Chris & Kelly’s New House

In June, my sister and her boyfriend bought their first house. It’s a 20-minute drive outside the city of Eau Claire, situated amongst rye and corn fields, off a road that sees a half a dozen cars a day. Kelly says it’s in the country. I say it’s in the middle of nowhere.

To be fair, the house is relatively close to Chris’ parents and extended family, and to UW-Eau Claire, where Kelly will begin her master’s program in speech-language pathology this fall. The 3 bed 1 bath house sits on a lot just shy of an acre, along with a detached garage, garden shed, workshop and wood storage shelter/shady space for a hammock. There’s also a deer stand, two raspberry patches, an out-of-control Concord grapevine and a bunch of trees older than Kelly and my ages combined.

Kirk and I drove up with my parents to Eau Claire for the weekend to work on landscaping and painting projects. (And to drink beers, river float down the Chippewa and play Baggo.) Saturday we rolled up our sleeves–er, just put on t-shirts, cause it was the middle of July and freakin’ hot–and got to work. Kelly and I grabbed brushes and rollers, balanced ourselves on the kitchen countertops and painted the cabinets while singing to Motown music. Everyone else went to work in the yard. Kirk grabbed the weed whacker and my mom strategized where to plant flowers. My dad, who’s spent the last 30 years walking behind a push mower, ran and jumped onto Chris’ ridealong. Kelly and I watched him through the kitchen window. “See him careening around that turn?!” “That grin!”

After our lunch break, Kirk tackled the job no one else wanted: hacking through the raspberry patch. The 20×40′-ish plot, which apparently used to be two neat rows of bushes, had completely overgrown into one giant thorny jungle. Kirk dove in. By late afternoon, he’d completely reclaimed the center walking path. We were all quite impressed.

– – –

Kelly and Chris, these are for you, in remembrance of your first summer in your new house. ☼

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Sailing in Cancun

Here’s part III of our Cancun trip taken last November (part I: wedding and part II: island).

Our last full day in Cancun was my mom’s 60th birthday. She wanted to go snorkeling; it’s her favorite thing to do. During our bareboat charter in Australia six years ago she went snorkeling five separate times in one day. (It’s not enough that California has beautiful weather and coastline, it needs coral reefs for my parents to visit me more than once every couple years ;).

We chartered a sailboat to get to the better reefs that lie in between mainland Cancun and Isla Mujeres, the island a few miles off the coast on which we were staying. Our boat’s captain told us the reefs were mere fractions of their former selves since hurricane Wilma hit in 2005, hammering Cancun with 95-130 mph winds for 36 hours. But even so, he knows a good spot, he said.

When planning our trip, I told my mom we’d love to do a bareboat charter — it’s more of an adventure when you’re in charge of your own boat. Finding a boat that didn’t already have a captain proved tough, especially a sailboat. Since we weren’t willing to give up sails just to be able to skipper our own vessel, we ended up chartering the 40′ monohull Xanadu, captained by Luis Alonso Nieto, who told us as we stepped aboard that his boat was our boat for the day.

Captain Luis’ knowledge of the area was invaluable. The reef he took us to spanned a few hundred feet in the middle of a 5-mile channel between Cancun and Isla Mujeres — needle in a haystack. Once we arrived at the reef, we jumped off the stern, hung onto lines behind the boat, donned snorkels, and dove to swim with the fish. (See the video at the end of this post!) My lungs felt new levels of exhaustion afterward.

Back on Xanadu, Captain Luis’ crew trimmed the sails, and we were off on a tack toward the southern end of Isla Mujeres. The wind was a bit touch and go, letting the boat bob more than my dad’s and sister’s stomachs cared for. Nausea is half in your head; the more you succumb to it the worse it gets. Occupy your mind otherwise and you can usually make it disappear. I told Kelly to get to the helm. “You want me to steer?” She thought I had water in between my ears. “Get yourself up there, you’ll feel better. Promise.” After ten minutes of steering, she was looking spritely.

At the southern tip of Isla Mujeres, we turned back north to sail along its coast. The afternoon melted into early evening, and by twilight Captain Luis dropped us back on the dock. Salty and sun-weary, we thanked him and his crew for the fun day, and wonderful 60th birthday for Mom. ☼

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Isla Mujeres, Mexico

This is another throwback to last November; it’s part II of our trip to Cancun we took for my cousin’s wedding. My mom’s 60th happened to fall a few days after the wedding, and since the whole family (my parents, my sister, Kirk and Chris) would all be in the same locale, convincing us to stay a few more days in the tropics to celebrate her birthday wasn’t a hard task.

After the wedding, we left the Rivera Maya and headed north to Cancun, where we hopped a ferry for the 5-mile trip to Isla Mujeres. My mom couldn’t have picked a better hotel: Cabanas Maria del Mar sat right on Playa Norte, a beach with sand so soft walking across it your feet squeaked. Breakfast was served at a restaurant under a huge thatched roof, its tables in the sand. For three days we hung out in hammocks, stalked lizards, rode around town in a golf cart, and went sailing (boat photos to follow ;). ☼

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Playa Norte.

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On Kirk’s kindle: How to Inexpensively and Safely BUY, OUTFIT, and SAIL a Small Vessel Around the World.

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Exploring town on foot.

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Kelz.

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Primary island transportation: scooters and golf carts.

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A cart of our own.

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Bummer we didn’t pack our boards.

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One of these days, we’ll be out there looking back this way.

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A handful of shots from Mom:

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Island retailers know their target market.

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Lindsey & Tom’s Wedding

Back in November, my cousin Lindsey and her husband Tom got married at the Hard Rock in the Riviera Maya, a beautiful stretch of coastline along the Caribbean side of the Yucatán Peninsula. The region, known for its all-inclusive resorts, is dotted with palm trees, lounge chairs, and trimmed with white sand beaches. For three days we concerned ourselves not with how much we ate or drank, but wondering if we were taking enough advantage.

One morning I was lying on a chaise lounge under a palapa when a server came by with a tray of drinks. “Daiquiri?”

It was barely 10 a.m.

“Well, since you’re here…” I said. “Kirk? You want another before lunch?”

We grinned. Ridiculous.

In fact, that was the biggest question all weekend. “Another drink for you, señorita? Señor?”

Sure, why not.

Cheers, Lindsey and Tom! ☼

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Kelly.

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Mom & Dad.

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Sisters, undoubtedly.

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Kirk & me.

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Kelly & Chris.

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My cousin Kristin’s son, Harrison.

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Kirk, and my cousin-in-law, Ryan.

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Mom & Kelly.

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Maid of Honor, Kristin, fulfilling duties.

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Dad.

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Bride & Mother of the Bride, my aunt Karin.

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Dad, what…

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Harrison, loving limes.

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Checking out grandma’s iPhone.

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Four generations.

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Unofficial wedding photog.

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En route to the reception.

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My grandma, Omi. Believe she’s 90?

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Mr. & Mrs. BenGera!

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Dance party.

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