Thursday, April 28, 2011

Deadly storms hit the south.

I want to take a moment to post on how to help those affected by the devastating tornadoes that have hit the south. My thoughts, love and prayers are with all of you. I am thinking of you and your family today Hayley, as I know you are from Alabama.

How you can help locally. Please go here for local donations.

Nationally, The Red Cross is currently taking donations for the Alabama area.  You can go here to contribute:

The Red Cross depends on financial donations to help in times of disaster, both here in the United States and around the world. Those who want to help can make a donation to support American Red Cross Disaster Relief. To make a donation, visit or call 1-800-RED-CROSS. Contributions may also be sent to local American Red Cross chapters or to the American Red Cross, P.O. Box 37243, Washington, DC 20013.

Donation through Text: 90999

Other Organizations:

SAMARITAN'S PURSE: Sending Disaster Relief Units to help victims of the violent storms in Alabama and North Carolina. To designate your gift to U.S. Disaster Relief, write "US Disaster Relief" in the designation field. Donate Here.

SALVATION ARMY: Responding to the deadly tornado activity throughout the South, mobilizing feeding units, and providing support to the victims. To designate your gift to support relief after these tornadoes, write "April 2011 Tornado Outbreak" in the designation field. Donate here.

AMERICARES: AmeriCares is working with the National Conference of Community Health Centers to assess needs and mobilize a response for communities affected by the deadliest series of twisters in more than 40 years. To designate your gift to US Disaster Relief, write "US Disaster Relief Fund" in the designation field. Donate here.

To help recover lost pets, go here.


Again, my prayers are with everyone in the south. I hope you are safe and find peace.

Easter in Hawaii

Usually, my Easter is with my family in New Jersey.

My Aunt Sharon bakes ham, makes sides and we have a huge spread. Dinner is around 2. My cousins, Brother 1 and 2, Brother 2's lovely lady, myself, and friends all hang out together well into the evening. But something major was different this year. I wasn't there. I was here instead:

This is a view from John and Travis's house. John and Travis are friends of my aunt's. Everyone who gathered were from all walks of life. Some were Occupational Therapist's, some were artists. All were friendly. My aunt wasn't able to attend this year, but her friend Therese was more then happy to pick me up and take me along. Instead of the afternoon, Easter began early. It was more like an Easter brunch then a dinner. We all had drinks outside and hung out in the yard. At first, I was nervous to talk to new people. I'm not SUPER shy, but I definitely need someone that I know with me to help get the ball rolling. Unfortunately, since there was no one that I really knew there, it was hard to get conversations going myself. Everyone already knew each other and they were in their own discussions. I began to miss home. I excused myself and asked if anyone minded if I called my family. The group said they didn't mind at all.

The first person I called was Dad. We were originally going to skype on Easter (after I instructed him how to use it and he created an account) But even though I brought my laptop with me, it was difficult to get wifi in the location I was at, so I told him I would call instead. He was happy to hear from me and wished me a Happy Easter. I could hear my nephews shouting happily in the background, and my step grandmother talking. I could hear some relatives getting ready to leave, since it was getting late there and dinner was breaking up. Eventually, Dad decided to pass the phone around. From Nannie, to Aunt Michelle, to Pop, each took turns saying hello and asking how Hawaii was. I confess it was the first time I was homesick. After I hung up with them, I called Brother. It was very difficult to hear him clearly, (our family doesn't have the loudest of voices) and I wasn't able to talk to him long, because Jeff announced that a water balloon fight was about to start. We were going to pick team members.
"You're having a water balloon fight?" Brother sounded a little surprised.
"I guess so," I replied hurriedly. "Gotta go!"
"Okay," he said. "Happy Easter!"

The water balloon "fight" ended up being more of a toss. We were split into two teams. Each team would have two people who would toss a water balloon back and forth to each other, then take one step back. Who ever dropped the balloon was out, as well as the person who tossed the balloon. Who ever was the last pair standing, won. Got all that? Hope so, because I don't think I'm explaining myself very well.

Team Huddle...

So far I'm not out.

Still not out...

Want to know who got out first? I bet you could never guess, but go ahead....

Oh, okay it was me.
That's okay though. I only felt bad for my team, since they had no clue that I've ALWAYS been uncoordinated. I got a round of applause for my efforts though.

In the end, everyone had a great time, including me. Even Buddy the dog did.

After the toss, I became more comfortable and struck up a conversation with Bill, another nice guy of the group. The food was amazing, and I'd like to take a time out and thank Jeff and Travis for inviting me to Brunch, and for the potluck everyone brought. It was a pretty good Easter, even if I was far away from home.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Out and about: The start of my adventure in Honolulu

April 20th, 2011

It didn't take long for me to venture out and about around the island. When I woke up, I debated on staying in the apartment to gather my barrings or immediately taking the bus and going out. Old me had "What ifs" swimming about in her head: "What if I get lost? I have no idea how to find my way back here!" New me decided to just go for it. After looking at the bus route map in front of me...and realizing that I couldn't read a map....I hopped on the bus and winged it. The first place I visited was Iolani Palace.

'Iolani Palace is the official residence of King Kalākaua and Queen Lili'uokalani, who were the last in  line of ruling Hawaiian royalty. This palace is the only one in the US. I kind of stumbled onto this site by accident. When I got off  the bus (after thinking "Hey this looks like a good spot!") A sweet tour guide called out to me: "If you go over there and get your ticket, we'll get started with the tour!" Too embarrassed to admit that I had no intentions of seeing the tour or even what it was about, I sheepishly went across the grounds and got a ticket for $13. She instructed me to sit on the bench provided and put slippers over my sandals (also provided). No photography was allowed inside the building, and nothing was allowed to be touched. I was allowed to take photos outside though.

After the monarchy was overthrown in 1893, the building was used as the capitol building for the Provisional Government, Republic, Territory, and State of Hawaii until 1969. Then the palace was reopened in 1978 as a museum to the public. I was enthralled by the history, and saddened to learn what had become of  the monarchy, especially by how Queen Lili'uokalani was treated. If you'd like to learn more about the monarchy, go here and here where it can be explained way better then I can explain it here.

The tour took about an hour and a half. After that I walked to downtown Honolulu, in the business district. It was there that I found a great store called Local Fever. Awesome modern clothing, in addition to some vintage things. There were a lot of GREAT finds in that shop. This is what I bought for just $11.

Awesome right? I was so proud of myself. I didn't think in a million years that I would find cheaper clothes in HAWAII of all places then at home.

Jet lag hit me after lots of walking, so I decided to hit a cafe, and people watch by the university district. I love watching college kids. The excitement is always buzzing.

I wanted to see more, but my body just started to crash. After getting lost (I took the wrong bus back to my Aunt's) I had a sweet bus driver drive around the island and back to my area. Want to hear something crazy? If you miss an exit, or get off at the wrong exit, you CANNOT get back on. You have to go around the entire island, and that can take an additional 45 minutes to an hour. Crazy right? The locals joke that they're not proud of their horrible road system. I'm just glad I don't have to drive it. The lanes are very confusing. It took until 7pm for me to get back home...and slept.

Arriving in Hawaii

On April 19th, I said goodbye to my buddy and thanked her for her hospitality. Tana and Troy were just wonderful. Providing me with a place to stay, as well as feeding me great food and giving me shampoo and other things that were confiscated at the airport. I can't thank them enough for their generosity.

The day I was leaving, I awoke at 3:45am. Now let me tell you, waking up at 3:45am does not put me in the best of moods. I can wake up, (pretty easily actually when I have to go somewhere) but that doesn't mean I have to enjoy doing it. I was going to get up at around 4:15, but I was too nervous to sleep soundly. Since I was afraid I'd fall asleep again and NOT wake up, I decided against going back to bed. Tana and I were going to leave for the airport at 4:30, since everything was packed and placed by the door. (I also checked in my luggage the night before. If you're traveling, especially switching planes, I strongly recommend you do this. It makes life so much easier, plus you can save money in baggage fees)  I took a quick shower, ate some breakfast, and we were out the door. When we pulled up to Orlando International Airport, Tana helped me with my luggage and then wrapped her arms around me in a huge hug.
"Thank you for everything," I told her.
"You're welcome! Anytime, you know that. We loved having you."
She told me she loved and would miss me and I said the same. Then she and I were off. When Tana disappeared, I started getting nervous, but realizing I had a lot more time then the week before to gather my bearings put my mind at ease.

Going through security check in Orlando was much easier then going through the security check in Newark. Before I knew it, I was at my gate then had time to chill out. I caught my reflection in a nearby window and realized I looked pretty crappy. My hair was sticking out in the back and it looked like I had a bowl cut. Oh well, it made me laugh. (besides, it was before dawn anyway.

My first flight was to Phoenix, Arizona. I boarded the plane at 6:10am, and we took off at 6:30. The flight was pretty comfy and uneventful, and nearly 5 hours later, I landed to this:

The land was flat, red, and totally interesting. I'd never seen land like that before. (Then again, I'd never been out west before, unless you count the few days I spent in Hawaii 10 years ago, and our connecting flight was in Houston.)

I had about an hour and a half until my flight to Honolulu, so I quickly grabbed some grub in my terminal. I'll admit at this point I began to get confused time wise. I was already three hours behind. I wanted lunch and that's what my brain told me to get, so you could imagine how thrown off I was when I saw breakfast items. I looked at my ipod. 11:45 my time. I looked at my phone, which automatically updates when you cross a timezone. 8:45. My pizza craving would have to wait. The only restaurant closest to my terminal was Burger King. Ew. No matter, I had breakfast (again) as fast as I was able and sped to my gate. My phone started beeping like crazy, and as I glanced at it, I felt a sense of relief wash over me. Final well wishes from family and friends, telling me to have a safe flight. Before I knew it, it was time to take our seats on the plane. As we were about to take off, an announcement came over the loudspeaker:

"Good Morning everyone and welcome to US Airways flight 20, destination Hawaii!" The whole plane cheered, and THAT'S when it everything hit me full force. I was going to travel alone. I had met a major goal and was so proud of myself. I DID IT. I settled into my seat. The pilot proceeded to tell us what the current conditions were in Honolulu and what the day's high would be. (Current temp: 75 degrees. The high for the day: 86 degrees) After the plane lifted off the ground, the pilot told us that we would be seeing two movies in flight that day: Gulliver's Travels (crowd response: "Ehhhhh.") and The Tourist. (audible booing, which cracked me up). Of course if we wanted to view these movies, we could purchase a headset for $5 dollars. Um, no thanks. (I'm pleased to say that I got around this anyhow: I unplugged my ipod headphones and stuck them into the outlet, getting sound right away for free. HAH. Why no one else in my section thought of this is beyond me. I saw ipods and ipads everywhere, and STILL people were shelling out $5 bills for headphones used by others.) After deciding that I didn't want to see the rest of Gulliver's Travels, I shockingly fell asleep. (I say shockingly because anyone who knows me knows that I can't fall asleep anywhere except my own bed.) It's a shame it was only for an hour. By the time we were getting ready to land, I'll admit we were all ready to lose it. Everyone started getting up to use the bathroom just to leave their seats. Kids began crying. I felt short tempered, but didn't show it. About 20 minutes later, we dipped through the clouds and I saw an awesome sight. Islands getting bigger and bigger. I wish I could have taken a picture for you all to see because it was beautiful.

"Ladies and Gentlemen," The pilot stated "Welcome to Honolulu, Hawaii! The time is now 2:50pm and the temperature is..." I lost him as that point because all I could think of was "WHAT the hell time is it?" I was wiped. I was so tired that I felt keyed up. Would the sun ever set? When I left the plane to go to baggage claim, I was struck with beauty. To get to baggage, you had to walk across a hallway that was outside. The temperature was perfect. The breeze tickled my hair. Birds chirped, and I was greeted with my first Hawaiian sight:

My second sight was gift shops, gift shops, and more gift shops. You name it, Honolulu International had it. I resisted the urge to buy crap before I even left the airport.

You thought I was kidding?

After an ordeal with my luggage (which was confiscated after I was late picking it up, because my plane landed late) I was greeted with a warm smile and an Aloha hug by my Aunt Lynn. After dining at a cafe and shopping for food, I crashed face down on her futon and didn't get up until 3am. 9am my time. Yeah, I'd have to work on that.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ethan's 3rd Birthday. :)

Sunday April 17th, 2011

I had the previlage of being here to help celebrate Ethan's 3rd birthday.

This sweet, easygoing little boy loves playgrounds ("play GOWNSSSSSSS") and trains, so his awesome mommy thought: "Why not combine the two?" and decided to have his birthday at a local park. Tana was up until 2am the night before baking cakes for the party. And when I say bake, I mean bake. Tana is amazing at creating cakes. In fact, it's one of her favorite hobbies. On the day of the party, (after church) she also made Ethan "sandwiches", (his favorite) or, as we call them, burrittos. Setting up for the party was a little difficult, since it was windy (a rarity) and the balloons kept popping, but we finally found success.

Throughout the afternoon, we all took turns watching Ethan play with his friends, then we decided to get in on the action too, because hey, why not? His enthusiasm was contagious.

Ethan got a little antsy before cake time and presents. (He kept trying to open the gifts as we were setting them up, but I told him no. I know. I'm horrible, but I figured his grandparents should at least get there first. :) ) Soon, it was time to sing Happy Birthday, and the little guy just soaked it up.

The Train Cake, (I'm happy to say) was totally his. And he could eat it however he wanted to.

He chose his hands. That ah boy.

The rest of us got an (equally awesome) cake shaped like chocolate bars. Tana was going to make smaller train cars with the second cake, but it didn't turn out the way she wanted it. Oh well. I thought it was great all the same.

Eventually, he got to open his gifts. I'm happy to report that he loved them too. He got a lot of trains, Toy Story stuff and puzzles. (Puzzles are his second most favorite thing. In fact, he can put a child's 48 piece puzzle together on his own. I've seen it for myself. I was super impressed)

All in all. I'd say that Ethan had a great third birthday. Have a good one little guy. We love you.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Aloha everyone!

I just wanted to let you all know that 14 hours and 13 minutes later (with two plane transfers) I arrived in Hawaii safe and sound. My plane pulled up to the gate  at 8:56pm Eastern Time and 2:56pm local time. I'll blog a lot more details, (including pictures!) later, but for now I'll close here. I'm jet lagged and exhausted. (but very, very happy)

Monday, April 18, 2011


I'm flying to Hawaii tomorrow. Holy S*^@! That's crazy.
I can't believe it's actually real. I'm excited. I'm nervous. I'm giddy.
I'm about to be sick.

Texas Roadhouse

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On Saturday, I decided to take my good friends out to lunch, as a thank you to letting me stay with them. Together, we decided on The Texas Roadhouse since it's right down the street from Tana's. Most of you may know me as a former Midwestern gal. I'm sorry, but in Ohio (as well as the south) fried food is everywhere. I'm guilty of enjoying chicken fingers, french fries and cheese sticks WAY too much to even my own liking. I'm also not fancy y'all. Take me to a Chill's or an Applebees and I'll be happy.

HOWEVER spending my teen years in New Jersey has also made me unaware that certain foods are indeed, not a myth. I thought these only existed in movies. I really did. Behold:

That sign? That sign Ethan's holding right there? One of the specials reads "Fried Pickles". Yeah. Listen y'all, some things are NOT meant to be fried. Pickles are one. Oreos are another. It just shouldn't exist. Luckily, none of us decided on fried pickles, Ethan included.

In fact, Ethan didn't really want much of anything, in spite of Aunt Katie telling him he could have whatever he wanted. Instead, he opted for peanuts in a bucket and had a grand old time breaking them apart. I can't say I blame him.

The rest of us decided as follows: Troy pulled pork sandwhich. Tana, ribs I believe. And me? I went classic: Burger and fries. Sue me.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. I said I'd try new foods, and I totally will when I get to Hawaii. But it's The Texas Roadhouse people. Not exactly life changing. On the plus side, Tana ate something healthy for all of us:

A house salad. That's a good Tana.

On the way out, I waved goodbye to the line dancers. Yes really. Try finding those in New Jersey.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The Ice Bar! :)

During my stay in Orlando, I've been adjusting to humidity and warm temps. One place made me feel right at home though. Welcome to....The Ice Bar! A bar made of, you guessed it, ice.

But let me back up. Tana suggested The Ice Bar because I had yet to see really "touristy" areas of Orlando. (With a full time job and a three year old, it hasn't been easy for either of us to get out) On Friday night, Tana suggested we go out and have some fun. After dinner, Ethan was put to bed by Tana's lovely hubby and we got ready to leave. As I was putting on lip gloss, Tana walked into the bathroom and said, "You're still wearing the same shirt you had on today? No way. I have a better idea."
She would.
You see, Tana should I put this?....adventurous. She's happy go lucky. She truly doesn't care what people think and she isn't afraid of being silly, no matter how old we are. When she was a freshman in college (I was still in high school), Tana conducted a social experiment where she put on orange jeans, an orange shirt, an orange cape, goggles, etc. She dubbed herself "The Orange Wonder" and we brought a video camera to the mall and taped people's reactions of her walking around. She loved it of course.
So you might imagine my hesitation (and tiny bit of wonder and excitement) when she suggested a new shirt.
"I have GLITTER SHIRTS!" She announced returning to the bathroom. She wasn't kidding. Since Tana is 5'10 and I am 5', I had my doubts on whether my shirt would fit me or not. Surprisingly though, it did.

The first thing you do when you're admitted into The Ice Bar is head to The Fire Lounge. The Fire Lounge is a room at normal temps, with a "pregame" bar. Only a few people at a time are allowed into The Ice Bar, and you have a 45 minute time limit because it's so cold. When your name is called, a bouncer fits you with a winter coat (according to your height) and gloves, then they lead you inside.

I was in shock over how much of the area was pure ice. The bar itself was ice, there were ice sculptures everywhere, and even our shot glasses were made of ice.

Tana and I sat down on ice thrones..At first, I struggled to get up on it. I kept sliding off so much that Tana and I began cracking up. The harder I laughed, the more difficult it was to get on the chair. Finally, I grabbed onto the back of the throne and pulled myself forward. By that point, we were both in silly moods.

Finally, we were able to catch up. I told her all about my upcoming travel adventure in Hawaii and my friends back home. She told me all about her friends down in Florida and all about her adventures of being a mother. It's amazing how much we've changed over the years and gone in different directions, but we're still close. I've felt a sense of relief that I was able to finally see my friend this year. By the time we left The Ice Bar, our toes were numb. But we both concluded that it was worth it.