Monday, October 14, 2013

Monteverde Trip: Day 3

We took a day trip to the beautiful jungle area called Curicancha, Monteverde. It's just a large reserve area of land where you can see wildlife, birds, and beautiful plants. We didn't get a guide, so we didn't see much wildlife (guides know how to look for them). BUT we did see a wild tarantula! AUGH!!! That really freaked me and Peter out. The hike was beautiful and looped around a large area, so we could choose which paths to take. Here are the pics:

After our hike, we stopped at the local Cheese factory for some lunch and ICECREAM! yummy! Elora toddled all around the restaurant smiling about being on flat ground. She's getting really good at walking, and she's so adorable!

Next, we went to the "Butterfly House" and learned all about ants, butterflies, beetles, and bugs. Our guide was very knowledgable and the boys loved seeing all those kinds of bugs. They had a big leaf cutter ant colony in a box and we could watch through the glass to see what the ants did with the leaves once they were in the "nest". Ants are so fascinating!

We had another great day in Monteverde! We felt ready to head back to the beach and relax by the end of the third day. We were thinking of touring around the whole country of Costa Rica for the month of October, but after one town, we were just too tuckered out. We've just been spoiled I guess! Living on the beach is blissful :) 

Monteverde Trip: Day 2

 After a bad night's sleep with all 5 of us in one room, we woke up the second day in Monteverde and were ready for adventure. Our hotel was really nice, nestled in lush gardens off a winding dirt road. They had walls made out of cement in the main building where they had laid glass bottles as they built the wall. So the walls looked like they had all colors of glass circles, squares, and rectangles. When they turned on the light inside of the walls, the bottles lit up and the walls looked so pretty! It was a really cool idea.

 We headed up to Selvatura Park where they have zip-lines through the trees, nature walks, suspension bridges, hummingbird garden, reptile house, etc. We walked though the beauitful jungle and over amazingly high and suspenseful suspension bridges. I had a hard time looking down without feeling like I was going to freak out and have an anxiety attack! Some of the bridges were a couple hundred feet off the ground. Sometimes I feel like a mother hen who runs around clucking and flapping my feathers to keep my kids safe and out of trouble. Being up there on those towering bridges brought out the hen in me for sure! But we still had a great time.

We walked along the trail talking about where the fairies live, and I opened up a package of M&M's and left "fairy treats" here and there along the trail for the kids to find. My dad used to do that when we were hiking in the mountains of Utah and it was so thrilling for my brother and I to find a little colorful treat. I'm planning on making M&M's a permanent part of my hiking curriculum.

5 little monkeys swinging on a bridge...

You can't tell from this picture, but this fern was about 12 feet across! So pretty!

These boys!! They make my heart go pitter-pat. They are such sweet little guys and are so good, they are the joy of my life. I'm so lucky to have such awesome kids. Even when they are being super busy and require me to be ON full-steam-ahead, once they are tucked in bed and sleeping sweetly, I love to kiss their soft cheeks and snuggle them and think about all the happy times we had that day. It's a lot of work to be a parent, but every moment is worth it.

Again, you can't tell from the picture, but these leaves were HUGE! I love these awesome jungle plants.

The jungle is so lush, there are plants growing on plants. The trees are covered with moss, vines, flowering plants, even some look like big bushes! It's amazing to have SO much green all around. Utah is going to seem like the Moon when we go back!

Papa and Ella. These two are quite a pair. She's only got eyes for Papa, especially if she wants to snuggle or play. Mama is good to have around when she's ready for eating or sleeping, but Papa, now he's the man who makes life worth living! She's a very blessed girl to have a dad like Sean!

This is a big spider web with dew drops. So pretty.

Jackson trying to make the bridge swing, which later we found out was against the rules :)

Tarzan Vines!

This little guy is called a Pizote. We were at the hummingbird garden looking at the beautiful iridescent birds, and this friend wandered out of the bushes. I threw some cracker crumbs at him and we were instant friends. He LOVED crackers and was doing his best to be cute to earn more bites. He would come right up to us and take them from our hands! The kids loved feeding him because he was so big! When he stood up he was taller than Elora. 

Cute little car/motorcycle outside the tourist shop where Jackson knocked down an entire rack of hundreds of post cards. By the time we got done with the Selvatura tour, we were SO tired, hungry, and getting grumpy. After the post card incident, we got lunch-to-go and walked home on the winding hilly dirt road, whining and crying the whole way (ALL of us were whining by that point). So after a couple hours of napping, we were ready for the next adventure! Off to the sugar cane/coffee/cocoa tour!

This tour was one of my favorite things we did! We learned about how local coffee is grown and produced, how chocolate is made, and also how sugar cane is processed! We got to even make our own cocoa powder and sugar cane juice fudge! It was really fun to be so hands-on. Our tour guide was really great with the kids.

Peter being fixed up for some child labor in the coffee plantation.

Those bushes on the left are actually coffee trees. They keep them short so they can reach the berries easily.

This machine pits the coffee berries, and the machines in the background sort and roast the beans.

Jackson chewing on some fresh sugar cane. That stuff is SO yummy! No wonder we're all addicted to sugar. It's really easy to get to the good stuff without much processing. 

This is a traditional costa rican ox cart, and we got to go for a ride! Woohoo!

The kids were all hyped up on sugar and cocoa, so getting them to sit still for a picture was quite a feat. Jackson found this tiny bench suited for kids, and they posed for a pic. 

This is one of my favorite pictures of ALL TIME! What cuties :)

These are cocoa pods. You cut them open and the cocoa seeds are surrounded by gooey white stuff which tastes great too! The seeds are then left out on a drying table for a few weeks until they are ready to grind up. 

Sampling freshly ground cocoa seeds

And of course cocoa is much tastier with sugar mixed in! Our guide showed us how to use a stone grinder to mix it.

Beautiful mist rolled in in the afternoon. 

Here we go with the child labor again. This is a hand crank to extract sugar juice from the stalks. Good thing Peter is so strong! 

These oxen are turning a huge sugar cane press. The juice then runs into large vats that are boiling with sugar juice, which turns into carmel-like fudge after it cools.

We all got to make our own. What a great tour! The boys loved taking home a little bag of sugar fudge they had made themselves. That's the kind of learning that I love! They'll never forget something like that when they get to be so involved. 

We went to bed that night very tired, but happy to have had such a great day.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Monteverde Trip: Day 1

Wow! what a great little trip we had to the beautiful mountainous town of Monteverde. 

First of all, I'd like to thank Steve Jobs. Because of him, Sean and I can drive in relative peace and quiet for hours on end. Steve, you have given me the gift of sanity on many a crazy day or long car ride.

Peter builds all kinds of amazing things in Minecraft! Also, Jackson IS wearing pants despite what it looks like in this picture :) my kids aren't fully clothed all that often here in Samara!

Baby Ella was content with some cookies and soft animals. This was her first car trip in her big-girl carseat and I'm convinced she feels like one of the crew now instead of like a baby. 

The road to Monteverde was AWFUL! These insane dirt roads are in such bad shape, I don't know how they get the goods and services they need to supply all those stores and people up on the mountain! But the view made up for the jostling journey. Monteverde is up above the clouds, as you can see we are almost above the cloud line! In the evenings the clouds roll into town and everything is misty and mysterious.

Yay! Pavement! They had sporadic segments of asphalt up until a certain point. I think the roads are just too hard to maintain with all the rain that comes. Driving through the jungle mountains was so beautiful though! 

After we arrived and settled into our BnB, we went to dinner at a small restaurant (they're called Sodas here) next door. We ate the traditional Costa Rican meal of Casados (rice and beans, small salad, fried plantains, and your choice of meat) and sipped some amazingly delicious Guayabana nectar! Yummm.

This cute girl Sophia was the restaurant owner's daughter. She was so happy to have some other kids to play with! She was 4 yrs old and shared all her toys with Elora. She brought out her dolly and Ella was SO enamored with it. I realized that we don't really have any "girl toys" at our house, maybe Ella needs some little dolls and necklaces. Sophia did Elora's hair, taught her a game, and wiped off her shirt when she spilled her beans. What a good little helper! 

This is our breakfast room where we spent many hours. Our hotel room was great, but if all 5 of us hung out in there for very long we got a tad claustrophobic. It was nice to have another space to go read, play games, etc. 

I taught Peter how to play chess and he caught on like a fish to water! I was amazed how quickly he learned the rules for all the separate pieces. What a smartie pants! 

Papa lovin up baby girl. She looks so tired in this picture, I'm sure we all were by this time! I'm trying to get her used to a bottle again so she doesn't feel like I'm her walking food machine. She's going to be 13 months old tomorrow! I'm not sure how much longer Ill nurse her, but I'm thinking its time to start tapering. 

Our cozy wooden room. Baby girl slept in her pack and play in the shower! We had 5 beds so I got to have a bunk bed ALL by myself :) And of course bunk beds mean blanket huts! 

Sean was a night owl and got the chance to see a sloth climbing across the power lines! Isn't it cute and fat? It hangs upside down while climbing. 

More coming soon about the rest of our Monteverde trip!