The Gardens at ‘Īao Valley

One thing that I’m coming to understand about myself is that I LOVE taking pictures. I love the challenge of seeing something interesting and trying to capture it with a camera. Sometimes I’m successful, and sometimes…not so much, but I love experimenting with different angles and lighting. I recognized this the other day, when we went to ʻĪao Valley and I went just a little crazy with the camera. It is SO GORGEOUS there and I just had to take pictures of everything.


Truth be told, we didnʻt actually go all the way in to the valley. We stayed in the park area where there are lots of pavilions. Itʻs a popular spot for locals to have parties. Thereʻs nothing special about the pavilions, but the surrounding gardens are amazing. The grounds are divided into different sections and each section represents a different country from which immigrants came to Hawaii. Japan, China, the Philippines and Portugal are the most prominent. Stepping into each area is like stepping into a new world. Thereʻs a traditional house with a surrounding garden in each area. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to exclude the parking lot and cars and other background objects that donʻt belong, so it feels like you’re completely immersed in that cultural world.


I’m sad I didn’t get more pictures of the Japanese house. I just love the minimalist design aesthetic. So calming. Doesn’t it feel like The Last Samurai?

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The Chinese house was much more ornate but I just loved the lines in the architecture and the bold color choices. Keola took that pano and I love it. It’s so striking. I don’t think I’ll decorate like this any time soon, but there’s a lot to draw on from a graphics standpoint.

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I fell completely in love with the Portuguese garden. I guess I’m kind of a sucker for European design. I loved all the white walls with the brown accents, the columns perfectly framing the statue of Mary in the garden.  The tile surrounding the door is amazing and the garden…so full of life and color, offsetting the white statue. I stayed and photographed this area for a while. I couldn’t get enough, but everyone else sure did. Leo was getting antsy and she was in the carrier, which made it REALLY hard to get decent photos. Photography 101: Don’t carry a baby while you’re trying to take pictures.

Keola told me that even though he spent his childhood playing in these gardens, he never understood what they represented. I couldn’t help feeling a little sad as I walked through them, thinking about all the people who left their homes and families to try to make a life in a completely foreign place. Today the internet makes moving relatively easy. There’s so much we can learn about a place before going there, but these people stepped into complete darkness with no clue what their lives would look like when they arrived, and not knowing if they would ever return to their homeland. Many did not, and that makes my heart ache a little. It also made me grateful. Being Hawaiian, Japanese, Chinese and German, I wouldn’t be here if my ancestors didn’t take that leap of faith. But they did, and they made Hawai’i their home, and pieced together new families, a new language and a new culture.

Someday Iʻd like to go back to my other homelands – homelands I know almost nothing about, partly to learn more deeply about where I came from, but after this day, I feel the need to do it to (in a way) bring my ancestors home.

My Clean House Plan

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I’ve been struggling in recent weeks to balance everything that I’ve got going – my work, the kids and the house, plus it’s graduation season – always a busy time when your husband works at a university. When life gets crazy, everything unravels if the house is out of order. Having a messy house is time consuming, distracting, and stressful – not good when you’re trying to do creative work (or any work for that matter.) Home is your foundation and when you work from home it becomes that much more important to keep it running smoothly.

I finally came up with a plan the other day to do just that. It tells me exactly what to do in the morning to ensure we have a smooth running day, and what to do in the evening to make sure we wake up to awesomeness and aren’t cleaning up yesterday’s mess. Keeping the house under control is as simple as looking at my chart, doing what needs to get done and checking it off (my favorite part).

I needed my chart to literally walk me through my day, so I broke it up into three parts: morning, evening, and daytime.

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“Morning” and “evening” actions are always done every day. Obviously I don’t need a reminder to make breakfast. It’s just there because I get so easily distracted that I need a specific list of action steps in order to keep me on track (Do this, then do this, then do this.) “Daytime” stuff varies depending on what day of the week it is (except for mail). Here’s what Tuesday looks like.Daily Tasks-02

There’s also space to jot down other things that aren’t part of the normal routine.

Here’s how it works:


I made a specific sheet for each day of the week. I printed it out and trimmed it down to 8×10, stuck in a cello sleeve (so it becomes “dry erase”) with a backing board so it’s nice and rigid. Each night I pull out the next day’s sheet and jot down the “other” things that need to get done. Then I stick it on the fridge. In the morning, I wake up, go through my morning routine, tackle the specific chores for that day and I’ve got the rest of the day to do whatever else I need to do until the evening.

Our evening routine starts after dinner and ends when it ends. Each day it totally manageable, and the best part is, as long as I do everything I can be confident that the house is under control. It may not be completely perfect, but pretty close, and doing this consistently means cleaning takes less and less time since less time goes by in between cleaning.

If you’re interested in implementing something similar and would like to use this as a starting point (obviously this is very specific to us and you need something that’s specific to you), I’m sharing my files with you today. I made these in Illustrator but you could do something very similar in Word or Pages or whatever you have. If you work with Illustrator, I’ve also included the original file.I wasn’t going for pretty, so embellish all you like. FYI, that pink border is actually a trim line so I could get an 8×10 sheet, but you don’t need to trim it if you don’t want to. You could also just use a clipboard by sticking your paper in there with a transparency over it to have that same dry erase functionality. You can buy single transparencies at pretty much any large office chain or print shop.


Happy cleaning!

Photo Project: A Year of Mess


It started as a sarcastic comment about this picture I posted of Noweo’s “house” a few days ago: “I should start a new photo project: A Year of Mess.” Then I instantly had a “hmmmm” moment, where I thought, “That might actually be a good idea.” And so begins #ayearofmess on Instagram.

As part of my efforts to “Keep life real” and “Thrive” I’m going to post pictures of a mess in our daily lives. Don’t worry…it won’t be anything that’s TMI. I’m going to challenge myself by trying to make it as beautiful as possible. I DON’T want a feed full of garbage, but I DO want a feed that reflects our real lives. I believe it’s good practice to look at the bright side, re-frame less-than-ideal situations, and try to realize the significance of every moment. It’s easy to see beauty in a flower, or a seashell. It’s much harder to see beauty when the sink’s full of dirty dishes, the hamper’s overflowing, and your kitchen table has become your kid’s latest art installation, but I’m gonna give it a good college try. Join me and tag your messes at #ayearofmess.


The Best of January

Part of “thriving” to me, is recognizing big and small wins so you feel good about the things you’ve been a part of, so I’m kicking off a “Best of” series which will to up at the end of the month, highlighting my favorite moments of that month. In no particular order:

Best Sleeping PositionIMG_0773

Best Business BuyIMG_1335

Best FriendsIMG_1382

Best Photo of Moss on a TreeIMG_1286

Best seat in the houseIMG_1343

Best New ExperienceIMG_1156

Best thing I could’ve done for this blog

Best Panoramic Shot


Best New DesignIMG_1075

Best New Guilty PleasureIMG_1155

Best use of $18IMG_1160

Best Lunch


Best DriveIMG_1214Best Conversation (it was about butts)IMG_1318

Best Reason to Turn off the TV


Best Shot of the Girls’ Room (It normally looks way messier)


Wow. It really was an amazing January. I’m so glad I wrote this post. I’m so grateful for the life I have, for the people in it, for the place I live in. Grateful grateful. What were your best January moments?



My Lame Art Wall Progress

I haven’t made art a priority the way I’ve been wanting to, despite all my lofty ambitions, but I have been collecting quotes and pictures that I want to get up on the wall somehow. Here are some of my faves:
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There are many more I’ve been sticking into a folder for printing, but as of yet I haven’t gotten around to it, and I really have no excuse. It is easier than ever to print photos and I still haven’t done it. What would I do if I had to go develop 35mm film? My poor children would NEVER see themselves. At least these are fun to look at – even if it’s just on a computer screen. Hopefully this will motivate me to get them up on the wall and in REAL LIFE.

Clear Clutter with One Question

IMG_0927For weeks I’d been staring at our bathroom thinking “I’ve GOT to get this place under control.” Actually, I’ve been thinking that about our whole house but the bathroom especially. There was just too much stuff sitting on the counter and on a little cart I had next to the counter, and our bathroom is fairly small so even   a few things on the counter makes it look cluttered.

Last week I finally rolled up my sleeves and got to work, and in about two hours I had the squeaky clean bathroom I’d been dreaming of. It all started with one little question:

What do I reach for every day?

The list was pretty short:

Toothbrush, toothpaste, floss, contact solution/case, eye glasses, deodorant, comb, curl definer (I bought this based totally on smell but it works great too) and rubber bands.

I took the things I use very day and separated it from everything else. Then I looked through the “everything else” pile and threw away the stuff that was old or never used and neatly sorted the rest and stored them under the sink (makeup, straightening iron, towels, toilet paper, etc. It turned out that I didn’t need that next to the sink after all, so I moved it out to our bedroom where it’s being put to better use hiding our router. The remaining essentials went into our small medicine cabinet (it’s so small there’s only room for my essentials in there) and the only things now living on the counter are our toothbrushes, toothpaste and hand soap.

If you think about it, it doesn’t take much thought to know what you reach for every day. There is usually a clear answer to that. I didn’t ask “What are my essentials?” because often times our brains can fool us into adding some non-essentials to the list.

When you know what you reach for every day, you know what you don’t reach for every day and can deal with them accordingly. You don’t have to drop the ax on your stuff right away, and you don’t have to get rid of it just because you don’t use it every day. You can just separate your true essentials from everything else, keep that within easy reach, put away the other stuff and maybe work on reducing gradually if you don’t have the time to do it all at once. For me, it was a revelation to know what my TRUE essentials were, and seeing ONLY those things on the counter instantly gave me that feeling of having already accomplished my goal, even though I still had a pile of stuff to sort through (which didn’t take that long).

After giving everything a good scrub it was like I had a brand new bathroom. I kept going in there because it was the nicest spot in our house! Now that I’ve got the ball rolling, I’m looking forward to tackling the rest of the house with this one question.

Handmade Holiday: Suuuper Easy DIY Wreath

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Ok so this is MOSTLY handmade. In the end I fizzled out and bought something to decorate the wreath with  because I just wanted to get it up on the door and be done with it.

I don’t know who thought of this, but I saw it on Pinterest eons ago and decided it was the kind of thing that was simple and easy enough for me to do, AND I can get a lot of mileage out of this one. The idea is to have a neutral wreath and swap out seasonal accents. My plan was to make it in time for Halloween. I didn’t finish it until after Thanksgiving. Ha! Life of a mother. At least it’s all set for Christmas.

I thought this wreath was pretty self-explanatory: Wrap a styrofoam wreath in grey yarn. BOOM. DONE. I really don’t know how to break it down further except to explain how I started and ended the project. You can adhere the end of the yarn to the styrofoam if you want, I didn’t. I simply started wrapping, making sure to cover the end with yarn so it would stay in place. At the end I simply tied a few knots on the back, but you could also glue that end down as well. Just make sure that whatever you do you do it to the back.

The accent is an ornament I bought at Target. I strung it up with grey thread (maybe I should’ve used fishing line…oh well) I thought it would be nice to have something that jingles, so the “red snow-flake bell”  won. People are doing some really awesome crafty things with this wreath but I like the simple lines of one singular ornament. I hung it on the door using a command hook. Another idea I read recently was to staple the string to the top side of the door so you don’t get holes in the front of the door. I’ll do that next year.


Operation Art Up the Walls


We’ve lived in this house for six months and there is SO MUCH I want to get done that I’ve been paralyzed with overwhelm. This weekend I sat myself down and said “Ihi, just pick one thing and DO IT.”

I picked art.

One of the reasons I’ve been holding off is because I couldn’t figure out how I wanted our furniture to be arranged. Even this morning I rearranged stuff, but I think I got it just the way I want, so art can FINALLY go up.

We have ONE piece currently occupying our walls (not counting a couple of wedding pics I threw up in the bedroom that I want to rearrange). It’s an awesome piece, done by a friend of ours for our anniversary and it means a lot to both Keola and I, but it’s lonely up there on the wall, all by itself. I’m dying to fill our walls with things that scream “us,” things that hold meaning and memories, things that encourage and comfort. So this month I’m making it a goal to get some art up on these walls. I’ll be DIYing most of it since my budget for this is tiny, but I’m determined to make it work, and have a home that’s a little bit more “homey” to welcome the New Year.