Stranded in Costa Rica, Waterfalls & a Funny Mother-in-Law

By | January 27th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|


Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Car towed on flatbed to garage— Thirty Dollars

My mother-in-law, Joanna, is visiting and she’s having a blast. At nearly seventy years old she refuses to be sidelined.  Every morning my husband asks, “Do you want to—?”

Before he can even finish his sentence, she always answers, “Yes! I don’t care what it is.” Now I know where Rob gets it from. Joanna wants to have a good time, so we’ve been busy taking her around to our favorite hot-spots. Every day here has been a perfect one.

The other morning we took her boogie boarding at Sugar Beach. My husband positioned her on the board, pushed her into the waves, and simultaneously drowned himself in the process. I watched this sequence of maneuvers repeated again and again for over an hour. Joanna left the ocean laughing and exhilarated. Rob emerged from the bottom of the sea like Sigmund the Sea Monster. (Wait for the laugh in the video, it’s contagious…)

It was also a challenging week since Rob took our best camera into the ocean, and to his surprise, it got wet. I told him not to, but like all Busted Camerahusbands who suffer from hearing loss when their wives speak, he did it anyway, and now it looks like this…

Being the frugal and savvy people we think we are, we attempted to fix it ourselves. And we got pretty close. At the very end of the reassembly process, we broke something completely unrelated to the original problem. My husband’s solution? Stick a piece of aluminum foil in there.

“This should have it working in no time!” he said. But it didn’t, so now I’m sending the camera to a Canon repair facility where the technician will wonder what fool stuck aluminum foil inside our camera. I plan to say the camera came that way. No need to incriminate oneself.

We also had a short in our laptop’s magnetic DC connector. I asked Rob not to use it until I can replace the broken piece. But he didn’t listen and consequently shorted out the logic board. That’s really bad guys… like bring in the bugle and play Taps bad. But since I’m the IT person around here and have the same temperament as every office IT guy, I angrily removed the logic board and cooked it in the oven at 375 degrees for seven minutes in a half-baked attempt to resolder its connections. People who do not live near a Genius Bar do these kinds of things, folks. And this genius idea resulted in a logic board with nice crispy edges that will never do anything logical again.

Llanos de Cortez Waterfall

To cheer ourselves up, we all piled into the car and headed out to Llanos de Cortez Waterfall. Joanna quickly jumped in and swam straight to the edge of the pounding water. She then rolled over and floated like an otter for over an hour while staring up at the clouds. She acts like a kid in any body of water. I love showing people the beauty of Costa Rica. Every time we think we’ve found the best spot, we find another that’s even more spectacular.

We were once again having a perfect day, and I said precisely that on the ride back when suddenly our car lost its power steering, brakes, and smoke began billowing from the engine. Luckily, we made it to a gas station where a large, circular metal wheel that turns the fan and belts fell off the car and into a puddle of anti-freeze. I’m not even sure what to call this part, but I’m guessing it’s a flywheel since it flew right off our car.

What sound did it make, you ask? The sound of defeat. I could once again hear Taps being played in the background while I stood up and saluted. It was the respectful thing to do for a vehicle that has been a loyal soldier for many years.

I write a lot about this car. It has made its way into all of my books: Happier Than A Billionaire, The Sequel, The Costa Rica Escape Manual, and my latest and best work, An Acre in Paradise. We should have retired her years ago but Rob keeps saying, “We’ll get one more year out of it.” And remarkably, he’s been right. But to have a large metal piece fall from your engine seems like a call for mercy, and this might be the end of the road.

The gas station attendant looked underneath, as well as a taxi driver, and a few other people who all shook their heads and said, “Grave.” Which means serious in Spanish, but let’s just use the English version of the word and all agree that this car should be buried six feet underground.

Just then a mechanic named Jeff showed up and explained to Rob that we had options. This intrigued my husband, and he listened as Jeff said we could buy a new part for over seven hundred dollars.

“Absolutely not,” Rob said. “What else you got?”

Jeff then described how he could solder the piece with a stick of gum and a bag of squirrels.

“Yes. That’s the plan,” Rob exclaimed with arms raised like we had just won the car repair lottery.

So we left our car with a guy named Jeff who swiftly towed it to his garage/house. We have no idea where his shop is located, which left me with a logical question for my husband: “What if we never see this guy again?”

“If he’s desperate enough to steal a car like that, he can have it.” Rob said. “It might actually be the best result we can hope for.”

So our waterfall day ended up with a taxi ride back from Liberia, in a car that was in worse shape than the one we left behind, hoping we will/or will not see Jeff ever again. From my experience, we will because we’ve witnessed incredible acts of kindness many times before in Costa Rica.

The day ended up exactly how it was meant to. We met friendly new people, got home safe, and laughed it all off while reminiscing about swimming under an incredible waterfall with Rob’s hilarious mother.

Perfect days come in many different forms. Sometimes they end with boogie boarding at the beach and other times you break down on the side of the road. But I’ll take them all. Because even though our car fell apart, earlier that day I swam under a waterfall with people that I love.

And that’s pretty perfect to me.

Breadcrumbs for Readers

By | January 13th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: A funny book on building a home in Costa Rica— four dollars and ninety-nine cents

While back in New Jersey over the Christmas holiday, I went to a Barnes and Noble and meandered down every aisle. I lingered in the smell of new books, touched their spines, and wondered what adventures they’d take me on next. I’m in search of a new series I can dive into, and eager to meet new characters that will carry me off to a different world.

I love the feel of a book in my hand, even as it smacks me in the face while I’m falling asleep. If you haven’t been hit in the forehead by the book you are reading, you’re either not reading enough, or you might be reading the wrong material.

Now with the popularity of e-readers, I must ask: have you ever been hit in the face by your Kindle? I have to say; it’s quite the experience. And it hurts! In fact, if a miscreant ever breaks into my house, I plan to whip my Kindle straight at his nose.

One night as I was dozing off, my Kindle fell onto my front tooth. For a minute, I thought it had broken. The front tooth that is, not the Kindle. Luckily, my teeth are just as misshapen as they were before the incident. You see, I have these funny bunny teeth: my front two are longer than the rest. I’ve always wondered if I should have them fixed, but I fear I’ll end up looking like Matt Dillon in Something about Mary. I love Chicklets, but I do not want to wear them as teeth.

So if I’m going to risk life and limb for the love of a new series, I’ll have to find a good one. I’m thinking about diving back into Outlander. I read the first but never bought another. Or I could read about a dystopian society since that seems to be what every teenager is enjoying these days, including my niece. Creepy grey worlds where heroes die fighting for freedom in very tight clothing. After listening to her hard sell on one series in which cute boys combat mythical creatures, I told her to go home and watch Clockwork Orange. That movie freaked out generations of happy people who live in very non-dystopian societies. I’m still waiting for the phone call, and reprimand, from my sister for that movie suggestion.

That’s the problem when you love to read: there is so much out there to choose from. And it’s why I’m grateful so many of you are reading my funny series on our adventures in Costa Rica. Simple books about my husband driving me nuts in a foreign land. There are no sexy werewolves or imaginary societies, but for sure Rob is like the Ralph Kramden of this beautiful country. By the way, he didn’t even know the first book was all about him until CNN called and did a piece on us. It was after that he learned I wrote a chapter called “My Husband Is an Idiot.” It’s hard to put a spin on that one guys.

I love writing the Happier Than A Billionaire series, largely because of the bond I now share with my readers. I leave a trail of breadcrumbs within every chapter. Those who have followed my journey will recognize them. I feel like we’ve been through this journey together, and at this point, you know these characters as well as I do. It’s a giant inside joke I share with all of you. I was not the most popular girl in high school, never became the homecoming queen, but today I have thousands of friends and feel surrounded by love each and every day.

As I scroll through my comments on Facebook, respond to emails, answer private messages, and entertain guests this becomes even more clear. We have a strong connection I will never take for granted.

While reading my books, I imagine you thinking, “Wow, Rob fell off his scooter again? Some things never change. Heavens, he jerry-rigged a septic system with duct tape? I don’t want to be around when that plan goes south!”

You’ll find my latest in the series is no different. I left lots of scrumptious breadcrumbs in Happier Than A Billionaire: An Acre in Paradise. And since we are on the subject, did Rob fall off his rickety, old scooter again? Bet your-husband-is-an-idiot he did. And that would be one of the more tame things that happened while writing this crazy love/adventure story. While it most certainly can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story, it will be even more special for those of you who have been following along from the beginning.

I hope you’ll read my latest and let me know if you’re enjoying a new series I should jump into. I’m waiting to get lost in my imagination. I’m prepared to get hit in the face by a book again. I’m ready to start following new breadcrumbs.

A New Book and a New Adventure

By | January 6th, 2018|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

Happier House Backyard

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: Building a home in Costa Rica—Results may vary.

It’s a New Year, and I just released a new book!

I’m excited to share it with all of you: new readers and those who have followed our journey since the beginning. And what a winding road it has been. This is a stand-alone book and you don’t need to read my entire series to enjoy it, but in the first Happier Than A Billionaire book I write about my husband hiding a gun in a fireplace and later setting it on fire. This is what I’m working with guys, and that ridiculous story alone makes reading the first installment a worthwhile endeavor.

If I were a savvy critic and reviewed Happier Than A Billionaire: An Acre in Paradise, it would sound like this:

A rip-roaring comedy about a couple who decides to build a bed and breakfast in Costa Rica.  If you liked Under the Tuscan Sun, you’d love the adventures of this dynamic duo.

If Rob were to review the book, it would read:

A clever husband makes dreams come true after driving his wife crazy in Costa Rica.

If my dad were to review it, he might say:

Nadine, why isn’t my iPad charging?

This book chronicles the year Rob and I spent building The Happier House. I wish I could say it all went as planned, and we sailed through it without one stormy night. But I can’t. There were storms, guys. Some were nor’easters, like when Rob needed to superglue his hand back together after falling off his scooter… for a second time. Others were full-blown hurricanes, like when we thought we might run out of money before finishing the project. Fulfilling this dream has been a bigger challenge than we ever expected. That turns out to be a good thing when you’re writing a book, and if we were aware of every bump in the road ahead of us, we would all take the safer route. Risk can be rewarding, and bumpy roads always lead to bigger adventures.

I want to thank all of you for sticking with me and giving me this career as a writer. When I work, I’m always thinking of your many faces. I imagine the woman who only has ten minutes to read at night after putting her kids to bed. She’s exhausted and wants a brief mental vacation from her responsibilities. I imagine the man in the back of a boring work seminar, sneaking in a chapter of my book while dreaming of hammocks and palm trees; a life that seems ever more possible with each turning page.

You’re the friendly faces I see as I put these crazy stories to paper. These spirits are always in the room while I fill blank pages with tales of this unconventional life. I’m both humbled and grateful that so many of you take my voice into your home, and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

I hope you enjoy this next installment in the series. I truly feel it’s the best one yet.

Have a wonderful new year and may it be filled with dreams, blue skies, and howler monkeys.

With Affection,

Join Me and Donate

By | October 18th, 2017|Categories: Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: A five dollar donation will feed a family

“Did you know we are getting hit with a cyclone today?” I asked Rob.

“No. Is it going to be bad?”

“I think so, Rob.”

Two weeks ago Costa Rica was hit by a tropical storm that brought upwards of 20 inches of rain. Storms like this are very rare in Costa Rica and I’m not sure anyone was quite prepared for it. The rain terrorized mountains, overflowed rivers and rumbled like a locomotive barreling throughout the countryside.  Many people in heavily affected areas escaped their homes with only the clothes on their backs. It lasted three days, and in those three days, we knew people would need help.

Dr. Andrea is a local physician in town who is doing incredible work. She is bringing much needed medical attention and supplies to the hardest hit areas. I know her personally and have written about her in my latest book, The Escape Manual as our trusted family physician. During one of her missions, she came across a blind and disabled man who lost his wheelchair in the flood and was sleeping on a soaking wet mattress. She was able to replace both. This is the kind of help that is needed and she is the angel that is organizing it. Dr. Andrea has created a GoFundMe Page and I’m asking you all to join me in providing help in any way you can. No matter how small, every donation will help and with a healthy number of volunteers all the money is going directly to the people in need.

For those planning a vacation, rest assured almost no tourist areas were affected by the storm.  Damage was isolated to certain spots and as with most disasters, the poor always suffer the most. If you haven’t planned a trip yet, please consider it! The people here depend on tourism.  They are eager to assist you with that once in a lifetime fishing trip, an incredible tour of the rainforest, or a rejuvenating waterfall hike. They love their country and love to share this incredible beauty with all of us.

This year has been especially challenging for many around the world, and sometimes it can be overwhelming when you want to help but are unsure where your money is going. Please know that every penny of your donation will be used in the right way. I can see the incredible work being done and know many of the volunteers personally. Your donation will provide dry clothing, new mattresses, home repairs and food.  It will help those who are most vulnerable.

I can’t thank you all enough for your support. God bless and, as always, pura vida.

Please click here to help.



Horses, Dragonflies, and Waterfalls

By | August 11th, 2017|Categories: Tourism, Uncategorized|Tags: , , |

Rincon de la Vieja

Costa Rica Cost of Living Update: One Day Pass at Rincon de la Vieja Adventure Tours— Ninety dollars

It’s always great when friends come to visit. We love to plan big excursions they’ll remember for a lifetime. And our visitors certainly remember this adventure, mostly because one of them had back surgery and Rob recommended we all go horseback riding, zip-lining and swimming under a waterfall.

I’m not sure why Rob would ever suggest horseback riding since it never ends well for him. Every horse my husband has ever ridden was eager to get him off their back. There has never been one that thought, “I like this chap, let’s take the scenic route.” They’ve all acted as if it were a rodeo, and it’s their turn to buck the jerk. I, on the other hand, have never ridden a horse that didn’t lazily saunter away, start eating grass and fart… Simultaneously. They’ve all been about as underachieving as my equestrian skills.

Enjoy this chapter from Happier Than A Billionaire: The Sequel. Maybe one day you too will ride off into the Costa Rican sunset with your friends.


Waterfalls & Canyon Walls

“Do you think you’ll be okay on a horse?” I ask.

“I hope so,” Matt replies. “But I haven’t been on one in twenty years. I stopped riding after my back surgery.”

“I doubt she’ll bounce you around, tourists ride them every day,” Rob says as Matt strokes the horse’s face. The man holding the reins nods his head in agreement, but I can tell he doesn’t understand English. I recognize his befuddled expression because I pretty much look like that all the time. I was recently at the post office where a clerk was trying to explain my package hadn’t arrived yet. Instead of moving out of the way for the next person in line, I just stood there nodding like a big, dopey bobblehead. I remained there for a good five minutes before a nice person in line told me I had to come back the next day.

Matt examines the saddle and looks over the stirrups. “She looks like a nice girl, so why not? I’m already here, right? I didn’t come all this way not to participate.” Continue reading “Horses, Dragonflies, and Waterfalls” »