A much needed vacation

Happy New Year!

Happy Moo Year :)

Surprise – I’m still alive!  I can’t even remember the last time I posted (and didn’t even look to see since it’s embarrassing).  How lame is that?!  And I won’t even lie by saying that I’ll try to do better in 2012 since I probably won’t!  I started a new job in early 2011, and the rest of the year was just a blur of work, work, work.  And unfortunately, as it looks right now, 2012 will likely be even more work.  That’s not a very happy or positive way to start out the new year, but I figure I should be realistic and not expect it to be easy.  Then maybe I’ll be pleasantly surprised if it’s actually better (or less work) than expected. That being said, with my job taking up about 99% of my time and not being feasible (distance or otherwise) to bike to, if I do post, it may not be about biking.  I actually didn’t initially begin the blog to post ONLY about biking, but just a word of warning for those who may not care to read about other things!

I can’t complain about the past 3 weeks though, since I was off beginning December 16th, and even though I needed to be working, my husband and I took a much needed vacation!  We had a relaxing trip to Costa Rica and spent time in rain forests and on the beach.  Of course, now that we’re back I can hardly remember it already, so maybe looking at the photos will help!

Sunset in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

Thanks to A & E from Two Pitties in the City (Chicago blog featuring two cute Pitties, Mr. B and Miss M) for giving me the idea of going to Costa Rica, and specifically of staying at the Toucan Rescue Ranch while there.  They blogged about their stay at the rescue over a year ago, and it had lingered in the back of my mind ever since.  Once we decided on Costa Rica (it’s just a 4 hour direct flight from Atlanta), we knew that we had to stay at the Toucan Rescue Ranch.

Toucan Rescue Ranch

Toucan Rescue Ranch

The name implies that it’s a rescue for toucans, but it’s actually so much more. While they actually began as a toucan rescue due to the need, they’ve since taken in all sorts of other animals, including macaws, parrots, owls, sloths, a kinkajou, a spider monkey, and even a couple of porcupines.  And as if that isn’t enough, they have chickens, geese, 4 (yes FOUR!!) Dobermans, and 3 shelties!! I honestly don’t see how they manage to keep it all running, along with having guests.  They currently have just 2 employees working for them, but had hired an extra for the holiday season due to being a busy time.  They are in the process of obtaining nonprofit status, so if you ever want to make a donation to a good cause (or want to visit yourself!), this would definitely be it.  All of their funding for the upkeep of the animals basically comes from donations.

Other than donations, funding is supplemented by guests staying there or tours, so they just built a second guest house.  We had the honor of being the very first guests to stay in the new house!

Toucan Rescue Ranch new guest house

I can’t even begin to describe everything we experienced while in Costa Rica, so will let photos do most of the talking.  Rather than completely overwhelm you with photos though, I’ll limit this post to our first 6 nights while staying at the Toucan Rescue Ranch and then will do another post with photos once we left the San Isidro/San Jose area for Manuel Antonio on the coast.  So other than the sneak peak photo of sunset on the beach, you’ll have to check back for more!  That guarantees that I’ll have at least two posts this year – haha!

I’ll begin with all the animals at the Toucan Rescue Ranch, so here are several of the cute resident sloths.  All of the sloths currently at the rescue are the two-toed variety (meaning they have two long claws on their front legs, but still three on the rear legs).  Two-toed sloths are nocturnal and sleep a minimum of about 18 hours per day!

Baby Twili, Georgie, and Milo

Other than toucans, there were a wide variety of other birds on the ranch, including owls (my favorites), scarlet macaws, and parrots.

I especially loved Lorita, the parrot who would wave and say “Hola, Lorita” if you greeted her.  But her version was more like “Hola, Looooreeeeeetaaa.” :) Then she would begin singing and dancing while another parrot laughed.  It was hilarious.  Unfortunately, we didn’t get a good photos of Lorita for some reason , but the photo below is of one of the parrots in the same enclosure with her (Lorita didn’t have red markings, so I believe this was the laughing parrot!).

Another of our favorites at the rescue was Jou Jou, the kinkajou.  She was so cute and cuddly looking.  My husband got to go into her enclosure with Jorge one night and she just wanted to play (they are nocturnal animals as well). Then she promptly ran up his arm to perch on top of his head – haha!

Jou Jou

Issy, the spider monkey:

Isadora, or "Issy"

We chose to stay outside San Jose at the Toucan Rescue Ranch primarily for the unique experience, but also wanted to experience other areas, therefore did several day trips while there.  Leslie and Jorge, the owners of the Toucan Rescue Ranch, were most helpful, and went above and beyond helping to arrange tours, so we did several touristy things such as the LaPaz Waterfall Gardens, a riverboat/canopy tram tour, and ziplining through the rainforest (NOT my idea I have to say, but I went along with it and survived)!

Zipline and tram in the rainforest

In the zipline photo, I think my eyes were closed and I was holding my breath! Little did I know that the tour consisted of 20 (yes TWENTY) ziplines, the last of which was over a mile long, face down.  I was fully prepared for following through, but wasn’t actually thinking there would be so many – I guess I should get more information upfront in the future, right?!

LaPaz was a very touristy activity, but nice to see.  They had a butterfly garden as well as waterfalls, and hundreds of absolutely gorgeous hummingbirds of all sizes.  I’d never seen hummingbirds other than the tiny ones that fly around so fast that they’re a blur.

Hummingbird at LaPaz Waterfall Gardens

Hummingbirds at LaPaz Waterfall Gardens

So there you have it – the very condensed version of our stay at the Toucan Rescue Ranch and our first 6 nights in Costa Rica.  I’m leaving out a ton, but don’t want to completely bore you with a million details.  Feel free to email me directly if you’d like more info!

Happy 4th of July weekend

I’m so happy to have a holiday weekend!  We have no specific plans, so will just be seeing some friends and relaxing around the house.  Since we visited friends in Texas last weekend, there’s plenty of fun things to catch up on such as laundry and yard work also – haha :)  And of course, as usual, I’ll probably do a lot of bird watching while lounging in the sunroom reading.

We’ve had some new visitors to our feeders – a pair of gorgeous Red-headed Woodpeckers!  My husband first saw one when coming home from a bike ride one morning and said that he wished it would come to the feeders.  Well, lo and behold, about a week later, there they were and now they are regulars.

Red-headed Woodpecker

The Red-bellied Woodpecker that I’ve posted a photo of before also still comes to feed, and I’ve even seen up to 3 Woodpeckers in the tree at the same time.

Red-bellied Woodpecker

I haven’t been biking much at all due to a combination of heat and simply fitting in a ride.  For very short trips, it’s easier to walk, and it seems that the places I’ve needed to go recently are farther than I’d ever bike (if I could even figure out an appropriate route).  My husband is lucky enough to work from home most of the time, so he rides almost every day just for exercise.  I’d need to get up and go by 5:00a.m. if I wanted to do that and get to work, and that just isn’t very appealing!

Hope you all have a safe and happy Independence Day and wherever you are, it isn’t too hot for you to get out and enjoy it!

City wildlife

Hope everyone else is staying cooler than we are in Atlanta.  It’s scorching here and we’ve had little relief from the heat.  What rain we do get seems to come with terrible storms, so I’d almost prefer to have none!  I walked to an appointment today that was less than a mile away and thought I was going to die from a heat stroke.  If not for bits of shade along the way, it would have been even more brutal.  I’m sure you’re wondering why I didn’t just ride the bike since maybe that would have created a breeze at least and have gotten me there more quickly.  Well, unfortunately, we live off a very busy 4 lane road (practically a highway the way cars speed down it).  The speed limit is 35mph, however, it’s more common for traffic to be traveling 55mph and even faster.  Normally, if I’m traveling by bike it’s on a weekend and the street is less busy, and I also either turn right from our street, or walk a block up the sidewalk to ride down a side street.  In order to get where I needed to go though, neither of those were options, so I decided that it wasn’t worth attempting to take a left into heavy traffic, therefore walked instead.

Here’s a photo of the street with very little traffic – not sure when this was taken since it’s unusual for traffic to ever be that light.  It was probably early evening on a Sunday or something.  I don’t mind biking a short distance on this road during weekends, since with 4 lanes, people have plenty of space to simply move to the left lane, however, imagine all 4 lanes with nonstop 50+mph traffic – not my idea of a pleasant ride :)

During the last rain/storm, the Cardinal pair below had the right idea by huddling under the umbrella of one of the bird feeders.  We’ve noticed that we have at least 4 Cardinal pairs that come to the feeders.  It’s funny how different they can actually look.  I can’t tell a huge difference between the females, but there are distinctions which make the males easy to recognize.  For example, there’s a light male Cardinal that I call Rusty, a bright red skinny one, a bright red plump one, and the one below that I just call “Old Guy” because his black mask appears more gray.  Not sure if something happened to him, or if he really is old though!

During one of their breeding seasons, I actually even saw a baby Cardinal for the first time.  I only knew that it was a baby because the male and female were feeding it.  The feathers are still a dull gray, and he/she has a gray beak as well.  You can see the little beak open waiting for food.

Male Cardinal feeding baby

Apparently the beak is the last to turn bright orange, since I still see the “baby” each day.  He/she is beginning to get some red feathers and as you can see in the photo below, the beak is lightening (it actually looks lighter in the photo than it really is).

"Baby" Cardinal

All the poor critters are also hot and thirsty lately, so I’ve begun actually spraying down our sidewalk a few times a day, as well as put a small birdbath in the yard.  I don’t care for large concrete birdbaths due to being very difficult to move and clean, so just decided to go with a portable one that I can pick up, clean, and move around as I want.  The birds, as well as the squirrels seem to be appreciative.

I’m constantly amazed at the variety of wildlife we have here.  You’d really think we lived in some remote rural area rather than a bustling area with a huge university campus and several large teaching hospitals.  One hospital less than a mile away is actually a pediatric trauma center with a helicopter pad, so along with wildlife, we see/hear this regularly:

Here’s a photo of one of the latest cuties we happened to notice at the side of our house.  Of course, he’s almost obscured by all the weeds!  It’s too hot for yard work, so if it’s out of sight, such as on the side of the house where no one ever goes, then the weeds grow freely.  Maybe that’s why so many animals are attracted to our house – they think they are in their natural habitat such as a jungle – haha :)

Summer in the city

Does anyone remember the lyrics to “Summer in the City” by Joe Cocker?  Here are just a few:

“Hot town summer in the city…doesn’t seem to be a shadow in the city…walking on the sidewalk hotter than a match head.”

Well, that’s what it feels like in Atlanta right now.  We actually had a nice Spring, but as usual, Summer came in with a bang and we jumped straight to the 90+ degree temps.  Within the next five days, it’s supposed to get very near 100 degrees!

Between working way too much in the Spring and being so warm now that I just don’t want to deal with it, I’ve done very little biking.  We did ride into Decatur over Memorial Day weekend to meet some friends for dinner and see a Shawn Mullins concert which was very good.  Even though it was just a couple of miles, with the temp still at approx. 90 degrees at 6:30p.m., I was hot and sweaty by the time we arrived at the restaurant.  Luckily, I had cooled off somewhat by the time we rode around the corner to see the concert.

Shawn Mullins

If you recognize the name Shawn Mullins at all, it’s probably due to one particular song called “Lullaby.”

Shawn is from the Atlanta area and is one of many (including the Indigo Girls, John Mayer, and Sugarland) who got their start at a little venue called Eddie’s Attic and continues to play there usually at least once or twice a year.  It’s just a short ride away, and thankfully, the ride home was much cooler due to being almost 1:00a.m.

Eddie's Attic - Decatur, GA

Possibly due to being Memorial Day and parking in Decatur often being scarce, we noticed quite a few bikes at racks around the square.

So what are your plans for the Summer?  Hope they are more exciting than mine!  With temps so high this early, just as fair warning, I think this may turn into more of a books and birds blog, rather than a biking blog!  At least I can sit in the comfort of my sunroom and read and bird watch at the same time without breaking a sweat :)

The game of life

Hope you’re all having a happy Easter weekend!  I’m still around, although as you can see, have been horrible with posting anything.  I have no good reason, other than life getting in the way of doing more fun things :)  Between starting a new job in the last month and dealing with all sorts of little issues that alone, aren’t very substantial, but added together, manage to stress me out, I’ve done nothing fun, including going on bike rides.   Of course, you’d think that maybe I should take the time to do something like biking as a stress reliever, but between the pollen (it’s killing us!) and all the unpredictable weather we’ve been having, I haven’t managed to do it.  However, I keep trying to remind myself, that we are very fortunate, and could have problems that are so much worse.  For example, in a recent storm, this is what happened to a neighbor’s house:

Thankfully, no one was injured, although if this were my house, I honestly think I would have had a heart attack when the tree hit!  We had a tree total a vehicle, as well as a partial tree fall through a skylight several years ago, and it is not a sound I want to hear again!  The tree above just happened to angle toward the side of the house where the dining room and kitchen is (or was), rather than the side with the bedroom where they were sleeping!  Although, in this storm, not sure anyone was actually sleeping – it was horrible, with very high winds, trees bending at almost 90 degree angles, eerie lightning, etc.  We actually think that a tornado touched down in the neighborhood, since directly across the street from this house, there was more damage, with trees uprooted and twisted in an odd manner.  This is actually the house of Oscar, the cat who loved our dog Greta:

Greta & Oscar

We heard that Oscar, along with their other cat, was petrified and hiding out somewhere in the house after the tree fell.  Poor kitties!  We haven’t seen Oscar very much since we lost Greta, since she was the one he liked – haha.  He deigned to come over one day for some attention when I called out to him, but other than that, we just see him slinking around, likely hunting some unsuspecting prey.

Luckily, while quite a few other trees were downed, none did damage like the one in the photo above.  And none managed to fall on a power line for once, so we were extremely lucky that we weren’t one of the neighborhoods without electricity for days.  Just down the street, a few blocks away, this was the situation on the grounds of the Emory Law School:

Doesn’t that look crazy???  All the downed trees in the area wreaked havoc with traffic the next morning, as you can imagine.  I had to turn around 3 times to find a street not blocked by a tree in order to get where I was going.  I’ll be VERY happy when the springtime storms (as well as all the nasty pollen) are over.  What about your areas – any issues with storms recently?  Hope you’ve all been managing to stay safe!

Paws for Japan

I (as I’m sure most others) can’t stop thinking about the nightmare going on in Japan right now.  It’s a disaster of astronomical proportions, and I feel powerless to really do anything, other than possibly make a donation to relief efforts, so donated to the Red Cross.  However, I’ve also been hearing all the incredibly sad stories about animals there, so wanted to do something, however small, to help them as well.  After doing a bit of research, I found the World Vets site, so decided to donate through them.  Right now they are doing a virtual fundraiser for animal assistance efforts.

While this isn’t strictly a pet blog, as you all know, I’ve posted many times about Greta, our almost 15 year old dog that we recently lost.  I thought that this was something I could do in her memory, so wanted to pass along the info to others.

I know many of you also have animals that you love who are part of the family, so this may be useful if you are looking for an organization to donate to.  To make it even easier, here is a button you can simply click on to directly access the World Vets donation site:

I visited Ireland about 10 years ago, so thought I’d share a few photos in honor of the holiday – hard to believe it was that long ago!  I heard something surprising this morning on the radio – a woman who has lived in the U.S. for over 20 years, but is originally from Ireland, called in and said that the Irish do not refer to it as “St. Paddy’s” or “St. Patty’s” Day and do not like to hear others refer to it as such, so from now on, I’ll try to remember not to abbreviate it!

My favorite photo is a classic that most have probably seen – the colorful doors of Dublin:

Doors of Dublin

We stayed at a well-known old hotel called The Shelbourne while in Dublin.  I’ll never forget this particular trip because it was the one where we found that our ATM cards had expired right after arriving in Europe!  I’m still not sure how that happened, as normally banks send out new cards well before the old ones expire.  However, this particular year we somehow didn’t get the new cards and of course, didn’t think to check the expiration date of the old.  Live and learn – haha!  If traveling in most U.S. cities, that wouldn’t have been an issue at all, however, many restaurants and businesses in Europe 10 years ago would only accept cash.  We’ve even found that to be the case in recent years as well, although to a lesser extent.  Luckily, the manager at The Shelbourne was willing to give us cash and allow us to put extra on a credit card. We now ALWAYS check expiration dates prior to traveling :)

The Shelbourne

Last of all, a statue of Molly Malone, also known as “The Tart with the Cart” among other things:

Molly Malone, or "The Tart with the Cart"

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you all!  As an old Irish saying goes, “May the best day of your past be the worst day of your future.”


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