Pura vida!

7.06.2017


Every time Scott and I tell friends, coworkers, or even random strangers that both of our families are going on a trip together, we are at first met with a look of surprise. It happened last year while planning our stay in Tahoe, and again this past spring when we were gearing up for our week in Costa Rica.


"Wait, you mean, you go on vacations together?"

Yep, we sure do! Is traveling with in-laws really so unheard of?

I suppose it is, but for us, the tradition is totally normal.


Natural, even. As natural as rappelling down waterfalls, dining with monkeys, or putting on a Father's Day variety show complete with scripts, choreography, and costumes.


Okay, so normal may not be the best word to describe our close-knit group of eleven. But we are family. And we know how to have a good time together—no matter where are adventures take us. This time, it was to the shores of Manuel Antonio.


Our rainforest treehouse, situated on the edge of Quepos, provided beautiful backdrops of both the National Park and Pacific Ocean from the top balcony, and boasted a tropical oasis down below. Each evening, after returning from whatever excursion we had planned for that day, we all looked forward to lounging by the pool, whipping up a batch of frozen margaritas, and playing a card game or two on the outer deck.


But if there was one thing to write home about—other than the unbelievable views—it was the food. I know, who would've thought Costa Rica would be on their A-game in the culinary arts scene? Not me! Breakfasts and dinners were cooked in-house by our own private chef, Esteban, and served fresh every single day. No matter what was on the menu, Esteban's impeccable spread was always worth drooling over. 


As is typical for Alleman/Blasik family vacations, we never really stopped eating the whole week. Mornings called for fresh fruit (a full platter of sliced pineapple, papaya, mango, and watermelon), pancakes or French toast, bacon, chorizo, hash browns, and scrambled eggs. Depending on the night, dinners featured something like seared yellowfin tuna (my personal fave), surf and turf, beef bolognese over pasta, or grilled chicken—and were always accompanied by a side salad, cooked veggies, and potatoes or rice. Followed by homemade dessert, of course. I'm salivating just thinking about it.


Having everything at our disposal made it tempting to stay holed up in our open-air castle all week, but we managed to venture out at least once a day to take in all that Costa Rica has to offer. The town of Quepos is quiet, friendly, and filled with both tourists and locals alike who seem to not have a care in the world. The sun rises early (around 5:00 AM), and time passes slowly: a vacationer's dream. Most nights, we were all ready for bed by eight.


The weather was hot and humid, as is to be expected in the jungle, and it rained at least once a day—fickle yet intense storms that would come and go within minutes and without warning. Insects were our constant companions: Flies that glowed green and blue, greedy mosquitos, long skinny stick bugs, and the occasional spider joined in our fun. But none of that stopped us from ziplining through the trees, taking advantage of natural water slides, exploring sea caves, and soaking up the salty waves. "No worries; be happy," Costa Rica whispers. You are in paradise.

A portrait of first-time homeowners.

6.07.2017


Currently, I am...

Drinking: vanilla caramel kahlua flavored (decaf) coffee, straight from my French press.

Loving: the above photo of Scotty and I on a walk in our neighborhood. Did I mention we bought a house back in February? We're officially suburbia folks! (And frankly, still getting used it...) We enjoy our daily strolls and love having visitors stop in for a cup of tea or glass of wine. Hint hint.

Reading: Wild by Cheryl Strayed. >>> Seriously, girl's got GUTS. I wouldn't dream of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail at all, much less by myself. 

Stressing over: how to turn my other blog into an LLC. I'm halfway there, and still so confused. A degree in business or law would be super helpful right about now.

Thankful for: Dallas weather. It beats Houston's humidity any day.

Listening to: birds chirping outside my kitchen window. Suburban life has its perks.

Learning: the art of slow living. JK, I don't even know what that means.

And a little bonus fun fact: Summer used to be my least favorite season, but it's growing on me. I'm all about the 8:30pm sunset these days... More time for walks.

Anyhoo, what's new with YOUR life?

Touring Europe: Back to London.

5.09.2017


If I could live anywhere in the world, it would be London. Or England in general. Don't ask me why—I don't have a legitimate answer, just a feeling I get when I'm there. The people, the architecture, the pubs, the rainy weather, I love it all. Ever since I can remember (before I'd even stepped foot in the UK), I've had a love affair with British culture. Which is why I didn't mind one bit that our European tour ended in the same place it began. Behold, the foggy city.

I didn't sleep a wink the night before we boarded our train from Paris to London. I was particularly sad the next morning, for reasons that no longer matter, and I'm embarrassed to admit that I barely remember telling our fellow travelers goodbye as they loaded their luggage onto the bus that would take them to the airport for their long journey home.

But when Kristen and I arrived in London, after coming this close to missing our ride (talk about an adrenaline rush!), I was myself again. We walked around the city, arm-in-arm, reminiscing over the events of the last few weeks and discussing in detail all that lay ahead. We snapped a few obligatory photos along the way—of Big Ben, London from the Eye, Westminster Abbey, a traveling circus—and then popped a squat on the steps of the Victoria Memorial to ponder life's greatest mysteries: How did we end up here? Lifelong best friends, thousands of miles from home, on the verge of adulthood. So many different crossroads in our twenty-two years of living had led us to where we stood, and yet, the weight pressing on both of our hearts could only mean that the most important ones were still to come.

A thousand and one things awaited us at home. But the future wasn't so scary, we agreed, as long as we had each other. As long as we had this moment, and the memory of London.

And then there were eight.

4.03.2017

In May of 2015, my best friends and I took a trip. Just the four of us, traveling along winding roads en route to the Texas wine country. We were all 23 years old, single, and fresh out of college.

This past March, we did it again. Except this time, with four new additions to the family. 


It's amazing to me how everything in our lives can change—relationship statuses, jobs, cities, schools—but when the four of us are together, it's as if nothing has.

Yesterday, we graduated from high school as wide-eyed 18-year-olds, crossing the finish lines of our childhoods side by side. Today, we're in our mid-twenties and each happily married, slowly but surely paving the way for full-blown careers, homes we can call our own, and lifelong dreams come true. Tomorrow, small children might photobomb our group pictures: little minions that will no doubt be best friends (or childhood sweethearts), too, if we have anything to say about it.


But I'm getting ahead of myself—2017 looks good on us, I think. There are eight of us now, instead of four, and double the love to go around. And it makes me confident.

Confident that no matter where life takes us, we will always have this.

Touring Europe: Paris.

3.29.2017


Ask anyone who's familiar with France, and they'll tell you that Paris is completely overrated.

"It's not that great, compared to the rest of the country," they say. "Visit anywhere but Paris," they advise.


Unfortunately, I haven't had the pleasure of exploring the rest of France. But I have been to Paris twice, and I'll admit, I kind of hate that the City of Love gets a bad rap. Because I, for one, love Paris. I love its sidewalk cafés, crowded corners, maze-like graveyards (okay, graveyardPère Lachaise is my happy place), and rows upon rows of high-end shops. I love that I can eat chocolate croissants for breakfast, lunch, and dinner without feeling the least bit guilty—after all, the French don't get fat eating that stuff—and pretend to be Amelie as I engage in the very therapeutic act of people-watching.


Paris was the last official stop on our Contiki tour, and I'm grateful to have been able to see a side of the city I hadn't before. While the Eiffel Tower is beautiful, and worth climbing (especially when it's all lit up), there are much better things to do while visiting the most romantic city in the world.


Like, for example, sampling floral fragrances at the Fragonard Parfumerie à la wealthy Parisian housewives. Or sitting down to a cheesy croque-monsieur and a glass of wine at the nearest available bistro because your feet ache from walking. Or, if you're a sentimental soul, touring the 19th-century opera house that inspired Gaston Leroux's 1910 novel (and Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical), The Phantom of the Opera. (Possibly my favorite musical of all time.)


(But seriously, how mesmerizing is the Palais Garnier? I was in Heaven just walking through it!)


But if you really want to experience the magic of Paris, channel your inner Satine and attend a dinner and show at the infamous Moulin Rouge. This was the final group activity on our 21-day Contiki tour—our grand finale, if you will—and it definitely did not disappoint. Apparently, I love cabaret! Who would've thought? Sadly, photographs were not allowed inside the theater, but believe me when I say: It was hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life, and the perfect note on which to end our wild jaunt through Europe.


And, just for good measure, here's another photo of Kristen breaking it down on the dance floor. The girl knows how to party.


Coming soon: the FINAL post chronicling me and Kristen's 2014 European tour. (Ten cities and two years later...) Before going our separate ways, it was back to London for one last day together abroad. Stay tuned!
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