I know you all are wondering where my Costa Rica posts have been, and just as soon as I manage to pull myself out from under the 400 pounds of vacation laundry I’ll have those posts up. We had a wonderful trip and I can’t wait to tell you all about it.
But first, some news on the baby front…
Not MY baby front. It’s my sister’s! GINNY’S PREGNANT!
I have been dying to tell people, but Ginny and John Michael were both very cautious this time. She’s 20 weeks now, looks fabulous, feels fabulous, and is due in August. I am so darn happy for her and JM that I just can’t stand it!
True to our gene pool, Ginny decided that it wasn’t enough to be pregnant. She decided to buy a house, too! And start a new job! The same week she started a new job in Atlanta was the same week they closed on their new house. Lots going on in their world right now! We are beyond excited for them!
Ginny’s always been beautiful, but I think motherhood makes her radiant, don’t you???
We’re going up to Atlanta for a housewarming/gender reveal party in a couple weeks. The invitation said to wear the color of the gender you think the baby will be. I’m wearing PINK ALL THE WAY!!!!! I gots me a feelin’!
Two weeks ago, Chris and I took the trip of a lifetime to Costa Rica. We were so graciously given the trip as part of Costa Rica’s “Gift of Happiness” program, which has awarded one million dollars in trips to Costa Rica over the past year in an effort to promote happiness in people’s lives.
On our trip, we visited three different cities in three very different parts of the country and, I swear, it just got better with each stop. We left the Tuesday after Gracie’s first birthday and flew into Liberia, Costa Rica. From Liberia, we had to drive about an hour to the coastal surf town of Tamarindo. To be honest with you, Chris and I hadn’t looked at our itinerary until we were sitting in the airport in Atlanta waiting to board to Costa Rica. So, when we finally got there, we pretty much didn’t know anything about our trip. We knew where we were (sometimes), but didn’t have much of an idea where we were going next. Turns out, that’s such a fun way to travel! We just woke up every day and were surprised by our day! It was awesome!
Here’s a little video Chris took on the drive from the Liberia airport to Tamarindo. As you can see, I know next to nothing about our trip…
During our trip, we stayed at four and five leaf hotels, which means they were the highest rated in sustainability. You really would have no idea you were staying in a completely sustainable hotel, except that the staff at each hotel were so proud of their leaf status (which is apparently very, very hard to achieve). They made sure you knew that not only were you staying in a sustainable and eco-friendly hotel, but you were now part of that accomplishment, too. And it wasn’t just the hotels and resorts that were proud of their positive footprint on the environment. Everyone from the taxi drivers to the restaurant waiters to the guys sitting on the beach with their surf boards would gladly tell you about how much Costa Rica values the environment. It was an unexpected part of the trip that I found really inspiring.
A really great example of this would be the monkeys at our first hotel. Hotel Capitan Suizo had three monkeys that they were rescuing and rehabilitating. These monkeys had been rescued for some reason or another (mostly because of losing their natural habitats to urban development), and now they were living in the lush, natural gardens at the hotel where they were being taught to find food and survive on their own. These monkeys were always around! They never came close enough for you to touch and you weren’t supposed to feed them or anything. But they seemed to enjoy their life on the hotel grounds. And why not? It was BEAUTIFUL at the hotel!
When we arrived at the hotel on the first day, it was about 2:00 local time. Too late for lunch, Chris and I grabbed a beachside table in the bar and, over a beer, laughed about what the heck we were doing in Costa Rica! It was so surreal!
Our hotel room was gorgeous. Simple, immaculately clean, comfortable, and roomy. Everything you need to relax in style!
Our room was actually two stories, and it had these gorgeous windows that let natural light stream in (reducing the need for electric lights during the day, by the way…).
We had a great little balcony, too, that overlooked the natural gardens of the hotel. Just looking at this picture makes me feel relaxed again!
That first night, we had dinner at the hotel restaurant. You know, right on the beach.
We watched a gorgeous sunset from table. It was breathtaking and a perfect end to our first day.
The next morning after a leisurely breakfast which included having to defend my food from a rather insistent iguana who kept climbing up on our table (didn’t get a picture of that one because I was hold my plate fiercely against my chest…), Chris and I didn’t know what to do with ourselves. It was too early to be out by the pool or beach, and we didn’t have anything on our itinerary until late in the afternoon. I hate the admit this, but we hadn’t had a truly FREE period of time to ourselves in YEARS. If we get free time at home, like when the kids are at my parents or something, but we usually use that time to work on the house or work stuff or something productive. When left to our own devices for complete relaxation, we just didn’t know what to do with ourselves! So, we decided to hang out in a hammock on the beach until an idea came to us…
And what we came up with was sitting on the beach. Because apparently when we’re on vacation, there is no appropriate time for the beach. So, at 9:30am, we sat our happy behinds on beach chairs and didn’t move until the bar opened at 11:00. That, my friends, is how you vacation.
We laid by the pool later that afternoon, choosing to drink our lunch instead of eating (a decision we made just about every day on our trip). As the afternoon wore on and the heat began to kick up, we were joined on our pool loungers by this friendly, enormous iguana. She seemed to really like Chris. She walked across the entire pool area, then crawled up on a big rock next to his pool chair, and sat there sunning and staring at him for almost half an hour. She had a crush.
Later that afternoon, we walked down the beach to the town of Tamardindo. It’s a small little beach town with great food, really nice people, and lots of souvenir shopping. We spent the afternoon walking around and checking out the shops that had local artists artwork and crafts. I almost bought the kids their first souvenir, but Chris talked me out of it. Party pooper.
Before we started the 20 minute beach walk back to the hotel, we stopped and had ourselves a nice little cocktail. Now, I joke about drinking and I have some pretty funny stories about it, too, but I’m actually not that big of a drinker. But in Costa Rica? Man, their drinks were the best! You’d order a fruity, frozen drink and they’d take a whole, fresh pineapple or something, cut it up and throw that into a blender. It was fresher than fresh, and it was delicious!!!!
We had to be back at the hotel by 4:00 for our first excursion…surf lessons! Originally, I had planned not to surf. Even though I am from Florida and grew up on the beach, I am not a fan of swimming in the ocean. Bottom line: Sharks scare me. I can’t help it! They just do! And so, I had intended for Chris to do the lesson and I would take the pictures. But being in Costa Rica, sitting on the beach, watching seemed a little ridiculous. How could I pass this up? People pay thousands of dollars to come surf in Costa Rica and here I was on a FREE trip with a (incredibly good looking) surf instructor. So, I suited up and hit the waves, dude!
Or, rather, they hit me. Hard. And often.
I got up a lot, actually. And I rode the waves all the way in to the beach a couple times, too. But in between the actual surfing, I was basically getting thrown around with a giant surf board tied to my leg. I kept thinking, maybe when I actually catch a wave, it’ll be better. You know, reward for all the work or whatever. But when I actually caught a wave…well…let’s just say I enjoyed my pineapple drinks better than a nose full of saltwater.
Chris, though? He was a natural. He’d surfed a few times growing up, but he seemed to pick it up really quickly this time.
After an hour, I had had enough and I headed in to get our camera. I spent the next hour sitting on the beach, thinking about what I was going to wear to dinner that night, and occasionally waving to Chris as he cruised by on a surfboard.
That night we decided to go into town for dinner to a place that our surf instructor recommended called Coconuts. He said it was the best place to get the most traditional Costa Rican food.
The food did not disappoint. It was amazing! Chris had this whole lobster that was stuffed with this fresh mango and pineapple chutney, and I had grilled mahi mahi (caught that day!) with calamari rings, all bathed in butter and fresh herbs. Lip smackin’ good!
The next day, we had to be up and going pretty early because we were flying to our next resort. On the itinerary, it said that we were taking a “local flight” to La Fortuna. Had I known what “local flights” were in Costa Rica, I don’t think I would have left the first resort.
Our driver was taking us to the airport, when all of a sudden, he turned down this tiny dirt road. He kept driving and driving, further and further away from civilization. By the time I realized that this wasn’t a detour, but was instead where the actual airport was (if you can call it an airport), I started to panic. Here…let me show you how I reacted:
Seriously. This “airport” was incredibly small. The plane was so small that not only did we have to weigh our carry ons, but WE had to get on the scales to be weighed, too!
Here’s the airstrip…
And here’s the place where you buy drinks or snacks for the plane…
Oh, and here comes our plane…
I was terrified. TERRIFIED. I don’t even like flying all that much in REAL planes, let alone this toy plane in the middle of some cow field! But, from somewhere deep inside, close to the place that made me get on a surfboard in the Pacific Ocean, I found the courage to get on the darn plane. And somehow, I found the restraint to keep from screaming out whenever the plane hit turbulence that made me feel like we were free falling back towards Earth. And somehow, I found the bladder control to not even wet my pants.
Sometimes, I really impress myself.
We landed that afternoon in La Fortuna and I don’t think I’ve ever felt so La Fortunate to be alive!
Tomorrow, I’ll tell you all about our stay in La Fortuna near the Arenal Volcano. One of the most breathtakingly beautiful places I’ve ever been. Don’t miss it!
Easter this year was pretty low key for us. In light of all that has been going on over the past few weeks, we decided to take it easy. I even put hosting the Easter lunch off on my parents, so I didn’t have to cook much either! How’s that for avoiding responsibilities? We did the traditional things like dying Easter eggs…
Later, we hunted eggs, too!
But mostly, we just sat around and enjoyed being with family.
The one thing I really focused on were our Easter outfits because I really want a good family picture. We haven’t had one since the lovely Jenn Hopkins Photography took ours a while ago. So, I bought Bean and Chris matching ties, found dresses for me and Gracie, and planned to get at least ONE good family picture. But then on Saturday, Gracie face planted on the sidewalk in front of our house and got a bloody nose and giant bruise on her forehead. She survived, but she looks pretty rough.
Plus, by the time we got to my parents, the kids were ready to play, so pictures were hit and miss.
This was as close as I got. Not bad, but Gracie looks pissed off and Bean’s twisting Chris’s tie. Eh…it’ll do.
Since those didn’t work, I thought I’d try some of me and Gracie or Chris with Bean. I figured if we reduced the number of variables, maybe we’d have better luck. Not really…
Though, Bean and Chris seemed to do better.
Pictures aside, the only other must-have at Easter this year were Easter baskets. Gracie just had her birthday, and both kids racked up on a bunch of new toys, so I tried to come up with other things to get them. With summer coming up, I decided to go with summer themed baskets and pick them each up some summer items they’d be needing very soon.
Bean had a Lightning McQueen summer basket. I found him a Lightning McQueen beach towel, Lightning McQueen sunglasses, and Lightning McQueen flip flops.
I wrapped propped everything up in his Easter basket with Easter grass, then filled in the holes with eggs and some candy.
I put the whole basket in a basket bag and tied it at the top with yellow and white polk-a-dot ribbon.
Gracie needed some summer clothes like WHOA. In one week, she outgrew all of her nine month clothes and is now wearing twelve month clothes (which are a little snug sometimes around the belly!). She didn’t have any summer play clothes in her new size, so I picked her up two new little romper outfits at Target.
She also got a new pair of summer sandals (which conveniently matched her Easter dress).
The last of her goodies were new sippy cups because we are trying desperately to get her to drink out of a sippy cup. Girlfriend wants nothing to do with a sippy cup right now, so I tried a different brand and style to see if that would help. Surprisingly, it did a little bit.
Just like with Bean, I filled her basket with green grass and arranged all of her goodies. She got some Easter eggs, too, but I skipped the candy for Gracie Girl. (Don’t tell her, though. I don’t think she noticed!)
I finished the baskets around 9:00 that night and realized that I had only gotten ONE basket bag, so I had to haul myself up to Target at 9:30 and hunt down another bag for Gracie. But the morning when the kids woke up, the Easter Bunny had arrived in all his basket bag glory. I felt a little bad that there weren’t toys or anything fun in the kids baskets at first, but it ended up working out really nice. Bean loved his stuff, and Gracie didn’t care one way or another, but she sure looked cute!
It took me the entire 20 minute taxi ride from the La Fortuna airstrip to our hotel to recover from the terror of our tiny puddle jumper of a plane. But the minute I stepped out of that taxi at our hotel and took one look around at where we were, I didn’t even remember the plane. It was one of the most beautiful places I’d ever been.
We arrived around lunch time, dropped our bags in our room, and headed down to the poolside restaurant for lunch. And this, my friends, was the view:
The Arenal Kioro Hotel is located at the base of the Arenal Volcano in La Fortuna, Costa Rica. It is absolutely beautiful. Breathtakingly beautiful. And the hotel itself is equally as beautiful.
My favorite part of the hotel is that it had these hot springs that you could actually sit in and relax after a long day. Amazing! I’m trying to figure out how to rig something like this up in our backyard. So far, Chris isn’t optimistic.
I took a little video tour of the hotel for you all. But then I freaked out some of the guests, so it stops really abruptly. But at least you can see where we were…
Our room was really, really nice, too. Each room at the resort had its own hot tub in the room, a full view of the volcano, and top of the line eco-friendly features. My favorite was that the only way to turn power on in your room was to insert your room key into this little holder by the front door. So, when you are ready to leave, you take your key out of the holder and the power in your room goes out to make sure they are saving power when no one is in the room. It was such a cool, easy to use, practical feature. I have also tried talking Chris into installing one in our house, but, again, he’s not optimistic.
We spent the first day relaxing by the pool, and then had a very luxurious dinner at the hotel restaurant. It was spectacular. So spectacular that I didn’t even pause to take pictures. Sorry, kids.
It was the second day in La Fortuna that was my favorite, though. We got up really early and were picked up by a car and a tour guide. They drove us about 15 minutes down the road from our hotel to the Arenal Hanging Bridges. If I had to pick my favorite excursion on our trip, this would probably be it. It was awesome! We hiked through the rainforest and crossed over eight large, suspension hanging bridges that gave incredible views of the rainforest.
It was a beautiful four hour hike through the rainforest. We saw all kinds of animals and wildlife, thanks to our awesome guide. This is poisonous frog (I can’t remember the name!). He was super loud, but when we finally found him, he was tiny! Reminded me of Bean, actually.
We also saw lots of monkeys, a few sloths, lots of humming birds, and these little raccoon-like things that our guide told us the name of 15,000 times, but I could never understand what she was saying.
Oh, and did I mention the snakes? Yeah. We saw two viper snakes as we hiked.
Now, I have always been taught to leave snakes the heck alone. But, apparently, our guide had not been taught the same lesson. She grabbed our cameras and crawled up within a couple feet of each viper and started snapping away. She never touched them (duh!) or seemed to bother them, but she got close enough to take a great picture. It was crazy!
(Speaking of our guide, if you ever find yourself in La Fortuna on a hanging bridge tour, do yourself a favor and request Indira as your guide. Best guide I’ve ever had for any kind of anything. She was so darn smart!)
I am notoriously afraid of heights. Don’t like ‘em. Don’t do ‘em. No way, no how. I keep my feet on the ground. But this was too good to miss. So before each hanging bridge, I’d get myself all psyched up to walk out on these incredibly high, wobbly bridges. I found the Rocky theme song to be particularly inspiring…
I also found talking in a British accent to be oddly soothing…
But as scared as I was to walk out on those bridges, it was totally worth it for the views!
Can you see the bridge in the center of this picture? That’s the “lower bridge.”
Now, do you see that bridge at the tip top of this picture? That’s the “high bridge.” I thought I was going to pass out when our guide showed it to us.
But it was views like this spectacular waterfall that made me keep going…
By the time our rainforest hike ended, it was lunch time. Chris and I came back to the hotel and had lunch at that same pool restaurant and then spent the afternoon being completely lazy. It was cloudy out and so we sat in the room and read for a couple hours, then headed down to the spa for volcanic mud facials. I had to really convince Chris to do it, but he loved it! It was awesome! When we finished at the spa, the weather had cleared up a bit and so we spent sunset sitting in one of the hot springs pools, drinking pina coladas and talking about how lucky we were, how happy we were, how relaxed we were, and how much we missed the kids.
It was maybe the best day of the entire trip.
Well…until that one day in our next stop, Quepos, where we upgraded from facials to Swedish massages next to the Pacific and stayed in the nicest hotel yet. I’ll show you that one tomorrow!