Miserable, Magical Monday || Christmas Edition!

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I've been dying to get back into my regular posting groove and what better way to do it than with the return of Miserable, Magical Monday?

1. The Voice!I know it's over and there's been a winner but I've magically been able to avoid the results up to this point. It all started a few weeks ago when Brandon decided he wanted to watch it. We spent a whole afternoon watching it the day I stayed home from work because of the big storm we had out here a few weeks ago.

Side bar: I woke up, got ready, and drove about 20 minutes before I decided my car had been jerked one too many times by the wind. I turned around because honestly, I was not about to risk getting stuck in a flooded Napa or driving at night, in traffic, in rain and wind when the morning had been so yucky.

So I stayed home with Brandon and binge-watched old episodes of The Voice. I've made it to the top 12, and I was pretty surprised at a few of the coach's choices (how, HOW did Adam get rid of Taylor?) but overall I'm excited to see the rest of the show. I really dig the indie guys, which should not surprise anyone.

2. I had a huge debacle with my Christmas cards last year when I received 50 copies of some generic-looking family's card instead of my own. I was so unhappy about it that I was determined to send out a classy card this year. But as luck would have it, the cards I ordered online (in a same-day print capacity to avoid shipping headaches) were printed on flimsy photo paper. I seriously have zero luck with Christmas cards...and I hate it because I think they're lovely (and an excuse to get gussied up and snap pretty photos). I thought about using some random cardstock I had to make them a tad sturdier, but honestly, who in the world has time for that crap? Not commutes-at-least-two-hours-a-day-me. So instead, I caved on Brandon's genius idea to do a South Park inspired card this year. I found this website my literally typing "how to turn yourself into a South Park character" on Google and clicking through a link in some Yahoo forum. And then I spent about 20 minutes creating our avatars and manipulating everything else in Photoshop. It turned out so much better than any kind photo card I could have thrown together.

Awesome, right?!

3. Still on Christmas: I got a ukulele from Brandon Santa for Christmas! It was wrapped in its case, so I was completely thrown off when I saw it under the tree. But I legit shed tears of joy when I saw what it was. I'd had an urge to splurge (gross) on a uke when Brandon and I were out in Hawaii for our honeymoon over a year ago, but he intelligently told me to cool it since I didn't actually know how to play. So I cooled it. But then, I just kept wanting this thing. I wanted something to practice, something to learn, and I kept having all these ideas of how to cover songs I loved. Anyway, Brandon took notice of my sincere desire to learn to play the ukulele and hooked it up. Seriously, this thing is so pretty.

4. I literally just finished watching Saving Mr. Banks and it was just as beautiful and magical, though a lot sadder, as I imagined it'd be. Mary Poppins is one of my favorite Disney movies ever (no, seriously, last time I was in Disneyland I cried when Mary and Bert came out in the parade) and I completely enjoyed catching the overlapping of dialogue. I had to hold back my sobs in multiple parts of the movie because this was not the kind of movie that rips you apart...unless you're me? But seeing how special Mary Poppins was to P.L. Travers -- and Walt Disney, for that matter -- made it exponentially more special to me.

Such a great shot.
And can we talk about how spectacularly perfectly Julie Andrews captured Mary Poppins? Later? Cool.

5. Semi-related: I think I've been picking all the wrong books to read. Watching Saving Mr. Banks made me want to read the story of how Disneyland was built and about Walt's life. Maybe then I could pick up a book and finish it!

6. Did you know you can cook fish from frozen without it getting super mushy? I found that out today and it was delicious.

Until next time!
♥ A


Not Puerto Viejo: Our Day at La Paz Waterfall Gardens

This post is long, but there are more photos than words. That is blatantly false.

If you must skim, at least read the section on Frogs. It was the best.

Last time, I left off telling you that we were running out of money and couldn't stay in Manuel Antonio even though we really wanted to.

The original plan was to drive across the country and spend three days frolicking in the Caribbean sea and visiting rescue centers. But I guess the universe had something else in mind. We decided not to fight it to avoid getting lost and stranded in the middle of Costa Rica and settled on exploring the area around San Jose. My navigational track record made that decision lots easier.

Now here's where we got lucky. Andrea and I have a family friend (really she's my mom's friend) who lives in Costa Rica, not too far from the airport. She's a very generous and welcoming person in general, but it still meant a lot that she let us crash at her place for the last three days.

Our first day adventure was to La Paz Waterfall Gardens. I found this place by using the "Nearby" feature on the TripAdvisor app. We were on an animal-viewing high and weren't ready to come down from it, so we decided to endure the $38 admission fee for the hope of seeing a sloth. LPWG is a private ecological tourist attraction. It's filled with hiking trails, five fab waterfalls and a large amount of animal exhibits. I hesitate to call it a private zoo because that has a weird connotation to me, but in essence, that's what it is.


The birds were the first stop on our hike, which I can hardly justify calling a hike since it's basically a walk along a paved path. But it is a long walk, so maybe that makes it a hike. Anyway, we walked through a hanging plastic chain barrier to be welcomed by some handlers hanging out with toucans! I'd never seen a toucan up close and personal before, and although I'm a fan of birds of prey, I'd always had a general aversion to getting close to other birds.

But this. This was different. This was awesome.

The handlers placed a toucan on Andrea's arm and I snapped photos like a crazy person. Andrea had no poker face about this whatsoever. She was beyond excited and it showed.

Next thing I knew, it was my turn. They placed the toucan on my arm and I was instantly overcome with respect for the gorgeous bird I was looking at.

See that blue band around my wrist? That's not a bracelet, that's the toucan's foot. It was the feature that stuck out to me the most. Yes, the bird's beak is insanely cool, but blue feet? That was not at all what I was expecting.

We moseyed past the parrots and the rest of the aviaries before arriving at the scariest place on property: the butterfly garden.


Believe it or not, my sister and I are terrified of butterflies and moths. I can't speak for my sister, but my fear dates back 15 years. I was 10, walking with my mom to pick up the mail from our apartment's mailbox one night. There was a bright yellow light bulb shining, so of course there were moths around it. They were flying around us when one of them decided to try and perch on my mouth. It got right up on my lips and flapped about for what felt like 10 minutes but I'm certain was 2 seconds. And I just remember tightening my lips fearing that this thing would try to crawl into my mouth.

It was really horrifying.

There were a couple of times where we made a break for it out of sheer panic, staring strangers be damned!

Ok, no joke, as I was writing that last sentence I thought, I would rather free dive with sharks than have a butterfly land on me, out loud to myself.


The reward for not screaming our heads off in the butterfly sanctuary was monkeys. I have to admit that having seen monkeys in the wild a few days earlier made seeing these rescues a little less exciting, but I snapped photos regardless.


Hint: there are no hummingbirds in this photo.

Here's where I start making no sense. I am scared to death of butterflies, but I have no qualms with hummingbirds. I love those zippy little birds that have wings that beat anywhere from 50 to 200 times a SECOND. Seriously, how could you not like hummingbirds?

I'm sure someone out there is wondering the same thing about butterflies.

I caught some pretty cool shots of the hummingbirds. I paid special attention to the ones that looked like Flick from Pocahontas.

jungle cats

Next up were the cats. This was the highlight of our visit to LPWG for both of us. We've loved big cats since childhood so we were both really excited to see them. True to form, most of the cats were lounging around.

We oohed and aahed at the pumas, the margay and the ocelots but were stopped dead in our tracks at the sight of the majestic jaguar. We were instantly mesmerized by the way this animal walked. Seriously, I can't even pretend to make this moment less nerdy than it was. We stared at the jaguar long enough for a group to catch up to us, snap photos, jaguar watch for a bit, and move on.

I couldn't get over how freaking beautiful its coat was. It was perfect. And seeing the way its muscles moved when it walked was beyond amazing. I was overcome with this feeling of utter respect for this animal. Andrea and I knew that if some Harry Potter magic caused the glass to disappear, we'd be perfectly safe. Call it hippie nonsense or tree-hugging mumbo jumbo, but we knew.


We eventually pried ourselves away from the jaguar (some rain helped) to explore the casita tipica or traditional home that LPWG has on property. We got to pet some oxen that were hooked up to an old traditional ox cart and walked around a replica farmhouse built by hand with tools from the early 20th century. The website advertises traditional food tastings and some other interactive experiences, but I'm not sure what the scheduling for those is. We didn't catch all the casita has to offer, but it was still really neat to walk through.


Next up was the frog exhibit. This might be tied for best experience of the day. We walked in to this large, humid room filled with all kinds of plants...and frogs! That's right, the frogs were roaming free through the room. Most of the frogs in the exhibit were nocturnal, so they weren't really moving around too much. There we were, minding our own business, trying to catch a frog sighting, when the frog guide came up to us and started pointing out where we could find certain frogs.

The guy-de (see what I did there?) took a liking to us and started telling us how to tell the difference between the male and female frogs. I'll let you in on it: the female tree frogs are larger than the males.

FYI: this is a female.

We walked us around the room pointing out frog species (in their Latin names, of course) and giving us fin facts about each. For example, these tiny frogs' skin would burn if we touched them because their skin is so thin and incredibly susceptible to changes in temperature. One touch from us and the poor frog's body would overheat.

I had a weird existential moment where the delicateness of life was plainly apparent.

These frogs are nicknamed "Blue Jeans" because of their blue legs.

Next thing I know, the guide is asking us if we're interested in seeing some of the frogs up close and personal. Andrea and I looked at each other and decided that yeah, even though we aren't frog people, we'd like to take a closer look at some.

The guy then leads us through a locked door into what is essentially a frog rehab office. He explains to us that this is where they keep the frogs that have been injured in some way as well as the where they monitor the tadpoles as they go through their transformation into frogs.

Let me be clear that Andrea is beaming the whole time. I, on the other hand, am split between identifying where the sharp objects are to use as makeshift weapons, if necessary (obvi) and allowing myself to enjoy this unbelievably cool moment in my life.

The guy lures out a red eyed tree frog from a glass enclosure and shows us her injury, a scratch on her eye. He lets us take as many photos of her as we want, always careful to show her good side to the camera. He then places her on Andrea's face and lets the frog kind of crawl around for a bit.

Then it was my turn. I never thought of myself as afraid of frogs. I mean, I never picked any up as a kid or sought out frogs in streams, but I also didn't think I was afraid of them. But in this frog rehab about to have a tree frog walk on my face, I have to tell you I was nervous. I thought she'd be sticky or that she'd leave slime on my face, or that my makeup would seep into her skin and make her sick. But I pushed down the fear and let the guide hold the frog up to my face.

I felt her soft, cold feet on my cheek and all my fears disappeared. And for that small moment I let my guard down and just soaked in the fact that I was lucky enough to be picked by this guy, who could have picked anyone, to come behind the scenes to have a red eyed tree frog walk on my face.

We got to see a golden tree frog who had a scratch on its nose, plus the tiniest frog I've ever seen ever. There was a whole exchange over the name of this frog, which if I remember correctly is gria in Spanish. Grio is the word for cricket in Spanish, and there was a minute of major confusion in where I thought he was trying to be funny by telling me he wasn't holding a cricket (male) because the truth was he was about to open up his hand to reveal a cricket (female)...which in hindsight doesn't make sense because how would he know the difference between the two?

In the end, he turned out to be a nice guy who really loves frogs and his job, not a murderer...and he left us with some amazing memories.


Last to come was the waterfall hike. We stopped to enjoy the marvelous views at each of the five waterfalls and even went off the paved path for a little bit!

Equally as awesome as the views was the sound of all that water careening past us.

The hike wasn't too strenuous. We were interested in climbing down to each viewing platform which meant we definitely had to endure some uphill walking. The good news is LPWG has done a good job of paving their path and providing railings to hold on to throughout the hike.

The hike ends on the opposite side of the grounds, but LPWG has its stuff together and sends shuttles to pick up visitors to take them back to the main entrance.

We ended our wonderful visit to La Paz Waterfall Gardens by sitting in the lobby mooching the wifi like the millennial tourists we are. I seriously recommend this place just on the waterfall hike alone.

♥ A


Manuel Antonio

I realize it's been four months since I was in Costa Rica and I haven't finished telling you the stories of where I went. My only reason is I've been really busy with choir my other blog. Anyway, I've had this post saved as a draft for too long, so here's my overdue account of my day and a half in Manuel Antonio.

I had planned to tell you all the story of Andrea and I getting lost for over two and half hours while we tried to get from Monteverde to Manuel Antonio, but every rendition I wrote seemed like I was stretching a two minute story into ten. So instead, I'll give you the short version. We missed the turn we needed because the signage in Costa Rica is minimal at best, then tried to find our way with only a crappy map. I should mention that we were travelling on Costa Rica's game day against Greece, which would decide the team's fate in the World Cup. We ended up driving through a town and pulling over to ask for directions right as Costa Rica scored the final shootout goal for the victory. I kid you not I got three words out before the entire street exploded with shouts, laughter, and sobs. Grown adults were jumping in place and hugging whoever they could reach. People ran into the street. The flag was everywhere. It was incredible.

This video is over 2 minutes long and there is a lot of wooing, so don't feel obligated to watch the whole thing, just enough to give you an idea of how cool this was.

The video was shot four -- count em, four -- hours after the game ended. And just to drive the point home a little more, I'll tell you that this was one of two road blocks we encountered on our drive. The second one was right in the heart of Quepos, the city closest to Manuel Antonio. Anyway, I took a chance with my directional skillz and they totally paid off! We got back on course and made it to MA. Getting to the hostel in MA was easy since I knew it was on the way to the park and it was a little ways past the hostel I'd stayed in three years ago.

We stayed at the National Park Backpacker's hostel because I read really great reviews on hostelworld. I really wanted us to stay in the same hostel from my study abroad trip, but I couldn't find a booking website anywhere and came upon some depressing reviews of it. Either way, NPB was a decent. We chose to stay in the all-female dorm and were happy to find out we were the only guests that had picked that option. Everyone else had a private room or chose the co-ed dorm. Now, I have to be honest and tell you that I've never slept on a worse bed in my life and that the pool is the only thing I truly loved. The staff was nice and the place was pretty quiet. If there's ever a next time, I'll definitely just take my chances on availability and stay in the Pura Vida hostel, bad reviews be damned! It's where Andrea and I ate breakfast both days we were in town. $4 for gallo pinto, a pancake, fruit, eggs and toast AND free coffee. Yeah, it was yummy and so filling.

The next day was our day in the park. We bought our $10 tourist tickets and headed inside. By this point, we were both pretty desperate to see some animals. We'd seen a lot of undisturbed flora and just wanted to see the fauna. Not five minutes in, we came across a deer walking along the gravel path.

I didn't feel the urgent need to get a close up of this deer because I'm pretty sure I met her three years ago.  But I did get her as she trekked away.

My sister and I were overjoyed at the sight of a wild animal and we hurried along the path hoping to see some more animals. We didn't splurge on the park guide, but we did decide to stay close-ish to a smaller group. Sure enough, we were lucky enough to catch a sighting of a family of squirrel monkeys.

Apparently, squirrel monkeys are spotted every couple of months. And here we were, watching a mom, dad and baby jump and hop around the branches. The guide graciously informed us that the mom was more than likely jumping from branch to branch to teach her young one how to do it. I wish I'd caught some video of this, but after getting a decent couple of shots, I put the cameras down and just watched and soaked it all in.

Baby squirrel monkey.
As if the rare monkey sighting wasn't enough, we also saw a lone howler monkey chillin upside in a tree! It was seriously the closest I've been to a howler, and I've seen them directly overhead of me before. It was an incredible treat.

We finally made it to the beach, where we picked a spot under a tree. We hung up our packs and extended our towels. A raccoon did attempt to get into my backpack, but we caught him before he made any progress.

After a quick dip in the ocean, we decided to relax a little on the beach itself. As I was shutting my eyes to bask in the sun, I heard Andrea shout with excitement. There was a lizard walking nearby! Neither one of us could ID the reptile, but we followed it around for a little bit, which led to a really cool conversation with some Italian Swiss who had never seen a raccoon in their life before.

Thrilled with our wildlife sightings, we took to the waves. The water in MA is amazing. The park's main beach is almost shaped like a bay, so it feels more like swimming in a pool than in the ocean.

One thing we didn't realize was we were swimming during a tidal shift. I'm already not a great swimmer. I can tread and get to point B but I lack confidence in the water. Anyway, at some point I tried to swim through the wave or over it or something and it didn't work.

I was thoroughly tumbled. That's seriously the only word I can think of to describe it. I was tumbled like a rag in a dryer. I washed up on shore smothered in sand. I was so disoriented that I tried to stand up right as another wave came crashing down. You guessed it, I was thrown about again, this time a little too close to the rocks. This happened yet a third time before I finally pulled myself together enough to run out of the water's reach, laughing the whole way.

The best part of the story (for me) is this: Andrea was worried-laughing on her way out of the ocean (you know, to check on me like a good sister and traveling companion). She turned her back on the waves and one of them smacked her right in the back. Seriously, it was comedic the way her body looked when it felt the impact of the water on her back. So she too arose out of the ocean like a sandy mess.

It would take us about two weeks to get the sand out of our scalps.

By this point all of the excitement has made me a little hungry. There are no snack stands in the park, so all I had to eat was my chocolate (read: melted) KIND bar. As I crunched on that almond goodness, Andrea pointed to the coolest animal we saw that day.

A FREAKING CAIMAN CROCODILE! It slowly walked by the tree 15 feet away from our spot. We assumed it was headed out to the ocean, but got freaked by the swarm of tourists that rushed around it. I realize I was also a tourist, but I didn't shout around the animal like the others...I have respect for nature.

Anyway, the poor animal was too scared to venture out further than the tree line, and it eventually retreated back into the trees. That didn't stop the jerky tourists from following it, but I won't rant about that now.

Once closing time got closer, we decided we were hungry enough to pack up and head out. We enjoyed a delicious dinner at a local restaurant that overlooked the main strip of the city's beach and ended the night hanging out on a bar rooftop with the bar owner's children.

I didn't want to leave the next day, but we were running out of money and neither of us could stand the idea of another night on the plank of wood called a bed in our hostel. So we woke, up, had breakfast, found a guy who sold me a daiquiri three years ago to say hello, tracked down a vendor who trusted me enough to buy now pay tomorrow, and said goodbye to Manuel Antonio.

I still miss it.

♥ A