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i’m back baby

October 2, 2018

Breakfast Burritos- Smitten Kitchen

Shout out to my brother-in-law who fixed my blog in about 5 minutes today after I hadn’t been able to add any content since May! I really can’t believe I didn’t ask him for help earlier. Thank you, Chris!!

So, here’s something new.  I am posting more often on my Instagram account @theconciergemom – it’s easier for me and faster- and maybe it’s easier for you as well! So, please follow me there for lots more gift ideas and recipes, etc. I am trying to post many times a week.

Let’s talk food first. My neighbor Sarah and I are still cooking away every week. Some weeks we phone it in with old standby recipes and other weeks, we try some new ones.  But we have successfully completed over a year of cooking together every week and found some amazing recipes along the way. These are the recent hits:

Korean Bulgogi bbq steak bowls– I have no idea how to say that second word, but it’s amazing. Like lick the plate.  I still think about the peanut sauce!

Roasted Tomatillo Chicken and Rice Bowls– Sarah made so much of this sauce that we used it for days after- I added it to eggs, rotisserie chicken, anything!! Loved it.

Breakfast Burritos– I have wanted to make these for a long time and am glad we did! We modified and made roasted potatoes, ground beef, avocado, cheese, black beans and scrambled eggs. We ate them hot so I can’t attest to how they would hold up in the freezer.

other things- well, Christmas is coming- :). Check my instagram for daily ideas and links to shopping. I am sure I will post here too now that Chris reunited me with my blog! Thanks for waiting for me to return.


april successes

April 5, 2018


Hi everyone! Happy Spring!  Here are some new things I have been making, reading and enjoying!

Josie Maran Argan Sugar Balm Body– where has this been the last ten years we’ve been in this dry climate? Love the citrus scent, but even more- how easy it is to shave after I scrub it on and off! Sometimes I follow this with her Body Butter in the citrus scent as well.

Ever since Tom gave the kids his blessing about riding their hover boards in the house (because let’s be honest, Tom wants to ride it in the house too) all our wood trim was cut into, bumped and torn up. Can you tell how I feel about this? Thank goodness, our carpenter told me about Minwax– this thing is THE BOMB. You do need to know your color of wood, but once you do, hand this marker to your kids and have them fill in the areas to look like new. It’s been a game changer for our first floor.

I ordered this fire ladder 20 minutes into the “THIS IS US” fire scene. If you watch the show, you understand.  We will have our first family fire drill this month. Luke is VERY excited about this and I worry that he will use this to sneak out one day! The biggest takeaway to that episode is that I started talking to the kids of what they’d do if there was a fire and everyone had a different answer. And one of my kids said they would run to a park about 2 blocks away from the fire- not the best meeting spot! Now we have a PLAN.

Great reads:

Dragonfruit– this endorsement is LONG overdue! I learned so much about Hawaiian monarchy in this book- and loved the love story and characters to boot. I couldn’t wait for the kids to go to bed to read more! When we traveled to Hawaii in November, my oldest son was referencing Hawaiian history he had learned in school and I was following along thanks to this book! My husband definitely did a double take when I knew what I was talking about! Mattoch describes all the smells and feelings of Hawaii perfectly. Would read again now that we visited so recently .

The Great Alone– since I loved The Nightingale, I figured this would be worth a try. Well, I read this in 10 hours. Loved the location, and the relationships of the characters on this remote island in Alaska. Grab tissues.

Great food:

Fish Tacos– YUM!!! My neighbor Sarah and I have been busy cooking away and this was a total hit last week. Sarah bought cod and we did this in a non-stick pan on the stove. I loved the marinated onions!! So easy- have always been impressed by them when they are in my restaurant tacos but now I know how easy it is to make them myself!  Sarah then made a Corn Slaw from this recipe as a side- so good!

Sweet Chili Coconut- Lime Grilled Chicken with Coconut- Lime Cauliflower Rice– very easy. I bought the Cauliflower rice pre-chopped at Sprouts and we prepared the chicken in strips on my stove top. Kids loved it. We made a batch of regular jasmine rice and this rice as another option too.

Pan-Seared Pork Tenderloins– This rub is fast and we cooked this in the oven instead of stove top. Cooking Light mag.  Lime, Soy and Maple Drizzle– we are taking 6 minutes max to make this and you offer it as a drizzle over the pork or a dip! Savory Sweet Potato Mash– I will be making this soon for company! Delicious side.

More another day! School pick up is required. 🙂








staying in scottsdale

March 2, 2018

For some reason, I keep heading to Scottsdale! I actually know why- the weather is very consistent, its a quick flight from Denver and there are some great resorts and restaurants- along with some awesome hikes!

So many of us travel here and I wanted to put my favorites in one place-

I have stayed in a lot of resorts here- hard to say which is my favorite- so I’ll go through some I have been at recently:

Hyatt at Gainey Ranch– my friend Heather and I took our kids here 2 summers ago- and it was HOT. The rate was sweet (because it was so HOT!) and we had a three bedroom suite with access to the Regency Club which was key as the we ate there all. day. long. Heather and I joked that we possibly made money going there as our flights were so cheap and the room was reasonable- but we fed the kids for FREE almost everyday. I would say this was just average- our room wasn’t very updated and nothing was extraordinary here.  The pool is cool with half sand and half pool. Kids loved the slides. We tried to rent the bikes offered there but that was when service really failed- no one could help us and all tires were deflated, etc. Made for a funny memory with the kids as they laugh at the terrible experience.


The kids happy in the pool AGAIN on a very hot June day, Hyatt Gainey Ranch

The Fairmont Princess– a friend of mine stays here annually with her family so Tom and I checked it out for one night. We were pleasantly surprised as I usually don’t like huge resorts! Our room was great and the pools were huge and many- I could see us going back here with our kids. We loved eating at Hacienda – the Mexican restaurant on property- we have been back on other trips too. Our breakfast was one of our favorite here- an egg white burrito with quinoa, black bean and avocado!  Seems like a great family spot.

Canyon Suites at the Phoenician– went here with my mom and sisters for a girls weekend. Our room was enormous with a beautiful view. The suites is set off from the other part of the Phoenician- a little more private and it’s own pool. Service was great and breakfasts were really amazing. Workout center was good too! We played tennis here and the hotel van will drive you most places for hikes or shopping. We loved our visit here.

The Four Seasons at Troon North– just stayed here last month as Tom and I had seen it when we drove out to Tom’s Thumb. It’s definitely set out a ways, which has it’s own appeal. Hiking is right out your door- literally- Pinnacle Peak was right out our window and a great morning hike for my sister and me. Just loved it! The views and setting are quiet and beautiful. Pools are smaller but it’s a small resort. Service was GREAT. Loved loved the workout room and spa was incredible. If you go there, request Art for a massage!


Four Seasons


Pool view at Four Seasons

Arizona Biltmore – Tom and I stayed here last April. I wanted to stay here for the architecture and we had a ton of Hilton points! We got upgraded which made for a beautiful room and a private pool. There were about 4 other people at the pool on any of the 4 days we spent at the Hilton. We didn’t eat a meal there- but loved the proximity to all the restaurants we like. Seemed like such a fast drive to anywhere we wanted to go except hiking.

The Sanctuary Camelback Mountain– Tom and I stayed here 3 years ago and had so much fun. One of my favorite restaurants anywhere is Elements so I had been to the resort for dinner many times but not stayed. Well, it’s very cool. I would not bring kids here as it;s not kid friendly and the pool is miniature. Loved playing tennis on the courts that overlook the whole valley! And, our room was nice and big- but I think they were updating shortly after we left which would have been good. The spa and workout rooms were totally awesome. They are known as a wellness spa so they have classes all day long- very fun to do a fitness weekend. Plus, any of the food you eat is EXCELLENT.

praying monk

View of Praying Monk from Sanctuary


I really get into researching before a trip so I have been to some great restaurants here. When I go with my parents and sisters, they let me make all the reservations as does Tom, so I am lucky that way!

Here are some great spots:

Elements– I referenced this above- this is a sexy restaurant. My sister and I felt that part of this restaurant could be on a movie set- and the food is SOOOO good. Oddly enough, the last three times I have eaten there- the servers have been seriously strange and kind of annoying. Hope that is just my experience and will be different next time.

Cafe Monarch– beautiful! stunning! romantic! all of these describe this very small restaurant. We ate outside under the lights and one of my sisters said this is one of the most memorable meals she’s had.


Cafe Monarch

Chelsea’s Kitchen – YUM! We were told to go here from a friend of Tom’s for the short ribs- and he was RIGHT. We ate outside on the back patio and had awesome cocktails and delicious short ribs and ceviche. We went here twice in 4 days. AND, fresh chocolate chip cookies at the door on your way out. Lots of families eating here.

La Grande Orange– another rec from a friend of Tom’s – I was so so on the name so I was so so on going there. I was wrong. Loved this great place of delicious breakfasts and lunch! I had an awesome lemon prosciutto pizza my first time and Tom had breakfast burrito. The NEXT day, we had a rotisserie chicken sandwich and their cookies- all so good. The gift store inside is cool too- I like the whole vibe and could see Ft Collins pulling this off.

Blanco Tacos + Tequila– I found this place through positive reviews online. Tom and I wanted something easy and simple this one night after we’d hiked one day.  We thought the tacos were really good and the skinny marg was tasty! Awesome service.

True Food Kitchen– We have this in Denver and I love it. Fun to eat here with or without kids. Fresh and delicious.

The Gladly– My sister never asks to go anywhere in particular on a trip. This was her one ask last month and so we went! They are famous for their Gladly salad- which she really enjoyed. We went for lunch- it was great service and a great menu. We all liked our meals.

The Mission–  My friend Jeff told me about this place- and Heather and I took our kids which may have been a mistake. Beautiful restaurant but very sophisticated menu. Our kids struggled. Heather and I didn’t! Would go back with adults only.


So, for years and years, we did Camelback. Frankly, tough on my knees and grinding! I thought it was the only thing to do. WRONG! Tom and I loved Tom’s Thumb and Wendy and I loved Pinnacle Peak. I can’t wait to explore more with Tom on our next visit. It’s so beautiful to get out when a park opens and get our workout in!


Tom’s Thumb

That’s all at this point. Please tell me any of your favorite spots- I plan on continuing to visit!






put your apron on

February 7, 2018


I have had so many recipes being texted among friends! We are cooking!!!

Here are some standouts for me-

Coconut Curry Shrimp– PW in the house!! I love her. Anyways, easy and delicious. Make some white rice to pour it over and lick the bowl!

Crock Pot Chicken and Wild Rice Soup– IGE – another favorite of mine- now, for those of you who know me well, I don’t crock pot in this house! My mom was a WONDERFUL cook but the only nights my sisters and braced ourselves for dinner — was when we smelled dinner in the crockpot. NOT good. Tom happens to share my view on this so we don’t go there- so I made this version in my dutch oven. I liked it A LOT. Tom thought it was too salty so I  would use no salt broth next time. I sent this to some friends and the amount of positive reviews via text was HIGH.

PF Changs Mongolian Beef Copycat Recipe– YUMMMMM! Sarah (my neighbor who I cook with)  and I made this and did decide to run water over the steak to get off some of  the cornstarch but that could have been my fault. The sauce is awesome. We put over white rice and also added Sesame Chicken Potstickers which everyone loved. Tom said this was one of my top meals… ever.

I haven’t made this yet- but my friend Julie said it’s a must! Detox Turmeric Lentil Soup. On my list!

Salmon with Honey Pecan Sauce- this is a new favorite for us. So easy and so delicious.

Cauliflower Bolognese– my friend Holly said she used a pre-riced cauliflower/broccoli/carrot mixture from Target.

And now, we what we all love-

Chocolate Lava Cakes– you think this is hard- WRONG! Easy, can prep it ahead and then pop in oven when you  are ready to cook. Great Valentine’s dessert for all.

Browned Butter Peanut Butter Rice Krispie Treats– from my friend Holly- she fully endorses!

Keep sending me recipes- I’m in a groove these days and with my cooking sidekick, Sarah, we are trying lots of recipes we tore out years ago.





visiting Madrid- sights to see

January 23, 2018

Hola! I joined Tom on a quick trip to Madrid last week and wanted to share my experiences and finds. I am a big researcher when it comes to trips! I love it! I always spend a ton of time on Trip Advisor and was hoping I would see a review from a friend but came up with nothing! I ended up reading all sorts of blogs and even looking it up on Pinterest which was very helpful- so I have decided to put this on my blog to help any of you who may travel there in the future.


The Principal Madrid


First, let’s begin with the hotel – I went around in circles trying to find “the one”. We like small, boutique hotels in a location where we can walk to all the sights. I settled on The Principal Madrid and we loved it. They arranged a private walking tour for me on the day I arrived (Tom was working that day) and it was perfect. I worked with Rosa- she was an awesome guide! We walked for three hours and ended our tour by the Royal Palace with some hot chocolate – which really is a whole cup of warm chocolate and a spoon. Ideal! Rosa’s email is and if you go to Madrid, book a tour with her! She was incredible.


Rosa, my guide

The first day I was there, we walked through many neighborhoods and saw many of the big sights. This helped me get the lay of the land so when Tom and I explored later, I had a sense of where I was!

One of my favorite sights were the Mercado de San Miguel  – not only is it a stunning glass building, but the food was displayed so beautifully. You can grab anything quick here or enjoy a glass of wine and stay awhile. It is next door to Plaza Mayor.


Plaza Mayor

madrid painter

Artist in Plaza Mayor


Mercado de San Miguel


Mercado de San Miguel

Many blogs told me to visit Circulo Belles Artes for the view over Madrid. We had an amazing rooftop on our hotel but I figured I should still go check it out. We laughed when we put the location in our phone and it was across the street! Didn’t seem necessary to pay the euros to cross the road and look the other way so we didn’t. I imagine that in the summer, that’s a good bar and a good view to visit!


Our view from The Principal Madrid at night (Metropolis Building)

Tom and I walked through Retiro Park and through the neighborhood of Salamanca. I thought Retiro Park was beautiful, especially the Palacio de Cristal.– WOW! madridretiropark

This picture really doesn’t do it justice. When I told Tom we were going to walk to the Crystal Palace, he joked that it could be like Star Wars, but this is all Sound of Music. You can walk in but the line was LONG and let’s just put it out there- Tom didn’t seem as excited as I was!

When Tom and I travel, we like to exercise and eat. I find that I have many pictures of the food from this trip! YUM! Our favorite things to eat and drink in Spain are the iberian ham, pan con tomate, wine, sangria, and tortilla espanola – we actually took a cooking class and made it in Barcelona- I wrote about that trip here– ! Ham sandwiches are everywhere, and I got one everyday. Get yours “caliente” and you will love it! I bought mine at OINK (seriously, that is the name) which was near our hotel. We also enjoyed a great meal of roasted chicken over pistachio risotto at Lobby Market near our hotel one night.

The picture on the left is a very small part of our hotel breakfast buffet which was very hard to resist from a calorie standpoint. The lunch on the right was at the ME hotel– we really liked Ana La Santa– so much we had two glasses of sangria and we left without paying the bill! This was remedied when the waiter found us outside in the plaza still wandering around 5 minutes later!


Churros from Chocolateria San Gines, open 24 hours!


Our hotel restaurant, El Atico- gorgeous!

Our favorite food and view was … wait for it- from the 9th floor of El Corte Ingles! They have The Gourmet Experience and the food and views are AWESOME! When I told Tom I wanted to go to this big department store for food, I can tell he was suspect! Well, one visit lead to a second one the next night, suggested by… TOM! Definitely go up there- they have all sorts of food from all over the world and excellent wine and outside rooftop which you can see all over Madrid.

Other stops included the Prado Museum (free at 7 pm on Mondays) and the Palacio Real- something you cannot begin to imagine size wise- it’s Europe’s largest Palace. Next to the Palace is the Cafe de Oriente, where I had hot chocolate with Rosa which was like being invited into someone’s well decorated home. Cozy and chic!


The Royal Palace is behind this statue. It is even bigger than you can imagine- this photo doesn’t show the size!

We also walked El Rastro market which is very boho and wasn’t exciting like I remembered it. When Tom and I visited it about 15 years ago, there were many antiques and cool stuff that I wanted! Not sure if we hit the wrong streets this time, but most of what we saw was tourist stuff. It is on Sundays, 10- 3 pm.


Love all these old doors around Madrid. This was right outside Chocolateria San Gines


This was the old post office. My guide, Rosa, told me Spain accepted 2000 refugees. Loved the sign. This is where REAL Madrid celebrates their victories after a game!

I think that’s it- I put together my must-do list from searching madrid on pinterest and really loved Lauren on Location blog. 


Selfie in front of Tom’s favorite building- The Metropolis


One last parting shot! View from our breakfast at The Principal Madrid

Hope this helps some of you plan a great trip to Madrid! Adios!




final stretch

December 15, 2017


This is game time, friends! The kids in are in school 5 more days over here and this is when my list and focus gets tight! Here are some other ideas for those of you who are still shopping-

Tenergy Wireless Beanie Hat– my 13 year old son picked this out- so it’s teen approved. Good reviews.

Wine markers– my MIL gave these to me a couple years ago for my stemless glasses and they are awesome. Great hostess gift too-

Aloha Splash Proof Bags– I saw these in Hawaii and had to get some! You can stow your bathing suit in it after a trip to the beach, or anything else you can think of! Today I have my makeup in it for after the gym. It would make a great beach bag.

Team Santa/Sleigh All Day– my favorite pj company is now making these fun sweatshirts! These are by no means flattering (at least mine isn’t), but it’s the softest material and fun for this time of year – plus I am wearing mine every night when I get home as it’s very comfortable!

Emoji band aids– these will make it into a stocking. Bought mine on amazon.  I think great stocking stuffers for kids are at Walgreens, World Market and amazon!

Mouse in a Box– Our cool local store Knapsack sells these and they have all different versions of this Danish toy. I bought a little matchbox with a ballerina in it for our travel at Thanksgiving. My daughter played with it for HOURS on the plane. Sweet imaginative play. If you are local and have a little one, this is a precious gift!

My friend Amy is a children’s book editor and ALWAYS has great suggestions for books for kids- here is something she sent me-

Books for the kids:
Star Talk by Neil DeGrasse Tyson. I saw this at my son’s book fair and think both kids would like it; the blurb sold me too: StarTalk will help answer all of your most pressing questions about our world—from how the brain works to the physics of comic book superheroes. Fun, smart, and laugh-out-loud funny, this book is the perfect guide to everything you ever wanted to know about the universe—and beyond.

What If?: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions:
Another good bet for silly-curious kids: Millions of people visit each week to read Randall Munroe’s iconic webcomic. His stick-figure drawings about science, technology, language, and love have a large and passionate following. Fans of xkcd ask Munroe a lot of strange questions. What if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light? How fast can you hit a speed bump while driving and live? If there was a robot apocalypse, how long would humanity last?The book features new and never-before-answered questions, along with updated and expanded versions of the most popular answers from the xkcd website.
The Football Fanbook: Everything You Need to Become a Gridiron Know-it-All (A Sports Illustrated Kids Book)
For my two football fans. Reviews say this book has obscure, interesting facts, evaluates each team so you can argue who is the “best,” and compares current players to important players from history. Lots of adults reviewed on Amazon saying they learned a lot and bought copies for themselves as well.
Thing Explainer: Complicated Stuff in Simple Words
How do things work? Where do they come from? What would life be like without them? And what would happen if we opened them up, heated them up, cooled them down, pointed them in a different direction, or pressed this button? In Thing Explainer, Munroe gives us the answers to these questions and so many more. Funny, interesting, and always understandable, this book is for anyone—age 5 to 105—who has ever wondered how things work, and why.

Guinness World Records 2018: Meet our Real-Life Superheroes
My kids LOVE these books and spend hours poring over them. I refused to buy it at the book fair but will surprise my younger one with this at Christmas.

Other fun lists to peruse-

Dinner: A Love Story gift guide– huge fan of her cookbooks!

Living with Landyn- here is her tween girl gift guide but she has many others- just hop around

WHOA- one of the best gift guides for builders and inventors I have seen! You will definitely find something for your kids in the MOM Edit Steam list- watch the video-

Brightly came out with many lists of seasonal and holiday book lists for all ages– I really enjoy their site.

There is always more, but that’s all for now. Hope you all have a great weekend!


kauai and the big island

December 1, 2017

View from Grand Hyatt, Kauai

Aloha! We just got back from an awesome family trip and friends have been asking for information so I am putting it all here.

It all started with a phone call from Hilton honors offering us a great deal on the big island for 5 nights, 6 days. After I paid a small fee to upgrade to a 2 bedroom condo, I knew this trip was going to happen! Since we were traveling all that way, I decided we should also visit Kauai and am so glad we did.

Starting with Kauai- we flew Denver to Honolulu, then quick flight to Lihue. I rented a car which was key on this island. We decided to stay on the south end as the weather is supposed to be more consistent. We had a room at the Grand Hyatt and fortunately booked a family rate as we had to book two rooms for my family of 5. It basically gives you a break on the second room – (not a huge one, but helpful!) I use a travel agent to give us perks like free breakfast, free appetizers and room upgrade if available. Free breakfast is KEY here. We had a buffet at Tidepools and even though it was free, I tipped everyday and it would have been about $140 every morning. The Grand Hyatt is BIG. We had our fitness trackers and it was 500 steps from parking to our room! Great exercise. The lagoon area is under construction which is a bummer so hopefully that wraps up soon! Pros: great location, loved the trail to Shipwreck rock- go at sunrise!, awesome workout room, Seaview Terrace is stunning- we saw whales while sitting on the terrace. Friendly staff, and on the ocean. Cons: no room wow factor other than the view (we had two Deluxe oceanfront rooms, adjoining), the pool was freezing, like ice cold. They have a lazy river, but you have to pay to rent your tube??

What we did on Kauai: this island overwhelmed me at first! There is sooooo much to do! We spent one day around our hotel and went to the beach right by the Sheraton and Brenneckes. This was a great lunch spot to grab hot dogs for the kids and deli sandwiches for Tom and me. (located downstairs) This beach is a little rocky, however, so be prepared. Luke split his knee open on a rock when the surf came in. Not the best start to our day! We brought snorkel gear before we left and this would be a KEY purchase if you like to snorkel. I bought 2 sets of these but should have bought 3! They were a great for the kids but they don’t have flippers which I would add. Any tour we took, they gave us flippers but nice to have for yourself when you go to beaches on your own. At 5, Brooke didn’t wear the snorkel mask, but just her swimming goggles and flippers and did awesome!


sunscreen (much cheaper to bring), Snorkel sets, water shoes for everyone


Blue Ocean Adventures of Na Pali Coast

We booked a tour with Blue Ocean Adventure Tours – I had followed them on instagram for a year and couldn’t wait! We were supposed to go up the Na Pali coast but the swells were too large and we ended up going south instead. It was BEAUTIFUL. Keep in mind you are on a 25’ Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boat (RIB). RIBs are commonly used by Navy Seals and Coast Guard Rescue. So, it’s a rougher ride than a catamaran. Because of Brooke’s age, they gave her a seat in the back and she was not on the side like the boys were. It was very fast and wet but I liked how we were so close to the water and could jump in quickly when we stopped! There were some bigger boats that we much higher and more of a spectator option. Snorkeling was beautiful. Will brought his GoPro and has beautiful footage of swimming right beside turtles and fish. While Tom and Will were snorkeling, a pod of dolphins swam through and they both had 5 dolphins swim directly below them! Tom said that it was one of the most incredible experiences he has ever had. Our guide said that experience happens only once or twice a year! The ride there was smooth and then the wind changed and was very choppy on the way home- Tom’s back hurt the next day- fyi! I would go with them again up the Na Pali Coast in a heartbeat. If this sounds too crazy, Captain Andy’s was highly referred – especially their sunset cruise!


We had some awesome places we enjoyed eating-

The Fresh Shave– this is an awesome food truck with delicious shaved ice – we went more than once! Beside this truck was a great find- Roots in Culture– OH my- the fresh catch over soba noodles and the brussel sprouts were soooooo good! We truly wolfed their food down!  – here is a list of other awesome ones!


Mai Tai’s at Keoki’s Paradise


So yea, that would be one slice of HULA PIE!

Eating with kids can be hard on a trip, but we loved Keiko’s Paradise by our hotel. We went twice for the happy hour 3-5, great pork sandwiches, fish and chips and of course, HULA PIE. Their mai tais were amazing as well and less at happy hour! Another awesome spot was the Beach House-  you can reserve this on open table. Pictures aren’t enough. One of the most beautiful settings of a restaurant in the world. We went for lunch as we didn’t think the kids would appreciate a $40 dinner meal. It was AWESOME! Right by the restaurant is a beach area where we watched the sunset on our own one night. It’s a straight shot. We also stopped at Kalalea Juice Bar on the way to Hanalei and it was so good. We LOVE acai bowls and tried their original and the King Kong and gobbled them up. If it weren’t so far from our hotel, we would have gone everyday.  If you love acai bowls too- read this article as I now realized there was a great spot RIGHT BY US. We never made it to Duke’s but it’s same owners at Keiko’s and wish we had! In Hanalei, we had to stop at Tahiti Nui– as a Mai Tai lover, I had torn out a small article on the best mai tai in the islands and this was the spot! We came at happy hour and the server told me they probably had already served 60 in the last hour. It’s a small spot and the kids loved their pizza. The movie The Descendants was filmed here as you will see Georgie on their website! (Brooke was sad it wasn’t the other Disney movie Descendants!) We also went to The Dolphin Market and the boys bought fresh sushi rolls from the back market (not to be confused with the side restaurant) – we ate them outside in the misting rain (North Side has much more moisture) and then the boys said “Can we go get another?” It was so fresh, we did it all over again!   Final thought- Lappert’s Ice Cream– YUM!!


Waimea Canyon

We loved driving up Waimea Canyon– we downloaded the app- Shaka Guide– was definitely worth $5- the guy is a little cheesy but it made us all laugh and I reco driving all the way to the end- that view is worth it.


View of Hanalei

Driving to Hanalei was STUNNING. The trees, the water, the small roads- it’s still so undeveloped- just can’t say it enough that Kauai is unreal! I follow Kasey Buick on insta and she lives on the north end and wrote a great list years ago of her favorite spots- it’s no longer on her blog but here it is 1. and 2. screenshot on pinterest!

I think I covered Kauai! Let’s move to the Big Island!

This is totally opposite of Kauai- I felt like I was on a planet with all the rock from the volcano! Again, it’s amazing how you drive a one way highway. Not busy, no real traffic what we experienced- just easy!


Boys paddle boarding at the Hilton, fake waterfall!

We had booked a Hilton Grand Vacation- so we were in Kingsland – in Building 25 which was brand new. We had a great condo with 2 bedrooms. It was all nicely done. The only missing part was we were not on the main Hilton property so you are a bit removed. The first day we parked at the resort (one mile drive) and went to the lagoon area and rented a paddle board. The kids were swimming and paddling right beside large sea turtles. It was great! We had lunch by the lagoon and could see the ocean. After we decided to try Lava Lava Beach Club – which is a super great place right on the water. It was a beautiful scene and I ordered the catch of the day- I definitely had the best dish at the table! The other dishes were average but liked the live music and beach location.


View from our pool at Kingsland


Lava Lava Beach Club

The other days we spent exploring the beaches around Waikoloa. We rented boogie boards at Hapuna State Park, and also visited Beach 69 and Beach Holoholokai .

Hapuna was definitely a favorite- we went back twice- not rocky, kids were in the water all day. $10 rentals of boards from the snack shop for the day.


Mauna Lani hotel- can you see why we stayed after lunch?

We went to lunch at Mauna Lani hotel which was close to us and had a great beach! We walked in like we were staying there and had a good lunch. After, Brooke asked to swim at the pool and we decided to do it! After 2 hours, I was approached poolside by a nice woman who asked for our room number. Our gig was up (I think our hilton towels may have given us away!) She told us we were fine to stay but couldn’t return the next day. This completely embarrassed our oldest child! Oh well- it was fun!

Places we ate: We ate at our condo as we had a full kitchen for all breakfasts and some dinners- other times we tried:

Sansei Sushi– we went between 5:30- 6 to get 25 percent off our bill. Was a good meal.

Juice 101– wish we hadn’t found this on our last day. We had a great acai bowl, and a kids smoothie here. YUM! Service was slow, but nice.

Kohala Burger and Taco– people raved about it but we had under cooked food. Maybe they had an off day?


Endless Summer Adventures- so awesome


Endless Summer Adventures, Hawaii

The best experience we had was through Endless Summer Charters– Capt Bryan and Chris were fun and we had the boat to ourselves for 4 hours. We snorkeled a beautiful area and saw tons of dolphins. We would book with him again next trip!


See those turtles?

On our last day, we headed to Lava Lava Beach Club again because their beach area is known to be where turtles sun themselves. It was true! Easy to spot and easy to swim with them. Unfortunately, Will went to snorkel and stepped on a sharp coral and cut his foot – which is why I would suggest water shoes again for all!

We had many suggestions of great places from friends – and we didn’t head to Volcanoes National Park as there wasn’t active lava flowing to see and it was a long drive. At this point in the vacation, we just wanted to relax and not spend a day in the car. I’m sure there are some very cool places we missed and hope to see on another visit!  Hope this is helpful to all of you who may be traveling there- you lucky ducks!

Special shout out to many friends who gave us tips on these islands- Jim, Misha, Jill, Kim and Courtney Regan!