Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Vacation Rewind

Why do some vacations seem to go by so fast?  We spent most of our time in Maine with stops in New York (Sleepy Hollow and Saratoga Springs respectively to and fro), Portsmouth NH, Mystic, CT, and Niagara on the Lake, Ontario.  We tried to do a stop in Brimfield MA for their big antique show but the day we were passing through it was raining and I didn't see anything we were passing that said I had to stop.  I'm wondering if that phase of my life is over.  (The Mr skips the length of the living room with glee.)  I did my first kind of non-structured vacation and I confirmed I don't like having a general outline of things to do.  I had like 3 days where we had planned activities but they weren't set in stone because the weather was unpredictable so they had to be interchangeable.

On our way out, we spent a night in Mystic, CT.  It was good to have the whole day to explore when we only got to see it for an hour or so before everything was really open last year.

We are suckers for Maine's craggy coastlines, tall pines and firs and the sound of a loon in the distance.  (The bird, not a figurative lunatic.)  We went to Bangor and Bar Harbor to Acadia National Park for a road trip.  We left at 5am and had a big fog alert that day that never really lifted much but it made for beautiful scenery.

We walked the trail around Jordan Pond that if you take the right fork seems like it's going to be a piece of cake...until you get to the end where you see boulder hopping and a boardwalk as wide as your hips through a bog with no place to jump off when you pass others for a solid mile.

Somehow we did it and what was 3 1/2 miles easily felt like 5 miles.  While I was a hangry wench with no facilities to fill my gullet, I was glad we did it.  We always seem to do something to challenge ourselves on each trip and that was it for this one.  Though we both agreed if we'd started the trail from the left fork and started with that boardwalk and got detoured into a bog, we would've called it a day with 1/2 mile of walking under our belts.

Obviously, we saw our share of lighthouses:

Oh yeah and I fell at the small one on solid granite and it could've been much worse but tell that to my elbow that is going to have a big, gross scar for the rest of my days.  What a time to find out the band-aids in your first aid kit are so effing old the adhesive gave up!

Our house had some issues, most I won't go into but for the love of God, if you're going to rent a house that is 25 feet from another house on both sides then put up blinds.  If people want to be stared at, fine but give them the option for privacy.  Can't count how many times we looked up to see neighbors looking at us.  Thank you Shaw's for having plastic tablecloths we could put up over some of them.

Mornings were beautiful and when I say mornings, I mean the top pic is what it looked like every day at 4:45 am and by 6am, you were blinded it was so bright WITH cloth blinds, so sleeping in never happened.

But we did enjoy s'mores a few times so there's that.

Maine does everything big from their statues to their boots to their whoopie pies.

We ended our trip in Niagara on the Lake, Ontario where we enjoyed poking around the shops and staying locally a few nights.  We had afternoon tea and took a carriage ride which was a lovely way to end it all.

The highlights for us were:

Acadia National Park
Exploring towns as we came across them
Listening to the birds and quiet in the morning
Turning the kids room into our own personal PT room
A day poking around Portland and pampering ourselves at a spa
Walking around Portsmouth, New Hampshire (gorgeous town!)
The hotel and full day spent in Niagara on the Lake

It was a much-needed vacation after a crappy 2018 and of course, we came back to parts of the bathroom that were like "hey, you didn't replace us when you remodeled last year.  We're gonna break now if that's cool" and other irritants so as usual, the mellow doesn't last long but I'll take what I can get.

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Monday, May 21, 2018


Life got in the way this weekend so no post today.  Forced DIY will do that to you but a big shout out to the Mr for spending his Sunday in our sweat box of a garage.  Here's hoping all of that hard work wasn't for nothing.

Life always has a "fun" way of saying "vacation is over, y'all!!"

Have a great Monday! 

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Friday, May 18, 2018

Tell Me Somethin' Good!

There's no What I'm Reading This Week because we've been on a much needed vacation so I haven't had the chance to read anything.

So I thought I'd open up the mic to you guys.

Share something good that happened to you this week or that you did to make someone else's life good! 

It can be as simple as you got the front row space without having to land shark people out of the grocery store (don't do that) to you took time out to enjoy a bubble bath or a book you've been putting off reading and indulged in a little self-care.  "Good" looks like different things to different people and we should share more of that more often!  Even if it didn't happen in the past week, you can share anything good that's made you smile recently.

Obviously, my "good" was a vacation.  I will write about it next week but after the past few months, it was much needed!

Your turn!

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Maple Sea Salt RX Bar Review

I'm sure if you're in the grocery store or read any health articles, you've seen the popularity of these protein bars blowing up over the past year.  RX Bars list all of the ingredients on the front and in this age of people tired of being marketed to, they seem to be responding to this transparency thing.  It's probably the "no BS" that reels them in. 

I won't tell them it's still marketing because I'm not a total bubble bursting troll...all of the time.  

When I saw the grocery store was giving out samples, I thought this would be my chance to try them because while I appreciated straight talk where health products are concerned, I'm also still cheap.  Maple Sea Salt sounded like a winner to me.

Here's a peek at the nutritional info.

Given the size of the package it came in, I was a little irritated with the size which probably only took up a little over half of the wrapper.

I split it in half so the Mr and I could try it.  He's been curious about them too.  It gave me a chance to check out the goodness awaiting inside.

So how did it taste?

As a person who has made her own energy balls and such in the past, it tasted similar to every date bar you've ever made.  But if you know darn well you're never going to sit down and make your own date balls and need the convenience of grab and go, this is the bar.  I do like the little hit of maple-ish taste balanced with the hit of salt.

I had to really reach to make that half into 4 bites but I eat like I haven't seen food in a year half the time.  So this is an 8 biter for a dainty lady and a 4 biter for someone like me.  I think it would make a perfect post-workout snack (or snack of any kind) but I would probably starve and/or punch someone two hours later if I tried to make it my breakfast substitute.   The Mr said he'd get them again and I thought they were good, especially for the price.  ;-)  But Amazon sells this 12 pack (affiliate link) and at publishing, it comes out to $1.75 per bar which is right on par with other protein bars.

We give them four thumbs up.

Have you ever tried RX Bars?  If so, what's your favorite flavor?

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Don't Forget the Grandkids

**This blog post is part of a series on death after a long illness.  This was written while going through the experience.  Just as I shared the journey of losing my Grandma to dementia, I am sharing our journey to healing as well as any tips or lessons learned that helped us cope with the loss.  Your experience may be different.**

As we adjusted to life without Grandma here, it was harder than anticipated.  When you are dealing with dementia and go through the stripping away of the person's personality, you begin to ask for peace.  You want them here desperately but when there is no quality of life, you know they are merely existing.  All of the nurses in the world can tell you they're not suffering but the truth is, as someone who loves them, you never fully buy that.  You get they are trying to comfort you but they don't know that for sure and for me, it always just made me a little annoyed even if well-intentioned.

Fast forward to losing her and the grandkids and great-grandkids sobbing in each other's arms.  While it was difficult, there was also something beautiful about being bound together in that grief we were all experiencing.  Differences that may not allow us to be as close any other time, allowed us to cry on each other's shoulders, share stories about her that made us laugh including her doling out some wooden spoon justice to some of them.  Old school represent, yo!

It is fitting and right that the children and spouse of the deceased are given the greatest comfort with hugs, cards and well wishes from their friends and family.  To have food brought over so that they don't have to think about preparing a meal for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on how much stuff is brought and then divided.  As anyone knows who has been through a funeral, you spend days to weeks with time stopped and your brain has come out of protection mode of numbing you and may not adjust well to "getting back to it."

But there are those that tend to be the forgotten ones...the grandchildren.  While we may not have spent as much time with our grandparent as a spouse or child, in many cases there was a bond there that is greater than that of a parent/child.  A grandparent does not impose their wants or dreams for your life on you.  They don't want anything more than for you to be a good person and even if you're not such a good person, they love you anyway.  They love you unconditionally and even though a parent technically does, there are always some emotional strings attached in one form or another.  A grandparent's job is usually to spoil you, give you advice you may not listen to from your parent (even if they say the exact same thing!), smile when they see you in that way that lets you know they are happy for any moment you give to them or some combination of those things.

When you are one of the lucky ones to have a grandparent who loves you so unconditionally, the pain and grief can be unbearable at first.  My grandma was one of two people who understood how stress physically affects me and my shame surrounding it.  I would lament over why I was so weak and couldn't just "suck it up" but she told me I wasn't weak and sucking it up was overrated and just not possible for some people.  She reassured me when I couldn't take care of my mom after a surgery by doing something as simple as holding a barf bucket for her that I wasn't the bad daughter I kept saying I was.  I will never forget crying on her shoulder telling her what a failure I was and it was one of the few times she cried with me telling me I wasn't and I was breaking her heart that I thought that about myself.  When you've had someone like that in your life for as long as most of us grandkids were blessed to have her, the loss of having someone who loved you so fiercely can be devastating.  Even when one of her grandkids who was going through a rather rough patch in their teens and told Grandma to "eff off" (to which I was surprised she didn't belt her back into 1989), she still told her how pretty she was.

A grandma's love can be a special thing.  While it's wonderful that people check in to see how the spouse or kids are doing...don't forget the grandkids.  Those that had a special relationship with them need support too.  They're mourning a relationship that neither spouse nor child had with her and it's hard for them too.

Happy birthday Grandma.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

The End of a Dream

*It should be noted, this post was written months before any of the current lava activity began.  Our hearts go out to the would-be neighbors and residents who are affected by this natural disaster.  As any of us who live(d) on the Big Island know, Pele takes what she wants, when she wants and we all, unfortunately, know the risks living there.  It doesn't make the loss of home, land, and livelihood any less traumatic for all who love our island home whether we physically or spiritually live there.*

A few weeks before our family was thrust into the grieving process of my Grandma, I was going through a different grieving processs.  Many of you know we love Hawaii.  We've been there 14 times, and somewhere around the halfway mark, we decided to buy land on the Big Island.  We didn't love Hawaii for the beaches or warm weather.  We loved it for its culture and the healing abilities it held.  When we were in the process of losing my father-in-law, we were going to cancel our trip.  It was at his insistence after going through his relapse and a daily roller coaster over the previous five months of hope and despair that he said it was where we needed to be and said if he could be anywhere at that time, it would be there.  We did not have a "good time" while we were there.  We were not sipping mai tais and going parasailing.  Instead, we drove upcountry on Maui to a spot that shared the road with downhill bikers off Haleakala volcano and smiled because Dad did that and it was the happiest he'd ever been.  We pulled over on the side of an old country road that overlooked the whole central and part of the southern regions, and we were just below the cloud line.  There was no music on the rental car radio, no talking, just listening to the sound of nothingness.  The breeze blowing through the pines, the distant sound of a plane on its descent and an occasional bird flying overhead.  We had several experiences on that trip that brought us closer to God and nature, our church.  The Big Island was when we found out we had to go home and it was in the area we decided to buy that we got the news.  When we were going through the worst thing imaginable in our lives, this place sustained our souls, and we wanted that sanctuary for always.

(The property that inspired us to buy our land)

We were fortunate enough to get a large parcel, and I remember the first time we saw it in person.  Tall ohia trees with beautiful spiky red lehua blossoms and large and small hapu'u ferns.  We couldn't really get onto the land because it would require a machete and we didn't want to clear a path that could lead to squatters thinking it was okay to take up residence.  (A problem we were reading about more and more.)  Our chef friend, who is Hawaii born and raised and well known to all locals, was excited when we told him we were thinking of buying there.  He said: "it's good when people move here who "get it" and are moving here with the right intentions.  You are full of the aloha spirit in your hearts and actions."  That always stuck with me.  He knew our hearts and that our intentions were pure.  We picked out what home we wanted to build and thought about what landscaping we wanted.  We looked at nurseries a few times and researched what fruit trees grew best in the area.  It seemed as though the Mr's work was leaning toward teleworking and we had faith that within five years we might be able to move out there and start the dream.  Property taxes were surprisingly low because it was land and no structure was on it, and people always seemed to be impressed that we had property there which made us feel legit.  Like we were working toward making our dream come true instead of talking about it.

As time passed, as the value kept going down because we bought on the bubble and it burst the following year.  It's not a fun feeling to watch your future home value half in five years but the value of the land wasn't our focus.  The value of what it could bring to our lives when we built our dream, became a part of and contributed to the community was what was important to us.  We already make sure to contribute to the local economy directly when we vacation there.  We donate to humane societies and food banks.  We buy the leis from the auntie who is selling them roadside over picking one up in Walmart.  We support local art and craft fairs and buy as much from farmers markets as possible.  But it was that hope for our potential future that kept our aloha alive.  The thought of going into one of the two stores in the area and having the owner know us by name.  Dropping off and picking up mail at the post office and talking to the workers who are like family now.  Making a loaf of banana mac nut bread for the tutu down the street who is always so sweet to us.  Waving hello to neighbors up the street walking their dogs as we walked our hood.  Stopping by the Hilo Farmers market and having vendors ask us how we've been since we saw them last.  Then having the guy who grows flowers save the last anthurium I asked about the week before because he knew I was coming for it that day.

I couldn't wait to landscape with all of the native plants and fruit trees and build up a little paradise like others had when we stayed in the area.

As it became clear the Mr's work was not going to full-time telework like they kept dangling for years (despite him NOT needing to be on-site for his job) we were looking at retirement there.  Even that was fine with us for a long time because Hawaii hadn't changed much...until it did.  At the time we purchased, it had not changed regarding development, mainland attitudes and the aloha spirit in the ten years we went there.  After our purchase, there was a slow change on Maui where one of our friends (local girl) lives that is speeding up, and is frankly a little scary.  Our last two visits to the Big Island have shown an acceleration in development and some places feel like they are going to be completely unrecognizable the next time we go.  A shift in attitude and aloha spirit made us feel like this may not be the dream anymore.  We wanted to leave the mainland to escape the irritations and pettiness that has run rampant in our society.  In Hawaii, PC wasn't a thing for a long time.  People of other ethnicities would kid with each other about stereotypes and they knew it wasn't some personal attack.  They didn't get offended at every little thing.  Everyone was just laid back.  Now road rage is becoming more common because mainlanders come in with their impatience, tailgating and I think locals are just plain sick of it.  Don't get me wrong, Hawaii has its share of jerks like everywhere else but in much less proportion to those who didn't hesitate to give a smile or let you into traffic with a thank you shaka.  People don't smile or wave at each other as much and crime is going up as police funding and government resources go down. Locals are getting gentrified out of their neighborhoods while more and more condos and housing built for the rich or vacation rentals for tourists become the priority.  It was enough to make us start wondering if dealing with the same things we deal with here but paying a TON more for everything because of being on an island was what we still wanted.  It felt like it didn't matter if we had the best of intentions and aloha in our hearts because development and an influx of people on shows like those house hunting shows are giving people ideas to just pick up and move with unrealistic expectations.  (I think a more interesting show would be to see how many of the people who moved from the mainland on the show are still there.  We think 70% have moved back to the mainland.)  We had to soul search a bit.

Our apprehension was further solidified in 2016 when a visit to our place showed some people had been kind enough to start dumping on our land.  We called around and were able to get in on the last day at a green recycle place being open to dispose of the tire and laptop we found ditched there.  We know that when people see they can start dumping and nothing gets done then they will continue to do so.  We felt like this at least sent the message that someone was watching/taking care of the place but would it be enough or would they just start chucking things further back off the lot?  To say it put a knife in the dream is about accurate.  I said I wanted to make it a priority to sell when we got back.  You wouldn't believe how hard it is to get a return call or email.  (Well, those of you familiar with the concept of "Hawaiian time" might believe it.  LOL)  They have no problem spamming you with their listings but getting an actual response even from people who sent out a batch of postcards to landowners asking for their business...nothing.  Out of frustration, we didn't pursue it in 2017, and the Mr never brought it up again.  Toward the end of that year, I got our tax bill, and our property taxes for land in our zone were now double.  That was it for me.  When we were ready to move forward, I looked at a bookmark I had on Yelp for a realtor that got excellent ratings for working with people who buy and sell from the mainland.

He got back to us the same day, and within a week our property was listed!  We both felt so relieved because this dream we were so passionate about was beginning to feel like a noose around our necks.  So much has been stacking up in the con column for us that it felt like the right time to close that chapter.  We knew we could easily have over a year or more wait on our hands.  Land in that area was not moving, and I'd been keeping my eye on it for two years.  We knew we'd need just to be patient.  But in a very short period of time, we were signing papers and in the escrow process.  We were blessed that they gave a good offer not far below asking price and after consulting with our realtor and looking at comps and what recently sold for what price, we accepted their offer.  It was immense pressure and relief off of the Mr, and I felt the same to a degree...until I didn't.

I didn't regret the decision to sell.  My logical self knew the area was not right for us, and the community had not established itself in the way we'd hoped for the decade we owned it but selling it meant the dream was dead.  I know, there are other dreams, but this one meant something because it was our first dream.  We owned that dream more than half of our marriage.  I remember printing out an artist rendering of one of the houses we were considering building and coloring in the siding to the color I wanted and the flowers on the outside.

(This is the picture I printed and colored from Honsadors website.)
I don't know where the physical copy is right now but I know if I ever do some deep cleaning, I'm going to come across it, and it's going to hurt like hell.  I have an email folder in the name of the home and emails from contractors, home builders, land clearers and the whole process with our realtor who we became friends with for a few years after.  Looking at the folder brings tears to my eyes, and I think of that process and the hopes and dreams we had.  What hurt more was going through the folder and seeing how half of the bookmarks were now dead links due to going out of business.  I guess other people's dreams die too.  Yes, we can always buy a place in the same area or close to it that is already built, and that's fine if that's the route we choose to go.  But that's a different dream.  That was someone else's dream that we're inheriting and possibly having to fix.  It's this one I am mourning.

It feels like failure.  I don't expect anyone to understand that, but it does.  We were halfway there having the land to build on and a good amount of the cost of the house available to us.  But with the Mr's work being a-holes about teleworking (to a man who is ALWAYS there on time, stays late when needed and is never unavailable to anyone) it became apparent it was not our ideal situation.  On the same token, I am also proud that we took the step at all.  So many people say "one day, we're going to build in (insert dream location here)" and they talk about it until the day they die.  We at least secured and owned the land to do that whenever it was feasible for us.  I'm proud of us for that.  I'm proud that we believed in that dream enough to move ahead with one of the biggest things needed to make that dream a reality.  As we all know, sometimes dreams change or the change is forced upon us by situations...but it doesn't make it hurt any less for the ones that didn't come true.

‘A‘ohe pau ka ‘ike i ka hālau ho‘okahi.
(All knowledge is not learned in just one school.)

Waiting for the lesson.

What dreams changed in your life whether emotionally or forced upon you?

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Monday, May 14, 2018

My experience with Charcoal Teeth Whitener

There's a blogger that I follow that seems like she has her stuff together and I've taken her recommendations on other products that I loved.  When she said she was going to start using a particular brand of all natural charcoal teeth whitener after her research, I hopped on Amazon to check it out too.  It got rave reviews at 4 1/2 stars so I figured why not.  I drink a ton of tea and while my teeth aren't dark, my smile is my best feature so I like it to look I'm a non-tea drinker but not fake white.  I can usually buy one box of Crest White Strips and have it last me through the expiration date because I use 6 strips every other day to avoid sensitivity one time then I only have to use two every six to eight months.

The before and after pics with the charcoal powder were pretty impressive with, of course, a few saying it did nothing for them.  I figured I'd give it a go.

I brushed for 2 minutes prior to my regular brushing routine of two minutes with my Phillips Sonicare toothbrush. (affiliate link) You absolutely have to brush afterward, you can't use it in place of regular tooth brushing because even if you've rinsed your mouth, there is still enough crap left in there to make your toothpaste gray after you brush.

After about day three, I noticed the bottom gums of my front teeth felt a little inflamed.  I thought maybe it was just getting used to it so I would brush manually so the charcoal wasn't being ground into everything.

After day five, a spot in my top molars was getting very sensitive and not in the way whitening strips make your teeth feel.  This felt like a big throbbing cavity would probably feel.  I did it one more day and I just couldn't take it anymore.  I knew the only thing I changed was using that stuff so I discontinued use due to the inflamed gums and soreness like the package said to do.  I was lucky that I was able to return it without an issue so I wasn't out any money for it.  I got online and started doing some actual research.  Yeah...should've done that first.  All kinds of articles talking about how bad that is for your teeth and how it can strip away enamel because of the abrasion of the activated charcoal and the more enamel that comes off, the more porous it gets and can then absorb the color of the charcoal which would look like a horror show.

Within four days of not using it, my teeth felt totally fine so I know I made the right decision for me.

The irritating part (other than the actual irritation it caused) is I feel like it made my teeth very slightly darker!

So yeah, even if you trust a blogger and buy something based off of their suggestion (even moi!) make sure you do actual research because as nice as reviews are to read, that isn't research.  You know what they say about opinions and rumpholes...everybody has one.

If you choose to go that route, more power to ya, just know the potential risks involved so you don't ruin those pearly whites!

What recommended products have you used that flopped for you?  

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