Archive | January 2014

A Stitch in Time

The injury itself wasn’t really that epic.  Nor was the story behind it.  I didn’t get stabbed breaking up a knife fight or get bitten by a shark or fall from great heights whilst escaping danger.  I cut the back of my leg on a broken vase while taking out the trash.  I know.  Lame-oh.  So why even blog about it?  Because you know we’re all about trying new things around here and my little cut wasn’t just a scratch that you could slap a band-aid on and be done with it.  It wasn’t horrible…but it was big enough that it involved a trip to the local ER and five stitches.





I mentioned this to Dr. Hurt (yes, his actual last name) as he wrote me up for an x-ray (to make sure there were no “foreign bodies” aka glass shards) left in my calf before they sewed me back up, and his response was, “wow.  you must have had a very, um, safe childhood.”  Yeah.  To say I was a cautious child is an understatement.

Anyway.  Back to the “incident.”  I was taking the trash out, accidentally swung the bag with the broken vase in it into the back of my leg, felt an immense pain, cried to the hubby who immediately bandaged it up and drove me to the ER.  The ER is an interesting place.  I could write about ten blog posts of things I saw and overheard in my four hours there, but I won’t because I don’t want to violate any sort of HIPPA laws of any sort.  It took a while to even be seen, and then a longer while for them to get me to xray to make sure there weren’t any glass shards still lurking in my calf.  Once it was time to stitch everything back together, the resident attending me brought in a medical student.

I’d worked as an admin in a teaching hospital for a few years so I wasn’t entirely shocked when they told me that the medical student was going to be cleaning my wound and doing my sutures “if I didn’t mind” but I certainly wasn’t super pumped about it.  I joked with him about “of course….I mean, you’ve totally done this before right?”  His awkward chuckle and suddenly-active facial sweat glands assured me that he had done sutures before…probably on cadavers and old couch cushions…and that we were about to be in this “first stitches” bit together.  After a brief discussion about the best places and angles to inject Lidocane to numb everything up, they helpfully cleaned my wound with some sort of saline solution or something and then threaded the needle.

It was an odd sensation knowing that someone was literally SEWING MY LEG TOGETHER and yet I couldn’t feel anything but an occasional mild tug or pressure.  Keith helpfully photographed the event (I vetoed his earlier idea of adding eyes and a nose above the wound so it could be a face) and I’ve included a little collage below.  Don’t worry.  I’ve posted a cartoon PG version on the front page here, and then if you want the guts-and-gory version (complete with actual blood) click through.  I’m grossed out by blood, so if you are too….don’t click the photo below.


the “clean/edited/PG” version of my night. I’ve had several people interested in photos of the gory details (Erin and Caroline) so I’ve provided those on another page…just click on this photo and it will link you through.  Warning: not for the squeamish.

This whole crisis took place two and a half weeks ago on Sunday, January the 12th, but I’m bringing you the story now because I wanted to wait for the exciting conclusion….you know…where the stitches come out as well!  The night of the incident, I texted my sweet friend Cassie, a nurse who’d gone to Brazil with me back in June to get a recommendation on where to take my injured leg.  In her response, she said she’d be happy to take my stitches out when they were ready.  I mean….that’s friendship right there, ladies and gents.  Although I guess once you’ve lived on a boat on the amazon for 5 days, hunted for caymen, visited with villagers, shared two hotel rooms and argued with the airlines over your obliterated luggage together, your friendship is sort of automatically skyrocketed to the level where taking out stitches seems like the next logical step.

Cassie and me on several of our adventures in the Amazon!

Cassie and me on several of our adventures in the Amazon!

A week ago, after a yummy girls night out at the local burger joint, Cassie checked out my wound and decided that those little stitches weren’t quite ready to come out.  So we left them there for another week.  Which is why this past Sunday night, Cassie once again swung by the house to take a look at my leg.  This time, she pronounced them “just right” and carefully snipped them out of my leg.  Getting the stitches out was every bit as odd a sensation as getting them put in.  She’d snip then pull and while I felt them all come out, none of them hurt.  It really is the oddest thing.

So I guess I can check that off my list.

Cassie uses her careful precision to remove my stitches.  That's friendship right there.

Sweet Cassie pulls out my stitches.

More Stuff to (Not) Buy Off Craigslist

I haven’t been spending as much time trolling Craigslist lately… The last few months of life were pretty much swallowed up by holiday fun and the big Russia trip but now we are back to regularly scheduled programming at Casa Johnson. And that means, its time to do some ‘nesting’. And by nesting, I mean – its time get our mattresses up off the floor and otherwise get things “settled” like “grownups” before we get sucked into the impending baby vortex.

First pregnancy nesting means agonizing over nursery decorations. Second pregnancy nesting means ‘do we have a place to put the baby?” (No, not at this moment we don’t…)

So, here are a few recent Craigslist posts that have made me laugh.


First, this “antique” wheel “barrel” for $125.  Somebody please buy this thing.  It has been reposted continuously for at least 6 months.  That’s a lot of reposting effort right there.  And yet, the seller can’t even be bothered to bring this valuable wheel barrel down to ground-level for a proper photo shoot.  Also, after 6 months, perhaps the price is too high.  Frankly, you Mr. Seller are playing pretty fast and loose with the term ‘antique’.


Candle operas anyone?  For your fancy table settings. Very hard to find.


The “candle opera” may be an iPhone auto-correct situation, but this next item – a Read valentine mannequin – was probably listed by someone who had purchased their first iPhone earlier that same day.  I guess the phone corrected the first use of the word ‘manikin’ but couldn’t fix the second version:

This is a beautiful red and half bust manikin for displaying me’s dresses any kind of clothing with that great in anyone shop I would put it in mine but I need the cash.

Likely the cash is needed to pay off that new phone on the credit card bill.


Who needs more flip-flop themed decor at their abode? Anyone?  This set’s been for sale for a good 8 or 9 months and regularly reposted throughout that time.  The price has also been RISING.  Ingenious marketing strategy, folks.  Just look at the sheer number of pieces of furniture you can purchase for $450 with flip-flop stickers on them.  Also, there are flip-flop knobs.  Clearly a bargain, the description lists the retail price for this set at over $2,000.  Discount what what!


Another lesson for you: Things that are VINTAGE are worth a lot of money. That includes potty chairs, especially when they are decorative. Seriously people, this is a huge step up from most of the potty chairs I’ve seen that look all utilitarian, and ‘medical device’-y. (New adjective coined.) Most potty chairs are clearly potties but this one is so sneaky.  And for $275?  What would you pick, a couple of pairs of Bethany’s fancy footwear or this chair?


I posted this last time but just FYI, its still for sale.  Can’t believe no one has snapped ‘er up. You know, you could buy a car with $9k but that globe will look better in your library.


Or, alternate idea, you could buy ALL this stuff and keep it in this little $50k cabin. That globe would look pretty great in there.  The cabin is so old that it was built without nails. In other words, this is basically a giant Lincoln Log set just waiting for you to come and pickup.  And sure, the asking price is a smidgen high, but I bet they would take less if you asked nicely.


Now, go forth and shop, all you Craigslist bargain hunters! (And here’s my first MS Craigslist round up, if you want more of this nonsense.)

Framing the Hens….

Don’t worry.  Despite the title, there’s no “fowl play” going on.  Nobody is blaming my girls for crimes they didn’t commit.  But they DID get framed recently.  Confused?  Let me explain.

Back in June, Mary-Hall got all crafty and painted four lovely mini-portraits….one of each of our original four hens.  She said the paintings were intended to bring a little lively decor to the inside of our henhouse, but I just couldn’t stand the thought of these lovely little works of art getting potentially ruined over time due to the elements….or….well….the chickens themselves.  (They are sweet little ladies but not exactly careful critters all the time.)  Although I’d looked many times, I couldn’t decide how to frame the paintings, couldn’t find ready-made frames that fit, and couldn’t quite justify spending money on custom framing. So, for months the canvases have been sitting on my desk where I look at them daily and smile at the thought of the sort of friendship that makes one paint pictures of the other one’s pet chickens.


L to R: Gertrude (now deceased and replaced by Beverly Clucky), Jane, Sylvia & Louisa. Paintings by Mary-Hall.

But then a few weeks ago, two things happened: one, I had a day of super clean-out mood and cleaned everything off my desk leaving the paintings displaced, and two, on a late-night JoAnn’s run for something work-related, I located the perfect framing solution!  Behold….a shadow box!  Intended to frame anything that isn’t flat (such as seashells, or paper embelishments), the shadowbox frame is about an inch and a half deep, and comes in several standard sizes, one of which, 8in x 8in, was just perfect to from my 4, 4in x 4in canvases all in the same frame!  Although the frame was originally $19.99, I had a 50% off coupon and paid just over $10 including tax…and when I looked the product up to link it here for you guys, it looks like it’s currently only $8.00 online, so get it while you can!

Screen Shot 2013-11-22 at 10.32.01 AM

This shadowbox frame perfectly fits the four 4in x 4in mini canvases of my chicken portraits!

The next decision was where to display this tribute to our feathered friends.  Certainly the paintings are adorable and sentimental, but the fact remains that they are of, well, chickens and therefore slightly comical.  I needed a place where everyone would be able to enjoy their charm, but I wouldn’t be the girl with the chicken paintings hanging in the living room…..then it hit me.  There was an empty shelf in the downstairs bathroom just begging for something happy, so I brought the chickens in and bingo!  Perfection.

Our bathroom shelf.....

Our bathroom shelf…..don’t the chickens look so perfect all together in their little frame?

The downstairs bath.  Its so tiny....truly one of my favorite rooms in the house.

The downstairs bath. Its so tiny….truly one of my favorite rooms in the house.

What’s that book on the shelf next to the chicken pictures you ask?  Yes!  It’s a copy of “I Could Pee On This: And Other Poems By Cats.”  If you don’t have it.  You need it.  Trust me.  It’s so hilarious you might pee your pants though, so best to read it while you’re already planning on heading to the bathroom…..Let’s take a closer look, shall we?

Keeping it classy.

Keeping it classy.

Update: Keith thinks that Mary-Halls paintings formatted the way I have framed them is very Andy Warhol a la Marilyn Monroe.  What do you guys think?


Getting the Boot….(ies)

Remember when we last talked about footwear and I was lusting after the Sonic Bootie by Bed:Stu?  Well, my husband and my cat took note and teamed up to purchase an Anthropologie gift card for me for my birthday this past August and I am happy to report that I’ve worn them practically every since day since!  They are possibly the most comfortable boot I’ve ever put on, are fabulous traveling shoes, and don’t even set off the metal detector at the airport (like most boots do) so I can whiz through TSA Precheck no problem.  (When you fly almost every weekend, it’s the little things in life, people.)  I recommended them so highly that my friend Rica even bought herself a pair for her trip to India this past December.  Midway through the trip she sent the following photo and message: proof that these boots are both glam and practical.

Rica and her sonic booties go global!

Rica and her sonic booties go global!  I’m thinking Bed:Stu should hire her to model……

“These boots were made for walkin’!  Thanks for sharing your great find…they are soooo comfy!  Our silly guide totally made me pose that way, but it did highlight the boots!”  (of course Rica could make anything look amazing, and having the Taj Mahal in the background doesn’t hurt….but still….)

So here’s the thing though.  I love my boots so much that in addition to singing their praises to my friends…I kind of wanted more of them.  When I find something I like, I stick to it.  And comfortable boots, well, that’s a big win in my book.  So when my sweet in-laws gave me an Anthropologie gift card for Christmas, I started watching the boot sales like a hawk.  And sure enough, the other pair of boots I’d set my heart on went on sale…with my size left!  So I placed my order for the Luminous Sliced Bootie….sort of a cousin to the Sonic bootie…similar in design, but with a slit in the front instead of a side zipper and in a fantastic vintage white color that will pair well with basically anything and that I plan on wearing well into the summer.  As my friend Ellen said once, “booties….don’t you just love them?  I can’t stop buying them.”

I’m happy to report that my boots came in the mail on Monday….and I’ve barely been able to take them off my feet since.  They’re made by Holding Horses, not Bed:Stu, but I’m wondering if there is some sort of licensing agreement going on there, as they look and fit suspiciously like my beloved Bed:Stu boots….and have the exact same size label inside…but I digress.  Bottom line, two thumbs, er, toes, up.

Everything I love about the Sonic...but with a twist.

Everything I love about the Sonic…but with a twist.

There’s been one more addition to my boot fever this year though.  For Christmas I’d told Keith I really wanted a pair of black boots.  As a musician, I’m often faced with the need to wear all black and I’ve never really found a pair of black footwear that is comfortable that I’m in love with.  And black boots proved to be a tricky thing to choose.  As you can see by my previous boot choices, I love a slightly vintage leather look and lots of black boots just looked too shiny and new.  I’m picky about adornments too…where they are, what they look like, etc.  After several failed attempts at finding the boot of my dreams, Keith was the one that ended up finding them.  It was Christmas and we were in Nordstrom and they were having a HUGE  boot sale.  Hundreds of boots were literally hanging on giant clothes-pin like hooks from long metal bars across the length of the shoe department.  As I pawed through the tall black boots in my size, Keith came around the corner holding the most incredible black boots I’d ever seen….that were about 4 sizes too small.  However, I tracked down a sales clerk and crossed my fingers figuring it never hurts to ask…and sure enough…somewhere in the back room lay a box containing the Drover boot by Freebird by Steven Drover  in my size!!  They are as comfy as they are awesome looking (and the rope part is removable if I ever needed a completely black boot for a show.)

Drover boot by Freebird by Steven Drover

Drover boot by Freebird by Steven Drover

So I think what we’ve learned here is that I might have a boot problem.  I had to laugh because I realized that two of the previous three Christmases I’d also asked for, and gotten, boots from Keith.  Last year, it was a pair of Joan of Artic boots (in “Shale”) by Sorel and then three years ago, I got the Weatherby Rain Boot by JCrew (in black).  But I’m not the girl who wears heels…..ever….so for me, boots are everyday wear…I dress them up, dress them down, use them for work, for social occasions, for hanging out around the house.  Heck, I even recycle them when they get past their prime.  And recently, when I needed a new pair of slippers……..yup……I even got boots for that.  I bought the Kamar Genuine Suede Shearling Style Boots by Xhilaration® on sale at Target for $10.  Perfect for shuffling around the house on a cold day.

The Joan of Artic boot by Sorel.  Nothing keeps your feet toastier on a cold day!

The Joan of Artic boot by Sorel. Nothing keeps your feet toastier on a cold day! (and the faux fur is even detachable!)

The JCrew Weatherby rainboot.  Love the stylish yet useful look...and they fit great with or without a liner!

The JCrew Weatherby rainboot. Love the stylish yet useful look…and they fit great with or without a liner!

The Kumar boot from Target....I call them my "Fuggs" because they are totally "Fake Uggs" but they make the best slippers!

The Kamar boot from Target….I call them my “Fuggs” because they are totally “Fake Uggs” and not something I’d wear out of the house…but they make the best slippers!

What to Wear to Russia In the Winter

Fashion post alert! These are my favorite types of posts – where I play like I’m some kind of fashion expert when the exact opposite is true.  But, I can at least tell you what I saw.  Furthermore, there’s not a lot of information about this particular topic on the interwebs (because seriously who would choose January to visit Moscow?  Besides people who will have a newborn in April, I don’t know…)  Hopefully this post finds its way to the google searches of some other curious travelers like myself.  We managed just fine on our trip in mid-January, so here is my report on what to take and how to prepare.

So, there are two guiding principles.  First, you need to be prepared for COLD.  The temperatures are going to be low and moderately humid.  We caught the tail end of a warm snap, and temperatures for our trip ranged from about 10 to 30F – in other words, kind of like Mississippi during a polar vortex.  Moscow can be even colder than this, more like -10 to 10F, but I think my advice will hold up even in that case.

The second principle is this:  If you want to fit in with the Muscovite masses, you are going to need to be as ‘put together’ as you can possibly be while still dealing with the 10F weather.  Moscow ladies wouldn’t be caught dead without their hair fixed and makeup applied.  They regard American woman as sloppy dressers, and that may be true in comparison.  And frankly some of us may not care about that perception one bit (thumbs pointing at me anyway) when its 10F, but if ya want to fit in , stick to dark colors and sleek lines.


So, first you need a coat.  Far and away, the most common type of coat on a Russian woman in 2014 is:

  • Mid-thigh length
  • Slightly puffy but fitted and must have a cinched-in waist
  • Usually has a belt on that cinched waist
  • Dark color, either black or brown.  Some tan and red ones are out there as well.
  • Fur trim around the hood, either faux or real depending on how chic you really can afford to be

Something like this:


If you’re searching from the US, I’d start with a brand like Victoria’s Secret or even a department store brand like Michael Kors.  I actually bought a second hand coat off Ebay just for the trip, primarily due to the fact that my own coats can barely zip up these days.  BUT, its a great place to look.  Second hand coat prices are quite reasonable, and who want to spend a ton of money on something just for one trip, right?   Also watch the fill content on the puffer coats.  You want as much ‘down’ as possible.

My purchased coat was a department store model (Kenneth Cole I believe), nothing special.  65% down.  Probably originally cost $120 or so.  I purchased for half off on Ebay, with tags still attached. It was perfect for the trip and plenty warm. In other words, you don’t have to have a fancy coat made for the Arctic Circle to be comfortable there.

The key is layers.. Under the coat, I’d recommend a sweater and one other underlayer.  Here’s my uniform for the week.



I also bought a pair of snowboots for the trip, because I found some on Craigslist that I loved for a mere $40 – Sorel Caribous.  I can’t recommend these highly enough.  They are extremely warm.  And and AND, I wore them for 12+ hours a day for 6 days in a row, with lots of walking, and never got one blister.  Not even a foot ache.  Like, tennis-shoe level of comfort here.  That is sayin’ something for a pregnant lady and for literally never wearing them even once prior to the trip.  Seriously,  I couldn’t have been more impressed.

Also the liners are removable and washable.  Kicking myself for not owning a pair while I LIVED in COLORADO.  Hello.  (Also, spoiler alert, Bethany’s post for Friday is… more BOOTS!)


Now the downside: lumberjack style is out in Russia.  Sleek is in.  Most Sorels are highly lumberjack-ish, which I prefer with my sloppy American outlook on life.  These Caribous are BIG and bulky.  If you want to fit in with the Russians, look for some Sorels that are solid black without a bunch of contrasting hardware and whatnot.

Actually most of the Russian women wear boots that don’t look like snowboots per se.  Example:

bootsBut I bet their toes weren’t as toasty as mine were!  And finally, DO NOT do what I did.  Make sure whatever shoes you bring are actually comfortable before you leave the US of A.  Blistery feet in a foreign countries are no fun.  Not a risk you want  to take.


Go for either skinny dark denim or skinny black.  You want them tucked into your boots.  And for extra warmth, bring some leggings to wear under your pants.  That trick keeps the frigid air at bay pretty well.


You need all the usual winter stuff: scarf, hat, and gloves.  Simple knit hats are the most fashionable right now, often with a matching scarf.  For maximum warmth, pull your coat hood over your hat and then wrap your scarf on the outside of the coat.  Sarah and I conducted research into scarf positioning for maximum warmth and decided that outside is the way to go but makes for a more complicated assembly process.

For gloves, I bought a $25 pair at the local department store and they were just fine.  If you really want warmth, find some mittens.  If you want to operate your iphone camera, you need gloves with the little conductive fingertip.  Or just pull your gloves on and off 100 times per day like I did.

Moral of the story:  Ebay. Layers. Sleek.  Bethany II and I once swore off European winters entirely, but we were ready this time and that made all the difference.  The weather is doable, just be prepared.

From Russia With Love

{who saw that title coming?}

My third trimester Russian babymoon is over and done with, and I lived to tell the tale obviously. I have so much I could say about this, so I think I’ll break this post up into two parts. Today, I’ll show some highlights of the trip, and then next time I’ll cover what I did to prepare, what I packed, etc. Because trust me, “what to pack to Moscow in January” is remarkably undercovered here on the Internet. (Wonder why?)

We arrived in the afternoon on Monday at 3pm, after a remarkably smooth 9 hour flight. Monday turned out to be ‘Old New Years Eve’, a minor holiday in Russia. “New” New Years (Jan 1) is the biggest holiday in Russia, and that’s when Santa visits Russian children, rather than Christmas Eve. So this being effectively a minor version of New Years Eve, we found Russian Santa and his daughter in a holiday market set up in Red Square.  We busted up a bunch of kids to get this picture with Russian Santa and his daughter the Snow Girl (or something like that).

Santa and Daughter Frost

Santa and Daughter Frost, not your average mall santa costumes either

Tuesday we got up just in time to see the sunrise at approximately 10am. This side effect of Moscow’s latitude was not helpful for jet lag mitigation.  However, that was pretty much our schedule for the rest of our trip: staying up till midnight or 1am and then sleeping in till 9 or 10am. In some ways, this is just part of the life of Moscow, where life tends to happen a bit later in the day than we’re accustomed to over here in the US. And I never did kick that morning jet laggy feeling.

Late morning sunrise

Good morning sunshine! (Its 10am.)

We saw the biggest tourist stops – Red Square, the Kremlin, St Basil’s Cathedral. Being the dead of winter, the tourist lines were minimal, and English speaking tourists were no where to be found. Even being the capital, Moscow (probably all of Russia) really doesn’t cater to foreign tourism as an industry.  There’s only English signage at the most touristy of locations, and none on the street signs, etc. I gather that the Russian attitude towards tourism is along the lines of ‘Hey don’t be an idiot and figure it out.’  Luckily we had Sarah to act as tour guide and translator. I do regret not versing myself in Cyrillic a bit better before the trip.  FYI “Щ” makes the “sh” sound but I never did learn all the letters. 😦

Hello Mr Putin! (at the Kremlin)

Hello Putin! (at the Kremlin)

Shiny gold domes at one of the Kremlin churches

Shiny gold domes at one of the Kremlin churches

Iphone panorama

Iphone panorama

We ate a lot of unusual foods, but nothing too shocking. Lots of beets, potatoes, buckwheat, meat, tea, and lots of cookies / tortes / candies (thank goodness! I do prefer cultures that emphasize dessert… )

Tasting an herbal tea made from a special Russian berry

Tasting an herbal tea made from a special Russian berry

We rode our fair share of subway trains, and I was often forced by a stern looking babushka to take her seat. Let me tell you, that is an unusual experience – switching places with an old woman on a subway train due to pregnancy. And let me tell you, there was no arguing with them – pregnant women have to sit or else they’ll go in to labor right there on the spot or something.

Believe this was the first of several times an old lady vacated her seat for me

Believe this was the first of several times an old lady vacated her seat for me

Oh, and the subway stations were endlessly fascinating to me – many were built during the height of the Soviet era and not at all bashful about it. The decor usually focused on happy Soviet citizens doing happy Soviet things.

Soviet era artwork in the rear

Soviet era artwork in the rear

We wrapped up the trip with an evening of outdoor ice skating at this trippy skate park, complete with special effect lights frozen under the ice and a Nivea warming hut. This was the coldest night of the trip, but we were prepared. I’m not a good ice skater (blaming it on the baby bump) but it was a great way to wrap up the trip. Well, that and the fabulous Georgian restaurant we visited right after. More on that later!

Trying desperately not to fall and break my phone or anything else...

Trying desperately not to fall and break my phone or anything else…

In general, you would think that Moscow and western Russia would be fairly European, and they are a bit. BUT, at the same time, the Russian culture is really all their own. Everything is just a little bit different than you might think. They have a fascinating and complex history that’s fairly separate from the Roman / Anglo history I’m more familiar with. Its not the easiest place to live, and as a people they’ve been through a lot and continue to struggle through hard times in many ways. You can see it on their faces in the metro… and as they roll their eyes at you for taking up too much space… as they push their grocery carts through a foot of snow.

All in all it was a great trip, pregnancy, time change, snow, and all.  Of course its always good to land back in the good ole US of A.


A Mini travelogue of Costa Rica: Rincon de la Vieja

Today we continue our journey through Costa Rica with some highlights from my favorite part of our trip: the Rincón de la Vieja National Park, home to the volcano by the same name.  We went on the recommendation of a hotel employee at the Hilton when I told him we were looking for something with an adventure rating in between “bus-full-of-gringos” and “foolhardy-or-dangerous.”

We drove to the ranger station at the Las Pailas Sector instead of the Santa Maria sector because we’d heard that two hikes we were epecially interested in began there.  Thanks to Lonely Planet (by far our favorite travel-guide source), we were prepared for the $1.50 per-person (or 700 colones per person) “toll” to drive through the Hotel Hacienda Guachipelin property, as well as the $10 per person park entry fee.  Our first day, we chose the Mud Pot trail as it was the shorter trail and we’d gotten a bit of a late start.  But every step of the 3KM hike is packed with lots of bang-for-your-buck.  From sulpherous volcanic vents to bubbling mud pots, there’s a natural sideshow around every turn.  Not to mention that it was a great introduction to the gigantic Ceiba trees (we couldn’t stop taking photos of them! They were so amazing!), the blue morpho butterfly, and a few families of monkeys chattering far overhead as we walked.

Isn't my husband a hottie? Relaxing in the shade of a Ceiba tree.

Isn’t my husband a hottie? Relaxing in the shade of a Ceiba tree.

I loved these swinging bridges in the park!

I loved these swinging bridges in the park!

Checking out one of the fumeroles.

Checking out one of the fumeroles.

Although nothing can really compare to seeing it in person, here are a few video clips of the Fumerolas (volcanic vents) and the bubbling mud pots that I took on my iPhone.  Nothing compares to seeing it in person though!

Two days later we made the trek back up to the park for a second day of hiking…this time to the “Catarata La Cangre” waterfall.  This hike is 5.1 KM each way (about 6 miles round-trip) and again we were a little short on time so we did a bit of speed-hiking.  The scenery was just as stunning the second day as it had been the first….but totally different topography.  I could barely believe we were on the same mountain.    From jungle to tall grasses to a stand of giant plants that looked like it could have been the set of  “Honey I Shrunk the Gringos” the topography seemed to change every quarter of a mile.  It wasn’t a difficult hike, but we’d recommend taking all day to do it both so you can enjoy all the scenery and so you can take your time and not trip on any rocks or roots or other obstacles along the way.  Plus, once you get to the waterfall, you’ll want a few hours there to enjoy the scenery.  I’m thinking a picnic lunch would have been just the thing to have along.

Headed out!  Can't wait to go back and hike all the rest!

Headed out! Can’t wait to go back and hike all the rest!

Hiking through the land of giant plants!

Hiking through the land of giant plants!

Keith and I’d worn bathing suits under our hiking clothes and happily set our backpacks down and took a little dip (the rangers had told us that this particular waterfall was safe to swim in…but it’s always best to check with the park before taking a dip.  and even with this particular pool, due to a few big rocks underwater, I’d be careful where you decide to jump in.).  The water had a refreshing chill, but wasn’t cold once you were in.  And the falls…well……they were just spectacular.  For some reason it didn’t occur to me to take video there, but here are a few photos for your enjoyment.

Swimming in the falls!

Swimming in the falls!

Keith and I enjoying the waterfall

Keith and I enjoying the waterfall

Another side trip we made was to the Simbiosis Spa located on the road leading to the park.  Although we didn’t get any massages or other spa treatments, we paid the $10 a person entrance fee for the use of their facilities….and it just might have been the best $20 we spent the whole trip.  You start with 10 minutes in the dry sauna to open up your pores.  Then it’s off to the mud “bath”…stone columns of warm, volcanic mud.  Just a few feet away is a huge pit where the spa digs out the mud daily…you could see the bubbling liquid in the bottom of the pit.  Keith and I lathered up and then sat in lounge chairs in the sun for about 25 minutes until the mud dried.  Then it was off to the warm bath.  Although it’s fed by volcanic springs, it’s more like a warm bath…not hot springs.  Afterwards, our skin felt so smoother and clean.  And the photos, well, they really are worth a thousand words.

Applying the mud...

Applying the mud…

letting it dry....

letting it dry….

Then relaxing in the hot springs.

Then relaxing in the hot springs.

(Side note: the “crater hike” up to the volcano crater (8km long) was closed both days due to volcanic activity.  “It’s crazy up there” the park ranger said.  “There’s gas and smoke, ashes, burning things and flying mud.”  Guess we’ll have to go back to see that next time.)

A Mini Travelogue of Costa Rica: Part 1

Mary Hall and I are both kicking off 2014 with travel adventures.  While she’s headed to Moscow on her “babymoon” (and in her third trimester of pregnancy I might add), Keith and I went to Costa Rica to celebrate a different milestone…our 4th anniversary.  We first fell in love with Costa Rica in 2007 when we were still single and went on a cruise with friends.  One of the ports of call was Puerto Limon on the Caribbean side of the country and the six or so hours that we spent there zip-lining through the canopy, visiting a banana plantation and taking a river boat ride were some of our favorite parts of the entire cruise and we’ve been itching for the opportunity to explore the country further ever since then.

Top L to R: Me, Shack, Alexis and Keith all suited up for some adventure...and below...I let er rip...or zip...through the jungle canopy.

Top L to R: Me, Shack, Alexis and Keith all suited up for some adventure…and below…I let er rip…or zip…through the jungle canopy.  Spring 2007.

We cashed in some of Keith’s Hilton Honors points and booked a week at the Hilton Papagayo Costa Rica Resort & Spa…an all-inclusive resort in the Guancaste Region that makes up the Northwest corner of the country.  The resort had a cozy feel, with great views, an efficient shuttle service to help folks out with all the hills on the property.  If you choose to stay there, we’d recommend the Grill de Fuego by the Spa Pool both for lunch (fish tacos) and dinner (try the gnocci to start and end with the salmon)….and anytime you find yourself in need of a mango smoothie (which was often for me.)

The view from our hotel room porch.

The view from our hotel room porch.

Unfortunately our first day in country Keith wasn’t feeling very well so we kicked off our trip with a visit to the local Hopital Clinica Biblia just down the road by the “Do It Center” that boasted a cafe with fantastic vanilla iced coffees for $2 each.  We rented a car from Economy Rental car near the Liberia airport.  (we were pleased both with the new-ish Hyundai they gave us as well as their service and cost) and we were eager to do some exploring of the country on our own.  Now don’t get me wrong, Keith and I love a nice pool and a cushy lounge chair as much as the next person, but we’ve learned that it’s hard for us to sit still for very long.  Even with both of us sick (yes, I caught Keith’s cold-like-symptoms on Wednesday) we did more than our fair share of checking out our new favorite travel destination.  In fact, we saw so much of the country that I’m going to split this post into two posts: today we’ll hit the beach, and Friday, the mountains.

We were amazed by how large the beaches in Costa Rica are!  They are so deep and stretch on as far as the eye can see.  We walked along Playa Hermosa and Playa del Coco up near our resort with dark volcanic sands.  Then on the recommendation of a Hilton employee, we headed down south to the non-volcanic sand beaches.  Playa Flamingo was beautiful and virtually deserted except for a few locals enjoying a picnic, and a random cowboy who rode by with another horse in tow.


We also checked out a great little place for lunch at Playa Brasilita and then went for a stroll on Playa Conchal.  I loved all the little funky places that dotted the beach towns. This sign made me laugh and I loved the rickety bridge.


Then we made our way down to Playa Tamerindo, which we liked so much that we ended up going back again a few times.  Granted, it’s a little more “touristy” than some of the other beaches, but there were some fun shops and places to eat and we loved the whole vibe.  And by a “little more touristy” it’s still a far cry from the over-commercialized beaches in North America.  We had such an amazing time walking from one end of the beach to the other and swimming in the ocean.  I just could not get enough.  Here are some beach photos because, well….they are pretty.

image 1604707_10151996985828682_589225712_n 1514660_10151997053993682_249690731_n 1554572_10151996986863682_1888547152_n 1520767_10151997083873682_860717547_n 1512574_10151996989403682_1397866730_n1525739_10151996986178682_1288419476_n

The most beautiful view.

The most beautiful view.

And then the third night we were there, we had a magical magical night on the beach.  No, not that kind of magical.  We went to find sea turtles.  It was another case of a National-Park-For-The-Win.  For just $25 a person, we headed over to the Marino Las Baullas National Park (if you go, make sure you know which ranger station to go to.  We made an impressive 30-minute sprint across town and arrived just as the turtle presentation was beginning.)  We’d initially signed up to on a leatherback turtle watching adventure but after learning that our odds of sitting on the beach for hours and not seeing a darn thing were pretty high, we opted to switch to the “black sea turtle” watching tour.  After driving down some long and precarious dirt roads and hiking along some dark cliffs guided by Spanish-only speaking park rangers and cell-phone flashlights, we arrived at another beach just in time to watch a huge black sea turtle lay the last of her clutch of eggs. and start covering them over again.  Some other researchers were out patrolling the beach and moving the eggs to a protected area and it was pretty incredible to watch them measure the turtle as she began the careful process of covering over her “nest” by kicking the sand in…then patting it down carefully and repeating.  A truly stunning and beautiful thing to behold.  Photography wasn’t allowed, but I did get this great photo of us with a statue of a leatherback at the ranger station to remember our turtle watching night by.


And just in case you want to get your head around the geography of the country, here are some helpful maps below both of the region where we were, and the entire country.

Just to help you see where we were, here is map of the Guancaste region.

Screen Shot 2014-01-13 at 9.18.09 PM

and a map of the whole country.

Cozy Chair

If you’ve ever visited our blog before, chances are you’re aware of my love of a) home furnishings and b) finding a good deal.  And when the two collide….its the home run of all home runs.  So imagine my sheer joy when a last-minute-Christmas-shopping excursion on Christmas Eve Eve turned into a score-the-chair-I’ve-wanted-on-sale shopping trip win!

In one corner of our living room we had a particular chair that was fine, just a tad large for the space and didn’t exactly match the rest of our decor.  About two years ago we bought the Elton Settee from West Elm for my office and I’ve loved it so much, I thought that the Elton Chair might be just the thing to replace the other chair.  But at $500-$700 a pop (depending on which upholstery you chose) it was WAY over budget.  So the other chair stayed where it was, and I continued looking around, and not finding anything I liked as well as Elton-the-chair.  (For those of you wanting to know, we’d gotten Elton-the-Settee on sale.)

Me sitting on Elton-the-Settee.  Photo Credit: Kellie Mueller of

Me sitting on Elton-the-Settee. Photo Credit: Kellie Mueller of

So fast forward to the day before the day before Christmas (no that’s not a type-o, it was Dec. 23rd) when Keith and I wandered into West Elm and BEHOLD….Elton the chair was on sale….in the color I loved.  Like $200 less than normal price kind of “on sale.”  But wait….there’s more.  I had been saving a gift card from my birthday hoping that just such an occasion would come to pass.  AND… complete the trifecta of discounts, I convinced the store clerk to accept a $25 off coupon that had expired LAST JUNE.

So my lovely chair went home with me that day for a greatly reduced cost and not only looks adorable…but fits (size-wise) just PERFECTLY in the nook in the living room.  It’s already gotten much love and become my favorite spot in the living room!  So come on over if you’re in the neighborhood and curl up in Elton-the-Chair and stay a while.  We’d love to have you.

Elton the Chair in his new home in our living room....come "set a spell."

Elton the Chair in his new home in our living room….come “set a spell.”

Just Up and Go.

Have you ever heard of the “babymoon” concept? The idea is to take a ‘last hurrah’ style vacation in the last few weeks before the arrival of a new baby and the accompany slog through weeks of a reduced sleep schedule all around. Usually you go somewhere warm and relaxing, I suppose.

Today I am on a plane bound for my own babymoon of sorts. Except, the destination is Moscow – maybe not relaxing and certainly not warm but a ‘last hurrah’ adventure none the less.

I have a dear friend Sarah to visit there, and one of my other best friends is coming along as well. This best friend is also named Bethany, but not the Bethany of this blog. Should we call her Bethany II to keep them straight?

Bethany II and I have traveled internationally together twice before. Once, sophomore year of college, to London and Paris:

scan0034Very early and very cold on the Seine River in Paris, 2002

Then to western Germany in 2004. After Germany we swore off visiting Europe in the winter, forever. Yes the tourist lines are short or non existent, but we were frozen popsicles for both trips.

Germany73Still cold, somewhere in Germany

Oh well. I like to think we’re better prepared this time. Here I am this morning at my local airport with copious amounts of luggage.

20140112-124158.jpgBasically maxing out the available space in more ways than one

I’m not as prepared as it looks. 75% of that space is stuff Sarah ordered and I am just the mule. I did purchase a pair of used snowboots and a larger coat to fit over my belly. I also borrowed my grandpa’s fur hat for added authenticity. Pretty pumped about it too!

20140112-125408.jpgReady for the cold

Unfortunately August is having to sit this one out due to vacation time limitations. Appropriately, I took a pic of him with his employer’s advertisement at our airport this morning.

20140112-125750.jpgWorking for the man…

So there’s the cold, snow, and ice. Plus We’ll only be there for 5 days which isn’t long enough to see much. I’m not sure we’ll even adjust to the 10 hour time change. Being right on the cusp of my 3rd trimester, I probably can’t walk the miles and miles I would normally. Nor can I sample much vodka obviously. But sometimes you just have to up and go, right?


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