Puerto Vallarta: An Exquisite Time Away

We’ve just returned from a three-day getaway to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. What an exquisite place! Mike traveled there on business earlier in the week, and I followed Friday and stayed through the long weekend. We flew home late Monday night.

Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

View from the balcony of the Westin Hotel, Puerto Vallarta, Mexico

Puerto Vallarta sunset

Puerto Vallarta sunset the evening I arrived

After our protracted recovery from the flu, this trip was exactly what the proverbial doctor ordered.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico

We walked along the beach, read, took naps, and explored the grounds of the gorgeous resort hotel.

We enjoyed fruity drinks with our tortilla chips and guacamole in the casita facing the sea. San Jose has a heavy Mexican influence, but it was still fun to enjoy a dish that originated in Mexico.

 The name is derived from two Aztec Nahuatl words—ahuacatl (avocado) and molli (sauce).

Tropical cocktails with a plate of tortillas and guacamole

Tropical cocktails with a plate of tortillas and guacamole

I’m always intrigued by the local wildlife, like this clever black bird, called a Great-tailed Grackle. He seemed to know that he could swoop in for a chip, after they cleared the dishes.  He knew not to approach any of the tables with guests, but as soon as the dishes landed on a clearing tray, he made his move. Once he claimed the chip, he flew into the rafters, hopping and chirping from row to row.

On Saturday night, we ate a spectacular, five-course vegetarian meal at Café Des Artistes by Thierry Blouet. Their website describes it as

” French cuisine with Mexican inspiration. More than 25 years being the gourmet tradition in Puerto Vallarta.”

The Café Des Artistes is carved into the hillside and sits above Old Town, the heart of the city.  The main floor is a bar, with the upper two stories featuring open-air dining under the trees. They seated us on the third floor surrounded by towering bamboo and ancient trees. From there we could look down on the garden terrace.

I could go on and on about this place, but instead I’ll sum it up in one, long sentence: Dining in Puerto Vallarta with the man I love, sitting under a canopy of trees wearing a sleeveless dress with live music playing while enjoying a full-course vegetarian meal, served by a charming and devoted team of wait staff who delivered a story about each wine pairing left me breathless.  What a night!

After our meal, we walked along the strand in Old Town Puerto Vallarta before heading back to the hotel.

Three days passed quickly. We hope to return for a longer stay, to experience whale watching, snorkeling and other local activities when we have more time.

Our hotel was an easy walk to the harbor filled with boats and lovely vistas, and of course we couldn’t help but price the local real estate.  It never hurts to look, eh?

I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of our trip highlights.

Turtles sunning themselves in a pond next to a Japanese restaurant.

The hotel cat name Mitzy

Some of the brilliant colors of Mexico

Con afecto, Alys.

 

 

 

How to Trim A Christmas Tree: The Tessa Edition

The vote was unanimous: no breakable ornaments on the Christmas tree this year.

Kitten in Christmas Tree

Those eyes! That face!

Our growing kitten, Tessa could hardly believe her luck. Were we really putting up a tree in the house?

We have an artificial Christmas tree that we set up in our living room the day after Thanksgiving. With the boys home from school and Mike off work, the four-day weekend is the perfect time to trim the tree.

Kitten in Christmas tree

Mike may have needed a bandage after this encounter

kitten in christmas tree

Mike and Tessa exchange looks

Like most kittens, Tessa’s curiosity peaks at the sight of anything new. So after assembling the tree, we let her explore. She wasted no time climbing into the tree for a little adventure. As Mike sat on the floor opening the branches she jumped up, climbed down, rolled around and peered out at me with excited eyes.

two faced kitten in Christmas tree

I’ve got my eye on you

From now on, when I hear the expression “lit up like a Christmas tree” I’ll think of our tiny terror frolicking through the limbs. Who needs lights when you live with Tessa?

Well…we still wanted some lights. Once she lost interest we strung the lights and the boys carefully chose the soft, unbreakable decorations to hang low on the tree. I gave it a second pass, and moved up anything that hung too low. You have to think like a kitten. We unplug the lights when we’re away, and nearly two weeks in, all is well.

kitten in christmas tree

Tessa gymnastics

two faced kitten in christmas tree

She may never come down from the tree

If Tessa’s likeness were a tree ornament, they might look like this.

Do you celebrate Christmas? If so, do you also decorate a tree?

Tessa's back side in the Christmas tree

The End

Have Yourself a Fairy Little Christmas

New Christmas Traditions

I’ve started a new Christmas tradition. It’s called patience.

I’ve learned to wait patiently in line at the post office. I peel of all my layers before going inside so that I don’t pass out from the heat. I know all the post office regulars, and look forward to a brief yet satisfying chat when it’s my turn at the window. I use the time in line to people watch. Sometimes I make productive use of the wait by addressing a card or filling out custom forms.

Patience is a gift you give others, but it’s also a gift to yourself. I feel better about myself when I’m patient.

I’m patient with my husband’s annual fretting over the lights. He once spent four hours on the floor of the garage trouble shooting strands of Christmas tree lights. Our boys were young at the time, and I grew frustrated with what seemed like such a waste of family time. I’ve mellowed. And I’ve come to understand that it’s his thing. He hangs lights on the tree, strings lights on the house, and replaces all the lights in my son’s Christmas inflatables. He makes multiple trips to the hardware store to find replacements.  Small packages arrive in the mail containing  fuses and bulbs. Mike is a fixer and that’s what makes him happy, so with patience comes an understanding. Everybody wins.

I’m patient with Lindy’s demands for more and more (and more) attention, but I’m patient with myself, too. When I know I need to buckle down and get some work done, I relocate her to a sunny spot in the house and close the door.  Prior to that she gets pets, cuddles, treats and a roll in the catnip, but after repeated demands for ear-scratching, I finally remove her from the room so I can get things done.

I have two remarkable teenage boys requiring no patience. I guess all that earlier guidance and patience eventually paid off. They’re both delightful young men. Perhaps this tradition of patience isn’t so new at all. That said, it takes patience to cultivate any good habit, so I’m learning to be patiently patient with myself.

Go figure?

I’m sticking with a few favorite traditions this year, too.

I use tiny silver clothes pins to attach cards to the tool skirt

I use tiny silver clothes pins to attach cards to the tool skirt

I’m adorning my dress-maker selfie with Christmas cards once again. I love putting her to use sporting all the beautiful cards we receive by mail. It’s a dwindling tradition, but we continue to send our own cards each year and love the ones we receive.

christmas-tree-collage-2016

The boys decorating the tree a decade ago. Gifted ornaments over the years reflecting my love of gardening and hot tea.

We pull out our artificial tree the day after Thanksgiving and decorate it with the ornaments we’ve collected over the years. Every  ornament has a story and that’s what makes it fun. We hang hand-made school ornaments from the boys early days along with ornaments we’ve received as gifts. We like to pick up an ornament when we travel, each one a fun reminder of a different holiday. Thomas the Tank Engine sits among the branches along with a hand-painted Christmas ball from Cannes France. It will come as no surprise that fellow bloggers Julia, Kelly and Marlene also contribute to the history and diversity of our tree. In the few days leading up to Christmas, I enjoy sitting in the dark, tree illuminated, grateful for the love in my life.

Our acrylic globe, a gift from my friend Marcia, becomes a “snow globe”  this time of year. Each year is a little different from the last. Here’s the latest: I made a path using Petra paper left over from a holiday plant and some artificial snow. I added a few tiny trees  from prior years and a twenty year old wooden snow man. I can squint my eyes and pretend that it’s snowing in San Jose.

snow-globe-2016

Snow + Globe

Tomorrow I’ll start one more tradition. I’m volunteering for a toy distribution shift at Sacred Heart Community Services. Sacred Heart will distribute over 18,000 toys and books to 6,200 children in need in our community. This is a big step for me, as I used to get mired in depression when working so closely with the disadvantaged in my community. I retreated to a “safer” form of volunteering, either hosting drives, or serving on committees or board of directors. Since the election, I’ve been motivated to get up close again. The goal is to remain open, while at the same time protecting my tender heart. Wish me luck.

‘Tis the season…of Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa and Solstice; a time to share of ourselves.

What are your special traditions this time of year?

Cats With Hats

You know the old saw: kids prefer the box to the gift wrapped inside?

This year the “kids” are 15 and 18 and the proverbial box is actually a miniature Santa hat. The last item unwrapped was a gift basket full of goodies from our friends next door. A bottle of craft brew sported the tiniest of Santa hats. Santa’s chapeau weighs about as much as a tissue.

Slinky was sound asleep under the Christmas tree. Since she’s hard of hearing, she was oblivious to all the activity around her. My son reached over and deposited the tiny hat on her head.  Eyes open, she posed as we all lunged for our camera phones.

Slinky in Santa Hat

Slinky wonders what all the fuss is about

The game was on. Could they get Lindy and Mouse to wear the hat too?

I’ll let the photos do the rest of the talking.

lindy in santa hat

Lindy was game. The hat is so light, she didn’t seem to notice

Mouse with santa hat on his nose

Mouse brought it to his nose first

mouse holding santa hat

…then he took a nibble.

Mouse sleeping with Santa hat 2

Finally asleep and oblivious to his mega-watt cuteness.

mouse wearing santa hat 1

One parting shot because he’s so darn cute.

Photos courtesy of the Milner-Francini boys.

Seeing Red

red rosebud

A beautiful shade of red

Did you know that red is the highest arc of the rainbow and the first color you lose site of at dusk?  Red evokes love and passion, as well as anger, joy and enthusiasm.

Growing up as a “redhead” my mom steered me away from the color entirely. “Redheads don’t look good in red,” she advised. Red’s pastel cousin Pink was a fashion no-no as well. I had it drummed into me from an early age that redheads do not look good in red or pink.

It’s hard to say if those biases colored my experiences going forward or if our color preferences are inborn. My passions fall to blue, green and purple.

Invariable, when Christmas rolls around the color red is suddenly everywhere. Santa’s suit and his tiny elves wear red from head to toe. Green wreaths sport red bows, red sweaters go on sale and controversy aside, Starbucks’ serves coffee in a red paper cup.  I wonder if my slight aversion to red contributes to my sense of relief when the holiday season is over?

In all fairness to red, it’s probably not the color but the excess. Too much of anything is, well, too much.

How are you managing the holiday season?

Footnotes

surgical boot

Sporting some fancy footwear

My left foot is healing well. Still no weight-bearing for another week or so. I see my doctor next week, and hope to get the go ahead to begin physical therapy.

Gifts for the Joyful Gardener

Gardeners are practical souls.  We don’t mind dirt under our nails, or bruises on tired knees.  We’ll get up early or stay out late, weeding, pruning, planting and generally enjoying our time in the garden.  We love sharing seeds and flowers fresh from the earth and enjoy swapping tips for keeping the garden pests at bay.

If you have a joyful gardener in your life, here are a few gift ideas to tuck under the tree.

Practical

Your gardener will never lose their gloves in the garden again.  Floral Gardening Gloves allow you to pull weeds in style.

Floral Garden Gloves

Floral Garden Gloves

Seed Keeper or Seed Keeper Deluxe. I’ve been using mine for several months. It’s an easy and efficient way to store and retrieve the seeds you save or buy. They come packed with all sorts of garden goodies as well.

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Seed Keeper Deluxe

Fanciful

Slipcovers: They’re not just for sofas!  Dress up your pots with a Patio Art Planter Slipcovers. You can change with the seasons, or simply cover up an ugly pot. It’s a nice way to wrap up a potted plant to gift as well.

plant slipcover

Slipcover Your Plants

Fair trade birdhouses attract birds to the garden. Keep those baby birds toasty warm till it’s time to leave the nest.

Felted birdhouse

Fair Trade Birdhouses

What a clever idea! It’s a card and a desktop garden all in one. It’s edible too. It’s a postcarden!  Click on the photo below and check out the time-lapse video on their site.

Postcarden

Astronomical

For the gardener with the travel bug: “Botanically themed cruises and garden tours of Europe are designed for gardening and gourmet enthusiasts who enjoy taking in ancient castles, magnificent châteaux and stunning landscaped gardens with iconic sites.”

Let’s all go! Who’s with me?