Sunday, August 31, 2008

Isla 2008

Here's a Photoshow I made from our most recent trip to Isla Mujeres in May 2008. We spent two weeks on the island -- one at the new Mar y Sol, and the last week at Casa Luna Turquesa.

This was our first stay on the bayside of the island. We enjoyed the solitude, but would probably not stay there again since it's not within walking distance to town. The second week at Luna Turquesa was once again wonderful. We stayed there for a month in 2006, so it was like coming home again to our same upper level studio with its outstanding views! I truly could LIVE in that studio!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Labor Day -- The Last Day of Summer

Labor Day now always reminds me of my childhood summers growing up in a small town -- Oswego, Kansas. While Labor Day always seemed like the last official day of summer, it officially started with Memorial Day. The city pool opened on Memorial Day and it was the center of my summer existence. My mother would take me shopping the week before in Joplin, Missouri to buy my new summer uniform -- the swimsuit. My mother also took me to Neva, the local beautician, to get my summer pixie cut. (Kind of like a summer buzz cut for a boy, but she left me a little bit of hair!) On Memorial Day, by noon, I'd be waiting on the driveway dressed in my new bathing suit. Some years, I can remember standing out there in my swimsuit with an old towel hanging over my neck (we didn't buy beach towels!) extremely disgusted in the 60 degree rain. My mom had already informed me that the pool opening was cancelled due to weather, but I was hoping for divine intervention.

My summer life soon fell into a pattern after Memorial Day. Mid-morning, I'd walk the three blocks to 'downtown' Oswego to exchange my books at the red brick (donated by Carnegie Foundation) library. I'd then stop by McClellan's Drugstore to sit on the round revolving stools at the soda fountain and drink my nickel cherry Coke. Sometimes I'd wander to the Five and Dime to check out the assorted toys and candy, or I'd walk three blocks on down Fourth Street to visit my grandparents and check if my grandmother had baked one of her banana or coconut creme pies. If my cousins were visiting from Kansas City, we'd have a race with my grandfather on his way to the bakery to buy the daily loaf of fresh bread. He'd drive and we'd run alongsidethe car. He'd usually let us win. LOL

This is the bakery a little bit before my time.


But I was ALWAYS back home by 11 a.m. to start suiting up for the main event. Around 11:30 a.m., I'd hop on my trusty blue and white Schwinn to make the ride up the street to my friend Celeste's house. I'd wait while she finished her lunch and favorite game show on television. We'd then mount the bikes again and take the backroads to the city pool, down a curving hill by the 'hollows' and back up a steep gravel road that led into the city park. The Oswego park sat on a bluff above the Neosho River. The pool was one of those WPA projects with a nice stone bathhouse. We usually arrived before 12:30 p.m. and were the first in line waiting for the 1 p.m. pool opening. Then the entire afternoon, until around 4:00 p.m., was spent at the pool. (Unfortunately, I'd never heard of sunscreen at that point in my life.)

The Trusty Schwinn

All the fun was in the simple things. At night, we'd run all over town catching lightning bugs in a big mayo jar to see who could make the brightest lantern. Some evenings, we'd hop on our bikes to chase the DDT mist that was spewed from a sprayer towed by a city truck. I distinctly remember the city worker stopping to tell all of us kids to back off because the spray was NOT good for us, but we'd always resume the chase. At least one night a week, I'd man right field on a girl's softball team (right field always gets the most talented players! LOL). I dreaded game days because we were not supposed to go swimming because it would supposedly sap all of our energy for game night (but I usually tried to sneak in a swim at the pool anyway). I was a voracious reader and also consumed all the teen romance novels from the library shelves.

Fourth of July was always a bit of a depressing day for me. It was hump day -- a reminder that summer was halfway gone. Actually, the Fourth started early, as soon as the Little League opened their annual fireworks stand. We set off Blackcats and bottle rockets for at least a week in advance of the holiday. My grandfather built us a little cannon. We'd substitute crushed pop cans, etc... for cannon balls and use firecrackers strung together for the fire power. On the actual evening of the Fourth, my parents would have a large BBQ for friends. My dad's specialty was barbequed chicken and my mom was known for her potato salad and baked beans. All of us kids would try to get the Christy's toy poodle to drink beer from a bowl and play hide and seek all over our block until it was time for the homemade ice cream. Afterwards, we'd all head to the football stadium for the town fireworks display. It was all so big and exciting back then!

Later in July, my parents would load the family car for the annual family vacation. One year it was Colorado, another year California with all points in between (Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Great Salt Lake, San Francisco, etc...). No matter what their financial situation, my parents always managed to take us somewhere for a week or two each summer -- New Orleans, Washington D.C., Texas, etc.... I marvel at that now because it must have been a struggle at times.

New Orleans French Quarters

After the county fair in mid-August, it was all downhill from there. School started early in Kansas -- usually before Labor Day in the third or fourth week of August.

Labor Day was usually a family event. My mother, a schoolteacher, was already back to work, so too busy to put on a large party. My parents would usually pack a picnic basket and some old tire innertubes into the car and take us to Noel, Missouri to float the river and picnic.

Those were the fun days of summer!

Oswego's Fanciest Home -- The Deming Mansion

Since we're far away from family now, we usually spend Labor Day with friends. Since moving from Seattle, we usually barbeque at our house. This year we'll include a childhood friend and her husband who've recently bought the house down the street from us, and some other close friends from our old neighborhood in Seattle who just happen to live a few miles away from us now.

Since we live in the Phoenix area now, Labor Day no longer signals the end of summer. I wonder if that 'no white pants, white belt, and white shoes after Labor Day rule' really applies down here? Ha!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Tropical Travels

For my first post on this blog, I thought I'd open with a couple of my favorite places to visit. We've always enjoyed trips to tropical destinations. I think the obsession started during our 20-year stay in the Seattle area. Most people who deal with that gloom on a daily basis feel the urge to escape somewhere sunny, especially in the rainy season (which can last for 12 months)! About a year after we moved to Seattle from the Midwest, we decided to take our first trip to Kauai. That trip started a pattern that has lasted since the late 80's.

We used to stay on the sunny end of Kauai down in Poipu, but after moving to Phoenix two years ago, we've decided the North shore is the place! During a hot Phoenix summer, it's wonderful to escape to a beachy clime that has warm tropical rain everyday at some point (not to mention all the lush greenery).

Tunnels Beach is one of our favorite places on the North shore to snorkel and hang out.

Tunnels by Day

Tunnels in the Evening Light

Bali Hai Sunset

There are several other noteworthy snorkeling beachs on Kauai's North shore. One is Ke'e Beach at the end of the road. When you're out in the water snorkeling here, you catch a great view of the gorgeous Napali coastline!

Napali View from Ke'e Beach

Another great snorkeling beach is Hideaway's in the Princeville Resort area. Parking is hard to come by and the trail down to the beach is extremely steep and slick, but it's worth the effort. You'll see lots of colorful fish and even a few turtles! Outfitters from Hanalei use this beach as their destination on kayaking/snorkeling tours.

Hideaways Beach

Our other favorite tropical destination is Isla Mujeres, a small funky island off the coast of Cancun. We went there the first time on a whim in 2002 when we had Alaska Airlines points to burn and wanted the most bang for our buck. A friend at the gym told me about a funky little island he and his wife had visited in the late 80's that had a wonderful palm lined beach where you could wade out in the shallow water forever! I did some online research and found a room at a brand new small hotel that has just opened -- Hotel Secreto. The price was $75 a night including tax and breakfast. When we arrived and saw the room and view, we definitely knew that this was Heaven! We've returned many times since, usually twice a year. When my husband's too busy with work to go, it's a safe destination where I can travel solo. Here are a few of my favorite pics of Isla!

The Blue Caribe

Local Candy Store

Isla Pelicans

Playa Norte

Beach at Mar y Sol

Lighthouse on Medina