TBT: Oahu trip 2006

My friend Courtney recently took her oldest daughter to Maui for a mother-daughter trip. This was their first time on a vacation of this magnitude. Courtney, like me, didn’t have money for vacations when her oldest was younger. A big vacation for Alex and I was driving to Marine World in Vallejo for the day. And I only pulled that off once. When you don’t know if you can make rent or food costs for the rest of the month, vacations are not high on your priority list. Simply existing was hard enough sometimes. Seeing photos from Courtney’s vacation really made me happy for her though. It was proof that we both made it through those tough years. Her photos also took me back to when Alex and I went to Hawaii, just about 9 years ago, on our first (and only) big vacation together. Just the two of us.ray3sea9

It was only for 5 days. And it was only to Oahu. But it was still one of my proudest moments as a mother ever. I was actually making a big tropical vacation happen for my daughter and I. Of course, much of this was possible because of Nathan. Because he worked for an airline part time and so our flights were discounted. As was the hotel through his airline discount. I saved the spending money though. I planned fun activities for us. She both swam with manta rays and dolphins on this trip. It ended up being one of the best trips of our life and the worst.

Best=Vacation with my girl. Swimming with rays. Swimming with dolphins. Warm beaches and water. Beautiful scenery. Pina Coladas for lunch;)

Worst= Lice. Jellyfish stings. Torrential rain that would flood the streets every night.

The difference between day and night on this trip was so crazy. We would have such a great day exploring the island and shopping. Going to theme parks and the aquarium. For me, cocktails at lunch.. Alex made a friend that she met up with numerous days and they would play for hours on the beach. And then night would come and it would be like we were on the vacation from hell. Rain + rain + rain and then more rain. Every night we were there. Alex was stung by a jellyfish on our second day and it wasn’t until that night that the pain really started acting up.IMG_3869

And then the lice.

Alex had spent the 3-4 days before this trip at her dad’s house and I just picked her up on the way to the airport. At the end of our first day on the island, while we were headed back from dinner, I happen to see something in Alex’s hair. I thought it was sand that she had missed when she showered. If ONLY it had been sand that she had missed in her shower…Alex’s head was crawling with lice. She had apparently gotten it from a friend before we left town. She had spent the night at their house the day before we left and because our traveling was done late at night I hadn’t noticed it. Until our first night in Oahu. This was before I had a cell phone. Or a tablet. This was discovered during a rain storm as we made our way back to the hotel. If you’ve ever tried to find lice shampoo (it’s triple the price on an island btw), in torrential rain, in a tourist town then you know what I was up against. The only break we got was that Alex had just had 12 inches of hair cut off a couple of weeks prior to this. If I’d had to deal with waist length hair and lice I probably would have lost it. I lost it anyway. Every morning and night was spent cleaning her hair with RID shampoo and combing as much lice out as I could. By the time we got back to California I also had it. Our nights were also filled with doing laundry. All our clothes from that day and our pajamas. We didn’t use anything but the sheet on the beds in the hotel. The comforters and extra pillows were folded and put to the side. So every day we had new sheets and I washed our clothes each night. We still couldn’t get rid of them. We took them back home with us. It was a nightmare.lulu's1

Surprisingly though this didn’t take away from our fun during the day. We went site seeing. I took Alex to this park on our first day there. She did the ray encounter and swam with dolphins.We did the Pearl Harbor tour on the second day and spent the afternoon at the beach. We shopped in the Waikiki International Market (which I’ve now found out is closed) and had lunch (and a pina colada for me) at Duke’s. She got to play with Anna (a friend she met that was visiting from Canada). We saw a neat Hawaiian dance at the park.We took the bus around looking at the views of the ocean. It was a great vacation. During the daytime…oahu8oahu12

All these years later I’ve come to see this trip as a great story to tell though. The best and worst vacation ever. The good parts of each day were always followed by a rough night. We always did family vacations after this, not on purpose, it just happened that way. I had married Nate and this trip was kind of a last hurrah for Alex and I. We were no longer just a family of two we were now a family of three.

I’m grateful that I have these memories with my daughter:)IMG_4059

 

Jennifer

 

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List 45: 10 year anniversary trip: Day 1

IMG_5016This trip was years in the making. I’ve been talking about swimming with whale sharks for  as long as I can remember. I always thought it was out of our price range to make this happen but I was also under the impression, for years, that you could only swim with them in Belize. Then I discovered that you can also swim with them off of Cancun. THAT we could make happen. First though I had to convince Nate to do the trip. He’s not a good traveler. Scratch that. He’s actually a great traveler but he has a LOT of anxiety leading up to a trip. Even a small local trip. He worries about things that I don’t even think about…like how we’re going to talk to people in the country we’re going to if we don’t speak the language fluently, what he’s going to eat, how much stuff is going to cost. I never worry about that type of stuff. It’s just not in my nature. My worry manifests itself in other ways. I talked and talked and talked about whale sharks though and finally I beat him down and he agreed. The only downside to seeing and swimming with these amazing creatures is that you have to go to Mexico in the dead of summer. The whale shark season is only from June through September. The best time is July and August. July and August…in Mexico. Here is where my anxiety kicks in…LOL. But we scheduled it for August. I only had to last 4.5 months after we booked…

Our day started at 2:15am. We had to be able to get up, get ready, and be in  San Jose by 4:30 am. We also had to drop the car off to long term parking. It could not have gone smoother. We flew from San Jose to Phx and then on to Cancun, Mexico. I had some anxiety about how to get from the airport to the ferry (only because I was unclear about where it was…not knowing where a location exactly is one of my anxieties…Nathan…not at all) but a shuttle was easy to find. The ferry ride to Isla Mujeres was easy, finding our apartment was easy. It was a perfect travel day and we had a wonderfully low key first evening. Our first impression of Isla Mujeres was positive. It’s small. There were quite a few tourist but many of the people there during the day come over from Cancun so by early evening many people have left leaving only those of us that are staying on the island. We loved our apartment (we went through Homeaway) and we took a quick walk around he city center side of the island (the island is only 4.5 miles long and a mile across). My only mistake was not bringing my list of places to eat with me from the apartment so we ate at a place that I hadn’t checked out first. It ended up being okay but we made sure to eat from the list the rest of the time. I got a margarita (that was just okay but it was still appreciated) but it did feel great to finally be on the island after hours of travel. And it was fun to people watch from our little table on the patio. Just based on our first experience on the island we knew this was going to be an a amazing trip. The laid back feeling and small town feel was right in line with what we were looking for. It only got more amazing too. I’ll post about our second day on the island soon:)

 

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Jennifer

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NaBloPoMo Prompt #10

It’s come to this. I have no time to work on my planned posts so I’m using a prompt. Sigh.  I can guarantee this won’t be the last time…

Tuesday, November 10

What is the hardest part of a big project: getting the energy to begin, finding the time to work on it, or feeling down that it’s over?

Based on the first part of this post I’m going to say that finding time to work on a big project is the hardest part. Like blogging every single day. That’s a big project because I don’t have that much to say on a daily basis.  But, this holds true for most of my big projects…the reason I don’t finish my list every year usually comes down to time. The reason I’m behind on Project Life, which again, is a big project is a lack of time. There just isn’t enough time in my day to get to everything. And usually it’s the fun personal projects that get shoved to the side. It’s unfortunate but true. I am, after 45 years, still trying to find the balance in my life to fit everything in.

So yeah, I could definitely use more time to finish big projects. Maybe when school is out in December.

Jennifer

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Mondays…

I had a whole plan to post the first part of our anniversary trip story to the blog today but Monday got in the way.

The day started out with me struggling to get a sock on my foot correctly (took me 3 tries) and went steadily downhill from there. It wasn’t a bad day but just one fraught with annoyances and a busy-ness that didn’t lend well to me being able to get much personal stuff accomplished. I spent most of tonight over-thinking the essay I have due on Friday. And the more I researched it the more lost I began to feel about it. I have 4 more papers due, including this one and then class is done. I just need to try to find the strength to write 4 more papers.

So today’s post is really about nothing. Except me feeling overwhelmed.

Here is a mantra that got me through today:

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Hope your Monday was better than mine!

Jennifer

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On the menu: 11/7-11/13/15

At one point my friend Erica and I were posting our menus each week and finding new recipes through each other. It was one of my favorite things, to see what she came up with for the week. So I’m re-introducing my side of it with this blog post:)

What we’re eating this week:

1. One Pot Creamy Spinach Lentils + salad

2. Seared Broccoli and Potato soup + salad

3. Mini Vegetarian Pot Pies + chicken (for me)

4. Rice/Bean/Kale casserole from this site. I actually already made this one last night and it is awesome. I made Nate’s version with Quorn crumbles and he says it is really great. The recipe is from Blue Apron but I just did the recipe with the same ingredients without the Blue Apron side of it.

5. Cornmeal crust pizza. Not sure what toppings yet. Whatever I have left over from the rest of the week. + a salad.

I always try to make one dish that covers a few meals (The bean/rice/kale casserole makes numerous servings and I made us each a whole casserole so it’s good for days, serving-wise) so that I don’t have to cook each night. Nate and I eat a lot of the same meals (I usually just add a meat component of protein to mine) so it works out really great. For budgetary reasons we always take leftovers for lunch during the week.

Hope this helps anyone looking for some great dinner ideas. I’ll be posting this each Sunday.

Jennifer

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Muckfest 2015

worst photo ever of me…

My friend Courtney was inspired by the list that I make each year and for her 40th birthday, she made her own list.  One of the items on her list was  *Do a mud run* and so a few months ago she tried to corral a bunch of us to do it with her. I said “count me in” and then promptly forgot about it…

Fast forward to the end of September and she contacts me to find out if I’ve signed up for the race…oh crap. I’m the only one that ended up being able to do this mud run with her it so I sucked it up and  I signed up, despite the knee injury I was dealing with, for a 5K obstacle course mud run. Yes, you are reading that correctly…I was going to run an obstacle course in the mud. I hadn’t run anything since the 5K I did in January so I expected this to be tough.IMG_6460

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So muddy. So gross.

I was definitely nervous that morning but after that initial nervousness I overcame some of my fear and had quite a good time. I didn’t push myself (afraid of my knee and hurting it worse) to do some of obstacles but Courtney did every single one. She was a rock star on this course. 17 obstacles and she did every single one. I was so proud of her. I would definitely do this obstacle course again but I’d probably try to train first this time. Going into this cold…with no training and a hurt knee was probably a bad idea (or so my body told me later when it could barely move…LOL) and I paid for it the next week when I went to Seattle with my sister. IMG_6463

This particular mud run was a fundraiser for MS. From their website:

About MuckFest® MS

MuckFest MS is the fun mud and obstacle 5K for everyone. If you can laugh, you can do it. No special training required. Have a blast on mountains of mud and 18+ outrageous obstacles that will spin, swing, and fling you and your teammates up, down, and sideways. The event is built for laughs, but we’re also on a serious mission: to support people living with multiple sclerosis and to bring us closer to a world free of MS. And you’ll feel great knowing that 100% of your team’s fundraising dollars support the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.

You can read more about it here

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Exhilarated but exhausted!

We got to meet quite a few people with MS that were doing the course and they were such amazing role models. They were all kicking my ass at this obstacle course at least. And having so much fun doing it. They really were so amazing. I’m grateful that Courtney pushed me to do this event. Hopefully next year I will be in better shape for this event:)

Jennifer

 

 

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Friday favorites

I love lists. Especially lists that people put together of fun and interesting things they find on the internet. I’m also a fan of the internet and am constantly amazed at what I find, So I’ve decided to do my own, although mine is really just a place for me to go back to when I want to re-visit the links, rather than being a place people come to for inspiration. That would mean I’ve actually told people about this blog and  pointed them this way. 🙂

I always love advice: People share advice #4 is one of my favorites:)

I used two of these ideas just this week: What we cook when we don’t want to cook anything

This re-make of the Jurassic World trailer. Fantastic. Love the raptors.

Fall back in love with your life. Yes. So much yes.

Loving this podcast

How to lose weight in 4 easy steps. Freaking hilarious.

Someday I’m going to host Friendsgiving. It probably won’t be this pretty though…

Have a wonderful weekend!

 

Jennifer

 

 

 

 

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books to read: a list for the day I have free time again…

Since August I have been taking an American history class at the local community college. I never finished college and it’s been on my “to do” list for years but life just got in the way. Specifically, raising my daughter and needing to work full time kept me from moving forward with school. Now that Alex is a grown up (insert sad face) and has moved out and Nate is already taking classes, I figured this was a good time to re-visit the “finish college” part of my life. Unfortunately I could not have imagined how much reading and writing would be involved in a history class. Almost everything has fallen to the wayside so that I can concentrate on this class. I haven’t read for pleasure, except the book I had to struggle through for book club, in months now. I haven’t worked on my Project Life book in 2 months at this point. Just going out of town with my sister for a few days really put me behind schedule and it’s been a struggle to catch up. I really don’t know how some people do this…work full time +  go to school + raise their kids and still do the mundane tasks that make up each day (like cooking, laundry, cleaning the house, sleeping, etc.). I am only taking one class and it’s so much work. I can’t imagine taking on more than one class a semester.

Sigh.

Someday though, I predict that I will have a chance to read again, just for the fun of it and so I’ve been accumulating a large stack of books on my nightstand. Here is a list of my most recent purchases just waiting until December 14th when school is officially over with…for this semester.

1. Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling

2. The Nature of the Beast by Louise Penny

3. You are a Badass by Jen Sincero

4. You’re Never Weird on the Internet by Felicia Day

5. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

6. The Lake House by Kate Morton

7. The Long and Faraway Gone by Lou Berney

8. The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy

 

What are you reading right now? Any recommendations? Maybe I will get to them by 2017…

Jennifer

 

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That first step…

IMG_2896I’m standing at the water’s edge and staring. I’m already anticipating how shockingly cold the ocean will be when it touches my skin for the first time and it makes me a feel a little lightheaded. I’m awkwardly trying to find my footing in the sand while also stiffly holding a body board. I’m aware of every stretch and movement the wet suit makes and I feel a bit claustrophobic in it. I’m feeling completely out of my element. This is all new for me. The body board. The wet suit. The plunging into the ocean for that matter. 20+ years of living by the water and I hadn’t once ventured into it. Not once.

This moment was a long time coming though. After years of telling myself I was too fat to wear a wet suit, to embarrassed to be seen in a wet suit for that matter. Too out of shape to attempt body boarding. Too afraid to swim in the ocean.  Always allowing that inner voice to tell me what I CAN’T do. That inner voice that feeds my self loathing and vulnerability. The one I always listened to until one day, pretty recently, a smaller voice in me suddenly said “Enough.” It said “You’re letting your life slip away from you. You aren’t getting any younger. Get off you fucking ass and live the life you want to live. Stop. making. excuses. You are the only one holding yourself back.”

So here I stand. Contemplating my next move. Watching as Nathan heads into the water without a moment of hesitation. In so many ways, he’s braver than me. He likes a little bit of danger with his adventure. It’s not something he would readily admit to, but I’ve seen it in his eyes. I prefer my adventure a bit more tame. We work well together because of these small differences. He gets me to step a little bit out of my comfort zone and I keep him alive. Less reckless. Which may be a surprise to those that know him because he comes across very reserved and quiet but that is far from the truth. He has a bit of a wild streak in himIMG_2904. Mostly because he just never worries that anything will go wrong. I admire that about him. I worry that everything will go wrong.

Anyway…I did finally follow him into the water and spent the afternoon body boarding Well, I attempted to at least. I was slammed quite a bit by the waves and swallowed, by accident, a nauseating amount of salt water. But it was one of the best days of 2015. And by the end of the afternoon I could reasonably ride a wave. I got showed up by quite a few younger (aka kids) people in the water but regardless of that I had a blast. Better yet I was proud of myself for tackling something new.

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I mean…look at my face. I couldn’t stop smiling. What an amazing day.

 

Jennifer

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List 44: Camp at the Pinnacles National Park (#30)

I can’t believe it’s been months since I last updated this blog. Vacation and school got in the way but hopefully I’ll be back on a regular schedule now. Anyway, back in February 2015 Nate and I headed to Pinnacles National Park for an overnight trip. If you haven’t been to the Pinnacles before get in your car  and head there now. But not in the summer , it’s much too hot. Don’t forget a headlamp also because the caves are a welcoming break from the heat but they are very dark and the headlamps will help you find your way.

When I put this on my list it wasn’t necessarily because the campsite was so fabulous that I *needed* to camp there,  instead it was on my list as a means of getting as much hiking in as we could at the Pinnacles. The campground ended up being really nice though. Part of the campsites are open area sites, with numerous campsites set up and then the other half are single sites along the drive, with some hidden among trees. I heard a rumor that there was a pool also, but we didn’t get that far with our inquiries. We were there for the hiking not the pool. We quickly set up our tent (right by a small creek which was nice but in the summer I’m betting the creek is just a breeding ground for mosquitoes) and headed out on our first hike. The only downside to the campground I can see is that you do have to drive to get to the closest trail head. There is a trail but it adds another mile or so, one way, to an already full day of hiking. We parked in the Bear Gulch parking lot and headed out on the Condor Gulch Trail. This is a pretty easy trail, it’s only about 1.7 miles (one way) and the Condor Gulch Overlook is only a mile into the hike. On our way to the top of this trail we ran into one of the volunteers that help with the condors and we stopped to ask him some questions. We (sadly) didn’t see any condors on our weekend there but we’re told they are out there. I was feeling pretty good on the hike so I told Nate we should go ahead and attempt the High Peaks trail. Let me tell you that I would not have suggested this trail, had I known what the trail was like. Part of this trail is literally some holes cut into the Pinnacles rock with just a handrail to hang onto. IMG_1942I am so afraid of heights. I would never have chosen this hike…but I made it with only a little bit of crying on my end. (yes, seriously…it was some scary shit) It’s not a long stretch of hike that takes you over the top of this peak but it was long enough for me. I couldn’t wait to get this portion done with. The views are breathtaking though and I would recommend the hike to anyone despite the questionable hiking terrain in some parts.

This is a 5.3 mile loop and it’s pretty moderate difficulty level with the exception of the climb over the peaks. I saw kids doing this hike so I can assume they just aren’t afraid of heights like me so you know it is do-able by most people. It does have a 1300 foot elevation climb so it’s not one for those that like their hikes flat and easy.

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The views from the top can’t be beat.

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It was a great 3 hour hike (maybe a little more with stopping to take photos) and you get to see both sides of the park on this trail. We opted not to add the Rim Trail that takes you about a mile more around the park and includes the Bear Gulch Cave trail. It was getting late and we wanted to get back to the campground.

Funny story: As I have gotten older I don’t like sleeping on the ground. It hurts my back and its cold. So we started taking a air mattress, that was self pumping, on our camping trips. Due to a “cat claw” issue though we had to purchase another one last minute before this trip. Nate ordered it and when we got it, it was much larger then we had expected. It is also the most comfortable sleep I’ve ever had. I prefer it to my own mattress at home! But…like I said it was much larger then we expected and this is how it fit in the tent. If you are wondering how we closed the tent…we didn’t. Not all the way. It wouldn’t close. The mattress was too big. It was crazy.

IMG_1936After a comfortable night of sleeping we got up early to do the Old Pinnacles Trail over to the Balconies Cave and then back. We were worried it was going to rain and we wanted to get the loop done before a downpour started. We were excited about this trail because we were going to the Balconies Cave which was one of our favorite parts of a past hike here. You could see the effects of the drought already along this trail. When we did the same hike a few years back there was a creek we had to traverse to get back on the trail in numerous spots. Now they were dried up creek beds. As far as the Old Pinnacle Trail is concerned it’s pretty mundane. The Pinnacles around you are gorgeous but the hike offers nothing exciting until you get to the Balconies Cave Trail. Make sure you have a headlamp for this one because you need your hands to maneuver around. the caves. This one in particular is wet and you have to climb and twist your body to get around some areas. IMG_2014

We passed a park ranger on our way out of the cave that asked us if we were trying to get to the Balconies Trail, which we thought we were already on, and so he pointed us in the direction of the loop that goes above the cave and around. This ended up being my favorite part of the hike. The views from this hike were fantastic, especially with the storm clouds moving in. The first photo in this blog entry was taken on that portion of the hike. As was this one:IMG_2020

 

The total miles on this trail is 5.3 also. This one isn’t as difficult as the High Peak Trail but the views are just as spectacular.

We made it back to our car just as the rain was starting. Could not have planned it any better:)

Hike 1:

Condor Gulch to High Peaks Loop
5.3 miles round trip, 3 to 5 hours
Elevation: 1,300 feet
Strenuous

Walk through the heart of the Pinnacles rock formations, particularly along the Steep and Narrow section of the High Peaks trail. Add the Rim and Moses Spring trails to extend the loop to 6.1 miles.

Hike 2:

Old Pinnacles Trail to Balconies Cave
5.3 miles round trip, 3 to 5 hours
Elevation: none
Moderate

This sunny hike to Balconies Cave also leads to towering rock formations: Machete Ridge and the Balconies Cliffs. Begin at the Old Pinnacles Trailhead. Flashlight required in the cave.

 

Thanks for reading.

Jennifer

*Every year I make a list, correlating to my age, of goal/things I want to do that year. The original list can be seen here: List 44. I am currently working my way through my List 45.

 

 

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