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

Hair Accessory Tower

Sorting through all my head bands and wraps was always annoying. I found myself wearing the same ones over and over rather than digging through the mess. I saw a post at Lyssa-Beth and was inspired to make my own organizer. I took a large plastic jug from the dollar store and wrapped it in contact paper. To hold smaller accessories like barrettes, I added a small gladware bowl that fit in the top. It can also be removed to access the inside of the jar where I store various head wraps. I also fixed a small peice of dowel rod in the center of the small gladware bowl with a washer glued to the rod to hold a couple of rings. This tower looks nice and keeps my hair accessories easily accessible.

What you'll need:
  • Large plastic jar (an oatmeal container would also work)
  • Small bowl to fit in top of jar
  • Contact paper to decorate jar
  • Dowel rod
  • Washer to fit over dowel rod
  • Hot Glue to affix the dowel rod to the bowl
Hair accessory organizer

Magnetic Makeup Board

I hated sorting through makeup to find the perfect shade and this project elimates that problem. I was inspired by a board at: Sew Many Ways as well as all the random posts on Pinterest. However, I like my creation because it is concealed inside the medicine cabinet in our bathroom keeping the clutter out of sight.

What you'll need:
  • Sheet metal or a cookie sheet
  • Small magnets
  • Tape or glue to affix the metal to the cabinet or wall
  • Hot glue to attach the magnets to the makeup
Magnetic Makeup organizer

Custom Dry Erase Board

This is a simple and cute dry erase board. I was inspired by: Living in the Testosterone Zone. I like the "I love you because..." but you could realistically use any phrase or leave it blank. I like to leave daily messages for my husband, but you could put this in a child's room as well. You place the completed paper in the frame and write on the glass with a dry erase marker.
 What you'll need:
  • Picture Frame - I used an 8 x 10 frame from the dollar store
  • Decorative Paper for the background or matte
  • Lettering - I used my cricut to cut the letters on standard card stock 

Custom I Love You Because Marker Board