Monday, December 14, 2015

The Beautiful Dole Plantation

Day Two: Laniakea (Turtle) Beach & The Dole Plantation

We stopped on Saturday to check out Lanikea "Turtle" Beach, just east of Haleiwa on the North Shore. Plentiful food amongst the rocks here attracts large sea turtles, although, in the winter the strong waves along the North Shore discourage them from coming. Hoping to get lucky, we checked it out, but only heard the report of a couple turtles swimming out in the water. We'll try again before we leave.

Turtle watch on Lanikea Beach

I was a little horrified to realize this, but visiting the touristy and gorgeous Dole Plantation felt finally like we were on vacation. Staying at a very small, budget location on the North Shore, with a living room view of the carport, along with loud traffic on Kamehameha Highway just two car-lengths from our doorstep and no shops or stores close by, has taken us some adjustment time. There is a big difference between waking up to the sound of tropical birds with waves crashing in the background and the sound of the neighbors yappy dog, punctuated by motorcycles ripping by. I am not complaining, because I know we are lucky to be here, but was surprised by how wonderful it felt to be in a beautiful, serene place.

Hibiscus in the Botanical Garden at Dole Plantation

Train Ride Throughout the Plantation

We enjoyed the train ride, as well as the maze. The maze, made up in part of hibiscus bushes, is huge and provided an entertaining father/daughter vs mother/son race. We found a peacock and chickens throughout the maze, and although the results were within minutes (they time you when you go in and leave), father & daughter triumphed.

Wrapping things up with a Dole Whip, complete with fresh pineapples on top.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Body Surfing on the North Shore

Day One: Kuilima Cove

An untypically rough surf day at Kuilima

Not a ton to report today as we've been adjusting and resting. Originally we had planned to drive around the island and get a feel for it this first day, but after the long travel day yesterday, the kids wanted to hit the water. Kuilima Cove, right by Turtle Bay Resort, is known as one of the best snorkeling beaches on Oahu for beginners. However, the surf was so rough with 8-12 foot waves coming from the north just outside the cove, that the kids jumped on their boogie boards for some wave riding. They also did some filming with our go pros, including underwater.

In food news, we stopped in at Seven Brothers Burgers in Laie. A surfing inspired burger joint tucked into a strip mall, the "Master Chefs" here serve up some amazing burgers.

The Paniolo "Cowboy" burger in front of the Deep Blue burger.

Fun to see the Bruce Irons burger there, a nod to this years Pipe Masters competition in memory of his brother, surfer Andy Irons.

A Visitor to our Place.

Friday, December 11, 2015

The Beauty of Aloha for Christmas

Day 0: To Oahu, Hawaii

In my early twenties, I was lucky enough to visit Hawaii twice in the weeks before Christmas. My friend Joanne had a sister who lived on the military base on Oahu and they kindly invited me (and our friend Tami on one trip) to join them for their holiday visit. I scraped together my pennies, and probably my credit card, and we exchanged cold, gray, rainy Seattle for a fragrant flower lei greeting, snorkling in Hanauma Bay, shorts weather, and watching the unforgettable Pipe Masters surfing competition. I remember it as a magical time, waking up to the sound of tropical birds and the smell of plumeria and basking in the not too hot sun. I didn't know very much about Hawaiian culture at the time, just enjoyed the moments.

Fast forward 16 years, with a family, two kids, a house near Portland and much more responsibility than before, the holidays have taken on an entirely different tempo for me. I typically start feeling a low grade buzz of stress in August, thinking ahead, trying to come up with some amazing plan to manage multiple family parties with cooking and presents and still carve out time for friends and our own family traditions. Add to that stressed out people on the roads and in the stores, including myself, inclement weather slowing everyone down, and the flus and colds that go around the chilly Pacific NW at this time of year, I find it challenging to remain peaceful. I sometimes become a person I don't like very much, charging around, hurrying to get things done, upset when things don't work out, with tyrannical flashes in the hours before a party. Someone recently commented to my daughter that she must have been caught up on her chores to attend a glass blowing class and she responded "Oh. There's no missing it when my mom goes commando." (That's boot camp commando, not underwear free commando.)

In times like these, I remember and appreciate and long for the spirit of Aloha that most locals in Hawaii embrace. While there is a deeper religious significance to the spiritual philosophy of Huna that I don't know enough to write about, at a more basic level Aloha seems to mean to live at peace with others and nature. To relax and chat instead of rushing around to get things done. To let someone go first instead of speeding up to pass them. To respect each other, to be kind, to take only what you need and share the rest. To be humble. To stop and smell the roses. It's what I want my life to look like, and to share with my kids. So, after a particularly busy and challenging holiday season last year, and a stressful year this year, I could not be more excited to introduce my family to Hawaii for Christmas. All of our shopping is done, presents wrapped, party food in the freezer and we are on our way to beautiful Oahu.

First sight:

Not sure what these beautiful trees are, but I hope to find out!

Looking towards the hills of Kualoa Ranch, where some of Jurassic Park was filmed. More on this later!

SE Ocean View, a stop off at one of many parks along the way to touch the ocean for the first time.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Road Trip!

Day One: Cape Meares to Newport, Oregon

From the path to the Cape Meares Lighthouse.

With Patrick in California on business and us facing a super hot week at home, the kids and I decided to hit the road. We invited cousin Colin to join in our adventures, and after a pancake and bacon breakfast, we were on our way.

First stop, Tillamook, for an impromptu visit with Grandma Kitty and a visit to some of her favorite places.

Southwest of town, we found the Whiskey Creek Fish Hatchery. For $.25 you can fill up a tin with fish food. This place is off the tourist track and the fish are highly responsive to food thrown in. Just beyond the hatchery you can see the mud flats and there are often herons and egrets out fishing there.

Fish Food.

Feeding the Fish.

A Beautiful Place for a Picnic Lunch.

On a sunny day, the short hike down to the Cape Meares lighthouse is gorgeous, with panoramic ocean views of the coastline. To the north you may get to see one or more of the threatened birds who are protected at this National Wildlife Refuge: Marbled Murrets, Peregrine Falcons and Bald Eagles. We knew the Murrets were somewhere in the vicinity because of the loud noise they make and we finally spotted them out beyond the lighthouse floating in a large group in the water.

Cape Meares Lighthouse.

This lighthouse was built in 1889. The lens is a Fresnel (pronounced "Fraynel") lens and was made in Paris, France. Unfortunately, in 2010, a couple of people decided to shoot bullets through it, causing horribly expensive damage.

Looking up into the lens.

The lighthouse is open daily April through October from 11 am to 4 pm. You can go up into the lens with a guide during those hours.

We wanted ice cream, but decided to skip the Tillamook Cheese Factory, because we have seen it before and it's usually crowded on beautiful days like this. Another great place to get Tillamook ice cream south of town is the Bayside Market and Deli in Netarts, one of the little towns you drive through on the way to the lighthouse. Walk past the big tank of live crabs, past the register and the jewelry displays and you will find a small ice cream counter at the back front of the store. It has a smaller selection, but friendlier service, and is a great way to finish off a south Tillamook trip.

Shark Tunnel!!!

After saying goodbye to Grandma Kitty, we headed for a place the kids have been talking about for over a year: the Oregon Coast Aquarium in Newport, specifically the shark tunnel at the aquarium.

Sofia watching a Sturgeon.

More Shark Fun.

A great tidepool tank, with anemones and abalone, starfish and sea cucumbers.

Up Close to a Green Moray Eel.

Colin exploring the shipwreck exhibit.

Pacific Sea Nettles, one of my favorite exhibits along with the huge jellyfish tank.

We enjoyed our visit immensely. Sofia loved seeing the Octopus, which was out and swimming around. Otis and Colin pick the sharks as their favorite, especially the big Sevengill Shark.

After dinner we checked into our hotel near Nye Beach, a big favorite of ours and an adventure in itself. We'll post more about that tomorrow. Here's one of the kids all time favorite parks, near the Newport Performing Arts Center and just a couple blocks from our hotel. Check out the slide coming out of the shipwreck:

Oh yes, the kids wore themselves out running back up that hill over and over.

Lots of fun spinny things.

More spinning fun.

And finally, back to our hotel to wind down with a friendly game of Mastermind.

Can you tell where we are?

Here's a hint:

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Mother's Day Wineries Tour - Oregon Wine Tours

Dayton, OR:
Last weekend, for an early Mother's Day celebration, Patrick treated his mom, Ruth, and I to a wine tasting tour of four wineries. His dad Martin also joined in. This was a big gift from Patrick as he volunteered to be the designated driver. It was the perfect day for a drive through the country-side, warm and sunny. Little did we know what absolutely beautiful scenery we would see. A big huge thank you to Ron Burke at Oregon Wine Tours! He put this amazing itinerary together for us. We enjoyed every moment!

Starting the tour at Stoller Vineyards:

Pinot Noir Rose, just right for summer refreshment.

First of all, the property is wonderful. There is a large grassy area with tables and chairs for picnics and across a field, a beautiful oak tree with a tire swing. For about 10 seconds I wished we had brought the kids.

This swing was in constant use.

Cheese and crackers, a must for an extended wine tasting trip!

Secondly, the wine was fabulous. We took home several bottles from here, including their yummy 2014 Dundee Hills Chardonnay.

Finally, it's as environmentally friendly as wine making gets. In 2006, Stoller Vineyards became the first vineyard in the United States to receive LEEDS certification, achieving the rare gold level certification. A big CHEERS to the Stoller Family for their efforts in sustainability!

The next stop on our tour was Domain Drouhin, which starts impressing you the moment you drive onto the property.

On the drive into Domain Drouhin.

"French Soul. Oregon Soil."

The view from the deck behind Domain Drouhin is breathtaking. You can see mountains in the distance over rolling hills filled with vineyards and wildflowers. Also breathtaking, the 2013 Dundee Hills red blend alone is worth the trip.

If you visit, make sure to take a trip to the restroom, which leads right through wine barrels and processing room.

Martin, Ruth and Liz on the deck at Domain Drouhin.

Next up on our tour was Winters Hill Estate Winery. At Winters Hill we had the opportunity to talk to Russel Gladhart (winemaker) and Emily Gladhart, who founded the winery along with Peter Gladhart in 1990. She planted the first fields of vines. It was such a treat to get to talk to these knowledgeable people. The wine was some of our groups favorite of the trip.

A little help from Olympic Provisions (salami) and New Seasons (seasoned hazelnuts and almonds) to make it a truly Oregon experience.

Designated driver, getting a kick out of the conversation.

Durant Vineyards made up our last wine tasting of the day and included an olive oil tasting as well at the neighboring Red Ridge Farms. We were lucky to find some chairs open in the shade of a grand old tree.

Durant Vineyards.

A beautiful seating area on the property. Just down these stairs are rows of lavender, not flowering yet, but definitely worth a drive to see later in the year.

We topped off the afternoon with dinner at Subterra in Newberg.

Unfortunately we didn't put their wine cellar to the test because we were quite sated at that point, but the food was delectable. I'm still thinking about the pork and leeks meal I had.

Oh My.

A couple more pictures from the day:

Martin and Patrick in the Stoller Vineyards tasting room.

Patrick, Martin and Ruth at Durant Vineyards, with Red Ridge Farms in the background.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Jackson Bottom Wetlands

Hillsboro, OR:

It's been a while since we visited the wetlands and we were pleasantly surprised by how much work has been done on it. The grounds near the educational center are gorgeous, overflowing with native flowers and trees. The air is filled with birds and we saw many interesting critters on our walk through part of the property.

One of my favorites, a Great Blue Heron, hunting in the pond.

California Poppies

Along the Kingfisher Marsh loop we saw numerous white silken tents, home of the Western Tent Caterpillar larvae. (Thank you Mona Rentz for your help identifying these!) As you can see, many of the caterpillars have grown big enough to leave the tent and forage on their own.

Western Tent Caterpillar Tent

We weren't able to hike all the way around the pond because there is an Osprey nest on the south shore. You can see it from the far shore and it has several Osprey eggs. Osprey sometimes abandon their nest if disturbed so the trail is closed about half-way around the pond.

Pintail Pond Hike

Flowers near Education Center

Just behind the Center there are several birdhouses, a small pond, a seating area surrounded by wildflowers and behives for native bees.

Small pond

Seating area behind Education Center

Wild Roses along Pintail Pond

There is a small room full of educational wildlife exhibits that is open from 10 - 4pm, as well as a small gift shop. The star of the show is a huge eagle nest that was transported in from the wild. The kids enjoyed the exhibits, although it only took about 15-20 minutes to give it a good look.

An animal tracks exhibit unlike any other we've seen.

Osprey Nest