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Italian Herb Dipping Sauce

Italian Herb Dipping Sauce - a great vinaigrette for salad or dipping bread

Italian Herb Dipping Sauce - a great vinaigrette for salad or dipping bread

I just realized that it is getting to be the end of September, and I have no idea what my son is going to be for Halloween.  It is just over a month away, and we haven’t even talked about it.  We don’t usually just go to the store and buy a costume, so I really need to get my act together and start working.  We have done Harry Potter before and last year he was a football player. So it is time to start brainstorming!  If anyone has any great ideas, I would love to hear them!

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Thursday Things – Costa Rica

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Costa Rica Waterfalls

Last week I shared with you the week we spent in Manuel Antonio Costa Rica.  That part of the trip was the more relaxing, civilized portion of the trip.  After we left Manuel Antonio we spent some time in the jungle, really experiencing what Costa Rica was like.

Beach at Cocorvado National Park

We took a van from Manuel Antonio down to Sierpe where we had to catch a boat to Drake Bay.  Drake Bay has one road that goes into it, but depending on the season, the road can be washed out.  So the best way to get there is to take a small boat.  The boat ride starts by going up the river to where it meets the ocean.  Then you drive along the coast for a little while until you get to Drake Bay.  There are not any docks, so the boat turns around and uses the waves to push it into shore.  There are lots of helpers on the beach that “try” to hold the boat still enough for you to get out.  Then they hand you your luggage, and you carry it up to the dry part of the beach.  Quite the experience.

Pit Viper in Cocorvado National Park

Drake Bay has only 550 people and 1 gravel road that runs through town.  It is about 89 degrees with 98% humidity, 24 hours a day.  We stayed at a place called Finca Maresia.  The owner’s name is Juan, and he is from Spain.  The hotel is run like a European bed and breakfast.  Juan cooks dinner for everyone (there are only 9 cabins) each night.  The food was amazing, and it was great to sit around and talk to the other guests each night.  We got to hear about different tours people did and what people liked and didn’t.  When we first got there, we were the only people from America.  We were a little nervous what dinner would be like that first night, but we met this great couple from Switzerland that we got along with really well.  All of the cabins are down a trail from the main building leading into the jungle.  The cabins are open to the jungle, so when the sun comes up at 5:00 am every morning, you are up!  I was very nervous about bugs and spiders, but we didn’t not find ANY in our room.  I was shocked!!

Tapir in Corcorvado National Park

The whole reason we went to Drake Bay was because we wanted to visit Corcovado National Park.  It is one of the most undeveloped parks in the world.  There are no roads that lead to the park.  The only way you can get there is by hiking in, or taking a boat.  We went on a tour (booked for us by Juan) to Corcovado.  The tour consisted of our family of 3 and the couple from Switzerland.  We were able to see so much wild life, it was unbelieveable.  Costa Rica has 4 species of monkeys that live there.  We saw all 4 species of monkeys, lizards, caymans, crocodiles, coati (Costa Rican raccoons), tapirs, snakes, wild turkeys, a deer, and countless birds (Toucans, Scarlet Macaws and many more).  I am sure there was more that I am just not remember now.  Every time we turned around our guide was showing us a new animal.  Corcovado National Park was definitely a highlight of our entire trip.

Coati (Costa Rican Raccoon) Corcovado National Park

The next day in Drake Bay we decided to take an ATV tour to a beach, and then there was a trail you could walk along to get back to town.  First of all, the ATV was exactly what you think an ATV to be like.  Only there was a driver, and then he put the 3 of us across the back.  So there were 4 of us on this ATV, and we were going up and down these big hills, across streams, on a gravel road, all for about 25 minutes.  After he dropped us off at the beach we found the trail and started walking.  The trail is really only about 5 feet in from the beach.  I think I heard someone say there are 23 beaches between where we started and where we ended.  And the amazing thing was, there was no one around.  These were stunningly gorgeous beaches, and no one was on them.  The hike took us close to 6 hours, so we were starving when we got back to town.  We had read about Gringo Curt’s online ahead of time, and knew we wanted to eat there.  Seriously, if you are ever in Drake Bay, eat at Gringo Curt’s.  My husband and son ordered the catch of the day, and it was literally at least a 2 pound filet of fish.  I ordered the pasta, and it was so good and could have fed at least 2 people.  Plus the smoothie was amazing!

Ricon Beach Hike

Lots of places in Costa Rica offer night tours.  They take you on a walk through the jungle at dusk or right after dark, to see what wild life is out there.  I was not interested in this at all!  I do not like bugs, spiders, rodents…anything.  I just don’t need to know what is out there.  Somehow I let my husband and son talk me into going on one of these tours.  We waited until our last night in the jungle, so I wouldn’t have to lose sleep the whole trip.  Let’s just say that was a wise decision.  Most of it was just fine, because it is the wild life, in their habitat, doing what they do.  That I don’t mind, I just don’t want them in my living space!!  I only had one freak out, and that was when we saw a spider the size of my hand, walking on the water, only 2 feet from me.  The Brazilian Wandering Spider is one of the deadliest spiders in the world, is huge, walks on water, and is right next to me!!!  Then it disappeared!  The guide told me not to worry, it was active because this was the time it went out hunting.  Needless to say, that did not sit well with me until we were well past that area.  I did not need that giant spider crawling up my leg!

Ricon Beach Hike

We had other plans to go snorkeling in an place called Cano Island, right near Drake Bay.  But once we got there we saw how rough the water was, and didn’t feel comfortable doing this with our 9 year old, who had never been snorkeling before.  All the snorkeling is in open water, which may have been just a little too much for him.  They are known for amazing diving though, and everyone we talked to loved the diving tours they went on.  In the end we decided to change up our trip and go to an area up in the mountains, that was a cloud forest.  We found a hotel in an area called San Gerardo de Dota, which is also known for spotting the Quetzal.  Quetzals are a very rare bird.  They are rather large, this brilliant blue/aqua color with a bright red breast, and the males have super long tale feathers (like 12 inches long).  We went on a bird tour there, where we were able to spot 4 of these birds.  They are pretty amazing to see in real life.

Quetzel

Our final stop on the trip was back to San Jose for our flight out.  We spent a couple night in San Jose, and did a trip to see some other things in that area.  Unfortunately the Poas volcano was covered in clouds and raining when we were there, so we weren’t able to go up and see the crater.  We did get to see a few amazing waterfalls, go on a river boat ride to spot more wild life (monkeys, frogs, caymans, and lots of birds), and see more of the Caribbean side of the country.  We stopped at a few fruit stands and were even able to buy fresh strawberries.  It was a definite change from the other parts of the country we had visited.  Our guide was a little on the crazy side, but in the end I think we all had a good day.

Red Eyed Tree Frog

We absolutely loved our whole trip to Costa Rica.  It has been on our list of places to travel to for the last 8 years, I am so glad that we were finally able to go.  Our son was at a perfect age as well.  He was able to do everything we wanted to, and didn’t get bored with anything.  He says he might want to move there some day.

Squirrel Monkey Corcovado National Park

Greek Meatball Sandwiches

Greek Meatball Sandwiches - quick, easy, and so much flavor

 

Greek Meatball Sandwiches - quick, easy, and tons of flavor

I think I might finally be recovered from our hike this last weekend.  On Sunday we got up at 5:30 am and hiked about 11 miles to the top of 2 mountains; Flattop Mountain and Hallet Peak.  We climbed over 3,000 feet to almost 13,000 feet above sea level.  It was a steep hike up, and I didn’t eat enough, so by the end I was not feeling great.  Elevation, hard work, and not enough food = Erin feeling like she is ready to lose her lunch while trying to scramble up the last 500 feet of elevation.  My husband and I actually did this hike 8 years ago, and wanted to do it again with our 9 year old.  We finally did it this summer, and he did awesome!  Getting to the top of a mountain, and looking out over everything is just breath taking.  You seriously feel like you are on top of the world!  There are easier hikes to get to the top of mountains, but it is something I think everyone needs to see in their lifetime.

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Hot Caramel Apple Cider #IDelight

Hot Caramel Apple Cider - perfect for a cool fall day

Hot Caramel Apple Cider - perfect for a cool fall day

Fall is definitely in the air. The weather here has been up and down like crazy, but it seems like it is finally cooling off just a little bit. I love the fall season. All of the colors, the foods, and the cooler temps (hello jeans and comfy sweaters)! I am all about pumpkin, but let’s just give it a little more time before we break that out. Apples deserve their day too :)  After a day outside in the cooler weather, I love coming in to warm up with a hot drink.  And hot apple cider is one of my favorites!

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Taco Meatball Skewers

Taco Meatball Skewers - great quick dinner or fun appetizer for game day!

Taco Meatball Skewers - great quick dinner or fun appetizer for game day!

Football season is in full swing!  Are you a fan?  I enjoy watching a couple games, but only if I care about the teams.  If it isn’t the Badgers or the Vikings, I don’t really care. Tomorrow we are actually going to the Colorado State game.  My 9 year old is super excited, and I think it will be fun.  There is something about actually being at a game. Hopefully the weather is good!  It has been a chilly couple of days in Colorado.  It is supposed to be back up into the 70′s and 80′s by next week.  Which is good, because I am not ready for 50 degree weather.  Although I am looking forward to lots of soup and fresh bread this fall!

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Thursday Things – Manuel Antonio Costa Rica

Rain Maker National Park Costa Rica

Squirrel Monkeys in Costa Rica

I have been saying for over a month that I was going to share our trip to Costa Rica with you. Well, I am finally getting around to doing it.  I have yet to go through all of our pictures, we just loved the trip so much, I have to share.

Toucan in Manuel Antonio

We traveled to Costa Rica with my husband’s parents and his sister (and her family).  It was his parents 45th wedding anniversary, and instead of a party they wanted to spend time with the whole family on a trip.  We all chose Costa Rica as where we wanted to go.  We spent 1 week in the Manuel Antonio area, where we rented a house.  Each day we did different “excursions” around the area.  We visited Rain Maker National Park, went zip-lining, went deep sea fishing, did an adventure tour as well as visiting Manuel Antonio National Park.  It was such a fun, adventurous, and amazing trip.

Rain Maker National Park Costa Rica

Rain Maker National Park is a primary rain forest.  We went on a guided tour through the forest.  There were lots of hanging bridges that the kids had a great time on.  The kids were able to swim in a little pool at the base of a small waterfall, on the hike.  At the end of the tour we were served a typical Costa Rican lunch of rice, beans, a small salad and chicken.

Rain Maker National Park costa Rica

Zip-lining is one thing I have always wanted to do.  I like to do adventure type things, but my family isn’t always on board with that.  So I was super excited for this day.  All 9 of us went, and everyone (from age 5 to 68) loved it.   My 9 year old was very nervous to start, but he loved it so much he was begging to do it again another day.  We went with El Santuario Canopy Adventures, and they did an amazing job.  There are 11 different lines that you go on.  There are some steps and hiking between them, as you make your way through the forest.  The guides were amazing, super friendly, and made you feel very safe.  And the lunch you received at the end was delicious!  One of the best Costa Rican lunches we were served.

Zip Line Manuel Antionio Costa Rica

Not everyone was interested in going fishing.  So my husband, myself, my 9 year old and my brother in-law rented a boat for the day, and went out with a guide.  It was a gorgeous day, the day we went.  My brother in-law is a big fisherman.  He actually went earlier in the trip with the same guide, and caught 4 large fish.  He brought 2 of them home, and we ate them for days.  The rest of us were just along for fun, we aren’t really into fishing.  The 3 of us did manage to all catch a fish that day.  I was able to get the biggest prize fish of the day.  Rooster Fish are apparently what people go to Costa Rica to catch.  And somehow (after at least 20 minutes of seriously hard work), I was able to reel it in!

Rooster Fish in Costa Rica

Manuel Antonio is known for its pristine beach and wildlife.  The whole family went with a guide on a tour of the park.  We were able to see monkeys, birds, lizards, spiders, sloths, and more.  You really need a guide to see anything in the forests.  They spot stuff you would never find on you own.  After a walk through the forest we ended up at the beach.  The kids played in the water for awhile, and my husband and I decided to walk down the beach.  Just 5 feet through the forest (on a path), we found an almost completely deserted, gorgeous beach.  We ended the tour at a little restaurant in town where we had a snack, a great smoothie (a local fruit that I can’t remember), and the guide bought the kids ice cream cones.

Needle Fish in Costa Rica

My husband and I planned to have a day where we could go off without our son.  The Grandparents had volunteered to take the kids for a day.  They hung out around the house and played in the pool all day.  I convinced my husband that we should do this 10 in 1 adventure tour.  We got to repel down a waterfall, zip-line, do a spiderman swing, a free fall drop and more.  My sister and brother in law decided to join us.  It was such a fun day! We got to swing upside down over a little ravine with a river running underneath us.  Totally my kind of trip!

Manuel Antonio National Park

Renting a house and spending the week in Costa Rica was such an amazing family vacation.  We were active and busy and really got to enjoy the area.  Most days we were back to the house by 2:00 in the afternoon, so the kids could play in the pool, and the adults could relax.  We ate dinner at our house every night.  Most properties down there come with the option of having a chef come in to cook.  In the end, with the kids, and the varying tastes, this was the best decision ever.  The cost was almost the same, once you consider the cabs we would have had to use to get back and forth (we did not rent a car).  Plus the food was amazing, and we got to pick the menu.

White Face Monkeys Costa Rica

If you have ever wanted to go to Costa Rica, stop waiting and go!  We had family from age 5 to 68, and everyone loved it!  Our family spent a second week on our own in other areas of the country.  I will share that part of the trip with you later!

Caramel Apple Pie Bars

Caramel Apple Pie Bars {Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts}

Caramel Apple Pie Bars - shortbread crust, baked apples, struesel and caramel...what is not to love!

Oh fall, how I love you!  Apples are all over the stores, the farmers markets, and my friend’s trees right now.  So I am going to wait just a bit before we jump into pumpkin, and give the apple the spot light.  I have a friend who has a few apple trees in her yard, and this year her trees exploded with apples.  I said I would taken any and all apples she couldn’t find a home for.  I see Apple Blondies and probably Apple Hand Pies in my future!  Plus, fresh apple cider.  We have a cider press from when my husband was a little boy.  So every year, we try to set aside an afternoon to make fresh cider.  It is so good, and such a fun process.  I am sure he will get tired of it some day, but at age 9 my son still thinks it is cool.

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Green Chile Pork

Green Chile Pork {Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts}

Green Chile Pork - hatch chile peppers in a chile verde sauce

Our weekend started off a little wet. My son’s school had their fall festival on Friday evening.  It was chilly and rainy during most of it. The kids had a great time on the inflatables, the obstacle courses, the climbing wall, and everything else.  But, after 2 hours I decided it was enough, and it was time to head out.  We got home, and it took me a cup of tea, and a couple hours to actually warm up.  A sure sign I am not ready for winter!  Saturday night we headed to watch the girls Badger volleyball team play CSU.  It is not often that Wisconsin sports travel to Colorado, so we went to cheer them on.  It was a super close game, but the Badgers won!  A good weekend for our sports teams.

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S’Mores Brownies

S'mores Brownies - rich, chocolatey, heaven!

S'mores Brownies - rich, chocolatey, heaven!

The temperatures are finally starting to cool off in Colorado, at least for the next week.  It was 95 degrees yesterday, so you really never know.  But I am taking advantage of the 70 degree temps, and turning on the oven to do some baking.  Are you ready for apples and pumpkin?  I am craving apples, cinnamon, and the flavors of fall.  As soon as the calendar changes to September, I am ready for summer to be over and to move on.  Fall is my favorite season.  The colors, the temperatures, and the foods; I just love it all!

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Cinnamon Toast Crunch Granola Bars

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Granola Bars - a perfect snack!

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Granola Bars - a perfect snack!

So now that we are after Labor Day, I think all the kids are officially back to school.  We have been in school for 2 weeks now, and I can finally say I think we are getting back into a routine.  I love summer, and am not ready for cold temperatures or that white stuff, but I am happy to have our routine back.   My 9 year old is happy to be back in school too.  He may miss his free time, and getting to play all the time.  But he loves to go to school, and see his friends, and have structure.  So this time of year is great for everyone!

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