A Fond Farewell to 2012

Today is New Year’s Eve, which means that in less than 24 hours, we’ll be bidding a fond (or not so fond, depending on your experiences) farewell to 2012. For me, it was a pretty good year. I lost some weight, had some great vacations in California, Moab UT, and Hawaii, and enjoyed showing my parents around the Northwest when they visited over the summer. I ran my first 5K and got my first tattoo. My biggest regret is a not-so-fabulous haircut I got this fall, but all in all, I have no harsh things to say about 2012.
I’ve always been the sort of person who loves the beginning of the new year, because I love a chance at a fresh start. I like the opportunity to make new goals for myself and give myself something to work toward. So as always, I’m making some resolutions for the new year:
1. Win the lottery. I made a valiant effort in 2012, but alas, the prize aluded me. Let’s hope 2013 yields better results.
2. Continue to exercise and eat healthy and maintain the weight loss I’ve achieved. I’m at my goal weight and I feel amazing. I want to continue on this path of healthy living and not lapse back into my old ways.
3. Become a certified Zumba instructor. Zumba has changed my body, my soul, and my life. I was beyond fed up with normal gym workouts and distressed that I wasn’t seeing results. Plus, I dreaded my time at the gym and was miserable throughout the workout. Zumba, by contrast, is addicting. I have so much fun and have met the most incredible people at class. I want to pay it forward and share the experience with others.
4. Stress less, smile more. Too often I find myself in a foul mood over circumstances that are simply beyond my control. Whether it’s a business decision at work that customers are unhappy about, traffic on the freeway, or unplanned inconveniences like car trouble, I am hoping to learn to put a smile on my face and not let it wreck my mood or my day. Things are going to happen that I can’t alter, and I just have to accept the situation with grace.
5. Get organized. I like things neat and orderly, but I also get lazy and my socks end up tossed haphazardly in a drawer, I have clutter in closets that could be thrown away or donated. I’m going to tackle the mess, get everything neat, and keep it that way.
Well, that should be enough resolutions to keep me busy in the next twelve months. What are your new year’s resolutions?

Christmas Fudge

Christmas is less than a week away. Yesterday my coworkers and I had a holiday party at work to exchange gifts and celebrate with one another, so to add to the festivities I made Christmas fudge.
This recipe is a tradition in my family. Growing up, my siblings and I would watch as my dad prepared the fudge every Christmastime (we helped by licking the bowls…I’m sure he was glad to have such good taste testers). Now I live in a different state than my family so unfortunately I don’t get to spend the holidays with them, but I decided to keep the tradition alive and make the Christmas fudge for my work family. This is one of my very favorite holiday treats.
For this recipe, you’ll need:
3 cups sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 small can (5 ounces) evaporated milk (about 2/3 cup) NOTE: do NOT use sweetened condensed milk
12 ounces Baker’s Semi Sweet chocolate, chopped (you can also use 12 ounces of milk  chocolate chocolate chips)
1 jar Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme (I use Kraft)
1 tsp. vanilla
*You can also add 1 cup chopped walnuts if you want…I didn’t
(You can view the original recipe here.)

Line a 9-inch pan with foil, with ends of foil extending over the sides. (You don’t necessarily have to do this, I just do it so I can lift the fudge out of the pan and onto a cutting board for slicing, but you can definitely cut it up still in the pan).
Bring sugar, butter, and evaporated milk to a full rolling boil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly. Cook 4 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.

Add chocolate and marshmallow creme; stir until melted. Add vanilla (and walnuts if you choose), mix well.
Pour into prepared pan; spread to cover bottom of pan. Cool completely (I stuck it in the fridge overnight and cut it into squares the next morning).

Once the fudge is fully cooled, cut into squares and serve. A service of this treat is 2 squares.



Paul and I just returned from a trip to Maui! We decided to escape the gloomy, rainy Northwest winter weather for a week, and headed off to Hawaii for some sunshine and fun.
We flew first-class on Alaska Airlines, which is seriously the only way to fly. The morning we flew out, we enjoyed breakfast in Alaska’s Executive Boardroom, where we were treated to free drinks and food (among other things, they had a pancake machine that produced organic, 97% fat free pancakes…only 160 calories for 2!). Once we boarded our flight, we were given another round of drinks, followed by a delicious breakfast once we were airborne. The first class seating was roomy and comfortable, and by the time we landed on Maui I definitely felt like I was on vacation.
We checked into our condo (we are owners through Worldmark), which was located in the town of Kihei. Once we checked in, we drove north for dinner and some shopping in Lahaina, which has a great downtown atmosphere as well as a giant banyan tree that covers a full acre.
Sunday morning, we got up early to catch a boat and do some whale watching with the Pacific Whale Foundation. PWF is a nonprofit organization that was founded in 1980 to save whales from extinction. I definitely recommend them for whale watching tours because they give you tons of great information about the whales, as well as being great at finding them!

On Monday we loaded up for a different type of adventure…we drove up to the summit of Haleakala to watch the sunrise. It was cold up there, not what you’d think when you think of Hawaii…but the view was breathtaking. If you’re going to head up for sunrise, I recommend taking a flashlight (being able to see where you’re going is always fun), wearing warm clothes (think layers…you’ll definitely need a jacket!), and a nice big thermos of hot coffee. Being a little cold is totally worth it for the view you’ll get at 10,000 feet!

Paul and I at sunrise…do we look cold?
On Tuesday, we went to Makena Landing for an early-morning kayak and snorkeling tour. While we waited on the beach (we arrived a little early), we saw some dolphins playing and jumping, as well as a sea turtle. I was already excited at the marine life we were seeing. Then we got to head out in kayaks, which Paul and I love doing. We paddled out a ways, then we put on our snorkel gear and dove off the boats to do a little swimming and snorkeling. We got to see more turtles, lots of brightly colored fish, and even an octopus! Paul liked snorkeling so much that he rented gear for the rest of the week and spent some time nearly every day out snorkeling, seeing turtles and fish.
Wednesday, we embarked on the epic drive on the Road to Hana. The drive is just as beautiful as those who have done it before us described, and I would say that it is best done in a convertible (we had a convertible Mustang). We saw some fantastic waterfalls and, once we made it into Hana, a great black sand beach. My tip to anyone doing the drive to Hana is to get yourself a room in Hana for the night, rather than trying to drive there and back in a day. If you don’t break up the drive, I think you’ll miss some great sights and feel a little too stressed out. Paul and I opted to stay at the Travaasa Resort. To say that this place was the lap of luxury is understating it big time. The staff treats you like you’re Hawaiian royalty, the grounds are beautiful, and the amenities are never-ending. I could definitely get used to resort living (pocketbook allowing, of course). We had planned on getting up early Thursday morning and heading out to catch sunrise before making our way to the Seven Sacred Pools, but we woke up to driving rain. So we changed our plans, slept in, then sat out on our covered patio with coffee and the loaf of fresh banana bread that the resort had provided us. Once the rain eased up, we checked out and resumed our drive, stopping here and there to look at some beautiful waterfalls.

We stopped for a hike when we reached the Seven Sacred Pools, also known as the O’heo Gulch Pools. Spoiler alert, there are not seven pools and they are not sacred. The Gulch was renamed in this fashion to attract tourists. That said, the waterfalls cascading into pools are breathtakingly beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
When you read about the Road to Hana, you’ll find story upon story about how you can’t continue the whole way around the island, how it’s treacherous and you’ll get stuck, how you’ll have to sign something in your rental car agreement saying you aren’t covered if you go that way, blah blah blah. Truth is, the road is not all that bumpy (if you’ve ever driven on gravel, you can handle this), and even the gravel portions are maintained. There was nothing in our rental car contract saying we couldn’t drive on that road, and we had no problem getting the Mustang around the island that way. People who turn around and go back the way they came are missing out, because contrary to the rumors the backside of the island is very scenic and lovely.

Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be scared of.
Friday was our last full day in Maui, so we spent the morning on the beach (me alternating between sunbathing and swimming, Paul snorkeling), before heading into town for one last lunch at one of our favorite places to eat, 808 Deli in Kihei. Go there for the best sandwich you’ve ever had in your life (my personal favorite was the Porkie, which was pulled pork with mango salsa and pepperjack cheese). Then we went back to our condo to get cleaned up and ready for our sunset cruise, which we charted through Alii Nui Maui (we booked it at Maui Dive Shop when Paul rented snorkels). There weren’t any clouds so the sunset itself wasn’t the most spectacular one we’d seen, but the atmosphere on the catamaran was relaxing and romantic. We had drinks and a nice dinner, and one guy named Tom took control of the microphone at one point to propose to his girlfriend Valerie. He’d even hired a photographer and snuck him on the boat. This particular proposal is not my style at all, as I would not want that many strangers around me congratulating me, but hey, good for Tom and Valerie. I was just happy to drink too many Mai Tais and have some delicious food and white chocolate macadamia nut cookies for dessert!
We had a fantastic vacation and we are already talking about going back to Hawaii. There was so much to see and do that we couldn’t squeeze everything into a week!

Refreshingly Simple

A couple of weeks ago, a longtime friend of mine posted a picture of her new ring on Facebook, along with the post “I said yes!” to announce her engagement. I was psyched for her, especially since things have been a little rough for her this year, and was glad to see her finding happiness. I figured what would happen next would be the typical onslaught of posts about dresses, caterers, venues, color schemes, etc. This is what I usually see on Facebook after an engagement is announced.
What I did NOT expect was what happened: she and her now-husband went to the courthouse last weekend and tied the knot. She wore a white sweatshirt that said Bride on the back, they filled out their paperwork, and they had cute little cupcakes on the front steps of the courthouse. When I heard about the whole thing, I expected myself to think along the lines of, Wow, I would never do it that way. Instead, I was surprised to discover that I found her simple approach at her nuptials refreshing.
(Please note, to those of you that had elaborate weddings or even middle-of-the-road weddings, I am not criticizing you or saying you are wrong, so relax.)
Admittedly, there is a part of me that loves the idea of a romantic wedding, with a dress and a cake and a reception. My bank account, however, finds this idea far more hideous than romantic. I’ve watched wedding shows on TV and some of those brides drop more cash on a dress than I pay for an entire year of rent on my house. I could never justify dropping thousands of dollars on an outfit, especially one I will wear once. I admire my friend for bucking tradition, keeping her ceremony simple, and saving herself a lot of money. She clearly got married for the MARRIAGE, not the wedding, and I admire that. In an open note, she wrote: We decided to get married, and YES! I know to all you judgemental people out there who think going to a court and signing a piece of paper isn’t getting married…but it was just what we needed. I’m sure she’s right, that there are people out there who think her choice was crazy. But I think it’s far crazier to blow a year’s worth of rent money on a party that lasts for a few hours. And I’m really proud of her for following her heart and getting married in the way that works for her, not the way that society says she should.
Congrats, Ben and Jamie. I wish you all the best!