Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Our "Buddy"

Grace has been wanting a pet to call her own for months.  Kyle and I finally caved and agreed to visit a rescue that said they had tons of kittens.  Even though we told Grace that we might not come home with a pet, we all agreed to adopt this little guy.
So far, he has been a good addition to our family.  Grace is in love with him and has named him "Buddy".
The only problem was that neither of them got any sleep last night.  Buddy was able to sleep during the day today when we were out at art camp, lunch, running errands, and piano lessons.  Guess what?  He is ready to run and play NOW that it is almost bedtime!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Vitamin sea

Ahhhh, vacation and a little "Vitamin Sea" was what we all needed. Condado Beach in San Juan was one of the prettiest beaches we have visited with soft sand, no rocks under your feet, warm water, and waves that were perfect for body surfing and boogie boarding.

Kyle booked a room at the Marriott Stellaris right on the beach.  Our room had balconies on two sides with views of the pool and the ocean.

Mimi and Aunt Betsy seemed to like the breezes on the beach and at the pool.
And we all loved watching Grace become a beach bunny.  For the first time she asked to go to the beach as often as she asked for the pool.  The waves were big but there was enough time between them to recover so you didn't feel overwhelmed.

Aunt Betsy bought Grace a boogie board to use on this trip.  She had a great time with it.  And, we carried it home on the airplane!

It has two dolphins on it that she named Axel and Capricorn after the dolphins we met at Discovery Cove.  Cute!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Fun facts about El Yunque

Our "Top Ten" list of things we learned during our visit to El Yunque rainforest:

10.  El Yunque National Forest is the only rainforest in the United States Forest System.  
9.  It comprises 28,000 acres in the northeastern part of Puerto Rico.
8.  There is no "wet" or "dry" season in El Yunque.  It has a constant temperature of 70-80 degrees and rains year round.

7.  There are over 240 species of plants in El Yunque. 
6.  The 200 inches of rainfall each year create a jungle-like setting with lush foliage, rivers, and waterfalls.   
5.  There are six rivers in El Yunque and it sometimes rains 4 times per day. 

    5.  El Yunque is home to some rare wildlife including the Puerto Rican parrot. It is one of the most endangered birds in the world.  We didn't see any since they live in remote areas of the forest.  You will know them by the white ring around their eyes and blue feathers on their wings. 
    3.  Bats are the only mammal that is native to  El Yunque. 
    2.  In addition to 11 species of bats, there are 50 species of birds, 8 species of lizards, and 13 species of coquis. 
    1.  A coqui is a tiny tree frog (about an inch long) that make a distinctive chirping sound in the morning, at night, and when it rains.  We heard them all the time but, unfortunately, didn't see any.
    One of the highlights of our rainforest trip was to visit La Mina waterfall.  
    We hiked a winding, mostly downhill trail to La Mina falls where the water rushes over a cliff and falls about 35 feet into cool pools that people swim in. It is a pretty popular place, as you can see from the photos.
    Grace and Kyle had water shoes on so they navigated the slippery rocks and went for a chilly dip in the water.  I only went up to my knees and chickened out from going further when I saw a woman wipe out and get an awful injury right next to me.

    Before eating lunch at a roadside stand where we got every kind of fried Puerto Rican food you can imagine, ...
    ...we climbed the 98 steps of the Yokahu Observation Tower.

    And we enjoyed a final 360 degree view of the rainforest and the surrounding area.

    Can you see the sleeping giant's face at the top of the mountain?

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    The Gibraltar of the Caribbean

    One of the highlights of our trip to Puerto Rico was a visit to the Castillo San Felipe del Morro, or "El Morro".  It is a huge fort that was built over a 400-year time span to defend the port of San Juan from invaders from the sea.  The park ranger told us about the different attacks on the fort over the years and the reasons why the Spaniards kept adding onto the fort until it ended in its current form, with six different levels.

    The entrance to the fort is a long walk from the road.  There were families and camp groups sitting, playing, and flying kites on the grassy hills.  The breeze from the ocean made the area great for kites and helped cool us off when we were inside. It was a HOT morning and walking past a window offered a welcome relief from the stone pathways!
    San Juan became a possession of the United States in 1898 after the Spanish-American War.  We learned that by that time El Morro wasn't strong enough to withstand the "modern" guns and artillery.  After taking it over, the United States helped rebuild the sentry towers and added a lighthouse - the first one in Puerto Rico.
    We noticed that there are three flags flying at El Morro - the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Flag of Burgundy, a Spanish military flag.

    Inside, we walked up and down the steps and ramps to see the soldiers quarters, the area that was the kitchen, the chapel, tunnels, and the indentations in the walls for the cannons.

    Up to 6,000 soldiers lived in El Morro at one time.  The parts of the fort that were open to the public didn't seem big enough to house that many people.  Our guess is that there are many tunnels and chambers inside that we couldn't see.

    It was interesting to see how they created tracks for the cannons on some of the levels.  Apparently, there were not enough cannons so the soldiers moved them around on the different levels to shoot in the direction they wanted.
    The views were spectacular in every direction.

    The cemetery outside El Morro is the final resting place for many of San Juan's most prominent citizens.  

    This iguana didn't mind the heat as much as we did!  The resident iguanas prefer the heat and come out when the sun is at its peak.  I bet he also enjoyed the view.

    Tuesday, July 1, 2014

    La isla del encanto

    We returned late last night - actually EARLY this morning - from our vacation to Puerto Rico.  The locals refer to their island as "la isla del encanto" which means "the island of enchantment".  The beach was one of the nicest we have been to with soft, clean sand and warm water.  And, even though there were a lot of waves, we didn't feel overwhelmed by them.  Grace loved the beach for the first time I can really remember and requested to go in the ocean as much as she asked for the pool.  One of my favorite things we did on the beach was fly the kite we bought a couple of years ago on a trip to San Francisco.  (You can see those photos here.)  We went out as the sun was setting and there weren't many people around.

    This time, Grace was big enough to hold the kite string once we got it up in the air.  I love the determination on her face!
    Right before this, I was able to take a few photos of my favorite subject.  The light was so golden and beautiful.
    Grace decided to ham it up a little....she is going to cheerleading camp next week. Can you tell? 

    And a couple with Mimi!