Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Where are all the Trees??

That's what Chad said when we landed in Denver this past Friday! It was his first visit to Colorado, and apparently it didn't immediately meet his expectations!

My two favorite things about Colorado:

1) Some of my favorite people live there.

2) The abundance of micro-brews.

We had been planning on visiting Colorado for quite some time, it was "our turn" as Graham liked to say. Finally, when getting a job was imminent, I planned a trip! And I am SOOOOO glad that I did! We had a blast - a weekend full of - well - just, good. Really good.

We hung out all weekend with Graham and Kristy's family. We went to the zoo, played a bunch of games (I have a new favorite!! Scattergories!) and ate tons of Kristy's delicious cooking! Their two kids are total sweethearts! and I have some Emma-originals on my fridge!

Graham introduced us to the world of Colorado micro-brews. Started off with a six pack of Tommyknocker Maple Nut Brown Ale - delicious - almost Newcastle like with a back end of sweet maple syrup! Then, for our night out - which Kristy made me totally beautiful for - we went out to Flat Iron, which is a cool upscale Applebee's like restaurant, we had a few others including Ellie's Brown Ale - a slightly hoppy red. Then on the way home we picked up yet some more, this time Breckenridge Vanilla Porter and Durango Amber Ale - both were fantastic.

The next day, Chad and I said goodbye and left the Facer home (unfortunately the time had to come...). On our way out of Colorado Springs we stopped by the Garden of the Gods, a very cool, city park, just off the freeway and worth the hour long tour. The park is special because it is filled with figures of sandstone and conglomerant, that are standing in places where they seem both out of place or impossible. They are remnants of the original Rockies. But beware, the map you get from the gift store makes the attractions look EPIC! Well... they are not. They are not nearly as big or exciting as you expect, but still very cool in their own right. As we were leaving we stumbled upon Trinity Brewing - a place Graham had mentioned and holy goodness, I'm glad he did - I have a new favorite overall brewery. 

Their beers were all quite complex and flavorful, and though unique, not TOO boastful or weird. What I mean is, though there were subtle "different" flavors like cardamon and coffee - there were none that were UBER hoppy or so off in one direction that the general masses couldn't enjoy them. Their Flo IPA was delicious, a bright, hoppy flavor but not overly bitter, and their Awaken Stout was an amazing, non-bacon tasting, coffee noted stout... and I usually totally dislike IPAs and Stouts....

After our small lunch at Trinity we went to our hotel near Denver, where we were able to coordinate a visit with my sister Lisa!! Lisa and her new AMAZING lady Sharron took Chad and I to Wynkoop - and yes, its another brewery! Their beers were good - but not phenomenal to my pallet. There was a bit too much hop in the beers I tried, even in the Amber and Red - but Chad really liked it, and I would go again if given the chance. But the company was what I was there for!

So, if you ever have a hankering for good company and beer, I suggest taking a trip up to Colorado! Seriously, this was one of the best overall weekends I've had in quite sometime! Thanks everyone!!!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A Sunny, Calm, Kitsap Weekend

This has been a most wonderful weekend. It was finally sunny, after 8 solid days of rain - and that made me and Chad want to get out and DO STUFF! So we did! (This is just gonna be a blah blah blah of what we did all weekend :)

First - Congrats to my friend Ashley - She graduated her PTA Certificate Program through Olympic Community College! Chad and I were invited to her graduation ceremony and it was so cool. I'd never seen her so happy.

After the graduation, Chad and I were invited out to McCloud's - a local country bar. He'd never been there before - I'd found it while he was working in Hawaii. We had some dinner the played some pool with a good friend of mine and her husband. By the way.... I totally suck at pool. (McCloud's will be reviewed in a later entry)

They kicked our butts.....

WE FINALLY PAINTED OUR BATHROOM!! Holy goodness - It needed it sooooo bad! All the bathrooms in the house started out yellow... and not the same yellow... looks like they started out with a gallon of dark yellow paint, then kept diluting it with white... soooo horrible. Now though, it is a nice shade of light tan - looks amazing!!

We finished around 3pm, which was just in time to attend the monthly West Sound Brewers (WSB) meeting. I found the WSB through a friend of mine, who's also involved in Clear Creek, we found we had a common bond of loving delicious beer - and it just so happened that she was a home-brewer and a member of WSB. This is the second event we've attended with them. Such a great group of people - I can't WAIT till my dad gets us his home brew kit and we can start making our own - and this group will help, I've never met a more knowelable, friendly group of people.

Then after that we went to my friend's Comedy Show, right here on the Kitsap Peninsula!! I'd never even seen one here before, but the Manette Saloon in Bremerton hosted it. Keep your eye on my friend, Shawn Mairs, he was the host of the show and he was, unexpectedly, hilarious!

I went to church with Chad this morning, to Faith Fellowship. It was an interesting experience - a very uplifting, emotional, and accepting group of people. I witnessed the church's very first indoor baptism.

After that we went to the Kitsap Home and Garden Expo... which would have been awesome... if we had a home... or a garden.... It was small, and a bit repetitive (I never realized there was one, let alone FIVE, rain gutter cover companies...). Everyone was really nice though and we got a few free cookies and some info on our local dairy delivery service (yes...apparently our peninsula has a milk man).

We later got some lunch in Poulsbo at Voodiez. Overall... not my favorite new restaurant... but did get to try geoduck for the first time! It was fried like fish'n'chips - and pretty darn tasty.

Since then have been sitting around the house - finally a bit of calm. I did attempt to make an experimental cupcake - a s'mores cupcake. The idea was to make a graham cracker cupcake with marshmallow baked into it covered in chocolate frosting... can we say epic fail? The taste was RIGHT ON - tasted AMAZINGLY like a graham cracker - but texture and shape... horrible... just horrible....

Epic fail....

And that was our great weekend! Keeping busy keeps us off the streets and out of pool halls... well... usually. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Chad is Amazing... second only to Chuck Norris

This is Chad's entry - well written by me, but narrated by him - I'm forcing him to be something other than his ever humble self this evening. He has done so many amazing things these last couple months!

At the start of the year, Chad was sent to Sergeants Course... in Hawaii... oh poor guy. The purpose of sergeants course is to provide USMC sergeants the tools to better lead and train the lower ranks and fellow sergeants. This class lasted a total of seven weeks and consisted of both daily classroom style lessons (including homework!) and grueling physical training. It wasn't a cake walk, a total of 7 people were dismissed from the course - but not Chad! No, in fact Chad graduated with the second highest gpa - a 95.57%!! This earned him recognition at the graduation ceremony, a book from the Commandant's reading list, and a note in his permanent record (which can help with promotions!)!

Chad's gradation - me cheering behind the camera!
To celebrate his graduation and his achievements, my grandparents, Tom & Bea, sent Chad a Non-Commissioned Officers Sword! This is a very special accessory available to Marine NCOs, who are the only NCOs in the US Military authorized to wear a sword. Its mostly a ceremonial item, used for the flashy events such as drills, balls and ceremonies. This gift was extra special, considering Tom retired from the Marines as a Lieutenant Colonel. 

30 inches of awesome!

On top of all this wonderful-ness, while Chad was at Sgts course, on his own time - after physical training AND class - Chad worked with the martial arts instructor to earn his Green Belt. Basically, 5 belts: tan, gray, green, brown and black. Everyone starts off with the tan belt, which is usually earned in boot camp, then over ones career each job has its own earned "belt" requirement. At his current unit the minimum is green belt - but Chad has plans to go all the way... to one day challenge Chuck Norris for his title.

Just this week, as though he hasn't been though enough recently, Chad was required to attend the pistol qualification. It consists of three days of waking up early, going over the basics and more advanced firing techniques, and actually shooting a 9mm Beretta. The goal: to shoot within the black of the target at 7, 15 and 25 yards. He qualified as Marksman! which.... is a feat in and of itself for him because when Chad shoots a pistol... the target usually resembles medium range shotgun blast...

It has been a busy couple of months for Chad - especially when you consider all the extra stuff he is involved in: Search and Rescue, Church, and all the volunteer events I drag him to. But, hey, he's a Marine, they're supposed to be tough!

Monday, March 7, 2011

There's a Bluebird on my Shoulder....

Have you ever seen a bluebird?? Not a blue-JAY, but a blueBIRD?? This cute, little, vibrantly blue, robin-ish looking bird? (picture to the left: Western Bluebird) No...? Well me neither... and that's a shame. Unfortunately, they just aren't around much anymore. They've been pushed out of the Puget Sound by invasive species and human encroachment on their habitat.

But, hopefully that's all about to change with the help of the Puget Sound Bluebird Recovery Project.

These people are new to the block - the newest volunteer based, environmental, non-profit organization on the peninsula, created within just the past few months. As far as I can tell, they are in cahoots with the North American Bluebird Society, which gives them some backbone. Their mission: to entice the bluebird back to the peninsula! And once they're here, monitor and, to some extent, maintain their population (with food, nestboxes, etc). I found out about the PSBRP through a presentation given at a recent Clear Creek Task Force meeting - they don't yet have an website, but if your interested in helping out or joining, let me know and I'll get you some contact information.

The PSBRP had their first community involved work party this past weekend - and Chad and I were lucky enough to attend. The goal - to build 20 bird houses - built to bluebird specifics - to later be dispersed throughout some local, open grasslands. You may be asking... what makes a bluebird house special? Well... not much... except for the size of the hole in the front - it needs to be small enough to prevent the European Starling to enter, while big enough to deter House Sparrows (these two introduced species compete, aggressively, for living space with the bluebird).

Let me just tell you - we had a blast! We arrived to a lively group of people, who were gathered around a whole bunch of pre-cut, cedar, birdbox pieces, all talking and drinking coffee. After introductions were made, we had a brief lesson on birdbox assembly and were put to work! It took 15 people, taking turns, 2 hours to complete all 20 boxes. After all our hard work, we were graciously rewarded with some delicious hotdogs and a tour of the property we were working on (which we had to miss unfortunately).

 Our lesson.

Each box is equipped with a hinged door on the left side. This door can be used to later check on the residents or to clean them out after a use. Here I am attaching the handles.

The next step - to strategically hang the boxes around in the bluebirds natural habitat. Hopefully I can be a part of that process too! I'll keep you updated!

Friday, March 4, 2011


Manuahi means "free of charge" in Hawaiian - which is a VERY important word if you're going to Hawaii on a budget!

Sunsets are free!

Chad and I did what we wanted to while in Hawaii. We weren't overly extravagant or penny pinchers. BUT! While we were there we found that Hawaii could easily (and enjoyably) be done on a rather tight budget! There are TONSSSSS of FREE things to do or get! And I thought I'd share a few of them.

1) Free Trolley around Waikiki
2) Free souvineers
3) Free cultural lessons - including Hula lessons
4) Free dessert
5) Free entertainment

1) First of all - walking around Waikiki can be a bit of a chore... The popular "vegas type" strip is about 1.5 miles long and thats not including the beach or any side streets. This may not seem so long, until you remember you are wearing flip flops... for the 5th day in a row... and you've been walking non-stop for 5 days... Our saving grace: The Hilo Hatties "Free" Shuttle! If you are staying on the strip and aren't in a hurry this shuttle is for you!

Basically - the Hilo Hattie shuttle collects people from around Waikiki and drops them off at their store, nearly 5 miles away, then takes a different path back to the city to drop everyone off. It does a big loop and stops at each of the 10ish stops on its route every 30 minutes. They even have a schedule! Which can be found in just about any of the free magazine/coupon books alone the main drag. BUT BE WARNED!!! If you don't get off the shuttle at Harbon Street - you WILL be going to the store - and WILL BE forced to get off the shuttle until the next one shows up 30 minutes later. But that's part of the fun! and #2 on this list....

There are millions of free tide pools!
2) If you happen to get stuck at Hilo Hatties - not all is lost. First off the store is pretty cool, they have tons of free samples and for all that junk you find in downtown, its cheaper here. Secondly - you are greeted with a free shell lei! Everyone in you're party gets one and they are legit. I remember being brought back one when I was a kid and I though it was an awesome souvenir and I've done the same and brought back the young girls in my life some - and THEY liked them too!

3) Have you ever wanted to Hula? How about learn to play the ukulele? Or ever wanted to learn more about Hawaiian Coffee? Well its easy to do and free! The Royal Hawaiian offers all this stuff - and not just for hotel stayers - they are more found in there mall or "center." There are no real schedules... but you can ask the information booth they have - Chad and I generally just stumbled upon the goings on. That is how I found the hula one - which was SO FUN! Basically a lady stood up front with a mic and music and showed a whole group of us how to do it. She explained the meanings, the why, the when, the how to hold your posture, everything! I also found a hawaiian quilt making one... but that was kind of a mess....

Yup... I'm hula-ing....
4) Dessert in Waikiki is easy to come by - and JUST as easy not to pay for. The most legitimate way is to pick of one of those coupon books - they are everywhere! Hotel lobbies (the Outriggers is the best we found!) at your car rental place, just along the sidewalks (The Best of.... is awesome). Most of these coupons are buy a couple entries get a free dessert - or along those lines. And really, you're gonna eat anyways, so why not? Now if you are feeling even chintzier than that - go to the Honolulu Cookie Factory - they have ENDLESS FREE SAMPLES! and heck they just give you whole cookies for being at the right place at the right time. These stores are just about every block long the main drag - and by the way, they are delicious!
 The blow hole is free!.... it's low tide in this picture...

5) What is every vacation goers worst nightmare? Feeling bored. There is NO excuse for this in Hawaii! EVEN if you are dead broke. I am just going to list all the free awesomeness - many of which are totally applicable to the evenings/nights. The beaches - most of the beaches are free to park at and hang out on.

 We just pulled off the road, parked and found this perfect beach!

Music - most of the hotel restaurants have a really wonderful band or one man guitar act either during happy hour (3-6pm) or for dinner (6-9pm) - just walk on in and have a seat! Hiking - again parking and entering the hiking areas is generally free. Dole Pineapple Factory - entering the gardens and the store and the grounds is all free, takes about 40 minutes to explore (there is also a train and maze, but those cost money, the train is ALMOST worth the cost IF you find a coupon).

The Army Museum - pretty darn cool, small but very well put together. Whale Watching! - no, I'm not talking about on a boat - but exploring around the outter edge of the island and finding all the best places to spot them is fun! A few good places Turtle Bay Resort, the blowhole and Makapuu Lighthouse - we saw everything from breaching to spouts! Shows - these are everywhere! At sunset on the beach, in the malls, International Market everywhere. Again we never found a schedule, but just keep your eyes open you are bound to stumble across a show featuring live music and traditional dancing.

The nightly, yet ever changing Waikiki Beach Sunset Show!
So yeah! Until next time!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011


If ever given the chance - go to Hawaii.

And if you get to choose your island - O'ahu isn't a choice you'd regret.

And if you get to choose the timing - traveling in February has its appeal.

I have been going back and forth on what this entry should focus on... should it be a day by day account....? Naw.. the last one didn't go over so well. Should it be a trip adviser of all the great things to do for free on O'ahu?.... eh... its kind of a short list.... Should it just be a picture slide show....? Again.. no... cause that's what facebook is for.... So what exactly...

I'm still not sure. So... I'm probably just gonna babble a bit over the next few entries... there will be some pictures... some information (that I WISH we'd been given before going)... and who knows what else. This will be the "advice" entry.

My first piece of advice: bring a rain jacket.
My second: eat rice at every meal.
My third: if drinking is your thing - be near a restaurant between 3-6pm.
And lastly: train on the stair stepper before leaving on your trip.

1) The rain. Holy goodness. Coming from Washington, I thought I'd knew what rain was.... I though the days and days of constant rain would've prepared me for anything - I couldn't have been more wrong. Waikiki is on the southern edge of O'ahu. Its a big city, notorious for beautiful sunsets and outdoor entertainment.... but come to find out, also for random, torrential downpours!

It was always the same story - walking along the street, not a cloud overhead, then - BAM!! HUGE drops of water, POURING down! Literally if you didn't JUMP under an awning or dash into the closest building - you were soaked. This happened on three different occasions - usually only lasting a few minutes, but once for over an hour. Bring a rain coat - this isn't a seasonal or occasional occurrence, its a Hawaii thing - think about it, islands covered in RAINforests....

2) Hawaii is a melting pot of Asian cultures and traditions - most plainly seen in the food. The best hole in the wall restaurants were always Asian food - Pho, Ramen, Sushi, Korean bbq, etc. Even the famed "plate lunch" is filled with rice, a thinly sliced marinated meat and a fried egg (freaking delicious by the way). I was given the option of rice or toast at every breakfast - and I always ordered the rice. My favorite breakfast: rice, Portuguese sausage and an over medium egg, all mushed together. Eat the rice - because if rice isn't being offered you are probably eating at a pathetically commercial Apple-Chili's-Olive-Factory restaurant that you could've just stayed at home and eaten at.

The picture is of a shrimp plate from the famed Giovanni's Shrimp Truck.

3) Two words: Happy Hour. Between 3-6pm just about every restaurant in Waikiki has a happy hour - a happy hour your hometown is begging for. $1 drafts, $2 wells, $3 delicious Mai Tai's....

This is actually a Lava Flow
4) The hiking on O'ahu is amazing. There are numerous craters, beaches, waterfalls and parks to hike through - most are free and the others, totally worth the nominal fee. But don't let the paved paths fool you - they are a task. Remember - you're totally not used to the heat or humidity, your probably just wearing day shoes or worse sandals, and who REALLY wants to carry water on a paved path... Well... by hike number three let me tell you - we had on good shoes and a bottle of water! Makapuu Lighthouse is the most deceptive hike of them all. Looking at it, oooh a gentle, paved slope. What you don't see is that it goes on for what feels like ever, and it wraps around the hill, oh and its on the dry side of the island, so there is no shade and you are surrounded by cactus.... The most brutal though: Koko Head Crater. Think 10,000 flights of stairs, made of uneven rail road ties, straight up with no where to pull off to the side and rest. This was literally the hardest thing I've ever physically done - by the time we were 3/4 up, Chad was practically begging me to go down - for MY sake, not his.... luckily I was too stubborn and finished, but holy goodness, I would hardly recommend this hike to anyone... and honestly... the view is barely worth it...

 Looks easy enough!

 See! Cactus and shrubs... no shade...

 Ok, now look at the VERY top of the hill and see that TINY little thin line... yeah that's still the stairs...

To be continued!