A Postcard-Image-Worthy Hike

Norway is a country filled with incredible drama in its natural landscape. As you can imagine, this land of numerous fjords, lush green valleys, and enormous glaciers offers unending opportunities for creating awe-inspiring images. One of those is called Preikestolen. Preikestolen_Board10 My husband first brought this place up a few months ago when he was planning our annual sojourn to the motherland. In a 2-3 week family vacation, we have plenty of time to visit family, relatives, and friends, and insert an excursion to parts of Norway we’ve yet to see. One of the images you’ll often see in a Norway postcard is that of Preikestolen or “Pulpit Rock.” Preikestolen_Board01 Preikestolen_Board02 Pulpit Rock is as dramatic as they come. Sheer drop-offs over 600 meters (or about 1800 feet) with no guardrail in sight to secure any curious tourists reminds us that we are no longer in the States. Here, you accept the risks and consequences of your actions. If you happen to fall over the edge, well then, that’s your fault. Nobody to blame; no one to sue. I like that philosophy…but I digress. Preikestolen_Board03 Preikestolen_Board04Preikestolen_Board05 A 2-hour hike to the top and a 2-hour hike to the bottom. Couldn’t be that bad, right? I mean, my hikes to St. Josephs Hill at home should have been good preparation for such a journey, right? Hahaha Well, it was and it wasn’t. Perhaps the idea of trudging uphill for a couple of hours didn’t bother me because of the weekly St. Josephs Hill hikes. But I didn’t expect that most of the way up to Preikestolen would be along paths created with various sizes of uneven rocks. Ugh. I hadn’t counted on the fact that it would take a bit of concentration on my part to pick out my line along these steps. And some of those steps were rather high, at least with respect to the level of flexibility and strength I have with my artificial hips. Preikestolen_Board06 Preikestolen_Board07 Preikestolen_Board13 Preikestolen_Board11 Preikestolen_Board09 Ugh. I’m sooooo glad I was never curious enough to see if anyone provided a description of what this hike would be like (on the Internet) beyond elevation and duration. All I knew was to bring my hiking boots. Had I known the path would be a rocky one, I may not have attempted it at all.

Hiking uphill is far better and easier for me than hiking downhill. After all, hips are what help slow me down and that strength is still building. Then again, hiking uphill does take strength to move from step to step, especially the big ones.

We took frequent rest stops as our girls ran up ahead to check things out and wait for us to catch up. I was a little worried that our girls would get bored, tired, and whine most of the way. Not so. Not at all. They were as curious and bouncy the entire way up and down as I could have hoped. They are in great shape from their hours of sports and their youthful curiosity kept them going until we returned to our car. We often caught up to them standing atop a nearby boulder ready to point the way forward. They were also very good about showing me the smallest steps up the rocky pathway for me. Once we reached the top with the rest of the early crowd, it was truly breathtaking. Did I mention the absence of guardrails? Preikestolen_Board12 Preikestolen_Pic02 I could feel my legs get a little wobbly anytime I got a little close to the edge. The view over the sheer drop is enough to make you a little dizzy and lose your balance. Because of that, we crawled to the edge to take a quick peek. And that was all we needed. The all encompassing vista was easily and safely seen from at least 5 feet from the edge. The views down and around the fjord were nothing less than spectacular. I don’t have enough adjectives at hand to justify the beauty of the site. Let’s just say that you have to see it to experience it.

Likewise, the climb itself offered several postcard-worthy spots. Of course, there were several brave [or stupid] tourists who sat with their legs hanging over the edge. Did you know that only two people have lost their lives falling over the edge? It was not an accident, though. They had created a suicide pact together and Preikestolen was their choice for death by elevation.

The climb down the mountain took just as long as climbing up. It wasn’t an easy descent because you still had to pick your lines along the same rocky paths you took uphill. And for me, it was a little scarier making sure I didn’t get going too quickly, lose concentration, and miss the next step. Preikestolen_Board14 Preikestolen_Pic01 But I’m glad I did it. I knew my legs would be screaming at me the next day (and they did!) but it would be a soreness well earned. One that would remind me, painful though it might be, I did it!

An original post by mommytwingirls for It’s Never Easy…But It’s Always Fun blog.

Spring Break 2012 – Luau

No visit to Hawaii would be complete without an evening luau. Yea, I know they’re terribly commercial and focused on drawing in as many tourists as possible. But I love them! I love eating poke, lomi lomi salmon, sweet potato, and Kalua pork. But the show is what I enjoy the most – particularly the fire dance. Not all luaus offer a fire dance. In fact, the last one we saw a couple of years ago, did not include a fire dance, though it was just as entertaining. This one by Island Breeze included some arts and crafts activities before the unearthing of the roasted pig. My girls chose the making of a fish out of a palm leaf and it provided hours of entertainment as my girls made it swim in the pool when we returned to our house. Alternatively, you could learn to hula dance, get a “tattoo” and play an instrument. There was time for only one activity before the Imu ceremony and the subsequent feast.

But the show was the main reason we were there. We’ve been to a few luaus and all are different and fascinating. I like seeing the different costumes the dancers wear. But I really look forward to the fire dance – which tends to be the last dance of the evening. My husband was the designated photographer for our evening as I chose to live in the moments.  🙂

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Spring Break 2012 – Volcanoes National Park

Spring Break 2012 (Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden)

Spring Break 2012 – Volcanoes National Park

From fauna and flora to volcanoes. Day 2 was all about exploring Volcanoes National Park at Kilauea. My husband and I visited this park pre-children but because we stayed on the Kona side of the island, we didn’t have much time to see everything we wanted. Though we caught the end of the road where lava had covered the highway decades ago in our previous visit, we’d missed the lava tube, steam vents and magma lake. Moreover, the magma lake was best seen at night when the smoke and red/orange hues lit up the night. Last time, we certainly wouldn’t have wanted to wait around for darkness to fall knowing we had a 3-hour drive ahead of us.

We lucked out with a ranger who’d happened to stop by the topographical map at the visitor center who was still answering random questions from the growing audience. It was here that we learned of the magma lake and what a once-in-lifetime opportunity it was to be able to observe it bubbling and steaming from a safe distance. And the lava tube – how did we miss that last time? A relatively short, dark tunnel lava carved years ago. Only a small part of the entire tube is open to the public but fascinating, nonetheless.

It was a wet and rainy day for our explorations. We anticipated this when we decided to stay in Hawaii and visit this park. We had long pants, sweatshirts and raincoats for just such an occasion. It wasn’t that cold but when the wind picked up, we were feeling pretty lucky. The next day was warm with no rain in sight. We took advantage of this change in weather to see what we couldn’t see – and that was the Kilauea overlook. After this short stop, we continued on to our rented house in Kona…on a mini coffee plantation. [BTW, photos taken by both my husband and me.]

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Spring Break 2012 – Luau

Spring Break 2012 (Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden)

Spring Break 2012

Our girls chose our destination this time. Fond memories of their stay in Maui influenced this choice, I’m sure. But as they’ll learn, we just hate to repeat ourselves when there are so many destinations to be seen and experienced. So, we settled on the Big Island of Hawaii. The last time we were here was pre-children and as we all know, experiencing a place with your children is a whole new experience.

Knowing our active 8-year-olds are great travelers but do have their limits, we decided to stay for a few days on the Hilo/Volcanoes National Park side of the island. This would give us the ability to take our time exploring the park and checking out things like a lava tube, a magma lake and the end of the road (as defined by lava having flooded the road many decades ago) without worrying about a 3-hour drive back to the Kona side of the island.

Our first day out, we happened upon the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden. What a find! So lush and colorful, we were awed and grateful that we followed the “scenic drive” sign to this spot. Imagine all of Hawaii’s flora and fauna in one spot – spectacular!   [BTW, photos taken by both my husband and me. He did all the cool foamy water pics.]



An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Spring Break 2012 – Volcanoes National Park

Spring Break 2012 – Luau

Christmas Vacation in Norway

This is the first Christmas we’ve spent in Norway since our girls were almost two years old. Though it was not the same without Farfar, it was still a wonderful vacation with family and friends.

I documented most of our trip in several posts on the Solheim Photography blog. Check them out:

Traveling for the holidays

Baking with Farmor and Snowplay with Cousins

Winter White Sledding and Ice Skating

Signs of Christmas

Celebrating 2012

The holidays are over and our girls are back in school. I think the calendar just kicked into hyperspeed. So many activities coming up, not the least of which is their upcoming performances in Annie, this year’s musical at school. Hopefully, I’ll find some time to post a bit more between events here and there.

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Finding My [Temporary] Limits

Hey! Guess what I found out? I have limits. Physical ones, that is. And temporary, of course. Yes, I have been deluding myself into thinking that I’m further along in rehabbing my hips than I thought. hahaha Oh well. As I’ve said before, how can you know your limits until you test them?

It happened on my second long-ish hilltop hike at the Dish at Stanford University last Tuesday.  It’s a hike I’ve been meaning to do for the last few years but have avoided. It has become quite a popular hike with paved pathways and all. I remember slogging through the muddy grass up to the Dish on a rainy day run during college when the field hockey fields were too wet to practice on. The memories were not fond ones but the accomplishment of running the Dish was.

Anyway, by the second downhill, I could feel my left hip was tiring. I had to slow my step in order to make sure I didn’t overdo.  And by the third long downhill, I was walking turtle pace. It was a feeling I’d forgotten about – the weakness in my hip. This time, however, there was no pain, just fatigue. It felt as if there was nothing there to catch me as I took each step down the hill. Luckily, my right hip did not feel the same way. And my hiking companions were in no hurry.

Hmmm…how could I be so tired? Could the gentle yoga class I’d taken the day before have anything to do with my weariness? I’m not sure. My upper body and stomach muscles were certainly a little sore because of that class but could my hips really be that tired? Apparently so. Oh well, nothing a little nap couldn’t fix when I got home.

The next morning, I had a water therapy class. LOVE water therapy. My therapist always makes sure we get a good workout as we do the exercises that will strengthen and increase the flexibility in our previously injured joints and such. But I was tired. Still. How did that happen? Was it the hike? The gentle yoga class?

Well, I’ve decided that it was a combination of both. My age and of course, the new hip joints, are slowing down the rehabbing process. Long gone are the days when a few hours or an afternoon would be enough time for my body to recover for the next set of physical activities. I think my brain is still in my 30’s. hahaha So, the next day had to be a day of rest…and it felt good.

The next morning was another yoga class, a little more intense than Monday’s class, followed by my physical therapy session a couple of hours later.  I was a bit tired for that session afterward. Whoops. Guess I needed more time to recover. Guess I should heed those limits. They are temporary after all.

Original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

To see all of my posts related to my hip surgeries and recovery, check out these posts:

The Waiting is Over

Hip Dysplasia – It’s Not Just For Dogs

Halfway There – Right Hip Done!

You May Now Call Me The Bionic Woman

Time to Start on Some Personal Challenges

Finding My Temporary Limits

Too Much, Too Soon

Summer Vacation 2011 – Legoland!

Had Legoland been around when I was a kid, I’m certain the number of times we visited Disneyland would have been far less. I don’t know what it is about it but it has a charm all its own.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Legos when I was a kid. I remember being more entranced by Lincoln Logs, Tinker Toys and the like. Don’t get me wrong, I did play with Legos, it just wasn’t a big thing to me. This is contrary to my husband’s childhood experience who was/is still very much into Lego building. Luckily, he has developed such an addiction in our twin daughters as well.

That being said, I love Legoland. I may not have been a kid who gravitated toward those colorful bricks whenever possible but I can appreciate the awesome things people create with them. Like the prisoner transport airplane one of my daughters built one day and the prison that my other daughter created for those prisoners. Or the shopping mall one daughter built while the other created a police station. I love that my girls’ imaginations are so inspired by these simple, colorful blocks and accessories.

And Legoland, the amusement park, is just as entertaining. The life-size animals and people or the miniature versions of buildings throughout the world built with Lego bricks are truly awesome. I’ve seen these before but I’m amazed every time I peruse them again.

We had gotten an early start to the day because a handful of rides opened up early – 9:30am – before the general park opening at 10:00am. The Volvo Driving School was one of those rides – last time we visited, we waited one hour to get on that thing. So, after the Safari Trek, we headed there. OMGoodness, talk about grrrrrrreat planning. There was barely a line. We must have waited for 5 or 10 minutes, at most. Whew! Favorite ride – check!

This was the second time we’ve taken our girls to Legoland. We decided to see the park from the opposite direction we had in the past (turning right instead of left from the entrance)…and discovered several rides and sections we hadn’t seen before. We bypassed these areas in past visits because by the time we got there, we were on park overload and ready to leave. We also saw one of the many shows throughout the park for the first time – one of my daughters got to participate as a jouster. What fun!

Legoland includes a great mix of extensive play structures and rides to accommodate my 7-year-old girls’ need to be in constant motion. In fact, at many rides, there’s a mini play area furnished with tables of Lego bricks next to the waiting lines for rides – simply genius! While parents wait in line, kids expend their energy building things within the play area. When the parents approach the beginning of the line, there’s a gate for kids to exit the play area directly to their waiting parents. Such a fantastic idea.

Though I didn’t take advantage of it, there’s a package holding/dropoff service available. Essentially, you can purchase any item at any retail location throughout the park and leave it there. Within the next two hours, an employee will bring your package to the front of the park where you can pick it up before you leave. Isn’t that the best? No need to worry about carrying and keeping track of your purchases throughout the park. Another great idea.

And there’s this enormous water play structure (Soak ‘n Sail) next to the water rides in the Pirate Shores section. Water shot out from everywhere but the two huge buckets at the top ensured that you were completely drenched. Luckily, I’d brought a change of clothing for each of our girls, just in case.

After 9 hours, we were ready to go home. We didn’t do any souvenir shopping mainly because the girls had [each] already won a rather large stuffed animal (puppy dog) at one of the game booths, as well as a cute little chameleon. And because…we bought season passes. Hahaha  Sounds a bit silly, doesn’t it? Particularly since we don’t live in southern California. Oh but the price of a season pass will be earned back in a second visit. And what are the chances that we’ll be there again in the next 12 months? Good. Very, very good.

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Summer Vacation 2011 – Disneyland!

This summer vacation would not have been complete without a trip to the happiest place on Earth. Hahaha  This was the girls’ fourth time visiting the theme park in seven short years. Does that seem a bit much? Not by a long shot. After all, one of those times was at the invitation of Disneyland PR that we couldn’t pass up. But mostly because I grew up in San Diego and being so close, my own parents took us there as often as possible – at least, it seemed that way.

I gotta say though, that Disney magic hasn’t gotten old. The anticipation of going there puts a smile on everyone’s face in our family. And while the sun may beat us down as we stroll from ride to ride and the waits in lines test the patience of a couple of restless 7-year-olds, somehow we bear it and at the end declare what a wonderful day we had. That’s gotta be a certain kind of magic.

This time around, we seemed to spend quite a bit of time in ToonTown. Our girls were particularly taken with Mickey’s and Minnie’s houses, wanting to return there after we’d thought they were done with it and had moved onto several other sections of the park.

Our girls were also done with princesses. Now, I knew they were done with playing dress up but I was a little surprised that they had no desire to check out the Princess Faire, though I pointed it out to them a couple of times. They still love watching the princess movies but for some reason, they had no particular interest in seeking them out at D-land.

The faves of the park? For both, it includes Buzz Lightyear and Peter Pan. For Songwriter, the Indiana Jones ride and the Go Coaster are additional faves. And Storyteller loves that Jungle Cruise (so many animals!) and Dumbo ride. Thrills versus animals – I shoulda guessed.

The collection of souvenirs included a collection of Buzz Lightyear, Woody, Jesse and the space rangers. That Toy Story movie series made a real impact on them, I guess. They’re looking forward to bringing them all home to play with Bullseye, the horse.

11 hours after we arrived, we wearily trudged to the tram to take us to the parking garage. We seem to be on an every-other-year schedule for our Disneyland visits. And unlike other amusement parks, I don’t worry that they’ll “age out” of going there. Disneyland is one that appeals to all age groups. I should know. The thought of going there still puts a smile on my face…and I can’t wait to go again.

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Summer Vacation 2011 – Souvenir Shopping

Well, when the weather doesn’t cooperate and a wet forecast proves true, what’s the next best thing to playing cards and games at home? Souvenir shopping, of course. And our girls just looooooove it. hahaha

We tried a little sightseeing but there were several flooded roads, making it not so easy or quick to get around the island. And there weren’t any kid-authorized movies for us to see. So, souvenir shopping it was for our little antsy, stir-crazy family.

Our little shopping venture also became a teaching opportunity and math practice for our girls. We gave them a budget to work with and they chose their own purchases. We told them that whatever they got had to remind them of their St. Martin vacation – we were hoping this would derail any requests for things like stuffed animals that they could easily find at home. I think they did a rather good job – sea shells, a purse out of coconut shell, bird house made of coconut shells and reeds of some sort, handmade flutes, keychains with St. Martin/St. Maarten written on the, etc. etc. etc. It was quite fun. Brought back memories of my own childhood collections of stuff I’d get from souvenir shops as we toured the States.

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.

Summer Vacation 2011 – Island Hopping By Boat

Boy, did we luck out! Amidst several days of scattered showers and downpours, we went boating on a warm, dry day. We escaped the rainstorms on St. Martin by going out on the water to visit other islands. We worried the previous day because the showers were frequent and non-stop. But like I said, we got lucky.

Our vessel for the day was a 26′ Boston Whaler with twin Yamaha 225 hp outboard engines. Truls is completely comfortable skippering the boat since he grew up doing so (being Norwegian and all). We had plans to head out to four nearby islands – Tintamarre, Ilet Pinel, Anguilla and Sandy Isle.

I was soooooooo sore by the end of the day. The rides out to the first island and back from the last were very bumpy. A few slams on the waves here and there while I held onto a couple of scared little girls were enough to make me feel pretty beat up by the end of the day. Truls, though, did the best he could to navigate the smoothest rides  through the very choppy waters and roiling waves. It was pretty windy as well. He had a tough job balancing the speed or slowness through the sea against the potential motional sickness bound to be experienced  by me…and perhaps one or two daughters. I did take my Nautomine (like Dramamine but with caffeine to avoid drowsiness) but with the waves as they were, I could still start to feel…ill.

The bumpy rides between islands made us appreciate the stops at the islands and beaches all the more. When we arrived at the first island, Tintamarre, the main beach was deserted. It was nice to have it for ourselves for a bit before any other boats showed up. Storyteller and Songwriter have become quite the confident swimmers and easily swam into shore themselves. They immediately found a few shells in the sand and see-through silver-ish fish swimming in the water. They did not want to leave…but it was time for lunch at the next island.

There are three restaurants on Ile Pinel. Truls had wanted to try one of them in a previous visit but my lack of kayaking skill derailed that plan. So, this time we boated there. The water is very shallow where we anchored our boat and we were able to wade in from the boat to the beach. And the first thing that caught our eye was the cage of live lobsters. One family was making a choice at the time.

Unfortunately, the service was slow at the restaurant we chose. It took over one hour to receive our meals and another 30 minutes to get our check. Ugh! We realized later that our long wait at this place took away the time we wanted to spend at Sandy Isle. Oh well. At least the girls were well entertained when they discovered the colony of iguanas living at the back of the restaurant. I couldn’t believe how large the population of creatures  was there.

We hurried as best we could out to Anguilla. Anguilla is known for the deserted white sand beaches and emerald colored waters. We pulled up to deserted Rendezvous Bay. Just like the other islands, the water was warm and inviting. We couldn’t hang out too long as we had one more island on our itinerary.

Sandy Isle is the star of many a postcard on St. Martin. Tiny and deserted except for a single restaurant, it sits all alone just off the coast of Anguilla. It is surrounded by coral reef, so it’s not an easy island to approach. And unfortunately, we no longer had the time to figure it out. We had to make our crossing back to St. Martin. At least we got our photo opportunity.

After 8 hours, it was time to head back to St. Martin. It looked like it had been raining there a bit. Seems we picked the right day to get away to other islands. I was ready, though, to get back to our villa, take a shower and relax.

It was a great day but I’m still pretty sure about one thing and that is I’m not a boater…or a sailor. I may have  been born in the Philippine islands but I’m pretty sure there’s a strong emphasis on the “-land” part of that heritage.

An original post to It’s Never Easy But It’s Always Fun blog.