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July 19, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

It's a well-documented fact that for the last 10 years or so, I have not cut my hair. If you've seen me, you know that my hair has been my defining feature for a very, very long time - generally reaching to my waist or lower. I grew it to that length (something between 36" and 40", depending on how long it's been since my last trim) for a lot of reasons.

When I was a kid, I always wanted really long hair, but I never had it, so when I went to college, I seized the opportunity. So roughly 10 years ago, I stopped cutting my hair. I still got it trimmed - mostly by Schondy - but it was on the order of 2-3 inches every 6 months or so.

Cut to the first of this year, when I started this crazy diet (that I never really believed would work) and, through a lot of time and a lot of work, have managed to lose an unbelievable 46 lbs. (No one is more amazed by this than me. I promise.) So in honor of my new body, I decided to cut my hair.

Yes, a lot of people have been pressuring me to do this. But I did it on my own terms and in my own time because I'm stubborn like that.

So Happy Birthday, Mom. Your real gift is on the way, but until it gets there, here's a little extra something. :-)

July 7, 2008

The Peanut Gallery's Hawaiian Vacation, Day 6

If you haven't read the previous installment, go here first.

We started out this morning planning to do nothing but lounge around the pool, but as we were coming back from breakfast, we swung by the concierge desk, where we turned in a letter they'd given us at check-in. This letter told us to talk to the concierge to get some information and a free gift, but of course, we didn't talk to them until the last day we were here. The girl laughed a little when we told her we were leaving so soon, but actually was able to recommend one more sight we should see - the Spouting Horn, which is a blow hole. So Schondy said we had to go see the blow hole.

On our way out of the hotel, though, we got caught by one of the local artists who was selling her necklaces. She had some really beautiful work and I ended up getting the necklace you see in the picture. It's handmade of koa wood and oyster shell. I really liked some of the others she had with braided coconut fiber, but she was REALLY proud of those. :-) Oh, yeah, and there's this watery blow hole thing in the background...

Several other photographers were around, and they all hopped the fence to get a closer shot of the water, so of course, Schondy hopped the fence and got a closer shot, too. The water would shoot up 15-20 feet in the air and make this crazy howling noise. The water shot out of the hole about every minute, so we have lots of pictures of this.

As we were leaving the Spouting Horn, Schondy pointed out the baby palm tree. He said I should go stand under it, but I knew we needed a picture of him, so I sent him instead.

Almost directly across the street from the Spouting Horn was the National Tropical Botanical Garden. We didn't really have any other plans, so we popped in for a few minutes. It was massively hot and we stuck mostly to the free McBryde Garden because the other gardens required reservations and whatnot. Schondy took lots of beautiful pictures of the amazing plants in the garden, but I really liked this one. This was a tree, but I'm not sure what kind of tree.

We went back to the hotel and changed into our swimsuits and parked ourselves at the pool with our books. We found this pool several days ago and it's not the one most of the people visited, so it was nice and quiet. After we got sufficiently toasted, we ended up going back to the shopping center and the Starbucks one more time. On our way, though, we walked through the neighboring resort's gardens, which are full of orchids. So here's a shot of some of the orchids at the Kiahuna Plantation Gardens.

After dinner, we headed back to the hotel, but by then, the sun was setting. So after a little slipping and sliding on the rocks to get a better angle, Schondy took this beautiful shot of the sunset.

It's sad to know that our stay in Hawaii will be over when we get up in the morning, but I think we're both pretty much ready to go home. Our biggest challenge is going to be getting all our souvenirs home in our luggage. We're going to have to get creative with our packing. California, here we come!

July 6, 2008

The Peanut Gallery's Hawaiian Vacation, Day 5

If you haven't read the previous installment, go here first.

Once again, we were up bright and early, which was good because we had to make sure to check in with the car rental folks by 10. We had to either return the car or let them know that we wanted to keep it. We wanted to keep it. So we're going to return the car on Tuesday after we drive ourselves to the airport in Lihue. Our cab ride on Wednesday cost us almost $50, so renting a car has turned out to be muuuuuuch cheaper than getting cab rides all over the island.

So instead of heading north and east, today, we drove west. We had a bunch of destinations in mind, plus there are always bunches of amazing lookouts and photo ops along the road. Our first stop was a lookout near Kalaheo.

After that, we stopped at Kauai Coffee Company Plantation in Ele'ele. It was absolute heaven... especially if heaven is 90 degrees with 75 percent humidity. Seeing the row after row of coffee plants was awesome and even though it was devilishly hot, I had to get a cup of coffee there. I drank it as we poked around in the little museum.

After a scorchingly hot tour around the grounds, looking at all the farm implements and admiring all the coffee bushes, we went on our way, but not before Schondy shot one more quick pic of the front of the building. If you're ever on Kauai, I highly recommend a stop at this place. Mecca for any coffee drinker.

We left the coffee plantation and headed to Glass Beach near Hanapepe. We saw this on several of our tour maps and it looked interesting, but we really didn't know what to expect. Turns out, this was a good place to stop. Instead of tiny grains of sand, the beach was covered in millions of small "rocks" of glass. Some of them were larger, but there were huge areas of tiny, pebble-sized pieces. It's very much trash turned into treasure. I had to resist the urge to take a handful of the beach with me because I know that if everyone did that, there'd be no beach left if I ever came back. So my handful of glass went back on the beach for the next person to discover.

We left Glass Beach and headed further west/north and visited the Russian Fort in Waimea. It wasn't much to see, but the story was very interesting. We stuck our heads into the middle of the fort for just a minute - long enough for Schondy to pose for a picture. Then we moved on.

We had lunch at a Subway in Waimea while we were looking for the road to take us up into Waimea Canyon. We'd heard from one of the honeymoon couples at the luau that this was something we should see, so up, up, up we went into the canyon. It's about 20 miles from the bottom of the hill to the top. The road is twisty and turny and we didn't make it that far. Our little cruiser plugged gamely along, but we just weren't interested in going the whole length. So when we got to the Waimea Canyon Lookout, about 10 miles in, we decided that was enough. We'd stopped several times on the way up at the various scenic lookouts and Schondy was able to get some beautiful shots.

We took a slightly different route back down from the hill, through Kekaha, and then stopped in Ele'ele at the Grinds Cafe. It was a cute little place where the menu said something along the lines of "If you're in a hurry, come back later when you're not in a hurry." They weren't kidding. We had plenty of time to watch World Series of Poker while waiting for the waitress to get back to us. But the air conditioning was divine.

So we headed back to hotel, and then Schondy wanted to go get dinner at PukaDog. So off we went. While I was sitting there, watching him enjoy his Polish sausage with banana relish, I realized that I was quite upset about not being able to enjoy the experience with him, so, for the very first time since the end of February, I cheated on my diet. I had a Veggie PukaDog with pineapple relish. It was good. I plan to stick with the diet after this, but I feel better for having experienced a Hawaiian hot dog, which is not something I'll ever be able to have at home. I've been so good with the diet so far that I don't feel like this one day of extremely minor slippage is going to kill me.

So tomorrow, we start organizing ourselves and seeing any last sights. And we may be shipping some of our souvenirs home to us because we bought lots.

The Peanut Gallery's Hawaiian Vacation, Day 4

If you haven't read the previous installment, go here first.

After another early start and breakfast at the hotel, we went over to the rental car office to pick up our car. Turns out it was a 2008 Silver PT Cruiser. I was sooooo pleased. If I'm going to have to drive in an unfamiliar place, at least I have a familiar car. So we started driving east and north, stopping first at Hilo Hattie in Lihue for some souvenirs. We spent way too much money there, but had a lot of fun picking out presents for ourselves and others. While we were there, I talked to my family for the first time since we got here. It was nice to hear some familiar voices.

We left Lihue and drove to Wailua Falls, which was right down the road. It's one of several waterfalls on the island, but it's the first we made it to. The area was absolutely beautiful, but I wish we could have gotten closer and seen more. The vegetation is so lush, it's sometimes hard to see the sights we're trying to see. :-) There was a big pool at the bottom of the waterfall, but we couldn't really see much of it other than the far bank where all the logs were piled up. There were lots of birds flying around, too, but they were too far away to be terribly interesting in pictures.

There was a sign that said "No Vending" in big red letters. So the woman with the leis in her trunk was 10 feet to the left. There were also lots of other people around taking pictures, and this was one opportunity I took to get the photographer in the pictures.

So we left the waterfall and, on our way on out of town, stopped quickly at the Kapaia Stitchery, which is a quilting store. We talked a little about getting some Hawaiian fabric for making shirts, but decided we weren't feeling quite that industrious.

We climbed back in the car and drove to 'Opaeka'a Falls, which was just as beautiful as Wailua Falls, but even farther away from the lookout point where we were standing. Schondy had to break out the telephoto lens again, but before that, he got a nice shot of me. The river continued on the other side of the road, where there were lots of kayaks and skiers.

We've seen TONS of chickens all over the island. They're obnoxious and omnipresent. The roosters crow all day long and we even watched one walk into an open-air restaurant and pick up the crumbs off the floor. But they're quite beautiful and Schondy had to get some shots of the flock next to the waterfall.

After we left the waterfall, we stopped at the Coconut Marketplace for some lunch and a little shopping, but didn't buy much While we were eating, though, we did see the chicken come in looking for crumbs. AND there was a cat running around, stalking the various small birds in the area. The waitress shooed the cat away, telling it not to stalk the bird. Now, you may think you know why she shooed the cat, but I assure you - you haven't guessed it. She didn't want to have to clean the feathers off the floor of the restaurant. :-) Our only purchase was some apple-bananas from a local farmer because I wanted a snack. They were quite good.

We continued driving north and stopped at a Craft Fair, which turned out to be a fancy name for a tourist junk store. So we continued on our merry way to the Kilauea Lighthouse, but it was closed. Turned out, the Lighthouse closed at 4 and we showed up at, like 4:10. Sadness. But Schondy got this beautiful shot from a distance. Maybe we'll try to go back later.

So back in the car one more time, we stopped at Safeway to grab a few things, then went back to the hotel for a few minutes. We went to Starbucks, where I ordered a cup of coffee, but I had to go being a smart alec and messed the whole thing up. I asked the barista what the cost difference was between at 16 oz. coffee and a 20 oz. coffee. For me, the cost difference is, like, 15 cents. But for Starbucks, it's, like, 2 cents. She was too busy chatting with me and ended up making me two cups of coffee. When we figured out what had happened (after I'd already paid for everything), she refunded my $2.03, but then gave me the extra coffee anyway. Turns out I cannot drink 32 oz. of coffee in a single sitting. It's just too much. But I gave it the old college try.

Schondy wanted to try another PukaDog, but they were closed, so we wandered back to the hotel, and it started raining as we were walking. This seems to be a common occurrence around here. So we ended up heading to one of the resort restaurants one more time for dinner.

Then we wandered onto the beach, looked at stars and watched the people further down as they set off their own rogue fireworks and waved sparklers at each other.

July 4, 2008

The Peanut Gallery's Hawaiian Vacation, Day 3

If you haven't read the previous installment, go here first.

So we woke up early this morning - Schondy was up about 7:30 and woke me up so we were ready to go to breakfast at 8:30. Just like yesterday, we went to the Shells restaurant, where we greatly confused the wait staff by not getting the buffet and instead ordering from the menu.

We had tried yesterday to reserve one of the beach cabanas, but they told us that you can't do that - you basically reserve a cabana for an entire day, so you have to do it at least one day in advance. So we reserved one for today. After breakfast, we went and changed into our swimsuits, but when Schondy put his on, he discovered that it was a bit on the big side. So he put on regular clothes instead and decided that if he wanted to go in the ocean we'd just have to go get him one at the store later.

On our way to the cabana, we stopped by the office of the car rental company and reserved a car for Saturday. (We realized later that this was the first time either of us had ever reserved a car) They told us that it would be either a Sebring or a PT Cruiser. She sounded a little apologetic, though I'm not sure why...

So we headed to the beach, crawled into the cabana, and stayed there until about 2:30. In that time, though, I did go in the water, and Schondy had his telephoto lens on the camera to be able to take pictures of me from the cabana. So to fulfill Mom's request of a picture of me in my swimsuit on the beach, here's me as I walked out of the water.

Turns out Schondy hadn't put nearly enough sunscreen on his legs and feet, so he's having a bit of trouble with the sunburn on his feet, and his knees look like lobster knees (whatever that looks like), but we've got some Aloe with Lidocaine to make it feel a little better. So far, this has been our only major burn. Here's hoping it stays that way. Schondy did get some really nice pictures of the various surfers. They were out in force and the water was cooperating beautifully.

We went to one of the resort restaurants for lunch, which proved to be a challenge. Schondy ordered a burger and I had a salad. But as we sat there waiting (funny thing about staying at a resort - NOTHING moves very fast. Hope you've got plenty of time.), the waitress came back and told us that their fryer had just quit working, so she couldn't give him any of the fries he'd ordered. So he had a salad. And apparently she felt bad enough about it that she gave us a discount on the entire order.

By the time we finished eating, it was time to go get changed because we had reservations for the luau! Our resort has their own luau and we'd made reservations back on the first day to go. So we cleaned ourselves up and went to the luau, where there was lots of interesting food, including poi (doesn't actually taste like much, by the way), and lots of other things. Schondy LOVED the coconut pudding. There were two young couples across the table from us, both of whom were on their honeymoons, and we heard about another couple two tables over, also on their honeymoon. Awwwwwwwww.

As we were finishing up our food, the hula dancing started, and so did the rain. It sprinkled on us a little, but not enough to do anything major. But it did mean that by the time the show really got going good, there was a beautiful rainbow in the sky above the stage.

The show went on for about 3 hours. I'm including just a few of the pictures Schondy took - there were lots. So this is what we did for the 4th of July. There was a fireworks show elsewhere on the island, but we didn't go to that. EVERYONE goes and sees fireworks on the 4th. How many people can say they saw a luau on the 4th? We were quite happy with our choice.

The hula girls were beautiful and I kept thinking I needed to go ask them what they do to keep their hair so pretty.

This guy was quite a character. He came back on stage a few times in different roles. This time, he was being a Maori warrior and he danced around and waved his spear and stuck his tongue out a lot. Apparently, sticking your tongue out and making your eyes really wide is supposed to be intimidating. I think I'll have to try that some time.

In this picture, they're swinging the poi balls like the Maori warriors used to do. It was amazing to see them do that without tangling the strings.

July 3, 2008

The Peanut Gallery's Hawaiian Vacation, Day 2

If you haven't read the previous installment, go here first.

Since we went to bed so early last night, we of course woke up early this morning. We realized we'd woken up early enough to actually get breakfast at one of the restaurants here. We walked down to the restaurant, where the big special was a breakfast buffet, but they'd actually let you order whatever you liked (thankfully). So after a breakfast of Eggs Benedict (Schondy) and a fresh fruit plate (Peanut), we took off walking.

We wandered around for a bit until Schondy decided he wanted to take some pictures of the Moir Gardens of the neighboring resort - the Kiahuna Plantation. We walked through, poking at and photographing cacti, then wandered back over to the shopping center for a little light shopping, our second Starbucks visit since arriving in Hawaii, and a little lunch for Schondy. One thing about Starbucks - they always have air conditioning. :-)

We'd noticed a little hot dog shop in the shopping center and Schondy wanted to try it out. So Schondy had his very first PukaDog hot dog, complete with Coconut Relish (which he says was really good). After that, we wandered through the market again and made our very first souvenir purchase - a shot glass for me.

So after a little more wandering around, we landed on the beach, where we really wanted to sit and watch the tides come up. There are loungers that are large, wooden jobbies with canopies. The hotel calls them "cabanas" "and is very proud of them - requiring people to rent them for a day. So we sat on one of those for a few minutes, but that just wasn't close enough to the water for us, so we went over to the pool area and grabbed a couple of the plastic/metal loungers and pulled them over onto the beach. The staff watched us do this, then told us about 15 minutes later that we weren't allowed to have the plastic/metal loungers on the beach. So we put those back and continued on our way.

After recharging, we realized it was almost time for sunset and we knew that it was going to be spectacular out over the ocean and with all the clouds in the sky. Since our beach faces south (not west), getting a good view of the sunset was going to be something of a challenge. So we grabbed our stuff and took off in the westerly direction along the road. Basically, there wasn't really enough time for us to walk far enough to see much. So even though we walked probably a mile, there was still a building directly in our view of the sunset. We gave up, walked back to the hotel and went to dinner.

It started to rain while we were eating our dinner. That was okay with us because we were sitting outside, but under a cover, and we were greatly entertained watching other folks scrambling to get under cover. It was at this meal that Schondy had a Hawaiian pizza! In Hawaii! How crazy is that!?!?

It was also at this meal that I had some flat coffee. When I said that my coffee was flat, Schondy laughed and asked if I was looking for carbonation. So I handed him my cup and he tried it and... agreed. It was flat. I'm convinced that what happened was that it was evening, so my coffee was coming from the bar. The bar probably brews their coffee with the intention that it will be mixed with something a little harder. Since my cup contained only coffee, the inadequacies of the brew were obvious.

So there we are. Long day, lots of walking, very little of much interest, other than pictures! From Hawaii! Yay!

Stay tuned...

July 2, 2008

The Peanut Gallery's Hawaiian Vacation, Day 1

It's been too long since Schondy and I had a vacation. It's been almost 3 years since our Alaskan cruise and believe me - that's too long ago to be doing us much good now. Recent events have given us cause to celebrate - my weight loss and Schondy's job change have both been very good developments, changing long-standing points of tension in our lives.

So now, we're in Hawai'i. I'm currently sitting on a king-size hotel bed belonging to the Sheraton Resort on Po'ipu Beach on the Hawiian island of Kauai. I'm hot, tired, and immensely happy to be here. And so I don't forget the details later when folks ask me about my trip, I'm going to record them here for all posterity. My comments are posted in black, and Schondy has commented in red (since his commentary is always entertaining). Hopefully he'll actually make some comments at some point...

We woke up at 5am, not really having slept much due to the... anxiety of leaving on vacation early the next morning. Lulu was so confused. She could not figure out what was going on and why Mom and Dad were awake so early - she hates mornings as much as we do. Schondy and I got dressed and then scrambled around, cleaning up the house to prepare it for the loooovely young lady who is housesitting for us. We had to be ready for when the airport shuttle picked us up at 6:30am.

We got to the airport right at 7am and checked our luggage and then went through security, on our way to find breakfast. Schondy got a sandwich that was (in his words) ham, ham, more ham, cheese and ham. Then we settled in to wait for our 9am flight to Honolulu. Schondy was wearing his Allensville Yacht Club t-shirt, which greatly puzzled the man sitting across from us. It puzzled him to the point that he had to ask about it. :-)

Our flight took over 5 hours on a 767, which Schondy says is the largest plane he's ever been on. Sadly, it wasn't quite big enough because we ended up a little too close to the two screaming-est kids on the PLANET! Those two made it the ENTIRE 5 hours without stopping to breathe OR sleep! It was awesome!

We landed in Honolulu at 11:15am local time due to the 3-hour time difference from home. The Honolulu airport is strange, folks. Seriously strange. I thought several times that we had left the secured area and that we'd have to go back through security, but apparently not so much. There were gardens in the middle of the airport and a lot of the walkways were open. It was nice, but very strange. Our very first restaurant visit was to... a Starbucks!... of course. That was the only place we found that had a fruit cup for me, and I had my 5th cup of coffee for the day.

We caught our second flight to Lihue on Kauai. It was seriously the quickest flight ever. They didn't even bother to turn off the seatbelt sign and offered us only a token cup of apple juice as a snack. We both declined. Once we landed in the SERIOUSLY teensy airport, we found the baggage claim and waited... and waited... and waited for our luggage. It took forever. Don't know why. But finally, we got our luggage and called a taxi to come get us.

The cab ride to the hotel was... interesting. We ended up riding with a man listening to the stand-up comedy of Richard Jeni, which was... shall we say... adult... in nature. It was a loooooong ride across the island to the Sheraton. We arrived at the resort a little before 3 and discovered that, since we're here in the off season, this is apparently the perfect time for repaving the entire parking lot. Also, since we were early (slightly before 3), we had no room to sleep in. So we sat and waited until a room was clean for us.

Once we were in our room and had changed clothes out of our traveling duds, we went in search of some food for me, since my diet dictates whole fruit and vegetables only, and the restaurants at the resort mostly specialize in burgers, steak and pizza (with a little fish thrown in for good measure). There was a little shopping center not too far from the hotel, so we walked over and grabbed a burger for Schondy, a salad for me, and hit the little general store there for some diet-sanctioned foods and supplies for our room (apples, salt, pepper and soy sauce).

We wandered back to our room via a really big cactus/succulent garden at the hotel next door. When we got back to the room, Schondy turned on the TV and flipped through the channels for a few minutes until he decided he'd had enough. At that point, it was 9:00 and we were pooped. So we went to bed.

Stay tuned...

July 1, 2008

Look, Ma! No love handles!

Check it out! Schondy and I took Lulu to the beach!

So Schondy has had something of a job change, and it has meant a lot more time for him spent down south of home, in Scott's Valley. The new office just happens to be nice and close to Santa Cruz - one of the many beautiful little ocean-side towns in this area. This week, Schondy and I are both on vacation, but he had to go into the office on Monday for a meeting. So Lulu and I went with him. And when the meeting was over, Schondy, Lulu and I went to Seabright Beach in Santa Cruz.

Schondy took lots of pictures. He took lots of pictures of me. This was a good thing because it means I now have proof that: 1. I'm not trying to hide anything, 2. I've now lost 42 lbs., 3. I need a tan and 4. Lulu is still adorable.

Up on the sidewalk
:-) I like the lighting on this one.
Diggin' in the sand
Just me... and the ocean
In the shadow of the lighthouse
The baffles are biiiiiiig.

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