Let’s make REAL chocolate! A video tutorial with boy 123


Fermented and roasted beans

 *pictures from the Museo de Chocolate, Granada.

If you’ve done your blog homework then you know that while we were in Nicaraugua, we got to learn to make real, no extra junk, straight up, CHOCOLATE!!  

Well, guess what chocolate nuts?! We rented our cute little house here in Cauhita town with part of an old cacao plantation right in the yard! Score! Boy3 is a huge fan of eating raw cacao seeds right from the pod — he has no time for chocolate making — he likes it straight up and begins many a morning by telling us he is going on a “cow hunt”. This means he will be heading out to look for ripe cacao pods. He then marches back triumphantly to the cabina to pester Boy 1 to open it with his machete. Then he sucks down the sweet mucilage and bean whole. That boy takes his antioxidants seriously. 

Boy 3 with his eyes on the prize! Successful “cow hunt!”

Enjoying the raw cacao beans.

So yum!

 The rest of us like our chocolate a little more processed. 

So, we decided to make our own chocolate  (no easy task when a little minion was constantly scarfing down our main ingredient) 

However we prevailed, and we made a video so you can learn to make chocolate too! Aren’t we the sweetest? after finishing the process we now understand why chocolate is expensive. 

And why we won’t be opening the chocolate factory for online orders anytime soon. 

It’s hard work.  

We won’t share our chocolate, but we will share our movie: enjoy!



Nicarauga Part 2. Granada and Laguna de Apoyo

“A city! You’re taking us to a CITY” was the howling wolf cry of boy 1 & 2. Boy 2 pronounces city with a shhh sound. It works, and basically sums up our joint feelings on spending time in one, but this time I actually argued for it. Yes, we could have just headed straight for the easy hop of San Juan Del Sur and spent time at a little beach town and get some surf on…but…but we had just done that for a month, and as I pointed out to the Mister, we need some culture. Granada is oozing with culture and history and– more importantly–um, much more importantly…chocolate! So, I may have stumbled upon a little article about Museo de Chocolate being in Granada and that may have had a teeny, weeny, (ginormo) reason why I wanted to go there. I mean seriously?! A chocolate museum!!  So yeah, bring it city. We got this.

“City! What? There’s nothing but buildings and stuff!” “Take me back to the jungle!”


Um. Er. Do we? It’s so loud and so many vehicles. We just want to climb a tree and jump in the ocean. Eek. Everyone is selling something and we can’t seem to scrub these dollar signs off our foreheads. “No, gracias” is our constant refrain. Boy 2 became an expert at it by the end of day 1 in the city. But, it was beautiful in it’s gritty, wethered way, with cultural and intrigue. We didn’t run for the nearest beach — besides there was no way in hockey sticks we were getting back on a bus! We found and checked into our little hotel with a center courtyard and a pool and we headed out to the city. Well, ok first Boy 1 climbed the coconut tree in the courtyard and we all cooled off in the pool. Ahhh. Better. 


Coconut trees in the courtyard? Boy 1 can’t help himself!

Courtyard swimming pool! Welcome relief!

Then we headed out to explore the colonial city of Granada. 


On day 2 We headed to the Museo de Chocolate for our chocolate making and history lesson.We learned a little about the history of chocolate from the Mayans to the Aztecs and sampled our way to cocoa heaven. We learned to make chocolate starting from the cacao pod right off the tree, followed by the raw beans, and straight through to the finished product. We made and sampled several different cacao drinks and then finished the experience with pouring and customizing our very own chocolate bars! I added cayenne pepper and vanilla to mine. Boy 1 added cinnamon and cayenne to his and Boy 2 got a little nutty and added almonds, cinnamon, and marshmallows. The Mister and Boy 3 did not join us for this tour — Boy 3 for obvious toddler reasons, and the mister due to a very, very (anaphylactic), severe dairy allergy. He can’t eat most chocolate — even dark chocolate that doesn’t have any milk listed in the ingredients is usually a problem, having touch something with dairy while being processed. However, this chocolate was so pure that he could eat it without problems. Uh oh! We had to eat ours fast or share! We chose fast! 

Vaka vaka chocolata! Mini chocolatiers and happy samplers.

Stirring the roasting cacao beans to the chants of “Vaka, vaka chocolata! 

Did you know chocolate makes your clothes shrink? Fact. 
And we ventured out of the city for a visit to Apoya Lagoon. We likey, we likey, mucho gusto. Ancient crater lake filled with warm, crystal clear water and bordered by lush, verdant cliffs and black volcanic sand. We loved it! Like a lot. Boy1 & 2 loved free diving to the bottom by jumping off the swim platforms. They taught themselves how to pressurize their ears and freaked out all the other guests and locals by swimming heavy rocks out and jumping with them as weights to get to the bottom faster. Oh and Boy 2 may have made a few Cordoba (Nicaraguan money) by offering some nice women kayak rides before we realized what he was up to and shut down the business. 
Our view of Apoyo Lagoon.

Oh the warm, gorgeous water! Don’t mind that creepy guy in the hoodi

Only about 20 minutes outside of Granada, but what feels like a world away. The lush and verdant slopes of the Apoyo crater and the crystal, clear waters of the ancient crater lake are a far cry from the noisy, crowded city of Granada and the nearby village of Masaya. Seriously, take me back. And bring me chocolate.

Here is a detailed description of the Crater Lagoon and some science and conservation info:  https://vianica.com/go/specials/25-apoyo-lagoon-nicaragua.html





El Presidente de Costa Rica

Heidi, Boy 1, 2, 3, and I were strolling through Cahuita, on our way to a friend’s house, when we came upon the long line of vehicles and a police checkpoint. A motorbike was being turned away, so we asked what was up. “El presidente está visitando el colegio,” was the response. Wow! Luis Guillermo Solís, the current president of Costa Rica, came to Cahuita to tour the new national park facilities, and was now speaking at the high school. “¿Podemos pasar, queremos visitar a nuestros amigos que viven allá?” I asked them. They told us we could go see our friends as long as we were on foot. 

Santiago (5 year old friend of Boy 1, 2, and 3), Fanny (his mom), and a friend were hanging out on the porch when we arrived. There was a lot of chatter about el presidente visiting next door. The boys all began playing in the yard, and we meandered over to watch them. The yard bordered the high school property, and we could clearly see the president chatting with other officials. I also noticed a couple of secret service gentlemen hanging close, earpiece and coiled cord in place. A friend of Fanny’s friend came up and told us all to come on over through the hole in the barbed wire fence that separated the two properties.

Fanny and her friend crawled through, while I stayed with Santiago and the boys. Santiago immediately began sobbing for his mother, and the two women urged me to crawl through with Santiago and Boy 1 & 2. Heidi said she’d stay with Zevy, so against my better judgement, I crawled through with my 3 young accomplices. As soon as I had done it, I wished I could take it back. Visions of being deported back to Maine in February hit me — a veritable death sentence for one that no longer owns winter gear.

But there we were 200 ft from the president. We closed in, and as we did, I looked back at our escape route. Two police officers had positioned themselves in front of the hole in the fence. Paranoia set in — were they staring at me? 

President Solís finished his discussion and began making his way past us. He spotted Kai, and walked up to him, extending his right hand. Kai recognized the gesture, and reached out to shake the president’s hand. President Solís saw me fumbling with my camera, and motioned for one of his staff to bring Cove over. The president of Costa Rica then removed his hat, squatted down, and held both boys in his arms. 

That’s how it went down, and in Costa Rica it was Pura Vida!

Here’s the story broken down in photos — minus the illegal fence climbing part. 


At first I thought, well geez — since we are this close might as well take advantage

Next thing I know, he is walking over to shake boy 1’s hand.




He squats down and brings Boy 2 into the action — are those 2 secret service dudes looking at me??


And then… The Money Shot!


The boys with their amigo, Santiago.

Ometepe Island a great place to turn Dos Años

 Ometepe–Oh My! So, if you have to turn two, you might as well do it on an island in the middle of Lake Nicaraugua with two volcanoes, right? I mean if you had the choice? Which technically boy 3 didn’t, but he went along with it anyway and turned two in serious Ometepe style! But more on that later! First we had to get to the island and that meant a mini bus and a ferry ride. Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes, Concepión, which is active and Maderas, which is dormant. 

Boy 123 waiting for the ferry in their matching Nica soccer jerseys. Dress to impress, people.


Ometepe Ferry. We rode the larger Car ferry. The boys thought we were going to Peaks Island 😉

Safety first, people.  

When Josh came up deck and saw us stylin our orange vests, he immediately decided it was time for a family photo. Yep, see my hand? He almost went swimming.


Volcanoes everywhere. Landing on Ometepe (notice he’s dry, I deserve a patient wife award)

 We stayed at a small,  family run hotel called Hotel Nathalie in a village outside the main port town of Myogalpa. We ate our meals in the families’ outdoor dining room and shared most of our meals with the families three children, Franklin (11), Benjamin (9), Natahalie (7). We arrived the day before Halloween and although Nicaurauga doesn’t technically celebrate Halloween, we decided to have our mini-fiesta anyway. We handed out mustaches for costumes  

and then Franklin unearthed a kit of face tattoos he had.

Our new friends learning about Halloween traditions


Boy2 was the only volunteer to test those out and I, as his mother made the executive decision that tattoos will never again be applied to the face. It took two weeks of looking at dirty, diseased face before I was able to completely claw scrub them off.  

Cove getting his (semi-permament) 😩face tattoos

What even is this? We never found out, but we did have to look at it for weeks after. 

We introduced them to one of our favorite games, Ghosts in the Graveyards or Fantasmas en el cementerio here. Then we did a little mini trick or treating candy hunt. Those who know me well will be surprised to hear that I handed out actual, kid approved, dentist discouraged, dye and corn syrup laden lollipops. Not a pencil or sticker in sight (this year). Did you hear that Eliza Jean Jellybean?! I finally made it off the lame list. I expect a certificate in the mail. 

Anyhoo, we still had this turning two business to deal with. And deal with it we did. Well, okay I bought a cake and was going to call it good, but the sweet family of Nathalie Hotel totally one-upped me and provided a piñata and lots of frighteningly colored candies to go with it and even some presents. Fiesta!

I “mustache” you if I look like the kinda guy who turns two everyday?

Cake and fire! My favorite!

Ok so the Cake was a little melty, but we had to hike 3 kilometers  into to town to the one bakery and then hike it back on top of the stroller in the one box the bakery could find–an empty diaper box. It was 90 degrees and we had to walk barefoot in the snow. It’s a Miracle it made it. And the best part about two year olds is they don’t care.” Just let me put my face in it”

The fiesta wasn’t complete without a broken piece of  pipe and a piñata

Apparently the piñata tradition is different in Nicarauga as they looked at us like we were a little off in the head when we tried to blind fold the children. Instead you just put on some mariachi music and dance while you politely take turns violently beating the piñata with a broken pipe. So much more civilized, but it really kills the excitement of which adult is going to get a good whap and gain a whole octave in their singing voice. Olé!

The school playground. Also, I don’t think this picture ended well.

Our little family hotel  was also right next to the village school and playground. We took lots of trips over to play and the older boys got to join in with school recess several days while we were there. 


An Ometepe buddy


And then there were volcanoes. We did not hike any of the vocanoes, but we sure did enjoy the constant views. The volcanoes were steep and our baby is A GIANT. See all those pictures of Josh wearing the fancy baby hiking   backpack– with NO baby in it? That is because he weighs a gabillion, zillion trillion pounds. Also, please note who is carrying him. Jus sayin….. 

On a hike to a nearby reserve. Volcan Concepción in the background

Thanks Ometepe. A great island to turn two, and make some new friends.


Hasta luego