Topes Y Cenotes, Tulum, Mexico Part 2 - We're there!

We landed in Cancun and breezed through customs.  For some reason, when we were going through customs in Jamaica, I was incredibly nervous, but I was not nervous at all going through Mexican customs, despite the fact that I had to discard a packet of seeds in the ladies restroom that was a favor from the wedding that we had attended the night before.  How ridiculous, right?  What are the odds that I would be given a packet of seeds the day before I go to a foreign country AND I forget to take them out of my purse?  Somewhere in a Mexican dump, there is a packet of Burpee Squash seeds growing...

Anyway, after customs, we collected our luggage.  Once you get your luggage you then go through a security checkpoint where they scan all of your luggage, including your checked bags and carry-ons.  Then, you go through an x-ray machine and at the other end of that you talk to a guy for a minute and then press a big red button.  If the light turns green, you are free to collect your luggage and go.  If the light turns red, then you have to submit your luggage to an inspection.  The inspections are random and so I think that having each person press the big button on their own makes people feel like it really is random, and people who do have to have their baggage inspected feel less specifically targeted.  But we got the green light, so we were off!

We walked into the terminal where the rental car companies were located, and noticed a currency exchange booth right next to them.  The rate that they were exchanging was $10.6 pesos for $1 USD.  I had read that the currency exchange booths in the airport didn't really give the best rate, and that if you wanted the best rate you should use your ATM card to withdraw pesos.  But DH was nervous about using our ATM card in a Mexican machine, and preferred to just exchange cash.  I figured that after the ATM fee it probably ended up evening out anyway.

We weren't mentally prepared to have to consider the rental car and currency exchange at the same time, so we were standing there, debating whether or not to exchange money first.  DH said, "Let's just exchange a little, and then we'll see if we need more later."  "But where will we get more later?" I asked.  I was torn because it really wasn't a very good exchange rate but at the same time, I had no idea where else we would be able to do it, so I said, "Let's just get our car first, ok?"  DH just followed me without arguing, because he's good like that.

So we got the Hertz counter and I pull out my handy dandy folder and we check in.  This is where the language barrier really kicked in. The guy spoke mostly Spanish, and very accented English which was hard to understand. We stumbled our way through the conversation and then he steps out from behind the counter and motions for us to follow him.  We start following and realize that we are leaving the airport terminal.  Oops.  So much for exchanging money, I guess...

So we get into the Hertz van, which takes you to the actual Hertz "store" (is that what you call them?) that is located at the airport.  We check in fairly quickly - what really took time was debating whether or not to purchase the optional insurance coverage.  I was fairly certain that my credit card that I used to pay for this trip would cover rental car insurance if something should happen, but I wasn't sure how that would work since the trip was booked through Orbitz and thus bulk-billed into one big Orbitz charge on my card.  In the end, we decided to decline the insurance altogether, although we were a little worried about what that would mean if something should happen.

We did decide to opt for the pre-paid fuel option, which meant that they filled up our tank, and we didn't have to return it at any certain level.  We probably paid more per liter than we would have at a regular gas station, but we didn't want to have to deal with the hassle of getting gas, since I had read horror stories about gas station attendants ripping off tourists who don't speak Spanish.  It was about $300 pesos to do this option, and we only used about 3/4 of the tank (you don't get your money back even if you don't use it all.)  But in the end it was only about $24 US dollars, so it was well worth it considering that we never had to go to a gas station at all, even considering how much driving we did.

As we were leaving the Hertz station, an Irishman provided us with some maps that were blatant advertisements for XCaret and Xel-Ha - two theme-park like places that we would see heavily advertised throughout our entire trip.  Once he realized that we didn't have children with us, he stopped trying to sell us on them and told us to enjoy our trip.  His final word of advice was to beware of the topes, pronounced TOE PAYS.  It took me a minute or so to understand what he was saying (DH never caught on - he thought the Irishman was saying TOLLS the entire time and when we walked out he was like "What's this about tolls?"), but I finally understood that topes were like speed bumps, located along Highway 307, the road you take to get to Tulum.  He made some marks on the map approximately where they were located, and we were off!

We had the funniest little car.  It was an "Atos by Dodge," which is made by Hyundai.  Seriously.  It had the Hyundai symbol on it, but where it would normally saying "Escort," or "CRV," it said "Atos by Dodge." Who knows.

That's our car! (The light blue one in the middle...)

DH had to be the driver because the car was manual transmission. He was definitely nervous to be driving in Mexico but I had him read up on some tips about driving in Mexico, and I was armed with maps so that I could be a great navigator. I had also done a lot of reading up on the drive to Tulum and knew that it was extremely easy, but since he was literally learning about this trip as we experienced it, he had no idea.*  We could have opted for an automatic transmission but it was more expensive and at the time that I was booking, he was all confident that he would just drive and it wouldn't be a big deal.  In the end, it really wasn't a big deal at all.

The Atos by Dodge by Hyundai - "By Dodge" is written under the Atos

So after circling the airport once (my bad, the map was confusing) we merged onto Highway 307 and we were on our way to Tulum!

 The Mexican highway

Our tiny little car made a funny squealing sound whenever we would first start going - it made it sound like we were peeling away every time we moved.  The little car also shook like crazy once we started going above 100 kilometers per hour, which made it very easy for us to stay within the speed limit.  No speeding tickets for these tourists!

Coming up - find out what topes really are, and how they rocked our world.

* It was his choice to not know anything about the trip before going.  He gave me full decision-making power, and I only asked him for input when it was something that I didn't feel comfortable deciding on, like whether or not to get a car with manual transmission.  I know that this sounds like a fairly one-sided vacation, but trust me, this is how he works.  He also knows that I am an obsessive planner when it comes to vacations, so he knew that I was doing way more research than he ever would about every single thing that he booked and he was confident in my decisions and my knowledge.  I was a travel agent in another life, I am sure of it. Besides, I think it's sort of exciting to go on a vacation that's basically a total surprise to you, right?

Topes Y Cenotes - Tulum, Mexico, Part 1 - Getting There

Our journey began a the crack of dawn on the morning of Sunday, July 11.  We had attended a wedding the evening before, and got home around midnight or so. My alarm was set for 4:30 a.m., so needless to say, I wasn't functioning at my highest level considering that I had gotten less than 4 hours of sleep. (Because you KNOW that I didn't go to bed right at midnight. Of course there were last minute packing things to do...)

Since this post will be light on pictures, here's one from the wedding we were at

Anyway, DH's younger brother so kindly agreed to drive us to the airport.  He's quite the trooper - after dropping us off, he heading straight to the rental property to continue renovations even in DH's absence.

We were both slightly nervous about how everything would pan out with this vacation.  This was our first time taking an international vacation that was not booked through a travel agent. I booked everything through Orbitz because their prices were so much lower than the prices than the travel agents quoted us. As much as we wanted to go through an agent, it just didn't make sense to throw away that extra money.

We were flying with American Airlines and had e-tickets, something that DH had never experienced before, so he was slightly concerned.  I had a big maroon Carnegie Mellon folder with all of our travel documents, maps, notes about sites to visit, etc, and fortunately that little folder never failed us.  So we did the e-check in, got our boarding passes and checked out bags.

Side note: When I booked this trip, I knew that we would likely have to pay $25 to $30 per checked bag each way, adding up to as much as $120.  At some point in the spring though, something changed and American Airlines flights to and from Mexico that were booked before a certain date (we had booked before this date) could check up to TWO bags for FREE!  How crazy right?  We were thrilled about saving $120 that could go towards other fun things.

Anyway, after getting through a particularly long security line we waited in line at McDonald's, since that is one thing that DH looks forward to every time we travel.   Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:25 and so we quickly ate and then headed to our gate around 7 a.m.

Imagine our surprise to find the gate completely empty - everyone had already boarded!  There were only two other people checking in in front of us, including two small children who were flying alone and their mother was sobbing uncontrollably as they walked away.  It was sad.

Anyway, we walked right onto the plane, into our seats, and they closed the cabin doors! Oops - apparently they were waiting for us, as we were the last people to check in, and our plane departed at least 5 minutes earlier than scheduled.  We felt sort of bad, but at the the same time knew that we weren't being unreasonable, and actually, we loved not having to wait in line to board the plane.  I felt sort of VIP for how easy things were for us.

So from Pittsburgh we flew to Dallas, where we had about a two hour layover. We went to the Bennigan's in the airport for lunch, and received some of the worst service ever.  No one knew who was supposed to serve our table so they just ignored us for about 20 minutes, and then the waitress who finally realized that it was her table came over and gave us far less than sub-par service.  I asked her to change a $10 bill into ones and then gave her a paltry tip because I was tired and cranky.  Because of this slow service, we were nearly late to board our Cancun flight, and once again breezed onto the plane without a single minute wait.  Apparently this is how we roll....

We tried to get some sleep on the plane, but we all know how difficult that can be. Plus, we were in a row of three, and I was in the middle seat, so I was afraid of falling asleep on the girl next to me.  Fortunately she was really nice, and had been to Mexico before (Cozumel.) She was actually going to Playa del Carmen for three weeks for a class and was going to be living in some sort of student housing there. 

But we were finally off, and so far, no hitches or problems!

Reviews instead of recaps

I realized recently that my Mexico vacation recaps have been "review" orientated, instead of describing our vacation as it happened.  I think that part of the reason for that is that I felt like I needed to do these recaps really quickly, but why would I need to do that?  And I think that I read so many Trip Advisor reviews before leaving that I was writing for a Trip Advisor audience.

So, without further ado, I am going to re-start these recaps, from the beginning. 

Starting tomorrow.

"Lilies in a variety of colors"

I thought I would intersperse vacation recaps with some garden updates, since a lot has happened since our vacation!!!

Back when I ordered all of those "dormant" plants, my order included 20 bulbs, which were said to be a variety of colors.  The pictures showed yellow, orange, red, white, burgandy, pink, and probably even more colors.

I was excited to see what colors I would ultimately end up with, thinking that they might all be yellow and orange.

That was definitely not the case, and although I don't really feel like I got the "variety of colors" that I was promised, the fact that they all appear to be maroon and white is a good thing.

 Do they change colors later on? Or will they be the same color every year?  For example, these lilies are supposed to "spread quickly" and "make a great ground cover."  If that's the case, as they spread will they all continue to be the same colors? 

I'll be excited when/if these actually start the spread.  As you can tell, this garden is still looking pretty sparse. I just need to remind myself that I only planted it a couple of months ago, and that I followed all of the appropriate spacing instructions (something I am NOT usually very good at.)  Hopefully in a couple of years - or maybe even next year - it will look amazing!

Dreams Tulum - Beach review

I think the beach deserves it's own write-up because it's a rather unique beach, and in my research the qualities of this beach came up a lot on sites such as Trip Advisor.

In many ways, it's actually rather run of the mill.  Your everyday tiki hut umbrellas, some randomly placed palm trees, and beautiful blue water.  The sand - for the most part - is a beautiful white color, and is generally nice and soft.

But there are a LOT of rocks just off the shoreline.

Do you see all of those rocks in the water? They made it nearly impossible to walk into the water unless you had on water shoes of some sort.

Here's another view. See all of those dark spots?  They're all rocks or reefs and are VERY painful to walk on or run into.

This meant that there weren't a lot of great opportunities for swimming in the ocean.  For the most part, this wasn't a big deal for us, since we generally prefer to swim in the pools anyway.  The only place that was really decent for swimming in was the area right in front of this giant blow-up trampoline that they called an iceberg.  Let's just say that there is NO WAY that this particular trampoline would be allowed to be used in the US.  It was falling apart, with rusty springs, half of which were missing anyway.  Do NOT let your child on this trampoline.

But, the swimming was nice in this area, and that's all that really mattered to us. 

However, if swimming is the ocean is important to you, this is probably not the place for you.  The swimming area pictured above - since it was the only area you could really swim - always had people in it.  And it really was a pretty small area overall.  It's definitely something to consider if you the kind of person that likes to swim in the ocean.

The nice thing about the water here is that it was generally pretty calm the entire week.  I personally hate getting into the ocean when there are huge waves constantly crashing over me and knocking me over. That's not fun to me.  The waves here were always really gentle and the water is fairly shallow - you can go REALLY far out (if you can handle the rocks) and it never really gets much deeper than 5 or 6 feet.

Oh, and there was usually some seaweed on the beach, but that man on the far right raked it up and carted it away every morning, so it really wasn't a problem

The plus-side to the rocky beach was that there was some decent snorkeling to be had right off of the shore.  But I'm going to save beach snorkeling (and cenote snorkeling for that matter!) for it's own post!

Paving the way

At first glance, you might think that this post title is a metaphorical one, leading to some thoughtful, well-written and perhaps even inspirational story about how I "paved the way" for someone to do something truly spectacular.

But, well, you would be wrong.

This post is literally about road paving. Our road, in fact.

 New road on the left, old road on the right

We had no idea that our road was a state maintained road, but now that we know, we're thrilled.  Our road is being paved and it was much needed.  It's a relatively thin, windy road with lots of uneven pavement and patches.  People jog and walk on it all the time, and did I mention that most people drive at least 45 miles an hour on it? It's so scary and unsafe.

So from what I can tell as we enter week three of road work is that first they worked on widening the existing road.  Literally just added some asphalt to the sides wherever they could.  Then last week they paved one full side of the road, which is at least a mile long, maybe even longer.  And this morning when I was leaving work they were finally starting work on the other lane.  It appears that they have finished half of this second lane, except for a weird strip in the middle, and I assume that they'll finish the other half tomorrow.  Then, they'll probably spend the rest of week doing something else, since seriously - does it really take three full weeks to pave a road? I guess so...

Anyway, we're excited.  The new road is going to look great, will be slightly wider (although I've already forgotten how narrow the old one was, since this one seems narrow now too), and it's raised about 2 or 3 inches higher than the previous road, so there's no bump at the end of our driveway.  I'm hoping that some of the waviness/bumpiness in certain areas of the road have been eliminated as well.

Now that I've written this, I feel really lame.  Seriously!?!? I'm excited about my road being paved?  Am I getting old? Or is this what folks out in the suburban wilderness actually get excited about?  Have I lived away from the city for so long that this is what is exciting to me? 

Dreams Tulum - Food Review

We didn't have particularly high expectations for the food at the resort - after all, it is all-inclusive and we've been to enough all-inclusives to know that the food is usually just "eh."

Dreams Tulum had a large buffet that was open every day for breakfast and lunch, and a number of specialty restaurants for dinner.  What we LOVED is that we didn't need to make reservations in advance to eat at any of the restaurants.  You simply showed up, and they seated you.  If they were full, they gave you a buzzer like you'd get a TGI Friday's and you went to the bar for a drink while you waited.  We only had to wait once and it was for about 20 minutes.

They really tried hard when it came to the presentation of the food.  Everything was super cute.

Mexican salad (above), and garden salad (below)

But even though it looked awesome, the food - in general - wasn't that great.  We've been to all-inclusives before.  We knew what to expect.  And yet we were still disappointed.  

All week we kept comparing the food (and the experience in general) to our honeymoon two years ago in Jamaica.  When we were in Jamaica, the restaurants there didn't really seem to try very hard at all, but in the end they actually did a pretty good job and the food was good.  Their food focused more on fish, beans, rice, and vegetables, and less on meat, since the cow and other animals are actually pretty sickly looking down in Jamaica.  At Dreams, they tried really hard, and had tons of meat options that would never ever have been available in Jamaica, but it was underwhelming, and the meat was usually either chewy or tough.

This pork dinner was the best meal of the week

I did eat a lot of Mexican food from the buffet, including this beauty of a plate on our last full day there.

I even ate guacamole for breakfast a couple of days that week, which - for me - is nearly heaven. 

So, here are my reviews of the restaurants.  And in case anyone ever stumbles upon this post while doing research about this resort, I'll list out all of the restaurants' names.  Here we go... 

El Patio 
The Mexican restaurant - My least favorite place for dinner.  Portions were incredibly small and didn't seem like "mexican" food at all.  Lunch was better (really enjoyed the fajitas), but the menu was really small. The Mexican salad picture above was from El Patio, and it was my favorite salad of the week.

The Italian restaurant - Really great ambiance, and the dining room is huge so they can seat a lot of people. The pasta's were good, but the chicken was incredibly chewy and thus not very good.  

The French restaurant - Definitely my favorite of all of the restaurants.  Both of our meals (pork loin and duck) were great and the bread here was super tasty.  We should have gone here twice instead trying all of the restaurants once each. 

The duck dish from Bordeaux

Sea Side Grill
The steak house - Open air restaurant, and their kitchen opens up to the seating area, so steaky smelling smoke was blowing in our direction the entire time we were sitting there.  I ordered filet mignon and while I appreciated their effort, like so many other meats, it was really chewy.  There was a cat that visited the patrons of this restaurant, and believe it or not, that was my favorite part.

That's the Sea Side Grill in the background

The Japanese restaurant - The thing that really got me with all of these specialty restaurants, is that they weren't really "specialty" at all.  Most of them served variations of the same meats - chicken, port, steak, fish, or shrimp.  I got an Asian beef dish that tasted like beef stew.  It was ok, but some of the meat was really tough.  DH got the pork and hated it because it was so tough.

At least I looked cute that night, right?

The sushi restaurant - We're not big sushi fans, so we skipped this one. 

World Cafe
This is the buffet restaurant, which is generally also open for dinner.  I would highly recommend their Mexican fiesta night if you're into Mexican food - I am, and ate a full meal here even though we had already had an enormous dinner at one of the other restaurants.  That's the nice thing about this place - they're open until 10:30 p.m. So if you didn't love your dinner, you can go here for a second meal or even just dessert. 

We also took advantage of the room service a few times, although the menu was relatively small and the food was pretty much the same quality as you would get at the restaurants.  

DH's favorite meal from room service?  

This one.

That's right - 2 plates of french fries.  Don't worry, the guy who delivered it made fun of him for it.  

The final grade: 
On food, I'm only going to give them a C. It was just average, and didn't really above and beyond enough to earn anything higher. 


Today I did manual labor, in the heat, while suffering from this stupid cold that won't go away.  But what made it fun was that we brought Murphy with us and he worked with us from the entire day.

It was a much different day than his usual ten hours of sleep and now he's passed out on the couch.  But the good news is that our Murph is finally himself again.  It took a full week but we're glad that he's back.

In a few weeks I'll have lots of before and after pictures of the ongoing renovations!  And probably a few more of our little worker-poo. (Although Murphy is not actually a cockapoo.)

Breathing is a luxury

One that I have taken for granted for far too long.  Now that this luxury has been taken away from me, I miss it... oh so much.

I am sick.  Sooo sick.  I have not been this sick in a long time.

Usually I feel like I am getting a cold, and that feeling lasts for a few days, and I might not be 100% myself, but it usually goes away and I find myself thinking, "Hmm.. I guess it wasn't a cold after all."  Sometimes it's just a runny nose, or perhaps a sore throat, but it usually doesn't manifest into anything more.  But not this time.  On Tuesday night I had that feeling - "I think I'm getting a cold..."  I went to bed, and I woke up and just knew - I had a cold.  A real one. It wasn't just a feeling this time.

It's been a long, long time since I've had a real cold.  I had the flu back in 2006 and then maybe one or two colds since then.  I have horrible allergies, so some people think that I always have a cold, but that is not the case.  When I have a real cold I am miserable.

Last night at dinner I announced, "I am not sure if I'm going to make dinner tonight.  I'm not even hungry, since I have a quart of snot and slime in my stomach that has been draining down my throat for the entire day."


Needless to say, no one else really wanted to dinner after that either. (Just kidding... I did end up making ham and fries, which was not on the menu, but I needed comfort food and my messed up taste buds were craving seasoned curly fries.)  DH - who is by now used to my sometimes overly dramatic claims - appreciated the descriptive nature in which I described the amount of fluids that I can swallowed; he is able to clearly visual a quart and immediately understood that I must have swallowed a lot of snot.

Last night we went to bed really early.  As in, like 9 p.m. early.  In fact, DH was asleep before that.  I took two benadryl's with hopes that I could just drug myself to sleep.  I propped myself up with some extra pillows to help with the drainage and dozed off.  But I'm pretty sure I never fell into a true deep sleep.  I keep waking up gasping for air - as someone who usually sleeps with her mouth wide open, I can't believe that my body was keeping my mouth closed as my nose slowly clogged, causing me to essentially suffocate in my sleep.  My legs were twitching from the sinus medication that I took.  Other times, I would be breathing just fine and then all of sudden there would be a gurgling in my breathing and I would need to go to the bathroom to blow my nose.

I remember looking at the clock at 11:10, 12:11, 1:13, 2:59, 3:34, 4:46, 5:15.... and that's just what I recall right now.  I feel like I was awake all night, probably because I was.

For every one ounce of fluids that I am taking it, I am blowing at least two out of my nose.  I would not be surprised if I go through an entire box of tissues today.  I guess I should be grateful that it's coming out instead of staying in my head.  Being stuffed up is worse - in my mind, at least - than having a constantly running nose. 

I am not a very good sick person.  I'm in a daze from the medication that I took to try to keep my nasal passages clear and my nose hurts.  I need to take 3 ibuprofen's every 3 hours in order to keep my throat from being too painful to swallow.  When I'm sick I never want to cook dinner, and right now I am responsible for preparing meals for 3 other people, who may be very angry with me if I decide to go on a cooking strike.

I hope this passes quickly.  I don't think that it's going to be necessary to visit a doctor, as long as the symptoms don't get any worse.  But in the meantime, I'm going to continue to sit here in my haze and try to remember the days of the past when breathing was something that came without effort.  Those were the days....

Dreams Tulum - Room Review

Besides the sun and sand, the room is a pretty important piece of any vacation.  Dreams Tulum - where we stayed - has two different sections of their resort - the "garden view" section, and the "Dreams" or "preferred" section.

We originally wanted to book a suite in the Dreams section, since I had read a lot of positive reviews about how much nicer those rooms were.  But at the moment that I was booking the room, DH had a small panic attack about the amount of money that we were going to be spending and I agreed to book a regular room in the garden view section, agreeing that if the rooms were super crappy when we checked in that we would complain and/or upgrade to a better. (I should say right now that in general, this trip was incredibly affordable, running us about $2200 which included the hotel, airfare, and rental car.)

Plus, we figured that we would spend almost no time at all in the room, although in reality we spent a great deal of time there because of DH's illness.

Our fabulous king sized bed - we each had our own zip code on that thing!

The living room section of our room

See that couch? There was one on each side of the room.  We didn't realize that we were even going to get couches, but they can really come in handy when one's husband is rolling around on the bed in pain and one wants to read a book while sipping a Corona. 

Anyway, keep in mind that the room that you see above was the cheapest room type that they offered!  Pretty nice, right?  We were very impressed.  There were some small issues, such as some small cracks in the plaster or the fact that the air-conditioning didn't work very well in our first room, but they moved us right away and we were happy for the rest of the week. 

What we later learned when poking our noses into the open doors of other rooms in our section that were being cleaned was that only the end rooms had the fancy couches and were slighter bigger than the rooms that were not ends because of the way that the doors were situated.  Score for us!!!

Some other things that we enjoyed about our room: 

1. The hammock on our porch!

2. And a decent sized balcony
3. The humor factor involved with having a bidet in our room, since neither of us had really ever encountered one before.

4. And finally, room service. Yes, that's right, DH did order two plates of french fries at 1 in the morning for himself. 

All in all, we enjoyed our room a great deal.  
There was one huge downside though - the room was about a 10 minute walk away from the beach and other main sections of the resort.  Sometimes it didn't seem like anything, but if you forgot something and had to run back to the room, it felt like a marathon.  Or after it rained and you had to walk really slowly because the stone walkway was super slippery when wet.  

I'm not sure - knowing what I know now - if I would have paid more up front for a closer room.  It's probably pretty likely, as long as the cost wasn't outrageous.  The long walk really was awful at times.
Final Grade - 
Hacienda Garden View Deluxe Room - B+ (not an A, because of the distance from the beach)

I think my dog is depressed

Yesterday morning I brought Murphy back to Pittsburgh, after his two week vacation living with my parents.

This photo was taken on Sunday night, before he realized that I would be ripping him away from his wonderful new life with my parents - that's why he still looks happy

So yeah, I think Murphy is pissed at me.  Or rather, depressed that he's back to his old life after two full weeks of glorious attention.

You see, Murphy is alone a lot at our house.  DH and I both work, and so Murph stays home.  We try to take him on walks in the evenings, but it definitely doesn't happen every day....

And then he went and stayed with my mom.  Who lets him sit on her lap for the entire 2 and a half hour car ride home. My mom, who takes him for walks every single day - one in the morning and one in the evening. My mom who generally only works in the mornings, so she's also around a lot more and so he wasn't alone for hours upon hours each day like he is with us.  Now that I'm processing all of this on paper (or.. err... electronic paper???) frankly, I can't blame him for being mad that I brought him back here, especially since - to make matters worse - there's a pit bull living in his house right now.

Even when I went to pick him up, he wasn't very excited to see me.  He was down the street and I started walking towards and he just wagged his tail a little... he didn't even try to come and see me! It wasn't until I got closer to him that he started walking my way, but even then, he seemed tentative.  It's enough to break a doggy mommy's heart.

What can you do for a dog who is depressed?  We're trying to give him lots of love and attention, but it's back to the grind of daily work so he's still alone a lot.  He doesn't want to eat his food, even when we put cheese and cereal and pizza and anything else we can think of in his bowl.  We even took him for a walk last night and I hope to take him for another today, but something tells me that it's going to be awhile before Murphy as we used to know him will be back to normal.

I'm back!!!!

Whew! What a week!  I now totally understand what people mean when they say that they need a vacation from their vacation.  I took today off and did more laundry than I knew we owned, and basically got nothing else done!!! Seriously - I need at least 2 more days of work.

Our Mexico vacation was good, although DH was sick for about half of it.  I felt fine all week, so it definitely wasn't from the water!  I think that it was eating a lot of Mexican dairy that made him sick.  He refuses to admit that he also thinks that the reason, but a lot of occurrences point straight back to him eating dairy, so I'm going to state right here right now that he was sick from dairy.  Fact.  Since I already avoid all dairy anyway, it makes sense that I wasn't stricken with the same illness.

I have lots of posts to write, complete with many pictures (I took over 600), including reviews about the resort, the food, and our many excursions.  And that's not even mentioning all that I have to say about the garden, which is so overwhelming right now that I just stood up there staring at it for a solid ten minutes before I could even comprehend just how much happened in one short week.

But it should be a busy week of posts!


We're in Dallas for the next couple of hours waiting for our next flight.  This is my first time in Texas although all I'm really getting to see is the airport. The views from the airplane were beautiful though!

In about 5 hours we'll be in Mexico! Only getting four hours of sleep last night means we're incredibly exhausted, but hopefully 6 full days of relaxation will cure us of that!


Last night in the states

Right now we're at the wedding of two dear friends. Tomorrow - bright and early - we're finally leaving for Mexico.

So no posting for the next few days! Don't worry- I'll have lots to say when we get back. In the meantime, enjoy your summer!

Missing Murph

This past Monday was a very sad day for me.  In preparation for our upcoming vacation, our little pooch Murphy went on his own vacation - two full weeks with his nana and papa.

He's already been gone for three days.  The afternoon right after he left, I kept forgetting that he was gone.  When I went onto our back porch I made sure to quickly shut the door so that he wouldn't get out.  I kept seeing a white bean-bag game in our yard out of the corner of my eye and thought it was my little white dog.  When I open a box of cereal or bag of chips, I waited for him to come running - he almost always gets a little cereal treat.  And last night when I was cutting watermelon and dropped a piece on the floor, I instinctively yelled, "Murph!"


Now, don't go thinking that I'm super sad, and walking around in a haze of sadness and depression.  I'm actually appreciating not having to run straight home to let him outside.  Last night we went out for wings right after work (unheard of for me!) and THEN on top of that, I went SHOPPING afterward!!! Seriously!?!? I didn't get home until after 8:30 p.m.  It was nice.  I didn't feel guilty about not being home and got a lot of good things done.

But I've also come to appreciate how much value Murph adds to my life.  He is a bundle of love every day when I get home from work.  I love how every morning when DH opens our bedroom door to say goodbye, Murph jumps right onto the bed and starts licking my face.  I love how he's always willing to cuddle no matter where I'm sitting and how whenever I hurt myself (like stub my toe or something stupid) he comes running into the room to check on me, like "what's wrong mommy!??!?"  I love the way he constantly flips the couch pillows onto the floor so that he can snuggle up against the firmer (and I guess better?) arm rests.  He's just so darn cute.

Pets can be a huge burden sometimes - they cost a lot to feed and medicate, they poop in your yard, and they can't be left alone for long periods of time.  And I can totally understand why someone might not want a pet based on those reasons.  But for me, once you have one, you can never go back.  They are always a listening ear (and they never interrupt you or talk back), they unequivocally love you, and even when they're bad it only takes a moment to look into their sweet eyes and forgive them.

Hi, my name is Lisa, and I am a dog owner for life.

We miss you Murph, but we know that you're having a great time with nana and papa! See you in a week and a half!

Tulum weather

It's finally close enough to our departure date to see the extended 10 day forecast for Tulum.  Usually I take the 10 day forecast with a grain of salt - I don't believe that meteorologists can actually predict the weather that far out, since they're very often wrong about the forecast for even just one day out.

I don't necessarily need to worry about that with Tulum though.  Partly because I'll be on vacation and so I'm going to relax no matter what the weather is like.  But partly because the weather in Tulum in the summer is pretty much the same every single day.

High's in the 80's, lows in the 70's, and a random thunderstorm pretty much every afternoon.  Hopefully the rest of the time it's sunny.  After our completely rained out Cape Cod vacation last year, I neeeeeed some beach time in the sun.

Tulum Cenotes

I've already mentioned the Tulum Mayan ruins.  The one other thing on my "must do" list is to visit at least one of two of the cenotes located in or near Tulum.

Most of the general "facts" presented below are from the Wikipedia article on cenotes.  Photos and details about the specific cenotes are all from TodoTulum.

Escondido Cenote

"Cenote" is the Mayan word meaning "well," and they're basically sinkholes that have filled with groundwater.  They're fairly unique to the Riviera Maya region, and a few other Caribbean islands.

Because of the proximity to the ocean, some of the cenotes have what is called a halocline - an area where the freshwater and saltwater mixes, which creates a blurry, swirling effect that is supposedly pretty cool.  The saltwater is heavier and so the fresh water floats on top of the saltwater.

Gran Cenote

Some of the cenotes look more like beautiful, large pools.  Most have networks of underground caves or caverns, but some - like the Gran pictured above - are actually high enough that swimmers can navigate within the caves and caverns. 

Dos Ojos is another very popular cenote.  It's relatively shallow which means that the snorkelers can watch the scuba divers below and see some of the hidden caves from their lights.  It's also apparently beautiful when the sun light streams in.

The last picture I'm going to post is from a cenote called Cristal.  It's located in the middle of the jungle and descriptions claim that you can see lots of fish and sea turtles, as well as toucans, iguanas, and these little bushy tailed raccoon-like animals that like to bug tourists for food.

The hardest part is that I'm not sure how we're going to decide which ones to go to. The four that I've mentioned above are the four that I'm currently most interested in but there are tons more!

And in you're not yet convinced that we're going to have an amazing time, here are a few more reasons why cenotes are awesome:
  1. They're obviously beautiful.
  2. Great reason to break out the snorkel gear!
  3. We have an underwater camera that I am dying to use!
  4. They're mostly in the jungle or caves, so there's little risk of my white-as-a-ghost husband getting a sunburn (AND, sun screen isn't permitted because it's dangerous to the fish and ecosystem.)
  5. Because the water comes from underground and most of it hasn't ever seen the light of day, it's apparently freezing cold! Great for a hot afternoon in Mexico in the middle of July. 
  6. They're fairly inexpensive - usually around 50 pesos per person for the smaller, less popular cenotes and 100 pesos for the bigger ones.  The dollar to peso exchange rate right now if 12.9 pesos per 1 American dollar, which means that it's like $3.90 to go to one of the smaller cenotes and $7.75 for the more popular ones. And we won't need to rent snorkel equipment since we're bringing our own!  Now that I'm writing this out and realizing all of this, there may be no reason - other than time - that we don't do a bunch of them!!!
Ready to sign on yet? I bet you could get some amazing last minute deals!

Chard salads

Last night I harvested the first batch of chard.  It's all pretty much ready to be picked, but I since I know we can't eat it all right now, I'm leaving it in the garden for as long as I can.  We have been blessed with some ridiculously amazing weather right now - highs during the day in the low 70s, lows in the mid to low 50s over night.  It's the perfect weather for crops like lettuce, spinach, and chard, and some of the smaller romaine and spinach plants that I thought were shot because of the heat are suddenly flourishing.  I love it!

Anyway, I think that chard will go into the record books as my favorite garden vegetable of 2010.  Look at how beautiful it is.

Chard is a large green leaf, oftentimes with a reddish stalk (my stalks happen to be white.)  It can be eaten raw in salads or steams or cooked like you might do with spinach.  I'm not really into the slimy consistency that I think of when I think of cooks greens, so I'm going to stick with raw chard for now. 

It's a slightly thicker leave than spinach and much thicker than regular leaf lettuce.

The true test?  I made salads for DH and his brother the other night and didn't tell them.  They'd been eating mostly spinach salads, but I'd heard that chard was slightly more bitter (although when I tasted it while washing it, I didn't think it tasted bitter.)

After dinner I said, "So, how were the salads?"  And they both said, "Umm.. good. Why?"  Because, you know, I don't usually ask about the salads at dinner.  Both were surprised to hear that they were chard salads and I was thrilled to hear that!  Otherwise, 1/6th of my garden would be a total loss.  And instead, we will be eating chard salads until we can't stand it anymore.

Organic, totally natural, on the anti-cancer diet list, AND it tastes good.  There is hope after all!