Saturday, June 7, 2014

The past 10 months: NZ, MD, HI, AZ, JPN, UT, & AU

I left off my last post with July 2013, and I've been thinking about it lately, and if I don't record when we did what somewhere there's no way I'm going to be able to remember it all! So I wanted to put together another recap. My goal is to travel somewhere or do something out of the ordinary at least once a month.

August 2013 - We celebrated our 3rd wedding anniversary at Ruth's Chris (our tradition), and it did not disappoint. My favorite steak for sure.
(into September) We went to New Zealand with my mom and dad!! We went to Hobbiton, where they filmed the parts of the Shire in the Hobbit. They keep it up exactly how it was as the set. It was so awesome! There are big and small hobbit holes that they used to show different perspectives in the films. We also went to a glow worm cave (Waitomo, Spell Bound), like they've shown in the Planet Earth TV series. We got in a boat and it was completely dark, with just light coming from the glow worms hanging from the ceiling of the cave. We also went in another traditional cave with cool acoustics where Aaron sang "Ain't no sunshne" in the dark (fun memory). We saw tons of sheep and cows in the rolling green country side that reminded mom and me a lot of Ireland. We ate meat pies and drank ginger beer and quite enjoyed ourselves. We really wanted to go to the south island (the super picturesque parts) but we were only there for a few days, so we'll have to do it next time. We went to Waiheke Island, which is just a ferry ride away from the Auckland Harbor. We went to a huge and beautiful beach where I found a ton of these cool circular shells that I brought home as a souvenir. We also went to a vineyard where they grow olives and had some of their olive oil that competed and won 3rd place in an olive oil competition in Italy, which was pretty cool. Oh, and Aaron was a champ at driving on the right side of the car and left side of the road!
October 2013 -  We stayed on Oahu and explored our island a little more. I got a watershot case for my iphone for my birthday so I can take photos/video underwater with my phone, and I’ve had fun playing with that :) Aaron also launched his online store to sell prints of his wave and other landscape photos at Here's a video we put together of us having fun beach days to one of my favorite songs.  
November 2013 - We moved into a new apartment right across the street. We were so happy to get another bedroom and bathroom and we're just enjoying the space! We have a lanai (balcony) and a good size pool too.
Aaron and I went to Maryland for Thanksgiving. We were really excited because all of my siblings were going to be there with my niece and nephews. We had "Thanksmas" together and exchanged gifts since we'd all see each other in person, and we knew we'd be apart for Christmas. As always, the time at home was too short!
December 2013 - We celebrated Aaron's birthday at the Grand Wailea hotel on Maui (I got a good rate from work). It's a super nice beachfront hotel with a bunch of pools including a lazy river and water slides. It also has a few nice restaurants.
We had a low key Christmas, I got some pink swimming fins, and we and watched a beautiful sunset at the beach. Still not quite used to that ;)
(into January) - Liz and Steve came to visit! We hiked to the pill box in Kailua, ate red velvet pancakes at Cinnamon's, swam at Lanikai, hiked Manoa Falls, watched the sunset in Waikiki, played Just Dance, and so much more! It was so fun to ring in 2014 with my sister :)

January 2014 - I went to Kauai for the day with my friend Crystal. We went exploring and found Hoopii falls that we had all to ourselves. We swung on the rope swing and played by the waterfall. It was so beautiful. I love that island.
February 2014 -  My mom came for a visit! We went to Hilo on the Big Island and went exploring. We went to the Mauna Loa macadamia nut farm/factory which was cool. We also had really yummy strawberry covered and lilkoi mochi (chewy Japanese dessert). We went stargazing at the Mauna Kea observatory and found a cool beach park with lots of lava rock and some tide pools and saw some waterfalls. We also went on a plane ride on Oahu again (Hawaiian Airlines perk) and I made a little video with the GoPro on it. We also went paddle boarding at Ala Moana and saw Waimea Falls and got our nails done. We always find cool and new things to do when Mom's in town :) And this time she had a friend come with her for part of the time, which was nice.
March 2014 - In March I went to visit my friend Erika in Arizona. She is such a great host and I always have fun with her. This time was a little different though because she has a dog, and I'm allergic to dogs. We were both a little nervous about how I'd do staying at her house. Luckily, due to her cleaning and aversion to dog hair, I didn't get sick!! This is the first time in 25+ years I can say that! Her guest room is dog free and she's been consistently cleaning her place since they moved in. The windows were open allowing fresh air to circulate and luckily their dog isn't too big (not as much hair to shed). We ate at some of my favorite chains that aren't in Hawaii - Panera and Chipotle - went shopping at Trader Joe's (also not in Hawaii), and of course, went to Last Chance! I scored some new shoes per usual :)
April 2014 - My mom and dad came to visit again, normally my mom would have come a little later in the summer, but they were originally coming to go to Japan with Aaron and I to see the cherry blossoms. Unfortunately the hotels got super expensive and I could only get one room with one bed with my employee discount. They still came anyway to enjoy Oahu. We hiked Diamond Head and Makapuu Lighthouse and went to Punchbowl national cemetery. And we all got loco mocos at Liliha bakery (popular Hawaii dish with rice, hamburger patty, fried egg, and gravy).
Aaron and I went to Osaka, Japan. My first time ever and his first time back in 10+ years.  On the first day we went to the Osaka castle, which was pretty cool! We saw some cherry blossoms too, which are so pretty. I've seen them before in DC, but there's just something about seeing them in Japan. The next day we went and took the bullet train to Kyoto. The train was so smooth, it definitely didn't feel like we were going 200+ miles per hour. We went to see Kinkakuji (the Golden Pavilion), which is so picturesque. Only wish we got there a little earlier in the day before the tour groups showed up! We found a grocery store and bought some goodies to bring home, but I didn't realize our next stop would require a hike up a hill to get to it! It's a funny memory now, but it kinda sucked at the time for each of us to carry grocery bags full of stuff up and down that big hill, haha. The place was called Kiyomizudera (the Pure Water Temple). Parts of it were under construction, but it has a great view. It's also fun because girls get dressed up in traditional kimonos with the hair/make-up and everything to go up there. The next day we went to Universal Studios Osaka! More things were translated into Japanese than we saw at Disneyland in Tokyo, but it was still a good time for us. The performers and movies are American and it made for a fun cultural experience. Lastly, we went to the Osaka Aquarium where they had a whale shark! The tank was like 5 stories high and you walked down to each level to see the main tank from different perspectives. It was pretty cool. We also ate okonomiyaki a couple times in Osaka, it's essentially a cabbage pancake with bacon... which doesn't sound as good as it tastes!
Also in April, we went to Bruno Mars' concert!!! He played 3 shows in Hawaii and we got tickets to opening night. His shows sold out in less than 2 hours, so we were lucky to get tickets at all. Bruno is from Hawaii, and moved to LA after he graduated high school here in 2003. I'm not originally from Hawaii, but I couldn't help but feel a sense of pride for a local boy making it so big. I mean, his super bowl half time performance should have given you a taste of what he can do. He writes hit songs, sings like no one else can (without any vocal lessons), dances, and what I learned at his show - he's funny! He's a natural actor and I'd like to see him in movies one day - you have to watch this clip he did on Ellen, so, so funny! If it's coming off like I'm a little obsessed... sorry? Does it make it better that Aaron has been told he resembles Bruno? Maybe that's why. Haha, I definitely have taken more of an interest in him after seeing his show, it was a really great night. Now I'm just trying to figure out how I can make it to any of his tour dates on the mainland ;)
One more April trip - Utah! I was always planning on going to Liz's college graduation, but since Hawaiian Airlines doesn't fly directly into Salt Lake City I wasn't sure if I'd be able to. I don't get as good priority to fly stand by on other airlines (and the confirmed seats were expensive). On top of that, I got sick with a cold earlier in the week. The stars aligned and I was able to make it! My voice was still hoarse from my cold, but I was there, and so was mom and dad. I loved supporting my sister in that milestone, and it was kinda cool going back to my Alma mater for the first time since I moved to HI 3 years ago. I also got to say hi to my old coworker/roommate Diana and her new baby, and some our good friends Emily and Makana and their kids :) And I got some Cafe Rio, Rocky Mtn Chocolate Factory caramel apple, J-Dawgs, and Trader Joe's.
May 2014 - Ok, this will bring us up to date. Aaron went to Paris! I was sad we didn't get to go together for both of our first times, but he went for work. He was filming for someone's YouTube channel. Also, Aaron's brother David's son was born! Kekoa Kawika Eskaran. We flew to the Big Island to meet him. It's times like those that it's super cool to have flight benefits. I absolutely love holding newborns, and he was only 2 days old when we went there. Kekoa's sister, Lila, isn't even 2 yet, but she is so smart! Saying all kinds of words and recognizing different shapes and everything. They have cute family and an awesome garden :)
For Memorial Day weekend we made a last minute decision to go to Brisbane, Australia. We booked the hotel and car rental within 24 hours of departure, haha. Our visas were still good to enter AU from last year (they expire in July) and first class was open going there and coming back, so we figured, why not?! And it just so happens that Aaron knew one of the other standby's from college, and his fiance was working on the flight, so we had another couple to hang out with:) In Queensland you can actually hold Koalas, so I got the Koala Sanctuary info from my coworker who went before and we got tickets. It was tons of fun! Their fur is very dense and your hand kind of bounces back when you pet it. The place also had a ton of kangaroos! We were there early in the morning before it got too warm and were feeding a bunch of them. I saw a little Joey in one mom's pouch, it was so cute. There were brown and gray kangaroos, big and small. It was fun watching them hop around, and having their little paws on your hand when you're feeding them :) We also saw Dingos and Tasmanian Devils and other animals. We also drove out to the Gold Coast, a little over an hour from Brisbane. I was surprised that the coast goes on and on and on! We drove for like 30 minutes and the beach was still going (very different from HI). We got in the water at Surfers Paradise (the main part), it was 80 degrees (warm for that time of year) and the water was super clean. It was colder than HI water, but not as cold as CA (I can never get in there!). We ate meat pies and fish and chips and saw a gorgeous sunset. And you can't forget the ginger beer :)
The day we got home I went into work and then we went out to dinner for my birthday celebration. My birthday was actually the next day, but we went to a restaurant that has a special menu on Tuesdays (we actually got interviewed in February by Adam Richman for a new show he's doing about Secret Eats, which features Tasty Tuesday at They Alley Restaurant at Aiea Bowl). Aaron's twin Adam and his wife Kristen joined us for dinner. We had 5 amazing courses including bacon wrapped filet mignon. Since we know the owner they made me a special off-the-menu nutella cake and gave me this super cool candle that shot out fire and spun out into a lotus flower with candles on the petals. It was delicious and fun. On my actual birthday I got a beautiful lei from Aaron and maple donuts for breakfast (a favorite). I also got a bouquet of flowers, balloon, and chocolate delivered from my parents :) After work Aaron ordered Thai food and we watched a movie at home. He gave me these sparkly hoop earrings I wanted and a gold custom necklace that says "Johanna".
I'm fully aware that Aaron and I are super lucky to be living the life we are. I couldn't ask for much more; loving family, awesome job, travel adventures, and the most beautiful place on earth to call home. We're very thankful. Until the next update, Alooooha!