Was Thanksgiving really 3 days ago? It feels like only yesterday that I was counting down the days to see my family and celebrate the beginning of the season. My parents came into town for a few days, and it was great to see them and enjoy some turkey and quality time together.
Speaking of turkey, this year also marked the second annual family turkey trot — instead of doing the large downtown race (which I do enjoy), me and my brothers- and sisters-in-law did our own run around our neighborhood. It’s a fun tradition, and works out perfectly since we all live so close to one another. My oldest brother-in-law and his son started out by running from their house. Then they picked up my sister-in-law and her daughter at her house (about .75 mi away), then they picked up my other brother-in-law and his dog at their house (about another .5 mi away), and then they picked me, B and my younger brother-in-law at our house. Then we ran a little ways around dropped everyone else off at their houses. It was the perfect start to my Thanksgiving morning!
Can you believe we’re already in December? Thanksgiving came and went last week and we’re finally getting into the holiday season. That means it’s been nonstop Christmas music playing here!
Here’s a look at what our long weekend entailed:
Wednesday, work let out around 3 p.m. so I picked up LM early and we headed to the library to run around for a bit. She has some molars coming in, so we didn’t get in much playing.
FW was in for a treat – he got picked up early by B’s brother, who was taking him to the movies. FW got to see Frozen 2 with his cousins, aunt and uncle. It was his first movie theater experience, and I think he loved it.
The rest of the week included some runs in semi-fall like temps. The weather was in the 70s and 80s during the week, but in the mornings it was nice and cool. I even got in two 10ks! Wednesday’s 10K meant that I met my step goal around 8 a.m., which was great.
Some questions for you:
Has it been fall-like where you are?
Do you run when it’s dark outside?
I’m linking up with Deborah and Kim for the Weekly Run Down.
I’m writing this after finishing up from an amazing girls weekend with my best friends from high school. Me, Jane, Alisa and Melgar have been friends for 20 years and each year we try to do a girls weekend / getaway somewhere.
This year, we spent the weekend in California, visiting Melgar who lives in San Jose. We did some day trips and spent time catching up at her new house.
The weekend included:
Some hiking in Big Basin. Alisa was our fearless leader (we called her the trail maven).
An overnight in Monterey, which included some day trips and scenic driving around Bixby Bridge, 17 Mile Drive and visiting Carmel.
Relaxing by Melgar’s pool. Her new house is gorgeous AND she has a great walking/running path right next to it, along with a pool!
Going for a little run. Melgar is pregnant and still running!
Some amazing food. Including my first cragel – croissant + bagel – which is waaay better than a cronut in my opinion. And Melgar’s husband Jon cooked us an amazing meal of crispy prosciutto and risotto.
And some baking in Melgar’s gorgeous kitchen!
It wouldn’t be a trip with my favorite ladies without some sort of adventure. We ended up semi-getting lost along our drive (that’s what you get when I’m the co-pilot … thank goodness Jane woke up from her nap and showed us the map!).
But it didn’t matter, because we were all together. Singing the Spice Girls and acting like we were in junior high all over again.
These are the friends that I can just truly be myself with. Share my darkest secrets with. Say what’s on my mind. We can laugh together. Cry together. And we did both this weekend. While we only get together like this once a year, we always pick up right where we left off. I know I am so lucky to have friends like these!
Some questions for you:
Have you ever been hiking in the Redwoods?
What songs bring you back to high school/middle school?
The weekend included some pretty fun festivities. It included a birthday AND a wedding! And not just any birthday — FW’s birthday! He turned one 🙂
Here is how we celebrated …
I started off my weekend with a cocktail. It’s not everyday your baby turns one! Plus we finally opened the Mescal we brought back from our trip to Mexico City.
FW got some cards and gifts in the mail. We are so lucky to have so many family and friends thinking of us.
We celebrated with FW by going to the Zoo. It was his first time there.
He took a nap while hanging out with some giraffes.
A family selfie.
AND a chocolate and vanilla cupcake! He did not want to touch the chocolate one and ate a few bites of the vanilla frosting. Just like his momma- not a chocolate fan and prefers the frosting to the cake 🙂
B also made us pizza for dinner. Well, not for FW. He’s still not a pizza fan.
Saturday morning started with a run along the park and beach. I got in 4ish miles while FW slept.
And then we attempted to show him the water. He was undecided.
That night we had a wedding to attend! B’s friend Bobby was getting married.
Their cocktail hour was at the aquarium! How cool is that?
Sunday morning came too early – staying until past 1 a.m. and then getting up early with a baby is hard! But I had something else to look forward to on Sunday – a blogger brunch at Saks Fifth Avenue.
one of the models at the event
After lunch and a little shopping, B, FW and I took a short nature walk near the water. We had never been to this path and it was so cool to see all the birds and look down on the lake.
We finished the weekend with Chipotle for the family. A burrito for B, sofritos salad for me and a last minute order of quesadillas for FW. And surprisingly, he actually ate a few bites!
And that was it. A pretty fun, busy weekend!
Some questions for you:
What’s the coolest venue you’ve been to for a wedding?
OK, this was a really hard post to write. Why? Because I’ve only been to Costa Rica twice, and when I was there I was only able to visit a few cities. So I’m by NO MEANS an expert. AND because there are so many things to do while you’re in Costa Rica that choosing five is nearly impossible! So I apologize in advance if I missed something terribly important … but just let me know in the comments!
In no order … if you are visiting Costa Rica, here’s what I recommend you do:
Try out ziplining in Monteverde.
I had been ziplining once before – also in Monteverde when in high school – so I knew what to expect. And I really enjoyed it again. B, who has a somewhat fear of heights, also enjoyed the zipline – and at the place where we went, Selvatura, the last zipline included a “couple’s zipline” – meaning we zipped holding onto one another for 1,000 m. For those of you Americans, that’s a little more than 2/3 of a mile long. It was so long that we couldn’t see the end of the line but still amazing. And we enjoyed some breathtaking views.
I know other areas have ziplining (including Arenal) but our experience was awesome. And 1,000 m is far longer than the longest Arenal zipline from what I have seen. I did see signs in Monteverde for the “longest zipline in Costa Rica” that was 1,600 meters (aka 1 mile) so there’s always that option as well if 1,000 m is 600 meters too short for you!
ready to zipline!
Rappel and try out other canyoneering activities (cliff jumping into jungle rivers, rope/vine swinging)
Let me start by saying I’m NOT an adventurous person. I don’t like to be scared. I have never skydived and have no idea how to waterski (I guess that’s not adventurous but I just wanted to show you how lame I actually am). Using the high-dive at the public pool during summer camp is probably the bravest I have ever been. But when in Rome … (or Costa Rica)? B had booked us for a half-day canyoneering trip and I was scared. On the bus ride to the canyon, the guide was explaining the trip. “First we do a rappel down next to a big rock. You must stop halfway down on the rope, see the rock, and then continue down into the raging river of the canyon. Then we do a tarzan swing on a rope into the river, but be careful because it’s not that deep. Then a longer rappel but you have to be careful on this one because the cave wall is narrow and you can’t swing out or you’ll cut yourself on the rock. Then a zipline. Then a rappel down a waterfall and you’re not allowed to use your hands…” You get the idea. Let’s just say I was not looking forward to it and nearly had a nervous breakdown on the van ride over.
B and me mid-canyoneering trip…you can sorta see our matching shoes!
jumping into the water after a rappel. yes, we got wet.
BUT somehow I REALLY liked it. Was I an expert rappeller? No. But did I have to be? No that’s what our guides were for. The first one made me nervous. But after that? And a few dunks into the water?? I was good as new.
Enjoy the local cuisine and drinks
I am such a fan of the food in Latin America. I know you won’t all agree with me, but my love for spicy food, fresh seafood, amazingly fresh fruit, along with living in Ecuador probably helps my tastebuds. Anyway, here are a few things to try while you’re here:
Casados: Literally it means married (i think?). It’s great. It’s a protein (fish, chicken, pork, etc.) with rice and beans, sometimes plantains, a salad and cheese. I can’t get enough of their queso fresco – my favorite cheese. You won’t leave hungry.
one of the many fish casados i enjoyed. this was at tico y rico in monteverde.
Sopa: I LOVED the black bean and egg soup. I love black bean soup ordinarily, but the Costa Rican version is sublime. Plus it has a hard boiled or even sometimes softer egg in there which is pretty awesome.
black bean soup with an egg at don luis in monteverde
Fried plantains and plantain chips: Sweet or salty/savory, what’s not to like about these banana-like fruits?
Yuca: I love yuca in all its forms. Fried yuca. Yuca chips. Yuca bread. Mashed yuca. YUM!
Guaro: Guaro is the local vodka-like alcohol. Guaro sour is a popular drink and it’s pretty delicious if you like sweet/sour drinks. Local rum is pretty good as well as the local beer.
Ceviche: I love almost all ceviche but the ceviche in Costa Rica that I had was also amazing. I had it about 6 times, so nearly every other day. And that wasn’t nearly enough!
ceviche by the pool at hotel nayara
All of the fruit: Seriously. Eat it all. Best pineapple I’ve ever had (even B ate it. And he hates pineapple), amazing coconut from the side of the road, the maracuya and guanabana are also awesome.
fresh fruit breakfast at sugar beach
There are so many more foods to try, but since I had given up meat for Lent, I stayed vegetarian/pescatarian the entire time so the above recommendations are based on that.
Enjoy some hot baths and hot springs in Arenal
The volano Arenal is not only beautiful, but from what I can tell, it supplies tons of heat for the hot baths and springs in the neighboring town. Tabacon has some of the best hot springs (went there in high school) and B and I also enjoyed the baths at Baldi – there were many options, each pool had a swim up bar, and most had a “cool pool” (of like 65 degrees) so you could heat up in the hot bath, then cool down, then heat up, etc.
sitting outside one of the hot pools
Snorkel, swim, and enjoy the ocean(s)
Due to time constraints, B and I only had time to experience the western and Pacific coast of the country. But if you go, see both coasts. They are different. See different beaches, swim in the oceans, snorkel, experience black sand beaches and more. I even was able to see a blowfish – and touch it! Yup. You’re in a tropical country – do it all, put on some sunscreen and enjoy!
sunsets along the beach = awesome
BONUS: Take a coffee tour
Okay, okay, I couldn’t pick just 5. While you’re in Costa Rica, you must see a coffee plantation. Coffee is one of the country’s top 5 exports, so why not se how it’s produced? I must admit that the coffee tour we went on when I was in high school, while enjoyable and educational, was pretty touristy. We got free coffee samples, walked around the grounds (pun intended hehe) and saw stations that showcased the different processes of making coffee. The tour B and I did – Monteverde Coffee Tour – was MUCH better and seemed much more authentic – I highly recommend you go on this. We had a nearly private tour of some Costa Rican farmer’s land – saw all of this livestock, learned about what they all did on the farm and how they contributed in some way to the coffee process/circle of life, walked among real coffee and other plants (banana trees, lime/orange trees), and really learned about life as a Costa Rican and a farmer. And more than i ever wanted to know about coffee. They didn’t try to sell us anything at the end (we had to ask them if we could buy coffee) and we enjoyed some amazing locally made (that day!) goat cheese from their goats.
how our coffee was made
pretending to do work
B participating in the cupping portion of our tasting
PS – Happy birthday to my brother Greg! This has nothing to do with Costa Rica but I thought he deserved a shout out.
Galway Day One: After flying back into Dublin, B and I rented a car and began our adventure. We were going to drive to Newgrange, visit the old tomb/monument, then continue onto Galway for our first night in our bed and breakfast.
B was incredible with driving on the windy roads that make up Ireland and driving on the other side of the road. With me as his co-pilot, what could go wrong?
Driving in Ireland*
*please ignore my commentary
We amazingly found our way to Newgrange without any issue (despite not having directions. Or a gps. Just a little ole map that wasn’t very detailed and simply listed Newgrange as somewhere in the vicinity of some other roads). When we walked into the visitor center, we learned that the only way to view the tomb is by guided tour, and the next tour that had openings would be two hours later. So we faced a decision – do we wait for two hours, take the guided tour, but not get into Galway until 8 p.m.? Or do we skip the tour and head to Galway immediately, getting in by dinnertime? We ultimate decided to forget Newgrange, and find our way to Galway. Slightly disappointed, we got back on the long, windy country roads and were a few kilometers away when I couldn’t help but see a large mound in the distance. Could it be? No .. it was! I couldn’t believe our luck – the tomb was far away but we could see it! We pulled over and took a few pictures, feeling satisfied that our trip wasn’t a complete detour.
We caught a glimpse of Newgrange from the car!
We made it into Galway, checked into our bed and breakfast (and found homemade scones and jam waiting in our room!) and then walked into the town to check out some of the shops and restaurants. Most shops were closed, but we were able to enjoy dinner and drinks at a local pub and then some of the best live music of the trip at a nearby pub, An Pucan.
I had the Mini Breakfast
Galway Day Two: We woke up early, headed down to breakfast, and both B and I enjoyed a traditional Irish breakfast – cheese, scones, brown bread and of course eggs, different types of sausage, and ham. Then we got into the car with the goal in mind to hit two nearby landmarks – the Kylemore Abbey and Croagh Patrick.
B and me with Kylemore Abbey in the background
The view of Kylemore Abbey
After driving an hour or so through more windy roads, and nearly running over a few sheep, we were at Kylemore Abbey. I couldn’t help but catch my breath as we drove closer – it seemed like out of nowhere, this castle in the hillside, upon a lake appeared! Kylemore Abbey is an old castle, now an Abbey, with a really interesting and romantic history that I won’t share with you here (you can read about it instead on their website). In short, though, the guided tour of the castle and the gardens (they’re walled and beautiful – like the Secret Garden!) was great – and we even got to stop by the chapel that was built by the former owner in dedication to his wife after her death. I told you – it’s romantic!
looking happy early on our croagh patrick hike
After visiting the grounds and catching the beginning of a free concert by an American choir in the chapel, it was time to head to our next location – Croagh Patrick. I was a little nervous – Croagh Patrick is a large hill that people climb, some barefoot, to get a beautiful view of the Irish countryside. It was the same mountain that St. Patrick supposedly climbed before he chased all the snakes out of Ireland and therefore is the site for many religious pilgrimages. The climb isn’t easy, however, and the weather had turned cold and rainy – not my idea of ideal mountain climbing weather. When we got to the base of the mountain, it was still rainy and so foggy that we couldn’t see the top of the mountain. I kept my fingers crossed, bundled up (pants, sneakers, long sleeved shirt, sweatshirt, windbreaker and gloves for July!), ignored the sign that warned us not to climb in “wet and foggy days,” bought a walking stick and began the ascent.
The first part of the climb wasn’t too bad. The grade wasn’t too steep, the rain had slowed down to a drizzle, and we passed many families and children also making the climb. Then, after climbing for an hour or s, the conditions worsened. It started raining, heavily (I swear it was wet snow), and the climb got much steeper. The walking sticks came in handy, as not only was I soaked, but so were the pathways so it was like climbing uphill through a rocky stream. Only a few people passed us, and the people on their way down didn’t even look happy. I remember reading online before the trip that the climb can get difficult, but it’s worth it when you see the people on their way down, hear their words of encouragement and ask them about the view. So of course, I asked a few people. While one couple did offer some nice advice, “Keep going! You’re almost there!” The answers I got were, “Ugh it’s not worth it,” and “Turn back now!” and “We got to the top and saw nothing. Just rain and fog.” Definitely not encouraging. B and hiked for at least another hour, soaked, until the incline became nearly vertical. The walking sticks did little to help as we climbed the wet rocks – two steps up, one step sliding down. Finally, realizing there was definitely no view to be seen in the rain/fog, and soaking wet, we decided to turn around and make the 2 hour descent. Do I wish we had made it to the top? Absolutely. But I wish it had been sunny, and there was nothing we could do about that. Exhausted, that night we enjoyed our last meal in Galway and returned to our bed and breakfast early, so we’d be ready to go for our next drive to Doolin.
The foggy mountain we climbed. Didn’t actually obey the sign – woops!
The next morning, B and I woke up early, enjoyed another great Irish breakfast with Irish cheese and pastries on the side, did some walking around Galway, and hit the road for Doolin! (to be continued …)
Part one of this post, our Dublin trip recap, can be found here.
Part two of this post, the London trip recap, can be found here.