Aloha to 2014

There’s a trend in the business world of asking employees to set annual SMART goals—goals that are specificmeasurableattainablerelevant (or realistic) and timely.
So, in that spirit, my personal SMART goal for 2014 is to visit Hawaii, specifically the Big Island. This goal is especially SMART considering the temperatures and images of our Midwest home in comparison to the Aloha state. Yes, that’s a 125 degree temperature difference. Right now and always, 81 and sunny sounds like perfection.
Annual year-end lists have always fascinated me. The New York Times even has The Top 10 Top 10 Lists of 2013. I love the idea of a clean blank slate to start another chapter in life, while pausing to recognize the wonder of the past year. Most years come with an unpredictable mixture of happiness and sadness, highs and lows, struggles and successes. I wish you peace warmth and joy in 2014. Thank you—mahalo—for stopping by to read this blog about my favorite place.


IMG_0359Is there a better greeting in the whole entire world than the word aloha?

It means hello. It means goodbye. It exudes warmth, peace and affection. And when you arrive in Hawaii, residents use it—and often.

It offers a feeling of sincerity and gratitude as if to say, “Yes, this is my home and I know it’s absolutely gorgeous and I know how lucky I am to live here.”

Everyone seems to use it freely as a greeting on the Hawaiian Islands. It never gets old. Even the gate agent uses it as you board the plane back to home. And if you are lucky to have a Hawaiian-based flight crew, you will hear it for just a little bit longer on your flight back home.



Yellow flowers in Hawaii

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Yellow flowers represent friendship and happiness. In contrast to the deep blues and greens of Hawaii, the yellow flowers easily catch your attention and make you want to stop and admire them. The first four are yellow flowers in Maui. The fifth photo is one of my favorite yellow flowers we saw in Lanai: the popcorn orchid.IMG_6559

Twin Falls on Maui’s Road to Hana

If you take Maui’s famous road to Hana in a clockwise direction, one of the first stops you could make is at Twin Falls. Here, you’ll find hiking in the rainforest, swimming if you choose and a fruit stand. Look for the parked cars a little past the 2-mile marker.


The road to Hana is known for its waterfalls and you will find six or so at the Twin Falls location. No, they are not the most magnificent waterfalls on Maui, but the hike to get there is worthwhile.


A well-maintained path is about a mile and a half round-trip and you’ll see plenty of tropical flowers and jungle-like plants.


Since it’s the first stop on the right after the historic town of Paia, most people visit Twin Falls in the morning. We visited in afternoon and found the trees, flowers and wild vegetation as interesting as the falls.


If you looked and listened closely, you could almost see and hear the plants growing by the minute.


Maui sunrise

In Maui, the sunrise is often as spectacular as the sunset. Of course, there is the legendary sunrise from Haleakala, but you really can’t go wrong if you are up early to catch it on any part of the island. Here’s the sunrise in Kapalua in West Maui, rolling in from the east and making its presence known as if to kick off the weekend. It’s Aloha Friday.


The first day of fall, on the lookout for whales in the Hawaiian waters

Although the change of seasons may not seem dramatic on the Hawaiian islands, it’s still there. And while the temperatures may not fluctuate in drastic ways, seasonal changes abound.

One sure sign of fall is the return of the humpback whales. Each year, humpback whales migrate from Alaska to the warm waters of Hawaii for breeding. This is a photo I took of a humpback whale with a baby calf in early March near Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

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Typically, the whales are first seen in the Hawaiian waters in late September or early October. The peak whale watching season is usually in February and March.

This is my amateur photographer’s shot from the beach in Wailea, Maui in early March 2008.


They were everywhere–playing and frolicking right off shore. On a whale watching tour, you’ll learn about the different behaviors, such as breaching–when the whales lunge out of the water. The whales often do this repeatedly. It looks like they are having a great time and it’s magnificent to watch. During the winter months, you’ll often see them right off the shore. Even in a professional’s photo, it’s difficult to capture the wonder of the whales, but I plan to keep trying.

Winters in Hawaii? I think the whales are into something good.

Sunday salsa secret ingredient

One of my favorite things to do when returning from Hawaii is to bring a taste of the islands home with us. Whether it’s macadamia nuts, special Hawaiian spices, coconut syrups, Kona coffee, decadent Maui Caramacs (yum!) and more. The options are endless. We love to give away a taste of Hawaii to friends and family, but we also like to keep a secret stash in the home pantry.

Today, my husband is making fresh salsa. We stopped by our local farmers’ market for the tomatoes, peppers, onions and cilantro.


Then, we couldn’t believe our good fortune when we remembered the special Ono Hawaiian seasoning we had purchased last March. We use this for all kinds of recipes instead of regular or kosher salt, so why not give it a try with a tiny pinch thrown in each batch. Who would have thought that homemade salsa could taste even better with a touch of aloha?



The breathtaking end of the road

A visit to the Big Island is a study in ecologic and geographic diversity. Drive in any direction and the landscape and weather are likely to change, often rather dramatically. Now, I am not an expert in climate zones, but depending on the classification system used there are at least eight on the Big Island—from humid tropical to arid and semi-arid, to temperate and even polar on the tops of two of Hawaii’s mountains. Yes, skiing and snowboarding in Hawaii. It’s possible and yet another reason to love this island.
One way to spend an amazing day on the Big Island is to drive to the northern tip, past the charming town of Hawi. Be sure to stop at the local stores and restaurants on the way. There are some gems here and besides, you aren’t in a hurry.
Be sure to enjoy the jaw-dropping twists and turns of this road and drive slowly (and quietly) to take it in.
When you get to the end of the road on the Big Island’s Northern Kohala Coast, you are in for a stunning, gorgeous vista—one of the places forever ingrained in my mind for its breathtaking beauty. Welcome to the Pololu Valley Lookout. This is the image one might imagine from a postcard or calendar of Hawaii. The cliffs and the sounds of the waves crashing against the shores. It’s almost overwhelming. Stop and look—and listen. This is a sound that never gets old.
More to come in future posts on this gem, including a hike down to the beach. For now, enjoy the view.


Surf’s up

There are certain people you meet in life who make a lasting impact, even if your paths cross physically for just a short period of time. Amy is one of those people. We were professional colleagues from 2005 to 2007. Yet, I think about her often. I had dinner with her two weeks ago and we laughed, we cried, and we talked and talked and talked. In September 2011, she and her husband flew to Maui. I knew that she had been planning and dreaming of this trip for some time since we talked about the beautiful Hawaiian islands many times when we worked together. One thing on the agenda: surfing lessons. I will never forget it when she posted a photo of herself on Facebook as a self-proclaimed surfer girl. I loved her sense of adventure, accomplishment and the joy as she surfed for the first time. She also made this comment on her Facebook page: “All – when’s the last time you did something for the first time? Whatever it is — put it on your calendar and do it.”
In spring of 2012, her beloved husband was diagnosed with cancer. On November 4, 2012, he passed away at the age of 41. Amy was an adoring wife. In a three-week period, she also lost her mother to cancer.
So, in honor of Amy and her beloved Ben, I am going to make a list of things I want to do for the first time. Life is short. Grab onto it.
Kauai surgersThis photo was taken in Kauai in 2011. We were driving the main road when we saw yet another gorgeous beach with suffers out seizing the day. We stopped and admired their athleticism, and their love and respect for the ocean.
Here’s to Amy and her dear husband and mother. To healing, to memories and to her husband’s eternal role as the “Sunshine Provider.”