Latest Posts

29 Photo Memories on my 29th Birthday

I created the tradition of publishing a yearly Birthday Post – you can see the past years here:

28 Random Facts About Me on My 28th Birthday

27 Life Lessons Before My 27th Birthday

A Letter to my 21-year-old Self

Today, I am turning 29. I didn’t start to take my blogging more serious until this past year (re-launched in May). Balanced Life Aloha was first created in 2015, but I was not a full-time blogger as it was more so just a creative outlet while I was navigating a specific season in life.

However, the journey has now brought me to current behind-the-scenes business model planning, brand-extension brainstorming and lots more. Some days though, I can’t help but feel a little bit behind in terms of the blogging world. I actually was sitting on that feeling for a little while until I had an epiphany and thought, “WHAT AM I QUESTIONING?!” If I look from the outside-in, I am *just* 29! I have SO much life under my belt already… and the soul-freeing truth is that we all succeed, grow, and transform at our own unique times. Comparison is just a thief of enjoyment for our own journey. Plus, no one else’s timeline, calling, or gift is ever the same as ours. That should really drive us to embrace who we were created to become, and stop the comparing or feeling down if we think that we haven’t accomplished enough “yet”.

I am celebrating 29 years of life. I have been married for over 7 years and in just those 7 years, I’ve had 3 pregnancies, 1 miscarriage, 2 babies with traumatic life-threatening births/deliveries, multiple family members diagnosed with cancer, moved 9 times, bought a house, bought new cars more times than we should have (ah-hem, Santi *eyeroll*), sold an apartment, went back to college a second time while I was a first time mother + graduated with high honors earning my second college degree. I left a successful legal career in the past. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition and spent a lot of time on trips to the hospital and more specialists and doctor appointments than I can even count… I’ve been a wife, a 24-7/365 mother, I’ve exclusively breastfed. I work out, I read, I work hard. I recently paid off all of my student loans, I take care of our home and schedules. I planned and had a wedding, a 30-day honeymoon. OH MY GOSH! The last 7 years have been absolutely insanely packed full of life! I should allow myself to feel nothing but pride for being where I am today; and possessing the inspiration and drive to continue on stretching my future endeavors!

With all of that being said, we are currently living out of suitcases (its been over 30 days now) and are flying out today (on my actual birthday) to permanently move back to Texas–where our hearts call home. We are thankful that this is our very last military PCS, ever. A huge new chapter begins now!

For this year’s birthday post, I’m going to be sharing 29 cherished photos of times throughout my 29 years of life:

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Cheers …and next year’s birthday post will be celebrating the big 3-0!

x. Heather

 

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The Freedom That is My “80/20 Lifestyle”!

Clarity and confidence is what allows me to do what I do – share my life with all of you. It is what the energy is made up of, that allows me to grow, to seek new ventures, and to ask for what I believe aligns with the truths that make me, uniquely me.

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However, clarity and confidence is not something that comes automatically, freely, nor easily. This is especially true in the realm of social media, “influencing”, or any life that is shared openly with the world. Most times, when one is first beginning or immersing themselves in such a way of life, the energy to share tends to be firstly shaped by the outside approval from an audience.

For me, the “clarity and confidence energy” has been a long time coming. Because I have from the very start, shared all aspects of my life via the Balanced Life Aloha outlets, there were times where certain  rude commentary that was beyond ugly and judgmental would temporarily stunt my growth. That is because I am a mother and wife first, so commonly I didn’t have the time to really sit down, focus, and deal with the elephant in the room. At one point, that elephant in the room morphed in to a self-resistance which inhibited me from sharing certain things, like any of my food or recipes that contained animal products or meat, as well as certain products that involved plastics. These were the two biggest “issues” or points of contention along my personal journey towards this “clarity and confidence energy” from which I can now emanate from.

Within the past year, any hesitances that I once had to share my (imperfect) life,  have all been truly lifted off of my shoulders. I wish that I could tell you some exact formula or sequence of events that brought me to this point of freedom to share ALL ASPECTS and MY TRUTHS, but it really was a culmination of many different things.

One thing for sure that helped, was coming to terms with that fact that I will never live a life where everyone I come across, will “like” me. Now that doesn’t mean that I believe in just being an utter a-hole because “people won’t like me anyways” – no, that is not what I am alluding to here. What I am saying, is that THE MOST IMPORTANT THING is that YOU LIKE YOURSELF! That is a top priority, because when you love yourself despite downfalls, you fortify a confidence to just be you and not care who ridicules. It is a huge weight released from your entire being.

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Just as important, is the fact that YOU DON’T HAVE TO REMAIN THE SAME PERSON INDEFINITELY. You can wake up everyday and choose who you want to be and the things that you want to change going forward. Furthermore, letting go of the world’s idiotic hold on your conscious to be a certain way/look a certain way/accomplish certain things, – that release also brings internal peace. No one should feel shame in the evolution of their system of beliefs or way of  life – releasing these holds brings a soul-quenching freedom that I cannot even put in to words.

RE: MY 80/20 LIFESTYLE/

Whatever your lifestyle is, if it brings you wellness, overall good health, inner peace, doesn’t cause you pain, you’ve seen proof in lab results or in other tangible ways. . . THAT should be celebrated. Do not tolerate any attack to your own unique blueprint of life.

So we are clear, “80/20” is not an EXACT definition. It wavers. But for the sake of this article, and documenting in a prosaic way, I use this ratio of 80/20. (Santiago claims it to be more 70/30, but hey – this is my article ;] )

Overall, I describe my personal lifestyle as this 80/20 approach. The 80% is made up of the goal that meals are primarily cooked at home, which include the foods that promote health and healing for my personal circumstances (and what we believe to be best for our family). This 80% aspect also includes spending quality time with my family, quiet intellectual time, as well as writing, working, and exercising. The other 20% consists of “everything else”. That ranges from ordering meals to-go, dining out, getting a coffee or tea, lunches with friends, business meetings, life celebrations, and everything in-between.

The 20% is just as crucial as the 80% is in maintaining a well-balanced life. Personally, it allows me to avoid holding myself to an unhealthy standard of perfection. You see, I have an autoimmune condition, but although I committed years ago to making choices that would allow me to heal and thrive, along the journey I became mindful of the mental aspects and the importance of not allowing it to take complete control over my life. I learned that poor thoughts and mindsets can make autoimmune diseases flare just as quickly as poor food choices can. Therefore, BALANCE is what I strive for, and the only way for me to really live my life.

RE: THE 80%/

  • Wholesome, anti-inflammatory when needed, quality ingredients.
  • Responsible sources, grass-fed meats, organic as much as possible + NON-GMO.
  • Nutrient-dense, color-filled veggies and fruits for all of the antioxidants, fiber, and stuff that science has yet to even discover.

Common goals stem around balancing out HPA-axis dysfunction, blood sugar dysfunction, and overall hormonal health. Of the same importance, is supporting my elimination and detoxification organs to remove toxicants and lower my overall toxic load. GUT HEALING IS EXTREMELY IMPERATIVE!!! Adequate amounts of fluids. Steady physical exercise. Brain exercise. Dedicated family time without distractions. + SLEEP!!!

*Like I said, things change and shift over time to stay in-sync with my evolving body, conditions, and overall status of life and wellness.

 

RE: THE 20%/

(About) 20% is living and eating for just. pure. joy. This part of my lifestyle stems from basically eating and enjoying whatever I want – yes, seriously.

There were many years where I didn’t allow myself any amount of freedom to ever eat or do whatever I felt like, for the sake of, well, just wanting to! Also, there was a small amount of time while I first started developing this 80/20 balance, in which I didn’t feel like I should share the 20% aspect with my audience.

Then, my mindset transformed. I made the choice to have a GROWTH MINDSET (that evolves), versus a FIXED MINDSET (that things should stay the same and be concrete). As a result, this shifted my beliefs about healing, sharing my life, and social media altogether. The growth mindset set me free to share the indulgent and gluttony portion of my life. I embraced that the act of celebrating isn’t meant to be critiqued, it’s just meant to be ENJOYED! So I decided that I would never allow the fear of being critiqued for an imperfect diet, stop me from enjoying the F^@! out of my life.

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Now today, it’s common (if you follow me on social media) to witness me share a meal or celebratory grub that may not be organic, or gluten-free, or resemble ANYTHING of what I used to only restrict myself to, years ago. And I am totally at peace with that, because this is the life of which brings me the upmost JOY, FREEDOM, GROWTH, and HAPPINESS.

RE: FOOD FREEDOM/

It is usually not an easy nor over night journey; it has taken me 5+ years to arrive, but the journey to FOOD FREEDOM can lead to an immeasurable joy in life. Before I go any further, I want to note that I understand that I am talking about a sensitive subject to many, especially anyone who struggles with an eating disorder. I am not an expert on disordered eating – what I am sharing here, is just my unique journey with food and the essence of my lifestyle.

The first few years post autoimmune diagnosis, I was so wrapped up in learning as much as I possibly could about healing, that I inadvertently created food goals that were not sustainable in the long run. I am not discrediting the practices or protocols that I utilized (and still do intermittently) during my healing, and there is most definitely a time and place where they are a must and can truly heal and transform a persons health and therefore, life.

But as time passed, I found myself in a place in which I didn’t HAVE to think about the physiological reaction that every bite of food was going to create within my body or how it would correlate to (or setback) my healing journey. Therefore, I slowly started to realize that, unless absolutely necessary, there is a HUGE importance in NOT placing so much emphasis on eating “perfectly” or those “perfectly healthy” foods every meal of every single day.

As a matter of fact, the amount of stress that can be created from 100% steering clear of the “bad foods”, can actually be counterproductive and cause even more harm than that actual piece of pizza would! To get to the point: TRYING TO MAINTAIN A 100% PERFECT DIET CAUSES MORE HARM THAN GOOD – that is my truth.

PLUS! I. LOVE. FOOD. SO. MUCH. I have accepted the fact that I don’t want to live a life where I always have to say no to the things that yeah, may not be the healthiest of choices, but spark so much happiness within enjoying! …really, it’s just about balance.

RE: MEAT/

Food is not the one solution to saving the planet. But before your feathers get ruffled, remember the simple fact: we are all entitled to our own opinions. I surely can agree to disagree and still respect an opposing view. Yes, my diet consists of meat. If you cannot accept that, then I would ask you to just not engage with or follow me on the channels in which I share my life. I will not waste anymore time of my life arguing with anyone who does not possess the human understanding of compassion within differences. Nope.

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I have endlessly opened up my mind and heart to learning aspects of all different kinds of lifestyles and dietary ways. My choices are not ignorantly nor blindly made. Although there are most definitely some horrible (and needing of improvements) aspects to conventional livestock production, etc., something that I found to be missing in pretty much every single anti-meat campaign that I have seen or read, is the essential role that grazing animals play in genuinely sustainable agriculture. Some aspects of livestock production may need to be reformed, but eliminating it completely would do more harm than good. Livestock is necessary for maintaining healthy soil food webs on our agricultural land. Their trampling, grazing, and digestive systems cannot be replaced by wild animals nor by technology.

There is no doubt a significance to the question of, “What should we eat to reduce our impact on the environment?” However, the other part of that question that is repeatedly omitted, is, “…while also reducing the incidence of the diet-related diseases which threaten to completely overwhelm our healthcare systems.”  A large percentage of food production debates that I have listened to and read, are very predisposed and biasedly dominated by people with little (or sometimes none) practical experience with actual food production.

Now when a campaign vilifies meat or animal products all together, for the sake of “sustainability”, more times than not, the following issues are not even mentioned or touched on at all:

  • The environmental impact of palm oil/soy bean oil, sunflower oil (etc.) production.
  • The environmental impact of nitrogen fertilizers.
  • The decline in pollinating insects and the correlating effects.
  • The harm of pesticides (also with known carcinogenic impacts) that basically would have been banned A LONG TIME AGO, if it were not for the fact that seed oils/vegetable growers can’t produce food without them now.
  • The soil degradation and sterilization.

 

According to an SFT (Sustainable Food Trust) Policy Director,

Environment Secretary Michael Gove himself has warned that we are 30-40 years away from running out of soil fertility on large parts of our arable land.

Contrary to popular belief, continuous crop production is not sustainable. That’s the mistake made by the Sumerians 5,000 years ago in what is now Iraq, and the Romans in North Africa 2,000 years ago; and in both cases the soils have never recovered. Far from abandoning livestock farming on grassland, we actually need to reintroduce grass and grazing animals into arable crop rotations.

It’s true, and a very great concern, that human activity is destroying the natural world in a completely unsustainable way. The growing of grain crops specifically for intensive livestock is clearly part of the problem, as is highly intensive grassland farming. However, blaming meat consumption so specifically lets an awful lot of practices off the hook. When one considers the rabbits, hares, deer, moles and wild birds killed each year to protect food crops, and the decline in hedgehog and other small mammal numbers since the 1950s – in part due to the removal of hedgerows to make fields larger for crop production – plant-based diets could even be responsible for the deaths of as many mammals and birds as animals slaughtered from the livestock sector.

Since we were (mistakenly in my view) encouraged to switch from animal to vegetable fats 35 years ago, we’ve also consumed and used ever-greater quantities of palm oil from south-east Asia. Its production has been responsible for the near annihilation of many species, including orangutans, pygmy elephants and Sumatran elephants, rhinos and tigers. With demand still growing, similar pressures are now building in equatorial countries in Africa and South America where palm oil production is also taking off. The scientists behind some of the most recent research on species decline blame “human overpopulation and continued population growth, and overconsumption…” rather than livestock production specifically.

 

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Okay, before I go any further,  (you can disagree or agree – that’s your own business), I want to share one of the most important understandings in my opinion, in regards to being constantly inundated with other people’s unique lifestyle beliefs and the never-ending choices of labels to place on oneself:

There is no one dietary lifestyle that is healthy for every single person all-around.

One of the many strangers, who attacked me for eating meat, had said this to me, “If you care about the planet or your health and not getting cancer you REALLY should stop eating meat. Go try a Beyond Meat burger, I promise that you won’t miss those atrocious meals you eat that further the suffering and killing of innocent animals!”

…….First of all, BEYOND MEAT IS ACTUALLY BEYOOOONDDDD ANYTHING EVEN REMOTELY “HEALTHY”. If you actually read in to the ingredients of these products, they are also not sustainable either.

One of the main ingredients is soy protein isolate. For me, having a thyroid condition and autoimmune conditions, soy is something that I try to avoid as much as possible (80%). Also, according to a Dr. Mercola source,

Soy protein isolate is not something you can make in your own kitchen. Production takes place in industrial factories where a slurry of soy beans is first mixed with an alkaline solution to remove fiber, then precipitated and separated using an acid wash and, finally, neutralized in an alkaline solution.

Acid washing in aluminum tanks leaches high levels of aluminum into the final product. The resultant curds are spray- dried at high temperatures to produce a high-protein powder.

Another Beyond Meat ingredient is canola oil.  When rapeseeds are highly pressurized, to extract the last of the oil, canola cakes undergo a 70-minute wash with a “chemical solvent.” This chemical solvent, is hexane. A neurotoxin. Furthermore, once the oil cools – it is also bleached!

A Beyond Meat “burger” is created in a lab, with toxic ingredients. Also, most are obviously unaware that Tyson Foods (yes, like Tyson Chicken Nuggets), is part OWNER of the Beyond Meat start-up…. so buying a Beyond Meat product means financially supporting the meat industry.

Let’s Pause for one second though, because I want to make it clear that this was just a response to one, yet still – I AM NOT PREACHING THAT MY DIET IS 100% PERFECT + ALWAYS ABSENT OF SOME OF THESE INGREDIENTS! Let me get to the bigger point here and the remainder of my response (copy/pasted):

Every human is biochemically unique & what is “healthy” for them depends on a plethora of things like their microbial terrain, gastrointestinal integrity, ancestral history, physiological milieu, micronutrient sufficiency, etc…

If you (for no very specific reason to your health or just because of a current fad) vilify one food or diet choice – you can completely miss out on the possible therapeutic values of it. For example, people with autoimmune conditions (like me) can thrive with the inclusion of animal products because of the bioavailability of Vitamins A, D, E, & K, etc… 

& In regards to your comment about cancer – the same mindset applies. Consider researching (for one example) Dr. Nicholas Gonzalez, who put late pancreatic cancer and other cancers into remission using two varying approaches—one being a vegan diet and one being red meat/animal products. The approach was decided upon by the patients’ ratio of sympathetic to parasympathetic tone and type of cancer. This basically recognizes the INHERENT biochemical individuality which DICTATES ones response to any certain dietary intervention/lifestyle.

All in all though, dietary dogmatism and the cult-like following to any one “diet” tends to be seriously hypocritical. Ones dietary choices should be able to evolve with/like/as their health does. These “what’s right to eat” arguments and fear-mongering that “all meat causes cancer”, etc. – what ppl like you think you are doing, in actuality, is really just becoming the monster that you think you are “fighting against” or trying to prove as inferior/wrong. Please just unfollow me if you don’t agree with my lifestyle. I will not respond any further.

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RE: OFFAL + FOOD WASTE/

America is in many ways and for a large group of  people, a place of abundance. Though food deserts are still a very real issue in some rural areas, for the most part, food is accessible. However, what coincides with that, is the fact that a majority of people turn their noses up towards anything other than the same ‘ole common cuts of meats or generic vegetables that they have always chosen and can be found in excess at their grocery store.

I’m touching on this topic briefly, because it has a presence in my overall lifestyle and diet today.

I grew up with both parents working full-time for my entire life. A big part of my upbringing was spent with my grandmother. She grew up during the Great Depression, and never ceased to tell me stories of her catching and killing chickens just to have one meal a day, most times, during that era. She instilled a way of thinking that wasting food (or “picky eating” altogether) is utterly sinful. True story: she once made my brother and I, mac-n-cheese with strawberry yogurt, because she had run out of milk. And you guessed it, we had to eat our entire serving without a grimace.

Now this is an immigrant country. Most ancestral stories include parents or grandparents coming to America from other countries. A lot of those countries of origin being much more poor – places where every scrap of food is of high importance. A very big reality also, is that the parts of animals that most Americans contemn, like offal, are a customary part of the rest of the world’s meals and essential nutrition!

Americans, for the most part, only eat the muscles of animals and not their organs. This has been an issue dating back to the World War II era. During that time, the United States was preparing for war and with the Great Depression impoverishing millions, the government realized the need for substitute proteins. Margaret Mead, a preeminent cultural anthropologist, was asked to chair the “Committee on Food Habits”, with basically the task to convince Americans to eat offal.

In that pursuit, social scientists concluded this,

For one, “…lots of people simply have thought of organ meat as scraps and have no idea how to cook it—the average American doesn’t eat offal, in other words, because the average American has never eaten offal.”

And two, “The socioeconomic stigma attached to offal is a whole other problem. Many Americans, think organ meats are what poor country folks ate, and with good reason—organ meats were what poor country folks ate. This being the U.S., said stigma likely has to do with a racial component too. Chitlins, for example, made from pork intestines, first became a staple of African-American diets in colonial times, when prosperous whites dined on the choice hog meat and left their slaves to make do with the guts.”

Oddly enough, today, the hotdog is a much loved commodity in this nation. I presume that is because most are unaware that, if labeled per regulations, hot dogs can contain as much as 85 percent organ meat. But food stigma aside, there are parts of our world where people kill for food, and children die from starvation. So to me, I can’t fathom turning away a meal or dish offered to me, just because it may not be something “usually” seen on a plate or what I decided just wasn’t “for me”. Also, my husband has helped me further this way of thinking and eating; seeing as he himself was an immigrant to this country as a child, and his belief system stems from a very stoic (/grateful for the little that he had) upbringing.

So telling your kids to “eat your food because there are starving kids in ‘XYZ’ country”, it may seem half-jokingly, but at some point, most likely, someone in your family MEANT THAT command in a very serious and intimately-influenced way.

I was raised in a way in which we were always expected to finish our entire serving and not waste the food we had. Being fully transparent though – with my parents, I grew up eating mostly Italian food (Chicago-style), steak and potatoes, nothing too far-fetched or what would be deemed as “exotic”.  But, my interest in other cultures and unfamiliar cuisines was very much always alive and played a large role in my imagination. So much so, that the day that I graduated high school, I jumped on a plane and moved to Hawaii by myself – and it was like I finally got what I always dreamed of. A whole new world of food and cuisine that inherently changed me and ignited what has become the ethos of my palate, love of all food (including all parts of the animal) and cooking today.

RE: WHEN I NEED A RESET/

Despite my jaunty prose throughout this article, there are times where I have to predominately focus on my health/the 80%. It is during this time, when I tend to primarily rely on the Autoimmune Protocol System (an elimination diet). Perhaps I have a bad reaction to something or an entirely new symptom pops up; this tool allows me to heal and make choices accordingly until I feel back in a balanced state. Over time, the need for such a reset has become fewer and further in between – which I feel blessed for.

*other things that I turn to, are bone broth and a wide array of herbs and supplements.

CONCLUSION/

Please don’t ever hold me to a standard of an end-all-be-all lifestyle with perfect choices. I give myself the grace to adapt, for I never want to stop learning or growing – ever!

Over time, everything evolves.

For instance, years ago I could not tolerate garlic or onion – I had horrible pains that ended up with several trips to the emergency room, and my stomach was in a horrible state. During that time, I might have been sharing about these types of negative effects of FODMAPS (onion, garlic, etc.), because that was my reality. Additionally, for a very long time (most of my life) I could not tolerate dairy in any form. When I started my health journey I was also learning about potential negative effects of dairy, so, I shared that information too! However, after many years of dedicated healing practices, I have for the most part, healed my stomach veritably and rid these intolerances that I used to suffer from. Now, because of this, I have started to open up my beliefs to the BENEFITS of (responsibly sourced) dairy products and I don’t have to omit FODMOPS from my diet.

So when you are presented with differing diet/lifestyle aspects, filter the information and do your own research! As I have learned, our bodies change, and certain choices will not always be universally applicable. This way, you will expand your knowledge in correlation to your own biology, situation, and conditions.

 

Ultimately, it’s all about BALANCE, and being yourself.

 

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Thank you for your compassion, understanding, and also in supporting my journey.

x. Heather

 

Homemade Seasoned Tacos RECIPE

I’m going to be straight forward with ya’ll and share what I believe makes “my tacos”, well, “MY TACOS”. So it all started in college. Once upon a time, all I had left in my fridge was ground beef, and in the pantry: tomato paste and corn tortillas. So, I made taco meat with tomato paste and a TON of pepper/salt and other seasonings that I had on hand. It turned out pretty killer and over the course of the past decade I have been evolving it. For those who have asked me to write some sort of recipe for the way that I create my taco meat, this is for you. Although I transform this recipe in to other things from time to time or switch up the ingredients, etc. – this is the basic gist of what I do. Nothin’ fancy, but a staple in my household because it’s pretty simple to make and everyone enjoys it.

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RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS/

  • 3 lbs. ground beef
  • salt/pepper (use your eye and add accordingly by taste)
  • cumin (about 1 tbsp.)
  • onion powder (about 1 tbsp.)
  • smoked paprika (about 1 tbsp.)
  • chili powder (about 1 tbsp.)
  • garlic powder (about 1 tbsp.)
  • celery salt (about 1 tbsp.)
  • 1 lemon’s juice
  • 2 cans of tomato paste
  • hot sauce (your preference + level of heat)
  • 1 large onion
  • grass-fed butter (about a large spoonful)

DIRECTIONS/

  1. Heat up stainless steel pot on Medium. Add butter, let melt.
  2. Chop onion and add to butter, add a pinch or so of salt to sweat the onion.
  3. Once onions are clear, add the ground beef and use cooking utensil to mash up and break-up any large chunks (to what extent is your own preference).
  4. Once meat is broken apart evenly, add in salt/pepper, then cumin, onion powder, paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, celery salt. Mix evenly.
  5. Let cook for about 5-6 minutes, then add the 2 cans of tomato paste, lemon juice, and hot sauce, mix and disperse evenly until no chunks of any ingredients are visible.
  6. Leave on heat until meat is cooked through. (Sometimes I’ll add a little butter at the end and turn up the heat to make some crispy pieces – but that can turn disastrous quick, so proceed with caution, lol.)
  7. Serve on tortillas with your favorite toppings, or in a burrito, taco salad – your choice.
  8. Enjoy!

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PRINTABLE (right click to download):

 

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Enjoy!

 

x. Heather

Exclusive Hawai’i TRAVEL GUIDE +Extensive O’ahu Restaurant/Food List!

Within the top 3 most frequent topics of direct messages that I receive, is the topic of Hawai’i. Most of the messages are either someone planning a visit to the islands and looking for my recommendations, or someone contemplating moving to the islands. Now although in the past I have written some short and simple O’ahu recommendation lists via features on outside brand websites or editorials, this is my first and only exclusive HAWAI’I TRAVEL GUIDE, which can be found – only here – on BALANCEDLIFEALOHA.com!


 

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Q: WHICH ISLAND SHOULD I VISIT?

A: Having lived on the island of O’ahu for 11 years, the most juicy of details and thorough recommendations that I will have, are obviously for this island. I have only spent a small (in comparison to living on O’ahu) amount of time on the outer islands, so those recommendations will be fewer. Read further to learn more, so that you can perhaps make the decision regarding which island(s) is right for your visit.

Q: WHAT TIME OF YEAR SHOULD I VISIT?

A: Every season of the year has something different to offer when visiting Hawai’i. For instance, during the rainy months (Nov-March) you may witness natural waterfalls pop up while driving around the islands. Like on the East side of O’ahu through the Pali Highway, through the tunnels of the H-3, or perhaps the Likelike Highway. On the Big Island, there are certain times of the winter season where there is snow on top of the island’s high mountain volcano summits. The answer to this question, also depends on what your goals are, what kind of “vacationer” you are, and what you ultimately would like to experience.  If you just want to chill out, bum in the sand and take in the Hawaiian beach scene – I would say that the spring break or summer season would be a sure bet for you since that is when it is mostly always sunny with warm waters! (Though these are also the “busier” times in terms of tourist seasons, so you’ll also have to take that in to consideration as well). Keep in mind also, that while hurricane season is technically from June-November; it peaks in August/September so you may want to think about purchasing some sort of trip insurance in case you have to cancel, etc. Basically, there is no sure-win answer as to WHEN you should plan a visit. That will always be a personal decision based on your desires.


 

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The state of Hawai’i consists of eight main islands, but six distinct islands are open to tourists to visit. The main four being O’ahu, the Big Island, Kauai and Maui. Lana’i and Moloka’i are smaller, but still a possible option.

 

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The main Hawaiian Islands contain about 1.2 million people, the majority of which inhabit the island of O‘ahu. Tourism is one of the major industries in the state and brings an additional 6.4 million visitors to the islands each year. The majority of these tourists come to Hawai’i because of the beaches and other ocean-related activities. Though there has been extensive anthropogenic degradation of the marine environment in the main Hawaiian Islands due to pollution, coastal development, overfishing, and military activity. (source)


 

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O’ahu, “The Gathering Place” or “The Heart of Hawaii”

O’ahu is home to about 80 percent (876,156 residents) of the state of Hawaii’s total population. It is also where the state capital is located, in the city of Honolulu. In terms of size, O’ahu is the third largest island at 597 square miles. There are more than 125 beaches, which includes the famous Waikiki Beach and North Shore surf spots like Banzai Pipeline.  O’ahu is a true mix of city/urban and country/beach – which seems to appeal to a wide audience of tourists, and perhaps also why it is deemed as, “The Gathering Place”.

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O’ahu is definitely the busiest of the islands, which also results in vastly diverse cultures. You can arrange to visit places like Pearl Harbor Memorial, or the Polynesian Cultural Center to learn about ancient traditions, partake in some major world-class shopping (at the Ala Moana Shopping CenterWaikele Outlet Mall, etc.), and stop by local food trucks for gourmet grinds, or reserve a table at a high-class restaurant for some Hawaiian-style fine dining.

If you’re looking for a high-energy vacation with many different kinds of activities, O’ahu can for sure deliver on that goal. No worries though, white sand beaches and relaxing resorts tucked away from the hustle and bustle are also in abundance as well (check out my review of The Four Seasons O’ahu Resort).

Honolulu International Airport (recently named “Daniel K. Inouye International Airport“), has a wide array of flight options, making it an often starting point for island-hopping trips, too.


 

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Maui, “The Valley Isle” or “The Famous Island”

As the second largest island (727 square miles), Maui earned its “Valley Isle” nickname because of the large isthmus that is between its northwestern and southeastern volcanoes and the many large valleys that are carved into the mountain ranges.

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On Maui, you’ll find some more world-famous Hawaiian beaches featuring black, red, and white sand, the infamous “Road to Hana“, Haleakala National Park (this volcano forms more than 75% of the island of Maui). If relaxing is on your agenda, the plentiful beach resorts in Lahaina can offer that. World renowned snorkeling can be found at Ka’anapali Beach, which is home to Black Rock, boasting calm waters and frequented by wild green Hawaiian sea turtles. It was once named “America’s Best Beach”.

Flights to Maui (Kahului Airport) from the mainland are usually the second-cheapest for visiting Hawai’i (first being to O’ahu).


 

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Kauai, “The Garden Isle”

As the oldest (geologically) island, Kauai  is the fourth largest at 562 square miles. Its’ nickname stems from the fact that about 97-percent of its land consists of undeveloped mountain ranges and rainforests. Kauai is the second “wettest spot on Earth,” getting about 450 inches of rain every year.

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For beach lovers, Poipu is a sunny town on the south side of the island with a population of only about 979 residents, but boasts a group of high-end hotels, resorts and one main shopping center. The beach in Poipu is also a common place to spot humpback whales during the winter season. Waimea Canyon (also known as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific”) is on the way while driving to the infamous Na Pali Coast – a secluded state wilderness park.

Most flights hop from O’ahu to Kauai, but a few airlines fly from the West Coast in to Kauai’s Lihue Airport (although expect to pay more for direct flights).


 

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Hawaii, “The Big Island”

The Big Island is the geographically biggest of all the Hawaiian islands (encompasses about 4,028 square miles) and  still growing, thanks to the world’s most active volcano, Kilauea. Yet the island has a population of only 186,738 residents. The  land areas of O’ahu, Maui, Kauai, Moloka’i, Lana’i, Niihau and Kaho’olawe could all fit into the Big Island’s land and there would still be some left uncovered!

You can literally travel through all but four of the world’s existing climate zones, on the Big Island. With everything from the tropics to the polar tundra – there are also lots of coastal scenery, coffee farms, and cattle farms, each boasting its own unique climate and industry.  On the Big Island, you can spend time on black, green, and red sand beaches, as well as possibly witness flowing molten magma!

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The Hawaiʻi Volcanoes National Park contains a Mars-like landscape along Crater Rim Drive, which passes steam vents, the Jaggar Museum/volcanology exhibits, and viewpoints overlooking Halema’uma’u Crater

On the Hilo side of the Big Island, the Kohala Coast is perhaps the sunniest region (reportedly 355 days of sunshine per year). For the golf enthusiasts, you can find some of the most beautiful courses here too!

Due to size, there are two “main” airports on the Big IslandKona International Airport in the west and Hilo International Airport in the east. Although, still, most flights from the mainland fly into O’ahu then take a 40-minute flight over to the Big Island.


 

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Moloka’i, “The Friendly Island” or “The Rustic Island”

Moloka’i is the the fifth largest Hawaiian island, at about 260 square miles, and is the least “touristy”. You won’t find a building taller than a palm tree nor fast food chains. Laid-back lifestyle is the way things are on this island, and visitors commonly deem it as “the friendliest” of the Hawaiian islands.

One of the most remote visits to Hawai’i, would be to Moloka’i – which is one of the least populated islands (about 7,345 residents) with the least modern amenities. It also has some of Hawaii’s highest sea cliffs and longest continuous reef.

molokai

The history of the island of Moloka’i includes the remnants of one of history’s horrific medical sequestersKalaupapa, which was Hawaii’s leprosy colony, is where 8,000 people were once sent into exile over the course of a century. Reportedly, six of those sequesters still reside there, though the law that banished Hawaii’s leprosy patients was lifted in 1969.

Most of Moloka’i’s residents have indigenous heritage, which makes it one of the most traditionally Hawaiian places to visit. Though no big name resorts, this island is a place for those looking for a true break from the noise of today’s society.

There are no direct flights to Moloka’i from anywhere outside of Hawai’i, so you would have to connect from either O’ahu or Maui – to Hoolehua Molokai Airport.


 

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Lanai, “The Pineapple Isle” or “The Rugged Island”

The smallest inhabited island in Hawai’i is Lana’i. With a population of about 3,193 residents, and an entire land area of 140 square miles, it is also privately-owned.

Most of the population lives in Lana’i City,  which has a small collection of buildings in the center of the island. This is the only area of Lana’i that can be classified as a town, and there is only one school, Lana’i High and Elementary School.

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According to official government visitor guides, Central Lana’i offers hikes among native ohia lehua trees, horseback riding adventures amongst lush valleys and ironwood forests, plus heritage site tours and more via UTV guides. North Lana’i has some stunning beaches and rugged nature preserves which offer a perfect mix of relaxation and adventure. South Lana’i is home to Hulopoe Bay, known for snorkeling and sunbathing, or picnics overlooking Puu Pehe (Sweetheart Rock).

Most of the island’s population descends from plantation workers (once the world’s largest pineapple plantation, the island was developed in the 1920’s by James Drummond Dole – yes, of Dole Pineapples). Today, there are two world-class resorts (favorited by celebs like Bill Gates, Will Smith, and Beyonce/Jay-Z) on Lana’i, as well as a very renowned golf scene.

Lana’i is known to be an enticing and romantic island, given the secluded resorts and protected marine reserve. There is only 30 miles of paved roads, one gas station, and a landscape that spans from desert-like to stunning coastline with break-taking views all around.

With no direct flights, you’ll have to fly in to either O’ahu or Maui, and then hop on an inner-island flight to Lana’i Airport or take a ferry from Maui.


 

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Niihau – “The Forbidden Isle”

Niihau is the seventh largest (69.5 square miles). It’s known as the “Forbidden Island” because it’s generally off-limits to all but relatives of the island’s owners, U.S. Navy personnel and government officials. There are a few supervised activity tours and hunting safaris that opened to tourists in the late 1980’s, but for the most part, the island remains fairly isolated from the rest of civilization. (source)

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Kaho’olawe – “The Target Isle”

Kaho’olawe is the smallest Hawaiian island (44.6 square miles). It became known as the “The Target Isle” after serving as a training ground for the U.S. Army during World War II. Today, the public is still prohibited from accessing the island because it is not guaranteed that it is free of unexploded bombs. (source)

kahoolawe


 

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  • Respect the land and those who live here. Leave absolutely NO trash on the beach, nor  partake in ANY kind of littering – this includes cigarette butts!
  • Support the local community by choosing to eat primarily at places other than corporate chains (like McDonalds, etc.) as much as possible.
  • Always tip your taxis, bartenders, servers, waitresses, bellhops, and valet!
  • If you are going to bring your own sunscreen – make sure that it is reef-safe, as Hawai’i is the first state in the U.S. that has banned sunscreen containing the coral-harming chemicals oxybenzone and octinoxate.
  • Don’t damage coral – touching or stepping on it is harmful!
  • Respect private property. Though all beaches in Hawai’i are open to the public, do not walk across someone’s private yard to reach the beach. Use public accesses.
  • If you are given a lei, always accept and wear it with gratitude. Never take the lei off in the presence of the person who gave it to you – that is seen as disrespectful.
  • It is unlawful to bring any fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables, etc. to Hawai’i as they could be harmful to Hawaii’s delicate ecosystem/environment. Any plants or animals brought into Hawai’i must be declared and inspected upon arrival.
  • Don’t approach or harass sea turtles, monk seals, or humpback whales. They’re all endangered species and protected by law.
  • Don’t honk your horn in traffic unless it is an emergency. Drive with aloha!

 

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MUST-TRY:

Butter Mochi

Malasada

Poke (pronounced “POH-kay”)

Acai Bowl

Spam Musubi

Loco Moco

Lau Lau

Lilikoi Juice/or Fresh Lilikoi Fruit Pulp

Garlic Shrimp Plate


 

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Hawai’i has one of the toughest laws against smoking in the United States. The “Hawai’i Smoke-Free Law” prohibits smoking in public buildings, including airports, shopping malls, grocery stores, retail shops, buses, movie theaters, banks, convention facilities, and all government buildings and facilities. There is no smoking in restaurants, bars, or nightclubs. Most B&Bs prohibit smoking indoors, and more and more hotels and resorts are becoming smoke-free even in public areas. Also, there is no smoking within 20 feet of a doorway, window, or ventilation intake (so no hanging around outside of a bar to smoke—you must go 20 ft. away). Even some beaches have no-smoking policies. (source

Furthermore, the “Smoke-Free Ride when Keiki Inside” was an act enabled in 2018, which made it illegal to smoke or vape in any motor vehicle when a minor is present. Violators are subject to fines (fine amounts vary by county). Kauai county law only applies to youth under 13. In all other counties, smoke-free vehicle laws apply to youth under 18. (source)


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OAHU//

A few years ago, Conde Nast Traveler  hailed Honolulu as “The Next Foodie Frontier” while reporting on the upscale new wave restaurants opening up throughout the city. Today, this still couldn’t be any more true… which is also why my food recommendation list is pretty extensive (and honestly, most important – in my opinion).

 

FOOD/

 

HONOLULU CHINATOWN:

“First Fridays” has been an interactive social experience happening in Chinatown for over 15 years now. Of course during my college years, this was the place to be on any first Friday NIGHT of a month (ESPECIALLY on Halloween); but I have come to find that there are also family-friendly parts to be enjoyed before the sun sets. During First Fridays, streets are all closed off to vehicle traffic, and food vendors/restaurants come to life in a celebratory scene spilling on to the streets and sidewalks.

Honolulu Chinatown is also where “The Arts District” is found (Fort Street Mall to Maunakea Street + King Street to Beretania Street), the iconic Hawai’i Theatre, traditional lei shops, Chinese herbalists, fruit and vegetable booths, meat markets, and a plethora of locally owned restaurants.

Brick Fire Tavern (Pizza Napoletana, Bar)

J. Dolan’s (Handcrafted Pizza, Hand-poured Drinks)

The Pig and The Lady (Vietnamese, Pho)

Ethopian Love (Ethiopian)

TOPPED (Korean)

Yakitori Hachibei (Japanese, Skewers)

 

DOWNTOWN HONOLULU + AREA:

The downtown scene is a little bit perplexing. I used to work in a high-rise business building during my legal career in my early 20’s – the norm is for businessmen and businesswomen to walk to lunch during the weekday work hours. Small little shops on the street level of these high-rises are busy-as-can-be during these rush hour times. However, after about 5p.m. or so on weekdays, most tend to close, and during the weekend it can sometimes feel like a ghost town. That is however, aside from the spots that are ONLY open for the dinner hours (many on the list below). It’s confusing, I know, but if you find yourself in the area during any of their open business hours, I have a few recommendations:

 –Aloha Beer Company (Beer, Small Plates, Charcuterie, Sandwiches)

Café Duck Butt (Karaoke Bar, Korean food, 21+)

Restaurant Senia (Gastronomic Experience, Pork Belly, Short Ribs, Charred Cabbage)

The Rice Place (Boat Noodles, Musubi, Sandwiches, “Winner Winner Chicken Dinner”, Kalbi)

Kabuki Kapiolani Restaurant (Bento Lunch Plates, Ramen, Sushi, Natto Donburi Poke Bowl, Mochi Ice Cream)

Egghead Cafe (Breakfast/Lunch, Espresso, Shrimp Omelette, Pork Belly Eggs Benedict)

Yelllow Cab Pizza Hawaii (Pizza, Pasta, Pizza Rolls, Appetizers, Gelato)

Taste Tea (Bubble Tea/Boba, Nutella Brick Toast)

Bread & Butter (Mac Nut Latte, Bottomless Brunch Sat-Sun, Charcurterie)

Thai Issan Cuisin (Curry, Thai, Noodles)

Pokeway (Poke Bowls)

Kamehemeha Bakery Inc. (Poi Glazed Donuts)

 

KAKA’AKO AREA + “SALT”:

Kakaako is an up-and-coming urban neighborhood community transforming from a warehouse filled commercial hub to a residential metropolis filled with a wide range of restaurants, shops, street art, markets, and boutiques. “SALT” is a city block-long center filled with restaurants and retail space. Here are my recommendations for restaurants:

Arvo Café *THIS LOCATION CLOSED BUT FOLLOW-UP TO SEE WHERE THEY RE-LOCATE TO* (Avocado Toast, Coffee, Matcha Chia Pudding, Fresh Orange Juice, Strawberry Guava Tea)

Moku Kitchen (Pizza, Burgers, Fries, Sandwiches)

Mr Tea Café (Bubble Tea)

Juicd Life (Pressed Juice, Acai Bowls, Salads)

ICE HNL (Hand-Crafted Drinks, Teas)

9BAR HNL (Bake Shop, Coffee, Brunch, Aloha Bowl)

 –Up Roll Café (Sushi Burritos, Bowls)

Karen’s Kitchen (Cash only, Local Style Breakfast/Lunch Plates, Tripe Stew, Baked Spaghetti, Lau Lau, Prime Rib, Sweet Bread French Toast, Carrot Cake, Mochiko Chicken, Stuffed Cabbage, Loco Moco, Sweet-Sour Pork)

La Cucina Ristorante Italiano (Classic Italian, Crostini Al Porcini, Crème Brulee Cheesecake, Bone Marrow, Fettuccine Scampi)

This Is It Bakery & Deli (Breakfast, Pastrami Sandwich, Bagels)

Insomnia (Vietnamese, Sauteed Chicken, Breakfast Sandwiches, Pineapple Thai Iced Tea, Plate Lunches)

Real a Gastropub (Beer, Appetizers)

Chef Chai ($$$$, Contemporary, Prefix Dinners, Fish)

 

WARD CENTER + AREA:

Paina Café (Poke Bowls)

Piggy Smalls (Pork Belly Sandwich, Pho, Fried Chicken)

Goma Tei Ramen (Ramen, Japanese)

Kakaako Kitchen (Short Ribs, Plate lunches, Ahi Sandwich)

Tango Contemporary Café (Brunch, Fried Rice, Burgers, Crab Hash, Pancakes)

Scratch Hawaii (Rustic, Seasonal Menu)

El Chamo (Venezuelan Food Truck, Arepas!!)

Nobu Honolulu ($$$$, Sushi, Japanese)

 

ALA MOANA CENTER + AREA:

Blue Water Shrimp (@Ala Moana Mall -Makai Market Food Court, Poke, Garlic Shrimp)

Choi’s Garden (@Near Walmart, Korean, Short Rib, BBQ Pork, Contemporary Soups, Stews, Grill-Your-Own BBQ)

HI Steaks (@Foodland Farms, Steak/Shrimp Plate w/ Garlic-Butter)

Mariposa (@Neiman Marcus,  Lobster Sandwich, Pork Belly, Scallops)

Goofy Café & Dine (@Between The Modern Hotel and Hilton Hawaiian Resort, Breakfast, Loco Moco, Acai Bowl, Pork Belly Eggs Benedict, Local Cuisine)

Hawaiian Sweet Potato Factory (Locally-Grown Sweet Potato Foods, Aloha Pie!)

The Brilliant Ox (Gastropub, BONEMARROW!, Okonomiyaki Fries!)

Friend Café (Lychee Tea, Bubble Teas, Boba, Crepe Cakes)

Forty Carrots (@Bloomingdales, Lobster Loco Moco, Frozen Yogurt, Lunch)

Shirokiya Japan Village Walk (@Floor Level Ala Moana Mall, 48 Vendors, Ramen, Bars, +)

Katsu-Midori Sushi ($$$$, Prince Waikiki Hotel)

 

NIMITZ HIGHWAY + AREA:

Nico’s Pier 38 (Local Seafood, Happy Hour, Ahi Sandwich, Fresh Ahi, Guava-Smoked Pork Belly, Kalbi)

Liliha Bakery (FAMOUS COCO PUFFS!!!!!)

Chef’s Ramen (Poke Bowls, Mochiko Chicken, Japanese, Ramen, Noodles)

Joe’s Grill Express (@Near HNL Airport, Plate Lunch, Loco Moco, Nachos, Shortrib, French Toast)

Restaurant 604 (Waterfront, American, Hawaiian, Full Bar, Live Music, Happy Hour, Sriracha Shrimp, Nachos, Poke Bowl, Loco Moco)

The Lanai @ Mamala Bay (@Pearl Harbor/Hickam Air Force Base *Must Have Military Access*, Ocean-Front, Lunch Buffets, Fresh Fish, BBQ Chicken)

 

MCCULLY STREET + AREA:

Pint & Jigger (Eclectic Gastropub, Bar Food, Beer Garden, 20+ Craft Brews On Tap, Burgers, Scotch Egg, Sandwiches)

The Social Honolulu (Sports Bar, Happy Hour, Kimchi Fried Rice, Dynamite Chicken, Kalbi Fries, Honey Walnut Shrimp)

Inaba (Japanese, Soboro Don, Mentaiko Don Buri Bowl)

Izakaya Torae Torae (Japanese, Late Night Happy Hour, Sushi, Spicy Tuna Tartare)

 

WAIKIKI:

 –Hideout (@The Laylow Hotel, Bar, Lilikoi Mojito, Pork Belly Bowl)

Waikiki Yokocho Gourmet Alley (@Waikiki Shopping Plaza, Ramen, Sushi, Musubis, Bars)

Mahina & Sun’s (@The Surfjack Hotel, Happy Hour, Ahi, Beignets, Burgers, Fried Rice, Bar)

Eggs’n Things (Macadamia Nut Pancakes, Omelets, Crepes)

Illupino Trattoria & Wine Bar (@Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center, Outdoor Patio, Traditional Italian, Wine, Eggs Benedict, Lobster Risotto, Breakfast, Caprese Salad, Lobster Ravioli)

Doraku (Sushi!)

Kulu Kulu (@Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center – Food Court, Japanese Cakes, Desserts, Kona Coffee Soft Serve Ice Cream, Hibiscus Jelly Lemonade!!)

Bills Hawaii (Ricotta Pancakes w/Banana Honey Butter)

Eating House 1849 (@International Marketplace, Appetizers, Poke, Burgers)

Royal Hawaiian Bakery (@The Royal Hawaiian Hotel, Pineapple Scone!, Banana Bread, Pastries, Coffee, Fresh Orange Juice)

Tucker & Bevy (Acai, Sandwiches, Juices, Picnic Food)

Dean & Deluca (@The Ritz-Carlton, Sandwiches, Coffee, Charcuterie, Wine Bar)

Pineapple County  (@Lewers St. – Inside Pineapple County Store, Gelato, Pineapple Shaped Ice Cream Cookie)

Aloha Kitchen (Breakfast, Lunch, Soufflé Pancakes)

Marukame Udon (Udon, Noodles, Curry, Niku)

Hawaiian Aroma Caffe (@Beachcomber Hotel, Breakfast, Coffee, Acai Bowls)

Matcha Stand Maiko (Matcha Soft Serve, Desserts, Shaved Ice)

Tommy Bahama Restaurant (Crab Bisque, Ahi Tacos, Salads, Burgers)

The Street HNL (@International Marketplace – Street Food Hall by Chef Michael Mina, Different Food Vendors)

Heavenly Island Cafe (@Shoreline Hotel – Seaside Ave., Tomato Avocado Eggs Benedict, Loco Moco, Local and Organic Food)

Coffee Shop 831 (@Pearl Hotel, Organic Hawaiian Coffee, Tea, Sandwiches)

Strip Steak ($$$$, Steakhouse)

 

KAPAHULU/DIAMOND HEAD/KAHALA + AREA:

 –Uncle Bo’s Pupu Bar & Grill (Dynamite Shrimp!!)

Diamond Head Market & Grill (Window Serve, Grilled Ahi, Char Sui Chicken, Plate Lunches, Loco Moco, Scones, Cakes)

ARS Café  (Avocado Toast, Boba Teas, Cold Brew Colombian Coffee, Gelato, Eggs Benedict)

Wailoa Shave Ice (Famous Shave Ice)

Donut King (Handmade Donuts)

Pioneer Saloon Plate Lunch (@Monserrat, Poke, Seafood)

Ono Seafood Hawaiian Foods (Poke!!, Lau Lau)

Kono’s Restaurant (Breakfast Burritos, Sandwiches, Plate Lunches, Slow-Roasted Kalua Pig)

Leonard’s Bakery (Famous Malasadas/Donuts)

Rainbow Drive-In (Famous Loco Moco)

Arancino at The Kahala ($$$$, Italian, Fixed Price Dinners)

Side Street Inn ($$$$, Roast Pork, Calamari, Kalbi, Steak, Seafood)

 

WAILAE/MANOA + AREA:

 –12th Ave Grill (Ahi Bruschetta, Steak, Dessert)

Teapresso Bar (Boba, Bubble Tea)

Chocolate & Vanilla Bakery (Strawberry-Guava Bread Pudding, Flaky Puffs)

Dagon Burmese Cuisine (Calamari, Fried Rice, Vegan Options)

Banan Hawaii (@Across from University of Hawaii, Banana/Dairy-Free Soft-Serve, Papaya Bowls)

Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (Shave Ice!)

 

KAHALA MALL:

The Counter Kahala (Gourmet Burgers, Vegan Options)

The Olive Tree Cafe (Cash Only, Authentic Greek, Hummus!!)

 

HAWAII KAI/KOKO MARINA CENTER:

BYO Bowls (Customizable Bowls)

Sophie’s Gourmet Hawaiian Pizzeria (Artisan, Thin Crust, Customizable Pizza)

Kokonuts Shave Ice & Snacks (Boba, Shave Ice, Acaibowl w/Toasted Coconut Topping!)

Island Brew Coffeehouse (Waterfront, Avocado Toast, Garlic Butter Spicy Aioli Gluten-free Bread!, Cold Brew, Hawaiian Coffee)

Kona Brewing Co. (Marinafront, Pepperoni Pizza Rolls!, Bar/Local Beers)

 

KAILUA/WAIMANALO:

Boots & Kimo’s (American-Hawaiian Breakfast, Mac Nut Pancakes!!!)

Makai Bowls (Food Truck, Acai Bowls)

Lemongrass Kailua (Vietnamese, Thai, BANH MI!, Tom Yum Soup! Pho, Vegetarian Options, Fresh Baked Desserts)

Over Easy (Breakfast, Lunch, Scrambled Avocado Toast, Loco Moco)

Tokoname (Dinner, Sushi)

Cinnamon’s Restaurant (Breakfast, Red Velvet Pancakes!, Cinnamon Buns, Fried Rice)

Boston’s North End Pizza (PIZZA!)

Ai Love Nalo (@Waimanalo, Buddha Bowls, Vegan Options, Smoothies, Kombucha)

 

KANEOHE:

Local Boy Sushi (Sushi, Poke Bowls)

 

NORTHSHORE +AREA:

Kahuku Farm Café (Passion Fruit Mochi, Grilled Banana Bread, Paninis, Pizza, Iced Tea, Homemade Ice Cream)

Kahuku Superette (Fresh POKE!!)

Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck (@Haleiwa, Food Truck, Lemon Garlic Shrimp Plate)

The Sunrise Shack (Pitaya Bowl, Papaya Bowl, Organic Bullet Coffee, Fresh Coconuts)

Dat Cajun Guy (@Haleiwa, Cajun-Creole, Burgers, Shrimp, Fried Oysters, Banana Pudding, Pulled Pork Po’boys)

Hukilau Marketplace (@Polynesian Cultural Center, Food Trucks/Vendors)

Sandy’s Sandwiches Food Truck (Organic Sandwiches/Salads, Shoyu-Ginger Chicken Salad)

Waialuas Lunch Wagon (@Waialua Distric Park Intersection Area, Open Weekends, Local-Caught Fresh Poke, Salad Plates)

Wow Wow Hawaiian Lemonade (Local Handmade Lemonade, Acai Bowls, LILIKOI LEMONADE!)

 

WAHIAWA:

Surfers Coffee Bar (Non-Profit, Coffee, Tea)

Maui Mike’s Fire-Roasted Chicken (Whole Chicken, Homemade Sauces, Sweet Potato Fries!!)

Tamura’s Market (Fresh Poke Bowls, Soft-Serve)

 

KAPOLEI + KO’OLINA:

Hot Pot Heaven (Hot Pot, THAI BROTH!)

Kalapawai Cafe & Market (Outdoor Seating, Bar, Shrimp Banh Mi, Steak, Baked Treats)

Tasty Shack (Steak Banh Mi!, Pho, Noodles, Spring Rolls, Thai Tea)

Mina’s Fish House (@Four Seasons Resort O’ahu, $$$$, Oceanview, Seafood Tower, Ahi Tartare)

Kickin’ Kajun ($$$$, Seafood)

WAIPAHU +AREA:

Taniokas (Poke Bowls, Mochiko Chicken, Assorted Musubis)

Leeward Drive Inn (Fried Noodles, BBQ Chicken)

Dia De Los Tacos 808 (Food Truck, Mexican Food)

Honolulu Kitchen (Deep-Fried Manapuas, Chinese Food, Fried Rice, Plate Lunch)

 

EWA BEACH:

Tiano’s Restaurant (American-Filipino, Steak, Pork, Crab-Stuffed Salmon, Calamari, Pork Adobo Fried Rice)

Boba Cafe (Boba, Teas, Smoothies)

Ono Thai (Shrimp Fried Rice, Crispy Spring Rolls!)

 

PEARLRIDGE/AIEA +AREA:

Izakaya Kei Sushi, Garlic Steak, Desserts, Green Tea Ice Cream)

Pieology  (Customizable Pizza, Gluten-Free Options)

 

*HEALTH-CONSCIOUS* (ISLAND-WIDE):

Lanikai Juice

Where: Several Locations Across O’ahu

My Go-To: Hana Hou – a green juice packed with of local greens, kale, green apple, cucumber, celery, and lemon

Nalu Health Bar

Where: Kailua & Ward Locations

My Go-To: Detoxifier – fresh juice made with beets, carrot, apple, celery, and ginger

Leahi Health

Where: Kailua, Kaimuki, Aina Haina Locations

My Go-To: AC/DC Kombucha Cocktail – kombucha, apple cider vinegar, ginger, mint, and honey on ice

Down to Earth

Where: Several Locations Across O’ahu

My Go-To: Salad Bar, Okinawa Sweet Potato Salad, Homemade Dressings, Coleslaw, Vegan Rice Noodle Wraps

Sunrise Shack

Where: North Shore and Waikiki

My Go-To: Papaya Bowl, Fresh Coconut Water

Tucker and Bevy

Where: Waikiki

My Go-To: Gluten-Free Chips & Hummus, Green Bowl, Noodle Bowl, Cold-Pressed Juices

Heavenly Island Cafe

Where: Waikiki

My Go-To: Local Eggs Benedict, Acai Bowl

Foodland Farms

Where: Ala Moana

My Go-To: The Hot Bar, Coconut Curry, Poke Bowls

Sandy’s Sandwiches Food Truck

Where: North Shore

My Go-To: Ginger Chicken Salad

 

ACTIVITIES/

 

KID-FRIENDLY PLACES:

Honolulu Zoo

Hawaii Children’s Discovery Center

Waikiki Aquarium

Disney Aulani Resort (Character Breakfast!)

Polynesian Cultural Center

Dole Plantation (Pineapple Express Train Tour Ride)

Sea Life Park

WAIKIKI HAPPY HOUR/DRINKS:

Roys Hawaii

Rum Fire (Oceanfront)

Mai Tai Bar

Duke’s Waikiki (Beachfront)

Lulu’s Waikiki (View of Waikiki Beach)

Yardhouse

Maui Brewing Co.

SHOPPING:

Waikiki Beach Walk

Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center

International Market Place

Ala Moana Center

Waikele Premium Outlets

Ka Makana Ali’i

Pearlridge Center

Windward Mall

Kahala Mall

Koko Marina Center

ADVENTURES + MORE:

Helicopter Ride – Nothing compares to seeing the depths of the island from the air! Helicopter tours fly over hidden waterfalls, historic craters, Honolulu, and some of the world’s best beaches. Paradise Helicopters & Blue Hawaiian Helicopters are well-known tour companies around the islands.

Museums + Art – The Bishop Museum is the Hawaiʻi State Museum of Natural and Cultural History. The Honolulu Museum of Art is the largest in the state and absolutely stunning! The Shangri La Museum of Islamic Art, Culture, & Design is a breath-taking mansion built by heiress Doris Duke near Diamond Head just outside of Honolulu. It is now owned and operated by the Doris Duke Foundation for Islamic Art (guided tours depart from the Honolulu Museum of Art).

Botanical Gardens Foster Botanical Garden (14-acres) is located in the center of Honolulu city and is the oldest of the Honolulu Botanical Gardens; it displays a mature and impressive collection of tropical plants, some of which were planted in the 1850’s! The famous “Hitachi Tree‘ is located in the Moanalua Gardens – and is a monkeypod tree about 130 years old that tourists flock to visit. The Lyon Arboretum is a 200-acre arboretum and botanical garden managed by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa located at the upper end of Mānoa Valley (near the entrance to the Manoa Falls hike). The Kaneohe-based Ho’omaluhia Botanical Garden Visitor Center is becoming a mecca for Instagrammers wanting to snap a shot in front of the Ko’olau Mountain Range at the entrance. In the North Shore/Waimea Valley, the Waimea Falls Park & Botanical Gardens is an area of historic cultural significance and a one mile stroll up through lush botanical gardens that lead up to the waterfall.

Kayak – Paddle to Na Mokulua or commonly known as “The Mokes”. Just make sure to check the water conditions prior to committing to this adventure! On a clear and calm day it makes for a beautiful and fun experience. *TIP: Head out early to avoid the afternoon rush if you book with Kailua Beach Adventures .

Hikes – Koko Head Stairs for a good work out, Diamond Head for a more relaxed beginners hike, Manoa Falls, which can be crowded at times, is a medium difficulty hike that leads to a waterfall, and hiking to Lanikai Pillbox hike offers a stunning view of the Eastside (and SO beautiful at sunrise!)

Snorkel – Hanauma Bay is very popular amongst visitors because you can rent snorkel gear right there on the beach! Closed on Tuesdays, and parking fills up fast, so again – PLAN AHEAD!

Waikiki Beach – More crowded, but calm waters and famous for gorgeous sunsets!

He’eia Fishpond Tour Paepae o He’eia is a private non-profit organization dedicated to caring for Heeia Fishpond – an ancient Hawaiian fishpond located in He’eia Uli, Ko’olaupoko.

Moku O Loe Island “Gilligan’s Island” – Also called Coconut Island, this island’s iconic 29-acre palm respite, made famous by the tv show “Gilligan’s Island,” now supports world-class marine laboratories that you can visit. Tours fill up fast though so book in advance!

Shark Diving Tour Hawaii Adventure Diving offers group and private charters, adventures to swim with sharks, snorkel, whale/turtle/dolphin watch – out of the North Shore.

North Shore – Drive up North to one-of-a-kind country views, relaxing, surfing (not for beginners though), historically big waves & professional competitions, roadside fresh coconuts & acai bowls, and tons more ONO food to try!

Jurassic Park + Zip Line + Horseback + UTV + Secret Island Kualoa Private Nature Reserve requires advanced reservations for tours (like 2-3 weeks prior) – Secret Island Beach is an ideal place to relax and spend the day with lots of water sports equipment to use at your leisure. Kualoa Ranch offers all kinds of guided adventures. Keana Farms is another location and has the longest ziplines on O’ahu. On another side of the island, Coral Crater Adventure Park offers ATV, Climbing, Zipline, and Horseback riding too. Turtle Bay Resort also offers horseback riding tours + more.

Indoor Rock-Climbing Volcanic Rock Gym is located on the east side of O’ahu in Kailua.

 

HOTELS + RESORTS:

Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club

Alohilani Resort (Waikiki)

Four Seasons Resort Oahu at Ko Olina

Disney Aulani Resort (Ko Olina)

Turtle Bay Resort (North Shore)

Hilton Hawaiian Village (Waikiki)

Prince Waikiki (Between Waikiki & Ala Moana/Honolulu)

Moana Surfrider (Waikiki)

The Kahala Hotel & Resort (Kahala/Diamond Head Area)

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort (Waikiki)

Hale Koa Hotel (*Military Only* – Waikiki)

The Modern Honolulu (Between Waikiki & Ala Moana/Honolulu)

Halekulani (Waikiki)

Sheraton Waikiki (Waikiki)

Royal Hawaiian Hotel (Waikiki)

The Laylow, Autograph Collection (Waikiki)

Shoreline Hotel Waikiki (Waikiki)


kauai

KAUAI//

Blue Ocean Adventure Tours (Boat Tour NaPali Coast)
Kauai Backcountry Adventures (Zip-line, Mountain Tubing)
Holo Holo Charters (Lehua Crater, Sea Caves)

 


big island

HAWAII – BIG ISLAND//

Punalu’u Beach Park & Camping (Black Sand Beach)
Two Ladies Kitchen (Famous Strawberry-Center Mochi!!!!)
Hawaii Oceanic Tours (Manta Rays, Dolphins, Whales)
Holuakoa Gardens and Café (Locally Grown Coffee, Juices, Sandwiches, Seasonal Menu)


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MAUI//

Olivine Pools (Lava Rock Tide Pools – *do not go during rough ocean conditions!)
Kihei Caffe (Counter-Serve/Patio, Cash Only, Breakfast)
Kula Bistro (Lunch, Dinner, Tomahawk Wagyu Steak, Lobster Tail)
Tin Roof Maui (Pork Belly, Mochiko Chicken, Poke Bowl)
Maui Dragon Fruit Farm (USDA certified organic farm located just outside of Lahaina, Guided Tours)
Waianapanapa State Park (122-acre state park in Hana, Pailoa Beach Black Sand, Pailoa Bay Natural Sea Arch)
Road to Hana (Mile Marker 32, 2 miles outside of Hana Town, a sign directs you toward the coast onto Honokalani Road for about a quarter mile under large canopies of trees, sizable park, freshwater caves near the parking lot along a path that takes you down and up a short stairway)


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LANA’I//

4×4 Trekker Tour (Departs & Returns to Maui though)


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I hope that you enjoy your trip, and encounter nothing but the aloha spirit during your stay on the islands!

Thanks for reading,

x. Heather

 

*Disclaimer: Make sure to pay attention to any and all warnings and restrictions when partaking in activities, like the ones mentioned in this article. Follow officials instructions, do not swim where prohibited or in red flag/ rough ocean conditions and always take precautions and be aware of surroundings. This article shares personal favorites and is not liable for any possible damages due to mishaps. Also keep in mind that restaurants/businesses sometimes go out of business, so plan and check for updated local info ahead of using any of the listed parts as part of your schedule.

 

Spicy Cucumber Salad RECIPE (Korean-inspired)

From what I have learned, “banchan” is the term that refers to small side-dishes served along with cooked rice in Korean cuisine. Kimchi is a type of banchan, and so is this style of spicy cucumber salad, or “Oi Muchim” (don’t quote me on that name though because I’m not entirely sure how exactly it should be translated.) But, anyways, the backstory here is that when I was first introduced to Korean food over a decade ago, (shout-out to Chun’s Bar-B-Q House in Kaneohe, HI – though *now closed* I consider you a lucky one if you ever tried Mr. Chun’s Kalbi) it truly captured my palate. Aside from the mouth-watering barbecued meat of Korean cuisine, the neverending  choices of pickled side dishes are a match made in heaven for someone like me!

Now a few years ago in Texas, Santiago and I had found a super authentic Korean restaurant (one of those that is in the back of an asian food market) and they served us this spicy cucumber dish that I instantly became obsessed with. When I sat down to write this article, I actually had to search through my drafts to see if I had already started writing about this dish – because that’s how serious I have been about it from the very beginning.

So, last weekend when I was birthing my braised pork belly recipe, I had planned on picking up some spicy cucumber salad from a local asian restaurant here in Hawaii. However, when I arrived there, they weren’t open yet. Instead, I went to the grocery store and scouted some chili oils and other things to create the dish that my mouth was salivating for and that I felt would go with the pork belly SO perfectly…

What turned out, hands down, was the best creation that I have manifested in a very long time. This recipe is a lifelong keeper and I don’t ever want to live again without eating it. Laugh out loud, but yes, I am 100% serious. Enough story time though, lets’ get to it:

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RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS/

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DIRECTIONS/

  1. Wash cucumbers, then use a vegetable peeler to shave three wide strips of the peels off of the cucumbers, leaving three stretches of peel still on (see photo below) and then slice cucumbers in to about a quarter of an inch pieces.

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2. In a mixing bowl, combine all of the other ingredients listed, mix well so everything is evenly dispersed.

3. Start to add in the cucumber slices and evenly coat/saturate until completely incorporated.

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4. Enjoy immediately, store remainder in a glass container in the refrigerator.

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PRINTABLE (right click to download):

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Enjoy!

x. Heather

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p.s. This pairs so well with my braised pork belly (pictured above) – find that recipe, here.

 

 

*affiliate links

 

David Chang-Inspired Braised Pork Belly RECIPE

Alright, I am in no way claiming to be a pork belly expert. I assure you, until recently, my attempts at cooking pork belly in my at-home kitchen, had never really ended up the way that I would hope for. You see, my husband is Colombian. He is actually the one who first introduced me to pork belly altogether – well, in his culture, what is most popular is referred to as “chicharrón”.

I had eaten his heritage’s version of (fried + crispy) pork belly, many times. Both in the United States and while we were in Colombia. So like any loving wife, I wanted to learn how to make it for him, on occasion, in our home. He had asked his mom how she makes it, and the first time that we attempted it in such a fashion, well it was a disaster. The second time, not as bad, but still, not. good. I don’t know what my problem is with dishes that consist of boiling meat in water. . . it just doesn’t work for me.

But anyways, like my baked chicken journey (read about that, here, lol), I was never going to quit in terms of manifesting some form of my own delicious-tasting pork belly at home!

Recently, I was watching Chef David Chang‘s Instagram Stories – he was cooking a pork belly dish for his pregnant wife. I mean, I tune-in for all things David Chang, but that day I was even more astute.

Here are the screenshots from his Instagram Stories:

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Okay, so after seeing these cooking tips by Chef Chang, I decided that I was going to scrap everything that I once had thought about cooking pork belly, and now use this as inspiration to re-attempt my own creation! …What transpired, turned out – PRETTY DANG GOOD. Here is what I did:

*Note: Instead of soy sauce, I used coconut aminos.

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COCONUT AMINOS INFO/

Coconut aminos is made from coconut sap. This is a nutrient-rich juice that comes from making wounds in coconut blossoms. Coconut sap is a low glycemic (index of 35) sweetener with taste similarities to that of soy sauce. It is also super rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as an abundant source of amino acids.

*Note: Instead of brown sugar, I used coconut sugar.

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COCONUT SUGAR INFO/

Coconut sugar is naturally low on the glycemic index (about the same as coconut aminos), unrefined and high in nutrients. It is a healthier alternative to high fructose sweeteners or processed cane sugars, and has a soft caramel flavor – similar to light brown sugar, dissolving in warm liquid.

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS/

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DIRECTIONS/

  1. Cut pork belly in to about 2-inch pieces.
  2. Coat very generously in both garlic and ginger powder.
  3. Melt butter, once liquid – squeeze 3 lemons’ juice in to the melted butter and mix.
  4. Place the garlic/ginger-coated pork belly pieces in to a ziplock bag.
  5. Pour the butter/lemon mixture in to bag.
  6. Drop the star anise pods in to the bag as well.
  7. Close bag, massage lightly to evenly distribute all ingredients.
  8. Place in to refrigerator and leave overnight or at least 6 hours.
  9. Heat a deep pot on medium heat, wait until a drop of water instantly disintegrates when it touches the heated pot surface.
  10. Place porkbelly pieces (not including the star anise pods that were inside the bag) in to heated pot with nothing else, let brown for about 7-8 minutes.
  11. Add 1 cup of coconut sugar evenly – let melt with heat.
  12. Once coconut sugar is melted, add in the garlic cloves and ginger pieces.
  13. Then sprinkle in the 2 tbsp of arrowroot powder evenly stir to disperse.
  14. Let simmer for about 10 minutes, then pour in the coconut aminos liquid.

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15. Cover the pot with lid and let simmer for about 35-40 minutes or until cooked and liquid has emulsified.

16. Serve over rice and/or with pickled sides.

17. Enjoy!

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PRINTABLE (right click to download):

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I served this bowl with steamed rice on the bottom; and the pork belly is accompanied by my homemade spicy cucumber salad (you can find that recipe – here), traditional sour dill pickles, pickled paprika okra, sautéed shiitake mushrooms (you can find that recipe – here), pickled white onions, and taegu (Korean appetizer of sweet/spicy seasoned codfish).

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x. Heather

*Affiliate Links

The Herbal “Mood Juice” that is Changing My Life!

I have battled with anxiety for my entire life. You can read a brief introduction to THAT story in the following article, My Mental Health PledgeNow though related, today I want to talk about something more specific. Something that didn’t occur in my life until I became a mother of TWO.

From my experience, being a mother of just one child, especially with an “easy” firstborn – THAT was nowhere near as taxing compared to motherhood with more than one child! Once my second (and last) was born, there was this specific mood issue that started to creep up in to my every day life. Every weekday, around 3:30-4p.m., I would start to feel like I all of a sudden was in a HORRIBLE mood. Furthermore, my energy levels would drop drastically at the same time. At first, I chalked it up to being due to the anticipation during that specific time of day, waiting to see what time my husband would be able to come home and help with the dinner-bath-night-time routine (parenting stuff). But, like with most things, I started to dig a little bit deeper, research more, and in return ask for certain hormonal blood tests from my doctor.

Sure enough, my cortisol levels were dropping super low around that doomed 3:30-4p.m. time of day where I was feeling unpleasant mood and energy symptoms. Though the body’s cortisol levels naturally rise and fall throughout the day, I was starting to realize that my body’s cortisol regulation was just not working as smooth as before.

You see, cortisol is a steroid hormone that aids the body in responding to stress. It’s actually commonly referred to as the “stress hormone” because during times of high stress, levels of cortisol spike high. This type of hormone is in a category of hormones that are naturally synthesized in the body to carry out a wide range of functions.

Cortisol also plays a role in metabolism, by stimulating the liver to increase production of blood sugar. It aids in the process of converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into *usable* energy.  During a fight-or-flight response, cortisol is released to give the body an energy boost as well. But when cortisol levels are constantly high (because of chronic stress, etc.) the systemic effects can lead to chronic health conditions – like type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, heart disease, anxiety, depression, and much more.

I believe that my dysfunctional cortisol regulation was adapted because of a plethora of things, including lifelong anxiety (way too much time spent in “fight or flight” mode), being an athlete for my entire childhood and adolescence, the many years of hardships (family members cancers/deaths, traumatic events, life-threatening pregnancies/births, miscarriage and loss, + more), and also VERY MUCH DIRECTLY related to the adrenal fatigue that comes along with Hashimoto’s Disease.

Cortisol aids the body in fighting inflammation. I have autoimmune conditions and widespread/chronic inflammation. Boom, even more of a reason that my morning cortisol blood work made my doctor do a double-take when reading the results (which was more than 3 times the “normal” amount), and my afternoon levels being what they “should” be at midnight/when asleep!

Now the adrenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped, and sit on top of each kidney. From the adrenal glands, cortisol is released directly into the bloodstream.

The pituitary gland (a pea-sized gland at the base of the brain) and hypothalamus (a region of the brain that controls the activity of the pituitary gland) determines whether the blood has the “right amount” of cortisol. In essence, these two work together as the control mechanism regarding how much cortisol is made. Amy Myers, MD, the author of  “The Thyroid Connection“, states this:

Once a stressor triggers this cascade of hormones, cortisol and your other stress hormones redirect your body’s normal functions to deprioritize anything that is not necessary for overcoming the stressor in front of you. This means that functions like digestion, immune response, and yes, thyroid hormone production and distribution, are temporarily put on hold or slowed down until the stress has passed. Ideally the stress passes quickly, your body returns to normal, and everything runs smoothly.

Unfortunately, in today’s society, we often experience chronic stress, either because our stress does not end quickly or it is quickly followed by yet another stressor. This state of chronic stress puts your adrenals on overdrive for extended periods of time, continuously flooding your body with cortisol until your adrenals can no longer keep up with the constant demand for more and more stress hormones, leaving you in a state of adrenal fatigue. This flooding and eventual plummeting of stress hormones has many negative impacts on the thyroid.

All of this, leaves me playing the guessing game of “Which Came First, The Chicken or the Egg”… or rather for me, “Which Came First, the High Cortisol Levels or the Autoimmune Conditions”; but I don’t think that there is any true way to ever figure out which caused what issue first, in terms of my body/conditions/symptoms. However, having even a basic understanding of all these functions and interconnections, I believe that is still imperative. It has driven me to varying options for trying to re-normalize my hormones and lessen unwanted symptoms – like the “3:30-4pm” ones that this entire article is supposed to be about, lol.

SO. To get back to the point. It has been 2 and a half years dealing with the “3:30-4p.m. Woes”. Even after I had worked past PPD a few months after my last birth, the lifestyle and dietary tweaks – were not enough to combat the mood and energy symptoms. I also have regularly had my thyroid levels checked which always come back within a good range.

I had given birth to Niko in Texas, and these symptoms were first activated while living there as well. So when we were presented with the opportunity to move back to Hawaii (the place in which we always felt peace) I had hoped that the move would be a changing factor in the “Woes”. But boy, oh, boy was I wrong!

The transition back to Hawaii, a place in which Santiago and I had called home for a decade as non-parents, had since changed in so many ways, and nontheless brought upon even more stressors. Overall, the “Woes” got worse, and Santiago’s new position was sending him out of the country even more!

So throughout the past year and a half, I was still seeking ways to combat the afternoon “Woes”, but was at most times just trying to tread water – because there has been SO. MUCH. happening, always.

At the start of this new year though, signs of relief started to appear. Our request to leave Hawaii was approved, and a new affiliation was born within my work as a blogger/writer. That affiliation is also the reason in which I can now say that I HAVE FINALLY CONQUERED THE “WOES”!!!!!!! The best part… is that the solution is COMPLETELY NATURALLY-DERIVED!!! It’s not a synthetic man-made chemical-laden pill that a physician throws my way to mask symptoms, but in the long term causes other issues… RATHER, it’s an herbal tincture formulated by an herbalist that I deeply respect and trust, Organic Olivia.

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Now for the sake of being completely transparent, it wasn’t love at first use. No. You see, the first day that I took the “MOOD JUICE“, I made the mistake of taking it a few hours before that “3:30-4pm” timing and in return, thought that it did the opposite – made my mood even worse! Granted, I first took it on a day in which was just an all around horrible day + I had drank a strongly-caffeinated tea around the same time. It just wasn’t what I had hoped for, for my first time use at least. However, in reading all of the success stories from other users of MOOD JUICE,  I was determined to find a way that it could help me, too! So I kept trying and kept tweaking the timing of when I would take it, and found that since it is SUCH A FAST ACTING supplement, that if I take it at the exact time I start to feel that shift in my day (the “Woes”), then it works absolutely PERFECTLY as a remedy!!!! Not only does it stop the bad mood from occurring or progressing, but it also gives me a natural boost of energy to finish my day off like a rockstar mom and wife!

My husband now comes home to the music blaring, dancing happening in the kitchen, food-smeared grins on the kids faces while they are finishing their dinner, and me not stressing about a little mess or all of the other things left to do in between! He asked me once, “Do they sell this Mood Juice by the gallon?” haha.

Let me share some more details about this MOOD JUICE, but first a necessary disclaimer:

“Depression is an extremely complex topic that often requires professional medical attention such as counseling or medication, and should be tackled from all angles including stress reduction techniques, talk therapy, diet, and exercise. There is no one quick fix or cure all, and this formula is not designed to be a magic pill.

Again, rather than being a ‘magic bullet,’ this formula is designed to calm, strengthen, and restore the entire nervous system, relieving anxiety and gently boosting mood over time. The goal is to soothe your nerves, help you think clearly and positively, and help you feel happier naturally.”  – Organic Olivia

*Do not use mood juice if you’re on antidepressants and always talk to your doctor about potential interactions if you are taking any other pharmaceutical drugs. It contains St. John’s Wort, which can potentially make you more sensitive to the sun, so be mindful of excessive UV exposure while taking. Also, because this blend contains kava root, always ask your practitioner before use if you have a history of liver problems.

I am not a medical doctor, I am in no way giving medical advice or recommendations for you to take these supplements yourself. I am simply sharing my story. Your biological makeup differs and you should do your own research as well.

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MOOD JUICE INFO:

this information is provided directly from the developer of the tincture.

 

THE HERBS + BENEFITS/

Each herb in this blend has been traditionally used as a natural anti-depressant or anxiolytic (anti-anxiety agent). Some are mood boosting, some are extremely calming and soothing, and others tonify and strengthen the nervous system to promote neurotransmitter health.

  • ST. JOHN’S WORT

St. John’s Wort is considered an adaptogen and trophorestorative to the entire nervous system (meaning it helps to restore and rebuild the nerves over time). On it’s own, it is used to help address anxiety and nervous depression, as well as post natal depression. However, it is even more powerful when combined with other nervines in this blend such as lemon balm and skullcap. Herbalist Michael Moore considers St. John’s Wort wonderful “for people whose life has fallen apart and are having difficulty dealing with it. Depression from such a major shift is common and the herb can help until innate resources come back online.” Herbalist William LeSassier used St. John’s Wort together with lemon balm for mild depression with a digestive component, and taught that adding a companion herb such as this makes SJW more effective as an antidepressant. Herbalist David Winston recommends combining it with ginkgo leaf to increase brain energy and vitality, so if you also feel that you have low mental clarity or brain fog, you can combine this formula with Organic Olivia’s Brain Juice tincture.

  • HOLY BASIL

Holy Basil, also known as Tulsi, is traditionally used in Ayurveda for low spirits, brain fog, anxiety, and mild depression. It is an adaptogen and nootropic that helps the body adapt to stress, increases oxygen intake, and promotes energy and endurance. Although it contains no caffeine or other stimulants, it is thought of as containing gentle stimulant properties that can help with motivation and drive. As adrenal fatigue can also contribute to depression, I added this herb to the blend to boost mood by way of supporting the adrenal glands and hormone production.

  • LEMON BALM

Lemon balm is used to reduce anxiety, mild depression, nervousness and panic attacks. It also addresses “sympathetic excess” of the nervous system, where the adrenals are in overdrive. It is one of those nerve tonics that actually work to rebuild the nerves over time, which is extremely important in cases of long-standing depression or burnout. By increasing GABA levels, lemon balm was shown to reduce anxiety, increase calmness, and improve mood in rats via this study.

  • SKULLCAP

Skullcap is an extremely safe and reliable mild nervine that not only helps with anxiety, but insomnia as well. A double blind study where 15 women and 4 men took one of three types of skullcap preparations, proceeded to rate energy, cognition and anxiety at intervals for two hours thereafter – concluded with the researchers finding that it “demonstrated noteworthy anxiolytic [anti-anxiety] effects.” It is particularly useful for depression brought on by prolonged stress, illness or overwork.

  • KAVA ROOT

Kava has been shown in more than a dozen placebo-controlled studies to be effective with good tolerability for treatment of generalized anxiety, with some evidence for stress, depression and insomnia. It is an extremely calming and comforting stress-reliever.

  • MOTHERWORT

As the name suggests, motherwort has a calming energy like a big hug from mom. It is classified as a nervine herb, and is incredibly helpful for the type of anxiety where thoughts are racing and worries feel “pent up” in the body. Also in line with its famous name, motherwort is helpful for postpartum anxiety and melancholy felt by new mothers. It helps to ground you emotionally and improve clarity when you’re feeling lost.

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HOW I USE IT:

I consider myself a newbie still when it comes to herbal medicine. So, I would rather take the drops mixed in water, than directly in to my mouth. I will add 1 entire dropper full of MOOD JUICE to a cup of water, and drink. I currently only take it to combat the hormonal shift that tends to occur on weekdays, but could also see myself utilizing it in times where I would need extra emotional support as well.

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Furthermore, I have read success stories of people using MOOD JUICE for a wide array of other issues. GABA is a neurotransmitter that communicates messages between the brain and the central nervous system. There are a plethora of conditions that are directly related to low GABA production (anorexia, panic attacks, schizophrenia, ADHD, PMS/PMDD, etc.). MOOD JUICE is formulated with plants that specifically help to increase your own natural production of GABA, which can reportedly, in return, aid in the treatment of such conditions.

 

As Always, Thanks for Reading!

x. Heather

 

 

*Some Links are Affiliate Links, Opinions are My Own and 100% Authentic Testimony.

 

Mushroom Onion Garlic Glaze RECIPE

“Glaze” is basically a fancy word for sauce. An even fancier related description of this, would be the French term, “demi glace”. Well, actually, not exactly. The classical term “demi glace” refers to a technique that creates a very concentrated brown stock sauce  that is initiated with the roasting of beef bones, then a lot of time is spent carefully reducing that sauce until it forms a deep meaty-flavored “glaze”.

But, to get back to the point. This SAUCE that I serve with meat, specifically GRILLED meat, is something that has transcended throughout my entire life. Memories of my childhood consist of Sunday family meals which most of the time would entail my dad grilling steaks while a sauce pan simmers on the stove, making the entire house smell of savory aromas. That sauce pan was filled with a mushroom-onion-soy sauce glaze that was paired with our steak dinners. I remember always wishing that he would make a larger amount, because two spoonfuls per person just didn’t seem like enough to me, lol.

So, here I am, making my own version of that family steak glaze, and also usually making way too much of it – but hey, too much of a good thing can’t be bad.. or…

Anyways, I make this Mushroom Onion Garlic Glaze using coconut aminos instead of soy sauce. Reason being, that I have an autoimmune condition that attacks my thyroid and am “hypothyroid”, so consuming soy is not good for me (though that’s a topic for an entirely different article).

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*COCONUT AMINOS INFO:

Coconut aminos is made from coconut sap. This is a nutrient-rich juice that comes from making wounds in coconut blossoms. Coconut sap is a low glycemic (index of 35) sweetener with taste similarities to that of soy sauce. It is also super rich in vitamins and minerals, as well as an abundant source of amino acids.

*GLAZE TIPS:

This recipe of mine makes a great dipping sauce served at the table along with a meal. I also love it as a runnier version of gravy to top mashed potatoes with.

If you want to use it as a true “glaze”, then when your grilled food (steak, eggplant, etc.) has about 5 to 10 minutes left to cook, baste it with the liquid portion of this glaze and turn frequently to create a glossy crust.

RECIPE:

INGREDIENTS/

DIRECTIONS/

  1. Heat a large pan on the stove over medium heat.
  2. Once the pan is hot enough that a drop of water will sizzle when it touches the surface, add 2 tbsp. of grass-fed butter. Let that melt completely and evenly distribute in the pan.
  3. Slice the onion and add to the melted butter in pan.
  4. Peel and chop garlic cloves, then also add to the pan.
  5. Let the onion and garlic sauté for about 7-8 minutes.
  6. Wash/slice mushrooms and then add to the pan. Immediately pour the 2 tbsp. of ghee over top the added mushrooms. Let slowly cook until the mushrooms are no longer raw/white (about 10 minutes).
  7. Add the 1.5 cups of coconut aminos and mix ingredients evenly in pan and let cook for about 5 minutes. Then add 1/2 of a lemon’s juice.
  8. Then sprinkle in the 2 tbsp. of arrowroot powder and mix so that it evenly disperses/dissolves.
  9. Simmer for another 3-4 minutes, then turn the heat off but keep the pan on the same burner.
  10. Cover the pan with a lid and let sit for about 10-15 minutes so that the mixture thickens up a bit.
  11. Serve with grilled meat, vegetables, on top of mashed potatoes, or even top an omelet with it – enjoy!

PRINTABLE (right click to download):

balancedlifealoha.com

 

Enjoy!

x. Heather

 

Tomato, Basil, & Feta Cheese-Battered Chicken Wings RECIPE

Here we are again, yet another spontaneous recipe that I whipped up on the spot… these bad boys turned out pretty darn tasty despite some doubt while preparing. Also, the kitchen smelled of pizza aromas while they were baking, sooo there’s that too, lol. My intentions were just a tomato-basil flavor, but when my husband took his first bite and exclaimed, “THEY TASTE LIKE PIZZA!” I couldn’t escape it; I guess that they have a sort of chicken wing-pizza hybrid thing going on, but hey – don’t knock it until you try it!

RECIPE:

balancedlifealoha.com

 

INGREDIENTS/

DIRECTIONS/

  1. Preheat oven to 385 degrees.
  2. Place patted-dry thawed chicken wings in to a ziplock bag, add 2 tbsp. of Beekeepers Naturals Raw Honey (use code “ALOHA” to save $ on your order) to the bag, zipper close and massage lightly to mix honey and coat all wings evenly. Set aside.
  3. Remove centers of tomatoes, slice in to quarters, place in a mixing bowl. Use a pestle to separate the seeds/juice – separate/remove the skin and hard flesh part (will not use that in this recipe).
  4. Chop fresh basil and add to the fresh tomato juice in mixing bowl.
  5. Crumble fresh feta cheese in to that same mixing bowl and use pestle to mash and mix all three ingredients together.
  6. Whisk in 3/4 cup of arrowroot powder and then 3/4 cup of cassava flour to the tomato-basil-feta mixture.
  7. Sprinkle in Salt, Pepper, and Garlic Powder to preference/taste. Whisk the batter until evenly mixed/combined and reaches the texture similar to chunky cake batter.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  9. One-by-one, coat each (honey-coated) chicken wing evenly with the batter and place on top of parchment paper (make sure that there are no super thick spots of batter on chicken so that it cooks evenly, but also don’t miss a spot – lol).
  10. Place in to oven to bake at 385 degrees for about 30 minutes (all ovens will vary, so keep an eye on them).
  11. Once cooked evenly, let cool for a few minutes, garnish with fresh ingredients or enjoy immediately!

balancedlifealoha.com

balancedlifealoha.combalancedlifealoha.com

 

balancedlifealoha.com

 

PRINTABLE (right click to download):

balancedlifealoha.com

 

Make sure to tag me & use #balancedlifealoha if you re-make, so that I can see!

 

Enjoy!

x. Heather