Archive for April, 2010

I have spent the past few days sifting through my photos and my memories of our week and Mexico – below is a random smattering of reflections…

First off, hot damn!  This place is beautiful!  From the sandy beaches to the lush jungles just off-shore, I was constantly struck by the magnificence of the landscape.  I don’t know if it’s the vastness of it, or the never-ending rhythm of the waves, or just our innate human desire to be near water, but the ocean has a draw to it that is unlike any other force I know.  And with most of our beach experiences being along the chilly Pacific of the California Central Coast, it was such a treat to set foot in the water at Sayulita and find that it was perfectly suited for swimming.  We were constantly in and out of the water during our whole week in Mexico, hopping in with a boogie board when the waves picked up, grabbing a snorkel mask when they died down, and then popping in just for a quick dip when the sun got too hot.  And seriously, how can you top waking up to the sun rising over the ocean?

Second, sometimes it is good, and perfectly acceptable, to spend a few days just being supremely lazy.  I wouldn’t really call Shane and I ‘beach-people’, but after a full day spent just camped out in a lounge chair under a shade umbrella in the sand, we were sold on the merits of beach-bumming.  On one of our last days there, with absolutely nothing on the agenda for the day, we left our room with a couple of beach towels, our books, and some bottled water, walked out onto the beach, staked our claim at a couple of lounge chairs, and, with the exception of jumping into the ocean for the occasional swim, did nothing but laze around to the sound of the waves for a good eight hours.  It was heaven.  Now if only we could get used to falling asleep to the chirping of the geckos darting across our ceiling, and if only we didn’t have those pesky jobs to return to, I bet we could find a beach-front villa with our name on it (preferably with a bathtub like this one).

Third, I loved being able to get a small taste of Mexican culture while in Sayulita, but there is no denying that this is ultimately a tourist town.  On the one hand, there is comfort in knowing that most shop and restaurant owners know how to speak English, in seeing other Americans crowding the tables of a restaurant and taking that as a sign that the food is ‘Gringo-friendly’.  But I would have liked to have been pushed slightly further out of my comfort zone – to have been forced to recall my bits of broken Spanish, or to have witnessed the customs and traditions that are integral to life in small-village Mexico.  I don’t know exactly what I was looking for, and honestly, I don’t know if we’re quite bold enough to go that far off the beaten path, I just know that there is cultural richness that has been somewhat suppressed in Sayulita.  I guess I want to have my flan and eat it, too – I want all the comforts of a tourist-friendly town, without the presence of all those other tourists…  Nonetheless, the town was still full of charm.  I especially loved the bold use of color – in the storefronts, in the banners strung over the streets, in the beach bags being sold on the sidewalks.  Everywhere I turned, I was greeted with a new shade of orange or blue or gold.  Seattle could take a few lessons from Sayulitans on brightening things up.

And now, as I sit here on the couch, cozied up in a blanket while the rain falls outside, Mexico feels so very far away…  But how blessed we are to have a week’s worth of beach-side memories.

Because we were on the East Coast, and because I am married to a wild man who will jam-pack an already-full weekend, we decided to spend a couple of hours in Washington D.C. on Sunday, before heading to Baltimore to visit my family.  I was skeptical about whether or not we’d really get to see much in such a short time, but Shane led us on a great little tour-de-monuments, and we were able to hit several of the city’s landmarks.  Our walk began near the Tidal Basin, from which we headed over to the Washington Monument and down alongside the Reflecting Pool to the Lincoln Memorial.  It was a balmy 80 degrees in DC that day – perfect weather for a leisurely stroll.  Shane got a little bit ahead of me, and I pondered running through the pool and calling his name, recreating that romantic scene in Forrest Gump where Jenny and Forrest are reunited in this very spot, but I restrained myself and took the long way around.  Would have made for a good memory, though…

From the Lincoln Memorial, we walked over the Vietnam Memorial, which is nothing short of stunning.  So simple, but so powerful.  I could have sat in front of this wall for hours, just reading the names and watching the reflections of passing people in the shiny black granite.  Do you know that this memorial was designed by Maya Lin as part of a design competition she entered when she was only 21 years old, and a student in architecture?  Brilliant.

From the Vietnam Memorial, we headed back toward the Washington Monument, then over to the White House to say ‘what’s up’ to Barack.  He was nowhere to be found, so we were relegated to just standing at the gates with all the other tourists, like a bunch of kids at the zoo’s monkey cages.  The appeal of this wore off in about 5 seconds, and then it was time to wind our way back to the car.

We enjoyed our walk back toward the Tidal Basin, but it was hard to leave the city, knowing that there was so much more to do and see.  We barely scratched the surface of a few of the monuments – I’d love to head back and check out the DC’s many neighborhoods and museums.  Someday, I suppose…

On one of our last days in Sayulita, we received the sad news that Shane’s grandmother in Pennsylvania had passed away on Tuesday morning.  We quickly made travel arrangements to hop on a plane out to the east coast as soon as we returned to Seattle on Thursday evening.  We arrived in Baltimore on Friday morning, tired but thankful to be able to share this time of mourning with family.  The weekend was a whirlwind of services and family get-togethers, but through all the busy-ness, everyone found time to honor and remember Grace in their own special way.  She had been ill for some time, and although the family seemed accepting that this was her time to go, the loss was still very strongly felt – Shane’s mom was saying good-bye to her one-and-only mother; Shane and his sister were parting with a grandmother that had loved and nurtured them for years.  The night before the funeral, I spent some time at the hotel with Shane, his sister, and his parents, listening to them compose the eulogy that would be delivered the following day.  I sat on that couch for hours as they shared dozens of stories about the kind of wife, mother, and grandmother Grace had been.  Through tears and through laughter, I caught a glimpse of the kind of life this amazing woman had lived.  I wish I had known her when she was well.  She has left behind a legacy of very special children and grandchildren.

On Sunday, before heading out of town, we spent some time in the Pennsylvania countryside, taking in the beauty of a misty morning out among the fields.  Shane’s uncle had given us directions to an old covered bridge, and we eventually wound our way out to this amazing 160 year-old wooden structure, nestled into this quiet little patch of woods where bluebells bloomed along the banks of the river.  It felt like a scene out of Anne of Green Gables, as I walked among the wildflowers and gazed up at the bright green branches of newly leafed trees.  Lovely.

Since my dad’s family lives in the Baltimore area, we decided to head there on Sunday evening, for a quick visit before our Monday evening flight back to Seattle.  En route to Baltimore, we stopped in Washington, D.C. for a short bout of sightseeing, but I’ll save our 2-hour tour-de-monuments for another post – for now, I’ll just say that armed with his iPhone, Shane makes one heck of a tour guide.

Even on short notice, my aunt was able to rally the Jarrell troops and Shane and I were able to see all of my aunts and uncles in our short time there, as well as spend a couple of hours visiting with my Grandaddy.  I would have loved to have more time with them all, but I’m thankful for the couple of meals that we did have the chance to share together.  This was the first time I had visited Baltimore since my grandmother, Nannie, passed away a couple of years ago, and her absence was very evident.  Family gatherings are not, nor will they ever be, the same without her.  I was reminded again and again this weekend that family should never be taken for granted – every moment should be cherished, every memory tucked away in a special place.

We are about to embark on our fifth full day here in Sayulita, and I sit here on the beach, watching the sun rise over the horizon of the ocean, I am thinking that there is no place else I would rather be. Yes, we have already endured surfing injuries, sunburns, inexplicable rashes, geckos in the bedroom, and some rather significant digestive ‘issues’, but through it all, we cannot deny that this place is as close to paradise that we’ve ever come.

We arrived at the Puerto Vallarta airport on Thursday afternoon, and after making our way through the hoards of eager cab drivers, we made it to the car rental place, where we picked up our miniature car and hopped on the highway to head north toward Sayulita. The drive was a little nerve-racking, since speed limit signs were few and far between, and we had no intention of breaking the law on our first day here, but we made it to our hotel incident-free and were overjoyed when we were shown to our room at Villa Amor, with its breathtaking view of the ocean below. I didn’t even bat an eye at the fact that the place only has three walls, because really, why build anything that would limit a view like this???

Once settled into our room, we headed off to town to check out the local scene and grab a bite to eat. We stumbled upon Sayulita Fish Tacos, where we were shown to a table overlooking the little town plaza. We feasted on delicious fish tacos, paired perfectly with a couple of Coronas. It was Happy Hour time, which means that we each got two hearty tacos and two beers for less than four dollars apiece. Nice! The rest of the evening was spent on the beach, sipping another Corona and watching the surfers catch their final waves of the day. I have never been able to switch into ‘vacation mode’ so easily – it’s impossible not to relax here.

The next couple of days were spent bouncing back and forth between the beach for swimming, and the town for tacos, beer, and fruit popsicles. I love just wandering among the narrow, cobblestone streets of the town, taking in the vibrant colors and enticing smells coming from the storefronts and food carts. Around every corner, someone has set up a folding table with a small grill on it, complete with all the fixin’s for some of the best tacos we’ve ever tasted. We couldn’t help ourselves. But sadly, early the next morning, we were asking ourselves, “How can something that tastes sooooo good be sooooo bad?” Shane and I were totally out of commission on Sunday, with a case of Montezuma’s Revenge. Thankfully, we were able to speak with the town doctor while at the pharmacy, and he prescribed some antibiotics that had us back on our feet the next day. It could have been worse, so I’m thankful for our relatively quick recoveries. And I was thinking, if I’m going to spend all day curled up in the fetal position, what better place to do it than from a bed with a view of the ocean, right?

Yesterday marked the beginning of the second leg of our trip, as we checked into our room at Playa Escondida, just down the road from Sayulita, but in a much more secluded setting. This place has its own private beach, the most beautiful pool I’ve ever seen, and a bartender that’s rumored to mix a mean margarita – I’m currently pleading with my stomach to allow me the pleasure of one (maybe two) cocktails this evening.

Lots more pics and details to follow once we’re back in Seattle – right now, I’ve got a morning yoga session on the beach to get to. How do you say “this is the life” en Espanol?

Yep – tomorrow’s the big day!  My toenails are freshly painted, my suitcase is crammed with every strappy, shoulder-baring top I own, and Shane and I are ready for a week in Sayulita, Mexico!!!  I had so much fun pulling my summer gear out of my closet tonight – my brown ruffled halter dress hasn’t been worn since I was in Hawaii two years ago, and I’m so ready to slip back into it.  It’s taken me a little while to become really, truly excited about this trip, since I’ve been distracted with work and my funk and busy-ness in general, but tonight, once I turned on my out-of-office message at work, picked up the last few things we needed for the trip, and saw our itinerary all printed out and ready to go on the counter, the pre-vacation jitters really set in.  Right now, nothing sounds better to me than sinking down onto a towel laid out on the warm sand, ordering a fruity cocktail, and spending a few hours with a good book.  Aaaahhh!  I’m giddy just thinking about.  But we’ve got an early flight tomorrow, so I better try to get some sleep – tonight will be the first night in awhile that I won’t dream about work or chores or any other to-do’s.  Buenos noches, amigos…

It’s no secret that I like to shop.  A lot.  It’s partly the lure of new and shiny things, but it’s also about the satisfaction I get from sniffing out and taking advantage of a good deal.  My weakness for a bargain can certainly get me into trouble (in Shane’s words, ‘you still have to spend money to save money…’), and I will admit to being suckered into plenty of stuff I don’t need, but I’m slowly getting better with the virtue of restraint.  That said, I’ve come across a few pretty little steals that I am just too proud of not to share.

These cute little flats caught my eye at DSW a few months ago, but at $60, I passed.  Then I popped into the store a couple of weeks ago (just to browse, of course), and saw them on the clearance rack.  For $50.  With a 70% off sticker.  Plus I had a coupon for $10 off any item.  Bringing the grand total to…five whoppin’ dollars.  Try to beat that.

Fast forward to last weekend, when my mom and dad were in town for a visit.  My mom is a self-declared thrift store maven, so when I mentioned that I needed to run over to Goodwill to drop off a donation, she readily volunteered to ride along with me.  I knew we were in store for more than just a drop-off, and I was in the mood to do a little digging, so we made a shopping excursion out of it.  I spent most of my time in the book section, perusing the paperbacks, when I saw the sign for art books.  I didn’t expect to find much, since the good art books in most used book stores are often pretty picked over, but I decided to check it out, and the clean, crisp cover of this contemporary art compilation called my name.  479 large glossy pages of arty goodness.  The book wasn’t marked with a price, other than the $45 retail price printed on the jacket, but I hoped I might be able to walk out of the store with it for less than $10.  I brought it the counter, the cashier looked for a price tag, didn’t find one, raised her eyebrows at me, and asked, $2.99?  Ummmm, yes, please!

The value of my last good find is debatable, since I’m still waiting to reap the benefits of my deal, but today we got a good chunk of our vegetable garden started, planted with seeds that I picked up from Lowe’s for roughly $1 per packet.  In roughly two months, we could have a planter full of beets, carrots, lettuce, and kale.  And do you know how expensive produce can be?  Let alone organic, locally grown veggies.  So if even half of my seeds result in anything edible, we’ll have scored the deal of the season.  Keeping my fingers crossed on this one…

Call me frugal, call me cheap, call me whatever you want – I find no shame in being the girl with the $5 shoes eating food picked from her own backyard!

Yes, I have been a bit absent lately – I gave this ol’ blog a big heap of makeover love, then I up and left it.  Haven’t felt much like posting lately.  Truth is, I have been stuck in the midst my quarterly (semi-annual if I’m lucky) F-U-N-K.  I’ve been generally kind of ‘ick’ over the last couple of weeks.  We had a nice Easter weekend with my parents, but even as I enjoyed their company, I wasn’t fully present.  Work has been tough, with some disappointments and frustrations, my body refuses to shake this mucus-y bug that has been buggin’ me for over a week now, I haven’t done any art-ing since coming down off the high of my encaustic workshop, and Shane and I have been exceptionally snippy with one another.  And my mojo is totally lost when he and I aren’t clicking.  There haven’t been any major blow-outs (ok, there have been one or two big blow-outs), but what drains me more than any sort of fighting is a general inability for us to really connect.  I’ve felt it for several days, but I’ve had so much self-indulgent satisfaction wallowing in my funk that I haven’t made any effort to get us back on track.  And unfortunately, Shane’s been under the weather, too, and hasn’t felt driven to steer the ship back towards the marital ‘bliss’ that we usually enjoy.  Boo.

But today, the clouds parted.  I don’t know if it’s the thought that we leave for Mexico in a week, or the fact that my work situation seems to be on the upswing, or simply that I realized today how tired I was of having a roommate rather than a husband, but we had a really good night together, and I am revived.  We didn’t do anything special, just cooked dinner together, watched a little tv, then sat on the couch and talked for a couple of hours.  And once again, things feel like they’re supposed to.  I have my best friend back.  Yes, surely we’ll derail again at some point in the future, but that’s ok.  We’ll get over it.  ‘Cause there’s really no other way.