Weekend Adventure – Rancho Mastatal


pineapple beginning to grow

Rancho Mastatal is a sustainable education center.  Rancho Mastatal encompasses so many different aspects of living sustainably.  It seems to have found ways that work and not just in an educational setting.  The people here live what they teach.


We only stayed for two days and one night, but we tried to absorb as much that we could of the Rancho lifestyle during our stay.  We arrived an hour before lunch was served.  They welcomed us in and let  us know about a short hike to a waterfall.  We were off, ready to stretch our legs after being in a car for an hour and a half. A pathway quickly led into the jungle with it’s LOUD bug and bird noises and its most welcomed shade.  We hiked for about 15 minutes and found ourselves at a beautiful waterfall coming down through a canyon with a very deep, clear, and refreshing pool at the bottom.  Eloise didn’t waste time.  She was in the water and swimming around like a little jungle fish in no time.  On our way back up the jungle path we saw some sort of bird.  I didn’t have my birding book on me but I think it was some sort of trogon, with brilliant colors.

We heard the lunch call and shortly emerged from the jungle cover out into the scorching sunshine.  Lunch was delicious and wholesome.  My favorite dish was the green banana ceviche. Meals are self served buffet style and then enjoyed at a very long communal table.  After lunch we attempted to get Eloise to nap, with no success.  Too many unfamiliar noises, smells, and sights.  We then gave ourselves a tour of the property.  We walked through permaculture gardens, chicken yards, and past architectural gems of houses and outdoor bathrooms.  A toucan decided to perch above the chicken coop and check us out like we were something to look at, not him.  Dinner was another hearty meal straight from the gardens that we walked through earlier.  Then off to bed.




Eloise slept like a rock, despite the fact that the dog kept growling and barking right outside of our room, and the local bar across the street sounded like it was the new years party in Times Square.  Let’s just say that Randy and I did not sleep.  We were staying in a room in the main house.  The office, kitchen, library, our room, and general meeting spaces took up this space.  If we return we will try to stay in another building.  All the other buildings were in places away from the road and were like little architectural paradises in themselves.

The next morning before brunch we got an official tour of the land and buildings with one of the founders, Tim.  I have an strong interest in biogas/biodigesters.  They have two different biodigesters on the farm there.  One is purely human waste and the other is majority cow manure.  If you aren’t familiar with a biodigester, basically it takes waste and collects the methane output, that is harnesses and directed to a cook stove.  You can then cook a meal with gas created by your own pee and poo.  Fascinating right?!  I first saw one of these in China and have been mesmerized by the idea ever since.  I think I will have to do a separate post about these one day.  The other type of toilets they used on the farm were composting toilets.  After the poo and pee was composted they spread the compost around the fruit trees.  Nothing goes to waste at Rancho Mastatal.

After our tour it was time for the final meal of our stay, brunch.  Yum!  My favorite part of this was the homemade Tapa Dulce in my coffee.  They got cane juice from a local farmer (juiced by an oxen walking around in circles to run the press) then they cooked it down to a  thick syrup.  I usually don’t put a sweetener in my coffee, but I just couldn’t resist.  Apart from being sweet, it’s quite nutritional.  Or that’s what I keep telling myself.



We did another hike down to the waterfall and then packed up our gear and started the journey home.  We took another way home and it ended up being about forty five minutes long, half the time of the other road.  It felt so good to arrive back at the beach and jump out of the car and into the ocean.


Hermit Crabs


Heidi holding a hermit crab for closer inspection.

Who knew that hermit crabs could keep a couple toddlers busy on the beach for hours. Yesterday Eloise mastered the art of holding a hermit crab.  It is quite refined for a two year old toddler.  She places her hand, palm up and open, on the ground and then asks for me to place the crab in the center of her palm.  It is a very exciting moment when the crab comes out of his shell and scurries off of her hand.

Today we watched a very informative video by the BBC about hermit crabs.  Amazing!

After the heat of the day was swept away by the ocean breeze we headed out to the beach in search of hermit crabs.  After meeting up with Eloise’s trusted beach combing French-Canadian toddler friend, we started our search.  It didn’t take long to find about a dozen hermit crabs.  We lined them up by size, had hermit races, looked for empty shells for them to move into, you get the idea.


Eloise & Frédérique playing with hermit crabs.

We did about everything there is to do with hermit crabs.  It was a wonderful afternoon and sunset on the beach once again.


Eloise taking in the sunset.

Oh and if you were wondering how to say “hermit crab” in French, Eloise can tell you.  It’s “bernard l’ermite”…   And in Spanish, “cangrejo ermitaño”

And then this happened…

Eloise and I went out to run a few errands in Jaco the other day.  Eloise was very patient with running errands in the heat so I decided that it would be a good idea to reward her with a trip to a “jungle” tour.  After all our errands we drove up to NeoFauna which is just 4km North of Jaco.

I parked the car and got out to ask about tours and prices to find that our car had lost a lot of oil all over their parking lot.  Uh oh!

The three guys that ran the place immediately took a look under the hood. One of them used to be a mechanic which helped a lot.  He quickly found the problem and declared that the car most definitely was not drivable.  Which was pretty obvious from the amount of oil lost, but it was helpful to find the source of the problem.

Now we were stuck at this place with no Costa Rican cell phone, for some reason everywhere I had looked in the past few days were out of the chips that I needed to get our mobile working.  I did have my Iphone, but I didn’t have the international plan turned on.  I wasn’t prepared in the least for this to happen.  I didn’t have the number for our insurance, Russ’s number, or the car dealers number on me :/

NeoFauna had internet so I connect my Iphone with their internet and called Randy who was back at the house.  He gave me all the numbers that I needed then I used NeoFaunas main line to make some calls.  Randy made some calls as well, but couldn’t do much since he wasn’t on the scene.

First, I called the dealer because the car had a 3o day guarantee when we bought it 3 days ago.  I spoke with him then Luis from NeoFauna explained to him which part was broken.  We were in the middle of communicating with him when suddenly he didn’t answer back. I called the dealership and they said he went to lunch.  Uh hello? Im stuck with my 2year old daughter and you went to lunch?  This made me a bit uneasy about resolving the issue through them so I decided to check and see if our insurance that we bought 3 days ago would be able to at least tow the car back out to our house in Esterillos Este.

After about 1.5hrs on the phone with the insurance people, they told me they could not help me.  Even though we bought it 3 days ago and our insurance guy had sent in the receipt of our payment and spoke with them as well.  Not all the paper work was filed internally yet so we weren’t in their system.  Apparently insurance around the world is crappy, it’s not just in the USA.

By this time the dealer had gotten back with us and said that he probably …maybe…just might be coming today with his mechanic to fix the car.  He was pretty aloof about what his plans were and didn’t give me much hope.

So Eloise, who had not eaten lunch or napped and I were just waiting.  The guys at NeoFauna couldn’t have been nicer and the fact that they had two very small kittens was a huge help.  Eloise ended up playing with them for about 4 hours.

A Canadian family arrived at NeoFauna and I overheard that they were staying in Esterillos Este.  What are the chances since it’s a bit of a drive away!  After their tour we asked if we could catch a ride back with them.  We left our car keys with Luis, who by that time had become a good friend, and departed.

It was a lovely ride back with Kelly and Justin and their two kids, Ara and Miri.  Eloise passed out in my lap.  They had been in another part of Costa Rica for a month before and now they would be here for a month.  Wonderful new friends!

We all enjoyed a nice glass of Rose wine when we returned to our beach house and then they went on their way.  I am sure we will be seeing them again soon.

We called the dealer again and to our surprise he was at the car and working  on the problem.  He said he needed one more part from San Jose and would return the next day to finish it up.  To our total amazement the next day he had fixed the car and delivered it to our beach house in Esterillos Este by 11AM.

Overall the experience was trying, especially with a toddler in tow, but it was proof of how amazing it is to travel in Costa Rica.  We met a lot of wonderful people.  It forced us to slow down and get to know the people around us.  I am not sure if Eloise will remember any of it, but if she does I hope she remembers all the kindness that was given without question.

I apologize I do not have a single picture for your entertainment.  I was too caught up in solving the problem at hand.  We are planning on returning to NeoFauna soon so I will take some pictures and post about that soon.


Stones of Gratitude


Two gratitude stones made by Eloise.

We just got back from our trip to NYC and I was looking for a very simple, but not too cheesy, Thanksgiving activity for our play group.  I came across  this activity here http://www.firefliesandmudpies.com/2014/11/03/gratitude-stones/

We had the toddlers collect the stones and then pick out a pre-cut paper heart to place on the stone.  The adults pasted them on and then we let them dry as we collected more sticks for the fire.

One of the girls got upset about something and we brought her the stone she had made.  As soon as she had it in her hand she stopped crying.  Wow! Talk about grounding 🙂  We all then talked about what we were thankful for while holding our stones.

Some of the kids decided to make an extra stone for a parent that wasn’t with them – showing gratitude.

This is straight from the link I posted above…

How to Use Gratitude Stones

The gratitude stone is a physical reminder to remember your blessings! There are many ways to use them.

Family Dinner
Pass a gratitude stone around the dinner table before eating. When holding the stone, you must share something or someone you feel thankful for.

To Calm Down Strong Feelings
Thinking and talking about the good things in our life can calm down angry or sad feelings. Teach your child how to hold the stone in their hands and list everything they feel thankful for.

At Bedtime
Pass your child the gratitude stone and ask him, “What was the best part of your day?” Reply with your answer when he passes the stone back to you.

Share a Stone
Create extra stones and share them with the people you feel thankful for! Include a little note expressing your gratitude.

A Grateful Community
An attitude of gratitude is contagious! Scatter gratitude stones around your community. and neighborhood to spread joy to others.


The stone that Eloise decided to make for her dad.