Saturday, June 25, 2016

National Parking: Hawai'i Volcanoes National Park



Hawai'i has so many unique and beautiful places to explore.   I was excited to have a chance to island hop over from Maui to Big Island this spring to finally see it!

Compared to Maui, Big Island is exactly that...big.   Big roads, bigger distances, and stretches of highway where you can't see the ocean (gasp!).     We flew in and out of Kona so that we could fly Mokulele.     Hilo is the airport that's closest to the park, though.   

Friends who visited me in 2015 stayed at the Volcano Inn and recommended it, so that's where we stayed as well.   It's in a perfect location for hiking the park and for going back at night to see Kīlauea at Hawai'i Volcanoes National ParkKīlauea Crater is an active volcano.   To see the glowing lava, you'll want to come back to the park at night.    During the day, its bright enough that you probably won't see anything, although you may smell it.   


Breakfast area at the Volcano Inn 

On the Kona side of the island, it's dry and hot.  If you are anywhere on the Hilo side of Big Island, you need to be prepared for rain.  At any time.   We hiked the Kīlauea Iki Trail and alternated between coats on /coats off, and hats on / hats off.   This hike is about 4 miles through the still steaming Kīlauea Iki Crater.   The visitor's center has a good video that shows the eruption in 1959.   


The Kīlauea Iki Crater from above
Part of the trail involves following the ahu.  There are stacked rocks that guide your way through the crater since the lava doesn't lend itself to an easily followed trail.  


You know what to do
Follow the ahu!
Rainforest all around the crater

Hiking into the unknown
After your hike, you're going to be hungry.   Good news, Ken's House of Pancakes is open 24 hours a day in Hilo.     Might I suggest corned beef hash eggs benedict?   Not pictured:  the pancakes with tropical fruit syrups that went with this.   But know that they were consumed with enthusiasm.




Heading to Big Island to visit Volcanoes National Park? 


  • You'll be renting a car, so plan ahead.
  • Volcano Inn has great rates, and partially because they don't take credit cards.  You'll need to mail your payment in advance to book your room.
  • A 7 day pass as of June 1, 2016 is $20 per vehicle.   If you're planning to visit both Volcanoes NP on Big Island and Haleakala NP on Maui, you can by the Hawai'i Tri-Parks pass for $25 and that's good for a whole year.   
  • Bring your beach clothes for the Kona side and your rain gear for the Hilo side.
  • If you're driving the whole island, you'll definitely want to stop at the Punalu'u Bake Shop for lilikoi malasadas.    It's the southern most bakery in the United States! 

So ono!

Other National Parks to Love:

Klondike Gold Rush - Seattle
Mount Rushmore - South Dakota
Yellowstone National Park - Wyoming (home of my favorite summer job)

Saturday, April 9, 2016

Hiking the Waihee Ridge Trail, Maui


Every hike I've taken in Maui has been different and wonderful.    

What I can't believe is that it's taken me 2+ years in Maui to hike Waihee Ridge.  

Waihee Ridge is a part of the Na Ala Hele trail system.   There's a designated trailhead and the trail is easy to follow. 

Follow uphill, that is.    To get to the ridge, you need to climb up.    Legs burning, climb up.  

If it's rainy, the trail will be slippery and treacherous.      You'll also want to start early - not because you like getting out of bed, but because the views are better in the morning before the clouds come in....although walking in the clouds is an experience of its own. 

If you hike all the way to the top, the hike is about 5 miles round trip.     If you don't want to go all the way, hike as far as  the 1.5 mile marker.   You'll have beautiful views of the ocean, the green mountains, and maybe even a waterfall or two.   We enjoyed some wildflowers and baby ferns covered with dew on our hike as well.     It's a hike that showcases so much of the scenery that Maui has to offer.







How to get to the Waihee Ridge Trail:

Drive through Wailuku and then Waiehu.    You'll be on Kahekili Highway (340).    When you see the gate for Mendes Ranch  on the right hand side (ocean / makai) of the road, you know you're almost there.   The trailhead and parking is on the left hand side  (moutain / mauka) - you'll see a sign for a Boy Scout Camp.      You'll park, then walk through a gate marked with the trail sign.     


There's a steep cement road for the very first part of the trail and then it becomes dirt.     Mile marker signs  are clearly marked throughout the trail.    Bring your hiking shoes and water.  

After your hike, I'd recommend stopping at the Wailuku Coffee Company for coffee and a pastry or an early lunch.   Their food is ono!



Do you have a favorite Maui hike?


Saturday, March 5, 2016

Wheel Cooking School, Bagan, Myanmar



I love food.
I love cooking.
This is not a secret.

I was so happy to see an afternoon cooking class on our itinerary when we were in Myanmar in December.    Food is how I connect to a destination.   

Getting all up in the local food?
Let's do this.

If you've been to a cooking school or class before, you may have gotten a printed copy of the recipes. At the Wheel, if you want to have the recipes, you need to take notes.    I was the official note taker for our party.       Just know that there is a lot of garlic and/or ginger in everything, and you'll be set!

We were making a whole wheel of dishes, so the school provides kitchen helpers - lovely ladies who kept us on the right track, minded the pressure cooker,  and laughed along when I grabbed the pestle and started making up songs, such as "Do You Want to Make Some Curry?" to the tune of "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?"

We had a great time and if you're in Bagan, I'd definitely recommend it!


So many fresh ingredients!
Shallots for everyone
My sister crushing things like it's her job

Our fabulous kitchen helpers

Too many cooks in the kitchen?  No way!

Our lunch, Wheel style

Do you take cooking classes at home or when you travel?   
If so, what was your favorite experience?


Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Today Is A Gift

There is a Family Circus cartoon that I've always loved with the caption:  "Yesterday's the past, tomorrow's the future, but today is a gift, that's why it's called the present."

Everyone likes to receive presents.
So how can we practice treating today as a gift?
Bonus if we get cake or ice cream, since it goes so well with presents.

There's a real struggle.    So much of what we do each day: working, planning, saving, spending, praying and even exercising, is for the future.   We lose track of today because we're so focused on what's next.    

On the flip side, our culture, especially in social media, focuses on capturing and sharing the minutiae of today....things that in years past (and I'm talking a few years, not 90 years) we wouldn't have shared, other than in passing conversation, as in "Did you see those shoes?" or "Wasn't that pie delicious?" or  "Did you see my child / dog / best friend do that cute / crazy / ridiculous thing?"
Now if you do that crazy thing someone is bound to get it on video.  Just one more reason to be glad that I was in college before smart phones.

{side note:  When I was a youth sponsor at church, one of the high school kids asked me how we planned events in college without Facebook.    Thank goodness we had dry erase boards.   See also: answering machines.}

Today is one of the building blocks of our life story.  When you sit down with friends for coffee, or your family at the holidays, you jump straight to the memories and stories that come from each miraculous day of living.   Today is one of those miraculous days...even if it doesn't feel like it.

This year, I'm focusing on capturing the gift of today.   I've got a bowl on my bookshelf that I pass multiple times per day (my ohana apartment is cozy....I pass by everything I own in about 30 seconds).    I write down one joy per day.   Big or small.  It's my present.    By the end of January, I will have hit the 30 days necessary to form a habit....so that bowl should be full come December.

On Tuesday I was celebrating the gift of carbs,
especially kimchee fried rice

What will it be like next January going through this bowl and looking at all the presents?  
I won't know until I get there, but I imagine there will be a lot of laughing.  

How do keep yourself present in today?  

Like doing something new by starting the bowl of joy, I'm trying to extend and stretch myself this year.  I was inspired to write this by the #onewordcoffee series on Faith Barista.

OneWordCoffee Linkup

Monday, January 25, 2016

Food Tour: Bangkok Midnight Food Tour by Tuk Tuk

Travel and eating go hand in hand.  You go to a new place and you want to try something you haven't had before.   The challenge of said new place is that you may not know where to go.  In a city as big as Bangkok, it can be daunting to know where to go, what to order or how to get there if you don't have friends, family or co-workers to show you around.   I've added food tours to my short list of organized activities I seek out, along with ghost tours, cooking schools and buses where you get to wear crazy hats.  I like small groups of people who are there to have a good time and don't take themselves, or me, too seriously.    

Technology makes things so easy...I  booked this tour with Bangkok Food Tours on my phone while sipping coffee at breakfast.  We met our guide and small group at the sky train station,  learned the plan for eating all the things, hopped into our Tuk Tuks and off we went for a fun evening rolling through the streets of Bangkok.

In fact since I can't remember the names of all the delicious things (like salad #1 below) - it's a good thing I take lots of pictures. 

Let's eat!

Midnight Food Tour in Pictures


Alright - we have a plan.   And a SECRET place!

Salad at stop 1

Khao Mun Gai

Mango Sticky Rice

This is how we roll

Guay Tiew Kua Gai with a runny egg


Bangkok Flower Market

Tiny, sweet pineapples

Wat Pho by night

View from the secret place

Is this the best pad thai in Bangkok?
You be the judge
Thip Samai Pad Thai

Have you gone on a food tour?   Did you love it?  What did you eat? 

Share in the comments or on Facebook.  


Sunday, January 24, 2016

Aloha Sunday Update

Shave Ice Friday...we're going to make it a thing


So....it's going to February soon.   How did that happen?

If you are in the path of all the snowstorms on the east coast, stay safe.   Yesterday I was trading pictures with a friend,  I sent her a picture of a palm tree and she sent back her snowy backyard.   We're not any more mature than we were in college, that's for sure.


You might be snuggled up with spiked coffee and a movie and I don't want to interrupt you, so here's a short list if your attention wanes:



This love letter to SPAM is everything.    I can't remember eating SPAM when I lived in the mainland, and one of my best memories with my co-workers shortly after arriving in Maui was me trying to make them eat SPAM flavored macadamia nuts.   They were NOT having it and then brought my my first SPAM musubi the next day.   Let's say that in the past two years, I've eaten more musubis than SPAM mac nuts.


How can we become Nutella Ambassadors?   This seems like the greatest gig ever.  Mark your calendar for World Nutella day on February 5th.

Have you ever not taken all the vacation time you were entitled to?   Why or why not?   This article about Americans not taking any vacation time in 2015 amazes me.   I can't imagine not taking time off when it's offered.

Not that the airlines feed you hardly anymore, but this article about the science of why food tastes different up in the air is pretty interesting.   It's why you want all the salty snacks.    The picture makes me laugh because NEVER have I had an airline meal that looks like that.   But I'm willing to try.

Whether you're snowed in and watching football, or playing outside in the sun, I hope you have a great Sunday!




Sunday, January 17, 2016

Aloha Sunday Update



Happy Sunday!

It's time for another week to start and we can no longer say we're in early January.    We've passed the midway point.   We're on the downhill slide to February.   Truth.

I'm not a big sports fan, but I keep an eye on the Broncos long distance and am happy that they are moving one step closer to the Super Bowl.    I don't even have to watch the game...I get the play by play through Facebook posts.

Earlier this week, we had our annual awards party, which had a James Bond, Casino Royale theme.   Good times were had by all.   And then I needed mass quantities of coffee to make it through the rest of the week.

Bond hanging out in our office

I can only hope that you had a fun week as well!

Here are just some of the interesting things that you can read, cook, watch or sing along with this week:

How have these first 17 days of 2016 gone for you?   Are you working on any goals, resolutions or words?   I haven't committed to a word yet, but it's narrowed into family that includes stretch and extend.   I was intrigued by this twist on reviewing your year.    It includes writing down all the highlights in 3 minutes or less and then identifying what brings you joy, what moved you, and where you want to focus.   You don't have to wait for a new year - you could do it monthly or seasonally.  

If you're looking for a new song for the new year, try Absolutely.   Absolutely everything.

Turns out eating chocolate can help you live longer....but it needs to be balanced out with other things, like walking.   Four Things the Swiss Can Teach Us About How to Live Longer

There are endless articles about how you can afford to travel.   Bottom line, like with anything, if you want it, you have to make it a priority and work for it.   Two takes on it this week, one from Huff Post and the other from Alex in Wanderland.

Geraldine, from The Everywhereist, slays me with each posts she writes.   This week it's about taking a yoga sculpt class.

With Alan Rickman's passing this week, this montage of scenes from Severus Snape's life in the Harry Potter movies makes me want to reread all the books and then have a movie marathon.  

And a couple recipes that look ono-licious:  Lilikoi Bars, Baked Buffalo Chicken Egg Rolls, and Slow Cooker Korean Tacos.

Have a great week!

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