Time flies

It’s been six weeks since my last post. During that time, we had two kids graduate—one from high school and one from college. We also said good riddance to one of the nastiest winters on record. It was painful. Snow and cold and then more snow and cold, plus sleet and freezing rain to add to the misery index. Today, it’s a lovely 75 degrees and mostly sunny, which reminds me of my favorite place on earth.

We were able to escape the cold, gray and ice for a week in late March to this favorite place of ours. This time we visited the Big Island. Heavenly. Here’s the view of what we gladly left behind in the Midwest. It was snow and ice as far as the eye could see. Okay, it sort of looks pretty from this angle, but it really wasn’t pretty to live with day in and day out.

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The biggest obstacle for us spending more time in Hawaii is the flight. There is no doubt about it: It’s long. The Hawaiian Islands are the most isolated place on earth in terms of distance from land. Los Angeles is more than 2,500 miles away and Tokyo is even further at more than 3,500 miles away. I try not to think about the fact that there is nothing in between, but for some reason we always seem to get the pilot who wants to remind us of this fact on takeoff.

Most return flights to the mainland leave at night. A blessing since this seems to be the only time I’m able to sleep during a flight. On the flight over, I do my best to focus on the destination, but I am not a big fan of long flights.

For most of the flight, you look out the window and see something like this.

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And then, magically the southernmost island of Hawaii is in sight. What a sight it is. Even from 10,000 feet its beauty and majesty always get me.

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The Kona International Airport feels familiar and welcoming to us with its charming outdoor baggage carousels and lack of jet bridges. Down the stairs to the tarmac you go. This time, we were greeted with an afternoon shower. It was warm, smelled like paradise and we could have cared less that we were soaked by the time we picked up our luggage.

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For the first time in months, the landscape is filled with color, flowers, a familiar tropical perfume that once experienced you do not forget.

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We made it just in time to watch the sunset near Kona.

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Aloha indeed.

 

 

 

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Tropical blue jade

The exotic blue jade is a tropical perennial plant. It is a climbing vine with vivid sea green-colored flowers. The green-blue unique color makes this plant stand out in any setting.

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Its flowers, typically two to four inches in length, are sturdy enough to be used decoratively to make gorgeous leis and other floral decorations. Although they are native to the Philippines, they fit in perfectly on the Hawaiian Islands. When you see them, they are a showstopper—one of those flowers to stop you in your tracks.

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Tropical fragrance of gardenias

The gardenia is a genus of flowering plants in the coffee family.  In Hawaii, there are several species of gardenia plants and they are known as na’u. The gardenia flowers have a strong, sweet fragrance that seems to last and last, even when cut. This bunch of gardenias is from the Keauhou Farmers’ Market on the Big Island. The fragrance from the brilliant white flowers lasted for days and days.

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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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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.

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.