Friday, November 7, 2014

300 calorie lunch: how to make it last!

This summer, we hiked a lot. I mean, A LOT. So much that I went down an entire clothing size - in both pants and shirts! It was awesome, but now it's November, and it's Salt Lake, and it gets dark at 5:30pm, and it's already starting to be cold, and......oh, sorry, I was spiraling into the depths of despair. MY POINT IS, my exercise goes waaaay down in the wintertime by default. And I can't even tell you how many gym memberships I've paid for and never used. I prefer to get my exercise outside, doing something fun that makes me forget that I'm breaking a sweat.

So to try and combat the winter laziness, I've started counting calories again. I realize this is a method that doesn't work for everyone, but it works so well for me. Every time I've done it diligently (AKA stuck with it at least 90-95% of the time), I start losing weight. Counting calories speaks to my personality; I'm a numbers person, a list maker, and a planner. I enjoy figuring out new meals and discovering new ways to eat as much as I can within a certain calorie constraint; this nearly ALWAYS leads me to eating healthier by default.

Like I said, I totally get that this method doesn't work for everyone, but for those interested, I thought I'd share what I had for lunch today to help give you ideas if you're like me and turn into a gigantic slug in the winter.

Honestly, I love food - probably a little too much. I love the way it tastes, the different textures and flavors, the whole process of eating, the social aspect of it...I love it all. So one thing I've found is that in order to stick with eating healthy, I need to keep it exciting and give myself tons of variety. The more different kinds of things I allow myself to eat, the fuller and more satisfied I feel with my meal, and the less craving I have for something "more."

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Hiking, lately.

October is my favorite month, and while it's been fairly busy with school, work, a couple of shows (The New Pornographers and Noah Gundersen), hanging out with friends, and our 4-year anniversary, we've still managed to find some time to hike - and I hope to squeeze in a few more before these mild temperatures finally leave us to make way for the worst season of the year.

(You think I'm kidding.)

I've posted some of these on Instagram, but here's where we've been lately in a bit higher-res (all taken on an iPhone), including Big Cottonwood Canyon, Millcreek Canyon, and the Alpine Scenic Loop.

I sure do love Utah in the fall.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Our visit to the Garden Isle + tons of photos

Kauai, Hawaii is called the Garden Isle for good reason - its lush, green mountains, beautiful waterfalls, and stunning beaches are simply breathtaking. I knew as soon as I'd started researching the different islands that Kauai was where I wanted to go (though truly, I'd like to visit them all one day).

We only spent 7 days on the island, but I could've happily spent an entire month exploring it. I've heard that Kauai's residents are a bit tired of tourists constantly coming to the island (and I don't blame them), but every local person we met was nothing but kind to us. The general vibe of the island is extremely laid-back and no one is ever in a hurry to get anywhere - which definitely took some getting used to for those of us that are - ahem - aggressive drivers, haha.

We left Salt Lake City in the morning, but because of the 4 hour time difference, still made it to Kauai by 2:00pm. Even the glimpse from the window on the plane was epic.

The above photo is the view from our condo balcony. We spent A LOT of time sitting out there, reading and watching the spontaneous rainstorms. So peaceful.

I won't bore you with the details of every single thing we saw and did that week, mostly because it involved a lot of this:

Heh, heh, heh.

Our first night in Kauai, we decided to wander down the street from our condo because we'd read that there was a beach within walking distance and obviously we needed to find it. After much searching, we found a narrow little trail between two fence lines that led in the general direction of the beach (Pali Ke Kua Beach) and turned out to be EXTREMELY STEEP. I don't have any photos of that part because EXTREMELY STEEP AND SLIPPERY.

Yeah, those handrails you see on either side? They disappeared shortly after this photo was taken and there were just a few haphazard ropes and jagged pipes to hold onto instead.

After making the perilous journey back up the trail and onto safer ground (I may be slightly exaggerating), we stopped to catch the sunset before heading back in.

We ate a ton of good seafood (and shave ice - Mmmmm) during our stay, but be warned - everything is expensive. For standard walk up to the counter and pay for your food kind of joints, you can still expect to spend around $15/person (not including drinks). But, it is what it is. We didn't let that stop us, obviously, and I'll do a food post at some point detailing everywhere we ate for anyone interested.

Groceries are also pretty expensive, but you'll still spend less if you can buy some groceries and eat at home for most of your meals. We typically ended up eating out once a day (usually for lunch or dinner) and ate at the condo otherwise. But for reals, those grocery prices are no joke. $6 for a box of cereal...$5 for a pineapple...$15.99 for Spam-flavored macadamia nuts, which I have photographic proof of. Just...I don't even know, you guys.

The avocados were ginormous - we bought one and made an entire bowl of guacamole with it. Oh, and that macadamia nut ice cream? Yeah, that gallon cost us $10 and was worth every single penny. I'm still lamenting the fact that you can't buy it anywhere here...

Because you never know when you might have a craving for Spam-flavored macadamia nuts.

We also did a couple of hikes, the Kalalau trail which I've already blogged about, and the Awa'awapuhi trail, which I'll talk about at some point. Both hikes provided gorgeous views and a ridiculous cardio workout, ha. I'd love to go back and do the entire 22 mile Kalalau trail hike at some point...once I've trained for it!

A few final thoughts on Kauai:

  • Snorkeling was how we spent most of our beach days, and we generally snorkeled at Anini Beach (though we heard Tunnels Beach was great for snorkeling, too). The coral isn't very pretty at Anini, but we saw a ton of gorgeous tropical fish as well as huge green sea turtles on two different days. I'd suggest renting snorkel gear from Kapa'a Beach Shop. $15/week for the mask, snorkel, and fins and the people working there were super helpful and friendly.
  • There's one main road that circles the entire island, and the fastest speed you'll ever go is 50mph (but more realistically, 30 or 40mph). Plan your activities based on where you're staying, where you want to go, and give yourself plenty of time to get there. 
  • Hitchhikers are everywhere and it seems to be common practice for nice folks to hitch a ride to the other side of the island (since there's only one road, we're all kind of going the same direction anyway). We even picked up a lady who needed to get to work but didn't want to walk in the rain, which I couldn't blame her for!
  • Princeville, where we stayed, was a beautiful resort-like location but we did find ourselves driving 25-30 minutes down to Kapa'a on the east shore for cheaper food and groceries and gas stations, for what that's worth. There's a lot more in terms of familiar stores (Starbucks, Costco, etc.) on the south shore and much less of that on the north. I think I'd still stay on the north shore next time, though - it's just so gorgeous.
  • Buy as many pineapples as you think you can eat. Hawaiian pineapples are unlike any pineapple I've ever tasted. So. Freaking. Good.
  • Try poke (pronounced POH-keh)! If you're a fan of sushi, I guarantee you'll like poke and pretty much every place on the island sells it. 
  • Lastly, there are chickens EVERYWHERE. They seem to have no self-awareness or internal clock and will crow all hours of the day and night. Bring some ear plugs. 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Fall Bucket List

There's always a confusing moment that happens for me as summer is winding down and suddenly there's a hint of cooler temperatures in the breeze. Part of me wants to cling to summer for all it's worth, keep wearing tank tops and flip flops and eating all the summery things. And every year as May and then June approaches I think, Yes, summer is my favorite season.

And every year that changes with the first glimpse of fall. It's always bittersweet, because OMG WINTER and while the prospect of spending a long six months with early sunsets and freezing temperatures is knocking rather impatiently at my door, I can't help but feel a little giddy at the thought of wearing boots and scarves, baking all the pumpkin things, and watching the gorgeous Utah landscape change colors.

In honor of fall (which I'm telling myself is still a month away, at least), I made a bucket list for some things I'd like to do this season. What about you - what are you looking forward to this fall?

Friday, August 22, 2014

Kalalau Trail to Hanakapi'ai Falls (8 miles RT)

The Kalalau trail is a popular 11 mile trail (22 miles RT) found at the northernmost part of Kauai. It’s full of stunning views of the water and Na Pali coast, but is also extremely hazardous due to consistent rain and flash flooding, causing the infamous red Kauai dirt to turn into a very slippery, muddy slope. For good reason, it’s on a list of the 10 most dangerous hikes in the U.S. In fact, just a few days before we arrived to Kauai, a hiker drowned while trying to cross the steam at Hanakoa. It’s seriously not a trail to take lightly, but as soon as we booked our trip to Kauai we knew that we absolutely wanted to attempt (part of) it.

To complete the entire 11 mile trail, most people will camp and make it a 2-3 day trip. We aren’t that adventurous (translation: There’s no way I was prepared to hike 22 miles. I HAVE MY LIMITS.) so instead, we hiked the more popular first two miles in to Hanakapi’ai Beach, and then another 2 miles through the jungle to Hanakapi’ai Falls, making it a total of 8 miles RT (officially the longest distance I’ve ever hiked!). 

We couldn’t have picked a better day to go; it hadn’t rained the night prior and it stayed dry and sunny all day. And even then, there was still plenty of mud and slippery spots. I can’t emphasize it enough - you MUST exercise caution when hiking this trail. 

To get there, just take the main road until it ends at Ke’e Beach, park your car and start hiking. The first half mile or so is a pretty steady but doable incline. The next 1-1.5 miles are downhill as you start making your way down to Hanakapi’ai Beach. We started at 8:30am so the hike in was nice and shady (not so much on the way out…). Shady or not, I’ve never sweat so much IN MY ENTIRE LIFE. The humidity in Hawaii is a force to be reckoned with. 

Next to a cliff, no big deal
Our first view of Hanakapi'ai Beach
After 2 miles you finally make it to a stream that you have to cross in order to continue on to the beach or to the trail for the falls. Depending on the amount of rainfall, the water level can be pretty high and it’s not easy to try to hop across the various rocks without slipping. Most people (ourselves included) simply took off our socks and hiking shoes, held them above the water, and crossed barefoot. I know, I know. Water shoes would’ve been ideal, but it ended up being fine. If you do this, just know that the rocks on the bottom are VERY slippery when crossing barefoot. 

Part of the stream crossing at Hanakapi'ai
Hanakapi'ai Beach!
We stopped at the beach and ate some snacks, snapped a few photos, and continued on to the trail to the falls. There’s a sign for this trail as soon as you cross the stream, and there’s a rather creepy composting toilet there as well.

Into the jungle.
Huge bamboo groves
This part of the hike was straight up jungle, and this is where things got a bit trickier. The trail is unmaintained and there were more slippery spots to deal with, rocks to climb over, and we had to cross the stream 5-6 more times, about half of those forcing us to VERY carefully hop from rock to rock and/or remove our shoes to walk across. 

I can’t tell you how many times I almost slipped on this part of the trail, but using trekking poles saved me every single time. Many people online also mentioned losing the trail or having a hard time finding the trail, but we never had an issue with that.

The falls! Only a little bit further...
So tall.
After about 2 miles, you arrive at Hanakapi’ai Falls - and it’s magnificent. Over 400 feet high (at least that’s the number I found online, though it certainly seemed taller) and it empties into this huge pool that you can swim around in. Of course, we didn’t wear our swimsuits because we didn’t think we’d swim - a decision we instantly regretted when we showed up exhausted and dripping with sweat, haha. Oh well - next time! We climbed up to sit on a big rock, ate some lunch, and watched everyone else swimming. There were a surprising number of people there.

The hike back was about the same difficulty-wise. Once we crossed back over the stream at Hanakapi’ai Beach, it turned into a 1.5 mile uphill torture chamber. Hahaha. I may be exaggerating a bit, but doing that part of the hike at midday with the sun beating down on you (as opposed to 8:30am and in the shade) is not awesome. At one point Danny was carrying both backpacks because he is a saint and because I was very sure I was going to pass out and/or die.

Here I am ready to pass out.
It took us approximately 5.5 hours to complete this hike, not including the time we spent goofing around at the falls. 

Overall, this was one of the most challenging and rewarding hikes I’ve ever done in my life. I absolutely loved both hiking on the cliff overlooking the coastline, as well as hiking in the jungle (even with the humidity) and would do it again in a heartbeat - so long as it’s not raining! :-)


Start early. Like before 8AM. I wish we had started at 7. By the time we showed up at 8:30, the parking lot was full (on a weekday) and we had to park in the overflow lot (which isn’t that far away, but still). Not to mention, the earlier you start, the cooler it is!

Go on a dry day. Keep an eye on the weather. It's hard to predict on the north shore, but the drier the weather, the better the trail conditions.

Bring trekking poles. I can’t stress this enough. They totally saved me more than a few times. Sooo helpful for balance, endurance, etc.

Bring way more water than you think you need. Towards the end we started to get really low on water. I’d recommend no less than 3 liters a person if you’re hiking in the dead of summer like we did. We brought 5 liters to split between the two of us, and it wasn’t enough.

Wear sunscreen. Unless you are a person that doesn’t burn (in which case, I hate you). And even then, wear sunscreen. Hawaii is close enough to the equator that the sun is NO JOKE. 

Bring water shoes/flip flops for the stream crossings. Probably better than going barefoot. And you’ll want to be careful if you have any open cuts as there is bacteria in the water.

Wear or bring your swimsuit for the falls. Trust me on this. You’ll want to swim when you get there.

Wear hiking shoes/boots with good traction. Shoes that you have already broken in and are comfortable to wear for long distances.

Don’t try to bring your nice DSLR. I didn’t use mine nearly enough to make it worth carrying, for fear of dropping it into a stream or mud or off a cliff. All of these photos are from our iPhones and yes, they'd look a lot better if they were from my Nikon, but it's just not worth the risk of dropping/losing/ruining your $1000+ camera.