Saturday, November 20, 2010


Let's be honest. It's a little lame having a big birthday on a holiday - in my case, Thanksgiving, a day that revolves around preparing and eating a gigantic (albeit tasty) meal.

But something happened tonight that made next week's birthday extra special.

Our long-time friends Carrie and Steve Christensen (and their three boys) drove across the country from Denver and showed up at my front door tonight. I had NO IDEA they were coming. I heard the doorbell ring, peeked through the window of the front door and was so stunned to see them standing on our front steps.

SURPRISE!!! from the Christensens 2010 from Sarah on Vimeo.

Oh my gosh. Surprises are the best. Seeing them totally made me cry. I am overwhelmed that they really drove all this way, took time off from work, school, etc. They'll be in town for a week visiting us and other friends. It's going to be so fun!!

Friday, November 19, 2010


This is typical of bedtime these days - Charlie often reads his own books while Ben or I read to Eli in Eli's room. 

But it doesn't take long before Charlie grabs his blankie, pops his thumb in his mouth and climbs on one of our laps.
And Eli likes to surprise us with things like say, a green foot. Why a green foot?? There was no clear answer to this one.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Wava Ava Ava Ohhhh!

My new camera arrived this week (the day after we got back from our trip). I was so excited!! I pre-ordered it back in September, but there was a huge demand and the camera was backordered from the day it was released. I am still figuring out the video though, so excuse some of the fuzziness in this video of Eli below. He was singing his own version of Justin Bieber's "Baby" song - "Wava Ava Ava, Ohhhhhhh!" This made me smile because one of his favorite friends is named Ava.

So this one's for you, cute Ava :)

Wava Ava Ava Ohhhh (Eli's version of Justin Bieber's "Baby" song) from Sarah on Vimeo.

P.S. - I made this spinach salad tonight and loved it!! The dressing was really light and tasty (lemon, honey, olive oil). I didn't include the apple, radicchio, or the sunflower seeds, but those would prob. be good too. Mine was more simple, with spinach, bell pepper, red onion, and butternut squash. Yum. A great fall salad.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Zipline Adventure (last Mexico post)

On Saturday, we spent a good portion of the day doing a zipline adventure. I was VERY apprehensive, but Ben was so excited about it, so I decided to let go of my anxiety and just do it. 

We first boarded a speedboat and left Nuevo Vallarta for Puerto Vallarta to pick up more passengers. Some of the people on our trip were REALLY funny. There were the two single guys from the Jersey shore (not the show, the place). They immediately took their shirts off after they got on the boat and were showing off for these teenage Canadian girls there on the trip with their parents. The Jersey shore boys were obviously older, but the girls were fawning all over them. We heard them claim that most of the stuff on the MTV show isn't true. Sure.... this was our second run-in with people from the Jersey shore - on our flight to Mexico, there was a huge group from Jersey and they were hilarious.

Back to the boat. It went surprisingly fast and it was pretty bumpy on the choppy waves. On the return trip, it was scary because our boat didn't have lights and it was pitch black outside. 

Anyway, the boat dropped us off at a small village in a remote cove south of Puerto Vallarta. From there, we split into two groups of about 15 people each and loaded into two WWII army trucks. We buckled in and held onto overhead straps as the truck drove 20 minutes up 2,000 ft on roads that were paved, cobblestone, and then dirt with many ruts and holes. It was a bumpy ride. There was one other American couple in the truck with us and the rest were Mexicans who didn't speak English. 

The Mexican countryside had lots of pretty sights. Steep forested mountains, a river, country houses with dogs, chickens, orange orchards, and of course a few tequila distilleries. We arrived at the base camp and met our six guides, who were all very enthusiastic and animated. They quickly taught us how to do the zip line and how to ride a mule... and then we were off!! Ben said the mule ride was the scariest part of the whole trip. Whenever his mule had space, he would trot or gallup. I had the same experience and tried not to freak out when my donkey took off at a fast pace!

I still wasn't so sure about all of this...

Once out of the saddle, things went much more smoothly. The guides could tell I was really nervous about the zip lining and were really great about filling me with confidence and feeling secure. And they didn't let me pause too long... they hooked me up to the line and I was on my way. (I'm regretting wearing these shorts because these pictures are NOT flattering, but whatever :) I swear my legs are not as big as they appear.

One of the zip lines was 558 ft long and 115 ft high. 

A few of the later zip lines had us land in water for a very cold stop (and a big splash). There were two places where we rappelled down 100 ft. waterfalls. It was scary going off the edge backwards, but once we were on our way down, it was just a fun experience. 

Brrr, that water was cold!!

On one of the slower zip lines, the guide encouraged Ben to go upside down. He put his feet up on the hooks when he took off and barely got turned right side up in time to apply the brakes when he came to the end of the line. I was happy going right side up and facing forward :)

This one was scary - they basically just had you jump off the edge and have the guides lower you down.

This was a scary one that was really long and dropped way down - 

Here we got to race each other (but I'm a chicken so Ben went much faster than I did):

The scenery was beautiful - we criss crossed a clear mountain stream and then rappelled and crossed bridges to hike back down to the base camp. Once we were done, we changed into dry clothes and bought the pictures (the ones of us zip lining and rappelling are from the photographer that came with the group). In case you're wondering why there are more pictures of me and none of Ben by himself, he insisted on just buying the CD for me since there were a few pictures with both of us in them too.

Now for a few more pictures from our little camera - here we are with the tequila plants in the background - 

It was so lush and green. So pretty.

Krista, this last picture is for you, since I know you love spiders :) This was on a web at the base camp. Yuck..... :)

I feel lucky to be married to a guy who helps me get out of my comfort zone and try new things! It was a fun day.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Back from Vacation

We are back from vacation and I have a ton of pictures to share… we packed a lot in, but felt SO relaxed. The weather was perfect—80s and 90s and sunny the whole time. First, here are some things about the Grand Velas Resort that we loved.

  • Mixed drinks by the pool
  • Swimming in the infinity pools
  • Water and beach volleyball
  • Water aerobics
  • Bike tours (fincluded)
  • Boogie boarding (included)
  • Sea kayaking (included)
  • Hot tubbing
  • Soccer on the beach
  • Ping pong tournament (Ben had some major competition from the hotel staff :)
  • Four restaurants – Frida (Mexican), Lucca (Italian), Piaf (French), and more casual buffet and large menu-restaurant by the ocean
  • Room service any time—especially for breakfast
  • Fresh squeezed orange juice whenever we wanted it
  • Cool, lemon-scented wet towels to cool off when we were hanging out near the pool
  • Pool cafe with chips, salsa, guacamole, burgers, sandwhiches, all brought to your lounge chair by pool servers

The service at this place was amazing. Some of our favorites were Hector, the pool water who was always bringing us more drinks, food, etc. We loved the activities coordinators, Adriana and Ever, whose jobs were to organize activities for the guests and join in when they needed more people (for things like soccer, volleyball, ping pong, etc.).

We missed our kids, but they did really well with Ben’s mom during the first half and my parents for the second half. I think they were getting sad by the last day though – seven days is a long time!!

We returned home late last night and woke Eli up really fast to give him hugs—when he saw us, he sleepily smiled and sighed a happy sigh, then went back to sleep (we didn’t wake Charlie up because he’s more unpredictable if woken up at night). And all day today, the kids were showering me with hugs and kisses and were so happy. I think we all appreciate each other a little more after some time apart.

Here are a few pictures from the day we arrived at the lovely Grand Velas resort.

First - the check-in area/lobby. Rather than standing at the front desk, we sat in these chairs and drank floral tea while we signed the check-in papers. We noticed right away that the staff moved at a very relaxed pace.


The lobby had this huge thatched roof -


These pink flowers were all over the grounds and planted below each balcony.


The view from our room was so pretty -


There were four pools and two jacuzzi areas.


The hotel had eight floors – we were on the 7th.


Room 724 -


Ben out on our balcony -


View of the hotel from the ocean -


There were people selling things in this little hut on the side of the hotel’s beach area, but they weren’t intrusive (especially compared to downtown Puerto Vallarta, where there were people all over the beaches begging you to buy their jewelry and other items).


The view from my poolside lounge chair on our first day -


Ahhh, pasty white feet and bright toenails… true sign that I came a place like Chicago seeking some sunshine -


This was one of the first of many (virgin) drinks I had at the hotel. This one had mango, ice, and a little pepper mixed in and around the edge of the glass. It was DELISH! However, the next day, I got another one from the same pool server… the bartender screwed up and I realized after two sips that there was alcohol in there and sent it back. The server kept insisting he had written down that it was a virgin drink, but the bartender confirmed that he screwed up.


Look at this happy face.


This is day 1 of unwinding. It was great to arrive on a Monday because the hotel was EMPTY. We were one of the few people down by the pool. By the end of the week, the hotel was more full because there was a Mexican poultry conference held there, as well as an incentive trip for employees at Jolly Time popcorn (random! It was fun talking to people from both groups). It was so nice though when it was so quiet in those first few days.


Pictures of our gigantic suite (I think ours was the cheapest option there at the hotel, but I wasn’t complaining!)


The grounds were very clean and well manicured -


There were lots of beautiful plans around the hotel -


This is the pool where we did water aerobics the next day – it was just me and Ben with the instructor. I think she was just happy people wanted to do it! The next time we did water aerobics, there were a few ladies who joined us and said they had seen us doing it before and thought it looked fun.Mexico.PuertoVallarta2010-37

There were tons of these flower petals scattered throughout the halls inside the hotel. But I thought they were prettiest where they were planted on the balconies.


Ben played a lot of beach volleyball on the days we hung out at the hotel, and we both played soccer on the beach (closer to the water), which was a lot of fun. After each game, hotel attendants would come by with cool, lemon-scented wet towels and bottles of water. The service here was fantastic.


Seriously, go to Mexico in November when it’s not busy. The hotel people said December and spring break are their busiest times.


There were lots of types of seating – like these cabanas -


We went kayaking in the ocean on our second day, which was a lot of fun (but a little scary getting up over the waves). Ben went kayaking again on our last full day in Mexico to go fishing with one of the hotel’s activities coordinators who had caught some fish the week before and was excited to try it again. Unfortunately, Ben tipped the kayak and lost his fishing pole!! It was a bummer, but what can you do?? It wasn’t a very nice fishing pole at least.Mexico.PuertoVallarta2010-43

Nighttime view of the lobby -


Sunsets were gorgeous!


This was my daily lunch – a fruit platter (with a little bit of that pepper seasoning sprinkled on it)


And chips and salsa and guacamole…


All eaten at my chair next to the pool and looking out onto the ocean.

But the best part was the popsicle guy who came around each afternoon. Coconut popsicles are the BEST! So delish. Even better when it’s all inclusive. Free and delicious.


This is how our room looked in the mornings after being cleaned -


Here’s our room service breakfast – every night we would place our order to have breakfast brought up at 8:30 a.m. I got so much sleep on this trip!! It was great.


Notice the beach bag that came with the room – it was great for carrying my magazines, books, sunscreen down to the pool.


And this is how our room looked each evening when we came back from dinner – they would turn the sheets down, place robes on the bed and the paper with the hotel’s schedule/activities for the next day. The schedule was about the same from day to day—bike or kayak tours at 10 a.m., water aerobics at noon, beach volleyball at 1 p.m., ping pong tournament at 3 p.m. soccer at 3 p.m., tequila lessons at 5 p.m. (not joking), etc.


The funniest thing was that the tv in the bedroom was always turned in the evening to the hotel’s spa commercial with repetitive, soothing music. I took a few snapshots of the commercial – so funny. Those neck wrap things were awesome, by the way.Mexico.PuertoVallarta2010-156Mexico.PuertoVallarta2010-157