No Excuses Allowed

I really have no excuse for not blogging in so long. It was the longest break I took in my two plus years of blogging and I’ve really been missing it.

As I said in my last post, I started working full-time in July and am still breaking into my new job and discovering all sorts of new things. At the end of July/beginning of August my little sister surprised my brother and  I for our birthdays and the whole family headed down to the Oregon Coast to celebrate.

Family Bonfire

I then headed to a conference in Los Angeles where I got to stay with my sister and hang out with a ton of friends from graduate school and the two years I lived there. I also got to see both my aunts and uncles and some cousins which is always nice as well as learn some pretty awesome things.

Fun Conference Learning

I also ran to Chicago for a quick two day conference. Not much to say about that except I got a duck and a flattened penny.

IMG_4079

And the biggest change in the last three months? I met someone! We met through OKCupid but randomly went to high school together-he graduated a couple of years after me. I can’t even tell you how happy I am. . . we moved in together and are currently sharing a pretty sweet townhouse complete with a cat (Kitty) and a 60 gallon fish tank full of tropical fish!

I’ll end this post with some corny pictures of Jason and I and a promise to be so much better about blogging because I’ve missed it so much and am excited to be back in the swing of things!

S'mores!Hiking

Us

 

Not Quite Local Living: Jack Daniel’s Distillery

When I told friends I was going to Nashville and asked for recommendations, the number one recommendation was the Jack Daniel’s Distillery. It’s about an hour drive to the distillery from Nashville and it’s a very pretty drive. OK, we may have missed the exit and gone about 20  miles out of our way in the middle of nowhere, but it was beautiful country roads!

The distillery offers two tours, a free tour of the site and a tasting tour for $10. We decided to go for the freebie tour.

2014-03-31 12.04.58    2014-03-31 12.13.22

It was also a beautiful day so a perfect time to be walking outside.

2014-03-31 12.18.38

 

Mr. Daniels was a short man! He was just about my height at 5″2, and look at all he accomplished! He moved to Lynchburg in the 1880’s to start the distillery. He never had any kids but was quite the ladies man.

2014-03-31 12.38.06 2014-03-31 12.38.48

No one is quite sure what No. 7 means but some speculation is it’s the number of his girlfriends. There was also a really cool old firetruck on the property. Everyone who works at the distillery is local and seems to have worked there for ages and love it.  The staff was very nice and friendly.

2014-03-31 12.51.18 2014-03-31 12.51.28 2014-03-31 12.51.40

This was Jack Daniel’s desk and the safe that caused his death. He came in early to work one day in 1905, couldn’t get the safe open, kicked it, and ended up developing gangrene which killed him in 1907. His nephew took over and then his nephew’s sons.

2014-03-31 12.48.55

The building that the office was in was used until the 1950’s I believe and is a historical landmark. They now have a new office across the way but keep this one as a memory.

2014-03-31 12.41.31 2014-03-31 12.41.55

 

 

The water comes from onsite and they aren’t sure how deep this cave is but the water is cleansed by the limestone and was so beautifully clear.

2014-03-31 12.37.38 2014-03-31 13.21.42 2014-03-31 13.15.51

 

Each barrel that the whiskey ages in is handmade with no nails. It’s actually a super interesting process. Each one is only used once. You can buy a barrel of whiskey in which case you get a plaque with your  name and every time you buy a new barrel, a medallion goes on that plaque.

2014-03-31 12.54.42 2014-03-31 12.55.19

 

The motto from Daniel’s time through today and the beautiful grounds.

We then went over to the town of Lynchburg for lunch and walked around. It’s all centered around a square and was super cute. There were some really neat craft stores and of course all sorts of Jack Daniels souvenirs.  Of course you can’t buy any of the whiskey there though! They did pass an ordinance in the past several years that one could buy certain whiskeys on the distillery site but I didn’t want to have to check luggage back home for a bottle of whiskey.

I would highly recommend making a trip out here and if I ever go back, I’d love to do the tasting tour as I do love wine tasting tours so I can imagine this would be fun too!

Not Quite Local Living: Country Music Hall of Fame

2014-03-28 13.14.01So one of the things that most surprises people about me is the fact that I am addicted to country  music.  I blame this on a few factors.  The first is when I was a kid, my father and I were at Target and trying to find a cassette tape for my walkman for a road trip we were going on. He picked up Garth Brook’s Ropin’ The Wind and said that he had heard it was good. I was hooked!  Then later when I was living in Israel, my first boyfriend at fifteen was from South Carolina.  He got me listening to The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band and Anita Cochran–artists I still love today. It’s been all downhill from there! If you go into my iTunes account, you will see show tunes, country music and Israeli rock.  Go figure.

So it was with excitement that I spent the weekend in Nashville, TN, home of country music! And what better place to explore country music than at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum.

The museum was pretty cool and offered different levels of entrance. We got a discount with my AAA card so paid $20/ticket. This got us into the main exhibit and into the special Reba exhibit.

2014-03-28 13.16.09 2014-03-28 13.24.26

 

I loved the colors of the sign up above the ticket.

We started in the Reba exhibit.

2014-03-28 13.32.09 2014-03-28 13.29.36

There was a Reba Barbie and knowing how much my girl, Melissa from A Honey Lust loves Barbie, I had to get a picture to her! The Reba exhibit was really cool-pictures of her growing up, images of her at the rodeo, her family and her Hollywood career as well as dresses she’s worn throughout the years.  I especially loved seeing her college diploma–she has a BS in Elementary Education!  Who know?!

Then there were two more floors of exhibits–starting with the early years of country music and bluegrass.  There were tons of old instruments and the clothes they would wear.

2014-03-28 13.41.52

There were even cars of former country stars! Being from California, I think the most surprising thing to me was the impact that Bakersfield, CA had on country music.  I learned that when the great migration happened during the Depression and people were leaving the south and heading west (think The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck), their music and customs were going with them.

2014-03-28 13.47.27

2014-03-28 13.48.22

I also loved the more modern section because those are the artists I listen to and it was fun seeing relics from tours and things like that.  The final room, which I didn’t get a picture of was a round rotunda filled with plaques with pictures of everyone who had ever gotten into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

I definitely enjoyed the museum and would recommend it to anyone visiting Nashville.  Any Nashville places you recommend?

 

 

LA Trip Recap

LA Trip

LA was awesome!  I flew in super early Wednesday morning and got to spend the day with my aunt.  We went to the flower district and picked up a beautiful Thanksgiving centerpiece (which I forgot to take a picture of but really great Thanksgiving colors), we went back to her house where she cooked and I snoozed.  My sister and uncle came and we went to Brent’s for dinner–chopped liver and hot pastrami sandwich with matzah ball soup. . . . yuuuum!  We then went to A Sweet Design and picked up some cupcakes.  I may have gone to three different cupcake places this weekend so we shall do a comparison post in later on this week!

I then got to ride in my sister’s new (to her) Ford Mustang convertible. . . so much fun!  Thanksgiving day we went bowling with my cousins.  Every year they do a sport as part of the pre-Thanksgiving ritual.  Prior I had been to football and whiffle ball and then a few years ago they decided contact sports were not a good idea so bowling it became.  I may have sucked royally (never got above 60) but had a good time!  Then Thanksgiving dinner, mmmmmm!  All good there!  My sister wanted to get a TV so we went on over to Best Buy and she bought a nice Smart TV for a good price.  I knew I wanted a new iPad so we went to the mall but Apple was closed.  I did go to Victoria’s Secret and get some bras (really pretty ones too!) and Gap for clothes that were 50% off.  I got my iPad the next day so all was good there.  I also got a new bag for my laptop from DSW (Ivanka Trump).  I think those were all the Black Friday sales.  Friday night we went out to sushi with a friend of Danit’s.  The restaurant was meh.  The service was terrible.

Saturday we laid low and then went out to dinner at an awesome Italian restaurant in Los Feliz called Trattoria Farfalla.  The food was really good.  I had penne ala norma which had eggplant and lots of cheese and the star was the torta della nonna, so good!  I tried to get the recipe but they said they got it from an outside store.  Must. Make. Again!

Sunday I caught a cold and hung low while my sister went to work and then we met some good friends of mine for dinner at a Persian restaurant.  The food was good but because I was sick, I wasn’t really tasting (I hate that part of being sick).  We did make it to the 2nd cupcake place, the famous Sprinkles and tried their ice cream which was super yummy and I bought some cupcakes from the ATM.

I then decided it was my mission to fill my sister’s freezer so I made her 2 mac and cheeses, 2 lasagnas, a pot of chicken soup and 2 dozen muffins which I froze all individually:

Danit's Freezer

It was worth it and I hope she eats well for awhile!  I then met her and saw where she works which was fun.  We went out to lunch to a super good sandwich place called The Carving Board.  I had tomato and goat cheese soup and the turkey dinner sandwich.  I then stopped at the mall on the way home (sadly didn’t buy anything) and got more cupcakes from Velvet Cupcakes and wrote my sister a sweet note on the box for such an awesome weekend.

I ended up spending yesterday sick in bed and am still hacking. . . yes I was that person on the plane that we all hate :/.  Oh well.

Now back to real life. . .

Random question: I have one blog post that gets spam comments ALL the time!  Any tips to stop them?

 

 

More Fun Times with the Family: Hawaiian Islands!

So I talked about the five days it took to get to Hawaii.  That part was super relaxing and a lot of fun but I have never been to Hawaii so I was super excited to be able to experience not just one but three different islands.  That is the beauty of cruising!

We started in Hilo on the Big Island.  Here was the only place that we did a cruise-run tour.

Hilo

Macadamia nuts are huge and we went to the Mauna Loa Macadamia nut farm.  Of course we got samples of nuts and we also got some ice cream with macadamia pieces, yum!  The top middle picture is my parents in a nature area of the macadamia nut farm.  Our tour guide brought back a variety of fruit, etc onto the bus including an enormous avocado and awapuhi, which I had heard about in shampoo.  He actually squeezed it and liquid came out-talk about an easy shower method!  I was ready to grab that avocado–it was amazing compared to what we see on the mainland!  We then went up to Mount Kilauea-an active volcano.  Even though I live in Oregon and Mount St. Helens is less than an hour away and I’ve seem smoke from the distance, being only yards away was much more intense!  I love the picture of my dad and I and I think I am going to frame this one and the picture of us at Mount Rushmore as a tribute to the two state parks we went to.

The bottom left picture is Rainbow Falls.  We only had a very few minutes there before it was back to the ship where my mother realized she didn’t bring ID with her.  In her defense, she had never needed it before.  Thankfully, after a bit of extra scrutiny, she was allowed back on the ship :).

Hilo/Kona

On the tour we also stopped at an orchid farm.  I learned that an orchid on your left ear is taken, right ear single and looking and on the back is follow me home!  That night we cruised to the other end of the island and on the way had some magnificent views of Mount Kilauea, which unfortunately couldn’t be seen with the camera.  We docked at Kona the next morning.  So for something to be labeled 100% Kona coffee, it has to come from a certain, narrow strip near Kona on the big island.  The town of Kona was very cute and we hung out at the beach and just walked around.  I did my first shopping and got a pair of sandals and a hair stick with shells on it.  The hair stick was at a local outdoor market that was happening and the woman said that she was only selling her family’s items and that it was all based on what they had been doing for generations.  There was also the random Oregon pride happening!

Maui

The next day was Maui.  We docked outside of Lahaina and took tender boats in.  I loved the little old ladies who were hulaing as we came into port!  We actually spent the day with some friends of our who own an apartment in Kaanapali.  It was great and we got to hang out on the beach and at the pool all day.  Lahaina has one of the biggest Banyan tree which was amazing to look at.  It is 137 years old and more than an acre big.

The first night we went and saw a magic show at Warren and Annabelle’s.  It was a somewhat odd but very entertaining show and I’m still wondering about some of his tricks.  Annabelle is the ghost who plays the piano prior to the show.

Maui

The second day we shopped.  Most of my spending definitely happened in Lahaina where I got another pair of shoes, two skirts and quite a few other things!

The next day we docked in Honolulu.  We were actually supposed to do a city tour and a tour of Pearl Harbor but the government was in day three of shutdown and the tour was canceled.  I was actually really bummed because this is a historical site that I’ve always wanted to go to.  I guess that means I have to go back to Honolulu.

Honolulu

Instead we hung out at Waikiki Beach.  The beach was super crowded but I could see the tourist appeal.  It was my dad’s birthday so I made sure to buy him a kukui nut lei (I love that he’s wearing the shirt I bought him in Alaska as well!).  My parents had actually honeymooned in Honolulu thirty five years ago and we saw the hotel they stayed at!

We spent the afternoon in the International Market which was a lot of touristy items but still fun.

Honolulu

I totally became enamored with the picking of oysters and getting pearls.  My mom and I ended up getting rings, I got a pair of earrings and another pearl.  She actually only charged me for the first pearl and one of the pearls had two in it (which I made into earrings) so that was fun.  Obviously, they make the money on the settings which weren’t cheap!

Overall, I have to say that the Big Island was my favorite-it wasn’t overrun by tourists and was green-reminding me of Oregon.  In fact the tour guide told us a great Hawaiian Proverb:

“When the Heavens Weep, the earth lives”–I find that to be a beautiful reason for rain causing greenness!

Fun times with the Family

So as I mentioned last week, we had an amazing vacation.  Of course I brought my fun camera and took a lot of pictures.  It was a long trip (12 days) so I’m splitting up the vacation into two parts to share.  Today you get to hear about the cruise portion and Friday I’ll post about the islands.

So the cruise departed from Ensenada but we picked up the buses in San Diego-something about each cruise ship needing to make an international stop, I think probably for tax reasons.  We were very lucky in our bus ride down and because my parents have high cruise ranking, we got on a much earlier bus.  Some passengers apparently had bad bus experiences.  The worst part for us was the sitting on the dock at the pier for an hour.

Generally speaking when we get on a cruise, it’s relatively early in the morning, around eleven.  This time, it was close to four.  We had three rooms: my parents had a room with a balcony, my sister and I shared an inner cabin and my brother had an inner cabin as well.  The room was fun and it was great because there was a couch to sit on.

The boat was something like 16 stories high.  Seriously, these boats are cities on water.  This one was fancy enough that it actually had a real grass lawn on the 15th deck.  They held concerts out there and there was a glass blowing studio up there as well.

Cruise Pictures

 

There is so much to do on these cruises!  First of all, you go from meal to meal.  On most cruises you have a set table and time for dinner.  We didn’t have this officially on this boat but we ended up eating dinner at around 6:15 every night and always sat at the same table.  We developed a real camaraderie with the waiter and assistant waiter.  Our waiter was a guy named Franky and our assistant waiter was an awesome girl from Belarus named Yulia.  She was 23 and this was her first experience.  We also became friendly with Faruk, the waiter for the table next to us, from Turkey.  He explained to us a lot about the culture of staff on cruise ships which I found fascinating.

A big thing my dad and I love doing on the boats is going to the art auctions.  This time I won a piece of art and bought two Snoopy images.  My dad bought a bit more than that.  This is actually where I’ve really discovered my taste for art and developed a passion for certain artists such as Tarkay and Peter Max.

We also attended an Iron Chef competition between two head chefs and learned about the inner workings of the crew and ship from the captain and some of his lead staff.  Our captain was Greek and made a morning announcement every morning at ten.  Very funny.

One day my father and I participated in a walk-a-thon for Breast Cancer research, walking a mile with both crew and other passengers.  We spent a lot of time sitting in the sun poolside, just enjoying.  There was a fabulous bar called the Mixology Bar that used really fun and fresh ingredients like rose petals and dried ice for their drinks.  I fell in love with a blackberry tasting drink that smoked.  My brother tried an avocado margarita and I also liked a drink called Coming Up Roses which was created for an Oprah show.

Cruise II.jpg

 

We were celebrating my sister’s graduation on the ship but it was also my dad’s birthday so we made sure to let the staff know and they made cakes for each of them.  There were two formal nights on the ship that are always fun, you get to dress up and see all the other passengers in their best.  Another difference between this ship and others I’ve been on is that overall, people were more dressed up for dinner.  I think I wore a skirt most nights and then fancier dresses for the formal nights.

Cruise III.jpg

 

Another cool feature of the ship was a huge Australian Ficus tree (I think) was growing in the middle of the ship.  It was suspended in that big red planter and probably was about eight stories high including the planter.  I also fell in love with double hammocks they had and spent many hours overlooking the water and reading.

This was by far the longest amount of sea days-it took five days to cross the ocean from Mexico to Hawaii but it was a great way to get in the relaxation mode!  There was never a time I was bored-so many activities happening throughout the day and I brought about fifteen books with me (I read ten or so on the ship).

Friday: Hawaii!

Family Vacation: Ensenada to Hawaii

Celebrity Boat As I mentioned, I recently went on a HUGE family vacation.  In May, my sister graduated university.  Originally she and my parents were thinking about doing a trip just the three of them but in the end, they decided to take all of us on an AMAZING trip!

We went on a cruise that was repositioning from Alaska to Australia.  I love cruising–this was my fifth cruise and first time on Celebrity.  I’ve done two Mexico cruises–one Royal Caribbean and one Carnival, a cruise to Jamaica, Grand Cayman and Cozumel, and then last summer a cruise to Alaska.

The five of us started in San Diego and took a bus down to Ensenada.  We then had a five day voyage across the ocean and then island hopped.  We spent two days on the big island-spending one day in Hilo and then cruising overnight and spending the next day in Kona.  We then spent two days in Maui and then a day and a half in Oahu.  I’m posting some of the photos from my phone but will post more pictures next week from my fancy schmancy camera.

A cake in honor of my sister's graduation

A cake in honor of my sister’s graduation

Tenders to the islands from the boat

Tenders to the islands from the boat

IMG_1936

Mt. Kilauea

Mt. Kilauea

View

Looking from boat to shore and beach to water

Looking from boat to shore and beach to water

IMG_1907

Chilling on the cruise ship

Chilling on the cruise ship

Ducks!

Ducks!

Celebrating dad's birthday

Celebrating dad’s birthday

I will definitely write more about the trip and each of the islands next week!