Saturday, March 29, 2008

Real life in MN

This first picture is for my Cabo buddies. Just to let them see a little taste of where I come from. I took this snowy little picture about 5 minutes ago and since them the ground is now entirely white and big flakes of snow keep falling. Brrrrr. Not nice. Ophelia and I feel the same way. Boots hats and mittens. No good. Moving on, because I think all my Minnesota cohorts are getting tired of my complaining.

To brighten things up I have some pictures from Easter of a couple of cutie bunnies looking for Easter eggs. My cousin's hosted at their new house this year, which was great cuz it took a little pressure off of my mom. Their house worked perfectly and we all had a great time watching the girls look for easter eggs.
A few other updates that are new for being home is that Ophelia is going to start school 3 mornings a week, starting this Tuesday. Yay for all of us! AND I bought her a potty. She's just getting used to it. I told her a smile while I took a picture and this is the face I got. Isn't that a riot! I'm totally saving this to show her boyfriends when she's 25 (because she doesn't get any boyfriends before that). Yah thats right I'm going to be the overprotective mother who enjoys humiliating their child. Ok we all know thats not true. I love her. I love everybody. Where's my sunshine? Read the blog previous to this one for the real good stuff.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Cabo Pulmo

I'm back home in Minnesota now. But I started this blog and have had so many great experiences and pictures that I'm just going to keep telling stories. In fact this trip to Cabo has left me feeling so invigorated that I've started writing again. Its been very long time especially since I've had any thing good to write about. So right now I'm just been writing my whole cabo story. One of my goals while I was in Cabo was to get my SCUBA certification. I was quite leery of doing it however, not because I was afraid of being in the ocean, or getting claustrophobic or any of those things. I was afraid to be a student again. I was never a very good student but Grant my SCUBA instructor and good friend ensured me that it would be no class time and all study could be done in the sun. We decided to go to Cabo Pulmo for my confined water class. This class is usually done in a pool that is the benefit of a private class we didn't have to use a pool we could use a calm part of the ocean instead. When Grant and I first
met on a hiking trip we both talked about Cabo Pulmo. He'd just gotten back from there and it was one of my goals to get out there. Then he was also the guide on a Kayaking trip in Cabo Pulmo that I got my mom and her friend Kris to go on (I'm going backwards and I'm going to tell those stories at some point). It was at a fantastic fish taco lunch that we decided it might be a good place to start my classes since Mona is good friend was maybe going to join us. um... this story might get kind of long, but stick with it. Its good.

I'm just going to start at the first SCUBA part of the story. After taking a few classes, drinking some coffee and putting my gear together a few times, it is late afternoon by the time we make it to the beach for our first confined water dive where we practice a whole bunch of skills. The water was so murky we didn't see one living thing. If Grant hadn't been holding on to me I think I would have lost him as well. We didn't see any fish but we found a shell. Yup one little yellow snail shell. I took it home with me and kept it in memory of the day in which I went SCUBA diving and saw no fish. Though I guess it's not all that uncommon. Most people's confined water dives are in a pool. Hence the word "confined", we were not confined but we were not seeing fish either. I was not there for fish I was just getting used to how its supposed to feel under water, mess around with the equipment and practice breathing under water. First dive was pretty easy. We only used half a tank of air and saved the rest for the next day. In one of the pictures coming up by the way is not of me at Cabo Pulmo but I just thought it would be cool if you could see me breathing under water. Neat. I have lots more pictures of cool underwater stuff but you'll have to stay tuned. After the dive we went back to Grants friends, Bob and Mona's place. Grant is super close with them they pretty much family. And they were cool enough to take this random SCUBA student in. When I first met them Grant wasn't even there. He'd gone on the ATV(ps. I loved the ATV, I need to live somewhere where you only need to get around by atv). to get the key to the beach gate. I was alone reading a Baja plant guide that I found inside, drinking their coffee and sitting on their porch. They were totally sweethearts and Mona gave me a bottle of fresh OJ. This lady is the sweetest and she's Finish so she's got a great accent. Makes you want to listen to her whenever she talks.
By the time we actually made it back to their house it was dark. I was famished. Everything shuts down really early in Cabo Pulmo so luckily Mona made us a huge fruit salad and a veggie salad with three different kinds of Mexican cheese. We ate the heck outta them. Drank Pacifico Ballena's (big ones) and sat and talked to Bob and Mona till I wanted to pass out from exhaustion in my little plastic chair.

For breakfast the next morning walked to Caballero's. Which incidentally used to be open at night but isn't anymore because they don't have a chef. Grant thinks I should take over. It would be an awesome opportunity but there is no school in Cabo Pulmo for O. So that just ain't going to work. Maybe some day. (I interject in this story to tell you about the scenic picture above. That is the beach of Cabo Pulmo at about 8 am.) So gorgeous it sucks you in and you never want to leave. Back to the story. After breakfast we got ready for our next confined water in unconfined water dive. We practice skills that usually involve me either accidentally flying to the surface or sucking in sickening amounts of sea water. That or we practice what I am supposed to do if I run out of air. Which Grant said is NEVER supposed to happen if you are paying attention. So I was. Checking my gages I let him know that I am really low. He tells me in underwater sign language that we should swim a bit more. Um....ok but I think I'm almost out of....shit I'm out of air! I make the sign for "holy fuck I'm out of air" and I snatch his alternate air source, we swim to the surface and all the time I'm thinking, "This guy has no idea what he's doing!! How could he let me out of air!!" We pop out of the surface establish buoyancy (he'd be so proud at how much I remember, well I guess it's only been about a week since my last dive...oh but it feels like so long ago...whah for me). I feel like I might puke let out a ginormous belch and feel so much better. All that sea water really gets to me. Oh and did I mention that I ran out of air...underwater!!! Apparently that was all in the plan. Just a little test I guess all a part of the process. He promised he wouldn't do it again.
Now that our tanks were officially empty we needed hop on my new favorite vehicle, wet suits still half way on, an set out to find more air to fill our tanks. A task that sounded pretty menial considering this was Cabo Pulmo home to the second largest live coral reef next to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. That is what people do here. They SCUBA. This is Mexico remember, and the thing that I love about it is EVERYTHING is an adventure. We stop into the big (BAD) dive shop because Pepe's (I think that's the name), the one Grant usually uses was out of air. The people at the big (BAD) dive shop refused to give us air. They said it was against company policy to fill tanks to independent divers. ERRRRR wait back up, what???? I'm sorry since when did anyone in Mexico follow policy? Even if on the rare occasion there is a policy no one ever follows it. ever. That is why we love Mexico. Viva Mexico. What was the b.s.? The girl was Spanish, maybe that was part of her problem. I don't know what Spain's policy is on policy but she sure didn't get Mexico's policy that policy doesn't fly in these parts. Lame but seriously, just another Mexican adventure.
So we ATV it over to the last little dive shop in town. Turns out their compressor is down. Of course it takes talking to three different guys to really find out whats going on. But we found out that Ricardo who was maybe going to take us out on a boat for our 2nd dive sometimes rents his tanks from the Big Bad Dive shop. And as luck would have it Ricardo just got in from a fishing trip. We go find Ricardo on the beach. sounds like we are driving all over town and we kind of are but keep in mind that town is 3 minutes long and right on the beach nothing is that big of a trek. We find Ricardo on the beach. We tell him our story. He puts in a call to the Big Dumb Dive shop. He gets a hold of the clueless Spanish girl who's going to give herself an ulcer by being such an air Nazi, and this time instead of refusing us air, she just hangs up on us. Ricardo understands our plea and agrees that this is so unCabo Pulmo of her but has his own problems. His truck just ran out of gas and he just syphoned enough out of his boat to get him to the gas station two towns from here but he might be able to help us when her gets back which would be two Mexican hours from then. Which actually means God knows when in real time. I really don't care all that much. I've swallowed enough sea water to sink a panga and was happy riding around on the ATV in the sunshine. We decided SCUBA- Pooba. We ain't gettin' any air. Lets go kayaking. (Oh this little house by the way is Bob and Mona's and in the front is the little ATV. Bob and Mona better watch out. If they find it missing they'll know where to look.
Earlier that day. We had seen manta rays jumping not to far off shore. We had kind of been hoping that Ricardo could take us out there for my first real open water experience. Obviously that was not happening. For one we had no air and two the boat had no gas because it had been syphoned into his truck. See isn't this fun??? We decided relying on others was not going to work for us today we would have to turn to our own muscle. Bob and Mona keep their Kayaks right down by the beach so we just got the right gear, regrouped a little and took a tandem out to the reef. Once we got out there we saw massive schools of Yellowtail. There were schools of at least 150 fish. At some points we were surrounded by three schools or more. It was amazing how close we could get to them before they would all simultaneously flinch away. It was cool but, as we sat over the reef and looked out we saw them again, jumping frantically, Manta's! They looked pretty far out but not so far that we couldn't get there. It was windy so it would be a challenge but I mean come on! Manta Rays you'd have to be nuts not to go! As we neared the grew bigger in size and number. Before all you could see on the horizon were tiny silvery triangles spraying out of the sea. I was not prepared for what I saw. I was so excited I thought my head was going to pop off my body. Seriously it was hurting I was so close to bursting. We were experiencing stuff that only National Geographic can capture. Manta's were flying out of the sea three feet, six feet, one foot, all right next to our kayak. Splashing me in the face. Like hyper little penguins racing around fighting to show off their wings. The really did kind of look like penguins in mid air, but I guess mostly they looked like Mantas.
Grant decided that it would be a good idea to get in. Yes as in, out of the kayak and into the water with manta rays. The same ones that killed Steve Erwin the crocodile guy. And as I just learned when I got home, another lady was killed randomly by a manta ray who flew out of the water and smacked into her. The impact of colliding with the 70 pound animal killed her, snapped her neck or gave her a fatal concussion or something. It didn't even stab her with that big dagger on the end of it's tail. (Can I just say that I know that as my mom reads this right now she may be regretting ever watching Ophelia that weekend. I love you mom!) Keep in mind it was just Grant going in there not me. I was in charge of keeping the kayak steady. And looking for sharks. I didn't know that's what I was going to be looking out for. But while keeping watch, I saw fins. They didn't look like Manta fins either. They looked like FINS! I try to hold down my panic while Grant is still skin diving hoping to get the perfect underwater picture of a manta ray. When he finally pops up, I say, impressively calmly, "Um Grant, I think I saw some fins over there. Not manta fins but more a little bit like shark fins." He didn't seem too worried as he snapped a picture of my very concerned I just saw freaking FINS face. Note the picture below. That's what I look like when I see a shark. Now you know. The other one
is a flying manta ray.

And here is our we survived picture. ( I have to do this the way the blog lets me so you get little clumps of pictures. This one was actually taken at the end of the trip on our way out of town). Now back to our story.

Hoss, Bob and Mona's neighbor who lives under a tree named "Hoss's Hovel", he has a house but he prefers the tree... He said there have been a few shark sightings in Cabo Pulmo over the last couple of weeks. Though I heard this information, though I'd seen suspicious fins, I still found it somewhat difficult to believe that sharks could actually be there at that very moment at that very part of the ocean that I was sitting on, in a kayak by myself holding onto two paddles. It was time for Grant to get back in. The sun was getting low in the sky and I was getting pretty chilly. Between the manta rays splashing and the big wave breaking over the boat, I was soaked.
As we paddled in, the mountains behind Cabo Pulmo turned a misty purple. You could see the lines of dust kicked up showing the path a pick up used to get home to his ranchero and the little buildings dotting this tiny little town. Even the Big Stupid Dive shop looked scenic from here. Though it wasn't dark yet the three new street lights in town start to flicker on. As I take in the serenity of of this place soaking up every ounce of this adventure, basking in the water splashing in my face as we battle the wind to paddle home, I look down. FINS clear as day with white tips. They are little. We squeeze in for a better look and the little finned animals whip away, but not before I caught a glimpse of a flattish head and blunt nose. VERY sharky looking. Grant agreed that the only animal he knew with a white tipped fin like that is a white tipped shark. Though they are usually much bigger than that. We decided it might be a junior but were left uncertain. Until the next week when Grant returned from Cabo Pulmo and reported seeing 150 junior white tip sharks passing the time on the reef. He said they all must have hatched recently because they don't usually hang out like that. Who knows, maybe they caught wind of some delicious flesh swimming with Manta's last week and came to check it out. I'm just glad I did not see them while Grant was skin diving or this little article may have been entitled "The day Anni and Grant were lost at sea, consumed by panic and fear she took them both down".
I guess it would be the first time someone didn't come back. Grant decided to wait until we neared shore to tell me the story of the lone windsurfer who went out on a day much like this particular day and never came back. It was at this point that I new Grant was a real friend. Not because he'd always tell me the truth but because he would always tell me what I needed to hear. Kind of like the time Betty Lopez and I were fishing in high seas. Waves were crashing over the top of our little fishing boat called the "Go Deep". As we were getting tossed about this little boat, holding on white knuckled for fear we may be pitched over the side, I ask Betty, "There's no way we could sink...could we?" Betty looks at me, smiles and shouts over the sound of revving motors and crashing waves, "NO! We'll be fine!" When we finally made it back to shore Betty looks at me and says, "Anni, if the Titanic could sink...." I wrapped my arms around her and knew that she was my true friend. Not because she told me the truth but because she told me what I needed to hear. Grant prooved himself to me at that moment, just as Betty had. He knew I really wanted to go, trusted my skills in the kayak and held his tongue and for that I will be forever grateful. Some may call it foolish, maybe even downright idiotic. For me, I call it an experience of a life time.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

To Doin' it right and Epiphany's!

To Doin' it right and Epiphany's!

If there is one thing Cabo and being 61 teaches you, is how to "do it right" any other way is a waste of time. Kathy is the Queen of doin' it right. So for her birthday she rented a yacht. An 83 footer named "The Mick". Basically that's about six times bigger than all of these boats and 20 times smaller than this cruise ship. Of course I did not get a picture of "the Mick". I was too overcome with excitement. But you kind of get the idea. Think St. Tropez big sexy boat filled with the sexy elite. Kinda like that but with a Mexi-Midwestern!

We cruised up the Sea of Cortez. Past Villa Miguel, where we swung in the bay for a closer view and a picture. It was pretty hard to see from the boat. But we knew where it was and that the people staying there could see us perfectly. Kind of fun to have the tables turned and be one of the boats that we always watch.

As we made our way up the coast to Santa Maria bay. The hours got long and our sailors grew weary. So to keep the sanity and off-set the scurvy we drank lots of margarita's and took pictures of ourselves.
When we finally made it to Santa Maria bay. The anchor wouldn't hold due to the wild south wind, so we had to move onto Chileano beach for some snorkeling. Our friend Betty Lopez told us that every year at this time, Semana Santa or Holy week (the week before Easter) the wind really starts to blow. She says it's a reminder of what this time of year means. I like that.

Chileano beach is where things really got good. To snorkel for any amount of time it's best to wear a wet-suit because the water is pretty chilly . Putting on the wet-suit was quite a struggle for most of us, but see those long legged girls in the back? They had no problem. They are my nieces, to bad we're not related genetically. The rest of us tugged and squeezed , sucked in and shimmied. All in front of everybody. We actually planned that activity to bring the family closer together. A sort of team building for the clan.
Yay we did it. And don't we all look so much closer as a family??? The conditions at Chileano were less than ideal. However, we were able to keep the anchor stable for a bit. Just long enough for some of us to get in the water and see some fishies. It was harder work than anticipated with the wind and a little bit of current and no life jackets and an anchor that didn't seem to want to stay and a little bit of claustrophobia and freezing ass water, but we did it . We saw fish and by golly that's we came to lets get back on the boat and really get this party started...RIEEEGHT!
Cruising home. Many of us made a costume change for our champagne toast at the arch. We were ready for the photo opp. , but with the wind and all of the people we just couldn't get that money shot of all of us. But this is a good one that shows the wind and that we are having fun.
After our Champagne toast at the arch. We drove through the marina and docked. Which was pretty challenging with the wind, and we send out major props to our El Capitan Jimmie. While docked we turned on the party music and started dancing. Well, actually it was mostly me. My niece Kathryn was mortified , "Auntie Anni...people can see youAH" Without trying mortifying my nieces has become some what of a past time. It's pretty fun, you hardly have to do anything. Susannah didn't seem to mind so much and I got to teach her the Salsa that I had learned a couple of weeks before. A couple of others joined in and we had a regular ole dance party in the marina. Very "Housewives of Orange County" of us, only way classier. Unfortunately I don't have any pictures of this because I was to busy bustin' up the dance floor. But I hope you have a mental image.Then the mosquito's came. Nope not the Minnesota state bird, these guys, a mariachi band. They crooned to us during dinner. To be kind, I'm just not even going to talk about dinner. Lets just say there was food and leave it at that. The music was good though and the party fantastic. Mom got the biggest carrot cake I've ever seen and we all had a grand ole time.Feliz Cumpleanos, Momma, Kathy (Katty in Spanish), Nana! And Muchas Mas Anos!!!!!

Thursday, March 13, 2008

100 Things I love About Mexico

And thats just the balloons. Look at all of those balloons. Ok I can't get rid of this underline so I guess we'll just have to deal. Sorry. My lack of computer skills and impatience will not allow me to find the solution. So moving on to San Jose days, or as our friend Claudia says, just for the gringo's, "St. Josephs". But nobody really calls it that so lets stick with San Jose. San Jose days is a local celebration that we first discovered years ago in our favorite little town of San Jose. It seems to always occur the week right before Semana Santa (Holy Week) The week right before Easter, a very big holiday down here.The town center comes alive with balloon vendors, clowns, candy carts, and glow the dark toys for the kids. I look forward to the town carnival every year. I have been lucky enough to have been almost every year. Last year Katie, Autumn, Molly and I all went. And Katie and I found the most amazing plantano (big banana) stuffed with a churro smothered in butter and covered in caramel. No seriously Katie and I started jumping up and down and cheering when we saw them slap that butter on. This year we skipped the plantains and went strait for the balloons and glow in the dark toys.
This is the first year that I have been able to bring Ophelia to this town fiesta and was so excited that she was finally ready because I knew she would flip! There was a dance recital on the town center stage and Ophelia immediately made a bunch of dancing buddies and they all rocked out on the town center gazebo.
I love San Jose because it is totally different from the party town of Cabo. This is where Mexico's true culture shows through. The center square is a family focus and there are always local events. I have a fantasy that one day Ophelia will debut her dance on this stage. San Jose also has all of the best restaurants, and art crawl in which I love to go and visit all of the paintings and pieces that I will never be able to afford but enjoy still the same.

I think there is little doubt that Cabo is one of my most favorite places on the planet. Even as Cabo grows it still maintains it's small town (or twin town) feel. Giving a little slice of just about everything I am in to. On this trip I have done everything I could imagine to do here. We threw a wedding at Villla Miguel. I went sailing. We saw the whale babies and got to touch them. I hiked a waterfall. I visited Cabo Pulmo and kayaked with manta ray's flying out of the Sea of Cortez. I'm working on getting my Scuba. Have met some amazing and inspiring people. Partied like the rock star I am. Learned how to make tortilla's. Got Ophelia to play in the ocean. Took my first motorcycle ride. Learned how to Salsa. Got my mom in a Kayak. Panga fished with Champagne. Slept under the stars. Saw a lunar eclipse and lots of shooting stars.
So many things that have reinvoked the passion in me. I have been so excited by these experiences that at times I feel as if I have popped out of my body and am watching another persons wonderful life. When I realize it is me I am astonished. Life has not been perfect here, no doubt, we have had our challenges. But isn't that what life is all about?? I don't think I could have appreciated my time here nearly as much had I not just emerged from the most challenging time in my life. What I have learned for this trip combined with the loss of our beloved Mikey is that life is not to be taken lightly but by the horns. For me it is time to ride that bull. I'm going to make the active practice of doing the things that I love and not wait and not be afraid of what might happen.

We are in our last week here in cabo and it's pretty obvious that introspection has smacked me in my suntanned face. However, we are looking forward to seeing everybody at home. It is my goal to get the stories and pictures of all of our experiences out on this blog before I get home. But you may just have to wait to hear some of them in person. We are excited to see all of you and share our stories.

We Love Mambo Cafe...and Eachother

I successfully did not take one picture of Amy and Brandon's wedding. I took a whole bunch of the kids during the wedding and a WHOLE bunch of the after party. But if you want to see
Pictures of the actual wedding and cute couply pictures you have to go to the pro's. Ali our photographer just got a few of her like 600 (I'm not kidding) pictures up. You should check out her blog at They are are pretty fantastic.

If you want to see what what happens after the wedding's over, the Bramjito's start kicking in and a salsa lesson, you come to me. The pictures aren't so perfect and things are getting a little messy but that's the fun and man do we all super love each other. See that last picture. The one handed, squeeze all your heads in, smile so big it eats your face, shoot right up your nose picture??? Yah I have like a hundred of those. I will spare you most of them but I had to share to prove how fantastic we all thought we were.
Speaking of fantastic. Remember how I just mentioned we took an hour salsa lesson at the Villia Miguel reception??? Well we thought we were so fantastic that we'd take our skills to the streets, and hit Cabo's version of the Copa Cabana and go salsa dancing. Little did we know that they were holding a pretty serious dance contest (they had dance numbers on and everything). Little did we care. We totally crashed it. We came to dance and thats what we were gonna do. From the looks of these pictures we were pretty awesome. Did I mention that I bought our little group an entire bottle of tequila?? It seemed like such a good idea at the time. Note to self. Next time you think it's a good idea to buy an entire bottle of tequila at 2:00 am. DO IT!!!! When it's 2:00 am you are not going to convince yourself otherwise and you will make lots of friends on the streets of cabo when you realize your party can't drink it all. It also makes you think you are a super fantastic dancer and you dance until you get a blister the size
of Kansas on your foot. (thank goodness I spared you the picture of that, ewe). Had you not had that bottle of tequila you would not have that little reminder of how great you really thought you were. Follow that?? Good you must be a tequila drinker.

Oooo yup and here we are back to the pictures of loving each other. Can you see my brain up through my nose? Oh yah and here is Brandon and I dancing. He thinks he won the dance contest. All I can say is he didn't do it alone. YEEHAW!!!!! CABO WEDDING 2008!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Babies and Bodas

Hmmm. I wonder where Ophelia learned that little move. Thats what you get when you let the kids play with their uncle.

By the way, boda means wedding in Spanish. Just in case you were confused by the title of this lil blog.
These are just a couple kid pics from the wedding. I didn't get any of the actual wedding because our good friend and lady of all trades Ali Geier took tons of pictures. As soon as they are up on her blog I will let you know.

The little girl in blue is O's friend Lettie. Her mom babysits for Ophelia and sometimes she comes along. She loves to dress up so we thought she might want to come to the wedding. Isn't she a cutie.

O was the flower girl for my cousin's wedding and this is the dress she wore. Our housekeeper Amelia bought it for her in La Paz. It was perfect. The little boy sitting next to O is Isak the ring bearer. This is them letting loose after all of their wedding responsabilites. By the end of the evening their wedding clothes were soaked and they could not have been happier. Even Lettie got in in her blue dress.

These are the tranquil pictures of the evening. Things picked up quite a bit as the night progressed. We hired salsa dancers to teach us some moves. Some of us took what we learned and brought it out on the town. Those pictures are to follow. Things got a little rowdy. We crashed a dance contest at the local salsa club. I'll say no more but you can look forward to that post.

Monday, March 10, 2008

That Ther's a Big Fish

So after months of trying to get this thing up I am finally here. So now what am I supposed to do since a month and a half of really good stories and photos have already passed. I've decided to start with today and work backward, adding any current stories along the way. Hopefully I keep making lots of them.

Here are some pics of the day. As many of you know one of my fave things to do in Cabo is go panga fishing. We went for the first time since I've been down here. My cousins and uncle, his girlfriend and my new super friend Grant, who loves to do all of the same things as me. Notice the bottle of champagne in one hand and reel in the other. We caught lots of fish. Mostly bonito and yellowtail. All really good eating. We had a few bonito the other day sashimi style and it was fantastic. The fish weren't huge but we felt super bad ass catchin'em. Notice the bad ass face. Nice huh.

We caught about 11 fish with all three boats we caught about 25 or more. We saved some for the guys but we're bringing most of them home so look forward to some good eatin'. I don't know what it is about dead fish pictures that seem so artistic...maybe it's just that they are not and I only think so because I'm not an artist. Whatever the case may be I always like to take an "artsy" picture of my catch (aka. dead fish).

Ok so consider this my experimental 1st blog. I know it's not all that interesting but I didn't want to get to into it only to screw it up. Bear with me things will get better, or I'll just quit doing it. At least there are pictures. Pictures are always fun.