Saturday, February 23, 2019

Can't. Stop. Provisioning.

Look at that Big Sexy Mama!
I can't stop!  In my head, I know that there is a grocery store five minutes away.  I know that it will always have everything I need, and if there is some obscure thing it does not have, I can go another five minutes to a second and a third and a fourth grocery store!  But no mater how good my intentions, I leave the store every time with another load!

Today we went by the grocery on our way home from the boat.  I wanted to pick up some tomatoes and onions because I've been a veggie eating machine and we used them up faster than I expected!  We just went on a major store run two days ago... Today we left the store with over $100 worth of stuff!!!

All this lovely and accessible freezer space is ours!! 
Why yes... that IS three more tubs of ICE CREAM!!! And an ice maker!
I'm going to just go ahead and admit right now that I have a problem.  There, I've said it.  And hopefully, the first step to recovery is admitting it.  But there are many factors at work here that fuel my addiction.  I've sort of always been a food hoarder.  I buy food, then instead of eating that food, I just go buy more food to eat now.  I thought that when we moved onto the boat I could be cured.  We had little space for such foolishness. but no.  It didn't help at all!

Because we really needed to stock up on things we wanted whenever we found them, it just got worse!  It gave me the excuse I needed to find more hidey holes to stash food so that there was no way we would ever go hungry.  Of course, realistically, we would never have gone hungry.  There is food everywhere, it just might not be exactly what I wanted at the moment.  But facts don't help!

Now back to my current situation and in my defence... ICE CREAM!  Yes, and it was on SALE!  I'm relishing the decadence of owning five different flavours of sweet, hard, frozen milky goodness!  Gone are the days when I pay $15USD for a half gallon of ice cream, rush back to the boat and dig a hole in the tiny freezer to stow it in hopes that it will achieve frozen status again.  Gone are the days when I dig out that tub of ice cream with high hopes, only to have them dashed, as I plunge my spoon into the disappointingly soft, semi-melted milk fluff, full of sunken chunks of fruit. Ahhh heaven is properly frozen ice cream!

But don't get the idea that we've gone off the deep end and are living on just ice cream.  Like I said, I've been a veggie eat'n fool!  For every tub of ice cream, we've gone through twice as much broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, proper yams, carrots, and squash!

And Avocados!!!

Tomatoes were 75¢ per pound and broccoli was 3lbs for $5!!!
 Yes, there are avocados in the Caribbean, and broccoli and carrots and many of these things.  But the avocados are only perfectly ripe for about a 20 minute window in time, and if you miss it, they're crap. I've thrown away more avocados than we've eaten because we just can get it right.

And the rest of the veggies, well by the time they arrive to their destination in the Caribbean, they're already on their last breath.  Broccoli is usually soft and unappealing and when we buy it, there's only about two days left in it's life, maybe less!  Carrots and cabbage have been good throughout the Caribbean, but tomatoes have been scarce most of the time.  Who knew there was a tomato shortage??? Onions in the Caribbean are usually small and very hot, and again, they are often almost rotten!

Onions 99¢ per lb.  I bought 2lbs!!! and More avocados!
Oh what luxury!  Now I can take advantage of that sale on Broccoli and tomatoes and just leave them in the crisper drawers until I'm ready to eat them.  And I. Am. READY!  Yeah, it's been a little bit of a problem.  At the risk of oversharing... (yeah I know that ship's sailed) all of this increased veggie consumption has been playing havoc with my digestive system.  Hopefully things will level out soon.

And then there's the meat... Beautiful cuts of meat for cheap!  We can even afford steaks.  Yes, beef!  We got ribeye on sale for less than $5 per lb. and we've found pork for $1.29... and chicken all day long for less than a buck!  Lunch meat was the cheapest we've bought in 5 years and we can throw it into the freezer until we're ready to eat it.  The one package I opened last week did not go rancid in three days like I'm used to!

The dairy and cold cut drawer!
And cheese!  I put cheese on everything but cereal!  Today I found cheese shreds for $2 per bag!  So, I keep buying more and just rotate my stock!  Remember how excited I was to be able to maybe do a little dieting?  Well having all of this food around is making that really difficult!

These grocery stores are sneaky.  They don't just drop the price on the items... they make you buy three to get the price cut.  So, we've got half a dozen various flavours of cream cheese... I KNOW IT's A SICKNESS!!!



I love my new fridge.  I just love it.  And the roomy pantry is kind of awesome too!

It took us several trips to bring all of the canned goods and such from the boat, and it filled this space almost to bursting before we ever started squeezing in additional cans of diced tomatoes because, COSTCO, and extra cans of Bush Beans.

We also found that we had a ridiculous supply of salad dressing.  Probably because the lettuce and tomato situation in Grenada kept our salad consumption low, and partly  because we had so many hidey holes on the boat that we stashed them and forgot where they were.  We were in a perpetual state of thinking we were out of salad dressing!

Well that won't happen again!  It's all here. It stretches deep into the cabinet but these shelves pull out so that I can find things.  So that I don't have to buy more because I can't find things. Now if I can just work on not buying more because they're on sale, or because I think I'll never have another chance to get them again in my life!




I know!  Crackers are important!
So.  Cruising is wonderful.  It gives you the chance of a lifetime to learn about different cultures and begin to see things with an open mind.  Go cruising.

But if you do, and you some day return to real life... you will know real appreciation for the little things.  You'll never take for granted the luxury of being able to walk into a grocery store, yes, just one grocery store, and find everything on your list.

To all of my friends who are still cruising, I apologise for rubbing your noses in it, but I am just so happy!  And I'll work on my problem.  I'll just have to write a thousand times:  I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...I'm no longer provisioning...

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

CRIM

What the heck is a CRIM???  Buying property outside of the US is a challenge.  There are so many things to learn about and so many ways that following the rules can be elusive.  When I came to Puerto Rico in December to close on the Villa, I was told that I would need to file for a homestead exemption.  Having done so in on our home back in the US, I thought this was pretty much the same thing.  But when we got settled here and I went looking for information about how to do that exactly, things got weird.

I remembered the Notary throwing words around at the closing and the word CRIM came to mind.  She explained that it was the taxing authority for property.  OK. What IS CRIM?  Centro de Recaudacion de Ingresos de Municipalities ~ Income Collection Centre of the Municipalities.  There, debunked and demystified, right?  Wrong.  Now we have to find the place!

Google Maps is my friend.  There have been major improvements in its accuracy since we were here in 2016 and today, I thought things were going well when I identified the nearest CRIM office in neighbouring Guayama.  It's the next largest town over and we go there for a lot of things.

We found parking in the old downtown district, quite a step back in time!

Just like the old downtown of my youth!
Second in line!  Lucky me!
We found the CRIM office and I went confidently up to the counter, thrilled to learn that the young lady working there was fluent in English.  That always helps!

Unfortunately that's where the wheels fell off.  She looked up my property and showed me where there was a tax balance due of about $500.  I told her that I was there to file for homestead exemption so that I wouldn't owe that balance...

She explained to me that the taxes are yearly (January to December) but they are assessed from July to June.  That makes no sense at all!  Furthermore, the bill is paid in six month increments and that the bank had paid the previous bill back in June, leaving me as the new owner, responsible for the December payment.  Don't even try to wrap your head around it.  After going back and forth with her to make sure I understood, we finally left there thinking I was going to argue it out with the bank.



Coat of arms for Guayama
Very quickly I learned that I did indeed owe the money and that since it was filed in Caguas, I would have to go there to get my homestead exemption filed.  FRIG!  Well, since we were already here in the very quaint little town centre, we did some looking around.  How pleased we are to see that the town of Guayama has come back so well after the ravages of Hurricane Maria.  These old buildings are just beautiful in their Caribbean-typical pastels!  We'll have to come back here and explore further when my blood pressure isn't up!

The trees took a beating, but they're coming back.





An old movie theatre!!!

Moving on, we cruised by the Malecon in Guayama... another place we will revisit.
The lovely City Hall!

The less-lovely CRIM de Arroyo
A quick review of the CRIM website gave me a phone number for the office in my town, Arroyo.  Google maps had it, but not under the right name,  and not where the office actually was.  It shows being in the City Hall Building, another old treasure, but it is actually in a little annex in the back.   (I have since fixed this in Google Maps)

Here is where the wheels got refitted.  A very nice man came out to help us as soon as we arrived.  I dug out the documents I had and even found one more little piece that was stuck behind something when I showed the lady at the last office my stuff... That one piece turned out to be the saving grace in this story.

The man looked over everything I had and explained that since the application for homestead exemption had not been made prior to the end of December, I would be responsible for that payment AND one more full year in property taxes.  Oh well... I told him that the notary had assured me that as long as I came in when we got settled, things would be fine.  Nope.  Not fine.  But wait...

As his eyes drifted over the nearly forgotten little piece of paper, his face transformed into a huge grin.  He snatched that page up and scanned it quickly, then turned to me again to pass along the happy news.  THIS page was actually the document that showed the notary HAD filed the exemption for us as part of the closing process.  Furthermore, it showed that the CRIM had received and recorded it.  The only thing that was not done was to pay that last half year's taxes ~ the aforementioned $500... and we were home free!  No more taxes!  Ever!

I whipped the cash out of my purse and rushed to the office next door to pay, hoping he wouldn't change his mind.  No, it was real. He even looked online and found that it had been recorded.  We aren't going to question WHY the previous lady had not been able to see that, nor why this guy didn't see it before I produced that little slip of proof...  It's done.

So what was the Homestead Exemption that I was advised to file as soon as we got here?  Well, that's another kind of exemption that is a one-time thing.  My lawyer has to do it for us, but once done, it will protect our property from ever being taken away from us in a lawsuit or to satisfy a lien of any sort.  Puerto Rico is very protective of the rights of her property owners.  That little slip of paper will cost us another $450, but it must be done.

Bruce had to run to the boat to flush the water maker while I joined the festivities ashore!
Of course Bruce is GREAT at Bean Bag Toss!
Feeling so happy to have finally straightened out our business, we joined our friends Don and Janis at their home for an evening of games, good food, cold drinks and new friends.



Life is good in Puerto Rico... once you figure it out!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Beachwalk



Each Beachwalk is unique...
We may walk this beach a thousand times...
But no two will be the same!


Morning Glories
Sweet Peas




Coconut Harvestor

Iguana tracks


Crab tracks

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Life After Cruising - The New Dream... Laundry Machines!

We have been Cruisers-Who-Live-On-A-Rock for 26 days.  Those days have passed in a blur of activity undoing years of down-sizing at lightning speed.  When I think of all of the things we did to prepare ourselves for life on a boat - all of the treasures and utilitarian possessions that we wilfully gave up thinking that we would live the minimal life forever in order to be worthy of the wonders that Cruising gifts to the lucky few...  Well, I just can't dwell on that for too long.

I've got to pick and choose my subjects and mull them over in my mind.  Laundry for instance.  Most of you take laundry for granted.  Many of you have probably seen my posts about laundry day on the boat and thought "Why would anyone put themselves through that?" It's back-breaking work washing clothes in a bucket, using precious gallons of water sparingly?  The answer to that question is that it sometimes beats the alternatives:  1.  Paying someone $30US or more to do 3 or 4 loads. 2.  Schlepping to the laundromat.

Number one is nice as it is the easiest of the three choices.  You just load it up, drop it off and go do something else for a while.  Unfortunately the cost is high and while the fold service is really nice, they often scrimp on soap and use of resources so the laundry may or may not be really clean.

Number 2 is nice sometimes too, but it requires the same schlepping and then we sit and wait while the machines do their thing.  There is a line sometimes so the wait times can be long.  The machines are often broken or barely work, so while I can control the soap I use, I can't control the water temperature or the quality of the wash.  Drying by machine is often very pricey as electricity is costly in the islands, so we often took our wet clothes back and hung them on the lifelines anyway.

Either way, it's an all-day affair to get the laundry clean... and just how clean it ends up is questionable.  So... while you might think that having a washer/dryer in the hallway just outside the bedroom is commonplace... WE think it's a DREAM!

I've been a Washin' Fool these past three weeks!  I've brought every stitch of material from the boat and washed away the boat smell.  The plain truth is that everything we owned was stinky!

Now I have the luxury of just popping a load into the washer and going about my day.  I can dry them when I feel like it and then toss them onto the guest bed to fold and put away.  The clothes smell wonderful and they stay that way!



My awesome little laundry hamper!  Sorts loads to just the right size!
I'm still working on my compulsion to wear things multiple times before laundering.  Baby steps.  But I'll find a happy medium eventually knowing that there is absolutely no reason to wear stinky clothes ever again!  There is also no reason to let the laundry pile up for three or four weeks at a time like we're used to.  And let me just tell you... a three week old pile of Cruiser laundry is nothing to sniff at!





The best part about all of this is that when the laundry is done, I don't have to worry about where it's all going to go.  We have spacious (by boat standards) closets to hang clothes so they don't get wrinkled... You can always spot a Cruiser by the wrinkled clothes!  And we don't have to pack clothes like sardines into small drawers that slide into dark spaces very close to sewage hoses and the damp boat hull...  Nope! We've got large, luxurious drawers designated as his, and hers!  Ahhh the life of luxury that we are leading!




















Neatly folded, not crammed! And this whole drawer is just for sleepwear!
Bruce gets all of these drawers to himself!!!
So if you're thinking "What's the big deal?", then you'll never understand.  I don't want to sound negative about the joys of cruising, but you just don't know what you've given up until you try to return to life on land!  I wouldn't trade our years spent cruising the Caribbean for anything in the world... but I will say that the little luxuries of life are really nice!  Maybe that's the New Dream.  We've learned to appreciate the things we have and know when we've got enough.