Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Best Little Kid Beaches

Thanks for the recommendations that you guys sent us! We did do part of the coastal drive in Hilo, but didn't give ourselves enough time to go through the botanical gardens. We should have gone there first and then gone to Volcano National Park. Oh well. We didn't get to eat out in Honolulu as we would have liked. Staying in Laie, we didn't get downtown too often.

This trip I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time on the beach. Our last trip was a business trip for Mark, and I was pregnant and there was no way I was getting into a swimsuit. So, I think I spent a total of one hour on the beach alone on Waikiki.

This trip I tried to find toddler friendly beaches we could go to, and here are my recommendations.

On the North, Haleiwa beach: its relativly tourist free, because they all go to North Shore to watch the sufers and tan. And because it faces West the winds and waves aren't as strong. Downside is that the sand isn't the best. Its not the most fine sand around, but it does make clean up off an impatient toddler quite easy. Bonus: it is close to Matsumoto's shaved ice!

Also on the North, Pupukea beach: Head to the left side of the beach. There's more tidepools than sandy beach, but there are almost no waves where sand meets water because of the natural rock wall that surrounds the area. Perfect for little ones that want to splash around and not get splashed. On a sunny day the water in the tidepools warms up nicely. The sand is finer and great for sandcastles. There's lots of little fish to see and hermit crabs to play with just a few feet from shore. Downside: There's a little more people around, but the tourists are mostly farther into the tidepools snorkeling so the shore is pretty open for little kids. Also, the rocks are a bit sharp so keep your shoes on, and keep an eye out for your unsteady toddlers.

On the West, at new resort area in Ko Olina, the lagoons at the Marriot hotel have been fixed up nicely so there's plenty of sand, calm waves, and clean grounds. There are clean bathroom and shower facilities. Unlike the previous metioned. And the use of hotel lounge chairs are great! How would they know if we were staying at the hotel or not? It's nice because the grounds and the beach is maintained by the hotel, but it's still a public beach with free but limited parking. Downside: of course there are lots of tourists, but it's a big enough beach, that there's room to spread out.

I hope that will help out if you ever find yourself in Hawaii with little kids. :)

Boo, Snow!

Just our luck, the day we leave and the day we return, there's a snow storm! I'm glad that the snow didn't delay our trip home. That would have made an already dreaded trip more miserable.

Another boo. During the flight, Evan spilled his cup of apple juice all over his lap, my lap, and my seat. I sat in apple juice for an hour and a half!!! I took Evan's pants off to dry, but it didn't dry in time, so he went from the plane to baggage claim with a blanket tied around his waist. Me on the other hand... I was glad I had a sweatshirt that didn't get wet to tie around my waist to get me to baggage claim. Something about apple juice mixed with the airline seat bottom made it smell SO nasty! I couldn't stand the smell I was giving off through the terminal! I hope the steward remembered the seat I was in and had it cleaned, cause that would be an unpleasent surprise for the next person in 19A.

Besides our airport and winterstorm woes, our trip to Hawaii was divine. The snowstorm was a bit of a blessing, because it allowed us to finess the people at Continental to switch us to a closer airport and to extend our trip by 4 days. It was a cheap ticket to begin with so the days that we could travel were limited. We would only have 4 hours to see Mark's brother, his wife, and Mark's sister, before they left town, and only 5 days in paradise. So the storm was in our favor.
This is the shirt that Mark won from a radio station in Hilo, Hawaii. He called in and answered their question about what do you do to prepare for Chinese New Year. "Isn't it clean the house?" I'll have to get the video off our camcorder of Mark calling in and post it. :)

Mark's brother and his coworkers made these shirts to sell after the earthquake in Hawaii. Evan is quite pleased with his.

Our umbrella stroller has been EVERYWHERE with us on trips. Somewhere in Taiwan, the little clip that held the stroller shut came loose and was lost. So we've had to wrestle the stroller when we travel without this clip. I looked into getting a replacement part. It was $2 for the little plastic clip but $6 shipping! Forget it.
On our way back home from Hawaii, while we were getting ready to wrestle the stroller to gate check it, I noticed a dark plastic thing in the gutter of the jetway to the plane. Wow, just our luck! Its the same part we were missing! Someone must have lost it like we did. Its ours now!
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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Day One: Hilo, Hawaii

A local on the flight recommended we go to Ken's Pancake House for breakfast. We do too!
We thought we'd have enough time to go to Volcano Nat. park and a botanical garden, but it didn't happen. We only made it through the park. We did a stop at Akatsuka Orchid Nursery to make up for it. That was goregeous!
Here's pics from our trip.

We went to Cafe Pesto for dinner. That was good. It was great timing too. When we got there, they were getting ready to light firecrackers and have a lion dance right outside the resturant. Next thing we knew the lions were in the resturant dancing around our table. I was so surprised that Evan wasn't scared, and waved "hi" to them as they came by!
Happy Chinese New Year!

snow and sand

Evan enjoys the fun of both extreme weathers in a week.

When we took Evan to the beach, he pointed to the sand and said "snow". That's a sign that it was good that we got out of the snow to the beach.

2/14: Snowed In. Try Paradise Again Tomorrow.

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It's probably too small to see (so you'll have to click on it to get a better view), but when we arrived at the airport on the early morn of Valentines Day, we thought we were happy to see that our flight was "only" delayed, not cancelled like 95% of all the flights at the time.
Let me first tell you about how we GOT to the airport. It had been sleeting/freezing raining/snowing the night before, but because there were cars still driving on the road, the paths were pretty clear. It wasn't until when we were getting ready to leave at 4am (our flight was at 6am) when we found out our car was covered in about 3 inches of snow pack and 1 inch of ice. The drive there was a little frightening as well. There was a good 6 inches of "slush puppie", snow cone-type ice/snow on the ground, with freezing rain still falling, and our wipers were not working too well. There was about two inches on the bottom of the windshield that was clear (thanks to the heater) so I could look through. I used that window to follow the snow plow truck that was speeding away, but that was the only way I could follow his tracks and not fly off into a 360 degree turn. Good thing there were only a few cars on the road! Eventually, we got to the parking lot, got everything out of the car and realized that strollers and suitcases with wheels do not work too well under 6 inches of slush puppie.
We had been tracking the flight since yesterday afternoon. We were originally going to fly out of Baltimore, making the car trip even more impossible (75 miles vs 15), but that flight was cancelled so I fanagled my way into flying out and back in from Dulles (we chose BWI at first because our flight to Honolulu out of there was 240 per person total!). So after we made that change we probably hit refresh on the computer every 10 minutes to check the flight status until we left the next morning. Didn't find out they were delayed until we got to the ticket counter. The lady there said "yeah, flights are delayed until 8am". So with the new free time we had, I went back out to the car to pick up my phone that had fallen into the inner depths of the car while we were getting ready to catch the shuttle.
Well, 8am rolls around, the people at the counter say 9am. That was still okay because we still would have about an hour layover in Houston. But then the guy said 10am, and we were in trouble. The delay wasn't because of the airlines, per se, but because the airport couldn't de-ice the runways and planes fast enough . Note that it was still freezing raining/sleeting. Anyway, 10am wasn't going to work, so after fanangling with the counter-lady (who was Lao, by the way; I was hoping the social engineering thing would work...it eventually did, but it took a while) and the airline company over the phone a few times, we were able to get a flight for Thursday (the next day) at a little later time (so we don't have to get there at 4am or whatever), and instead of going home on the next Tuesday (which would have given us a little less than 5 days of sun), I pushed the return date to Saturday night, giving us 4 more days! The whole idea behind leaving on V-day was to spend time with family, since David and Alexis and Rose were all in Hawaii, with D+A leaving on the evening of the 15th for Amsterdam and Rose on the same night back to Seattle. But with the schedule change, we only saw them for four hours! But now that we're extending, we can see D+A when they get back and hang out for a couple more days!
So I went into work for a little bit (really, just a little bit, since shortly after I got there, senior management sent everyone home!) and got home, and found someone to take us to a hotel I booked so the shuttle can take us to the airport (I thought the hotel would have free parking but it didn't--oh well). The hotel was nice despite giving us a smoking room. Came out with black lung, but the next day we were able to get on the plane with no problems at all!
By the way, the flight that had been delayed until 10am on V-day eventually pushed out at 12:30pm...just to return back to the gate at 1:15pm, and finally left at 2:30pm, arriving in Houston around 5pm! Good thing we didn't wait. We were at the airport that morning for about 5 hours!
But we're here now, out of the snow, in the sun. More to come.

Friday, February 09, 2007

A Call for Recommendations

With our last trip to St. Louis being a bit of a flop cause we didn't know where to go, Rick reminded me that they used to live in St. Louis should have asked them where to go. So, now I'm annoucing our next destination and asking for YOUR recommendations.
True, we've been to this place a few times and I have extended family that live there, but I think it wouldn't hurt to get a few recommendations for those must-see, must-taste non-tourist spots from our friends out there.
So, tell us what you loved seeing, doing, tasting in... Hawaii!
We'll be on Oahu for the most part, but we did book a flight out to Hilo on the Big Island for a day trip. That's where I'm a bit at a lost at what we should do out there. We got a rental car and 10 hours and a 1 yr old.
Anyone know a good beach for little kids, that doesn't have too large of waves?

***Mark's addition: And any recommendations for Omaha? Besides the obvious Winter Quarters and any ol' steakhouse?

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sunday, February 04, 2007

St. Louis

Went to St. Louis, MO. Mark was at a conference for a week, but Evan and I joined him the last 4 days. St. Louis... how can I discribe it... the city itself is pretty sorry. You can see they're making efforts to revive downtown, but its still not the best place. Evan and I spent a bitter cold afternoon walking around downtown. I was interested in the little mod boutiques of furniture, housewares, and jewelry that were dotted around downtown.
The entire time we were out, I didn't see another tourist, shopper, or stroller. It was weird. You had either business man or bum. There were enough shady people around to send me back to the hotel. There was a park that looked decent, and there were kids playing in a playground. As I approched, one of the ladies there told me it was a private playground, and that we could go play at the playground across the park (just behind the groups of bums laying around). yeah right, woman. Poor Evan started crying and pointing as we walked away from the private playground, but I wasn't about to take him to the other side of the park! I made it up to him by letting him run wild and feeding him popcorn in the Renassiance Hotel lobby. Hehehe I'm glad the hotel staff was understandable.
I should have done more homework, and found the zoo and museums just outside of the city to go to. We did have one highlight of our trip. Mark wasn't too excited to go to the City Museum, but I kept insisting that we should go and the $12 entrance fee would be worth it. I was right.
It was so much fun. Its a warehouse that an artist turned into a kind of amusement park for art. Outside was a HUGE jungle gym of welded scrap steel, found objects, a fire truck, a castle tower, log cabin, tree house, two ball pits, and 2 fighter jets. Its was the craziest maze of twisted metal, slides, ramps, and ladders, that went as high as 4 stories high! Its a bit daunting at first. You wonder if you could really squeeze through some of the tight crawl spaces, but once you get going, you can't stop! You never know where a slide will take you. From the top of one side to the bottom of another, there's no easy way of getting from one place to another. Most of what you're climbing/walking on is thin and you can see clearly how high up you really are.
I am scared of heights. Just seeing someone up high gives me butterflies. I had to force myself to not look down. Evan is a very cautious kid actually. He doesn't take a physical risk at anything untill he's sure he can safely reach. So, taking him on this giant jungle gym was a bit scary at first for him. But in no time he was excited to crawl and climb around with us! If he was unsure about something, he'd look to one of us first to see if it was safe or get help before going on it.
The contruction was pretty safe. It looks like it wouldn't be, but you could see that for the most part you couldn't fall through anything. But if you climbed out of bounds you could get hurt. Mark really enjoyed himself. He was daring enough to climb to the highest parts. At the highest points was an old fighter jet and metal tower and the only thing connecting the two was a 30 ft metal coil (like a slinky) wrapped in wire mesh big enough for Mark to crawl through. It was too scary for me.
Another part of the warehouse had an underwater theme. It was wall to wall to ceiling mosaic tile, glass, and found objects. It was so pretty! Here you could crawl in and out of the "reef" and driftwood into rooms and slides. There were crawlspaces that looked like only kids could fit through, but an adult could fit through if they tried. I liked the white "sea kelp" forest in the ceiling that had a maze of tubes that you could see down from, but people on the ground couldn't see up into.
There was also a skateless skate park, a glass blowing section, an art room for all ages, a toddler play area, a daily circus of clowns and acrobats, an oddities section, model trains area, an aquarium, a 3 story slide, and so much more! I was really amazed at the mix of all the stuff in there. And everything is touchable. Evan had so much fun trying on old hats on a shelves and drawing on a giant chalk wall with buckets full of colorful chalk. There were old pianos for anyone to play or bang on.
We really enjoyed the City Museum, and if you ever happen to find yourself in St. Louis, go there!

We met up with our friend Hillary, who's going to school out there. How do we know her? She's a sister of our good friends out here in DC, and just loved joining in on their family fun. Hillary took us out to this cute little area outside of campus, full of unique little hip stores, and resturants. I wished Evan wasn't so tired and grouchy when we met up for dinner. He was so wasted from climbing around at the City Museum. It was so great catching up with Hillary, and hearing of their family's crazy happenings. I should have called her up earlier on our trip to get more info on things to do!

We went to the famous St. Louis arch. Mark didn't believe me when I said that we could go to the top of it. I didn't know how, but I knew that there was a way up there. When you get to the arch, it looks like a huge metal arch stuck in a massive lawn, and nothing around it. So, I started to doubt that there was anything else there than to just look at and take pictures of this metal monolith. We walked right up to the thing and saw that there was a walk way down into the ground from the base of the arch. There's a whole museum underground! You'd never know it was there cause there's no signs and the lawn is perfectly smooth over it. They have a kind of elevator that takes you to the top of the arch. There's 8 pods that hold 5 people each that are linked together like a chain that take you up and down the narrow structure. The higher up you get the more the arch curves to one side, and the more the pod will shift degrees to compensate for the change in angles, so that the riders inside aren't on their sides when the doors open. It looks so closterphobic at first, cause you kind of crouch down to get through the door into the pod. Then you sit in one of five seats listening to the voice on the PA system tell you it's about a 4 min ride to the top. It's one crazy elevator, but the view from the top is amazing. It happened to be a very clear day and just after sunset when we were there. At the highest point you're 630 feet high. It was pretty cool. I'd chalk it up there with the experience of going to the top of Taiwan 101. :)

Thats it for now... I've actually been typing this up for a week now. I haven't had the same motiviation to update the blog. I guess I've been distracted.
I'll post about the home improvement projects I've been working on soon. Oh, and pics from St. Louis are in order.