Saturday, December 17, 2016

All the Food

While I may not be a plating genius, the welcome dinner poolside (and on a wooden surfboard) did not disappoint. All the sashimi, poke and sushi you could eat. Yum!
We headed to Imari for a work team dinner at the Hilton Waikoloa Resort where we stayed. I had a watermelon mojito and Brian and I shared the Agedashi Tofu, Sashimi Sampler, the Lava Tube (spicy ahi roll topoped with seared ahi and spicy ponzu sauce), and the Tiger Shrimp Roll (shrimp tempura, cucumber, spicy aioli and tobiko rice).
As soon as we left the resort, for our vacation time, we headed straight to a local spot, Broke da Mouth Grindz. I had this yummy calamari steak with kimchee fried rice and Brian had their signature Garlic Furikake chicken.
After settling into the treehouse, we headed to the Ohelo Café, about a mile away. It was a rainy night, so a four cheese pizza sounded perfect, to go along with my yummy blood orange martini.
Our Airbnb host left us all the fixings, and instructions for, this delicious papaya, key lime yogurt with toasted coconut and macadamia nut granola treat.
As mentioned in my last post, one of the owners of the Inn we stayed at is a chef and you have the option of adding dinner to your stay (a no brainer!). Everything Kenny makes is locally sourced and expertly cooked, like this amazing salad with lemon pepper fish.
The breakfasts at the Inn were also scrumptious - and I LOVE breakfast! From the homemade English muffin to the local fruits and veggies, it was pretty perfect.
At the end of our trip we raced the clock (and our returning flights) to have one last island meal. We headed to the beachfront, Huggo's on the Rocks for fish tacos that were as awesome as being able to watch the waves and have our feet in the sand.

There you have it, all the food highlights from The Big Island of Hawaii. Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Petroglyphs & Green Sand Beaches

After breakfast in the treehouse, we headed back to Volcanoes National Park to check out the petroglyphs (see above), Devil's Mouth (a giant hole in the ground, so, not pictured), and some winding roads that led down to an expansive, ocean view (30 miles long, so impossible to picture).
We finished up at the park, had some lunch, and arrived at our next destination, Kalaekilohana Inn & Retreat. This charming, four-bedroom inn seemed like the perfect place to end our trip. One of the owners is a chef and the other is an artist and musician. They built the property themselves and every detail has been thought of - from a fridge full of local beers to access to laundry (mom, you know how delighted this made me) to delicious and healthy breakfasts and dinners.
The rain came almost as soon as we checked in, so we skipped checking out the Black Sand Beach in favor of showers and relaxing on this amazing lanai (I NEED this porch).
Beautiful bouquets of local blooms adorn the tables throughout the inn.
After a great night's sleep and yummy breakfast, we headed out to the Green Sand Beach for some hiking (7 miles roundtrip) and swimming. I took this photo from above and it's a bit deceiving how high we were. If you look to the far right edge of the sand, you'll see two tiny humans for scale.
We then headed down the road to the southern most point of the United States. I was a bit bummed that there was no official sign (like at the Equator and the end of the Florida Keys) but according to the map and the locals, we were on it. I was worried about being photographed at the very point, so as not to end up as a news story about people swept away to sea due to a photo op, so we settled for one a little ways in.
The lava rocks and the colors of the ocean had us both snapping as many photos as we could in an effort to capture waves and splashes. I was thrilled that our last full day included some sun! As soon as we made it back to the inn for showers, the rain rolled in. Thanks for stopping by, and I promise 'all the vacation food' in my next post!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Volcanoes & Treehouses

Oh my, how I've missed you all! My recent trips have all been work-related and haven't left me with much time to blog until now. Brian came with me and enjoyed the week with a couple of the other vacationing husbands at the resort we were working at in Waikoloa on Hawaii's Big Island. Luckily, my workweek has ended and the vacation has begun.
After picking up a rental car, and dining at a local establishment - Broke da Mouth Grindz - we drove across the island to our treehouse paradise in Kilauea Volcano. I've always wanted to stay in a treehouse, because I always wanted one as a kid and it's a house, in a TREE! Anyway, this place was amazing, complete with a hot tub on the deck, an outdoor shower, and the most comfortable bed that enabled 11 hours of sleep for me, two nights in a row. (Kind of like when you're camping.)
Whenever there's a robe provided, I'm in it. Enjoying the birds and a strong cup of Kona coffee.
The trail to the treehouse is lined with beautiful flowers and plants like this one.
After breakfast of papaya and homemade macadamia nut granola, we headed to Volcanoes National Park to do some hiking. We picked a 4-mile loop that had us hike across a crater. The scenery made me want to strike action movie poses like this...
...and this!
We were able to see a tiny pool of active lava from the Jaggar Museum & Overlook. The park rangers let us look through their telescopes to see the lava splashing around from the steaming area in my palm.
Lava tubes carry lava underneath the earth. This particular tube is no longer active and we were able to hike all the way through it. It's like a circular cave inside. After this, it started raining and we headed to lunch - more on all the food adventures later. For now, I'll sign off and see you real soon!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Japan - Day 12 - Tokyo

When Brian and I moved to Southern California right after our honeymoon. As we settled into our new geography, including Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. I think we only went to each once or twice, but it's a fun memory of the early days. It seemed fun, and fitting, to end our 15th anniversary trip with a visit to Disney Tokyo. We chose the DisneySea park, as it was rumored to be one of the most unique parks in the chain and it is also celebrating it's 15th anniversary.
This photo of us on the Indiana Jones ride cracks me up as it portrays our personalities in general. (I realize it's tiny, so I'll describe it to you.) Brian is contentedly sitting in the upper left corner as he watches the rolling ball of "death" come at us, right as the Jeep quickly drops underneath it, to which I scream my head off to. I like us and how we approach life differently. :)
As you might imagine, the food in the park is unique. The best snack I found were these "little green men" mochi filled with chocolate, vanilla and strawberry creams. Yum!
After spending most of the day waiting in lines, walking the park and riding rides, we headed back to our hotel. We got ready for dinner at the Palace Hotel Tokyo. We had a cocktail in one of the fancy lounges, overlooking the Imperial Palace (although it was in the dark so couldn't be seen), and then had a scrumptious sushi meal at Kanesaka. (Un)fortunately, photos weren't allowed in the restaurant, so we enjoyed our meal with no documentation (which of course was sad for me but probably enjoyed by Brian).

It was a wonderful trip, full of unique and interesting places, foods and people. Thanks for following along our adventures and I'll be back real soon!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Japan - Day 11 - Magome

After a traditional Japanese breakfast, we packed our bags and dropped them off at the visitor's center. For roughly $20, we got to go on a lovely hike without our luggage (worth every penny!). We were treated to the perfect day for a hike, despite rumors the day before of rain.
The town we were leaving, nestled in the trees below the trail.
Apparently there are bears in these woods, so bells were stationed all along the trail, along with a sign asking you to ring loudly. I was happy to comply!
About halfway up the trail there was a stop for hikers. A man served us tea and candies next to a great smelling campfire. They even had free wifi!
One of two waterfalls along the trail.
When we were getting some water for the hike, I spotted this bottle of "Pocari Sweat" (which I had to buy). I waited until most of the hike was over to try it and it was delicious - like a lemon-lime Gatorade.
The end of the trail was as pretty as the beginning.
We strolled around town and had a quick lunch of sandwiches and iced coffee. Our bags were dropped off at the other visitor's center in Magome and we headed for the bus, a local train, a bullet train, a subway and finally the last stop on our trip. More on that tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Japan - Day 10 - Tsumago

We found a place right around the corner from our hotel in Osaka for breakfast called Morning Glass Coffee. They had just opened this location (their first being in Honolulu, HI) and were very excited to have Americans come for a meal. We stayed in the business district so most people stopping by so far were not on vacation like we were. They asked us lots of questions and were very friendly. I had a yummy iced vanilla latte and a breakfast burrito.
We walked around a little bit and then headed to the train station, bound for Tsumago, an ancient town in the mountains. Before we left the station, we stopped at a little sushi place for some delicious lunch. This was my hand-picked spread and Brian had the 10-piece Chef's special.
The town was so cute and lots of little shops were open when we got there.
My favorite part about walking around the town was the beautiful flowers people were growing. Lots of houses had fresh bouquets of them hanging on their doors as well.
This little well house stood on the side of the narrow road.
We stayed in a 200+ year old ryokan that is now being run by the 9th generation owner. We had a lovely dinner, minus the scary salted fish (those teeth!), and slept on the traditional Japanese mats. The walls were literally paper thin, but luckily there was only one other guest staying there. It was a fun experience and nice to get out of the big cities.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Japan - Day 9 - Osaka

Next to the ferry terminal on our way back to Uno, we found the last sculpture we wanted to see. Related to the pumpkin in my last post, this one is even bigger and you can get inside!
The bullet trains have been great transport between our city adventures. We bought a two-week JR Rail pass, which is the thing to do if you're a tourist (must be purchased ahead of time, outside the country). Most of the subways we take within the city require a different pass, but it's all pretty easy to figure out and way less expensive than taxis, or renting a car.
After our morning of a ferry and four trains, we made it to Osaka. We dropped our bags and headed straight for the Osaka Aquarium. I would say that unless you are traveling with kids, or just really love chaos, the aquarium isn't worth $50. I did like the jellyfish exhibit though, not sure I'd seen all the kinds they had before.

As we were leaving, we sat down to figure out a place to go for lunch. A hoard of school kids were racing around looking for foreigners to practice their English with. Brian was their target, he probably talked to eight of them. These girls were the best and giggled at every answer he gave.
We stopped at a place for udon noodles, since we hadn't tried them yet. I forget the name of the place, but the noodles were great. Their system for ordering was a bit complicated - a box with numbers that you put money into, with no pictures. The English menu, with pictures, had no Japanese, so it made it tricky to get help with matching up the items. In the end, I had the tofu tempura udon and Brian had the prawn tempura.
Despite the rain, we only had one day in Osaka, so we walked over to Osaka Castle. The park surrounding it, like every other castle/palace we've visited, was huge. The inside, all eight floors of it, is a museum depicting life and the evolution of the castle and the complex. The building is a reconstruction of what it used to be - as it had burned down at one point. I was hoping to see the actual castle, like it had looked, but alas, it was all displays.
We walked around a bit more, checked into our hotel and went in search of some dinner. We landed at Brooklyn Parlor, mostly because I was in the mood for some chocolate cake (bottom right). I also had a yummy pink grapefruit mojito and the avocado fritto.
And then it was time for some karaoke! Brian picked a place called the Drunken Clam (named after the bar in Family Guy). This is him singing "One Week" by the Barenaked Ladies. I sang "Black Horse and a Cherry Tree" (my go-to karaoke song), "22" by T-Swift and a duet with an Australian guy to "Gonna Make You Sweat" by C+C Music Factory. In all, a pretty hilarious evening.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Japan - Day 8 - Naoshima

After a yummy breakfast, complete with fresh croissants and apricot preserves, we headed out to see all the outdoor sculptures. The one pictured at the top is made up of rocks from around the world with an American-made hot tub in the middle. For an hour each Saturday and Sunday, you can pay roughly $10 to soak in an aromatherapy bath and be part of the living exhibit. Unfortunately, we had other plans during the time, or I would have participated.

Along the beach, I found a ton of sea glass, which I never seem to find, so I scooped it up to bring home. We also saw the beautiful crane on the bottom right as he searched out some breakfast. Cranes symbolize longevity and good luck, appropriate for our anniversary trip.
Yayoi Kusama's Yellow Pumpkin is iconic on the island.
Just in case the pop art experience didn't wow you before, here's my jumping bean version. 
The "Art House Project" is a collection of six formerly vacant houses that were built more than 400 years ago and have now been renovated into works of art. The house at the top left was a former home and office for a dentist. It is now home to walls painted all shades of blue and a life-size white plastic Statue of Liberty.

As you walk through the Honmura district neighborhood, you walk past little shops and businesses, along with little pieces of artwork fit into the surroundings - an insect made out of a can, a girl woven out of yarn and nails on a wall and this little cat under a light on a fencepost sign.
As we walked through the narrow streets, you couldn't help but notice how amazing some people's yards were. Jealous!
Since we've been walking a ton and carrying our Tortuga backpacks around, we treated ourselves to some massages at the Benesse House Spa. I had a traditional shiatsu massage and Brian had a deep tissue massage. Afterwards, we agreed that they were the best massages we'd ever had - which is saying a lot, at least for me (hi, Leslie!). 
We had our last meal in Naoshima at the French restaurant at our hotel. It was SO good - we think the head chef was formerly at a Michelin-starred restaurant. From the mini cheese puffs to the butternut squash soup with truffled cream to the fresh focaccia bread with olive oil to the homemade vanilla thyme ice cream - it was all worth writing home about, hence the mention here.