Tuesday, January 29, 2008

I'm going to try...

A couple of years ago my sister gave me this plaque for my birthday. I had planned to hang it up in my house right after I got it but I put it in a closet and pretty much forgot about it. As I was organizing my closets after Christmas I found it again and decided that it really did a good job of summing up alot of things I thought were valueable and things I thought would be worthwhile to work on on a daily basis this year. So I found the perfect spot for it and have hung it up. Now everyday when I come down my staircase from my bedroom to the main level I see this and am reminded.

Since each suggestion begins with a letter of the alphabet that means there are 26 things I can work on. And since there are 52 weeks in a year, that means I can focus on each thing twice (atleast). I'm not going to go so far as to call this my new year's resolutions for this year because I'm not a big fan of making those. I do like to be inspired and motivated and I take to things that are "do-able". Besides I like that these encouraging tidbits are hanging on my wall and not written in some journal or note card tucked away in a drawer.

All ready it helped me "pack lightly" when we went to Mexico!
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Friday, January 25, 2008

Whale watching photos

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Whale watching

During the months of January through March whales migrate from the US northwest down around the tip of the Baja and up into the Sea of Cortez to winter and to give birth so they pass right by Cabo San Lucas. It is always exciting and entertaining to try to spot any signs of the passing whales. Even from our lounges at the resort we can see signs of whales by their spouts of water or the glimpse of their tails as they shoot out of the water and dive back in.

This year we decided to go out on a whale watching excursion. There are several different kinds of excursions to choose from: a catamaran, a dinner/sunset/whale watching crusie or a zodiac boat. We choose the zodiac. It is small and FAST and seats about 15 passengers. As you can see the day was perfect for a sea adventure.

January is early in the migration season so we hoped we'd be lucky and be able to find a few big guys. Not to worry... we were out for 2 hours and saw lots and lots of whales and dolphins! The dolphins love the turbulance of the wake of the boats so they are drawn to the zodiacs to play in the surf. We were entertained by their antics of surfing the waves to leaping out of the water and one was even doing flips! It is frustrating trying to catch photos of them because by the time you spot them up out of the water they have disappeared back down and you've missed the shot!

We did have a very unique experiece though ... we came across this whale that was totally wrapped up in a fishing net. The whale was huge. You can see that it was bigger than that white zodiac boat. We had a marine biologist onboard our boat and she was very concerned when she saw this situation. She was happy to see that the whale was still spouting water because that meant it was still breathing but it was definately in a life-threatening situation. There were about 4 zodiac boats (ours included) that came upon it and one of the other boats sped back to the marina to pick up some scuba divers. When they returned 2 divers dove in and were going to try to cut the net off. We had a really seasick woman on our boat so we weren't able to stay to see if the divers were successful so we just have to hope that all went well and the whale was saved.

I'm sure that from now on a whale watchng excusion will always be part of our itinerary when we go to Cabo!

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Real Deal

Now this is what I go to Mexico for... the REAL Mexican food... not the Americanized Taco-Bell take on this south of the border cuisine. Every year we think we'll branch out and discover some new favorite restaurants but then we mostly end up at the places that have become our favorites. This year one of our past favorite restaurants had closed for renovation but we did find another wonderful new one to add to our list. So in case any of you are going to Cabo or San Jose del Cabo in the near future, here is a list of our favorite eateries:

In Cabo: Ponchos - the best Tortilla soup anywhere! (it is also known for it's world famous selections of Tequila but since we don't
drink, that doesn't mean anything to us)
Mi Casa - a more upscale restaurant that you really should make a reservation at to guarantee getting in. They make
the flour tortillas right there by hand in the middle of the dining room and then serve them warm off the
grill. Be sure to get the queso fundito which is the yummiest melted cheese with sausage appetizer.
Basil - this is a Brazillian restaurant much like Rodizio Grill where they have all kinds of meat grilling on huge skewers and
they come around and cut you off some slices. I always come out of there so stuffed I don't want to eat again
for another month!
Pescadora - this is one of the more authentic, locals-kind of restaurant with a concrete floor, no windows or doors, plastic
lawn chairs and plastic tables but outstanding, reasonable food. And in case you didn't understand from the
name, it specializes in seafood. You can get a steak and lobster combo for $15. What it lacks in ambiance it
makes up for in quality and quantity.
The Sleepless Lobster - this place is across the street from the Pescadora and it is excellent also. When we went our deep
sea fishing and caught Dorado (tuna) we brought our fresh-caught fillets here and they cooked them up for
us. They prepared them 3 ways: sauteed in garlic and butter, breaded and blackened. Wow! so good!
Baja Cantina - this place is located right on the marina which is just a great place to sit and watch the boats coming and
going and then to do so while drinking a pina colada (virgin) and eating the shrimp combo platter is just
a little bit of paradise.

In San Jose del Cabo: Jazmin's - we love this place! It is kind of a combination of casual restaurant with 4 star food and presentation.
The first photo above is from Paul's meal there. Alot of the restaurants in San Jose are more upscale so this
is a nice alternative.
The Tropicana Inn - this is one of those more upscale places but again excellent food. If you are there are the right time
(I'm not sure when that is exactly, we just lucked out) there is live music with a group of about 4 or 5 singers
playing guitars and dressed in fancy, traditional clothing (not a Mariachi band).
The French Riveria - this is a fabulous French bakery (I'm not quite sure what it is doing here in Mexico) but it has
to-die-for pastries! My favorites are the cat-eye cookies with jam filling and the coconut macaroons with
chocolate covered bottoms! We went back several days in a row!

One of the funest aspects of my culinary adventures is eating from the offerings of the street vendors. This year I came across a churro stand! Here where I live there are a very few places to get churros - Costco or Lagoon! I have never eaten such a delicious churro before. I watched as the vendor fried the dough in hot oil and then rolled them in granulated sugar and then as if that wasn't going to be good enough already, he had this device hooked to his cart and it had a spout that he shot hot carmel into the center of the whole length of the churro -- Holy smokes... what a treat!!! - you could chose strawberry or vanilla sauces too. Every time we went downtown I wanted to go back for another one but we weren't there at night again and he wasn't open during the day. That gives me something to be looking forward to for next year.

Another street vendor that we came across really made me laugh... here is the mobile candy store. Yes, he has probably 20 different kinds of candy there on that wheelbarrow and he just rolls around the streets and people would crowd around him. I could hardly get a clear picture of him and the wheelbarrow because of all his customers. We didn't buy anything but it sure looked inviting. I think I'll get one of those and go up and down the streets in my neighborhood this summer.

Now you know the real reason I love to go to Mexico... yea, I think I might have gained a few pounds while I was there too!
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Monday, January 21, 2008

Se habla espanol? (I don't spell it either)

One whole week of warm weather, bright sunshine and authentic Mexican food... total bliss!

You may have guessed from my previous post that Paul and I headed off to Mexico last week to thaw out and "chill out" at our favorite January get away spot of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. This was our 7th year in a row that we have gone there and once again we were not disappointed with our vacation. It kind of surprises us that we are still finding new things to do and having new experiences. The first time we went with some friends who had bought a time share the year before and were using it for the first time. We ended up coming home with our own timeshare and have not regretted it for a minute.

One of the funest experiences for me this year started out as a potential disappointment. Our resort sits about 15 miles away from Cabo and in past years we have had access to a shuttle provided by the resort. So for $2 a person each way (plus a tip for the driver), they would drive back and forth to town where we would go to shop and dine which we took advantage of atleast once a day. When we arrived this year, they informed us that the local taxi drivers were very unhappy with this service because it excluded the taxis from getting the tourist fares from our resort and sometime during the past 12 months the taxi drivers began to actually block the resort entrance with their vans as a form of protest so the resort finally scraped the shuttle service. The real downside of this was that it now would cost about $25 each way to take a taxi. We weren't very excited about spending that much to get into town every day but we weren't very excited about not being able to get into town also. We knew that there was a locals bus that went right past our resort but we had never paid much attention to it. We asked around and were told that it was quite reliable and safe and came by about every 15 minutes (give or take 10 minutes -- mexican time) and best of all, it only cost 15 pesos each way = $1.50. We decided to give it a try and it was the BEST!!! so much FUN!!! I loved having real interaction with the people that live there that wasn't just as a waiter or our housekeeper. They are such kind, nice, normal people and very tolerant of us gringos that speak no Spanish.

On one of our trips into town this guy got on the bus with his guitar and a harmonica stand hooked to his neck and he began to play this beautiful Mexican music as well as sing and accompany himself. He was very talented and even though I couldn't understand the words he was singing, the music was excellent and very enjoyable. He even came over by me and asked if I knew the song "I just called to say I Love You" which he then began to sing in english and wanted me to sing along with him which I did and tried my best to not embarrass myself. I had noticed other people singing along with him on the spanish songs so I figured it was ok to join in. Many people gave him a few pesos and I was happy to give him some as well. It added so much to the otherwise quiet and just normal bus ride. Later that afternoon on the bus ride back to our resort, a couple other guys got onboard the bus and began singing and it was just painful -- they couldn't carry a tune and their voices definately didn't harmonize. Thankfully they got off just a few stops later.
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Friday, January 11, 2008

Where would you rather be?

Photo number 1 or photo number 2?

Yea, me too!!!

Adios Amigos!!!!
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Quilt of the week

What better time of year than freezing cold January to feature my Hawaiian quilt! It makes me think of beaches, suntans, sunsets and pina coladas! We went to Hawaii, the island of Kauai to be exact, with Heidi and Eric back in October of 2001. Colton turned 4 while we were there and Cory was 2 1/2 and Quincy was 6 months old... it was quite the adventure! We had so much fun spending every day on the beach playing in the waves and digging in the sand. Paul & I did a scuba diving trip one day and the adults even got to work in a helicopter flight over the island -- my first and only time in a helicopter! Loved it!!!

While driving around the island one day we came across a quilt shop! And a really good one too! I bought all of the fabrics in this quilt and the pattern for the little Hawaiian shirts. It was so fun to make tiny little re-creations of those wild aloha shirts that you see everywhere over there. I whipped the shirts up very quickly after we got home but then it took me a while to create the layout I wanted. This is one of the few quilts that I have designed myself. I knew I wanted to use as much of the fabric as possible and not cut it up into tiny pieces especially since the prints are so cute and depict whales and surfboards and tropical flowers ... even aloha shirts. Finally in early 2003 I figured out a layout that I liked and finished piecing it all together. The little shirts are folded like origami and then hand stitched to hold them together. I hand appliqued the shirts to those blocks but I machine pieced the rest of the top. I finished it with hand quilting.

One of our employees loves Hawaii so it hangs above her desk at our office. She likes the "Aloha Spirit" it brings her every day. Coinsidentally, "Aloha Spirit" is the name of the quilt. I hope this quilt made you think of your favorite beach and warmed you up for just a minute or two!
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Wednesday, January 9, 2008

37 in 2007

No I didn't turn 37 years old in 2007...close though (by about 20 years!). I counted up all the books I've read this year and was amazed to discover that I had read 37 books!

I do like to keep a list of all the books I have read. It is kind of a "check list" mentality. As soon as I finish a book I can hardly wait to go write it down in my book journal -- check!

The last book that I read in 2007 was "Three Cups of Tea" by Greg Mortenson. It is a memoir of his adventures while building schools, mostly for girls, in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The story is remarkable! He is remarkable! I was so fascinated by his desire to help meet this need that he became aware of after he had a failed mountain climbing experience on K-2 back in the 1990's. To read of all his interactions with people from this part of the world that we usually only hear about in very negative reports was very inspiring.

After I finished the book I went to his website and saw that he has Book Tour dates there. I clicked on to 2008 and the closest location to where I live is Twin Falls, Idaho where he will be at the College of Southern Idaho on Feb. 7th. I called the contact person and found out that his presentation is free and open to the public. I am going to be there for sure -- weather permitting. I have been so touched by this man's sincerity and generousity and perserverance that I want to meet him in person and feel of his passion and what drives him.

With all that is going on in that part of the world, especially with the assassination of Benezir Bhutto a couple weeks ago, I think it will be fascinating to hear first hand from someone who has lived and worked and associated with these people on a daily basis for so many years through so much toil and strife. He will be on a totally different level than what we hear about only through the news and media.

This is one book that has continued to make me think and be more aware of world events because of it. I just hope there will be clear roads and no snow so I can have this, to me, much anticipated experience.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Weekend favorites

This last Saturday was the first Saturday in a long time that hasn't already been planned with obligations... ok, just one. I had to go to a "meet my new Primary teacher" breakfast first thing but then we had the whole day free... what a treat! I have been so anxious to take Paul to see the shop where I bought his Christmas banjo so we decided we'd go there. We live in the south end of our city's valley and don't have much occassion to go "downtown" so it always seems like we are going on a little adventure outing when we head off in that direction.

The Intermountain Guitar and Banjo shop is very unassuming. It just sits there where it has for many many years and is known to the real folk and country music artists around here. The photo really doesn't convey it's authenticity and quirkiness (in a delightful way) completely but you can get somewhat of a feel. There is just so much packed into such a small space. It looks all cluttered and in disarray at first appearance but as you spend some time there you can see how much love and devotion and passion is what is really behind the scene. There are vintage and collectible instruments all over the walls. There are dozens and dozens of microphones from numerous eras gone by. The mixture of old and new inventory is impressive. Paul thought he might like to strum a few other banjos and make sure he had the one he would want to play for a long time. I got him about the most basic banjo there -- it didn't even have a resonator attached so Paul wanted to try a banjo with a resonator. After strumming on 3 or 4 different instruments, inexpensive to very expensive ones, he decided to keep the one I had given him.

By the time we had finished the banjo jam session, we were hungry. One of our favorite little spots to eat downtown is a wonderful restaurant, meat and cheese shop, and authentic German foods grocery store all in one location called Siegfrieds. We were so excited to go there on a Saturday because during the week, especially at lunch time, the lines are out the door. We loaded our trays up with wiener schnitzel, rot kohl, kartophen salat and spitzela (I'm sure most of that spelling is not correct) and of course, apfel strudel for dessert! Yummy! So authentic ... we felt like we were back in Salzburg or Bad Reichenhall for a few minutes.

After lunch we strolled down Main Street which on a Saturday feels like a ghost town in addition to the fact that downtown has become a giant construction site --- which will result in good things in about 10 years! We made two stops. The first one was for another meal... not to eat right then, we were already stuffed, but to make reservations at the Vienna Bistro for Valentine's day dinner. We are usually too late with our plans to get into an excellent restaurant on that day so now we are ahead of the game. Then we popped into Sam Weller's New and Used Bookstore and spent a very enjoyable 30 minutes browsing the shelves and picking up some new reading material for our upcoming escape from winter!

Oh, I lied, we actually had two obligations on Saturday. We met some dear friends for dinner. They live in Orem and we typically try to go to dinner once a year. In the past we've driven down there or they have came up here but this time we decided to meet half way so we ended up at a little restaurant in Draper and had a delightful catch-up over some really good food. So that was our Saturday and it was definately spent doing some of our favorite things, eating some of our favorite food and hanging out with some of our favorite people!
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Thursday, January 3, 2008

Day at the Museum

It's good that we went to the North American Museum of Ancient History at Thanksgiving Point during the daytime because I wouldn't want to meet up with this guy at night. He's called the Utah Raptor. He is just one of the many, many displays at this amazing museum.

On New Year's Day we opted for an outing instead of just another day hanging around at home feeling like we needed to be productive. I had read about an event at this museum for kids and their parents (and grandparents, too) that included a scavanger hunt, arts and craft projects, a fishing pond (for prizes not real fish) and face painting as well as exploring the displays and exhibits. I have driven past this museum lots of times as it sits right next to I-15 between Salt Lake and all points South but we have never stopped in for a visit. Turns out Collin has been there about 3 or 4 times and he loves it.

I have never seen so many dinosaurs in my life! Really, really big ones like T-Rex and teeny, tiny ones that I never even knew about. They also had a wooly mammoth -- minus all his wool! There were even underwater sea dwelling dinosaurs! The musuem is really A+.
There is room after room after room with display cases and interactive stations and lifesize models of probably over 100 dinosaurs. Collin especially enjoyed the bone quarry where kids can dig for and unearth dinosaur bones just like little archeologists.

All in all it was a great outing... I highly recommend it for kids of any age!
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