Lots of Dogs and Even More Love in the Relaxing, Peaceful Lake House at Camp Curtis – Pottersville, NY

This stop on our New York state road trip has been a real treat!

leaving the city and heading upstate!

holding sweet jay in the car ride on sunday

My little sister and her boyfriend Jared just relocated from Florida on up to NY as well.  Crazy, right?  That we both, my sister and I, moved from the warm and sunny states to woods of New York.  She left Florida the same day I left Hawaii in fact!  We’re such sisters, always on the same wavelength.

we’re kinda birds of a feather as it is, ya know!

Luckily for us, the timing just fell in to place for a nice two-night visit along our eat to west route.  So after seeing the McKay and Duggan side of the fam and our eastern-NY pals, we headed toward Albany.

Pottersville, where Valentine Pond is, is about 45 minutes (maybe even an hour) outside/north of Albany.  I haven’t seen my sister in over year, not since I was in Florida last March.  So this reunion was long overdue!

a crappy pic, but you get the idea – me and my seester!!

And what a place for a reunion to occur.

the background of camp curtis, the pretty valentine pond

Camp Curtis is the rustic and luxurious country home of the Curtis family; Jared, Anna’s boyfriend is a Curtis.  His Dad and Uncle both have houses on the property and the backdrop is the clean, serene upstate beauty all around us.  Valentine Pond (which is more like a small lake), the woods, and the clean air make this family camp a wonderful retreat.

The Curtis clan is great!  Warm, wacky, inviting and very hospitable, they welcomed us right in and we’ve spent a few days here eating with them, sharing music (guitars, basses, and banjos galore!)… we’ve been trading stories and hanging out.

all around the dinner table in uncle paul and aunt margaret’s house next door

uncle paul marches to the beat of his own drum! with his wife, aunt margaret on the left. great people, it was lovely to have met them!

camp feat our first night here, grilled pork chops, venison, fresh trout pasta, spinach, brussel sprouts, bread and more… this was just all i could fit on my plate!

Not to mention that amongst all of us “kids” there are enough Apple products to open our own Genius Bar.

another view of the pond

The only thing possibly outnumbering our fancy electronics is the pets!  The Curtis Family are pet-lovers for sure!  Our little JJ has had the best time ever.  He hasn’t even been scared!  He just got right in with the other pooches and he’s been playing, cuddling, running around.  He’s even been walking on the hardwood floors.  (Trust me, I’m just as shocked as you are).

anna holding stewart

josie, cousin evan’s sweet pup

aunt margaret’s pooch, parker! love the sweetie pie – looks like a bear, loves like a lamb

zoey the pretty kitty cat, my sister’s cat

bell is the shy and sweet pretty princess

anna’s dog, puppy, is a sweet old man.

stewart again, he’s just so wacky and cute!

of course, our jayjers!

how to make friends around here!

It’s just one more reason why Duggs and I need to expand our fur family when the time is right.  Jayjers just does better with more doggies around!  So Anna and Jared have their blended fur fam, and then the Uncle and Cousins up here for the weekend had a couple pooches with them too.  It was way too fun being on the pond, feeling the cool clean air, and just seeing oodles of wagging tails and running paws.

Spending a few days here has really allowed me to re-charge my batteries.  I’m still sick, don’t worry.  But mentally – I feel a peace that’s been long overdue.  I think part is just being around my sister.  Going so long being so far away from her just tugs at my heart.  Matthew’s family is amazing and wonderful, and being with them was long overdue too – they make me feel like one of the fam for sure.  But nothing beats being with your own sis, right?

the pond at dusk, so peaceful. i love it here!

I’m so happy to know mine will only be a six hour drive away from here on out!  Woohoo!

The pics in this post are all my iPhone snap shots.  At some point I’ll have to make a real nice photo post of pics from our good camera from the trip.  We’ve had a lot of fun taking some nice shots, and I can’t wait to get them uploaded and have a look.  We have some awesome shots of the boys and Anna all jamming out together, all of the animals going nuts, it’s just been an awesome time – I love when a bunch of redneck music-geeks get together for some hang out time.  For now the quickies will do and they at least give you an idea of what camp life has been like.


We’re moving on from here to Buffalo (Fredonia, NY) – FINALLY!  YAY!

We’ll get to our last stop on the road trip and get to see my cousins, aunts, uncles and so on.  We’ll be living with my cousin Nick and his son Austin – so finally getting there and starting to get acquainted with our new home will be awesome.   The rambling phase will come to an end and we can finally feel able to settle down.  Homeless, no more!

Aloha to Hawaii, I’ll Miss You So… Saying GoodBye In Photos

Aloha Beautiful Hawaii! 

aloha rainbow state!

good ole wackiness from my first ever trip to hawaii, back in 2009

Saying goodbye to paradise was harder than I thought it was going to be.  This next step of life is so exciting and wonderful, and trust me: I’m blessed, happy to be where I am physically, emotionally, and everything – this point in life is good.

honeymoon at turtle bay, an amazing time

Our life in Hawaii was extreme, we saw great times and faced challenges.  We reunited there after deployments, but it’s also the place from which we had to say good bye.  We spent sun kissed afternoons out on the water, luxurious days at Turtle Bay, fun evenings out and about… it’s where we said “I do,” and it’s where we found the apple of our eye – our sweet pooch JJ Duggan!

our wedding day

exchanging vows on kailua beach, we did our wedding our way and it was so perfect for us

me and the sweet lil’ pooch, oh i’m so glad we found him in hawaii

It’s also where I’ve battled some health issues, it’s where we suffered a great loss when we experienced our miscarriage, coping through a lonely and hard deployment that was tossed at us without much warning.  But through it all, we came out on top, our marriage was bonded tighter and stronger – so we’ll take with us the happy sunny sweet tropical memories and get ready for a clean slate as we wipe away and move past some of life’s tougher trials.

saying goodbye before a deployment

saying hello when he comes back home again! ahhh, the reunion kiss is always the best.

I’m excited to be in New York and starting this next phase of our lives.  We’re literally writing the first page of a new chapter.  Matthew is out of the Marine Corps and he’s now a civilian, we’ve left Hawaii and moved to New York.  We’re setting out on our own, together.  Duggs was already established in the USMC and living in Hawaii when I came out and joined him – this is a step we’re taking together, going through it all hand in hand.

So yes, I’m stoked to be here in New York…

But I’m going to genuinely miss Hawaii.  I just wanted to take a little post to reflect on the gorgeous aina paradise and really say Aloha.

aloha to paradise, i’ll miss the warm pacific oh so much

we had so much fun boating and out in the hawaiian sun – too much fun to be had every hawaiian day

Hawaii is the kind of place where everywhere you go, there’s an epic view and a breath-taking scene to just suck in and fill yourself with.  The lush mountains, rainbows, flowers, the amazing bright blue oceans and the warm buttery sun bathing all of us.  Hawaii really is this vibrant, happy, relaxed paradise and I am so incredibly blessed to have lived there and spent the time there I was able to.

horseback riding on the north shore, romantic and something i’ll never forget. a truly one of a kind experience.

this island is incredible, i could take a million pics and still wish i had more

When family and old friends came out to visit, we were able to have an awesome time with them in Hawaii – showing off our island home.  I made some amazing friends and connections in Hawaii, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay refreshed and renewed my faith and my love of Christ.

sky diving day in the fall of 2010 – duggs, me, anna (my sister), and brian (duggs’ all time bff)

hope chapel women’s retreat 2011 – arise and shine!

L.O.V.E. HCKB Women’s Retreat 2012

me and ashtan and her navy day ball!

haunted lagoon 2011 at the polynesian cultural center, with ashtan + me

girl’s hiking morning at makapuu lighthouse, while all of our hubbies were deployed we made the best of it!

hope chapel k-bay is where i so found my heart for God – this past christmas was so awesome, here i am in between mel and tami!

The military experience is one that we’ll always remember.  Me as a spouse and Duggs as a dutiful member of the United States Marine Corps.  His service is the whole reason we were ever in Hawaii.  Even though the USMC liked to throw wrenches in our plans all the time, I have the utmost respect for the branch and the military in general. I’m grateful for the hard and brave work those dedicated men and women do, and I’m so proud to be married to a man as nobel as a Marine.

our first usmc ball together, in 2010

I tried to pick a couple photos to sum up my amazing Hawaiian experience, the wonderful times I’ve spent in paradise.  And yeah, it was impossible.  So thus… here’s a crazy montage of pics as a way for me to say Aloha!

I’ll miss Hawaii so very much.  I hope that we’ll be able to visit again one day, and hopefully it won’t be too far in the future that we get to go back.  Until then, I’ll take my mainland life one day at a time and find new beautiful sights to oooh and aaah over, I’ll discover new favorite places and I’m sure Duggs and I will forge tons of new memories and create lots of new adventures, all with stories to tell.  But as we do, I take some little pieces of Hawaii with me always – the sea turtle tattoo I got on my first trip to the island, the wedding ring on my hand that will always make me think of Kailua’s soft sandy beach, and the thousands of memories forever etched into my heart.

Aloha Hawaii – I’ll love you always! 

pretty islands (photo credit here)

And to my readers, I thank you (as always) for reading! xoxo, hhr

operation christmas child part 2: seven new awesomely crafted care packs

I asked and y’all answered!

OCC Part 2 – Seven More Boxes Made With Love, Thanks To You!

My Church, Hope Chapel Kaneohe Bay, participated in this year’s Operation Christmas Child project, a drive to send shoes boxes stuffed with toys, gifts, candy and what-not to underprivileged kids world-wide.  The church’s goal was 3,000 boxes.  Matthew and I made two on our own.  When we turned them in, our church was well under it’s goal.  I solicited an offer – if anyone funded the cost of a box, I would do all the legwork to create, shop and fill a box.

I wrote this blog about OCC a couple weeks ago.

Seven more boxes were funded, packed with love and turned in – thanks to y’all!  My friends and family came together to help us with this amazing project. And ultimately… our church reached it’s goal!  3,002 total boxes are being sent to kids in need.


How awesome is that?!?!?

Thank you: Miss Alice (my wonderful mother-in-law), Viper and Anna (my Dad and step-mom), Claire and the Williams Family, Kayla and the Hayes Family, Staci and the Ostrowski Family, and my lovely friend Ariana!  With all of your love and funding we were able to make SEVEN boxes to go out and send some love to seven more children.  How amazing is that?

I’m so appreciative.  I love this project and just believe in it so much!

So, because I’m too lazy to sort through all these pics… here’s a big mishmash of the assembly and turn in process, including what the inside of each box looks like.  Check ’em out:

Just to mention, every box got a hand-written note from me… I finished them so late on Saturday night though, I was too tired to snap any pics.  I used some nice stationary I had, and I just kept the letters simple and sweet.  For those of you who OK’ed it, I included your name, photos and address!   I basically just said that God loves them (the kids) and that we’re thinking of them.  And for each of you, I gave a couple generic/simple sentences about what you like to do… “We like going to the beach” or “I live in New York!”  etc.


manoa falls hike with the hubs and the pooch: hot august mud baths for all!

August 27, 2010: Manoa Falls Trail + Aihulama Trail + Pauoa Flats Trail

We went hiking this past weekend at Manoa Falls and we had a super blast!  It was so much fun.

We’ve done this trail before, and it’s becoming a favorite of our’s.  It’s very shaded and cool, muddy, and if you take the Aihulama Trail up to the Pauoa Flats Trail, you can get a workout in for sure!  We did lots of trail running, and in some parts the steepness + mud = enough or a workout.  My legs were tight/sore for a day or two afterwards.

The short hike from the parking lot to the Falls is easy, crowded, muddy, and fun.  I say it’s easy because it’s a very well set trail, that’s very public.  But, it can be slippery due to the mud.  We saw older folks with canes doing it, but that kinda worried me!  The fall and slipping potential seems high.  Otherwise, it’s an easy trail! We brought JJ, our 30-lb doggie, along for the hike and he had a great ole time. Very muddy.

The parts of the trail that go past the falls, well that’s a different story.  That’s when the difficulty level pics up!  Jumping over rocks and logs, roots and lots of mud, puddles, and steep inclines. In some places the trail gets super narrow, and it can be kinda scary (there are steep drop offs to one side).  But it’s very shaded, and the higher you go – the prettier the views are!

In an email to a friend, here’s what I had to say:

It’s a GREAT hike to do!  Very muddy, has great views, and it can be pretty challenging if you go all the way up… and you get a bit of everything: waterfalls, bamboo forests, strawberry guava trees, rainforest, zig-zags up the mountain (and eventually back down), huge tree roots, rocky paths, puddles!  And an awesome lookout at the top, with some beautiful views that peek out here and there along the way.  It’s like a sampler platter, you get a taste of everything!


Now, because I’m lazy… here’s just a big blob of pics from last Saturday of Me, Duggs, and our Pooch JJ hiking!  Notice how muddy we all got, whew:


Directions: Just use your GPS to get you to the Lyon Arboretum: 3860 Manoa Road, Honolulu http://www.hawaii.edu/lyonarboretum/

Note: You can park at the Arboretum for free, but the time we tried to do that, the people working there were total jerks to us!  You have to check into a log, they press you for a donation anyways, and they claim that there’s no dogs allowed there.  But on the Trails, you can totally have dogs.  They’re a pain.

So use your GPS to go to Lyon.  The trail head is right by there!  You’ll be on a really residential road, Manoa Road.  But stay on Manos road and go past all the houses and follow it up this hill that’s kinda twisty.  You’ll pass under this walking bridge that connects the forest to a Chinese Food restaurant (I think it’s called “Tree Top” or something like that).  Right past the restaurant is a dirt lot that usually has attendants who charge $5 for parking.  We’ve just done that every time.  It’s safe and easy.  And bonus!  They’ve recently added these awesome hoses and brushes anyone can use to get the mud off of you after your hike.  Yay!

The Trail Head is a short walk from the parking lot, it’s very easy to see and you should see lots of people coming and going anyways.  It’s a popular trail for sure!

Some info on the Trails we got from other sites:

  1. The Aihualama Trail begins at Manoa Falls, skirts the upper end of Manoa Valley, then heads steeply up to Pauoa Flats and a stunning overlook. The route passes through groves of bamboo, koa, eucalyptus and enormous banyan trees. The are great views across the valley to Waikiki and Diamond Head. From the Nuuanu Overlook at the trail ’s end are panoramic vistas overlooking the Nuuanu Valley and the rugged Koolau Mountains.  Read more at Trails.com: Aihualama Trail to Nuuanu Overlook | Honolulu Hawaii Hikes | Trails.comhttp://www.trails.com/tcatalog_trail.aspx?trailId=HGP040-013#ixzz1WdcWBoCr
  2. http://www.yelp.com/biz/manoa-falls-honolulu
  3. http://www.hawaiiweb.com/html/hiking/aihualama_trail.html
  4. http://www.yelp.com/biz/aihualama-trail-honolulu




homemade nail art

Nail Painting Fun and Foolery!
  1. Wet’n’Wild nailpoisl not only costs $1.99 a bottle, but it’s cruelty-free!
  2. OPI is cruelty-free, pricier than #1, but really high quality serious stuff
  3. Painting your nails = crazy, silly, whimsical-like is really fun!  Who knew?

My pals have all really gotten into nail polish and nail art.  Like REALLY into it.  They’re all obsessed, it’s been the big thing this summer.  So I decided to jump in and try it out.  I always keep my nails short, and don’t really get too clever with them.  But since joining the world of nail art. I’ve had so much fun!

I free hand everything.  I’m still a super beginner.  No sponges or stamps, fancy techniques for me.  Just basic painting with nail polish.

Check me out:

oil cleansing method

Oil Cleanisng Method

I wash my face with pure oil.

Sounds crazy, right? It’s honestly what I do though, and once you hear me out, you might not think that sounds so very crazy at all. You may actually want to get in on this all natural, vegan/cruelty-free, easy, old-fashioned, simple facial cleansing method for yourself too.

Some friends were discussing the “oil cleansing method” months and months ago, and it piqued my interest.  Washing your face with oil?  I’d never heard of such of a thing.  It sounded insaneo and awesome at the same time.

You see, ever since I quit taking any form of birth control in 2007, and ever since my face has been a mess.  I have the worst acne ever.   And at age 28, it’s so tiring.   I should have been ending my acne phase a decade ago.  I’ve tried everything.  Even *gasp* Proactive. I’ve been to dermatologists, I’ve taken really strong stuff that I’m not allowed to go out in the sun while using.  I’ve tried creams and washes.  Been there, done that.

The Oil Cleansing Method was so far off course of anything I’d ever tried before, that it fascinated me.  The ideology is simple: since our body naturally produces oil, oil is part of our skin and not the enemy.  All the facewashes that proudly boast “oil free!” – are actually counterintuitive and making things worse.   When you dry up all the oil on your face, your glands react by producing more oil.   When your glands overcompensate and over-produce oil, you get clogged pores, breakouts, acne.

There’s a happy medium that should be happening on the surface of our faces: a natural, healthy amount of oil belongs on our skin!  So goes the ideology of the oil cleansing method.  The thinking is that by using oil on our faces, we stop those glands from getting protective and overcompensating.   We clean out our pores, keep our skin supple and moisturized, and stop over-washing.   Besides, the ingredients you need can be bought in a grocery store (or health food store, depending on what you choose to use) and in the long run are far cheaper than buying washes, cleansers, toners, soaps, etc.   And to prove to you what I mean, I made myself the guinea pig and I have serious results to brag about!

Before i started the oil cleansing method (January 28, 2011):

before pic - yikes!

acne city

acne on this side too

my mug

One week later I wrote: I can totally feel a difference in the quality of my skin, its much smoother and it feels supple.  i’m not sure if you can tell much of a difference in these pics… but we’ll see as it goes.

Pics from one week after I started:

one week later!

after just one week, looking better already!

i look so creepy in this pic.

lookin' good already

I linked to the site that taught me everything I needed to know to start the method earlier in this post, but in case you didn’t click on it… here ya go:  The Oil Cleansing Method.  Read that page, and it will explain to you how/when to use this method.

For my personal use, I mix Castor Oil and Sunflower Oil, in a 25/75 ratio.

castor oil, sunflower oil, and the glass vial that holds my 25:75 mix

As copied verbatim from the OCM website:

The Oil Cleansing Method

First and foremost, this is typically done in the evening, prior to bed. There should be no need for deep cleansing in the morning if you’re waking up with skin cleansed the night before. In the morning, a quick wipe with a warm washcloth should suffice. We don’t want to overcleanse our skin as this will serve only to irritate and cause more oil production. The objective of using this method is to deep clean while balancing our skins oil production at the same time.

  • You’ll need a soft washcloth, your oil blend, and hot, running water.
  • Pour a generous puddle of oil into the palm of your hand. Roughly, the size of a quarter, but more is acceptable. Rub your hands together to warm the oil and smooth over your face.
  • Begin massaging the oil into your face. This will remove makeup, dirt, and other impurities, so there is no need to use a makeup remover or wash your face prior to the massage. I’ve found that this removes even my stubborn waterproof mascara and concealor.
  • Using slow, firm motions across the skin, massage the oil deeply into your pores. Take your time and focus on your problem areas. You want the oil to work into your pores so that blackheads and the like can be dissolved and steamed away.
  • As you’re massaging, let your mind drift off to something calming and breathe deeply. Take this time to relax and release some of the stress that your body is harboring. Sit down, breathe deeply, and take your time. Give the oil enough time to work on dissolving the impurities in your pores and give yourself enough time to unwind. Picture what your face would look like if it were completely clear and free from blemishes. Focus on that image and know that it is attainable. Trust that it is attainable. Accept that it is attainable. You can have clear skin, free of blemishes and you will have clear skin, free of blemishes. Focus on perfect skin and breathe deeply.
  • Once you’re satisfied that your pores are saturated and you’re feeling calm, pick up your washcloth and soak it in clean, steamy water. We want the water to be warm enough to open your pores and remove the oil. Cool water will not open your pores, nor will it remove the oil efficiently. We’re not scalding our skin, we’re steaming to coax our pores to release the oil carrying the impurities. We’re essentially steaming our skin as an esthetician would, but without the luxury of a steam machine.
  • Hold the washcloth to cover your face. Allow it to stay until it cools. You will feel your pores releasing the impurities. Wipe the oil gently away and rinse the washcloth well in hot, running water. Hold the washcloth to your face again, allowing it to cool. Wipe gently, rinse well, and repeat two or three more times. Avoid any temptation to scrub, as you’ll find it’s completely unnecessary and your skin will be soft, smooth, and free of flakes without the additional manual exfoliation and irritation that will result. Impurities, dead skin cells, and bacteria will be gently swept away.
  • Have no fear of the oil, as the steamy washcloth will remove it. The Castor Oil, though it is an oil, will help with the removal of the other oils, as well. It is our main cleansing oil and is easily removed with warm water.
  • If your skin feels tight, take a tiny drop of your oil blend, rub it between your clean, damp palms and pat it onto your damp skin. Gently massage any oil residue into your skin so there is no film of oil left sitting on the surface. Your skin should now glow!

using my hot washcloth

so fresh and so clean, post-OCM! ahh! this is from a couple days ago... my skin has improved so much in past six months!

I use Sunflower Oil as a general moisturizer too.  I don’t even use any creams or lotions anymore.  Literally, oil and makeup are the only things I put on my face.  Well, sometimes I use a little soap (here and there, like in the shower on days I’m not doing OCM … and I use sunscreen, but you know what I mean: the lotions and stuff I used to use in the past, I haven’t touched in months.  I prefer my oil).  Before I apply make up, I use sunflower oil.  I just put a teeny amount in my clean hands, rub together, and then pat on my face.  I get such an even amount of moisturizer, it makes applying makeup so much easier.  It’s my daily moisturizer!

I get compliments on my skin all the time now.  My mom is out here visiting us this week, one of the first things she said after we picked her up from the airport was a compliment on how great my skin looks.  I can go out without makeup on now.  I feel happy about my skin.  I like the quality of how it feels, soft, even, nice.

a very recent photo - nice skin, huh?

Don’t get me wrong: I still get occaisional breakouts.  When its my time of the month, always.  Ugh.  But, the overall quality of my skin and the overall condition of my acne is so much improved.   I know many of us gals in our 20’s deal with acne and it just sucks.  I’m sure it happens to guys too.  So, as someone who’s been there, done that: hated the way my skin looks, piled on the makeup, hated going out and hating seeing photos of myself… as someone who’s dealt with that for years, and now doesn’t have to, I’m just passing on the knowledge of what’s worked for me.

Do you use OCM?  Have you had great luck with it?  Are you going to try it?  Tell me about your own experiences!

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.

sunrise hike: makapu’u point lighthouse

A week ago on April 30th, a group of gal pals gave me insane pleasure by accompanying me on greeting the sun at the Makapu’u Point Lighthouse.   On the east side of O’ahu, this hike juts out into the Pacific Ocean and gives an incredible panoramic view of the sunrise.

The “hike” itself is actually a paved, albeit steep, trail that zig zags up the ridge and peaks at a fenced-off ledge near the lighthouse.  Actually accessing the lighthouse isn’t possible.   Not only is the walk deceptively steep, but there’s no shelter or shade for most of the path.   Carly and I made the mistake of checking it out at noon one day, and we just fried.  So not only does early early morning offer a spectacle of seeing the sun come up over the waves, it’s more comfy too.   During whale season, the Makapu’u Point trail is known for whale watching, so rad!

Here are the pics:

hiking and yoga, pillbox in lanikai

Friday, April 29th, 2011 – Lanikai, O’ahu, Hawai’i – PILLBOX HIKE

warrior pose to the pacific ocean. so awesome.

Climbing and Stretching 

Carlita, Sydney and I had a super fun morning about a week ago.  We hiked the Pillbox trail overlooking Lanikai Beach and when we got to the first “pillbox,” Sydney, a new graduate from Gaia Flow Yoga in Dallas, led us in a nice yoga flow (concrete lookout buildings line this ridge and their small, white, stature have earned the trail the nickname “pillbox”).

Carly and I have been on this awesome tourist mission to stay busy while our husbands are deployed by seeing as much of the island as we can: hiking, snorkeling, swimming and exploring.   Now our friend Sydney (whose fiance is deployed with Carly’s husband) has just moved to the aina and she’s eager to explore and sight-see too.   The three of us make a great team with our easy-going personalties happily meshing.

By the way, if you’ve ever been curious to know more about these gal pals of mine that I make mention of so frequently, check out their blogs!

Back to actually talking about the Pillbox Yoga day:  We didn’t really wake up too early for this one.  We did it a little bit after the sun came up, maybe around eight in the morning or so.  The hike itself is pretty light, but still fun!   We packed our yoga mats in our backpacks so we could use our hands for the steeper parts of the hike (or just to be handsfree, because handsfree is the best).

me, getting out of the car*

sydney and carly at the trailhead

it is a little steep at the get-go

Luckily the trail wasn’t very crowded at all.  We saw a couple random people, but we didn’t have to compete for space or anything.   This hike is pretty popular for the people who live nearby- lots of folks run up the trail or walk their dogs here.  So we totally lucked out in regards to it being sparsely populated that day.  The weather was really mild as well, so being out in the morning sun felt nice, not too hot.  The whole tone was just so right.

the lanikai islands in the early morning light

super close up of me, the girls in the background climbing higher and higher

some cute friends we met on the path. if we weren't doing yoga i would have brought my pooch. aww man!

it's so amazing that we live here. like, woah!

i ❤ hawaii. this place is so beautiful.

i love the yoga mats, tie dye, waterbottles, awesome scenery... this is just soooo "us"

Once we got to the “pillbox,” we literally hoisted ourselves up there and set up shop.  I don’t think I’d ever done outdoor yoga before.  It was really fun, but there are some weird little things you don’t think about it until you go through it.  The surface we were on was flat-ish.  It had lots of slopes and divits, and it was hard to find a nice even spot to put out a mat on.  And because of the nature of yoga, if you aren’t on a flat surface – you gotta be careful not to hurt yourself.  Luckily we’re all super-not-clumsy and we were, of course, extremely safety-oriented and cautious.

Being so exposed and by the ocean, it was windy up there; we were using everything we could to hold down out mats.  And even then they tried to fly away from us a couple times.  Don’t worry- we were super fast and suffered no loss of equipment.

I’m joking about the little bumps that came up… but really, outdoor yoga is awesome.  It’s just so pure and natural and simple.  I want to keep doing it, that’s for sure.

yeah girl, get on up there

oh hay! you too, go up there!

my little backpack is on the top of the world


taking it all in. this world God made for us is just the most perfect artwork.*

me and carly. she's probably sassing me*

don't they look like the two islands?

these two islands!

Sydney is a lovely yoga instructor.  The only real class I’ve been going to this year is the one on base with the same instructor all the time – so it was nice to mix it up and do a flow in a slightly different way (because every instructor is different).

I didn’t get any pics of us actually doing our yoga practice.  I get really focused on those breathes and the poses, and stepping out to snap pics would have killed my zone.  But, afterwards, we did have some fun trying to do different poses and stretching.  And we met a random guy (Jimmy) who was running the trail and he took some pics for us.  So rad!

i don't know the name of the pose sydney's doing, but it looks hard and fancy!

my carly has mad skills

sydney teaching jimmy a new way to stretch

headstand! awesome!

sydney is stronger than she looks, huh? impressive. *

carlita is graceful *

ooh look, i can play too. my wheel. it's getting better, huh? *

being bendy *

yeah, i'm not really close on this one at all. but i'll get there. now i have another goal to work toward! *

messing around and doing the world's worst chair pose. i really am just joking around and being dumb*

We did a couple group shots and Jimmy graciously took them for us.  I like the way they came out.  I know I’m not nearly on the yogi level of Carly or Sydney, but I try and that’s all that matters:

i love everything about this *

being dorky and silly *

After we got down the mountain, we went into Kailua Town and ate at Aloha Salads.  Oh man. I love Aloha Salads.   If/when I leave here, it’s one of the top five eateries I’ll miss the most.  It’s a chain that’s only out here, they serve big salads made of local ingredients.  After being so nice to my body by hiking and stretching, it just feels good to eat something light, simple, and healthy – ya know?

oh yum


It was such an awesome morning, a really great way to just re-set my intentions of being good to myself, appreciating my surrounding, and just having fun while being active.

Oh.  The pics with the asterisks are ones I stole from Sydney’s facebook album from this day.  That’s all.  ALOHA!



I may have skipped over one teensy detail in this retelling… I slipped on the way down.  For your viewing pleasure:

graceful as always

Now it’s really the end.

north shore big wave watching

April 1st – Pipeline, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii

Okay, I know I’m waaaaaay behind on posting about this – but it was such a fun day, I figured that to post it late was better than never, right?  Besides… part of the luxury of a personal blog: no deadlines!  I am my own editor.

Carly, my Hawaiian partner-in-crime, and I have been on a mission to see more of the island, be tourists, take it all in, experience as much as we can, and make every day that our husbands are deployed go by faster.   I mean, what better way to pass a deployment than exploring and playing on one of the most beautiful islands on this earth, right?   So here’s a story about another one of our fun Hawaiian days!

Big Wave Watching on the North Shore

The night of March 31st I was about to go to bed, when I saw a friend throw some pics up on FB of the hugest waves ever.  The album was all fun beach pics from the north shore that had been taken that day.  So I text my friend and find out that a late season swell was upon us, and the North Shore was getting unseasonably big waves.  (Typically in Hawaii, winter = big waves, so having 20+ feet waves in later March/early April was just weird and awesome and crazy!).   So I wake up Carly and inform her about these crazy waves coming in, and we decide that we MUST take advantage of this and get on up there.   Every time we tried to catch big set on the North Shore, we’d get there and it would be a bust; we kept going on small, blown out days.  And when I thought about it – I may never get the chance to do this again in my life (oh I hope I do, but another winter in Hawaii isn’t in the Duggan Family game plan as of now).

So, we went set our alarms for early and set off to see some big waves!

To Pipeline we go!

I picked up Carly and we had a nice early morning drive on up.  The drive from the Windward side on up to the Pipeline/Sunset Beach area is soooo beautiful.  I can’t get over how lucky we are to live here!

i'm a good driver, i swears

the view along the H-2

the colors out here are so vivid!

pretty carlita and silly me!

the pine trees on the north side of the aina make it look like the mainland, or at least a totally different place than the rest of oah'u. it really does feel like you're going up north!

After a lot of singing along to Metric (one of me and carly’s faves), and me talking Carly’s face off (I tend to do that) – we got to Pipeline! Can I just say that after hearing about a place like Pipeline my whole when I lived in Florida, it’s so surreal and crazy to get to go there and hang out.   I’m at PIPELINE!!  That’s sooo cool!

Carly, I think she's giving me a sassy face of some sort - but she's about to scope out a place for us to plant ourselves and hang out.

oh hay! i'm at the beach too!

Yeah, we’re real subtle here.  So.  We’ve arrived at Pipeline, there’s a pro-am contest going on for bodyboarding (boogie boarding) and surfing.  So we’re at one of the coolest, most serious surfing beaches in the world, on a day there’s a contest and unseasonably big waves, and we’ve shown up with cheesy grocery store boogie boards, and i’m dressed like a wacky fool (as per usual).  We’re playing it real cool at this point.

Volcom house - isn't this sooo cool? That's the Volcom house!! Ahhh!

close up!

So there was a contest going on.  We got there during the boogie boarding part of it.  It was ladies’ boogie boarding!  It wasn’t really that crazy fun to watch.  But then a few minutes after we had settled in, they announced that the shortboard heats were up next.  Yay!  We were so stoked to get to watch some rad lady surfers!

the announcer booth for the contest

one of the competitors heading out into the water

a surfer all stretching out before her heat

the posters for the day's contests

The contest we stumbled upon was the Science Hawaii Women’s Pipeline Pro.  The winner of the shortboard division, Tatiana Weston-Webb, was amazing.  She was just killin it, and watching her was so fun.  I was mesmerized by watching all of the women surf, it was just so fun and awesome.  It made me want to grab a board and paddle out… Well, it made me want to find a quiet beach with not-scary waves and paddle out there.

Here’s a page I found about the Science contest, and there’s some video. ooh! fancy!  http://pacificreader.com/?p=3156

Weird Vog and Rain

So the weather wasn’t exactly perfect, and it kept lightly raining on us!  It’s no big deal… it was just so funny.  It would be blazing hot and sunny, then some rain clouds would roll in right quick, and it would be dark and chilly, and wet.  It was also really voggy that day, and it made everything kind of blah and icky.  No me gusta vog, it’s yuck!  (In case you haven’t been dillegnetly following my blog AND you’re unfamiliar with Hawaii – I’ll fill you in: vog = the weird volcanic fog that rolls into our local atmosphere from the Big Island.  Vog is yucky.  It makes people cough and it makes the sky look poisonous).

carly hiding from the rain!

rain, rain, go away!

yeah, we're THIS cool.

 Okay, okay… The Waves! 

Finally, I’ll show y’all some wave photos.  Mind you, my whole blog is based on low-quality cell phone snap shots – so please don’t expect anything better or fancier than that from me.  Thanks!

The waves were pretty big – bigger than I’ve really seen in person probably.  But, it’s really hard to photograph them from the beach, on a cell phone camera, in a manner that gives them justice.  And a lot of the sets were average, and then every now and then a big ole set would just come in.   So yeah, enjoy:

Shark’s Cove Grill

So we decided to head down the road a lil bit and look for food.  We saw Shark’s Cove Grill, and checked it out on the ole “Urban Spoon.”  (Urban Spoon is an iphone app that uses your GPS to find places to eat near you, and has a community of users that rate and review places to eat.  The reviews tend to be very reliable!).   Urban Spoon told us the Shark’s Cove Grill was affordable and tasty… and that Urban Spoon don’t lie!

We had an insanely good meal there.  We were both talking about how we can’t wait till our husbands get home so we can take them there.  It was awesome food!

shark's cove grill = amazing

lots of chicks hang out there.

aww, meow! kitteh cat!!

Here’s there website, they have some awesome pics on here: http://www.sharkscovegrill.com/

I got some ahi skewers, it was served on rice and black beans.  And what is SO WEIRD is that Carly and I were talking about food on the beach as we were starting to get hungry, and I was whining about not having access to any Chipotle out here (no, there aren’t any Chipotle restaurants in Hawaii, gah!).   So I was saying that I just wanted some protein with some rice and beans and veggies.   When I got my plate at lunch I was just sitting there all mesmerized, thinking ask, and you shall receive! 

oh yum. i can't wait to go back!!

yeah. amazing.

Shark’s Cove

While we were enjoying our lunch, we were staring out Shark’s Cove the entire time.  It’s right across the street.  (Well, I would actually say that the aptly named Shark’s Cove Grill is across the street from Shark’s Cove).

The water was just calling our names.  So we decided to go for a little post-lunch swim.   No, we did not wait thirty minutes.  We’re totally living on the edge and we know it.

carly heading down to the water

Shark’s Cove totally looks beautiful, right?  We aren’t the only ones who think so: the place is cramjammed with tourists, tons of people bedecked in snorkel gear.  There must be some pretty stuff in the water, right?

Carly and I have traveled sans snorkel equipment on this particular day.  Or Aqua Socks.  (do Aqua Socks even exist anymore?).  It turns out, we are poorly prepared for the next segment of our day.  In fact, our time at Shark’s Cove was borderline miserable.

Those rocks are sharp, and never ending!  All we wanted to do was cool off in some refreshing water.  But in order to do this seemingly simple task, we had to pick our way across a bevy of terrifyingly sharp and slippery rocks.  That’s how rocks get you: sharp AND slippery.  So to make our way out to water deep enough to swim in, we undertook this awkard, slow trek of CAREFULLY walking from rock to rock, trying  to find smooth enough footing so not to fall on all the sharp ouchy points, or cut our feet.  It was time consuming and just… not fun.  haha!  oops!

In the next couple days after our time at Shark’s Cove, Carly and I kept finding small cuts on ourselves from those durn rocks.

Anyways, we finally made it out to the pool part of the cove, and we did have a very lovely swim.  It was super refreshing and cool, and it was a very pretty place to swim.

oh hay, step on me!

Dole Whip!

Finally, it was time to head home.  I really had a hankering for shave ice… but we didn’t want to stop in Haleiwa and wait in the huge lines.  Then I remembered, I’ve never had a Dole Whip – and Carly had promised me that we could go to Dole soon.

dole plantation

If I thought Shark’s Cove was chock full of tourists, I hadn’t seen nothin’ yet!  The Dole Plantation had bus and after bus of people getting dumped off there.

Like any super tourist center, they have getting a lot of people in and out in a reasonable time down to a science.  The lines for getting treats move really fast, and we were actually in and out in maybe ten minutes.

so hard to decide!

whatcha gonna get, carly?

a pineapple flavr dole whip

And for all my Family Guy-loving friends… yeah, we kept pronouncing the whip part in a way that would make Stewey proud.  Whhhhip. 

Oh what a fun day I had with my pal Carly seeing more of the island, being tourists, and keeping ourselves busy.   We’re trying to stay busy and make the time our husbands are deployed go by faster – and what a way to do that!!  Everyday my appreciation for how amazing and beautiful this island is, grows.   And my appreciation for my good friend grows as well!

I just feel so super blessed to have the life that I do, and I hope that I’m maxing out on it and making the best of my circumstance.