Thursday, January 24, 2013

O-town Paint

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 3 (la comida)

Eating in Nicaragua was truly an adventure, in part because our taste buds had a party every time we ate, in part because we didn't know what we were ordering or eating much of the time, and in part because of all the precautions we tried to follow to avoid getting sick.  We saw a lot of poverty throughout the country, but we were surprised that there never seemed to be a shortage of food.  In Nicaragua, fruit and vegetables grow everywhere and the protein wanders all over the streets and jungles.  

We don't normally take a lot of pictures of food, but we enjoyed eating in Nicaragua so much that we wanted to share our fun, and we wanted to document it so that we could have something to come back to when we needed something to help us smile.

Typical Nicaraguan breakfast - eggs, plantains, and gallo pinto (rice and beans).

Pure awesomeness.

We really don't know what this was, but it had some really tasty things in it, including the best little green peppers we've ever tasted.

We ate from carts, roadside diners, fancy restaurants, beach shacks, and our own cooking.

But wherever we went, the food was always delicious.

This was the moment when we realized that, even though we had eaten papaya many times, we had never before tasted papaya.  "Wow!....Jinx 1, 2, 3!"

OK, so Suzy got a little tired of her amazing husband taking pictures of her every time the food appeared, but this will teach her!

One of the things that made meal time so much fun was that we never knew which animals would be walking around the restaurant or hanging from the nearby trees.  We dined with dogs, cats, lizards, monkeys, and even a cute little skunk.  And the below episode persuaded us to skip the poultry in favor of the seafood.

That was a good decisions.

Best lobster since Maine 2004, and we'll be dreaming of the fresh fish for a while.

Receipts were also interesting, and usually didn't quite add up.  But it's like Suzy has always said:  "Good food trumps minor mathematical errors."

Our taste buds have been good to us over the years, and we're glad we could finally repay them by taking them on an adventure of their own.

Trust us, friends, Nicaragua is for food lovers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Happy 1st Birthday Julie Day!

We are the luckiest people in the whole world to have this beautiful girl in our lives. Innocence and perfection are different, but in her they are combined. We love you Julie. Thanks for bringing us so much joy!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 2 (Volcan Mombacho)

Hiking Volcan Mombacho was one of the highlights of our trip to Nicaragua, and one of the highlights of our very, very young lives.

Mombacho is only two-thirds the mountain it used to be -- it lost its top third in its last major eruption about 450 years ago -- but it's still a huge monolithic mountain that hovers over the city of Granada to the north (more about Granada later) and Lake Nicaragua to the west.  And if there's one thing this blog has made perfectly clear, it's that we are uncontrollably drawn to mountains and the possibility of hiking.  So naturally we headed to Mombacho on our first day in Nicaragua.  Unfortunately, having been in the country for 12 hours, we had already learned that we were incapable of communicating with anyone, which was going to make it hard to hire the required guide to hike the best trail on the mountain ("El Puma").  So we had resigned ourselves to trying our hardest to find the Nature Reserve and then poking around the main touristy areas for the afternoon.  

And that's when the heavens opened and sent Los Tres Amigos to rescue our adventure. "Flaco," Pedro, and Marcella (pictured below, left to right) were friends from Managua who had traveled down to Mombacho to hike "El Puma."  And right before they were going to head up the road to the trailhead, they noticed us in the parking lot struggling to ask the guard for directions.  Pedro, who is fluent in English (and one of only a couple people we met the whole week who spoke any English), gave us directions, and then invited us to share a guide and join them on the Puma trail.  It was a post-Christmas miracle!  And we were so excited that we forgot to bring along our water, snacks, good camera, and even Suzy's shoes.

The road to the trailhead is so steep and serpentine that only special vehicles driven by designated drivers are allowed to make the trip.  We squeezed into the back of the truck and hung on for dear life as the truck wove its way through the mountainside rainforest to the trailhead.

The top of Mombacho is completely covered by rain forests, dwarf forests, and cloud forests -- forests with their own weather systems.  Even on sunny afternoons, after it hasn't rained for weeks, water drips down from the canopy through several more layers of forest to the soggy ground, and gorgeous tropical plants grow on other plants that are growing on other plants.

In the midst of all this overwhelming beauty, there is one tree in particular that stands out:  it must have been at least 150 feet tall, had huge limbs that actually had other trees growing on them, and was host to hundreds if not thousands of other plants and flowers that covered the entire tree like bark.  We really wish we had our nice camera for that one.

The Puma trail was simply amazing.  It wasn't very long, but it was super steep and twisted around the top of the volcano for several miles to several spectacular view points.  We were so glad we had a guide (pictured below).  For one, he was very good at letting us know which plants not to touch unless we wanted to die, get high, or be made sterile.

The trail went down...

The trail went up...

The trail went down again...

The trail crossed countless wooden and rope bridges...

The trail switched back and forth up the steep slopes...

And at times, the only way to continue along the trail was to swing from the vines...

OK, that part isn't true, but we did try swinging from the vines just for fun...

It was shortly after trying to swing from the vines that Suzy earned the award for the best line of the day:  "I can't believe I blow-dried my hair this morning."  But Suzy's the cutest even when the humidity and tangled vines have ruffled her hair!

We also saw lots of wildlife on the trail.  No pumas, but we saw lots of reptiles, lots of tropical birds, and even a three-toed sloth (again, wish we had the nice camera).  Another cool part of the hike were the many holes/vents in the ground that were blowing out hot air and sulphuric gases from the active volcano.  And did we mention the views?  The below picture is fun because if you look down the slopes of Volcan Mombacho you can see, in the valley below, the caldera of another active volcano that filled with a big lake (Laguna de Apoyo) since its last eruption.  This is a small taste of why the Nicaraguans refer to their country as the "Land of Lakes and Volcanoes" -- a fitting description that deserves a lot more adjectives.

And of all the gorgeous views along this amazing trail, our favorite was near the end of the loop, when we had almost returned to the trailhead, and the forest opened up to show us where we had been.

And we will never forget having been here.  If we ever have another child (not anticipated), we have decided to name him/her Mombacho - probably.

Recently seen in Tenny's backpack

Monday, January 14, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 1

Sometimes it takes a couple days on vacation to relax and begin to enjoy the time away.  One way to accelerate the process is to fly down one and a half miles of zip lines through the canopy of a rain forest on the slopes of Mombacho Volcano.  Or at least it worked for us.

Goodbye responsibilities and cares, hello inner-child and a week of adventure!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Julie Day - 51 weeks

Growing up so fast, but still munching on her piggies.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Happy New Year - 2013

There's really only one way to start the new year off right:  make the beaver catapult your son has been wanting.

Tenny drew up the design.

We bought some beavers at the toy shop down the street.

We built the beaver catapult, which is fully adjustable to achieve varying degrees of velocity and lift.

And then we spent the afternoon launching beavers.

Oh, it was great fun.  And lest you think that the "Beaver Catapult 3000" launches only nocturnal, semi-aquatic rodents with a penchant for gnawing on trees, we can attest that it successfully launched many, many objects, including genuine Angry Birds.

As for resolutions, in 2012 we resolved to explore:  (1) the Uintah Mountains; (2) City of the Rocks; (3) the Great Salt Lake; and (4) Goblin Valley.  We did OK on the first, neglected the second, started on the third, and fully accomplished the fourth.

Having built a beaver catapult, we've basically accomplished everything we hoped to do in 2013.  But in light of societal pressures to set New Year's resolutions, in 2013 we resolve to spend more time in St. George/Southern Utah.

We wish you all a wonder New Year!