Dushi Curacao

Summer has certainly come and gone here in Salt Lake. And although there is not much I love more than fall colors and pumpkins, our summer was so sweet it’s still got me reminiscing. We missed part of the change in seasons. Our final adventure of the summer was a beach get away to Curacao, a tiny Caribbean island 40 miles off the coast of Venezuela. What was supposed to be a 6 day trip turned in to an 11 day trip for reasons soon to be told. When we left it was summer, when we returned fall had arrived.

I don’t know where to begin to describe the time we had in Curacao. It’s an amazing little island full of beautiful beaches, bright colored houses, and delicious eats. The people are friendly and the island is easily explored. We spent part or all of everyday at different beaches snorkeling with tropical fish and sea turtles. As mentioned before, our trip ended up being a little longer than anticipated. Hurricane Irma hit Miami the weekend we were there shutting down the airport in Miami for several days. We didn’t experience any weather effects of the hurricane, except some intense humidity and a couple hours of rain, but since all flights to the U.S. flew mostly in and out of Miami our flights were cancelled twice, extending our trip by 5 days. We were supposed to leave on Monday we didn’t get home until Saturday. Needless to say, we got to know the island pretty well. IMG_8196IMG_8195IMG_8540IMG_8524I’m sure the number one thing to do in Curacao is go to the beach. The island has over 30 beaches with a wide variety of appeal. You can find any preference of beach. Beaches connected to resorts, beaches you hike to, beaches with locals, beaches with no one. Most of the beaches are prime spots for snorkeling and scuba diving and the Caribbean blue and turquoise waters never get old. The best beaches were Kleine Knip, Grote Knip, Directorsbaai, and Playa Grandi. There’s also Tugboat beach where you can snorkel a sunken tugboat. They fish are plentiful and don’t seem to be near as scared of people. On Sundays there is a small food market in the tiny town of Barber. People venture to the market to sample some local fare like stewed chicken or beef and home made lemonade or Tamarin soda and then head to Playa Grandi to watch the locals fish and swim with the sea turtles that come closer to shore to check out what’s going on.IMG_8288IMG_8276IMG_8346IMG_8515IMG_8638IMG_8649IMG_8865IMG_8462IMG_8460IMG_8703My absolute favorite beach was Playa Gipy. It’s on the very northern tip of the island and takes a short hike to get to, but it’s beautiful and rarely filled with other people. We went twice and the second time we were there for about half a day and had the whole beach to ourselves. We swam, drank wine, and built sandcastles. It was amazing. We also went to the Blue Cave. It’s an underwater cave that you hike about a mile or so to from Santa Cruz beach. You jump in and time the waves right to dive under and get in to the cave. The light from the water makes the whole cave sparkle with a blue tint. Unfortunately, my underwater camera died before that day, but it is burned in my memory because it was so beautiful!IMG_8474IMG_8484IMG_8475IMG_8630IMG_8466We spent part of a day in one of the two national parks on the island, Christoffelpark. We made it to the park in enough time to start the climb of Christoffel Peak, the tallest peak on the island (1,220 ft.). The park has a cut off time of 11am to start the hike due to the high heat, humidity, and the trail being exposed. Luckily, we hit the trail on a cloudy and overcast day which made it a bit cooler, but the humidity was still rough. You can see the whole island from the top of the peak. The trail is steep, but short and the views make it worth it. The island has a unique terrain of tropical jungle like trees and desert looking cacti intermixed everywhere you look and iguanas are easy to spot all over the island. IMG_8337IMG_8449I got to check off a bucket list item while on the island. I spent a morning snorkeling with dolphins at the Curacao Dolphin Academy. Getting to actually swim with dolphins and not just splash around a bit has always been a dream of mine. It was a surreal experience. To get to dive, swim, and play with 4 dolphins (two were babies!) was spectacular and the best part was I had the whole excursion to myself. No sharing!IMGP0066IMGP0059IMG_8657IMG_8287The capital city of Willemstad and it’s brightly colored neighborhoods are also highly worth exploring. The island hosts a port which separates two neighborhoods Punda and Otrabanda (literally “the other side”). The floating Queen Emma bridge connects both sides and when ships need to come in to the port the bridge moves and opens like a gate to let the ships in. If you time it correctly you can “take a ride” on the bridge and stay on it as it moves. Both sides of Willemstad have color splashed buildings and street art in various places. At night the city and the bridge light up with more beautiful colors everywhere. Curacao is certainly colorful in more ways than one!IMG_8580IMG_8581IMG_8582IMG_8585IMG_8588IMG_8589IMG_8620IMG_8722IMG_8805IMG_8807IMG_8776IMG_8771IMG_8770We feasted on meals that often included plantains, rice, and beans. We tried lionfish at Seaside Terrace overlooking the ocean and Asian/Caribbean fusion at Ginger in the hip Pietermaai district, right next to Punda. The most memorable dining experience was stewed iguana from Jaanchies where there are no menus and the owner actually comes over, sits at your table, and goes over what they have until your ready to order. If you clean your plate you get a bowl of homemade peanut ice cream for dessert. We had Jamaican food at Cool Runnings, the portions were so large we ate on it for a couple of days. We also dined on goat burgers at Williwood, which mimics Hollywood with a similar sign across from the restaurant. We visited Curacao Brewery twice to sample locals brews and did a tour of Landhuis Chobolobo, which is home to the distillery that makes Blue Curacao (as well as Red, Orange, Green, Tamarin, and Coffee flavored). Curacao also has a decent food stand and food truck scene throughout the island. We made sure to stop at one and try some traditional Dutch food. And of course, Derek made his traditional McDonald’s stop. He eats McDonald’s in every foreign country we visit!IMG_8432IMG_8497IMG_8455IMG_8549IMG_8889IMG_8225IMG_8229IMG_8188IMG_8623IMG_8626IMG_8681IMG_8459There are so many other wonderful sights to see! Like the Mikve Israel-Emanuel Synagogue, which is the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. It’s beautiful on the inside and the floor is covered in sand which makes it even more unique. Punda also hosts a floating market where vendors sell all sorts of fruits, veggies, and other local goodies. The cemeteries and churches are also worth stopping to visit. The multi-colored tombs and churches catch your eye all throughout the island. There’s also a flamingo park, an aloe vera plantation, an ostrich farm, and tons of art galleries. Something for everyone! I came home with a piece from local artist Nena Sanchez and also enjoyed seeing all of the Chichi’s (which is Papiamentu for big sister) at Serena’s Art Factory.IMG_8563IMG_8557IMG_8555IMG_8543IMG_8789IMG_8785IMG_8711IMG_8709Curacao is a constituent country of the Netherlands and the Dutch influence is still very prominent on the island. Almost everyone on the island speaks at least four languages-Dutch, English, Spanish, and the local language of Papiamentu. In this language, the word Dushi is used very frequently and you’ll see it all over the island on t-shirts, souvenirs, and a big statue in one of the squares (see above). The word essentially means “sweet” or “good”. It’s the perfect word to describe Curacao!IMG_8895IMG_8887IMG_8717IMG_8193

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Colorado Vacation

Every other year Derek and I spend a week with his side of the family in South Fork, CO at a family RV park called Fun Valley. His family has been attending for 40 something years and a good 30 or so people on his dad’s side show up for the week to camp, play putt putt and cards, and eat, eat, eat! We stay in old vintage campers that have probably been around since the sixties and pass the days relaxing, conversing, and exploring.
This last week was just as wonderful as years in the past. We spent a day jeeping in the San Juans with his parents, took a day trip to Pagosa Springs with some cousins to check out some breweries, re-visited the waterfall in the area where Derek proposed to me 9 years ago, enjoyed afternoon summer storms, and spent many evenings around a card table or campfire catching up with those we don’t get to see very often.

The area is spectacular and being surrounded by the mountains never gets old. It was a fun filled week in CO and always hard to say good-bye to those we love and get back to reality. Good thing summer’s not over yet!

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Weekend in Atlantic Beach

North Carolina that is, not New Jersey. We made the long journey across the country this weekend to visit my family and meet our newest nephew. Two planes and a 4 hour drive later, we ended up on the Atlantic coast Friday night piled in a beach condo and ready for the ocean! We spent most of the weekend playing in the waves, laying in the sun, eating way too much food, and laughing with relatives. The weather was hot and ridiculously humid, which was almost unbearable for these dry air folks, but the company was wonderful and and the ocean always rejuvenates my soul. Although I left a little battered, (I took a boogie board to the face and have a nice shiner as a result), my heart is full! This weekend kicks off a summer full of travel, friends, family, and many memories in store.IMG_8319unnamed-4IMG_8324unnamed-1unnamedunnamed-11unnamed-5unnamed-6IMG_8460IMG_8420unnamed-3unnamed-8unnamed-12unnamed-7unnamed-13unnamed-15unnamed-14unnamed-10

Birthday getaway to Ouray

This weekend we celebrated Derek’s birthday with a quick weekend getaway to Colorado. We spent Friday night checking out Palisade Brewing since we were staying the night in Grand Junction. The brewery has great beers on tap while also featuring local ciders and delicious sandwiches. On Saturday, we stopped at Octopus Coffee for breakfast before making it the rest of the way to Ouray. I had a bacon bagel, with bacon, and eggs mixed with bacon. WOAH! We made it to Ouray and checked out the local shops. I found a world necklace at the Silver Lynx that I am obsessed with. We spent the afternoon relaxing at the Weisbaden Hot Springs Spa. They have a vapor cave underneath their hotel that is like a sauna and hot springs in a cave with temperatures around 108 degrees. They also have an outdoor warm spring which you can enjoy while taking in the breathtaking mountain view all around. It was amazing and so relaxing! We split an afternoon snack of a poblano bacon burger with fries at Maggie’s, which is definitely the top 5 burgers I have ever had. We then had a brew at Ouray Brewing and ventured over to O’Brien’s Pub to have a few more drinks and watch KU beat Oklahoma State. ROCK CHALK! We decided to have some dinner at Buen Tiempo’s which was not amazing, but had delicious margaritas. After a stop Mouse’s Chocolate’s and Coffee for dessert, we finished the night with beers at Ourayle House Brewing (also known as Mr. Grumpy Pants) where we chatted up some locals and met Mr. Grumpy Pants himself!
This morning we had breakfast at Roast and Toast which had delicious pancakes and sausage and biscuits and, yes, more bacon.  We hiked a portion of the Ouray Perimeter Trail near Box Canyon Falls. The hike has incredible views of the town in the bowl of the mountains.  We started the drive back to SLC with a stop in Montrose where we found the best beer store ever, we brought home brews from Prairie, Grimm Brothers, La Cumbre, and more…so many favorites. And a stop for a wine tasting at Whitewater Hill Vineyards which had ice wine, something we hadn’t seen since Canada.
Derek deemed Ouray his favorite mountain town and I would agree. It was wonderful to escape to the Colorado mountains for a weekend, very relaxing and very fun!

 

New year, new decade

This last year marked the start of a new decade of life for me. So long twenties, hello thirties! Thirty feels different in some ways than my twenties. Not necessarily in feeling older. In that area I feel the same. I still believe, and hope to always believe, that age is more a state of mind and being than a number. I can’t quiet put my finger on the difference of being 30, maybe it feels more distinguished, maybe I feel more understanding of who I am, maybe a little of both or something else.

I entered 2016 with the idea of trying to really mark my thirties by being present in important moments and meeting goals. In some ways, this task was easy. 2016 was filled with wonderful memories, travel, and new experiences that shaped the year and will forever be embedded in my memory. In other ways, it was difficult to really be mindful of the moments that stood out and overall I realized that I have been blessed to have another year that was pretty awesome. I have a lot to be grateful and that’s what focusing on these moments helped me remember every day. I’ve always believe that I have a lot in life to be thankful for, but this task of marking my 30th year with experiences made that so blatantly evident.

I visited several places I had never been to before Boise, ID (1), Chicago, IL (2), Flagstaff, AZ (3), Dinosaur National Monument, UT (4), Jackson, WY (5), Great Basin National Park, NV, (6), and checked another country off the list with a two week road trip through Canada (7). I did things I have never done before such as eating beets (8), trying ice climbing (9), dyeing my hair (10), staying in a yurt (11), eating oysters (12), making Thanksgiving dinner on my own (13), going night sledding (14), and cutting down our own Christmas tree this year (15). Some moments were goals I had that were accomplished. We grew our own garden this year (16), I swam for exercise which I haven’t done in several years (17), I climbed Little Black Mountain-a hike that bested me twice before-(18), finished a daily reading book based on the works of C.S.Lewis (19), and ran the most I’ve ever ran with 18.5 miles (20). This last goal I beat the first week of year 31 by completing my first marathon! There were also moments that were unexpected. I had quite the fangirl moment this year when I met Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter!!) at Sundance this year (21), my extended family grew with the arrival of another beautiful nephew on Derek’s side and the announcement that a nephew was on way for the the first time on my side (22), and I unexpectedly got served a meal from the refugee family we work with that consisted of cow stomach and testicles (23)! Yum!

And then there were the sweetest of moments, the moments of all around happiness. Derek and I got tattoos (not matching) on my 30th birthday (24). It was fun to experience that together and mark my 30th year permanently. On our Canada trip, we visited Banff National Park (25). This had been a bucket list item for both of us for awhile. It’s a stunningly beautiful place. I surprised my mother while she was here visiting with High Tea at the Grand American hotel (26). She was so happy and excited! It was a wonderful experience to have with her. In my professional life, I got to be a part of a client fighting for custody of his children after a very difficult year and finally succeeding (27). The moment he came bursting into my office to tell me he had been granted custody of his children with a huge smile on his face is something that still warms my heart when I think about it. We had the opportunity to return to Santa FE, NM (28), a place that is very dear to my heart. When we moved to Utah, I was sad to think I wasn’t going to be able to go there as much. Getting to return and visit all of our places was a treat. This year was also marked with numerous experiences with our refugee family from Burma (29). We saw our relationship blossom this year from volunteers helping a family to real friendship. Besides the meals of ball and stomach soup, we spent many Wednesdays throughout the year helping with homework, teaching how to pay bills, laughing, telling stories about our lives, and sharing in the joy of finding out they are expecting another child!

And the last moment may be this. Getting to sit and reflect on another year of life, on a new decade, on God’s blessings, and all the captivating moments that marked 2016 brings me joy. I will take a moment on the last day of this year and be present in my gratitude. I am so excited for what 2017 has to bring. I leave this year with this one thought rotating through my mind-Life is Beautiful.