Wednesday, July 10, 2013

- El Yunque

A long time ago I went on a trip.  To Puerto Rico.  I still haven't completely written about it, so I'm here today to write that wrong.

Are you going to mention how great that pun was, or should I?

Moving on - after our lovely few days soaking up the sun on the beach and snorkeling, we checked into a new hotel.  Different resort, same meh.  El Conquistador was showing it's age around the grounds but the room was pretty nice.  Not as nice or as clean as it should have been considering what we paid, but still nice.  On the flip side Gran Melia had beautiful grounds...
Ze pool.  It had a swim up bar, but we never swam in it.  Or up to it.
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The front desk and lobby was an elaborate open air structure with lots of little pools and comfy couches everywhere.  Oh, and I met this dude, who could meow and sense that I was bird-friendly.
The hotel rooms were in smaller individual buildings.

Ironically, despite how beautiful it was outside - the interior of the rooms was disappointing.
It's everywhere around you but not inside your room.

We should know - we tried out three different ones before we just lowered our standards and accepted the last one.  Plus we were tired and sunburnt and ready to just lay in a bed and watch some Law and Order SVU.

Our last full day in Puerto Rico we kind of saved the best for last.  I know I said that snorkeling was my most favorite day ever, but the rainforest was second only by a smidge.  Much like I'd never been snorkeling, I'd also never been in a rainforest, so there was a lot to wonder at.
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That's just the view from the hiking trail.  Of the hiking trail.  The lush greenery kind of blew my mind.
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Beyond the palms on the side of the trail there was even more great scenery. We eventually hiked to the top of that tower.

There were two main goals in the rainforest: hike to the summit, and swim in the pool at the base of the waterfall.  On the drive up to the start of the trailhead you pass right by La Coca falls.
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The hike up to the summit takes about 2 hours, and I would have hiked for much longer just to get to a view like this:
Look at the color of the ocean.  Just look at it!
The clouds may look threatening, but it actually never rained on us while we were in the rainforest.

On our way back down we stopped and took the hike out to La Mina falls, which is where you're allowed to swim in the pool.  The whole hike follows along the river and there are several little mini falls that provide a great soundtrack.
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They don't really hold a candle to the main event though. 
As for the swim; the 60 degree water was a bit of a shock, but worth it for life experience.  And after about 5 hours of hiking around it was mostly insanely refreshing.
Want a great way to soothe your sunburn?  Swim in a waterfall.

The entrance to El Yunque is very close to Luquillo beach, where there's a row of about 40 food kiosks that offer pretty much the best assortment of fried local favorites you could make a dinner of, especially after hiking all day and having trail mix for lunch.  Also, it's not a terrible place to be during the sunset.
A picture of me about to take a picture.
A picture of me posing awkwardly for a picture.

That night we drank rum in a beach bungalow and lamented the beginning of the end of our trip.  The next morning was our last morning.  And we couldn't end our trip without one last look at a beach.  One last chance to soak up the 85 degree weather before heading back to a city that would have at least 5 more snowfalls before Spring took hold.    
Beware: Paradise.
A picture of me being probably the most sad I've ever been on a beach.  

And then we went to the airport and got on a plane and ended up back here.  Home?  I don't think I've ever fully accepted the reality that I went on a trip that was too awesome to comprehend, and then it ended.  Although, every great trip I've ever been on feels like a dream when I remember it.  So I'm keeping the dream alive by planning for the next big thing: Ireland/Scotland - late Fall 2013.  I'm going to only take a backpack.  Ride the train like Harry Potter.  See the Wicklow Mountains.  Cliffs of Moher.  Go to an Ireland vs. New Zealand rugby game in Dublin.  Drink Guinness.  Look for Nessie.  Hike in Skye.  Hang in Edinburgh.  Use my passport!  And when it has come and gone, I will remember it fondly as the time of my life.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

- Everything & Nothing

Admit it, you've missed me.  I've missed me.  I've had all these ideas for posts flying around in my head for months now and yet, no inspiration to make them a reality.  And the ironic part is that I've probably had the most going on since I last wrote - but when I sit down to tell you about it it feels like nothing really at all.

My family visited in May.  That was a HUGE deal.  I spent most of the month trying to find the balance between preparing to host them, and trying not to get too excited because I couldn't allow myself to actually believe they were coming until they were here.  And now that the visit has come and gone, I can hardly believe that it happened.  And it's already over.

My brother was here for almost two weeks and my parents spent a long weekend over Memorial day.  My mom flew.  On a plane.  To visit me.  For the first time ever.  We missed Trevor, because someone had to say home and take care of the homestead.  We ate some great food.  We fought about cheese.  The crazy thing is - I've never actually hosted any of my family members on an over night stay before.  And I know that they love me and think I'm great and that I don't have to do anything special to win them over...but they came 2000 miles to see the place I call home.  And that is special.  And I wanted everything to be perfect.

It was.

And since then...nothing.  Because when something so monumental happens, everything afterwards feels so small.

Small like these baby plants I bought at the farmer's market the weekend before my family arrived.
Then we planted them while my family was in town.  Because not taking advantage of their green thumbs while they were around would be insane.
Pretty much every time Mams and I are together we go fabric shopping.  It's our thing.  So, while she was in town we really needed to address those sun faded cushions in my balcony chairs.  Mission accomplished:
As an added bonus, Joann fabric had biodegradable planters on sale for 70% off, so that's what all the potted plants are in.

Here are some plant close ups for your viewing pleasure:
Little baby tomato plant.  Petunias.
Dahling Dahlias.

Here's the best I could do at a wide shot because at the time I forgot that my iPhone takes panoramic shots because sometimes I just forget obvious things like that:
Those pictures were taken a month ago and it turns out that I have a bit of a green thumb of my own.
Look at that same tomato plant now!
Why yes, I did pick fabric that would match the flowers I planted.

Here's a close up for you to appreciate the size of my petunias - which may lead you to think that they needed to be planted in a larger pot.  They are one of my favorite things ever because - hello!  Look at that color.
Herbs are in the planters behind the petunias.  Mams and I found these tables on her maiden voyage to Ikea - for $20 bucks each they were a lot cheaper than other comparable options and provide some great height.

Here are the planters I have hanging on the rails.  They are mirror images of each other, so there's an orange gerber daisy, sweetpotato vine (as a reigning sweetpotato queen it's no surprise that's one of the best growing plants I have), a filler plant called "Snow Queen" which is appropriate based on where we live, and a hot pink geranium. In the planter on the right the only difference is the sweetpotato vine is a midnight purple variety.  And smaller, it's hiding behind the snow queen.
Here's my Mommy and baby Nasturtium.  The baby was seriously like 3 stems and 6 leaves when I planted it.  It's like a preteen now with it's own flowers!
And finally - these are the first signs of my grape tomatoes and anaheim peppers.
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This was one of the top goals I had on my 30 for 30 list.  Remember that thing?  I've been quietly working away on checking some things off the list, but this balcony oasis is one of the best things so far.  This is where Emma and I pretty much start every day.  I drink tea while she lounges.
I water the plants and she lounges.  At dusk I turn on the Christmas lights and enjoy the ambiance.  On July 4th I sat out there and could see the firework shows from 3 nearby neighborhoods.  I pick cilantro for tacos.  Mint leaves for my water.  Arugula for salads.  Chives, sage, rosemary, basil...and soon I'll be using tomatoes and peppers a lot more since every plant is loaded with flowers.  Now that I have started the growing of the things, I can't believe it took me so long to do this.