After spending two weeks with the fam, we did a bunch of laundry and packed our bags again (no checked bags for the first time ever—woot!)—but this time headed for Hawaii!
To give you a little background, we’ve been friends with fellow Midwesterners Brent and Karen since moving to Colorado seven years ago. You may recall that we took a trip with them two years ago to Yellowstone and the Tetons. During that vacation we decided that taking a trip every two years would be a super cool tradition for our families, especially for the kiddos. The crazy part is that in Yellowstone Kaylee was the only kid—but now there are three of them! Some of you know that Brent is a pilot (and a fellow Boilermaker—hail Purdue!—although I didn’t know him in college). They generously granted us buddy passes for flying, which made the trip significantly less expensive, although a bit nerve-wracking at times, since we were flying standby. Okay, so that’s actually a good place to begin, as the adventures started in the airport. Aloha!
We left Colorado Springs early on a Friday morning. After being picked up by Dan and grabbing some Micky D’s for breakfast (funny how we only eat McDonald’s while traveling), we met up with Karen and her two daughters, Kaylee and Nora, at the Colorado Springs Airport. Brent was flying that day, so he planned to meet us in Hawaii. The COS Airport is great, as it’s so small and easy to navigate. Unfortunately, their security takes for.ev.ah. Matt and I were literally the last ones on the plane, and practically ran to the gate—picture Home Alone, but with hardly any drama, because thankfully we were not at O’Hare. Okay, so maybe don’t picture Home Alone. Speaking of, I love watching that movie around the holidays! Yeesh…digression. Can you tell this is going to be a long post? : ) So I’ll spare you all the nitty gritty details and tell you that we made it from COS to Salt Lake City, and from there to LAX. Two flights done by noon. Another stop at the LAX McDonald’s (twice in one day—which means twice in one year). Then it got a little nutty. Karen and her girls barely made it onto the flight to Honolulu, Oahu, but they scraped on at the last second. Remember, we were all flying standby, and Matt and I had about the lowest priority possible. That left us sitting in LAX trying to figure out how in the world we were going to get across the ocean to meet up with our friends.
Long story short, Matt hopped online and saw that there was a flight leaving for Kauai with empty seats, so we were able to get on another plane. Granted, we were headed to a different island than our friends, but at least we were going in the right direction. : ) Since the plane was full, we weren’t able to sit by each other, and Liam was a lap child. It was a long 5 1/2 hours, but thankfully Liam slept for over half of it in Matt’s arms (thank you, hon!). We landed in Kauai late that night and quickly booked a hotel room in Lihue. After a short taxi ride and showers, we conked out.
Crowing roosters awoke us bright and early the next morning. Liam was up and at ‘em due to the four hour time change, so we quickly headed out to see the ocean (just beyond our doorstep!), and then ate breakfast at a yummy open-air place.
Liam loved smelling the flowers in HI.
One of many roosters wandering the island.
Liam’s first glimpse of the ocean!
By 9 am we’d booked a rental car and were off to see the island before plane hopping over to Oahu that evening to be with our friends. Let me just say that while our plans were completely not going according to plan, we loved getting to see another island, especially Kauai. It is incredibly lush and wild, and the people were some of the friendliest I’ve ever encountered. Apparently living in such a lovely place makes for some pretty happy folks. : ) We ended up driving around the island to the Napoli Coast, where we spent some time on Ke’e Beach (so picturesque) and hiking a brief section of the Napoli Trail.
Then we meandered back through tiny towns, stopping for burgers and Hawaiian BBQ, as well as at Hanalei Bay, where Liam experienced his first dip in the ocean. It was pretty wavy, so he wasn’t all that thrilled, but he certainly warmed up to it over the next few days.
After stopping to see some waterfalls,
we hightailed it to the airport where we caught a super short flight from Kauai to Oahu. While we were sad to leave Kauai after such a short visit, we also felt so blessed to have experienced it in a small way. Brent and Karen were waiting for us in Honolulu when we arrived, and thus began our next set of adventures!
When deciding where to stay in Oahu, we landed on KoOlina, which is a resortish area on the southwest part of the island. Our reasoning was that it would be more kid-friendly, as it has calmer beaches protected by coves. While we enjoyed KoOlina, we found ourselves spending a fair amount of time on the road, as we loved being on the east side and North Shore areas of Oahu. I’d like to say that if we did it again, we would stay in those areas, but it was very expensive, so I’m not sure we could swing it even if we wanted to. Apparently the traffic in Honolulu is worse than LA, and it was necessary to drive through it often. Thank goodness for lots of Oreo cookies. : ) On our first day in KoOlina, we walked to the beach and introduced Liam to calm water. He was skeptical at first, but soon was playing in the sand and water with Kaylee and Nora, his new buddies. Lunch was a sample platter at a nearby Mexican restaurant, along with a gooey apple chimichanga for dessert. Then we headed back to our condo so the kids could nap. Matt and Brent ran back into town for some groceries, and Karen and I decided to walk back to the beach with the kids for an early evening on the beach. It was the perfect time to play around in the sand while enjoying a sun set. Somehow, I must have forgotten to take photos of this day—boo!
After resting up from all the traveling, we were ready to explore more of the island. We took off for a morning hike up Diamond Head (a dormant volcano used as a watchtower during WWII)
and Lanikai Beach, which was a little tricky to find. But I’m so glad we persevered, because it was definitely the most beautiful beach I’ve ever been on.
We soaked it in as long as our stomachs would allow and then hopped back on the road in search of shrimp trucks and the North Shore. The guys found a place that offered garlic shrimp and garlic fries, plus a side of fish. It was all delicious, and of course, very garlicky. Perhaps it’s a guy thing? There were loads of middle school boys mowing on the garlic fries. Then we were off to Sunset Beach, which apparently is a really famous surfing area near Waimea Bay. The waves were huge, and Matt decided to jump right in, despite my objections. In the end, the lure of the waves (and the cajoling of my husband) broke me, and I jumped in as well.
Yup, those are Matt’s legs!
Our cheering squad. : )
Possibly my favorite photo of the trip—Brent and Matt (legs again) hurling themselves into the waves.
Karen and I getting in on the wave action.
We had a total blast being pummeled by the waves, exhausting ourselves for the ride home. Not too exhausted for Hawaiian shaved ice from Matsumoto’s though. : )
The next day we took off again, this time for Waikiki Beach, where the crowds are many and the waters are stunning. Crystal clear, warm water was such a pleasure to relax in.
This little dude adored plopping down in “water holes” and spent most of his beach time in some sort of sandy pit.
Matt and Brent rented surf boards and rode some waves, while Karen and I hung out with the kiddos. Later she and I rented some paddle boards and spent some time on the water ourselves. Then it was coconut shrimp and burgers for a late lunch (I’m pretty sure I ate almost a burger per day) and back to KoOlina to meet Karen’s aunt and uncle and cousin for dinner at Longboard’s, which is a restaurant seated on the ocean. There was a luau in process right next to us at the Disney Resort, and we were able to snag parts of it while waiting for our dinner. It was pretty cool and helped entertain a tired Liam.
By this point we were pretty exhausted, so we took a pool day. Basically, we didn’t do anything too crazy, and it felt nice to just relax and rest up.
One of the best parts about going on vacation with your friends is that you sort of have built-in babysitters. We had decided ahead of time that we would “kid swap” so that each couple could have a day to themselves. So, Matt and I watched all three kiddos while Brent and Karen explored the island for an entire day. Since they had the car, we walked over to the nearby resorts and spent the morning ogling their koi fish, sharks, and sting rays. Liam totally would have jumped in with the fish if I’d let him—I was afraid they were going to eat his fingers!
After a lunch of tasty margarita pizza and then naps, we packed up the kids and headed to the beach for some afternoon sunshine.
Liam loved the outdoor showers, too.
Hoping to make the most of our kid-free day, Matt and I crept out of the condo at 6:45 am and headed back to Waikiki, where Matt had booked us a private surf lesson! Honestly, I was not too sure about it, picturing myself being tossed about by massive waves, but it ended up being the highlight of our trip. Our instructor was really cool (pretty much picture your typical laid-back surfer, but also a dad and business owner). He took us to an off-the-beaten-path spot where it was far less crowded and the waves were bigger—maybe 4-5 feet? After a ten minute lesson on the lawn, we paddled our boards out to where the waves were breaking, and then we just started riding waves! It sounds like I’m kidding, but actually I’m not. Our instructor pushed me into a wave, and I kind of freaked out and plopped into the water, but after that first attempt, I was able to actually stand up and surf! It was pretty amazing. Of course, we fell a few more times, but I also felt improvement with each new wave. Sadly, we only snapped this lame photo of our surf boards.
We kept joking that we should ask some surfers if we could borrow their boards for a picture, but I felt like too much of a poser to do it. Heeding our instructor’s advice, we lunched at Teddy’s Bigger Burgers (it did not disappoint—yum!), and then made our way to Hunauma Bay, which is a gorgeous snorkel spot.
From what I recall, it’s actually a volcanic crater where a reef hosts all sorts of colorful ocean life. Although I thoroughly enjoyed snorkeling, I was pretty tired and needed a break before Matt. While he was exploring on his own, he saw several sea turtles, which was high on his wish list. We didn’t really have an agenda after snorkeling, so we decided to drive around the coast again. On our way to the North Shore, we stopped at the Blow Hole, where Matt once again took to the waves.
Then we caught the tail end of a sunset at Sunset Beach before searching for dinner.
We originally thought we’d grab a shrimp plate at the infamous Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, but it was closed. After a bit of debate, we dined at Luibueno’s on really tasty queso and fish tacos. It was a crazy fun day, and I loved getting to hang out with my hubby in such a special place.
On our last full day in Hawaii, we decided to hit up Waikiki Beach once more, after first stopping at a farmer’s market, where we loaded up on local foods and the best huli huli chicken I think I’ve ever eaten.
Dinner was at Nico’s on Pier 38, where an oyster shell kept Liam’s attention.
We tried to get a photo of all the kids together, and this is pretty much our best shot. It totally cracks me up.
A mad game of Euchre 500 ended the day. : )
Knowing that our flight wasn’t until after 9 pm, we spent the morning packing, and then headed out to enjoy the North Shore once again, stopping by Giovanni’s for a shrimp plate, Matsumoto’s for more shaved ice, another delicious huli huli chicken at a local farmer’s market, and the Dole Plantation for amazing pineapple whipped ice cream (shout out to my favorite Bluffton Street Fair attendees, Ross & Leah!), along with a train ride for the kiddos.
I think at this point we were all feeling pretty tired, and the kids were showing some signs of “too much vacation” (Bernstein Bears, anyone?). Of course, that entitles anyone to eat their way through the island. : ) During our last nostalgic stop at the beach, we spied two huge sea turtles hanging out on the sand during sunset.
It wasn’t long before we found ourselves at the airport with hyper kids and another nail-biting standby list. Thankfully, we all made it onto the massive plane and our kids were able to use their car seats—a huge blessing, considering it was an overnight flight from Honolulu to Salt Lake City. Liam was out within minutes of getting settled on the plane, and Matt and I were also able to catch a few winks here and there.
Being woken up by the pilot upon arrival at Salt Lake, we were pretty groggy. We tried to catch a final flight into Denver, but we didn’t make the cut. Being tuckered out after a long night’s travel, we decided to rent a cheap hotel room to shower and sleep. Matt had to work, so he hooked up to the internet at the airport while the rest of us cashed out (amazingly all the kids did too) for a few hours at the hotel. Then we scrambled back to the airport hoping to catch a late afternoon flight (and I do mean scrambled, because it was at this point I realized I’d left my ID with Matt, who was back at the airport…Brent was able to retrieve it, so it all worked out, but there is nothing like forgetting your ID to get the blood pumping a little harder). It got a little nutty at this point, since Brent and Karen’s family caught a flight on a different plane than us. Matt and I were the last people called on our separate flight, and we breathed a huge sigh of relief when the plane taxied off the runway. After an uneventful and blessedly short flight, we landed in Denver, where Dan picked us up and drove us back to the Springs. And thus ends our Hawaiian adventure! It was definitely a trip we’ll remember forever!
Can you believe it’s November already?! We had such a whirlwind October, that it felt almost as if we skipped straight from September to November—and yet so much happened during that time! The first few weeks were spent with my family. My mom arrived via the Amtrak train (fun, right?), and then the rest of my family trickled in over the course of the next week; we eventually landed in Winter Park, CO, where we bunked up at a condo my parents won at the Gateway Woods Auction. Enjoy the highlights!
Snacking our way through Shuga’s menu. It’s worth a trip for their almond cake alone! We may have gone twice in one week…
Checking out the rides at the Manitou Penny Arcade. They have endless amounts of kid rides, which was the perfect break for Liam after a yummy breakfast at Adam’s Mountain Café. Honk, honk—coming through!
Hanging out with his buddy, Grandpa Popsie. By the way, notice the sweaters? Yup, all knit by Liam’s talented Grandma Mimsie. People stop us all the time asking if we got them at the Baby GAP. Lots of gushing tends to ensue. : )
Playing with Aunt Hannah’s fun thrift store find.
Enjoying Devil’s Thumb Ranch and trying valiantly not to step in manure while taking photos. I was only semi-successful… Although the food was just okay, we loved the atmosphere at the ranch. I would love to go back and spend more time around the huge outdoor fire pit. And although we didn’t get any pictures of it, the Tabernash Tavern was delish—although pricey.
The guys golfed at Pole Creek—a course loaded with incredible views—while the ladies tried to shop around town. Unfortunately, only a handful of stores were open, but we still had a good time.
Aunt Hannah and Liam at the park. Love this pic!
Completely breaking the law on the ride back to the condo—it was easier than taking out Liam’s car seat, and we figured no one would recognize Hannah all incognito in her scarf.
We also took mini hikes around the condo each morning, which I loved. The weather was so lovely.
Thanks for making the trek to Colorado, fam! We loved spending time with you, and we’re so grateful that Liam has such awesome aunts and of course, a killer uncle. Also, a huge thanks to Mom and Dad for ultimately making the trip happen.
The whole squinty-eyed crew. : )
I did not see the mountains on my first-ever trip to Colorado. I was in them, but I didn’t actually experience their beauty, because it was masked by an epic snow storm that completely buried our van and kept us house-bound for the entire week (although we did snowshoe to the local gas station to pick up some food, as the lone jar of Crisco in the pantry just wasn’t cutting it). That was during a girl’s road trip to CO over Purdue’s spring break, and while I cherish those memories, I’m glad I didn’t really know what I was missing. Now we have the amazing opportunity to spend time in the mountains on a fairly regular basis, so I think I’m over it. : ) Our most recent trip consisted of staying with Rog & Sue (fellow Indiana transplants as of April) in Estes Park over Labor Day weekend. In addition to hiking, we also hit up the infamous Donut Haus (best hole-in-the-wall donut shop ever!!) and the local art fair. Plus I took a nap each afternoon—bliss!
Liam loved pointing at all the trees while we hiked. I mean, he did have a killer view from our hiking carrier—not a bad way to experience the mountains!
Getting him to look at the camera is another story…
Our view during a picnic lunch up at Mill’s Lake.
Liam thinks rocks are the bee’s knees.
Matt and I had our first night away from Liam this weekend! We basically swapped kiddos with some good friends, so we watched their son a few weeks ago, and they watched Liam this past weekend. While one night is short and sweet, it was amazingly refreshing. We debated over where to go, but in the end Denver seemed like the best option, as we didn’t want to spend all of our time driving. Behold, our adventures one hour’s drive north!
We’ve wanted to check out Mt. Herman for awhile now, so we stopped in Monument for a lovely morning hike.
Before jumping back on the highway, we wandered through Monument’s farmer’s market, enjoying some hearty samples of Great Harvest cinnamon bread and their “sinful” cinnamon butter—delish!
Lunch was at Vine Street Café, which has become our yearly tradition. Before leaving, we played a game of bags. I won’t say who won. : )
Then it was off to Denver’s Antique Row, where we meandered in and out of stores packed to the gills with antiques. There was some live music, too, which made for a festive atmosphere.
On our way to the hotel for check-in (we snagged a room at the Hyatt Regency through Hotwire), we stopped by a store to make a return and somehow got suckered into entering an amazing giveaway at the snowboarding store next door. We only had to wait about 20 minutes before they did the giveaway—which turned into a massive amount of small giveaways + two major prizes. Both of us won some gear—ski goggles, a too-small T-shirt, and some snowboarding stickers—and although we didn’t win the ultimate prizes, it was a fun moment of spontaneity. While waiting, Matt kept entertained by exploring the booths set up outside.
That evening, we hit up Pinche Tacos, which is a hoppin’ Mexican restaurant downtown Denver. They specialize in serving unique flavors of tacos, and their cheese dip was pretty awesome, too! We both agreed that this dinner was the highlight of our trip, although be prepared for elbow-to-elbow seating and loud music.
After sleeping in and taking a dip in the hotel hot tub, we gorged ourselves on breakfast at Snooze. Their pancake flight is a must, as you get to try three different flavors of pancake. Keep in mind that we ate this in addition to our other entrees…like I said, we gorged ourselves.
Finally, we stopped at Roxborough State Park near Castle Rock (we even popped into the outlets and found Matt some work pants) on our way back to the Springs. It reminded us of Garden of the Gods, but with fewer people and more green space.
It was so fun hanging out with my hubby and not having a serious agenda. Liam did great while we were away, and I think we’ll be better parents in the long run by taking time to keep our relationship strong. Now off to plan for the next getaway! : )
Just kidding!! We don’t really live with my parents, but we visited them multiple times this summer—totaling about a month’s stay in all—so it started to feel like we were those 30-year-olds living in the basement of their parents. The real reason for our most recent visit to the Midwest was to be present for Matt’s dad’s surgery, which took place in Chicago. Since my parent’s house is so close, we ended up staying there. Thankfully, everything went better than expected, and Poppy is now recovering at home. Trip highlights below…
Date night at the dunes! Gotta love having Mimsie & Popsie around to babysit.
Rough housing with Popsie…
Walking on lush Midwest grass…feels like quite a luxury compared to our struggling lawn in CO!
Twirling with Mom…
Enjoying way too much fried goodness at the Porter County Fair! Those elephant ears…so yum.
Helping Popsie set up his fair tent…and climbing up lots of mowers, too. Eeks! Liam actually had his first real fall on this trip (although it happened quite accidentally at Gma & Gpa’s house, not the fair). A bloody nose and fat lip were the only battle wounds, but we were all a little shaken up. Matt summed it up well by saying, “He’s officially a boy now.”
The petting zoo tent at the fair. We were able to see the cutest piglets (never thought I would string those two words together)—sleeping, nursing, playing with each other—just like little Wilburs. Loved it!
Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of pool day at the Bucher’s, Family Camp (where my brother Ross unleashed his superior yoyo skillz in an epic variety show comeback), or hanging out with my siblings (we got to see all of them again—unbelievable and so fun). Grateful for these memories!
Of course, I can’t wrap up this post without at least mentioning that our car has several issues as we drove back to Colorado. Without going into too much detail, we made it back without breaking down in the middle of Kansas (in spite of my incessant worrying), and Liam was quite the backseat trooper, along with my amazing hubby who drove nearly the entire 24 hours (which really should have been 17 hours). Thanks also to Gma Steph who rescued us in Champaign, IL, by getting us to a car repair shop (took three tries before one would take us). But we made it back in one piece and have no plans to leave home for awhile now. : )
Divided loyalties here in the Braham house…Matt is a Buckeye fan, and I say Boiler up!
The term “babymoon” has only recently been added to my vocabulary—and I have to admit that I think it’s a swell idea! It’s essentially like taking a honeymoon, only it’s usually shorter and means that soon your weekend trips will dwindle as a baby enters the scene. Or at least that’s what everyone tells us, so I’m starting to believe it.
Matt sweetly put this weekend getaway on the calendar for my birthday back in December, and I’ve been looking forward to it ever since. So here are a few highlights from our delightful weekend trip to Taos, New Mexico.
First, my boyfriend booked us Puerta Rosa (The Rose Room) at this adorable B&B, The Adobe & Pines Inn, on the south end of Taos.
The grounds are made up of quaint adobe buildings, which are basically private suites.
My favorite part of our room was definitely the
spa bathroom, which was practically the size of our bedroom and included a sauna (which I sadly could not use). Adjacent to the huge tub was a fireplace—the stuff of dreams, I tell you. And yes, I made sure to enjoy the tub with a crackling fire every night. With bubbles—lots and lots of bubbles.
Although southwest décor isn’t my personal cup o’ tea, I can certainly appreciate it, especially in a local setting. I snapped a few photos of my favorite features…
I almost walked off with this massive dough bowl—almost.
And don’t you love the herringbone wood pattern of the built-in closet doors?
Of course, every room in the B&B had a unique ceiling of patterned wood, plus lots of colorful doors—eye candy galore!
Breakfast was also a fun affair, as the owner of the B&B is a gourmet chef—originally from the Bronx—and he served up the most stunning concoctions, like cheese blintzes with kiwi chocolate sauce. Yum!
And it didn’t hurt that there was a constant supply of oatmeal raisin cookies and hot chocolate just waiting for us every time we left our room…
Taos is an artsy town, and we enjoyed perusing the tiny shops—although I definitely liked the stores that were less artsy and more crafty/décor based. Matt humored me and even got excited over a few of the shops himself. Our favorite was Seconds, which is a store that takes used materials and repurposes them into something fresh and new. We actually made a purchase there, which we’ll be sure to share in another post.
Ultimately, though, our favorite thing to do when exploring a new town is to “discover” good restaurants. You could say that we sort of ate our way through Taos, which is also what we did on our first anniversary to Ridgeway, Colorado—a teensy hole in the wall town, consisting of about two streets. You wouldn’t believe the amazing food we found there! Anyway, Taos did not disappoint either, and we were super happy about it. One of our favorite places was Antonio’s, which served up Mexican cuisine that reminded us of Salsa Brava, which is one of our absolute favorite places to eat in Colorado Springs—although it’s a bit pricier, so it’s considered a special treat. Antonio’s tableside guacamole and king crab enchiladas were insanely good—and Matt tried mole for the first time, which he liked (I was not a fan, as it tasted like anise).
The Bent Street Café had adorable patio seating, where we soaked in some rays while listening to oldies music and munching on Mediterranean style food. It was a great spot for people watching, too.
But our absolute favorite-takes the cake-must visit if you ever go to Taos—the Taos Cow (it’s a little off the beaten path, but totally worth the trek).
I mean, how can you go wrong with a name like that? It’s like the cat’s pajamas, the bees knees…the Taos Cow. And it lived up to its name. We dug into sandwiches (Matt went with a Portobello veggie sandwich, while I stuck with a grilled turkey club—and for the record, I am not a mushroom fan, but Matt’s choice was suuuuperb—eeks, can’t believe I admitted that on the web)
and then true homemade ice cream (Matt went with chocolate almond and I gravitated toward the blueberry).
To top it off, they sell my favorite tea, Mighty Leaf, which I can never seem to find.
Oh, and they were featured in Bon Appetit magazine as one of the top ten ice cream parlors in the States. No, we weren’t paid to dish about the Taos Cow, but consider us hooked.
That same afternoon, while Matt was off taking pictures of the landscape
I snuck into a consignment shop and fell in love with this bamboo serving tray.
It was huge, sturdy, $22, and BAMBOO! Sadly, we thought the bottom might be too rough on our ottoman, and even though I probably could have rigged it to work somehow, we left it for someone else to discover and instead I consoled myself with a few snapshots (I think the owner of the store was secretly very proud that I was taking pictures of his second-hand bamboo tray).
Of course, we also hit up the great outdoors, although I’m not quite as light on my feet as I used to be, so we stuck with hiking a flat trail that meandered along the Rio Grande Gorge.
Those were a few of the trip highlights, in addition to stopping by the home of some good friends and grabbing burgers at Big K in Buena Vista on our way back to the Springs. It’s always good to get away and be refreshed, and I’m certainly savoring these final memories of being just a couple.