Monday, April 6, 2015

Altria Retreat: A Surprising Taste of Camp

The Retreat side of CBS recently had the pleasure of hosting the Altria Distribution Group's Company Retreat, which, although it may not sound like it, was some of the most fun we've seen since summer camp!

During the first day of their stay, Altria guests had many meetings, speakers, and workshops, but at night, things started to look a lot like Rodeo Round-up! Nighttime activities featured a "Cowboy Dance," complete with a mechanical bull, armadillo races, a longhorn photo-op, line dancing (with guest instructors), and a bonfire at our pond with the traditional s'mores and funnel cakes.

The next day, our guests headed into another round of meetings and workshops, but free time in the afternoon came in the form of enjoying our traditional CBS activities--the zip-line, archery, rock-climbing, the Screamer, hiking, fishing, canoeing, paddle-boating, frisbee-golf, basketball, tennis, volleyball, soccer, and football. That night, a fun, yet more low-key, evening ensued, featuring another firepit and s'mores, a movie under the stars, and the "human" version of games like Jenga, foosball, checkers (coming this summer for camp).

We had a great time with Altria, and we can't wait to have an even greater time all summer! Be sure to visit Camp Balcones Springs today and secure your spot!

PS: We're thinking about adding armadillos to the Rodeo Round-up line-up--any thoughts?

Father/Daughter Retreat 2015

A few weeks ago, the Retreat at Balcones Springs held one of its favorite events of the season -- our annual Father/Daughter Retreat!

Each fall and spring, the Retreat holds Mother/Son and Father/Daughter retreats to give families a chance to bond in the beautiful Texas Hill Country while also getting a taste of what CBS has to offer. With camp just around the corner, it was so fun for us to offer a taste of camp to these guests while we anxiously await summer's arrival!

Visiting dads and daughters arrived Friday night and immediately began the fun with a fishing contest. After dinner, we all enjoyed a traditional camp bonfire (with s'mores of course!) and a viewing of one of the greatest camp movies of all time -- The Parent Trap!

The next morning, daughters enjoyed cartoons and cereal while our visiting dads had their comparable "newspapers and coffee" (though perhaps some of those cartoons as well). After breakfast, the day looked a lot like a typical day at CBS. Dads and daughters climbed the rock wall, took a ride on the Screamer, and played classic camp games like 3Ball and Nuke 'Em (no team affiliations involved, sadly; who do you think would have won? Texas Rangers/Lone Stars or Rough Riders/ Silver Spurs?) before building their own pizza rolls for lunch.

After lunch, Charlotte's Web, the zipline, and the archery ranges were all open for our guests to enjoy. We also had craft-making and cupcake-decorating, horseback riding in the arena, and face-painting.

After dinner was the weekend's highlight--the Glow with the Flow dance! If you were at camp last summer, you should remember this tremendously fun night! Dads and daughters danced the night away at one of the most famous camp dances, complete with light-lasers, disco balls, and of course, lots of glow sticks.

Finally, to close the weekend, after breakfast the next morning, dads and daughters harvested organic vegetables in the camp garden to put into take-home lasagna kits for mom.

If these activities sound like fun to you, or maybe have you thinking about how much fun you had last summer at CBS, make sure you head over to Camp Balcones Springs and sign up for Summer 2015!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Our last full day in Manuel Antonio (Day 8)

Dear Future Me,

                For the first time in the summer of 2014, you chose to be active voluntarily. Some key factors in this momentous decision include: getting 13 hours of sleep (note, the hours were 8 P.M.-9 A.M.), eating a hearty breakfast, and waking up to “Summer” by Calvin Harris. By having these rare events occur, you were bound for a fantastic day. If you don’t remember, the first thing you did after breakfast was zip-lining. The ride was electric, with you, Cole, and Michael all free-styling in the back of the bus. Upon arriving at the destination, you were greeted by some very optimistic Costa Ricans. The zip lining course was in a very dense rainforest and you began your climb to the top of the mountain with a rare grin followed by a frustrated frown. The hike turned out not to be that bad because you were followed by the paparazzi guy, Jose the Cameraman. Our first zip-line was relaxing and effortless and was greeted at the end by our psycho guide speaking in a demonic Costa Rican voice. The best way to describe this…person… would be that he is a mix between Smeagle and The Joker.  You made your way through numerous other runs including a free fall drop and a Tarzan swing. At the end of the course you ate some all you can eat rice and chicken. Jose the Cameraman was showing his pictures throughout the meal and I have to admit, you were looking pretty good. As soon as we got back to the casa, you and the crew decided to go for a swim in the Ocean. You enjoyed the gnarly waves and the great views of the playa. Following the beach we came back to our bungalows for a brief hour and then headed out to La Luna for a gourmet dinner accompanied by live music—the singer sounded like a Costa Rican Adam Levine (Note to self: Always get the beef tenderloin, followed by the Chocolate Lava Cake, as it was fantastic). After the fabulous meal, we headed back to the bungalows to hang out and play games. 

Kyle, Travis, Stuart

Friday, July 18, 2014

Costa: Day 7

Buenos Noches from your favorite returning writers journalistic magicians. Another jam-packed day began with an early morning wake-up call at 5:38am courtesy of your chaperons for an "on-the-go" breakfast of cereal, yogurt, and breakfast tacos. Shortly thereafter, we boarded our bus bound for Portalon Esculela to meet up with our newest amigos.

Our first assingment upon arrival had us teaming up with Gato (a man, not a cat) and Gallo (a man, not a side dish) to begin efforts in a reforestation project the school helps support. Madeline rallied the group with her golden shovel to plant over 100(!) trees near the school and in the local plaza near/in the vicinity of/with proximity to/along/close to/within a reasonable distance of the school. Gallo showed us the different trees we were planting that would benefit the area, providing fruit from the guayabana tree and mucha sombra (a lot of shade) from another type of tree of which the name eludes us at the moment. We can't wait to see pictures of these seedlings sprouting up in the next year!

After wrapping up our arboreal adventure, we returned just in time for recess! We played futbol, jump rope, tag, and the Costa Rican version of Simon Says with the kindergartners, first, and second-graders, while the sixth-graders finished their classwork. After wearing the kiddos out (and ourselves--it was really hot), the sixth-graders came out looking for new opponents to play in futbol. We rallied after a brief snack break of jelly-filled empanadas and sweet, sweet papaya nectar. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and we wished our friends a fond farewell with hugs, last-minute photos, and the gratitude of the teachers and principal, both hoping for CBS to return next year.

A fun-filled morning deserved a brief reprieve in the early afternoon, where the group had a few hours at the hotel with the option to catch up on much-needed sleep, cool off in the many pools around the property, or read a book on the beach before our next adventure began. However, while much of the group took the opportunity to relax, Michael used his free time to continue the adventure, by taking one of the kayaks down the coastline to scout out surrounding beaches. He came back with plans to show us the many wonders he saw tomorrow.

Naturally, the CBS Costa Crew does not rest for long, and we were off to our evening river tour guided by Rancho los Tucanes. Our guide pointed out a whole colony of white-faced monkeys on the river banks and let us watch them frolic in the foliage for twenty minutes, much to the glee of the girls who could not stop taking videos and photos of the "soooooo cute" monkeys. Monica may have found her spirit animal! Other highlights of the tour included seeing the pygmy anteater (Madeline's spirit animal), and learning about the mangrove ecosystem. The guide took us and one hapless family, who got stuck on the boat with us crazies, down the river, all the way to the ocean to see what an important part the mangroves play in supporting Costa Rica's ecosystem. We finished off, once again, with the dinner typico of Costa Ricans: rice, beans, and chicken. Believe it or not we're not tired of it yet!

Back at home after another day of adventure, we capped off the big day with an even bigger treat of warm brownies and ice cream--yum! Cole and Kyle experimented with the espresso machine, and will probably be awake until Sunday after trying all of their new recipes. The rest of the decaf crew finished the evening rolling on the ground in laughter telling embarrassing stories, playing Bananagrams, and looking like goofballs during "Heads Up."

We can't believe we're already going into this weekend, but in the meantime, we are living Pura Vida: enjoying every moment as it comes!

This journalistic entertainment has been brought to you courtesy of the dynamic duo/former roomies of 611/brothers from other on and so forth...

Teddy & Reed

Sloth Watch 2014 (Its been a roaring success)
Day 7: 1
In total: 4
We met Alin, the sloth, on the beach today hanging out with the other cool cats. He was very itchy and spent much of his time scratching his fur. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Costa Rica Day 6

This morning we woke up with sun and the smell of pancakes filling the room.  It was an early wake up call, but we had Nutella and it was all fine. We made a quick drive over to Escuela Portalon where we spent the morning playing with precious Costa Rican chicos. A little timid at first, we introduced ourselves in Spanish and they introduced themselves in English. By the time recess rolled around, chaos ensued. Good chaos. There were soccer games, sack races (Madeline lost to kindergarteners), jump rope, and other exchanges of Costa Rican/American games. When the bell rang for them to go back to class, we said “Hasta manana” to our new amigos. About to go to our next activity, we overheard familiar tunes of our childhood—“The Monkeys on the Bed”. We ran into the classroom of second graders just in time for “If You’re Happy and You Know It” followed by “The Wheels on the Bus”. Little Diego fell out of his chair watching Michael do his best lamb impression on the outset of “Old McDonald”.  It was a good note to leave on.
We went across the street to the school garden, a project by their ecology club. Cost a Ricans put a large emphasis on protecting their environment, integrating topics of ecology into the classroom setting. Here in the garden, the kids are encouraged to get involved by growing plants for their community. In the garden, we helped Gato and Jorge with some garden upkeep. We moved plants, sanded the rust off a shed (to be painted tomorrow), cleaned out and prepared two beds for planting. After two hours of hard work, we put our projects on hold until tomorrow when we return.
Worn out from our busy morning, the beach beckoned us.. Some lounged on the beach while others tumbled in the tide until the sun set on the horizon of the Pacific; a lovely sight that was the best sunset yet. We showered up and headed to dinner in town. One might guess what we had—beans and rice—a favorite here in Costa. We are not complaining. Especially now that we are sitting on our back patio eating Costa Rican chocolate while we watch a thunderstorm light up the night sky. Another delightful day in paradise. Goodnight.
-Annabelle and Hailey

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Day 5 and our first adventure in Manuel Antonio

We started off our stay in Manuel Antonio with a bang…and a delicious breakfast. Crafted by Adrienne and Teddy, the meal consisted of: corn tortillas (a Costa Rican classic), chorizo, bacon, eggs, homemade salsa, pickled onions, perfectly roasted tomatoes. After filling our bellies with delicious food we started our trek to the Savangre River. Along the way we saw a palm oil plantation where workers were doing all stages of harvesting. We even had a pit stop to put rocks in the back of our “coach” bus, piloted by Freddy and Andres our new best friends, so the weight was distributed evenly for our downhill drive. Our traverse lasted about an hour driving through the gorgeous Costa Rican cliff side. Upon arriving we got to explore the area and see gorgeous views of the river on a suspension bridge. From there we suited up in our safety gear (helmets, lifejackets, and paddles) and enjoyed a nice protocol speech by our “rescue kayak” guide, Ronny. 

We were divided into three groups of five for the trip; Team NaeNae, Dream(ing) team, and AYE AYE AYE AYE. The rapids started immediately and we put our safety speech to use when we hit a rapid sideways that sent Ian tumbling into the water. His flip flops, paddle, and dignity were dispersed throughout the class III rapids. We quickly tag-teamed the rescue by grabbing the floating objects (including Ian). All was well as we continued on our trip down the river. Ian however was not the only swimmer today that went swimming; Xena, Michael, Kyle, Stuart, Travis, Cole, and their guide Ivan all took a tumble on the same rapid. Not to boast or brag but the Dream Team made it through this rapid unscathed. 

Just over halfway down the river we had the opportunity to stop at a majestic waterfall and swimming hole. On the wooded path one of our guides hid in a bush and as each of us walked by he rustled the nearby foliage and startled passersby with Javelina noises. Teddy, Annabelle, Cole, and Reed turn tailed and sprinted away which led to many laughs from those not fooled by the guide’s antics. While in the waterfall, Xena and Reed climbed slippery rocks falling victim to the growing algae. After enjoying our time in the waterfall we climbed back in our boats eager to take on upcoming rapids. During our journey we encountered a large Rainbow Boa napping on a branch in order to digest his food for the upcoming week. We got to see the snake up close as Andres guided us underneath and around the snake’s tree. 

Upon returning to base camp we enjoyed a Tico Costa Rican meal consisting of rice, beans, chicken, and vegetables. After a long day of adventure we headed back to the hotel to relax on the private beach. Some of us decided that the day of adventure was not over as we boogie boarded and body surfed our way to exhaustion. Our night was capped off by a delicious meal planned by Teddy and executed by a team of sous chefs (Kyle-sauté chef, Madeline-grill master, Hayley, Travis, and Gretchen-prep cooks). It was a great way to end such an awesome day. We are off to enjoy a Pazookie made by Annabelle. 

We hope your day was as adventure-filled as ours!

Sloth Watch 2014: Day 5
After getting excited about thinking that we had spotted one on the river, our guide informed us that we were actually seeing a termite nest…..what a disappointment.
Total: 1

-3 of the 5 Dream Team Members: Ian, Adrienne, and Gretchen
(we apologize for not having pictures, but the internet is not cooperating with us. We are all safe and sound and looking quite tan after our day on the water....besides Madeline)

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Pura Vida Day 3 & 4

Yesterday in a nutshell = raining, hiking, laughing, PHUN. We began our morning with breakfast, but a another speed bump occurred. Unfortunately, the Safe House was double booked; however, our quick-minded chaperones pulled a “Peyton Manning Omaha!” and devised a “no questions asked” adventure (spoiler alert: questions were asked, and not answered). Ten minutes and 100 “what are we doing?!” questions later, we arrived at Arenal National Park where we would make our 457 step decline to admire the majestic 286 foot waterfall. We had a traditional CBS photo shoot by the waterfall and then explored and swam around the area. When it was time to leave we trekked back up the same 457 stairs, much harder than camp’s Ted Steps of course. Our legs were tired but our spirits were high!

For lunch we ate in town at Sol de Visquez and devoured another typical Costa Rican meal—this time it was a buffet. Big Eats (Kyle) once again did his thing…eat A LOT.  After lunch we headed back to our hotel and bid adios to our wonderful tour guide, Nuelvin – what guy. Luckily we had just enough time to sneak in a little siesta before our next expedition.

Upon arrival at the Volcan Arenal, we split into two separate groups and hiked the base of the ACTIVE volcano (last eruption was in 2010, don’t worry—we survived). Along the trail, the tour guides pointed out all three of Costa Rica’s venomous snakes and a termite habitat—aka “dis lump of poop”, to quote the guide (yes, their humble abode is their very own poop). We reached the tree line, which was as high as we were permitted to hike, and had another photo shoot just for you lovely parentals! After taking in the views, we were ready for yet ANOTHER phun activity and headed back down the trail. Most walked, but some (some =  Monica) slipped down the muddy terrain. The journey back was made much easier through our excitement about what the night had in store: Costa Rica’s classy version of Schlitterbahn.

Our fun-packed day was topped off at Tabacon Hot Springs where we relaxed in pools heated by the volcano. There was lounging, there was slipping, and there was some Home Run Derby watching. We were amazed by the beauty of this natural outdoor sauna. A couple hours later, we again stuffed ourselves silly at dinner with an unexpected Asian buffet. Big Eats outdid himself and our expectations of his stomach capacity by piling his plate high with sushi, lo main, dumplings, fish, vegetables, spring rolls, fried rice, grilled chicken, beef teriyaki, barbeque pork ribs, and garlic bread. He made sure to try each of the mini desserts as well, “it’s okay because they are small, right?” We concluded the night back at the hotel writing this blog entry and reminiscing on our super happy fun fun times at Arenal Springs in La Fortuna.  

Today was spent entirely on the road as we headed towards our final destination in Manuel Antonio at the Buena Vistas Resort. We stopped once for lunch and to shop for souvenirs, and again to overlook a river where blood-thirsty crocodiles bathed in the mud. Six hours later, we finally made it to our hotel where we are staying in gorgeous bungalows with views of the beach.

We hoped you enjoyed the innovative, brilliant, and sophisticated voices of M&M (Michael & Monica) + Cole the Carpenter. PURA VIDA BABY!

Sloth Watch: 1!!!!!!!!!!! –we met our dearest Karl on our drive today; he was stereotypically hanging in the trees, just being a classic sloth.
Total: 1