To Cozumel, With Love

If you follow me on social media, it is no secret that I really love Cozumel, Mexico.  I visited three times this year alone.  When my feet hit the ground in Cozumel, I feel so happy and energetic.  I’m planning to blog about some of my favorite restaurants and activities in the upcoming posts but this post is some of my the reasons that I return again and again.

  1. The scenery is stunning. 

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I’ve been to many areas in the Caribbean but I swear that the water is prettiest in Cozumel.  You can try to convince me otherwise but I absolutely love the water in Cozumel.  It feels like a painting.  The crystal clear waters, spectacular sunsets, and endless beaches make me fall in love over and over.

Cozumel also has my husband’s favorite beaches.  He actually hates the beach. It’s a miracle that our relationship has survived this obvious character flaw.  His complaint about the beaches is the sand.  He hates how it gets all over everything and can be difficult to wash off (I know, he’s weird… for better or worse, you know).  BUT he doesn’t mind the sand in Cozumel.  Apparently it is magical sand that washes out more easily.

2. The incredible people

Almost all of the people that you encounter are so friendly.  The warmth and hospitality of the people in Cozumel  is amazing.  From the moment you arrive to the island you will feel the warmth of its people, because in Cozumel hospitality is not just a practice, it is a lifestyle.

I love to just hop in a taxi and ask for a restaurant, beach or activity recommendation.  The people love to talk and will recommend something perfect.

3. Safe

I realize that Mexico, in general, gets a bad reputation.  I also acknowledge that in many areas that reputation is unfortunately earned thanks to drug cartels and corrupt governments.  However, I’ve never felt unsafe in Cozumel.  I’ve been all over the island and never felt uncomfortable.  They even have tourist police walking around because they take safety extremely seriously.  I would suggest that you take similar precautions in Cozumel that you would take anywhere else though (maybe I should write a blog about this?).

4. Tons of adventures

A lot of people just bar hop in Cozumel and that is fine for them but there is SO much more to do.  The scuba, snorkeling and snuba in Cozumel are amazing.  Plenty of other water sports are also available.  There are opportunities to see and interact with wildlife.  Of course you could just be a beach bum.  You can try a lot of different foods and local cuisine.

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My Fall Wardrobe Staples

I love summer (my favorite season) but I’m ready for fall already.  Given that I’m ready for fall and I’m a little overdue for a post on some of my seasonal wardrobe staples.  I love to have some really classic pieces that I can mix and match.  I’ll add in some trendy pieces and accessories to keep things fun.  This makes it super easy for me to get dressed and even pack for trips.

Disclaimer: It totally won’t be fall where I live (Austin) for at least two months but a gal can dream.

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In Defense of Exploration

20727896_1907025126214783_8429068218673924890_nThe other day, I posted this picture on my personal Facebook page.  I don’t typically repost inspirational quotes but I truly believe that exploring the world makes my life much richer.  I was immediately met with comments like “The Dalai Lama didn’t have to worry about money and PTO.”

I don’t really know what sort of workplace benefits are provided to the Dalai Lama but the sentiment is probably true.  I get that not everyone has the time or money to travel across the world or go on lavish vacations.  I understand that some people scrape every single day just to pay bills and buy food.

For many of my adult years I was either too broke or too much of a workaholic to travel much.  It was always sort of a calling in my heart but I couldn’t or didn’t listen to it.  The last few years, I have dedicated myself to making it a priority but I recognize that I have circumstances that allow me to do that.

My counter to this type of comment is that you don’t have to go far to go someplace you haven’t been before.  There are probably tons of small towns or nature areas that would be amazing for exploration.  For instance, where we live in Texas there is a lot of really good barbecue in these little towns.  Sometimes on Saturday mornings, we get up early and drive 45 minutes or more just to try some epic brisket in the middle of nowhere.  We have found a lot of cute towns and delicious food.

Even within your own city, I bet there are unexplored areas.  Become a tourist in your own town.  I think you might surprise yourself by what you find.  You don’t have to spend a lot of money or time to explore.

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Hatch Chile Season

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Every August, something magical descends upon many areas in the United States.  Grocery stores start to roll out roasters and the red carpet (okay, probably just the roasters) for tons of hatch chiles coming in from our friends in New Mexico.  In Austin, this means that the grocery store will be selling everything from the peppers themselves to meats to desserts with hatch chiles in them.

In honor of Hatch Chile season, I’m doing a quick roundup of recipes I’ve seen lately where Hatch is the star of the show.

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Hatch Chile Cheddar Egg Bites

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Easy Roasted Hatch Chile Hummus

 

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Hatch chile chicken salad

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Hatch chile spaghetti squash and cheese

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Slow Cooker Hatch Green Chile Verde

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Hatch chile raspberry muffins

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Stuffed Hatch Chiles with Cilantro-Lime Yogurt

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Hatch chile enchilada sauce

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Chocolate chip hatch chile cookies

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Apple Green-Chile Pie With Cheddar Crust

Climbing Dunn’s River Falls

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I have ALWAYS wanted to go to Jamaica.  It has been on my bucket list since I was a kid (for real).  There is just something I love about the laid back island vibe that is portrayed in media.  As I was planning for the trip, someone told me that they particularly loved climbing Dunn’s River Falls.  Looking at it online it looked pretty but honestly not that exciting but I decided to check in out based on the recommendation.  I was pleasantly surprised that this was such a fun adventure.

20228737_10101268732941635_2264100842706064698_nArriving at Dunn’s River Falls, we were put into groups and assigned a guide.  Our guide explained the rules, which we enthusiastically agreed to with a “Yeah Man!”  We were all going to link arms and walk carefully up the waterfall.  I love meeting strangers but latching onto them doesn’t sound like my cup of tea.  I ended up sandwiched between my daughter and husband.  Our guide explained that they clean the rocks in the mornings and told us how we could safely climb the falls.

 

20106399_10101262852925235_2772280110390964457_nThe beginning of the climb was pretty challenging.  We all attempted to place our feet exactly where our guide stepped.  When it got hard, we helped pull each other up.  Yes, even the strangers I didn’t want to cling on to earlier.  Quickly we all became like family making sure that everyone could do the climb safely.  Our guide was also really attentive and jumped in to help as needed.  There were a few times when I thought we must be at the top but it just kept going.  I did notice an exit midway if you need to bail early but it actually gets easier after this point so if you make it this far, I’d suggested you just keep climbing.

The total climb was 600 feet but you are almost always moving vertically so it was really tiring.  Along the way, we stopped to free fall into especially deep spots and get aqua massages.  By the time we reached the end, we were all exhausted but also excited.  I loved the climb but I was really happy to have reached the top. If you have a chance to do this, I would definitely recommend checking it out.  Just remember to bring some non-slip shoes and wear something you don’t mind getting soaked in.

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Grand Cayman and Snorkeling the Barrier Reef

20245949_10101263037949445_250055454514270279_nIt is no secret that Grand Cayman is stunning.  Tourists have been flocking to the island for many, many years with good reason.  The island is clean, the people are incredibly gracious and it has the obvious benefit of being  surrounded by the infamous turquoise Caribbean sea.

When I initially arrived, I just took off walking to get to know the area.  Luckily it is really safe to just wander off without feeling like you are in a compromising situation.  I loved taking in the sights.

Even just the things you can see on the side of the road are incredible.  I also really enjoyed all of the wild iguanas that are absolutely every where.  Sometimes they startled me a bit (when I startled them).  It turns out that the green iguanas aren’t native to Grand Cayman so are actually a problem to the ecosystem.  I didn’t see any of the native blue iguanas on my trip.

20155632_10101263038458425_2808880770377909646_nOn our self-guided tour of the island, we also came across a little, quiet beach access.  There were no other people on this particular section of beach so it was perfect for cooling off and laying in the water.  If I ever return to Grand Cayman, I think I would avoid the tourist beaches and take advantage of some of the available free access.

As we were planning the trip, I knew immediately that I wanted to snorkel the barrier reef in this area.  Much of the reef is tragically dying (thanks humans) so I really wanted to make sure that I experienced it.

We took a snorkel trip through Don Foster’s Dive Cayman on the Skin Diver.  Our tour 20228912_10101263347119865_5187381257615701471_nguides were awesome.  They were professional, informative and funny.  On the way out to the site, they gave us information about the island, the reef and safety tips.  The equipment appeared to be clean and in good repair.  Once we were all in the water, they were also really attentive.

It was approximately 40 minutes out to the reef.  The Barrier Reef was gorgeous and healthy looking to me.  There were tons of beautiful coral and vibrant fish.  I wish that I would have remembered my GoPro for underwater pictures.  I snapped a few with my phone but missed all the really amazing underwater stuff.  Oh well, it will live on in my head.

 

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Planning an Impulsive Road Trip to Utah

Is it an oxymoron to use impulsive and planning both in a sentence?  Well thats sort of how I live my life.  First I’m impulsive then I plan.

We were camping a few weeks ago and this thought popped into my head: Utah.  Hmmm… Utah.  Yes!  Utah!  I brought it up to my husband and he said “Utah?”.  I mentioned the idea to my daughter and she said “Utah?”.  It was too late though – I was already on the track to planning this and there wasn’t much their skepticism could do to stop the train.

By nature, I’m a very impulsive person.  I try so hard to keep myself organized and focused but sometimes I become so compelled to do something that I can’t stop myself.  This is how I ended up packing my family into a rented (yellow) Hyundai Veloster and driving 2500ish miles over the course of 9 days.

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Part of the reason for the trip is that I am serious about maintaining my bucket list.  I believe deeply that life is meant to be lived and the best way to experience the world is to get out there in it.  One of my key US bucket list items is to visit all 50 states (22 to go!) so I set my sights on Utah.

Utah has five national parks so I knew that there would be a lot of incredible scenery to explore.  Before I started to do any research, I was sure that I wanted to visit Arches National Park and Zion National Park so I built the trip around these destinations.  As I started to map the trip out, I realized that I would be near Antelope Canyon in Arizona so I had to include it.  I’ve been to Arizona before but Antelope Canyon wasn’t yet on my radar.  More recently, I’ve seen a lot of photos of this slot canyon that was absolutely spectacular.  The colors and shapes of the canyon were amazing so I added it to my bucket list.  Then we also added the Grand Canyon for good measure (I mean, its the Grand Canyon).  Once it was mapped, all that was left was to find hotels near the destinations and figure out any delicious food we had to eat.

Then we were off.