Sunday, August 30, 2009

Wok your heart out!

I'm still trying to figure out how to put a slideshow in my Blog without it showing up on every single blog I create! The last time I tried a slideshow on glass blowing in Venice, the darn thing showed up on all my blogs, past and present! So, this is another attempt and I hope it works.

We recently went back to George and Ginger's to celebrate her birthday and George treated everyone to a "Wok" meal. The Wok he used was large but, as he said, not one of the largest ones available for restaurants! He cooked up a scrumpuous meal for about 25 people. It was fun to watch him and even more fun to eat it. I love the smell and the taste of this type of cooking and especially love the colors of the vegetables. He made it with chicken and every type of vegetable we could get on the island!

I have always like cooking in a Wok. Heck, everytime I go to San Pedro Sula (twice a year) I get a variety of vegetables, especially snow peas and bok choy, etc. and make a big Chinese-style dinner when I get home. I had been doing this for years until last year when my husband suddendly announced that he really didn't like that type of meal! Of course it took me 22 years to learn he really doesn't like soup either! He's really not fussy and will eat anything but I guess he decided he had had it with this particular fare. Having this meal was a real treat for me and for the others present and my husband even enjoyed it.

Ginger's day was perfect - good weather, good food, and good friends to help her celebrate. So, again, Happy Birthday Ginger and many more!

Next is a wedding! Yummmmm

Friday, August 21, 2009

Just Another Day!

It would have been just another day in "Paradise" but something special was happening. Our
friend, Claus Rumm (the famous "Have Fun with Rumm") turned 49 on August 15th and to celebrate my husband and I took Claus and his lovely wife, Annette, out for lunch the following Monday.

A new resort has been in the making on the other side of the island near Mangrove Bight, "Clearwater Paradise." The owners, a husband and wife team (George and Ginger), have been working feverishly since they began at the end of last year. Of all the people building something on this island, they have gotten the most done in the least amount of time. They are hard working, imaginative, friendly people who had a dive business in Florida and decided that they wanted to retire to and open a dive business here on Guanaja. Our gain for sure!

We have been over to George and Ginger's a couple times during construction and were amazed at what they had accomplished. Plus, Ginger had the biggest, most productive garden I have ever seen on this island! She had peppers, broccoli, okra, squash, cantaloupe, watermelon, green beans, tomatoes, dill, parsley, greens (yes, she is from the South), black-eyed peas, to mention just a few.

Anyway, they are now open for business (even though they are still putting the finishing touches on many rooms) and when they don't have guests, which unfortunately at this point in time is the norm, they serve full 5-7 course meals. Hurricane Mitch took a terrible toll on the tourism business here 11 years ago and the island really never recovered. Now with the political upheaveal concerning former President Mel Zelaya, people are not inclined to visit a country where they feel there might be political unrest, especially when it is a third-world country! Which is sad, because life on the island is pretty much the same with no problems regarding the political chaos taking place in the capital of Honduras. Plus, diving here is a wonderful, relaxing experience. Normally dive boats take 25-30 people out on one dive. Here, 1-2 people is the norm! We have beautiful reefs, caves, corals and sea life to see. Snorkeling is a plus too for those who don't dive. But, the word has to get out that the island is still in the diving business and if people want a laid back vacation, there is no better place to come.

Well, back to the lunch! George and Ginger offered a wonderful chance to sample some excellent cooking in beautiful surroundings. I called them and arranged for a meal for the 4 of us (Claus, Annette, my husband and myself) on a Monday. Monday is Claus and Annette's only day off from their restaurant/bar, Manati.

The day started off windy and overcast and when we went to take off in our big boat, the battery was dead! We had no option but to use the skiff. This boat is large enoughto transport several people but not as comfortable to ride in! Have you ever been in a flat-bottomed boat in rough seas? It's like a truck with no shocks riding a road full of pot holes at 30 miles an hour!

We picked up our guests and by the time we got to the other side of the island, the skies were beginning to clear up. Lucky for us, when the seas are rough on "our side" of the island, they are generally calm on the "other side". This day was no exception. It turned out to be sunny and calm, perfect weather for dining out.

We got to G&G's, docked the boat and could hear music playing from the house. We traversed a shade-covered walkway until we came out onto the open landscape of the resort. As you can see, it is a beautiful three-story building in a huge open area. We walked up the curving walkway which was surrounded by flowers and lovely tropical plants.

Ginger has been working very hard on the landscaping, along with her garden. If the gardener had not quit recently, I am sure that all the tall grass which has been growing up around her landscaping in the front and the grass and weeds overtaking the garden would have been neatly trimmed. However, one cannot work around the clock finishing up various rooms in a resort, cook meals, perform all the cleaning chores necessary, shop weekly for groceries, and then tend to the garden and planting of new plants while doing all the "extra" outside chores too! So, for a while, the garden will have to be covered over with grass and weeds and the landscaping will be put on hold for a while.

A lovely table had been set with a beautiful arrangement of flowers from her garden. We were then taken on a tour of the Resort. From what I could see, they will have, at minimum, 4 separate rooms, two of which were completed. They have a lovely bar stocked with ample liquor, a game room upstairs in the process of being readied, a large kitchen in which to prepare meals for their guests, a laundry room, a special guest room on the third floor for their friends and one side of the building on the third floor which is used for their living quarters.

On the third floor there was a compass inlaid in the tile floor. George and Ginger plan on adding to the plan with designated points (North, South, East and West). This same area is a sundeck where their guests will be able to sit in the evening enjoying the setting of the sun while being served a variety of drinks from their hosts.

We were served drinks (beer for the men - their choice) and Margaritas for the women from George's own recipe.

For the first course, we were served a refreshing cold tomato soup which had been made by Ginger with tomatoes out of her garden. It was the perfect start to our meal. At first I thought it might be a Gazpacho but Ginger said no, it did not have the various vegetables one puts in a Gazpacho. This was a basic cold tomato soup with just the right touch of herbs.

We then moved on to wonderful pieces of marinated King Fish served on a bed of shredded carrots. The fish was perfectly seasoned and served cold. Small dishes of hot pepper salad were served for those who like a "touch of fire". George had made these concoctions from the peppers in their garden. There was one dish with not-so-hot vegetables and one with "fire" hot vegetables.

For a salad they presented us with a Cesar salad with lovely Romaine lettuce and croutons topped with a great Cesar dressing. We were also served fresh tomato bread baked by Ginger.

For the entree, we were served George's speciality - smoked Red Snapper. George has been smoking meat for 30+ years and has mastered this art to a perfection. The fish was perfectly done, just moist enough with the flavor of the smoke evident throughout. We had scalloped potatoes and lemon green beans as an accompaniment. The lemon green beans complimented the fish perfectly and the potatoes were just right - not too moist nor too dry.

We questioned George about the type of wood he uses for smoking. He gave us a lesson in smoking and the various woods that he has used throughout his years of cooking and said that he was currently using red mangrove wood. Hurricane Mitch literally destroyed the Mangrove areas around the island and dead wood can be found in these once lush patches of trees. New trees have grown up, mainly through the diligence of many people on the island who replanted. The old dead wood is not going to waste however. Islanders collect it for their cooking fires and George has found this dense, hard wood to be perfect for his smoker.

Our final course was, of course, desert. A light, lovely cake was served with a egg based cream sauce. A wonderful end to our meal.

In all the time I have lived on the island I never expected to get such great food at a restaurant here on the island! We have been served fabulous meals of course, but this is when we attend parties thrown by friends or have people over to our home for a meal. The food that day was outstanding, served beautifully and done to perfection. Each course complimented the last one and we were delighted at the efforts of our hosts.

I, along with our guests, thank George and Ginger for providing a wonderful "get away day" of celebration. We will be back for more and will anxiously look forward to their wonderful cuisine.

Hmmmm, Ginger has a birthday coming up......

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Saturday, August 8, 2009

Slideshows to my Blogs

I have since been able to review my Glass of Venice Blog and have discovered that one must double click on the title: Glass Blowing by Sharon in order to be taken to the proper web page and my slideshow album.

Sorry, but this was an experiment and I still have some fine tuning to accomplish.


The Glass of Venice, Italy

The other day, while placing my garden flowers into the vase I had purchased in Venice, Italy, I remembered that I had not mentioned this particular experience on my Blog while vacationing in that city. It was an interesting part of my travels and I thought, even at this late date, that I would share it with everyone.

Venice is famous for its fine glass products. Hand blown pieces of beauty are found in the many shops of Venice.
These creative pieces of glass are manufactured in Murano. Murano was a commercial port as far back as the 7th Century, and by the 10th Century it had grown into a prosperous trading center with its own coins, police force, and commercial aristocracy. Then, in 1291, the Venetian Republic ordered glass makers to move their foundries to Murano because the glass works represented a fire danger in Venice, whose buildings were mostly wooden at the time. What made Murano's glass makers so special? For one thing, they were the only people in Europe who knew how to make glass mirrors. They also developed or refined technologies such as crystalline glass, enameled glass (smalto), glass with threads of gold (aventurine), multicolored glass (millefiori), milk glass (lattimo), and imitation gemstones made of glass. Their virtual monopoly on quality glass lasted for centuries, until glass makers in Northern and Central Europe introduced new techniques and fashions around the same time that colonists were emigrating to the New World.

If one takes the time to visit the ubiquitous glass shops on Murano or in Venice, and you'll find countless paperweights, glass beads and necklaces, knickknacks, and items of glass jewelry. Some are amusing: e.g., colored fish in transparent glass aquariums, or wrapped hard candies of multicolored glass. Others are pretty--glass necklaces and beads, for example.

These artists are allowed to let their imaginations run wild and while I found some items to be rather comical and "tacky", for the most part the products displayed in the showroom of Vetri Artisans were beautiful works of art.

I wandered through the several showrooms and was amazed at the workmanship, quality and beauty of all items displayed. Of course, most were 1)not within my price range and 2)would be hard to display in my home that is, for the most part, devoid of direct sunlight in which to display a piece. I finally settled on a beautiful flower vase (as pictured above)which was on sale and a perfect piece for my dining table.

I have a series of photos depicting the glass works shop and am experimenting, through this medium, with sending these photos via a slideshow. I have read many sources to embed a slideshow into my blog but I cannot review the final result until I post my blog! So, here goes. I hope you will see a video at the top right of my blog for you to follow. It shows the glass works and a master creating two objects. I have discovered that if you double click on the slideshow, it will take you to my Picasa Website. The album on glass blowing will appear and all you have to do is click on "slideshow" if you wish to see it in a larger forum.
Good luck to all of us!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Credit Woes

Living on an island leaves one isolated from the use of items that make life easier and less complicated. Internet, telephones, shopping, availability of a variety of items and credit cards.

Yes, credit cards, even though they sometimes have a bad rap, they certainly can make one’s life a little easier. Especially shopping on the internet, which is what I have to do for 90% of the purchases I need to make. From prescriptions, dog medication, clothing, computers, movies, books, sewing material, tools, parts, solar panels, etc., it is far easier to shop on-line and find a way to get it here than try to find it on the Mainland or the island.

For years we could not use a credit card on the island and there was only one that could be used to get a cash advance at the local bank. Lately, a few more businesses have been accepting the cards and, even though I seldom use it on the island, it is nice knowing that if an emergency arises, I have back-up financing.

That being said, it came as a surprise the other week while ordering a replacement computer part on-line that my card was not accepted. I felt all they had to do was resubmit the information and all would be fine. I was on another site ordering something and the same thing happened….the card was not accepted. We have been with this same company for 40 years and have never had a problem with our card, so this came as a surprise.

I finally contacted the credit card company and was asked if I had recently made a $1 charge to my account on a specific date with a specific company. I replied “no, I had not”. I was then informed that a practice has been uncovered of late wherein someone will get a card number and pertinent information for use on-line and to make sure the card works, they will charge a small amount to see if it goes through. If it does they will then proceed to make larger purchases. Evidentially my card had been used for just such a practice run and my credit card company was suspending use of my card and re-issuing another in its place.

Now, most people would not find this disconcerting or inconvenient. But to have a credit card reissued presents a real problem for us. First, just getting it here is the biggest problem. I have to go through a lot of hassle just to convince the credit card company to send it to an address other than my billing address. When they do, I have to send it to someone who will be coming down here within the next few weeks so I will not have to wait months to get it. Lastly, the option they gave me of getting it reissued on the coast was totally out of the question.

To get a card issued on the coast would be an exercise in futility. Just spending $200 airfare to go to the Mainland and, most likely having to stay overnight would be a huge expense. Plus, I have never had luck with a bank in this country following instructions to the letter without incident. They invariably get my name wrong, account numbers wrong, tell me it will take several days to accomplish the task and then when you return they have done nothing during that time but wait for you to return and announce that you are there for your card, or whatever it is you have requested. They will then, and only then, proceed to try and take care of your request.

So, I pointed out to the woman at the credit card company that she would have to take my word that this way was not an option. The only way I would get the card quickly and without incident would be to send it to the address I supply and they would bring the card to me. Of course the woman on the other end of the phone did not believe what I was saying and after several wasted minutes explaining the plight of doing business here in Honduras, she finally relented and did as I requested.

I guess it is understandable that people living in a country where one can just pick up the phone, jump in your car or have items delivered without incident, cannot conceive that the simple act of obtaining an item could be so much. But, this is just one of the things one must live with if you want to live on an island!