Sunday, October 31, 2010

Muddin' on Halloween

A very exciting day here - Halloween, of course, gifts of hutches and a fowl new friend, and volunteering at a muddin' event.

For the first time EVER, we failed to take ANY photos on Halloween. I blame it on photo overload from the trip and a return to a funky external hard drive that tend to erase random images when (not if) it crashes. Or maybe we were just too busy enjoying the evening to take photos. Either way, realized it too late. E went as Rapunzel, complete with a VERY long braid, thanks to some crafty yarn work on her part. I was the witch with the giant scissors. (Refer to your Rapunzel lore for reference.) Mr. B was the Prince. V was a horse. Maybe she was the prince's horse, but to her, it was all about BEING the horse, not about ownership. A friend and her daughter shared in our neighborhood romp as did a grandparent and a granddog while another grandparent helped hand the Prince hand out candy.

But the day all started with an early wake-up for me. I had a GREAT time as a volunteer today at the first ever SLO Mud Mash!

While I waited to fulfill my designated assignment (cheerleader and spotter and, as needed, heckler) I stepped in to help people sign up for the shirts. The race organizers have found themselves overrun with extras in their first few events, so this time tried to guestimate a bit closer. Problem? Lots of late registrations! So, they ran out of shirts quickly! But they had sign-up sheets in hand so runners could specify sizes to be delivered in coming days. I talked to more than 100 people about it (easily more) and only ONE was incredulous. Even he backed down quickly when I assured him that if he left his info he'd get a shirt. People were super cool about it!

The 5K (3.2-mile) course included significant water hazards (one chest-deep, one hip-deep), climbing ropes, Tyrolean ropes, a 12' wall, hay bale hazard, a hill climb and related descent and the final monster mud hole. It was FANTASTIC and looked like a GREAT time! MOST runners came in costume, some as matched sets. (One team of five included two "cops," one of whom carried a box of jelly donuts for the entire TWO-LAP 10K!) Even the top two finishers, while serious and focused during the race, stopped by the lake again afterward for a rinse, clearly enjoyed each other's company and shared some tips for a would-be masher.

From the course, I saw lots of smiles. It was so extra special to see runners turning around to help 10 or 15 other runners (clearly not just friends, or even acquaintances) up the tough exit from the Tyrolean rope (over/through water) area! As helpers moved on, a new set of runners would turn back to help the following set. THAT really helped add to the fun of the day for me. True sportsmanship, lots of laugh, fun, dads and sons, kids in the mud, and running into folks I haven't seen in years.

The ONLY complaint I heard from runners (and I heard it several time) wasn't really a complaint...more of a recommendation for future events: more mud! Yep...lots of folks said they'd like more obstacles, more mud and THICKER mud somewhere if you can get that cooked up.

Oh yeah...I'm comin' back next year, baby, but don't count on me during race time, though! I'll be IN THE MUD!

And I'm bringing FRIENDS!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

YouTube - Tim Hawkins "Homeschooling"

I really enjoy Tim Hawkins. He's a comedian who seems to offer entirely G-rated comedy. I love his musical parodies as well, but this one fit the bill as we leave "travel school" and "island school" and "beach school" to return to "home school."


Friday, October 22, 2010

Catching Up - E's Turn

Tonight I asked E to pen our blog entry. She decided to keep it brief.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -


human paradise,

mosquito Heaven.

The only imperfection

is the latter.

Thursday we went on a kayak tour, it included a 5-mile round-trip kayak ride with a 2-mile round-trip hike to a waterfall.

Today we went to Tunnels Beach and found lots of shells.

(We also shared a laugh over the following shirt, which the guy told us he purchased online. The poem is linked to the shirt's online source. I, Jen, particularly appreciated that the girls GOT it! Poetry rocks!)

Haikus are easy

But sometimes they don’t make sense


- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

And here are some photos Grandpa Doug took while he and Grandma Lynn were here:

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Another Westside Adventure on Kauai

Today was all about Sunday driving.

Ok, so it's Wednesday. We're on vacation!

The point of the day was to visit some of the waterfall overlooks and beaches at which we knew swimming would not be an option. Each of these required far less time than the full-day given many of the beaches, trails and other adventures we've enjoyed this trip, so we figured we'd plan a route, kick in some shopping and make a day of it.

We kicked off the day's adventures with a mini waterfall run. We began with the quick drive to 'Opaeka'a (Rolling Shrimp) Falls just upstream from the town of Wailua. There is no trail or river access to the falls, according to the research I've done, but the overlook provides a glimpse of the stream plummeting into the tropical forest far below. We looped around to Wailua Falls, the 170-foot drop featured at the opening of every episode of Fantasy Island. This another popular spot, particularly among tour companies and those who are not in shape to take a long hike to a remote waterfall. Our guidebooks told us there is a 3/10-mile trail down to the falls, but it's steep, treacherous, potentially slippery and incredibly hazardous. The state has fenced off areas where people have clearly made crazy descents. We opted to play it safe, which made for a fairly uneventful visit but also certainly protected our health and the well-being of our children. If you want to see a waterfalls but aren't willing to hike, this might be a good route for you. Expect crowds and traffic.

After a few stops to pick up some goodies, we headed straight out to the westernmost end of the road - Polihale State Park. Signs at the pavement's end clearly point out that there will be no aid for those who break down or get stuck along the final 5 miles of dirt road or the 15 miles of sand beach. Further, our guidebook noted that AAA won't respond to tow a vehicle stuck in the sand there (but will respond to a broken down vehicle...hint-hint). The warnings are probably enough to deter lots of potential visitors, but I've driven a heckuva lot of dirt roads in my lifetime, and this one paled in comparison to some of the worst I've hit, even with the minivan. We were hardly alone in our adventures - locals in the know make the trip regularly to pick up surf there, and there were several other intrepid visitors like us along the way.

On our way to the park we passed several turn offs for facilities related to the Pacific Missile Rance Facility before finding the first turnoff to the park (with no thanks to those who plastered the signs with surf stickers that obscured any direction). We walked the sand (no barking) and found a fantastic collection of rocks and shells polished smooth by nature's rock tumbler before heading to the end of the road (and restrooms). The beach was reminiscent of our own Guadalupe Beach in that it included MILES of soft sand that dips deeply into dangerous crashing waves and treacherous tides of the Pacific. It was fun to watch the surfers motor in to the fast-traveling waves behind Jet Skis. The tow-in gives them the speed they need to catch the waves, a ride away from the waves once they're finished with their rides, and safety from the rip tides and currents that head quickly out to sea here.

From Polihale, we headed back toward civilization and opted to stop at Glass Beach. Mr. B and I had wavered on this because it is, essentially, the old dump. According to various reports from travel guides and locals alike, back in the "olden days," the community tossed all of its trash in this little cove to be washed out to sea. While most of it has washed away, the glass has been pounded nearly to smithereens and some of it remains strewn upon the beach. When Our Little Scavengers caught wind of a potential plethora of sea glass, they were all over it, so we made the stop. We found a veritable haven for sea glass enthusiasts. The beach is awash in sea glass, from a simple smattering to six-inch-deep treasure troves. Most of the glass was quite small, slowly breaking down into the sand from which it was born. But we quickly discovered the trick to finding larger pieces. The girls each came away with their own small collections.

The shadows were growing quite long, so we opted to skip Poipu Beach Park in favor of a look at Spouting Horn. Either location drew us into the incredibly heavily developed Poipu area. This is hotel/condo heaven. We took the short, paved walk through the tourist-magnet vending area to the top of the viewing area to listen to the sea pound its way into the lava tube, and ultimately through the blow hole. We watched the sun descend toward the horizon and the sky turn magnificent colors, then headed back toward our little screen shack in the countryside via our favorite local pizza place - Brick Oven Pizza in Wailua. The food was, again, very good and the service wonderful.

Aloha from Kauai!

How to Have a Great Vacation

Our vacation has not been without its mishaps, but once again I find myself surprised by our luck in the fantastic people we meet, easy friends we make and wonderful welcome we are given by locals. I don't believe the girls have never really known a bad travel day (though I know there are days that have involved FAR too much travel time for any of our tastes). Even when we got locked out of our own trailer due to a faulty lock, it worked out fantastically.

I had cause to reflect once again on this string of good fortune late last night with the delivery of fresh-caught seafood by a local I'd met on the beach only hours before. What caused him to offer up a share of his catch? We had met on the beach, he heard my family was barbecuing and he felt compelled to share a local treat. When he delivered, I offered a gift in return, but he refused. He was simply happy to share. Was it because we'd also made friends with local families? Local kids and our girls had exchanged phone numbers and were enjoying play dates on the sand? Why is it that so many of our travel experiences work out, sometimes despite adversity?

Most of our best vacation memories share something - from the music jam Mr. B and I discovered in the basement of a Welsh pub YEARS ago to this weeks' lobster feed and countless wonderful encounters and events in between. All of these experiences have shared one common trait - interacting with local with absolutely no expectation beyond simple conversation, a shared laugh, a smile. There's just something about showing genuine interest in a person's country, community or activity that strikes up great conversation and leads to warm feelings of welcome.

Talking to strangers isn't difficult for me, though it used to be. I still remember those first reporting assignments that required me to walk up to relatively random individuals and ask them about an event or activity or current event. OH! I'd stand there for as long as possible casing the crowd at hand in search of a friendly face. It wasn't long before I learned to assess a person's approachability. If they refused to make eye contact, looked away when I smiled, or began turning away as I approached them, chances were they weren't going to be willing to talk, let alone be quoted in their local paper.

When I travel, these same skills come into play. And while my kids and husband may tell you I'll talk to anyone any time, the fact is I still choose who and when I'm willing to talk to strangers. I size them up, watch their body language, and cut 'em loose immediately if they show signs of feeling uncomfortable with me. I am genuinely curious about the people I meet, the foods I eat, the places I see when I travel. I don't expect anything except a courteous response from these interactions. I'm seldom disappointed.

You may be shy, but if you want to make your next vacation even more memorable, strike up conversation with a local. Maybe you're looking for the best park in town, the favorite locally owned eatery, or the name of a local plant. Flag down a local and give it your best. At the very least, you'll come away with answers and that warm, welcoming feeling.

So, what did we do with our surprise seafood treat? Rather than wait 'til today, we opted to listen to the local and "cook it fresh, ya?" At 11:30, I started boiling the water and prepping the lobster. By midnight, V and Mr. B had fallen asleep. So E and I enjoyed a midnight feast. (V ate her lobster for breakfast, and Mr. B, not a fan of seafood, opted out altogether.)

Mahalo Nui, Ron!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Kauaian Hospitality - WOW!

We've met the most fabulous people here! Tonight, as we were wrapping up our evening "at home," a local pulled up to the door. I'd met a crew on the beach as we were headed home to BBQ. The girls were playing with two local girls they met a couple of days ago. The guys were headed out for some night fishing. One of them asked what we were doing at this "locals" beach. ("Not too many people come here, yeah?") When they heard we were BBQ'ing, they perked up. "Lobster would be really great, yeah? We'll bring you some if we catch any!"

Well, it was already dark, and we're strangers, plus they were just heading out, so I wasn't holding out much hope.

What a wonderful surprise, then, to answer the door as we were wrapping up our evening. (It was a Kauai greeting - a Jeep pulled up outside the screen house and someone hollered, "Hey?") There was Ron, the local guy, with a bag. "Sorry we're so late! We didn't get much." But here's dinner for the whole family tomorrow night - and cooking instructions. Mmmmm.... Mahalo nui!

Visiting The Cliffs - Na Pali

So sleepy! Keeping up with blog, photos and vacation is exhausting. So, I'll just post a quick note about our fantastic day on the Na Pali coast. We woke early to load with North Shore Charters. We were greeted by an absolutely beautiful, unseasonably flat sea. After a couple of hours cruising up the coast on a rigid inflatable boat (aka Zodiac), cruising in and out of sea caves, we were further rewarded with SPECTACULAR snorkeling in deep water off the Na Pali Coast. Mr. B and I took a similar tour 14 years ago, but found this snorkeling spot so murky that we thought the water was only a few feet deep. WELL! Turns out its an easy 30 feet deep! And today we could see clear to the bottom. With flippers (fins) loaned from the charter company and our own masks/snorkels/goggles, we were in hog heaven. (Note to self: next time, don't forget your fins at home.) It'll take a couple of days to get the film camera processed and back again, but I'll upload those photos then. Meanwhile:

Monday, October 18, 2010

Paddling Hanalei Bay

Wow! I think we've found E's calling! When we were at Hanalei Bay a few days ago, E mentioned she'd like to try her hand at the paddle boards. We saw lots of people standing on these gigantic surfboards, paddle in hand, and it didn't look to terribly tough. Plus, the bay has been wonderfully tranquil. So, this morning we returned to the land of Hanalei and hired the boards. E took to it like a fish to water.

Turns out paddle boarding isn't quite as easy as it looks. If you don't pay attention to the motion of the board it will shoot out from under your body and leave you behind. It also undulates with the swell, so you have to keep your legs bent. I found it easier to lay on the board and paddle with my arms, and if there's any breeze your body becomes a sail. That COULD be great if you wanted to cross some water quickly, but when you have to paddle back against the wind and you're just starting out it certainly raises the degree of difficulty! Having a lower center of gravity and less body to catch the wind certainly helped E. V chose to sit on the front of the board and use the paddle like a kayak paddle (though there's only a paddle on one end). She outpaddled Mr. B's swim with her method.

New discovery of the day: While in Hanalei town, we spotted a banana tree!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Reflections and Moloa'a Bay

As promised, I posted some of the underwater photos we took with the little disposable cameras at Anini and Tunnels beaches. The water wasn't very clear (in Hawaiian terms), but the best were appended to the photos here and here.

It's late, so just a short note tonight. Today we had a relaxing day on the beach just down the end of our road. Even Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Doug found their way into the wonderfully warm water. Mr. B and I snorkeled, the girls swam, played on the tree ropes and made friends with local kids. In short, another beautiful day.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Kalo Festival, Racism and a dip in Hanalei Bay

When Mr. B and I explored Kauai 14 years ago this week, we had the good fortune to come across the Taro Festival in Hanalei. I pounded poi, we observed local culture, and we enjoyed our fair share of local treats. As we planned our trip this year, Mr. B looked high and low for the old festival, but it wasn't listed on any events calendars he could find, nor did the Kauai Visitors Bureau know anything about it.

Last week, as we were cruising through Hanalei, I spotted a sign advertising the "Kalo Festival" slated for this weekend. Just that morning, I had been reading a children's book printed in both English and Hawaiian and had learned kalo is Hawaiian for taro. Taro, or kalo, is one of the original plants brought to the islands by Polynesian explorers. Its root is harvested, boiled, cleaned then mashed to form a paste that is used in a variety of foods. It is served as paste with meats, or used in everything from breads to desserts.

So while hundreds of tourists flocked into Hanalei town for the party that is Saturday morning farmers' market, we continued down the road with the locals for Waipa Foundation's Kalo Festival. The low-key event included samples of kalo in its various forms, student artwork, and lots of information about the plant, its history, its propogation and uses. We arrived early enough to help prepare the kalo for poi pounding, and by taking part in the entire process felt honored to be welcomed into the activity.

We also talked to lots of locals, and learned some valuable information: the giant toads we've been seeing are called "bufo" or cane toads and their skin is covered in toxin; the kissing/chirping sound we've been hearing at night is created by our friendly house geckos. See what we'd miss if we didn't talk to strangers?

One of the things I've really noticed this time about Kauai is the sense of family here. In Kauai, there's a lot of talk about the 'ohana (family), both immediate and the 'ohana (or more properly the hui) of the residents as a whole. Here, elders are addressed not as sir and ma'am or Mr. and Mrs., but auntie and uncle.(My heart melted last week when a local little girl addressed me as auntie.) And at a local event, with so many people calling each other with this familiar term of respect, I felt warm and welcome and wonderful.

Then came the master of ceremonies - what a tragic choice. Sure, Bu La'ia, a Hawaiian comedian, was funny at times, but typically at the expense of the tourists, specifically white people. His jokes were cutting and ruthless. Knowing the history of the islands, indeed indigenous people around the globe, the jokes were understandable. But as the hours wore on, we found ourselves steering clear of the area when the MC hit the stage. His bashing of the American government wasn't helpful either. And his language was unfit for the family audience. Having seldom been on the receiving end of such racist behavior, it was, if nothing else, educational. Through what he felt was comedy, Mr. B and I were made to feel completely unwelcome and were, ultimately, driven from the event. (I'm not sure the girls even caught his meaning, thanks to his use of language they've never heard combined with pidgin.) Sure, we could have stayed. But the beach called, and it was much more welcoming - and less expensive.

On to Hanalei Bay, then, but not before a stop for shave ice in Hanalei. Just enough sugar to give us the umph we needed for some good times on the beach. The girls really loved that they could go so far from shore and still touch bottom. The tiny flying silver fish were a treat, too. And I took a swim down the bay to Hanalei Pier for some exercise and to take a leap off the historic pier. (For classic movie buffs, you may recall it from "South Pacific.") The girls found some great shells, but they were still inhabited so left them behind in sand castles they built for their new-found mollusk friends.

We returned to The Shack before dark (gasp!) to enjoy barbecued BLTs, breadfruit and random leftovers from this week's feeding frenzy and family movie night featuring the 1978 version of "The Hobbit."

Friday, October 15, 2010

Discoveries on Kauai's West Coast

We had a plan today. Kauai had other plans for us.

Mr. B had read about a festival set for today on the west coast of Kauai. It was printed in various calendars, tourism websites and the newspaper. Looked to have good stuff for the whole family, particularly the kids' activities. So, we gathered our goodies and set off for the long drive along the south shore and around to the east. (While only about 26 miles, the average speed limit along Kauai's main highway is 30 mph, and passes through residential and commercial districts....many locals seldom bother to go to the "other" side, citing it as "too far.")

When we arrived, we were welcomed by a nearly empty parking lot. And the visitors center staff who apologized (the festival was canceled for uncertain reasons), then welcomed us inside to look around. They also had a table set up for visitors to try their hand at lei making. The girls each took advantage of the lei opportunity while Mr. B and I read about island history in the small museum.

Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Doug joined us just in time to set out to lunch and, after a recommendation from the lei maker, we found our way to Wrangler's. The pu pu platter offered a delicious selection of appetizers for the table including crab cake, kalua pork, calamari, ahi tuna and calamari. Then the girls and I took the local's advice and were rewarded with the kau kau tin: a three-layered stainless steel lunchbox loaded with steamed rice, terriyaki beef, tempera vegetables, and pickled cabbage. Rather than take our leftovers home in a box, Grandma Lynn bought us our own kau kau tin! (E already has plans for it into next summer.)

Then, we had our greatest discovery of the day: Hawaiian Shave Ice, mmmmm! We happened upon the "RIGHT" Jo Jo's Shave Ice in Waimea. (Apparently, the shop on the main drag doesn't do it justice. We were at the hole-in-the -wall around the corner - and I don't think it could have BEEN any better!) Sure, it's basically a snow cone, but when served in deluxe fashion it's delicious! A scoop of ice cream under a layer of flavored shave ice, then topped with a drizzle of sweetened condensed milk (or simple cream). It was a taste sensation - and certainly sugar overload!

With our afternoon suddenly free, we decided to head to Kokee State Park. Rather than follow the signs on the highway, we followed Mr. B's map, which led us to some great overlooks as well as a really interesting patch of barren red soil with it's own stream and miniature waterfalls that cascaded from pond to pond. At each overlook we were rewarded with spectacular views of "Grand Canyon of the Pacific," and drawn to the heart of the island. This would be a spectacular place to return with backpacks for some in depth exploration of the trails throughout the backcountry.

As we headed back toward Moloa'a Bay, we veered off the main highway and into Hanapepe to revisit Talk Story. The girls and I had read several of our books and were interested in making a swap at the used bookstore. We found Friday Art Walk in full swing, with galleries and art shops as well as other downtown shops open for business, musicians playing along the sidewalks, food vendors and art vendors along the street and locals and tourists alike enjoying the wonderful night air. The event reminded us of San Luis Obispo's Thursday Night Farmers' Market, but with the emphasis on art rather than food.

After a walk up and down the street and our book swap, we made our way back to The Shack via our favorite local pizza place, Brick Oven Pizza where the pizza is delicious and the service friendly.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Tunnels Beach - a full day of sand, surf and sea turtles

Woke again to no water. This is insane! I called the water company myself this time, and was immediately patched through to the supervisor. I'm tellin' you, it's tough to get wound up on Kauai. Rather than blow me off or give me some sort of BS line, the supervisor answered honestly and just so mellowly, "I really don't understand what's happening." Then he explained it all to me, in brief. His crew had initially come out to replace a main valve a couple of days ago. To do so, they had to drain the tank. It appeared to be all in working order, but the tank just wouldn't fill. They'd checked their work yesterday and all seemed in order. Today, they would return to check each property's meter to find out if someone had a major leak. Meanwhile, "I'm sorry."

So, off we went for the day with no high hopes of running water upon our return.

We've been trying to get to the beach first thing in the morning ever since we arrived. Our memories of past trips involve early morning wake-ups, particularly those first mornings before we acclimated to the time change. But this time, between the very long trip out, the late arrival and The Shack's shaded, canyon location, we managed to adjust JUST FINE to the time change. So, we've quickly adopted an easy-morning wake-up call.

Today, however, we managed to hit the beach slightly earlier. We headed for Tunnels Beach, Kauai's storied snorkeling beach. The water was warm and the sand stretches on for what appears to be nearly a mile with 15-30 yards from the water's edge to the vegetation line - plenty of room for the ample supply of visitors exploring the reef here. But while Tunnels is protected by not one but two reefs, we arrived as the tide was coming in so found the going a bit rough. Still, we saw the greatest diversity of ocean life here including Nunu and convict tangs we've seen elsewhere, sea turtles, urchins, anemones, puffer fish, butterfly fish, trigger fish (the state fish: Humu humu nuku nuku apua'a), red uhu, blue uhu, a'ha (needlefish), eels, yellow-stripe goat fish, moa (trunk fish) and pufferfish, among others. V and I body surfed and "played dolphin" with each other for more than an hour straight. The girls collected shells and rocks and practiced their negotiating skills with shell exchanges.

Just after we ate our picnic lunch, Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Doug joined us. Grandma Lynn said earlier this week that she's not a "sit-on-the-beach-and-read-a-book" type of gal. But I know that the last few times we've been on the beach with her (elsewhere), she's seemed to have a fabulous time digging in the sand, flying kites, or otherwise playing along with us all. Today was no exception. It took Grandma perhaps 7 minutes to finish her lunch and get in the water with the girls. It was really fun to see her laughing with the girls and splashing in the wonderfully warm water that had calmed with the change of tide, or wind, or time.

For dinner, the girls, Mr. B and I stopped in Hanalei where we discovered Kalypso. I had a scrumptious dinner of coconut shrimp with a sweet-spicy Thai chili sauce and side of vegetables that hit the spot. We all gave E a helping hand with her more-than-ample macho nachos. V took home a bucket and shovel with her kids burger meal. And Mr. B gobbled up the fish and chips. All with pineapple juice in honor of Grandma Lynn's Kauai pineapple tradition.

Returned to The Shack to find our ample running water had returned! HOORAH! Turns out one of the properties down the hill had a broken valve. Apparently no one was home, and the water from the shared tank was draining completely down thataway. The water company guys got it all worked out! HUZZAH!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Horseback Riding to the Swimming Hole

God bless the waterworks guys. Today we woke to not a trickle of water on the property. Not a drip. Ants are invading the counter again, and we have no way to wash it down to erase their trail. (We used all of our drinking water last night to rinse the dishes and get one flush of the toilet.) Contacted the property owner this morning. Water guys pulled down the street as we were headed out again....

We were back to our active selves today, to some extent. Somehow, we managed to talk both Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Doug into joining in on our family horseback ride. Grandma Lynn and I rode when we were here in the 1980s, and Grandpa Doug said he hadn't been on a horse since his junior high school days. Mr. B has been on the horse once in his lifetime, to my knowledge. Still, there we were, saddling up this morning.

We chose Silver Falls Ranch for the ride because we wanted something MORE than just a ride. V rides every week, and E was riding every week until she got tired of riding in a ring. I ride whenever I can get a chance. This place offered not only the pleasure ride, but the itinerary included a stop at a swimming hole and waterfall (er...cascade) on the property where lunch was served. We weren't disappointed. The horses were well matched to riders (mine had a little spunk; the beginners all rode very accommodating horses), and our guide was friendly, knowledgeable, helpful and relaxed. The place was quite pricey, but they offered what we were looking for and we're on vacation! (We'll face our financial responsibilities again when we return to "real life.")

After the ride, Mr. B, V, E and I explored Anini Beach. While the beach itself is very long, its shore is not very deep. There are only about 10 feet between the sea wall or high-water mark and the lapping tide. On the other hand, the reef is quite far from shore and today the surf was nearly completely absorbed by the reef. Snorkeling was fantastic here due to the calm water, though visibility may have been clearer during the morning hours. We found it a bit murky, but still were too amped to leave the underwater camera in the bag. And once we spotted the pair of sea turtles we were absolutely shutter happy. (I'll upload those photos as soon as we get them back from the processor - if we can find one on the island. Film, anyone?)

Then we returned to Bali Hai for dinner (mmm...tomato/basil/garlic delight on spaghetti with salad and bread all topped off with Laffert's ice cream to order). Another dip in the pool for the girls. Good thing - we returned to a trickle of water (not enough to kick on the water heater for showers, or to fill the toilet tank for another flush). But at least the weather is fantastic, right?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hanalei Farmers Market

With a day of rest behind us and our anniversary upon us, we looked forward to a family day together. (You just can't have too many of those.) But with no plans certain, and still a bit worn out from all the activity, we had a slow start to the day. Mr. B took a walk down to Moloa'a Beach in the early morning hours while the girls and I slept in a bit. After breakfast, E and I headed down to the beach while Mr. B took a morning siesta and V worked on a story she's been writing for a few days now ("The Island").

It was a GORGEOUS morning at the bay! E and I hadn't really planned to snorkel, so left all the goggles, masks, snorkels and such in the shack. We found the bay nearly deserted, the water warm and clear and fish EVERYwhere! After floating around a bit, we opted to walk along the bay's southern shore to the point. We navigated our way across some enormous, black boulders for about 20 minutes until we could see down the coast, then we returned along the shore, taking time to check out various schools of fish along the reef which abuts the south shore. We saw dozens of Nunu Peke (Coronet Fish), convict tangs and countless fish we couldn't identify. We found infant fish in the tidepools and played with coconuts and kukui nuts, shells and rocks along the way until it was time to return to The Shack to rejoin the family.

Water company workers were fiddling with the main under the street just outside the house as we headed north to Hanalei for farmers' market. What a very cool way to spend the afternoon. We saw fruits we'd never experienced before including Jack fruit, atemoya (sugar apple x cherimoya), longan and fresh coco beans as well as star fruit, papaya, mango, apple bananas, white pineapple, fresh pineapple, tea and, of course, coconut. The very cool thing about the coconut was that the seller first opened the coconut just a smidge so we could enjoy the coconut water (clear water, sort of bubbly, definitely coconut flavored for a sort of "coconut soda" sensation), then hacked it open with a machete and used a tool not much different from an ice cream scoop to free the fresh coconut meat for us to enjoy. (Another cool thing about the machete-wielding coconut woman was that she's our neighbor at The Shack - I feel safer knowing she's one of our rural neighbors.) I could easily have spent a couple of hours here just enjoying the music, people watching and tasting and enjoying the tropical treats. But I was just one in the crowd, and the rest of our crowd was quickly ready to move on.

We found our way to Princeville Bali Hai where Grandma Lynn and Grandpa Doug are staying, and it wasn't long before the girls and I were in the pool playing with the waterfall, the sand-bottom shallow end, and the decorative tiles that included mermaid, dolphins and sea turtles. Then it was dinner at the condo before we returned to The Shack to discover we had no running water. Good thing the girls and I got in a swim after our dips in the ocean and sand today. Poor Mr. B. Man can't even get a shower on his anniversary...

Monday, October 11, 2010

Salt Ponds Beach: Where Surf Meets Shaker

After yesterday's tough hike, we opted to take it easy today. We met Grandma Lynn at a local tourist-centric shopping center, then headed in to Hanapepe to visit Talk Story, a locally owned used book store. I'd heard about the bookstore from another visitor who, after figuring out we homeschool, also assumed (correctly) that the girls must love to read. The bookstore is, indeed, quite good with not only a wide selection of books from kids' selections to subjects of particularly local interest, but also a well-informed, well-read, super-friendly owner and Celeste, the greeter cat. (Well, she's more of a counter ornament than a greeter, but a regular customer's dog served as official greeter upon our arrival.)

We parted ways with Grandma here. While she returned to her abode, we headed further west to Salt Pond Beach just out of Hanapepe town. The park is so named because of the clay ponds just out of the ocean's reach (most of the time) where salt producers have, for generations, extracted salt from sea water through a slow, painstaking process of drying in a very humid climate. While purported to be as child-friendly as Lydgate Park, we found the current MUCH stronger here. Still, the bay was beautiful, navigable, and warm. The girls found a friend within minutes in 6-year-old Malu, a local who was ever-so welcoming and playful. Mr. B found fish within minutes via his snorkel and a paddle out to the outer rim of the sea wall. The girls all had a great time together 'til sunset when we, too, went our separate ways.

And the kids' eye view:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Hanakapi'ai Hike: Kids-eye view

Downloaded the girls camera and thought we'd share their view of the trip here as well. These were taken by the girls and Mr. B along the Hanakapi'ai Hike.

Hanakapi'ai Hike: 8.4 miles and they're still talking to us

E-mail recipients - YES there are photos, but you have to go to the blog to see them. Click the link.

What an adventure! Today we took the girls on their longest, most-difficult single-day hike of their lives. Mr. B and I waited for years to return to Kauai because we wanted our girls to be old enough to manage this hike, among other things, but it was this hike that was really the clincher for us.

Hanakapi'ai Falls is a strenuous, technically moderate hike on the Na Pali Coast. It includes the first 2 miles of the world-class Kalalau Trail, then cuts inland through a beautiful, ancient valley roughly following the Hanakapi'ai stream 1.7 miles further to the impressive, LOWER 300-foot section of what may be up to a 1,600-foot waterfall/cataract called Hanakapi'ai Falls. The total elevation gain for the out-and-back hike is about 1,760 feet with similar elevation loss. Sure, it's all a wash, but tell that to our aching ankles! (WHERE did I put that Arnica?!)

We hit the trail at about 10:30 a.m., a little later than we'd anticipated, but still plenty of time to enjoy the day. We climbed and dropped into Hanakapi'ai Beach along the fairly well maintained, but certainly rough trail. Sections were quite steep, including the "gatekeeper" section at the beginning of the trail - steep enough to scare off many visitors who really shouldn't hit this trail. About 1 3/4 miles in we ran into crazy, red ants. We couldn't stop for a rest the last 1/4 mile for fear of being carried away by the pests. (We saw one live cockroach being carried away by a raft of ants, and a big dead spiders being torn apart - these were NOT your typical backyard variety ants!) Along the way, we managed to spot a variety of fantastic flowers including wild orchids that would have had my Auntie M drooling. There they were, out on the trail, just blooming away. Amazing.

At the beach, the girls discovered thousands of polliwogs (tadpoles) living in the fresh pond onshore only about 35 feet from the pounding waves that will, come winter, completely erode the beach. We were also greeted by two of the islands countless feral-but-friendly cats who enjoyed treats of bread and whatever other handouts visitors were willing to share. While the girls rescued tadpoles who were washing downstream toward the ocean, Mr. B walked the short beach to a shallow cave, took a nap and snapped a few shots. I tried to stretch out on the sand, but quickly turned into a sugar cookie - sand encrusted on every surface thanks to gusty winds.

We knew our time would be limited today by daylight hours, so we packed up the girls and headed up canyon. There we enjoyed a few creek crossings, sampled windfall guava that was abundant, experienced mountain apples (which, oddly, grow on any exposed bit of tree - a limb, the trunk, occasionally under leaves), and contemplated our chances of survival were we to climb into the thick, deep bamboo groves during a hurricane. Once at the falls, E dipped in her feet, I took a swim, all of us finally enjoyed our lunches, then it was time to head back downstream.

The hike out was much easier, both because it was downhill (largely) from the falls to shore, and because the degree of difficulty had SO increased at the end of the trail that none of those "tough spots" we'd struggled through along the first portion of the trail looked very tough anymore. We collected a few guava and mountain apples for breakfast tomorrow, made a quick rest stop above the beach and then trucked toward the parking lot. It seemed to be getting darker a lot earlier than we'd expected. Turns out Hawaii is not among those who celebrate daylight savings time, so our timekeeper was off by an hour. Oops! Good thing Mr. B is always prepared (he had his flashlight, amongst other useful things), I keep the girls' backpacks stocked (V had her headlamp and E had her flashlight), and through dumb luck I also had my headlight along (I'd just picked it up in August and after our last camping trip, stuffed it in my day pack for lack of a better place to store it). As we walked out in the dark, we became the trail heroes with our lights which we shared with a family of five and a couple, all of whom were fumbling around in the dark when we came upon them. ALWAYS hike prepared!

We made it back to the car about 45 minutes after sunset only slightly dinged, certainly tired and ready for dinner. While we'd purchased groceries and PLANNED to eat in, it was way past dinner time and we weren't willing to wait for the drive home, plus cooking time. We stopped in the fantastic little town of Hanalei where we missed Bubba's "We cheat tourists, drunks and attorneys" by a hair! (The cook was closing the doors as we drove by, and was already making out with her boyfriend behind the restaurant by the time we parked and hit the restroom.) So we headed across the street to the local Panda's Kitchen for passable Chinese food, particularly among hungry hikers. Then to Lappert's, an ice cream shop for which we've already earned one free scoop - and this is only day 3!

A great family day, a fantastic family adventure and exhausted footsies all heading to bed.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Birthday on the Beach

Today was V's day, so she got to choose our adventure. With limited knowledge of the island, she wasn't interested in exploring. She wanted to head back to a great beach she'd already experienced, so we were off to Lydgate State Park again to enjoy the day. Both girls particularly appreciate that boulders stacked in 1963 to form a large protected swimming area specifically designed for children still provides that protection. But it doesn't keep out the fish which are friendly, particularly with visitors who bring food to share.

Upon our arrival this morning, the girls quickly discovered that the driftwood lean-to they'd begun building yesterday had survived high tide, so between swimming sessions, we were back at it, building, decorating, enjoying the shade of the structure. V fed lots of fish with Mr. B while E made friends with locals in the swell that survives in the keiki pools at Lydgate.

As the sun set, we took our sandy selves out to dinner at V's choice: Kauai Pasta. Then we picked up a pumpkin pie for dessert back at the shack with her movie pick, "My Neighbor Tortoro."

Friday, October 8, 2010

Oahu: Kids-eye view

An interesting thing happens when you put a camera in a child's hands and just let her have at it. No editing. No judgement. No pointers (except point and shoot and, perhaps, a reminder to turn on the flash when it's getting dark). Kids take great shots, and the images they share can be fun, eye-opening and help you see another perspective of the world. Here are some shots taken around Oahu, particularly Honolulu, Pearl Harbor and the Polynesian Cultural Center, all on the girls' camera.

And from the Valor in the Pacific World War II National Memorial:

Aloha, from the Emerald Isle!

(For those of you who receive these updates via e-mail, to see photos, click through to the blog.)

Aloha from our little green shack on Kauai! Yep, really. We're staying in a screened-in shack on a rural road on the northwestern corner of the island. As Grandma Kathy often said, "It's just us chickens," and given her experience on Kauai, I'd say she probably picked up the term here. Kauai locals call the feral chickens and roosters that run amok here the official bird of the island. And besides the geckos, the mosquitoes, island feral kitties and two friendly shack kitties, it's just us and the roosters and chickens here. The roosters begin their song around 10:30 p.m. and carry on well into morning before settling in for their afternoon naps so they can hit us again when dark falls. Otherwise, here on Kauai, our nighttime sounds are limited to crickets and a passing car now and again.

Such a relief to be here after a nightmare first flying experience for the girls (well, it certainly could have been worse, but given that it took us 17 hours to cover 6 hours of air time, it was hardly ideal), we arrived in Honolulu late Monday night. (Simply put, I'll never recommend United, nor AAA travel services which uses United as its preferred carrier.)

The Diamond Head B&B in Honolulu, however, is another story. Our hostess, Joanne Trotter, offers spacious rooms and comfortable ambiance. Each room includes a small 'fridge that is stocked with water, sodas and beer for guests. "Help yourself," she urged us as she made us at home in the dark of night. Books about the area, the islands, works of fiction and fancy are on various shelves and tables, and our room had a comfortable balcony overlooking the garden and, ultimately, the skyscrapers of Waikiki Beach just a few blocks down the hill. Breakfast was a more-than-ample selection of local seasonal fruits and other goodies. My favorite: cranberry orange scones from nearby Diamond Head Market & Deli.

On our first day, we visited Pearl Harbor (aka World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument). Though we've talked about war (it's difficult to cover human history without talking about it, over, and over, and over again), we didn't feel it was appropriate to have them view a film with war footage, so we opted to skip what is, without a doubt, a key piece of this park. Instead, we headed directly to "Big Mo," the U.S.S. Missouri for a self-guided tour of the battleship. Then it was off to Queen's Surf for the girls' first touch of warm ocean.

The girls were pretty slow to move from the car to our spot on the beach. They meandered over as if it were any other beach day. They apparently didn't buy our stories about how warm the water was. It looked a lot like our water (on a super clear day). But once they touched it, well, that was IT! They didn't leave the water for the next four hours (and Mr. B and I spent our fair share of time in the sea as well). We all love the beach, but we love it more when the water is friendly. Queen's Surf was a perfect intro, too, because it's protected by a reef. There is still enough of a swell for the kids to play in and learn to play with, but there were no breaking waves.

The following day, we headed to the other side of the island where we spotted lots of great potential beaches and coves, enjoyed a picnic lunch (picked up from the fabulous Diamond Head Market & Deli), then finally found our way to the Polynesian Cultural Center. The center was recommended by a few friends who had really enjoyed it. Like all of them, we felt it was a bit like Disneyland minus the rides. It had all the hype and commercialism of the D, but with an educational bent. The park is divided into several lands at which performers offer music, song, storytelling and dance throughout the day. There are also so many activities for kids (of all ages) that we didn't have time to get to them all before our luau dinner and an incredible, Hollywood-style show. The dancers showed amazing athleticism and skill. I'm sure it's a night we'll all remember for a very long time.

Finally, it was time to head to Kauai. We had a couple of hours to spare, so we took a ride to the interior to check out the Dole Plantation where Mr. B had honed in on a report of "fantastic ice cream." We checked out the demonstration pineapple garden, but otherwise, the plantation is entirely a commercial tourist venture - there are separate tickets for plantation tours, the maze, stuff for sale, plus the "ice cream" which was a soft-serve pineapple ice-cream-like dessert. We agreed we wouldn't drive out of our way for it, and neither of the girls liked it. (V opted for the chocolate-covered banana instead - what a mess, and E opted to save herself for a treat later in the evening.) Our flight with Hawaiian Air was quick, clean and fabulous. Customer service gets a gold star, and promptness couldn't be beat.

The Mango Shack is certainly funky, and smaller than we'd pictured it, but it has ample room for us, and two friendly cats. I think the place grows on its visitors, as it has already on us. There's a journal here from past visitors and many of them had similar first reactions to ours: "Really?!" But 24 hours into it, we've settled in, discovered that the shower is, indeed, wonderful, and the amenities more than sufficient.

Today, we found our way only as far as Lydgate State Park. Great swimming in a protected pool where fish find their way to snack on tourists' tidbits (bread, frozen peas, whatever) and kids can play freely without fear of riptides or other natural dangers. The park also has a couple of fantastic play structures which we found late in the day on our way into town for pizza, grocery shopping and finally back to the shack.

More later - for now, aloha, from wonderful Kauai.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Art Lesson: Learning from Courbet

Last week, I wrote about my decision to focus our studies this year on art, using it as a tool to discuss everything from history and math to science, ethics and character. Just about any subject can be studied through the arts, and we're having a great time both experiencing the artists and trying our own hands at their media and styles.

But funny things happens when kids have the freedom to stray from the lesson.

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Nålebinding - a new fiber art for V

E has always enjoyed the fiber arts. First, she just played with string and thread and rubbed her tiny fingers on any cloth she could find. Later, she learned to knit (thanks, Grandma), sew, embroider and spin fibers (cotton, wool and dog hair). Today, E has a new fiber arts project, thanks in no small part to volunteers at the Elverhøj Museum in Solvang.

While visiting Solvang for Danish Days, we stopped by the museum to visit the doll house and kid-friendly docents and for a story-telling/paper-cutting session. E was soon distracted from the norm by the lace makers working on site. While she tried her hand at Mrs. Hale's lace, the two got to talking. When Mrs. Hale learned E's fiber arts tendencies, she got very excited, picked up a binder and told E to go inside the museum, find Mrs. Hale's daughter, Crystal, and ask about nålebinding.

An hour and a half later, E had been given a great start on the ancient art of "knotless knitting" which predates both crochet and knitting. She had practiced long enough to get the muscle memory well set, and to develop an appreciation of the form. According to Crys, the vikings used the craft to make everything from socks to hats. Unlike knitting or crochet, she explained, nålebinding doesn't unravel if it's injured. It also requires only one tool, some sort of dull "needle," and short lengths of yarn.

If you'd like to try your hand at it, begin here or watch the video here.

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Blueberry Pie

While we were away on our last trip, V mentioned pumpkin pie a time or two. I think the idea got into her head during our summertime Thanksgiving dinner at Grandma's and Grandpa's. Once home, I decided to make her a pie. (It's no fun having a hankering for weeks on end.) The pie crust recipe is large enough for a whole covered pie or two topless pies. So, once we had V's pie ready for the oven, I asked the girls what we should do with the extra crust.

E was quick to the mark.

"Blueberry pie!"

She's also been talking about blueberry pie for awhile and we recently picked blueberries at a local farm. So, blueberry pie it was. E was so excited about the pie that she offered to help. It was pretty simple and tasted DELICIOUS when we were finished. The only problem was that the baking time which led to a wonderfully thickened fruit filling also burned the crud out of the crust edges. Ah well. We managed.

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