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Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy New Year, from Peru!

After a very hot Christmas day, it seems we are going to be in for an even hotter NYE.  It will be my first New Year's Eve ever, that I will not have to wear a huge parka over top of my cute dress.  Today when I went to buy my dress I had to keep that in mind as well since I sweat like crazy all the time here. Not even kidding.  I walk out of our apartment and I just start to sweat.  The lighter and cooler the fabric the better.  I did find a super cute dress with Jules at Saga, and some cute shoes, with Josh at some random Peruvian store on Shoe Street and hopefully they keep me from over heating!  It sounds like Josh will have to work which makes me really sad, but I am going to try to make the most of the evening.  Jules, her son Abe and my friend Sandra are going to the Westin Hotel in San Isidro for a nice dinner and hopefully some dancing after, if I can make it until midnight!

I have been doing some research on the crazy Peruvian NYE traditions and would like to share some of the ones that seem really different to me, but first, I thought I would show everyone some of our photos from Christmas day.  The first one is an example of the Peruvian style Nativity scene that Jules and I found at Jockey Plaza on Boxing day.

Gorgeous right?

Anyway, now onto these wild Peruvian Traditions!  I know they are traditions and are taken seriously here, but I guarantee, some will make you giggle and scratch your head!

  • Wear yellow underwear.  This is supposed to bring you luck and happiness in the following year.  You can also wear red if you want luck,  green if you want money and white for good health .  I don't have any yellow underwear, and since I have love, I will go with green or white.  And my dress has gold on it, does that count as yellow?
  • Eat 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight.  Or try to gobble them down as fast as you can in the first  minute of the new year.  Each grape represents a month of the year and eating them is supposed to bring luck.  Some places I read, said you are supposed to eat them under a table, but I have no idea why. 
  • Stand in a doorway, and throw 12 coins over your left shoulder as the clock strikes 12.  Another version of this says to throw 12 centimos over your shoulder into the street as the clock strikes 12.  Both of these are done for financial prosperity. 
  • Run around the block as fast as you can carrying an empty suitcase if you want to travel.  I really hope I get to see someone doing this.  
  • Put a handful or lentils in your wallet or pocket.  This means your wallet/pocket will always be full of money.
  • Toast to the new year with a glass of champagne that contains gold jewelry.  Just don't swallow the jewelry.
  • Run up and down some stairs at midnight.  This will bring luck.
  • Take 12 lemons and hide them around your house.  As they dry up they will absorb the bad energy of the year.  I am a bit hesitant to do this one since I seem to have fruit flies all over my apartment already for no reason let alone having lemons all over.
  • Burn the old year.  This requires building a life size doll made of old clothes to symbolize the end of one year and the start of another.  Then just set it on fire.  I am hoping that no one in my building or neighborhood tries this one.
  •  Sit or stand on a chair as the clock strikes 12 if you want to get married.
  • Before midnight, get three potatoes, leave the skin on one, peel on completely and partially peel one.  At midnight you need to randomly choose on of them without looking (one site said to put them under your couch) and the one you pick will predict your financial prosperity for the year.  The potato with skin means no money, partially peeled means a regular year and totally peeled means lots of money.  
As you can see, I have lots of traditions to choose from, although most of them will not likely be acceptable at a fancy restaurant.  I think everyone at home should pick one to try in the spirit of Peru.
everyone have a fantastic NYE and an amazing year!

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Never Too Late for Eggnog!

One of my biggest Peruvian pet peeves, by no fault of their own, was the lack of Eggnog at Christmas. I mean, how can there not be eggnog?  It is part of what makes Christmas, Christmas.  ONe of my favorite traditions at home is my stepdad breaking out the eggnog and pouring it much too strong!  I was quite shocked about there not being any here, mainly because in Peru, there are eggs in or on EVERYTHING.  A large amount of traditional peruvian dishes have either egg mixed in, or just a big ol' fried egg right on top.  Club Sandwiches always have egg on them here, a version of the BLT called a Triple without the bacon, but with an egg, most dishes that come with rice have an egg on top of the rice....  It is pretty insane.
So, For the first time ever, I decided I would try to make some on my own.  I was pretty apprehensive.... I guess because I knew what I wanted, and expected my eggnog to taste like, and I was scared a homemade version would not come close.  I scoured Pinterest for recipes, and after weeding out ones that had raw uncooked eggs (no pasteurized eggs here and raw eggs gross me out) and ones that required a mixer (I just don't have a mixer and no use buying one we can't take home)  I decided on one from a great website called Picture Perfect Meals.  I didn't experiment much, and pretty much did the recipe exactly as written.  Make sure to strain it after you cook it!  I definitely had some scrambled egg chunks floating around!  Make sure to garnish with nutmeg and a cinnamon stick as well.  Just for fun!

Here’s what you’ll need:
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • pinch of kosher salt
  • 2 cups whole milk (I used 1% milk for a tiny calories reduction)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Spiced rum (I added a shot to each glass of eggnog but its up to your taste)
Here’s how:
In a heavy-bottomed pot, thoroughly whisk together the eggs, sugar, salt and milk until homogenous. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid registers 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Remove from the heat; stir in the spices and vanilla. Pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer. Cool to room temperature. Add the cream and refrigerate until very cold.
Stir in the spiced  rum, if using (or you can serve it on the side). Ladle into cups and serve with a fresh grating of nutmeg and long cinnamon sticks for stirring.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Fab Friday Faves 12.27.13

Good morning darlings!  I hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and back in Canada, did some awesome Boxing Day shopping!  I never even did any online!  Christmas day was pretty quiet for us here in Peru.   Today Josh switches to night shift, so things are going to change around here.  It always takes some adjusting to his life, but also mine, as I am used to doing everything in the afternoon.  I will have to rearrange activities etc, for the morning or early evening so we can spend time together when he is awake.  I also don't go out at night here alone, so it cuts down on the time I have to do things.  In any case, we make it work!  This Friday Faves is an homage to Christmas, and I will be back tomorrow with some more photos from our day.  Enjoy!

1. Jinx and Smudge enjoying their Christmas present, a new scratch pad.  They have been scratching on it, but I am sure it makes a comfy bed too!

2. My new Mulco watch.  I have wanted one of these for months and was so excited to get one!

3.  My new Lily bracelet, also from Josh, beautiful!

4.  I didn't get this in person, but my new Canada knitted sweater from my parents!  Cannot wait to get home and enjoy some cooler weather!

5. The Christmas Eve fireworks in Lima.  I have never seen anything like it!  360 degrees of fireworks constantly for almost 2 hours.  It was beautiful.

Today I am linking up with:

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas, Peruvian Style

Feliz Navidad!  Unless you are Spanish, you are not saying it right.  It is actually more like Felis Nabidad.  But said really fast.   I ventured out this morning and did not have the best of Christmas experiences.  First of all I sweat more than I ever had in life for about 3 hours.  I still am and I have been home for 90 minutes.  Not used to that.  Secondly, while I am used to busy stores, at home, nothing compared to this!  Wall to wall people and NO Christmas spirit or kindness or regard for humanity.  While you may think it is like this in Canada too, you just have no idea.  Take my word for it.  I did a lot of swearing today!   Although, my main purpose for going out was to walk to a pet store a couple miles away to get the cats a new scratching pad for Christmas, I found them something else... Go ahead and judge, I don't care!

Anyway, I have learned over the last few weeks, that Christmas here is different than at home.  I'm not really planning on following many of the traditions, but it is interesting to see how other people in the world celebrate.  I did some research, to get everything right, and in the process learned some new things.  So here it goes, a quick overview of a Peruvian Christmas~

  •  while North American influence is getting stronger here, especially in the area that I live in, Christmas trees are not very common.  More common here are Nativity scenes.  Fairly traditional, but some have llamas and alpacas instead of the traditional donkeys, camels etc.
  • Most families have turkeys as their main course like we do, but some have roast suckling pig, fish, or roast wild chicken ,depending on the location.  Tamales and Applesauce are also found at every Christmas table.
  • The dessert, instead of pie, is a traditional Christmas cake called Panetón, it is similar to our Christmas fruit cake, with raisins and candied fruit.  In the grocery stores, there are whole aisles, both sides, with about 20 different brands of these.  We got one in our box of stuff from the company, but I gave it to the maid today.
  • They eat the panetón with hot chocolate seasoned with cinnamon and cloves.  Even when it is this hot!
  • Christmas is mostly celebrated hereon Christmas Eve or La Noche Buena (the good night).  Families generally get together during the day of the 24th and go for a walk in the square where there are sometimes festivities and choirs, or they go to homes of friends and family. 
  • At about 10pm that night, the more devout citizens go to a mass called the Misa de Gallo (the rooster's mass), while everyone else sets of fireworks, drinks and parties in the streets.  I have heard these aren't just normal fireworks, but insane deafening, crazy fireworks (I'll try to get some good pictures of the celebrations tonight).
  • Next, at the stroke of midnight, everyone heads inside and either has their big turkey dinner (can you imagine having that huge Christmas feast at midnight?) or let the children open their gifts.  These two events are interchangeable, depending on the family.  
  • After this is all over, the kids are sent to bed and the fun really begins!  The adults will generally clear out there living rooms and party and salsa dance until the sun comes up!
  • Christmas day is mostly spent sleeping and getting over the hangover from the night before, and spending more time with family.
  • There is of course Santa Claus, or Niño Jesus or Papa Navidad as he is called here.  He hit on me at the grocery store again today ;)
There are different traditions, amongst communities all over Peru and one of my favorite is the village of Santo Tomas which as week long parade and festival called Takanakuy.  At the end of the week, on Christmas day, there is a town wide brawl, were people settle their differences from the previous year.
Check out the link I have included to learn more about it.  Sounds pretty awesome to me!  Peru's Takanakuy Festival.

There are also some interesting New Year's traditions, but we will save those for next week!  Josh ended up getting the day off for Christmas, so we will maybe head to the beach or just relax.  We thought that we would be home for Christmas, so most of our presents for each other are in Maine, but we got each other a few things to open and I am cooking a (free) turkey tonight as well so we can have turkey buns tomorrow.

Here are some photos I have taken over the last couple weeks of some Christmas decorations and delicious Christmas baking that I have found mostly around Miraflores.

 A christmas tree at the entrance to the airport made of suitcases.  Sponsored by LAN, one of Peru's biggest airlines.

a decorated tree and Nativity scene in Tarapoto

In the lobby of our building

The tree at Larcomar

cute oreo elf

the tree and festive stuffed animals at our vet office

really cute cupcakes

A Coke display in the toothpaste aisle

at a cute gift store.  The vulture stole Rudolph and Santa is upset

At a bakeshop I walked by

At the hostel where we do our cooking classes

Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Tarapoto Jungle Adventure Pt. 2

Alright everyone!  Here it is, part 2 of our jungle adventure.  In case you missed it, check out Part 1 here.  Enjoy and I hope everyone is having a fantastic time preparing for the holidays!

On the third day of our trip in the jungle, we were up bright and early for our hike to Pucayaquillo waterfall.  We met at the lodge with our guide for the day, Rodile.  He was one of the most interesting characters I think I have ever met.  An actual real life Tarzan!  We drove about 15 minutes and were dropped off on the side of the road just kind of randomly.  When we were about 50 feet off the road, it seemed as thought we were 500 miles from anything.  We were engulfed in real, thick, wild jungle.  There was also no one else around.  Right away, Rodile (whom by this point had referenced Tarzan, so I was just calling him that) started making monkey, bird and bug noises, and talking to himself.  Did I mention he was carrying a very large machete?  He said it was in case we "saw a snake."  I was doubting that we would ever return to civilization alive again.  

The first thing we saw was real life Coca.  I have talked about this before, but it is the plant that cocaine is made from.  In the jungle it is used basically the same as the Andes, not as a drug, but the production of it for cocaine use is huge in the jungle.  

We saw dozens of termite nests on our hike, Tarzan actually went and chopped one open so we could see inside, and offered us one to eat.  We declined.  If it isn't dipped in chocolate, I don't eat bugs.  

this picture pretty much tells you everything you need to know about our guide.  Also, like a lot of Peruvians, he is wearing crocs.  Which is fine, but he nearly wiped out about 6 times, down steep cliffs while we were hiking.  Here he is showing us a wild pineapple bush.

This is the marker showing that we are now in the Cordillera Escalada protected area.  If you cut down a tree here, you go to jail for 8 years.

This Owl butterfly is so amazingly camouflaged.  He looks like a leaf when he is sitting like this.  See down further for a better picture and what he looks like when he is flying.

This huge almost 2 inch long beetle is dead, stuck in a tarantula web.  

Tarzan teaching Josh wow to swing from a vine.  seriously.

Some remnants from a MASSIVE wasp nest that fell down.

This tree produces a sap that has been used for thousands of years as a fire starter.  It burns for hours.

We finally got to the Puayaquillo waterfall.  We were the only ones there and the water was so nice and warm we could have stayed all day.  The water's power is actually taken away a bit by the rocks that it runs down so you could sit in the falling water and have a conversation.

 Walking trees like in Kauai.  Over years they can move several feet closer to a water source.

There was a tree covered in these flowers but it was so high up you could barely see them.  The groundwas littered with them and I thought they were beautiful.

Don't be fooled, this is just a regular old grasshopper, just pretty colors.  He hopped on to my bag and for anyone who knows me, it made me scream.

This doesn't look like it, but it is actually a type of chameleon.  you will see another one changing colors later on in this post.

The Owl butterfly again!  The second photo is what his back looks like when he flies.  gorgeous!

A Praying Mantis! I thought this was pretty cool!

A black salamander.

This is a Cicada.  He is actually about two inches long!  They were so loud at night in the jungle we could barely sleep!

We finished the hike back (It seemed a lot easier after cooling off in the waterfall for an hour) and headed back to the lodge for another delicious lunch (my tortilla de plantain are on the right side) and some relaxing before our afternoon boat ride.

While we were relaxing by the pool we noticed that Tarzan and some other Amazon boys were looking into the hand dug ponds on the hill above the pools.  We assumed these likely had some sort of fish in them, but because of the staffs lack of trying to understand our Spanish, we never bothered to ask.  So 
 when Tarzan took a flying leap into said pool, we went up to see what was going on.  Turns out, one of the maintenance boys (one of the ones that woke us up looking in our window while we slept that morning) spoke a tiny bit of English, so he told us that it was Tilapia, and they jump in and go fishing every day.  With their bare hands.  The fish is them used for dinner in the lodge restaurant.  Pretty cool and very fresh!

These Ginger plants have always been one of my favorites and grow like weeds at the resort.

Josh enjoying a beer in his favorite holiday shirt. haha

At about 2:00, Tarzan, jungle man, came to get us again, this time for a boat ride down the Rio Huallaga.  We were told this would be about a two hour tour, turns out it was about 45 minutes but oh well.  The river is so brown, because the dirt in the area is actually a very bright browny red color.  It is also the rainy season in the Amazon so the river is swelled and has a crazy current.  Our boat driver actually just learned to speak Spanish.  Until a few years ago, he only spoke Kechwan, the native language of most of Peru.  We found out near the end, that his friend that was with him speaks a bit of English and studies in Lima.  But he didn't bother to tell us until about two minutes before we were done.

We felt so sorry for these cows!   They were skin and bones, had to drink the brown water and we weren't sure what they had to eat!

Local Natives out with their canoes, fishing.

On Saturday, we woke up to thick clouds and very threatening rain.  We were supposed to head to a place about 60 km away called Sauce Lake or as the locals call it Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon). So we were worried the weather would be bad.  Our first driver assured us that the weather would clear in about an hour and it would be fine.  The day started off less than ideal, and we were both in bad moods as it were.  We were told we would leave around 8am to start our journey, and when we got to the restaurant for breakfast at 7:10 (supposed to start at 7) they hadn't even started putting things out yet.  Of course, even though they knew we had an excursion, no one bothered to rush or tell us how long it would be, so I went back to the room.  Luckily we had asked if we were going straight from Sauce Lake back to the Tucan in Tarapoto, because no one bothered to tell us!  SO I packed up, had a quick shower and headed back to breakfast.  It was just about ready by this time and we had about 5 minutes until we were supposed to leave.  Of course, it didn't matter, we ended up leaving closer to 9 anyway.  By the time we were starting on our trip, it was POURING.  We had to wait for another van to get meet us at a corner, and when they finally got there, after waiting another 15 mins it was filled with eight teenaged girls.  I knew we were in for it!  
The girls of course were singing and laughing and shrieking and speaking how Peruvians speak.  SO LOUD! I was at my wits end before we even got to the good part.  Sauce Lake was actually miles off the main road, up a dirt path that was windy, steep and pure mud.  Our driver Paul, had said he had done this a million times, but as we speeding up the road, slipping around, ass end going over 400 ft cliffs, passing people on the road big enough for one vehicle, screaming, singing oblivious teenaged girls, I was certain we were going to die.  And I could see Josh was sure too.  After what seemed like an eternity, we reached our ferry to cross Huallaga River.  Since it was so muddy, we had to get out and walk down the road onto the ferry, half the girls fell and we were all covered in red mud.

We walked up the hill on the other side and got back in the van.  The girls took forever buying drinks and snacks at some vendors by the ferry and I was quickly losing patience.  After a few more miles of scary death road, we got to the town Sauce.  The roads in this town were worse than the mountain roads and we went down them totally sideways.  FINALLY after what was an eternity, we got to Laguna Azul.  We were at a small private local resort that I am sure was nice, but it was still pouring.  By this time Josh and I both wanted to say screw it and catch a cab back to the lodge.  But we got in our boat and hoped for the best.  Our first point of Interest was what looked like a diving board about 40 feet up off the side of a cliff.  Three of the girls volunteered to jump off a smaller one, about the height of a regular high diving board at a pool.  Only one of them actually jumped and in true teenaged style, the rest stood at the top argueing about who would go next.  None ever did.  Had it been sunny I would have been the first up there, but it was cold and I was SO grumpy.

We continued in the boat, for a while, watching for wildlife, and seeing some amazing resorts and private homes of very rich people.

We came across this really freaky bird.  They called it the Shanshue, but I can't find that name for it, or its correct name anywhere.  

By this time, it seemed the rain was starting to let up, and our spirits were getting better.  We stopped at a little village on the banks, set up with vendors and a guy with a possum kind of thing (very cute) and this guy with the snake.

They also had these little stands selling all sorts of tropical liqueurs.  They were delicious so we got five bottles.

We got back in the boat, and after a few minutes, we were back at our little resort where we started.  And guess what?  It stopped raining and the sun was out.  We had ordered what we wanted for lunch before we left.  I didn't want anything because I was already sick.  I still didn't feel like eating but picked a little off Josh's plate.   The restaurant was cute, and the owners were super nice.  While Josh was eating I wandered and took a few pics.

This puppy joined us for lunch, he was so cute, and you could tell he hadn't been treated too nicely.

After lunch, we headed to the water for a swim.  The water was like a bath.  I guess they weren't kidding when they called it sauce Lake.  We played around on the beach, took some photos of the painfully skinny horses and relaxed in the hammocks.  Some of the shore was totally convered in these teeny tiny snail shells.

This is the chameleon I was talking about earlier.  Notice he goes from brown to green to blue?  Pretty cool.

After our afternoon was complete, we got back in the van and headed across the mountain road again.  you can get an idea what the road were like, but this was after3 hours of drying time.

On the mountain road, we were able to see just how beautiful the blue lagoon is from above.  Gorgeous.  We also got some pictures, taken by a security guard with a large gun, who then insisted everyone in the van pay them for keeping us safe.  Shake down!

We stopped for a drink at while waiting for the ferry and were on our way back to Tarapoto!  I tried this beer made in the jungle.  It was actually pretty good.

We got back, and got settled in and enjoyed the pool at Tucan for a bit before heading out of the hotel for dinner to the Cafe Du Monde.  One of the most beautiful restaurants I have ever eaten in and the pizza was delicious.  It is a castle and amazing inside.  Unfortunately it was dark, but I did my best for pictures.  We also had our first ride in a mototaxi.  a motorbike rigged up as a cab, with a seat for 2 on the back.  This was pretty much all Tarapoto has for vehicles.  It was fun!

The next day, there was an earthquake at about 7am.  Strong enough to knock out the power until noon and it was crappy weather so we were pretty bored.  The sun came out jsut as we were getting ready to head to the airport.


All in all, it was a nice trip.  The jungle was gorgeous and it was amazing to say we were there.  Despite our complaints we enjoyed it and it was nice to get away and relax!