This is 2

Two years. Two years since you entered this world and our world and forever changed this family for the better. In some ways I can’t believe how fast two years has passed and in other ways it feels like you have been with us forever. I don’t even think your brother, Nico, remembers life before you were here.

You have always made things pretty easy on your ole ma from Day 1. The happiest child…so easy going and laid back, your go-with-the-flow attitude (we can thank your father for that haha). I can’t tell you the amount of times I had to rip you out of your crib from your nap to pick up your brother from school, yet you always greeted me with the biggest smile and eventually a “hi mama.”

Your 4x a night wake-ups til 18 months old almost seemed bearable, because you were so sweet and easy going in every other way.

You are the biggest snuggle bug, always wanting mama or papa to hold you and cuddle. Yet you are SO independent. You want to do everything for yourself including feeding yourself, riding your scooter, climbing at the playground, and walking down the street (sorry buddy you still have to hold my hand when we cross!)

You are small but mighty…you have learned to defend yourself (you can thank your brother for that…I guess) and your are so playful and fun. Your smile and laugh light up my world.

This family is so in love with our little Luca Dukes, Goose, Luca Bear. Happy 2nd Birthday my sweet, sweet boy. I love you forever. ❤️

And now a few pics that can’t even begin to show how much you’ve grown in 2 years, but these are a few of my favs.




Mutual Weirdness


Celebrating 3 years of mutual weirdness marital bliss today.  Tomorrow will also equal 9.5 years together.

To my partner in crime:

Thanks for shaking my hand awkwardly at that frat party.  Thanks for accepting my terrible Nextel phone clip.  Thanks for the letters from Nevada.  Thanks for listening and taking me to The Melting Pot for our first date.  Thanks for awkwardly introducing me as your girlfriend to someone before we had had “the talk.”  Thanks for being persistent.  Thanks for understanding me and my quirks.  Thanks for forgiving me after we fight.  Thanks for supporting me in chasing my dreams.  Thanks for moving to New York with me.  Thanks for building a life with me.  Thanks for sharing a tiny apartment without killing me for 4.5 years.  Thanks for being the best travel partner.  Thanks for complementing me in a way that opposites attract.  Thanks for laughing at my terrible jokes.  Thanks for taking my photos for this blog, even though we get strange looks on the streets and sometimes it’s uncomfortable.  Thanks for listening to me.  Thanks for taking long walks.  Thanks for being open minded.  Thanks for working hard for us.  Thanks for being honest and trustworthy.  Thanks for being an amazing father.

I love you to the moon and back, and I cannot wait to see what the following years of mutual weirdness will bring.



P.S. Here is a little blast from the past.

#6 Skydive

May 12, 2012

On Christmas Eve at the age of ten years old, I saw a video that blew my mind.  After we finished opening presents with my family, my Aunt Marie popped a tape into the VCR (yes, I’m dating myself here).  On this video was my Aunt Marie jumping out of an airplane, screaming at the top of her lungs with two thumbs up the entire time.  She had decided to go skydiving for her 35th birthday.  Of course, she had not told anyone before she went, so this came as a surprise and a shock to my entire family.  This especially caused a bit of an uproar with my Grandfather who screamed, “You have two beautiful children, what the hell is wrong with you!”  I, on the other hand, thought this was the coolest thing I had ever seen.  I decided then and there that this was something I would do in my lifetime.  I begged and pleaded with my Aunt Marie throughout the years to take me skydiving, but she feared the wrath of my Grandfather, and there was no way she was going to be able to take her niece without getting hell from the rest of the family, including my parents.  

Fast forward to about one month ago.  My husband planned an entire surprise weekend to celebrate our upcoming one year wedding anniversary, but he was not able to contain his excitement any longer.  He spilled the beans that the surprise was that we were going SKYDIVING in Long Island!  So I must have been totally excited right?  WRONG!!!  I completely hyperventilated, couldn’t breathe, my heart was beating a mile a minute, I started crying…the works.  I suppose that although I had always wanted to jump out of an airplane, the reality set in that I WAS GOING TO JUMP OUT OF AN AIRPLANE.  This was actually going to happen, and this was no longer a wish list item…this was for real.  I honestly expected Zack to plan a nice, quiet, romantic weekend in Upstate NY or something similar.  I expected to relax, maybe go hiking or camping, spend time in the outdoors and get some peace and quiet and alone time together.  And then he tells me we are going skydiving!  I think I was just completely and utterly shocked, and could not believe this was actually going to happen.  It also wasn’t happening for another three weeks, so I had to freak out about it until then.

Of course I also chose not to tell my parents, or anyone really, beforehand.  I think I maybe told a total of two people before going.  That decision was not only because I knew my mother and sister would completely freak out, but also because I didn’t want any naysayers whatsoever telling me anything that might freak ME out.  I was determined to go through with this, and I tried to clear my mind of any worry until it got closer.  

On the day of the big jump, I was actually fairly calm leading up to the event.  Zack and I had a nice breakfast together at the place we were staying in Long Island to celebrate our one year, and we went for a nice, long walk on the beach prior.  As we started getting closer to the airport, I began to get a little bit nervous.  We checked in, watched a safety/instruction video, and signed our life away with about 27 signatures and initials.  We then waited for about 45 minutes in anticipation and watched other jumpers until we were called to suit up.  I was surprised that we didn’t really have to wear much gear other than the harness and a pair of glasses to protect our eyes from all the wind.  

My nerves were kicking in a lot more at this point when we loaded into the tiny plane and took off into the air.  I have to say, this was probably the scariest part of the whole experience.  When we got high enough, the plane slowed waaay down, and it was time to take the plunge.  Zack jumped first as I yelled, “I love you!” and then it was my turn.  The photos and video that we paid for are completely embarrassing, but so real!  I went into meditation mode where I closed my eyes, laid my head back on my instructor’s chest, and started taking deep breaths.  At this point, I realized that I was helpless.  The only thing I could do was trust that my instructor knew what he was doing and that the parachute would open.  Freaking out would do nothing to help me at this point.  That being said, looking back at the footage, I look like I am in labor, or possessed, or lifeless.  It’s pretty hilarious, and completely 100% embarrassing.  My videographer tapped me on my head to let me know “it’s going to be okay” and at that point I opened my eyes and let out a big smile as we rolled out of the plane.  I didn’t believe anyone when they told me I wouldn’t feel that roller coaster drop feeling in my stomach.  But everyone was right.  I maybe felt a slight drop for half a second as we plunged head first out of the plane, and then it was all WIND.  Maybe it was all in my head, but it felt a little tough to breathe.  I tried to scream, but so much air was coming in that nothing could come out!  My videographer grabbed my hands and we spun around in circles which was pretty cool, and he coached me to make funny faces for the camera.  We free fell for about a minute, and I really never got the notion that I was falling.  It could have been because there was no perspective (we weren’t passing anything on the way down), or that the ground was so far away, it never looked like it got any closer.  It just felt like I was in a static wind tunnel.  It was a feeling like no other.  After a minute, my instructor pulled the parachute and we went shooting up.  We floated around for a bit and he turned some fun circles while we took in the gorgeous views around us.  And then it was landing time!  We both landed perfectly, and snapped a few victory photos once we were done.  It all happened so fast.  While we were waiting to receive my video, we couldn’t believe that it was over, and we had just jumped out of an airplane!  It honestly felt like it wasn’t real life, and that we didn’t jump yet.  It was a very surreal feeling that is hard to explain.  

Overall, it was a very crazy, fun experience, and I am so lucky that I have such an awesome, adventurous husband who planned this for me.  As much as I wanted to check this item off my list, I probably would have procrastinated so long that I would have scared myself out of doing it in the long run.  It was nice to have him go ahead and plan it, so that way I couldn’t back out!  The experience was ridiculously thrilling yet surprisingly not as scary as I had anticipated.  I’m not going to run out to skydive again next weekend, but if a big milestone came up again (Dad’s 60th Birthday perhaps?), I wouldn’t take the option off the table!   Hope you enjoy the photos.  If any of you are interested in checking this item off your list, I jumped at Skydive Long Island in Calverton.  My instructor was Rich Winstock, and he has done over 10,000 jumps in his career.  You can find more information here: 

******UPDATE******  Thanks to my friend Justin, I was able to convert the DVD of me skydiving to an upload-able format for you all to enjoy.  Try not to laugh too hard at my plunge out of the plane, but I know it’s going to be a challenge:

#98 Cut My Hair Super Short

March 10, 2012

I am the type of person who is easily bored with my hairstyle.  I have had many different styles over the years including long, short, angles, layers, bob, bangs, side bangs, etc.  I have also had the unfortunate pleasure of experimenting with dyes in my college years, testing out blonde, auburn, and black hues.  Post college, my locks have thankfully remained their au natural brunette, but because the color no longer changes (I’m going to kick myself for saying this when I start going grey), I am constantly on the prowl for a new way to change my mane. 

One style I have not had the courage to rock until this past Saturday is the “super short” look.  Not quite going for pixie, but pretty much gone.  I had fantasized about it for years, wondering what it would look like.  Do I have the right face shape?  Will I look like a 12 year old boy?  Will people think I’m a lesbian?  Will it grow out into a horrible mullet?  A million thoughts ran through my head…

So why do it, you ask?  Well, if I don’t do it, I’ll never know right?  So I went for it.  Before anyone could call it a “mom-chop” and before I’m an old lady, I decided I had to see once and for all what this would be like.

Over a foot of hair chopped off and donated to Locks of Love later, I am now the “short-haired girl.”  Because of my side swooping bangs, I still feel like I have hair on my head, but a glance in the mirror still catches me off guard every time!  I’m not quite used to it yet, but I’m excited to play with it and see what different short haired styles I can rock!  Thank you to my stylist Nikki for all your help in accomplishing this bucket list item! 🙂





Video: The Big Chop

*Side note: In the video, I call this #99, but it’s really #98…apparently, I can’t keep my numbers straight….

#10 Travel to Costa Rica

December 28, 2011-January 8, 2012

*While traveling to Costa Rica, I kept a daily journal to remember my adventures.  Rather than a summarization of the entire trip, I have decided to post the whole thing here.  Although, it’s lengthy, I figured it would be helpful for those who desire to travel to this country in the future.  I have highlighted six different cities that my husband and I traveled to in 12 days!  Hope you enjoy hearing about my latest adventure!

Day 1: December 28, 2011 

All packed up for my 1st ever backpacking trip & another bucket list item to tick off!  Thanks to my friend, Evan, I have a bag that is bigger than me.  I’m not quite sure how I will find anything without unpacking the entire bag, because I stuffed it to the brim.  I’m surprised I am able to carry it; thank God it’s a great backpack!  Our flight was smooth, and we stopped in Panama on the way which looked gorgeous from the air with lush greenery.  I will have to go back there someday!  We flew Copa airlines, which I have to note–it rocks.  Two flights with two meals–and one flight was only an hour!  There was also no charge for checked luggage which is impossible to find these days.

Upon arrival in San Jose, we checked into Mi Casa Hostel, which was right near a beautiful park and a brand new professional soccer stadium.  Having never been to a hostel, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but I assume this place was pretty standard in terms of hostels.  Nothing special, but not bad either.  Just your average hostel.  It was super quiet, very clean, and had a friendly staff.  We freshened up and then took a taxi to the area of California to grab dinner and drinks.  We ate at Rayuela, which was a divey rock bar near a cool park with the best Christmas decor!  Speaking of–the entire city of San Jose was strung with amazing Christmas lights.  We bar hopped to La Esquina and Bar Morazan (by Morazan Park).  The latter bar played throwbacks ‘NSync & the Macarena–what’s not to love?  It was a slow night for nightlife, but it was Wednesday and we found out later that the whole country pretty much had off for the holidays, so everyone was traveling to the beaches.  After some drinks, we headed back to our hostel to get some rest for tomorrow’s travels. 

Day 2: December 29, 2011 

Woke up around 8:30 and took a hot shower.  At the time, I thought this was a luxury in Costa Rica since Zack didn’t get many warm showers the last time he traveled here, but I later found out that in terms of third world countries, Costa Rica is top of the line.  We packed up and headed to the bus station for our journey to Montezuma.  In order to get there, you take a bus to Puntarenas, a ferry across the gulf, and then another bus ride before getting to the final destination.  We grabbed some juevos fritos con arroz (fried eggs with rice) for breakfast, and headed on our way!

It was a longggg ride to Montezuma.  Upon arrival at the ferry, a tico (local Costa Rican) jumped at the opportunity to rake in tips from unknowning tourists, and bustled us to a different ferry that would put us in Paquera (and closer to Montezuma.)  Aside from the fact that this guy was really creepy, pushy, and sweaty, he did actually point us in the right direction.  We made it to the ferry which was a nice calm ride, and followed that up with a bumpy but beautiful bus ride to Montezuma.

We had no place to stay upon arrival, because we waited until the last minute to book anything.  Being sick before Christmas, the holidays sprung up rather quickly, and before we knew it, Costa Rica was a day away and no plans had been made!  By the time we tried to make a reservation, most everywhere was booked, because New Year’s Eve was only a few days away.  We followed some local advice to walk up a hill and ask around for a woman.  We found her, but she was booked, and pointed us to a shit hole called Pension Jenny.  They had a private room, which we took for fear of not finding anything else (although I would have almost rather slept on the beach!) 

Regardless of a sub par sleeping situation that night, we very much enjoyed Montezuma!  It is a small, hippy, beach town with a lot of friendly locals.  We ate some good food, danced at Chico’s, the local bar (there is only one), and watched an awesome fire dancing show in the street.  We also found a new place to stay for the 2nd night up the hill called BosqueZuma.  THANK GOD!  A local tico named Roger helped us make the reservation, and he also booked us a shuttle to Playas del Coco, which was our next destination.  After a very uncomfortable sleep, we were looking forward to day 3, and getting out of Pension Jenny!

Day 3: December 30, 2011

We rushed out of Pension Jenny as fast as we could and made our way to The Bakery for breakfast.  It was really delicious, and we saw tons of Capuchin moneys playing in the trees which was so cool!  We checked into BosqueZuma which might as well been the Four Seasons compared to what we had just left behind!  Heaven on Earth.  We dropped our things off, and headed right back down to the beach!  We tried to hike to the waterfalls, but quickly realized that we did not have the right shoes or apparel for this kind of hike, so we snapped a few photos, and turned back.  We discovered a cool beach to spend the day at with an awesome freshwater pool!  It was such a gorgeous day, and I was happy to be basking in the sunshine.  We grabbed a lunch of Casados, which is a typical Costa Rican meal of rice, beans, some type of meat, salad, and plantains.  Yum!  We then headed up to our pool at BosqueZuma to relax.

Because this place was a little farther away, we had some trouble getting a taxi back to town (and the walk was a little too far in the dark, and way to steep to walk back).  Luckily, a family from Montreal had just arrived to our hotel and wanted to check out the town.  They offered us a ride, and we were able to enjoy a delicious seafood dinner at Montezuma Restaurant where we were served by Carlos, a local we met at the swimming hole earlier that day!  We spent the rest of the night with more drinking, dancing, and fire dancer watching in the street and on the beach.  I’m definitely going to miss Montezuma!

Day 4: December 31, 2011

The staff at BosqueZuma  (Juan Pablo y familia) was really awesome, and we got a free breakfast before our shuttle arrived to take us to Playas del Coco.  We were headed here to meet Brandon, an old friend from high school, who now lives in Costa Rica.  The shuttle was a nice, comfortable, air conditioned ride, and we met lots of travelers from the States & Canada.

When we arrived in Coco, I knew right away that this was going to be a party town!  It reminded me of the Costa Rican version of Dewey Beach, DE.  The streets are lined with huge outdoor bars, restaurants, and shops.  Brandon met us in town, and we went back to his place in Ocotal to enjoy some beach time before getting ready to celebrate the new year. 

Coco was NUTS for New Year’s!  We met up with Brandon’s friends, other ex-Pats who were all really nice, and we then bar hopped to Beach Bums & Zi Lounge which were both a blast.  There are no open container laws in Costa Rica, so people would park their cars in the street, pull out a cooler, and party the night away.  When the clock struck midnight, colorful fireworks lit up the sky from every direction!  The bars had a bunch of shells to set off, but people were also lighting roman candles from straight out of their hands!  It was insane!  The streets were crazy packed with people, and it was an awesome place to ring in the New Year! 

Feliz Año!

Day 5:  January 1, 2012

Today was a lazy day.  New Year’s Eve was so intense that we all needed to catch up on some much needed sleep.  We eventually made it into town to grab lunch at Coconuts with Brandon and his friends.  Brandon stayed to watch the Ravens game, and Zack and I went back to chill on the beach for the rest of the day.  That night, Zack cooked up a delicious dinner of stewed tomato chicken with rice and beans along with some fresh watermelon and papaya.  Bedtime came early for all of us as the next day we would be on the road again.  

Day 6: January 2, 2012  

We got a slow start out of Coco the next morning, but Brandon was extremely helpful in renting us a car for the next three days.  In addition, I want to offer many thanks to Brandon for all the local info he provided and for hosting us at his amazing condo on the beach during our stay.  We really appreciate the hospitality, and it was so much fun catching up after so many years!  

We drove to La Fortuna which was about 3 hours away, but it was a nice drive through the mountains and the jungle.  We stopped at a coffee house called Cafe Macadamia for some amazing coffee and sandwiches along the way.  It was located right on Lake Arenal, which had a beautiful view.  Once we arrived in La Fortuna, we checked into Arenal Backpackers which was a super cool place with lots of travelers.  Our room was actually a glorified tent/cabana with a king sized bed.  Really awesome!  

It was starting to get dark by the time we got to La Fortuna, so we decided to check out some hot springs–another bucket list item!  (Note: If you read my last post, this paragraph is repetitive!)  There were many options and price points, so we went with a reasonably priced one called Baldi.  It was seriously the Disney World of hot springs!  Although it didn’t really look that natural, it was pretty awesome.  They have 25 pools (more like hot tubs) with gorgeous stones, lush tropical plants, and waterfalls all around.  We hopped from spring to spring and had a blast.  I would definitely recommend that people visit the hot springs at night, because it’s cooler outside and the hot springs feel that much more amazing.  The pools ranged in temperature, and one was ridiculously hot!  I found Baldi to be very romantic.  Some of the pools had waterfalls.  Some had beds to lounge on, and some had cool pools to refresh.  One pool had three awesome water slides that were a ton of fun.  After we were completely relaxed and had our fill of the hot springs, we went to grab a bite to eat–casados for me and pizza for Zack–at Lava Lounge.  Yum!  

When trying to sleep that night, I realized the idea of the tent was much more awesome than the reality.  Don’t get me wrong, it was completely comfortable, but the hostel is located right across the street from a bar that was pumping music late into the night.  If we had wanted to go out, we wouldn’t have cared, but we tried to get some sleep, and the music was not helping.  We then got a torrential downpour during the night–I’m talking crazy rainstorms!  Now all the tents were under a big covering, so we did not get wet or anything, but there was really loud pounding down on the tin roof.  I hoped it would be sunny tomorrow.


Day 7: January 3, 2012

We quickly learned that the weather in La Fortuna was not going to cooperate.  It’s very similar to Kauai weather in which it pours down rain, stops, then repeats the cycle over and over again.  We decided to suck it up and enjoy our time there rain or shine!  We found a laundromat to dry our soaked clothing (that we left on the clothing line to inevitably get soaked from the rainstorm), and then explored the town which had a lot of shops and restaurants as well as a nice little park.  We booked an ATV tour which was a ton of fun!  I was a little nervous at first, but it was pretty easy to get the hang of it.  We drove through different back roads in town to get to a view of a cool waterfall, and we then drove to a spot for some local cuisine.  Lastly, we drove through the mountains and crossed a river and back.  It was such a blast!  Our group consisted of Zack and I, two Costa Ricans, and four kids from Galludat University who were hearing impaired.  This made for interesting lunch conversation!  English, Spanish, and American Sign Language all at one table.  One of the guys was a really good lip reader, so that was helpful.  I’m still amazed at how well he could speak and communicate without being able to hear.  Also, one of the Costa Ricans, Jonathan, spoke terrific English, and we all ended up having a great time together.  

After the ATV tour, it was time to make our way to Monteverde.  On our way out of town, we FINALLY saw the outline of the Arenal Volcano.  It had been covered in fog and clouds because of all the rain before.  I wasn’t thrilled about traveling at night, but figured we wanted to get a move on instead of leaving the next morning.  Little did we know how crazy this drive would be!  The first half wasn’t terrible–just really dark–but the last half was horrible.  We spent over 2 hours driving ridiculously slow over unpaved mountainous.  Tons of potholes covered the road, and it was dark outside with not much civilization.  We knew we were going the right way, because there were plenty of signs pointing us in the right direction, but I was terrified we were going to pop a tire in the middle of nowhere.  

After a long, treacherous, stressful journey, we finally made it to Monteverde.  We were greeted with insane winds and cold!  Our hostel, Sloth Backpackers, was located in a teeny town called Santa Elena, right outside Monteverde.  We had trouble finding it at first, but the owner Yorle guided us into our “parking” spot which was more or less pulling as far off the side of the road as we could before smashing into the hostel.  Yorle was adorable, and the hostel was very quirky and unique.  It was small, homey, and it felt very welcoming.  It also reminded me of a good friend’s mom, because the place had signs EVERYWHERE!  There were four signs alone just in our bedroom, about four in the bathroom, ten in the kitchen, etc.  Too funny!  The hostel is also co-owned by Yorle’s sister, Gaby who is an AMAZING cook!  Both of the girls were very friendly and helpful with letting us know the fun things to do in the area.  

Day 8: January 4, 2012

We woke up to a delicious breakfast prepared by Gaby of banana pancakes with fruit that was to die for.  We then set off to the Monteverde Cloud Forest for a hike.  The weather was not great, and it rained almost the entire time (even when the sun was out), but then again–what is a rain forest without the rain?  We saw a couple different birds on our hike, but not as many animals as I had hoped.  We hiked up to the Continental Divide where you are supposed to be able to see the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, but it was too cloudy, and all we saw were clouds. 😦  We then hiked to a sweet waterfall.  The trails were very well taken care of, and we enjoyed them a lot.  

After our rainy hike, we stopped at the Monteverde Cheese Factory to grab some fresh local cheese and some ice cream.  Nom nom nom.  We then rested for a bit before making our way up the muddy hill to a Peruvian restaurant for dinner.  Unfortunately, it didn’t have anything good to offer except for the cinnamon plantain dessert.  After eating, we headed back to bed, because we had an early call time the next morning.  

Day 9:  January 5, 2012

We awoke before sunrise today for an animal tour with Freddy, the most amazing bird watcher I’ve ever seen.  Okay, so maybe he is the only bird watcher I’ve ever seen in action, but I’m telling you this guy is good!  Much to my delight, the sun was surprisingly shining as we jumped in Freddy’s Jeep at 6:30am along with two other people in our group.  We were not even in the car two minutes and Freddy was already on the prowl.  He stops the jeep on the side of the road and says, “There is a sloth.”  So we jumped back out to discover a huge hair ball sleeping up in a tree.  

The rest of the tour was mostly bird watching, and we must have seen over 30-40 different species that morning including a gorgeous parrot, an owl, a yellow flytrapper, a king bird, an emerald toucanette, a melodious black bird, and my favorite, the blue crowned mot mot.  We hiked around different areas of farmland and woodland viewing all the birds, seeing water falls, and sucking on wild coffee beans.  I’m really glad we decided to stick around for this tour, and it totally changed my previous opinion of rainy Monteverde.  

For lunch, we stopped at a little joint called La Soda Amistad which was owned by the mother of Gaby and Yorle.  She was also an amazing cook, and I again enjoyed yummy casado.  Shortly after lunch, we got back on the road for our next journey to Manuel Antonio.  I admit, I was dreading the drive on those horrid non-paved mountainous roads with no guard rails.  However, much to my surprise and delight, the roads (although unpaved) were not nearly in as bad shape as they were upon entering Monteverde.  I was not fearful of popping any tires this go round, and I could really take in the stunning beauty that surrounded us.  

The majority of the drive was enjoyable, although we did have one scare that had nothing to do with the terrain.  While at a stoplight with the windows down, Zack all the sudden yells “ROLL UP THE WINDOWS!  ROLL UP THE WINDOWS!”  Confused, and thinking someone is about to attack us or something, I start rolling them up, when I notice a HUGE swarm of bees on a street sign next to us.  They started to swarm around our cars and other cars nearby.  THANK GOD only one straggler was able to get inside the car, and it didn’t do any harm, but if we had waited five more seconds before rolling up those windows, we would have been toast!  

After the scare, we continued on our way down the coast driving quickly through Jaco to take a peek at the town known for beaches, partying, and hookers.  We didn’t stop; we just took a quick peek before continuing on to Quepos where we were to drop off the car.  On the short cab ride from Quepos to Manuel Antonio, I noticed the gorgeous hills filled with hotels, hostels, and restaurants.  We headed into the back part of town in Manuel Antonio to find our hostel, National Park Backpackers.  It was about a five minute walk to the beach, had delicious food, and a fun pool area with lots of people hanging out and listening to good music.  

On our first night in Manuel Antonio, we walked around to some shops and went to dinner at Las Gamelas (twins) for some great Mexican food.  We then headed to El Avion (Airplane) which is literally an airplane that they have turned into a bar.  They also expanded it into a restaurant under the wings and the surrounding area.  This airplane was actually part of one of the biggest scandals in the mid 1980’s known as the Iran-Contra Affair which took place during the Reagan administration.  To read the full history of El Avion, you can do so here:  The venue is really cool with an old school hip-hop DJ/bartender, and you are able to take photos in the cockpit of the plane.  After a few drinks and some dancing, we headed back to get some rest.

Day 10: January 6, 2012

We woke up to a GORGEOUS day in Manuel Antonio.  We had panqueques for breakfast, and then called up Jonathan (the Costa Rican we met in La Fortuna–who actually lives in this town).  We met up with him at the hotel where he works which was made up of really cute bungalows.  We made some plans for later, and Zack & I headed to Manuel Antonio National Park where we saw lots of animals including a sloth, deer, raccoon, crazy looking spider, colorful weird bugs, bright colored birds, a blue butterfly, and tons of Capuchin monkeys!  Zack fed berries to the monkeys, and one stole a bag of Cheetos from a beacher!  They were all over the trees near the beach, and it was a ton of fun to watch.  The water here was so clear and beautiful that I could see my toes at the bottom.  We relaxed and were so happy to be back in the sunshine again.  

We met up with Jonathan and his friend later for some ocean kayaking on the Pacific.  There are gorgeous giant rocks/mountains that jut out of the water on the main beach in this town, so we decided that we were going to kayak out to the biggest one.  It didn’t look too far away from the shore, but wow were my arms tired!  We decided to venture beyond and around the giant rock and we paddled for a while before heading back to the beach.  

Completely drenched, we decided it was time to grab some drinks, so we went to Las Gamelas followed by Hostel Linda.  It was awesome gallivanting around town with a local who knew all the great spots to go and who knew all the bartenders.  We lost some cash in the ocean, and the restaurant employees were nice enough to trust that we would come back the following day to pay them for our drinks (which we did).  While at Hostel Linda, we also met some other travelers named Arthur and Sonja who were on an incredible journey–biking from Mexico City to Argentina!!!  O.M.G. that is over 4,000 kilometers.  Amazing.  They were surviving on $10 per day, carrying all their things on their bikes, sleeping in a tent, etc.  They have started a blog about their experience, so if you are interested in reading more about it, you can do so here:  We were then supposed to shower up and regroup for dinner after drinks, but Zack was dead tired, and I wasn’t too far behind him, so off to bed we went.

Day 11:  January 7, 2012

Since the pancakes were so good yesterday morning, we decided to have them yet again!  Our morning was then spent trying to figure out how to get a bus ticket to San Jose.  We rode the city bus to Quepos to buy tickets to secure a 5:00pm bus and came back to Manuel Antonio to enjoy one more day on the beach.  It was another gorgeous, sunny day which made me extremely happy being it was our last full day in Costa Rica.  We paid back all the bartenders from the night before, had lunch at Hostel Linda, and said goodbye to Jonathan before boarding our bus to San Jose.  The ride was smooth, and I made a huge dent in reading “The Help” along the way. 

Our last night was spent at Hostel Pangea (which is owned by the same company as Arenal Backpackers–remember the tents?)  The place was very nice with a great restaurant and bar, but I was so exhausted from the sun and travels that I crashed almost immediately after arriving. 

Day 12: January 8, 2012

Departure Day.  While I’m sad to leave Costa Rica and all it has to offer, I have to admit, I am excited to get a good night’s sleep in my own bed tonight.  We packed up our stuff, ate a yummy breakfast on the hostel rooftop, and set off on our shuttle to the airport.  After saying “Adios” (or more like “Hasta luego”) to Costa Rica, we boarded our flight back to the Big Apple.

Costa Rica was a wonderful adventure–a beautiful country in terms of landscape, people, food, and culture.  I experienced a number of 1sts including my 1st backpacking trip (thanks again Evan!), 1st time staying in a hostel, 1st time in a hot spring (check for the bucket list!), 1st time on an ATV, and 1st time ocean kayaking.  It was a trip to remember, and of course I took plenty of photos to make sure that I do.  Here are some of my favorites below.


Feliz Navidad in San Jose

Beach in Montezuma


Fire Dancing in Montezuma

Playas del Coco

Happy New Year!

Tent in La Fortuna

Waterfall Near Arenal

ATV Tour Over the River

Monteverde Cloud Forest

Double Rainbow!

"There is a sloth."

Manuel Antonio

El Avion

Capuchin Monkey

Beach in Manuel Antonio National Park

#49 Sit in a Hot Spring

January 2, 2012

I’m not sure when I decided that I wanted to sit in a hot spring, but I think it was a few years ago while reading a friend’s travel blog.  It looked so amazing, and I think it’s really cool that these exist in nature.  On my recent trip to Costa Rica (that blog post is coming soon!), I made it a mission of mine to make sure I found some hot springs.  The opportunity arose when visiting the Arenal Volcano area in the city of La Fortuna.  There were several options of hot springs available in different price ranges, so my husband and I decided to check out a middle priced one called Baldi.  It was seriously the Disney World of hot springs!  Although it didn’t really look as natural as I would have liked, it was still pretty awesome.  It’s located at the foot of the Arenal Volcano and has 25 mineral water pools (more like hot tubs) with gorgeous stones, lush tropical plants, and exuberant waterfalls all around.  We hopped around from spring to spring and had a blast.  I would definitely recommend that people visit the hot springs at night, because it’s cooler outside and the hot springs feel that much more amazing!  The pools ranged between 12 different temperatures, and one was ridiculously hot!  I could only put my foot in for a few seconds, before I couldn’t take it anymore.  Along with waterfalls, some of the pools also had in-water beds to lounge on, cool pools to refresh, and one pool had three awesome water slides that were a blast!  This made for an overall relaxing night after a long drive we had from Playas del Coco earlier that day.  Unfortunately, I was unable to take pictures of Baldi, as I had nowhere to store my non-waterproof camera while hopping from pool to pool.  You will have to settle with these images I found online.

Wet Bar--one of the hottest pools!

The Awesome Slides!

Great for Loungin'

Pure Bliss

#99 Ride the Tallest Roller Coaster in the World

July 31, 2011

Ever since I can remember, I have been a huge fan of roller coasters.  Actually, I don’t discriminate.  I love all rides, and mostly rides that turn my stomach into knots.  I spent numerous summers visiting Wild World (which was about 5 minutes from where I grew up in Maryland, changed to Adventure World and eventually Six Flags) and Hershey Park in Hershey, Pennsylvania.  As much as I loved these amusement park trips, there was one drawback–the physical challenge of my short stature.  My least favorite memory of this nature took place at good ole Wild World.  I was a little daredevil as a child, and wanted to join my mother and neighbors, Terry and Katie, on the Pirate Ship ride which swings a huge boat back and forth like a pendulum.  Ride lovers out there will know exactly what I am talking about.  Much to my dismay, I did not make the height requirements and had to sit on the side to watch the rest of them have a wildly fun time.  As soon as I was able to just barely graze the height line, I was riding every single ride and roller coaster I could!  I loved the thrill, the way your stomach goes crazy, and how even though at time I was scared to death during the ride, I was always smiling and happy I rode it when it was over.

Being the thrill seeker that I am, it was only natural for me to want to ride the tallest roller coaster in the world.  I happened to do that this past summer!  The best part is that I had no idea I did it until it was already over.  I mean, obviously I knew I was riding a roller coaster; I just didn’t realize it was THE roller coaster I had been waiting to ride!  My husband, Zack, and I are both adventure seekers, and we had not visited an amusement park in a few years, so we decided to make the trek out to Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey.  We were happy to find that New Jersey Transit provides bus tickets that come in packages with the park tickets.  Unfortunately, we found out the the park charges you for an insane amount of things once they have your trapped inside their walls, but that is beside the point.

We got to Six Flags bright and early before the gates open, and once we were in, we decided to go to the furthest rides away from the entrance to avoid crowds and wait in shorter lines.  We really lucked out the entire day, because there were very few lines, and we were able to maximize our riding experiences.

You notice Kingda Ka (the tallest roller coaster in the world) right away when approaching the park because of its height, but at the time I did not know it held the current world record.  I didn’t find out until we were leaving the park on the shuttle ride.  Zack and I followed up this news by checking every internet source we could to prove it was true. 

We barely had to wait in line for the ride, strapped ourselves in, did a visual scan (yes Six Flags has their employees do visual scans before each and every ride complete with the hand above the eyebrows), and waited for the blast off that was about to occur.  The anticipation was insane as we waited for the inevitable acceleration.  When it finally blasted off, it went straight ahead from 0 to 128 miles per hour in 1.4 seconds.  Insanity!  My stomach was definitely going crazy.  If you would have seen my face on the camera, you would have laughed at how scared shitless I looked.  After the blast off, you go straight up into the air with a couple twists, and then right back straight down looking like you are about to spiral to your death.  And then the ride is over.

I very much enjoyed this ride, but I have to say, my favorite at the park was called El Toro which consisted of a number of ridiculous hill drops at high speeds, and it was a wooden coaster to boot.  That being said, I’m still so excited to say that I rode the tallest roller coaster in the world–that is until the next tallest pops up.  😉 

Here is a link to the best video I could find that captures the experience!

#54 Go for a Romantic Horseback Ride on a Trail

June 1, 2011

I’m going to pick up from my last post about the cowboy culture of Hawaii with my next adventure!  Also taking place in Kauai, this adventure was completed on the South Shore of the island in a town called Poipu.  We really wanted to go for a horseback ride on our trip, and our local rodeo friend recommended that we head down to CJM Stables so that is exactly what we did.  Aside from beef production, another source of income for these ranches and stables are tourists coming through for horseback rides and tours.  Sorry again for being repetitive to those who took the time to read my entire Hawaii post, but I want to elaborate for those who only read the condensed version.  Before completing this bucket list item, I had only been on a horse twice in my life–once was on my 7th birthday when my parents threw my sister and I a carnival birthday party (still my favorite birthday party to date.)  They hired the neighbor who had a stable to come up with one of her horses for “pony rides” for all the kids.  We walked around the front yard a couple times with someone holding the reins from the front leading the horse around, and we called it a day.  The second time, I was about 10, and once again I didn’t have full control of my horse, as we were at the stable of a family friend, and she led the horse around the ring a couple times with me on it. 

Upon our arrival at CJM Stables, I was really excited as this would be my first time on a horse by myself without help controlling it (which also made me a little nervous!).  I was also really looking forward to a romantic experience of riding a horse down a trail with my new husband.  The best part was that the ride took place on both the beach and the mountain side; I really don’t think you can get any better than that!  My horse’s name was Hoppa, and while she listened to my commands fairly well, she was definitely a lazy one!  I think it was a good match for me though, because as a beginner, I may have freaked out with a rambunctious horse.  You know what happens when a horse feels your fear?  That’s right–they get scared, and could consequently buck you off.  Not my idea of romantic.  So Zack, the fearless one, got the spunkier horse named Dude who just ate grass the whole time on the trail (you weren’t supposed to let them eat the grass by the way–I hope this isn’t how Zack plans to discipline our future children.)  The ride was absolutely beautiful.  It was so amazing to be riding a horse right on the beach and then up through the mountainside.  We got caught in a couple rain showers, but even that couldn’t ruin the amazing scenery and experience we were having.  I picked up riding surprisingly quickly, and we had such a great time.  Our guide, Chaz, was a lot of fun, and we found out that he and his partner actually won the roping competition at the Waipa Rodeo from my previous post!  We took some photos which you will see below and enjoyed some delicious POG (Passion Fruit, Orange, Guava drink) on the trail.  At the end of the ride, I was sad that it was over and I had to say goodbye to my horse, but my legs and bum were certainly pleased that we were finished!  This is the last Hawaiian adventure I’ve completed on my bucket list to date, and I’m so grateful we were able to tick off SO many fun things while we were here!  Hawaii, especially Kauai, is definitely a must in terms of travel, so if you haven’t been there yet, make sure to plan a trip in the future!

CJM Stables

Me and Hoppa

#40 Go to a Rodeo

May 29, 2011

During my senior year of high school, my basketball team took a trip down to Disney World for a tournament.  There was a boys wrestling tournament and a boys basketball tournament also going on there at the same time we were there, and we all ended up staying at the All-Star Sports Resort during our stay.  Being the silly high school girls we were, of course we wanted to meet all the boys on our off time from the court.  One particular person I remember meeting on this trip was a boy from Texas.  I can’t remember his name, but my friends and I all thought he was a very sweet guy who portrayed the epitome of southern hospitality.  I had never been to Texas, but he told me that if I ever went I would HAVE to see a rodeo while I was there.  Well, I still haven’t made it to Texas, but I did get to see my first rodeo!  While on our honeymoon in Hawaii, Zack and I were able to check off yet another one of my bucket list items!  I know you are probably thinking “A rodeo?  In Hawaii?”  which is exactly what I thought at first too.  We met a local Hawaiian at a bar called Tahiti Nui the night before.  He was from the South Shore of Kauai, but he was up on the North Shore for the Waipa Rodeo.  At the time, we weren’t really sure if he was being serious, or if he was just “messing with the tourists,” but we decided to check it out since it wasn’t too far from where we were staying.  Turns out, he WAS being serious and you could smell the horses and cattle upon pulling into the Waipa Ranch.  We later found out that cowboy and ranch culture is a big part of the Hawaiian life.  More than a century ago, a man by the name of John Palmer Parker contracted Mexicans (called Paniolo by the Hawaiians) to come to Hawaii and teach the locals how to rope and ride a generation before their American counterparts in the “Wild West.”  The beef business boomed and the first ranch was born.  Since then, many other ranches have been born, and it still remains a part of culture today.  You have your surfers, and then you have your cowboys.  As strange as that sounds, it somehow works!  Upon our arrival, it was clear that we were among a crowd of locals who had gathered their families around to enjoy an entire day of rodeo.  Being that it was a small town rodeo, there were no huge grandstands; just one side of small bleachers, a ton of trucks pulled up, and lots of tailgating chairs to host the audience.  There was a grill to serve up some Kalua pig sandwiches and burgers and lots of kids running around.   To be honest, I really wanted to see some bull riding, but it was a little too small town for those big bulls.  However, there was lots of calf roping and mugging which was really cool to watch since neither of us had seen that before.  We chose our favorite cowboys (and one kickass cowgirl!) and cheered them on as they took off chasing the calves.  I have to admit I did feel bad for the little calves.  Although they weren’t hurt, they didn’t look like they were having too much fun.  Overall, it was a good day and a good learning experience to see a different part of the Hawaiian culture.  It also segues into my next completed adventure, so stay tuned!