
How to Eat It:
The first step to eating cacao is to dry roast the beans just long enough so that the shells start to crack. At this stage you can easily peel the shell away making the beans ready to eat.
One of my favorite ways to eat cacao is to add a handful of whole beans and a cut up banana to strawberry yogurt. My second favorite move is blend the cacao beans, banana and yogurt with some ice for an awesomely delicious smoothie.
When you see “90% dark chocolate” advertised on a chocolate bar in the grocery store, the remaining 10% is actually sugar. The cacao bean is pure chocolate. It tastes slightly bitter and goes best with something sweet.
Cacao beans are available year round at the market. The price remains the same, regardless of season.
Cacao beans are a superfood.
Most of us believe the highest levels of antioxidants can be found in green tea, red wine and blueberries. Guess again! Cacao has these beat by a magnifier of up to 10.
Antioxidants aren’t the only great thing cacao offers. It has actually been shown to stimulate neurotransmitters in our brain:
- Serotonin acts as an anti-depressant
- Endorphins work on our pleasure sensors and give us a natural high
- Phenylethylamine is created in the brain when we are in love. It works as an anti-depressant and helps increase focus.
- Anandamide is known as the bliss chemical and helps us feel relaxed and satiated.
Cacao also contains high concentrations of essential minerals like magnesium, sulfur, calcium, iron, zinc, copper, potassium and manganese.
Cacao is fatty, but contains the very best kind of fat. Cacao also contains oleic acid. This heart healthy mono-saturated fat – also find in olive oil – is key in raising the level of good cholesterol found in your body.
It takes several hundred processed beans to make up one pound of chocolate. Unfortunately the health benefits found in raw cacao beans has been greatly diminished by the time it gets to a commercially produced chocolate bar stage.
As I put the finishing touches on the Christmas tree a light rain starts to fall. The birds chirp happily in the trees. It’s our third Christmas in Nicaragua, but our first Christmas putting up a tree.
December 9th marked the second anniversary of our arrival in Nicaragua and since then I’ve been reflecting on what an interesting, amazing and crazy two years it’s been.
Year one as a Nicaraguan expat was challenging…to say the least.
Getting used to not having all the comforts of home was tough. And figuring out how to be content with not having something to do 24/7 definitely took some getting used to.
I had to learn to live on a budget. I struggled to communicate with the locals.
And I missed my family and friends back in Canada terribly.
As much as I love my husband Gord being with your spouse all day, every day isn’t healthy for any relationship. That feeling I had whenever Gord and I had vacationed together—total bliss and relaxation—where the heck was that?
The transition to expat living was much easier for Gord. His biggest complaint was not knowing “a guy” when it came to getting things done. And the most challenging thing for him? Keeping me happy.
Life in Nicaragua definitely takes some getting used to. Expect a roller coaster of emotions that is guaranteed to come your way. Expect to love it, hate it and love it all over again.
But wait…year one wasn’t all bad. It really wasn’t.
As our Spanish vocabulary increased so did our ease of getting things accomplished and staying on budget.
Gord and I met some incredible Nicaraguans and some very interesting expats.
Year one was full of adventure.
And before we knew it we were headed into year two. With a year of experiences behind us living the life of a Nicaraguan expat became less and less challenging.
2013 started off right with a month long visit with my sister, her husband and my nephew Aiden. My parents visited during that time also.
In February we added a miniature schnauzer puppy to our family. If you’ve been following our journey you probably know her name is Maggie.
It was a couple of months into 2013 when I discovered I had made a new best friend. Mandy has been mine (and Gord’s saviour). With her in my life Gord doesn’t have to work so hard at keeping me happy.
Over the past year Gord and I have enjoyed working on our blog. Gradually…it has gained momentum.
We’ve connected with dozens of followers. Some who are now living in Nicaragua and others who are still in the planning phase–with so many more just dreaming of their very own Nicaraguan adventure. Sharing our experience with so many people has been fascinating and fun.
And twenty four months into our adventure we have been blessed with a large network of close friends. Some live here alone, some have a significant other.
They come from Australia, Belgium, Canada, England, Holland, Ireland, Nicaragua, Switzerland and the United States. Conversations with our friends widen my view of the world and the people in it. And that’s pretty cool!
I’ve been keeping busy this year. And it’s not all due to my full social calendar.
Gord and I have written a few articles for International Living magazine. And recently I created a Facebook group – “Expats of San Juan del Sur” – which is helping us connect with even more people in our community.
In addition to some concierge work that will begin in the new year I have committed to volunteering with a local organization called Comunidad Connect. Aside from photographing important events for them, once a week I’ll be spending some time with a group of children from a rural community just outside of San Juan.
As Gord and I venture into our third year as Nicaraguan expats and celebrate seven years of marriage I’m excited for whatever adventures and experiences come our way.
Bring it on Nicaragua!
Author’s note: Click on the highlighted text to follow links to more articles and photos of our two years in Nicaragua.