Monday, August 30, 2010

Enjoying our Friends

Periodically, we post a picture collection of friends here.  Mostly for the friends and family members  back 'home' and missing them, but also we post because it's fun for us to re-visit all the fun, too.

Holly and Charlie.
Rich and Fabian at the flower market.

These next few pictures were taken at Chris' recent Birthday celebration at the Kook.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Cooking with Cow Feet

Nancy here.

This is a follow-on to the earlier post on cooking with chicken feet, here:

This post is for those who have been asking about my latest cooking experiment and whether I really did do the cow feet broth.  

The answer is:  Yes!!!  Happy to report, I met the Senoras' challenge! 
 No pictures, but you can imagine.

Not much on the Internet about cooking with cow feet, so I looked to Cuencano friends (the'challengers') for guidance and winged it a little.

Well........  would I do the cow feet broth again?  You bet!  But, it was personally difficult...I'm hoping it gets easier as I make more.  Smelly, gaggy, disgusting...all that.

First, I picked up some cow feet and some meat (cow? ox? pig?) parts at the Co-op.  Not sure what the parts were, but could have been tail?  Short ribs?  The parts were meaty, with a bone in the middle of the pieces and lots of fat and gristle, about 2 inches across and about an inch thick.  The gal at the store said they were good for soup.   OK, so I bought them, along with the cow feet. 

The other parts could have been cow knees?  Rich had cow-knee soup recently in town and he thought it was a little game-y, but good.  But, he's a more adventurous eater than I am.  I'll be brushing up on my animal anatomy soon so I'll know what I'm buying.  And, eating...

Besides trying to 'meet the challenge' (egged on by a couple of Senoras here), I've read that homemade cow feet broth is good for you, with lots of minerals and vitamins. You can control the ingredients, too...less salt, no sugar, etc.  But, I think making the broth is a bit of a stretch for those of us born and raised in a US City.  You need to also be brave.

So, here goes...........

First, I boiled the feet/hooves in water for about 15 minutes.  They looked dirty and smelled so strong!, so I thought I'd try to sterilize and clean them up first.  After the boil, I dumped the old water and started over with new for the broth..

I browned the beef parts and the hooves in a skillet on the top of the stove (I suppose you could roast them in the oven instead)...what a terrible smell!  It smelled really bad, like a tanning/leather business or a pet food factory or a slaughter house.  My sisters will remember that horrific smell of the whaling station from our childhood...yes, like that!  Strong and gaggy.  Had to be the leather/skin/hoofs/horn and who-knows-what on the feet. 
 I got through the browning stage without passing out! A major accomplishment, I thought...

Then, I added the browned parts and vegetables (carrots, onion, celery, green peppers, peppercorns and bay leaf, some vinegar) in the stew pot with water.  It simmered for about 10 hours.  I think next time I'll try to simmer it even longer. 

I'd read that adding the vinegar to the bones helps release the calcium and other minerals...I added a couple glugs of apple cider vinegar.

Then, I strained the soup, saving the beef parts (dumping the yucky hoofs and the bones, gristle, fat along with the soggy vegetables).  Actually, the meat from the parts is pretty good!  Took awhile to get all the fat and gush off the meat, but it tasted good!

Then I reduced the clean, brown broth for about an hour...not too much fat to skim off.  I'm so *relieved* to report the broth is way good!

After the broth was refrigerated, it 'gelled', just like it was supposed to. Just like the chicken feet jello earlier.  Cuencano friends tell me the broth looks and tastes 'just right'.  Yay!  Success!!

So --  to all my adventurous USA cooking friends/family reading this........Go for it!  I'm sure your local butcher can find some cow feet for brave!  If even I can do it (rubber gloves and all),  I know you can, too.  Well worth it all.  Really.

I've used the broth for roasting beef ribs with onion/garlic, really good!  And, the latest soup is with potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, meat from the ribs, onion...a really good, hearty soup. 

Now, back to the chicken feet. Hopefully, one of these days, I'll be able to report that I've 'crossed over' and it's just a routine thing for me.  Practice makes perfect.

No telling what the next challenge will be! 

Monday, August 23, 2010

Newspaper Article on Expat Blogs

We are delighted to be featured in another article in the newspaper, along with our friends, the Watsons and the Bluefields.  The topic is our blogs:  Los jubilados son los cronistas en Cuenca

It's a follow-up article to the previous article on expats, here:

Here is the link to today's article:
Our picture is on the link.

For those who don't read Spanish, you can read the Google translation to English here:


Retirees are the chroniclers in Cuenca

In Spanish, the literal translation blog blog. Americans Chuck and Nancy Watson have limited knowledge of Spanish, however used their site that accurately. A log of his travels and his experience in Ecuador Cuenca, home since 2008.

In the past 30 months this retired couple has had 224 stories about the country. The site, which emerged as a mechanism to save the writing of e-mails to his family, has made some 58 933 visitors from 115 countries.

Nancy Watson admits that when he created the blog was indeed his intention to reach out to other readers. What was not expected was to become a sort of reference for other retirees, who were exploring the possibility of moving to Cuenca.

His blog was selected as one of the top 10 blogs on Ecuador in and one of the top 25 blogs of the world upon retirement in

This is not an isolated case. Since last year, International Living magazine put Watershed as one of the best cities for retirement, these experiences grew.

There is no exact data on the number of retirees living in the capital Azuay. But a score of blogs linked together in the lists of recommended attest to a trend.

To Fernando Ortiz, dean of the Faculty of Philosophy at the University of Cuenca, this phenomenon is the logical consequence of a society that increasingly depends on new technologies. Web 2.0 tools, he says, can trace matches.

It also explains, in developed countries Internet access is more common in countries like Ecuador. "Therefore, although these bloggers are the elderly, are accustomed to using Internet technologies and tools."

Richard Hedges and Nancy Hamm live in Cuenca and have their lives in the city on his blog There are specific information on housing, jobs, procedures, banks, health ...

Hamm think your blog is part of a network that provides all the information that other people seek. The majority of retirees from developed countries seeking a place to retire, but are also visited by tourists arriving in Cuenca for distraction.

Australian knows that Jenny Bluefields, who changed his native Brisbane in May 2008 Cuenca. His decision was based largely on what he could investigate blogs as referrals.

Already Basin opened a coffee shop called Kookaburra and relate their experiences through the blog

The presence of foreigners also encourages business initiatives. Perry and Michael Edwards Challender Central Basin founded to help foreigners to find accommodation in Cuenca.

They also use the web as a tool. They have a web site and created the community, which dispelled doubts about Cuenca. In addition, patterns in Facebook, real estate portals and sponsored links on Google.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

More La Fragata pictures

Some of our family and friends have been awaiting updated pictures of La Fragata short term rentals, and we're happy to share them.

Edificio La Fragata is the building named after a popular frigate bird found in Ecuador.  The building is located off the busy Av Solano, and just a couple 100 ft from the Mt Sinai Hospital.  About a 10-15 minute, flat walk to the historic area.  (Easy public transportation on Av. Solano, too.)

These are the 2 wheel-chair accessable, 'Universal Design' units. It's a convenient location for the growing business of 'Medical Tourism', as more folks are coming to Cuenca for medical treatments and therapy.  But our market for these units is also for travelers who are not physically challenged.  'Universal Design' means it's good for everyone.

We're getting close to 'offically' getting these 2 units on the rental market. Even though we haven't actively advertised them, we already have some confirmed reservations!

Here's Rich trying out one of the lounges and a 2nd umbrella we've added to the penthouse terrace.
The picture would be more 'typical Rich' if he had remembered to bring his book.

For those here in Cuenca looking for patio furniture, we found umbrellas and furniture at Ecuaworld on Av R. Crespo.

Another trip to the nursery for more plants.
Lots of good nurseries around town, with a wide variety of plants and trees to choose from.

Along with the citrus trees on the rooftop terraces, we'll be adding geraniums and maybe some rose bushes.  Both do well here in Cuenca.

Beds are made!  Comforters/shams were ordered through Gina (speaks English)  and custom made at Artex, across the street from La Fragata on Av Mora (at Av. Solano). 

Here's a picture of the sleeping area of the Studio.  Queen bed.  Juan Carlos has finished the woodwork, too.  There's a small desk area on the right, wtih the WIFI equipment.  The wooden screen that separates the sleeping and the living areas was made by the same folks that made the one in our apt, very similar design.  They also made some of the furniture in both of the units (and in our own apt, too).

Electric fireplace/heater, furniture, cable TV and cushions in the studio's living area.  Sliding wood doors to the dining area.

Dining area in the studio...Artesa hanging lamp is installed and looking good.

Beds are made in the penthouse, too. This picture shows the Queen bed in the 'master' bedroom.  The other bedroom with 2 twin beds has the same fabric and lamps.
Comforters/shams also from Artex.   The doorway in the picture goes to the walk/roll-in closet with built-in drawers.

Artesa dishes look great in the penthouse. (Artesa dishes in the studio, too.)

We decided to add gutters to the terrace.  We remember what a huge difference gutters made at the ranch in Oregon in heavy, stormy weather.

For those friends in the process of buying new construction here, ask your builder if gutters are included on your terraces.  You may need to add them after initial construction is completed if gutters are important to you, too.

Here are the guys doing a great job for us. 

The workers have painted these down-spouts to match the bricks.  You can see they got the color  'just right' on the pieces around the awnings.

We still have some other final touches to add. We have found some wonderful wall hangings in the markets to add for a splash of color.  We'll share those pics as we decide where to hang them. 

To those who are planning to relocate here and trying to determine what to bring or ship...
All of the furniture, linens, hardware, building supplies, etc  on this post can be found right here in Cuenca!  We didn't need to import or ship a thing.  Labor and workmanship are top notch, too.

Happy weekend!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A Drive to the Country

When a Cuencano friend offered to show us the area where he grew up right outside of today's Cuenca, we jumped at the chance.  Always fun to see something new.

The small township of San Joaquin is known for its fresh vegetables.  Good black dirt for a thriving farm community.
Many of the crops are sold through the Co-op and the other markets in Cuenca and beyond.

Rows and rows of purple cabbage.

Check out the size of this cabbage!  It could easily feed a whole extended family.

  One of the blue City buses ends its route at the town, but we explored small areas beyond, into the Caja Mountains, too.  The altitude in places is higher than Cuenca, so felt much more chilly.  We were glad we had our jackets.

This irrigation ditch brought back some memories of our ranch in Oregon!

There are crank-style 'gates' and a schedule of when the folks can take their share of the water (just like at the ranch).

Working in the fields.

The ditches are fed by the Yanuncay River (one of the 4 rivers that run through Cuenca, too.)  Reminds us of the Applegate River in southern Oregon.

This picture of the river shows a family washing carrots for market.

Bridge over the river.

Some sights reminded us of the Wild West.  Some were more 'Early California/Mission' style. 
Some of the houses have been renovated and updated...a little of everything.

Cute children, and it looks like supplies for a project or 2.
A colorful trumpet tree.

This small structure at the top of the picture is for a family's pig.  It is some distance from the family's house (on purpose!)

This is the entrance to the 9 hole Golf Course we passed along the way.

Potatoes, we think.

What a fun day!