Friday, February 25, 2011

Living in Nuevo Arenal, CR Part 1


The picture above is a view of the Arenal Lake from our backdoor.

Our plane landed safely in San Jose, Costa Rica at 12:50 Costa Rica time! We gained an hour upon entering the country which was nice. It took about 3 1/2 hours of driving to reach the town of Nuevo Arenal where my mom, siblings, and I are staying. Our van shuttle service was Eagle Tours La Fortuna San Carlos . They picked us up at the airport and dropped us off at the house we are renting. A shuttle service was necessary to haul the four of us, our 4 rolling back packs, and 5 LARGE suitcases.


Here, my mom and I are off to our first shopping experience in Nuevo Arenal. We set off prepared in our rubber boots, rain coats, and polka dotted shopping bag which has wheels! On our daily excursions to the supermarket, we always carry along our rain jackets in a backpack since the rain storms here are unpredictable and occur randomly during rainy season.


This rainbow appeared amidst one of our daily rain storms.


The location at which we are staying has a lot of humidity which provides the perfect opportunity for mold to grow. Our first day in Arenal was spent cleaning up our rental home. After purchasing rubber gloves and cleaner, we were prepared to tackle what lay ahead. To keep us going and provide inspiration, we played a Josh Groban music CD that we had brought along with us.  It took about eight hours of us all working to make our rental livable. We had to do a thorough floor sweeping, mopping, and wipe out the mold covered refrigerator which was quite an adventure! To make the task of cleaning the refrigerator bearable, I turned my sleeping mask into a nose cover. Black spots lined the walls and shelves so it took elbow grease from my mom, sister, and me to get the job done. It was a relief to get it cleaned to a usable condition.

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Walking to the grocery store has become our daily form of exercise. The photos above are of the “largest” supermarket that is in Nuevo Arenal. It is quite an adjustment from the grocery stores we have in the US and the selection is more limited. This is a bit challenging since my brother and I our on special diets, but we put our creativity to use by preparing a variety of vegetable dishes, chicken, beans, rice, and corn tortillas. We are looking forward to the Wal-mart grocery store that will be arriving in two weeks.


To compensate for the lack of an operating stove, we purchased an electric skillet for fifty dollars. It has become one of our survival tools for preparing our daily meals. It works great for cooking eggs in the morning and sautéing our vegetables & meat for dinner. My mom uses a skillet often at our home in the Florida, so when we arrived to Costa Rica and were in need of a way to prepare food she knew what we could use! The photo to the right depicts the contraption we found for cooking rice in the microwave. It works wonders and gets the job done without having to use a stove. We are so thankful the microwave works!


Here is my Costa Rican dinner we prepared by using our electric skillet and microwavable rice cooker. The corn tortillas, vegetables, and rice were delicious!

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: In Lake Arenal, you can use American money for purchases.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Butterfly Conservatory in Arenal, Costa Rica


The Butterfly Conservatory is situated in the beautiful habitat that surrounds the Arenal Volcano and lake. The Butterfly Conservatory is a Rainforest Regeneration Project that is working towards restoring the native species around Arenal volcano and preserving the ecosystem that is essential for their survival. They believe that education of visitors and locals is an important step in the process of regenerating our rainforests and its biological diversity.

The Butterfly Conservatory demonstrates different strategies that can be applied in the process of preserving our rainforests. They have their own laboratories, reproduction greenhouses, exotic frog habitats, plant nurseries, botanical gardens, orchid atrium, and even organic composting! All of these exhibits serve as a source of education as they are studied by students, tourists, and scientists from around the world.


Click on the link below to watch the Youtube video I created of the Arenal Butterfly Conservatory. 


Preserved specimens give a glimpse into the rich butterfly and insect diversity that inhabit Costa Rica.


Crawling insects, hairy spiders, and flying bugs all make their home in the area surrounding Arenal. It is great observing them behind glass, but meeting up with one this insects while they are still alive is another story!

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IMG_7943 Along the garden trails and rainforest river walk is a spectacular display of ornamental and medicinal plants. They each are unique and many burst with color. The red flowers are especially attractive to hummingbirds.


Host and nectar plants are propagated to provide food for hungry caterpillars and nectar sipping butterflies.

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Reproduction nurseries provide a site for rearing caterpillars into butterflies.

Butterfly Photos


Malachite butterfly

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Heliconius Doris Red


Julia Butterfly


Isabella Butterfly

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This species looks like a leaf! This camouflage comes to use in the rainforest when predators are around.

Frog Exhibit



The exotic frog exhibit provides an environment that is similar to their natural habitat in the wild.

frog 2 frog

Elizabeth’s Traveling Tips: For a travel friendly stay up the road from the Butterfly Conservatory, I recommend Essence Arenal 

essence arenal


Friday, February 11, 2011

Elizabeth’s Secret Garden Living in Arenal, Costa Rica

Come follow me to Arenal, Costa Rica for my 3 month adventure. My plane lands in San Jose on Feb. 14th. I will be living with my mom and siblings in a small village near Arenal Volcano. The village overlooks Lake Arenal and the Arenal Volcano. The Arenal Volcano pictured below measures about 5,358 feet and is estimated to be less than 7,000 years old. It is considered Costa Rica’s most active volcano.

IMG_7921Arenal lake

My future blog entries in Costa Rica will start on February 18, 2011. I will document my adventurous explorations, photographs of exotic wildlife, and starting an agricultural project for SHAPE International . I will also be blogging about people I meet, community service projects, and daily living in Costa Rica.

Below is a preview with some photographs along with a video that depicts the adventures of Costa Rica. I encourage you to become a follower and check in weekly for updates.

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“Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” has been published!

Holding Plaza Spanish textbook Here I am holding the Plaza Spanish Textbook containing my article which showcases my blog!

My article I wrote for The Costa Rica News about my eco stay in the jungles of Costa Rica has been published.

My column and blog entry was selected by Cengage Learning to be published in their latest “Plazas”, Spanish college textbook . Authors: Robert Hershberger, Susan Navey Davis, Guiomar Borrs A.

To read my original blog entry click on the following link.

Come visit me in Costa Rica!

“Elizabeth’s Secret Garden” has a new page on Facebook! Please click the “Like” button.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Community Garden of Lakes Park in Lee County, FL

community garden

Community Gardens are beginning to gain popularity as individuals discover the joy that comes from growing your own fresh produce. Each plot of earth provides the opportunity for gardeners to express themselves as they nurture a patch of vegetables, cultivate flowers, or experiment with the pleasant aromas of herbs. Community gardens provide exercise, nutritious foods, strengthen community bonds, and promote environmental awareness to those who actively participate. The sustainable use of space can turn vacant lots into productive gardens that inspire others to take steps toward nutritious and healthy living.

My father and I had the opportunity to see the Community Garden of Lakes Park thanks to Extension Agent, Roy Beckford. The Community Garden of Lakes Park is a vision that has begun to take shape through the efforts and partnership between The Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation and Lee County Parks & Recreation. The Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation’s ultimate goal is to restore Lakes Park into a native Florida wildlife area. They have begun to layout this vision and develop a master plan. The Community Garden is part of this master plan and is one of the first steps in establishing the Lakes Park Botanic Garden.  

Community Garden info:



The Community Garden is comprised of 69 ‘4 x 8’ raised beds which are each rented out for a yearly fee of $50. All proceeds are received by the Lakes Park Enrichment Foundation and then reinvested back into Lakes Park. Most of the beds are ground level, but as shown above, some are raised higher to make it more accessible. Each bed is numbered to make identification easier.

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Each gardener seizes the chance to experiment with different gardening techniques in their own raised bed. The designs vary with each different individual and their preferred style of design. The above photos demonstrate the application of square foot gardening which makes use of space by planting intensively in 1 x 1 square foot plots.


Each raised bed is unique and provides a palate for the enthusiastic gardener to cultivate an array of plants. Though each bed is different, they are all planned with care.


Whoever planted this bed loves tomatoes!

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The eggplant above looks so tasty and those marigolds would make wonderful cut flowers.


The community garden takes the garden clippings and composts them into natural fertilizer.


Gardeners exercise their creativity in finding new and unique ways to conserve moisture. This gardener has woven scraps of cardboard and then covered it with rocks to create mulching.


This white powder is diatomaceous earth which is actually ground fossils of diatoms that were harvested from fresh water! It is commonly used in organic gardening for killing pests. The powder works by puncturing the exoskeleton of soft-bodied insects which results in dehydration and death.


Community gardens provide the connection to nature that many of us long to experience as we deal with the stress of living in the city. Gardening can become therapeutic for many who indulge in the activity. Gardening also provides the chance to enjoy God’s creation. While touring the area, the bird above captured my eye and now as I look back at the picture it brings a Bible passage to mind which has brought me comfort in the past and present. I hope it brings peace to you as you read it below.

Mathew 7:26    Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for you heavenly father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?