Looking Back: Decade in Review

The 2010s. What a decade.

The first five years were painful and the lowest period of my life; the last five were exciting, yet stressful, with many important milestones checked off: I bought my first place, got promoted, and most importantly, reconnected with CT. We’ve since renovated our first home together, went on some amazing adventures, and got engaged (underwater!).

One of the most important things I’ve learned this decade is that asking for help is OK and this applies to all aspects in life: home, work, friends. I’ve had to work through this internal struggle of being burnt out but still wanting to do everything myself and then beating myself for being burnt out. In the beginning of the decade, I would have never, ever, ever, even have thought about hiring cleaners or a wedding planner, but here I am now with both because I need the help. I’ve had to learn to delegate at work to save my own sanity – this is still a work in progress but I’m getting better at it. So as flattering as it would be to be considered Superwoman, I am not and I’m OK with that now. And btw, this is in no way a humblebrag – in fact, if you are someone that can do everything, I applaud you; YOU are amazing.

2010

I started this blog! I initially wanted a place for me to document the food I was eating, making and the places I was visiting. I started trying out more restaurants this year and one of my favorites was Alinea (and it still happens to be on my top 10 list).

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Alinea

2011

There was a lot of snowboarding. I even hiked up 13,000ft to ride the bowls at Breckenridge.

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2012

I took a hockey clinic hosted by the LA Kings!

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Also experienced via ferrata for the first time

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2013

I ran my first marathon.

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I also moved down to San Diego, intending to only stay for a year or two, but ended up living there for 6.

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2014

A rough year for me, but I got through it by getting back to the basics and focusing on myself. I read and cooked a lot this year.

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2015

I finally got a chance to run the Nike Women’s Half Marathon in SF.

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And became a first time homeowner!

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2016

I reconnected with CT β™₯

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2017

CT and I ice skated on Lake Louise and snowshoed to Peyto Lake.

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We also explored Machu Picchu.

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2018

We renovated our first house together. This really tested how well we’re able to work together and communicate. There were definitely miscommunication at times and differences in opinion, but we got through it all and we’re super happy with the end result.

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kitchen before
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living room before
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master bath before
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downstairs guest bath before
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kitchen in process
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kitchen in process
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living room in process – CT’s sketch haha
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master bath in process
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downstairs guest bath in process
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kitchen after
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living room after
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master bath after
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downstairs guest bath after
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downstairs guest bath after – still in love with these floor tiles

We went on the vacation of my dreams and spent 2 weeks eating our way through Italy (and also a few days Barcelona). We listened to Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons in Vivaldi’s church in Venice, made fresh pasta in Bologna, reenacted “hi cutie” from Master of None Season 2 in Modena, witnessed a beautiful sunset in Florence, biked through Tuscany, hiked Cinque Terre, made pizza in Naples, and visited the historic sites of Rome.

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ode to Master of None season 2 – “hi cutie”
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2019

We completed our PADI certification in Maui.

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And then got engaged while diving in Seattle.

I’m excited for what lies ahead in the 2020s. And what better way to start the decade than by marrying my best friend β™₯

Certified

My first time to Maui was in 2008. With H. I don’t remember much from that trip with the exception of snorkeling at Molokini Crater. The visibility was fantastic, but the water was really rough at the surface which made snorkeling a bit challenging. I took in a good amount of water, which really dampened the experience (no pun intended).

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So when CT initially asked to go to Maui together, I wasn’t exactly jumping at the opportunity. One, because I had already been. And two, I had already been with H. I know there shouldn’t be a problem with returning to a place that you had been with an ex, but I don’t know… it just always felt weird to do so. I was able to hold him off for about a year and a half by going to other places like Canada, Peru, and Italy. But it got to a point where I couldn’t ignore his request any longer. And besides, it would have been unfair to keep doing so.

To differentiate from the past, one of the things I thought we could do together on this trip was get PADI certified. This has been on my bucket list and it just made sense to check this off in a beautiful location with exotic marine life such as Maui. Luckily, CT was interested too!

I was considering two dive shops: ProDiver Maui and Maui Dive Shop. I ended going with ProDiver because it was cheaper and just had great reviews across all platforms (yelp, google, tripadvisor). ProDiver was $369/person for 3 days, while Maui Dive Shop was $499/person. E-learning is paid separately to PADI and the cost was $190/person.

The open water course spanned across 3 days so much of our vacation was dedicated to scuba. The first half of Day 1 consisted of taking a short quiz of the E-Learning material, practicing assembling and disassembling our gear, and then moving to the pool for the swim and float tests. These tests involved swimming for 200 meters without touching anything and floating/treading water for 10 minutes. This is non-negotiable – you must know how to swim in order to proceed. We were told that there are have been people that have signed up for the course thinking otherwise, which honestly blew my mind. People… DO YOU WANT TO LIVE?

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After the swim and float tests, we put on our gear and started practicing skills in the shallow end of the pool. That first breath underwater through the regulator was such an awkward experience for me. I kept panicking and thinking, this is NOT normal. It took a while for me to feel completely comfortable underwater, but once I did, I had no issues completing skills with the exception of mask/snorkel skills. As a contact lens wearer, mask skills were THE WORST. I was always afraid that I would lose my contacts in the water.

We then moved to the deep end of the pool where we practiced additional skills such as 5 point descent/ascent, proper weighting to achieve neutral buoyancy, hover, BCD oral inflation, etc. The first day felt a little bit overwhelming, but we were really excited to take what we learned into open water.

Day 2 was the first of our open water dives. The dive site was Makena Landing, which is about a 20 minute drive from Kihei.

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We set up and put on our gear, performed buddy checks on one another (CT and I) and then headed off into the water for OW Dive #1. I still panicked initially and it didn’t help that I seemed to have a difficult time descending down (our instructor had to check that I was weighted properly), but after I got over the initial descent, everything felt so natural and effortless.

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the first of many turtle sightings

After about 45 minutes or so, we headed back to our dive flag, ascended and swam back to shore. Once back on land, we switched out our tanks and discussed the dive plan and skills for the next dive. We performed buddy checks again and headed back into the water for OW Dive #2.

Once again, I was having trouble descending so our instructor tried to help by adding more weight to adjust my buoyancy. He started getting concerned when I had more weight than he did so he checked my BCD and lo and behold, the left weight that was supposed to be clipped into my BCD was missing. BUDDY CHECK FAIL, CT! Good thing one of the snorkelers near the shore found it and a ~9 lb. piece of lead wasn’t lost on the ocean floor!

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The last day of OW certification was our designated boat dive. We hopped onto a boat at the Kihei Boat Ramp and headed out to Molokini Crater.

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kihei boat ramp, taken in 2008
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same ole kihei boat ramp, taken in 2019
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Before we could have “fun” and explore, we had to knock out a few skills. One of which was to hover via BCD oral inflation. This means I had breathe in through my regulator, switch to the BCD, blow into that to inflate my BCD (and become more buoyant), but save enough air so that when I switch back to my regulator, I can clear it with another breath out before resuming normal breathing.

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oops! too much air

Another skill was the mask removal. This involved removing my mask completely, putting it back on and clearing it. I honestly thought I was going to have a panic attack, but I somehow managed to stay calm. I kept having to remind myself to only breathe through the regulator in my mouth and not through my nose. Sounds easy, but it really did take a lot of focus. And surprise, surprise, I also had trouble clearing my mask this time and ended up opening my eyes while I still had water in my mask. Ugh. THE WORST.

After completing our skills on OW Dive #3, we spent the rest of the dive exploring around Molokini Crater before heading to another dive site, White Rock, for OW Dive #4.

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The highlight of the dive was seeing a manta ray. What a great way to finish our certification!

Aaand just like that, we became PADI Open Water Certified. Bucket list βœ”οΈ

This was another great trip in the books, not only because of what we achieved but because it helped me get over my anxiety about returning to a place that I had been with an ex. Wonderful new memories of Maui have now replaced the faded old ones and I am actually looking forward to sharing the places that I love with CT and creating more memories together.

On Healing

I saw this on Instagram and it really resonated with me…

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Instead of beating myself up for not magically getting over T, I have accepted my sadness and am continuing to let myself heal. It’s ridiculous to believe that such an abrupt change in my life wouldn’t impact me in any way. But day by day, it gets easier. Day by day, I feel stronger. On some days, I find myself wanting to cry, and honestly, that’s OK. For now, it really is OK to not be OK.

On Moving Forward

“How were you able to tell me that you love me while you were seeing someone else?” I asked.

“I just pretended,” he replied, matter-of-factly.

At the time, that wasn’t enough for me. For someone who relies so heavily on logic and reason, someone who believes in the universal law of cause and effect, I needed a thorough explanation that connected all the dots and made sense. But what I eventually learned from this experience with H is that no one owes you an explanation, not even the person that you loved for the majority of a decade. You can bury yourself in the how’s and why’s or you can move on realizing that an explanation of any sort would just be a band aid, not a cure all for your pain.

Don’t get me wrong, I still believe that everything happens for a reason, but instead of letting that reason hold me back, I’m learning to let go and move forward.

On Changes

We can’t be afraid of change. You may feel very secure in the pond that you are in, but if you never venture out of it, you will never know that there is such a thing as an ocean, a sea. Holding onto something that is good for you now, may be the very reason why you don’t have something better. –Β C. JoyBell C.

The past year has been a time of change for me. Physically, mentally, emotionally.

I kicked off the year by continuing my pursuit of becoming fit and living a more healthy lifestyle. I achieved this through…

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endless tucking at Pure Barre

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my new-found obsession with inversions (and love for yoga)

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Getting back into shape wasn’t the biggest change of the year. It was moving down to San Diego for work.

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Despite the positives of living in San Diego, I’ve had a hard time adjusting. It’s been four months and I still don’t feel connected to my new home. Every chance I get, I go back to LA to see my family, friends and Henry. There is nothing that keeps me in SD. Nothing. It could have been an easier transition if I had a friend here who had an established social circle that he/she could introduce me to. Or maybe if I lived in the same area as most of my coworkers.

Before I made the move, I thought I would love living alone. I envisioned Bruce Willis screaming out “Freedom” in Braveheart. Um, negatory. Living alone SUCKS, especially after living with someone for the past 7 years. Living alone doesn’t lessen responsibilities, it increases them tenfold.

Who is going to move a 100 lb box of furniture into the living room and build it? Me.
Who is lugging 10 bags of groceries from the car to the 3rd floor? Me.
Who is lugging trash from the 3rd floor to the garage? Me.
Who is doing all the household chores? Me.

And while this whole experience has been mostly a pain, I owed it to myself to live alone at least once in my life. I needed to understand what it was like to not rely on anyone, to do things myself and for myself. Because only then would I be able to truly appreciate cohabitation with Henry. It’s kind of like how you need to learn to love yourself before loving others πŸ™‚

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Whistler 12/26/2013

Speaking of Henry, we got past the “seven year itch”. Barely. We were broken up for a bit. Our relationship had been on cruise control for the past few years and as a result we got too comfortable. We mistook living with each other as spending quality time together. It’s not. We also mistook talking to each other because we lived together as communication. It’s not. So as painful as it was, having that short time apart was a good thing for us because we learned these important lessons.

As if making a big move, transitioning to a new job, and going through relationship issues weren’t enough to deal with, I had a health scare about a month ago. I found 3 enlarged nodes in my neck. After an ultrasound and 11 vials of blood (9 in one day!), my Dr. said that it’s likely not cancer or anything serious. I’ll continue to monitor the nodes and decide in a month or so whether I should go forward and get a biopsy… just in case.

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2013 has been rough, especially the last half of the year. So on this last day of 2013, I am happy to say, good riddance!

Hello, 2014!

Comfortable, adj.

After nearly half a year (if not more) of not picking up my Kindle except to recharge the battery (because you know, you always gotta be prepared), I decided to do some reading this weekend. I fully intended to finish Game of Thrones but The Lover’s Dictionary showed up first on my list having been the last ebook I purchased. What can I say? I’m fickle.

I started the book late Friday night and continued today after Pure Barre. As I finished the book, I could not help thinking about my own relationship.

The first word that comes to mind to describe my relationship?

Comfortable.

I recently had a conversation with another couple about a fight they had. He wanted to work out with her. She didn’t want to work out at all. His rationale was that if he went alone, it would mean more time away from her, more time that’s not spent together.

That’s interesting, I thought. Henry and I see each other in the morning and then not until about 11PM at night. I have work. He has school. We both work out at night. Henry also works during the day most weekends and our weekend nights are spent either grocery shopping or cooking. I never thought of this as a problem until somebody else pointed it out as a potential problem in their own relationship.

Is this a result of being together almost 7 years? Did I care before and not so much now?

Are we comfortable, or too comfortable?

First

This is officially my first real post of 2013. I’ve been trying to finish my Foodcation 2012 posts for like the last 3 months. FAIL.

Since my vacation in September, I’ve started a new workout schedule, come to the realization that I no longer want to live in NYC, gone to Mammoth twice and attended a funeral.

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Part of my workout schedule consists of Pure Barre classes Tue, Thur, Fri-Sun. I started Pure Barre classes when I saw a friend post on FB about how great of a workout it was. At that time, I hadn’t worked out consistently in a very, very long time. I would run on sporadic occasions, but was never able to maintain a schedule. This really all changed with Pure Barre. One class and I was hooked. I’m about to finish my 5th month and be part of 100 club (100 classes completed)! I’ve made it this far and plan to continue because I absolutely love the workout and the class schedule just fits perfectly with my work schedule. And though I’ve taken classes for a while now, the exercises are still challenging. They haven’t gotten any easier. TRUST. If you take a class and don’t feel the burn, you’re probably not doing it right or you’re not working hard enough!

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In addition to Pure Barre, I’ve been taking Turbo Kick classes on Mon and Wed at 24Hr Fitness. I used to take these classes like 3 years ago, but stopped because of my work schedule. Now, 3 years later, the class schedule has changed and I’m back! I loved it then and I still love it now. The best part is that Turbo Kick doesn’t feel like a workout, but I always leave the class DRENCHED in sweat!

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J, A and I visited V in NYC this past December. It was a great trip filled with delicious food and late night talks. It was also an eye opening experience for me. I was in love with the city after my first few visits. I was in tourist mode. Everything was new and exciting. I loved the fast paced nature of NYC. I wanted to move there! But my love has waned after subsequent visits. This last visit made me realize that at this point in my life, living in NYC is not for me. First, I don’t think I could afford to live comfortably AND enjoy the finer things in life. I don’t want to share an apartment with anyone and I don’t want to live in tiny studio apartment. I do want to go out and try all the fantastic restaurants and maybe catch a Broadway show, hockey game or the Opera sometime. Living in NYC and not being able to enjoy it is pointless. Second, I’ve always thought that NYC public transportation was really great. And to a certain extent, it is. But from my last visit, I realized that it’s not as fast as I previously thought. On my last day I went to Laduree in the UES and round trip from Stuyvesant Town with a stop at Halal Cart took over an hour and half. Third, Henry hates NYC. So yea, for now, I’m fine with just visiting NYC and delicious food like…

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Uni at Soto

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Pork and Crab Soup Dumplings at Joe’s Shanghai

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SmokeShack and Frozen Custard at Shake Shack

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Miso Black Cod at Gotham Bar & Grill

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Halal Cart!! We had this twice during our trip and I even brought two orders home!

Right before my trip to NYC, Henry and I had our first Mammoth trip of the season. And seriously, what a difference a season makes…

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It was early December, but coverage was great since it dumped the weeks before. I’m happy I rekindled my love for Mammoth’s backside!

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Our 2nd trip to Mammoth was during MLK weekend.

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We were fortunate to stay with our new snowboarding pals, B and P. They’re great to ride with because they’re fast and they have endurance! And they have the cutest, most well-behaved dog ever!

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Henry doesn’t want any dog besides a Husky or Chow Chow so for now, I’ll just have to obsessively lurk on Instagram for Bulldog or Corgi pictures. πŸ™‚

And onto the sad news. Last week, I attended Henry’s grandma’s funeral. She lived a full life, for sure, passing away at the age of 100. It’s really sad to think that she won’t be at our wedding, I mean, if we decide to have one that is. Henry’s cousin liked to joke that I was grandma’s favorite. And while that probably isn’t true, it was nice to feel the love from her when she would hold my hand while we watched TV. RIP β™₯

Surprise

I didn’t think he had it in him.

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I asked him to be more romantic. And he went above and beyond by surprising me with a home cooked meal.

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Butter Poached Lobster

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Pan Seared Rib-Eye with Sauteed Mushrooms and Asparagus

We finished our meal with red velvet cheesecake and coffee.

Perfect Valentine’s day. β™₯

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Who remembers this Simpsons episode?? LOL

I eat: Napa Rose [1], [2]

I opened a Disney credit card in 2007. I can’t tell you why because I honestly don’t remember myself; I was never a Disney fanatic. Over the years, I accumulated more than 400 Disney Dollars. It wasn’t until I researched the redemption policy that I find out I could use my Disney Dollars at Disney restaurants. I chose Napa Rose.

Inside Napa Rose, there is a lounge, main dining area, Dessert Counter and Chef’s Counter. The Dessert Counter seats about 4 to 5 people and is off to the right of the kitchen overlooking the preparation of desserts. The Chef’s Counter is split by the service counter (see picture below); each side seating 4. Diners sitting on the left facing the kitchen have a view of appetizers being made while diners on the right get to see the main course action unfold. Because of the extended experience, there are only two seatings per night at the Chef’s Counter/Dessert Counter, 5:30PM and 8:30PM.

IMAG0459Executive Chef Andrew Sutton

To snag seats at the Chef’s Counter, I made a reservation a month in advance for a 5:30PM seating. Henry and I were excited to celebrate our 5 year anniversary with a “free” dinner (thank you Disney Dollars)!!

The night of our reservation, we arrived early only to find out that whoever took our reservation FUCKED UP because they had no record of it.

I. WAS. LIVID.
THANKS FOR RUINING OUR ANNIVERSARY ASSHOLE!!!!

The Chef’s Counter was completely booked that night so the only thing the manager could do was offer us seats in the main dining area. I contemplated just walking out and going home, but I remembered that I had expiring Disney Dollars to use so I reluctantly accepted.

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After being seated, we placed our order fairly quickly since we agreed beforehand that we would order the “Vintner’s Table” (Chef’s Four Course Tasting Menu). I didn’t have a chance to be my usual indecisive self!

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Amuse Bouche

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Halibut

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Pork Belly & Loin

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Steak

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Goat Cheese Doughnuts

My anger began to subside as we finished our first course and it all but disappeared by the time dessert was served. Instead of sulking the whole night, I actually enjoyed my meal. Every dish was well executed and delicious. I especially loved the pairing of goat cheese doughnuts and “pear soup” (I told you I love hot + cold).

At the beginning of the night, given the reservation drama, I was sure we would never, ever, ever come back to Napa Rose… EVER. At the end of the night, I was willing to come back and pay for our meal!

…And come back we did. Less than a month later! Yes, mostly for the food, but also because Napa Rose comped our first meal in attempt to make things right – we only paid for Henry’s wine pairing, tax, and tip (based on full dinner amount, of course). That meant I still had expiring Disney Dollars to use.

For our second visit, I was only able to reserve seats at the Dessert Counter.

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View from the Dessert Counter

See the empty seats on left? That’s the Chef’s Counter. Since all 4 of those seats were empty and it was well past 6PM, I asked Sous Chef Gloria what the deal was. After speaking with the manager, she explained that the party cancelled and offered us the seats. HELL YEA! Not only did our view get upgraded, Sous Chef Gloria also told us about another tasting menu, one in which you relinquish control of your meal over to the chefs; we had no idea what our next course would be. This option had more, smaller portion courses and costs the same as the “Vintner’s Table”. I highly recommend it if you are able to sit at the Chef’s Counter.

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View from the Chef’s Counter

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We LOVED every dish, but the highlight of our meal had to be the mushroom soup. AMAZING. The “Best Hot Chocolate” was a close second πŸ™‚ I can’t wait to return for another meal.

Verdict [1] & [2]: 4.5/5
Napa Rose (@ Grand Californian)
1600 S Disneyland Dr
Anaheim, CA 92802

Rush, Rush

Saturday = CRAZY.

I woke up at 7AM and rushed to Staples Center to run the 2012 LA Kings 5K. My one week of training prepared me enough to finish almost 2 minutes faster than last year’s time. I crossed the finish line in 26:34, which averages to an 8:34 pace. What my training did not prepare me for was having to run 3.1 miles IN THE RAIN. It wasn’t light sprinkles, IT WAS RAIN. Needless to say, I was soaked afterward.

There was no time to chill and hang out at the event because I had to take my last GMAT practice CAT and Henry had groomsman duties to attend to. I completed my test at 2PM, which left me with only half an hour to get ready for the wedding! I didn’t even have time to eat! 😦

Things finally settled down once I arrived at the wedding venue: Muckenthaler Mansion in Fullerton.

Congrats, Jen & Thai β™₯

The ceremony went off without a hitch and the meatballs served during cocktail hour were DELISH! I was so hungry I ate 8 of them!!! πŸ˜€

Although I had fun celebrating with friends, weddings, in general, give me anxiety. Personally, I would rather skip the wedding and go straight to the honeymoon – I’m working on getting everybody else on board with that idea. So far, my mom, who’s opinion is obviously most important, said she’s fine with me not having a wedding. Hopefully she’s not lying to me…

Loved

The highest lift at Breck (Imperial Express) takes you to about 12,840ft. Think this is the top? Think again. To get to Peak 8 Summit, you have to hike up a vertical distance of 160ft!

The easiest way to get to Imperial (for a snowboarder who doesn’t want to use the T-bar :P) is to get to Peak 8 Base and ride up Colorado SuperChair.

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Then take Frosty’s Freeway to Chair 6.

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From the top of Chair 6, ride down to Imperial Express.

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And voila!

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Hiking to the top was seriously the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do IN MY LIFE. Not only did I have to battle the elevation (it was hard to breathe up there), I also had to withstand the force of 30 mph winds. I almost flew off the mountain 3 times!

About half way up, Henry gave up and said he couldn’t make it. Even though I really wanted to give up too, I kept on going. I was determined to make it to the top!

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And I did it! Once I made it to the top, I basically just threw my snowboard down and collapsed from sheer exhaustion. I got myself together and sat for about 5 minutes looking out into the distance, just taking in the whole experience. I was really happy that I made it to the top, but also sad that Henry wasn’t there with me. Before I could sulk too much, I saw Henry walking up. πŸ™‚

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Flowers die. I don’t wear jewelry. Chocolates are meant to be eaten every day. The only gift I wanted was to be together at 13,000ft on Valentine’s Day β™₯

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Oh, Colorado!

This year’s Colorado trip started the same way as last year’s.

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We flew into Denver International Airport (DIA), picked up our gear/luggage and hopped on the Colorado Mountain Express (CME).

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After the two hour shuttle ride, we arrived in Breckenridge and checked into Pine Ridge Condominiums. So, why do I like Pine Ridge? Well, mostly because of this…

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Riding down to your condo after a long day is HEAVEN.

Pine Ridge may not be “ski-out”, but the Snowflake Lift, which takes you to Peak 8 Base Area, is just up the street. You can either walk there, or if you’re lazy like us, you can wait for the bus at the bus stop right outside the complex.

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Besides the excellent location, Pine Ridge also has reasonable/budget-friendly rates and helpful staff. I was able to use their meeting room while waiting for the shuttle to pick us up and take us to Vail.

Anyway, once we settled in and unpacked, we took the bus (Gray Line) to City Market. Since I planned our meals before we left for Colorado, shopping for ingredients was a breeze. Carrying our groceries home, on the other hand… well, this is what saving money by not renting a car looks like…

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If you’re considering not renting a car and you need to go to the market, rolling duffel bags (or any kind of rolling luggage) are your best friends!

During our stay in Breck, we made:

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a. Chicken Enchiladas
b. Chipotle Turkey Chili
c. Rib-eye Steaks w/ Mini Cheddar Potato Skins

I made sure to pick tried and true recipes that were quick and delicious. The last thing I wanted to do after a long day of snowboarding was slave in the kitchen.

Last year, Henry and I suffered the symptoms of altitude sickness: headaches, nausea, light-headedness and shortness of breath. This time around, I was more prepared. I made sure to keep myself hydrated and didn’t experience one single symptom. As for Henry, he didn’t listen to me when I repeatedly told him to drink more water and guess what? He felt like shit the first night/second day. Doesn’t he know by now that I’m ALWAYS right? Damn!

Our first snowboarding day was spent at Keystone. It was not a very good day. The snow was a bit sticky, the runs were bumpy and they also closed the base gondola due to high winds. And we missed the bus back to Breck so we had to wait an hour and half for the next bus. And when we finally got home, I noticed that the knob on one of my BOA boots was missing and without it I had no way of tightening that boot. Good thing Josh at Mountain Wave was able to fix my boot in less than 2 minutes for only $10.

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After a lousy first day at Keystone, we hit up Breck and man, the snow was SO MUCH BETTER. We spent much of the first day around Peak 8. My favorite runs on the bottom half of Peak 8 were Spruce, High Anxiety and Rounders.

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During the next few days, we pretty much covered all of Breck. Surprisingly, my favorite area was Peak 10! I say surprisingly because last year, I hated Peak 10 because the runs were icy – we did one run and then headed back to Peak 8/9. This year, we went down almost every run on the front side of Peak 10 and they were all so fun and fast.

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I also liked the runs at Peak 7. They weren’t as challenging as Peak 10, but still fun nonetheless. My favorite run was Wirepatch.

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We usually don’t go out and explore the town during snowboarding trips, but since we didn’t really celebrate Valentine’s Day (it’s overrated anyway!), Henry and I went on a date on our last night in Breck.

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Downstairs At Eric’s was perfect for us because we were in the mood for pizza and I was able to catch the end of the Kings game. We ordered the sweet chili wings, “garbage” pizza and chicken fried steak.

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I really loved the chicken fried steak; it was so moist and tender! The crust of the pizza was interesting. When I ordered the garlic wheat crust, I really didn’t expect actual minced pieces of garlic in it – what a nice surprise since I LOVE GARLIC!

We passed up dessert at Downstairs at Eric’s because I wanted to see what else Breck had to offer. About 2 or 3 blocks down the street, we found this cute ass place: Crepes a la Cart. The smell was so damn intoxicating, I just had to order a dessert crepe. There were many choices, but I finally decided on the Turtle Sunday.

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SOOOOO DELISH! My only complaint was that they didn’t give us enough ice cream! But in retrospect, maybe this was a good thing since it was really cold outside.

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So, after 5 days in Breck, we left for Vail. We were really sad to leave, but we were also excited to check out Vail and see what all the hype was about.

To be continued….

Cibo e Il Vino

After much anticipation, Memorial Day weekend has come and gone. There were a few glitches along the way: a shit-load of work I had to finish before I left for SF on Thursday, rain forcing me to cancel my original plans on Thursday and a weird allergic reaction to something during our stay in Napa. However, the delicious food and near perfect weather we had over the weekend more than made up for these slight inconveniences.

Henry and I didn’t leave for SF until about 12:30 or so because I had to take care of something at work. Even though Thursday was supposed to be my day off, it sure didn’t feel like it. I kept having to check my work blackberry during the day. Yes, I have two: work and personal blackberries. It’s sick, I know.

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Rain was in the forecast for Thursday (which made me cancel my original plans to hike the Land’s End trail) and sure enough, dark rain clouds spotted the sky as we approached our destination. I guess we chased away the rain because we didn’t experience a drop of rain during our entire stay.

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We arrived in SF just in time to change and get ready for dinner. We decided to revisit one of our favorite restaurants, Gary Danko. The first time we ate there was during our first trip to San Francisco together back in 2008. We fell hard and fast for Gary Danko and even though two years have gone by, it still remains as one of our most memorable dining experiences.

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The next day, we ate brunch at Honey Honey Cafe and Crepery before heading up to Napa. Honey Honey Cafe is located on the corner of Taylor and Post and if you’re planning to drive here, expect to pay $3.50 AN HOUR for street parking (parking in SF is RIDICULOUS!!!!). The restaurant is pretty big by SF standards and fast-food-esque in the sense that you order and pay for your food at the counter and then pick a table to sit and wait while your food is brought to you. They have an extensive menu including the usual breakfast and lunch items as well as their signature sweet and savory crepes.

If Henry hadn’t knocked some sense into me, I would have ordered the Post Street omelette, which is basically a traditional Denver omelette with a San Francisco derived name. Henry made me realize that since we were at restaurant that specializes in crepes, perhaps I should order one of its namesake. Thus, I ordered the Half Moon Bay crepe (cheddar, tomato, mushroom and crab cake) and Henry ordered the Cancun burger (jack cheese, crispy bacon, tomato, avocado and salsa). Delicious!!

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After brunch, we made our way to Buehler Vineyards for our 2PM appointment. Buehler is located in the mountains east of St. Helena, approximately a 6 mile windy drive from highway 29. The overall experience was unlike all the touristy wineries located along the 29 or on the Silverado trail.

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Page Buehler, the son of John Page Buehler, Jr., gave us a tour of the property while explaining their general wine making process. It was just us and Page (and his cute dogs :)) so we felt really special to have all his attention. We made our way back to the office for a tasting and Henry ended up buying two bottles: 2008 Zinfandel, 2008 Reserve Chardonnay. He probably would have bought some of the Cabs, but he already has two bottles at home. Buehler is one of Henry’s favorites.

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After Buehler, we went to one of the most touristy wineries EVER: V. Sattui. And well, it’s touristy for good reason: the grounds are beautiful (many weddings are held there), they have a great deli and cheese selection that you can enjoy outside on the picnic tables and oh yea, the wines themselves aren’t too shabby either.

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After Henry had a tasting and purchased a 2008 Zinfandel, we bought a black forest ham panini, some prawns in mustard sauce and a salt cod cake and had a wonderful picnic outside.

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SF/Napa Food & Wine (+our verdict):
Gary Danko, 5/5
Honey Honey Cafe & Crepery, 4/5
Buehler Vineyards, 5/5
V. Sattui, 4/5
——–

To be continued…

…Won’t You Pack Your Bags, We’ll Leave Tonight!

(…continued from my last post)

I first read about Treehouse Point in Budget Travel’s article: A Treehouse Adventure. It was absolutely perfect timing since I was in the midst of planning our Pacific Northwest adventure. I was so intrigued about living in an actual treehouse, I knew it had to be part of my itinerary. So, Treehouse Point was our next stop after Mt. Rainier.

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Treehouse Point is located in Issaquah, Washington, about 30 minutes east of Seattle. When I stayed at Treehouse Point, there were 2 treehouses (Temple of the Blue Moon and Trillium), the main house, and a tent. Everything was constructed by Pete Nelson aka “the treehouse guy”; he also wrote the book, “New Treehouses of the World”. We stayed in the Temple of the Blue Moon, the most popular choice by couples I would assume. To get to the treehouse, you have to cross this swaying bridge, which was kind of scary no matter what time of day it was. Inside the treehouse, there was a big comfortable bed, a small sitting area and an armoire that supplied music (from ipod) and clean linens. There was also a side door that led out to a porch area. For the most part, I had a good time living in the treehouse, but there were a couple of “issues”. One issue was that the windows did not have any screens to keep bugs out. I mean, I get it… treehouse = living with nature, but it just doesn’t make sense to me to build such a nice “luxury” treehouse, but not pay attention to such details as insect proofing. If I wanted to live freely with bugs, I would just go camping. Also, there was a small (shared) bathroom located outside of the treehouse, which ultimately wasn’t that big of a deal since it does make most sense for the bathrooms to be outside; I just didn’t realize beforehand how inconvenient this would be. Continental breakfast was included with our stay, but the selection was very minimal. However, the pastries that Pete’s wife made were very delicious!

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Since we were in the area, of course we had to check out another waterfall! Snoqualmie Falls was beautiful from the observation deck, but we decided to also hike down to the river to get a different view. I love waterfalls πŸ™‚

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Growing up, I was fascinated with planes … So, of course I made a trip to the Museum of Flight during our time in Washington.

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Great exhibits, lots of material to cover, fun simulators – I loved the Museum of Flight! We drove into Seattle afterward and explored the Pioneer Square and International District area. While walking to Green Leaf Vietnamese Restaurant for dinner, I swear I witnessed a drug deal going down. Um, sketchy area.

The next day we explored downtown Seattle before taking a stroll around Green Lake Park. I was surprised by the amount of people outside during the day – I would love to be able to exercise around Green Lake Park everyday since the scenery is so soothing and calming and it is the perfect distance, about 3 miles around. There are so many activities you can do: running/walking, biking, skating, swimming and boating (you can rent pedal boats and canoes).

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Being so entranced by Green Lake Park, I was ecstatic that I was going to be living across the street! We stayed in the Greenlake Room of the Greenlake Guesthouse. This was definitely one of the best B&B’s I’ve ever stayed at. Everything you needed was either in your room or just a few steps outside your room. The bed was so comfortable, it was hard to get out of bed in the morning and we definitely used the jacuzzi tub in our bathroom every night. The large bookcase in the hallway held a wide array of DVDs and there was a mini fridge on the other side stocked with water and drinks (genius!). Breakfast was light, yet filling and pastries and fruit were available all day in case you needed a snack.

Seattle is breathtakingly beautiful and it was such a pleasure to walk around its most popular areas. Yes, Pike Place Market is very crowded and touristy, but there are so many great food shops. I bought some cheesecakes from Confectional and a few bottles of flavored olive oil from Sotto Voce. I had clam chowder with a crab roll at Pike Place Chowder and for dessert, I had gelato at Bottega Italiano. I also got a front row view of the fish tossing, which to me is synonymous with Pike Place Market. Too bad I couldn’t get a clear picture of the fish in the air!

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I also visited the Seattle Public Library because I heard so much about its architecture and interior decor. I walked to the library from Pike Place Market because on the map, it didn’t look too far away, but the map wasn’t detailed enough to tell me that I would be walking UPHILL for about 5 blocks! I guess the sweat was worth it because the library was amazing! Bonus: padded seats near bookshelves. I wish the libraries I went to when I was younger had these.

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I had two last minute changes to our intinerary: dinner at Art of the Table and a sunset kayak tour with Alki Kayak Tours. Being that these were last minute additions, it’s funny how these two events became the highlights of our trip! Definitely meant to be, right?

Art of the Table, home of the “weekend supper club”, is located in the Wallingford neighborhood of Seattle. The supper club is an intimate dining experience, with seating for about only 18 people. There were several tables for 2, a couple for 4 and one large table that seated 6. The kitchen was open for anyone to walk through to the backyard garden or to take pictures of Chef Dustin Ronspies working his magic (like I did). Before dinner, Chef Ronspies provided us with a brief introduction about himself, his background and his passion for using fresh and local ingredients. Most of his supper clubs are themed and when I dined, it was all about the Mediterrenean. As we began each course, he shared the inspiration behind the dish. It was fascinating to hear his stories of traveling the world, especially since they revolved around food. I thoroughly enjoyed the meal, from beginning to end. Everything was so fresh and delicious, but the one thing that stood out the most was the saffron ice cream. WOW! Talk about save the best for last.

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I usually don’t like booking “tours”, which was why I didn’t initially sign up for the sunset kayak tour with Alki Kayak Tours. I’ve always thought of tours as being too expensive for something you could do yourself for free, with a little bit of research. But I couldn’t get the image of the Seattle skyline during sunset out of my head so I bit my lip and reserved our spots only 2 days in advance. I’m sure glad I did because how can you say no to this?

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Doesn’t Seattle look so beautiful at night?

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I love how the lights reflect against the water πŸ™‚

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Seattle Eats & Drinks (+my verdict):
Mr. Gyros, 4/5
Canlis, 3/5
Bottega Italiano, 3/5
Paseo, 5/5
Art of the Table, 5/5
The Confectional, 5/5
Pike Place Chowder, 3/5
Cafe Presse, 4/5
——–

This was such a wonderful trip. I can’t wait to go back.

I’ve Got Two Tickets To Paradise…

It was our 40 month anniversary yesterday. I know, it’s silly to keep track like this, but it’s nice to know that we are still madly in love with each other! Looking back on our relationship, my fondest memories revolve around all of our trips together. We’ve taken one big trip every year and each year has certainly topped the last. I’m in the planning stages for this year’s trip!

Last year, we had quite an adventure in the Pacific Northwest. Absolutely beautiful. We started off in Portland and made our way to Seattle, stopping at Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Rainier along the way.

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We arrived in Portland at about 10PM at night and we took a taxi to our “hotel”. The Kennedy School is an old elementary school that McMenamins renovated into a hotel. Most of the original classrooms were split into two guestrooms with a bathroom added in each room. Besides this, the look and feel of the school were pretty much kept intact. Chalkboards, perhaps original, wrapped around the guestrooms and there were white water fountains in the hallways. Memorabilia of the school and of those times decorated the walls. Other classrooms were turned into bars/lounges with incredibly cute names: The Honors Bar, The Detention Bar, etc. It was truly a unique experience to stay at The Kennedy School!

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We decided not to rent a car at the airport since it was ridiculously expensive! We saved a lot of money by renting from a non-airport location instead and since it was located within 5 miles of our place, we were able to get free pick up service. Most of our first full day was designated to sightseeing and eating. As you can see, it was a really warm day.

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The main reason we stayed in Portland was because we wanted to go white water rafting. There are many rafting outfitters around Washington and Oregon and we decided on Wet Planet, which is located near Hood River, Oregon, approximately an hour and 15 min drive from Portland (scenic drive). It was our first time river rafting and our guide, Sara, did a great job of making sure we were all having fun while keeping us safe. The trip was about 8 miles total, with rapids classified as class III-IV (solid class IV fall known as “Husum Falls” – 10′ vertical drop). I was a little nervous for Henry because I know he’s not the best swimmer (he almost drowned in Hawaii – that’s another story for another time), but good thing we all survived; no one in our 6 person raft fell overboard into the water, not even when we went down Husum Falls!

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On our way back from rafting, we stopped at Multnomah Falls. This would be our first waterfall of the trip πŸ™‚ If we had more time, I would have liked to hike the trails around the falls.

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Portland Eats & Drinks (+my verdict):
Mother’s Bistro & Bar, 4/5
Coffeehouse Northwest, 4/5
Toro Bravo, 4/5
The Screen Door, 4/5
Voodoo Donut, 3/5
Pambiche, 4/5
——–

The next part of our trip was definitely my favorite! We drove up to Mt. St. Helens and hiked through the lava cave and then we drove to Mt. Rainier and stayed there a few days.

The lava cave (Ape Cave) was really fun and really scary at the same time. It was mostly an easy-moderate hike, with the difficulty being the huge rocks that you have to climb over as well as the 9 foot wall you have to climb up. If you are claustrophobic or scared of the dark, Ape Cave is totally not for you. As we were hiking through the upper passage of Ape Cave, I actually had thoughts of being trapped underground or being attacked by.. ghosts (yes, ghosts), but I quickly calmed myself down and thought of something else. I found comfort in hearing the voices of other groups – perhaps its the “at least I’m not going to die alone down here” rationalization. The upper passage of Ape Cave is 1 1/4 miles and took about 2 and a half hours to explore. We spent about another hour to hike the mile long trail above ground that took us back to the entrance of the cave.

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I originally planned to drive to the Johnston Ridge Observatory for a great view of Mt. St. Helens, but we just didn’t have enough time since we still had to make a 3 hour drive to Mt. Rainier. We picked up some groceries before we headed to Almost Paradise Lodging, our home for the next few days. This place is absolutely fantastic! Everything was clean and I felt right at home. Our fridge was stocked everyday with a complementary continental breakfast basket during our stay. The jacuzzi right outside definitely helped us relax after a long day of hiking. At night, all we could see were the faint lines of the trees that blended in with the black sky and the bright stars sprinkled throughout. Amazing…

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We technically only had one full day to explore Mt. Rainier, which was really sad since it is such a beautiful place. For our full day, we did a 4 mile hike on the Paradise River/Narada Falls trail. We started at Cougar Rock and ended at the Henry M. Jackson Visitor’s Center in Paradise, for a total elevation gain of 2,000ft (good hiking condition is required). It was a little difficult to find the trailhead, but luckily we were able to follow people that were headed the same way.

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We took a lunch break to eat our cole slaw turkey sandwiches at Carter Falls. As we continued along, we passed by Madcap Falls and about 2 miles later, we reached the famous Narada Falls. You can technically take the Paradise shuttle and get dropped off here, but come on, we are no weaklings! It wasn’t enough to just view the falls from the top, we decided to climb down towards the flowing river to get a different view of the falls. BEAUTIFUL. After Narada Falls, Paradise was only a mile away. Even though it was late July, snow still scattered the ground (especially as we neared Paradise). I had some difficulty getting up a hill because it was blanketed with snow and my hiking shoes didn’t provide enough grip/traction. We didn’t have that much time to explore the Paradise area since the shuttle arrived about 15 minutes after we arrived.

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The next day, we were able to hike a half day before heading up to the Seattle area.

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More waterfalls!!

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(to be continued…)