Photo documenting the silver linings of my life in the time of COVID

Photo documenting the silver linings of my life in the time of COVID

Social distancing is my new favorite hobby

But first, a quick update:

The island’s borders are virtually closed to the outside world, save for cargo flights and a recent C130 which arrived with some medical supplies.

Only 7 COVID tests have been administered in American Samoa, and at the time of writing 5 have come back negative, awaiting 2 more results. But also, an article came out today that there’s an influx of patients at the hospital with flu-like symptoms, which has a lot of people worried.

We’re still on Code Blue, which means we are on high alert but not freaking out completely…. so that’s good. 

I feel so grateful to have the ocean right as my backyard. To be able to get outside daily, move my body, and still feel safe and sheltered in my small close knit village community

it’s always a highlight of each day in quarantine.

I think I posted similar pics from my iPhone and wrote a blurb about these photos in a previous entry, but I wanted to share some photos from my SLR camera here. I woke up early and Ian was no where to be found. I walked out to the beach and took photos of the rain curtaining Mt. Rainmaker, and the mist in the distance. I saw Ian was out paddle surfing, and I joined him in the water for a dip and chatted with some neighbors at a distance. We got back to the house and showered and prepped for work at 8am.


I wish we could do this every morning.

As evening approaches, Ian and I sit outside for a little happy hour, which involves a cold bevvy and card games on the balcony. A warm ocean breeze whistles through the trees, and we are treated to a tasty rainbow right above us–a gentle reminder that


this too shall pass.

Happy hour snaps of my handsome fiancé. Even after spending every single day at home with him for the past 3 weeks in quarantine, I never tire of him, nor does tire of me, which has me in awe. He makes me laugh every day. He makes quarantine feel like a staycation, and I’m so


blessed he’s my person.

A bit batty

about bats lately. They’re so fun to watch, flying from tree to tree, eating coconut seeds. 

Venturing out

 Is it weird that I’m nervous to leave our house now? We limit going out as a precaution because we secretly dread the news that may come out any day now of a confirmed case here. On Saturday, we dropped off some stuff for Gabby at the VA quarantine facility, picked up some groceries and ran an errand, then came back home.


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Another happy hour of card games and bevvies. I seriously feel like we’ve got a good handle on what retired life will be like. We only hope we are still living by the ocean by then,


happy, healthy, and together.

This photo from Sunday reminds me of how upset I was over some silly thing. Ian was trying to make me feel better, and one of the ways he does that is by getting me

excited about the sky.

He snapped this picture of the sun setting outside and pointed out to me the clarity of the sun on the water creating vivid sunset lines in the lagoon. I looked out and saw what he saw. It was beautiful I was still being a sour puss so I responded with a begrudging “mhm yeah” but I couldn’t help but think my guy is so sweet.

This has kind of been a long post about nothing in particular, but I’ve really just been enjoying this photo documentation of my life lately.

Despite the harsh reality of what’s happening around the world, these little snippets are my silver linings, and are an appreciation of the little things in life that keep me

sane and happy.

Quarantine Diaries: Keep calm and stay 6 feet away

Quarantine Diaries: Keep calm and stay 6 feet away

How to keep calm and socially distant


Make food, and make it pretty. Wash hands.

Eat and enjoy it. Wash hands.

Spend time with fur babies. Wash hands.

Get fresh air. Wash hands.

Let the sun in. Wash hands.

Go for a drive. Wash hands.

Put on a face mask. Wash hands.

Buy materials for home projects. Wash hands.

Go home. Wash hands.

Make something. Wash hands.


Coming out of quarantine, social distancing still

Coming out of quarantine, social distancing still

We are officially done with our mandatory 14-day medical home quarantine! We can finally get in our car and drive around, still remaining socially distant and fairly isolated. Ian and I have taken this whole quarantine thing seriously, but it’s a bummer to hear that others haven’t.
There are still no confirmed cases in American Samoa, and last night they officially canceled flights to/from Hawaii, essentially closing the borders. I’m actually glad they did, so at least now we can focus on our people here, not clog up our medical system, and get people tested and treated.
Ian and I finally got to leave the house to get groceries. Now that there’s a curfew on stores to close at 6pm, it was interesting to see the signs that stores had up to address new hours.
We’ve had a food shortage the past couple of months because the container ships were delayed and some panic-buying after the cyclone and now COVID. Luckily for us, the shelves were well-stocked at the grocery stores because two ships came in. People were  still buying in bulk (like this guy with his cart full of Lysol) but we got everything we needed.
Our first socially distant dinner date with our brüs and neighbors, Mark and Alice. They were so sweet to make us a scrumptious chicken curry and rice dish in Sri Lankan clay pots called walang, over their homemade stone oven on the balcony. It was so lovely catching up, drinking wine, chit chatting about the journeys ahead and our seemingly long ago travels.

I feel like this photo is quite an apt photographic description of our quarantine experience. Snorkeling, cleaning our home, planting herbs, re-using ziploc bags, and playing with our pets… that’s kind of what quarantine life has been like for us. Not included in the picture: the cooking and teleworking. 

I’m still getting up most mornings and doing my usual routine of yoga, journaling, showering, and getting ready for the day. I pulled out this white cotton pajama set that I thrifted last year. I hadn’t worn it yet but it looked so formal for a pajama set so I wore it to ‘work’ on Friday haha.

Throwback Thursday: Remember MySpace surveys? 34 Q’s

Throwback Thursday: Remember MySpace surveys? 34 Q’s

Ok, MAJOR THROWBACK incoming! 

Who remembers MySpace surveys?!

I sure do. I would stay up all night reading surveys my friends filled out, then I’d copy and paste the survey, fill it out, and post it on the bulletin. It was so exciting when your crush did your surveys, because you knew he/she read it, and I’m pretty sure that was the very subtle start of internet dating for my generation! 

I saw this tweet a few days ago, and retweeted so fast because I totally understood and longed for those simple days when the Internet felt new (we had just graduated from the “ooh wahh ooh eeeeeeee di deeeeee” sound of dial up internet connection. And I’d feel like a little tech genius when I’d customize my layout with HTML code. That’s actually what inspired me do web design! 

Anyhow, on to my survey below…

34 questions I got from the internet, and answers by meeee.

1. Who is your last text from? From Traci; she lives next door and I heard her sneezing 3x in a row so I texted her and she was like you can hear me?! lol yes woman

2. Where was your default picture taken? Well, my DP on instagram was taken at Toaga beach in Ofu, Man`a

3. Your current relationship status (married or not)? Soon to be married! Supposed to get married spring 2020 but instead, this pandemic got me filling out MySpace era surveys and postponing my wedding to next year 🙁

4. Does your crush like you back? I think it’s highly probable

5. What is your current mood? Better than earlier today. I feel cozy and relaxed.

6. What’s your mom’s name? Elaine

7. What color shirt are you wearing? Lavender robe

8. If you could go back in time and change something, would you? No regrets here (that I can think of)

9. Do you like drinking tea? Yes, matcha tea/latte with oat milk is flavor of choice

10. Ever had a near death experience? Yes definitely. Almost drowned in a pool when I was in 7th grade, and I jumped out of an airplane in 2014 and I felt safe but definitely gives you a near death experience.

11. Something you do a lot? These days, a lot more snapping photos and blogging, and I’m v happy about it

12. Who can you tell anything to? Ian or Gabby

13. Name someone with the same birthday as you? My first cousin! He was born the exact same day as me, just like half an hour apart, but my mom gave birth to me here at LBJ in American Samoa, and my cousin was born in the Philippines. I forget who’s older, me or him…

14. When was the last time you cried? Today. I was feeling a bit emotional.

15. How many people have you kissed? Gosh if cheeks and babies count, I have no idea. If we’re talking romantically, you don’t need to know, but it’s really not a lot

16. If you could be one super hero, who would it be? I’m kind of tired of superhero movies so I don’t know who’s who anymore, but as a kid I liked Wonder Woman, oh and any of the PowerPuff Girls!

17. What’s the first thing you notice about the opposite/same sex? Opposite – their personality and style, like how they carry themselves and the energy they exude. Same – facial features probably (wow does this mean I’m shallow)

18. What do you usually order from starbucks? I don’t really order coffees out, I prefer to make my own. But if I was in an airport and needed some caffeine, a matcha latte with oat milk.

19. What’s your biggest secret? It wouldn’t be a secret anymore now would it

20. Favorite color? The green blue of my fiancé’s eyes, they change with the lighting but each hue is my favorite.

21. Do you still watch kiddy movies or tv shows? Yep, gotta love the pixar classics

22. What are you eating or drinking at the moment? Water

23. Do you speak any other language? Very very very elementary tagalog and samoan… hmm, maybe kindergarten level actually.

24. What’s your favorite smell? Clean laundry, or patchouli, orrrr whatever delicious yummy just came out of the oven

25. Describe your life in one word. What would it be? Blessed

26. Have you ever kissed in the rain? Yes

27. What are you thinking about right now? Gabby, who just flew in tonight and texted me that she’s in a quarantine facility now for the next 14 days, poor thing! I hope it’s comfortable and clean, and she does ok there. She’s being positive, but I know I would be so upset if I had to stay in a tiny closeted cot for 2 weeks.

28. What should you be doing? Sleeping, which I’ll do right after I finish reliving my tween myspace survey days!

29. Who was the last person that made you upset/angry? I’ve been home quarantined for 14 days, so maybe Ian? But I don’t think he has actually… we’ve been thriving even in isolation. That’s probably how you know it’s meant to be.

30. Who was the last person you kissed? Ian

31. Do you like working in the yard? Not really. I like working on my balcony garden though.

32. If you could have any last name in the world, what would it be? Moffitt, because he’s the greatest, and his family is awesome

33. Do you act differently around the person you like? Nope, I’m myself with him. I act differently around everyone else.

34. What is your natural hair color? Black

Quarantine Diaries: Golden hour reflections

Quarantine Diaries: Golden hour reflections

Today is the first time I’ve felt really just crappy since I started home quarantine. It’s also day 14, my last official day in isolation.

I’m not sure why I feel so ‘bleh’ so suddenly… I did yoga, ate a good breakfast, got productive with some work, and cleaned my room trying to snap myself out of this funk. As I reflect on my time in quarantine, I’ve been really happy about the time apart. Time to myself, and time spent with my fiancé since he just got back from a long trip. I’m staying hydrated, sticking to a routine, finished a book, watched a few shows, journaled, edited photos, deep cleaned the house, worked out, gone swimming and paddling, and posted on my blog a lot. These are all things I love and could spend hundreds of hours doing for the rest of this pandemic.

Still, maybe it’s because my mind has been busy about getting things done, and making the most of this extra time. I guess I just haven’t slowed down too much since starting quarantine two weeks ago. Plus, checking the news daily for updates about COVID and its impacts all around the world might be stressing me out.

I think I just need to clear my headspace. Do nothing, be still. Even just for a little bit. It’s going to be ok… just wash your hands and rest your mind Nerelle.

Hope you are all staying safe and healthy, and getting fresh air and sunshine when you can. xoxo

Self portraits at golden hour
Self portraits at golden hour
Quarantine Diaries: Why I decided to self-isolate

Quarantine Diaries: Why I decided to self-isolate

Ian recently returned from work travel to the mainland, and was placed on mandatory 14-day medical quarantine just in case he was exposed to COVID during his trip. Because I live with him, I am also self-isolating to ensure that we aren’t causing potential harm as potential virus carriers. That’s it. And ok… the word “isolate” is kind of a cold, cruel sounding word. The buzz word going around is “social distancing”, and it’s basically the same thing, except self-isolating is just a step further. Like, fully staying at home and avoiding physical interaction with people. Seriously, everyone should isolate or practice social distancing during this time. Please please please.

PS – I wrote this because I just learned about Typhoid Mary. If you haven’t heard of her, you should read this Nat Geo article about it. It’s wildly relevant to our situation as potential coronavirus super-spreaders, and gives insight to why we need to avoid contact with people even if we aren’t showing any symptoms.

I truly hope you are all safe and well! Sending much love and virtual hugs through the inter webs.

xoxo, Nerelle

While I’m self-isolating at home. I go outside at least once a day for fresh air and exercise.

I woke up this morning, and Ian wasn’t in bed. He wasn’t even in the house. I saw on a friend’s ig story that he was out SUP surfing, so I jumped out of bed, put on my biker shorts which I was going to wear for morning yoga anyway, and my Belle the Label swim top, and head to the beach. 

Ian started picking up trash around the beach for about 10 minutes and collected this heap of debris. There was a lot of styrofoam, plastic bottles, a slipper, a piece of a hose, even random cabinet pieces, and an actual car door. I’m always baffled at what trash ends up on the beach. Ian’s doing these quick cleanups as part of his work’s social distancing activity where each employee just picks up trash for a short allotted time, then take a photo of it for data, and disposes of them properly. It’s such a great idea, and I’m going to tag along with Ian along our stretch of beach.
Someone sent me a message the other day on instagram saying that I make quarantine look like vacation… and I was in between feeling flattered and a little guilty, thinking this pandemic is a horrible thing for the world, and if I’m making quarantine look like vacation, am I being offensive?

I thought about it a little and I’ve decided that I shouldn’t feel guilty. This is my daily life even without quarantine, and it might even be a good thing to show people that self-isolation or social distancing is a good thing. If you want to see it as a staycation, go ahead. It’s a good thing to be safe and healthy.

Sometimes I’ll be so laser focused on my work that I don’t realize I’ve accidentally skipped lunch. Working from home with Ian though makes it a lot easier to remember lunch because he’s always hungry haha. Today he surprised me with delicious crunchy fish lumpia!

Guest post: Ian’s trip to Ofu, Manu`a

Guest post: Ian’s trip to Ofu, Manu`a


This is Ian, and I’ll be doing my very first guest appearance on Relli’s epic blog!  I went to Ofu for work at the end of 2019 to fix a repeater tower and swap out some temperature loggers in Ofu’s Toaga lagoon. On my second to last day, I took out the GoPro and snagged a few pics. Hope you enjoy them.

Impending low tide; Not a bad place to be stuck.

I managed to squeeze through the cracks in the reef to get back to the ranger station before dark.

NPS has temperature loggers near some of these corals. We use this data to look at how temperature contributes to changes in the ecosystem over time. Parts of Toaga lagoon are notorious for getting super hot, and harboring remarkably thermotolerant corals.

Classic. Gotta give Relli mad props for making this shot look as good as it does. Lovin the lightroom skillzzz!

The high density and biodiversity of corals in Toaga Lagoon acts as a refugia for many species of fish. Acanthurus triostegus, Chlorurus frontalis, and Acanthurus guttatus are particularly prevalent.

It’s beginning to look a lot like a Christmas tree worm…Sorry, I had to.

Relli always loves these little Chromis viridis, so I always try and snag some pics of them when she’s not around. So pretty!

this is nerelle – i loved this post! who all thinks ian should post more on the blog?! me for sure! oh andi just wanted to point out that this is ian’s second time posting on my blog. his first post was after we got engaged: 

Reasons why I need to wake up early more often

Reasons why I need to wake up early more often

Reasons why I need to wake up early more often.

The way the mist envelopes Matafao.

The reflection of the mountain on the lagoon.

The fiery vibes in the sky that sets a soul on fire.

The ripples of life teeming below.

The shroud of cloud cast afar.

The wondering what life could be.

The flutter of the birds we wished we were.

The lights showing off in powder hues.

The birds playing tag with their shadows.

The puppy cuddles on the pier.

The sun coming up out of the ocean horizon.

Coronavirus and travel to American Samoa (updated)

Coronavirus and travel to American Samoa (updated)

UPDATED March 9, 2020

YAY they updated the travel advisory yesterday!!! No more mandatory 14-day quarantine in Hawai`i from the mainland as long as you get a health clearance… which means Ian is coming home on Thursday!!! So excited! But also, really hope we don’t get COVID-19 on the island eeee.

Posted on March 6, 2020

Between the measles epidemic late last year in (western) Samoa and this Coronavirus (COVID-19), American Samoa is on high alert to keep these infectious viruses out of our little island home. Thankfully, I think most people still feel a bit removed from it all because of how remote we are, but hearing the news daily talking about the rapid spread of the virus is starting to heighten safety precautions.

The American Samoa Department of Health just posted this travel advisory intended for American Samoa residents to be aware of the new restrictions on travel outside of the island. Travelers will be required to show documentation of MMR vaccination, a health clearance granted 3 days before travel, and will need to be quarantined in the ports of entry for 14 days prior to arriving into American Samoa. And this advisory includes travel to and from (western) Samoa, all affected US states, and countries. The travel advisory takes effect on Monday, March 9, 2020.

Personally, I have mixed feelings about the travel restrictions. I’m glad to know that we’re looking out for our people, and the safety of our island. On the other hand–and I’m biased–I want it to not take effect until just a week later because my fiance is off-island still and will have to be “quarantined” in Hawai`i for an additional 14 days… so he’s going to miss my birthday! ugly crying I’m so bummed. Plus, this might affect our wedding in Samoa in May… we’ve decided not to react just yet but it’s only a couple of months away now, and most of our family and friends have booked their flights and hotels, so it would absolutely suck super hard if we had to postpone or even cancel because of all the travel restrictions. Trying to keep cool, calm, and collected over here, but thought I would share this on here.

On another note, I was looking through my tumblr archives and found my Le Motu Niu’s Bites that I used to post weekly!

*Niu’s Bites are weekly tidbits of news and information in American Samoa that have been condensed for easy reading. Links to sources. Compiled by Nerelle.

I read through some of them, and was honestly impressed with myself for posting these news updates about the island so consistently even though my schedule at the time was crazy busy still, like who was this over-achieving girl from 5 years ago?! Can I be her?! I feel smashed with work and side projects all the time so… to be determined on whether I’ll attempt this again. But I would really love to!

Backyard bonfire

Backyard bonfire

October 13, 2019.

Bonfire, ava, and food.

Hangin’ with our community of neighbors and our pups last Sunday in the backyard.

Good vibes all around.

CREATE: DIY Altoids watercolor travel palette

CREATE: DIY Altoids watercolor travel palette

One of my favorite things about art is art supplies. I adore looking at them, using them (obviously) and now making them! I’m currently obsessed with the watercolor medium—how amazing it makes everything look, the way the paint flows wherever the water goes, and the palette of colors with an array of color combinations.
I have been shamelessly binge watching art journal YouTube videos, mostly while I’m journaling (so it feels like I’m doing it with other people lol). And I saw that a few people had these tiny tin watercolor palettes that they would take with them on travels or while journaling on the go in cafes and libraries. I’ve always had a thing for miniature art supplies (I loved tiny things as a kid), so I wanted to try to make my own tin watercolor palette.


What you’ll need:

1. Altoid Mints tin

Or any other box of your choosing! I like to keep my breath minty fresh and am too much of a nostalgic person to throw away my Altoids boxes, so it’s great to reuse them this way. Another option is to use pill boxes.

2. Watercolor half pans

There are half pans and full pans, but I like half pans because I’m not a marathon painter and don’t need much paint at one time. Also because I can fit more colors in my travel palette. I bought mine on Amazon. They’re quite pricey, so substitutes I’d recommend are water bottle caps or beer caps.

3. Watercolor tube paints

I’ve only ever had the pre-filled pans in my Sakura Koi and Prima Confections kits, so this was my first time using tube paints. I got this Royal & Langnickel Medium Tin Watercolor Set for really cheap on Amazon. I was going to get Reeves, but as you can tell, I love tin sooo my mind was made.

4. Other things you may need are:

– Double sided tape
– Watercolor paper
– Scissors
– Acetate paper
– Paintbrush
– Water

HOW To make watercolor travel palette:

1. Eat all the mints in one sitting (or spread out over several days, whichever tickles your fancy) and rinse the Altoids tin box.

2. Gather watercolor tubes. Arrange and plan colors.

3. Carefully fill half pans with paint from the tube.

4. Use double-sided tape or other adhesive and adhere to bottom of tin.

5. Affix pans over the tape/adhesive.

6. Measure tin cover and cut watercolor paper and acetate into slightly smaller dimensions, so that it will fit inside of the tin.

7. Paint each color in the order that the watercolor pans are arranged.

8. Use the water to control the opacity of the swatch, going from opaque to transparent. This will help you in the future to know what the color looks like both opaque and transparent.

9. Insert color chart in the top half of the tin, and the acetate paper layered over it. The acetate paper will block the paint from touching the color chart.

10. And you’re done!

Just a fun little painting of sabrina’s aura I made during a girls’ wine and paint night.

And that’s it!

So simple, right?

I’m still a total noob, but it’s fun to paint with watercolors, especially from this cute little travel palette.

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