Inspiration: Spiders

Okay, I have to start by saying that I am  major arachnophobe. I’m getting a little more comfortable with them here, since they are EVERYWHERE, but only if they are at a distance. There are some monster big ones that make me shudder. The web-spinning spiders here are quite fascinating, though. I think their delicate patterns are quite lovely, actually.

Have a wonderful Wednesday!

 

A Long Explore

(If you recognize where the title came from, double parents-of-toddlers points to you.)

The long explore. We did a taxi tour this last weekend as a fun little send-off for my brother-in-law, David, who has been staying with us since we moved here and helped tons with cleaning, moving, and toddler wrangling. The boat tours in Galapagos can get pretty expensive, but this taxi tour was a reasonable price, and it was per-trip, not per-person, so it worked out great. Also, we could schedule the tour for as long or as short as we wanted, at any time we wanted, so it meant we could do it after naps.

The island is a longish oval shape, nothing exciting like Isabela, which is shaped, seriously, just like a sea horse (look it up). You can drive from one side to the other, short-wise. You can stop any taxi on the street, and say, I want to go to the Galapaguera (tortoise breeding center) and they will take you on a tour. It’s actually a three-part tour, starting at a caldera lake, then the breeding center, finished up with a swim at a lovely (though a bit rough) beach. The tour lasted 5 hours, so I’m breaking it up a bit here. The majority of my pictures were from El Junco, the caldera lake. It was amazing to see the island from those views. I loved it.

We took a taxi to the base of the Junco caldera, then walked up to the top.

These windmills were on an adjacent hill, part of the green efforts of the islands.

Here you can see the other end of the island and the ocean just faintly visible.

Panorama of El Junco (be sure to click on the image to see it larger). I’m a little addicted to the Panorama generating feature in Photoshop. So cool.

That’s a Frigate Bird. There were a bunch circling El Junco.

Okay, does this image give anyone else and Anne of Green Gables (or of Avon Lee, don’t remember which) vibe? The whole time we were looking over the opposite coast, I kept thinking of that.

We stood and gazed at the view for a good little bit. Groups of people came and went while we were standing there. Lovely. Breathtaking. You know, the standard descriptions for the sublime.

Isabella kept saying she wanted to go down to where the horses where on the other side of El Junco. She kept calling to them, too, and neighing.

Then we turned around and headed back up.

And then back down.

The view looking down from El Junco.

Both of the girls were tired by the time we headed back. But this was only the first third of our tour.

The next stop on our tour was the Galapaguera, which is a turtle breeding center (quick fact: galapagos is the Spanish word for the giant tortoises with saddle-back shells, so that’s how the islands got their name).

We saw only three of the really big tortoises for the whole walk. This fact was made up for by the interesting scenery and of course the dozens of little baby giant tortoises that we got to see.

Our third and final stop was Puerto Chino. It was a beautiful white beach bordered on both sides with black volcanic rock and lush greenery.

And beautiful white sand.

Teeny tiny crab. Even crustaceans are cute when they’re super small.

It ended up being a very full, fun day. What an adventure! Hopefully there will be many more to come.

Passion Fruit Juice: How to

Because you all have you’re own passion fruit vines, or at least access to a farmers market where they sell them in large bags for a dollar, right? Well, just in case, here’s a quick how-to, in photos, of course.

1. Cut.

2. Scoop

3. Blend with water.

4. Strain.

5. Add more water and sweetener, if desired.

6. Enjoy!

ps. If you haven’t voted for my fabric design (“Rebecca Rendon Circles”) over at spoonflower, please do. Today is the last day to vote. Nothing in it for you, but it would be really cool if you did. Thanks!

Water, Water Everywhere…

Living on an island makes this expression come alive for me.

It’s sometimes a surreal experience to think of my life 4 months ago in Payson. Life is very different here, to say the least, but it’s incredible how little by little I have come to view things here as the new normal. For example, I had a brief visit back to the states in February, and I couldn’t get over the miracle of turning on the faucet and water coming on every. single. time. Even if someone is taking a shower, running the dishwasher, using the washing machine, and watering the lawn all at once, you’re still going to get water from your tap, and maybe even warm water!

Water is something I’ve come to appreciate so much more since living in Ecuador, and especially since moving to San Cristóbal. It’s funny to think how I used to get bent out of shape when my showers got a little cold because someone had turned on the washing machine before I was done, or how I use to gripe about the hard water residue left on my dishes after running the dishwasher. Ha, I don’t have any of those worries now, because there is never any hot water to begin with, and no dishwasher, either.

In Ancon (on the mainland of Ecuador) we experienced occasional water shortages during the day when only the garden hose had enough pressure to give us water. But this last weekend we had not a drop of running water for almost three days. That was rough, not being able to wash your hands, do dishes, or, ahem, flush the toilet. Yeah, pretty gross. But we bought some bottled water, collected some from a rain storm (but it was, of course, our driest weekend yet, so it wasn’t much) and just stunk, I mean stuck it out.

Do you know how grateful I was to have this coming out of my tap! (The one on the right is our dear Galapagos water, the left is bottled water.)

Anyways, this water-less weekend also happened to be Easter weekend (yes, I know I’m behind in posting). I did not feel like cooking since I hadn’t been able to shower or wash dishes. But it was Easter, so I had to make something. So an idea came to mind: Deep-fried. Cheese. Sugar.

I have done quite a bit of frying lately since it is a fairly convenient way to produce food fast here. (And fortunately, I average at least a mile and a half of walking here and there every day, so it’s not terribly terrible for me to eat fried food). So empanadas fit the bill for our Easter feast. Well, feast may be an overstatement, given that the Easter feasts here usually here usually involve a terribly complicated meal that revolves around a fish soup called fanesca. My husband has lovingly suggested that I hold off on trying to make it until I feel really confident. It’s my Mount Everest of cooking. So yes, these empanadas were more like an Easter snack.

But still good. I loosely followed this recipe, but found myself on a Sunday morning without butter or orange juice, so I just improvised. I Used oil instead of butter, but halved the quantity and added more water to make the dough the right consistency. And added a splash of lime juice. It still worked and really, when can you go wrong with dough-wrapped deep-fried cheese topped with a generous helping of crystalline sugar? Answer: Never. (Okay, I do acknowledge people with food allergies and dietary restrictions, but you get the point.)

Dad, if you’re reading this, these pictures are just for you. I’ll have to make you some when we visit for Christmas.

So, on the actual holiday front, we didn’t have baskets, or eggs in any form. No bunnies or fake grass, chicks or peeps (though, there will probably never be peeps at any Easter celebration I’m in charge of). We just talked about the Savior and the Resurrection, tried to make it meaningful for the girls, and yup, that was it. Simple and sweet. So overall a pretty good holiday, after all.

Good Morning, Galapagos

So I promise to get back to more creative-minded once things have settled down a little bit and I actually have a work-space again. For now, my big suitcase of craft supplies is wrapped in several layers of plastic wrap (it’s what they do to prevent theft-en-route down here), and I know that if I tear into it, even if just to retrieve my drawing pencils, it would be like unleashing Pandora’s box in this tiny temporary living space, and I just can’t do that to my sweet patient husband.

That’s the long way of telling you that I’ve only got more photos to share with you today. We’ve been taking a lot of walks before Joel goes to work. The sun and, coincidentally, my children rise early (before six) every morning, so we’ve found ourselves with several free hours to enjoy before the real labors of the day begin. Fortunately, we have several lovely beaches within walking distance.

Here’s a little peak at a bright and early Galapagos morning.

Down the hill to the beach.

And back up the hill to home.

Inspiration: On the Wings of a Bird

Just a brief disclaimer: This post contains pictures of a dead bird. As far as I know, the bird died of natural causes. I do not think any of the following pictures are disturbing or graphic, but if you do, please excuse them. My intent is simply to share a little piece of beauty that I happened upon by chance.

At my in-laws home in Ancón, Ecuador, we see many different kinds of creatures, but my favorite has always been the blue birds that come to share a bite or two of the bananas or plantains that hang in bunches outside the back door. They are smaller and more streamline than the blue birds in the states, and their shade of blue, to me, is more exquisite than their northern cousins. It’s always a brief source of joy to see them flitting about the yard, their blue wings dazzling in the bright equatorial sunlight.

So imagine my surprise when, one Sunday afternoon, I stepped outside and found one of these little birds lying motionless on the ground. At first I didn’t know what to do. It was whole, and seemed unhurt, so I couldn’t understand why it was not flying away. I gently scooped it up in a plastic bag and inspected it more closely. It was surely dead, but besides a small trickle of blood near that beak, I couldn’t see any indication of fatal trauma. My mother-in-law suggested that it had probably gotten confused and flown into the brilliantly white-washed walls of their cinder-block home, and I think this explanation is probably correct.

In any case, I was fascinated with the tiny, pristine creature. I instantly thought of the beautiful watercolors of birds wings by Albrecht Dürer, particularly this one. I wanted to make some paintings of this little fellow, but as you may have deduced from my lack of blog activity, my life has been in constant flux the last month, and pulling out my watercolors was nowhere near feasible. So I did the next best thing. I photographed the heck out of this lovely little bird, hoping to capture just a glimpse of the startling beauty that I found in it. Some pictures come close, but I think the dazzling iridescent blue was too illusive for my camera’s eye. Regardless of the shortcomings of these photos, I thought I would share a my in-depth photographic observations with you. Enjoy.


Okay, so I realize there are probably zero people who are interested in seeing that many pictures of a dead bird. So if, somehow, you made it to the end of this post, lucky you! Just leave a comment, and I’ll chose a winner to receive their very own dead blue bird in the mail. Nope, sorry, I’m totally kidding. That definitely crosses the line into creepy. Don’t worry, after I was done photographing him, I laid this little guy to rest under the mango tree in the back yard. It’s peaceful there, and he’ll always have plenty of shade. Rest in peace, beautiful bird.

Finally!

We’re here. We’re really here. It seems like a small miracle, and really, it is! Relocating to Galapagos takes a lot more work than I had initially thought. I had not thought it would be easy, but I had not anticipated it being quite this hard. The hardest part was being away from my sweet husband for 4 solid weeks. But now that it’s over, all I can feel is gratitude that it is over, and we are officially starting a new chapter in our lives. This island is beautiful. We moved here right at the tail end of the rainy season, which means everything is at its greenest and most lush. In many ways San Cristóbal is very different from the other two Galapagos Islands I visited with my husband three years ago, but there are also many similarities. The cactus trees, black volcanic rocks, and crystal blue water are all reassuringly familiar to me.

I’ll be sharing many, many pictures in the future. I didn’t want to photo bomb you with a picture of everything there is to see here, because (1) I haven’t seen it all yet, and (2) I’m going to be here for a while, so there’s no need to rush. We’re taking it slow right now. I think our average daily pace could be described as a mosey.

Yesterday during nap time I headed out to take a few pictures at Playa Mann, a beach that is literally a 2-minute walk from our (temporary) front door. It’s small, and lovely, and very peaceful.

Really, I’m just getting used to my new camera (more, perhaps, on that later), so these pictures aren’t anything stellar. I was standing a while just at the water’s edge, and one of the particularly big waves brought this little guy right up to my feet.

It startled me at first, since a charging sea lion can be trouble, but he was fun to watch and photograph, you know, after my heart started beating again.

We still have lots to do to get settled in, but I think we’re going to like it here. A lot.

Ecuador Days 13 and 14

Day 13 and 14:

With the chicken coup finished, other things had to be gotten in order. First, my husband and brother-in-law had to clear an area for the coup and casita, which was no small feat. My in-law’s back yard just a little like a jungle, and ground space is at a premium. After a little clearing and leveling, they made a nice spot, and they even got the chicken “nursery” because (did I mention this?) they were going to get more chickens, of the small, freshly hatched variety, namely chicks!

No, I’m not kidding you. They’re really that cute! My little girls flipped out over these little fluff balls (and I’m even crazier about them, if you can believe it). It takes all the willpower I have not to just carry one of these guys around in my pocket all the time.

(For this picture, I said: “Hold up a chick and smile.” This is what I got.)

My little girl has a rocky relationship with these chicks. She loves them so so much, and they just don’t reciprocate.

She doesn’t handle rejection well.

Well, that’s the end of our first two weeks in Ecuador. I think I’ll probably switch to weekly updates, because life is moving too fast here to keep up with it all.

Have a wonderful day!

Ecuador Days 10 through 12

Days 10:

These next few days were spent listening to a lot of whack, whack, whack, WHACK. Yes, that’s the best description I’ve got for the sound of lots and lots of hammering, with some sawing and chiseling thrown in there too. That’s the sound of a power-tool-less construction project going on. I am so impressed with my husband, not only because he made a chicken coup, and chicken casita (little house), but also because he was able to make it work in very primitive working conditions.

Seriously impressed. The finished product is very a nice little home to seven (soon to be 14) little chickens. The house is complete with roosting poles, a little ramp, and some shelves for the chickens to nest on.

Of course, Papi’s little helper was very busy the whole time. She had a little miniature hammer and some pliers with which she was busily “working.”

Our conversations went like this for most of the days: Me:”Come do [this or that]. My two-year-old: No mami, I can’t, I’m working!

Day 11:

We took a break from the hard work to go to visit my husband’s grandmother: Mami Olga as everyone calls her. Both the girls were pretty shy at first, but eventually the warmed up to her.

Of course, Mami Olga’s cat was the favorite of the visit, until the very-pregnant feline lost her patience with them.

My poor girls; they always love animals way more than the animals love them. So sad.

Mami Olga lives about 2 blocks from the beach so we walked down to see the ocean.

If I were sending out Christmas cards, this would be the photo. Well, maybe not.

We stopped by the “Shopping” (the mall) to get some things, and I couldn’t resist taking this photo.

It is awesome for so so many reasons.

Day 12:

This day started off great with yummy food. A papaya smoothie (with fresh papaya curtesy of the tree in the back yard) and encebollado, which is a really delicious soup featuring fresh tuna and yuca root.

By the afternoon, though, I was beginning to lose my mind a little with all the hammering from the chicken coup construction, so I went on a quick shopping trip with my sister-in-law and my older girl, who is completely enraptured with the whole bus system (fortunately she has been able to block all the memories of her throwing up on them the last time we were here!). I’m still not up to shopping by myself; I’m worried I’m going to get totally ripped off on prices (bad), lost (worse), or robbed (worst), but who knows, I might get the courage to venture out on my own one of these days. It happened to be a Wednesday, and that means all the produce is 25% off, which means I really went to town in the veggie aisle. I was most excited about my 10 artichokes (!) (which, by the way, happen to be the best artichokes I’ve ever tasted, hands down) and 7 great big avocados, but I also got mangoes, apples, plantains, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, oranges, and peppers. And I only spent about $20. The bus ride home was less fun for my little girl than the way there, but we made it home with all our bags and no car sickness, so it was a definite win, overall.

Here’s the finished coup, in case you were wondering:

Ecuador Days 7 through 9

Day 7:

With my husband still sick, I didn’t get much done today. We went for an afternoon walk to get pan (bread) from the local panaderia. That was pretty much it.

(These pictures were taken about 10 seconds apart.)

Day 8:

We celebrated Joel’s birthday. My dear lovely husband got another year older and wiser. Since he doesn’t like birthday cake, but loves chocolate, I decided to make some dark chocolate brownies with a dulce de leche swirl. Before you get to excited about how yummy that sounds, I have to say they were a total flop. It was no fault of the recipe. Total user error, as my husband would say (except he wouldn’t say it for this instance, when he tries to be super supportive so I don’t give up on baking all together). I burnt the dulce de leche, so I had to use a sieve to get the charred pieces out before I swirled it into the brownies. But the real lesson of the night was the oven temperature does matter. A lot.

You see, the numbers on my in-laws gas stove have all been rubbed off, so I had no way of knowing what temperature the oven was set to. I couldn’t even tell how far from the “off” position the knob had been turn, because they’re kind of swirly knobs, so I just had to guess and go with it. I think I must have been cooking those things at about 400° because they were completely black on the bottoms. Apparently 50 degrees makes a big difference.

Think charcoalate brownies. So so disappointing.

I mean, they got all eaten, as much as could be chiseled out of the pan, that is. (Check out the fork after said chiseling.)

Day 9:

We went to church. We walk to church with our awesome big stroller.

Are you starting to see a pattern with the girls in the stroller?

We also ate some crabs.

My first time eating crab. You know anytime there are news papers spread out underneath your food, and you’re eating over a cutting board and the use of mallet or hammer is recommended, you’re in for a unique culinary experience.

I decided that you can divide the world into two kinds of people: those who know how to eat a crab, and those who don’t know how to eat a crab. You’ll see what I mean if you ever try it.

I was pretty good at getting the claws opened, but the head was harder. I was a little hesitant about sucking all the stuff out of there after my sister-in-law told me to watch out for crabs that had poop inside them still. Made it a little less appealing.

For the most part, it was really yummy and really creepy at the same time. It’s always a little weird when you can look your meal in the face as you’re eating it. At one point I was thinking, here I am tearing the legs off a creature and using its own claws to scrap the flesh out of its newly severed appendage. Wow, sorry if you’re vegetarian or if you’re now a vegetarian; I realize that was a pretty intense description. Anyways, good luck trying crab!

 

I hope I’m not boring you all with this little log. I promise something crafty is coming; I can feel it. But I think it might have to wait until the chicken coop is complete and my husband can watch the girls for a little while. Until then, have a wonderful day!