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Temporary Residency in Croatia

November 10, 2017 Favorites, Freewheeling No Comments

We just left Croatia after almost five weeks in the country, the longest we’ve stayed in one country by far. We absolutely loved it and see why it is the new “it” place in terms of beach vacations. We took a ferry from the Istrian Peninsula (Pula is where we stayed for two nights) out to the islands and then returned to the mainland after 3+ weeks of island hopping. The mainland alone has 1,104 miles of coastline. On the islands, the waterfront bliss is pretty much endless. Quaint little towns line the coast and hillsides and you just can’t believe the beauty.

No Stress on Cres

No Stress on Cres


Losinj, The Island of Vitality

Losinj, The Island of Vitality


Baska, on Krk Island

Baska, on Krk Island


Rab, The Happy Island

Rab, The Happy Island


Novalja, Pag Island

Novalja, Pag Island

Great big caveat: we were here in the off-season. Not just barely past the high season, the OFF-season. We arrived on October 4. Many (now most) campgrounds, restaurants/bars, markets were/are closed for the season. All of the beaches are empty. While I am still mourning a summer devoid of hot, sandy beaches and warm water, I found comfort in warm afternoons and having entire villages to ourselves.

From what we read and heard from locals, we would have been miserable in Croatia in the summer. “What you see here,” referring to any given beach, “every spot taken! You could not find one place to sit down – and would never be able to park this big van! Pfft – and no dogs allowed!” As it is, we parked overnight right on the waterfront, where it was quiet and secluded. We enjoyed happy hour with Miles on the beach, bringing our chairs and drinks, throwing the ball for him. He was happy, we were happy. Life is good!

Camping Stoja, Pula

Camping Stoja, Pula




Things we loved:

  • The scenery. From the small towns dotting the coastline to the hills and mountains that rise from the sea, it’s so stunningly beautiful. Even if the buildings themselves are somewhat run-down, the red roofs that dot the landscape are visually appealing. And where we went, there’s water everywhere. Waking up to a sea view, riding my bike along the water and on hills where there’s a view of the sea all around, running on a waterfront promenade… I mean, come on. This is my kind of place!


  • The people. People seemed to go out of their way to help us, and with a genuine smile. Whether it was navigating on unmarked trails, parking our big van, or accommodating Miles, we felt very welcome here. We met locals and other tourists who were anxious to chat with us and share their tips and suggestions on where to go next and what to expect. We met fun people who were happy to buy us a drink to keep the night going, chatting about anything and everything. Whether we were in big cities like Zadar, Split, or Dubrovnik, or the small villages on the islands, we enjoyed ourselves even more because of the kind and helpful people.


  • English is prevalent. The small villages on the islands accommodate a lot of European tourists, and English is often the common language among them all. In the bigger cities, English is written (signs, menus) and spoken everywhere. If not, we got by on smiles, gestures, and Google Translate.


  • Cheap drinks. We drink beer and wine. At restaurants and in grocery stores, these items are quite inexpensive. So inexpensive, in fact, that I lost my perspective. “Can you believe they are charging 18 kuna for this glass of wine? This place is expensive!” Then I reminded myself that 18 kuna is the equivalent of $2.77 and ordered another. In the grocery stores, I would buy box wine and was able to score a 10L box for 69 kuna. That’s 13.3 bottles of wine for $10.63. And it’s a good daily drinker! My go-to wine has been a boxed Vranac, which I can find for $7.55 for 3L. Done and done, time and again. Greg’s beer runs about $1.50 for a half-liter bottle or can in the grocery store and is 18-20 kuna in restaurants. Drink up!


  • The pizza. We eat a lot of pizza. I’ll get to the main reason below, but we would go to a restaurant and each order a pizza that’s 14″ in diameter — G always orders the frutti di mare and I always get the vegetable. Each pizza costs 50-60 kuna. That’s $7.70 to $9.24 in USD. And the kicker is that it’s so big that we would usually only eat half of the pizza in one sitting, so we’d have another meal waiting for us in the fridge. At that price, we couldn’t afford NOT to eat pizza for almost every meal! (Between the two of us, I can’t believe we don’t have a single picture of pizza!)
  • Water is everywhere. I’m not talking about the Adriatic Sea this time. I mean that we had access to potable water — for free — at every gas station, as well as at several places in each town and/or along the highways. We’ve got a 40-gallon tank and we do our best to conserve. But as any #vanlifer knows, where to get water is always on your mind.



Things we don’t love:

  • The price of gas. Fuel is quite expensive everywhere in Europe ($5-6/gallon) and it’s no different here. So it’s not something we disliked specifically about Croatia, it’s just worth noting as a general dislike.
  • The limited cuisine options — and no spicy condiments! This is why we ate so much pizza. Even in the cities we visited, the variety was really lacking. We would have loved to see a taco truck parked on the corner! What we would have done for a quick pad Thai or curry! Greg ordered a hamburger a couple of times and was really disappointed, so he stopped ordering it. There’s fresh seafood on the menu at most places, but they want over $20/plate and any side dishes are extra. We’re on a budget and don’t want to spend that much for a quick lunch, so we opt for pizza.
  • Rocky beaches. This is really stretching as a dislike, if only to come up with a third item for the list. In an ideal world, the miles and miles of beaches would be sandy. In Croatia, most of the beaches are rocks or pebbles, which isn’t ideal.

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During our stay, we paid almost as much for ferries as lodging fees. We spent eight days in paid lodging (which is average for the three months), costing $262. We took six ferries, costing $180. It’s the cost of doing business, and we were very happy with the mix of staying at campgrounds or apartments versus free camping, and the opportunity to visit all the islands was well worth the ferry expenses.

Our last stop in Croatia was Dubrovnik. We spent two days touring the city, including hiking up to Fort Imperial for a view of the city from above. It was windy and cold, but so worth the trek up the mountain.


We said farewell to Croatia during a strong thunderstorm and headed to Montenegro, a stop on our way to Greece. From there, the plan is to take a ferry to the boot of Italy. Adventure awaits!


Road Trip – a final note

February 14, 2017 Favorites No Comments

On the road trip with my dad, I was reminded of a scene from one of my favorite movies, Mask. In this scene, the story’s protagonist, Rocky Dennis, reads his mother a poem he had written:

These things are good:
ice cream and cake,
a ride on a Harley,
seeing monkeys in the trees,
the rain on my tongue,
and the sun shining on my face.

These things are a drag:
dust in my hair,
holes in my shoes,
no money in my pocket,

and the sun shining on my face.

In general, I love having the sun shine on my face. I was reminded of this today. The sun was shining after a week-long hiatus and another week-long rainy spell in the forecast. I could not have been happier! I am in a better mood when the sun shines. I feel depressed on cloudy days. I plan weekend getaways and full vacations based on where it will be sunny and warm. But on that road trip, a cloudy sky was welcome. When the sun was shining, we were too hot. It was very tiring. It was a real drag.

Speaking of Mask and Rocky Dennis, he meets a blind girl in that movie. She had been blind her whole life and had never seen color. There’s a wonderful scene where he teaches her what colors are based on touch.

I recently came across this li.st where a girl who was blind was taught colors by her friends and family. I love this! Not only did it bring back more memories of the movie, the descriptions are great. I have never liked the color yellow before, and this changes everything.

I need to watch Mask again.


Photo Faves

This photo is old, but it’s one of my favorites that I didn’t share here:


Greg and I took a road trip the week after Christmas 2014 and woke up on New Year’s Day in the middle of nowhere. Honestly, I can’t tell you the nearest town. We were in central California, somewhere between Highway 101 and I-5, as if that is any help at all… We eventually made our way to Ojai that afternoon (and it didn’t take all that long), but I have no idea where we were.

I had just finished my first run of the year and came upon the van to find Greg standing on top of it with his binoculars. I loved that it was the first day of the new year and it seemed as though he was looking back at 2014 from up there. I don’t often run with my phone, but I was really glad I had it with me that time.

I’ll try to post more photos that I find in my camera roll that I haven’t shared here; it’s kind of fun to look back on our adventures that way.


Ironman Canada 2012 Photobook

March 14, 2013 Family, Favorites, Fitness, Fun No Comments

I created a Shutterfly photobook that chronicled our Ironman Canada adventure as a gift for Greg’s birthday in January. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift because I thought it was a project that would take a few hours to complete. Uhhh, more like a few weeks… Shutterfly has so many (too many?) idea pages, embellishments, and layouts to choose from. My project really came to life as I was building it and I got more excited about it with every page. This required hunting down more pictures, telling more stories, and finding more of their awesome embellishments! It was a little overwhelming, but I am very happy with the results.

Now that training for Wildflower has come into full swing (two-a-day workouts, unlimited laundry, unlimited hunger and fatigue), I have been referring back to the photobook for some race day inspiration. It’s maybe working.


NOTE: I have friends at Shutterfly (it’s a Bay Area company), but this project was my own doing. In other words, I’m not being paid to say any of these nice things about the company.




September 3, 2012 Favorites, Fitness, Fun 1 Comment

My gratitude to Jeff Barker for this video. His enthusiasm embodies all of the love and support I felt from everyone that day.

I can’t not cry when I watch this.

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More stories to come, I promise.



January 2, 2012 Favorites 3 Comments

Bittersweet is how I would describe 2011. More sweet than bitter, as it turns out. I’ll take it. It’s the best anyone can hope for, right?


Taking care of Argus and his cancer

Nagging shoulder injury, causing pre-race stress

Argus dying

Shitty run + missing race goal by 2 minutes at Barb’s 70.3 (see also: Argus dying)

Signing up for Ironman Canada (This might be sweet, but right now I’m terrified.)

The run-in with the sea urchins while on vacation.


Winter fun in Tahoe

6th Annual Sisters Trip!

Wildflower fun and race success

The dogs and children I watch

Clowning around with friends

Awesome swim + bike splits at Barb’s 70.3

Mexico vacation

New puppy!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I live a charmed life. My body continues to fulfill me and all the crazy shit I ask it to do; I do not take my health for granted. I am fortunate to have people who love me and people who I love. And in many cases, these paths intersect. I’m so grateful.

The year ahead is filled with such promise and I intend to live each day fully. I hope you’ll do the same.

Happy new year!


Insert Obligatory Year-End Post Here

January 4, 2011 Favorites No Comments

** I know this is posting on January 4. I was having too much fun in Tahoe to get this updated earlier… **

Enough about what I didn’t do in 2010. It was a pretty monumental year (they all are, really) and it is fun to marvel at the great life I have and the cool stuff we do. I make it a point every day to be grateful for what I do have and not focus on the lack.

So, as a blogger, here’s my obligatory recap of The Year 2010:

I added a new “sport” in January: yoga. I’m still lukewarm about it, but I can tell a big difference in my flexibility and my ability to shut my head off (most times). I even set a mini goal to be able to get into and maintain a headstand, which I accomplished by September. Core strength is my weakest link and I continue to be reminded how critical it is for everything fun I want to do.

I participated in a swim clinic with the El Dorado Hills Tri Club in February and it changed my triathlon life. Completely unrelated, The 5th Annual Sisters Trip with my mom, her sister, my sister, and sister-in-law-to-be happened mid-month. We traveled to the Russian River Valley and rented a cottage there, drinking copious amounts of wine and pretty much peeing our pants all weekend. I’m not joking about that last part. We brought Depends. We used them.

Training started in earnest in March and continued through April in preparation for Wildflower. We made our last trips to Tahoe and otherwise I settled into a rigorous training schedule, including track workouts to build running speed. Even knowing how effective they are, I hate track workouts and am dreading them already.

May brought with it the first race of the season – Wildflower!  It was a fun triathlon and, as always, we had a great time hanging with the Santa Barbara and Kansas City friends at Lake San Antonio. It was my first Olympic distance tri and I learned that I really enjoy that distance.

I spent June preparing for my big race of the season on July 4 – the Half Ironman in Vancouver, BC. We try to travel internationally at least once a year, and this trip counted towards that (although it kind of feels like cheating). The triathlon was a big success and enough selective memory has kicked in that I’m anxious to sign up for another one. I’m even kicking around the idea of Ironman Canada in 2012.

July was pretty epic, all things considered. We took a week-long vacation to/from Canada for my race, then came home and got ready for the Vineman 70.3 that Greg participated in. Barely recovered from that, we packed up our bikes and headed to Iowa to ride RAGBRAI. I stayed in Iowa several extra days hanging out with my family in Okoboji.

The last half of the year was a whirlwind. I participated in an all-women’s triathlon with Caryn in August, then Greg and I did the Oyster Race for the second year in September. In between the two, we installed a synthetic lawn by ourselves. And don’t forget the biggest and worst news of the year — Argus’ cancer diagnosis in October. I did a 9K race in November, followed by a half marathon. I thought that would be my last race of the year, but my mom planned a family scavenger hunt in Lenox over Christmas. My team – The Devious Elves – won!

I went for my last run of the year on December 31 and loaded the data into Garmin Connect because I’m OCD like that. Just for fun, I ran a report for the full year and came up with these stats:

Activity Count: 258
Distance: 4000.7 miles
Time: 354:27:39 h:m:s
Elevation Gain: 204,896 feet
Average Speed: 11.3 mph
Average HR: 136 bpm
Calories Burned: 263,998

Pretty impressive! And this doesn’t take into account my swimming workouts… or the days when my Garmin was lost during RAGBRAI… or the number of fear calories burned. It also does not count the number of glasses of wine consumed, which is probably a good thing!

What a year!


F is for Fail

December 31, 2010 Favorites 1 Comment

I put myself up to two big goals for the year 2010 and can only claim victory in one of them. I successfully completed a Half Ironman Triathlon. I did not write my memoir.


It’s kind of interesting. Surprisingly, I am not totally beating myself up about this. It’s not like the end of the year snuck up on me and I forgot this was hanging over my head. It’s not like I was injured or otherwise physically unable to do it. It’s not like I changed my mind about it being important. I just didn’t do it.

I thought about doing it every day and chose to do something else. That’s why I consider it a failure — because I failed to discipline myself or motivate myself or otherwise light a fire under my ass to do what I said I would do. And I’m okay with that. I am confident that I will not be struck down at midnight tonight because the year is ending with an unaccomplished goal.

Not finishing (or starting!) the project is disappointing, but it wasn’t like I was totally idle all year long… Here’s what I did do related to this goal:

  • I wrote 73 blog posts in 2010 and overcame a big fear by “going public” on my personal Facebook page.
  • I began following ~75 blogs, commenting where appropriate and otherwise “marketing” myself with other bloggers for exposure and getting ideas about how to make mine better.
  • I figured out what the fuck Twitter is and how to use it. Kind of.
  • I made an office in our guest room. It’s a place of my own where I go to research and write.
  • I read several memoirs/autobiographies to get more ideas on how to structure my own. My favorite was “Take the Cannoli” by Sarah Vowell. (Thanks Mirella!)
  • I applied for several writing jobs, clearly shifting my career focus away from marketing and down a new path. This was as much a mental shift as anything else.

So, the punch line on Big Hairy Audacious Goals is “You win some, you lose some.” The win on the triathlon was pretty big (you can read the full recap here) and I’ll suffer through the loss on the book thing.

Now, on to 2011…


Favorite Things

December 24, 2010 Favorites, Fun 1 Comment

Athleta stretch pants and my Fit Flop slippers
I really love wearing clothes without zippers
Working from home means no reason to dress
Here is a song of the things I love best.

Sun-dried tomatoes and goat cheese on crackers.
Logging my training with Garmin’s web trackers.
Finding a balance with fitness and food.
These are the things that will improve my mood!

Drinking red wine by the box and the bottle.
Swim, bike and run – always training full throttle.
Seeing my family and friends through the year.
These are the things that I treasure most dear!

My dog’s cancer.
When Greg travels.
My low bank account.
I just think of a few of my favorite things,
And turn my frown upside-down!


What’s on your nightstand?

September 16, 2010 Favorites, Friends, Fun 1 Comment

It’s the third Thursday of the month and that means one thing for me and eight of my friends: Book Club.

Before you snub your nose at us for being Oprah wannabes, let me assure you that we are not a stuffy book club. Sure, we all enjoy reading a good book every month, but each of us has our own personal stack of must-reads piling up behind the obligatory book club selection. I will speak for myself (but know that I am also speaking for several others in the group) when I say that I go for the wine. Lots of it. Someone once teased that we are a Book Club With A Drinking Problem based on the number of empty bottles she had to take to the recycling bin the following morning. One of the girls’ husbands corrected that remark dubbed us a Wine Club With A Reading Problem. A better problem to have!

I am often asked to provide book recommendations to friends and family who are not in a book club. These picks and pans are based on my opinions and generally those of the members of my club.

TOP 10
(not in priority order)
1. The Story of Edgar Sawtelle
2. Cutting for Stone
3. Little Bee
4. Water for Elephants
5. The Power of One (and follow-up book Tandia)
6. Never Let Me Go
7. Say You’re One of Them
8. Lamb, The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal
9. Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
10. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime

1. The Imperfectionists — up for discussion tonight
2. The People of the Book (we also read Year of Wonders by this author and it was very good)
3. Samedi the Deafness
4. The Double Bind
5. Protect & Defend

1. How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
2. Istanbul: Memories and the City
3. Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon
4. Misfortune

That task was harder than I thought it would be! I have many more books that I loved for different reasons and choosing my favorites was quite difficult. We’ve read a few memoirs, a few nonfiction selections, and many more.

I have also been asked numerous times for the particulars on how our book club is organized. Here you go:
MEETING DATE/TIME: This is set and mostly non-negotiable as the third Thursday of each month beginning at 6:30 PM.

FORMAT: The hostess is in charge of the entire evening — drinks, appetizer, dinner (w/ vegetarian option in our case), dessert. And drinks. Did I mention that?

We usually chat over cocktails and appetizers about things not related to the book. We get around to dinner around 7:15 and begin discussion of the book. This often leads to discussion of other things (including past books). We normally disband around 10 PM, unless there are a few laggards who like to finish up the open bottles of wine with the hostess.

BOOK SELECTION: The hostess for the evening selects the next month’s book, but often includes letting the group decide between two. Most hostesses choose books that are available in paperback. I generally pick mine up from the library, if possible.

HOSTESS SELECTION: With 9-10 members, we try to make it so that we each have to host roughly once a year (we usually take a break in December) and go in roughly the same order each time. We maintain a public Google doc that tracks it all.

Tell me, what’s on your nightstand? Do we have similar tastes? Do you disagree with me entirely? Leave a comment!