Waimanalo Pumpkin Patch!

img_3622I absolutely love October. Even on the island, October means the wind and waves pick up, the weather cools down, and the rains come down. It’s perfect weather for hiking and, with enough rain, the Koolau’s weep with plentiful waterfalls. It’s awesome.

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In the spirit of fall, we headed to Waimanalo Country Farms’ pumpkin patch. Nestled between the sea and majestic Koolau mountains, the farm sits on an idyllic plateau perfect for pumpkin-patching and photo ops.

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Bama had a great time picking out her own mini-pumpkin! If you’re in Hawaii during the next month, you’ve got to go!

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The four of us ended up taking home a ton of pumpkins. Thankfully, my friend brought this hand wagon to lug them through the farm.

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Waimanlo Country Farms is famous for its delicious Nalo-Made Lemonade. I got a Li Hing (a local spice) Lemonade in this super cute, reusable jar.

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We lugged our pumkins up to the sunflower patch, which is up on a little plateau and right below the mountains. Amidst all the sunflowers, you can even see a glimpse of the ocean on the opposite side.


We also found a few activities, but the gaint pumpkin beer pong game was definitely our favorite.

 

Travel Tuesday: Munich, Germany


I know I fall in love easily – but in Munich, Germany, I fell hard. By the end of my first day in this sprawling, clean-cut, surprisingly green city, I was googling jobs and housing prices because I was about 80% ready to move there. It really was that damn cool.

As a German myself, I felt like Munich captured all of my favorite things and activities in one beautiful, well-planned city. Here’s a few of my favorite Munich things….

The Trails

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I loved Munich’s spider-web system of forested parks, tucked into every available nook, cranny and corner throughout the European/art/industrial-style city.

I went on a 7 mile run through the Oktoberfest grounds and found path upon path that crossed a city street and led me into a suspiciously forest-like trail to yet another city street and yet another forested trail and felt like I could just run to my heart’s content.

 

 

The Bikes


It was wonderful that a big and busy city like Munich had, on every single street, lanes for cars, a lane for bikes, and a lane for walkers and joggers. That’s the other thing I loved – the bikes. People rode bikes everywhere and to seemingly every type of thing. I saw people lugging groceries home from the farmer’s market, in heels and crisp office attire and suits casually riding home with friends. I saw baskets packed with baguettes and wine, stopped in the park for an impromptu picnic.

The Beer Gardens 

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These very magical things called Beer Gardens are so cool, and so, so German. They’re outdoor bars with big, wooden tables and benches tucked into large, gorgeous parks. Some serve gigantic portions of beer and homemade pretzels (yes, please!) while others offer German ice cream, donuts, or a full dinner spread. The gardens were packed with tourists and locals alike, and everyone seemed so settled and relaxed. It’s been a dream of mine to down a glass of beer bigger than my face in the middle of a beautiful park, and alas, it has come true. Thank you, München!

The Surfing

YES, you read that right.

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People surf – yes, with a surfboard and wetsuit and everything – on the river that winds its way through the city. It seemed that the river mouth at this particular nook of the park created an artificial wave, which could be hopped on and ridden with a surfboard. We walked past it without realizing what it was, and were drawn by the crowds of onlookers and very out-of-place gang of barefoot teenage boys, surfboards in hand, that flocked off the bus.

When I saw the surfing, I totally freaked out. This is when the google research for my future relocated to Munich began. Biking, running, surfing, garden-beer-drinking – what more could a girl want? I mean, really?


The food was equally amazing, but will have to wait for another post, because I have too much excitement and way too many pictures.

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It’s been a few years since I’ve set foot in Europe, after a few beautiful trips to Belgium, France, Italy & Prague. I absolutely adore everything about Europe. The cobblestone streets, the crisp air, brick and mortar bridges, towering castles and bustling cities. On some lucky nights I drift off and dream im wandering down a century old street sipping an espresso and immersing myself in the rich and wide ranging language sand cultures.


This week, my family and I hopped on a cramped flight to Detroit and flew standby to Munich, Germany. By some magical trick of luck, we not only made it there on our first attempt, but my mom, sister and I landed the last three seats on the aircraft. Which, even luckier, happened to be in first class.


My life has changed so much since my last European adventure, and it was incredible to venture that way again in such over the top luck and luxury. 


What was also awesome was the breadth of vegan options in first class. Along with my champagne, I dined on a fresh greens salad, a mix of warm nuts, and summer squash, tomato and vidalia onion tart. For dessert, they didn’t have much, but they did have fresh fruit and fig compote – sans the selection of fine cheeses – and poof! Vegan dessert, y’all.


ALSO, breakfast. BREAKFAST! 
I was a vegetarian on my previous rendezvous across the continent, so I’m excited to see what Germany and Prague have in store for me as a vegan. 
I’m blessed, thankful and beyond lucky to be on this magical trip. Travel brings out the best in all of us, and so much truth, peace and clarity.
Happy travels!

Nikki

Travel Tuesday: Mt. Olympus Hike


I expected to be writing a super cool post about my awesome travels around Europe with my family, which I would be getting back from just about now. Instead, I didn’t go anywhere – the Europe trip I’d been looking forward to all year became the Europe trip that wasn’t. My mom tore her Achilles tendon, my sister had knee surgery, and my dad injured his kneecap – all within a week. Apparently, this trip just was NOT meant to be.


Seriously, that really did happen. Don’t believe me? My sister sent me this of all of their boots chilling at home together in collective injured non-travelness.


Since I can’t travel, I decided to cram some extra adventure into my life on the island – in the form of beach time, hikes, and  a spontaneous trip up to North Shore. My favorite adventure, though, was a wet, cold, slippery hike up Waahila Ridge Trail to Oahu’s Mt. Olympus peak.


It was one of those hikes were everything went wrong; we left too late, picked the worst possible weather, and struggled to slip and slide up muddy slopes. Mt. Olympus usually offers stunning, panoramic views of Oahu’s south and east shorelines, but it was so cloudy we couldn’t see a damn thing. In fact, it felt as if we were walking on mist itself, the ridge breaking out just above the crown of the clouds.


It was freezing cold and we drudged through mud and sideways, slightly torrential rain. We got to almost the top and the rain picked up so much that we were climbing up a river and were forced to turn back. It was nearly impossible to grab onto the ropes, since they were slick with rain and wet and mud.


We left so late in the day that we walked back the last third of the ridge in the dark. I slipped and fell on my ass half a dozen times on slick tree roots that I couldn’t see because the sun had set and were out of light and luck.


Yet, somehow, it was insanely fun and memorable. How is it that the worst times are often remembered as the best?
  

Aloha Friday: Kapoho Tide Pools

  
I barely ever make it out to the west side. Small as this island is, we all keep to our own sections 99% of the time; have our own hikes, places to eat, and secret spots. The day after thanksgiving, though, my friends decided to take a spontaneous road trip to the other side.

Hello from the other side…..

The Kapoho Tide Pools are towards Oahu’s westernmost tip, so it’s a relatively far journey for us island folk. The drive there veers off to a dirt road riddled with gigantic puddles, dips, and rocks. Thankfully, we had a truck to muscle our way through to the stopping point and continue on foot.

The hike is breathtaking; we watched waves crash against rocky sea cliffs as the sun set poetically in the distance, lighting the land and sea and equally glittering gold. We had a hard time even walking out there because we kept turning around at the stunning landscape in disbelief.

The tide pools are awesome; isolated, turquoise and teeming with life. There were crabs, vana (Hawaiian sea urchin) and small fish busying about beneath our feet. The pools were big and deep enough to swim in, and were warmer than the sea from the sun’s glare.

   

  

  

  

  

  

Travel Tuesday: British Butterfly Garden

   

Shakespeare’s birthplace offers many charms, from sleepy riverboats cruising down cobblestone-flanked rivers to fairy-tale cottages and windmills dotting the town’s outskirts. My favorite part about the picturesque Stratford-Upon-Avon wasn’t high tea. It was the breathtaking butterfly garden that I could’ve wandered around in for hours.  

   
The butterfly sanctuary is a haven for humans and insects alike. There’s iguanas lunging lazily on the netting above and gorgeous plants of every kind shoved into every possible space. Although indoors, the garden is lush and welcoming. Even the butterflies (which are literally everywhere) barely flinch as you walk by and inch closer to check out their unique beauty.

I absolutely adored this place. Butterflies were landing all over us, and even would walk onto our fingers from a nearby leaf without the slightest hesitation. There were all kinds of shapes, sizes, colors, and patterns, each gorgeous in their own right. The energy inside the garden was peaceful, precious and overwhelmingly special.

  

    
 

Aloha Friday: Tantalus Hike

  
In theory, Tantalus is nothing more than a cylindrical cone point in the southern Koʻolau Mountain range on Oahu’s South Side. In reality, though, it’s a magical change of atmosphere a few miles up and away from he bustling city of Honolulu. It boasts spectacular 360-degree of the island’s staggeringly varied landscape and a criss-crossed frenzy of trails and loops that traverse all over its forested point.

There’s trails off shooting the main lo0ps at every turn; you can ascend to the top for picturesque views or weave deeper into the forest through gigantic trees, bamboos, and sporadic clearings.

  
 So close to the city, Tantalus provides a gorgeous and well-deserved escape into the Hawaiian jungle. And I’ve only seen very little of it’s beauty 🙂

Happy Hiking!

   
    
    
 

Travel Tuesday: Windsor Castle

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England is a magical place – equally modern and ancient, the old and new co-existing with castles aplenty. Although I’ve seen my fair share of castles, there’s something special about a castle that is still used as a private, royal residence. In fact, part of Berkshire, England’s majestic Windsor Castle was shut off because in anticipation of the Queen’s arrival.

Like most castles, Windsor Castle is overwhelming first, and incredible second. It amazes me that mere humans erected such gigantic, well-built structures that are still standing in their medieval might.

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The castle is obviously self-sustaining; inexplicably thick walls surround the ‘neighborhood’ contained inside. There’s St. George’s Chapel, a gorgeous gothic church in its own right; the gold-plated, ornate State Apartments; the endless green courtyards and brick and stone that comprise the rest.

Taking photographs inside the buildings is forbidden, as a means to protect the 11th-century oil paintings, hand-carved weapons and gold-gilt walls. We did take quite a few outside of the castle and around its courtyards and cobblestone walkways that capture the mere size and magic of this place.

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Travel Tuesday: Vegetarian in London!

Eating animal-free on the go can be troublesome stateside, but in Europe, it’s a cinch. Even in London, I was amazed by the plethora of plant-based choices at pubs, mom & pop’s, hotels and the like.

Warning: If you’re vegan, it’s a whole different story. Cheese, butter & sometimes eggs are prevelant in meat alternatives. All of these choices are sans-meat, but not all are vegan.

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My first (& one of my favorite) vegetarian meals was at a local pub, recommended by the concierge at our little hotel. There, I immediately spotted vegetarian bangers & mash, a meat-free take on classic English fare. The plate featured yummy veggie sausages (the “bangers”) atop a pile of mashed potatoes & peas. I’m not a huge fan of peas, but the English seem to put them on everything – whether they be mashed, creamed, mushy, or firm. I think I’ve officially hit my lifetime limit of peas. Anyways, I loved that I got to try some English food the veggie way, particularly at the very first pub we went to!

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Thankfully, beer is always a good choice anywhere in the world 🙂 Our trip was off to a really good (animal-friendly) start.

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Just like in the States, ethnic food is an easy way to garauntee that delicious, healthy & plant-based abound. In many cousines, veg dishes aren’t just an accident or tossed in the menu to appease vegetarians – they’re main dishes, delicacies and staples. One of my favorite things on the entire planet is Lebanese food, and local spots were dotted all along London’s quaint streets. I feasted on a Batata Harra wrap, a spicy mix of diced potatoes and sautéed veggies, creamy sauce and hummus. It was so delicious I honestly almost cried! I love pairing spice with creamy, and this wrap was cheap and totally blew my mind.

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Thankfully, we were wise enough to order some baba ganoush, an hummus-type dip made of cooked eggplant, oils, tomatoes, onions and spices. Ours even featured some pomegranate and bell peppers, alongside homemade Lebanese pita bread. Yum!!

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As if the meat-friendly meal couldn’t get any better, it totally did. Every table finishes off with a plate of fresh fruit and varieties of Baklava. Each one was so insanely delish that we were fighting over the crumbs like little kids. My favorite was the one in the back with green filling – an uber-yummy pistachio delicacy.

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Another English staple is the crispy, greasy, fried fish & chips – with, of course, a side of peas. I was stoked to find two different pubs that served up a vegetarian-friendly version. The fish filling is made of a certain kind of cheese, which sounds really odd – but the thick texture of the cheese and fishy seasoning were surprisingly close to the real deal. Again, if you’re vegan, this wouldn’t have been an option, but it’s still a welcome gesture that it’s even offered.

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English tea time: a beautiful, adorable, and necessary food-related experience while on the British isle. Tea time was quaint, cool, and a total blast – and eating meat-free was a cinch. My sandwiches came with peeled grapes & brie, and were arguably the best little sandwiches on the menu. I’m totally going to make these at home, tea party or not. The second tier (you work your way up) was filled with yummy scones and clotted cream, followed by some super-sweet little desserts. If you’re vegan, again, tea time would be a toughie.

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We also stopped by an adorable little French cafe on the river outside of Windsor Castle. We feasted on warm bread, a beautiful pea & pumpkin soup (there’s the peas again!) and this delicious, flaky pastry stuffed with goat cheese, olives, and ratatouille. Yea, you read that right. I’m salivating just writing about it – the flaky pastry and ratatouille combo blew any soup & sourdough Stateside experience out the window.

IMG_0405American airports are known for being crammed with overpriced fast food and mile-long Starbucks lines. To be fair, they have been getting a little better with their food chocies, but still pale in comparison to every experience I’ve had in Europe. The UK was no different – we found ourselves starving & overtired, struggling to pick what and where to eat. Since we were also nearly out of money, we popped into a convenience store and found an awesome combo deal for a drink, wrap & snack. I chose this insanely good wrap and a side of edamame & hummus, coupled with an all-natural, no sugar added ginger rootbeer. Why don’t we have this many healthy, affordable options in the States??

I had an amazing time in England – I honestly can’t wait to go back! And, of course, eat more food 🙂 happy travels!

 

 

 

 

A Brief Post from London!

  
From the food and people to the shops and sights, London is teeming with variety. The city is unequivocally diverse; more than I could have ever expected. And just as the old buildings intermingle with the new and state of the art, London has its own unique feel. Old and new, British and foreign, together yet apart.

To be honest, I absolutely loved London. It’s one of the few places I could really see myself moving for a year or two. They speak my language, I understand the culture, and it was easy to slip in to a London state of mind. 

Like most metropolitan European cities, in London, it’s common to walk everywhere. Even with public transit (spoiler alert: those red double-decker busses are everywhere, and used for basic transit) we were walking at least ten miles a day! Since my dad & I are training for a marathon & left our running shoes at home, this was a great way to stay in shape. And, of course, make room for pies & ale 🙂

  
I’d heard a lot about the pubs serving warm beer, but it’s actually just the room temperature of where the legs are stored (usually the basement.) Since it rarely gets warm here and old stone basements stay co,

It’s not that bad. I found I didn’t mind the temperatures at all. 

I’ll have to do a proper post about the food (veg options everywhere!) and each of the sights, but I’ll upload a few shots from the street! 

Side note: Westminster Abbey is a must-see, and totally needs about five posts. I was majorly geeking out at the Poet’s Corner 🙂 

Happy Travels,

Nikki