Pura Vida

Me and the MR have been home from vacation for two weeks, and I always have these great plans. I’ll have a post up and pictures within days, and then there’s snow, and power outages, jet lag, wifi issues, the MR working at home throwing off my schedule, and a visit to the girls, and all my plans go to pot.

So a little late, but better than never, here’s a recap of our trip to Costa Rica. We took an overnight hop from LA to San Jose landing bright and early only to rent a car and begin our adventure. First we were off to volcanoes and cloud forests. Steep and winding mountain roads led us through fog so dense, I couldn’t see the pavement. Good thing it was the MR driving.

We stayed at Nayara Resort Spa and Garden in La Fortuna situated in the shadow of Arenal Volcano. The first day, we were tired and I for one was a little frazzled from the road trip, so we appreciated our welcome drink, ate some lunch and relaxed by the pool.

Our room was quite lovely featuring both an indoor and an outdoor shower, but perhaps the best part was the lush private patio and spa filled with spring water. The MR’s birthday, was just a few days earlier, so we enjoyed a complimentary bottle of champagne in our private oasis one afternoon.

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On our first day, we did manage a hike around the property’s forest trail and may or may not have seen a wild pig. I have a photos of a large, black blob running into the forest. Another surprise was the next day when the clouds parted, and we were amazed to find a volcano on our doorstep, sloths in the trees, and amazing food at our bidding.

We talked about visiting the volcano and the lava flow, but after Hawaii, we decided it would probably be similar, so it was hanging bridges and a lovely waterfall instead. I wasn’t that excited thinking it would be hiking and adrenaline rather than nature. Then the naturalist for our group began pointing out animals and plants at every turn. He explained the life cycle of tree frogs, and showed us bats sleeping on a stone and a tarantula tucked away in its den. This was just the first of many guides who shared their passion for their country and its amazing wildlife. The hanging bridges and waterfall were nice, too.

After La Fortuna, we headed to the northern coast–Playa Conchal. It was a day of winding roads driving past the original town of Arenal that was flooded when the dam was built. According to our guide, the spire from the Catholic church can still be seen during sunny summer days. We also drove past endless wind farms–sustainability is very important here–winding up at the beach with iguanas in the morning and monkeys at night.

This was meant to be more or our lazy beach stay, so we spent a few days with our feet in the sand before moving on. While it was a lovely place, this was the least favorite of our three destinations. We’ve been to a lot of beautiful beaches, we were just having too much fun with the animals and nature at the other places.

Our last destination was Arenas Del Mar in Quepos just outside Manuel Antonio National Park. The road to this place is down one of the steepest paved roads I’ve ever seen. It was like that crazy story when people make a left off a cliff because their phone told them, too.  When our good sense saved us from doing that, the nice man at the front desk made us do it anyways.

Check-in looked like an open air cabana at one of our national parks. I was so confused when they put our suitcase in an electric golf cart and took us away through steep winding paths in the jungle. What were we getting ourselves into?

When I saw the beautiful infinity pool in the lobby and the sunset from our room, I was put at ease. This is a very natural property built on cliffs next to the beach. On his morning run, the MR would watch the monkeys making their way through the trees, our guide pointed out wildlife as we made our way to a tortilla-making class, and we wandered the woods at night following our guide in search of sloths, birds, and frogs.

Off-site, we scheduled a mangrove tour through red, black, and pineapple mangroves. Along with monkeys and birds, we saw termite nests, crabs, frogs, bats, and even a boa constrictor. It’s amazing how these guides can spot wildlife while clipping along.

Our last day, we visited the national park before heading back to San Jose and our flight home. With thousands of visitors daily, the paths are crowded with tourists. The monkeys have gotten quite used to all the onlookers, but you can see many animals in a natural setting in a rather un-natural atmosphere.

The guides at the park do have large wildlife spotting scopes, so that we with our untrained eyes can see the wildlife they’ve found. The guides also work together offering their spot to their friend who is coming up with the group behind. These scopes work well with Iphones, and the MR got some great pictures up-close and personal of spiders, birds, sloths, and monkeys.

One of those scopes might come in handy when the owls are in the trees come summer.

Looking back, I should have done a little more research. All national parks are closed on Mondays in Costa Rica. We could have swapped our mangrove tour and enjoyed a less rushed visit. People have asked if we felt safe on our trip. The locals we met were all very kind, proud of their country, and very friendly.  That being said, the rental car company told us to never leave anything in the car, so we didn’t stop much on those long travel days between destinations.

Next time, I want to go to a butterfly preserve. We saw a few of the beautiful blue ones, but I’d like to see more. And finally, I’m going to start using my Spanish language app again. I learned “Pura Vida” on our trip. It roughly means life is good, everything’s great, we’re cool, but I’d like to be able to speak to the people a little more in their own language.

Me and the MR have put Costa Rica on our repeat list. It was a wonderful trip.

Have you traveled to beautiful Costa Rica? Where’s life taking you?

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A Little R&R

Me and the MR have been off traveling the world again.

We missed rain, floods, and power outages at home. Seems like a good time to be away.

This is Mount Arenal viewed from a pool at Nayara Springs Resort near La Fortuna, CR.

But all good things must come to an end, so we are trading the sunshine and amazing animals of Costa Rica for the comforts of home.

I’ll try to share some of our adventures with you later this week. Until then Pura Vida!

Our Own Dot-Dot Story

Me and the MR were watching an Australian TV show the other night, and we both noticed with excitement that they had dot-dot paintings on the wall.

Dot-dot? I hear you asking yourself. Yes, dot-dot. Aboriginal art, don’t you know? On our trip to Australia, my dad said we had to go see Uluru (aka Ayres Rock) if we were going that far. Neither of us were too sure exactly what that was, but we’re game so of course we went.

Our first stop in the middle of the country was at Alice Springs where we picked up some water bottles and wandered through gift shops. That was our first introduction to interesting graphic textiles and paintings made by aboriginal artists.

That night we dined on barbecue under the Southern Cross at a sustainable, family farm.

The next day, it was a long drive through the desert, with stops at an art studio for lunch, and camel rides. Then it was on to the massive monolith in the middle of nowhere.

We did wine and nibbles at sunset, and then sunrise and our trek around Uluru. (You can check it out at A Little Off My Game.) The next day before we left, we had class with an aboriginal artist and her interpreter. The taught us about the meanings behind the symbols, and then gave us an opportunity to share our stories.

Papa ran off to the drugstore, and the MR decided to observe, but most of the group participated. And then later they shared stories of loss, and of childhood, and of good times and bad. There were tears and everything.

Dot Dot Paintings

Mine was a rather simple tale. In the bottom right corner, the red circles represent a fire or home. You can see me with my stick for digging up grubs kneeling by the fire, and look there’s the MR with his spear and clubs and other manly stuff kneeling with me. Look at all the squiggly blue lines; they signify heavy rains. The circles and lines represent travel, and the other blue lines are for water.

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Basically, me and the MR live in a rainy place, so we travel across the water to other lands. Not that deep, but accurate.

And now when I see my little painting hanging on the wall, I smile and think of our adventures. For a little more authentic fun, I also bought a pillow cover by artist Any Tjilari through Better World Arts. I’m not sure what story he is telling, but it does add some nice color to the great room.

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Where have your adventures taken you to?

#AATKings, #AllAboutTony #Australia.

A Little Off My Game

You know how you have plans? You go on vacation, and you’ll come back and hit the ground running? No one will ever know you’ve been gone.

And then you do come home, and you’re exhausted, and you have laundry, and all the household catch up stuff, and tons of photos, and you don’t even know where to begin.

Do I want to do the monthly recap? Well, there aren’t any updates because I’ve been traveling the world. Should I talk about our trip? I haven’t even talked about our trip to Europe this summer. Maybe I should just go grocery shopping and put the blog on hold for another day or two.

And then tragedies strike, and I wonder what kind of world we live in. And I hunker down in my home and nest. That’s kind of where I’ve been for the last week or so.

If you haven’t guessed, me and the MR played hookey with my dad for the last half of September. Papa Willy has always wanted to go to Australia, and we were able to go with him for a two-week tour of the highlights. It was amazing: museums, opera house, jail, penguins, hiking, gardens, snorkeling, did I say penguins? We had a good time.

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I will try to gather my thoughts, and pictures, and guidebook info and pass a little of it on to you.

For now, we’re going to focus on more mundane things like our neglected garden and dirty shoes.

I was pleasantly surprised to find a few things to harvest when we returned. Apparently, things keep growing even when you’re not looking.

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Only two apples remained on the tree rather than the dozen I was expecting. At least the critters didn’t eat our few clusters of grapes this year. In the past, the fruit have seemed really sour, but a little neglect and a little more time on the vine resulted in much sweeter grapes. We’ve continued to pick tomatoes for the last week, they’re not pretty but still quite tasty.

And now for dirty shoes. One of our stops in Australia was at Uluru (also known as Ayres Rock). We enjoyed sunset and nibbles the first night. Then the following day it was sunrise and a leisurely 7 mile hike around this giant monolith.

Were we hot? Yes. What’s that on your head? That would be a fly net; I just got too tired of swatting them away.

Anyways, you may be asking yourself what all this has to do with dirty shoes. I’m getting there; I’m getting there. Look at all that red rock. It doesn’t just stay on the ground. After that long trek, me and the MR brought plenty of it home with us. Papa Willy missed the bus (maybe it was the 5:30 start time) and opted out of the hike.

I really like my cute, little adidas. So what to do with stained suede tennies? I’ve had a couple clerks looking for an add-on sales who helped me out. When I bought my tennies, I bought some Instant Cleaner by SOFSOLE to keep those soles white. Earlier I’d puchased suede booties and the ABEO Cleaning Kit, which is simply something like a giant eraser and a stiff brush. Both came through with flying colors.

Are they perfect? No. Are they much better than where I started? They sure are. I’m not walking around with bright orange feet, so I’m fairly pleased.

I’m also quite happy to be back with you guys.

Wishing you a peaceful fall in the midst of fires and storms and troubled souls.

Cocoa was super happy to see us home and couldn’t figure out what was so interesting with the harvest basket.

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And That Was April

Maybe I’ve lost my mojo. I just don’t seem to be blogging like I used to. Lately, not that much has been happening. We moved into this crazy house, fixed it up, bought a bunch of furniture, the end.

The MR received a bid the other day to fix the deck. Do we want to fix the problem bits? Do we want to fix the whole thing so it’s seamless? Do we want to pull out the hot tub that’s not working and make it into a sun deck? We still have a lot of work to do on the grounds I type as the MR is out on the John Deere mowing the fields for the first time this year.

Yesterday was a spectacularly sunny day in the midst of our rainy spring. Earlier this week, I was back down in the garden planting seedlings from the FFA sale. Cocoa didn’t seem as Carrot Crazy this time. Instead she rolled in onions. There’s a reason she’s not allowed in the garden.

They’ve filled in quite a bit in the last few weeks. I’ll have to take some garden update photos. The asparagus I was worried hadn’t survived last year’s move is recovering. But what do you do with one gargantuan piece of asparagus?

Maybe all the traveling is what throws off my schedule. One of my favorite trips this year was to The Other WA. It was a first-time for me, the MR, and his folks. And while politics may drive you crazy, the history and beauty of Washington, DC is so inspiring.

Another highlight of the month was spending time with my sweet girlies and getting some Book Love at Powell’s in Portland. I was reading about Amazon opening another brick-and-mortar store in Bellevue this fall, and the MR didn’t understand the draw for them as a company. There’s just something about a bookstore with authors speaking and stacks and stacks of books just calling you to read that promotes people’s loyalty. This could make them more relateable.

During my trip to Oregon, I was also able to meet lots of Baby Girl’s friends and tour Sweet Miss’ new apartment in the city.

BG is looking for summer travel clothes, so we did a lot of shopping mostly for her but a little for me. That worked out for the house,too, since I was into Making My Own Sunshine with some lovely fake flowers.

It’s May now; I know the real ones are coming. Blossoms cover the apple trees, and my garden is calling between rain squalls. At least when it’s raining, I don’t feel guilty staying inside and knitting or crocheting. I designed these flowers for Quintessential Knits here in town, and kits will be available soon in case you’re needing a dose of sunshine.

Hope your May Day was filled with peace and joy and flowers.

And the best news of all may not have made it into the blog.  Sweet Miss is marrying The Fella, and we’re pleased as punch. God is good. Life is good. Hug someone you love. 


 

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Book Love

What do you do when you find yourself alone on a rainy evening in Portland’s Pearl District? Why go to the biggest independent bookstore in the world, of course.

After a fun weekend with Baby Girl and her sorority sisters, I was to meet up with Sweet Miss in Portland. She was flying back from a quick visit with high school friends, and so I had a few hours to kill on my own.


After wandering a bit, I looked up through the rain to see the big Powell’s sign just down the street. I was in luck, I’d visit the City of Books. After browsing awhile, I found the travel section and picked up a few pocket guides for our summer trip and then hiked up the stairs in search of a crochet dictionary—no luck. But I did find a copy of Blueprint Crochet Sweaters by Robyn Chachula; I’ve only checked it out from the library half a dozen times.

Over dinner, I read about Vienna and then noticed a text from Sweet Miss. She was still waiting for her flight out of Denver but suggested picking up a few bridal magazines. So I paid the bill and headed the two blocks back to Powell’s. Wouldn’t you know? The bridal magazines were back up by the knitting and crochet section adjacent to a wonderful author talk that had just started. Magazines in tow, I sat down in one of the chairs and listened to author Jess Thomson talk about her food adventures in the Pacific Northwest, in the midst of dealing with her son’s health concerns, while her marine biologist husband traveled to distant shores. It’s all part of her touching book, A Year Right Here. Book talks like these are one reason I hope local bookstores never disappear.


Sweet Miss did finally arrive late that evening, and we talked weddings, and moving, and jobs before collapsing into bed. Hanging out with the kids is exhausting albeit wonderful.


How was your weekend?

 

 

The Other Washington

Me and the MR have done our share of traveling the last few years. Visiting other countries’ capital cities, I was impressed with the museums and monuments, the statues and memorials, the abundance of history, beautiful architecture, and national pride. Somehow, I got it into my head that we just don’t have that at home. I mean Seattle has EMP and the Hammering Man. We’re famous for throwing fish at Pike Place and for inventing casual Fridays—not pomp and patriotism.

But a few weeks ago, we met the MR’s parents in the other Washington, and my whole perception changed. Our family isn’t big into politics, and we had never seriously thought about visiting Washington, DC. I’d bring it up every now and then saying we really should take the girls—kind of like taking vitamins or eating your vegetables. But then the MR’s mom suggested traveling to there to see the cherry blossoms. I like cherry blossoms.

So the beginning of the month found us with five days in DC to see the sights. It was amazing. We stayed in the Penn Quarter, just around the corner from Ford’s Theater and the rooming house where Lincoln died. Our first morning, we strolled down the block to the White House. Yes, that would be Pennsylvania Avenue.

We were a little further back than it looks like in the movies, but we were actually there next to Michelle Obama’s vegetable garden

I had tried to book a tour, but with the change in administration, all tours had been put on hold—maybe next time. I’d contacted our representative about the White House tour, and she’d signed us up for a tour of the Capitol instead. So our group of adventurers headed on to the National Mall.

As you can see, the MR (from Washington State) is wearing a windbreaker. His parents (from Nevada) are bundled up against the cold.

Our next stop was the World War II Memorial.

In the distance, that’s the Lincoln Memorial. I’d never realized how all these monuments are lined up. In our family we have this joke that if you can see it, you can walk to it; it may have started when we took the girls to Paris—you can see the Eiffel Tower for a really long ways away… While we probably could have walked to Lincoln we’d been warned that the National Mall is really quite large, and we had a tour of the Capitol coming up.

So we turned in the other direction and headed towards the Washington Monument.

The elevators to the top of the monument are being repaired through 2019, so no aerial views this time. With a few hours to kill, we headed on towards the Capitol up the streets flanked by Smithsonian museums.

We didn’t visit the National Gallery of Art, but we did wander through the sculpture garden.

We met our group in Congressman Suzan DelBene’s office, and then were off viewing art and architecture, old meeting rooms and new. Both houses were in recess, but if we’d wanted to wait around for a few hours, we could have watched them in action.

By that time, we’d walked nearly nine miles and were ready for dinner and a chance to put our feet up.

Day two, we went on the Big Bus Tour. We picked it up across the street from our hotel, and it took us right to the Lincoln Memorial. One of the things you don’t realize from the movies and TV is the shear size of these buildings.

From there, we walked over to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. My sweet mother-in-law shook hands with each of the veterans she met along the wall. It was a moving experience for both her and them.

Then we were back on the bus destined for Arlington National Cemetery. More than 400,000 people are buried here; it’s acres upon acres of headstones.

After visiting the grave of John F. Kennedy, we happened upon the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier just in time for the changing of the guard.

Day three, we started our museum visits with the National Air and Space Museum.

After touching the space rock, and oohing and aahing over all things that fly, we headed for greener pastures. We had noticed the United States Botanic Gardens on our way to the Capitol tour, but it was closed by the time we’d finished, so after lunch we went there.

While it was interesting, this was one of the few things on our itinerary I would not repeat.

Then we headed beyond the Capitol to the Library of Congress to enjoy the beautiful architecture inside and out.

My father-in-law teased the security about not being able to check out a book. The guard quickly gave him directions on were to go to get a library card. Maybe next time we’ll make use of the reading room.

Day four dawned wet and dreary, but no worries, we had umbrellas and the National Archives were just down the street.

So much of our history has been captured here. I listened to tapes of FDR refusing increased security around the White House after Pearl Harbor, and then joined the crowds to see the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights.

We spent an entertaining lunch watching unwary commuters emerge from the subway station only to have their umbrellas blown inside out and then trudged on to the National Museum of Natural History. I’d been hoping for American History, but somehow we wound up next door. On rainy days during spring break, these museums are chaos.

The MR”s dad was sick in bed that evening, but we took out his mom to help celebrate their 54th wedding anniversary.

That being our last night in town, me and the MR went out to see the monuments at night. It’s really quite beautiful.

Our last day, we checked the bags at the hotel and thought we were heading across the street to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, but they didn’t open till 11:30, so we hurried a few blocks in a stiff wind to the National Building Museum—one of the few requiring an admissions few to the exhibits. We were still able to see portraits of the presidents and some American folk art before eating lunch and saying goodbye to the MR’s parents as they left for the train station.

We had a few hours before going to the airport, so we checked out the White House Visitor Center, which is the next best thing to being there.

I loved the history, the beauty, and the grandeur of DC, and I would definitely go back.

Next time, I’d like to make it to Mount Vernon and to a few more of the museums. I’m not sure I’d do Arlington again, and the bus tour was a bit of a miss. We’d purchased multiple lines, so we could visit Arlington, and ended up waiting on the side of the road for more than an hour because of a motorcade. The company can’t really do anything about that, but for the price of four adults we could have booked a private tour that would have meant less standing and waiting.

With 17 Smithsonians, it was hard to choose which one to visit. Next time, the MR can go back to the Air and Space while I’m immersing myself in history. Then we’ll just meet up for lunch.

Many of the museums and Arlington have their own apps—something I haven’t got in the habit of looking for ahead of time.

After all these years, I’m glad we finally visited our nation’s capital. Thanks MeeMee for the suggestion.

What are your highlights of Washington, DC?

In other fabulous news, The Fella asked Sweet Miss to marry him last Saturday. We’re all pleased as punch. And on Sunday, Papa Larry celebrated his 80th birthday. Add in Easter, and I’d say it was a banner weekend.