Monday, December 9, 2013

Cori's Update: Nature, Dairy Products, and Sweat

Do you like how two of us are updating the blog on the same day lately? No, we don't plan it that way, but yes, we know we're cool because of it. :-) December rolled in uneventfully. While our friends and family in WA are freezing with temperatures in the teens and single digits, summer is in full swing here, and we sweat profusely on a daily basis. It's beautiful. Only 2 more weeks of school before Cailene and Cornelio's 'summer' break starts (yes, they are counting down the days), so this past week Cailene started Christmas crafts with her students. This week they are continuing crafts, as well as learning a couple of Christmas songs to sing at the end of the year celebration.

We spent a morning last week at Nacientes Palmichal, a rural tourism 'hotel' about 20 minutes away. It is operated by Hernan and Florita, a wonderful couple from the church. They have lodging, meals, and several activities guests can participate in, from nature walks and butterfly gardens to tours of the coffee farms/processing plant and local artisan crafts. It is a beautiful location; a place where it's impossible to overlook the beauty of God's creation and His omniscient presence in the world. Check out their website:  Don't worry, it's in English.
Me, Bonnie, and Hernan on one of the trails.
Bonnie on our nature walk.
The river, which we drank out from. It was deliciously sweet and pure!

Cailene and I both ordered two 2.5-liter bottles of fresh, raw milk from a local farmer last week. She had been getting one bottle a week, but we decided to put our cheese-making skills to use (thank you, Dawn Courtney!), so we upped the order and off we went. Since Logan and I are snobby and enjoy real butter, I skimmed the cream off my milk and made butter in my blender. If you've never tried it (besides the elementary school 'shake the baby-food jar until your arm falls off' method), you really should. It works like this: place cream in blender, blend for several minutes until the butter fat separates (ie: nasty-looking yellow chunks clump together and float to the top when you stop the blender), scoop off the butter fat and reserve the liquid (this is the original buttermilk, by the way), press the butter w/a spatula until most of the liquid is removed, then place the butter into ice water, and continue to press liquid out of it (called 'washing' the butter). Drain the ice water, and repeat until the ice water stays clear (or as close to clear as you feel like getting it). Remove the butter and add 1/4 tsp of salt (word of caution, a lil' salt goes a llllloooonnnnnggggg way) and mash it in good. Voila. Butter.
The buttermilk (left on Cailene's counter to get nice and tangy for baking treats!) and the butter. Delicious!
We made two batches of mozzarella cheese as well, one for each of our households, and they came out fabulously. In Logan's words, "Ah, finally. Cheese that melts and tastes normal." :-) Poor guy. Did I mention he's planning to have Colter (his brother) bring some cheddar when he comes to visit in January??? True story. Anyway, the main byproduct of cheese is whey (think 'Little Miss Muffet'). From a gallon of milk, you get a small, softball-sized ball of cheese, and about 2 liters of whey. Since our consciences won't allow us to merely pour this down the drain, we googled 'uses for whey'. Aside from a good feed for animals or a way to lower the pH of your garden, you can use it basically like milk. Drink it straight, pour it on cereal, add it to smoothies, use it in baked we made potato soup. Lots of potato soup. It didn't thicken like milk does, but it had pretty good flavor. (Sidenote: pork chop in potato soup is good. It's not bacon, but it works. And when you ask for bacon at a country meat store, they show you literally a giant hunk of fat w/no meat...that's how we ended up w/pork chop). Also, whey tenderizes pork. It's often used as a marinade for pork, or even a liquid to cook pork in. Whey cool!!! (Logan's idea...he's punny). :-)

Cailene w/her cheese and me pouring the milk for mine.
Stretching the cheese. The whey is the liquid in the pot.
Cornelio's birthday was yesterday, and we started our celebration by running a 10k race in Puriscal (20-25 minutes away). I've run many a 10k in my day, and let me tell you, this was by far the HARDEST course I've ever run. It was 2k course that you lapped 5 times. Nice for spectators cuz' they get to see the runners a lot. Bad for runners like me because everyone gets to watch the progression from 'I feel great' to 'Holy cow, will this race ever end?' I don't run so much as I waddle, and on a course with lots of hills and at some 3600ft above sea level, I wanted to die. Oh, and it was probably 85 degrees out with decent humidity. Barf. But Cornelio did great, and his friend Pablo won his age group, so we had a good time. I got my finisher medal and my free (or not so free?) t-shirt, so I was happy.
The group from Tabarcia/Palmichal: me, Cornelio, Andres, Pablo, Oscar, Reyner
Seconds before the start. The guys are intense. Me? Not so much...
Cornelio and a few of his siblings took lunch to their dad's house one day, and we spent a few hours playing some cards, shooting a couple guns, and just hanging out. It was good family time, and we got to hear some stories about Cornelio's childhood. Ever seen bamboo plants? Yeah, they used to climb them and, according to Cornelio, launch themselves from 'limb to limb'. I don't quite believe that part, but Logan and Cornelio shimmied right on up and gave us a great demo of human monkeys. Apparently it's hard on the arms, since there's nowhere to brace your feet. Wish I was strong enough to climb bamboo!
Climbing up. Notice Cornelio in the background?
Swinging down out of the bamboo, and almost clunking me on the head w/the piece in his hands. Luckily, I slipped and fell at the exact right moment to avoid getting hit!
Probably 20-30ft up in the air!
Logan and Cornelio started deconstructing the porch today in preparation for 'home addition part 1'. Rather than put Bonnie's apartment over the garage, it's going to go below the porch, along with an additional parking/garage space. Thus the porch is getting taken apart, tons of dirt will be dug out, retaining walls will be built, etc, etc, etc. Hopefully it can be a timely process, and not drag on for months.

That's pretty much it. Cailene and I have conquered the butterfly stroke at the pool. It's not perfect yet, but we can pretty easily go an entire length of the pool, and we're looking and feeling smoother every day. So great to be swimming again regularly, especially in a beautiful outdoor pool (that happens to be right next to a large cow/horse pasture). And here's a picture of Cailene's banana tree. They should be ripe in a few weeks, and I find it interesting that the bananas grow with the bottom up. Who knew? Also, bananas in a clump are called a 'mano', or 'hand'. So you can buy a hand of bananas, which usually has at least 10 bananas on it. And the smaller the 'nana, the sweeter it is. Bananas 101. :-)
The red part is the flower, which will fall off. These will be 4-5" long when fully ripe.

That's all she wrote, folks! Nos vemos!!! (See you later!)

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