Two Years in Puerto Rico—A Recap

In the Summer 2014, my then Fiancé and I packed up our crap, and moved to Puerto Rico.  There were jobs to quit and cars to sell. There were piles of “Keep” and piles of “Donate.” There were yard sales and panic attacks and google searches for things like “Crime in Puerto Rico,” and “The best place to live in Puerto Rico.” There were one-way flights to book and going away happy hours. It was exciting. But it was also terrifiying.

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This was my first “PCS” move with my now husband. The first, but definitely not the last. The first weeks were spent apartment hunting and living that unemployed hotel life. The husband went straight to work. It was weird, different, but I didn’t hate it. I wasn’t sure if I liked or loved it enough, but I knew I was okay and excited.

The first few months were definitely the longest. We argued about the dumbest stuff. We got lost—a lot. I was afraid to go anywhere after our first few attempts because we always got lost. We ended up up in mountains on a one-way road once just looking for Wal-Mart. I missed being able to call an impromptu girls night when my (then) Fiance was driving me crazy, or in the wrong direction (see what I did there? tehe). I felt like a total failure because I couldn’t find a job. I came from working 60+ hour weeks, making deadlines, networking events etc, to the screaming halt of nothing. I ran the beach alone every day. Exploring our new isle on foot. I was still unsure.

But guess what? Unsure went to “I like it here” to “I don’t want to leave.” It took a while.  As things do I guess, there were things to adjust to and roads to figure out. But once we figured it out, time started moving a lot faster. There was so much to explore and the dumb arguments faded away. Every weekend was a new adventure. Although adventures in PR can be a bit risky with getting lost, getting stuck in traffic or getting stuck in a downpour, we took them. Our adventure days usually ended with an ice cold 10oz can (or cans) of Medalla, and some rice and beans, and guess what? That’s the best part. I think JP and I got to know each other better than anyone could before we got married, we had no choice. It was just the two of us. We had beach dates and dinner dates, we spent Christmases and holidays in the Caribbean sun, our butts in the sand. I sat on the beach and watched him surf, I collected sea shells and sand dollars and ate Pinchos (chicken on a stick) on the beach (nothing more authentic than that!).  We went salsa dancing, and by salsa dancing, I mean we watched. Puerto Rican’s know how to dance! Salsa is so fun to watch! I’m sure even more fun to dance, but I’m totally a chicken unless I’m a few mojitos deep. We always said we’d take salsa lessons so we’d be pros when we returned to the mainland. Dammit 2 years flies by!

 

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We made friends here. Not a lot of friends, (we sort of kept to ourselves and our own adventures here) but a few close ones I know we’ll keep in touch with forever. Real, genuine friends. We did so much in two years, and there is still stuff we didn’t get around to. Puerto Rico is surprisingly big! As as I’ve stated in previous posts, every corner of the island is different, in an awesome way. Every part of PR has something to offer. We tried our very best to take advantage of everything! We even took advantage of being smack dab in the middle of the Caribbean. We island hopped. The Virgin Islands are only a 17 minute flight from SJU, St. Kitts is 45… Flights were cheap. We took long weekends, we beach hopped. We drank rum, we took boat trips, we snorkeled, we watched sunsets and sunrises, and met friends from all over on those islands, some of those friends could possibly be monkeys from St.Kitts, but they’re still my friends, just little hairy ones. Island hopping is my favorite.

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As much as I adored the ability to easily island hop, Puerto Rico is such a special place in itself. It isn’t called “Isla del Encanto” for nothing! We haven’t left yet, in fact, we leave tomorrow, but I miss it already. As I sit here writing this, we’ve already packed up, and moved out of our beach-front  condo we called home for two years. Moving is so. Damn. Stressful. Especially when there are so many moving parts. Our stuff is on a boat somewhere heading to the mainland. And all we’ve got left is 8 suitcases, a surfboard bag and a cat crammed into a hotel in Old San Juan, that’s all? Ugh. We’ve sold our island car and we’re spending our last days totally emersed in Puerto Rican culture, right in the heart of the old city.

I’m pretty sure everyone that follows me on social media is 100% ready for me to be back stateside, and not floating in the blue Caribbean waters somewhere, that is, if anyone follows me anymore. We’re so lucky to have had this experience and it’s hard to explain all the feels you have when you realize you’ve got two years of island memories under your belt (or under your bikini) and it’s all coming to and end. And coming in HOT!

I don’t know that anyone reading this will be moving to Puerto Rico, or to the Caribbean but if you do, I hope that you take advantage of all this island has to offer. There is so much to see, do, explore, eat, drink, hike, surf, snorkel, soak in. Don’t let the Puerto Rican struggle get to you, because it WILL! I PROMISE YOU. Just sweep that crap under your plate of Mofongo, add some mayoketchup, and move on. There’s a beach chair with your name on it.

Until next time Puerto Rico.

XX-

B

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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CUBAN SANDWICH CHICKEN

Greetings Earthlings! I’m writing you from outer space, because what I’m about to talk about is OUT OF THIS WORLD.

Do you LOVE Cuban sandwiches as much as I do? I mean, who doesn’t like a melty, salty, tangy, crunchy hot sammy straight out of the panini press? Well, maybe those weird people who don’t like pickles, or mustard, or pork. (Not talking about those people who can’t eat any of the above due to food allergies or religious beliefs, people who just straight up hate on ze pork).  If you are one of the aforementioned folks, you can stop reading now, because things are about to get heated up in here.

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photo: FoodGawker.com

A few weeks ago, we had a few people over to watch the Kentucky Derby. Since most of our guests were grown men, I didn’t think cucumber tea sandwiches would do the trick for such a gathering. So, I brainstormed a crowd pleasing, filling, easy treat I could whip up if hanger were to strike. I had already decided on bourbon glazed chicken wings (it was the Derby after all) but we needed something else. Since we’re moving in about a month, I’ve also been trying to make recipes that call for minimal ingredients or ingredients we already have in the pantry, so that we’re not tossing a bunch of barely used ingredients as we pack up for the mainland.

As I browsed the overpriced aisles of our local Puerto Rican SuperMax, I saw a fresh loaf of that amazing Puerto Rican bread staring at me from it’s lonely shelf in the bakery. AH HA! Cuban sandwiches! I had pickle chips, mustard and swiss cheese at home already, all I needed was some meat and bread and I was ready to roll! Traditionally, Cuban Sandwiches call for ham AND roast pork, along with swiss, mustard and pickles. But, for time and my wallet’s sake, I skipped roasting a whole pig and just did some ham from the deli, and honestly, once assembled and smashed in the panini press, I didn’t miss it. And judging by how fast they were gone, I think it’s safe to say no one else missed the roast pork either.

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So, a few days later, we arrive at Tuesday. The most boring day of the week. Not as depressing as a Monday, doesn’t get a fancy name like Humpday or Friday Eve… It’s just; Tuesday. Weekdays are not for Cuban sandwiches, but more for baked chicken with veggies, so that we can indulge on the paninis on Saturday. (It’s about balance people!) As I stared at the boring chicken breasts thawing in the  silver glow of my stainless steel sink, I got an idea. I still have some ham and swiss left, maybe I can make Chicken Cordon Bleu? Eh, nah… WAIT. Ham and swiss, plus pickles and mustard = CUBAN SANDWICH!  What if Mr. Cordon Bleu took a detour from Switzerland and landed in Cuba and then jumped inside my boring chicken? What an adventure!

That was it, how a magical idea was born. I was going to do the impossible. I was going to turn my chicken into a Cuban sandwich, with what we will call, Cuban Sammy Stuffed Chicken. I know, brilliant. (Pats self on back).

 

 

Enough gabbing, here’s how to make it:IMG_0119 (1)

Ingredients:

  • 3 Boneless skinless chicken breasts, pounded thin
  • Dill pickle chips (and the juice!)
  • 2 Large slices of Swiss cheese (I used reduced fat)
  • Yellow mustard
  • 3 Slices of ham
  • Toothpicks/skewers soaked in water for a few minutes to avoid burning
  • Salt, pepper and a little E.V.O.O.

Directions:

  • After you’ve pounded the chicken breasts thin, marinade the breasts in pickle juice, for a minimum of one hour, the longer the better.
  • After you’ve marinated your chicken, remove from pickle juice and pat dry.
  • Preheat oven to 375′ (I always use convection setting).
  • Lay chicken flat, smear about a tablespoon of mustard on the chicken, then lay out a few pickle chips, a small piece of cheese and some ham. (Don’t over-stuff, it will just make a mess).
  • Carefully roll up the chicken, making sure all the goodies inside are neatly tucked in.
  • Secure the rollups with toothpicks. (I used Pincho/Kebab sticks that I cut in half so they weren’t so long). Salt and pepper the outsides of the rollups.
  • Coat an oven-safe skillet with olive oil and bring to medium-high heat.
  • Carefully add the rollups to the pan to sear/brown the outsides of the chicken (about 2 minutes)
  • Drizzle a little more pickle juice over the seared chicken.
  • IMG_0106Transfer the skillet from the stove to the preheated oven to finish cooking through, about 20 minutes, depending on thickness (my rollups were pretty thick).
  • Remove from oven, remove toothpicks and slice!

 

 

 

!BUEN PROVECHO!

XX- B

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Exploring La Parguera

So, I know it’s been a hot two months since I’ve posted, but if we’re being honest here (this is a safe space, right?) We’ve been busy soaking up the last of our time in Puerto Rico. But, at the same time, feel like the whole “Island Life of a Coastie Wife” thing is losing it’s charm, since we won’t be living the island life much longer. I realize legit no one feels bad for me, because let’s be honest, living here has been unreal and my prior posts prove that.

Since my last post, we’ve been crossing things off our bucket list, or “Bucket Listing” as I like to proclaim on my social media accounts. We finally visited La Parguera on the west side of the island and it was incredible. La Parguera, in the town of Lajas is best known for the little islands and cays off of La Parguera, in which you need a boat to get to. Sort of like the Florida Keys of Puerto Rico. There are tons of little skiffs for rent and it’s pretty easy  to rent one! We paid $30 an hour for a little boat for the 4 of us, however it could have definitely fit 6! Of course, we only had one day to rent a tiny boat and explore, and the forecast said 80% chance of rain. I was really discouraged as we had been planning visiting for months now, but decided to stop checking the forecast. Although it said 80% chance of rain, the forecast in PR is wrong 90% of the time. Guess what? It was a sunny and gorgeous day!

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If you ever find yourself in Puerto Rico, I highly recommend checking out the Southwestern side of the island. It’s totally different than the rest of PR. The land is more desert like than tropical, and being able to rent little skiffs and explore little islands off the coast is something you can’t really do near San Juan or surrounding areas. It’s pretty far from San Juan, about 3.5 hours, but if you’re on island for longer than a weekend, it’s totally doable! We stayed at this little hotel called La Parguera Plaza Hotel. Although it was nothing fancy, it was PERFECT for an overnight and right in the heart of town. Walking distance to the boat docks, restaurants and nightlife. Also, the town itself was charming and filled with adorable little bars and restaurants.

Here’s a video of our day in Parguera! I think it sums up our day pretty well!

 

I hope this post encourages people to get out of San Juan and explore Puerto Rico!

Until next time!

XX

B

 

 

 

 

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Weekend Warriors and Thai Curry Soup For The Soul

I think the best part of living in a vacation destination is the fact that friends actually want to come visit you. Not just because they love you, but because they actually want to vacation in your new hometown. Although, my friends are pretty epic so even if I lived in the Arctic Tundra, they’d still load up on puffer jackets and join me for a hot toddy in my igloo. Luckily, I don’t live in an Arctic Tundra, so when friends come to visit, it’s like Spring Break no matter what time of year.

In the past 30 days, the hubs and I have had 2 rounds of visitors from Florida. I LOVE spending time with my friends but I also love the excuse of showing our guests our island home and living it up it like we’re on vacation too. Yolo! We explore, eat, drink and be oh so merry while clinking coconuts and liberally applying SPF. Late nights and hangovers are cured by a dip in the ocean and an order coco frios (cold coconut water sipped straight from the coconut) and tostones.

As much as I adore having visitors or going on vacation for that matter, chances are by the time it’s over, you feel pretty run down. Tired, dehydrated and maybe even sick. Although totally worth it and I’d do it all over again, this last round left me sick in bed. Sore throat, sniffles, pure exhaustion—all those goodies. When I lived in Florida, sickness = a run to Whole Foods to pick up some vitamin packed organic goodness and some soup from the hot bar. Since we don’t have Whole Foods here (wahhh) your best bet is making it yourself or cracking open a can of Campbell’s. Unless you’re up for some Puerto Rican mondongo soup, but sorry, the idea of that creeps me out. Not a big fan of cow stomach.

As much as I’d love someone to be here cooking me homemade chicken soup, I didn’t have that option, and sodium packed canned soup sounded unappetizing. So, I was going to make myself some soup, dammit. But, there’s a kicker. My husband is really not a fan of soup. So making a huge pot of chicken soup for one is just overkill and wasteful. Yeah, I know you can freeze your leftovers and save them for a rainy day, but I always forget about it in the back of the freezer and eventually end up tossing it, which hurts my soul. And chicken soup is supposed to be good for the soul!

So, I decided I was still going to muscle up the energy to make some damn soup, but I needed to get creative. My husband may not be a fan of  your traditional chicken soup, but you know what he is a fan of? Thai food. He LOVES Thai food and so do I. Hmm, bingo! I’ve got it. Thai soup! Some Thai spice could probably help sweat the gunk out of my system anyway.

I scoured the internet and found tons of different Thai soup recipes and ingredients. I mixed and matched with ingredients I already had or ingredients I prefer  (PS-If you’ve made one Thai recipe recently, chances are you’ll be able to make a lot more Thai recipes with the ingredients you’ve purchased). I braved the outdoors—it was awful out there, 80 degrees and not a cloud in the sky— to hit the store for a few cans of light coconut milk and some fresh veggies and I was on my way. Let me tell you what, this is really easy and SO GOOD. And something big happened; my husband ate soup for dinner and loved it. Well, it’s more like a copycat to the Thai Red Curry I get at our favorite spot in Aguadilla, PR—Shout Out to One Ten Thai! But it’s liquidy enough to be considered soup, so I consider that a win.

Here’s What You’ll Need:

  • 45 minutes
  • 2 cans of light coconut milk
  • 2.5 cups of chicken broth
  • 2 (heaping) tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 tbsp yellow curry paste
  • 3 tbsp natural peanut butter (or PB2 for lighter calories)
  • 1 tbsp fish oil
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • one red bell pepper, sliced into thin strips
  • 1/2 large white onion, sliced and halved
  • 1 small carrot, chopped
  • 2 small or 1 large zucchini, cut into half circles
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 rotisseri chicken, skin removed, shredded (skip for vegetarian and add more veggies)
  • ginger root, one nob, peeled and grated (save some to add to your water if your sick)
  • cilantro and lime for garnish
  • Jasmine rice for serving, optional

Here’s how you do it:

(Serves 4-6)

In a large pot, stir in coconut milk, broth, curry pastes, peanut butter (if using PB2, mix before for accurate measurement) fish oil, honey, and ginger until incorporated and let come to a simmer. Should be a lovely pink/orangish color. Add carrot, pepper and onions and let cook about 10 minutes at a simmer or just below a simmer, not boiling. Add zucchini and begin shredding the rotisserie chicken, discarding the skin and adding the meat to the pot (Note: I used all the meat but one leg/thigh and wing) Let cook another 15 minutes or so. Towards the end of your cooking process, add the peas and cook rice separately if you plan on serving it with rice.

You can leave the soup on low in the stove until you’re ready to serve. It will be ready in about 45 minutes, but I served mine a few hours later and it was delicious! If it’s too thick for your liking, add a little more broth or some water to thin it out a little.

Serve over rice with cilantro leaves and a lime wedge. If you want to get really wild, chop some peanuts and sprinkle those on top too! I would have done that if I had peanuts on hand.

Enjoy making your soul happy:)

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Buen Provecho!

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Herby Chicken and Rice

  As you might have gathered on your own, we eat a lot of chicken in this house. It’s easy, cheap, friendly on the waistline and makes for good leftovers. 9 times out of 10, I toss some chicken breasts on a foil-lined baking sheet, throw some seasoning on them and pop them in the oven. […]

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Overnight Oats – The Morning Game Changer

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Does anyone else consider sleeping a time machine to breakfast? I know I do. I love breakfast. Growing up I always hated it. I hated cereal, eggs, pancakes, all of it. Every once in a while I’d devour an everything bagel with veggie cream cheese, but that was about the extent of my breakfast adventures. Something changed over the years and now I love breakfast! I think it’s safe to say late night eats at diners in college followed by Sunday Brunch have changed the way I look at the most important meal of the day.

As much as I love breakfast now—I can even say it in Spanish, desayuno!—I am still not a morning person. Ask my husband or any of my past roommates. I don’t speak the English language until my second cup of coffee.  My morning language is filled with mumbled grunts and moans, followed by the shuffled pitter-patter of footsteps finding their way to the coffee pot with vision out of one squinted eye. Pour, stir, sip; ahhh. Hello world.

Is there any possible way a delicious homemade breakfast can find it’s way to someone who isn’t an early bird? I’ll tell you how the non-early bird gets the breakfast worm—overnight oats. I can’t take credit for the invention of these, they’re all over the internet. But, I wanted to try something different and surprise the husband with a breakfast other than his go-to banana and almond butter, since he’s up at 5am every morning and he deserves a hearty breakfast darn-it! Oh yeah, and almond butter is $20 a jar here. These are easy, inexpensive, made at night and perfect by morning. Also, they’re really not messy to prepare and I tend make a mess in the kitchen.

Seriously, I don’t know what took me so long to try these? I guess oatmeal has always just been a rather “blah” meal for me. A bowl of warm goop only made palatable with the addition of some honey, banana or crunchy sweet toppings. Strangely, oatmeal’s overnight cousin is sweet and sexy and so friggin’ good. Also, so versatile! I’ve been sticking with this same recipe and we’ve had it several times a week for the past few weeks. I can’t say for sure, but I think I like it more every day! The hubs does too! You know he likes something when you get a text at 7am—2 hours after the oats have been consumed—saying how good his oats were!

Here is the recipe I’ve been sticking with. Feel free to add any toppings you want. Like walnuts, banana, berries and/or honey. But, this one is tried and true and a morning home-run in our Puerto Rican household!

Vanilla, Coconut and Chia Overnight Oats:

1/2 Cup – Old Fashioned Quick Cooking Oats.

1/2 Cup – Vanilla Almond Milk (I use sweetened, but you can swap for unsweet)

1 Heaping Spoonful – Nonfat Vanilla Greek Yogurt

1 Tsp  – Chia Seeds (a little goes a long way)

1 Tbsp – Unsweetened Coconut Flakes

Makes one serving.

 

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This is two servings. Just do the same in each container.

Directions:

Take all of the above, mix well, cover and pop it in the fridge and enjoy in the morning. Seriously. No cooking required. No mess, no fuss and you’ve got a hearty protein and fiber packed breakfast that will keep you full well until lunch!

Any toppings you may want to add, like nuts or fresh fruits, are so yum with this too! I love it with walnuts and a some more coconut shreds on top!

Another strange thing I’ve noticed about this, is I like it cold! It’s good warm too, but it’s consistently 80 degrees here and sometimes you just don’t want to start your day with a steaming hot bowl of oats.

Give it a try and let me know if you’re as hooked as we are!

Buen Provecho!

xx-B

 

Nutrition Facts
Servings 1.0
Amount Per Serving
calories 309 
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 10 g 15 %
Saturated Fat 2 g 10 %
Monounsaturated Fat 1 g
Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g
Trans Fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0 %
Sodium 100 mg 4 %
Potassium 307 mg 9 %
Total Carbohydrate 41 g 14 %
Dietary Fiber 8 g 31 %
Sugars 12 g
Protein 13 g 26 %
Vitamin A  5 %
Vitamin C  0 %
Calcium  31 %
Iron  13 %

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Island Life, Military Orders and the Island Bucket List

“Hey, did you get orders?”

“No, did you?”

“No, but I know a few people who have.”

Come on Mr. Detailer, tell us what our future holds.

These are some of the thoughts any military man, woman or spouse has racing through their heads after their picks have been submitted. As you approach the end of your tour in a  specific location (for us, San Juan), there comes a time where you must take a look at the possible locations of your next tour. Where will you and your family be stationed next? You get “The List,” the “Dream Sheet,” the “Shit List”… Luckily, chances are pretty good that you’ll land by the beach with the Coast Guard, I mean, they guard the darn coast! But there are tons of stations that people don’t automatically think of when they think Coast Guard. Like The Great Lakes or The Mississippi River for example. Whatever your list may have on it, you begin your research. What jobs does each station hold? Is that something you want to do for the next 2-5 years? How far is it from home? Does it snow there? Do you know anyone there? Will your spouse be able to find work there? And from there, you rank ’em. #1, #2, #3 , #4  and so on … In order of where you’d like to be stationed most. You submit it, and then, you wait and hope for the best.

Then, after months of talking about it and researching each possible location, you get the news. This time around, we didn’t get our #1 pick of Honolulu, Hawaii. I was really hoping to never let go of island life, hey—I just started getting the hang of it! We did however, get our #2 pick of Jacksonville Beach, Fla!

As sad as I was about knowing island life will be coming to an end this summer, I’m very grateful that we got our #2 pick, because that’s not always the case. We’ll be moving only a 4.5 hour drive from our home town and it will be a much easier move for our 8-year-old gato (that’s cat in Spanish); The Loon. *Fun fact* Hawaii is rabies free! Cool right? Yeah, well, only if you’re moving there without a pet. If you bring a pet to Hawaii there are tons of hoops to jump through, including a 3-month quarantine period—yikes. This is how I convince myself we’re better off not getting Honolulu … Better for The Loon!

But, We have friends in Jax Beach, it’s an awesome beach town, my husband has lived there before, we know our way around and guess what? They have PUBLIX and TARGET! Is it bad that I am most excited about grocery shopping back on the mainland? Unless you’ve lived on an island, you seriously won’t understand.

That being said, we’ve got about 6 months left until we’re shipping back to the U.S. of A. and I’m starting to realize there is so much we haven’t done in PR yet! We have a Puerto Rico Bucket List on the fridge and it seems like it’s just getting longer and we’re not crossing things off! For being an island, there is so much to do in Puerto Rico and a lot of it is quite far from San Juan.

Here is a snippet of what we still want to do and see here before our departure, if I post it on my blog, now we absolutely need to visit these spots before we ship out, right?

  • Isla Caja de Muerto off of Ponce’s coast. A pristine island with crystal blue waters.
  • La Parguera in Lajas. An old fishing village known for boating to other little island keys, diving and even floating homes!
  • Cabo Rojo. I’ve been told they have some of the most beautiful beaches in Puerto Rico and even salt flats? Who knew?
  • Vieques Island. Located off of Puerto Rico’s east coast, this island also boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in the Caribbean—we gotta check it out.

There are a few more, but these are on the top of the list! When we’re not in the mood to drive to the other side of the pothole ridden island, we’re taking more and more advantage of things closer to home. We’ve been snorkeling every weekend, still trying out new restaurants and just trying our very best to soak up every moment of our island life.

There is no better life than island life, but life by the beach will be pretty awesome too!

PS- Now taking suggestions for a new blog name. The Coastal Life of a Coastie Wife? Food for thought.

XX-

B

Feature Photo USCG Sector San Juan, via panoramio.com