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Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Cat's Claw - an Amazon Herb

Dear Family and Friends,

Chuck and our friend, Brad, are going to the Amazon jungle next month. Chuck read online that taking cat's claw (an herb) can be useful in warding off mosquitoes.

Lourdes, our housekeeper, brought us a couple of packages of "cat's claw" today. She bought it at the local market for 25 cents per package.

Here is a close up of one of the packages.

Direct translation of the package label:

Our Amazon Herb

Claw of Cat:

is one of the medicinal plants of Peru know worldwide whose healing powers are extraordinary. Analyzed by Klaus Keplinger.

Way to use:

Boil 20 grm. for a period of 15 to 20 minutes in a liter of water and take 3 times a day at least or marinate in wine or pisco for 4 to 7 days then take a drink 3 times a day.

Good for: lung cancer, bronchitis, pneumonia, skin conditions, rheumatic diseases, allergies, internal tumors, cysts, gallbladder full of stuff, ulcers, would have cured AIDS cases.

(no mention of mosquitoes)

This is what it looks like when you take it out of the package.

Lourdes boiled a couple of sticks in a pot of water for about 20 minutes and then let it steep.

As I am writing this post, Lourdes just brought me a cup of tea made from the herb.

She added a small amount of lemon, but would not let me add sugar. It does not taste too bad. I think I can do this.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Birthday Party at Tiestos

Dear Family and Friends,

Rich and Nancy have had a real nice couple of ladies (Susan and Melinda) staying in their adobe rental for the past week or so. They are fun ladies that really enjoy the adventure of travel and life in general. It was a real pleasure to get to know them.

Yesterday, Friday, was Susan's birthday.

So, we went to Zoe's for expat night and followed on to have a birthday celebration with Rich, Nancy, Melinda and Susan. For this special occasion we went to Tiestos for dinner.

We all had a wonderful dinner and a grand time.

Here we all are gathered around the choice table in the restaurant.

Rich and Chuck made sure we had the best wine to go with our dinner.

We had cheese stuffed beef and chicken. The sauces were divine. Unfortunately, all I can do is show you pictures of the dishes...I only wish I could let you taste.

Here's the birthday girl, Susan posing with the chef.

After dinner, special birthday music (live) accompanied her very special dessert prepared personally for her by the chef.

To say we all had a good time would be an under statement.

Having such lovely people in our lives is such a joy!


Nancy and Chuck

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Aromatic Tea

Dear Family and Friends,

This morning Chuck and I went to the market. Chuck wanted to get his shoes shined (50 cents), buy a new plant for the patio ($1.50) and six bouquets of cut flowers for the house ($11.00). While there, I bought a bundle of herbs (50 cents) for making tea. I had heard about this from my friend, Nancy. She said all you do is put the herbs in boiling water and let them steep.

When we returned home, I asked Lourdes to show how to make tea with the herbs. She washed the flowers and greenery, boiled water, put them in and let them steep. Very easy.

Now we have a pitcher of beautiful pink aromatic tea.

This is served hot in a cup just like a cup of any tea. I poured some in a glass so you can see the pretty color.

We have enough tea now for the rest of the week.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Potluck at the Watsons

Dear Family and Friends,

Our potluck yesterday was a lot of fun. We are so fortunate to have good friends in Cuenca. Wonderful people.

We only thought about having a potluck on Thursday night. But it all came together and Sunday we had a house full of friends, good food and a lot of warm feelings all around. Life is GOOD!!

Here we are relaxing while waiting for everyone to arrive.

After everyone arrived, we sorted the food. Since we did not make assignments, we were pleasantly surprised to find we had a very nice mixture of food. It worked out great and all the food was scrumptious. We turned the kitchen into one large buffet.

Then everyone scattered to find a place to eat.

Most on the covered patio....
Some on the outside patio...

A couple in the Zen garden...

and some around the dining room table.

After our delicious meal, we sat around all over the house and patio, drank coffee and had wonderful visits.

Tomorrow is Carnival here...same as Mardi Gras in the U.S. Everything will be closed in town and we will just relax, read, watch movies and be glad when the city comes back to life.

Nancy and Chuck

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentine's Day

Dear Family and Friends,

Happy Valentine's day to you. We are sending our thoughts of love, peace and well being out to you and your loved ones.

Here in Cuenca we have noticed that Valentine's day is not only for expressing love to your sweetheart but is also a day of "amistad" (friendship). Knowing that amistad means friendship in Spanish helps us to understand where the word "amigo" (friend) comes from. So in keeping with our new home, we are sending our love to all our friends...that means YOU.

Besides Valentine's day, Carnival is being celebrated here in Ecuador. This long weekend (Sat-Tues) is the last hoorah before Ash Wednesday which marks the beginning of Lent. Carnival is celebrated here by throwing water, cornstarch or spraying foam on anyone you can hit. On the coast this is probably not so bad as it is hot weather and the water could be refreshing, but here in Cuenca it can be quite cold.

During this holiday weekend Cuenca almost shuts down. The people head to the coast for some fun and sun. This leaves the people like us, that stay here, as targets for the merry makers throwing water balloons.

Thursday evening I got a hair brained idea. Why not have a pot luck, invite friends over to have fun without being threatened by water balloons? So I sent out emails and we will see what happens.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of our little get together.

Until then, pass on peaceful and loving thoughts to everyone you meet. It really makes a difference in their lives and your life too.


Thursday, February 11, 2010

Our New Art and a New Year

Dear Family and Friends,

Today was a very special day. We started the day off by visiting our friends, Jerry and Rhonda. It was the first opportunity we have had to go inside the new high rise condo (the Palermo). They have a very lovely condo with views of the city to die for.

After we finished our visit, Chuck went to the bank and I came home and tinkered. (mainly played on the internet...)

This afternoon, our very talented artist friends, Larry and Liza brought by a beautiful piece of mosaic art. We had seen it in their studio and really liked it. We asked them if they would mind bringing it over so we could see how it looked in our house.

Here is a picture of Chuck, me, Liza and Larry holding the mosaic piece....Madonna and Child. We placed the picture in several rooms of our condo and everywhere we put it, it looked great. Right now she is living in our bedroom. Liza's website will give you an idea of her extraordinary talent. You can visit it by clicking here.

The glass mosaic is just incredible. It is done with tiny pieces of colored cut glass. We are so proud of this piece of art.

Chuck and I were thinking to go out to dinner tonight because we wanted to celebrate the first anniversary of our Ecuadorian residency. We invited Larry and Liza, but Larry reminded us that water balloons are flying from every direction and maybe we should not risk going out and getting splattered.

We decided to stay home and order pizza in. We called our friends and neighbors, Rich and Nancy to join us and we gathered around the table with the pizza and wine and had a great time.

I told Rich that I wanted a picture of Chuck and I since it was our one year anniversary. Chuck said wait just a minute and went to get our U.S. and Ecuadorian flags.

Here we are toasting our anniversary.

We are so happy that Ecuador will have us.



Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Photos of Vilcabamba - 3

Dear Family & Friends,

Today I will share some bits and pieces of Vilcabamba. We are returning in March so I am sure that I will have additional pictures from that trip.

One day while walking to town from the Izhcayluma we took a winding trail unstead of the asphalt road. During this walk we saw a sign that said "adobes for sale." Soon we saw this small adobe (bricks made from mud) factory. It was a one man operation.

He had one form that was made from wood. He would fill the form with mud from his wheelbarrow.

The mud was just the right consistency so that he could take the form off immediately. After the adobe dried it was stacked up to sell.

This man was very glad to let me photograph his work. We were really fascinated watching him.

One thing about Vilcababama is that people live and visit there from all over the world. We met people from Germany, Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Canada, Australia, along with people from the U.S. while we were there. We also met a couple bicycling. They had come from the U.S. on their bicycles. Whew!

We saw several motor homes from Europe. People driving through South America. Chuck and I plan to do the same thing one day but in a 4 wheel drive vehicle.

Here is one camper we saw on the square. It was from France. I guess they had it shipped over.

A closer look at their back window shows they have already done a good portion of South America.

On our walk to town each day we passed one of the many houses built by gringos. The hillsides are dotted with them. Some a quite fancy like this one, others are more modest.

The views from the valley looking up into the hills are as beautiful as looking down from the mountain top. Here are some houses dotting the hillside.

Here is a church that is located across the road from where we stayed.

We walked to Craig's Book Exchange. This is a used bookstore. They carry books in many different languages since the tourists are from all over. Book trading is encouraged. Here is Chuck shopping inside.

And here is Chuck sampling a cappucino during our quest for the best cup of coffee in Vilcabamba

As I said before, we did not try every single coffee shop. The results will have to wait until we finish our research. We are returning in March.

We had a great time and we are now all rested and happy to be back home.


Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Photos of Vilcabamba - 2

Dear Family and Friends,

Most every day we were in Vilcabamba we would walk into town. The walk was always an adventure because we never knew what we would see on the way there. We saw many animals, birds and flowers in our walks. Today I will share some of them with you.

This first little guy was one of four burros that were being loaded into a truck. They were being taken to work in the sugar cane fields. This is a very hard job for the burros. I really hated to think that everyday they are faced with such hard labor. He looks tired already.

This burro we saw just inside of town. He looks much healthier and is probably used only for transportation and carrying loads. The dish in front of him has food or water for him. I got the feeling that someone cares about him.

We saw some beautiful chickens and roosters. Here is a pair. The hen, I think, is nesting right in the dirt.

Right in Vilcabamba on the main plaza was a store that always had these two parrots out front. I assume their wings were clipped. They were always sitting on this rope that was strung across for them.

One afternoon we took a nice hike and ended up at a "bird zoo." This vulture was very interesting looking. Normally, vultures are quite ugly but this one was so colorful around his neck and head.

A close up of his head....

On one of our walks we looked up to see several horses running down the road. Luckily, I was able to get this picture as we were headed for the ditch.

Since Vilcabamba has a more tropical climate than Cuenca the flowers were abundant and beautiful. When I see such pretty flowers I have to take pictures....

This little guy was interesting to me because it appears to have tiny flowers blooming right on top of it.

Another beautiful flower....

and others....

And this last picture is a super close up of a poinsettia. It looks like it has little Martians on it singing their hearts out. You can see the antenna on their heads and they appear to be crooning a tune.

Tomorrow I will wrap up on Vilcabamba so I can get back to posting about our life in Cuenca.


Monday, February 8, 2010

Back in Cuenca...Photos of Vilcabamba - 1

Dear Family and Friends,

We returned yesterday from our retreat to Vilcabamba. We had a very tranquil and fun vacation. The main reason we enjoyed it so much was because we were fortunate to be staying at Izhcayluma Hosteria.

We have so many pictures and so much to share that we are posting 3 or 4 posts just on our trip. This first posting is all about the hosteria Izhcayluma.

Chuck and I rented a matrimonial cabin. This is a separate cabin that has a bedroom, bath and porch. The cabins are modestly furnished but the mattress is good and there is plenty of hot water in the shower that heats up quickly.

This is the view of our porch from inside our cabin.

We enjoyed the view and spent a fair amount of time on the porch reading, sleeping and of course Chuck enjoyed his cigars out there.

The most spectacular thing to me about this place is the eating area. It is out of doors under a roof that is covered with greenery. This greenery hangs over the roof and enhances the already spectacular view of the valley.

Breakfast is included with the room, but they serve dinner also. The menu includes seafood, steak, along with German and Italian dishes. The food is very good and we ate all our dinners there.

Wi-fi is available in the restaurant area. Sometimes it works fairly well, other times it hardly works at all. Here is Chuck checking our email while waiting for breakfast.

We only had dinner by ourselves once while there. We invited Carol, Jim and their children up to see Izhcayluma and have dinner with us. They are new to Cuenca and were exploring Vilcabamba the same time we were there. Here we are in Izhcayluma restaurant.

We met another couple who were from Canada but are wintering in Cuenca. They were in Vilcabamba also. They joined us for dinner one night.

The views of the valley were a little different each day depending on the clouds and sun.

We could have spent the whole time at the resort and never went to town, but we didn't.

Swimming pool

Bar and billiard area. They also had a big television and DVD player with movies that one could watch. All of this is in a covered outdoor area. They have a small lending library and you can also get a massage.

The grounds are beautifully landscaped.

This is the town of Vilcabamba. A nice walk, downhill. We always took a taxi back up.

And again, the views are breathtaking.

We have already booked two cabins for March. Our friend, Brad will be visiting us from the U.S. and we will take him there for a couple of days.

We both agree that this is a great "get away" place and we will return on a regular basis.

Tomorrow, I will share more about Vilcabamba.

Have a great Monday!