Tag Archives: HomeAway

Deep in the Heart of Texas

Sometimes you just need to get away from it all. No phones. No internet. No distractions. Just peace & quiet. The Complete Package found such a place – a respite from the big city – deep in the heart of Texas. It’s called St. Clare’s Cabin and it was perfection. Here’s a photo journal of our week in the country.

LeakeyTX - St Clare's Cabin

Nestled in a valley near the Sabinal River, St. Clare’s Cabin is between the towns of Leakey and Vanderpool, Texas and only 8 miles or so from Lost Maples State Park. Everything about the cabin’s location is scenic.

LeakeyTX - Cabin Entry

LeakeyTX - Welcome to St Clares

What a wonderful surprise to walk into such a warm, cozy and beautifully decorated home. I think I want to live here. Permanently.

LeakeyTX - Cabin from Bedroom Doors

LeakeyTX - Cabin View from Front Door

I love the dining nook table. It is handcrafted with an inlaid state of Texas in the middle and a star marking the cabin’s location. It’s all about the details.

LeakeyTX - Dining Nook

Here’s a close-up of that equestrian collage hanging over the dining table.

LeakeyTX - Equestrian Collage

This is what it means when someone says “the decorator paid such great attention to detail.” Every touch at St. Clare’s Cabin was thoughtfully placed.

LeakeyTX - Front Porch Love

LeakeyTX - Retro Picnic Decor

LeakeyTX - Cozy Kitchen

LeakeyTX - Gorgeous Dishes

LeakeyTX - Cute Country Bath

LeakeyTX - Bathroom Touches

I’m not ashamed to say I squealed like a little girl when I saw that the cabin was decorated in retro Christmas. I absolutely loved it!

LeakeyTX - Holiday Fireplace

LeakeyTX - Christmas Mantle

LeakeyTX - Pinnochio Tree Topper

Speaking of Christmas, as soon as we got there, Dobie (our Christmas Shelf Elf) found a fun new buddy to hang out with. Literally.

LeakeyTX - Wild Boar & Elf

When he got bored with the boar (ha-ha), he stayed busy pranking the kids. He was found swinging from the shower rod, soaking in a mini-marshmallow bath, and climbing a decorative shutter in the kitchen. I think he was motivated by that little Hershey bar. He’s definitely my kind of elf.

LeakeyTX - Elf Climbing for Candy

After snacking on chocolate, we found him napping in the tissue box. I think it was the only time he sat still all week. He’s an active, mischievous little elf.

LeakeyTX - Elf Treats & Nap

Speaking of sleeping, St. Clare’s Cabin has two lovely bedrooms, each with a queen bed (one firm, one soft). The first was decorated in a cowboy theme.

LeakeyTX - The Cowboy Bedroom

The second paid tribute to a long-lost relative and his military service. Both bedrooms had limestone floor, quilts made by the owner, and hand-embroidered pillow shams. Again with the details. Love, love, love it. Very sweet.

LeakeyTX - Second Bedroom

Also sweet? The cabin’s large front porch. I love a screened porch – a love directly traced back to my maternal grandmother who lived on the Red River outside of Denison, Texas. I have many, many fond memories of playing on her porch. I’m not sure there’s anything better than a cabin with a big screened porch, unless it’s a porch with a swing. Ever slept on a screened porch on a beautiful summer night? It’s a little piece of heaven.

LeakeyTX - St Clares Cabin & Kids

LeakeyTX - Porch View of Front Yard

The fenced yard is huge, and I loved this cute tin-topped table & chairs.

LeakeyTX - Porch Table at Cabin

We invited our daughter, son-in-law and two grandkids to join us for a weekend. I think they enjoyed the cabin as much as we did, but Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug reeeeealy loved it. They took full advantage of the great outdoors.

They fell in love with the creek that lines one side of the property.

LeakeyTX - Creek at the Cabin

Or maybe it was the plethora of limestone rocks they could toss into the creek.

LeakeyTX - Kids at the Creek

Over and over and over again – for two straight days.

LeakeyTX - Jonah Tossing Rocks

And then there was the hammock. Those kids loved that hammock.

LeakeyTX - Jonah & Lilly Hammock

LeakeyTX - Lilly in Hammock

We also loved exploring this part of the Texas Hill Country. The Complete Package and I took a different scenic drive every day we were there. I had no idea this part of the state was so lovely.

LeakeyTX - Sabinal River Cypress

LeakeyTX - Scenic Drive - Bluffs

LeakeyTX - Preparing to Cross

LeakeyTX - River Crossing near Concan

LeakeyTX - View of Bluff at Sunset

LeakeyTX - Longhorns

LeakeyTX - Gang of Wild Turkeys

Those are wild turkeys, folks. We saw gangs of them – running amok, causing trouble and tagging cars late at night. It left me wondering how good one of these would be baked up for Christmas Dinner. And then I found myself craving a whiskey & Coke and a turkey sandwich. {heehee}

Each night, I found myself looking forward to sitting by the fire pit with a roaring campfire, or swinging in the hammock as the sun set over the valley, or gazing at a pitch black sky late at night with the brightest stars you’ve ever seen, or curling up in my favorite spot by the window gazing at the mountains.

LeakeyTX - My Baby in the Window

That’s My Baby. She’s keeping my spot warm. Thanks, honey! She’s a good girl.

And now that we’re home, I’m already thinking about our next visit to St. Clare’s Cabin. It’s so lovely in the fall, I want to see it in the spring when the creek is flush and the wildflowers are blooming. And I want to go back in the summer when the rivers are running at capacity and everyone descends on the Frio and Guadalupe Rivers to float in inner tubes and getting a little too sunburned. I want to soak up the fresh air, enjoy the peace & quiet, and watch those gorgeous Hill Country sunsets. And I want to do it as often as possible.

LeakeyTX - Sunset at St Clares Cabin

Want more information on vacation rentals? I highly recommend our two favorite “By Owner” websites – Vacation Rentals By Owner (VRBO) and HomeAway. As with any ‘by owner’ site, the key is to do your homework, read descriptions thoroughly, stick to rentals that include plenty of pictures so you see what you’re getting, and rely on the reviews written by others who’ve stayed there. We’ve rented on these two websites at least 8-10 times, and we have never, ever been disappointed. If you’d like to visit the St. Clare’s Cabin Retreat website, click here.

So… where do you go when YOU want to get away?



Filed under Family Stuff, Travel Tales

Hanalei Bay, Kauai – My Hawaiian Vacation Dream Come True

The Complete Package (my beloved) and I went to Hawaii this year on vacation. It’s been on my travel bucket list, and I’m happy we finally made it. There are many lovely islands to choose from in Hawaii. Each island offers travelers something different. We were looking for solitude, lush scenery and little or no crowds. For that reason, we chose Kauai, and more specifically the town of Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore. Have you ever seen the Dr. Beach list of top beaches worldwide that gets released every year? Well in 2009, Hanalei Bay was rated the best beach in the world by Dr. Beach. He’s right. This place is beautiful – 2 miles of stunning, wide beach lining a beautiful crescent-shaped bay.

Hanalei Pier & River - Inside NanaBread's Head

If you’ve read my travel post about HomeAway.com, you’ll know that I’m partial to renting vacation homes over hotel rooms, especially when the prices are comparable. I found the NamiNori house in 2009 while searching for possible vacations. When we decided to go to Yellowstone instead, I bookmarked it for later. In early 2010, we were ready for a beach vacation, and this house came back up. It had everything we were looking for, including a fabulous location adjacent to Hanalei’s historic pier. Although we found the house on HomeAway, the owners have since launched a new website, which is much slicker and has better photos. If you’d like to see NamiNori House for yourself, open this link in a new tab: www.naminorihouse.com. I’ll warn you…once you look, you may dream of going there yourself.

Sunrise Over Hanalei Bay - From the Pier

We absolutely loved walking out to the pier every day to watch the sun rise and set over Hanalei Bay. The beautiful Hanalei River joins the Pacific ocean right there at the Hanalei pier and the adjacent Black Pot beach park. Families like to gather at the pier and park for sunset picnics. It’s a great atmosphere. I loved the sand. Walking on the beach was like walking through warm powdered sugar. It was heavenly. It didn’t hurt that George Clooney was there all week filming his new movie “The Descendants” so really, it couldn’t have been more perfect. We saw George and his crew filming on the beach frequently. They also filmed in a house on our street (Weke Road), and the film crew rented several other houses on our street and around town, as well. We had no idea they would be there and were surprised to find ourselves in the middle of it all. Other than a few impromptu parades of film trucks, a small occasional crowd on the beach, and a brief traffic jam, you’d never know they were there. We’re looking forward to watching the film when it comes out now so we can relive our time on Hanalei Bay. It’s like the best vacation video ever, right?

Clooney Sitting on Hanalei Beach While Filming

Kauai is called the “garden isle” of the Hawaiian chain because it has such a lush, remote landscape. Most of the island is inaccessible due to rough terrain, and the famous NaPali coastline on the north shore is a great example of this. It’s one of the most photographed shorelines in the world, and the best way to see it is by air. There are several helicopter tour companies on Kauai, but we chose to see it in a Cessna with “Wings Over Kauai” – a small family outfit working out of the Lihue airport. We’d never flown in a plane this small before, and I admit to being nervous. I had a real fear of small planes and air sickness. But Bruce Coulombe, our pilot and the owner of WOK, talked me through it, giving me tips on how to best enjoy the flight. His experience and patience were greatly appreciated, and our flight was fabulous. We spent almost a full hour flying over most of the island, including the NaPali coastline, our beloved Hanalei Bay, and Waimea Canyon (often called the Grand Canyon of Hawaii). Bruce was an excellent tour guide and pilot, and the flight was one of the best experiences of our vacation. Kauai is a gorgeous place, but you’ll only see a fraction of it if you don’t get up in the air, so conquer your fear and get up there!

Wings Over Kauai View of NaPali Coast

Beaches are the reason most people vacation in Hawaii, and there are some marvelous beaches on Kauai. We spent nine days trying to see them all. Of course, we had our favorites. Hanalei Bay beach was our refuge, and an awesome place to stay. But Secret Beach, so named because it’s really hard for tourists to find and not too easy to get to, was stunning. The views of the Kilauea Lighthouse made it even better. Like I said, it’s called Secret Beach for a reason, but if you can find it, it’s well worth a visit.

Secret Beach with a View of Kilauea Lighthouse

Haena Beach on the far north shore, west of Hanalei, was also a favorite. It had a cool dry cave right off the road you could explore, a lovely creek that ran down the mountainside and into the ocean, and a great little beach park with all the amenities you needed – bathrooms, an outdoor shower, and a concession truck selling snacks and ice-cold drinks. The wide beach and random lava rock outcroppings also made it a great place to hang out and a lot of fun to explore.

Haena Beach on the North Shore of Kauai

The most relaxing and most memorable part of the trip for me was the sunsets at the pier. Each night provided a different show. Daily changes in the weather made each sunset unique. It was the best free show on the island. Having other couples and families gather each night to share it made it even more special. Locals would get out and walk their dogs, surfers would paddle in from a day riding the waves, fishing boats would slowly drift in, and as the sun set, everyone would stop and quietly enjoy the spectacle. I’m thankful for the opportunity to travel, a loving husband to share it with, a camera to capture the best moments, and the beauty every part of the world has to offer. And I’m grateful that my dream to visit Hawaii was fulfilled. Oh, Kauai, I dream of you still…

Siblings Celebrating the Sunset over Hanalei Bay


Filed under Travel Tales

HomeAway Ruined Hotels for Me

I’m not a spokesperson for HomeAway.com, paid or otherwise. But I am a fan and a frequent user of their service because it has provided me with some of the best vacation experiences ever. Have you seen the site? It and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner) have changed the way we vacation. We’ve had so many great experiences that I am forever ruined where hotels are concerned. You can search for vacation rentals worldwide and find places that suit your preferences – like air conditioning, a laundry room, king size beds, waterfront or downtown locations, and much more. They post photos so you can see the homes in detail, and I always pay attention to the comments from previous renters to see what they thought of each place. You have to do your research on these sites, but the results can be fabulous. Like this house in Hanalei on Kauai’s north shore:

NamiNori House in Hanalei, Kauai

Wow. It’s a great house in a fabulous location – just off the historic Hanalei Pier on beautiful Hanalei Bay. Dr. Beach named this the best beach in the world in 2009. And now I know why.

Hanalei Bay and Pier, Kauai

We spent 9 glorious days on this beach in May, and it was stunning. Hanalei is a wonderful laid-back surfer town on the lush, mountainous north shore of Kauai. It’s quiet, beautiful, and it’s worth adding to your bucket list. A walk on the beach here is like a walk through warm powdered sugar. And sunsets over the bay are spectacular and only a few steps from your door. One week here is not enough. Yep, this beats a hotel for me any day.

Children Enjoying the Sunset in Hanalei

Then there’s the fabulous house we rented in Paradise Valley, Montana. This beauty is north of Yellowstone National Park, and we enjoyed the house as much as we enjoyed the park. Let me tell you something – they call it Paradise Valley for a reason. And this beautiful place is my idea of paradise. The house is three stories built into a rolling hill overlooking the Yellowstone River, and everything about this beautiful home was perfection. This was such a wonderful vacation. And after long days in Yellowstone National Park, this living room with its rock fireplace and its stunning view of the mountains was our refuge. Laying on that sofa looking out over those mountains is good for your soul.

Loch Leven Living Room - Paradise Valley

And I would be happy forever if I could use this kitchen every day. I mean it.

The Kitchen - Paradise Valley House

And imagine having access to this view of the Absaroka Mountains as a sunset storm blows through the Yellowstone River valley. Words can’t explain it.

View of the Absaroka Mountains

Nope. No, sir…I am not missing those hotel rooms. Not one little bit.

And let’s not forget the farmhouse in Southwest Harbor, Maine, outside of Acadia National Park. This place has very special memories for me, since my daughter and her family joined us on this vacation. Little Jonah Bear was only two. It’s a lot of fun seeing the world through a two-year old’s eyes again.

Farmhouse in Southwest Harbor, Maine

This farmhouse built in the 1880’s has so much history and charm. It’s only 900 feet from the Atlantic ocean and you can pick fresh apples in the fall in the back yard. I know this because I baked a pie with those apples. Again, it’s another example of what HomeAway has done for our vacation experience. Southwest Harbor, Maine is located on Mount Desert Island along with Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park. It’s on the “quiet side” of the island, away from the crowds that flock to Bar Harbor. It’s a working fishing village, and it’s so peaceful and quaint here. It’s like something out of a storybook.

Southwest Harbor, Maine

Fall in Acadia National Park is crisp and colorful and magical. Once you’ve been there, you’ll never forget it. Especially if you love fall leaves and fishing villages and the ocean and sailboats and lobsters.

Somesville Bridge on Mount Desert Island

And I’ll never forget the cabin on Lake McDonald in Glacier National Park in Montana. We loved this place more than words can describe. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never seen a view like this from a hotel room.

Lake McDonald from Fox Run Cabin

This place had to have been built back in the 1930’s or 40’s and is one of the few private residences inside the park. In fact, it was built before the park was created.

Cabin on Lake McDonald, Glacier Natl Park

It was on the southwest shore of the lake and had a spectacular view of the mountains. Glacier is one of my very favorite places on earth. It’s gorgeous, pristine, rugged and endangered. There are very few glaciers left in Glacier National Park. I’m glad we got to see them before they’re gone. This place is magical if you’re a nut for mountains and water like me. Those glaciated lakes with their unnaturally blue water just knock me out. And don’t get me started on bear grass. I love bear grass so very much. It speaks to me. It says, “Come run through the fields with us and sing ‘The Hills Are Alive With the Sound of Music!’

Bear Grass in Glacier National Park

Can you see now why a hotel room holds no charm for me? I have discovered that I don’t need room service, or valet parking, or overpriced mini-bar peanuts. I need peace and quiet, and breathtaking scenery, and all the comforts of home, and a significant absence of crowds. Yep, HomeAway.com is one of my favorite things about the internet. And I’ll never get excited about a hotel room ever again.


Filed under Travel Tales