Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What To Do in the Virgin Islands - King of the Wing Festival

What to do when you are waiting for your broker's license? Go to the 3rd Annual King of the Wing Festival at Lindquist Beach! This event in its third year is held right behind the beach. We went two weeks ago. There must have been over 40 booths set up and the entire event is to benefit charity, a local orphanage here on St Thomas. You can buy tickets for $1/ wing or $20 buys 25 wings. We took turns going through wing village getting a sampling of wings to bring back to our camp chairs in the shade on the beach, mixed in with a cold beer while swimming! I was so inspired by the event that I bought a bag of wings at Cost U Less, and am going to make my own!

Our personal King of the Wings was the Jack Daniels, Mango and our favorite the chutney wings!

Monday, June 25, 2012

What to Make For a Boat Breakfast When Going to Soggy Dollar Bar, British Virgin Islands

We got invited to go out on the Neighbor, a large troller style boat to Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, BVI. We were assigned the task of making breakfast. Yes, we could have gone to the store to get the same old danish-bagel-coffee cake-doughnut-fruit boat food. Nope, I decided to make BREAKFAST BURRITOS!

So simple, made them the afternoon before with par boiled potatoes and onion, throw that in the frying pan with a little olive oil. Scramble some eggs with skim milk, pour it on the fried potatoes with some diced green pepper, green salsa and cheddar cheese. Fill a flour tortilla with the mixture and wrap in tin foil. Put it in the fridge for the night. Get up and before making coffee put the oven on 350 degrees and put the burritos in the oven for 45 minutes. Wrap the tin foiled burritos in a dish towel and put them in their own cooler, an hour and half later on our way from St Thomas to JVD, we were eating hot and tasty burritos!

How to Reduce Your Power Bill in the Virgin Islands

As I may have pointed out once before, our rate for power here is 42 cents a KWH, check out your own bill (maybe 15 to 25 cents) and you can see how high a power bill can be here.

To help defray that cost, in our kitchen living area there are 4 light fixtures that are halogen. Each bulb is 50 watts and there are 4 bulbs to fixture or 16 bulbs total.

So at Home Depot here, they had the LED replacement bulbs, and yes, they only use 4 watts a bulb! Although they are expensive, $21 a bulb, I decided to replace 3 fixtures with these new bulbs. Let's say one fixture is used 4 hours a night, that is 64 watts. For the year that would be 23,360 watts. One kilowatt equals 1000 watts or 23.36 kw's a year for a cost of $9.81. The old bulbs were using 200 watts an hour and at 4 hours would be 800 watts a night, yearly 292 KW. That cost annualized would be $122.64. This would be a savings of $112.83 minus the cost of the bulb of $21, $91.83. Since I did three fixtures, a savings of $275.49!

As our CFL bulbs start to burn out, I will be slowly switching the rest of the house over to LED, yes the CFL provided a great savings, but I think LED will be the way to go?

Thursday, June 21, 2012

What to do in the Virgin Islands.... Play the local Lottery!

(guest blog by Shannon Wiseman)

So, yup, we won the lottery!  Not just a figure of speech about how we just moved to Paradise and all.... I mean it literally. We won $1,600 in the Virgin Islands Lottery about a month ago.

Not enough money to change our lives, but more than we have ever won in any drawing before.  We were psyched!  $1600 bucks is $1600 bucks! 

(if you are wondering how we will ever be able to spend it, please see Ken's previous entries regarding the pool;))

Winning the local lottery made me curious about it, so here is the deal:

Fact: The lottery tickets here are strange.

I used to give Ken a hard time about buying the sheets of stamp-like lottery tickets that are sold all over the island.  There are some pretty sketchy dealers loitering all over at stores, street corners, parking lots, etc. selling these wierd lotto tix, strung up on clothes lines. We bought our winning ticket from a woman outside of the auto parts store.

I figured the drawing had to be rigged or something, seemed kind of sketchy.

Each ticket features a different local art design, which is kind of neat, and all proceeds stay local, which is really good. They cost $30 per sheet of 25 tickets and several of the prizes are only available to you if you buy the whole sheet, so that seems to be what everyone does. Not worth buying only one stamp. Ken always said he likes it because even though the prizes aren't big, the odds are good.

I never expected we would win, so it seemed out of the blue when Ken called me over to his computer one morning and had me double check the numbers online --- YES, WE WERE WINNERS!

So then... I got more curious about his comment that the "odds are good"...  we won once, but what are the chances we will ever win again?

I am sorry, by the way, but I was a statistics geek in college - I am intrigued by the small print of anything.

The VI Lottery "Traditional Game" is what is lotto is called.  There are 34,000 sheets sold and 4,744 prizes ranging from $30 to $175,000 and many different ways to win.  The total jackpot pool is $330,000.  So, hoping my basic math is correct....  You have a 14% chance of winning a prize, at least winning your money back.  Not bad!  Drawings are usually every two weeks, but sometimes they double up when they do a "big one" (aka EX drawing, like they are having TODAY here, first prize is $500k and there are many more bonus prizes, sheets of tickets are $50 though).

Compare to multi-state Powerball where each ticket only costs $2 and the first prize is sometimes $100 million or more... BUT your odds of winning at least your $2 money back are only 3% there and odds are 1 in 175 million that you will win the jackpot. Never gonna happen for me (especially since I don't buy tickets?:))

Ok, so I am convinced, it might be more fun to play the local Traditional lotto and win maybe less, but more often!
Collecting our prize money was another VI experience. If you win over $1200, you have to go to the main lottery office to get your money.

Ken bought the ticket without my encouragement, so really he won, not me - I guess that is why I volunteered to do the goose chase to redeem the prize and get the check? :)

I got the office address from their website.  I went there after finding downtown parking (not easy!), guess what? they have moved!  Walked another few blocks (of course, that is after revealing to several random people in the dealer's office lobby that I had a winning ticket in my bag before being re-directed down a narrow alley!) and then located their new office.  I was dripping with sweat at that point and the A/C was so cold in their office, I would have welcomed a typical St. Thomas wait, but alas... I was the only one there and was helped right away. 

It was a multi-day process from there with lots of paperwork and a couple more trips back and forth downtown through the sketchy alley way and into the freezing cold office (that must be where the lotto profits go?? To WAPA for the A/C?:)), I finally got the check!

Nothing is easy here, but it was well worth the $1,600.

ANYWAY -  we have our sheet of tickets for the Extra-Ordinary Drawing for today June 21st.  We bought them from a different dealer this time, he hangs his tickets outside of the Cost U Less store. 
Wish us luck!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

What To Do in the Virgin Islands if You Are A Father?

Happy Father's Day!

I just wanted to show what our fathers like to do when in St Thomas, Virgin Islands. Since they cannot be with us today, I thought I would share the times when they were with us here!

Dale, Shannon's Father:

When he isn't working on repairs to our house,

Happy Hour at the Ritz Carlton

A Coors Light at Sapphire Beach

Happy Hour at Fat Turtle

Happy Hour at Megan's Bay

Coffee on our deck

A trip to St John, complete with an afternoon nap!

Followed by Dinner at Island Time Pub in Red Hook

Breakfast at the Marriott

Dinner at Oceania in Frenchtown

Dinner at Latitude 18

A day at Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

Here is what Dale will probably doing today

Dale is the owner of Jasper Park Stables in the Jasper National Park in Alberta, Canada and you can visit his website at: http://jasperstables.com/

George my father loves coming down to visit but only when it is cold in North Carolina!

Fishing on Double Header with Captain Tyler:

Going snorkeling off of Whistling Key, St John

Caribbean Saloon to watch the Patriots in the playoffs and $2 Coors Lights

Hangin on the deck

Hanging out at Megan's Bay with his old friend from when he lived in Florida

Going to the Bubbly Pool on Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands

Going to Soggy Dollar Bar, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands where he gets help after too many painkillers putting on his flippers

Here is what he is probably going to be doing today, hanging out on his boat at his favorite sand bar off of Emerald Isle, North Carolina!

Whatever you are both doing today, we wish we were with you, make it a great day! Thanks for being our fathers!

Love you both,

Ken and Shannon

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Owning a Home in St Thomas, USVI - Landscaping - Part II

Just thought I would give a quick update on the progress of our landscaping here.

Big useless banana (plantain) tree has more leaves no bananas. Lime tree is still in the foreground, still no limes.

Little banana tree has some new leaves.
Mango tree has a bunch of new leaves!

Front hibiscus wants to do well, but with the recent dry spell, the iguanas having been making it lunch. The other hibiscus I planted in January has passed away. When I went to through it in the bush, it got stuck on some vine and is now hanging. Death by hanging, no, no cause for death other than it was bought from Home Depot.

To replace the dead and now hanging hibiscus, we have a new addition to our family, meet Papaya!

I had some seeds that got packed from stateside, zucchini and jalapenos (glad to have fresh jalapenos, when I was making my turkey crockpot chili when we went to Soggy Dollar, I went to three stores with no fresh jalapenos, finally found them at a small grocery store, Marina Market).

I also brought down in my suitcase some snips of my house plants since they couldn't make the trip. I have a spider plant that I had since college, yes 21 years ago, and a Christmas Cactus that was my late mother's. I put them in a Tupperware with a wet paper towel and replanted them here. They are really growing well!

Since the jalapeno and zucchini were doing so well, why not try some more. So now we have pablano peppers, lettuce (produce here sucks, they really don't grow anything here.), and basil. Not much too look at with those, waiting for them to sprout!

Here is the zucchini two weeks later, see the one leaf is turning silver? Read on-line that it is nutrient deficiency, so added some fertilizer. Jalapenos are doing well!

Fresh Vegetables and fruit soon come?

Monday, June 11, 2012

Owning a Home in St Thomas USVI - Home Repairs Part III - Pool

One of the reasons we bought the home we did was it was one of the few that had a pool. What better way to spend a lazy summer afternoon Sunday relaxing in your own pool, not to mention our Labrador retrievers love the water.

When we bought the home in 2009 the pool seemed to be working, although it always appeared to be a white cloudiness to it.

We had hired a pool maintenance person as the home was fully rented. Well after much to do about the pool person saying it was the tenants not running the filter enough to the tenants saying the pool person was showing up, I decided that when I came down in March of 2010 I would investigate this further. Turns out the pool needed to be painted. Our upstairs tenants had moved out, and being that we would only be down part time, we decided to just drain the pool. This was during when we found out the breezeway above the pool was sinking, so we were going to have to drain the pool anyway to start re-hab work.

We had the deck painted and a railing put up.

Now that we live here full time, it is time to get this pool up and running! Problems though, the old filtration system is rigged with a floating skimmer and two 3/4 inch pvc return lines. Power here is 42 cents a KWH (look at your own power bill and you will see what I mean) so we were thinking of re-doing the filtration system.

First check was looking into a newer pool company on island. Well he wanted to sell me a variable speed pump for $1600 along with sconces and waterfalls and an intake box with holes in it so no one gets sucked into the floating skimmer (um really? If you get sucked into 1.5" pvc you have some issues.). Well after more research on variable speed pumps, there is a large computer board on these along with LCD displays, not the ideal place for those due to the power spikes we get from our power company, coupled with the tropical air and humidity and yes, only a 1 year warranty. The website had new motherboards in case yours goes south for only $1100. This idea is OUT!

Ok, what would be next, hmmm, solar, right?  We have lots of sun here and a huge flatter roof. I call and get an estimate for that. Well since all of the tax rebates have been used up, only $6500. That would be a payoff in 4.1 years baring the electronic controller on that didn't short out. This idea is OUT!

We had Larry the Water guy here and he asked, "Why don't you just use what is there if it already worked in the past?". Um yea, that is what we are going to do. He took a look at the issue of the tube to the spaceship skimmer and it used to leak. Well, Larry said you can't glue tube to PVC which was what had been done. So he told me the part to get (yes I went to 3 hardware stores, and where do I find this part? The boat parts store?).

So, now the next big decision, to plaster (Diamond Bright) or re-paint the pool. Well the plaster will be about $8000 - $12,000.  That idea is OUT! Painting will run us about $1200.

We have another issue now. Our cistern, the big tank that holds our household rain water, is cracking in several places.

Every several years you need to fill in the cracks and re-seal the cement tank as concrete is always settling and we are on a fault line here and we get some tremors.

My brilliant idea was to have the pool painted, drain the water from the cistern into the pool and then repair the cistern!

So we have hired our painter Steve to do the work.

First thing we need to do is clean out the frog and tadpole sanctuary. Yes we will miss our nightly frog orgy, but it is time to reclaim the pool for human/canine use.

Steve began last Thursday with pressure washing the pool. He then used an acid to wash the pool. Now, we are waiting for the next phase after the pool drys out hopefully Wednesday with the actual painting.

We are hoping this all gets done sooner than later, as it is getting hot here, 92 today with 54% humidity. The dogs with their fur coats are waiting too!

Before I go, here is the next installment in "St Thomas, You Can't Make This Shit Up!"

Please describe what a pineapple looks like?