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“Building My Nest” in Belize

“Building My Nest” in Belize

I lost both parents several years ago to cancer, within a short few months, they were both gone. This loss created a painful empty space in my life.  Yes, they say time heals all wounds and things will get easier.  Well, it’s been 13 years and it doesn’t get easier, but  I’ve learned to cherish their memory, learn from their advice and live a full and happy life.

Growing up in the farm country of rural Arkansas, we lived a simple life.  Now that I’m older, I reflect on that simple country life and realize how fortunate we were.  As kids, we played outside all day and even after dark.  We weren’t consumed with video games.  We went fishing…hunting ….and chased lightening bugs at night.  On hot summer days, the garden hose was our sprinkler and an old tarp was our “slip an slide”.  We bailed hay, chopped cotton and rode down the old dusty farm roads on the tail gate of my daddys Ford pickup.  We were the luckiest kids in the world.

 

As most people from the south will agree, parents had favorite little sayings.  My mom always referred to getting settled as “building your nest”.  Whether we were cuddling on the couch watching TV, tucking us in at night, or searching for our own homes later in life.  “Building your nest” was her way of saying, get settled, get comfortable and relax.  Be happy with where you are and what you have.  It’s taken me a long time to truly understand what she was trying to instill in us as children.

Being in Belize I’m seeing a reflection of my simple country life as a child.  Although it’s a world away, the values and characteristics are so similar.  Kids walk home from school, they play in the park, ride their bikes and walk to the store.  They are happy with what they have and enjoy each day as it comes.  I’m loving this opportunity to experience this simple, calm lifestyle and feel “settled.”

I hope my mom would be proud, I think I have finally “built my nest” in Belize!

 

Blessings in Belize …….

Blessings in Belize …….

There’s something about the cool ocean breeze, the sand in your toes and a long walk on the beach that put’s life into perspective. A “time-out” of sorts to reevaluate where you’ve been, where you’re going and to sincerely be thankful for these opportunities.  Counting my blessings is a top priority at this stage in my life. I’m thankful for my children, my grandchildren and the love of my life who shares this journey.

When you reach this  “third” stage in life there seems to be a shift in perspective. The days are calmer, the worries are fading and “passing the torch” of parenting and responsibility have slowly eased into the background. It isn’t until we observe our adult children dealing with the challenges and obstacles, just as we did at that stage, do we truly realize and appreciate this cycle called life. We can now enjoy our children as the strong, capable young adults they are becoming.

I’m realizing on the island, I count my blessings more and my worries less. I’m certain that whatever issue comes my way, it will pass. Be it a challenge or obstacle, “this too shall pass.” I watch more sunrises and sunsets. I ride my bike and take more walks. I try to see the good in people and understand that everyone is dealing with their own issues so a smile and a kind word can make a small difference in a strangers day.

I have found my peace near the ocean and I’m certain this is the place I was meant to be.
Thank You Belize!

Brooklyn Brother Bagel Shop San Pedro’s Finest

Brooklyn Brother Bagel Shop San Pedro’s Finest

We all seem to gravitate to those places that make us feel welcome and comfortable. So whether you’re traveling for a few days, snowbirding for a few months or you call this wonderful little island home; I think I have found that place.  When you are in San Pedro and want great food, and relaxing atmosphere ….just follow the signs to this awesome little jewel….    “Brooklyn Brothers Bagel Shop”

Arriving today to see the recent completion of their new expansion was a great surprise.  The new air-conditioned area with large windows, bar stools and counters were the perfect addition to this quaint island bagel shop.

 Plenty of room to grab breakfast or lunch, relax with a book, or “people watch” as you enjoy some of the best bagels I have ever had.  My 4lb Chihuahua “Floyd” typically goes most places with me and being an avid carb lover as well……this has quickly become his favorite breakfast stop!

restaurants belize
                                  Floyd loves Brooklyn Brothers Bagels!

I go there quite often, as the combination of bagels, an assortment of gourmet cream cheese spreads and a variety of drink options….you are guaranteed to find a favorite quite easily!  Fresh fruit smoothies, coffee, lattes,  juice, and sandwiches, easily make this place a perfect destination for breakfast or lunch.

One of my new favorites are the bags of bagel chips…..perfect for that late    night…” I really want a snack……oh yes, I have bagel chips………thank you Jesus moments!”   For the spicy lovers…..the spicy bagel chips are perfect with a cold Beliken Beer!

 

Whole Wheat w/Cranberry Walnut Cream Cheese!

Brooklyn Brothers Bagel Shop is located just south of town in San Pedro in the old Sausage Factory building. Just next to the island famous Caye Coffee.

So glad both of these great businesses are in our neighborhood!

Hours:  8-2  Mon-Sat.

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Five awesome Belize experiences with your grandkids….

Five awesome Belize experiences with your grandkids….

Five awesome Belize experiences to share with your grandkids


One of my favorite things about Belize is the lack of “cookie cutter” resorts.  Belize is unique, less commercialized and more adventurous than the all-inclusive resorts you find with most vacation options.  Yes, I have traveled with my grandkids to the carefree resorts with tons of food options, huge pools and daily activities for the kids.   Granted, we have made lifelong memories on these trips, but I soon realized the experiences were the same. Eat, swim…repeat…

belize vacation with kids
Grandkids Love Belize!

However, Belize seems to offer those moments where you slow down and realize why you choose to travel with your grandkids.  You want them to experience the beauty of this unique little country and the kindness of the Belizean people.  Experience their culture, sample their traditional foods and respect their challenge to protect the “second largest barrier reef in the world” and their little piece of paradise.

As I continue to explore Belize; I’m making a list of favorite things to do when traveling with grandkids!

1.   Belize Zoo

belize zoo

 

Harpy Eagle Belize Zoo
Harpy Eagle

Howler Monkey

2.  ACES  Crocodile Sanctuary

 http://americancrocodilesanctuary.org/

This is an evening trip kids and adults of all ages will love.  Get an up close experience of how this great organization is working to protect the crocodile on the island of Ambergris Caye and throughout the country of Belize.  After having nurtured this baby croc back to health, my grandson was given the opportunity to release him back into the wild.  What an awesome experience!

ACES crocodile sanctuary
             Releasing a baby croc back into the wild.

Hol Chan, San Pedro, Belize

3.  Snorkeling in Ambergris Caye

 

Belize offers some of the best snorkeling and diving options in the world.  There are numerous tour operators who offer a combination of full day fishing, snorkeling, beach BBQ’s, sunset cruises and catamaran party boat trips.  The choices are endless and it’s easy to find one to fit all ages and abilities.

 

4.  Volunteering at SAGA Humane Society…..

SAGA San Pedro, Belize

SAGA Humane society
Volunteer dog walking on the beach!

What turned out to be a favorite was the trip to the local humane society. This group provides a priceless service to the community and the volunteers work tirelessly to assist in finding homes for these rescued animals.  So when visiting, take the time to stop by SAGA.  Volunteer to walk the dogs, assist at the center, provide a donation for much-needed supplies, or go that extra step and make plans to provide a forever home for one of them!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

5.  Maya Ruins in San Ignacio

http://mayanruins.info/belize/xunantunich-mayan-ruins/

maya ruins belize
Xuantunich Maya Ruins

So add Belize to that Bucket List with your kids/grandkids!  Rent a car and explore the ruins,  take the water taxi to Caye Caulker, fly the “puddle-jumper” to Ambergris Caye.  Visit the local schools and establish “pen-pals” with the students, swim with the sharks, walk the beaches and watch the sunsets……memories that will last a lifetime!

Full heart…..empty gas tank!

Full heart…..empty gas tank!

 

So last night, I’m driving the golf cart home to the south end of town, having been at a friend’s house north of the bridge. For those  unfamiliar with the island, the north end and south end are basically determined by the toll bridge as you enter town.

                                         Ambergris Caye, Belize

Anyway, when leaving the north end, you cross the toll bridge into town. As I slow down, a mother and young son were standing beside the road. Mom has a large bundle near her feet and is obviously preparing to sell here handmade wares to tourist downtown. We make eye contact, I smile and she yells, “can we have a ride please?” Obviously, I’m headed across the bridge and with only one road; hard to say I’m not heading her way. Of course, jump in! The adorable young boy jumps in the front seat with me, while mom loads her huge bundle on the backseat. Yes, she’s headed downtown, just let me know when you want off. A few short minutes and I learn he’s five years old, will start to school this year and has a big sister. They are headed to work and he helps his mother. Oh, and he’s five years old now….he kept reminding me! I fell in love with this kid. We soon reach their stop, they jump off, he slaps a quick “high-five” and thanks me several times as I drive away.

As I drive thru town, I’m smiling, both inside and outside; realizing I truly love this island. Just as I slow down for a speed bump; I guess I was still smiling as I made eye contact with a young girl walking with a large bag of produce. I say Hi, she replies, “can I have a ride?” Of course, again, one road and we are both headed south. She tells me she’s headed home from the store for her mom and she’s nine years old. It’s getting dark and as I turn on my road, I did not want to let her out on the dark road to walk alone, so I said, show me where you live, I’ll take you home. She looked very surprised…”really?” Not far past my house, I drop her off…we are both smiling as I drive away!

Now, I’m headed home. One block before getting to my driveway, I see a young mom carrying a baby, two young boys following, all dressed up, I’m guessing for church. Thinking there is no church near my house, I realized she would have a very long walk with these small children. I slow down, yes, we make eye contact. I did not have the heart to tell her, sorry, I live across the street and I’m almost home. So I smiled, she smiled, I said hop in. Yes, they were headed to church, back in town! So, now I’m headed back into town. Another few minutes laughing with these beautiful children, I drop them off in front of their church. Thank you’s and smiles….I am now headed home. Seriously…..I drove straight home and did not make eye contact, as my heart was full and my gas tank was nearly empty!

Lesson in Belize!
Eye contact and a smile is well worth the time!

#ILoveBelize!

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker, Belize

Caye Caulker is one of those places that it’s very difficult to explain.  At least in terms of a description that would do this wonderful little island,  it’s due justice.  Visiting the island about a year ago, I’ll admit, it was a great trip and I truly enjoyed our time here.  However, anyone who is familiar with the country of Belize has heard the descriptions of the three top places.  San Pedro….Caye Caulker….and Placencia.   Most will describe San Pedro as active, vibrant, lots of tourist and tons of things to do.  Placencia is a quiet little fishing village in the southern part of the country, much slower, quiet and peaceful.  I have heard many times that Caye Caulker is the “little sister” to San Pedro.  The same awesome beach atmosphere,  beach bars, and fishing, just on a smaller scale, much less developed and definitely less tourist.   Their motto is “Go Slow” and it definitely is appropriate for this little piece of paradise.

The streets are sandy, the people are amazing and the feeling of family is everywhere.  Children play in the parks, ride their bikes, play on the beach and the local soccer field is the highlight of the evening.  A sense of small town from 3o years ago.  Backpackers stroll the street, tourist lay in beach hammocks and music flows softly from the local beach bars.  How can you not fall in love with this place?  I did all over again!!

Napping in the street

With it’s development and tourist attraction being a few years behind San Pedro, the prices reflect this reality.  Food seems to be a little cheaper, hotels are less expensive and grocery prices are more reasonable.  I wonder with the obvious influx of development and expansion, how fast will it grow?  New development can be seen in the heart of the village, as well as rumors of a large resort being built across the infamous “split” on the north side of the island. This property seems to be selling quickly, as rumors of the resort lead people to believe this may be a good long-term investment.

Anyone who has visited Caye Caulker is familiar with “the split”.  The awesome area between the developed southern part of the island and the northern undeveloped area.  A great bar and restaurant with one of the most famous swimming areas in the country.  Suffering substantial damage, new seawalls are in and covered palapas and seating areas for the beachside restaurant will soon be reopened.

 

caye caulker split
Construction at “the split”
New section at “the split”

As for places to eat……you will not go hungry!   Tons of choices with street-side taco stands, fry jacks, chicken, beans and rice can be found on every street.  Middle street has some great dine-in restaurants that are definitely worth trying.  The Happy Lobster serves fresh seafood and daily fish specials at great prices.  Aunties Take Out  has some great lunch choices under $5 US.   By early afternoon, the small stands as you head near the split are open with tons of choices……great coffee shops, donuts, ice-cream and sandwiches.  There are also several beach restaurants along the water for lunch and dinner.  Again…..you won’t go hungry, or break the travel budget!

Sports Bar …. Great Music

When deciding to visit this little piece of paradise. you should be fine booking when you arrive.  We found lots of vacancies, so it just depends on your budget, and the area of town you want to stay in. If you are staying at a hostel, there are several in town, and a great one Yumas, just as you exit the water taxi on Front street.

Yuma’s Hostel

When exiting the water taxi, to your left you will find a great beach front hotel and restaurant:   Popeyes Beach Resort.  Very nice with great views, pool, AC and Wifi… and most importantly pet-friendly!

Popeye’s Beach Resort

So, as you plan your trip to this great little island…..be prepared to “slow down”, relax and soak up all the kindness and charm this place has to offer!

Beautiful sunsets are a daily occurrence!

Todays Lesson In Belize……GO SLOW!

Crepes & Dreams….A Caye Caulker Favorite! | caye caulker belize restaurant

Crepes & Dreams….A Caye Caulker Favorite! | caye caulker belize restaurant

Visiting this small Caribbean island for a few days you’ll want to experience as much as possible without missing a single thing. The beaches, the shops, water sports, beach bars and island tours….it’s difficult to do it in such a short few days. So choices must be made! One of the most difficult choices is “Where do we eat?”

For such a small quaint little island the food choices are unbelievable. I am a morning person. The first decision every morning is to reach for my coffee. After several cups, I may or may not choose to have breakfast. So when deciding where to go for breakfast on the island, I was pretty indecisive. As long as they serve coffee…..I’m good. As we walked down the sandy beach streets, passing several options for breakfast, nothing caught my eye. Then we passed a cozy little place with an awesome French ambiance…..ok…let’s try this!

Caye Caulker, Belize
Crepes & Dreams

Best decision since arriving on the island!  The owners were welcoming, friendly and seemed to be the perfect people to operate this specialty restaurant in this unique island atmosphere. The restaurant provided ample seating. Cozy areas for small groups, and larger arrangements for groups of six to eight. The menus were mounted on small cutting boards, as well as having the drink menus on wooden rolling pins. A unique, clever and authentic addition to this one of a kind place.

caye caulker belize restaurants
Owners; Chris & Carrie

The options for breakfast were quite large and had numerous choices in addition to their specialty crepes.
Drinks ranged from basic coffee, iced coffee, fresh juices, smoothies, shakes, sangria and infused rum. A ton of choices to fit into either your breakfast or brunch options. Having two categories of crepes; savory included traditional breakfast items from bacon and eggs, to cheese, potatoes, onions and garlic, with sweet crepes filled with fresh fruit, cream cheese, nutella, topped with honey or caramel.

.caye caulker restaurants

caye caulker belize

Everyone is well aware of the qualifications of being recognized as a great restaurant. To obtain an “exemplary” classification on Trip Advisor, you must combine great food, great service, and great atmosphere. This quaint little island restaurant hits the mark on all three; service, food and atmosphere. Service was wonderful, friendly and welcoming. The atmosphere of French motif/bistro, set the scene for some authentic French favorites…..classic crepes. It’s easy to see how they are receiving top ratings on Trip Advisor.


For this fast developing little island, the owners should be proud of what they have accomplished and the village should be appreciative to have such a great unique choice for the island visitors. Their wonderful restaurant, their welcoming attitude, and unbelievable food will continue to attract visitors and locals to this fabulous little jewel on this tiny island.  A “Must-Do” while on Caye Caulker!

Island Hopping to Caye Caulker, Belize….Day 1

Island Hopping to Caye Caulker, Belize….Day 1

When visiting Belize, Caye Caulker is a unique location that must be experienced.  A short 30 minute water taxi ride from San Pedro, this quaint little island is the perfect place to spend a few extra days.  It’s easily accessible from both San Pedro and Belize City and well worth the trip. Leaving San Pedro, Ambergris Caye; a roundtrip ticket is $25 US,  with several departures daily.http://belize express.

As for accommodations, you will have numerous choices. From budget savvy hostels for $20 per night to high-end beach rentals for $200, finding the perfect fit should be easy.   VRBO and  Airbnb have lots of listings!  I checked on-line before arriving but decided to “wing-it” and just find a room when I arrived on the island. Needless to say, traveling with Floyd, my 4lb Chihuahua tends to complicate things a little.   However, I did find three “pet friendly” hotels.  I settled on Popeyes Beach resort http://popeyesresort   A great location directly on the beach with pool, air conditioning, tv and internet.  Yes, this may seem basic to many people, but in Belize…..if you need air conditioning, internet and TV….you should verify before booking!

Floyd is ready for a new island adventure!

 

When comparing San Pedro and Caye Caulker, you’ll find many similarities, but also many drastic differences.  The water is crystal blue, the people are amazingly friendly and the beer is ice cold.  Most locals will tell you this is how San Pedro was 20 years ago….no cars…sandy streets….bikes and golf carts.  Having much less tourism (for now) than San Pedro, Caye Caulker allows for a more relaxed island feel.

Sandy streets of Caye Caulker

My last visit to Caye Caulker was nearly a year ago and it’s easy to see the changes.  After suffering some significant damage from Hurrican Earl las fall, many businesses have expanded, rebuilt and upgraded.  The beaches have been repaired and many sea walls installed.  This is providing some great areas for beach volleyball, sun bathing or a lazyday laying in the hammocks

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caye caulker belize

New tour shops have opened for fishing, scuba diving, snorkeling and sunset cruises.  Paddle boarding, windsurfing and kayaking are becoming increasingly popular.  The calm waters that surround this little island provide the perfect conditions for these watersports.

As for food….choices are unlimited.  From beachside restaurants, local taco stands, streetside BBQ, coffee shops, fresh juice bars and ice cream…you will not leave the island hungry.  (The key lime cheesecake at Popeyes beach grill at 10 pm is highly recommended…probably not smart, but recommended!)

Breakfast was at an awesome little crepe restaurant.. Crepes & Dreams.  This place deserves a separate blog post coming tomorrow!  Awesome…check it out on http://trip advisor

Best Breakfast in Caye Caulker!

 

 

 

This being my first full day on the island, I already have tons of pictures!  My latest Lesson in Belize…..

“It just keeps getting better!”

 

Back to the Island ! | Ambergris Caye, Belize

Back to the Island ! | Ambergris Caye, Belize

After spending an extended period of time in the states visiting kids and grandkids, I returned to Ambergris Caye this week. Anyone who has traveled to Belize is well aware there may be a few of your favorite things you cannot find here on the island. Knowing I will stay for at least a few months before returning to the states, I checked the additional bags, filled to the brim with my favorite things. By the time I arrived, I was second guessing this decision.  My first sign should have been the need to sit on the suitcases to zip them, as I desperately wanted to bring my favorite bamboo pillow. Packed, zipped and headed to the airport, I thought the most difficult part was over. Bags were checked, boarding passes printed and we breeze through customs. Two carry-ons and a dog carrier with my “baby” Floyd, my 4lb Chihuahua, I’m feeling pretty confident at this point. Just praying he does not have to pee before we get to Houston.

My first sign should have been the need to sit on the suitcases to zip them, as I desperately wanted to bring my favorite bamboo pillow. Packed, zipped and headed to the airport, I thought the most difficult part was over. Bags were checked, boarding passes printed and we breeze through customs. Two carry-ons and a dog carrier with my “baby” Floyd, my 4lb Chihuahua, I’m feeling pretty confident at this point. Just praying he does not have to pee before we get to Houston.

Stepping onto the escalator, I feel my earring slipping out, as I struggle with the carry-ons, try to keep my balance on the escalator, and desperately trying to hold on to my 4lb Chihuahua I see it fall at my feet. ( these were a special birthday gift, so I’m going for it) As I regain my balance, I desperately bend over and grab just as it disappears into the revolving steps! Frustrated, but realizing with a knee replacement impeding my mobility, and thankful I did not smash Floyd into the escalator, I laughed it off and headed to the gate. Sign number two!
Flying Southwest allows us to pick our own seats. I take middle and aisle seats, hoping no one wants to squeeze into the window seat, providing extra room for Floyd. Wrong! A very nicely dressed man, I’m sure was headed to a business meeting in Houston, decides to chance it. I’m thinking, “Sir, you really look smarter than this!” Nonetheless, he chooses to sit next to us. Just as we prepare for takeoff and I’m putting Floyd back into his carrier, the stressful day of traveling hits him. His nose is running and he starts to heave. Oh mother of God, No!  Having six children, I recognize these symptoms.  My first reaction was to try catching it, obviously not my first choice, just a reaction. Yes, I try catching it while attempting to keep my own breakfast down.  I avoid eye contact with the nicely dressed businessman next to me as I search for the airsick bag.  Sign number three!

We arrive in Houston with just enough time to rush outside to find some grass, back through customs and board for Belize city. Taking a pet to Belize is fairly simple and only requires some minor paperwork and a visit to our local vet for a health checkup. Paperwork was completed, he has a “pet passport” and a quick stop at immigration to submit the forms. We’ve done this before, no problem.
Feeling confident there would be no more issues, we land in Belize City, present the paperwork from our vet, only to be told it is the wrong paperwork!  Feeling certain this is the exact paperwork we submitted on our last trip. but a different agent at the airport. We are told we can not enter the country without a wellness checkup and correct paperwork. We are now on the Belizean side of customs and they are not going to let Floyd into the country. I was not surprised at the next comment:  ” Yes, we can do the correct paperwork and wellness check here for an additional $50!  Into the small room, yes, he looks healthy.  I pay the money and head for the last leg of the trip to the island. Sign number four!
Once into Belize city, it’s a short 12-minute flight on “puddle jumper”. I’ve done this several times with no issues. We check in just in time to be told a smaller plane is boarding with room for only two more, or we can wait for another hour for our scheduled flight. My first thought was how much smaller can you get than your typical 12 seater?  But  OK, we’ll go now. I soon realize smaller translates to only six seats.  As we board, or actually squeeze in, we are told, “one get in, the other wait,  as we have to flip the seat down.”   What??  The last seat flips down, as we try to buckle, uncertain whether these last two seats are secured to the floor.   We are all laughing,  well aware that in 12 minutes this long day will be well worth the hassle, and it was!
Welcome to Belize!

Gratitude

Gratitude

20161006_173910

After spending some extended time in Placencia and being able to explore this beautiful area, I pray I never take this for granted. I love the peacefulness of the ocean, the kindness of the people, the small town, slow down and smell the flowers mentality that is apparent when you visit. When on vacation. you automatically notice the beauty of an area.  It’s new, it’s refreshing and unique.  You take the time to notice the sunrise and sunsets.   You are amazed at the beauty and serene feelings of watching the boats slowly pass by in the early morning hours.
Granted, common sense will tell you that in all things there is eventually a sense of familiarity. Will I get use to the breathtaking sunrise? Will I stop noticing the boats slowly drift by as I sip my morning coffee on the patio?20160819_112008[1]

Will the large iguana that crosses the dirt path in front of me as I walk to the store, suddenly ceases to impress me?20160926_110034120160926_1100131
Will I no longer stop to pet the neighborhood dog that walks with me down the path to the village? And my biggest fear….will I stop taking pictures?

July 8, 2016 (12:52 pm)
While on vacation,  it’s a common practice to grab as many photos as possible.  We want to share the beauty and uniqueness of this beautiful little country.  We snap pictures of the beach, the sunrise, the sunset, your frappe at the coffee shop, your breakfast, your lunch, your dinner, ….. you get the point and know what I’m talking about! You Facebook, tweet, snapchat, instagram every vacation photo you can grab. You’re on vacation, this is what you do.
But, when living in a tropical paradise, you experience this on a daily basis. Yes, the flipping sunrise is absolutely breathtaking almost every morning. The sunsets are on most evenings, postcard perfect. The people are kind, the breeze is gentle and the water is a sparkling crystal blue.

placencia belize beaches
Placencia Beaches

So as I enjoy these aspects of everyday life in this beautiful little country, I pray that I wake each morning as though it’s my first time experiencing this beauty and to enjoy each day as though it were my last!

Here are some of the reasons I truly love Belize!

belize waterfalls
Bocawina National Park
Beaches of Ambergris Caye Belize
Beaches of Ambergris Caye Belize
July 10, 2016 (6:31 pm)
Belize Countryside, Toledo District

So, my Lesson in Belize is to cherish each day in this beautiful piece of paradise!

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