A Few More Shots Of My Mother’s House, Santa Barbara Casual Elegance Meets Swedish Folk Empire


A couple of you have referred to my mom’s house lately, and Leslie, the blogger at Hostess of the Humble Bungalow, asked for more photos, so I snapped a few when I last visited.

I’ve already showed you the living room, the guest house, a silver spoon, and the portrait of the 3 oldest kids that hangs in the master bedroom. This time we’ll start in the kitchen. The kitchen window, to be precise, with sunrise, and reflections.


The kitchen sitting room, if that’s an an actual thing, also at sunrise. The brick fireplace was in place when mom and my stepfather moved in, they had the saltillo tiles installed throughout public areas of the ground floor. You see the extra height added to one of the little loveseats; my stepfather is tall.


The dining area, or nook, really, sits between the large living room and the kitchen. Which works well, since it’s both decorative and functional. Damn I love a good chandelier. The painting, lighting, clock and table are all Swedish. The chest of drawers is from Mom’s side, whether English or American I do not know. By the way, we never pass food through that window.


Down the hall, Mom’s chaise longue in the master bedroom. She’s set up a similar perch in every house she’s lived in since, um, 1965 at least. Swedish folk art on the walls, mohair throw on the chaise.


Let’s go upstairs. How about one of the the guest rooms? Or at least its wall? Framed Alice in Wonderland illustrations.


And bedding? I rather like the lace shams against a green and gray-blue floral duvet.



From the other guest balcony, one can survey Mom’s planters. They are somewhat meager these days, the drought regulations prevent outdoor water usage. Usually they’re full of hibiscus, geraniums, and sage.


And down the Hall of Infamy, another shot of our family photos by the dozens. A gallery wall, I guess we call it now.


Among the pictures, one of my mother’s mother, who we called Grandmama, sitting by the fire with little blond Mom and her brother and sister.


That really was their dog.

Up one final half flight of stairs, is Mom’s little office. Here she mixes red patterns. The gingham is fading.


And finally, in that same office, the story cabinet. Mom collected curios, and kept them here. The grandchildren were allowed to come and pick one in the evenings, and my mother would make up a story and tell it to them.


Thank you for the photo request. I realize that in the taking, I have also caught the place where I came with my children for more than 20 years. They remember Granny’s house as part of their lives, even though the grownups have grown forgetful. Mom meant to make a home and a space for her whole family, and she did it with a generous spirit and eye.


An Actual Room Of One’s Own, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:32am

I visited my mom this week. On the way to Santa Barbara, I stopped in the totally surprisingly adorable town of Los Olivos, to have lunch with Margy of Fool For Fabric. What a gift. You know when the universe offers you a token of future possible?

Margy is older than I am. She’s been working in her studio for years, in various modes of creation. Now she sews some pretty astonishing clothes. While I’m unlikely to sew or ever want to – I struggle with small motor coordination – the meta-concept of a studio, now that’s something.

I had always scoffed at a Room Of One’s Own. I have earned a good living: managed people, functioned independently. What use a solitary space? Hooray for post-oppression! But not all oppression is overt or external. Suppression tamps down an awful lot, solo.

High WASPs find creativity dangerous. My culture often marginalizes its artists, preferring that if they must “art,” that they do so while male. The unspoken code lists artists as messy, and prone to outbursts. Not excellent, in the way we appreciated, and not quite comprehensible.

Once I got to Santa Barbara, I took mom out. She’d given me a shopping trip as a Christmas present.

Lunch first. We sat, considering food. Tile floor, white tablecloth, windows to the street. She chose a turkey club, I, petrale sole. She wanted wine with lunch, agreed. On my phone, I showed her a rug I was considering for what has been my son’s room, and will now be my office. Or studio, conceptually.

Kathy Leeds, an artist I have come to know here on the blog, had recommended the rug maker. Dash & Albert. Kathy was recently chosen to show at Art Basel. Even my culture of origin would recognize her superior relationship with color.

Mom liked the rug. She exclaimed, happily. She was always the visual one in the family, the one with a sense of design and style. I shied away, I had my reasons.

After lunch we went to James Perse, where I discovered that this anorak wasn’t so great in person. So mom bought me the Harlequin Cotton. She has always been generous.

Another, perhaps the other, great gift of my life comes from my husband. I take early retirement as an opportunity to anneal my self. Hard doesn’t always mean brittle. I prefer a crystalline end to a dusty fade. Lava into obsidian, or, more tamely, an often salty solution into large, clear, cubes.

California Jeaning, North

Today une femme d’un certain âge and Lisa of Privilege are collaborating, each writing a post about the love we share for denim. We thought it might be fun to approach from the perspective of two Californians, one north, one south. Denim is our state’s unofficial uniform, after all.

In the past, it’s been said that women over 50 shouldn’t wear jeans. To which I reply, “Ha!”

Perhaps there is an age at which one puts denim aside, but it’s not 58. In the Northern Californian climate, denim is always comfortable and versatile. We alternate between classic and hipster, the SF Old World tradition coexisting with our counter-culture – which has become a tradition in its own right.

However, denim, more than most items of clothing, requires that you find the right fit. Physical and emotional. Style is 30% color and pattern, 30% geometry, 30% emotion. Since denim removes most of the variance in color and pattern, geometry and emotion play an even bigger role.

There are now so many brands, and so many versions of jeans in style, you can’t just say, “I’ll have the bootlegs please.” Here’s what to consider.

Physical Fit, Or, Geometry And Your Silhouette

  • Rise (high waist, mid-waist, low-waist)
  • Shape (skinny, bootleg, flared, wide leg)
  • Ankle show (a lot? a little? none?)
  • Fabric content (how much stretch?)
  • Wash and distressing (Light blue, dark blue, really dark blue. Little “whiskers,” big creases, little rips, big rips, none of the above.)
  • Details (seams, pockets)

Emotional Fit

Consider the components of fit in the social context. Your location, life circumstances, age and orientation.

  • How fancy are you? (Are you a formal person? Do you like to sparkle? Or do you prefer to hang out, under the radar? AKA Grande Dame or Sturdy Gal?)
  • How conventional? (How do you feel about protocol? About inhabiting the strata of society? AKA Artsy or Grande Dame?)

Wallet Fit

It is entirely possible to find good jeans for <$50. They’ll evince less “fashion”, but you can compensate with the rest of your outfit.

The Styling That Follows, Proportion And Balance

You could just pop on a t-shirt, of course. License to chill. But if you want more, here’s the rest of what it takes to make jeans an outfit.

  • Jackets (shape – boxy, fitted, or flowing –  and length, cropped, hip, or longer)
  • Shoes (toe shape – pointy, almond, or round – heft, and heel height)

Principles in Action

Here are some examples of how geometry, emotion, and styling play together, using afew new outfit posts, and a few from the archives.

In 2011, the first outfit I ever showed on the internet. What’s the emotional style? Conventional, as was appropriate in the days when I was still anxious about how I appeared here. Formal, for Northern California daytime.


I balanced broad shoulders with 7FAM bootlegs, added a long lacy layer under the short and boxy Chanel jacket, finished with pointy-toe flats to keep the line elegant. A reasonable strategy for the long of waist.

In 2012 I wore bootlegs in a different guise, the High WASP in her grandmother’s Harris Tweed.  Informal, but perhaps not quite myself.


These almond-toed pumps with boot details balanced the bulk of the turtleneck and the texture of the jacket.

And the same silhouette, evolved for work at a job where the only (unspoken) dress code was, as I have said, “You probably shouldn’t wear tattoos all over your face.”


Relying again on the proportions of a long jacket and boot-like shoes.

Shop For Bootlegs And Their Friends

Everyone has some kind of denim that they can’t abide, for one reason or another. While it’s true that skinnies have crossed all emotional boundaries, functional all the way from formal and conventional, to informal and alternative, they just don’t work for me. I’m going to call this look Conventional Informal.


And I’m also going to call it, “No thanks.” I like the rest of my body so why emphasize my upper thighs? And it’s not just a body image thing, it’s sense of self. I like the swagger of a baggy jean. No skinnies for me, but you go right ahead.

Shop For Skinnies And Pointy-Toe Flats

My style has continued to evolve towards the unconventional. Why I felt ready to bust out the inner biker here we’ll never know. With pearl studs.


But the look worked well, with a longish t-shirt layer, straight legs and some fairly hefty almost-pointy brogues.

Then I retired. Refused to wear tight pants ever again. Here’s how I wear my denim these days,  dressing “up” for a family dinner in Berkeley.


These are “fancy” boyfriend jeans, in that someone else faded them, and the silhouette narrows at the ankle. The shoes are what really give me any right to call this dressing up, my current favorites, Valentino “Tangos.” There’s an ankle strap, hiding.

Here’s how I wander the streets of San Francisco on a weekend morning.


Faded-of-its-own-accord wash boyfriend jeans, flat and amazingly comfortable cool shoes. This is how I get to dress like Grechen, by wearing Vince “Preston” slip-on sneakers. I nod to formality with old gold hoops, and a Bottega Veneta hobo.

Finally, and most recently, out for cocktails and dinner with a ridiculously creative young friend. As hipster as a middle-aged High WASP can go. Selvedge jeans from San Francisco’s Mission District. Big ol’ cuffs.


The biker jacket makes a happy return. High rise jeans are good for the long-waisted, pentangle talismans for those calling on their inner sorcerer.


As for shoes, if I dressed this way all the time, I’d buy some cage booties. I suppose I mean, “Cage booties, baby!” But for the occasional outing, that wide black strap on the ancient Paul Green pumps will suffice.


As does the industrial hardware on an equivalently ancient Marc Jacobs bag.

Shop For Boyfriends, From Tomboy To Fancy Badass

When evolving style boundaries, as in any growth process, experimentation is your friend. Denim is flexible enough to function as what we might fancifully call a set of beakers in the lab of style. Over the past 30 years I’ve iterated myself into a comfortable habitation of my home town.

As has une femme, in Los Angeles.


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Object Of Desire: A Simple Black Anorak

One of the best tricks I have to stay moderately stylish in retirement is to upgrade utilitarian pieces. If jeans, sneakers and tees have a little edge to them, I run far less risk of finding myself at the market dressed like a 12-year old boy.

Which has happened.

These days I’m thinking of replacing my 10-year old sporting goods jacket with a new anorak. Or parka. Do you think the word mys means different things? Let’s say no. In any case, anoraks have been so popular recently that they’re everywhere.

The easiest option is an army green field jacket, but I want something softer than my J. Crew, and I’d like it to be black or gray. I don’t need a down hood, I don’t want fur, and it doesn’t have to keep me warm below about 40 degrees. This one’s from a cool but pricey brand.



One of these might do too. An inkling more urban than Patagonia, North Face, Land’s End, etc.

What do you grab out of your hall closet for errands, particularly those done on foot? And how much, might be zero, does style quotient matter to you?


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Design With Courage, A Review Of “Simplicity” By Nancy Braithwaite


As I have said before, interior design scares me. What to wear? No problem. What to plant? Lots of suggestions. How to furnish a house? Yikes.

I’ll come right out and admit that ever since I decided to update my house I’ve been dithering – bedroom furniture, front doors, cushion colors for my living room – what to choose? So when I saw this book reviewed – somewhere – I clicked over to buy it so quickly I can’t remember who to thank for the recommendation.

In any case, thanks. I’m talking about Nancy Braithwaite’s manifesto Simplicity, on her interior designs. It’s large, full of images, beautifully presented, and currently occupying a place of substance on my coffee table.

The book is more than pictures, visually spectacular though it may be. Nancy details her guiding principles, or as she calls them, Design Elements.

  • Architecture
  • Composition (Her thoughts on repetition and symmetry, exemplified throughout the book, struck me particularly.)
  • Proportion and Scale (Again and again she uses few objects in surprising sizes, vs. multiple common objects, to make the aesthetic statement, to turn a room into art.)
  • Color
  • Pattern
  • Texture
  • Craftmanship

Although I imagine these terms are predictable to anyone versed in the field, I found them revelatory as a framework through which to experience Nancy’s rooms. Here, see how the contrast of the ornate chandelier shape against the straight-lined table is made richer by their similar textures.


And then the simple surprise of coral-lined curtains, the audacity of repeating the audacious color on so many cushions. Yes, I am repeating words. Might not work in writing as it does in design, but unless you break rules occasionally you never understand them.

nancy braithwaite

Reverence for a throw blanket, an embrace of things round, the glories of tall simple windows and their tall simple coverings.


I mean, I never thought I wanted metal sculptures on my bathroom wall but I was wrong. The biggest frog at the top, rather than the bottom, turns expectations – and amphibians – upside down.


However, this living room was the final hook in my heart. Do you guys notice all the white? Huh. And yet so rich, so warm. The peaceful plaid curtains? Peaceful Plaid – oxymoronic design for the win. How about Serene Abundance? I think that’s my phrase, guys. I think that’s what I want. The interior equivalent to Polished Tomboy.


Most of all, Nancy seems to have led me to understand the role of inspiration in home design. While I’d always been able to browse fashion and take away only what I needed, I found interior design overwhelming, and so could not abstract out my real choices from fantasy pictures.

I have no plans to replicate Nancy Braithwaite’s designs – don’t have the funds or the discipline. But she works with such bravery, I may be able to muster a little of her courage.


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How To Fall In Love With Anyone, Or, Saturday Morning at 9:11am

This is a list of questions to make you fall in love. Sit with your partner, or friend, or even a stranger, both of you asking and answering. At the end you stare into each other’s eyes for 4 whole minutes.

These 36 questions can make you fall in love with anyone

I thought the idea was lovely, and perhaps even true. I sent it to my kids. When my son got my email, he was with a friend who had just told him about the same list. How did his friend know? His mom.

Imagine mothers everywhere, knowing just how much love matters. Wanting our kids to fall in love not from the surface but from what the researchers call, “interpersonal closeness.” Understanding that the more we know of future partners the better. Some rue, some hope, some fingers crossed.

Imagine flights of Mommails, soaring across the world, little modern doves. Of course, accompanied by the less inspirational but just as necessary missives about graduate schools, neurology research, and the great climate of our home state.

AKA why you should move back, soon.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone! There’s absolutely nothing I have to do and I’m absolutely thrilled.

Once Again, Technology Hiccups

Edited: The issues appear to have been resolved, happily, and we should be back on track with the usual folderol. Thank you for your patience, and Kelly Phillips at Boost Interactive Media for her help.

Hello all. Once again I am having issues with email post notifications. I am not yet sure whether this is a software issue, i.e. to do with the WordPress plugin I use, or an email delivery issue, i.e. the email service providers like Yahoo and Google having decided that my blog posts are evil;). I’m working on the issue, but tech support is reeling under post-holiday demands.

If you happen to land here, and have been an email subscriber, and feel like giving me a little detail, i.e. what was the last post you received, it will be much appreciated. And otherwise, bear with me, I will not give up. I will be holding off on future posts until this is resolved.


Is The World Getting Worse Or Better?, Or, Saturday Morning at 10:35am

Is the world getting worse or better? I worry, because I have assumed all my life that it’s getting better, and if I’m wrong I’ve made some bad choices. So this is a serious question, albeit one in need of clarification.

Here’s what I mean by getting better. Are we finding our way to more well-being for more sentient creatures? Well-being in the sense of physical health combined with social tolerance, or, best case, kindness? I believe the more people who live healthy lives, allow each other to do the same, and accept others’ non-violent personal choices, the better world the world becomes.

One note. I weight this imaginary index towards humans, others will not. For example, I believe we should not extinguish animal species, but it’s OK to eat them. Others find that unbearable. But I think we can ask the question, “Is the world getting worse or getting better?” and see that even with scope limited to people we are not sure the answer will be happy.

Two events from this week’s news, one fun and encouraging, one sad and violent.

07JOAN-articleLargeThe fashion house of Cèline chose Joan Didion as their new icon/model. Didion, to point out  the obvious, is both old and intelligent. Oh, and she’s a woman. Designer advertisements rarely feature old intellectual females wearing clothes. Put that way, one might wonder why it’s something to hope for, but in fact we take Cèline’s decision to indicate that women continue to win scope and authority beyond their biological role as baby-makers. One plus in the social tolerance column.

And then. This sank my heart, almost altogether. A small group of men killed a larger group of people, in France, because they didn’t like having their beliefs mocked. One could use heavier terms, like insulted or vilified, or lighter, such as “made fun of.” I leave that parsing to others. To be clear, I am not making light of the event in any way, I am only unable to say more than has been said, by Liza Donnelly’s cartoon, for example.

Charlie-hebdo-deaths2-685x1024For this discussion we do know that the events at Charlie Hebdo and following were about as far as one can get from well-being without fiction, and monsters. And it does feel, often, that similar horrors just keep coming. Feels like one hundred million pluses in all the columns of bad.

On beyond the immediate sorrow and outrage, I’ll ask again. Is the world getting better or worse? If I’ve been right, and in general it’s better, I can live my life local and kind. I can rely on personal generosity, honesty, and kindness to warrant me the privilege of being alive. But if I’ve been wrong, then I’ll have to act otherwise. If we’re breaking bad, one can’t just break along.

I am not the first person to ask this question. I Googled it, as one does. Turns out, the entire first page of search results insists the world is getting better. Economists, technologists, journalists, and men of god alike agree.  The statistics back them up; average income, life expectancy, even violence – political and more locally criminal. The one identified parameter that’s worsening? Global temperatures and their effect on our environment. Huh. I understand that showing up on the first page of Google doesn’t determine absolute truth, but it’s enough for this morning.

Here are some links, if you’d like to read on.

The Higher Learning
New Scientist
Church For Men
Start Up Guide

This answer, we owe most to the planet, feels right to me. And gives us simple things to do; use less stuff, support technologies that enable sustainability, and continue to be kind, in all the meanings of that word. Maybe even, speaking here to myself so as not to be lazy, expand the scope of kindness in some way or another.

Of course I should do more, but don’t we always imagine doing more, tomorrow, and shouldn’t we sometimes focus on this morning?

I struggle with that question.

One last note. I don’t require that the world be good, only that it experience good. In other words, Cèline probably chose Didion to model because they thought she’d help their business, not because their hearts bleed for the right of women over 60. That’s OK by me. If greed takes us in the right direction, we’re apt to get there sooner.

Have a wonderful weekend. I shrink, usually, from exhortation, but it seems that any effort you make today towards the world, any kindness, will be to the good. And I’m a little tired and I feel the need for more good.


Photo credit: New York Times, Juergen Teller for Cèline
Drawing credit: Liza Donnelly via lizadonnelly.com

Packing For Not Quite A Week In Hawaii

I’ve become an unwitting expert in resort packing. I’d shake my head over my own frivolity, but would rather give the frivolous knowledge away and hope it’s useful. Here’s what goes in my suitcase. I plan by “use case” rather than by item type. Key takeaway, please do not underestimate the versatility of white cotton sweaters and jeweled sandals.

Packing List for The Four Seasons Hualalai on Hawaii’s “Big Island”



  • 2 bathing suits (no, I never did find a new one. Still in the hunt.)
  • 2 coverups
  • 2 pair dark shorts (I wore only Bermudas. I fear that short shorts are not long for the world outside my garden) + long-sleeved shirt for hiking
  • Assorted tanks and tees, in white, gray, black and blue
  • White UNIQLO mid-length chino shorts (worn to dinner instead of the Tory Burch skirt, along with a navy tee, white sweater, and black jeweled sandals. It worked.)


  • 2 sports bras/workout tops
  • 2 workout tights/yoga pants
  • Wigwam socks for sneakers (comparable)


  • 5 underwear (High WASPs can’t use the “P” word, I don’t know why)
  • 3 bras


Plane outfit

And here are two instantiations, as we say in software, of the “Dinners” wardrobe. Also some palm trees which do tend to follow one around.


Lavender shift from the now-defunct DressedUSA || purple readers to match || navy UNIQLO IdlF blazer || very old Charles Jourdan sandals || Beladora chandeliers with blue chalcedony and amethyst || Rolex Cellini (a vintage white gold version)


Silk shift by Hawaiian designer Tor Richards || cadet blue UNIQLO combat jacket || orange Havaianas || orange and blue “Lisa” readers from Readers.com || gold iPhone 5

The Cosmetics And Toiletries

And what’s in the cosmetics and toiletries case? I believe I’ve figured out the perfect beauty routine for resort life. Perhaps because it resembles retirement – absent palm trees, housekeepers, and trade winds?

For skin care, I rely largely on the hotel soaps and lotions, with the addition of Apriori serum, eye and lip cream, and mineral sunscreen. Here’s the key. Layer your sunscreen, rely on nature for much of the rest of your look.

Sunscreen Technique

If I plan to be bathing-suited in the pool, or the sea, I slather on the SPF30 the resort provides, and then maybe add a little Neutrogena Sensitive Skin Sunscreen Lotion, SPF 60 to hairline, cheekbones, neck and cleavage, which is where I have the most sun damage. I also wear t-shirts.

If I’m out and about in clothes, I wear Laura Mercier’s tinted moisturizer, in Bisque, on my face, the Apriori mineral foundation at hairline and cheekbones for extra protection, and Neutrogena SPF60+ on the backs of my hands. This strategy balances protection against that sunscreen feeling of having been spackled into a closet and left to die.

On To The (Very Light) Makeup

A workhorse. I use it in the suburbs too. Laura Mercier’s Tinted Moisturizer with SPF20.


In the evenings, I’ll gussy up with with this Yves Saint Laurent cream-to-powder blush. Very subtle, but bright, easy to work with. Dries to powder, but not too quickly. I wear #7.

Yves Saint Laurent Creme de Blush

I tend toward very little makeup on my eyes when on vacation. After all, they’re probably irritated by salt water, chlorine, and sunscreen. Dr. Hauschka makes a reliable, comfortable mascara that I’ve worn for years. Not waterproof, but as I don’t swim in makeup, not a problem.

Dr. Hauschka Mascara


As for lips, I stick to tinted lip balm. Not interested in competing with the sunset. And this, by Burt’s Bees, is still my favorite. No sting, lightweight, not greasy, no particular taste, just a hint of lip-ish color and lots of comfort.

Burt’s Bees Replenishing Lip Balm with Pomegranate Oil


The penultimate note. I do like to squeeze in a pre-trip pedicure. Somehow those casual shifts look just a little more intentional if my toes are polished. And I like the urban note of a cherry polish, in contract to the tropical colors of my surroundings.

O.P.I. Chick Flick Cherry


In closing, let me confess that I also kind of want to paint my front door to match my toes. But I fear it’d lead to palm trees, maybe even surfing, and I’m not sure a suburban retirement is ready for that kind of mayhem. Travel well, everyone.

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Helicopters And Volcanoes

The Four Seasons was glorious, but we managed to leave once or twice. Hawaii is a pretty compelling island after all.

First, we all ventured out to see one the island’s live volcanoes, Kilauea, from a helicopter. Along with a few cliffs and waterfalls. The volcano made me cry. Not because I’m afraid of lava, although, of course, I am, but because it brought home how alive our planet is.

A living system.


We flew right near the caldera. You can see a bit of molten lava through the smoke, like an invisible spirit’s campfire. The rest is flowing, underground in tubes, or overground through the forests. This time, the eruption is burning parts of a town. Unlike my childhood nightmares, the lava moves slowly, and there is plenty of warning, but the losses can be heartbreaking for small businesses.


I took only a few pictures, and the ones I managed mark the experience but don’t convey it. As long as I can show you that the flight was a once in a lifetime type of experience, and not even too scary until we flew near the cliffs.

The waterfalls are nifty.


But drafts in the canyons lead to turbulence. Here’s a video. You can maybe see how we jittered. I have no closeup photo of this waterfall since my eyes were closed, and my right fist clenched tightly around my daughter’s hand. It’s hard to hold a camera in that position.

Waterfall In A Canyon On The Big Island from LPC on Vimeo.

You see the pilot, my head, my daughter, and one of the other passengers. My husband, son, and two others sat in the back. Seating order was determined by height and weight, not by readiness to sit atop the sky. Huh.

The next day, my kids and I drove several hours around the island and up to a park at the top of the same volcano, where we hiked around an older caldera. We began in a rain forest, on the Iki trail.


And switch-backed our way down to the caldera floor. Redheads wear hats.


Lava still flows, underneath. Steam issues from fissures.


Once traversed, we looked back across. I have no words of description. Otherworldly, perhaps?


Well worth doing, both the helicopter, which is expensive, and the hike, which costs only the $10 admission to Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park.

Hawaii. On beyond palm trees, to the moon.


Note: We flew with Blue Hawaiian. I have nothing but good things to say about the company, their processes, and our pilot.