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December 2011

Just too funny...

Last night, mom was telling me about Nicole and Erin's Black Friday shopping adventures at Toys-R-Us. Apparently, Nicole had to call mom at midnight to come help her load up all her loot (to be fair, Nicole has a small car). Then today, Nicole sent us all a link to the Washington Post - I thought it was just an article about all the lines.

Even better.

Nicole's Black Friday at Toys-R-Us

Yup. That's Nicole with her cart full of goodies, heading out to the parking lot. I guess she saw people taking pictures but didn't know what it was for until afterwards. But they spelled her name right!

This is one of the big differences between my sister and I. There's no way on earth you could get me out of bed to wait in line forever in the freezing cold. I'd rather pay a few bucks more, order it on Amazon and get free 2-day shipping with Prime. lol. But, she did need most of this for Aubrey's bedroom in their new house... something she hasn't really had (she's bunking in the dining nook). So I say, props for scoring good deals on stuff you need to get anyway!

Mostly I just thought it was cool that Nicole was in the Washington Post :)


I love Thanksgiving Weekend

Especially this year, when I really needed a few days to decompress and get things in order. And sleep... still sleeping more than I think I should be, but who am I to argue with what my body tells me? lol. But it's been a lovely weekend. Thursday, I was able to sleep in and read a bit, do some picking up around the house, fold laundry, and bake rolls for Thanksgiving dinner. I went over to Melody's house - it was so nice to be able to join her family for Thanksgiving.

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And a fabulous dinner - Melody did a great job.

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And writing down what we're grateful for this year to put in the Blessing Box.

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And Melody and I:

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There's so much that I'm grateful for this year - and having good friends to spend the holiday with is definitely on the list!

Yesterday I didn't sleep late, but read a book and then did some work around the house, got in a good workout and then got dressed and went out to do some much needed grocery shopping and gas up the car. I came back with a cup of mint cocoa and started pulling out my Christmas gear. I got the tree set up, the bannister done and the basics of the trees in the entry way, as well as the tree and lights in my bedroom. This year I decided not to do the two mini trees in the kitchen and moved them - one in the entry (3 there now) and one in my room, which I LOVE. I'm so glad I did that. By the end of the night I just needed to put ornaments on the trees and a few other details.

This morning, I slept REALLY late and then I worked all afternoon finishing up the decorating. It doesn't look all the different from the last few years, but I took a few pictures anyway.

The little tree on my dresser in my room:

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My big tree in the living room:

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This year I moved the nativity from the coffee table to the dining table (why not? It's not like I ever eat there), using a gorgeous square table runner I picked up in Dubai:

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And my hanging fairies (and you can see me two torros from Cusco on top of the cabinet - buena suerte a la casa).

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Looking out from the couch up the stairs:

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My landing with my 3rd tree... I had to get a new set of white lights, but I found a perfect basket to put the tree in so it would go with the others. They're all covered with birds and butterflies again this year:

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And finally, the bannister. This year I added to it - I had a roll of turquoise polyester that I wrapped around, then I hung a few vintage gold and turquoise balls and some gold snowflakes. Finally, I had two strands of fun little camels from Dubai. They're meant to hang (I have a larger strand hanging in my room) but I love the fun look they bring when wrapped around the bannister. Anything to make walking up and down stairs more fun, right?

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And now, decorating is done and all the boxes are put away... floors are vacuumed (although I'm sure more glitter will make an appearance before I know it). I can't believe this weekend is going so quickly - it's already Saturday night! (sleeping in is lovely, but it sure sucks time!) It's time to heat up some leftovers, get my Sunday School lesson ready to go, and stop procrastinating on some Christmas projects I need to get finished. So, I'm off to do that! And hopefully also pick out what photos I want for my Scrapbook on the Road so I can get those printed and added in. Once that's done, I'll take some pictures and post it.

With that, a belated Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!


Peru Wrap-up Post

I can't believe I've been back more than a week... my brain is definitely still in Peru a lot of the time but I think I'm mostly back to the real world now. It took me about a week to get caught up on my sleep - I wasn't jet-lagged, just really tired. Too much fun and excitement on the trip combined with a few hard hotel beds and I didn't get a lot of sleep on the trip. But it really was an amazing adventure. Alas, it's time to wrap it up and move on to other projects.

Our last morning in Machu Picchu Pueblo / Aguas Calientes, we did an 8:30am excursion at the hotel to see the 3 Andean bears they have in captivity there. It's part of a program that they do to rescue the bears (which are endangered), rehabilitate them and then re-release them when they're ready. The bears were having their breakfast when we got there, and it was fun to watch them. They're really quite beautiful.

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This is the oldest, Pepe. He's about 22 - the bears live to be about 25-26, so he was getting up there. He was pacing the cage facing a path, obviously wanting out! He and Kevin had a bit of a stand-off.

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After hanging with the bears, Emily and I went back out to see the petroglyphs and get a few pictures.

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After that, we hung out around the fire in the lobby during a little tropical rainstorm. It was lovely to sit in the warmth - everything about this hotel was really fabulous. I was also amused to look around the room and see that every single person from our group either had an iPad or a Kindle to keep themselves occupied. lol. After the rain, we walked down to the Inkaterra cafe for a last lunch. A lovely little 3-course lunch... lol. I had a fabulous soup, a rigatoni with veggies in cream sauce, and crema volteada for dessert. It was decadent, but wonderful. After that, we walked down to the train station to catch the Hiram Bingham back to Cusco. Again, just gorgeous views for the entire journey, although the atmosphere was quite different. We were leaving in late afternoon and the train was full of talking and energy instead of the quiet awe from the early morning trip out.

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About an hour or so away from Cusco, we were passing by a certain area where they announced that there was some kind of celebration including a costumed person - it was too loud for me to catch the whole explanation, but we got our own demonstration! He came out and tried to surprise people in their seats and then grabbed Lisa for a dance up and down the aisle.

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That was followed by an alpaca wool clothing fashion show, put on by our car attendants and cheered on by our costumed friend. The "models" really had a fun time with it and worked their outfits. There were a lot of really gorgeous things, but I did manage to refrain, although it was a near thing. Thankfully Jim was there to help me recognize being caught up in the moment (our group did a LOT of buying) vs. really wanting something. So I just admired. We got back to Cusco around 7:30 and with the traffic, our bus got us to the hotel shortly after 8. We met down in the hotel restaurant for our farewell dinner at 8:30 where we had a really fabulous final meal. We also had a great time - our end of the table couldn't stop laughing and it made it really fun. At the end, Jim presented all of us with signed copies of "Chicken Soup for the Christmas Soul" which has one of his stories - a lovely parting gift. We shared a toast and savored our desserts and then went to our rooms to pack and get some sleep.

Tuesday morning was our last day, so Mary, Francesca, Gianluca and I all went out for a little early shopping. We went to the grocery store down the street - a few people wanted to pick up gifts and some snacks to take home with us (why don't we have all those delicious little cookies and things like they do?) and I also got a bag of native quinoa to cook with at home. Then we went to a few more of the native handcraft markets that seem to dot all of the tourist areas in the city.

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I got the last of the gifts I was looking for - I did quite a lot of Christmas shopping in Peru... not for everyone, but a few things that I thought certain people would really like. And presents for me, of course. lol. It's too bad mom couldn't be with me on this trip - she would have adored all the markets. Nicole too.

We went back to the hotel and packed up our purchases and put our suitcases out for pickup and then a smaller group of us headed over to the monastery next door to our hotel where they have the ruins of the Incan sun temple, Qorikancha. We already had tickets from our city tour a few days before - we had spent too long at the alpaca showroom and didn't have time to do it then, so we wanted to make sure to see it. The monastery and church were built up around the ruins after the Spanish conquered Cusco - it was given as a gift, but some of the original walls and things are still there.

Here you can see the original walls inside of the ones built for the monastery:

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There was also a place where you could walk outside and down onto the front lawn where there was a beautiful view out toward the city:

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After our visit to Qorikancha, we split up for lunch or whatever... Emily and I took off to check out some nearby restaurants and ended up in a little place on a street behind the hotel. I was able to try aji de gallina, which a friend at work put on the list of foods that I needed to try in Peru (it's a yellow pepper sauce served with chicken, potatoes and rice). It was delicious. They also served the fried corn kernels that are typical Peruvian food the way we serve chips or bread. They were so addictive! Like our Corn Nuts only way better.

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After lunch, Emily and I found a few little shops on that street that had very good prices - I was able to get two clay torros like the ones we saw at our hotel in Aguas Calientes - they put them on the roof of a house when it's completed to bring good luck and prosperity. The guy sold them to me for 5 soles each, so about $2. We went back and managed to wrangle our goodies into our carry-on bags, and then it was off to the airport.

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We had a pretty good flight from Cusco to Lima where we had to wait about 3 hours before we could check in for our flight to Miami. Like I said earlier... the Lima airport is weird. We were already checked through from Iquitos to Miami, but I don't know why they bothered. We had Subway (during our visits to the Lima airport we'd already tried most everything else) and alfajores and hot chocolate from Starbucks before getting in line. That was a nightmare. We were in line for 2 hours because our flight ended up being canceled so they were trying to re-route people, but then our flight was rescheduled but delayed. No one would ever say for sure what happened, but my guess is that since the airport closed at 1am (like I said, totally weird airport), and the plane coming in was running so late, they didn't think they could get us out before the airport closed. Then the airplane ended up coming in early enough that they thought they could turn it. So we made it onto our plane and were sitting at the gate at 12:30am with them telling us to hurry up and get in our seats so we could take off before the airport closed. I still can't quite get past that... maybe it's some kind of regulation that's unique to Lima or Peru that they can't have planes going in and out after 1am? But either way, we made it. And again, I was totally exhausted so combining that with some Excedrin PM had me completely unconscious until the captain announced our final descent into Miami.

Once we got there and got our bags (about 6:30am), I said goodbye to Francesca, Gianluca and Emily who were getting in a rental car to go out shopping (Francesca and Gianluca were staying a few days and Emily's flight to London didn't leave until like 6pm) and then I sat with Marilyn and Lisa until Lisa's husband came to get them. By then, I was able to head up to Delta and check in my bag, and then it was just business as usual. I ran into my friend Eric in Minneapolis - small world, right? and then Melody was picking me up in SLC at about 8pm. It was such a shock to be outside in the cold! It hasn't been that cold here in the last week, but I've busted out my heavy coats. Coming back to this weather from a tropical climate only makes me miss Peru more. But I'm mostly back in the swing of things... back at work, laundry done, mostly unpacked and caught up on sleep. But I have to say, this trip was definitely worth the 2 year wait with all of the delays and postponements (I was originally supposed to go in March 2010). I feel silly saying it was the trip of a lifetime, because honestly, I've been blessed to have a lot of those. But it was. And I'd even go so far as to say that it's one of the best trips I've ever been on, if not the best trip. I had a wonderful time, met great people and made lovely new friends, and did some really amazing things and saw incredible sites. I would go back there in a second. I loved it all.


Inca Kola fix

Lookie what I just found! Looks like I can get my Inca Kola fix after all. Now to see if it tastes the same. Hopefully it's close enough. I have more stuff from the end of my trip to share... We'll get there. I'm still recovering from the trip, but it was absolutely awesome.

Inca Kola fix


Peru day 8 part 1

I don't know that there's much to be said about my visit to Machu Picchu that isn't said better through the photos, so I'll just set them up a bit and let them speak for themselves.

It. Was. Awesome.

We left early to get there when the site opened at 6:30am and it was worth it. The drive to the entrance was about 25 minutes and wound up the side of the mountain through breathtaking scenery. The views around us were just jaw dropping. When we got into the site, we started walking along the path and could see the buildings, but the mountains were shrouded in mist. As we walked closer, the view became clearer and my breath just - literally - caught in my chest. As we stood there, the mists started to part and it seemed so mysterious and ethereal. You could feel the power in this place, much like the Sacred Valley, and understand exactly why the Incans chose to build there despite the challenges of the location. It was stunning. We walked and climbed all over the site for about four hours, until it got hot and crowded and we had seen almost everything.

It was surreal. It was amazing. It was everything you hope for when looking at those photos, but the sense of being there just blows you away.

Peru day 8 part 1

Peru day 8 part 1

Peru day 8 part 1

Peru day 8 part 1

Peru day 8 part 1



Peru day 7

The final leg of our trip began at about 4:30am when we got up to get ready. Our bags had to be at our doors for pickup by 5am and then we had to be in the lobby ready to go by 5:45. Our shuttle came to pick us up to go to the train station and we took off with one personal item and one carry-on with a max of 18 lbs. we made it in plenty of time to get on board and situated for our trip. The train ride was about 55 miles or so, but took 3.5 hours. However, it was probably one of the most incredibly beautiful things I've seen in a long time... maybe ever!

As we got further away from Cusco, the mountains got bigger. I've been through a lot of gorgeous mountain scenery and at first, I thought this was going to be similar. I was shortly proven very wrong as we got fully in to the Sacred Valley of the Incas. The clouds and mist swirled around the tops of soaring green peaks. There were tiny farms with run down buildings and people tending their fields with these incredible mountains all around. There were a few small towns, like Ollantaytambo and also scattered ruins along the tracks. In some places there were sheer cliffs inches from one side of the train and a drop off to a winding river on the other. As we went further, the surroundings became increasingly tropical. There were no overhead shelves at the seats as there were windows all along the top so we could see the tops of the mountains around us. In the early morning quiet, there was almost a reverence as we passed through. I've seen hundreds of photos of Machu Picchu, but I had never thought about the journey to get there. The Sacred Valley was one of the most beautiful places I've ever seen. It was really quite powerful and even a bit emotional.

When we finally pulled into the station at Aguas Calientes, we were all super excited. We got off and picked up our bags and met the rep from the hotel and then walked five minutes uphill to the most incredible hotel I've ever stayed at: the Inkaterra Hotel. I took tons of pictures but they just don't do it justice. My room was awesome with stone floors, beautiful framed windows left open to the breeze and the sight and smell of tropical flowers just outside. My favorite part was a wonderful window lounge where I spent quite a lot of time while we were there. Right after checking in, Emily and I went to sign up for some of the free excursions offered by the hotel. We had a lovely lunch and then went on the nature / orchid walk. There are 372 species of orchids on premises. Most of them weren't in bloom yet, but we learned a lot about them as well as some of the birds and hummingbirds and other plants. It was a lovely walk after which we relaxed in our rooms before meeting again at 5:30 for a twilight walk where we carried lanterns through the dark tropical forest and learned about Incan religion, the Quechua culture and the effects of the mudslides and flooding last year. At the end we were also able to see some Incan petroglyphs at the site where a mummy was uncovered. From there to an awesome three course dinner at the restaurant (which had an amazing chef) and then bed to get ready for an early morning at Machu Picchu. It was almost like Christmas Eve!

Peru day 7

Peru day 7

Peru day 7

Peru day 7

Peru day 7


Peru day 6 part 1

Our first full day in Cusco. We had a tour in the morning where we went to a few ruins outside of the city and then a few sites inside the city. And we shopped.

First stop was Saqsaywaman, which I had been told was a place we definitely wanted to go to so I was excited that it was on the itinerary. That was really cool - there were a few pieces to it. We also got to see the start of the Inca trail.

On the way back into town we stopped at a place that manufactures alpaca wool products and, naturally, has a huge showroom where they could make us a very good price. We learned about the differences in wool and how to tell the fakes from real with street vendors and markets. Then they let us loose in the store for 30 minutes. I splurged a bit, but I had planned on it. They had really beautiful stuff and fairly reasonable prices.

From there, we went to the main square and visited the cathedral which was really incredible. I couldn't take pictures, but some of the carving in there was insane. After that our tour was over so we went back and dipped stuff in our rooms and headed back out. We had a light, late lunch and then hit a nearby artisan market which is always fun.

Then Francesca, Emily and I happened to catch a parade celebrating the anniversary of tour guides which was really fun. Francesca and I managed to find a grocery store where we picked up a few snacks for our train rides as well as a few gifts to take home.

Then, a bunch of us met and walked to an optional dinner show where we listened to some really lovely Andean music and a few dancers and had some good traditional food - I had papas a la huancaina, lomo saltado and a torta de chocolate. It was all good and the show was great. We were all beat at the end of the day and just went to our rooms to get our bags ready for a super early train to Macchu Picchu... Stay tuned for more on that trip.

Peru day 6 part 1

Peru day 6 part 1

Peru day 6 part 1

Peru day 6 part 1

Peru day 6 part 1



Peru day 5 part 3

First photo... I'm totally addicted to Inca Cola and finally found a light version at the airport this afternoon.
Second and third photos... Some of the amazing views from the plane as we landed in Cusco.
Fourth photo... The coca tea we were supposed to drink that made me sick instead.
Fifth photo... The view from the window in my room at dusk. Can we just say, gorgeous?

Peru day 5 part 2

Peru day 5 part 2

Peru day 5 part 2

Peru day 5 part 2

Peru day 5 part 2


Peru day 5 part 1

Last night we stayed in Lima and this morning we had a few hours before we needed to meet in the lobby to head to the airport. Lots of the group decided to take advantage and sleep in, but Emily, Gianluca, Francesca and I decided to make an early start and make the most of our time in the city. We figured none of us was likely to come back to Lima, so why not? We found out how much it should cost for a taxi to the main square and then used that as a basis to negotiate with a private taxi to hire him for the morning. We got three hours for $40. Not bad. He took us to the main square and then looped around and found a small garage to park. He got out with us and walked us around and was basically our tour guide. Gianluca and Francesca are from Italy so between them and me, we managed communication with our driver, Jorge, who spoke only Spanish.

We saw the cathedral de Lima (which was closed when we were there), as well as the church next door which we entered - it was stunning. Amazing ceilings and hand painted tiles all along the walls. Then we walked over to the Iglesia San Francisco and went inside and it was gorgeous as well.

As we walked back, Jorge showed us a shop that was the best place in the city to purchase leather. Francesca got a great purse for a good deal, and as an Italian, she knows good leather. I was eying a pair of ankle boots that I still wish I could have bought, but 378 soles was too much for me to justify.

We walked back through the square to the taxi and then he took us on a drive through Miraflores, which is the district where the beach is located. We didn't have time to get out and take pictures so I got what I could from inside the taxi. It was stunning, though. Then back to the hotel. We left Jorge with a nice tip and then went to Starbucks for hot chocolate. They also had turron, which I was told to try and it was delicious.

Then, we finished packing and got on our shuttle to the airport for our flight to Cusco. It was a bumpy one, going over all the mountains, but we landed safe and sound. However, as soon as we left the plane, the 11,000+ elevation hit and we were all feeling it to different degrees. I wasn't too out of breath, but a nasty sinus headache kicked in. During our group checkin at our hotel they served us coca tea, which helps with the altitude sickness. Two sips of the tea only helped me with was getting nauseated, so I stopped drinking and just took my headache medicine once I got to the room.

I have an incredible view out the window, which I've opened for the lovely breeze and the sounds of the locals outside. It reminds me of our hotel room the last time I was in Venice - comforting rather than irritating like the noise outside the hotel in Lima. We're meeting for dinner in an hour and then taking it easy tonight as we adjust to the altitude. Tomorrow, great tours of the city and some nearby ruins and them, shopping! We have done barely any of that so far and we're all chomping at the bit. So far I like Cusco much more than Lima... The views flying into the city were incredible. I can't wait to explore.

Peru day 5 part 1

Peru day 5 part 1

Peru day 5 part 1

Peru day 5 part 1

Peru day 5 part 1


Peru day 4 part 2

If you look closely in the first photo, you'll see the back and dorsal of a pink freshwater dolphin... They live in the amazon and are quite hard to capture on film, so I'm really pleased I got something! The others are from piranha fishing and then the visit to an animal sanctuary.

Peru day 4 part 2

Peru day 4 part 2

Peru day 4 part 2

Peru day 4 part 2

Peru day 4 part 2


Peru day 4 part 1

I'm annoyed. I had a lovely post typed out and it all got lost when I plugged in my iPad to charge. Argh! It was too much to retype since it's late and I should be asleep. Hopefully the pictures explain a lot. I'll just say, I'm in Lima tonight and I already miss the amazon. I'm in a gorgeous hotel, I just had a bubble bath with a fluffy bathrobe after, I have a comfy king sized bed and a room bigger than the footprint of my townhouse in Utah. But I miss the amazon. I miss the rainforest symphony lulling me to sleep... I miss looking outside to see the trees and the river. I miss the sense of isolation and the total peace. Tonight I've listened to non stop car alarms, someone shoveling on cement, loud people drunk on the street and lots of traffic noises. My view, while lovely, is of busy streets and sky scrapers in the distance. I've left a sort of paradise behind and even a hint of reality has me pondering the feasibility of a summer home in the amazon. I loved it. Loved. It.

Peru day 4 part 1

Peru day 4 part 1

Peru day 4 part 1

Peru day 4 part 1

Peru day 4 part 1


Peru day 3 part 1

We went an hour and 40 minutes further upriver to the world's longest canopy walkway. I'm totally scared of heights but got through until I felt comfortable. It was amazing... It's all so beautiful, everywhere you look. There were 14 suspension bridges and some were well over 100 feet long and more than 80 feet tall. We hiked 5 miles through the rainforest to get there, soaking wet in the humidity. Worth every drop of sweat.

Peru day 3 part 1

Peru day 3 part 1

Peru day 3 part 1

Peru day 3 part 1

Peru day 3 part 1


Hola! Peru day 1 part 1

Hello from the Amazon! I'm hanging out in the lounge of our lodge, enjoying tropical breezes with a gorgeous view of the Amazon river behind me and the sounds of the jungle all around. It's pretty incredible. I left Salt Lake early Saturday morning, despite the snow... managed to catch my connection in Atlanta even though we arrived late, and my bags and I all got to Miami on time with no issues. I had to wait about 8 hours before I could check my bag for the flight to Lima, but I just killed time with a sandwich and some galletas from the bakery and a few books. The only thing that stunk was that the airport was freezing! But I finally got checked in and went to the gate a little after 11pm where other members of the tour started to show up. Then daylight savings ended and we had to wait another hour for our 2:40am flight before boarding, I took my malaria pill (note to self... never again take without food!) and some excedrin pm. I was semi-comatose before we even took off, 3/4 comatose when they tried to serve us dinner at 4am, and then completely out until the captain came on announcing that we had begun our final descent into Lima. I've never, ever slept that well on the plane. (Except possibly that one time on the way back from Oregon when I had gotten sun poisoning while being seasick on a boat while deep sea fishing. I took some of Nicole's prescription motion sickness medicine and was totally out. But I digress.) I actually got a good night sleep!

We landed in Lima where we realized, that airport is whacked. You don't recheck your bags after you go through customs, they pop you back out to the main ticketing area where you have to wait in line all over again, they recheck the bags that were already checked through to Iquitos with new baggage claims and boarding passes. Then you have to go through security again. But I did manage to get some Dunkin Donuts for breakfast. Some very sweet and nummy hot chocolate that I drank in the security line along with a donut filled with manjar blanco (a girl at work that served her mission in Peru told me to eat anything I found that had that in it). It's like dulce de leche and it's fabulous. Then we got on our flight to Iquitos where I sat between Lisa and her mom Marilyn and we chatted all the way. They brought us drinks and these cute little box snacks with sweet bread, galletas and a chocolate filled with more manjar blanco. We all took the lids off the boxes and our wrappers to keep. The attendant just laughed at our "recuerdos."

We landed in Iquitos after gorgeous views of the jungle and rivers from above. It was a tiny airport and we got off on the Tarmac and turned around to see our plane on this tiny strip of asphalt surrounded by jungle. From there, we took a cool little bus through the city of Iquitos and got a little spiel about it along the way. Such an interesting city. We went to the river where we switched over to a boat to head about 25 miles up river to our lodge. We met in the lounge where we had refreshing glasses of cocona  juice and then got our rooms. I was originally supposed to be rooming with Emily, but they gave us both single bungalos. So I went over to my room and took a very lovely shower before meeting everyone to do a short jungle walk to help initiate us to the amazon. We saw this huge ceiba tree that was just gorgeous, along with flowers and mushrooms, frogs, birds... And we were warned to watch out for the local monkeys and the occasional sloth. Right now I'm just enjoying the peace, beauty and the breeze while some of the other group members tried out the hot tub that has a slide that goes down hill from the hot tub into the pool. I did bring my swimming suit and we're here for four days so I might check it out. Right now I'm more intrigued by the hammock room down the hill.

Here are a few pictures, starting with the group totally frozen in the terminal at the Miami airport.

Hola!

Hola!

Hola!

Hola!

Hola!


T Minus 16 hours...

... give or take.

Tomorrow I'm leaving for Peru... yay! This has been such a long time coming that I can hardly believe I'm really going. I've been slowly getting ready for a while now... I have to start my anti-malaria medication tonight, and I've been piling up things I need... renting movie downloads on my iPad, getting books loaded onto my Kindle, buying extra Instax film and making lists of clothes to take (do you know how hard it is to plan a wardrobe for the Amazon jungle? Yikes!) I've been re-stocking my travel medicine kit and working through the fresh produce in my fridge. But I didn't really start to feel like I was actually going until last night when I was finishing my Scrapbook on the Road for this trip. I've loved doing that for my last two trips, so I had to put one together. It's been crazy getting everything done, but I finished it last night and put together the kit that's going with me. It's gotten smaller with each trip, which is definitely a good thing! Here's my kit for this time around:

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Not too bad! My first one was much bigger, although this album is pretty good-sized. (And not that yellow in real life. I used Golden Indian Yellow which is really more of an ochre, and there are highlights of dark green and red over the raised areas.)

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I loved the modeling paste with stencils on my Myrtle Beach album, so I did something similar with this one. I cut the bookboard and covered the outsides with gesso and then spread the modeling paste using a Crafter's Workshop 6x6 Birds of Paradise stencil. I let that dry and then added the letters - they're old Li'l Davis chipboard letters - colored and kind of glossy. I also added the Tim Holtz Grungeboard hinges,  glued it all down and just painted over the whole thing. I did two coats and then used my brush to just lightly spread the green over the rasied areas, then added a few dots of red and some glitter mica paste because I figured it was already getting over the top, why not go all the way?

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After it all dried, I added some embroidered fabric ribbon along the edges. I liked it because it looks like the fabrics that I always see people bring back from Central and South America. I found a bunch of it mixed in with a lot of vintage lace I picked up at Deseret Industries. As usual, I had tons of fun making the covers. I kept it a lot simpler on the inside, though.

I made a lot of inside pages - 3 sections, separated with thick plastic dividers from an old CK kit. Here are a bunch of them, but by no means all!

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That camera and the paper behind it is from an October Afternoon chipboard mini album. The holes were a perfect fit and I thought it would be fun. We'll see if I keep it in there.

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The calendar is a page from a Hampton Arts journaling set. I stamped on it - I'm going to fill in the dates with where we are each day.

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I used tons of maps in here - maps and butterflies were my theme, so to speak. I've been saving this paper forever... old Collage Press. It's behind one of the plastic dividers (this section is for the Amazon). The wooden butterflies came with a Studio Calico kit and I adhered them with Glossy Accents - works perfectly! Doesn't show through on the back.

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lots of pockets waiting for cards, brochures, ticket stubs and other goodies...

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The transparency is from the old CK Kit (Just for Fun, I think) and I used gel medium to adhere a page from a vintage world atlas to the back of it. It has old facts and figures about Peru.

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Above is the beginning of the second section (for Cusco). The map paper is not adhered but I really like the look of it.

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Above is a map of Peru from my vintage atlas adhered with gel medium to the back of the third plastic divider (for Macchu Picchu), Maya Road butterflies on the top.

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I did say there were lots of maps... lol.

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Another transparency page. This might look a bit familiar... I had the transparency, it was late and I was tired but I wanted to do something cool with it. The stamped / Pan Pastel flowers I did on the vintage dictionary page were sitting right next to me and the page was the exact same size as my transparency. I figured it was fate and whipped out some more gel medium. I love it.

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And a final page for my trip home at the end.

So there's my SOTR for the trip... I've got to charge my electronics, do a load of laundry, pack and stress over the snow we're supposed to get tonight. Then it's off to an early flight to Miami. Cross your fingers that there are no delays and my bag gets there with me! Can I just say that it's kind of stressful to plan things to meet up with a tour group? I gave myself plenty of time in the schedule, but I'm still going to stress until I get my bags, re-check for the flight to Lima and get back through security. But once I hit that point, it's party time :)

I should have wireless for part of the trip, so I'll check in when I can. (Believe it or not, our lodge in the Amazon is the one place I know for sure we have wireless! I'll reserve judgment until I see how fast it is, however. lol.)

TGIF & TTYL!


The birthday post

Last weekend was my birthday... yay! The last three years I've spent my birthday with my family either here or in Virginia, so it was a little weird to be here without them this year. But, with Melody and her family here, we still got together for a fun night. Since I love cookies more than just about anything, when Melody told me she wanted to throw me a small party and asked what I wanted to do, I decided that I wanted a cookie party instead of cake and ice cream. So between the two of us, we came up with quite a spread of goodies!

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It was nearly impossible to keep the kids out of it. Samuel thought it was pretty funny to sneak up and break off a corner of one of my candy corn cookies (I made them almost just like this, only I dyed the dough light orange, and dipped the tops in yellow instead of chocolate. They were yummy.). It kind of was, actually. lol. Melody also made those really cute owl s'mores from an idea we found on Pinterest.

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We did plenty of munching and played games - a few rounds of Apples to Apples and also Family Feud (the DVD version). We had a pretty good time with the games. Lots of fun!

Laura and Tim were both super sweet and brought me presents, even though I told everyone not to bring anything. But they were lovely - both were wonderful! A great book from Tim called The Dovekeepers that looks really good, and an awesome charm bracelet from Laura covered with shoes :)

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And pictures with two of my favorite people...

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It was a fun birthday party :)

On Sunday, I got to talk to my family. Since Adorable-Niece-Aubrey's birthday is 2 days before mine, they were celebrating on Sunday night. Instead of just calling, I Skyped them with my iPad and got to watch the whole celebration. Watching Aubrey scarf her birthday cupcake was hysterical. That little girl can eat! She had never had frosting before and quite enjoyed it. She ate every crumb and then sucked all the frosting off her fingers. lol. I also loved watching her open presents. She has a little stuffed pig that she adores, and she liked to steal her cousin Eraleigh's giraffe pillow pet, so I set her a piggy pillow pet. She went nuts. It was the funniest thing I've seen in a long time. Little squeals of delight as she picked it up and hugged it and laid down on it and just wouldn't let it go. Since it was only the second present she opened, it was a bit of a problem. lol. I was pronouned the uncontested winner for the best present of the night. I was so glad I got to watch it, I just wished that Skype was recording it while we were on the phone. I also loved that Eraleigh was so entranced with the video thing that she kept trying to get in front so she could see me and I could see her. She kept announcing that I was her "very best friend." It was super cute... I think watching Aubrey's birthday party was a highlight of the weekend. We'll definitely have to Skype more often!

And another birthday has come and gone... it was a good year :)