30 November 2014

O Christmas Tree


We picked out our Christmas tree today! We had such great luck at Monches last year, that we decided to out there again this year. It really is a magical place. The boys got to feed the chickens, and we were able to drop in and say hello to our friends who live on the property. Once again, I think we picked out the perfect tree. It's absolutely beautiful. And so far, even Gretel has been really good with it.

28 November 2014



After a full morning in the field, it's safe to say, Gretel was completely exhausted. It was amazing. Normally, there's not a moment that she's not getting herself into some sort of trouble. She's very curious. But this afternoon, she zonked out and just enjoyed some snuggles. We all kind of loved it.

First Time


We spent Thanksgiving night at my parents. It's not that they live far away -- but it sure was nice not to have to worry about driving home last night. Plus, the boys had an early morning pheasant hunt planned. Brian, H, my dad, Justin, his father-in-law, Tim and my nephew all went, while C stayed home with my mom and me. Gretel tagged along too. She's been getting trained on birds for awhile now. But at almost-eight-months, she's technically still a bit young to really work the fields. Let's put it this way -- it would help if she actually came when her name was called. She's quite stubborn. Brian planned on taking her out afterwards for a bit, but the guide coaxed him into having her out today. I guess she did great. Brian was surprised, but so happy, as you can imagine. In fact, he may have beaming. I have no interest in hunting, but I may need to tag along one of these days just to see her in action.

Thanksgiving 2014


What a great Thanksgiving we had! My cousin & his wife, who live near my parents, decided to host this year. It was fantastic. In attendance were the hosts -- Amy & Justin -- and their three girls, Amy's parents, Jessica & Lawrence (Amy's sister and brother-in-law) and their three children, Christie, Tim, J (who was home from college) and M, my parents, Amy's grandmother, and us. Quite the house-full. The kids played all day, the adults enjoyed each other's company and we feasted on some amazing food. I brought Melissa's Ras el Hanout Roasted Cauliflower with Dates & Pinenuts. I know it's not a common side dish, but the spices go great with the turkey and other side dishes. Yum. It was a great day.

22 November 2014

Costa Rica :: Final Day


I can't even count this as a day in Costa Rica. It was the day we had to leave. We met up with the group at 7:30 am where we boarded a big coach bus back for Liberia. We arrived back in Chicago at 7:25 pm. What a great trip. The wedding was beautiful and something like I've never seen before. The people -- both the wedding guests and the locals we met -- were amazing. It was a beautiful, natural place. A week later, I still can't stop thinking about it. Costa Rica is good for my soul ... and I cannot wait to go back.

Costa Rica :: Day 7


Today was the only day without any planned activities -- and we couldn't wait to spend it at the beach. But first, our final breakfast at Robin's. I had planned to go back for ice-cream in the afternoon, but never made it. So sad. Afterwards, we met up with Scott & Ali, and surfed the morning away. I had traded my board in for something a little smaller, and had a great time. I'm by no means a good surfer -- even by day 5 -- but we could all get up and surf the smaller waves by this point. It was so much fun. Scott & Ali decided to have ceviche off the back of the truck at the gas station again, while John, Brian, the kids and I rode to La Luna on our ATVs, which was one of our favorite meals yet. So delicious and beautiful. We met up again in the afternoon and surfed. I have to admit, by this time I was getting pretty exhausted, but just couldn't give it up. Honestly, I'd be out there surfing every if I could be. It just felt so great. We stayed on the beach until it was time to turn in the ATVs and surfboards. So sad..... That night we had dinner at Burgers & Beers, then headed back for our last evening in paradise.

21 November 2014

Costa Rica :: Day 6


We woke up early to go zip-lining! Brian and I have tried it before -- in Whistler -- but we thought it was something the boys would have a blast doing. We were right! Even H, with his fear of heights, had a great time. The runs were long and high. There were a few moments when I wondered what in the world we were thinking, flying high above the trees like that. But it really is breathtaking. That afternoon, stopped at the gas station for ceviche -- yes, off the back of a truck -- then surfed again (imagine that). In the evening, we met up with the wedding group for a farewell beach party at Olga's on Playa Pelada. There was some soccer playing going on ... and swimming, of course. And the sunset! Oh my gosh, it was amazing. I cannot even stand how beautiful it all is. Afterwards, the group met up again at a skateboard park. C was nervous about it, but tried and did great. Brian and H didn't even hesitate. I figured it was best for me not to even try. Don't get me wrong, I was a pretty good skateboarder when I was 11 years old. But I can't imagine anything good would have come out of that one. We also had dinner there -- got to try beet fries for the first time. Yum.

20 November 2014

Costa Rica :: Day 5


We woke up and had breakfast at Robin's (our favorite breakfast and ice cream shop! - chocolate ice cream with cacao nibs...yes, please) and smoothies at Scott & Ali's hotel before doing what we loved to do most on vacation -- surf! We went right outside Casa Romantica again, and met up with a group from the wedding to hang out with. Once we got home, I had one of my favorite moments of the trip. I loaded up H&C on the back of my ATV and the three of us went to get coconuts. I had the perfect coconut -- with sweet water and lots of meat. We also talked to a really nice young couple from Germany who asked if we lived there. Maybe it was the fact that there were three of us on an ATV -- or it may our beach hair. But at that moment, I realized I haven't been so relaxed in a long time. I remembered that first day at the ATV shop when they said I must have just gotten there because I was so anxious. And let me tell you, that feeling of unwinding is great. I honestly cannot remember the last time I've been so calm and relaxed. Pura Vida! After the coconuts, we stopped at a cute store (where I ended up buying an amazing purse later), and had some delicious ceviche out of a cooler off the back of a bicycle. It was all too perfect.

That afternoon, we went to a hangover party at Tierra Magnifica. Once again, Mike & Kristyn thought of everything, and even had a rock climber there who set up milk crates for the kids to climb. H, who is scared of heights, opted out, but C had a blast! It was a nice, relaxing afternoon for sure. In the evening, we picked up some sushi, hung out a bit, then hit the sack. We were all absolutely exhausted.

18 November 2014

Costa Rica :: Day 4

Wedding day xoxo! We woke up, rented some surf boards for the rest of the week, then headed to the ocean for more surfing before the wedding, which took place at 11:11 am (on 11.11) right on the beach. In fact, after stopping for our daily fresh roadside coconut water we even showed up to the wedding with our surf boards, and the boys surfed up to the last minute. We attended the ceremony itself in rash guards, board shorts and cover ups. That's the way to do it! The backdrop was the ocean and surf boards we all had painted on the night before. Perfect. Mike & Kristyn and their four children were so sweet during the ceremony. It was extremely special.

Afterwards, we went back to Casa Romantica for post-wedding appetizers (amazing ceviche and tuna). We had a few hours between the ceremony and the reception, so decided to take the ATVs up to Tierra Magnifica, where the reception was going to be held -- and where C got to hang out with a bulldog/boxer mix named Jackson. He was in heaven.

We went back to the house for a bit, then a shuttle picked us up to take us to the reception. We didn't know it was coming, so the boys ended up wearing their swimsuits again! It's basically what they wore the entire week, to be honest. The view from Tierra Magnifica is amazing, and the reception was a blast. Marcus provided music again, and the evening was filled with surprises -- a mariachi band, fireworks, and carnival dancers. I hope the boys don't think every wedding is like this, because it was truly amazing.