Monthly Archives: November 2015

Adiós, Mexico

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Tomorrow we leave Mexico and we’re pretty sad about it. If everyone were as nice as Mexicans the world would be a better place. From helping us with our limited Spanish to lending a hand when needed, we’ve been touched by the kindness we’ve felt over the last few weeks. From Puerto Morelos, to Tulum, to Playa del Carmen, and finally Cancún – it’s a little hard to believe we’ve been here for more than a month, the time truly as flown. The days were a blur of baby life, beach moments, and spreading the buzz about my new biz, Fosterie.

In a few days we’ll celebrate Evelina’s first birthday (and if you think I’m shock that this is happening you’d be correct.) Then, it’s time to head home for the holidays (and hopefully cool off a bit.) I can’t think of a better way to close out this year than spending time with my family in Tennessee. We started this adventure almost six months ago and as wonderful as it is, everyone needs a little break once in a while.

Birthday updates and more coming this way soon!

Thanksgiving & Grace

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If I could only choose one thing to be thankful for this year, it would have to be this little girl right here. At this time last November, I was in the final days of pregnancy. And this year, we’re a little less than a week away from celebrating her first birthday. (And, no, I have no idea how that happened either.)

I never could have imagined anything quite like this motherhood journey. The amount of love. The instincts. The savoring of every moment so much it hurts. Every age and stage is bittersweet. From the first moment I held her, the first time she smiled, rolled, sat, stood, cooed, crawled, and most recently, walked. It’s a year of never-ending firsts that happen all to quickly. A new skill or funny face, transformed or forgotten for the next. Don’t blink or you’ll miss it, they said. I didn’t blink, but I already miss it.

This is my last “first” holiday with her and I’m emotional about it.

Alex asks me why I always want to cry when we talk about her growing. And I really don’t know. I’m happy she’s happy. Healthy. Smart. And sweet. As much as she’s learning, also am I. The love she brings to this life is as tangible as reaching out and grabbing it. She has Evelina Grace’d my life with the hugest blessings that come in the form of petite moments. Seeing eyes light up at her first baby doll, experiencing my parents as grandparents, my friends as “aunties”, her tiny, tender hugs, the joy she (and we) find in simple things.

It’s a love so pure and astounding that I think maybe I fear one day it’ll disappear, as quickly as her cute snorty face laugh, or her tiny kicking chicken legs all day every day until one day they just didn’t. But then she started giggling like a little girl and it made my heart smile even bigger. And she stopped kicking because she decided to walk. When she holds my finger for support with her tiny hand my insides turn into a puddle of mush. And maybe that’s why I cry. Because I’m so happy about what she’s done that I forget to think about what’s to come. And because I don’t want to forget a single second of it.

I am so grateful for the “firsts”. And glad they were the first of “many’s”.

So here’s to the past, the present, and everything beyond.

Happy Thanksgiving from me and mine to you and yours!

(And thank you for reading the words I write and supporting me here and elsewhere. It truly means more than you know.)

Introducing, Fosterie

 

coming soon*butterflies in my belly*

I’m very excited (and a little nervous!) to let you in on a little news…

But first, a story.

Travel has always been an important part of my career and my personal life. It’s an eye opener and that’s one of the reasons I enjoy it so much – different cultures, different surroundings, different struggles.  It brings awareness to what’s really important like nothing else can.  From hungry children in Cambodia and Nicaragua, lack of maternal and infant care, to the lasting effects of natural disasters, the scenes are sometimes hard to stomach.

On the other hand, we get to see beautiful places, meet wonderful people, and my personal favorite, a first hand look at local artisans and their stunning handmade products.

Motivated to combine my experience in retail buying and passion for travel with a greater purpose, the idea for Fosterie was born. To “foster” means to encourage or promote development and I’d like to do just that.

lifeofuseMy goal was to partner with a philanthropic institution as a recipient to a portion of proceeds but I struggled to narrow it down. There are so many causes I’m passionate about, how could I choose just one?

Thankfully, serendipity took over and I was lead to Heart to Heart International, an organization that strengthens communities through improving health access, providing humanitarian development and crisis relief worldwide. From disaster response and community support, to children’s health and medical labs, they go where the needs are domestically and internationally, providing Care Kits, volunteers, and supplies and I am absolutely thrilled to have partnered with them. (They’re narrowing it down for me!) And most of all, I’m elated to announce that for each item purchased from Fosterie, 10% will be donated to Heart to Heart International.

For now, I’m beginning with a small collection of bracelets, inspired by my first souvenir living abroad. My hope is to further expand very soon, adding more jewelry styles, as well as unique, handmade accessories from around the world.

The shop will officially open this Friday, November 28th. There’s a line up of holiday sales on the roster (as well as a few giveaways!), free shipping (every day, yay!), and lots of love coming your way so please give it a like on Facebook and a follow on Instagram for the latest scoop (and a few sneak peeks in the meantime). And please, spread the word!

On Thanksgiving Eve, I’m filled with gratitude for this opportunity and am so thankful for your support as friends and readers. I truly hope you enjoy these items as much as I do.

Inspired by the places where we’ve left our hearts, making a mark in the hearts of others.Launch

 

P.S. The blog isn’t going anywhere, it’s here to stay! :)

Chillin’ in Cancún

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After tons of playtime in Playa del Carmen, Cancún gave us a chance to hunker down and catch up on things. We stayed in town, outside of the main stretch of beach and tourist area, so we really only biked to the beach once, which was exhausting for my out-of-shape self in the heat. After all that struggle, the ocean shore was murky and we never made it back to water after that. Two weeks passed quickly with Alex and Evelina catching a cold and me trying to launch Fosterie in time for Thanksgiving. We biked around town some, but mostly I loved all the parks and shady sidewalks between neighborhoods, so I could take Evelina for walks and let her practice wobbling around on the grass. (You’ve gotta see this vid.) Once she realized that we had a little routine down, we couldn’t pass the slides and swings without her pointing and wanting to stop. One day, I met a Russian mom and her baby, so we met up with the family for dinner later that night. Traveling has introduced us to so many people we wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths with, it’s truly a gift.

We didn’t take many pictures of our time there, but I do love these few.

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And I don’t know if you’ve ever heard our “shark” story, but it’s like a total thing now. Everywhere we go it seems like there’s some kind of shark reference. (And yes, that’s a shark stroller.) Had to have a pic of this artwork in the park!

Playin’ around in Playa del Carmen

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We spent two awesome weeks in Playa del Carmen. This touristy spot was kind of the perfect stop for us after months of exploring smaller cities and beach towns. To have everything we needed at our disposal, (hi Walmart!), endless food options (to cook or to dine out), and a quick walk to the beach – we were in Heaven. We ate our weight in street food (so much flavor!), met up with a super awesome fellow travel fam we’d connected with via Instagram and became IRL friends, and drank a responsible amount of local beer.

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We also took the ferry over to Cozumel a few times, which made me pretty seasick, but was fun once we were back on land. (Side note, did anyone else’s equilibrium change after pregnancy? I’d spent tons of time on boats before baby, but my stomach can barely handle it now…bummer.)

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We visited Chankanaab on Cozumel, a place I’d been once before with my cousin on a cruise and it was strange to be back there with Alex and Evelina. Mainly because it was during that trip two years ago, as I laid on a massage table in the shade by the beach in February, that I realized there are places in the world where it’s summer year round, and I wasn’t currently living in one of them. (Life back then looked more like this.) When I got back to Chicago, I told Alex we should move to an island, and the rest is history. We don’t live on an island. (We don’t really live anywhere). But it’s always summer where we are! Chankanaab isn’t a place I thought I’d ever be back to, and it was pretty fun to experience it with an almost one year old.

Evelina was absolutely glued to the water show. I knew she liked animals, but whoa.

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She basically sat like this whole time…

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And she got kissed by a sea lion!
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She’s part mermaid though I guess it makes sense.

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Ciao, PDC. Onward to Cancun!

Time in Tulum

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Mexico has been amazing so far. We recently spent some time in Tulum, which wasn’t anything like I anticipated, though not a negative thing, just different from what I invisioned based on information that floats around.

After our time there, in my opinion, there are two Tulum’s. One, the strip of beach filled with resorts, vegan restaurants, yoga studio’s, and darling shops. And two, the town, about a 35 minute bike ride inland. We stayed in town, and I’ll tell you, without the beach breeze to cool us down and blow away some mosquitoes, it’s a different situation than the Tulum that supermodels and celebrities probably experience. That said, our time in there was pleasant and I loved the bike path’s along main routes. We had our little routine of an early breakfast at home, a mid-morning walk to the coffee shop, street food for lunch, and afternoon naps. And since the seaweed was running rampant, we only visited the beach once day during our week stay, but it was lovely and the pina colada made it worth the almost heat stroke I endured riding bikes to get there.

Something I continue to realize the more we travel, is the contrast of what you hear about places versus reality. Never have I heard about the extreme heat and mosquitoes in Mexico like I did warning us against Nicaragua. However, I don’t ever remember being this hot, or this covered with bites in Granada… Interesting, huh?

Our rental home came with bikes, one of which was equipped with a baby seat, and Evelina loved sitting behind Alex as we rode. I would pass by and wave and she would just smile and giggle. Seeing her experiencing these little things really does fill me with simple joy.

And now, for a few photo’s.

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Onward to Playa de Carmen!

P.S. More Tulum you might have missed – Halloween and the Mayan Ruins.

This trip was Ruined

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While in Tulum, we also visited the Mayan Ruins. In all honesty, it so blazing hot that day that we barely stopped to read the signs and information posted around the site. Sad but true, we rushed from one to the next, trying to find the next shady spot.  I do find the Mayans so interesting, what bits I’ve picked up being in Mexico, and I’m searching for a good book or documentary so I can learn more. In my past life I always researched places and things before visiting, but as our time between destinations is shorter and a toddling almost toddler under foot, I’ve developed the habit of going where the wind blows then wikipedia-ing later. Here are some of pictures taken before we both thought we were going to faint in the heat. (Seriously.) (If you plan to visit bring water!) True to my easily distracted form, I also took about 98 pictures of sunbathing iguanas, a few I will bestow upon you below.

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P.S. More Tulum!

Catch the Travel Bug

nenaphoto by Joel Sharpe

One of the coolest things about traveling and living abroad is the people you meet along the way. I mean, there are some super awesome, creative, lovely people out here in this great big world. And one of those such sweethearts is Nena, who I caught up with recently to chat about expat living, the challenges of not having a 9 to 5 life, her passion for travel, and how she used it to create something amazing.

Nena Tu Camino Travelphoto by Nathalie Vigia

If I’ve learned anything over the past few months it’s that as vacationers so much of what we go to see goes unseen. We book Caribbean cruises and never step off at the ports, we fly to tropical locations and never leave the resort. And after spending a few months living the local life, I feel like I’ve become that chirpy person saying “Get out there, see more!” But I get, I really do. It’s scary out there sometimes, the unknown usually is. And other times you just want to veg out at an all-inclusive, which is totally deserved. But when you’re ready for more, where do you start? You want to experience local life, be adventurous, you just don’t know how. You may not speak the language or you’ve heard concerning things. But now, thanks to Nena, you don’t have to go it alone.

Nena started TuCamino Travel this year, fueled by her passions for Costa Rica, where she lives, and Mexico, part of her heritage. By partnering with local connections in Puerto Viejo and Sayulita she’s crafted vacations with the perfect amount of relaxation (think yoga on the beach) and adventure (surfing or exploring waterfalls anyone?) with philanthropy (each trip includes a community service project). Sign up alone or grab your girls (the trips are women only), no doubt you’ll make friends and bond during a week that could go down as one of the greatest.

Here’s just a taste. Warning: it may make you want to claim instant BFF status.

Tu Camino TravelPhoto by Tu Camino Travel

“Women are beautiful creatures. We have the power to do so much! I started TuCamino Travel wanting to empower women to build community and immerse themselves in a different culture. Sometimes, we are intimidated to travel alone. I want to be the stepping stone for women to feel good about traveling alone. Don’t get me wrong, men are awesome but there is something special about female bonds and relationships. We really get one another and connect. This is what I want from TuCamino Travel.”

 

IMG_4855photo by Darryl Wilkin

slothPhoto by Tu Camino Travel

“A favorite thing about Puerto Viejo is the jungle. It is mysterious and beautiful. It is full of color and sounds. It meets the ocean and is wild and unruly. I love it. It has taught me to be more intuitive and stop and listen. It has taught me to feel. It is captivating. Another thing I love about Puerto Viejo is the community I am surrounded by. I am so fortunate to know a group of amazing people. Good people with beautiful hearts. People who love me dearly. This community has made Puerto Viejo home for me. I am forever grateful for that.”

 

mexPhoto by Tu Camino Travel

“My favorite thing about Sayulita: Culture! I love Mexican culture. The language, the food, the colors, the traditions. All of it! Growing up, I didn’t really connect with my Mexican heritage at all. Since traveling to Mexico, meeting my family on my dad’s side, and really immersing myself in the culture, I am so proud of my heritage. The culture is amazing!”

 

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“Going back “home” is definitely strange for me every single time. I do end up feeling like an alien in my own country. How is that possible? I miss the ocean, the simplicity of everything, and my friends who are my family in Costa Rica. Everyone is running circles around me while I am standing completely still. It can be overwhelming. For me, the easiest way for me to explain what I have been doing in Costa Rica, is to show people. I have been fortunate in that a lot of my friends have come to visit, some more than once. Once they are here, they usually always say, “Nena, I get it now.””

Island+Longboard+Relax

 

Tu Camino means “your path” and Nena’s laid it out all for you. Check out her gorgeous website for the scoop and deets. (Spots are filling up fast!) Trips are 10% off through November and be sure to sign up for the the newsletter for an extra $100 off! (Pssst, her Instagram will give you major beach babe envy.)

P.S. Hey Nena, one last question – window or aisle?

“Window, please! I am way too anxious of a person to not be able to see outside. Being by the window, I feel like I can breathe, even though we are enclosed, haha! I can see outside and know what is going on. I have a hard time with letting go of control. In an airplane, I am powerless, but at least by sitting by the window I feel like I am a bit in control.”

 

 

Fall Festive

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To say you love Fall sounds as obvious as saying you love breathing, because I guess, who doesn’t really? So being able to visit my hometown in Tennessee during October was a real treat. An escape from the heat of Costa Rica, family time, and good food was just what I needed after three months in the jungle. On one beautiful, warm weekday, my Mom and I took Evelina and my niece to pick out pumpkins. I totally geeked out at doing such a “mom” activity. Loading up the stroller, picking up the the first grader from school, jumping on bouncy things – it was an absolute blast. It’s little things like this that I don’t take for granted.

In my opinion, Tennessee is beautiful year round, but there’s something about the light of fall coming through the mountains that really lets her shine. Here are a few photos from our day.

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Evelina – Eleven Months

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Ending out the tenth month means I’ve got an eleven month old on my hands, which means she’s almost a year old, which means I’m a super emotional mama over here. I haven’t felt so much bittersweetness (not a real word but whatevs) since her one month birthday, when I refused to let anyone else hold her and got teary every time I looked at her, which was basically all day. This milestone is hitting me hard! I guess because I’m exactly one month away from officially not having a baby anymore, even though in the past few months her looks and skills have been developing into more of a toddler so I should be more prepared than I am but #strugglebus….

Anyhoo, here’s a little recap if you’ve been following along.

Stats:

  • Weight: 21 pounds
  • Length: TBD
  • Eyes: blue
  • Hair: Blonde with some strawberry tints in the sun
  • Size:  size three diapers.  Mostly 9 months in clothes.
  • Looks: Like Alex mostly but sometimes me.
  • Personality: Sooo HAPPY! She rarely cries, but she will fuss when she needs to!
  • Nicknames:  Sweet Juice, Juicy, Juice, Jubee, Juba
  • Feeding/Sleeping:  6 ounces of formula every 3-4 hours and solid food. She’s eating a little less, and seems to have an aversion to slimy textures now like mango and watermelon. She also loves food pouches, which were a nice treat in Tennessee since they don’t exist in Costa Rica. Sleep wise, she slept through the nights in Tennessee but on the road she wakes up more. Bedtime is around 6pm and wake up is at 6:30/7am.

 

Likes:

  • People. She is so entertained and excited by friends, strangers, animals…anything with a pulse.
  • Standing up. She gets so proud of herself and is so close to walking
  • Smiling and laughing. Tickle fests are popular now.
  • Playing with toys that aren’t toys. Plastic ware, strings, cords, remotes, we’re on 24/7 watch to keep things away from her these days.
  • Potatoes, bananas, pumpkin
  • “Talking”. Sometimes too loud. Especially at restaurants.
  • Swimming. We’re usually in the ocean but the Cancun portion of our travels allowed for pool time which she hasn’t had since July and she loved it again. She also loved taking her bottles and naps in the shade.
  • Putting things on her head.

 

Dislikes:

  • Playing alone.
  • Blankets. Do NOT try to cover her up.
  • I wouldn’t say dislike but in Tennessee she was very curious about having to wear more clothes than normal.

 

Other highlights and happenings this month: 

  • Trip to Tennessee for a two week family visit, Cancun for a wedding, and a week in Tulum.
  • Repetitive sounds – “mama”, “dada”, “gaga”, “edun edun edun”.
  • The 5th and 6th teeth!
  • First baby doll. My grandmother gifted her one after we saw how excited she got after seeing another little girl’s doll for the first time. She immediately “kissed” it! Which leads us to…
  • Giving “kisses”! If you add “sweet” to anything and lower your voice she’ll grab it and say “mmmm” it and put it to her head like a hug. Heart melts.
  • First bike ride in a bike seat. Usually Alex wears her in the carrier but our rental bikes in Tulum included an child seat and she seemed love being able to look around more and watch me ride next to them. She also kept patting Alex’s back.
  • Halloween. I mean seriously, I cannot express how fun it was to dress her up.