Cancun! Beautiful, Relaxing, and fun in the sun!

I can’t believe it has taken me so long to write about my trip to Cancun.  I suppose it’s because my friend and travel partner Susie and I took an amazing tour of the Cenotes while we were there and I had a terrible experience getting our pictures back from the company.  When I did finally receive them, after many weeks of correspondences with many people, some of the pictures weren’t even of us and we were missing many that were taken.  But that’s another story…

View from our room overlooking the pools and beach

My friend Susie and I have been going to Puerto Vallarta for the last several years but decided since we hadn’t gone to Cancun we would change it up this year and try the Caribbean side.  I am so glad we did!  It was a totally different experience for us.  We stayed in a little studio apartment at the Aquamarina Beach Hotel.  The complex had two pools, a relaxation pool, awww! and a pool for games and activities.  It also had three restaurants, one nicer one, a snack bar by the pool, and a buffet.  A bar in the lobby, a convenience store, a gym, I could go on and on.  Everything we could possibly want.

It also had hammocks on the beach which is definitely my thing.  I absolutely LOVE laying in a hammock with the ocean breeze caressing my face,  Double awww!

Relaxation pool, activity pool, kids pool and beach at the Aquamarina Beach Hotel


Crazy foam party in the pool

Susie at the foam pool party

Although Susie and I enjoy a quiet beach, I have to admit we had lots of fun with the music playing and all the fun activities they had at the complex.

Taking off in the golf cart in Isla Mujeres

We decided we had to spend at least one day in Isla Mujeres.  So off we went on the water taxi to the island.  We were told the only way to see the island was to rent a golf cart.  Apparently everyone else had the same idea.  We went to several places and all were totally sold out.  Finally we stopped at a place where they told us to wait a few minutes because one was due to come in.  It finally arrived and off we went!

Lunch at Captain Dulche’s

Pool at Captain Dulche’s

Sculptures, pelicans, herons & iguanas, Oh my!

We stopped at Captain Dulche’s to have lunch under the huge palapa while enjoying the ocean view.  Lots of people were relaxing in the sitting pool/swim up bar and cabanas.  There were swings for bar stools at the two bars and a huge ship in the center of it all.  What a kick!

Lighthouse and one of many cairns at Punta Sur

Statues and sculptures along the trail at Punta Sur

Magnificent waters at Punta Sur

Ruins of a Mayan Temple

Then we made our way to the south end of the island to Punta Sur Ecological park & lighthouse. We walked along the path amongst the many statues and sculptures to the crumbled ruins of a Mayan Temple. Not only was it an awesome area, but the waters below were incredibly beautiful!

Susie at Playa Norte

Finally we hopped back in our golf cart and zoomed back to El Centro to return the cart and walk to Playa Norte to get our feet in the Caribbean.

Ziplining into an open Cenote. Yes I did!!!

The highlight of the trip was our tour of four different Cenotes.  Cenotes are underwater caverns, tunnels or sink holes filled with crystal clear water filtered by the limestone surrounding them.  Some are up to 66 million years old.  The youngest ones are still covered overhead, the oldest are open above.  Not only was it an amazing experience seeing the caverns, but we had fun getting into them.

Snorkeling through a semi-open Cenote to find stalactites overhead along the edges of the pools


Kayaking through a Cenote


What a beautiful ride through a Cenote

You could either go down a zip line or waterslide to enter the next Cenote.  We opted for the waterslide.  What a rush!  Then we swam through a corridor lined with roots falling down to the water, beautiful flowers, and even a few turtles before ending in another cave.

Swooping into a Cenote on a VERY fast slide


The end of the line for this Cenote where the brave ones jumped off a cliff above.

The last Cenote we visited was the best of them all!  It was a huge closed cavern deep and dark in the ground.  Many rappelled down through the small opening above, including Susie.  She was the brave one this time.

Stairway to the closed Cenote below, and me hanging out in the deep dark waters

Basking in the serenity of the Cenote

I opted to take the stairs down to the cavern.  Before any of the others started rappelling down, I let myself into the cool, dark water surrounded with fiscus roots trailing down from the earth above into the water below and basked in the quietness and serenity of this spiritual place.  All I can say is it was absolutely amazing!

Brave Susie rappelling into the Cenote

Susie having fun jumping off a high platform into the water

Just another amazing trip!  I thank my stars every day for how lucky I am to be able to experience such wonderful places!

The end of an amazing tour of the Cenotes in the Yucatan Peninsula


November 11, 2018 at 12:05 am Leave a comment

How To Be A Great First-Time Pet Owner

Photo via Pexels.

Congratulations, you have decided to get a pet for the first time! Being a pet owner can be an incredibly rewarding and joyful experience. This is particularly true for recovering addicts, who can find a loyal, unconditional friend and an invaluable source of stress relief in their pet.

However, having a pet comes with responsibility. You’ll need to be in charge of the well-being of a living creature and to love it as unconditionally as it will love you. Being a good pet owner will be important throughout your animal’s life, but it starts before you even bring them home.

Choose The Best Animal For You
Not all pets are created equal. Some take more work and money to own and some require a lot more hands-on attention. When choosing which pet to get, consider their budgets, but also their needs and natural tendencies.

For example, dogs tend to be more affectionate than cats, but they need to be walked every day and require more hands-on care. Cats, on the other hand, tend to be low-maintenance. Some experts even think that cats offer a more realistic model for healthy relationships than dogs.

Consider Your Breed Options
Once you have chosen what animal you want, you need to think about breeds. This is particularly applicable to dogs, where different breeds are almost entirely different animals. A Chihuahua is not the same as a Golden Retriever. A few things you need to consider:

  • Size of your home – Some dogs need more room than others, and some need large open spaces such as a yard. DogTime has a list of breeds that adapt well to apartment living, either due to their size or temperament.
  • Activities – What kinds of activities will you want to do with your pet? Choose a breed that goes well with the type of things you like to do. For example, if you like hiking and outdoor pursuits, get an active dog that enjoys being outside.
  • Allergies – If you have allergies to animal hair, you can still get a pet. You just need to make sure you get a breed that is hypoallergenic, or less likely to produce and accumulate dander and saliva, which is what most people are actually allergic to. This also goes for cats: breeds with short, fine fur – or no fur at all – are less likely to trigger allergies.

Prepare Your Home
Once you have chosen your new best friend, you need to make sure your house is ready. Make sure you have bought all your pet accessories, including plenty of food and toys.

Then, you need to consider the layout of your pet’s things. Where do you want your pet to spend most of its time? Where will they eat, drink, sleep, and play?

You also need to make sure your house is safe. Keep an eye out for anything that your pet could choke on, trip on, or fall through and keep anything dangerous well out of reach.

Make Them Feel At Home
Don’t worry if your pet takes a few days to get comfortable in their new home. This can be particularly challenging for rescue animals that will invariably be nervous in a new and unknown environment. According to Candidae, the best way to help a rescue dog get acclimatized is by providing constant food and positive reinforcement, giving them space and limiting their access to the house at first in order to not overwhelm them.

It may also take a while for your pet to bond with you – that’s ok. As long as you continue to provide them with love, affection and care, they will learn to trust you and develop the animal-human bond that makes being a pet owner so rewarding.

It is important to not rush into a big decision like getting a pet. Take some time to do your research about different breeds and what they need and to make sure both you and your home are ready for new addition. This will make all the difference in the world toward being a great pet owner and having a happy, long-lasting relationship with your furry friend.

Article written by Jessica Brody

June 20, 2018 at 10:16 pm Leave a comment

The Gentle leader Head Collar

Bear, a colossal size pup

There are so many training collars and harnesses for dogs these days, and being a pet sitter I have come across most all types.

Recently I was pet sitting a young, very large, rambunctious lab mix who I wasn’t able to walk because of his unruliness.  The owners were doing their best to train him but with his size and strength it had been a real challenge.

The next time I came to pet sit I found that they had decided to try the Gentle Leader Head Collar.  They instructed me on how to put it on Bear and properly use it.  It is so important to make sure the Gentle Leader is properly adjusted and fitted to your dog.  When on, it should look like a V and lay just behind the corners of the mouth.  The neck strap needs to be very snug and the nose strap loose enough so the dog can freely open the mouth but not loose enough to pull off.  If you decide to try this amazing product, be sure to consult with a trainer or specialist, and there are several videos and instructions manuals on the web to help you learn the proper way to use it.

Bear wearing the Gentle Leader

I have to say I was very skeptical, but when I took Bear out for a walk I was amazed!  I was totally in control!  He doesn’t LOVE this collar, but is very respectful of it.  A gentle tug and he’s right by my side.  It’s the most amazing transformation I have seen in training a dog to heal.  There’s no pulling, tugging or jerking the dog, which I love, just a gentle reminder of how he needs to act while walking with his human.  You can see that I had two collars on Bear.  I was instructed to have both on just in case I needed it, but I didn’t.

He has a ways to go as far as socializing with other dogs, but that will come with more training and maturing.  But for now, I am so happy that I’m able to walk this very large, highly spirited pup.

I would recommend the Gentle Leader Head Collar to anyone training their dog to heal.  It’s such a small, simple collar but the effects are huge.

January 16, 2018 at 6:31 pm Leave a comment

Seventy Three Days

This is  a story of survival and perserverence,  written in the Chesapeak Bay Retriever newsletter.  I was given permission to share this wonderful story by Chris Shannon, a client of mine and one of the rescuers of this very lucky dog.

Jake, an 11 year old Chesapeake Bay Retriever, was alone and trailing his leash behind him in the hills near Wenatchee, WA for seventy-three days. Sometimes it was sunny, sometimes he faced a bitterly cold rain or snow.

It was not the first time Jake had been left alone to fend for himself. He had been picked up by animal control staff from a condemned home where he had been left to live under deplorable conditions since his owner became ill. He was undernourished and afraid. But it was during his transfer to a CBR Rescue foster home where his life took one more turn for the worse. He was scared, he pulled loose from his transporter, and he ran through a busy intersection and up a highway onramp with every bit of energy he had left.

Word spread throughout the area through both traditional print and social media outlets, prompting scores of people to be on the lookout for Jake. There were several sightings but it was not until almost two weeks after his escape that confirmation came that Jake had settled in a small canyon near the highway. He had apparently been subsisting on a roadkill deer carcass and was even more desperately thin. Once there was confirmation of his location, two local women who NW Regional Director Carol Williams calls “Jake’s Angels” and one Washington-based CBR Rescue volunteer took on the challenge of catching Jake.

Mary and Chris (and Chrisʼ husband Mike) kept an eye on him and made sure he had fresh water and nutritious food each day. They lost sight of him more than once when he moved to new locations, but they never gave up on the search. When a traditional trap didn’t work, a “Missy” style trap was purchased and set up.

They kept track of Jake using a motion sensor

Despite their efforts, the only thing the trap caught was a cat. Jake was too smart to be lured in. A motion sensor wildlife camera helped make sure he was coming in to feed each evening. No matter what the obstacle, Mary and Chris continued to make sure Jake had clean water and warm, nutritious food twice each day. He received warm bacon, roast beef, and kibble. Sometimes stir-fry steak strips with a side of kibble. Rib bones heated slightly because “he doesn’t like them cold” were also on his regular menu along with his favorite spaghetti and meatballs. Without all of the people who helped save him, Jake would never have survived 73 days alone in the wilderness.

After weeks of attempts to entice Jake into one trap or the other, a snare device was deployed. Mary, Chris and Mike crawled through an irrigation canal under the highway and waited for hours each night in the cold and dark to hear the “SNAP” of the snare. November 24, “SNAP”! They caught a cat. November 27, “SNAP”! Another cat. November 28, “SNAP!” and Jake was back in human hands!

Jake’s Angels never gave up. He was finally captured by a Humane Canine Snare system on the Friday after Thanksgiving — the 73rd day after his escape.

Jake happy again in his new home

Jake has since cleaned up nicely! He moved to safety in the foster care of Liz Krizenesky, a CBR Rescue volunteer in NE Washington. A very special thanks to Mary, Chris, Mike and Liz, and to all the folks in Leavenworth and Wenatchee for never giving up on rescuing Jake. There were some pretty special treats under last Christmas’ tree for Jake… a new home! Liz and her husband, Joe, have adopted Jake. They all remain friends with Mary, Chris and Mike.

For information on this rescue group, or to give a donation, contact:

Chesapeake Bay Retriever Relief & Rescue, c/o Carolyn Baughman, Treasurer, P.O. Box 2187, Poquoson, VA 23662


October 18, 2017 at 8:20 pm Leave a comment

Easter at Grandma Kathys

I grew up in a very modest two and a half bedroom, one bath stucco house that sat just across the street from the elementary school that my sisters and I attended.  I never remember my mother or father saying that we didn’t have enough room, enough food, or enough money.  They always welcomed friends and family into their home with open arms and an open heart.

For as long as I can remember Easter was a big day for our family.  Not necessarily for the religious aspect like it is for many, but more to celebrate new beginnings, of spring that had finally arrived, and a day to spend with friends and family.

Wonderful group of friends and family that gathered for Easter this year

Every Easter my sisters and I would get all dressed up in our new outfits and wait for the relatives to show up so we could go out to hunt for our Easter baskets to see what fun things the bunny brought us that year.

Mom loved taking pictures of us three girls.  How nice to be able to look back at these pictures and remember the special memories.


A yester-year picture of my sister Bonnie, me and my cousin Bruce all in our Easter best

After we grew up, married and had children of our own we continued the tradition, all gathering at the family home where we grew up.  We all felt so fortunate to be able to share this wonderful tradition with the next generation, in the same house.

My son Ben and niece Christi running to find their Easter eggs

Years went by and our kids grew up.  My dad passed away and my mom was no longer able to host the big gatherings so I started having Easter at my house.

Group shot of friends and family at my house on Easter of 2001

Eventually my sister Kathy moved back into our family home and started hosting Easter again.  There were several years that there were no small children so we decided to act like kids :-).  One year everyone wore bunny ears

Adults being silly and acting like kids

and one year we had an Easter Bonnet contest.

An Easter Bonnet contest, just for fun!

As the second generation grew up and married, along came one baby, then two, then before we knew it there was a whole group of new kids in the family!    Now my sister Kathy has never been married or had children of her own, but all the kids and grandkids have always called her “Grandma Kathy” and she truly is their special Grandma!

Grandma Kathy coloring Easter eggs over the years with LJ and his little brother Declan

And it makes the holiday all the more fun having all the little kids again!

Two new arrivals for 2012.  My daughter Heather with son LJ, with Christina and her son Oliver


Enjoying the beautiful spring weather of Easter 2013


Cousin Bruce with family, and little Declan in 2015


Asher and Declan having a quiet moment in 2016

And the bigger kids having a blast in the bouncy house in 2016

And this year was another successful Easter with kids, family, friends and fun!

Boys, boys and more boys! Braxton & LJ eyeing the chocolate bunny, and Asher, Elliot & Declan checking out the Easter basket.  (Photos taken by Jordyn Benson)


Our climbers LJ and Mason in the apricot tree.  (Photo taken by Jordyn Benson)


Ava, Oliver and Asher with their Easter baskets.  (Photos taken by Jordyn Benson)


The ever present tulips that arrive every Easter, and our newest arrival Mara with mama Grace.  (Photos taken by Jordyn Benson)

What a wonderful tradition!  We are so fortunate to be able to continue having these special holidays in the same house for generation after generation.  Thank you Grandma Kathy for welcoming us into your arms and your heart!

Three generations enjoying Easter at our family home.  Top photo was taken in the 1950’s, middle 1980’s, and bottom 2017.



May 3, 2017 at 3:23 am 2 comments

Puerto Vallarta and Yalapa, then and now

After vacationing in Puerto Vallarta last year with my friend Susie, we decided we had to come back again this year.  Susie and I have been the closest of friends since preschool.  Her husband doesn’t like to travel much so we’ve become great travel partners!


After a harrowing trip from Wenatchee across Stevens Pass, we made it to my apartment in Seattle to spend the night before flying out in the morning.  We thought the worse was behind us but in the wee hours of the next morning, we found out that we were still in for a few challenges.  I had scheduled the taxi the night before and after calling several times and waiting for him to arrive for about an hour, he informed me during my last conversation with him that he was stuck in the snow and wasn’t coming.  Thank goodness for the Uber driver!  I gave him a call and he was there in 8 minutes and we were soon on our way to the airport on the snowy, icy roads of Seattle.  We discovered that the flight was delayed after all so we were there in plenty of time!


We arrived in sunny Puerto Vallarta and to our condo just in time to have our favorite guacamole and chips and of course an ice cold cerveza as we watched the sun set on beautiful Banderas Bay!

We were blessed this year to see whales and dolphins swimming and playing in the bay below our 11th floor veranda.

A perfect view from our 11th floor veranda to watch the whales, dolphins, stingray in the water below, and the pelicans in the air.

A perfect view from our 11th floor veranda to watch the whales, dolphins and stingray in the water below, and the pelicans in flight right in front of us.

It’s always fun to go to the Saturday Market in Old Town.  Susie met up with her friend Chantel who sells jewelry made from vintage silverware, and I got a new supply of lotion from Banderas Soap Blends.

Music, bakery goods, arts & crafts, and so much more at the market

Music, bakery goods, arts & crafts, and so much more at the market

We also met up with some other friends of Susies who have the pleasure of staying in PV for several months each year.  I totally enjoyed Pam and Zach’s company and the time we spent with them!

Spending some relaxing time on Playa Los Muertos with Pam and Zach.

Spending some relaxing time along the boardwalk on Playa Los Muertos with Pam and Zach.

One day we all took a bus up the Cuale River to El Rio BBQ for an early supper.  What a beautiful spot!  And look at those ribs!!!

20170301_093941And this year we decided to go to Yalapa for a day.  So we hopped on the bus to Boca where we took the water taxi to Yalapa.  It was an exhilarating ride to say the least!

Yalapa today

Yalapa today

I was anxious to go because I had been there about 25 years ago.  And boy did it bring back memories of that trip so long ago.

My daughter Heather who was 10 at the time and I were with my cousin Bruce along with his wife and son Dustin.  And what a wonderful trip that was!  It was the first time I had gone to Mexico, well, except for a trip to Tijuana but that’s another story 🙂 and when I totally fell in love with it.  I still can’t believe how lucky I have been to be able to see so many different parts of the world on my limited income.  This was not the last time I traveled with my cousin Bruce.  He is such an inspiration to me and has the same love of traveling.  Thank you Bruce for including me on these wonderful adventures of yours!  Not everyone would let an out of shape, inexperienced old lady travel with them, but he was such a good sport to let me tag along.

This is what La Cruz looked like when I was there 25 years ago

This is what La Cruz looked like when I was there 25 years ago

We rented a little house in La Cruz for a month.  La Cruz was just a small fishing village on the northern most point of Banderas Bay, but I hear that it’s grown up so much now that I wouldn’t recognize it.  I felt like I had gone back in time to a simpler, more relaxing moment in history.  We frequented little cafés like 3 Amigos and Ballena Blanca where the food was so fresh and delicious I can still taste it.  The kids walked to the neighborhood grocery store to get an ice cream every day, and I remember how good the granola and yogurt was that we had every morning for breakfast.

The Huichol Indians came down from the mountains one day to sell their crafts.  I couldn’t afford to buy much but couldn’t resist getting a small item.  I decided on a beaded prayer bowl made from a coconut shell.  I have it displayed in my little apartment to this day and think about that trip every time I look at it.

A Huichol prayer bowl similar to the one I purchased.

A Huichol prayer bowl similar to the one I purchased.

One morning I woke up early and decided to take a walk before everyone got up.  I found myself at a little café and decided to have breakfast.  I ordered eggs and toast and a cup of coffee.  As I was waiting for my breakfast (a VERY long time compared to US standards) I was smiling and thinking to myself “Are they waiting for the chicken to lay the egg?”.  But I wasn’t impatient.  As I sipped my delicious Mexican coffee I fell in love with the idea of no hurry, no worry!

Bruce had his sailboat moored at Nuevo Vallarta so we decided to take an excursion to Yalapa which is at the southernmost end of Banderas Bay.  As we sailed along, the water got very rough.  In fact so rough I was really seasick.  Bruce saw a small inlet with a palapa on the beach and a house up on the hill behind it so we pulled in for the night.  I will never forget getting off that boat and onto shore with the owner/proprietor greeting us.  He was so kind and let us sleep under the palapa for the night.  In the morning he made delicious huevos rancheros for all of us.  I was joking (kind of) that I was going to marry that man and stay there forever.  But alas, we got back on the boat and continued our sail to Yalapa.

Sailboats moored at Yalapa today

Sailboats moored at Yalapa today

Wow!  What a cool place this was!  Very few people with a few palapas on the beach.  There was no electricity in Yalapa and we met a man who had built a solor powered house on the hill behind the beach.  He said he spent half the year here and the other half running a café in Alaska.  What an amazing life!  In the evening we went to the ‘Yacht Club’ to dance.  I remember it was a slab of cement close to the beach with a great band playing.  My kind of yacht club!

We took a hike up the mountain to the waterfall and a little café.  Along the trail was a creek where women were washing their laundry.  And the waterfall was beautiful and so refreshing after a long, hot hike!

Beautiful waterfall at Yalapa

Beautiful waterfall at Yalapa

On the beach were ladies selling slices of pie.  Heather wanted chocolate coconut so that’s what we got.  The best pie EVER!  And at night we stayed in a thatched covered room along the water.  It had a nice stone walled shower in the bathroom that was so refreshing!  It was lit with kerosene lanterns and I remember thinking that these were pretty comfortable and modern facilities for an area as remote at this.  Well, that is until I was sitting on the steps on the morning we were leaving and watching my room being cleaned and prepared for the next guest.  The maid pulled the sheets back and swept the bed before remaking it.  She then swept the floor and mopped it with kerosene to keep the critters out.  I’m sooo glad I hadn’t seen that before staying there, ha ha!

Pie lady and rooms to rent in Yalapa

Pie lady and rooms to rent in Yalapa

Today Yalapa has been discovered by all.  Tours leave every day from Puerto Vallarta for guests to spend the day snorkeling, hiking to the waterfall, or just lounging on the beach.  And water taxis leave several times a day to bring people down for the day.  It’s still a quaint and fun place to go, even with the new hotels and hundreds of umbrellas and lounges on the beach, but it’s not what it used to be.  There are a couple of things that haven’t changed however.  The pie ladies are still there selling their delicious slices of heaven, and the rooms I stayed in so very long ago are still there.  Hopefully they’re not still sweeping the sheets between guests any more though!





March 1, 2017 at 10:45 pm 2 comments

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