# sweet basil & honeyed pine nut ice cream

You know I haven’t spent much time around math since high school, but I do know that ice cream = summer.  And this is officially my first summer batch.

I spent a good amount of time with Emily telling her about my obsession with making ice cream. And with a hearty umph!, I placed a stack of ice cream cookbooks in front of her and told her to pick something for us to make together. She surprised me in picking this rich basil and pine nut recipe from none other than Ms. Jeni herself.

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Surprise #1: Basil. I love basil, but I had continually flipped by this page without a thought.

Surprise #2: No eggs!

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I’ve never made any of Jeni’s Philadelphia-style ice creams yet and I was hesitant because usually it’s the eggy custard that gives ice cream its trademark richness, creaminess, and smoothness.

Surprise #3: Pine Nuts

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Typically a very rich nut, it’s made even more amazing with honey, butter, brown sugar and a bit of salt. Then again, what wouldn’t benefit from those additions? And the praline was the perfect amount of crunch.

This was absolutely incredible. Rich beyond belief, ultra creamy–even without those eggs–and a flavor that screams I-T-A-L-Y!!!!!  This even won over Joe. Maybe it reminds him of our summers spent in Lucca.

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So if you have a overactive basil plant and you just can’t make any more pesto, whip this up. It’s like eating your greens for dessert. …well, whatever we have to tell ourselves!

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Sweet Basil & Honeyed Pine Nut Ice Cream

Source: Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home

2 c. whole milk
1 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. cornstarch
1 1/2 (3 Tbs.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt
1 1/4 c. heavy cream
2/3 c. sugar
2 Tbs. light corn syrup
Large handful of basil leaves, roughly torn into small pieces
1/3 c. (or more, to taste) Honey Pine Nut Pralines

To make the pralines:

1 c. pine nuts
2 Tbs. light brown sugar
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted
1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

Preheat oven to 350-degrees.

Combine the nuts with the remaining ingredients in a bowl, tossing to coat. Spread out on a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. Stir and bake another 5-6 minutes, stirring twice. The nuts should look bubbly and somewhat dry.

Remove from the oven and let cool completely, stirring often to break them up.

To make the ice cream:

Mix about 2 tablespoons of the milk with the cornstarch in a small bowl and make a smooth slurry.

Whisk the cream cheese and salt in a medium bowl until smooth.

Fill a large bowl with ice and water.

Combing the remaining milk, the cream, sugar and corn syrup in a large saucepan, bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat, and boil for 4 minutes. Remove from heat and gradually whisk in the cornstarch slurry.

Bring the mixture back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook, stirring with a heatproof spatula, until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Remove from heat.

Gradually whisk in the hot milk into the cream cheese until smooth. Add the basil.

Pour the mixture into a large ziploc freezer bag and submerge the sealed bag in the ice bath. Let stand until cold, about 30 minutes.

Strain out the basil and pour the ice cream base into the frozen canister and spin until thick and creamy. Pack the ice cream into a storage container, folding in 1/3 c (or more) of the honey pine nut pralines as you go. Press a sheet of parchment directly against the surface and seal with an airtight lid. Freeze overnight.

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Friday Five: 2015’s Mile Marker 0.5

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

We’re halfway to a new year, which means it’s time to check in on those resolutions I set in place six months ago.

Truth be told…I’m not happy with my resolutions for this year. I’ve felt that way since I posted them here. I could have been a little more creative and specific, but that’s the beauty of this blog. Once it’s published, it’s there…living and breathing and holding me accountable.

Here’s where we stand:

5. Adventures!

I’d say we’re managing this one just fine thanks to that jaunt to America’s southern-most state. I hope this year will have more happy adventures, big or small, in the coming months.

4. Blog/Etsy!

Nope. Nadda. This one is not happening for me right now. With everything else going on (see #1), there are some days when I wish either (or both) didn’t exist. I’ve written about why I won’t let that happen…at least not now…but the urge is there and it’s strong.

3. Time Management!

This has gotten easier and though I’m still exhausted I know it’s other factors weighing on me rather than the wonky work hours.

2. Horn!

This is happening as I type. I’ve played my horn more this year than in the previous few and it’s been fun. Especially with Joe and Sean by my side and family coming up for our performances this summer.

1. Family!

In January I deemed 2015 the “Year of the Bella” and boy has it been. After being sick for 6-7 months, she finally was getting back to normal when we had to schedule a surgery last week to remove some benign growths that she was scratching and opening. Her surgery went well, but by the next day one of the shallow sutures had opened and we noticed she couldn’t hear anything. Turns out the ear treatment they gave her has this side effect…something it would have been nice to know BEFORE the surgery…and we’re hoping it comes back before the two-week timeline they gave us.

You don’t realize how much you connect and communicate with your pet through speaking until you can’t. I’ve spent the last 3 days and nights with her in the living room, sometimes just staring at her sleeping, my eyes glazed over with tears. I can’t imagine how scared she must have been to wake up in pain after surgery and not be able to hear anything. To be home and not be able to hear our voices comforting her. A few months ago Joe and I even made a list of all the words and phrases she knows (she’s got a higher vocab than most toddlers, I assure you) and to think there’s a chance I won’t be able to “talk” to her again rips my heart to shreds. We’ve shed an ocean of salt water for her over the last 8 months.

So as we hit this mile marker on the road to 2016, I’m not really looking ahead. My eyes are on my prize (Bella) and I’m taking it with her one day at a time. Here’s to tomorrow and continued recovery of her ears and my heart.

# roommate reunion

This past week we’ve had a very special visitor in my undergraduate roommate, Emily. Before I show how Emily got her Utah on, let me present some {mostly} embarrassing old photos.

Emily and I met in the orientation line before our freshman year. Both horn players, we had practically every single class together throughout our four years and spent our senior year as roommates. We even had the same job on campus working in the music library. Here’s us on our Saturday morning shift as freshman.

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Like our instrument and class schedules, our friends were mutual and we spent a lot of time together on and off the stage.

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Marci, Nick, Jesse, Emily

She + Me + Kim = our class of horns. (We missed you, Kim!)

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I haven’t seen Emily since 2007, so this was a special treat to have her all to myself for a week. It was like no time had passed. But here’s how we passed the time:

We enjoyed everything Logan’s Summerfest has to offer, including gourmet poutine–Emily’s favorite.

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We also headed north to Bear Lake — a Logan must for new visitors.

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And what do we do when we visit Bear Lake??? We eat fresh raspberry shakes!

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Joe is looking mighty Utahan these days.

Wanting to see the lake up close, we drove around (into Idaho and back) to find a good spot to reach the water.

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We found this perfect public park that had a boardwalk through these dry reeds to the beach.

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Funny story: I hung back a bit to take this picture and heard some rustling behind me. I turned around just in time to see this huge snake (the last 1/2-1/3 of it at least) weaving through the plants. Absolute terror. I’m still replaying it in my mind.

At least the lake was nice!

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I’d like to think that Emily flew across the country to visit us and watch Family Feud marathons, but she was actually in Logan for the American Harp Society’s Summer Institute. Emily is one-half of the awesome horn and harp duo Apple Orange Pair, and they performed an incredible recital of works they had commissioned. Well done, guys! (And major props to Chilali for putting on a flawless conference!)

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I also showed Emily the joy of homemade ice cream and let her choose a flavor for us to make together. She picked a winner and I can’t wait to tell you more about it.

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Thanks for visiting, Emily! It was so great to see you after all these years and laugh and stay up late like we did when we were mere babes.

Friday Five: Signs of Summer 2015

Every Friday I’ll indulge my order-crazed brain in a list of randomness. Welcome to my Friday Fives.

This Sunday is the first day of summer. Despite all of our summer vacations already said and done. Despite me wearing shorts before mid-July. Summer…”Summer”…is just beginning. And, like last year, here’s how it’s feeling realer than ever:

5. Temples and Tacos

Tonight we will flock to the booths of homemade art and the food trucks slinging the best tacos and mac-n-cheese. It’s tradish.

4. Festival Frenzy

Logan’s annual opera-musical theater fest starts on Sunday. I’ll be playing more this season, which has required me to get my horn out of its case. Amazing concept.

3. The Vore-tex

Sean and Wallis arrive tomorrow. That’s the surest sign of both a good time and the start of the true summer. So thankful to spend our warm weeks with these wonderful friends.

2. Reunion

This week also has my college roommate, Emily, visiting! We haven’t seen each other in years, but it feels as though no time has passed. We’re looking forward to showing her Utah’s best. Here’s us on graduation day, 2004. More soon about her visit!

1. Home, Sweet Home

After what has felt like non-stop traveling for months, Joe and I are finally home. The suitcases are completely unpacked and put away. And that’s probably the best feeling of all. Let the easy livin’ commence!

# tulsa trip: two littles and a wedding

Last weekend, while Joe was teaching in California, I spent a whirlwind few days in Tulsa for Ica’s wedding. It was fast and furious…and my purse camera and I are no longer on speaking terms…but here’s the run-down of happenings:

I got to spend a lot of time with my favorite littles.

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Linc, who wouldn’t let go of me in April, decided we would just stick to our Facetime modus operandi: waving at a distance.

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Lily had a great time trying out Nonna’s old flute.

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Her momma showing off her Jenks fight song skills.

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My dad’s Monkey Bread Muffins. Yummm-o!

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A boy and his Poppa.

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Just chillin’.

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Lily was taking a song and crafts camp that week, so she made me a few treasures.

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I got to visit her at camp for the final sing-a-long and artwork reveal. So cute.

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She wanted to make a table runner, so she drew this smiley face, copied it herself, cut them out and glued them together. I’m amazed at her creativity until I remember who her momma is. #BoohStewart

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She’s a laugh-a-minute kind of niece.

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While Lily was at camp I got to have some sweet one-on-one time with Linc. #thoseeyes

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And watch him play with toys we played with when we were his age.

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A boy and his YaYa.

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Loves.

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We also had a special girl’s morning with the “Bees” — which is what Lily calls Pop’s B’s. hahahahaha

We met for Aunt Pam’s famous waffles — which Lily supervised, but said she wouldn’t be eating since she ate breakfast earlier that morning. That didn’t stop her from cleaning out a practically-empty Cheez Whiz jar. She cracks me up. A girl after my own heart.

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My favorite waffles.

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The Queen Bee herself.

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Afterwards we showed Lily the beauty of the Mani-Pedi.

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The difference between being 7 and being 33.

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So grown up!

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All hands on deck!

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When I wasn’t smothering these guys with love, I was celebrating Jessica and Alex! First with the most tame, laid-back bachelorette party of all time.

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Helping with tablecloths at the reception venue.

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Enjoying my last Sonic run with MISS Ica. 

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Taking pictures at the rehearsal dinner.

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Taking pictures at the reception, before everyone arrived.

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And, of course, the actual wedding, which was beautiful. So beautiful that my camera couldn’t focus on anything. And now I want to throw it away.

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They were picture perfect, though. Despite my camera’s lack of cooperation!

The lovely bride and groom with their favorite kazoo player and business-card distributor.

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Trouble.

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Lovely, lovely.

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A girl and her cousins.

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Old friends and new husbands.

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I’m happy for you, Ica! What a lovely wedding weekend!

# hawaii: part 5

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Instead of a Friday Five, today you get Part Five of our Hawaii adventure—the final installment. Whew! No one is more relieved than I am for these posts to be wrapping up…although it has been a fun way to relive the adventure.

# Day 8

As with yesterday, we continued being as flexible as possible. This was our last day, but since we were taking the red-eye flight home and had no set check-out time, we could do whatever we wanted. And what we wanted was to watch the sun rise over Haleakala. But weather forecasts the night before called for clouds and storms. So we slept in instead. See? Pretty flexible!

We were not about to give up on some kind of snorkeling. We wanted to see SOMETHING before we left, so back we went to the beach with our gear. The water was…you guessed it…too strong from the winds, so we walked the shore until we found these rocks that formed little pools of sea life, completely protected from the crashing waves.

Maui: 1, Joe & Marci: 1

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Photo caption award goes to Sean for “My preeeecccciiiouussss”.

There we saw tons of fish, crabs, sea urchins, sea anemone and several eels, including this guy who kept popping out to say hi to Joe.

See him on the bottom?

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We were out there for quite a while, but it was the perfect way to experience some ocean life and–the best part–we didn’t even have to get that wet!

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Our little secluded spot offered some more gorgeous views of where we had spent our beach time the last two days.

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After cleaning and packing up as much as possible, we took off for the middle area of Maui—a section we hadn’t yet explored. First up was lunch at the Hali’imaile General Store, another recommendation from Nat and Nicoleen.

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Among other things, we split these brie and grape quesadillas that came with a cilantro and macadamia nut pesto and sweet pea guacamole. So. freakin’. good.

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I also tried to cram in as much local pineapple into my last day as possible. Cue: Pineapple lemonade.

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It was drizzling by midday, but that didn’t deter us from driving up (over 4000 feet!) to see the Ali’I Kula Lavender Farm.

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See that fog? You’re supposed to be able to see the ocean!

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Joe wasn’t really up for walking around in the rain, but I was. This place was breathtaking and the smell! Let’s just say I felt like I had been hit by a lavender tranquilizer gun…in the best way possible.

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The lavender was lovely, of course, and covering just about every square inch of the farm.

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Funny little blooms.

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But there were also sprawling gardens of so much more. Like the most colorful succulents…

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These were stunning.

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There were also trees with these white bulbs all over them.

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I had no idea what they were until I saw this one blooming. Fascinating! What is this and how can I have them all over my yard?!

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It was just a magical place. I could have spent a lot of time here. Not to mention…their shop sells lavender tea, hot lavender scones and lavender brownies.

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Go here. Rain or shine. Take a guided tour or just walk alone in the gardens. It’s worth it.

Now that we’re nearing the end of these posts, I bet you could guess the last thing I wanted to do before leaving for the airport.

If you said anything other than shave ice, you should start over with Part 1 again.

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For our last time, I had Li Hing (duh), Passion Fruit and Blue Hawaii. And they even had Li Hing powder to sprinkle over the top!

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Joe had Cola, Lime, and Mango. And we totally learned our lesson and got the micro size. #muchbetter

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Do you see how the ice is like butter? The power of Ululani’s!

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The sweetest way to end the sweetest of trips.

That night, we stood outside our gate at the airport and watched the sun set. It wasn’t as amazing as our first Maui sunset, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get choked up. This trip brought us so many smiles and laughs—something we needed after a handful of hard, emotionally-heavy months. It was a wonderful escape and the perfect way to celebrate our decade of togetherness. We didn’t want to leave. But, who ever does?

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Mahalo, Hawaii.

And a big mahalo to you for reading the last five posts and for looking at a gazillion photos. Hawaii Trip 2015 is officially in the bag!

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# hawaii: part 4

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# Day 6

Everyone needs a recovery day on vacation. A break from the running around, the lines, the cameras around the neck… no one wants to come back after a trip more exhausted than when they left. So, today was our vacation sabbath and it was good.

Among getting some rest, leisurely exploring our part of the island (Kihei) and trying our best to fit in with the laid-back locals, here are the rest of the day’s highlights:

We drove up to Lahaina and Kaanapali, which are the uber-touristy parts of Maui. They are home to many resorts, one being the Kaanapali Beach Hotel where our friends Nat and Nicoleen stayed this time last year. They highly recommended we check out Leilani’s On the Beach, one of the many restaurants on its property.

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It’s 5-o’clock somewhere, amiright?

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I think Joe picked this strawberry ginger daiquiri for its name: Humuhumunukunukuapua’a.

“Hard to say, easy to drink.”

The highlight of this meal, Nat and Nicoleen warned us, was going to be the Hula Pie. Everywhere you go, menus would say this island favorite was the reason sailors would swim to shore.

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It’s so simple, yet so unbelievably good.

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Oreo crust + Macadamia Nut Ice Cream + Hot Fudge + Toasted Macadamia Nuts + Whipped Cream

= OMG

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To walk off all of that deliciousness, there’s a trail next to the restaurant with a front row seat to Kaanapali Beach, which is stunning.

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Because only I would suggest a second dessert after Hula Pie, we found Maui’s famed Shave Ice establishment on our way back: Ululani’s.

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While Matsumoto’s on Oahu is known for their traditional flavors, Ululani’s is known for its gourmet approach.

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The line was looooong, but—as always—worth the wait.

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We went with the regular size, thinking “micro size must be for the little kids, right?” Um, hellllo….

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I had their Local Motion: Li Hing (!), Mango, and Pineapple. You remember Li Hing, right?

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Sweet and salty syrup? Smiles all around.

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Joe opted for a richer concoction of Root Beer, Cola, and Coffee with a “snowcap” of sweetened condensed milk.

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The perfect bite:

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It took us 15 minutes to finish, but we both agreed that Ululani’s shave ice is superior to Matsumoto’s. …That could have also been the sugar talking. This is also the sugar talking:

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After we emerged from our food coma later that day, we took the beach gear from our condo and walked across the street to Kihei’s gorgeous stretch of sand.

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We put down the camera and played in the ocean for a looooong time, boogy-boarding and swimming together. It was so much fun and, honestly, one of my favorite parts of the entire trip. I did manage to nab these two shots before we called it a day…the first one being another favorite image. I could look at it all day.

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# Day 7

Today had us up bright and early (again) for our all-day snorkeling adventure. We had booked the day with Trilogy Excursions, rated #1 on Trip Advisor…for a reason.

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It was windy when we boarded, but what else was new? It had been crazy windy since we got there.  We found a good spot near the back of the boat and settled in for the ride.{Don’t mind the sunscreen smears on my lens.}

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Now I want a catamaran.

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About an hour out, our captain started radioing other boats further out to check conditions. Everyone was in agreement: the wind, and therefore the swells, was just too strong. It would’ve been beyond dangerous to dump us in the water. Everyone was turning back for Maui, but our captain said he’d give us a tour of South Maui and take us out to see Molokini—the snorkeling hotspot—anyway.

Here’s our first look at Molokini.

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We were disappointed for sure…

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…but we got a free three-hour catamaran ride around Maui and it was awesome. Plus, Trilogy fully refunded or rebooked every single person on the boat. Impeccable customer service. We can’t recommend them enough!

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Since we suddenly had a few hours in the day we weren’t planning on, we decided to try out other beaches to see if we could snorkel on our own, but the waves were still too dangerous, so we just played  and relaxed near the shore.

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Not exactly the way the day was supposed to play out, but we made the most of it. Nothing a little bottle of pineapple wine couldn’t fix.

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