Fish and Whiskey


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We finally got a chance to explore a little bit more of Atlanta, thanks to my daughter coming for a quick visit from CA, on her way to LA and FL. (The apple didn’t fall far from the tree when it comes to a lot of things, travel being just one of them.)

First stop after picking her up at the airport was the Georgia Aquarium.  I had purchased tickets online earlier in the week, and didn’t notice they were for the wrong day until Friday. I have to say their customer service department was very helpful and quickly got us rescheduled for Saturday. It’s a nice aquarium, as aquariums go, but I was underwhelmed for most of it. (Although I do still squeal just a little bit when I see certain exhibits – the penguins, for instance.) The whale sharks were very cool, as were the penguins, sea otters and sea dragons.  Other than that, it is very much like every other aquarium I’ve been to –  Mystic, Boston, Camden, Baltimore, Monterey, and San Francisco come to mind. And some on that list are better in my opinion.

Georgia Aquarium is involved in a lot of conservation efforts, but I just wish more of it had been more visible to the casual visitor.  There are several “add ons” to the general admission which allow you behind the scenes and to special events where you can learn more about their conservation efforts. I’m not suggesting it’s not worth a visit, I just expected a bit more for the price. (It was almost $40/person for admission on a Saturday afternoon.) I did manage to get some pictures of my favorite exhibits, though, so not a bad start to the afternoon!

I had to giggle a bit when I saw the sea dragons.  My dad served on the USS Seadragon in the early 70’s.  I’m not sure I knew (or at least didn’t remember)  what an actual sea dragon looked like until yesterday. Not very formidable looking if you ask me.  The submarine was, though.

From the aquarium we decided to head to Sweetwater Brewery, a local  brewery, so my girl could have some local beer. We got caught in a bit of traffic as the GA Tech game had just let out, but it wasn’t too bad overall.  The brewery parking lot was blocked off, so we parked across the street and noticed a chalkboard advertising whiskey tasting.  Tough call – whiskey or beer? We were approached by a gentleman passing out coupons for the whiskey tasting, and that clinched the deal for us. (We also learned later the brewery was closed for a private event by the time we arrived.  We’ll try again on my girl’s next visit.)

ASW, or American Spirit Works, opened its distillery and tasting room in Atlanta in July.  They’ve been crafting whiskey for several years, but now we get to enjoy it in this wonderful space. There are currently three releases, American Spirit Whiskey, White Dog Whiskey, and The Fiddler Bourbon. All three good and unique in their own ways. And holy cow, if you like bourbon,  get your hands on a bottle of The Fiddler. In addition to the tasting room, they have a wonderful event facility next door, The Stave Room. If you are in Atlanta and enjoy whiskey, we can definitely recommend a visit to ASW.  (Check out their website here.)



The rest of the evening was spent at home visiting and relaxing. We delivered our guest to the airport after a late brunch, and I am already looking for someplace to explore next weekend…fall is in the air, and I am sure the Blue Ridge Mountains are full of color!


Hawaii History


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Today was Hawaii history day.  Our first stop (after coffee, of course!) was Iolani Palace. We had to drive around the block a few times to find the entrance to the parking lot we’d spotted, only to find it was 30 minute only parking. Knowing that wouldn’t be near enough time, we found a public parking lot a few blocks away.  We were able to get into the 10:30AM tour without a reservation, and had time to watch the video beforehand. I didn’t realize how much of Hawaiian history I had forgotten, or perhaps not been exposed to.  Either way, each stop today was a stark reminder.
Iolani Palace is beautiful, and the tour (self-guided audio) does a good job at explaining the history of the monarchy and the history of the palace. We put coverings over our shoes before entering the building, and toured the first and second floors.  The basement is a gallery of photos and the kitchen. King Kalakaua built the palace in 1882 and had electric lights, a telephone and indoor plumbing long before it was fashionable. His sister, Queen Liliuokalani was actually imprisoned in a room within the palace.

This was built for King Kalakua’s coronation

The latest in high-end fashion footwear!

Glass imported from England and etched in San Francisco

Hawaii was a very cultured and civilized society prior to the arrival of missionaries and US troops. Queen Liliuokalani and her sisters were guests at Queen Victoria’s jubliee celebration, and Hawaii appealed to Britain for sovereignty prior to annexation by the US. Despite attempts (by outside forces and monarchs) to stifle the Hawaiian heritage and traditions, they continue to this day thanks to the efforts of many.

On our way back to the car we stopped at the Kawaiaha’o Church. We’d passed by the cemetary on the back side on our way to Iolani Palace, but we took the time to look around the church grounds and inside on our way back.

I wasn’t aware of the Vermont connection with Hawaii until today.

I had to take a picture of the pipes for all my organist friends!

D. looked at me askance when I suggested we walk through the cemetery to the car. I avoided the temptation to wander the rows of headstones, however. (I love meandering old cemeteries – you can get such a feel for an area through the history told on old headstones. Another “pasttime” I learned from my parents!)

Our next visit was Queen Emma’s Summer Palace. As we got out of the car we both commented on the cool breeze that blew through the trees – I’d also have chosen to go inland and upward to escape the heat of Honolulu, too! This was the family retreat, and there were many items belonging to Queen Emma on display. 

I had a wonderful conversation with two members of the Daughters of Hawaii. This organization runs the Summer Palace. We talked at length about growing up here many years ago, and how at home I have felt these past two weeks. They both said the island was calling me home, and I shouldn’t fight it. No debate as to whether we can or should, or even how…just do it, and if it is meant to be, it will be. (I can just imagine the look on my other half’s face when he greets me at the airport at 7AM on Saturday…Honey, I’m moving back to Oah’u, are you coming with me?!) D. will confirm that I have talked about moving back and feeling the “pull” since our first day. She will also confirm I have hatched many a plan as to how I can make the move work!

From the Summer Palace we ventured to The Bishop’s Museum. It has areas that are interactive, and of course I channeled my inner child and played! If you want an intimate view of Hawaiian history over the centuries, spend a day here.  We had limited time, so we did just one building. Incredible facts, figures, photos, relics and more about Hawaii history.

We had hoped to return to Lucky Belly for lunch as we were very close to Chinatown. Alas, the clock was ticking, and we had just about an hour before we had to return the rental car. Last stop for the day, Punchbowl and the US National Cemetery of Hawaii. As with all national cemeteries (at least in my experience), it is a place of reverence, awe and beauty. May those laid to rest in these sacred places know eternal peace, and those who visit and tend to the sites find comfort.

View from the drive into the cemetery

We dropped the car off with 5 minutes to spare, and headed back to our room to start the packing process. We struck out for a final walk on the strip and decided to finally stop at Sky Waikiki, a rooftop bar and restaurant, just below Top of Waikiki, a revolving restaurant. I do recall vague stories of my parents and friends being at Top of Waikiki, so it seemed appropriate that I check it out. We shared a truly delicious appetizer of Big Island Smoked Pork Pizza. I had to sample it before taking a picture to ensure it was photo worthy and worth recommending – a big thumbs up to both!

View from the Sky Bar

This is also apparently where they had the premier party for Hawaii Five-O recently. This was the hallway from the street to the elevator up to the 18th floor.

A quick trip next door for last minute office gifts (we can’t go back completely empty handed to those who covered while we were gone for 2 weeks – they might not let us go again!) and a stop at the poke bar, and we headed back toward the room.

A visit to Hawaii wouldn’t be complete without a shave ice, and we finally indulged! 

It has been a wonderful visit. Hawaii, we leave you our aloha, and we take with us hearts full of aloha (and stomachs full of poke and suitcases full of gifts). Mahalo nui loa. Until we meet again!


Kailua, Waiamea and Rainbows


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Our first stop this morning was the Diamond Head Grill and Market. This is a hidden gem just outside the Waikiki strip on Monsarrat Street. They make cream cheese scones that are sinful – moist, flavorful and with a dollop of cream cheese in the center that you don’t find until you bite into it. D. had banana, I chose pineapple. They rotate three flavors each day of the week. In addition to the bakery, they have a take out window for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and a little market with pre-made salads, sandwiches and fresh fruit. From there we wound through neighborhoods to get to the freeway.

Second stop was the Pali Lookout. The last time I was here was June 1973, a few days before we moved back to New England. My dad took me and my best friend to the Pali Lookout to see the sunrise. He probably just wanted an excuse to take more photos of a sunrise, and I likely wanted a special last day with my best friend. I remember drinking hot chocolate, and it being very cool (as in cold). Today was windy and a bit misty, but such stunning views!

We arrived in Kailua not too long after, and the only thing I remembered was the beach. Kailua town has grown and changed so much. We didn’t go by our old house as it is no longer there…at some point after we moved it was torn down and two houses were built on the lot. I will keep my memories of what it looked like from 1968 – 1973.

Kailua Beach has suffered extensive beach erosion, or they have dug up a significant amount of sand for the construction that was being done. The beach used to be so much larger than it is currently. But the sand remains powdery soft. I haven’t found a beach yet that can top this side of the island.

Feet back in the ocean at Kailua Beach after 43 years. It was good to be back!

It was misting and windy, so we opted to drive a few miles further south to Lanikai where we found a spot to park and walked to the beach.  We pulled out the tatami mat, and sat in the sand for about an hour. I did get my legs wet, and managed to avoid the temptation of going all the way in. The last thing I wanted to do was ride to Waiamea in wet bathing suit, and the rental car did not need a wet seat, either. We watched a dog play fetch in the water, and lots of little kids learning to swim and playing in the surf. 

It was getting a bit warm, and I could tell I had had enough sun for the day, so we loaded up and headed back to the car. As we neared the car, I noticed hikers on the top of the mountain ridge. Not sure I’d make that hike, but I know others who would love it.

An easy drive to Waiamea, and we recognized much of the area as we’ve spent a good deal of time on the north shore. We pulled into the park, and there were signs for “Base Camp parking” and what appeared to be movie set trailers. There were detours along the way to the falls, and at one point we heard “OK. Quiet on the set. We’re rolling. Action.” (Or something to that effect.) Not long after we heard some blood curdling screams. I’m glad we knew they were filming! We did find out on our way out they were filming Jumanji II at the park. Several movies have been filmed here over the years, including the Jurasic Park movies. 

The walk to the falls is through the Waiamea Botanical Garden. It was fun to recall the different plants we had in our yard, and a special treat to see two poinsettia bushes in bloom!

We had to take cover just before we reached the falls as we had a bit of a downpour. It is a rainforest, so not altogether unexpected, but neither of us wanted to be drenched for the walk back, let alone the drive back to Waikiki.

Those long “lines” are the raindrops falling.

The falls were spectacular. Despite having our bathing suits on, neither of us wanted to go in for a swim. May have been the whole wet suit home thing, or the warning sign of potential bacterial infection! We listened and watched the brave souls who did venture in to swim up the falls.

An easy walk back down, and we were treated to a peacock sighting.  There were signs posted that they are aggresive and should not be fed when we entered, so I cautiously followed him down a trail to get a photo.  

We decided to do a quick stop at the coffee factory we visited earlier in the trip for an afternoon pick-me-up before hitting traffic into Waikiki.  I had to take a picture of the tip jar sign. Clever way to get people to leave their change behind! And, no, I will not say which jar I chose.  As we were leaving we were blessed with a rainbow. A wonderful reminder that the sun always comes out, no matter how long or hard the rain.

As we arrived in Honolulu we spotted our second rainbow of the day. Doubly blessed!

We stopped at the Ward Warehouse Shopping Center, just on the edge of Honolulu and Waikiki, near the Ala Moana Shopping Center as I was on the hunt for a Christmas present.  I was successful in finding what I was after, and we grabbed a late lunch/early dinner at the Korean BBQ Express.  It was quite good, and the portion size was sufficient without being overwhelming.

A shower to de-sand from the day, a bit of a rest, and we were off to explore a few items we’d seen in shop windows earlier.  We wandered into Coco Cove, a store we’d not been in yet, probably because it looked a lot like the ABC Stores that are on every corner. Probably a good thing we’d not been in sooner, as we discovered a poke bar, and all sorts of goodies…including the Hawaiian reminder that it is fall and summer can’t last forever.

We stopped for Hawaiian shave ice, but they were out of ice cream.  We decided that would wait until tomorrow, and we will have poke from Coco Cove and shave ice on our last night in Hawaii.  

Tomorrow we plan to hit the historical sites – Iolani Palace, Queen Emma’s Summer Palace and The Bishop’s Museum. 

It is going to be hard to leave on Friday…I miss my other half terribly, but I am an island girl at heart, especially if that island is Oahu.


Waikiki explorations


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After the long day yesterday, we planned a “down” day today – nothing specifically planned. We woke leisurely (well, leisurely for us, at least) and were downstairs in search of coffee just after 8AM. The line at the coffee shop in the hotel was long and didn’t seem to be moving too quickly, so we headed out to the strip. The next closest also had a good sized line, so we opted for our “secret” spot inside the Waikiki Shopping Center. A small line that was moving quickly, and we soon had coffee and breakfast food in hand. As we’d already ventured outside and onto the strip, we decided to wander down a few streets we’d been meaning to visit. 

We wandered around the side streets near the hotel, then made a trip to the UPS Store so D. could ship items home. (Her Christmas shopping is done, I think.  I have made a very large dent in mine.) We opted for lunch at Duke’s. We have grown to like that place! This time we ate in the dining room, and had a beautiful view of Diamond Head. 

With no other plans for the afternoon, we set off exploring again. One of the stores we passed had license plates lining the stairs and walls up to the store.                                                                               

We walked further off the strip and found some fun little gift shops, including one that sold sorbets and gelato. Pineapple coconut gelato?  Don’t mind if I do!

There are a lot of fun little shops and buildings once you get off the main street in Waikiki.

A trip back to our hotel to drop off purchases and figure out the plan, if any, for the remainder of the day. We rode up to our room in an overcrowded, overheated elevator, which did not help my energy level. Before I knew it, and despite my initial efforts, I was soon taking a short afternoon nap.  D. went out to explore further while I caught some Z’s. 

We knew the hula show at Kuhio Park was on again tonight, and we both definitely wanted to catch it. A quick text to friends, and we had plans to meet up at the park. On our way we passed the Moana Hotel, as we have several times this week. I had missed this sign until tonight.

We arrived early with our tatami mats and managed to get front row seats for the show. Definitely better than last week’s when we sat on the beach wall!

We were treated to another beautiful sunset before the show started. 

Tonight was a trio and one dancer – Joan “Aunty Pudgie”Young and Puamelia. It was a very interactive show with the audience, and very educational, too.

The traditional conch shell blowing at the start of the show.

Joan “Aunty Pudgie” Young

Hula Kahiko – ancient hula performed with chant and traditional instruments.

Hula ‘auana – modern hula danced to popular songs. She is using ‘Ulī ulī, feathered gourd rattles

A fantastic show, and they even sang one of my favorite songs. You can see the video here.  

A walk through the farmers’ market at the hotel across the street after the show where we purchased banana lumpias, fruit for tomorrow’s adventure, and a few gifts. We walked to Kings Village where we’d walked earlier in the day, and I finally found my Hawaiian quilt. I had seen one earlier in the week in a different store, and when I went back today it was gone. I saw another possibiity earlier today, but it just wasn’t the Right One. The one in this store was perfect – just the right color, and a very traditional pattern. 

Next stop was a Japanese noodle restuarant for dinner, but the line was a bit long, and the restaurant rather tiny. We ended up back at the Hula Grill as there was no wait for a table, and we knew the food was good. Tonight I had the sashimi, and I was lucky enough to get a bite of opah (moonfish) shared with me. SO good!  D. and I shared a hula pie for dessert, said farewell to our friends (they depart tomorrow), and headed back to the room to call it a day. A final check of the pedometer says I hit 19,955 steps today. I debated walking in place for those extra 45 steps to make it an even 20,000, but it was close to midnight, and my feet screamed No! That, and I was distracted by hearing geckos on our lanai for the first time tonight.

The photo really doesn’t do it justice. It was 2.5 oz of the freshest ahi, seasoned to perfection.

Tomorrow we are off to Kailua Beach and Waimea Falls. Starting the day with some R&R (because we just need a bit more!) and some exploration in the afternoon. Hard to believe we have only two more days to see, do and eat everything we haven’t yet. Fortunately, that list is rather short.


KAH-may, HA-may, HA


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Today started extra early as we were up at 4:10AM in order to leave no later than 5:15AM for the airport. Our flight to Kona, Hawaii departed at 6:50AM. The nice thing is there is very light traffic at that hour. The bad news is, street signs in Hawaii are small and not where you expect them to be coming from the mainland. We have learned to look more at eye level, but when both of you are essentially still waking up and require corrective lenses for reading, well, let’s just say it makes for some funny conversation in the wee morning hours! Fortunately we have driven the route before, and we were able to find our way without any trouble.

The plane left 10 minutes early as all passengers were on board and ready to go. I have to give a shout out to Island Air. They have been phenomenal both times we’ve flown with them. Extremely friendly staff, on-time (usually early) departures/arrivals, and some of the best pilots.  Even coming into Honolulu with flash flood warnings they managed to minimize the impact of turbulence, and some of the best landings I’ve experienced. (Granted, it’s a small prop engine plane compared with a large body jet, but I think the lighter planes are harder to land. My pilot friends can tell me otherwise if they disagree.)

Anyway, we landed in Kona, grabbed brochures and maps of the island and boarded the rental shuttlebus.  The driver gave us a brief “tour” on our way to pick up the rental (well, gave D. the tour as Iwas on the phone with my other half.) He commented “welcome to the moon” and showed us the way in and out of the airport before dropping us off.  A wonderful example of island hospitality.  We opted for the convertible this time, and we were off and exploirng within an hour of landing. A quick stop in town for coffee and essetnials, and we were on our way.

We took the route across the island as we had to be in Hilo by 12:45PMfor check-in.  The Big Island is a study in contradictions. We passed obvious lava fiels, followed by lush green rolling hills.

As we drove along Saddle Road, we passed a flock of wild turkeys.  I’ve gotten used to the free range chickens, but the turkeys surprised me. We both commented along this stretch how clean and fresh the air smelled. No regrets to having the convertible so far! 

We stopped at Mauna Kea, the highest point in Hawaii. It stands at 13,802 feet above sea level.  When measured from its oceanic base, Mauna Kea is over 33,000 feet tall, making it taller than Mt. Everest. At 13,000′ elevation, it’s a bit chilly. Add to that some sprinkling rain on occasion, and it makes you happy to arrive in Hilo.

Mauna Kea

The clouds were so low we could almost touch them!

We arrived in Hilo with time to spare, so we drove around town a bit and visited the Wailoa Cultural Center and Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Memorial is a sacred, somber place. The inscriptions in the granite gave us goosebumps, and every tree on the walkways up to the memorial was planted in honor and in memory of those Hawaiians who lost their lives in Vietnam.

The various water levels during storms.

Why is he running toward the water if it’s an evacuation? The “End Tsunami Evacuation Area” sign has him running away from the water.

We got a good giggle on the way to the Hila Airport as the Garmin told us to turn onto “KAH-may, HA-may, HA” Road. D and I looked at each other quizzically, realized she was trying to say Kamehameha Road. It really has been an adventure listening to the different navigation systems attempt to pronounce Hawaiian words. None do well, but Garmin has probably come the closest.

We checked in for our next flight of the day right on time, got our safety briefing, and headed out to the tarmac where our helicopter awaited us. There were four of us on our helicopter, and I think we were all too awe-struck to be very talkative. There really are no words to describe what we saw. The volcano cone is where you can see the lava bubbling and boiling. The lava tube is underground, but you can see where the steam escapes as the lava flows at approximately 35 MPH out to the sea.

Macadamia nut orchards

Looking into the volcano cone

You can see the steam rising through from the lava tube as it travels out to sea.

The steam caused by the molten lava hitting the ocean.

Lava flow that has covered a road

Over 100 homes were wiped away when this lava stream occurred 20 – 25 years ago. And yet there is still green to remind us that life goes on.

From there we flew to PeePee Falls and the Wailuku River, and Rainbow Falls. Amazing to see the falls from this level!

Wailuku River and falls

Rainbow Falls

A quick pitstop, and we were on our way back to Kona, this time on the southern route.

Turtle sculptures and garden at the Kona Airport

The weather was a little iffy at this point, so we left the top up, but the windows down. Still a beautiful drive. First stop, Ka’u Coffee. Great coffee and macadamia nuts.

One of my favorite trees! The trumpet flower.

Next stop, Black Sand Beach. 

We wanted to stop at Pu’unaloa, and the green sand beach. Unfortunately we learned it was an ATV/off-road or 4 mile hike in. We also realized we were going to be cutting it very close for our return flight, so time was of the essence. Time to snap photos as you ride!

The sky looked like it was on fire as the sun completed setting. This was one of the most incredible sunsets we’ve seen.

Art work in the Kona Airport told some of the Hawaiian legends.

Our flight left early again (thank you, Island Air!) and we had an easy time back to Waikiki.  We dropped things off in the room, then headed to Hula Grill for dinner.  I had  poke tacos, and D. had crabmeat and macadamia nut wontons.  I remembered to catch a picture before I got too hungry. Both were very good, and the service was great. This is upstairs from Duke’s, and if you get a table on the balcony you can look out onto the beach. We opted for indoors tonight as we really just wanted to crawl into bed at this point.  It had been a long, yet incredibly wonderful, day.

It is beyond bed time at this point, and I can barely keep my eyes open. Fortunately tomorrow is a down day with very, very little on the agenda. Amen for that! 


Poke in the Pool…with chopsticks


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Sunday began warm and sunny, and stayed that way the entire day.  We skipped our usual morning coffee because the lines at both nearby places were extra long. Probably not the best decision, but it seemed the best choice at the time.  We found the car (we’d been parking on the same level of the parking garage since we arrived, and Friday had to go up further because “our” floor was full) and headed out to Aloha Stadium for the Swap Meet and Aloha Market. Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures there.  I did pick up a few trinkets and a birthday present for my other half. It was mostly all the same stuff from stall to stall, and everyone was willing to give you the “best deal.” We wandered for about 75 minutes and had had enough. The sun was getting quite warm, and there wasn’t anything that screamed “buy me.” (Although I did see a Hawaiian quilt Christmas tree skirt which came very close to coming home with me.)

We were now running ahead of schedule as we weren’t due to meet up with my cousins until noon. We decided a “real” breakfast was a good idea, and we headed into Aiea to Koa Pancake House. D. ordered the short stack of banana pancakes, and I ordered eggs and corned beef hash. I opted for the side of pancakes, figuring it would be one pancake. Nope, three pancakes! There was no way I would be consuming all my breakfast.  Service was friendly and quick, and the food tasted quite good.  In fact, I did eat just about all of the corned beef hash – it was exceptionally good! Small place, and I’m guessing they probably do a lot of military breakfasts during the week. If you’re ever in Aiea and wanting breakfast, I would say this is definitely worth considering.

We got to Cousins’  house a little ahead of schedule, and they had the truck just about packed and ready to go. I quick changed into my bathing suit, we borrowed a paddle board from the neighbor in addition to the one already loaded, and we set off for White Plains Beach at Barber’s Point. This is the beach where my mom and her sister would bring the kids when the dads were at sea on patrol.  We’d rent a cabin on the beach for the weekend, and spend every day in the sand and sea. And we did go a few times when the guys were home from patrol, too.  Couldn’t have all the fun without them, now, could we? Most of the cabins are still there. 

I had taken some ibuprofen before we left the house, so after we had our little area all set up, it was time to give it a shot. I left my camera with D. so she could get photos of whatever happened.  We opted for the bigger board as it was lighter and also wider, so easier to balance and get the initial feel for the water. Cuz held the board while I got on, then I paddled while he pushed far enough out for me to “catch a good one” and see how far I could go. We went over most waves, but one or two went over us, and I managed to stay on. As I got ready to ride my first wave, Cuz says “Once the wave grabs you it will shoot you like a torpedo, so be ready.” Um, wait, what? Torpedo? I didn’t have much choice, though.  Cuz has a 100% success ratio going into today in getting all his “students” to stand up on their first day. (No pressure there, either!)  Deep breath, I can do this.  “Are you ready? Are you paddling?” Yes to both, and I was off. I opted to stay on my belly the first ride.  

I found if you are on your belly you can use your feet off the sides as brakes to slow down and even help turn. I managed to stay on, and even had one couple in the water cheering me on. Well if that’s doesn’t give you encouragement to keep going, along with the smile on Cuz’s face, I don’t know what would. Back out for ride two…ready? paddling? Yes to both, and I was off again. This time I managed to get onto my knees before the wave died out, and I took a little swim. I managed to get myself back on the board and paddled back out to Cuz.  Round three.  Would this be The Time?   By now it didn’t feel quite like a torpedo, but more like an amusement park ride.  The adrenaline rush in those first few seconds can get rather heady, and I enjoy a good challenge. Are you ready?  Are you paddling? Yes to both, and off I went. Steady, up on the knees, steady, balance…and I was standing! I’m not really sure what happened next…whether the wave died out, or if in my excitement I lost my balance. Either way, I was in the water. I had done it! Cuz’s success ratio was still 100%, and I was  grinning from ear to ear.  At that point it was time for a break, and celebratory beer. My cheering section with the cameras gave me a 10 and a round of applause as I got back. 

I rarely post pictures of myself here, but I am so proud of this moment I just have to!

A bit of rest, conversation and sun, and I was ready to head back and try out the “real” surfboard. It would have been a shame to have brought it and not use it, right? Cuz waxed it up and out we went. A whole different feel on this board – much narrower, and a lot more difficult to keep that center of gravity centered. Same drill as before…Ready? Paddling? Two rides on this board and I had to call it a day. I needed to save some strength and energy for the rest of our trip. 

Last run on the real board. I did get to my knees at least!

We stopped and bought poke on the way home. The building the store is in used to be the base commisary. Cousins had put a crock pot of chili on earlier in the day, so dinner was waiting at home. Once back at the house we took a dip in the pool to “de-salt” and cool off from the sun. Cuz was super sweet and didn’t even make me get out of the pool for pupus.  A small bowl of poke, a set of chopsticks, and I ate while in my floating chair. For those who may not know, poke (pronounced poke-ee) is a raw fish, generally ahi tuna, with fresh chopped onion and seasonings. Depending on the chef, it may or may not have seaweed or other veggies, and each chef has their own seasoning recipe.  I am eating my fill here and trying to find the best Oahu has to offer. So far, it’s a tie between last night’s at LuLu’s and today’s. Pupus were rounded out with fresh pineapple, grapes, strawberries and garlic loaded edamame. The chili was delicious, and a perfect meal for an awesome day. 

On our drive back we saw a beautiful rainbow.  Of course I had to pull over and get a picture! We got back to the hotel in time for sunset off the lanai, and I then had the pleasure of watching the cutest 7-month old guy I know so his folks could have some adult time. 

Tomorrow is an extra early day, so Iam calling it a night shortly. We have to be at the airport by 5:45AM for our flight to the Big Island. Hopefully Madame Pele is still putting on a show for us! 


What Did I Do?

Today we woke up a bit later, and after the usual coffee stop, we made our way over to the Hawaii Convention Center to check out the venue, visit the open house for new designees, and see what there was to see.  We picked up our free gifts from the local chapter (chocolate covered macadamias, yes, please, and thank you!) I learned there is a brand new designation for my new field that was just released last week, so I have more studying to do once I complete the one I am currently working on.

Have to love the “free range” pigeons…searching for crumbs even in the coffee shop!

Just love these tropical flower arrangements!

I KNOW my father had this album! One of the many displays at the Convention Center.

I was so happy to see my former chapter still maintaining Gold Level Circle of Excellence recognition. Congratulations, Sacramento Valley Chapter!
A bite to eat when we got back to the hotel – we both were feeling the need for red meat, so burgers were in order. A quick change, and we were on our way back to the Convention Center for the official conferment of the CPCU designation. I got to meet up with old friends from my days in CA.  Such fun catching up and spending time with them.  Also got to meet one of D’s former coworkers, and I hope we get to hang out with them a bit more before we leave.  John Quinones was the keynote speaker, and it was interesting listening to his stories.  Because we’d arrived so early, we were able to get a seat just 4 rows directly behind him.

We opted to walk back to the hotel rather than wait in line for the shuttles.  A change of clothes back to the casual, comfy, vacation mode clothes of earlier in the day, and we were off to explore the hoolaulea. We got to see the arrival of the honorary king and queen before meeting up with friends about half way down the stretch of vendor booths, we continued on in the same direction to the end and a bit beyond where we decided dinner and beverages were in order. Along the way we got to watch some hula dancing, listen to music, take in the sights, and probably most importantly, purchase malasadas from Leonard’s bakery.

The Spam mascot, Mr. Musabi. Spam “sushi” is a real thing in Hawaii.

A street view of the Hoolaulea

No one wanted to share, so we all got our own box to go! If you’ve ever had hot, fresh malasada’s, you’ll understand why sharing really isn’t an option.

On the way back to the hotel we were stopped by Hawaii Tourist Board workers who needed photos of them “in action.” Somehow I managed to get in most every photo they took. I am going to have to keep an eye on their website for my photo! In the next block we passed a parade of Spanish singers, dancers and musicians. 

A fun filled, sensory filled day. Tomorrow we will be up early to check out another local attraction, followed by surfing lessons with the #1 Cousin!


Disney, Luau and Ha

Today was registration pick-up, another reminder we are actually here for a business trip, and not just vacation. D. picked up her packet just after the registration desk opened at 7AM.  We then headed out to Ko’Olina and the Aulani, the Disney resort on Oahu.  We found the resort easily, and parking can be validated with purchases at the store. Otherwise, it’s a maximum of $37 for the entire day. Waikiki parking is fairly comparable. We wandered the two stores, one more geared toward the kids, the other more for the adults. We then went to explore the grounds and meander the “boardwalk” between the resorts in this part.  As we walked outside, we spotted Mickey Mouse posing for photos following the character breakfast.

Lobby entrance at Aulani

OK, I’ll start it…M I C K E Y….

The main pool area is really geared for younger kids, but the “lazy river” tube ride going all around the pool area looked inviting.  Unfortunately, the pool area is for guests of the resort only, and day passes cannot be purchased. 

The water feature leading to the pool area

Caught a glimpse of Goofy at breakfast

A stroll through the pool area and you are in the lagoon.  There are 4 lagoons along this stretch of beach which are open to the public. (All beaches in Hawaii are considered public, and residents/businesses cannot prevent locals from using the beach.) We strolled to the north to the Four Seasons, then further south to the Marriott resorts.

It was feeding time for the fish. You can actually snorkle in the tank with all the colorful fish.

The Disney lagoon. The concrete walkway before it is the “boardwalk” that connects all four resorts

The paved path ends at the Four Seasons, but there is a sand trail down to the beach for public access.

Four Seasons (left) and Aulani (right)

We met up with friends for a quick visit before we had to get ready for tonight’s work event, a luau at the Polynesian Cultural Center. I have to say I have very mixed feelings about tonight’s event. There are almost 2800 employees plus guests here from our company, and about one fourth of us were at dinner tonight. They will be hosting us 2 more times in the coming days. We were split up between different areas for our luau. Our emcee for the evening was horribly prepped beforehand, and he even opened the show by saying it was April 2016.  (Our table decided we get to come back in another five months when it’s September in his world!) He ran through his regular “schtick” throughout the evening…asking if anyone was celebrating anything special like a birthday or anniversary. Fifty percent of every table was celebrating a huge accomplishment! He forgot our company name several times, and referred to those 5 or so couples brave enough to stand up when he asked a question then were called up on stage as agents. There may be an agent or two or three here, but we aren’t all agents.

The “hula” show during dinner was below average in my opinion. I’m not an expert, but having just watched one less than a week ago, and having had a few years of hula lessons (way back in the day, yes, but you do retain some knowledge), this felt very made up. I will say we were seated right at the edge of the stage, so we had a very close up view.  Perhaps if you were further away from the stage it may have been better? One of the female dancers had a pained smile pasted on her face, like she’d rather have been anywhere else than there. I had to essentially stop watching because I didn’t want my commentary to prevent others from having fun and enjoying it.

Our view of the stage and backdrop for dinner

Conch shell blowing and lighting the torches

Our kalua pig after it had been unburied from its banana leaves

The “king” and “queen” and their messenger

Dinner was a buffet. The menu we were provided in our information packets was much longer and more varied than what we were served. The kalua pig was tasty, the shrimp lacked garlic and seasoning, and the fish at our buffet station was overcooked and bland. None of our group went up for seconds, or dessert. I did overhear good comments about the food, so it may have been our buffet station, but I’m not betting on that.

After dinner we met in the theater for the evening’s recognition and keynote address by one of our company executives, followed by the performance of the current show at the Cultural Center, “Ha.” This was more authentic, certainly, than the earlier performance, and included a haka (Samoa), Tahitian dancers, and fire dancers. It is a schmaltzy storyline, but the music, dancing and drumming were good. I did not take any photos during the show as they had signs posted requesting no photos or video during the performance. Not everyone around us saw the sign, apparently. If you are in Hawaii and decide to pay a visit to the Polynesian Cultural Center, skip the food, skip the shopping, but go for the show.

A long bus ride back to the hotel, then the long line for the elevators, and we are safely back in our room for the night. Tomorrow is our second mandatory event in the mid-afternoon.  We have opted to leave the car in the garage and have a lazy day at the hotel or in Waikiki. Tomorrow evening is the Honolulu Hoolaulea, and the street will be closed down. Getting back to Waikiki during the early afternoon today was heavily congested. I canonly imagine what tomorrow will be like. 


North Shore revisited


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Today was an explore on our own day. We left probably a bit later than D. had hoped (I was a bit slow getting going this morning, as we had awoken to flash flood warnings on our phones. I turned on the news to catch a weather report, and well, got a little distracted with local news, shall we say?  My parents were news “junkies,” and it appears the apple may not have fallen far from that tree. The sun was shining in Waikiki, and it appeared whatever storm had blown through overnight had blown out to sea.  It was another beautiful day in paradise!

We headed out to the North Shore by way of the USS Bowfin Museum store as we’d seen something there on Sunday which we’d not seen anywhere else. Time to stop looking and just run in and get it. The only item on today’s agenda was a visit with one of my daughter’s best friends (affectionately known in our family as Daughter #2, and yes, occasionally “favorite”daughter when mine was being a typical teenager) and her son whom I had not yet met. 
First stop, Waialua Coffee Company (and tea) which was quite yummy.  They had a very eclectic collection of coffee advertisements from around the world on the walls, and a small cafe area. A more local, hipper vibe than the chain coffee stores…locals in with their laptops, visiting with friends, and us tourists thrown into the mix. (We tourists likely brought the “hip” vibe down a notch, but we did purchase a bit more than the locals, so it seemed a good balance to me.)  

A beautiful drive along the coast to Haliewa where we wandered around for a bit. I managed to find some Christmas gifts, got some ideas for craft projects, and took pictures of things that brought back memories while we waited for Daughter 2 to meet us.

This was the main “highway” around the island when I called Oahu home. One lane in each direction kind of highway!

Queen Liliuokalani Protestant Church, Haliewa, HI

Seriously, does it get much better than this?

I believe my father had this LP. (Mom will let me know if he didn’t!) If he didn’t, he should have because I have a memory of someone having it!

We definitely had a set of these…at least 6.

We had a wonderful lunch at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (I believe garlic will be oozing out of my pores for the next few weeks. Apologies to anyone standing or sitting close to me!) combined with a visit with Daughter 2 and the cutest little surfer dude I’ve ever seen. I could tell he was a “local” as he arrived barefoot and was walking around the rocks as if it was nothing. Flashbacks to my brother at the same age many, many (ok, maybe only one many) years ago. We got some ideas of further places to explore, said our farewells (yes, for those who know me well, my eyes leaked), and we were on our way. 

Our directions were head “that way, left at the stop sign and around,” or something like that…we were headed somewhere, and that was really all that mattered.  When you’re on an island you really can’t get too lost!

As we are driving down this road, we pass a sign…Camp Mokule’ia. Seriously?! This was my first ever overnight camp. I think I was 7? Maybe 8? I still have the shirt with my name embroidered on it. This was such a trip down memory lane – especially as I had recently scanned my father’s slides from when they dropped me off and picked me up. I couldn’t have found this place if I’d tried. But I could yell “Stop! I need a picture!” 

We kept driving and came upon another long stretch of beach. I opened the car window for a picture, and D. commented “Now this smells like the beach.” I couldn’t have agreed more. Outside of Waikiki with all its aromas mingling with the sea air, you really don’t smell the beach. On this stretch, you really smelled the salt air, the sand, the sky, the Beach. (Yes, at The Beach you can even smell the sky.)

Love the wind power in the background.

We came to the end of the road at Ka’ene Point in Molokai and headed back to see where else the road would lead. A few turns later and we stumbled onto The Old Sugar Mill in Wailua. It has been turned into shops, boutiques, and a coffee roastery. One of the wonderful things about Hawaii is how people take care of one another.  Here in the middle of the old sugar factory, which likely employed most of the community at one time, was the Community Kitchen.  Where anyone can come for a meal. How much better would the world be if we broke bread together and shared our abundance with our neighbors? 

It was still relatively early, so we headed for Waiamea. On the way we crossed Rainbow Bridge.  I immediately thought of my Auntie S. who tells the BEST stories about the heavenly Rainbow Bridge. I didn’t see any fish here, so this one was good to cross. 

We were hoping for the lighthouse, but saw signs for the Waiamea Falls and turned in there.  Unfortunately the falls were closed by the time we arrived, but they had a wonderful farmer’s market going on, and we had a great time exploring it. And we may be back next week to explore the falls and surrounding area further. Lots of Hollywood movies have been filmed here, and it definitely peaked our interest. I was able to get a few pictures from outside the entrance, though.

We started back to the hotel, but made a detour back to Haliewa Beach to watch the sun set. This is where we swam with the turtles on Monday, and it was fun to sit and watch for them to poke their heads up out of the surf.  And yes, I am my father’s daughter, and if one sunset photo is good, more are better. Fortunately I will only share one…ok, two.

WWII Veterans Memorial at Haliewa Beach


Tomorrow the actual “work” part of this trip begins, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be out exploring. I believe there may be a mouse involved in tomorrow’s adventures.


Kauai – Sun, Oahu – Flash Floods


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The alarm went off at 5AM, and we were on our way to the airport at 5:45AM to catch our 7:20 flight. As we walked into the lobby we were greeted with signs reminding us why we are in Hawaii. It was still a little drizzly this morning after the downpours last night.

We got there with no problem, and had plenty of time to spare.  Island Air’s terminal is very separate from the main terminals, and was more like the airport I remembered – long glass windows looking out to the tarmac where you would stand and watch arriving guests deplane, and departing guests would stand at the top of the stairs and wave goodbye.  

It’s been a long time since I’ve ridden in a prop plane!

A quick, easy flight and we were on the ground in Lihue, Kauai. We got our rental car, and we were off! Kauai is lush and green, just the way I remember it. 

First stop, Kauai Coffee Company. We sampled a lot of coffee, and learned a lot on the self-guided tour. Did you know dark roast coffee has more body, but medium roast has more caffeine? The coffee was excellent, and their sense of humor evident throughout.

Next on our list, Waimea Canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. Stunningly beautiful and serene. As we were pulling into the lookout, there were two blacktail deer on the ridge above the parking lot. One buck, the other possibly a doe. And lots of “free range” roosters.  The nene may be the Hawaii state bird, but the rooster is the unofficial bird of Kauai.

Waterfall on the way to Waimea Canyon

Hydrangeas! Not sure who brought them to Kauai, but they were abundant at this lookout.

The nene – Hawaii’s state bird. This is a teenaged one 

A drive back down the mountain into town where we stopped for lunch at Porky’s. Sausage or hot dog covered with kalua pork, or a grilled cheese with kalua pork. We double checked the time and distance to the light house, and realized we were going to be cutting it very close as they closed at 4PM. 

Fortunately traffic was light, but phone batteries were dying, so no photos of the scenery along the way. (I brought my battery pack with me today, but I forgot the charging cable. Guess we’ll chalk that up to the early morning hour!)   We passed Sleeping Giant in the Noi Noi mountains. Lush, tropical paradise continued, and even included a few stretches of beachs. We pulled into the lighthouse parking lot at 3:52PM. The park ranger tried to convince us we didn’t have time. D and I looked at each other and knew we could do what we needed to do – she stopped in the gift store to pick up a special request, I ran ahead for the photos. She had time to round the corner and see the lighthouse in person before the park rangers began shooing us out. One of the straggling visitors even pointed out a baby bird in its nest to us.

As we began our trek back toward Lihue, we stopped at a market we’d passed earlier, Kong Lung Market. Wonderful shops and local artisan’s wares. We had to be mindful of what we purchased as we had to carry everything back with us, in a carry-on, on a plane…let’s just say I wish I’d remembered that at stop #1 this morning! I can’t say what TSA confiscated or I will give away a Christmas gift (which I will replace before I head home.)

Fortunately most of the artisan’s we have seen and really liked have websites where we can purchase items. We were back to the airport in plenty of time. The ticket agent advised us Honolulu was under a flash flood watch as it had been raining all day, and there was a good possibility we could hit turbulence on the way home. Our initial thought? What a stroke of luck for us! We had sun and gorgeous weather the entire day. The flight left about 15 minutes early, and all was drying out when we arrived back in Oahu. Fingers crossed it stays dry for the next several days.

We went back to Duke’s tonight for a quick bite to eat before turning in.  We both opted for Hula Pie. I would say a perfect way to end a great day! Tomorrow we are headed back to the North Shore of Oahu for a slower look around at stores, swimming, sunning and whatever strikes our fancy.