Antelope Island State Park, Utah

Antelope Island

Antelope Island

When we travel, we’re always looking for new experiences. Nothing could be further from the tropics than Antelope Island in Utah!!! The only thing similar to the tropics is that –  it is an island. When we heard that Antelope Island was a prairie grassland with over 40 fresh water springs, brine shrimp, brine flies, pronghorn antelope, free-range bison, mule deer, bobcats, coyotes, owls, hawks, falcons, porcupine and badgers, we just had to see it for ourselves. The Great Salt Lake provides about 90 percent of the world’s supply of brine shrimp cysts. Brine shrimp are used in laboratories for testing the toxicity of chemicals. Antelope Island is a state park which used to be privately owned until 1969 when the State of Utah purchased it. The island’s shore is mainly flat containing beaches, plains and mountains. The mountains reach an elevation of 6,596 feet. Antelope Island is known as the Basin and Range located from the Wasatch mountains to the Sierra Nevada mountain range. Antelope Island consists of  28,000 acres, 15 miles long and 5 miles wide. In the picture above you can see all of the salt surrounding the lake.

Drive along the narrow, two-lane road which connects the Mainland to an island. Park your car, get out and walk on it. It crunches with each step and you will observe millions of brine flies buzzing around you. Sounds appealing, right? Nonetheless, it is an experience like no other.

The Fielding Garr Ranch is located on the east side of the island. Guides take tourists out on horseback to view the bison.

Smelly Salt Lake

Smelly Salt Lake

Why does the Great Salt Lake smell so bad? When visiting the Wasatch Front you will be taken aback by the ever so pungent rotten egg smell, especially on windy days. The rotten egg smell is actually hydrogen sulfide which is created when bacterial sulfate reduces.  The Great Salt Lake is a hyper-salinity (high salt content) environment.  Sewage facilities on the Great Salt Lake unload their liquid waste into the lake. Ewwww! The bacteria is busy working to decompose waste products as well as the bird, brine fly, and brine shrimp waste. The brine shrimp and flies actually have a purpose, aside from annoyingly buzzing around your body, they eat the algae and bacteria which keeps the smell down. The other reason for the intense, unpleasant smell is due to the brine fly casings, brine shrimp and decaying algae that wash ashore and sit in the heat.

Enjoy hiking? There is a 3-mile Lake Side Trail which is accessible from Bridger Bay Campground. The trail follows the beach around the northwestern tip of the island to the camping area on White Rock Bay. The trail is spectacular at sunset.

Free-range Bison

Free-range Bison

“The amazing herds of buffaloes which resort thither, by their size and number, fill the traveler with amazement and terror” ~ John Filson in 1784

Bison crossing the road

Bison crossing the road

Seeing the bison in a picture, just doesn’t have the same effect as in person. The animals are massive! Bison are extremely tall, way beyond the height of a vehicle and a mature bison bull can weigh up to 2 thousand pounds!! It is a little unnerving when they walk or run toward your car. We were in an SUV and I was still very nervous when the bison came close by. In the picture to the left, you can see how tall the bison is in comparison to the vehicle.

Bison were introduced to the island in 1893. Known as the Antelope Island Bison Herd, they have proven to be a valuable genetic pool for bison breeding and conservation benefit. The bison thrive on Antelope Island due to the dry, native grassland. Bison are the most famous residents on the island. In 1897, twelve animals were brought to the island and today they account for 550 – 700 bison! Each year the health of the animals is accessed.

Antelope Island is made up of alluvial (loose sediments) plains with prairie grassland on the north, east and south of the island. Antelope Island has some of the oldest rocks in the United States, older than the Precambrian rocks at the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

Salt Lake surrounding Antelope Island

Salt Lake surrounding Antelope Island

Antelope Island is surrounded by the Great Salt Lake. The lake is extremely salty, with salt levels reaching as much as 25% of the lake. You won’t see any fish, just Brine Shrimp which become food for the birds. As you can see in this picture, it is so bright that it’s almost blinding. Antelope Island has a dry heat, dry air and it is extremely bright. Don’t forget to wear your sunglasses!

Fees for visiting Antelope Island

Entrance fee: $10 per vehicle up to 8 people

Senior entrance fee (Utah residents over 62 of age): $5 per vehicle up to 8 people

Bicycles and Pedestrians: $3 per person

Commercial Groups (over 8 people per vehicle): $3 per person and $5 per bus

Educational Groups: $1 per person with prior reservation

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A Wonderful Evening at Postcards Cafe, Kauai

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Coconut Caramel Sundae

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook.” ~ Julia Child

This year, for our anniversary, we wanted to indulge in a new dining experience. After ten years of living on Kauai, we had not been to Postcards Café in Hanalei. We had heard rave reviews about Postcards Café, which opened in 1996, but had not yet experienced it for ourselves. Many people describe Postcards as a vegetarian/vegan restaurant with amazing seafood options. The majority of the entrées are vegan, void of any eggs or dairy along with several gluten-free options. In addition, you will not find meat, poultry, or refined sugar on the menu. One thing for sure, Postcards Café is known for their impressive prepared and displayed seafood. All meals include several organic side dishes which are island-grown and organic. Postcards is a fine dining experience with a local café feel. If you appreciate ingredients such as fennel, coconut, roasted beets, truffles, leeks, mirin, teff tortillas, tomatillos, Kaffir lime, Shitake mushrooms, cashews, and pumpkin seeds, then Postcards Café is sure to please.

Postcards Cafe

Postcards Café

“There is no love sincerer than the love of food.”
~ George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman    

Lanai seating

Lanai seating

Start off the evening with a romantic, scenic drive to Hanalei town.

Indoor seating

Indoor seating

Drive along the Hanalei river on your right and just as you come into the little town of Hanalei, Postcards Café will be located on your left hand side. Just a blink and you will drive right past it. Make your way through the white, wooden arch located at the entrance and find yourself at the plantation cottage lanai surrounded by tropical plants swaying in the breeze.

When dining out, we always look for unique features. Postcards Café is a quaint restaurant displaying great use of their small space. With three options for seating, customers may dine on the outside lanai with mountain views amongst the tropical plants, inside with an intimate ambiance and a plantation feel, or on the screened-in lanai facing the town of Hanalei. We had the pleasure of sitting inside as a wedding reception was taking place. We felt as though we were part of the reception, listening to the father’s speech and toasting with the bride and groom.

Monchong with Macadamia Nut Butter

Monchong with Macadamia Nut Butter

“If you’re afraid of butter, use cream.”
~ Julia Child

The wait staff is highly knowledgeable about all of the fresh ingredients in the entrées. Our server went over the fresh fish of the day and the various ways to have it prepared. She recommend the Fresh Island Fish entrée grilled with macadamia nut butter. The fresh fish is prepared either grilled or blackened with macadamia nut butter, herbed citrus or peppered pineapple sage. The vegetables are beautifully prepared and displayed. I don’t know what I was more impressed with, the fish or the vegetables. It is not often that I dine someplace and rave about the vegetables served on the side. There were three vegetables sides served with the fish, generous portions. My favorite was the mashed sweet potato, fluffy, rich and creamy. Monchong is a firm fish which can be dry if not grilled properly. It was grilled to perfection and the char flavor was evident. Monchong is a great protein option as it is low in saturated fat and sodium. It is rich in niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and selenium. I ordered a lovely glass of Pinot Noir with the Monchong and it went very well together.

For the entrées choose from Fennel Crusted Lobster Tail, Fresh Island Fish, Fusilli Pasta with Shrimp & Fish, Wasabi Crusted Ahi, Tandoori (Indian), Teff Tortillas layered with Grilled Vegetables, & Thai Coconut Rice Noodles with Kauai Shrimp Broth. Okay, now you choose!!

Wasabi Crusted Ahi

Wasabi Crusted Ahi

“You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces – just good food from fresh ingredients.”
~ Julia Child

Wasabi Crusted Ahi not to disappoint! We order the ahi seared medium. The fish was so moist that you could cut it with a fork. The wasabi cream sauce was not too pungent, albeit you would need to be fond of wasabi. It was not spicy hot, rather a smooth kick with each bite. The herb crusted, warm tomato slice was very different and complementary to the seafood. We choose the jasmine rice option over the mashed potato. Bliss….

The Chocolate Volcano

The Chocolate Volcano

“A party without cake is just a meeting”
~ Julia Child

The picture really says it all, no words needed. The dessert menu is out of this world, offering scrumptious items such as The Chocolate Volcano (made with pure organic cacao) pictured above, Lilikoi Mousse, Chocolate Silk Pie, Coconut Caramel Sundae (pictured), and the Banana Bliss served with sorbet. Hands down, the Coconut Caramel Sundae is one of the most uniquely delicious desserts I’ve ever had, made with coconut-crusted macadamia ice cream and salted caramel sauce. I wish the caramel sauce were for sale. It was thick, but not gritty and the macadamia nuts mixed in the caramel was OTT (over the top) amazing. The sauce on the Chocolate Volcano dessert plate was to die for. I wish we could have tried all of these desserts. Postcards Café is open daily for dinner starting at 5:30 p.m.

We will be visiting Postcards Café again very soon and will be sure to post the pictures!!! Enjoy

Best seat in the house

Best seat in the house

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”
~ Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own

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Hale Centre Theatre

Hale Centre Theatre

Hale Centre Theatre

“To enter a theatre for a performance is to be inducted into a magical space, to be ushered into the sacred arena of the imagination.”
~Simon Callow, Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World

Let me preface this post by saying ~ theatre is my passion and therefore, as a family, we try our best to see all that we can see!!!! One of the first things I do when booking a vacation, is check to see what plays & musicals are showing in the area. Arts, culture, history and museums can always be incorporated into your travels. Our kids have toured Antoni Gaudí structures in Barcelona, countless cathedrals & castles in Europe, walked the coliseum in Rome, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, explored a Spanish fort dating back to 1640 and sat through hours of musicals.

When we booked our trip to Salt Lake City this summer, we decided to research the local theatre. That is when we stumbled across Hale Centre Theater.  We looked at the dates that we would be in town and noticed that Mary Poppins would be playing, so we booked our tickets and we were on our way.

History of Theatre ~

Theatre dates back to classical Athens in the 6th century BCE, starting out as a type of ritual for the purpose of entertainment. Theatre involved the use of costumes, masks and performers. Eventually, these acts evolved into theatre and the element of ritual was left behind. Theatre really began in Athens and included three types of drama, which are categorized as tragedy, comedy, and the satyr play. In the 3rd century BCE, theatre moved on to ancient Rome and took on a new art form, which included festival performances, nude dancing, acrobatics, comedy, and the tragedies of Seneca. In the 1500’s burlesque and comedy crept into theatre. There are references to theatrical entertainments in China as early as 1500 BCE. During this time, the Shang Dynasty was introduced involving music, clowning and acrobatic displays. The most famous morality play of medieval drama was Everyman in 1550. Interestingly enough, there was an end to the medieval drama in 1547 due to the weakening of the Catholic Church, which banned religious plays in many countries including the Netherlands, Papal States, and Paris. Golden Age Theatre took place from 1590 to 1681 when live theatre started up in Spain. Remarkably, 10,000 – 30,000 plays during the Golden Age are still considered masterpieces today. The 20th-century theatre is when political & epic theatre was introduced such as Theatre of Cruelty and Theatre of the Absurd.

Hale Centre Theatre

Hale CentreTheatre

HCT stage

HCT stage

At Hale Centre Theatre, ticket prices were unbelievably inexpensive at $32 per adult and $16 per child. Children under age 5 are not permitted, which I greatly appreciated. We could enjoy the musical without listening to screaming kids or babies crying. Don’t let the prices fool you, the stage is state-of-the-art, modeled after Cirque du Soleil, with multi-leveled moving floors. The first thing we noticed, as we took our seats, were the 40-50 Mary Poppins umbrellas hanging from the top of the stage. The set is completely magical! I expected a small-town community-type theatre, but was pleasantly surprised with the facility. The seating is ideal, providing optimal views from all seats due to the tiered, circular layout. I found the theatre to be quite similar to the theater at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas where Le Reve is featured. We actually sat in the last row at Mary Poppins, due to booking last-minute, and we had a perfect view. The furthest row is only 32 feet away from center stage.

Hale Centre Theatre offers season ticket passes for $173 per adult, $96 per child age 5-11, which includes entry to all productions. The 2014 season line up is Mary Poppins, She Loves Me, Catch Me If You Can, A Christmas Carol and Is He Dead? 2015 will be showing: Ghost the Musical, Over The River & Through The Wood, Disney’s The Little Mermaid, Oklahoma!, and Big Fish.

The theatre has 75 minute tours available M-F fr, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. which provide interactive, behind the scenes experiences which include live auditions, a review of careers in theatre and performances by the participants – all free of charge! At the end of the tour you will be able to participate in a live performance.  Groups must be a minimum of 25 and maximum of 80.

“If you make people think they’re thinking, they’ll love you; but if you really make them think, they’ll hate you.” In short, entertainment fulfills our expectations. Art, on the other hand, makes no compromise for public taste as it inspires us to consider life’s complexities and ambiguities. Art is the opposition testing the strength of societal and cultural values-values that are thoughtlessly adopted by the mass of individuals living unexamined lives and all who cannot imagine a different way of seeing life.”
~ William Missouri Downs, The Art of Theatre: A Concise Introduction

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“In theatre, the main objective is to make the art happy, not the audience! If you have to choose between the audience and the art, always choose the second! You must know that the audience will constantly pull you down; resist it and fly at the heights like an eagle!”
~ Mehmet Murat ildan

Hale Centre Theatre~

Hale Centre Theatre, named after Nathan and Ruth Hale,  opened on July 12, 1985 with the show I Came to Your Wedding. In 1992, the theatre presented the Broadway musical, Brigadoon. In an effort to improve the sound and stage of the theatre,  in 1998 the doors opened to a newly renovated, 42,000 square-feet in West Valley City, Utah with the performance of Thank You Papa. Hale Centre Theatre has a 12-month production schedule and hires actors for more than 350 roles each season.

“Now one of the largest and most respected community theatres in the country, Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City’s success could be called a triumphant ending to this fabled story; yet, the founders continue the legacy of Nathan and Ruth Hale, adding new acts with their continuous ideas, innovations and improvements.” ~ Quote from the company website

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“When a show ends, for a few days, my body sizzles with leftover energy, like a tree in the wake of a lightning strike.”
~ S.M. Stevens

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Chocolate Tours at Mrs. Cavanaugh’s

 

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“All you need is love. But a little chocolate now and then doesn’t hurt.”
~ Charles M. Schulz

Who doesn’t love the movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory?

Cavanaugh baskets

Cavanaugh baskets

IMG_2796Everyone dreams of touring a real chocolate factory. I remember taking a tour of the Hershey’s & Ghirardelli factory in California when I was young. Recently when visiting Salt Lake City, I decided to take my daughter on a chocolate tour of Mrs. Cavanaugh’s. The tour is approximately an hour-long and only cost $1.00!!! I could not believe how many samples of chocolate and even a sample of ice cream that were provided all for $1.00. You need to make a reservation in advance for the tour. The tour begins with a short video about the history of Mrs. Cavanaugh’s, the cacao plant, cocoa bean liquor extraction and the picking of cocoa beans. The tour includes a movie, samples throughout and walking tour that gives customers a look inside the manufacturing of the candies. Workers are moving about and gummy bears dipped in white chocolate head from the assembly line belt into a box.

Tempering chocolate for the hand dipped nut clusters

Tempering chocolate for the hand dipped nut clusters

Tempering Chocolate~

IMG_2808Tempered chocolate is what makes the chocolates look professional! Tempered chocolate is smooth and shiny, without the white, chalky appearance. Chocolate that isn’t tempered won’t taste different but it will appear overly soft and sticky at room temperature. Those gray and white streaks that appear after making fudge, are a result of chocolate that wasn’t tempered.

What happens when chocolate is tempered?  The chocolate is made up of different little crystals called “beta” crystals. The formation of the “beta” crystals are what creates the appearance of the finished candy. When a white, chalky, unattractive appearance is on the top of the chocolate, many people mistake this for the chocolate going bad; When it reality, is it caused by the cocoa butter (fat) rising to the top.  Some people go as far as tossing the chocolate out for fear that it has molded.

Tempered chocolate should be nice and shiny when purchased. However, if you leave it in the sun or in your car, it will become white/gray in color. This is a result of the chocolate losing its temper. Even baking chocolate, such as chocolate chips or baking squares,  are tempered. Keep in mind, once the chocolate has been melted, it has lost its temper and will need to be re-tempered.

How do you temper chocolate? Working with a larger quantity, at least 1 lb., makes tempering much easier.  Choose a chocolate that is shiny and hard without any solid products mixed in, such as fruit or nuts. Avoid chocolate chips and chocolate that has streaks or appears crumbly. Dark chocolate tends to be the easiest to temper due to the lack of milk solids. Chop the chocolate into small pieces, place in microwave bowl, microwave 30 secs at a time stirring after each increment, heat to 115 degrees (you will need a thermometer) and then cool down to 90 degrees by stirring, spread on wax or parchment paper and it should cool in 4-6  minutes, losing its shine and turning matte slowly. Do not place in the refrigerator to speed up the tempering process. Tempered chocolate is great for dipping truffles, making barks, clusters, or candy bars.

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“What you see before you, my friend, is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”
~ Katharine Hepburn

On the factory tour you will get a chance to see the workers stretch & cut peanut brittle, cut caramel into pieces, hand-dip the nut clusters, pouring, cutting & dipping of their famous Mindy Mints! All of this can be seen from behind the glass windows throughout the factory.

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IMG_2812Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Candies is the perfect place to pick up a gift! You can even order on-line!

Kerri Cherry

Kerri Cherry

Choose from famous brittles, caramel pecan logs, white/milk chocolate coated gummy bears, cinnamon bears and pretzels, sandwich mints, milk/dark chocolate coated peanuts, roasted nuts and much more! I even found a chocolate with my name on it, “Kerri Cherry” cordials with cherry almond creme.

The best part about Mrs. Cavanaugh’s candies for a gift is creating your own box. You don’t have to purchase an assortment full of candies that you would never eat. Are you one of those people who takes a bite of the chocolate, looks inside and then puts it back? No one wants that. The candies are sold by the pound at the same price, so build your own box. You can also purchase one of the “Most Famous Chocolates” box in milk, dark or assorted chocolate which are available in 1, 2 & 3 lb. boxes. The “Most Famous Chocolates” were chosen by their customers as the top picks. Prices are $27.95 for 1 lb. box, $50.90 for a 2 lb. box, $73.90 for a 3 lb. box, & $114.68 for a 5 lb. box.

There are also sugarless chocolate boxes for those of you who stay away from sugar. These boxes include truffles, cavaliers, pecan rolls, haystacks, nut clusters and caramels. The sugar-free chocolates do contain mannitol.

At the end of the tour, ice cream samples are available. Yes, they have ice cream too! Sample the various ice creams and then purchase a scoop at a very reasonable price. Kids scoops are only $1.00.

“It started when my aunt sent her pecan-rolls recipe,” Mrs. Cavanaugh recalled. “I gave the recipe my own touch and started making the yummy specialties.  Then I began dipping chocolates.  Our friends and neighbors loved these treats, encouraging me to start a candy business.  Finally, I decided it might be a good idea.’”

~ Quoted from Mrs. Cavanaugh’s webpage. 

Decisions, decisions

Decisions, decisions

Mrs. Cavanaugh’s has six stores, all located in Utah. You can purchase chocolates in North Salt Lake, North Ogden, Bountiful, Layton, Valley Fair Mall, and in Provo. Mrs. Cavanaugh’s Candies has been recognized on numerous occasions as the Candy/Confectionery recipient of Utah’s Best of State Award.

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A Lil Bit of Country~ Kalaheo Steak & Ribs

Pecorino Cheese Stuffed Pork Chop

Pecorino Cheese Stuffed Pork Chop

Come on in

Come on in

Sometimes you just crave that good ‘ole country food with homemade barbecue sauce, steak sauce, meat with the grill marks on it and grilled potatoes. After 11 years of living on Kauai and hearing so many great things about Kalaheo Steak & Ribs, we finally decided to take the kids! Kalaheo Steak & Ribs is located in a historic building at 4444 Papalina Road in Kalaheo on the west side of Kauai. The restaurant has been in existence for over 30 years and was originally named the Kalaheo Steak House.When you first enter the restaurant, you will walk right into their saloon.

Saloon

Saloon

The saloon is a happen’n place where you will find karaoke on Friday/Saturday evenings and live music on Thursday/Sunday evenings. It has the feel of a real saloon, minus the dust on the floor. Complete with horns on the ceiling, wood siding throughout and my favorite, the pictures of Kalaheo from the 30’s & 40’s in sepia and black & white. Step into the feel of a true steakhouse, with dimmed lights and paniolo decor. The restaurant is filled with booths and wooden tables.

Let’s talk food~ for starters the waiter will bring a basket of bread covered in garlic butter. May very well be the best bread I’ve ever had. Clearly not low in fat, the bread smells amazing before you take the first bite. Of course, I took a photo so that your mouth would water. I am one of those people who really expects hot bread brought to the table whendining at a nice (pricey) restaurant. I love bread with my food! Just be careful not to fill up on the bread which keeps coming throughout your meal. I also appreciate that, not having to ask for more.

Garlic Bread

Garlic Bread

Usually a steak house is known for their hearty meals, steak and other special cuts of meat. However, Kalaheo Steak & Ribs had a very diverse menu for a steakhouse. For those of you who don’t eat red meat or pork, try the calamari, poke (raw ahi), stuffed mushrooms or steamed clams for starters. Non-beef or pork entrees include Chicken Picatta, Fettucini Alfredo, Pasta Marinara, and Fresh Kauai Water Fish. All entrees are served with a salad and a choice of mashed potato, baked potato or rice. Let me add that the mashed potatoes have chucks of the skin from the new potatoes, which I love!!!

Since my family is made up of carnivores, those are the only pictures of food that I have. Pork can be so dry if not prepared properly. I ordered the Pecorino Cheese Stuffed Pork Chop (pictured above), which was to die for. The sauce over the pork chop and potatoes made the entire dish! The pork chop was stuffed to perfection, not too much cheese oozing out but enough to taste the flavor.

Paniolo Burger

Paniolo Burger

Baby-back Pork Ribs

Baby-back Pork Ribs

 

Rib Eye Steak

Rib Eye Steak

For those of you who are “burger people” (there is one in every family), Kalaheo Steak & Ribs has a Gourmet Paniolo Burger made with  top-quality ground round, apple wood bacon, aged white-cheddar cheese, grilled onions, jalapeno peppers, tomato, lettuce, and aioli on a sesame seed bun. Steak, steak, steak. We must talk about the steak and ribs at Kalaheo Steak & Ribs. We ordered both!! The baby-back pork ribs fall off of the bone and are served with hickory cranberry BBQ sauce and island-style slaw.

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For the steak choice, we opted for the Rib Eye over the Filet Mignon. The portion was large and cooked perfectly, as requested. This is one of the few restaurants where everything that we ordered was wonderful. We didn’t have any complaints about the food and the service was fabulous! Don’t forget to save room for dessert! The dessert menu offers delicious local favorites such as Coconut & Chocolate Pie, Heavenly Hana Ice Cream Pie, Molokai’i Sweet Bread Pudding, and Lappert’s (locally made) Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.

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Kalaheo Steak & Ribs is open Tuesday – Sunday from 4:00 to 10:00pm with Happy Hour from 4:00pm to 7:00pm and Dinner from 5:00pm to 9:30pm.

$$ Saving Tips~ The portions are fairly large, so it is a great place to split entrees! Order an appetizer and split a meal. The bread keeps coming, so you will not leave hungry. We each took home doggy bags. Try and arrive just before Happy Hour ends so you can order a drink with your meal at a discounted price. Kalaheo Steak & Ribs does have kids menus.

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Timeshare travel ~ The Westin Ocean Resort Villas

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The Westin Ocean Resort Villas, Kauai

2013 Timeshare Facts

There are 29 percent more resorts planned for 2014

1,540 timeshare resorts in the United States, representing about 192,420 units

Average resort size is 125 units

Beach resorts are the most common type of resort

Urban resorts have the highest occupancy

Florida has the most resorts — 23% of the national total

Nevada has the largest average resort size — 283 units on average

Hawaii has the highest average sales price — $27,712 and occupancy rate 85.2%

Lobby

Lobby

Spacious balcony

Spacious balcony

Vacation is something to look forward to, a much-needed break, time for R&R, but when traveling with a family, kids or grandchildren ~ a hotel room can prove to be challenging. With only two beds, a tv and a bathroom, the space turns into kids jumping from bed to bed or teens fighting in a confined area. Now, the idea of vacation has just completely taken a nose dive. This post is not to promote the purchase of timeshare, but merely to outline the benefits of timeshare vacationing whether you purchase or simply book a night.

We absolutely LOVE to stay in timeshare units for several reasons. Most timeshare units are extremely spacious, including multiple rooms, washer & dryer in unit, fully stalked kitchens, towels, BBQ utensils, and ice chests. The convenience of more than one TV in the unit is nice. This allows the parents to watch one show while the kids watch a movie in the living room. You never know when the weather may turn and you find yourselves indoors watching movies all day. Timeshare properties are in constant competition with other timeshare properties; therefore, the amenities just keep getting better!!! Expect spacious balconies, which is the perfect spot to eat breakfast, watch birds, have a glass of wine or, at the Westin Ocean Resort Villas, watch golfers play on the Makai Golf Course or simply view the ocean waves roll in.

Ping Pong

Ping Pong

The Westin Ocean Resorts Villas are located in Princeville on Kauai’s north shore.

Pool tables

Pool tables

The units at the Westin set up high on the north shore, overlooking the ocean; however, there is not an accessible beach from the resort itself. Gorgeous Hanalei Bay is just 3.8 miles up the road. The Westin has multiple pools, bbq’s overlooking the ocean, pool tables, state-of-the-art gym, on-site market, poolside bar, pool wait staff, ocean front massage cabanas, restaurant, multiple hot tubs, ping-pong tables and much more. It is the perfect place to stay and not have to leave for any reason. If you already live near a beach and you just want to get away without having to leave once you get there, this is the place!

The ping-pong and pool tables are a great way to enjoy family time. We took turns, teaming up with boys against girls and adults verses kids. It gives families a chance to have healthy, competitive fun. Stay active- get moving! The gym at the Westin is a state-of-the-art fitness facility which includes Life Fitness equipment. The fitness center is glass, allowing each guest an ocean view while exercising away. The fitness center has complimentary, chilled water and towels for an  after workout shower.

IMG_1498Since vacation is all about relaxation, let’s talk about the pools. The Ocean Resort Villas have 4 pools. The Main Pool (pictured above) is a multilevel pool surrounded by lounge chairs with straw covered bungalows. Little ones will love to splash around in the Keiki (children’s) pool which has a small slide and two turtles to climb on. There are two other plunge pools located around the resort. The resort is quite spread out, so it is nice to have pools located throughout.

Keiki Pool

Keiki Pool

Nanea

Nanea

 

Wailele Bar

Wailele Bar

Nanea is the main restaurant on property, serving breakfast, lunch and dinner daily with a brunch on Sundays.  Enjoy dining in the open-aired dining room or outside on the terrace. Gluten-free and vegan options are available on the menu. Nanea Restaurant and Bar offers a 5 course tasting menu with wine pairing.

When lounging poolside, order lunch from the Wailele (waterfall) Bar and have it brought to your chair. While eating lunch or sipping on a tropical cocktail, there are views of three waterfalls atop surrounding mountain peaks.

BBQ with a view

BBQ with a view

IMG_1577Our favorite amenity at the Westin Ocean Resort Villas are the bbq’s!!! It doesn’t really feel like cooking when you can enjoy an ocean view while lounging poolside. Relax in the whirlpools while your food is grilling away. When the food is ready, sit outside and eat as a family, sip wine and play games. Some of the outdoor eating areas are covered for the occasional passing shower. We spent every evening outside grilling different foods. Be creative, make something different and fun since it is vacation! Go for shish kabob, marinated vegetables or lobster. Adults can enjoy long dinners with conversation while the kids splash away in the pool.

BBQ’s are located throughout the property. Availability of tables was never an issue. One evening we shared a large table with another family on vacation. The property is very family friendly and has a lively atmosphere with music playing in the evenings.

Covered tables

Covered tables

Now for the villas~

Living room

Living room

There are studio, 1 bedroom and 2 bedroom units available, decorated in Hawaiian furnishings. The studio does not have  a dining room or a dining room table. It is perfect for two people but very cramped for 4. The 1 bedroom villa is perfect for 4 people, as the couch makes into a bed. The 1 bedroom comes with a full kitchen, with the exception of an oven. There is a convection microwave which makes most things. We were able to make pizza one day. The 1 bedroom includes a spacious lanai (balcony) which is accessible from the living and bedroom. Our unit was up high with fantastic views of the golf course, trees and ocean. The lanai was a favorite spot in the evenings when the ocean breezes kicked up.

For those of you who are not familiar with Westin brand, you are missing out on the Heavenly Bed!!!! In fact, you can order a Heavenly bed and have it delivered to your house. People were so in love with the Westin beds, that they finally became available for purchase. The best way to describe the experience of a Heavenly bed, is sinking into clouds. So if you want to sink into a cloud of relaxation, I suggest booking a room at Westin to try it out for yourself.

Heavenly Bed

Heavenly Bed

Koi feeding

Koi feeding

Our second favorite thing about timeshare- the daily calendar of events!

Design a tote bag

Design a tote bag

There is something going on daily. The day started out with a Fish Feeding Frenzy at the Koi pond. The kids were given fish food to throw into the pond while they were educated about the Koi fish.

Next we were off to arts and crafts where the kids designed a tote bag. Get the puffy paints out, choose a tote and start designing. The best part is, everything takes place outside near the pool. Kids will love the henna tattoos, tissue paper flowers, and coconut postcards.

 

The Makai Golf Course

The Makai Golf Course

Money Savings Tips~ Compare room prices by searching all hotel search engines such as hotels.com, expedia.com, priceline.com and orbiz.com. You don’t have to be a timeshare owner to enjoy the benefits of a timeshare property. Many owners give their weeks up for points or trade out for other properties and then the property sells the units fpr a nightly rate. Stop off at Costco (near the airport) prior to heading up north to the Westin. Grab enough groceries for your stay and keep bbq’n in mind. Costco is a one hour drive each way from the property, so it’s best to only go there once during your stay. The Westin is a great place to enjoy grilling poolside while the kids play.

 

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Duane’s Ono Char Burger

Blue Cheese Burger

Blue Cheese Burger

Man who invented the hamburger was smart; man who invented the cheeseburger was a genius.

~ Matthew McConaughey
photo 3 (3)We rarely eat burgers, but we when have that craving- we don’t mess around!!Whether your preference is beef, fish, chicken or Boca (soy) burger, there is something for everyone at Duane’s. If burgers aren’t your thing, than try the fish and chips, grilled cheese, Tuna & avocado sandwich or grilled chicken sandwich. Duane’s Ono Char Burger is a burger shack located off the side of the road in Anahola, Kauai at 4-4350 Kuhio Hwy. You will pass it on your drive to the North Shore. There is always a ton of smoke billowing out of the red shack which smells amazing as you drive by!!!! Duane’s Ono Char is famous for cooking up smokey-charred burgers on their seasoned, old grill! Choose your burger with Duane’s secret teriyaki sauce or blue cheese.Don’t expect fancy!!!! If you want fancy, there are plenty of nice, touristy restaurants on island which

Seating at Duane's Ono Char Burger

Seating at Duane’s Ono Char Burger

serve burgers. Duane’s Ono Char is a shack, literally. Plan on eating outside among chickens roaming about, IF you can find a seat. Pick up your food in a red, plastic basket at the window. It’s a burger joint, so don’t expect more than that. At Duane’s you can order a burger almost any way. Choose from teriyaki sauce, mushrooms, cheddar cheese, blue cheese, swiss cheese, avocado, pineapple, barbecue sauce, grilled onions, sprouts, or bacon. Local favorites include the broiled fish sandwich and the marionberry ice-cream shake.

A Little About Boca Burgers~

Boca Burger is a veggie burger made of soy protein and wheat gluten. Soy-based meat alternatives are becoming more and more common at hamburger joints. Originating from Boca Raton, Florida, in 1979, Boca Burgers were known as the “Sun Burger”. The organic Boca Burger was created in 2001. They are available in grocery stores, club stores, natural foods stores and at restaurants nationally.

Duane's Ono Char Burger stand

Duane’s Ono Char Burger stand

Give me Caviar Kaspia and give me a hamburger. I love the two extremes.

~ Michael Kors
Menu

Menu

Duane’s Ono Char Burger is a family friendly burger shack complete with a kids menu! Kids will be happy to have their own options which include: Keiki (kids) Burger, Keiki Fish or 2 piece Chicken Strips. The french fries and onion rings are a must! Try shaking some Kauai sea salt on top of the french fries. Yummy!!!! The shaker is located on the counter where you pick up the food.
5wheelsto5star.com is featured monthly in Destinations Travel Magazine