Adventures of the Heart
Mary Zalmanek
Issue 54 - 12 Hours of Christmas and Seeds of Hope

In this issue:

  • 12 Hours of Christmas: Suggestions for a fun and romantic Christmas
  • Seeds of Hope: Finding inspiration on a Costa Rican adventure
  • Upcoming Art of the Spark Relationship Workshop
  • Limited time offer for The Art of the Spark and The Finance of Romance
  • Food for Celebration: 3 recipes from Costa Rica

12 Hours of Christmas

Just like any other couple, my husband Jim and I have our own holiday traditions: Christmas Eve services, then dinner with the family, Christmas day for the two of us.  Last year I pondered how to keep our day together fresh, exciting and fun.  I decided to do the 12 Hours of Christmas. I prepared cards to be opened every hour, each with a small gift or activity to match.  It was so much fun that we decided to do it again this year, but instead of me planning all 12 activities, we’ll draw numbers.  We’ll each plan 6.  Repeats from last year are perfectly acceptable.  

You know the song.  Imagine it with these words: 

  • On the first hour of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a soak under a ponderosa pine tree (What better way to start Christmas day than in the hot tub?)
  • Second hour, two chocolate turtles (Breakfast dessert.)
  • Third hour, three French kisses (Time to smooch on this sweet day!)
  • Fourth hour, four calling birds (Get some exercise to burn off the chocolate turtles. Go for a walk and listen for birds.)
  • Fifth hour, five golden oldies (Make a play list of favorite love songs.  Listen, reminisce and maybe even dance.)
  • Sixth hour, six bricks a laying (Work a jigsaw puzzle with bricks in the foreground.)
  • Seventh hour, seven fish a swimming (Wichita Salmon for dinner.)
  • Eighth hour, eight maids a milking (Buttermilk fudge for dessert.)
  • Ninth hour, nine ladies dancing.  (Plan a date for the future. Go online and buy tickets for a musical.)
  • Tenth hour, ten leopards leaping. (Watch one of the Planet Earth DVDs.)
  • Eleventh hour, eleven mochas piping. (Starbucks gift card.)
  • Twelfth hour, twelve words crossing. (Crossword puzzle fans can create a personal crossword puzzle ( with memories of the past year.)

This could be a fun activity for families, too.  Just replace French kisses with French toast. 

Quote of the Month

“An essential part of a happy, healthy life is being of service to others.” -- Susan Patton Thoele

Seeds of Hope

Last month we joined our friends, Coke and Edna Fallstead, for our version of a happy, healthy vacation in Costa Rica.  In Quepos, our time was filled with all the tropical adventures one would expect: zip lining in the rainforest canopy, feasting on native cuisine, and glimpsing tropical wildlife as we hiked through pristine primary forests.  Paddling through the mangroves, we experienced an unexpected delight when friendly white-faced monkeys come onto our kayaks to drink fresh water from the hands of our guide. 

We traveled north to Lake Arenal to revisit the bed and breakfast that Jim and I ran for two months in 2001 (see  for story of that adventure).  It was like coming home, yet I still felt that sense of awe and wonder we had during our first visit.  

All of that made for an amazing vacation, but it gets even better. For me, the highlight of our trip was meeting Penny and Chris Williams, a couple living happy, healthy lives while being of service to others.  They own the timeshare next door to us at Villas Tranquilas in Quepos. Earlier this year, they left their luxury home and comfortable lives in San Diego to start a non-profit organization. Seeds of Hope is a “rehabilitation program for Costa Rican girls who have been victimized by sex trafficking or exploitation.”   

Penny and Chris invited Edna and me to visit their clubhouse and meet the girls in the program. Seven girls, ages 12 to 17, come to the clubhouse three times a weeks to learn English and to make the jewelry that supports the program. They also study the Bible, cooking, parenting, health, and vocational skills. Prior to Seeds of Hope, these girls had few options. Their mothers and grandmothers were prostitutes, and most of them had no idea who their fathers were.  Mothers sold their daughters into prostitution to help feed the family. Now, if the girls attend classes three times each week and turn their jewelry in on time, they get enough food to feed the entire family (from 5 to 8 people) and their electricity bill is paid for the month. 

The program has worked so well that younger girls in the neighborhood asked to be included, too.  They don’t make jewelry, but they learn English and study the Bible. The girls were as cute and playful as any typical 9 to 11 year old. It broke my heart to learn that 90% of the girls have been sexually molested by the time they are 6.  All of them are at high risk of becoming prostitutes to survive. 

In addition to the clubhouse, Seeds of Hope is opening a shelter for girls who are not safe in their own homes.  The shelter is in the final stages of preparation and licensing. It should be ready to accept girls by Christmas.  The shelter will be able to house up to 16 girls.

If their stories touch you like they touched me, you can support their program by buying jewelry made of abalone and river shells or making tax-deductible donations to their 501(c)3.  Go to If you are in the Colorado Springs area, I have some extras I can sell to you; I’ll even deliver. The earrings are $12.50 to $15, and bracelets are $10. If you are considering a monthly donation, think about friends who could join you to sponsor one girl for $125.  Donations of $10, $25, or $50 quickly add up to make a huge difference in the lives of these girls and their entire families.  

Art of the Spark Relationship Workshop - Spring, 2013 

If an essential part of your happy, healthy life is being of service to others -- and your sweetheart -- come to the next Art of the Spark Relationship Workshop.  The date is still being firmed up.  It will be in late April or early May.  If you have a preference, let me know. 

You’ll discover that acts of service are one way to express your love, one of Five Love Languages we discuss based on the work of Gary Chapman. And that’s just a start.  There are hundreds of way to express your love and celebrate your sweetheart. The workshop explores love, romance, and fun for couples in committed relationships -- married, engaged, dating or partnered.  You’ll also find out how easy it is to have romantic adventures on any budget. 

In this workshop, you’ll learn how to avoid five common mistakes couples make:

  • Expressing love in ways their partners don’t understand
  • Using surprise when it’s ill advised
  • Being so busy with other responsibilities that their relationship gets lowest priority
  • Becoming bored because the focus is on all work and no play
  • Thinking they can’t afford to invest time or money in their relationship

Back by popular demand, Special guest Molly Lord, creator of Tuned-In Workshops, will teach how to use music as a tool to rekindle fun and passion.  Recently acknowledged as an elite teacher and visionary, Molly was featured in the human potential film, The Keeper of the Keys, with authors Jack Canfield, Marci Shimoff and Dr. John Gray.  

When I took Molly’s Tuned-In Workshop, I realized how much music influences all our relationships.  Naturally, I was most interested in how music can enhance our romantic adventures.  After two successful field tests of my own, I asked Molly to join me for the next Art of the Spark Workshop. 

Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see Molly in an Art of the Spark Relationship Workshop!

  • Date and Time: To be determined
  • Location:  Old Town Guest House
  • Cost: $109 per couple - early bird rate
  •          $129 per couple - regular rate
  • Includes: The Art of the Spark (one copy per couple)
  •          A very romantic light lunch

Schedule Your Own Art of the Spark Relationship Workshop

 It's easy to host your own Art of the Spark workshop tailored to meet your needs. You provide space for the workshop in your home, office or church, tell your friends about it and I do the rest. When a church or non-profit sponsors the event, 20% of proceeds will be donated to that organization.  

For more information go to

 Rave reviews from past participants Art of the Spark Relationship Workshops 

“I was deeply touched by the things that happened that afternoon.  My husband, who has always been a great husband but never particularly demonstrative, totally blew my socks off… He’s been so warm and considerate since that afternoon -- I’m just elated!” — Linda Lauck 

“On a scale of 1 to 10, the workshop was an 11.  It was filled with substance and depth, yet still playful and easy.”  — Ronna Vigil  

“Mary has a wonderful presence and a wealth of information that is invaluable to any relationship.” — David Thomas 

“LOVED YOUR WORKSHOP!!!! Thank you for bringing an extra spark to our relationship. I know the next 10 years are going to be that much more amazing!!” — Noelle Arbon

“I not only endorse and recommend this class, but feel that Mary has put a creative and fun approach to a subject we sometimes take for granted in this fast-paced world of ours.”  —Dr. John Daugherty

“The course brought together many new ideas and all the things that have worked for us but were forgotten.”  —Tom Saponas

Announcing The Finance of Romance by Leon Scott Baxter

Last year Leon Scott Baxter asked me to write the foreword for his latest book, The Finance of Romance: Investing in Your Relationship Portfolio. I was familiar with his previous books, including A Labor with Love: A Dad’s-to-Be Guide to Romance During Pregnancy. Long time readers of this newsletter may remember Leon from Issue 17 in 2007. After I reviewed The Finance of Romance, I readily agreed to write the foreword.  

Leon applies sound financial principles to relationships: begin investing today, get rid of debt, change spending habits, invest regularly and diversify, assess risks, maintain good credit, and reinvest profits.  No one would doubt the wisdom in this financial advice.  With logic and humor, Leon explains the growth potential by investing in your “relationship portfolio.”   Even small financial sacrifices can result in significant gains.  He makes packing a sack lunch sound downright sexy. 

Reading Leon Scott Baxter's The Finance of Romance is like having a conversation with a very funny, very smart and helpful friend.  You'll laugh out loud, but best of all, when you're done reading you will have a solid plan for romance and finance that will pay beautiful dividends throughout your life.

Buy The Art of the Spark and The Finance of Romance for $20

For a limited time, you can buy The Art of the Spark and The Finance of Romance for $20 (a $30 value).  Go to to get your copies today.

Food for Celebration

On our third trip to Costa Rica in November, 2012, we had many delicious meals.  Here are three recipes I’ve been able to duplicate at home. 

Egg Tortas

For two wondrous months in 2001, Jim and I ran the Villa Decary in Costa RIca ( When we revisited in 2012, Elkin, a Tico (Costa Rican) who works there now, led us on a tour of his family’s farm. His father bought 70 acres 60 years ago for less than $2.00.  His mother made us a delicious meal.  Most of the food was grown or raised on their farm. I told Elkin it was the best meal we had during our entire vacation.  He said, “That’s because it was prepared with so much love.”  My favorite dish was these egg tortas. 

Patacones (Plantain Chips)

For my first meal upon our return to Costa Rica, I ordered shrimp ceviche.  The dish came with lightly salted fried plantain chips, golden brown and crisp on the outside, soft on the inside. They were so good I tried to make them the very next day in our condo.  I used ripe plantains, and the results were disappointing.  After that, I ordered them every chance I got.  Sometimes they weren’t quite as soft in the middle, but they were still very tasty. When we arrived at Villa Decary, I asked for a cooking lesson from Miguel, a Tico worker at the B&B.  The key is to start with very green plantains. 

Shrimp Ceviche

The restaurant claimed to have the best shrimp ceviche in Quepos. After tasting the ceviche at several other places, I agreed.  I tried to recreate it when I got home.  I tried several combinations before I even came close to what Kukula’s served.  Fresh shrimp would be best, but it came out fine with frozen.

Until Next Time 

If you enjoyed this free newsletter, please forward it to friends.  I care about people and how they celebrate.  If you have any stories you’d like to share, please send them to me at

Wishing you a life of romantic adventure,

Mary Zalmanek

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