Friday, July 28, 2017

My New Favorite Dinner Shortcut: Marion's Kitchen

I've been a lazy bum when it comes to making dinner lately. The less amount of work, the better.  Luckily, I've found this amazing box mix called Marion's Kitchen. They are Asian meal kits that use clean ingredients.  And I love them!

First off, this isn't a sponsored post. I'm not even an affiliate, I just love this product so much that I want to share it with you! We've made three separate meals now - Kung Pao, Korma Curry and Butter Chicken.  Each one has been really easy to make and the flavors have been amazing.  Aaron's been eating them without adding extra sauce which is HUGE for him! That's saying something when he's not adding extra flavor.

This week, we made the Pad Thai.  I had some chicken breast that I had cut up and frozen last week, so we used that for our meat.

The kit comes with everything you need to make your meal except for the meat and anything fresh you might need.  The pad thai meal needed an egg, so we also provided that. Everything else came in the kit.

The kit has three packages.  There are instructions both on the box and on each of the packages.  They are numbered in the order that you use them.  It's pretty much idiot-proof.  I had already used pack one when I took the photo above, it had the rice noodles. Once we made the rice noodles, then the recipe called for browning the chicken.  After the chicken was browned, I was instructed to move the chicken to the side and add the egg to fry it.  I know to do that from making fried rice and other dishes, but those helpful tips are part of the reason I love these kits!

Then I just added the noodles and the contents of pack 2, which was the sauce.

For the third pack, I just chopped the peanuts.  This meal was seriously ready in about 20 minutes.  I told Aaron that it would take about 30 and I was pleasantly surprised how quickly it all came together!

Here's my favorite part, though.  Check out the ingredients:

Every single one of them is something I recognize.  There aren't any crazy chemicals or things you can't pronounce, but actual food as the ingredients. After Whole 30, I pay a lot more attention to the ingredients list and am always shocked at what is in packaged products.  I love that these mixes have good, clean ingredients and that I actually know what they all are!

I've mostly found these at Harris Teeter and Kroger.  They tend to be a little more expensive, about $10 each, but they make four solid servings.  We get dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day out of these meals, so for me, it's worth it.  If you love Asian food and you like a good, quick, clean meal, definitely check these out!  They've become a staple in our pantry!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Lighthouses, Ghost Crabs and Seafood: Our Week at Emerald Isle

We spent the last week on a much needed vacation at Emerald Isle, NC.  I haven't actually stayed at Emerald Isle before, we normally do Myrtle Beach or Carolina Beach, so I'm excited to tell you all about our week!

We chose Emerald Isle because we wanted a more chill beach vacation.  Myrtle Beach is really crowded, so is Wrightsville, and we wanted this to be more relaxing than go-go-go.  We went with my mom, my dad had to work.  But before we knew he had to work, we had decided on Emerald Isle because while it's still part of the Outer Banks, it's not a four-hour drive to get there (just three).  We stayed at Queen's Court, which is a condo right on the beach. The facility was great! Our two bedroom was super comfy and the perfect amount of room for the three of us.  We also liked that we could all come and go as we pleased.

This was the view from our condo.

We didn't spend a ton of time on the beach. We mostly went in the mornings because a) it was hot and b) I burn super easy.  God made Sarah to be white, not tan.

Since I normally work out multiple times during the week, we made sure to do a few 3 mile walks. We would walk from our condo to the pier and back, which was about 3 miles.  We also went ghost crab hunting one night. I'd never done that before! We didn't catch one, but someone else did, so we were able to see it.  I tried to get a photo, but it's hard to get a good shot of them! Just know that we did in fact see a ghost crab!

I had Aaron take this shot on one of our walks.  I hadn't seen a beach so deserted and peaceful before! It was too beautiful not to take a photo.

I'm going to be really honest and tell you that I gained five pounds on this vacation. And I regretted none of them! Mom made brownies ahead of time and I was on a steady three to four brownie a day diet. It was glorious.  We also made dinners at home twice to help save money.  But we also ate all the seafood!  Here's where we ate, what I got and what I thought:

Rucker John's, Emerald Isle - This place was recommended to me by a couple of co-worker's and there was a crazy wait each time, so I'm going to say it's a good place to go! We started with the Crab and Crackers, which was really good! And we actually ran out of crackers before we ran out of dip, that's a first! I got the fettucine alfredo with shrimp.  The sauce was nice and thick and they gave me lots of shrimp! I really liked this place.  Our waitress wasn't the best and there was a long wait (about an hour at 6 pm), but it's in a shopping center, so you can shop while you wait.  Definitely worth a visit!

Channel Marker, Atlantic Beach - So, funny story. While here, we actually sat right behind a girl that I grew up with.  I actually recognized her husband first, who I've never even met.  Her back was to me and I didn't want to be a creeper, so I didn't say anything.  But then she posted it on Facebook and I said something. It was just really crazy, you don't expect to see someone you know from Fayetteville at the beach! So the Channel Marker is one of my dad's favorite restaurants, so we made sure to go there.  I started with the She Crab Soup, which was way too rich for me.  There is a restaurant in Fayetteville, NC, where I grew up, called Luigi's, that has the best She Crab Soup.  It can't be beat. I wasn't a huge fan of the She Crab Soup at the Channel Marker, Aaron ended up eating half of mine.  For my entree, I got the Sea Scallops. I love scallops. These were just a tad undercooked. Not to where they were gross, but I wanted them cooked like two more minutes. It was the difference between good and fabulous. Everyone enjoyed their food and the service was great. Would recommend if you're near Atlantic Beach!

Isle Fry Seafood, Emerald Isle - This is a pretty new restaurant.  We met a couple while there and Aaron made a friend, of course. They were an older couple that had moved down to Emerald Isle a few years ago.  They were telling us that the restaurant opened earlier in the year and that they hadn't tried it yet.  The prices were a little high, in my opinion, but you got a ton of food! It's more your fried, Calabash style of seafood.  I got shrimp, Aaron got clam strips and mom got fried oysters and they were all amazing! And so. much. food! Definitely check this place out if you like fried food! You won't be sorry or hungry!

Cape Lookout, NC
My favorite part of our vacation was going to the lighthouse.  Growing up, my Poppa Hollon, my dad's dad, was obsessed with lighthouses. When they were moving Hatteras, he'd go down and take photos every step of the way. I'd never been to one of the lighthouses before and decided that we needed to visit one while we were at the beach. Cape Lookout was the closest and even that was an hour and a half away! Part of that was because we had to take a ferry.  It was definitely worth the trip!

The cool thing about Cape Lookout is that it hasn't really been touched.  As the park ranger told us, the view from the top is pretty much what the keepers saw two hundred years ago.  Pretty cool!

On the ferry, we passed by Shackleford Banks and even got to see some of the wild horses.

We checked out the beach at Cape Lookout while waiting for our turn to climb the lighthouse.  The waters were gorgeous! I honestly didn't feel like I was at a North Carolina beach.  The water was a gorgeous, clear blue.  The sand, however, was crazy hot and burned our feet. You've never seen me sprint so fast as moving over that sand!

The climb up the lighthouse was 207 steps, so 414 steps total.  It wasn't too bad.  There were about four landings that made the climb easier.  But the view, that was totally worth it!

Some views from up top.

Here's a panoramic I took from the top of the lighthouse:

After climbing the lighthouse, we took the ferry back and had dinner at the Channel Marker restaurant.  It was honestly my favorite day of our trip.

I've decided that going to the beach at 31 is very different than it's been in past years. One, I've learned that I really, really hate the sand. I hate how it gets everywhere.  But I also love the calm, peaceful feeling you get when you're at the beach.  I think my favorite way to enjoy the beach is walking on it, not necessarily laying out.  I've finally learned how to enjoy the beach without turning into a lobster (only took 31 years!). But mostly, I think my favorite part about the beach is that you can do whatever. You can be a lazy bum and sleep for 12 hours a day (which I did), eat four brownies a day (I also did), or you can choose to be adventurous (which we also did).  And each one is okay. No one cares what you do and that is glorious.  Plus, we knocked two items off my summer bucket list (week at the beach and a lighthouse).  All in all, I call this vacation a success.  If you haven't been to Emerald Isle, or a lighthouse, check them out!

Happy hump day!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Consistency: Keeping It Moving When You Feel Stuck

I've been thinking about consistency for a long time.  I've thought about doing a post on it and each time, it takes a different shape and I come up with a new reason not to do it.  It mostly centers on the fact that I haven't felt like I've been all that consistent lately. Which is also probably why I feel the need to write the post.  It came up again when my friend Molly over at Still Being Molly wrote this post called "Success Comes to Those Who Keep Showing Up" and I swear it's like it was written for me. So today I'm showing up and I'm going to finally do that post on consistency.

Consistency is when you keep coming back and pushing forward on something, even when it feels like you haven't moved an inch. It might only be an 1/8 of a centimeter. But you keep coming back. For me, this comes into play the most with my writing and my journey to a healthier me.

Consistency in Writing
I have always loved to write. When I was younger, I'd devour book after book and then, when I got bored, I'd write my own stories.  I was never really super creative with writing new fiction stories, which is probably why I've never been able to actually sit down and write a whole book. I can't ever seem to come up with my own unique idea. But give me a really good starting point and I can do wonders! When I went to college, I minored in Writing. Holy reality check. It was hard. I'd always been told I was a great writer and then I had this professor that told me my grammar was terrible and my ideas were flat. What?! No way! I've always been the grammar nazi and everyone always loved my stuff and here's this guy telling me otherwise.

But he was right. My grammar was terrible and my stories were flat. He pushed me. He made me think deeper about how I told a story, what adjectives I used, what voice I used or didn't use and I became a better writer for it. I learned that I do best telling my own stories, which is why I blog. That and federal regulations get really boring.  But if you want to talk about any of the HUD regulations, sadly, I'm your girl!

Blogging isn't my job, though. So it's hard to stay focused and consistent. I don't ever see this as becoming something that I do full-time because I like being a City employee! I love my job and I get to help people find and keep housing that probably couldn't do it on their own.  And that satisfaction I won't get from blogging.  But, in the same vein, the satisfaction I get from writing and sharing with people I also can't get from my day job.

Next month will be a full year on this blog. Mostly posting three times a week, sometimes two, I've had blogs before, two actually, but this is the first one I've been truly consistent with posting. I've pushed myself and joined a blogger group, taken classes, branched out and tried new things. And some days it is truly disheartening to look at my numbers. I think "But I only have this many readers!" or "Only x amount of views this week?!' especially if it's on a topic that I think will get a lot of traffic. It's hard! And when you've got a busy schedule and you haven't done your blog work for the week and your post should be up tomorrow, you think, "Why even bother?!"

Because I'm doing this for me. Yes, I love that I have people that read what I write. It's especially cool when I don't know you and you read what I right. Hello validation! But writing feeds my soul. I set out to do this blog, The Zinn Life, for me. To have an outlet, to maybe help someone else that's like me and trying to find their best self again, to write about shoes and pretty things and not write a compliance report. Knowing that is what keeps me going and what keeps me posting.

Consistency on My Health Journey
My weight and I have been in an epic battle since day 1. I was a chunky baby and my rolls had rolls.  But that's okay when you're a baby. It's the only time it's allowed, encouraged even, to be chunky. It's not so wonderful as you grow up.  I'm not going to go into my battle with my weight, because I've written about it. But for the past year and a half, I've been on this journey to be a healthier me. I'm not focusing on my weight, but it is a big part of how you judge your success. Over a year and a half, I've only lost about 23 pounds. I've lost a good amount of inches and I've gained a ton of confidence in my strength and abilities. I"m stronger, I'm faster, and I'm generally happier. But then you get stuck.

Getting healthy, losing weight, whatever you're trying to do is hard. It's HARD. I had to start taking before and after pictures in the beginning because the numbers weren't moving. I felt better, my clothes were fitting better, but my weight was exactly the same. And it was devastating. Part of it was that I was focusing on my working out and not on eating. Your diet plays a much larger role in your health than you can possibly imagine. I got the eating under control and that's when I really started to see a difference. Overall, I can tell that I've had some big successes. But when you get down to the day to day, week to week changes, it's nothing. And to quote Pitch Perfect, "A mistake can haunt you for the rest of your life and effect your children."

Okay, maybe not that extreme. But you get it. It's rough. It's hard. It's depressing and if you think about it too much, you think, "Why?" When the scale creeps back up another two pounds, you think "Why am I even trying?" Because you're doing this for you. You can also do it for someone else (your kids, your family, etc), but deep down, it needs to be for you. When you're healthier, you're happier with yourself, you have more confidence and you're more likely to keep it moving and be consistent than if you give up. It's so much easier to pick back up after a frustrating day than to start all over. Trust me. I've done both many, many times.

Tips for Being Consistent
  1. Know you're why. At the end of the day, knowing why I'm doing something is what always picks me back up. I blog for me. I'm working out and eating better for me. When you think about your why, not the results, it's easier to keep it moving.
  2. Give yourself a tiny pity party and get back to it. Pity parties are cathartic. Sometimes they just need to happen. You can't act like you don't feel what you feel, otherwise, you'll drown in all the feelings. Go ahead, feel it. Get angry, get sad, whatever you want. And then go right back to it the next day.
  3. Reward yourself. If you've been particularly consistent for a while, give yourself a treat. It's hard to be consistent! Life is busy and you've managed to keep a bunch of things going at one time. Celebrate you. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

What I'm Reading: A Week at the Beach

Earlier this year, I made a pact with myself that I would try and read more than just smut romance books. My inner English major was starting to die a little on the inside. I've been doing a reading challenge this year, but that felt so mundance to write about, so instead I'm starting a new series: What I'm Reading. A real time look at what books I'm reading during super important events, like a week at the beach.

Beach and pool times are my favorite reading times.  They aren't really Aaron's favorite times, because he's not a huge lay in the sun and read kind of guy. Do those guys exist?! But for me, this is my happy place. So here's what I'm reading for a week at the beach.

Lauren Conrad: Celebrate

My favorite part of reading a book is getting lost in someone else's life, even if that person isn't real. A good book makes their life feel real and like you're part of it. Bloggers do much the same thing.  We let you in to our lives, show you how we live, what we wear, eat, decorate our houses with and do.  It's always fun to step outside of your life and into someone else's. It's magical and why books have always been my first love. But what if you went from just a glimpse through articles and posts to an actual book about how to live like someone else, how to curate your own life?

Enter lifestyle books.

Mind blown. I found this book perusing cookbooks at Barnes and Nobles. It's =one of my favorite lazy day activities. I grab a big stack of books, find a table in Starbucks and flip through all the pages. I take pictures of the ones I want to check out from the library and possibly purchase.  This book was in the cookbook section. But it's not just a cookbook. It's a how-to party plan your entire life book. And I love it!

She goes through invitations, making a guest list, choosing your outfit, and, of course, some recipes for multiple types of gatherings. And they all look straight out of a magazine. And she writes in such a way that it sounds like you're sitting with your girlfriend telling you about her party. You think, "I can totally do that."  Definitely worth of a dreamy day on the beach thinking your life is way more put together than it actually is!

Curtis Sittenfeld: Eligible

I've been a huge Curtis Sittenfeld fan since her first book, Prep.  She is a wonderful storyteller and has one foot in chick lit land and one foot out.  I picked up Eligible at the library off the Lucky Day shelf.  You have 7 days to read the book and no renewals.  I never do so hot with that, but this one I did! A week to yourself helps!

It's a modern retelling of Pride and Prejudice. I know, there have been many.  And, honestly, I enjoy most of them.  I love to see what writers can do to a traditional, well known story to make it their own.  In this version, it's set in Cincinnatti.  Mr. Bingley is the lead of a Bachelor-esque TV show. And you have all types of characters such as a transgender cross-fitter, a terrible love interest for Liz that you love to hate and quirkey personalities for each of the sisters.  It's a great beach read.  

Maureen Chiquet: Beyond the Label

Non-fiction was never really my favorite genre, but I've found that I love memoirs and people's stories. If one day, I was to fulfill my lifelong dream to become a writer and actually sit down and write an entire book (which my ADD probably won't ever allow), I'd imagine it would be a memoir.  Sometimes, true stories are so much more fascinating than real life! I picked this book up at the library.  It was on the new book shelf and piqued my interest.

This book, while career advice, is also the story of a woman that worked herself into the CEO position of Chanel. And it's pretty fascinating so far. She starts out by telling you that she can't give you the magic recipe for success or the steps you should take, but that she can tell you what she did. What decisions she made along the way.

Luz Gabas: Palm Trees in the Snow

In my never-ending quest to find non-smut books to read, I found this one on Amazon.  It was free for Kindle readers, so I figured "hey, why not?"

I've really gotten into it so far. The book is about a Spanish family with two sons that go to work with their father on a cocoa plantation in Guinea, Africa. That description, however, makes it seem much more calm and tranquil than it is.  They go from a quiet mountain village to basically overseers on a plantation.  Men work on the plantation for 24 months at a time and then have a long vacation. The novel looks at the life of these men and how the decisions and secrets from their time on the plantation 30 years ago effect the lives of their children.

Amazon calls it an epic historical family saga and they aren't far off.  It sat on my Kindle for a while because it was hard to get into.  It's a little slow at first and you keep thinking, "Where am I?" and "Where is this set?," but once you get in a few chapters, you're hooked.  I appreciate that it's a different story than is usually told.  I, at least, haven't read much about families that worked cocoa plantations as overseers in Africa.  There is also a good amount of history as you get to watch the political climate change in Guinea and how the brothers end up leaving.

Those are my four books for my week at the beach.  Not going to lie, I've pretty much rotated between all of them and have only finished one. When I was a kid, that's how I used to read: I'd have four or five books going at once.  I grew up watching soap operas with my babysitter, so I'm well trained at this!  What are you reading this summer?

*All photos of covers are courtesy of

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Influenster Product Review: L'Oreal Triple Power Voxbox

For the longest time, I did nothing with my face skin care wise. Nada. Zip. Zilch. I mean, I used a face wipe to wipe off the make-up from the day before, but I don't think that even really counted.  But I did an Influenster voxbox for Origins (which you can read here) and found products that I really liked and could see myself using. So much so that I've bought some of them full price! I was excited to get the notification for this voxbox.  I didn't know that it was for L'Oreal, but I did know that it was an anti-aging cream. I don't think I particularly need anti-aging cream, but I figure your 30s is probably a good time to start.

The way Influenster works is they send you complimentary products for your honest review.  I am not compensated in any way and my thoughts are my own.

So, I got the box. It was a full size product of the L'Oreal Triple Power anti-aging cream.  I was supposed to put it on morning and night for 14 days and take a before and after photo.

First off, I look angry, but I'm not. I'm just not supposed to smile. Looking at my naked face, I don't really see that much that needs improving. I do have some bags under my eyes, but other than that, my skin looks clear and I don't really see many signs of aging.  I have my mother's skin, thank you Lord!

My first impression when I put on the product was the smell. I hated it. The cream was heavily perfumed and it smelled like I rolled my face in a perfume counter. Or, like an old lady. All I could smell was my face for at least 10 minutes and that is not what I want when I first get out of the shower. The cream itself was a nice texture, not too heavy, didn't leave my face feeling sticky or oily.  But that smell.

I used the product for 14 days. I used it every morning and mostly every night.  I'll admit that I wasn't always the best at remembering to use it at night (still getting used to that whole skincare routine thing).

Looking at the comparison, I can see that the bags under my eyes decreased and some lines around my mouth, too. Honestly, I wasn't expecting to see much, so these were pretty good results in my opinion.

When the 14 days were over, I stopped using the product. I have no intention of using the product again. And here is why: the smell!

I'm not what you would call a crunchy or granola girl. I'm not someone that is actively trying to only use organic or chemical free products, but I do care about what is in my products. I have not closely examined what is in this product, so I'm not commenting on that, but the smell is not a natural one. It's way too overpowering for that.  I don't want my face to smell or to smell my face. I don't wear perfume every day and, honestly, some days I felt like I couldn't wear it because of this moisturizer. The last thing I wanted was to be that person that walked by and all you smelled was them.

However, I do think that this product has good results. I was very surprised to be able to see the results I did in 14 days. If you don't mind the smell (it does smell nice), then I would recommend this product to you. It was just too overpowering for me.  I was happy to go back to my regular moisturizer. The other good thing is that it's a really great price at about $10. So you could try it out and not feel like you made a huge investment if you were interested.

Overall, I was actually pretty surprised by this product. It works really well. I just don't like the smell. Would you wear a smelly moisturizer or am I just crazy?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

What We Ate: Meal Prep Sunday

I know, I know. It's Wednesday, not Sunday. But I spent a lot of time meal prepping this Sunday and approached our meals this week a bit differently, so I'm sharing! Cause sharing is caring.

For a while, I've been making about four to five meals a week. After going to the gym. It's tiring and the past few weeks, I've been really susceptible to things like Subway and Cookout. It's just easier. So, I've changed it up. I'm trying to do two big meals and eat off the leftovers during the week. Then I only have to cook twice a week - once on Sunday and again on Wednesday. This is our first week trying it, so we'll see.

Here's what we have this week!

Snack Prep

We are all about snacks in this house. I got pretty good at not snacking as much with Whole 30, but then I have gone back to a morning snack and an afternoon snack. For me, smaller meals just work. Plus, Aaron is outside during the day and has breaks, so I make sure we have some good snacks.  I buy in large bags and then portion everything out Sunday night.

This week we have:

Banana Chips
I've been on this banana chip kick. It's actually the best of both worlds - I like the banana flavor, but not the texture. With chips, I don't get the mushy texture of a banana. I've been buying this Mariani brand and I really enjoy them!

Jackson's Honest Sweet Potato Chips
These are my favorite chips! I found them during Whole 30 and I have been hooked ever since. It's just sweet potatoes, coconut oil and sea salt.  Even Aaron loves them! I buy multiple bags at at time from Thrive Market and then portion out into little snack bags.

I always try to have fruit on hand for snacking. Last week I had cantaloupe, this week it's cherries and strawberries!

I keep all of our non-perishable snacks in a basket on the kitchen counter beside the cookie jar and our drink mix basket. Everything is right there together, so you can just grab and go at once.

Meal Prep
I made two meals this week:  PaleOMG's Pizza Spaghetti Pie and the Pioneer Woman's Mexican Tortilla Casserole.  The links are to the respective recipes.  You're welcome.

I went ahead and made the Pizza Spaghetti Pie Sunday night. I didn't make it until late, but it heats up really well.  It's a meal I always make on the weekends because it takes a while.  Even if you prepped the spaghetti squash beforehand, you still have to brown the meat and then bake for an hour. It's a long time that I don't have during the week. We both really like this recipe and sometimes I jazz it up with some cheese (not Paleo) and pepperoni. 

For the casserole, I went ahead and chopped the onion and garlic, made the rice and cubed the chicken.  I thought about going ahead and making the chicken, but I was getting tired. By doing all of the chopping ahead of time, I can literally dump everything in the pan and cook it after class. Then I just need to build the casserole and bake for 20 minutes. I haven't made this one before, but I'm pretty sure I can handle it!

So far, I've enjoyed this type of meal planning. I'm making the casserole tonight, so we'll see how it goes. But not having to cook Monday night after class was amazing.  I'm pretty sure Aaron is enjoying less nights of doing dishes too! Another bonus is I'm pretty sure I'm wasting less food. I always have grander plans for meal making than what actually happens. 

What are you eating this week?


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Kayaking: Outdoors for the Non-Outdoorsy

Aaron's birthday was this past weekend. His birthday is July 2 and is almost always the same weekend as July 4th parties. We're inevitably having to schedule his birthday gatherings around cookouts, but he could honestly care less.  Probably because he always manages to have awesome birthdays.  As a kid, he had what they called "Aaron Fests" and had huge, ridiculous parties. Even as an adult we've pulled off some awesome parties. But this year was pretty cool. This year he got a party...and a kayak.

Let me begin this by saying that I jokingly, yet mostly not, tell people that God did not make Sarah for nature. And it's true. I don't camp. I don't like bugs. I'm not a huge fan of being covered in dirt or sand. And I hate, hate, hate wet grass. High maintenance, I know. But kayaking is one of those outdoorsy activities that even I can get behind.  Consider these facts: 
  1. You're not actually in the water. You're in a boat the whole time, so no creatures touching you. 
  2. It's not a lot of work. You're just paddling. At least on calm lakes and rivers like we normally do. 
  3. If you get tired, you just chill. 
  4. There are tons of places to rent kayaks in the Triangle area.  We've been going to Lake Wheeler, near my in-laws, but Lake Mitchie in Durham also has them. So you can still get involved with kayaking without having to spend a lot of money.
Given those things, even I can do kayaking.

We've gone kayaking with Aaron's family twice now. We have friends that have kayaks and Aaron's been wanting one for a while. It was actually my dad's idea to get Aaron a kayak for his birthday, but we got the whole family (even some friends) involved in this gift. It was a production. I ordered the kayak and paddle online, shipped the paddle to his friend's house and that same friend picked up the kayak in the store. He kept it at his house for two weeks for me.  He and Aaron also work out almost every day together, so I'm surprised one of us didn't tell him. Then we surprised him at Lake Wheeler with his very own kayak. 

So, if you decide to trek into the kayak world, or if you are thinking of treking into the kayak world, here's some numbers for you. The kayak I chose at Dick's Sporting Goods. It's a Pelican Maverick and had the sit-in seat that Aaron wanted and a place to put his stuff (but not water proof). It's a 10 foot kayak, nothing special.  I got it on sale for $290. The paddle was $40 and I got his life vest at Wal-mart for $9. So about $350 with tax.  

Then you need somewhere to store it.  They aren't small items! We found this pulley system at Dick's Sporting Goods for $30.  It holds the kayak from the ceiling.  Aaron and his friend Josh installed it on the 4th.  

There are also cheaper options available. I would definitely recommend renting kayaks before buying them.  If you live in the Triangle, here are some places you can rent them:
There are probably others, but these should get you started.  So if you're looking for a reason to get outside and enjoy nature without being too into nature, try kayaking.  If I enjoy it, you will too!