Lake Atitlan, Panajachel, Guatemala

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Paddling On to More Adventures in 2015

This doesn't look much like the Decembers I'm used to but I'm enjoying it anyway. Despite feeling as tipsy as I look, my first time on a "stand-up" paddle board.

Wishing a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to my blogging friends... wherever life takes you! 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The post-Thanksgiving Food Coma

Ever eaten so much at Thanksgiving dinner you feel like you're in a food coma? Aww, come on you can admit it! And why is it the day after all we want is hot dogs or pizza? I used to work at the Costco food court and I think we sold more pizza on the Friday after Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. With all those great leftovers at home too!

Then there's the different kind of coma, the one I imagine in my recently published novel Afraid of Everything. Ever wondered what it's like? I did, and it inspired me to write about how it might be from the point of view of the coma victim.

Mason Canyon at Thoughts in Progress features and reviews Afraid of Everything on her blog. Thanks, Mason!

To experience a different kind of coma than the post Thanksgiving food coma, download Afraid of Everything for your Kindle, now just $2.99.

Helena Carr is afraid of everything. After a crisis at work, she quits her job and feels lost. It’s time for a serious change, to beat the extreme anxiety that has plagued her since childhood. Something different, unplanned and radical. Sell her house, move to a foreign location, turn her life upside down in an effort to end the emotionally paralyzing fear. 

Before Helena can act on her options, however, she has a terrible accident on a Southern California freeway. Instead of going on an exotic vacation, she is in a hospital, in a coma, traveling to strange worlds of another dimension, meeting people who seem to know more about her than she knows about herself.

As Helena explores this intriguing new world, she realizes the truth about her past and the purpose of her future. And she is no longer afraid. Helena is at last ready to live. But first, she must wake up from the coma.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Blogging with a Theme

Sometimes I waver on my blog, not sure what it's about or what I'm doing here. This comes from lack of focus and purpose. And then April approaches and I get excited deciding on my theme for the A to Z Challenge and planning my posts. The focus returns for at least one month!

Besides discovering and meeting new bloggers, I enjoy the challenging process of posting the entire month on one theme. One year my theme was literary terminology; the year my cookbook came out, it was recipes; last year it was living in Guatemala.

Alex Cavanaugh interviews me this week for the A to Z Challenge Blog on my Guatemala topic. Pretty sure I'll do another aspect of living in Guatemala for the Challenge, because it helps me appreciate the wonderful land which is now my home.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Creating a Body of Work

To become a writer: 

 Develop talent 

Polish craft 

Create art 

This will consume at least 2/3 of your lifetime. Still in?

Monday, September 22, 2014

And yes, I admit to being pretty much afraid of everything

I've got a new book coming out soon, hopefully in October if I can get through the final edits and let it go. It's a novel, Afraid of Everything, and you can see here the cover and summary, followed by a little story on how the idea came to me.

Helena Carr is afraid of everything. After a crisis at work, she quits her job and feels lost. It’s time for a serious change, to beat the extreme anxiety that has plagued her since childhood. Something different, unplanned and radical. Sell her house, move to a foreign location, turn her life upside down in an effort to end the emotionally paralyzing fear. 

Before Helena can act on her options, however, she has a terrible accident on a Southern California freeway. Instead of going on an exotic vacation, she is in a hospital, in a coma, traveling to strange worlds of another dimension, meeting people who seem to know more about her than she knows about herself.

As Helena explores this intriguing new world, she realizes the truth about her past and the purpose of her future. And she is no longer afraid. Helena is at last ready to live. But first, she must wake up from the coma.

This idea came to me shortly after I finally admitted to myself I was afraid of practically everything.  Anything I accomplished in life came after first facing the horrible anxiety that preceded it. I have little tricks for getting past my fears. But I won't go into that or I'd have a series of posts instead of a single one.

One particularly anxiety-plagued day I was laying in bed, curled under the covers, imagining what it would feel like to be in a coma.

I thought of a woman, afraid of everything, who ends up in a coma and finds it a place of comfort rather than pain. In fact, it is an escape from the pain of living. I imagined her experiencing a transitional place, a spirit world, where she learns things and grows as a result. This was the kernel of the idea that grew into my novel.

It's been a lot of fun to write, refreshing and healing actually, and difficult to let go of at the end. I think I'll do an official blog tour for this one, probably through Women on Writing. However, if anyone would like an electronic ARC for review purposes, let me know in the comments and I'll get you one.

Afraid of Everything is available for pre-order on the WiDo Publishing website and Amazon. And on Goodreads here.

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Truth about Foreshadowing

In a novel, foreshadowing are those little hints the writer includes early on, previous to plot twists or big events. It's the foreshadowing that makes the reader say, "Oh yes, this makes perfect sense!"

Or let's say your child's favorite toys are cars, and when he is 12 and goes to get fitted for glasses and notices a sharp sports car parked in the optometrist's parking space he says, "I'd like to be an eye doctor and afford a car like that." You aren't surprised when this child decides in college to use his biology degree to go on to optometry school. Foreshadowing is how parents get to be so smart.

I used to tell my kids I had eyes in back of my head, and when they were little they believed it. I remember one little boy lifting my hair up just to check. When really it was me the English major paying attention to the compressed foreshadowing in daily life. And it's easy with kids since they leave their clues all over the place.

 Remember the South African giraffe on my blog header several years ago?

A giraffe, coming down the mountain like I was, the writer leaving her solitude and isolation to enter the community of bloggers. I thought it was why I felt the giraffe represented me and my blog.

Until I realized it was more than that. The giraffe was foreshadowing my hidden desire to go exploring in the great big wide world.

Another bit of foreshadowing:

My husband and I would seek out different kinds of restaurants in the Salt Lake area, ones that made us feel outside our usual circle. We'd sit by the window, look outside and I'd say, "This doesn't even look like Salt Lake. Let's pretend we're someplace else." And we'd talk about where else we'd like to be. Italy, or the South of France, or England. Although to be truthful, Utah in its greenest seasons never looks like any of those places.

When we announced our plans to sell everything and move to Guatemala, anyone paying attention to foreshadowing had to know it made perfect sense.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Kindle Unlimited: Made for Book Lovers

When I first heard about Amazon's new "Netflix for books" program, Kindle Unlimited, I thought it sounded crazy. Who would pay nearly $10 a month, every month, for all the Kindle books you can read? I read through a few of the lists Amazon was using to promote their new feature and didn't see any of interest to me.

Then I looked again and thought, Well, maybe that one...And there's Life of Pi, I never did read it...And I love The Hobbit, I could read it again...and so forth until I clicked on the free trial. One month free to try it out. You can download any books regardless of price as long as they're listed on Kindle Unlimited. You keep up to 10 at a time, so if I have 10 and want another, a pop up shows your list and asks if you'd like to return one.

Amazon says 600,000 books are available on Kindle Unlimited right now. Not very many when you figure there's 2 million Kindle books. However, I'm looking for quality, and so far I've been able to find some pretty amazing books.

If I lived in the States, I'm not sure I'd go for it with the availability of libraries. But where I am, I can't run to the library and check out a stack of books-- in English. So when my free trial ends, I'll keep paying $10 a month for Kindle Unlimited. We pay $9 a month for Netflix and I don't watch as many movies as I read books. As long as they have good titles I want to read, it makes sense to me.

Have any of you tried Kindle Unlimited yet? Do you plan to?

Monday, July 14, 2014

The Trouble with Blogging


I've always said that blogging should be an interactive social media--why it's called social media. If you aren't inclined to respond to others and visit them like they visit you (or Like as in Facebook, or RT as in Twitter, or share as in G+) then why even be here?

Only now I'm on the other side because of our spotty Internet in Guatemala. Links not connecting is my biggest frustration-- that "can't connect" or "problem loading page" notice. It definitely puts a cramp in my social media style. When it's bad, I give up and do something not involving the Internet.

It is one-sided, I know, and I apologize. I'm not intentionally ignoring people, it's just life in a third world country.


When I was new to blogging, I read everything, commented everywhere, and followed everyone, since blogging itself was a novel activity. I am now way more selective.

After five years, one can get bored with a blog if it's the same topics over and over. When I started, I was connecting with other writers and posting mostly about writing and publishing. I no longer blog like it's 2010. Besides, the publishing scene has completely changed since then.  Instead of how to get an agent or a publisher, it's announcements like "why I chose to self-publish."

Self-publishing has taken the blog world by storm, and since I'm not really into it, blogs with that focus aren't relevant to me. We've gone different directions. I wish you well, but I'm probably not reading your blog anymore. Unless you have a fresh and original approach to an old topic.

I'm fascinated most of all by life. I like to know what people eat for meals, where they work, how they shop, what kinds of clothes they wear, where they go for entertainment. I am way more interested in these topics than blog hops, memes, book reviews or book launch announcements. I can read book reviews on Goodreads and Amazon. Why do I want to read them on blogs? Especially when it's not my genre of choice. So, yeah, I get bored by that too.

Unless book reviews and author interviews are your platform and people go there for exactly that, like Mason Canyon's Thoughts in Progress, or Women on Writing, it's best to stay with one's own focus or platform. Now, more on that.....


As writers, our posts should not only be fascinatingly original, but also applicable to the kinds of books we write. My books are about families and food and places and loss and hope and forgiveness. What a broad platform that provides for me! I have so many topics to blog about it's a wonder I'm not posting every day. I could, too, except it would be overkill.

The problem I see with platform in writer blogs is that it's either limited or non-existent. If you write fantasy or dystopian books then why are you blogging about gardening and lollipops? If I'm a fan of your dark, realistic fiction, then I'd have a hard time relating to your blog about Legos and the third grader's latest school project. See? This is not a platform. Which is fine if that's how you want to blog, but don't fool yourself into thinking it's a platform for your author persona.

You write romantic fiction, say chick lit? Then your platform and your voice should reflect it. Talli Roland is a perfect example of someone who does it right. She writes about cupcakes and wine and meeting up with friends and dates with her husband and pictures of her adorable baby. Not to mention mouth-watering photos of where she lives in-- ahem--LONDON. Her blog is like a romance novel come to life.  Now that is a platform.


The voice of a blog makes it or breaks it. If I like your blogging voice, I'll read it, regardless of what it's about. Or regardless of what your platform is or your books are about. I go for a clear, strong voice like my dog goes for raw egg. It's irresistible to me.

Some examples of bloggers whose voices I enjoy are

Terri Tiffany
Mirka Breen
Jan Morrison
The Midlife Farm Wife
Ten Lives and Second Chances
The Blutonian Death Egg
Karen Walker

This is a very short list. There are tons of blogs I rarely miss, regardless of the other topics I mentioned. And it's because I enjoy the topics they choose to write about and especially the voice of the writer.


Don't you hate endless notices on your email about new spam comments? I finally disabled the email notification for comments. I rarely respond anyway via email, and I regularly check the blog for new, non-spam comments.

I can't stand captcha, but I do have moderation of comments set up on any that come in past 10 days of a new post. This catches most of the spam that otherwise would show up on archived posts.

What I don't understand is when a blogger has both captcha AND moderation of comments on their new posts. This punishes the legitimate visitor. I have to really love you and your blog to fight through all that and leave a comment.

So disable your email notification, disable captcha, and add moderation of comments only for the older ones. In other words, do what I do and we can all be happy.


I really doubt that I'll ever stop blogging, despite the above-mentioned problems. Blogging isn't perfect but it is an art form like none other, one of a kind, and why it's still around despite all the competition for our Internet attention. It's also how I connect with writers and other interesting people online, which I love to do. To me, it's worth it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Did I Really Need 3 Refrigerators?

When my husband and I decided to sell everything and move to Guatemala, we had the usual American overload:

A big house filled with our valued possessions.

A minivan and a sedan, along with a car needing repair parked in the garage

A tractor mower and every other tool known to man, collected by my husband for over 40 years. Giving up his tools was absolutely the hardest thing for him to do.

Antiques and family history passed down from generations on both sides

A fully equipped kitchen

3 refrigerators, yes 3 of them, all plugged in and using electricity

Okay, you've got the gist of it. After 4 decades of marriage, we had collected a LOT. And in six months time, we sold or gave away everything. Except for family photos and a few extras in a very small storage unit. These are items we plan on bringing down with us our next couple of trips back.

One of the problems people have in downsizing is letting go of STUFF. You work a lifetime to collect it, and it's hard to say goodbye. That six months of unloading was probably the most stressful six months I've experienced in a very long time.

And please don't get the idea we were pack rats. Not at all. I could dispatch clutter and fill the garbage bins in no time. We did not have a cluttered home. In fact, I was stunned at how long it took to get rid of it all, simply because I hadn't realized how much there was.  

And now that we are moved to our third world paradise, we talk about what we miss. Except for our family, the word is nothing. We love not having a car. We love not owning a home. We love that we can pack up our 4 suitcases and move if we want to.  Letting go of all those things that filled our home and garage and basement was extremely difficult. But was it worth it? YES!!!

I can hardly explain the lightness of feeling that comes with disposing of all those possessions. I never thought I could live without a dishwasher, a vacuum, or a washer and drier, or my husband part with his beloved tools.

We took the first leap into the darkness, then one step after another, and came out on the other side lighter, happier, freer than imagined. We all have to do it eventually when we die, right? I'm glad I didn't wait until then to leave all that stuff behind.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Writing Life

Today my Writer's Creed post for the month is on my author website. I hadn't updated it since January and figured it was about time. The link is here if you want to know--

1. What writing books I'm currently using

2. What inspirational quote is keeping me going

3. How the move to a third world country has inspired my creative life

4. What this is and how I'm using it--

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Rainy Season

After months of sunshine and perfect 70 degree days, the rain comes to the Lake Atitlan region. Every day, sometimes all day and throughout the night, it pounds against the roof of our house so we can barely hear each other speak.
Lake Atitlan during the rainy season

The nearby mountains are covered in gray clouds, the storm appearing much worse there than in the valleys, and I wonder about the Mayan people who live on the mountain, in their small villages far above town. How they must travel through the relentless pouring rain to work in their fields on the hillsides. They will navigate the steep, slippery, muddy paths down toward the local market to sell their vegetables. They can't afford to wait for the rain to stop, as the rainy season starts in May and goes through September. It is the Guatemalan winter.

The storm seems ominous and threatening as I think about these people in the hills around Lake Atitlan.  They manage, sun or rain, regardless. They tend their crops, come to town, carrying huge loads on their backs, to sell what they have grown, crafts they have made. Like all people everywhere, they need to survive, maybe get ahead, wanting a better life for their children. Maybe one day they can get enough money for the children to stop working in the fields and go to school.

I'm embarrassed at myself cowering from the rain in my large house with a garden, upset that I can't hear the sound on my Netflix movie.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Saying One or Two Things about Blogging

After finishing my A to Z series on life in Guatemala, it's been difficult to come back. I wonder, what more can I say?

My husband and I now live in Guatemala, I am a full-time writer, along with managing editor for WiDo Publishing, and we both have very busy daily routines. We are definitely not on vacation. The more I'm working on my books, and on WiDo's books, the less I have to say on my blog.

And I think that's okay. Like my author website, it's here, whether I am or not.  Blogging is a rewarding activity, but I don't want to be one who posts out of habit.

As I scroll through sites I follow, I appreciate those who share real content, regardless of the subject matter. I found some amazing new blogs to follow from the A to Z Challenge. Content and Personality (or Voice) are what I look for. To me, they appeal more than consistency.

In blogging as in life, it's okay not to say anything if there's nothing to say. And with that, I'll go away for a while, maybe long maybe short. Until I have something more to say.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Zarahemla: Where was it and does it matter?

Zarahemla is a city of Ancient America, as recorded in the Book of Mormon, a companion book to the Bible. Zarahemla could have been located in Central America, possibly in an area of the United States-- scholars differ on location. Some people believe it is in Guatemala, perhaps the Tikal area.

The people of Zarahemla originally came from Jerusalem right before the Babylonian invasion. They were led to a promised land by the prophet Lehi. Once in the Americas, they spread and grew, creating cities, industry, education and of course governments and nations. The various groups often fought against one another, with wars becoming a defining point in the eventual end of their civilization.

The message of Zarahemla, and of the Book of Mormon, is that living the commandments of God brings peace and happiness, while disobeying God brings sin and unhappiness. It is the message that matters more than the exact geographic location of the areas talked about.

The Book of Mormon stands as another witness of Jesus Christ, as He visited the people in the American continent after His resurrection. “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.” (John 10: 16)
While my husband and I are living in this area where so many archeological digs have unearthed ancient structures, we appreciate the added insight that comes from the Book of Mormon about these "other sheep." They worshiped God, built temples, kept sacred records, raised families and strengthened their communities through education, religion and industry. 
Visiting the ancient sites helps to bring their stories alive. There's a small one in the Lake Atitlan region. The largest site in Guatemala is in Tikal, the site of numerous cities that have been discovered.

 I discovered the Book of Mormon when I was twenty, and it changed my life. Whether you read it for spiritual guidance and inspiration, or simply to learn about the journey of people from Jerusalem to the Americas, it is well worth the time spent. Zarahemla is just one of the great cities you will learn about in the Book of Mormon.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Yogurt

I left a lot of my prized possessions when we moved to Guatemala. Didn't even store them, just sold or gave away. But one thing I saved and brought with me was my yogurt maker and strainer. And am I glad I did, because the Greek yogurt I love isn't available and any other kind is outrageously expensive.

The milk I use is boxed. At first the yogurt wasn't turning out. It didn't get thick and there was too much whey left when I strained it. I finally discovered the problem was the milk. I wasn't checking the label and had bought milk mixed with other ingredients-- sugar, water, vegetable oil, etc. As soon as I corrected the problem and bought only leche entero, or "entirely milk and nothing else" the problem was solved.

It had never occurred to me that what was labeled as milk might have other ingredients added to stretch the product!

Here you see my treasured yogurt maker, along with the 2 boxes of milk I add, along with a tablespoon of yogurt. It stays overnight at the ideal temperature and in the morning is ready to strain. It is so good blended with fresh papaya and mango!

(For more details on making homemade Greek yogurt, see my website.)

Monday, April 28, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: X-pats and Xela

Central America is becoming populated with X-pats, or expatriates-- people who maintain their citizenship in their home countries while living permanently elsewhere. Many do it for lifestyle, health or financial reasons, since the lifestyle is simpler and more laid back than the US. And financially, if you have an income, like Social Security or disability or an Internet business, your money goes much further in Central America than it does in the States.

One of my favorite expats in Pana is Paul, originally from the U.S., who came here about a year ago for health reasons. He is very friendly and outgoing, and made my husband and I feel immediately welcome when we met him. We stayed at his place for our first month here, house sitting while he returned to the US for a visit.

Another interesting expat is Tom, a young man from the UK who makes and sells jewelry on Calle Santander every weekend. He stays occasionally at the hotel and helps out there. Tom has dreadlocks down to his waist, a soft cultured accent, a wealth of experience and intelligence, and a mom back in Wales who worries about him getting enough to eat. Tom enjoys the laid-back style of Pana and the other villages around Lake Atitlan, and it's a place where he can earn a living doing the creative work he enjoys.

My other X word is Xela, pronounced "shay-la", official name Quetzaltenango-- a city about 2 hours away from Panajachel. My family is unloading on arrival from our transportation, called a "chicken bus."
If you want to know why it's called a chicken bus, just check out a few of the items below that were also on the bus. Pay special attention to what's in the lady's pink bag.

Xela is a big city with a really nice shopping mall and a beautiful LDS temple. We walked and walked and walked, enjoying our time seeing the sights in this lovely city.


Saturday, April 26, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Women

I am fascinated by the Mayan women. Like women everywhere, they are undoubtedly the glue holding together families. They are distinguished by their brightly colored skirts and blouses, which are, in this day and age, surprisingly modest. The blouses all have sleeves, no cleavage, and the skirts hit below the knees or to the ankles. More about their traditional clothing can be found here.

You see them everywhere with their children, who often sit quietly nearby, or help with the work of the day. These are the most well-behaved youngsters I've ever seen. Even the babies are quiet and rarely cry or fuss, making me wonder if perhaps there's a root or herb all the women know about to give the little ones to pacify them?

The mercado is a central location in town, where the women go to work and to shop and to visit with one another. Pretty much anything available for purchase can be bought at the mercado. My favorite find so far was a 9" x 12" Pyrex baking pan.

The common way to carry a heavy or bulky load is on top of the head.

Meet Mercedes. She has her own fruit stand, and takes care of it herself Monday through Fridays. Although there are many fruit stands just like this one in town, hers is my favorite. When I order mango, she does not include the seed like everyone else does-- it's all the fruit. She is always wiping down her stand to keep it clean, and has the fruit behind a glass rather than out in the open. She asks if you want a bag or a fork. 
I really appreciate how much care Mercedes takes with her little business. To me, she represents the best of the best of Mayan women.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Vegetables

Vegetables are just about my favorite foods. I like getting them fresh and experimenting with new ways of preparation. Today I'll share a few recipes I developed using vegetables from the local market.

Cucumber Salad

Peel and slice cucumbers, place in a bowl and salt. Blend together Greek yogurt and dill pickle juice to taste. Add additional dill seasoning if you like. Stir into the cucumbers and serve. Sprinkle chopped cilantro or dill on top.

Vegetable Soup

Make stock with chicken or beef, using the bones and meat: I add celery leaves, garlic cloves, onion, a carrot or two and one jalapeno pepper. Cover with water, add salt and simmer all day, adding more water as needed.

Cool down and refrigerate overnight. The next morning, skim off fat, remove meat and vegetables and you have the stock.

Peel and chop vegetables as desired: Carrots, onions, a mild pepper- green or red, celery, potatoes. Simmer until vegetables are tender. Salt as needed.

Sauteed Celery

Wash and chop celery in medium chunks, like you'd see in a Chinese stir fry dish. Heat 1 or 2 tablespoons oil in a frying pan. Add chopped garlic, 2 or 3 cloves, or garlic powder. Add celery and stir.  Add a few splashes of soy sauce. Stir fry until celery is tender. Serve with rice.

Roast Vegetables

Cut up potatoes, carrots, red and green peppers, and onions. Peel a few garlic cloves. Toss them all in a baking pan with 1/4 cup oil. Sprinkle liberally with salt. Bake at high heat, about 400 degrees, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes and carrots are tender.

Below are leftover roast vegetables sauteed with leftover cooked rice, to make a brand new dinner. Another use for leftover vegetables is to chop fine and add to an omelet.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Unlike any other

My husband and I have been married 45 years, lived in many locations in the United States, from the Midwest to the Pacific Coast, had a large family and worked in a variety of professions. But this experience of moving lock, stock and barrel to Panajachel, Guatemala, is unlike any other.

You've probably gotten that idea by now if you've been following my A to Z posts.

Our problems may be different than what we had in the States, but there are still obstacles to overcome and challenges to face. And there's a learning curve, which isn't always easy when you're our age and used to knowing everything haha.

But that's all part of the adventure! I have enjoyed sharing it with you this month. Thank you for going along on our Guatemalan journey with me. It has been a journey unlike any other I've taken so far in my life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Tuk Tuk

The tuk tuk is a "taxi" or basically a tiny car, or maybe a metal structure that holds a driver and a couple passengers set around a motorcycle motor? However it's built, it gets you around for Q5-- or about 65 cents per person, when you've got too far to walk.

My husband and I sold our cars when we moved to Guatemala. We walk everywhere now and love the freedom and improved health it provides. But when we purchase a few too many supplies at the Dispensa, it is nice to flag down one of the tuk tuk's for a quick ride home.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Spiders, Squirrels, and Sand Flies

At this moment there's a squirrel busy on our roof, banging about and looking for a way to get in. He shows up every morning. We can hear him pattering about. One time he did get in, until our property manager climbed the roof and closed the entryway.

Spiders are all around, occasionally finding their way in and building webs in the high corners. I don't like killing spiders. When I find one, I like to put him back outside.

The worst of the insect life in my opinion are the sand flies. They are so small you hardly see them, like gnats, and you don't know you've been bitten until later when the area begins to itch. And itch. And itch. And swell.

One time I was in our garden at dusk and got bitten really bad, (dusk and dawn are when the sand flies are out feeding) but I didn't realize how much until the next day when both my feet swelled up and itched so intensely I wanted to cut them off. Calamine lotion, campho phenic, anti-itch cream, lavendar essential oil-- none of it helped. I was up all night in misery.

The next day I called my daughter who gave me a remedy that worked like magic. Put ice packs on the affected areas until the skin goes numb. Then dry and apply cortisone cream. Take Benadryl or some other antihistime. The ice, the cortisone cream and the antihistime pills together knocked it. I had 3 or 4 hours peace until they started itching again, at which time I did another treatment. It only took 3 treatments that day and the next day I was feeling human again.

So you see, despite all my lovely photos and happy experiences, it isn't quite the Garden of Eden it may appear to be. And I haven't even told you about the termites.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Religion

There are many churches in Guatemala, with the Catholic Church being the largest and the oldest, of course. Catholicism goes way back to when the Spaniards came to the New World.

At Easter time, the week leading up to it is called Semana Santa, or Holy Week. It's a festival week with vacationing, partying, family gatherings, and religious celebrations, culminating with Easter Sunday.

Regardless of one's personal religious affiliation, appreciating the Catholic churches with their schools, culture, statuary, courtyards is part of learning the history of the land.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Quetzal

The quetzal is the national bird of Guatemala, so colorful and beautiful! They are found in forests and woodlands, especially in humid highlands. I've not yet seen one, but then I haven't been looking either. But aren't they beautiful??
The quetzal bird is so important to the country, they also named their national currency after it. One quetzal is worth 100 centavos. In American dollars, the ratio is about 7.50 to one, or one American dollar gets you 7 - 8 quetzales.

Bottom line, our dollars go pretty far if we are careful, and Americans can live fairly well in Guatemala for a whole lot less. I'm still not over the thrill of taking $350 out of the ATM for my U.S. bank account and seeing it come out in well over Q2000.

So even though the Quetzal bird is pretty, I'm more excited about the Quetzales I carry around in my bag for shopping. Call me shallow but after years of living frugally and trying to make ends meet in the States, it's rather nice to have a little extra cash in Guatemala.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Life in Guatemala A to Z: Panajachel

Panajachel, called Pana for short, is about 90 miles, or a three hour drive from Guatemala City. It is one of several towns on Guatemala's fabulous Lake Atitlan, in Guatemala's high country at an elevation of over 5000 ft. Population is about 15,000 and growing. The weather is gorgeous, never too hot or too cold, because of the elevation and the lake.

 People like to take off at the harbor and do a boat tour of Lake Atitlan, visiting other villages along the shore.
On the hills around Pana, you can see how the farmers grow their crops in terraced fields.

Pana is where we are now living, with no plans to move any time soon, God willing. Our family's hotel Casa Colonial is right off the main street, called Calle Santander, where tourists wander up and down to shop at the stalls selling traditional Guatemalan items and to eat at the local restaurants.

Casa Colonial Hotel, now open for guests. Come and enjoy Pana!

My husband taking a break from all the walking we do up and down the streets of Pana.

Not all streets of Pana are as busy as Calle Santander. Behind these walls are quiet gardens, homes and apartment dwellings. There's always somewhere interesting to walk along the cobblestone streets. I've walked all over and always felt safe.

It is especially nice to see a branch of our church just down the street from the hotel. It makes us feel right at home each Sunday when we attend services.

Panajachel is a wonderful place to visit, and to live!