Aloha & Mahalo

Amazing view of the coast of Maui

Amazing view of the coast of Maui

It’s been awhile since I have written for my blog, maybe that’s because we haven’t been traveling as much. Our last trip to Fort Worden was back in October and since then we have stayed put for the most part, our Fall tends to be very busy with holidays and birthdays scattered throughout most of November and December. But this year for Christmas we were blessed with an AMAZING family trip! I have written about  the wonderful family vacations with my side of the family, this year we got to go on vacation with Andrew’s side of the family. We all boarded Hawaiian Airlines after Christmas and spent the second week of Winter Break in Maui. It was a wonderful way to finish off the year and decompress from all the holiday craziness.

Waterfalls

Waterfalls

We stayed in a lovely, private home in Kaanapali that we rented through Hawaiian Beach Rentals, our house was Hawaiian Dreams and it was just that, a dream! The 5 bedroom house was big enough for our group of 10, we had a pool and a view overlooking the water. This was both Andrew and my first trip to Hawaii in over 20 years so we were ready to see the island.

The Gorohoff  helicopter crew with our pilot.

The Gorohoff helicopter crew with our pilot.

The first full day in Maui we took the girls and Andrew’s parents on a helicopter trip to see the entire island with Blue Hawaiian Helicopter Tours. Even though it was bit cloudy we still got some amazing views and photos. I was a little nervous, but our pilot was calm and cool, as were our girls. It makes it hard to be nervous and paranoid when your 10 year old and 7 year old are the ones telling YOU that everything will be okay. Although we didn’t get to see Oprah’s private ranch, we did see the road she built (or had built) for herself, we saw some humpback whales and babies, and tons

Humpback whales. One male, an escort male and a baby.

Humpback whales. One male, an escort male and a baby.

of waterfalls and rainbows. And this was just our first day!

During the trip we also took a surf lesson, our instructor from Zack Howard Surf, was great!  Although we have all surfed before it was nice to have an instructor to give us some tips for surfing in Hawaii, like staying off the bottom of the ocean. There are tons of

Gorohoff surfers and our instructor.

Gorohoff surfers and our instructor.

coral and sea urchin, so unlike some of the beaches in Washington, we had to paddle all the way out to the big waves. He was also super helpful with our girls, helping them get up on the boards (although Nadia had no trouble with that) and teaching them how to paddle out and get out to the waves.

Nadia riding the wave!

Nadia riding the wave!

The highlight of the entire surfing experience was NO WET SUIT!! The water was so warm, it was hard to get out. Our lesson was only an hour and a half, and we had other things to do that day, but if I had been on my own, I think I might have surfed the entire trip!

One thing we made sure to do everyday (a few times each day) was eat! We ate some great food. The fresh fish and fruit in Hawaii is amazing! We ate at all the different restaurants in Whalers Village, since that was just a short walk from our house, plus it was a good place to start, then head to the beach. We also hired an amazing chef to cook for us a couple nights so no one had to deal with groceries, dinner or clean up! Ann-Marie from Maui Fresh Chef was wonderful! We had lovely appetizers, main courses and desserts with plenty for leftovers to enjoy the next day. This was especially a treat for New Year’s Eve since finding a reservation for 10 on NYE is always tricky, but with 3 kids, its not as relaxing as it could be. Eating at our own home, shoes off, with our beautiful view was a perfect way to ring in the New Year.

Sunrise on Haleakala

Sunrise on Haleakala

We barely made it to the Seattle New Year since Andrew, Anna and I started our day at 3am to take sunrise photos at the top of Haleakala, The House of the Sun. We started early to beat the crowds and get some star photos. This was a great plan, and lots of other people agreed, we didn’t really beat any crowds, but luckily there was enough sunrise to go around! And the stars were amazing from up on top of the mountain. Although I didn’t get any great star photos, Anna and Andrew did. *Note to new camera owners: When you get a camera for Christmas, figure out the settings before you are standing in the dark on the top of the mountain. Overall, it was well worth the 3am wake up call.

And as you need to do in Hawaii, we carved out some quality down time. We made sure to have a few days of just relaxing on the beach or next to the pool. We snorkeled at Black Rock which was super fun. The girls enjoyed jumping off the rocks and watching the other crazy people jump from even higher.

Road to Hana

Road to Hana

We also took a crazy day trip and drive on The Road to Hana (which Andrew really enjoyed driving) to another part of Haleakala National Park. We hiked on the Pipiwai Trail & to the Waimoku Falls. We didn’t make it to the Pools of ‘Ohe’o (aka Seven Sacred Pools) because after our 4 mile hike and swim in the falls we were all pretty pooped.

The girls and daddy playing in the waterfall (before the boulder fell)

The girls and daddy playing in the waterfall (before the boulder fell)

The falls were amazing and we realized their power when a giant boulder came crashing off the rock wall, falling near a man that was posing for a photo under the falls (just steps away from where we were playing earlier – note to anyone heading there, read the signs and follow the rules, they are there for a reason). After that heart pounding experience, we were ready to get back on the windy Road to Hana and head into Lahaina for our dinner at Aloha Mixed Plate – a quick change of clothes on the side of the road and we were ready to go!

The last night of our trip was my father-in-law’s 80th birthday, and what better way to celebrate than with a luau at the Old Lahaina Luau. Everything about the Luau was wonderful, we walked in and were greeted with mai tais and fruity drinks. There was plenty of entertainment, games, photographers and pig digging up to enjoy before dinner started. Dinner was traditional Hawaiian food like Poi (which I was not a fan of), Ahi Poke, Kalua Puaʻa, Laulau and much more. After the main course, Ken got his own birthday platter of treats and a birthday song. Then we enjoyed the dancing and music of the luau. It was a perfect way to end a perfect trip.

Old Lahaina Luau

Old Lahaina Luau

Hang Loose!

Hang Loose!

Hawaii is an amazing place with beautiful areas to explore. Eighty degree weather every day, beach and surf all around you, I completely understand why people want to call it home. I will definitely be back and hopefully sooner than another 20 years, there is much more exploring, surfing and relaxing to do there! Until next time Hawaii, Aloha & Mahalo for the great trip!

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Surf Weekend: Feeding My Soul

Traveling and experiencing new things this is what my heart yearns to do. This weekend was one that I will never forget and that filled my heart to the brim!

This weekend myself and four amazing, lovely, wonderful ladies and mom friends headed down the Oregon Coast Friday morning in a quest for fun, relaxation, challenge and time away. We had all signed up for the NW Women’s Surf Camp and it was everything and more than we expected. It might sound cheesy and a little over the top, but our weekend was EPIC!  When we arrived at our rental home it was beautiful, with an amazing view overlooking the Manzanita beach. We could hear the quiet sound of the waves on the beach and nothing else. Which to me is my most favorite thing.

Our surf team (the 5 of us = Team Ballard) were all on the same page which makes travel and trips like this ever more amazing, no quarrels, no fighting, no judgment, just us being us and enjoying each moment. Our first night we headed out for dinner in Manzanita, which was great because we were able to walk to and from the restaurant on the beach – a little warm up for the next day’s surfing adventures. Dinner was simple and easy and then we had some dessert on the beach. We needed to turn in early for our big day. Saturday at 9am we started our lessons, first thing was the hike carrying our boards down the mile trail at Oswald West State Park (not an easy feat) then we learned about tides, did some yoga on the beach, practiced our moves and had an amazing lunch. The second part of the day was in the water, putting it all together.

I did not leave this weekend as an expert surfer – not in any way, shape or form. But what I did become was a surfer. I got the bug, I am now trying to figure out the next time I can rent a wetsuit and get back in that water. Every day, every wave is different and all I wanted to do was keep trying. Keep trying to get up, keep trying to plant my feet correctly, put my butt down the right way and keep my eyes on the beach. There is so much still to learn, which makes this sport so amazing.

After the first day of surfing, Team Ballard was beat, but us moms put together an AMAZING dinner, sat on our beautiful deck and took in the spectacular view, food, conversations and friendship. Sharing all the stories from the day, laughed at our epic crashes, praised each other for getting out there and doing it and got psyched for the next day of surfing.

The next day for me, started like a dream. Slowly getting up early (before the others) getting a cup of coffee and sitting on our deck enjoying my book and the sound of the waves. Why can’t I do this EVERY SINGLE DAY? There must be a way to fit that in somehow! As the ladies woke up, we all enjoyed the slow morning on the deck, then as moms do, we organized and motivated, got our boards and suits and headed to the beach for another day of playing in the water.

Day two was a lot tougher for me, my body was sore, the waves were bigger and I think maybe my mind was a little too relaxed. Surfing is about repetition and doing the same moves on the board every time, no matter what the wave is doing.  But it is also about getting out to the waves, which takes up a lot of energy; needless to say, I was beat by the end. And yet, I still wanted to keep going out (that is power of the ocean). But I felt I made a good choice after about 2 hours, it was time for me to realize that my body was done and no matter how much more I wanted to fight those waves, for my own safety it was time to come in for the day. Just for the day though, now it’s time to plan the next trip. Maybe a trip to Hawaii (with no wet suits – heavenly!) or possibly just another visit to the Oregon coast, which is probably more realistic and also amazing.

Bottom line: these types of trips, traveling, trying new things, getting out of your comfort zone a little bit to challenge your body, hanging out with amazing people and surrounding yourself with the beautiful nature that is right outside our door is what I need to do more of, it feeds my soul and helps me grow and become more in tune with what’s really important. Thank you to my friends for helping make this one of my best experiences, I will never forget! Until Next Time – Surf’s Up!