Climate Change is not just an issue that is happening to us, it’s happening because of us. 

Living proof in the tropics

Living proof in the tropics

A throwback to an undeniably gorgeous day in Tutuila. My new yellow LifeProof FRĒ case arrived in the mail and it was the perfect day to break it out for an outdoor ocean adventure. I packed my snorkel and mask in our wet bag, along with some bevvies and my pole spear, and got on my Starboard stand up paddle board. Ian and Creighton were my buddies for the day. We paddled over to the tidepools on the other side of the airport peninsula near our village. We jumped in to clear warm water and were immediately greeted by schools of needlefish. Spearfishing was a relatively new interest, so I didn’t take it very seriously, aiming and shooting a couple of times when I saw big enough fish, but ultimately letting the fish live another day, as they should. I could blame our pup Yodi, who came too, for announcing my presence and scaring them away, but nah. It was a great day. I saw a stingray with bumps on its back filter feeding in a cloud of sand. I snapped video clips on my LifeProof protected phone to compile for my LifeProof Ambassador program IG reel. After, I hung out on the beach with the guys and ‘hydrated’ ourselves. We floated around in the shady lagoon before paddling back home, and hanging out at the beach with friends.

Missing days like these in the tropics…

as I write and reflect at 39 weeks + 1 day pregnant (!!!) in wintertime Arizona…

Toodles for now!

xo, Nerelle

You, Me, and our baby moon

You, Me, and our baby moon

After an eventful first few days in Samoa for our combined girls trip, Ian and I were in full-on baby moon mode.

We settled in to our cozy AirBnB beach fale at Maninoa and planned a couple activities to take advantage of our time on the south side of the island.

We ventured off to check out Return to Paradise Resort, where my 2020 wedding was supposed to take place, but has been postponed for the umpteenth time lol… it’s okay, we’re not salty about it! It was a great excuse to go back and meet with the lovely team who we’ve been emailing with, and have lunch there.

Then we drove over to the Savaia Giant Clam Sanctuary (click here to read my blog post about that experience!) and swam for the afternoon with the colorful giant bivalves.

By the time we were done with our adventures, it was dinnertime. We ordered off the menu at the little surf shack style beach resto, Ocean Club Maninoa. We ordered the chicken adobo and crispy pork, both were amazinggg. And for drinks, Ian couldn’t say no to an ice cold local Vailima brew and I indulged in the fresh sasalapa smoothie.

Inspired by the warmth of the waning sunset light and the feeling of raw and natural happiness in my heart, I sat on the beach and took photos to remember these moments.

Ian rented a paddle board to catch a sunset surf in the reef break off in the distance. I paddled around for a bit with my 28 week baby bump, and we hugged and kissed and cocooned in bed back in our beach fale for the night. I love the feeling of magic that Samoa gives us…

when it’s just you, me, and our baby moon.

xoxo,

Nerelle

Babymoon camera roll

Babymoon camera roll

I’m reliving these precious moments and memories from my babymoon. Slowing down the pace, and breathing in, and out. Letting the warm sun shine on us like we were made to soak in the rays to grow — in the same way nature works it magic for flowers to bloom. It’s not that everything is perfect, it’s that I am allowing every imperfect thing to become part of my growing process.

Baby Moon in Samoa

Baby Moon in Samoa

Flashback to a few months ago… My life was looking and feeling way too busy that I wasn’t really able to enjoy even being pregnant throughout my second trimester. I had more energy and was feeling more “normal” — thankfully. But that actually made me work harder than I probably should have, and I hurried to get as much stuff done as I could do before the impending third trimester, because I heard it was a toughie… *IT IS!

*Me now in the third trimester

Towards the end of my second trimester, I finally booked our tickets and planned our baby moon trip. It was a sort of a combo between a girls trip to celebrate our gal pal, Sam, who was getting married soon, and then I double ended it with a baby moon for me and Ian to soak up our alone time with just us and the baby bump.

The borders were finally open — Let’s go to Samoa!

We all checked in to Taumeasina Island Resort to spend a few days in luxury with all our friends. We got together for fancy dinners out, and swam and hung out by the pool. Ian paid for a 90-minute prenatal massage at the Fofo Spa because I deserved it, he said! So sweet.

Waking up each morning felt romantic, with the light pouring in through the gauzy floor to ceiling curtains that lined the walls, and when drawn, we would take in the expansive ocean views from our Deluxe Oceanview Hotel Room. We were on the first floor, which I greatly preferred because: 1) I wouldn’t have to trudge up any stairs with my newest pregnancy symptom, pelvic girdle pain, and 2) we could walk right out to the lawn and enjoy coffee outside on our patio.

Our group got a rental van and took a road trip to the south of the island for a little adventure. Because of course, what’s a trip to Samoa without visiting the famous To Sua Ocean Trench?!

With tourism just ramping back up in Samoa, there was a small crowd already there, but we got to enjoy the saltwater trench all to ourselves for about an hour too before heading back to our hotel, and going out for pizzas at Giordanos that night.

For our last night of girls night, we went on a fancy dinner out to Paddles Italian Restaurant. We all got dolled up and toasted pretty beverages to a pink and orange setting sun and feasted on all the appetizers, literally. We ordered one of everything on the appetizer menu, and by the time our entrees came out, we were pretty full and most of us took leftovers back with us. The groom to be had won big at the casino so dinner was graciously covered by his good fortune!

When we got back to the hotel, some of the girls caught the second half of the Friday entertainment by the infamous Cindy of Samoa. Meanwhile some of us went back to one of the rooms and prepared some naughty decor and drinks to surprise the soon to be Mrs. with a girls night out on the town — Vegas bachelorette style — complete with a party bus, dedicated driver, all black sexy outfits, and sassy bachelorette sashes for us and the bride to be.

With me being at the cusp of my third trimester, I impressed myself by going out in heels (though they were moderate in height), dancing sober while managing my pelvic pain, and staying out till the club closed down just past midnight (thank God it wasn’t at 2am like back home in AS).

When we finally were done for the night, I jumped back into my cozy bed back at the hotel and by mid-morning, we were packed and checked out, and ready to officially hit the road to start our baby moon!

Ian and I got a car rental and roadtripped it to the south side of the island towards Maninoa Beach Fales. Nestled between two very posh resorts, Sinalei Reef Resort and Coconuts Resort, the spot we booked through AirBnb was the perfect vibe for us. The azure sea and sky welcomed us warmly and we settled in comfortably in our beach fale.

There was a small beach wedding party there when we arrived, but they were just there for the day, and Ian and I got the beach all to ourselves for the evening. Ian dug me up a belly hole so I could lay on my belly, FINALLY, and relax in the shade with a book.

After a big night out for me, I wanted to take it super easy, so I laid out on the beach all afternoon while Ian went and made friends with some of the guys who let him take out a paddle board out for a few hours of SUP surfing.

I felt blissed out and after a shower and a delicious dinner, we chatted in bed about baby and our future and cuddled until the stars came out.

More on the next blog!

xoxo,

Nerelle

Amouli Beach Camping (and Journaling)

Amouli Beach Camping (and Journaling)

I haven’t gone camping on island since we came back earlier this year, so I was an immediate ‘yes’ when a friend asked if Ian and I wanted to join a small group of friends for camping at Amouli over the long weekend.

The Amouli Beach Fales is a small family-run business far out on the east side of the island, just before the Auasi Harbor, so you get a good view of Aunu’u Island. The accommodations are right by the main road, so that was actually appealing to me this time around — an easy camp site, and one I didn’t have to hike to and lug all our gear to get to. It was just what I was in the mood for… rest and relaxation.

It rained really hard for a few minutes, and once the squall had passed, we pitched our tents and hung out in the main fale, cracked coconuts, poured bevvies, and shared a modest umu spread of fai’ai pilikaki, fai’ai asiasi, ulu, and cooked marlin that was prepared for us. A couple of people brought extra food, and heated it up on the small camp stove. We moved to the beach and gathered by the bonfire, and attempted s’mores but it was short-lived as another squall rolled through. We played cards and after that I was thoroughly exhausted. I hit the sack and slept to the soothing sounds of the rolling waves, and the coconut fronds brushing against the roof of our tent.

The next morning, I woke up after the sun had already risen. Ian was fast asleep and I took advantage of the quiet time to bring out my journal and watercolors. Nothing elaborate, just the scene in front of me… tent screen, Ian’s snorkel and fins propped on the sand, and the empty beach. I played around with the scraps and stickers I brought and snapped an iPhone pic of my pared down travel journal kit.

Everyone was already awake by the time Ian and I finally emerged from our tent. For the rest of the morning, we all sipped on coffees, napped on the beach, went snorkeling… just hanging out until we got hungry again. We put an order in at Sadies by the Sea (thank you Tiara!!!) and drove back to Coconut Point where we tailgated and ate lunch together. It was high noon at this point, so it was extra warm out and our energies drained. Ian and I pulled ourselves away to begin the process of lugging all our stuff back home and unpacking for the week ahead, and then after a much needed shower, I proceeded to nap for the rest of the afternoon.

Photo Journal: South to North Island, New Zealand

Photo Journal: South to North Island, New Zealand

Sharing another long forgotten photo journal recovered from my drafts folder.

I’m slowly clearing that out, and so please don’t mind me daydreaming about these travel throwbacks.

Oh, the wanderlust… I feel it coming.

This was from my late 2016, early 2017 trip to Aotearoa… New Zealand.

We had stayed in Auckland for the first few days, where we spent Christmas with Ian’s parents in this adorable AirBnB, and then the next few days in Queenstown to count down to the New Year with friends.

This photo journal chronicles a small part of the road trip that Ian and I took for the next week from the South Island up to the North Island.

Ian bumped us up to first class on the ferry over because he wanted to make sure I was comfortable since he knows I get seasick and it was stormy out on the water.

We had a blast driving all around the beautiful country side.

We had an epic car rental situation, which we basically got for FREE with the cost of our ferry free included too, as long as we got it up to their North Island branch within 5 days.

It was a lot of driving though, with so much to see! We mostly stopped at any lakes we could find, cute cafes, lavender fields, and even stopped at a glacial river next to a bridge.

On our way up to the surf town of Raglan, we visited Rotorua, which is a popular destination for the natural hot springs. I got in touch with a childhood friend who was living there and working at the Polynesian Spa. She was super kind to hook us up with a free visit to the hot springs! It smelled like farts because of all the sulfur in the natural springs, but it was a really cool experience!

We dropped off the rental car in Auckland and drove up the rest of the way to Raglan with Ian’s parents. I don’t think I posted those photos of Raglan either, so I’m gonna search through my photos on my drive and see if I can pull it up to share here.

Since the recent loss of my external hard drive (which contained all my photos and videos from the last few years), I’m more motivated to post what photos I do have on my blog, so I can always look back at some of my favorite memories.

xo, Nerelle

Photo Journal: Couples Camping Trip

Photo Journal: Couples Camping Trip

Found this in my drafts folder… a photo journal of camping with my husband and our friends, Traci and Ano, back in May 2021. I think we timed this camp trip right on time for me and Ian’s anniversary weekend.

Many thanks to the Gurr family for always being so warm and allowing us to camp at your beach.

The fresh water stream that leads to the ocean.

Sabrina also came for the day to hang out with us.

We were looking for freshwater eel in the stream, and set up some traps, but we didn’t catch any this time around.

We spent a few hours in the morning snorkeling and spearfishing at the beach. I tested out my new pole spear and didn’t get so lucky, but everyone else caught something for lunch. Here’s Ian de-scaling a malau (red snapper) he caught.

With no cell service out here, we spent our weekend offline hanging out, snorkeling, fishing, playing suipi, eating good food, reading, and hanging around the fire we set up on the beach.

I love waking up early on camp trips — right before the sun rises — and soaking up the serenity of the moving water, birds chirping in the distance, and wind rustling through the trees.

Happy sleepy faces. I wake Ian up whenever the sunrise starts so he can watch it with me. Then he’ll usually knock out right after for another nap haha.

Me and this cutie puppers.

Traci and Ano spearfishing.

Our tents. Traci and Ano’s tent is the red and white one; they’re fully set up with an air bed! Ian and I keep it pretty basic with our yellow and black tent; using camping mats, and stuffing our clothes into pillowcases haha.

Ultimate relaxation.

Going back to the stream the next morning to check on the eel traps and take a cold dip.

Homeward bound in the back of Ano’s truck. I was getting car sick in the truck so I jumped in the back in case I needed to barf lol, but the fresh air in my face was just what I needed.

Looking back at these have me wanting to go on another camp trip real soon!

Plus, here’s an instagram reel I put together from this trip!

xo, Nerelle

A Sunny Home Tour

A Sunny Home Tour

The morning sun is up in the sky, streaming through the windows at home.

I am always inspired by the way the light hits—sunbeams dancing with the shadows of tall coconut trees.

I felt compelled to pick up my camera on this particular morning and take photos in and around my home, to capture my feelings and freeze these seemingly mundane but sentimental vignettes of light and space.


Welcome to my home!

Please take off your shoes, and enjoy this little home tour.

The view outside my door looking up at the mountains. Can’t find a more appropriate way to describe this other than that it’s majestic.

Morning light streaming in through the kitchen windows. When it’s super clean (not in this pic), I always feel extra happy to make my homemade iced matcha turmeric lattes.

From the hallway to the studio/home office. I am so grateful for this space. I’ve always dreamt of having a studio dedicated to my crafts and creative pursuits. I especially love working on this workbench table that my husband and I made several years ago.

The large paogo (pandanus) tree outside my kitchen. It’s in the neighbors yard actually, but it’s so tall that I feel I really get the most benefit of its lush crowning glory.

The coconut tree outside the back door balcony that I always spot bats and birds in. It’s like having the music of nature living right here.

Ian’s surf rack in the studio/office that is also home to our snorkeling gear. It makes a great backdrop for my work video conferences. And this map I always reference for little known spots around the island.

A recent addition is this wooden stool I picked up at a neighbor’s going away sale. It houses my wifi routers on the bottom, Echo dot (on top behind the terra cotta planter), and it’s a great little propagation spot.

A realistic, not-so-tidy spot on my workbench in the studio/office. I love this limited art print by Ohkii Studio because she painted it out of inspiration of American Samoa in the 1940s, and the fact that the two brown women in the va’a (outrigger canoe) are wearing red tropical print dresses very similar to one that I made for myself (DIY Upcycled Tahiti-Inspired 2 Piece Outfit) some time ago. It felt very “me”!

Samoan fish motif art by Warren King. Photo of me and my hubba hubba on the day that he proposed to me at the top of Mt. Alava. Betwixt the new curtain panels to shade us from the heat of the afternoon sun.

One of my favorite views is the view outside my living room overlooking the Pala Lagoon and the Nu’uuli mountains. This view is my daily source of gratitude and honestly I feel like a house plant thriving whenever I look out these windows.

Same view, I just opened the window to take this photo of the lagoon and mountains. It truly brings me so much joy.

A diy beaded tassel that I made earlier in the summer hanging here on the screen door that leads to our porch balcony.

We left the screen of the sliding door open so that Yodi and Officer Scruffles can go in and out of the balcony and take long afternoon naps.

This bookshelf where we keep some of our favorite books, books to read, random shells, and our small collection of classic games like chess, cards, dice, dominoes, and bananagrams.

Officer Scruffles lounging outside by the front door balcony. He likes to roll around on the cement and lay in the sun.

Outside the back door balcony, looking towards the beach in the front of our apartment. I go out the back door pretty much every day to check the tide, or see if our friends are in the treehouse to hang out.

Downstairs below the back balcony where we share a compost with our neighbors. It’s great for us too because we can just open our back door and chuck our food scraps into the pile, and on weekends the guys will turn the soil. Also, the main source for my rich garden soil.

Shadows cast onto the tin roof of the house downstairs of our front door balcony, with a net I don’t think anyone realizes is lost except us.

Me, blurry, because I need to clean the dust off this mirror we placed in our entry so we can check ourselves before we head out, and pick up reusable tote bags, our keys, or a mask if we need one from the hanging rack.

The pantry shelf above the mirror. We have a small space, but we try to make each space as functional and beautiful as we can. This houses most of our snacks, canned foods, extra milk, and jars.

And a portrait of sweet Yodi girl, who was born and raised here at Coconut Point for as long as I’ve lived here.

Yodi spends many afternoons on either this side of our gated balcony, or on the porch balcony because she and our neighbor’s dog do not get along, so we have them outside on a rotational schedule.

She actually recently got into a pretty nasty fight with the other dog, and she’s almost fully recovered from her big scars. She went swimming with us the other night too.


Well I hope you enjoyed this little home tour—my personal slice of paradise!

Hope you’re staying well, healthy, and getting sunshine wherever you can.

xo, Nerelle

Making Siapo with Fa’aSamoa Arts

Making Siapo with Fa’aSamoa Arts

What is Siapo?

Siapo is an ancient Samoan art form, similar to painting, but instead the canvas is called tapa (made by pounding barkcloth stripped from the mulberry tree), the paintbrush is a paogo (pandanus seed), and the inks are made from nature. The lama (black ink) is made from soot, and the o’a (brown ink) is made from the bark of the o’a tree.

Siapo art is a very tedious and painstaking process from start to finish. It isn’t a widely practiced art form in American Samoa these days. That’s why local Samoan artist Reggie Meredith Fitiao (and her husband Su’a Uilisone Fitiao) share their knowledge to keep the tradition alive.

Enter — Fa’aSamoa Arts

This local non-profit, run by Reggie and Su’a, was established to rekindle a passion for Samoan traditional arts by sharing the power of knowledge, hosting siapo making workshops for youth, and hopefully soon, they will open their studio shop too. Their studio is based in Leone, where Reggie was raised and where siapo made a comeback in the the 1960s and 1970s, thanks to her mentor, the infamous Mary J. Pritchard, who was also from Leone. You can read more Mary Pritchard, and about Fa’aSamoa Arts on their beautiful new website created by Mary Anne Bordanaro.

I’m a member of the Rotaract Club of Pago Pago, and in our recent meetings, Reggie was invited as a guest speaker because she was a previous Rotaractor also. She shared her experience with Rotaract, and her journey as an artist. And invited our club to a workshop at the Fa’aSamoa Arts studio. I wish I’d brought my camera with me, but ah whale, here’s a smattering of iPhone photos 🙂

Making Siapo

At the studio, we sat on long benches lined up in two rows of trestle tables. We were handed glass jars with the labels removed, and instructed to roll the jar over sheets of prepared tapa to smooth out our canvas.

Reggie welcomed us warmly and shared an overview of tapa and the varieties of tapa made throughout the Pacific (ie. kapa in Hawaii, ngatu in Tonga, etc). She and Mary held up examples of barkcloth with beautiful designs and passed it around the room so we could feel and observe the differences and unique qualities of each art form from other Pacific islands. I learned that Samoan tapa is two ply, overlapped together with a natural starch to strengthen the canvas and reduce stretch. We asked questions

Reggie proceeded to the floor where a large carved wooden log made of ifilele sat on top of a woven mat. She held out two wooden mallets (I forget their names). One with smooth ridges around the square head, and another that had a smooth rounded head. She explained that the one with the soft ridges was used to pound the bark into cloth. For Reggie, she said it takes her about 15 minutes of pounding just to make one sheet. She showed us first, pounding in a rhythm of three beats – thump… thump thump… thump… thump thump…

We got a chance to pound the tapa too, and I was the first to to give it a go. I could definitely see how this could be a meditative practice, and also how it could be an arm workout! I went on for just a couple minutes, but I think after 5 minutes I would’ve gotten tired. We took turns pounding and the bark flattened to about 16 x 24 inches. We didn’t have enough time that evening to all pound tapa, so Reggie was kind enough to share tapa she had already prepared for us to take our art home.

Once our tapa was smooth from rolling the glass jars over the surface, we picked out paogo to use as brushes. The tips of the seeds were trimmed to reveal the hair like brush. Reggie explained several traditional motifs used in siapo art and what each meant and how they were used. She encouraged us to be creative within these motifs and ideas to incorporate them onto our siapo.

We each sketched our designs lightly with a pencil first. Reggie showed us how to hold the paogo properly: angled with three fingers only (thumb, index, and middle finger). And learned that the trick is to always paint away from ourselves, never toward us. We shared little cups filled with lama, which is much more viscous and a very rich black. Most of us painted over our sketch lines, others opted to use the black to fill in their drawings. And then we painted with the o’a, which is more watery and very subtle at first but would darken over time.

We spent the next couple hours painting. I was happily entranced in the process. The vibes were really good all around, and our Rotaract team asked questions and complimented each others’ work. At the end of the workshop, we took a group photo (with Reggie’s cat and dog too!) and our siapo art.

Ian and Nerelle sketching

For most, if not all of us, this was our first time making Siapo. So I am extremely grateful to have had the privilege to learn from such a renowned artist as Reggie. And many thanks to my Rotaract Club board for organizing this workshop!

Moonrise Over the Ocean

Moonrise Over the Ocean

The neighborhood dogs are howling into the night, echoing each other without a pause, as I walk over the freshly cut grass of the lawn, past the paved road, and climb up the wooden steps to the treehouse. My husband and several of our friends are sitting on the pier, listening to island jams, sipping on beers, and nibbling on chips being passed around to share. I set my camera up on my mini tripod, attaching it to my massive Sigma 105mm f/1.4 fixed lens. I look down at my watch and it’s a little past 9pm. The moon would be rising soon. I rest the tripod on the thick teak wood rail of the treehouse and fiddle with the camera’s manual mode when I see a razor thin orange outline in the horizon. The moon slowly peeked out from the imaginary line in the sky and I snap away silently while the muffled conversation dims. Everyone gazed at this wondrous muted yellow orange orb grow bright and high in the sky, interrupted by the occasional cloud rolling through. The cool ocean breeze gives me goosebumps and I wrap my linen button-up a little tighter for warmth.