Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Hiking in Hawaiian Gardens

On the South shore of Kaua'i, on the banks of the Pacific, are McBryde Garden and Allterton Garden. Two of five gardens comprising the National Tropical Botanical Garden (NTBG) network, the gardens are a dream for botanists. Thousands of species of plants make up the largest collection of native Hawaiian species with many threatened or endangered. The gardens are open to the public, but children under age 8 are not welcome at Allterton Garden (Hint to Allterton staff: put that in your brochure instead of showing pictures of kids crawling on the cool trees with amazing, giant roots!)

Since we couldn't get into Allterton Garden to see the cool trees where dinosaurs laid their eggs in the Jurassic Park movie, we went to McBryde Garden instead.  From the website: "McBryde Garden is nestled in the picturesque and historical Lāwa`i Valley. The site of the first garden of the NTBG, the Lāwa`i Valley was chosen for its diversity of climate, soils, and topography. The area affords a kaleidoscope of distinct micro-environments which are cool, hot, wet, dry, lake, cliff or meadow."

A tram escorts guests 10-15 minutes into the garden, where you can walk along a small, gentle stream for 90 minutes before the driver returns to take you back to the Visitor's Center. Alex loved it. He climbed along the rocks, threw stones into the stream, ran through the open meadow and declared it a "great hike." Serene loved it because she could follow her brother without getting into too much trouble. Other than enjoying the delight of the children, I was bored to death. Maybe February isn't the blooming season or I just don't have the passion for plants to appreciate the diversity of flora, but I've seen far better blooms at every other Garden I've ever visited -- ever! I expected more about of a Hawaiian tropical garden.  Shouldn't that be like the Garden of Eden, after all?

Trees we didn't get to see at Allterton Garden.

Monday, February 11, 2013

90+ miles of coasts and dozens of waterfalls


The Grand Canyon of the Pacific

Waimea Canyon State Park on the western side of the island of Kaua'i is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The narrow, winding road is 18 miles with multiple turn-offs to photograph the beautiful vistas. Waimea is the Hawaiian word for reddish water which eroded the soil leaving the dirt looking very red. The small island of Niihau, a nearly uninhabited island of the state, can be viewed as the mountain climbs into the canyon. Its a must-see trip for Kaua'i tourists.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Swimming pools, beaches and ponds in Kauai



If this sounds like an advertisement for the Marriott Resort in Kaua'i, then so it be it. They deserve it. There is nothing special about the rooms. The food wasn't great. But, the 5 Star pools cannot be beat. The resort boasts the largest single level outdoor pool in the State of Hawaii. It is just foot steps from the Kalapaki beach, a small inlet cove surrounded by tall hills with a narrow opening calming waves so they ripple gently into shore.The views of the pools and the beach are stunning morning, new and night.

The children's pool is not quite 2 feet at its deepest, and even newborns can splash in about 6 inches of water at the shallow end. Its heated to nearly 90 degrees so even on a cool, winter February morning, children can wade and stay warm. Serene screamed, cried, fussed, and kicked for all 5 hours, 34 minutes of flying time en route from Los Angeles to the little island. One passenger offered me Benadryl to drug her and I buried my head in the seats hoping to never see anyone on the flight ever again. [That didn't quite work out when we ran into friends of friends in the row immediately in front of us.] But what made the whole miserable trip worth it was the slide at the kiddie pool. The perfect size for Alex and Serene, both kids took at least a hundred trips down the water slide during our four day stay. The rest of Kauai is over-rated. (I'm a Maui-girl at heart.) But, the smiles on the kids in swimming pools were as wide as Hawaii's endless horizons.

At the entrance to the hotel lobby is a giant pond fully stocked with hundreds of large Koi. At 9am daily, guests can watch and join in the feeding as the fish wiggle up the edges of the pond just inches from nibbling little toes.

The Fish Pond

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Peppa Pig and Chocolate Cake

Serene likes Peppa Pig and chocolate cake.  She discovered chocolate cake after Peppa's little brother George wanted it for breakfast. There's a Peppa Pig amusement park in South Hampshire, England. If I could afford it, I'd book the family a pack of airline tickets, season passes to the park and spend a week there riding Grampa Pig's Boat, George's Dinosaur Adventure and cruising in Daddy Pig's car.

Pigs are popular for kids. Among the most famous pigs -- Porky, Piglet, Babe, Pumbaa, 3 Little Pigs, Wilbur -- most are male. Miss Piggy is the super female piggy exception to the only male pigs get famous rule. Which makes me wonder -- is there a glass ceiling for female pigs too? Or can only super model piggies break that glass ceiling?

In any case, there are dozen of pig characters listed on Wikipedia categorized by those in literature, folklore, nursery rhymes, film, animation, and even video games. For our kids' generation, two additional female pigs are at least putting fractures in the glass ceiling: Peppa Pig and Olivia. Both are older sisters. I'm guessing Peppa is around 5-6 years-old and Olivia is around 8 or 9 years-old. Both have little brothers. (Olivia has a little brother and a little bother, a.k.a brother). Both are bossy, talkative and take charge of the family antics. And both prefer walking on two legs, wearing red clothes, ballet, living in houses, riding in cars, and camping. After careful analysis, I like Peppa a little more -- mostly because she actually 'oinks' & she loves to jump in muddy puddles.

Some parents have complained that Peppa Pig is making children naughty. They have complained that children are replicating Peppa and George's behavior by demanding chocolate cake instead of eating vegetables, saying 'no' and 'yuck,' and .... (gasp)....jumping in muddy puddles.  Serene exhibits all of these behaviors, but we're not banning little Peppa at our house. Instead, I'm going to work to empower her.

In adult culture, pigs are associated with greed, gluttony and uncleanliness. But for children, they are sweet, funny, smart, kind, silly, sensitive and giving. So why the disconnect between what we learn as children and how we come to interpret the pig as an adult? Probably someone should write their dissertation on it. In the meantime, if you want to make millions, (Peppa Pig boasts a $2 billion plus industry), start writing children's books and/or animated cartoons with fun little piggies in it. Its a no-fail business strategy to big bucks. If you focus on female pigs, then we'll have more 'positive' role models for our daughters -- assuming you think being independent, free-willed and remembering to take time to play are positive lessons for young girls to learn.
Peppa Pig

Sunday, February 3, 2013

America's Teaching Zoo

The fur coat of a bobcat.

Water Buffalo

Bald Eagle

Not quite the size of a California condor or a bald eagle.

Animal Rescuers
The Exotic Animal Training and Management Program has been operating at Moorpark College since the mid-1970s. A five acre site for college student's hands-on learning is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday year-round. It's called "America's Teaching Zoo." There are lions, leopards, a 90 year old Galapagos Tortoise, numerous primates, an alligator, llama, exotic birds and more. There are two animal shows daily on the weekends where guests can interact with the animals in residence. It's the perfect size zoo for very little children. Serene visited personally with all the animal handlers. Alex had the chance to ask questions about why anyone would keep an alligator in a bathtub or why baboons butts have red pads?