Our Hawaiian Adventure – Part 5

After our adventure filled couple of days on the big island we returned to Oahu just in time to catch the fireworks on the beach at the Hale Koa.  It was definitely the thing to do on a Friday night since a large crowd gathered along the beach, but it was a fun and relaxed way to kick-off the next portion of our trip.



The next morning we headed out to Waialua to attend a painting class run by the wife of a Coastie the hubs used to fly with in Kodiak.  Her shop, Simply Honeybee Art & Signs had a wonderfully relaxed vibe and plenty of Cece Caldwells paints in stock so we could customize our pre-chosen designs any way we liked.  I had never used this brand of paint before but really liked it for several reasons.  In fact, now that we’re home and back to working on projects I find myself wishing I had the stains we used on the signs we made so I might just have to order an inventory to have on hand, especially since we also picked up some other design stencils from her to create additional signs at home.  We had a great time catching up with a fellow Coastie and talking about the idea of possibly opening a similar shop in Alaska one day.  These fun new art pieces have since found a home in the Family Room gallery wall, which I’ll share in the near future.

SignsPhoto c/o Simply Honey Bee Art & Signs

After painting, we drove out to the North Shore to look for turtles at Laniakea Beach.  It was pretty windy which made the surf pretty large.  In fact they had closed the beach a few days prior because the waves were so intense they were cresting the small bluff and spraying across the nearby road.  Luckily we arrived just before the tide started to rise so there was plenty of area to enjoy the beach as the waves pounded the rocks.




Although we didn’t see any turtles on the beach there were several cruising the waves.  We’d occasionally see them come up for air and glimpse the edge of a flipper or top of their shell as they navigated the surf.  I was a little bummed that they didn’t come up on the beach, but since this was a heavily trafficked area, it would have been a mad house if they did.  There was a turtle guardian on watch who shared lots of information about turtles and the area since he didn’t have any turtles to monitor on the sand.


Next we drove further down the North Shore to see some sights and soon realized there was a surfing competition going on, which was apparently similar to spring break in Daytona Beach because we saw several interesting activities.  One included this rig where a pool had been created in the back of a truck using a tarp and subsequently filled with several young men.  Meanwhile a young woman decided to ‘ride’ the jet ski on the trailer behind them.  We also spotted an interesting guy wearing nothing but a bright red banana hammock and winter ski boots on the side of the road.  Although I did get a picture of that I’ll spare you the image being burned into your mind.


We headed back toward Honolulu and decided to stop off at the Dole Plantation along the way.  We had heard that the Dole Whip was a must try so we browsed around a bit, picked up several sauces to bring home and ordered our Dole Whips.  We enjoyed them out on the back patio as we watched the train come and go.  It was a very simple treat, but definitely delicious.  In fact, just looking at this picture makes my mouth water for more!



Finished with our snack we took a moment to snap a selfie with the giant pineapple on the grounds.  Doesn’t the hubs look super excited to be posing with a pineapple? 😉  As we made our way back to the car I noticed these beautiful multi-colored trees.  It was literally a piece of living art.  I later confirmed they were rainbow eucalyptus, which obviously wouldn’t survive in Alaska.



The next day we decided to do a submarine tour we’d heard about from a co-worker since the dock was at the hotel next to ours.  It was a little pricey, but it was a unique experience so we were willing to give it a shot.  It was totally worth the cost to see the fish up close and experience the ocean floor without having to get wet.  A boat takes you from the dock at the shore to the subs out in the open water, which provided time to spot cute trumpet fish next to the dock and enjoy the view of Waikiki from the stern as we headed out.



The sub surfaced as we approached their location and we docked along side it to onboard and offload passengers from the top of the sub.  Once inside we spotted the pilot’s impressive cockpit, which has a full bubble view and found a seat toward the rear along one side of the sub.  Here’s a video of the sub surfacing.




The company who runs the submarines has partnered with local research groups to set up structures in an effort to grow new reefs for sea life because the sand imported for the tourist beaches along Waikiki has killed off most of the natural reefs.  The first we saw was this Japanese seaweed growing structure.  Normally used to grow seaweed as a commercial product, here it’s too warm for seaweed to grow so it’s not as covered, but still provides a good place for fish to gather and hide.  There were also a couple of planes that were purposely sunk to create artificial reefs.




This guy seemed pretty interested in the sub and swam along side of our window for quite a ways, checking us out.  I’m pretty sure this is the fish that Dory in Finding Nemo was modeled after – and it did “just keep swimming…”


Next were some ships that had been sunken as reef starters.  Like the planes it was odd to see this structure under the water, but still quite interesting to see how it had been transformed by its new environment.



At the bow of one of the ships three sea turtles were taking a little nap, while getting their shells cleaned by fish.  Seeing them on the land and in the waves was one thing but being so near them underwater was totally cool – especially to see three of them in such a chill state.



There was also one turtle on another sunken ship, but he was harder to spot (the lump on the right of the picture).  There had been two when we first went by but we had to wait until the sub turned around to go past again on the other side to see him and by then one had headed off to somewhere else.


That evening we met up with my friend who lives in Hawaii to create some portraits for his family at the new Ko’Olina Disney resort.  I’ve shared those images on my photography website.


At the end of the session we all took a moment to savor the beautiful sunset before heading to their home where we were treated to a fantastic potluck with a variety of yummy dishes!  It was a great way to end another day in paradise.  I’ll share our visit to the Pearl Harbor memorial and Luau in my next post, so stay tuned for those!


Our New Garden!

I spent most of the recent long weekend gardening, starting with planting a patch of raspberry bushes given to me by a co-worker who is rearranging her yard.  They look a little scraggly after being transplanted, but I’m hoping they bounce back quickly and possibly even bear fruit this season. The one in the front there has several branches so I left them secured with the paper bag we used for transport to give it a chance to establish new roots before supporting the weight of hanging branches.  I’ll keep you posted on their progress throughout the summer.


While I was planting raspberries, the hubs was building my long anticipated garden box!  I decided on a design with removable tubs so when we have a greenhouse I can start planting earlier inside and then move the tubs out when spring arrives.  It will also let me extend the growing season into the fall by moving tubs indoors as the weather cools.  The hubs designed this fancy subframe to support the weight of the tubs and then added the base on the bottom so that it would be waist high as I requested.  There was a bit of miscommunication on the final design plan because we had discussed several options and the inspiration I showed him was only a foot tall, but he was still able to make my vision a reality. 🙂


Once the frame was done we moved it into the back yard and finished it off with metal side panels and cedar trim.  It went together pretty quickly, thanks to the hubs’ detailed plan.  I helped by holding pieces in place until he got each section secured and showing my approval with a very wide grin as I watched it all come together.


Here’s how it looked once the sides and trim were installed.  I would have done a happy dance if I hadn’t been so tired, but the hubs knew I was super happy with the results.


Next came the removable tubs, which rest on the cedar lip and are supported by the subframe below.  I love the look of the metal next to the wood.  It totally works for my modern farmhouse style.  Clean and simple, yet rustic at the same time.



Now it was time for planting!  I wanted to use a water reservoir system to encourage the plants to root deep and seek out water, so I added smaller tubs with holes on the sides to the bottom of each tub, and then had the hubs drill a hole for a PVC watering pipe.  Now when I water it will leech out into the surrounding soil and water the plants from within.  The idea is that this will require less frequent watering, which is perfect for my busy schedule.  And if it doesn’t work, it’s not permanent so I can just take it out next year.



We filled around the tubs with soil and I got to planting.  This year we’re having herbs, lettuce, possibly spinach, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes.  I already had the tomato and herbs on hand, but was waiting to purchase the others until the garden was ready for them.  I’ll pick those up over the weekend.  The pepper will go next to the tomato plant and the center tub will hold the lettuce and cucumbers.


I selected a variety of herbs including cilantro, chives, parsley, oregano, dill and mint.  The cilantro will come in handy for summer salsa recipes and I’m excited to start using dill in ranch and other mixes.  We use dried parsley and oregano fairly often so it should be fun to experiment using it fresh. We don’t often use mint or chive, but this will give us the opportunity to experiment with them and I believe both deter pests, so that’s an added benefit.


To finish things off, I dug out the fancy metal garden signs I’d bought over the winter to mark what’s what.  They tie in the metal siding of the box and look totally cool!  I wish I had one for herbs, but it’s ok.  I do have signs for peas, carrots, onions, potatoes and pumpkin, so those are the other likely possibilities I’d try first.




PlanterPlantedMarkerCukesAnd since the garden is located just off the deck and right outside the back door it’s more convenient to snip a few things for cooking, which was the plan all along!  This spot gets full sun from morning until early afternoon, so it should also be pretty productive.

PlanterPlantedFrontI’ll try to do an update later in the season when things have grown in and are producing!  Until then, feel free to share any gardening tips you think might help that day come sooner! 🙂


Now that the weather has turned chilly I’m in the mood for crockpot cooking, but many of the recipes I find to try only require 6-8 hours  which is much less than we are away from the house thanks to daily commuting. I considered getting a new crockpot with a built in timer, but the one we have works great and we really like it. So I figured out a work around – a timer plug!  We have a couple of these for our holiday decorations so I dug one out and and tested it the last time we made something in the crockpot.
It took a few minutes to make sure I had everything set just right and I left for work afraid I’d come home to find it never clicked on, but it was a needless worry because it worked perfectly!  I felt pretty clever for figuring out a solution that would be beneficial all winter, but it wasn’t until I was telling a co-worker about it and she declared it genius that I realized just how smart it was.
Although her commute is significantly less than mine, she is away from home longer than the recipes she was using called for, so she would often request her husband run home during lunch to start the crockpot. Now she has a simple, no cost solution that won’t require coordinating a run home to start dinner mid-day. So I’m sharing the idea here in case it helps others as well.
As for what’s in that pot?  Our current favorite is a six ingredient turkey recipe that only requires five minutes of prep, just in time for Thanksgiving!
Even though I have a Pinterest board full of them, I’m still in the hunt for more crockpot recipes so if you have a favorite please share it below.

The Fruits of Our Labor


After my recent visit to Hatcher Pass I couldn’t wait to go back and pick berries, so I invited a friend to join us recently, loaded up the dogs and hit the trail. I had a local’s tip for a spot that was supposed to offer “copious amounts of berries,” but it turned out to be a bust, so we traveled further up the road and checked a few more spots before we finally found a great little patch just below a parking pull-off.

Unlike the high brush blueberries we’d had in Kodiak, these were low brush, which meant they were harder to spot and pick. We all ended up with purple splotches on our knees and rears from unknowingly sitting on a patch while working a group we’d spotted nearby. They were also smaller than their high brush cousins, except the couple of patches we found shaded by other vegetation.



We chatted as we picked and the dogs ran amuck exploring – sometimes right through the patch we were working on, nearly toppling the harvest bucket! They occasionally got to sample the harvest and we took them to the nearby creek for a drink several times. Several times they barked warnings at the paragliders who rode the breeze overhead, in case they got any ideas about trying to land in our berry patch! 🙂



There were also periods of focused picking, where the only sound was the waterfall a few yards away and an occasional chirp of a bird. That’s usually when I’d look around to see where the kiddos had gone since it was too quiet and not see anyone until I called and then heads would pop up out of vegetation.



It got chilly as the day wore on and the clouds started to move in so we decided it was time to call it quits before it started to rain. Before we left I took a few minutes to capture a few portraits of the fur babies, who were plum tuckered and ready for a nap. Two of the three were asleep by the time we got we got halfway home.



We came away with berry stained hands and harvests big enough to make some yummy treats. The hubs used ours – after a lengthy stem removal process – for some lemon blueberry bread, which is the perfect complement to my new indulgence, berry frozen yogurt.



Mad Hatchers

We purposely chose to live in the boonies because that was the lifestyle we wanted. Unfortunately the tradeoff is a lack of nearby places to enjoy a dinner out, so when the hubs and I spotted a new restaurant just a few minutes from our house a few weeks ago we were excited to give it a try.


We weren’t sure what to expect, but anticipated we’d likely find an ok burger and fries. The exterior was unassuming, but very Alaskan. The Alaskan feel continued inside with large wooden tables and benches.   Upon second glance though, I began spotting Alice in Wonderland décor, including a large mural of an anime version of Alice on a toadstool, intermixed with the Alaskan elements and quickly came to realize how the name Mad Hatchers had come about.

The menu included pizzas, burgers and appetizers – all with Wonderlandesque names. We ordered stuffed mushrooms and burgers, although the pizza selections were mighty tempting. When the stuffed mushrooms came out I knew we’d found a new favorite place. Filled with cheese, a delightful sauce, spinach and topped with olives. They disappeared down the “rabbit hole” so quickly I didn’t even get a picture of them!

The burgers came with thin sliced fries which were seasoned just right. And it was a generous portion too. So much so, that I couldn’t finish it, although I very much wanted to! Plus that heaping pile of pickles was just right for me.


Beyond great food they had decent prices and down-to-earth service, which means we will certainly be back. I’m thinking that we’ll try a pizza next time, so I can take home what I can’t eat – because I will certainly order those delectable stuffed mushrooms again!

Our New Favorite Meal

We recently found these fantastic flatbread at our grocery store and decided to give them a try.  One taste and we were fans.


In addition to these large flatbreads, they also make smaller individual sized ones.  These are perfect for when we each want something different on our pizza.  And the garlic flavoring is a nice addition as well!  They would also be the perfect size for a group appetizer, which would be easy thanks to the recipes included on the packaging.


We’ve also started using this fantastic pesto sauce for our flatbread pizzas.  Although I debated trying it because of it’s $6/jar price tag, it’s worth it.  It’s so much better than the basic tomato sauce we used when we first started making flatbread pizzas.


We now usually have a flatbread pizza once a week since it’s a quick and easy meal to make, plus it’s super affordable – even with pricey sauce.  It’s also easy to make it different each time by using different toppings.  It’s really just a three step process.  Step 1: Add a light coat of olive oil to the bread and coat with the pesto sauce to desired thickness.


Step 2: Add cheese and toppings.  We like to mix a variety of cheeses, both sliced and shredded depending on what we have on hand.  As for toppings, we usually pull from whatever we find in the fridge – using up left overs like rotisserie chicken and veggies that are nearing their life expectancy. My pizza tends to be a bit more loaded than the hubs’, but that’s the beauty of making individual pizzas.


Step 3: Bake according to package instructions and enjoy.  As you can see our baking stone pan gets so much use that it’s now WELL seasoned and almost black!  I’m pretty sure this is one of the most used pieces in our kitchen!


I have yet to try making my veggie pizza on a flatbread, but with summer temps approaching I’m sure that will happen sooner rather than later.  And I also have plans to test out this Olive Garden flatbread appetizer recipe soon! 🙂

Finishing Touches in the Pantry

Thanks to a great BOGO Free sale and gift cards from Christmas I recently finished up the pantry.  Because I wanted to add some more baskets now that we had more room, I decided to replace the ones we’d been using since we were in Kodiak – which will be repurposed in the studio and the spare room.


I also picked up some tiered racks for things like olive oil, bbq sauce, etc, and added a lazy susan next to it for the spices that didn’t make it into the spice rack.



Additional turntables in the remaining corners created accessible storage for drink ingredients, sauces and jellys.




The hubs made use of the wall space next to the door by hanging the cooling racks and fryer scoop.


Just like he did in the guest bathroom closet, the hubs added an additional light to the pantry for those items that are on the lower shelves.


Up above there is room for the rotisserie, a basket with spare grease cans, the hubs’ cast iron pan, paper towels and a basket for storing plastic bags.  I went back to get that big basket after the BOGO sale, and ended up getting a super deal because it rung up on clearance for much less than what I anticipated paying with my 40% off coupon!


The bottom of the pantry became home to the dog food and recycle containers, with room left over to store my soda habit.


My final pantry project was the jars for our sugar, flour and other staples (seen in the picture above).  It was a fairly simple project.  I picked up several of these screw top jars on sale at Fred Meyers.


I put them right to use and had to come up with a quick temporary labeling system until I had time to make something pretty.  So I grabbed my trusty dry erase marker and hand wrote each item.  That of course didn’t last long.


Based on that, I knew I didn’t want to do the cute chalkboard labels I see all over Pinterest.  Instead I decided to create vinyl labels for each with my Silhouette.


They turned out pretty nice!  I love that they are easy to read and should hold up to repeated use.  Plus they look pretty spiffy all together on the shelf.


And that’s our pantry.  It’s the perfect marriage of organization and inventory, which not only makes me giddy, but keeps the happy as well.  I think that’s a sign of a project well done. 🙂



Gettin’ Spicy!

As a hobbiest chef, my husband has LOTS of spices.  We’re talking more than the tiny spinning thing on the counter can hold.  In our old rental, he filled the cabinet above the stove and even had some rows double stacked!

So I knew that our new kitchen needed to have some way to organize this stash of spiciness and of course turned to trusty Pinterest, where I found this DIY pantry door spice rack.  I then promptly had a Gru ‘light bulb’ moment.  I showed it to the hubs, who was definitely game to build something that not only put his spices within easy reach of the stove, but also gave them a dedicated space to stay.


Please just ignore that tool pile on the counter behind the door.  With all the on-going projects I’ve lined up for the hubs, I have set aside my twitchy OCD ways and agreed to keep tools in the kitchen for quick access – that is UNTIL the major projects are done, which should be fairly soon!

He followed the building plans with a slight modification.  He used freebie paint stir sticks from the orange box store instead of dowels for the front retaining rungs.  Told ya, he was smart! And he’s becoming quite the thrifty DIYer.. of course not counting the tools he’s recently acquired.  😉


I will probably paint it white at some point, but for the time being it works just fine a’ natural.  Now if only our measuring spoons had cutesy little holes to be hung on the side!  Mental note: be on the lookout for clearance heart measuring spoon sets after Valentines Day.

SURPRISE Baby Shower!

As an event coordinator for a community bank, I plan a lot of different types of events, but I was recently asked to arrange a surprise baby shower for a co-worker.  Yes, I have an awesome job! 🙂  Luckily, I already had a “Baby Shower” board on Pinterest full of ideas.  Those who know me personally would now say “but of course you would!”  LOL

My recon/planning partner learned that the nursery was being decorated in yellow and purple, so we based all of the decor off that, including a ribbon garland that can be hung in the nursery.     Garland

My co-hort picked out adorable mini cupcakes with purple and yellow frosting to match our theme so I made a simple cupcake stand with two square glass plates from Walmart and a glass candlestick from the thrift store.  Easy peasy!  And you’d never know it only cost about $8 to make! Oh yeah!  Thrifty chic!

CupcakeStand Cupcakes

And what baby shower is complete without a diaper cake?  I’d recently seen a new style done to look like fondant on Pinterest, so I gave it a try.  Note to self – next time use thinner ‘flannel/receiving blankets’ rather than the cute, but thick fuzzy blankets!  Granted the chevron one was from her registry so I just had to make it work.  A little ribbon trim and thrifted faux flowers gave it the finishing touch.  Our male colleagues were quite baffled at the idea of a cake you don’t eat, but they too thought it turned out pretty well.  Although it did look good enough to eat on my pretty cake stand I bought last year at Home Goods for a measly $15!


My Pottery Barn knock-off drink dispenser – which I found at Safeway for just $17 – finally found a use other than decorating the tops of my kitchen cabinets.  It held the very tasty pink lady punch that was a surefire hit!  And the recipe was super simple:

  • 1 quart pineapple juice
  • 1 quart cranberry juice cocktail
  • 2 quarts ginger ale
  • Cranberries to garnish (or substitute fruit or other berries)


It was actually so good that I brought the rest home to share with my hubby who liked it as well – which means it’s super good because he’s a secret chef! 🙂


I also framed a picture from the maternity session I had done with her and her husband the week prior so their baby girl will have a picture of mommy and daddy in her room from the moment she arrives!

We all chipped in to get the stroller she still needed and put together a hospital survival kit, so she’s got everything ready for the trip to the delivery room!  I’m still surprised we were able to pull it off without her finding out.  We had a few close calls and thought she might be on to our little scheme, but we were very happy that she was truly surprised!

That was my take on a simple, chic baby shower!  Whatcha think?

The Endless Salad Bowl

CloseI decided to stop by one of my favorite Anchorage stores – Alaska Mill & Feed – on my birthday, just because.  Little did I know they had a gardening oasis in the back!  Hydrangea, lilacs, daisies, iris, salvia and even forsythia, which I didn’t know would grow here! It made me wish we were moving into our new home sooner than we likely will, so I could get my ‘stock’ going.  Unfortunately all of my containers are currently full and I’m about out of room for more around our rental.

I did however find this salad bowl.  I’d heard of the concept and actually planned to create one when we moved.  It contains a mix of lettuces for a perfect combination of greenery for salads.  Some were marked Alfresco Mix and other City Salad Mix.  I honestly have no idea what the difference was other than the city mix had more of the dark red lettuce, which I’m not a huge fan of.  When I saw they were marked $29.99 I decided to take one home because I couldn’t buy the bowl, soil and plants to create the same thing for less than that.  I went with the Alfresco Mix and chose the one with the least amount of red lettuce, just due to personal taste.

So now we have fresh lettuce for salads anytime we want!  A perfect combination with it’s neighbor, the cherry tomato plant.  And the best part is that the more we pick from it, the faster it should regrow!  Now the trick will be keeping it alive all winter indoors!  Good thing the dogs don’t seem to have a taste for salad.  LOL