Thursday, November 29, 2012

Throwback Thursday: Christmas Past

With the holiday season now officially upon us, I’m once again throwing back to the past by linking up with Sunshine at Such Life in the Tropics to share an old photo, along with five fun facts that relate. Since I've been busy reorganizing old family photos featuring my Nana, who passed away in October, I thought this image taken on Christmas Eve 10 years ago would be an especially perfect choice.

1) My mom, sister and I have been going to Christmas Eve dinner at my grandparents' house for as long as I can remember, basically ever since I was born. Some of our long-standing traditions have included opening one present ahead of time that night, spoiling our dinner with Nana’s  famous Italian Anisette Cookies, and laughing our heads off at my grandfather’s annual stories about all the crazy things he and his friends did while growing up in 1940s Boston.

2) Even though she moved to California during the 1950s, Nana never lost her Boston accent. People who are familiar with this type of speech pattern say they can also hear strong hints of it in my voice and my mom’s. Those who aren’t familiar with it often mistakenly believe that I am from the south, though, or say they just can’t pinpoint the correct region. Hearing Nana’s unique voice is one of the things I already miss most and hope I won’t ever forget.

3) I still have this red tank top in my closet and have worn it a couple times in recent years, most often paired with a black cardigan, pencil skirt and heels. The black designs on the front are rosettes.

4) The oak cabinet in the background used to have a giant glass case resting on top of it, which displayed tons of my grandparents’ finest china and mementos from over the years. Sadly, the entire thing crashed to the floor and was destroyed during the infamous Northridge Earthquake in 1994. The earthquake also damaged their home in other significant ways, but fortunately, all were fully repairable. After living through that experience, I am still traumatized by earthquakes big and small to this day.

5) This picture, quite grainy by today’s standards, was taken with a throw-away camera. My grandparents have continued to use them over the years, never wanting the hassle of going digital. They have also never fully embraced using computers, signing up for cable TV, using a dishwasher or placing wet clothes in a dryer instead of outside on a clothesline. 

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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday Season Kick-Off

I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Stephen and I certainly did, beginning first thing Wednesday night with an outing to see Jekyll & Hyde at the Kennedy Center here in DC. This new production, staring recording artist Deborah Cox and American Idol’s Constantine Maroulis, was amazingly dark and chilling, making me feel as if I was about to celebrate Halloween rather than Thanksgiving. Plus, thanks to the Kennedy Center’s new My Tix discount program for theatergoers ages 18-30, we were able to get orchestra-level seats for just $30 per ticket – an absolute steal!  

Along with catching up on a few errands that were neglected during our trip to Hawaii, we also spent some time decking the halls for Christmas and scoping out Black Friday bargains for a couple household items we’ve long had on our radar, including a memory foam mattress topper and a good quality set of couch covers. While I definitely don’t consider myself to be a frenzied shopper always in need of the latest and greatest goody, the frugal part of me does admit to loving a good sale as much as the next person.

Did you manage to snag any great Black Friday deals, and are you excited that the holiday season is finally here?   

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Island Style

Even though we got back from our trip to Hawaii last Sunday, after such an amazing week in paradise, I think it’s fair to say that my heart and mind are still running on island time!

From snorkeling with sea turtles to hiking across dried lava fields and ascending the 13,796 ft. summit at Mauna Kea, we had an all-around wonderful time celebrating my in-laws' 40th anniversary. I absolutely can’t wait to head back next summer to see my sister-in-law get married and be a bridesmaid in her wedding! 

Here, a quick photo recap of our jam-packed yet still blissfully relaxing vacation. 

Our Big Island resort, Kings' Land by Hilton Grand Vacations Club, located north of Kona, was the perfect place to kick back for the week. It even came complete with a few non-human visitors, from stray cats to wild goats! 

This trip marked my first time seeing a sea turtle up close, along with trying my hand at stand-up paddle boarding. Keeping my balance on-board was definitely a bit challenging at first, but ultimately not as hard as I originally thought it might be.

Our Captain Zodiac snorkeling and wildlife excursion included a stop at the serene Kealakekua Bay, plus a trip past ancient lava tubes. Can you make out the face of Goddess Pele in the rock?  

Also on the agenda was a trip across the island to the area in and around Hilo, where we explored the Pacific Tsunami Museum, sampled tasty treats at Big Island Candies and took in gorgeous views at Akaka Falls State Park.  

Our journey up to the 13,796 ft. Mauna Kea summit offered lunar-like landscapes and some of the most stunning panoramic views I've ever seen. Worth battling the chilly temps and rough drive? Definitely!   

Last but certainly not least, no trip to the Big Island would be complete without spending a day at Volcanoes National Park, even one that happens to be rainy and cold. Although we weren't able to see any glowing lava this time around, watching smoke rise from a volcanic crater was beyond cool.

Of course, no matter how much fun we may have had in Hawaii, home will always be where our kitties are! 

Whether you're traveling or staying close to home this week, I wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving and a great start to the holiday season! Stephen and I are looking forward to a low-key, restful day, along with a pre-holiday trip to see Jekyll & Hyde at the Kennedy Center tonight.

How are you celebrating? 

Friday, November 9, 2012

Once a Bride…Finally a Bridesmaid!

Aloha! After months of anticipation, our fall trip to Hawaii is now just one short day away! Not only are Stephen and I excited to spend a relaxing week celebrating his parents’ 40th anniversary, but we also can’t wait to help support his sister in planning her destination Hawaiian wedding, which will take place next summer.

Yes, after being a bride myself a couple years ago and even coordinating weddings for others, I'm about to become a bridesmaid for the very first time! I’ll keep you updated about that second Hawaiian adventure as the plans come together, but for now, I'm off to clear my head and recharge my batteries in paradise. 

Feel free to follow me on Instagram @heather_28 if you're interested in seeing real-time photo updates from our trip. Otherwise, I hope you all have a fun-filled weekend and a wonderful week ahead!

Have you ever planned or attended a destination wedding? How many times have you been a bridesmaid? 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day

Happy Election Day, everyone! I’m off to vote first thing this morning, and then a friend and I will be spending the afternoon working as volunteers to help drive fellow voters to the polls. Even though I don’t usually go into great detail about my political views here on this blog, those who have been following for a while can probably make a pretty good guess about where I stand on a number of issues, especially given my Halloween costume from last year. :) 

Yes, to those who know me, it's no secret how passionately I feel about the results of this election, but regardless of my own views, I also feel strongly that everyone deserves the chance to make his or her own voice heard. Therefore, I hope that tons of my fellow Virginians will also head out to the polls today to take a stand in this tight presidential race, not to mention the state and local contests that are on the ballot. 

This is actually my first Election Day since leaving my job on Capitol Hill, and while that definitely feels a bit strange, I’m still very excited (and nervous) to follow the results late into the night, no doubt with a glass of wine (or two) in hand! 

Are you taking part in any Election Day festivities or volunteer activities, and will you be following the returns tonight? 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Thowback Thursday: Let Me Call You Sweetheart

Happy Thursday! I hope you all had a great Halloween! Despite having tons of candy on hand, we only had about 10 trick-or-treaters come to our door last night, which means that:

* I inevitably snacked on way too much of it myself.

* My husband’s co-workers can look forward to lots of sugary goodness in the coming days.

As we now look ahead to November, I’m also throwing back to the past by linking up with Sunshine at Such Life in the Tropics to share an old photo, along with a few fun facts that relate. Since Halloween was just one day ago, and I also have a family trip to Hawaii coming up very soon, I thought the following picture from our honeymoon cruise a couple years ago would be especially fitting.

1) Our June 2010 honeymoon cruise around the Hawaiian islands marked my first time visiting any of them, and I'm especially excited to head back again, both this month in celebration of Stephen's parents' 40th anniversary and then again next summer, when his sister will be getting married on the Big Island. The Big Island and Kauai by far stood out as my favorite islands during the cruise. 

2) This photo was taken the first night of our trip, when we had dinner at one of the ship's specialty restaurants, this particular one featuring an Asian-fusion theme. The restaurant staff told us it was one of their long-standing traditions to take a photo of each newlywed couple wearing this set of silly dragon masks. They also brought us a special honeymoon cake and gathered around to sing a rendition of "Let Me Call You Sweetheart." 

3) We came back to this same restaurant again another night of the trip, this time to visit its sushi bar. To this day, the sushi we ate that night is the best I have ever tasted! The second best was eaten at a little hole-in-the-wall place in my Southern California hometown, which is not coastal, but apparently still manages to attract some outstanding sushi chefs.    

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