Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dive trip to Cozumel

Each year we try to get away in the winter for a quick dive trip in a tropical setting.  After much debate between destinations - BVI, Belize, Caymans, we ended up deciding on our old favorite - Cozumel MX.

Of course the trip couldn't have come at a worse time for both of us with respect to work - it always seems like breaking away from work for even a quick vacation is like trying to take a piece of meat from an alligator.    After a lot of last minute coordination and hand-offs we were able to comfortably leave work behind pack a few last minute things, give Grandma and Grandpa the update kid-o in-brief, catch about 3 hours of sleep, and then we were on our way to sunny Cozumel.
Once on the ground in Cozumel we checked in to our little oasis right in the heart of downtown, the Casa Mexicana.  Its an incredible value and they put out a fantastic breakfast spread each morning not to mention some great views and its located within walking distance of all of the fun restaurants in town.

This time around we decided to venture out and try some new places to eat.  The first place we found was a couple blocks from the hotel, and was the kind of place that no- one from a cruise ship would ever go to.  You literally had to walk through someones's living room to get to the courtyard in the back where the restaurant was located.  They had a full Mexican menu but when asking the waiter what is best he recommended the fish - so fish it was!  Delicious grouper in a garlic lime sauce that the waiter had just caught.  There is just something about ordering your food in Spanish, drinking a Sol in a tropical garden, and eating freshly caught fish on a nice hot day in the middle of February on a work day that is so gratifying. 

 For our first full day we had a mission - find a nice quiet beach to read a book and take a nap on while listening to the waves.

The Jeep we rented for the day is unquestionably worth further mention.  It was the perfect catalyst to really get into the Caribbean spirit if things.  Yes, indeed, technically speaking, for $50 you can rent a real jeep for 24 hours to drive all over Cozumel.  The thing is, it would never be considered street legal in the US.  For example, there was no rear view mirror, no seat belt for the driver (me, as Kate refuses to learn how to drive a stick), the fuel gauge didn't work, it made a dreadful noise just sitting at idol.  Shifting gears offered a whole other auditory experience putting it nicely - I found skipping 3rd gear helped... The car would start to shake uncontrollably at about 45 mph and i'm not talking about a wheel balance shimmy but a no kidding shake that was so bad it makes one loose control of the car.  There was rust everywhere making me feel better about that tetanus shot I got a few months ago.  An to top it off, literally, we couldn't tell if the old, worn out, and held together by strings rag top was the original worn out top or if maybe it was a moo moo discarded over the side of a passing cruise ship and re-purposed as a convertible rain fly for the jeep.  Fortunately, what it lacked in new-ness it made up for in character and provided us with some good laughs, freedom, and proved to be plenty reliable for the 24 hours we had it.  This being said, If we lived in Cozumel, we wouldn't have to think twice about buying a jeep!

On the way to the beach we decided to do a little cultural enrichment and visit some of the Mayan ruins on Cozumel.  There are several sites on the island but this is the largest.  We took our time exploring around on our own and found some pretty cool iguanas that kept us company on our journey.

The Ruins are in almost the center of the island, several miles from shore making one wonder why they were built there of all places.  It's impressive to think of how much work went into building all of this...

After our cultural enrichment it was time to cool off at the beach, read a book, and take a nap.

The east side of Cozumel is pretty much completely empty aside from the occasional beach bar so finding a quiet beach all to yourself is pretty straight forward.  Drive until you don't see anyone, pull over, and swim! 

Same applies to finding a good shady place for a nap and reading!

The next day the ocean was planned to be our first day of diving however the ocean was closed due to a low pressure system that blew in bringing very heavy seas.  The harbor master closed the port so no one was diving.  We decided to head up to a restaurant we had tried years before called Conchita del Caribe which is a locals seafood place.  Apparently the day we were there was Paella day - a local favorite.  So what the heck, we tried it.  It was good, but a very interesting mix of food in this paella.  There was chicken of course, muscles, shrimp, conch, and octopus.  After that, it started to get interesting.  There were also pork ribs, and a ton of mini  hot dogs!  We should have shared instead of each ordering our own - should have known better.  Next time we will try more fish.  Allegedly this place is home to some of the best ceviche on the island. We aren't big on ceviche but maybe next time we'll give it a try.

Completely full we walked back towards town to do a little shopping and who do we find... 

Its Mr. Carnival himself!

Finally, it was time to get into the water.  The ocean was nice and calm and we got a couple of great dives in in the morning.  This go around we rented a nice camera and strobe and got some pretty good results!

It turns out you get really hungry diving.  We got back to the hotel, showered, and headed out for a late lunch.  We were ravished and headed straight to one of our all time favorite restaurants anywhere in the world.  Casa Denis!


Free Margaritas?  Si por favor!

Can't go wrong with the mixed Fajitas - Beef, Shrimp, Chicken - they are simply incredible!  Best I have ever had without question.

After our epic day of diving and Casa Denis we headed back to the hotel for nap.  I work up at 9:00 not knowing what day it was - it was dark - I work Kate up - she just wanted to sleep until morning.  I got her up anyway and yes, we went out to eat.  Another favorite!  El Foco - its generally open late serving tacos that are spectacular.  Think philly cheese steak served on soft tortillas with delicious guac and Mexican beer.  A true locals favorite and we know why.

The next day it was back to diving - and we really went for broke.  We did 4 dives, 2 in in the AM and 2 more after a quick lunch on shore.  Each dive was nearly an hour of bottom time with each dive shallower than the one before it.

If you look closely, our dive master has his mask on upside down - funny trick!  I tried it, my nose is too big and doesn't work. 

This was our good old dive boat - Scuba Du II

After a very full day of diving we headed out for a nice dinner.  We went to yet another local place that specialized in seafood and shared the seafood platter for 2 for Valentines Day.  Complete with Lobster, red snapper, conch, and octopus.  It was very possibly one of the best meals we had in Cozumel.  

It was another fantastic trip!  Great people, unbelievable diving, and fantastic food!  We can't wait to do it again!

Monday, February 6, 2012

Kid - isms

Andrew and Elizabeth are growing up so quickly!  I can't believe it!

Andrew's favorite little saying right now is "I can learn something."  Let me put this in context.  He says it over and over again normally when he is doing something he is not supposed to like pressing all the buttons on a cell phone or laptop or trying to help with who knows what in the kitchen.  He will repeat over and over again, "I can learn something, I can learn something" and then screams the phrase when you eventually take away his "learning experience."  The other one he started this weekend was "I can't do that.  So sorry."  We're in trouble!! :)

I think the funniest thing with Andrew as of late is his Time Outs (although we won't let on to him that this is funny).  He has already begun to understand cause and effect and cost vs benefit.  The little guy will do something wrong and then put himself in time out!  He'll hit his sister or do something that I tell him not to and then say, "Andrew time out" and walk over to the time out couch and sit down.  But the crazy thing is that when he emerges from his time out, he apologizes, says that he won't do the negative activity again, has regrouped and is ready to play nice again.   It is really funny to see the whole thing in action.

Elizabeth loves her site words (her favorites as of today are "the, is, pink and purple").  She will spell them, write them, sticker them and play school where I am the student and she is the teacher.  She is really fascinated with words and is doing a really good job sounding them out.  She makes little kindergarten books at school which are fun to have her read, although she gets upset when you cover up the pictures on her.  She had to do a school project this week on her "favorites" so here is the list as of 4.5 years old.
Color - Pink
Vacation - Visiting Avery and Madeline in Seattle
Fish - Barracuda and trout
Sport - Swimming
Movie- The Little Mermaid and the Secret of Nimh
Song - Part of your world (but really her favorite song is Space Captain by the Black Crows)
Activity - to sit on the couch as a family and with Gregario
Food - macaroni (yes, that is for sure Andrew's favorite too.  I won't get into how we go through about 4-5 boxes of the stuff a week).
Drink - Milk warmed up (For sure Andrew's favorite too)
Book- How the Grinch Stole Christmas and Aerial's Dolphin Adventure
Poem- Sharp Toothed Snail by Shel Silversteine (we were coming home from taking Andrew to the pediatrician on Saturday and Elizabeth was so upset that she forgot to ask the doctor to check Andrew's nose for a Sharp Toothed Snail.  She is pretty sure that there is not one in her nose (although it has not been confirmed by a credible source . . . next time she goes to the dr) but she really wants to make sure that Andrew does not have one!

Elizabeth loves coming to work and helping me run some science experiments.  And I'm so thrilled that I have a 4.5 year old that can say "contaminant transport!"

Weekend with mom

Mom came out to visit last weekend and we had such a wonderful time together.  We've been talking for years about going on a retreat together and we finally got the opprotunity!  It was such a wonderful experience to share with mom and I will cherish our time together for a long time.

We also got to do some fun stuff with the kiddos.  One day we went to the Denver Stock Show and Rodeo.  As you can see, the kids dressed up in style, cowboy/ cowgirl boots and all (compliments of Grandmom Maron and Pop Pop Steve. . . how can you have grandparents from TX and not have cowboy boots?!).   The kids had a fun time looking at the sheep, cattle, chickens etc. and riding the pony and little train.  It was really funny when Andrew wanted to ride the train.  It was one of those things that you look at and say, that's a rip off!  But he really wanted to ride it and how could I say no when Elizabeth was getting to ride the pony.  So I paid the $3 and Andrew had the train all to himself.  He has motion issues sometimes, I think due to his inner ear problems that he's had over the past two years, so sometimes he gets on a ride (like the penny horse at the grocery store) and does not like it at all.  Not the case with the train.  He was thrilled and thought that he was such a big boy.  It went around the 50 ft track three times and he thought that he was the Engineer!  Too cute!   Overall, I must admit that we were a little dissappointed at the Stock Show.  I've been to Stock Shows/ Rodeo's in TX (and mom has been to many more than me) and the Denver one just does not have the small town charm that makes Stock Shows and Rodeos so much fun, especially for kids.  The Denver one just was not that "kid friendly."  Who knows, maybe that is by design but it was tough with the kids.  I would like to go back for a Rodeo as I bet that would be amazing but I could skip the Stock Show next year.

And what would be a family get together without a Birthday Celebration!  It was mom's birthday and Elizabeth wanted to get her a cake with trains and angels.  I'm not sure how she comes up with these things but she always does!  Needless to say, I don't need much arm twisting to get a chocolate and raspberry cake with butter frosting from my favorite bakery.  Let me tell you, these ones are worth every single calorie! And Andrew was thrilled to sing Happy birthday and blow out the candles three times so all was well!