Friday, July 31, 2009

Belize


Stop #1.
View of the beach on Ambergris Caye.


This was our hotel.

I expected Belize to look like this.

But it mostly looked like this....

And this....

And this.
(2 points to you if you spot why I really took this picture)

The furthest South I've been is Tijuana.
For some reason, I didn't think Belize would be so much more Tijuana and so much less Kauai.

Silly me.

But it was still warm & sunny.

Excellent travelers.

Her favorite place.

Note the sea grass washed up on shore.

The beach was not really a "play in the water" type of beach.

To preserve the ecology of the reef, the sea grass growing up from the sea floor is left intact. Stingrays live in the sea grass, so we tried to discourage her from exploring beyond the minimal open areas under the waves.

Big J spent much of his time here. He enjoyed himself tremendously.
We enjoyed not having to tote the stroller.

Big Daddy got to dive the reef (2nd longest barrier reef in the world).
I snorkeled Shark Alley & saw Nurse Sharks & 4 foot Stingrays.

Stop #2.
The Jungle.
7 miles outside San Ignacio, 4 miles from the Guatemalan border.
This is the River Camp portion of the resort.
Yep. That's where we slept.
No A/C.
No Fan.
Enormous Bugs - no extra charge.

It was sort of what I imagine summer camp would be like.
But with 90 degree heat and 93% humidity.

This is where we ate breakfast and dinner (included in the price of our campout).
The Belizean food was excellent.

This is the single track mud trail we hiked to go to and from the main resort.
There was a 70 degree drop down to the river below (a good 200 yards below).
We held hands very tightly.
Our little adventurer, Lane, was eager to take the lead (We were informed that Lane is her "explorer name").

This was the saltwater pool at the main resort.
It was delightful.

These little friends let us know they were around each night between 1 and 4am.
Howler Monkeys don't really howl. It's more of a low & rather terrifying growl.

A little disconcerting when the only light is the weak glow of the kerosene lamp left outside to illuminate the way to the outhouse.


We met many iguanas.



The resort raises Blue Morpho Butterflies.




We had an up-close tour & learned all about them.

We explored the ruins at Xunatunich.

They've recently been dated to 1200BC.



Partial frieze seen on the North and South sides of the main temple structure.
This is a replica, with the original directly behind it.
The day we visited, a tropical storm hit.
Our guide said he's never done the tour in that kind of rain before.



A moment of relief from the rain. We were soaked to the skin in minutes.

To get to the ruins, we took a hand-cranked ferry across the Macal River.

It rose 6 inches in an hour and a half. Later that day the river rose & covered one of the two bridges in San Ignacio (about 5 feet above the river).

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Haps

Yes, we're back from our trip & I will update about that when I have the energy. That will not be tonight.

In the 2 days we've been back, we managed to accomplish 2 major items on the To Do list.

1. We are now Michigan residents. This is a HUGE deal. As long as Big Daddy has been driving, he has held an Oregon license. No longer! We are legal, official, and blessed by the Secretary of State with blue and white license plates.

2. We also registered Big Sis for Kindergarten. I dealt with it better than I expected, but I think I will be a mess on the first day. She is pumped to start school. I wonder if this will change once she realizes she will be gone from 8am until 3:25pm. That's a long day for a 5 1/2 year old! No more sleeping in for us - it's time to be responsible and set the alarm. I guess this means I can't stay in my PJ's until noon, either. The other moms would probably frown on that especially since we'll be walking to school for most of the year. Or perhaps they'd just label me as Avant Garde. Hmmm.. I think I like that.....

Friday, July 17, 2009

Fab Friday: July 17

Fab Friday, I have not been good to you. I have been distracted by moving and visiting relatives and thoughts of vacation. But today, I am here to give you a warm fuzzy hug and a hearty "welcome back".

I think this site is Fab: Awkward Family Photos. Listen, we've ALL been there. And I take comfort - and joy - in knowing that I am not alone in my awkward family photos. Although I have never had to experience this:


Any time I need a little lift to my day, I check out AFP, and it does the trick. And now you, too, can revel in the awkwardness. WARNING: May induce snorts of laughter and/or uncontrollable fits of giggling. Proceed with caution when viewing in a workplace setting.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Friday, July 10, 2009

Breathing Again

Things are getting better.

My husband's motivation has been impressive. He has been a veritable whirlwind of Activity.

Grass mowing, bed building, room painting, box breaking, Home Depot going, hornet killing, curtain rod hanging, 10 bags of trash taking out: Activity.

Sorry to the hornets. It had to be done.

My list of accomplishments has been far less notable, but do include refinishing my desk, putting away everything in the kitchen, painting trim, battling The Smell, breaking down boxes, scrubbing the house (I am utterly astonished at the places I have continued to find cat hair), selecting a new kitchen trash can, etc., etc.

The living room is coming together, and I will post pictures soon. Right now I am stumped on finding the right rug. I bought one from Pottery Barn, but am thoroughly disappointed in how it looks in person. Any suggestions for what will go with chocolate brown furniture? I am open to many colors, but NO GREEN. I am more of a blue/grey/ivory person.

I still don't like Michigan.

Michiganders, you are CRAZY drivers! Seriously, I used to live in LA - you might just be as bad as those freeway rats.

And PS - I do not get the "no left turn" situation at every major intersection. Really? You're going to make me go past, and make a U? WHY?

Monday, July 6, 2009

Michigan Move

I've been putting off this post for a number of reasons. First, I am tired of thinking about this move & dealing with all the details. It feels like I have been consumed by 'The Move' for the last month. Next, I am overwhelmed with things to do. We took on too much to do in too little time, and it's all compounded by having family come stay with us less than a week after moving in (I just don't feel anywhere near ready to have company here when we're still unpacking, cleaning, and painting). Finally, I don't really want to admit we're here for a good while. I know I'll probably like it once I lighten up & give it a chance, but for now I prefer to maintain my abysmal mood & continue missing Iowa.

Moving day was not bad. For us, it went off relatively smoothly. We were blessed with helping hands to move all the big stuff (6 strapping young men), and an amazing friend who watched the kids all day (and put up with my multiple "We're almost done, it should be just another hour" phone calls). We hit the road later than expected, but still made it to our hotel before 11pm. The major hiccup was that Big Daddy thought he lost his wallet! We had to rendezvous, regroup, hand off cards, and make a few phone calls, but it all turned out well (wallet was in the back of the truck, as discovered on Tuesday evening).

Tuesday we were slow getting up & on the road, but we finally made it to the house in the late afternoon. The landlord had left the key for us, and we let ourselves in.

And then it hit us.....

The Smell.

A little backstory: The previous renter was an older lady. She lived here for 6+ years, then became sick. Someone (a daughter, a granddaughter) moved in to help take care of her, and as the lady became more ill, the worse the condition of the house became. When she passed away (NOT in the house) the landlord took possession again and discovered it was trashed on the inside. He said the carpet looked like it hadn't been vaccuumed in 6 years, there was food all over the house, ketchup sprayed on the walls, 20 garbage bags of abandoned clothes.... you get the idea. I never saw it in this condition - but when I toured the house in May, I smelled the aftermath. I don't know what exactly happened here, but I DO know they had cats. The landlord swore the smell would be gone by the time we moved in, but it was (is) not. He finally showed up the day after we arrived, and, standing in the basement (source of The Smell) directly in front of us, straight up told us he didn't smell anything. Folks, it was so bad it WOKE US UP in the middle of the night on our first night in the house (all windows open, fans whirring above).

In addition to the smell, we've encountered the following:
  • A non-functioning furnace
  • An abandoned washer
  • Abandoned bookcases - pressboard soaked in cat urine & molded (I have pics, but don't want to gross anyone out)
  • Basement wall covered in mold & crystallized cat urine (hidden by the bookcases detailed above)
  • Missing smoke detectors
  • Next door neighbors with beagles, who like to let their dogs roam & bark while they wash their car at 6:30am on Sunday morning
  • A newly tiled shower surround with a badly installed faucet which limits how much hot water comes out
  • A bathroom sink faucet that gives you a shower along with your morning ablutions
  • A hornet's nest
  • A water heater full of rusted water (gas was shut off for 3 months)

Good Times!

Part of me is at the end of my rope. The first night, I seriously considered what the options were (suck it up & stay, stay for a few days & find another place, get out immediately & rent an apartment.....). But another part of me is not a quitter.

Smell? I'm going to let a little cat stink beat me?

OH, HECK NO.

And it's getting a little better. Landlord said we could do anything we want to the place - paint the walls & doors, install new light fixtures, plant a garden. He agreed to reimburse us for our de-stinking efforts, and I think we've seen a tremendous improvement over the last week. Is it still a battle? Yes. But with a little elbow grease and some serious chemicals, I WILL conquer this house. Urine Off seems to be making a huge difference, but I am open to suggestions if you have any (but please don't tell me to rip up the carpet & lay hardwoods - that's not the problem. Basement is painted block walls interspersed with cheap paneling and linoleum tile/ concrete floor).

On the Up side: The house is sort of a clean slate for us. There is new carpet, the walls are freshly painted - and begging for a little more paint TLC (which I will be providing this week). With the green light to make improvements, I have plans to replace the light fixture in the dining room, repaint the ceiling fan in the master, add curtains on all the windows, paint the front door, and do some serious work on the basement (it's very dank & basement-y right now). The neighbors across the street are really nice & both introduced themselves on our first night here. People walking by will stop & chat, or say Hi. We love the extra room, and Big Daddy has been using the garage to build us a new bed. We're just a few miles from an area which seems to have every major chain store & restaurant known to man.

Would I trade it all to be back in Iowa? In a heartbeat.

But we'll make the best of it. I'll post pics of the before & afters as they occur.

I'm off to do some more laundry & battle the boxes (it really seems like it's never going to end).

Friday, July 3, 2009

Fab Friday: July 3


We've just returned from a trek to IKEA, so what could be more apropos for a Fab Friday?

I heart IKEA.

I feel fortunate that we live so close now - only 45 minutes each way (with no traffic). My previous two homes were (respectively) 4 hours and 2 hours from the nearest IKEA. Not so conducive to a quick pop-in for a cinnamon roll and incredibly inexpensive furniture.

The critical point to IKEA is that you have to be aware of what you're getting.

Good design - check

Low prices - check

A daylong trip through a complex maze of overwhelming choices - check

An armoire that will last through 4 moves and 15 years - not so much.

I don't mind IKEA because I am realistic about what it is: reasonably priced, decently designed, and neutral enough to fit into almost any apartment or rental home. I don't shed too many tears when my dining room table is scarred during a move, or get irritated when I melt a kids plastic plate in the dishwasher. I am handy enough to sand and stain away any scratches or liven up an ultra-inexpensive table with decoupage and paint.

So IKEA, here's to you and your oddly addictive Swedish meatballs. It's clear to me why your founder is the world's richest man.
PS - I will post about the move later in the week. We are still knee deep in boxes, hex screws, and stinkiness.