Put a bird on it!

In my last post I talked about reading the Wildwood Chronicles as a way to get a feel for Portland – the place, the people and the culture. Another great research tool that I should have spent more time with, and which inevitably came up in conversation when we told people that we were moving to Portland, is the satirical comedy sketch series filmed in and around Portland. It goes by the name of Portlandia

FredCarrie2

Portland has a reputation for…well…hipness – a reputation that I was even aware of back in New Zealand. When Olive and Edie were very little I began my foray into the world of crafting and the common denominator connecting many blogs I read, magazine articles I flipped through, and handmade objects I drooled over on Etsy, was…Portland. A quick rummage around the internet offers many reasons as to why Portland has the hip tag – hipsters like bikes apparently (which must make my husband the hippest guy around!) and Portland is known as a big cycling city; hipsters also apparently like good food and Portland is known as a foodie town; hipsters enjoy indie music and lo and behold there is a big indie music scene in Portland; hipsters like to be on the outside of traditional culture and in Portland they find that “alternative modes of thinking and doing” are welcomed. (Thanks to this site for the quote and many more musings on the origins of Portland’s hipness.)

bicycle rights

Conceived by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, a couple of very hip writers, actors and musicians, Portlandia pokes fun at all the hipness through a range of characters like hip cyclist guy above; Toni and Candace, the rude owners of a feminist bookstore; stereotypical couple Lance played by Brownstein and Nina played by Armisen – she’s very girly, he’s very strong and tough; and by many situations involving Armisen and Brownstein as themselves. Their onscreen relationship was inspired by two very famous television pals – Bert and Ernie.

Lance and Nina
Lance and Nina

Carrie and Fred are often seen with the Mayor of Portland, hilariously played by Kyle MacLachlan, working on ways to preserve Portland’s hip culture. Mayor is worried that Seattle is going to steal Portland’s thunder as a hipper, greener, cooler place to live and so he enlists Carrie and Fred’s help as Portland ambassadors. (You’ll find a range of well-known guest stars appearing on Portlandia…people like Roseanne Barr, Selma Blair, Tim Robbins, Heather Graham, Kirsten Dunst…and of course Colin Meloy who wrote The Wildwood Chronicles. These guest stars are all a bit hip wouldn’t you say?!)

In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, was seen as the Mayor's assistant.
In a hip twist, the real mayor of Portland from 2009 to 2012, Sam Adams, appeared on screen as the Mayor’s assistant.

Full disclosure…I have watched a grand total of two episodes of Portlandia but as I’ve been writing this today I have sat through many more youTube clips….and I have laughed a lot. In one of the very first episodes we are introduced to characters Bryce Shivers and Lisa Eversman…what do they do you ask? Well…they put birds on things!

Put a bird on it has become something of a slogan for Portlandia…and you’ll even find an entry for it in Urban Dictionary. I found this great Salon article which goes a long way towards explaining Portlandia…its cultural impact and its, for want of a better word, philosophy. It was written in response to the put a bird on it phenomenon and is well worth a read.

You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!
You can even buy a cross stitch kit inspired by put a bird on it!

So I can highly recommend Portlandia…New Zealand friends I’m keen to know if you’ve seen it over there…you can find it on Netflix or youTube. I believe they are working on the 6th season of the show and it was nominated for an Emmy in the recent awards.

As for me, I’m pretty pleased to discover that, as defined by Portlandia, I must be hip. Below is a picture of my collection of Moleskin notebooks…actually there are more…I just couldn’t find them all…I suspect the sketch below the picture was written with me in my mind…

IMG_4974

Here’s to being hip!

Wildwood

Once we’d made the decision to move to Portland I set about doing some research. I flicked through some city guides and cycling guides, but the bulk of my research into our new home consisted of reading the Wildwood Chronicles – a children’s fantasy series which is set in Portland.

Wildwood-series

The Wildwood Chronicles are written and illustrated by a husband and wife team who live in Portland. Colin Meloy is the lead vocalist of Portland indie folk band The Decemberists and his wife, Carson Ellis, is an award winning children’s book illustrator. It’s got elements of fairy tale, Narnia, Alice in Wonderland, Tolkien and Jim Henson’s Labyrinth; talking animals; evil industrialist tycoons and, to me anyway, a very strong plug for the power and benefits of meditation. Truth be told the reviews of this series are very mixed – it seems to be a love it or hate it kind of book. I’d seen it back in the library at John Kerr elementary  – what attracted me to it is the illustrations – but I doubt I would have made time for it had it not been set in Portland. Having said that, I did enjoy all three of the chronicles. Possibly much of that was to do with the fact that I was reading about an environment that was soon to be my home. I read the books whilst still in Bend…they got me quite excited about the move!

In one of those lovely twists of fate, we have ended up living not far from Forest Park, the Wildwood which is the key setting of the stories. The Wildwood area is also home to Pittock Mansion, an historic home that was built in 1914 for one of Portland’s founding families. Pittock Mansion features in the Wildwood Chronicles – it is the seat of Government for South Wood. (In the Wildwood Chronicles, Forest Park is divided into North Wood which is pastoral and rural, whereas the South is industrialized and urban.)

Today we took a wee stroll through some of the Wildwood trails and had a quick look at the exterior of Pittock Mansion.

Heading into Wildwood...
Heading into Wildwood.
We are loving the abundance of trees in our neck of the woods!
We are loving the abundance of trees in our neck of the woods!
Pittock Mansion. We plan to return closer to Christmas...apparently the decorations are quite spectacular.
Pittock Mansion. We plan to return closer to Christmas…apparently the decorations are quite spectacular.
Carson Ellis' rendition of Pittock Mansion juxtaposed with the real thing.
Carson Ellis’ rendition of Pittock Mansion juxtaposed with the real thing.

We are loving all the trees in Portland. We’ve nicknamed our house the tree house as that’s pretty much all you see from any of our windows, and luckily, we have a lot of them!

Our backyard...only one word for it...trees!
Our backyard…only one word for it…trees!

Much of our time since arriving in Portland has been focussed on the new house and the new school, but we did find some time last weekend to get away to the coast. One of the attractions of Portland – apart from all the trees – is it’s proximity to the sea, something us island dwellers sorely missed whilst in VA where it was a good three hour drive to get to the closest beach.

Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Had such a great day there we have booked to go back for a weekend in October.
Haystack Rock at Cannon Beach. Had such a great day there we have booked to go back for a weekend in October.
Only these two would be crazy enough to get into the water!
Only these two would be crazy enough to get into the water!
There is always time for handstand practice.
There is always time for handstand practice.
The sea! Such a beautiful sight.
The sea! Such a beautiful sight.
And I even managed to get in a photo for once!
And I even managed to get in a photo for  once!

So twenty four days after arriving in Portland we are doing well. The girls and I even survived a whole week by ourselves when Richard was taking in the delights of Cincinnati and Boston last week.

I hope to be back soon with more about our new home. We hope that all our friends and family are well and happy and that you enjoy the beginnings of our Portlandia adventure!

The Great Outdoors

As I’ve said before, our experience of public school thus far in the US has been, on the whole positive – so much so that we’re about to send the girls back to a public school in a couple of weeks. There is one area, however, where I do think New Zealand is doing a far superior job, and that’s education outside the classroom – and by that I don’t mean taking your maths books outside to sit under a tree whilst you do your sums.

The rationale for EOTC in New Zealand is outlined below:

“Students need to learn in a variety of contexts in order to gain the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and values required to enjoy a healthy lifestyle; take responsibility for their own safety; form positive and respectful relationships with their peers, their teachers, and the environment; and participate in the creation of safer communities.”

EOTC can take many forms, some of which the girls have experienced here in the United States – trips to the library, the fire station, local museums etc. But as yet I have seen no evidence of our wonderful programmes which get kids, even those in a big city, right out into nature, those wonderful school camps which I remember fondly both as a student and a teacher.

When we went back to NZ in June, Olive and Edie’s cousin was off on a three night camp with his class. I camped overnight at school as an eight year old, had a week long camp at intermediate (6th and 7th grade), and there were numerous other camps of varying lengths whilst I was at high school. As a teacher I was involved in some sort of camp, school or marae sleepover, every year that I taught. Admittedly there was a huge amount of work involved in the planning and preparation of these activities, and they require a high level of parental support and involvement, but they were so good for building a real sense of community among the children and parents. And, most importantly, for those children who would never get the opportunity to go camping, they still had the chance to experience the great outdoors with all its fun and challenges.

My observation is that, here in the States, this type of education is something that you choose to do, usually in the summer and you have to pay to do it. A quick Google search tells me that at the top end, you can expect to pay around $7,000 for a four week sleep away camp. That’s not to say that camp at school in NZ is free. There is usually a cost involved but there is a real effort to ensure that noone misses out and fundraising to cover costs is one of the learning experiences that becomes part of the process. And it costs nothing to go and hike a local trail!

Right…I shall now climb down off my soapbox!

Mindful of the fact that the girls might not get exposed to much camping/hiking style education at school, and also wanting it to be part of our family routine, we took the girls out for their first night under canvas a couple of weeks ago.

Unsurprisingly they were super excited. Olive particularly took great pride in helping Dad to get the tent up.
Unsurprisingly they were super excited. Olive particularly took great pride in helping Dad to get the tent up.
Home sweet home...it was very spacious and apart from getting a wee bit cold in the middle of the night, we all managed to get a decent sleep.
Home sweet home…it was very spacious and apart from getting a wee bit cold in the middle of the night, we all managed to get a decent sleep.
Dad even whipped up some delicious Thai chicken noodles.
Dad even whipped up some delicious Thai chicken noodles.
Which were followed by the only acceptable dessert choice when camping - s'mores!
Which were followed by the only acceptable dessert choice when camping – s’mores!
Gym is what they do...everywhere we go!
Gym is what they do…everywhere we go!
The morning after...hot lemon tea, filthy faces and big smiles...success!
The morning after…hot lemon tea, filthy faces and big smiles…success!

We stayed in a campground at Three Creeks Lake near Sisters. We’d heard there was a good walk to do which started near the campground, but we didn’t want to jeopardize the good camping vibes we’d created by suggesting a five mile hike after packing up all the gear, so we made a visit to the Sisters Coffee Company instead!

Last Sunday we headed back to Three Creeks Lake to revisit the hike that had been abandoned in favour of caffeine. It’s called the Tam McArthur Rim and it promised spectacular views of many central Oregon mountains. The day, unfortunately, wasn’t particularly clear, but the temperature was cool – good conditions for an upward hike.

At the start of the trail...looking down on Three Creeks Lake.
At the start of the trail…looking down on Three Creeks Lake.
One intrepid little hiker...
One intrepid little hiker…
regular stops plus regular snack breaks equals happy hikers...
regular stops plus regular snack breaks equals happy hikers…
one of the aforementioned mountains...Broken Top...
one of the aforementioned mountains…Broken Top…
some very nice colours on the way up...
some very nice colours on the way up…
and a rather spectacular view from the top...
and a rather spectacular view from the top…
vast and somewhat eerie...
vast and somewhat eerie…
this wee fella knew that hikers might just mean food so he was very relaxed about getting close to us...
this wee fella knew that hikers might just mean food so he was very relaxed about getting close to us…
and he gave me this image...quite possibly the best photo I've ever taken!
and he gave me this image…quite possibly the best photo I’ve ever taken!
...more pretty colours...
…more pretty colours…
the flat bit, up and off to the right of the tree fork, is where we climbed too...girls were very proud of themselves when they realised how high they'd climbed.
the flat bit, up and off to the right of the tree fork, is where we climbed to…girls were very proud of themselves when they realised how high they’d climbed.

We’re off to Portland on Friday to hand in all our paperwork and have a tour round the girl’s new school – apparently there is an Australian family starting too, so we won’t be the only ones with funny accents!  The school registration person I spoke to was super warm and welcoming so am already feeling good about it.

Take care everyone. Thanks for all the supportive and encouraging words regarding our next adventure. It really means a huge amount to all of us to know that we have so much positive energy directed our way…please keep it coming!!

The Bend roundup…

Once again it’s been weeks between posts. The days are bulleting past with so much happening in our lives – this is the third time I’ve sat down to write this and I fear it’s going to be short on words but heavy on pictures..a roundup of sorts…things we’ve been up to. Stick with me though and I promise the closing paragraph will provide the big info…what next for the Croads!

We finally made it to Portland where the girls easily slipped back into their big city mode a la life in Antwerp...
We finally made it to Portland where the girls easily slipped back into their big city mode a la life in Antwerp…
had fun exploring all the cool things about big city life in the Pacific Northwest...
had fun exploring all the cool things about big city life in the Pacific Northwest…
loved exploring the beautiful Japanese Garden...
loved exploring the beautiful Japanese Garden…
a tranquil oasis in the midst of the big smoke...
a tranquil oasis in the midst of the big smoke…
lots of opportunity to pause and reflect...or in this case...pose for the camera...
lots of opportunity to pause and reflect…or in this case…pose for the camera…
then onto OMSI - Oregon Museum of Science and Industry...
then onto OMSI – Oregon Museum of Science and Industry…
a very cool place which kept us busy for hours...
a very cool place which kept us busy for hours…
met the world's tallest man...
met the world’s tallest man…
quite a sad story...he got an infection in his leg from the metal braces he wore and the infection killed him when only in his early twenties...
quite a sad story…he got an infection in his leg from the metal braces he wore and the infection killed him when only in his early twenties…
mingled with some germs...
mingled with some germs…
took in some of the stunning views just outside of Portland...
took in some of the stunning views just outside of Portland…
and did a bit more posing...
and did a bit more posing…
Rachel Hunter before she decided it was time to cut lots off her hair...
Rachel Hunter before she decided it was time to cut lots off her hair…
went to a world class rodeo in Sisters which is just a short drive from Bend...
went to a world class rodeo in Sisters which is just a short drive from Bend…
there was a rodeo queen...
there was a rodeo queen…
bucking broncos...
bucking broncos…
beautiful horses...
beautiful horses…
real live buffalos...
real live buffalos…
these two rodeo clowns...
these two rodeo clowns…
Yee hah!
Yee hah!
Ride 'em cowgirl!
Ride ’em cowgirl!
continued to explore the myriad of beautiful hiking trails just a quick drive from downtown Bend...
continued to explore the myriad of beautiful hiking trails just a quick drive from downtown Bend…
had our first family photo taken in a good few years...and it's our backs...photo taken by an elderly gentleman who thought we looked cute...as he turned to leave we noticed he had a gun in a holster...because everyone needs to be armed whilst hiking!!!
had our first family photo taken in a good few years…and it’s our backs…photo taken by an elderly gentleman who thought we looked cute…as he turned to leave we noticed he had a gun in a holster…because everyone needs to be armed whilst hiking!!!
on the way to Green Lake...stunning...
on the way to Green Lake…stunning…
little bits of snow are still hanging on well into summer...
little bits of snow are still hanging on well into summer…
Green Lake...one of our favourite hikes so far...
Green Lake…one of our favourite hikes so far…
this tends to happen after nine or so miles of hiking...
this tends to happen after nine or so miles of hiking…
We went to New Zealand and had such a special time catching up with our family...my grown up nieces are just gorgeous in every way...very proud Aunty...
We went to New Zealand and had such a special time catching up with our family…my grown up nieces are just gorgeous in every way…very proud Aunty…
the rest of them are pretty damn awesome too!
the rest of them are pretty damn awesome too!
we came back to Bend and moved into a new house right on the Deschutes River...means we are regularly treated to some amazing sights...
we came back to Bend and moved into a new house right on the Deschutes River…means we are regularly treated to some amazing sights…
just beautiful!
just beautiful!

Thanks for sticking with me. Whilst all the above activity was going on, we were navigating the changes taking place because of the sale of Taura Natural Ingredients, the company Richard works for. Many of you know that the whole reason we came to Bend is because of the impending sale of the company. As our VISA’s are tied specifically to Richard’s job with Taura we weren’t sure if we’d be staying or leaving when the company sold, so we came out West to see some more of the USA just in case it was our last chance to. Shortly before the girls and I headed to NZ, we found out that a large Israeli company had bought Taura and they were very keen for Richard to stay on in his role and they were happy for him to base himself wherever in the US he liked.

Whilst we have absolutely loved Bend, travel in and out of here is tricky and as Richard is on the road a lot we needed to be somewhere that didn’t add an extra day or two in travel time to every trip. We seriously considered San Francisco, but at the end of the day we have been won over by Oregon. In many ways it reminds us a lot of New Zealand, it’s less formal and conservative than where we were on the East Coast, the people are laid back and friendly and being on the West Coast puts us much closer to home – good for us travelling back to NZ and good for visitors too…hint hint!

So the big city of Portland is to be our new home. Our focus for the last few weeks has been house hunting and after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing we have bought a new home. It’s in what is known as the Southwest Hills area, about five miles from the centre of Portland.

our new digs...kind of wild and crazy garden surrounded by trees, little stream running through the bottom...so despite being very close to the city we still have a sense of being close to nature
our new digs…kind of wild and crazy garden surrounded by trees, little stream running through the bottom…so despite being very close to the city we still have a sense of being close to nature…
It was built in the 90's but has been renovated throughout to be more contemporary...most kiwi looking home we've been in...
It was built in the 90’s but has been renovated throughout to be more contemporary…most kiwi looking home we’ve been in…
The crazy wilderness garden and the fabulous kitchen have Richard very excited :)
The crazy wilderness garden and the fabulous kitchen have Richard very excited 🙂

So in just over two weeks we will be in our new – hopefully for longer than two years – home. Olive and Edie start school the day after we move in. It’s a public school which has an excellent reputation so we are all excited about it. There are a few nerves too – on all our parts. Just because we’ve done it so often doesn’t make it any easier and in some ways moving state is a bit like moving country – new driver’s license, new taxes, new insurance – but I shall refrain from moaning!

Our other big news is that we have invested in an organic candy bar company – American friends if you see OCHO on the shelves, give it a try.

Gotta love a company that asks when every family member's birthday is so they can send you candy on your big day!!
Gotta love a company that asks when every family member’s birthday is so they can send you candy on your big day!!

So that is all the news from us. Next couple of weeks will no doubt be a blur of packing and organizing as well as trying to make the most of beautiful Bend before we leave. It’s been a wonderful experience and we feel pretty proud of the fact that we’ve been living in each other’s pockets, with few breaks, for nearly five months and we still like each other! Please send us lots of love and positive thoughts as we embark on another big adventure!! On the Croad again!!!

Costa Rica Roundup – Part Three

Christmas Day in Costa Rica turned out to be very quiet and relaxed. Unfortunately both Richard and Olive had upset stomachs. Olive had discovered the maracuya, a larger and slightly more sour type of passion fruit, and I suspect her tummy was telling her “enough with the maracuya!” Being the highbrow family that we are, we couldn’t get through the day without numerous references to maracuya and poohya…I always thought girls were meant to be immune to all that toilet humor!!

Oliva and Edie posing with one of the many and varied Nativity scenes we encountered during our trip.
Olive and Edie posing with one of the many and varied Nativity scenes we encountered during our trip.
Despite the dodgy tummies we did manage to make it down to Dominicalito Beach for a couple of hours...just like a real Kiwi Christmas day.
Despite the dodgy tummies we did manage to make it down to Dominicalito Beach for a couple of hours…just like a real Kiwi Christmas day.
Watching the hundreds of hermit crabs on the go was fun.
Watching the hundreds of hermit crabs on the go was fun.
Olive and her sloth. Our non stuffed animal lover instantly fell in love with this one...of course we left it behind :(
Olive and her sloth. Our non stuffed animal lover instantly fell in love with this one…of course we forgot to pack it!
Watching the sun set at Dominical beach on Christmas night. Magic.
Watching the sun set at Dominical beach on Christmas night. Magic.

On Boxing Day we went back to Ballena National Park to take a walk on the whale’s tail. It literally has the shape of a whale’s tail and is a place where humpback whales come twice a year. You can only walk on the tail when the tide is out so you have to time it right or you could get stranded.

The whale's tail from above.
The whale’s tail from above.
Our more down to earth view.
Our more down to earth view.
Once again Edie spent every possible moment in the water.
Once again Edie spent every possible moment in the water.
Our last adventure in Costa Rica was a trip to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.
Our last adventure in Costa Rica was a trip to the Alturas Wildlife Sanctuary.
We got to meet all sorts of wildlife who had been rescued from various situations.
We got to meet all sorts of wildlife who had been rescued from various situations.
It's illegal to keep Costa Rican wildlife as pets, but many people do. When the animal is discovered it often ends up at Alturas. They also take in animals who have been injured or mistreated.
It’s illegal to keep Costa Rican wildlife as pets, but many people do. When the animal is discovered it often ends up at Alturas. They also take in animals who have been injured or mistreated.
The goal is to rehabilitat the animals and, if possible, get them back into the wild. Once released, many of the animals keep very close to the sanctuary and have been known to pop back for a visit.
The goal is to rehabilitate the animals and, if possible, get them back into the wild. Once released, many of the animals keep very close to the sanctuary and have been known to pop back for a visit.
I never thought I would describe a porcupine as cute but this wee girl was so adorable.
I never thought I would describe a porcupine as cute but this wee girl was so adorable.
Apparently these wee critters taste amazing - ugh - but as a result are very endangered.
Apparently these wee critters taste amazing – ugh – but as a result are very endangered.
Olive and Edie loved getting up close and personal with all the animals.
Olive and Edie loved getting up close and personal with all the animals.

And so the sun set on our Costa Rican adventure. Pura Vida is a phrase used a great deal in Costa Rica. Loosely translated it means the good life, living well, things are going great…perhaps even…no worries…it’s a sentiment we tried desperately to keep in mind when we arrived home late on the 29th to discover…

"Oh ?@*$!"....breathe...Pura Vida, Pura Vida, Pura Vida!
“Oh $#@*!”….breathe…Pura Vida, Pura Vida, Pura Vida!

 

Costa Rica Roundup – Part One

In my previous post I did promise to write about every day of our Costa Rican adventure but in all honesty I was too whacked at the end of each fun filled day to attempt anything more than drinking a glass of wine and documenting the range of visitors that turned up in the grounds of the house after dark. I told myself I would write when we got home but, as many of you know, we arrived home to discover some pretty serious water damage…as a result my focus was somewhat diverted!

So this is my cheat’s version. I’ve been through the hundreds – I kid you not – of photos that we took, and picked what I think are the best. I won’t hit you with all fifty odd of them at once. Some today, some tomorrow and maybe some the next day. Hopefully they capture what was a wonderful holiday.

Our nest adventure after surfing was a snorkeling trip. We met the boat crew at the Ballena National Park, where the entrance was surrounded by lots of colorful buildings.
Our next adventure after surfing was a snorkeling trip. We met the boat crew at the Ballena National Park, where the entrance was surrounded by lots of colorful buildings.
It was beautiful - lush greens and palm trees galore.
It was beautiful – lush greens and palm trees galore.
You get the picture?!
You get the picture?!
Loading up the boat.
Loading up the boat.
Highlight of the whole day - seeing dolphins galore. Amazing!
Highlight of the whole day – seeing dolphins galore. Amazing!
En route to Cano Island National Park.
En route to Cano Island National Park.
The girls had lots of fun finding interestingly shaped coral on the island.
The girls had lots of fun finding interestingly shaped coral on the island.
And doing their best to promote Billabong!
And doing their best to promote Billabong!
As Cano Island is a National Park we weren't allowed to take anything with us. If we could ave, these two would have been in my pocket.
As Cano Island is a National Park we weren’t allowed to take anything with us. If we could have, these two would have been in my pocket.
With Eric, our very cool snorkeling guide.
With Eric, our very cool snorkeling guide.

I didn’t get any photos whilst we snorkeled – Edie absolutely loved it, Olive not so much. I made the mistake of screaming out “shark!” excitedly, as a small one swam below us…and that was it…couldn’t get her back in the water. I was very impressed with both of them though. We weren’t snorkeling in the shallows near the island – they had to jump off the boat into deep water, not something I would have done at their age.

It was a great day. By the end we were all exhausted and, sad to say, somewhat sun burnt! I’m sure all our dreams that night were full of the dolphins, sea turtles, exotic fish and even the sharks we had seen…in Olive’s case, nightmare might be the more appropriate word 😦

Surfin’ Costa Rica

I am somewhat ashamed to admit that it has been over six months since I posted. That has the dubious honour of being a record for me since I started blogging over four years ago. I’ve been away from this space for many reasons – which I won’t go into here!! Suffice to say that as our Costa Rican adventure drew near, I knew it was now or never. If a dream holiday in a stunning destination couldn’t spur me into action then I think all would have been lost for onthecroadagain. The messages I also received, politely asking just what in the hell had happened to the Croad family, were also a much needed kick in the pants. So here we are – surfin’ Costa Rica!

Just in case you'd forgotten what I looked like...here is the obligatory "I'm on a beach in Costa Rica" selfie :)
Just in case you’d forgotten what I looked like…here is the obligatory “I’m on a beach in Costa Rica” selfie 🙂

We are here in Costa Rica for Christmas largely because of a set of teeth – Richard’s to be precise. He was in great need of some pretty major dental work but the quote given to him by a dental group in Winchester was…to put it politely…somewhat on the high side. Richard was not impressed when the dentist quipped, “hey, it’s only a new car right?”.

And this is the kind of new car the dentist was referring to...new set of teeth or Audi...new set of teeth or Audi...Audi??!!
And this is the kind of new car the dentist was referring to…new set of teeth or Audi…new set of teeth or Audi…Audi??!!

Being the resourceful chap he is, Richard was soon furiously researching other options and lo and behold, it transpires that Costa Rica is a great place to go if one is in the mood for a spot of dental tourism. I have to admit to experiencing some trepidation at the thought of a) Richard heading off to a tiny central American nation to have his mouth transformed and b) a significant change in the way he looked. My only experience of anyone having major dental changes was when my Dad (and I’m sure he won’t mind me mentioning this – right JBG??) had a new top plate thingy put in and it took everyone months to get used to the dazzling white teeth that emerged every time he opened his mouth.

Ok...I'll admit...this is not JBG...but the pearly whites are pretty spot on!
Ok…I’ll admit…this is not JBG…but the pearly whites are pretty spot on!

When the Costa Rican quote came in at a significantly cheaper rate – second hand Ford focus anyone? – the deal was sealed. In late June, Richard made his first trip down here, and it was anything but a tropical vacation with a bit of time in the dentist’s office on the side. The phone calls home were miserable, chronicling nine hour stints in the dentist’s chair, needles, crowns, implants….ugh. But by the end of the week, Richard had endured all the prep work and had made a firm friend in Guillermo – a taxi driver who helped endear him to the seemingly haphazard Tico lifestyle in the mixed bag metropolis that is San Jose.

Richard needed about six months before his return trip to complete all the work, and as that coincided with late December, we decided to take advantage of the opportunity and make his return to Costa Rica a bit of a family adventure. Richard went on ahead of us to get the final work done on his chompers and on Friday the girls and I flew down to join him. (And just in case you are wondering he looks just like the same…ahem…old Richard…and he’s been thrilled with the overall result.)

Ok...not Richard...Ed Harris and his smashing smile. On our first trip to Paris ten years ago, an American couple approached Richard and asked him "are you that famous actor?". We stupidly never asked which actor they were referring too, but we are pretty sure it was Ed.
Ok…not Richard…Ed Harris and his smashing smile. On our first trip to Paris ten years ago, an American couple approached Richard and asked him “are you that famous actor?”. We stupidly never asked which actor they were referring too, but we are pretty sure it was Ed.

We stepped out into the gloriously warm city of San Jose late on Friday afternoon and rendezvoused with Richard in the early evening, after he got the sign off from the head honcho at the dentist. Saturday morning was spent hunting down a few necessities – flip flops and sunscreen – then we hopped in our car and began the drive to Dominical. On our way there we had our first encounter with some of the abundant Costa Rican wildlife. We made a stop at a bridge which crosses over the Tarcoles river. There were souvenir stalls set up and lines of people making there way to the middle of the bridge, cameras in hand. As we passed one of the stalls we got an inkling of what we were in for…

bet they have good looking teeth.
bet they have good looking teeth.

We followed the lines of people and once at the middle of the bridge, leaned carefully over. We were met with this sight…

yes, it's a river full of crocodiles! Welcome to Costa Rica!
yes, it’s a river full of crocodiles! Welcome to Costa Rica!

On our arrival in Dominical we met up with Neil, originally from London but an avid surfer, hence his relocation to Costa Rica. We followed his car to the start of a very rough and steep looking dirt track, at which Neil let out a cry of “yee hah!” and we began our ascent to Gorde Vista, our home for the next week.

I think we are in for a pretty great week!
I think we are in for a pretty great week!
Mmmm...suspect we will have difficulty getting the girls out of the house to explore Costa Rica.
Mmmm…suspect we will have difficulty getting the girls out of the house to explore Costa Rica.
Looking up at the house from the garden. Just beautiful.
Looking up at the house from the garden. Just beautiful.

After much admiring of the house and garden, swimming, unpacking, swimming, grabbing a few groceries, swimming, popping out for a quick bite at a local seafood restaurant and more…you guessed it…swimming…it was time to hit the hay. We had to be up bright and early for the first of our adventures – surfing lessons for the girls at Dominical beach.

Monday morning was a scorcher. We met up with Steven – authentic Californian surfer dude – and the girls began learning the key steps to hanging ten…

first it's paddle, paddle, paddle...then pull yourself up into cobra pose...
first it’s paddle, paddle, paddle…then pull yourself up into cobra pose…
then pop up and adopt cool surfer stance...after that it's time to grab your board and head into the ocean.
then pop up and adopt cool surfer stance…after that it’s time to grab your board and head into the ocean.
Edie surprised us all by instantly getting the hang of it.
Edie surprised us all by instantly getting the hang of it.
My favourite picture of the day - love that concentration and determination.
My favourite picture of the day – love that concentration and determination.
Surfin' Safari!
Surfin’ Safari!
Olive in action.
Olive in action.

After all that excitement and action we spent the afternoon at home watching the monkeys playing in the trees next to our house…

I feel the need for a David Attenborough voice over as we encounter all this wild life!
I feel the need for a David Attenborough voice over as we encounter all this wild life!

and getting acquainted with some of our other neighbours…

Perhaps it will transform into Ed Harris if I kiss it!!
Perhaps it will transform into Ed Harris if I kiss it!!

Right – my word count tells me I have written over one thousand words which means this is in danger of resembling a university essay. We have had another action packed and animal filled day today…about which I will attempt to write after tomorrow’s action packed day. I suspect I will need another vacation to recover from this one!