Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Trying to Surf

The surf in Jobos has been small enough for us to get out and try surfing! So far we have been 4 times and each time can stand more often and longer. Our form isn't the best and our timing really sucks but we are having a blast!  I should have gotten a bigger board (mine is the green one) but I got what I could find. For a couple hundred bucks it was better than renting and we can go whenever we want as long as there are baby waves. Here I am about to fall after a little ride in.
 Here's Jeff on the way up...
Looks like I missed that one...
Little too late...
That felt good!
Yup, that's my board.
Jeff had a little ride...
On his way up or down - not sure which.
Jessica on her knees!
Hopefully we get some more baby waves and can work on stuff  a little more. It is a great workout and Jobos is 25 minutes from the house. Can't beat that!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Plants for the Tropical Yard

Gardening in the tropics is absolutely AWESOME!! Everything you have ever wanted to grow, or have grown as a houseplant, can be grown here and will grow enormous! Things will become so large you will not even recognize them as the scrawny things you had in your house. Did you know a single ficus can grow to become acres large? Yeah, a single ficus. There is one in India that is 550 acres. (Not a typo) I haven't planted any ficus but have seen very large, nice trees. Our house came with mature fruit trees (mainly avocado) but no ornamentals. I brought a couple truckloads of plant starts from the other house and have picked up a few new additions because plants are my weakness and I just can't resist! Bromeliads are a must have for the yard. They do not become super large, there are types for the sun (above) and shade (below) and many different variations of color. Some will shoot off showy flower spikes but purchase them for the leaves since that is what you will see most of the time.
Bromeliads are nice for under coconut trees and other trees since they are shallow rooted. Getting anything to grow under a coconut is kind of difficult. Coconuts are great for growing things on however, like orchids or dragon fruit, and I will blog about that sooner or later.
I have no idea what this purple ground cover is but I am very happy with it. Here in Puerto Rico they do not use latin names for plants and not even the same common names as in the states. This makes things difficult. If you see something you want photograph it and bring that along and sometimes it helps. This purple foliage is a nice ground cover that is staying low, getting white flower spikes on it and is spreading nicely. Hibiscus are amazing since there are single and double and unimaginable colors for the flowers. There are some that have variegated foliage. They can readily be pruned and I have seen them in sun and shade. Nice stand alone or as hedges. When I think ferns I think shade but this particular fern likes full sun. There is a nice curly fern but it likes shade which I don't have yet.
The flowers under this Ylang Ylang started with a 2 inch pinch off of a plant I brought as a house warming gift to our friend David. We have only been in the house since xmas, and I didn't start yard things right away, so I'd say this plant spreads easily and well. It also blooms all the time. My goal is to have less grass, more flowers, interesting shrubs and no dirt showing. I have pinched off starts from this group and moved them to other locations so I guess this is the factory. It looks like a portulaca or some kind of succulent to me. I have no idea what they call it here.
This is a split leaf philodendron. I planted this under the Flambouyant  Tree (which are starting to bloom around the hillsides) as a place the cats can lounge under. They will grow half-car-size here. The philodendron below has different colored leaves. It prefers shade but the one above can go either way.
When it comes to flowers the tropics lets you grow heliconias, gingers, bananas, calatheas and other things that grow 15 feet or more! I don't understand why houses have all cement around them and things in pots sitting around when beautiful things could be in the ground. It takes a little time in the beginning to get things established but after that you will have factories of plant babies to spread around and trade with friends!Gingers, heliconias, calatheas, bananas...sometimes the foliage looks the same. All are beautiful. Here I planted white ginger under an avocado. The smell is heavenly and it is a ginger that doesn't grow too tall. It prefers wet shady areas. I've got a variegated shell ginger. Definitely shade on this one. I love the chartreuse of this sweet potato vine. It can run on the ground, cascade out of pots or climb fences. I just planted these coleus starts. They will grow into 4 foot bushes I am sure!


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Rainy Day and Weather Watching - Could the Not-So-Dry Dry Season be Over?

Today started out like all the other days do - bright sun, rising temperatures and lots of bird sounds. Around 1pm the clouds came out of nowhere and with them the rain. In the last hour we have had an inch of rain and the newly installed roof drains make our house look like a "Wipeout" set. Rain is barrelling out of these pipes and hopefully that means the new roof is doing its job.
I am going to have to figure out what to do about the water. I had the guys put the pipes away from the house so they could drain not-on-the-walkway. Depending on the amount of rain the splatter is anywhere from close to the walkway to mid lawn. The original idea was to make a border of rocks along the tiles, entrap another layer of different colored rocks further out from that, plant many more plants and eliminate lawn. I'm still going with that idea but am considering a splash trough or pot with grass or round stones in it or something. Hmmm.
Weather watching has been great. Every day brings a mixed bag of clouds and rainbows and sunbeams. Sometimes the water looks like water and sometimes it looks like a pool of smoke or dry ice. Sometimes it is blue and other times reflects the orange of sunset.
Up top the clouds go in all different directions depending on the layer they are in. Some even build vertically!
The super moon wasn't so super. There were clouds. We had a spectacular, huge moon rise before it was "super" but it went up so fast I didn't get any photos.

I am excited to see what the "wet" season this year is like. We have amazing weather watching areas all over the house.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

And the Other Side

I think Katrina's post below was due to some of the frustrations she had with this process especially at the store, and of course the way some things are done in Puerto Rico. It is a little weird that Sears responded to this post but I think that is a good thing. It does however make me cautious and I would need to verify those phone numbers by calling Sears directly first. I will say again that we/I have been very happy with Sears and will continue to do as much shopping with them as I can.

And if this is a real attempt by Sears to improve its customer service I am even more impressed.


Sears "Social Media Escalation" Team Robots

This is OUR blog about OUR experiences (good, bad and ugly) in Puerto Rico. Like anywhere there are good things bad things and stuff that just gets on your nerves. One thing that is pissing me off right now is the Sears "Social Media Support Escalation" comments trying to publicly make their screwed up system appear normal by using our blog to do so. First off there must be little google robots finding references to Sears (and every other store that knows they have bad service) roaming around in cyber space. The first comment seemed reasonable and was maybe an odd surprise that we thought was ok. We were even trying to be reasonable with our comments. Since we have another "Susan at Social Media Support Escalations Team" comment that Sear's wants in the public it is only fair for us to publicly air the problem in its entirety.

Here you go "team!" This may not be interesting for regular blog readers (the story anyway). The washer broke. It is a 5 year old Kenmore HEt2 similar to what we had in Seattle. When we bought it it was a decent price because it was on sale and had further discounts if you opened a Sears card. Here in PR we have Walmart, Sears, Kmart (which is Sears) and mom and pop places. No choices. We know other people here who have had the same washer break. We were warned that it was $125 for a service visit and $260 for motherboard and that it took 2 trips to get it fixed. There is SO much garbage here on the island it just seemed unconscionable to throw out an entire washer. We see lovely people here pushing washers, refrigerators etc off the road on highway 112 all the time. Appliances are strewn about on roadsides everywhere. I physically WENT to Sear's to get information on estimates (couldn't tell me what the most common repair was on them), how the process worked etc. The first irritation is that the salesperson in the store dialed the service number and handed the phone TO ME. That's helpful. The first guy on the phone told me it was $75 for them to come out. I asked him to double check since I know people who had to pay $125. I explained that this is the black hole of Puerto Rico where everything is messed up. The story I got from him was that it would be $75 for the service call which would then be deducted from the cost of the repair if we decided to do it and that it would be done on the spot. I didn't believe him, but wanted to. I wanted to talk to someone else. I then talked to Sherry (I think) who was cheerful and basically told me the same thing and that it was in the computer at $75 and that would be what I would pay if I didn't have it fixed. It would be deducted from the repair cost if I decided to have it repaired.

I figured if it was $260 minus the $75 that would be acceptable. I made the appointment. I waited all day long since the "appointment" is 8 - 5. Jeff actually had to call them at 4:30 to see where the hell they were and then the guy called. I met him further up the road and he followed me to the house. He got out his bag of stuff and set to work. Before he did that though he said the service call was $129. I told him it was in the computer at $75 and that is what I will pay. He was courteous (I do not have a problem with him). He worked on it for 1 1/2 hours before telling me it was the "Superior" board. There are some language problems that we are partly to blame for - we live here and Spanish is the language. Supposedly it is Spanish and English but it is really Spanish. However he figured out the price it was going to be $464 to repair. $129 for the service call, $260 for the board and labor. I am not sure how it added up. Not $464 minus the $75. $464. I paid the $75 and am stuck with a  washer I have to push off a cliff (not really - just venting). Jokes aside, there is no bad appliance pick up. You buy something they don't take away the old one like in the states and I cannot find a dump to take it to. So now I have a new washer and have to look at the old one and get pissed off when I see it. Look - it is perfectly good and probably needs - A REPAIR - a new relay or some other small part on the board. Does it really require tossing the whole thing?
The new one, by the way Sears, was 10% off $399 and has a $99 4 year extended service plan. Nothing electronic in it. After the time is up I am sure a neighborhood guy will come out for $40, not $75 or $125 or $129 and will be able to fix it. It can be found at Home Depot (troll for that go bots) I do not appreciate Sear's or any store trolling around making public comments about my experiences in an effort to "appear" responsive. If you want to "fix" things or unruffle feathers you do that privately and not in this forum. I don't write, and probably most of our blog readers don't read, this blog to read about how you want your customers to contact you for case workers if there is a problem. (That's right, make work for the customer - it is our job). You want to know if there is a problem? The service guy had an option of "repair is more expensive than replacement"  on his lap top among serveral options of why the customer isn't getting the repair done. That is very telling. Read those instead of trolling around my blog. I don't know if it is possible to avoid buying things at Sear's but I will probably be trying to do that. Not because of the expensive washer repair - because of your bizarre "social media escalations" response to it.

ps - the jury is still out on the new one but for now all is well!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Some Things to Wake Up For

There have been some irritations lately:  hair got butchered, long wait at the doctors, broken washing machine, all day wait for Sears no-service and the realization that we have to throw out a perfectly good washing machine for what is probably a broken solder or relay on the mother board (a $464 dollar fix)...I decided to look out the windows more and take some photos. There have been awesome sunrises, sunsets, storms, rainbows and clouds lately. I never realized how much the location of the sunrise and sunset changes until we started seeing both every day. This storm had creepy smoke like clouds moving in a different direction than the ones building in Aguadilla. Here the sun sets and looks gigantic with a really blue ocean. The pre-sunrise sky has been spectacular. Rainbows everywhere...


Jackie really out of it and Blanco and Chicken spooning on a cat platform in the Mango Tree.

Good reasons to get up in the morning!