Traditional Costa Rican coffee

Traditional Costa Rican Coffee

Editor’s note: We’re taking some time for rest and relaxation. While we’re away, we’re reposting our Costa Rica getaway series. Enjoy!

I’ve never been much of a coffee connoisseur. I settle for a single cup in the morning to wake me up and after that, I don’t think much about it. That was until I discovered a traditional Costa Rican method for making coffee that changed my life.

While staying in Monteverde during my recent trip to Costa Rica, Matt and I took a walk through the town and stumbled across the Cafe Orchid Coffee Shop. This cute little coffee shop is one of the few places I found that makes coffee using a traditional “chorreador.”

A chorreador is a wooden stand that allows a cloth filter, called a “bolsita,” filled with coffee grounds to be suspended over a small pot or a coffee cup. Hot water is slowly poured into the filter and drips out the bottom.

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The cloth filter allows all the smooth rich coffee taste to leach out and leaves behind the harsher acidic notes that sometimes bother my tummy. The filter is also reusable, which cuts down on waste. We had our coffee con leche (with milk) and snacked on a yummy chocolate brownie while taking in the beautiful decor of the shop.

Cafe Orchid Coffee Shop in Monteverde

I was immediately hooked on this coffee. So hooked that I bought two chorreadors as souvenirs. Every Saturday and Sunday morning, I make our coffee using this method and it brings a little something special to the start of our day.

Want to change a coffee lovers life? Why not share this traditional method with them? It’s easy to let them know, simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

 

Costa Rican getaway: 3 amazing vacation resorts

3 amazing vacation resorts in Costa Rica

Editor’s note: We’re taking some time for rest and relaxation. While we’re away, we’re reposting our Costa Rica getaway series. Enjoy!

I had my first taste of traveling abroad when Matt and I took a trip to Costa Rica recently.

Before we left, I didn’t know what to expect. I know a few people who have visited the country and they were my best sources of information. Matt visited Costa Rica 20 years ago when it was much less developed than it is today. He stayed in youth hostels and came home with a sickness that doctors couldn’t identify. My brother visited four years ago and stayed at the base of the Arenal Volcano which was actively erupting at the time. He described night hikes where all he could see was the light from his flashlight bouncing off the eyeballs of hundreds of spiders and insects in the forest.

These descriptions, paired with my tendency to expect the worst of any new situation, had me imagining lodging in grimy hotels in a country full of spiders the size of my house that would wrap me up in their webs and suck the life out of me… if the exploding volcanos, scorpions and rabid dogs didn’t get me first.

Needless to say, I was not full of the usual excitement most people have before going on vacation.

Now that I’ve returned, I’m happy to report that Costa Rica is not completely covered in spiders, only some of the volcanoes are active and all of the resorts we stayed in were extraordinary.

As we planned our trip, we quickly became overwhelmed by the choices in lodging. Luckily we had the help of a travel agent who provided recommendations in all of the regions we wanted to visit. If you’re planning a first, second–or thirtieth–trip to Costa Rica, I thought I’d share my top three resort recommendations.

Hotel Royal Corin Resort & Loto Spa

Located in La Fortuna de San Carlos, Alajuela, Costa Rica, this hotel sits at the base of the Arenal Volcano. Luckily the volcano was not actively erupting while we were there.

Arenal Volcano

Hot springs surrounding the volcano are abundant. Many resorts, like Hotel Royal Corin, take advantage of this natural resource. We were treated to three large hot spring pools and four smaller jacuzzis, each a different temperature. And because the main tourist season hadn’t started yet (we were there in November), we pretty much had the place to ourselves.

Hot springs at Hotel Royal Corin

The Basalto Bar sits right in the middle of the pools and they served tasty beverages, including my new best friend: the mojito.

The Basalto Bar at the Hotel Royal Corin

The grounds are surrounded by lush gardens that are visited frequently by hummingbirds and butterflies. The rooms are large and each one has a roomy balcony to relax on after a busy day. Breakfasts at the Emperador Restaurant are served buffet style and in three days, I managed to create three completely different breakfasts from all of the choices available. From fresh fruit, to rice and beans, to traditional eggs and potatoes, this is not your typical continental breakfast. For lunch and diner, the restaurant boasts a varied menu to cater to any taste.

Monteverde Lodge & Gardens

This small and rustic lodge is located just 15 minutes from the entrance to the Monteverde Cloud Forest. It has only 24 rooms and a staff so friendly that you feel like you are staying in someone’s home. The rooms are beautiful and you have an option of having a balcony or a bay window. For the amount of time we planned on being in our room, the less expensive ground floor bay window option was perfect. It looked out over the surrounding cloud forest and we had perfect views of hummingbirds during the day, the amazing sunset in the evening and the bats at night.

The hotel is located on several acres and boasts amazing gardens and well maintained walking paths through the forest.

Garden path at Monteverde Lodge and Gardens

Because it’s located in a cloud forest, rainbows are a common sight.

Cloud forest rainbow in Monteverde

There is even an indoor butterfly garden. I was thrilled to have a chance to watch the head gardener help some of the newly emerged butterflies find their way to nectar. I was even able to help one myself!

Butterfly garden at Monteverde Lodge and Gardens

Meals at the restaurant, El Jardin, were always a delight, especially with a staff of friendly waiters that we came to know by name. Drinks at the bar were made extra special by the gregarious bartender, Jeffrey, who talked to us about life and work in Costa Rica, his love of bullfighting (the bulls get to live) and places that he likes to go in his downtime. We felt as if we were talking to an old friend. I hesitate to call this great service because it didn’t feel like we were being served. It felt like we were being welcomed into the home of a friend. My only regret is that we only stayed two nights.

Arenas del Mar

This was by far the biggest splurge of the trip. Arenas del Mar is a secluded, 5 star eco-resort located on the shores of the Pacific Ocean near Manual Antonio. Because the resort and its amenities are spread out over 11 hilly acres, the best way to get around is via the complimentary golf carts driven by the staff.

The resort has two secluded beaches and a restaurant and bar serving lunch is located on the smallest beach. Our first order of business after arriving was to hop in a golf cart and get some lunch. We sat down at a table under a tree. And not just any tree. A tree that had a resting two-toed sloth nestled in the top branches! I couldn’t tell you what I ate for lunch, but it was the best lunch ever.

Lunch on the beach at Arenas del Mar

Despite it’s size, Arenas del Mar has only 36 rooms, each with a covered patio or balcony. Our room was on the first floor and overlooked the ocean. The patio had  a wet bar and a mini refrigerator stocked with complimentary snacks and drinks. Leaf cutter ants worked on a trail just outside the patio wall and geckos hung out on the roof. We were surrounded by nature. We also had a great video of people doing something that I’ve added to my bucket list, parasailing!

Parasailing on the Pacific Ocean

I’ve never seen an ocean and this was the best first experience I could have hoped for. The private beach was beautiful, the water was warm, and because of the timing of our trip, we didn’t have to share it with many people. Is there anything more relaxing than lounging on a beach, sipping a fruity adult beverage and listening to the sound of the waves moving in and out?

Private beach at Arenas Del Mar

Arenas del Mar is located in one of the most biodiverse regions in the country. On our last day in Costa Rica, we woke to the sounds of a troupe of howler monkeys in the trees right outside our door. We decided to make the most of the morning so we took a walk around the property and in less than an hour, we saw howler monkeys, white-faced Capuchins, a three-toed sloth, an agouti, a Jesus Christ lizard and several species of birds. There were an amazing number of animals crammed into this small area. And for me, that made Arenas del Mar worth every penny.

As we were escorted down the hill to meet the driver who would take us to the airport, we were surprised to see a troupe of about 30 squirrel monkeys hanging out and having breakfast in the palm trees. They were the first and only squirrel monkeys we saw in Costa Rica and their antics made leaving very, very difficult.

Squirrel monkey

Know someone who is planning a Costa Rican getaway? Why not share these recommendations with them? It’s easy to let them know, simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

Costa Rican getaway: 3 fun ways to see wildlife

3 ways to see wildlife in Costa Rica

Editor’s note: We’re taking some time for rest and relaxation. While we’re away, we’re reposting our Costa Rica getaway series. Enjoy!

One of the best things about a vacation in Costa Rica is the chance to see wildlife that you normally only see on television. From insects and lizards to birds and mammals, Costa Rica is rich in biodiversity. The best way to maximize your chances of seeing amazing wildlife is to hire a professional guide to take you through one of Costa Rica’s many parks.

Professional guides in Costa Rica go through a degree program to learn about the flora, fauna and history of their country. They are bilingual and speak excellent English and they are incredibly adept at finding creatures large and small. And, thanks to technology, they are in touch with nearby guides via cell phone so they can share exciting finds.

During my recent trip to Costa Rica, I went on several guided tours and saw a great variety of creatures. I’d like to tell you about my three favorite

Caño Negro National Wildlife Refuge

If you’re staying in the Arenal region, don’t miss this six- to seven-hour excursion. You are typically picked up at your hotel and driven to Los Chiles, close to the Nicaraguan border. On the way, you’ll stop at the very popular Restaurante Las Iguanas.

 

Restaurante Las Iguanas

If you love iguanas, this is the place for you. The trees around this restaurant are covered in dozens of iguanas of all sizes. Our guide explained that years ago, the restaurant owner fed the iguanas in order to serve them on the menu. This is no longer a legal practice, but the iguanas have stuck around in the hopes of getting a yummy meal of left over vegetables.

Iguana in a tree

After a brief stop, the journey continues to the Rio Frio where you will board a covered pontoon boat for a leisurely float down the river. Within the first few minutes of our tour, we saw several species of birds, including jacanas, anhingas and a crested caracara. We also saw three types of egrets (great, snowy and cattle) which are beautiful, white shore birds.

An egret chilling on the Rio Frio

 

Cattle egret and horse

As we progressed down the river, we found troupes of howler monkeys and white-faced Capuchins. Where there are Capuchins, there are basilisk lizards, also known as Jesus Christ lizards. We saw a nice demonstration of how these lizards got their nickname. Capuchins regularly hunt and eat the lizards. We were able to watch one of the small green lizards make a fast getaway by jumping from a tree branch into the water, then running on its hind legs to the safety of a plant on the shore. The little Capuchin was not happy.

Green Jesus Christ lizard

After the tour, we were treated to a traditional lunch of chicken, rice and beans, and fresh pineapple. If you go on this tour,  be sure to bring an insect repellant, sunscreen and a camera. Some birds and animals, like the sloth, stay high up in the trees and are hard to see without binoculars so if you have them, bring them.

Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve

If you plan to visit the Monteverde Cloud Forest region, be sure to dress for the weather. You will be high on a mountain that is covered in clouds much of the time. This means cooler and wetter weather than any other region in Costa Rica. Bring quick drying clothes and a raincoat but expect to feel damp most of the time.

That said, the area is at the top of my list of places I want to return to. It’s stunningly beautiful and the greenest place I’ve ever been. A guided tour through the reserve is the best way to maximize the number of creatures you will see. The guides who work this park are there day after day and have an intimate knowledge of the area.

Our guide quickly pointed out a tiny abandoned hummingbird nest that was covered in moss and lichen.

Hummingbird nest in Monteverde

Walking the paths of the reserve is a practice in meditation. While we were there it was incredibly quiet and peaceful.

Trail in Monteverde

Our guide pointed out tiny objects, like a dead ant that had been taken over by a zombie fungus which was growing out of the carcass. He also found a caterpillar with amazing floral appendages hanging out under a leaf.

Caterpillar under a leaf

The prize of our entire trip came near the end of our hike. Our guide received a text on his cell phone and very excitedly rush us down the trail to a spot where several other people were looking up into the canopy. Sitting there, in all its wondrous glory, was a male Resplendent Quetzal, a bird of such magnificent beauty that it was considered sacred to the Aztec and Mayan people. Our guide let us snap a picture through his spotting scope and, unfortunately, we didn’t get a shot of its two foot long tail.

The Resplendent Quetzal

Before you leave, be sure to stop at the hummingbird gallery located right outside the park and get an up close and personal view of hundreds of hummingbirds and bananaquits visiting the feeders. Check out some amazing photographs (not taken by me) here.

Manuel Antonio National Park

Manuel Antonio National Park is located just south of Quepos on the Pacific coast. It’s surrounded by huge palm oil plantations and is a safe haven for 109 species of mammals and 184 species of birds. Although it’s tiny, it’s considered one of the most biodiverse parks in the world.

It’s important to note that the park puts strict limitations on the number of visitors allowed. Only 600 visitors are allowed on weekdays and 800 on weekends and holidays. Most tours start early in the morning. You can walk through the park on your own, but I don’t recommend it. You will surely miss out on some extraordinary wildlife without the trained eye and spotting scope of a guide.

Our guide allowed us to take pictures with our cell phones through his high-powered spotting scope and we got the best pictures of our trip here.

Bright green lizard

Normally, I immediately kill any spiders that are unfortunate enough to cross my path. But, in Costa Rica, even the spiders are beautiful and interesting to watch.

Spider on a web

Most of the frogs are nocturnal and we were lucky to catch a glimpse of one hanging out on a leaf.

Disapproving frog

The spotting scope can zoom in so closely that we only caught one crab in our picture. The ground around the trail was actually covered in crabs .

Red land crab

My favorite animal, and the whole reason I agreed to Costa Rica in the first place, is the sloth. I love all varieties of sloths. We saw seven sloths total, and six of them where in the Manuel Antonio region. Not one of them would turn and look at the camera.

Sloth eating in a tree

If you are planning a trip to Costa Rica, decide what type of wildlife you want to see and then research which places offer the best chance of seeing that wildlife. For our first trip, we focused on birds and, of course, sloths. We were happy to come home with a list of 81 species of birds along with three of the four types of monkeys (we missed seeing spider monkeys) and both types of sloth.

Know someone who is planning a Costa Rican getaway? Why not share these recommendations with them? It’s easy to let them know, simply use one of the sharing buttons below (Note: If you’re reading this via e-mail or reader, you’ll need to link to our website to use the sharing buttons).

Emmet Street on the road: The Hudson Flea, 10/31

Hudson Flea PosterImage credit: The Green Roots Collection

Come out and see us at The Hudson Flea on Saturday, October 31, from 10 AM to 4 PM. We look forward to seeing you and sharing our delicious scent flavors (and we’ll have special Halloween treats, too)! We’d love it if you spread the word to friends who love handmade and supporting local businesses!

Emmet Street on the road: The Flea at the Evaporator Works, 5/30

The Flea at the Evaporator WorksImage credit: The Green Roots Collection

Don’t forget to come out and see us at The Flea at the Evaporator Works. We look forward to seeing you and sharing some new scents with you! (And we’d love it if you spread the word to friends who love handmade and supporting local businesses!)

Did you know this was a thing? The International Biscuit Festival

Biscuits will save your soulLast year during my “Great Dolly Parton Adventure” in Knoxville, Tennessee, I learned that I had just missed an event of monumental proportions: The International Biscuit Festival.

This festival spans a jam-packed weekend each May and celebrates the Southern biscuit making tradition with a juried art exhibition, a songwriting competition music, dance and a Mr. and Miss Biscuit pageant. I was also interested to learn than the Southern Food Writing Conference is held concurrently with the festival, making me disappointed my schedule did not allow me to make a trip to Knoxville this year.

To soothe my disappointment, I’ll read these biscuit making tips from the Tupelo Honey Cafe and watch an excerpt from Alton Brown’s former Food Network show, “Good Eats.” (Specifically, this clip where Alton Brown makes biscuits with his meemaw.)

How about you? Do you looooove a good biscuit? Have you ever been to the festival?

8 tips for surviving the outdoor handmade marketplace and flea market shopping experience

Outdoor market shopping? 8 survival tipsIf you’re like me, one of the best parts of summer for you is attending outdoor handmade markets and junking at a good flea market.

Over the years, I’ve learned a lot of survival strategies (and observed a lot of poor behavior by my fellow shoppers). To help you be prepared for the upcoming season (come out and see us at the Hudson Flea in Hudson, Ohio!), I thought I’d share some of my tips.

  1. Set a budget & pay with cash. Before you head out, figure out how much you’re prepared to spend at the event. Then, go to the bank and withdraw that amount. If you leave your credit cards at home, you’ll curb impulse buying (and you’ll save the vendors, who are cost-conscious small business  owners, credit card vendor fees).
  2. Scope out vendors before you go. Many handmade marketplaces and flea markets promote the heck out of their events and the products the vendors will bring with them. This will help you prioritize your “must buy” items and help you stick to your budget. If you’re lucky, the event host will provide a map of where each vendor will be located prior to the event date. If so, take some time to take a look at it; doing so will help you plan your trip and make the best use of your time (which is super important when the event is large or your time is limited).
  3. Bring a notebook and pen. (And get a printed vendor location map, if one is available.) If you want to think about an item before buying it, you’ll think you’ll remember where the vendor is located. You won’t. After seeing your fifth Steampunk jewelry artist, fourteenth typography booth and your twelfth upcycler, you just won’t. Trust me, you won’t regret having a method for note taking.
  4. Social media sharing is fun… but make sure the vendor is okay with it. Most vendors welcome social media sharing so others can learn about their products (as long as you tag their business in your posts). However, a lot of vendors at handmade marketplaces are artists who carefully control how their work and ideas are shared with the world, so ask before taking pictures or sharing on social media. If they are okay with it, help promote them effectively by asking how they prefer to be tagged in social media.
  5. Apply (and reapply) sunscreen. Sunburn, premature aging and skin cancer suck. Do what you can to avoid these conditions.
  6. Pack a lunch and a water bottle. This is good advice for many reasons. You want to save your cash for buying new lovelies. Market food and drink is pricey ($5 bottles of tap water, I’m looking at you) and if there is a super-hip food truck at the event, the lines will be looooong. Avoid the risk of hassle and getting hangry; bring your own provisions.
  7. Bring your own bags. Once you start acquiring your loot, you’ll want something more comfortable to carry around than a plastic grocery bag (I recommend a sturdy canvas tote). If you’re planning to bring home a lot of stuff, bring a granny cart along, too.
  8. Do NOT bring a wagon. Your (well-behaved) kids are welcome but if they can’t handle walking around for a long period of time, please find a sitter. Handmade marketplaces and flea markets are crowded. Wagons take up a lot of room and are difficult to move around, to the annoyance of many. Don’t be that annoying person.

What about you? Do have any other tips to share with your fellow outdoor shopping aficionados?