Trip to Cuba: Lodging – Days 1 and 2

Charlie and I traveled to Cuba for 6 days (including travel days).

Castillo de los Tres Reyes del Morro in Havana Bay

We stayed two days in Havana, then overnight in Viñales, then back to Havana for 2 more days.

The Vedado neighborhood in Havana.

I arranged for our living accommodations through AirBnB months before we left.  One advantage of using AirBnB is that I could pay in advance using American currency via credit cards which are not accepted in Cuba.

The room has 2 double beds and a small en suite bathroom. The air conditioner worked well.

Our first casa particulare was a lovely old colonial house with private room and full bathroom located in the heart of “El Vedado” just a few steps from “John Lennon” Park. We stayed for 2 nights at the cost of $33.44 per night.

Breakfast at a casa particulare was 5 CUC per person.

For an additional 5 CUC person ($5) we were served a beautiful breakfast featuring fresh fruit, fresh juice, eggs, coffee, bread, etc. On day two we opted for breakfast sandwiches that we took with us on our trip to Viñales .  We also purchased bottled water from the casa both for convenience and to help them out.

We were welcome to use any room including the porch in this 2nd floor (alta) home.

Our host spoke great English and our hostess was very helpful arranging transportation within the city and to Viñales 111 miles away. She would also have made accommodations for us in Viñales if we needed it.

Our taxi for the 111 mile ride to Viñales.

Although we had accommodations for later in the week in the old part of Havana we knew we could come back to Casa Marta if things didn’t work out and that she would help us out with transportation if we called her.

The men in the front seat of the taxi were tightly squeezed.

That was her offer to us when we left for Viñales in a taxi collectivo that held nine adults stuffed into an old station wagon for the price of 20 CUC each.

To be continued .  .  .

Have you met a helpful person recently?

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Pine Cone Bird Snacks

When we put the bare Christmas tree out in the yard to attract birds we needed some edible ornaments.

Birdseed and a large jar of peanut butter are around $10.

I made a quick trip to Wal-Mart to purchase peanut butter and bird seed.

Dried pine cones are open so we dried some of the newly gathered ones in the oven.

I had some pine cones (left over from other projects) onto which we tied some wire for hanging. Sug spread peanut butter on the cones.

We put the birdseen on a tray on paper to keep it contained.

We simply rolled the cones in a plate of bird seed and voila — bird snacks.

Pine cones covered in peanutbutter and bird seed.

We made a dozen but have plenty of supplies to replenish the tree if it is popular with birds.

Charlie wired the ornaments onto the tree.

We hung the cones on the balsam fir and added a bird seed bell a the top.

Charlie is admiring the bird tree. We’re still waiting for the birds.

We dug a hole in the bottom of a pre-made birdseed bell and fitted it onto the top of the tree.  Hoping for some hungry visitors soon.

We can see the tree from all the rooms at the back of the house.

We added a laser light for a little night interest.

When do you take your holiday decorations down?

Easy and Economical Favor

We’re having a party on January 6th celebrating the arrival of 3 kings to the Christ child.

We’re planning to chalk our front door.

One tradition often observed on this day is the chalking of the door. The front door of the house is marked with chalk either on the door or over the door with the year and three initials in this format: 20+C+M+B+18.

A simple party favor.

The letters above the door stand for the initials of the Magi – Caspar, Melchior, Balthazar, and also stands for Christus Mansionem Benedicat, Latin for “May Christ bless this house.”

I printed 10 tags to a sheet on yellow card stock.

I made tags with the Publisher program — 10 to a sheet — printed back and front.  The tags tell the meaning of the initials on the door and have a blessing on the reverse to recite while marking the door.

The chalk can be any color — I chose white.

I purchased some simple white chalk — 16 pieces for 99 cents — and tied on the tags with black and white string.

A simple blessing covers both the structure and every person who lives within or visits.

I hope to have a few left over to give to some special friends who are unable to attend the party.

Do you have any special rituals that you follow at your home?

Crafty Gifts

Charlie and I had success at the craft show.

Hand-dyed wool in front of weavings.

It actually was a very private show in a private farmhouse up a remote half-mile-long driveway .

Pottery, knit hat, felted pillow, sheepskin, basket of wool, handmade cutting board (L to R).

There was quite a variety of items with a heavy emphasis on sheep-related articles: sheepskins, skeins of dyed wool, felted pillows, knitted items, etc.

We bought a variety of Pysanky eggs for some favorite relatives.

We felt one of the deals of show was a dish of decorated Pysanky eggs of which we purchased 4.  Pysanky eggs are decorated with traditional Ukrainian folk designs using a wax-resist method.  These have chains so they can be used as ornaments.

A unique collection of iron hooks.

The shepherd whose farm housed the craft show is also a blacksmith. We had a nice choice of wrought-iron hooks one of which we purchased to replace the mermaid hook in our conservatory bathroom. We bought a few more things but I can’t put them on the blog yet.

Do you have a favorite craft?

I Shop at Trader Joe’s

Years ago we started shopping at Trader Joe’s.

Honey, vinegar, and olive oil – we get them all from TJ’s.

At first we only bought olive oil.

Raw vegetables and hummus — all from TJ’s.

Now we do most of our grocery shopping there.

Nine-inch tapers come in white or ivory.

Recently I found 8 candles for $3.

Kisses for everyone.

This time of year TJ’s has all sorts of great gifts.  One of my favorite to give is a box of Baci, kisses in Italian.

A great bargain at $5.

I always get my boss’ wife a couple loaves of panettone.  One of our cooks at work asked me how to serve panettone which I thought was strange because she is Italian.  Apparently in Italy they pour milk or cream over a wedge.  I suggested cutting the loaf in slices, toasting it and serving it with butter. It was a hit!

I especially love white roses.

Recently I have purchased 20 roses for $10.  Enough to spread around.

Do you have a convenient Trader Joe’s? What’s your favorite TJ product?

Let’s Plant the Fall Color

I bought some ochre mums a few weeks ago to brighten up the porch.

These flowers from 2014 are forever gone.
These flowers from 2014 are forever gone.

I did the same thing last year with every intention of planting them once they started to fade.

The purple asters and golden mums can be planted in the yard and should come back year after year.
The purple asters and golden mums from last year should have been planted in the yard.

That didn’t happen but this year I’ve asked Charlie to plant 5 mums in a clump at the right side of the potager.

Hoping Charlie will plant five tawny mums in a clump so they’ll return next year.

Charlie doesn’t think much of plants that can’t be eaten but a little persuasion encouraged him to transplant these fall-blooming plants.

I’d like mums in this area near the potager.

Can’t wait to see what we get next year.

What perennials come back for you every year?

Adopting Polar Bears

I’ve decided to enhance my Christmas theme by adding more polar bears.  Last year my research led me to report that a group of polar bears is called a celebration.  This year I find that an aurora is the preferred moniker.

I am inspired by the white-painted branches stuck into the Christmas tree.

I am inspired by the tree in the picture above so I did a quick Google search and found stuffed polar bear at AliExpress.com. (Ali Express sells in small quantities what Alibaba sells in bulk units. I had been wanting to give this service a try.)

The little bears traveled together all the way from China.

They came packaged in one bag and were delivered by the U.S. Postal Service.

I celebrated the arrival of the bears.

It takes longer to get the items than buying from something based in the US but the price was reasonable enough that I could buy 10.  The cost was $3.28 each times 10 plus $1.46 shipping so $34.26 for 10 adorable 7.8-inch polar bears.

An aurora of polar bears.

While we’re waiting to decorate for Christmas our bear Casper is keeping an eye on the little ones. I might have to make little scarves for them.

Do you ever get sidetracked by a strange subject?