Sunday, November 11, 2012


Okey Dokey.

So, a couple weeks ago, I get this email that starts out with
"Firstly, fantastic to meet you! We're compiling a collection of the very best expat blogs on our site and we've decided your expat blog is worthy of nomination for the Expat Blog Awards 2012!"  Blah, blah, blah.
Now, my first thought is something like ...... Oh, yeah?  Who's kidding who here?

Or maybe it was ....... I am pretty sure my blog is right up there with middle school boogers and farts jokes.

Or maybe ....... Have these people ever actually seen my blog?

Possibly ....... Why would I want to join a club that would have someone like me as a member?

I really don't know what my first thought was.
But it was NOT ....... Wow someone has noticed my Purlitzer worthy blog.
(Yeah, I know that I misspelled 'Pulitzer'.  I did it on purpose.)

I am skeptical of things like this.  Like I am of 'a free lunch', anything that comes out of any politicians mouth, promises to still be respected in the morning and my check being in the mail.

It also appeared that you can nominate yourself to be worthy of this honor.
It seemed to be possible to win a $500 prize based on feedback recieved by the officials by Oct 31 (2012).
Notice this is being posted after the deadline.

Final thought:
Why would I want to compete for an award, when I have awarded myself the coveted Dorkie award  EVERY YEAR?  You can see it somewhere on the right.


I figured it out!
I know how the nominations work!
If you go to their site, you can see a list of all the blogs nominated from Ecuador.
7 of the eight nominated from Ecuador are the first 7 listed on the blogroll on the right hand side on South of Zero.
The 8th is the blog of a couple that I believe are professional bloggers.  Remember the part about being able to nominate yourself?

The nomination form they sent me asked me to put their logo on my blog.
Soooooo, here you go:
Life is Sweet,

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Essential Services Missing in Cuenca.

As far as I know, the following essential services are not available in Cuenca.  They all appear to be available in Vilcabamba.

Chakra Alignment:  
Apparently having ones Chakra aligned is critical.  I just looked it up  on the Internet.  Wow!  This is scary sh*t!  I never knew.  It looks like you are really screwed if your Chakras are out of line.  For instance if your closed solar plexus chakra is out of alignment, it can cause low self confidence and anxiety.  While an overactive third eye chakra could contribute to hallucinations. (Chakra alignment sounds like the cure for paranoid schizophrenia!)  Wow!  I never knew.  It seems that there may be 5 other Chakras that need to be aligned.  

I’ve seen posters advertising Chakra alignment in Vilcabamba.  Not in Cuenca that I know of.  

However, I did hit a big pothole with the car yesterday and I can get my front end  aligned here.

Aura Cleansing:  
This is interesting.  Look it up.  Here is a little teaser.  "Your aura is like a fingerprint; it is completely unique and represents precisely who you really are. But unlike the fingerprint, a gifted psychic can change your aura, cleanse it – eliminating the clouds, the defects, the negatives. The results could be startling: your relationships could be better than ever, your love life could get a jump start, and your finances could take a quantum leap.”  

Wow.  This sounds so cool.  The websites I was at are unclear as to whether it is a take out service, like dry cleaning, or what.

Sadly, not available in Cuenca that I know of.  Readily available in Vilcabamba (poster ads.).

But, I can get the car or motorcycles cleaned in Cuenca very reasonably.

Reading of Crystals:
Yeah, I looked this up on the internet too.  Sounds like a great way to straighten out what ails you.

Vilcabamba - yes.  Cuenca - no.

But if you are interested in the regular type of reading, I suggest Carolina Bookstore.  Right here in Cuenca.

12/21/2012 Transition (Transformation):
Well now.  This is REALLY BIG right now.  There is a “Be The Transformation Retreat” in Vilcabamba.  Sounds like a ‘must do’.

The add says “calling all conscious ex-pats”.  It is apparently for all those who are “into spiritual and/or personal growth”.  I guess if you don’t pay the $575 per person you would be a non-spiritual, un-conscious ex-pat with no interest in personal growth.  But, the fee does include 10 meals “served with love.”

Good news.  There is a “Paradigm Shift Intention Retreat” right here in Cuenca.  But it is only $35/day and I don’t see that the meals are served with love.

What About Pyramid Power:
I haven’t seen any posters in Vilcabamba or Cuenca addressing this.  I am going to have to keep my eyes peeled.

Energy Vortex:
Gawd, I really love this concept.  I have heard it applied to Vilcabamba as one of the reasons that people live so long there.  I have also heard that it is the positive ions in the  ...... was it the air or the water?  I forget.  Now that I think about it, it must be the air.  Everyone in Vilcabamba drinks bottled water. (They don't really live longer there.  It is a myth.)

I have never heard about the ‘Cuenca energy vortex’.  Of course I am pretty much out of the loop on the really cool stuff.

Lizard People:
I am sure that everyone knows of the lizard people by now.  You know, the alien race masquerading as humans.  Apparently, many of the ‘humans’ in positions of power are actually lizard people.  They would be the ones pulling the strings in the world.  It is all hush hush and very secretive.  But, I have heard (possibly wrongly) that one of the centers of knowledge about the LP is ......... well, not Cuenca.  I have heard that the other place is very aware of them and the threat they pose.

But the Brennie and I don’t worry about the LP.  We have Bugger and Wanker to protect us. 
Bugger and Wanker
Wearing their magical
'lizard people protective wear'
Life is sweet,

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Bicycle Safety Tip #1

The last post was on motorcycle safety.

This is about  .......see blog title.

So  ..........
I am riding my velociped (25 year old bike) home the other day.
It is about noon.

Light to moderate traffic.

I come to a place where another lane merges into mine.
The other lane is basically an on ramp.
I have the right of way.
BUT, I am a bicycle.
The vehicle merging into my lane is a car.

The car does not modify it's speed to either pull in front of or behind me.
We are on a collision course.
The driver of the car must see itself as the winner in any pissing contest.

I am peddling slightly uphill and really don't want to loose my inertia.
The car seems content with  our little collision course.
I hit my breaks and concede defeat at the last possible moment.

The car blows by me.
I glance over to check out the *sshole that would just as soon run me over as not.

A car full of nuns?
I almost get run over by a bunch of f*cking nuns!

When on a bicycle,  NEVER assume that god is on your side.

Life is Sweet,

Monday, October 1, 2012

Motorcycle Safety Tips

There are all kinds of personal safety tips.

Tips for visiting _________ City.  (Fill blank with name of any city in the world.)

Driving safety tips.

Walking.  Flying.  In the home.  Safe sex.

The list is limitless.

Most safety tips are pretty obvious.

Here are a few not so obvious motorcycle safety tips:
 - Ride with your doctor.  My doctor ......... Dr. Gabe ........... is a gerentologist.  I guess there is a certain time when your primary care physician is a gerentologist.  So he may as well be your riding buddy.
- Dr. Christian?  Well, it's pretty handy when one of the other riders is .......drum roll please .........  an orthopedic surgeon.  Yep.  No kidding.  How handy is that? Especially cool when riding in Ecuador ......... mostly mountains and blind curves.
- Dr. Gabe's dad was there.  Also a doctor.  Also named Gabe.  But not a gerentologist.  A forensic pathologist.  Sheeeeeiiiiiit Bubba!!!  That's grim.  Kinda like riding with an undertaker. 
- I am not sure of the other two riders.  But I am pretty sure they were doctors.  Maybe a neuro surgeon for head trauma and a plastic surgeon for skin grafts?

Red shirt. Dr. Gabe.  Gerentologist
Black jacket (left) Dr. Gabe.  Forensic pathologist.
Orange jacket.  Dr. Christian.  Orthopedic surgeon.
My bike.  Far right.
All the bikes are Kawasaki KLR 650's.
Pretty cool bike for Ecuador.

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

That Tastes Terrible!

Hey Mr. Donut KIng ......
Your donuts LOOK GREAT.
I have tried them 2 or 3 times.
I just get sucked in by how good they look.

Donut (Yech) King
BUT ........
Each time I've tried them,
I spit out the first bite and didn't take a second.
Maybe it is no coincidence that around the corner from every Donut King is a trash can.

Yeah Mr. Donut King .........
That bad!

 Soooooooooo ...........

Rather than be a Whiney Baby:
The Brennie and I did this ........

Extra super-bob yummy
And, h*ll ya ....... they're good for you!
My folks did home-made donuts a few times when we lived in Michigan.
These are every bit as good as I remember.
Not many things are as good as you remember from 50+ years ago.
These are lumpy and mis-shapen ........ just like mom's!

LIfe is Sweet (and fattening),

PS:  I do love living in Cuenca.  BUT, the things that I miss the most are food items and my '94 Harley.

PPS:  Life is Sweet, but not perfect.

I forgot to mention.  
JIF peanut butter is off the shelves again!
This is terrible.
Who knows how long it will be this time?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Hello Gringo Tree Readers

The Brennie and I have been living here about 2 1/2 years ....... very satisfied.

I love reading the Gringo Tree emails ......... but have noticed a real change.  A couple years ago I tried to submit a request.  I was looking for a recommendation for a veterinarian for Bugger and Wanker. I got a response from GT stating that those type of (looking for and seeking advice) requests are not published in Gringo tree ..... that I should go check out a bulletin board or user group.  I was sent a copy of the GT guidelines ....... also making it very clear  that advertisements for commercial services were printed in only very specific and limited instances.  

Well, the GT guidelines have obviously changed.  For the good?  Bad?  Who knows.

Sometimes GT is worth reading for the sheer entertainment value.

The following appeared recently.  It was written by a friend of mine.  We had just been talking about some very similar ’looking for apt’ ads appearing over the last 6 - 12 months.  

“Wanted El Centro apt. - Quiet, secure, three two or larger, must have open plan, large terrace, great views, fully furnished with full size washer dryer, modern kitchen and full size appliances, hot tub, flat screen tv at least 60", high speed wifi, elevator, guard, must allow large dogs and children, smoking, must be close to grocery shopping, and bus route, a weight room gym or lap pool would be a plus. No gringo pricing will not pay over $350 a month all utilities included. Will sign 6 mo lease with a possible 6 mo extension.”

My friend said that he got 80+ responses the first day ....... apparently few of them were kind.  I thought his post was hilarious.  Also sad that there have been serious ones very similar (but I think they were without the lap pool and 60” TV).

Another recent favorite:

I loved the one from the gal looking for ‘natural blond’ hair dye.  Really?  Seriously?  Natural blond dye?  It was very specific ........ not ash blond, not strawberry blond, not this, that or the other blond .....had to be natural blond in a bottle.  Aren’t the terms ‘natural blond’ and ‘dye’ kind of a contradiction, or mutually exclusive?  (Oopsie, maybe the terms  ‘contradiction’ and ‘mutually exclusive’ have too many syllables for the natural blond dye crowd.) 

Anyway:  News flash!!!! .......”natural blond” is a genetic thing.  It doesn’t come in a bottle.  It comes in your genes (not jeans ....... that is different and I can barely resist going further with this).  

Anyway, I am pretty sure I learned about that genetic thing somewhere between 4th and 8th grade.  Of course, for all I know, maybe the ‘intelligent design’ people have finally taken over all the state school boards, so that whole genetics and evolution thing would now be considered godless heathen science-voodoo.

Another favorite:

How about the one where the single gal wants to know if it possible to have a life in Cuenca.  She stated that she was 55, single, etc.  I REALLY wanted to respond that I am a couple years older, married and looking for a friendly single gal for a recreational relationship.  No strings attached.  Please send picture.  Some of my friends thought it would be fun to send the exact same email.  Just to show how friendly we are, of course.  Our wives said we were idiots.  (Or was it morons?)  But, they would all send their own identical email explaining that their husbands are retired and have devolved into mischievous children that are best ignored.  The wives would tell her that they are sure she could find a good life here ......... however, maybe not.  Please send picture.

And yet another favorite:

Wants to know if there are traditional barbers in Cuenca.  Seriously?  Is this a serious question?  Uh?  What would the options be?  All of us guys have styled hair? (Think Bee Gees, disco dancing.)  OR.  We have all gone with dreadlocks?  OR.  Maybe once a month there is a huge gringo gathering and we all cut each other’s hair (manis,  pedis)?  I mean is this a serious question?  Really? Seriously?

Hey, as long as I am on a roll here (haven’t taken my meds yet today) .........
When did the Gringo Circus arrive in town?  Are there multiple gals here wearing what can only be described as clown outfits (with wigs)?  Or is it just the same gal that I am seeing way too often?

Life is sweet,

PS: I was going to title this blog “The Dumbing Down of Gringo Tree"

PPS:  I wonder if I have any friends left.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Happy Anniversary Honey
I Bought You Something

The Brennie and I have been married for 28 (holy sh*t!) years now (never an angry word).

Soooooooo .......... I went out this AM and bought her a really special anniversary gift.

It's a Kawasaki KLR 650!
Wow honey ....... you are sooooo lucky!

She loves it!
(I knew she would.)
Gee honey ..... it even comes with bags.
Pretty  special, eh?
You're worth it!

It's a lot bigger than the bike I got you for your birthday.
You can keep them both.

That old Brennie sure is a lucky girl to have such a swell husband.

For a look at the BIG DAY 28 years ago:

Life is Sweet,

PS:  For those that are a little slow on the uptake ........ it is unlikely that the Brennie will ever ride either of those bikes.  Although she did have both a Harley and a Honda Shadow back in the states.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Cuenca to Oregon to Cuenca


Brennie and I spent the last 2 weeks in Oregon visiting our son and daughter.  There are no words to describe the joy in seeing them.  

But, HOLY MOTHER OF GOD!  Expensive!  I knew this up front.  It was no surprise.  I wasn’t shocked.  But, still it was shocking.  But that is not the subject of the rant.

- - - - - - - - - - 

The return trip to Ecuador was ‘interesting’.  We had a real sucky itinerary to begin with  ..... and that is our fault.  For many reasons, we had trouble pulling together a feasible and reasonable flight plan.  Everything was a moving target.  Finally we just pulled the trigger (reservations had to be made) and we had our (less than perfect and very expensive) flights.

But then on the way back home to Cuenca ........ with our cobbled together POS flight plans ....... the wheels started coming off the cart.  

It started when Delta cancelled our flight from Detroit to Miami.  They pieced together a couple other flights to get us to Miami, but this left us less than an hour to gather our bags (checked, but not checked through), go to the LAN counter to get our boarding passes and  check the baggage, go through security, etc and be on our connecting flight to Quito.  As everyone knows, gathering the bags alone can take 30+ minutes and security can take another 30.

So, best case scenario, not likely to make it.  Possible, but not likely.  One can always hope ........ 

So, anyway, it turned out to be impossible, because our bags did not fly with us.  

So, according to the the folk at Delta Miami:
..... “Don’t worry about your bags.  Run to the gate.  Fly to Cuenca.  Fly without the bags.  We can have them to your house in Cuenca in a day or so.”  This seemed really, really hard to believe.  I suspect it was an intentional lie just to get us out of their hair.
..... “If the bags are not here, all you have to do is to put in claims for them.  Getting them on the planes to Ecuador (international flight) takes some extra paper work, but it shouldn’t take over 2 weeks.”  I am NOT making this up.
..... “Don’t even think about flying international without your bags.  Between TSA and us (Delta), you will just have to fly back here to Miami to eventually pick them up.”  Actually, I am not sure exactly how this went, but it was basically, wait for your bags, don’t fly without them, etc.

As it turns out, three of the bags arrived in Miami an hour after our LAN flight to Quito left.  The fourth apparently flew (for free) from Detroit to Atlanta to Minneapolis to Atlanta to Miami.  Not making this up.  The lost baggage guy in Miami traced it for us. This bag arrived in Miami hours later and with lots of frequent flyer miles.  

So, we 
- spent the lovely hot humid night in Miami at the Regency Hotel, 
- paid rebooking fees for the last available seats on our next 3 flights and 
- arrived home only 1 day later than we should have.  

How exciting.

Delta did give each of us a $6 food voucher for airport food.  This too is exciting.

But, this is not the topic of todays little rant either.

- - - - - - - - - - - - 


Who are the Kardashians?

Why are they so important to Americans?

Are these people the latest representatives of American morals, values and ethics?

Why is it that everywhere I went, there were magazine cover stories on these people?

How could anyone possibly care what these people think or do?

Has any Kardashian at any time had a newsworthy thought or contributed any thing of any type to this world.

What is a Snooki?  Is a Snooki a Kardashian?  They seem to be cut from the same cloth.

Truly folks.  If the Kardashians are representative of what is ‘important’ in American culture ........... there is no polite way to end this thought.

Sad.  Desperate.

And THAT was the rant.

Life is sweet,

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - 
Here is another take on the Delta Screwup and the night in Miami;
“Because of a small problem with a connecting flight, we were able to spend a glorious night in Miami soaking up the heat.  I was enjoying a cigar while enjoying a sauna-walk in the evening and walked up to an iced-latte-to-go place.  A complete stranger at the walk up window was there with his family.  We made small talk as best as I can in Spanish.  He and his family had just gotten back from the Dominican Republic and he had bought some Dominican cigars.  He gave me a couple cigars. (Remember, I was smoking a cigar.) When I smoked them later, I could reflect on the fact that the world has much kindness and generosity in it.  Every cloud has a silver lining.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Living in a Chemistry Experiment

The Brennie and I have been married for about 100 years (September ‘84).  
In most ways average, average, average ....... common as dirt.
Recently, the old girl has gone nuts, total bonkers, barking mad.
Back to this in a minute or two.  

We were as average as could be:
- teacher (me), program development in disabilities field (the newly crazy woman)
- two children, one of each gender
- always had a dog
- mini van / SUV
- summer vacation at rented house on lake .... same place every summer 
- bought my first Harley when in my 40’s
- every 2 - 4 years a major vacation (Disney World, Mexico, etc)
I mean we were average.

Well?  What does this have to do with my lunatic, wack job bride.

What does this have to do with ‘living in a chemistry experiment’?

Well, I’ll tell you what.  
If I could remember.  
When I started this, I had a transition in mind for ..... 
average --> nutbag -->  life in a chem lab.

If you are guessing that she has started cooking up batches of meth alongside the lasagna ...... WRONG.

So what HAS happened?

The Brennie has become some type of Ecuadorian Martha Stewart ...... that’s what!  
H*ll I don’t even recognize her any more!

A few minor examples before I get to the Mad Chemist part:
- I suggest that I go out and grab a pizza to go.  The Brennie goes to the kitchen and makes TWO pizzas from scratch (even the crust).
- A couple times a month she makes (2 again) quiches.  From scratch.
- She made curtains.
- Green smoothies (look it up)
- Making a braided rug.
- She just bought a LOT of different polka dot fabric (20 kinds?)  A quilt, maybe? 

She is in the kitchen all the time.

Right this very minute she has both the (new electric programable) pressure cooker and crock pot going .... I don’t even ask anymore.  
I have no idea what the plan is for today’s creations, because I know for a fact that we are going out to dinner.

By the way ....... little miss cuckoo bonkers doesn’t really eat leftovers.  
I am having to eat 5 times a day (hungry or not) just to keep food from going bad.
I am not sure why she did the whole pork thing (5 - 8 lbs) a couple weeks ago.
She is basically a vegetarian.  Maybe one small portion of meat,

Now ..... The Mad Chemist
She is into ..... I really don’t know what to call it.  
Live cultures?  
Fermented food?
- a batch of sauerkraut is busy bubbling away(?), fermenting(?) whatever.
- experimenting with creating sour dough cultures
- making her own yogurt
- she has ordered a BUNCH of cultures for some other stuff (again ..... I don’t ask)
- threatening to make cheese next

Braiding for a rug.
I have put a padlock on my closet
so she doesn't cut my clothes in strips.

A lot of food now includes .....
raw cold pressed coconut oil.
And, they don't just give that sh*t away!

A new crock for making sauerkraut.

The new fancy pressure cooker.
We could dine out for a month on what this baby cost.

Busy bubbling away.
Smells good.

Experimental sour dough bread.
Not bad.
I think she has ordered some new cultures (or something).

Sour dough starter?

Home made yogurt.

I'm a little scared.
Who is this woman?
But, she sure is cute.

Glad we don't drink.
If we did, I suspect she would have a still up and running.

Now, if I could just get her to do some ironing!

Life is sweet,

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sounded Like A Good Idea At The Time

“It sounded like a good idea at the time”?

You just gotta lower your expectations with an opening like that.

You just know it's going to end badly. The conclusion, outcome, ending, the finale ….... not much hope. It's just the specifics that bear telling.

First …...... understand that this too is the fault of Ms. Karen Kimbler. Back to that later.

Nobody wants to read a bunch of boring details, so here are the main points.
- 69 km bike ride advertised on Gringo tree.
- Charity fund raiser type of thing.
- Giving away 2 new mountain bikes at destination.
- Promises to use secondary roads …..... not main roads.
- Does suggest that participants be in good physical condition.
- Destination is a mountain top lake.
- Mountain top lake is a couple valleys over.
 -You know what separates valleys ….... right? (Hint …... really big f*ckin Andes hills.) You see, if there weren't big hills separating the valleys ….... it would be the SAME valley. Anyway a couple valleys over and then UP even more.
- First stop is Turi …... if you live here you understand the joy of that little bike climb.

- Day before: beautiful
- Day after (today) : beautiful again
- Day of the ride :
     Starts out cloudy and overcast.
     Many days start that way and often end up beautiful a couple hours later.
     A couple hours later (and the rest of the day) – RAIN

See below for a pic of secondary roads combined with rain.

Yeah, that is an ambulance on the left.
Yeah, it was for the riders.
Yeah, I saw it used ...... twice.
Once a few miles down this road.
(some gal went to fast downhill on a windy, muddy, slippery road ......what did she expect?)
The other time some old turd (my age) was laying down and being examined.
I didn't look too closely.

Once at the destination, it became obvious that we had all (200 of us) ridden through tar. It was everywhere! How the hell do you ride through tar when you are on mud/rock roads. Someone mentioned that the really rich looking patch of black muddy earth in the road….. oh, I get it.

I wondered if I had a big blob of tar on my face. There was one guy that had a tar smear on the seat of his pants that would have looked like a skid mark if the color was a little different. I guess that was funny.

So, mainly, I was:
splattered with tar,
AND, I did not win a mountain bike.

Okay, so you may be wondering exactly how this is all Karen Kimbler's fault. Frankly, I am wondering myself. (As far as I can tell, she had nothing to do with it.) It must be Dan Maloney's fault. After all, he loaned me his helmet. A helmet was required. (Not everyone was wearing one.  Duh.) Without a helmet, I might not have gone. AND I still have to clean the tar off Dan's stupid helmet. So, yeah …....... this is Dan's fault. Maybe it was partly the Brennie's fault too ….... I wanted to win a mountain bike for her.

Life is Sweet (and muddy and sometimes cold and wet)

PS: This ride was for a good cause.  I will probably go on the next one in about 6 months ...... or maybe I will just mail in a donation.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Why I Haven't Been Blogging
Why I Am Back At It

Why I Haven't Been Blogging ......

It is that whole Galapagos thing.  
It was so cool.
There was so much more to say/share.
So many cool pictures.
Like the pic of the baby sea lion sniffing my leg.
Actually I didn't get that pic.  The last pic that camera took before going belly up ...... the baby sea lion's nose was just a couple inches before it touched my leg.
The camera hasn't worked since.

Anyway there was so much more to say and show about the Galapagos..........
It started to smell like work .......
So I avoided it!

Why I Am Back At It .........

Well, (like so many other things)  it is Karen Kimbler's fault.  
According to  Randy,  there's a lot of stuff that is Karen's fault.  
But that is a whole different story.

Anyway, yeah, it is Karen's fault.

So ............
About a week ago around 5:00 PM, old Karen calls me.
Randy just got back for the SuperMaxi (grocery store) near their house.
He saw 3 jars of JIF peanut butter there.  
There were only 3 jars ........ one 28 ouncer and two 18 ouncers,
He snagged them for me.

There hasn't been JIF on the shelves since September (2011).
So, I told Karen that I would be right over ..... cash in hand.
But FIRST......... 

There are 2 other SuperMaxis.
Lots of Gringos shop at them.
BUT, very few gringos:
1)  have a car
2)  live anywhere near the SuperMaxi out by the airport.
BUT, we have a car.
I figure that if any store will have more JIF, it is the one by the airport.

SOOOOOOO ........
Brenda joins me and off we go.
Holy Mother of God!!!!!
We hit the jackpot!!!!
They had 8 jars of 28 oz. and 8 of 18 oz.

The Brennie was embarrassed to be seen with me and a cart of 16 jars of JIF.
So, she left the store.
I was pretty proud.
I even got a jar of jam, some milk and imitation ritz crackers.

So, who knows how long JIF is back?
It is uncertain.
So, I have 26 jars in the pantry.
Yeah, the '26' above is not a typo.  I have bought more.

Now I know what our folks felt like in the 50's as they were provisioning their bomb shelters.

Life is Sweet (and Sticky and Gooey),

Friday, March 23, 2012

6 Days & 5 Nights

Okay now ....... You see the title and are immediately thinking " cheesie pre-packaged tour" or cruise or whatever ......

And, well ...... You're kinda correct.  

Pre- packaged, cruise & tour thing ....... yes.

Cheesy ......... not cheesy.  Or maybe very cheesy and I am just a no-taste kinda guy.   You be the judge .... here I am the day before we left.  Testing to see if my ear plugs can double as nose plugs when we go snorkeling.  Pretty classy.
Ear plugs as nose plugs?
NOT a sign of genius.
Back on track here ...... we found it to be the perfect way to see the Galapagos Islands.  Everything was taken care of (meals & lodging on the boat), we got into places and did things that would have been difficult if not impossible for us to arrange.  Everything was paid for up front.

Going to the Galapagos was never high on my priority list.  I was wrong in this.  It was great.  I never could have guessed what an experience it could be.  It was super-bob cool and bitchin' !

Our plane as seen after landing.
We landed on Isla San Cristobal.
A word about the wildlife:
- ‘Innocent’ is the best description.
- For the most part they have no fear of man.
- They can touch you, but you can’t touch them.
- Supposed to stay 6 feet away from them unless they approach you.
Examples -----
- Sea lions in the towns
- Sea lions on the beaches ..... just walk around them.
- Birds everywhere.
- Iguanas and lizards (sea and land type) don’t scamper away from you. Actually nothing avoids you at all.
- I had a baby sea lion come up and sniff me.  It’s whiskers and nose felt just like when Bugger or Wanker sniff me.

Our first surprise!
A little about the ship and crew.  
- The ship basically cruised from island to island and we did different things on different islands.
- We were on the M/V Santa Cruz. In Spanish it is the M/N Santa Cruz ...... do you see the difference?  Owned by Metropolitan Tours.
- The Santa Cruz has passenger capacity of 90.  There were 39 on the cruise.
- The staff was fabulous ... so good that I did not even balk at the suggested tipping guidelines.
- Every time we went ashore we had a naturalist with us.  The naturalists were amazing.
- A small cruise ship does not have all the amenities as a large ship ........ but I much prefer it.  Very personalized.
- About half the passengers were English speakers and half were Spanish speakers.
- The organization and attention to detail was great.
- She ship was 35+ years old and was showing it’s age a little on the outside, but not on the inside.
- We upgraded to the best cabin we could (junior suite) because it was roomier and had a couch ...... I like to read late and hate reading in bed.  There were 2 master suites, but they were already taken.
First sighting of our little ship.
Always got on and off from the Zodiak rafts.
A little about shore excursions:
- A naturalist/guide was with you for every trip out .... and they were VERY GOOD.
- Some excursions were wet - beach time with snorkeling or snorkeling off the zodiak rafts in deeper water.
- Some excursions were dry - guided tour of the restricted ares and the wildlife.
- We had a couple opportunities to be in towns and see wht they had to offer (not really too much).
- Some level of tolerance and ability for physical exertion was necessary.   
- Some excursions were more demanding than others.
- There were usually  2 shore excursions a day.
- One excursion in the AM.
- Back to the ship for lunch and siesta.
- Another excursion in the afternoon.
- All excursions in groups of 8 - 12 (basically you were with the same group on all excursions ....... could be good or bad).
On the first day.
We arrived at the boat in time for lunch and an orientation to the ship.
That afternoon, we went on an excursion back into town to see the interpretive center. 
A little about the weather:
- Hot
- Humid
- Hot with humidity.
- Humid with heat.
- We did get some relief with some clouds.
- Lots of sun screen was used.
- But basically .... hot and humid.

About the Galapagos National Park:
- If you are a tourist, you must pay a national park fee to enter the islands. ($100 or $6 depending on if you have an Ecuadorian Cedula.  We have a Cedula, so ours were $6 each)
- 97% of the land and 100% of the water are a national park.
- The islands (and water) may possibly be the most highly restricted land area on earth ...... and that is good.  It is so unique.
- The beauty of our package tour is that we got entrance to everything ...... but, STAY ON THE PATH.  Very restricted and regulated .... as it should be.


Life is sweet,

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Timely Little Rant

OR IS THAT ‘BLOWS’?  ‘SUCKS’ OR ‘BLOWS’?  Those two words mean the opposite things ..... blowing pretty much being the opposite of sucking ....... like breathe in and breathe out.  Yet blows and sucks convey the same concept?
Anyway ......... this place blows too!
Anything in particular make me say this ....... about blowy / sucky Cuenca?  You bet.
I hate to re-beat this drum (kick a dead horse?) ....... but really and seriously ..... what the h*ll is gong on here?  Why can’t the stores stock JIF peanut butter?  Every *&>%$#@ day?
When we did our recon mission here in June/July 2009, SuperMaxi had JIF creamy on the shelves.  It was a little spendy, but that is fine.  If gas can be $1.48 a gallon and monthly water and electric about $30, then who cares how much JF costs as long as it is available.  Right?  Anyway, it was available all of June and July of ’09.
So we arrive June 1st of 2010, and ever since then, JIF has been available less and less.  It will be on the shelves for a couple months and then not available (at any price) for god knows how long. It is unavailable more than it is available.
For instance, the last time I saw it on the shelves was last September ...... over 5 months ago.
Now I have learned to compromise and have learned to live with Peter Pan although it is a far distant second to JIF.  JIF is good, it can be eaten with a spoon directly from the jar.  Peter Pan has to be eaten on a cracker with jam ..... because it is just not good enough to eat straight from the jar ...... it needs the cracker and jam to hide it’s ‘not-JIFness’ flavor.
Anyway, I am willing to settle for Peter Pan (crunchy or smooth).  I haven’t complained about this.  I have been strong. I really don’t want to be a whiney little b*tch.  But even PP smooth is hard to get now and the stores haven’t had any of it for almost a month.  They do have Honey Roast and Low Fat.  But they are horrible!  Bugger and Wanker do like it (our little Pekinese beasties) and it is so fun to watch them try to eat it.  But then they eat dog food and dead stuff on the street too.
Movin’ on here ...... So I get on my moto today.  I have a mission.  Find some Peter Pan (JIF would be too much to hope for).  I ride from one side of town to the other and back again and can tell you that there is none to be had ...... except for the aforementioned Honey Roast and Low Fat.
There is some local peanut butter available and the Brennie says it is perfectly fine.  She says that ..... but back in the good old days, if we had JIF on hand she would eat MY JIF and ignore the local cr*p.  So I don’t think she really does like the local stuff that much.
A friend of mine put a case of JIF creamy in a shpping container for me a year ago.  The container has been sitting (packed) in the states for a year now.  Currently the JIF is frozen in the container.  Last summer it was cooked.  Can’t wait to see what it is like if it ever gets here.  Freeze - cook - freeze - cook - freeze - cook.  Now JIF does have their mix of additives, stabilizers and preservatives down to an art ....... so maybe the freeze / cook cycle won’t be a problem.  Yeah, right.
I can buy JIF at and have it shipped.  The shipping is $50 for a 2 jar pack (TRUE ...... I checked it out).  But ‘food and beverages’ are restricted items for shipping ...... along with guns, ammo, explosives, drugs, etc.
I have brought  it down in my checked baggage before (along with cigars) and it is no problem.  However, when in a carry-on ..... no dice ..... it is confiscated. (The dreaded peanut butter bombs we have been repeatedly warned about?)
WOW.  WOW.  WOW.  Just this very second, I got a phone call.  Dean is bringing me a jar of JIF creamy when she comes back from the states  God love her!  No kidding .... I just got the phone call .... this very minute!  Holy Sh*t!  Gotta tell the psychic friends network!
I was going to close this blog entry with ‘Life sucks / blows’. but now I can close with .......

Life is Sweet,
PS:  It is a bad idea to look up the number of rat hairs allowed by the FDA in peanut butter.

PPPS:  Maybe I will move back to Topeka so I can pick up some JIF an my way home from work?  Then again ...... maybe not