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Thursday, May 31, 2012

My New Favorite Swimsuit

I've recently become an affiliate for the company that makes my new favorite swimsuits. I have two. One in black and the one pictured below: mango. My favorite. The top is the triangle style and the bottoms are the European brief cut. No, not that European. If you don't know what an affiliate is....I'm not sure how well I can explain it. But I'll try. I put a link on my blog and if you click on it and then order a suit from their website they give me a commission. And I'm about to order two new suits from them (I'm thinking the french mulberry and the ocean), so I figure I might as well make a commission on my own order, right? Anyway, they are not only super cute suits but they come in the best colors and are very sporty. In other words: supportive. The bottoms have a draw sting and the top has the cutest criss cross back with a tie. Which means that if you're a swimmer (occasionally I fancy myself a swimmer) you can synch everything up and do laps without equipment malfunction and without an atrocious one piece with built in shelf bra. Barf. My girlfriend Amy wears hers while surfing. She likes the scooped brief bottoms and the vent top.

" Honeeeeey? I think I'm about to jibe the genoaaaaaa......"

"Uh-oh. Hard a port! I'm givin' 'er all she's got Cap'n!" (name that movie)

So if you're in the market for a super cute new suit check THESE out....
Tell them Heather sent you. Just kidding. They'll know...

Snorkeling at the Blue Hole

The Blue Hole at Lighthouse Reef Atoll (an atoll is a sunken island - but on our boat it has come to mean...well, it has other meanings) was created when an underwater cavern sunk into itself. It makes a near perfect circle about 1000 feet across and 400 feet deep. It is a popular dive destination here in Belize with boats shuttling divers regularly from the mainland and the barrier islands. When we visited we were unbelievably lucky to have it completely to ourselves. It was magnificently eery to snorkel the reef that lines the perimeter of the hole. The reef itself is in shallow water but the depth plunges dramatically into darkness just a few feet away. The underwater pictures below are from our snorkel. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Mudda's Day

Have I mentioned how much I love Belize? And one of my favorite things is the language.  Locals speak English and Creole, both of which bounce happily off the tongue with a jolly islan' rhydm. 
I could listen to it all day. 
We spent Mudda's Day in Cay Caulker. It's a little island toward the north end of the Barrier Islands. It was nice, but more touristy than Placencia, and as such, not as much to our liking. But we had a nice day with breakfast at Amor Cafe (yummy!) and then we rented a golf cart to cruise the sandy streets. A highlight was seeing a cayman (salt water croc) near the airstrip. 

Evie and I enjoying our new hand me down blow up kayak from Mistral. 

Laundry detail. 

"Whot ah lokey mudda." Breakfast at Amor Cafe on Cay Caulker for Mother's Day. 

 The kids and I have ventured into a delicious new hobby of making our own bread. Salt water bread. Cinnamon swirl bread. Amish white bread. We even made our own doughnuts. So fun. 

 Salt water bread made with fresh salt water from Tobacco Cay. 
(Per the recipe found in Dove - a must read.) 

 Our rented ride on Cay Caulker and a(nother) nasty storm front blowing in. 

 I just loved this tall and skinny house on Cay Caulker. 

The sandy streets of Cay Caulker. 

Tobacco Cay. This is a charming (albeit tiny) little isle with friendly people and lovely island architecture. This picture doesn't do it justice. It was a dreary day. 

We enjoyed exploring the little island and visiting with the locals. The kids got their fix of running and tree climbing. 

Capitan insisted that I dock Balance in Placencia. I was sweaty nervous, but I did it! And all the pilings are still standing. Phew. 

We're back in Placencia until the weather permits us to head east to the Bay Islands of Honduras (Monday or Tuesday). Thom arrived on Friday and we've been enjoying sharing all of the delights of Placencia with him. 

Thanks for checking in! Next stop - the Bay Islands. 

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Cat's Cat (get it?)

Our kitty has brought such joy to our boat. When he's not sleeping he's a blur of fur as he chases and pounces on everything that moves (including our feet). He learned to use his litter box on his very first night (after doing his dooty on the dirt at the marina we put a nougat in a tub of sand on the boat and he totally got the hint). He's claimed a cozy spot with his "blankie" on the shelf above the dinette and sleeps soundly through the night. Thank heavens. As you can imagine, the kids adore him and I often have to break up disputes regarding whose turn it is to "play" with him. Like a favorite new toy. 

Alas, my research has proven that taking him home will be difficult at best. Panama offers the biggest hurdles, requiring expensive licenses, vet visits, and proof of home quarantine. All of which I would obstinately and happily do except that the perfect scenario for a new home for him has magically presented itself here in Placencia. As sad as it will be for us to say good-bye it would be so much more sad to wake up one morning after an all night crossing to find that he's fallen overboard somewhere between Belize and Honduras. I have nightmares. (As if I don't have enough fodder for nightmares. Please.) Besides, he gets seasick. Pobre. So for his sake and my mental well being we will be handing him over to our friend, Tracy, later this afternoon. She will love him as much as we do (she already does). And we'll be taking with us the fondest of memories of our time with our darling little kitty. 

 We've all loved having a kitty on board. He's made our boat feel very homey. 

 He's so cute and little. 

His spot behind the dinette. 

 I wish I could train my kids to barf in their littler box when they're seasick. Brilliant. 

 Kitty's got the helm.

We take him to the islands now and then which he pretty much hates. He meows and meows and looks around like he's being stalked. One time, upon returning from Goff's Cay he thought he could jump to the big boat from the dinghy. He actually would have made it if the sugar scoop had been made of...say...couch and not fiberglass. His little claws could not find purchase and he slid right into the ocean. Emerson was in the water faster than fast and past him up to Cole's waiting hands. The whole thing was over in 2.3 seconds and we all had a belly roll that left us aching. A quick fresh water rinse and a towel dry and he was soon passed out on Cole's lap from the trauma of it all. 

Being a Cat's cat is tough business. 

Taste testing this hog fish. Yummy. 

 Playing chess with Emerson. Check.

"Mama says I'm still too little to venture outside, but I'm pretty sure I just saw a flying fish."


 He loves to sleep curled up under our chins. 

 Table dancing. 

We're so going to miss this darling face. 
But we're so lucky to have found him a loving home here in Placencia. 
Thanks for loving him, Miss Tracy! 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Clothing Optional

I like to refer to this portion of our trip as the “Clothing Optional” Leg. The kids have come to call it the “Mom! Put Something On!” Leg. Anyway, as far as I’m concerned clothing is simply unnecessary at this latitude. Unless, of course, you are assigned by the capitan to do bow watch on the way to the Blue Hole in order to keep an eye out for protruding coral heads. And, of course, the twins join you on the bow. They’ve never seen the light of day (except for that one time at the lake...). And even though it’s before 9am and you think sunscreen is not yet necessary, 30 minutes of tropical sun proves too much for the most delicate skin of your yonder regions. Thank goodness for the aloe plant you have on board. After two weeks, the peeling has finally subsided and the twins are as pasty white as ever. Tan boobs are simply not in your genetic make up. So sorry. 

So aside from that second degree burn, complete with water blisters, I have so enjoyed the freedom of having the boat and the islands to ourselves and the unlimited options of “island attire” subsequently available to us. {The kids aren’t nearly as enthusiastic. If they weren’t entirely traumatized by life on a small sailboat before, they surely are now.} A’ course, hoisting the main sail without the help of supportive accoutrements hasn’t proven to be the most graceful of maneuvers. And there was that one time while the twins and I were at the helm (in the shade) when from out of nowhere, hidden by the genoa until it was entirely upon my port quarter, appeared a shuttle dory full of locals commuting to work from Coco Plum Cay to Dangriga. I jumped in utter shock, having seen nary a soul in two days, gathering the twins protectively in my arms. The locals waved heartily in my direction, smiles all around, and I gave them my very best tyrannosauras arm wave back while the girls turned a brilliant shade of crimson, and not from the sun.*

Due to the aforementioned nature of this leg I don’t have many pictures that are suitable for sharing.
But I will say this...
The turquoise of the water contrasted by the pasty white of the....sails. 
Surprisingly stunning. 

*Cross your arms across your chest. Now wave without moving your arms. This is the tyrannosaurus wave. Haven't you seen Toy Story

Monday, May 14, 2012

Holiday Ro-o-o-oad.....

As most of you know we LOVE a good road trip. And, of course we love a holiday within a holiday. So to celebrate Soli’s birthday weekend we rented a sweet ride and took the kids on an inland adventure through the beautiful Belize countryside.  

It was so cozy to be back in an SUVwith the kiddies buckled safely into the back seats and my hubby behind the wheel. 

Gorgeous colonial architecture in Belize City. 
Countryside outside of Belmopan near Spanish Lookout. 

I love this little house. Typical Belizean style. 
We started our adventure on Saturday morning with a visit to the Belize Zoo. The highlight was the private jaguar encounter with Junior Buddy the jaguar. He entertained us with somersaults and kisses while the kids got to feed him chicken legs, scratch his back and feel his velvety soft paws (through a specially designed cage, of course).

Then back on the road, we stopped for a yummy Belizean lunch at Cheers. (Dave wants you to ignore his gray and I want you to ignore my wrinkles. I guess that's what happens when you take 4 kids sailing in the Caribbean for five months. Hmmph.)

On to our fabulous hotel, the Five Sisters, in the Mountain Pine Ridge Forest Reserve where we swam in the falls and enjoyed the cooler mountain climate. I was enthralled by how happily the pines and palms intermingled. It was sensational to see fire flies zipping through the bromeliad clad pine trees. And the smell! A mix of pine and vanilla orchids and plumeria. Heavenly. Have I mentioned that you simply must visit Belize?

The staff was waiting with tropical beverages when we checked in! Shut up. Such unadulterated pampering. I almost cried. And check out the view of The Five Sisters Falls. 

The falls at Five Sisters. 
So refreshing...

The fresh water was a welcomed respite. 

The kids clamored all over the rocks with only a 25% "slip-and-fall" rate. Just a couple of bruises and a headache but luckily she didn't have a concussion. Sheesh. 

 It felt like Tahoe in the summer. (But the water was warmer - no snow melt.)

Emerson will be twelve next month. He's struggled some over the past few months with the infiltrating hormones. Homeschooling, living on a sailboat and sleeping with his sister haven't helped the mood swings. Oh the joys of tweenagehood. 

Cole was quick to find a section in the slippery rocks where he could make a water slide. Yee-haw!

This trip has been good for family bonding. Once we got over the initial shock, that is. Or maybe because of the initial shock. Hmm.

Being one of only two groups on the premises (it's slow season) the staff spoiled us rotten, and our “jungalow” was so absolutely cozy. Perched high above the falls, the subtle roar of the river was soothing and magical. Our jungalow was two levels with a king bed and bath downstairs. It was heavenly to sleep under a down comforter listening to the hum of the falls and breathing in the cool mountain air as it flowed in through the open screened wall.  Upstairs, under the vaulted palapa ceiling, was a queen bed, a queen fold out futon and a second bathroom. A screened in sitting room with hammock, overlooking the forest and falls, was the cherry on top. The Five Sisters Lodge in San Ignacio, Belize. 
Stay there. 

Check out time came all too quickly. But, refreshed, we hit the road anew, armed with peanut butter and banana sandwiches. We passed through the charming twin towns of Santa Elena and San Ignacio then crossed the hand cranked ferry on our way to check out the Mayan ruins of Xunantunich.

Even the kids were impressed with the huge pyramids and the immaculate grounds of the plaza. We learned about the ancient Maya (always homeschooling) and got the special treat of seeing howler monkeys in the wild. 

Adorable aren't they? 

A babe sitting on the branch behind his mama. 

Then we headed back down the hill from Xunantunich and onto the Western Highway for the 72 mile drive home (the entire width of the country). On the way, we drove through the Mennonite community of Spanish Lookout which blew our minds. Not because of the people (it was Sunday - not a soul was out and about), but because we felt like we were driving through Anytown, Middle America. We’ve become so accustomed to the traditional Belizean style wooden clapboard homes on stilts that seeing U.S. style homes with basements and bay windows and crew cabs parked out front felt -- well, it felt like home. Honestly, we could have been in the middle of Idaho with its huge grain silos and dairies and John Deer tractor retail warehouses. Leaving Canada and settling here in the 50‘s in search of unrestricted religious freedoms, the Mennonites are responsible for much of Belize’s production of milk, eggs, and poultry. We home schooled about that, too. 

After leaving Mennonite country, we stopped for a delicious dinner at Rosa’s restaurant. Of course no Stewart Family Road Trip would be complete without the adoption of a pet.  (Read the story of Morgen here and the story of Arizona here and here.) This road trip was no exception. While at dinner a darling, pathetically skinny, severely dehydrated kitten appeared out of the bushes, begging for scraps from our table. It took us 6.2 seconds (if that) to collectively decide as a family that there was no way we were leaving that kitty behind to starve to death. So after dinner we loaded back into our Expedition and drove home with our new family member in tow. Now, I’m telling the kids that our job is to get him healthy and find him a new home before we leave Belize at the end of the month. But you and I both know that I am feverishly interneting to find out how we can bring him home to the States. I’m shameless. Bleeding heart, shameless. Shoot me. 
His name? Belize, of course. "BZ" for short. 

Back at home on the boat it was bath time...

...and straight to bed for all weary travelers. 

 ***I scheduled this post to go on-line while we are in the islan's. So by the time you read it we will be checking out the scene at Cay Caulker and maybe up to San Pedro on Ambergris. Then we’ll be heading south back toward Placencia where we will reprovision and pick up Thom who will help crew for the trip back to the Bay Islands of Honduras. In Roatan, Thom will fly out and we’ll pick up the Miami grandparents for the trip back to Panama. We'll stop at Vivarios and the Columbian island of Providencia on the way. We’ll meet up with the cousins in the San Blas Islands of Panama where we’ll outfit all the children with spears and send them out to harass the unsuspecting sea life. Don’t freak out. I’m mostly kidding. Thanks so much for checking in and living this adventure with us. 
It's good to have you along. Hugs, H