Copal Tree Lodge, Punta Gorda Belize. Wednesday January 8, 2020

Good morning! Today you and I will learn all about making chocolate!

Let’s have some watermelon juice first!

Pancakes with chocolate, banana and toasted coconut! That is butter and not scrambled eggs on top of the pancakes!

This couple was going to go on a zip line. She was having an alcoholic drink while we waited for the Land Rover to arrive! Like me, she does not like heights. She was very much afraid to go on the zip line, but she told her partner that she would do it!

I was dropped off at the chocolate building where I met my guide for the cocoa growing steps. I needed no alcohol to learn about making chocolate!

First we see the flowers and the beginning of the cocoa pod on the cocoa tree.

The pod continues to grow.

Eventually the pod reaches a stage where it is ready to be picked.

The full grown pod is quite large.

What’s the inside of a cocoa pod like? The cocoa pod is split open to show us.

The cocoa beans have a very slimy coating. The beans and the slimy coating will ferment during the cocoa making process and then the beans are put on racks to dry in a shed.

I put one of the seeds in my mouth, the bean was quite sweet. I am not dead yet, so you can tell that it is safe to eat! It was gooey though!

These big leaves cover the cocoa pods in the drying sheds.

I also learned about grafting. Grafting is done because sometimes you have a very flavorful bean, but the tree itself is subject to disease. By grafting you put the desirable plant on a root stock that is stronger and more resistant to disease and insects.

A branch from a tree that you want to use for the growth of beans is taken from the mother tree. The leaves are then snipped off.

A small piece is then cut off where the bud was and then inserted into tree that is very hearty. This heartier tree is the root stock.

The bud is then wrapped to prevent harm to the plant.

An alternate method is to use a v like graft.

This is a more successful method.

That is all the lessons about cocoa tree growing.

Now for a pretty picture. I am sure that many weddings are held here!

I think, but I am not sure but these might be peppercorns!

This is part of a turmeric root. You can see it growing in the soil.

I was told that you should take this seed also when you take your turmeric for better healing. Of course I have no clue what plant it was from!

All I remember was that it was red!

Here are the cocoa beans that have gone though the fermenting and drying process. Maynard will be showing us the rest of the chocolate making process. Maynard will put cocoa beans into a large roaster where the beans will be roasted for a short while.

This is Maynard. See Maynard roast beans.

Here are some of the beans before they are placed in the grinder.

The roasted beans ready to go into the grinder.

The roasted cocoa beans are placed into the grinder and the heavier cocoa falls into the bin. I will help by evenly scraping the cocoa as it comes out. But you won’t see that part!

A vacuum sucks out the light ground shells from the heavier cocoa grounds through the green tubes.

The finished cocoa nibs, fresh out of the grinder.

We have moved in to an air conditioned room for this part of the process. This makes me very happy as the heat and humidity is very bothersome to me.

Maynard with the maniacal mad doctor expression is telling me that now I will make chocolate! There are already some of the ground cocoa nibs in the machine. The other ingredients are sugar and cocoa butter.

On the white board is the mathematics of chocolate making. Just like wine making and whisky, a percentage is lost as the “Angel’s share”.

All the ground cocoa is in the grinder.

Here I am scraping the chocolate off the grinding wheels. At this point I still hadn’t splattered chocolate all over me! The best is yet to come!

I am seriously concentrating!

Hmm. No hairnet. That wouldn’t pass muster with the USDA!

Next ingredient is white sugar.

The white sugar is added to the mixture slowly in batches.

Here are samples of chocolate that was made by other guests. Can you believe that I only ate two?

The final step was the addition of cocoa butter.

I never really understood where the cocoa butter came from. The cocoa beans had been roasted and then ground. Then I put them into the mixer to be ground further into a liquid and then the sugar was added.So where does cocoa butter come from? I forgot to ask.

Everything was all mixed together and my chocolate was ready to be tempered.

My chocolate was added to chocolate that had already been warmed.

Maynard poured the chocolate onto the counter.

The chocolate was spread over the table into a thick sheet.

Maynard scraped the chocolate over the granite table.

The chocolate was smooshed together.

The chocolate gradually became thicker as it was exposed to the cooler air and the cold granite countertop.

The chocolate had to be added back into the warming pan, stirred around again to reach the right temperature and consistency.

The chocolate has reached the appropriate consistency to be placed in the molds.

Maynard pours the chocolate into the tray and then spreads it out.

Maynard is thumping the chocolate trays to get the air out.

I will be next!

Here are my molds that are ready for the chocolate.

A short video of my thumping the chocolate to get out any air bubbles.

Here I am doing my last thump!

The air conditioned room where we made the chocolates.

Goodbye Assistant helper!

A phone call to arrange my pickup to bring me back to the main lodge.

This is the rum distillery across from the cocoa factory.

That is another adventure that you can do. I think part of the rum distillery is learning about making rum drinks also. Perhaps next time. Yesterday Steve and I saw a number of guests sitting at the bar around 5 in the afternoon with many glasses holding booze. I think they had gone on the tour. Either that or they were having a wonderful time on vacation!

This garden was across from the rum distillery and the cocoa factory. Much of the food comes from the many acres that the lodge owns.

More pretty flowers and plants.

While I was waiting for the Land Rover to bring me back to the lodge the gentleman who did the first part of the tour showed me Copal berries and seeds.

The Land Rover picked me and up and I was soon back at the lodge.

Last night we had a big group arrive.I overheard that they are doing a photo shoot for Orvis. The pictures will appear in the summer 2020 catalogs. I am going to have to find out more information. I hope I will get more information over the next few days, but you never know…

I came back from my chocolate adventure at 10:30 and decided that I would have a drink. After all if the young couple could have a drink to get courage for the zip line at 9 am I could have a drink after I was hot and sweaty.

I have decided that I will drink early and often today.

I told Tim that I would like to have the drink that he made for the zip liners. He graciously accepted my request. I shall document the drink for you in pictures and some words.

Here is Tim with one of the bottles of booze in this drink.

One of the ingredients is an egg white.

Tim must have watched Bar Rescue. They are always telling staff that they need to smile and make eye contact.

So all I know was that the drink had rum and an egg white in it, with a flower garnish. I think it had more stuff in it, but “Who knows? Tim knows!”

I call this drink the “Give me courage to ride the zip line!” I think it will be on the drink list next time we come! Everyone liked that name. Or at least they pretended to!

This is my new friend Palma. She was born on Palm Sunday so her Mom named her Palma. Her brother couldn’t pronounce Palma so he called her Bunny. Being of a certain age, she feels Bunny is not quite appropriate so I told her I would call her Palma. She likes Palma, but everyone calls her Bunny.

Bunny was drinking a delicious looking drink. I told Ducky the bartender that I wanted him to make me one after lunch. Bunny was having problems with her phone and was worrying about all the roaming charges she was going to have. I put her phone on airplane mode and showed Bunny how to get on the lodge’s wifi network.

Bunny was on her second of these drinks. I think it was called the drunken money, or it could have been called a dirty monkey. I can’t remember which. You all know that I have a terrible memory for names, so the drink could even have been called something completely different! Bunny said the drink was good, but not quite as good as when she originally had it someplace else. I told Bunny that if she had the drink three times it would have to be called a horny monkey. Bunny at 76, thought that was very amusing. As did her 80 year old husband!

The weather was very overcast and showery. Not much of a view of the ocean today. Nor were the hummingbirds out this afternoon.

I don’t believe this one bit. The straw did not seem biodegradable at all.

My glass of iced tea. Would you believe me if I told you there was no alcohol in this drink?

Here is my cheeseburger and fries that I ordered for lunch.

I told you already about the couple from Oklahoma that I met before lunch. She was drinking something that looked like a chocolate milkshake. I told Ducky that I would like one after lunch. As I skipped dessert I figured it was time for my drink.

There is lots of booze and lots of bananas in this drink. There is also a lot of chocolate sauce. A scoop of ice is added to the blender before it is blenderized.

Inside the cabinet is the blender, so it’s not too noisy.

Here is Ducky presenting me my drink.

Doesn’t it look good?

The Orvis group came back after lunch and saw my drink. They all wanted one so Ducky made more.

This is where I will be sitting the rest of the afternoon.

I had to get more ice added to my drink as I was starting to feel too loopy. There is something not quite right about being drunk in the afternoon.

The weather didn’t clear all afternoon. I don’t think that Steve will catch any fish this afternoon.

The howlers were making some noises in the late afternoon so I tried to take a video. They were unhappy with the gardener.

Well? Will Steve catch some permit like he did last year? These were some pictures that they had in the lodge.

I was wrong! Steve did catch a fish, and here it is!

This is a picture of a bonefish. It was very dark compared to the fish that he catches at Delphi. Steve was very wet and cold all day as it was a cold and rainy day!

Here is a picture of a tarpon from an ad in one of Steve’s fishing magazines.

Steve’s fish was nowhere near this big, but Steve said that the fish do jump like crazy!

I introduced Bunny and Si to Steve and suggested that we all have dinner together. They even agreed! What nice people. They didn’t even have a chance to google me and find out if I was an axe murderer! Perhaps they will look me up before they issue invitations to invite me to see them in Oklahoma! I told Bunny about my blog and she read it and thought it was wonderful and that I am so funny! I think I will have to continue to send her texts of my web page as her email kept blocking my requests for her to join the blog. Perhaps her email knows something the rest of us don’t know?

So take that all you people who don’t click like on my blog! (Ha Ha, meant to be funny!)

Here is Steve with tonight’s napkin art. I think I should have taken more pictures of the napkins !Next time!

The amuse bouche from the chef. We had it the other night. I think the rotation is based on every third night!

My cocktail of the evening was a Jaguar Pizz. Not to be confused with Jaguar Piss! It was made from rum, cinnamon syrup and Angostura bitters.

Doesn’t that drink look good? My mouth is watering just looking at it!

For my starter I had the tomato bisque.

I wasn’t sure if that was a face or not!

Steve had the salad.

I had the hangar steak for my main. It came with mash yampi, tomatoes, chimichurri and long beans. A yampi is a tropical yam.

Steve had the pork tenderloin medallions, charred salsa, corn tortillas, and garden greens.

Steve had the cake. It might have been spice cake.

I had the pecan pie with coconut ice cream. I just found out the it was not pineapple coconut pie that I had the other day. It was pineapple pie with coconut ice cream!

Si had the cream puff for dessert. I wasn’t comfortable enough to start taking many pictures of Bunny and Si’s food! Next vacation!

Here we all are after dinner. I am thinking about calling Si Jack now as Palma is known as Bunny. You know Bunny Rabbit and Jack Rabbit? That way no one will know about who my new friends really are. I mean, doesn’t everyone already know who Bunny and Si from Oklahoma are? They need some anonymity!

Linda is sitting in Steve’s lap and Jack has his arms around Bunny. Bunny looked at the picture and thought that I had a strange expression on my face. You can tell that she just met me today as I always have a strange expression on my face!

After our picture I picked up my chocolate. It was kept in a refrigerator at the bar.

We all laughed that the chocolate was from a secret stash, and just put into ziploc bags!

What time to you start drinking during the day?

Are you or have you ever been an Orvis model?

Do you have a strange expression on your face normally?

Copal Tree Lodge, Punta Gorda Belize. Tuesday January 7, 2020

Good morning to you! As I have been cranky about people not liking my posts I am suggesting that you go up to the beginning of the post and click on the blue heading of the post. That way you will be able to go directly to the blog website where you will see the like button on the bottom of the post. Then you take your little index finger put it over the like button and press “like”. If you are reading on a desk top, then you need to use your mouse. It is really quite simple. I could be really mean and make this post in two parts. Those that clicked the like button would be kept on the mailing list. Those that don’t would get scrubbed. But I am nice, and I am not going to do that. As you could just go directly to the website and read the posts that way.

Did you click the blue post heading yet?

Today I ordered scrambled eggs for breakfast. I was also given Ketchup and hot sauce on the side. I suspect it was hot sauce although I didn’t try it.

I had a plate of fruit on the side.

This morning I headed to the lower veranda to hang out. All the howler monkeys were asleep and I didn’t see many birds although I could hear them. On Trip Advisor many people had posted about the great number of birds that they saw on the bird watching expeditions here. One person mentioned that they saw over 175 different species over 4 days! That is a lot of birds! I can’t say that this is something I will try as the thought of wandering around in the jungle trying to locate birds is not my cup of tea. Especially with it being so humid out and there are lots of bugs in the jungle.

While I am sitting on the lower veranda I am overheard some guests inquire about kayaking on the river below. Not my cup of tea also. Jungle, bugs, steamy weather, activity, hips stuck in an uncomfortable position. No thank you!

Before I knew it lunch time had come and I climbed upstairs to eat again.

My lunch time view.

I ordered the beef quesadillas. They came with all the usual fixings.

Instead of having something highly caloric for dessert I asked for a fruit plate. Talk about a generous serving!

After lunch I decided to try to locate the gym. It was down by the river. I could take the tram down or walk. What is your prediction?

Fooled you! I decided that I would walk down, but wanted to push the button to call the tram to test it out.

I think there were over 300 steps to reach the gym and I did not want to end up walking down and not getting a ride back up and needing to walk 300 steps back up. Momma didn’t raise me to be a fool!

The tram sounded like it was moving, so off I went, as I was reasonably assured that I could ride back up the hill.

Last year when we were here we met some French people that worked in Manhattan. They were in tremendous shape and walked down and up the stairs. I am not French, so I am therefore not in tremendous shape.

I was happy to see that the tram was indeed on its way back up.

I didn’t need to rest on the bench on my way down, I would have needed a long rest if I tried to walk up the stairs.

Halfway point!

The gym. They did a lot of renovations since last year, extending the gym.

There was an exercise bike, a weight system and some other equipment. The gym was air conditioned, but I don’t think that it was ever turned on. So even if you wanted to work out, the gym would take forever to be at a comfortable temperature.

There was also a bathroom with kayak paddles and life preservers. There is something about those sinks that are mounted above the counter. I don’t really like them. I prefer my sink mounted into the counter.

The dock was completely renovated since last year. There had been a flood and it destroyed the dock.

Looks like the couple decided to go kayaking. Did I tell you yet today how much I hate kayaking?

I was going to sit in the chairs and read instead.

Of course it started to sprinkle as soon as I sat down. This is the view downstream. Eventually the stream hits the ocean.

So I headed back to the gym and to the tram.

I pushed the button and the tram started heading down the hill.

The tram! The tram! See these people on the left? They carried big sticks with them. We had such sticks in our room, but did not know what they were for. They were walking sticks!

I pushed the up button and off we went!

The view looking down to the river was not very good at all with the plexiglass being all dirty.

With a little elevation it wasn’t so bad after all.

Someplace in the jungle is our room!

There were even birds of paradise growing near the tram tracks.

Then it was time to relax and wait for Steve to come back from fishing.

Yay! Steve came back to report that he caught three fish! Here is Steve’s report:

The new season began with a trip to Belize, where I fished once again with Victor Jacobs for 4 days-Jan 5-8. I chose the timing to coincide with the moon phase approaching full, but this hurt rather than helped, because of the cool, overcast conditions that prevailed the entire trip. Visibility was so poor that only 2 options were available-fishing the very shallow lagoon, an hour’s boat ride north of the marina, where permit wakes and nervous water could be detected, or blind casting in the rivers for snook and tarpon. We did some of each most days. Compounding the difficulties was the Spring tides, which emptied the flats of water so that permit left for the deeper channels, where they are impossible to find unless they are picking crabs off leaves floating in the tidal current, which I did see once.

On Jan 5 and 6, I had no action at all. Jan 7 was a bit warmer, but still below normal, and the fish were more active. I saw a crocodile swimming across the Deep River. I caught my first ever tarpon, about 12 pounds, on a Clouser. The fish came out of nowhere and jumped immediately. He was very fast, but succumbed quickly to the 10 weight that I had borrowed from Joe Codd, who I recently met at Delphi. I had a much larger tarpon, probably 30-40 pounds, swirl at the fly 10 feet form the boat. I also missed a small tarpon and caught my first Yellow Tail Trevally, about 1.5 pounds. Late in the day we saw some permit wakes on the shallow flats, and I had a couple of shots, and I caught another yellow Tail Trevally, this one about 3 pounds and very strong. Overall it was a good day, extending my streak to 47 months and adding 2 new species to my list.

Well done Steve! Perhaps I shall rename to blog to Steve’s Excellent Adventures!

This is a picture of a tarpon. Much, much bigger than Steve’s fish. Steve unfortunately did not have Victor take a picture of any of today’s fish.

Tonight’s amuse bouche was devilled eggs again. They were just as yummy as the first time we had them.

My drink of the evening was a Spicy Mayan. Copalli Rum, all spice leaf, lime juice, simple syrup and orange bitters.

Steve had the chicken wings for his starter.

I can’t remember what kind of soup I had. I neglected to take a picture of the menu so your guess is as good as mine. It was green though!

Steve ordered the chicken. It was too dry. He did enjoy the puréed carrots.

I ordered the fish. It was very good. Since Steve didn’t really enjoy his chicken I shared my fish with him. I am such a kind and generous spouse, aren’t I?

For dessert I ordered the pineapple coconut pie. Actually it was pineapple pie with coconut ice cream on the side. I guess that explained why the pie didn’t taste like coconut at all. Slow learner that I am, I didn’t realize that the ice cream was coconut until 2 nights later. More of that story in another blog post!

Steve had the vanilla cake for his dessert.

So far this trip Steve and I stuck to ourselves. While at dinner tonight I overheard a couple that had just arrived inquire about lobster for dinner. They were told that lobster was served the previous night. After the waitress left, I was going to tell them that they didn’t miss much, but thought better of it.

Should Steve do his own blog?

Should I speak softly and carry a big stick?

Should I make friends with the couple who wanted to eat lobster?

Major quibble time. I have noticed that the only people who have been liking my blog posts are people that I do not know in real life. Some of my friends have been kind enough to post comments. For those true and loyal friends, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. For you others, you had better shape up or I will cease and desist on my blog posts. I spend about three hours on each post. The least that you can do is figure out how to like and comment on the blog.

Steve says that I should not post my major quibble. Not because a quibble is slight objection about a trivial matter. Number one, you can’t have a major quibble if a quibble is slight, and number two is that my blog is not a trivial matter to me. His attitude is that I have mentioned in the past that I expect my fan club to respond with a like or a comment and that I can just have a diary if my fans don’t evidence their appreciation.

Now I have admitted to being a lard ass and sitting around blogging and reading. Are you a lard ass also and have fingers that are too weak to push a key on a keyboard?

Steve also suggested that I sleep on my thoughts and then decide in the morning if I wanted to post my thoughts. I slept on it and added the top suggestion that readers could go directly from the email to the website. I have also been told by others that the old email posts had a like button on them and you didn’t have to go to the website. I will check on that with WordPress. (Although that is really a lame excuse J!).

Let’s see if my stats improve. It’s all about the stats, and the comments!

Copal Tree Lodge, Punta Gorda Belize. Sunday January 5, 2020

Breakfast, like all the other meals is served on the porch.

First order of business was ordering coffee. I needed some. I slept better than the night before, but I still woke up several times. Maybe tonight I will get over four hours sleep in a row. I feel like I was back in the days of breast feeding when I rarely had a good stretch of sleep. Did you know that a baby having a four hour stretch of sleep is considered sleeping through the night? Also, a four hour stretch of sleep is considered necessary for good health. I agree with that. In my younger days I used to be able to sleep for a good nine hours with out waking up. I can’t remember when that happened last!

For breakfast I ordered the French Toast with bacon on the side. For you bacon lovers, and who isn’t a bacon lover (excepting Miss Mary!) it was nice and crispy. Just the way I like it.

I promised you a little bit of a tour of the property. Here is a snippet.

Here we have the upper bar, not many people hang out at this bar, but you could if you wanted too!

Here we have the upper Christmas tree, the porch where all meals are held is in the background.

Another view from the porch.

This is a picture of the gift shop. Last night Steve told me that he realized that he forgot to pack a cap. When he is fishing he needs a ball cap to keep the sun out of his eyes. Last year Steve forgot to pack a cap also. As Steve is very fastidious with his packing for trips I inquired if a ball cap was even on his list. Steve told me he thought not, which was a very good guess as no cap was packed. Anyway I suggested that he either go to the gift shop before it closed for the evening or have a staff member call Steve’s guide to bring an extra cap for Sunday’s fishing trip. Steve, the obedient husband that he is, went to the gift shop and bought a very fugly ball cap. Its saving grace is that it has a dark under brim, that should help keep the glare out of Steve’s eyes. As this week is promising to be cloudy, he might not even need the cap!

Here is the little ride to the Canopy Suites. Unfortunately there are only four and they were sold out when we booked our stay. We stayed there last year and they were really nice, but very warm as the air conditioning units were undersized for the rooms.

Down this way is our room. That’s enough of that for now, let’s go back to the main lodge before I show you the room.

There was a guest at the front desk inquiring about places to take a jog. I quickly went in another direction. Let’s not spoil a good vacation be being too active now shall we?

Here is another view of the main area. The Christmas decorations are still up. I think I will check out the chairs on the desk and put my feet up for an hour or so.

The couple in the background were from Texas and waiting for the Jeep to the airport. My hour of resting is up, let’s take a walk to check out the pool, shall we?

The pool area is pretty, but the water was too cold to swim in or to even dip my toes in. I am not sure if there is a hot tub, I will have to inquire.

Last year there was a guy with many tattoos hanging out at the lower pool. He wasn’t there today. Since we couldn’t get one of the super deluxe rooms with its own private pool I had to share the main pool with this guy snoring pool side. At least he wasn’t snoring too loudly while he was sleeping. I overheard him talking to his wife later about trying to kill 4 hours in Belize City between flights. They were thinking about going into Belize City and wandering about. From what I have read, it is not a nice place to visit. Better to stay at the airport where you can people watch.

After hanging out by the pool for a bit I retreated to the room. My phone battery needed recharging and that is difficult to do pool side. I must admit that it was difficult to hoist myself from the chaise lounges as they are so low to the ground.

Then it was time for lunch.

The iced tea was nice and refreshing.

The burger was tasty, but I think I will choose something else tomorrow. Steve’s steak last night was a little bit too well done. Same problem with the cheese burger today. Also, they don’t have any french fries, just home fries so I guess I will have a salad Monday.

After Lunch I decided to work on my blog post on the veranda. There was a nice fan blowing air above me and lively music playing on the sound system. You can’t see it because of the haze but I think that is the ocean in the distance.

Unfortunately I didn’t see any hummingbirds sipping sugar water. Just some teensy flies. Ditch that, I just saw a hummingbird come by but I must have scared him!

I went back to the room and sat on the porch reading in the afternoon. First stop was this couch, but it was a bit lumpy.

So I migrated across the room. Much better!