31 October 2010

Happy Halloween! (Preview)

While, I'm sure we'll have more photos to share, I wanted to give you a sneak peak at our halloween kids. In order to get ready for the festivities, I chose a couple key photos to redo around the house. I wanted to see if anyone noticed them.

I also replaced our wedding photo. Since Laura is a fan of Twilight, I thought the theme would be obvious. One funny note on this photo. My mom, taking care of the kids while we were in Hawaii, mentioned to Abigail, "Wow, your mom is a vampire!" Abigail promptly responded, "No, she isn't. She's beautiful." Well, you can't argue with that.

18 October 2010

Hawaii Day 5: Mauna Kea

The great thing about staying on our hotel, the best off-beach snorkeling was right next to our hotel. After having the hotel breakfast, we would go down and snorkel. It was a feeding ground for the green sea turtles. We bought an underwater camera, and it was fun to take pictures. Not all turned out very well.

In the afternoon, we went on a tour to Mauna Kea. The whole idea of the trip was to drive up and see the sunset on top of the world. On the way up, the van we were in broke down. That was a bummer. We waited for the new van. It was super hot, because the replacement van was driving up so quickly to get to the broken down van.

We stopped off at an old sheep farm to eat dinner. We saw our friends, Lindsay and Steve, who we meet on our 16 hour tour to the volcano the other day.

Unfortunately, instead of getting above the clouds, we were stuck in the middle of them. The view was not great. Here's what it looked like most of the time - this is a photo of Lindsay and Laura.

We didn't quite see the sunset, but here's a pretty good picture before all the clouds covered the mountain.

The tour company was pretty good, because they refunded half of our money, because they realized that it wasn't a great experience. So, we do recommend Hawaii Forest & Trail. The cloud cover finally cleared, but we were off the top of the mountain - they only keep you up there for a few minutes to avoid altitude issues. They set up microscopes at the visitor's center site and, for the first time, I saw the andromeda galaxy through a telescope, and the moons of Saturn. Pretty cool.

17 October 2010

Hawaii Day 4: Day of Rest

Sunday we had a free day...one of the last we would get. So, we wanted to do as much as possible and yet, not be rushed for anything. I think we accomplished it well. We started our day with a quick video chat with our kids and then off to church in Hawaii. Joel and I both thought there was only one temple for Hawaii on Oahu but it turns out, there's one just 10 minutes from our hotel in Kona. There's, of course, a chapel right next door. We stayed for Sacrament and Sunday school and then took off to start the rest of our day. But before we left, we took a couple shots of the temple:

After church we headed up to the Costco. I know, big deal, right? But I LOVE Costco. I just do. So we looked around, got a couple things and got some lunch there to bring to the beach with us. Also, while at Costco, we picked up a pretty nice under water digital camera. We were pretty excited to try it out but didn't happen at this beach-- had to charge the battery first :( We were headed to the best beach spot (so we heard) around. Hawaii is such a "new" island that it doesn't have the super nice white sandy beaches everywhere like other islands. It's a lot of lava rock at the beaches. So, to find a nice white sandy beach that is fairly accessible is a nice find. And it was such a great place to swim and spend a few hours. The beach was busy--after all it was a Sunday-- but even still it wasn't overcrowded by any means.

Here's the view from the car driving up

Here's a pretty great shot of the water and the activity of the beach

And it's too bad we don't know this kid with the boogie board. Pretty good shot, Joel! (seriously, feel free to click on that shot)

After a nice day at the beach, we tried to catch the last few innings of the Giants against the Phillies game. So we stopped off for some appetizers and one of the few dissappointing games the Giants had. But, no worries, we went on TO WIN IT ALL. To top off our day we came home to watch yet another great sunset. This is why I just love our hotel. We were sitting in the hotel lobby while watching this and taking pictures. I also was talking on the phone to my girls which made watching the sunset even better. Sweetness all around!

16 October 2010

Hawaii - Day 3: Volcano & Lava tour

When we got to the big island - number one thing I wanted to do was walk right next to a lava flow. So, when there was a highly recommended tour to do just that, Laura and I signed up. It was an extremely long day. Something to do once, but never again. I guess, that's kinda what this trip was all about. See my latitude history from that day. Unfortunately, it gets a bit sparse, but you get the idea of how much area is traveled.

First stop was the Kona Coffee Museum, where I had a fire and ice white chocolate candy. It has a bit of wasabi in it. The first bit I tried was extremely strong - nearly knocked me out. I felt like a dope, though, when everyone else thought it was pretty mild. My subsequent bites weren't so bad, so I'm chalking it up to an unusually strong sample.

We also stopped at Punalu'u - the southern most bakery in the USA. They make the hawaiian sweet bread, which I'm fond of. We got a loaf that was good snacking food for the rest of the week.

Finally, we got up to the caldera. Recently, the lookout ridge was destroyed by a washing machine size rock that smashed the small area. Now, the only way to look at the crater is from the distant visitor's center. It's a big hole with varying amounts of smoke coming out.

It was nice to spend the afternoon at Volcanoes Park. We stood over steam vents, walked in the rain forest, hiked through a lava tube, learned a little about bird watching, and saw some cool craters. Then we all napped in the car to start the ride down to the surface flows. First, we stopped at a few beaches along the way.

Just before nightfall, we visited the newest black sand beach in the world. Black sand is created by the lava flow hitting the water. Once the lava flow ends, white sand with start to be deposited from corral breakdown, displacing the black sand.

The best time to see the lava flows is at night. So, after dinner at the Kalapana Village Cafe, we went for a walk to the lava flows. I'm not so good at taking pictures, but did my best. It really doesn't capture how amazing the lava flow is. The lava breaks through the surface, forming a pool of fire, which quickly gets a black crust that hides flow underneath. The tour guide said that of the hundred times he's taking groups to the flow, this was one of the top two visits.

See a couple videos of the lava flow. Still doesn't quite capture how cool it was.

Since we spent all day in a van, it was nice that the people along for the tour were all great. Not just the guides, but the folks in the group. And, we made some new friends, Lindsay and Steve, who we met up on another tour and hung out together later that week.

15 October 2010

Hawaii - Day 2: Nuts & Hawii

Joel and I are tag teaming our Hawaii adventures. So if the tone is different in the posts, that's why :) AND Joel had to wait on his first post so you're starting our Hawaii adventures on day 2. But...no worries. We'll catch everyone up :)

Day 2 brought great excitement. Right after breakfast we went to the "welcoming" message from the concierge. It really was very helpful both for us and for her (her commission based pay, that is) because we learned of things that we really wanted to do while on the island. We went pretty big. But it was so great to be able to do all the stuff we would NEVER (and some stuff COULD NEVER) do with little kids. So we signed up and got our itinerary going but had Friday all to ourselves. So, we decided to visit the "Mac Nut guy" just 10 or so minutes down the road from our hotel. He's a retired German guy who sells the best Mac Nuts around. AND, pretty cheap. We must have drove past his hole in the granite yard business 4 times before we realized where it was (we're talking drove ONE block like four times). Anyway, he was super nice and it was fun to get mac nuts somewhere other than an ABC store.

I mean, really, what about this DOESN'T look like a guy selling macadamia nuts?

After getting some nuts we decided to drive the 90 or so minutes up the west coast to a town called Hawi. We had heard of a great place to eat and an amazing place to take a little hike. Both places lived up to what the locals told us would be a great place to go. It was so fun to do even a small road trip with each other. We chatted and laughed and didn't get interrupted ONE time! Yes, we finished every sentence we started (unless side tracked by scenery).

We started out our time in Hawi by eating. It was past lunch time and we were hungry! Here is a picture of our delicious food at the restaurant Bamboo. Yummy!

Then our waitress at the restaurant told us that King Kemehameha was born in Hawi and there is a statue of him just up the road. Then she also told us this funny story about how King Kemehameha carried a rock a really, really long distance through part of the island. Only to drop it on the side of the road....as she relayed to us, "I don't know why he left it there..." We don't either but we thought it was hilarious. Here's the statue:

This is self explanatory but couldn't help making fun of this sign- you may need to click on it to get the full effect...

And here is THE rock. I wish we would have better captured exactly where this was on the road. There's a really windy road over to a great hiking spot and on one of the curves, there's this rock.

After eating and feeling the spirit of King Kemehameha we drove to the end of the state highway, parked our car, and hiked down an amazing hillside to a black sand beach. This was one of our favorite activities while on the island. We especially loved that after we got down to the beach, there were only a handful of people around. So worth it!!

Here's the view preparing you for what's to come. As soon as I saw this, I thought one thing. I'm sure you're all thinking it, too. Goonies...

Have to get a few self portraits in on the way...

When were driving home we saw these horses with the bird sitting on top. I just love this shot...

We stepped out of the car to take another classic portrait. It was SO windy...clearly

Sunset to end a GREAT day....

14 October 2010

Hawaii - Day 1: Eats and Beach

We flew into the airport at Kona mid-morning. After getting our car, we went straight to the hotel to drop off our bags. Then, we were off to eat. This is the first picture we took. It was while we were seated at Huggo's on the Rocks. We had a delicious meal.

The food was great. We casually chatted with our waiter. Everything seemed to be moving slowly, and that was just fine for us. I think we sat down to eat for 90 minutes. For those with kids, you'll understand what a luxury this can be. It was relaxing and enjoyable. Afterward, we burned some time looking at the shops in the downtown section of Kailua. Picked up some sun screen (yes, we forgot that) and other necessities at the pharmacy. Then, it was time to check in at the hotel.

We stayed at the Keauhou Outrigger Resort. It isn't the fanciest hotel, but we really enjoyed the experience. We drove up, and the check-in counter greeted us - no walls, no doors - just a greeting. Our hotel room had a view of the bay. It was wonderful to keep the doors open all night, listening to the waves beat against the shore. Also, the resort is built next to (and to a point, on top of) ancient Hawaiian ruins. But, probably the best part was the best off beach snorkeling at the big island was at the adjoining beach.

After we got settled in, Laura and I headed with the snorkeling gear to the beach. We snorkeled together. That was really fun. Laura and I both enjoy swimming, and it was neat to be able to hold hands and look at cool fish. I know, it's a bit corny, but, hey, it was our first vacation since having kids. We enjoyed the corny moments. Oh, here's another one. Since we weren't in a hurry to get do much of anything, we laid down in the hammocks at the hotel and just enjoyed the view together.

We went to dinner at Lulu's. The food was good. The restaurant was decorated with money, which I resisted pulling off the walls. It seemed our waiter would have preferred to be somewhere else that night.

During dinner, I was exhausted. I don't think I had slept the night before the flight. After the meal, we went back to the hotel to sleep. It was nice not to have to get the kids in the bath, make sure homework was done, etc... We just went to bed.

11 October 2010

Trip to San Francisco

On Saturday, we decided to go up to the city for fleet week. We debated about driving or taking BART up to the city. We ended up taking BART. Unfortunately, we left so late, we only caught the blue angles on the ride up, barely seeing the planes' tracks in the sky.

But, for the kids, the BART ride was the best part. They love going in the train - such an adventure. Coming out of the Embarcadero BART station, the kids were amazed at the height of the buildings. Abigail kept saying that buildings were an amazing fifty feet high! I think I tried to explain how high they were, but it didn't matter. They were amazed, looking up at sights like this:

We took a trip to a pier, watched some boats, and listened to a clarinetist play. We started to walk north the length of piers, then realized the kids were very hungry. We turned back to the Ferry Building to eat.

To the kids' favorite part: BART - Abigail tickling Benjamin:

Collette playing with her toys:

Gabriel, with Laura checking something very important on her phone (fb?):

We had dinner at Grott's Roadside, which has very tasty shakes, yummy burgers, and costs a little too much to be called a 'burger place,' especially considering your food comes on a metal tray. They try to be cleaver about this and call it tray gourmet. Clever, eh?

On the way home from eating dinner - I love the spontaneity of this picture.