If you follow my Tweets, you’ll notice that I like to bake. Not just anything- but cupcakes in particular.
Cupcakes. Oh, cupcakes. Who doesn’t love cupcakes? Has anyone ever looked at a plate of cupcakes and groaned, “Oh no. Someone brought cupcakes.” I mean after eating a whole plate of cupcakes I think I could understand that comment, but otherwise I think cupcakes are one of those universally loved objects- like puppies.
Cupcakes: As lovable as puppies. (BTW, Lili is on the left!)
I never grew up baking. In fact, some of you may or may not know but I had a pretty strange childhood. I will have to blog about that at some point, but essentially I grew up in a traveling closet. It practically had an Easy Bake Oven as an entire kitchen.

I was a picky child when it came to eating and after years of trying to get me to try various foods, my mother, God bless her, simply gave up. Don’t get me wrong- she made me eat things that were good for me (which most of the time I now ironically prefer eating). But I think she figured it would be silly to teach me cooking or baking since I didn’t like to eat anything anyway.
Definitely NOT a born baker. Or blonde. Shh! At least I was knowledgable of hip sunglasses.
My first memory of baking came from my middle school home ec’ class with a six foot tall teacher with frizzy hair the color of merlot whom everyone referred to as Big Bird. It was hard to take her seriously. Especially because she also taught the eternally awkward sex education class. In fact, I can’t remember cooking or baking any one thing in particular- just general cooking. Pasta, I guess? Maybe a cake? Hmm.

But then, after moving out on my own (one of the many times) I started experimenting with cooking simple things like chicken and making box cake (Funfetti!).

I discovered eBay at age 18 which led me to the discovery of cute little homemade aprons- which truly made any form of cooking or baking automatically a masterpiece because at least I looked the part.
Love Holly's style!
I think I used to watch too much Girls Next Door circa the Holly Madison era. That girl dressed up in costume to do everything- including all those house-wifely activities like baking. I think she made it look cute.  

Enter Charleston, South Carolina a few years later.  

Charleston was like a city of dreams to me. There were so many things to try and discover. I had already begun liking different types of food before coming to Charleston, but Charleston is known for its food. And for good reason.

But one of the things I remember most about Charleston was this amazing little shop simply called Cupcake.
I love Cupcake- the food & the shop!
Cupcake is the simplest idea for a store ever. It’s not a restaurant. It’s not an elaborate, pretentious bakery. There are no orders of fries on the side. There are no fancy wedding cakes (but they do make giant cupcakes!). Nothing but wonderful, yummy cupcakes.

Cupcake has a variety of flavors of cupcakes, and they bake 9 flavors daily. The cupcakes themselves are just beautiful, with huge mounds of pretty-colored frosting smothering the tops, enough to make a poor lactose intolerant person like me suck it up and pop lactase pills like a maniac just to gobble down. Cupcake also had cute merchandise- aprons (of course), mugs (I bought one! Love it!), and adorable little tees.

One of the things I loved about Cupcake is that they had a few little tables inside so you could meet up with a girlfriend and have a cupcake. I think they even rent the shop out for Cupcake parties.

They even had little wooden Cupcake voucher coins you could purchase and give to a friend- their version of a giftcard but for exactly the cost of one cupcake each.

I loved the whole concept behind Cupcake. That darling store still appears in my dreams and makes me think about owning my own little cupcake store one day. A cute little shop where girlfriends would meet and have cupcakes and some light drinks. I just love the idea.

(If you live near or visit Charleston, SC you MUST check out one of the Cupcake shoppes! Their website is www.freshcupcakes.com. If you can't make it there- check out the Cupcake blog at http://charlestoncupcakes.blogspot.com/.)

But until we live somewhere long enough so that I can settle down and realize my latest dream of owning my own cupcake bakery, I will continue my obsession with cupcake baking and apron purchasing in my own home.
My fabulous apron & this picture are from http://www.etsy.com/shop/sassyapron
I just bought my third cupcake cookbook and my 7th apron- my first actual apron with cupcakes all over it (with matching headband). It will be dedicated solely to baking cupcakes. (From an awesome apron shop on Etsy: http://www.etsy.com/shop/sassyapron) I'm already planning my next adorable Etsy cupcake purchase. I've become obsessed with an adorable pair of hand-stamped cupcake stud earrings (from http://www.etsy.com/shop/CatherineMarissa).
Obsessed with these! From: http://www.etsy.com/shop/CatherineMarissa
I spent some time experimenting with various cupcake recipes this summer. Which was unfortunate since Nick wasn’t here, so it was just me in the house, baking for nobody in particular.

I would bake batches of 12-24 cupcakes then give away most of them to our neighbors. I thought, at least it will hopefully change their minds from calling me “the crazy neighbor who talks to her dog” to “the nice neighbor who bakes things and gives them to us.” (Ah, the joys of being a military wife when your husband is on deployment.)
White cupcakes with homemade vanilla buttercream frosting
I’ve baked peanut butter cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes, yellow cupcakes and white cupcakes. The latter had homemade vanilla buttercream icing which I received some compliments for. I made macadamia nut maple cupcakes with maple cream cheese icing. Last week for Thanksgiving I really wanted to bake pumpkin cupcakes since I wasn’t really doing any traditional Thanksgiving food otherwise. Unfortunately everyone at the store the weekend before Thanksgiving wanted to make pumpkin pie, go figure, so of course there was no pumpkin puree or pumpkin spice.

Instead I stuck with the non-traditional “Holidays in Hawaii” theme and made pineapple cupcakes with citrus buttercream frosting. Yum! 
Cup-A-Cake holders- stupid yet somewhat ingenious.
I also recently discovered Cup-A-Cake individual cupcake holders. I only recently learned that cupcakes could be frozen and eaten at a later date. If only I had known about that this summer, also known as “The Summer of Cupcakes.”

Anyway, now that I have my nifty cupcake holders, next time I bake  I plan to freeze a few cupcakes and stick them in the freezer for emergencies.

Sometimes, you have a cupcake emergency. It happens.

Basically this blog was a tiny rant on how much I love cupcakes and why you should too. (And puppies!)
Also, I wanted to tell you about this awesome new cupcake book I ordered, which isn’t so much about cupcake recipes as are my other two cupcake books, but more about fun, creative ways to decorate cupcakes. And it has fun pictures. And it’s cheap on Amazon. Check it out and look at the pretty pictures! It’s called What’s New, Cupcake?  
Highly recommend!
(By the way, if you haven't noticed by now, I am an Amazon.com addict. Just a side note, but they are one of the very few companies that actually have a free shipping deal- $25 or more of qualifying items- that is still applicable to Hawaii. Most companies, even with a "free shipping" option, often still add a surcharge to ship here. Cough-cough-Victoria's Secret-Cough. Also, Amazon tends to be cheaper than a lot of companies- I only go through them for mp3's too. In other words, I link to the items I talk about almost exclusively to Amazon because, frankly, Amazon rocks.)

And because I’ve possibly made you hungry and craving small round cakes inside pretty paper wrappers, here’s my Hawaii for the Holidays cupcake recipe from my first cupcake cookbook, Easy Cupcakes.

Tropical Pineapple Cupcakes with Citrus Cream Frosting
Makes 12
(Sarah’s note: Unless I used the wrong kind of flour, I found this barely filled 9 cups and didn’t rise much. Came out delicious but you may want to double the recipe!
The perfect Hawaiian cupcake.
2 slices of canned pineapple in natural juice
6 tbsp butter, softened
Generous 3/8 cup superfine sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Scant 5/8 cup self rising flour
1 tbsp juice from the canned pineapple

For the frosting
2 tbsp butter, softened
Generous 3/8 cup soft cream cheese
Grated rind of 1 lemon or lime (I loved the lime!)
Scant 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp lemon juice or lime juice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put 12 paper cases in a muffin pan or put 12 double-layer paper cases on a baking sheet.

Finely chop the pineapple slices. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and beat together until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in the egg. Add the flour and, using a large metal spoon, fold into the mixture. Fold in the chopped pineapple and the pineapple juice. Spoon the batter into the paper cases.

Bake the cupcakes in the preheated over for 20 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. Transfer to wire rack and let cool.

To make frosting, put the butter and cream cheese in a large bowl and, using an electric handheld mixer, beat together until smooth. Add the rind from the lemon or lime. Sift the confectioners’ sugar into the mixture, then beat together until well mixed. Gradually beat in the juice from the lemon or lime, adding enough to form a spreading consistency. (Sarah’s note: I actually found I needed to add a little more confectioners’ sugar to thicken the mix.)

When the cupcakes are cold, spread the frosting on top of each cake, or fill a pastry bag fitted with a little star tip and pipe the frosting on top. Store the cupcakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
Thanksgiving day!
Then serve, and pretend you are in Hawaii enjoying the 80-something degree weather out on the beach with a Mai Tai in your hand. Enjoy! ;)
"For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else."
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I was at work today, I realized that I said "ya'll" to my new co-worker just 5 minutes shy of explaining how to pronounce "E Komo Mai" (Welcome in Hawaiian) and talking about my growing up in Baltimore. Then on the ride home today, my iPhone music shuffle picked up a previously abandoned Muse song added to my collection years ago by an ex-boyfriend I haven't talked to in forever. I was never into Muse. At all. And suddenly I liked this song. And the others from its album.

It got me thinking about how I've changed in the almost 7 months since I've moved to Hawaii. I decided my list was long enough to warrant being written down (and laughed at). So here it is:

 Things I’ve Lost since Hawaii:
  • One less non-broken bone. (I broke my toe last month when my sister came to visit. I was unsure if I really did at the time but a month later it’s still sore so I think that is a yes. Not a big deal, but I’ve never really broken anything before. There goes that winning point in the  “Never Have I Ever” game.)
  • My single status…er, well engaged status. 
  • My last name
  • My Maryland license (I do miss that little blue crab on it but my huge rainbow is pretty awesome.)
  • My tolerance for cold weather (I freeze when I walk in air condition now. I took two sweaters with me to breakfast this morning because I was shaking the second I walked in the door!)
  • My stereotype of military life & wives
  • My need to wear socks ever again (Long live flipflops.)
  • My car (Still heave a little sigh every time a silver Toyota Echo with all 4 missing hubcaps drives by.)
  • A few checked off items on my life goals list (Get Married, Drink Champagne on an Airplane, Get a Drivers License from Another State, Visit Hawaii- that was number 2 on my list!
  • Contact with a few people I probably wasn’t meant to stay in touch with anyway (…so no real loss there.)
  • Any desire EVER to waitress again. (In fact I’m considering gouging my eyes out with forks before doing so again. I still have nightmares from my one evening spent working in Outback where the words “NEVER AGAIN!!” echoed through my mind all night like a crazy person.)
  • Any sense of consistent dialect (I still say, “hon” from Baltimore, “ya’ll” from Charleston, and now end every sentence with “yah?” from Hawaiian pidgin. Plus I really like to say “Aloha!” )
  • Two bank accounts. (No Bank of America’s or Baltimore County Credit Unions here.)
  • My white pasty complexion and dry skin (Don’t miss either ONE bit!)
  • My previous favorite necklace (A mother of pearl four leaf clover I paid a quarter for at a flea market when I was 10 and a horse-shoe charm with “Good luck” written in it I bought for myself when I moved out of my mom’s house officially for the first time…come to think of it that’s probably not good luck.)
  • 2 Tupperware lids. (No clue where they went. Wonder if you can order that specifically….Hmm.)
Things I’ve gained since Hawaii:
  • A wedding band
  • A husband (!!!)
  • A boatload (literally) of friends
  • A tan J
  • Greta (My “new” car…a ’99 beat-up aqua-colored Toyota Corolla who acts kind of fussy sometimes and likes to tease me by putting on her Check Engine light every 3 weeks or so but still kinda feels like a caring, worried Grandma.)
  • One more state added to my roster of states visited (Now at 44!)
  • A HOUSE of our own!
  • An insatiable desire to bake cupcakes frequently (And an even more house-wifey obsession for cute little aprons. I think I used to watch Girls Next Door to often- you know how Holly always dressed up for doing silly little things? Totally becoming me.)
  • An appreciation for always having lived on Eastern Standard Time….and an anger for when companies on EST call me at 2am.
  • 14 new bikinis
  • A passion for non-profit work & at least for now a job that makes me pretty happy
  • A big expensive white dress
  • Occasional awesome care packages from Mom (Which ALWAYS contain about 15-25 dog treat coupons which show me where her loyalty really lies.)
  • A new pen pal- my sister!
  • A new language (Well, not completely, but I do know a LOT of words now. Plus, ever since moving here I made myself say every single street name in Hawaiian out loud to practice and I have a real knack for Hawaiian pronunciation now I think….although I did JUST learn how to pronounce my street name after 6 months of saying it wrong. Oops.)
  • An amazing new ability to “man up” and handle tools. (I’ve hung pictures, drilled, and even assembled a TV stand…in only 4 hours….um.)
  • A new love for red wine. I currently have 5 opened bottles. (Sorry, Mom.)
  • A newfound appreciation for military wives (and kids)
  • A longing for Charleston I didn’t know I had.
  • An herb garden (Which reminds me…I’m having fresh eggplant for dinner tonight!)
  • An underlying fear of tsunamis (following “The Tsunami That Wasn’t” back in February. I still keep meaning to buy a tshirt that says I survived the February 27th Tsunami.)
My Constants:
  • My dog Maggie. (Don’t know how I’d survive deployment without that dog. The neighbors seriously must think I’m nuts. I raced her down my street back to our house the other day, the whole while yelling at her like I would to a person: “I’m going to beat you. I’m almost there. Ha! In your face!” I did beat her but it was close. …Only to see my neighbor across the street outside looking at me and smiling awkwardly. Ooops.)
  • My family.
  • My hair color.
  • My love for beaches….actually that has definitely increased with the overabundance of clear, turquoise waters and white sand beaches, and trade winds that keep the weather perfectly balanced….(Sorry. ;)  )
  • My silver palmetto palm tree necklace I got at Rainbow Street Market in downtown Charleston that I pretty much wear all the time.
  • My phone number. (I’ve had it since I was 17. 410 forever, baby. Although I am forcing Nick to convert from his 314 St Louis area code. Sorry, Nick.)
  • My slight obsession with photography. (Only now it’s developed into an obsession with iPhone photography apps.)
  • My appreciation for Maryland crabcakes, cream of crab soup, and Old Bay. (If someone tells you Old Bay does not go with everything they are WRONG!)
  • My love for Nick…I take that back. That’s definitely changed. I only miss him and love him more every day.
You have to let go of some things to make room for others…but in the case of my two missing Tupperware lids I’m not entirely sure that’s true. But for the most part change has been good to me.

I couldn’t be a more happily married woman. Unless Nick was home from deployment but I’m taking one day at a time. And twice in the past two weeks I have had comments from two different people that couldn’t believe my age. Not that I’m old by any means but it was nice they thought I was a college kid.

Enough reflections. I need to go race my dog around the block. Aloha! ;)
Ko Olina- raining out over the water
The whole time I lived in Charleston I really wanted to LOVE the place. And I liked it a lot. There were even parts of it I loved. But it just wasn't the one. I've always loved California and it's warm but not too hot weather and laid back style and thought that's maybe where I belonged. God only knows I've never been happy living in Maryland and can't stand cold weather.

Maggie's enjoying the sunny weather
Now when I walk out of the house to take the dog for a walk in the morning every day, the words, "God, I love this place" echo through my mind like waves lapping over each other.

It's just incredible. The weather is amazing to say the least. The beaches...well, I don't know that there's any going to back to Ocean City, Maryland and being close to satisfied at this point. Even the people are really great. Not all of them. But most.

I've met pretty much all of our close neighbors at this point. My next door neighbor to the left even said he would see if his company was hiring for me. As I was walking the dog last night I had a nice conversation with an older couple who have lived here for 30 years and promised to email me information on their veterinarian. 
Yard planting day!
I just feel so...this sounds cheesy but blessed to be here. Nick isn't always around and that's the downside to his job but I've already met some amazing friends through him. And I'll continue to push myself to meet more people. The nice couple directly across from us are awesome. The guy is a West Point grad from the year before Nick graduated from the Naval Academy. They're engaged too and getting married next month. They already invited us to dinner at some point in the near future.

Laying the compost
There are of course negative sides to living on the island but I feel like they're worth putting up with to be able to live in such paradise. Traffic is the biggest. It's hideous. I hear it's worse than LA and I believe it.  I've been trying to find a local job, which is actually harder than it seems. The area I live in is developing quite a bit but it's not really there in a business aspect yet. The major places to work are in downtown Honolulu or Waikiki. Which are over an hour commute each way...with a decent day of traffic. It's horrible. And I won't get started on parking.

I did interview at a restaurant at a golf course one street over from out house so I'm hoping to hear back soon.

Grass trays before being broken into plugs
Also of course natural disasters are something to be aware of here. The tsunami scare was a big warning to us. Nick and I have since developed a list of disaster preparedness food and water and miscellaneous that we're working on assembling. It was good to have the scare and be warned because now I feel like we'll be a lot more prepared next time.

Being a homeowner has been interesting. About three weeks ago we decided to work on our yard and plant grass patches/plugs. That was tsunami day. We couldn't get out to rent a tiller to till the compost in with the dirt/clay base of our backyard. The following day, a Sunday Nick went out to rent the tiller...but when he got back and dropped it off with me he told me he'd been called into work. We only had the tiller for a day and I didn't want to spend our evenings that week working on the yard. I had no idea how long he'd be gone so I got to work. It was quite a job ahead of me. We had gotten the compost laid down the day prior but using the actual tiller was really hard. Once I got the entire yard tilled I broke apart trays of grass into approximately 5" by 5" "plugs" of grass to plant. The plugs are expected to grow together in 3-6 months. I got almost half the yard planted by the time Nick came home. I got him to cut the rest of the grass into plugs for me and I got the rest planted.
It's been about three weeks now and there are tiny sprouts of grass poking up next to the plugs so it must be working.

Grass plugs: the semi finished product
I finally got the house pretty organized as of last week and even cleaned everything really well for the first time. Of course it's all just in time for our third and final shipment to come tomorrow. Then I'll have more cleaning to do and more things to put in their places. Then I have to get around to filing our insurance claims for all of our things that got broken in the move over- our dining room table, our dryer, a bedside table, shelves, and more than one lamp.

Ko Olina lagoons on a bright sunny day
This weekend was really nice because, since I got pretty much everything done that I could get done on the house at the time, I was able to take it easy. I went to Ko Olina beach with my friend Megan. Ko Olina has man made lagoons which separate the waves from the beach. They provide a nice little outlet of calm where you don't have to be concerned about being dashed into rocks or taken out to sea. The sun was so hot we kept thinking we were burning but we were sunblock suited up. The sun is just really hot here. The water was perfect though- it seemed chilly at first but it was satiating in the heat. In Charleston what bugged me about the water is that at some point in late summer, the water became so warm that it wasn't satisfying to go in it to cool off. Here I think it's perfect.

I've been working on a lot of stuff lately- little projects other than just job hunting. It's definitely been keeping me busy. But it was nice to finally let myself relax at the beach. This is a really exciting month now that we've both gotten to know the area a bit more. I'm sure this is just the beginning. Some more exciting things to come very soon...

Out to dinner last month at Roy's for Valentine's Day
Every time I step outside here I feel like I'm in a constant state of awe. Seriously, how did I get to live here?
So nice to see green & mountains again!
It seems so funny now finding out so long ago- over 5 months now- to the actualization of living here. And it's crazy to think that while it's been warm and sunny here (I'm already completely acclimated to the warm- I can't stand cold weather!) back in Maryland they set records for snowfall and blizzards. Literally the day after I left, the airport began canceling flights, two blizzards came in one week, record-setting snowfall, even I-95 was shut down. I don't think I've ever seen that before.

The view from my mom's front yard in Baltimore
I'm really lucky I left when I did because it would have been over a week later I would have finally been able to get here.

I'm still adjusting a little bit with the time difference. It's definitely not hard to get up early here since it's kind of like sleeping in in Maryland. :) Unfortunately, Nick and I have been sharing a car off and on so I've had to drive him to work a few times if I needed the car that day so I would get up at 5:30am and be exhausted by 9:30pm that night...doesn't help get on schedule.

I think I'm just about there now. Five hours is a lot to adjust by. I think I'm closer to California time at the moment, but that works.

Last Monday we got me a car. A little aqua '99 Toyota Corolla which I have promptly named "Little Clunker," due to its slightly clunking engine. Also "Little Beater." That's actually more of an island term- the crappy little cars that people drive a lot of times when they live here are called beaters. Much of the island is military so people just get temporary cars. Also, you don't put a lot of mileage on cars here since it's not like you can suddenly plan a road trip out of state. The funny thing is my new (to me!) little car had 117,500 miles on it when I got it last week- the one that I sold had 117,555....Weird.

The houses on our street- don't they look like faces?
We moved into our new house on Friday. Well, I got here and got to read a few pages of my book before realizing I had no toilet paper in the entire house. I walked over to the office to borrow a roll (take a roll? not like I'm giving it back) and by the time I got back to the house, the moving truck wasn't far behind. We have three shipments total coming. Our biggest one on Friday was from back in October when they boxed up almost everything from Charleston, SC. The second which is coming this morning is from the end of Nick's being stationed in Groton, CT. The last one which I think will probably be sometime next week will be the final one they took from my house in Baltimore, MD the week I left. Oh, and technically four shipments- Nick's car isn't here yet either. We'll be expecting that sometime next week.

I hate dealing with movers. I feel bad asking them to unpack everything, but it's what they're getting paid for. Also if they don't unpack the stuff while they're there, for one you end up with a ton of packaging materials you don't know what to do with until they come pick it up. But the biggest thing is that if something is broken, you can't claim it because you can't prove you didn't just break it after unwrapping it.

Downtown Kailua behind a shopping center
In our shipment Friday, our dining room table didn't make it- the legs broke on the journey so now it's sitting awkwardly in our living room. My bedside table lost the whole handle and looks pretty ugly now. My favorite Target lamp is no more. Our couch has some slashes on it. And they dropped a dolly on the side of my car and put a nice gash in the front of the fender. We'll get reimbursed but it's a bummer. Especially with the dining room table because I have no idea what to do with it at the moment. It's big. I don't know if they'll be able to fix it (I think a claims guy will come out and tell me that) and I really don't want a new one- I love my old one. It was a $100 Craigslist purchase in Charleston and well worth it. Beautiful oak table.

So at the moment, I'm waiting for the second shipment to get here and today will be spent trying to organize everything and put it in its place. It's helpful that the moving company unpacks everything- it saves a ton of time. But then you're left with mounds of THINGS in every room piled up high. Sigh.

Nick is working extra long tonight and I might not see him until tomorrow. He took the car since I have so much to do here anyway.

The beach on Kailua's Marine base- Gorgeous.
Other than the craziness of moving, Hawaii has bowled me over so far. It's incredible. Especially the area we live, called 'Ewa Beach (pronounced Eh-vah). We stayed in Kailua the first week with friends on the base and Kailua was incredible. There was even a beautiful beach you could walk to that was on base. I went two days in a row I didn't have a car. I saw 4 different kinds of crabs I had never seen before, sea anemones, got stung by a jellyfish, and even rescued a tiny little octopus which tried to squirt ink at me. Twice. (His little tentacles were so cool! They kept sticking on my fingers as I was trying to get him back in the water so he wouldn't die.) 

This little guy visited me while I was laying out
Oh, and I almost had to be rescued by the base lifeguard. The water is NO joke here. I was walking in the water up to my calves when it suddenly dropped off up to my chest. And rocks appeared. And waves that wouldn't let me get away from the rocks. Fun. (I did end up with some scratches on my knee, a pounding heart, a talking to from the lifeguard who warned me that the area wasn't safe for swimming, and I got knocked down a few levels in the embarrassment department

Kailua is on the rainier side of the island. It was pretty nice while we were there but they said it had been raining a lot prior to my arrival. And toward the end I drove in and out of rain quite a bit.

To the left, rain. To the right, sun. Crazy island living.
The Ewa side of the island doesn't rain as much. It's not too hot here. It's been between 74-88 every day and sunny. But the crazy thing about the rain all over the island is that you can drive into or out of it. If it's raining on one side, just drive out of it. Half the time it will be raining on one side of you and sunny on the other side (see my picture)- which is why you see so many rainbows here. I think I've seen six already in just over a week.

The house is beautiful. It's a new house but needs a lot of work. We've been trying to cover the windows in our bedroom at least with duct tape and sheets and beach towels. And I guess we didn't realize that grass doesn't come with the house- our backyard is a red clay. I have light colored carpets- clay and light carpets do not mix well when you have a dog. So despite the decently sized back yard, we have to continually take the dog for walks. Kind of a pain when I got so spoiled by my parents yard and just being able to let her outside.

We began investigating how to get grass since I think grass and blinds are priority. We talked for ten minutes to a guy at the base garden shop on all the steps we need to take- sand down first for filtration, top soil mixed with spongey rocks since apparently clay is no good for growing, purchasing multiple cubic feet of grass and tearing them individually apart and planting each one a few inches apart. We're waiting for a sale on all that.
We also priced blinds through the base. Nick isn't around much to be able to install a ton of blinds and we thought instead of getting the cheap ones from Walmart/Target, since we already have really awkward sized windows we would get professional blinds done. We're looking at really nice white wood grain horizontal blinds for the entire upstairs and light off-brown verticals for all the downstairs which would match our sliding glass door. We priced it at $2500. Ouch.

Owning a house is definitely not cheap. So many other little costs like those- and just filling up the house, buying a bed and stuff for a spare bedroom. Ugh. Money.

How can you complain when your backyard could look like this?
Our realtor actually took us out to dinner last night at the Cheesecake Factory in downtown Waikiki. CRAZY CRAZY CRAZY PACKED area. It's the most touristy part of the island and there is no off time. It doesn't get less busy on a Monday during the day because everyone there is on vacation. It was insane how packed it was. Definitely trying to stay away from there as much as possible. On Oahu they try to keep all the hotels in one area of the island so it's not like that all over. And that's pretty much where they all are. The beach was incredible though and looked like a postcard with the sun setting colors and the palm trees in the foreground. The shopping was incredible. Louis Vuitton, Rolex, Fendi stores. Crazy. But I'll stick with staying out of Honolulu and Waikiki whenever possible. Even the restaurants were ALWAYS packed. Man, that's be a hard but lucrative place to work.

Some of the other crazy things I've noticed so far- traffic is horrendous. I heard someone say it got voted #1 worst- Los Angeles was number 2. Ouch. All the street names are crazy to pronounce. I try to say every one I see out loud to practice pronunciations. You mostly just try to pronounce every vowel. But in some cases that isn't easy- Kamehameha Highway is a popular road here. I still haven't figure out which part of the name to stress. But at least I have the pronunciation right. I think. And just when you think you have pronunciation down- you get three vowel in a row and just have no idea. And then there's the state fish: the Humuhumukununukuapua'a fish. Yeah, try that one when you think you're good at pronouncing Hawaiian. I just figured out this week how to say my street name.

Banking has been an adventure. There are no Suntrusts here. No Bank of Americas. No M&T Banks. Basically nothing there is back home other than Navy Federal Credit Union. There are lots of local banks. Bank of America actually froze my account for suspicious activitiy the day I needed to get money out for my car. AFTER I had already called them to make sure it wouldn't be a problem. I spent 45 minutes on the phone in a bank parking lot. Nice.

Superbowl kicked off at 1:25pm. The only thing live here is football. So during the season there will be 8am games. That's some real tailgating. The 10pm Jay Leno show comes on at 9pm. I still haven't figured out any other TV show times. And I miss good ol' eastcoast Comcast cable. I'd even take ghetto South Carolina's Comcast over this weird Oceanic Time Warner. There's no TV on demand! I miss my Pilates on demand from Exercise TV.

Hawaii is also the place that those "Prices and participation may vary" disclaimers were made for. My first night here we tried to order the 3 mediums for $5.55 from Dominos- only to get "Yeah, that's the mainland price." (They call the other 48 states the "Mainland.") It's 3 mediums for $7 each here. And Subway's $5 footlong is $6. Just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Everything is more expensive if you don't buy stuff on base (which I can't by myself since I don't have a military ID). I heard one of the ladies say they had to go to a regular grocery store one day after commissary hours and spent $7 on a gallon of milk. I bought gas the other day for $3.30 a gallon. Yup, miss mainland prices. It's not a bad trade off to avoid the cold weather and snow. And hey, while talking gardening to the garden center guy, he told us plants grow year round. I'll be planting my own herbs and some veggies too. Oh, and hey, my Verizon cell service works better here than anywhere I've ever been. I didn't even know I could have that many bars!

Well, it's definitely an adventure here so far. I'm not going to have much of an adventure the next few days as I go crazy trying to organize everything-unless your idea of adventures include finding our that hand soap spilled all over my favorite towels. But hey, I do have Nick's bike so maybe I'll ride to the beach once or twice.

And when he is here, we decided to try to explore and have real adventures as much as possible. Every weekend we can. I like that idea.

PS. I have a house and cable now finally so I'll try not to slack on updating. I currently don't have access to pics on my camera though. (Just thriving on pure camera phone pics at the moment.) Darn USB cord went missing. Hey, maybe it will be on today's shipment!

For more current updates
as I travel the island (& take pictures of it!):

My Dear 2001 Toyota Echo,
As our relationship comes to a close and I pass you on to someone else I can only wish for the best for you. After all, I've always wanted the best for you. Don't let the 4 month old Taco Bell quesadilla under the passenger seat fool you.

We have had some amazing times despite the name calling...mostly on my end. You've been called "Clown car," "little plastic toy," "piece of crap," and "Why won't you go faster dammit?!?" But amidst the name calling, there were also the fond names- "Bubble car" (not meant to indicate you're chubby although you are slightly more hip-pey than your big sister the Corolla), "girl," "little bug," and of course, "Little car."

I pretended not to notice when hubcaps were repelled from you. I've encouraged you along the way when you would creep over the 76 mile-per-hour speed and I could feel you huffing and puffing just a teeny bit but I didn't want to hurt your pride by drawing attention to it.

You were there for me in college when I would nap with the seat back when I got to class too early. You had drunk sorority sisters falling all over each other in your back seat when I was the sober sister at socials (Sorry for the vomiting- but you should be thanking me for that detailing two years ago). You went out with me to meet up with friends in Towson, Bel Air, Glen Burnie, Baltimore, Charleston, and Ocean City. You may have even been accused of hitting some people once or twice...I'm pretty sure you just nudged them when they walked in front of you though.

You are a true beach girl like me. You're from Florida, you were here for me that year I turned 21 and lived in Ocean City for the summer (sorry for all the drunk, sandy people who inhabited your back seat on occasion), and all the South Carolina beaches- Myrtle Beach, Folly Beach, and Isle of Palms.
Yup, that's little car on the right in an ep of Army Wives
You traveled back and forth with me from Charleston, SC to Baltimore, MD. (Sorry for the dog's multiple bouts of car sickness.) You were even in an episode of Army Wives (with me of course) which was filmed in Charleston.

You were there during my worst roadtrip ever (although with the best results)- driving from Baltimore, MD to St Louis, MO for some boy at 11:30pm the day before New Years Eve just over two years ago. Turns out that didn't work out too well for you since now I'm going to be moving 5500 miles away with that boy to a tropical island....hence the reason you're not coming with me. Sorry to rub that in. I didn't mean to hurt your feelings.

In all seriousness, I feel like you were my first. My previous, the Neon left me high and dry with her flickering ghost dome light that would randomly come on while driving too fast, having the bass too loud, or even if someone leaned their leg too hard against the passenger side door. But I digress.

You're the first car that was mine. I had you the longest and I even paid you off all by myself. I'm sorry you won't be there for me when I go to the ultimate beach.

So I hope that the new girl can appreciate you and have as much fun with you as I have. I hope to be able to find another "little car" who will come close to what you've been to me. And maybe your cute older sister might just do...(I just saw an O'ahu Craigslist ad for a silver Corolla!)

Your favorite owner

I had a pretty good weekend. I've been working a lot earlier this week- two really long days in a row. Those of you who have waited tables before know how much it sucks to be on your feet serving for 9+ hours in a shift. Ugh. Easy shifts for the rest of the week.

This weekend Nick and I are going to catch up on on some Charleston-esque touristy stuff this weekend. I also need to start putting clothes together and vaccuum-packing what's going to be put in storage for the next 3 months. I have been hearing different stories about the moving company the Navy moves. Since I'm just a girlfriend, they're not responsible for packing my things. Some girls I've talked to have said they have packed all but the girly stuff and girl's clothes. Others have said they just went ahead and packed everything in the apartment.

Since we're cutting it close with moving- planning in a couple days for it but also planning on being back in Baltimore by the 30th, it doesn't leave time for having to go rent a UHaul. So I'm hoping to be able to seal up all my clothes in vaccuum bags with Nick's stuff on top and bottom so there are no worries. :) I stress about this stuff way too much.

In the house hunting front, Nick was put in contact with a realtor in HI who is already looking for stuff. I don't know how she will be yet. We really would not prefer to go over 300-350K MAX..apparently a lot gets you quite a little bit in Hawaii. But since we'll be there for 3 years it does make sense to at least get something we could build equity in and actually paint and decorate and all. But so far the realtor said she will look into this brand new house she has in mind that starts at 400K. Not so much.

Luckily we do have friends in Hawaii. Nick's friend Jared from the Naval Academy is gone for a month, but when he comes back if we need help looking for or at a house, I'm sure he'd be there to help.

I really hope the next place has a yard for our puppy. :)

I can't believe we only have 2 weeks left in Charleston! It seems like it's already flown by since we found out where we're moving. Now it almost seems like there isn't enough time to do stuff. And there are so many random bar tshirts I wanted to get for my future Alcoholic Patchwork Quilt but time is running out and money still hasn't gone up. If anything I will probably only have 3 shifts that last week we're here and then I'll be off for at least a week. Longer if I can't get a job in Baltimore basically immediately. Not sure what's going to happen. Ahhh stress.

Okay, off to bed. Two more days until the weekend. Also, Army Wives reunion/sleepover at one of the girl's houses on Friday night. Going to be so much fun. :)
I still have no idea. I have been up since 4:30 and only went to bed at 2:45am.

See this morning was Nick's "graduation" from his current program here in Charleston called Prototype. I took off work to go (before I knew it was so early in the morning I really didn't need to take off work). I was falling asleep last night hanging out with him for some reason so I had a teeny cup of coffee at almost 8pm and apparently the effects were a bit much. Ugh I hate not being able to sleep.

The graduation this morning was mainly for the enlisted guys. It took basically an hour and a half for the 200 some enlisted guys to line up and get their orders while the officers (all 30 something of them) got in order pretty quickly (much easier with 30 something guys). An hour and a half of waiting around for a 15 minute ceremony which really was for the friends and family to take pictures of the enlisted guys (since they had all the chairs facing them and the officers lined up awkwardly along the side of the room where you couldn't take good pics). Then the like 8 guys they actually gave awards to they lined up and stood in front of them as they gave them the awards instead of calling them up one by one. I would have been pissed if one of them had been mine since you couldn't see them to get pics. And some of the people around me had flown in to be there for it. Oh, Navy.

We booked out of there, cam back and changed, and went to lunch at this amazing little restaurant in North Charleston called Sesame Burgers and Beer. It's owned by the same two owners as my restaurant. Such amazing food.

Then I dropped Nick off at this little airport where his friend who owns his own airplane flew himself and Nick to somewhere near Clemson where a bunch of the guys are camping all weekend for one of the guy's bachelor party. I'm not really worried. They'll basically be in the woods. Fifteen guys. In the woods. In a a cabin. Pretty harmless bachelor party. And also an awkward sausage fest. Sounds kind of boring actually. I suggested taking Scattergories with him. :)

I came back and downloaded Colbie Caillat's new album online (which I'm listening to as I type this)...I seriously thought she had just released a bunch of old songs on an album with like 3 new songs. I didn't realize she had a whole new album and I'm a bit upset I didn't find it sooner. My ex boyfriend turned me on to Colbie before Bubbly even hit the radio waves, before her first cd was even out and she just had some songs on her myspace. Obsessed with her light-hearted, happy songs (for one of the great ones off that album, check out the media player below- hurray for now being able to upload audio!).

I took a nap after that and now here I am...already after 4pm. Where did my day go? I thought after getting up so early I'd have more of a day. I slept less than 2 hours.

I have a TON of apartment cleaning to do. Since Nick is out of town until Sunday I invited some of my close friends over for dinner tomorrow night. However the apartment is in shambles from two weeks in a row of going out of town then straight working. My day off Wednesday was basically committed to hanging out with Nick (lazy day!). I'm not a fan of cleaning the apartment when he's here. Especially since I have like 3 weeks before I'm going to not be living with him again until February.

Also he found out yesterday that he will be deployed in April for about 6 months. Two months after moving in. I guess it's better then so that he will be back for he big holidays like Halloween (well, it's my favorite holiday), Thanksgiving, and Christmas. So I guess that's good. But it definitely means we have to get out ducks in order when we move to Hawaii. We can't just get a temporary place for a month or two then move into something more permanent if we can't find anything sooner. There's no way I can do all that moving and handling on my own. We have to make it count the first time. Next week we're going to start calling and seeing what we can get approved for mortgage-wise since it kinda sucks to put three years into renting an apartment. Guess we'll see.

Getting way too ahead of myself. Half the reason I couldn't sleep well last night. The other half was because I was googling fun sparkly things. I'm going to leave that up for guessing. ;*)

Okay, procrastination over. I'm going to go get started on cleaning this apartment like a 1950's housewife. Riiiight after I eat something....
Awkward Officer Lineup @ Prototype Graduation 10/9/09
This week has been awesome. We had the concert this past weekend in VA beach and since this is Nick's last week of work here, he has been getting off super early every day. I was off work today and Nick was out by 10 so we had a great day together. Got to go the dogpark with Maggie and have pretty much been watching TV, napping, or eating while watching TV all evening. The epitome of laziness. Love it. I even got him to watch an episode of Glee with me and he didn't mind it. Hahh.

The vet called Monday to let me know Maggie passed her blood test. So now I just have to book a flight to Hawaii. Nick doesn't have his flight yet since the Navy schedules it and I guess tells him sometime right before. Ahhhh Navy and your planning. We have a wedding to go to on Jan 30th in Maryland and he has to report for duty by Feb 10th. I would like him to be there before me...especially since I won't have a car when I get there and all. So I guess I'm going to shoot for as close to Feb 10th as possible. I would like to be there by Valentines Day though.

Maryland is coming up rapidly. I'm trying to plan in all my last minute Charleston stuff now. I emailed the girls I hung out with on Army Wives so I hope to get together with them sometime soon before I leave. I also really want to have a going away thing at bar around here. Nothing big. Just a time to come out and have drinks- probably the Sunday before we leave so I can see everyone and hang out a last time.

I'm so excited to be coming back to Baltimore for Halloween. I LOVE Halloween. My parents used to be uber religious when I was little..my dad mainly. I wasn't allowed to dress up for Halloween because my dad considered it the devil's holiday. I think I dressed up once when I was 4 or 5 and walked around a mall. But when my parents got divorced when I was about 12 I started dressing up every year. Not actually trick or treating, but dressing up to hand out candy. And of course when you hit college age, you realize Halloween is the best time to dress up and bar hop. Gradually I have been going to more and more things each year and of course I have to do a different costume every time. Last year I had I think four different costumes, the year before was five. I may only have one this year but I'm pretty happy with it. I won't tell you what it is yet though...I always try to keep it on the down low. Last year was my favorite costume so far.

On actual Halloween night in Baltimore last year (the week before I moved to Charleston) I went to Fells Point. Fells is an area downtown which is basically a huge court with lots of bars all along the street. They close it off to cars for Halloween and everyone you know ends up coming and bar hopping. There's even a costume contest in the middle of the square. Last year I went as the original Blonde at the Beach- Pam Anderson from Baywatch. I bought a red bathing suit and found an actual movie set Baywatch patch to iron onto my suit. I did my makeup like Pam. I wore blonde hair extensions. I cut apart two Tide bottles and taped and spraypainted them together to form a life raft. And I ran in slow motion for 3 1/2 hours. It was such a blast. I felt like a celebrity because people kept asking to get their pictures taken with me. I ended up being on the local newspaper's website and even made it onto Youtube (See below).

I don't think my costume this year will be nearly as amazing. Plus I will probably only have that night to dress up since we'll be packing and moving and cleaning all week. But I'm really excited because it's my first Halloween with Nick. Last year he was already in Charleston and came back the next weekend to come get me and help me move down with him. We met the year before in December so we missed Halloween.

Since he has to go to Connecticut he is going to leave with me and follow me up to Baltimore the day before Halloween. So he is going to be with me on Halloween and leave the next day to continue his trip to Connecticut. Not only are we going to be together on Halloween but we're also going to do a couples costume. I've never done that before! Super excited.

I will definitely keep you posted. I'm looking forward to spending this month with Nick (he will be on leave starting next week) before I have to go without him for 3 months while he is in Connecticut. :( Then Hawaii is right around the corner! It'll be sneaking up before you know it. Geez, wonder what they do for Halloween in Hawaii.
This past weekend was such a blast!

Nick ended up having to work on his day off on Saturday morning but he got off by 9:30am. So we were on the road a decent time. We were able to meet up with his roommate from the Naval Academy, Seamus and his girlfriend Alex. We had lunch and dinner with them, walked around Broadway at the Beach, shopped a little, and went out drinking.

We ended up being pretty lame and going back by 11:30pm (it's sad when you keep checking the clock and realizing you just can't party like you used to- especially when I had to keep ordering Irish Coffees to stay awake).
Seamus and Alex turned in early but Nick and I stayed up drinking champagne and Yuengling in the hotel room and watching really lame movies for a few hours. We had some pretty good talks. :)

Sunday we had an awesome huge breakfast with Seamus and Alex at this random little place called the Golden Egg, then Nick and I went back to Broadway at the Beach and did lots of cheesy coupley stuff.

We went to the Aquarium there (and got like a 75% off active military discount!), shopped, made a Naval Officer Build a Bear (he finally got the hint), and Coldstone Creamery before heading back to Charleston. It was an awesome weekend. It was so nice to get to spend some time with him after the previous week with only seeing him a half hour at a time most nights. It was also really nice to see some friends before we move super far away. Seamus is stationed in Wilmington, NC (Marine) with his girlfriend Alex for the next few years, so Myrtle Beach made a nice halfway point.

This weekend is supposed to be Nick's scheduled 4 day weekend off. Since it's basically the last regular week of work though (he has his graduation next week from this program) he only gets a 3 day weekend and has to be back in on Monday next week. It times out really well though because Blink182 (Nick's fave band) is playing the Verizon theater in Virginia on Friday. One of Nick's other really good friends Mark is stationed in VA so we're going to stay with him and go to the concert on Friday and hang out on Wednesday. Mark is hilarious. The guy seriously cracks me up every time we hang out with him. His girlfriend Kim is going to be there this weekend too. Basically, our little Naval Academy gang back in MD was me and Nick, Melissa and Jared (who now live in Pearl Harbor who we hope to be living nearby), Seamus and Alex (who we got to see this past weekend and who are in NC), Mark and Kim (who we get to see this upcoming weekend!) and Lou and Meghan (Lou is stationed in Hawaii also). So it's nice to get together with the rest of the gang who isn't already in HI before we move. :)

This weekend will be a lot of fun. So now Nick just needs to do well on his big oral test tomorrow and we might even be able to leave earlier on Thursday. He's a little stressed about it- apparently it's like 2-3 hours of a few of the instructors quizzing you on various stuff pertaining to running a sub. I definitely don't envy him but I think he'll be fine.

I'm looking forward to the weekend. It'll be a nice break...again. :)
Based on the three shows I have watched on the Travel Channel about Hawaii,  I have already started compiling lists of things that I want to do in Hawaii. Obviously there's not a huge rush since we'll be there for three years but then again I have had lists for Charleston and now that there's only a month and a half left I feel the need to catch up on them.

There are incredible things to do and see in Hawaii. From kite surfing, the two live volcanoes on the big island, a frigging HUGE zipline (Hawaii's largest that uses 2 1/2 miles of cable and has 8 separate ziplines spanning hundreds of feet overtop of rainforest), the only royal palace in the US, the coral reefs, cliff diving (awesome!!), bungee jumping (I hope they have that somewhere there), SNUBA-diving (kind of like scuba diving but good if you're not certified- you're still hooked up to a tank but the tank is above water attached by a huge cord). All these things remind me that I really want that new awesome waterproof (and probably more importantly shockproof) digital camera. Especially since camera and I don't have the best of luck. I've spilled cosmopolitan on  one camera at crush party in college and hairspray on another while it was in my makeup bag during rush. Shockproof and waterproof are good things to have. Plus it's extremely important to document crystal clear water! How often are we around that? I don't know about you, but my big beach trips have mostly been Ocean City, MD (slogan: It's all we've got) and here at Folly Beach and Sullivan's Island in Charleston. Better but still definitely not clear. I can't even remember visiting the Keys when I was younger. I think Puerto Rico's water was clearer when I visited back in high school but definitely NOT tropical paradise level of clear. And definitely not past a few feet.

So while I've been compiling my list for Hawaii, I'm also in the process of checking things off of Charleston's To Do list.
We're going to Myrtle Beach this weekend to meet up with some friends. Granted I've been to Myrtle before, but not since I was only living less than 3 hours away, and definitely not since I've turned 21. So that should be a fun one.

There are a ton of shirts I'd like to get from various bars around here. I love collecting random bar tshirts. I guess it started in college when we started going to crush parties at random bars. I'm already up to 5 Greene Turtle tshirts (an awesome bar chain in Maryland). I have some pretty random ones from California from various trips. Once from VA that Nick got me that has a funny gnome on it. A couple from Panama City, FL from last year when Nick was stationed at dive school there. I just think it's really fun to wear them a few states later and remember when you first got the shirt. And the ones that are awkward sizes and don't fit well or I've outworn (or stained) I thought it'd be cool later to cut out and make them into some sort of alcoholic patchwork quilt. Haha.

In addition to tshirts we also collect pint glasses. Those are the glasses we use every day. I love that they're all the same size and shape but they're not too matchy matchy. We have them from all over now. Some pretty funny ones. So we still have a few pint glasses and tshirts to pick up in the next month and a half.

In addition, I'd really like to do some of the touristy stuff. Walk the entire Ravenel Bridge (we have made it about 3/4ths of the way so far). Carriage tours, walk around Folly Beach shops, a ghost tour or two. There are so many haunted plantations and old jails from the Civil War here- I'd love to check some out before we leave.

How did everything sneak up on us? I can't believe it's already been a whole year since we moved here. I hope Hawaii doesn't go by that quickly! There's way more stuff I want to do and enjoy while I'm there.

And I am pretty sure by the time we leave Hawaii, about 78% of my tshirt collection will have become Hawaiian. :)