Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Questions from the Peanut Gallery

This weekend I got a few questions from my cousin (second cousin? first cousin once removed? I don't know ... cousin is just easier) Rebecca in Brooklyn, newish mommy to gorgeous little Stoshua. I was writing a long-winded reply via email and decided instead of boring just her, I would turn it into a blog post, because I really don't have much else to write about these days. Plus, I've been told that some folks out there like to hear about our lives even when we aren't on some far-flung adventure.

Some questions I am more qualified to answer than others, so we may need some expert opinions/advice/lessons from other readers.
"Maple Bacon donut? Tell me more! Not a meat eater, but never heard of such a combo!"
[Disclaimer: This discussion may be a little too much for anyone who doesn't like/eat pork. Sorry! I just can't help myself, but I love bacon!]

Well, my quest for said donut started on a flight from Dallas to somewhere, traveling on an airline that actually shows movies and television shows free of charge (what a concept). Anthony Bourdain was doing a tour of the Pacific Northwest, and one of his stops was Portland's (what I now know is legendary) Voodoo Donuts. This place has every kind of donut never imagined. A browse through their menu is actually kind of hilarious. Anyway, Anthony finished up his trip with a taste of the maple bacon donut, which he admitted sounded kind of gross. But then his face lit up, and you could tell he was in love. And when you think about it, it makes sense. On the rare occasion that I eat pancakes, I always make sure to have leftover bacon to sop up the remaining maple syrup. That combination of sweet and savory is so tasty! And the cake texture of the donut, the sugary crusty texture of the maple glaze, and the crunch, crispy texture of the bacon is so much fun on the tongue. I know all this now, because on our last trip to Portland, we finally made it to the shop, and the maple bacon donut was all I had hoped for. But definitely not something I would want to eat everyday. (I don't have a death wish for diabetes!)

On a side note, if you ever end up in Portland and need to bring some kind of food for a group of people, you can go to Voodoo Donuts and buy a bucket of "day-old" donuts (which are actually from that day) for $5. And the bucket is really a bucket, like the kind found at Home Depot or something.
"Have you tried sweet potatoes/yams with a bit of rosemary salt & butter!?"

[Disclaimer #2: If you hate fried food, you might want to skip this discussion too. What can I say? I love food!]

Heck, yes! In fact, there is a place here called the Boise Fry Company that serves all different kinds of potatoes in all different (fried) forms. On a chalkboard they indicate the types of fries they have that day (russet, yukon gold, yam, sweet potato, purple, fingerling, etc., etc.) and how they have them prepared (shoestring, curly, home style, steak cut, etc., etc.). Then they offer a condiment bar not only with the usual ketchup, mustard, and Idaho's own weird fry sauce (essentially French dressing ... yuck), but also with all sorts of flavored salts and sauces. My favorite? Home style sweet potato fries with the rosemary salt and either the garlic aioli or the chipotle dipping sauce. Yum!my!
"And curious ...how is Ilan pronounced? Stosh was almost Elan...pronounced E-Lahn...but it didn't make the cut!" [p.s. I'm so glad I am not the only one with a love for ellipses.]
And now I must pass the answering baton to the experts. I pronounce it E-lahn with almost equal accents on both syllables. But I am most likely getting it wrong. When it comes to names and Mark's family, I realize that I won't ever get the accent quite right. Not only am I missing the ability to make the throaty "ch" sound in Hanukkah and hummus, I am pretty sure that I never quite pronounce Ariel or Ilan exactly right. But then again, Mark says "Mahk" (which, I guess, is technically correct, since that is they way it is pronounced in "Australian") and "Tah-ra," so I think we can call it even. :-)

Keep those questions coming. Otherwise it will be quiet around these parts until something else comes along.

Oh ... p.s. we had a fabulous Thanksgiving weekend with friends old and new (including a surprise visit from a friend who Mark worked with on the Kern River 20 years ago). Here's a shot from the post-Thanksgiving dinner charades game (just about everyone is wiping tears of laughter from their eyes ... good times!).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

It's That Time of Year Again

Time for me to sit and reflect on all the good. To ignore the sad, bad news from around the world. To tune out the sensationalists and the rhetoric and the fanatics. (Though granted, it is getting harder and harder to do.) And instead to remember what I love about this crazy mixed-up world we live in.

So here goes, my list of what I am thankful for, in no particular order ...

a roof over my head, my green puffy (newly cleaned) jacket, fresh eggs from our neighbor's chickens, the fact that our neighbors have chickens in their backyard, my health, the YMCA, walks with the dog(s), the fact that the foothills are one block away, white-snow-blue-sky days like today, that fresh roasted coffee in that little market in San Jose, Costa Rica, our travels, our friends, our friends, our friends, Kai and all his many dogsitting buddies, even the naughty ones, our veggie garden all prepped and ready to go for next year, our beehive (I hope they survive this cold snap!), my new desk setup (thanks Mark and Sid!), the fact that we finally framed almost all of our pictures (now we just need to hang them), a good book, rainbows, double rainbows, Green Pond, airplanes that take us to see family and friends and on our farflung adventures (even with all the annoyances of present-day travel), Bloody Marys, filling the house with the smells of good food, the Capri's greasy spoon breakfast, mmm bacon, my memories, creating new memories, all the trees we have planted, our neighbors, Wordfirm for keeping me busy, changing seasons, Nana and Grandpa and Gram and Nana 2 for everything they have taught me about the importance of love and laughter, knitting (even if the current blanket project will NEVER flippin' end), the fact that I actually (eventually) finish certain craft projects now (I am sure Mom is happy about that!), laughing until my face hurts, all of our beautiful nieces and nephews--Ilan, Lara, Ariel, Megan, Lily, Sabrina, and Ella--we miss you all so much and are so proud of all of you!!, my cruiser bike and the fact that I rarely ever get in a car these days, did I mention coffee?? (I think maybe the fact that it keeps coming up is a sign that I should brew a cup), river trips, cell phones (texting and email and facebook)--all of which help keep me in touch with family and friends all over the world, sweet potatoes and yams (what is the difference, anyway?), music, music, music, the ocean, maple bacon donuts from VooDoo Donuts, the odd lady who feeds the birds in the vacant lot next door (I wonder if she knows that the hawks have learned this and now prey on the birds? Hmmm), the sounds of Kai's claws clickety-clacking across the hardwood floor, cuddling, walks to the post office with Mark, Cafe de Paris's cafe au lait (that's three!), camping, our house with its white picket fence, our family, our family, our family, our family! And, of course, Mark --- I don't always show it well, but I love you more now than ever and cannot imagine my life without you. You make all the crazy stuff more bearable!

There is more, I am sure, but for some reason I am suddenly very hungry and craving coffee!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. Or, if you don't celebrate this particular U.S. holiday, enjoy a day of love, laughter, and thanks just because! It's certainly better than the alternative.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Technical Difficulties

Hmmm, for some reason Picasa is not linking the slide shows into the blog. It shows up on my screen, so I'm sitting here thinking all is OK. But apparently the slide show is not showing up anywhere else.

So, we'll do this the "old school" way (meaning the way of 6 months ago). Click on this link to see any of our public albums, including all the photos from Costa Rica: http://picasaweb.google.com/tsj1119.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Ahhhh, La Pura Vida

How to capture what a great time we had our last week in Costa Rica without boring you to tears? That is my afternoon dilemma. I'll do my best! (or you can just check out the slide show, skip the long novel below, and make up your own story)

We left Turrialba after eating lunch with Jose at a soda (essentially a Costa Rican diner/cafe) that used to be the town's old train station. As always the comida tipica (typical local food) was delicious. It was sad to say goodbye to Jose, but we were also impatient to get on our way to rest and relaxation.

Gertrude the GPS was put back to work, as she guided us out of town and up, up, up into the mountains. Along the way, her "partner" Bill would interrupt with little tidbits of information about whatever little town we were passing. Gertrude is spot-on accurate, letting us know about upcoming speed bumps, "dangerous" bridges (which had me nervous at first, but it just means a one-way bridge), and sinking roadways (that one still has me nervous, as I have since seen several sinking roadways, and I don't like them!). She even knew about the obscure little turnoff that took us down, down, down to El Trogon Lodge, which turned out to be our own little piece of paradise.

There wasn't much to do down there in the valley, but it was perfect. Our two nights' stay consisted of eating (a ton of) fantastic food, drinking, sleeping (and more sleeping), reading (and more reading), going on a hike, watching the hummingbirds, enjoying the lush landscape, and playing pool, all while listening to the occasional torrential rainstorms. The weather was cool, the room had a nice warm heater (not to mention an even warmer hot shower ... heaven after a week of cold showers at Jose's!), and the staff were extremely friendly. And after the first night, we had the entire lodge all to ourselves.

Wednesday morning, we reluctantly packed up our stuff and drove up over el Cerro de la Muerte ("Mountain of Death," which "Bill" assured us did not get its name from the crazy drivers) down to the Pacific coast to the surfer's town of Domincal. And it was definitely a surfer's town. If you weren't out on a board, there wasn't much to do but sit in the bar, watch the 24/7 coverage of the Chilean miner's being rescued, sip Pilsens, eat seafood, and chat with the locals. But seeing as we were in complete relaxation mode, it was all good. (Though an air conditioner in the room would have been nice. It was swelteringly hot there!) We didn't have the best nights' sleep, thanks to the heat and humidity (not to mention my fear of geckos pooping on my head) and to the huge thunder and lightning storm that roared off the coast in the middle of the night (which was actually very cool). But the people were nice, the food was good, and the beer was icy cold. What more do you need?

The next day, we stopped in the town of Quepos to meet up with Kika and Natalia, two former Slovakian women's team rafters who helped out a ton with the race. Quepos is a town that leaves much to be desired, and I'm so glad we didn't spend much time there. After breakfast, Kika and Natalia headed south to Domincal, while we programmed Gertrude to lead us north, to Playa Bejuco (after a slight detour to check out Manuel Antonio ... a ridiculously tourist town, with a fantastic beach, that serves as an entrance to Manuel Antonio National Park, which we did not enter).

To get to Bejuco, we drove past miles and miles of palm trees. We weren't sure what they were for, as they didn't look like coconut or banana or pineapple trees. As we kept guessing, "Bill" finally interrupted us to say, "You may be wondering what those acres of palm trees are ..." I swear sometimes he eavesdropped on us. Anyway, according to "Bill," they harvest the fruit of the palm trees to make oils for margarine, cooking oil, cosmetics, even machinery oil. That explains why there was such a vast expanse of trees! The crazy thing was, according to "Bill," it's not even a native plant. This species of tree was brought over from Africa. Hooray for another mystery (to us) solved by "Bill."

The only mystery that "Bill" was not able to solve is why we passed no fewer than three airplane fusilages in the mountains and possibly a jet engine on one particularly hairy mountain pass. Every now and then, out of nowhere, a huge old jet would be sitting on the side of the road, slowly being devoured the landscape, once again reminding me of Romancing the Stone. The only one that made even a remote bit of sense, but not really, was the massive jet inside a bar in Manuel Antonio (I wanted to stop in for a drink, but Mark nixed that idea. Next time!).

Anyway, Gertrude wasn't much help in finding Bejuco, but if it were on her map, that might mean other people would have been able to find it too. As it was, we had the entire beach almost all to ourselves. I "swam" (I was actually too wimpy to swim, what with all the signs warning of rip currents and my own ridiculous fear of sharks, jellyfish, electric eels, etc., but I did float in the shallows.) while Mark rested on the shore (keeping an eye on our car just in case). But it was just too miserably hot to stay on the beach, so we ventured back up the road to the Delfin Hotel, where they were kind enough to let us relax by their pool. We sipped gin and tonics, ate just-made ceviche and homemade tortilla chips, and chatted with a couple ex pats. A wonderful way to spend a lazy afternoon. If we hadn't had to make the drive to San Jose that night, we most likely would have stayed the night.

But, alas, San Jose was next on our agenda, so off we went again, with Gertie by our side (actually, in my lap) to guide us through all the various detours and mountain passes. There is a brand new highway that leads from the beach to the capital city, allegedly cutting travel time nearly in half. We had heard that it may or may not be open, but since the toll booth operators took our money, we assumed it was open. Silly us. Thank God it wasn't foggy or dark, as we very easily could have plowed right into the two concrete barriers blocking the road. No flashing lights, no warning signs (well, none that we could interpret anyway), no reflectors on the barriers. Yikes! The unmarked detour was one of the windier, steeper roads that we had experienced, but it offered stunning views from the top, and it was a beautiful way to drop down into the sparkling lights of the city of San Jose.

On Friday, after Mark's meeting with Rafa, the three of us went out for a massive lunch at a Brazilian steakhouse. So good, but so filling! Later in the afternoon, Mark and I wandered around the city in search of gifts for the folks who watched Kai for us. The rain was pouring down, and it was Friday evening, which is payday. The streets were packed with people, all carrying umbrellas that hit us right at eye level. I was glad I had my glasses on, otherwise I might have lost an eyeball or two. But the entire adventure ended up well, as we stumbled upon a market where we found probably the most delicious coffee I have ever tasted. No sugar or milk required. Just straight up goodness. I'm still raving about how wonderful it was a week later.

And that, my friends, is the end of our two weeks in Costa Rica.

Next up? Halloween!

Monday, October 11, 2010


For those who get these blog posts sent directly to your email: Mark informs me that the little slide shows don't come through to email. So, if you want to see the photos from the past couple posts, be sure to go directly to taminaus.blogspot.com (Nana, you'll have to go next door to Gary and Jane's) to see some photos.


As always, the IRF team pulled off a great race. And as always, it wasn't without it's many difficulties and face-offs. But, in the end, it was all worth it. There were a few flips and boat wraps (which is when a boat winds up on a rock and the force of the river essentially wraps the boat to the rock), but no one was seriously injured, and all the teams seemed to have a great time.

The final ceremony was yesterday afternoon, with a delicious barbecue and lots of beer. The party then continued here at Jose's, with many of the safety crew and judges, as well as the US men's and women's team and one guy (Andrej) from one of the many Czech Republic teams. Amazingly enough, we are all feeling pretty good this morning, considering the great time we all had last night.

Now we are starting our vacation. After we finish up posting the results, etc., we will load up the car and head off for Trogon Lodge. After two days there, we will head to the Pacific coast for seafood and surf. And then it's back to San Jose for dinner with Rafa and his wife, Alejandra, before heading out early Saturday morning. Yay! A vacation for just the two of us!!

In the meantime, here are some more photos, including a shot of our second flat tire!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Rockin' and Rollin'

I don't have a ton of time to write. It's 6:!5 and we are leaving in 15 minutes for the second day of the races. Mark is still updating the InternationalRafting.com site every night, so hop over there if you are interested. I think he is posting pictures and videos as well.

Just in case any of you heard about our little quake down here, I wanted you to know we are fine, and everything is still standing (even us ... barely). We were sitting at dinner, eating amazing food!!, when the chairs and tables started shaking. It was just a little shaker, and definitely not the worst I've felt. In fact, at first I thought it was just a really huge truck going by. My only concern was that it wasn't a precursor to one of the many volcanoes down here about to erupt.

I was assured that it wasn't.

Well, time to brush my hair, chow down a burrito (made to order by Eric Boudreau ... an ex-Canadian men's team and now the chief judge of the race ... and also one of the 14 Canadians who stayed in our home in Denver a few short months after we moved in), and head on down to the river.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pictures Are Worth Thousands of Words

Which is good, because I'm ready for bed. Everything is going well. You can read Mark's take on everything over here: www.internationalrafting.com

For your viewing pleasure, here is a quickie slideshow of our first few days. No captions, just pictures. Sweet dreams!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Living La Pura Vida

Well, I should actually have some fodder for the blog for the next two weeks.

On the Road Again
Saturday, Mark and I flew down to Costa Rica, where Mark will be the race director for the Pre-World Rafting Championships. Long-time readers of our various adventures may recall that we went to Ecuador for a similar race ages ago. The deal is this: Every two years, the IRF puts on a 6-person world rafting championships. In the year before the actual event, they require that a "pre"-race be put on to ensure that all logistics, etc., are in place and problems are smoothed out before the big event. It's kind of a pain in the butt for the organizers, but until they get big sponsors, it's a necessary evil (big sponsors would provide big money, and with big money, most of the little problems that come up during a pre-worlds would never be a problem). This year there will be 21 teams from about 7 countries.

Anyway, after a long day of travel from Boise to San Jose, Costa Rica, with no delays, no luggage problems, and no problems (albeit also with no legroom and no amenities whatsover), we got in, made it through immigration and customs without a hitch, and headed over to Budget Rental Car. Even with a hand-drawn map and a GPS system in the car, we had a heck of a time finding our hotel in the rain at 10 p.m. at night. But, at last, we turned off Miss Gertrude the GPS and trusted the hand-drawn map. After a few more wrong turns and missed exits, we finally made it to the Country Suites and Inn by Carlson (if we had known that full name, Miss Gertrude would have had no trouble whatsoever ... as always, technology issues come down to user knowledge and user error). The hotel was lovely, and our room had a massive, comfy bed. Our first dinner in Costa Rica was rice and beans and fruit from the local grocery store enjoyed while flipping through the TV channels. Not exactly what I imagined, but still just perfect for the state we were in.

The next morning, the hotel provided a delicious breakfast buffet, including Costa Rican coffee, fresh fruit juices of just about any flavor you would like, and eggs made to order (not to mention a plethora of pastries and breads).

Driving Miss Gertrude
After filling our bellies, we loaded up the car, programmed in our route to Turrialba into the GPS (which was much easier to work when I could actually see what I was doing in the light of day), and headed east. We soon learned that Gertrude is worth her weight in rice and beans. Not only did she take us around the city instead of through it, but she also has a partner, Bill, who speaks up every now and then with tidbits of history and sight-seeing info. What a fantastic invention!!

We drove right past the largest volcano in Costa Rica, which last exploded in 1963, the same year JFK made a state visit to the country, and which flattened the since-rebuilt town at its base. Of course, the clouds were all pretty low, so we didn't actually see it, but it sounded impressive. Apparently, on a rare, clear day, you would be able to see both the Atlantic and the Pacific from its peak.

Then we passed through Cartago, the ancient capital of Costa Rica, in which there is an old church to which pilgrims from miles away come once a year, many of them making the entire trek on their knees. We didn't stop to see it, but apparently it has beautifully painted wooden pillars and lots of stained glass. As we approached another turn in the road, Gertrude beeped and displayed a little message letting us know that we were passing the ruins of an even-more ancient church. I love that little GPS!

Romancing el Rio
After fixing a flat, we arrived at Jose's place in Turrialba. Jose is a friend of Mark's and an employee of Rafa's (Rafael Gallo is our host, the organizer of the race, another old friend of Mark's, and the owner of Rios Tropicales). We had just enough time to say hi and switch out of our travel shoes before heading off to the river. As always, the drive to the river was an adventure in itself, but Rafa is a fantastic driver, and his truck is apparently pretty indestructible.

The race will take place along a stretch of river that is bordered by two little farms with lots of land for people to camp and park and enjoy the race. There is so much to be done before the race starts on Friday, but they have a great crew of workers. One of the big jobs is to create trails down through the jungle for spectators to follow. Since said trails were not yet created, we made our way through the jungle just like Joan Wilder and Jack T. Colton in Romancing the Stone, though without the high heels or heavy luggage (or the police shooting as us). Rafa and Walter hacked away with their machetes, while the rest of us tried to keep from sinking to our knees in the mud. I know my family will find this hard to believe, but it was a blast. And I certainly don't need to worry about anything I ate for the rest of the day. I think I sweat out about half my body weight thanks to the humidity and the strenuous activity. I even walked across the creepy, creaky, swaying bridges without flinching ... too much (I really do hate those things).

Of course, Mark has the camera with him today, so photos will (once again) have to wait until another day.

I just love watching the entire race coming together. Impromptu meetings occur in the strangest places ... atop a mossy, riverside rock; on a creaky, metal bridge over a rushing rapid; beneath the farmer's carport, while sipping his much-appreciated Imperial beer; in a delightful soda (cafe/restaurant), while eating yummmmy casados (meat, rice, beans, eggs, salad, and fried plantains). Mark is back in his element and thriving on pulling it all together. Unlike some other past race locales (ahem ... South Korea!), he has a terrific crew of guys to help out, so I know it will all come together pretty smoothly.

That's It, for Now!
Today (Monday), I'm sitting here in Jose's lovely home, with a view out his iron-adorned French doors into the valley and the distant mountains, catching up on work and getting started on re-creating the timing sheets for the race. Mark is off checking out the downriver course (by boat) and then starting the arduous task of setting up the sprint and slalom (always the hardest part of the entire race). Teams start arriving today and will be on the river starting tomorrow. The race itself starts on Friday. And now my story is all told ... for now.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

As Time Goes By

I am happy to report that the lack of blogging here has been due to an extremely busy, fun-packed summer. We are actually all packed and ready to go on our next adventure right now. We are just waiting for our friends Sid and Davida to sort out the stuck egg in their chicken (no joke).

So while we wait, here's a very quick recap:

After our Middle Fork of the Salmon trip (see the previous post), Mark headed off for the Netherlands to help organize and run, as well as do the media for, the four-person raft championships. You can read all about it at internationalrafting.com. This site is also what has been keeping Mark busy this summer, as it is his job to keep it (and the IRF Facebook page) up to date and full of interesting info for boaters and nonboaters alike.

While Mark was off in the Netherlands, I hopped on a plane for a fantastic two-week trip to Connecticut, New Jersey, and North Carolina. After being pampered with mom at a local spa, we stopped off with Dad to see the Darling clan on Green Pond. Relaxing cruises on the lake, a fun night at the Seven Sisters, and always love and laughter made up for the fact that it was a much-too-short visit. Then Mom, Dad, and I headed south for the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where we met up with the Tuthills, our family friends from my earliest days of life, and the Studebaker gang. The house was right on the beach, but also had a pool. Our days were filled with more laughter, lots of swimming, and a whole bunch of relaxing (not to mention a heck of a lot of eating and drinking). Thanks so much to the Tuthills for making it all possible.

I returned to Mark here in Boise, where we have filled up our days with garden projects, more boating, lots of barbecues, the Tour de Fat, the Western Idaho Fair, a hot air balloon festival, pool parties, a bunch of mountain biking, and even a little Willie Nelson at the Botanical Gardens. In between all that, Mark took a job as a polysomnographic technologist at a sleep lab. An entirely new venture for him that he is finding incredibly interesting, even if it isn't his dream job (no pun intended).

And once the chicken and egg issue is sorted, we will be going full circle this summer, returning to Portland to pick up a bench that Mark's folks bought for us last time we were there. In addition to visiting the city again, we will also be camping on the coast for a couple nights to get in some more ocean time!

And now for your viewing pleasure, photos from our summer, in no particular order and without any labels, as the chicken problem has been solved (unfortunately without a very happy ending for either the chicken or the egg) and we are about to head out the door.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Miscellaneous Photos (more to come ... someday)

So technically today is a tomorrow, it just isn't the tomorrow I referred to in my previous post. I still don't have all the pictures from our various adventures. Most are on Mark's computer, which is the Netherlands with Mark (check out www.internationalrafting.com to see what he is up to).

But I did promise pictures (when am I not promising pictures?), so here are the few I have related to the previous post. Actually, only the first few are related to the previous post. The rest are from our wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Middle Fork of the Salmon 6-day river trip (which we just got back from on Thursday night). The river was gorgeous (it runs through the Frank Church/River of No Return Wilderness, which apparently is on the list of 1,000 places to see before you die ... so check that one off the list. Only 999 more to go.), the weather was fantastic, the food was to die for (and then to come back to life just so you could eat more and die all over again), and our group was excellent. Not a bad egg among us (or maybe I was the bad egg and no one told me).

Anyway, without further ado, a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Trip the First -- The No Lochsa Weekend
, during which we did not raft on the Lochsa and instead enjoyed a wonderful weekend in McCall (which included rafting, skiing, rafting, which a bunch of food and laughter in between).

Trip the Most Recent -- Middle Fork of the Salmon River

Monday, June 14, 2010

So Far Behind

We are so very far behind in keeping this blog up to date. It has been a fun, hectic, busy, adventure-filled spring. But you certainly wouldn't know that, would you.

So here's the quick recap:

Trip 1: Rather than the freezing Lochsa River, we ended up in McCall, Idaho, at a friend's family's 5-bedroom "cabin." We floated down a mellow section of the Salmon, skied the last day at Brundage Mountain, eased our muscles in the hot tub overlooking the Payette River, ate a ridiculous amount of wonderful home-cooked food, and then wound up the whole weekend with a trip down the south fork of the Payette River, upon which Mark expertly guided us through some rocking and rolling class 3 rapids.

For the next two weekends we installed a sprinkler system, with the great, generous help of Heather, her Dad, and Simo.

Trip 2: We got together with a group of friends and headed to the Snake River, on the border of Idaho and Oregon. It was a wonderful trip, like no other, down Hells Canyon (mainly class 3 of a huge, huge river through North America's deepest river gorge). The days were spent on the river, and the nights were spent relaxing in a river hot tub that could easily seat 15. Not exactly the definition of roughing it!

Trip 3: For Memorial Day, we trekked back up through McCall and beyond, to the wondrous Burgdorf Hot Springs. I can't even begin to describe how relaxing this weekend was. More fantastic food and friends, all interspersed between trips to the natural hot springs that overlooked the surrounding mountains. Peace.Ful.

Trip 4: Mark's folks arrived a few days after the Burgdorf trip. We spent a few days showing them around Boise before heading off on a 10-day roadtrip through the northwest. We stopped in Sun River and Portland, Oregon; Seattle and Ritzville, Washington; and McCall. There was much eating of good food, shopping in all sorts of different shops, exploring of city nooks and crannies, and even the occasional hike into the wilderness. It was a fantastic time!

And now we are back home. My computer is just about out of juice tonight, and most of the photos from the various adventures are on Mark's computer. So, tomorrow, when the computer is all recharged, I will add photos for your viewing pleasure. Stay tuned!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

The Birds and the Bees (and the Trees)

We have had several reader questions since our last post, and we are here to oblige!

From our inquisitive nephew Ilan, down in Sydney:
How do you get the bees out of the tree and into the hive?
A picture speaks 1,000 words, or so they say, so let me see if this photo montage helps explain (because even though I watched it happen, I'm still not entirely sure how it all came together).

Mark and Drew in their oh-so-fashionable beekeeping gear. Drew is holding the top of the tree and sawing just below the swarm, while Mark holds the base to keep it all steady.

A close-up of the above.

An even closer-up of the above above.

Carefully detaching the branch from the tree.

I wish I had video of this one. Drew essentially banged the branch against the beehive just once, and all the bees just "ploomped" (technical term) into the box. That group of bees right in front didn't quite make it in, but they eventually settled down and moved in. From what I understand, the queen was in the center of all that craziness. And where the queen goes, her bees follow. So when she fell in, all the others moved in with her. After about 24 hours, Drew came back and moved the hive against the side of the house, so it gets morning sun and then afternoon shade. I don't know how he moved it all, as he took care of that at some ungodly hour of the morning (oh, say, about 8 a.m. or something on a Saturday!).

So as you can see, I don't really know how it all happened. But it did. And the bees have been happily buzzing along ever since.

Which leads us to our next question.

From Mom (as opposed to Mum) in Connecticut
How do you get the honey out of their new home now?
Good question. I don't know ... yet. All I've been told is that Drew takes out the slats (here they all are in the box. Out of the box they essentially look like manmade honeycomb).

The slats are on wooden frames and the "comb" is angled slightly (this is important, but I don't know why, exactly). He places these in what sounds like a heated centrifuge, which spins it all around and flings the honey out of the comb and down into the jars. Apparently last year he got about 5 gallons a hive (and he had 4 hives!). That's a lot of honey! And, depending on the time of year, the honey has a different flavor. Last year his early-season honey had a more citrusy flavor (YUM!), while his later-season honey tasted more like "regular" honey. Apparently it all depends on the flowers that are in bloom at different times of year.

From Auntie Karen, in beautiful, tree-laden North Caldwell:
Why did you have to take down the trees?
Well, it all started because the easiest way to get the bees out of the little 7-foot pine tree was to chop off the part where they had settled. We didn't like this tree anyway, as it was way too close to the fence (and I'm not a huge fan of pine trees unless they are "out in the wild", i.e., they look great in the Rockies).
The other tree was this big, massive, ugly juniper tree. We never liked it, as it was in a really odd spot. We weren't planning on taking it down just yet, as we were hoping some of the others we planted would grow over the next few years to provide us with a little extra shade before we cut it down. But men and chainsaws cannot be stopped, not even for little mourning doves.
Then there was the humongous mulberry tree that was growing right out of our foundation. I have no idea why the previous owners let it go for so long. It has scraped up the siding on our house and was perilously close to the electrical wiring leading into our house (oh, how I miss the buried wires of our past several homes). All quite scary when the wind starts blowing hard!
And the final pine tree was an accident. While Mark fought with the mulberry tree, he told Drew to "take out that juniper" (though he might have said "pine tree," I wasn't there). Drew thought he meant the little pine tree against the north fence, which, for the record, was also way too close to the fence. So bye-bye other pine tree.

Whew! That's the long answer. The short answer is that we didn't really like any of them, and we don't feel all that guilty, because although we have taken out a total of 6 trees, we have planted 12 (so far), plus an additional two lilac bushes and plans for at least 2 or 3 more (don't worry, Mom, we are making sure they are spaced out well enough ... we have a ridiculously large backyard). So someday we will have shade again (though that someday may be 20 years down the line).

I believe those are all the answers of late. If I missed someone, just post a comment, and I will reply, sooner or later.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not-Quite-the-Weekend Update

We have been MIA again from this little blog of ours. We are still busy with the house, as well as the beginning of barbecue season, bike rides, work, ... and the list goes on.

Last weekend we were swarmed by bees and now have our own honeybee hive. That excitement led to us cutting down all of the old trees in our backyard, which, in turn, led to the pseudo-orphaning of two little baby mourning doves and then the cruel agony of watching Mama Bird return later to no nest, no babies, and a torrential downpour that lasted all night. It was a very somber ending to an otherwise productive and interesting weekend. After about a week, Mama Bird has finally flown off and no longer sits on our clothesline, staring in our window all day and night, so I no longer have to hear her telltale call. And yet I will never be able to listen to a mourning dove again without getting a big ol' lump in my throat.

After all that excitement, we settled down to a busy week of work so that we could get ready for our first real adventure in Idaho. Originally the plan was to head up into the mountains for our first Idaho rafting trip on the raging Lochsa River up near Lolo Pass. Apparently this is the spot along Lewis and Clark's adventures where they had to kill a colt to feed the crew, where they faced near starvation, and where they were caught in an unseasonable snowstorm. As we watched the weather reports throughout the day today, we were starting to think that we would be in for a similar encounter. But at the last minute, our crew decided to scrap the original plan of camping in the rain and snow. Instead we are heading up to McCall for a weekend of rafting, skiing, and hot tubbing, all based in the comforts of a warm and cozy cabin. Hooray!

So if you haven't heard from us in a while, it's because we've been wrangling bees, birds, work, and play. It's a rough life here in the wilds of Idaho!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


We've been MIA again, but this time not due to sickness or sheer laziness or lack of anything to say.

A week ago Friday, I bought two bookcases from a shop that is moving to a new location. I got a steal of deal -- $10 each. What a bargain!
The next day, at about noon, Mark and I sat in my office, trying to figure out how to organize the room, where to place the bookcases, etc., etc., which led to the discussion of, "Well, we do want to pull up the carpet and paint the walls." "Yes, but I thought we were going to work in the garden this weekend." "Yeah, well, maybe we should do this first." And off to Home Depot we went to get all the materials to rip up the carpet, paint the plywood (for our temporary ghetto-hardwood-floor substitute until we can afford the real stuff), paint the walls, clean up the trim, etc. etc. All so that we could then move in the $20 bookcases. So much for my bargain.

For a week, our living area looked like this:

as we did this to my office:

And now it looks like this:

All that's left to do is hang pictures, shorten the curtains, and find some new bookcases. Because, alas, after all that, we decided that the bookcases really didn't go with my office. So now they are being used as clothing shelves in our bedroom (in place of the cardboard boxes that we had been using as dressers for the past 7 months ... really, we are not still in college. We are grown adults ... sort of. Really.)

After a brief respite of having the house all in one piece again, we started in on Mark's office, and once again our living room looks like this:

If you know anything about home "improvement" projects, I'm sure you won't be surprised to hear that in the process of ripping up Mark's carpets, etc., we discovered that the wood around his window was rotten and icky and mucky from a leak that the previous owners decided to just ignore:
Oooh, pretty!

So yet another quick-and-easy project turns into a major chore. But already, it looks like this, so we are making terrific headway ... all things considered:

In between painting and moving and taping and priming, we also had time to plant a huge donation of clippings and cuttings from our neighbor's garden, buy all the materials necessary to build a fence around our future veggie garden, and attend a fantastic wedding reception up at Bogus Basin for some good friends of ours.
The happy couple

So, that's where we've been. Phew ...

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

La Pura Vida

Today's Guest Post is courtesy of Mark, who is living the sweet life this week down in Costa Rica.

I am sitting at El Tigre (Rafa's farm house on the Pacuare), and it is raining like you wouldn't believe. The place is a rustic hut with solar electricity (we had to use a generator tonight, as the batteries are not working well). Except for the LED light above me, it is 100% dark. The rain is so loud, you can't even hear the jungle noises, and all I can think of is that you need to be here with me. [Ed Note: Awwww.]

This place is incredible, and I love it. Today's adventure was fantastic. We started out early, at 7 am, and cooked a breakfast of bacon, eggs, rice, and plantains. Then we got on ATVs and rode all around the area. (When we reached the road, that's when I called you from Rafa's phone.) Next we met the Rios Tropicales clients and went with them to the river. Had a fantastic day on the river and figured out how to do the time trial on the Pacuare. We plan to make it a community event, where we are going to plant trees and showcase how this river was saved from a dam. Once off the river, we had a late lunch at Cairo and then got a ride with the guides back to the ATVs and rode back here to the hut. We sat out on the open deck, listening to the rains come in as we figured out how to organize the World Rafting Champs. Beautiful.

Rafa is now asleep (8:22pm), and I am working on the event and putting all my notes down so we can remember everything. Anyway I just want you to know that as great a time as I am having, the most important thing is that it is not 100% complete as I am not sharing it with you. I promise you will see these places by October 2011 at the latest.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Hooray for Nana!

Today's post is brought to us by my first guest blogger: Auntie Karen, aka The Queen. Thanks, Auntie K.!!

For those of who are on Auntie Karen's lengthy e-mail list, I apologize for the duplicate news. But this news is just too happy not to spread around. (And it has pictures ... though not necessarily recent ones.)

(Because this is a guest blog, here's a little clarification "Mom" = "Nana." Just in case you all think this is about my mom.)

Mom's preparation for a cochlear implant started October 2009, surgery was January 6 and "hook-up" -- the day we have been working toward (when the outside processor is connected to the implanted device) happened January 26.

Gary, Jane, Mom and I drove and Donna took the train from CT to NYC. We were all there when the audiologist made the "connection." She programmed the unit and began to ask Mom questions in a normal conversational voice with her lips covered so Mom could not lip-read. Amazingly, Mom began to answer with a completely relaxed and normal affect. There was no leaning forward in total concentration to grasp what was being said.

She heard our voices, and it was an emotional moment for all of us (one of many to come). Jane, Donna, and I were choked up and reaching for the tissue box. Mom said we sounded like we were speaking in slow-motion, but she was hearing sounds.

For the first time in a LONG time, Mom heard Gary's voice. Driving home, Mom and Gary were able to carry on a conversation in the car -- the road noise did not override all other noises and Mom did not have to look at Gary's face to try to read his lips. She even noticed that she could hear the clicking of the directional signal.

Prior to the surgery, Mom could not hear anything, or little of what someone said, if they spoke quickly, if she couldn't see their lips, if they spoke without moving their lips or covered their mouth with their hand, if they spoke while looking away, if they spoke from behind her, if their voice was pitched high, or if they spoke quietly. If there was any background noise, such as music, other people speaking, or even a plane flying overhead, they would compete with or cancel out the sound of the person speaking to her.

With my voice pitched at an alto and having spent a lot of time with Mom (which meant she was used to my voice) and adhering to all the rules that help in hearing, I could communicate pretty well with Mom. But even with all that, in the past few months, I had to touch Mom's arm for her to know I was speaking. It was exhausting for Mom, discouraging for all of us, and had gotten to the point where Mom decided something had to be done and was willing to even undergo surgery to regain her ability to communicate. The isolation caused by her profound hearing loss had become too great.

Well, when we got back to my house after the hook-up, Mom said she heard the fireplace crackling, heard my wall clock ticking, heard the telephone ring. When we had dinner, she suddenly realized that she could be chewing food when someone spoke to her and yet she could hear what they were saying. Previously, if we spoke to her at dinner, she would have to stop chewing because she couldn't hear when she was eating.

The next day we went back into NYC for more adjustments, where she was programmed for an Auto-Telephone feature that is activated when the caller begins to speak. She does not have to make any adjustments; she just holds the phone near the "speakers" (which are the size of 2 pin heads). I spoke with her this morning and was able to change subjects, and she could follow the conversation. Previously, if we were talking about something and then tried to change to a different subject, Mom would not catch the words in the transition, and we would end up saying, "I will email you."
Gary just called to say that he was sitting with Mom talking and had a Nat King Cole CD playing, and Mom could hear both. Mom hasn't been able to enjoy music in years!! Gary was so pleased that he called Donna, Jane, Susan and me -- a call from Gary is infrequent -- and again, we were all choked up with emotion for this, new "miracle." Gary stayed for over an hour, and Mom got to spend precious time, enjoying music with her son.
Of course, there are still lots of appointments for more adjustments and speech therapy (teaching listening exercises) scheduled all the way into May. And each new voice takes time to get accustomed to. There are also many more features that Mom will have to experiment with, get used to, and decide whether they are helpful to her or not. But for only 2 days post- "hook-up" we are amazed at the difference. Mom's hearing is coming back so smoothly that it is a pleasant surprise each time one of us realizes a new improvement. This will certainly give Mom the ability to fully participate in life. In fact, Sunday will tell us if she can hear Father Marc's sermon (he says she may regret the operation, but I doubt it). I am also anxious to have her speak with her great-grandchildren and hear their voices for the first time [Ed Note: Me too!!!].

This is truly a happy time for us, and I know Dad and George are so proud of Mom and of all of us for supporting her in this life-changing decision.
I know this is not a recent photo, but I love it!

Mom thanks you all for the cards and emails wishing her well. She gets the best mail of anyone I know. All the messages are in a neat pile for each of us to read and enjoy; it is like Christmas everyday.

Update: I just got another call from Mom, and we were able to discuss her insurance bill and the fact that her “sonic boom alarm clock” was delivered. When the implant and hearing aid are out at night, Mom is totally deaf, so she has no way of being awakened for a morning appointment. Eric connected the sonic boom; it makes the telephone ring and the lamp light flash, and it has a huge alarm sound and rocks her bed. She said it almost throws her out, and she thinks it will wake Gary next door, so if she does sleep through it, he can come wake her up. Aren't we having fun? 

Monday, January 18, 2010

Eight Years

I love this picture. I think that it expresses everything wonderful about our marriage, and everything about Mark that is so great. I mean, look at that smile of his. Doesn't it just make you want to go out and have fun and love life? Carpe diem, and all that good stuff?

Life is never perfect every second of every day, and there are so many little bumps along the way. But I am so thankful for those little moments of perfectness and so glad that I am sharing the ride, bumps and all, with this man that I love.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy New Year!

Well, all in all, the new year is still fairly new, so we aren't too behind in our holiday well-wishing! We wish you all the best in the year to come. And as we do for every year, we hope to catch up with you somewhere along the road in the months to come.

Rather than recap what we've been up to, you can just reread all our old posts. Stimulating reading, I am sure. Or just hop on over to our Picasa slideshow, because as you know a picture speaks 1,000 words! (So wit our little album, I'm saving you from reading about 85,000 words!)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sad Day

As I sit here writing on this appropriately gray, dreary day, I'm listening to murder and mayhem outside my front window. I have my red curtains closed, but they are kind of sheer, so it gives the whole event an even more macabre feel.

The tree guys are here. Our one big tree, which in the summer shades our upstairs as well as our entire backyard (once the sun starts its descent), is being taken down. Yes, I know it is (allegedly) more than two-thirds rotten inside. Yes, I know it is leaning precariously over our upstairs bedroom. Yes, I know that silver maples are not really a pretty tree, at least in terms of fall color. Yes, I know we are getting three (very small) trees in its place ... someday. But, it's still a living (barely) tree that has been here probably more than 50 years (how long does it take a silver maple to grow to be over 50 feet tall?). Not to mention the fact that all fall I've been watching a family of squirrels scurry around and stock their home with all sorts of goodies. And that home just happens to be in the big silver maple (OK, so those squirrels probably contributed to its downfall, as their home is in the huge knot on the side of the tree. But still.)

And on top of all that, I know I will eventually be reprimanded by the batty woman who scolded me a month ago when she heard that the tree was slated to come down. Even though I told her that we are planting three trees in its place. Even though I know that since we moved in this past August, we have planted seven trees. She still scolded me. Like it was my fault the tree was dead. She is probably also one of those people who want to protect all the prairie dogs, even though they breed so fast and have so few natural predators, that in two years' time they were able to turn a field of tall grasses into a barren dust bowl.

Oops, how'd I get off on that tangent?

So I'm giving a little offering of thanks to our silver maple. We've only enjoyed its shade for 4 months, but we will miss it. (Though, admittedly, we won't be missing all the dead branches it dropped in our yard.) So long, tree! I hope you come back in your next life as a long-lived (male) ginkgo!