Monday, July 28, 2014

Project House Update: An Adequate Paint Job

This project could really be called "how to paint a room that's good enough for now". In case you don't recall, a few weeks ago, I had the the afternoon off work and was dangerously productive. The object of my aggression? The in-wall toilet paper caddy in our master bathroom.

We patched it and it was okay, but it wasn't good enough. We debated on leaving the patch off-color from the rest of the wall until we finally got around to properly redoing the bathroom, but I just couldn't take it anymore. There are too many in progress projects in this house and I got tired of looking at something unfinished. Even if we have to repaint it down the line when we officially redo the room down the line, it needed to be a uniform color to hide the patch. Since with us, it could be decades until we actually get to this room. 

Here's what it looked like 'Before'.

And the 'After'. We chose to paint it the same 'Polar Bear' white we use for all the ceilings in the house. It's warmer in real life than in these shots.

We debated buying a new ceiling light/fan, but we couldn't find any we liked. As a temporary solution, Dan spray painted the old one clean white to match the new paint. It's actually kind of pretty in its new color. He also painted the ceiling vent grate clean white as well.

I tried my best to paint up in the sky light, but it was incredibly challenging. The skylight opening is one foot by one foot and about 18 inches deep. I simply couldn't reach the top of the skylight with a paint brush to cut in the corners. For now, I'm not losing any sleep over it because you can only really see it if you are directly underneath it.

And the drywall patch could definitely still use some work. My mudding skills are usually pretty good (it's basically the only skill I have), but the patch was just too much area to mud to blend it into the wall. However, keeping with the theme of this post, it'll do for now. The light switches and outlets were replaced clean white, but the intercom is still blah beige. Once we have a way to relabel the buttons, that will get a coat of fresh paint, too.

Of course, Zack Morris went back up in his rightful spot above the toilet. I'm a classy broad.

This room will eventually need tile floors (you can't see from these pictures but it is, in fact, carpeted) and a new toilet. Probably a new pocket sliding door as well. At least it's less ugly until we get around to all those things.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

My Sparring Buddy

Somehow, I've actually had motivation to stick to a work-out routine for the past two weeks. Today is Day 10 of Jillian Michael's 30 Day Shred. Yay! Last day of Workout 1.

Part of the reason I've been able to stick with it has been my little workout buddy. Everytime I get to the cardio boxing portion of the DVD, I spar it out with the Lil' Red. It's a workout for both the doughy little redheads in the house.

Don't worry. I never actually hit Rusty. I tap his paw once or twice to get him started and he just wants to hit me back. It's a fun little game to him. I did have to cut his nails, though, so I would stop getting hurt.

I've tried it with Sam, but he gets confused, then offended, then scared.

Also, let's pretend I didn't post a video of me working out, all sweaty and gross, on the internet. Just focus on the adorable cat, people.

Monday, July 14, 2014

What to Pack for Hawaii

This is my last post on our Hawaii trip, I swear. (I wouldv'e posted it last week but blogger deleted it after it was 99% complete, thanks for that.)

So, without further ado, the definitive list of what you should pack for your Hawaiian trip.

Hawaii packing

Suit Case
  • Clothes and shoes. Unlike most travel, don't plan on wearing the same shirt in multiple outfits without washing it. Between the sweat, sunscreen, and the saltwater, it's nice to have some spare shirts to change into. Bring extra shirts.
  • Swimsuits. At least two in case one is still wet from the day before.  
  • Water-wicking workout clothes. For hikes and watersports
  • PJs.
  • Socks.
  • Bras.
  • Underwear
  • Beach bag
  • Sun Hat
  • Glasses and case
  • Waterproof disposable camera for in-the-water activies
  • Non-liquid toiletries.
    • Make-up remover wipes 
    • Hair brush, comb, two pony tail elastics, stretchy head band, and at least ten bobby pins.
    • Toothbrush.
    • Contact case.
    • Hair straightener
    • Deodorant.
    • Razor
    • Make-up brushes and solids, like concealer stick.
Big Purse 
  • Beach books
  • Cellphone charger
  • Camera battery charger
  • Earplugs.
  • Eye mask, since you will most likely have a red-eye on the flight home.
  • Neck pillow
  • Scarf
  • Paperwork for the plane tickets, hotel reservations, rental car, directions, addresses, phone numbers, etc.
  • Water bottle (empty)
  • Ipod
  • A couple of granola bars in case you end up missing a meal.
  • Smaller purse
    • Wallet
    • Phone
    • Camera
    • Sunglasses and case
    • IB Profen
  • Liquids bag
    • Toothpaste
    • Face Lotion
    • Sunscreen
    • Liquid make-up
    • Contact Solution
    • Extra set of contacts
Most importantly, just make sure to pack (or buy when you arrive) the following things for your beach bag:

  • Waterproof beach bag
  • Sunscreen
  • Hair ties and bobby pins
  • Towel
  • Snacks
  • Water bottle
  • Cover up, swimsuit, and flip flops (if you aren't already wearing them)
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses 
  • Some ziploc bags (to hold sandy things)
Alright. That's it. I promise. (Until our next trip...)

Friday, July 11, 2014

Tips and Advice for Staying at Turtle Bay Resort

Although we had a great time on our six day stay at Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu (you can read my recaps here, here, and here), it could have been knocked out of the park if I'd know a bunch of little tips. So, I present to you, my giant list of tips for the perfect Hawaiian vacation!

Turtle Bay Image

The Resort
  • The beach situation at Turtle Bay still boggles my mind. There's the beach everyone goes to, as you can see in the image below on the left. It's where all the lounge chairs live and unfortunately where all the small children live, too. However, just a three minute walk down the shore and it’s gorgeous empty white sand beaches, as you can see in the image below on the right. If you can walk five minutes in either direction along the coast, do it. You don’t have to worry about a wave slamming someone into you or someone walking off with your beach bag. [Sidenote: Turtle bay also has a ‘private’ beach that they will take you to for a fee. It’s the same beach where they teach paddleboard. So if you want to find it, take the class early in your trip and drive your own car back later to cut out the fee. I could point it out on a map, but I don’t feel comfortable doing that.]

Left: Main Beach  Right: Our Beach
  • When you check in, the front desk will give you one towel card per person. At kiosks by the beach or by the pool, you exchange these cards for beach towels. You should never carry around a towel card. If you’ve finished with a towel, just exchange your dirty towel for a new one. It will save you from having to walk back to the kiosk next time you want to head to the water.
  • Don’t waste your money on fancy coffees at the café in the hotel lobby. Each room comes with a Keurig, some K cups, and paper cups. If you need your coffee fancier, just buy a bottle of creamer (for the price of one cup of coffee) and keep it in the mini-fridge.
  • Traffic and driving on Oahu takes some getting used to. Locals have no problem just pulling out into traffic, whether there is a gap to pull into or not. It’s jarring at first, but you’ll be doing it, too by the end of your trip. Also, if you’re in one of the surrounding towns, park and walk. Try to find a nice, big parking lot and leave your car there until you are ready to leave. The towns are small enough that you can just walk everywhere.
  • If you are a West Coaster, consider staying on west coast time. There’s not much of a nightlife at the hotel and things are a lot less busy early in the morning. Go to bed early and wake up early to miss the crowds.
  • Know what events are going on around the hotel. We almost bought tickets to the fire dance show at the Polynesian Cultural Center for a minimum of $40 a person. Turns out, every Wednesday, the hotel had their own fire dance show, albeit it much smaller, for free. And, since it is much smaller, you can participate and learn some of the dances, too.
  • The wooden blinds in the room don’t block out much light. If you are a light sleeper, consider requesting a room with a sunset view, not sunrise.
  • If you are having trouble finding something on the Turtle Bay website, try their mobile version. I found it much easier to find times and rates on it than their regular site.
  • If you plan on trying out paddleboarding, don’t sign up for the private class. Just pick a 9AM group class a couple days out that is empty and odds are that no one will sign up with you. Much cheaper.
  • When we did the paddleboard class, we worried about where we would put our stuff. So, we didn’t bring anything, which probably led to my insane sunburn. Just know that they bus you in a van to the cove where you paddleboard and you can leave anything you bring along locked up in the van.
  • Visiting Pearl Harbor is a long day. We knew there would be a wait, but the internet didn't explain it to us properly. Tickets for the boat to the memorial are free and at assigned times, like the Fast Pass at Disneyland. You pick up the tickets and they tell you to come back at a later time. There are also only a scattering of tickets. We arrived at roughly 10AM and were lucky to get on the second to last boat of the day at 2:30PM. Fortunately, there are a lot of museums and displays to see while waiting for your ticket group.
  • If you are visiting Kualoa Ranch, know that you need to take one of the tours to see anything. I was afraid we would be wasting our money on a tour when you could just walk up and see the log from ‘Jurassic Park’. You can't. It's deep in the valley. Although the lodge is nice, you can’t see anything worthwhile without getting on a tour.
  • My biggest regret was not bringing a disposable underwater camera or getting a waterproof case for my phone or camera. There were so many great moments I failed to capture because I didn’t want to risk ruining my electronics. Find a way to take pictures in any condition.
  • If you are not checking a bag, just plan on buying a big bottle of sunscreen when you land. Don’t try and stuff your liquids bag full of tiny travel tubes.
  • Turtle Bay boasts ‘trails’ to local points of interest, like the WWII bunker and the large banyan tree where they filmed ‘Lost’. These walks are nice to take, but be aware the trails not well marked at all and you will get lost several times. Just make sure you have a map and if you get lost, just walk in the general direction and you’ll be fine.
  • Shop around for souvenirs. Most places you go will have a souvenir shop and most shops will carry the exact same things. Put some forethought into what you’d like to bring back and hunt it out, like my dashboard hula dancer Lelaini.

  • Along the same lines, if you’re hoping to bring back a big bag of sea shells as your souvenir, think again. The only shells we found on any of the beaches we went to were either teeny tiny or fragments.
  • The Turtle Bay website claims that you can check out a snorkel from them, which is true. However, only the first hour is free, so that kind of limits you to their busy, popular cove. Every additional hour will cost you $7. If you want to spend time snorkeling, bring your own (Amazon has kits for only $20) and heading to somewhere more scenic. Our paddleboard instructor recommended Sunset Beach, the beach across from the Foodland.
  • The biggest way we saved money was by not buying breakfast at the hotel. Their options were the café in the lobby, a la carte at North Shore Kula Grille, or the buffet at North Shore Kula Grille. These will easily set you back $10+ per person every day. Instead, we stocked up on breakfast food at Foodland, the local grocery store. Just a ten minute drive away, we bought a tray of cinnamon rolls, boxes of cereal, and a bottle of juice and kept it in the mini-fridge. A whole tray of cinnamon rolls was $3.99. I don’t think you could get a single cinnamon roll at the café for that amount. We did try the breakfast buffet on our first morning and it was not worth the $24 price tag ($18 for me since I don’t eat breakfast meats).
  • Apparently a lot of restaurants close early in the surrounding towns, like 8PM early. Plan accordingly.
  • Driving along, you’ll notice a lot of fruit stands on the side of the road. Save your money and just buy the exact same pineapples from the grocery store. They all come from the same Dole plantation in the center of the island, anyway. Go to Foodland, buy a couple of them (and a small knife to cut them up), and enjoy! Those pineapples were some of the best I’ve ever had. And it’s a great room air fresher for the days before you carve into one!
  • The famous place for shaved ice on Oahu is Matsumoto Shave Ice in Haleiwa (pronounced hal-eh-EE-va). Because it’s so famous, the line goes around the building and they’re only open until 6PM. An equal drive from the hotel is Wili Wili’s at Kahuku Grill in Kahuku. Just follow in the highway in the opposite direction and follow the signs. Yummy yummy.
  • Review of restaurants at the hotel
      • North Shore Kula Grille: the hotel restaurant. It's one of the few places that is open all day long. You can order off the menu or choose the buffet all day long. The food is pretty good and the cost is not ridiculously outlandish. Also, the dining area has an incredible view of the pool and the cove beyond it. 
      • Pa'akai: the fancy restaurant. It boasts local ingredients and decor is quite stylish. However, the food isn't that much greater than North Shore Kula Grille, the cost is more, and the view is worse. It's okay to skip this one.
      • Hang Ten Bar and Grill: the poolside grill. The drinks were good. The fries were good. The veggie burger was the worst veggie burger I've ever eaten in my whole life. No exaggeration. The one thing it really has going for it is the location. You can watch the sunset or the fire dance show or people learn to surf in the waves below.
      • Lei Lei’s Bar and Grill: the golf course restaurant. The food is kind of meh and the views are bad. I guess unless you want to just stare at a golf course. Feel free to pass on this one.
      • Lobby Lounge: the hotel coffee shop. We didn't have anything here. It wasn't worth the high prices.
      • Ola Restaurant: the beach restaurant. Unfortunately we didn't eat here because there wasn't anything I could/wanted to eat on their menu. Oh, the plight of the vegetarian.
      • Surfer, The Bar: the hotel bar. See 'Ola Restaurant' above.
  • Review of restaurants we tried in Haleiwa
      • Kua Aina: the burger hole-in-the-wall. This was Dan's favorite place. We went twice and he raved about their grilled fish sandwiches. Their fries are shoestring, which I'm not a fan of, but their avocado sandwich was yummy.
      • Pizza Bob’s: the pizza shop. We had our first meal on the island here and it was delicious. the place was chock full of locals and had great service. Since my dad's name is Bob, his souvenir was one of their t-shirts.
      • Luibueno’s: the Mexican joint. This was some of the best Mexican food we'd both ever had. And that's a BIG compliment coming from people who live less than 90 minutes from the border. Make sure to stop in here.
So, I think that's everything. Hopefully this helped you a bit if you ever think about visiting the islands yourself. It's so totally worth it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Hawaiian Awesomeness: Days 4, 5, and 6

I'm almost done with recapping our trip!

Day 4: Pearl Harbor and the Arizona memorial. Visiting Pearl Harbor is a long day. We knew there would be a wait, but the internet didn't explain it to us properly. Tickets for the boat to the memorial are free and at assigned times, like the Fast Pass at Disneyland. There are also a very limited number of tickets. We arrived at roughly 10AM and were lucky to get on the second to last boat of the day at 2:30PM.

Fortunately, there are a lot of museums and displays to see while waiting for your ticket group.

Dan on the deck of the submarine Bowfin
Using binoculars to observe the Arizona memorial from the Bowfin.
The USS Arizona Memorial
The exposed sections of the Arizona
You can see the light oil slick from the oil slowly bubbling up from the sunken ship
On the drive back to the resort from Honolulu, we took a detour to stop at the Pali outlook. The view from the lush clifftop is worth getting stuck in traffic on the way down. And the wind is so strong, it's almost unbelievable.

Slightly windblown
Unfortunately, I don't have a lot of pictures from our last two days, Days 5 and 6.

Day 5: Paddleboarding. This was the epic day of paddleboarding. Since we didn't have the forethought to bring a disposable waterproof camera or a waterproof case for either of our phones, there's no evidence that it ever happened. But it did! And I only fell in the water once!

If you know anything about me in the real world, you know that I am not athletic. Not in the slightest. However, when we were on this awesome vacation, I really wanted to take advantage of the amenities the hotel had to offer. Since surfing was out, I got up the courage early in the trip to convince Dan to try paddleboarding with me.

And I'm so glad we did. No one else signed up for our class, so it was just me and Dan and our instructor in the cove where they filmed 'Catching Fire'. (Image 1 Source, Image 2 Source)

That's right. I'm Katniss, now.

There were barely any waves, which made keeping my balance remarkably easy. The only time I fell over was because the instructor was trying to teach me a move to turn fast. Slow turning was working just fine, thank you very much.

There was also a moment of incredible panic on my part when I looked down and saw movement under my board. Movement in the ocean = sharks, in my brain. Turns out, it was just a big old sea turtle. Amazing!

Unfortunately, I did not apply sunscreen well enough and after standing in the sun on a board for two hours, I got one of the worst sun burns of my life. My shorts were shorter than I thought so I wound up with a fried strip across both my thighs. I couldn't sleep on my stomach for days.

The burn also kept the next few days pretty quiet, since I was in a lot of pain. We spent the afternoon at our section of beach and went to dinner in Haleiwa at Dan's new favorite burger joint.

Day 6: Flying home. This was probably the weirdest day of the whole trip. Our flight home was a red-eye, leaving Honolulu at 11PM. We had to check out of the hotel at 11AM, so we had a total of twelve hours to kill. The day was quite a hodge-podge as we worked our way across the island.

Until the last day, we hadn't purchased any souvenirs. The only thing that had caught my eye were some dashboard hula girls at Waimea Falls, so we went back and bought them. Three total, one for me and two as presents to my mom and sister for watching the cats. Then, we stopped in Haleiwa for a Mexican food lunch. Even though Tucson is 90 minutes from the border, this restaurant had some of the best Mexican food we've ever had.

By the time we arrived back in Honolulu, it was roughly 3PM. We were out of sites we wanted to see and my legs hurt everytime I moved from my sunburn. To kill time, we decided to visit the weird shopping mall in existence. It was like the stores were lego bricks and a toddler had smashed them together. A Chanel next to a Claire's. Weird. We filled as much time as we could without buying anything ridiculous. All we ended up with was a Dole Whip and some Hawaiian burgers. Yum.

It was a great and exhausting trip. I'm so glad we did it (even after Dan totaled up the cost, yikes). In spite of that, we need to do something like this every year.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Hawaiian Awesomeness: Day 3

What you are about to see are now officially my favorite pictures in the whole wide world. Don't tell Dan, but our engagement and wedding pictures don't compare to these. Don't tell our future children, but I'll probably cherish these photos more than all of their inevitably nerdy school photos combined. They are my new favorite thing.

Before we get there, here's a little bit of back story. When we were deciding to go on vacation and debating Hawaii, we were trying to pick an island. After researching what there was to do on each island, Oahu had one giant bullet point in the 'Pro' column: Kualoa Ranch. And for those not in the know, it's the ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed.

I repeat, dinosaurs lived there, people!

Let's get to it!

I'm freakin' Dr. Alan Grant hiding from gallimimuses
So happy!
Dan fails at camera jumping
My new favorite tree
Still excited on the bus
Actually, a bunch of things have been filmed at the ranch.

Hurley's golf course from 'Lost'
Godzilla's footprint from the terrible 1998 version. The original version was much deeper, but it had to be filled in because cows kept falling in and dying.
The road Drew Barrymore drives everyday in '50 First Dates'
A bunker that's been used in 'Pearl Harbor' and 'Lost'
Me. I was filmed there, too.
And here are the remaining random photos from the rest of the day.

Turtle Back Island
Cutie McCutiepants and Me
Enjoying some awesome shaved ice
Apparently I can't look attractive while eating. Who cares, though, it was delicious.
I am ruler of the seas
It was an amazing day. My favorite of the trip.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Hawaiian Awesomeness: Days 1 and 2

Hey, did I forget to mention that I've been M.I.A in Hawaii? Enjoying a loooong overdue vacation and trying desperately to avoid a sunburn?

I'm not trying to brag, but we had an awesome time, just sitting on in the waves, seeing the sites, and eating too much pineapple. We stayed at Turtle Bay on the North Shore of Oahu. Fortunately for us, there's not much to do on the North Shore but the beaches and the jungle. It's the dream.

Since we were there for a while, the recap will be broken into a couple of posts. This one covers the first day we arrived and second day when we went to Waimea Falls.

Day 1: Arrival and visiting a World War II bunker on a hike from the hotel.

View from our room

Day 2: Waimea Falls and the Beach. Waimea Falls is located deep in an area that's been turned into a really freakin' large botanical gardens. You can swim in the falls, but we didn't know that so we just creepily watched other people swim.

If you stacked all the trees in Tucson, they would not be as tall as this tree
Waimea Falls
The whoosh-whoosh-whoosh of the giant wind turbines on the hill

Exploring the beaches

Attempting to walk on lava rock in flip flops. Not the brightest idea.

The best thing we figured out while on vacation is the beach situation at Turtle Bay. There's the beach everyone goes to, as you can see in picture of the view from our room. It's where all the lounge chairs live and unfortunately where all the small children live, too. However, if you literally walk three minutes around the corner, there's nothing but gorgeous empty white sand beaches. Dan and I claimed our own little portion and spent a good part of every day.

I'll be back tomorrow with my favorite day of the whole trip: visiting Jurassic Park!