Archive for the ‘Vacation’ Category


I’ve been out of the office all week for vacation. I’d like to say we went somewhere exotic and fun, preferably with a beach, but sadly, all we did was spend about 20 hrs in the car round trip to visit my Inlaws. We still had fun despite the 90 degree days and 1,000% humidity. We celebrated D’s birthday (again), complete with paw print cake (again) and even put him in a swim diaper and took him in the pool for the first time. He LOVED it, despite his previous bad mood (he was at the tail end of an ear infection).

The next day, the hubs and his dad went in a boys only day trip to go ride 4-wheelers and walk around in the woods, so I stepped out of my comfort zone and instead of letting myself feel trapped at his parents’ house, I grabbed the car keys and drove a half hour south to meet up with my SIL and her 3 kids. I’m SO glad I did that. I realize it sounds like no big deal but the part of the country he’s from is nothing but winding back roads and it’s so hard to get around if you don’t know the area. But now I have GPS and cell phone reception (things I didn’t have years ago when I first started going there) and it was so… Empowering to be able to just get out and go somewhere when I was feeling bored and trapped. Plus, I really like my SIL so it was nice to spend some one on one time with her.

That night, we went to the dog track. My dog came in dead last for the first 3 races so I decided it just wasn’t my night and stopped betting. This was D’s second time to the dog track already. Clearly there isn’t much to do.

Since I was just sitting there with the baby, I checked FB and noticed bad storms hit the STL area. Our neighborhood lost electricity for a couple of days, actually. No damage that we’re aware of (yet) but on Saturday around noon, our neighbors said we were still without power so we decided to stay at the Inlaws one more day. They were thrilled but I was secretly mourning the loss of my recovery day at home to catch up on chores and errands.

So maybe not my idea of a relaxing vacation away from work but we have to make it work when we live so far from family. I just hope the next time I take a week off, a beach is involved.





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Is it May yet?

Wow, I can’t believe it’s been 3 weeks since my last post. Lots to update, only some of it good.

The weekend of March 25 was my second baby shower, hosted by my in-laws back in Ohio where my husband grew up. My OB warned me that the drive might be a little rough, and she was right. Only a couple hours into the drive and my ankles were already the size of softballs. I tried to drink plenty of fluids but we have bad eating habits when we’re on the road so I’m sure my sodium intake was off the charts. I didn’t get much rest while I was there (horrible mattress and I didn’t bring my body pillow) but the shower was great! Even better than I expected, considering I didn’t know probably half of the people in attendance. I’ll try to post pics soon.

We got home Sunday night and then it was work, work, work until Thursday when we hopped a plane to Ft. Lauderdale. Friday and Saturday I had to staff a work-related conference but then Sun-Tues was babymoon time. Our last vacation before baby, and definitely our last beach vacation for awhile. Sadly, when one is 8 mos pregnant, the beach isn’t exactly the destination of fun it typically is. I didn’t bring a bathing suit, and kind of regretted it once I saw how clean and calm the water was. Still, we enjoyed a few hours of beach time, tried to find cool places to eat, and rode around on the water taxi as much as possible, gawking at the multi-million dollar mansions and yachts as we cruised the intercoastal. Although I probably wouldn’t recommend Ft. Lauderdale as an exciting vacation destination, it’s where we got engaged nearly 7 years ago. So a few of our dining choices were made in part because we wanted to reminisce about our engagement and first trip together. Really fun, but kind of difficult trying to remember what we did on that trip. Those were the days before I started blogging – actually I think I started my first blog within a month or so after that trip – so nothing more to go by than memory.

Something I do recall very vividly from that trip was the day we returned home – June 3 – and receiving a panicked voicemail from my aunt telling me that my grandpa had suffered a major heart attack and was in the hospital, unlikely to recover. Fortunately, she was wrong and he’s been with us ever since, but I remember walking in to the hospital, and wishing I was sharing our engagement news under better circumstances.

Fast forward 7 years to our return flight home on Tuesday, April 3, and about an hour after we got home, my mom calls to tell me that my grandpa has liver cancer and a tumor in his stomach. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little superstitious about taking trips to Ft. Lauderdale now. Especially when return flights land on the 3rd day of the month.

The rest of the week was a blur of trying to catch up with work and worrying about my grandpa’s health. Then Friday morning I was hit with what has now proven to be the worst virus I think I’ve had since I was about 6 yrs old and nearly died of pneumonia. It started out harmless enough with just a sore throat. Allergies, I assumed. Before noon, I had the worst back-ache I’d ever experienced. Pregnancy-related perhaps? I had a few more meetings and calls to get through but once those were over, I left work, popped some Tylenol, and became BFFs with my heating pad. Fortunately, that seemed to do the trick, but by nightfall, I had the worst case of heartburn – in my upper back (which happens from time to time) and my head started to feel congested. We were supposed to go to a concert Friday night, but those plans were immediately ditched. Saturday I was supposed to go visit my grandma on my dad’s side that lives about 2.5 hours away in IL. I’d already had to miss her 90th birthday because I was in Austin for SXSW, and I had promised her we’d come visit for Easter instead. But I couldn’t risk getting her sick too, so promise = broken. I felt terrible about it, but she understood. The really crappy part is that I don’t know when or if we’ll be able to visit before the baby. I can’t go this weekend b/c of work (and this sickness) and next weekend we have baby classes. After that, I’m really not supposed to travel. Frustrating.

Anyway, back to Easter. With my grandpa’s declining health, my mom came to town to help my other grandma take care of him. My grandma (mom’s side) isn’t in the best health either and has a hard enough time taking care of herself, let alone caring for my grandpa and trying to care for the house. So my mom came to town, but only for a few days because she has a couple of weeks left of college courses that she’s taking back in in Kentucky. I had only gotten progressively worse by Sunday – severe congestion to the point where I couldn’t breathe at night, fever, aches, and then a pretty wretched cough on top of it all. So I had to miss spending time with my family because once again, I couldn’t risk getting my grandparents sick.

Yesterday and today have been much the same with zero improvement. I finally got in to see the doctor on Monday afternoon and walked out with a diagnosis of possible flu, probable bronchitis, or possibly both. I’m on antibiotics now, but so far they’ve only managed to make me nauseous and force me to uh, use the bathroom, more than I’d like.

Of course, all this sickness has me and the hubs a wee bit concerned about the baby, but I’ve been feeling him move pretty regularly so I’m pretty sure all is well. I’m glad we have an OB appt scheduled for tomorrow anyway to check on things, so praying that my severe illness hasn’t affected anything with the little one.

So I think that catches you up on the last 3 weeks. It’s been a little nuts around here but I’m trying to relax and focus on getting better. Five days (and probably 6 or 7 since I haven’t noticed any improvement yet…) is a really long time to be knocked on your ass, but it is what it is and I’m trying not to let myself get overwhelmed by all I still have to do – both at home and at work – but it’s hard, yo. Really, really hard.

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It was AH-MAZING. I’ll post details of our trip later, when I’ve finally recovered from the jet lag. It’s been three days and I’m STILL tired from the plane ride. Champagne problems, eh?

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See Hawaii Part 1 and Hawaii Part 2

At the end of our first full day, we found one of those activity kiosks that has pictures of ziplines, helicopters, boats, snorkeling, luaus, ATVs…just about everything you could possibly want to do, provided you have the money. And just like everything else in Hawaii, those types of activities aren’t cheap. For an hour helicopter tour, you’re looking at around $200 per person. But, if you’re going to do a helicopter tour once in your life, better to do it in Hawaii. Especially on the island of Kauai where the only ways to see the Na Pali Coast are by boat or by air.

So anyway, we talked to the guy at the kiosk, Will*, who happened to be affiliated with some timeshare company. He could sell us the activities for regular price, just like any other activities kiosk vendor, or we could get a bunch of two-for-one deals if we were willing to give up 2 hours of our vacation to sit through a timeshare presentation. Hubby and I did this once before during a trip to Miami, so we knew what we were getting ourselves into, but we just couldn’t walk away from more than $400 in savings, so we agreed to the timeshare presentation. Had we not wanted to do so many expensive activities, or had we not had the time in our schedule to spend 2 hours of it at a timeshare, we would’ve just paid the regular price. But we did have the time and it did save us a lot of money, and even though I hate sitting through such aggressive sales pitches, it was still worth it. The only time I wouldn’t recommend taking advantage of those deals is:

1. If you’re vacation is less than 4 days

2. If the incentive isn’t something you were already planning to do. For example, don’t accept tickets to an event you wouldn’t have paid for in the first place. Or certificates to a restaurant you don’t care to visit. The dollar value will always vary, but if it isn’t something you truly want, then it doesn’t matter what the dollar value of the item is.

As for the activities themselves, we couldn’t have had a better time. The views from the heli were just jaw-dropping. My husband was practically speechless the entire time, but part of that could’ve been because it was his first heli ride.

I took more video than photos, but here are a couple of photos to give you an idea:

But the boat tour just might have been my favorite. We were able to snag a seat up top in the very back and on the right side – probably the best seat on the ship because nothing and no one would obstruct our view. We took off from the south short and sailed northwest toward the Na Pali. The ride up was beautiful and sunny and we had a blast just sitting back, listening to the music playing through the speakers, and looking off in the distance for whales (we saw a few). The waters were rough, but I made sure to take Dramamine before we boarded so it wasn’t that bad. I tend to get motion sickness quite easily.

And then we saw the rainbow.

And then we took pictures with the rainbow.

Of course, there can’t be a rainbow without any rain so it started sprinkling a little (hence the jacket and wet t-shirt) so the captain turned around and headed back. That’s when the real party got started and our nice, quiet ship turned into a booze cruise. The bar opened up and dinner was served on the lower deck – an assortment of smoked pulled-pork, some sort of chicken with sauce, salad, bread, and cookies. And the mai tais….oh the mai tais were delicious…

The only part I didn’t really enjoy was the fact that it’s a barefoot boat, meaning everyone had to leave their shoes back at the dock. So walking around on a wet boat, looking at everyone else’s nasty-looking feet (seriously, what happens to people’s feet once they turn 40? It’s disgusting!), I kept thinking about how I’m going to catch some sort of foot fungus or athlete’s foot from these people. It grossed me out.

Just as we finished eating, the captain made an announcement that we had just come up on a pod of dolphins, so we all ran out to the front of the boat and watched little spinner dolphins come right up to the boat, riding right in front so that the boat was essentially pushing them through the water. There had to have been maybe 25 or 30 of them. Spinner dolphins are smaller than bottlenose dolphins and apparently they’re more commonly seen on the morning cruises (the morning cruises are snorkeling excursions), so it was nice to get the chance to see them so late in the afternoon. I only wish I wouldn’t have left my camera back at my seat in the back of the boat.

Then we watched the sun set over the Forbidden Island.

We did the luau the next night, Friday night. I’m not a big fan of being seated at a large table with other people and there’s a reason for that. We were seated at a table for 10, right with a family of 8. It sucked. But at least it was open bar so other than the actual dinner, we didn’t spend much time at our table.

The pig is cooked on-site, in a pit in the ground.

After the dinner, the entertainment starts. My favorite part is the fire dancers. I can never get a great photo, but I like how this one turned out.

Yeah, that’s just one guy.

We didn’t have to sit through the timeshare presentation until Sunday morning, Easter morning. We were hoping to be finished by about 10:30 so we could try to find a church, but the sales pitch was intriguing and we ended up spending close to 4 hours there. We didn’t buy, but we learned more about timeshare than we ever wanted to. So, if you’re thinking about timeshare, let me give you some advice: buy in Hawaii because you’re trading power is MUCH higher than say, a time share in Orlando. Also, don’t take the first offer. If they know you’re interested, they’ll negotiate down. By the end of the session, we were offered the premium package at the basic price and given a 7 week cruise, airfare included. We didn’t take it, because timeshare just doesn’t make sense for us right now, but I will say that it was tempting. If we lived in California where flights to Hawaii aren’t as expensive or exhausting, we probably would’ve done it.

And now that my recap posts have become a novella, I think I’ll end here. I’ve posted more photos on Facebook, if we’re friends and you’re interested!

(side note: he’s also semi-famous. He was the sole survivor of a plane crash in Costa Rica a few years ago. We watched his story on Animal Planet on a show called, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” See Will and his story here.)

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Hawaii Part 2

See Part 1 here.

Alright, so picking back up where we left off…we had booked our flight and hotel. The next thing to plan: activities.

When traveling to a new place, it’s always a good idea to plan the sites and activities you want to do ahead of time. When heading to a beach destination, I typically do an Internet search for the best beaches in that area. Or the best restaurants. I ask myself, “hat are the must-see places and when is the best time visit them?” For example, on our trip to Oahu last year, we were informed by our trusty travel partner that Hanauma Bay is one of the best snorkeling spots in Hawaii. Because he did his research, we also knew that it was closed on Tuesdays for cleaning, therefore making Wednesday mornings the best days to snorkel because the sediments have settled making the water clearer than on days when hundreds of people are swimming around, stirring up sediments, making the water murky. It’s this type of detailed research that can really make a difference in a vacation. Would we have still had a blast on Thursday or Friday? Of course! But what if we got up early and drove all the way there on Tuesday, only to find out the bay was closed? Total bummer and waste of a few precious hours of vacation time.

So, you would think that knowing this would mean that we did our due diligence by planning and researching all of our activities before we arrived.

Well you would be wrong.

Sometimes our home life can get a little overwhelming (hence the need for a vacation) so we didn’t have time to research everything as we would have liked. Plus, my husband prides himself on being “spontaneous” and a  go-with-the-flow kind of guy. He is, but I think that’s more or less due to laziness than anything else. It’s okay though; I’m the same way. When it came to planning our activities for this trip, we didn’t buy one guide-book, not one map, I didn’t even spend one hour doing an Internet search. We just went.

So what did we do? Well first, we arrived around 5pm local time so we picked up our rental car (a Chrysler Sebring convertible) and drove about 2 miles to our hotel to check in. Then we showered, because 16 hours on three different planes has a way of making you feel a little grody. We ended Day 1 with dinner at the famous Duke’s restaurant, which was practically on hotel property. If you go, may I highly suggest the crab and macadamia nut wonton appetizer followed by the macadamia nut encrusted Mahi Mahi or opa. Soooo good. Day 2, we woke up early and attempted to watch the sunrise from our resort. Unfortunately, a giant hill was in the way, so we took pictures instead.

Then we did something  you’ll probably never guess: we went to Walmart. Laugh if you want, but this was one of the few stops I had pre-planned. Why? Because Hawaii is freakin’ expensive. I refuse to pay $20 for coffee and a pastry every morning for breakfast when I can spend $5 on a box of granola bars that will get me through the week. We also bought a case of bottled water, a cooler, ice, and a few snacks, all to keep in the car for the week while we hopped from beach to beach. After the Walmart stop, we went on a hunt for waterfalls, and find them we did.

Then we headed south and drove around the until we were on the west shore.

If you’ve never been to Kauai, I should probably explain a couple of things:

1.) The climate is crazy. One half of the island (the south and west half) has a desert-like climate. The other half (north and east) is rainforest. In fact, Kauai boasts one of the wettest spots on earth.  

2.) Unlike Oahu, you cannot drive all the way around the island because of the Na Pali coast. You can go only so far west, and only so far north, until you run into the Na Pali, where no roads have ever dared been built.

3.) Chickens. They are everywhere. Wild chickens roam the island – in the Walmart parking lot, on the hotel grounds, on the side of the road…imagine the sound of a rooster cock-a-doodle-do-ing while you’re trying to enjoy the relaxing sounds of the waves crashing on the shore. It was bizarre.

So anyway, we were on the west side of the island and decided to take the long and winding road to Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific.

Breathtaking views. I could’ve spent hours there, just looking. On the way back toward our hotel, we found a brewery. Waimea Brewery at The Grove Cafe, which has THE most delicious pale ale I’ve ever tasted and also prides itself on being “The Westernmost Brewery.” We bought a shirt. After our drinks, we wandered around the grounds and found a hammock under a shade tree.

I love hammocks. In fact, we have one in our backyard. But this was by far my most favorite hammock ever. It’s my new happy place.

With bellies full of beer and after a relaxing half hour in the hammock, we were feeling pretty tired, so we stopped by the Kauai Coffee Company for some free coffee samples. They have so many varieties of freshly brewed coffee; and you can have as much as you want!

That was a good decision. After that, I think we returned to our hotel, showered, and went to dinner. It was after dinner that we got serious about our activities for the rest of the vacation. More on that later.

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Hawaii Part 1

Before I begin, let me just acknowledge the fact that vacation recap posts of other people’s vacations aren’t really fun to read. I know this. The only time I like reading about other people’s trips is when their post can help me plan my own trip in some way. So I’m going to try to do that in my post (or posts) and hope that maybe you might find something helpful for your own future vacation.

So now I’ll begin…

Planning: We booked our trip in January. Personally, I feel there are a lot of good deals to be had by booking spring trips around that time. Usually we take a May vacation to celebrate my birthday and our anniversary, but due to some conflicting work schedules, late March/early April was our only option until some time this fall.

Because I’m a bit of a travel junkie, I get email alerts from many of the online travel sites and dealers – TravelZoo has a great weekly deals email. I’m a frequent customer of Expedia so I get a lot of emails from them too. I set up alerts on Kayak.com to receive any special airline deals I might be interested in. Kayak also has a really cool airfare cost comparison that shows you what the prices have been for a particular flight in the past so you know right away whether or not you’re getting a good deal. I highly recommend you do things like this, especially if your dates are flexible, so you can get the best deals out there.

At the time we were planning our trip, we were looking at various locales: Costa Rica, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, US Virgin Islands, and of course, Hawaii – specifically Maui or Kauai.

I looked at the cost of flights of all of those places. I set up alerts for some of them through Kayak. And one day, United Airlines had a super sale with big discounts on flights to Kauai, so I jumped on it.

Hotel: Usually, it’s a good idea to book your hotel and flight through the same OTA (online travel agent) if you can. You can get bigger discounts on sites like Expedia and Orbitz that way. But since I had to book my stellar airline flight through United directly, I had book my hotel separately. And I didn’t have a clue where to stay!

It’s no secret that I spend a lot of time on Twitter and blogs (for work purposes folks, I swear) and one of the travel experts I follow on Twitter – @JohnnyJet – had just returned from Kauai and blogged about his stay at the fabulous Kauai Marriott. I did a little research on Trip Advisor and read the comments left on Orbitz and Expedia before I made the decision to book it. We knew there were some major renovations and construction happening (about $50 million worth), which may have been the reason the rooms were discounted, but I had read that the majority of the renovations had been completed already so we decided to stay anyway.

Social Media Tip: If you’re an active blogger and/or active on Twitter, be sure to contact the brand and let them know you’re staying. I contacted Johnny Jet on Twitter to let him know that his blog post was the reason I had booked a 7-night stay at the resort. I also tweeted about my upcoming trip, using the Hawaii Marriott’s Twitter handle (@HawaiiMarriott) in my messages. It was both of those actions that I believe led to me being upgraded to a higher, newly-renovated room, above the construction zone and of course, with a gorgeous view:

And the pool….oh my goodness the pool…

And that’s only half of it. The best part, which you can’t see because it’s below me, are the FIVE hot tubs. I spent a good part of our vacation there, especially at night or on days when it was overcast.

Another great thing about this hotel was the location. The famous Duke’s restaurant is practically on the hotel property, as are a few other fine restaurants. The beach, Kalapaki Bay, is one of the best on the island. And, it’s less than 10 minutes from the airport.

And seeing as how this much of a post took me nearly a week to write, I’ll stop now and just say “to be continued…”

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Soon, I’ll be packing my bags and boarding a plane destined for sand, sun, and ultimate relaxation. Soon, I’ll be walking up with a delicious cup of Kona coffee, snacking on chocolate covered Macadamia nuts, and indulging in fresh, macademia-nut-encrusted mahi-mahi. And soon, I’ll be spending a good portion of the day wearing a swimsuit. My body is nowhere near where I would like it to be, but at least I’m a few pounds lighter than I was last time we were in Hawaii. And since it’s a trip for “just the two of us”, I haven’t completely abolished the idea of something a little more revealing than my standard takini with skirt bottoms. So I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect swimsuit. Something flattering for my body type, something that is boob lifting, tummy flattening, and wedgie resistant. So let’s discuss what I’ve found so far:

I started with Victoria’s Secret, knowing that the overwhelming majority of their swimsuits would be too teeny tiny, but also knowing that they have a great selection of boob-lifting tops. And they did, but the part of my body that I’m most sensitive about is my stomach. It’s not flat. So I wanted something that not only covered it, but wouldn’t show the poochy outline of my belly button. But every swim suit I’ve ever had has been very form-fitting, which I guess is the way swimsuits are supposed to fit, but my belly button pooch always shows! I typically steer clear of patterns and stick with solid colors, but to avoid the belly button pooch, I’ve learned to embrace patterns. Maybe that’s a mistake. I bought a tankini last year and even though it also came in a solid color, I chose the patterned version when I saw the difference with the belly button situation. I’m taking it with me again this year, but a week on the beach requires more than one swimsuit. I also want a bright color. I always stay with a safe black, but I’m thinking maybe a pink or coral color, or something in the green/blue family. I found this:

(image from VictoriasSecret.com)

And though I don’t exactly love the pattern (is it animal print? I can’t tell.), I think it’s pretty close to what I’m looking for, style wise. I also like this one, but in a different pattern maybe:

(image from VictoriasSecret.com)

I’ve always loved halter tops. But the big problem with both of these suits? The bottoms. My hips and thighs are way too big, so I don’t think this cut will work. I thought maybe I could mix it up with a solid matching color boyshort, but Vicki’s doesn’t offer swimsuits with boyshorts anymore. I guess they’re not “in”?

Feeling a bit frustrated and wanting to see different styles on slightly larger women, I check out Lane Bryant. Now, I don’t shop at Lane Bryant, but if I had to pick an underwear model that most resembles myself, it would definitely be a Lane Bryant model before a Victoria’s Secret model. I took a look at their swimsuit bottom selection and tried to pick out which style looked the most slimming.

(image from LaneBryant.com)

It could be the way she’s standing, but personally, I think the boyshort bottoms are the most flattering. The skirts aren’t flattering at all, and the hipsters squeeze the flesh a little too much for my liking. I also really like this ruffled short skirt, especially the color, but for a Lane Bryant site those tummies sure do look flat!

(image from LaneBryant.com)

I’m not crazy about the matching top though. It looks a bit “maternity”.

So that’s where I am in the painful world of swimsuit shopping. So help me, please. Help me make a decision on a swimsuit. And, because I’m having a moment of bravery, I’m going to show you what I actually look like in a swimsuit. It’s a couple of years old, and the photo is crooked, but it’s the only one that doesn’t show my awful posture. Probably because it’s crooked. But this gives you an idea of what I almost always wear.

Black skirt tankini. Probably from Target. It’s safe and comfortable, but not so flattering. And that tattoo on my husband’s arm? That’s a temporary tattoo…of an octopus. Like the kind you wet and rub on. I had hoped it would leave a funny tan mark, but I wasn’t so lucky.

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Wow, where did this week go? somewhere between work, working out, visiting with friends and family…that’s where. It took about a week, but work is back in full force, occupying the majority of my brain cells. Plus, I managed to work out every single day this week, even fitting in a morning AND evening workout on Thursday. Yeah, I’m badass. Or at least I thought so until the next day when my hip joints started revolting against me. I can already tell that getting old is going to be a major bitch.

I was also given an award by the lovely Angie and somehow managed to miss Delurking Day. (Side note: feel free to pretend today is Delurking Day and humor me by leaving a comment to let me know you’re reading.) But one of the highlights of the week came when we booked our flight for our next vacation. We’ll be spending seven glorious days right here:

And maybe here:

Yes, we’re going back to Hawaii! But this time, we’re going to explore a different island, the island of Kauai. We’re usually not the type of people to go back to places we’ve been before, but last year’s trip to Oahu was so awesome that we wanted to see what the other islands were like. Plus, we recently watched The Perfect Getaway, which takes place on Kauai. We actually watched it twice, in one night, just to admire the scenery.

So technically, we’re still going some place we’ve never been but it’s neither a different country or even a different state. Still, it’s Hawaii people! And Kauai is arguably one of the prettiest places in the WORLD. Before we booked last year’s trip for Oahu, most people recommended just about any other island EXCEPT Oahu. In fact I remember Jeannette strongly recommending Kauai, specifically. But, Oahu had a lot of things we wanted to see, not to mention the best prices, and I have to say I don’t regret that decision for one second. We’ve been on a few beach vacations, but there was no contest that the beaches on Oahu were the prettiest we had ever seen. So if everyone says the beaches get even BETTER on the other islands, well, we’ll just have to see for ourselves and report back. It’s always been a little personal quest for us to find the most beautiful beach in the world. So when I spotted dramatically reduced airline tickets during prime travel season when prices are usually their highest, we didn’t waste much time debating locations or dates or travel times. We just did it.  I now have a bright light at the end of the long, dark, cold winter tunnel. And added motivation to get my butt in shape, because swimsuit season – for me – is just a couple of months away.

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A co-worker of mine recently went to Spain with his wife (before she got pregnant. Or maybe that’s when she got pregnant. Hm.) But I was browsing their pics on Facebook and I felt a pang of jealousy, as is often common when I look at someone’s pictures from any vacation that involves crossing an ocean. It’s not like we don’t travel and take vacations. We do. But the window of travel opportunity is getting smaller as we think about the future. There are so many places I want to see now, as opposed to when we’re older, and I just get overwhelmed thinking that we only have a couple more years to do these things.

If I had to rank them in order, the top five places on my must-see list include:




France (not just Paris though. I’m more interested in seeing the smaller towns.)

Switzerland (or Germany, Belgium, Northern Italy…just someplace that looks like THIS)

I’d also love to go back to Spain and not only explore Barcelona more, but also visit Madrid. And I’d like to go back to Italy, spend more time in Rome and Tuscany, and maybe see Venice or Milan. So many places to see!

Of course, come January, I’ll be craving the beach instead. My top five beach escapes would have to be:

Maui (we went to Oahu in May, LOVED it, and now want to see the rest of the islands, starting with Maui)

Costa Rica (with beaches, volcanoes, rainforest and water falls, we’d never get bored)

St. Thomas

Puerto Rico

Turks and Caicos – just because all the celebs go there.


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Napa Valley

On our way out of San Francisco, we made one more stop by the Golden Gate Bridge before heading out to Napa Valley.


We also stopped by Muir Woods, which is sort of a scary drive with all the twists and turns. But it was Sunday, and gorgeous, and therefore we couldn’t find a parking spot at the park to even park our car. Well okay, that’s a lie. We found one, but it was about one and half miles away from the park entrance and it was so hot, we decided to save that excursion for some other time.

The further out of the city we drove, the hotter it became. We drove through Sonoma and then into Napa to our hotel. The Silverado Resort was everything the pictures showed it to be. Even better was the complimentary room upgrade to a Jr. Suite and the surprise fruit basket, cheese platter and bottle of Chardonnay delivery we received just minutes after settling into our room. (side note: I had been corresponding with the resort’s resident Twitterer prior to our trip, which is how we even found out about the resort in the first place. She was kind enough to arrange some of those special extras and we couldn’t have been more impressed. Thanks Erika!)


Since we now had everything we needed in our room, we saw no need to leave the resort. So we walked across the street to the spa and made appointments for our couples massage that evening. Then we spent the rest of the afternoon at the pool while we waited. (Both the resort and the spa have a pool, plus the spa has a jacuzzi, so we pool-hopped for a couple of hours.) I haven’t been to many spas in my life but this had to be one of the better ones. Robes and slippers waiting for me in my own locker, steam rooms, saunas, hot tea, citrus water…I could’ve lived there.

After our massage we simply walked back across the street to the resort restaurant where I had the best corn and crab chowder I’ve ever tasted. I need to learn how to make it. Soooo good.

The next two days were all about winery hopping. We visited:

Whitehall Lane Winery (we had two free tastings vouchers)


Markham Vineyards (also free tastings voucher)


Castello di Amorosa (my favorite. No voucher. I bought a bottle of wine calld “Fantasia” to bring home with me.)



Chateau Montelena (of the movie “Bottle Shock” fame)


And since it was crush season, we got to see the wineries in action as they literally crushed the grapes to extract the juices.


Beringer Vineyards


Day 2 of winery hopping:

Domaine Carneros (great for Champagne lovers)


We sat on the patio and enjoyed the view


Artesa Winery (just look at the view beyond the fountain! We were told this place had the best views of the Carneros region and I’m willing to bet they were right.)


Cuvaison Winery


Simply gorgeous! I think we picked the perfect time to year to see the valley and the weather was wonderful. And with more than 350 wineries in Napa Valley, there’s enough there to hopefully make a return trip some day. If you’ve never been to Napa, note that everything closes pretty early. Most of the wineries close at 5 or 6 pm (and open as early as 9:30 or 10 am!) and the restaurants stop serving food after 9pm. Not much night-life in the valley, presumably because everyone is already passed out or drunk from the full day of drinking. Since we only did tastings, and even shared tastings at times, neither of us ever got drunk so the nights were kind of boring after dinner. Except for the last night when we met a couple from Louisville, Kentucky at the local bar (one of only two  bars in the downtown area that stay open past 10pm) and spent the entire evening hanging out with them until about 12:30 when the place closed. They were a lot of fun and we exchanged contact info so we can potentially meet up in the future when we pass through that way (which we do a few times a year to visit the in-laws and my parents).

Though it was one of the most expensive trips we’ve ever taken (maybe more than Hawaii), we had a blast and hope to go back some day.

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