A busy birthday week in Corpus Christi, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas is a beautiful city to visit, especially when the weather is cold in my hometown of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.  Last week I surprised my sister for her birthday, spending a whole week with her visiting all of the popular tourist spots and catching up on sister stuff. The surprise party was held at Talon’s Sports Bar, owned and operated by friends of my niece, and a great location for the party to kick off the birthday week…

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As mentioned in my previous post, I did manage to get some gardening in by planting a garden in my sister’s front yard.  I do love seeing the different varieties of plants that grow in the places I travel to.  I knew that succulents and cactus are prevalent in Texas, I just never knew there were so many varieties of each…

 

Another great thing about vacations is that I don’t have to cook.  This past week I experienced most of the culinary delights Texas has to offer.   At restaurants, a few of which are located right on the water, I feasted on seafood, including delicious crab cakes and gumbo, Mexican, Italian and Thai food,  and of course steak, a Texan favourite.  Home-made, deliciously spicy, chicken tortilla soup, pico de gallo and guacamole prepared by my niece, as well as jalapeno peppers stuffed with cream cheese, then wrapped in bacon, grilled to perfection and served with sausage wraps on the beach by her husband.  I think I will stay away from the scales for a few days…

 

To wear off some of the calories, I was coerced into dancing, Texan style, at my sister’s favourite nightclubs Whiskey River and  Ropers . Thanks to her very patient and kind dancing friends Sinoel, Martin, Benny, Ray and others, I had lots of fun and many laughs trying to master the art.  One-two-three and quick-quick-slow are still echoing in my head…

 

Of course, when heading south to escape a Canadian winter, you have to go to the beach. The beaches in the Corpus Christi area of Texas are spectacular and plentiful.  Padre Island National Seashore, McGee Beach, North Beach, Packery Channel and Mustang Island are just a few popular spots.  Even though this was my fifth visit, I still find the waterfronts confusing.  Bay, gulf, channel, port…

 

My last day in Texas was the only one warm enough (78F or 26C) to hit the beach.  Although I found the water was too cold for anything more than dipping my toes, there were a few brave people playing in the waves.  It is winter in Texas too, although winter temperatures there are much more enjoyable than those here.  We walked the beach during the day and then enjoyed a bonfire on the beach using dried out Christmas trees collected from curbs in my sister’s neighbourhood…

 

We spent a few hours shopping for bargains too, and even though the Canadian dollar is currently so low in value, I was still able to get a few good deals on clothing.  Although we did not venture across the border into Mexico, I picked up a few Mexican inspired souvenirs in Texas, including an adorable ceramic gecko for my garden and some tequila…

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The best part of this trip to Texas was the opportunity to spend quality time with my sister, her children and grandchildren.  I kind of put her on the spot by showing up, not just for her surprise party, but also announcing that I was staying at her place for a week.  I had already made arrangements with her son to use his bedroom in her home for the week.  Thanks to Facebook messaging, I was able to make plans with my niece and nephews before my visit without my sister suspecting a thing.  The only time she was suspicious that something was going on was when her son got up early the morning of my arrival to clean up his room.  Also fortunate, and much appreciated, was the fact that she was able to play hooky from work all week to spend time with me, thanks to her staff Cristi, Chrisy and others.

The birthday week in Texas was a huge success and tons of fun, but over much too fast.  Reality has called me back home to Canada and my sister back to work.  Arriving back in Ottawa via Houston and Toronto, I was greeted by snow and missing luggage, both indicators that all good things must come to an end…

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Please be sure to visit my other blogs:

Laugh out loud (LOL) with me at YOUR DAILY CHUCKLE

and

be inspired and motivated by famous words of wisdom at WoW

My gardening website can be viewed at GARDENS4U

 

 

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Hola from Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic

My family (except for my eldest son, who unfortunately could not get the time off work to join us) just returned from a week of vacation in Puerto Plata in Dominican Republic.  Similar to the recent challenge post of introducing my home town, I thought I would share our time in DR through pictures. I had planned to post this from there, but vacation got in the way.

Our resort was nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the mountains, with spectacular views of both.  Although the rooms (clean and comfortable), food (lots of it, with a good variety, including many gluten free options for me) and beach (shelly, lots of coral, and short in length) were of average quality, the mountain scenery was the best feature.  This trip was planned around our youngest son’s spring break, and as it is his last year in high school he invited a few friends to join us.  The unlimited food and drink for a reasonable price and great weather was the selling feature.  After all, you do not go to the Dominican Republic for the food; you go for the weather.  The resort was one of three in a row, connected by a winding, palm tree lined walkway, approximately a ten minute walk from end to end.  Vacationers staying at any of the three hotels, all of which are under the Riu banner (Merengue Village, Merengue Garden and Bashara), were welcome to use the amenities offered at each site.

The following pictures represent a typical day, from sunrise to well after sunset…

sunrise over the mountains, right outside our balcony:

830 am breakfast was mandatory; our rule to get the boys up and moving rather than sleeping all day after partying all night:

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While a walk to the far end of the beach was next for my husband and I…

…the boys filled their day with various activities such as swimming (pool and beach), volleyball, soccer, bocce ball, basketball, kayaking, sunbathing (napping), and shopping:

The boys were on their own for lunch, often eating at the “snack bar” just steps from the beach:

snackbar2 snack bar

we often went elsewhere:

Dinner was a group event scheduled for 730 pm following an afternoon of more activities (them) and another beach walk topped off with a dip in the ocean (us)  Between the three hotels, there was plenty to do and see each evening as well:

The weather was great; hot and mostly sunny each day, with a few quick downpours, usually in the early evening or through the night.

It sure was painful to arrive back to the winter weather here in Ottawa; where would you rather be?

 

Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic: partly cloudy and 28 °C (82F)

or

Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: mostly sunny and -12 °C (10F) with winds at 26 km/h (16 mph)

Me too!

Poison Ivy turned our Vacation into a Staycation

Poison Ivy turned our two week vacation into a staycation.  A few days before our vacation, my husband was golfing in a tournament with some friends from work.  He figures that is where he picked up the poison ivy.  Of course, it could have been poison oak or sumac, but he didn’t actually notice the plants in the rough around him and only thought about it a few days later when he broke out into a rash on his legs.  Poison ivy, oak and sumac all have different looking leaves on their respective plants, but the results are the same when you come into contact with them…

We managed to get a weekend away to the zoo and a Blue Jays game in Toronto before the rash spread further, but that trip probably made things worse.  He was too embarrassed by his pink (calamine coated) legs to wear shorts, so the jeans he wore for the full day at the zoo aggravated the rash even further.  By the next day, both legs from the thigh to the ankle were affected.   Two weeks later he is just starting to recover…

We had planned to visit our cottage for most of the two weeks, but stayed home instead as he thought sitting around at the cottage not able to do any of the work we had planned up there would be too frustrating.  Not to mention he could not put sunscreen or bug spray on his legs.  So, once we returned from Toronto, he walked around the house in his underwear and a Tshirt, with his legs coated with calamine lotion, cortisone cream, Aveeno cream, you name it, we tried it…

As I often do when life gives me lemons, I made lemonade, so the time was not completely wasted.  I made a list of all the little jobs that needed doing around the house and we got those done.  We just had all of our doors and windows replaced, so the curtains and their accessories had all been removed.  The curtains are now all washed, and hanging back where they should be, except of course the ones I am tired of and need to replace.  All of our new inside door handles (we had to replace them to match the ones on our new front and side doors) are installed and look great.  The rusty cast iron urns I had purchased recently now have a nice new coat of spray paint on them and look awesome beside my garage on the driveway, and the garage is cleaned out.   We also sat out on the back deck for coffee and lunch most days, which is unusual for him.  We ate more junk food and drank more wine than usual, but that is expected when you are on vacation, isn’t it?

I also spent time working on my own gardens, which is something I never seem to get around to doing since I started a gardening business and get paid to work on other peoples’ gardens…

Back to work for both of us tomorrow, although I am not sure how he is going to make it through a whole day with pants on!

Christmas Vacations

For years, around October, I would wrack my brain trying to think of unique and useful gifts to buy my husband and three teenaged sons.  Tired of this commercialism associated with Christmas, a few years ago we asked our sons how they would feel about going south for a week over their Christmas break instead of buying them presents.  All three thought it was a great idea…

The first Christmas trip we took was to Cayo Coco in Cuba. We were lucky as the weather was great right up until a cold front came through the day before we were to go home. The hotel was decent and the beach was beautiful, although there was quite a bit of seaweed at one end. The food was plentiful but bland with very little variety. The nightly entertainment was awesome, with a different show every night. Daytime entertainment was great too, with lots of activities for the younger kids to participate in or watch. My sons played soccer, beach volleyball and water polo with the entertainment crew and many new friends they met there.

Next year the boys were asking in the summer where we were going at Christmas, so I started looking for “deals”. Because of the risk of cooler weather in Cuba, we decided to try the Dominican Republic. Our hotel was at one end of a long strip of hotels in Punta Cana. The hotel was nice and clean, and the beach was beautiful with very little seaweed; great for long walks. The food was much better here, with a greater variety and higher quality. Our New Year’s Eve “feast” was spectacular; I have never seen or eaten such a variety of seafood!

This past Christmas we went back to Dominican Republic, but stayed a different resort at the other end of Punta Cana. Although our room was clean and adequate there was an awful “swampy” smell in the rooms, perhaps coming through the ventilation from the lush, tropical landscaping surrounding one end of the hotel.   The beach was beautiful, we walked for miles every day. The food was of good quality and plentiful with a wide variety to choose from. The service at the restaurants and bars was excellent and the nightly entertainment amazing. We also went on an excursion this year where we swam with sharks (nurse sharks that don’t bite) and disarmed stingrays, and then snorkelled around a coral reef; a great experience.

Who knows what next year will bring. With our two eldest sons finished school, working full time and getting older with plans of their own, they may not be able or willing to travel with us much longer. These past few vacations together have been invaluable gifts for me, a week free of cleaning and cooking plus quality time with my favorite guys!

Lorieb is the mother of three sons, residing in Kanata, Ontario, Canada. She is the proud owner of GARDENS4U, and spends most of her time designing, planting, and restoring gardens. Her other interests include reading and writing. Please check out her website at www.gardens4u.ca