On Friday, we managed to pull off dinner for 32, including Tom, me, and a few babies. As I mentioned in the last blog, we wanted to invite the families next door over to see the graduation pictures, best viewed on one of our computers. My plan for the day was to run to San Ignacio first thing to go to the market, since I needed a lot of produce that I didn’t want to store, and I wanted it to be fresh. After my Wednesday trip to Spanish Lookout and San Ignacio, I planned to make a quick run into town, and then head home. Ofelia had asked if she could go along for the ride, which was more than fine with me since we always have a good time together, and she’s a really useful shopping resource since she shares cooking duties for their big family with her mother, so she knows a lot of tricks for feeding big groups, and was feeding work crews of 11 men all by herself before she started working at Hidden Valley. When I pulled up in front of their house, she came out with Lucy and Iris, and asked if we could stop and pick up Elizabeth, since her six month old baby, Abner, had been running a fever for a day or so, and she wanted to take him to a doctor in town. Of course I can’t turn down a sick kid, so the quick trip with Ofelia and me turned into a fairly sizeable outing. Add to that the fact that Tom and I were out of cash, and everything we do here is on a cash basis, so I had to make a side trip to Spanish Lookout to cash an American check. We left as planned shortly after 7:30, but when I got to the check cashing place, the manager who approves the checks wasn’t planning to be in until 10:00. I must have looked distressed, because the receptionist asked me if that was a problem. I stuttered something about how I was having dinner for more than 20 people, I had to do some shopping in Spanish Lookout and then get to San Ignacio to go to the market, and then I had to get home in time to make said dinner – and I had about $40 in my pocketbook. She very kindly called the manager at home, and said he’d be in within a half hour, so we took off to get a few things ($25 worth) at FTC.
When we were loading the truck in the parking lot at the Farmers’ Trading Center, I had one of those small world experiences. A friend of ours from New York produces and sells horse training videos, and she had contacted me because she has a customer in Belize. She gave me his name, and asked if she could give him our names and contact information, and of course we agreed. He just happens to be the grocery manager at FTC, so we knew we must have seen him even if we hadn’t officially met. I had asked for him when I was there on Wednesday, but he wasn’t in, and on Friday I was in too much of a hurry to look for him. However, one of the girls who knew I had asked about him on Wednesday alerted him that I was in the store, and he ended up following me out to the truck to introduce himself. We had a very nice chat, and I was delighted to meet him despite the fact that the clock was ticking. We finished talking, he went back in the store, and I heard a truck beep next to mine. It was Noah’s stepson and sister-in-law, out for their day of shopping. So, I talked to them for a few minutes while the girls waited in the truck, caught up on what’s been going on with them since they were at our house a couple of weeks ago, and then got in the truck. One thing I’ve learned down here is that it just doesn’t pay to ever be in a hurry. Something is always going to slow you down, and the kicker is that whatever is slowing you down is almost always something worth the time, whether it’s meeting new people or just keeping up with the friends we’re making here. And, in this case, it didn’t really matter because when I went back to get my cash, I ended up following the manager into the building as he arrived – so if I hadn’t taken the time to talk to Bernard and Fred and Mercedes, I would have ended up just sitting in the other parking lot anyway.
We didn’t pick up any old ladies this trip, just made a straight shot to San Ignacio. I had to go to the market, the bank, and one of the grocery stores, Elizabeth had to take Abner to the doctor, and Ofelia and Lucy had some film they wanted to drop off to be developed. It was just about 10:00, and we agreed to meet back at the truck in about an hour. I did my shopping, and then went to the bank, where I was dismayed at the long line. I had forgotten how busy the bank can be on a Friday. However, the line moved quickly and I was out at just about 11:00, and made it back to the truck. Iris came back, and said that Ofelia and Lucy we’re waiting in the square for Elizabeth, so we decided to pick them up and drive to the doctor’s office so Elizabeth wouldn’t have to walk with the baby. That sounded good in theory, except that Elizabeth had finished at the doctor’s office and was trying to get the medicine the doctor had prescribed and couldn’t find it at any of the pharmacies. So, she was walking around to all the pharmacies, and didn’t even see that we’d parked the truck by the doctor’s office. It must have looked a little like a Keystone Cops routine, because the four of us were running around trying to find Elizabeth and Abner, I was moving the truck back and forth between where we’d originally parked in case Elizabeth went there and the doctor’s office since that’s where Ofelia, Lucy and Iris thought I was parked, and everybody was losing everybody else. Iris and I finally hooked up, and I was having a panic attack because it was now almost noon, and I had a dinner to cook. We then found Lucy and Ofelia, and Iris told them I was having a panic attack, and they said we could just leave Elizabeth to catch the bus, but even the threat of a late dinner wasn’t enough to make me want to leave a woman and a sick baby in town to catch a bus to San Antonio and walk the three miles from there. I finally figured out that if dinner was late, so be it, and since all the women with me were guests, everyone would know why we were late. Finally we found Elizabeth, she explained what was happening, and that she had one more pharmacy to try. Fortunately, that pharmacy had the medication, so we got everybody loaded up and headed home right around noon.
Ofelia and Lucy saved my butt that afternoon. While I was throwing together a batch of brownies and a couple of pumpkin pies so they could cook before I had to put the turkey in, those two women peeled and chopped and peeled and chopped. They peeled 15 pounds of potatoes for mashed potatoes, five pounds of sweet potatoes, three or four pounds each of carrots and broccoli, and a couple of pounds of chochos for the stuffing. They also washed and dried all the dishes, dusted the table, and swept the floors. Somehow, we had everything either cooked or cooking by about 5:00, the kitchen was clean, and they were able to go home to shower before coming back for dinner with their families, and I was able to sit on the deck and have a drink with Tom without stressing about what was going on in the kitchen.
Almost everybody showed up by about 7:00, which was perfect timing for the turkey. We were only missing Maria, who had spent the day in San Antonio with her daughter Antonia and with Elizabeth and Augusto’s two older boys, the two boys, and Augusto, who had gone to pick them up. He missed picking them up, because while he was on the way there he passed Antonia, her husband John, and their two kids, who were bringing Maria and the boys to our house. But, that all worked out great because we could then include Antonia and John in the party, and Augusto was back before too long and was able to get a hot meal.
As I said before, we ended up feeding 32 people that night, and everybody was very happy with the American Thanksgiving menu. All of the women from next door are great cooks, so I wasn’t even going to try Belizean food because there’s no way my attempts would be anywhere near as good as what comes out of their kitchens. Everybody was a little funny about the American food, and there were a few things, like stuffing, that weren’t touched until some brave soul tried it and convinced everybody else that it was okay, and then they tried it too. It also helped that our American neighbor Sharyn was here, because she could tell the Belizeans what she liked, and that helped to convince them to try some of the strange food. The desserts were a hit, of course, and we went through two containers of ice cream in a flash. The kids held their Jenga tournament on the floor, where it was a little bit cooler, and we had a great time and think that everybody else did too. We ate off paper plates, but still had all the silverware and serving dishes, and Ofelia and Lucy again jumped in and helped me clean up the kitchen, so we had another night of Tom and I being able to just blow out the candles and go to bed.
As we were cleaning up, I was looking for a bag big enough for the picked-clean turkey carcass, and Ofelia and Lucy asked me what I was going to do with it. I told them I’d probably make soup, and they immediately said that I had to make escabeche, which is basically onion soup with poultry stock, with the onions soaked in vinegar before they’re cooked. Most of the women in the room must have heard the word, because they were all suddenly in the very small kitchen and giving me instructions on how to make escabeche, in English and Spanish and some combination of the two languages. I was just trying to track well enough to get a general idea of what I needed to do (which I did) when Ofelia touched my arm and whispered that the recipe is in one of my Belizean cookbooks which I had loaned to Ofelia a few months ago. I made the escabeche yesterday, and was a little bit panicked because a turkey carcass makes a whole ton of soup. I was just about ready to make the tortillas to go with it for Sunday lunch, wondering how Tom and I would ever manage to even make a dent in the pot of soup before it went bad, when we heard a “hello” from the driveway. It was Frank, who works with Noah, who was out driving around with his girlfriend, her two kids, and a cousin. I saw them arriving at lunchtime as salvation, and insisted that they come in and join us for lunch.
The gods do have a sense of humor, because after my refusal to try anything Belizean for the women next door, I found out that Angie not only cooks, but owns and operates her own restaurant in Santa Elena, which we’ve heard is very good. I don’t think she would have told me, but her daughter asked if we had anything else to eat, because she said her mother had made a big pot of escabeche for the restaurant on Thursday, and they’d been eating it ever since. It was no problem to pull out ham and cheese for ham and cheese quesadillas for the kids, and everything turned out okay. Angie said the escabeche tasted like it’s supposed to taste, and my tortillas came out relatively uniform and round. Of course Tom picked up the one with a hole in it and was compelled to hold it up to his face and peek through it, but overall they were presentable and at least resembled the homemade tortillas that the women around here make. Again, nobody left hungry, although Tom and I still have a pretty sizeable pot of escabeche to eat in the next few days.
In between food fests, we spent the weekend working on tiling the shower. Our goal is to have a working shower in the house before Tim and Kelli arrive a week from today, and we have a little way to go.
Tom and Selwyn took time out of the shower today to dig the holes for the footers for the second cabin’s additions because Tom is getting worried that if it starts raining, we’ll never get those footers poured. But, the floor of the shower is almost done, and Tom will start on the walls tomorrow. We’re not sure if we’ll have enough water pressure, so getting a working shower might involve getting a tank up the hill, filled, and getting piping so the water can come back down, but we’ll worry about that later in the week. We would also like to at least clear around the edges of the rest of the big pasture so we can get the fence up so we can turn the horses out there next week when we’re planning to take a few days off with Tim and Kelli. And, we have to figure out how to keep Nock from going through the screen on the porch, and I have some gardening work to do. I also don’t want to get behind on email and blogging again, since I’ve now spent an entire day at the computer, and not liking to do that is part of the reason we moved to Belize – although I guess I can’t complain about one day every two or three weeks, and if I did a better job of keeping on top of it, I could probably do it in an hour a day rather than having to spend a whole day.
Stout loves to sleep near Lou, and do whatever Louie does. You can see how big he’s getting in this picture. When we got them about five or six weeks ago, they were a little bit smaller than the Jack Russells.
Here’s another picture where you can see how big Beli is compared to Lou and Nock.
Here’s Stout, Mr. Innocent, sleeping in the wallow he created from the dogs’ drinking fountain. I think I’d only slapped him 10 or 12 times over the course of the day so far when I took this picture. Even though he’s bad, he makes us laugh because even as we’re charging over to give him a whack on the butt when he’s digging in the water, he gives us a look like he really can’t help it and his paws are doing it all on their own.
We’ve determined that Esmerelda isn’t pregnant, but even though nobody said anything about the possibility of Glinda being pregnant when we bought her, Selwyn and I independently noticed in the past week that she seems to be developing a somewhat belly-heavy profile. We put our heads together to try to remember if she’s been in heat since we’ve had her, and none of us can remember her showing any signs of being in heat, even when Esmerelda was.
Selwyn says –with a laugh – that he thinks we’ll have a “local plug” on our hands within a few months. I asked how she could be pregnant when she lived in his neighbor’s yard, and he said that she did occasionally get loose, and there are a few stallions who occasionally wander through San Antonio. None of them, Selwyn says, are stellar examples of horse flesh, and Glinda certainly isn’t the be-all end-all dream horse, but at this point I guess we’ll take what we can get and be happy with a healthy mom and foal. Unless we luck out and it IS just a hay belly…
And if any horse breeding experts out there can tell anything from these pictures – like if she really does look pregnant, and if she is, how far along she might be – please let us know!