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Oh my holy heaven, Kauai is magical. It was my favorite island of the three we visited on this trip. The minute we got off the plane I thought to myself, “oh yes, I’m going to love it here.” It’s very relaxed, quiet, and full of wild chickens. Here are my bullet-pointed thoughts:

  • We only had 2 days here. Not enough time! I’d love to come back and spend a week.
  • Our hotel, the Grand Hyatt Kauai, was so lovely. Beautiful, clean, and aesthetically comforting – if that makes any sense. It took a nanosecond to forget our bad Big Island experience!
  • We had fruity drinks at the pool bar when we arrived, and then headed up to Waimea Canyon. Waimea Canyon is kind of like the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The drive up is lengthy with lots of twists and turns – it was a little nauseating, but the end result was worth it!
  • The next day, we took a DOORS OFF helicopter ride! It was so cool. Well, it was 90% cool and 10% scary… because, again, DOORS OFF. I bought a little harness for my cell phone that I wore around my neck because I wasn’t gonna be that person who drops her cell phone out of the helicopter.
  • The entire Jack Harter Helicopters experience was great – everyone was friendly and I felt safe the entire time. They physically seat belted you in, so you knew you were secure. Our pilot, Ian, was very chill and knowledgeable – and he got a kick out of the fact that we are from Oshkosh, as he’s been to EAA!
  • The helicopter ride lasted about an hour – it was chilly and windy – but you guys, it was Jurassic Park come to life. They even played the theme song over the headsets! I was giddy! A large portion of Kauai is inaccessible by car – so a helicopter truly is the best way to see it all. Though next time I want to see the Na Pali coast via boat!
  • Denny did not participate, but he met us once we landed and snuck into our photo! Uncool, Denny! It’s OK, I think he was just thrilled that his girls were back on solid ground.
  • After our adrenaline rushes subsided, we hopped back into the car and took a little road trip up to Princeville, Hanalei, and Kapaa. Everything was so dreamy and beautiful and colorful.
  • My mom and I stopped for a shave ice at Ono Ono in Kapaa – and of course, I made sure that mine looked like a rainbow. Strawberry, pineapple, and blue raz for the win! Shave ice is so good and refreshing.
  • Hanalei was hippie central and although I couldn’t be less of a hippie if I tried, I loved the area.
  • Are you tired of my raving about Kauai yet?! Too bad!
  • We returned to the Poipu Beach area and went shopping — because it wouldn’t be a vacation without a little shopping.
  • The next day, we had to leave. I was so sad. Happy that Maui was next, but I was really wishing for more time on Kauai. You know how you have some experiences that you know you’ll remember with a smile on your face for the rest of your life? Well, this 48 hours on Kauai, doing crazy things like a doors-off helicopter ride and simple things like eating a rainbow shave ice with my momma, will be one of those memories.

Even the airport is tiny and precious.
Grand Hyatt Kauai – isn’t she beautiful?
Swoon.
Relaxed and loving our leis.
A few tropical drinks and all is right in the world.
Waimea Canyon! Photos don’t really do it justice.
JB’s photo-taking skillz are improving!
Chickens everywhere.
Adventure awaits!
Na Pali Coast. So beautiful!
Sorry that some of these photos are a little off kilter. It’s more difficult than you’d think to take iPhone pics while you’re up in the air!
Welcome to Jurassic Park. That’s Manawaiopuna Falls on the right – which is featured in one of the opening scenes of the movie.
We did it! I thought it was really fun and I’d do it again – it’s like being on the world’s coolest roller coaster.
Puff the Magic Dragon-land.
Oh look, more shave ice!
Isn’t it pretty?
Back at the hotel – with more gorgeous views!
Hey, Beannie.
Vacation eating is the best. Chocolate chip waffles! Pineapple! More waffles!
Goodbye for now, Kauai. You were spectacular!

I’m finally starting to work my way through my Hawaii photos (sorry for the delay, Denny). We were away from the cold, snowy Midwest for a wonderful 11 days. Our trip, overall, was amazing. We had mostly good weather, delicious food, and everyone stayed healthy — what more can you ask for?

We spent a few days on the Big Island, a few days on Kauai, and about a week on Maui. I’m breaking the blog posts up by island because it would be too overwhelming to do it any other way. We arrived on the Big Island on Valentine’s Day and our time on the island was, quite honestly, very disappointing. Here are my bullet-pointed opinions:

  • The entire reason for visiting this island was to see Volcanoes National Park. We drove all the way there (2.5 hours) only to be rained, fogged, and vogged (volcanic fog) out. We literally could not see anything in the park. SO DISAPPOINTING! After spending about 10 minutes at the Visitors’ Center, we started the drive back to the Kona side of the island.
  • There was a storm brewing over the entire island chain and we dealt with a lot of rain.
  • But with rain comes rainbows! I saw the best rainbow of my life on our second morning. I hopped off the hotel tram and ran around trying to find the best place for photos. It was the only rainbow we’d see during our entire trip to the rainbow state.
  • Oh, and allow me to back up a moment. Two days before we left for our trip, I got an email from the Waikoloa Marriott saying that they overbooked the hotel and we were shit out of luck. Even though I booked us 9 months in advance. They rebooked us at the neighboring Hilton and picked up the tab for the entire stay, so all was not lost. But let me just say: the Hilton Waikoloa Village is a DUMP. It was so frustrating and infuriating to be booked at such a sub-par hotel — it’s under construction, dirty, tired, and so massive that walking around the property could take hours. I thought maybe I was being a spoiled and overly dramatic traveler, but no — Trip Advisor is full of hilarious reviews ripping the place to shreds.
  • The food on the Big Island was also a disappointment. Basically, the island is trash and I hope I never have to return. How’s THAT for being overly dramatic? ;)
  • We happily departed for Kauai and never looked back.

O’Hare’s beautiful neon tunnel.
Hey, Denny and Jeanne. Not many people around at 4:00am.
SFO. I spent my Valentine’s Day in airports!
After traveling for nearly 12 hours, we arrived at the Kona airport and delighted in the warm weather.
The Hilton looks nice, but trust me, no.
A beach that was not for swimming. Look at all of that black volcanic rock.
RAINBOW!!
The best part of my Big Island experience.
Look how excited I was to see Volcanos NP!
But then this was all we could see. The entrance sign. SO SAD!
So we tried to make lemonade out of lemons — and visited the Mauna Loa factory! It was pretty fun and I love a good tourist trap every now and then. :)
Last night on the Big Island. Peace ouuuuuut.
We spotted Oahu on our way to Kauai.  My photos + thoughts on Kauai will be posted sometime this week. But spoiler alert: it was a magical, stunning, beautiful wonderland.

February flew by. Why? Because I spent 11 days of it in Hawaii! My Hawaii post + photos will be a little delayed because the end of the month snuck up on me… and I’m tired today. But it was a damn good month. Here are my non-vacation photos from this month. Happy March, everyone!

The month of hearts and love. // Mom & I participated in a trivia night to benefit our local school district… it was fun (but we love trivia!)
The collection is getting out of control but I LOVE IT SO MUCH. It literally makes me happy to look at all those colorful mugs. Luckily, I really hate the design of the new Starbucks mug collection… so no more mugs (for now!).
Sadie! The ceiling of a townie bar. And my Aloha mat, which taunts me now that I’m back from paradise.
More Sadie. The look I rocked when I had an inflamed cornea (super fun, you guys).
I have reached the age where coffee + going on a drive = the perfect Sunday activity.
We went to Madison and had a lot of fun. My sweetie was happy to stop so I could take my photo with the PINK ELEPHANT! I mean, we’re twinsies!
Everything is so pretty. Even the milk bottles.
UW Alumni park is beautiful — can’t wait to see it in the summer! And we stopped at the Old Fashioned… for Old Fashioneds and dinner.
The day before we left for vacation was Fat Tuesday — I brought treats to the office. And got some last-minute snuggles with Gracie. PS: I love Denny and his magnifying glass.
The best part about any vacation is coming home — and returning to the ones you love.

The end of the month brought the celebration event for our UWay campaign.  And the release of Coco, the best and most beautiful Disney Pixar movie ever! (Thanks to Denny for buying it for me – what a gem!)

Aside from my awesome trip to Disney World at the beginning of the month, January has been pretty lackluster. It feels like it should be January 74th, not 31st… does anyone else feel this way?!

When I got back from Florida (my parents extended onto Boca Grande), I was faced with ALL THREE DOGS picking up a stomach bug at the kennel. Do you know how fun it is to take care of ALL THREE DOGS when they are vomiting and poo’ing? Multiple visits to the vet, many ruined beach towels, and countless hours of lost sleep later… they are all back to normal. #BLESS

The rest of the month has been delightfully uneventful. So much so that all I really have to show for it are a lot of Sadie photos! February will bring more excitement – a family vacation to HAWAII! Can’t wait.

We celebrated Paul’s birthday at our last UWay meeting. And the porgs are the best part of the new Star Wars movie!
I loved my jawbreaker nails. I always like to do fun things while I’m on vacation, because certain looks just don’t work in my conservative profession. For example, I’m going to rose gold my hair in Hawaii! Don’t worry ma and pa, it only lasts 2 washes :)
Gracie was the first pup to get THE SICKNESS.
I love our new local newspaper. And Christmas is out in my house, Valentine’s Day is in.
Adventures in Dating continues – he’s a good egg. Sadie continues to cling. And my non-fiction collection continues to grow.
Fog is awesome.
Gracie’s feeling better and Sadie was not feelin’ my snuggles. And delicious breakfast with Auntie Ra!
Vote on April 3rd! And, as I told you, the parade of Sadie photos continues.
The entire internet made those cookies — and the entire internet knows what’s up. They. Are. Amazing. Chocolate chunk shortbread cookies. Ahhhh yes. Additionally, I had to get Sadie new copper-colored dishes at Target cause she’s faaaaaancy. PS: wouldn’t it be cool if rainbow hair could be a thing?
MORE SADIE! See, I told you I didn’t do anything exciting this month. Oh, but I did go the reveal event for OSK’s new headquarters — phenomenal.

I’ll be back next month with more exciting things… like beaches and palm trees!

This was my 10th visit to Disney World. Words will never adequately express how much it means to me and how much it pulls at my heartstrings. My parents and I visited together for just a few days, then I flew home and they continued on to Boca Grande to visit friends. I don’t think my Dad loved it — as his hips and knees were hurting (and we all know that Disney involves a lot of walking) — and he and my mom both developed colds (damn snot-nosed kids!). But I had a wonderful time and I can’t wait to go back. WHEN CAN I GO BACK?!

Here are some observations:

  • January is an ideal time to visit, if you don’t mind cooler temps. The 40s and 50s felt nearly tropical to us, so we didn’t mind! HOWEVER, we didn’t realize that the Disney Marathon would be going on — so that brought more people and activity to the parks.
  • We stayed at the Contemporary, which is now my favorite Disney resort. It’s within walking distance to my beloved Magic Kingdom, it’s on the monorail, the rooms were recently revamped, and it’s just a cool, retro building. LOVE IT. I’ve also stayed at the Grand Floridian (nice, but a little too fancy pants), the Polynesian (lovely, but a little too dark… literally.. everything is brown), the Boardwalk (beautiful! and within walking distance to EPCOT), the Yacht Club (eh, it’s alright), and the Caribbean Beach (blehhhh).
  • We didn’t go on many rides because a) we didn’t have much time to work with, b) the wait times for many of them were 100+ minutes, and c) the FastPass system is bonkers and you almost have to plan out every minute of your day.  I understand why they started the system, but man, it takes all the spontaneity out of your experience.
  • The Magic Kingdom is still my favorite. Forever and always. And I love how they’ve expanded Fantasyland!
  • Speaking of the Magic Kingdom, we had breakfast at Be Our Guest and it was such a disappointment. When I was last at Disney (with Andrea in 2014), I ate dinner at Be Our Guest and it was such a wonderful experience — music, Belle & the Beast, good food, the “Grey Stuff”, table service, etc. Breakfast was none of that. Such a bummer!!
  • Hollywood Studios is a shell of its former self; it’s sad. Hopefully once the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge opens up, it’ll bring more life into that park.
  • EPCOT was okay. The rides I wanted to go on had long wait times; and unless you want to eat and drink the day away, there isn’t much to do in the World Showcase. However, I loved seeing Coco incorporated into the Mexico pavilion! That movie was so beautiful and touching.
  • I bought 5 t-shirts from an online shop called It’s a Magical Adventure; so you will see the variety in the pics below! It was kind of a joke — how many times will Annie change her shirt in one day, just for the photos?!
  • Retail was a success – bought a fun pair of Minnie shoes (to wear on my next Disney adventure), a few cute magnets, MANY coffee cups (hello, I’m addicted, I need a 12 step program), Star Wars Mickey ears, and some ears for Sadie (my Dad insisted… as I think he’s finally realizing that my dog may be the closest thing to a granddaughter that he’ll ever get).
  • Eating at Disney is becoming a chore. For table service, you need to book reservations weeks (if not months) in advance. Good luck if you just walk up and want a table for 3. Again, it takes all the fun out of it and involves too much planning. And I love to plan! Quick service is OK, but it’s quick service — you don’t necessarily want to eat Mickey pretzels or “fast food” for every meal. But Disney’s not gonna change because I don’t like their ways — so on my next trip, I will have to plan more and make reservations!
  • But… PS: Dole Whip is still the best food ever and I love it more than words can say.
  • Even though you’re eating junk food for days on end, the walking makes up for it. I walked 10 miles one day! TEN. MILES. Yeah!
  • While my parents may not have loved their Disney experience this time around, I loved being there with them. I’m keenly aware that they are getting older — and who knows what Disney trip may be the last. They’re the reason I love the parks so much; I’m grateful that they took me to Disney World as a kid and gave me that experience… because I know it’s expensive, tiring, and not always magical… and that parents endure all of that in order to give their kids happy, safe, and fun memories. I’ll be forever grateful.

This was on the walkway between the Contemporary and the Magic Kingdom.

The view from our hotel door – isn’t the open concept cool? And the monorail runs right through the hotel.

One of my many Magic Kingdom-themed t-shirts!

Looking toward Tomorrowland.

The castle covered in dreamlights.

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

I relate to this Dumbo.

Making an early morning breakfast reservation is neat because it gets you into the park before everyone else :)

I am Mickey balloon-obsessed.

So I randomly ran into my friend Kelly. RANDOMLY. I was walking up to the Walt + Mickey statue to take photos and she grabbed me and screamed “HEY GIRL!” I nearly had a heart attack! But how cool, right?! What are the chances?!

Be Our Guest

My Dad bought me one of these when I was a little girl. A pink one. I still have it.

Momma was not feelin’ it. Look at that smirk!

Denny + me. I remember sitting with him when I was 5 years old, eating M&Ms in Tomorrowland, and waiting for my mom to get off of Space Mountain. Always happy Magic Kingdom memories.

Another shirt! And look at that Dole Whip. Precious, precious Dole Whip!

Big Thunder Mountain

I also found this shirt and had to have it! It’s a kids shirt, but I bought an XL and it works! I mean, come on, it’s perfect for me. My body was composed 90% of Mickey-shaped foods at this point.

Cheshire Cat Tail – which is a warm chocolate chip-stuffed croissant drizzled in icing. Hot daaaamn.

Dole Whip is a must in Adventureland.

Look at all those Mickey-shaped treats!

Had to get a Mickey pretzel, obviously.

Aren’t my Star Wars ears awesome?

The Christmas decorations were still up! Added bonus!!

This might be my favorite Disney photo that I’ve ever taken. It’s not technically perfect, but oh, the nostalgia of it. Childhood… safety, happy memories, a simple life — we all chase what we can’t have back; but when you’re at the Magic Kingdom, it really is possible to feel it in split-seconds.

We had a great dinner at the Boathouse at Disney Springs. We didn’t have a reservation (oops) and were told that the wait would be 4 hours. But we stalked their bar and waited for three seats to open up. We enjoyed cocktails, good seafood and burgers, rested our feet after a long day, and mentally regrouped (read: ate something, became less hangry and therefore nicer to each other). It really was perfection in that moment.

EPCOT is next!

Look at these cutie pies!

The Germany Pavilion

The Mexico Pavilion; I bought one… I had to! Look at how beautiful they are!

My mom and I hopped over to Hollywood Studios. We didn’t stay long because, well, there isn’t much to see there anymore!

I’m still endlessly happy that they got rid of the big hat. Hollywood Blvd looks so much better now!

Mickey neon at the Contemporary.

Of course I had to chase down all of these mugs. OF COURSE!

’til next time, Disney World. I’ll love you forever.

PS: Here’s Sadie in her ears. They are infant-sized and still too big!