What it’s like to be on reality TV in Hawaii, Say What?!

Cue all three kids in college. Check.

Get transferred to Hawaii. Check.

Meet the most amazing real estate agent on Oahu. Check

Find a condo on the marina. (wait, what, for real). Check.

Scott, Rose, and I in front of Kona Brewing Co. Great place to eat with beautiful views!

Here is a little story of how two empty nesters moved, trading in four seasons in Virginia to the year round sunshine in Oahu, Hawaii, and in the meantime, somehow got selected to be on HGTV’s Hawaii Life. Hawaii Life is a show that features home buyers in Hawaii while highlighting the land and sea activities and all the beauty that surrounds it.

When the hubby says, “honey, we’re moving to Hawaii,” it’s like a dream come true. Hawaii has always been my most favorite place on earth. There is something about the aloha spirt and laidback family feel of the islands that I have always loved. When we found out we were being transferred to Hawaii, I knew I needed to find a real estate agent. I wanted someone who would be knowledgeable about the market, truthful with us, and guide us through our home buying process. Through a little online research and prayer, I connected with Rose Kemna, and she was there for our home buying process every step of the way…as well as a virtual closing on our home while being 4700 mile away!

But the fun part came when Rose mentioned to Scot and me how she thought we would be a good fit for the Hawaii Life show. As our real estate agent, she would also be featured on the show, so I wanted to apply for her because she had been so helpful to our home buying experience. Low and behold, after a few interviews, we were selected. Now what?!

It was a neat experience seeing all the behind the scene action and how each scene is produced, especially being a photographer myself. It was a fun and unique experience, and most of all, Scott and I got to make memories of our move to Hawaii. We had to commit to four days of filming. The different scenes consisted of a waterfront interview, water activities, touring multiple properties, discussing our buying options, filming a time-lapse with my camera equipment, and chatting over dinner with Rose. Was it scripted? No. We did not have a script, but along with a film crew of seven people we did have a shooting plan to follow each day. Our days started early and ended around 5pm, and by the end of the day, we were all tired!

I never thought we would get chosen to be on Hawaii Life, but in years from now we will be able to laugh at ourselves and have these fun memories of our tropical move to Hawaii. You can catch our episode on Discovery Plus, HGTV Hawaii Life Season 14, episode 9.

Hope you enjoy watching, and if you decide to move to Hawaii, I can recommend a wonderful realtor!

Here are a few photos during filming. It was quite the experience for me to be in front of the camera, instead of behind it!

Rose hit it out of the ballpark (as stated on the show!) with our sunset views of Diamond Head from our lanai! Our favorite part about our Hawaii living!


Trading tropics for snow in Leavenworth, Washington…and getting snowed in!

Sleeping Lady Resort

“Pack your bags for cold weather,” said my hubby. With no clue were we were heading for a Valentine’s getaway, we left 80 degree weather in Oahu, Hawaii and flew into Seattle, Washington where there was a winter storm warning in effect for the surrounding area. When we arrived, I immediately pulled my winter coat out of my suitcase and layered up. Once we got to the car rental area, I dug out my winter boots, scarf and gloves. I was, indeed, freezing! But snow was on the way, and I was in heaven. It hit 8 degrees at one point. “We’re not in Kansas anymore toto!”

We drove a few hours and as we got further away from Seattle, it began to look more like a snow-globe. Driving through the snow covered mountains was quite the change from tropical island life in Hawaii. When we arrived to the small town of Leavenworth, Washington, I felt like I stepped back into Garmisch Germany. Leavenworth is a quaint little snowy town, with boutiques and restaurants with small gas-lit fire pits perfect for a pint or a little gluhwein. It is beautifully lit up at night as the town prides itself with a massive display of lights from before Christmas through February.

Our first stop was quickly unpacking at the Icicle Village Resort and heading back to the little town for some much needed food fuel. We found the Soup Cellar and were pleasantly pleased! Warm homemade soup and sandwiches were perfect to warm us up!

Originally we had planned a four night getaway, but little did we know another snow storm would hit the day we were to leave to drive a few hours back to the airport. We checked out anyway (I do believe I made a comment to my hubby…. humm, you think we just stay??, anyway…) we packed up and drove out onto the only road that was open to the airport. (Hwy 2, as the interstate was shut down due to an avalanche). About 30 minutes out of Leavenworth, we came to a halt… yep, snow began to fall even harder and faster, and all the trucks (oh, about 40 or so!) were pulled over putting on snow chains. What do we do now? Of course we rolled down the window to ask the police officer’s advice, and we continued on…for about one min. Then we decided that maybe driving in a white-out was not a great idea. God was in control, because he gave us the wisdom to literally do a three-point turn in the middle of the road to head back to, um, where… that was a great question. As we were driving, the snow was piling up and there were no hotels in site. Through a quick internet search (thankfully we had cell service), and awesome customer service (thanks, Amanda!), God led us to a sweet little cabin in the middle of no where that was available to rent. We were good. We were safe, and we were snowed in!

Later that evening when we were checking the road conditions, we noticed that the road we were on earlier in the day became completely shut down. God had our backs. We were blessed indeed.

We made the best of the situation and realized that by the weather forecast predicting more snow, the earliest we would be able to get back to the airport would be in three more days. So we found a little grocery market, stocked up on a few provisions, grabbed a quick hot soup to go at the local hardware store, and made the best of our situation.

Sometimes, we have a plan, but we must be flexible to what God has planned. In the end, this little getaway to seek snow turned into enjoying an entire week in what felt like stepping into a snow globe. It was magnificent. It was refreshing (minus the stressful snowy driving conditions), and it was just what two empty nesters living in Hawaii needed.

I highly recommend adding Leavenworth, Washington to your bucket list. It checks so many boxes…”snow” much to name, but check out the photos below for our snowed-in adventure.

Enjoying the Garmisch, Germany feel of Leavenworth
Perfect conditions for a sleigh ride and thanks to covid, we had the entire sleigh to ourselves!

Oh and a little bit of humor… as we were snowed in, our Hawaii Life episode (that we had filmed over a year ago for HGTV) finally aired. What a great laugh, watching ourselves during our “house hunting trip” in Hawaii, while sitting in a 15 degree snowstorm.

Because there was no way, or place, to get a covid test before returning back to Hawaii—into another 10 day quarantine I went…but it was all worth it.

All links are based off my opinions and experiences.


How to make royal icing sugar cookies, even if you’re not a baker.

With Valentine’s Day around the corner, here’s  a creative way to show love to your family — beautifully handcrafted decorated sugar cookies. Or team up with your kiddos in the kitchen for a family baking session!

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While living in London, England about 10 years ago, I purchased a cookie decorating book titled “Biscuiteers Book of Iced Biscuits” and dreamed of making beautiful cookies like the photos in the book. I loved looking at all the pretty cookie photos and wondered how hard it really is to decorate sugar cookies with royal icing. Well, I am definitely not a cookie artist, but I decided one Christmas to jump all in and see what this is really like, and how difficult this process is. Here is what I learned, and if I can do it, so can you!

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Getting started — Before you begin, purchase and organize all your supplies you will need. Here is a list of the supplies that I used:

  • mixer (I used my KitchenAid mixer)
  • cookie cutters
  • icing bags/ bottles (I used Wilton)
  • icing tips (I used Wilton size 1, 2, 3, 4)
  • icing color (I used Wilton gel)
  • baking cookie sheet/pan
  • spatula
  • scissors (for cutting icing bags)
  • cellophane/cling wrap
  • parchment paper (I used Wilton brand)
  • roll-n-cut mat (I used Wilton brand), or countertop
  • rolling pin (I used a wooden one)
  • cookie dough and icing ingredients (see recipe)
  • cake tester (I used Pampered Chef), or tooth pick
  • cooling rack

Cookie Dough recipe:

  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 1 C butter, softened
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp baking powder
  • 4 C all purpose flour

Royal Icing:

  • 4 lbs powdered sugar
  • 3/4 C meringue powder (I used Wilton brand and purchased at Michaels)
  • 2 Tbsp vanilla (or you can use other flavorings)
  • 1 1/3 C warm water

Let’s Go!

Instructions:

  • In a separate bowl combine salt, baking powder and flour. Set aside.
  • Cream together sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time. Beat well between each egg.
  • Add vanilla and mix well.
  • Gradually add the salt, baking powder and flour combination to the creamed mixture.
  • Once mixed well, roll out dough onto floured surface. (I use the Wilton roll-n-cut mat, but parchment paper also works, or clean countertops.) Use a little sprinkle of flour on the surface, and add flour to the rolling pin.
  • Cut into shapes. Unused dough can be “re-rolled” out to make more cut outs.
  • Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes.
  • Allow to cool on a cooling rack.

Once your cookies have cooled, you are ready to decorate! Practice makes “perfect” is the way the saying goes. There are plenty of “how to decorate cookie” videos out there, so take some time to watch and learn tips on decorating with royal icing! It takes patience, but it is so much fun~!

Once the royal icing has hardened, you are ready to package them and share with others! Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!


Wait, what did you say? — How are you communicating?

“Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires” (James 1:19, New International Version, 1986). God gave us two ears and one mouth — could that be a reminder for us to do more listening than speaking? People are social beings and are made to communicate with one another and ultimately process information. However, with differing perceptions conflicts can arise.

If everyone in the world agreed on everything, think about how boring our world would be. With that said, people have different views, opinions, values, and beliefs which can cause conflict in communication. Many people disagree with one another based solely on their culture, background, and where they are from geographically. However, according to Barnett Pearce, coordinated management of meaning can be learned. “It’s learnable, it’s teachable and it’s contagious” (Barnett Pearce, 2014).

I think about the “masked world” we are living in these days and I can’t help but notice how our communication with one another has changed. Sometimes I just don’t understand how we are made to communicate with one another behind a piece of cloth. We lose sight of body languages such as a smile or a grimace. I live in Hawaii and we are [still] under a stay at home order. I get the feeling of being trapped on an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Our beaches and parks are shut off and no one is allowed to gather together. Although there are varying views on the Covid_19 pandemic and how our local, state, and federal government have handled the issues, we can all agree that we are creatures of socialization. When communicating with others regarding the “do’s and don’ts” of mask-wearing, people are quick to voice their opinions.

How we go about listening (with an open mind) to others while still staying true to our own beliefs is a balance. Sometimes “agreeing to disagree” is the best way to leave the subject and move on. One recommendation when you have such differences in beliefs is accepting and agreeing with the fact that each person has a very different viewpoint. As Christians, we are told, “clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12). If we choose to follow the truth, the Word of God, we will find solutions on how best to communicate effectively with one another, even with the differences of opinions on wearing a mask, or not. It is up to us to self-reflect on how we are listening to others, and ultimately be aware of our own communication and delivery.

*Journal entry written for my Masters in Communication at Liberty University

References

Pearce, Barnett (January 29, 2014) Coordinated Management of Meaning [Video]. YouTube.

New International Version Bible, Version. (1908/1983). Thompson chain-reference Bible Indianapolis, IN: Kirkbride Bible.


My First Career: A SAHM

SAHM? — STAY AT HOME MOM

There is so much noise in the world today. So much that you can’t escape… it seems. There are so many “self help” influencers out there today on social media as well as ‘best sellers’ books. Many are spreading positivity and how to better yourself. Many influencers are posting much about “body positivity”, “how to become a boss babe”, how to work in the “corporate world” while also being a great mom, etc. And, hey, hats off to any mom out there who can juggle both a career and being a mom! Much of what we read in today’s society is geared to persuading women how to build a career, get ahead, get more pay!, etc., all the while dismissing the importance of being a mother first. (I know there will be much debate on this subject, but my goal is to encourage other moms to not be afraid of making the decision to stay at home.)

I want to write about “FAMILY” for a minute. Since I basically am from a family and have a family, and I have three kids of my own, I guess you can say I have experience with “FAMILY”. Many of us do.

I want to reach out to the younger couples who are considering starting a family of their own and who struggle with making the decision on child care; who will take care of the children, and who will work. It really is a tough decision to make. Income plays a huge part in a family, and I understand that it can partly also control the narrative.

When I married my high school sweetheart back in 1996 (24 years, yay us!), I had just graduated from college six months earlier. I was ready to jump into the workforce and start my career. Honestly, I told myself that I would never be a stay at home mom. I said that, how insane! I was ready to work and earn a good living….just like my husband.

Fast forward to December 1997, my firstborn came into the world. Everything changed. Not only did my body change so did my mind, and we both decided that I would stay home with our son. (I was actually the lucky one!) Then, 19 months later our daughter was born, and then fast forward 18 more months, our youngest was born. Three children in four years and I was a full-on- stay-at-home-mom! Too bad ‘experienced diaper changer’ couldn’t be added to my resume, cause, man I rocked the diaper changing station!!

My mindset changed for me to become a stay at home mom for two reasons. One, I would basically be working to pay for child care for my three children— so that did not make sense. Two, and most importantly, we decided we wanted to rear our own children. I did not want anyone else to do the job that was given to me by God. We understood some of the financial challenges that we would face by being a one-income household, and we would have to make sacrifices on material things or experiences, but the positives outweighed the challenges.

Why of course times got tricky and tiring with my husband’s work travel schedule. Many times he would fly in from another country, get off a plane, come home and go out to a ballfield to coach, all while being jet-lagged. So needless to say, we were both exhausted at times. But pouring into our children and being present was key and this is the life we choose for our family.

As I reflect back on these early years, I can see that God provided (in many other ways than just financially) for our family and we thank Him for leading us. Looking back, it is now clear how being a staying home mom vs. building a career was more beneficial in the long run. Being able to pour into our children and teach them the Biblical right from wrong will never be taken for granted. We chose/choose to have family meals together, go to church together, pray together, and have fun together.

To all the younger women of today who are facing a decision about becoming a stay-at-home-mom or building a career— Your career can wait, BUT, you can’t get this time back with your children. And you, new mama to be, deserve to rear your kids, teach them the rights from wrongs and instill in them the values that you want for them. Remember, “Children are a gift from God, they are His reward” -Psalm 127:3.

So please don’t let the noises of today’s world confuse you and tell you that you are better off by choosing and building a career. You may have financial sacrifices to make by being the CEO of your home, but the reward is so worth it. You do you, and soak up every minute you can with your children. You will thank yourself in the long run, even if you are behind the career curve. Family (including values and morals) is truly what matters. The years spent pouring into your children are a gift. Don’t let anyone tell you differently. Because soon my friend, they will grow up and go off to college.

xo,

Elisabeth

PS – I realize that family dynamics vary in today’s society. These are my experiences and thoughts based on a traditional family with a mother and father.


How I made a lei from my daily walk in Hawaii Kai.

I know I have said it before, but, I love Hawaii. I love living here (especially since my kids are home!) I am continuously surrounded by such incredible views of the mauka (mountains) and makai (ocean). And since we moved here in December, despite the craziness with covid, I have enjoyed daily walks to reset and take in all the views and fresh air.

I started out walking to get exercise and to spend time with my hubby. On our walks I always noticed all the beautiful plumeria trees and all the petals that had fallen on the ground. Many were fresh and were screaming at me to “pick me up, and take me home!!” So, I did! Now, it’s become a thing in our home where we have beautiful petals we place floating in water to bring joy to our little cozy space.

Hawaii really is a special place and the aloha spirit is real. A lei is a symbol of friendship, love, celebration, honor, and many receive and give them to their family and friends upon arrival to Hawaii. I love greeting my family with one at the airport. It really is a symbol of love, and each time I receive one, even if I never will meet the person who made it, I can still feel the love of the hands who crafted it.

Of course with the quarantine and more time on my hands, I decided to learn to make a lei! Why not? I am by no means a pro it it, but with a little research, I gathered my materials that I had around the home and gave it a try.

Here’s a simple way to make a lei from fallen petals:

Step one: Gather your family and head outdoors for a nature walk. To make one lei, gather 30-50 flowers that have fallen to the ground, in public space (make sure not to infringe on someone else’s property). Be creative with what is blooming in your neighborhood, and try to mix blooms! There are endless possibilities!

Step two: Soak the blooms in cold water to rinse off. And then lay them out to dry off. You may have to toss out a few of the ones that begin to brown and wilt.

Step three: Find string to use such as embroidery thread; dental floss works too! Get a needle that will fit through the center of your petals, and grab a pair of scissors! That’s all you need.



Step four: Thread the needle, tie a knot in the thread, and begin threading the flowers one at a time. Once you get the length you like, then all you need to do is cut the thread and tie ends together! Wa-lah, you have a lei!

They say stop and smell the roses, or in my case, plumeria. I believe that by doing a craft like this, you will also experience the same as I did — calmness, peacefulness, thankfulness, and realize that it really is the simple things in life that are free and allow us to reflect on God’s beauty and all He provides us daily.

If you decide to make one, please let me know how it turned out! This would be a great summer craft for the littles too!

Aloha from Hawaii Kai!

xo,

Elisabeth


Fear is a liar!

Listening to your father fall to the ground with a massive heart attack — at the age of nine. Running to my aunt and uncle’s home through the woods to get help. Arriving back home watching my brother perform CPR on my dad, while hearing the loud sounds of the ambulance arrive.

That is fear, and that was me.

Fear of not really understanding what was going on in that very moment. Fear can come over you like a storm rolling in, in the middle of the night, pitch black outside, blaring with roaring thunder and crackling flashes of lightning hitting trees. That, was what I was fearful of at the age of nine. Storms — not death.

I was nine when my father died of a sudden heart attack and went to be with the Lord. Before him, I had experienced the death of two grandfathers. I faintly remember those times, but I did understand what it was to lose someone you loved. No one can prepare you for loss. Because loss is something personal. No one can “feel” what you’re are “feeling”. They can understand it, possibly, if they have also lost someone near and dear, but they can not actually FEEL what you are going through. Everyone experiences loss differently. We are all different, because God made us that way.

I grew up in the perfect home with a mother and father and older brother. Heck, in my eyes we were the perfect little family. We ate together, played together, prayed together and went to church every Sunday. We ate lunches at my grandmother’s home every Saturday with my extended family. It truly was the best upbringing any little girl could ask for. My mom worked for a bank and my dad was a lineman for the power company. Good, hard working, American, God loving parents. I was lucky. I was (am) blessed.

I see times changing and there is so much fear in the world. Many times fear is driven, honestly, by not being informed or not relying on what really matters in life (and I realize this could be debatable on what really matters). Of course we are all human which makes us fearful. But there is hope in not fearing things that life throws at you. You can gain peace in knowing that we are told in Peter 5:7 “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” It seems so simple, yet still so hard. To give it all over to God to let him guide you and your thoughts and to be comforted.

I hope this helps someone who is anxious, fearful, or just worrying about what tomorrow brings. God is so good. I share this with you because there have been many times in my life that fear has crept in, but I know fear is a liar and God is bigger than any of my fears.

XO,

Elisabeth


Never underestimate a Sunset

Daily Sunset off our lanai. No filter needed.

Is this a dream? Am I really living the Hawaii dream?

Listening to the sound of the Avett Brothers playing in the background — watching another beautiful sunset — breezes blowing my hair as I type, while birds fly by chirping.

If you looked out over the ocean water and mountains, you would never know there was a world wide pandemic happening. Many of my neighbors sitting outside watching the sunset, having dinner on their lanai, laughing, talking on the phone, some even paddle boarding and fishing off the dock, and boats buzzing by — it’s like our own little world over here on this tiny island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Life is still going on. People are adjusting to the new normal of the beaches and parks being partially shut down, having to wear masks when running out to the stores, essential work places and picking up take away dinners; and don’t forget the new social distancing practicing! It is real. Changes have happened.

My nightly entertainment is with my husband and sweet Jack Russell, Boone, watching the sun go down over the mountain. When I wake from this Hawaiian dream, I hope I never forget the wonderful feeling of sitting on my lanai watching every. single. sunset. They are so different each evening. The sky dances to put on its own spectacular color show. The colors change like a painter dipping his paintbrush between purple, orange, pink and yellow. Then, slowly and peacefully, the sun tucks away for the night. In addition to my music playing, the sound of the palm trees are sounds that call for an encore. The swaying of each branch is like a tiny musical instrument on a stage waiting to be heard. They have a voice too, ya know. We just have to be still and listen.

Instead of focusing on some of the more challenging issues due to this pandemic, I choose to see every sunset through the lens of gratitude and blessing. I do not negate seeing and understanding the rest of the world news and I continue to pray each day for my family, our country and our world, and those who are suffering. I know it is out there. I understand it is happening. But one thing that will never change throughout this is that our God is greater than any pandemic.

After all, just like the song, He has the whole world in His hands.

Sunset in Hawaii Kai, No filter needed.


The Should be’s…

The “should be’s” of today… there are so many.

I “should be” in Australia today with my hubby.

My Ash “should be” in Switzerland with her 60 other study abroad students.

My oldest “should be” back in Shepherd University getting ready to graduate college…. and on and on.

We all have our “should be’s”, right? Mine just happen to be first world should be’s. We had OUR plans. The ones WE made. Then something changed all that. Something earth shattering. Something that moved all the earth in a different direction. Some choose panic, some choose defiance, others choose to tune it out, and others choose and keep to themselves. And others fall on their knees and pray. Prayer is powerful y’all. I have seen God move mountains and He is the ONLY one who can heal us and our land. Keep your focus on what really matters these days. This too shall pass and those “should be’s” will come again… one way or another. In the end God is in control. Just let Him be.

As for now, I will reflect on wonderful memories from our recent trip to Switzerland. My husband and I got to spend 10 days with our daughter! Memories last, y’all. Make them. Cherish them!

Beautiful Zurich, beautiful daughter.
Beautiful city of Zurich
Exploring the city with my girl!
Dinner with friends!
View from our room of The Matterhorn in Zermatt, Switzerland.
Skiing Gornergrat, before it was closed off. It was crazy and visibility was zero!
The next day, skiing Zermatt. Beautiful blue skies!
Enjoyed every. single. snowflake. So much, we added another night’s stay!
Walking to see where Ash goes to class every day. Beautiful walk (hike!).
Classes everyday held at Franklin University.
Lugano, you’re beautiful. Thanks for the memories!

We’re empty nesters! Now what?

I can’t believe how time flies. I mean I think back to the days when my husband was forever traveling and protecting America, and I was a stay at home mom with three little babies– being the nurse, chef (ok, that’s stretching it), cleaner (maybe, this too), room mom, creative director of all projects, and travel agent.  But you get the point! I pause now, and think, where did time even go??? All three are in college. Poof! just like that. They flew from the nest. It’s really surreal when I stop and think about time. It’s so precious and we can never get it back.

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So now what? No one to really take care of on a daily basis. No piles of laundry (until they come home and dump in front of the washing machine). No more early morning breakfasts to cook and lunches to be packed. No more volcanos to build and tests to help prepare for, and no more back to school nights. (Try attending back to school nights with three kids in the same high school…impossible to meet all those teachers!) And, get this one… no more ball games to sit and watch while either freezing or dying in heat. Let that sink in for a min!

Well, I will tell you what, it’s you and me, hubby. It was us before kids — and it’s now you and me again.  God knows our paths; we choose to follow his will or not. I think it was never random that I had all three of my children by the time I was 29 years old. I also don’t think it was random that they are so close in age. I am embracing this empty nesting as good as I can… even when we are thousands of miles from our children. God had this plan for our family, and I am trusting him with it!

Now let’s go on a hike!

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Hanauma Bay, Oahu Hawaii
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Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike, Diamond Head photobombing in the background.
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Hanauma Bay Ridge Hike