Saturday, May 31, 2014

There's No Place Like Home

Yesterday we picked the kids up from camp and we are once again reunited. They had a blast and could have stayed longer, and might even be a little disappointed to be back home. I'm glad for that, it means they had fun and are comfortable being away from mom and dad for an extended period. Also, how can you blame them? Camp seems like such a blast. I never went away to camp, even though I longed to and it wasn't until college that I actually knew what it was like to function outside of the home, which in my opinion is way too late.

Either way, the kids said they loved it and can't wait until next year, though last year I was unsure about how much N loved it. A went hog wild for the camping experience, as I thought she would. It just fits who she is, very sociable and independent. The idea of being with a group of kids her age for a week sans parents is right up her alley. N, on the other hand, is more reserved, plus he's younger. I mentioned previously that I was a little surprised (pleasantly surprised) that he wanted to go back, and this time around, I could tell he was into it. All he and his sister talked about was camp, and how much they look forward to it next time.

I'm glad he enjoyed it, because I think it's a great experience, not to mention loads of fun. His experience is so much different than hers, which is to be expected, but in the end, as long as they're safe and having a good time, that's all that matters. Now they're back and we can return to our normal routines, whatever that means. It's nice to see them again, R and I both missed them and enjoy their company. Plus, at some point, they are going to set off on their own lives and in many instances, we won't be invited to the party, so we have to enjoy while we can.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sasha for the pic.

At Long Last

Are those amazing woodpiles, or what? I've never seen anything like that.

I finally finished this year's wood pile, and I think I'm ahead of schedule in terms of years past. I'm still a bit blown away by how much wood we use, but such is life in the wilds of New England. A lot of people I talk to said they ran out of wood or used an excessive amount of heating oil/propane last winter, and it was a long one. We used up our year's supply and dipped into year two, probably using about 15% of it, which was a bummer because not only does it mean more work over the summer, but I had only split and stacked about 1/2 the year, so it really looked depleted. Bringing it back to completion required that much more work this spring, so I was on a mission. Another thing I did wrong was splitting some old and huge logs into really big pieces. I knew they would fit because our stove is pretty big, but they stack into inefficient piles that we burn through quickly.

I can't really get too complacent, however, because that's what did me in last year. With this year done, I can casually but diligently start working on year two. It's great because there is still a fair amount of wood left over, so I can toil away at that until we get our next delivery. As I've mentioned before, if we could finish year two with what we've got, then we're in hog heaven, but we won't really know until we stack that last piece. Here's to hoping.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Suzanne for the pic.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Home Alone

The kids have been away at camp all week, and R and I have been working furiously on a number of projects now that we have all this free time. Not having to make meals sure opens things up in terms of your obligations. Not only that, but we've been living it up. The other night we went to see a movie together (when does that ever happen?), and when we watch movies at home, we turn the volume up really high because we don't have to worry about waking up the kids. How's that for being wild and crazy?

As for meals, we pretty much wing it for lunch, and then for supper we've been meeting up in the big city to split a big Cobb Salad Wrap burrito at Boloco. Talk about killer, I love those things. Then we head home to work on the yard, and have been particularly diligent about the garden. In fact, we've expanded our horizons quite a bit. What started out as one garden plot has turned into nearly three, as well as our home garden. What are we thinking?

We've even been a bit spontaneous. I've been meeting R on a whim near work to have supper or just hang out in the big city, often times without a plan. Can you believe it? The other day she had to go into work for a short stint, and I was mowing the lawn and dropped everything and went in with her. It was actually fun, she worked and I wandered the empty hospital (my future employer) and read old magazines in the waiting rooms. There are plenty of them. It actually worked out nicely because I had a daylong orientation for my potential job (more on this later), and it would have been harder if I had the kids with me all day. In fact, I'm not sure how I would have pulled that one off.

All in all, it's quiet and peaceful, but we think about the kids all the time (worry?) and miss them. I have to confess, my routines are thrown into a bit of upheaval without them there. Sure, I have plenty to do around here, but I enjoy being their servant. In the meantime, I've got a woodpile to finish and a garden to plant, not to mention a glorious freelance writing career to jumpstart.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Sasha for the pic.

Lots of Driving Through the Twin States

Last week we had one of those crazy days that you anticipate with dread, though in retrospect you reflect in amazement that you actually pulled it off. It just feeds into my OCD tendencies, but it's amusing on some level.

The kids both had activities and I was being pulled in different directions. To complicate matters, the two other families who I've come to rely on for help were both busy, so I was on my own. Fortunately we had back up plans. The day was actually really nice, even if it was a little crazy. We first headed down to Walpole to see a friend who was hosting, of all things, a mushroom workshop. I think I wrote about this earlier. The seminar was great, I learned a lot, and the kids had a blast. Plus, we finally got to visit our friends down there. We picked up our friend, NMP, and headed down.

The first complication was that A and NMP had a track meet in nearby Langdon at the Fall Mountain Regional High School. N had a lax game at the same time in Manchester, which is about an hour west of Langdon. Normally I would have asked KS to drive because she goes to all the meets, but she had asked me to give E a ride, and E ended up not even going because she wasn't feeling well. My other backup, AM, asked me to take N to the mushroom workshop and then the meet, so I had to come up with a plan.

The first part of the adventure was getting to the track meet, which was about 40 minutes from our friend's house. I printed directions but they are usually so detailed that they completely confuse me. I end up getting lost and it's a pain. We had a little time cushion, which helped, and eventually we found the school, but not before I stopped and asked someone for help. We were driving through towns I'd never heard of, and on small country roads, which for the record had beautiful scenery, especially at this time of year.

When I dropped the girls off, I told them I would try to get back in time to take them home, but if I couldn't, then they should take the bus, which the school provides. In fact, this might be the option they want, though I can't say for sure. N and I then had to figure out how to cross the CT River into VT and then drive to Manchester, which wasn't easy. We arrived in Manchester a little late, but not horribly, and I set about watching his game. They lost, but N didn't seem too fazed by it. None of the kids do, lax is a pretty relaxed sport, which is fine by me.

I was watching the clock and realized that there was a chance we could get back in time. His game was slated to end at 6:00, and then it takes about 1 1/4 hours to get back to Langdon. A's track meet ended at 7:00, but they almost always go over, sometimes by as much as an hour. The problem was, if they finished at 7:00, which they sometimes do, there was no chance we'd get back in time. However, there was a strong chance we would, so we went for it.

The first logistical hurdle was food. N needed to eat after the game, and we didn't have a lot of time to search for and purchase food. Luckily, at the lax game, the snack shack was serving burgers and hot dogs. I got him one of each, and we hit the road. Not the healthiest meal, but not too bad, and tasty, to boot. He wasn't complaining. We took off and headed for the border, arriving around 7:20 and in time to see A run her relay. I love when that happens.

The meet ended closer to 8:00, which is crazy when you think about it. We jumped in the car and headed home. One last note, I had some choices to make a different junctures on the way home, and for once in my life, I made the right choice and crossed over into VT sooner than later. In the past I took route 12 into Claremont and came home via Plainfield/Windsor, which is a pain. This time I scored by doing if differently by heading into Springfield and catching the 91. It's the little things in life that make the difference, right?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to VJ Clikz for the pic.

Employment Report

It looks like I may have found part time work, though it's on a per diem basis, so technically I'm not regularly employed. I'm not sure how this plays out with the unemployment office, but it's something I'll have to look into. The whole job search process has been interesting and, dare I say, entertaining. It's been awhile since I've had to search for employment, and it was strange jumping back in. On a positive note, it has forced me to put some thought into my resume and cover letters, all of which will help me find writing jobs, or for that matter, all jobs.

I saw a listing for a standardized (STD) patient and figured it might be interesting, so I applied. If there's one thing I've learned from all this it's that the process is slow. Sometimes it takes months just to hear a rejection, and this time was no different. At some point you forget that you've even applied, you just keep plugging along. I received an email informing me that I was under consideration but needed to go through the interview process.

I figured that since it was a part-time, per diem job, it would be no big deal, but that has not been the case. I've had to go through a couple of interviews, fill out all sorts of forms, go through background checks and drug testing/health screening, and at some point I'll have to spend all day at an orientation session. I realize that when the hospital hires someone, they have them all go through a blanket hiring process, but it's a little crazy, isn't it? I mean, really, I'm going to work sparingly and for peanuts. Do I really need to go through all this?

In the end, what I think doesn't matter. All that matters is that I can find some work to help fund our fabulously opulent lifestyles. I'll keep searching for that elusive dream writing job and see where the standardized patient gig takes me. Stay tuned for more, this should get interesting.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Flazingo Photos for the pic. 

The Bears are Back in Town

The other night, not too long after we had just returned from our trip, we were visited by a couple of black bears who raided our compost. As much as I think they're kind of cool, I'm not so keen on them looking for food in our yard. I'm going to have to employ greater measures to discourage this.

Truth be told, it wasn't as bad as it could have been. Last year a big bear came and raided our compost, and he or she (I think it was a he) stayed for what seemed like an hour. It was in broad daylight, too. He just sat there and chowed down. I remember calling MH and she came to photograph him, but he ran off as soon as he saw her. This year, two younger smaller ones came back, and they dismantled two of the bins but left the stuff inside largely untouched. Last year the bear left an incredible mess.

They say not to put meat or fat in your compost, which we end up doing in small quantities. Clearly it's enough to entice bears to visit, even though the stench is incredible. I don't see how they can stand it, but I'm not a bear. R went online and did some research and learned that we should mix new scraps into the slop, and top it off with some sawdust or leaves. It's more work, but you do what you gotta do, right?

This should be interesting, I'm hoping they won't come back, but that's partly up to me.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Doug Brown for the pic.

Friday, May 23, 2014

A Fungi Fun Guy

One of our homeschool friends organized a mushroom workshop over at her house in NH, and we went mostly because they're our friends and we never make it down there even though they come up here all the time. I wasn't sure what to expect, I'm not overly enthralled with mushrooms, but it was one of the coolest and most informative workshops I've ever been to.

First off, it was an adventure just getting there. They live down past Claremont, NH, so it was a bit of a trek. We don't spend much time down there, but it's really nice, and they have a beautiful spread with lots of land. She's a hardcore farmer, and they definitely walk the walk in terms of local and organic farming. The mushroom talk was awesome, I learned so much and came to really appreciate what mushrooms are about. Not just for eating, but in terms of their importance in the ecology of our planet. It was so cool.

In addition to learning about mushrooms, the guy, DW, also cooked up some mushrooms that he had grown in olive oil, and they were killer. There were shittake, maitake (aka hen of the woods), pompom, and oyster mushrooms. They tasted amazing, I wanted more but didn't want to make a pig of myself. We then inoculated a hardwood log with mushroom spores to create our own mushroom gardens at home. How cool is that? It was nice because the kids pretty much did everything, I just watched and tried my best not to be too overbearing. I think I succeeded, but the kids would be better judges of this.

Did I mention the day was beautiful, as well? Sunny, breezy, and cool enough to make it just right. I love days like that. We had fun, it was nice connecting with our friends, and despite the fact that I spent an entire day away from all the stuff I needed to do, I had a great time. Now I'm curious to see if we get mushrooms.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Michal Oravec for the pic.

Feminist Intellectual Pursuit

We went to see a speaker in the big city the other day and dragged A along thinking she might benefit from other worldly pursuits, and in the end, I'm not sure what she got out of it because the talk was pretty academic, dare I say too academic. To her credit she willingly came along and sat through it, but I think she may be too young for such things.

The speaker was world renowned feminist and radical activist Angela Davis, who is in her 70s and made a name for herself back in the 60s at UCLA, my alma mater. The Stones and John Lennon both wrote songs about her. She is actually a very interesting person, not to mention warm, approachable, and extremely articulate, which sort of made it difficult to follow at times, especially for my pea-sized brain. The place was packed, and the talk went longer than I expected, which usually wouldn't be a big deal but we had places to be and people to meet.

N happened to have lax practice during the talk, and then A&N were to meet up with their buddies H&O later for supper and a sleepover. Problems, of course, came up. The weather was rainy, so I should have had a sense that practice might have been compromised, which it was. I had dropped N off with his buddy CF at his house, and the plan was for them to have lunch and hang, then head to practice together. I was to meet them after the talk and during practice, then take A&N to meet H&O, whereby we would eat and then A would sleep over.

Since I was at a lecture, naturally I turned my phone off, only to realize later that everyone was trying to reach me. There were several messages, mainly that lax practice had been cancelled and where should we meet to get N. I was bummed and tried and failed to reach everyone. I got A into the car and we bolted over to the lax field. The rain kept coming down, and finally we reached the H's and SH said he'd meet us at the green. I felt bad, because they couldn't reach me and figured I would just show up at the anointed location, so he brought N but couldn't reach me. We finally located each other and I got N, then we had to meet H&O, whom we couldn't seem to connect with, either (they never answer their phone).

We hung out in the car before they called us back and told us to meet them at the Bridgewater store. When we got there, there was bad news - N's buddy couldn't make it, so it was just A going for the ride. They also decided to just get A and head home, so our plans went out the window. I felt like this was not only disappointing, but bad planning and could have been clarified to us a little better, but no big deal. N was disappointed, no doubt, especially since A got to go and have fun, but we decided to make an evening of it, anyway, and headed over to W. Leb for burgers at Five Guys and then some time at the driving range.

We had fun, but I still felt the evening was not handled in the best manner. Such is life, you just can't get it right every time. We met up with the crew the next day at the big lax jamboree in the big city, and the kids had fun. The weather couldn't have been nicer, so you have to be thankful for that, even though I had a million things to do around the house but ended up watching other people's kids play lax. Funny how that works.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Mark Monaghan for the pic.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Freelance Gigs

If you can believe this one, I'm actually getting some freelance writing gigs. I was contacted a few weeks back by a friend whom I spoke with several months ago about writing for a living. She is a former editor at the VNews and now works at the big University in their PR department. She was very kind and helpful, but did not come outright and offer me work. She did say she would keep me in mind and to stay in touch.

Fast forward a few months and I get an email saying they were looking for some freelance writers and if I was interested. Was I ever! I was a little worried because this was around the time of our trip, and I had some anxiety about them trying to contact me while we were Belize, which didn't happen. I did, however, get my first assignment before our trip, which went fine, but I wasn't really sure how happy they were with my work. I turned in the assignment, and then didn't hear back. I figured it was a good thing to put on my resume and would have to leave it at that.

Well, this past week the editor contacted me and asked if I could cover some news at the school. Boy was I stoked. Now the ball is in my court, so it's either put up or shut up... is that what they say?

Whatever be the case, I'm grateful for the chance. Now it'll be interesting to see what I do with it.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to Stefano Carnevali for the pic.

Focused and With a Purpose

I have been single-mindedly splitting and stacking wood with a purpose, and it sure feels good. Last year I feel like I made a couple of stupid mistakes, but the hard lessons you learn in life sure stay with you. First off, I split some really old pieces of wood that had been sitting around for literally years. They were either too big or too knotty to split by hand, and I finally managed to procure a splitter from our friends, the MPs. I split the pieces big, though they were moldy and covered with mushrooms. I should have either split them sooner, or let them rot.

These big pieces made the wood pile look ugly (I know it's no big deal, but it is when you have firewood OCD), and take up a lot of space. I ended up pulling them out, figuring I'll burn most of it in a bonfire. They amounted to about half a cord, so their absence left a gaping hole in the pile. I am in the process of filling it with properly split pieces, and I feel better about the whole endeavor.

The second blunder I made was that I got complacent and didn't complete the year-2 pile, even though I had the wood. I was lazy, though in my defense, we're busy people over here, and summer is brutally busy, especially when you're trying to build a barn. Couple that with a stacked pile of big, ugly wood that's too crappy to burn, and you have your work cut out for you.

This past winter was long and cold, so we dipped heavily into year-2, which again was aggravated by having such big pieces. By the time the snow melted and spring had arrived, we had almost no wood left in the pile. What a sad sight to behold. This time around, I'm determined to get both years stacked. I'm bummed because I missed out on an entire year of drying. Oh well, live and learn. I've been pretty focused thus far, and this year is almost done. I feel like we're in a good place, though complacency can sneak up on you when you least expect it.

Best of all, we still have a lot of log-length and un-split blocks, so my dream scenario is to get this year done and then have enough to complete year-2 without having to buy more, or rather, we'll buy more log-length, there just won't be an urgent need to cut and split it.

Wishful thinking? What else is new?

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to keithj5000 for the pic.

About Face

Once the snow melted and spring kicked into full gear, I decided that this year I would do a couple of things differently. First off, I did not want to make a big deal about the lawn. Usually I seed and fertilize the lawn in the spring and fall, and it's easy enough, though grass seeds, for whatever reason, are not cheap. I've been doing this for several years, and I think it's paid off because our lawn, at least the front, looks pretty decent, but I figured I would take this year off, which will probably come back to haunt me, but it's just a lawn, right? As the saying goes in New England, if it's green and you can mow it, then go with it.

The second issue I have is with our blueberry bushes. We were given two bushes as welcome presents by the previous owner, and it seemed like a cool gesture. I love the idea of having our own bushes, but as usual, I didn't really know how to transplant them and care for them properly. The first couple of years I didn't even water them, figuring they were plants in the wild. Well, as you can imagine, they were not happy, and at some point stopped producing berries. We obtained several more plants and I did it right this time, but the plants just never really seemed to take off. I wondered if the location wasn't that good; bad soil and not enough sun.

There are ways to help the plants live a happier existence, which mainly revolve around making the soil acidic. You are supposed to add peat moss when you transplant, and then add acidic fertilizer and acid pellets. Then cover with pine mulch, which is acidic, as well. With the exception of the first two plants, I diligently did all these steps for a few years, and the plants seemed to plod along in a mediocre fashion, even declining a bit. I was a bit fed up, and this year said I was done coddling those things.

Then spring hit, and with the grass and weeds and all, the plants looked like they needed a little TLC. Plus, they looked like they were showing signs of life, with some new growth and maybe even a few berries. Feeling empowered, I did an about face and went through the usual maintenance steps, adding acid and fertilizer, and then mulch. I used cedar mulch because we had it and I didn't want to deal with getting pine mulch, but I don't think it will be a big deal.

Now the plants look a little happier, and I feel better for having made some effort. I'm thinking I'll seed the grass, as well, even though I don't necessarily want it to grow faster. I've got enough on my plate as it is, I don't need more mowing time.

Oh well, it's sort of like parenting. You can't expect a certain end result (tell my mom that), you just do it because you care.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Robert Owen for the pic.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Reflections on Belize - Driving Adventures

A great way to get a sense of a country is to drive a car in it, and we've done our fair share. We've driven through Morocco, Spain, Italy, France, various Caribbean islands. I think it helps enormously to have a car when you're with kids because it makes you mobile and able to explore. If nothing else, you can just go for a drive.

We rented a car in Belize and headed into the interior, and as always, it was quite the adventure. We were warned at the car rental office by some Americanos from Oregon that the roads were horrible and the drivers crazy, but I didn't find this to be the case. Granted, there was not much thought to afforded to safety as I saw plenty of trucks packed with people in the bed, some of them overflowing with families, but for the most part, the drivers weren't too bad, and the roads were fine. I don't think I've seen drivers as crazy as we saw in Italy, and the roads in the Caribbean Island take the prize for off-road comparison. The drivers in Belize were fast, no doubt, but I'm a slow driver, and the main roads that connect the country were in fine shape.

The big thing to worry about are the speed bumps. The big road that takes you from Belize City to the Guatemalan border and San Ignacio, where we were staying, is paved and smooth, but they put in speed bumps in all the small towns, and there were plenty of them. These were serious speed bumps, and we learned the hard way how steep they were. In the U.S., you see a speed bump, slow down and drive over it. You can't do this in Belize, you have to come to a complete stop and then crawl over them. We hit the first few bumps and slammed the undercarriage of our poor rental car, and it had an off-road suspension. I can't imagine driving our car over them.

We finally learned the drill about how to get over them, and the kids would keep their eyes peeled and yell out, "Bump!" whenever they saw one. Most of them are marked with a sign, because it's where pedestrians cross. When you really get down to it, it makes perfect sense. The speed bumps really force traffic to slow down where it matters most, when people are present. Around here, there are signs telling people to slow down when approaching a town, but nobody slows down. This way, if you don't slow down, you destroy your car, literally.

The conditions changed dramatically once we were off the main road, and heading over to the eco-lodge in San Ignacion was like driving over a pile of rocks. We had to go about 5 mph, and even then, I kept waiting for a tire to blow. Our poor rental car, it really took a beating but performed like a trooper. It had over 120,000 miles, as well. Talk about living on the edge.

To add a final piece to the drama, when we were heading back to Belize City, we started off with about 1/4 tank, and I figured we'd find a gas station at some point along the way since it was about a 2 hour drive. Boy was I wrong. We drove through miles of farmland and mountains, not to mention small towns, but no gas stations. I forgot that we weren't in Kansas anymore. At some point the low gas light went on, adding to our impending sense of doom, and we drove like that for another 45 minutes before finally finding a station near Belize City. We were running on fumes, or at least that's what we like to think in order to add more drama to our lives. Gas was expensive, too, and it sure was painful filling up (it had a big tank). At least the tank was full and we didn't have to deal with it anymore before returning it to the rental agency.

All in all, it was nice having a car and made the trip that much more enjoyable. If it were just R and I, we would be fine holing up in a cottage with some good books and food, maybe a movie at night. That's fine with us, but with kids, you have to have more adventure, and that's where transportation is key. It sure makes the day go by faster.

By the last day, we were ready to get back home, even though driving in New England is a piece of cake compared to some of the stuff you see in other countries. Makes you realize how good we have it here.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to mikebelgard for the pic.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Reflections on Belize - Dining and Island Life

Now that we are back home, I can once again resume my life of gluttony, though it makes me reflect a little on our time in Belize and some of the foods that we ate. As you might have guessed, the comestibles are heavily Latin American, which are some of my favorite foods: rice and beans, corn tortillas, burritos, etc. Your basic Mexican food with South American accents, which also tend to be on the affordable end. You don't find much high-brow Mexican food, which is fine by me.

When you stay in the resort-heavy areas, there are fine dining opportunities that tend to serve food that is familiar to the clientele, in this case Americanos. The food is good and the dining experience high-end, but do you really want to drop $20 on a plate of spaghetti or chicken cordon-bleu? Not me, thank you. We ate at a nice restaurant our first night in Belize, and it was good, but didn't blow me away. I got some dish that was basically meatballs in tomato sauce with rice. Again, it was good, but being the boring
parent that I am, I kept thinking, "It's just meatballs and rice, we could make this at home." You realize why your kids get sick of you, you just become so boring and practical.

Combined with the high cost, we decided to seek out more authentic (i.e., more affordable) fare, and it didn't take much to find it. In fact, it showed up at our doorstep. Twice a day, every day, several different people would show up at the resorts selling homemade edibles, and not only were they economical, but they were unique and tasty. We had breakfast burritos, chicken and bean quesadillas, and chicken tamales, just to name a few. They were delicious, and so cheap and convenient, and I liked the fact that it was what the locals ate.

Since Belize is geared toward tourists, the locals are a huge part of the economy. It's a little uncomfortable in that they live under fairly modest conditions, to put it lightly, while they serve foreigners with money to burn. The situation provides jobs and it works for everyone, it's just awkward for me when people who don't have a lot are catering to those that have it all. Then again, that's how the world operates, right?

We got to know the guys working at the inn, and they were locals and were very cool. We asked about where they locals ate and they were a little surprised that we were interested, but were helpful, nonetheless. They recommended a few local restaurants and told us where to go to find the stuff the locals eat, and we sought them out. As you can imagine, the food was excellent. We rode our bikes into town and walked about until we found these establishments, which wasn't hard because the town was small. Our favorite was a pupusa restaurant that had massive burritos and $2 pupusas. We chowed down.

Even though money is a driving force, I really enjoy eating food the real-deal local cuisine, mainly because I feel like that's what traveling is all about. It makes a trip more of a unique experience, and it saves us a load of dough. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Reflections on Belize - Island Hopping

We spent 5 days in Ambergris Cay and had a great time, though we were a bit limited in what we could do because we had no transportation, and the island is big. I enjoyed relaxing, eating, sleeping and reading, I could do it all day, but the kids got a little restless, and I can't say I blame them.

It would have been different if we had some mode of transportation, but cars, for the most part, are not allowed, and tourist jaunt around on golf carts while most of the locals ride bikes. As you might have guessed, we rode bikes, and it was actually a lot of fun. N especially enjoyed it, you just can't separate a boy from his bike, The made impediment was the extreme heat around midday. We fell into a routine that worked for us, going for a ride on the beach in the AM, then going for a swim afterward. We'd lounge around the cottage and eat lunch, go for another swim and hang on the beach. In the evening we'd all get on our bikes and head into town for supper, then go for a final swim before bedtime. It was a beautiful routine, and the ride into town and having supper in town was priceless, we really enjoyed it.

Even though five days was probably a bit long, it made it so that we could actually snorkel because it was too windy for the first four days, and day five, the wind stopped, the clouds parted, and we had perfect weather to dive into the water. It's funny how things work out, but work out they did.

On Saturday, we said goodbye to our new friends in Ambergris Cay and flew into the mainland, where we drove into the interior to get a little more local flavor. This, however, was an adventure in itself, and a story for another time.

Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks to RIC for the pic.

A Nice Day for Mom

Hope everyone had a nice Mother's Day yesterday. I started the day off by calling my mom first thing in the (late) morning, which is out of character for me, but in this era of good will, I'm happy that communication is not only civil, but flowing regularly. She's doing well, very busy and making the most of her free time. She enjoyed talking to the kids, whom I threw to the lions without giving them much prep time. Sorry to them for that, but sometimes it's easier to just do it without much thought.

As for our day, we lucked out with spectacular weather, the kind my friend GS says reminds you of why you can't imagine living anywhere else. The sun was shining, it was warm and breezy, and you just couldn't ask for a nicer day. Even I, the king of whining, couldn't find a reason to complain, though I searched diligently for one.

Since it was mom's day, we let her set the agenda. In years past, she always chose to go on a hike on Mt. Tom and have a picnic on the top. This year we decided to spice things up a bit and go for brunch beforehand, and then do the hike. We went to the Worthy Kitchen in the village and had a really nice meal, it's a cool place with a unique arrangement. You sort of do things yourself, not quite cafeteria style, but with a minimal amount of service. It works beautifully, it's my kind of arrangement, and I'm told it keeps costs down. I had a gift certificate that I was got from my daughter's hockey team for being a coach, so we were good shape.

We loved the meal, I had steak and eggs, R got the chicken tacos, N got the fried chicken sandwich (I was jealous), and A got the banana bread French Toast, which was smothered in chocolate sauce. It was so rich that we decided that she should eat some real food and have that for desert, so she got the tacos, as well.

After brunch, we headed to the Farmer's Market to get some sweets, but there was a fundraiser car wash/bake sale en route, so we opted for that and stocked up on treats. Then it was off to the hill. The weather couldn't have been better for a hike, and the constant breeze even made it slightly cool. Even the usual suspects that complain about hikes didn't complain, and we ate our treats at the top. The view was fabulous, and we lounged in the sun and enjoyed ourselves.

We stopped off at the garden on our way home and R got to start her peas, which is her gardening raison d'etre (mine is tomatoes), then it was back home for a nice simple supper and winding down for bed.

My kind of day, though I didn't get any work done on the wood pile. Oh well, it's a small price to pay to spend a nice day with your family.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Steven Lipton for the pic.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Hanging with the Belize Locals

One of our goals when we travel, and pretty much whatever we do in life (just ask my Mentor) is to be economical, which of course is just a gentle euphemism for being cheap. Or, as my Mentor would politely say, being "frugal." I can't help it, spending inordinate amounts of money on anything just doesn't make me comfortable, and personally, I find it a bit silly. Being broke helps to embrace this attitude, as well.

Case in point: traveling to an expensive resort and having people attend to you is so not my thing, I feel awkward to be in that situation. I didn't even like having a door man in NYC, I can open my own door, thank you. I also don't like dropping a huge amount of cash on a meal, and believe me, I love food.

While this makes life a little more of a challenge, especially when you travel, it also introduces you to facets of life you just don't get to see when you're in the lap of luxury. I experienced this a lot in NYC, doing things downtown in the East Village that uptown rich people wouldn't touch with a 10 foot pole. While some need not be described, others, like alternative theater and underground music, were really cool experiences.

Anyway, on this last trip, we had several options for activities. Belize caters to several tiers of people in terms of money. On the top are the resort types who want to be pampered and eat expensive meals and be taken on comfortable boats to look at waterfalls. Below that are moderate spending travelers who still want a good meal, like to have cocktails by the pool, and go on eco-tours. Below that are budget travelers who want cheap meals and accommodations, don't order wine with their food, and want adventure, but ones of their own making. Near the bottom of the economical ladder are the backpackers who just want a bed and a meal, and are looking for adventure and maybe a romantic liaison. Hovering with these guys are the locals.

I think we operate around the budget traveler, with maybe higher standards in terms of accommodations, mainly because we're with the kids. If it were just R and I, I would sleep in our car, which we've attempted but never really pulled off. While we tried to save money by eating frugally, we did occasionally splurge and eat a nice meal at one of the resorts, though it did leave us a little flat. The food was not that spectacular, it was like the stuff you get at home: pasta, chicken, steak/burgers, and of course it was overpriced. I really don't need cloth napkins and fine bone china. I've eaten meals in NYC that cost nearly $200/person, and believe me, it was not worth it.

Anyway, we searched out more affordable eats, and that took us into local territory. The main part of Ambergris Cay is a fairly bustling town, separated into three sections. The tourist part, called the front street, is on the beach and is like one big party, with beautiful people in bathing suits drinking beer (Corona, of course), eating ceviche, and listening to loud music. The next street in is middle street, and there are some upscale places, but it's more for the locals, with stores for supplies and kitsch for the tourists. On inner street, it's all about the locals. As you've probably already guessed, we opted for middle and inner street, and really enjoyed the experience.

I'm too old for beach volleyball, and I like to save some money. By eating with the locals, we got these killer meals of local food that included all sorts of stews and homemade tortillas, as well as pupusas, which we can actually get here from our friend from El Salvador. We also got to hang with the locals, and the people of Belize are super-friendly. We always felt welcome, and got a lot of great tips from the guys at our cottage, who were probably tripping out that we wanted to eat where they ate. We got to meet entire families who ran restaurants, with the matriarch standing in the kitchen, cranking out the fine dining. It's quite an interesting experience and always unique to wherever we visit.

It makes the trip that much more enriching, especially for the kids. I can appreciate a fine meal and a nice hotel, but at some point, when you're in the lap of luxury, you could be anywhere in this world and the experience would be the same. It's like being a cruise ship, why bother leaving the dock?

I know I'm just trying to justify my frugal approach, but there is value to enjoying an experience for what it is, rather than what it costs. Besides, anyone can cough up the big bucks to be taken care of, that's why people save up for vacations. The bigger question is, who has the wherewithal and inspiration to go off the beaten track and thing differently? It's not easy to break away from our routines, and if anything, most of us are enslaved by them.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to buddy medbery for the pic.

Deep Sea Diving

We sort of lost internet in the transition from Ambergris Cay to San Ignacio, so I am backtracking here. This is day 6 in Belize and the penultimate day of our trip.

We finally got to do our big snorkeling adventure in Ambergris Cay, and it was an amazingly cool experience, especially for the kids and I, who had never really snorkeled before. For R, she's been there, done that, but we were neophytes.

As I mentioned was quite the drama just getting to snorkel, and sure enough, it didn't disappoint. We headed out to the dock of our hotel and the diving tour, Coral Divers, picked us up in their boat and took us to the reef, which is about a mile from the shore. The boat ride was one of the funnest parts, and the boat was flying and hitting wakes so we got some pretty good air. The instructors told us that it's a nature preserve, so we have to go with a guide because they want to protect the fish as well as the coral, which can get damaged by the presence of humans. What else is new? I was fine with it all, but R, being the seasoned veteran of snorkeling, probably would have preferred to have had more free time to explore.

We landed in an area where there were several other tour boats there, so we were hardly alone. The weather was perfect, sunny and warm, with just the slightest breeze. We got our gear on and one by one jumped into the water, which felt good because we were roasting in the Belizian sun. We were right on the reef, so the water was teaming with life. Apparently before they protected it, this was the area where fishing boats would clean their catch and dump it into the water, so when boats arrive, fish come in schools. I couldn't tell you all the fish we saw, but they were beautiful and unusual, and their colors were amazing. There were sea turtles, rays, conchs, and even sharks, which were a little unnerving, but they were friendly. We swam for about 45 minutes and our guide explained all the fish and coral and plants. Of course, I could barely hear or understand him with all the snorkeling gear on, not to mention that my head was underwater for most of the time.

We then hopped back on the boat and headed over to an area called Shark's XX, and this was where things got a little crazy... in a good way, of course. They told us to put on our stuff and just jump in the water. They were going to throw fish in to feed the sharks, and they told us to keep an initial safe distance, but that it was okay to swim up and pet or tickle the fish. Just be wary of their teeth, they are sharp and if they're surprised, they'll bite you. Are you kidding me? Pet a shark? What is crazy is that as you're entering the water, the sharks are circling because they know the drill, and some of them were big, I think about 7-8 feet long. They were Nurse Sharks, which are apparently friendly, but are still big sharks with big teeth.

I jumped in the water and started swimming immediately, but R and the kids were less daunted. You could watch the frenzy from about 10 feet away, and then the guide jumped in and started feeding the rays, some of which were huge, as well. He did this thing where he would feed the ray and guide it to the surface, where he encouraged all of us to pet them. Again, I was a little wary, but we all got to pet a ray and a shark, and it was cool. The kids got a huge kick out of it, though I was a little more neurotic and probably should have just lightened up. Oh well, I'm learning.

After about 30 minutes of petting sharks and rays, we jumped back on the boat and headed home, arriving back at the dock around 4:00, which was enough time to take a quick dip in the pool, get dressed, and ride our bikes into town for supper. I'm glad we got to finally snorkel, and as fate would have it, it was on the nicest day of our trip, because the next day, our last, it rained all day. You have to appreciate these sort of moments.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Ippei and Janine Naoi for the pic.

Challenges and Assorted Complications

Excuse my absence on my blog, my computer ran into some significant complications on our trip, which was a complete bummer. For whatever reason, it wouldn't boot up, so I couldn't really use it for the past several days. I just fixed it yesterday and am playing catchup while also trying to resume life in beautiful New England. I have to say, as I always say after a trip, it sure feels good to be home.

Now for whatever reason, our return home was filled with complications, and my first inclination is to use the term disaster, but that would be making mountains out of molehills, and in the end, it wasn't the end of the world. Then again, I'm good at adding drama to my life. Just ask my family.

We ran into a series of missteps and problems on the final leg of our trip, and it sure adds to the drama of the adventure. The first problem, and in my eyes this was a biggie, was when we hit the mainland and moved our operation near San Ignacion, where my computer died. I can't really explain what happened, but on our first morning there, I booted up my laptop and did some writing, and then it froze. I couldn't believe it. Since we were in a foreign country, there were no resources to fix it, so all I could do was turn it on and off a few times and then just shut it down for the duration. What a bummer, we still had a few days in Belize, and then the trip home. Plus, this is my computer we're talking about, my source of strength.

If there was a bright note to this development, it was that I didn't have to stress over finding the time and place to write or blog, which is never easy when your family is staying in one room. The big downer, however, was that the kids couldn't watch movies at night or on the flight home. That was on Sunday morning, and that is why I've been so quiet on this blog.

On our final two days, we had to drive from San Ignacion, which is near the border of Guatemala, back to Belize City, and it's about a 2 hour drive. I knew we needed to get gas, but it was a long trip, and we all figured there would be a gas station at some point. It turned out that this was bad planning, and at some point well before we landed in Belize City we were running on fumes. The low gas light came on, and all we could see for miles around were banana fields. We finally found gas near our final destination, and I couldn't believe how expensive it was. The sticker shock, however, we tempered by our profound relief at having found gas.

The flight home was fine, a little rough near the end, not to mention a rough landing, and then we headed home. The plan was originally to spend the night in Boston, but in an effort to save money (what else is new?), we decided to drive home. This was not so unreasonable if we had landed on schedule, around 9:00PM. Figure 30-45 minutes to get our bags and car, then two hours on the road and we'd be home. Of course, the flight was delayed, and we landed around 10:00PM. This meant an estimated 1:00AM home arrival, but of course, that was overly optimistic because of my pea-sized brain.

We did the park-and-ride at the Holiday Inn Express in South Boston, which for the record is a good deal, and the hotel is nice. Not as stellar as Embassy Suites, but a fraction of the cost. When you arrive back home, you simply call them and their shuttle will pick you up to get your car. It works beautifully, and you avoid the shameless scam of long-term parking. What we didn't know is that there are two Holiday Inn Express Hotels in Boston. When the Holiday Inn Shuttle arrived, we piled in and took off, but something wasn't quite right. First, I recall the shuttle had the name of two hotels on it because they are right next to each other and share a van. This one had only one name. The driver did not speak a word of English, he was Russian or something like that, so we couldn't ask him any questions. He did inquire if we wanted the Saugus Holiday Inn, and of course we had no clue. How the heck were we supposed to know what town the hotel was in.

As we were sitting there, the bus had to make a couple more stops, and I kept telling the kids to see if the other hotel's name was on the van, but we were crammed in the back, and we couldn't ask the driver. Finally I got my phone out and hit redial, and asked the woman at the front desk if they were in Saugus, and she said no, they were in South Boston. We were on the wrong damn shuttle. We lucked out because we were still at the airport, so we grabbed our bags and jumped out. We called our hotel back and explained the situation, and she said no problem, their driver would get us at our new location. We later learned that Saugus was completely on the other side of town. Wow, talk about drama.

We got to South Boston, picked up our car, and headed north, thinking we were home free, but my stupidity caught up with us. You'd think I would have learned by then, especially since we had a near miss in Belize. We had a little less than half a tank of gas in our car, which I figured would be more than enough to get home, and we could fill up en route. This was a bad plan. We hit Manchester and were down to less than a quarter tank, and we got off the highway to find gas. There was a 24hr gas station advertised on the highway, but you learn up here that it could be miles from the highway, and after a mile or two, I was fed up and turned around, figuring we'd find something before we hit home. This was stupid move #27, but more on that later.

At some point the low gas light went on, and we had a ways to go. We got off on in New London, exit 11, and had to get to exit 16 to find gas. I was sure we could make it, but what if we didn't? It would have been too much to run out of gas on the highway, at that hour. We were in a nice town, and looked for either a gas station of motel. We found both, and neither was open. That's life in rural New England. The gas stations take credit cards, but they shut their pumps down at night, so we couldn't get gas. We pulled into a motel and were ready to spend the night in the car, when we realized we could call AAA. It was about 12:30AM at this point, and to their credit, the kids were being absolute troopers.

AAA sent a car to help us, but he ran into the same problem as us. He couldn't find a gas station to get gas, so he had to head all the way over to Newport. He called to inform us of this, and I told him not to worry, we were going to sleep in the car and get gas first thing in the morning, which we figured would be around 6:00AM. He said it was no problem to get the gas, so I said fine, and at about 1:00AM, he showed up. He only had about 2 gallons, which meant stopping one last time to fill up, which we did at exit 16. I'm sure we could have made it.

We got home about 3:00AM, and the house was freezing. On a bright note, I think the cats were happy to see us. I know I was happy to be home. We went straight to be, and I apologized to everyone for being such a bonehead.

Boy, life sure is an adventure, isn't it? Even though our return trip was rough, we had a great time in Belize, so I'll try to focus on the positives.

Yeah, right. Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Steve Richard for the pic. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Stars Align in Belize

Talk about crazy, the stars somehow aligned perfectly for us on this vacation. As I've mentioned, we've been in Belize for the past week, on the island of Ambergris Cay, to be specific. Now I didn't know this until this trip, but Belize is home to one of the largest coral reefs in the world. You can see it when you fly in, and it's pretty impressive. In fact, I've been told it's the second largest in the western hemisphere, whatever that means, and the fourth largest in the world. The Great Barrier Reef in Australia gets top honors on all fronts.

The one in Belize is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef, also known as the Great Mayan Reef, and it stretches 700 miles from Mexico all the way to Honduras, and 80% of it lies in Belize. It's pretty spectacular, and to their credit, the people of Belize have recognized what a natural treasure they have and have gone to great lengths to protect it, and there are all sorts of restoration projects going on along the shore, including the revitalization of the mangroves, which are key to coastal habitat protection. Belize also sees the tourist potential in what they have, and that's why we are here.

Another thing I didn't realize is that you can't really snorkel in poor weather conditions. I figured it wasn't such a big deal, you just put on a mask and go out there, but it is the ocean, and if there's one thing I've learned after years of surfing is that you never, ever take the force of the ocean for granted. If you don't show her the respect she deserves, she will crush you, and I've felt her wrath. When the conditions are not favorable, the currents are so strong that they'll pull you right out to sea. In fact, during our time here, one swimmer was lost while snorkeling. Apparently they weren't taking the proper safety precautions and tragedy struck.

You simply don't want to take chances and be careless, especially with kids. Since we arrived here, the conditions have been beautiful, but windy. The winds have been strong, too, so much so that the water is choppy and turbid, with all the sand that gets kicked up. This not only makes for bad viewing of ocean life, but it's dangerous, as well.

Needless to say, we were bummed but figured we had some time and were willing to wait it out until conditions improved, which they did not for the first 80% of our stay. R was especially disappointed, and I can't say I blame her. She really wanted us to see what good snorkeling was all about, because she's been there, done that. Plus, there's not a huge amount for kids to do here. I've noticed in my short time here that there are two groups of people who come to vacation here: retirees from the US, and young couples on their honeymoons. Not too many families, though this is the slow season.

Each day we waited patiently to see how the weather would be, and each day we were disappointed. We woke up to strong winds Monday through Thursday, and at some point we started to think that this just wasn't going to happen. It was disappointing, but we've been relaxing and having fun, nonetheless. By Thursday afternoon, R was ready to take drastic measures. The weather forecast called for calmer conditions by the weekend, but are leaving on Saturday. Her thinking was that we could do an AM snorkel trip on Saturday morning, get back to the cottage, get dressed and catch our flight back to the mainland. It was cutting it close, and there was still no guarantee about the weather.

We still had Friday, as well, but by Thursday evening, the winds were still gusting, and on Friday we were supposed to get thunderstorms, just to rub salt in the wound. I hate to admit this, but I had pretty resigned myself to no snorkeling, and on Friday morning, we woke up to torrential rains and lightning. I figured we'd hang out around the house and if the rain let up, ride the bikes into town. One thing I did notice, however, was that the winds were calm. We were told that they snorkel in the rain, though I wasn't too sure how keen I was on that.

By about 7:00AM (I've been getting up at 4:00AM every day, I'm still on New England time), the rains stopped, but the clouds were dark and angry it didn't look like they were going anywhere. By 8:00AM, however, there were signs of sunlight, and R seized the moment and decided it was now or never. The problem was, you're supposed to arrange for snorkeling excursions the day before. We frantically tried to contact our diving company of choice, Ecologic Divers, but we don't have phone service (no landline and our cells don't work), so we emailed them hoping we'd hear something. We got nothing.

This was unfortunate because by 8:30, the day was looking beautiful. The sun was beaming and the wind had stopped. How could we not make the most of this? The inn that we're staying at also arranges diving tours through Coral Divers, so we went to them and they said they could have us in the water by 1:30. Being the neurotic messes that we are, our first thought was, "What if the wind picks up by then?" I tell you, the Belize locals must trip out on how stressed and neurotic we Americans are. The concierge assured us the weather would hold, and sure enough, it did, though we were sitting in our room keeping an eagle eye on the conditions outside.

We ate lunch and gathered up our stuff for snorkeling, and the day ended up being perfect. It literally could not have been better, all the more so because it started out so horribly, and today, Saturday, we once again have pouring rain and lightning. Talk about good fortune, you just can't take that sort of thing for granted.

The snorkeling was amazing, we saw and experienced things that most of us only read about or watch on TV, but that's a story for another time. For now, we're just grateful that things took a turn for the better. I love when that happens.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Terje Grimsgaard for the pic.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Home Away From Home

We are currently lodging at the Cocotal Inn in Ambergris Cay, Belize, and I have to say, it's a beautiful place. It is so nicely decorated and clean, and I can't say enough nice things about the people working here. The woman who owns the place is a former New Englander so she knows all about where we are coming from. I'm always fascinated by ex-pats who leave everything behind to live in a different country. It's quite a bold move and there must be an interesting story in there.

We checked in in the afternoon, so we were tired, hot and sweaty and not too motivated to do much more than wander about and get settled. We are also a little jet-lagged because there is a two hour time shift, so we basically cruised the beach a bit and got a bite to eat. It's an interesting setup here, as you might have guessed, really geared toward tourists. The inn is located right on the beach, you can see the water from our front door, and all the other beach front accommodations have a similar setup. We are lucky to have a
pool, because as I've mentioned, the high winds have made snorkeling difficult, if not impossible, so we are spending a lot of time in the pool. It's entirely possible that we won't get to do any snorkeling, but we still have two days for these winds to die down. It's sort of a luck of the draw in terms of getting good weather, because some people have mentioned coming down here and getting rained on the entire time. The woman who owns this place said they get a 4-5 month rainy season. Can you imagine that?

The people we've encountered are super-nice, especially the guys who work here, Rambo, Sam, and Calvin. They are also good sources of information about where to get local food and see interesting sites. We've interacted with the guests, as well, most of whom are older retirees and young couples, maybe on their honeymoons. Not too many families, and I can sort of see why. Other than snorkeling, this place (the island, at least) is all about living the good life: good food, fruity rum drinks, spa treatment, and sitting in the sun getting tan. Not exactly what kids are looking for.

The coast is pretty, but there aren't too many big beaches for kids to play on, and you can't really swim off the beach. Plus, the wind makes this hard. We'll keep our fingers crossed on getting some good weather, but in the meantime, we're having fun hanging out and riding our bikes along the beach as well as into town. Personally, I love just sitting and reading and taking naps, not to mention eating, but the kids get limited enjoyment out of all that.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Sticker Shock

When we landed in Ambergris Cay we were picked up by a taxi and taken to the inn, but not before stopping at the store to get some supplies. The driver asked us where we wanted to go, which is ridiculous when you consider that we had just landed and we'd never been to the island before. I said to take us to the big store, but he kept plugging this one store, the Greenhouse Market. We said fine, so we stopped to get food. The room we're staying at has a complete kitchen, so it's nice to have food and cook at home rather than going out to eat every meal. 

The place was your typical island store with the usual variety of exotic (and not to exotic) dry goods and unique local comestibles, though prices definitely shocked me. Now the exchange is about 2:1, but even at 50%, the costs were high. I was amazed, so much so that I bought instant coffee because it was the only stuff that was reasonably priced. Now that we have been here for a few days and have visited other stores, I get a sense the driver was in cahoots with the store, which is kind of lame, but innocent until proven guilty, right? Maybe they're all in it together.

We bought a bunch of food, anyway, because we didn't have much choice in the matter. Enough, at least, to get us to the next day, but after that, we'll be looking for that elusive local experience that is not only more authentic, but must be cheaper, as well. Here's to hoping that's true.

Until the next time, thanks for reading.

Making Lemonade

We are going on our third day in Belize and have been a little disappointed about the fact that we haven't been able to do what we really came here to do, which is snorkel. That, however, hasn't stopped us from having a great time, because the area is beautiful, the people are super friendly, and it has forced us to be a little more creative, which we've done.

Now I don't know much about snorkeling, but apparently it's the thing to do in Belize. In fact, it's famous for it, and almost everyone we've spoken with has indicated that they are here for that. We are on the island of Ambergris Cay, which I believe it the big island off the coast. There is a massive reef about a mile off the coast which you can see when you fly in, and I've been told it's second only to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia for snorkeling.

The problem we've encountered is that it's been windy, and they don't take people out snorkeling with these windy conditions. I can see why, the water is choppy and the turbid because of the sand being churned up. While it's disappointing, we've been having a load of fun, nonetheless. The place we are staying at, the Cocotal Inn, and you can't beat the location. We are right on the beach, and even though the winds are a bummer, they do keep things cool. We are on the second floor and get an amazing breeze right through our front door. The weather has been hot and humid, so it's a welcome respite from the searing heat.

There is a pool so we've been swimming a lot, and they have bikes that they let us use. We have been taking full advantage of that, and let me tell you, it's a blast riding along the beach. Me and N have been going on these adventures along the shoreline, and it's not unlike off-road riding in the hills, without the hills, of course. The beaches that we've seen are not that extensive, it's not really a beach-y place, but the coastline is beautiful.

We have also been riding into town to get food and hang with locals. The guys who work here are locals and we've been asking them about places to eat. The suggestions they've given us are where locals eat, and that suits us just fine for a couple of reasons: we like to sample the local food, and it's cheaper. The coastline of this area is fairly developed and you can tell they are targeting tourists because it's a little more upscale and expensive. I don't really want to drop the money to eat pasta or hamburgers in Belize, so we've been riding into town and eating pupusas, tamales, empanadas, and all sorts of stuff with Latin names. It's really fun trying these things out and more importantly, venturing into the land of the locals.

Not sure if the weather is going to clear up, but for now, we're making the most of our time together. Like they say, when you have lemons, make lemonade. To that I would add it's not where you are or what you're doing, but who you're with.

Until the next time, thanks for reading, and thanks to Betty Crocker Recipes for the pic.