Posted on Jan 4th, 2011 by Allison (Costa Rica, Photography, Travel)

OK, I’m a little late – but hey, I’m in Costa Rica 🙂

Day 2… New Year’s Eve
. We spent most the day at home relaxing. Except for Jen who cooked more authentic Costa Rican food for me to try. Here she is bringing me a plate of patacones – which are fried green plantains.

We dipped them in a black bean puree with Lizano sauce mixed in. Lizano is a staple condiment here – and I’m going to have to pick up a bottle to take home. Quite delicious.

We took some photos, read some books and blogs, meditated, listened to music, worked on Emily’s mermaid curtain craft.

My hair is a lions main needing to be tamed… the flat iron I brought is pretty much pointless though in this climate.

But do you like my new glasses?

Isn’t Brandon handsome?

I’m really liking his new beard.

We headed to town for a potential dinner out, but most everything was closed for the holiday.

The town was sure bustling, though. Looked like they had something big planned in the town center (park).

But we don’t really like crowds, so headed back home to enjoy the evening.

After a delicious burrito dinner, we gathered around on the floor to play our first game of Rory’s Story Cubes.

What a riot! I recommend this game for anyone who enjoys fun and creative play. Basic idea is you roll dice with pictures on them and make up stories based on what you roll. We were laughing ourselves silly, and only stopped because it was time for a movie… much to Marie’s chagrin, we opted for The Incredible Mr. Limpet. (She wanted to watch Robots)

Marie went to bed, but Emily wanted to stay up to watch the fireworks and ring in the new year with us. And ring it in we did. From the veranda, we have a panoramic view of a huge valley. It encompasses several cities – the largest of which is San Jose.

At midnight it began – and was an amazing spectacle. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many fireworks at one time in my entire life. Even though we were far away from the action, we were awed at the sheer number of sparkling explosions which lasted for a good 30+ minutes.

I shot some video and have edited it down to a little over a minute for you. Please note that this video is only of the San Jose portion (and only part of San Jose) – I didn’t have a wide enough angled lens to capture the entire valley. Enjoy!

How did you ring in the new year?

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Posted on Dec 31st, 2010 by Allison (Costa Rica, Family/Friends, Travel)

Ahhhh, Costa Rica.

I left this scene on Wednesday morning.

After a very full day of travel involving 6 hour layovers, conversations with interesting strangers (now friends), and very little sleep, I arrived at 6:30am CT on Thursday to this:

I’m here for a three week visit with my son, Brandon, and his family who have lived here for a year. I’ll have to do a little work while here, but I plan on enjoying a lot of vacation and relaxation time. If you’d like to know how and why they moved to Costa Rica, visit his blog.

Ashley & family will be coming down for a week vacation and be here the last 4 days of mine. Really looking forward to having all of us together again – and in such a beautiful place.

Brandon met me at the airport and we made our way through the lovely countryside to their home in Grecia. They actually live about 15 minutes outside of town on the side of a volcano.  The drive was lovely. I’ve arrived about a month after the end of the rainy season so it’s still pretty green, but not too hot. Though we did enjoy a light rainfall while in town late afternoon.

Here are Brandon & Emily on their front porch.

Marie is looking so much like her mom. I love her sun-kissed freckles.

After taking a long tour of the beautiful gardens (photos later) we all enjoyed a traditional Costa Rican breakfast – gallo pinto with eggs, fruit and juice.

Can I mention here how delightful it is to have someone cooking for me? I’m going to eat more nutritiously in the next three weeks than I have in a long time, I’m sure. And it’s so delicious!

Thanks, Jen – you’re a fabulous cook!

After the opening of the Christmas gifts, I took a much needed 3 hour nap in the guest cottage. I drifted off to sleep to lovely birdsong.

Speaking of birds… Costa Rica is known as a bird watcher’s paradise. I’ve seen quite a few interesting varieties – but was especially thrilled to have seen the beautiful and exotic Blue Crowned Motmot – on my first day here! Isn’t he gorgeous?

We headed into town to do a little shopping, stopped for an ice cream cone, and were treated to this beautiful purple sky as we headed back to the car.

The drive back up the mountain was very foggy – we could hardly see the road. I love fog, but it was a tad scary…

Brandon was disappointed that we wouldn’t be able to see the city lights from the veranda. But an hour later, the fog had all lifted, and this was the view (one direction).

These are the lights of San Jose. Simply stunning.

All in all, a fabulous first day. I was exhausted again by 7:30pm. But after a good night’s sleep, and enjoying the company, hospitality, food and incredible view – I think I can say I’m really going to enjoy this vacation.

As my final treat for you today, here is a video I shot just before I started writing this. Same veranda from where I took the city nights photo.

I really should learn to not talk while I’m shooting video. Next video you can look forward to a musical background.

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Posted on Jul 25th, 2010 by Allison (Travel)

Welcome to Monte Rio, California – “Vacation Wonderland”

When Paul and I drove by this town I insisted we we stop and experience the “wonder” for ourselves.

Exploration of Monte Rio revealed a river, a bridge crossing the river, and a Main Street containing a Bartlett’s and a closed-for-business biker bar called the Pink Elephant.

Vacation Wonderland? It makes me wonder who thought that sign was a good idea….

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Posted on Jul 17th, 2010 by Allison (Family/Friends, Travel)

As promised, here is a recap of the exciting adventures I enjoyed with Paul & Craig in California last month.

Paul took time off work to show me around… in his ‘baby’. She was a very comfortable ride 🙂

First stop, Armstrong Woods – a redwood forest just 3 miles up the road. Very peaceful and beautiful. Except for the two mosquitoes that dined on my arm….

A giant tree stump with markers showing it’s age – was around long before the Aztecs in 1300.

We stopped at the beach (it was a bit chilly)…

And saw beautiful wildflowers on the hillside…

Paused to marvel at the misty trees

We stopped in Bodega Bay to get up close and personal with stars of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Tippy Hedron wasn’t there that day to sign autographs, but someone recorded her July 4th visit. Enjoy.

Drove past many vineyards (it was Sonoma County, after all).   Sometimes I wish I liked wine.

We stopped by Powell’s Sweet Shop in Windsor where Craig gave me run of the candy store – anything I wanted. I highly recommend the Amaretto Truffles.

Sometimes I wish I didn’t like chocolate.

I was well fed.

Very well fed.

I gained over 5 lbs, but it was worth it.

Paul fixed several gourmet meals. My offering was a turkey havarti sandwich on sourdough (delicious, but not gourmet!).

And Craig treated me to the best ribs I’ve ever had. I also loved sharing in the traditional Sunday cheese/cracker and prociutto lunch. Yum.

We played a little Cribbage.

Craig and I tortured Paul by making him sit through the entire movie Avatar. We all agreed we want our gardens to glow like that at night.

Paul (the best blogger ever) worked on his blog.

We planted a few flowers, watched a little Design Star and RuPaul’s Drag Race, and all in all had a lovely time.

Thanks, guys, for being such gracious and entertaining hosts. It was so fun to spend time with you! Now, when are you coming to the northwest?

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Posted on Jun 27th, 2010 by Allison (Family/Friends, Travel)

Paul and Craig have invited me to come for a visit several times the past couple of years. Apparently they had ulterior motives for the invitation. Even so, if you are fortunate enough to receive an invitation, I urge you to accept – it’s an experience to remember.

After a drive through Sonoma wine country, I found myself amidst a redwood forest and, following the instructions of my handy gps, arrived safely at Craig and Paul’s home on the hill. I was greeted by Paul at the top of the long staircase that leads to their home and introduced to fish that let me pet them. Well, one of the fish lets me pet her. She seems to like it.

Paul showed me to my private suite – dubbed “Miss Kitty’s Boudoir.” The bathroom was decked out with everything a traveler could want – built in hair dryer, soft bathrobe and slippers, bath/hair supplies, toothbrush, etc. Paul had called prior to my visit to ask about any dietary requirements, and the fridge was filled with bottled water, fresh fruit and yogurt. More fruit – and hand dipped strawberries graced my private table. What a treat!

Then I got the tour of their home – which was originally a little cabin (now remodeled into the guest suite). They built their existing home, which connects to the suite through a laundry room. Paul has always been very ‘handy’ and he’s done a beautiful job with the design and construction.

I especially love the tile with copper flecks in the kitchen – and the unique wall treatments and custom railing Paul designed. Their space is so inviting – and he and Craig are delightful hosts.

Look at what a beautiful and comfortable home they’ve created for themselves. Those glass windows look out onto sun dappled, vine covered redwoods and douglas firs. Breathtaking.

We’ve been having a wonderful time together, and my next post will feature how we’ve been spending our time (if I survive the night). For now, I must go enjoy what promises to be a fabulous meal that Paul is just placing on the table…..

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Posted on Apr 11th, 2010 by Allison (Travel, Whatever)

Brazilian CardinalIn my previous Hawaii post, I mentioned our “friends” – the sweet little Brazilian cardinals that graced our lanai – always in pairs. They simply delight us every visit to Kauai.

You’d think it would get old, but no – every time we see them we light up and call out “hello friends” and feed them crumbs of bread, even though we know it’s probably not a good idea.

We had a pair that visited us daily the whole 10 days were in there. On the 8th day, we were sitting on the couch and all of a sudden heard loud commotion coming from the deck. Our friends had brought more friends, and instead of one pair – there were 8 pairs! Yes, that is 16 cardinals (and a lone mourning dove) chattering on the railing, the table, the deck, the chairs. One pair was continually arguing like an old married couple. It was such fun.

Kristin left the sliding door open as we watched and continued to feed them, and one brave soul actually hopped up and ventured into the condo to partake of the crumbs you see on the carpet.

A cardinal commotion

And with as many cardinals as we saw on this trip, we saw even more chickens. We don’t call them friends…. no, instead, every time we see one we call out – in a loud and alarmed voice, CHICKEN!!!! It has become the natural response anytime one appears. I did it without thinking when there was a woman near us at the Hanalei Valley lookout. She laughed.

Chickens run amok in Kauai

Chickens, freed from their coops during the 1992 Hurricane Iniki, literally run amok on Kauai. They are at the beach, on the golf course, in parking lots, fields, along side the road. Unless you’ve been there it is difficult to imagine the magnitude of the chicken population, So Kristin and I decided to try and count them.

In a 2 mile stretch, we counted 99 chickens along the side of the road. And those were just the ones we could see – you know there are more lurking in the shrubbery. Why someone doesn’t round these guys up is beyond me. Any ideas how they should do it?

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Posted on Mar 4th, 2010 by Allison (Travel)

I arrived on Kauai later Monday afternoon and Kristin was waiting for me at the airport (she arrived Saturday).

Hanalei Taro Fields

It’s been a bit blustery – windy and kind of cool so we haven’t spent a lot of time outside taking pictures yet… (we’re here for another week, so no rush….)

But we have been gorging ourselves on chocolate covered macadamia nuts. And socializing with our “friends” – the pairs of crested cardinals that we delight in every time they arrive on our lanai. We also enjoyed watching a family of little doves in Hanalei. The babies were so little and cute following mom and dad around.

Michelle, the next photo is for you. I call it “Bologna and Cheese with Waterfall

Toasted Bologna and Cheese with waterfall.

Wish you were here enjoying one with us.

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Posted on Dec 31st, 2009 by Allison (Family/Friends, Photography, Travel)

Christmas morning with Marie and EmilySanta delivered me to Salt Lake on his sleigh this year.

At least I think that’s what happened – I went to bed in Seattle and woke up Christmas morning in Salt Lake.

A bow on the door led Emily and Marie to open it and see what Santa had brought. It made for a fun surprise.

The camera is not my friend first thing in the morning.

Jennifer prepared a fabulous meal (I have no idea how she keeps the kitchen totally clean the entire time she prepares the meal… I’m thinking it must be magic.)

Brandon expressed his anticipation for his move to Costa Rica by donning a tropical shirt. They are becoming ‘Location Independent‘ and moving there in less than a week – you can read about why and how they are doing it on his blog.

jen-meal Brandon is ready to go to Costa Rica

Ashley and family joined us for dinner and visiting for the rest of the day (and I didn’t take any pics!). But the girls had a blast together. And I got nauseous when I attempted to play Mario Cart with them.

Kennedy on Christmas DayI joined Ashley and family for the next couple of days. Kennedy opened her gifts from me on Christmas night. Justin had to work a graveyard shift at the hospital, so after Kennedy went to bed, Ashley and I stayed up for hours and played on their new Wii. I suck at Super Mario Brothers, but at least I didn’t get nauseous. And I bowled pretty good…. Wii is fun.

Oh – did I mention that it’s been FREEZING here? Not as cold as forecast (3 degrees at night) but still pretty damn cold. These are the frost crystals that form on Ashley’s kitchen window. Cool, huh?

A frosty window

Cool Frost CrystalsIt snowed a bit and I slid all over the road – even in a 4 wheel drive Tahoe. OK, not all over the road – just down the hill, but even so I did NOT enjoy it. But I had to venture out to have a meal at Cafe Rio

And the Salt Lake Valley inversion has been horrible. I am finally seeing a little sunshine today! I hope it lasts…

But the frost crystals – very cool.

And to finish up, a few more pics of the granddaughters….
Marie the snow angelEmily hugs her snowman


Tonight, I’ll be helping out with Ashley and Justin’s New Years Eve party.

How was your Christmas? What are you doing for New years?

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Posted on Sep 27th, 2009 by Allison (Reviews/Recommendations, Travel)

YellowstoneI just watched the first episode of a wonderful new PBS series called

National Parks – America’s Best Idea

Did you see it?

If not, I highly recommend catching it as it replays this week – and tuning in for future installments.

The National Parks: America’s Best Idea is a six-episode series filmed over the course of more than six years at some of nature’s most spectacular locales – from Acadia to Yosemite, Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon, the Everglades of Florida to the Gates of the Arctic in Alaska.

It is also a story of people: people from every conceivable background – rich and poor; famous and unknown; soldiers and scientists; natives and newcomers; idealists, artists and entrepreneurs; people who were willing to devote themselves to saving some precious portion of the land they loved, and in doing so reminded their fellow citizens of the full meaning of democracy.Bryce

The scenery is spectacular and will make you want to pack up and visit every single national park in this beautiful country. And the history and stories behind the parks’ creation is inspirational.

What are your favorite national park(s)?

Any great memories from the first time you saw Old Faithful, a giant Sequoia, glacier or waterfall in a national park??

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Posted on Mar 26th, 2009 by Allison (Photography, Travel)

OK, back to Kauai for a post or two.

There is a wide variety of landscape on Kauai – farmland, forest, beach, mountain, rocky cliffs, red dirt….

Jungle in KauaiAnd even though we know it’s the tropics, it is always quite surprising each time we come upon areas that are “jungle.”   

One of my favorite jungle spots is on the north side of the island, along the stretch of road just south (west?) of Kalihiwai bridge.   The picture to the left was taken right next to the road, on one of those famous “Kristin, stop here!” excursions… 

On this one, I believe she actually tried to (jokingly??) enlist the help of a local cop to get me to come back to the car…. didn’t work : )

Tree Tunnel near PoipuOh, there is a more famous stretch of road on the south side of the island (shown here on the right) – actually known as “Tree Tunnel.”  And it is rather impressive, especially since it has had a chance to fill back in a bit after Hurricane Iniki in 1992.   Man, that hurricane wreaked havoc on the island…  

CHICKENS!!!!   (inside joke)

But even though Tree Tunnel is more famous, it simply can’t compare to the tree canopy covering the highway on the north shore.  This stretch of road simply takes my breath away every time I see it.

There is even a beautiful waterfall right along side the road. Nowhere to park nearby, so we roll down the windows to see and hear it each time we pass. Next trip I think we should commit to park and make the trek down the road on foot to walk across the bridge and take pictures.

Canopy of trees on Kauai north shore

The day was rather overcast, and it is hard to see how dense and green the jungle is without some sunlight filtering through – but these giant vines growing up the grees are beautiful and impressive.  Thanks again, Kris, for humoring me and my camera…

Kauai Jungle

And this last picture is from the jungle area near Ke’e beach at the end of the road on the north shore.  When Ashley and I stepped into this forest, it was an incredibly surreal, unnatural looking green.  I’m not sure this picture can even capture how green it was – felt like we’d just stepped into the emerald city and even we were green.  

Green jungle at Ke’e

Of course Ashley tried swinging on a couple of those vines, but it didn’t work…

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