The July/August Round Up!

It’s September 11th and I’m REALLY late in posting this round-up – I’M SORRY! Upon returning from my vacation mid-August I got sick for a while and really just got the crap knocked out of me. I’m getting back into the swing of things: reading tons, writing tons, and getting my blog stuff together!

July and August were great months for reading! Being sick and on vacation equated out to a good chunk of reading time.  Between those two months I added another 31 books to my read pile.  I’ve given up on trying to review each and every book I read on the blog, and have taken to reviewing some of them on Goodreads only.  If you check out my book list for 2012 I’ve made notations next to the “Goodreads only” books. YTD total at the end of August was 126. You know what that means? My 110 goal was met and surpassed!! I’ve re-evaluated my goal and have decided to push my new total to 160 for the year (I might be nuts). My favorite reads of the past two months were The Angel by Tiffany Reisz and Scandalous Desires by Elizabeth Hoyt (expect reviews on both sometime this month.)

Besides lots of reading going on I attended my sister’s wedding, went to Mexico (see recaps here and here), had my second wedding anniversary, attended a fabulous wine festival, made some trips to New Jersey to see our families, went to the New Haven Open (tennis), and went to lots of meetings.  Todd and I kept busy to say the least.

Now that I’m over all my illnesses I’m looking forward to getting back in to the swing of blogging.  Look for some interesting reviews and guest posts coming soon! Adam, Todd, Jess, Christine, and Charlie all have some posts to look forward to as well. It’s a staff of busy bees over here! Leave us a note below and tell us what you’re reading!!

In closing, I leave you with a couple of pictures from my sister’s beautiful wedding!

As always, happy reading!

My sister and I

My whole family! From L-R Aunt Barb, Todd, Mom, Jason, Christine, Dad, Aunt Judy, Grandma, Me

Mexico Trip Recap Days 4-10

Amazing pool

Picking up where I left off in my last Mexico trip recap, we were leaving Isla Mujeres to head to our resort near Playa del Carmen! We stayed at the amazing Barcelo Maya Palace Deluxe.  The remaining 7 days of our trip were spent here in total comfort.  The resort was actually five resorts in one.  We stayed at the newest and largest of them, giving us access to all five.  The resort had some of the most amazing pools and swim up pool bars that I’ve ever seen (we definitely lived the good life just lounging in the pool).  Anyway, of the remaining days of our trip we only left the resort twice – once to visit Chichen Itza and the other to visit Tulum (both are Mayan ruins).

Unfinished/Finished sides of El Castillo

The tour we booked for Chichen Itza was run by a company called Yukatreks.  If you ever make it down to Mexico I highly suggest booking them.  We paid around $100 per person for a tour that wound up lasting 12 hours (GREAT DEAL).  The drive from our resort out to the ruins lasted about two hours, but was actually a lot of fun.  Our tour group was about 12 people in total, and by the end of the day we’d made friends with a good chunk of them.  Once we arrived at Chichen Itza, our 2 hour tour inside began.  Our tour guide was phenomenal, showing us tons of photos of how Chichen Itza has transformed over the years since its discovery.  Pictures are great and all, but being able to see the transformation for ourselves was the definite highlight.  What I mean by that is this – the main building within Chichen Itza, El Castillo, has four sides.  Three of them have been restored and one has been left as it was found (see my picture).  Getting an idea of how the building was constructed was pretty amazing.  We also learned that new excavations are going on around El Castillo that have revealed more base layers of the structure.  Basically this means history is changing! Each side of the pyramid was originally thought to mathematically match ways we tell time in a calendar (e.g. 91 steps on each side + 1 top platform = 365 total steps) Anyway – with the addition of more layers, it’s throwing off all the math calculations and what historians thought it all meant.  It’ll be intriguing to watch the new discoveries over the course of the next few years and what historians believe the new math means!

Cenote

Following our trek through the ruins we all got back into the mini-bus and headed off for a traditional Mayan lunch.  I ate cactus. Yes, I’m serious.  I ate a tortilla with cactus on it (so strange).  After filling our bellies up with some great food (minus the cactus) we headed off to a natural cenote.  Cenotes are natural water pits and are typically found all throughout Mexico.  The one we went to had a hole in its roof that tree roots have grown down.  It’s difficult to tell in the photo but my sister and I believe the roots to have been over 100 feet long.  The water was freezing but totally refreshing after melting in the heat at Chichen Itza all day.

Our tour didn’t stop there! We headed to a traditional colonial town after the cenote where I got to stop in a bookstore and buy the entire Don Quixote novel, split in 12 leather hardcover editions. The entire thing cost me 99 pesos.  The exchange rate was 13.7 pesos to $1 – aka AN AMAZING FIND.  Yes, the books are in Spanish, but I think it’s pretty awesome to have books in their natural languages sometimes.  I told Todd that from now on when we traveled outside of the country, I’d try to buy a book(s) in the natural language of the country visiting  (I’d love to head to France and get a copy of Madame Bovary in its native French).  After our colonial town trip we headed back to the resort and promptly passed out.

My sister and I in our matching shorts on the way to Tulum

A few days later we made our only other trip off the resort to head to Tulum.  Another Mayan ruin about 30 minutes away from us, Tulum is much smaller in scale than Chichen Itza.  Tulum is also directly next to the water, so many of its beaches have been turned into private beaches for the sea turtles (I happily agreed with this).  One of these beaches is open to the public, however, thank god.  It was SO HOT and it was great to be able to cool off in the ocean.  But back to the buildings a minute.  It was fascinating to see how different Tulum and Chichen Itza were.  Chichen Itza seemed as though its buildings were either repaired or in process of being repaired, while most of Tulum’s buildings were just ruins.  There didn’t seem to be any repairs or anything going on, they’re just left as they’ve been found.

Last dinner!

All in all the entire trip was amazing.  I definitely recommend heading to Mexico to see the ruins at some point in your life.  It was much more affordable than I thought it would be.  My biggest tip though – DON’T GO IN AUGUST.  The heat is just sweltering.  If we hadn’t spent most of the trip next to the pool I probably would have died. Ok, not really, but you get the picture.  Lots of pool time equated out to 5 books read while I was gone, so obviously it was a productive trip.  I hope you enjoyed my wrap-ups! Now, back to our regularly scheduled book programming!

Mexico Trip Recap – Days 1, 2, & 3

Vacation buddies

So you’ve probably noticed I’ve been totally MIA recently.  I was super super busy for a while and then I left for vacation! Last year Todd and I traveled to Europe with my sister, brother-in-law, and two of their friends, Mark and Christy.  The six of us had a blast together and decided to do a repeat trip this year to Mexico.  I just got back Thursday and thought I’d ease back into blogging/reviewing by posting some recaps of my trip (I do love sharing pictures!).  The first two days of our ten-day trip to Mexico were spent in Isla Mujeres and the remaining eight days were spent in the Mayan Riviera.

Isla Mujeres was AWESOME.  It is a small island in the Yucatan Peninsula that is known for being a prime location for whale shark snorkeling! (more on this later). Anyway – we stayed at this great little hotel on the beach, Maria del Mar.  The hotel had all of these kittens running around outside of it, leading me to want to adopt them all and bring them home to America.  The hotel also had this great bar attached to it that had swings as bar seats.  It was really relaxing to drink on the beach and just swing in the breeze.  Excellent way to start the trip. Continuing with the relaxing theme, we went to this great restaurant on the beach and ate the BEST shrimp ceviche I’ve ever had along with exquisite buttered lobster (I can still taste it all – YUM).

Whale Shark underwater

The following morning we woke up super early to go whale shark snorkeling!  Whale sharks are the largest fish in the ocean.  They’re the size of whales, but since they have shark teeth and breathe with gills, they are considered fish.  Whale sharks feed on plankton and fish eggs and are therefore harmless to humans.  They literally just swim across the top of water with their mouths open swallowing the plankton and fish eggs on the surface.  Since it was mating season we were able to see at least 40+ whale sharks.  Just watching them swim was amazing.  They move surprisingly fast for such large animals (on average, they’re around 32 feet long, however larger ones have been found).  Following our snorkeling adventure we had some great local cuisine again.  Todd and I had our first fish tacos and honestly, now I want to eat them every day.  We also rented golf carts (the main mode of transportation on the island) and drove out to the end of the island to visit the Mayan temple of Ixchel on Punta Sur and watch the sunset.

Baby Sea Turtles

Day three – TURTLE FARM! I got to knock something off my bucket list! I saw baby sea turtles being born!!! AHHHHH MOST AMAZING THING EVER!!!!  The turtle farm finds nests all over the island and relocates them to a secure location where the eggs can be protected.  Once the turtles are born the farm lets the babies grow a bit before releasing them back into the wild.  The photo on the right is one of the nests I got to see “hatch.”  About 50 turtles hatched the morning we visited.  I dusted off my Spanish and got to speak to the woman in the photo a little about the turtles.  There are some that are born with defects that they keep on the farm for life.  Two of these such turtles had their own large tank outside where they get to swim around all day.  Their defect was that their shells were bent almost in half.  It was really sad to see the turtles like that, but it was heartwarming to know that they were able to live happy lives on the farms.  Those turtles would never have survived out in the wild.  After a fun trip to the farm we finished our golf cart tour of the island and then made our way back to the mainland.  We then began our trek to the resort where we would be spending the remaining seven days of our trip.  I’ll write one big recap of the rest of my trip tomorrow.  I’m currently battling bronchitis and the flu and am running a little slow.  I promise I’ll pick up on the blog work though!  In the meantime, here are some more pics from the first three days of my trip!

Look at all those cute baby turtles!!!

Incredible Sunset on Isla Mujeres