Dominican Republic Beach Vacation – Day Two

I disappeared for a while. Technical difficulties are real!

But I’m back to tell you more about my adventures in the Caribbean.
The second day at the resort, we decided to take it slow. No outside adventures; all we did was stay by the pool and relax at the beach. We were still adjusting to the time change and were preparing to venture out the next day.

The view was spectacular.

The view from my beach lounger

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The pool with the beach in the background

The only downside was the vendors who walk the beach with their wares, and there’s no way around them. As soon as you walk beyond the barrier from the resort, you’re bombarded by 3 or 4 different vendors asking you to buy something. But they’re very nice and just by telling them you’re not interested once, they’ll remember you and not bother you again.

The ocean was surprisingly warm. Coming from Southern California, I’m not used to warm sea water but it was very refeshing.

A word of warning: DO NOT wear sunglasses into the ocean and expect to come out still wearing them!! Cole and I both were victims of the Ocean Monster, whose specialty is stealing your sunglasses right off your face. Don’t let the brightness of the sun trick you into thinking you’ll keep them…. You will never win that battle.

The waves were not very violent (except for the 2 or 3 that came by and swept me away) and the water was pleasantly warm so we ended up spending hours in the ocean. The Caribbean seems a little saltier than the Pacific — as soon as we got out, we needed to rinse off, we felt so sticky.

I was proud of Cole; he didn’t burn at all the whole trip and I was nervous for him, he’s so pale.

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Cole enjoying the sun (wearing his emergency pair of sunglasses)

Day Three will be a tour of Puerto Plata with a Dominican tour guide (my mom!).

Until tomorrow….hopefully.

Dominican Republic Beach Vacation – Day One

Paradise. That’s what I found as we landed in the homeland of my mother. From the plane, we could see how clear and blue the Caribbean Sea was as the we slowly descended towards the runway. I took great pleasure in seeing Cole look down in amazement at the views from the plane window. It’s his first time experiencing the Caribbean and his reaction didn’t disappoint. But, could you blame him?

We were supposed to meet my aunt and uncle in the terminal since they had arrived 2 hours ahead of us, but there was no way to enter the airport from the arrival gate. It isn’t like most airports at Gregorio Luperón International Airport in Puerto Plata. In most airports, you get off the plane and walk through the airport among the other gates to get to customs and baggage claim. At this airport, it’s everyone’s final destination, so they herd you from the plane, straight down an escalator and to customs. Nowhere to sit down, nowhere to wait. So my parents, Cole and I hardly noticed the Dominican band set up at the bottom of the escalator, playing island music and welcoming us to their country. We were more worried about the two Idahoans who didn’t speak Spanish and were supposed to be waiting for us in the airport and couldn’t be found. My mom is known to be somewhat of a worry-wart. I think I take after her a little….

As soon as we made our way through customs and got our bags (the airport is very small and there’s only one way to go), we found them waiting for us outside. Once we said our hellos, we let my mom negotiate a taxi ride for all 6 of us to the Viva Wyndham Tangerine. The taxi ride was interesting. We were put into a newer Chevy Suburban — which surprised me since I thought most of the population in Dominican Republic was poor — and began our 40 minute journey to Cabarete. On the way, we drove through hoards of 2 cylinder motorcycles, some with 3 people on one bike and carrying bags of groceries. My mother-in-law would have a heart attack if she saw the little babies that were sitting in front of someone who also was carrying two other people on a tiny motorcycle.

In Dominican Republic, most of the taxis are motorcycles and people can be seen standing on the side of the road waiting for one of these taxis to ride by to pick them up. I will try to post video of these guys in a later post. They zip around everywhere. And there’s apparently no rules of the road here. Cars, motorcycles and even huge Mack trucks will drive on any surface they’re able, no matter if it’s the right side of the road or not. Very different than the States, for sure…

Once we got to the resort, it was almost 4pm so there wasn’t much for us to do other than get situated and have dinner. I wasn’t much impressed with the resort at first glance. It’s very small, maybe a total of 5 buildings, with two average sized pools and one bar, and the food the first night was horrible. The only thing they served was seafood. Don’t take me wrong, I like seafood, but usually a buffet means there are several different options. My dad said it’s because Sunday is a transition day and there’s not that many people around.

The resort reminds me of Dirty Dancing… they really do have waitstaff and the entertainment crew. Only this entertainment crew speaks mostly Spanish and they not only dance during their show, they also lip sync. But they were lip syncing English songs and it seemed like they didn’t really know the words. I’m still trying to understand why they insisted on lip syncing instead of just dancing. It would’ve been a much better show….

After the show, we went to bed and that was our first day on vacation. Tomorrow I will post Day Two, which was a lot of sunbathing and playing in the ocean, but I’ll leave the details for tomorrow.

 

How to Remove Odor from Genuine Leather

Yesterday I told you about my preparations for my trip to Dominican Republic and that I bought an awesome camera bag large enough to fit my DSLR and my purse items. Well….I finally received my bag in the mail and although it’s definitely genuine leather, the smell coming from it reminds me of my time on the Oklahoma Plains, cleaning out horse stables! YIKES!!

Seriously, this bag smells like the manufacturer used the old-fashioned way of treating animal hides… If you don’t know what that is, look it up…but beware if you have a weak stomach, it’s not pretty! Needless to say, there’s no way I can board a plane with this bag in tow.  I can guarantee nobody would appreciate this smell lingering in the cabin for 5 hours.

Luckily, you’re looking at a real, bonafide Okie and if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to clean leather!

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Items You’ll Need

  • distilled white vinegar
  • water
  • 2 clean washcloths
  • newspaper
  • box large enough to fit your item
  • packing tape

Step 1: Mix the vinegar solution
You will mix the solution in equal parts vinegar and water. I’ll be using ½ c. vinegar and ½ c. of water. This acidic solution will be strong enough to counteract the odors coming from the leather.

Step 2: Spot test
Make sure you spot test a small portion of your leather. Some leather is more supple than others and it could react negatively to the solution and become discolored.

Step 3: Wipe the leather with solution
If there’s no discoloration, use one of the clean washcloths to wipe down the entire surface of the leather. Make sure you saturate the leather then wipe it clean with the dry washcloth. Make sure you let the leather completely dry. You can let it sit for about an hour or use a blow dryer on the lowest heat setting. Make sure to keep the blow dryer at least 6 inches away.


Step 4: Wrap the leather in newspaper
Take your dried leather item and wrap the whole thing in newspaper. Newspaper is extremely porous and will absorb any lingering odors. If your item is a bag (like mine) or shoes, make sure you stuff newspaper into the empty spaces as well.

Step 5: Place newspaper wrapped item in box and seal with tape
Take your nicely wrapped leather item and put it in a box that’s big enough to fit it without squishing and seal it with packing tape. Sealing the box gives the odor no choice but to get absorbed by the newspaper.

And…Voilá!

In about 2 days you’ll have leather that won’t assault peoples’ nostrils!

On a side note: If you’re wondering, yes I live in Southern California but I’m a 5 year transplant. I spent the majority of my childhood in a small town in Oklahoma so I’m an Okie-at-heart. No, I don’t have an accent….

The Ultimate Packing List for an International Beach Destination

Viva Wyndham Tangerine

In one week I will be soaking up the sun in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic! Being half-Dominican and having visited before, I know what to expect but I still have to prepare myself mentally and organizationally before we leave.

We are taking a red eye out of LAX to Miami before hopping over to the island to spend 7 wonderful days in the sun. With that in mind, I looked through many sites online and on Pintrest trying to find the right packing list for my trip. I have special circumstances with the red eye (which I HATE!! I can never sleep on planes…) and I couldn’t find a single list that I could use in its entirety, so I am out to create my own and share it with the interwebs.

The first thing to think about when you’re booking an international trip is to make sure your passport is current. Remember that it could take up to 6 weeks to get a passport once you fill out the paperwork and turn it in. Since I procrastinated was slow to change my last name on everything once Cole and I got married (2 years ago….), I had to make sure I booked our trip under my maiden name since I haven’t updated my passport yet. I have to remember to go through the security checkpoints at the airport with my passport instead of my ID, since my ID is in my married name and my passport is still in my maiden name, as is my ticket. As long as your name matches on ticket & passport, you’re good to go. Also, make sure your passport will be current for the full length of your trip. You don’t want to get stuck in customs on your way back home!!

Once you have your passport in hand, you can relax until the week before your trip (which is where I’m at right now!!). Now’s the fun part…planning what to pack for your vacation!

First thing’s first…. the carry-on for the red-eye. Since we’re going to a beach destination, I will be packing my beach tote with a few red eye essentials. I will be wearing comfy clothes (leggings and a loose shirt) and flip-flops for overnight, but I don’t want to get to the resort all frumpy!

Red Eye Carry-on Packing List

  1. beach tote (to pack essentials into)
  2. iPad w/ pre-downloaded Netflix movies & TV shows
  3. headphones
  4. reading material (I’m reading The Handmaid’s Tale)
  5. change of clothes for the next day
  6. socks (for security checkpoints. I hate walking around the airport in my bare feet… EEK!!)
  7. eye mask
  8. hair brush
  9. soft blanket & neck pillow
  10. facial wipes
  11. glasses
  12. snacks
  13. anti-bacterial wipes & hand sanitizer
  14. quart-size ziplock baggie with the following:
    • 3 oz. toothpaste and toothbrush
    • Advil
    • contact case & 3 oz. eye solution
    • ZzzQuil (if you’re like me and have trouble sleeping on planes)

I also bought an awesome satchel-style camera case on Amazon. It’s big enough to throw my wallet and passport into so I don’t have to worry about the 2 bag policy and I can still have my DSLR with me.

Satchel Camera BagThis way I’ll always have my camera with me when I’m out and about! You can find it here.

And now for the pièce de résistance…

The Ultimate Beach Destination Packing List

Clothing

  1. underwear (7 – 9 pairs)
  2. socks (3 – 4 pairs)
  3. bras (2 regular & 1 strapless)
  4. tank tops (4 – 5)
  5. t-shirts (2 – 3)
  6. shorts (4 – 5)
  7. workout clothes for hiking (3 sets)
  8. leggings (2)
  9. pants (2)
  10. pair of jeans
  11. sundresses (1 – 2)
  12. maxi dresses (2 – 3)
  13. cardigan
  14. sleep shirt & shorts

Shoes

  1. flip flops (2)
  2. casual wedges
  3. tennis shoes

Toiletry Kit

  1. contacts and glasses w/ cases
  2. facial wash
  3. facial moisturizer w/ SPF
  4. perfume
  5. shaving supplies
  6. toothbrush/toothpaste
  7. shampoo & conditioner
  8. dry shampoo
  9. deodorant ( a MUST-HAVE for humid climates!!)
  10. hair brush
  11. blow dryer
  12. hair ties & bobby pins
  13. feminine products

Beach Essentials

  1. sun hat
  2. sunglasses
  3. bikinis (2)
  4. one-piece swimsuit
  5. sunscreen
  6. beach tote

Misc.

  1. wristlet purse
  2. fanny pack (for hiking and/or exploring)
  3. umbrella
  4. phone & iWatch chargers
  5. iPad & charger
  6. DSLR camera & charger
  7. extra memory card

Don’t forget to notify your bank that you’ll be leaving the country. You don’t want them to unexpectedly put a hold on your card! It’s a HUGE pain to try and call them when you’re not in the U.S. and not in the same time-zone!! Also throw cash in small bills in your wallet. Upon entering Dominican Republic, you have to pay $10 per traveler for a tourist card before they can release you at customs.

Small bills are also good to have to tip your housekeeper and the bar staff at the resort. If you take care of them, they’ll take REALLY good care of you!

The Quest for a Healthier Lifestyle — Hiking 2.0

Today my friends and I hiked the trails through Moro Canyon in Laguna Beach and I must say, I’m so glad I discovered these trails! I don’t know how many times I’ve passed Crystal Cove State Park while driving down PCH and I’ve never known there were so many hiking trails and campgrounds tucked into this beautiful area. The AllTrails app is a miracle worker! If you’re like me and new to hiking and not quite sure where to go or not familiar with the area you will be hiking, get this app, it’s amazing! Because of it, I think I found my hiking trail soulmate.

We decided to head out early since we’re supposed to hit a record high today and we didn’t want to hike through the canyon during the hottest part of the day. This required me to peel myself out of bed at 6 A.M., which was a challenge in itself. Unfortunately, I had a little bit too much fun last night and woke up with a splitting headache…for future reference, don’t attempt to play Betrayal at House on the Hill and drink at the same time; but I’ll save the details of that awesome game for a future blog post… After sluggishly getting out of bed, getting dressed and throwing down some Excedrin, I drove down to Huntington Beach to pick up my friends and off we went!

Moro Canyon is tucked away not far from the coast and makes for some beautiful views once you get to the top. There’s a labyrinth of trails, ranging from 1 mile all the way to 9 miles, with cut-through trails along the way — just in case you can’t quite make it as far as you thought. It makes for endless possibilities for hiking — exactly what I was looking for!

Moro-Canyon Hiking Trail

The endless possibilities in Crystal Cove State Park — Our path is highlighted in red.

We chose to hike an approximate 4 mile trail; now that we’re done, we could’ve gone further, but since it was our first time, we didn’t want to overextend ourselves and end up stuck in the canyon out of breath. This time, I wanted to be the “serious hiker” so I wore my hiking boots rather than my Reeboks. FYI, when wearing high-top hiking boots, make sure you wear crew socks and NOT ankle socks! I have a nice blister on my Achilles tendon that will forever remind me of that… Ah, the lessons you learn…

There was a good amount of hill climbing at beginning of the No Name Ridge trail head, but it was a steady climb so it wasn’t so bad. It was better to get it out of the way at the beginning rather than delaying it for the end… During our hike we decided to return every weekend until we’ve hiked every possible trail. Next Saturday, we’ll be taking the same path up, but taking the East Cut-Across and through Moro Ridge. When we made our way back to the car, we had such a sense of accomplishment, it was very invigorating. I can’t wait to go again next weekend!

Eventually, I want to be able to hike to one of the primitive camp sites for a mini backpacking trip, just to see if I can do it…but that will be a couple months out.

The Quest for a Healthier Lifestyle — Hiking

A few years back, Cole and I tried our hand at hiking. We are definitely novices, but I enjoyed being outside in the fresh air and spending quality time with my husband. After a while, we stopped due to a job change for Cole that required him to work overtime on Saturdays (our hiking day) and I felt the loss of that time with him almost immediately.

When my brother and sister-in-law became our roommates a couple months ago, they started talking about a backpacking trip through Yosemite they want to take in September. They are new to SoCal, but they said if the trip goes well, it will become an annual occurrence. My brother, Paul showed me a blog of a woman who went through the back-country of Yosemite for 7 days and shared her gorgeous photos and her life-changing experience; he told me that he will be following her itinerary when they go. I looked through her blog and got jealous immediately. At the health level I’m at right now, I wouldn’t be able to make it 7 days in Yosemite with nothing but the equipment I carried on my back; my stamina would not allow it… But after reading about this woman’s journey, I wanted to figure out how I could work my way up to the level I need to be at in order to join them on this trip next year.

I decided that I need to begin with baby steps and work my way up from novice hiker to experienced and I’ve enlisted my friends to help! We started a “hiking women’s club” and have promised to go on a hike, with gradually increased difficulty, every Saturday morning. Last Saturday was our first “hike,” which ended up being a 4 mile walk on the El Dorado Nature Trail near my house. It was a good intro to hiking and we had a lot of fun. This weekend, we’re heading over to Laguna Beach for a hike that will also be 4 miles, but will climb higher in elevation and be a little bit more difficult than just a nature walk.

I realize that getting into a healthier lifestyle will bolster my hiking abilities and once I get more comfortable with hiking longer distances, I will focus more on my diet and venture out for a walk every evening.

The blog Paul showed me can be found at this link.

My Fascination with the O.J. Simpson Trial

When FOX released the mini-series American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson, I have to admit I didn’t know a lot about what happened, apart from the fact that he was on trial for murdering his ex-wife and another man (at the time I didn’t even know his name) and the epic Bronco chase through Los Angeles. Granted, when all this went down, I was only 9 years old and what do 9-year-olds know about current events, really?

Hearing small details of the trial throughout the years of my childhood and young adult life often caused me to wonder how O.J. was able to get acquitted. Because we all know, even if it’s way deep down and some don’t want to admit it…O.J. got away with murder. How was the defense able to trick a whole jury? Was the acquittal all because of a technicality? These are questions I’ve had for years…

I am so grateful for FOX and the quality program they’ve released — even Marsha Clark and Chris Darden have said it was good so you know they hit the nail right on the head. The inner workings of the justice system fascinated me while I watched the “behind-the-scenes” look at what everyone had to go through in this “Trial of the Century.” I didn’t realize that all of this went down so soon after the Rodney King riots. This not only gave the defense something to latch on to, but it caused SO many mistakes by the investigation team. I also didn’t realize how much scrutiny the attorneys went through by being in the spotlight. Of course, it makes sense to me now since it happened so close to Hollywood…

The show opened Pandora’s Box for me… I am now so obsessed with the HOW and WHY of this trial that I searched on YouTube for the actual trial tapes and am watching each and every day that it was in session. I know I’m crazy, it’s literally 493 different videos, but I’m hooked! If anyone out there is as crazy as I am and wants to go through the trial themselves, here’s the link. It’s educated me on what happened even more than just watching the show. If you have the time and you didn’t watch it in real-time in the 90’s, I suggest you take a look.