Saturday, June 21, 2008

Guests Gone Wild at Casa Nora
It all started innocently enough. We had a house full of really fun guests, and one night during Happy Hour, our pals from Belgium (Tom and Joelle) suggested that we all organize a dinner one night at Casa Nora. Sounds great! Immediately, our friends from Norway, Anne and John, start suggesting tasty sounding recipes. We all chime in with ideas, and very quickly we had decided on a delicious menu. (The fact that we were all starving after a great day of sailing brought out some terrific recipe ideas!)
And so, on the day in question, the kitchen was full of very capable chefs, each preparing various dishes.

Tom and Joelle prepared bruschetta bread, as well as grilled shrimp appetizers.

John and Anne created a lovely salad, with sun-dried tomatoes – yum!

Mary prepped the meat, while I made a huge pot of mashed potatoes with butter, real bacon bits, and a little bacon fat!

While grilling the meat under Mary’s watchful eye, Big Al and Tom enjoyed a fine cigar.

And, listo! Dinner is ready. Everything was still fine up until this point. Just as we sat down to dinner, and after I had managed to scarf down maybe half of my plate, some El Yaque sailors, dissatisfied with their current accommodations, dropped by Casa Nora to check out our set-up. So, I had to leave the table, and show the new people around. No problem. I gave them refreshments, I showed them the rooms, and the garden, and we sat by the pool. It was lovely. However, I kept hearing the music being turned up, and up, and up. I take the newcomers back upstairs, and we all find ourselves in the midst of a raging party! My current guests had gone wild!

It was more than clear that dinner was over. My guests had cleaned up spotlessly, and were now dancing.

Some even on the kitchen counter top.

The newcomers asked if dinner was always like this at Casa Nora, but my answer, thankfully, was drowned out by the ever increasing volume of music. I saw the newcomers to the gate, and by the time I returned, all hell had broken loose.

There was dancing, Sambuca shots, and still more dancing!

Mary even absconded with Big Al’s cigar – which I must say, she regretted the next morning……

From left to right: Anne-a librarian, Maryluz-a Spanish teacher, Joelle – an account manager. Yeah right! Maybe by day! Definitely and obviously party animals at night!

Mmmmmmmm – Hagen Dazs ice-cream and fresh berries! Love it!

Clearly a lot of fun was had by all, but just to indicate the type of evening it was, I must show this photo.

What started out at a very normal evening, a nice dinner and some wine, somehow ended like this. The title of this photo simply is “Bloody Mary”.

With the party still raging, I secretly and quietly did a guest head count to make sure no one was missing.

Up Dog Down Dog

Up Dog, Down Dog

Up Dog, Down Dog and Sun Salutations both mean the same thing. A series of strenuous exercises designed to stretch sore muscles, improve balance and flexibility, and to build strength. At Casa Nora, we work out with Bryan Kest DVD’s. Bryan is a yogi from California, who has created three levels of Power Yoga. All of my female clients love Bryan! Maybe it is his sexy voice, maybe it is because he conducts his classes without his shirt on. Who knows, and who cares. We love him, and we love the workout! My male clients have issues with him – probably for exactly the same reasons……..

Having said that, I am very proud of my male yoga clients, especially the repeat ones – Francisco (from Spain), Daniel (from the USA), Dean (from Norway), and Big Al, among others.

Lower push-up position – only hands and toes can touch the floor

But, my yoga girls are the best! The classes this season have been full almost every morning, with my girls working hard, yielding great results.

Down Dog – one of the best shoulder stretches in all of yoga

Classes start at 7:00 am every morning, and are held in the ‘churuatta’ in my garden. A non-slip yoga mat is provided, along with a white towel (to wipe off the sweat), as well as a cool bottle of water.

Up Dog – great for the arms, lower back, buttocks and legs

Yoga ultimately, is a body sculpting program. Practised consistently (3 times a week), for one month, Power Yoga will visibly change one’s body, adding long, lean muscles, improving flexibility, and building strength. Guaranteed.

Tree pose – or Standing Balancing pose

My classes have been so full this season, that I am grateful that Kathy (my daily yoga partner – on the left) enjoys practicing on the deck of the pool. Thanks Kath!

Warrior Pose – great for the thighs, buttocks and balance

Look at Kathy go! Nice position, Kath! The beauty of yoga is that it is an individual practice. It is not a race, or a competition, as every body is unique, with differing strengths and weaknesses. The point is, by executing the poses in the combinations created by Bryan, to the best of each person’s abilities, each body benefits, becoming stronger and more flexible.

One arm balancing – only one hand and one foot touch the floor

For all of the windsurfers and kitesurfers here in El Yaque, yoga is a terrific way to stretch out those sore muscles in preparation for another windy day on the water.

To all of my yoga partners – thanks for a great season! Keep practicing, and see you all next year!


Next blog: Guests Gone Wild at Casa Nora

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Six Summits of Superman

As many of our Casa Nora house-guests know, we offer a rigorous mountain biking program, with 3 different tours offered by Big Al. That's Big Al on the left in the photo. For one of his tours, we developed the 'Killer Mountain Challenge', where we encourage our riders to make it up Killer Mountain in one try. Many have tried, but only a rare few have succeeded. Their names and images can be found in earlier blogs.

And then.......there is Superman.

Also known as John, from Norway (in the centre of the photo.) Pedro, also an avid biker, is on the right.

John, a mountain bike enthusiast and racer in Norway, will go out on a 2 hour ride early in the morning, before swimming 40 laps in a 20 metre long pool, and logging in a six hour windsurfing day. (No, I am not kidding....)
Needless to say, he summitted Killer Mountain - without any problems.

Here he is on the summit - looking relaxed and refreshed - and barely breaking a sweat!

During his next successful summit bid, he added an additional peak to the length of Killer Mountain, and successfully navigated that as well.

Standing atop Killer Mountain, Al and John spotted five additional moutains, and John decided to conquer them all.

A slightly fatigued and de-hydrated Al, stood by and watched in disbelief as John attempted to climb all five mountains.

Of the five additional peaks, John successfully summitted three.

And that's why we call him Superman!

And that's why the new mountain bike challenge for next season will be called "The Six Summits of Superman" or just "The Super Six". John has summitted 4 of the 6 Summits of Superman. Is there anyone out there who can summit all six?

So, all of you mountain bikers - start training! And we'll see you next season!

John, relaxing with Diesel - Super cat!

John and his girl, Anne.

Yes Superman - you really are King of the Hill.

Next blog - Yoga at Casa Nora