Sunday, February 24, 2013

Steamboat Springs

The color of the sky in Colorado is something altogether different; the blue is so intense you feel it in your bones.  In early February we took a trip out to Steamboat Springs to go skiing and we were lucky enough to have several clear-blue, sunny days.  I stopped halfway down the mountain to look for the porcupine we saw the day before and when I looked up this is what I saw (above).  The white aspens out there are so striking against that crazy, blue sky.  I took this photo with George's iTouch and used PhotoStitch to put it together.  It turned out Photostich is not as seamless as I would like, so I ended up fixing some blurry seems in Photoshop. 

Steamboat has a covered gondola which was nice to keep out of the wind.  It is also less scary.  Every so often when I am sitting in the uncovered ski-lifts I get the willies.

The photo below was taken from our room at the Torian Plum.  It was a nice ski-in ski-out location.  I took this photo because the air was filled with glitter.  I guess it was so cold the moisture in the air was freezing.  You can see a bit of it near the bottom of the photo, but the photo doesn't do it justice.  You know how sometimes when the sun shines just right and you can see all the dust floating in the air?  Well, imagine that all that dust is sparkling glitter and filling an area the size of your room.  The effect was dazzling. 

I actually lugged the big camera up the mountain one day and took a series of photos from the upstairs terrace at the restaurant (below).  I hand "stitched" them together in Photoshop.  Click the image to see it larger.

I wasn't so sure I wanted to go from cold Cincinnati to cold Colorado.  After three flights, briefly losing my luggage, then hauling skis, helmet, goggles, boots, and poles you begin to wonder if it's all worth it.  But once you start skiing you remember, "Oh yeah,it's like skating on the ground!  No, it's like flying! This is incredibly exhilarating!"... it all becomes worth it.  

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Homemade Kindle Cover

Last week I finally got around to the dreaded task of cleaning out my closet when I came across the shirt below.  I have had this shirt since college and have not worn it in over a decade.  Every year when I try and get rid of it I just can't!  Why, you ask?... when it is wide enough to fit an elephant and short enough to bare my midriff.  Because there is something about the fabric that I love... the waffle texture and the color of the stripes are just too awesome. 

But this year I decided it was time to either give it to Goodwill or make something out of it.  So voila!...I made a homemade Kindle cover out of it.  Basically I measured my Kindle (4.5''x6.5'') and added a 5/8'' seam allowance.  In the end I cut two pieces that were 6''wide by 10'' tall (back), and 6'' wide by 7'' tall (front).  I then zig-zag stitched the edges to prevent fraying.  Next I put the good faces together and sewed around the edge and then turned it right-side out and top-stitched it to finish.  I had wanted my flap to be a bit longer but I lost some length when I lined up the stripes on my two pieces of fabric.  It always amazes me how a seam allowance gets eaten up and the final product ends up smaller than anticipated.  If I had to do it over again I would add an extra half inch all around and maybe a whole inch vertically for the flap.

In the end it turned out a bit wonky but I am happy with it.  There is something so satisfying about having an idea and enacting it.   And I am very pleased to finally find a good use for this old shirt, although it only encourages my hoarding habit.  C'est la vie.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hotel Grano de Oro

Our final night we stayed at the Hotel Grano de Oro in San Jose.  It's an interesting old building that has been restored with modern touches.  This hotel was a bit of a splurge and I was disappointed we weren't able to spend more time here.  We arrived late afternoon and left early the next morning but at least we were able to eat in the beautiful restaurant in the courtyard (see below).

This trip was certainly a different side of Costa Rica than I had seen before (a more luxurious side).  I loved seeing tropical interior design in the places we stayed and being spoiled by rainfall showerheads.  But there is always a part of me that enjoys trudging in mud to the top of my boots and getting soaked by rainfalls from the great showerheads in the sky above.  I guess roughing it and luxury both have their perks, it's all in your perspective.   

Friday, February 15, 2013

Hotel Playa Hermosa, Bosque del Mar

Our final destination in Costa Rica was Playa Hermosa along the Golfo de Papagayo.  We stayed in the Hotel Bosque del Mar and I loved it!  One of my favorite things about the hotel was the open-air main building that housed the reception, restaurant and bar.  The best part about the building was the amazing architecture with trees "growing" through the building.   

The other thing I loved about this hotel was the paper lanterns everywhere.  It is such a small thing, but I am absolutely crazy about them!  They give such a festive feeling and we totally lucked out because the day we arrived there was a party on the beach with a marimba band.  We ate dinner in the open-air restaurant listening to incredible music and watched as the lanterns began to glow in the fading light of the sunset.

Below is the view from our room.  The day we arrived there were howler monkeys in the tree above the pool and you could just look up at them from our deck.  There were also a couple giant iguanas that lived in that tree and it was fun to watch them (below).

The last day of our trip we had planned on taking a snorkeling trip with Capitán Adolfo.  He came recommended by several other guests at the hotel.  Unfortunately my dad was not feeling well that day and we had to cancel.  But if you get a chance to visit Playa Hermosa his rates were quite good.  His telephone number is 8830-8489 and his email is  I told him since we cancelled the least I could do would be to mention him on the blog.  If anyone out there has gone on a trip with him please feel free to leave comments.  Someone also said he came recommended on

If I ever go back to Playa Hermosa I would definitely stay here again.  The hotel is right on the beach and the beach was clean, not-rocky and beautiful.  My dad and I spent one whole day just lounging in chairs on the beach while George went to la Reserva Biológica Lomas de Barbudal. He not only saw their famous capuchin monkeys but also long-tailed manakins.  He had a great time but I wouldn't have traded places with him for the world.  That night we saw a white-throated magpie jay while sitting in the restaurant.  Awesome bird and delicious ceviche at the same time... now that is my kind of birding!    

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Monteverde, Hotel Belmar, Costa Rica

We stayed at Hotel Belmar in Monteverde.  At first I was disappointed that we didn't have a room that faced the beautiful view, but after spying a mot-mot from our forest-facing room we realized our room had its own benefits.  If you are a birder I recommend staying in room #14, the "canopy room" in the chalet because you can literally lay in bed and bird at the same time.  I also loved eating breakfast on their open-air terrace shown below.

On our one full day we drove up to the reserve and hiked over to the continental divide.  Although we didn't see a quetzal, I did love finding these ghostly fairy mushrooms above.  George and I also hiked the trail up to the radio towers behind our hotel, but I do not recommend that hike.  It was just a road that went up and up and more up.  Usually you can at least glimpse some interesting birds on such a walk, but our only rewards for all that effort was a crazy black caterpillar with spiky yellow "hair" (see below) and two pairs of extra sore legs.    

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Drive to Monteverde

The third day of our trip we headed out of Chachagua towards Monteverde.  This drive, although beautiful, is arduous and took over five hours (the last two on a rough gravel road).  The beginning of the drive was around Lake Arenal on a crazy, curvy road that offered some breathtaking views of the volcano.  We stopped at Café y Macademia for lunch on the western edge of the lake.  The food was fresh and delicious, plus the restaurant had nice views of the lake. 

Once we got around the lake and through Tilarán we started heading up the gravel road to Monteverde.  I suggest getting gas in Tilarán as there is nothing until Monteverde.  The closer you get to Monteverde the more rugged the road, and the more you begin to wonder what you've gotten yourself into.  But it is breathtaking country and something about those crazy roads makes you feel very alive and present (you'd better be present as you might meet a huge tourist bus or semi around any corner). 

Be sure to stop along the way and look North as there are nice views of Arenal along this drive.  You can see it in the photo below peaking over the hills in the distance.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Tabacón Hot Springs

After our hike at the hanging bridges we were ready for a nice warm soak in the volcano-heated water of Tabacón Hot Springs.  The guide book recommended it and it did not disappoint.  The springs were so natural-looking you felt like you were slipping into a rivulet in the jungle.  And the grounds were extensive with many little "streams" separated by beautifully manicured pathways.  There was also a pool near the entrance with a swim-up bar.  How often do you get the chance to be in a volcano-heated pool with a swim-up tiki-hut bar sipping freshly-squeezed girly drinks with two of your favorite guys in the world?  Not everyday!...and  I enjoyed every minute of it!

Tabacón at night is also beautiful (photo below).  We left just after it got dark, but it I can imaging it would be super romantic if you were here on your honeymoon.  Hermosísima!

Friday, February 1, 2013


We spent two nights at the Chachagua Rainforest Hotel and on our one full day we drove to the Arenal Hanging Bridges where there is a very nice view of the volcano.  We were lucky the day we went because we had a clear view, although there was a little white poof which never moved from the peak.  I wondered if it was steam coming out of the volcano.

The drive from Chachagua to the Hanging Bridges is about 45 minutes and during our drive we saw a whole family of coatis crossing the road.  They are beautiful creatures and if you watch them walk away you can see they have soft-looking grey pads on their back feet.

We had a very nice hike on the Arenal hanging bridges.  I don't recommend the hike for people who are afraid of heights.  I do recommend wearing good sturdy shoes as the trail is made with concrete blocks with holes in the middle.  I wore my crocs by accident and it was a little rough on my feet.  The waterfall below was part of the hanging bridge hike and when we were hiking up from it George spied the Broad-billed Motmot below.