Hawai’i March 2019

Sunset with black lava in the foreground, Kailua Kona

One of the best ways to survive an Idaho winter is to leave it and head for the tropics. Ian and I had been invited to stay at his parents’ condo in Kailua Kona on The Big Island Hawai’i and we were more than happy to thaw out in our old stomping grounds. Ian and I met each other in Hawaii and lived there with our son for 8 years before moving to Idaho.

View of the coast from The Royal Kona Resort

The Royal Kona Resort offers Hawaiian music every Thursday from 5 to 7 PM for free to the public. Slack key guitar with a happy hour Mai Tai and a Kona sunset, pure Paradise. If you’re lucky you may see the ‘green flash’ as the sun dips below the horizon and lights up the ocean with a flash of emerald.

Kua Bay (Manini’owali Beach Park)

One of our all time favorite beaches on Hawai’i is Kua Bay on the West side of the island. When we lived here in the early 2000’s you could drive your 4×4 truck across a gnarly lava road and actually camp on this white sandy beach. These days it has a paved road that even the most timid rental car can drive on and freshwater spigots to wash off your sandy toes after a day of catching waves.

White sand and crystal clear water of Kua Bay

The waves at Kua Bay are perfect for body surfing and boogie boarding and there’s an OK spot for snorkeling on the right side. Sometimes the surf can get dangerously big so be aware of big surf notices. This beach can get pretty crowded and sometimes the wind picks up in the afternoon so head there as early as you can.

Gorgeous bouquet from the farmers market in Kailua Kona

While visiting Kona be sure to check out the Kona Village Farmers Market right in the heart of downtown and open Wednesday through Sunday. A great place for fresh tropical fruits, veggies, flowers and souvenirs.

Ian, his sister Brooke and I at Kona Brewers Festival. Photo by Brooke McCarthy

Kona Brewers Festival is an annual party for those who love tasting beer, wine, and cider while eating all you can and listening to live music. There’s even a trash fashion show where all the outlandish costumes are made entirely from recycled materials. TRAVEL TIP: tickets for this super fun event sell out quick so buy them early online.

King Kam Beach (Kamakahonu)

A small sandy beach that is great for swimming, snorkeling and photo ops is Kamakahonu Beach, known by the locals as the King Kam. It’s situated in front of the King Kamehameha’s Kona Beach Hotel and has a view of King Kamehameha’s personal temple. This is a great spot for keikis (children) to play in mellow waters.

Pu’uhonua O Honaunau

The best snorkel spot on the island is called Two Step because of the naturally formed flat “steps” that are used to get in and out of the water. Located on the South West side of the island in Honaunau and right next to The City of Refuge Park (Pu’uhonua O Honaunau) you can see plenty of tropical fish in the clear water. Just be careful not to step on a wana (sea urchin) or you’ll have to ask someone to pee on you.

Part of the grand entrance to Waikoloa Beach Resort

Perhaps a bit less adventurous but super fun thing to do is to visit the sprawling, dramatic Waikoloa Beach Resort on the North West side of the island. You can ride a boat or tram around the beautifully landscaped grounds laden with art and wildlife. We stopped for lunch (and a Mai Tai) at The Lagoon Grill overlooking the saltwater lagoon where dolphins swim and you can watch participants in Dolphin Quest. At first I had some qualms about dolphins being kept in such a small area but it turns out they are let out every day and return of their own accord!

Waterfalls, a water slide and hot tubs can be found around the pools at The Waikoloa
Sea turtles warm themselves along the shore at Waikoloa Beach Resort

We had the amazing opportunity to go on a Manta Ray night snorkel cruise with an old friend on Torpedo Tours. I highly recommend braving the chilly water (they provide a wet suit) to see these magnificent cartilaginous fish do belly rolls beneath you just inches from your nose. The lights are provided by scuba divers below which draw the plankton that the Rays feed on each night. It’s a magical experience like no other!

Enjoy a Mai Tai at Huggo’s On the Rocks!

We had an amazing time full of Aloha while on The Big Island and hope to return soon. Old friends made us feel right at home while warm breezes melted our chilly Idaho bones. Mahalo Nui Loa!

Sunset from Honl’s Beach on Ali’i Drive



Las Vegas, NV February 2019

The Vegas Strip and Full Moon

Can you see Vegas in 24 hours? I believe so. Did we? We certainly gave it our best shot!

We took an Uber (our first ever Uber ride, FREE with a promo code) from the McCarran airport to The Venetian. It was too early for check-in so we took a stroll through the streets of Venice where gondolas carried happy couples under medieval bridges. Looking for lunch and getting lost in The Palazzo ultimately led us to a salivating raw fish lunch at Sushisamba.

View from The Venetian on our way to The Palazzo

We used our IHG anniversary night to stay in this ultra luxury resort/hotel for FREE. At the front desk we were treated like royalty and given a room on the 31st floor with an incredible view of The Strip and snow-caped mountains, a giant soaking tub and living-room suite. After a quick change of clothes and room exploration which included my mistake of lifting the bottle of Patron out of the mini-fridge and having to call the front desk to tell them not to charge me because I was putting it right back (yikes!) we went out to explore The Strip.

The lobby at The Venetian
Inside Caesars Palace

First up was Caesars Palace and The Forum Shops to see the free show “Fall of Atlantis”. While the show was pretty cheesy and we could hardly hear what the giant animatronic Greek Gods were saying to each other the real pleasure was truly in the journey. Along the way we passed gorgeous fountains while sipping on cocktails. Yep, it’s legal to carry a gin and tonic in one’s hand while perusing art on The Strip.

The Trevi Fountain at The Forum Shops

At the top of my “to-do list” was the Bellagio fountain show. Another free show (see the pattern?) and best viewed outside from Las Vegas Boulevard. Before we braved the rare cold snap happening outside (temperatures in the 40’s during the day) we decided to check out the beautiful Chihuly Glass display in the lobby.

Inside the Bellagio Lobby the Chihuly Glass ceiling sparkles above a dramatic stallion

Also free to enjoy in the Bellagio is the 14,000 square foot Conservatory and Botanical Gardens. This is an ever changing visual extravaganza that updates with the seasons. Right now you can see The Year of The Pig display for Chinese New Year.

Year of The Pig display in the Bellagio

Realizing we needed sustenance to make it through our concert and beyond we crossed the street to The Flamingo for some Mexican food at Carlos n Charlie’s. Are there real flamingos at The Flamingo? Yes. Maybe 5 or so.. (please don’t sue me, that’s all the birds we saw). Then it was back outside for viewing The Bellagio fountain show! Which was very pretty and set to music but sorry all my pictures are blurry. You’ll just have to go see it yourself.

The String Cheese Incident at The Chelsea in The Cosmopolitan

Now I have to explain that this trip was a surprise birthday present from me to my Sweetie. One of our favorite bands is The String Cheese Incident, and when I saw they would be in Vegas (where I have never been) it was an easy choice. So we made our way to The Cosmopolitan where we danced our booties off on the famous bouncy floors in true Vegas style.

After the show we hopped on a bus to Fremont street for some vintage Vegas and gambling. It was around 1:30 AM Monday morning by the time we arrived so the streets were a bit tamer than I was expecting. We ducked inside a casino to get out of the cold (in the upper 30’s at this point). After winning and losing at slot machines and the derby horse racing games we quit with a $10 loss. Had a blast. Went to bed at 4:00 AM.

Breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi

Thank goodness for Ambien and alarm clocks! We slept for a very brief interlude, checked out of The Venetian and walked to The Paris hotel for our French breakfast at Mon Ami Gabi. Although it was a bit blustery on this rare chilly Vegas morning we were kept warm by the heaters on the outside deck and our endless love for each other. And the strawberry mimosas. Seriously, try them. Viva Las Vegas!

Moose Lake, Idaho September 2018

Moose Lake

An easy 2 mile hike leads to this beautiful cold water mountain lake. You won’t pass many other hikers on the way but you may see some wildlife.

A mother grouse keeps an eye on her brood below

The songs of birds in the canopy above and the chitter of squirrels are the only sounds you’ll hear if you pause to soak in the sunlight.

Sunlight dappled moment in the Kaniksu National Forest

There are several options for extending the hike that include other lakes and you can make it  7 mile trek if you like. Along the way keep an eye out for mushrooms in the fall. In early September we found plenty of sweet huckleberries that stained our hands and tongues deep purple.

Sweet huckleberry pickings along the trail

The drive to the trailhead is half the fun. It’s a 20 mile National Forest dirt road with some rough patches. It takes us 45 minutes off highway 200 at Trestle Creek. Majestic panoramas are a feast for the eye.

On the road to Moose Lake trailhead

Enjoy this heavenly paradise before the snow falls!

Summer 2018

Finished our house!

This summer kept us very busy with finishing our home and starting a spec house at the same time. When we arrived home in late April from the Philippines our home was bare studs without running water. Four months later we have completely finished and moved in! The fact that Ian and I both quit our day jobs a year ago really gave us the time we needed to make it possible. 

The first step when we got home; insulation.

Of course it’s important to have balance in life (my motto is play until you can’t, work until you can) so we enjoyed some lake time, river time, and a couple family vacations.

Fishing for Small Mouth Bass (picture courtesy of Chrissy Ponsness)

Tubing on The Coeur d’Alene River

Morels hide in the best places (this was in Montana)

Hiking Squaw Valley with Ian’s parents, Lake Tahoe

My parent’s celebrating the completion of their barn renovation in NJ

Awesome old barn wood paneling

Our spec house is now priority numero uno and with the trusses on order and our big framing lumber package in the driveway we hope to have a roof on by late September. We have hired an expert framer to help Ian so I get to be Paint Girl for all the siding and trim. 

Spec house floor is finished. Ready for concrete in the garage and walls to be framed!

We say goodbye to a hot and dry summer in beautiful Northern Idaho and hello to mellow fall. 

Sunset on Lake Pend Oreille

 

Idaho, USA May 2018

 

Kayaking on Lake Pend Oreille

We arrived home to beautiful Northern Idaho to see snow on the mountain peaks. Mornings were still cool in the 40’s but temperatures rose into the 70’s by late afternoon. Perfect for some kayaking!

Morels about to simmer in red wine

It was also time to hunt for our favorite forest morsels, the elusive morel mushroom. There’s a very short window for collecting these tasty tidbits, about six weeks in our area.

Sandpoint is named after the sandy beach that juts out into Lake Pend Orielle. The lake can reach flood levels during spring runoff when the snow is beginning to melt in the mountains. We have rarely seen the water this high.

Paths under water along Sand Creek

Spring traffic at City Beach, Sandpoint

In order for us to fund our passion for travel we need to build a couple houses! We quickly unpacked our tools and set up the scaffolding to continue where we left of on our house last October. In the month we’ve been home we worked on the outside trim and finished the shingles, fascia and batts. Meanwhile we had the insulators and drywallers working on the inside while we worked outside.

Back to work

At the same time we broke ground on house number 2. After much clambering around the forest with a tape measure we estimated where the best view would be and hired the excavator to dig a septic test hole while the county health inspector was there to give approval. After passing this first test we cleared the housepad and burned the slash piles.

Clearing a house pad can look a bit chaotic

Our closest city is Spokane Washington, an hour and fifteen minute drive away. After a day of running around shopping for appliances for our house we enjoyed the view of Spokane Falls while having lunch at Anthony’s. The falls change dramatically throughout the seasons and Springtime is the best time to see them really raging.

Spokane Falls

It  was a bit of an adjustment when we got home but after a month we were right back to Idaho life!