From life in the middle of nowhere



Ingapirca is the site of the ancient culture of the Canari. There is a ~ or the n in Canari, but I am at a loss to work out how to make that happen on my keyboard.  Accessible by car or bus, the hour and fifteen minutes ride to Ingapirca down on windy roads in the Andes is absolutely breathtaking. I find the geographic look of the Andes thrilling. They are not just steep and harsh;  Hillside valleys and habitable spots that make for comfortable weather and staggering views. The sky is always blue, so so blue, and the grass is always green. I have not even saturated the photos below.

The Canari people (from Ecuador) put up a grand fight against the Incan army (from Peru). Over the course of a year or two (or more?) the Canari depleted a good number of opposing force before being completely taken over. From what I could understand at the site, once the Incan’s held the community, they enslaved the Canari. But the slave masters were women. In one of the ruins the bodies of 30 women were found which apparently confirmed this fact.

The Incan’s arrived at the Canari homeland sometime in the 14th century, but the Canari people lived in the region for some 3,000 years. They are known as terrific stonemasons because their structures needed no mortar. Needless to say, they are still standing. Tetris masters long before the Russians. Unfortunately about 50 years ago when people began to move back into the region they pillaged the site for ‘free’ rocks to build their homes with. The site would stand taller today if something more had been done to preserve this ancient spot sooner.

The Canari had advanced techniques of heating, cooling, and chipping at the stone to mold them into a shape. They even went as far as to make channels and locks. These folks didn’t stop at stones either; they made delicate jewelry from gold and fertility statues from clay. All of which I wasn’t allowed to photograph at the Pumapungo museum in Cuenca.


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Cuenca, Ecuador

If a year ago you told me that I would be blogging from Cuenca, Ecuador- I would have said, “where?”

But here I am, in a sun drenched apartment, staring a garden filled with blossoming fruit trees and listening to the din of my brother’s restaurant below.

Last February my brother, sister in law and niece did something everyone said not to do. They left the heartland of Kentucky- sold their house, their station wagon, and 99% of their earthy possessions and moved to a dot on the map in South America. Neither one of them had been anywhere out of the country other a cruise trip to Jamaica. Oh, and neither one of them had ever spoken spanish outside of a high school classroom. Daring? Maybe is the word?


Despite the general calamity and negatively phrased questions about career path opportunities in this strange and new land, they went ahead and packed their bags.

They took some time to find their way around the country, the city and the language. The mountains, the architecture and open heartedness that Cuencanos generally bring to their lives romanced them. And well, they loved everything–or just about everything. The one thing they couldn’t seem to find in this ancient place was something good to eat. Ecuador has a fairly simplistic food culture that consists of soup, corn, beans, rice and fruit. Many people living in Cuenca are vegetarians. Meat is widely available, but usually seasoned with the simplest of spices.

In late July, they launched their own restaurant, Roux Bar & Bistro.


It has not been easy. Their language skills have had to triple. Many of the supplies for this type of enterprise are very inexpensive, such as custom built furniture, but other things that would be considered basic in the United States are extremely costly (a $9 measuring cup?!). Legal fees and trouble with staff early on and as well as getting to understand taxation in a new country, have been other bumps in the road. But throughout their ups and downs a loyal and generous community has formed in their restaurant. Currently ranked at #10 on trip advisor (the go-to review site in this corner of the world), and packed to the brim several nights per week show what the people have to say about Roux.


roux-bar-and-bistro-1So many of the regular customers, many from the United States, Canada, and the UK have asked me -“what do you think of your  brother becoming one of the most successful chefs in Cuenca?” I usually stumble around a bit and mention that I was NOT a naysayer of the entire pick-up-and-move-to-somewhere-I’ve-never-been, and end up saying how proud I am that he has found a way to be successful and happy in a new place. Finding passion is difficult and I applaud the effort it takes everyday to inspire yourself. It inspires everyone around you in turn.

Summertime when the livings easy

Life on the ranch is good. But life off the ranch is good too. When a work assignment (yes, I am not yet earning a living wage from blogging) brought me half way to Houston- I thought why the heck not make a weekend out of it!

After scoring a sweet deal off bidding on Priceline at the sweet sweetness that is Hotel Derek, we packed and headed north.


Through chance conversation we realized that many of my sister in law’s co workers had been transferred from the fab Driscoll hotel in Austin to the fab Derek hotel in Houston. We of course had to make mention of this upon check in and got to say hello to her old boss, Shannon, the talented chef at Valentino’s, which is the hotel restaurant.

We took off for the night, after valet brought us our car ( if there was a self park, we would have done it, but of they’re gonna make me-well I’ll take it!) and ended up at an utterly innovative and delectable pizzeria and cocktail bar Boheme. I drank a beer (ok, two) called Hopadillo, which was an utterly pleasant hoppy ale and veered severely from my diet with some crazy good condiment laced fries but made up for it by ordering a flat bread vegan pizza. Both I recommend with as many stars as you can count.

As a bonus we had champagne and chocolate covered strawberries waiting for us when we got back to the room!

Ah, the high life!


Different heritage, different history

Happy 4th of July to all! The person I exchanged rings with, a native Texan, said that he didn’t really think Texans celebrated Independence Day because they weren’t even a state when the DOI was a BFD. Out west, they were still a territory ruled by the Spanish who were making peace with native tribes and worrying about whether the French would encroach on their land. While my Massachusetts ancestors were riding through town shouting about the red coats,  they were like- who would wear a coat this time of year in Texas?


The US bought out the French in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase and insisted they get Texas too. But “New Spain” as it was called then, was too wild; the frontiersmen weren’t honoring it- and certainly the Native American tribes didn’t give a damn. In 1821- so 45 years after the DOI- Mexico won the province of Texas in war, but due to geography, poor governing and a liberal immigration policy, the people revolted, driving the Mexican soldiers out of Texas. Texians drew up their own DOI in 1836, forming their Republic.  In-fighting occurred  but in 1845 Texas became a state. So 69 years after the Declaration of Independence signed on the East Coast, it finally mattered to Texas.


When I moved to Texas 6 years ago I realized that Texas History was something jammed down the throats of little children just as vigorously or even more vigorously then Colonial history was jammed down mine. It became apparent that they actually had to learn both histories, but to be sure if they were only going to remember one, it best be Texas’.

Well, no matter what your history- everyone loves fireworks.


North End’s best

I have spent so much time photoshopping and yet I have nothing to post. The coastal bend wildlife contest is in its final stage and selections must be made and gussied up.

Here is a snap from my recent trip. Mike’s pastry is pretty much paradise for sweet tooth’s.


Da Berkshires

So what have I been yaking about for the last couple of weeks? What is this Kripalu thingy mahjiggy

kirpalu1The first week of June this year I spent 5 nights and 5 days with fellow twenty somethings under the leadership of the totally inspiring Coby Kozlowski. Look at her website by clicking any of the words in this sentence. Coby isn’t all that much older than me, but she has worked hard at getting her shit straight- or at least faking it pretty damn good. She offers a course called Quarter Life Calling: Creating An Extraordinary Life in your 20’s. My twenties are almost over, but the knowledge is less about being 20 as it is being a human being.

kripalu2The center is nestled into the Berkshires, which is a string of baby mountains that run from Connecticut into Massachusetts. They are on the same thread as the bigger Green Mountains in Vermont. Nonetheless, the area around the center is idyllic in the summertime. My June visit provided me a rainy but majestic view out the front entrance, a nameless peak (to me) which often had mist rolling off it in the early morning hours when I sleepwalked to my 6:30am gentle yoga class. They offer a variety of yoga classes ranging from gentle, moderate and vigorous a couple of times a day. There are also many hiking trails within walking distance of the center, with one even leading down to a cold (to this girl who is now accustomed to swimming in the gulf of Mexico) lake. In addition to the yoga they also offer a ‘dance’ class, which is really just people shaking and moving however they feel comfortable getting their groove on. I attended one of these and it was a blast! If the yoga, dancing, and hiking is too much they have a dry sauna, a whirlpool and a cold plunge to help ease the discomfort of aching muscles at the end of each day.

kripalu3Many of the girls and guys in the course (yes, there were guys) received this course as a graduation gift. What thoughtful parents! Some were yoga teachers and others had never done yoga. The spread of people taking this course was really remarkable. I was toward the older spectrum in the group, having turned a ripe 29 just the week before. I remember when I graduated college feeling like the world got ripped out from under my feet. The short term goals of papers, semesters, and graduation was gone and I was finally in total control of my own destiny. It was pretty overwhelming for me, and I was working 32 hours a week, taking four classes and living with my boyfriend in Brooklyn. Still, somehow I felt like the world expected me to be at the pinnacle of my success within six months or I was doomed to life at the shoe store forever. Without the rigor of school to congratulate me for my good work I was at a loss to figure out how to maintain that satisfaction.

kripalu4And although it manifested differently for each and every person there, the threads of that same fear were reflected in their faces. So for the week we worked on our personal strengths, weaknesses and baggage. We worked on finding our own callings through exercises of guided visualizations, games, lectures, writing, and body movement. We danced, we cried, we screamed, we cheered, we laughed, we learned. For those 5 days I was in an utterly judgement free bubble. One of the exercises was this primal dance exercise with live drummers in which I danced, or rather pranced, around entirely idiotically like a deer. I would never want to see what I looked like doing that dance, but in the bubble it was so easy to write it off as silly. It was fun and I am still glad I did it, but also glad there was no photography.


One of the mantras that Coby recited over and over and over and over again that works for me now, after the bubble has popped and I am back in a living world were kindness and acceptance aren’t always handed to you when you prance like a deer in a public space, is what yoga- not the poses, like down dog or triangle, but real spiritual yoga- is Tolerating the Consequences of Being Yourself. The mind is great at justification and therefore it can decide you did everything wrong in the past and everything wrong in the future if you let it time travel like that. But yoga, and tolerating yourself, helps. It helps me remember to be kind and gentle with myself regardless of the decision I made. Regardless of the outcome- there is no way to know what will happen in the future? The good and bad flow like the sea, and who knows which tide is coming?


I’mmmmmmm Baaaaaack!

After a wonderfully enriching week at Kirpalu Yoga retreat center in Stockbridge, Massachusetts and two fanciful nights of stuffing my face with Italian food in Boston’s North End, I am back to life-relaxed and a little transformed.

One focus of the retreat was life’s cycles. I though these gorgeous white peonies were a beautiful example.