Thursday, November 7, 2013

Aloha, Kauai!

Keeping in trend with updating the blog two months behind, I'm finally getting around to posting about our wonderful Catlin family trip to Hawaii in late September. My parents celebrated their 40th anniversary in March, and to commemorate this milestone, they invited the family to join them in Kauai. A date was chosen in September to give Jon and me time to settle back to the U.S. and to visit during Kauai's low season. Though Jon started training at Tinker in July, due to maintenance issues, a government shutdown and other issues, he was still in training by the time our trip rolled around. He was unable to join us on this fabulous adventure, which was heart-breaking for us all. It's no secret that any trip is so much more fun and memorable when Jon's around! Despite his absence, we still managed to have an unforgettable trip to Kauai, the Garden Isle of Hawaii.

One of our few group photos, taken at our Luau evening
We stayed in two condos at the beautiful Kiahuna Plantation on Poipu Beach. The grounds were absolutely breathtaking with every color of hibiscus imaginable and gorgeous trees and vegetation. We truly wouldn't have ever had to leave the grounds to feel like we were in paradise. And the best part was, we were a short 5-minute walk to the beach. We spent most our mornings here listening to the massive waves crashing along the beautiful sandy shore with palm trees swaying overhead. 

The entrance of our accommodation with Braxton and Conan

Cha and Conan soon after our arrival 
So happy to be on the beach!

Conan, 4 months and 4 weeks

Though we were all quite content to be beach bums most days with the occasional snorkeling adventure, we did venture out for two excursions. The most recommended being a helicopter ride of this beautiful island. Mom, Dad and Mandy went on one with the doors off, while Laurel and I chose the more economical doors-on option. Though I get terrible motion-sickness (and did on this ride), it was still absolutely worth it for the amazing views of the island that are nearly impossible to see otherwise. Much of the island is not accessible by car or is privately owned, therefore the best way to get a complete view of Kauai is by helicopter. We saw countless waterfalls, the "Grand canyon of the Pacific" in the middle of the island, the sheer cliffs of the Napali coast, the tropical north side of the island and the sunny desert-like south side of the island. It's amazing how many vastly different landscapes are found on one tiny island. 

Our pilot dubbed us "the twins" due to our matching outfits

The Napali Coastline

The North side

Jurassic Park waterfall - one of the many we saw on our ride 
Beautiful rainbow we saw coming out of the rainclouds 

Our second excursion required a bit more physical activity - a kayak and hiking trip. Though I missed Jon countless times during this week, I REALLY missed him on this day. He loves to kayak and when I've gone with him, I've simply sat in the front and let him do most of the work while I relax and enjoy the ride. Partnering with Mandy, we equally had to do work to paddle the 2-mile long trek down the river. My arms were a-burning!

We eventually veered off the main river onto an inlet where we "parked" the kayaks and hiked through an ancient forest, crossing streams into intense vegetation to ultimately end at a waterfall pool. 

Unfortunately, the waterfall wasn't flowing as much as it usually does, but it still provided a beautiful sight at the end of the trail. 

Waterfall pool

Kayaking on the return trip

We spent most evenings grilling out at the condo, but did have two incredible dinners out. The first was at a traditional luau experience. . I think we all thought this would be a fairly cheesy, touristy evening, but when in Hawaii, we felt as tourists we must participate in a luau to get the true Hawaiian experience. It ended up being a fantastic dinner and show with outstanding entertainment in a beautiful setting. The performers were fabulous, as were the costumes, the dancing, the special effects and musicians. We had excellent seats near the stage to take in the excitement of the show. 

Wearing our matching floral dresses

Charm and Lar dancing at the Luau

The fantastic performers at the finale

Conan and his Bumpa

The Poipu State Park was a short 5-minute's drive away. We enjoyed visiting this beach for the excellent snorkeling and wildlife viewing. Where else can you see a monk seal or swim with a sea turtle? The vibrant colors and variety of the fish were absolutely incredible!

Catlin photo at Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

Poipu Beach

Monk seal at Poipu Beach
Our final night, we enjoyed an amazing anniversary dinner at the nearby restaurant "The Beach House." Not only was the food outstanding, but the sunset views were phenomenal. It was the perfect celebratory evening concluding our unforgettable week in Kauai.

Pre-dinner photos around the Kiahuna grounds

Pre-dinner photos around the Kiahuna grounds

Cocktails at the Beach House

Sunset at the Beach House

I can't thank you enough, Mom and Dad, for this incredible opportunity for Conan and me to join you on this trip-of-a-lifetime to celebrate your 40 years of marriage. You are an inspiration to each of us girls and I can only hope Jon and I are lucky enough to share such love and memories when we reach our 40th. I love you and am so grateful to be your daughter!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Bandera Labor Day

A cowboy parade, rodeos and honky-tonkying? Now that's a Labor Day celebration! Bandera, the Cowboy Capital of the World, puts on a great weekend of festivities over Labor Day weekend and Jon and I were so thankful for the extra long weekend to join the Catlins and Blues at the ranch. Though Jon likes to spend 90% of his time at the ranch "working" with Jason, we were able to tear the guys away from the chainsaw and 4-wheelers long enough to see the festive parade and art vendors in town. The parade kicks off with a massive Longhorn cattle drive down Main Street followed by several Western riders with bedazzled horses. Despite the insanely hot temperatures, it was such a fun sight, that leaves one thinking.... "only in Texas."

Bandera parade

Bandera parade
Bedazzled patriotic horses
Hangin' on the courthouse steps 
Posing in front of the Palamino brigade
Jason and Jon with a "Miss Rodeo" winner
Later that afternoon, Margaret and Brandon drove up from San Antonio to spend the evening with us at the ranch. We had a blast catching up with them again and after dinner, decided to show them the nightlife around Bandera. We introduced them to the iconic Arkey Blue's where we enjoyed two-stepping (much to some old cowboy's amusement) to Western oldies. 

Honky tonky-ing at Arkey Blue's Silver Dollar Saloon
Though this was Conan's second time at the ranch, he was much more active and involved this go round. He loved spending time with his cousins and meeting many of the ranch habitants. Leader of the donkey pack, Rambo, even made a special visit to the back patio just to meet Conan. And of course, Conan had to visit Goldie and Buddy and have his first "ride" on a horse. 

Conan and Boulan - best friends in the making
Conan, meet Rambo

My Goldie

Conan's first "ride" on Buddy
The time went by way too quickly, as it always does, and before we knew it we were back in the car for our 8-hour trek to Norman. Though it is by no means close, we are so grateful to be this much closer to one of our favorite spots in the world. We can't wait to be back at Thanksgiving!

Until November, Hix Ranch!

Conan's First Camp Meeting

Bloys Camp Meeting holds a special place in my heart. Having attended since birth, it was even more special this year to introduce Conan to this incredible week of the year. Each August, over 2,000 people come together for one week to worship the Lord in the beautiful Davis Mountains of west Texas. Bloys was started in 1890 to provide church services for cowboys working the sparsely populated ranches of west Texas. Today, some of the families of those first attendees still come and join together during a week I like to describe as church camp, a family reunion and vacation all rolled into one. 

Unfortunately, for the 6th year in a row, Jon was unable to attend due to work, but Conan and I enjoyed lots of time with the Catlins, Hicks and our many friends. 

Conan and Boulan
Laurel and the Blue Boys
Having missed the past two years myself, I was so thrilled to return to Bloys and catch up with many friends and spend lots of time with my dear cousin, Macy.

Macy, Laurel and me

Conan and his "Bumpa"

Conan and his "Cha"

Conan at 3 months

Lunch at the cook shed

One of my favorite aspects of Camp Meeting is being surrounded by the gorgeous scenery. I enjoyed lots of sunset walks, bouldering, and even a sunrise mountain climb.

Davis Mountain sunset

Davis Mountain Sunset

Davis Mountains

A climb rewarded with excellent views!

A climb rewarded with excellent views!

Davis Mountain Sunrise
View of Camp from the mountaintop

One afternoon, we trekked to the nearby town of Marfa to browse the shops and explore this adorable, artsy town.

El Paisano Hotel 

El Paisano Hotel

Welcome to Marfa, Conan!
It was a wonderful week to get away from TVs, telephones, computer and all other technology and simply enjoy family togetherness and most importantly, focusing on God's many wonders. I'm so happy  that we'll be able to attend more frequently now that we're Stateside again. Until next year, Bloys!