Cabin fever

This just in from meteorologists in the Midwest: After this week, this winter will be one of the 10 coldest on record in the past 140 years. This bitter cold forecast adds insult to injury after a foot of snow and ice fell over the past week. All weekend, officials have been warning drivers to stay off the roads. “We continue to advise no driving,” is the headline this morning. “The roads are still awful.”

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This was the view above the Mississippi yesterday morning. A frozen sea of white, but at least we have a brilliant blue sky to help us get through the predicted low of -2 on this Sunday.

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The snow, heavy and relentless, made for harrowing commutes and window-high drifts. We are running out of places to put our shoveled snow. Here, we have tools like roof rakes to deal with ice dams and roof leaks from the melting and freezing.

Perhaps the most difficult part of our winter is that it’s only February. Last year we had snow in May.

IMG_0225Meanwhile, it’s comforting to know that elsewhere in the world, brilliant blue means something else. For example, on Hapuna Beach on the Big Island.

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Or, the stunning Kohala Coast of the Big Island.

Cabin fever has officially set it. This is when we find ourselves on vrbo.com, searching for a warm getaway. If someone has been lucky enough to escape the cold, this is not the welcome back you hoped for. Somewhere, under all of that, daffodils and tulips are waiting for spring.

On a Sunday morning, dreams of Hawaii get me through winter. We have Hawaiian music playing in the house. I may find some mac nuts and Hawaiian spices in the cupboard for creative cooking. Oh, and if anyone living on one of the Hawaiian Islands needs a gardener next winter, drop me a line.

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Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens in Hilo on the Big Island

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On Baynan Drive in Hilo on the Big Island, you will find a 30-acre garden of serenity in the Liliʻuokalani Park and Gardens. The park, which was originally built in the early 1900s, is reportedly the largest such gardens outside of Japan. You will find koi ponds, pagodas, bridges and other Japanese garden fixtures.

It’s a perfect place for a picnic lunch or a nice stroll, no matter what the weather. Hilo is often known as the rainy side of the Big Island, and this rain makes for some of the most gorgeous, lush scenery you will find on the Big Island. Lush, serene, tropical and beautiful.

Yoga by the sea

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When the going gets tough, the tough do yoga by the sea. Morning yoga practice at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keauhou Bay south of Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii. Aloha.

The beauty of the Big Island

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When you land at the Kona International Airport (KOA) on the Big Island, you are greeted by the unique beauty of West Hawaii. This is the island known for its active volcano, gorgeous coastlines, diversity in climate and natural, rugged beauty. Once in a while, you find yourself stopping to take it all in, such as when you discover an orchid thriving in a bed of lava rocks. As you explore, the scenery is difficult to describe or categorize. Ocean views or a trip to the 4,200-meter high summit of the Mauna Kea Observatory. Snowboarding or surfing? It’s your choice. The Big Island of Hawaii lives up to its name. It will call you back again and again.

The sweet smell of Hawaii

The minute you step off the plane, it welcomes you. What is it about the smell of Hawaii? Is it the fact that you are on a Pacific island with pure, light tropical breezes?

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DSCN2983Or, the flower-lined paths that warmly welcome you wherever you go? This path laced with Bougainvillea, is especially inviting. Everywhere you look, you see color. On the Big Island, the black of the lava, mixed with the ocean blues and tropical flowers, is especially inviting.

Or, is it one of the world’s sweetest scents of all—plumeria? The yellow ones seem to make the most fragrant leis. When you see them in a natural setting, it’s one of life’s best reminders that you should never get too busy to stop and smell the flowers.

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Ahalanui on the Big Island

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How does a dip in a volcanically heated thermal pool next to the ocean sound? Sign me up!

This somewhat hidden gem is located off of highway 137 in Pahoa on the Big Island, near mile marker 10, you will discover Ahalanui Park. The pool is a balmy 90 degrees. The setting is gently swaying palm trees all around you and the sound of the ocean surf in the background.

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You feel protected in the pool by a manmade wall, which separates it from the ocean. But if you look off into the distance, you feel as if you are swimming in a hot tub in the sea. A refreshing swim in the pool of Ahalanui does wonders for the soul.  Ahhhh…

Go bananas

photo[1]Bananas don’t grow on trees. They actually grow on the world’s largest herbaceous flowering plant and what appears to be the trunk is actually called a corm. So, it is actually a large perennial herb. This was news to me. This was a banana plant we admired in Maui last month.

My favorite bananas are the apple bananas, which are often found in the farmers’ markets in Hawaii. They are tiny, sweet and the perfect snack. We learned that the Big Island is actually the largest domestic producer of bananas in the United States.

Here’s a sample of what we might find at a visit to one of the wonderful farmers’ markets on the Big Island, including the candy-like apple bananas.

hawaiifruitEarlier this year, I wrote about what is perhaps the best use of bananas I have ever witnessed: A bananarama smoothie from What’s Shakin’ on the Hilo side of the Big Island.

 

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.

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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.

The mai tai

It’s the one cocktail mainlanders usually think of when we dream of Hawaii—the mai tai.IMG_0237

Usually two different types of rum, pineapple juice, lime juice, orange Curacao and definitely an umbrella with a slice of island pineapple. The truth is, I’m not much of a cocktail fan at all. I much prefer a glass of wine with dinner.

When in Hawaii, however, it’s irresistible. The ocean, a light breeze, a schedule on Hawaiian time. No hurry whatsoever. Pull up a chair, order one up and stay a while. While you’re at it, watch the sunset and hope for the ever-elusive green flash.

Here’s the mai tai at the classic Don’s Mai Tai Bar in the Royal Kona Resort in Kailua-Kona. An oceanfront, open-air spot in Kailua Bay offering up Don’s Original Mai Tai and other Hawaiian cocktail options.

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It’s five o’clock somewhere, right?