A Hui Hou

If you know me, have read this blog or follow my Facebook business page, you KNOW that I am a huge Disney fan!  I won’t bore you with the particulars, but let’s just say I take every opportunity available to do anything remotely Disney related!  And when I found out I was going to be able to visit my sister in Hawai’i, I immediately found out how we could make a visit to Disney’s Aulani a reality!

For three amazing days and two fabulous nights, we felt like queens on vacation – gorgeous beaches, fabulous pools, no shortage of activities and sunsets beyond compare.  We enjoyed meeting characters, the lazy river, snorkeling and a sense of calm and rejuvenation – which by itself was miraculous while traveling with two toddlers!!!

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I will seriously go over the recommended blog parameters.  I kept taking so many – because it is SO beautiful!!!!  I would love to share with you my favorite pictures from Aulani – descriptions in the captions.

I love how Disney gently weaves the history, culture and Hawai’ian experience throughout this incredible resort – from the shave ice stations, to Dole whip…..yes, mom – DOLE WHIP, to the exposure of Hawai’ian words and folklore into the very space surrounding guests.  As with all my experiences with Disney so far, I feel enveloped in the theme of Aulani and have to say A Hui Hou…..until we meet again!

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Koi Pond with the lobby in the background

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Main pool at Aulani

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View from the 11th floor towards the garden/pool area

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Lagoon 1 – Aulani’s beach area – Fabulous snorkeling and if you are staying at Aulani, there are free beach toys, boogie boards and beach chairs! Paddle boards and snorkel gear for rent.

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View from one of our balconies – and Char’s first shave ice! AND the 5 beautiful leis we received at check in!

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You know you’re a tourist in Hawai’i if you have leis in your fridge! They were just too beautiful not to keep!

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Enjoying the lazy river!

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Sunset from the infinity pool.

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Sunset looking over the beach

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#thisleigetsaround

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Char playing her Ukulele at sunset…so perfectly cliche!!!

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Stunning sunset off Sunset Point

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Sunset Perfection!!!

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My plate loaded up for our character breakfast.

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OK – this is stinkin’ adorable….half a banana swimming in a bucket of blueberries eating a goldfish!!!

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All us girls with Mickey – Look at the smiles…THIS is what making memories is all about!!!

 

 

 

Heaven on Horseback

Today (Monday), was a very special day for us!  Today, the “big girls” got to hang out!  Char and my sister, Becky and I, got to spend most of the day together – we did some shopping for our Aulani trip and then headed across the island to take a dip and go for a horseback ride.  It was a fabulous day!!!

We decided to stop for a swim before we took our ride and stopped at a beach at Kane’ohe Bay called Chinaman’s Hat (named for the distinctive basalt rock feature in the bay).  We took a dip, got some great photos and Char climbed some trees!

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Afterwards, we headed across the street to Kualoa Ranch for our 2 hour horseback ride.  The Kualoa Ranch is UBER famous for the beautiful setting and stunning views!  You would recognize this place as the setting for hundreds of small and big screen events – Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, Lost, Tour of Duty, 50 First Dates, Godzilla, Hawai’i 5-0….and so many more!

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I can’t even tell you how many pictures I took!  And with geography like this, you can’t go wrong!  I will share my favorites with you – but if you ever come to O’ahu, check out the Kualoa Ranch – they not only have horseback riding, zip lines, ATV tours, Jurassic tours on a cool bus and so much more, BUT this is a working cattle and horse ranch that has been in the same family for 8 generations.  They are eco-friendly and on the National Register of Historic Places.  A definite MUST SEE!!!  When we come back here in 2021 we will absolutely come back to Kualoa Ranch!  Oh, and if you’re curious – my horse’s name is Reckless (said to be named after a general and not his demeanor), Becky rode Hollywood and Char’s horse is named Mercury.

PS – the lighting in some of these photos is just stunning!  All mother nature and camera phone – you can’t fake beauty like this!

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Aloha

A few months ago, my sister and her two littles moved to Hawai’i to await the arrival of my brother in law.  My sister is a proud Navy wife and her hubby is a proud sub-mariner!  I am proud of them both!

My sister is so strong!  She left New Hampshire with my two nieces (ages 2 and 3 at the time) with the help of her mom for a LONG journey to Hawai’i in June.  My BIL’s submarine didn’t leave the northeast until August (and if you know anything about how stressful and hectic it is for sailors when they are preparing to get “underway”, you know that his attentions were forced to be on his job).

So, needless to say, my amazing sister not only left New England with 10 suitcases, 2 kids and a mom, but also arranged for the packing and shipping of their household goods, did all the paperwork and medical for shipping their family dog and cat, arrived in Hawai’i to temporary housing and lived there for a month while finding a house.   While my step-mom helped Becky with life and kids, Becky arranged the delivery of their household goods, vehicle, unpacked, mitigated troubles with getting the pets here, set all the Navy end of things to rights in Hawai’i as far as families go, began updating her nursing licenses so she could work in Hawai’i if it struck her fancy, enrolled the oldest in pre-school, continued living as a geographical single-mom and continued her work with the families of her husband’s submarine as a senior non-commissioned officer’s wife.  Oh, AND she took up running and did her first 5K last weekend.  She is nothing short of amazing and her journey is like so many other military spouses around the world – I honor them for their sacrifice, patriotism and selfless giving towards the cause of freedom!  Behind every great soldier, sailor, airman, marine and coastie is a family who supports them!  I pray for them all daily and hope they get the support THEY need!

Back to the story….to be honest, Hawai’i was never on my radar – I know everyone says it is beautiful and the people are warm and welcoming and the geography is stunning, but to me, there were other places I would rather visit.  BBBUUUTTTT….if my sister is going to be in Hawai’i, then heck yea – I’m going!!!

So, here I am in Hawai’i, after taking the world’s longest, daily direct domestic flight in history (Hawaiian Air Flight 89 – Boston to Hawai’i – 11 hours and 15 minutes gate to gate) – up super early because my body thinks I am still in Maine – setting up what will hopefully be a trip of a lifetime!

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OH and to sweeten the deal, my husband and I decided last minute to have my daughter join me – this was for a lot of reasons – she doesn’t like missing school but with the Columbus Day holiday will only miss 4 days for a 10 day trip to Hawai’i – and my nieces (and the dog) are super happy to see her – I love my adventures with Charlotte!!  We surprised Becky with Char – check out the video below – you’ll cry!

While I am here, I plan on getting the MOST out of family time AND touring time – we will check out lots of amazing places, including Disney’s Aulani – Oh My Goodness – DISNEY in Hawai’i!!!!!!  We will visit the ranch where so many of your favorite films where shot – 50 First Dates, Jurassic Park, Lost…..and try to find the Hukilau Cafe!!!

I hope you’ll join me for this journey – I am hoping there are more pictures than words – and I hope to inspire you to go somewhere you may not have thought of going before – my sister was my catalyst for this adventure – what will be yours?

First Rays of Sun

This morning (Sunday), Charlotte and I took advantage of the fact that our bodies are still on East Coast time and decided to watch the sunrise somewhere cool!  I did some digging and found that the Makapu’u Lighthouse Trail has some rave reviews, not only for the hike, but also for the views.

We got up at 4:15am Honolulu time and headed out shortly afterwards.  We set our GPS (because I am really lost around here still) and off we went with flashlights, water and snacks.  Along the way, we stopped at a “scenic area” and caught a gorgeous glimpse of the moon getting ready to set.  It was so bright – no filters – just bright moon light!

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We arrived at the trail head entrance but the gate was still locked, so we, along with tons of other people venturing out to see the sunrise, headed around the gate on foot and began our trek.  It was about 5:30am and it was still very dark – but we kept our flashlights off most of the way to enjoy the feel of the place.

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About halfway, we started to see the first rays of sun.  It was a great trail, traveled so much that it was paved some time ago to make the trek more accessible, but still, we were huffing and puffing our way up the hill and enjoyed the occasional stop to take a picture (catch our breath).

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We made it to the top (we were the first ones there) around 6:10am, did a video and waited until sunrise – 6:26am.  The sky lighting gradually was really pretty and peaceful and it was sweet to share this with Charlotte.

We watched not only the sunrise, but also waves of rain move across the ocean towards the land.  The showers missed us but on the other side of the point, we were treated to not only stunning vistas, but also the tail end of a rainbow.  How pretty!!!

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Our journey back down was like a gift – our way up was mostly dark and we really could only see the area immediately surrounding the path, but the journey down revealed all that we had missed.  It was rather poetic – when our mind is focused on a singular task, we are often blinded to what is around us.  Sometimes it is only after the goal is accomplished do we take the time to look around and marvel at what we missed!

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This was a great way to spend an early morning and I encourage everyone who visits to do this in some way – either take the hike or find an easterly facing beach and catch the first rays of sun.  Every day is a new opportunity to be a better version of you; to love people more; to cherish others more; to look for the beauty you passed by while focused on your goal.  Don’t miss out!

Hawaiian Air

Back in April of this year, Hawaiian Air launched nonstop flights between Honolulu and Boston, which it says is “the longest regularly scheduled route in US history”.

I took this flight on Friday from Boston to Honolulu and from gate to gate, the trip was about 11.5 hours.  Honolulu to Boston is about 10 hours – thank you jet stream!
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This flight takes place on an Airbus330, which is a plane that has eight seats across – 2 – 4 – 2, in the main cabin.  As much as I would have LOVED the full reclining seats of first class, a $3000+ plane ticket just wasn’t in the budget!
So, I like to fly and I have flown budget airlines and big carriers; huge double deckers and twin engine turbo props; 20 minute puddle jumpers and up until now, my longest single flight was 6 hours – I am not picky – I really just want a safe, non-smelly plane.  Of course I did my research and found this plane and airline to be just what I expected – efficient, well appointed (lots of in-flight entertainment on seat-back TVs – no internet – which was tough to swallow with such a long flight – but I kept busy), kind and courteous attendants and a delightful journey!  Oh and not smelly!!!  The plane actually smelled like hibiscus – it might have been my imagination but it smelled like Disney’s Polynesian Resort to me!
My daughter and I were positioned in row 30, seats A and B – this is the row directly in front of the mid-plane bathrooms, and while some might not like this because of congestion with people waiting for the bathroom, we actually LOVED it – it was roomy, the seats DID recline and we didn’t have anyone behind us!  I would sit there again in a heartbeat!
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We were served two complimentary in-flight meals – meals with a distinctly Hawaiian flare – a noodle dish with a guava centered cookie for the first meal and an amazing goat cheese and seasoned roasted pepper panini sandwich for the second meal.  Complimentary snacks included a delicious pineapple oat breakfast bar cookie, chocolate covered macadamia nuts and an assortment of crackers or trail mix type options.  Beverages came around twice with meals and every hour, an attendant came around to refill everyone’s water cup to maintain hydration – super important for any flight – especially such a long one!  Other snacks were available at an additional cost – we got some Hawai’ian popcorn –
I have to admit this was probably one of the best flights I have every taken – the thought of spending so long in one single seat (with stand up breaks) was daunting, but when you look at the price tag (I got my ticket, round trip, nonstop for just under $700) and the other options of stops in LA, for example, for MORE MONEY – (WHAT????  Who would choose that?) you can’t go wrong!
My family of 4 has plans to visit again in June of 2021 – after my son graduates, to see my sister and her family.  We will hopefully stay at Disney’s Aulani for a few nights and we have planned a cruise on Norwegian’s Pride of America (with group space held if anyone wants to join in!!) to see the glory of the Hawaiian Islands.  We will definitively be taking advantage of Hawaiian Air’s nonstop Boston to Honolulu flight!!!

The Gift that Keeps on Giving

If you are not one of those people who purchase Christmas presents all year long, October is the month you start to think about what you are getting those you care about for Christmas.

A few years ago, in about October, I started re-thinking my approach to gift giving.  I was thinking back to gifts I had been given as a child – either for Christmas or for my birthday.  I knew I got gifts – I saw pictures of me at Christmastime or my birthday opening presents, but my own personal memories of what I got during those special times is faded.

I DO remember ONE singular gift I received as a child – I remember waking up on the morning of my 10th birthday to find staring at me an adorable Cabbage Patch Kid.  Her name was Diana Mindy and I was SO excited to get her!!!!  But she is the only gift I can actually ever pinpoint.  Isn’t that strange?  What do you remember getting as a child?  I remember gifts I DID NOT get as a child – I wanted an Easy Bake Oven and a Lightbright but never got those.

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This is Diana Mindy – still looking good after all these years!

 

Do you know what I have specific and a multitude of memories of?  Things I DID with my family – learning to ski with my dad; going camping; going on road trips with my mom; going to Disney with my mom; going to Aruba with my mom as a senior in high school.  I could tell you a handful of details about each and every one of those experiences, and THAT is what changed my mindset about gift giving.

Experiences change our brain.  Encountering NEW situations and taking on new adventures rewires us, renews us, re-entwines us with our loved ones.  It reconnects us to ourselves, to each other and to this life.  What better gift is there?

The giving of experiences doesn’t have to be a big trip somewhere…although it could be!  Last year we gave our children a short trip to Quebec (we live within driving distance and went between Christmas and New Years last year), a concert experience, season’s passes to a local water park, a  2-week high adventure Boy Scout summer camp for my son and my daughter and I took a super cheap flight to Paris in January and spent 4 nights in an AirBnB and explored the city.  It was the BEST Christmas we have had in a long time!!!  We still talk about every single one of those adventures and will continue to do so.

Life is short.  Take the trip.  See the concert.  Go to the show.  Get the pass.  Bypass the mountain of gifts that get forgotten by January 15th and give the gift that keeps on giving…memories to last a lifetime!  Don’t miss out!

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I didn’t know she stuck her tongue out until I looked at the pictures that night!!! Notre Dame in the background.

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Lined up for the toboggan ride! Quebec City, Quebec.

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My daughter and her BFF meeting their favorite musician, Jon Foreman from Switchfoot – he signed my daughter’s Ukulele!

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Fabulous concerts at Soul Fest 2019!