Earlier this month, our family set out on our last adventure of 2020. We visited Costa Rica, and I must tell you- everyone should experience this magical place at least once in their lifetime. Our last trip of the year was filled with more angst than normal. I learned the government of Costa Rica was requiring Health Passes before entering the Country, which means you better have good health insurance, and proof of that insurance submitted to the Costa Rican Embassy no earlier or later than 48 hours to arriving in Country. During the scramble to get the required paperwork from our insurance company, it struck me that this trip was a goodbye to our old world. I was in the liminal space between past and present, floating as witness to a rift in time. It seemed appropriate for us to visit one of the places on our Bucket List, while we could.
While there wasn't a single place I didn't like during our visit, the place I loved the most was the Monteverde Cloud Forest. First I must tell you, visiting a Cloud Forest has on my bucket list for a very long time, then after sharing a little bit about Cloud Forests the rest of the family jumped on board adding it to their bucket lists too! I think my wanting to experience a Cloud Forest started when I purchased a canvas photograph in my twenties, of one of the rope bridges (no longer rope bridges now) in one of the Cloud Forests... because there are actually 6 Cloud Forests in Costa Rica. But the photograph was beautiful, mysterious...just like the real thing, but the real thing is MUCH better!
So first things first...I had to first navigate how to purchase a guided tour of the Cloud Forest in Monteverde. For whatever reason our phones converted to Spanish as soon as we arrived in country. So that was a fun learning curve. I only know swear words in Spanish and our oldest son Aiden has 2 years of Spanish under his belt, so it was the blind leading the blind most of this trip! But that's what made it fun. Once I was able to purchase tickets in advance, we set out early the next morning for our 2.5 hour drive to Monteverde.
The other fun part of our adventure was the Google GPS doesn't work in Costa Rica. So we had to download their version, Waze. Which fun fact, took us on the back (dirt roads) of the Costa Rican jungles! Typically I think most parent's would be somewhat nervous, however we embraced it, my husband often saying "We were supposed to go this way for a reason, maybe there is something we are supposed to see". I won't lie, there were a couple times I wasn't so sure it was a good idea, and in fact we did get lost. Then all our children decided the winding jungle roads weren't what they had planned for, yes even being from Colorado- so we made several stops because they all got car sick.
Once we did arrive atop this amazing mountain in the town of Monteverde, we realized how we were not prepared for the weather! It was cold, windy, and raining. The weather in Monteverde is strongly influenced by moisture-saturated air currents that enter the country from the northeast (trade winds). When ascending the Cordillera de Tilarán, orographic rains originate because of the cooling they experience, or fog, which characterizes the predominant Cloud Forest in the area. These conditions generate a marked rainy tropical climate; where seasonal variation in temperatures and rainfall is minimal, both remain high throughout the year. Likewise, the persistent cloudiness causes the particular conditions for the development of the so-called Cloud Forest.
Not only were we cold, we were also starving. I guess getting carsick will do that to you. We ended up finding this cute little cafe, 'Stellas'. I have to tell you, should you ever find yourself in Monteverde, Costa Rica- YOU MUST STOP HERE!! Not only is Stella the owner so welcoming, her food is amazing (even though there wasn't a single meal we didn't enjoy the entire week) and the ambiance was MAGICKAL!!!!
Fun Fact: Monteverde hosts 2.5% of the world's biodiversity. The 10% of its flora is endemic. Meaning the plants here are ONLY found here, no place else on Earth has some of the plants we saw. (I talk about this later) and 50% of flora and fauna of Costa Rica is in this paradise.
We were the only guests in this cute little cafe, that smelled like chocolate and coffee beans. As we sat down at our table we noticed the set of sliding glass doors to the back of us, that led to the most amazing garden I have ever seen. In the center of the garden was a tall bird feeder surrounded by birds of every color in the rainbow. I have never seen so many different species of birds in so many colors!!! As I stood in awe, Stella approached me and pointed behind me, as I turned around, right at my feet was a Coati! Close enough for me to touch, completely unbothered by my presence!!! And of course me being me, tried to pick it up, but he waddled off to look for food. Shortly after, a Toucan landed on top of the bird feeder to snack on the banana Stella had placed out there. Several resplendent quetzals showed up for lunch too.
Next, the most beautiful looking squirrel ran up the feeder, scaring away the birds, to help himself to a snack as well. After it was his turn this weird looking creature approached the bottom of the feeder to eat what the birds and squirrel knocked off onto the ground. It was as if these animals made this a daily ritual, and were completely unbothered by humans. Our family just stood in such awe and amazement of what was happening. I could have stayed there all day watching all the animals. However, we were late, and ended up getting lost for the second time trying to find the Cloud Forest. We ended up missing the guided tour, but we were able to venture out onto the trails and bridges alone.
Fun Fact: More than 100 species of mammals live in the park, including howler and capuchin monkeys, all five species of cats, deer, tapir and sloths. A total of 1,200 species of amphibians and reptiles live in the reserve, including venomous and non-venomous snakes, frogs and toads
We started along the very muddy path and within minutes approached the longest and tallest bridge in the park, Bridge 6 (236m (774ft) long and it's height being 70m (230ft)). You can tell instantly that they designed this park so the trails and hanging bridges are designed and maintained to cause the lowest impact to nature, trying always to keep the forest intact for everything living in it. You are instantly overwhelmed by nature. There is literally life at your feet, around you, and above you. The bridges you cross (6 in total) are perfect to appreciate Costa Rica’s magnificent biodiversity admiring nature from different perspectives.
Then something happened halfway through our trek through this beautiful forest. It was as if nothing was outside of us. No world, no COVID, just complete awareness. Nature has much to teach us about the present moment . Nature also teaches us how life and death are a beautiful dance, but humans do a terrible job at facing both.
Fun Fact: Extensive plant collections have been conducted in the Monteverde Cloud Forest. An ever-growing list of plants above 700m details more than 3000 species. There are more than 750 species of trees alone, representing 92 plant families. Each type of forest or “life zone”, from the lowland rainforest to the elfin forest, has its own set of characteristic tree species.
As the lockdowns from the virus continue on, many of us are stuck in our homes, yet there are still endless opportunities to visit nature and what stories she has to share with us. Yes, we share funny videos on social media, and show off our latest recipe creations in the kitchen. We are reconnecting with old friends, since now a phone call out of the blue is socially acceptable. We help our neighbors, donate, volunteer, and ask if people are OK. We say hi to neighbors and strangers. All of these things are important, but during this collective deep breath, we need to find the space to reclaim a small part of our lost humanity. Nature provides that space. Nature is also a lot like a time machine that takes us back and pushes us ahead to confront our own mortality, as well as giving us renewed gratitude for all the times we are gifted here amidst so much beauty and love. I cannot tell you how long I stood in front of some of those gigantic ficus trees. hundreds of years old realizing we all exist now in the ether, the neither-here-nor-there-ness of awaiting the unknown. That the hundred daily griefs can compound into our inability to move or function. However, the force that can allow motion through this time of in between is in the very actions that have bound humanity since our beginnings some 300,000 years ago. Being in nature opens up a part of your soul, opens up your senses which are our new survival superpowers during this time of pause. It's helps you feel more alive.
What we learned that day is death feeds into life perhaps most spectacularly here among the giant ficus trees, the strangler figs that wrap themselves so fully around a host tree that the host dies and rots away and the ficus becomes a tree itself, spreading up into the sky and out toward other trees so the process can begin again.
Monteverde had gifted us a heightened perception, and a month later, I feel ever so much more alive than when I first walked into that Cloud Forest, transformed by the hands of something much bigger than all of us, something not even COVID can take away...G-d.
Click on the gallery photos below
Are you using these 15 tips to bring the Christmas spirit into your home?
1. Tie your throw pillows with holiday ribbon to resemble a gift for Christmas decor.
2. Hang up a string and clothespin your greeting cards along the line all month long.
3. Pile artificial snow on a silver platter, or mirrored tray with vintage glass ornaments and votives in to create a dramatic effect.
4. Place a bunch of candy canes in a clear vase for a cute and easy decoration.
5. Have any neat branches outside? Pick them and spray paint them silver and gold for elegant and vintage reminiscent decor.
6. Don’t have Christmas stockings? Buy some large sized holiday socks to hang from the mantel!
7. Fill a vase with cranberries and water for an elegant centerpiece.
8. Use wrapping paper as holiday art in simple frames.
9. Take a bunch of old wine bottle and spray paint them in holiday colors and fill them with twigs for a stunning mantel display.
10. Fill clear vases with water you tint with food coloring in holiday colors and float a votive! Great centerpiece!
11. Wrap your front door to look like a Christmas present!
12. For your dining table centerpiece, try a runner with round glass ornaments spread down the length. Quick & Easy!
13. Instead of name tags for guests at the table, create cookies and write their names in icing to place at their setting!
14. Add garland to your staircase with lights and ornaments!
15. Use candelabras and place decorative round ball ornaments on top in a cluster for a great centerpiece
Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas!!
The Toscano Family
It's no secret, small businesses are struggling across the country. In September, Forbes magazine reported More than 97,966 businesses have permanently shut down during the pandemic. However, in a more recent and sobering article by NFIB, One-in-four small business owners reported that they will have to close their doors in the next six months if the current economic conditions don’t improve, up 5% from last month. Another 22% of owners anticipate they will be able to operate no longer than 7-12 months under current economic conditions.
Toscano Interiors is no different than any of these other businesses- and not immune to the challenges COVID has provided this year; which is why I am hoping all our friend's out there will help us get through these tough times and any other small businesses out there.
So, you may be wondering what you can do to support a friend’s small business during the holidays. If you are, don’t fret! I've got a list
Tip #1: Support a Friend’s Small Business By Helping
Running a small business is an awful lot of work; it’s true. It’s likely your friends will occasionally need extra help (but usually don’t get it). That’s why, during the holiday season, volunteering to help out is a beautiful gesture. A couple of hours here and there, especially during their busiest times, can be a lifesaver. You could help them, for example, package up products for shipping. If they run a restaurant, you can help in the kitchen or with food prep. You don’t need any specialized skills to do a lot of things that will help them. Simply volunteer and do whatever it is they might need. It’s one of the best ways to support your friend’s small business!
Tip #2: Give Them a Social Media Shoutout
Social media is so important when figuring out how to support a friend’s small business. ‘Liking’ and leaving comments helps your friend’s small business immensely! Take a look at their stories on Instagram and follow their Facebook page. Check them out on Twitter and share their posts on Snapchat. When a small business has a large following on social media, they stand out, get found, and flourish. Some small businesses rely almost 100% on social media to grow. The bottom line is that if you have a friend with a small business, engaging with them on social media is essential.
Tip #3: Purchase Your Friend’s Small Business’ Products
While this may seem like a “no-brainer,” many people forget to shop at their friend’s small business. Some believe that they’re doing “just fine” and don’t need extra help. Others simply overlook this simple fact. Whatever the case, purchasing from your friend’s small business is the best way to support it. Plus, you’ll probably get the best service you’ve ever seen and products that are a step above the rest.
Tip #4: Talk About Them at Networking Events
Talking about your friend’s small business while you’re networking is fantastic! Even better, bring some of their cards and other advertising media. Talking about your friend’s business can be especially helpful if you’re an influencer in your industry. If you are, you have a bigger audience who will take your advice and recommendations. On the list of “how to support a friend’s small business,” this is one of the best!
Tip #5: Shop Your Friend’s Small Business’ Website
Although social media is dominant right now, business websites are still important. For most small businesses, their website showcases their products and services. It also attracts potential customers looking for their specific products and services. Visiting your friend’s website can have a positive impact on their Google ranking as well. (Just be sure to linger on their website as long as possible. Short visits, known as ” bouncing,” can affect their ranking negatively.)
Tip #6: Write a Review for Your Friend’s Small Business
This may be one of the best ways to help your friend’s small business during the holidays. Today, online reviews replace traditional “word of mouth” advertising. Seven out of ten consumers read online reviews before making a purchase. That makes reviewing vitally important. A positive review on, for example, Facebook, Houzz, Google Plus, and their website can do wonders! Keep in mind that it doesn’t have to be perfect, but simply super flattering.
Tip #7: Get Emails from Your Friend’s Small Business
The vast majority of small businesses have an email list. Signing up for that list allows them to ‘speak’ directly to you and usually comes with some great perks. You’ll get exclusive discounts, learn about sales, and much more! It costs nothing but can help your friend’s small business in ways you don’t realize.
Bonus Tips To Help Your Friend’s Small Business
You can do so many things to help support your friend’s small business during the holidays. Most are easy, simple, and cost absolutely nothing. They might be small, but, in time, the results can be tremendous. Here are a few bonus tips to help as the holidays get closer:
We need all the help they can get. Running a small business is difficult, stressful, and time-consuming. (It’s rewarding too, but takes a lot of effort to get to the rewards.) The more you can do to help, the better. It’s easy and, in many cases, can even be a lot of fun!
I hope you enjoyed this list! Supporting small businesses is essential in every American town and city. Thank you for all your support, help, and caring! -Candance
#shopsmall #supportlocal #smallbiz #smallbusinesses #Christmasshopping
So I know it's a month late, but technically it still is Fall. Regardless of the season, this is probably one of our family favorites and definitely what I would consider "soul comfort food". It's also easy to make and clean up!
I always use fresh herbs here, you should be able to buy all the herbs in one packet labeled as “poultry herbs”. And before you comment asking for measurements, I don't use measurements. Go back through past recipes, you'll see that it's just not my thing.
Ingredients for this Easy Chicken Dinner
How to Make This Sheet Pan Chicken Recipe
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
Place pour in 2 Tbsp olive oil, red wine vinegar, herbs and garlic into a gallon size resealable bag. Add chicken and season with salt and pepper then rub mixture over chicken.
Let rest while you prep remaining ingredients.
Add sweet potatoes, apples, Brussels sprouts, and shallots to a rimmed 18 by 13-inch baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 Tbsp olive oil, season with salt and pepper then toss to coat.
Spread into an even layer.
Top with chicken pieces and sprinkle bacon over veggie/apple mixture.
Roast in preheated oven until chicken has cooked through and veggies are tender, about 30 – 35 minutes, broil during last few minutes for more browned crispy chicken skin. Serve warm.
Again, I'm sorry this was so late...last month was crazy busy. If you try this out, let me know! ~Candance
#soulfood #amazingrecipes #easydinnerideas #chickenrecipes #familymeals #interiordesign #yummyfood #healthyfood
Author, Candance Toscano
"You can design the life of your dreams and acquire that luxurious, fulfilled and empowered lifestyle you know you have always wanted."