Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Bucket List

I mentioned a while back that I was working on a bucket list. Now that I have it rounded off to an even 55, I am happy to post it and hear if anyone has any tips for completing any of this list. I was originally shooting for a number more glorious, like 101, but nearly 8 moths have gone by and 55 was the best I could do. Let's just consider it a work in progress? Some are much easier (and cheaper) than others. I hope to get the first 55 done by the time I am 55, although I hope I continue to add a ton more to the list and make it impossible to get everything done before then. Life is short, so I better hop to it! Bold italic items have been completed.

55 by 55

1.         See Dave Matthews Band in Concert
2.         Go on Wheel of Fortune
3.         Ride in a Hot Air Balloon
4.         Ride in A Helicopter
5.         Hike the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim
6.         Hike the Narrows in Zion National Park
7.         Visit Acadia National Park
8.         See icebergs and glaciers
9.         Complete a through hike (PCT or AMT?)
10.      Backpack to Machu Picchu
11.      Learn to trail run
12.      Complete the Dipsea
13.      Complete a Triathlon
14.      Complete an Ultra Marathon
15.      Complete the Boston Marathon
16.      Run a half marathon under 2 hours
17.      Run a marathon in 3 hours 30 minutes
18.      Learn to kiteboard
19.      Learn to surf
20.      Learn to windsurf
21.      Go whitewater kayaking
22.      Go Canyoneering
23.      Do a zipline through the jungle
24.      Get 6 pack abs to rock a bikini in
25.      Travel to Costa Rica
26.      Travel to Morrocco
27.      Travel to Thailand
28.      Travel to Tahiti
29.      Travel to Hong Kong
30.      Travel to Japan
31.      Go on a cruise
32.      Go on a trip outside the country, just Mom & I
33.      Visit all 50 states
34.      Learn a second language
35.      Obtain a Master’s Degree
36.      Teach Elementary School
37.      Become a certified Sommelier
38.      Volunteer to teach adult literacy
39.      Get published in a scholarly journal
40.      Donate blood on a regular basis
41.      Be married to the love of my life
42.      Give Birth
43.      Own a small ranch
44.      Have a gourmet Kitchen
45.      Cultivate a large vegetable garden
46.      Learn to compost
47.      Own a goat.
48.      Own chickens.
49.      Learn how to fish.
50.      Make Turducken
51.      Make homemade cheese
52.      Make my own wine, from vine to bottle
53.      Knit a blanket
54.      Win an award for something at the fair, like crafts or photography.
55.      Be completely debt free

It's moving season

A year ago today, I was offered the position at VHS and accepted my first teaching job. I was so excited to have a job, after 40+ applications and tons of rejection letters, it was the peace I had been desperately praying for. I was headed down south to wait out the interviews and low and behold, the offer came when I was on the road. Two offers, actually. Within an hour of each other. I felt so blessed!

365 days, 15 applications, and 1 pink slip later, it's moving time! A week from tomorrow the parents come up and i'll try to cram all my stuff into the back of the truck so I can move back down south and play the waiting game. Although I have had an offer, the salary was much too low for me to support myself on, so I had to say no. Now to cross my fingers and patiently wait for an interview.

To occupy myself in the interim, I registered for the 13.1 Heartbreak Ridge on Camp Pendleton early September. I hope there are lots of handsome Marines there to cheer me on! Having my marathon training plan really helped me get through the stress of job applications, moving, and starting a new job. Although it also caused me to spread myself a little thin last year, I think the absence of grad school will make it a little easier to meet the goals I am setting for myself. Being that my stepdad is a Marine, it would be cool to do a race on his own training grounds. Plus, a goal of 2011 was to set a new PR for the half, which I think I might be able to do with some training. However, this is a hard course so we'll have to see how that goes. My other half marathons were flat, so I am really setting myself up for a challenge!
I also was able to convince my mom to do a 5k in Temecula in late October! I am not sure if I am going to do a 5k or half, but I am really excited to do another race with my mom :)

I still haven't selected a Marathon. One of my goals for the year was to run a marathon without having to stop and walk part of it. I am also going to try to PR again, hopefully with a sub 5 hours time! I have narrowed it down to Mailbu International Marathon or the Santa Barbara International Marathon, both the weekend of November 12. There really aren't a lot of races to choose from in the late fall, I am guessing it is because of all the holidays. Here are the pros and cons of each, and maybe you can help me decide:

Malibu International Marathon
Only 2 hours from my parent's house
Runs along the coast
Pace team
Beach towel instead of shirt
Coconut water and other hippie stuff on course and at finish
Potential Groupon? (They had one last year around September)

Expensive ($145 entry fee)
Pay to park ($8)
Inclines in the end (eerily similar to Boston)
Heard the first half near Camarillo is boring farm land, but flat
Sunday means no rest day before going back to work (if I have a job)

Santa Barbara International Marathon
In Santa Barbara, which is amazing and beautiful
On a Saturday, so more rest time after race
Gu on the course, which is my gel of choice
hills are more rolling, less challenging than Malibu
Cheaper than Malibu ($115 Entry Fee)
Cheaper hotel rates for the night before
3 hours from the house means Friday night hotel (cha-ching)
Course is difficult to understand

Obviously I am leaning towards Santa Barbara. If anyone wants to run it, we can split a super cheap hotel room from Friday and Saturday nights (I do believe it is a holiday weekend). Whatcha think???

OK, enough typing about running. It's time to get outside and start doing some. I forgot how to like running and need to train myself to like it more than being lazy. Time for some tempo miles!

Everything Else Moorea

Beside tempt fate with shark and raw fish, we did a less risky tourist things as well.
Sunset from the overwater bungalows at the Hilton.
Unlike everyone else who lives in California, I have never been to Hawaii or other tropical island, so of course I had to do a polynesian dinner show! We chose the Fire dancing show at the Hilton because a) it was about $50 cheaper than the tiki village show, b) bbq dinner with a menu we both could agree on for the price (probably around $70pp), and c) it was at the Hilton and we wanted to crash a 5 star party. It was a really good choice. The food was amazing and the dessert bar made me feel like I had died and gone to heaven!!!! The pastry chef there was amazing. I had 5 little bite sized desserts, including a 3 bite creme brulee and a weird vanilla foam thing. I didn't have one thing I didn't love.

I bet these guys are a ton of fun to party with!
After all that good food, we were front row for an amazing show! These people love to perform. After the show they let you come up and take pictures with you. They are so happy, laughing and having a great time. I wish I spoke french so I could have had an intelligent conversation.

They asked me to come up and being the awkward tourist trying to shake my hips, but since I had on really tall shoes that I had never worn before, I passed. Good thing, because they picked the lady sitting behind us and she could dance really well.
Not sure I would be down with this
They did the fire part of the show outside, and it was pretty awesome too. Hard to see because I didn't bring my glasses and had to stand on a chair to see over all the cameras people were holding up, but still awesome.

Another night we did happy hour at Hotel Hibiscus, where they had a great singer/guitar pair. It started with Tahitian music, but then she started taking requests and did popular french songs. Everyone was having such a good time they started doing audience participation songs, some of which I remembered from French 1 my freshman year of high school. Win! She even sang a song in English and dedicated it to us. Such a fun night!

If you ever make your way to Moorea, make sure to go to the lookout. We rented a car one rainy day so I could go buy my pearls, we go go to a dinner show, and to see the island. The views are amazing, especially on a clear day. On the way home from the lookout, we stopped at the juice factory. Probably the biggest inside joke on the island. Thinking we are going to get to try all these yummy juice drinks made fresh, it ended out they only wanted to serve us alcoholic drinks. Pre-mixed cocktails, rums, liqueur, and something that tasted like moonshine. Only one taste of pineapple juice at the end. Fun, but definitely not what were were expecting. No one wants a DUI in a foreign country.
View from a trail just above our resort
Before we left we took a hike to get an overview of the private Motu where we had been snorkeling and to capture the breathtaking beauty of the island. I would totally come back here!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Why my Bestie is the best

Bestie's Bachelorette 3 years ago. Strangely we have few picture together, especially since college. 
Seeing the Bestie with her little one made me cry. It took everything I had to hold back the tears, but the dam just broke loose when I went to say goodbye. After I left the hospital, I cried some more. I have never cried like this before. Is this normal? Is it cliche to keep saying how amazingly beautiful a new baby and his mother are?

She is everything I hope I can one day be. She is a wonderful wife, wonderful hostess, great employee, and amazing friend. After seeing her with Trent, motherhood is just so natural to her. She makes it look so easy. 36 hours after his birth she is full of grace and charm. Like 18 hours of labor is no big deal. And now I can add fantastic mother to the list of everything she does so well.

When something amazing happens to really good people, especially really good people you love, you just become overwhelmed with joy. I am not a big fan of crying or being overly emotional in general, but I wish I could feel as insanely happy as I do today EVERYDAY.

Congrats Raquel. Sorry if the goodbye was awkward today. I just love you guys so much!!!!!

UPDATE! You can see Trent's birth story here. It is pretty much a scene from a made for TV movie. If you love babies, then this is for you. The pictures of this little guy will MELT YOUR HEART.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sharks, Rays, and Reefs, oh my!

After watching Ali and Roberto's date to a heart shaped island last summer where they swam with Rays, I have made it my life mission that I will cuddle up with those majestic creatures. This was probably one of the coolest things I have ever done in my life. The rays are so beautiful. So curious and graceful. Not the type that killed Steve Irwin, btw. Apparently those rays aren't the ones that are safe to swim with.
Rays off the side of the boat. I'm told rays are flat sharks.

"My mom is gonna freak out when she see this!"
Locals thought it was hilarious I could not tan. Serge was so awesome the picture goes up anyways. 
While visiting the rays, a shiver of black tip reef sharks gave us a visit. Sharks seem more afraid of people than we are of them. Our guide, Serge, was absolutely amazing, a local fisherman/marine biologist who works to preserve the reef and maintain the marine sanctuary that provided us with amazing snorkeling. The reef is so pristine, it is like you are swimming in an aquarium! In addition to the ray experience, he also taught us a lot about the reef and everything living in it. He runs his operation through Hotel Hibiscus, only does small groups (ours was private because we went early in the AM before anyone else has signed up), and is very reasonably priced. Just in case you ever find yourself in Moorea looking for a ray guy.

Clockwise from top right: tuna tartar, tuna sashimi, poission cru, and Moorea salad
Hotel Hibiscus ended up being a surprise gem. I enjoyed the food, and they had a lot to offer people with a variety of tastes. I pretty much ate fish the whole time, and my favorite was a appetizer that had the local speciality "Poisson Cru", tuna tartar, tuna sashimi, and Moorea Salad (fruit, shrimp, coconut milk).  The bar manager Hoania was super hospitable and fun. We ended up going to the beach with his wife Eve and daughter and inviting them back to the villa for Jacuzzi, dinner and drinks. They were so much fun! It is amazing the people you meet on vacation, and I hope they can come visit one day! The hotel restaurant also does wood-oven pizza, which we had on the beach for lunch one day.

Moorea is a such an amazing place. The snorkeling off the motu (little island) was amazing; we saw more rays, tons of super friendly and colorful fish, and even an eel. The fish came right up to your mask and were vibrant and plentiful. I can't imagine a more perfect island to vacation on.

Only one more post about Moorea. Then we can move on to less exotic things, like 60 day bachelorette shape-up and the bucket list!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

OK Trent, we're cool

More vacation posts (like swimming with sharks!!!) coming soon.

Today is kind of a big deal. It's the birthdate of Trent Vincenzo Nelepovitz. You probably don't know his name now, but let me tell you, this kid is going to be something BIG. Trent, this post is for you.

I've had kinda a hard time accepting you, although I tried hard not to show it. I really love your mom, she is my best friend and pretty much the sister I never had. We have laughed and cried, got to business and caused some trouble together. And then you, little blessing and bundle of joy, just show up and everything is going to change.

Change for the better.

I was so worried that I would be loosing my Bestie, that our lives would be so different because she would be 100% mommy, something I have no idea how to relate to. I didn't expect that I would be obsessing over your arrival as the date approached, anxiously wondering if you would be born on the Tahiti vacation your parents were originally planned to be on until the wonderful news of your pending arrival. Driving to the hospital in Vallejo when I stopped getting updates, worried about you and your mama. Checking my phone and computer like a mad woman to make sure I didn't miss a thing.

Driving to the hospital you were planned to be born at, I started thinking about you and how great you are going to make your family. I pictured you with your daddy playing ball as you start to learn to walk, you with your mommy giving her big hugs and melting her heart every time you walked in the room. It took everything I had to hold back the tears of joy while thinking about how beautiful you are going to make life to two of the most important people in my life.

I felt like a kid who is getting a little brother. Why was I so worried about you crashing the party? I should have know all along that your genetics are going to make you the life of the party, the guy everyone loves and craves to have around.

Now I see how amazing you are, all 8 pounds 12 ounces of you. Knowing the sheer pleasure and delight you bring to your Mother and Father brings me to my knees. I am probably going to cry the first time I hold you because I know how special you are.

Trent, you have shown me the importance of family and being close to the people you love. Your mom and dad couldn't have done this without your grandmas and grandpas. You are a lucky kid, you have so many amazing people just waiting to love on you.

I am glad we worked this out before you got here. And I am sad to say that now you're here and the party has started, I have to go. Your mom and dad have shown me so much about love and life, and I really hope I can find someone so I can have a little one as amazing as you someday. We both have new chapters of our lives to start, and I need to start mine with a solid safety net of family close by.

Don't worry kid. I am ALWAYS here for you, ALWAYS rooting for you, and ALWAYS believing in your potential. Even if I am 700 miles away.

Love Always,

Auntie Stephanie

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bit by the travel bug: Moorea

It's no secret that my travel destinations/aspirations are strongly influenced by The Bachelorette, hence the trip to French Polynesia. Although Ali whisked her men away to Tahiti and Bora Bora, I settled for Moorea, which come to find out from the locals, is considered to be the best island and much preferred to Bora Bora. If you are going to French Polynesia, Moorea is the bee's knees. It definitely beats out Tahiti and is much easier to get to than Bora Bora. I really can't find one bad thing to say about the island.

We stayed at the Legends Resort Moorea, a 4 star highly rated resort on the island. It was beautiful. Each villa has a private deck (ours had a partial ocean view), a private hot tub, and covered seating/eating area. PLUS, there was air-conditioning, which made the tropical heat/humidity much easier at night. We figured out that if you keep the bedroom cold the critters won't come in. Better to keep the lizards, millipedes, mosquitos, ants, and other polypedal creatures in the living room and kitchen, where they belong.
Our partial ocean view off the master bedroom
Probably should have taken photos before we spent a week not picking up after ourselves
The only channel in English was world CNN. Plus: being able to follow Weinergate!

Out kitchen had less food, way more ants, and a little more booze.

The resort also had an amazing infinity pool where I captured some decent sunset photos:
to the west, with the private island in the background

to the east, towards Tahiti
I liked the resort, but next time I am going to go for an overwater bungalow so I can just snorkel off the back patio. These villas are pretty pricey and they are only slightly less expensive than the overwater bungalows. I didn't really cook much because groceries were so expensive (and I was LAZY), so I really didn't need the kitchen. And, it is on a hill (rather, the side of the mountain), which got old really fast since we walked everywhere. This resort is a best bet for locals coming from Tahiti on holiday and families who would be making meals for kids anyways.

Biggest thing I realized in my first 24 hours in French Polynesia: I LOVE to travel. This was my first big trip outside of the US (not counting Canada), and I had no idea that traveling abroad would make me feel so liberated and hungry for more. Seeing new places and meeting new people turned out to be more  exciting than it was scary. Extreme lifestyle makeover #1: Go somewhere new, outside of the US, once a year. I am considering setting up a separate savings account just for traveling adventures.

Just go with the flow: Tahiti

Getting to Moorea was no simple task. It takes about 24 hours travel time to get from home to Paradise. From parking fiascos (thank goodness there was no traffic!) to delayed flights to SPRINTING through my least favorite airport (LAX) to find the mystery terminal and barely make our flight, we definitely started vacation out on our toes.
finally on the Tahiti flight!

With all this, we knew that the luggage was not going to make it on the flight. After all, luggage can't sprint to it's terminal. We were right. I was cursing United as we ran around like chickens with our heads cut off, not knowing that this was actually a blessing in disguise.

Catholic Church in Papeete
Once in Tahiti, lack of luggage allowed us to wander the island without bags in tow. We walked from the airport to Papeete (about 2.7 mi) and saw some local color. I probably wouldn't recommend this (my mother would be less than pleased to hear about this), as it might not have been the safest idea, but it was a ton of fun and we didn't encounter one malicious person. Even the stray dogs were friendly. It was 5:30 am after all.

We were able to walk around town before all the hustle and bustle began. It would have been nice to have some local currency, but our home bank and LAX were out of French Polynesian Francs and all the local banks were closed. Maybe we could have seen this movie in French:

Sunrise from runway overlook
Watching the sunrise over the Pacific was awe-inspiring. The goal of the trip was to just roll with the punches and leave everything behind. I had been waiting 5 years for this trip, and finally I was there. Everything felt surreal, it was happening so fast and each moment was hard to hold onto. I could feel myself changing and for the first time in a VERY long time, I felt like I was in control of my life and my destiny.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great Escape

View from the pool at the Legends Resort Moorea, where I had my great escape.

You know you have made it when people at the airport say they want to come back as you in their next life.

I walked away from this amazing trip with a new understanding of what I want my life to look like and how I want to live it. Extreme Life Makeover French Polynesia edition?

New attitude, new bucket list items, and new beginnings this summer. Stayed tuned for a best of Moorea trip post this week!