Monday, June 30, 2014

Top 10: Hawaiian Vacation Memories

I have just returned from an amazing week in Oahu, Hawaii, with my family, including my father and his wife, and her daughter's family, as well.  My children got to spend time with cousins they've never met before, we all got to know a new-to-us branch of the family, and everyone enjoyed the beauty that is so rightly referred to as "paradise." 

This blog post is the equivalent of inviting you into my living room for a slideshow, 1970s style!  Here are the Top 10 Hawaiian Vacation Memories that will stay with me long after our return.

1.  Quite memorable is the fact that my husband and I mistakenly made plane reservations for the day before our vacation home would be ready for occupancy.  This left us with another whole day and night to fill before meeting up with the rest of the family.  We booked our extra night at a Marriot Resort, which would have been heavenly if our flight had not been delayed for eleven hours in Denver.  We stumbled into the hotel at 2 am, and had to wait for the next day to behold the beauty of Waikiki Beach.  It was a pretty unforgettable chain of events before our vacation even began!

Waikiki Beach
Our hotel for the first night.  Oh, bummer, an extra night in Hawaii!
2.  When I was in my 20s, I bemoaned my flabby thighs and looked back with longing to my teenage shape.  Then in my 30s, I couldn't imagine what my problem had been, and wished I looked like I did back in my 20s.  I am happy to say that as a 40+ woman, on this vacation, I put aside all concerns about body image, romped around in the waves with my children, and even published photos online of me in my swimsuit without a care.  There will always be folks who are thinner and fitter than I, but then again there will always be those who are not.  And I am not going to waste another moment of life, on vacation or otherwise, worrying about it!  If you think like I do, then you understand why this shift in thinking will be a vacation memory that I will not soon forget.

3.  I will long remember the view from our bedroom window once we got to our rented home at Kailua Beach, on the eastern side of Oahu.  My husband and I found ourselves awake and enjoying the sunrise several times on our vacation.  The beautiful sky, amazingly teal ocean, riotous palm trees, and our neighbors' lovely home made it an unforgettable view.
And the closer view of our own pool and hot tub wasn't bad either!
One afternoon, I retreated to the balcony to sketch the view in the travel journal I had brought.  My daughters immediately squeezed into place at my elbows...most of my artwork is created while trying to hold myself steady against their jostling and wiggling!  But they make the most appreciative audience, oohing and ahhing over my artistic efforts; how can I resist having them around while I draw and paint?
My sketched and watercolored version of our view
They were both incredibly excited when I consented to let them use my watercolors for their own artwork, and even let them use my own art journal...I can't resist their enthusiasm for art!  At one point, my six-year-old snugged against me and told me that I'm "the best mom ever."  Yup, that memory is a keeper!

Katy's Hawaiian sunrise
Bayla's Hawaiian sunrise
4.  One of our memorable excursions was a hike to Manoa Falls.  At less than a mile one way, I figured it would be an easy outing for our group, including four kids under 6.

My husband, the girls and I
Katy walking with my father, with Bayla taking her usual lead at the head of the group.
It started out easily enough, until the path gave way to steps, and then the steps gave way to muddy rocks.  It turns out that climbing 400 feet in less than a mile can be a challenging trek!

My husband and Katy on the steps up to the waterfall
Manoa Falls
The waterfall was worth the climb, to be sure.  Perhaps as memorable as the Falls was having my 70-year-old father climb behind the "DANGER!  STOP!" signs to press his luck and see the waterfall a bit more closely.  All's well that ends well, and all ten in our group made it safely back to the Rainbow's End Snack Shop for smoothies.

5.  It's always fun to see what captures the imagination of children as opposed to the adults when traveling with a mixed group.  We stopped at the amazing Nuuanu Pali Lookout with its breathtaking panoramic view of the windward side of the island.  The mountains create a tunnel with a wind effect that had my hair standing up vertically.  No one photo could capture the enormity of it all:
The kids were riveted by something else altogether:  this little chameleon in the parking lot, being held in this photo by the park guide making sure we paid for our parking.
The girls raced back from the lookout point to try to find the little guy again before we left the site.

6.  Another memorable morning from our vacation was my horseback-riding experience at Kualoa Ranch.  I took the two-hour tour with my father, step-sister, and her husband, while everyone else went on the bus tour and checked out the petting zoo.
I have zero horseback-riding experience, and you'll notice that other than our guide, I was one of the only ones who opted for a helmet.  I figured if I had it, I wasn't going to need it!
Our ride took us through rainforest scenery, on a high road above the coast, by the foot of the mountains...quite an array of landscapes for one ranch!
My horse liked to pick up his pace a bit to get up the hills, which scared me the first couple times.  I like to think we came to an understanding by the end of our time together, and altogether he was a kind host for a newbie rider!
7.  A real outdoor Hawaiian luau is a memorable experience.  We went to the Chief's Luau, located by Sea Life Park.  We were all welcomed with a lei made of kukui nuts, and my girls came ready to hula in grass skirts gifted to them by my step-sister.  (My younger daughter did her best to pout her way through as many photos on our trip as she could, but the pout does not at all reflect her actual mood...just an unfortunate effect for the camera!)
We had individual family photos taken against the backdrop of Rabbit Island, as well as a group photo of all ten of us with the Chief himself and one of the hula dancers.
The girls did some of the luau activities, like trying to make fire the old fashioned way, with two pieces of wood.  This gentleman was helpful, but not even any of the adults I watched made much progress.
The ladies learned a little hula dancing...
...and Katy and I got tattoos of dolphins spray-painted to our forearms.
We got goofy with our kukui bead leis, turning them into beards and mustaches over the dining table. 
And the evening culminated in a performance of dances that traced the history of Polynesia, including an impressive fire-knife dance once darkness had fallen.

8.  Not everything memorable is good, mind you, and a memory that will stay with me a long time from our Hawaiian vacation was my six-year-old Katy being stung by a Portuguese man-o-war.
Kailua Beach, where we were staying, is plagued by man-o-war, and I knew it from the guide books I had read before we arrived.  But I could hardly believe it when Katy started yelling and screaming, and I looked down to see a blue thread wrapped around her foot.
The blue thread is the man-o-war's tentacles, and carries its sting.  My husband rushed her back to the house, and we did the best we could with vinegar, water, and Benadryl.  Within an hour, most of the swelling and pain seemed to disappear.  The internet said things like, "Not every man-o-war sting results in death," and when I called the pediatrician to follow up this morning, it was suggested that we should have sought more thorough medical care while still in Hawaii.  So, pray with me that this incident will stay merely a memory, with no follow-up concerns that we aren't expecting!
9.  Of course, there is nothing more memorable about a beach vacation than the time you spend on the sand and in the waves.  Even though my husband is no beach lover, he always enjoys a little time building sand castles when we go. 
And my younger daughter is a natural hula-girl, don't you think?
I loved watching my girls stroll up the beach with their grandpa in the early morning:
And after the man-o-war "incident," we spent some "towel time" getting the girls (and their mom!) re-acclimated to the beach!

10.  And what vacation would be complete without a little shopping!
Silly Barack Obama gift items are everywhere, since Kailua is his own favored vacation spot in Hawaii.

I saw this gorgeous mermaid on the wall at one store, and had visions of someday recreating the beauty:
I loved the bookish piles and mish-mash at Bookends:
And my step-mother, step-sister, and I found plenty of beach-themed home d├ęcor during our window shopping:
So, you now have seen my 21st century version of the 1970s beach vacation slide show!  I hope you are enjoying your own memorable vacations (or staycations) this summer season.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Recycle Bin Index Card Collages

I am continuing to challenge myself to create all of my index cards for Tammy's Index-Card-a-Day (ICAD) project using ONLY materials from the recycle bin--junk mail, discarded magazines, and lots and lots of business envelopes.  (For an introduction to my "take" on the project, you can check out my first post here.)
ICAD 2014 #6 Thirst For Life
I'm especially enjoying the cards with images tucked behind security envelope windows, though they are certainly the toughest to photograph!
ICAD 2014 #8 Awakening
ICAD 2014 #9 Next Step
Some are very simple, with maybe a security envelope liner pattern, an image, and a phrase.
ICAD 2014 #7 Ludwig
This is one of the simplest ever, but it makes me laugh every time I look at it:
ICAD 2014 #14 Hello Kitty!
From a couple of the cards, you can tell that I'm getting into the spirit of summertime:
ICAD 2014 #10 Paradise Excursion
ICAD 2014 #13 Jimmy Buffett
 And to round-out the ICAD collection as it currently stands, here are two more:
ICAD 2014 #11 By The Numbers
ICAD 2014 #12 Love Your Love
You can visit Tammy's site to learn more about ICAD, and also visit some of the participants by checking out the link-up

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Summer Craft Camp for Kids!

I've developed two series of Summer Craft Camps for Kids--one for ages 1 to 3, and one for ages 4 to 7, and we had our first workshop for each series this past week.
My husband came home from work early to find me up to the elbows in kids and paint!
I met first with the 4- to 7-year-old crew to play with paint for an hour on a Thursday afternoon.  If you've read my blog for awhile, or know me personally, you may know that I can be a little squeamish about pulling out the paints and risking a nightmare mess in the house.  Somehow, someway, over the years, I seem to have mellowed!  Here I was, inviting children in addition to my own to scoop, pour, drip and dribble paint all over in the name of creative play! 
Yes, I'm a little proud of my evolution.

We made Spin Art by dribbling washable poster paints into a salad spinner and letting it rip.  Amazingly simple and fun!  The best part is inviting the kids to take the lid off the salad spinner and get their first peek at what they've created.
We made Squoosh Art (or Symmetrical Art Prints, if you prefer) by scooping spoonsful of paint onto a folded piece of paper, and then closing, pressing the paper, and re-opening it to see the symmetrical design that results.  We did this on a simple card, and on cut-out shapes, including rocket ships, butterflies, and angels.
Finally, we used all kinds of crazy materials for getting paint onto our papers--toothpicks, q-tips, bubble wrap, feathers, sponge brushes, and plastic gift cards.  The kids clearly had their favorites; one girl delighted in simply pouring her cups of paint onto the paper!
Don't all these supplies make you want to dive right into some paint?!
By the end of our hour together, the kids had some wonderful art to show for themselves.  I think their big smiles show how they felt about our workshop!
The kids display their handiwork at the end of our workshop together.
The next morning, "the littles" came for our first workshop together.  Our theme was Father's Day, and we read a library story book called My Dad.  Then we made musical instruments with chenille stems (you probably know them as pipe cleaners) and jingle bells.  We learned some fun Father's Day songs to the tunes of Row, Row, Row Your Boat and Frere Jacques.  Then it was craft table time, where the children decorated golden crowns (made from yellow construction paper) with stickers for Daddy, and made a "stained glass" handprint craft using tissue paper squares and contact paper.
The mommies get a big "thank you" for their help with the little ones during this workshop!  This group needs a little more support to work on their craft projects. One little girl especially loved the song-singing and wasn't so sure about the craft, while a few of the kids were raring to get to craft time while I was reading the story.  Stickers are pretty much a universal hit with this age group!

Overall, I am so pleased with the first sessions of my Summer Craft Camp for Kids, and am looking forward to our next workshops in July.  It's very rewarding to share my love for art and crafting with a new generation of creative spirits!