2018-01-19 On Balancing Budgets and Traveling

Well.. I did it. I asked for more work. So now if I get too much, I only have myself to blame. I’d like to target 25 hours a week. I’ve seriously been number crunching daily and looking at all my bills and accounts. I’m spending less than I have for years and for the first time ever, I’m on a budget.

I actually opened a second account that I have a debit card for and that’s what I’m carrying instead of my credit card. My visa still has $$$ On it from Hawaii and Christmas and I’m now only using it for emergencies. My target is to have that paid off by April and then I’ll be in a better spot.

I’m not yet making enough to cover my monthly expenses, but IF I put in 25 hours a week, I should be able to do that. That, of course, does not include medicine for my travel itch.

That’s the one variable that’s tough to factor in. Vacations and road trips are an expense that typically is a larger bundle all at once. It’s plane tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, and more on food all in a short timeframe. I have not gone through the trouble of adding all that up and averaging it out over 12 months.

That would be a waste of time anyhow, as last year was so atypical. I travelled more than any other year of my life which included two “Dream” destinations.. Hawaii AND touring the Pacific North West. I won’t be doing that again, at least for a while.

Even with that being said, I’m already itching to plan something for this year. I just need to keep it small and do more road trips and visits to friends where it’s free for me to stay.

I’ve already told Princess KK I would come visit her this winter, but once I got my job I decided to try and wrap that into my first company trip. If they are going to pay for me to go to San Fran, San Diego is a short hop from there and a beautiful costal drive. I just hope they decide to do that sooner rather than later. I’d love to get the F out of the Midwest when the weather is still gross and not when things start to get better.

I’m also jones-ing for an Austin trip and currently holding my breath waiting to hear if the typical crew is all converging there at the end of March or not. Of course I’ve got Summer Residency in July, but I’m not exactly counting that in my list of travels.

For one, it’s Nebraska City and 40 minutes from my house. And secondly, the last one didn’t exactly feel like a vacation. It was lots of work and not a lot of play. The good news on that is the cost is added onto what I owe for tuition for the semester, so the expense is not draining my bank account.

In any case, I’m a planner and I always have the future in mind and I need that “something” to look forward to. I think that’s part of the reason I can’t help but evaluate every relationship early on and continuously question whether or not it has a viable future. That whole “Futuristic” thing is one of my top five “strengths” according to the Gallup Strengths-finder quiz. When I first got my results (in 2012 when I took the test), I wondered what the heck that meant and how it could possibly be a strength, but as time passes, I’m more and more aware that someone who is mindful of the future, typically has a pretty good definition of a path to get there. It goes hand in hand with one of my other top five strengths, “Strategic”.

Wow. Somehow I got from asking for more work to finances to traveling and now personality profiling. That’s quite a meandering. In truth, I could really go on and see where else that leads, but that’s not gonna pay my bills or for that next big trip I want to take. 😜 I should probably get to work.

One more digression sparked by observation before I call it quits… the Man in Black is wearing white today. How bizarre.

Happy FriYay!
~Miss SugarCookie


2018-01-07 Sushi Sunday Funday Status Update – A Year in the Rearview

It’s Sunday January 7th, 2018 and my gym is swarming with resolutionaries but I’m not there yet because I’m still catching up from last week.

I’ve not had time to reflect deeply on 2017, but I think that’s ok because I spent so much time on it throughout the year. I was evaluating my status and goals every couple of weeks and it goes without saying (because I have said it often this past year), but I’m in such a better place, physically and mentally now.

My left-brain, lover of Stats has this to say about 2017…

231 Jazzercise Classes

Up 3 lbs in handheld weights in class (now at 8lbs).

5,480,146 steps. Just over 15k per day.

That’s freaking awesome.

An average of 7 hours and 25 minutes sleep per night. This is also amazing, but I’m somewhat shocked by this and may go back and check the data.

Lots of attempts at changing my diet.. and zero change in my weight. Don’t misunderstand, the weight is not important.. it’s the only measure I have. Perhaps I’ll do body fat % again sometime soon to see if I really did add more muscle like I think I did.

Relationship status daily average: Single 😜

Employment status daily average: Part time. I spent half a year at full time and half a year unemployed.

I’d like to calculate how many miles I travelled.. but there’s not an app I’ve been using for that and it would take too much time to do manually. I’ll just name my destinations:

Cancun Mexico for my sisters wedding, Kiehei Hawaii on the island of Maui, Phoenix, Austin (x2), Denver (x2), Seattle, Portland, The Redwood Forest in Northern Cali, Highway 101 in the Pacific Nortwest, Saint Louis, Beatrice Nebraska for the Totality, and finally, Nebraska City Nebraska for the inaugural trip for my MFA.


Consequently, my bank account is now 30k lighter. Financial status is still holding steady at stable.

And last, but certainly not least, my main goal to live every day inching closer and closer to a happy and fulfilling existence was, for the most part, met with success. This could not been made possible without the help of the writing I have done for this blog.

337 blog posts

1399 visitors




And 84 followers.

Thank you to all who have read and liked and stuck with me in my little blogging adventure. You are all awesome!

And without further ado, welcome to 2018!

Lets Rock and Roll this Bitch!

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-12-29 MFA Residency Day 1

Everything yesterday went very much according to plan. I arrived at my destination around 4:15PM and was all checked into my room by 5. That left me with about an hour to wander around the lodge and figure out where all the cool kids hang out.

The Lied Lodge is nestled in a woody area of historic Nebraska City. Which, by the way, is the birth place of Arvor day. When I come back in the summer, I’ll definitely be exploring mire outside. I hear the hiking trails are great. As it is now, of course, the coldest week of the year yet I will be staying put nestled inside this beautiful building. It’s no joke.. the high will be 17 degrees and the low will be -23.

The building is pretty massive and gives the appearance of being made of logs. Maybe that’s what a lodge is? I stayed at the Lodge in Yellowstone in 2014 and that structure WAS made of logs, massive, incredibly impressive. This one may have other underlying support. I’ll have to ask. In any case, it too is amazing.

As I wandered last evening I had a slow creeping sensation that I didn’t really belong here. Since the facility is so huge, there’s no way for me to know if the people I was passing in halls were also part of the program or just random guests on holiday. After I got my bearings, I retreated to my room to psych myself up for the meet and greet.

They arranged it so that the faculty met first, then the first years (hey that’s me), and the rest of the students came in after that. There are only four new students this term and we all sat in the front row. Newbs!

15 minutes later the rest of the crew came charging in like they owned the place. They were loud and conspicuous. I guess that’s what comes with the comfort and confidence you actually belong. I wonder if I’ll ever get there.

They has a short intro, followed by a few ceremonious items, and a welcome video. That consisted of pics and video of last semesters session. It looked like a good time was had by all. We’ll see about this round.

After that we were dismissed to dinner and, once again, the first years were asked to sit together. And, once again, I was grateful,

Dinner was good, a bit bland, but I didn’t have to cook so that was super good. The dessert spread is going to put me in trouble and I’ll definitely need that Whole 30 when I go back home.

After eating and chatting with my table mates for a little over an hour, we all excused ourselves to take our leave. I went back to my room to re-read the orientation materials and re-organize my things.

I was exhausted as I turned the lights out, but could not sleep. Too much swirling in my brain and so I lay awake for over an hour. I had quite a restless sleep and woke up to get up around 5:30.

I figured since I’m not sleeping, I might as well get my steps. It’s definitely earlier than I’m used to, but I also wanted to claim a machine in the exercise room. As it turns out, I had no need to worry, I’ve been here since about 6 and haven’t seen another human being yet. I like it this way.

There’s quite a bit of resistance on the elliptical machine and I opted for the treadmill so I could write and walk at the same time. We’ll see if I can adjust to this EQ and really get into my flow.

Today is pictures and of course the first full day of lectures and workshops. I’m excited and nervous. I’m going to try really hard to get my head away from the notion that I don’t belong. I’m not an imposter. I may not have the same street cred, but I’ve got desire and an inner spark. I’ve had a lifelong love affair with this craft and I belong (just as much as those loud 4th termers).

On that note.. it’s probably time to go get ready for the day. /gulp

Faking it until I make it,

~Miss SugarCookie

2017-11-07 The Best and Worst of Maui

OK, folks, it’s the moment you have all been waiting for. All the best and all the worst of our little Maui adventure. (and yes, despite 8 days of awesomeness, there were definitely some “worst” moments). Eight days is a long time to try and remember everything. I’ve covered the highlight of each day, but I have not gone into a ton of detail about most of it and I definitely have not mentioned a few of the more “trying” moments…

Best Place that we stayed… This was a toss up. Ken’s place Kihei wins out over the Hana AirBnb for proximity to the Kam III beach which we went to several times. It was also nice that Kihei was walkable and had easy access to groceries, food options, and sort of “central” for driving to all the different parts of the island. The Kihei house was $100 a night and the Hana Home was about $300. However, Ken also let me have unlimited use of his “beach car”, which was a huuuuge bonus!

Worst place was the first AirBnb in Kihei. The roosters at 2AM made trying to sleep unbearable and though our “host” was very knowledgeable about the area and things to do, I found it a tad annoying he was there and seemed to want to chat when we crossed paths (since he lives at the house, it was quite often). That place was also about $100 a night.

Best and Worst Food/Meal.. Also a tough call. We had Stewz Maui Burger the first day we were there and it was awesome. I ordered the Kihei which was topped with cheddar cheese, bacon, 2 fried onion rings and bbq sauce on a sweet Hawaiian sweet roll. All of that was just under $10, not including fries. That entire meal cost about 30 with the kids’ food included. We actually thought it was so nice, we tried it twice. The second time was well below average (and we ordered practically the exact same food). This is the reason I’m going to give the “Worst” in the food category to Stewz and the “Best” to Coconuts Fish Cafe.

Yes, my kids don’t eat fish, so when we went to Coconuts it was mac and cheese and french fries for them. Actually, I’ve discovered that Z can live on french fries alone and C can do the same with mac and cheese. These were things they ordered at just about every restaurant. Coconuts was also so nice that we tried it twice. They are famous for their fish tacos and also reportedly had superb fish and chips. So I had to try both and both lived up to their reputation. I would highly recommend. A meal for the three of us was about $30 as well.

The runner up in the category for “Best”, would be “Three’s Bar and Grill” in Kihei. I had sushi and an appetizer of fried brussels sprouts. I also tried both the kid’s food (yes french fries, chicken fingers, and mac and cheese) and they were delicious as well. Three’s was also the most expensive dinner at. about $75, but we were all super hungry that day and totally ordered more than we could consume. I made the kids eat leftovers just like at home. I also ordered a drink and that was part of the $75.

The cheapest meal, not counting leftovers or groceries for breakfast and lunch, was probably the Sunset dinner on the grass with a $14 medium pepperoni pizza and a bottle of water. We did spend $20 on ice-cream after that, but when one scoop costs $5 without a cone or toppings, it adds up fast.

Best decisions.. Renting the Mustang ($200) and Helicipter ride ($600) were both totally worth it! The car I would do again. The helicopter was a little to $$$ to do again.

Worst decision.. Going off path on our Haleakala day to try and get to PoliPoli state park (we drove 1.5 hours out of our way and never actually made it). Runner up on this one was the yoga class I attended at 7AM, oceanside, one morning. I was attacked by bugs the entire time and I didn’t like the instructor or the way she conducted the class.

Biggest eeeek moment.. Walking into my bedroom in Hana and finding the biggest spider I’ve ever seen in the “wild” on the ceiling. I definitely slept with one eye open (ok.. I may not have slept at all).

Best view.. Tough to pic the top one so I’ve picked three. In no particular order… 1.) The view from the Leleiwi Overlook on the way to the Summit of Haleakala. 2.) The view of the cliffs on the north coast of Moloka’i. 3.) Views from our drive up the east coast of West Maui (no single place on the map that I could pinpoint, but some of those were incredible).

Worst view.. The jet engine out my window on the plane from
MSP to Omaha.

Best day.. Really tough to pick. Probably the day we drove to Hana. Great car, everyone in a good mood, beautiful scenery, and a really fun drive.

Worst day.. Ironically, the day we drove back from Hana when it rained all day and we just wanted to get home, eat, and relax.

Best beach.. Ka’anapali, by Black Rock on the Sheraton property was my favorite. This is the beach where we saw the giant sea turtles, just passing through really close to the shore. The beach was free, but it cost $6 an hour to park there. The kids liked Kam III the best.. and it was the one we went to most because it was so close to the house.

Worst beach.. Hana Bay beach was the worst beach we stopped at (and did not swim). The least favorite of all the beaches was the one way down south past the gorgeous Wailea area. I’m actually not sure where we were at, if it was Mckenna beach or big beach or little beach. Several of the beaches in that area go by different names and we basically got to a spot that had parking and walked from there.

Wrong beach.. Napili Bay beach. This is the beach we went to when I wanted to go to Kapalua beach. Kapalua supposedly had great snorkeling. We had all the right gear but only saw sand.

Biggest rip off.. Snorkel Bob’s charging us $10 each for a one day rental of snorkeling gear (fins and masks). When we got back to Kihei that day, they were $1.50 a day at Boss Frog’s. And then free at Ken’s. If we would have known that we would have waited.

Biggest overcoming fear moment.. Me snorkeling. Overcoming my fear of drowning enough to have my head in the water for over a minute. It’s too bad we were at the wrong beach (see my previous comment) though we were in really calm waters and it was good that is where I had my “lesson”. If the water would have been rough, I may never have even tried it.

Biggest disappointment.. The seven sacred pools being closed when we arrived. Plus, we could not even get in the area without paying ANOTHER $25 to enter the national park.

Biggest regret.. I never did get to a black sand beach. There was one on the road to Hana and I should have taken the time and walked to get there and not been in such a hurry to get back on the road. There was also one south of Wailea but we just ran out of time. I also wish we would have packed towels for our Hana trip. We didn’t have enough time in the rental house to use theirs before we had to check out.

Best parenting moment.. Being huddled up in the freezing cold on top the volcanic valley waiting for the sun to set with my arms around my two beautiful children.

Worst parenting moment.. My daughter and I yelling at each other because she would not get off her phone to help me with directions when my phone battery died and it was pitch black on our way back from Haleakala. Somehow it was my fault for not telling her it was more important that she stop what she was doing to help. At the time, I had taken a wrong turn and we were clearly on the wrong road and there wasn’t even enough light for me to see a place to stop the car and figure it out.

Most emotional moments.. 1) Standing at the ocean at the Nakalele blowhole location. 2) Sunset at Haleakala. 3) Coming over the top of Moloka’i in a helicopter.

My don’t sweat the small stuff moment.. Losing my sunglasses on Haleakala.

Yes.. In the grand scheme of things my $8 pair of sunglasses will be easily replaced. As one can guess from following along, this was vacation was not a cheap one to go on. However, it was an amazing trip and the time I was able to spend with my children in one of the most beautiful places was priceless. It’s a moment in time, now in my history book, that will never happen again.

Sure, I may go to Hawaii again, but never with the kids at this age and in this stage of our lives. We are all so very fortunate to have had this experience.

Eia au Mahalo,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-11-06 Maui Day 8 🚁⛰️

Going out with a bang today. As if everything we have done thus far is not enough, I decided we needed to end on a super high note. Like flawlessly executing that killer line, dropping the mic, and walking off stage.

We had to get up super early today to get to Lahaina for a “presentation” I signed us up for in order to get a discount on said adventure. It is the earliest the kids were awake all week and I figured it would also be a good opportunity to try to start re-adjusting to “our” time zone (but not by much). We sat through an hour and a half of a presentation with a half hour of a sales pitch to follow but it was totally worth it because we got 450 bucks off a helicopter ride over and around West Maui, across the channel to Moloka’i, and then along the cliffs and interior of that island.

What what?!! I have never been in a helicopter before and it was supremely awesome. The kids were able to sit in the front next to the pilot so they had the best view and I was next to two other adults in the back with views out the side doors (doors on). Our pilot was Troy and he made our ride super smooth. He said it was such a calm day he was able to get a lot closer to the cliffs and even go over the top of Moloka’i instead of back around the coast.

I can’t even begin to describe how breathtaking it was. West Maui was cool, and after driving the entire circumference to see Nakalele, getting to see it from 1000 feet up was wicked. However, it paled in comparison to the cliffs on the north side of the adjacent island.

Apparently, eons ago there was a seismic event and half of that island slid into the ocean which left cliff drops up to 3000 feet high. For centuries the weather has been slowly eroding that side of the island and the waterfalls were so impressive. The tallest (I can’t remember the Hawaiian name, but it means “the long shadow”), was taller than the empire state building. It’s hard to get perspective on that. You just can’t see from the top to the bottom easily. Consequently, I couldn’t get a good picture. Not that I didn’t try.. I took a ton of pictures.

The only way to get to see what we saw was by air or sea as the land is not traversable. As such, we were able to experience something that not many people ever get to. Toward the end of the 60 minute excursion he took the chopper up over the high point of the island and it literally felt like we were going to fall off the edge of the earth. Not because we were at a downward facing angle, but because you just could not see beyond the peak until we were over it. As we crossed over to the other side of the island, I broke into tears again. I just could not help it because the whole thing was just overwhelming. Kind of becoming a regular occurrence on this trip. But that’s exactly the way I want it.

I want life to be spectacular. I want to be overcome by emotion and really feel (the good stuff, not the rotten). I want to embrace all of what is out in the world today and live an extraordinary life. I want the same for my children. I want to teach them that they too should strive for a fulfilling life and not settle for anything less. Of course, this trip would never have been possible had I not been working my entire life and saved enough to not worry about spending 600 dollars on a helicopter ride or 200 on renting a convertible or anything else we may have decided to do.

I need them to understand that they have to work smart and make good choices. They need to balance relationships, work, and activities. I’m not even sure this a thing that can be taught, because it’s a lifelong lesson and sometimes you just have to learn from your own experiences. But if I can set a good example, maybe they will have a better chance at getting there. Hopefully this vacation is one good example and the fact that I will be returning home and once again be faced with tough decisions about what to do for work.. what to do to make a living and maintain this lifestyle (of luxury).

Tonight we start traveling at about 7PM and we will not be home until Tuesday at about 5PM. I know there is a time difference, but that is still a long time to be in airports and flying. I’m really not looking forward to it. Hopefully going through the gazillion pictures I took today will help pass the time waiting. 😃

Wale Nui,
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-11-05 Maui Day 7 😴🚶‍♀️💻🌊🌴🍕🌅🍨

Who needs to write a blog when you’ve got emojis? This is the first week that I’ve tried inserting them into my titles. A bit of foreshadowing about what the theme for the day was. As far as today goes, they really do tell the story…

😴 I slept in (well, as much as I have been able to the entire trip). I woke up about 8AM.

🚶‍♀️I took the rental car back and walked 2.75 miles along South Kihei road back to the apartment. I also grabbed a Starbucks grande vanilla latte on the way.

💻 I sat on the lanai writing a little bit and relaxing.

🌊 The kids and I went back to the beach. This time we went to Kama’ole Beach Park I and I joined in the fun of surfing the waves on a boogie board.

🌴🍕🌅 We grabbed a pepperoni pizza, found a lovely spot on the grass, and sat and watched the sun go down. I was glad we were able to do that on our last night but really kind of got a knot in my stomach thinking about it being our last night. It was more about the travel day tomorrow and less about leaving. It really has been a fabulous trip, but I think we are all ready to go home.

🍨 After the sun was down we found an ice-cream shop and enjoyed a little sweet treat. C was going to get shave ice again, but changed his mind when he saw they had chocolate Oreo chunk.

Now that we are back home it’s time to pack and clean up the place a bit for when Ken and his family arrive home. It really worked out well that we could stay at his place while they went on their own vacation. It allowed me to spend a little more on other things, like the rental car and the overnight in Hana, which I otherwise may not have done. It also allowed me to splurge on just one more little adventure before we leave, but you will have to come back tomorrow to read about it.

Time to prepare for our departure.

Aloha, 🏴󠁵󠁳󠁨󠁩󠁿
~Miss SugarCookie

2017-11-04 Maui Day 6, Return from Hana 🌅🚘🌅

Today started with the sunrise on the east coast and ended with the sunset on the west coast.

In truth, it was less about the trip back from Hana to Kihei and more just about feeling glad to be returning “home”. Our evening in Hana was good, but being on the east coast, once the sun went down it was dark and it was not long before the kids were just ready to retire to their beds (for Netflix and Youtube of course – what would we do without the internet??!).

As expected, I was really too tired to do much more writing or research, but did earmark a couple of sites I wanted to get to the next day. This included going past Hana and south down the coast to the Seven Sacred Pools at Oeh’o which would be another hour on the road there and back to Hana. Our checkout was 11AM and that means if we wanted any time at all to jump and play in the pools and waterfall we would have to leave early. Not a problem for me, I was going to get up to see the sunrise. Which I did.

It was actually the worst night sleep of the entire trip. I woke every hour or so and had terrible dreams. Once I woke at 2:30AM and found C was still awake and playing on his iPad. Teenagers! When my alarm went off at 6AM I was glad the night was over and ready to get up.

I got dressed in a hurry and not knowing what the best spot would be to watch the sunrise, I got in the car to head down the road. Hana beach has a huge land mass blocking the sunrise so I kept driving. A little further down the road there was a business with a parking lot that seemed like a good view of the horizon, but the scene was not very picturesque, so I kept going. I really wanted to get down to ocean level and watch from the beach and soon I found a turnout advertising bbq chicken (Huli Huli) and beach access, which ended up being perfect.

At 6:30AM, it was completely deserted so I had the coast to myself. The weather that morning was sketchy and the sky was filled with clouds so I wasn’t even sure I would be able to see anything. There was a break, however, and the scene that unfolded before me was a mix of clouds and rain in the distance and the sun popping up from behind the ocean horizon. Very peaceful.

I didn’t stay that long and as I turned to leave, the rain started coming down.. A sign of the day ahead.

I was able to coax the kids up early and we had breakfast and got ready to go with a quickness. They were excited to go to the beach and try out the boogie boards borrowed from the airbnb. We drove the half hour road to the Seven sacred pools where we learned the pools have been closed for swimming due to safety issues. Not only that, but the area is technically inside Haleakala National Park and they wanted to charge us 25 bucks to get in.

I knew this actually, but thought for sure that our 3 day pass (purchased 2 days ago) would still be good. I did not have my receipt with me but had pictures on my phone AND a link to my credit card charge on my phone proving I was there. They refused both, saying they could have been forged. What ridiculousness. I refused to pay so we turned around to go back to Hana. Two strikes on our morning.

Strike three was the timing and by the time we got back to Hana, it was time to check out (plus it was now pouring down rain again so no beach time either). We packed our things back in the car and headed back to highway 360.

On the drive, I intended to stop at several places, but nobody’s heart was in it. The rain put a damper on things and so did my being so over the intense driving. We passed turnout after turnout and mile marker after mile marker and just kept going. I drove all the way back to Ken’s place in Sunny Kihei. When we arrived, the kids found their spots again and I fell onto the couch and quickly fell asleep.

They woke me up about 4:30PM asking what we were going to do next. It was perfect timing to grab towels and boggle boards and head to Kama’ole beach park III, for swimming and sunset. It was a relatively cool evening and I pretty much stayed on the sand and watched the kids go out and be washed back in by the surf.. over and over and over again. We enjoyed a lovely sunset and then left to find dinner.

Of all the things we did in the last day and a half, I think they enjoyed the boogie boarding the most. I also enjoyed the relaxation of not having to drive and just being able to sit and do nothing. I could use an entire day like that I think. Perhaps tomorrow.

From sunrise to sunset, no matter what happens.. Life is good.

Puka ana i ka napoo ana o ka,
~Miss SugarCookie