Guest – Linda Hendrickson – Artist


Linda Hendrickson

A real privilege for me as a new blogger was being invited to the art studio of this week’s Guest, Linda Hendrickson. I am a huge fan of highly saturated color in the space where I live and work, so a trip into Linda’s studio was like a little trip to heaven for me. Fresh, bright colored, whimsical artwork EVERYWHERE! It was magnificent and I never wanted to leave. That atmosphere was so inspiring to me and just boosted every bit of good energy that I possess. I am so grateful for the visit because I can go back there, in my mind, any time I need to. Love. True Love.


Linda Hendrickson studio

Linda Hendrickson is an acrylic mix media artist who calls herself a “whimsical impressionist”. She explains, “I like the whimsy of subjects, or I try to find the personality and the whimsy in subjects that I paint.”  Shying away from people, the subject matter for the majority of Linda’s art are pets, but she also creates landscapes, and florals that are to die for. Pet portraits are worked from photographs, but get elevated to a fantastical level through Linda’s artistic process and amazingly, her landscapes are done mostly from memory. Through Linda’s creativity, she highlights the important landmarks, but interjects local interests and wildlife. I found that I didn’t even need to be familiar with the towns that she was painting to get drawn in to their charm and energy.


Linda Hendrickson Barn Raising

Linda grew up in Minnesota with a flare for art from the start. She was fortunate and grateful to have a mother who was not afraid of messes and would encourage Linda and her three brothers to experiment with paper maché, finger painting, and many other art mediums. Even as a child Linda would draw whatever was around her and even worked her way through the entire series of “How to Draw” books. Continuing on her artistic path, Linda earned her degree of a Bachelors of Fine Arts as well as an Education certificate which allowed her to teach art for K-12 students. She went on to earn her Masters which expanded her expertise and teaching certification for Home Economics.

Linda Hendrickson - tools of the trade.jpg

Linda taught junior high school art and home ec for years. Her teaching career began in Schweinfurt, Germany, at the Department of Defense schools, but because her husband was in the military, they were required to move often. Linda jokes, “Art teaching positions are kind of hard to get, and once people get in they kind of have the position ‘til they die.” She goes on, “It was not an easy, portable job, so I started offering classes to friends.   We would do everything from crafty to fine art. And then I kind of put art on the back burner for a while, once I wasn’t teaching.”

It was about 15 years ago, when Linda took a workshop in Bethany Beach, DE, from Tara Funk Grim  that she was introduced to the color palette that she currently works in. (Thank you Tara!) Linda shares, “It just brings me such joy to work with the bright colors that the dull earth tones disappeared. Every once in a while I’ll put a little gray in, or there’ll be a neutral background like in ‘Joseph and his Coat of Many Colors’ (a work in progress during my visit). It’s hard for me to think of what life would be like if I didn’t have all this painting to do. It just is my passion.” (It’s a beautiful passion.)


Linda Hendrickson - Irises

Linda’s studio is peppered with multiple works at different stages in her artistic process. She works in mixed media where paper or canvases are layered with paint and collage. Having multiple pieces in progress allows each step to completely dry before she adds the next layer. Says Linda, “I have a whole stack of canvases that are gessoed; ready to go. Then I do a “doodle start”. Sometimes there are a bunch of layers of “doodle start”. Often it’s the way I begin and end a day. It’s kind of my warm up and my cool down.” Linda describes her artistic process, “I begin each painting with what I call a “doodle start.” Using an analogous set of acrylic heavy body paint colors, and lots of water, I cover the canvas with intuitive marks using a broad brush and many splatters of paint. While the paint is still wet, I add bubble wrap, plastic wrap, or other texture makers and allow the piece to sit. Once dry, I tear off the plastic or bubble wrap to see what happy experiment may have occurred. Often this entire process is repeated a couple more times to develop pentimento and a beautiful, intuitive toning of the canvas. Each step of the painting covers areas less pleasing to me and preserves some of the first layers to give a finished piece.”

Linda Hendrickson - work in progress

I told Linda that I’d love to be in her mind to see all of the creative ideas that she has going on. Lucky for me, she could SHOW me! Linda has an extensive library of sketchbooks where each of her ideas get recorded. Linda shares, “I have about 30 little sketch books here. They are always with me. We often take a little printer with us on trips, print pictures and put them in the sketchbook so I can get the essence of the place, or I take a few notes and put the picture in so I can really go back to what it actually felt like to be there. So if I’m ever hard up for ideas, I can go back to my sketchbook and find things.”

Linda Hendrickson - sketchbook

Pet portraiture is what Linda refers to as her heart song. She is taken with the innocence and expression on the sweet faces of animals. But make no mistake, her florals and landscapes are no shrinking violets. In addition to doing commissioned art, Linda also offers art classes and shows her work in several galleries and museums. Linda shares, “My class attendees are generally grandmas that have more disposable time and income, or maybe even moms with older kids. I would say the drink and paint phenomenon has hurt because people want a quick, inexpensive girls night out. That is not what I’m in to. I want serious art students, or somebody who’s always wanted to blossom that way and just hasn’t had a guide.” Unexpected proud moments for Linda have come when she sees her students succeed. She says, “When my students put on their own show and they’re doing it their way and stepping out; that’s pretty neat.”


Linda Hendrickson - Frenchie

Linda explains, “Art is practicing teaching your eye how to see. You’re teaching something very subjective. I’ve done it for a lot of years and I’m very proud of a bunch of my students who are now professional artists. It’s very wonderful to see that.” She goes on, “I did a lot of teaching when I first finished building out my studio, but living back and forth between Virginia and Montana, it’s been hard. It would be much better if I just stayed in one spot, but then life wouldn’t be nearly so fun.”

I have experienced and even written about my own creative transformation. It was extremely interesting to be able to visually see Linda’s own artistic evolution. Linda’s attributes her big turning point in her career to the Tara Funk Grim workshop that she took 15 years ago. She admits, “Having an art background, maybe I already possessed more of my voice when I first took Tara’s class, so it quickly popped out. The addition of mixed media would probably be the next biggest jump.” Although her color palette made it’s transition 15 years ago, it’s the addition and building up of mixed media that Linda has recognized the most change of her own work. “For example,” she says, “the first “topsy turvy” (which is what Linda calls her landscapes) is very crisp and stylized, versus one for an upcoming show in Flathead Valley, Montana that is a lot more fluid rather than precise and stylized; more painting and less focused on being line oriented.” Size is also a huge change in Linda’s repertoire. She shares, “I discovered that I wanted to do size.” Linda put together a collection of large paintings for a museum show to be held out in Montana in February. But her proudest professional moment was having several of her pieces purchased for Nemours/Dupont Children’s Hospital in Wilmington, DE. There you can find the very large, 5’ x 5’ versions of images from Linda’s collection of pet portraits. Her long term goals include opportunities to do more large scale projects. Linda shares, “I think it’s really cool to get things placed in a Children’s Hospitals. It brings joy in so many ways.” Linda also would love to get into more galleries so she can spend her time painting and traveling, but commission work will always be part of her life as well. Her desire to grow a consistent student base would round out her professional goals.


Linda Hendrickson - Roosters - yes dear

Although Linda admits that she’s not very big into imagining the future, she does have a “pie in the sky” dream. She and her husband own 20 acres in Montana that looks out over the mountains. Linda would love to have a simple home there; maybe two main bedrooms with a kitchen in the middle and a walk out lower level that houses her studio/workshop area. She says, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have different sorts of tiny houses on the property and have artists come for a week’s retreat?” That would be fun! She goes on, “I think that there are a lot of people out there who would benefit from art as therapy. I know what it does for me. If I can’t paint, I get real crazy and not very easy to live with. I think there are a lot of women, that once the kid raising stage is over with, they need it too.”

Linda Hendrickson - paint palette

A new question that I like to ask my Guests is what advice or encouragement would they give to their younger self? (See I’m evolving too!) Here’s Linda’s sage advice, “Learn how to say no, and don’t listen to the nay sayers. Just don’t listen to that because it’s just going to drag you down. It’s a challenge to stay up in the midst of all that. And try to tune out the shoulda, woulda, coulda.”

Linda shares, “I guess I’m living the dream. This is pretty good. And I’m never hesitant to share my creativity with students. I tend to learn more from them than I share. It’s not like I have to guard it with a wall, but I do think you have to guard your heart because that’s where the fountain can get stopped and depressed and traumatized.”

Linda Hendrickson - paint brushes

Linda believes that everybody has creativity in them but feels that it’s something in our educational system that has gotten squashed early on. She shares, “When I’m doing demonstrations, I like to ask a child, “Are you an artist?” and they’ll say yes. The older they get the less likely they are to say yes because somebody took the pencil out of their hand, or didn’t put the latest picture up on the refrigerator, it’s still the one from 3 years ago which is huge in a kid’s life.” Her wish is for each of us to encourage creativity in each other. But she warns, “You have to kind of unplug to develop it, and for kids that’s huge, but it’s so important.”


Linda Hendrickson - kitties - beauty queens


Follow Linda Hendrickson on the following social media links:  www.studio4linda.comFacebook and Instagram

1  Photos and photo images of Linda’s original artwork by Jeanette Burkle, Galie Photography

2 Photo images of Linda’s original artwork by *Cayenne Pepper Studios (*Formerly Sandrine Brubaker Photography)

Guest – Krissee D’Aguiar – River-Sea Chocolates

River-Sea logo

Can one story have two beginnings? I think it can. And in the case of Krissee D’Aguiar, from River-Sea Chocolate, her story definitely does.

Krissee met her husband in Brazil, and while she was in college studied Amazonian ecology that included time spent in the Amazon region. She shares, “When I went there to study, we learned all about the social factors and the environmental factors which are really hand in hand. When you’re trying to save something like the rain forest, the people who are trying to cut it down are not trying to cut it down because they hate trees. They’re trying to cut it down because they need money.” She explained that if you owned land in Brazil you could make money off of the land by either slash and burn agriculture, which is detrimental to the long term sustainability of the forest, or cattle pasturing, which is also very detrimental to the long term sustainability. When used for cattle pastures, the land cannot be used for farming for many years because of the nitrogen in the waste from the cows. Logging is another money making option. Loggers are encouraged to do what’s called selective logging, which is where only the smaller trees are cut down preserving the larger ones. A lot of companies don’t do selective logging, or they say they do but because the logging operations are so remote, it’s impossible to verify. But, they’re cutting down the trees! They’re cutting down the forest. These social and environmental factors were so closely knitted together and Krissee left feeling overwhelmed and stunned about it. She says, “I’d gone there to try to save the rain forest and what I learned was if we’re going to stop people from cutting down the rain forest, then we’re basically telling them that they needed to stay poor.”

Disillusioned, Krissee returned home to Fairfax County and began working in IT. Her Information Tech career lasted seven years when she was promoted to a stay-at-home mom. After five years at home, she returned to IT for a year. It was at this point that Krissee and her husband decided to take their family to Brazil for a sabbatical. They were both feeling a little bit lost. They had been working a lot and needed some time to decompress and think about what was important to them. Says Krissee, “While we were in Brazil, we were having so much fun. It felt like we hit the reset button, but we still questioned what were we going to do moving forward. And that felt lost. I felt like I was inline with myself, but I didn’t have a purpose. I didn’t know what my purpose was.”

River-Sea sloth selfie

During their trip they found a cacao tree. Krissee’s son climbed it and started asking about how to make chocolate and they began learning about the process. It wasn’t until Krissee successfully tempered her first mixture, (and it worked) that something magical happened for her. She recounts, “I was able to temper the chocolate after just watching YouTube videos on how to do it. It felt very mystical. I did it and felt like I had this connection with the chocolate to make it be able to temper. It just felt so right.”

As she and her husband began learning more about chocolate, they discovered that the cacao tree is a sustainable type of plant because it’s shade grown like coffee. Krissee shares, “It grows in this region where my husband is from. Through cacao, we can pay people to keep the forest and in a livelihood that’s enjoyable. It’s not detrimental at all to the land. It doesn’t take any chemicals. You don’t have to plant it like a plantation. You can plant it in an existing forest canopy. It just felt like it fit on all these different levels. And I really did just feel like I had a purpose in life when we started doing this. I love it! I love it so much.”

River-Sea - matcha bars

So that was the second beginning. The first beginning involved her mother as a newborn, premature baby in Romania. At the time of her mother’s birth, Romania was ruled by a communist government. Although they had some good government provided services, like their education system, they did not have a great medical care system. For premature babies, they would put warm water bottles along side of them to keep them warm. Krissee shares, “The doctors told my grandfather that he should give the baby chocolate. He explained that chocolate has a little bit of caffeine in it, which is good for preemie babies, but also antioxidants, minerals and good fats.” At this time, chocolate wasn’t legal in Romania. Foods that could be purchased were controlled by the government and they didn’t have good quality chocolate that came through. Krissee’s grandfather had to get it illegally across the border from somebody who was bringing chocolate in from Switzerland. He traded his stamp collection to get chocolate into the country. The chocolate given to her mother was good Swiss chocolate that was made with Swiss full fat, or whole milk. In bar form, it merely melted in the baby’s mouth. It was chocolate that helped Krissee’s mother to thrive and live.

River-Sea - mom

Krissee grew up knowing this story. She says, “As I was making the chocolate, and thinking about how much fun it was to make, and that story, it felt sort of full circle.” She jokes, “I’ve always used that story as an excuse for why I eat so much chocolate.” Outside of her mother’s experience, Krissee admits that she had never heard of people giving chocolate to premature babies. But when she began her bean to bar program, and started doing some research, she found that in some of the earliest accounts of the use of cacao, the books that were written 100 years ago about cacao, they indeed talked about giving chocolate to premature babies as a perfect food.

So back to modern day Loudoun County Virginia. River-Sea Chocolate is a single-origin chocolate producer. They originally began purchasing their beans from Brazil and they are in the process of establishing a fermentary there. (Cacao beans are fermented and dried prior to shipping for roasting.) While that’s happening, and as they gain export and import permissions, they have also been purchasing beans from existing bean brokers in the US.   They source beans from all over the world; Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Vietnam and Tanzania.

River-Sea beans

Says Krissee, “The social impact is really important to us. The Peruvian beans come from an area that was traditionally known for narco trafficking. The farm is on the border of Peru and Colombia. There is an organization there that’s been helping the community learn how to farm cacao with the intention of providing an alternate income source besides the cocaine trade.” Not only was she moved by the story, this farm happens to produce superior beans that have a strong cherry flavor. Says Krissee, “It’s one of the most expensive ones that we get. I love it.”

Chocolate is very much like coffee and wine in that the flavor of the beans is greatly influenced by the region in which it is grown. Visually you can see that the beans from each origin look different and even smell different. River-Sea roasts their beans and then they winnow them, which is a mechanical process of dehusking the beans. The beans come out as nibs that are used to make the chocolate. The nibs are placed into a melanger that turns the nibs into a cocoa mass which then undergoes a process called conching; a spinning process that smooths out the chocolate texture and flavor. The chocolate is then tempered on a granite surface and molded into bars.

River-Sea processed beans

Each step in the process is another factor that can impact the ultimate flavor of the finished product. Krissee explains, “We can roast the beans differently to get a unique flavor profile and we can vary how long we melange the beans for another outcome. Every bean has a different sweet spot.”

River-Sea Chocolates offers a large assortment of chocolate bars that you can purchase from several retail locations, directly from the factory, or by purchasing online; shipped to your destination of choice. Bars are offered in the following collections: Dark, Vegan, Milk, and White.

River-Sea dark vs milk

And let’s just talk about the white chocolate for a moment. Keep in mind, that I’ve never been a fan of white chocolate and I confessed this to my new friend (hoping not to offend of course). Krissee expertly explained why I don’t like it and masterfully won me over as a huge fan of her white chocolate. Here’s why.   Most white chocolates are made with grade B beans. Grade B would be the worst quality beans that are harvested. The best quality beans are made into dark or milk chocolate and the worst are pressed into fat or cocoa butter. However, the cocoa butter that River-Sea sources is made from the same quality beans that they use to make their dark and milk bars. (Incidentally, there is a difference in cocoa butter and cacao butter that is determined by the temperature during processing. I have used the terms interchangeably in this article.) Says Krissee, “As soon as we started getting this type of cacao butter, I just started getting inspired. It was so good. It smells like something you would want to eat as opposed to the other stuff that I was buying that didn’t smell so great, or they defragrance it because it doesn’t smell so great.” That’s what a lot of the chocolate makers do, including high-end makers. They buy a lot of the defragranced cacao.” But River-Sea uses the premium beans pressed into cacao butter. Because the quality of this ingredient is so good, Krissee has been making white chocolates with less sugar, which combats my biggest complaint about white chocolate. It’s too sweet. Their white chocolate has actually been some of their most popular bars. The white chocolate is paired with other ingredients like turmeric, matcha or rose. The bars are beautiful to look at and are truly delicious…and I was skeptical! (They taste like they’re good for you, and not in a bad way!)

And what a nice segue into tasting this chocolate. When you take a tour of the factory, and/or book a party/class, part of the experience is to do a chocolate tasting. (OMGoodness!) You receive chocolate samples, for side by side comparison, that only have one differing characteristic, like bean origin (ie, Vietnam vs. Ecuador), or roasting time (dark vs medium). It was deliciously fascinating. For the first time, I could really taste the notes and the layers of flavor that each chocolate bar afforded. I came away truly feeling like I’ve been doing myself a disservice by eating your grocery store variety chocolate options.

River-Sea chocolate bars

My take away from meeting Krissee and touring the factory, beyond that I should stop eating second rate chocolate, was this. I think everyone can agree that it’s an amazing feat to find meaningful work that speaks to your soul and can get you out of bed every day. Says Krissee, “I was actually listening to a Ted talk podcast about finding meaning in work. It was saying that people just want to do something where they feel like they’re doing good for the world or for the community. I really didn’t have that in IT. It was a great mechanism for us to save up money so that we could do other stuff, but ultimately, my husband and I came to the decision that we need something a little more balanced. It’s ok to work and save up some money, but don’t drive yourself crazy for the end goal of having a vacation.”

River-Sea - Family pic

Follow River-Sea Chocolates on the following social media sites: Facebook and  Instagram

You can view videos on the River-Sea Chocolates website on the chocolate production process, or you can set up a party/class or tour at the factory (adults only please). Be sure to inquire about creating personalized chocolate bar labels for your event or company function.

As a side note, River-Sea Chocolates is a supplier for our friends, and previous Jennifer the Beholder Guest, at Candy Drawer Confectionary (Guest – Maura McKnight – Candy Drawer Confectionary). Only the best for the best!

River-Sea Persian rose


Kauai Marriott view

Day #9 – Tuesday

What a change of scenery!!!  Where Kona was rocky and moonlike, Kauai was lush, and green, and mountainous.  Scenery reminiscent of what I would imagine parts of Vietnam might look like.  Beautifully shaped mountains covered in green foliage.  It was just gorgeous.  And flowers galore.  It truly was a tropical paradise.

Our resort was outstanding.  The Kaua’i Marriott Resort.  A stunning first impression with picturesque water gardens, a very large koi pond, and a pool area that reminded me of a higher end hotel/casino in Las Vegas (with a minimal population of Vegas bods.  We’re talking more like a mom bod/dad bod vibe here.  YES!!  FIST PUMP!)  And just beyond the pool, the beach!  A small, but accommodating beach for body surfing, surfing and paddle boarding.  You could also get a glimpse of visiting cruise ships and military boats.  This resort was first class and I loved it.

We grabbed a tasty lunch from Kukui’s on the Beach on the resort property and then checked into our room.  And for the first time in a week we had central air conditioning.  Sigh.  It was glorious.

We spent a little time at the pool and then decided to hang tight in our pjs in our room.  We ordered up some room service and just relaxed.  It was magical and time for bed.

Kauai Koi Pond

Day #10 – Wednesday

Our first night’s sleep in air conditioning and we slept in.  A much needed rest.  We finally peeled ourselves out of bed and headed to the resort buffet for a very satisfying breakfast.  The plan for the day was to drive the coast and take in the Manoa Falls.  We had so much fun stopping at all of the scenic outlook stops including parts of the Wailua Heritage Trail (Maunakapu and Wailua River).  There was something different and gorgeous around every corner.  It was a day I’ll never forget.

We traveled as far as we could go, which was the cute little town of Hanalei (a la Puff the Magic Dragon) where we stopped for a bite to eat at Tropical Taco.  One more stop at the scenic overlook at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge which had an amazing view of neat partitions of farmland and then we headed home to the resort to get cleaned up for dinner.  We were treated by my inlaws to an amazing meal at Hukilau Lanai.  A terrific assortment of cuisine with an interesting mix of Hawaiian and Italian food, amazing cocktails and ridiculous desserts.  Dining al fresco (which I LOVE), it was a great choice for a fine meal for the adults, but perfectly suited for our kids.

We walked the property of the restaurant/resort and took some photos beachside.  We then returned to our resort to ditch our car and then hiked about a half a mile up through the adjacent golf course to take in the 4th of July fireworks display.  We had a perfect spot to watch.  All in all, a great day and a great evening.

Kauai waterfall

Day #11 – Thursday

Our intent for the day was to visit the Waimea Canyon State Park, but our sweet niece was up all night with an ear infection.  To give her time to heal, we postponed for the next day.  We spent the day enjoying the resort pool and beach.  It was pretty spectacular to wake and see a huge cruise ship docked in the inlet.  The sea was rough this day, so our time was best spent at the very sizable pool.  It was a relaxing day.  A real vacation day.

We stayed close the resort and walked to a local New York Style pizza place called Pietro’s Pizza.  It was good.  I’m a huge fan of fish and could really eat it every day, but I do admit that it was a nice change to have some really good authentic NY Style pizza.  We then headed next door to Skinny Mike’s Ice Cream & Shave Ice.  A nice walk back to the resort with a few stops to catch lizards and pet some ferrel cats and it was time to call it a night in preparation for an early wake up call to catch the canyon views before the cloud cover rolls in.

Kauai cruise ship

Day #12 – Friday

Waimea Canyon State Park it is.  We got up early in hopes of getting good canyon views before the cloud cover started to descend.  Mission accomplished.  We had great views of the canyon and beyond.  It was windy and cool at the summit.  If you didn’t know, you would not think that you were still in Hawaii.  The signature abundance of tropical flowers did not exist at the high altitude.  But you know what was up there?  Hydrangeas!  Not a flower I would have ever expected to see here.  The canyon was very different from the Grand Canyon in Arizona.  Although this one is decidedly smaller, it was still quite majestic and breathtaking.  Not the layers of reds and browns like the big daddy, this landscape was a combination of the reds of the rock, but had a blanket of green that made it fit right in with the rest of the scenery in Kauai.  Just beautiful.

We made several stops to scenic overlooks to take in the sights and snap some photos.  It was a really windy descent down the mountain that didn’t agree with some of our passengers.  Several emergency stops were needed, but in the end all was well.  On our way back to our resort, we scouted out a Starbucks.  (Do you hear the choir of angels?)  The coffee shop at the resort closed every day at 11 am.  Blasphemous!!!  Really my only complaint of our stay.

After 12 days in the sun, our kids were wanting a day inside to veg.  So veg they did.  I, however, don’t often turn down a day in the sun, especially in an exotic locale and MORE especially ALONE!!!!  Yes,  I spent a few hours at the pool alone.  It was deliciously relaxing and I snuck in the tiniest of naps.

My husband’s brother and his wife went out for a date night to a restaurant they had been to 10 years prior on their honeymoon, so we stayed behind and got take out for our kids, and our niece and nephew. We enjoyed our meal on the gigantic and delightfully breezy lanai overlooking the pool.  It was a super fun night of lots and lots of laughing.

Kauai canyon

Day #13 – Saturday – Our last day

We laid low on our last day.  Staying at the resort and trying to soak up as much of this place as possible.  We stayed at the pool for most of the day with several trips to the hot tub.  We took advantage of poolside food and beverage delivery and also hit the shave ice stand.  My daughter and her uncle took the winning spot at the water balloon toss, with my middle son and nephew in a close second.  All celebrated with complimentary popsicles!!  Winning!

We decided to return to the pizza joint and carried out our food to the beach for a last night picnic with the family.  The kids enjoyed a final chance to play on the sea shore and my husband and I enjoyed the view.

As in our typical fashion, it was an early night; mostly to start packing for our journey back to reality.

Kauai last night

Hawaii is a beautiful state.  The people are lovely and gracious and the scenery could arguably be heaven on earth for many.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to experience this part of the world with the people that I love the most.

Mahalo Hawaii.  Until we meet again.  Aloha.

Kauai aloha

To see more pictures of our trip to Hawaii, be sure to follow me on Instagram.


The Big Island

Chatman Hawaii 2001

Seventeen years ago, about three months before my husband and I got married, we traveled to Kona, Hawaii, with most of his family.  Since that trip, we have been trying to plan another trip with his family to do Hawaii again.  Two years ago, we threw a dart at a date and landed on 2018.  That would be the summer that we would plan to go back.

It seemed so far out there, and yet, here we are; Kona, Hawaii, 2018.

Kona lava rock and flowers

Day #1 – Sunday

We arrived mid-day on a Sunday.  It had been a loooooonnnnnng day.  Leaving our home in Virginia at 4 am, we arrived in Hawaii at 2 pm that same day absolutely beat.  If you’ve never been to The Big Island (Hawaii), the setting is quite unexpected.  Think more ‘landing on the moon…with flowers’ and less Gilligan’s Island.  The terrain is rough and rocky courtesy of eons of volcanic eruptions.  But as arid as it appears, life still finds a way to take root and grow.  The flowers are lovely and they are everywhere.

We went straight away to move into our new home for the trip and then headed out for dinner.  The hilltop restaurant, Sam Choy’s Kai Lanai, provided an outstanding view of the Pacific, but the jet lag was a heavy weight to muscle through. In hindsight, cocktails were probably a bad idea that evening, but when in paradise…..  We went home and crashed hard for the night.

The majority of homes in Hawaii depend on “the trades”, or trade winds, so central air is rare.  Our rental had 3 air conditioned en suites, plus two more bedrooms in a loft.  A typical beach style home, we had a very small pool to cool off in, an amazing west facing view of the ocean, and and a very colorful tree outside of our second story Lanai that attracted the most spectacular collection of birds.  And let’s not forget the occasional visits from ferrel cats, kalif pheasants, and mongoose.  Our literal bird’s eye view made it easy to take in the sights.

Hawaii cocktail with purple flower

The REAL Day #1

Hawaii-Aleutian Time is 6 hours behind our home Eastern Standard Time, so waking in the morning is a non-issue, especially early in the trip.  My husband and I were up before 5 am, and made our way to a local craft coffee shop, Green Flash Coffee, right when they opened for the day.  There we could purchase our favorite coffee beverages and some yummy pastries, bagels and cream cheese, and egg sandwiches.

All together, our whole group was a total of 20 people.  Three generations of family.  A real population explosion since our last trip together.  The group decided to meet at Magic Sands Beach for some sun and fun.  A small, white sand beach, was a beautiful host for the day.  Soft sand and gentle waves made for a great first day out in the sun.

That evening, we ventured, once again as a group, to a restaurant popular with the locals.  Big Island Grill; not a fancy place at all, but the food was good.  The menu had a huge variety of choices for some of our more choosy eaters.  Fish and Chips, the clear favorite for the night.  Still jet lagged, we made an early night of it to live to fight another day.

Magic Sands Beach

Day #2 – Tuesday

We started our day, once again, with Green Flash coffee and Holy Donuts!  The yeast donuts were awesome and came in interesting flavors like, S’mores and Girl Scout Samoas.  I tried soooooooo hard to resist, but the siren song of fresh, unique donuts is impossible to resist.

On Tuesday, we all met at Hapuna Beach State Recreation Area.  Probably the most spectacular beach I’ve ever been to.  A spacious white sand beach with pristinely beautiful water.  Great body surfing and minimal rocky hazards.  Bath houses and a snack bar are on the premises.  Totally worth the drive, but boy did some of the group get fried.  The trade winds are gorgeous and really fool you as to how much sun you are actually getting.

We traveled a route back to our rental that took us through very arid, and sometimes grassland type scenery.  Wild goats were dotting the landscape so often that we finally stopped saying, “Goats!” every time that we saw one.  Those tough animals spend a lot of time perched and posing on the mini cliffs of lava rock.

For the evening, we explored the main town of Kona.  We had dinner at Bongo Ben’s Island Cafe which had a memorable view of the sunset, as well as a collection of homeless folks.  The food was really good and the people watching quite interesting.  We tooled around town a bit after dinner and then, once again, wimped out and headed home for bed.

Kona sunset

Day #3 – Wednesday

Wednesday was a much needed day out of the sun.  My one son got super burned the day before, so we opted for indoor activities.  We had paid a visit to Walmart to purchase breakfast necessities, so we ate at home before heading to Kanaloa Octopus Farm.  This super cool research facility offered a lesson on the diminishing population of octopus in the wild that are captured for aquariums and for food.  Fully funded by tourism, the little farm studies and cares for octopi in hopes of cracking the mystery of how to replenish and restore the numbers of animals in the wild.

Patrons get to invite the octopus to touch their hands.  Each octopus is named and has its own distinct personality.  Some are shy and some are much more friendly and outgoing.  These fascinating creatures can turn from brick red to white in an instant and can even change the texture of their skin to help camouflage them from predators or woo a potential mate.  At the end of the visit, each person is allowed to feed the octopi.  It was an engaging and educational trip and not a huge time commitment.  I encourage everyone to pay them a visit.

Now you might find this lame, but after the Octopus farm, the family and I went to the movies.  I know this seems crazy that we would travel all the way to Hawaii and duck inside for hours to see Incredibles 2, but this is vacation.  We don’t often get the opportunity to see a movie as a family back home, so why not go here while we have the opportunity?

After the movie, we were able to walk over to Royal Thai Cafe for some tasty takeout of Thai and Asian fusion cuisine.  Delish!


Day #4 – Thursday

Ok, today, we had some plans.  We woke early, which at this point was still not an issue, and made our way to Kona International Airport for a quick 35 minute flight over to Honolulu on the island of Oahu.  Prime objective was to visit the Pearl Harbor Historical Sites.  A tremendously moving collection of artifacts and stories, we worked our way through several Smithsonian-esque, museums. (Being from the DC area, we are quite spoiled with the quality of our museums.)  Each pavilion contained loads of exhibits, informational and emotional accounts of the infamous attack on American soil, and some hands-on activities to let you get a better feel of responsibilities of the servicemen of that era.  Personally, I found the memorial very interesting, but as a parent….  There is nothing I love to see more than my teenage, gamer engaged and interested in a museum and American history.  A day I’m quite excited and proud of.  (Heart hands!)

Due to some structural damage to the observation platform, the opportunity to view the USS Arizona, that still rests at the bottom of the harbor, was not an option for us, so our trip was limited to the land exhibits.  Our next stop was the gorgeous Waikiki Beach Walk.  A plethora of fine shops and restaurants, there really was something for every part of our party.  From 10 years old, to 80; from cookies to hats, every one of us found something to fall in love with during our walk.  We strolled through the Sheraton Waikiki to get a glimpse of the water and beach.  A breathtaking view of sparkling white sands and clear light aqua waves, it was just gorgeous.

We drove by the public beach of Waikiki.  Heavily populated, it is quite odd to experience the beach in the midst of a sizable city.  But it works!  We headed up to Diamond Head to see what we could see.  We were not correctly outfitted to summit the hill, but it was obvious and shocking to our kids that we were enjoying our icy treats inside a dormant volcano.  We wrapped up our visit and headed back through the city, past the University of Hawaii, to the airport to return to our home base, Kona.

We were able to meet up with some family at Umeke’s Fishmarket Bar & Grill for some delicious cocktails and meals.  If you ever see a cucumber lemonade cocktail on a menu, do yourself a favor and order it.  I could really go for another one right about now.  So refreshing.

Pearl Harbor Sailor statue

Day #5 – Friday

Today we stayed close to home.  Directly across the street from our house, is a black sand beach that boasts the 2nd best snorkeling in the area.  The very rocky terrain, in and out of the water, made it difficult to move around, but gobs of species of fish and sea life could be viewed in super shallow water.  Eels, sea turtles, sea urchins, and many colorful fish were a plenty.  The beach has on-sight bath houses, snorkel equipment rental and a food truck for a snack or lunch.

The dark sand really holds the heat, so it was a very hot day with or without the trades.  Dips in the perfect temperature of the ocean were a must, but you better run for it, or wear your shoes ’cause that crushed up lava rock may as well still be on fire.  It’s HOT!

After getting cleaned up, we headed back into town for dinner.  This time, we tried Foster’s Kitchen.  Now we’re talking.  On the second floor of the building, this open air restaurant had a gorgeous view of the Pacific and the impending sunset.  The food was spectacular and the drinks were even more so.  Anything from pastas, to the fresh catch of the day were offered and beautiful and refreshing cocktails were to die for.

We ended the evening with some Kona Coffee from the cafe just downstairs and strolled around the shops until we made our way to the car for the ride home.  Keep in mind, the sun sets in Hawaii around 7:30 pm give or take, so it gets dark (and I mean really dark) really early.  It makes our weary East Coast bodies even MORE tired.  So bedtime is hard to resist.

Fosters Kitchen cocktail

Day #6 – Saturday

My husband and his brother and father went deep sea fishing for the day, bringing home a sizable Wahoo that we would partake in for dinner on Day #7.

My sons and I stayed home for the day.  In the afternoon, we walked down to the black sand beach to grab a snack.  I stayed behind to snap some pictures of St. Peter’s by the Sea Catholic Church.  My husband and I discovered this little seaside church on our trip 17 years ago.  I was so excited to learn that we were going to be staying nearby.  The little church was established in 1880 and looks to seat maybe 30 people.  I was disappointed that we could not attend a service there, but I did get some sweet photos.  I finished up my walk for pics with a dip in our tiny pool and took advantage of the quite to read my book.

Showers all around and we headed back to Foster’s Kitchen for dinner.  It was that good.

Bob with Wahoo

Day #7 – Sunday

In the morning we had our sights set on hitting a local shopping market.  Filled with booths selling all kind of wares.  Sadly, the majority of the shops were not open, so our trip there was quite short.  We grabbed a quick lunch and headed home to prepare for our afternoon snorkeling trip.

My husband and I have been lucky enough to have snorkeled in some really great places; Haiti, St. Thomas, and Aruba.  I have to say, in all sincerity, this was the best snorkeling trip by far (with our private snorkeling trip in Aruba a close second).  The crew of Fair Wind Cruises was very helpful and the boat was outfitted with excellent equipment and amenities.  The standard masks, fins, and flotation devices were provided in addition to inner tubes!  These were brilliant for newbies.  The boat also had a high dive platform off the upper deck and two wet slides off the main deck.  Our kids went CRAZY for these activities.  Juice, water, and chips were available while we cruised out and the cash bar opened up and platters of fresh fruit were brought out for our trip home.

Well spent from our day of activity, we got cleaned up and headed over to the home that my husband’s sisters were renting.  They cooked up a feast for the family with the star of the meal being the Wahoo that my father inlaw caught the day before.  FRESH FISH!!!  DELISH!!  (Take that Dr. Seuss.)  We closed out the night with cookies and cheesecake and a round of Happy Birthday in honor of my husband’s sister.  You know what comes next?  Night night for us.

Hawaii snorkeling lagoon

Day #8 – Monday – Final Day in Kona

I neglected to add, that most mornings began with the family gathering around the tv to watch the World Cup Soccer tourney and this morning was no exception.  We watched Belgium come back and beat Japan and then had to high tail it to the beach to meet up with the rest of our group.  We met up again at Hapuna Beach State Park.  We just loved this beach.  It is so beautiful and appointed with some really nice amenities.  I think most would argue that it is totally worth the 40+ minute drive.

It was a short trip to the beach for us this day.  We had a luau to get to.  We said our goodbyes to those that we would not see again on this trip and entered into the line of cars crawling back to Kona through road construction.  Some quick primping and we were out the door for our luau reservations at Royal Kona Resort.  This is the same luau location that we attended as a group 17 years ago.  Everyone in our party felt that the quality of the food and entertainment was even better now than it had been all those years ago.  The food was really good.  Buffet style, so even the choosiest eaters (and if you’ve traveled with kids you know the struggle is real) can find something they will like.  They made a great production of the unveiling of the pig and even provided stations of activities like flower bracelet making, faux tribal tattoos, and wood carvings.  The show was an excellent education in the life of the indigenous people of several islands in the Pacific.

Time to go complete the laundry marathon and pack for the next leg of our trip.  Oh, you didn’t think we were done did you?  I will pick up with you in our next post for the completion of our summer vacay in Kauai.  See you there!

Chatman luau 2018