settlers of catan: a family favorite

settlers of catan: a family favorite

the best board game you’ve never heard of…

Looking for something to do with your family during your downtime when you travel? We love to take a board game called Settlers of Catan with us whenever we road trip.

Ok, maybe some of you have heard of this game by now.  It has sold over 22 million copies so far, having expanded far beyond its German origins.  However, I suspect many of you have never even heard of it, let alone played it.

We tired of Monopoly, Life, and Trivial Pursuit decades ago.  On occasion we enjoy Catchphrase, but Catan is by far our favorite, holding our attention for over a year now.  We feel most other board games lack strategy, but this one is the perfect combination of strategy and luck.  It may seem like a lot of rules upon first reading of the instructions. However, it only takes one 30 minute practice round to learn how to play this game.

There is definitely some luck involved with the roll of the die. We try to tell ourselves that this must be why our twelve year old keeps beating us. She wins time and time again, so she must be VERY lucky… or her strategy and negotiating skills are top notch! Settlers of Catan requires constant strategy and decision making, which is why we haven’t yet bored of this game. We mostly play it when we travel to our off-the-grid house in Baja Mexico. We also have a copy at home, as well because it is a great alternative to watching Netflix.

This board game is so popular amongst our family that when we are in Baja, there is usually a line for the “next game.” We will soon be adding the expansion pack to our collection because of this, as it would be fun if we could all play together. It is fabulous to watch how each person devises their own strategy and plan of attack. This sometimes leads to frustration for a player, and lots of laughs from the rest of us.

For some reason, several of our friends and family have decided that going for the LONGEST ROAD (one of several ways to earn points) is a path to victory.  However, even if you get points for building the longest road, you can lose the points if someone builds a longer road afterwards.  So the longest road builder will try to discourage others from trying so that he to can focus on scoring new points rather than maintaining the longest road.  “Don’t even TRY to build the longest road.” In fact, our daughter executed one of her best “sneaky” strategies recently in a game. She sandbagged us out of nowhere to claim the LONGEST ROAD and win the game.  Her father was so surprised and annoyed by his defeat that he threw a bit of a tantrum before realizing that he should be proud of his daughter instead of lamenting his defeat.

Check it out… (We are in no way affiliated to Catan… we just REALLY love it!)

settlers-of-catan family game travel blog
the dominican republic on a budget (part 1)

the dominican republic on a budget (part 1)

Looks amazing huh? So there’s two ways you can do this trip to Cabarete, Dominican Republic. One is cheap, and one is ridiculously cheap. My husband does this trip more in the ridiculously cheap category.

If you are willing to rough it, you can stay at Ali’s surf camp for just $28 a night.  This includes continental breakfast and a great dinner. The rooms are very basic, no a/c unless you pay extra, but they do have a fan, bathroom, and mosquito net around the bed (yes, you will be battling it out with mosquitos, insects and intense heat and humidity in the DR). You may also encounter power outages. It’s more like a hostel with private rooms, a beautiful pool, and an excellent outdoor restaurant. There is also a beginner surfing class in the mornings for $20 extra if you are interested. However, the best part about it is that It’s a great place to meet other interesting world travelers who like extreme sports and traveling on a budget.

If I lost you at mosquitos and insects, I don’t blame you, especially with all the concern about Zika and chikungunya, dengue fever and malaria. It’s not my cup of tea either but my husband has some beautiful photos from his recent kitesurfing trip there. He actually takes malaria pills before he goes. This year he is also using a blend of essential oils in a spray bottle, which seems to be keeping those pesky little guys at bay. The mixture is chemical free and uses NO deet. It is made mostly with an “outdoor blend,” but I altered it with a few additional drops of arborvitae, eucalyptus and cedarwood.

If you prefer luxury, there are also plenty of nice beachfront resorts with a/c and less mosquitos because they are oceanfront (Ali’s camp is 10 minutes walk from the beach). You will be paying more than $28/night, but the DR is still one of the cheapest islands in the Caribbean.

The water is clear and it’s almost always sunny out, so it’s also a beautiful place for snorkeling and diving. The sun can be terribly draining though, so there’s plenty of vacationers just lounging at the beach with a book and a mojito. Be sure to try a shot of mamajuana, a favorite Dominican drink made by soaking rum, wine, and honey in a mixture with bark and herbs. Also be sure to enjoy an hour long massage at the beach for only $20.

It’s also probably the cheapest and best place to learn to kiteboard. It’s windy year round, and lessons cost only $60/day vs. over $400/day in the US. On any given day there, you can see 100-200 kites sailing across the water, many of them hurling themselves 30 feet into the air.

After a full day of kiting, you can enjoy 2 for 1 Cuba libres (rum and coke) for about $4. It’s very hard to beat the price and atmosphere of a day at the beach in caberete. The town is swamped with friendly and adventurous tourists, many from Europe (the Germans love this town). The locals are also very friendly and welcoming despite their beach being overrun with tourists crashing kites. Nightlife can be crazy, so you definitely need to be safer and smarter at night in the Dominican Republic.

The town of Cabarete, about 30 minutes from Puerto Plata airport, is quite small so you don’t even need a car once you are there. The main beach, bars, restaurants, and nightlife are all on one short stretch of beach maybe a mile long. The roads are actually quite dangerous though, and so my husband doesn’t recommend a car. He also avoids the motorcycle taxis (motoconchos) and associated “Dominican tattoo” (a common burn tourists get on their calf from touching the hot engine while hanging onto the back of their motoconcho driver). If you need to go somewhere, either walk or take a large taxi the size of a van. The drivers on the roads make extreme kitesurfing look like child’s play.


Here’s a breakdown of the costs for a two week trip in Cabarete (done the “ridiculously cheap” way):

Total cost of trip:
Airfare from San Diego – $650
14 nights at Ali’s surf camp including breakfast and dinners – $392
Lunches and drinks – $300
Transfers/Incidentals – $100

Click HERE for PART TWO… with more tips and photos!

Dominican Republic Cabarete Mamajuana

kiteboarding DR budget travel

view coastline dominican republic

dominican republic cabarete vacation travel

prosopagnosia: face blindness.

prosopagnosia: face blindness.

Left: John Ritter (File:John Ritter 1977.jpg by ABC Television, Creative Commons)
Right: Tim Daly (Tim Daly Shankbone 2009 Tribeca.jpg by David Shankbone, Creative Commons attribution 3.0 unreported)

Anyone else out there think that John Ritter looks like Tim Daly? Didn’t think so. Pretty sure my husband has face blindness, scientifically known as prosopagnosia. He was convinced they were the same person. After much laughter, I texted a few friends just to make sure that he was “wrong.” Everyone responded back immediately and unanimously, “He’s CRAZY!” Part of our reasoning is that… while we all love John Ritter in a comedic way… many of us love Tim Daly for totally different reasons, you know like physical attraction. I can safely say that of everyone polled, no one admitted to having a crush on John Ritter, while many of us were happy to share our affection for Tim Daly.  We meet a ton of people when traveling, and he is always confusing new people he meets or saying they look like some movie star.

How about Matthew McConaughey and Josh Lucas? My husband was convinced they were the SAME person. Not that they “looked alike”… It took some serious convincing to get him to believe that Josh Lucas was in Sweet Home Alabama, not Matthew McConaughey.

prosopagnosia Matthew Josh Lucas

These next two, my husband uses interchangeably. When watching an episode of Revenge, I’ll hear… “He’s Meredith Grey’s dad, right?” Or when watching Scandal, I’ll hear, “Now, that is the guy from The Nine, right?” The answer is always, “No.”

prosopagnosia Perry John

When he told me that Mark Ruffalo and the “guy from the New Girl” were practically twins, I couldn’t help but laugh. My daughters response to this one was even funnier. Her jaw dropped and she said in her best TWEEN voice while rolling her eyes, “Seriously, dad?!”
prosopagnosia Mark Ruffalo
Now… this next one, I’ll throw my hubby a bone. Even I thought that the girl in Swim Fan looked like the girl in 10 Things I Hate About You. Would I get them confused? Not really… but hey, sometimes you have to concede to something.
Does someone you know have prosopagnosia? Or maybe its just an occasional confusion? Any celebrities that you or a friend confuse?

prosopagnosia tim daly face blindness

mark buffalo face blindness

josh lucas prosopagnosia face blindness

oregon: exploring the northern coast.

oregon: exploring the northern coast.

oregon’s northern coast has it all… beaches, camping, kite surfing, wine tasting and more…

Just a couple of hours northwest of Portland, Oregon is Seaside.  Its wide open beaches, long Boardwalk and Proximity to Portland make it one of the more popular beach towns on the coast for families and kids.  We were reminded of Atlantic city and Santa Cruz as we walked along the boardwalk and Broadway street.  If you enjoy a paved morning walk/jog along the beach Boardwalk, people watching and massive public beach space, seaside is the spot for you (or if you are a teenager looking for a place to roam with your friends).


We stayed a night in Seaside but were ready to explore more so we drove south and stop for lunch. Just 30 minutes away is Cannon beach, a gorgeous beach town.  Cannon is where you will find the highest priced beach homes in Oregon. This is due to it’s natural beauty, carefully planned commercial zoning, and proximity to Portland.  The beach has an amazing view of the famous Haystack Rock, and the town has several popular and alluring outdoor eating options.


Our next stop was Manzanita beach.  It’s a very cute little beach town with huge beaches and the Nehalem Bay state park a mile away.  We decided to pitch a tent at the state park and stay a few nights to enjoy nature and relax by the campfire.  When the wind picked up in the afternoons, I dropped my husband off at the beach in Manzanita. This allowed him to kitesurf about a mile downwind back to our campgrounds.

Oregon - 6

Oregon - 8

During our stay at Manzanita, we wandered into the Nehalem Bay winery.  My husband and I were lucky enough to have Ray, the gray bearded eclectic owner (normally traveling) pour us all of his wine as he talked about his orphanage in cambodia.  We loved his wine and style so much that we ordered a case to share with our friends back home.

Oregon - 5

Our plan was for a slow trip down the coast back home, enjoying the scenery along the way. However, our neighbor let us know that our Cocoa Kitty was practically howling for us, so we changed plans.  We made it home just a few days later, stopping only to kitesurf in Lincoln city again, catch some live outdoor music in Mt. Shasta, visit my uncle in Northern California, and take more money from the casinos along the way.  Oregon was so good to us that we are already planning our return.

Oregon - 7



Oregon - 9


After spending nearly three weeks exploring Oregon, the place we are most excited to return is probably the Nehalem Bay State Park in Manzanita.  No mosquitos, lots of wind and waves, cute town, and great beaches and campgrounds. What’s your favorite place in Oregon?

***If you’d like to see PART ONE and PART TWO of our trip, be sure to click the links.***

oregon northern coast exploring

travel blog oregon coast

oregon coast travel blog essential oils

pdx and the gorge. 

pdx and the gorge. 

exploring portland and hood river.

After a week on the Oregon coast, we headed inland to Portland to visit with friends. Portland was quite different from the rest of Oregon. After wondering all week where all the people were in Oregon, we found them in Portland – all of the people. More than half of oregon’s population lives in the Portland metropolis.

It’s a very unique city, with expansive suburbs and traffic to the south and west of Portland, but an amazing River and scenic gorge and far less traffic and people extending to the northeast of portland along the Columbia river.

Oregon Gorge Big Rock - 1 Portland

The gorge at Hood River is only an hour east of Portland, and my husband ranked it at one of the most beautiful places he had ever kitesurfed, up there with fiji and Maui, and Dominican Republic. While it didn’t have any clear blue waters or fishy reefs to stare down at as he floated across the water, he found himself staring up at the rock walls of the gorge that surrounded him as he traveled upriver to explore the beauty. He was soon out of my sight from the shore, so I was able to get back to my book, “The Husband’s Secret, by Laine Moriarty. After I got halfway through the book, I had trouble putting it down. As soon as I finished it, I started in on another book by the same author called “What Alice Forgot.” Anyways, back to Portland.

Oregon Gorge - 1 Portland

Oregon - 1

In the center of the city, you’ll find a typical large city and lively downtown with a unique foodie, yuppie, millennial hippie twist (yep I just used all of the trendy stereotypes in one sentence). If you are looking for bold menus with original food, spend some time eating out in Portland. Dafna, our hostess and good friend from college days, made sure we hit the right places. However, since we don’t have the patience to wait in lines, we skipped the “Salt & Straw,” Portland’s most popular ice cream shop that serves up crazy favors like strawberry honey balsamic with black pepper.

Oregon Portland Restaurant

Oregon 4pk use - 1 Portland

We ended up exploring the restaurant and bars on Alberta street mostly due to proximity to where our friends were.  The neighborhoods we explored had lots of greenery, gardens, and nature on display in an attempt to maintain the beauty of Oregon in the crowded city. Melyssa had her heart set on dancing up a storm, but we decided to cozy up with drinks around a table in the back of a bar instead.

Oregon - 4 Portland blue eyes

While most cities seem to adopt policies to deter homeless, we noticed communities in Portland that made gestures to try to make life a little easier for their homeless. For example, some people left food and recyclables on top of public trash cans rather than inside them. This person appears to have created some sort of supply station.

OregonFREEstuff - 1

We could explore all the different neighborhoods and restaurants in Portland for years, but we were mostly there to visit friends. We thank our hosts and miss them already, but we were ready to get back to exploring oregon’s northern coast for the last week of our trip.

OregonHayStack - 1

If you missed Part ONE… you can check it out HERE.
Here is Part THREE.

hood river the gorge portland

portland oregon

oregon portland pdx

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