Oct 292014
 

A few weeks after our wedding the certificate finally arrived. I was slightly disappointed that it wasn’t an actual certificate and just an official form that had been certified. Kinda lame, but whatever. I took a half day off from work to go to the Social Security Office and DMV to get that done first.

I have to say, the SS office is hell on earth. The DMV was actually fine. That took like 30 minutes, start to finish, and they had like 9 or 10 people working the counter so the line moved very quickly. Social Security? Not so much. I got there about a half hour after they had opened and the place was full.

There were people standing, there were a few empty seats but they were so scrunched together I felt claustrophobic. The waiting room sucked. Why did they have to make it so awful? The chairs were all in a line (similar to the photo below) in four rows. Who creates a waiting room like this?

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The chairs were all facing the same direction, looking at basically a wall and the screen updating the numbers. Hell on earth. Seriously. The numbers moved at a snail’s pace and seemed to have no rhyme or reason. People were coughing, sneezing, there were kids fussing, there were angry people arguing with the workers. Ugh. Just awful. I was there for nearly an hour and a half and 5 minutes of that was the ACTUAL process of changing my name and getting a new card. 5 minutes. The rest was waiting; feeling like your number is never going to be called.

But, the good news is that it’s done and I am now officially Mrs. W!

For our 1 month anniversary (I know, I know, eye roll) I cooked us dinner at home and I also made Michael his favorite drink–an Old Fashioned. I’ve never made it before so I did my research and I bought some fancy bitters to make it official! Here is the recipe I used:

Old Fashioned
Prep time: 
Total time: 
 
From: http://liquor.com/recipes/bourbon-old-fashioned/#.
Ingredients
  • 4 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 1 tsp Sugar (or 2 sugar cubes)
  • 1 Orange wheel
  • 1 Maraschino cherry
  • 1 splash Club soda
  • 2 oz Bourbon
Instructions
  1. In an Old Fashioned glass, muddle the bitters, sugar, orange wheel, cherry and a splash of soda. Remove the orange rind, add the bourbon and fill with ice.
  2. Garnish with a fresh orange wheel and cherry.
  3. Old Fashioned drinkers are divided on the question of muddling the fruit. To prepare the traditional version, muddle only the sugar, bitters and splash of soda but keep the fruit as garnishes.

I didn’t quite get the muddling down, I need to give it another try. Other than that, it was pretty easy to make and Michael loved it! I’m so glad.

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For dinner I made us a baked gnocchi dish and used our new French Onion Soup LeCreuset bowls that we got as a wedding gift. They were perfect for this recipe. No, I did not make the gnocchi from scratch. I’ve never done that before and while sometimes I think I want to give it a try, I also kind just want to use the easy stuff from Trader Joe’s…

Baked Gnocchi with bacon, tomato and mozzarella

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour

Yield: 3-4 servings

Calories per serving: 820 for 3 servings

From: http://simply-delicious-food.com/2013/07/16/baked-gnocchi-with-bacon-tomato-and-mozzarella/

Ingredients

  • 500g store-bought gnocchi
  • 250g bacon, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • handful cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 2-3 tablespoons cream/yoghurt
  • large handful fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 100g mozzarella, sliced

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 200°c.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to the boil.
  3. In the meantime, make the sauce.
  4. In a large, hot frying pan, fry the bacon until starting to crisp with most of the fat rendered.
  5. Pour off most of the fat then add the garlic and smoked paprika and fry for 30 seconds.
  6. Add all of the tomatoes and the sugar and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cream/yoghurt, parsley and seasoning.
  8. Cook the gnocchi in the salted water until it starts floating to the top. Remove with a slotted spoon and add to the sauce.
  9. Transfer the gnocchi and sauce to an oven-proof dish and top with the sliced mozzarella.
  10. Place in the oven and bake for 10 minutes until the mozzarella is melted and golden.
  11. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.
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The recipe was pretty easy to make. I cooked the bacon and when it was time to add the tomatoes I used canned tomatoes from my garden! It was so cool to be able to finally use them for something and they worked great. I am so glad I spent the time the summer to can all of those romas.

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The recipe called for either cream or yogurt. I thought I had some plain Greek yogurt (because I almost always have some on hand) but I was out! I panicked for a second and then googled what alternatives I could use. I found a website that gave some other options and one of them was sour cream–which I did have on hand. So I used about 2 tablespoons of that and it added such a rich, tangy flavor pretty similar to what plain Greek yogurt would have done. It was amazing.

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The recipe claimed to be 2-3 servings. When I was measuring everything out I thought it was more like 4 servings. But when I spooned everything into the Le Creuset bowls it turned out to be three generous servings. I love our new bowls! They worked perfectly for this. I baked them for about 15 minutes (using the broiler for the last 5 of those) to brown the cheese on top.

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It smelled so good. But then, doesn’t bacon always smell good?? So whenever I do a new recipe I always check the calorie count online first. Sometimes I disregard certain recipes if the calories are too high. This is the ONE TIME I didn’t do that first and of course, the calories were a lot higher than I’d normally like. Oh well, it was fantastic….so worth it! Look at this dinner:

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It was so amazing and an easy enough recipe to make for a dinner party and impress everyone. Michael loved it. I loved it. I wanted to keep eating it. This recipe was a winner! Michael mentioned that adding some fresh basil would be nice and I agree. Next time I’ll add some fresh rosemary and basil to the recipe.

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We sat at our bar in the kitchen and ate our delicious dinner, listening to some jazz music. Michael enjoyed is Old Fashioned and I broke out the mini bottle of champagne that we got on our wedding night from the hotel manager that we never actually drank. To one month! Cheers!

I will most definitely be making this recipe again. When I do, I will portion it out into 4 servings instead of 3 and I’ll serve a spinach salad with it or something. That will reduce the calories in the dish dramatically. It’s a heavy dish, so reducing it a little and making a salad would make sense. Make this recipe! You won’t be disappointed.

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Oct 272014
 

When we were planning our honeymoon we had it narrowed down to Maui, Kauai, Cancun, and Costa Rica. Costa Rica got eliminated pretty quickly, even though we both really wanted to go. We just didn’t want to spend 10+ hours flying from Portland to Houston to Costa Rica then to drive hours to get to the coast. Cancun was crossed off because it was the start of hurricane season and not that I was particularly worried about a hurricane, I just didn’t want to travel that far and have it rain every day!

So it came down to the two Hawaiian islands. We went to Kona a few years ago and loved it but one of the downsides were the beaches. They were definitely not the postcard perfect, sandy beaches I imagined. There were a few nice beaches we found but they were quite a drive from where we were staying. We found one beach we liked and ended up going back to that one several times because the rest of them were so rocky. Kauai is my dad’s favorite island and so many people raved about it. But we also heard some not so great stuff about it (i.e. boring, not much to do, not touristy, really windy, etc). It was such a polarizing thing. We decided to go to Maui because we KNEW what we were getting–there were no mixed reviews. You were getting perfect beaches and touristy stuff. Okay by us!

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We stayed in a condo in Kihei, south Maui, and I am glad we did. There were so many great beaches near us and we didn’t have to drive an hour to get there. It was easy to go out to the beach, swim, snorkel and then 10 minutes later be back at the condo taking a shower. I would definitely stay in Kihei again. It was more relaxed than Lahaina.

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Big Beach/Makena

When we first arrived in Maui Monday afternoon we picked up our rental car, made a stop at Costco and Safeway, grabbed a snack at Da Kitchen, and then went to our condo. It was like 3 in the afternoon by this time and we immediately changed and went to the beach.

Our condo came with every beach toy you could want. Great snorkel gear, frisbees and balls, beach mats, beach chairs, boogie boards and umbrellas.

Big Beach was beautiful. Picture perfect. Gorgeous white sand that felt like we were walking through softened butter. The parking lot was large and easy to find a space and the walk to the beach was short. The beach was uncrowded and so large that even if it was crowded you wouldn’t be on top of your neighbor.

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It was a fabulous “time to unwind” beach. Not a fabulous swimming or snorkeling beach. The waves were huge. It could have been the time of day, too, but the waves and shore-break were just too big to attempt swimming and definitely not snorkeling. We just kind of splashed around in the warm water and relaxed on our beach towels in the sunshine.

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It was also pretty windy.

 

Kapalua Bay Beach

The second day of our trip we went to this beach. It was up near Napili/Kaanapali north of Lahaina. It was in a resort heavy area but the beach wasn’t overly crowded. Maybe on a weekend it is.

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This was a fabulous beach! There was great swimming and snorkeling and there were two giant sea turtles right at the shore that would pop up out of the water. I also saw a few turtles while I was snorkeling around looking at the neon colored fish. It was way cool.

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The only downside was that it was so far from our condo. It was about an hour drive from Kihei, where our condo was.

Ulua Beach

This was a great little hidden beach in Wailea. It had great snorkeling and swimming.

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We went to this beach twice. What I loved about Maui was that most of the beaches had great facilities. Bathrooms, several outdoor showers. They were clean and well maintained. A lot of them had lifeguards. They also had good parking options. Some of the bigger ones even had multiple parking lots. We never felt like we couldn’t get a place to park. Ulua Beach had a good lot and we got primo parking twice.

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Picture perfect, right?

Kamaole Beach I

Our condo was directly across the street from Kamaole Beach 1. It wasn’t a great beach for swimming or snorkeling. The waves were huge and the water was super murky. However, it was GREAT for boogie boarding and just splashing around. The beach was fairly small and could be crowded. It shrank even more when the tide came in and spots got limited.

Robyn's Birthday

We could see the beach from our lanai, which was an amazing way to eat breakfast every morning. :)

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Robyn's Birthday

Mostly we just walked on this beach at sunset. It was perfect for that.

Wailea Beach 

Hated this beach! It was tagged as one of the “best beaches in Maui” and I so don’t get it. It was in Wailea (fancy resort area south of Kihei) and the beach was in front of the Four Seasons and Grand Wailea Resort (which looked amazing). So why did I hate this beach?

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Mostly the people. It was a small-ish beach and it was pretty crowded with guests from the Four Seasons. None of the beaches in Maui are private, but it definitely felt like a private beach. The people were just gross. Seriously. There was this woman that was yelling at her nanny on her cell phone who was apparently watching one of her kids up at the pool and she was ignoring her other two little kids playing. Then the wait staff came by where the lounge chairs and umbrellas were set up taking food and drink orders. It was just SO NOT what I wanted.

Plus the waves were really big and didn’t look great for swimming or snorkeling plus there were a bunch of gnats flying around that were really gross and annoying. It was the only beach we experienced any of this type of unpleasantness and we didn’t stay long. We packed up and back to Ulua Beach 5 minutes away.

Maluaka Beach

This was our last beach of the trip! It was one of my favorites. The beach itself was amazing. It was a little difficult to find but once we did, I was glad. It was in front of the Makena Golf Resort (which is actually where we considered staying before we decided to do a condo instead).

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The beach was super quiet and chill. It was mildly crowded but never felt crowded. People were chill and respectful and everyone was having fun.

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We got there around 9am on our last day in Maui and ended up staying until almost 2pm! We loved it and didn’t want to leave. The swimming was fantastic. The water was pretty calm. Later in the day the waves got bigger and it was just fun to jump around and ride the waves.

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I did a lot of snorkeling and saw some fish and one turtle. We ate our picnic lunch on the beach and then I went out for one final snorkel/swim round. I had a great time swimming around the rocks on the south end of the beach. I decided I was done and we packed up and started to go. That’s when I saw this:

shark1

Um…? What?

So apparently a shark was sighted RIGHT WHERE I HAD BEEN 5 minutes before. Like for reals. Someone else on the beach said that it was spotted and then someone else said that there was a turtle bitten in half (not sure if I believe that part).

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A lifeguard was out in the water on a jet ski telling everyone to get out of the water and he was zipping around looking for the shark. I never saw it but…that was kind of freaky. Good thing it was our last day! CRAZY.

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