A Real Beach Adventure

When you live on an island, going to the beach is easy enough. It's just a matter of walking in a straight line until you hit water.

But we aren't always in the right mood for easy. We decided we wanted more of an adventure in going to the beach, so we loaded up a couple backpacks with water bottles and delicious snacks, and headed out to a remote beach, only accessible either via a hike down rough trails, or a boat ride.

I don't think that ever in my life I've actually hiked to this beach and back, usually I've taken a boat on the way there or back--the hike itself isn't particularly long, it's just over 3 km, and took the 6 of us about an hour and 20 minutes to traverse.

But this is no Mammoth Cave National Park trail (for some reason, that's the park that always comes to mind when I think of smooth, well-maintained trails). I found it challenging!

Let's play--"Spot the Trail!"

Personally, I'm glad that they choose to keep the trail open even though so many of the bridges and stairs are falling apart, instead of closing it indefinitely 'for maintenance'...but this isn't a trail I'd recommend for any but adult-sized people in relatively good shape. For this reason we left all the littles home with Mama and only 6 of us tackled this adventure.

The saddest sight we saw was a dead baby dolphin on the beach--but besides that, we enjoyed our little beach picnic and explored the beautiful seashore and little coves along the shoreline with all the energy we could muster after our long hike!

 Angel and Rebekah decided that since there was a gigantic rock in the middle of the beach, they had to figure out how to climb on top of it. The rest of us shouted "No! Don't do it! It's not safe!" and snapped pictures simultaneously (possibly contradicting ourselves) as they tried multiple methods of rock climbing. I was quite skeptical that they'd both make it to the top, but in the end, a combination of strategies worked: Angel boosted Rebekah up high enough that she could scramble to the top, and then Angel took a running start, jumped onto the rock, and Rebekah leaned over and grabbed his hand so that he could make it all the way up.

Those of us not so fearless were impressed with their feat.

Rebekah is the tallest and strongest of all the girls in my family, and Angel has never met a rock he didn't want to stand on top of, so they were the perfect pair to attempt this daring feat of bravery.

*Warning: Do not try at home, if your home happens to contain gigantic barnacle-covered rocks. Instead, invite me over for dinner, because I want to see a home like that!

An Old Favorite Toy

About 7 or 8 years ago, some friends gave my family this thing.

I don't know where they bought it, or if it's still made, but it's amazing.

This little dome of blue plastic and its computer brain has provided my family and all of my closest friends with endless hours of hilarity and fun.

What does it do? Simple--it plays 20 questions with you. The machine claims to be able to guess whatever you're thinking of after asking up to 20 yes-or-no questions.

And it's good, it's really good.

Some of our friends have developed the theory that the machine can hear, so in deciding on a word, they make sure to put the machine in a different room so that it can't eavesdrop on the discussion.

My siblings and I usually choose the strategy of choosing things that to us appear to be really random, obscure, and unconnected. In the past week we've tried: doormat, platypus, and faucet--it guessed them all.

One particularly hilarious evening, we thought we had hit upon the perfect word: angel. Not the one I'm married to, but the generic angel.  We giggled as we answered "Yes," "No," "Sometimes," or "Rarely." to questions like, "Can it be purchased?" "Does it bring joy?" and "Is it smaller than a microwave oven?"

(Does anyone have an estimate as to the size of an average angel?)

We were smugly convinced that the machine had no idea what we were thinking until after the 20th question, when the machine said, "You win! JUST KIDDING! Are you thinking of an angel?"

We are in awe of this machine.

Angel claims that he beat the machine with the word showerhead, but because he is Angel and because no one was with him when this supposed victory occurred, we suspect that he may have been a little purposefully vague in the way he answered the machine's questions, and in so doing, the results may not be reliable.

Honestly, I'm not entirely sure it's safe to have such an intelligent toy in your house--but our home wouldn't feel quite the same without it.

Besides the 20Q's machine, I also feel great affection for Bop-it Extreme. My affection for other toys--Barbie, Lego, Play-Doh--did not extend beyond childhood.

What were the best toys you had when you were growing up?

Things I Can Do

Once upon a time, I wrote a post listing a great quantity of things I can't do. That post was very fun to write, and I had a grand time reflecting on my inability to unicycle or parallel park. Today, however, Helen at I Will Bloom asked the question, "What are you excellent at?"

Semi-unrelated picture, just because I like this photo. But also, I can read quickly anywhere and anyhow. I've finished 10 books during our trip here, occasionally while being jumped on my small children. 

My answer?

I'm very, very good at strategically and creatively combining seemingly random ingredients gathered from a sparsely-stocked kitchen into a delicious meal.

I have a talent for writing.

I am surprisingly skilled at finish-construction jobs, including roofing, vinyl siding, and exterior/interior painting.

I am a confident public speaker.

I am excellent and throwing junk away. I could never be accused of being a stuff-hoarder.

I'm talented at school--especially as a student, but I'm finding, over the past year, that I actually really enjoy and appreciate being on the other side of the teacher's desk, too (metaphorically speaking, because in any class of mine, you will rarely find me behind the desk).

Regardless of the unusual way I dress, I think I'm a pretty good style-adviser for others. Whether hair or clothing, I take a combined approach of "If you really love it, wear it, whether or not it's cool." AND, when requested, can offer suggestions tailored to face shape, hair type, height, and natural colors.

Going off of that, I'm speedy at haircuts and updos, especially for curly hair.

I throw a really good party--if, by 'really good party' you mean a party involving lots of delicious food and a plethora of activities and games for guests.

I'm awesome at waking up in a good mood really early in the morning. My family has always described me as "jumping" out of bed each morning.

Possibly related, I can fall asleep quickly and easily, even in uncomfortable conditions (i.e. a twin bed shared with the husband in a hostel in a scary part of Hong Kong). I used to be able to fall asleep on a ceramic tile floor, no pillows or blankets needed, but I might not be quite that tough anymore.

Best Valentine's Ever.

This past weekend was certainly the most festive Valentine's weekend of my life. On Friday night, we had a party with teenagers--the main activity was an assignment to make at least one card and decorate one cookie to give away to someone (and, afterwards, eat as many sweets as you want). On Saturday, with a group of pre-teens, we had a match-the-Biblical-couples game, "pass the parcel," and a game where the goal is to make your stony-faced friends laugh by coaxing them with the phrase, "If you love me, honey, please smile" (if they laugh, they are punished with a forfeit).

On Sunday afternoon, we collected some long-married couples for an edition of the "Newlywed Game," hosted by Angel and I. Many funny revelations occurred, including husbands who forgot how many ex-girlfriends they had (while their wives remembered), wives who confessed for the first time ever how many ex-boyfriends they had, and many a spouse who had no recollection of how they celebrated their first wedding anniversary. My own parents didn't win, but they didn't lose either, and they were the longest married couple playing the game, so we thought they did quite well at remembering things that happened a quarter-century ago.

Unfortunately, I only have pictures of the baking preparations (we did all snack-preparing on one day, and then brought rations of sweets to each party--efficiency at its best!) and of the Friday night party. The other celebrations you'll just have to imagine.

 Rice krispie treats are considered an exotic treat here, they disappear quickly!

 We have never ever before tried any candy or chocolate-making at home, but we bought some heart shaped molds and experimented with different additives (mostly crushed almonds) to create custom-made candies, and we were proud of ourselves!

 Maybe it's because they're a homeschooling family, maybe it's just because there are so many girls--either way, we didn't buy a single new supply for the card-making extravaganza--I just collected whatever craft supplies were in the house. We even had googly eyes and feathers, which made for some highly unique Valentine's cards!

 Giving away cards and cookies is a tiny, tiny thing--but this is my reason for doing it.

 Cookies were decorated with sprinkles, marshmallows, Skittles, and Mentos. We made a mess. Cookie decorating with teenagers is one of those activities that may require excessive clean-up...but it's oh-so-fun!

 We were really proud of the "romantic" atmosphere we set up for our snacks, the scattered rose petals and fake candles included! And the cake was red velvet--we went all out on the "Valentine's" theme.

To close it all off, I thought this was the perfect picture--my own Valentine, and his mischievous face.

It was the best Valentine's Day I could have imagined, and far more festive than last year's (which involved a U-Haul). :)

10 Unusual Date Ideas

While I might find myself responding to the very suggestion of "romance" with nervous, awkward giggling, I am very rarely against holidays. I have no problem at all with Valentine's Day, and in honor of it, I bring to you a list of 10 of my best all-purpose date plans:

1. Go for a walk at a local cemetery and read the stones.

2. Drive around in fancy neighborhoods and select the features you'd choose for your imaginary mansions ("I'll have the white pillars on the front porch, the red brick facade, and a hot tub in the backyard, but I'll skip the 3-car garage. Boring!")

3. Walk/bike/drive down a street you've never been to before, just to see what's there.

4. Find an acupressure path (lumpy rocks stuck in cement) and challenge each other to a barefoot race (Guaranteed romance factor: Angel proposed to me minutes after a race on the acupressure path at the local park).

5. Work together to pull a prank (or multiple pranks) on beloved relatives or friends (i.e. write anonymous letters and drive out of your way to mail from an odd post office, booby-trap a car with glitter, move their stuff around). Some of the most interesting pranks are best achieved through teamwork.

6. Go to an arcade. Do this regularly, but never spend all the tickets you win, and eventually blow all of your tickets on over 10 lbs. worth of  candy. You'll feel like millionaires...at the very least, candy -obsessed millionaires.

7. Go to the beach during a bad storm to watch the waves. Dress warm! If you happen to get pulled over for a cracked light cover on the way home, expect that the policeman will find your story of an outing to the beach slightly unbelievable, given the current weather conditions.

8. Find old childhood photos and albums and spend some time listening to and telling stories of the pre-marriage days and laughing at old haircuts (boy, I'm glad we didn't know each other in high school...).

9. Do a science experiment you've always wanted to try. Putting mentos in coke, constructing parachutes and dropping eggs off the balcony (my favorite), growing plants from seed, dissecting organs from the butcher shop (my worst nightmare), whatever sounds like fun to you.

10. Play hide and seek in the dark. This is terrifying. Put away everything precious or breakable first. My strategy is to just hide and never ever ever leave my hiding place until the lights come back on.