Wednesday, September 3, 2014

The Best Birthdays in Costa Rica, Doble Cumpleaños!

This weekend we celebrated the birthdays of our first 2 children. Max turned 5 and Sara turned 3. We asked them both what they wanted for their birthdays and they said they wanted a party with a bouncy. Last year, this was not their answer since we were new to Costa Rica and  they did not have many friends. We had just moved to Atenas in a fancy neighborhood with no kid neighbors and Max had a few friends from soccer, but mostly, we just got them gifts last year and did not even consider a party. This year, since we moved to the country in San Isidro de Grecia, Max and Sara have so many friends in the neighborhood and Max has also made many friends in his new school. 

We have been invited to a few parties in the neighborhood and after witnessing the glory of beating on the candy cloud, the other thing they both asked for was a piñata. No problem, we thought and the planning commenced about 1 month ago. Obviously, with kids this small, we had to consider all their parents too, since they would definitely be chaperoned. So what to cook? We have had a ton of interest throughout the neighborhood regarding our smoker that we use to make Beef Jerky, so we knew we wanted to implement some Texas Smoked BBQ. I also wanted to introduce some other traditional favorites like potato salad, deviled eggs and Cole slaw. Our friend Jan offered to make veges with Ranch dip (she saved a Ranch package from her last trip to the States), a perfect addition to the spread. I also had high hopes of making 2 different cupcake cakes, 1 cake with Spiderman for Max and 1 princess dress cake for Sara. These are all doable, even with a baby in my arms...right? (these are the model cakes I found on the internet to replicate:)

After calling several Bouncy rentals ( I finally found one that delivers all the way up to our mountain for a reasonable price (about $85 US). Check. Matt and I contacted our meat provider and ordered 1 large brisket and 1 large pork shoulder, to be delivered a few days early. Check. We handed out 24 invitations and also invited a few facebook friends. Check. I went shopping at the SuperMercado in town with a friend and we were able to find most of our party supplies at one store - Electa, just across from SuperMercado. They even sold 4 different sizes of cupcake holders for my elaborate cake ideas. I scored on an Extra-Large jar of pickles too that would go perfectly with our BBQ Sandwiches. Check. I stopped by Super Rosvil to pick up 8 large bags of chips, 8 large Sodas and a few odds and ends for final ingredients. Check. As we headed up the mountain from our shopping trip, I stopped by the Panaderia in San Isidro to order 100 custom buns. The bread shops tend to make long baguette type buns and I asked for smaller buns for individual sandwiches and the owner agreed at 25 cents each. Check

With all parties in Costa Rica in the rainy season, we don't worry about the rain, we expect the rain. However, we started the fiesta at 11 am and in hopes that the rain would allow enough fun to end at 2 pm. The Bouncy house company showed up early and left an attendant to guard the structure, which I liked because he kept the kids from killing themselves so we did not have to play referee. As everyone started showing up, our kids' excitement level grew. As our guests arrived, they handed off gifts to Max and Sara, who quickly opened them, like a free-for-all of presents. Kids were playing with them and Sara even learned to share, well, a little. Our party was less structured and a bit more free with the whole gift situation. There were toys everywhere and both kids received new clothes, which they needed and loved, changing many times throughout the day. 

The bouncy was a smash , screams of laughter and jubilation could be heard echoing through the mountain and if it wasn't for the rain none of the kids would have stopped to eat. Yes, the rain came as usual but didn't stop the fun. The attendant deflated the bouncy during the rain. 

Matt pulled the meat off the smoker and was happy to see it near falling apart. He smoked it low and slow for about 10 hours the day before and tossed it in his homemade BBQ sauce that morning and slowly warmed the luscious chunks of meat. 

The first burst of showers brought everyone under the rancho to eat, or might I say devour the spread of Traditional Texas BBQ and sides. We also made some homemade pickled purple onions (red onions if you ask him) to serve on the sandwich with pickles and homemade BBQ sauce. Jan's ranch dip was the best ever because she mixed it with the local sour cream called Natilla, which is thicker and more creamy than the traditional sour cream in the States. Everyone loved it, asking me for the recipe..thanks Jan! We were worried that everyone would want to be served because every party we have attended in Costa Rica, the ladies have hung out in the kitchen and served plate by plate. I did not want to do all the serving because I do not have a large family to help me and I have a baby to hold:) But, as typical in Costa Rica, no matter where we are, a restaurant or a party, there were plenty of folks dying to hold our baby, Sofi; therefore, without a baby in my arms, I was able to offer service. 

The food was a big hit and it was great to show our new friends in our new home in Costa Rica the way we eat back home in Texas. The rain subsided, the bouncy was inflated and the kids went wild again. This gave us about an hour to clean up the mess and get ready for the piñata party while the kids bounced to their hearts' content. The sky turned dark and the deluge began again. We squeezed to fit inside our rancho, but after several hits of the piñata, we decided to simply throw the candy, as if we were throwing beads at Mardis Gras, as the kids cheered us on to throw something their way with arms stretched high to keep the bounty off the ground. Candy was in bags (bolsitas) and before we knew it, we missed our chance to sing Happy Birthday.  

Max licked the tops off of about 4 cupcakes and laid them down on the table and the rest of the guests began to devour the rest of the cakes.

We were so proud, and even though my cupcake cakes were not as pretty as the models I picked off the internet, they obviously tasted great:) The only thing missing from the party was some of our family from back home and all over the world, we missed them dearly, and thanks to Skype we were at least able to visit before the festivities.

As the rain subsided again, our guests took the opportunity to make their way home. A few of our friends stayed behind and cleaned up the mess. Before I knew it, our house was back to normal and everyone had gone home. Just as we smiled about the success of the day, Matt set his eyes on the small amount of BBQ pork that was leftover. It was his turn to enjoy a sandwich. Just then, our friends from Atenas arrived on Costa Rican time. They brought some beer and more gifts for the kids, along with growling bellies. I warmed up the rest of the meat and made the last 3 sandwiches as we visited and enjoyed a few beers, kind of a "grown-up after party", the perfect ending to the day. 

After gobbling their Texas BBQ sandwiches, our friends encouraged us to sell our sadwiches in the feria (markets) alongside our Beef Jerky. We are also considering selling them at the upcoming Oktoberfest. Needless to say, Matt never got to taste a sandwich, too bad for him because they were perfectly delish! Pura Vida!

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