Tag Archives: travel

chocolate

Chocolate Coffee Heaven

So you might think that I would’ve found Chocolate Coffee heaven in Costa Rica. After all, that is where the grow some of the best coffee and chocolate. And they do have some awesome coffee and organic chocolate (if you can find it, since most of it seems to be exported.) Alas, I had to wait until I was in central Europe not central America to find chocolate coffee heaven. It is located in a wonderful little place called Choco Cafe U Cervene Zidle (Choco Cafe at the Red Chair, Liliova 4/250, Prague, Czech Republic).
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When I first arrived in Prague a friend of mine from the states informed me she had a friend in Prague that she wanted to introduce me to. This friend is who I refer to in other posts as my favorite transplanted Texan (FTT). She has been in the Czech Republic on and off for about 12 years. After introducing ourselves on line we met in person a few weeks later. (Hubby and I were trying to find a flat, get adjusted to lower fall (not Costa Rica) temperatures, interview for jobs, etc) FTT and I planned on meeting at this pleasant little cafe. It was an adventure for me because I was still getting used to transit in Prague and I hadn’t done a lot of it on my own. I was being a wimp and going with hubby everywhere. This time I met with FTT near a tram stop and took a short walk to the cafe.

She had told me about Choco Cafe briefly and I was fairly excited to: 1. Have some chocolate (I was in dire need of chocolate at the time) 2. Have some coffee or cappuccino or even a straight I.V. of caffeine. 3. Have some girl time. I had been spending a lot of time with my boys and need less testosterone. As we walked a few blocks we talked a little but mostly I was getting to know my surroundings. She explained a few things and one thing I found most interesting was Bethlehem chapel. Jan Hus’ old stomping grounds.

Down the street and around the corner lies a sweet little cafe attached to the U Cervene Zidle Hotel (Red Chair Hotel). We had not made a reservation but lucked out because it was the middle of the afternoon. It still had plenty of patrons. Mothers with small children, couples, students, and ladies like us looking for some chocolate indulgence. Now you could get a regular cappuccino and quiche or you can go crazy.
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I went crazy I ordered the Choco Cafe (chocolate coffee) and the Cokoladovy (chocolate cake). My friend FTT ordered the Choco Cafe and 2 makronky (macaroons). The macaroons are delicious looking. But I needed chocolate fix. And I so got one.

Although I loved this place I didn’t think my husband would be into it. One day, a couple weeks later, I wanted to show him both the cafe and the chapel. So I brought him here because I knew he’d like the choco cafe. He ordered a panini and I got the quiche. Absolutely to die for. You should go here any day of the week, reservations are needed for the busy times. All the popular places take reservations. And whether you need a chocolate caffeine fix or you just want to hang in a pleasant atmosphere with a friend or hubby and enjoy the moment, this is the place.

By the way, they sell chocolate too. Lovely bars of chocolate. Dark, lavender, milk. Fancy. Less fancy.
Choco Cafe

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How Not to Lose Your Fracking Mind (My Family is the A-Team)

In my mind my family are like the characters of the A-Team. Well, sort of. And moving from the States to Costa Rica to Czech Republic with teenagers is not for the faint of heart or the weak of mind. It seems best to approach life with a bit of humor or you will lose your fracking mind. Or at least your patience. Moving in general is a nerve wracking experience. Try getting rid of almost everything, twice.

Give me a minute, I’m good. Give me an hour, I’m great. Give me six months, I’m unstoppable. COL. Hannibal Smith, A-Team. I like the colonel.  In our family my hubby is the colonel. He’s the one with a plan. I’d follow the colonel anywhere. I’ve proven that and will continue to follow him. I trust his abilities.

How Not to Lose Your Fracking Mind While Moving Around the World with Teenagers

1. Save the Legos and other childhood memories. When I was frantically packing and purging I felt like I would lose my mind. There were things I wanted to keep. Boys toys, books, and memories. I was pressed to make decisions fast. Although I had a few months to clear out the clutter nothing really happened until we were down to the wire on time. I had to step it up. I got rid of kitchen things I thought I’d keep. I got rid of clothes we or the boys  might need later. There were a lot of things I might need later. I wouldn’t need them in Costa Rica but everything could fail and I’d need them in the States. I wasn’t trusting in the calling. I was making back up plans. Then, when pressed I decided to keep what was not replaceable. Books, art, memories, kid stuff, and a few heirlooms. I purged like crazy. Got rid of linens, kitchen ware, etc. Etc. Etc. I let it go but I saved the Legos and other childhood memorabilia. One day my children will thank me.

2. Legos Rules but so do handmade gifts and books Those things I couldn’t part with. Quilts my mom made. Art and books that I’d collected. Legos that my son collected. School projects from my kids. I got rid of a lot of fluff but when it came down to it I imagined my grandchildren. I thought about things that I’d want to pass down to them. This made the decision easier. Hopefully I’ll have grandchildren some day and I’ll have things connected to memories to share with them.

I see my oldest son in the role of B.A. Baraccass. B.A. has a good heart but a bad attitude. He follows orders and has a gruff way of expressing himself. My son is a 16 year old grumpy yet lovable walking hormone machine. About 80% of the time his attitude isn’t good. Moody yet vulnerable. Total teenager. One day he’ll come back to me. Normalize I hope.

3. It’s all crap. Okay mostly crap. Seriously you don’t need all those things that are stuffed into corners and forgotten.  Rule of thumb if it’s broken, toss it (or recycle). If it doesn’t fit, give it away. If you don’t use it, give it away. Clutter will wear you out. Clearing out the clutter is more than cleaning it’s liberating. It’s life affirming.  It’s powerful. It’s totally awesome.

My younger son is Mad Dog Murdoch. No he doesn’t suffer from an mental issues like Murdoch but he is kind of crazy but crazy talented. He’s willing to put himself on YouTube and create awesome videos. He’s so creative and yet not quite like the rest of society. He’s handsome, crazy talented, and a little different.

4. Seriously, if you don’t like it or wear it, toss it. You need clothes. Clothes that look good on you and that you feel good about. Everything else can go to someone else. You need cleaning products but you don’t need gallons and gallons. If you don’t use it regularly, don’t buy it. If you clean like a mad woman and go through lots then buy lots. Otherwise buy what you need at the best price and use it. Think twice about purchases. Will you use it? How often? Is it worth it?

Face. The last character in the A-Team. I’m not gorgeous but I do like to talk. I’d say I am the most outgoing talker in our group. The extrovert. Getting myself into trouble by not thinking every through. Face is who you send in to do the talking. Most days that me, able to talk to anyone, anywhere. I don’t lie very well.

In all honesty, my hubby and I switch roles on occasion. Sometimes I’m the leader of the group but sometimes I sport a bad attitude or crazy ideas. So, in a way, we are each the leader, the face, the bad attitude, and the crazy one.

5. Take what you need. Need what you take. Get rid of the superfluous. In the end when you’ve reduced, given away, and gotten rid of things you discover it’s really not about the stuff. People and memories you make with those people are what matters. See and do things with your family and friends. Take pictures and write a blog. Share laughs and love. Make memories.  When you leave this world the memories are what they are left with. Make them good.

What do you think? Could get rid of 90 percent of everything, move across the world, and have an adventure of a lifetime?

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The road less traveled. Will you?

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You Will Be Assimilated (or Acclimating to Life in Prague)

“You will be assimilated. Your biological and technological distinctiveness will be added to our own. Resistance is futile.” Borg, Star Trek universe.
I know my geek is showing. My point is that when moving to a new country it’s important to breath in that culture and not stick out lIke a sore thumb and not act too American. The key is acclimating to life in Prague. Granted,

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if we were purely missionaries going to a land of cannibalistic hedonists we would not try to blend. But as English teachers in Prague looking less like tourists and more like Czechs has its advantages. First though you have to research and observe the differences in dress and mannerisms and begin to acclimate to your new home.
Here’s a list of things I’ve learned and observed in my first few weeks in Prague.

1. Take off your shoes. When entering someone’s home take off your shoes. It’s polite and a good custom as far as I’m concerned. Taking off your shoes keeps the floors cleaner. Most Czechs take pride and great care of their homes. They also don’t need the extra work of cleaning up after dirty feet. When slippers are provided please wear them. That’s why they are there.

2. Boots. It’s autumn and chilly. It’s time to start bundling up and wear your boots. Lovely boots with pants or with skirts. Most are reasonably heeled because of the cobbled streets. Good and sturdy but nice boots. A true necessity in Prague therefore I’ll need to get a pair.

3. Scarves. Scarves are huge here. Literally. Czech love huge scarves. I can see why with damp chilly mornings and evenings. While waiting for the metro or the bus a scarf makes a huge difference in keeping warm. I am looking forward to knitting a great big scarf or three. Until then I’ll make do with make smaller lighter versions that I brought with me.

4. Layers. As in Colorado layering your clothing is necessary. Mornings are chilly but it warms up quite nicely in the afternoon. Being able to bundle up and to remove layers when necessary is just the way to deal with the changing temps.

5. Coaster. When heading to a bar, pub, or restaurant and needing a beer place a coaster in front of you. Sometimes a beer will appear but most often it tells the waiter that you are ordering beer and they ask pilsner or dark or some such defining question. This is Czech custom and utilizing it makes you less touristy.

6. Tipping. To tip like a native you don’t really tip. You round up. If the bill is 713 Kc leave 800. Wait staff make a regular income and don’t  rely on tips like in the States. Hand them your money, say 1000, and ask for the amount you want back, say 200.

7. Read. On the train. On the bus. While waiting. Czechs love to read. This will be difficult for me because I get a bit nauseous if I try to read while moving. I’m sure I can manage to read while waiting though.

8. Quiet. Buses and metros are mostly quiet. Kids and babies make a normal amount of noise. But people in general are reading, listening to music with earbuds, texting, or talking quietly. It’s rather subdued and polite even when crowded at rush hour.

9. Quick. The speed of Prague is taking some getting used to. After 100 days if Pura Vida and the laid back pace of Costa Rica, Prague is quick. Always walking quickly to the bus or the metro or to work or to lunch. As far as I can tell Czechs are timely. A big change from our first 100 days abroad.

10. Survival Czech. Getting the lingo down for Costa Rica was easy. I’d been exposed to Spanish for years. Czech is different. So far I’ve got dobry den (hello) down. I think it’s highly important to learn key phrases when in country. Greetings and basic courtesies to start and learning the streets and metro stops. Being able to order food and drink and go grocery shopping in Czech are basic necessities.

If you try to look less like a  tourist and blend just a little you’ll go far to becoming part of your new world.

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The Chase Is On

The chase is on…chasing Italy is moving from central America to central Europe. We’ve decided to move up our plans to Europe. Originally we thought that we’d spend a year or two in Costa Rica. Learning Spanish, teaching English, exploring near and far. We’d had plans for Nicaragua and eventually Panama. You know what happens when you make plans. They are subject to variables sometimes out of your control. We are trusting that although we had a plan, this is what we are supposed to be doing. Moving to Prague.

Moving to Prague. Why Prague and not Italy? Well it’s all about the jobs and the cost of living. Currently we both need to work and we have plans to write more for the blog and otherwise. We just need a place to halfway settle in. Moving every month isn’t good for the kids or us. A little stability goes a long way. Prague looks like it will be the place. More jobs and affordable housing. What more could you ask for… how about history, architecture, and culture. Prague has it.

So our hope that we’ll both find jobs in Prague. That these jobs don’t take up all our time and we’ll get see Prague and other places with kids. We’ll take lots of pictures and write about our adventures. And hopefully we’ll get  to Italy sooner vs later.

Prague is an awesome place to start our European adventure. Historically and architecturally intact through World War II. It’s centrally located to lots of other countries we want to visit. Germany and Italy are just a train ride away. Not to mention the rest of Europe. Our kids really want to visit the UK and my understanding is that flights to and from can be highly affordable. So that could happen.

The chase is definitely on. We are indeed chasing Italy and meanwhile we are enjoying the adventure.

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My Favorite Restaurants In Sámara (or Where You Should Eat)

We were in Sámara for a mere month. Our goal was to attend TEFL school to get certified to teach English.  It was an intensive four week course and we passed with flying colors. In our down time on weekends or occasional evenings we would often find ourselves, sometimes with kids and sometimes with new friends, at one of many restaurants in this quaint but quirky little town. Here are my favorite restaurants in Sámara.

1. Bar Arriba: This fun restaurant has the best french fries in Sámara. My kids also enjoyed the chicken strips as well. Although they are family oriented during lunch and dinner it is a fun place to hang out watch a soccer match and have a beer or four. They have a ladies night on Tuesday and often have live music or a DJ to keep it lively. Most of the drinking crowd starts after nine so bringing the kids here for dinner isn’t too chaotic.  The hamburger is the best in town. (Some say the veggie burger at Luv Burger rules but I’m saying as far as beef burgers go, this is the place.) You can find them on FB at Bar Arriba.

2. Falafel Cafe: This was my go to for fast and fresh lunch. In Costa Rica a fast lunch isn’t always possible which is good when you’re on vacation but not when you’ve got a designated hour for lunch. Falafeño or the Tabbouleh plate are excellent choices. Hubby got tired of going here too many times in a row but admitted to it being an awesome little place to get a quick bite. It’s also fairly cheap and filling for this tourist town. You can locate them in the Nature Center part of town. You can find them on FB at Falafel Cafe.

3. Coco’s Mexican: This is a great little place to celebrate with family and friends. They serve typical Mexican fair which, being from Colorado, we crave from time to time. They also serve large margaritas during happy hour. When we finished class at Costa Rica TEFL this was where we went to get our relaxation on. They have happy hour specials like everyone else in town but they have Mexican food and tequila which was a major selling point for the hubby and myself. Kurt really enjoyed the Chimichanga and the Chicken Nachos were excellent. As with all outdoor restaurants in Costa Rica bring some bug spray to keep the bugs away. You can find them on FB at Coco’s Mexican Restaurant.

4. Sub Express: This was my kids and hubby’s second most favorite place to eat lunch. They have sub sandwiches and the boys favorite was the Italian sub. Very good and filling sandwiches and wraps. I enjoyed a few of their wraps and was never disappointed. You can also get some lunch meat and cheese to go. It’s pricey because it’s imported from the States but it’s good and worth when trying to feed two teenage boys. You can find them on FB at SubExpress

5. Restaurante Makizu Sámara: We really enjoyed our time here with friends. Kurt and I usually don’t have sushi but our friends do. Kurt had never tried sushi before coming to this place. He tried it and liked it. He ordered the Chicken Adobo and thought it was super amazing . I had Philadelphia rolls and a few bites of the sushi platter in trade for my large serving of Philly rolls. The rest of the table ordered a large sushi platter which was pretty to look at and tasted fabulous. Everyone truly enjoyed their experience. You can find this great restaurant on FB at Makizu Samara.

Honorable mention: Vela Latina, Lo Que Hay, Flying Taco, Pizzeria Paraiso. I’ll cover these restaurants and maybe more in a later post.

Sámara, A Love Letter

Dear Sámara,
I want to tell you how much I’ve enjoyed meeting you. At first I was a little nervous about flying so far to meet someone new. You never know with the internet nowadays. You could have been so pretty and fabulous on a website but horrible in person. I’m glad you are former not the latter. From the first moment I saw you I was in awe of your beauty. Or your warmth. Of the many facets of your personality.
When I first arrived your beauty and laid back nature set me at ease immediately. How can anyone not enjoy your company with such vivid colors and intriguing attributes. In fact, I was amazed that even when we first met you held me with such warmth and grace.
Not to say everything about you is perfect. It’s not but that makes it better. Our first meal together had points of bliss and some uncomfortable points as well. You are gracious host and I appreciate your effort in making me feel at home.
After our initial meeting our relationship began to develop at profoundly comfortable pace. You’d greet me on the mornings with happiness and send me away at night with sweet thoughts. Over the course of the month I began to really begin to see how easy you are to love. Thank you for all your time and effort in this relationship.
Sadly, I have to move on. I truly wish I could stay with you. Life is calling me away. If I didn’t need to earn a living or could figure out how to stay with Sámara I would. Know this, I will return and I don’t expect you to wait for me. I would love to visit you again. I hope we can part as dear sweet friends.

Love always,
Me

Corporate America Almost Killed Us

Yep it’s true, corporate America almost killed us both but we escaped. When we moved for Kurt’s promotion nearly five years ago we thought that life was swell. (Swell is a term my oldest uses prolifically and sarcastically and I find annoying). More money, new house and new life in North Carolina. In the beginning everything seemed to be going well but as time went on I began to have an eerie feeling. Then one day, nearly two years later, I get a call and the world stopped for a moment. He had been laid off. Oddly enough, that week he had an appointment for an annual check up. His blood pressure was at stroke level. Some seriously concerned nurses started reacting very quickly. Then an another appointment to check his kidneys. They couldn’t figure out why, at his age, his pressure was through the roof so they put him on meds.

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We had to make some serious decisions. Stay or move. What kind of work. He was burnt out on IT and really wanted to do anything else. So we moved back to Colorado and he started driving a truck.

Driving a truck was enjoyable for him but it was hard on family life. So he changed it up again and started back in IT. In customer service. Answering phones. If you’ve ever met my intelligent well mannered husband you’d know he absolutely loathes phone work.

Meanwhile I decided to pitch in some. Little extra money and a discount on Christmas presents never hurts. Actually, it did. I’ve worked long hours before and I’ve done some very physical labor. This was different. During the Christmas season I started working freight for a company that starts with a K and ends with ohls. It first was one or two nights, then three or four. Finally for a few weeks I was working five overnights a week. That’s when I went from not just sleeping through the day to waking up with pain in my arms. As a massage therapist I knew I had to get blood flowing and muscles relaxed to release the pinched nerves in my neck and shoulders. I’d begin wiggling my hands then arms. Doing some self massage on my neck, shoulders, and arms. This would be hilarious because if it was still too early to wake up I’d have my eyes closed trying to remain in that half awake mode.

Then it got worse. My sweet husband noticed my hand was blue. Some stretching and moving around would eventually cause it to return to normal. I’d noticed that when I worked three nights in a row this would happen. But sometimes three nights in a row would be the only work I’d get for the week. So I continued on with a little complaining on the side.

Hating his job but willing to do it because it’s a job and pays money. It’s not that good of a job. It’s not that good of pay. Then we got an out. A possibility of a new life in a new country. A possibility of Pura Vida.

More relaxed way of life is a small yet significant reason we decided to move to Costa Rica. He wants to be more laid back and I’m totally there already. Stress has a way of making decisions for you. When life becomes too stressful, action needs to be taken.  If we continue on this path our bodies would give us even larger indicators of the need for change and we both didn’t want any more health issues.

So we’re moving to Costa Rica in search of Pura Vida. And we’ll continue to dream about Italy and plan our future adventure together. I’m hoping that we’re successful in our endeavors of teaching English and that we can relax more, eat healthier, and enjoy each other for a long time. After all, we are barely in our forties and we have so much life to live, adventures to have, and experiences yet to be.

Walking in Flip Flops

 

If you move to Costa Rica be sure to bring your flip flops. Maybe two or three pairs. Everyone at the beach town Sámara seems to be tanned, toned, and flip flop wearers. This will prove to the average newSunburncomer as a daunting fact. As a pale, jiggly, flip flop wearing Coloradoan I had some work to do. As they say in Costa Rica just wait it’ll happen. Pounds will melt off either by the heat or by exercise or a combination of both. We been here about two weeks and its starting to work. Walking everywhere, eating less and more healthily change happens. Plus a few days on the beach and you won’t be pale anymore either. Please wear sunscreen because the sun is intense this close to the equator. And even if you’re  a teenager listen to your mother and wear sunscreen. Now back to flip flops. These are an absolute must at the beach. You should get the non fabric kind Samara Rainbowbecause they will get wet and then they stretch out and you’ll have a whole new problem. Walking in flip flops can be messy business. It rains here between May and November. It rains a lot. You will be soaked from a short walk home. You’ll be glad you have flip flops because they a easy to remove when you’re soaked and muddy up to your hips. I had some older super heinous looking flip flops to wear for the month I was here at the beach. They didn’t make the month. I did all I could to make them last through muddy trips to and fro until about three days ago they went kaput. No amount of MacGyvering would keep those footwear functional. I ended up giving them a proper burial. It wasn’t sad at all. So here’s my advice bring two or three pairs of flip flops. They will get messed up in the rainy season in Costa Rica so be prepared. And wear sunscreen.  

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Why Costa Rica (or Isn’t it Chasing Italy)

In search of pura vida. Costa Rica is pura vida.

Europe and Italy are expensive. We knew this when we first purposed this dream of Italy. Dreaming is awesome you fantasize about a magical life with museum visits, restaurants, and glorious hotels. Then reality sets in and maybe just maybe Italy is a little too big bite of adventure. Especially for a family of four on a budget. There were too many ifs and maybes.

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With our budget in mind we re-accessed our choices for starting our adventure. Costa Rica came to mind. Why Costa Rica? I believe Costa Rica is kinda magical. A land where they take conservation seriously. Where family is important and value is placed on the experience not the amount of toys you die with.

The American dream has failed us. We were told to get good grades, go to college, and get a good job. Buy a house, a couple cars, and have a couple (or more) kids. All will be alright. Just keep getting more, newer, faster toys, hobbies, stuff. Fill your life with things. It’s normal to get a new car every couple years, a new computer every two years, a new cell phone every year. Just slather yourself with technology and you won’t notice life just passing you by. Sunsets, sunrises, chatting face to face. These are things you miss when you’re working away to pay for this so called life.

Or you can take a chance. Just go for it and get out there. It’s a big world, don’t you want to experience  it.

Costa Rica has beaches, mountains, volcanoes, amazing flora and fauna. It has eco tours, surfing, zip lining, hot air ballooning, hiking, fishing, bird watching, animal rescue, butterfly studying. The cuisine is simple yet exquisitely real and satisfying. Lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. And let’s not get into the coffee. It’s Costa Rica, coffee is awesome. Costa Rica is phenomenal in its culture, cuisine, and environment. Almost anyone you ask would go to Costa Rica if they had the chance. Go ahead ask them. Pura Vida.

And don’t worry we are still chasing Italy.

Things to Do in Colorado

I have lived in Colorado off and on for nearly twenty years. And yet I’ve not skied in Colorado (Kurt has in Colorado and Italy, lucky guy) or done all the things you do in Colorado. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, I’ve been to a handful of places like Rocky Mountain National Park, Garden of the Gods, Red Rocks, Chautauqua and Roxborough parks, and Guanella Pass. We’ve been to the botanical gardens, Butterfly Pavilion, both zoos, and the aquarium. We’ve definitely done stuff. But there are a few things we would really like to see and experience before we leave the country. And my youngest son has made a list. The list includes Rocky Mountain National Park, Mesa Verde, Sand Dunes, Royal Gorge, Botanical Gardens, Manitou cliff dwellings and Garden of the Gods.

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Garden of the Gods, Rocky Mountain National Park and Roxborough Park. These are places we’ve been before but the boys don’t remember or really want to see again. It’s been years and they haven’t changed but are amazing and a must to see if ever in Colorado.

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Manitou Cliff dwellings, Royal Gorge, Mesa Verde, Four Corners and the Sand Dunes are among the places we like to visit before our departure. These are classically Colorado sights that Kurt hasn’t been to in decades and my boys and I have never seen. Great places to take pictures and have a little adventure.

Outside of Colorado are two places we’d like to squeeze in over a long weekend. Mount Rushmore and Yellowstone National Park. My son would like to see buffalo in their natural habitat. That being said Yellowstone is pretty cool with Old Faithful and all. I was there as a kid and still remember how spectacular the geysers were and how amazing the buffalo and moose were to see roaming around.

So I’m beginning to prepare for our life outside of these United States and planning a few fun things to do before we get out of dodge. So over the next several weeks we’ll be going places and taking lots of pictures. Get out there and do something because it’s a big world.