Sometimes when life hands you lemons, you have to make lemon meringue pie. Or maybe you go all in for lemon primavera pasta or a French lavender-infused lemon tart or Mediterranean garlic-lemon chicken kebabs! Well, you get the idea. Make lemonade if you have to, but don’t sit in the sour.
We were supposed to be heading to the airport to catch our flight to Hawaii. This was a special trip Shawn and I booked for the week after Christmas as a gift to our girls and my parents. After almost a year of sheltering-at-home and changing plans because of this global pandemic, we thought maybe we could squeeze in an end-of-the-year, we-survived vacation. Alas, Covid-19 is rampant in Central California. The numbers have surged. Hospitals are full to capacity across the state. We finally decided it was best to cancel Hawaii and hunker down at home.
Needless, to say we were all disappointed. I have to admit this travel-loving, adventure-seeking mama right here was beyond disappointed, frustrated, and shed some tears over this one.
That Sunday – the day before we were supposed to depart – my sweet husband suggested we host a luau at home. “If we can’t go to Hawaii, let’s bring Hawaii to them,” he said. He encouraged me to order some Hawaiian barbecue and pick out a movie to watch as a family.
I perked up a bit. Sounded fun! I needed a diversion to lift me from my sadness of having to cancel four trips that year and my own cabin fever.
When I shared the idea with my three daughters and parents, they took it to the next level. My oldest, who spent the first decade of her life traveling internationally with her dad and me, suggested we go to a different country each day of our vacation. My girl started a spreadsheet and a Pinterest board right away. (Yeah, this girl has a future as a travel agent!) I hauled out my international cookbook collection, and we all started planning.
An idea was born: traveling the world from the comfort of home.
Maybe this is something we all need. We all know that travel is going to look different in 2021. I’m still dreaming about the day when our state-wide travel bans will be lifted, and we can rebook our tickets to Hawaii. I will not give up hope.
The reality is that could take a while. We all are going to have to consider travel differently moving forward.
That’s why I want to invite you into this adventure with us! You don’t have to do this every day, but you could make it a Stay-in Saturday Night tradition for 2021 or even map out a time once a month where you and your family could “travel” to a different country like we did over Winter Break.
Make this adventure your own. There’s absolutely no pressure to check off boxes or make everything from scratch or accomplish something specific. This is not a homeschool lesson plan or another idea to make you feel guilty that you are not more like a cruise director for your kids.
The goal here is simply to make memories and explore the world through food, books, music, and movies. From the comfort of your own home. Wherever that is in the world.
I’ll provide some ideas of things you can do to make this meaningful and authentic for you and your people. You don’t have to spend a lot of money or run all over town. You can find most of these things online. You might borrow from friends and neighbors. Step out of your proverbial comfort zone and travel the world with us!
The first stop on our itinerary is the Polynesian Islands. My dad was born in Hawaii so it’s always been a special place for our family. My grandparents, Frank and Cora Lazo, met on the Big Island and began their courtship there. They lived on the same street with uncles and cousins. My dad tells stories of running through the neighborhoods with chickens and gathering for huge luau-style backyard parties with ohana (family).
Today I’m sharing one of our fave family recipes for Filipino egg rolls called lumpia. One of my favorite things about the islands is that they are a blend of so many cultures. Hawaii is a melting pot for native Hawaiians, Filipinos, Chinese, Portuguese, Japanese, Koreans, and Puerto Ricans. The food reflects this blending over decades.
For our family luau, we decided to order Hawaiian BBQ from Ono Hawaiian Barbeque in Fresno, California. They do a top-notch job with the barbecued meats, the traditional mac salad, and even had young coconuts for takeout. We made our lumpia, and my mom served up her homemade Hawaiian rolls and special Hawaiian Coconut Delight dessert. (Scroll down for more ideas you could incorporate in your travels.)
Lumpia (Filipino Egg rolls)
-1 package lumpia wrappers (square-shaped egg roll wrappers)
-1 lb. ground turkey, ground beef or shrimp, minced
-1 onion, finely chopped
-1 cup cabbage, finely chopped
-1/2 cup carrot, grated
-12 water chestnuts, minced
-2 teaspoons sesame oil
-1 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon black pepper
-peanut oil or other frying oil (If you plan to use an air fryer, use coconut oil or olive oil spray.)
Garlic Dipping Sauce:
-8 tablespoons rice vinegar
-8 teaspoons soy sauce
-3 cloves minced garlic
-1/2 teaspoon sugar
- Make sure meat is ground or minced.
- Brown meat in sesame oil with onion.
- Add cabbage, carrots, water chestnuts.
- Sprinkle in salt & pepper.
- Remove and set aside in a bowl. Meanwhile, separate the wrappers so they will be easy to grab.
- Prepare a clean place to roll the lumpia. Arrange a wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape with one point toward you.
- Place 2 tablespoons ingredient mixture in the center of the lumpia wrapper.
- Fold bottom up over ingredients and tuck in. Fold sides in and roll to top.
- Use water on your fingers to seal wrapper.
- Pan fry in peanut oil until golden brown or deep fry in 1.5 inches of oil in a pan if desired. Drain on a paper towel while preparing dipping sauce.
- For dipping sauce, whisk together all ingredients.
*If using an air fryer, spray the lumpia with coconut oil or olive oil spray and cook approximately 10 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
Ideas from our luau:
- Order Hawaiian BBQ from a local place or try out some new recipes!
- Dress up in Hawaiian wear. We happened to have authentic Hawaiian dresses from a past trip, but you can pull out any florals or aloha shirts you might have at home. The Dollar Tree or similar stores often sell silk or shell leis. Crank up the heat and pull out the flip flops for some extra flair!
- Watch the movie Moana, Lilo & Stitch, or another island-inspired movie together.
- Read a book together. A few of our favorites include:
–Hula Lullaby (Preschool – grade 3)
–Ohana Means Family (Preschool – grade 3)
–Nanea: Hula for the Home Front (Preschool – grade 3)
5. Travel to Hawaii through music. A few things we listened to:
-Hawaiian In Stereo – The Fabulous Fiftieth State with Sam Makia and the Makapuu Beach Boys
-30 Hawaiian Favorites with Don Ho
–Iz (Israel) Hawaiian Songs on Spotify
6. Learn to do the Hukilau! Video tutorials like this one can make it fun for the family.
*We would love to hear from you. Which ideas shared here did you try? What ideas did you incorporate in your exploration of the Polynesian islands? Leave us a comment.