Friday, March 29, 2013

My Take On Our Wedding Flop

Up until two days ago, A & I thought we were getting married this Sunday, 3.31.13.  But, due to slow movers island time, our wedding has been cancelled.  Something about the city hall office deciding to close early on its last day before Easter Break, yadda yadda, the point is it was not confirmed in time and now there is no way to contact the judge who was supposed to marry us this Sunday...

My failed Instagram countdown :(

Now, I believe the average bride would be fuming!  Who would want to find out only four days before the wedding that they cannot marry?!? But, oddly enough, I'm actually ok.  If living in the DR has taught me anything, its that nothing here is certain and that I must have patience if I want stay sane!  Really, such is life in the DR.

As opposed to being negative, I am feeling quite grateful.  As they say, everything happens for a reason, and now that our date has changed, my dad will be able to make it down for the wedding.  Plus, now that we are planning to marry on a Saturday, I can go to my trusted hair lady to give me a 'do and I have 2 more weeks to convince A to get a haircut!  Maybe now I can even pick up some last minute items to complete my wedding day ensemble.  In the span of a lifetime, two extra weeks aint nothin'; the important thing is that wetruly, in fact, are getting married! {Eventually.  Soon.}

On Monday morning we hope to finalize our new date;
wish us luck for

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fish, and Bats, and Turtles, Oh My

My best friend Julia is in Punta Cana for the week and yesterday she and her boyfriend came to visit us in Santo Domingo!  One of the things we did was climb down the 163,467,845 steps to explore the cave inside Parque de los 3 Ojos {Park of the 3 Eyes}.

Its named 3 eyes after the 3 ponds you will find inside the cave, although there are actually 6 in total.  The water comes from a river that runs 200 km away and is quite chilly (one of the ponds is fittingly named Refrigerator Lake). The water is home to fish and turtles and is so beautifully blue; with the high humidity I desperately wanted to jump right in!

We had to take a small boat made from a pallet and metal trash bins to visit one of the "eyes".  As bats flew above us, a man pulled us across the dark pond with a rope.  It took us to the pond where a few scenes were shot for the first Jurassic Park film, as well as some of the old Tarzan movies.

If you are a nature lover or looking for something to see besides the historical Zona Colonial, I definitely recommend visiting this cave when you find yourself in Santo Domingo!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Guest Post: Santorini

I'm guest posting today!

Today I'm over on True Colours to talk about Santorini, a place where I spent many summers as a child...  And a place where I'll soon be living!  You can see my post here.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday Motivation v2

Happy Monday!  My weekend was very low key, since this week my best friend Julia is in the DR and we'll have busy plans sometime mid week.  Because of Easter, this is a short week for me!  Is it for you, too?  Nonetheless, today is still Monday, so here we go!

Happy Monday!

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Habichuela con Dulce

Habichuela con dulce is a sweet creamed bean soup that is eaten during Lent and Easter in the Dominican Republic.  Its typically served chilled and is enjoyed as a dessert, but if you love it as much as I do, you can eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner.  It even tastes better as a leftover!

Now I know what you're thinking..  BEANS!?  As a dessert?!  But trust me, there are so many sweet and yummy ingredients thrown in that you barely even notice them!

Filling the supermarket endcaps.. 
Typical ingredients: red pinto beans. condensed or evaporated milk. coconut milk. butter. sugar. raisins. cinnamon. nutmeg. cooked pieces of sweet potato.  Perhaps a spoon of vanilla.  And to top it off?  Small sweet crackers known as galletas de leche

This article says that the ingredients stem from 3 distinct cultures that have historically shaped the island: sweet potato from the Indians, beans and spices from the Spanish, and coconut milk from the African slaves.  I've asked about a dozen people why it is that this food is always prepared for Easter, and never at other times of the year, but everyone says its simply tradition!  My love handles are thankful that I can only find this delicacy once a year.  :)

For breakfast: thick with extra raisins
Here is a good recipe.
Bon appetit! 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A Cave in the City

Recovering from a late night out last Saturday, Sunday was spent napping until 4 pm!  I was convinced that the day had been wasted, but A surprised me when he took a different turn on what I thought was the drive to our favorite Taiwanese restaurant.  

A tree that I would not like to climb... 

He knows how much I like to take walks, and unfortunately there aren't many parks deemed safe enough to walk through in Santo Domingo.  He surprised me by taking me to Parque Iberoamerico, a newly reconstructed (and safe) park right within the city.  The park had live iguanas, all kinds of greenery, free exercise machines, and a cafe, but the best thing about it?  The Cueva de Santa Ana {Santa Ana Cave}.   

I've been googling away but can hardly find any information on this cave!  I would love to know if the carvings we saw were authentic, but the lack of info is making me believe they are not.  Oh well, still a fun place to explore! 

"My favorite thing to do is go where I've never been"  
Here's to exploring!

Friday, March 15, 2013

3 Happy Things

My mini happy list.  
Because its Friday. 

1. Discovering that a brand new SweetFrog has opened up 2 blocks from me.  It is honestly the best soft-serve froyo!  They have flavors like Cake Batter and Georgia Peach and Cinnamon Roll and Greek with a Touch of Honey {I could go on..}.  You serve yourself and they offer you a zillion toppings.  We went for the 2nd time on Wednesday night and my yogurt was a swirl of Peanut Butter and Mixed Berries yogurt, topped with strawberries, coconut, granola, and my favorite candy, Reeses PB cups, YUM.

This could get dangerous...
2. Free iBooks for my iPad mini.  Or mini iPad.  Or iPad mini.  I never know which one its called? I love RomCom type books, so I'm currently reading Waking Up Married.  Its FREE.  And its good.

3.  3D movies.  In the last year, Santo Domingo has rolled out 3 ultra modern theaters, and they even have gourmet treats and serve wine!  But last night we went traditional and saw Oz The Great and Powerful with an XL bucket of popcorn.  I've decided that I love Michelle Williams with long blonde hair!

Happy Friday! 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

On Risk Taking & Big Future Plans

I stumbled upon this quote on Tiny Buddha and I instantly fell in love with it.  In my life I have taken 2 big risks.  The first one was leaving the only life I knew in Chicago, saying goodbye to all, and moving to Spain - completely alone.  It was the best decision I ever made.  

Then, two years ago, I chose another risk.  I left my comfortable, travel-filled, urban life I had created for myself abroad to move to the Dominican Republic for a boy that I had known for less than a year.  Some people thought I was crazy for moving to a 3rd world country and not everyone supported my decision, but love makes you do crazy things I guess!

Although life here hasn't been a breeze, moving, again, was the best decision I had made.  For one, I'm engaged!  Professionally speaking, I've gained international experience and a language to add to my resume.  And personally speaking, I see the world through different eyes and have more gratitude for all the blessings in my life.  
Now that A and I are making plans to leave, we are at a crossroad.  We crave American life; having a salary in USD, the shopping (me), the development and technology (him)!  Logic tells us we should follow through with our plan to move to California, since this is where we hope to "settle" anyway.

But..  We are leaning toward the riskier option: running a small hotel that my family owns in Santorini, Greece; a business that is only open half the year.  Do I think its smart to work with family? No.  Do I worry that we're waiting too long to "settle down" and that we haven't started saving for a house, kids, and retirement? Yes. 

I worry that my almost husband who hates the beach and the sun will go stir crazy on the small island of Santorini.  I worry about not having a steady income, year round.  I worry about the 6 months of the off season that we'll be based in the DR, and whether we will be happy and fulfilled living here.  And most importantly, I worry about whether A will get his visa approved in time to actually get to Greece this summer!  Can you tell that I'm a worryer?

Just like 2 years ago, there are people in my life that don't think I'm making the best decision.  But I'm starting to realize that in my own life, my risky decisions have been the most extraordinary, life changing ones!  As I grow older and learn more about myself I recognize how adventurous I am and how bored I become by routine.  Who says I would be happier working 8-5 everyday for the rest of my life, anyway?  No one!

So I am going for it.  And thank God that A agrees with the decision to try Greece!  And as for my worries, I'll stick with the saying, "All great changes are preceded by chaos" - Unknown.

PS - Thank you so much, Adrienne, for nominating me again for the Liebster blog award! 
"Hand hugs" to you! {She'll get it}
You can see my recent Liebster post here

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monday Motivation

My weekend was a full one and included a spa package (my favorite!), Mexican food, birthday cupcakes, Homeland episodes, salsa class, and a 10K that I finished in record time!  And now its Monday.  Monday, Monday, Monday.  The most dreaded day of the week.  Today definitely snuck up on me and it was nearly impossible to get out of bed!

I just looked at the calendar and can't believe that there are 3, yes THREE whole weeks left of March when its already the 11th!  Lots of fun things are coming up for me in April and May and I'm getting a little impatient for "spring" with the long weeks ahead of me.  Queue to some Pinterest motivation to push us through the afternoon:


Happy Monday!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

On Maids & Service People

About a month ago I posted an instagram photo of a dessert that our cleaning lady brought us.  Some friends immediately asked, "You have a cleaning lady?!"

In the US and most of Europe, having a maid is considered a luxury.  Where I grew up it cost up to $100/day to have a cleaning service come to your house and clean!  Here (and in many places throughout Central & South America), its very common to have a maid who cooks and cleans for you, and its usually a live-in one.  We pay $35/month to have someone come to our apartment for the day once a week; she does all our laundry, cleans the bathrooms, mops the floors, and cooks for us (the food usually lasts 2-3 days).  Because of her you will find my bed made once a week, and that of course is on Wednesdays when she comes.. ;)
However, as a middle class couple, this is definitely not the norm!  Most families have a live-in maid, and if they don't live with you then they come to your home every day, from 8-5.  If you have children, its common to have not only a maid, but a nanny as well.  There are nannies who specialize in newborns, and there are nannies that specialize in older kids.  Some families even have a weekday nanny and a separate weekend nanny so that they never have to be alone with their kids!  Imagine that..  In addition to the maid and nanny, many families have chauffeurs/personal drivers.  They take the kids to school and drive them to activities, run errands for the parents, etc.

Because of all the "help", all apartments and homes constructed in Santo Domingo have a small room with a teeny tiny shower and toilet inside.  To me, the home life of the service people depicted in the movie The Help is still very much a reality in the DR. :(  The service room in our apartment is quite large, and I've always wanted to turn it into a small office, but its currently being used as a storage/laundry room, and it is also where the maid leaves her things and eats on Wednesdays. 

Whereas I grew up in the USA and rode a bus to school and did chores, fiancĂ© grew up with a driver, and never did a single household chore!  I occasionally still have to remind him to close the kitchen cabinets when he opens them (he always had someone in the kitchen to do that for him), but for the most part he turned out ok!  Hehe.

Did you grow up with help in your home?  
Do you think its important to have children do household chores?  

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

All You Can Eat: Fruit Edition

I've mentioned many times before how I loooove driving out to the finca.  We made it out there on Sunday and we had the perfect day.  We took a long walk around the farm with A's mom, strolling from tree after tree, plant after plant, picking off whatever fruit we felt like eating in the moment.  I had sweet lemons (yes, you can eat lemons like a fruit!), oranges, two kinds of tamarind, an entire coconut (the water and the flesh), cashew fruit, berries, and many other things that I simply do not know the names of!  

Th orange below was one of my favorite foods.  I learned that its nicknamed "children's orange" because its truly non-acidic, and so you can feed it to very young children.  It wasn't sour at all and tasted like sweet orange candy!

Normally we swim in the river that runs through their farm, but on Sunday we decided to drive about 20 minutes down the river where there is a beautiful waterfall.  Recently they've commercialized the area a bit, offering small camping style cabins for rent at 350 pesos ($8.50 USD) per person, per night.  Although it sounds too cheap to be comfortable, its a beautiful complex and I hope to spend the weekend there sometime soon! {hint, hint, wink, wink, my birthday is coming...}

Because it was Sunday there were a lot of people swimming, drinking, listening to music with friends and family, just enjoying the day.  I saw many people rubbing the mud below the waterfall all over their skin, natural exfoliation I suppose?  We didn't swim but I will definitely take part in the mud exfoliation the next time we're there!