Deep into the Forest

It’s been over a year since I wrote my last blog post, and boy have things changed in my life. What sparked my desire to start up writing my blog again is my new-found sense of self I gained from my experience at my first music festival, Electric Forest. Almost exactly one year ago my life began to spiral out of control. I quickly had to figure out how to support myself and my two pets on my own, which was something I wasn’t expecting on having to do. I moved closer to my job so I could be able to take care of my new puppy; I continued to work long hours at my second job to be able to afford to live; and to make it all worse the fear of doing this all on my own kick started some “wonderful” anxiety attacks.

I spent most nights, when I wasn’t working, trying to figure out how to piece my life back together. I felt lost and unsure of myself. How is it that you become so attached to a person that you don’t remember who you really are without them?

Things that I used to get excited for, I dreaded. Christmas is my favorite time of year! The day after Thanksgiving you can find me blasting Christmas music, decorating my house, and lighting holiday scented candles in every room. This past year I didn’t even want to look at a single Christmas decoration. My mother came to visit and “forced” me to put up my tree and decorate… I cried over an ornament that represented my once happy family. Almost 3 years ended in a blink of an eye and after months my brain could still barely register what happened, and why it happened.

I did all sorts of crazy things to try to rediscover myself. One of which was running a 15k! How I let my best friends talk me into doing that I’ll never know. But I finished it and that kickstarted a year of saying yes to things that came my way: a spontaneous trip to Iceland and buying a ticket to a music festival where I practically knew no one in the group that was going.

Fast forward to last week. I attended the second weekend of Electric Forest. I went there vaguely knowing 5 people out of a group of 24. The first two days I was anxious and felt like I didn’t belong, a feeling very familiar to me from this past year. I did everything I could to try to feel like I belonged which included dousing myself in glitter and body paint. The second night of the festival I tried something I’ve never done before. I’ll keep what it was vague, but that probably screams exactly what that was. Something in my brain unlocked and I was unapologetically me. I wandered the forest. I danced. I was happy, genuinely and unconditionally happy. I found something deep down inside of me, hiding under insecurity and doubt. The rest of the festival I never felt out of place. I felt like I belonged. I felt like I was home. While I do believe that you are the source of your own happiness, it took a little help from my Forest Family to find it. To them, I am eternally grateful.

“The forest calls each and every one of us. Only a certain few will hear the call.”

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Muggle Fun at Harry Potter World

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I, like many of my generation, am a huge Harry Potter fan. So for my 25th birthday I thought it would be a great present to myself to take a trip to Orlando to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter! If you’re looking to plan a trip there I would suggest spending two days, one day for Island of Adventure and the other for Universal Studios. The Island of Adventure houses Hogsmeade and Universal Studios is the home of Diagon Alley. We were lucky enough to go during a time of year and week where there weren’t much for lines. We went in the middle of the week, Wednesday and Thursday, during early May. While there weren’t many people we did have to deal with end-of-the-year school trips.

Hogsmeade

Hogsmeade

The first thing that every muggle must get once they arrive at either Hogsmeade or Diagon Alley is their wand. Now it is possible to just go into the shop and get a wand and be on your way, but it is even better if you go see Olivander! I suggest getting the interactive wand so you can cast some spells throughout both parks.

The best rides at Hogsmeade were the Dragon Challenge, which is technically two different rollercoasters, and the Forbidden Journey. For the forbidden journey you get to take a little tour of Hogwarts to get to the ride. One of the best parts about the rides is that since you weren’t allowed to bring your bags, you were allowed to get a locker for free while you were on the ride. I thought that was a wonderful feature for the park! For the Dragon Challenge you have two options, the Chinese Fireball and the Hungarian Horntail. The Chinese Fireball is a little faster and the Hungarian Horntail has more twists and turns. The entrance of this ride truly makes you feel like Tri-Wizard champion. If you have the opportunity I highly suggest being in the front row for at least one of these rides.

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The best food we had at the park was the Three Broomsticks. It’s a little pricey but it’s what you would expect from a theme park. Another thing you MUST try, and I’m sure you’ve heard it from everyone, is the Butter Beer. I suggest the frozen one, its not as sweet as you would think either. It’s similar to cream soda but more… Magical!

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One of the great things about having the park-to-park pass is you have the ability to take the Hogwarts express from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley!

Diagon Alley

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We spent our second day at Orlando at Diagon Alley. The best ride is Escape from Gringotts! It’s a lot of fun and you get to see the goblins as they work.

There are plenty of unique shops including Weasleys Wizarding Wheezes! For lunch we ate at the Leaky Culdron. Food was still good, but we thought the Three Broomsticks was better.

Some fun things you get to see right outside of Diagon Alley is the Knight Bus and 12 Grimmauld Place. Chat with the conductor of the Knight Bus and the shrunken head. As for number 12 Grimmauld Place, look closely at the windows, you may see Kreacher peak his head out. No matter how you spend your day, your time will be truly magical!

Remember, just because it is happening inside your head, “why on Earth should that mean that it is not real?”

Things To Do in Maui

Here were some of our favorite activities when we were in Maui, besides laying on the beach or pool side!

Haleakala

It was a little cloudy when we got up there and was sprinkling. We still went hiking and got to enjoy a little bit of the sunshine, and when the clouds moved… the view was beautiful. We maybe hiked a mile or so. It was a easy hike down (obviously) but the climb back up took a while. If you’re not a big hiker you will probably struggle a little bit too. The elevation make you run out of breath very quickly, but it was worth it. Just make sure you bring water and your camera!

After that we drove around little and stopped at Maui Wine to do some wine tasting! It was a fun little stop before heading back to the hotel.

 

Four Winds II

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We did a part snorkel and part snuba excursion! Snuba was the best part. It was a way for beginners to try out scuba diving without having to have the heavy gear! If you’ve ever wanted to try scuba I would definitely suggest this. We got so close to the fish and the reef. It was too windy to go out to their usual spot so we ended up at coral gardens, which was still a great view of some fish. They provided us with fresh bagels and fruit for breakfast. Lunch was chicken sandwiches, pulled pork or hot dogs. The staff was a lot of fun and it was one of the highlights of our Maui excursions.

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Road to Hana was fun, but a long day in a car. Plan out ahead of time the stops you really want to see, because even if you start early, theres just never enough time to do everything. Our first stop was to take a picture with a bunch of Macaws, it was fun, not a stop that I think we should’ve taken but it made for a fun picture!

We stopped at Coconut Glen’s ice cream which was a fun treat after lunch! We stopped at the Three Bears Falls. One thing I wanted to do was the lava tube, it’s a little off the beaten path and $12.50 per person, but it was a unique experience that I was glad we did.

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We stopped a Wailua falls and Black Sands Beach. There we saw kids jumping from rocks! It was very cool but also looked kind of dangerous, we didn’t bring any swim suits on our trip. There was also a little cave that people like to take pictures in.

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Mama’s Fish House

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I’ve read reviews about the food being just ok for the price, but our food was amazing! I started with the lobster bisque, I seriously can’t describe how good it was. My mom had calamari. Matt and my mom both got the Mama’s Fish House special which was stuffed Mahi Mahi! I had the Mahi Mahi with mushrooms, garlic butter, white wine and capers. For dessert we got the Black Pearl Mousse! Our server Jeff was top notch and was great for recommendations.

Old Lahaina Luau

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This was the perfect end for our last night in Hawaii. The food was unique and a great taste of the culture, also very filling. The staff was wonderful and the show was so fun! I love watching the dancers. We had mat seats so we were right up front! My parents didn’t enjoy sitting on the ground as much, they would’ve preferred a regular table, but Matt and I liked being close to the performance.

Paia Fish Market

We had some time on our last day since our flight wasn’t until 6pm, so we went and hung around the airport area. We had lunch at Paia Fish Market, they had the best fish tacos of the whole trip. It’s a fun, small establishment. Great for lunch!

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Swap Meet

There’s a swap meet on Saturdays, it’s a great place to get souvenirs and they’re cheaper than most of the stores!  They take place at the University of Maui.

 

Sweet and Sour Chicken

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I tried my hand at some Sweet and Sour Chicken and it was delicious!

What you need:

  • 2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup of cornstarch
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup extra light olive oil
  • 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp ketchup
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp garlic salt

Directions:

  • Cut chicken breasts into 1-inch pieces
  • Place 1 cup cornstarch into a gallon-sized ziploc bag, add chicken and toss to coat
  • Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large pan
  • In a shallow dish, whisk together 3 eggs. Dip the cornstarch chicken pieces into the beaten egg, coating both sides then transfer the chicken into the hot oil
  • Cook chicken in hot oil about 30 seconds per side or until golden. (if you want you could deep fry it until its crispy.
  • Transfer chicken to a baking dish
  • In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the sauce ingredients: 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar, 4 Tbsp ketchup, 1 Tbsp soy sauce, 3/4 cup sugar and 1 tsp garlic salt
  • Pour sauce over your sautéed chicken pieces and toss to coat.
  • Bake uncovered at 325’F for 1 hour, turning the chicken twice while baking to coat with sauce.

I also cooked up some rice and broccoli to go with it!