JJ, the Happiest Pooch: Photo Post

Oh JJ is such a country pooch.  He’s loving it here!

bounding with the ball in his mouth, like a real dog who actually knows how to play fetch!

He’s been playing so much, and he has a friend to play with too.  Seeing him run around makes me so happy.  This has been a great move for us, yes.  But the fact that our little boy is enjoying himself so much too really makes me feel great about everything!

rocky and jj

So here’s a massive photo dump of our sweet little doggie having a blast.  I figured I was posting way too many pics as it was, so I’d at least make a separate post chock full of JJ pics.  Enjoy!

Oh, and if you notice another pooch… the chocolate lab about three times bigger than jay = his new bff, Rocky!  Rocky is Nick and Austin’s dog.  At first the two were enemies and didn’t like each other, we even had to get a muzzle for ole mean JJ because he was too snappy.  But after some sniffing and playing, they worked it out and now the two seem to be good pals, having fun running around together.  Whew!

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr


I drafted this post a couple days ago when I had some time, and I’ve since had more time to play with JJ outside.  This video is long (five minutes), but it’s of Duggs and me, playing with JJ and Rocky outside in the backyard.  It’s probably boring to everyone else, but they crack me up!!

In case the vid isn’t working, here’s the YouTube link.

I have it on Photobucket too: link, and this should embed it: http://static.photobucket.com/player.swf

Life in Fredonia, all the Fancy Photos!

Whew… it’s been a busy time here at HHR, with all my photo posts from our trip, updates, catch ups, and everything.  Hope you can stomach one more photo binge.  Can you?

Here are all the rest of our initial Fredonia pics, from our first few days and weekend here!  Just like the other posts of the fancy pics (all the photos from Long Island and then all the photos from Pottersville), I’m just going to throw all the photos in here as a blob, and anyone who wants to can go through them.

As for getting settled in and how we’re doing, I touched on all that earlier this week in our post about finally being here in Fredonia.

So things should be getting back to “normal” around here … if my blog even has a normal! It’s been fun including everyone on the trip, and I know that people have been so curious to see what our surroundings are like, to see the big difference it is to go from Hawaii to Western New York.  So it’s been fun.

But hopefully life will take on a more routine feeling and I’ll get back in the swing of things, around the house, with work, and here too!  I’m hoping that my energy levels keep soaring and before you know it I’ll be posting about running again, and who knows what!

I’m just so very glad to be where I am.  I’m feeling better in so many ways, and just being on the first page of a fresh chapter is so nice.  I’m so blessed to be with my Duggs, surrounded and supported my some amazing family and friends, and to have a whole new section of our story to set out on.  No matter how routinized daily life becomes, that aspect of where we’re at – that newness and that exciting looking-over-the-edge feeling won’t wear off for a while I don’t think, at least I hope it won’t!

Anyways.  For now, I’m quite happy to be posting from Fredonia.  And I hope you’ve enjoyed coming along with us on the trip!

As always, thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

Fancy Photos From the Road: Camp Curtis

More photos, I know! I’ve finally uploaded the nice pics from our good camera onto the computer and put together some posts from our trip around New York last week.

I already wrote about the lovely time we had visiting my sister and her boyfriend Jared in Pottersville, NY at their rustic and luxurious lake house on Valentine Pond, Camp Curtis (check out that post, here!)… but I owe y’all the rest of the photos from that leg of the trip.

And since my sister had so much fun messing with the camera, we took a TON of pics while we were there.  With so many animals, such pretty scenery and so much going on, how could you not just snap away all day?

So here’s a whole mess of photos from the few days we were there.  Thanks for looking!

And as always (and I really do mean this), thanks for reading!! xoxo, hhr

a viper in hawaii (my dad/stepmom visit to us)

A Viper in Hawaii

My Dad, affectionately known as “Viper,”  and his wife/my stepmom Anna, recently just came out to our pretty little island for a tropical vacation and visitation.    So if you’ve been wondering why I’ve been absentee – that’s why!  I’ve been playing housekeeper and hostess, tourist, and vacationeer and just going a million miles an hour to ensure that they had a great time.   I did a ton of planning work and prep before their arrival that kept me running around like crazy; thus once they got here, I took a lil vacay from the computer and now it’s time to play catch up. 

Without further ado… the story of their visit:

A Viper was in Hawaii! 

hehehe… Hawaii’s one of many claim’s to fame is being snake-free, so having a Viper out here in Hawaii really is an outlandish and silly as it sounds!

For both of them, this was their first trip to the ‘aina.  It was also their first time seeing Matthew (my husband) in over a year, the first time ever meeting our pooch, JJ, and about four months since they’d last seen me.  So, most of the trip was focused on catching up, quality fam time… but as much as possible was spent seeing this beautiful place I currently call home.  Like anyone’s eight-day-Hawaiian-trip would be: we crammed a lot into a short time!

We picked them up at the airport and brought them fresh flower leis, as per request!  (We didn’t want to disappoint them right off the bat now).


After getting them home, we just unpacked, hung out, ate some dinner – a homemade meal Matthew treated us all too, fried panko shrimp, grilled chicken with homemade fresh mango salsa, sticky sushi rice, amazing! – and caught up with each other.

TAMC  (Tripler Army Medical Center, my second home) 

The first real day on the island was pretty boring.  I had a doctor’s appointment, and it ended up taking a long time.  Funnily enough, I ended up getting some shots, Trigger Point Therapy.  My Dad, a doctor, happens to be extremely familiar with the ole Trigger Point technique.  So he hung out and got to watch, and play coach.  Fun times!  Well, at least in my weird world, this is fun times.

my dad, my doctor, and me - "a little the right... a little to the left... just right!"

Sadly enough the length of the appointment kinda ruined any chance of doing much else.  So we just went home and relaxed.

Our Beach Day

For The Shapiros first real day in Hawaii (technically they’re third, but that’s how distracted I can get everyone with all my dilly dallying) we went to Kailua Beach and had a lovely day in the sun!  Well, the sun that came in between the rain anyways.   Kailua Beach is where my husband and I were married, and we just had to introduce my folks to the location. We brought beach mats and towels, both dogs (JJ + the poodle we’re dogsitting) and had a sandy good time!

Anna and Viper went swimming and while they were in the water they realized it was the first time they’d ever been in the ocean together.  How cute!  And it happened to be The Pacific, which is wild seeing as they’ve both within 30 minutes of the Atlantic for 40+ years.

anna and dad in the ocean at last!

dad, me, and jayjers playing in the warm hawaiian water

such good boys!

Once the rain and wind started to overpower the skies we packed it up and went across the way to Bob’s.  Bob’s is a pizza joint in Kailua Beach and it’s one of my all-time (if not singular all-time) favorite pizza joints.  It’s soooo good!  Dad and Anna have been griping about not having access to quality food where they hail from (Leesburg, Florida) and thus they were literally starved for tasty delights.  SO tasty delights we pursued!

our pizza, one half had sausage, mushrooms and onions (i think)... duggs and i got our usual on our half: spinach and garlic. with the red sauce. extra cheese. OH MY GOODNESS.

After having some incredible hot delicious pizza, we went right next door: Island Snow!  Viper and Anna got their first try of Shave Ice, my fave Hawaiian cold treat.

the viper likes shave ice

oh sweet pooches had such a fun day!

Horseback Riding

We went home, did a quick costume change and packed in the car for the North Shore.  Our evening actibity was horseback riding, we booked a private trail ride at the Hawaii Polo Club.

I can’t vouch for this experience enough:  the horses are beautiful athletes, the ride was fun and at a good pace (no mule horses that just tried to eat the whole time, we actually rode), the location is unreal in its gorgeousness and the good people running the joint are friendly and helpful.  I think it’s safe to say that a good time was had by all.   (My only qualm is that they answer the phone on Hawaii-time, so call plenty in advance to make sure you can book).

viper = tall in the saddle!

rosie the rider

our super tough horsey gang

sunset on the beach, horseback riding, in hawaii... my life feels so incredible it's hard to believe sometimes

the love of my life

The horsies were so much fun.  After the trail ride Anna, Duggs, and I all got a brief private lesson with one of the polo pros, Javier.  Javier took us around the track and we got to go super fast and feel really serious and awesome.  He told me I was a natural and that I’m really good at horseback riding.  Which I mean, I’m pretty good at everything so I wasn’t so surprised, but it just feels really great to hear from a Spanish Polo professional.  Ahh.

Hahaha… I’m just joking around, cool it.

Boating on K-Bay;  Dinner in Waikiki

The next day we went Boating and then enjoyed some Fine Dining.  It was so lovely.   We did get rained on a bit while we were out on the boat, but since we had the middle-of-the-day time slot, we still got three-ish hours of bright bright sun.

cap'n duggs

My friends Grace and Monica came with us too, and they were such a joy to have around!  They’re two of JJ’s fosters parents.  JJ lived with their family for about three or four months before Duggs and I met and adopted him.  They’re volunteers for Hawaii Dog Foundation and they foster dogs all the time.   Grace and I are both blood cancer survivors, leukemia and lymphoma, respectively, so we’ve had a special connection as soon as we met.    My stepmom is an animal rescuer as well, and she’s saved the lives of so many cats.  I knew that we’d all get along and we’d be able to chat about pets and how cute little fluffy animals are.  My assumption was correct!

monica and grace

grace with olivia, me with jj

they were amazed by how pretty the bay is, surround by lush lovely mountains

We did get some fun and swimming time in.  The tide was a little too high for the sandbar to be pooch-accessible.  We’ve been when it’s really low and JJ can literally run and frolic. But this day it was a tad too deep.  I still made took him swimming and we taught the poodle, Eros, how to swim too!

he loves it!

sunscreen is for white people

Then the rain came, eeks!

roughing out the storm in style

the cap'n sailed us to safety. motored us to safety.

After a day on the high seas, we went out for an amazing steak dinner down in Waikiki!

anna and dad, dolled up for date night and looking dapper!

my daddy and i

Then we had a “down” day. 

Like i said earlier: this was part vacay, yes, but it was mostly family catching up and visiting.   After a couple days of busy activities, we took a day and a half to just chill at home.  Dad cooked up a huge meal.  Dad and Duggs ran some errands, I think mostly stocking up on foodstuffs to cook and wares to cook with.  Anna and I made some tie dye!   I’ve dyed for years, and back when I lived with Dad/Anna, we all tie dyed together.  Since I have my “studio” for my business now – I’m well stocked up on awesome quality pre-soaks, dyes, and detergents… and my technique has vastly improved.  So, this time around produced way better results than the old days of just messing around.

Dad’d dinner was awesome.  He made a Viper specialty simply known as “stuff,” one of his own creations that I had totally missed since moving out.

watching the pooches play took up a lot of our time

dad, happily cooking

our tie dye all wrapped up and ready to rinse

Luau Fun!

The next day we hung out at home for most of the time too.  We watched TV, rinsed and washed the tie dye, and we said goodbye to the pooches.  Our friends, The Tanners (who are total saints) came over to hang out for a bit, introduce my parents to their adorable doggies Bailey, and then they collected JJ and Eros to bring to their house.   The reason being the day after the luau we took off for the north shore for a couple nights.

jed was here to collect the pooches

ashley was looking through tie dye inventory while hanging out and ended up making a purchase

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  The luau was fun times!  We did Paradise Cove.  It’s the same luau Matthew and I took my sister, Anna, and his BFF, Brian, to when they visited in September.  Since that experience they’ve hired a new chef, and we could instantly tell.  The food was SO GOOD.  I literally ate so much food that Matthew made me take a pregnancy test.   I was downright gluttonous.  I had four pieces of fried chicken, six helpings of the fish, an unspeakable amount of coconut cake.  I ate civiche and salad and anything I could get my hands on.

my first trip to the buffet

The test was negative, by the way.  Cool your jets eager readers… we aren’t quite ready to try again.  Soon though, hopefully.

There was lots to do other than the food.  The sunset was epic.  Their were activities and crafts, and the show was so fun!  Hula, fire dancing, music and jokes.

i always get really into this kinda stuff. into/overboard

me and my dad, our hawaiian versions

viper making his headband

looking very local!

did i mention there were drink tickets and mai tais involved?


the show!

"stand up if you're in love!"

I promise I don’t work for Paradise Cove, I just really had a great time.

North Shore, Turtle Bay, Amazing!

The last two nights of their trip were spent on total luxurious vacation mode.  Turtle Bay Resort up on the North Shore is one of the most beautiful plaxces I’ve ever been.  It’s probably just the most beautiful.  Matthew and I did our honeymoon there and we had an amazing time.  There are two pools (and one has a water slide!), hot tubs, a full spa, five star dining, and epic escapist views.  The Resort is located up on a little jut of land that’s surrounded by water on both sides, so every hotel room is ocean-view.

Dad and Anna had toyed with the idea of making part of their trip a vacation and I really insisted if they did, they choose Turtle Bay.  Once we found out about the summer specials they were running, it was a done deal!  generously, Dad offered to treat Matthew and I to our own room on the terms that we accompany them, so our visit doesn’t have to end when the vacation part starts.  We immediately obliged and had such a great time:  thank you dad and Anna!!

So we woke up early, packed, and we were off.

Well…. almost off.  We had to stop at Bob’s Pizza first, hehe!

mmmm, bob's!

Our time at Turtle Bay was just SO AWESOME.  Lounging poolside, relaxing in the luxurious rooms, the food… oh the food!  Matthew and I just really loved every minute there and it was such a blessing to get to re-visit our honeymoon location before we leave the island.  Anna and Dad got a couples’ massage on the beach (they have this special hut on the beach, it’s awesome), and we all met up for their last official dinner in Hawaii at the Italian restaurant in the hotel.

i'm gettin my tan on!

dad and anna, sippin pina coladas and living aloha!

ole irish duggs has some very fair skin

sliding anna, so fun

we gave ourselves "tens" on form

hot tub in the rain

matthew and i, at their "goodbbye" dinner

anna and dad, saying "aloha" one last time

leaving turtle bay

We left Turtle Bay that morning, made some pit stops along the North Shore: lunch at Shark’s Cove Grill and one last shave ice at Matsumoto’s, and got home in time for my parentals to pack up and say goodbye to the pooches.  Then it was off to the airport.

daddy saying bye to the noodle one last time

TTFN: ta-ta for now!

I really hope that they had a great time out here.  Given all that we did and saw, experienced and had fun with – I don’t see how they couldn’t have.  It was sad to say goodbye, especially since we’re so very far away and we’re not sure when the next time is that we’ll all be together.   But I’m the  HAPPY hippie and thus, I don’t dwell on the sad, but rather the happy – and the happy memories are a-plenty!

Thanks for everything Dad and Anna, we had way too much fun and you were way too generous in all that you treated us to.  We love you and miss you already!!

does your bathroom abuse bunnies?

How Cruelty-Free Are Your Cosmetics? 

I used to be like you.  I bought my shampoo and soap from my neighborhood super wal-mart or other megagrocer.  Dove, Secret, Suave, etc. – I shopped based on price, smells, or the promises made in high budget advertising.    It just seemed like a simple, obvious thing to do.  No big deal, just buy whatever you like, right?  In my mind and heart, I’d always been an animal lover.  If and when “animal testing” came up in conversation, I’d get ill just thinking about it.  But somehow that visceral connection was lost when I went a-shopping, and I never thought about rabbits getting shampoo squirted in their eyes as I grabbed whatevs off the shelf.   I just didn’t think about it. 

i used to just grab whatever was cheap and easy and go for it.

now i know better and i always look for the cruelty-free logo to make sure i'm buying something that is safe for my little sweet animal friends

During my early 20’s I was doing a lot of self-discovery.  I found my political voice, learned how I really felt about the world.  I actively chose not to live an unexamined life: I don’t want to just go through the motions of living, autopilot style.  I am a person who examines the world around me, gets the most out of life, and uses my mellon as I’m saying and doing (or at least I try to make that effort, ya know?).

In learning to ask questions, open my eyes, and identify where I draw the lines between right and wrong… I realized that animal testing is not something I’m okay with.   I can get so fresh and so clean, or do my eyes up without killing, hurting, maiming helpless small animals.  I didn’t become a vegan or cut red meat out of my lifestyle.  I still take medications that have pointlessly been tested on animals (different argument for a different day)… but choosing which bathroom supplies I buy is an active decision that I can make; I use my consumer power to stand up for something I believe in.  By purposefully choosing to own and use only products that are cruelty-free I put my money where my mouth is.

It’s more of an awareness/mentality shift than an entire lifestyle change, ya know? I’m still washing my hair and wearing make up, I’m just conscious of what products I use to do so.

In the past three and a half years I’ve done a lot of learning.  Some cruelty-free products can be more expensive than your mainstream brands.  Often cruelty-free companies go hand in hand with using organic ingredients or are produced by smaller, mom and pop kind of entities.  I’ve used some hippie-dippy stuff that was lackluster at best: gooey deodorants, shampoos that won’t lather.   Back in 2008 when I started this journey, finding safe items in mainstream stores was hard.  I’d have to speciality shop around, and keep trial and erroring different goods.  The issue has come a long way though, and now many stores carry the brands I trust, making this commitment easier than ever.    I’ve also found lines of products I love, and I feel like I’m taking my stand whilst maintaining convenience.

So, are you ready?  Interested in learning more?  Want to make the change?

Why Cruelty-Free? What’s the Big Deal? 

Animal testing is so icky.  It’s still legal in the USA (which is crazy), although the FDA does encourage that companies seek the most humane methods possible to prove the safety of their products.  That’s cool.  But encouragement ain’t the law, we need to take it further. Here’s the FDA’s stance:  http://www.fda.gov/Cosmetics/ProductandIngredientSafety/ProductTesting/ucm072268.htm

Google “vivisection.”  Go on, do it.  Open a new tab and give it a google.

Did you do it?  Do you already know about vivisection?  Vivisection is the scientific experimentation of LIVE subjects.   When applied to the cosmetic world, the rampant use of needless vivisection is disgusting.  Millions of small animals are tortured alive in the name of science, under the guise of proving product safety.   When you google the term a lot of graphic images pop up:  so gut-wrenching nasty, huh?

DoSomething.org gives some fun facts about animal testing, explaining that millions of small animals are subjected to cruel and painful tests each year in the USA:  http://www.dosomething.org/tipsandtools/11-facts-about-animal-testing

Here’s a great youtube video, chock full of vom-inducing graphic images, and heart twisting stats to help paint the picture of what cosmetic animal testing is really all about.  Warning, VERY graphic: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSwR70Xtaug

Animal testing isn’t making our world safe one eye shadow at a time: it’s performing redundant and unnecessary tests that can be easily managed in other, harmless ways.  The body of data we already have is sufficient for creating safe products made of ingredients that are safe for human consumption or use.  Here’s a page that debunks some myths about animal testing, very informative: http://www.leapingbunny.org/myths.php

Third party testing is something that also must be taken into consideration.  Many products will say “final product not tested on animals.”  That’s neat, but that’s not fighting the whole issue.  Ingredients are being tested on furry critters.  The problem is that many ingredients have already been tested on animals, and that can’t be un-done.  We don’t have a time machine.  But certified “cruelty-free” products don’t currently test on animals or use new animal testing to develop a product.  They buy ingredients that aren’t currently tested on animals.  So while the sad past can’t be taken back and information obtained from those experiments is used: new testing is not needed or condoned.  We can build off the body of knowledge we already have without subjecting more animals to torture.

Make The Switch

Making the actual switch is easy-peasy.  Like I said, it’s not a lifestyle change.  There aren’t any habits I’m greatly altering, it’s just the specific products I use.  I still brush my teeth, apply deodorant and what not – I just am careful about what I toss in the buggy when I’m shopping.   I use my consumer power constructively.

Dont like reading?  Or are you dying to see my mug and hear my voice?  I made a little video to accompany this blog, here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkVUGzkyGek

a screenshot of my super sweet video. go click the youtube link and watch me!! yeah, the pooch is in the background. bonus! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UkVUGzkyGek

Here’s a like-minded fella’ giving his point of view, Wayne Goss (makeup artist) on animal testing in relation to cosmetics: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cd0g4shOXSI&NR=1&feature=fvwp

Here’s an easy-to-use list that can help you identify cruelty-free products: http://www.peta.org/living/beauty-and-personal-care/companies/default.asp

And here are some other good resources:

Out at the store and not sure what should buy?  There’s an app for that!  I just got it today, actually.   http://www.peta.org/features/Stephanie-Pratt-iphone-app.aspx

the "bnb" app is right next to "angry birds" - yay iphone!

so easy to use, tres cool

 What am I using? 

Yay! The fun part.  I love reviewing products and spreading the word about something I really love to use.

When I first dived into the cruelty-free world I used a lot of Kiss My Face products.  Burt’s Bees, Kiss My Face, and Tom’s of Maine are probably my top three go-to companies.  All of them are becoming accessible to the masses, I see them in every drug store and super market.  Awesome!  The Kiss My Face body washes and hand soaps are my fave.  I don’t really care for any Burt’s Bees or Kiss My Face hair care products, though.  For that I use the Say Yes To… brand (Say Yes To Carrots = my shampoo/conditioner of choice!).

here's my shower line up

nature's gate chamomile shampoo

That Nature’s Gate shampoo isn’t the best shampoo ever, NGL.   But, it’s an epic body wash.  My husband goes crazy for the smell, it’s delicious really.  I get a huge lather on my loofah and I just love to use it all over myself, just not on my hair.  That’s okay though.

i am so in love with these two - my hair has never been healthier or happier!

organic oils have so many uses!

my oil vial next to one of my many aveda products. i love aveda, so great.

Sunflower oil is so very moisturizing – I love it!  I use it in combination with the Castor oil as part of my face cleansing regime: The Oil Cleansing Method.   (I’ll make a post about that in a bit, it’s a whole ‘nother topic).  I use the Sunflower oil as a general skin moisturizer.   It’s so softening and light.  Good stuff right there!

when i'm not using oil - this is what i use on my face. amazing wipes!!

Yes To Cucumbers is my favorite product (as in other than the oil cleansing method) to use on my face.  They have a facewash that I use, as well as these wipes.

bought this on a whim, can't imagine living without it

best deodorant i've ever used, i promise!

So Kiss My Face makes a deo, and I’ve tried it before.  It says somethingerother about “active enzymes” on it, so I gacve it a whirl.  For me, and whatever my body makes my pits do, it was not a good choice.  By nature, I don’t really have stinky sweaty pits.  I actually don’t even wear deo most days, and no one notices at all.  I’m just not really stinky.  Unless I work out or something, then it’s on and I sweat like a crazy person.  Or go to the dentist: I’m terrified of the dentist and I break out in the craziest sweat ever.  Buckets.  Anyways… here’s my point: not all natural deodorants have worked for me.  I didn’t care for the kind with the “active enzymes.”  But the Tom’s Apricot stuff pictured above = wonderful.  I lurve it!

When it comes to makeup – ALL I use is M.A.C.  It’s the best quality anyways, it has the awesomest variety of colors, coverage types, etc.  The stuff you buy lasts and withstands travel, being in my lil makeup pouch and getting tossed around in my giant purse, and sitting in the car when I accidentally leave it there.  And it’s just the best, and they do NOT test on lil animals at all.  So rad!

the only makeup i use

best lip balm of all time

body shop's body butters = excellent. the smell of the mango flavor is so delectable i try and eat my own arms after applying, maybe.

welcome to my purse... i must make out a lot.

Brands I love and trust:

  • Tom’s of Maine
  • Burt’s Bees
  • Kiss My Face
  • Say Yes To…
  • M.A.C.
  • Aveda
  • eos – Evolution of Smooth
  • Lush
  • Body Shop
  • OPI
  • Clinique
  • Earth Nature Essentials
If you really took the time to read all of this, maybe clicked a couple of the links I’ve tossed out there, and possibly considered making sure your next cosmetic purchase is a cruelty-free one, THANK YOU.   I know I’m long-winded and all over the place; my zaniness is a reflection of my passion though and this is a topic I feel most passionately about.  Your time and thoughtfulness are much appreciated.

my pooch always steals my heating pad

There isn’t really much to report here, just some VERY CUTE pics of JJ totes nabbing my heating pad.

I think I have to buy him his own.  Or something.

tsunami, march 11, 2011. our own little adventure.

The earthquake and tsunami that started in Japan on March 11, 2011 brought an incredible amount of destruction, death, sadness, and fear.  I ask that anyone reading this blog just take a moment to respect the gravity of these events.  For some of you, I know that means you’ll pray.  For others, maybe just take a nice moment of silence or just send some positive vibes to japan.  If any of y’all reading this would take that moment, it would mean so much to me.

My Wacky Tsunami Adventure – March 11th!

My flight landed around 10:00pm Hawaii time.  I’d just been on a ten day vacay from Hawaii to Florida to Minnesota back to Florida, to Washington state and now back to Hawaii.  WHEW.   By the time my plane touched down I’d been traveling for 22 hours.  So as I’m sure you can guess, I was super thrilled to hear the tsunami alarms going off.   All I wanted to do was sleep, but stepping off the plane and into such chaos gave me a second wind, big time.

Carly came to the airport to pick me up, but since we couldn’t call or text each other, it was a bit of a mess.   You see, during an emergency all of the cell towers get clogged up making calling or texting impossible.   Luckily, Carly and I both have smart phones and we literally used FB statuses to communicate.

“I just landed, Carly if you can see this I’m in Hawaii, but still on the plane.”

“Rose’s plane is 40 minutes late and the sirens are going off, yikes!  Does anyone know her flight number?”

I’m just paraphrasing from memory… but you get the idea.   So we kept commenting on each other’s FB and eventually we linked up. Facebook would actually become the primary way everyone kept in contact throughout the whole night.  (I feel so validated that FB finally has a serious, legit purpose.  Now the millions of hours I’ve logged in FB world seem justifiable, right?)

So anyways.  My plane lands way late, and I’m all confused about what’s going on.  Tsunami? What does that even mean?  I’ve been out of the house for two weeks (reatreat + my vacay).  I have no food, no flashlights.  I’m probably low on toilet paper.  I’ll need water.  And what do I even do to prepare my house?  I don’t have a plan.  Uh oh.

Carly was in a real pickle too.  She’d been in the cell phone lot waiting for my plane to land, and as she’s just waiting and waiting (because my flight was so late) the sirens keep going of and the doom seems more impending.   I’m so glad that Carly is a trooper and she waited patiently to hear from me.

So now that we’re linked up, and together – its almost eleven at night, we have no supplies, we haven’t prepared for this thing at all, and its expected to hit at three in the morning.  We have four hours to square away our lives.  EEEEKS!!

Carly and I drove back to our base and braved the only store that was open.  Of course it was packed.  It was so packed that it actually took us 20 minutes to even get our vehicle into the parking lot, the line of cars was that long.   Once inside, everyone was going nuts.  Buying water, dry goods, supplies, booze, etc.  We personally stocked up on water, snacks and pooch food.

After stocking up at the store we decided to check out what was happening and make a plan.   Carly’s house is in a low-lying neighborhood and we assumed she’d have to evacuate.   My house is on a hill, and a sign denotes that my neighborhood is a tsunami safe zone.   The assumed plan was for Carly and her pets to come hunker down at my house.   We found some MP’s doing evacuation noticies and our assumptions were confirmed.  Carly’s house = not safe.  My house = shelter.

We saw on FB that our friend Megan was also being evacuated, so we swung by her house and told her to come hunker down with us as well. Why not make it a party, right?  Megan has a dog, a cat, and a husband.  Carly has two doggies.  I have my pooch.  So all in all, it would be a full, fun, animal-friendly house.

I kept updating my FB status letting my friends know they could come seek safety with us, and that their pets were more than welcomed.  (I can’t even imagine evacuating and not being able to bring JJ with me.  I literally get sick just thinking about it).


The Scary Part

So I finally get home, GREET MY EXCITED POOCH WHO I HAVEN’T SEEN IN TEN WHOLE DAYS, and turn on the TV. The footage from Japan is plastering across the screen and they’re making predictions about wave heights and arrival times for us.  This thing, this giant 100-foot-deep wave is confirmed and headed our way.  I’ve lived through many a hurricane and tornado.  I’ve rode out storms.  But something about the massive wall of water coming towards you creates a unique sense of impending doom.

So we just tried to say aware? I guess?  We kept the news on, and all of us had our laptops out.  Since we couldn’t use our phones, we were all using social media to update everyone about our situation.  I was posting that anyone who needed a place to stay could come to my house.  I was letting family know I was back in Hawaii and okay.  It was just a weird, chaotic time.  And thank God for FB!  Seriously, I can’t say it enough.

carly's doggies, kitty and kano

my jayjers!

sweet, chill, awesome kano

megan, violet, and kano.

me and my boy

What should we do?  So many questions.

The drama I personally have with a tsunami is that I don’t really know what to do.  Do I pack a backpack of my photos and keep my sneaks by the door so if I need to literally run for it I can?  Do we practice scampering to the roof?  If this thing really comes, and the water really rises, what do we do? How do I maximize the hour or so I now have before it hits?  Do I grab up all of my first floor valuables and schlep them upstairs?

To say that I felt unprepared was an understatement.  I know what to do in a hurricane.  I know how to hide in a bathtub under a mattress if a tornado is coming my way.   But what the eff is one to do in a tsunami?


So we sat around for a couple hours.

At first I went nuts trying to make the house all welcoming and nice.  I was so unprepared for guests!  Luckily, I had done a good amount of cleaning and tidying before I left on my trip – so the house was presentable.  But I was all flustered about making everyone comfy, so I spent a couple hours scurrying around making sure there was plenty of toilet papers to go around, and that everyone knew where to find clean towels. etc.  Finally Carly talked some sense into me and I simmered.

We ate some snacks.  And I was so exhausted I just kind sat on the couch and nodded in and out of sleep.  Dear sweet Carly made me dinner. We ate corn dogs.  Literally, I got to choose a possible last meal… and I went with corn dogs.  I’m not even sure what that says about me, but I think it might mean something awesome.

i love corndogs

this ridiculous and embarrassing display is my apocalypse stash of dry good. this is how i planned to survive for days in a worst case scenario. i'm such a twelve year old.

We took all of our important documents, and got them together and put them in ziplocks.  I had my marriage certificate, birth certificate, nursing license, etc., all that jazz safe and on me.   I think that was one of the smartest things we did.

We also gathered all of the candles and lighters and flashlights so they’d be in one spot and easy to access if we lost power.   I filled the bathtub up so we’d have a freshwater supply.   That one may have been overkill.  But then again, if there wasn’t any running water and we were stuck in the house for a while, I bet everyone would have been pretty durn thankful for that tub!

baby when the lights go out... we'll be ready.

We knew the estimated time the wave should hit our island was around 3:20-something in the morning.  So we just sorta stayed awake and watching the news and played it by ear.   We didn’t really have a plan on what we’d do if the house started to fill with water, I still don’t know what to do.

Finally it was like four in the morning and we assumed the worst of what could happen, happened.  So we went to bed.  Carlita and I took our doggies upstairs and we all got snuggly.   As the morning grew out, cell service started to kinda come back to us.  Then it was a nonstop buzzing of  texts and calls as family and friends checked in on us.   So we really didn’t sleep too much at all, but at least our loved ones who had been worried about us were able to check in.   Its nice to be loved, its nice to know that people were worried about our safety and well-being.

Looking back, I have NO idea how we didn’t get hit worse.  I have no idea how that water went around us and hit California.  I don’t understand it, and I probably don’t want to.  But for whatever reason Hawaii was (mostly) spared, I thank God.

doggies in bed

kano wishes he could get up in the bed too. aww sadface kano.

look how jeals jj is of kitty. jj LOVES carly, that's his girlfriend. and there's kitty, hogging carly all to herself!

soooooo cute, sleeping jayjer.

good morning my pooch!

The Reality Now – JAPAN

What’s happening in Japan now is just tearing out my heart. All of the dead and dying.  The displaced people.  Those who can’t get in touch with their loved ones.  The reactors and the brave brave people trying to work on them.  The radiation and the terror its causing.  People who have lost everything they owned.  I could just go on and on… the situation is far too immense to even try to understand, let alone describe in a blog.

The other day I wrote a small prayer for Japan:

Dear God: please heal, protect, comfort and be with the people of Japan. Cool off the reactors, protect the people from radiation, unite loved ones who are still separated from each other. Bring the hungry food, the thirsty clean water, let the devastated have arms to cry in. Please God, I PRAY FOR JAPAN.

Prayers, good vibes, money, volunteers, donations, water, clothing, flights out of there… help is needed in so many different forms right now.   I’m not even sure how to wrap this up, how to properly end this blog with tact and the proper amount of reverence for the situation – so I’ll just say that my heart goes out to Japan and all of the people affected by this disaster, and they are all in my prayers.

daytona beach (and i don’t mean spring break)

After Sasha’s wedding I flew back to Florida the evening of March 6th and visited with my Mom’s side of the fam (including my little sister) until March 10th.   My Mom, my Sister Anna, my Aunt Sheila and Uncle Tim, their kids (my cousins) Justin and Nicole, and my Unlce’s dad, “Grandpa Lyle” (aka: Pop Pop) – all live in Volusia County, near trashy classy Daytona Beach, Florida.   I got there just in time for Bike Week, and the beginnings of Spring Break. Fab.

Sunday Night

My sister picked me up for the Orlando airport Sunday night and she brought her doggie with her!  Puppy, my sister’s dog, is so sweet.  I was starting to really miss my pooch – so I was glad to have a little furry friend to be in the car with me.

puppy singing, "come on and jump in my car, i wanna take you home."

We had a nice amount of time in the car to chit chat and catch up.  I hadn’t seen her since she came to Hawaii to visit me last September.  My sis and I are really close, so being with her is just so nice.  We also stopped at POLLO TROPICAL.  I got a pork tropichop and covered it in guava BBQ sauce and it was amazing.  It was the first of much food-related happiness I’d enjoy during my Daytona time.

We got home and decided we wanted to watch a movie.   My sister thought it would be a great idea to try and disconnect then reconnect any and every DVD-playing device in the house to every TV and hope that one combination would eventually work.  To help motivate my sister to work more efficiently, I thought it would be nice to play “Stereo Love.”  On repeat.  And I couldn’t stop dancing.  (Have you heard that song?  Have I already mentioned in an earlier entry how contagious and great that song is?  The accordion, and the trance and the awesomeness. Ahhh.)

Anyways, so I just danced a bunch while she made a mess of wires and DVD players and what-not and after an hour or so we realized we were SOL.  Then… her roomie Isaac came home from work and saved the day.  Yay!   No doubt used to coming home and finding such situations, Isaac quietly and quickly fixed the technology in my sister’s room and movie time was on.

We watching “Bringing Down The House.”  And even though its pretty funny, I found it to be too much.  Like too insulting with the yuck yuck jokes about different stereotypes.   It was just too over the top for me.  I fell asleep during it anyways.


So we slept in a bit, and then we went to a little place for brekky, Lake View Diner and that place is heaven on earth!  Best.  Food.  Ever.  They have scrapple on the menu!  SCRAPPLE!   Who does that in Florida?!?!?

i ate all that. biscuits and gravy, eggs and fried potatoes, and SCRAPPLE. the best breakfast meat of all time.

Chilling out around my sister’s casa is nice.  Her roomies are friendly and crack me up.  Cesar made me some coffee, which was MUCH appreciated.  And Isaac pretty much does everything around that place.  He’s so great.

zoey the cat totally communicates with the ducks and squirrels out back.

the backyard friends. (is that like a "backyardigan?" what is a "backyardigan?")

so cute she likes her outside pals.

So after that breakfast of epic proportions, I totally had to do some lounging and relaxing.  Whew.

Mid-afternoon we went over to Aunt Sheila and Uncle’s Tim’s house.  They live like 15-ish minutes away from sister, kinda in New Smyrna.   Their kids, my two cousins Justin and Nicole, are super close with my sister and me.  Living so far away from them in Hawaii has been a total bummer and I was super stoked to see them!!

Justin, who is 14 now, is almost as tall as my sister. Which isn't saying much.

my cousin nicky cole and me. she made me the tie dye shirt i'm wearing, LOVE!

i look way skinnier in that blurry pic i just posted. time to lay off the scrapple.

We ate a bunch of Italian sausage, and some hot dogs.  And we talked a lot.  I think that’s what all Italian fams do, eat and chat.  There was some booze imbibed by some; I did not, however, partake.  I’m off the sauce again, thankfully.    It was nice to just hang out and catch up and talk story and laugh.

Notice I just said talk story.  I’m so Hawaiian now!!!!!

here are nicole's silly bands. she wanted to show me them. they're pretty sweet! i wish i had that many. instead i have like 7. dommie (one of my bffs) bought me a military-themed pack and then i have a couple others i've picked up here and there.

everybody get up, its time to slam now. we got the real jam goin' down.

justin's room has been re-done, and hanging up is all of his sweet manchester united gear. my friend dickie who lives in london sent my cousin a care pack of merch a while ago, and now its all on display in the new room. yay!

Anyways, it was a night night spent with the fam and I loved just being able to hang out and catch up and enjoy their company.

Tuesday: The Secret, Publix, and a family BBQ (these are a few of my favorite things)

I spent Monday night at my sister’s house again.  Wednesday morning we woke up, made some coffee (have you deduced that I’m addicted to coffee yet?) and decided to watch the movie version of “The Secret.”  If you’ve never read it, heard the audio tape, or seen the movie – you just have to (“the Secret,” by Rhonda Byrne – it was made really famous by Oprah).  Its one of my top five life-changers, hands down.  Its probably number two, second only to The Bible.  Seriously, look into this:  THE SECRET.

The power of positive thinking is incredible, and it’s a great tool that spells out the easy steps one can take to turning any frown upside down. I feel like whenever you’re having a difficult time in life, or getting stuck in a negative rut, there’s no shame in reaching into your toolbox and using whatever you can to ratchet up your quality of life, tweak things a little.  My sister was unfamiliar with “The Secret,” and I just really wanted her to see it.  So we watched a few minutes of the movie version.  At least she knows about it and has access to it now, so she could always check it out when she has more time or feels personally motivated to learn the skills of positive thinking.

After my soapbox on thinking happy thoughts was done, we decided to grab some grub.  Time to go to Mecca: PUBLIX!!

i'm all dolled up for publix. my cousin justin made this tie dye shirt for me, awesome!

the most beautiful grocery store in the world

I love Publix.  Their motto is, “where shopping is a pleasure,” and it surely is.  The Publix bakery is divine, the deli has the world’s tastiest, bestest subs.   All of their stores are so clean and nice and bright and just… I just miss Publix so much.

We got subs for lunch and I was happy as a clam!

sammich time!

So we got the subs, went back to my sister’s crib and ate them there.

my sister's neighbors

Anna’s boyfriend Steven got off work early and met up with us.  At some point around like three or four o’clock, the three of us headed over to my Aunt’s house for a family BBQ.    My Mom was coming to my Aunt’s house too, and it was my first time getting to see my Mama since the 4th of July!  I was really looking forward to seeing her, for sure.

My Aunt marinated chicken in Chiavetta’s overnight, and then my Uncle grilled it.  (Don’t know what Chiavetta’s is? Its the world’s best marinade.  Seriously, the best.  My Mom’s whole fam is from Western New York, and Chiavetta’s is totally a Buffalo thing.  Get you some, you will not be sad: Chiavetta’s.  If you’ve ever had Spiedie’s State Fair sauce (which is more from Syracuse), its similar.  But Chiavetta’s > Spiedie’s, just sayin.

this actually isn't from the bbq we had - but this is a photo my aunt took in feb of a bbq they had, and the chicken was all done in chiavetta's. seriously, i dream of that chicken. its just the best. ever.

photo courtesy of buffalochow.com - chiavetta's chicken. how amazing crazy delicious does that look? oh yeah.


We also had leftover sausage from the night before, beans and slaw (that I picked up at the Dustin’s BBQ in Port Orange), fresh cut strawberries, and my mom made pasta salad.  Well, we asked mom to make pasta salad and she showed up with macaroni that had pepperoni, salami, ham, artichokes and olives in it, LOL.   Who knew we were THAT Italian?   It’s one stereotype after the other sometimes.  I love it.

nicole and i cutting up the strawberries. 3 x 16oz. packs for $5.00 at publix. that's crazy amazing, 30% the price of strawberries in hawaii right now.

cold winter = amazing strawberries. this year ain't no exception.

Even though we bought perfect and amazing sugar cookies from the Publix Bakery (yes, with sprinkles!), my sister decided to bake cookies while we were at my Aunt’s house.  She made some kind of pumpkin cookies with white chocolate chips in there.  I don’t know.  I don’t really like chocolate that much, so I wasn’t in the mood for them.  But the batter was tasty and the kids had fun helping.  And everyone else seemed to really love them. Hooray!  My sister is a great cook and baker, so I’m very sure they were awesome – I just wasn’t in the mood really.

anna and nicole baking cookies

my favorite part of any baked good = batter. and i am all about eating batter with the raw eggs. i'm 27 and it hasn't killed me so far.

busted! this is why nicole is my clone. seriously caught in the act of dippin into the batter. i love her.

justin and steven hanging out

my mom aka kanye

The BBQ was fun, and once again we had a nice time just breaking bread together as a family and talking and hanging out and being silly, relaxing, etc.  Its just nice to be with family!  Once it was the kids’ bedtime, we decided to peace out and go home too.


Wednesday – going to my Mom’s house in Ormond!

So I promised my Mom that while I was in Florida I’d make sure to help her out with a few things around her house.   So Anna and I got up Wednesday morning, I packed up all my junk into my big ole hiking sack and we headed out to Ormond.   On the way we swung by DD.  Yes, DD as in DUNKIN DONUTS.  I WENT TO DUNKIN DONUTS!!

be still my beating heart


Being the generous gals that we are (and the fact that we had coupons) – we decided to bring Steven some donuts.  He was at work, so we got to surprise him.  How nice of us!

this "art" hangs over steven's desk at work. doesn't it totally look like the crap they hang up in a nail salon?

steven + anna

me and steven, in his office

Donuts delivered, it was finally time to go say hey to my Ma!

on the way to mom's: beachside ormond, coming over the granada bridge

So the first project we did at my mom’s house was to move her computer.  She was keeping her whole computer, printer, etc., all downstairs by her bedroom – and because of the inconvenient location she wasn’t spending any time online.  Unsat!  She has a really nicely sized desk built-in to her kitchen, so we cleared that off and moved all of her technology stuff up to the kitchen.  We set her up real good.  Now she has an awesome workspace with her computer, printer, landline phone, everything – all right in the hub of her house.  (Her kitchen is totally her hub where she cooks, watches tv, she by far spends the most time in that room, so this worked out perfectly).

The next project was going through the upstairs bedroom that used to be my sister’s.   My sister owns, or has owned, so much stuff its CRAZY.  So this vacated room that she hasn’t lived in for years is still totally full of a random assortment of left behind treasures and garbage.  Clothes, nicknacks, mementoes, just so many things.  We spent a nice amount of time sorting through the junk in there and deciding what was worth holding on to and what needed to get pitched.  I won’t call anyone out by name, but hoarding is totally in our gene pool – so I’m all about busting up that habit before we end up on that Buried Alive show.  (btw, that show makes me vomm – the hoarding show.  I cannot even handle it; hoarding is so sad and awful and gross.  next topic!).

I didn’t really take any pics during project time because, well, I was busy doing stuff.  But – I did get some great pics of my mom’s pooches before and after we were doing work!

Layla is her dalmatian, and Max is her mutt.  Layla is totally deaf, and Max is amazing and takes care of her.  When my mom gets home – if Layla is sleeping and can’t hear her come in, Max will go and gently nudge Layla and lick her ’till she wakes up.  When both doggies are outside, if my mom calls them in, Max will make sure Layla gets the memo.  My mom’s house has a pool and they LOVE to go swimming.

There’s also a cat, Mina.  Her real name is some Italian name that I don’t remember or know how to spell.  But her nickname is “Mina.”  She’s beautiful and feisty and loves to mess with the doggies.  She gets on top of her cat tower and sneakily swats those fools when the walk by.  Its hilarious.  Okay, okay, enough build up.  Here I present you, a bunch of animal photos:

layla running the pool deck

swimming times


la-lee (that's how you say her nickname. almost like lolly).


time to dry off and come inside

anna gets a pooch smooch

mom and max. i put this in here so y'all can see how HUGE max is. according do the humane society, when he was a puppy, he was "part chihuahua." oh how they lie to get you take a dog! hahaha. he was a really tiny puppy though, and it shocked the heck out of everyone when he grew into his ginormous size. he's a gentle giant though, a total sweetheart.

close up. so handsome, that max!

you were JUST out there.

mama and mina

cats never want to be held. its so annoying. its so cat of them.

After doing projects all day, my noggin started to really hurt.  My trigeminal neuralgia stuff has been fluctuating; thank God it was manageable for most of my trip.  But starting this day (this Wednesday, second-to-last day of my travels) it just got really really bad. Debilitating bad.  So I had to take a break and chill out for a little while.  I even made a rice pack to get some nice, moise heat going on.

i look grouchy because i don't feel well. but i fastened the hot sock to my noggin with my bandanna so i could go hands free. (i fill a clean sock with rice and then nuke it in the micro, works amazingly well! and i'm a freak about going handsfree - i love handsfree anything! fanny packs ftw.)

and just to be really obscene and obnoxious, i have to display this photo of my mom's toilet. how florida is this? a fishie potty seat? omg, way too florida. way too amazing.

jack and rose, my maternal grandparents - may they rest in heaven now. i saw this pic on my mom's desk, and i had to take a pic of a pic. rose here is my namesake, and even though i never met her i love her so much. and i'm so sorry to put their photo next to a toilet photo. ugh, sorries. no disrespect!!

After relaxing and getting my noggin to feel better, Mom and I went out to dinner at her place of work: Betty’s A1A Cafe.  I love Betty’s!  The food is seriously so good.  Its about a mile away from where my mom lives, and its right across from the beach (there are no beachfront buildings in that part of Ormond-by-the-Sea, so its actually as close to the ocean as you can get).  We ordered a whole fried seafood feast, and it was delicious.  (It was Ash Wednesday, so mom was insistent on going meat-free, and I obliged).  We ordered two dinners and split them: fried lobster and the fired seafood platter.  I know, I know – fried?  But I’m still on vacay, I have gotta live it up.  And besides, their batter is light and heavenly.  Fried lobster? Dunked in drawn butter?  Why would I ever NOT order that?  Oh, and sweet potato fries. Holycrap it doesn’t get more tastier.

betty's! (some random pic i found on google image search, no idea who these people are- but that's out front of betty's alright).

One of our family friends, Joyce, met up with us and it was lovely to see her!  Joyce’s daughter, Mary, is my oldest BFF.  Mary and I grew up together, having been babies at the same time.  And my mom and Joyce have been pals just as long.  Mary lives several hours away from my mom/my hometown, so I wasn’t able to see her on this trip.  But seeing Joyce and catching up was great!  A nice time was had by all.

After Betty’s for dinner we went home and just chilled out.

its almost bed time for this little girl

i'm using max as a leg rest. he was surprisingly cooperative.

Before bed, Ma and I watched some tv together with the doggies.  And I made her a friendship bracelet.  Bracelet making is a big hobby of mine, LOVE making the bracelets.  You may have noticed from recent photos of me I have a whole wrist-full of colorful decor, that’s them. My mom and I needed matching ones, so I made them while we watched “19 Kids and Counting” on DVR.  I love the Duggars.  They make me happy.  So do doggies, making bracelets, my mom, and just being with her.  So as you can surmise, I had a lovely evening at my Mom’s house – I love you Mommy!

the bracelet i made for mommy

our matching bracelets, so cool and cute.

Now, its bed time.  We have to be up at 0500 for me to fly back towards Hawaii.  Sadtimes to leave my fam, but I was also missing my pooch and the beaches and my Hawaiian friends, so it was a mixed bag of feelings.

mina came up to my room to snuggle with me for the whole night

pretty mina

my last mina pic - i just keep posting 'em because i think her coloring is so pretty!

layla is ready to snuggle! so cute, and she is a durn good cuddler. i was sandwiched in between her and the cat all night. so cozy!

FInally, the alarm went off bright and early and it was time to get going!  Right as I was throwing my giant pack over my shoulders I went to pick up my sweatshirt, and I saw the tag.  After the nickname I’d gotten all trip long, it cracked me up.

i'm such a sherpa, carrying around that big ole pack. love it!

Next stop: Seattle!!!!!

UPDATE: I talked to my Mommy tonight, and “Mina” is named after Taormina, a beautiful Sicilian city overlooking the sea.   She said when she first adopted Mina, something about her poise and beauty reminded my mom of her most favorite place in Sicily.  The way Mina climbs up on top of her cat tower and looks out over the house – just like the stately city that peers out on the Ionian Sea.

hotel viper (leesburg, florida)

March 2-4 I visited my Dad, Stepmom, and Grandma in luxurious Leesburg, Florida!   My stay at Hotel Viper was relaxing and nice.

For those of you who are new to my world of wackiness, Viper = my dad.  Its a nickname he’s had for about six years now, and I call him “Viper” more than I do “Dad.”   How the Viper got its name is a tale for another entry altogether (if you’re interested in hearing that story, comment and let me know!)

i'm on my way to florida!

I left Hawaii on the afternoon of the 1st.  Had a superquick layover at LAX, and then flew the redeye into Orlando.  I landed at 6am, and I was exhausted.  My two flights were pretty unremarkable.  I mostly read and ate snacks.  My first flight had mini-TV’s in the seatbacks and I watched two movies.  “Hereafter” with Matt Damon was so good, yo!

Anyways, my stepmom Anna picked me up at the airport and drove me the hour to my dad’s house.

sunrise over the groves, hwy 19, lake county

I lived in Jacksonville on my own for seven and half years.  When I decided to go back to school (for a second bachelor’s degree) at age 25, Viper was super supportive and awesome and invited me to come live with him.  I did a semester of pre-reqs, and then a really intense year of nursing school in an accelerated program.  I had a lot of good times living with the Shapiro gang in Leesburg, and coming “back home” to visit them and see the house was really nice and comforting.

And of course, they spared no luxury when it came to welcoming me home:

so fancy! and just for me? i'm honored.

Three cats live at Chez Viper: Rascal, Zach, and Sassy (aka: Smooshy).  Rascal was originally my cat, but a roomie of mine was uber allergic – so Rascal moved in with Dad and Anna.  Shortly thereafter, they adopted Zach.  Their house is a cat haven full of towers, toys, and scratching posts.  Snacks and treats are served on schedule each day, and well… it’s basically a cat’s paradise.  Rascal and Zach became BFF’s.  So even though I love Rascal and he’ll always be my baby, I just couldn’t pull him out of such a great environment.  Not to mention the suggestion that perhaps some of the people living there have gotten attached to the guy too.  Sassy, the third cat, lives upstairs with Grandma and she’s a pretty sleepy, chill, older cat.  She’s really nice.

handsome rascal love

zach on the window cat bed

My Dad had to work both of the days I was home and visiting, but we were able to get some quality hangout time in the late afternoons once he was of work.    During the day I hung out with my stepmom and was able to help my Grandma out with a few odds and ends.  She gets tired pretty easily, so that was nice to be able to hook her up.   (Gma ordered like eight bags of dried peas from the healthfood store and needed me to go pick them up for her.  That was interesting, lol!)

rascal welcoming viper home from work

We took the cats for a walk.  Well, Zach refused to get in the harness… so we took Rascal for a walk.

rascal walk! (do you think he needs the exercise?)

oh boy, this is fun.

I wasn’t sure if Rascal was enjoying himself, so Viper suggested we bust out the Kitty Mood-o-Meter, a ridiculous card that explains a cat’s moods based on their appearance.

the infamous cat mood-o-meter

Is your cat baring his teeth and hissing?  He’s not happy. Thanks mood-o-meter, so helpful.  Really though, they got it for Grandma because she was having a tough time relating to the felines in the house, and now its become kind of a family joke.  When one o the cats is obviously freaking the eff out, my sarcastic dad will ask if I’d like the mood-o-meter to help me decipher what’s going on.

We spent a good amount of time going through old photos, and that was really fun.   Grandma cooked dinner the first night – chicken, stuffing and gravy.  Asparagus.  The second night we ordered pizza and I ate this crazy homemade cannoli that was so good.   I also discovered the WORST soda ever.

freaking poison in a can

One day, Viper had a bunch of correspondence to manage.  And I needed to do my toes.  So we invented nails’n’mail day.  How fun!

i did my toes, while 'ackal helped daddy with the mails.

It was too short of a visit, but it was very sweet!  I’m so glad I got to come home and see my fam, laugh a lot, and just catch up.  It was just like old times and honestly it felt like I’d never left.  Hanging out is just so natural and low key.   I love my wacky, weird, silly, family.  The more y’all learn about my fam – the more you understand why I’m so weird.  I mean that with love!

Bonus – here’s a pic of my stepmom!

anna, my purty stepmom rockin her new uggs. she's so stylish (esp for leesburg!)

me and my pooch – super photo dump

I’m sitting here working on a new post for this blog… and as I was going through my whole Photo Booth cache (looking for a pic to use on the other post I’m writing now) I noticed all of these cute and silly pics of JJ and me that I’ve never posted anywhere before.  Jackpot, right?

So even though its probably vain and obnoxious for me to make a whole post of pics of myself, its my blog and I can do what I want to.

For your viewing pleasure, me and my pooch:

Did that make you smile?  You know it did.  He’s so sweet and cuddly, how can you not smile?