The past few days in Hawaii have flown by!  We docked in Kauai in the early hours of the morning of our second day.

 

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Kauai was definitely my favorite island. We didn’t have any big plans for the day, so we just left the ship and walked into town (less than a mile).  When we got there, we found a nice beach for swimming 🙂

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We spent a couple of hours just swimming, reading, and playing in the sand.

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We also had a chance to try out some shaved ice.  I got a Blue Hawaiian flavored one (can you guess what it actually tested like?).  Yum!

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On our way back out to sea, I went up on deck to take some pictures.  A whale breeched the water right next to the boat (I was on the opposite side, of course, so I didn’t get a picture). But I got some great shots of the island and the sunset. I’ll share a few 🙂

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Bonus points for those of you who get the movie reference in the title (hint: replace Kauai with Ohio).

We made it to land!  We spent our first day in Hawaii on Oahu.  I was so excited, I woke up every 30 minutes or so after 3am.  Just waiting for the sun to peek in from the balcony so that I knew it was time to get up!

We left first thing in the morning to go on a tour of the island. Our tour guide was phenomenal! She grew up on the island and was able to tell us a lot of really interesting information—everything from which movies were filmed here to agriculture to where to buy cookies.  Amazing!

This is a quick snapshot I took of Diamondhead as we drove past.  They call it Diamondhead because way-back-when people saw it sparkle at the top and thought there were diamonds.  Turned out to be calcite crystals though.

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We stopped off at a couple spots to take photos of the beautiful beaches.  Right around here is where they filmed From Here to Eternity 🙂

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This is called Rabbit Island—which is strange since it’s a bird sanctuary.  It got the name because someone brought rabbits to the island. The island eventually became overrun with rabbits and they were destroying the plant life (which hurt the birds), so they had to get rid of the rabbits.  Still call it Rabbit Island though 🙂

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Quick break at a local shop.  We found a statue of a local high school sumo wrestler. 

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Last stop was at the top of the island on a cliff.  I never knew there was such a thing as wild chickens, but there are.  They live here. Right along with the wild “cats” 🙂

 

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Beautiful views at the top, but VERY windy!

 

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They mention Elmira, NY on this!

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Afterwards we walked around Honolulu a bit and got our picture taken with Miss Hawaii (scariest thing I’ve done yet).

 

 

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Saw the food truck from Hawaii-50 (this pic is for you, Fiona):

 

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And mostly just got to see some neat stuff—like a chocolate mouse 🙂

 

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Next stop—> Kauai!

See ya later, LAND!  Anson and I are on a cruise to Hawaii!  There is no internet on the ship.  Well, technically there *is* internet, but there’s no way we’re paying the $75 to use it. I was planning to write on the blog when we got home, but Anson thought it would be a good idea to write as we go so that we don’t forget anything. He’s a smart man 🙂

We got on the ship a little after noon on Thursday and went straight for the room.  We have a pretty amazing view from our balcony. 

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Shortly after arriving, we participated in the mandatory emergency drill.  Apparently every cruise must do these drills prior to leaving port.  We read the instructions before we left:  Bring your life jacket and your cruise card to the muster station, don’t let the strap of the life jacket drag on the floor, do not put your life jacket on, etc…pretty easy stuff.  It was somewhat annoying when they also read the instructions aloud over the intercom…and then read them again…and again.  Though it shortly became apparent why. The drill ended up being pretty entertaining–we watched every single rule get broken.  People had NO IDEA what was going on.  It was nuts!  The staff was amazingly patient though and got everyone through it.

We spent most of the first day exploring the ship and participating in a scavenger hunt.  Everyone who finished got entered into a drawing.  And then sleep.  Lots and lots of sleep.

The next day we got up and went to see The Princess Bride on the big screen.  We’ve also (thus far) watched Big and a good chunk of Back to the Future. It’s like this cruise was made for me! 

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Handsome man on deck!

 

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After that, we went to see who won the drawing for the scavenger hunt—Anson did!

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Of course, we won free dinner on a formal night. And, of course, we didn’t plan on going to any of the formal nights. So, we gave our prize away to some nice people we met at breakfast. 

One of the great things about the cruise is that there are lots of trivia events.  Like I said, it’s like this cruise was made for us.  Or, it’s made for older people. And Anson and I just fit in alarmingly well with the older crowds that make up 90% of the people on the cruise (we are one Steve Guttenberg away from Cocoon here).   Ah well, who cares? Everyone is so nice, we always get invited to join a team.  I enjoyed my first real pina colada at the first trivia. And we won the second trivia!  We got a bottle of champagne—still trying to find someone to give that away to  🙂

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During our down time we have been enjoying playing cards, reading, and swimming.  Hopefully I’ll get better at taking pictures of all this stuff as the cruise goes on :) 

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Every year, making Thanksgiving dinner gets easier.  It took several years for us to get things right.  The first year, we didn’t defrost the turkey (oops!).  In the following years we made a few minor mistakes, like accidentally cooking the turkey upside down (still yummy!).  Around year 5, we were pretty comfortable with the routine and were actually able to get dinner on the table at a reasonable hour—and that’s when things started to get a bit crazy.

For a few years, we deep fried a turkey.  And one year, we did the 11 hours of prep and 17 hours of cooking that go with making a turducken from scratch.  But this year, we didn’t do anything crazy.  We had a small group coming and decided to keep the menu pretty basic.  Well, if you can call cooking a 19 lb turkey for 8 people “basic.”

For the past couple of years I have always made a hearty vegetarian soup for, well, the vegetarians.  We didn’t have any vegetarians this year, but I had a spicy peanut pumpkin soup recipe picked out and I ran with it. It was not meant to be.

I got almost all the way through the recipe.  I was at the point where you put the soup into a blender (a few cups at a time) to give the soup that nice, smooth consistency.  In years past I have had the lid fly off the blender, so I was prepared.  I secured the lid and used a potholder while holding it down.  It worked for the first 2 batches of the soup.  On the last batch…well…I guess, technically, it worked.  The lid did not fly off the blender. My hand did not get burned.  But in that fateful moment, just seconds after turning the blender on, there was a loud grinding sound.  The blender started shaking.  I quickly pressed the stop button and began to assess the situation.  My hand was still placed oDSCN1924n top of the lid. Nothing had gone flying out, the soup was still in the blender. Hmmm. I lifted my hand and that’s when I saw it.  It was tragic.  In an awkward moment of anti-soup rebellion, the blender had eaten itself.  The middle part of the lid had been swallowed by the blender and destroyed, along with the soup.  Why did you do this to yourself, blender??? How could you leave me?! 

Was my soup really that terrible?  Did nobody eat my soup because it was that bad? Or was it because you died making it?  I may never know… 

This year on Thanksgiving, I was grateful that my cooking only killed my blender.

I have been hard at work learning how to program this quarter.  It’s been a lot of fun learning to write Java—I’ve written a guessing game, computed the results of a personality test, and even drawn a rocket for my nephew Noah (though I’m sure his dad appreciated it much more than he did).

It’s been very handy having Anson around to check my code. He actually does all of my assignments along with me.  I think he enjoys writing programs using only a base set of skills.  For example, writing entire programs in for loops and println statements 🙂

Programming is staggeringly different from anything else I’ve ever learned, so I’ve studiously read every single page of the text book that has been assigned, reviewed every powerpoint, participated in every class discussion…well, you get the point. So, what is so special about page 549?

It. Changed. My. Life.

For years, I have shaken my fist at new technology.  I would scream at the computer every time I ran into an issue. Clearly, the program was not intuitive enough.  I’m a reasonably intelligent person, so why doesn’t it work for me? I started to think that I had a super power which caused my computer to bombard me with error messages (Haven, anyone?).  Up until now, I was under the distinct impression that it was the COMPUTER that was yelling at me—that didn’t understand me.  On page 549 of my text, as I was reading about (yet another) example of exceptions I can throw in my code, I realized that it’s not the computer that I should be mad at—it’s the PROGRAMMERS!  Anson was right all along.  Computer are not inherently good or bad.  It’s the programmers.  And I’m pretty sure they’re all evil.  Well, WATCH OUT TECH WORLD!  I’ll start writing my own code from now on, thank you very much.  From now on, I will only shake my fist at myself—but I’ll be smiling while I do it 🙂

DSCN1862I had never been to Salmon Days before.  I knew a lot of people who had gone and, for whatever reason, had assumed that it was an education-based event where people sat around and learned about salmon. Not exactly my cup of tea.  But, after chatting with my friends Dave and Karen Conley, I learned just how wrong I was!

Dave and Karen invited me to come explore Salmon Days with them this past Saturday.  Just driving to meet them I knew this was going to be a big event.  The streets were PACKED! 

There was so much to explore!  There were hundreds of local vendors there, each set up with their own tent.  We walked up and down each street and peeked in each one.  A few times, I would be drawn in—and I’m not someone who normally enjoys window shopping (just ask any member of my family).  I generally go shopping when I know exactly what I want and exactly where to get it.  In and out.  Done.  But this was really fun!

I was really impressed with a lot of the artwork, but sadly can’t share any pictures.  Taking pictures of artwork is frowned upon and I wanted to respect the artists’ wishes. I will say, there was some amazing glasswork available. I almost bought Anson a hand-crafted glass pumpkin.  They also had a FANTASTIC gargoyle made out of metal.  I’m a little glad Anson didn’t see it—I’m not sure it would look quite rightWP_20131006_001 on our roof 🙂 I really liked a lot of the photography they had for sale.  A lot of beautiful pictures of local nature—I will keep it in mind the next time Anson and I need something for a wall.

I ended up buying Anson a game called 9 Man Morris.  I saw the games in a tent and was so intrigued I just walked in, without remembering to tell my friends where I was going—I’m glad they noticed and waited for me :)  This particular game is a strategy game that dates back to the Middle Ages (so I’m told).  The people that make these games are pretty neat. I spent a few minutes in the booth learning about different games (almost none of which I was familiar with) and then choosing the game and the carving that I wanted for the case. I chose the salmon 🙂

There is an insane variety of food available. I wasn’t very interested in eating because I knew we’d be going out for dinner later, but we walked by a stand with free samples of toffee. I love toffee. There was no way I was going to turn down toffee, so I grabbed a small piece and then stopped dead in my tracks. I grabbed Karen and said “You HAVE to try this. It’s the best toffee I’ve ever had!”  Karen tried the toffee and she and Dave ended up buying some.  I was trying to be good (knowing Anson and I are planning on going to Hawaii and knowing that I would eat all of whatever I got), so I didn’t buy any—I just picked up their business card so I could buy some in the future.  By the end of the night, Karen and Dave ended up giving me some of theirs. Their generous gift didn’t survive the weekend. SO GOOD!  I recommend all of you indulge and buy some (if you need an excuse, the company donates part of their profits to charity): www.hedgehogtDSCN1853offee.com. 

What else is there to do at Salmon Days? SO MUCH!  We spent a little time in the youth area. 

There was this crazy contraption that people were skiing down. I have no idea if it was a show or if random people were allowed up there, but I was far too scared to try.  They would ski down, do a flip off the end, and land on a giant trampoline/pillow/thing.  Brave or crazy?  Either way, it was super cool 🙂

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There were also races in the giant hamster balls, pony rides, etc—definitely worth a visit if you have kids!

 

I also really enjoyed watching the Doggie Dives.  They had some dogs that were doing practice dives when we were there.  They were jumping for height off of a “dock” and into the water.  The last one we saw was a dog jumping 5’, but they were still raising the bar after we left.  Those were some happy, happy dogs 🙂

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Now I know what you’re thinking—where’s the salmon?  We did see some!  We were walking around and heard a bagpipe. We followed the music into the free expression area (Long Live the Bagpipes!) and there was a bridge there.  Voila! Salmon!

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I took this picture off the side of the bridge.  You can see the salmon in the picture if you look closely. Well, it’s either salmon or rocks. Or possibly just the sun on the water.  I’m not entirely sure now that I look at it.  I suppose I would know more if there were people there that were teaching about salmon.  🙂

Thanks Karen and Dave (and Arlene) for taking me to Salmon Days! I had a ton of fun and can’t wait until next year 🙂

 

To end this post, Anson would like me to update everyone on the puzzles:  He’s winning at puzzles. It’s not over yet though. There’s still plenty of puzzle left to do!

On Saturday, Sarah and I went to the Chocolate Festival.

http://nwchocolate.com/

It was truly a dream come true! As a long-time lover of everything chocolate, I was super excited about the festival.  I learned so much! Not about chocolate, but about how to survive at a chocolate festival 🙂

There are some simples rules I plan to follow in the future (and believe me—I will be back next year).

1.  Get there early

Sarah and I arrived shortly after it opened, got our wrist bracelets and headed in.

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We started walking around and tasting the chocolate, getting slightly frustrated when we were stuck behind people who actually had questions about the chocolate (we just wanted to taste the samples—how could they not know the danger of standing between women and chocolate??).  We realized when we came back after lunch, that the small lines in the morning were NOTHING compared to the craziness in the afternoon!  It was so crowded we could barely walk.  So, get there early 🙂

2. You can’t try all the chocolate. 

There’s too much available to try everything, so you need to use some discretion when choosing what to sample.  I’m not a fan of dark chocolate—usually prefer white or sometimes milk.  Sarah likes the same, so we started skipping tables that only had dark chocolate.  Also, there’s really no point to trying plain chocolate. It’s much more fun to try the interesting combinations or fun truffles they have available. 

3. Not all chocolates are created equal.

You should come prepared to experience some interesting flavors—both good and bad. I learned that it is possible for someone to make white chocolate that tastes like dark chocolate. I have no idea why anyone would want to do this—it was definitely an unpleasant surprise for me.  But it can be fun to be brave and try new things. For example, the habanero salted caramels I sampled were fabulous!

4. Vegan chocolate doesn’t count.

I’m sorry, but it was just plain awful.  It didn’t even taste like chocolate. It tasted like oil and cocoa powder.  And not in a good way.  And the woman kept telling me it was “healthy.”  Saying that a chocolate is “healthy”—it’s just—grr—I’m speechless–no one wants that!  The chocolate doesn’t even like being described that way!  Good grief! And, frankly, I’m no longer comfortable referring to it as chocolate. Henceforth, I will call it not-chocolate.  So, in the future, I will avoid all not-chocolate.  I’m just glad they had a couple gourmet vinegar samples to try at the next stand. Phew!

5.  There are classes! 

Sarah and I didn’t notice this area until the afternoon. And the only class we could make was a vegan ganache making class. No interest in learning to make not-chocolate. There was no way that we were doing that.   Not. A. Chance.

Next year, we will be a little more prepared for what we’d like to do, But the best part was that I found some new chocolate makers that I love! My personal favorite was George Paul Chocolates (hint, hint Anson): http://www.georgepaulchocolates.com/

They had some nice and interesting flavors available in milk and white chocolate. And they also make some really good caramels (including the habanero salted caramel).

The other big hit for us was Cocotutti, Sarah’s favorite (hint, hint Dave):

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They made some really good truffles! I liked the spicy ones, like the hot chocolate and the thai spice.  I also actually liked the raspberry one, and I don’t generally like fruit with my chocolate.

Can’t wait until next year 🙂

I grew up in a house where we played the “what if” game a lot.  For example: What if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring 5 books/movies/food? What if they re-made this old movie—who would be in the cast?  Anson and I play this game sometimes.  Today, we decided to choose which fictional city/town we would move to if we could.  Here are the top 5:

5. Nantucket—Wings

We both like small-town New England, so this was an easy pick.  Also, Anson likes the idea of living by the water 🙂

4. Unknown—Video Game High School

We both think it would have been super awesome to grow up in a town where you get to go to Video Game High School.  If you haven’t watched this, you should!

3. Storybrook—Once Upon a Time

Living with fairy tale characters? So cool!

2. Federation of Planets—Star Trek Next Generation

Frankly, having the computer provide all of the food (so I don’t have to suffer through my own cooking) was enough for me.  Anson likes the idea of holodecks.  And who doesn’t like Picard?  Any universe with him in it is worth living in!

1. Eureka—Eureka

Lots of super smart people. Small town. Cool gadgets.  Every time we watch this show we talk about wanting to move there (hence, this entire conversation/post).

These were just the towns we could agree on.  We had a few runners up. For example, Anson would also consider moving to Springfield (Simpsons), Haven (Haven), Little Tall Island, Maine (Storm of the Century), Salem’s Lot  (Salem’s Lot), Unknown (The Gates), and Unknown (Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-long Blog).  Gotta love my hubby!

My runners-up were: Neverland (Peter Pan) because I’ve wanted to live there since I was 5 and Hoboken, NJ  (Cake Boss) because I love cake.  My top runner up was a tie between Stars Hollow (Gilmore Girls) and Bluebell (Hart of Dixie).  I love small towns!

What fictional places would YOU move to if you could? 🙂

I feel like the past few weeks have flown by!  I went to Maryland and got to hang out with the Hotovy and Horton families for a couple days.  It’s always fun seeing everyone :)  And I have some cute pictures of Leonie to share!

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After my visit, I hopped in a car with the Dallavalle family and headed to Disney!  I’ve posted a ton of pictures on facebook, so I’ll only share a couple of favorites here.

The first Disney day we went to Epcot. I didn’t have high expectations as it’s always been a running joke in our household that Epcot is the most boring place on earth.  It was my FAVORITE part of Disney!  I really enjoyed getting to see the different countries and could probably spend a few days just exploring the park. 

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The second day we went to Hollywood Studios.  There were a lot of fun rides and the "Honey I Shrunk the Kids” playground was definitely a highlight.  In fact, the entire park made me want to go home and watch movies I haven’t seen since I was a kid!

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The third day was Animal Kingdom. It was probably the hottest day of the week (which is saying a lot). We went on a safari and it was a ton of fun—elephants make every day better.  Plus, I got to try my first mojito!

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Days 4 & 5 were spent in the Magic Kingdom.  Unfortunately, it rained both days. But we still got a lot of fun in!  It was great to get to ride some of the iconic rides—It’s a Small World, Dumbo, Teacups, etc.  Plus, we got to ride Splash Mountain—Kira is not scared of roller coasters at all!

The girls also got a makeover at the Bippity Boppity Boutique and we had brunch at Cinderella’s castle.  SO AWESOME!  I want to go back and do that again 🙂

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After a full week of rides, shows, princesses, pools, ice cream and the hot,hot sun, it was time to go home.  It was a great trip and I am so glad I was invited to go!

I slept for about 24 hours after getting home.  After the first day, I managed to stop getting lost in my own house 🙂

Now, back to reality!  I have some church stuff coming up this week—game night and a Council retreat. Anson will spend the weekend coding <insert sounds of shock here>.   Next weekend we’re going to the Renaissance Faire—expect pictures!

As promised, I took some pictures of the areas of the house I have been working on.  Let’s start in the kitchen 🙂

I went through all of my old Tupperware and matched every tub to a lid.  I decided that things get too messy when I keep the tubs and lids separate (even if it does save space).  I kept only the tubs with lids and only the ones that were in good enough shape to continue using.  They fit pretty well alongside my holiday serving plates.

Next up were the pots and pans.  Again, I started with matching up the items with the lids.  We had about 3 sets of lids from over the years—they matched nothing in my kitchen.  Gone!

I purchased an organizer that holds 2 pans and all the lids. It works perfectly because it holds the one pan and lid I use for cooking on a weekly basis—easy to take out, easy to put away.  Unfortunately, because of the way the cabinet is designed, I had to put it in backwards (which means it can’t slide in/out).  I don’t mind though.  The top shelf in the back is full of my baking dishes (pie pans, cake pans, bread pans).  I’m pretty happy with the results.

Next up, the pantry (complete with the letter “r,” just for Eric Lawrence).  It’s not perfect, but it works. We used to have a lot of extra appliances all over the place and you couldn’t walk in the door.  I got rid of the old appliances we never use any more and the ones that were broken/missing parts. Now, everything has it’s own place—even if it does still look cluttered.

The laundry room was actually finished a while ago, but I thought I would share.  Different bins for all the cleaning supplies, organized by room/cleaning surface. Works pretty well. Now I just have to start using the cleaning supplies 🙂

Master Closet—this one took a while.  I got bins for the top shelves to hold the clothes that were stacked on top before.  Across the back, there is a small stack of extra blankets and then new blue bins. They hold towels for the master bath, sheets for the master bed, and the last one has hats and purses.  On the floor there are a couple of containers of clothes being stored for different kinds of weather.  Anson and I both have a set of drawers for our work out clothes.  Hanging on the left side are my long-sleeved items organized by ROYGBIV. Along the back are my short-sleeved items, then pants, skirts, and dresses. Anson has the right side and he gets to organize it however he wants 🙂

Next stop, the upstairs! Hopefully I’ll be able to blog about it next week 🙂