On August 8, 2012, my husband Lt. Nick Miller finally returned home from a six month deployment. I was so excited to see him...and almost more excited that I could finally show him the project I've been working on since the day he left.

So without further ado, here is my top secret deployment project which I have titled,
The Adventures of Flat Nick.
Special thanks to all my friends and family who put up with the very weird looks from strangers as they helped me complete this project- and also kept it a secret. Couldn't have done it without you and my good friend, wine.
Wow! Do I need to catch up!

I feel like I’ve dropped off the face of the planet for several months. But I’m empowered, and I’m back with a whole new outlook and so many more things to fill you all in on!

But first, I’ve been meaning to write a blog about my Five-0 Experience for a while now.
Photo Credit CBS Hawaii Five-0
As some of you know, I got the amazing chance to work as an extra on the set of the Lifetime series Army Wives while we were stationed in Charleston, SC. Army Wives was a dream come true to me. It was a show I already loved- and it became very nearly a part time job to me, which I worked nearly every week.
One of my Hump Bar days on the Army Wives set
I was usually either an Army wife or waitress at the Hump Bar, but even got to be a soldier once and participated in a classic 1940’s episode where I wore crazy wigs and lots of red lipstick. I got to meet some of my favorite stars, hear the nitty gritty details of behind-the-set gossip, and made some amazing friends!
Army Wives 1940's episode, Season 3- Me on the right- Wigging out & not so blonde!
I was unfortunately too late arriving in Hawaii to be part of the LOST TV show. That would have simply been an unforgettable experience. But I was just in time to become part of the Hawaii Five-0 family.
Sunset on the Beach premiere of Hawaii Five-0!
Hawaii Five-0 was being remade into a new television series, and I was lucky enough to hear about the casting call early on. My first episode acting as an extra was episode 5. The week after the filming of that episode was the series premiere of the show on CBS. I went with a fellow extra, Sabrina, to the Sunset on the Beach premiere in Waikiki- a screening of the premiere on a blow-up screen on the beach with many of the stars of the show walking a red carpet.
It was a real red carpet event...only it was on the beach
Several more times I was fortunate enough to appear as an extra on the TV show. My favorite scene I was in to date was an amazingly fun episode about a group of college kids who were kidnapped by pirates while on spring break. The casting department contacted me about appearing in the scene and told me, much to my delight, that I could pass as a 21-year-old college student. Woot!

I started off the morning at Tiki’s Grill- one of my favorite restaurants in Waikiki, ironically enough. Tiki’s was disguised as “Storm” nightclub. Along with a bunch of other bikini and swimsuit-clad “college students,” I was given glass after glass of pink-tinted, fruit-filled Sprite or non-alcoholic beer and given the directions to “get crazy.”

Easier said than done at 6am with absolutely no help from the sadly non-alcoholic beverages.

However, the day ended up being a blast, as we all got into character pretending to be heavily intoxicated
That's me, hanging out by my lonesome at Tiki's...er, Storm! (Screenshot from Hawaii Five-0)
I got an amazing (but slightly lonely) spot by myself at the end of the bar, right behind the two main characters Kono (played by Grace Park) and Chin (played by Daniel Dae Kim of LOST fame). I proceeded to spend the next two hours or so not-so-drunkenly dancing to music in my head and pretending to be a Woo girl (How I Met Your Mother, anyone?).

Being the obsessive social media geek that I am, I was of course Tweeting between takes about my experience and about my thrill of standing oh-so-close to my beloved DDK (my petname for Daniel Dae Kim- yes, we’re that cool).

Later that day, while awaiting further instructions for the next scene, I was lounging pool-side at the Aston Waikiki with some other bikini-clad extras. (I know, really tough job, isn’t it?)

From across the pool I noticed DDK checking his phone and looking across the pool in the girl’s and my general direction. Within moments, Daniel Dae Kim/Jin/Chin was walking toward us. Unaware if he was a single guy or not, I thought, “He’s coming after the ladies, of course.” Never once thinking he might be approaching me.

Until he was standing by my chaise lounge hovering almost over me. Oh my!
"Oh, hello there. I'm DDK. I've been waiting for you all my life." Okay...maybe he didn't really say that. :/
“Hi,” he began. Talking to me. Holy crap.

“Are you ‘Blonde at the Beach’ on Twitter?” he continued. 

Wait….what? He was referring to my Twitter handle! These words ran through my head several thousands of times for a few seconds before I realized. Duh. I tweeted about DDK. When I said I was behind him in the scene. Also, I was the only blonde there. And also, Wow! He reads his Tweets!

“Yes!” I replied, still stunned.

“I’m Daniel Dae Kim. Nice to meet you,” he said, shaking my hand.

Wow. Just…Wow.

Basically my favorite day on set to date. And that includes the day I got to sprint across a beach in Waikiki several times while dodging (fake) bullets while random streetgoer gentlemen kept trying to take my picture. Okay…nevermind. That was awkard.
That's me in the pink on the left dodging bullets...Hah!
Hawaii Five-0 has continued to be a big part of my life and my experience here in Hawaii. My husband and I have become big fans of the show. In addition, I have gotten to meet some awesome people because of the show- both on and off set.
Me and another extra, Jolene on the beach/set
Social media, especially Twitter, is a huge phenomenon in Hawaii. I can’t tell you how many awesome people I have met by this medium. Many because of the show. Every Monday night, Hawaii Five-0, or #H50 as it’s shortened to on Twitter, is a trending topic as social-media-obsessed people like me watch the show and Tweet about it.

Locals point out the many shoot locations I would never be able to guess and we all crack jokes about the lines and take our best guesses at the whodunnits. Going beyond Twitter though, I have actually gotten to meet several of these awesome Tweeters IRL (in real life).
#H50 TweetUp! Honolulu Star-Advertiser photo by FL Morris copyright © 2011 FL Morris, Mililani, Hawaii
Recently, I attended my first ever Tweet-Up, a get-together for Tweeting Hawaii Five-0 fans at local Big City Diner in Honolulu. (Great blog about the event here! The Five-0 Redux.) It was so awesome to finally put some faces to the Twitter handles! And it’s nice meeting people who know their stuff when it comes to Hawaii. I can put up any random Hawaii question- “Where’s a fun place to go on a Friday night in downtown Honolulu with live music?” –and get a response within seconds from one of these amazing people.

I recently attended the Hawaii Five-0 season finale at Apartment3 in Honolulu. It was great to celebrate such an awesome season of a great show, which really showcases what a gorgeous island on which I’m lucky enough to live.
Hawaii Five-0 Finale at Apartment3, with friends Brian and Wendie Star-Advertiser photo by Brian T-Seng copyright © 2011 Brian T-Seng
Whether you watch the show to take a drink every time a character says the word “Haole” or “Did you learn that in Seal school?”; or if you just live vicariously through observing the gorgeous sunsets and lush greenery of Oahu, Hawaii Five-0 is an amazingly fun show to watch and an even more incredible experience with which to be involved.

I know I’m looking forward with much anticipation to Season Two. :)

PS. Check out this amazing Hawaii Five-0 blog called the Five-0 Redux my Twitter friend Wendie writes! This blog post is called "Being Blonde at the Beach" and is actually about me and what it's like to be an extra! Wow, thank you, Wendie!
I have lived in Hawaii for exactly one year today.

I've been here long enough to know my way around the island decently, to predict the weather, to understand Pidgin and some of Hawaii's other quirks (see my Hawaii page for more on all of them) and to have my fave beaches picked out.

But every once in a while, I have a blonde moment.

One of the things I love about Hawaii is the fact that people let you over in traffic. You don't have to force your way over. In Maryland, if you put your blinker on, people purposely didn't let you in. Then of course you thank them for ignoring you by blessing them with a sweet little hand gesture. (I don't, of course.) True story.

Here, I've barely seen the bird given. People let people into their lane with no problems and in response, the polite thing to do is a little wave back or, even more commonly seen, the shaka. People will do the famous "Hang Loose" relaxed hand gesture as a thank you by waving it out their side window (which makes me smile every time I see it) or over their shoulder.
After being here for nearly a year, I've attempted pidgin and have even been known to throw the shaka on occasion. However, as I mentioned, everyone has their blonde moments.

A few months ago I was at a sunset premiere on the beach for the premiere of Hawaii Five-0. I had been an extra on the show the week before and had made friends with another extra named Sabrina who came with me to the premiere- a laid back viewing of the show on the beach. We were discussing "haole shakas." She pointed out the group of older white women (obviously tourists- you know the look) who were huddled around the red carpet waving their cheesy shaka signs back and forth every time a news camera pointed their way. "That," Sabrina had said, "is a haole shaka if I've ever seen one."
Even Santa gives the Shaka.Photo Courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/nostri-imago/
I had to agree with her. I had never thought about there being a distinction before but could clearly see the difference. Picture if you will, a laid-back surfer throwing the shaka to you. Now picture a 50+ something sunburned blond lady wearing a giant, obnoxious Hawaiian shirt and giddily waving her over-extended shaka back and forth. See the difference?

Only a week or two later, in my early days of tentatively throwing the occasional shaka when people would let me over into their lane in traffic, I made my biggest Hawaii FAIL to date.

After a bright blue Honda Accord let me over into their lane, I raised my hand cockily to throw a shaka as a thank you. When I brought my hand back down I blushed furiously.

I had the right idea...and technically they have very similar meanings....but, no, it just wasn't right...
Yes. Oh, yes. I had managed to give the kind person in the Honda Accord behind me the sign language gesture for "I Love You."

I guess everyone has their FAIL moments.
Happy One Year Anniversary, Hawaii! I moved to Hawaii with Nick on February 4, 2010. Which means next week I will have now lived in Hawaii for a whole year.
First license in a new state! Woot!
So crazy to think about. Not that the time during deployment flew by at all, but definitely the time since Nick has been home has.

The only time I have left Hawaii since moving here has been for a few days to go to California for training for work. I haven't been back to Maryland and have not seen my family and friends for one whole year now.
My going away outing with my good friends before the big move.
That must be the reason I have been thinking about them all and missing them so much. I did get to see my sister and niece back in July when they came to visit me, which was amazing. And I have gotten to Skype with my parents, my sister, my niece, and even my grandma over the holidays.

But my heart is aching for my friends back home. Don't get me wrong, I have friends here. But they're not the kind yet that I feel comfortable calling up after a rough day to talk to. Nick is here for that...some of the time. And none of the girls I hang out with live anywhere nearby me. With the island’s traffic, that is a big deal. A girl needs her best friends.
To my two best friends back home, Erin and Rachel. I miss you two SO much.

Erin has been my best friend and partner in crime and sarcasm since junior year of college when I went from commuting to class to moving onto campus and got "stuck" rooming with her. It was a randomized assignment and the first thing I see when I walk into the dorm room is a huge poster of David Duchovny from X-Files and a little David Duchovny action figure perched tauntingly by her computer.
Me and Erin...So young here!
Erin and I hit it off right away, much to her surprise (and a little bit of mine!). She told me story after story of her nightmarish roommates, ones that stalked her, ones that walked in on her without asking, and ones that would just stare at her like they wanted to kill her. Erin and I had the same major, were the same age, and were in very similar dating situations at the time. While I had never seen X-Files before (although Erin got me to watch a few episodes while living with her and they weren’t bad, I must say), we did stay up WAY too late when we had early classes and tell scary stories until we fell asleep.
Erin and I continued to room together until graduation. Afterwards we had our own stuff going on and didn’t see each other much. A few months after graduation we got together for a reunion and decided to go do karaoke at a little bar nearby our college where a friend of mine (Rob!) was DJing. And then we went faithfully every week for 5 months straight.
Still my favorite picture of all time. Oh my Lord.
Erin has and always will be my best friend. I regret that we don’t talk much. She is a busy girl with a full-time job with a hefty commute, a fiancé, and a punk band called Dead End Lane in which she is the amazingly talented lead singer. The time diff doesn’t help either. But despite not getting to talk much I know that if I need her she is always there and vice versa.
I also found Rachel, my other best friend, in a very serendipitous type way. I used to date her brother! While the relationship with her brother clearly did not work out, I was fortunate enough to meet Rachel who is like a kindred soul to me. We got along SO well that her brother started getting jealous of our talking the whole time we were all out! Not too long after meeting Rachel, she invited me to move into her spare bedroom at her place.
Such an awesome friend.
Rachel was such an awesome roommate too! We watched the same shows, worked nearby, loved a lot of the same things. It was only a little awkward having pictures of her brother hanging around everywhere…but this is also the same brother that led me to find my husband so it looks like two AWESOME things came out of that!
ignore the brunette behind the curtain.
I guess Nick has to come out as the winner of being my favorite roommate ever. I mean, we do have a blast together. But….my two favorite girl roommates and best friends will always be Erin and Rachel.
There are no two friends like these two. :)
So this blog is dedicated to Erin and Rachel. Of course I miss everyone else back home SO much, my mom and my sister especially.
I also really miss my other close friends: Rob, John, EP, James, Cory, Beki, Bernadette, and all my other friends I didn't name on here….you all are the best. I miss you guys a ton. Karaoke again soon please? Guys?
Miss you guys a ton. Sing 'Fatbottom Girls' for me please?
Side Note: I know Erin wouldn’t want you to believe she is still obsessed with David Duchovny. I mean I wouldn’t want to embarrass her. It’s not like I would ever do something crazy like put up a poster of her with a really bad picture in the elevator of our dormitory or anything like that. So for the record, despite owning a cast of David Duchovny’s head, Erin really isn’t obsessed with X-Files anymore. For the record. ;)
Palm Christmas trees, beach days,Hawaiian shirts, sunblock, and Mai Tais...ahhh, Hawaii for the holidays. What an experience.
Nick was more than thrilled to wear his Hawaiian shirt for Christmas Eve.
As nice as it would have been to visit my family and/or Nick's for the holiday's, our schedules (and wallets) disagreed with us. Thus we were forced to spend our first holiday season as a married couple, stuck (GASP!) here on a tropical island with our two lovable pups.
The dogs had a very laid back holiday too.
My awesome non-profit job gave me paid vacation Christmas Eve through through New Year's Eve and Nick's leave began a few days after mine. The only holiday day he was scheduled to work was Christmas Eve, and he was released early in the day since they weren't busy.
Christmas Eve at Jared & Melissa's in Kaneohe!
On Christmas Eve, we were fortunate enough to have dinner with two of Nick's Naval Academy friends on the Kaneohe Marine Base (one of which is stationed here and the other was visiting- neither of whom we have seen in quite some time) and their wives with whom I am also friends. It was such a nice thought to invite us over! (Thank you, Melissa, Jared, and Gunnar!)
'What exactly was my Christmas present?'
Christmas day we slept in (as late as possible with a yapping beagle puppy), had banana bread and yummy leftovers from dinner with friends the night before. Then for dinner, since I don't eat meat and Nick's not a huge turkey person anyway, we had favorite foods: bacon wrapped bratwursts for him and whole grain spaghetti with roasted garlic spaghetti sauce for the both of us. With mixed drinks! We even decorated our first Christmas tree (Yes! a Christmas palm tree!) that morning.
The palm tree worked so well as our first tree since we don't have a lot of ornaments yet. :)
I was lucky enough to chat with my whole family via Skype on Christmas Eve while I awkwardly was making cheesecake squares and happened to have my computer on the counter- I felt like they were watching me to see if I'd add an ingredient incorrectly! On Christmas morning I opened my presents from my sister over Skype while she watched then she and my niece and brother in law opened the ones I sent/ordered. It was a very technologically inspired holiday.
My family finally got to meet our latest addition, Lili via Skype!
New Years Eve is a more important holiday to me and Nick than Christmas. We only spent our first Christmas together last year. Three years prior we had met early in December. On New Years Eve I had started to fall for Nick pretty hard and couldn't picture myself kissing anyone else at midnight. To me, it felt important to start the year off with Nick. Nick had been visiting his family in St. Louis, MO at the time on leave from the Naval Academy.
Flashback to our first NYE together in 2007!
Brave (crazy?) as I was, I wanted to see him so badly I drove 14 hours overnight from Maryland to Missouri to arrive in time for New Years Eve. We had such an amazing time that Nick canceled his plane ticket back to MD and drove back with me. We officially became a couple just a few days afterward and I really believe things wouldn't have progressed the same way had I not made the decision to go (so thank you to my best friend Erin for not thinking I was crazy for wanting to go when I asked her for advice).

Since there's a chance Nick won't be off next year for NYE and for all we know we may not still live in Hawaii two years from now, I thought we should experience Waikiki on New Years Eve at least once.
View from our waterfront suite in Waikiki
We booked a hotel for New Years Eve night and the following night so we wouldn't have to rush home. We went to Tiki's Grill for New Years Eve dinner. Tiki's is one of my favorite restaurants on the island. It's fun, light-hearted, and we had our wedding reception there after we got married in March. Well, a dinner of 5 people but still. :)
Although we must be getting old...After an amazing dinner we walked around Waikiki with every intention of returning to Tiki's for a crazy night of drinking and dancing and watching fireworks at midnight. Instead we returned to our waterfront room and chugged lots of water while sitting out on the lanai watching the fireworks in sweatpants and no makeup. I even forgot to open the champagne at midnight! (My 23 year old self would be ashamed.)
Sunset cruise! (Ignore the goofy faces...)
We had an amazing mini-vacation/mini-moon. The following night we went on a very enjoyable sunset catamaran cruise in Waikiki with complimentary beverages included (booze cruise). Nick even  bought me a beautiful pearl necklace after the cruise to celebrate our 3 year dating anniversary.
View of Diamondhead from the sunset cruise
It was so much fun to kick off the new year on this gorgeous island pretending to be tourists. We moved here one year ago in February- I can't believe we have been island bound for nearly a whole year! I'd say it flew by- and it kind of did- other than that whole deployment time. :)
A very touristy New Years Eve vacation
While it was a bit of a bummer not to see my family for the holidays, the 80-something degree weather is very consoling. I hope everyone had an amazing holiday season and a happy new year! Here's to a healthy, happy new year! :)
I've been lazy about updating. I apologize. I've been eating up every possible moment with Nick that I could lately. And we picked up our new puppy a week ago and I have since felt so completely distracted I can hardly finish---

What was I saying?

Due to Nick's many Homecoming date changes and the fun of the Navy not extending our already shortened leave time (from 10 days down to 7), we ended up not being able to visit the island of Kaua'i, but we did get one extra day in Maui than originally planned. And we still got a honeymoon, so that was what counted amd what made me happy.
Yes please!
Kahului Airport- Excited even at 9am!
We left on Sunday, October 31st (Halloween!) and came back on Friday, November 5th, spending 5 days in Maui. I was excited to spend Halloween in Maui since Lahaina is supposed to be a fun place to go, but unfortunately this year the town didn't block off the main road Front Street from cars so it was much tamer than I have heard it has been in the past. It was still interesting to spend it somewhere new- and WARM! (I appreciate this more than many people- 2 years ago I was Pam Anderson for Halloween. Pam Anderson from Baywatch. With the red bathing suit. In like 45 degree Baltimore weather. I slow-motion ran for 3 1/2 hours, took shots to keep warm, and stuck hand-warming pads in strategic locations. So yes, a warm Halloween was welcome with open arms!)

Just...drink it up.
Beautiful drive up to Ka'anapali
Nick and I didn't really get to put a lot of time into costumes though. We didn't think we would be doing anything this year for it since we were originally supposed to be on Kaua'i, which doesn't do anything for Halloween. So basically I dressed up pretty and said I was Barbie anyone asked, and Nick had a fedora on with some beachie clothes and told people he was Jason Mraz. It worked.

We didn't really know anything about Maui other than Haleakala is like the Grand Canyon of Hawaii. I had no point of reference for where we were staying.

We stayed in Ka’anapali located in West Maui, about a 45 minute drive from the airport. We had an early flight in, landing at 8:30am. Although it was only a 40 minute flight from Honolulu Airport, you still have to be at the airport early enough to go through all the TSA stuff so we were ready for a second breakfast en route to our hotel. And with my handy Maui Revealed guidebook in hand, we drove the gorgeous drive up the coast to Ka’anapali as I read aloud the history behind everything we passed.

View from breakfast at Longhi's in Lahaina
Our gorgeous resort grounds- Westin Maui
We stopped in Lahaina and ate breakfast at Longhi’s. The food was just incredible. We rapidly realized Lahaina was the place to go on our side of the island. We lucked out too- Lahaina was only about a 10 minute drive from our hotel location. Lahaina has lots of shopping, bars, and restaurants. Really fun place in general.
After breakfast we strolled around Lahaina a bit before heading to the hotel to check in. Unfortunately, with the multiple changes I had to make with our honeymoon plans due to Nick’s multiple changes in homecoming date, we lost money as well as our ocean view room at the Westin. Fortunately when we got to the hotel around 11am (way too early for check-in) not only were we able to check in early, but the nice guy at the front desk gave us a complimentary upgrade back to an ocean view room after I explained about Nick’s homecoming date complications.

Partay at the Westin!
We LOVED the Westin. I had originally wanted to stay at the Grand Waimea because it was fancy and seemed honeymoon-ish. Also because I heard they had a bar inside a cave you swim up to. (Later in our trip I saw where the Grand Waimea was located- about 2 hours south of where we were- and was VERY happy about choosing the Westin.)

The Westin was located right by a string of other hotels, restaurants, and shopping. Great location. Realistically if you didn’t feel like going anywhere, you could totally stay at your hotel the whole trip. Of course we didn’t do that though.

We may have had a few Mai Tai's at this point.
Doesn't he do a great Jason Mraz impression?
That night we went out to Lahaina for Halloween and walked around. We were so happy to discover the hotel had an hourly shuttle to Lahaina which just made the trip so much more awesome when we didn’t have to decide who had to be Designated Driver for the night.

Our second day we decided to book a couples' massage. I wasn’t sure if Nick would want to do it after I told him how much it cost, but when I asked him about it he agreed before I could even finish my sentence. We had our hour long couples' massage in a beach cabana next to a waterfall. It. Was. Incredible. I didn’t realize Nick had never had a massage before. I’d had two in my life. This beat both of those.

We went to the Old Lahaina Luau later that night. I had read in our guidebook and heard through multiple sources that this particular luau was the best in all the islands. I had gone to Paradise Cove Luau on O’ahu when my sister visited and it was just okay. I felt pretty cheesy there. It could have also had something to do with the fact that it was only 15 minutes away from my house.

Mai Tai time!
Old Lahaina was awesome. We got there early and had $3 Happy Hour Mai Tai’s at the Aloha Mixed Plate restaurant next door to the luau. Three Mai Tai’s each later we headed over to the luau and received an additional Mai Tai at the door. All the drinks there were complimentary. Awesome. (We had taken a shuttle there too.)

The food was excellent, the drinks were yummy (did I mention included in the luau price??), entertainment was really fun, the view was just gorgeous. I was even impressed by the flower leis they provided. It's a real sign of quality when they bother to give you the flowered ones- usually it's just the cheap shell leis (that I have about 18 of at this point, all draped on my rearview mirrow).
Pregaming before the luau
At the luau enjoying more Mai Tai's in our school Halloween straws (from my sister!)
Who doesn't love a Hawaiian backdrop?
So many things to love about this picture. Mainly the crazy ape thing.
One of our stops along the drive.
Tuesday we decided to do a drive to a waterfall and hike the falls. We drove up the West coast of Maui along this dirt road that was only a lane wide over mountains, basically. I was so thankful that I was not driving. Multiple times if you looked out the driver’s side window the car was literally inches from the edge of the road/mountain with a drop of hundreds of feet down. I freaked a little every time a car came from another direction and we had to pull up onto the side of the mountain best we could. Eeek! 

After about 3 hours of driving the Hana Highway we went through this crazy little town called Pa’ia. I was fascinated by the guidebook’s description of Pa’ia: “It has become an attraction without any attractions other than itself. No great views, no waterfalls, no scenery, no big institutions like an aquarium. Pa’ia’s sights lie in its character- and characters.” The book wasn’t kidding. The people watching made it fun to drive through. So much in fact that we purposely drove back that way to get food on our way home. We shopped in a store called Alice in Hulaland that had some fun clothes. I was thrilled actually that I found a great little store with all organic foods and vegetarian stuff. (So sue me. They had awesome food. Even old fashioned real cream soda. So there.) We also drove by a town called Haiku. No kidding. I had to take a picture.

Nick in his element.
Waterfall Number 1
 After about 3 hours of driving that morning and shortly after passing through Pa’ia we finally reached our destination: Na’ili’ili-haele Falls. Our trusty guidebook described it as overcoming  multiple dillemmas to reach "the kind of scene most people dream of." It stated that due to how difficult the hike becomes eventually, most people stop after only the second waterfall. This made Nick determined.
We spent three hours total hiking to make it to that final waterfall. The book promised it would be difficult but worth it. We had to climb essentially a 12 foot rock wall to get past the 2nd waterfall, then a pretty fair amount of hiking afterwards. To get to the last waterfall, the best one, we had to swim through a cold muddy lake where I was freaking out I couldn’t see the bottom. Disgusting. At the end of the lake we had to climb up another mini waterfall to get to the final falls. We finally made it. The waterfall was about 34 feet high. We were the only ones there and just sat there for a few minutes taking pictures and admiring it (and me dreading getting back into that lake again).

Waterfall number 2- the last easy one
Waterfall number 3- and the lake we had to swim through to climb over it
The 4th & final waterfall..thank goodness!
That was definitely one of the highlights of the trip. I think it was Nick’s favorite part.

Po’olenalena Beach- basically abandoned
Black Sand Beach!
 My favorite part was our last full day there. We finally spent that day exploring beaches. I was a little bit tempted to search for Little Beach, which has a reputation of being…well, a nude beach. Alas, Little Beach we did not visit. We did visit one of the Black Sand Beaches of Maui, Oneuli Beach. We spent some time at Po’olenalena Beach which was virtually abandoned. We thought we were alone, but a stroll along the beach revealed some nude sunbathers hiding behind rocks. Oops.

Stealing a moment at the black sand beach

The snorkeling there was awesome. Nick saw a 3 ½ foot turtle before I joined him in the snorkeling. The coral was relatively untouched by humans and looked like the fake kind found in fish tanks. After a little while at that beach, we moved on to another one further up in Kihei and spent some time there before going to lunch at Tommy Bahama’s Café.

I had a gift certificate to go to the café, otherwise we might not have gone. When I think of Tommy Bahama’s, what pops into my brain are way-too-expensive Hawaiian shirts that only middle aged white golfers purchase. Definitely wouldn't have thought the  food would be good at one of their few cafes. Amazingly I think that was my favorite place we ate the whole trip. The décor was beautiful- it reminded me of Charleston’s laidback, beachie style. The food was excellent and our server was just the best. We took home a slice of Key Lime Pie (I was in a total southern mode) to enjoy later.

The snorkeling views at our abandoned beach
Undah da sea!
Champagne + Hot tub + Love of my life = Perfection
The last evening in Maui we had a lovely dinner near the hotel with some wine tasting, then we finally visited the resort's hot tub and beach bar and I got to drink champagne in the hot tub. Definitely such a fun day.

The next morning, since it was once of my life goals to order room service at a hotel, we ended up having a ridiculously overpriced breakfast in bed and spent the morning being lazy as we had a late checkout and flight. What a great end to the trip!

While I was initially bummed we didn’t get to go to Kaua’i and do the incredible ziplining I have been wanting to do since I found out we were moving to Hawaii, Maui was awesome. I wish we had had more time there. We didn’t make it to the town of Hana which is supposed to be pretty cool, nor did we get to visit Haleakala, the Hawaiian Grand Canyon. But we got to do everything else- hiking, waterfalls, massages, beach time, and more Mai Tai’s than….well, basically I don’t want to see another Mai Tai for at least another year.

We came home well relaxed that evening, and Nick had duty the next day. We picked up our new puppy that Sunday. But more about our new little devil later.

Dinner and wine tasting our last night in Maui
Thanks everyone for all the homecoming and honeymoon wishes! I just can’t describe how amazing it is just to be able to sit next to my husband on the couch and cuddle and eat pizza. Having him gone for half a year really makes you appreciate those little things, and the honeymoon was a great way to kick off his coming home.
Ahhh, October. Thoughts of burnished leaves, fuzzy sweaters, thunderstorms, snuggly boots, and candy corn pop into your brain.

Well, pretty much the only one that applies to Hawaii is the candy corn. Oh, well.

Time is drifting along on the island. It seems a little wistful to think that a whole summer went by without Nick, but so is military life. At least it was well spent.
These ladies have been deployment lifesavers.
Besides, the deployment clock is visibly ticking down. Now that I'm so much closer to his coming home than his NOT coming home, it makes everything more fun. All the preparation going into our first Homecoming- what a blast!

I have my outfit all planned out down to the tiniest of details. I can't wait to put up pictures afterwards! I still have some things I need to purchase for it but I've got plenty of time. I just like to be on top of it all.

I also started thinking about a Welcome Home banner. We don't live on base- we bought our house here in Hawaii and have a very strict community as far as hanging things outside (I heard a house nearby got written up for having an American flag outside- just insane). I feel like Welcome Home banners are maybe something that people on base do more.

But Eff it. I'm doing it my own way. And by my way, I really mean my way. I'll elaborate more on that later.

Meet the newest love of my life!
I also have some other BIG news (in a very tiny package). Nick and I had been talking for a while about getting another puppy. I LOVE my dog and want her to have someone to play with and to keep her company. Also, we adopted Maggie when she was about 6 or 7 months old so we missed out on the very young puppy stages. Which was probably good for a first dog, but it’s still an experience I’d like to go through.
We originally were going to get one next year, but with the way the schedule is working out we realized it would be better to get one now than to wait. And I lucked out- the opportunity arose and….we’re getting a beagle puppy (or "beaglet" as one of my good friends calls them)!

Couldn't resist. Bought.
I can’t wait. She’s a few weeks old now and will be ready to go home soon. I met her today and she is a rambunctious little bugger but just adorable and a total cuddlebug.

I’ve already found the cutest things for her. I’m convinced she needs to have a collar covered in cupcakes and or sprinkles. 

I was thinking a dainty name would be cute. I was also thinking of some Hawaiian names since we’d be getting her here.

I’m brainstorming names now. Since she is a purebred beagle and very lady-like looking,  some names I have come up with so far (some from the help of friends) are:

  • Charlotte
  • Lilikoi (a Hawaiian fruit- actually the filling in our wedding cake- “Lily” for short)
  • Cupcake
  • Mimosa
  • Champagne
  • Coco or Koko
  • Kokomo
  • Kona or Kono
  • Hoku (“Star” in Hawaiian)
  • Lucy
  • Lunakai ("Across the Ocean" in Hawaiian)
  • Lola
  • Grace/Gracie
  • Sophie
  • Miley
  • Bisou
  • Calypso (sea nymph who keeps Odysseus on her island in Homer’s The Odyssey- made me think of being so far out here in Hawaii)
  • Daisy
  • Paisley
  • Olive
  • Bellini (notice a pattern?)
  • Picnic
  • Audrey
  • MaiTai

Trouble should maybe be her middle name.
If anyone can think of a great name for this sweet girl, leave me a comment! I’d love more ideas! I did come up with a great one while sitting on the beach yesterday brainstorming and listening to Bob Marley. I thought to myself, “Oh! 'Marley'! That would be such a cute name for a dog! Ohhhh…..Bummer.” Too bad someone beat me to it. Hmph.

Seriously. Ideas, people.
Got a new laptop! Well....Geeksquad gave up on mine and replaced it with a new one. I'm in the fun restoring process now and noticing all the things I really should have backed up. Bummer.

Anyway, once I get up and restored I am re hauling the website. Can't wait!

In the meanwhile there are a few things I need to mention:
  • Bob Marley might be one of the best musicians alive. I realize I'm late in coming to this conclusion but I just finally got a cd today and am obsessed with it. I am convinced if we blasted Bob Marley music 24-7 across the world, we would all be much happier people. And the world might become a little greener....I mean environmentally of course. :)
  • In addition to Bob Marley I came across this other AMAZING singer the other day (and was so angry I wasn't able to download anything right then because my laptop was being fixed and iTunes was charging double what Amazon was charging to download the album- ANYWAY...) Check out Donavon Frankenreiter. Also a mellow island kind of jam. If you like Jack Johnson, you will like Donavon. Plus, you have to appreciate him for his awesome name alone. Right?
  • My last blog I got a comment from someone who found me through someone else who found me on Twitter (did that make sense?). Anyway, she is ALSO from Maryland, also a Navy wife, ALSO stationed here in Hawaii. How random is that? Makes you realize how small a world it really is. I got the chance to check out her blog and it's super cute. Check it out at www.aisletoaloha.blogspot.com (which currently has a really nice giveaway!) and follow her on Twitter at @AisleToAloha!
Alright. I have got a substantial amount of configuring to do with this computer. Hope everyone is doing great! Have a great night!
"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! ;)
Nick has been gone 5 weeks today. Experiencing the military this way- going through a deployment and only having a vague idea of what danger they are actually in- really makes you appreciate everything military does for us everyday.
Last year's lantern floating- Image via photolulu.com
To celebrate our military ohana (family), Hawaii has a lantern-floating tradition. Early in the day on Memorial Day, many people get together to make lanterns, then in the evening they float them out into the ocean. This ceremony is to remember those who gave their lives in conflict, allows for reflection on the memories of loved ones and dedicates prayers for a peaceful and harmonious future (http://www.lanternfloatinghawaii.com).

While I won't be able to make it tonight, I definitely plan to go next year with Nick by my side. I think I would rather do it that way.

For anyone interested in seeing this beautiful ceremony who does not live on the island, there is an article and a link here to watch it live streaming tonight at 6:30pm Hawaiian time, 12:30am EST.

To all the military everywhere past and present, thank you for your service.