Archive for the ‘Family & Friends’ Category

When my mom asked Kelly and me last year whether we wanted a California family vacation to Disneyland Park and California Adventure Park or money for Christmas, the answer was pretty obvious. DISNEYLAND BABY! And with that, this family vacation we had been saving for the past few years was accelerated and we, especially the kids, couldn’t have been more excited to visit the Magic Kingdom.

My family had visited quite  few times while my sister and I were younger. In fact, that’s where most of our family vacations ended up. Disneyland Park in Anaheim, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Universal Studios photos are abundant in our family photo albums. Kelly too had gone once with her family when she was younger, but not recently. And Ensen (almost 5) and Avery (almost 2) love watching Mickey Mouse Club. So to say the entire Kam clan was anxious, including my mom and sister who came too, would be an understatement. How have things changed? How are they the same? How many days do we spend there? Will the kids like it? Will they ride anything? Will we have as much fun as we did back when we were kids?

To give you a hint, we had a hell of a good time and the kids, Ensen especially, didn’t want the vacation to end. I didn’t either.

Over the next couple weeks, I’ll be blogging about our family experiences in Southern California, sharing photos and insights on things we did and learned along the way. The goal? Hopefully to provide some helpful tips/suggestions so your next multi-generational family vacation to the “Happiest Place on Earth” and beyond can be even that much more enjoyable.

So I hope you’ll come back, read, and share your comments/experiences because one thing is for sure, this family will definitely be back again and again as the kids grow up. We made some great family memories on this trip…and there are still a ton more to be made.

Much love to mom and dad for the awesome vacation! And to my sister Erin adding to the fun too!

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It appears our little princess Avery is just as excited about the start of the new University of Hawaii Warriors football season on September 3 as I am. Who knew she was into football? Last night she paraded around the condo with the huge foam hand cheering her head off screaming “beat those Buffaloes!” Okay, maybe she didn’t quite go that far, but you could tell she wanted to say it. UH takes on Colorado to open the season.

If the UH cheerleading team needs a special guest for the opening game (or any game for that matter…and yes, we will travel), they know who to call. 😉 GO WARRIORS!

-NGK


Hacking it around on Kaanapali’s Royal Course with my cousin Grant and brothers-in-law Kevin and Jon. Mahalo to Melissa Ludwig for snapping this photo.

If there’s one thing I wish I had more time to do these days, it’s golf! Getting out to play once a month is a major accomplishment, so when the opportunity to play arises, I try to make the most of it. As was the case during our recent family vacation to The Valley Isle. We had one free day to hit the links so we headed to Kaanapali Golf Resort’s Royal Course for some fun in the West Maui sun.

My friends Ed Kageyama (Kaanapali’s General Manager) and Melissa Ludwig (Kaanapali’s marketing manager) were kind enough to host my family and me for the round. This was everyone’s first time playing the Royal Course – also the home of the Wendy’s Champions Skins Game in January – so were were quite excited to tee off at 7:30 a.m. And needless to say, we had a great time. Heck, I even somehow managed to shoot a sneaky 79 (thank goodness for par 71 courses). All around great day enjoyed by all.

What follows is my five reasons you should tee it up at Kaanapali’s Royal Course.  Here we go…

NO. 1 – FRIENDLY STAFF AND FUN COURSE

The first thing I noticed upon arriving at the course was the staff’s warm, welcoming spirit. It wasn’t forced. It was more like being greeted by your uncles and friends….like coming home. We had fun talking story with the cart guys about things back on Oahu, they shared tips on playing the course, and Assistant Head Pro David Havens even found a stiff shaft, 8 degree driver for me to use for the round. Sweet!

The course itself is a fun track. We decided to play the white tees since the skill level of our foursome was all over the place. Generous fairways, not much water hazards, and not all that long to be honest. But you know short holes can be deceiving and the ones here need to be handled with care or else a big score lurks on a 340-yard par-4. There are some good elevation changes on this course too, which makes a solid second shot and distance control important…two things I’m not always the best with. But as expected, the course was in perfect condition…hardly a weed in the fairway and beautiful, fast, and true greens. Keeping your ball in the fairways is key as the rough, albeit not that tall, is still penal.

NO. 2 – GPS IN THE GOLF CART

It goes without saying that one of the most helpful pieces of information any golfer can have on the course is an accurate yardage from tee to green. If you’re like me, half the time your playing your second shot from the rough…on the other fairway or nowhere near a yardage marker…which can make getting an accurate distance tough. Well, not at Kaanapali. All golf carts are equipped with state-of-the-art GPS systems that give you all the yardages you need to know, enables you to keep score, and keeps your foursome on schedule by letting know how far ahead or behind your group is. Awesome!


The No. 5 hole on Kaanapali’s Royal Course. Challenging par-4 to a narrow green by the ocean. 

NO. 3 – BONDING TIME

One of the main reasons I don’t play a lot of golf these days is because of the time commitment. Days can get long when you take into consideration time to get to the course, the actual round, then the usual 19th hole shenanigans. But, when I do get out there, I’m quickly reminded how that quality time on a golf course can really be an incredible bonding experience for family, friends, and colleagues. There’s tons of time to talk story and you really learn a lot about someone’s character out there. Bottom line…it’s worth the time investment as long as you’re playing with the right foursome. 😉


The No. 10 hole is a downhill par-4 through a treelined fairway. Beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean!

NO. 4 – FOOD AND BEVERAGE CARTS ARE AWESOME!

One of the things you don’t see at too many golf courses anymore are the food and beverage carts circling the course throughout the day…bring happy golfers snacks, food, and BEER! So when the cart girl came upon our group at Kaanapali with refreshments, we had no choice but to patronize…twice during our round. That’s all I’m going to say about that. LOL! But the convenience of having the beverage cart come to you during your round is a service I wish more courses would offer.


The No. 18 finishing hole on the Royal Course is beautifully challenging with water all the way down the right. Solid drive and second shot required! 

NO. 5 – FOUR HOUR ROUNDS ROCK!!

Nothing beats a four hour round of golf where the pace is brisk and not rushed. No waiting for the group in front to tee off on every…single…hole…like is the case at many of Hawaii’s municipal and public golf courses. I’m the kind of golfer who appreciates an efficient round and my scores reflect that. My family and I enjoyed a round in just a little over four hours. We probably could have finished faster, but we wanted to take it all in. This gave us plenty of time to do our guy thing in the morning, before catching up with family and friends at lunch and having the other half of the day to explore Maui. While you may pay a little more to play a resort course, it’s worth it if you value time. I’ll take a four hour round over a six hour round any day!

So there you have it. My two cents on why you might consider a round of golf at Kaanapali’s Royal Course. You’re probably thinking this can apply to any resort course in Hawaii…and you’re probably right.

The takeaway: Get out, tee it up, and enjoy the 80+ golf courses Hawaii has to offer. Some of the best golf you’ll play anywhere in the world. But don’t take my word for it. Check it our yourself!

I’d love to hear your Hawaii golf stories too, so feel free to share them here. In the meantime, keep ’em in the short grass!

-NGK


Family photo at Alii Kula Lavender Farm. Just look at the views! Beautiful.

Upcountry Maui has to be one of the most beautiful places in all Hawaii. Small towns like Pukalani, Haliimaile, Makawao, and Kula, that define the area on the slopes of Haleakala offer a glimpse back in time, each with a distinct personality and charm. Art galleries, restaurants, bakeries, and locally owned retail shops are what you’ll find here. Costco and Walmart don’t exist in Upcountryland. Crisp, cool mountain air keep things comfortable. The spectacular scenery alone is worth the drive.

We spend a lot of time Upcountry when we visit Maui since we stay with family living there. On our recent vacation to the Valley Isle, we revisited some of our favorite places. Here’s the photos…

If you’ve not been to Alii Kula Lavender Farm, you need to go. It’s a peaceful oasis with acres of manicured lavender fields and panoramic views of Maui’s south shore. It also smells really nice when you step outside of your car.


Here they serve delicious lavender scones and tea. The patio with tables and chairs offers a relaxing setting to enjoy both.


The gift shop here is wonderful with a wide variety of lavender products. The shampoo and conditioner are great for humans, while our family pets seem to love the speciality animal products.


And this view never gets old.

Just down the road from the lavender farm you’ll find Kula Country Farms. This small roadside store offers up fresh and delicious produce from the area. The Kula Strawberries for $3/container are always a winner…sweet and juicy. We like stopping by to pick-up vegetables and fruits to last us our time on Maui.


Here’s just a few things we scored from Kula Country Farms. The beets were heavenly. Everything so fresh.


Ensen enjoyed pretending he was a paniolo and got all of us to jump on the horse with him for pics. Yeeehaaaaw!

As lovers of cheese, visit Upcountry wouldn’t be complete without a stop at Surfing Goat Dairy. The kids enjoy petting the goats and roaming the area. Us adults love sampling the cheeses and talking story with the Kafsack’s when they aren’t busy milking the goats. The feta is a favorite of ours, but there’s all kinds of styles and spreads to choose from. They also have a lunch menu in case you’re hungry. You won’t be disappointed.


Ensen once again hamming it up for the camera. This goat nearly gave him a free haircut.

This is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of amazing Upcountry Maui adventures to be had. Watching the sunrise and sunset atop Haleakala and hiking the crater is another adventure to consider. Tedeschi Winery and Ulupalakua are just a few more miles up the hill.

What are some of your favorite Upcountry Maui spots? I’m always looking for a new experience the next time we visit.

-NGK

So what do you get when you have a son that love Star Wars and a Maui Grandma that can sew like no other? E-Boy-Wan Kenobi of course! This homemade costume and lightsaber was crafted on our recent visit to The Valley Isle. Needless to say, the little guy was stoked! And so are we since his Halloween costume is now complete for this year…errrr…that is until he wants to be a Transformer. 😉

-NGK

You should have seen the look on Ensen’s face…and all the kids for that matter…as we walked into the Aina Haina Public Library this past Saturday. The awe was straight out of a MasterCard commercial…PRICELESS! It was free comic book day and Kelly made it a point to call some of the participating libraries to find out one important bit of information. Which Star Wars characters are going to be at your location?

After phoning the Aiea Library and a couple others in search of Darth Vader (the one Ensen really wanted to see) with no luck, Kelly’s co-worker joked that he would probably be visiting a more upscale neighborhood on the island. She was right and we ended up spending about an hour at the Aina Haina library in awe of Lord Vader himself and two other Jedis…Pak El (in red below) and Ha’vok Tereus (in white below). If you haven’t seen these guys from Rebel Legion Hawaii and Oahu FanForce, make it a point to do so. The costumes are incredible and they donate their time to share their love of Star Wars with the kids. Awesome!

Ensen insisted on bringing his Darth Vader mask which turned out to be a great idea. He was able to do battle with Lord Vader for quite some time and loved every minute of it.

And for “dressing up” and his enthusiasm, Ensen was even interviewed by a guy from Oahu FanForce on his experience that day. Stay tuned for the video soon.

All in all, a very fun day for Ensen, Kelly, Kona Grandma, and myself. What about Avery you ask? Well, she slept through the entire thing. Girls I tell you.

-NGK

Ensen enjoying his small...yes that's a small...rainbow shave ice ($3) at Shimazu Store on School Street with Grandma Kam.

As I compose this long overdue blog post, I’m simultaneously trying to recall the last time I had a true spring break vacation. The kind where you leave work and all your worries behind and focus on relaxing and having fun with family and friends. I’m drawing a blank. My guess is it must have been more than 16 years ago way back when I was still in high school.*sigh*

With Ensen‘s preschool out for on break a couple weeks ago, I had no choice but to ditched the office in favor of spending five days watching with my son. It was incredible. We had so much fun exploring Oahu and doing everything we could to fill our days. The only thing that would have made it even better is if Kelly and Avery were there with us, but work and the sitter kept each occupied the entire week, respectively.

My goal was to make each day a new and memorable learning experience for Ensen. Let him experience things that would excite him mentally and physically. Do things that he would anxiously want to talk about with his teachers and friends when he returned to school. I believe we accomplished that. Here’s a photo recap of Ensen and His Daddy’s Uber Excellent Adventures:

MONDAY, MARCH 21
Ensen and I headed to Bishop Museum to check out the new “Dinosaurs Unearthed – Feathered Discoveries” exhibit running through September 5, 2011. We had no idea dinosaurs had feathers. Did you? This place has become a family favorite over the past few years and we’ve taken advantage of the great membership rates which has us coming back frequently. So much to see and do. Nice exhibits. The kids always have a great time here.


Getting ready to head in and check out the rest of the dinosaurs.


This guy was our favorite. A cross between a chicken and brontosaurus.


More feathered friends inside.


We spent quite a bit of time digging for fossils in this discovery box.

TUESDAY, MARCH 22
Before heading to the North Shore to check out the big waves, buddy and I made a quick stop at Shige’s Saimin Stand in Wahiawa for some onolicious saimin and a cheeseburger. It was the perfect “brunch” before we hit the road towards Haleiwa.


The waves were pretty big this day at Pipeline, but windy conditions made for lousy waves and no surfers out in the water when we got there. That didn’t stop Ensen from getting his toes in the sand and picking out some nice shells for mommy and Avery. We also had a nice conversation with some visitors from Michigan and Iowa who were happy to be on Oahu. Ensen told them all about his love of Transformers, showed them how to transform the one he had, and they as they patiently listened and watched.


Ensen loves his shrimp, so we made a lunch stop at the Famous Kahuku Shrimp Truck for some Garlic Butter goodness before heading back home. Soooooooo ono!

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 23
I figured by day three, Ensen would be getting tired of just hanging out with me, so we called Uncle Kevin, Aunty Sherrie, and Aunty Erin and asked them to take us fishing. They agreed! We all met up at Heeia Kea Pier, one of Uncle Kevin and Papa’s favorite fishing spots, to cast our lines into the sea. Ensen caught five fish. Daddy caught three. And poor Aunty Erin (not pictured to protect her identity…hehehehehe) caught ZERO! Ensen got a kick out of that.


Uncle Kevin and Aunty Sherrie help Ensen reel in his first catch of the day!


If this beautiful place looks familiar, it’s because Pirates of the Caribbean was just filming here not to long ago. The Queen Anne’s Revenge was set here during filming in on Oahu.


Ensen with another fish on the line. I think he’s got a great future as a fisherman.


After a few hours of fishing, we headed to Windward Mall for lunch. But there was more fun ahead. A train ride around the mall ($3/person) was just what Ensen needed before his nap on the car ride home.

THURSDAY, MARCH 24
Aunty Erin (my sister) had so much fun with us on day four that she tagged along with us on our visit to Pearl Harbor/World War II Valor in the Pacific and the USS Missouri Memorial (aka The Mighty Mo). I should note that the Mighty Mo is a client of the agency I work for, so they were kind enough to host the three of us at no charge. But honestly, the $20/person adult and $10/kid (4-10 years old) admission for the Mo is still a deal to see a piece of history.


This entire facility was recently renovated and is beautiful. It’s FREE to enter the general area here and explore the museums (which are beautifully done), grounds, theater and gift shop. That alone is worth the visit to Pearl Harbor. Once you’re in, then you have the option to buy single or multi-attraction tickets. While we also wanted to see the Pacific Aviation Museum, I had a feeling Ensen would be tired after looking around the Mighty Mo for a few hours, so we decided to just do one activity this day. I ended up being right about the tired part.


To get to the Mighty Mo, unless you drive over to Ford Island yourself, you have to take this coach bus from the main entrance.


Photo opp before boarding the ship. It’s huge.


The guns are huge. Can’t imagine being on this thing when they were being fired.


Ensen took his turn as a gunner.


Lunchtime at the Sliders Grill on the dock which serves up burgers, hot dogs and the like. The food is expensive, but it’s the only place to grab a bite near the Mighty Mo. Word is if you can get to the cafe at the Pacific Aviation Museum, there’s some better options there. Nonetheless, we gobbled down a couple of dogs, drank some water, then…


…had Dippin Dots ice cream and made a custom dog tag ($5). We went back on the Mo for a little while after this but Ensen was fading quickly, so we boarded the coach bus and headed back to the main gate. A wonderful day on the Might Mo and at Pearl Harbor. We’ll definitely be back to explore the rest of the sites. There’s just so much to see and do here. I’m estimating two days would be needed to fully enjoy everything.

FRIDAY, MARCH 25
Our last day of spring break began with breakfast at Cafe Kaila (at Market City) with Uncle Regan. I’d been hearing a lot of good things about this place and I’m glad we gave it a try. It was packed and we waited about 30 minutes for a table. But the food and service was great. I had the Italian Sausage Frittata which was the size of my head and very good. Ensen went for the waffle which was yummy. A nice breakfast before we headed off to meet Aunty Erin and Grandma Kam for lunch.


Following lunch, Ensen and I took grandma to National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl to visit my grandpa. Hard to believe it’s already been eight years since his passing. Seems like just yesterday. It was nice to be able to share this moment with Ensen, tell him a little bit about how my grandpa was quite the handyman and all around nice guy, and have him help my grandma with the flowers.


And for his help, Grandma Kam rewarded him with a shave ice at Shimazu Store. Quite possibly the perfect end to a very busy, fun, and memorable spring break vacation.


This whole experience made me realize I need to get away from the office once in a while to kick back, relax, and enjoy this island paradise we call home with loved ones and friends. I’m already looking forward to spring break next year. But hopefully, Kelly and Avery can be there with us as we create more family memories together.

-NGK