Sunday, May 31, 2009

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Melissa over at  The Inspired Room  writes a weekly series called Beautiful Life,  and I thought this post fits perfectly with her theme.
Yesterday when Smita asked me to go to the Atlanta Botanical Garden, I was so excited.  Yes, gardening excites me, especially since I have not been able to garden for about one year now.  Damn Costa Rica! Ha!
I had a year membership to the gardens a few years ago. Talk about a beautiful life.    30 acres  right in the middle of Midtown Atlanta with every type of plant you can imagine.  There are a bunch of specialty gardens:  tropical, dessert, orchids,  Japanese garden, the list goes on.   During the warmer months they even hold weekly cocktail hours.  There was a 9 month exhibition there in 2004 called Chihuly in the Garden, where 50 original blown glass sculptures by internationally renowned glass artist Dale Chihuly were on display.  The exhibit is no longer happening but there are still a couple installations of his work, like this beautiful blue one.
This was the perfect spot to play with my new camera.   I was happy that after my long absence from gardening I still remember so many plants.  My mom is a great teacher.
This is a new one for me. I fell in love, but forget the exact name.  I know it is in the allium family.  Onion something... Below is one of my favorite kinds of plants.  Stonecrop, which is in the sedum family.
I think I have much to learn, for example, it was so sunny and I think  the ISO on the camera needed to be adjusted so the colors would come out more vividly.  Like in this next pic.  (I like that it has some of the buildings in the background though so I thought I would share)This is the Dorothy Chapman Fuqua Conservatory its a beautiful building which houses the tropical and dessert gardens.  
I felt so happy afterwards. Besides hanging out with my great friend,  I felt so inspired.  I really need to get a garden quickly.  

Saturday, May 30, 2009

CrossFit in Atlanta

Ernesto and I just got back from doing a kick-ass CrossFit workout in a CrossFit Gym.  Our friends Tori and Marcus work out at CrossFit Decatur and although we have been doing the workouts for a while in Costa Rica, we have never been to an actual CrossFit  gym.  It was awesome!  In a warehouse style building, it was airy and open with all the garage doors open.
The "WOD" was called KELLY.   Run 400 meters, 30 jumps onto a 24" box, and 30 wall balls.  Ernesto took a couple pics of me.  Yes, he finished before me.You must throw the medicine ball up to the top line and catch it and squat till your ass hits the ball on the floor.  5 rounds for time. It hurt.  Bad.Ernesto finished at 29:14 and I finished at 41:06.  The best part of this gym is that you are working out with a group of people and their are 2 trainers cheering [read: pushing] you to finish fast. UGH!  
You pay for this "personal training" too.  $150 single/$250 per couple per month.  Steep yes, but your ass will be in shape in a few months.  Literally.  I would consider this splurge, once we "settle down."  It can be counted as entertainment money.  Here is Marcus (blue shirt) with us.  Thanks for inviting us dude, it was a great way to start off our saturday morning.The gym is right by our old house, so we had to do a drive by.  It made me a little teary eyed.  It looked so cute.I wanted to get out and look at MY garden.   We were shocked to see that they cut down the HUGE oak tree in front.  

Friday, May 29, 2009

Welcome to Atlanta & Happy Bday Smita

It is so weird to be back...mostly because we don't have a home.  Walking through Atlanta's Inman Park neighborhood was so beautiful, I was feeling so nostalgic.  
 It was almost like we never left (well, not quite).  I do think Atlanta is really a nice city though.  Maybe we will set up here again.  This house would be just fine.
Ok, seriously.  We did go look at a house in East Atlanta.  I saw it online a few weeks ago and I keep thinking about it.  
It is another fixer-upper.  Someone had already started renovating the inside, but the outside needs new siding and a roof (at the very least)  I cant believe I would even consider buying another fixer-upper...but this is a great neighborhood where we could stay in for a long time and it's low price for the area.  It has a big back yard, big front porch, 4 bedrooms/3 bath and the street is so cute.  Isn't it cute?   You can walk to East Atlanta Village!   See virtual tour here.   Its just a thought.  I can hear what you are thinking...and the answer is - yes, Ill need to get a job! Ha!
Its just that Im feeling so domestic lately.  I wanted to bake and it was Smita's Birthday so I had a perfect excuse.  I picked a lemon upside down cake recipe from Food & Wine Magazine and add fresh ginger.  It turned out just like the picture.
We met Smita and Jen at TAP, a "gastropub" right in Midtown. (14th & Peachtree)  The weather was perfect and although we were just going to stay for drinks before heading to a Cambodian restaurant (the bday girl's choice) we sat outside for hours and ended up eating right there.
This may have had something to do with it as well.
I gave Smita her gift from Ernesto and I, a beautiful Mola from Panama.  She has a lot of wall hangings from her travels, so I knew she would like this.
It felt nice to dress up, and I had nothing in my bag but CR clothes.  I borrowed this beautiful orange silk shirt from Smita and I want to steal it...shhhhhhhh!  Being amongst of the tall buildings in the middle of the city really was nice.  I really am a city girl...well, and a beach girl...and a mountain girl...  

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

San Jose Goodbyes in a Movie

I was thinking of all the things Im  going to miss about Costa Rica so I thought I'd make a list of the top 5 (not counting my friends)
  1. Food (gallo pinto, casados y platanos)
  2. Parrots flying everywhere
  3. Spanish (of course!)
  4. Cheap Brazilian bikini waxes
  5. My many trips exploring  the country 
To Sum up the last year of my life I made a video, which I think is pretty cool.
Take a look:
We had a fun soiree at Kate's house Saturday night, and it was perfect having my friends there together.   (ok, ALL of them weren't there, but I know they wanted to be -I missed you Andres, Steph y Ana)  Thanks to Steve, Marco, Eric, Carla, Louisa, Samir, Diana for coming, and Kate for hosting.  Neto prepared  carne asada and bought a bottle of tequila to go with the Mexican dinner.Im glad our last few days in costa Rica came full circle to where we were living with Kate again.  
Besides being a great friend, Im so appreciative of Kate's generosity throughout the whole year.  She was always willing to help us, whether it was Costa Rica info (the girl is a living guide book) or loaning us her car and every other supply we didn't have while in the country.  She was always ready to do something too.  Party, gelato, dancing, shopping, cooking.  I know we will be friends for a long time and Ill see her again. (plus, I have 3 more bags stored in her garage, so Ill be heading back there soon)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Lazy Last Days in San Jose

Im glad we decided to spend our last 2 weeks in Costa Rica in San Jose instead of traveling, it was great! 
I actually said, "Im sick of traveling" (...and you may never hear that again)
I want to give a huge THANK YOU to Steph, who welcomed Ernesto and me in her cozy comfortable home when we moved out of our apartment [two weeks ago].   I hope we didn't overstay our welcome, we tried to lay low and make her happy with delicious dinners.   Here she is working in her cute little garden out front.  
We spent a lot of time walking around downtown - really enjoying the city.   I have a new found respect for San Jose (of course, right as we are leaving)  We finally made it to the Gold Museum where thousands of Pre-Colombian gold artifacts are on display.
The pieces date from 500 BE to 1600 AD, and range from simple earrings to elaborate cuff necklaces and intricate replications of local animals like the one above.
You know how I love feathers, and this headdress that was on display gave me great inspiration for my next halloween costume. (I realize this sounds a bit weird, given I was supposed to be reading the history of the indigenous people of Costa Rica, but you never know where you'll be inspired)
I have to share this picture of my birdies. You can really see them here just hanging out on this building.
I counted eighteen parrots on one tree. They make me so happy. Every time I walk outside I hear these parrots, they are as common here as Robins are in Ohio.  
Although the inside of the famous Hotel Del Rey is prostitute central, I really like the pink on the outside. The Plaza de Espana is a beautiful park in downtown packed with huge bamboo and tropical plants, perfect for an afternoon stroll.  
The other day we worked on consolidating all our $hit into 6 bags (3 bags each) for our flight.  They can weigh no more than 50lbs a piece.  Needless to say, I will be making another trip to San Jo to pick up the rest of our stuff.  (no idea when that will be)
A mix of emotions are running through me. Excited for the summer and seeing all of my family, yet sadness to leave a life that was truly one of the best years of my life.  The fun times never ended!  I hope you enjoyed my blog during this time, and I hope the excitement will continue. It must. Viva Cindy!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Words to live by?

Im so in love with this print from FreyaArt at her Etsy shop. I must buy it and display it on our wall (when ever we get one).

It really sums up the thoughts of a free spirit.

Maybe I am just trying to reassure myself, but I think its ok to not always know what the next step in life is.  Exciting even.  So many options.  

Yes, there is a scary part too, but when I feel that coming on in the future, I will just re-read my new piece of artwork!

Does this speak to you in some way?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Trip to Tortuguero!

As our time in Costa Rica is winding down, we were thinking of the places we really wanted to visit before leaving. Tortuguero is a small village on the northern Caribbean coast. This national park is a really unique part of Costa Rica.  Besides being one of the most humid, rainy areas (there is no dry season), it is surrounded by lagoons that are connected by many canals.  Parque Nacional Tortuguero is undoubtedly one of Costa Rica's top wildlife destinations.  The main draw being the turtles.  It is where the turtle conservation movement started. Of the worlds' 8 species of sea turtles, 4 lay there eggs on the beaches of Tortuguero (which funny enough, means 'turtle village' in Spanish)  The Caribbean Conservation Corporation implemented the first program of its kind in the world and has been monitoring turtles here since 1955. I had been under the impression that is was difficult to get there.   The whole village is completely surrounded by protected forrest and is only accessible by boat or plane. The journey though was quite easy (and enjoyable). We took a bus from San Joses’ Caribbean bus station to Cariari (one hour and 40 min) connected to Pavona (one hour) then climbed in a water taxi (40 min) to Tortuguero Village.Cruising through banana plantations and the jungle was so cool. I thought, this must be what it's like floating down the Amazon.
When the driver pointed out a few crocs, I reconsidered our plans of kayaking through the canals. This isn't the best pic, but you can see this crocodile is pretty big, and has his mouth open. I turned into a total scaredy-cat!
When we arrived to the village, it reminded me a bit of my Bocas del Toro trip, with the houses on/over the water, only I knew my toilet wasn't going to flush into the water.  One of the great things about Costa Rica is that [most of] their sanitation/water system is good!
Tortuguero is pretty small as you can see on the map, which was right at the boat dock.  We stopped to look at our options for hotel. Reservations? ha!
We had met a guy named Adolfo at the bus station in Cariari. He was working in a tour office and was really informative (he ended up being our guide for the park, I wish I had his contact info). He recommended that we stay at Cabinas Icaco.  It was great suggestion…clean room, warm-ish water, located right on the beach with a balcony and the bedroom was painted turquoise! Here is Ernesto standing in the breeze on the balcony. (actually I think he was looking for a wi-fi connection on his itouch. ha!)There are over 300 species of birds in this area, and I had my [I mean Kate's] binoculars ready. This gorgeous bird, a blue tanager, was enjoying a banana at the market. That afternoon we covered the whole town on foot. (in about 15 minutes) The houses were all bright colors, I especially liked this one. This bike caught my eye in front of a yellow house.
We walked to the entrance of the national park read all the info about the turtles. We passed
Ernesto Tours! (sorry, I cant really recommend them, but I do like the name)We ate dinner at the Buda Café, a spot that is so welcoming with their new age music spilling out onto the dirt road. The ambiance was so cool and unexpected in a town of many Soda’s (ie:mom & pop kitchens). It had red paper lanterns, decorative touches like candles and handmade placemats. There was also a lounge area where you were able to enjoy a coffee, which we did several times while it rained outside.
This huge parrot was in the middle of a little park, we sat at a nearby table to enjoy the changing colors in the sky.

We arranged our canal tour early, it's the best time to go (or after a rain, as the animals come out to dry) His boat was a large canoa (canoe) with no motor, and he paddled us through the many canals for almost 4 hours.  He was wonderful!  He pointed out wildlife that Im sure we would have missed. This is why I recommend that you spend the $15 per person for a guide (and Lonely planet does too). It was worth it. He knew the names of all the birds we saw:  toucans, kingfishers, and many different herons. We could hear the howler monkeys the whole time. Their noise carries for up to 3 miles!   I don’t think there is any way we would have spotted this without him:

Do you see them? Do you see the baby Caymans? (crocodile family) Mama was nearby.

Not surprisingly, it was raining for most of the canal tour, but we came prepared (I know, its something new for us) with ponchos.
Going on a night turtle walk is a must in Tortuguero.   Because there is a problem with poaching, it is required that you are with a licensed guide and that you have paid the park entrance fee that day ($10).
Unfortunately, May is not a high season for turtle nesting, but since the Leatherback turtles nesting season is in April, we had about a 50% chance to see some stragglers.  We were not lucky.  We did get to see a couple rastras in the sand because 2 turtles were spotted the night before.  These imprints last in the sand for about 3 days and are enormous. 
This picture is from the Endangered Wildlife Trust website, so I have no idea who that man is but he gives you a good reference of just how huge these turtles are. 
The female turtle digs a cavity in the sand with her flippers and lays anywhere from 80-120 eggs before heading back to sea, leaving the eggs on there own to hatch 45 to 70 days later.  Sometimes they will even lay a "false batch" to confuse predators.  The whole process is so amazing, I was really disappointed that we weren't able to see it.   You aren't permitted to have flashlights or cameras on the night walk, and we had to wear dark clothing.  From 10p to midnight we walked the beach.  Nothing.  At one point the guide said, "oh, I have seen jaguars a couple times here.  If we see one tonight, don't act scared because they sense fear.  Just face the cat and walk backwards into the ocean.  They don't like salt water."  What?? I was scared. 
Although no turtles were spotted, I think it was one of my favorite trips I have taken in Costa Rica.  Like no other place here.   We are planning one more trip here before we are off to the good ol' US of A.  Decisions, decisions!


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