Bali High - Oahu

View from our hotel room at Turtle Bay, north shore, Oahu

Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea.
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be.

Bali Ha'i may call you,
Any night, any day,
In your heart, you'll hear it call you:
"Come away...Come away."
(Rogers and Hammerstein, "Bali High", from their musical "South Pacific")

My sons sit on the same sofa that Russell Brand and Jason Segel sat on in the movie"Forgetting Sarah Marshall"

For the first time in 17 years, my little nuclear family took a vacation, just the four of us, without any in-laws or relatives of any kind. It was a celebration : of Son#1's high school graduation, of our life together - I was not so secretly hoping to implant some happy memories, just before everyone starts to move away. Avoiding the diaspora of kids going off to college - maybe I can bribe them to join up for future vacations, if this last one is so pleasant. And it was. It was.
Folk who know me know I love to spend the dreary winter months researching and planning summer vacation adventures. Travel is my middle name. It was extremely ironic to me that while I have journeyed from Edinburgh, Scotland to Luxor, Egypt; from Kingstown, Jamaica to Eilat, Israel on the Red Sea, I had to never been to Hawaii. I have listened to friends for years ramble on about how awesome it was, half tuned them out and yawned.....well, no more. Thanks to a small bequest from my father, we were finally able to visit the American paradise. I loved it ! Spent enough time researching the very specific things we wanted to do, places we wanted to go and type of vacation we wanted to have (for ex: I don't like crowds, and when traveling with teenage males, I long ago vowed never to share a room with them - ever - again. Suites a requirement of my "family togetherness"!) Manged to find the very places to stay and things to do that met all my idiosyncratic personal requirements (Did you know that I will only eat local food, refuse to eat fast food or in chain restaurants?)

Hubster and younger son get scuba certified in the hotel pool. Later they went scuba diving in a turtle sanctuary.
We started our trip staying on the north shore of Oahu- a pleasant place I found to be much less chaotic and bustling than the glamorous Waikiki, on the south side of the island. (We stayed there, later, to facilitate touring all the Honolulu sights such as Pearl Harbor.) Of course, summer is the "off" season here- the surfer crowds come in the winter, when the waves are large, to surf the Bonzai Pipeline. All our needs were met at the wonderful and recently revamped Turtle Bay Resort (as seen in the movies "Soul Surfer" and "Forgetting Sarah Marshall"). My husband and sons took surfing lessons and got to play with baby sized waves (what the locals call "ankle biters") while I lounged by the pool and drank fruity drinks with tiny umbrellas in them. It was the perfect respite from a busy year. The area we stayed in was lush, verdant, green and tropical. Daily high temps in the mid 80's - a good 20 degrees or more cooler than Texas back home. Charming little towns dotted the coast; we were amazed that no one seems to live in the interior of the island, and there were not as many people, in general, as we expected, anywhere.

3 amigos surf the north shore near the Bonzai Pipeline

We ate at some great local spots in and around Haleiwa: one, Ted's bakery, was the source for all the baked goods in the restaurants all over the island. Tried not only the typical meat + 2 sides Hawaiian plate lunch (did not think we would like the mac salad, but we loved it ! If anyone has a recipe, let me know!) but also an amazing chocolate + coconut cream pie. Yum !
Near Haleiwa
We fell in love with some of these little towns. I want to retire there...if I ever win the lottery, this is where I will go.

Your own special hopes,
Your own special dreams,
Bloom on the hillside
And shine in the streams.
If you try, you'll find me
Where the sky meets the sea.
"Here am I your special island
Come to me, Come to me."

Bali Ha'i,
Bali Ha'i,
Bali Ha'i!

Someday you'll see me floatin' in the sunshine,
My head stickin' out from a low fluin' cloud,
You'll hear me call you,
Singin' through the sunshine,
Sweet and clear as can be:
"Come to me, here am I, come to me."
If you try, you'll find me
Where the sky meets the sea.
"Here am I your special island
Come to me, Come to me."

Cheeseburger in Paradise - Maui

Father and son rock the puka beads at Star Noodle, in Lahaina, Maui. More Asian fusion: Pho, Japanese, Thai

Tried to amend my carnivorous habits
Made it nearly seventy days
Losin' weight without speed, eatin' sunflower seeds
Drinkin' lots of carrot juice and soakin' up rays

But at night I'd had these wonderful dreams
Some kind of sensuous treat
Not zucchini, fettucini or Bulgar wheat
But a big warm bun and a huge hunk of meat

Cheeseburger in paradise (paradise)
Heaven on earth with an onion slice (paradise)
Not too particular not too precise (paradise)
I'm just a cheeseburger in paradise

Heard about the old time sailor men
They eat the same thing again and again
Warm beer and bread they said could raise the dead
Well it reminds me of the menu at a holiday inn

Times have changed for sailors these days
When I'm in port I get what I need
Not just Havanas or bananas or daiquiris
But that American creation on which I feed
Jimmy Buffet, "Cheeseburger in Paradise"

Yes, there is a chain restaurant on Maui called "Cheeseburger in Paradise". No we did not eat there.
Hubster in a peaceful moment in Maui
While the north shore was just the peaceful break I needed from earlier summer activities of going to grad school and thinking about work (I spent the whole time either on the beach or by the pool, tanning and sipping mai tai's), we decided to balance some of the calm with a little spice. Headed over to Maui for a hew days and stayed in Lahaina, the old whaling city on the western shore. Hot and dry, over developed with big hotels and lots of stores and restaurants, crammed full of tourists, it was like Disney world's version of "Hawaii-land". There was lots to see and do.

I get in touch with my spirituality at the Jodo Temple, Maui. There were so many things - it all looks so tiny, on a map, compared to Texas - but you can never see and do it all. Many folk recommended the Road to Hana, with its beautiful scenery and lush waterfalls, to us, and we just ran out of time. Next time....gotta have a reason to go back, right?

We went to a luau called Old Lahaina Luau (travel book said it was the best of them all), tried all the wonderful food, watched the dancers, listened to the Hawaiian "calypso" type band, saw the sun set over the ocean, the guys doing crafts, the pig come out of the pit- had a great time. Sure, it's a cliche, but if you don't do it at least once, you feel sort of ripped off, or like you are missing something. This was a great way to sample a lot of traditional dishes, great variety of pretty good food, and all you can drink booze (although somewhat watered down). It isn't cheap, however. I am not going to lie. But worth it- at least now and then.

Boys on top of Maui's volcano, Haleakala, classified as an "active" volcano. Over ten thousand feet from the sea, 27,000 ft from the ocean's floor. That valley in the background is the volcano's crater.

Hawaiian Dream Vacation

Waikiki Beach, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii
We concluded our trip with a stop in Waikiki, so we could conveniently tour all the nearby historical sites before we headed out. Stayed at the Embassy Suites Waikiki . I love that hotel chain, (a member of the Hilton chain, my stays let me collect points so I can visit other spots for free)as it has true 2 room suites, (not just a large room with a sofa) and the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet is a life-saver when trying to fill up hungry teenagers. Can you imagine if we had to pay to feed them ? The cost saved from breakfast alone pays for the room. ( It's a great buffet: bacon, eggs, fresh fruit, cereal, waffles, omelets, etc. I eschew places that advertise breakfast, and all that you get is donuts.) It also has a "mangers reception " each night with all the free liquor you can drink...hubster and I have found this a godsend when traveling with a car full of kids. Cheers ! The drinks at this particular branch of the chain, Waikiki Embassy Suites, were particularly strong-er-good ! Highly recommend! As a result of my love for this chain, I am a frequent flier point collector of all things Hilton- but avoided the Hilton Village in Waikiki, on the rec of friends; too many screaming 2 year olds running about. Embassy Suites is typically families with older kids, teens, etc.

Above and below: Pearl Harbor. Rick told Tom he had to be somber, that this was a grave site. He tried......
Had some fabulous meals in Honolulu- One I cannot say enough about: The Side Street Inn (had to use the GPS on our rental car to find it, but worth it!). Our travel guide said it was "the place where local chefs go to eat" and truly, it was full of locals. Asian fusion bar food, to die for. Korean BBQ ribs that were like giant meat lollipops, I just wanted to (not in a sexual way) lick on them all night long. Stir fried rice (and I don't even like stir fried rice, ok ? I know it's just a way to camouflage last night's left over white rice) to die for. To die for! We gobbled it up like there was no tomorrow. It had bacon in it. Trust me. Plus a bunch of other stuff: teriyaki, sushi, pad thai, other things. If you are ever in town, find it ! you will not regret it!

Above: King Kamehameha's statue in Honolulu. Contrary to what the tv show "Hawaii 5-0" would try to convince you, this is not the Honolulu police department HQ. It is a government building. below: A giant tree (yes, all one tree) . I took lots of pix of all the beautiful tropical flowers, too- too many to post here.

Taco Soup

"Taco Soup", as my kids refer to it, is really a sort of chili with veggies added. My children love it and request it frequently. It freezes well , so you can make up a big batch, eat some now, and save the rest, for later. The garnish of shredded cheese and crumbled tortilla chips is key. You can serve this flavorful soup with cornbread and a salad for a delicious family meal. If you don't have pinto beans, make it with black beans or similar beans. You can also adjust the spiciness level to suit your tastes.

Cook Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 5 minutes

Yield: Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, if ground beef is very lean
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 can (15 ounces) pinto beans
  • 1 can (11 to 15 ounces) whole kernel corn ,drained
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes - Mexican style if available
  • 1 can (10 to 15 ounces) Rotel tomatoes (or tomatoes with green chile peppers)
  • 1 pkg. (about 1 ounce) taco seasoning mix -(opt.)
  • 2 1/2 cups water or more, to make soup broth


Brown ground beef and onions in a large pan with olive oil if needed; drain off fat. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for an hour or so. When ready, serve in big soup bowls, and have a skillet of hot cornbread to eat, too.