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¡Hola de Michelle, Miguel y Zack!

Hola! Here you can track all our progress since we first arrived in Santa Catalina, Panama, Central America in Febuary of 2005. We have built our business from the ground on up and keep a semi regular journal, sharing our live's with friends and family or anyone who is interested! Enjoy! -MMZ

Diary Entries

Tuesday, 05 February 2013

Location: Santa Catalina, Panama

February of 2013!
It’s been a long while!!!! AND, I apologize, I’ve been so busy, I still haven’t found time to create a Christmas or New Years card. At his rate, I should just try for a “Spring Greeting” card . Last I wrote I spoke of lots of future plans and visits which have since all flourished into reality. Mike and I had a great three weeks in Colombia together in October. Our first “real” vacation in years. Even though it was very relaxing, we did travel and see more of the country than we expected to. We started on the Caribbean Coast and flew around a bit, landing in Medellin (5,000 feet above sea level), a bit cooler than what we are used to, but very metropolitan, and actually our favorite area. We made our way towards Bogota, spelunking in caves, and staying along Claro River. The capital which is at 10,000 feet above sea level was too cold for me. I packed for a tropical vacation. We stayed just a weekend, and headed back to the coast for a little more beach time before we headed home, reenergized, and feeling good to get home, realizing the gem of the place Santa Catalina truly is.
Bobby and Katrina held down the fort for us here while we were gone, and continued on with us in the restaurant when we returned. Thank you so much for your help you two!!! Good friends Jay Klingonsmith, his wife April and their little girl Amber Lynn (steal my heart!) came for a week at Thanksgiving time. We had such a great visit with them. They made me nostalgic for California friends, and Mike and I are set on going back for my high school reunion (won’t say which one ) in 2014.
We had a great Christmas with Zack, my parents, sister and her boyfriend Charlie. It was fun to share our traditions with them. We decorated the Christmas tree with the local neighborhood children. It was actually a plantain tree, and as always the ornament placement was quite hap hazard which is all part of the fun. We had a big Christmas Eve dinner, and a fun morning of gifts, first with just the family then we practiced the spirit of giving with all the employees and their families. Once all the Christmas excitement began to fade, we spent Amy and Charlie’s last day together on Bruce and Patti’s catamaran. The guys brought the spear fishing gear, but the visibility was low. We snorkeled and had fun. Zack got to help steer the boat, drop and pull the anchor. We then started building momentum for New Years. Zack, my mom and I were stuffing life size dolls with dried leaves and fire crackers to light on fire at midnight. Zack and my dad kept busy inflating tire tubes and air mattresses for our New Year’s Eve float down the Kate River. This was an epic five hour float, ending with everyone in the beginning stages of hypothermia, a hot dog and marshmallow roast. There was lots of surfing and some basketball played in hot hot weather. It was a great, fun-filled time together.
The hotel and the restaurant are just now starting to slow down from the holidays. We have two new sidekicks in the restaurant, Daisy West (Kodiak) and Zana Hembree (Nashville) who are here to help us out for at least the next six months (hooray!). They’ve been learning the ropes and we are getting reacquainted with Daisy and getting to know Zana. Love them both already. Other than that, we are hunkering down for “Carnival” or Mardi Gras celebrations here. It’s not too crazy, but the hotel will be full, and there will be A LOT of people in town for this long long weekend. After that, another visit from Zack is right around the corner. He will be here for spring break as well in early March, along with Tonya and George Lee from Kodiak and their two kids, Nevin (Zack’s age) and Carlie.
That’s all on the up side. On the down, our poor little Busito van has obviously been moving into the later stages of its life. It is becoming too ill to drive long distances. When it comes out of the shop this time, we plan to move it into a beach retirement program and have it be our local vehicle. That also means purchasing another car and another expense, but hey that’s life. You all can bomb around in the busito when you come down! OK, check out my new photo albums here :). I’m still working on Christmas with our slow slow Internet. Take Care and stay warm! We love you!!!

Thursday, 06 September 2012

Location: Santa Catalina, Panama

Hello Up There!
Hi everyone! We hope you are still enjoying a beautiful summer with lots of time outdoors, gardening, family and friends! There is a lot here, so if you are not feeling that ambitious, feel free to check out the pictures, they are worth a thousand words, which is about what I have written here!
The rain is really starting to set in now, but we’ve had a fairly sunny wet season so far. Mike’s parents experienced mixed weather during their visit with us in early June. They had a great time with Zack first in St. Charles, then Florida and finally the Gamboa Rainforest Resort in Panama. Zack is big as we expected! His feet have exceeded mine, and he can wear Men’s swim suit sizes! Immediately after Denny and Mary Lou’s GREAT visit we had good friends Laura and Erik Hanson here with their two younger boys, River and Finnbarr. These guys came fully equipped with skate boards and scooters, ready to tear up the new road! They also brought their spear fishing guns and we all got to try free diving this summer! This quickly became Zack’s new passion. Dad bought him a nice gun of his own, but he also made a Hawaiian sling from an old fishing pole, bike spokes (which are sharp) and surgical tubing! What fun, even on land! He was wandering all around the restaurant and yard with that thing. After a lecture or two of the dangers of his new prized procession, he used packing tape on the prongs, so he could continue to bring his sling everywhere he went hazard free.
Thanks to Doug and Heidi, the super helpful, generous Canadian couple who have been running the restaurant for us (and more), we were able to have our days free to spend more time with Zack and friends. We got lots of beach time in, the boys played quite a bit of football and they surfed together more than ever before. Zack went to surf the point over half a dozen times with his dad.
The Hanson’s tuckered us all out with their enthusiasm for the hot weather, swimming, and projects in their yard at “Casa Finnbarr”. They were even starting to feel it themselves after two weeks of maximum play time in the hot sun. We cooked great meals all together every night and with Kodiak friend John Sullivan, plus an occasional other friend or two, so always a big group at La Buena Vida dinner table. John’s been coming for years, and loves it here. He partnered with Laura and Erik on their house, The Boarder’s Haven, and they have all agreed on some exciting changes next door. As I write, the wood workers are installing new doors and windows to their now air conditioned rooms. Yep, moving on up.
During the midst of all this, Mike was finishing building the house next door for Darren (who also came in for a visit). Zack refers to it as a “dream house” so I’ve included a photo here. You can see the fruits all of Mike’s labor! As Darren was going out, Danny Rosen was coming in. Danny was a guest who was here over Christmas with his parents, who we loved. He is 12 and reminded us so much of Zack, that we invited him to come back on his own during the summer, and he did! His parents are great, and we thoroughly enjoyed his comical company! He and Zack were buds from the start, and they are hoping to make it an annual thing. Plus, Zack has an invite to come to their house in Colorado to ski sometime, which we think to make happen for them (Zack and Danny) at some point. After Danny left, things got quiet around La Buena Vida, and we had just two weeks of Zack time remaining. During his last few days, Zack got to meet Seamus the 10 year old scuba boy who stayed nearly a month with us. His mom Danielle came to teach a yoga workshop, play and relax. Then we were off to Panama City together, again, for the fourth time over summer! Zack stayed one night with my parents in Miami where he got a little more pool time and saw my sister. Then he was back with his Mom and little brother Luther for a few days in Wasilla before he headed to Kodiak Island to see his Grandma and Grandpa Kozak and his Auntie Mikie. Where a whole nother’ adventure of camping, fishing and hunting awaited him.
Meanwhile, we were hosting the Yoga Mini Intensive and Darren’s first visit in his finished house with his wife and family. Danielle shared lots of yoga knowledge with me while she was here, pushing, pulling and stretching me into postures I never thought possible. She left me with lots to strive for (or be depressed about not being able to do :), but I will definitely need a “major assist” to grab my foot like that again. Our friend Anna, who rode her YES bicycle here from Alaska, is (actually was) quite an acrobat so she and I have been pulling and pushing on each other a bit, trying to keep up our practice. You are probably curious about a woman who rode her bicycle from Alaska to Panama and as she has been here nearly a year now and become a good friend, I feel moved to include more here. Australian born, having lived in England and the Czech Republic, she set off from Alaska in the Summer of 2009. It took her two years to finally arrive in Santa Catalina, which I believe was calling to her for the diving originally. She has been slowly achieving her “Dive Master” certification here, and had a few jobs hostel and house sitting. With a year long break, I don’t know how long it will take her to bicycle around the world, but you can read more about her and her adventure at AND hear her take on and see her professional photos of Santa Catalina. Plus I’ve included a photo of Anna here as well.
With Zack settling into the seventh grade, and the rain setting in, we are preparing to do a bit of exploring ourselves in the Colonial City of Cartagena, Colombia. It’s official, we will be Flying, not biking, spending three weeks exploring the North Atlantic Coast, the first Spanish Colonial City in The Americas in Santa Marta, and Tayrona National Park. It’s our first real vacation together in years, so we are really looking forward to it. We have an American couple coming to Hotel sit and take on the restaurant for the next busy season (Brett and Jordan). They will be here in a few weeks and we are looking forward to meeting them.
Other bright news on the horizon is that my long time friend, Jay “Klinger”, his wife April and their little girl Amber will be here during the Thanksgiving holiday. And Zack will be coming for Christmas this year along with my parents, sister and her boyfriend (a holiday first for my family). So far the hotel looks like it is also filling up with friends then too including the Treat family, John Sullivan and John John (next door), plus Darren and his family at his house. It’s looking like a big crew. Should be fun, big dinners, and our New Years Eve River float is going to be a go! Having Zack here during Christmas will really break up the long school year apart for him and his dad (and me too). HOORAY! Lots to look forward to and prepare for, plus lots of other projects in the works! I’ll save you from all those details though. Thanks for checking in on his here! Have a look at our new pics, and stay tuned for a vacation update and project report! We love and miss you all….

Saturday, 02 June 2012

Location: Santa Catalina, Panama

OMG! I guess that was the quiet before the storm in November. I had no idea it had been so long since I last posted! We had a great Thanksgiving dinner here. Mike’s college friend Neils was here as well as DJ, Don Johnson, a surf buddy from Kodiak. All the usual suspects turned up as well. Jordan and Lindsay helped a bunch. Jared, Diane and their kids. Christmas dinner got a little more risqué with Mike’s special “adult” tire wear. We’ve been making really cool recycled tire tube purses and wallets (shown here), but Mike took it to the next level (not shown here). We had lots of laughs.

I’ve been very dedicated to my four times weekly yoga schedule, which gives me little free time. That leaves me three afternoons a week which can easily get filled with massage appointments or not getting out much. I’ve been making a point to get at least one girls beach day in a week, sometimes two. I can’t allow myself to be too pale living down here, and its great therapy, swimming and laughing with friends. Whom I am very grateful to have.

We plugged along through January and February working really hard. I took a much needed break the first week in March and went to see my family, mom, dad and sister south of Miami. I’ve seen my parents more often, so it seems impossible that I hadn’t been there in two and a half years, but I hadn’t seen my sister in that long. We had a good visit, mostly shopping (hey, I’m so deprived here). I’ve posted some pictures from that trip.

Mike continues to manage the construction of a house next door. For another American, Darren, from Illinois. He’s been surfing some pretty big waves, and broke his two favorite boards in the same week. He was having another board made to spec, but when it arrived it wasn’t exactly what he wanted. So now he’s on one of Zack’s LITTLE boards, trying to do more tricks. Zack says, “If you break it, you buy it”.

I taught my first solo yoga workshop last weekend which kept me very busy planning and promoting. Now I’m making changes to the new website, which friend Sammii created for us and I can manage for the most part. Check it out: We will have the .biz site rerouted to the new one, but it could be a few day process, so we will do it in our slow slow slower time as to not be without our main website right now. Another yoga instructor from Yoga BodywoRx in Canada will be teaching a mini intensive in August, so now I’m beginning the media and marketing for that. I enjoy it, its fun and challenging.

Zack just finished his first middle school year. He did really well in school with mostly A’s and won first place in his Valley Youth Basketball Tournament this year. He is in Chicago with Mike’s family now, and will be here in less than a week! We all rendezvous in Panama City where we spend four nights at the Gamboa Rainforest Resort together! Woo hoo! We’re looking forward to that. Friends Laura and Erik Hanson are coming again with their two boys around the same time. Another 12 year old boy we met as a guest last year and loved is coming back down on his own to spend two weeks with us and Zack in July. With so much planned time is going to fly this summer… so I guess this in another entry right before the next super busy period in our lives.

We hope you all have a great summer! Take time to stop and smell the roses! XXOO MMZ

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Recent Messages

From wanda
hey girl, i was thinking about you this a.m. and thinking that we needed to THANK you sooner than now...for the fantastic dinners, zacks company and even more your warm friendship! it was wonderful to meet your mom and dad. i'll write more later, i know you are BUSY now with the championships. love to you all, wanda and rich
Response: :))) Good to hear from you guys. We survived the Surf Competition! It was a great experience! I will be working on posting more photos in the next few days.
Love to you both!
From Peggy Wills
Hello Michelle & Mike, Gosh, it was so good to see you at the 50th Anniversary Celebration. You are so busy I do't know how you find the time to run a Condo. Many blessings to you both. Love Aunt Peggy-Greensbury, IN
Response: So glad to see you too Peggy!!! Posting some photos now of our visit. Will try to use flickr as well soon.
From Leslie, Matt & Owen
Hola amigos! Sounds like things are coming along...we are so excited for you and can't wait to come down, visit, and give a hand. How about mid-summer? Keep up the good work! love & light :)
Response: YES! YES! Zack will be here and we can't wait to meet Owen! I will email you with more details of our summer plans! :)
From Sara Taddo
I'll be there...ready to serve up the coffee...
Response: Up and ready at 6 A.M.???
Love you and hope we see you guys soon!!!!!
From Jeff Squires
How are you Michelle, looks like you are having the time of your life? I am so happy for you both. I am also very impressed with all that mosaic work of yours, not to mention all the pre mosanary work there. I am living with my daughter Ashley(9) in Austin Texas but we are headed for Atlanta to live closer with Lee and my girlfriend . I may have to plan a trip to Panama soon. Your place looks and sounds like paradise. Amanda turned 18 and is busy planning a marriage...Here come the gray hairs I recon, take care Michelle have a great day.
Response: We are good, I am usualy a little tired, doing the early morning restaurant thing. Are you still tiling? You guys are welcome to come down anytime! I can't believe Amanda is 18!!! Hopefully hear from you again soon.
From Aunt Sheri
Wow, I'm impressed on how well you have done pulling the restaurant together. Everyone will love it. Looks like you are having as much fun pulling everything together as you will once it is opened. Best of luck. I'm really proud of you.
Response: Thank you!!! It has ben going pretty well, we just have to hang in there!
From Solina
Hi guys
You seem to have created a wonder full life in Panama. I used to own the Foot Fetish in Kodiak (Ive lived in Kodiak for 20 years) and I bought a place on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala and so many people here have told me about your life there. Your website is fantastic!!remember you both.People have told me ...oh good Ill come visit on the way to Panama. I have had an Australian couple take care of my home in Guatemala for the past 4 months while I sold my house in KodiaK and they are on their way to Panama...and they are well seasoned travelers and sweet. Was wondering if they can come visit. It seems like a great place. On your site I didnt see anything that showed if visitors were welcome. They have been a godsend to me...should I send them your way?? They CARE. Let me know....Peggy (solina)
From Nate Montgomery
Looking forward to visiting you all sometime in the near future... so glad to hear from you again and that your all doing well. I'm a bit envious kids, but happy for you both. Congratulations on the wedding... I'll let you know when I'll be in the neighborhood. Hello's from INDIANA all!
Nate Montgomery
Response: I thought you were going to be here a week or two ago. What happened to you???
From Aunt Peggy, Greensbu
Hello Married People, Shirley Ann and Al stopped by and showed me their pictures of the hotel and all the gorgeous flowers you have their. Wishing you all much happiness and success in all you do. You make a great family. Love Aunt Peggy
Response: Thank you Aunt Peggy!
From Wendy & Erich
We can't wait to visit.
What incredible work you two have done.
We are enchanted!
Response: We want to come to Cashew Hill and see your progress soon! :)
From rach
guys, I miss you so much. It is great to see the roof of the restaurant on and I am looking forward to skyping you. Would love a yoga/therapy session with you, MiCHel...
muchos besosxxx
Response: We miss you too! You won't believe how much more we have gotten done lately. Mike hasn't been to the beach in over a month! I am remembering to breathe! Have been doing yoga/therapy early mornings at Estero Beach with Hedi and Steffi. :)
Love You! Michelle y Miguel
Hi Mike and Michelle

Kent and I will Be at your wedding. We will be arriving on the same flight as Denny and M.L. Haven't made reservations at the resort yet but will do so soon.

Your favorite
Aunt Carole
Response: Yeah! We are so glad you can come! See you soon! -MMZ
From Aunt Peggy
Thank you for the invitation to your wedding. You will be in my heart on YOUR SPECIAL DAY. You are truly a very special couple . Wishing you both all the happiness and good luck with your business. Love Aunt Peggy
Response: Hope to see you there
From Jen Loiko (Fuchs)
Ms.Miller!! Wow, what an amazing life you're living! I would expect nothing less from you. Amy Bystedt hooked me with your site. I would really like to hear from you.
Love Jen
From Ron Gibbs
Hola Michelle,
I've been going to Island Cove twice a month, finally! They are wonderful there, and they talk about you fondly. Gave your web address to Marita so she could update everyone. Sun finally came out here after 3 weeks of rain and fog. I love reading about your adventures and progress.
Response: Hola Ron! Yeah! I am glad to hear those guys are still getting massages. Came across their address the other day so I will have to send a postcard their way. You are the first one to mention the rain and fog. I guess no one wants to hear about the "winter" we are having right now. :) Take Care! -Michelle
From Uncle Al & Aunt Shir
Hola from Decatur, IL. Just got a look at you website--great photos! Are you open for business? If not, is there a timetable, or does that word translate into Spanish? Can't wait to hear!
Response: Hola Al!!! Shirley Ann has probably filled you in on our e-mails. We are up and running. Meeting lots of wonderful people from all over the world! Hope you two can make it this way to see us someday. We are hoping this next year, but if not we understand :). -MMZ
From La familia DeVries
Que pasa, amigos? Queremos a visitar La Buena Vida y pasan un buen tiempo con ustedes. Nos gustan mucho los fotos de Zack el "surfer!" y los "tiles." Que bueno, Michelle. Con amor para todos...Drew, Cat y Taj.
Response: ¡WOW! Mira, yo pensé que estuviste una panamaña escribiendo nos. ¡Que bueno tu español! Espero que si vienen pronto a practicar mas con nosotros y nuestros amigos aqui personalmente. Estamos pensando mas de una fetcha de nuestra boda como ya tenimos años juntos como comprometidos y estamos mas viejos cada dia. Gracias para revisando nuesto progresso siempre. ¡Le Amamos!
-Michelle, Miguel y Zack
From Mary Carol Chenet
I met your Mom in Miami at my brother's house, John Chenet. They just adopted a new baby. I had just been talking to my brother about buying property in Central America and your mom happen to pop in and gave me your web page. Since then, we've met a customer at our shop who also lives there. We own a surf shop in New Orleans and will visit Santa Catalina soon. I love your writings and pictures and definitely envy your life. Maybe we can meet up or if you have any info on where to stay, etc. that would be awesome.
Mary Carol Chenet
Response: Hola! How great! Your friends live in Santa Catalina or in Central America? When are you coming? You can stay with us in Catalina and we would be happy to recommend other places to stay and of interest in Panama City and throughout the country. Panama really is the most modern country in Central America. I will write you at your e-mail address Mary and we can then zap back and forth more regularly :) -Michelle
From Wendy
Just sent a box down to you guys a week ago under Michael Miller for you, Miquel and will probably get it in a month or so..if it makes it..Things are crazy here. My mom is not doing so well but will write more on that privately. Drop me an email..want to catch up.
Much love and good energy,
From Wendy
Michael was gone when we left so we gave it to Terra and Patrick to give to him. I also left a few more books or him with Terra and Patrick.
Please let me know if he got it.
Response: Thanks he got his tent and the books
From Wendy
back to a cold reality in New York..thank you for making my last few months in Panama full of laughter, great conversation and friendship. I look forward to seeing you guys expecting a little gift box in Sona addressed to either Michael Miller or Michelle - treats for all.
miss you!
Response: Thanks Wendy, Michael is looking for his tent
From jim and joanie blees
Hi, folks,
Rachel told us you folks are from Kodiak. We live in Anch. and will be diving with Rachel the end of this month, Mar. We'd like to talk to you if possible. Sounds like you've been busy the last few months. Take care. We'll prabably see you soon.

Jim and Joanie
Response: Alright, how cool! Come on by and see us, we live directly in front of the school and look forward to talking to you too.
From Betty and Jerry Bong
Look at you guys. Leon and Judy Franciso were over for dinner last nite and talking fishing of course, Do We Know anyone in Panama?????

No great to see the progress on the hard work and still
time for adventures. We'll keep checking in and good luck.
From sean and Laura
I can't believe I have to surf in a wetsuit again! I miss my 80 cent Atlas beers, speaking Spanish and the wonderful company we had at Buena Vida. We had such a great time and based on the hospitality and food we sampled, the restaurant will be a big hit! For all those wondering about taking a trip down to see Michelle and Mike, do it. The area is fantastic and their accomodations are 1st class-you guys have done an amazing job. And as you might expect from these two engaging and outgoing people, they are well entrenched in Santa Catalina and have many local amigos. Just go easy on Mike, he is probably still not over getting spanked in Quidler by a couple of newbies! Tell all our new friends we say hello and miss them. Until next time, buenas!
From John Anthony
Jaywah here....want to know about your life in Panama.
Happy New Year.
Response: Jaywah wow good to hear from you. Everything is going great. I will email you.