Teaching a frog how to dive… only in Barbados!

Cool Runnings is an excursion setting you sail on a custom made catamaran through the gorgeous waters of Barbados while providing, food, drink, dance, snorkeling and of course plenty of time to be kissed by the sun.

It’s been called the Rolls-Royce of catamaran excursions‘ in Barbados and was voted the 2nd best attraction from the popular Zagat. All with good reason, as you’re treated like royalty from the beginning.

Ryan did the honors of introducing this day trip to me and it made such a memory that when I was in the hosting position, I made it a point to pass on the experience. Here are some photos from my first experience of Cool Runnings.

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On this bright morning I’m like a little kid taking friends to Disneyland for the first time!

As you board ship, you’re greeted with an open bar and homemade banana bread. Yes, breakfast of Bajan’s.

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Brunch down and the first juice behind it, we’re off towards the first stop which is an opportunity to swim with tropical fish and sea turltes.

I’m going to pause here and define “dive”- a plunge into water executed in a prescribed manner, usually with arms extended and head first.

Since we have that clear, please explain to me how Bree managed to complete a dive by entering the water with both feet and hands at the same time after fully extending from what appears to be the position of a scared frog. Be mindful that we also initiated this attempt from a decently elevated height. I’m impressed.

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“Under da sea!” (To be said like Sebastian from the Little Mermaid)

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Back to the catermeran for our departure to the final stop which was more swimming and a Bajan Buffett! Flying fish, fried chicken, macaroni pie, salad, rice, veggies, spicy mango… and more adult beverages.

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A few years back, I connected with a warm hearted guy that was an instant friend with conversation that fueled my (already raging) fire for travels. Two years later as I approached the catamaran, I spotted Raymond immediately. Expecting him not to remember just another guest, he pointed and said, “Hand standing around the world… So good to see you again!” Brilliant. Here we are, then and now.

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Have you ever felt like a super-model being gently sprayed down with fresh water while gracefully perched on the back of a boat… only to see photos of it later to realize that you more resembled a giggling girl being drenched with freezing water out of a hose while trying to awkwardly brace yourself? Me neither.

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Here are some random photos taken throughout the day. Good times for sure!

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After swimming the clear turquoise waters, devouring lunch and enjoying one (or three) Bajan beverages, it was time for the final stretch back to the dock. What’s missing you may ask? Dancing! Music gets turned up and everyone braced themselves on deck to wiggle with it. Embarrassed to dance in front of a crowd? Eh, just blame your groove on the rocking boat!

Please take note of Hayden’s face… Was he just jealous of our sweet moves?

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Dear Annika and Robert, this beautiful day and the way it left us smiling reaches far beyond a day at sea. Your kind presence and willingness to make us feel right at home didn’t go unnoticed. Thank you!

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Sleeping by the mango tree.

It’s been awhile since I’ve specifically posted about accommodations. Mainly because I’ve been staying with family in the states and I’m sure the last thing they want is their house exposed online. “…but Erika, I haven’t even vacuumed yet!”

With that said, let’s talk hotels. My first time coming to Barbados was back in the 2011 when I surprised my mom for her 50th birthday. You can see more about that story in More than just a dolphin tour.

We didn’t know anyone on the island yet, so I had to use the good ol’ internet to search out the best option.

With multiple pools, a swim-up bar, nice rooms, restaurants and nightly entertainment Accra Beach Hotel had everything we needed to feel like we were on vacation.

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After venturing back to the island every year since then, I’ve met several friends who have welcomed me into their homes. Thank you Ryan!

This round, considering I had two buddies join me, we stayed in a hotel that offered apartment styled rooms. Coconut Court is known as the most “green” on the island in regards to recycling, room care and sanitary issues. It’s nicely located in Hastings which is on the south coast, walking distance from a variety of restaurants, shops and popular beaches.

Here’s a few views from the main building.

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Our apartment didn’t have the same views, but it was well worth the abundance of space in trade.

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I feel like spending too much time inside any building on this island is some sort of unspoken broken law. Getting out of the room, we found ourselves wandering around the Coconut Court to see what they offered. Here are a few pics from the area surrounding our place.

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Keep walking through the hotels property and you’ll end at the beach with lounge chairs, picnic tables and a tiny bar. Definitely different than my usual hostel grounds of bean bags, broken barbecues and outdoor toilets.

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After Hayden left the trio, Bree and I made our final move up the west coast to the more northern parish of St.Peter. Here, we occupied a friends guest studio house. Thank you Barbara!

It was quaint and comfortable with welcoming greens all around that could have fed me for weeks! Spinach, herbs, mango, bananas and papaya… Yes please!

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This mango tree made for not only an excellent breakfast option, but a fun handstand shot (or two).

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The final photo is our sweet little porch that was the perfect setting for coffee in the morning, a game of cards in the afternoon and several dinner conversations that eventually got drowned out by the tune of the whistling frogs.

No joke, these little (and I mean tiny) frogs will over power the sound of any evening small talk. So much, that leaving the island requires a transition to learn to sleep with silence again. Here, I found this sample of their acoustics for you.

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Next time I’m bringing a pirates hat

The day before kadooment, there’s an annual cruise with limited guests having unlimited fun. I’m honored to have been a part of this celebration for three years know and plan to keep it in the running!

M.C. Buccaneer Cruise 2012

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M.C. Buccaneer cruise 2013

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Let the fun begin now in 2014. Many familiar faces and a few new ones make this day exactly what the island ordered.

We snuck on before the crowd gathered. It looks so innocent, right?

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Once the guests gathered, we departed on the crystal clear waters. It takes no time for the hosts to bust out the snacks. By “snacks”, I mean vodka soaked fruit and coffee flavored tequila with whipped cream and sprinkles.

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No, that’s not my usual seaweed snack… It’s the greens of a scrumptious strawberry.

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Keep in mind, although we’re cruising the smooth waters of Barbados, we’re still on a boat. With your eyes open and hands ready to grip the nearest stable surface at any given moment… take a walk (or wave induced stumble) with me!

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Notice the hands bracing themselves on the pole? We’ll pretend that’s not in preparation for the dainty dance that involves the Soca encouraged hip thrusting.

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Looks like a singles cruise? Not hardly! Most of these happy-go-dancing are couples or married, some with several children! Maybe there’s something to be said about the young at heart. Either way… Single, married, young, experienced… The vibes are just connected, all the way around. Well done my Bajan friends… Well done!

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A pit stop means it’s time to eat! Fish or pork cutters with a few crackers and dip is served to fill the belly of any person willing to stop dancing long enough to inhale a bite.

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If you’re not eating or dancing, more than likely you’ll be found enjoying the water that only seems to be found on postcards.

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My dearest Ryan likes to do it all, so I thought I’d help out this year and simply toss him the food from above. Success!

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As the ship returns, reality hits that’s there’s still “real life” happening on land. On second thought… Reality hits that this is my reality and I should be extremely grateful for this experience!

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Down de road 2014!

Usually for the week of Cropover, I’m an eager passenger along for the ride as my local friends guide the way through the festivities. This year however, as mentioned in the last post, I’ve brought two friends for their first excursion through the unforgettable journey of the Bajan Carnival.

World… Meet Kadooment. As always, if you’re interested in more than just photos, please look back in years prior and read about the full meaning to truly capture the history that drives this annual parade.

Quick recap collage:

2012 Kadoomemt

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2013 Kadooment

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…and now we start our 2014 celebration day with an alarm that awakens the household at 4am.

Beyond the stunning costumes, you also have the option of getting airbrushed, body painted, professional hair and makeup, liposuction… Ok, maybe that’s a bit much, but you get the drift. I’ve always opt to do it on my own and this year, the only difference is I have two partners alongside me. Bree is a fashion designer, I’m a hairstyling and Hayden is… well, a guy (a very fashionable one might say). So with our powers combined, getting ready reminded me of something along the lines of an adult prom at Mardi Gras.

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Hair done, eyelashes secure, makeup, costumes and a glass of champagne brings the clock to 6:45am and our driver honks for pick up! We gathered at the pre party which was celebrating Aldo’s birthday. A few pretty pictures (taken before the sweaty, drink infested, glorious makeup destroying, nylon shredding parade) and a toast before we headed out to the private bus.

We all looked amazing! I felt like a feather princess (I don’t even know if they exist, but if so… I’m sure I resembled one).

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Instead of putting these photos in some sort of order and pretend like it makes sense, I’m simply going to just post them without rhyme or reason. Take it for exactly what it is (or for what you want to think it is).

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Where is everyone getting refills for those snazzy cups? As long as you’re “jumpin” in the right band (in other words, a legit participant in costume) your drinks are included. You simply walk up to a designated drink truck and order what you wish. They have quite the range in juice, soda, coconut water, beer, liquor and mixed cocktails. Pretty much everything shy of a Bloody Mary (of course the first thing I asked for).

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The working gentlemen you see not in costume walking with the trucks are there to make sure your feet stay out of the way. We’re all adults here, why would anyone ever get close enough to… “Owheee!” As the truck slowly creeps over my right foot. As I embarrassingly told the story of my flattened toes, a majority of the group exclaimed “Me too!”, turns out it’s more common than I gave credit. Lesson learned.

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It’s Ryan again! Just for fun, here’s our three years in jumping collage. Is it just me or does he just keep getting younger and younger!?

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I got the pleasure of running into this lovely woman again. Still smiling and glowing as I remembered!

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Check us out! Last year and this one… Looking superb ladies!

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Although security isn’t necessarily needed (I’ve never seen anything anyway) there are men on horses, sober faced soldiers and your typical “staff” walking about.

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The crowd that comes to observe ranges from locals who have been viewing this nonsense for years gathered with a few that used to do it “back in the day”. Some of my favorite onlookers are the tourist that booked their family holiday without the knowledge of Cropover. This little guy waved at me so I removed the belt (that was given to me by another participant) and gave it to him. Oh happy day!

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What on this beautiful earth can all of these people be dancing to for over 7 miles in the blazing sun, in full costume and priceless smiles?! I’ve attached a link to give you a Soca Sampler.
Warning: What you hear may encourage involuntary hip movement with an overpowering urge to thrust in a pulsating manner. I wish you luck.

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Dear Barbados, I thank you for the energy you’ve shared each year with the abundance of kind people within your island. There’s something special here… I’m so thankful to be a part of it.

Cheers till next time!

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Paint me up mudder cup!

I figured there were mainly two ways I could introduce Barbados back into my blog. Either my traditional style of easing into the description of what the people are like, how the culture makes me feel and showing you gorgeous pictures of the world wide known landscapes of this striking island…

Or, the Bajan way and dive right into a street party that went till Sunrise!

If you’d love to find out more about the the unique island of Barbados, please be patient as they’re soon to come. Please also feel free to read older posts that I’ve so conveniently connected below. You’re welcome.

“Just the beginning of Barbados”

“5 not so well known facts of Barbados”

“Random sights of Barbados”

“The rest of Barbados in a nut shell”

For now, let’s take you along a photo adventure of the preparation that goes into the night parade know as J’ouvert. Also referred to as Foreday Morning Jam, Mud and Paint or last year in which I titled it An Orbit gum commercial, Bajan style.

The package you get includes randoms gifts such as bandanas, cups, a t-shirt and wrist band. This is to ensure that you’re “jumping” with the right band and have appropriate attire. (Meaning that you match your group, not “appropriate” like you’d wear it to a family holiday).

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Each year I’ve cut, torn and tied my shirt into a new design and this round shows no different except I’ve brought two friends to experience that which is Carnival in Barbados!

Quick and easy introduction: You all know Hayden. I grew up with him, gave him the travel bug and now he can’t stay in the states long enough to plan for his next flight out.
Here we are on several different trips within the last 15 months:

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Bree: Our story began on a flight in Asia, branched to an unforgettable backpacking journey in Thailand and now we reunite on my favorite island in the world. Bree and I traveling together looks something like this:

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The prep phase turned our apartment living room into a fashion design studio. Each one of us filling in as a model for one another’s experiment. Poor (lucky) Hayden was included as well, I suppose it’s small price to pay celebrating with two energetic females.

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The ending result? One-of-a-kind shirts for the ladies and a comfortable tank top for the boy to Rock.

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As if that wasn’t completely entertaining in itself, we then complete the tradition by heading out around 10:30p to catch a van for our jaunt to the starting line.

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The waiting area is a group of a few hundred of “your closest friends” ready for miles of parading to Soca music, drinks and dancing…. With the main attraction of mud, paint and powder.

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The music fires up and the walking begins!

Not much explanation needs to go into the following photos. If this blog had audio, you’d be moving your hips to Soca beats while trying to make out the words with the sound of people singing along. Awh, the beauty of rich tunes.

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Remember Ryan? He’s my dear friend that I met years ago who has been my Bajan mentor… Properly training me on all of the local traditions. Here we are in my first two Morning Jams, followed by this year!

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Wrapping up the evening includes a breakfast choice of fish, ham or cheese sliders and Caribbean corn soup. At this point, we would of inhaled it just the same if they would of fed us dog chow and mystery juice. While consuming what seems like the best food on the island, the energy from the parade leaves some still jumping and others, well…

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So now we’re fed, but still covered in mud, paint and powder paste. What to do? Only my favorite part of the entire festivities! They blast more dance music and gear up the water trucks. Shower party time!

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The ride home presents itself with yet another victory defined as a safe journey packed full of memories (and one tired pup).

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Cricket… Not the insect.

Cricket: a bat-and-ball game played between two teams of 11 players each on a field at the centre of which is a rectangular 22-yard long pitch. (Thank you internet definition)

The original game itself can last anywhere between a few hours to a few days. Yes folks, that’s not a typo. In fact, the record for longest game is 150 hours and 14 minuts. The shortened version that I attended on this day was called Twenty20. Each team is allowed only one inning that’s restricted to 20 overs (google it) and tends to run about three hours. I was warned by a dear friend to bring a pillow just in case I fell asleep. We’ll see.

Walking up to any stadium always sends a unique chill throughout my body. Maybe it’s the energy from the excited fans or the view over looking the massive field. Whatever it is, I feel it.

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The Kingston oval was no different as we peaked over the stairs to our seats, a childlike “goosy” sensation ran over my body.

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Sitting from my seat, I was able to capture a few good shots of the field and some random entertaining pictures.

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Snack time? This guy was selling peanuts and grapes. Classic.

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People often ask me if I ever see hairstyles around the world that inspire new ideas. Hmmm….

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The marching band certainly made a show with instrumental versions of Soca music. Good stuff!

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Cheerleaders? Of course! …and look who joined them.

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The mini break (I would refer to it as the half time show) consisted of hip hop dancers tumbling around the field.

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Hours later of learning of runs, overs, hits and such, it came down to the last 2 pitches. Barbados needed to score 6 points with 2 balls left. If you’re not familiar with the game, this would be like an American football game with an even score at the 10 yard line with 2 seconds left. A baseball game maybe bases loaded, last inning with 2 outs. You get the drift that the crowd was on their feet waiting for the pitch. Lucky for me (and every other fan) they hit it solid and won the game! Does cricket have a new fan? Possibly.

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I feel like I need to come up with a different phrase other than “thank you” for Ryan. So many experiences that I would have never been a part of without his guidance and willingness to let a happy little backpacker tag along.

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How do I ever repay him for this experience and new found sport?

Haircuts for the whole family!

I didn’t bring my proper tools this trip because I carried on my bags and protective TSA (enter sarcastic smile here) would have taken my shears. I wasn’t too concerned though, as we could just use what they had, right?

Spray bottle? Nah, we have a water hose. Perfect!

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An average size combing device? Umm, nope. The pink comb would have better used to brush the mane of lion and the small black one was technically for the beard/mustache. “There’s no need to fear… Erika is here!” Only funny to those of you who watched American cartoons anytime from 1964-1990.

Here’s Ryan, he went first. A pointless funny side note: Neither one of us knew about the faces we were making.

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Now his sister Melodie, her husband Kris and their precious baby boy Tiernan (who’s little noggin was the perfect fit to the mustache comb).

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If this beautiful family looks familiar it’s probably because in years past they’ve been a part of my Barbados journey. Quick pic recap!

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Last but far from least is their mother, Barbara. Not only was she brave enough to let me play with her hair, she was kind enough to welcome us into her guest studio apartment for the last week of our stay.

Wherelse better for a Bajan haircut than under a mango tree!

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Raw and Juicy

I’m extremely excited to announce that the place I’m lucky enough to call my “job” has been listed in the Top 10 Juice Bars in the nation by US Today! Keep in mind we’re in a tiny Airstream that fits 3 people (4 is a cozy party) that sits on a quaint beach side street. Some of the other “best of’s” are in major cities like Atlanta, L.A, Nashville and such, so clearly the heart and energy behind Raw and Juicy speaks in volumes!

Curious of the creator behind this magical place serving things like the Spicy Rabbit, Green Goddess and Spiked Melon? Meet Jenifer Kuntz by clicking here.

I’d love to do a huge post with hundreds of photos of us playing with fruit, veggies, blenders and more (aka- “working”) but in the midst of fun, I rarely remember my camera.

So instead, I’ll post a few that were captured and link you directly to their website which is well worth a look. Please take a moment and embrace what is the Raw and Juicy Life.

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Working? Sure, you can a all it that.

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So this is Carinne, a happy little lady who happened to drop the blender lid behind our freezer. Our compact area provides such a tight squeeze, this is what I turned around to after hearing the strenuous sounds of go-go gadget arm!

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When you order from this superb place, let me confirm that any smoothie with coconut meat, milk or water legitimately comes straight from the source. It takes solid effort, but it’s well worth the results!

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As well as full description of each amazing item on our menu, I could also go into an entire post about every lovely person I get to share this space with. Instead, I will just send my full gratitude to Christin, Kevin, Daisy, Jesse, Corinne, Shen, Michelle, Jo Jo, Kayla, and Grayton. You make my work-world a vibrant place full of positive energy and mindful thoughts… Thank you.

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4th of July… Santa Rosa Beach style

I’ve spent the last three years celebrating the independence of the USA in Northern California with some dear friends. A houseboat trip, fireworks and quality people definitely equals a memorable holiday. For a change, this 4th of July I chose to be near water on the Gulf of Mexico in Florida with my mom.

Not much description is needed to represent the outdoor venue in which our talented friend, Geoff Mcbride was spreading his love.

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Music + happy humans = Dancing!

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If this beautiful couple looks familiar, it’s because they were there the first time I fell in love with the music of Heritage (who happens to enhance the post below)!

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For the night of the 4th, we were lucky to score our favorite tunes from none other than the band Heritage!

Set up in an open alley, they were the center of attention to a beach side block party.

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Enthusiasm? And the winner is…

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Sun down and an intermission brought us all to the coast for fireworks off the dock.

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“One more song! One more song!”

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Although this photo isn’t amazing quality, I dig the glowing jewelry.

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Just as the band was finishing up, mom and I ran into one of my new favorite hair clients and long lost friend that I didn’t even know I had… Remember Stephen from recent posts? He’s back!

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After a day of music and an evening block party with quality vibes, what summer holiday would be complete without a recovery day on the beach? Same sand, lovely mother and a creative handstand shot (not sure if that was helpful to the recovery by the way) to celebrate the anniversary of our Independence Day.

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For fun facts and more about this holiday, check out the post called 4th of July in the USA (or just click on it).

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Tulsa, more than just the Drillers.

I’ve been loving life on the road now for 2 1/2 years. Homeless but never unsettled… traveling solo, but rarely alone. What a dream.

Volunteering abroad has allowed me to experience a wide range of lifestyles, careers, religions, traditions and so on. In regards to food and accommodations, I’ve been able to pleasantly earn my way through volunteering and bartering, that in itself has been an adventure!

Well, turns out there was opportunity right near my own back yard!

Work hard (barely) and play hard (relax) seemed to be the theme of my whirlwind trip to Tulsa. A few projects to assist in and a partner in harmless crime was my position to fill during this visit to see my long time family friend, Ryan. We spent a summer together over 15 years ago and lost touch until last year. Fun fact, we both traveled to Asia and Japan within months of each other without even knowing it!

Assignment number one? Taxes…. enough said.

How it began…

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The controlled chaos…

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The gorgeous results…

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I’ll pause here for you to meet Chris Farley…. Cute, lazy and completely lovable.

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Project number two called for some creative minds, dirty toes and one bandaid thanks to the gorgeous cactus plant.

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If you know me at all, you’ll know that cooking is hardly a chore but rather a candidate for one of my top 5 favorite activities. With that said, playing in his kitchen was far from work and more of a treat. Friends, meet one of my happy places.

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Where was Ryan during my crazy culinary play-time? Clearly he knew that without his effort, it was going to be an all veggie dinner. I found him out back firing up the grill.

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The result of our powers combined equaled a huge hunk of meat and my roasted veggies, a cucumber-tomato-onion salad with a side of homemade guacamole and salsa with lentil chips. Yum.

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I’ll give you one guess to figure out which plate belonged to him…

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Ryan served up dessert with an unofficial-officially proper scotch tasting.

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If you ever make your way through Tulsa and you have a great deal of appreciation for creative drinks in a unique ambiance, I highly suggest you check out Valkyrie.

They provide carefully selected craft beer, worldly wine and your classic cocktails using quality ingredients. By “quality” I mean they make their own mixers, infusions and juices with local produce and a lot of love. From lavender, jalepeƱo, to cucumber and homemade ginger beer, the menu offers a variety for the people who stick to the classics. It also caters to those of us who search for a new flavor with each order. Choose from the “shaken” or “stirred” list and wait for the masterpiece to present itself. I tried the “Shake rattle, bang your head” which was a brilliant combination of Gin, jalepeƱos, chartreuse, cucumber and lime.

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After enjoying these wonderful beverages, what better way to test your hand-eye coordination than a few friendly games of pool and shuffle board. To prevent public embarrassment, I won’t say the name of who came in 2nd place… I’ll simply post a picture of who dominated both games.

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For my last evening, we went to a local restaurant that offered a classy menu with a fine wine list. Unfortunately we managed to order items that didn’t produce the flavors it had flaunted. I’m thinking we just caught the chef on an off day, so if you choose to dine at Tall Grass, I wish you an amazing edible experience!

Our selection for the appetizer was bone marrow. Notice how he just pushed the interior mass into a pudding-like pile. The first taste to hit my palette was salt. Not a “salty” flavor, but actual sodium… like I licked a salt shaker. There wasn’t a second flavor due to the speed in which I removed it from my mouth. Hmmm, no thank you.

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For dinner I ordered a root salad with an apple cider vinegar dressing and he went for the pecan crusted halibut (sounds marvelous, right?). Dessert was a fancy wine that neither one of us had ever heard of, but definitely proved to be the most flavorful item on the table.

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The best photo of the evening was catching Ryan in his ever so sophisticated pose with a cheeky grin. Perfect for the energy of the evening, well done… Well done!

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Lastly, I’ll wrap up this post in gratitude for the very much appreciated moments outside. A breath of fresh air, solid sunshine and good conversation was a perfect compliment to this mini trip.

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Ryan, this unexpected and perfectly timed get-away was hopefully just the first of many. Cheers to Japanese bloody Mary’s, squeaky windmills, kale chips and the best sports team ever… The Drillers! Thank you for everything.

Categories: Accommodations, Edibles!, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A fishing pole, banjo and a beer

Once upon a time, my mom and I took one of our usual walks to the beach.

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After too many duo selfies and a couple cartwheels (me, not mom) she randomly spotted a cheerful looking fella walking with a huge fishing pole, a banjo and a beer. “Ooh, I wonder what he’s fishing for!”, she says like a curious kid who wants to know everything about everyone. As I turned to look, my lovely mother was already near him with her hand extended. As I approached the banjo man, is was clear she had met an incredibly good natured guy with an easy going attitude. Casual conversation lead to a hair cutting date and a new friend. Nice catch mom!

Fast forward a few days and here we are! A front porch haircut and more smiles… Excellent!

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Sorry sweetheart, I’m not experienced in dog grooming.

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Glorious! I score another buddy with an instant connection bonded by a haircut. I’m so thankful mom was interested in his fishing adventure.

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Moving on in the week, Steven sent me another client that enhanced my day with an additional porch side haircut, meet Grayton!

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UPDATE:
I met Steven on the beach who then introduced me to Grayton. What I didn’t mention above, was that he also referred me to a job of my dreams at a local vegan cafe and juice bar. (Turns out Grayton works with there as well!)

Guess who is now officially employed at the one and only Raw and Juicy that sits so perfectly in the center of Seaside beach?! I’ll show you more details of this adorable set up later, but here’s a sneak peak!

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Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

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