Having a Document Notarized in Playas

Like most things we  take for granted having a document notarized here is completely different from back in the states. At my last job I was the designated Notary, it was a small favor we did for the people in our parish. I worked for a pretty big Catholic Church back in Georgia and over the course of several years I notarized many documents and we never charged for the service.

A few weeks ago we had to have a document notarized. Not having done this before I asked my friend Roger, who has lived in Playas for over 12 years,”Is there a notary in Playas?” And yes there is a notary here.  Abogado (lawyer) Alfredo Yagual Preciado, Notario Unico de este Canton is located directly across the park from the Catholic Church in Playas almost next door to the municipal building. Our attorney had drawn up a power of attorney for us that required us to come before the notary to sign this document. First we arranged with our friend and translator Miguel Angel to read us the document. So we printed a copy and put the original on a pen drive to take with us to the notary’s office. Miguel Angel called ahead and spoke with a friend who works in that office so we were expected.

When we arrived the place was packed with people, most of them huddled around the two desks where women were trying to work while folks continued to interrupt asking questions. There were people behind the women’s desk reading papers on her desk as well as the work she was doing in the computer. I guess some would call it organized chaos and I really do not know how these women get any work done at all.  Of course like everything in Ecuador copies of our cedulas and censos as well as our translator’s documents were a requirement. We were told to come back to the office later in the day to sign the documents. We returned late in the afternoon to sign the paperwork, affix our thumb prints  and pay the $88.50 fee ($80 for the original and $8.50 for the notaries signature and stamps on a copy) for this service. We were told that the notary would not be in the office until the next day and to come back with the receipt late afternoon on Saturday.

When I arrived at the office it was much more peaceful than on my two earlier visits. I guess the office was preparing to close for the weekend and the stream of people had dwindled to a trickle. I picked up the documents, quickly scanned them to make sure that they had the notaries signature, and left.

We have learned that many things are handled differently here. We expect to wait, expect to return several times – and we were not disappointed. Service in this office was very efficient and professional considering the number of people and documents that must pass these desks on a daily basis.

Thank you Miguel Angel for helping us with this.

Mussels for Lunch Today

This morning I found mussels (mejillones) at the mercado so I snatched up a bag for $1 and hurried home to clean them and get them in the refrigerator.

I am addicted to cooking and garden shows, and so I get most of my ideas from watching folks like Julia Child and Jacques Pippin make cooking look so easy.  Joe downloads anything in these two categories that he can get his hands on. I am currently watching Season 2 of Laura Calder’s French Food at Home series. One of the recent episodes was a show on mussels. I am going to try that recipe –  with my personal changes of course – for our lunch today.

First you need to look at your mussels to be sure they are still alive – no cracked or open shells. If a shell is open, tap it gently to see if it closes. All of the ones I bought were good to go. Clean them well under running water, even used a small veggie brush to take away any sand and removed the beard at this point by pulling downward. Drain and leave in a colander, with a dish underneath, and cover with a damp piece of paper towel and place in the refrigerator until you are ready to use.

Mussels Steamed in Wine


  • 1 – 2 pounds mussels
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 t red pepper flakes
  • 5-8 peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoon butter
  • A handful chopped fresh basil


  1. Add the olive oil, bay leaf, shallots, garlic, red pepper flakes and peppercorns to a large pot and sauté for a few minutes, be careful not to burn the garlic or shallots. The ingredients should perfume before adding the wine. Bring to a simmer and add the mussels, cover, and steam until they open, 5 minutes.
  2. Remove the mussels to a large serving bowl with a slotted spoon, discarding any that have not opened. Bring the wine to a boil and whisk the butter in, along with half of the basil, cook for one minute and pour over the mussels.  At this point you could also add a few tablespoons of cream but I felt the butter was more than enough flavor for this dish.
  3. Sprinkle the remaining basil over the mussels and serve with thick slices of french bread or any hardy homemade bread.

I use Chilean Clos white wine because it has a screw cap and can be kept in the refrigerator for months and it is still good to use in these type recipes. It is very difficult to find shallots here, I had three small ones from several months back. If you cannot find them you can use spring onions or any onion just for the flavor.

Joe loved every single mussel and sat with a spoon and bread to get every last drop of the liquid. I would say that this recipe was a huge hit at our house and it cost .50 cents per person for the main ingredient. What a deal!

The MotoTaxi Diaries

Last week I hailed a mototaxi for a quick trip to the laundry. What did I find? Daniel Mora. He spoke English to me..how great is that – pretty darn great. I got his cell number and I have used him for my errands twice this past week with wonderful results.

For four hours this week Daniel and I bounced around town to the bank, mercado, eye doctor, seamstress, laundry. How wonderful it is to have this advantage – how was I able to manage before I met him.  Besides driving me around he acted as my interpreter at several places – made me feel like a queen.  He recommended shops and items I would not have known about. What a wonderful find!!!

Cafe con Leche Anyone?


Coffee (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

When we were staying in Puerto Lopez our hostel included breakfast with the room rate. Each morning our first thought was that cup of excellent fresh ground coffee from our hosts’ finca. It was dark, rich and downright wonderful! Our friends from Las Tunas, Pat and her son Scott Creasey introduced us to Manabi coffee from Jipijapa which had that same rich flavor. Here in Playas the local Super Tia offers two bins of fresh roasted beans, the Manabi brand and the second is Loja.

My favorite is the Cafe de Manabi. It must be the same coffee that both Itapoa and then the Creasey family served. For under $4 a pound it is a find.

In the old days when I purchased Starbucks for $11 a pound I got the whole bean and ground just enough for that morning’s coffee. Here it works to buy a pound each week ground at the store. Did I say lazy? I am merely conserving energy!

It’s the Yardbirds (okay some are on the beach)

I guess it is because of all the rain, the amount of bugs and yummy things available in our yard these days but we have seen a great number of different birds the past several days stopping in for a visit.

These are the tiniest sweet little parrots that I have seen. They can’t be bigger than 3″ or 4″ and are they chatterers, I only noticed them on the electric wires because they were carrying on so.

These crane type birds (UPDATE Sandy one reader said these birds are called Ibis 3/26/2012)  are normally out on the beach but the past several days they must have found some juicy bugs that have enticed them to our yard. They are very skittish and at the slightest movement they spread their huge wings and head skyward. Sorry that the pictures are not very clear they were always moving.

The yellow birds are the sweetest they come into the yard every day and they look like a couple to me. The male must be the one with the bright orange head.

Playas fisherman use balsa rafts to drop nets offshore. Then a group of men onshore pull the nets in, dragging everything that is in the water onto the beach. When they are near the beach the birds show up, dipping and diving trying to get a fresh fish. I have been told these are frigate birds and there should be some pelicans in the mix as well.

My knowledge of birds is basic as you can see. I just love watching them but if you know their names please be kind enough to share with me so I can share with my readers. Have a beautiful weekend! Nancy & Joe