Thursday, February 21, 2013

Escaping to St. George

Escaping winter is always a good reason to head to St. George.  But in this case, we had another reason to escape to the the city of red dirt and sunny skies:  Suzy begged me to get Tenny and Julie out of the house so that she could concentrate on potty training Taiters.  Deal!

We packed a lot of fun into a short amount of time.

We always climb the Red Hill at least once every time we visit St. George.  But this time Tenny had us climbing with a bag full of tools and a special mission:  to discover dinosaur bones.  We didn't find any dinosaurs, but we did find some rat bones in a mountain lion pellet.

Our fearless paleontologist.

We played in the Sand Dunes in Snow Canyon State Park.

For those of you who were hoping to visit the Sand Dunes in the future, we regret to inform you that they no longer exist.  Julie ate them.

We played with cousins in the old-fashioned Hurst tradition.

We hiked to Johnson's Arch.  This particular photo is an experiment I did along the trail by combining my iPhone panoramic feature and my new orange-tinted sunglasses that Tenny picked out for me.

Tenny has a little bit of his dad in him.  He can't stay on the trail and he has to try standing on top of every boulder, etc.

Where's Tenny?

It was fun to spend some 1-on-2 time with the kids, to give them a bit more individual attention.  Tenny has become such a fun little boy, and he's really funny, too.  In fact, Tenny earned the line of the trip.  I did have to take some of my work with me, and one evening I was working on my laptop while Tenny sat next to me watching a movie on the TV.  At one point he leaned over and looked at my laptop screen and asked, "Daddy, is that what your work looks like?"  I answered yes.  He contorted his face into the look he does after he eats something he doesn't like, and responded, "Yuck!"  Perceptive and articulate.

But in general we just tried to soak in as much of the fun and sun that St. George could offer.

The good news upon returning to the land of perpetual winter:  William Tait is potty trained!  (We'll refrain from posting the pictures of that adventure.)

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

How to quit your job.

Tenny:  Dad, do you want to spend more time with me?

Dad:  Yes, always.

Tenny:  Then you need to fill up a water baloon and put it in the freezer, and then after it's frozen you take it to your work and throw it at your boss.  That's how you quit your job.  And then you can spend more time with me.

Dad:  OK, but how will we get money to buy food so that we can eat?

Tenny:  I'll just go fishing.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 5 (Volcan Masaya)

If you're ever looking to try something new, to feel a sense of adventure, and specifically to feel like you might be blown up at any second, you may want to try Volcan Masaya.  It's easy to hear the phrase "active volcano" and think, OK, they probably mean "active" as in "active adult community," but in this case, they mean active as in "the Pope is an active member of the Catholic church."

Upon arriving at the Masaya National Park, you're greeted with a bulletin board showing the death and destruction from the last eruption, which in this case was about seven months earlier.  Then they make each person take a training (we assume that's what it was, because it was in Spanish), sign two waivers (again, in Spanish, so one of them could have been a promissory note for all we know), don hard hats and then promise not to stay at the top for more than five minutes (due to the toxic gases).

After changing our kids' diapers for all these years, Suzy was unfazed and dashed right up that mountain.

It really was amazing.  We didn't see any explosions, nor were we burnt to a crisp by flowing lava.  But, we got to look right down into the giant caldera, which emitted a constant column of smoke and gasses straight up into the sky as far as the eye could see.  Every once in a while the smoke would clear just enough to provide a hazy view of the giant chasm, which must have been at least a thousand feet below.  And the spookiest part was the constant sound of rocks popping and shifting somewhere below us.

The Nicaraguans have a love-hate relationship with Volcan Masaya, which is depicted in their art.  This photo is of a large mural that portrays a catastrophic lava flow in the 1700s, which wiped out a town at the base of Masaya.

On the other hand, as seen in the below painting, the Nicaraguans assign a spiritual/mystic quality to the mountain, seeing it as a symbol of abundant life due to the rich soils it has deposited in the valley below.  Indeed, despite the dangers, the mountain is surrounded by cities, villages and farms.

And I just like this next photo because I happened to capture Suzy's surprise about 0.2 seconds after an 80-year-old woman had swung her machete to hack off the tip of the coconut in Suzy's hand.  In case you're wondering, Suzy didn't actually enjoy drinking the coconut juice, but the idea sure seemed romantic.

 View from the top.

This probably isn't the best place to build a summer home, but if you're ever in the neighborhood, Volcan Masaya is a really fun adventure.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 4 (Granada)


The city of Granada, Nicaragua is approaching its 500th birthday.  That makes it one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the Americas, and, according to the Granadans, the oldest European city in the New World.  Granada has an amazing history (from colonists to pirates to American filibusters to revolutionaries), and the city center offers plenty of colonial/Moorish architecture, narrow streets and bustling markets.  All this has made Granada the most touristy town in Nicaragua, so it also offers lots of restaurants, museums, art, music, etc.  But, for us, the thing that really set Granada apart from the other old/neat cities we've visited is the color.  You can put up a lot of paint in 500 years, and the Granadans have taken full advantage.

Hotel Corridor

Cathedral of Granada

Mass in the Cathedral

Hotel Entrance

Private Hotel Courtyard

City Bus

Plaza de la Independencia

Hotel Courtyard

San Francisco Church/Convent

Granada Skyline

These pictures make Granada look calm and quite.  That's only because we did most of our city wandering when most people were asleep.  During normal waking hours, this city is chaotic and filled with people, movement and sound (kind of like our house on any given evening).

We had so much fun wandering the streets of Granada, and half of the adventure was never knowing what candy-coated color scheme awaited around the next corner.  You basically have to be happy when surrounded by this much color.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Nicaraguan Adventure - Part 3 (Las Isletas)

There's a lot to like about Lake Nicaragua (largest lake in Central America, home to Ometepe Island, shark-infested "sweet-water" lake, etc.), but one of our favorite activities on our vacation was hiring a boat to take us on a tour of Las Isletas.  Las Isletas is a series of 365 islands that stretch from the shores of Granada out into the lake, and which were formed the last time Volcan Mombacho blew its top and deposited large amounts of rock and soil in an archipelagic pattern in the lake.

This picture gives a feel for that process.  We took this shot while hiking Volcan Mombacho.  At this spot on the trail the forest opened up a bit and we could look over the edge of the caldera, and if you look closely on the left side you can see Las Isletas stretching through Lake Nicaragua from left to right (click the picture to expand and get a better view).

And below is the view from our boat:  you can see one of the 365 islands in the foreground, with Volcan Mombacho rising/smoking in the distance.

Every one of these 365 islands is a tropical paradise.  Some of the islands are quite large, while others are as small as a trampoline, but they're all densely forested and teaming with life.  Some of that life is human life, and many of the islands are owned and inhabited by wealthy Nica families.  There are some amazing multi-generational family estates on some of these islands.  But they're remarkably affordable (by American standards).  For example, we really liked the above island (about 1.5 acres) and estate, which was for sale for about $250,000 (according to our boat driver).  It comes with a great view, endless seafood, and your kids will have the pleasure of traveling to school in a canoe.

Typical abode on one of the islands.

But there really aren't that many people on/among these islands.  Mostly just flora and fauna, including enormous amounts of tropical birds (egrets, parrots, lots of other exotic-looking birds we had never seen).

And we even spotted a few spider monkeys swinging in the trees.

Super pretty, really unique, and so laid back it makes the Florida Keys look like Manhattan.  Here's a short video that Suzy took while cruising around one of the islands.  

If anyone wants to buy one of these islands/estates and then invite us over for Easter, we would be totally cool with that.

Friday, February 1, 2013

No, We're Not Completely Neglecting Our Fixer-Upper (Part 1)

We moved to Utah one year ago today.  Crazy how fast that went.  We have loved living in Utah, especially being close to family, living in such a beautiful place, having a yard, and having a good job that gave us about 150% more time together as a family.  Of course there are things we miss about D.C., and at the top of the list for all of us would be our friends (neighbors, colleagues, fellow-parishioners).  Suzy and Tenny also really miss the beaches, and Jeremy misses his bike commute and the Lucerne-brand cottage cheese.  But for the most part we're super happy to be where we are now.

And, as you may remember, we started this journey by buying a 1940s rambler from the three surviving daughters of the sweet elderly couple that had lived in it from the time they built it to the time they died.  And that couple -- Lola and Philip -- took good care of the place, but it was definitely a fixer-upper.  We had been talking about owning and renovating an old home since before our wedding, and we were so excited finally to live the dream.  But priorities change, and now our home is nowhere near the top of our priorities list.  

Nevertheless, to prove that we're not completely ignoring our home, we start today, on the first anniversary of our move, a new blog series titled "No, we're not completely neglecting our fixer-upper."  For the first installment, we display the Nursery -- Julie's room.



Nothing fancy, but Julie seems to like it.  Our favorite part is the art.  The pictures are actually from a 2011 Crane & Co. calendar (from The Paper Source) that we had hung in our home in D.C., and then we cut out the images and applied them to wood backing.  Inexpensive, but we think it's fun for our little girl.

And the piece de resistance is the wooden owl sculpture we found at the St. George Art Festival last Spring.  Julie hasn't noticed it yet, but we still love it because every time Tait walks past it he says:  "Hoo Hoo!"