Thursday, December 31, 2015

Wat Pho By Day And By Night

I feel like I spent most of the month of December on vacation.  

Not that I'm complaining.    

Looking at my work schedule, I still worked a solid 10 days.   I think that's a major accomplishment, don't you?  Most of that time was riding herd on my co-workers to complete their compliance training by the end of the year.   We've still got one more day - you can do this!

Actually vacation started in late November.   I spent Thanksgiving Day crossing the international date line, landing in Bangkok just before midnight.  No turkey for me this year!     

My first (and only other) time in Bangkok was in February of 2009.    I was excited to go back and share a little bit of Thailand with my family.    We had only two days in Bangkok.   Naturally we filled the time with fun, food, temples and laughter.  

Wat Pho - Reclining Buddha

We had the opportunity to see the beautiful Wat Pho by day and by night.   On the first day, we took the water taxi on the Chao Phraya and explored all the corners of Wat Pho.   We enjoyed our first foot massage of vacation at their massage school.    Thailand offers many wonderful experiences and foot massages are an inexpensive treat that should not be missed.  

On our second day in Bangkok, we went on the midnight food tour with Bangkok  Food Tours.   Delicious food and fun rolling through the streets of Bangkok in style.

This is how we roll
One of the stops on our night tour was to Wat Pho.    It was so peaceful to re-visit this temple at night without the crowds and heat of the day.

Have you been to Bangkok and visited Wat Pho?    

Memories from visiting  Bangkok in 2009:
Chao Phraya
Wat Arun
My Amazing Race Moment (also at Wat Pho)

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Vacation Countdown Paper Chain

Sometime in our southern Wisconsin childhood, my sister and I made our first paper chain.    My guess is that it was a countdown to Christmas.   Lovingly crafted using red and green construction paper, child safety scissors and a glue stick.    

As a kid, the fun things are always so far away.    

How long until my birthday?
How long until spring break?
How long until summer camp?
How long until Santa comes?

Explaining to child that something is 6 weeks away doesn't mean anything.
A countdown chain changes all that.   You can actually see that you are getting closer to the fun.
There is great satisfaction in ripping off another ring.    

While adulting and doing other serious things, it's possible that you might forget to remove a ring.    Bonus excitement when  you take two or three down at a time to get caught up!

The key to a successful paper chain is that you only use it for something fun.

No counting down to your oil change or your wisdom tooth extraction.    
You know better than that. 

Our current sisterly practice is to create countdown chains for vacation.   Too much being an adult and not enough crafting here in Maui, so I'm using my sister's chain as an example.  

As you can see from the picture, vacation time is almost here.    12 work days left.

Not that I'm counting or anything.  

Is there a trip or a special event coming up in your life where you should have a paper chain?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Hiking the Hanging Lake Trail, Colorado

In 8 years of living in Colorado, I hiked many trails, but never Hanging Lake.      

Maybe it was out of sight, out of mind since the trail head is in Glenwood Canyon,  about 10 miles before you reach Glenwood Springs.    My last stop on I-70 many times was Beaver Creek.   

This trail is another 50 miles past that.  

Now that my sister and I have made the Jazz Aspen Snowmass Experience a Labor Day tradition three years running, we pass the trail head along the interstate.     On the weekends, the parking lot fills quickly and the electronic signs on the highway will let you know before you attempt to exit.   

We opted for Friday afternoon hiking before all the holiday weekend hikers arrived.  

Hanging Lake is not a long hike, roughly 1.2 miles from the trail head.   And the trail head is about a quarter mile of sidewalk from the parking lot.      

I'm going to put it out there:  short hike does not always equal easy hike.  

We were warned.    More than one sign between the parking lot and the start of the trail reminded us that the trail would be difficult.  

If it's on a sign, it must be true

What makes it difficult?    
It's steep.   There is an 1,000 foot elevation gain.     

But the hike is not a race.  It's well-marked.   Enjoy the journey.  
Over Labor Day weekend, the waterfalls along the way were beautiful and lush.   

If you've hiked this trail, these sights will be familiar.    
If you haven't hiked it yet,  enjoy!

Gorgeous Glenwood Canyon

Lush Waterfalls

After those last steep steps, we arrived!

What to Know Before You Hike

  • There isn't an exit to the trail head on Westbound I-70
  • Take the Grizzly Exit on Westbound I-70 and get on Eastbound I-70 to reach the trail head and parking
  • Summer 2015 - there was construction in Glenwood Canyon, so the Grizzly exit wasn't open.   We went into Glenwood Springs and checked with the visitors center and they gave us the update.
  • The sign isn't kidding, sturdy shoes are a must.   The trail is rocky in parts and other parts are dirt-packed, which can get slippery if it rains.
  • There is 1000 feet of elevation gain over the course of the trail
  • You know you're almost there when you see the railing - that's the last section climbing up before you reach the lake
  • Bring your water and your snacks
  • No swimming in the lake...sorry

Have you hiked Hanging Lake?     What's your favorite Colorado hike?

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Hiking the Pipiwai Trail, Maui

Waimoku Falls
Pipiwai Trail
Happy August to you!

I'm not a parent, but I feel that back to school starts sooner and sooner.    Friends of mine here in Maui had students starting last week.  In July!

There are pros and cons of being a working adult.   Keeping my summer mindset past July is one of the pros.   

Back in May, almost 3 months ago now, I put together my summer fun list.   I've made some progress, including trips to Kauai and Wisconsin, as well as my first attempt at Stand Up Paddling (SUP) and enjoying an alcoholic hibiscus iced tea at Frida's Mexican Beach House.    

I recently added two more to the list:  Driving the Back Road to Hana and Hiking the Pipiwai Trail.   
The trail was the destination....the back road was the journey.

Last year when my family was visiting, we drove the official road to Hana, going from Paia to Hana Town.    If you want to be entertained, read Trip Advisor  reviews about the road to Hana.   People have so many  feelings.  It's their favorite part of their vacation.  They never want to do it again.   They do it every time they  come Maui.   It was a wasted day of their trip.  

The road to Hana, or the back road to Hana, isn't about Hana Town.   However, if you go to Hana, don't miss the Huli Huli chicken stand on the beach.  

The chicken in question

Yes to Aloha

The road to Hana is a journey.  It's an exploration of the beautiful island of Maui.    

The back road to Hana is road of mystery and superstition.  Primarily because of rental car contracts and rumors about the condition of the road.   The biggest issue with the back road is that you're far away from any towns or tow trucks if you have an emergency.     There are about 5 miles of on again off again paving with gravel and another few miles with really bumpy blacktop.    

What does the back road to Hana look like?

Windy roads...sometimes one lane
The other Maui wind  turbines that no one knows about
St. Joseph Church
They only hold services on months with 5 Sundays
Dramatic cliffs and black sand beaches
It's about a 2 hour drive from Kula, in upcountry Maui, to the Pipiwai Trail, in the Kipahulu section of Haleakala National Park.     You can buy a Hawaii annual parks pass for $25.  Otherwise, the private vehicle daily pass is good for three days and you can use it at the summit as well as Kipahulu.

The Pipiwai Trail sometimes gets the name of Bamboo Forest hike, since you're hiking through....wait for it...bamboo.

However, where I work, we refer to this hike, at mile marker 6.5 on Hana Highway, as the Bamboo Forest hike.   So you have options for your bamboo hikes.   Options are good.

The Pipiwai Trail is 4 miles total, out and back.   The trail is well marked, and you can tell where you shouldn't go based  on the red signs that say "don't go past this point."  

The first waterfall we came across on the trail wasn't in full steam here in July.   In fact, we saw some people hike this far, then turn around and go back.

 If you go back now, you miss the bamboo, bridges, boardwalk and Waimoku Falls at the end.

Bamboo and boardwalks

Maui, as always, is No Ka Oi (the best).    I'm glad I had this hike on my list.    I look forward to hiking it again.

Do you have a favorite Hawaii Hike?   

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Where I Went on My Summer Vacation: Door County, Wisconsin

This pint glass, full of Summer Shandy, has a fine map showing off Door County

Aloha Friends!

It's so nice to have the holiday weekend to recover from my vacation.   I got back a week ago, jumped right back into work for 4 days.    I knew I could handle that, jet lag and all, because the weekend was coming soon and had a bonus third day.    Now, of course, I'll have to work full weeks all the way until September.   Two whole months.   Crazy.

Living in a major tourism destination like Hawaii, it's always interesting to hear where people are going when they leave the islands for vacation.     For me, it was up north to Wisconsin to relax with my family.     A beautiful 10 days of sunny weather, cheese, frozen custard, summer shandy, family and zero alarm clocks.   

Fun Things We Did

In a highly unscientific self-survey, I realize that I have seen Kenny Chesney in concert every other years since 2003 in Indiana,  Colorado, Wyoming and Wisconsin.    Kenny was at Lambeau Field again this summer and this seemed like the perfect way to start vacation.     It was 7 hours of music from Old Dominion, Cole Swindell, Brantley Gilbert, Jason Aldean, and Kenny Chesney.   
So.  Much.  Fun.   

If you're fan, definitely go out and catch a show this summer. 

Any excuse to pet goats and cows or to climb on a tractor is worth a stop.  Plus, more ice cream.  
This time at Schopf's Hilltop Dairy.  

In Sturgeon Bay there is an exhibit of...surprise, sturgeons!  At the end of the summer they will be auctioned off.  
Wine Sturgeon, a kindred spirit
While perusing the Door County visitor brochure, we discovered the Trolley Ghost Tour.    
Where you can consume adult beverages.     And there might have been a sing-a-long.  

We look ready to find ghosts, don't we?

Still looking...

Family fun continued by riding the fireboat through Sturgeon Bay and out to Lake Michigan.

Fireboat and cocktails - good times!

We also visited the roof goats in Sister Bay.   I had no idea that we had narrowly missed the goat parade.   I like whale parades, so I know I would like a goat parade.   In fact, it is a BYOG parade.   Got a goat?  You can walk it in the parade.    

Hello roof goat

Do  you want to see the goats right now?   Check out the goat cam!  

Delicious Things Consumed

It's called America's Dairyland for a reason.  First stop after leaving the airport in Milwaukee was Kopp's.   I've got to say my sister and I have quite a collection of ice cream cone photos at this point in our life.   

We might have gone out for custard again on our way back down towards Milwaukee.   This time at Culver's.  

There was also our annual pilgrimage to Renard's Cheese.   Yes, cheese came home in my suitcase. No shame here.

Other places we ate, sampled or purchased included:  Door County Coffee,  Wood Orchard, Sonny's Pizza,  Holey Cow Ice Cream,  Door County Creamery,  Buchanan's (Wednesday Rib Night) and The Cabin (Fish Fry).    

Last but not least

Blowing bubbles with my niece before going out on the pontoon boat.   Gotta say it's been a while.

Since I didn't have a fishing license, I caught some rays instead.    With an adult beverage.  

Where are you going on your summer vacation?

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Aloha Sunday Update

Happy Aloha Sunday!

Summer seems to be flying by, and it isn't even officially summer yet.  

Looking for a little distraction?  You've got it:

I just started watching How the States Got Their Shapes on Netflix.   This is the kind of bite-sized trivia that I really enjoy.     I learned all about the Hatfields & the McCoys,  Forgottonia, and why Bostons roads are so crazy.   It also makes me want to take another big roadtrip, complete with National Parks and random roadside attractions.    

Keeping in that map theme....this buzzfeed video that shows that if we think countries are big or small based on how they appear on a flat map,  we really don't know anything after all.   Those maps that show Greenland as about the same size as the continent of Africa?   Just a wee-bit distorted.

#Distractinglysexy - every little thing that happens now has repercussions in social media.   Power to the women in science!

The Everywhereist has been cracking me up recently, including her posts on truth in exercise classes, things in women's magazines and the horror of raisinets.

June 1 marked my second summer of completing the #100happydays challenge.   You can do it!

The Uptown Funk video for dogs looking for adoption.  Yes.

A hilarious infographic about all the uncomfortable seats that you can get on the plane.   Why am I always sitting in Economy 2:  The Reckoning?

I made you mango lemonade.

 I've checked two things off my Summer Fun list so far:  visiting Kaua'i and enjoying Hibiscus Iced Tea.    Wisconsin and my first concert of the summer are on deck for later this week!

Hanalei School,  Kaua'i

Have a joyous week!

Sunday, May 31, 2015

72 Hours in Monterey, Family Reunion Style

So Otterly Cute

In 2011 we went to the wedding of a cousin we had never met in Illinois.    We sat at a family table with other cousins we had never met.   It could have been all kinds of awkward.

Instead, it ended with us making a human pyramid in the reception hall.  
Nothing awkward there...just the beginning of a beautiful family-ship.   

In 2013 we decided to do it again.  No one was getting married...just a straight up family reunion in Colorado.      

Was there another pyramid?   Yes, there was.

It's the building blocks of a tradition.   All traditions have start somewhere.   And sometimes you have to be the one who starts them.   

Like no time has passed, it's 2015, and it's time to reunion again.   We continued our western leanings, this time celebrating on the California Coast in Monterey.   And for the cousins who couldn't make this trip?    We put their heads on sticks and took them with us to the aquarium and the beach so they didn't miss the fun.  

Hello cousin!
For me it was a whirlwind trip across time zones:  taking a red-eye flight from Maui on a Thursday night and returning on Tuesday morning.  

Here's what I did:
  • Visited the renowned Monterey Bay Aquarium   
  • Fish & Chips at Coopers Pub
  • Bonfire & BBQ on the beach in Carmel
  • Family Breakfast at the hotel followed by a structured (read: boring) family photo, followed by one where we deliberately didn't pay attention to the camera (read:  classic)
  • Drive down Highway 1:  hiking at Andrew Molera State Park,  photographing the iconic Bixby Bridge,  seeing Seals, Otters, and Sea Lions in their natural habitat at Point Lobos State Natural Preserve
Bixby Bridge
  • Sampled all kinds of clam chowder at Monterey Fisherman's Wharf before deciding on a restaurant for lunch
  • Watched pelicans, seals and otters from the window while eating said lunch
Cocktails and Pelicans.  Of course.
  • Sampling all kinds of flavored almonds at Stewart and Jasper before deciding on Key Lime and Orange Creme Brulee
  • Rented a bicycle surrey from Adventures by the Sea and tried not to crash into any pedestrians
  • Hit up Trader Joe's and a couple other places that we don't have on Maui

What are your favorite things to do in Monterey?   
If you have family reunions, what is your tradition?


Sunday, May 17, 2015

Summer Fun List 2015

I didn't know that summer bucket lists were even a thing, but as I've been catching up on all the good things the internet has to offer, the lists are there.

After seeing Edward Readicker-Henderson present at TEDxMaui "Kill Your Bucket List", I've decided that I'm opting for a fun list instead.   Last summer I was all about the #100happydays which made me focus on something happy and good every day.  

What is it about sending a message in a bottle that people want to put it on their list?  I've read quite a few lists and it showed up twice.   Hmmm.   I live on an island.   No way am I throwing a bottle of any  kind  into the ocean.   Not gonna happen.  

Now s'mores on the other hand?   That can go on every summer list.   I had s'mores last weekend at our family reunion in Monterey and, as always, they were delicious.   All three of them.   Maybe four. You can't have too many s'mores?  Right?

Before the thought of a list had crept into my brain, I'd already planned things that definitely fall into my Summer Fun List.    So now, I'll have two categories:  Confirmed Fun and Opportunities for More Fun.

Confirmed Summer Fun

In my 18+ months living in Maui, I haven't made it to Kauai yet.   I was there 10 years ago, and next weekend, I'll fly over to enjoy approximately 54 hours on the Garden Isle.    I don't have many plans other than lounging by the pool and going out for ice cream.    


Wisconsin is actually a hotbed of summer fun.   Much more fun in the summer than in the winter.   I'll be catching up with my family in Door County and the Milwaukee area.  Cheese curds, cherries, Leinenkugel''s all there.

I'm mainland bound twice this summer and concerts are tied into both trips.    I've seen Kenny Chesney every other year since 2003, and this summer will be the second time I'll seen him perform at Lambeau Field in Green Bay.   My sister and I also started a tradition (we're in the third year, so it must be a tradition, right?) of going to the Jazz Aspen Snowmass music festival over Labor Day weekend.     The lineup this year includes Hozier, No Doubt, The Fray and Lenny Kravitz.  

In addition to quality mountain and music time with my sister, I'll have the chance to visit friends and fave places in Denver.    Has my blood thinned out after living at sea level?   I'll find out.

Opportunities for More Fun

Big Island
Ever since I moved to Maui, I've been thinking about visiting Big Island, only a hop away, to check out  the volcano.   Time to make that thought a reality.  

I haven't gone stand up paddle-boarding yet.   Hard to believe, especially since I can walk down to the beach and rent a board easily.

Take a Surfing Lesson
Another opportunity that I should take advantage of here in Maui.  

Hike the Pipiwai Trail
Famous for bamboo forests and waterfalls at the Kipahulu District of Haleakala National Park.   It's past Hana, so a bit of a drive from where I live, but I know it will be worth it.  

Drive the Backside of the Road to Hana
I've driven as far as Kipahulu on the road to Hana and I've been as far as Ulupalakua in the's time to connect the dots and see the whole road.  

Take a Tour of the Hali'imaile Distilling Company
I love food and beverage tours.  Even better when I get to sample something.  

Snorkel at Ahini-Kinau Natural Area Reserve
I've been to the end of the road twice.   The first time I didn't have my snorkel gear, and the second time the water was too choppy.  

Enjoy the Hibiscus Iced Tea (with alcohol this time) at Frida's Mexican Beach House
Last time I was at a work function, so had the virgin version, but next time....

I feel like there's more to come, but for now, at least I have a start!
What are your summer fun plans?


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