#106 meet Kevin Costner

•August 6, 2010 • Leave a Comment

There are two other “meet xxxx” items on my list. #1 Meet David Suzuki (I’ve given up on this and may write about that one day), and #76 Meet Sting (currently working on that one). I had the most wonderful “meet a celebrity” moment this year at the Big Valley Jamboree, and it definitely warrants posting a photo on the internet!

I am a huge admirer of Kevin Costner. The first movie of his I saw was Fandango, followed soon by Silverado, which fell into a time when I loved westerns. Who didn’t love Eliot Ness in The Untouchables; this is one of the best movies ever. I will say nothing about No Way Out, other than I loved it, and you should watch it. That’s it. Then we enter what I think of as the glory days of my love affair with Kevin. Bull Durham, Field of Dreams, Dances with Wolves, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, JFK. Field of Dreams and Dances with Wolves hold two of the top five spots on my all-time favourite list. I love both of those characters. I wanted to BE in both of those scenarios, not in the movies as an actor, but I wanted to live in that cornfield in Iowa, or in that teepee. Those movies are on the list of “will never tire of watching.” Also on that list is Wyatt Earp. This is a story that I love (remember, I’m a fan of westerns) and have watched both this version and also Kurt Russel’s Tombstone over and over. That’s where my list of favourites ends (I guess after Tin Cup, the golf movie, which has a soft spot in my heart because there is a scene in there that reminds me of my husband). You can check out the full list here in IMDB. After that, I stopped watching movies for some unknown reason, for a period of several years.

Kevin Freakin' Costner and ME!

What never ended is my fascinations. I remained a huge fan, noting the succession of new movies coming out and also the development of a new career for Kevin; that of a musician. He fronts a band called Kevin Costner and Modern West. As you may know, my husband is also a musician, and so I know some people who know some people…

There is a long and probably boring story about how the actual meeting came about. Suffice it to say I began planning last September, and worked through June and July to put the other pieces in place. On Saturday, July 31, the stars aligned and a dream came true.


#23 make a fabulous mojito

•April 18, 2010 • Leave a Comment

As I read through my own list of a hundred things to do, I realize I’m quite a simple girl. Sure, there are some fancy-dancy HUGE things on this list that are spendy and perhaps unrealistic (#11 go to Antarctica) and some things that rely more on luck than on planning (#97 make a hole-in-one), but much of what is on this list is everyday stuff that guides the mundane.

assemble the ingredients

I enjoy a nice cool cocktail on a hot summer day, and I love mint. This is my recipe for a fabulous mojito, perfected in November 2009.

Step 1 (optional): Make the mint syrup. The first few mojitos that I tried ended up with undissolved sugar in the bottom of my glass, so now I begin by boiling equal parts water and sugar (1 cup of each) along with a handful of mint leaves until the sugar is dissolved, the mixture smells minty and it’s boiled for a few minutes. You can tell I am a gourmet, can’t you. Drain this through a sieve and into a jar and let it cool.

Step 2: Assemble your ingredients. The cooled syrup (or sugar if you didn’t make the syrup), a lime, some fresh mint (the fresher the better), rum, soda, ice and a muddler.

Step 3: Muddle. Put some syrup (I usually use a tablespoon-ish; this will depend on your taste, and on how sweet your syrup is) and some mint leaves into the bottom of a martini shaker. Crush the leaves with the muddler, and then squeeze the juice of the lime into the glass and muddle again.

Step 4: Shake. Add ice and rum to the shaker and shake.

Step 5: Pour. Pour the entire contents of the shaker into a clear glass and add a little soda.

Step 6: Enjoy. Stir with a fancy swizzle stick, garnish with a sprig of mint. Put your feet up, toast the sun, and enjoy your fabulous mojito.


#38 support a friend in achieving a goal

•March 9, 2010 • 1 Comment

One of my goals as a human is to become more loving, more supportive, a better friend and person. That’s how this item, vague as it may sound, ended up on my list of things “to do” though it may be more suited to a list of things “to be.” Whatever, here it is.

I was in Mexico in January of 2009 when I got a facebook message from my former roommate and BFF Kathleen. The message was along the lines of “what are you doing on April 20? do you want to go to Boston? I’m running in the marathon.” I sent a note back: “Sorry, that’s the weekend we’re traveling home from Mexico; I can’t make it.” A few minutes later, I thought “What are you thinking? Kathleen is running in the freaking BOSTON MARATHON and you can’t go because you have a plane ticket? That’s not good.” Kathleen, when she was a young girl, had a picture on her bedroom wall of a woman running in the Boston Marathon; for as long as I had known her, it was on her list of things to do. Clearly, a new approach was required on my end (and you can see why the item is on my list – it needed to be there!). I asked my husband, whose wanderlust prevents him from saying no to any trip, anywhere, if he’d like to go to Boston and he did not disappoint. I sent Kathleen a new note: “Disregard previous communication. OF COURSE we’re coming to Boston!” About an hour later flights were changed, hotels were booked, and the excitement was mounting.

at fenway park in our swag

When we arrived, I don’t think Kathleen has ever been happier to see me. 🙂 She was convinced that none of her friends would come all this way for a race. It was sweet, really, realizing just how incredibly easy it is to make someone happy if you just put in a little effort. Saturday night we had the most wonderful Italian dinner ever (maybe topped only by my best ever meal in Italy). On Sunday, the day before the race, we wandered down to Fenway Park, bought some tickets from a scalper, and went to see the Red Sox. What an awesome day that was! I loved the Bahstahn accents, the smell of the park, the hoards of people and the atmosphere. Fantastic!

The next day was the big race. She did an amazing job! 23,167 individuals started the race; Kathleen finished in the top 100 in her division and 5,799th overall, with a new personal best marathon time. Out of 9,434 women who started the race she finished 766th. She ran like the wind, and watching her cross the finish line was an amazing moment. I was so proud of her, and so incredibly happy to be a part of her mind-blowing accomplishment. And I loved it that when she saw us, cheering wildly for her, she hopped over the little fence they had as a barrier (past the finish line is a study in herding broken runners to the place where they can fall down safely) high-fived us and said “So are we going for a beer?”

Kathleen, you were (and remain) AWESOME!

kathleen after 42.195 kilometers april 20, 2009

#66(a) getting from mexico to belize

•February 13, 2010 • 20 Comments

As you may know from this previous post, my husband and I went to Belize in December for a week. This post is about the to-ing and fro-ing.

If you’re like me, you like to plan things and know what is going to happen when. As we were considering our plan to go from Cozumel, Mexico to Ambergris Caye, Belize, a lot of people said “don’t worry, it’s easy” but couldn’t provide any specifics other than “a taxi will take you there.” Well, not likely a taxi from Cozumel (an island) will go to Ambergris (another island) and so off to the interwebs I went, looking for info. Turns out there are lots of blog posts, most from circa 2005 or ’06, but not a lot of concrete schedules or things, which a control freak detail oriented person such as myself was looking for. So here is my own blog post, circa 2010.

There were going to be a few legs to this journey: Cozumel to the Playa del Carmen (easy ferry trip), PDC to Chetumal (on the bus), Chetumal to somewhere in Belize, and then somewhere in Belize to Ambergris Caye. The first two parts are easy; the ferry from Coz to the mainland runs several times each day, the only trick is catching the ferry that will get you to the next leg on time. The second leg is also fairly straightforward. The easiest way to get correct information about the bus schedule is to go to the bus terminal. Here in Cozumel, we have an ADO (one of the bigger bus companies) ticket office at the ferry terminal, so I went there and got the schedule. Turns out buses go from PDC to Chetumal about 12 times each day, with different prices and times depending on how fancy the bus is (does it have a bathroom?) and how often it stops along the way. Also note that there are two bus terminals in PDC; the bus we took to Chetumal leaves from the terminal in town, not the terminal near the ferry.

The third leg, the Chetumal to “somewhere in Belize” was the one that posed the greatest challenge. I had determined that there were flights from Corozal, Belize to Ambergris Caye several times each day on two different airlines, and so that seemed like a good way to go. How to get from Chetumal to the Corozal airport was not so cut and dried. There are two “transfer companies” operating in Belize, both of which advertise that they can meet you at the bus in Chetumal, help you with the border crossing (both sides) and get you to the airport in Corozal, for a fee. Get Transfers charges $40 for this, and Menzies Tours charges $45. Both companies include pick up in Chetumal (Get Transfers picks up at a Burger King near the bus), assistance with the two border crossings (out of Mexico and into Belize) and then transportation to the airport (I’m going to start calling it what it is: a tiny airstrip) in Corozal. I hadn’t found Get Transfers to be very responsive to my questions and so on the advice of a twitter contact, I got in touch with Menzies Tours and advised that I’d like to use their service. The last I heard from them was that they needed payment in advance, and they were preparing payment forms and would get back to me. Three subsequent emails from me saying “where are the forms, are you coming to pick us up?” went unanswered, and so we arrived in Chetumal unsure of what would happen next.

the "express" bus from Chetumal to Corozal

What happened was that as we exited the bus in Chetumal, there was a fellow standing there saying “Belize? That bus there.” When asked what his bus to Belize cost, his answer of “60 pesos” sold us. We did have 60 pesos (about $5) and nothing but time, so decided to go for the adventure. The bus was an ancient school bus, but it worked.

Turns out the bus driver assisted with the border crossing out of Mexico then dropped us all off at the Customs and Immigration house into Belize and waited for us on the other side. Like most border crossings, it was just a lot of standing in a line, nothing that really required “assistance.” The bus then drove the fifteen minutes into Corozal, dropped us at the bus terminal and we caught a taxi ($4) to the airstrip. We then got on the tiniest plane ever, ($45) and were in Ambergris in time for a nice dinner.

All told, it worked like this:

  • Cozumel to Playa del Carmen (7 a.m. ferry, 80 pesos – we get a local price)
  • Playa del Carmen to Chetumal (9 a.m. bus, premier service, 216 pesos)
  • Chetumal to Corozal (bus left about ten minutes after arrival into Chetumal, 60 pesos)
  • Corozal to Ambergris Caye (3:30 p.m. plane, $45 US)

the plane

On the way back, we took a taxi from the airstrip in Corozal to the bus station. Get Transfers operates there, outside of the taxi union. The trip costs a flat fee of $30 USD, and we took the union taxi (much less pushy than the Get Transfers drivers). The taxi driver did the same as the bus driver had, dropping us where we needed to be for the border crossings and waiting on the other side. We missed the “premier” bus to Chetumal and ended up on what we called the “chicken bus” – a little cheaper (I think 150 pesos) but WAY more crowded, way more stops and no bathroom. Still, we got to Playa del Carmen in time to go to Sam’s Club and stock up on wine before we headed back to the island.

Bottom line, travel is easy, cheap and safe. The people are willing to help you as needed. If you need a “travel company” then go ahead and use one, but don’t necessarily expect the level of service you’d expect at home. You’ll pay extra for the peace of mind of having someone else take care of everything, but they may not actually take care of anything, leaving you money out with no benefit.

the chicken bus. spend the extra money to not go on this one!

#79 put my time where my mouth is; commit to a project

•January 10, 2010 • 2 Comments

I’m going for a walk. Just one foot in front of the other, over and over.

me and the firemen; they walked 60 km in these getups

Last summer I participated in the Weekend to End Breast Cancer, in Edmonton Alberta. This year, it is it titled the Weekend to End Women’s Cancers, but it’s the same event and I’ll be participating again; 60 kilometers (37.28 miles) over two days. I had contributed to a friend’s participation for a few years; she lost her mother to breast cancer several years ago, and last year I decided to join her and her daughter on the walk.

In 2009, I raised just over $2,000 and for 2010, I am starting my fundraising about three months earlier, and so have set my goal at $3,000. I’ve already raised $45 – whoo hoo! I’m on my way. Please add your contribution to the list!

The thing about the walk is this: like it says in their advertising, Cancer is hard – walking isn’t. Among Canadian women, breast cancer continues to be the most frequently diagnosed cancer with 22,700 new cases expected in 2009, nearly twice as many as lung cancer. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer mortality among women, and is expected to take the lives of 5,400 Canadian women in 2009. The money that we (that’s you and I) raise here WILL HELP. It will help our mothers, our sisters, our friends, ourselves and our families. And it feels good. (Not on the feet, knees or hips – not there, but in our heart where feeling good really really feels good.)

Give until it hurts. My feet and the Alberta Cancer Foundation thank you.

me, nadean and alecia after 60 km

Here is the link to donate: Weekend to End Women’s Cancers; Kari’s Page

The training begins now, with short walks, and over the summer I will work up to about 30 km or so. If you live in the Edmonton area (St. Albert, Sherwood Park), watch for me; I’ll likely be walking in your park! August 7 and 8 is when the rubber hits the road. Thank you in advance!

#66 dive The Blue Hole – the trip report

•December 29, 2009 • 3 Comments

the Great Blue Hole

I don’t imagine there are too many scuba divers who haven’t heard of the famous Blue Hole, off the east coast of Belize. It is a sinkhole that lies in the Lighthouse Reef, one of three atolls in Belize. What I had heard about the dive from those that have been there was fairly polarized: either that it was an amazing surreal experience, not to be missed, or that it was super-duper boring and no one should waste their money. Given those reviews, I needed to see for myself. 🙂

All I really knew about the dive was that it was pretty deep, and the big attraction was that at 120′ to 130′ there was an indented portion of the wall where you could swim among some stalagmites and stalactites. Sounded pretty cool. I imagined that it would be a small group of fairly experienced divers and that at the appointed depth we’d all duck under the ledge into a mystical darkened cavern with the big hanging pointy things, and sticky-uppy pointy things. We’d swim in this magical kingdom for a few minutes probably with a few huge reef sharks, and then leave with the memory of a fantastic experience, which would stay with us forever; this would be a landmark dive.

We got on the dive boat at about 5:30 a.m. with a dozen or so other divers, some of whom were repeaters to the Blue Hole, and a couple of whom looked like they were barely dry from their certification dives. We spent about 2 and a half hours driving to the dive site – long boat ride. We got there, got briefed (our instructions were that once you got to 1,000 psi, please advise the divemaster), got in, and went to a sandy spot at the mooring at about 45′. Several fairly large sharks were hanging around, and I always enjoy seeing sharks. Once we were all ready, over the ledge we went, into the Blue Hole! Down, down, down, not much to see, a few more sharks, the wall on the left side of us, the deep blue on the right side. I got to 130′ and looked around for the magic. I was there, where I was supposed to be, but I didn’t see it. The divemaster banged his tank, and I looked over. He was pointing at a stalactite, and then he swam between it and the wall. Oh… I see. This is it. We’re there. The ledge that I had imagined we’d duck under was about six or seven feet wide. Not a magical cavern, just a dent. I followed the divemaster, swam between that one stalactite and the wall, then began the ascent. The divemaster at this point is motioning to one diver to dump some air out of his BCD; appropriate if someone is ascending too quickly, but kind of a beginner nightmare if you’re at 130′ – maybe that’s just me. As he checked the air of one of the divers, then rather frantically motioned for another divemaster to take this diver up, I thought “geez. it’s a bit early to be low on air…” as we were about 11 minutes into the dive at that point. We made our way slowly to the safety stop, and there were some more sharks and an eagle ray (always love a dive with an eagle ray). When we got to the mooring line the “low on air” diver was doing his stop on the extra tank they’d left hanging for folks just like him.

All in all, I’m glad I did the dive, as it really was one of those “have to see it” sites. Would I do it again? Not so sure. Perhaps, if it could be with a group of divers who were actually qualified to go to 130′, and we could spend a bit more time exploring.

I felt totally ripped off by the t-shirts I’ve seen which depict the opening more like a cavern than a dent. I was uneasy at having what looked like beginners on the dive. I’m all for everyone seeing everything – in the right time, but I thought a couple of people on that dive could have used a few more under their belts before hitting (possibly exceeding) the safe depth limit for recreational diving. I know there are no scuba police, but those guidelines are there for a reason, as is the idea “don’t push your limits.”

The rest of the trip:

In addition to the dive at the Blue Hole, that day included dives at Half Moon Caye and Long Caye. I loved both of these. Wall dives, like in Cozumel, but with far more soft coral which I love. In between these last two dives we had lunch on Half Moon Caye, the highlight of which was a walk through the jungle to a bird sanctuary (a bunch of big trees in the jungle) where there were some red-footed boobies, and frigate birds, which have this wonderful huge red balloon attached to their chest that they inflate and use to attract mates. (Who hasn’t seen one of THOSE in the bar, all puffed up and horny.) We also did three days of local dives off of Ambergris Caye. All the sites were similar to each other, and all were beautiful. The marine life is very much like Cozumel except for the corals; I didn’t see anything new on the fish front, but loved the wavy soft coral. Ambergris sites reminded me of Chunchakaab on Cozumel, my favourite site here.

wandering San Pedro Town

Other than diving, we ate, drank Belikin beer and shopped for trinkets. Ambergris Caye is a long, skinny island with San Pedro Town as the hub of activity. We stayed at the Conch Shell Inn right in the center of town, and depending on the day, took forays either north or south to test the cold beer and nachos. There are lots of ex-pats living here, most with a tall tale or two to tell, and the locals were some of the friendliest people ever; we wondered at one point if some sort of credits were giving for telling the tourists to “have a nice day!” The town is on the beach, and you can walk for miles on the sand with your toes in the ocean, and so I did that. We noted with interest, as we do in all the places we visit, how much property is for sale, where it is, what it looks like, and had the “if this was MY place, I’d…” conversations. I don’t remember everywhere we stopped, but we visited Caliente, Mojito Bar and Tapas (duh), Ruby’s, Cafe Cubano, Blue Water Grill, The Blue Iguana, Fido’s Restaurant and Bar, BC’s Beach Bar, The Pier Lounge, Crazy Canucks, El Patio, Cocina Caramba, The Baker, Palapa Bar and Grill, Tackle Box Grill, The Lime Bar, The Hummingbird Cafe, and at least one more that was fun where there was a slightly injured dog and a woman from Toronto who was the manager who talked our ear off.

All in all, I’d say a successful ticking off of one more item on the list, as well as addition of a couple more items to the list: Having been so close, but with so little time, I find myself now hoping to visit Caye Caulker and Turneffe Atoll before the completion of the hundred things. That’s the key, you know; always keep adding to the list.

another slice of paradise

#78 volunteer

•November 26, 2009 • 2 Comments

it was carnaval, it was purple, it was for a good cause

Such an ill-formed “thing to do,” this volunteering. Ah well, it’s on the list and so I bring you the tale of a recent foray.

I recently joined twitter (you can follow me on twitter), and subsequently was followed by and then followed @HumaneCozumel; Karla Porter is founder of the Humane Society of Cozumel Island, and currently (among other things) their twitterverse representative. I had heard about the organization here on the island, and seen them in the center of town on nights when they held their “pet parade,” showcasing some of their many dogs and cats looking for a home, and of course, a couple of years ago I had purchased a purple floppy hat and feather boa in support of their fundraising efforts (who didn’t??).

I had been in email contact last spring with Andrea Sekula, who is the (volunteer) Clinic Manager / Adoption Consultant. As noted on the website, they’re always looking for people to “come and help walk or bathe the dogs, and pet the cats.” I’m all about petting the cats, so on a recent Saturday afternoon I decided to go see what all the hubub was about.

"walking the dogs" really means letting them sniff

I made my way on my trusty bike through the jungley looking very Mexican neighbourhood to the shelter, and spoke very briefly to Rodrigo, who is the vet on staff. “I’m here to ask about volunteering.” “Can you take a dog for a walk?” It was that easy. I entered the yard, which was FILLED with puppies, leaping up and all being very puppy-esque. A young man asked me if I wanted to walk TWO dogs. Why not? Can’t be any harder than walking one. The first dog he brought me RAN over to stand next to me, and peed on my leg. You know what? I’m a farm girl; it’s going to take a little more to dissuade me than some dog pee… Off we headed into the neighbourhood. There are lots of dogs in that neighbourhood, so the walks involved a lot of sniffing, a lot of stopping to pee, an awful lot of being barked at, a lot of locals and a couple of surprise tiendas with cookies and odds and ends for sale, and even an ice cream guy on a tricyclo. I ended up walking that pair of dogs, and then two more pairs before I had had enough of the mosquitos! While I was doing that, another couple stopped by and took at least two sets of four dogs out. It’s really easy, and the dogs obviously love to get out, even for a brief while.

i bring high-tech kitten toys; a piece of string

After the dog-walking (which as a cat person I considered my tithe for my upcoming good time) I went into the kitten house and just sat with the kittens for almost an hour. They were so incredibly cute and kitteny! There is one I’ll call Meow-y who had a piercing cry and who did not shut up except when he was asleep. There was Bitey, and Fraidy, and Leaky Eyes and Blackie. Those are the five who decided that they wanted a personal look, and spent most of their time sitting next to me washing themselves, or climbing on me, or sleeping on my lap or my arm, or playing with my keys. Then there were five others who took a serious run at taming the straps and doodads on my backpack, which was on the floor. They really put it through the pouncing ringer. It didn’t stand a chance. After the kittens, I went next door to the cattery and sat with the big cats for a while… They were even more heartwrenching than the kittens. The kittens are all bouncy and full of hope and love and did I mention kitteny goodness? The grown up cats are quite simply starved for affection. They want someone they can call home. This was immediately evident when I sat down, and about half of the twenty or so cats in the room jumped up beside me, motors running full bore. At all times while I was in there, there were at least five cats on my person, including one who seemed completely enthralled by my pony tail and trying to undo it.

"if i followed you home, would you keep me?"

I stayed as long as I could. It was amazing and incredibly sad all at the same time; these animals are all there because they need a home. As long as they are here in the shelter, there are other things they need: donations of Ivermectin, heartworm tests and Immiticide. Check out the website. If you’re in Cozumel on vacation, go and spend an hour or two there; I promise you’ll leave knowing you did a thing that will help.

www.humanecozumel.org and @HumaneCozumel on twitter.

P.S. I’ve been back since this visit. It feels just as good the next time.