Apr 10, 2017

Officially A Teenager

4/10/2017 — cori

Exciting times are happening around here. My baby has officially become a teenager. I don't know whether to be happy or cry. Sometimes I feel like doing both. I'm super happy for her, but sad for me in the way that all parents have known throughout time. The best thing about having teenagers is all the cool things we get to do together and the amazing conversations we get to enjoy. I love adolescence as much as I loved the younger years (maybe even more).

Little children are often so adoring of their parents and love them unconditionally because you are all they know. But as they get older and learn more about the world around them and see how other families do life, they start to compare. I feel that once the kids reach adolescence and they still want to be around you and choose to hang out with you and still adore you as much as they did when they were little, then I feel like our relationship is on the right path. It's as much an adjustment for the parents as it is for the teen. You can't parent a teen the same way you did a child. That's where the breakdown comes for so many families, I'm afraid. Not that we have it down in the least - there are many moments of angst. Long-suffering is the greatest character trait of the parent's of teenagers. But overall, it's a beautiful, exciting time full of growth for both parents and teens.


Knowing what a turbulent time adolescence can be, I wanted to give her a gift that would help her traverse these often murky waters. So I decided to get all the special people in her life to write down some advice and tell her why they loved her. It's super important to remember how much your loved when times are tough! Here is the birthday girl holding her special book.


The book begins with this beautiful quote by Lao Tzu: Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength; loving someone deeply gives you courage.


Here are some example pages. I even tried to find fonts that matched everyone's handwriting to make it more personal.


Even Ninja got in on the action.


At the end of the book were collages with Chloe and all the special people - this is just one example.


After a special dinner of Dad's Thai Basil Curry (the first year I didn't make the special birthday dinner) and cake, we played The Dictionary Game and laughed our butts off. We'll never forget Sacajewa's brother, Sacahuiste (inside joke). I think laughter is the best gift of all and time spent with those you love.

Apr 5, 2017

Costa Rica Recap

4/05/2017 — cori

One of the great joys in my life is volunteering. I love to help the community by giving back to it. My kids never had a chance to decide whether or not they liked it, they have just always come along with me to help. This is just a normal part of their lives, not some special thing we plan to do. It just is. So I figured one final big service trip would be a fitting end to their time of living in our household and transitioning off to college. For years I have been dreaming of taking Gavin to some wonderful foreign country to see another way of life, help where we can, learn about the culture, and get some special one-on-one time together. My goal had always been to take this special mom-kid trip during their Senior Spring Break. It would be awesome!

Or maybe not. It never once crossed my mind that I might be the only "mom" in the group of volunteers. It never occurred to me that this situation might embarrass my kid. It never dawned on me that these service trip organizations are geared mostly to college kids. And while I'm at it, I was clueless about how none of these college kids wanted a mom around to ruin their idea of fun.

Yup. That's exactly what happened on this greatly anticipated trip of ours. We were practically ignored by the other 7 house-mates at our service project. I felt like I was living in a frat house most of the time. I had forgotten how much college kids know - they could rule the world because they seem to know something about everything. Can I just say I love my 40s and the perspective it brings?! I wouldn't ever go back to my 20s if someone paid me to. 

But I also love hanging out with my kid and he likes hanging out with me and we love doing stuff together. So that meant we were pariahs. It was a sad side-effect to this exiting time. We got really good at practicing how to return rudeness with kindness, ignorant/arrogant statements with nonjudgmental looks, indifference with patience. We learned way more than how coffee is grown and processed. We learned heart/life/character lessons and these were priceless. Plus, our time together was a gift that no arrogant, rude, crass college kid can take away from us because we chose to have a good time despite them.

It's amazing how something can be even better because of the people you're with or turn out even worse because of them. I think the rest of the group would have accepted us but there was one person who deemed himself the leader of our little band of volunteers and everyone followed his lead. He was a senior from the Air Force Academy. Everyone called him The Academy. He wouldn't shut up about The Academy. I now know way more about The Academy than I do about coffee farming. He was the machoest of males and he wanted everyone to know about it. He thought the mother/son thing was lame, completely ignored us, so the rest of the sheeple followed suit. It was a really interesting observation of groupthink in action. Had The Acadmey not been there, I think our time could have been even better (minus the flu, of course).

However, we didn't realize any of the above until we were already 3 days into our trip. It was apparently destined to be a challenge right from the start. Gavin came down with the flu 2 days before we left. He was miserable - that's putting it nicely. From the day we got there I was trying to finagle a way home. Nothing worked. We were unable to switch our tickets to an earlier flight home. We were officially stuck in a super humid, hot, dirty country with no air conditioning and a horribly sick kid and a guilt-ridden mom. Thus begins our adventure....

Here we are at the Minneapolis airport, clueless as to what lie ahead of us. This would be the last time I wore make-up or did my hair. The only item I forgot to pack (I realized too late) was a hairbrush. Not cool. But it didn't really matter since I wasn't in the shower long enough to wash my hair adequately. It was an outdoor shower with only cold water. Being outdoors adds the added bonus of bathing with all types of insects. Hygiene was optional. I tested the limits of my deodorant that boasts of 48 hour protection. Gavin is doing a good job in this picture to look better than he feels. 


This is the coffee farm in beautiful, mountainous region of Monteverde. It sits on about 2 acres. The owner's house (Oldemar) is the green one on the left. The dorms are on the right for all the volunteers. The little bungalow in front was given to one of the volunteers. He actually got stung by a scorpion on the second night there.We actually stayed the first two nights in San Jose with a host family. They spoke no English, we spoke only un poquito Spanish. I was very thankful I brought a pocket dictionary with me. San Jose is not a very pretty city. It's dirty, very crowded, and expensive. From there we rode a bus for the 4 hour trek up the mountains to our destination of Monteverde where we would be staying the remainder of the week. Let me tell you about this 4 hour bus ride. There was no a/c (even though the bus was equipped with it). Our clothes were wet with sweat and dirt from the gravel roads coming in through the open widows, and we got one bathroom break at a stop 3 hours in. Essentially, we spent 4 hours in a vacuum. Also, the last hour and half was spent going 20 miles an hour up the mountain on gravel roads. We gained a new appreciation for city infrastructure - a concept we previously took for granted.


This was the inside of the dorm area. The bunk-beds were on the second level. This was the only space for everyone to congregate in. It was at this table that I slept on our last night when I spotted a VERY LARGE scorpion in my room. I actually ran over to Oldemar's house and made panicky gestures indicating I needed rescuing from some type of creature. He and his wife followed me back to my room which is on the other side of that couch (I was given my own room - thank God). He picked it up with a pair of scissors without killing it and let it go outside. His wife checked my pillow and blankets and said, "Solemente uno" (only one). But where there's one, there's more and I was not about to be scorpion prey. So I took my scorpion free pillow and blanket and "slept" sitting in the chair with my head laying on the table and my feet tucked up under me on the chair. All of my 44 years caught up with me after that sleepless night (I only fell out of the chair once). Everything hurt - but I was free of a scorpion sting, so I consider it a smart tactical move on my part, even though it cost me greatly.


This is the dog that greeted us at the coffee farm. They are way up in the mountains in the middle of nowhere. And here comes fluffy little Buddy snipping at our ankles protecting his finca (farm). There were also a mess of mangy, scruffy homeless dogs that also decided to call the farm home. They followed us everywhere (except for inside the house). 


On our first morning at the farm we separated the good coffee beans from the bad ones. This is when these worldly-wise college kids were still speaking to us and hadn't yet to begun to be embarrassed by my presence.  After doing this for an hour or so, we were then assigned to dig up old, diseased coffee bushes and clear the land. Hard, dirty, sweaty work. We did this job most of the days. One of the days, the owner was out back helping us and cutting down large branches of trees with his chainsaw when all of the sudden he comes running up the hill yelling "VAMANOS!!!". We all sprinted up the hill. Apparently, he upset a beehive and saved us all from certain peril. Work was cut short that day. We were supposed to work during the morning and have the afternoon free each day. This gave us time to explore these mountains.



One of the guys had already spent the previous 3 weeks here and found some interesting places to hike and visit. He took us to the river to swim. We walked down one dirt path to another. No street signs anywhere. We just kept walking downhill. I knew this would be a torturous hike back.


Everyone (but Gavin and I) swam in the icy waters. We sat on a rock and talked. I apologized for embarrassing him. He's the best kid. He said he wanted to spend time with me as much as I did him and forget those people who didn't understand. And then played superman and rescued one of the homeless dogs that kept following us who got stranded on a rock. 


Another afternoon after work we hiked up the steep mountainside to see this view. We were headed to a lookout spot that had some benches to sit on. We never made it. It was sooooo hard. I love to hike, but this was unlike any hiking I do. This would be classified as a strenuous hike if you were at a National Park in the States. We estimated the grade of the incline to be at least 70%. It was torture on our quads. We stopped instead at this lookout point, not realizing that the destination we were attempting to reach was only one more corner and hill away, maybe 75 yards only. Oh well, we enjoyed this view just as much. We spent the rest of that day lying in the hammocks reading and recuperating.


Here is one of the volunteers (one of the only ones who was polite to us and the one who got stung by a scorpion) grinding the coffee beans to be packaged. The machine Oldemar usually uses was broken. But he had plenty of man power to help get the job done.


Here is Oldemar, the owner of Finca la Bella Tica. He is explaining how to package the coffee, the measurements needed, etc. He was the nicest man. Hardworking. Kind. He had a very authoritative presence about him (in a good way, like he knew what he was doing and was highly respected). Everything about his farm is organic. He would rather dig up diseases plants than use pesticides. He would rather let the scorpions and tarantulas go free instead of kill them. He is one with the earth. I highly admired him. Coffee farming is his craft and you can tell he loves it.


These are the coffee beans. The first one, at the bottom, is the seed pod. They collect these in baskets (that his dad makes) during harvest time. He said you can sell these this way, but you don't make much money from it. The next bean up is what the seed pod looks like after it is dried. Then the seed pod is separated from the seed using a pestle and mortar or a machine (that makes it much easier and more efficient), resulting in the third bean. This is then set to dry out in a greenhouse for two months. Once it is sufficiently dry, it looks like the final top bean. These were the beans we were separating. We had to take out all the seeds that were black.  From there they go into the roasting machine. He roasts the coffee beans 25 minutes for a medium roast and 30 minutes for a dark roast.


After grinding the roasted beans down, it is time to package them, as Gavin is doing in this picture. The ground coffee sells for the most money.


This is the final product. It was pretty cool to be a part of it, to learn all about it, and to help someone out in the process.


We had the opportunity to visit two of the Cloud Forest Parks that the region is famous for. One of them was a bird sanctuary and the other had 8 hanging bridges. It was cool to see the forest from this vantage point. We were at the top of the trees seeing things that you're unable to see from the bottom.


This was the second tarantula we saw. The first one was at the farm in the shed. The second one was right next to the path we were walking on in the forest. I still get the he-be-jee-bees just looking at that. Because of the largeness of all the insects, I slept with my covers over my head every night just incase something decided to crawl over me when I was unaware. I practically suffocated each night, but I was never woken up by something walking on my face.


On our next to last day, we took a 3 hour ride to Jaco, a beach town, by shuttle. This was better than a bus because we had a/c. But we had to pay through the nose for it. It was very expensive, but faster (I was told the bus would have taken 8 hours). We spent most of our money on taxis, shuttles, and bus fares. Here we are chilling out in Jaco, eating lunch and trying to stay in the shade. We were sooooo hot!


After walking into the water for the obligatory beach photo shot, Gavin came back to the chair and spent the rest of the time laying in the shade trying to catch a breeze. It was over 90 degrees out with super high humidity and very little breeze. Not his kind of weather. 


We picked this hostel online the day before (since this was a spur of the moment idea). In the pictures, it showed hammocks, not mats on the ground. This might look cool, but it was the absolute worst place we stayed. The tent was essentially a torture chamber. There was no air flow. The outside temperature barely cooled down and the humidity felt even worse inside the tent. Plus, we had the added bonus of listening to Hispanic rap music until 3:30 in the morning from the place on the other side of the wall from us. I did not sleep at all. Thankfully, the next morning I got to take a cold, outdoor shower to help relieve the migraine that plagued me the entire evening. Also, one more thing about the facilities...Costa Ricans don't put their toilet paper in the toilet. I just thought you might like to know this. You are supposed to throw all toilet paper in the trash can. It does not make for nice smelling bathrooms.


Notice the theme? Shade. We kept moving from shady area to shady area. Here were are playing cards trying to kill time before sunset.

 

Sunsets are beautiful the world over!


Mar 19, 2017

Disgust

3/19/2017 — cori


We are HUGE fans of the genius movie "Inside Out". We have watched it numerous times and still laugh every. single. time. We also spend way more time than we should trying to determine which personality best fits each of us. Chloe wins Disgust hands down!!! (Chuck was a close second.)


Isn't the resemblance uncanny? 

How Did This Happen?

3/19/2017 — cori

Gone are the days of the practical mom car. Apparently, I am now a sports car driver. None of this was planned. It all started on Thursday when I got this email:

Dear Cori,

My name is Nicole and I work for Walser Mazda.  I am working on a project with my manager to acquire CX-9's for our inventory, we are not having any luck with auctions.  Would you be open in meeting with us so that we can look at purchasing your CX-9?  

I look forward to hearing back from you!

No one has ever asked to buy my car from me before. But I was curious, so I took the bait. I called her back and asked if she was for real. She said she indeed was. We set up a time for me to bring my car in to get an estimate. No obligation on my part. I figured it couldn't hurt. I brought it in that day.

To be honest, I was a little apprehensive, skeptical, and distrustful. I'm the type that buys anything someone nice is trying to sell. It's just my nature. I don't like to hurt people's feelings. I have the word "sucker" stamped on my forehead apparently. I know I'm an easy target. That's why I was extremely cautious when I walked into the dealership. I felt as though I were walking straight into a scam somehow.

But I wasn't. They were totally legit. They weren't forceful about anything. The sales guy who helped me asked if I was looking to upgrade and I told him I wasn't. In fact, I was hoping to downgrade. If I in fact traded in my car, which I wasn't planning on doing 5 hours ago until someone popped the thought into my head, I wanted to lower my payments, pay no money out of pocket and get a newer car. I figured with a declaration like that that they would laugh me off the lot. Except they didn't. He was more than happy to help me achieve each of my points. 

How odd, I thought. A car dealer who means what he says and isn't trying to pull a fast one on me. I pushed on. We looked at several cars in their inventory online. He printed up a cost analysis sheet for me and sent me on my way. I told him I couldn't make any decisions today, that I'd discuss all this with my husband and call him back. Zero commitment on my part. I walked away without a hook in my mouth. He had no idea if he would ever see me again.

Except that he did. The very next morning, in fact. 

Chuck and I looked over the spreadsheet he gave me. We would actually be making out pretty good if we traded-in our current car. Why hadn't we thought of that. Plus, it had at least 3 problems with it that were needing attention and large chunks of our disposable income to fix. Just last week we were wondering how on earth we were going to fix this current car problem we were experiencing. In steps the mystery email suggesting we trade it in. Problem solved.

We were at the dealership the next morning at 9 o'clock. By 11:30 we were out the door with our new Mazda 3. A newer car, loaded, with very low miles, cheaper than our last car. And much less mom-like. Unbelievable. Less than 24 hours earlier, we didn't even know we wanted a new car. 

I just love the spontaneity of life.

Mar 10, 2017

Baggie Blunder

3/10/2017 — cori

This is probably one of the stupidest pictures I've ever taken. Who takes pictures of sandwiches in baggies? I do....to prove a point. Don't take Bennett grocery shopping with you!

I must have been super desperate the night I invited Chloe and Bennett to do our week's grocery shopping with me. One kid, I can handle. Two, never. And if one of those two is Bennett - game over.

Apparently, there is something in the air at the store that makes him turn into a raving lunatic. All of the sudden he can't hear what I say, he no longer possesses the ability to think or reason, he asks for stuff like he was a 2 year old, and having him around makes me use a lot of huffy breaths. And one more thing...he somehow charms me like some snake-oil salesman and I find myself actually laughing at his outrageous antics and ploys. I'm a lost cause once he winks at me. I giggle like a school-girl.

That is how this whole baggie blunder happened. I send him on a remote mission to go get more baggies. How hard can it be? He comes back with the same looking green box as we always get. I didn't even bother to read the box to make sure they were the same - why wouldn't they be? However, upon getting home and putting away all the groceries it becomes noticeably clear that the baggies Bennett got were not the same baggies I usually buy.

A few questions first: Why do they even sell fold-over baggies anymore? Is there still a market for fold-over baggies? Why did they put fold-over baggies in the exact same colored box as the zip baggies? Are the baggie manufacturers trying to deceive unsuspecting shoppers on purpose? Has there been an increase in demand for fold-over baggies since 1982? Are fold-over baggies some hip, new retro thing that's suddenly become popular again? Why did I take Bennett with me again?

As a consequence, all of Bennett's lunch items will now be securely placed in these convenient little non air-tight baggies for approximately the rest of his life or until we run out of them - whichever comes first.


Incognito

3/10/2017 — cori

Apparently, I have the unique skill of sounding like Bennett. Not everyone could pull off such a feat. You have to make the person you're texting question the legitimacy of the texter. Bennett obviously excels at this skill. He's known for hijacking people's phones and texting random ridiculous messages in place of the legit phone owner to other family members as an attempt to stage a coup. It never works. He then opts for taking leaving stupid selfies on the owner's phone and/or changing the screen saver to said selfie. Always a joy. 

That being said, all of us try to keep our phones away from Bennett. No wonder I caused Chloe to doubt whether or not this was me. It totally sounds like Bennett. I didn't know I had it in me. It appears that the whole picture of a unicorn and the "ur mama" line convinced her it definitely wasn't me - who even says that?! 

So much for trying to be hip and cool and send my daughter a cool emoji message. I suck at 'cool' now. The best I can do is just mimic cool, I'll never achieve that status amongst the younger crowd. I accept that - but it doesn't keep me from trying to make a fool of myself. 


Mar 8, 2017

On Being Short

3/08/2017 — cori
It has recently come to our attention that we are short now. At least shorter than our off-spring. And in their world, that's really all that matters. We recently documented this during dinner one night.


Chloe and I now look eye to eye. We don't always see eye to eye - but we do look each other in the eyes now. The thing about Chloe - she always does her hair in a bun on the top of her head just to make sure she looks taller than me. Also, she has longer legs than me. Ugh! My bum is the lowest in the whole family. And I have the shortest legs in the fam. I am not excited about this. But this is all I have to work with, so I'm embracing it. Also, Chloe and I share shoes. This will only be a phenomenon for a very short period of time as she is on the up and up and I am (apparently) on the down and saggy.


We like to refer to Bennett as our resident giraffe. He wins the prize for the longest neck in the family. We each have our own gift. Chuck has the best (and only) poofy beard. Although Chuck and Bennett's shoulders are even, Bennett's extra long neck give him the height edge over Chuck. 


No explanation necessary. I'm short. He's less short. End of story.

Feb 25, 2017

How We Entertain Ourselves

2/25/2017 — cori

Sometimes when there is nothing left to talk about at the dinner table, this is what we do. "Hey, who can balance the parmesan cheese container on their forehead all the way to the door and back?!"


Sometimes dinner just devolves into chaos and laughter. I wouldn't have it any other way. This is the stuff memories are made of.

Feb 18, 2017

Santa Fe Celebration

2/18/2017 — cori


Even though our 20th anniversary was 5 months ago, we decided to wait and celebrate it in February. We had never been to Santa Fe, New Mexico and thought a little thaw from the Minnesota winter during February would be a perfect way to celebrate. In theory, it was an awesome idea....going to the desert in winter should be a no brainer. We figured it would at least be warmer than we were in Minnesota. However, what we couldn't anticipate was the freak mid-winter warming trend of MN and the freak cool front and snow in the desert on the very weekend we had our trip booked for. It makes the story and the adventure that much more exciting. Here we are still looking half asleep as we wait for our 6:30 a.m flight. This adventure started at 4 a.m. like any good adventure should.


However, even before the adventure began, I already started taking pictures. This beautiful mural comes to you complements of the Minneapolis St. Paul airport bathroom. Is it not beautiful?! So you can understand why, when I went to the bathroom before boarding the plane, I was forced to take a picture of such a beautiful scene before me - even though it was a public restroom. Trust me, it only got better from here (the trip, that is...the bathroom was sparkling clean too).


Within less than 2 hours of disembarking the plane, we were hiking. Obviously, we had to find food first. After eating the best salsa and chips at Sadie's, we booked it straight to our first adventure: Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. This particular part of the hike was aptly named, "Split Rock Canyon". This was the one perfect day of our entire trip. The weather hovered around 69-70 glorious degrees. The sun was out. Life was perfect.


Breath-taking. I don't know any other way to describe this scene. After some very strenuous hiking and climbing up the equivalent of 65 flights of stairs on the side of a mountain we reached this glorious vista. I've never seen anything like it.


Chuck finding himself in a pickle (as usual) while hiking. He realized (too late) he was up too high to jump and was unsure which side of the cliff side to continue his trek on.


The Bureau of Land Management states: The cone-shaped tent rock formations are the products of volcanic eruptions that occurred 6 to 7 million years ago and left pumice, ash, and tuff deposits over 1,000 feet thick.  Tremendous explosions from the Jemez volcanic field spewed pyroclasts (rock fragments), while searing hot gases blasted down slopes in an incandescent avalanche called a “pyroclastic flow.”


The view from the top. I highly recommend acclimating oneself to the region and the altitude before immediately setting off on a 4 mile, 3 hour hike at a 5,000-6,000 foot elevation. We learned the hard way.

The La Fonda - our gorgeous, historic hotel on The Plaza in downtown Santa Fe. We didn't get to explore much of it due to our aggressive hiking earlier in the day. We were exhausted, sore, and couldn't keep our eyes open - even to watch tv. We were asleep by 8:30 on our first night of adventuring. We are so old. 


This is the famed St. Francis Basilica on The Plaza in Santa Fe. It is an active church and a lovely building. However, I found the two other historical chapels also in The Plaza to be even more beautiful and serene.



This is called the Loretto Chapel. It is now a museum and wedding chapel. When this structure was built in 1878 it was lacking a staircase to the second floor balcony. A mysterious carpenter showed up one day to build what is now the famous spiral staircase.


It is an engineering wonder. There is no center post. The side rails were added much later. It is sturdy and holds weight. It is stunningly beautiful. 


The entire chapel had a peaceful aura about it. The architecture alone was inspiring. The mosaic work on the ceiling left me in awe. The beautiful details in this chapel simply amazed me.



This is the San Miguel Chapel. It is known as the oldest church in the U.S.  It's thought to have originally been built around 1610 by the Tlaxcala Indians from Mexico. Unfortunately, it was damaged during several battles over the years. This current structure dates back to 1710 although there have been many structural changes since then.


This is the inside of the chapel. It is stunning in it's simplicity, lack of ornateness, and rough-hewn architecture. It is still an active chapel where parishioners come to worship each week.


As we roamed The Plaza, we took pictures of random beautiful buildings. I think this is the outside of an art museum.


This is a small alley-way we found ourselves walking down. Just another example of the simple yet beautiful architecture of the area.


Then I realized I had a "thing" for doors. I'll spare you all the door pictures I took, these are just a small sampling.


Technically this is a gate, but I'm adding it to the door pictures since when you open it, it leads somewhere, like to a gorgeous courtyard.



Don't you just feel invited to check out this place? The red door. The vines overhead (which must look and smell beautiful the rest of the year). The textures and colors draw me in. 


As we were aimlessly walking through town, we stumbled upon the Chuck Jones Gallery. I knew nothing of him, but Chuck was super excited. Come to find out, he was the creator of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Wily Coyote. Chuck has a deep affection for all things Looney Tunes. This gallery was a must see. It really was a spectacular exhibit. The curator was very generous and explained so much to us. He was having a Dr. Seuss special exhibit the following weekend and so had much of his art and sculptures also about the gallery. 


This was my favorite artwork of the exhibit. "Fox In Socks" was one of the first Dr. Seuss books we read with Gavin when he was still a mere 3 months old. He grew up on Dr. Seuss since we were diligent parents and felt the need to join the Groiler Book of the Month Club upon having a newborn. This particular book is a complete tongue twister and had us in stitches for years.


The next gallery we came to was the Monroe Gallery of Black and White Photography. This particular display featured the works of Steve Shapiro. It is called "Eyewitness" as he was Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s photographer. These images were haunting, depicting the stark reality of the life and times of being black in America, especially during the racially charged 1960s. It was beautiful work.


This is what it looks like when you're 44 and tired of walking for 6 hours around a city. We had just finished our tour of the History Museum when Chuck found this couch and collapsed. It's hard getting old and having so much fun.



This was the night we decided to go out for our belated anniversary dinner. We made reservations for 6pm at this fancy French restaurant called Chez Mamou. It was a little embarrassing to be the first and only customers at the restaurant at 6 pm. On the plus side, we had our choice of seating and fast service. On the down side, 2 other couples came in shortly after us - but they were old. Yes, we now eat at the same time as old people apparently. 


One of our favorite discoveries were the two fireplaces located throughout the hotel. We used these to our utmost advantage. We read our books by the fire. We played cards by the fire.


And we warmed our cold bodies by the fire.



The third day we woke up to snow on the ground. It was cold. We had to document the winter weather while on our walk to breakfast. But as you see, nothing could dampen our spirits. We were happy because snow is pretty and we came prepared...just in case.



This was our view while driving back to Albuquerque for our return trip home. 




We arrived home on Valentine's evening. Chloe planned a super special dinner for us. She even dressed up as an Asian hostess to give us a hint as to what our meal would entail. It was soooo sweet! We had sushi, a palette cleanser of lemon-lime sorbet, fried rice and cookies. 



Lastly, the evening came to a perfect close when Bennett showed us what he creatively made for us with the materials we had available in the house. He got a cookie cutter, poured sprinkles inside it, then removed the cookie cutter to reveal this work of art. He had them waiting on our place mats when we arrived home. I love our kids so much! 


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