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Well, MORE SNOW came last night.

I would give you my left pinky toe if you could make it all melt and then warm up the city of Cincinnati.

I am ready to see the green tips of tulips poking up from the ground.

I am ready to wear less than 32 layers when leaving the house.

I am ready to not have to burrow under a blanket to stay warm in each room of our house.

Unfortunately, we have at least another two months of this cold and snow and ice.

That being said, will you help me?

I’m looking for ideas for a vacation or a long weekend get away.

Here is my wishlist:

-Warmth

-Not all inclusive

-Outdoorsy activities- hiking, biking, water fun (if your suggestion has a beach)

-Good restaurants nearby

-Flight from Ohio to destination 4 hours or less- that means anywhere in the states excluding AK and HI, and we could also make it to most Caribbean destinations

And, that’s about it.

So, PLEASE help me out. Throw out a suggestion or two!! Even if your favorite place isn’t warm, I’d still be interested in hearing where you recommend.

How good does this look right now?

or

or

or even

So, give me your suggestions. Please and thank you!!

Happy Monday!

XO,
Leah

 

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There are dog people.

And then there are non-dog people.

I grew up in a household of seven people, and six out of the seven of us are dog people… with the exception of my mom. She is dog tolerant. And that is about it.

Let me paint the picture for you.

Our beloved childhood dog, Skipper, lived a nice long life. And he was a good dog. When he became blind and deaf, my parents dutifully cared for him. Then he stopped eating, and they knew it was time to say goodbye.

It was a sad day for all of us. Even my dad shed a tear, which is a very rare occurrence.

Now, my mom cries at any touching movie, moment, happy news, sad news, exciting news, etc. But not one tear was shed by her for beloved Skipper.

When I asked her, “won’t you miss him?”

She replied that she’ll miss him when she’s cooking because he did scarf up any scraps.

Now, for you dog lovers that may sound cold-hearted. But my mom, I assure you, is not cold-hearted. She just doesn’t care for dogs.

So, that should provide a starting point for you to understand the rest of the story.

Fast forward…. Christmas at the parent’s house in 2010.

All 5 kids were coming home along with two spouses and two boyfriends. That makes for 11 adults in my parents home along with a bunch of drop-in friends.

Add to that the five LARGE dogs that would be accompanying my momma’s darling children on their trip home.

I thought the woman would have a breakdown.

Here is the ding-dong cast of characters.

The grumpy old lady, Miss Jackson:

Miss Ultimate Supreme Ding-a-Ling, Lola (who in this picture looks like she has a lazy eye):

Mr. Bosco, my sister’s very well-behaved (no that isn’t sarcasm… he is a REALLY good good dog) American Bull Dog:

Rosie, the rescue. And Jax, Bosco’s brother. These dogs love treats. Amen.

And this is a little glimpse of what it was like with them around:

http://bshawise.tumblr.com/post/2488922266

They were relegated to the basement. Please note that is only 3 of the 5. Miss was probably on the second floor far away from the action, and I’m sure she was trying to figure out how she was the only dog last year, and this year she was sharing her favorite get away spot with 4 dogs under the age of 1. Pretty sure she hated us for bringing her. And Rosie was probably locked away- Rosie is still working on playing well with others.

Words cannot describe the chaos that 5 grown dogs can create when they are together. For the dog lovers, there were a lot of funny moments with those ding-a-lings. And for my mom, I’m sure she was wishing that she raised her children better- you know, to be those non-dog loving people that don’t bring disruptive and destructive animals into her home.

Thanks be to God for the nearby high school athletic fields. They provided the fenced in space for these dogs to wear themselves out.

Thanks be to the Dog Whisperer, Justin. For it turns out that he really isn’t a whisperer, he is just a good treat bringer and giver.

And thanks be to my momma for her gift of tolerance.

Happy Wednesday people!

Have a good one,

Leah

Spending time with old friends, the ones that really know you and where you came from, is like slipping on your most favorite pair of old slippers.

It is comfortable and warm. And it just fits. Really, really fits. And it feels like home.

For the past four years, a group of four of my dearest high school friends and I have slipped away from real life to a weekend of eating, drinking, talking, connecting, and laughing until my sides hurt.

I could easily get sentimental, but I’ll spare you my gushing about how much I appreciate these friendships, and how much I treasure these women.

Rather, I’ll just tell ya a bit about how to have the best girls’ weekend ever.

First, FOOD. Bring a lot, make a lot, eat a lot, then eat some more, then travel to a place that sells good food, buy food, and eat some more.

Please note that ALL of us forgot cameras-oops. All pics are from my iPhone… not great, but not terrible.

I love being around girls who can cook AND eat.

Because they make things like pumpkin cream muffins.

And a giant baked apple pancake.

And the most delicious goat cheese and zucchini frittata.

And loaded brownie cake topped off with whipped marshmallow.

I think I shall no longer have any dessert that isn’t topped off with whipped marshmallow- it would be wrong.

And crab dip.

And bruschetta.

And spinach and artichoke dip.

And buffalo chicken pizza.

And white pizza.

And the list goes on and on and on.

Next, you’ll need an EXCURSION. I use the term excursion loosely because you don’t want to get all crazy with things that make you leave kitchen for hours on end, because that will interrupt the food portion of “how to have a good girls’ weekend”.

Visit the Amish.

They have good prices on toys.

And they are the friendliest of folk.

According to my friend Jenni (the blonde), the Amish make the best cheese.

She was devastated that the deli line was a mile long.

But let me give ya a little tip. Jenni is a liar and a cheater (we’ll get to the cheating later). Last year she bought this “amazing” cheese, and it was vomitous.

Yes, I know.

Vomitous is not a word.

But is the only word that does the cheese it’s due justice.

Want to know what the Amish get right?

Absolutely, positively, hands-down, no-argument-here right?

Baked goods.

Sweet Mary Martha Magdeline St. Paul.

The Amish bakery that we visited makes a make-your-knees weak hot pretzel.

I would give my pinkie toe for one right now.

I would.

Third, ACTIVITIES.

Do something fun.

Make something.

Have a cocktail.

Enlist your friends to peel 5000 apples for a large batch of applesauce and apple butter.

Make them work until they achieve the perfect peel technique.

Impressive, non?

After apples, move on to something different.

Like decoupaging frames.

When I told the main man about our activities, he just shook his head and laughed.

Do men not decoupage on guys’ weekends?

Please look at my mouth.

I CAN. NOT. use scissors with precision without pursing my lips.

I tried.

I just can’t do it.

Is this normal?

Anne is a craft master.

So, is Molly.

She prefers to go by the name “Mo”, so if you see her out and about- make sure to say Hello Mo.

Cute, right?

I’d like to take this time to issue a warning.

During the activities section of your girls’ weekend, you will likely hit a snag.

Not every craft is going to be a hit.

It is just a fact of life.

For us, this year… the illusive Felt Balls were an unclimbable Mt. Everest of crafts.

I would like to state that old Marty Stewart is a liar. Her directions said these felt balls would be “the perfect craft for kids” because it is “so simple”.

That is BS, Marty.

And you know it.

When you look at those bright colored packages of wool, it looks harmless enough.

And look, it is soft and green and lovely.

But in reality, this stuff is dangerous. And difficult.

And it causes you to gray prematurely.

See?

I won’t take you through the whole long and painful and soapy (?!?!?!) process, but believe me… felt balls are no fun.

We finished up our activities with gray wool flower pins.

And these super fun bowls made out of old records.

By the way, Alison brought the felt ball project. We were about to un-invite her to future weekends, but then she totally redeemed (read like Harry from Dumb and Dumber) herself with the record bowls.

She is back to being invited.

Seriously, that was a lot of activity and crafting.

Finally, you need a GAME.

Every group of friends has that one card game or board game that they like to play whenever they are together.

For us, it is Mexican Train Dominoes.

It is fabulous.

…Unless you have a cheater in your midst.

Jenni Teaters.

Teats Cheats.

Fact.

Just look at her wily face.

Did I mention that you must laugh a lot?

Sometimes so much you fear you may not be able to stop.

That is the laughter that I believe adds years to your life.

There ya have it.

My easy four step process to having the perfect weekend getaway.

Happy Monday, my friends.

It is a short week- and that makes this a very, very happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

For the past decade, I have travelled with my hubs to his family Lake House to celebrate Thanksgiving with his immediate family, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and everyone’s dogs.

There are obvious things that I look forward to during the Thanksgiving season- seeing family, spending quality time, giving thanks, and eating glorious turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

Duh.

Who doesn’t like that stuff?

However, there is a newer tradition that I’m going to share with you. I encourage you to try it out for yourself. It will elevate your holiday weekend to a new, fantastically fattening and trashy level.

And who doesn’t love fattening and trashy?

We celebrate the Friday after Thanksgiving with Fry-Day.

I believe this started the first year Brad’s uncle fried a turkey. The next day we had this glorious frier just tempting us to try some new delectable treats in it.

And boy, have we.

It all started with the basics.

I do believe this is the beginning of the first year spread.

Pickles and jalepenos on the left, and those are bacon wrapped hot dogs on the right.

This picture was taken before their dip in our beer batter.

I warned you that these are in no way, shape, or form good for you- right?

Year two, we focused on some dessert products.

These are double stuffed Oreos covered with funnel cake batter.

Um, HELLO!!!!!

We send off the battered goodies to be handled by the men.

The Coors Light drinking men.

Manly.

And classy.

This picture indicates that you also must wear some casual wear from your Alma Mater during Fry-Day.

This is not a Fry Day mandatory; however, it is recommended.

This is a spread from one year.

There are fried cheese sticks, fried oysters and shrimp, fried pickles and jalepenos, and some dips to correspond.

Look! There is even fruit on the table. At least we are making an effort to include some element of health.

Here is the shrimp up close.

This is a personal favorite of mine.

If you look closely, you’ll notice a strange looking fried item in the center of the pile.

That would be cousin Ryan’s fried Lunchable hotdog in the mini-bun. Weird. And gross.

Mmmm. Funnel cake with sugar and cinnamon. Heaven.

Let’s see… we’ve also done salami stuffed with cream cheese, buffalo chicken dip frozen into balls then deep fried, and ice cream.

But we are always looking to improve and experiment.

So, if you have anything we must try, please share!!

Don’t worry… Uncle Steve makes us go on extremely long hikes every day of the break. So, we do work off the calories.

Last year after one hike, two of the older dogs were out of commission for a full 24 hours because the old pups pushed it a little too hard mile after mile.

You do get to see sights like this on said hikes.

Pretty.

And here is another practical way to take care of those pesky Thanksgiving Day and Fry-Day calories…

Fire Jumping while holding Maverick, the wonder dog.

Ladies, you can participate too!

There ya have it.

A new tradition for you Thanksgiving weekend.

You are welcome.

Don’t forget… I’m looking for frying suggestions. And we’ll try anything once (case in point- lunchable hotdog).

Happy Hump Day!

XO,
Leah

It seems impossible that my ears are burning from the cold air whipping around as I walked our ding-dongs tonight.

Just a week ago, I was soaking up the sun and drinking mai-tais in Hawaii.

I’ve mentioned that while we were there, we had some incredible meals.

And none of them rocked my world more than my Uncle Steve’s red snapper.

Yowza.

I learned that this fish dish of his was what he made for my Aunt Lynda on their very first date. No wonder she came back for date #2!

Since leaving Hawaii, I have been dreaming about that dish. So, I decided to make it tonight to momentarily transport us back to the warm ocean breeze (you know, away from the cold fall blustery gusts of Ohio).

Now, I faced a couple of problems right off the bat.

1. I live in Ohio.

2. You cannot get the Hawaiian Red Snapper  (one of the only Red Snapper varieties to not be overfished and on the “do not eat” list) in Ohio.

3. If you could get the whole darn thing, Brad and I could not eat an entire fish.

4. Who would eat the eyeballs and brain without Steve here?

So, I set out to make a more mainland friendly version. All of the ingredients I used are easily found in Ohio, and I have both a chicken and a seafood version. So, if fish isn’t for you… stick around for the chicken.

Hang tight.

And hang loose.

I’ll walk ya through Uncle Steve’s recipe, and at the end I’ll give you our mainland version.

Dear Fish,

Thank you for giving your life for us. It meant a lot. Truly.

You were delicious.

XO,

Leah

Those are fish guts.

Know who likes fish guts?

This little guy.

So, this big guy shared the guts with the little guy.

Steve took the whole gutless fish and placed it on a Ti leaf, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and then wrapped another Ti leaf around it. He wrapped the whole bundle in foil, and he put it on the grill.

It both grilled AND steamed it.

Magical.

Here he is all cooked up.

Squeeze a little lemon on our buddy, Mr. Fish.

And a bit of soy sauce.

Now.

Oh now.

Now is the part that changed me.

On this plate is chopped garlic, ginger, and macadamia nuts.

Yes, please.

In this pan is oil. When it gets to the perfect temperature, the oil will bubble a bit around the chopsticks.

When it bubbles, toss in your plate of wonder.

Well, don’t toss.

That’s hot oil you are dealing with. And it could splatter. And that would hurt.

As soon as it hits the oil, oh Sweet Mary Patricia.

It is the smell of the islands.

When it gets a little golden, you are golden.

And you should pull it off of the heat.

Take that whole sizzling pan and pour it over Mr. Fish.
It crackles and adds those flavors to the entire dish.

Sprinkle it generously with chinese parsley (aka cilantro) and green onion.

Did I mention that Mr. Fish had to lose his tail?

Know why?

Because the house we rented had a small grill, and poor Mr. Fish couldn’t quite fit.

Look at that spread!

Pretty fantabulous.

In Hawaii, we had this with pad thai, white rice, seared ahi tuna, and a delicious green salad.

The after dinner show was pretty entertaining too.

Uncle Steve partook in the fish eyeball.

I cannot overstate how nasty this eyeball looked. The lens of the eyeball looked like a small white eyeball.

Sick.

But Steve is an island boy, through and through.

So, he slurped up the ball of eye.

Now, this is my cousin.

He is my uncle’s mini-me.

And he wanted the other eyeball.

At the very least, he wanted to be like his dad.

By the looks of his face, I’m not so sure he actually wanted the eyeball.

And believe me, he was even more unsure he wanted the eyeball once it was in his mouth.

Ha.

Did I mention that I’m from a family of good eaters?

Now, trust me when I say that even if you are not a seafood person you have to try a version of this dish.

It is so delicious, and on a cool fall day it will take you away to the islands.

I roasted some chicken tenders that were coated with olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.

350 for about 15-20 min (depends on the thickness).

I also wanted to try this dish with tilapia- a pretty easy-to-find fish in Ohio.

I used the frozen version from Kroger.

Get out a piece of parchment paper, and give it a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Place your defrosted fish down and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.

Cover with another sheet of parchment paper.

We’re making a little pocket to steam the fish in while its in the oven.

This method keeps the fish super moist.

Have I ever mentioned that I rather loathe the word  moist?

Start at one corner and fold it like this:

Move over a couple of inches, and fold it again:

Keep going and folding!

Until it looks like this.

It doesn’t have to be perfectly sealed, but you want a pretty good pocket for some solid steam action.

Put it on a piece of foil or on a pan so that if juices start to flow, they don’t flow directly to the bottom of your oven.

Pop that into the oven with the chicken for the last 10 minutes of the chicken cooking.

Again, this will vary based on the filet’s thickness.

If you have paper thin tilapia filets, you could need as little as 5-6 minutes.

Take a peek, and if they are white all the way through- they are done!

Now, I fried up the garlic, ginger, and macadamia nut mixture.

I’m going to insist on mac nuts. Normally, I would say to be flexible and use what you have.

But the mac nuts take it over the top.

They really do!

Put your meat on a pan, and drizzle the most flavorful goodness over it.

Please note, I forgot to add a squeeze of lemon juice and about 1/4 cup of soy sauce.

You should not forget this step.

But rest assured, if you do, it will still be deeeee-lish!

Top with cilantro and green onion, and pop it on a plate!

I served it up with a roasted butternut squash casserole with blue cheese in it (recipe is coming soon). So stinking good.

I’m convinced that the garlic/ginger/mac nut along with the cilantro/green onion topping would be delicious on just about anything.

I’m thinking that I might need to try it on shrimp and scallops next.

Yes, I think so.

Know what would be perfect with this?

A pina colada.

Or a mai tai.

Or a glass of crisp white wine.

Have a great weekend!

If you are feeling inspired, transport yourself to the islands with this dish.

XO,

Leah

Vacation Rental By Owner.

For six nights on the Big Island, we stayed at the loveliest place that I found on www.vrbo.com.

I highly recommend using this site if you are planning a trip any time soon.

For less than the price of a hotel room per night, we stayed in a 2 bedroom/2 1/2 bath brand new beachfront house.

It was amazeballs.

Seriously, I dare you to start looking at the site. They have homes for rent all over the world. I am currently obsessed with the houses in Tuscany.

I think I shall become Diane Lane and go live Under the Tuscan Sun.

We arrived into the Hilo airport around 7 pm on our second day in Hawaii.

That is 1 am Ohio time.

My dear auntys met us at the airport with the most beautiful leis.

You know, TV and movies make you feel like when you step off of your Delta flight in Hawaii some lovely Hula dancer in a grass skirt will be there to kiss you and adorn you with flowers.

I’ve got news for you… doesn’t happen.

Brad mentioned he was disappointed that he didn’t get leid when arriving in Hawaii.

But I knew the fam-a-lam wouldn’t let him down.

The auntys also bought us breakfast for the first morning.

The house we rented also provided fruit and juice.

Those unidentifiable objects on our breakfast platter were the MOST.DELICIOUS.PASTRIES.EVER. One was chocolate filled and the other one was passion fruit filled, and it changed my life. Forever.

We took our coffee and breakfast outside to eat, sip, and enjoy the sunrise.

After all, we were up at 5 am (11 am our time)!

Once the sun was hanging in the sky, we turned to go back into the house.

Isn’t it lovely?

I shall now take you on a tour.

From the front door, you walk into the great room. The shoji doors are all over the house. Please note the view. Wowzer.

Off of the main room was the kitchen with every amenity a girl could ask for.

Stove, oven, microwave, dishwasher, coffee pot, blender, cooler… you name it, the house had it.

Another view of the great room…

The hallway to the right led to our bedroom.

Great lanais (patios) with seating- and views!

This was our bedroom.

This bed was amazing.

I started researching feather tops for mattresses as soon as we got home.

I seriously don’t think I have ever slept better.

And the waves crashing against the cliffs in the background were the loveliest sleeping sound track ever.

Master bath off of the bedroom.

View from Brad’s soak in the tub.

Please note the Speedy Gonzales cocktail glass.

Class act, Brad. Class act.

View from the shower.

It was a private lot. So, you could shower with all of the doors open looking right out into the ocean.

Let me tell ya… you haven’t lived until you have showered with an ocean view.

Second bedroom.

Second bathroom.

Neither of these rooms got much use, but I’m sure they would have been lovely.

And, if we would have traveled with another couple, it would have made staying in this house even more stinking affordable.

This next picture is seriously one of my favorite parts of the house.

The laundry room.

With detergent and dryer sheets provided.

It was awesome to leave the Big Island with all of our clothes clean!

I’m a laundry nerd, and I’m ok with it.

Clean clothes brought me more joy than they should have.

The best part of the house was the size of it.

If we would have stayed in a hotel room, we would not have been able to have the entire family gather with us to hang out and eat. The house provided that space and a grill for Steve to cook us the most amazing dinner.

Oh, and as a bonus…

Let me show you the happy hour show that occurred.

We’d grab a drink after a long day of sightseeing and head to the cliffs to watch the waves crash.

And these little buddies would be swimming all over the place and feeding on the algae near the cliffs.

They were ginormous!

I have a new found obsession with honu (sea turtles).

One final note on VRBO:

The site carefully screens the homes and the owners so that you don’t get bamboozled out of money. There are protections built in when renting from them.

So, check out the site, and then plan a fabulous trip.

You won’t regret it.

Happy Hump Day,
Leah

I do believe Waipio Valley was my favorite site to see and place to visit during our trip.

It is a slice of solitude and heaven and waves and black sand and gloriousness.

Waipio Valley is on the Big Island. The area has quite a history (according to our tour book). Wapio was once known as the most fertile land in all of Hawaii, and in the 1700s the area boasted somewhere between 4,000-10,000 residents. It was at that time referred to as the Valley of the Kings because many of the Hawaiian royals lived there. That all changed in 1946 when a tsunami tragically wiped out the entire area.

Around 1970, however, small amounts of people started moving back into the valley- mainly vets and hippies looking for the opportunity to essentially live off of the grid and away from society. Soon, some farmers followed to live in near seclusion and farm taro in the valley.

How do these farmers manage to maintain their seclusion?

I’ll show ya.

See that beach down there? That is where we were headed. It was a treacherous drive that requires 4-Wheel drive (seriously there is a guy at the top of the hill that will not let you proceed without 4WD), and the road grade is at 25%. It is only a mile long road, but it takes over 30 minutes to make it down.

Once down there, there is no electricity, cell service, TV reception, etc.

Also, the state police pretty much leave the area alone. There are stories of houses being torched as a part of the locals being responsible for the law and justice down in the valley.

So yeah, not many people are looking to travel down there. And fewer still are hankering to move to the valley.

While I won’t plan on packing up to live with the folks in the valley, I am so so glad we risked our lives to drive down.

Side note: on the way down, there are several mangled car bodies that fell off of the crazy steep road. It is too treacherous to retrieve the cars so they leave them. They do retrieve the bodies.

For a Nervous Nelly like me, you can imagine that the drive down and up was not super enjoyable! I’m sure glad to have done it though.

When we arrived at the top entrance to drive down to the valley, we took in the view. And I only wish that I could take pictures that would do the sight even the smallest amount of justice.

We were extremely grateful for our personal tour guides!

Side note: It was exceptionally fun to see the sights with a nearly 14 year old young man. Everything looks a little different through his eyes. We stand on the hill overlooking Waipio Valley taking pictures admiring the sheer magnitude and beauty, and Pono does this…

Boys are great.

So, after a few obligatory somersaults and pictures at the top, we started our trip down.

Again, I would like to state  my thanks to the Lord for the 4-Wheel drive vehicle. This type of trip is what those SUVs are actually made for.

Those going down must yield to those coming up. And this road is not wide. Yikes.

Once at the bottom, we went on the bumpiest drive ever through the farmers’ land.

It looked like heaven meets Jurassic Park meets Lost meets Blue Lagoon.

One of the nicer homes in the valley.

Again, check out the terrain- the water was a little more than a foot deep here.

Crossing the stream, this is what we saw to the left and the right.

Wow.

Most of the houses looked like this guy. A little more weathered and lived in.

When we arrived to the secluded black sand beach, this wild horse was there to meet us.

He was the friendliest beauty. He came to say hello, share in a bit of our picnic, and pose for a photo opp.

While we picnicked and frolicked in the waves, our wild buddy crossed the stream.

I mean, seriously.

Who sees this in real life?

I don’t really know what else to say about this place.

If you want to feel unplugged from the world, Waipio is the place to go.

If you want to feel small, go to Waipio.

If you want to feel how big God is, I suggest you stop by Waipio.

If you want to marvel in the simple things, here’s an idea… visit Waipio.

I’ll let you just see the rest of our time in Waipio Valley.

It was a perfect, perfect, perfect day.

Have a good one my friends!

XO,
Leah

Early Sunday morning we arrived home from the best and most magical vacation of my life.

We spent a glorious ten days in Hawaii, and we covered three islands.

We started on Oahu in Honolulu seeing Pearl Harbor and Waikiki Beach.

We then went to the Big Island where we stayed for six nights. I think we saw approximately 3,200 sights.

We ended at a resort in Kauai, the Garden Island for our final three nights.

I don’t really even know where to start. We got to spend time with my family there, and that was hands down the highlight of the trip.

My Aunt Lynda- she and my mama are almost exactly one year apart in age. She has been in Hawaii for 30+ years.

Aunt Cindy. She is also my mama’s sister, and she lives in a beach house near the active volcano flow. The hostest with the mostest.

And this is my Aunt Adele. She is the baby of my mama’s family. She drove us all over the island… she may have caused us to white-knuckle it from time to time.

Aren’t they the prettiest?

Let me tell ya something. They are fun too.

So much fun.

This is my cousin Pono. He is nearly 14, and he is about as charming as they come. His mama is Lynda, and his dad is my Uncle Steve.

And this is Uncle Steve.

He’s holding perhaps the best dinner I’ve ever had.

Here are all of the Hawaii ladies (including my most gorgeous and delightful cousin Liula) and me.

And here is the whole clan minus my cousin Liula.

My Aunt Del is sitting next to her main man, Tim.

On top of spending extended time with my most amazing family,we ate delectable local food, our accommodations were deliciously deluxe, and the sightseeing and daily excursions put both Brad and I on sensory overload.

We took over 800 pictures if that says anything.

And now, I’ll share all 800 with you. So, sit tight and enjoy the show.

I kid. I kid.

I know how painful sitting through other people’s vacation pictures can be, so I promise to only give the highest of the highlights.

The food.

Oh, the food.

We started our trip with poke (POH-Kay). And my life will never be the same.

Poke literally translates to chopped chunks of fish.

The way that we ate it was in the ahi tuna form. Oh my.

We could order the most gigantic plate of sushi grade ahi tuna served up poke style for $5.

We ate at fabulous local restaurants.

This is Paulo’s in Pahoa on Big Island.

But the best meals came from Uncle Steve’s kitchen.

I took copious notes and tons of pictures, and I cannot wait to share some of his recipes!

We also watched Uncle Steve savor the fish eyeball.

To quote the fine movie Clueless, “Gag me with a spoon.”

And Steve’s mini-me (my cousin Pono) having the same sentiments as me- although he gave the eyeball eating the old college try.

Then, there were the sights.

I plan on sharing my very favortist (yes, I know- not a word) sights with you in more detail, but here are the visual highlights.

Pearl Harbor. I was here once twelve years ago, but it was important to visit again. Last time I was there 9/11 had not yet occurred. After this trip, I could not get over the similarities between Dec. 7, 1941 and Sept. 11, 2001.

Sunrise on our private cliff on Big Island.

A hike down to the ocean.

Akaka Falls.

Black sand beach.

I visited The Hobbit.

Or maybe it was Harry Potter.

Either way, this tree made me feel teeny tiny.

Brad went on a search for the smoke monster.

Rainbow falls.

A drive to the sea.

This is the exact spot where my world class surfer uncle taught Brad and I to surf.

We’re pretty  much pros.

Probably going to quit our jobs and join the circuit.

Snorkeling in Champagne Pond.

Snorkeling in the pond outside Steve and Lynda’s friends home.

Waipio Valley.

In Waipio.

On top of the clouds on Mauna Kea.

It was COLD up there!

Um… Hawaii wine tasting.

Am I kidding?

I am not.

Macadamia Nut Honey Wine… seriously, we shipped a bottle of this home. I cannot wait to eat it with blue cheese smeared on some salty crackers.

Can you believe it?

I met the karate kid.

On a tour of Uncle Steve’s game-changing charter school.

Please note my surfing bruise on my shoulder. That thing got big and black and blue.

And I felt tough.

Lighthouse on Kauai.

This is “Puff’s Tail” on Kauai. It is right outside the town of Hanalei, HI.

You know…

“Puff, the magic dragon lived by the sea
And frolicked in the autumn mist in a land called Honah Lee”

My favorite view of the trip:

My man… relaxing and completely unplugged. Our time together- talking, laughing, exploring, and experiencing- was what made this trip what it was. Beautiful and amazing.

I can’t wait to share with you some more of the details of our trip.

For now, I’m feeling the jet lag so I’m signing off.

I have missed you my blog friends.

Happy Monday!

XO,

Leah

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