Hawaii – Big Island

After our visit to Maui, we flew to the Big Island’s Hilo airport.  We chose to fly into Hilo because we wanted to see the Volcano National Park first.  Our plan was to spend 2 nights in the Volcano National Park and then drive to the west side of the Big Island to Kona.  We would then fly from Kona back to Boston.

Once we checked into the Lotus Garden Inn, we headed to the Jaggar Museum inside the Volcano National Park to meet with our tour guide from Volcano Discovery. While we waited for Marty, we admired the view of the Kilauea vent.

Our tour guide Marty started us off by showing us slides of the history of the park.  We then got into his car and started to drive into the park to do some hiking and exploring.  Here is one of the lava fields we saw on our hike.  Notice the black lava rocks in contrast with the tree line around it.

Lava rocks also come in different colors like these:

Before ending our tour, Marty took us to the Thurston Lava Tube.  Lava use to flow through here and formed this huge tunnel.

Our tour with Marty ended around 7PM which around sunset at the Jaggar Museum.  At night, the Kilauea Vent reflects a red lava glow from deep within the crater as oppose to the white steam we see during the day.

Too bad there weren’t any flowing lava when we were visiting the park but it’s certainly a great reason to go back in the future.

The next day, we went back to the Volcano National Park to hike the Kilauea Iki trail Marty showed us the day before.  Here is the view of this crater from the top:

Notice there is a slightly white line on the middle left hand side of the crater.  That’s the trail we are hiking to.  We will enter from the far side of the crater and come back to where this picture was taken since this trail is in a loop. The picture below is after we have decided about 400 feet to the opposite end of the crater.  The trees on either side will be the last tall trees we see for a while.

Hiking deeper into the crater:

Some of the areas that looked flat and smooth when we were at the top are actually very uneven, some parts were completely hollow underneath.

This part of the crater was actually quite flat:

The little piles of rock next to us is not a natural formation.  This is how trails are marked inside the Volcano National Park.

Yes, that is a steam vent and yes, you can get as close to it as you want.  Thousands of feet below the steam vent is lava.

This is the view from the opposite end of where we started.  Behind us are tree lines again and it’s time to climb out of the crater.

After climbing the crater, I was ready to meet one of the biggest attraction for coming to Hawaii: Honu – the Hawaii Green Sea Turtles.

We drove south to the Black Sand Beach to try our luck.  While Tripadvisor did not rate this attraction very high, almost all the reviews said they saw Honus.  When we arrived, Luke immediately spotted the black mounds on the sand.

There were about 6 Honus sunbathing on the black sand.  There eyes were closed and just taking a nap while we took pictures.  We took a walk around the entire beach area to do a Honu count and saw these 2 sea turtles having a little fight:

They weren’t snapping at each other like snapping turtles but you could tell they weren’t happy with each other.

After spending a little over an hour here watching the Honus, we headed back to the Volcano National Park to explore the Crate of the Rim Road.  People use to be able to drive on this road and see lava at the end but the lava was not flowing today.  We are able to see the path of the lava flow and how the lava entered the sea.  When lava use to flow, people also took cruises to see the lava drop into the ocean.

We spent another night in Volcano to see the lava glow at night one more time before packing up and head to Kona on the other side of the island.

The drive from Volcano to Kona is about 3 hours.  We took a little detour and visited some waterfalls on the way:

After we checked into the Fairmont Hotel in Kona, we wanted to take advantage of the hotel beach and snorkel.  When we walked up to the beach, we saw more Honus, right on the hotel beach!!!  This was a huge surprise as it wasn’t part of the hotel’s description at all.  We put on our snorkels and swam out to spy on the Honus having lunch.  They take little nibbles off of the rock on the ocean floor.  It was an amazing experience.  If it weren’t for the fear of sunburn, we would have stayed out there forever!  A dinner at the outside bar of the hotel finished off this great trip on the Big Island.

Hawaii – Maui Island

After this year’s winter in Boston, we couldn’t wait to get some place warm.  This year, our vacation is in Maui and the Big Island of Hawaii.  We originally wanted to do 3 islands in one week but quickly realized that this was not possible.  There is just too much to see and too much to do on each island.

We started with the island of Maui.  The first activity we did was an all day snorkeling tour to the island of Lanai.  Based on all the reviews on Tripadvisor, we chose to do the tour with Hawaii Ocean Rafting. In the 8 hour tour, Captain Ryan and Noni showed us 3 different snorkeling spots.  We saw eels, tropical fishes, corals, and…spinner dolphins!

We saw 2 different pods of dolphins.  They were performing jumps and flips out of the water.  Captain Ryan even created some waves so we can see the dolphins surf.

The 8 hours went by in a flash and we were back on the island of Maui by 3PM.  We highly recommend this tour for anyone who wants to do some snorkeling in Maui.

The next day, we checked out of our hotel and left for the Road to Hana.  The Road to Hana is famous for the waterfalls along the way.

The entire drive is about 40 miles but due to the windy roads, it takes about 2 1/2 hours to drive the entire highway without stopping.  We completed the whole trip in just under 5 hours.  We had planned to spend a night in Hana because we didn’t want to risk driving on the Hana Highway after dark.  Hana is a very small town with only one hotel, a four diamond star resort, Hotel Hana Maui.  The place was so quiet.  We sat outside and can hear the ocean from about a mile down the road and the birds in the trees.  The rooms had no TV and no air conditioning.

This is the view our hotel:

The hotel offers towel and bathroom service on one of the most beautiful beach in Hawaii, Hamoa Beach.

Some people even brought their dogs to the beach to play~

There is also a black sand beach near Hana.  We went there to try to find Hawaii Green Sea Turtles but no one was home that day.

After spending a night in Hana, we checked out the next morning to go hike the 7 Sacred Pools.

The hike took us through the rain forest into a bamboo forest and ending the hike at a very tall water fall.

This was definitely one of the highlights on the Road to Hana and a must do in our books.

After the hike, we started to make our journey back to Lahaina to spend the last night on the island of Maui.  The view of the coast line along the way was spectacular.

We have definitely learned how to identify the tourists from the locals.  Tourists all drive newer cars, SUVs in general.  Locals drive more beat up SUVs, large trucks…etc.  The easiest way to tell a local from a tourist is where the driver’s hands are.  Locals drive with the windows down, one elbow hanging outside the window.  Tourists drive with the air conditioner on full blast, both hands gripping the wheel stressed out from all the twists and turns of the highway.  If you pass by the town of Paia around meal time, don’t forget to stop at the Paia Fish Market to grab a fish plate.  The price is very reasonable and the food is AMAZING!

The island of Maui has lots to do and 4 days were not enough.  This is definitely a place we want to come back.

So much snow~

This is our 2nd winter in New England.  Coming from Wisconsin, we’ve seen a lot of snow.  However, snow in Wisconsin is very different from a Nor’Easter in New England.  A Nor’Easter in New England will drive you crazy.  Especially when we have had 4 Nor’Easters since the last week of December.  Each time a Nor’Easter hits us, we are greeted by at least a foot of snow.  This is what the neighborhood looks like after 4 storms, aka Latte’s dream playground.

Check out this house with all the icicles

Look carefully at this photo below, you can see the shape of a car and the antennas of the car sticking out.

Another house with some impressive icicles hanging:

Look at all that snow on top of the little roof.  This is all from the most recent storm we had this week:

This is the snow pile in our yard and Latte, the yellow mountain goat:

The snow in the backyard is pretty deep as you can see Latte digging in:

In case you are wondering, no, she is not cold at all:

And yes, she plays in the snow like this every morning and afternoon after her walk.

This is probably also why she sleeps in the entire day just to recover.

Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Last year we took a trip to White Mountain, NH to see the fall colors.  The trip was kind of last minute so I felt like I didn’t do my homework before going.  To make up for it, we decided to go up to New Hampshire on Friday after work and spend 2 nights in the Franconia Notch State Park area.

There aren’t that many decent hotels in the area, mostly motels and camping sites. Once of the nicer hotels I found was the Mountain View Grand Resort.  The hotel has a lot of history and they offer S’mores by a camp fire at night for hotel guests.  The grounds of the hotel was very pretty and has a barn and some farm animals.

On Saturday, our first stop was the famous Flume Gorge.  The line to buy tickets to get into the Flume Gorge was very long but we were rewarded with fall colors as soon as we entered the state park.

The fall colors along the way varied from red to orange to yellow to green.

As we walk further along the trail, we start to see the lower stream of the Gorge.

After about 20 minutes of hiking, we arrive at the bottom of the gorge with a great view up.

This is also when the foot traffic starts to get congested in the park.  Everyone wanted to take picture of the main waterfall.  This waterfall is probably the most iconic scene for Flume Gorge.

One more shot from the other side of the waterfall:

After the Flume Gorge, we decided to go to The Basin.  We weren’t sure what The Basin was all about but there were a lot of cars in the parking lot so there must be something to see.

The trail at The Basin was a very nice walk.  We found this rock formation:

Then we walked by this and thought it was The Basin as many people were posing by it:

On the way back to the car, we found a side trail and followed it.  This side trail finally lead us to the real basin:

Yes, the water is very nice but remember, No Swimming!

We had bought a combo pass when we were at the Flume Gorge to take a tram to go up Cannon Mountain to see the view from the top.  After lining up for the tram, we were greeted by this spectacular view:

We only saw this view for a very brief period of time because we were not prepared for the temperature on the top of the mountain.  The temperature felt like it was in the 20s.  All the pictures we took of each other showed purple lips and red faces.  We quickly jumped back into the tram and came back down for warmth.

Before ending the day, we had learned from the hotel brochure that Chutters, the world’s longest candy counter was located in Littleton, New Hampshire.  Out of curiosity, we had to check it out.

Yes, it was A LOT of candy and a very busy store.  I think this candy store brings in all the business for this tiny little town in New Hampshire.

This year’s trip to New Hampshire was great.  There are still more to see in this region so we plan on doing this again next year!

The Cliff Walk, Rhode Island

We have been talking about going to Rhode Island for a while especially when we live so close.  Our chance came when I saw a nice hotel on promotion in Providence that also accepts dogs.  The drive to Rhode Island took about 2.5 hours without traffic.

When we first arrived at the beach, we were debating whether or not to park on the street as many cars were already parked there.  Just to be safe, we forked over money to the official beach parking lot.  By this time, Latte was so excited she was foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog.

The Cliff Walk’s one way length is about 3 miles with about 2/3 paved very nicely and the last third with just rocks.

Along the walk, we passed by some of the famous mansions we heard so much about.  They were huge!  They do offer tours inside the mansions but we didn’t see too many people go inside.

The lawns were nicely maintained and provided some nice shade for Latte to cool off.  This is me chilling on the tree while Latte continue to foam at the mouth.

Along the walk were also some private residences.  These houses were also very big and they have put up fences to ensure their own privacy.

When we finally made it back to the beach where we started our walk, we were very happy with our decision to NOT park on the street.  Most of the cars were parked there illegally and are now getting towed!

Notice the sign above that says “No Parking ANY TIME.”

This mini-road trip was fun for all of us.  The weather was fantastic and Latte experienced the beach, stayed in a hotel, went to a real store besides a pet store, and visited the Outlet Mall with  us on the way back.

The Lincoln Walk

I found the directions of this walk online.  The directions were long but seemed easy to follow so we strapped Latte’s backpack on her and off we went.

To begin the walk, we drove to Lincoln, MA’s library and parked in the library parking long.  We then walked towards the cemetery  like the directions said.  The direction said after we pass the cemetery, look for a no Bike sign.  Yeah…this is what the sign looks like:

The sign was tiny, and about to fall down.

Anyway, we go through the sign and head into the woods.  When we exited the woods, we saw a very cute vineyard.

The next land mark was to make a left at the Conservation Land sign:

As one can see, it’s quite faded.

We then continued into the woods.  The trail was actually quite nice.  Some of the fallen leaves were there to remind us summer is near the end and fall is just around the corner.

We eventually ended up on the road we drove into Lincoln on.  While walking back to our car, we saw this very funny road sign:

This was a very tame walk but the scenery could be better.  I know Latte definitely had some fun.

Minuteman Trail

Early August, there was finally one weekend that the temperature was not in the 90′s.  We decided to take this opportunity and get outside, with Latte of course.

We found this Minuteman Trail about 20 minutes away from Ayer that has a nice trail and allows dogs on leash.  So we loaded up our gear (aka Latte’s water and bowl) and headed out.

Once we walked in, we were greeted by this big field which is also part of American history, the American Revolution.

And some more field the further we go into the trail.  The purple flower looks pretty but I am pretty sure it’s all weeds.

Besides these fields, there were some old houses that you could go visit but Latte much rather lay outside in the grass and cool down.

Yes, Latte wears a backpack when she goes out on a trip like this.  Her pack includes: 1 bottom of water on each side, one pink water bowl, a couple of poop bags in case of you know what, and 2 camera filters (because I don’t want to carry them).

Here is a shot of Luke and Latte after Latte has rested a bit.

In conclusion, this is a pretty good trail if you just want to walk.  If you want good scenery, you’ll have to search else where.  We do plan on trying this trail again come fall for the fall colors though.  All the trees along the trail will surely make a nice picture come early October.

Our Garden

Our garden has been quite fruitful this year.  We have: tomato, squash, basil, cilantro, dill, sweet peppers, cucumber, yellow peppers, and mint.  The squash turned out huge.  I mean HUGE!  Each squash was about 5 pounds I think.  The pickling cucumbers were quite fat and juicy as well.  Here they are:

Black Sesame Soymilk Pudding 黑芝麻豆奶布丁

I went to a Japanese restaurant in New York recently that had a black sesame soymilk pudding as the dessert.  It was very creamy and had the nice black sesame fragrance.  Here is my take on the same dessert.  It is very easy to make.

Ingredients:

Directions:

  • Mix soymilk, black sesame paste, sugar, and tofu together in a blender
  • Dissolve the gelatin in water and add to the blender
  • Pour the mixture into ceramic pudding containers for individual serving
  • Heat each of the pudding containers in a microwave until a slight boil, about 50 seconds each
  • Chill in the refrigerator and enjoy!

Lotus Tofu 蓮藕豆腐

I was trying to create a new tofu dish I have never had before.  Last week I bought some lotus roots from the Asian store and decided to mix the two ingredients together.

Ingredients:

  • Lotus roots: 2 sections, thinly sliced
  • Vitasoy Firm Tofu: 1 block
  • Fish sauce: 2 tsp
  • Soy sauce: 1 tbsp
  • Water: 4 tbsp
  • Corn starch: 1 tsp
  • Brow sugar: 1 tbsp
  • Sweet chili paste: 1 tbsp
  • Egg: 1

Direction:

  • Slice the lotus roots very thin.  Sprinkle some salt and let it sit for about 30 min to sweat
  • Pat the lotus roots slices dry and bake in a toaster oven until crispy
  • Slice the tofu into 1 inch by 1/2 inch rectangles
  • Beat the egg in a shallow bowl
  • Dip the tofu into the egg and pan fry until golden brown
  • Mix the corn starch and the water together until blended
  • Add the fish sauce, soy sauce, chili paste, water, and sugar to the pan until the sauce become slightly thick
  • Add half the lotus roots into the pan and stir to coat the sauce
  • Transfer everything in the pan to a serving dish and put the rest of the lotus roots on top

The lotus roots provides a nice crunch to contrast the soft tofu.  The sauce is slightly sweet with a little kick.  Another recipe success!