Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Golf Snowman Christmas Stocking

This is probably my favorite stocking that I made. I just think it's so cute. As with each stocking it is completely hand sewn, beaded, and embroidered. It takes a lot of time, but the end result is great. I usually work on the stockings in the colder months while watching tv or a movie. This is the completed version of Bucilla Golf Snowman Kit that I got on clearance for $5!

Gingerbread House Christmas Stocking

This is my completed Bucilla Gingerbread House Kit that I made for myself. Once again this is one of the stocking kits I found a few years ago after Christmas for $5 at Wal-mart. What a steal!

Sports Santa Christmas Stocking

This the completed Bucilla Sports Santa Kit that I made for my husband. I got the kit after Christmas a few years ago for $5 at Wal-mart. Sadly, I've never seen that deal again :(

Cowboy Santa Christmas Stocking

This is my completed version of the Bucilla Cowboy Santa Kit that I made for my nephew. His mother loves horses so it was definitely a hit. I caught this kit along with about 8 others on clearance for $5 at Wal-Mart a few years back. Thankfully I bought one of each kit they had available!

Mickey Mouse Christmas stocking

I've been making Bucilla felt stockings for over 5 years now as Christmas gifts for my family. It started out for my sister and her new husband and then expanded to new nieces and nephews. This particular stocking is for my newest nephew and his mother is obsessed with Mickey Mouse. My inspiration was the Janlynn Kit I found on Amazon. I didn't really like the price tag and decided I would attempt to make it from scratch. Here's my rendition with a little extra pieces

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Olympic Peninsula

The Olympic Peninsula and Olympic National Park is a great outdoor place a few hours from Seattle. Some of our favorites were hiking up to hurricane ridge, wandering through the HOH rain forest, walking to Cape Flattery, and watching the sunset on Quinalt Lake. If you like driftwood check out Rialto Beach. Be warned though the national park campgrounds do not have showers!

Cape Flattery - the northwest point of the US

HOH River in the rainforest

Vancouver BC

Vancouver British Columbia was a fun little four day adventure. We had fun at the aquarium especially the beluga whales and dolphin shows. Plus, they had a very inquisitive dolphin in a downstairs exhibit that they rescued. She kept swimming up to the window and watching all the people. She'd follow your finger and little kids playing in the window. The sea otters were adorable as usual. We spent most of our time exploring the outdoor places like Stanley ParkCypress Falls, and Lynn Canyon Park. Pay with credit cards and you don't have to worry about converting money. If you drive across the border stay calm, cool and collective. Remember the workers are just doing their jobs even though it's not a dangerous border!

View of downtown from Stanley Park

Snoqualmie Falls

Snoqualmie Falls is a short drive from Seattle. It's an easily accessible waterfall for everyone.


We spent a few days exploring Seattle Washington. We toured downtown, pacific science center, IMAX, the Aquarium, the Space Needle, harbor tour and the EMP museum with the City Pass. I really wish we would have given ourselves more time at the EMP since my husband is a music junkie and loved it so much. Of course we had to go to Pike's market and see the famous fish throwing. On our last day we went to Museum of Flight which was a very cool museum. They have lots of fun planes in the main gallery, a WWI and WWII section and an outdoor section where we walked through a retired Air Force 1. Our favorites were the WWI and WWII areas. They were very well put together and informative. I'm generally not a big fan of museums, but this one was great. I had to stop and listen to every sound bite.

View of the city from the space needle

Mount Hood

After spending a few days at the Columbia River Gorge we were going to venture to Mount Hood. Unfortunately, we had truck problems and only got to see it in passing. Maybe someday we'll go back and explore it a little more! On a side note a few hours away is a Stone Henge Replica worth checking out.

Columbia River Gorge

We spent a weekend exploring Portland Oregon and the Columbia River Gorge. The Multnomah - Wahkeena Loop Trail was a very pretty hike with over 10 named waterfalls. It's crowded at the start and finish, but the middle section was pretty peaceful. The Indian Point hike gives you great views of the Gorge, but I'd avoid taking Nick Eaton since the views aren't that great and it's more climbing to the top. Ainsworth State Park is located near Horsetail falls and includes RV spaces, pack in tent sites and hot showers!

Waterway on the Loop Trail

Fairy Falls

Horse Tail Falls

Multnomah Falls


Indian Point

The Gorge

Mount Shasta

We spent a few weeks relaxing in Weed, CA waiting for a work assignment. Don't be fooled by the remoteness and lack of hype about this area; there are beautiful places to be seen including numerous Alpine Lakes, Mount Shasta and Black Butte.


We took a one day adventure to Oahu when we were living on Kauai for three months. Most of our time was spent at Pearl Harbor. It was such a moving experience greatly enhanced by the audio tour. Unfortunately not everyone remembers it's a memorial and not just another tourist stop. We also drove around the South, east and north shores with visits to the beautiful beaches and visiting the honu. I never get tired of watching them. We avoided Waikiki and the masses of tourists at all costs.

Pearl Harbor

Oahu Sunset


We were blessed to have the opportunity to live in Kauai for 3 months. It really is one of the most beautiful places we've seen and a great place for outdoor activity. We explored 2-4 days a week for three months and couldn't do everything we planned. The snorkeling near the Lawai Resort in Poi'pi is like swimming in an aquarium. Hiking to hidden waterfalls and breathtaking views is priceless. We had an incredible time exploring by boat with Na Pali Explorer and air with Inter Island Helicopters. My husband's Kauai Adventure Yelp List provides reviews of numerous places on Kauai and Ultimate Kauai guidebook is how we planned most all of our adventures. 


 Kalalau Valley from the top of Pihea Trail.

The famous Na Pali Coastline from the helicopter tour

Coastline view on the Shipwrecks beach to Maha'ulepu Hike

Kekaha Sunset

San Francisco

We spent about five days exploring San Francisco. There really is so much to do besides wandering through Fisherman's wharf and riding the cable cars. We did a lot of tourist stuff, but it was also fun to just walk through the city streets. We learned a lot about the city from Reed our tour guide at Mr. Toad Tours. Twin peaks gives you a great view of the city, but can be a little tricky to find. Also across the Golden Gate and a short drive through the back country you can find Muir Woods for a little outdoor activity. My favorite thing though was touring Alcatraz with the audio guide. It was very interesting!

The Golden Gate Bridge from Crissy Field

Hiking in John Muir Woods

The Grand Canyon

We spent a very hot July weekend exploring the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. It's pretty from the top, but it's easier to take in the beauty from the less crowded area below. Just remember it's easy going down, but you have to climb back out. Pack lots of water and salty snacks to keep your body going.

We did Desert view drive stopping along the way at each vista or pull out and eventually ending at The watch tower. We walked along the Rim Trail to Pima Point where we caught the shuttle to Hermit's rest because there wasn't much daylight left. We road the shuttle all the way back in the dark.

Our big Grand Canyon adventure was hiking on the Bright Angel Trail. We started off later than we planned and my husband wanted to make it all the way down to the river (16 miles), which is not recommended as a day hike especially in the summer. I was pretty sure we wouldn't make it to the river and back up so I had opted to at least make it to Indian Garden Campground (9.6 miles), but hopefully plateau point (12 miles). Less than a mile from Indian Garden I started to hear thunder, but no one else on the path seemed to notice so I didn't say anything. Then out of nowhere the wind picked up with full force. We had to stop and cover our faces because we couldn't see anything from the dirt blowing into our eyes (we now have motorcycle glasses to prevent this). A group of us all strangers huddled together near the wall. Next came the rain a very cold rain especially after hiking in the heat all day. Thankfully, the rain stopped the dirt from blowing in our eyes so we started our long, cold, tiring trek back up out of the canyon. When we reached a shelter we stopped with pretty much every other hiker to wait out the rain, but after 30+ minutes we decided to continue on in the rain. Finally when we were half way up the rain stopped, but the sun never came back out to dry us off. I was now tired, cold, wet, and my hip was hurting so I wasn't paying much attention to my surroundings when my husband hollered "look out!" Much to my amazement a Desert Bighorn sheep was a few feet in front of me on a popular trail. I of course scream and startle it and as I jump to the edge of the trail it charges passed. By the time my husband got a picture it was well passed us. We finished our hike and wandered through the south rim.

On our drive back to the KOA way outside of the Grand Canyon we passed a National Geographic Museum. We passed it each day and always commented on the elk statue in front. On this particular day there seemed to be a lot more action in the town than normal and we soon figured out why. A live elk was standing next to the statue. We pulled over to catch a picture and the elk had crossed over into a gas station and finally into a lot behind a hotel. This thing caused a whole lot of commotion by tourist in such a small town, but it didn't seem to care at all.

View from Rim Trail

 My hubby with the Elk

Me with the Elk --- Excited tourist, unexcited elk

Sunny San Diego

We find ourselves frequently going back to a familiar favorite in California partially because we like it, but also to see the amazing Dr. Irwin Goldstein. Some of our favorites are Sea World and the San Diego Zoo. We may be grown adults, but we still love animals. Both places have much to offer. The zoo had steeper prices than we are used to but it was worth it. We've spent hours walking around Balboa Park exploring the museums, the beautiful grounds, and gardens (rose and cactus). We spent 4th of July day at Coronado Island and the evening at Shelter Island for the firework show. We've never been disappointed in San Diego!

The shamu show was tons of fun. If you sit in the splash zone you will get wet!

Who doesn't love panda bears?

This polar bear cub was so adorable!

 San Diego skyline from Shelter Island

San Diego Ocean Bluffs

California Highway 1

The famous California Pacific Coast Highway gives you some very breathtaking views. We took a short adventure up the coast from San Luis Obispo to Monterrey Bay. Great stops along the way include Hearst Castle, veiwing the Elephant Seals at Piedras Blancas especially in the winter, Big Sur, watching the sunset, Monterey Bay Aquarium and Whale watching in Monterey. Plan your trip in advance and have paper print outs. When we were there in 2010 & we couldn't load Google maps in Big Sur and missed numerous stops.

Beautiful California Coast

California Sunset while finishing up our whale watching adventure. 

Friday, August 3, 2012


We spent a few days park hopping between Disneyland and California Adventure and had a great time. Our favorite rides were probably Indiana Jones, the Matterhorn, space mountain, and the tower of terror. Be prepared to get soaked on the Grizzly River Rapids. My least favorite ride was (of course) the ferris wheel...I know I'm crazy, but one childhood memory scared me for life. Anway, I leave you with one picture from our adventure that came from the World of Color. What a fantastic show that was and I don't care if it's "only water!"

Yosemite National Park

On a last minute decision in October 2010 my husband and I decided to go to Yosemite National Park, which quickly became one of my favorite places. It's also where I learned to love hiking. Before our trip I honestly didn't know anything about Yosemite other than I heard of it and that I may be encounter a bear.  It is  absolutely beautiful and given the right setting tunnel view is breathtaking as shown in the picture below. We spent 4 days exploring and stumbled around in awe the entire time from Mariposa Grove to Yosemite Valley all the way to the top of Nevada Falls. Someday we will tackle Half dome!

We spent our first day exploring Mariposa Grove. We arrived and saw a group of people headed toward a trail and we thought we'd give it a try. We didn't really pay much attention to the initial map or how much water we had, but started off on our adventure. I had never hiked before and was pretty out of shape in general. We'd start climbing a hill and every person that came down I'd ask them "is it worth it?" Everyone every time would responds yes although I'm not sure what I would have done if they said no. Every time we reached the top I'd yell to my husband "it's beautiful and definitely worth it" and he would just laugh. We ended up looping back to the famous "California tree tunnel" and back to our car to find our heels covered in blisters.

We left Mariposa grove and headed to the valley. We were going to be staying at Housekeeping Camp. There was a sign for tunnel view and we thought we'd check it out, but when we exited the tunnel I saw the view and screamed "OMG! This is the prettiest thing I've ever seen, pull over, pull over, PULL OVER NOW!" I'm pretty sure my husband thought I'd lost my mind, but to this day I stand by my word and on that particular day tunnel view still is one of the prettiest things I've ever seen. We have seen it a few times during this visit and subsequent trips and it's never looked as beautiful as the first time. There's just something about the fog and mist that made it so spectacular. Our pictures can't even do it justice.

On our second and third day it rained on and off and it was pretty chilly which made exploring a little difficult. We drove up Tioga Road as far as we could before it was closed from snowfall. We biked around the valley, walked to Mirror Lake, explored the key tourist places in the valley like Bridalveil FallsHappy IslesLower Yosemite Falls and even went to a presentation on Yosemite history (we're nerds like that). We attempted to drive up to Glacier point, but the fog was so bad we turned around. Our second attempt to drive to Glacier point was successful and we stopped at multiple places along the way. Our views weren't very great because the fog was still pretty thick. Every now and then we'd be able to catch a small glimpse.

Our fourth and final day the rain was finally gone. We decided we were going to hike the famous Mist Trail to Vernal Falls. We taped our blistered heels, packed a lunch and grabbed some water. I was already tired and then we approached stairs that would take us to the top of Vernal falls. I found another out of shape friend and we tackled the stairs together while our husbands bounced up without any problems. There was a lot of encouragement, a lot of heavy breathing, a lot of are you kidding me and A LOT of stopping for a break, but we made it to the top. We celebrated, hugged and cheered before we sat down for lunch overlooking the falls. While we were eating we saw an unsupervised 10 year old climb over the fence and jump rocks at the top of the falls before his parents saw him. I don't think he realized how lucky he his he didn't slip and end up over the falls. After lunch I said goodbye to my new friend as she turned around and my husband convinced me to keep climbing to the top of Nevada falls. Surprisingly the 2nd part wasn't nearly as tiring. We looped back down via the John Muir trail. It started thundering and I got a 2nd wind so we jogged most of the trail back. I've come along way in my hiking abilities over the last few years, but that day was tough and long for my 2nd hike in my life and I was very out of shape. 

Tunnel view on a cool and misty October day
A waterway on Tioga Road after a fall rain
Yosemite Valley from the beach outside of Housekeeping Camp

Half Dome peaking through the trees

Sunset on our drive back west from Yosemite

Central Coast California

Pismo Beach is a small town on the central coast of California with a lot of charm. During the warmer months people from inland California like Bakersfield and Fresno flock to Pismo for the cooler weather. Like most of the west coast the water is pretty chilly so only our toes got wet, but we loved watching the sunset and surfers from the pier. There's a Monarch Butterfly Habitat which comes alive in the spring and Mo's Smokehouse BBQ in downtown is delicious! Everyone talked about Splash Cafe, but we didn't think it was that great and unless you timed it just right the wait could be long.

Oceano is located a few miles from Pismo Beach on CA highway 1 (PCH). One of the most popular things to do in the area seemed to be riding ATVs at Oceano Dunes. We also enjoyed catching a show at The Great American Melodrama. If you are traveling by RV or trailer there are multiple resorts to stay at in the area, but we really liked Pismo Sands in Oceano.

Arroyo Grande is located off CA 101 and is the location for the walmart, In & out, Trader Joes and other stores. We didn't do much in the village of Arroyo Grande, but we really enjoyed all you can eat pizza night at Klondike Pizza.

Avila Beach is located north of Pismo Beach. 1.5 miles outside of Avila is Port San Luis. You can drive on the wooden pier if you'd like. We chose to walk out and sit to watch the seals and sea lions. There are so many, but don't get too excited and drop your phone in the ocean like one tourist did when we were there. The mineral baths at Avila hot springs are supposedly awesome as well. My husband and I are both very allergic to sulfa so we decided not to risk it.

San Luis Obispo (SLO) is the college town in the area as it's the home of Cal Poly. Our favorite thing to do in SLO was the Thursday Night Farmers Market. It's a farmers market and a festival all tied into one. There is local music entertainment, yummy food options, and great deals on produce. Don't forget to buy some delicious Santa Maria strawberries. Parking can be a nightmare so be prepared to fight or park far and walk.

Sunset off of the Pismo Beach Pier

Las Vegas

On our drive from St. Louis to central California we decided to stop in Vegas for the night. We aren't really Vegas kinda of people, but we thought we should experience it just once and there is a KOA near Circus Circus for us to park the camper. Our time was so limited we couldn't catch any shows so we ate  dinner at the Palms and walked the strip. I think walking the strip at night takes a little mental preparation. I was definitely not prepared for the masses of people handing out cards for call girls that eventually covered the sidewalks. We were out until 3am or later. We saw teenagers assisting their drunk parents back to the hotel. We saw babies strapped to mother's chests. We saw toddlers on leashes lagging behind their parents clearly exhausted and the parents unaware. At one point I told my husband I think I could steal that child and the parents wouldn't even notice. I went to bed feeling depressed, but surprisingly the strip is completely different in the day time. If we ever go back I will avoid walking so late and catch some shows. With that one of our favorite places in Las Vegas was the Bellagio Hotel Fountain. We stood and watched the dancing fountain for almost 30 minutes.

Dominican Republic

My husband was in grad school when we got married so time of for a honeymoon was not going to happen right away since we really wanted a fall wedding. We opted for a mini-moon right after the wedding and then our real honeymoon would come during his spring break. The first night of our mini-moon was spent in a hotel in downtown St. Louis. For some reason I just couldn't spend my wedding night back in our apartment. The next morning we ventured to a Bed and Breakfast in Southern Illinois for a few day getaway.

We weren't sure were to go for our real honeymoon. We wanted a beachy and warm location. We were thinking about Hawaii, but a travel agent recommended Punta Cana because the flight time was much shorter and it would be cheaper overall. At that time I had heard of Punta Cana, but our families had not. Now it seems like everyone is going there. After much research we spent our real honeymoon at the Gran Bahia Principe resort in Punta Cana in the adult's only section. There were not many people from the states there. It was mostly Europeans and French Canadians who dubbed it Punta Canada. In fact, we spent the first few days without having interaction with anyone that spoke English! The staff didn't really speak English. We ordered our food and drinks in Spanish. At the fancier restaurants on the resort they would ask "English, Spanish or French?" based on your response the waiter would hand you a menu, but to order you would point to your choice because they didn't know what you were saying. One of our excursions the guide spoke fluent English. The other excursion we were told the guide would speak in English and Spanish, but he did not. There were seven of us who spoke English and about 50 who spoke Spanish. The guide only really said a few English things like "this is my city Higuey. The pope came here; those are sugar cane fields you'll see lots of those; hurry don't be late." My husband and I understood more with our limited Spanish.We actually liked that we had to speak Spanish. It forced us to rely on what we learned in high school, but also we were in a hispanic country. Sometimes I get so frustrated when people expect to be catered to. It definitely makes your life easier if people can speak your language, but it seems egotistical to expect it in a foreign country.

However, at the airport and getting to the resort our limited Spanish was not enough plus this was our first trip flying. We weren't 100% prepared when we got off the plane and collected our checked bags. We poured into a very noisy and packed foyer. I had prepaid for a shuttle to the resort and I guess just expected to find it, but there were WAY to many. A nice gentleman must of saw the fear in our eyes because he assisted us with his broken English and our broken Spanish. He looked at our itinerary and got us on the right shuttle. The drive to the airport was a little scary--the driver was going very fast, motorcycles were lane splitting and stop signs seemed optional at times. We finally arrived at the resort, but the driver wouldn't let us off the shuttle. We knew that the airport shuttle wasn't allowed to the adults only side of the resort so we were supposed to get off at the main section and take a resort shuttle to our section, but the driver kept saying no. He requested our itinerary and said no. There was another couple that were in the same situation, but thankfully she was fluent in Spanish. She followed him outside the bus and there were lots of loud voices. She returned with our itinerary and told her husband and us to get off the bus. We grabbed our luggage and ran before the driver could change his mind. The other couple caught up and we talked. She was laughing and said she didn't know why he wanted our itinerary because he couldn't read English. I'm not sure what we would have done without her because the driver was very persistent!

For our departure we had a shuttle set up to take us to the airport, but we got dropped off on the wrong side of the airport because my husband wasn't thinking clearly--the driver asked "American?" and my husband confusingly responded "yes." He didn't understand why they would ask that, but we quickly figured out they meant American airlines not are you American. We looked on every monitor and nothing said Delta. The lines were too long to wait in just to be told we were in the wrong place. I asked a few random workers  if they spoke English and the response was no so with my broken English I'd ask about Delta. They'd respond in Spanish and point. We'd head where they pointed, but kept ending up at the American Airlines security check in with our checked bags which is a no go. This happened a few times. I told my husband you have 5 minutes or I'm seriously going to have  break down because we are going to miss our flight, be stuck in a foreign country with no place to go! I began praying and immediately my husband saw a bus dropping people off at a different location. We walked on the street to the drop off and sighed a huge relief when we found the delta monitors and counters.From there it was smooth sailing!

Overall, we had a wonderful experience and at the end of the week my husband asked if I could just call it sick to work so we could stay longer. We walked up and down the beach for miles, spent lazy days soaking up the sun, went on a cultural tour and a few other excursions. This is one of my favorite pictures from Punta Cana. There's numerous pretty beaches, but we spent the day at this "private" one on an excursion during our honeymoon.

St. Louis

My husband and I went to college about 30 minutes outside of St. Louis. It's where we met, fell in love, got married and had our first apartment together. Some of our favorite things to do were eating a yummy Italian dinner on "the Hill", wondering through forest park and the Zoo, catching a show at the Fabulous Fox Theatre, eating a cool dessert at Ted Drewes on a hot summer day and of course watching our beloved St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Over three years later my husband and I agree that once we see the arch and the downtown skyline we finally feel like we are home again even though we've never lived in the city. We've been a lot of places, but St. Louis will always have a special place in our hearts! 

St. Louis Arch- Jefferson National Memorial

 Busch Stadium

Baseball Heaven

Baby Raja being picked on by the older sibling - June 2013

Momma and Baby Raja...look how little and cute she is 

See it is always greener on the other side - StL Zoo June 2013