Saturday, April 23, 2011

Belmont Estates

A couple weeks ago, I toured Belmont Estates with a few girl friends. This 400-acre plantation is located on the northeast corner of the island. Although it's only about 22 miles from campus, it takes over an hour to get there due to the mountainous terrain. On the way up, we drove through Grand Etang, a rain forest in the center of the island. We stopped on the side of the road to feed the monkeys that live in the nearby trees.

Belmont Estate was established by the French in the 1700's. It has changed hands only a handful of times since then, and is currently owned by an Indian family. This bell has hung on the property for over 300 years.

Not only is there an organic chocolate factory on this estate, but the surrounding plantation provides fresh fruits and vegetables to most of the island. Several well-known chocolate companies, such as Lindt and Cadbury, buy some of their cocoa from Belmont Estates. Our morning began with a tour of the chocolate factory.

The cocoa bean comes from a large shell that looks like an oversized nutmeg:

There are several beans in each pod, and they are covered in a white, slimy film.

We actually tasted the beans by sucking on them until the film was gone. At first it tasted like a combination of a mango, banana, and apple. But within a couple seconds it started to taste like yeast, and the texture was a little overwhelming. For production, the beans are placed in wooden stalls inside a building, covered with banana leaves, and left to drain until all the liquid is gone.

Next, the beans are placed in large, shallow trays and dried in the sunshine for up to 7 days. Every 30 minutes, the beans are "stirred" by workers walking barefoot through the trays. The tour guide put us to work while we were there.

The best part of the tour was being able to sample some of the delicious chocolate. We were given dark chocolate pieces and an amazing cup of hot chocolate.

The hot chocolate is made by boiling cocoa balls (pressed cocoa powder) in water, straining the mixture, then combining it with milk, cinnamon, and bay leaves. I bought a small bag of cocoa balls at the gift store and can't wait to try it at home.

After our tour, we enjoyed a delicious buffet lunch at the lovely restaurant on the estate. The day ended by walking around the grounds, observing the many animals (monkeys, goats, parrots, and tortoises) and sampling different fresh fruits (wax apples and guava). We drove home along the eastern coast which afforded picturesque views of the water. It was a fun, interesting day spent with great friends!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Fresh Goat Cheese

Yesterday, I toured Belmont Estates with a few friends. It's actually a 400-acre plantation on the north side of the island that supplies most of the island's fresh fruits and vegetables and has an organic chocolate factory. More about that in another post.

But while we were there, I purchased a log of fresh goat cheese for about $3.45. It's quite a bit more expensive in the grocery store, so I haven't bought any since we've been down here. But it's one of my favorite cheeses, and I was so excited to find it so cheap! I didn't wait long before putting it to good use. We used it tonight in a salad to accompany homemade lasagna.

Ryan and I made a quick trip to the grocery store to buy milk since they were out of it when we went on Monday. I wanted to find some nice greens to make a salad, and I happened to see fresh arugula and watercress. I bought a large bunch of each for a total of $3.

I cut the goat cheese into rounds, sprinkled them with pepper, and dipped them in olive oil. Next, I coated them in a thin layer of seasoned bread crumbs and baked them at 400 degrees for about 5 minutes (watching to be sure they don't actually melt). For a quick and easy dressing, I combined vinegar (I would have used a cider vinegar or balsamic if I had it on hand), mustard, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and olive oil and drizzled it on the greens. I topped the salad with a couple goat cheese rounds and some chopped green onions.

The salad was rich, tangy, and filling - definitely a new favorite, although we might have to wait until we're back in the US to have goat cheese more regularly.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Our New Job

This afternoon, Ryan and I found out that we will be the Resident Assistants for the married housing dorms on campus this next year. We applied for the job back in February, and interviewed last Friday. So beginning in June, we will have free housing for our last year in Grenada. It will mean that our vacations will be somewhat shorter, as we have to stay on campus a few days after each semester ends, and arrive on campus earlier than most students to prepare the dorms. But that is a small sacrifice to make. We'll be spending some time with the current RA's (who are also good friends of ours) in these next few weeks to learn about some of our new responsibilities. I'm sure we'll have some interesting stories to share during this next year! The Lord has provided so graciously for us, and we are very thankful for this opportunity.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Surprise Dinner Date

Well, I should have waited another couple days before posting about our anniversary, because I was in for one more surprise last night! Throughout the day, Ryan and I had our typical conversations about dinner:
"Do you want pancakes and eggs or spaghetti?"
"Um, pancakes sound good."
"What time do you want to eat?"
"How about we eat around 6:00pm. I want to go for a run before dinner."

But around 4:30, he skyped me and sent me a link to an article about Gary Rhodes. Apparently, he's a famous chef from Britain. I skimmed the article, and noticed at the bottom of the page that he owns a restaurant at the Calabash Hotel in Grenada. Ryan told me that was a hint, and to be dressed to go out around 7pm.

A few minutes before 7:00, we walked towards the bus stop on campus. I commented on the fact that it would be nice to have a car for nights like this so we don't have to wait for a bus and ride it while we're all dressed up. As we passed a parking lot, Ryan said he needed to check something, and proceeded to unlock the car closest to us! I was completely surprised, and told him he didn't have a Grenadian license and he can't drive without one. So of course, he pulled a Grenadian license out of his pocket. He had arranged to borrow a friend's car for the evening, and another friend drove him to the police station earlier that afternoon to get his license (a simple process that involves filling out a form and paying $30). I guess great minds think alike! And what a wonderful treat that was to be able to drive ourselves to dinner. We felt like normal people again.

The restaurant was fantastic - very classy and in the most beautiful setting. The dining area was under an ivy-covered roof and the room opened up into a lovely little garden.

Whenever we eat at nice restaurants, we try to order something that either we've never had before, or something we are not likely to eat at home. And last night was no exception. As an appetizer, we enjoyed a beetroot, fig, and onion tart topped with creamy goat cheese. It was so flavorful and unique, and it left me wondering if I could indeed recreate it at home one of these days.

For the main course, I ordered a buttery lobster with tangy lemon mayonnaise, and Ryan tried the mahi mahi with tiger prawns in a sweet pineapple sauce. Both were fantastic choices!

The best part of the evening was having a couple quiet hours to ourselves. We ended the evening by watching a movie and going to bed early - a true luxury these days. I couldn't have asked for a better anniversary celebration.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Three Years

Today is our third wedding anniversary! It's hard to believe the time has gone by that quickly. You can read more about our wedding on this post that I wrote last year. I am so thankful for my hard-working, loving husband.

This year, we weren't able to have a nice dinner or anything on our anniversary because Ryan is teaching a class this evening, and I'm babysitting for a few hours. We'll probably go out for dinner this weekend when we have a little more time.

This afternoon, I came home from the gym and assumed Ryan was still in class. But a few minutes later, he came home with the most gorgeous bouquet of exotic, tropical flowers, and several special treats for me. I was completely surprised!

He also bought me a beautiful bracelet with carved wooden beads made here in Grenada. . .

And lots of my favorite types of chocolate! Oreos, Cadbury Creme Eggs, and the best ice cream bars in the world - Magnum Bars. My dad and I ate quite a few of them in Europe, but I haven't seen them since then. I don't know if they have them in the US by now. I saw them here at the grocery store a few weeks ago and introduced Ryan to them.

And finally, he picked up a few household supplies that he knew I needed, like a lightbulb and a new can opener. Maybe those are a little less romantic than chocolate and flowers, but they are just as sweet, and I appreciate the fact that he took notice of those things and thought to get them for me on his own. Could I be any more spoiled?

Married life just keeps getting better and better, and I couldn't ask for a more wonderful guy with whom to share the rest of my life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Midweek Update

After a somewhat lengthy blogging absence, I thought I should take a few minutes to update you on our lives. But I'm not sure how long this will last because I found out today that my computer battery is on its last leg. When it finally dies, I will be relegated to using Ryan's computer during the couple hours he is at lab each week (or when he comes home at 12am, but blogging probably won't be a priority at that time of day). So while I still can, here is what we've been up to recently.

Most importantly, Ryan had another round of exams last week, so his time has been spent studying diligently. His hard work paid off once again. On his midterm exam, he scored a 99%, missing just one question. That should put him in a good position to make an A in that class even though the final will be quite difficult. He also had a final exam in another class, and he made an A on that as well! So his 4.0 GPA continues, and I could not be more proud of him. Once exams were completed, he spent a few days writing his first paper for the research society. He finished his rough draft last night, and now it's back to regular studying for the rest of the semester. He enjoyed the change of pace, and looks forward to more research in the months ahead. Not only did I marry a (soon-to-be) doctor, but a published author as well!

I have kept very busy with cooking meals for Ryan, spending sunny afternoons at the pool with friends, and knitting all kinds of fun items. Last week, Ryan and I went out for dinner to celebrate the completion of his exams. We tried a new place called Umbrellas. It is right on the beach and has the most beautiful views of the island. We sat on the balcony and enjoyed a delicious (American-style) meal. The prices are very reasonable, the service is excellent, and the food is amazing. Ryan had a juicy burger with grilled pineapple, and I had the buffalo wings. We split a decadent brownie sundae for dessert. It's probably our new favorite place (for the one time we eat out each semester).

The next night, we celebrated a friend's birthday by going to KFC (his favorite restaurant) with some friends. His wife, a good friend of mine, had to stay home and work this semester, so we wanted to make his day special even though she couldn't be there with him. I baked a chocolate cake that we brought with us. The lady at KFC was hesitant to let us eat it, but eventually agreed . . . until her boss came in and she made me hide the cake pan in my bag. But we enjoyed a fun evening and good food.

I've started taking a kickboxing class two nights a week. And as I quickly learned, running 30 minutes a day does not in any way prepare you for an hour-long kickboxing class. I'm sore for days afterwards, but it's good for me, and I actually do enjoy it.

Last Friday, I joined some other spouses for a recipe exchange. I made my mom's Peanut Butter Crunch Cake, and it was a huge hit. I came home with an empty pan, but some delicious recipes from friends that I can't wait to try (crab salad or rosemary bread, anyone?). This Sunday night, our friend wants to surprise his girlfriend for her birthday, and asked me to make her a red velvet cake. Fortunately, the grocery store cooperated this week and I was able to find birthday candles as well (and for less than $1!). We really don't eat that much dessert on a normal basis, but I guess it's a good thing I'm taking a kickboxing class with all this cake I've been eating recently!

It's hard to believe we'll be home in just 6 weeks! I know the time will go by quickly, but I am getting more and more anxious to see my family and friends again. We have a busy summer planned, so I should probably take these next few weeks and rest up before our vacation!
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