Tuesday, October 30, 2018

PB&J Parenthood: 10 months!

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9..... 10!!!!
We're officially 10 months into being parents to our little rainbow!!!

Hello October!
Hello October, you were definitely a fun filled month! From birthday's, Halloweentime fun, a first plane ride, Hawaiian adventures, family time, major milestones and more. It's been an entire month of the happiest moments and memories. Let's start at the beginning...

Happy Birthday Mama!
The start of October was welcomed with my birthday! We kept our celebration low key, a night of food and family since we were still recovering from our Disneyland celebrations days before and looking forward to a bigger adventure a few days later. My only wish each and every year is to spend my special day with my family, loved ones... and cake, so it was fulfilled tenfold by being surrounded by my family, Ben, and of course, cake!

Happiest Halloween on Earth
Speaking of Disneyland, I haven't been able to recap our latest adventures, but since it overlapped into October, here's a little photo recap of our fun:

Our 8 year wedding anniversary was spent with continued does of magic, the happiest churro cake on earth and a walk down memory lane

Ben's first Mickey's Halloween Party! My family joined us for Ben's first halloween party at Disneyland. We had to center our costumes around my favorite little green alien, so my family joined the fun as fellow Toy Story pals.
All the halloweentime fun at the parks! It was spooktacular fun getting to share Disney's Halloweentime with our little Ben! He loved it!

ALOHA!!!
Month ten also brought about a major adventure: Hawaii! In celebration of my birthday, along with my dad's birthday my family set off for Oahu, Hawaii for some sun, good eats and Disney Aulani. Check out my full recaps on our Hawaii adventures HERE and our Aulani adventure HERE

All hail the Pumpkin (patch) king!
Ben is celebrating his very first Halloween this year and Peter and I wanted to make sure we soaked in as much fall fun with our little one. So we made a trip our to our local pumpkin patch for all the autumn goodness!

A literal step away
October brought about so much more than just fun new travels and adventures, it also brought about new milestones for our Benjamin. Our little one is as active as ever, he'd rather stand and move about then be seated. He can crawl circles around the house and is 100x more curious about the world around him.
Ben has been showing off his best strongman abilities, too by learning how to stand on his own which means BRING ON THE BABYPROOFING! Our little one is literally just one step away from actual walking!
Oh, and quite possibly the most heartwarming milestone yet? "MAMA". Yes! Ben uttered his first word and it was the one that made me gasp and doubt that I even heard him correctly... Mama. But I wasn't dreaming it up because on the day he first said it, he said it again in front of PB and my sister who was on FaceTime at the same time! Our little chatterbox loves to babble now, we swear we've heard him say "wow, hi, and no" now. LOL, let's see what next month has in store for us!

A great big beautiful tomorrow is just around the corner
Literally. We're onto November, month 11 and inching ever closer to our 12 month, 1 year old mark. What lies ahead? I have no idea, but if month 10 is any indication.... hopefully even more blissful memories, milestones and love!!!



Thursday, October 25, 2018

PB&J Travels: Aulani Adventure

Aloha Magic is in the air!
Welcome to Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa.....

Welcome to the magic!
We've stayed at Aulani a few times before our visit with Ben. PB and I were lucky enough to visit right after they opened back in 2012. I was also able to visit again with my family in 2014. This trip though would be the most special of all, it was to be Ben's 1st Aulani adventure!

A different kind of Disney
Upon arriving to the resort you immediately know you're in for a unique Disney experience! You start with a warm welcome, a lei greeting for the ladies, kukui for the men and for Ben? He got his own special little Menehune (a mythical dwarf folklore in Hawaii) necklace! When you walk into the hotel you're met with a breathtaking open air lobby and you just know... you're in paradise!
The resort itself is authentically Hawaiian with little doses of magic here and there. If you're looking for a complete "Disney-fied" experience, you might be surprised to find that the Disney touches take a backseat to the Hawaiian vibes, which I actually kind of love in this specific environment! You won't find an open abundance of in your face Mickey, but more subtle nods to your favorite pals. You're in Hawaii, not a Disney Park, so it's totally appropriate!

Disney Vacation Club Villa living
My parents have been Disney Vacation Club owners from the very start, over 20+yrs ago! You know they're old school members when our "home" resort is Disney's Old Key West in WDW, lol. They became members long ago because they had a feeling that one of their daughter *ahem ME ahem* was a little Disney crazy, so it'd be a worthwhile investment. Over the years we've been able to use our DVC points for stays in WDW, Disneyland, Tokyo, other related hotels and of course... Aulani!
Our family booked a 2 bedroom villa which was super spacious for the 6 adults in our group and our little Ben! We had a garden/pool view room on the 5th floor which gave us a view of the ocean, the lazy river and since we were right next to the Makahiki restaurant, Mickey Mouse himself greeting character breakfast guests each morning.

**PB&J Travel tip**
Aulani is a Disney resort, so you can expect a ton of family friendly amenities, one of which is a playpen to use for your little one, complete with the menehune bedding, a cute and adorable Hawaiian touch! You can also request a diaper pail brought to the room which is great for keeping those stinky diapers at bay.

Ka Wa'a Lu'au
On our first night at the resort we checked out Aulani's featured luau, Ka Wa'a. We've been to various other luaus on Oahu in the past, but since it was Ben's first trip and the whole family was together, we wanted to try out Aulani's version. What's great about this luau is that it's located on site at the resort. I received a ton of questions about this luau, so here's my personal breakdown of what we though of it:

Pro's:
  • - located on site at the resort, no need to travel elsewhere. It's super convenient!
  • - it's more cozy and intimate than a typical Oahu luau! 
  • - there's still plenty of activities and fun to be had before the show begins. A plus that we found out later? The actual performers are the ones hosting the activities before the show begins!
    Lei bracelet making before the show!
    Temporary Polynesian style tattoos as one of the pre festivities for the luau.
  • - The food was tasty, far better than the typical larger luau fare (umm, moana cupcake!!! Taro buns and lilikoi butter!!!)
  • - Probably the best part? The show wasn't your typical cheesy Hawaiian luau revue, it actually had a ton of heart and my family was so surprised by how historically accurate some parts of the show were and how there was actually a pretty wonderful story that went along with the show.
Con's
  • - It's pricey. You have to remember, you're still on a Disney property... so this means you'll pay Disney pricing for things, lol. Granted, Ka Wa'a was priced higher than your average luau, if you don't pay for the VIP package which includes drinks, you'll have to pay for each individual drink after your first free one. 
  • - If you're looking for a ton of Disney character appearances and Disney touches, you're out of luck. At the start of the show Moana showed up for a brief introduction to the show. A little while later Mickey and Minnie came out to hula a bit on stage, but other than that, there's no other Disney characters that show up. Again, you have to remember that the show itself is focused more on Hawaiian culture and history, rather than meeting Mickey and Minnie. 
  • - On that note, it was kind of a bummer to not have a little chance to meet the main mouse or other characters at the start of the show. There's a photo opportunity you get at the start of the luau which would have been great to have a little form of Disney infused into it, but instead you take a group photo with two performers from the show. I want to stress that I was totally okay with Disney not being totally included into the show, but it would have been nice to have a little "touch" of Disney in the pre luau activities.
Overall thoughts? If you're looking for a cozier, more storyline based luau, definitely check out Ka Wa'a! What it lacks in the other "embellishments" that other luau's offer it makes up for in the heart of the show. P.S Ben absolutely loved the show! He was napping at the start, but woke up when the show really got going and was clapping along, dancing and smiling away the whole time!
My sister and I got to participate in the show!!!
Ben was entranced by the show.... especially this dancer! LOL.
Makahiki Character breakfast
When I mentioned earlier that Aulani still had a few Disney touches? Well Makahiki's character dining is one of them! This rivals the Disney Park character dining experiences back home in it's adorableness, plus the food is way better!

You start by meeting with the main mouse himself, Mickey! And he's all decked out in his Hawaiian best! After, you're brought to in for a scrumptious breakfast (or dinner) buffet! They have everything from the classic favorites (try to red velvet Mickey waffles with coconut syrup!) to more local favorites like loco moco, guava bread and the freshest island fruits.

Every 30 minutes there's a cute little show with "aunty" who goes around and asks kids (of all ages) to participate in the fun little music show. As you can see, my entire family got in on the action.

You'll also meet some adorable aloha characters throughout your breakfast. During ours we met Minnie and Goofy!

All about that Lazy River
What sets Aulani apart from other resorts on Oahu isn't just the Disney touches, it's also the amazing water activities they have for hotel guests! You could literally spend days just enjoying all the activities offered. There's a lazy river (our family favorite), water slides, kid pools, a general pool and for the grown ups? A few 18+ only pools just for you to enjoy!


There's also the most gorgeous beach lagoon attached to the resort! It's protected by break walls, so there's hardly any waves or strong undertows, perfect for swimmers of all ages!
My sister and brother in law surprised our family by booking the "executive lanai" right in-between the pools and lagoon for us to use for the day! It was amazing... our wonderful server always came to check on us, we had our own private seating away from the hustle and bustle around the pools and they even brought down a little beachside crib for Ben to use!


**PB&J Travel tip**
The pools are where most of the action is at the resort, so we noticed poolside chairs filled up super fast, especially on busy days. If you want to snag a good seat around the pool, plan to save one early, check your pool times and try to save a seat within the first hour-2 hours of pool opening. Another tip? Surprisingly the lounge chairs by the beach usually had openings at all hours, so if you can't score a chair by the pool, try near the beach!
Ben enjoying the poolside lounge-chair life!
Wristband life
You'll start to notice at the resort that some guests have a rainbow of plastic bracelets coating their arms. These are the pool wristbands aka your ticket to the pool magic! The pools at Aulani are for hotel guests only, so before enjoying the water, you'll have to check in at a towel distribution area, show your room key and receive your wristband and towels for the day. Each day is a different color, so it's fun to see how many you can collect over your stay... or see how long some other people have been enjoying the resort!

**PB&J travel tip**
If you're a DVC member, you have your own special locations to get your wristbands around the resort. That way you can avoid waiting in line at the general areas if the line is long. There was one DVC point near the Keiki pool and another at the Rainbow Reef.

All the Aulani Foods!!!
The real star of Aulani? The food!!! There's just so many good eats at the resort, from Mickey Mouse shave ice, Dole whips, mickey shaped treats and more! Here's a little rundown on some of our favorites:

Ulu Cafe
This is a quick service restaurant/market near the pools that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. You can pick up hot dishes and quick bites all day long! This is where we picked up a majority of our pool bites. It's also where you can find the amazing seasonal goodies like October's Halloweentime pumpkin macarons, cupcakes, mickey pumpkin pies and EEEK: Pumpkin Soft Serve!!!!

Ulu Cafe is also home to all sorts of sweet treats like kona coffee malasadas, Mickey brownies and more! It's not just for the sweet tooths out there, but it's also home to the Mickey SPAM musubi, they come out for lunch at 11am, so be sure to pick one up. Also... pick up a pair of chopsticks... you won't be disappointed 😉


Papalua Shave Ice
Mickey Mouse shave ice. Need I say more? Be sure to check out the more local and fun flavors with condensed milk (YUM) like lilikoi, guava, haupia (coconut), green tea or October's seasonal pumpkin!

AMA AMA
Aulani's finer dining option is perfect for a romantic dinner for two, or for a special family celebration! It features local grown beef, fresh caught fish and more!


Laniwai Spa
Hand's down, one of my favorite spas in the world! I love treating myself to a spa treatment whenever we're on vacation and the Laniwai Spa is one of the most gorgeous and relaxing we've ever been to. The spa itself is dreamy, it includes a co-ed relaxation room and an outdoor hydro therapy area with special rain shower therapies that are AH-MAZING!
Aulani's signature rain shower therapies! 

Characters and more!
Aulani does bring in the Disney with their exclusive meet and greets with some of your favorite Disney pals, all dressed in their aloha best! This is one of my favorite things abut this resort. You won't find your typical Mickey and Minnie characters here, they're all styled in special Aulani or Hawaiian touches.

**PB&J travel tip**
Character meet and greets at Aulani are apparently only for hotel guests. We had to show our pool wristband or hotel key card while waiting in line for some characters. Also, another tip, the lines for characters can build up fast, most guests are waiting in line for them 10-15min before the schedule time. Also, not all the same characters come out the same day. During our stay Mickey and Minnie would show up regularly, as did Moana, but other favorites like Stitch, Donald, Duffy and Shellie May made sporadic appearances on different days. To find out about character appearances call ext 2447 on your resort phone (keep a pen and paper handy) to write down which characters will be out at which time during the day!


Big A little D
The resort is officially called "Aulani, a Disney resort and spa". Notice that Disney isn't the frontrunner of the resort title... This is something we learned during one fo the free tour offerings at the resort. We took part in the "Aulani cultural tour" which took you through the cultural significances of the lobby and the resort. Our host, Reyn was the best and literally shed so much light on the resort and made it 10x more beautiful in our eyes than it seemed before! He told us about all the Hawaiian influences that went into the resort, the cultural significance that Disney put into creating such an amazing hotel. What stuck with me was that Disney wanted to make sure that Aulani was first and foremost a nod to Hawaiian culture, with the touches of Disney coming in secondary. I absolutely love this and truly explains the uniqueness of such an amazing resort. If your stay schedule allows it, I highly recommend doing one of these free tours! It's so informative and gives you a closer look at the incredible backstory to the resort!

General tips and tricks
  • - Be sure to pick up the "Daily Iwa" or the daily resort newsletter every day to check out the happenings around the resort for the day. These are usually out in the lobby the evening before, and it's a great way to see what tour offerings, activities and general fun is going on for the day
  • - Aunty's Beach House. This is Aulani's kid's center. It was always super busy and looked like a ton of fun, but sadly because Ben is so little we were able to check out this amazing service yet. I'm sure he'll be an active participant the next time we're back at Aulani though! 
  • - What if I'm not staying at Aulani, can I still enjoy the resort? YES! Character meet and greets and the pools are for hotel guest use only, but the restaurants, general grounds of the resort, shops, spa and beach lagoon are open to the public. If you want to meet the characters, I suggest booking a character dining option to enjoy the best of both worlds, Aulani food and the characters!
  • -Non resort eats. Aulani has some great food options, but if you're staying for multiple days you may be ready to venture outside the resort for food. On our recent stay, we ordered pizza from The Pizza Corner and OH BOY did it deliver (pun intended). They're known for their poke pizza. It was literally one of the best pizza's I've ever had! It's a crispy crust, furikake seaweed seasoning and heaps of perfectly seasoned ahi tuna poke on top. DROOLLLLL. We also ordered their crab and lobster pizza which was also heavenly! The best part? It's located literally across the street from Aulani, but they can also deliver straight to the resort!Pizza Corner info here!

  • - Coffee. There's plenty of places to pick up coffee at the resort, but if you're on a family vacation, you may need a stronger dose of something good. Now here's a coffee that more than just good, it's BEYOND good! Island Vintage Coffee is the spot! There's a few locations around Oahu, but at Aulani, there's one across the way. This spot has some of the yummiest Kona coffee creations around! Worth checking out if you're a coffee lover. Try the Mac Nut frozen kona mocha or the Mauna Kea coffee with your choice of gelato. YUM!
Mahalo Aulani, until next time
As you can probably tell from this lengthy recap and review... We LOVE Aualni. This resort is otherworldly, you get the best of both worlds with being in a Hawaiian paradise and a touch of Disney magic at the same time. I'd recommend for anyone, not just my fellow Disney fans to check out this amazing resort. Mahalo for the most magical stay, Aulani! Until we meet again....



© Our PB&J Adventure Book
Maira Gall