The Power of Getting Away

cropped-elephant-mandala-prev1255185447ux166f.jpgHave you seen this Ted Talk about the Power of Taking Time Off? It led to this amazing family sabbatical, a year above the Arctic Circle. Fabulous photos, and an endearing story.

The concept is, Why don’t we take five years out of retirement and spread them throughout your working life? What might you gain by stopping and taking time to collect your thoughts?

Great idea, but not all of us are set to take a year off – never mind have jobs or prospects we can walk away from for such a period of time. But the good news is, even a week away with time to escape, to think, to create, to reinvent can have valuable results in your life.

Refresh, renew, rethink your direction! A vacation is really much more than just time out of the office.

Plantains Without the Fat

Plantains on their way to ripeness.

When I was last in Guatemala I fell in love with a particular treat at breakfast – boiled plantains. Plantains are those big banana looking fruit, but they stop the resemblance there. You might know them in a fried state, with your jerk chicken or rice and beans. Oh sure, I love the fried ones too, but consuming them kind of ruins my caloric intake. But boiled? No fat  and soooo delicious.

Here’s how to make them:

Start with well ripened plantains. Like, black. A dark plantain is a ripe and sweet one. But don’t wait until the fruit flies take over the kitchen (as happened to me).  Wash them with a tiny bit of soap to be sure the skins are clean and any dirt is removed.

Keeping them in the peel, cut them in half, or if they’re huge into thirds. Some plantains are really huge.

Put them in a pot and cover with water. Add a dash of cinnamon, or a piece of cinnamon stick.

Boil till soft through when stuck with a fork – about 15 or 20 minutes.

Be sure to let them cool! Then slice open the skin and enjoy.

It’s true a plantain by itself has plenty of calories so you probably don’t want to eat gobs of them. One cup of boiled plantain contains contains 230 calories and zero fat, with 2 g of protein, 60 g of carbohydrates and 5 g of dietary fiber. Not bad for something so yummy!

Explore in Guatemala

Traditional Guatemalan Breakfast.

Here it is, the plan you’ve been waiting for….. The goal: Get away from yourself!

We need a minimum of 6 people to make a group – a nice intimate gathering. But if you have a lot of excited friends we can handle many more – – or for a private group can adjust to fewer people too.

B, D refers to included breakfasts and dinner.

Day 1, Saturday: Get on a plane to Guatemala City. There are nonstop flights from Dallas or Miami (@3 hours). Bring a kind-of empty suitcase… You won’t need to take much and there is so much to take home! You will be met at the airport on arrival and transferred to a small, quaint hotel in Antigua for the night.

Day 2, Sunday: this morning we’ll head to Chichicastenango for market day. Sundays are bustling here, and bargains abound.  You’ll find souvenirs and mass market, machine made items, as well as authentic, hand woven articles. Any questions? Our guide will help point you in the right direction. We overnight in a beautiful hotel in a quiet oasis just off the path of the market. B

Day 3, Monday: Rise early for a stroll to the nearby local cemetery where Guatemalan tradition abounds. Crypts resting above ground are colorful and memorable. After a leisurely breakfast we’ll head to Quiejel to meet up with Mayan women who will teach us what they know about rug hooking with recycled materials. You’ll have the chance to begin a project to take with you; materials are supplied but you might want to bring a favorite fabric with you. This afternoon we’ll ride to Lake Atitlan and the town of Panajachel where we settle into our lake front hotel for the next 4 nights.  Located just off the main street, you’ll have easy access to a lively tourist market for excellent shopping and bargains. B

Day 4, Tuesday: Wake up to birds singing and, if the sky is clear, a lovely ring of volcanoes circling the lake. Enjoy the view as you partake of a traditional Guatemalan breakfast. Afterwards we head off to the Tuesday market at Solola. This market is truly authentic; we may be the only tourists there. A narrow, winding maze of fabrics, fruits, meats, fish, clothing, yarns, and everything else you can think of.  This is a crowded, bustling, and AMAZING market. Be prepared for the local, friendly custom of pushing and crowding.  But, again, our guide is with us to help navigate the scene. Optional visit to the agricultural village of Concepcion, and its lovely church. B

Day 5, Wednesday: This morning you have the opportunity to experience a Mayan shaman ceremony. Come with your ‘intentions’ and questions, and enjoy an hour of calming introspection. Later we’ll go off the beaten path to tour the locals’ market with an expert in Guatemalan weaving. This evening learn how to make delicious tortillas with our friend Carmen – it’s harder than you think! B

Day 6, Thursday: Today we’ll hop a boat for a tour of the lake and its communities. We’ll visit San Juan where we meet the Mayan women who form a weaving cooperative. We’ll learn about using natural dyes, and you can try your hand at back strap weaving. It is every bit as miraculous as it seems! On to Santiago for lunch and local artisans. Here you’ll find bead work, and extraordinary embroidery. B, L

Day 7, Friday: after check out we’ll head back to Antigua where we began. En route we’ll make a stop at the ruins of Ixchme, and another Mayan ceremony to grace our journey home. After checking in at our Antigua hotel we’ll walk the colonial city. Enjoy a farewell dinner tonight with the group and guide. B, D

Day 8, Saturday: We provide transportation to the airport to catch your international flight home. B

If you wish to extend your vacation, we can make all the arrangements for you. You might:

  1. Add one hotel night for another day to simply relax in Antigua…. or
  2. Add one hotel night and hike the Pacaya volcano…..or
  3. Add three hotel nights and spend a couple of days at the magnificent ruins of Tikal.

We can’t wait to hear from you – let’s go!

The Bathroom Trick

Take the time to climb the stairs…what might you find at the top?

This is an odd sort of post that has been brewing in my brain, while waiting to finalize our creative journey to Guatemala…. Hopefully I offend no one.

I was at work the other day, and on a quick trip to the bathroom I had a moment of thinking I might just stay put for awhile. When you work in a ‘pod’ with lots of distractions, conversations, and interruptions – and virtually zero privacy – a trip to the bathroom brings a kind of peace and serenity you can’t otherwise find. You close and lock the door and no one else is there. It can be dark and oh so quiet – Right ?!? I remember this as a mom with demanding children – the bathroom (you hoped!) was sanctuary.

Don’t we all need some quiet to think our own thoughts, and time to pull together threads of creativity? Even in the middle of a work day, or a mom day. Get away from the work phone, the cell phone, the fax, the colleagues, the kids, the meetings, the internet, the wild chaos of life in the year 2012. IT IS SO EXHAUSTING.

I admit it, sometimes I do this.  Behind the locked bathroom door I wait, pausing for longer than I need to, relishing  in the impossibility that someone might crash into my thought process and destroy the thing I was on my way to discovering.

What if you could do this for a whole week? Wouldn’t that be amazing? You could use your vacation time to escape all of the pre-conceived notions, all of the interruptions, all of the vapid  nothingness of sitting on a beach. You could discover and grow into someone new, more meaningful, more powerful. Find the thing that has been niggling in your head. Escape. Create.

Come with me!

How to make a Tortilla

Professional tortilla making

All I can say is, you probably can’t do it. Even our teachers said it took them a year to learn. There is something about the movement of the hands, the pat pat pat of the dough, the heat of the wood fire in the stove… it looks so easy but those perfect, fat, round disks are just not that simple to make. Ours stuck to our hands, cracked at the edges, ended up oddly shaped with uneven thickness… There was lots of giggling which we understood, even in Spanish, meant we were goofing up.

But don’t be discouraged. It’s fun to try, and those who know what they’re doing will cook enough for you to enjoy. Warm. With a bit of queso fresco  and salt sprinkled on top. Oh so delicious.

I have a bag of tortilla flour on my kitchen counter right now. I found it at Stop ‘N Shop. It is corn meal with lime added (the secret ingredient I gather). Do I dare give it a try, with no one here to save me?

Have you ever tried yourself?

Why we Travel

Chairs on a Wall

Really, I get all stressed when I am about to leave town. I do this crazy thing where I feel like I have to clean out my closets, give away excess clothing, vacuum all the hidden corners, and reorganize the book shelves. So silly! But yet I keep traveling…..

Turns out I crave the time away from the things that clutter my mind. There is a freedom there that lets fresh hope and inspiration and new energy enter my soul. Like, who ever thought of collecting tiny chairs to hang on the wall? This is an idea that makes me see everything differently. A week out in the world is priceless!

So when I return home, with proof of Barbie in Panajachel (see previous post),  evidence of unthinkable talent in a weaving cooperative on Lake Atitlan, and the kindness, compassion and playfulness of strangers in the street markets of Guatemala – well, this just makes my life feel full of possibilities, ideas, and goals. And to have fun all along the way!

Such a gift from the world.