Friday, February 27, 2015

7/52 & 8/52 (A Weekly Photo Series)

I missed posting my weekly photo challenge last week since we were on vacation. Andi and I took a ton of photos between the two of us, and I've shared most of them already in posts over the last week.

Though, I suppose there are a *few* more images I can scrounge up for the purpose of this post.

*Part of my personal photography challenge was to shoot with Andi's Canon 7d camera, but we didn't travel with that big ol' thing to Mexico. We brought his Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 instead which is a great small-sized point and shoot camera. I'll be back to shooting with the Canon 7d next week. Same rules apply otherwise; these are photos I took (not Andi) during our trip to Sayulita, Mexico:

The view from Playa de Los Muertos:

Janie, the greatest mother-in-law a girl could ask for:

Favorite vacation photo of Andi & Tory:

Favorite vacation photo of Andi & Aden:

Back to real life (i.e.: freezing Minnesota), which translates into taking photographs mostly indoors again. Beautiful bright colors of Mexico, I miss you!

I'm quickly growing tired of photographing the kids in the same few rooms of our house, so I might get creative and start carrying the Canon 7d with me around town during our daily adventures. We'll see how on top of my A-game I feel while schlepping two kids in sub-zero temperatures. 

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Sayulita - Days 7 & 8

Andi, Janie and Tory set out for breakfast Monday morning – our 7th day in Sayulita – while Aden and I waited back at the condo. They stopped by Orangy for the second time to buy smoothies, and also picked up freshly-baked croissants from Casa Gourmet bakery across the street.

The five of us ate breakfast together at the condo, then headed straight to the beach. Each day of vacation, there was a sweet spot of time late morning when the sun had warmed the air and before Aden's mid-day nap when we tried to squeeze in as many trips to the beach as possible. The beach is nearly deserted at that time and the sun isn't so hot for the kids. Once again, we had the best time together.    

We headed back to the condo when the kids were ready for lunch and naps. Then, Andi and I scooted off to tour the international school in town. Curiosity had peaked our interest, and we thought this was the perfect opportunity to see how the local private schools work in a beachfront community.  

Before heading back, Andi and I stopped in town for lunch at ChocoBanana, and shared a plate of nachos and one of the restaurant's famous frozen chocolate bananas on a stick. We talked about our thoughts of the school and our children's future in general. Who knows, maybe someday we'll call a place like Sayulita home.

Early evening, we decided to check out a rodeo taking place at the fairgrounds. A lady at the farmer's market the Friday before told us about it, and we thought the kids might enjoy seeing the horses and real Mexican cowboys. The five of us loaded into our golf cart and put the pedal-to-the-medal down the long stretch of highway that headed out of town. Except when we arrived at the fairgrounds, there wasn't anything going on. Was the rodeo info lost in translation?

Turns out, the rodeo was the following day (Tuesday) which we would've easily noticed on the fairgrounds'  signage if one of us was able to read Spanish. (Mental note: hire a Spanish tutor before traveling the world together...)

We did see one lonely horse which scared the bejesus out of Aden.

Oh, well. Vacations are all about adventure, right?

So our outing wasn't completely for naught, we stopped at Sayulita's one playground in town to let Tory burn off some energy. She was in heaven running, climbing and playing all over the equipment made of repurposed and recycled materials. The director of the international school we toured earlier in the day told us families in their school had worked to fund the park several years prior.

As we arrived back at our condo, we met Pancho and Beatrice (our hired cooks) for one last dinner with them during our vacation. On this night, they made us homemade coconut shrimp served with rice and fresh fruit. It goes without saying, the coconut shrimp dinner was excellent. Pancho made two homemade salsas to accompany the shrimp -- mango habanero and honey chipotle, which contributed the perfect amount of sweet and heat to the meal.

The fresh, local fruits served were mangoes, pineapple, cantaloupe and jicama, and Beatrice brought along a seasoning called Tajin which she sprinkled on the jicama and mango specifically to give it more of a savory flavor. We'd never tasted anything like it. Janie ran right out the next day to buy a couple of bottles to bring home with her. It was that good.

We had to laugh as the four of us sat on the sofa after dinner -- Andi, Janie, Tory and I; Aden was already in bed for the night -- while Pancho, Beatrice and their son Javiar cleaned up the kitchen. This is so not our typical MO, letting other people do the cooking and cleaning for us. It almost felt uncomfortable ... except, we were on vacation and had hired this service. So, we sat back and enjoyed the luxury.

Meeting Pancho and Beatrice was truly a trip highlight for our family. They were so gracious and kind and in four days' time, felt like we'd known them for ages. Janie, Andi and I agreed one of our favorite things about having Pancho and Beatrice cook for us was trying new foods and flavors. There's something to be said for home-cooked Mexican food vs. meals in a restaurant. The food was more authentic; our environment relaxed, and the conversation more fun.

After Pancho and Beatrice left and the kids were in bed, Andi convinced me to go out for a night-cap in town. How often do we have a built-in babysitter while we're in a tropical location? We'd better take advantage ....

Andi and I drove the golf cart into town, parked it, then strolled along the nearly deserted beach taking in the quiet scenery. We stopped into a beachside rooftop bar called Estela's for a drink. Andi ordered a white sangria and I had one of the best mojitos I'd ever tasted. This place would be the perfect place to catch a fabulous Sayulita sunset on the beach.

After drinks we debated going back to the condo, but decided to check out the festival that's taken place every day since we've been in Sayulita. I'm not sure of the exact name (Sayulita Days, maybe?) but there are vendors, music, food and carnival rides set up by the would-be baseball fields. Oddly enough, Monday night seemed to be the biggest night of the festival and tons of Mexican families were there playing games and having fun. The entire scene was so different than anything Andi and I had ever seen. Case in point ...

Carnival games that included throwing rocks at empty beer bottles on a wall. The sounds of glass shattering filled our ears as countless men lined up to take a stab at the game. And, the prize? Broken bottles for beers.

Of course, Andi had to have a turn ...

His rock-throwing skills were a little rusty, but his gun-shooting skills were spot on. Take this game, for instance, where patrons are encouraged to shoot tiny metal objects WITH REAL GUNS. Andi had quite the crowd gathered cheering him on for this one.

You may be wondering where on Earth (i.e.: the United States) you'd be able to shoot real BB guns at in a crowd of people. So were we. It seemed commonplace at this Mexican festival. Andi was giddy with excitement over all these games of chance and skill. I was more in the camp of WTF.  

How about this game where the object is to throw a softball at the face of "the devil" which is a man taunting the contestant through a hole in a piece of wood? 

Prizes for some of the games were stuffed Marlboro cigarettes, statues of Mother Mary, framed pictures of Jesus, boxes of Ramen Noodles, candy and fruit. It was all so interesting. Andi and I hadn't laughed so much in a long time. (And not because we were making fun of the carnival, the games or the prizes; just that we'd never seen anything like it.) It was crazy.

Eventually, we gravitated toward the fireworks show happening nearby. Hundreds of spectators were gathered around a man holding a wire contraption shooting fireworks. That's right, he was HOLDING THE FIREWORKS (think Roman Candles shooting sparks in all directions). The man wasn't wearing any protective clothing on his hands, face or body and there were little kids running and playing IN THE SMOKE AND SPARKS. Andi and I glanced at each other in disbelief. I think ALL CAPS are necessary here to convey the craziness. It was nuts.


And, it got better. (Or worse? Crazier, for sure.) Next, Fireworks Man lit a fuse connected to a tall tower of fireworks. The structure was two (maybe three?) stories tall and didn't seem be secured by anything other than a couple of ropes tied to a fence. I had visions of it swaying in the wind and falling over into hundreds of people.

The fuse lit a bottom section of fireworks which ignited, then tagged another section of fireworks which went off, and so on until fireworks until all of the fireworks were extinguished. Each fireworks section displayed a picture -- a fish, a Chihuahua, a flower, etc. The crowd ooh'd and aww'd. It looked ... sketchy.

Finally, big boomers erupted into the sky, and everyone cheered. This part was pretty neat since the fireworks were directly overhead.

What a totally unexpected and fun evening with Andi. I think that's the greatest part of traveling -- the unexpected. You never know what you'll encounter when traveling in a new place. The people; the entertainment; the fun. We loved it all.


Day 8 was our last day in Sayulita, and it was a yucky one. During the night, Tory became ill and was down-for-the-count all of Tuesday and Wednesday morning. I'm not sure if she had the flu, or if it was from the water. Of course, we didn't drink water from the tap but it could have been caused from a cutting board, dishes ... or, who knows. We all ate the same foods, so that ruled out food poisoning. Anyway, we laid low at the condo all of Tuesday with a sick little girl.

Aden learned how to drink from an applesauce packet, so that was an exciting turn of events. 

And, Andi and I were able to sneak away to catch one last sunset at the beach Tuesday evening. 

We're going to miss you, Sayulita!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Sayulita - Day 6

Another beautiful day in Sayulita! The five of us woke up slow with breakfast and coffee in our condo, followed by a trip to the beach. Same as the day before, we set up an umbrella and towels in a sandy spot by the ocean, relaxed and played in the sand. The water current is fairly strong here and Tory’s a bit intimidated by the waves, so she’s perfectly content digging in the sand and searching for seashells along the shore. Aden is happy doing the same, but I think he’d also love to dive into the waves if we’d let him.

On this morning, we watched a local man fish from the beach with only a net. It was pretty amazing to see him cast the next a few feet in front of him and pull in fish from the ocean.

Janie took Aden back to the condo late-morning for nap and Andi, Tory and I stayed at the beach to play. It was a special treat to spend peaceful time playing at the beach with Tory. She’s been an absolute angel on this trip, thriving in a new environment. Today she told me she loves being in Mexico, but Minnesota “is her world.” I think she was having a hard time justifying which place she wanted to be - the sun or the cold.

Before heading back to the condo to meet Janie and Aden, the three of us grabbed tacos to-go from El Itacite. Andi ordered a mixture of steak, grilled and fried chicken tacos. This place had great reviews online, but we weren’t as wow’d. Maybe it had something to do with getting take-out instead of eating the meal at the restaurant. 

Of course, we spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool. When in Rome! I could definitely get used to a life filled with trips to the beach and the pool on repeat.

Our hired Mexican cooks, Pancho and Beatrice, made dinner for us at our condo once again. On this night, they prepared pan-fried mahi-mahi, rice and traditional Mexican chili rellanos stuffed with cheese and corn. The fish was out of this world delicious – some of the best I’d ever tasted. Pancho made a mixture of parsley and sautéed garlic, and served it sprinkled on top of the fish as garnish. It added the perfect amount of complimentary texture.

We’d previously asked Pancho and Beatrice not to use butter or cheese in any dishes we wished to share with Aden, like the fish and rice in this meal. I think Aden might’ve been the biggest fan of this meal. With wide eyes, Beatrice and Pancho chuckled as they watched Aden shovel handfuls of fish into his mouth as quickly as he could manage. Our boy can eat, and he’s surely enjoying the fresh fish, fruits and vegetables Mexico has to offer.