Saturday, August 13, 2011


I mentioned in my last post that I want to find a user-friendly weather map of El Salvador, so that I can ensure that I do not roast my retirement away at 100+ degrees in the shade. I'm not having a whole lot of luck with that, so I finally just opted for a check of what Lonely Planet has to say about the weather in ES. I'll note here that while I've used Lonely Planet guides pretty extensively in my travels, I find their guide to El Salvador to be far from comprehensive, and I'd love any suggestions for different travel books! Anyway, according to this not-the-best-lonely-plant-guide, weather in El Salvador is as follows:
coastal areas = 22-32 all year
central areas = 19-38
mountainous areas = 12-23

Using this handy-dandy temp converter I found, I am now able to adequately translate that:
coastal areas = 71-90 all year
central areas = 66-100
mountainous areas = 53-73

That's really not so bad! It looks like I have an option of always hot, but not unbearably so in the coastal areas, chilly at times, hot at others in the central areas, and chilly year-round in the mountainous areas. Those mountainous areas sound so great right now! Even after a not-too-terribly-hot day here, the thought of being in or around the 60's all year is quite enticing!

I'm pretty sure that P-daddy and I are not going to agree on which of these is the most attractive. But let's be honest, he's going to be so disgusted at my needing an online tool for temperature conversions that he may never even get to these last paragraphs!

Whether weather matters...

Here in Dallas, we are finally experiencing a welcome break from record-setting temps (40 consecutive days over 100 degrees!) with a welcome rain and a "break" with a high today expected to only be 99. All this hot hot weather got me to wondering:

What can we expect weather-wise in El Salvador?

My go-to site for weather here ( tells me it's between 75 and 85 in San Salvador, between about 75 and 90 in San Miguel, and between 75 and 93 in la Union, but their travel maps don't even have El Salvador as an option. In searching for a more user-friendly weather guide to El Salvador, I came upon Weather Underground, which I immediately preferred, since it shows me the weather for 6 different parts of ES all at once. But what about the rest? Since weather will play into our decision as to where to eventually settle, this may be something I need to look into now! Anyone have suggestions for the best real-time weather conditions across the country?

Oh, and yeah, please note that my search is complicated by the Estado Unidense in me, who is really only familiar with temps in Fahrenheit. Perhaps what I need is an app for quick conversion...

Friday, August 12, 2011

My new favorite convenience food

P-daddy and I are pretty healthy eaters most of the time. We of course occasionally grab fast food and have unhealthy snacks, but for the most part, we prepare healthy, simple, nutritious food at home. We even sometimes attempt to find ways to make our unhealthy choices a little better for us. Lately, I tried this with my #1 vice: french fries!

Now, I grew up with my daddy making french fries for us in a Fry-Daddy, so that they were completely saturated and deep-fried. I also LOVE McDonalds' french fries, and could eat them every day if my heart and waist could handle it! Unfortunately, I seem to have passed my love of french fries on to Pooh, who makes a meal of them every chance he gets.

Recently, I embarked on a quest to healthify some french fries. I started with a couple pounds of red potatoes that we'd gotten in our produce co-op but hadn't used. First, I cut them all into french fry slices.

As you can see in the picture above, I left the peels on - it's a personal preference, and appeals to my lazy side. Anyway, next I covered them with water in a large pot and brought them to a boil.

After a couple minutes of boiling, when the potatoes just started to soften, I drained them and left them to cool. Then I placed them on a single layer on a flexible cutting board lightly sprayed with oil, and I stuck the whole thing in the freezer for a couple hours, until the pieces are frozen.

For me, the flexible cutting board was essential. If you use a stiff cutting board or a cookie sheet, the frozen potatoes can be difficult to remove. But with the flexible sheet, I just gently rolled the edges in, and the frozen pieces unstuck themselves. I'll note that if the potatoes are touching each other, they stick to each other as well (ask me how I know!). When I removed the frozen fries, I transferred them from to quart-size ziploc bags and popped them back into the freezer.

Then, when I want french fries, I just grab a bag and shake some of the fries onto a lightly sprayed baking sheet.

I then take a small bowl and pour a couple teaspoons of olive oil in it, then use a pastry brush to lightly spread the oil over the potatoes. After baking until the potatoes are soft and the bottoms are browning, (I go by look and texture, not by time, especially since I've been using a toaster oven for these), I flip to broil for a few minutes to get the tops browned. After all that, here's what I get:

Perfectly cooked and delicious oven-baked "fries"! Sprinkle with a little salt, and I don't even need catsup!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


One thing that P-daddy and I really enjoy, and which we are looking forward to having more of, is a variety of fresh fruit and veggies, particularly tropical ones. P-daddy lived in Vietnam for a while, where he developed a love of several types of fruit that many Americans have never even heard of. One of these is Jackfruit. O.M.G. I was introduced to this fruit shortly after P-daddy and I met, when he showed up at my door one day with this HUGE spiny fruit (he actually brought a second even spinier fruit called a durian, but that's a story for another day!). His wooing of me with exotic fruit apparently worked!

If you've never seen a jackfruit, here's a list of great pics, or here's our pic of just the rinds after we've cut the thing up - I was too excited about eating fresh jackfruit to remember to take a pic before we started.

As you can see, the rind is green and spiny, but it hides delicious delights inside!

P-daddy and I met in San Diego, where jackfruit was available for a fairly long season at the big Asian markets. When we moved to Texas several years ago, we quickly realized that the jackfruit season is pretty short, so we grab them whenever we can. This past week, we went and picked a nice one - this is hard to do, and we've picked too ripe and not ripe enough in the past. It's an expensive mistake, since even though the price per pound is low ($0.79 when we got our last one, but more typically $0.99 up to $1.29), a "small" jackfruit still weighs about 20 pounds. Imagine a "big" jackfruit! Apparently they can grow as big as a man's torso - we saw one yesterday that was probably 3 feet long.

This time, we got lucky, and we picked a really good jackfruit. It'd be nice if it were edible with the ease of watermelon, just slice and go with it. But no, it takes a LOT more work. The fruit pods, which are about the size of a kiwi, have to be separated from the tough fibrous material that surrounds them. This would be a lot easier to do if the fibers didn't have this really sticky white sap flowing from them. Here's what the fibers look like after the fruit has been removed:

The first time we cut a jackfruit together, it took us forever to clean up, because the sap is pretty impossible to get off of your hands, knife, table, floor and clothing. We've since learned that the best way to go about it is to coat your utensils and hands with olive or vegetable oil before starting. Cut the jackfruit into large pieces, and then pick out the fruit pods. It takes a while, but it's so worth it! When you are done you are left with perfectly gorgeous orange fruit pods, like this:

Now here's the thing. Jackfruit is common in Southern and Southeast Asia, and the jackfruit we purchase now in Texas and previously in California is imported from Mexico. Brazil also apparently is a large producer of jackfruit, where it's called jaca. We are incredibly curious as to whether or not jackfruit is grown in El Salvador. I don't remember seeing it in Guatemala, but I lived in the highlands, and it would have been more likely to grow on the coast. It may have been grown there, as I remember seeing many fruits that I was unfamiliar with at roadside stands, but I just can't remember. So, anyone know? Will we be able to get our jackfruit fix in El Salvador? (no worries if not, P-daddy is already experimenting with growing a tree!) And, while I know the English and the Portuguese, I have no idea what jackfruit is called in Spanish, so if you've got some ideas, please comment!

Monday, August 8, 2011

My men's best friend

I mentioned the other day that we are currently fostering puppies. When P-daddy saw that I blogged about this, he asked "how does that have anything to do with expatriation preparation?!" So I had to explain that it *is* related since pet transportation and things like that are issues that we will have to consider. Plus, well, I can make almost anything relate to my future plans in one way or another!

But really, back to the animal question. The pet situation, and the dog situation in particular, is pretty different in Central America than it is in the US. I can't speak for El Salvador, but when I lived in Central America previously, we used to laugh about the "ugly dogs of Guatemala" who ran the streets all the time. Dogs kept as pets seemed to only rarely be mutts (perhaps a purebred status thing going on?), while the dogs running the streets - and they were *everywhere* - were the mongrels. That I know of, there were no pounds or rescue organizations, so street dogs that didn't get fixed simply continued to breed (and yes, it was obvious that many of the females had already had way too many litters!). I remember when my roommate and I got a puppy and took it for a walk down the street - everyone looked at us strange, because NO ONE walks their dogs there!

For us, we plan to have dogs for several purposes. One is just for companionship and fun. The bigger reason, though, is for security. If we have our way, we'll have a bit of land rather than just a small apartment, and having large dogs will provide a measure of protection/security that we might not have otherwise. Plus, there may even be a chance at some extra income if we don't have our dogs fixed, but we are not really counting on that at this point. Pooh is already becoming more accustomed to the dogs and is learning to tell them "down" and "sit". He loves playing outside and running with them and when we were between puppies, he would ask where Midnight was. It's very sweet, and I can already see that he is rapidly learning that a dog may be his best friend!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Media Fasting

I've been a big fan of Money Saving Mom for a while now. She's got lots of great ideas, offers great giveaways, posts awesome deals, and has an inspiring attitude about saving! I read her blog daily, and have gotten tons of free samples from links she's posted. In addition, I've downloaded tons of free stuff, and someday I'm sure to win one of her giveaways too, if I just keep entering them!

One thing that I respect completely about Money Saving Mom is her commitment to God and family. She doesn't pepper her blog with lots of religious chatter, but it's clear that she's a Christian and takes that seriously. She's also clearly committed to her husband and kids and views being a wife and mother as her more-than-fulltime job. She's so serious about these things, as a matter of fact, that she takes a media fast one day a week, and for her, it's on Sunday.

Regardless of your beliefs and thoughts on God and religion, the idea of media fasting is quite thought-provoking. Both P-daddy and I spend a LOT of time online, and Pooh is clearly growing up as a digital native. There are lots of days when we all sit in the room together, each focused on their own connection: Pooh watches WonderPets or Dinosaur Train on streaming Netflix (oh my goodness, can we get streaming Netflix in El Salvador??!!), P-daddy watches the ups and downs of the market, and I work on papers/research, blog, or do any number of other things. And dare I admit to the number of computers we have in this house? [Hint: you'd need more than one hand to count them all and there are only 3 people in this house, one of which is only TWO!] We are quite media-driven, and media-focused on an ongoing basis.

While our media focus for work and pleasure is unlikely to change anytime soon, we definitely see that we need to take the time to focus on each other more, rather than always on our computer screens. We've tried scheduling some chunks of media-free time, and when we both focus on that, it works well, even though it's not a full day. However, I really want to make efforts to focus on other things at least one day a week rather than spending the day in front of the computer - it might not always be the same day, but we as a family agree that we need to get out and experience life and events around us. Once we move, this will be even more important, as we really want to live life as part of a community, and not just an online one!

Why am I saying all this, you ask? Well, while I want to make sure to post on this blog regularly, I also realize that I need to make sure that our family time doesn't suffer, and that our excitement over planning for a move in the future doesn't take our focus off of enjoying where we are and what we are doing now. So there may be days (probably once a week, and likely on the weekend), when I simply remind myself that media fasting helps provide me with a measure of enjoyment that even blogging can't come close to reaching!