Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Aloha! A Throwback to the HI Life

B and I took a Hawaiian Honeymoon to Maui back in March, wherein I checked off a grand total of 5 items from my 2015 List, plus 2 bonus items.

And now here we are, some 9 months later, and I still haven't written about our incredible Hawaiian Honeymoon. Heck, my friend MK (who inspired my list) has already written up her recent HI life experience via several posts (like here and here and here), and her trip was just a month ago. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if she wrote up her entries while she was still kicking it on the Big Island!

So here we go, better late than never. Besides, it's fun for me to reminisce about our Maui Vacation (achieving #71 on the list), especially now that the weather here in Minne has turned snowy and blustery. Plus, I only have a few days left in 2015 before the 2016 listing begins!

Despite cooler than average temps and a decent amount of rain, we had a wonderful time, filled with adventure, new experiences, tasty treats, and plenty of Hawaiian rainbows (a nice output to all that rain).  Here's a pictorial of some of the highlights from our romantic getaway.

B and I stayed in an ocean view room at the beautiful Westin Maui Resort & Spa on Ka'anapali Beach. The grounds are beautiful, and include a parrot that says "Aloha." We had a terrific stay.


We had fun checking out the Whaler's Village, a cute little shopping and restaurant district right next to our hotel. This is a view of the Whaler's Village from above, taken from our hotel room balcony.

We also enjoyed exploring various sites along the beach. Check out B, the surfer, and me, the hula girl :)


One day, we drove out to have a late lunch at the famous Mama's Fish House located on Maui's North Shore. It was absolutely 100% worth the hype! Next time we visit Maui, we think we may stay at the Inn at Mama's, just so we can eat at the Fish House every single day. Mmmmm!


We had fun exploring various parts of the island in our Jeep. The photos below are of Sun Yat Sen Park in Upcountry Maui, The Ulupalakua Vineyards/Maui Winery, and the famous Banyan Tree on Front Street in Lahaina.


My friend LWH recommended we check out the Feast at Lele, a Polynesian Luau that explores the culture and cuisine of several Pacific Island nations. One of the dancers looked just like my cousin, which added to our enjoyment of the evening. Going to a Luau was #73 on my 2015 list.


We also took in a day of snorkeling (#72 on my list) and whale watching. During our snorkel, we swam with sea turtles (#75) -- one even swam right up next to me -- I had to hurriedly swim out of the way so it wouldn't collide with me! Whale watching was also a wonderful experience. We were in Hawaii at the end of Humpback whale season, after the whales had their babies, so little whale families were surfacing often. In fact, the experience was so cool that I retroactively added "go whale watching" as a Bonus item (#104) on my list.


One rather eerie activity we did was visit the Nakalele Blowhole, a naturally occurring wonder that has claimed several victims, its retreating water sucking in unsuspecting lives through the blowhole. We kept a good distance. Safety first...


One of the most fun activities we did during our vacation was to zipline. I can't believe this one wasn't on my list either, so hey, what the heck - I added it as Bonus item #105. We ziplined with the Flyin Hawaiian, Hawaii's longest zipline adventure! The trip also included a surprise 4 wheeler ride up to the first zipline - so much rain and mud made four wheeling the only way we could get to the start of the course.


B and I also traveled the Road to Hana (#74 on the list) an incredible adventure that we enjoyed, but mutually agreed that once was enough (switchback city! The ride is a nail-biter.) Here are just a few of the stops we took along the way...

Generally speaking, the whole drive felt like being in the movie, Fern Gully. 50 Shades of Green! So lush!


Early on, we stopped to see Three Bears Falls for a few brief snaps. We had to park up a hill and hike back down the twisty turny road to see it, but it was worth it.

While we were waiting for the Lava Tube tour to open, we checked out the Kahanu Botanical Gardens and ancient sacred temple. A picturesque stop that was worth the visit. Also, watch out for falling coconuts!


The Hana lava tubes were awesome. Do it. Trust me. 'Nuff said.


We got a bit ambitious and took a hike on the Pipiwai Trail, a climb of nearly 100 vertical flights of stairs, according to my Fitbit. The hike included the rather ominous sign listed below, and an incredible stretch of bamboo forest that seems to appear out of nowhere and ends with a waterfall. Cool!


Just beneath the Pipiwai trail hike are the famous Seven Sacred Pools. Sometimes sharks swim in them - yikes! But fear not, the pools where quite dry when we were there...so no sharkies. Confession time: By the time we got to the pools, we were on nature overload, and I admit, we didn't stay long.

All in all, and as you can see from the photos, we had a spectacular honeymoon. Aloha, Hawaii, until we meet again!

Monday, December 28, 2015

Adulting (aka a Somewhat Boring Post about Long Term Fiscal Planning)

Money Money Money. Money.

I've thought about money here and there over the past several months, ever since I left my job back at the end of May. Funny how that works, once the money train stops a-choo-chooing, it suddenly becomes a top of mind topic.

While I was more than prepared with savings especially set aside for my time away from working professionally, I couldn't help but think about my net worth, and how I would secure my future.

So, I decided to step up my investment game with the help of a professional financial advisor (#12 on my 2015 List).

I ultimately decided to work with a trusted family advisor who managed my grandparents' estate, and one particularly arduous task on my to-do list with said advisor was to finally get around to consolidating my retirement accounts set up through my various employers over the years.

So...okay, YAY for my (ultra limited) 'savviness' and investing in my employer retirement plans, meeting at least the match, and for saving every last piece of mail and paperwork associated with said investments from the last 13 years in a couple of big file bins...and BOO for basically doing absolutely NOTHING else to help my future self financially (like, I never even opened any of the previously mentioned mail -- I would receive it and eventually get around to throwing it in a file bin to "deal with later." Yep, financial genius here).

Let's just say it took a long flipping time to get my financial house in order to finally consolidate my moolah. All in all, I started the process in July, which included a lot of sleuthing, making frustrating phone calls, and sorting through mountains of paperwork and old mail to make sure I had everything I needed, and I only just finalized my new consolidated account, like 3 weeks ago.

I freely admit I dragged my feet along the way and didn't necessarily bank a lot of confidence with my new advisor who might think I'm kind of a moron (true), but I'm glad that I finally got my act together to take care of my biznaasss.

I now feel like a bonafide successful grown ass woman, with a legit financial planner and a positive net worth (until we buy a house, that is...), and a clear understanding of WTF is actually going on with my hard-earned benjamins. It's also comforting to know that I'm on track for saving for my retirement, despite this little career pause.

So hey. I adulted. It was boring, it was frustrating, and it involved me having to buckle down and think through some important decisions regarding my and Brian's future and use my brain when I thought I'd spend this whole down time period letting it atrophy (kidding...a little!). But, it was also empowering and freeing to see the fruits that I've worked so hard for all of these years -- knowledge is power!

No more adulting for me for a while now (kidding again...a little! winky face! ;))