Friday, April 30, 2010

Birthday Girl

Well Krista Bella, today you turn the big 30. Not to say that all the other birthdays haven't been important, but you are now done with your 20s and are on to the 30s. So let's take a quick look back over the past 10 years since I have known you, from our days at Penn State to our lives here in Guatemala.
There was the trip to San Fran when we had just started grad school

The many hikes and snowshoe trips that you endured...

The family vacations, this one to the Outer Banks

Our engagement pics in Fort Collins with your mom as our photographer
(the bike I remember finding beside a dumpster outside my house)

The wedding day, complete with sunny skies and your beautiful smile.

Surfing in Hawaii

Denver, our home for 5 years and many good friends.

While studying Spanish in Xela, one of the weekend trips to Lago Atitlan.

Road trippin' with my best friend through Mexico.

Antigua, where home is now.

As we celebrate 30 years of your life today, my hope is that we both get to spend another 30 more together making new memories. Happy Birthday!

Para los guatemaltecos que leen nuestro blog, "Como celebramos los 30 anos de su vida hoy Krista, espero que podamos vivir otro 30 anos juntos y hacer nuevas memorias. Feliz Cumpleanos!"

Thursday, April 29, 2010

I've been gifted

No, I'm not referring about the amazing intellectual abilities that I've had from a very young age (tee hee hee!) - I'm talking about gifts - like presents! For absolutely no reason at all, I have recently become the recipient of some pretty fabulous gifts, from some pretty fabulous friends and I want to show them off!

While enjoying a couple of days away with Brandi & Mike at La Casa Del Mundo (aka. GringoLandia), we met the sweetest couple from South Carolina, Emily & Mark. They were at the lake celebrating their 1st anniversary. We hit it off quick over a lovely candlelit dinner our first night at the hotel and were BFF's from them on. One day while visiting San Juan (remember how much we love San Juan), I fell in love with a classic grey and white ikat inspired shawl, but decided that it wasn't something that I really needed. Reverse buyers remorse haunted me for the next couple of days and the morning that we left, I nearly hopped a boat to San Juan just to get that shawl but my budget was pleading me not to, so I didn't.

A couple of nights later, on their last night in Guatemala, we met up with Emily and Mark once again, but on our turf - Antigua. They had mentioned going to our very favorite restaurant, Hector's, so we jumped at the chance to join them. And it was there, during dinner, that Emily surprised me with my dream shawl! Why? I don't know? - just because she is super sweet. I felt so undeserving and guilty, but so completely appreciative. I can't wait to find just the right "home" for it in my next home. And it's now even more special that it would have been had I purchased it for myself - filled with some great memories.
(Thanks so much Emily!!!)

But rewinding back a bit to the day we left the lake, I was once again hit smack over the head by another unsuspected gift, but this time it was from Brandi (and Mike too). A few days earlier Brandi and I had eyed up a few of the aerial style paintings that are so famous here, especially around the lake. We played with the idea of hanging a cluster of little ones all together. Well, little did I know, that when we went back to make what I thought was a purchase for Brandi's upstairs bathroom, it ended up being a present for me. Undeserving? - yes. Completely caught off guard? - yes. Forever grateful? - YES! (BJ, really you shouldn't have - and the offer still stands for me to go grab a few more for you!)

It wasn't even my birthday (yet) and I'm already feeling quite special! Thanks girls!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

My latest gig

As I'm sure most of you know or have figured out by now, I love arts and crafts. Not the scrapbooky, kitchy cute kind of arts and crafts, but the useful, looks-like-they-could-be-store bought kind of arts and crafts. You also probably know that my real profession (no I'm not a trained hospitality coordinator, interior designer or professional blogger) is speech-pathology.

It's not very often that one has the opportunity to combine their hobby and their job, but I was lucky enough to be given that very opportunity through Common Hope. Beginning in January I took over as "teacher" of an Occupational Therapy class that was originally developed for young adults with moderate to severe cognitive and/or learning disabilities. Because Special Education in Guatemala is limited (it does not exist at the public level) often times students with special needs end up leaving school at a young age. This class at Common Hope was designed for students in which traditional education is no longer an option. The idea is to give the students support with concepts that are functional like problem solving skills, planning, measuring, organizing, sequencing and basic daily functional tasks like money management, social skills & personal hygiene. It sounds in depth, but really all of these "lessons" are slyly hidden in arts and crafts!

We meet two half days a week - sewing one day and making jewelry the other. Both activities allow the students to practice functional skills and make a product that is later sold to Common Hope visitors. In addition it is a great opportunity for developing their communication skills, provides them with a boost of self confidence and offers a bit of independence that they probably wouldn't have had otherwise.

Every few weeks we hold a sale for our vision teams and volunteers. A small portion of the proceeds go back into the class funds (for purchasing of more materials), but the majority goes home with the students so that they can help contribute to their family's income. Their families are quite good about letting the student make decisions on how to use his/her money. Most of them end up purchasing clothes for themselves which in turn helps out their parents. Students in the past have saved for big items like a bed.

While my class is small at the moment (only 3 or 4 students), it's great fun. I get to combine 2 things that I'm passionate about and use my Spanish (much more than I do in Hospitality).

Would you like to meet a couple of students? Let me introduce you!

This is Sonia.
While Sonia prefers the jewlery making class, she works really hard at sewing as well. Recently she used her earnings to help her mom purchase a new huipil (an indigenous women's blouse) since her mom is always spending the family's extra money on Sonia and her 2 sisters. Isn't that considerate?

Now, meet Nery.
Nery is a wiz in both classes, but really prefers the sewing. He is really good at following directions and paying attention to details. It is my dream that one day Nery will be given an opportunity to work as an apprentice to a tailor.

This is our workspace.
The colorful boards lining the walls are where we display our finished jewelry.

We really try hard to come up with ideas that are unique when it comes to our sewing class. Since textiles are so abundant here in Guatemala we want to offer something that is not seen everywhere else. Most of our products are make from traditional woven indigenous fabrics, since it's so beautiful & that's what the people normally prefer.

Check out some of our recent sewing projects.
Hot pads & microwavable heating pads filled with rice and cardamom.
Mmmm, they smell so good!

We're trying to be green with these fun coffee sleeves.

A spin on the ever popular reusable bag.

It even rolls up to a convenient portable size! These have been really popular.

The lastest vision team, nearly cleaned us right out, so we'll be back to work hard trying to beef up our inventory! We're always looking for unique, practical, fairly simple sewing projects, so if you have any ideas please send them our way!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Another Joyful Find

While we were at the lake with our dear friends, we did quite a bit of browsing the handicrafts- surprised to hear it? Ha! Really if you are coming to Guatemala and need the help of an expert shopper/bargainer, CALL ME.

I'm sure it's not news to those of you who know me, but I love unique finds, funky antiques, different color combinations, fixer-upper projects, textiles & great deals! This trip did not disappoint. After some time here in Central America, I've gotten a bit choosey about my purchases. Maybe it's because I've grown tired of seeing the same mass produced stuff over and over, or maybe it's more that I'm now carefully calculating every square inch of space in our car. Either way, on the streets of Panajachel I came across a piece that fit all my requirements for purchasing: a textile with unique colors that was second hand, needs a little TLC, all for a great price (only Q100!). How could I say no?

After I trim some threads and frame it out, it's going to work perfectly with another textile that I'm awaiting the arrival of. Of course neither is for use now, but I've got big future plans for them. You'll just have to wait and see.

And while we're on the subject of handicrafts, I recently came across a really interesting looking book that I would love to own.

I don't know about you, but the concept of how women in developing countries around the world have used their indigenous artforms to help improve the lives of their families is so intriguing to me. Weaving? Um, you had me at hello! Too bad I don't know how to make a career out of my love for handicrafts!

It's on my Amazon wish list because there's not much sense in me purchasing it now and then carting through Mexico on our drive home, but I can't wait to learn more. If you know anything about it (or want to help me start my own business), I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

The Visitor's Circuit

At long last we finally received our first non-family visitors to entertain in Casa Lengacher. Like mentioned here, our Pennsylvania turned Colorado turned Vermont friends, Brandi & Mike paid us a long awaited visit and we had so much fun with them!

Here the rundown of all the fun we had.

* Nachos Acpacalypticos at the MonoLoco
* Sunday morning walks in Antigua
* Sunday afternoon at the beach!
* Fresh ceviche, oceanside
* Common Hope's Community Tour
* Grabbing up as much fresh produce as we could in the open air market
* Volcan Pacya (just them, not us)
* Tres Leches at Cafe Condesa
* Strolling and shopping in Panajachel
* Making new friends & lounging lakeside at La Casa Del Mundo
* Morning kayaking
* Excursions to San Juan & San Pedro La Laguna
* Touring Mayan ruins
* Indulging in typical Guatemalan cuisine

And some photos to show you that we're not lying!

Puerto San Jose

Fresh liquados!

La Casa Del Mundo

Pure relaxation

Lounging lakeside

Cooling off

Appreciating weaving

Finding religion

Dodging raindrops in a crazy storm

Enjoying naranjadas

Getting rained out of the ruins

We were super psyched to have you both here with us! Thanks for visiting! We're already looking forward to next year's vacation together.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Simply Beautiful

This Simply Beautiful photo is all about the combination of two of my very favorite colors and my love of water. Plus, it's a sneak peek into how we passed the time with our much missed house guests! Stay tuned.................

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Rental Remodel: Dreaming of travel

Before it's time to pack up this place and hit the road home, I better share with you all our final Rental Remodel: the Master Bedroom. Honestly it was the first remodel completed, but because we didn't really do that much, it didn't really cross my mind to show it until now!

Comprised of things collected from our travels both here and in Mexico, the bedroom came together easily and we finished it off with one big showstopper (no, not that eyesore of a television!). We can't really take too much credit considering that we had a pretty great foundation to start with - vaulted ceilings, a dark wood closet, and great french doors that give way to lots of light!

The showstopper of course being our antique carved door - the 2nd love of my life!

After using gallons and gallons of paint in the guest room, we gave up on the idea of painting this monster of a bedroom and left the walls white. At least they were fairly clean. We may have taken the plunge with a soft yellowy taupe, but when we found the showstopper that takes up a huge amount of empty white wall space, the decision was easy.

Ok, so maybe calling it the love of my life is a bit of an overstatement, but all joking aside, I had secretly been pining away for an amazing carved wood door for a long time now, so when we came across this one tinted my absolute favorite color, it was a sure thing. To add to the charm, the door comes from Totonicapan, the very first traditional village that we visited when we first came to Guatemala.

Propped up against the headboard of our giant bed, it fits perfectly as a statement piece.

We brought the comforter and shams with us - a steal of a deal at HomeGoods before we left. I knew that I would want some comforts of home to help us settle in and it doubled as our bedding in Dewey for the long drive.

The hand embroidered pillow covers and shawl at the foot of the bed were purchased in a fabulous artisan market in San Cristobal de Las Casas in Chiapas.

The throw blanket and rug were also purchases from our travels. The rug was a splurge purchase in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. After watching the process and learning about a long standing family rug business, we again couldn't resist. The throw came from our first trip to San Juan La Laguna. Don't the soft colors give it away?

A few little extras adorn the nightstand and desk, like the amazing hand crafted jewelry box we again splurged on in Cabo San Lucas, a little black ceramic dish from San Bartolo Coyotepec (where I stash my earrings) and a cute woven basket to hold my nightime needs, purchased from a co-op right here in Antigua.

The room really isn't anything fancy, but it's definitely filled with lots of fun memories.

Here's the breakdown:
(Remember that even though several of the purchases were splurges for us, we'll use them in our future home back in the states too!)

comforter set: $40 - brought from home
4 pillow covers: 130 pesos ($13)
shawl: 60 pesos ($6)
rug: 1000 pesos (yikes! $100)
throw blanket: Q450 ($54)
jewelry box: I honestly don't remember but maybe around $50
ceramic dish: 40 pesos ($4)
woven basket: Q30 ($3)
total: $270 (Our most expensive room by far, but filled with lots of keepsakes!)

Sadly friends, this final room brings us to the end of our budget friendly, rental remodel overhaul. In case you missed the other 4 rooms we featured, here are links to all of the posts: guest bedroom, living room, kitchen, & the great outdoors.

I hope you've enjoyed seeing the dramatic changes as much as we have enjoyed making them. And just maybe you even picked up an idea or two? Remember, there are tons of ways to spruce up your rental without making permanent changes or costing yourself a fortune! Happy DIYing!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Carpet Round Up

Friday morning we set out early to walk the procession route and observe the alfombra masterpieces. Supposedly the most talked about ones are way over yonder by La Merced, so we certainly had to see what they were all about. While they were certainly becoming, we feel it is necessary to also acknowledge the efforts in the lesser know part of town, our neighborhood, which were just as amazing as their more famous counterparts.

alfombra is impressive in it's own way, so we thought it would be fun to do a little carpet round up to display these once a year pieces of art. I'm sure there must be some sort of judging that goes on throughout the week, but considering that we know nothing about it, we did a little fun judging of our own.

(The following recipients of the Lengacher Best award are listed in no particular order.

Best use of movement & cutest sheep
(the shephard circled around his flock)


Best late night efforts by a neighbor

Most creative use of eggs

Best representation of an animal made from fruit

Best Message
Do you believe the sacrifice was worthwhile?

Best international design

Best use of real water

Longest alfombra

Best appearance of wildlife

Most realistic artwork

Most produce used

Best use of origami

Most geometric

Best 3D image

Most outrageous John the Baptist