Antisss—

ipation. ūüôā

That moment when you are poised on the brink of something wonderful, waiting for it to begin, anxious to experience every glorious second that is to come, and savoring the knowledge that every little morsel of it still lies ahead. That frisson of excitement, of wonder, of expectation. Waiting for Santa. Staring at the outside of that college admissions letter. Lowering the Sorting Hat onto your head.

Don’t get me wrong. When the moment comes, the experience itself will also be wonderful, but the anticipation is special. For those moments before the leap, every possibility exists. You already know it’s going to be good, but it might actually turn out to be amazing. The reality has the potential to be¬†extraordinary, or life-changing, or magical.

And that’s where I am, poised on the brink of something wonderful, made even more entrancing¬†by its mysterious nature. For our 10th wedding anniversary, Dustin and I are going on a Grand European Excursion, and Dustin’s gift to me is that he is doing ALL of the planning, and the details of the voyage will be revealed to me only as they are happening. I am about to be surprised by three weeks of new places, delicious food, and incredible experiences. That is the sum total of what I know about the trip so far.

“Oh, how can you let him do all that without even consulting? I could never give up that much control!” you say? (I know you say that, because everyone we’ve told about this trip has said it.)

Here’s the thing: my husband is amazing, he’s really good at this stuff, and I love surprises.

(Also, I’m really bad at planning trips. So seriously. This is a gift.)

I haven’t written many blog posts in the last couple years. Life has been preoccupying for many reasons – some of them good, some of them difficult, many of them just Life. Writing is one of my passions, though, and it needs to reclaim a place in my life. One of my goals over the next month will be to write on a regular basis, and this upcoming adventure provides both an excellent excuse and brilliant subject matter. Dustin will be guest-blogging, as well, so you’re double lucky if you follow along.

Lest my poetic waxings about incredible adventures make you feel jealous or make it appear as if my life is only¬†excitement and fun, I plan to take a couple opportunities during this Week of Anticipation¬†to get back into the writing groove by posting a few slice’o’life stories about some of the less glamorous things we’ve been up to recently. Tune in next time for musings about such titillating topics as cleaning bathrooms, searching for the perfect audiobook, constructing a dream bathroom for someone else to use, or¬†musings about why the show Naked & Afraid is so great.

I know you’re dying to find out.

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Extra Tacky Year-in-Review Letter: 2013

I could have sworn I’ve been writing a post like this every year since I started this blog, but it turns out I wrote one for 2008 and have spent the intervening four years thinking about writing one, and not actually doing it. Huh.

Well, I shan’t regale you with a full five-years-in-review letter, because that sounds exhausting, even to me. Let’s see what kind of excitement 2013 brought to the Floyd family then, eh?

January found Dustin and I fleeing the frigid north for the incredible beauty of St. Croix, in the Virgin Islands. We are both blessed with jobs that allow us a lot of flexibility to travel, and a grandmother who has the good sense to go south every year, thereby providing us with a locale and an excuse to go visit. I’ve never been to a place quite so island-y as St. Croix, and confess that I found the experience of being surrounded by SO MUCH OCEAN a bit unnerving. Nevertheless, the island is incredibly beautiful. We spent time on fine-sand¬†beaches, counting spiders on rain forest trails, and touring old sugar (rum) mills.

Grandma Bonnie and me, calculating exactly how much rum we'll be able to haul home from the Cruzan distillery. (Quite a lot, is the answer.)
Grandma Bonnie and me, calculating exactly how much rum we’ll be able to haul home from the Cruzan distillery. (Quite a lot, is the answer.)
Hiking down to Isaac's Bay to do some snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and full of fish. This photo also won a contest hosted by the St. Croix Chamber, the result of which is that if we go back, we can eat for free in a lot of restaurants. Woo!
Hiking down to Isaac’s Bay to do some snorkeling. The water was crystal clear and full of fish. This photo also won a contest hosted by the St. Croix Chamber, the result of which is that if we go back, we can eat for free in a lot of restaurants. Woo!
Exploring the ruins of an 18th century sugar mill. These beautiful buildings, constructed of volcanic rock and coral, dot the entire island of St. Croix, and I loved poking around them.
Exploring the ruins of an 18th century sugar mill. These beautiful buildings, constructed of volcanic rock and coral, dot the entire island of St. Croix, and I loved poking around them.
Graveyard of an 18th Century plantation, now the Botanical Gardens, slowly being devoured by the rain forest. Sights like these make my little archaeologist heart go pitter-patter.
Graveyard of an 18th Century plantation, now the Botanical Gardens, slowly being devoured by the rain forest. Sights like these make my little archaeologist heart go pitter-patter.

February brought us back to chilly South Dakota where I had the privilege to spend some quality time with Megan and Grace, my new adopted family from Kansas. We met them as guests when they came to stay at our bed & breakfast last December, and now we’re stuck like glue. They came away from a very difficult family situation, and through our time together and many, many long conversations, they have taught me so much about how my own life is blessed.

So there might be better photos of us out there, but this one cracks me up every time I see it, so it's gonna be the one. I believe the posing prompt for this was not, "Say 'Cheese!'" but rather, "Now give me 'Ice Cream Thugs!'"
So there might be better photos of us out there, but this one cracks me up every time I see it, so it’s gonna be the one. I believe the posing prompt for this was not, “Say ‘Cheese!'” but rather, “Now give me ‘Ice Cream Thugs!'” Grace is not a good thug. Megan is a so-so thug. I, clearly, have it pegged.

Oh, did I mention we started a bed & breakfast?

In 2010, Dustin and I moved into a historic house in Deadwood, and we’ve been slowly – oh, SO slowly – restoring in over the last three years. The place is huge, so fairly early in the process, we began sharing our extra bedrooms through airbnb.com. As of last December, we are an officially licensed Bed & Breakfast, and while our website is still a work in progress, you’re welcome to check out the online preview of the guest books we just made, or oogle our listing on bedandbreakfast.com. Over the summer, we were full to bursting. Thankfully, fall and winter have proved to be very quiet. My sanity is grateful.

1899Inn

Speaking of things that make our house more interesting, meet Luna, our newest family member:

We’re not sure what goes through that fuzzy little head of hers, but moments like this do make me wonder.

Dustin’s mother found her wandering stray near their mountain-side house last November. We thought she was a kitten when we took her home (she weighed less than two pounds), but the vet said she was at least a year, maybe two years old. The above photo shows her after we’d had her for about three months. These days, she has turned into a regular fluffy blimp. I don’t know how to put her on a diet without starving the skinny one. Hm…

Snow84
Minou says hi too.

So, speaking of that above cat photo, you may have heard that we’ve had some really wacky weather this year.

There was golf-ball hail in May (and June, and August). Our cars did not fair well through this. The bonus was that Dustin got to trade in our tired old cars for an electric car (Chevy Volt), which he’s been pining for for a long time. Now, if the hail hadn’t gotten THAT car too… bah.

And then there was this freaky business in October. October 4th, to be precise. It started snowing one nice Friday night, and did not stop until Sunday. We got 48 very solid inches. The trees hadn’t even started changing colors yet. The arboreal carnage was immense. Our power went out for about 36 hours, and it got very, very cold inside our house. We were the fortunate ones – some of our friends were out of power for six days. My shoveling muscles will never be the same.

Look! Look! I found a picture of Dustin! King of the snow.
There’s me standing next to (well, sort of “above,” actually) Dustin’s shiny new Volt. This was two days after it stopped snowing. It was 70 degrees.

(Dustin would like me to point out that between the Hail and the Great Snow, there was a lot of summer. Most of it was filled with changing beds and doing laundry for a very busy B&B, but we snuck in a trip to Yellowstone, explored a ghost town with friends from France, went to Denver for a three-day district convention, and I tried very hard to grow a vegetable garden that wasn’t a complete failure, although that blizzard really did in my tomatoes. Now then.)

Barely a week after the Mega Blizzard, in the deepest throes of the government shutdown, my beautiful sister Megan got married just outside of Yellowstone. It should have been IN Yellowstone, but the government had far bigger problems than a few dashed hopes and dreams. (I exaggerate – nothing was dashed and the wedding was perfect, drifts of snow and all.) We got to see family from far and wide, who all rallied to make the event awesome despite the complications.

This is the entire attendance, chillin’ (literally) on the porch of the retreat where the wedding was held. Hello, my lovely family!

We spend a lot of time in Yellowstone these days. My daddy went full circle and has returned to work there, now at the top of the heap. He and Mom live in a beautiful historic home in Mammoth Hot Springs, so we take every possible excuse we can find to visit while the hospitality is so good. 

Sometimes the wildlife is scarce, so sometimes I AM the wildlife.
One of my favorite recent trips was one with our buddy Erica, where Dustin and Erica tried to out-photographer each other - he using Instagram, she using, y'know... years of experience and skill. ;)
One of my favorite recent trips was one with our buddy Erica, where Dustin and Erica tried to out-photographer each other – he using Instagram, she using, y’know… years of experience and skill. ūüėČ
On the way to Natural Bridge.
On the way to Natural Bridge.
West Thumb Geyser Basin
West Thumb Geyser Basin
I forget where this is. Sorry about all the Yellowstone photos. It’s sort of beautiful there, y’know?
Last one, I promise! At the base of Fairy Falls.

In all the bits of 2013 when I haven’t been working, hiking, or shoveling, I’ve spent a lot of time working on writing projects. Very exciting for me is that in February, I got my first piece of fiction published: a short story written for a collection done by the Saucy Ink writing group. Check it out! Woo!

My story in this one is called “The Last Princess.” It’s about a dragon who needs to capture a princess but can’t find one.

Aaaaand just last week the third collection, containing my second story, came out. They’re good stories! Go read them! ūüėÄ

This time around I went for total doom and destruction with a story called “Kraken,” about the time the world almost ended, and then the time when it did.

In other, less episodic or photographic news, Dustin continues taking over the world one good logo at a time. Business at TDG is hopping, and now that the office is only a five-minute walk from home, there’s no excuse not to work ALL THE TIME. (Except that I like to sleep a lot, so I don’t work much in the mornings. I believe Dustin works double hard in the mornings to make up for it.)

Our dabbling in American Sign Language, started back in 2007, has paid off. The small group of us that began learning to help out a deaf man in our congregation have now become a congregation entirely dedicated to ASL.

Rapid City, South Dakota USA American Sign Language Congregation 10/2011
Sending love love love! An appropriate picture to end on.

So there’s 2013. More than you ever needed to know. So much more than you would have gotten if I was the kind of person who could get to a post office once a year.

But how are your years treating you?? My mailbox has been a bit light on the incoming updates as well as the outgoing ones. I’d love to hear from you, and will happily trade mailing (or emailing) addresses with you. I’m sending much love and many good wishes for the coming year.

Puerto Vallarta Day 7: I’ve Already Been Here A Week??

Ah, how time does fly!

Today was very nice and laid back. I slugged around the condo until well after lunch, working on yesterday’s blog (ssh, I didn’t really write it yesterday – don’t tell!) and finishing one of my books. I’ve nearly run out of books to read. I only brought four, which I was sure would be enough, but I’ve been gobbling them up. I found a whole stash of Abandoned Vacation Reading under the TV, though, and plucked up a copy of Kurt Vonnegut Jr.’s Timequake. It could be one of the strangest things I’ve ever read, but it’s fast reading, so I’ll keep at it.

The grand victory of the day was spotting some sea-life in the ocean. When we arrived, Bonnie told us we could see sting rays and pointy-nosed fish and schools of crazy little fish all from the balcony, using the binoculars. She also told us we would see whales. Seven days of looking later and we’d seen nothing. Today was nearly a bingo, though. Dustin started us off by spotting crazy little schools of jumping fish, then, a bit later, the pointy-nosed fish. We decided these must be needle fish. A bit after that, I spotted a couple dark blobs that turned out to be a pair of sting rays. Success! Now we just need to spot some whales before we go. I don’t even know what sort of whales.

We went into town for dinner at a place called Cafe de Olla which turned out to be super delicious. I got beef enchalladas which I could hardly finish because I also got an apatizer of “tamal” (not sure why they weren’t “tamales”) which was so good I ate nearly the whole thing all by myself. But now I have leftovers for lunch tomorrow, which is really good news, since I’m a little tired of our regular options.

And now here I am, writing another blog. No great Tales of Interest for the day, but that’s not such a bad thing. Be back tomorrow!

Puerto Vallarta Day 6: Creepy Spiders & Breakfast Burritos

(Don’t worry – no spiders IN the breakfast burritos.)

It is amazing how quickly you can run out of groceries when you can only bring home as much as you can carry on the bus. So today we went into town for groceries and lunch.

Before completing either of these tasks, we did a bit of wandering about. The walk along the beach in Puerto Vallarta is quite nice, and then if you turn inland at the river, there is a whole long island full of tacky tourist shops where you get heckled and heckled. Dustin likes to be heckled, so I just let him deal with them while I wander all moon-eyed through the booths. There’s no danger of me accidentally buying anything, because we came without any checked luggage, and there is NO place to shove any souvenirs on our trip back. Besides which, I’m all scroogey with our money.

There was a lovely moment, however, when I got distracted by a spider. I have been looking for spiders since I got here, they being something of a fascination for me, and I’ve seen plenty of webs and plenty of crabs, but no spiders. This time, I saw a web in a tree, and sure enough, someone was home. I made Dustin take a picture for my collection (squeemish beware: this is one super-creepy looking spider):

creepy_spider

Isn’t she awesome?? She was about the size of a nickel. I’m going to have nightmares about him for weeks.

While we were busy playing with the spider, Bonnie got tired and helped herself to a plastic chair belonging to one of the heckling vendors. When he returned – looking plenty surprised to see his chair taken over – she said, “Mister! Please, come into my shop! Look at my beautiful things!” The vendor, delightfully quick on his feet, put his hand thoughtfully up to his chin and said, “No, no, I’m just looking.” Hahaha!

I love Bonnie. This is very typical of her. As another example, when we were walking down the street toward the restaurant to eat, we passed a man carrying flowers that he was obviously going to deliver to someone. “Are they for me?” Bonnie asked him, sounding oh-so-wistful. The poor man was confused for a moment before he realized she was being silly and told her “No, no sorry. Not for you!”

The other noteworthy event of my day was cooking up breakfast burritos using chorizo saussage. This is only interesting if you know that I’m a fervent maple-flavored-saussage fanatic, so going outside my comfort zone was a big risk. It turned out the saussage was wonderful, but I thought the potatos were only so-so. They were very sweet and tasted very earthy. Kind of strange. I think everyone else liked them a lot, though, so it was just fine. They can eat the leftovers.

Puerto Vallarta Day 5: Crabs Abound

That’s right, crabs are running amok through my vacation, and I am one of them.

I don’t know why, but today I’ve been in a mood that just shouldn’t be allowed to exist on vacations. I’m having a hard time sleeping well, so I suppose that might have something to do with it. An ocean located directly out the window is a lot louder than you might expect, and the cars on the highway out the other window sound like they’re all 18-wheelers going about 110mph.

See! Look at that! I’m complaining about being in a beach house! Gah.

When I have my own beach house, it’s going to be a 3 minute walk away from the ocean. That will be perfect. And it will be dome-shaped so hurricanes can’t knock it over. Brilliant.

Right then, what did I do today? Other than moping and being unpleasant for my housemates (sorry Dustin and Bonnie… I’ll try to be better tomorrow) the highlight of the day was the nature walk Dustin and I took, clamboring over the rocks on the north side of the beach during low tide and exploring the strange and rocky landscapes beyond. And better yet, I was no longer the only crab on the beach. Here are some pictures of the many and varied crabs we discovered today:

little red crabThe little guy above lives in the stairs that lead down from the condo patio onto the beach. I saw him by luck out of the corner of my eye as he scuttled for cover. He politely stuck around and posed while Dustin got a picture. He’s abut the size of my big toe.

little_sand_crab

Now THIS little guy is really little. He’s about the size of my thumbnail, and you’d never see him on the sand except that they scuttle like mad when you walk past and catch them out of their hidey-holes. The holes are only about the size of a pencil, so the past few days I wasn’t sure WHAT could be living in them. Ever since we saw this guy, we’ve been seeing his buddies everywhere. Can you see the shadows his little googly eyes cast on his back? He’s really pretty cute.

coconut_crab

I’m not the only one who likes coconut rum! We found this coconut washed up in the rocks that we were clamboring over. We’ve seen quite a few beached coconuts, but most of them have been floating in the ocean so long they’re now pickled. This one, as you can see, was still quite fresh. And it was FULL of these little crabs. This guy was the biggest of the crew. I think there’s enough coconut in the shell you can tell about how big he was.

rock_crabs

Here are the commonest crabs. They live on the jetties and rock piles and they blend in really well until they start scuttling about. The smallest one I’ve seen was no bigger than a sand crab. The biggest was probably about the size of a salad plate. They’re quite pretty colors if you can get close enough to see them, which is difficult unless they’re dead and half-eaten. (Alas.) Here’s a close-up:

rock_crab

This guy’s about the size of a tea saucer.

And that is the story of my crabby day.

Puerto Vallarta Day 4: Night of the Iguanas (and Cat)

Today’s adventures began with a trip to the little village of Mismaloya, about 15 minutes by daunting bus ride south of here. Aside from a lovely little beach that was populated by nearly as many hawkers of “almost free!” jewelry as it was tourists, Mismaloya is the site where the film Night of the Iguanas was filmed in 1964.

(As a side note, I was rather disappointed to learn that the movie is based on a play by Tennessee Williams and has nothing to do with giant iguanas rampaging hither and thither.)

Once you dodge through all the hecklers, you can walk along a rather ill-kept path out to the point of the cove. We were there at high tide, and the waves splashed up against the rocks as we walked past, causing crabs and iguanas alike to scuttle for higher ground. The iguanas were pretty cool – not green like you often see, but grey with orange splashes on their sides, the better to hide in the rocks and dead leaves.

The set itself was locked away behind gates with razorwire on top, which was ridiculous because about six meters further down were places you could easily clambor over. The parts we could see looked like lovely ruins. I can’t figure out how long they’ve been abandoned, because wikipedia says after the movie was filmed, they turned the site into a cafe (John Houston Cafe) which was quite famous. The movie is given sole credit, in fact, for making Puerto Vallarta a tourist destination at all, but I suppose as the movie faded into obscurity, so did Mismaloya. Puerto Vallarta had established itself as a resort town on its own right, by then. I’m going to have to go rent the movie when I get home. Maybe I can write my first bestselling novel about rampaging iguanas.

We had lunch on the beach, so close to the water our toes got wet a few times before the tide backed out a bit. I have no idea how authentic or not the food in restaurants around here is, but it was very tasty. I especially liked my side of rice, which had yellow and green peppers in it. Mmm.

Next was a stopover at the house to do a bit of lounging on the beach. But, as today was all about outings to visit animals and eat food, I shall continue on to dinner.

We went back into Puerto Vallarta for dinner, to one of Bonnie’s favorite restaurants, the Fajita Republic. They pour tequilla over your fajitas and light them on fire right before they serve them to you. Totally delicious. The best part about dinner, however, was not the food, but the company. There was a cat wandering around the restaurant begging for food. Being in withdrawl from my own cat, (I need to pause this sentence for a moment to point out that Dustin is reading over my shoulder, and he strenuously objects that I mention the cat as the best part of company, and not him, my wonderful husband. That was unkind of me. I love him more than the cat. Just for the record.), I was delighted to find something furry to pay attention to. The cat accepted one scritch of the ears as an invitation to move in with me. He jumped up on my lap and immediately curled up for a nap. I was a happy diner. I gave him a bit of steak when we left for the evening.

I’ve been writing this post for about three hours now, and although I’ve got pictures, I’ve run out of energy to do anything about them. I’ll give that a stab tomorrow. Along with proofreading this thing. Good night!

Puerto Vallarta Days 3: A Day In The Life…

There was no traveling on the schedule for today, so we decided to take a walk on the beach in the morning. Bonnie discovered that when you come across a pile of rocks that is within reach of the waves, you can listen as the rocks are rolled over each other by the movement of the water and the sound is absolutely beautiful. I decided that if you could hear the music of the spheres, that is what it ought to sound like. (The association has nothing to do with my personal metaphysics – just the fact that spherical objects were making music and it all makes sense in my head.)

Dustin and I were splashing in the waves as we walked, and I managed to get just wet enough that it looked like I had wet myself. As a result, I had to get deeper into the water so it didn’t look like I had bladder control problems, as a result of which I got a whole swimsuit full of sand. Serves me right. I should have just gone all the way in at that point, but I was having lack-of-sunscreen anxiety (I hadn’t meant to stay out quite so long) so we went back up to the pool, which was still shaded at that time of day, for our swim.

After a bit of lunch, we set to salsa-making. We added all the usual ingredients minus green pepper (which we didn’t have) plus orange mystery pepper and with pineapple vinegar instead of the regular stuff. It wound up being rather sweet and strange, but still pretty tasty.

After more lounging by the pool and kicking around in the waves, we had lots and lots of margaritas and then pork chops. I spent my time waiting for dinner spying on a Mexican couple who were down on the beach digging up something and putting it into a sack. The man would hunker down with his feet in the waves and watch, then he’d see something and go running to it and start digging in the sand. Then he’d chuck whatever he was finding to the woman, who stuck it in a sack. We couldn’t tell what they were getting, even with the binoculars. I figure it must be some sort of clam. Later, I tried digging a hole myself to see if I could find anything, but as soon as my fingers brushed something other than sand, I shrieked like a little girl. It turned out only to be a rock anyway. (To excuse my shrieking, I must point out that when I WAS a little girl, digging in the sand at Santa Cruz, I kept finding creepy little blue crabs. I wasn’t interested in getting my fingers pinched.)

A lovely day on the beach, if I do say so.