February 1, 2012

In and Out of the Quad Cities – What We Learned

Contributed by Gail McPike and Toni Hall

What We Learned

Learning is a critical component of life. Lifestyle gurus tell us; folks with a plan for continuous intellectual growth occupy the ranks of the happiest and healthiest folks on the planet. Furthermore, those who share this psychological growth with close friends and family score at the very top of the “happy-o-meter.” This is a mighty important theory and certainly one that deserves a Gail and Toni corollary. So, look out Dr. Freud, here goes our first endeavor into the scientific world of psycho-happy science.

G&T Corollary of Happiness

If learning leads to happiness – learning on vacation leads to bliss. To us, vacation is really living. We don’t believe vacation equates to expensive. Some of our best vacations are those short getaways to places like Adair, Iowa for the Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival, or Sabula, Iowa for some “island time.” But early each January, we stretch our journey to include the warm sands and tropical breezes of Mexico. We always find these little excursions to be “learning experiences.” So sit back, prop your feet up and enjoy this 50+ Lifestyles Exclusive Report: What we learned in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.


Iguanas are lizards – distant cousins to the crocodile, alligator and the garden lizard of our native Oklahoma. They range in size from cute little three inch guys running around the rocks to giant four footers peering at you with a hungry look in their eye. As you might imagine, our first order of business is to assess just how many tourists are eaten each year by rogue Iguanas on the prowl.

So listen up – here’s the good news. According to the internet, Iguanas are herbivores – they prefer vegetarian pizza to quivering human flesh. Just how reliable is this internet report on their proclivity for plant mater over flesh? We had cause for concern. Each morning as we enjoyed breakfast on the balcony of our condo, we counted the Iguanas sunning themselves on the branches of nearby trees. Most mornings, we could see six, eight and sometimes 10 of these guys perched on the highest limbs. They ranged in color from deep green to bright orange with splashes of red and green. They’re pretty well camouflaged, but once you adjust your eyes, you realize the place is overflowing with two or three foot lizards. Our research continued.

One day on the beach, we met a young girl, who shared our skepticism for the whole lizard diet thing. She told us of her own scientific theory – if the Iguanas will eat a ham sandwich, the human race might soon follow. To test her theory, she gingerly approached a respectable-sized Iguana with ham sandwich in hand. She quickly offered the sandwich to the lizard and bolted back to a safe distance to observe. To her dismay, as soon as the sandwich hit the ground – dozens of hidden lizards appeared out of nowhere and fought for the morsel. Apparently, she didn’t stick around to see if they gobbled the pickle, but not the pork. So, the mystery remains.

Chihuahua dogs – Stereotype or reality?

Popular culture would have you believe the Mexican people are wild and crazy about a microscopic breed of dog – the Chihuahua. Taco Bell did their part to reinforce the popular notion with their billion dollar ad campaign featuring “Gidget,” the talking Chihuahua.

Not to change the subject or anything – but Gidget passed away in July 2009 at her home in Beverly Hills. She was 15 years old at the time, which translates into 105 in people years. But, we all know the California lifestyles of the rich and famous lead to long healthy lives. Look at Current Trophy Husband, Frank’s hero – George Burns – who worked well into his 90s. But, we’re not talking about long life; we’re talking learning, happiness and Chihuahua dogs.

Each morning, we took a leisurely stroll down Puerto Vallarta’s boardwalk. Our guess is half the people out had their pooch along for the excursion. And, you guessed it, a large percentage of these dogs were of Chihuahua ancestry. We saw big Chihuahuas, tiny ones, Chihuahuas with t-shirts, and Chihuahua poodle mixes. So yes, Virgina; Chihuahuas are very popular.

Jicama – the mystery vegetable

Finally, tickling one’s taste buds brings gastrointestinal happiness. Jicamas are a root plant – a cross between a potato and a turnip – except they taste a whole lot better than turnips (just saying). We have eaten them before as a healthful and crunchy raw snack. While in Mexico, we ate our first one served as a salad/garnish at a road-side taco stand. As CTH, Frank enjoyed a pair of grilled marlin tacos, we helped ourselves to the side salad. We like them so much we incorporated them into nearly every meal we prepared in our own condo kitchen.

The recipe section can be found elsewhere in this publication, but allow us to share our own recipe for fun:

Jicama Garnish
Peel and dice a medium sized Jicama into half inch cubes.
Add, two jalapeño cut into very small slices, a half cup of diced carrots and a large bunch of chopped cilantro.
Top with the juice of two fresh limes
Toss and serve chilled with a freshly made Margarita

How’s that for learning and happiness?