Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Peru will be "breathtaking"... literally!

"Little by little one walks far."
---- Peruvian proverb 


After much research and planning, I've finalized a journey for Sal and I this summer that will be Inca-redible... we're heading to ¡PERU!

OK no more Inca puns.  Promise.

I've embarked on a serious training/exercise regimen, with a physical trainer even!  That's because Sal and I are gonna arrive at Machu Picchu the same way the ancient Incas did--- by trekking the famous Inca Trail !!  YIKES, I'm n-e-r-v-o-u-s!  The hike's kinda, um, grueling .... 26 miles over 4 days through some steep mountain passes and rough terrain. Not to mention the high altitude + thin air.  I'm gasping for air just thinking about it! 

OMG, am I loco ?!?  I know that Sal can do it, he's in great shape.  Me tho?  Not so much.  But my trainer has me on a path to fitness, building my strength and endurance gradually. Gotta admit that I'm not really a "gym person", never have been... I'd rather play tennis or swim... something outside in the beautiful sunshine rather than stuck inside a stuffy gym. But those activities won't get me ready for serious trekking, I need targeted training.  I've gotta do what I've gotta do because I plan to be READY for this!!  (your words of encouragement are welcome anytime, btw!) 

{Just. Do. It.}

I'll have a ton of incentives as I ache from the training (gasp!).... along the Inca Trail, we'll be passing through incredible Andes Mountain scenery, pristine Incan ruins, and cloud forests filled with colorful wild orchids.  Not a bad way to pass 4 days and 26 arduous miles while huffing and puffing, right?  We'll have help tho!  Our trekking package includes several porters who'll not only hike along with us, they'll carry all the camping gear! And they'll cook our gourmet (vegetarian) meals!  Those men are in amazing shape!  I've gotta get in shape or they're gonna wind up carrying ME !!!  And this is special.... we were also able to arrange a 'homestay' for the night before our trek begins.... we'll be guests in the home of one of our porter's families.... a real slice of Peruvian village life!  Because some things you just can't Google.

Of course, after all our trekking effort, the pièce de résistance will be arriving at the wondrous, fabled ruins of Machu Picchu!  

And OMG I was able to schedule our trek such that we'll be exploring Machu Picchu--- one of the Seven Wonders Of The World!--- on our wedding anniversary !!!  How special will that be?!? ❤️

And overall, Peru looks like an amazing destination!  In addition to the Inca Trail, we'll explore Peru in other fabulous ways....

STROLLING the beautiful cobblestone streets of colonial Cusco...  

EXPLORING the colorful street markets in the quaint towns of the Sacred Valley....  

ENJOYING a remote (yet luxurious!) jungle lodge in the Amazon while spying incredible wildlife during nature excursions deep in the Amazon Basin.  And the lodge even has a spa -- YEP!  And I'll need (ahem, I'll DESERVE !!) some pampering with all that trekking!
To continue our anniversary celebration, we opted for the lodge's "Romantic Adventure In The Amazon" package... complete with sweet surprises!! ❤️  

VISITING "floating" villages on Lake Titicaca, where everything is made from the reeds that grow in the lake--- from homes to boats!  Our visit will include staying for a night with a local family in their "floating" home, made entirely of reeds! 

(We'll also spend an additional night with a family on another lake island (Amantani) to give us a true sense of high-altitude, remote Peruvian living.)

MEETING the artisans who so skillfully craft the famous (and stunning!) Chulucanas pottery in northern Peru.  I first encountered this incredible pottery many years ago at Pier 1 and fell in love with it... I have several pieces (ha!) that I display on top of our china cabinet:
After I bought them and read about how they're made, I vowed that when we go to Peru someday, we'd visit the Chulucanas region to meet the talented artisans.   Well, 'someday' has finally arrived !!  It's in a rather remote part of northern Peru --- it'll take some effort to get there... another flight and a car down tiny dusty roads --- but we're going, just as I promised myself!
{Make. It. Happen.}

To celebrate our plans and introduce ourselves to Peruvian culture--- and because 'travel anticipation' is just plain fun!--- we recently ate at a Peruvian restaurant that I found near campus.  The food was delicious (complete with vegetarian options!)... we chose a quintessential Peruvian dish, tacu-tacu.

And we enjoyed delightful conversation with the native Peruvian staff.  They were excited about our trip!

Our journey through Peru will be an EPIC adventure!!!  It'll be our first visit to South America and our first time in the Southern Hemisphere. 

I am STOKED !!! 

(photos courtesy of various Peruvian travel websites)

Monday, January 6, 2014


For me, travel (and planning it) is so restorative.  It might be just the ticket (make mine a window seat please!) to help me after a traumatic year.

So....Sal and I are gonna do a little island hopping in late spring ..... I've booked a trip to 3 magnifique islands in the French Caribbean/Leeward Islands.... St. Martin/Sint Maarten, Anguilla, St. Barth's.  Oui !!
Apparently St. Martin & St. Barth's are like being in France, French villages.... with the stunning backdrop of the Caribbean Sea--- très bien!  And Sal has been learning French (languages are his hobby!); he'll get lots of practice there! 

For years, I've wanted to stand on one particularly incredible stretch of sand in St. Martin--- Maho Beach, near the airport.  Here's why:

Just. Too. Cool.  I love 'planespotting', and this is one of the most ULTIMATE places to do it in the world !!

I hope Buddy & Aruba are happy for Mommy & Sal....

Friday, December 20, 2013

good-bye, Aruba

Hello everyone and thank you so much for all of your thoughts and prayers.

As many of you already know from my Facebook page, Aruba passed away on December 13.  We are devastated and still trying to cope.  We miss her and Buddy so very much!
For those not on FB, I've included my post + pictures from that day here... and below it is the special story of Aruba's rescue and how she joined our family.  

Thanks for letting me share....

from my Facebook page (12.13.13):

Dear friends & family,

It is with profound sadness and a heavy heart that I share that our precious Aruba passed away today.

The cancer had spread to her brain.
There was no hope....
We are devastated, our hearts are shattered. For our 15 years together, we tried to give her Heaven here on Earth, but she's in Heaven now... with our dear Buddy.

We spent the day cuddling with her, saying good-bye. It was terribly painful. But, we were blessed with access for the entire day to the "family room" at the hospital... a quiet, private room with a sofa, blankets + pillows, and an oxygen hook-up, which Aruba needed to breathe comfortably. Aruba and I laid down, snuggled & napped like we had so often done.

The room also has an adjoining patio... and since Aruba loved the outdoors--- we had always spent lots of time outside together; she loved to sniff the air, feel the sunshine on her face--- we chose the patio for Aruba's final good-bye. A pleasant breeze was blowing on Aruba's face as she went to Heaven. The veterinarian who helped us was the same who had helped us say good-bye to Buddy in June... she is so kind and has such a gentle, compassionate spirit. She cried with us, petted Aruba's beautiful fur. Such a blessing to us!

I wore my Dog Mom shirt. I'm so distraught that I'm no longer Buddy & Aruba's Dog Mom.

We brought Aruba's favorite toy to her-- a stuffed hippo that squeaked. It will be cremated with her. She had several of them for us to have as keepsakes.

We donated Aruba's corneas to the ophthalmology dept at the hospital, they were very thankful. We find joy in knowing that Aruba's beautiful sparkling eyes will help another dog !!!

It is very hard to be home without her... I feel empty, lost. She and Buddy are everywhere here! I've lost my family in less than 6 months, so painful. I'm struggling with how to cope ???

I'll post a memoriam to Aruba on my blog soon... I'll share the special story of her rescue and how she joined our family.

Again, I thank you all for your kind thoughts and prayers for Aruba, and for checking on me. It meant so much during what has become one of the most difficult times of my life.

We love you Aruba! You were cherished !! We'll miss you forever! :-(

Aruba's Rescue Story 
It was summer of 1999 and Salvatore was in the final year of his postdoctoral work, beginning his search for a professor position, and I was working toward my engineering license.... a stressful time.  I planned a brief getaway to a place that was beautiful yet purposely without much to do except relax.... the island of Aruba seemed perfect.

While lounging on the beach, we noticed a small dog emerge from bushes on vacant land adjoining the beach.  Local surfers told us she was living in those bushes.  She staggered down the beach, obviously weak, and drank water from a puddle on a pool deck. 

We approached her and were shocked to see that she had no fur and was covered in sores!!  Because of her frightening appearance, some tourists were kicking sand at her to keep her away from them, so awful !!  In horror we wondered where was their compassion for this suffering creature??!  :-(   Our hearts were broken and we could not leave her to live like that!

We fashioned a leash out of our luggage straps, in case she was scared and would bite.  We quickly realized she was way too weak to do that.  Instead, we wrapped her in towels, carried her to our rental car, and found a veterinarian on the island. 

The doctor was shocked at her condition and said that she was near death!  He immediately began treatment for her sores, plus dehydration, malnutrition, etc.  We asked him to prepare her for travel back to the U.S.--- we had already decided that she was our "Aruba" !!  In the meantime, I worked out the details with Customs paperwork and the airline.  I contacted Buddy's veterinarian back home in Indianapolis so they'd be prepared for her arrival.

Aruba did well on the flight to the U.S. ... at only 14 pounds, she was tucked under the seat in a cozy pet carrier (it was a challenge to find an airline-approved one on such a small island!).

Arriving home, we immediately took her to Buddy's veterinarian, where she was quarantined for 3 weeks (as a precaution) and received medical treatment.  We visited her during quarantine and had to wear gloves while playing with her because of those treatments.  Veterinarians estimated that she was about 6 months old.

With her health much-improved, and her skin sores all healed, we were able to bring her home.  She was bald and pink and adorable.  Buddy welcomed her so warmly!  She was immediately fascinated with his toys--- she had never seen toys before!

Over the next few months, her beautiful fur grew in and we saw what colors should would be and how tall she'd grow.  Her fun and silly and lovable personality emerged too.

We were a happy family. 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Saturday at IU: more fun & surprises!

The second day at IU, Sept 21, began bright & early with a class by Rebecca Cross, Founder & Creative Director of Pink Paislee.  While making a fab album, we played with lots of fun media... Heidi Swapp's Color Shine, paints, and fiber paste + stencils for texture on our album cover design.


And another fun IU tradition... surprises galore!  During classes, the IU "Prize Patrol" would make the rounds to the classrooms passing out gifts to all of us--- lots of fun scrapbooking goodies from event sponsors.  Always fun, fun, fun!  :-)

My IU pal Margie and her husband Chris generously went to nearby Nothing Bundt Cakes to pick up a ginormous order of mini-bundt cakes in whatever flavor(s) we wanted ... I chose the white chocolate raspberry...delish!

Between classes and during lunch were more opportunities to catch-up with friends, chat, and yes, I'll admit--- another stop in the IU store... waving hello to Renee and Susan!

Our next class was with Teresa Collins.... a mini-album attached cleverly to a clipboard.  It had lots of accents that we could sparkle-up at the "glitter station", so you know I was covered in glitter by the end of the day!  (I wasn't complaining)

Our final class of IU was all about card-making with Kimber McGray.  Lots of cute, interactive designs!

Afterwards it was time to relax during dinner (as if we'd been working all day?).  A huge group--- 16 of us!--- went to a Mexican restaurant and had a blast... don't we look happy?

I really enjoyed the company, my (virgin) mango margarita, my dinner (lots of great veggie options!), the live music, all of the festivity of the evening.  
Plus--- it was Jill's birthday!  So of course we let the waiters know!  She got to wear a sombrero while they sang to her --- ole!

But the fun wasn't over yet!  We scurried back to the resort in time for the IU Closing Ceremony.  Lots more good times shared with friends...

The Ceremony is when we thank the teachers, Teresa gives an inspiring talk about the meaning of scrapbooking, they draw names for prizes, and announce the teachers for IU 2014.

As they revealed the 5 amazing teachers (one of whom is of course Teresa), the excitement was building!  Kelli Collins (Bazzill)... Paula Cheney (Tim Holtz/Ranger)... Jodi Sanford (Fancy Pants Designs).  And before they announced the final teacher, I thought to myself "could it be Heidi Swapp? what are the odds?".  And then, up on the screen--- Heidi's photo appeared !!!  Well, I am told that I got just a WEE bit excited!  

(when Heidi saw this photo of me on FaceBook, she said "Susan, you've made my day!")

I think I was a mix of stunned and elated!  Heidi Swapp is my scrapbooking hero, my crafting rockstar, my muse!  I've met her several times, have had the privilege & pleasure of taking her classes at Creative Escape.  And I sure have missed her since then (Heidi--- please come teach in Florida sometime!).  

Can't wait for IU 2014 !!  Til then, we said our good-byes.... 

...(and paid our deposits for next year!)....

I'll be back again soon with how I spent my Sunday at IU.  Although the event was 'officially' over on Saturday night, I stayed an extra day to enjoy an excursion into the Nevada desert.  Can't wait to share it!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Friday at IU: bling it on!

Friday Sept 20 was the official first day of the 2013 Inspiration Unlimited (IU) event at the Green Valley Ranch Resort in Henderson, Nevada.

And after my relaxing spa day, I was ready....

The 300 IU attendees were split into 3 groups for the classes, and I was in the "Bling Babes" group... and I took that very seriously, of course!... I was bedecked in sparkle!  From my blinged-out lanyard + nametag, to my jeweled wrists and sandals, complete with pink glittered toes... So. Much. Fun.

(sidebar: the pink felt flower on my nametag was a sweet gift for IU alumnae; this was my 2nd time attending-- some lucky gals have been to all 6 IUs !!)

First up, a class with Layle Koncar... a fun & colorful travel mini-album titled "Go See Do"!  Um... way to begin the day, how perfect for me?

My tablemates (along with our snacks & our artistic mess) ... (from left) Susan S., Mona, Angie, Jennifer, Michelle & Shannon... you gals were such fun, lots of laughs... miss you !! 

Throughout the day, my sweet IU friends surprised me with RAKs (random-acts-of-kindness) ... gifts that they hand-made... so very thoughtful!  Thank you Susan S., Margie, Renee, Mona!

The 2nd class of the day was with Paula Cheney, who works with Tim (yes, that Tim!)  We made a "shadowbox album" full of clever techniques... 

And all of Paula's class goodies came packed in this fab Tim Holtz messenger bag tote!
Just one of many nifty gifties from IU !! 


Friday's 3rd class (yes, IU keeps us busy!) was with Teresa Collins, scrapbooking designer extraordinaire and founder of the IU event.  We made a mini-album jam-packed with pages using one of her new collections, Memorabilia, including sequins (yes, more bling!).

Friday evening was packed with activities... make-n-takes, demos, and fun "photo booths".

Another fun-filled day awaited on Saturday, and since I was still a bit jet-lagged (dang it!), I had enough energy left only to FaceTime Sal & Aruba and then I hit the hay.  (Getting old?)

Back soon with deets & pics of Saturday's IU festivities... which included an announcement about the 2014 IU that ... BLEW... MY... MIND !!