Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Go on, dish.

Well hello there! Lots been happening since we last chatted. It's been awhile!
i Madonnari street painting festival at the Santa Barbara Mission
Seriously. Just dropped off the face of the earth partway through my Kauai recaps! Maybe eventually I'll finish those. Haha

Our NEW BED being delivered // Camping in Los Padres forest 
Anyway, things are good in our neck of the woods. Seriously, so so good. Since we last talked, we've done so much! Lots of hiking and exploring, and even a little camping. We've rearranged furniture and made some big home purchases; I started a patio vegetable garden and turned 26. I chopped some blunt bangs, went to a couple festivals, and tried a few new restaurants. We've even started seeing a behaviorist to curb Daisy's animal aggression! Yeah, that's a long story, but it was time. 

My seedlings a few weeks ago // my birthday dinner at Arrigato Sushi
Hands down, though, the biggest change to happen to us lately has been this little detail: I'm working again!

Whoooooo hoooooo!

The short version: I've been working for a small Public Relations firm in town for the past few weeks, and I am loving it. It took me awhile to figure out what I wanted to do after I left my last job, but as soon as I landed on PR, things just started lining up. God is so good! I work with a great group of people in a really fun environment, and I am learning a lot. A LOT. And I dig it.

What's been going on with you lately?! Dish!

Friday, May 2, 2014

kauai beaches

at Poipu beach in the south, our first {windy} day
Before we left for Kauai, we made a list of all the things we wanted to do when we were there. Many of those things just didn't happen (there were a variety of reasons for this, but the primary one was lack of time), but ,lots of beach time and snorkeling were two things we were NOT going to skip!
We are HUGE dorks. We have accepted this fact.
Believe it or not, the weather was pretty terrible when we went to Kauai--incredibly windy, high swells, lots of chilly rain. It was warmer and sunnier back home! We only had two sunny days while we were there: our first day and our last day! In that time, though, we'd managed to visit Poipu beach, Waimea beach, Kapa'a beach, Queen's pond (a beach in Polihale state park), Ke'e Beach, and Tunnels Beach. The weather was pretty bad when we tried to go to Hanalei Bay, which was also on our list, so that one didn't happen. Still. I feel pretty good about what we got done :)
Poipu beach on a WINDY day
Poipu beach is down in the south near where many hotels are located, and it was lauded by our concierge as great snorkeling. We had fun there, to be sure, but it wasn't our favorite! The swells were pretty high this particular day and it was intermittently rainy (we were in the water so we didn't know until we found our stuff wet!), and the water as a result was very cloudy. There were some fun fish to see but overall it wasn't the best snorkeling on the island. We did have fun, though!
Poipu Beach snorkel
Snorkel at Poipu beach
 I was most impressed by Polihale in the West and the beaches we visited in the North; all the southern and eastern beaches were either crowded, the swell was too high to swim, or the weather was bad.
the dirt road to Polihale State Park on the Western side of the island
Polihale State park is only accessible by dirt roads, and it's a good forty minutes from other towns? Our little compact rental struggled a little over the roads, but the end view was so worth it. Stretches of white sand, almost deserted, framed by the gorgeous Na'Pali coast.
Polihale State Park
Polihale State Park
We went out to Polihale at the end of a very long day, and we weren't able to stay very long because we had a good two hour drive back to a dinner reservation, but it is definitely a spot that we would recommend to anyone heading to Kauai in the future.
Queen's Pond in Polihale
Our favorite part of Polihale (aside from the lack of people!) was Queen's pond, a huge sandbar under the water that protects the beach from the pounding surf. The swell was quite high the day we went, and yet the Queen's Pond area was quite calm, not to mention gorgeous!

We finally made it to the North Shore on our last day (darn weather!), and were so glad we went! Our camera died partway through the day so we only got pictures from Ke'e beach, but we were so impressed with the beauty of the North Shore.
Snorkeling at Ke'e Beach
Perhaps we had a good day because the storm had cleared, but the waves were calm (ish), there was little wind, no rain, and the water was crystal clear. Lots to see!

Have you ever been to Kauai? 
What is your favorite beach?

Thursday, May 1, 2014

a shopping chain made our vacation happen

So, we just got back from a week in Kauai. Before I tell you all about our trip, though, I have to share with you how it happened. It's pretty awesome.

Long story short, we had to get to Kauai at the end of April because our friend Alanna was getting married. We decided to make it a vacation and extend the trip a few days on either end, and thanks to a bunch of random incidents, we were able to make it happen. That's where we left off last time we talked about it.
the beach in front of our hotel, the Aston Islander on the Beach in Kapa'a Town
Here's the thing, though. I knew next to nothing about Kauai when we started planning the trip, so the initial process of picking places to stay was really difficult. I've heard 100 different things from 100 different people about the best hotels to book and the best beaches for snorkeling and the best part of the island to rent a room, and soon I was swimming in way too much information.

Adding to all of that, flights from our town to Kauai at this time of year were going to be a LOT of money, so we didn't really have a ton of wiggle room in terms of rooms and a rental car (which was a necessity in our case because we had to make it to the wedding at the very least).

Headache central.
To save on some of the headache, I started looking at vacation packages on sites like Livingsocial and Groupon. My extensive (ugh) research showed that the pricing on these packages were comparable or cheaper than booking everything separately, and they would save me some hassle by picking the town in which we would be staying. We jumped around a bit before landing on the surprising winner: Costco Travel.

Yep, turns out our membership is good for more than bulk groceries and a fabulous return policy. All things held constant, Costco's prices were a good $500 cheaper than any other travel site I checked, and trust me when I said I checked a lot of them. Most of the packages included fun extras, too: some had extra tours, some included free upgrades for room or car, and some had daily breakfasts for two! You could also upgrade or downgrade in a few places to control the experience you wanted, which was pretty cool; we upped our room's view and downgraded to a compact car.
I just entered Kauai as our destination, selected our dates of travel (settling on a Tuesday-to-Monday schedule because it was the least expensive), and added in the required details (class of travel, number of people, include a car, etc), and hit search. There were only a few packages in Kauai from which I could choose, which for me was great: eenie-meenie-meiney-mo!

We ended up picking a hotel package in Kapa'a Town, a town on the western coast of the island. For our first trip to Kauai, it was a good location because it was almost equidistant between the beautiful North Shore and the Poipu area, from where most of our excursions departed. We did a LOT of driving, but feel like we know enough of the island to pick a spot to stay next time :)

Our hotel. Our first room was garden and partial ocean view, and we later moved to an ocean front room. See why below:

We ended up staying at the Aston Islander on the Beach, an older plantation-style beachfront hotel on six acres. I took a gamble on selecting this hotel, because the reviews on Costco.com weren't great. Turns out, reviews are helpful little tidbits; should have listened to them! So, future reference, the Aston Islander on the Beach in Kapa'a isn't fancy or updated in any way.
Our teeny oceanfront room with mini-fridge and microwave.
 They were also undergoing construction, which was a fun surprise. To be fair, we booked pretty early so the construction notification hadn't been posted on the hotel website yet.... and there really isn't a great time to undergo construction. But still. This was our view on one side of our balcony:
View from our balcony the first half of our trip.
...and this was our view on the other side:
Aston Islander on the Beach Construction
The caution fencing and scaffolding is a nice touch, huh? Now add in jackhammers, nail guns, table saws, and other myriad power tools. Happy Vacation? The part that irked me was that I'd sprung and paid extra for an ocean view, which we sort of had, but construction was so loud outside during the day that we couldn't even open the slider. The final straw happened on our third night, when our fridge malfunctioned and leaked a huge puddle of water across the tile floor and soaked up into the clothes still in my suitcase. Not thrilled.
The lanai view from the second half of our week.
 Customer service was very gracious and apologetic, and they moved us to an ocean-front room free of charge (uh, duh!), as well as removed ALL of the daily resort fees. Whoo!
We had breakfast on the balcony every morning. I will blame Tim's beer on jetlag; our bodies thought it was afternoon...?
Despite the oddness of the hotel itself, I was really happy with our experience with Costco Travel, and I will definitely consider them again for our next vacation. We saved enough money on the room/car/flight package to go on two excursions while we were there: an ATV adventure and a snorkel trip around the Na'Pali coast. We also got in a bunch of beach and snorkel time AND had the wedding day, too, so it was a packed trip! More on all that later :)

*I was not compensated for this post, I just had a great experience using Costco for our vacation and wanted to share!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Easter Sunday

This Easter was a little different than Easters past--because we were leaving on a trip so soon afterwards, traveling to spend Easter with family just wasn't feasible for us this year. Instead, we went to our Easter service solo (along with the other several thousand people there, of course), and then hosted Tim's grandparents for a low-key dinner.

Daisy was stoked about her Easter goodies. The bone was gone in less than five minutes.
They live about an hour away, so it's always fun to spend time with them. They arrived with Easter goodies galore (even the pup got an Easter bone!) and enough "nibbles" to replace a normal-sized dinner. We started our fun up on the patio, since it was so nice outside, drinking wine and catching up. It even got hot enough for me to need to change out of my long-sleeved dress, and into something a little more summery.
Tim and his grandma :)
Me (in outfit #2!) and Tim's Grandpa, enjoying the sun
Tim and his sweet grandparents before dinner on the patio
We moved inside around dinnertime and started a mad game of Tripoley, since we'd snacked so much we weren't ready for real food yet. Tim and his grandpa even took the scooter out past the beach and around our neighborhood, so cute!
Grandpa outfitted and ready for his scooter ride!
We had SO MUCH FUN this Easter, and were so thankful that Tim's grandparents were able to make the drive down to spend it with us.


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