Thursday, April 21, 2016

Hawaii Travel Diary: Maui Part 1

**Please excuse the radio silence around here. I have just been out of the swing of things and feeling unmotivated and mostly uninterested in dealing with my super slow laptop. But I thought I better recap our time in Maui before I forget all the details.

As much as we loved our visit to Pearl Harbor, the next time we come to Hawaii (and gosh I hope there's a next time) we are booking a direct flight to Maui! The second we stepped off the plane, it was like we finally exhaled and knew this is where we would truly be able to relax and reconnect. Unlike Oahu, we had zero plans for our time on Maui. We upgraded our rental car to a convertible (why the heck not) and cruised with the top down past farm lands, with the mountains in the rear-view mirror, and the ocean at our side as we made our way to Wailea and our perfect resort. There are several different popular vacation areas on Maui (Kaanapali, Wailea, Lahaina) and though I say this with no concept of the other areas... Wailea is definitely the best one! It was exactly what the doctor order (and what my doctor husband needed), quiet, not that crowded, and fewer kids screaming marco-polo in the pools.
When we pulled up to the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, we instantly knew we'd booked a winner. It's always a risk booking a hotel in an area you've never been to before (and this hotel is only about 3 years old so there's not as much online) but I was so glad it was beyond all my hopes and expectations. It's not the stereotypical (sometimes tacky) Hawaii look. It's very modern, all open to the breeze coming off the ocean, and the decor blends in perfectly with the scenery (there is even sand in the lobby).
We were draped in leis and handed lavendar lemonade and directed to choose anywhere in the lobby to relax while they checked us in.  One of the hostesses gave us a little tour and then lead us to our room. Again we'd arrived close to sunset, so we threw on bathing suits and headed out to explore the property before dinner. The Andaz has three infinity pools, a lagoon, and an adults only tranquility pool. It also has the easiest beach access and it doesn't share it's beach with any of the other resorts so it felt very private.
We headed back to our room to change for dinner at Ka'Ana Kitchen, the resort's farm-to-table restaurant.  This was definitely our favorite restaurant of the week and we ended up coming back for our last night as well.  They have an assortment of small plates and large plates that you can pick and choose and share. The best thing hands down is the Ahi Tataki with the burratta cheese and local tomatoes. You wouldn't think seared tuna and cheese would go together but oh. my. word. I'm still dreaming about it.  
Tuesday we woke up bright and early, lathered on the sunscreen and headed down to the beach. Two chairs and an umbrella were set up for us and we grabbed our complimentary snorkel gear to explore the rocks and coral right off the shore.
The rest of the day kind of runs together in a relaxing haze of toes in the sand, a dip in the pool, a nap in the shade before we moseyed on back to our room to change for our dinner reservation at Mama's Fish House
It ended up being more like a late lunch since 4:30pm was the only reservation available but that worked out great since we'd skipped lunch that day, planning to stuff ourselves on fresh fish and Hawaiian fare at this famous spot. Mama's Fish House is in Paia, about 30 minutes from our resort so we left early and got there with plenty of time to enjoy their envious view.
All the fish is caught daily, and the menu changes based on whats available. I had maybe the best seared ahi tuna of my life, and we loved the relaxed style of the restaurant, but it was definitely the most expensive meal of the trip and if we're being honest we both preferred Ka'Ana Kitchen. 
Since we had an earlier dinner, we got back to our resort around sunset and grabbed our books and headed to one of the hanging beds scattered about the property to enjoy the fading light and warm breeze. The perfect end to a perfect night!
Somehow we ended up sleeping until almost 10 am the next day which is quite impressive considering we went to bed around 10pm. Wednesday was another beautiful day but really windy so after our lunch at the Bumbeye Beach Bar, we retreated to our room to watch netflix and chill and ended up taking a two hour nap. What are vacations for if not to fill your sleep bank?? 

We had planned to go into Lahaina and find something easy for dinner that night but, still feeling a little out of it from the surplus of sleep, we decided to skip right to dessert and grab shave ice a little closer to our hotel instead. And after our perfect sweet treat, we made it back to the hotel in time to enjoy another beautiful sunset. 
Oh how I miss that view!! I want to keep reliving this vacation so part two of our time in Maui is coming up next.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Hawaii Travel Diary: Pearl Harbor

I don't think I really believed we were going to Hawaii until the wheels touched down on the palm tree lined runway. And even then, it didn't quite feel like our vacation had started because when you come out of the airport you're reminded that Honolulu is actually quite a busy city, not just a vacation spot, with tall buildings, and a lot of traffic, that just so happens to be lined with miles of sandy beaches. We grabbed a cab and hurried on to our hotel, hoping to get checked in and get our toes in the sand before the sun set. Along the way we noted Tripler Army Medical Center set up a bit higher above the city. It's pink and has a great view of the ocean and happens to be where my mom was born which I think is just the greatest coincidence.
Since we were only going to be on Oahu for two nights we booked a more reasonable hotel so we could really splurge at our second destination in Maui. The Waikiki Beach Marriott Resort and Spa was a good spot for our quick stopover. We didn't rent a car here but we were close enough to walk to a lot of restaurants and it's set right across from Waikiki Beach of course.  We got checked in and immediately threw on bathing suits and practically ran to the beach to catch the sun as it sank into the ocean. Our first of many beautiful sunsets in Hawaii checked off we headed back to the hotel and jumped into the pool before grabbing dinner at the hotel's poolside bar.  We headed to bed, completely exhausted from our day of traveling and looking forward for our first full day in Hawaii!
The next morning we woke up nice and early, thanks jet lag, and I was fully able to appreciate the view from our room. Though we both agreed that Waikiki was a little too crowded and crazy for the relaxing vacation we had in mind, it was fun to see all the surf boards dotting the ocean every day all day. We grabbed a bagel from the coffee shop in the hotel and then ordered an Uber to take us to Pearl Harbor.
I think most people back on the East Coast expect a Hawaiian vacation to include Pearl Harbor- I know we did. And even though we were probably more excited to get to Maui, T.J. and I both agreed that to not visit would be "un-American".  Pearl Harbor is a national park and therefore free to visit, however they only have a certain number of tickets available each day for the USS Arizona. If you don't want to get there right when the gates open to ensure you get a ticket, you can pre-book online the day before (they become available 24 hours in advance, 7am Hawaii time, for a $1.50 processing fee) which is what we did. Then you only need to get there an hour or so before your scheduled ticket time to walk around the visitor center. They also have an audio tour you can pick up which guides you along the shoreline and through the museums providing you more information about the sights.
(The anchor recovered from the USS Arizona- just to give you an ideal of the scale of that ship.)
(The beautiful harbor, with active Navy ships and the USS Arizona memorial in the distance.)

The shoreline is dotted with palm trees and the water is calm and clear blue. It's hard to picture the horror and chaos from that day in December set against such a beautiful backdrop. We quietly wandered through the two exhibit galleries that paint a picture of what it was like to be stationed here in 1941, and give you a reminder of what the world, and the build up to our entrance into the war, looked like.

Before you board the boat that takes you out to the USS Arizona, you gather in a theater to watch a short documentary about the events leading up to that day and the actual attack. They remind you that the USS Arizona is the final resting place of the crewman who sank with the ship, and that we are to step onto the memorial in solemn silence and respect.
The memorial hovers over the remains of the ship, now resting peacefully in the shallow water. Fish swim through the ruins and you can see oil still slowly leaking into the harbor as you look down into the remains of the Arizona.  
A placard reads: "This memorial honors the fallen crew of the USS Arizona and all those who died in the attack on December 7, 1941. The remains of over 900 Arizona crewmen rest beneath you within the sunken battleship... The Shrine room beyond displays the names of the 1,177 Arizona crewmen lost in the attack. Another list honors Arizona survivors who have rejoined their shipmates in the waters below." 
It gutted me to read all those names, and to see the front two shorter pillars listing the men who survived that day but died either later in the war, or even many years after it ended, and then decided to have their ashes returned to Pearl Harbor to join their brothers in the Arizona.

Though visiting a national cemetery is not exactly what you think of when you picture a romantic vacation, it was important to us to go and be reminded of the cost of freedom, the price paid at this place at that time in our history. It's a place you disembark from with a heavier heart and a deeper understanding of the honor and sacrifice of the men who served. It also made me look at the servicemen and women I know now, all one hundred percent volunteer, my husband included, with a deeper sense of appreciation and respect of what they may be called to do. Though it was strange to see people posing for a selfie in front of torpedos, or face-timing their family from the shoreline (is it just me who thinks that's odd and more than a little disrespectful???) we thought the trip to Pearl Harbor and the time spent at such a beautiful memorial was well worth the layover.

We took an uber back to our homebase, and spent the rest of the day enjoying the sun shining generously down on the shores. We were only on Oahu for less than 48 hours as the next day we headed on to Maui, and both agreed that's when the real vacation started!

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

What's in my Beach Bag

Countdown to our Hawaii trip is in the single digits! I've taken over the guest bedroom with all my bright colored dresses, shorts and sandals so I can outfit plan and daydream about finally being warm again!!! Isn't that just the best thing ever? To walk outside and not be cold? To not need a coat?! I CAN"T WAIT!! Since most of each day will be spent at the beach or by the pool the most important things I'm packing are going right into the beach bag!
Here are my 5 beach bag must haves:

Sunscreen. I don't care about being tan... anymore (please don't judge college Shannon with her SPF 4 Banana Boat Tanning Oil). Yes I appreciate a healthy summer glow but for the most part I have fully embraced my Pacific Northwest skin tone. I am basically translucent. I will definitely look like a lobster before day 1 in Hawaii is over if I don't keep myself lathered up. I also have reached an age where I'm aware of my age and want to protect my skin from future wrinkles and lines so I especially don't care to get any color on my face. This is my favorite sunscreen for my face. It's super lightweight, and doesn't look or feel greasy. I prefer a cream sunscreen for my face so I can be extra sure I'm covered and then I use a spray for the rest of my body.

A straw hat. Undoubtedly my freckles will be out in full force after all that glorious sun but to be doubly sure my face is protected I'm gonna be sure to wear a hat as often as possible.

Sunglasses. Duh. My RayBan aviators are my all time favorites but I also love heart shaped sunglasses just for funsies.

Backgammon. I don't know why but I always think of backgammon as a beach game. I guess my parents always brought their board on vacations. So naturally I just had to get a board for T.J. and I to use. I found this adorable travel size one with magnetic pieces. T.J. doesn't know this yet but I plan for us to have an ongoing backgammon tournament and see who wins the most games by the end of our trip.

Books. Books. More Books! One of my favorite parts of any vacation is having all that time to read! There is nothing more relaxing than laying under the beach umbrella and getting sucked into a good book. It's amazing how much more reading I get done when I have nothing else on my to-do list except to take a dip in the ocean and maybe have a nap later in the day. Couple that with several long-ish flights, and unavoidable layovers, and I have to stop myself from packing a small library. It may be optimistic, but here are the books I'm bringing: 
(source. save one of those loungers for me!)

Friday, March 18, 2016

five on friday

 We now get our milk delivered to our front door and it is adorable! Smith Brothers Farms is a local dairy farm and I decided I needed one of those cute insulated boxes on my front porch. Yes... confession... that box is 90% of why I signed up for milkman, but I also really love their products! We have a standing order of a weekly half gallon of milk and a dozen eggs every other week and on Thursday mornings our haul is waiting for me on the front porch. You can adjust your standing order as needed, up until the night before it's delivered, and add other items like the creamiest chocolate milk, cinnamon rolls, and Beechers mac and cheese! Is there anything better than cinnamon rolls waiting for you when you come downstairs?
I also added a new wreath to our front door from Joss & Main and I just love how very southern it is. It's sold out there but you can find similar here.
I haven't done a ton of decorating for Easter or spring because it's still pretty chilly and gross here but I did add my Naptime Diaries Advent cards to the shutter in our dining space and of course I had to get out some Easter candy. (What you don't see is the bag of pastel peanut M'n'M's and the two bags of starburst jelly beans I've already gone through...)

Monday was Hunley's birthday! He is officially one year old. I can't believe he's been with us for that long but at the same time it's hard to remember what I did with myself all day without my little buddy to chase around. He is, simultaneously, a complete pain in the butt and also the cuddliest most loving puppy. It's how he gets away with so much. and he totally has T.J. and I wrapped around his paw...

This is what he looked like the day we brought him home. I can't believe how much he's grown!

Soap box time. You may have seen some outraged posts on social media lately about Instagram's announcement that they're going to roll out a new format for how your feed is displayed. Instead of being chronological like it is now, Instagram has developed an algorithm to determine which posts it thinks will be post important to you.
They say:

To improve your experience, your feed will soon be ordered to show the moments we believe you will care about the most. The order of photos and videos in your feed will be based on the likelihood you’ll be interested in the content, your relationship with the person posting and the timeliness of the post. 
As we begin, we’re focusing on optimizing the order — all the posts will still be there, just in a different order. If your favorite musician shares a video from last night’s concert, it will be waiting for you when you wake up, no matter how many accounts you follow or what time zone you live in. And when your best friend posts a photo of her new puppy, you won’t miss it.

I'm sorry but this jut plain pisses me off and it's just like Facebook's News Feed. If your Facebook feed is anything like mine you probably end up seeing the same posts over and over each time you log in. In fact I feel like I miss more posts now because the posts the algorithm deems I "care less about" are pushed to the bottom of my feed or filtered out all together. This is just a short step away from paying to boost your posts, and our feeds will all start to look the same.  It is also bad news bears for small business and bloggers who use Instagram to promote their pages and connect with readers. I often share a picture as soon as I have a new blog post up. But if the posts no longer show up in chronological order, it is less and less likely that followers and friends will see that and be directed to my blog.
My favorite thing about instagram is that it's fresh and changing and moves with us, and that's real life. Instagram claims we miss more content this way, but oh well! Although, I don't know how accurate that is because I refresh that thing probably every 10 minutes to see what new posts there are and I shamelessly scroll back through hours of content to catch up on the lives of the people I chose to follow. Instagram thinks an algorithm knows me better than I know myself, but when I chose to follow the people, celebrities, and brands, that was my way of saying I want to see ALL their posts, as they're happening.

Anywho.... I get worked up about it because it seems the "social" aspect of social media is quickly fading away into a big void of groupthink. I guess that's a lesson for us users: social media is not real life and it will always come up short of real interactions. But I just really hope my favorite App doesn't die a slow death like Facebook.  Go here to sign the petition to #keepinstagramchronological.

{link up your friday posts here and here}

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Good for my Soul

{read part 1 here}
Sunday we woke up with one thing in mind... DONUTS! We headed to the Original House of Donuts, selected a dozen, cut them all up in thirds, and went to town! We took the dog for a walk, got ready for the day, and then went straight from our donut tasting to wine tasting. 
The girls we delighted to hear that Chateau St. Michelle was within driving distance. It's about an hour away from my house and I had never been myself so how could we not go? There was a crazy storm going on all afternoon but we didn't let that stop us! When we arrived we literally ran inside to avoid falling branches and then hopped onto the next tour. They do a free tour of the Chateau with a history of the region, the wine makers, and the various vineyards throughout Washington where the grapes come from. All of the grapes are grown in eastern Washington, on the other side of the Cascades and practically no rain compared to where we live. Some of the wines are bottled out there but for most of their white wines, the grapes are sent across the mountains and are bottled right there at the Chateau.
The winery was actually running on generators at this point since the weather was so bad but luckily all the important parts were lit up so after our free tasting we ordered another flight (or two) and some snacks and settled in for a relaxing afternoon. We stayed until it closed, catching up on the past year of our lives and letting the hours pass by slowly.  I definitely want to go back in the summer time when you can tour the gardens and they do concerts in their outdoor amphitheater. 
Monday we had set aside for a snow day! The girls had brought ski gear and we had originally planned to go to Crystal Mountain for the day. But... all the crazy rain and storms we were having at lower elevation translated to blizzard like conditions higher up. I was pretty nervous about driving two hours into the mountains into the unknown so we called the Crystal Mountain and they informed us that the fresh powder was great for skiing but the roads were still being plowed and the snow was still falling heavily and snow chains would be needed... yeah, no, thanks. Instead we opted to go snowshoeing and crossed our fingers that the roads in Snoqualmie wouldn't be as bad. It was pouring rain when we started out and as we drove higher into the mountains we watched the top of the trees start to turn white and then the rain turn to big snowflakes.  We went to the same place T.J. and I had previously been but this time there was a TON more snow. The roads were okay until we pulled off the exit to the trail head. With just a mile and half to go we decided it would be safest to break out the snow chains. Lets just say it's a lot trickier to put them on in the snow than in my driveway and leave it at that.
We parked carefully, strapped on our snowshoes and leashed up a very excited puppy and headed into "Narnia." We crunched through the snow and stopped to make snow angels and throw snowballs at Hunley and take lots of pictures of a quiet world that looked like the inside of the snow globe!
After a long hike around the frozen lake we made our way out of the winter wonderland with a final stop at Snoqualmie Falls before heading home.
Once home we took hot showers and then made homemade pizza for old times sake before sitting down to three hours of The Bachelor. My neighbor and good friend came over to join us. I love seeing worlds collide, and watching new friends meet old friends, and just being surrounded by girls I can lean on and have so much fun with! The next day I sadly had to return my friends to the airport and we had to promise it wouldn't be so long before the next girls weekend.
Girlfriends are just like water to my soul. Moving out of the town-home we shared in Maryland, not yet two years ago, was more than just the start of my new wonderful life with T.J. It was the end of a sweet season of roommates, and living right down the hall from your best friends, and sharing a fridge, and coming home from work and excitedly seeing that both your roommates cars were in the parking lot which meant dinner together on the couch, and taylor swift dance parties, and chardonnay. There is just something special, something sacred about girlfriends, and true, intimate friendship, where you knew each other, loved each other, needed each other, before you became a we. T.J. is my partner now, my husband, the love of my life, but I still and always will need these girls.
And friends are friends forever
If the Lord's the Lord of them
And a friend will not say "Never" 
Cause the welcome will not end 
Though it's hard to let you go 
In the Father's hands we know 
That a lifetime's not too long 
To live as friends