Magnolia Market From A Part-Time Fan

IMG_3035A little over a week ago, I went to visit Magnolia Market down in Waco, TX with two of my oldest and dearest friends…I kind of hate using that term, oldest and dearest….makes me feel like I’m calling my friends old, however, when you’ve been friends with someone for 30-ish of your 40 years of life…it just is what it is…old and dear!  I think I can safely say that this road trip down I-35 was way more about just hopping in the car for road time with no distractions and less about the actual destination.  I’m not immune to the “love all things Joanna Gaines” movement in America…I am just not her…so, as much as I’d like to pretend that I could possibly just go and buy a few items from the Magnolia Market, place the items in my home and magically think that I can pull her esthetic off…well, I’m not that good…and I’m ok with that.  We all have our strengths…decorating is not mine!  But, the trip was just the excuse that us girls needed to get together, celebrate a birthday, and just reconnect with each other.  I’m telling you right now, it’s therapeutic to be with your people…the ones who have been witness to ALL the parts of your life…that know you at your core.  Our friendships and relationships get lost in our day to day hustle and bustle, or in being a mom, or a wife, or girlfriend, or being a (fill in the blank with your profession).  I will shout it until my dying day…travel gives you the opportunity to step away from all of that and just be.  You don’t have to go to some far away magical place (although it doesn’t hurt)…you just need a break from your daily distractions and time to focus on the things that are important to you…like your friendships, your family, your relationships.  Ok, I’ll hop off my soapbox and get down to the reason your here…All things Magnolia Market!

IMG_3040I mean, super fan or not super fan, the Market is just cool!!!  And in typical Joanna Gaines fashion, every detail has been meticulously thought of!  It’s a beautiful shop, the esthetic of the whole compound is amazing, and all of it has good flow!  It’s everything that you would want to make the drive to Waco for.  On the property is the Market, a bakery, the famous silos, Magnolia Seed & Supply, and a large lawn with picnic tables and front porch swings.  Magnolia Market is in Waco, Tx, which about an hour south of Dallas.  Waco is a college town, so basically, you go to Waco either to visit Baylor University or Magnolia Market.  I think the Gaines’ knew this and they wanted make your trip to see them worth your while…so, like the amazing hosts I assume that they are,  they invite you into their market, feed you, and give you a place to sit down and partake in a meal, a snack, or just enjoy being there…because honestly, it’d be a bummer to make the drive to see them, be in and out of the store in 20-30 minutes and then be back on your way.

IMG_3041The market is crowded!  Amazing, but definitely crowded.  The research I gathered before the trip advised to either be there right when they open or just about an hour or two before they close.  The bakery opens at 7:30am, the market opens at 9am, and everything closes at 6pm. And, nothing is open on Sundays!  My friends and I got there at about 3:30pm on a Saturday.  Everything was still hopping at this time…the store was shoulder to shoulder and the bakery line was wrapped way around the building and down the block. I think the way to do this trip properly…is to come in the middle of the week, and start early.  Do breakfast at the bakery (there are very few other options in town, more on that later) and then hit the market as soon as it opens.  The market is fabulous and rather large. There is just so much to see, and if you’re like me…I like to take things in as a whole. Like I said, I’m not a decorating guru by any means.  I can’t just look at one item that I like and go…yeah, I can do something with that.  I need to see the whole vignette, and then try to figure out if I can afford the whole thing! Ha!  One super cool feature in the Market though is that they have a shipping station right inside the building!  Talk about convenient!!  No detail left out!

KEIUE0035As for the rest of the Magnolia experience, I was not about to stand in line for 40 minutes for a lemon lavender cupcake or chocolate chip cookies at the bakery. I am fans of both of these items, and from what I understand these are the two most popular items in the store…but I wouldn’t wait 40 minutes on anything…so we passed up the Silo Baking Co.  IMG_3050We did, however, hit up the food trucks.  My research pointed all signs to Co-Town Crepes…it was “meh” at best.  We didn’t want to spoil our appetites for dinner so this was the only truck out of the 7 possibilities that we tried.  I was underwhelmed to say the least, but the idea that you can grab a quick bite and enjoy the Magnolia experience at a picnic table on the lawn is quite nice.

IMG_3046So, here’s my real take on it.  Am I glad that we visited Magnolia Market?  Yes, I was curious enough to want to visit, and I’m glad we did.  Would I go back?  I would go back if someone invited me to go with them.  I would not go back because I thought it was the greatest place in Texas and just had to go visit again.  Is there anything else to do in Waco?  There were a handful of really cute boutiques.  Most close at 6pm just like Magnolia Market, and very few are open on Sundays.  What would I do differently?  As I stated earlier, my best guess would be visiting right when they open on a week day. I probably would stay in Dallas for a couple of days instead of staying in Waco. Then just tack Magnolia Market as a quick day trip or outing.  Anything surprise me about Waco or Magnolia Market?  Waco has some super cool art murals on their buildings downtown…like an absurd amount for the type of town I think it is.  And, I was impressed with the amount of jobs that I’m sure that Magnolia Market has brought to the area.  How was parking?  We were able to find parking really easily…not sure if that is normal or not…but there were plenty of parking lots around, and there is also a hop-on/hop-off trolley that is super easy to use.  There is info here on parking and the trolley.

As for the rest of our girls trip weekend, it was so fun!  We had big plans for Waco…I mean any town that basically shuts down at 6pm is perfect for a group of mommas, right???  We checked in to our hotel after we left Magnolia Market…the plan…rest and freshen up just a bit, grab some tacos and margaritas and just see where the night takes us.  And, with this group, there is no telling where that might be!  Well, let me tell you, it took us to CVS…in our comfies.  In our younger days, it would have taken us country line dancing or cruising or truth be told,  a softball field…but we are moms now….we are tired…and we covet our downtime where we are not making 1,000 decisions for everyone in our household including ourselves!  So, we hit the CVS for facial masks, and readers (ya know, those cheater glasses they sell at drug stores), and girl scout cookies…tis the season!  We went back to our room got in our pjs and proceeded to put on our masks and munch on girl scout cookies and laugh until we cried!  We got caught up on apps we didn’t know we needed like “LiketoKnow”, and people we should be following on Youtube and Instagram and shows we should be watching on Netflix…it was all make-up how-to’s and the newest skin care treatment that we should be using to get rid of all the impending wrinkles.  It was like we were 16 again…all things hair, make-up, and boys, or in our case…husbands.  Hehe!

IMG_3071

The next morning we got up and tried to have coffee at Common Grounds.  It looked super cute and rustic.  But….it wasn’t open!  What kind of a coffee shop isn’t open in the morning????  So confusing!  We scratched that idea for good ol’ IHOP because there were no other options…like none! We did hit a Starbucks on the way out of town for coffee to go.  Our trip felt a little short sided on the shopping end of things…so on our way back home we made a pitstop at NorthPark Mall in Dallas.  We don’t have a Nordstrom in Oklahoma, so of course we had to go there!  A couple of hours and a couple hundred dollars later and we were back on the road. Girl time, In and Out Burger, and a little shopping…that was pretty much the perfect girls trip for us!  We have vowed to try to take a quick girls trip at least twice a year….such good therapy!!!  I can’t wait for our next trip!

What’s your perfect girls trip look like?

Top 5 Dive Restaurants In Maui And What To Order There (As Seen On TV)

IMG_2751

Maui has sooooo many good food options…seriously, we’ve been to Maui 8 times and I can only think of one epically bad meal in all of those 8 trips.  It was Beach Bums…don’t go there…it’s bad!  But, like I said there are so many good choices that it can often be hard to narrow down your options when it comes meal time.  So, in my next few blogs I will try to break them down into categories.  I do love a fancy meal…I am part time foodie…married to a foodie…and Thing 2 is an aspiring chef and full-on foodie…so there is that.  But my favorite types of restaurants are more casual and dive-like, with dishes I can try to recreate at home!  So, without further ado…in order…here’s my

Top 5 Dive Restaurants In Maui

  1.  Da Kitchen.  This place has been featured on Food Network’s Diner’s, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This is down-home cooking done island style in monstrous proportions!  It’s located just a mile or two from the airport and is a regular stop for us, usually as a last meal before we head to the airport on our way back home.  It’s a greasy little spoon with no view, but OMG I can not even begin to describe how amazing the food is here!  If it were sitting in a location with a view…you’d never be able to get a table…like ever!  We have ordered lots of different items from here, but hubs and Things 1-3 swear that the Saimin is possibly one of the greatest things to eat on the island.  Thing 4 is picky and always orders a burger because that’s a safe bet for him.  But for me it’s this…IMG_E2824the Loco Moco!  So, Loco Moco is available on lots of menu’s on the island…it’s a local favorite.  It’s basically a hamburger topped with a fried egg and then smothered with gravy, served on or with rice.  Yes, I know that may not sound appetizing to some of you…but I promise, it is HEAVEN!!!!  At Da Kitchen that onion and mushroom gravy is to die for and it’s served with potato-macaroni salad, another island treat that can not be missed!  This meal is so epically big…I’m pretty sure 3 grown adults could be satisfied from it…so feel free to split this one with whoever your dining with or box it up and take it back to your room for leftovers if you’re still staying on the island after this meal.  No matter what you do while you’re on your Maui vacation…DO NOT MISS DA KITCHEN!!!!
  2. Down The Hatch.  Down The Hatch has been featured on the Travel Channel’s Booze Traveler…small side note, if you are not watching this show…you are missing out….even if you are not a Booze kind of girl or guy!  It’s also been featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.  This is easily Thing 4’s favorite place to eat, and it’s a favorite of mine and my parents as well!  It’s become a bit of a ritual to swing by Down The Hatch after playing golf on the south side of the island.  It’s Lava Lava Shrimp (kind of like Bang Bang Shrimp if you’ve had that), grown up grilled cheese sandwiches, like a lobster and crab stuffed grilled cheese or a spicy chicken grilled cheese, shrimp po boys, and Ahi sandwiches.  Quick easy food with a touch of a gourmet twist!  So good!  Anything you order from here is really yummy!  The bonus to eating here is that Breakwall Shave Ice is right inside, or next door???  Kind of hard to explain…so let’s see if these will help…photo (1)IMG_2755 (1)So, Down The Hatch is a block away from the Harbor in Lahaina…you walk down some stairs and it opens up to a large patio/courtyard type area.  You walk up to the counter…order your food…take a number and someone brings you what you ordered.   Well, right next door to where you order your food for Down The Hatch is Breakwall Shave Ice…you can kind of tell that’s what’s going on in the top picture.  The bottom pic and the pic at the very top of this post are of the BEST SHAVE ICE on Maui from Breakwall! Trip Advisor has this one wrong in my opinion.  Breakwall makes their natural flavors in house…so they are a tad bit healthier and taste so much better than any of the other shave ice places we’ve been on the island.  And for the record, shave ice is not a snow cone…do not go there!  Shave ice is so much better!  Plus, you can add ice cream in the bottom of it…mind blowing!  The consensus favorite in our family is the strawberry guava shave ice with macadamia nut ice cream in the bottom.  This place makes me want to buy one of those machines and open up a little place here in Oklahoma, just so that I can have one whenever I want!  I believe Breakwall is the only place on the island where you can add some adult beverages to your shave ice…we haven’t ever excersized our option to do that…but I can see the appeal for it, if that’s your thing.  Down The Hatch and Breakwall are local favorites, and Down The Hatch offers one of the longest happy hours on the island.
  3. Captain Jack’s Island Grill.  This restaurant was new to me on my last trip, and came as a recommendation from Thing 1, now a Maui resident!  We’ve always kind of steered clear of this place because it’s super theme-y (is that a word?) and felt a little cheesy.  I mean it’s as Pirate’s Of The Caribbean as it gets in there.  But, when I tried their Ono fish and chips and one of their signature drinks, I quickly got over it!  They probably have the best fish and chips I’ve tasted on Maui!  Hubs and I went during happy hour…which was a great value, and they had excellent live music, and a much cooler vibe than I would have ever imaged!  This place pleasantly surprised me!
  4. South Maui Fish Co.  South Maui Fish Co. is actually a food truck with a courtyard.  With the owner at the grill, this place truly felt like a backyard barbecue at a friend’s house.The owner of this place has my physician husband’s dream job!  Ha!  Hubs is an epic grill master in his own right!  But, this place was phenomenal!  The fish is fresh caught…you can even charter a fishing excursion with the fisherman that they get their fish from…his number was plastered on a cooler that held all the drinks that was in front of the food truck!  Doesn’t get much more dive-y than that!  But, like I was saying…fish is fresh, and grilled to order…hubs had the blackened catch of the day and I opted for the fish of the day curry style with rice…oh man was it good!  South Maui Fish Co. is in Kehei in a parking lot with several other food trucks…this was by far the busiest of all them out there…for good reason!  They open at 11am and close when they run out of fish for the day…so come early and come hungry!
  5. Leoda’s Kitchen and Pie Shop.  This is a family favorite.  It sits right off the highway that takes you from the airport into Lahaina.  There is nothing but this restaurant, a general store and a fruit stand on a little stretch of highway after the public beaches, but before you get into Lahaina.  Do not get your fresh fruit from this fruit stand…it’s terrible! I’ve never see good looking produce there. But, Leoda’s is an amazing little breakfast and sandwich shop that also has a small bakery with the best and most beautiful little individual pies!  So, yummy!

  IMG_7365-leodas-maui

It looks like a cute little country kitchen from the south that they just plopped right down on the island!  The breakfast here is super yummy!  We usually do sandwiches at lunchtime…and grab pies for dessert for after dinner back at our condo!  DO NOT MISS the MAC NUT CHOCOLATE PIE!  The crust is so light and flakey…so good!!!  For sandwiches…the boys love the rueben and the pork, pork, mmmm pork!  Everything from here has been really good…I’d venture to say anything you ordered would hit the spot!

Honorable Mention

Without getting into much detail…there are a couple of restaurants that also need to be noted.  Top Chef contestant Sheldon Simeon has opened Tin Roof…we have not yet been there, but it looks amazing…I think that it’s just a pick up lunch kind of place, so that generally doesn’t work well for us…especially when we have all of the boys and my parents with us on our travels.  Sheldon also started Star Noodle, which is very popular.  It’s excellent…it’s a hard restaurant for Thing 4, but the noodle bowls and kimchi are amazing, and Thing 4 does love the pork buns, which are heavenly, but it’s literally the only thing we could find on the menu that he was willing to try. And lastly Aloha Mixed Plate…it’s been featured on the Food Network.  It’s tiny, but the food is good and it’s a great place to be able to try lots of local dishes.  It can be hard to get into because of it’s size!

So, that’s it!  Hope this helps you in your culinary endeavors on your trip to Maui!  Did I miss anything?  What are some of your favorite dive restaurants on the island???

10 Must Have Items From The Grocery Store While On Your Hawaiian Vacation

IMG_2742 (2)

As my last post suggested, the best way to enjoy your Hawaiian vacation is in a condo, villa, house, apartment…something with access to a kitchen.  If your family is anything like mine, we love to grill out…so extra bonus if you have a place to stay that has grilling accommodations as well.  I’ve mentioned before that I have weird food allergies…I have some of the more normal ones like wheat and dairy, but then I also have things like pineapple and coffee that I don’t do well with either…it’s stupid, I know!  But, it is what it is.  At any rate, cooking for ourselves makes life a little easier for me.   We don’t do it every night…I mean who wants to be cooking and cleaning every night of their vacation, right?  However, I am super lucky that I married a good cook, and in a couple of years when Thing 2 graduates from Culinary School I will likely be kicked out of the kitchen all together!

Having a kitchen and being able to create your own meals not only saves you a little money, but it also gives you the opportunity to live like the locals a little.  I love a good grocery store or farmer’s market!  I highly suggest that you go to a local market for your produce and meats…you don’t want to miss out on that local goodness.  We often go to Wal-Mart to get some of our staples like bottled water for the room, bread, cereal, coffee filters, clorox wipes, and even toiletries because it is much cheaper there.  But, you definitely want to buy your produce and meats at either a farmer’s market like Kumu Farms on Maui, or a local grocery store.   I also highly recommend going to visit the Maui Farmers Market in the Upcountry on Saturdays, it’s a feast for your eyes in every way possible…some of the biggest and weirdest and prettiest produce I’ve ever seen…and the Upcountry Farmers Market tops my hippy list!  Ok, back to groceries…sometimes it’s hard to know which brands are good and which aren’t and food is too expensive in Hawaii to be playing that guessing game!  Maui has a variety of grocery stores…Foodland and Safeway are the ones we frequent most…and on Kauai, it’s only Foodland that we frequent.  So, without further ado…here is my ten must have grocery items from the Hawaiian grocery stores…in no particular order!

  1. Big Island Bees Honey.  Big Island Bees is the brand of honey.  They have several varieties, which come from the type of flower that the bees pollenated.  Macadamia Nut is our favorite flavor!
  2. Honey Cream Pineapples.  I have only found these at Foodland on Maui.  This is a varietal of pineapple.  It is much smaller than a regular pineapple and they have cut the leafy tops off.  The flavor is less acidic and more sweet than normal pineapples.  Also, if given the option on normal pineapples…Maui Gold over Dole…and generally speaking the smaller the pineapple, the sweeter.  If you need to learn how to pick a ripe pineapple, head over to my Girl You Tripping Facebook page and watch a video from a Maui farmer on how to do just that!
  3. Coconut Macaroons from the  Foodland Bakery Department.  You do not even have to be a fan of coconut to love these little macaroon cookies!  We love the chocolate dipped ones the best!
  4. Fresh Fish.  Please, please, please try local fish when you are on the Islands!  Try Ono, Wahoo, MongChung, Opakapaka…do not miss out on the stuff you can not get anywhere else in the world!  My very best tip for buying fish in Hawaii is to talk to the person you are buying your fish from…they know us mainlanders are clueless and they want to teach you about their fish and their food!!!  They will tell you about the fish and the best way to prepare it!  For fresh fish on Maui…this will probably only apply to the west side visitors…Lahaina, Ka’anapali, Kapalua…Safeway in Lahaina gets their fish in daily at around 8AM and most of the good stuff is gone by 2pm. There is also the Maui Fish Market in Kahana.  On Kauai, you’ve got to go to the Dolphin in Princeville!  It’s a restaurant, but they also run a fish market on the back side of it!
  5. Hawaiian Kettle Stlye Chips.  Orange bag…Luau BBQ Flavor!  I’ll throw Maui StyleMaui Onion Potato Chips in here as well…but they are not as good as the BBQ ones and you can almost pick those up anywhere in the states now…I saw them at Sam’s in Oklahoma last week.
  6. Hawaiian Sun Teas & Juices.  These come in 6-pack cans.  The boys favorites are Lilikoi Passion and both the Island and Tropical Teas.  I can not keep these stocked while we are there!
  7. Roselani Tropics Ice Cream.  Do yourself a favor and try any of the Hawaiian-y flavors…they are all delicious!
  8. Aloha Spice Company Sea Salt.  I swear by this stuff!  I promise it makes a difference in the taste of your food!  Lots of varieties…black, red, grey…all are fantastic!  I like this brand because of the packaging….I can take what I do not use home with me because it’s in a ziplock type container…no glass…and no spilling.
  9. Chocolate Covered Macadamia Nuts.  This is a no brainer…they are everywhere.  I’m gonna get a little specific with you though…if you like these with caramel…Hawaiian Host is your brand.  If you just like them covered in regular or dark chocolate I like Mauna Loa for the same reason I like that Aloha Spice salt…more packaging options and you can take home anything you don’t eat while you are there!
  10. POG.  My boys are POG hounds, and it is yummy!  For those of you that don’t know what POG is, it’s Passion-Orange-Guave juice.  Meadow Gold is as good a brand as any for POG.

Well, that’s it…my 10 Hawaiian grocery store must haves!  You can actually save a little bit more money if you enroll in the reward programs at the grocery stores.  Foodland rewards program will even let you link back to your Hawaiian Airlines account…meaning you can earn flight miles by shopping there.  Most stores have in-store specials and coupons that are available online…so you can print them out from the comfort of your own home before you even leave!  Hope this has been helpful!

What are some of your grocery store must have’s that I have been missing out on all this time?

Hawai’i for the Have’s and the Have Not’so

PNZKE5177

That got your attention didn’t it!  And I mean every word of it…just not how you think.  This post is for the two types of people out there in the world, those who have been to Hawai’i, and those who have not.  You see, if you have only dreamed about going to Hawai’i but haven’t been there yet, there are some things you need to know beforehand.  And, if you have been to one of the Hawaiian Islands, there is not a chance in the world that you do not want to go back…but when you do go back, you want to do it better!

Have Not’s

First, let me get these have not babies up to speed.  Hawai’i is not just Hawai’i.  Hawai’i is a group of islands.  To be super specific, the Hawaiian Islands are part of the Hawaiian Archipelago that is made up of 130 islands that stretch 1,600 miles.   That little tidbit was a trivia question that Thing 3 answered correctly when we were on a snorkeling excursion this summer.  This kid knows geography like nobody’s business.  Anyway, The Hawaiian Islands are made up of 8 islands…most people visit 1 of the 4 major ones.  I’m gonna try to educate you at least a tad on each, and I’ll go into more detail on the big 4.  Let’s do the big 4 first.  One last tidbit before we dive in…there are only 12 letters in the Hawaiian alphabet and every vowel makes the long sound and every vowel is pronounced…if you thought towns and cities that are of Native American decent were hard to pronounce, wait until you try to start pronouncing town and street names in Hawai’i. It can be done, but…Ok, back to islands.

Oahu.  Pronounced Oh-ah-who.  Oahu is the most populated and probably what you have seen the most of on TV and movies.  Oahu is where Honolulu, Waikiki, and Pearl Harbor are.  It is easily the most over crowded of all the islands.  And, I like to refer to it as the concrete jungle.  It’s my least favorite, although I tell everyone that Pearl Harbor is a must!  You can work a Pearl Harbor day or day trip into any visit you make to Hawai’i without actually staying on Oahu for more than one day.

Maui.  Pronounced Mow-wee.  Maui is my favorite island, and the one that I recommend for people to visit the first time they “go to Hawai’i”.  Maui is populated without being over crowded.  However, there are a couple of crowded spots on the island.  Maui offers the best of all worlds, rugged beauty, amazing food, good shopping, and is consistently rated the #1 island to visit…not just of the Hawaiian Islands…of all islands…anywhere in the world.  You have the English language,  American currency, and American infrastructure…it’s just hard to beat!  Maui is home to Haleakala, the dormant volcano and National Park, and Maui has two very popular resort areas on the island…Ka’anapali and Kihei.  Both are spectacular in their own right, and both offer the same types of amenities and each offers something different as well.  I’ll have several posts devoted to all things Maui coming out soon!

Kauai.  Pronounce Ka-Why-Ee.  Kauai is the most northern of the Hawaiian Islands.  Of the big 4 it is the smallest and least populated.  It’s easily the most rugged and it is home to what I believe is the most beautiful place ever…Hanalei.  Now, that is just my opinion, but it has to rank on some list somewhere…it’s pretty spectacular.  Kauai is best known for hiking, outdoor activities, and just enjoying the beauty and the wander that is Hawai’i.  It’s a sleepy little island that basically shuts down at 9pm, has very few national chains, and is perfect for the outdoorsman or couple that just wants to relax and take in the good life!  Two separate resort areas on this island as well…they are on opposite sides of the island and are completely different.  On the north side of the island is Princeville…think sea cliffs, rainforest jungle, and glorious green mountains galore, and on the south side is Poipu.  Poipu has been under a lot of development in the last few years and is growing as a vacation destination.  More shopping and restaurants are in the Poipu area than Princeville, and Poipu is on the dry side of the island with more beach access.

Hawai’i.  Proper pronunciation…Ha-Vi-Ee.  That’s right…that W makes the V sound.  Hawai’i is also known as The Big Island.  It is still growing in size, as it is the island with the active volcanoes, Mauna Loa and Kilauea.  I have not yet visited the Big Island. It is the largest and most southern of the islands.  It is home to Kona (think coffee) and Volcanoes National Park.  I hope to visit one day…there are only two things that I really know about the Big Island.  One, real estate is the cheapest on this island, and Maui locals gripe when vog (volcanic fog) drifts over and settles on their island.

Ok, now for the other 4 lesser known or visited islands in the group.  Lanai is probably the most visited of the 4 in this group.  You can take a ferry ride over to Lanai from Maui.  There is one hotel on the island…it’s a Four Seasons.  You can golf, rent a jeep to go off-roading, and snorkel there.  Molokai is also visible from Maui.  Lots of people take helicopter rides over to Molokai to see it’s dramatic sea cliffs.  Kahoolawe is also visible from Maui…no one lives there as this island used to be a target practice island for the military.  And lastly, Niihau.  It’s visible from the south side of Kauai.  This island is off limits to all but the descendants of the original owner Elizabeth Sinclair.

So, there you have it “Hawai’i” in a nut shell.  Hopefully that shed some light for my Have Not followers.

Have’s

IMG_1327

Ok Have’s, y’all know the real deal.  Now that you know that the flight is crazy expensive, crazy long, and that the time change is a formidable enemy of your vacation (at least it is if your from the midwest or east coast)…let me try to give you some ideas to make your next trip even more enjoyable..and shed some light on how we make the trip from Oklahoma to either Maui or Kauai once or twice a year.  If you’ve read my previous posts, you know I’m a fan of points, both airline points and hotel points!   Because the flight is soooo long, often we buy a coach airline ticket and just use points to upgrade to first class.  This flight is one of the few times that having a first class seat can make a huge difference in your vacation.  Most of the planes that fly to Hawai’i have the new first class seats that lay out completely flat…giving you the ability to actually sleep or at least nap and get you ready for being on Hawai’i Standard Time.  We started doing this a few years back and it has made a huge difference in adjusting quicker to the time change once you are there.  And, if you buy the actual coach ticket, you accumulate those miles on the trip as opposed to using all of your points and not collecting one mile of the 3, 757-ish mile trip.  Also, we get picky about our actual flight plan.  We often try to fly through Houston or Denver to get a direct flight from one of those 2 locations, as opposed to having a flight plan that might be a tad cheaper, but has you switching planes at 3 or more locations.  Not everyone has this goal, but our goal is to get there in comfort and with as much ease as possible…it just sets you up for a smoother transition into the first couple of days of your vacation.

The other big thing that we do when we go to Hawai’i is that we stay in condos…also known as villas.  I’m briefly going to use the word timeshare, and just use it to give you a sort of frame of reference…but then it will be vanished from my lips.  We own condos in a handful of locations, in a network that is now called Vistana, it used to be called Starwood.  Some of you will be more familiar with Starwood Properties…as The Westin, The Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridian, The W, Aloft, Element…I’m sure I’m missing a few more, but you get my point…all of those hotel properties are Starwood properties.  The villas that we own are Westin Villas…they are 1 or 2 bedroom condos with full kitchens, huge bathrooms, and washers and dryers are in every unit.  Now, these villas are timeshare like in nature, but they are not traditional timeshares.   We own them…we have mortgaged them, as you would mortgage a house…therefore, we have written off the mortgage insurance on our taxes…when hubs and I kick the bucket, Things 1-4 will have oceanfront property on Maui, which is no longer being built on by the way, they will have a ski-in/ski-out properly in Colorado…out list goes on and on quite a ways, but I think you catch the concept.   IMG_2283

When hubs and I first started visiting Maui 8 years ago…the average price of a hotel room was about $300 a night.  When we went just last week (Jan 2018) the average price was $700 a night and occupancy of rooms on the island was sitting at about 80% full.  These were statistics that I heard on the morning news while on our trip.  Hubs and I have our Maui property paid off.  We paid $0 for our stay in a 1 bedroom villa (condo) with a full kitchen, washer and dryer and way more room than we needed, plus we had amazing views.  Now we did pay on this property for I think seven years before it was paid off…think of it like a car payment…but in that time…the amount that we paid never went up!  We paid the same rate every year, got the same value every year…the same value as someone who would have easily paid around $1000 a night at our home resort.  Is this making sense to anyone?  Any bells going off in your head right now?   The reason that we can do this year in/year out is because it’s already paid for…or, for some of those years we paid as we went, as an investment…an investment in family time…an investment in time to relax and be together without all the busyness of life.  Now, I will be totally transparent and tell you that if you don’t have or do not want to have a lifestyle of travel, then this way of travel is not for you…you’ll be paying on something that you will never use and that will be a total waste!  But this fully works for us!  The vacation ownership program that we bought into years ago…is more fun for us to use now than ever…most of our properties are paid off and now we just get to use the system.  Our particular system has the most flexibility of anything that we have looked at.

So, that is what has been working for us…for my Have’s…just make sure you book a condo somewhere with a kitchen and washer and dryer!  Everything in Hawai’i is expensive no matter what island you go to.  Having a kitchen can really cut those food costs way down.  We grocery shop and grill out or cook in our room more than half of the nights that we stay on the island.  And, having laundry access in your room, means you can pack less, pack more efficiently and maybe save on baggage fees by bringing one less piece of luggage with you!

Lastly, you should rent a car. Get with one car rental company and stick with it.  All car rental companies have loyalty programs and you’ll start accumulating status and/or points immediately.  Often times we book a particular car online, and when we get to our destination we have been automatically upgraded to a bigger or better car at no extra charge.  Perks are good!

I will have several more posts coming out on Hawai’i in the coming days.  If you have specific questions you would like answered or are curious about the vacation ownership stuff I’m happy to talk about it…I’m not sponsored and I do not receive any promotions from any companies at this time.  I’m just passionate about my favorite vacation spot and always happy to share a good product that adds value and works!  Leave me a comment and tell me which island is your favorite and what your favorite thing about it is!

Day 3 In Scottsdale

IMG_2024

Early Bird Catches The Desert Sunrise

Our final day in Scottsdale was an early one for me.  I booked a facial at Agave, The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa.  My appointment was at 8am…sunrise was around 7:30am, so I decided to try to venture out a little early to see if I could get a beautiful sunrise picture.  I wasn’t positioned correctly from either the villas or the hotel to get the epic sunrise picture I so desperately wanted with the sun coming up behind the mountains…but I did get a couple of cool shots like the picture above and these two below.

IMG_2028IMG_2027

The colors in the sky that morning were beautiful.  This area really is pretty!  For me, it’s an unconventional pretty…as you’re there you start to seek out the massive saguaro cactus…seriuosly, they are massive!

IMG_5073

Cactus, mixed with palm trees, and mountains in the desert…it doesn’t even sound right trying to group all of those objects together…but add in some of THE MOST PERFECT weather, and somehow this beautiful hodge podge becomes soothing to your soul!  I am convinced that there is absolutely no way that someone could visit this area and not leave relaxed and refreshed.  Needless, to say…I’m a fan! And, I’ll be coming back!

Spa Time

As I stated earlier, I had an early facial on our last day in Scottsdale.  Agave, The Arizona Spa did not disappoint!  Y’all, this spa was beautiful!  From the high end robes you are given to wear while you’re there, to the super posh and comfy lounge room…this spa was impressive!  The staff was friendly and thorough.  The hot tub in center of the locker room was gorgeous and inviting.  There are wet and dry saunas, and the showers were roomy and spotless!  This was a spa that definitely fostered relaxation!

For reference, I get a facial on almost every vacation that I go on.  Massages are great, and I do love them, but I feel like you get a little more bang for your buck when you do a facial at a spa.  Massages vary greatly depending on who you get as a masseuse.  I’ve had some great ones, and I’ve had some not so great ones…and at the rate that you pay for a massage at a resort…it’s too much of a crap shoot for my taste.  A facial on the other hand…even if your esthetician is not the best, it’s more about the products that they use on your skin…that just feels like it levels the playing field a bit.  Plus, during most facials you get little mini massages in the “wait times” while the products work their magic on your skin.  So for example, during my facial I received a hand massage and treatment, a foot massage and treatment, and a neck, shoulder, and scalp massage…it was AMAZING!!!!  Almost felt like a 2 for 1.  The price for an 80 minute massage was the same price as my 80 minute facial.  That’s a win in my book.  At any rate, my facial was really good…to keep in theme for the weekend, I chose the Wellness Facial.  Honestly, I didn’t love the smells of some of the products, but I did love the way my skin looked and felt when my treatment was done!

Lazy Saturday Brunch

When my facial was finished, I went back to my room fully relaxed, face glowing, ready to tackle trying to repack my overstuffed suitcase.  Being in a little zen-like state made a huge difference in trying to tackle that task…much easier than state of panic I was in when I packed the suitcase for the trip out!  I hate packing!

Elizabeth and I packed our belongings, said goodbye to our beautiful home away from home for the last couple of days, and headed out to Old Town.  We had reservations for brunch at a place called Olive and Ivy   Ugh!  This place was soooo cool!!!!

IMG_2413

Olive and Ivy has the perfect weekend brunch patio and atmosphere!  The patio overlooks the river.  There were 20 somethings there celebrating birthdays, and snowbirds enjoying a late breakfast.  #BestFriendGoals  It was like one of those posh restaurants that any Real Housewife of _____________ (fill in the blank) would go to catch up, make up, or pick a fight with someone!  For me, eating at a restaurant is just as much about the atmosphere and the service as it is the food.  Think about the last time you went to your favorite restaurant but had terrible service…the food is the same…but your experience isn’t.  At any rate, Olive and Ivy had great atmosphere, great service and incredible food to boot!  Our waiter, Larsen, literally told us that he is not allowed to tell us NO to anything!  It’s a food allergy and picky eater’s dream!!  Larsen is pictured below…if you go make sure to ask for him…and tell him Girl You Tripping sent you!  We had lots of fun with him!

RNTKE1106

Old Town

Olive and Ivy is in a part of Scottsdale called Old Town.  It’s literally old downtown Scottsdale, but it’s been revamped into a shopping and restaurant haven!  The area is filled with shops full of local southwestern art and jewelry, and quaint little fashion boutiques.  There are tons of great restaurants and watering holes.  It’s totally walkable, but Elizabeth and I opted for bikes!  The first ride is free…after that it’s only $1 an hour.  The bikes were super easy to rent…just download the app and follow the instructions printed on the bike.  It was super fun and a great way to get around Old Town!

photo (26)

Old Town has a couple of different areas to it…all with walking distance…it’s just divided up a little.  The 5th Ave shopping district is literally the old downtown area…lots of southwestern art and jewelry shops dotted with the occasional super cute boutique.  Then there is Scottsdale Riverfront…this is more of the restaurant and bar area.  Lastly, just about a block away is Scottsdale Fashion Square.  It’s your traditional high end shopping mall…complete with Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Burberry, etc..for a full list of store available at this mall click here.  There is literally something for every kind of shopper in this area.   Visiting Old Town is the kind of experience you can only have in Scottsdale…which made it one of our favorite stops on our trip.  #BuyLocal

I want to leave you with this…Scottsdale is the type of place that you could visit over and over again and not have the same experience twice.  It’s easy to navigate, it’s not overly congested with traffic…if you’re an outdoorsy person, this is a great place to visit…if you’re a shopper, this is a great place to visit…if you’re a golfer, this is a great place to visit…if you’re into spa treatments, this is a great place to visit…if you just want to hang out at the pool, this is a great place to visit!  There truly is something for everyone here…including incredible weather in the winter!!!!

Are you a buy local kind of tourist?  Or do you love to hit up highend retailers when they are in the area?  I’d love to know!!!

Suggestions From Day 3

Agave The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa was AMAZING!  One word for you…Relaxation!  So good!!!

Best Patio Brunch in town goes to Olive and Ivy.  The food is exceptional!  Everything is made in house.  The thing they are known for is their cinnamon rolls…don’t miss out on them!  They were over the top good!!!!  It’s just a great place to relax, have a slow meal, soak up the great weather,and spend time with your family or friends.  Olive and Ivy is a DO NOT MiSS!

And for shopping that is quintessentially Scottsdale…visit Old Town.  Window shop, ride a bike, or grab bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the area…this is another DO NOT MISS kind of place!

Day 2 In Scottsdale

photo (27)

We Didn’t Die

Look at this picture.  It looks fairly uneventful.  But I need you to really look at the picture.  Do you notice everyone, except for Pinky and Captain Impresso towards the right…I mean EVERY OTHER person in this picture is holding on to railing.  All the folks in this picture look fairly young and in shape.  And for goodness sakes there is fencing on the trail as well…it’s there to keep you from falling to your death!

Day 2 of our trip started here…hiking up Camelback Mountain.  The concierge at the resort literally gave us 14 other options to hike…this is the one we chose.  It was the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback…rated as difficult (strenuous)…lies, all lies!  I’ve done plenty of trails rated as difficult…difficult is the Na Pali Coast trails on Kauai…where there are no fences to protect you from falling 100’s of feet straight down the sea cliff into rough ocean waters.  No, this trail is not difficult…it is some crossbreed trail combining hiking with rock climbing.

At any rate, we did not die!  Thank you Jesus!  Note to self:  when the concierge at the resort tells you that she is not even allowed to suggest Camelback Mountain hikes to the guests, heed the warning!  As I said, there were 14 other options for us to hike that morning.  Honestly though, Camelback Mountain is part of Scottsdale/Phoenix’s identity.  It’s the most well known mountain in the area…it’s the mountain that hotels and restaurants brag about having views of…so we wanted to conquer it.  Us two middle aged, out of shape girls did not fully conquer it, but we took a good stab at it…sucking wind…one rest stop after the other!

It’s funny…the question on every hiker’s mind while they are recovering and trying to catch their breath from the massive spikes in elevation is…how many more of these gastly inclines do we have before we reach the top???  The second most common question among the hikers…did you make it?  Trust me, almost as many do no make it as do!

For a self proclaimed research hound, I did not do enough research on this hike.  In my defense, I was fairly certain that I could talk Elizabeth out of this hike, instead, somehow she talked me in to it!  In a way, I’m glad she did…however, we agreed that we were lucky that both of us were able to walk off the mountain unscathed.  It was definitely not the safest activity that we could have picked for ourselves.  We walked that fine line between foolishness and empowerment.  Even though we did not make it to the summit, we looked back feeling like conquerers for what we did accomplish.  Would we do it again? Heck no!  But are we glad we gave it a go?  Absolutely!

Thing 4’s Business Advice

We did a couple of live Facebook feeds during the hike.  So when I got off the mountain I had a couple of text messages from Thing 4, the 13 year old.  For context, his comment on my Facebook feed said:  “good job mom plug ur merch” (a comma anywhere in this statement would have made it so much easier to read!)

IMG_2468 (1)

Gotta love the YouTube generation!  The conversation we had after the text was me telling him I’m not selling shirts on the blog, for now it’s just informative and entertaining.  But I love him for taking an interest in what I’m doing and wanting to see the blog succeed!  He loves being Thing 4 in the blog and has requested to make an appearance as often as possible!  So, of course, I’ll try!

What You Really Come to Scottsdale For

I think we would have made it to the top of Camelback Mountain if we would not have scheduled massages for after our hike.  We all know, the real reason girls trips are so popular in Arizona is for the spas!  There are no shortage of amazing spas in the area.  I opted for a more therapeutic massage.  I talked Elizabeth into it as well.  We chose to get a Lymphatic Massage from The Lymphatic Healing Center.  This particular massage is said to help the body detox, and aide in weight loss.  The massage is followed by the opportunity to sit in a Far Infrared Sauna.  Lots of you will have never heard of either of these two “treatments”.  If you click on the link above it will give you a quick break down of the benefits of the massage and sauna.  All I know is that when I came home from this trip I had lost 1.5lbs…so I’ll take it!  Just so you know, this IS a massage…but if you looking for the type of massage that really works to get the stress out of your back and neck…this is not the massage for you.  I did hop off of the massage table feeling super relaxed, but in the 90 minute session my therapist, Lyn, rarely touched my back or neck. If you go check this place out make sure to ask for Lyn…she was great!

Smoothie Stop

By the time we had finished the massages and sauna time, we were starved!!!  I think my Garmin estimated that we had burned somewhere around 1800 calories range in just  2 hours on our hike…couple that with the calorie burning of the Far Infrared sauna…we were super hungry.  This late in the afternoon we didn’t want to load up on a huge meal since dinner was drawing near, and we wanted something on the lighter, healthier side since we were kind of on a roll.  We found a smoothie shop called Nekter Juice Bar.  Holy yummy!  I opted for a Pink Flamingo…it was yummy and refreshing, and Elizabeth had an Acai Peanut Butter Bowl.  Now, us midwest girls don’t have the option for Acai Bowls back home….so one of us…the one without all the weird food allergy stuff…had to try one!  Elizabeth said it was amazing!   It may have been one of the best things she had while on the trip!  Nekter is a chain, but there are not a ton of locations…inside looks like farmers market meets Joanna Gains farmhouse…super cute.  Definitely a place you could meet a girlfriend to gab and catch up over something healthier than a triple, venti,  half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato.  Just saying.

PicCollage

Mexican Food In The Southwest

I mean you can’t go to the Southwest and not eat Mexican food, right???  Honestly, this is the one item that I probably did the most research on…so many options!  I definitely wanted to get it right!  We opted for Blanco Tacos & Tequila and it did not disappoint.  Food was great, atmosphere was fun, service was good!  They had an interesting array of tacos…like a short rib taco and a bbq taco…that bbq taco was my fav!!!!  You can also do a tequila flight tasting there…Of course you can dance…signed, Tequila.  It was just a great end to our busy day!  Tacos and girl time go together like Wilma and Betty, Laverne and Shirley, Thelma and Louise…one just isn’t right without the other…

Suggestions From Day 2

Do not hike the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain!!!  If you must hike Camelback choose the Cholla Trail.  But seriously, unless you are incredibly fit and an avid hiker…just choose a different mountain all together….there are plenty!

For a health promoting massage, the Lymphatic Healing Center was really nice!  Other really well known spas in the area include Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Spa, Joya Spa, and Agave, The Arizona Spa @ The Westin.

For a light healthy meal or snack, Nekter Juice Bar is your go to place.

For Mexican food in a fun, vibrant atmosphere…Blanco Tacos & Tequilla is where it’s at.  Other places that made my short list are Barrio Queen in Old Town, Sol in the Kierland Commons, El Chorro for beautiful views of Camelback Mountain. But, the Mexican restaurant that got the best reviews in my travel groups was The Mission.  The Mission’s menu looked a little too adventurous for my guest, so we gladly went to Blanco, which had more of a girls night out kind of a vibe.  But, if you are a foodie…The Mission is the place to check out!

What’s your “I’ll never do that again” story??? I’d love to hear it!

Day 1 In Scottsdale

Girl Time

Now the fun stuff…Girl Time!!!!  This is a rarity for me as Things 1-4 are all boys!  I love my boys, but not a one of them is interested in hanging out on a patio on a beautiful 75 degree day for girly, fruity drinks and appetizers.  Oh the inhumanity of going to a restaurant on vacation and not ordering at least one thing off of every section of the menu…nope, the Things would not have any part of that!  Buuuuttttt, on my girls trip, with my person, Elizabeth, that’s exactly how we kicked things off!  Drinks and appetizers on the patio at Tommy Bahamas with a dear friend, Brooke, who is from our area. She happens to have a vacation home in Scottsdale.  Brooke was still in Scottsdale soaking up the beautiful views and sunshiny weather over our kids Winter Break.

JPFME6644

Ever catch your friends while your on vacation?  It’s the best! ” Vacation you” is generally so much more relaxed and fun to be around, am I right?  I love running into friends while on vacation…no rush of school schedules, practice schedules, or what you’re gonna get on the table for dinner, or even worrying if you’re gonna get anything on the table for dinner at all.  “Vacation you” can be present without being preoccupied…it’s the best!  So, we hung out for a couple hours drinks in our hands, catching up, one coconut shrimp at a time.  Yum!!!  Seriously though, the appetizers and drinks were really good, the whole patio is shaded, and the tables were not sitting right on top of each other. It felt more like we were at home hanging out on one of our own patios instead of at a restaurant, which is nice!  On top of all that I got a lesson in microblading…do you even know what that is?  Am I the only one Late To The Party (LTTP)??? I think in a house full of boys and sports and never ending laundry and endless amounts of food, I’m always LTTP.  For those of you that don’t know what microblading is…it’s like semi-permanent eye brows.  I see the allure of it…not having to fill in your eyebrows every day…that’d be nice.  Not sure I can see myself doing it, but Brooke has done it and it looked amazing on her!

Tommy Bahamas Restaurant and Bar is located in the Kierland Commons, an outdoor shopping center in Scottsdale. So, of course we took in a little retail therapy before we parted ways.  The Commons is one of the better places for shopping, restaurants and bars in town.  It’s a beautiful area with plenty shops for all types.  Click here for a list of shops if your interested to see what is there.

IMG_2314 (1)

Elizabeth and I peeled ourselves away from our patio dining and retail therapy session to go check in to our room at The Westin Kierland Villas.which just happen to be less than a mile away from the Commons!  Bonus!!  We got checked in…our room is beautiful and spacious, and this property has just finished renovating the rooms.  We are in a one bedroom suite that has a full kitchen, a living area with fireplace, and a huge balcony overlooking the golf course and mountains in the distance.  It is just what us two mommas need to help us #unwind on our trip.  We unpack, get settled in to the room, then decide we’d like a few items from the store for our room…since we have the kitchen and all.

We All Do It

So how many of you go to the the same places on vacation that you always go to at home???  We all do it!  The first evening of our stay, Elizabeth and I went to Target…it was to pick up water, a few snacks for the room, and blister bandages for the blister I got on my heal from my Chuck Taylor All Star shoes…because I just haaaddd to try to look cute for the flight out…ya know, pictures and all (insert eye roll here).  At any rate, back to Target…it is a well known fact that no one can go in to Target and only purchase the things they went in for…duh.  Here we are, on our girls trip adventure, wandering aimlessly through the isles, oogling and googling over all the cool stuff that we don’t have at our home Target yet.  One new shirt (because the shirt I’m currently wearing in the Target has a hole in the armpit…hello hotmess), one new fabulous pair of earrings that I don’t need, one case of water, a few healthy snacks, and one box of blister bandages later and we are out of Target…only to move on to………Whole Foods.  Seriously?

So here’s the silly conversation I have in my head…with myself…Me: Hey, how was your vacation?  Also Me:  Awesome, I flew 1,065 miles away from home, rented a car, and stayed in a hotel so that I could shop at Target and Whole Foods.  Two places that are literally 3 mile away from my actual home!

In my defense, I have weird food allergy stuff…so I stop at a Whole Foods in almost every city that I visit.  The bonus is that with great authority that I can tell you…not all Whole Foods are created equally.  For instance, this particular Whole Foods that we visited in Scottsdale had the largest beer and wine section I’ve ever seen at a Whole Foods.  Come to think of it…this store is easily the largest Whole Foods store I’ve been in thus far.  It had an awesome grill area, beer and wine on tap…it was impressive.  Talk about a great place for singles to meet that isn’t a bar…

Between our Target raid and Whole Foods run and getting up at 3:30am for our flight…we are beat!  We decided to skip getting fancied up for a nice meal, and instead headed to a place called the Shake Shack.  It’s small cheeseburgers, thick milkshakes, rootbeer and local beer both on tap.  The menu is easy, it’s super clean, great outdoor patio seating, and it’s in the Keirland Commons shopping center area.  So, was super close to our room.  It was the perfect way to wrap up our busy day.

Suggestions From Day 1

The Westin in Scottsdale has both a resort and villas in which you can stay.  The resort is over the top amazing…check it out here. Both are close to each other, and super close to the Kierland Commons and the Scottsdale Quarter.  The hotel has a walkway that leads over to the Commons, and the Quarter is just on the back side of the Commons.    We did not make our way over to the Quarter, but it looked just as amazing as the Commons.  It’s another outdoor shopping area with restaurants and bars as well.  Click here if you want to check out stores and restaurants at the Scottsdale Quarter.

The patio at Tommy Bahamas was super chill…go for happy hour!  Happy hour offers small plates and drinks at a discount.

We came in to Scottsdale on a Thursday. The concierge at the Westin suggested that we eat in the bar area of Dominick’s Steak House.  Apparently this is the thing to do on Thursday nights! This particular concierge was spot on for a couple of other suggestions, so I’d say this is probably a good suggestion as well.  This was our Target and Whole Foods night…we were just too tired to do anything that evening.

Our flight was early and our layover was short…so by the time we made it to Scottsdale we were starved and brunch sounded good.  We had brunch at a place called Butterfield’s Pancake House.  They had some unique pancakes that were really yummy!  They even had a gluten free option that tasted good.

A couple of other breakfast places that got good reviews, but we did not visit were Snooze and  Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles.  Snooze is located in the Kierland Commons.  If you stay at either of the Westin’s, it would be really close!

I’m a research hound!  What are some of the ways or websites that you use to research your trips?  I’d love to hear from you!