Wednesday, December 23, 2015

One a Day, Weeks 48-51

Just a week and a half left of the year.  I've really loved this project.  I've forgotten about 3 days each month and some days I've just grabbed my camera and taken a lame shot just so I don't miss the day, but I've also captured some very sweet moments that I wouldn't have otherwise, and some of my kids who don't like being photographed have allowed me to when I've said, "But I need it for my One-a-Day!"  So, all told, it's a win.

The world around here kind of revolves around little Benji, as you can see in the pictures that follow.

Santa Run

I LOVE this 3-photo panorama of Utah Lake!

Typical Sunday morning at our house.

Catching up on the original Star Wars in advance of the movie to come.

Testing a set-up in advance of a family coming to my studio.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Worth a Look: Star Wars Edition

I haven't seen the movie yet and probably won't until it comes to Redbox.  It sounds good, but given a choice between going with my family to see it next week and having a few quiet hours alone, I choose the latter.  And by alone, yes, I do mean alone in the sense that I will be at home with the three youngest kids.  What does "alone" mean to you?

It's been fun to see the spoofs coming through.  Here's a few I loved:

Star Wars as Told in Ken Burns Style

And of course, Studio C's been doing these for months.  My three favorites:

Friday, December 11, 2015

Worth a Look

Cracked me Up:

*  If Parenting Were a Broadway Show

Lovely Message:

Lovely music:
This year has seen an explosion of beautiful music to celebrate the season.  Here are a few I've loved:

And just in case you've lost track of ALL the great Christmas music I've been sharing, here's a playlist you can listen to while you search Amazon for last-minute Christmas Presents.  You're welcome.

And if you have a little over an hour, this devotional ought to put you in the Christmas Spirit.  Plus the Motab starts out by singing Handel.  :)

Thursday, December 10, 2015

A Photographer's Journey to Maui (with husband, 11-year-old, and baby in tow)

It's been a month since I came home from this lovely place and I'm still thrilled when I look at all the photos and remember drinking in the beautiful sights of Maui.  Now that you've heard Allison's highlights, I'm sure you want to hear all about the trip from my perspective, right?

I so enjoyed this lovely island.  I've now been to Oahu, Kauai, and Maui, and while I think Kauai is my favorite, Maui had the best of everything Hawaii has to offer -- great snorkeling, beautiful hikes, beaches, and waterfalls, delicious food, and stunning drives -- as well as some unique things, like Mount Haleakala.


We took a flight to Seattle first.  Allison was so thrilled by her first plane ride.  She loved the feeling of take off and even cried out "wheee!" Sitting in front of us was Tom Rollins, a pilot, who gave Allison some wings on a pin and talked to her a bit about flying.  It turned out he was going to be flying our plane from Maui to Hawaii, so he said if there was time, Allison could come up and see the cockpit. 
At the Seattle Airport
Our flight out of Seattle was delayed a few hours, so we hung out in the airport there for about five hours, but Allison did indeed get the chance to sit in the cockpit.  Tom even gave her his hat to wear.  She was so very excited.  

The flight went fine and Benji slept for the whole six hours.  We finally landed, got our rental car, and arrived at our hotel -- the Marriott Ocean Club in Ka'anapali -- at 1 a.m. Hawaii time, which was 4 a.m. in Utah. 


Benji, being back on Utah time, was of course up at the crack of dawn.  DH took him for a walk in the early morning, then he and I took turns getting in a short 2-3 mile run.  We had breakfast at 808 Grindz Cafe, which had amazing yelp reviews.  It did not disappoint, even if we did have to wait outside for a long time to get a table in the small strip-mall cafe.  I had amazing banana, coconut, and macadamia nut pancakes with a divine mac-nilla sauce on top.

DH bought us some fruit and bread from a grocery store nearby, then we drove north to explore around the west mountain of Maui.  It was a fun drive with beautiful coastline to explore.  

We took a short hike down to a blowhole that was beautiful.  

Allison, of course, immediately honed in on the fact that there were crabs in a nearby tide pool.  

A bit after the blowhole, the road became a narrow one-lane road that hugged the side of the coastal ridges there.  We continued on for a couple of miles, stopping to back up a couple of times when encountering other cars.  We reached what the guidebook said was the best banana bread on the island, and bought some.  Despite having risked our lives for it, it was not nearly as good as the kind I make. 

On our way back, we stopped at the Ohai trail, where Allison and DH took a short hike while I fed Benji.  Back at our resort, Allison discovered lizards by the pool, which obsessed her for the rest of the week.  They were tiny and fast, but no match for Allison's intense ability to focus and move quickly.

For dinner, we walked up the boardwalk a half mile to the Whaler's Village and got some traditional Hawaiian food at Joey's Kitchen: bbq pork and chicken, fish tacos, macaroni salad and rice. My chicken was amazing.  

We then enjoyed a beautiful sunset that I was able to capture with my camera.  I brought three lenses, my 24-70 workhorse, my 70-200, and my 14mm landscape lens.  In hindsight, I would have left the 70-200 at home as I barely used it.  The others got the bulk of the use and were awesome.  I really enjoyed using the 14mm for sunsets.  It has such a wide angle of view that it creates really interesting effects.

My favorite photo of the night.


Tuesday morning, we woke up early and left our hotel at 4:00, with plenty of time to do the 1 hour and 45 minute drive to the top of the big crater on the island, Mount Haleakala, and get there before sunrise at 6:30.  However, we were unprepared for a huge line of cars that was backed up to pay the entrance fee.  We waited there for a half an hour, then drove up to the top as dawn filled the sky.  It was amazing to drive up through and above most of the clouds.  We got to the visitor's center at the top just three minutes before the sun was due to rise over the clouds.  A ranger directed us to one of the last three parking spots up there.  I grabbed my tripod and camera and joined the throngs watching the sun at the overlook.  It was truly beautiful to see it rise over the beautiful volcanic landscape and clouds.  A native Hawaiian sang a traditional song as it rose.  

We'd come prepared for the 10,000 foot elevation and had jackets and feet jammies (for Benji).  It was pretty cold.  Allison and DH took Benji and climbed a short trail nearby while I got some more pictures.

View looking west from the summit
I love the ribbon of highway against the volcanic rock

Looking east from the summit
After driving a short distance to the actual summit nearby, we parked back at the visitor's center and took the Sliding Sands trail for a mile or so and then hiked back.  The trail goes down into the collapsed crater.  The colors of the lava rock -- red, green, orange -- are so vivid and the way they cascaded down the mountain where we hiked made me think of a sink after cleaning out several different colors of paint.  It was a nice little hike.

Three photos stitched into a panorama

Three-photo panorama
A ranger had told us that we should also visit the campground area down around 7,000 feet.  She said it was like a completely different world over there.  She was right.  The top of the mountain has very little foilage and could be a desert in Utah for all that it's in Hawaii.  As we drove down the mountain, we began to see more and more plants and finally hit the tree line around where the campground is located.  

The view from another overlook

So cool to be driving down to the cloud line

We went on a short nature hike there and saw all sorts of different kinds of plants and foilage.  It was pretty and we had the hike to ourselves.  Allison found some acorn-like objects on the ground that looked just like buttons with little x's and stars in the middle.  They looked man-made.  There was also some strange pine trees with foilage that looked like weeping willows. 

We next drove to what was supposed to be a road that was supposed to be unpaved but easily passable.  To get to the unpaved part, we drove up a ton of switchbacks on a narrow one-lane road, passing forests of Eucalyptus and various other trees as well as open fields cleared for paragliding.  When we got to the unpaved road, we didn't get very far before we decided it was not going to happen.  Too bad, as the hike we were headed for, in Poli Poli state park, was supposed to be in a redwood forest that had been planted there in the 1950s to help with deforestation.
The positive part of the drive, besides the beautiful scenery and gorgeous views of the lower elevations and the sea, was that we stopped at a lavender farm there.  We had samples of lavender jellies and honey and bought a couple of lavender scones to eat. We wandered just a bit of the gardens there and found a tree that was covered in flowers and what looked like a species of monarch butterflies. It was stunning, and as you can imagine, Allison loved it.  She even picked up three butterflies that were all on top of each other on the ground.  I got a video or two and a couple of pictures, but it really didn't do the tree justice.

Our next stop was down the mountain and to the essential tourist stop at Costco.  We picked up bananas, grapes, muffins, a pineapple coconut loaf of bread, and some chocolates and got gas.  Then we headed back to the hotel, got a little bit of rest and downtime before walking three-quarters of a mile to snorkel at Black Rock.  DH and I took turns going with Allison and staying with Benji.
We enjoyed the sunset again as we walked back to our room.  I didn't have my camera on me, but I did get a few pictures of the last of it from the balcony of our room.


On Wednesday, we drove along the north-east coast, known as the "road to Hana," with Hana being the town on the far east side of the island.  DH had a conference call, so we drove to a beach overlook and I took photos just after sunrise while Allison explored. 

Then we were on our way.  It certainly was a stunning drive along the coastline, with lots of waterfalls and other stops along the way.  

They don't call it paradise for nothing.

We stopped at a nature trail that took us through a bamboo forest and other tropical trees.  

Benji didn't mind not having the Baby Bjorn.

We realized when we pulled over that we'd forgotten the Baby Bjorn, so we were glad it was less than a mile hike.  We stopped at a ramshackle place called Coconut Glen's, where a blonde hippie served us coconut milk ice cream.  We stopped further down at collection of open-air eateries and ate.  Our final stop was at the Waianapanapa (try saying that five times fast) State Park, where there is a black sand beach made of small lava pebbles.  It was quite a strange beach to walk on, as the sand had the consistency of coffee grounds.  It almost felt like your feet were getting a massage to walk there.  Also at the state park were a series of lava tube caves with freshwater in them.  Allison and DH went swimming in one while I stayed with Benji and took photos of the monkeypod tree canopy.

Though by this time we were almost to Hana, we had also expended all the time we had for the day, as we had to get back to our luau that night.  So we drove back, stopping briefly to watch some wind and kite surfers.  

We got back just in time to walk to our luau three quarters of a mile up the boardwalk at the Sheraton Hotel.  The food was good and the entertainment was typical for a laua.  We really liked the dancers, though the announcer had a "Bob Barker" voice and an insincerity that was a bit grating.  Allison, however, was in heaven.  She loved getting a lei, watching them pull the pig from the pit, enjoyed watching the show, laughed when people were called up to learn different dances, and even went up herself to learn how to hula.  She was especially amazed at the end by the Samoan fire dancing. 


On Thursday, we took snorkel boat trip through Trilogy tours to the Molokini crater, a famous crescent-shaped snorkeling spot with crystal clear water.  Allison was thrilled for the entire journey.  She stayed up front in the trampolines, took to snorkeling like a fish (she's even good at diving down deep while snorkeling), and just loved it.  

DH and I took turns staying with Benji and snorkeling with Allison at the crater, then at the second stop, Coral Gardens, a grandpa in the group wasn't snorkeling so he offered to stay with Benji, who was sleeping in his car seat.  The second stop was more stunning than the first, in my opinion, because despite the water being less clear, the variety and colors of the coral itself were much more varied and intricate.  No turtles were spotted at either spot, to our disappointment.  The boat served snacks and lunch and we got back about 2.

That afternoon, I got a nap while DH and Allison did activities at the hotel, including making a key chain and hunting lizards.  In the early evening, we drove up the coast and went for a short walk to see the dragon's teeth, a formation of wind and rock that looks like a row of teeth for a giant dragon.  It was really neat.  I'd forgotten my tripod attachment, unfortunately, so my pictures weren't as good as I wanted them to be. 

Got this one by using a rock as a tripod.  I love the effects of a slow shutterspeed on ocean waves.

We got take out dinner at a Korean BBQ place called Okazuy on the way back to the hotel.


With just a couple of days left in our trip, we sat down and prioritized what we still wanted to do.  Snorkeling was high on the list, of course, so Friday was our snorkeling day.  We drove down the southwest part of the island and stopped at two different places recommended in our guidebook.  The first we had mostly to ourselves and it was so fun.  Allison and I followed after different schools of fish with the underwater camera for some time, then were surprised by first one turtle and then another.  Allison was in heaven swimming after these amazing creatures.  We followed the second turtle for a while until he finally dove down into a hiding spot, then went back and DH went out while I stayed with Benji.  The two of them found turtles right away and had a great time. 

Our second spot didn't have turtles, but it had a lot of beautiful coral.  It was so nice swimming in the warm ocean water.
On the way back, we stopped for our first shave ice of the trip -- hard to believe, I know.  Allison was introduced to the Hawaiian tradition of shave ice with ice cream on the bottom and it was delicious.

When we got back, I tried to take a nap with Benji while DH and Allison went to Star Noodle in Lahaina.  Unfortunately, Benji did not share my desperate need for sleep and after a while, DH came and got him and he and Allison took him back to Lahaina to explore the shops there.  They ran into a member of our Church in one of the stores who lives there on the island and told them that Sunday was stake conference and gave them an old program so we could call someone and find out where the conference was. She also told them about her life story and how she lost two of her kids in a car accident and almost lost the baby she was carrying. The doctors told her the baby had no chance and was gone, but she insisted the baby was fine.  They told her that the X-rays showed there wasn't enough bone to even reconstruct anything and they would have to amputate and put her in a full body cast. She had a priesthood blessing and then they did another X-ray and were amazed to find enough bone to do surgery.  Long story short, she and the baby made it through just fine and he is now a policeman.


We went to a swap meet in Kahului in the morning.  It was fun to see all the crafts, shells, photos, artwork, trinkets, necklaces, and eats for sale and explore.  I bought a loaf of banana macadamia nut bread from an 11-year-old girl manning her family's booth.  We also picked up necklaces for each of the little girls and a scarf for Lillian.
Our next stop was the Iao Valley State Park, where we went on a short hike to see the Needle and Allison went swimming in the creek. 

I love how you can see where the spider repaired her web.

In the late afternoon, we drove again to where the Dragon's Teeth were, north of our hotel, only this time, we took a 2-3 mile hike along the coastline and the expensive condos/resorts there.  The scenery was stunning.  I got lots of pictures while Allison and DH went ahead and stayed at the beach at the end of the trail.  Some of the area was quite developed and there was a wedding going on as well as wedding photos being taken on the beach.  Allison found great tide pools and caught a beautiful little fish as well as crabs.


Our last day on the island.  We had planned to do a hike over by Hana after Church, but knowing it would involve 5 hours of driving, we decided against it. 

Allison caught little frogs on our last morning there.

We went to breakfast at Slappy Cakes, a restaurant with many breakfast options, including their "make your own pancakes" option. You order a squeeze bottle of five different kinds of batter, then add on a couple of mix-ins from their extensive menu, and then make them on the griddle in the middle of the table.  It was fun.  Allison loved her pumpkin pancakes and I got some delicious whole wheat batter that I added bananas and macadamia nuts to.

We then checked out of our hotel and were on our way to Church in Kahului.  Unfortunately, the GPS took us to the wrong destination, a residence that was probably that of the bishop or stake president.  So we tried again.  We got to stake conference about a half hour late, but despite that (or maybe because of our extra efforts?), it was a wonderful, spirit-filled meeting.  There were so many sincere stories shared by those who spoke.  One woman, married to a counselor in the mission presidency, spoke of growing up in New Zealand and how her dad, who never ever took a vacation, was talked into taking a spot on a tour with a brother and then how his plane crashed and he died.  She spoke of not having an active family but shared how much it meant to her to have missionaries come to her home again and again, sharing messages and helping her mother with needed chores.  It was neat to see the results of the years of effort, as she was obviously now a stalwart member.  Her husband spoke about a man and his wife who were vacationing in Oahu on Waikiki Beach, when the wife nearly drowned.  A member of the Church, the man called the local bishop, who assisted in giving her a blessing.  Then, as the wife was in the hospital for an extended time, the man had to stay on the island.  The ward gave him a place to stay and arranged meals for him.  A nurse at the hospital was amazed, saying to him, "I've never seen anything like the love and kindness your Church has given you. Where can I learn more?"  The stake president encouraged people to serve more and asked them to be more willing to serve in Primary.  He said they needed to be sending out more missionaries. It was a good meeting, and it felt great to help put away chairs afterwards.  I love the immediate bond I feel with other members all over the world.

After Church, we had lunch (DH had passion fruit cheesecake for dessert that was amazing) and headed up the mountain again. We stopped at a lovely botanical garden.

Allison drank from this coconut on Saturday, then broke it open and ate it on Sunday
Then we drove up to the top of the mountain to watch sunset.  On our way there, we saw a beautiful rainbow right over the road.  

Sunset was even more stunning (and less crowded) than sunrise.  We found a little pull-out a little bit away from the visitor's center and I got photos of the sunset from there.  It was the perfect end to a wonderful trip.

This just might be the only picture of me on the whole trip!

Our flight left that night at 11:00.  It wasn't full, so we were able to get a seat for Benji and his carseat.  He slept the entire 5.5 hour journey to Seattle.  We tried to sleep with minimal success, though Allison slept pretty well.  We arrived home Monday morning and greeted Cami just after Katie had gone to kindergarten.  She was so happy to see us.  My mother-in-law did so well with the kids while we were gone.  I'm sure she had some frustrating moments, but it seemed like overall, things went smoothly.  The kids did their jobs and helped as they could, some of them even stepping up to do more than they were asked.  I was amazed at how calm and relaxed my mother-in-law was, even after a week with eight of the kids.  They really are growing up.


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