Checked baggage; How many while flying?

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]The answer is… Ten 70 pound checked bags of pain! Heavy lifting! But it’s precious cargo as we say around here, an effort well worth it. I guess we like our stuff more than we thought. Checked baggage over the airline limit is going to cost you, but for us it was worth it.

It was on my second mission to the US, this time to bring back (10x) 70 pound bags of things (to be sorted through over three days) we have been missing/needing (a thin line) that were packed away in a dark storage locker in the middle of Newburgh, NY. I have lived in a few armpits, and this is certainly one of them, and though we have never actually lived in Newburgh, our storage is there, for now. It’s close to Beacon and much cheaper than the city. And the storage place ain’t half bad.

So I took the red eye out of Guatemala city on August 11 and Arrived in LaGuardia at about 5:30 AM, got my rental car and set to it.

If you ever do decide to take on such a ridiculous task as this (moving by airplane), and I certainly hope you don’t, maybe fly Delta. At least they are the airline we are going with right now (but you know airlines, things may quickly change). As for now, Delta. When a company does us right, we give them big respect, because lets face it, there are way too many companies out there that suck.

Next, (hopefully you have abandoned the idea to move this way already) make sure to fly first class if you can. For one thing, from Central America, it isn’t that much more expensive. More importantly, the first two bags are free and you get a weight limit of 70 pounds rather than the paltry 50 you would get in coach. So for me that was about 100 extra pounds of crap I could haul along. A baby stroller, a Fender amp, shoes, cookware, clothing. Anything I could shove into a giant black military sized duffle bag or a badly bent $100 Target bag with a broken wheel and a missing handle.

But regardless of the problems inherent in a task like this, (stupidity), the cause fueled me on. Mama needs her shoes. Baby needs her stroller, papa needs his Strat and his iMac. (too bad I ended up with neither….Arbuella, help, I need my gear!).

Checked Baggage


At the Storage Locker

So I holed up in the Ramada Inn in Newburgh (2 1/2 stars!) and spent 10-12 hours a day for the next three days sorting through our stuff at Uhaul Storage. I’m feeling orange just thinking about it.



The Labyrinth
The Labyrinth
Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

Uhaul Storage, locker 2174, my new home. Ok, I gotta get out of here.

So here is what I was up against: Bin City.


Bin City
Bin City


I ultimately got through it and in the end I would say I did a pretty good job getting everything that we needed. And with the help of arbuella Jan Ruby Crystal on the last day, I got everything packed up and loaded into the rented Chevy.

Things were pretty uneventful except when I was taking a screw out of the Bob Stroller and cut my finger with a crappy utility knife. Blood was flowing all over Bob, damn! I thought, mannnn, now I’m going to have to go to the emergency room again, for the second time in a month, pay a bunch of money and have a few stitches across my knuckle. How will I get the bags back? Ehhh, whateva, I wrapped it with some toilet paper and yellow duct tape and Arbuella and I finished packing. It was about 5pm by the time we finished, Arbuella starving and tired, my fingers duct taped, we’re all ragged and worn out. That day she had driven 3 hours from Mass leaving at 6am. Exhausted!

After dinner Jan headed home and I went back to the hotel to sleep as much as possible. Tomorrow could be rough…little did I know.

The Day of Checked Baggage Hell

So I spent the next morning in Beacon buying supplements for Rache, E3 Live was the big one, great for new baby Zai’s development they say. It did wonders for Iza, so hopefully it will be good for Zai. has a good review here: E3live review. If we still lived in the States we would be taking E3live daily, no question.

Afterwards I was off to the airport, going down through the Hudson Valley on one of the most beautiful stretches of highway, the Taconic State Parkway. Incredible, put it on your bucket list.

Arriving at JFK Airport in Queens, I navigated through a daunting mass of travelers to get to the first available SkyCab agent. There were none. But  soon, from behind the counter, a guy called out to see if I needed help and took him to my ridiculously over stuffed SUV. We proceed to unpack and get busy with the checked baggage, but he told me we could only check 7 outside and we needed to go inside to check the others. First hurdle. So we checked the 7 and took the others inside. This is where first class came in handy. We went strait to the front in a separate check in area and started to check the bags. But soon it got ugly.

I had four boxes of gallon sized paint containers taped together to make two boxes that fit the size and weight requirement. They lady at the gate said this was a no no for TSA and the boxes had to be separated and treated as 4 boxes. That would be an extra $400. Hellll no! And the other problem was that I already checked baggage limit of 10 bags. I could check no more she said. Thats a serious amount of money in paint that I wasn’t about to leave behind. So the SkyCab guy, who was still hanging on said “Quick, follow me!” And we OJ’ed it through the airport flying over barricades, running through the backs of shops and jumping over people to get down two flights of stairs to the shops below. There I bought two of the largest dufflebags they had and we hightailed it back up to check in. At this point, things were getting surreal; after getting back to check in I found that I had lost the receipts and my gate slip to get me on the plane. Big problem. A couple of seconds later, when I was on the ground looking for them, a guy comes up to me holding my lost papers and hands them to me. And guess who it was? Philip Seymour Hoffman. But he’s dead you say!? No, it was him! I sat there with my chin on the floor and papers in hand as he walked away. I was in a daze. At the same time, I looked next to me and saw these tags laying on the ground (I saved them) :

Racolife_wisdomand  after that, I looked up and I see this:


Where am I?

Meanwhile my friend is shoving two boxes into one of the duffle bags:

Checked Baggage

Success! My luck is turning. But when we go to put the other boxes in the next bag, the bag is busted! No zipper. My friend says in an African accent “Man, this is really not your day.” Yea. But we shove the boxes in anyway and he proceeds to put a massive amount of tape around the broken bag. Pathetic!

More checked baggage

Finally the checked baggage is clear, all in. It’s a miracle. Now I just have to get the rental car back and return to the gate before the flight takes off. I only have a half an hour at this point.

So I got the car back and ran back to the gate with two massive carry on bags, get through customs, (minus some vice grips, a box cutter and an adjustable wrench that they took; I had forgotten about them) and made it to the gate just as the plane was boarding.

I boarded the plane, sat down, asked for a bloody mary, and it was smooth sailing after that. First class was empty. All mine! I put on my headphones, kicked back and disappeared into a deep sleep.


Bins for Days – The Bin Years… Nearly Over


Kurt left on Tuesday night for our bins the States for the second storage emptying trip. It is a pretty monumental moment for The Brand Fam.

Iza-in-a-BinWe have been living out of bins for the past 10 years – Kurt traveling the country in an RV since 2006 and me moving all around the country and world. In 2012 we did our consolidation of all our stuff from Ohio to Pennsylvania to Massachusetts and moved everything into a storage unit in New York. Since our entire life’s belongings are there. We invested in Bins. Not just any bins, but the best bins out there that we tested to make sure they would hold our stuff and be able to move often. We have been everywhere with our bins. Even Iza has gotten into them! Literally.

Most Recently

Kurt went back in October of 2014 to collect the bare necessities, but at the time we didn’t know we were pregnant or that we would actually be staying. Now that we are settled, he is home to retrieve everything else except the art. From Dehydrators to Ice Cream Makers, Baby Clothes to our beloved stroller BOB, he is going to be back on Saturday with our material life in his hands. I CAN’T WAIT!

And Ta Dah!
A pretty special moment. We are here in Guatemala and settled. That doesn’t mean that we won’t travel, but it does mean that instead of our permanent residence being a mail house in Florida + a storage facility in New York, we will have a full life here in Guatemala with an address and a house in the same place.

Some Storage Tips
If you are the type to travel or move often you need a plan. Here are some of the things to do:

  1. Start with an assessment of your material value. Does it merit saving?
  2. Determine your storage location.
  3. Invest in a killer Bin. We will have 60 empty ones available if you are interested in getting them when we are back in December or you can buy one through our site.
  4. Have an end game.


Some Shipping Tips
On this trip we have spent quite a bit of time analyzing:


We found that the best way to ship was to limit ourselves to 10 bags and send through the airplane – totaling about $1400. Anything more than that started to weigh against the value of the goods, making it not equal. While we have enough for a container, it is roughly $7,500 + import taxes (which you find out at the border and is 12% off the top + 1-7% depending on the depreciated value of the goods inside). So it makes sense to give away the rest or store it for another 2 years and slowly take things back as needed.

Delta is the best deal all around to Guatemala, but it will depend on the airline in which you are flying. TransCargo is the best deal for container shipping.



Oh Yeah, We Moved to Antigua, Guatemala


Finding a place to call home has never been an easy task for either of us since the world is our oyster, but we feel we are narrowing in with our search through the process of elimination. Antigua, Guatemala seems to be where we are really putting down roots. It is about 2.5 hours away from Lake Atitlan and about 45 minutes from Guatemala City. It is flanked by 3 volcanos, 1 of them still very active…. and there is a large Gringo population. We found a Montessori School for Iza and an organic farm close by. All the things that we were desperately missing at the Lake.

We have just come off a whirlwind tour of the United States in April & May, then we had an immediate 10 day stay in Mexico all to seek out what we thought might be ‘home.’

Coming back from the States we were in the hurried frame of mind that comes with the culture of America. Everyone has a very busy, task-oriented schedule with little time to play, exist or just be. Kids have the craziest schedules too with little time for invention and free play schedules. We were so exhausted by the end of it, but recognized the importance of some of the features; Whole Foods, the convenience of having a car, all of our stuff in arms reach, etc.

With our trip to Mexico, we had intended to find an immediate solution, but instead, we gained a lot of perspective on our gorgeous life in Guatemala and realized we wanted to stay. We have support here in Guatemala and that is worth the world to us in both energy and time while we are building our careers.

So here we are, new life to be in Antigua, Guatemala. Another change, another house, another chapter for The Brand Fam. It is a great place for us to be for now and we hope that now can turn into a real future. Wish us luck!

Some highlights: 

Our friends from came last year and did a fantastic hike up Volcán Pacaya where they were able to see the shooting lava from Volcán Agua. Very cool and worth looking at!

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Gay in the Mayan Society?

1 week into living at Joyce’s in San Marcos, our nanny came to work crying having just heard her brother in-law Wilson committed suicide the night before. He hung himself and was discovered by his wife (Teresa). It is hard to say why Wilson did this. He was young (25) and extremely good looking. He had lots of friends and a community. He was a teacher at the technology college in town and spoke English and Spanish. He was well-respected. They had money by Mayan standards and lived in their own house (very rare for newlyweds). He was not a drinker.

Together they have a 3-year old little girl named Aymee who has become one of Iza’s favorite children in the barrio. Since the death, and now nearly a year later, Iza and Aymee are inseparable and adore each other. I have also seen photos of Wilson (beautiful and extremely effeminate (and very good looking) and heard that he had a robust network of friends.

It is hard to say what the reason is, but of course being as close to Aymee’s family as Iza has been, I am curious. Teresa is still sad. Of course she is. Aymee still cries for her Papa in the middle of the night. And we have witnessed a loss of a community member that we never got to knew.

It just doesn’t add up. Speaking objectively, I see no other reason for his chosen end of life other than an affair – it is very common to have affairs in the traditional sense with heterosexual partners (see post on Autohotels), so I speculate that it was an affair of the same sex.

I see Teresa regularly and Iza spends her time regularly with Aymee and the family. They are wonderful people and it is sad to know Wilson won’t ever see his beautiful baby girl grow into a woman. It is sad for us to know that Aymee looses out on a father too.

We will always be curious why he chose to take his life.

Iza y Aymee

Volcan Fuego Explodes in Antigua, Guatemala

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]About 45km as the bird flies, or 75km driving from our house you can land at the base of Volcan Fuego; a still very active volcano nearest to Antigua, Guatemala. On Saturday, February 7th the day that my parents left to head home to the States, Volcan Fuego erupted so much that it clouded the sky in Antigua and Guatemala City closing the airport and leaving a dust of black ash behind. My parents were luckily able to get out in time, with their flight leaving at 3:45pm before the airport was closed.

In the morning hours it has been so foggy and rainy here, which has been a nice surprise and perhaps unrelated to the eruption. Fuego from what we understand has subsided, but it has been extremely active in the past few months, so only time will tell.[/vc_column_text][vcex_spacing size=”30px”][vc_text_separator title=”Related Articles” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”none” image=”3676″ link=””][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3679″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”none” link=”″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3677″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”none” link=”″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”3678″ border_color=”grey” img_link_target=”_blank” alignment=”none” link=”″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vc_text_separator title=”Shots of the Volcano” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vcex_image_galleryslider thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”400″ img_thumb_width=”200″ img_thumb_height=”200″ caption=”true” animation=”slide” slideshow=”true” randomize=”false” smooth_height=”true” slideshow_speed=”7000″ animation_speed=”600″ image_ids=”3684,3685,3686,3687,3688,3689,3690″][vc_column_text]Photos collected from Conrad and Christian Santizo.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_empty_space height=”32px”][vc_text_separator title=”Video of the Volcano” title_align=”separator_align_center” style=”five” element_type=”div” font_size=”16px”][vc_video link=””][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Wind Flowing Through My Veins

If you are from the East Coast of America more than likely harsh wind is not something you really think about. Sure there have been moments of windstorms from residual hurricane effects or other changing weather patterns, but it is typically a day or two. I never thought much about wind until now.

And I hate it.

I miss the tranquility. The silence of the night and morning hours is gone, and I can’t handle the constant clanking and rustling of our thatched roof. The dogs are up in arms, the fires are glowing bright and spreading, and power keeps going out. What I think is most frustrating is the consistency. There is literally never a moment without and it impairs our ability to go swimming, hiking, sit outside to eat, have a fire, etc. Rain is so sweet and soft, even when it is pouring there is something very therapeutic about it. Wind is harsh and angry!

When we moved here the Gringo’s told us there would be 6-months of rain and 6-months of perfect weather. We got here at the start of the rainy season, so by November 1st we were ready for sun. We had a pretty good month of November, December and now January has been unbearable. From our employees mouths who are local, we should be expecting this same weather behavior until end of February. Then in March and April it lightly rains regularly. So essentially there is one calm month of the year: May. Or maybe there is something else surprising that will happen.

My rant.

Throwback: This Time Last Year

[vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_column_text]Honestly hard to believe that this time last year we had a baby and were running around from NYC to Northampton to Vermont to NYC to PA to OH to Ithaca and back to NYC all in a matter of 10 days. It was by far the most interesting holiday, however with lots of highs, lows, family drama, broken down car in Northampton, being locked out of an apartment in Central Harlem in the middle of the night, Chinatown on Christmas Day and even an anaphylactic reaction in the middle of PA. It was a tough moment for the Brand Fam and this year we are going to relish in our peaceful, non-traveling, family alone time.

What was brilliant for us were the bright smiles and warm sparkly eyes lighting up at the sight of our little girl. She is a beloved, happy child and we are so lucky to have shared her first Hanukkah Christmas with all that she loves. From afar in Guatemala we reminiscing and definitely missing being apart of everything, but more than anything enjoying pictures from many holidays celebrated together.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”no-margins” columns=”3″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”3017,3003,3015,3012,3013,3011,3010,3006,3007,2995,3008,3005,3004,3000,3009,3002,2999,2998,2994,3014,3016,3001,2996,2993,2992,2990,2985″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Throwback: Weirdest Golf Range, Ever

[vc_row id=”” visibility=”” css_animation=”” style=”” center_row=”” tablet_fullwidth_cols=”” min_height=”” bg_color=”” bg_image=”” bg_style=”” parallax_style=”” parallax_direction=”” parallax_speed=”” parallax_mobile=”” video_bg=”” video_bg_overlay=”” video_bg_mp4=”” video_bg_webm=”” video_bg_ogv=”” border_style=”” border_color=”” border_width=”” margin_top=”” margin_bottom=”” margin_left=”” margin_right=”” padding_top=”” padding_bottom=”” padding_left=”” padding_right=””][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_image_grid grid_style=”default” columns=”3″ title_type=”title” thumbnail_link=”none” lightbox_caption=”true” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″ image_ids=”2609,2608,2610″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vc_column_text]You can certainly tell by these photos that we like each other! Just as we do with most things, we broke up a moving trip by a spontaneous golf range outing. I mean, driving for 4-hours + is no fun without a little road-trip excursion!

It was hilarious to have to adjust the 2 kayaks on top of one of our cars to get out our clubs, and dig to the bottom of a pile of bins in the other car. We had so much fun… and looking through these pictures is a great reminder of how simple and basic fun can be. We made total fools out of ourselves, but hey! Who was there to watch? No one.[/vc_column_text][vcex_feature_box style=”left-image-right-content” content_width=”50%” media_width=”50%” heading=”Baineridge Golf Range, Somewhere NY: Do It Yourself Golf” heading_type=”h2″ image=”2613″ img_width=”9999″ img_height=”9999″]Want to try the adventure for yourself? It is great, you basically roll up into the parking lot, open up the money box (which is totally out in the open) and put enough money corresponding to the bucket of balls that is there. Absolutely hilarious.

Then you pick up a T and a club (or in our case we BYOC), and hit to your hearts content. All on your honor.

The views are absolutely outstanding check this out![/vcex_feature_box][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vcex_spacing size=”30px” class=”” visibility=””][vcex_image_carousel style=”default” item_width=”230px” min_slides=”1″ max_slides=”4″ items_scroll=”page” auto_play=”true” infinite_loop=”true” timeout_duration=”5000″ arrows=”true” thumbnail_link=”none” custom_links_target=”_self” img_width=”500″ img_height=”500″ image_ids=”2612,2600,2607,2601,2602,2603,2604,2605,2606,2614″][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Tuc Tuc of the Week #4

Back Side

We are so excited about this tuc tuc, it totally deserves a spot on the blog. We had a video, but something happened and now it is non-existent, so this one is going to have to be solo images. Like most of the tuc tuc’s in San Marcos, this tuc tuc has the bright red and yellow colors, but they have done a stencil graffiti with clever imagery. Lots of the graphics here always relate to American imagery that the driver’s receive in their clothing. Just like US, the brands are very popular here. You can see Puma and soccer imagery. Flames on the tire flaps are pretty cool, too.

tuc tuc week 3 inside

But the best is by far is the inside with the tiger stripes. It is so “dead sexy!”

Laguna Lodge – Nature Reserve

Laguna Lodge

Saturday is family day, always. Today we decided to jump in the launcha and head to our favorite town – Santa Cruz and take a hike. We figured we would do this and then head to Cafe Sabor for lunch and then walk home via Jabalito. We started at the town dock and took a leisurely walk to a little place called Paxnax (pash nash). Here is home to the fanciest hotel on the lake called Laguna Lodge. We heard there was a nature preserve owned by the hotel, with incredible vistas, and wanted to give it a whirl.

We started at the hotel and had a little tea. Iza was sleeping so this gave us an extra minute to relax before we started our climb up. It was so much fun! We had a chance to just relax together – it has been forever – and have a check in on life and all the new challenges we have be going through with moving here.

Laguna Lodge Nature Reserve 1


The first vista that we found yielded this amazing photo. Such a sight, and using an iPhone nonetheless.

Laguna Lodge Nature Reserve 4


From marker “12” there is this view. Kurt stood at the end of the row and took the below photo. Pretty impressive, eh?

Laguna Lodge Nature Reserve 2

While beautiful, this eco lodge is seems really just crazy, outlandishly expensive… but after our hike, we can see why. It sits at the base of a private nature preserve. It is still hard to believe that in Guatemala there is a hotel for $450 a night… when that could get you an employee for 2-months at that rate! Worth it? Not sure, but really a wonderful day and experience.

Tuc Tuc of the Week #3

Tuc Tuc of the Week The “Charley” Tuc Tuc is special because of the details.



Tuc Tuc 3 Front


Santa Cruz is by far our favorite town on the lake, it is just the cleanest and most cared for. You can tell especially by the stellar Tuc Tuc styling, symmetry and care that each driver takes with their Tuc’s. The town of Santa Cruz is on top of a massive hill, far above the lake, requiring Tuc Tuc’s for any travel to the village from the launcha (the name of the public boat).

This particular Tuc Tuc has a clean and well-maintained body, but the artistry is in the details. The front is totally tricked out so at night it is bright and shiny. The interior has equally exciting colors. Yellow is our favorite color (i.e. Ra’Co Life’s yellow), so we are a big fan of the piping.

Tuc Tuc 3 Side Left

Tuc Tuc 3 Side Right

The back seat has a floral vinyl wrap, which really makes the Tuc pop. It is a signature. And check out those stellar lights at the top. Unbelievably cool. Stay tuned for the next installment of a ‘night episode” of the Tuc Tuc of the Week.

Where in the World is the Brand Fam to Go?

When you have an unlimited number of options, wish for great experiences and don’t have anything to tie you down, it is overwhelming. A good problem to have – but nonetheless, a serious problem. Here we are, in the most beautiful place, living like kings. We have a gorgeous house on the water, our own staff, full-time nanny, etc. It is truly amazing. We have jobs which benefit from travel and experience, so it leaves the entire world open for interpretation.

As a Food Brand Strategist I relish in the newest and best restaurant concepts on the planet. Traveling provides global perspective on community food, food quality, ingredients, and cuisines. It offers a chance to further my skill-set and share my learnings with my clients. It is also a way to build a larger network and client base.

As an Artist, Kurt is inspired by each and every situation he encounters. He appreciates the communities of each place we have lived and he gravitates towards developing concepts which suit the environment he is in. The benefit of traveling for Kurt is that he can expand his resources – materials, artisan helpers, and inspiration. As a full-time dad, he also gains 8 hours of work a day when Iza is with her nanny, which we could never have afforded in NYC.

But there are so many downfalls to traveling; disruption and wasted time are at the top of the list. Lack of stability for Iza with friends and environment is another enormous one (I moved a lot as a kid and I was ridden too early with the concept of loss well into adulthood). Kurt and I are also really ready for a shift in our life to being productive and executing on many of our goals. We know now that we are ready for home. The big issue for us is that we are stranded in fluidity – we simply can’t decide where to be. At some point shouldn’t we just forfeit choice and just pick?

Here is pretty great, why not just do it?!

The World

Where to Go? What to Do?

This beautiful morning I sit here listening to the lake water lap up against the shore, the fisherman in the wooden kayak is whistling a little song and Iza is quietly breathing as she sleeps. Usually I am up before the sun working or meditating, but today ZZ (our nickname for Iza) is a little bit sick with a cold and she woke up at 5am crying. So we spent some time with her to calm her down and get her back to sleep. Then Rache went back to work and I did some meditation. I will refer to meditation from here on out as Zazen, which is a Zen form of meditation.

So hopefully you are reading our blog posts regularly and will know what I am talking about in the future! Right now, as we go into the last month and a half of our stay here at Casa Paloma in San Marcos, Guatemala, Rache and I are doing our usual race to the finish to try to secure our next place to stay. It’s a drag and we always get stressed out around this time.

First of all, we are trying to find a place to stay here at Lake Atitlan for a year which is not easy. We love it here but want to get to know it better while we decide if we want to make this our home forever. We are pretty sure we do, but moving to another country is a huge step and a lot has to be evaluated.  A big problem is that we are going into the major tourist season here, the dry season, and most of the places are already rented. We are finding some things though and are confident we will secure something soon. Hopefully the owner of this house we are in now will agree to work with us on either buying it or renting it long term. We truly love it here.

Second of all, we are trying to find a relatively affordable apartment in NYC to rent as we have to be back there for a month in October. We have all of our stuff in storage there that we have to go through and Rache and I need to network in the city. We are looking forward to going back but it is really more stress to make it happen than we need right now. Should we bring our nanny? Should we exceed our budget to find a decent place? Should we stay outside of the city and commute in? Too many questions to work out!

Actually we really want to just stay here, stay put. I think we both truly feel like we are done moving around!

But the question always creeps back in; Are we in the right place for us? Should we do some more traveling, to India and China? We both love to travel so much and I could do business in those countries and Rache could go to her annual yoga retreat in India. Somebody smack us!

My Zen teacher in New York always talks about not worrying about where to go and what to do, especially when doing zazen. These two things always seem to pop up in our minds and cause mental strife. The idea is to just make a decision and be happy with it. Why do we have such a hard time doing this?! As I said in a previous post, decisions can drive you crazy! Our situation is kind of unique in that we both can work anywhere as long as we have an internet connection. Of course many people have places of work to go to and dont have the option of moving around. So they just learn to love where they live. Many are happy where they live, no matter where they are, that is the best way to be. But others are not happy being where they are and always wish to be somewhere else or to travel and experience new things. The grass is always greener type thing.

So now, The Brand Fam is right smack in the middle and we are deciding what to do next. Fortunately we know what we want  and that we want to settle down soon. Hopefully things will work out for us here and we will finally find a place to call home, or maybe, at least, home base!

Keep reading to find out… I think things will happen for us soon!

The Original Paddleboarders

While its undeniable great exercise, I find paddleboarding to be weird. For someone who is ungraceful, it seems like a disaster waiting to happen…. I would totally fall into the water by becoming distracted or loosing my balance in some way the second a wave would come. But I am fascinated with the concept since it is a “newish sport” in the states.

Out here on the lake, you can tell the Mayan Pescador’s have been doing this for centuries. Often in the morning when it is nice and quiet, we see them standing and paddling in their boats… with purpose. For these paddleboarders, it is a practicality and a way to see the fish below; they can see above the reflections of the boats and clouds on the water. Oddly enough it seems like the older crowd are the ones who stand more often, which we can assume is due to their ‘go get em’ mentality that the younger generations don’t have. (Even here the teen-young adults are just as misguided and lazy as those in the states, but for these guys it is their meal for the day, not recreation.)


Their technique is more of an “L” shape than in the REI PUP videos. The Mayan’s bend over a bit more when sinking their paddle into the lake. This might due to the length of their paddles more than a specific desire for a technique. The paddles are multi-purpose and must act as a normal paddle for a sitting kayak as well. In the afternoon’s you will see many SUP Pescador’s because the lake is choppier and it is easier to gain power of motion from above, especially when the wind is not working in their favor.

Inside of a boat

The boats are made from hollowed trees with side boards and are thought to have been brought here in design by the Yu’pik Artic Natives. The fronts are long and pointy and the back is flat, but flared up and out. It reminds me of a fat, elementary school crayon or an arrow without wings. They certainly don’t look light or aerodynamic, very unlike the design of a modern-day paddleboard.


If you search paddleboarding you get a ton of links, but the most popular is REI’s Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP) page which provides instructions, the proper gear and a total overview using videos, etc. If you are looking at this objectively and not for actual use, the SUP page is humerous; we have invented a proper safety standard for something which is so  innate to an indigenous culture.

Tuc Tuc of the Week

The taxi drivers around the lake take their taxis seriously. In a previous post I talked about the little three wheeled taxis, called Tuc Tucs and how their owners love to pimp them out. So I think I will start posting some of my favorite Tuc Tucs and see where it goes from there. Maybe organize a Tuc Tuc race?!?!?

Anyway, here is a cool one I often see in Santa Cruz. We call it the “batmobile”. Santa Cruz is a chilled out village where we used to live and they have some great taxis. Keep a lookout for more Tuc Tuc posts!

Batman Tuc Tuc




Guatemalan Wall Art

Lake Atitlan is dense with great outdoor wall graphics. Everyone seems to paint their own murals, logos, and signage on the weathered stone, adobe and concrete walls and the work really looks beautiful. I love meandering through the narrow passageways of the lake’s villages looking at these colorful and skillfully rendered graphics. These days the art of sign painting seems to be lost in most places, but here it remains strong. Check it out! More to Come…..








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Casa Santa Fe – Our New Casa for 2 Weeks!

As my dad says, “You pretty much move every two months.” But as of late it has felt like every 2 weeks! We finally decided to move to a lovely Casa closer to town near the Publico dock. It just felt unsafe with a baby living in the jungle without power or internet. Basically we have gone from quasi-camping to living in America all in a matter of moments.

Our phones are both set up on the house wi-fi, we have a full American Kitchen complete with a chef-style 5 burner gas stove, the best knives ever and a garden for the stars. We can stream “Baby Einstein” for Iza or watch “Orange is the New Black” through Netflix our internet is so good! It is beyond the beyond that we are living in this beautiful place, arise to the most glorious sunset and hear the birds chirping in our little estuary of a garden.

Problems in Antigua, our first couple of days in Guatemala.

Just before we left for Guatemala I had a really bad flare up of my inner ear condition, which could be Meniere’s syndrome, but I’m still not sure what it is exactly. It is often caused by stress or pressure changes in the weather but I don’t really know what caused it this time. I haven’t had any problems with it in a long while and it seems to have come back at a really bad time.

What happens is I lose most of the bass frequencies in my left ear and get extremely nauseous with migraine headaches and extreme body pain. It basically is like having the most devastating hangover you could imagine and it usually incapacitates me for the first two or three days. Poor Rache really had to rally (like always) because I was bedridden for a day and a half. It was just the beginning of her vacation and she only has a week so I really felt bad that she had to watch Iza the whole time while being really exhausted from our travels.

Fortunately she kept a great attitude, stayed positive, explored the city with Iza, met some great people and found some really nice healthy places to eat.

One thing that sucks about Meniere’s is that is is caused by a fluid imbalance in the inner ear and I have to do everything I can to control it. That means no caffeine and very little salt. And here we are in Guatemala which has some of the absolute best coffee in the world! Well, we have lots of time here so I will give it a couple of months then sample some of their great java.

Now that we are in Lake Atitlan I am starting to feel much better and ready to explore this really beautiful place we now call home.


Shopping in San Pedro La Laguna

Today, we had a very fully packed adventure with lots of collection and general housekeeping items to get off our list. We met around 7:30 with our the gardener Mario who also cares for Isle Verde Hotel. He came to help us plan out our stay and to show us around the Passive House we are living in. It was fun because the information and planning was conducted via hand gestures. He literally doesn’t know anything more than “Hello” and “Thank You” in English and we hardly know anything, so it was quite entertaining. I have decided that everyone should learn Sign Language in the 1st year of life. It is truly the only International form of communication. Thanks to our wonderful friends from the Zen Center Josh, Leah and Josiah we are able to understand the principles behind effective gesturing. The best two pieces of the visit with Mario were receiving a TIGO stick (see the post on the Chicken Bus to find out the significance of this stick) and hiring a nanny / housekeeper. For the nanny / housekeeper we have agreed to pay Q.80 ($55) for 5-days a week for 8-hours a day. This equates to ~$220 a month. I think we both fell over when we found that out. Iza will spend the mornings with her daddy while our “Chica” (as Mario refers to her) cleans and does our laundry by hand. She will then switch over mid-day to watching Iza so Kurt can get some things done. We are excited because she knows absolutely NO ENGLISH and this will force us to learn it. Ana (our landlord) has known Mario for years and trusts him, so we trust him with his selections. His wife Marta and their little 3 year old are coming tomorrow to help set up our new “Chica” and assist with hand gestures (we assume). After our meeting we bustled off to Santa Cruz’s main dock to get a water taxi to Panajachel. Now, we are not just able to walk out our door and down the street to catch our taxi or subway. We have to brave the woods, cross the waterfall and head through many walking paths weaving our way down through the jungle. There are a few other gates and paths along the way, but this is definitely a desolate, single line walking path. Our 20-minute walk ended on a soccer field crafted in a big open space. Of course it was in very poor condition, but nonetheless it was ready and waiting for a patron to play and had two goals and two team boxes. We walked through the field ended up on what used to be the main road. Now the road is under water by about 12’, so we walked on the 2-board plank (maybe 24” wide, rickety and slippery from too much rain) which is elevated around the perimeter of the Santa Cruz lake front. As we walked and looked to our left back at the land, we were sad to see the beautifully tended gardens and original stone walkways inaccessible due to the water height. It is a world beginning to go underwater and nearly every house (there were only 6) had a team of masons building retaining walls for temporary protection from the inevitable. This path took us to the main embaracado which actually sat on a road with tuk tuks and a truck. There was a tiny fruit stand and another 2 more hotels. We saw signs for Spanish lessons available and spent some time talking to some people. It looks like it is roughly $7.50 per 1 hour session with a 1 on 1 teacher. Part of why we came to Guatemala was to learn Spanish, so this is a very important piece of the journey. It was fun to talk about the possibilities of having 6-weeks here to work with the same teacher and really get somewhere with the language. We got on the boat to Pana and after 10 minutes of waiting and finally losing patience I said, “What’s the hold up?” Again was the answer that we needed 10 people to go (so 8 more). This boat had more room, but with just the two of us (Iza doesn’t count) on the boat, I was not encouraged to keep waiting. Just as I was about to lose it on the guy (I am still trying to remove my high-octane spirit from my mind), another boat pulled up going to San Pedro. We decided to take the alternative to go to another town which we heard had a Health Food store owned by an American (low expectations, but excited nonetheless). We jumped on and we were off. Pana is about 30 minutes or so by boat and should cost around Q.10 ($1.20) or Q.15 from Isle Verde, so our expectation was that this might take a few more minutes. At around 50-minutes of transport I started to get antsy. It was beautiful to see the homes and Kurt and I were able to check out the homes that we had seen on AirBnB and to see some of the other homes which are not mostly under water. It is decided that if we stay we will have to buy deep in the hills and anticipate being on water front property in the next few years. It took about an hour or so in total and Q.25 per person to get to San Pedro. WOW! So much more than we expected. We were on the local boat which stopped anytime someone flagged them down at any private or public dock. We now know we need to get on the fast boat. When we got off we headed up the steep hill to the top which took us to the Mercado which is an open air market. Mostly tomatoes which was odd, but there were still vendors. We decided to have lunch and then head out in search of our goods. Of course the lunch spot that we wanted to find didn’t come up on Google, or at least Google couldn’t figure out how to get there even though it had a dot where it was meant to be located, so after wandering around in circles we took a tuk tuk. We ended up going back up and around to the market and heading back down through the calles (avenues). We were literally 1 block off when we got the tuk tuk, but the driver took us on a ride without our knowledge. 🙂 It was humorous when we got off. The restaurant was in a very european set of connected alley’s which created an intricate walking path with incredibly cool cafe’s and bars. Lots of wifi options are available and several Spanish schools. This town is very large and apart of the mainland, so there are lots of opportunities here for working – if I want to take the slow boat to China and back to get here. We found a music shop after lunch and scored Kurt an acoustic guitar for $55 and a real Xylophone for Iza (she likes it, but I love it). Then we went and did our shopping at the market getting tons of rich looking veggies and the essentials like beans, chickpeas, rice, spices, etc. We found also toilet paper, trash bags and tupperware at the Supermarket across the street. The term Supermarket in this case is used as a loose term for a 20’ x 20’ tienda (small store) with a variety of packaged products – mostly processed crap. We knew we wanted to go to the Health Food Store, but again we had very low-expectations, so we wanted to get at the least the essentials prior to going since it was right by the dock. The one item we didn’t find on our list was a cutting board. We went to a million places and asked with no luck. At this point there was a shelf-life with Iza. She is in this new whining phase where she screeches at the top of her lungs and then goes “Huh, huh, huh, huh. Bluh, bluh, bluh” and then screams again. We can’t wait for her to tell us what is actually going on in her head. So we get to the Health Food Store with little time to spare and it is nearly 10’ x 8’ wide. There is one metro rack through the center and a rack on the left and a wooden spice rack on the right. There are a few tables and a pastry case out front. We started looking and almost cried. This deserves its own post, stay tuned. We got back on the boat and while we had originally planned to go to Panajachel, we had gotten most of what we needed, so we decided to head home. While on the boat we meet two very nice Americans staying at Isle Verde and one was Puerto Rican who spoke Spanish. He communicated where we were going (as did I in my Spanglish) to the boat attendant. When we got off we were expected to pay Q.25 / head and he and his partner only had to spend Q.20 / head. I said, “What?!” in a very annoyed manner and Kurt said, “Its the English-speaking up charge honey.” I didn’t fight it. We set off for our journey to our home, we managed to piece together our new kitchen and Kurt started a fire. We had our first proper day and now night in our new home. It was brilliant. We feel home and happy here.

On the Chicken Bus to San Lucas

The buses resemble a semi-truck with spiked wheels and Harley Davidson branding. They are a step up from Chicken Busses, but still have similar purposes. This morning we set out for an adventure seeking a TIGO stick (wifi card) which we have been told are out of stock in the whole country of Guatemala. The place we were headed was Centre Commercial Las Puertos which is in San Lucas (on the way to Guatemala).

So, here we are on the bus, ready to leave on the adventure and the bus is full (or so we thought), with each seat taken by two. Then we leave the “station” and head out through Antigua and we stop 4 more times before we exit through the village. Now we were definitely full (or so we thought), with 3 people to every seat. As we start out heading towards Guatemala City we stopped another 10 or so times with people trading in and out of the bus. At the max capacity there were people sitting on each others laps and people standing in the nonexistent aisles. Sometimes the bus hardly stopped when it picked up someone… it kind of slowed and then all of a sudden there was someone new on the bus.

This wouldn’t have been so bad, but with a baby it totally sucked. Iza was having a meltdown and trying to nurse the entire time which made it so much worse. My nipples are in shambles. But when she looked up, she was having a full on fiesta by herself. The music matched her spirit with a Mexican band on the radio blaring the entire time. Kurt even noted that at the beginning of the drive the music got turned up.

This was not just a simple drive! It was a winding and elevation changing ride with lots of twists and turns leading to the entire bus shifting and all of us with it from one side to the next. Hysterically awful – so awful it actually was funny.

We figured out we missed our exit when we ended up in Guatemala City traffic. A full hour instead of the estimated 25 minutes we were told. We get to another mall Milefloris and jumped off… a little nervous to do so, but definitely knew we couldn’t wait to get to the center of Guatemala City before jumping off. This mall was certainly sorted and it looked like King of Prussia. By this point Kurt and I were hungry, thirsty and bitchy. Iza was flailing her arms so you can imagine she was definitely not a happy camper. We walked around for a minute a Kurt said, “Let’s go.” I insisted we stay and we ended up finding a TIGO shop and then a few kiosks. Everyone said we were ‘Shit out of Luck’ regarding the stick.

We hit a taxi defeated (only after a lovely juice break at Saul – a UK clothier in Guatemala), but wanting to still get to San Lucas to carry out the remaining components of the journey. We went to the taxi stand at this very high-end mall and for Q.130 ($15) we got to the next mall. So much for our saving money. The bus to the mall was Q.20 for both of us! (like $1.50). Ha.

We get to the Mall in San Lucas and head into the shop. We wait forever and ended up seeing the lady and she says they don’t have any either. That the whole country is out. Awesome. I am starving by this point and had really lost interest in the whole experience. We went to the grocer around the corner and got avos and chips. As we walk out the door we both looked at each other and said, “How do we get back?” There was not a single taxi in sight and we were on a massive road. A little scary. Two drivers honked at us and just past an antique shop this guy was kind enough to show us the right direction to the waiting area (only 200 yards away so we were excited). We got to the place and a bus arrived. We hoped on.

The bus was already packed and so while I was offered a seat, I chose to stand and hold Iza. Truthfully the idea of not having something to hold onto again and trying to accomplish sitting in the least conducive environment to doing so, did not feel appealing. So, I stood. We got back in expert fashion in under 15 minutes and we were happily ready to retire from our Chicken Bus journey.

All we got in 4 hours of our journey were avocados and chips. Hardly worth the adventure, but the experience is of course priceless.

Old Town Antigua is a Blend

There is something to be said for being in a new place which is both invigorating and terrifying. Antigua is like being in NOLA. Full of vibrancy from many cultures – very American – with the appeal of a small town Mexican village from a Hollywood film like The Mexican with Brad Pitt and Julia Roberts. It is familiar and yet its not. The clientele is mostly like from East Harlem. We feel pretty at home.

We are surrounded by alternatives, hippies and searching souls, all looking for the healing power that Guatemala is so known for. We are not here for that reason, but it is not a bad reason to be here!

The mountains surrounding the village are by far the biggest I have seen, but the grocery store feels like a mini Walmart. Maybe half the size and within the 4 walls of adobe clay. The walls of most of the buildings are like this – a mixture of mud and plaster which in most cases is chipped, or aged. We both wondered if this was due to the war just ending and the town rebuilding. It has really only been 4 years since the Guatemalan Civil War has finished and the vibrancy of Guatemala is just being restored. Still you see men surrounding the village with large machine guns. They are very friendly though and will say, “Hola” in passing.

The market is amazing. Perhaps 3x as large as Borough Market in London and beyond the beyond with variety. There are small chickens and big ones available for sale, tons of prepared foods from individual stands, beans, veggies, etc. the list goes on and on. It was similar to the markets in Taiwan and we are really getting excited to go to Chichicastenago: the largest market in all of Guatemala – only 1 hour from Atitlan (the distance from East Harlem to Brooklyn).

We have found the food in Antigua to be amazing. Samsara Cafe is one of our favorite places we may have ever been. They have this Quinoa Porridge with Coco de Leche and a variety of healthy teas. They even make one called the Golden Monkey which is Turmeric frothed with almond milk. So good and so good for you! The staff love Iza and after the first day when she poured maple syrup all over both of us and the area rug, I think they will remember us. The owner Christian is an avid photographer and has captured some of the most beautiful views of Atitlan de Lago. We connected on the 1st visit and really feel like this is going to be a great place to come to when we are in Antigua!

As we wait in anticipation for our shuttle we are excited and exhausted, but really ready to see our new home. Just a few more hours by Bus and then by boat and then a long walk – and we are there!

Arrived in Guatemala

1st things 1st. We are happily here in Guatemala and are navigating our way with roughly 99% English. We have made it to Antigua which is on the way to Atitalan de Lago where we will go on Sunday.

We both love to travel and we hope to instill that in Iza. She was brilliant on the plane and loved to look out over the world below. It was so special to have her see what we were seeing and for her to actually get it. Kurt insisted we bring her tent and so during our layover we put it out for her to play around with her toys in. What a difference!

On our way in, the flight views below were unbelievable. We soared through some of the biggest clouds we have ever seen, hovering over a sea of mountains which were like a patchwork quilt. It is truly breathtaking. We arrived to Antigua by taxi from Guatemala City in around an hour. The flight was only 4 hours and 15 minutes, so in total our travel was only 5 hours and 15 minutes to get into our house and set up. I think pretty feasible to travel back to NYC regularly. It is actually closer than California, amazingly. The only funny thing is when we landed we realized we are going to be living in Mountain time which is actually 2 hours behind NYC. Whoops… would have been good to know that going in. 🙂 So work calls are going to suck if they are early!


Iza in Terminal

East Harlem to Baltimore, First stop Beacon,NY

Hudson River

The Brand Fam has started its summer ’14 adventure!

We have decided to leave East Harlem for the summer and travel to Guatemala for 3 1/2 months for a work vacation. We’ve done our research, reserved our houses through Airbnb, booked our flights and now have everything in place (we hope).

The first leg of our journey began on May 23 just before Iza’s 1st birthday and we traveled to our old home of Beacon, NY to put some things in storage. I jam -packed the Prius V with all of our stuff from the East Harlem apartment and Rache and Iza took the Metro North train direct to Beacon.

After dropping all of our stuff off in storage I went to the Dia Beacon to catch the new Carl Andre show. Its an all consuming retrospective to one of the most important sculptors in contemporary minimal art. What a show! Fortunately it is showing through April ’15 so we can visit it a few more times.

Here is a link:

Brand Fam Dia Beacon Carl Andre

We love the Dia Beacon and think its one of the greatest contemporary art museums in the world.

After I visited the museum I went down to the Hudson to catch the beautiful views of the river. These days it always seems to be rainy and overcast but the fog on the river made for a memorable photo.

Hudson River

We used to have our kayaks docked here and had the pleasure of cruising up and down the river at least a couple of times when the weather was nice. Definitely miss it!

Soon it was time to pick up Rache and Iza at the train station. Rache said Iza made the trip less than pleasant, but thats how it goes sometimes.


All in all a killer start to our journey and hopefully a portent of our future travels.

Next stop Northampton, Mass…..




Off-Season Travel

There are moments in your life where suddenly it is defined by something larger than you. Kurt and I have always flown by the seat of our pants. We some how manage to spend out more than we make and not have debt, we have moved 5 times in Iza’s 1st year, live out of bins, have more family members than most people have friends. We work from home, still manage to cook every meal together and spend time together everyday. We really live a magical existence and we are grateful to many for helping us to make this happen – especially during Iza’s formative years.

It is with great excitement that we start a new pattern as a family: off-season travel. For this summer we plan to travel to Central America to set up shop and spend 4-5 months a year living in a beautiful home on the water in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. The goal is to save money, enjoy more of our time together in a place near the water with gorgeous weather, lots to explore and see and to have a change of pace from NYC’s busy life. Most of what we have been working on over the past couple of years has been to make our online businesses soar and make money while we sleep, now we are ready to put our energy into expanding our presence. Oh, and the weather is awesome (contrary to belief).


Feeling Nostalgic

We left Ithaca… like we leave all places; quickly, without question, and without a trace. While we had made great friends and enjoyed our time thoroughly, we are movers and shakers. But we left behind a lot and one of the biggest was an opportunity to live and breathe within a raw food kitchen.

Kurt’s gorgeous farm house in Newfield was just on the other side of Ithaca from where I lived. He had a great room and regular home kitchen in the house, but outside there was a barn adjacent to the house that was a dedicated raw food kitchen. It was here that he birthed Kurt’s Cuisine, here that we filmed our scenes for Ra’Co. It is missed.

One of my favorite memories was the first time I cooked in the kitchen with Kurt. We had just started connecting and he asked me to cook with him. Very early in the morning, around 4:30am, we woke up and headed to the kitchen. It was quiet and the fields were misty with the dawn breaking. Idyllic. We made tea and then went onto making a raw cheesecake for my dad, with blackberry swirls. It was an amazing experience for me to make. I will always remember this kitchen.

I came across this photo from the kitchen and it made me nostalgic. Wanted to share.