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  • Welcome to our blog!

    It seems crazy. Ten years ago Clint and I had just gotten married, and we were so young and carefree. It was just the two of us and life was pretty easy. The house stayed (reasonably) clean, we went out when we wanted, and traveled to some pretty incredible places. We didn't have a whole lot of responsibility, pretty much just to ourselves.

    Fast forward to 2014 and we now have three miniature versions of ourselves, two girls and a boy in the middle. Hayley is six and is as spunky and prissy as can be. Colin is almost five and is the nuttiest little thing imaginable, but oh so sweet. And Sydney, our littlest, thinks she's six and is already the comedian in the family. Despite our kiddos being so little, they not only now outnumber us, but they have managed to turn our world upside down. But we wouldn't have it any other way. We love 'em to pieces!

    The blog is filled with the weekly happenings within the Stuckey family, some funny, some touching, and some a little zany and crazy. Life is definitely better with kids in it! We love ours to pieces. Images + Words = Memories.

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Costa Rica Day 6: Buffet Breakfast, Hotel Beach, Kayaking

I woke up again at 5am.  I’ve had a lot of early mornings this trip, and never got a whole lot of sleep.  But I was happy to be awake and have an extra hour or two to just sit outside in our outdoor living area just taking it all in before we had to fly back to Houston.  Soon Clint woke up and we talked with the kids for a bit.  I had been texting Hayley back and forth the whole trip, but it was so fun to talk with them on the phone and hear their cute voices.

Sydney no longer had a tummy ache (she called us the night before crying), Hayley was just as sweet as could be (I think she missed us), Colin was chill as always, and from what I heard, Keaton was doing just fine as well!  I’m so grateful to Don and Carla for watching them.  It’s hard to be away, but it is so good to be away, because it makes everyone appreciate everyone else even more!

We had breakfast again at the Rio Bhongo overlooking the ocean.  The views were incredible and the food was so good!  At breakfast we were also joined by our very own little monkey friend.  He was so cute and even posed for a couple of pictures with us!  After breakfast, I took Clint to the new beach I found, the one that truly looks like a deserted island.  This hotel is SO cool on so many levels!!

We didn’t have a lot of time, so soon we headed over to the main beach that had all the action.  And we were in luck!  The crocodile, which frequents the area, hadn’t been seen for two days, so all water sports were back on!  Clint was super nervous, but everyone else was going kayaking AND snorkeling, so we had to do something!  I was a little freaked out about the snorkeling part, but let’s try kayaking!  Despite the looming 10 ft long crocodile (I’m sure he was there somewhere), we had tons of fun kayaking!  I so did not want to leave.

Soon it was time to go to the airport!  We had another AMAZING time in Costa Rica!!  I love the friendliness of the people (they treat you as family), the rich culture, all the amazing activities, how clean it is, and the intrinsic beauty that fills this country!!  Pura Vida!  I can’t wait to come back!!

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Costa RIca June 2017 Day 6

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Costa Rica Day 5: Hotel Beach, Beach Club, Four Seasons, Jet Skiing, Dinner at Ostra

I woke up Tuesday morning and sat out on the balcony just marveling at the beauty in front of me.  We had the most spectacular view, and I couldn’t wait to go exploring.  I left Clint sound asleep – he needed it – and off I went exploring the resort.  This resort is unlike any other we’ve ever stayed in.  It just had a totally different feel to it.  From the restaurants, the swimming pools, the spa, and even the beaches, everything is hidden in nature and it’s up to you to find it.  There will be trails and signs, but after that, you’re on your own.  I love the element of discovery and that everything isn’t just handed to you right in the open.

I came back so excited to wake up Clint and show him all the hidden jewels and gems of the place.  But first, breakfast.  I was hungry!  The buffet breakfast at Rio Bhongo was amazing!  The set-up is something you would find at a Disney resort.  Nothing is ordinary, everything extraordinary.  The made-to-order omelettes and homemade chocolate chip bread was the bomb!  And again, we sat overlooking the ocean.  It definitely pays to come in the low season.

 

Costa Rica Day 5A

After breakfast, we took the complimentary shuttle to the Prieta Beach Club.  The only people allowed at the Beach Club are Four Seasons and Andaz guests and millionaires who reside on the Papagayo Peninsula.  We totally pretended that we fit in and even talked with the agent about lot prices.  They start at $600k.  Not bad at all!   The Beach Club is absolutely gorgeous and has everything you could possibly want.  They are even building a kids club!  Our kids would love it here!

The Beach Club even has plush lounge chairs and beach butlers who set everything up for you.  Wow!  This felt way too nice!!  We ordered a pina colada and sat and relaxed under palm trees listening to the waves crash for what felt like all afternoon.  And it was only 1pm.  And we still had the whole rest of the day.  A huge perk of traveling without kids.

The beach was absolutely gorgeous!   The water was clear blue and there was no seaweed to be seen.  Just beautiful seashells and volcanic rock.  I’m not much of an ocean swimming, but we decided to go feel the water.  It was WARM!! The water was WARM!!  I was LOVING this!!!

We had so much fun splashing around and dodging the waves not having to worry about which kid would drown next. We meet some great people, including family with four kids (almost exactly eight years older than our kids), a family our age from The Woodlands that own a beach home on the Papagayo Peninsula (they spend the summers here), and even ran into one of Clint’s advisors and his family. Small world!!  We spent the rest of the early afternoon exploring the amazing tide pools, relaxing some more on the beach, and planning out our early retirement in Costa Rica.  Clint found some amazing houses on the Papagayo Peninsula.  I think we’re set.

I was curious to check out the Four Seasons, so we hopped on the free shuttle and headed to the Four Seasons for a late lunch.  I will say that the hotel was setting was, without question, pretty incredible!  Picture in your mind a peninsula that narrows in the middle to about 1500 feet.  The Four Seasons is situated right there!  The main pool and lobby are the middle and the ocean is to either side.  It’s SO cool because the beach is on both sides of you!  That said, the hotel, although spectacular, is looking it’s age and doesn’t have the modern architectural feel of the Andaz.  I think the Four Seasons realized that because they were about to shut down for a $40m renovation.*  We had an unimpressive lunch on the beach at the Four Season.  It was hands-down my least favorite meal of any meal ever in Costa Rica, which made me appreciate the Andaz even more.

Out in the ocean we saw people riding in on jet skis.  Sweet!  Let’s check it out!!  It was only $70 for two people for 30 minutes.  Sign us up!!  We stowed our belongings on a lounge chair, and headed out to sea.  Little did we know that we would soon be stranded in the middle of the ocean surrounded by sharks.  Just like the movie, The Shallows, everything was beautiful and peaceful to begin with.  We went exploring around the other side of the peninsula, found some incredible inlets and huge rocks, and then were speeding through the waves.

Clint likes to go fast and took a sharp turn just as we were hitting a big wave.  We both went flying off the jet ski!  The key also went flying off the jet ski and sank to the bottom of the ocean!  Realizing my fate, I jumped back on the jet ski.  I held my feet up and just pictured the circling sharks under me.  We were totally stranded.  Without a key, we couldn’t get back to shore.  We were way too far from shore to be seen, a storm was coming in, and the sun was starting to set.  I tried to remain calm, but was freaking out inside.  We sat for hours (okay, it felt like hours) and no one was coming.

I felt like a was in a movie.  We were literally stranded in the middle of the ocean, the sun was setting, and a storm was coming in.  There probably weren’t sharking circling beneath us, but in that moment, I was absolutely convinced they were there and about to eat me.  I began to go in all out panic mode and began searching the jet ski for any hidden compartments, anything that might help us.  I found the safety compartment.  Sure enough, there was an extra key inside. And it worked!  THANK GOODNESS!!  I switched places with Clint and drove us safely back to shore.  We were two salty wet rats, but we were alive!  I still remind Clint that I saved our lives that day!

After being gone for the day, we were SO excited to get back to our hotel.  The Four Seasons was nice, but in a pretentious sort of way.  The Andaz hotel was anything but, and was definitely more our style.  There was such a cool hip, yet calming vibe to it!!  Everything in the resort has an open-air feel to it.  At any given moment, you’re not quite sure if you are indoors or outdoors.

While we were getting ready for dinner, we heard some amazing live music outside our balcony.  So we decided to follow the music to dinner!  I’m so glad we did!  The music lead us to an amazing tapas bar called Ostra, which felt nestled right in the treetops.  I felt like I was in a restaurant at Disney World.  Even the straws were made out of wood.  Clearly, the Disney Imagineers had been here.

This time I tried something I’ve never done before – I let the waiter order for me.  I told him that I loved the chicken Casado at the Rio Bhongo and he brought me something equally as flavorful and delicious!  As we waited for our food, we had live music playing right in front of us, a four-piece Costa Rica band that was as lively as they were entertaining.  They were so good!!  I could have sat there all night!  After dinner, we grabbed some seats a bit closer and listened to the band some more.  I’m a total sucker for live music.  At that moment, life was pretty perfect!

* Update: The Four Seasons just completed their renovation on December 4th.  The new resort is absolutely GORGEOUS and looks remarkably similar to the Andaz Hotel.  Go figure!  But, you’ll pay three times as much for a room.  I still love the Andaz!

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Costa Rica June 2017 Day 5B

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Costa Rica Day 4: Travel to Nicaragua, Masaya Volcano, Street Markets, Lake Nicaragua

We tried to go to bed early Monday night because we had our alarm set for 4:30 AM, but in true Linsey fashion, when there is alarm clock I don’t sleep.  I tossed and turned the entire night, and sure enough, when the alarm went off at 4:30 AM I was wide-awake.  But I didn’t have a choice, we had to get up because I was determined to see Nicaragua!  Clint would have rather pushed the snooze button indefinitely.  He thought I was CRAZY for wanting to go to Nicaragua!  He kept telling me that we were going to get kidnapped by the Sandinistas!

I pulled Clint out of bed.  We were doing this!! Our hotel made us a box breakfast, which was really good.  Clint got a breakfast burrito and I got a ham and egg sandwich on homemade bread.  Both of which were way better than anything I’ve had in the States.  Go figure!

Our driver picked us up at 5:15am and we went through a series of bus changes and driver changes, and a quick Costa Rican group breakfast just south of the border, but we were soon on our way to Nicaragua.  Clint thought we were going to be kidnapped at any moment (I secretly thought we might get kidnapped at any moment).  Things felt a little dicey crossing the border and the whole process took FOREVER, but I was just excited to see Nicaragua!  Eventually we made it past all rows and rows of armed guard and were on our way to our first stop, Lake Nicaragua.  Lake Nicaragua wasn’t terribly impressive, but I got some silly pictures and totally embarrassed Clint!

Our second stop was to the Caterina viewpoint, which is one of the most picturesque destinations in all of Nicaragua. on our way there we passed by some of the most impoverished towns I’ve ever seen.  It broke my heart watching those little children with bare feet playing in front of tin roof homes with were barely held up by particle board.  Then all of the sudden – BAM – million dollar views!  I guess the Lord blesses people in different ways.

Our third stop was to the Masaya Volcano, which the 16th century Spanish invaders aptly named the “Gate to Hell.”  There aren’t too many places in the world where can look right inside a live Volcano.  This was one of them.  I asked our guide, “When do they know when the volcano is going to erupt?”  He responded, “We don’t.  That’s why we’re only staying five to ten minutes.  Plus, the gases are very harmful to the human body.”  Super.

But I will say, it was worth every single minute we were there.  Peering down inside a real volcano and actually seeing the fiery lava below was one of the most spectacular things I’ve ever seen in my life.  Plus, it gave you a pretty good reality check.  As humans we naturally think we can control our own destiny.  Staring down into that volcano, I was acutely reminded that nature is really in charge.

After surviving an impeding volcanic eruption (or at least the gas risk), we safely made it to the nearby town of Masaya for lunch at a cute little outdoor restaurant.  I was starting to get used to having chicken, rice, and beans for every single meal.  After lunch, we somehow acquired a little Nicaraguan shopping assistant.  He latched onto us and followed us around for 45 minutes helping us pick out the perfect gifts for the trip home.  And yes, he was generously tipped at the end for his exceptional service and expertise.

After experiencing the little town of Masaya, we drove into the colonial town of Granada. We toured one of the famous churches and then wandered around the beautiful and colorful city buying more souvenirs than we knew what to do with.  I can’t help myself.  They need the money and I love shopping!  It’s a win-win!

The highlight of the trip was at the very end. Our guide took us on an amazing boat ride through the islands of Lake Nicaragua, which was actually formed by an ancient volcanic irruption. There are 365 islands on the lake, many of which are in habited by the most important people of Nicaragua.  We cruised in between islands and inlets even saw one of the most famous islands of all, Monkey Island, which is home to three rescue monkeys: a mommy, a daddy, and a baby.  I saw all three!  They were SO sweet and SO cute and loved people!

After the boat ride, we hopped back on the bus and made our way back to Costa Rica.  After a long bus ride, we finally got back to our hotel room safe and sound at 9:45 PM.  We were thoroughly exhausted!  We ordered room service and had dinner at 10:15pm that night.  I was sound asleep by 10:30pm.

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Costa Rica June 2017 Day 4

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Costa Rica Day 3: Rainforest Massage, Hot Springs, Lunch in Liberia, Check-in at Andaz Papagayo Peninsula, Play on the Beach, Dinner at Rio Bhongo

Today was also absolutely unforgettable!!  First off, we had another amazing breakfast overlooking the Arenal Volcano.  Then we took that iconic green Club Rio bus down to the river with the other tubing enthusiasts, only this time we weren’t going tubing. We were going to get massages somewhere deep in the rainforest.  Two Costa Rican ladies greeted us when we got off the bus and lead us along the river, over bridges, past waterfalls, and up the steps embedded in the mountain to what looked like a treehouse perched in the rainforest.  Oh my gosh, that’s where we’re getting massages?!  I totally got goosebumps.  It just looked so magical.  And it was!!

Hidden high in the rainforest were two cushioned tables and a natural hot spring with a waterfall right in the open-air room. They even had fancy wrapped towels and rose petals scattered throughout.  The massages were incredible and the best we’ve ever had.  But being in the rainforest hearing the sounds of the trees, the birds, and the river below made the experience even more magical!  I kept saying to myself, we are in the middle of a rainforest right now.  We are in the middle of a rainforest.  I kept pinching myself. Could this really be happening?!

After the massages, the ladies directed us to walk along another trail to discover more hot springs.  It felt like were on some magical adventure in a fairy land.  The place was so beautiful and pristine to be real and we kept discovered all sorts of hidden hot springs.  I felt like the Disney Imagineers had truly left their magic on the place.  I didn’t want to leave.  We needed another day.

iPhone Pics:

Costa Rica Day June 2017 3A

But, we had another part of Costa Rica to explore.  Our driver picked us up at 1pm (yes, get a driver) and we drove three hours to the Papagayo Peninsula.  Along the way, we stopped at an authentic Costa Rican restaurant for street tacos.  They were SO good and SO cheap!!

When Clint and I arrived at the Andaz Papagayo Peninsula Hotel Sunday afternoon, we both secretly yearned to be back at The Springs Resort in Arenal.  The Springs had a warm and cozy rainforest feel to it, whereas the Andaz is a very modern hotel with an minimalistic, edgy millennial vibe.  It didn’t feel as inviting at first, but you soon get in the groove that you are now on the posh Papagayo Peninsula (which feels like Hawaii) and you start to LOVE the place for different reasons!  We fell in love with the resort and the Papagayo Peninsula so much that Clint’s been making plans to retire on the Papagayo Peninsula.  Clint has even started looking at houses and open lots. Don’t worry, it’ll be a while!

We soon learned that the Papagayo Peninsula is new hotspot in Costa Rica and where the wealthy come.  Right now there are only two hotels on the Papagayo Peninsula: the Four Seasons and The Hyatt Andaz (our hotel), which rivals the Four Seasons.  There’s also a marina next door with multi million dollar yachts, a private beach club for residents and hotel guests, and multimillion dollar homes sprinkled throughout.  But all in all, the Papagayo Peninsula remains virtually untouched. However, there are huge plans in the future including a Hard Rock and a hotel built by the same owner of The Springs Resort and Spa.  Nice!

The room at this hotel is absolutely incredible, and is probably one of the most innovative hotel rooms I’ve ever seen. It is such a simple design, yet absolutely brilliant at the same time.  You walk in and on the left is the bedroom area and in the middle is closet and desk, which subdivides the room and to the right is the bathroom. Straight in front of you is the amazing balcony, which feels like an open air living room. You feel like you’re both outside and inside at the same time.  It’s SO cool!  And then there is the bathroom and shower.  The bathroom and shower opens out onto the balcony, so you have incredible views of the ocean below and the lush green Costa Rica coast in the distance no matter where you are in the room.  And total privacy too!  You can’t see another hotel room and they can’t see you.  Nor can anyone see you from down below.  It’s an absolutely brilliant design!  The hotel also stocks your minibar each day with FREE water, drinks, and snacks!  And they give each person a free high-end Costa Rican hat (I wore my every day) and nice flip-flops!  What’s not to love?!

The entire hotel is so brilliantly designed!  They architects wanted to create a hotel that would blend in with the natural environment, and be unobtrusive as possible, and they definitely pulled it off!  The beauty is truly in the details.  Everything in the hotel is hidden among nature and you have to follow trails to find the restaurants, the pools, the spa, and even the beaches.  You just follow the signs and the trails to find your way.  It’s SO fun!  I love the element of discovery.

As you’re walking along you’re thinking to yourself oh my gosh, where am I going?  And then all the sudden you will happen across a swimming pool, or a restaurant, or a further down the path, the beach, which feels like you are on a deserted island because when you look back you can’t even see the hotel.  It’s just you, the sand, the water, the trees, and some hammocks.  We had fun exploring the main beach before it got dark.  This hotel is the place you want to go to feel like you are the only person on the planet.

We had dinner that night at the famed Rio Bhongo restaurant.  That place definitely lived up to the hype!  We were seated at a table overlooking the water and had the most incredible views!  I ordered the traditional Costa Rican dish – the Casado – and it was so flavorful and incredible!  I just kept eating and eating.  It was another incredible day!

Costa Rica June 2017 Day 3B

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Costa Rica Day 2: Early Morning Hike, Breakfast Overlooking Volcano, Ziplining, Hot Springs

In true Linsey fashion, I couldn’t sleep the first night.  I tossed and turned and finally woke up at 4:30 AM and couldn’t go back to sleep.  I played around on my phone for about an hour and then finally got up.  I put on my running shoes and decided to explore the property, which is massive!!

I passed the Rio Perdido Springs, thinking I’d catch it on the way back, and headed straight for Club Rio.  I figured I would run the whole way to get some exercise, I kept stopping, stopping again, and stopping some.  Not because I was tired, but because I couldn’t stop taking pictures.  I had no idea a place this incredible beautiful actually existed.  Little did I know that it was going to get better and better.  Once I got to the bottom, I walked along the lapping river, said hello to the horses, said goodbye to the crocodiles, and began to really take in exactly where I was — in the middle of a rainforest with no one around.

It was pretty awe inspiring, but this girl was getting hungry.  And that climb up took way longer than the climb down. When I got back to the room, I told tactlessly told Clint that he had five minutes to get up because I felt like I was going to pass out.  Soon we were eating one of the best breakfasts we’ve ever had overlooking one of the best views we’ve ever had.  It was stunning!!  That day was already picture perfect and the day had just started.  After breakfast we had just enough time to take a dip in the Hot Springs before the shuttle picked us up for our first real adventure, ziplining!

iPhone Pics:

Costa Rica June 2017 Day 2 A

Be forewarned, Sky Trek Arenal is not your grandmother’s zipline.  It is the fastest, highest, and longest zipline in the world.  And may I add scariest!  I’ve been on lots of ziplines in the last five years, but nothing it like this!  We took a gondola up to the top of the mountain peak and ziplined down so high you couldn’t even see the ground.  And we were going so fast that I prayed every time that I would just stay alive.  It was scary fun for sure!

We got back to the hotel just in time for a late lunch and just in time for a huge rain storm.  We are outside at Treetops Grill overlooking the rainforest below when it began to POUR down rain.  Yep, we timing the day pretty perfectly.  The Treetops Grill is SO cool!!  We actually felt like we were dining high above in a treehouse during a thunderstorm.  It was so incredible watching the dark clouds and rain over the volcano.  And to think that just a couple hours earlier, it was nothing but blue skies.

After lunch, we went back to our room and both laid in our patio hammocks, me reading an autobiography by Simon Biles (I’m a sucker for autobiographies) and Clint watching a movie on his iPad. The rain was pounding down around us, but we stayed safe a dry on our balcony.  We were truly in a rainforest!  It was so cool!!

When the thunder and lightning stopped and the rain turned to a sprinkle, I had this “brilliant” idea of going tubing down the river. “There’s a tour leaving at 4:15pm. It’s 3:55pm right now.  Let’s go!!”  I grabbed Clint and soon we, yep just the two of us, were on that green Club Rio renovated school bus headed for Club Rio to go tubing.  We hopped out of the bus, yep just the two of us, and met our two guides, one for each of us!  They must have thought we were crazy for wanting to tube down in the rain, but we had massages the next morning, so this was our only chance.  If the Kardashians could go tubing in the cold, so could we.  Mind you, it wasn’t raining when the Kardashians went tubing and they probably had a team of hair stylists and make-up artists waiting at the bottom, but you get the point.

Anyway, tubing was WAY FUN, but WAY COLD.  BUT WAY WORTH IT!!  We bounced back and forth through the rapids, holding on for dear life, and thankfully, we didn’t flip once. That was probably owed to the fact that we had a guide for each of us. Nice!  They asked us if we wanted to go again, but I chickened out!  The dark clouds were coming in, I was so cold, and I wanted to get inside those hot springs.  To the Rio Perdido Hot Springs we go!!

We made a wise choice.  We soon discovered a whole new world of hot springs at the resort that was even better than the ones right next to the hotel.  And we found the famed Monkey Slide!  The MONKEY SLIDE!!  That slide is wicked fast and SO much fun!!  We must have gone down it 100 times in the rain!  We were having so much fun!  I didn’t want the day to end.  Neither did anybody else.  The dark clouds came in, you could hear the rumbling thunder, and see streaks of lightning, but it was business as usual at the resort.  Everyone was still swimming, ordering drinks, and going down the Monkey Slide.  Pura Vida!  This would never happen in the US. Lol.

Finally, we had to get out of the water because we had a 7pm reservation at Las Ventanas, which is The Springs Resort’s signature resort they overlooks the Arenal Volcano and lush green valley below.  In record time, we got all dolled up and made our way to Las Ventanas.  I was hesitant about eating there because it was more of an American style restaurant, but when they told us I could order the Costa Rican chicken enchiladas, I was all in!  I know I keep saying this, and I could really say it about almost every meal this trip, but that was one of the best meals I’ve ever had.

Costa Rica June 2017 Day 2 B

 

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