Monthly Archives: November 2015

Música Navideña de Puerto Rico: Beginning to Sound A Lot Like Christmas


Posted by Cassie

In the states right after Thanksgiving you start hearing Christmas music on the radio. Lots of old stuff like Bing Crosby and Nat King Cole. And a few newer contemporary Christmas songs too.


Chestnuts roasting on an open fire


Sleigh Rides


White, snowy Christmases

We can tell a lot about a culture and traditions through its music. Those above are just a few Traditional North American songs about Christmas traditions, weather and food. There is a feeling of festivities, but not of partying so much. It’s about family and gifts, of somber reflection, relaxation. Sometimes it’s nostalgic or a longing for the family to be together since so many people live far away from one another. Many songs tell the nativity story. There are lots of songs about Santa Claus and Christmas trees. Also enjoying the snow and being outside in the cold or inside warming up near a fire.

Bomba Dancing
In Puerto Rico there is music and dancing outside all year long!

On the radio some channels are completely dedicated to Christmas music. The same thing happens here in Puerto Rico except that Christmas music, música navideña, is much different. And if you don’t speak Spanish or know any better you might not even realize that this fun salsa music is, in fact, Christmas music.

It’s not all salsa as you’ll see, but a vast majority is. Here’s just to give a little taste of what we hear on the radio nowadays at Christmas time.


Salsa! Lechón, lechón, lechón. Yes, pork, specifically a pig roast, at Christmastime is where it’s at!


In Merengue style. Dejalo pa Enero means Leave it for January which is basically the motto for everyone at Christmastime. It’s time to party and have a good time


Bachata style from DR. Singing about the Burrito de Belen -Donkey of Bethlehem


Esta Navidad. This Christmas. From a classic Christmas album by Willie Colon and Hector Lavoe. The whole album is a Christmas must in Puerto Rico

Christmas in Puerto Rico is anything but a somber time. It’s time to party! It’s time relax and have a few drinks. It’s time to dance. It’s time to be with family and friends and eat lots and lots of traditional Christmas food and drink like lechón, pasteles, morcilla, coquito, ron and more. And these songs reflect this. There’s not much if anything about Santa Claus. Maybe the three wise men. But definitely nothing about snow. And only a few passing mentions of Jesus and the Nativity story.

Oh and don’t forget that the classic Feliz Navidad is by José Feliciano, a Puerto Rican! After you’ve listened to all of these you can kind of see how this one song makes the jump and melds both the traditional American Christmas song sound and the party Christmas sound of Puerto Rico. We love Christmastime and the fun Christmas music of Puerto Rico!

What do you think of this post?
  • WOW (0)
  • Awesome (8)
  • Interesting (1)
  • Useful (0)
  • Bummer (0)
  • Yikes (0)

Half a Page of Scribbled Lines


Posted by Britton

I have come to know that I am very motivated by music.  When I start my days I usually listen to music and drink coffee before getting started on whatever project or goal I have set for the day.  One of these tunes that pops up every so often is the song Time by Pink Floyd.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you.
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun.

The song to me is about a lifetime and what we may want to accomplish before a our life slips past.  This idea has been important to us in general; we didn’t want our working lives to take up the entirety of our adulthood.  Not that we didn’t enjoy a lot of different aspects of it or that it wasn’t beneficial to us, but we had written down some goals.  Some scribbled lines… and that is what brought us to Puerto Rico.

Every year is getting shorter; never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught or half a page of scribbled lines

The scribbling of lines has continued!

Before we begin a large undertaking we write stuff down.  We make plans, we figure, we think and we try to create in our minds as accurate of a picture we can of what we want to create.  This is important because we have found out that being as specific as possible helps to manifest our dreams into reality.  We just completed the major part of the bridge and staircase leading up to the cabin and I wanted to show the drawings and the nearly finished product.

Drawing 2Full length bridge
Scribbled out Bridge Plans                                  Actual Bridge

We had even laid out some plans for the staircase on the other side, which we just completed a few days ago.  When I looked back at our idea book it was pretty similar!

Drawing 1Concrete Stairs
Bridge and staircase between Palms                 Actual Bridge and Staircase Different Angle

These were not easy challenges to accomplish.  It required leveraging both human and material resources. I hired some help for digging the footers and making the forms.  We used leftover wood from the wood house for 50% of the bridge and for making all of the concrete forms.  The wood house we took down has turned out to be a tremendous resource!

The concrete steps probably have more time left in them than my body does.

garden path
Path that leads to the Cabin

We continue to put trees and plants in the ground as much as we can because they also will require time.  It can take many years for even a grafted fruit tree to produce and we want to work with time in that regard.  Contrast this with our previous jobs where we felt we were working against time; when is the next vacation, what time do I get off?

Our lives are going to be over at some point regardless of anything, but we get to choose how we spend our time.  If we enjoy something we try to expand upon it and utilize time as one of our resources instead of something to dread and count down the moments until we reach the finish line.  It is also tough because one never knows when their time is going to be over, or when we may not be able to physically do the things we are doing any longer.  Both Cassie’s dad and my mom died earlier than anyone expected.  It has helped us to realize that all of this is fleeting and you’d better get out there and do what you can!

Your time is a personal thing.  Are you using it the way you want to?

And with that;
The time is gone, this song(post) is over
Thought I had something more to say……

What do you think of this post?
  • WOW (2)
  • Awesome (11)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Bummer (0)
  • Yikes (0)

Let Food Be Thy Medicine: A Farm Update


Posted by Cassie

The finca is coming along great. Now that the air is getting a little cooler, it’s a little easier to be outside working. We are also starting to look more and more the part of a farmer, or I like the word jíbaro, than ever before. Britton finally broke down and bought some steel-toed rubber boots for when he was slipping all over the place building the bridge and then I got some too.

Farmer Jibarita Cassie
Me, the turkeys and my boots -also a huge wild papaya (aka lechosa) and plantains above

They get a little hot and sweaty, but to avoid slipping and all the ants out there, they are great. I still have a tendency to just want to wear my flip-flops, but at least I have some protection if needed.

We are still growing a lot of food:

Bucket of avocadosNew Avocado
Bucket of avocados and starfruit and our “new” avocado

Since August we have eaten avocados EVERY. SINGLE. DAY! Not that I am complaining! I love avos. We even found another tree that is a different variety and super smooth and creamy. So we have a very prolific one that is great for guacamole and a less prolific one that is nice for pretty slices with the eggs in the morning. There are other avocado trees as well, but they are little deep in the jungle. We constantly harvest lots of bananas, coconuts and passionfruit. Occasionally we can reach a breadfruit before it drops, but it’s a super tall tree. Besides all this great healthy food, though, we also grow our “medicine.”

Medicinal plants turmeric ginger garlic
Three of the most important medicines you could have: ginger, turmeric and garlic

The famous quote by Hippocrates is still true today: Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. What you consume is important to your health! Junk food makes for junky health but on the other side, there are so many great foods out there to help it! In fact, at least 50% of pharmaceuticals were at one point derived from plants!

turmeric plant Ginger plant
Turmeric and ginger growing -notice the small flower on the ginger

Here are some medicinal plants I wouldn’t want to be without:

Turmeric:
This is just an all-time super star. A powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory. It’s used to treat or help with just about everything from heartburn to diabetes! Many diseases are caused by oxidative stress and inflammation, so this root helps on both fronts. What I am most impressed with are the studies showing it could help in preventing, treating, and possibly even curing cancer! I use it any time I cook. It adds a great flavor to meals as well as a yellow color. Some of the oldest people in the world drink a turmeric tea daily. Just be careful as it can stain.

Garlic:
Recently Britton got a splinter in his finger and over the course of a couple of days it swelled up huge! He said it was hurting and beginning to spread. We were just about to the point of going to the pharmacy for some antibiotics, but decided to try garlic first. He ate about two raw cloves a day as well as placed some chopped garlic under a Band-Aid on the splinter area. Within about 4 days, he was completely healed! Garlic is a great antibacterial, anti-microbial, and anti-viral agent in addition to antioxidant and general health tonic. It is also super great for the cardio-vascular system. In addition to the turmeric, I always add garlic to our meals. Cooked is fine, but it’s a little more powerful raw, such as in our guacamole!

Ginger:
I just love the smell and taste of ginger. Another great general health tonic, ginger is probably most well known for helping with stomach aches and nausea. And like turmeric it is also useful for inflammatory issues like arthritis. I often add it to our meals or make a tea or juice mixed with carrots out of it.

Chia:
We aren’t growing this yet, but I would like to because of all the great health benefits, especially to the digestive tract and antioxidants (more even than the powerhouse blueberry). It has the best fatty acids and is super high in fiber. Everyone should eat a spoonful of chia daily or make chia pudding for a refreshing and healthy snack.

Milk Thistle: We grew this in Colorado but I don’t know of a tropical substitute, so I use a supplement for this. I mention it because it is one of the best treatments for a hangover or any type of liver problems or just to maintain a healthy liver. When our young little dog Schnoodle nearly died of jaundice, this saved her life. It was what got me interested in herbal medicine in the first place!

Recently, I have heard of another plant that I was super interested in. It is called Moringa and is often called the Tree of Life.

Moringa2
Moringa sapling ready to be planted

Moringa:
This sounds like the most useful tree ever! You can eat just about every part of it. The leaves can be cooked or eaten like salad greens. The seed pods, called drumsticks, can be cooked as a vegetable. The seeds themselves make a great oil and the root is supposed to taste like horseradish. You can even use it for water purification! In addition to all of these fantastic qualities, it has a ton of health benefits most notably increased vitality in general.

Cabin planting trees
Britton and I planted the moringa and maví trees (as well as a durian) by the cabin

Maví:
I haven’t had the famous Puerto Rican drink, maví, yet, but I’ve heard it’s a little like rootbeer or sarsaparilla in flavor. It’s also supposed to have great health effects including lowering blood pressure. Like cinnamon (another powerhouse mainly for lowering blood sugar/avoiding diabetes), you use the bark of the tree and then make a sort of tea out of it!

I love plants of all types and there is a place here at the farm and in the gardens for them all! From the showy and ornamental to the common fruits and vegetables and all the way to the understated beauty of the medicinals.  They are all welcome here!

Plumeria
Plumeria flower: a beauty and edible too!

Our new lifestyle suits us well. We love being outside in nature and with all the plants and animals. We eat food from the land probably close to 50% of our intake. Some of this food we planted or raised, some were here already and others like papaya just show up as a gift from the wild. We get a lot of movement naturally working and sweating outside and we eat food as medicine. We are much more social and also much more relaxed. Living this way, without really trying we have both lost about 15 pounds more or less (we don’t have a scale, so not exactly sure) and thanks to all of these factors we feel healthier than ever. Yep, I’d say green acres is the life for me!

On the farm with turkeys and a papaya
Tropical farm life is the sweet life!

What do you think of this post?
  • WOW (6)
  • Awesome (9)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (1)
  • Bummer (0)
  • Yikes (0)

A Taste Sampler of Puerto Rican Food


Posted by Cassie

You can’t live in a place without experiencing the local cuisine and Puerto Rico is no exception. Coming from Colorado we were used to a lot of Colorado-style Mexican food which is to say hot and spicy! Some people think that all Latin areas like spicy food, but that is not the case in Puerto Rico. Here the food is an interesting mix of Caribbean, Spanish, African and American flavors. A strong base note in the flavors is garlic and a lot of food is fried. Many foods include plantains or breadfruit instead of corn or wheat as the main starch to the dish. Traditional Puerto Rican food is commonly called comida criolla.  Here are a few dishes that I happened to capture with a photograph. I’ll try to take more when we go out so you can see what types of food we get to enjoy here.

Food at CambijaCeviche!

Living on an island we get to eat a lot more mariscos or seafood than we ever did in the states. I love fresh ceviche, fish tacos, fish pinchos, and the occasional ensalada de pulpo (octopus salad). As for fresh salads, the one above is about as fancy as they come unless you go to a place that specializes in salads. Lettuce is super expensive here and so often cabbage is used in its place on sandwiches which are Cuban style flattened and delicious! Also, with nearly any meal you will be asked if you would prefer papas fritas (also papitas) or tostones. Papas fritas are French fries and tostones are double fried smashed green plantains. Both of these will commonly be served with mayoketchup: mayonnaise mixed with ketchup.

Puerto Rico Food Mofongo
Mofongo relleno de camarones

The first time I heard the word mofongo it made me laugh. But when I tasted some good mofongo I just had to have it again. My favorite is mofongo relleno de camarones (mofongo refilled with shrimp). They smash up plantains and make it into a bowl. Then you fill the plantain bowl with the soupy creation and enjoy. So good.

Puerto Rico Food Pastel
Pastel

The word pastel for me in Colorado meant cake, but here it is closer to what I would think of as a tamal. Instead of corn masa though it is a starchy mixture -either yuca, plantain or some other starch filled with a meat mixture inside. Usually pork. It is then wrapped in banana leaves and boiled. Like tamales it’s a traditional Christmas food because they are so time-consuming to make.

Ensalada de Pulpo y tacos Puerto Rico food
Ensalada de pulpo, empanadillas and “tacos”

Street food in Puerto Rico, like anywhere is probably not the healthiest option. Generally everything is fried. The empanadillas, the tacos, the arepas. Just a little bite for me. Except at an American style fast food place, tacos are not the U-shaped creations we may normally think of and are very similar to empanadillas.

Arroz con gandules
Arroz con gandules

I love arroz con gandules or arroz con habichuelas. Such a simple staple soul food. Rice and pigeon peas or beans that are flavored with tomato sauce, sofrito and bullion. Sometimes we’ll pick up the $5 lunch at the panadería in Rincón which comes with a hefty portion of baked chicken, arroz y habicuelas. Arroz con gandules is a staple food year round but because the pigeon peas come into season in the winter, it’s also a traditional Christmas-time food. I also really like arroz mamposteao. I am not sure what is all in that but it’s really good too!

Puerto Rico Food Pollo a la Criolla
Pollo a la criolla con arroz -I think it’s mamposteo

Lots of chicken and pork dishes. Not a whole lot of cow-eating in Puerto Rico. It’s not unheard of to eat beef (churrasco anyone?), but chicken and pork definitely dominate the plates. Also, rabbit is fairly common to eat here.

Lechon
Lechon

So many words for pig meat here! Like eskimos and snow, everyone in Puerto Rico seems to love different varieties of pork. Lechón, cerdo, puerco, pernil. At Christmas there are even songs dedicated to lechon, lechon, lechon!

Pincho CassiePinchos and a piña colada

Pinchos are probably the Puerto Rican entry food for gringos. Who doesn’t like the novelty of meat (usually chicken) on a stick topped with a piece of pan Boricua? Just be careful not to eat too many because they are often fried too! Most everyone has had piña coladas, but did you know they were invented in Puerto Rico? Don’t assume it has alcohol in it though. You have to specify con ron if you want rum in it!

Medalla and LimeMedalla Light

The most Puerto Rican of beer is Medalla Light. There is no Medalla regular. Strangely, the Colorado brew Coors Light is the preferred beer on the island however! Any good Puerto Rican will tell you any beer is not really a beer unless it is served BIEN FRIIIIA!

Pitorro
Homemade pitorro

The highest octane stuff is the traditional moonshine called pitorro. Watch out for this and just have a small chorro or you could be laid out in no time flat.

So there you have a small snippet of some of the food and drink on the island. There is so, so much more. But hopefully this gives you an idea of the type and diversity of foods here. When you’re in Puerto Rico, don’t be afraid to order or try something new to you! You will probably be happily surprised. ¡Buen Provecho!

What do you think of this post?
  • WOW (1)
  • Awesome (6)
  • Interesting (3)
  • Useful (0)
  • Bummer (0)
  • Yikes (0)