Thursday, December 31, 2009

Tying Up Loose Ends

Well, here it is, the end of the year, heck, the end of the decade. What? I know! How did that happen? Wouldn't it be ironic if all of our computers conked out when they rolled over to 2010?

Anyway, I have a few things that I've thought about blogging over the course of the year that I never quite got to, so this will sort of be a wrap-up post of miscellaneous stuff to close out the year.

Miscellaneous Thing #1:

This might be my favorite picture of the year. In May I flew home to surprise my dad for his 60th birthday. My sister picked me up at the airport in Denver, and we drove down to my dad's house. My sister's friend, Big A, came along with us and brought her son, Little A, who is four. Like many four-year-olds, Little A has his security blanket, and he keeps a pretty tight leash on it. We got in late that night, and my dad's party was the next evening. Before the party, Dad decided to take a nap in his chair. Little A decided that my Dad might be cold, so he went to his bed, got his blanket, and covered up my dad. Then he went downstairs where there are various stuffed animals and brought several of them upstairs for my dad to sleep with. After this picture was taken, he topped it all off with a Hacky Sack on my dad's chest. 'Cause you never know when you might wake up and need a Hacky Sack.

Miscellaneous Thing #2:

We went to Oregon this summer for more tree climbing lessons, and I kind of surprised myself by not blogging about it; although I did post a couple of random pictures from our trip. I won't give you as much detail as I did about last year's lessons, but I did want to at least put in one or two pictures! I know, you're thinking, How much can there be to learn about tree climbing? Well, last year, we just learned the basics; this year we learned how to facilitate other people up into the trees and how to do rescues. We also got to play with saws in the trees, learning proper pruning techniques. I'll tell you what, there's nothing like hanging from a rope with a sharp cutting device in your hand to make you pay really close attention to where all your gear is at any given time! Here is a tree all set up for facilitation:

The rescues were hard work, and I really impressed myself by being able to get a line into a tree, get my rope up and tied, get my gear on, climb up, get over to my "victim," attach myself to my victim and get him lowered to the ground and unattached from me in under 17 minutes. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures of that, but I do have a picture of me relaxing in a tree boat, which was a lot nicer!

I'm not much of a morning person, but see how smiley I am? That's because this was the first time in about a week that I had gotten a decent night's sleep. Seriously. Hotel room=slept like crap. Tree boat=Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

After our class was over, our instructor took my husband climbing in a big Douglas fir. He would have taken me too, but I chickened out. Since it was such a high climb (about 200-250 feet) they were climbing single rope which involves a lot of gear compared to double rope, which is how I am more comfortable climbing. I hadn't done much single rope work, and the few times I had, I always had trouble switching over from ascending to descending devices, and I didn't want to get stuck 200-feet up, so I stayed on the ground and acted like I wasn't bummed about missing out on this climb. That's OK though, tree climbing really gives you a new appreciation for listening to your instincts, and my instincts were telling me not to go that day. So, some other day. Hubby had a great time though-here's a picture of him on the way up.

Miscellaneous Thing #3:

Missing book reviews-I've read a few books that I never got around to reviewing here, so I will do some quick summaries so that they're not hanging over my head come the new year.

The Gardella Vampire Chronicles by Colleen Gleason-I believe it was Chris's review of When Twilight Burns, the fourth book in the Gardella Vampire Chrinocles that piqued my interest in this series. I picked up the first one, The Rest Falls Away, and, if my Kindle history is anything to go by, quickly devoured the next three books in the series. That's the problem with the Kindle, when you get to the end of one book in a series it's so easy to just click, click and get the next book! It's not that the writing is that great, in fact I remember some of the dialogue being pretty bad, but it is quick fun reading with some fairly steamy love scenes, and I just might have to pick up a copy of the last book in the series, As Shadows Fade, now that I'm thinking about it.

Children of God by Mary Doria Russell-I finished reading this a few weeks ago, and I hate to admit it, but I didn't like it as much as The Sparrow. I knew this was a risk-The Sparrow is a hard act to follow. I've been agonizing over reviewing it because I'm actually thinking I might need to read it again to give it a fair review. For right now, I'll leave it at that, but I will come back and do a full review much for tying up loose ends!

Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions by Neil Gaiman-This is the first Gaiman book that I have read and finished (couldn't make it through American Gods) and I really liked it. I'm not normally a short-story gal, but I did enjoy most of the stories in here. There were a couple I didn't really care for and one that I didn't even finish because I just had no idea what was going on. A lot of short stories leave me feeling like the author didn't quite have it in him to write a whole novel, so he just sort of wrote down the ideas that he had for a story and then left it to the reader to fill in the missing parts; but with Gaiman I (mostly) felt like his stories were fully-realized stories, crafted with the end reader in mind. Be sure to read the Introduction, which itself includes a story as well as some background on the rest of the stories.

The Road by Cormac McCarthy-It was stark and desolate and depressing and beautiful and concise and I think I hated the ending. I'm not sure; I can't decide. I do think McCarthy did a wonderful job of capturing the minimal survivalist relationship between father and son-there's never much said, but there wouldn't be, would there, if you've been wandering a burned out planet for months? years? It's not like there's much to talk about other than how to stay alive for another day. And you know how much love is there and your heart breaks for the man who's trying to save his son and for the boy who has to live in this world and see the things that he sees. I haven't seen the movie, but I think Viggo Mortensen might be perfect in this role, and the fact that Robert Duvall is in it makes me want to cry! I love Robert Duvall!

The Gunslinger (Dark Tower #1) by Stephen King-I read this on the plane on the way home from my Dad's house, and it was good enough to keep me interested, but not great. It's sort of a western/alternate world/good vs. evil/horror, so I was curious to see where everything was going. I started reading book #2 in the series, The Drawing of the Three, but I just never really got into it. It was taking place more in this world than in the gunslinger world, and I just didn't really care. I feel bad about this because this is one of my husband's favorite series ever, and I'm sure it probably gets better as it goes, but for right now, I'm not ready to delve back in.

Miscellaneous Thing #4

Molokai Day 3-See, I told you I could give you a whole month of Molokai! This is another one that I will have to follow-up on in the new year. For now, suffice it to say that we had a glorious day hiking in the Kamakou Preserve with our guide, Bill, from The Nature Conservancy.

If you can think of any other miscellaneous things for me, let me know. I know 2009 was rough for a lot of people, and if you're one of those people, I hope 2010 is better. If you had a great 2009, well, I still hope 2010 is better for you!


Monday, December 28, 2009

Unexpected Gifts and Other Happy Things

Unexpected Gift: Remember when I told you about my awesome Secret Santa gift? Well, I thought that was the end of my Secret Santa surprises for the year and was perfectly content to go on my way. Then, a few days ago a mysterious package arrived from an address I didn't recognize. I opened it up and found these cute Dr. Seuss bookmarks and these lovely little magnets.

I thought, Huh. I wonder if I accidentally got TWO Secret! Turns out, I did not get two Secret Santas, just one really great Secret Santa. Also, I can finally reveal to you who my Secret Santa is! It's Jennie from Biblio File! I don't know how she knew that my bookmark collection consisted of used envelopes and old sticky notes and library receipts showing that I paid my latest late fees or that I just threw away a bunch of magnets because they had faded, rusted, or in some other way lost their magnet-y appeal; but whatever she's doing to figure out what gifts to send, it's working. Thanks, Jennie!

Unexpected Gift #2: Today I've been married for 14 years, and Hubby came home with four (4!) dozen red roses! Awwwww! Thanks, Babe, I love you!

Happy Thing #1: Waaaay back in October, Kari at Five Borroughs Book Review posted a review and giveaway for Sex, Drugs and Gefilte Fish. I don't enter many giveaways, but this one sounded fun, so I entered. And I won! Unfortunately, I wasn't paying good enough attention, and I missed the "please respond by" deadline. I responded anyway, but I knew it was fair game if she'd moved on to someone else (and, indeed, I thought she had. My name's crossed off the winner list and everything!). Well, whaddaya know? A couple...(few?) weeks ago I went to the mailbox and pulled out a mysterious package from an unknown address. And do you know what was inside? A copy of Sex, Drugs, and Gefilte Fish! Yay! Thanks, Kari! Also, I am a big loser because this is the first time that Kari is hearing about my receiving of the book.

Happy Thing #2: You know who is NOT a loser? Jaedin of Jaedin's Projects. I heard about Jaedin on the Cake Wrecks blog. A couple weeks ago, Jen and John decided that they were going to spend two weeks helping to raise money for charity (and this ties in to Happy Thing #3). For two weeks, along with their regularly-scheduled hilarity, they would feature a different charity each day. All they asked was that their readers consider giving $1 to each of the charities. In an effort to find 14 deserving charities, they asked for recommendations from their readers, and boy did they get an earful! Let me just say, I love me some comments, but I don't think I ever want to have to wade through 1500+ comments on a single post! Anyway, one of the people who commented was Jaedin's mom, Timber. As any good mom would do, she was nominating her son, Jaedin, who was trying to raise money to put together kits for newborn babies in Ecuador. Jaedin didn't make the Cake Wrecks final cut, but I visited his blog and was impressed with what he was doing so I donated a few dollars. A couple days ago, I received a hand-written thank-you note from Jaedin! Isn't that cool? I am happy to report that Jaedin exceeded his goal of $100 and was able to put together 15 newborn kits for the babies in Ecuador. Keep up the good work, Jaedin!

Happy Thing #3: As I mentioned above, John and Jen of Cake Wrecks fame decided that if they got all their readers behind them and asked them all to do just a little bit, they could make a big difference, and were they ever right! As of yesterday, they had raised over $50,000 for their charities. I saw another figure that had it as high as $70,000+. Tracking is inconsistent depending on the method of donation, so I went conservative, but either way, Wow! That last statement makes it sound like they're doing some sketchy accounting, but that's not it-visit their charity roundup page, and you'll see what I mean.

Happy Thing #4: Waaaay back in November, Wendy awarded me the Honest Scrap award. I've been meaning to publicly thank her for a while now, but, well, you see how I am with timely thank yous. I love Wendy's blog, Greenish Thumb, because she has a way of putting into words all the things that I've thought but never thought about trying to put into words, like why some of us who seem like the worst candidates for gardening ever often end up being the ones who love it most. I love her explanation!

Any happy surprises for you this holiday season?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What You Helped Me Do

One month ago was Fight for Preemies day, and I posted about March of Dimes and the preemie in my life (or my Jedi preemie, as one of my commenters dubbed him). I also asked you guys to help me raise money for March of Dimes by commenting and adding links to your own stories. Well, I am happy to report that you all helped me raise $100 for March of Dimes! I will be sending in my donation today, and I just wanted to say thank you to everyone who helped!

Bonus! I just went over to MoD to make my donation, and it was doubled because I put it on my MasterCard! I totally forgot that MasterCard will be matching donations through the end of the year, so if you are inspired to give, now is a great time to do it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day-December 2009

Well, it has been one year since I first participated in Carol's beloved Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day! I figured this would be a good time to do a "Then and Now" post. You can go back and see what my Euphorbia Leucocephala looked like one year ago today, or you can just wait because you know I'll post it for you here now, right?

December 15, 2008

December 15, 2009

For one thing, they appear to have become much brighter and clearer. This could be because I was actually outside today and not shooting through my dirty window on a rainy day. Also, last year they were collapsing under the weight of all the rain that we'd had. This year hasn't been quite as monsoon-y yet, so they are holding up a little better.

Oaky, so that wasn't very exciting, but now I will show you our front yard last year:

December 8, 2008

And this year:

December 15, 2009

That's much more exciting, no? No? OK, how about more dramatic? And didn't Mocha do a good job of helping me stage today's picture to try to match last year's picture? See those little plants that are just nubbins on top of our wall in last year's picture? I told you a little bit more about them back in June. Here is a closer view from today. They are all about 6-8 feet tall now.

OK, that's really all I have for "then" and "now" pictures, so I guess I will resume my normal GBBD activities and just show you what's blooming in my yard.

This is a closer-up picture of my white bushes from the very beginning of this post. The north side is completely white like you see here, but the south side still has a lot of green left on it. Since we had had some light rain earlier this morning, I was having fun playing with all the water droplets that were left in the garden.

When I was taking this picture of my Thai basil, I noticed my Sweet Alyssum in the background all decorated with dew drops, like a little Christmas tree .

Potted miniature rose.

Red ginger (Alpinia purpurata). You can see some good pictures of other members of the Zingiberaceae family here. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge. If you click on the red ginger picture, you will see that the actual flower is a delicate little white thing that pokes its head up out of the red bracts, similar to the way the white flowers pop out of my orange shrimp plant (Pachystachys lutea), below.

Another flower with similar blooming habits is this Pink Quill (Tillandsia cyanea). In October, it was all pink, but now you can just see the tips of the purple flowers starting to form in between each of the pink sections. Hopefully by next month I'll have a more impressive display!

My cousin received this mum as a potted plant, and she passed it along to me when she went on vacation. I repotted it, and after a couple of worrisome months, it has made a nice recovery.

And, finally, on to my trusted and true orchids:

Here are some buds on Den. Pam Tajima (atroviolaceum 'Pygmy' x eximium) (a.k.a. "Pam") preparing to take over for some of the older blooms that are beginning to fade.

Inside, are some blooms that I cut off of Nameless Bob, Pam's outdoor companion.

Since my last post in October,Dgmra. Memoria Jay Yamada 'Hawaii' has bloomed, dropped its flowers and put on a new set of blooms, which you see here.

That's all for today, folks! As always, thanks for visiting, and please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens to see what other blooms can be found outside today.

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Big, Big Thank You to my Secret Santa!

I signed up to participate in the Book Blogger Holiday Swap for the first time this year, and I was really touched when my gift arrived. I received a card from Women for Women International which said that a donation had been made in my honor. This really means a lot to me, and I know it means a lot to the woman (or women) who will be helped by this gift. I don't really need any more stuff, and as much as I love books, I am fortunate enough to be able to go out and get them on my own. I know the money donated will be put to much better use by a woman trying to rebuild her life in a war-torn country than if it had been spent on a material gift for me. So thank you! Thank you so much to my Secret Santa for this kind and generous gift!

I know who my Secret Santa is in real life-her name was on the card-but I'm afraid I'm not sure who she is in the blog world, and I know how I am about using my real name in the blogosphere. So, in an effort to avoid "outing" anyone, I won't publish her name here unless I find out that it's OK to do so. I would also love to know which blog is hers so that I can go visit! Maybe one of the lovely gals over at the Book Blogger Holiday Swap could help me out with this pickle? Or maybe my Secret Santa will make herself known to me...?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

I was at the North Shore, not the North Pole!

My Grandpa's birthday was on Monday, December 7th. He is 93, and, like a good granddaughter, I waited until almost 9:30 PM his time to try to call and tell him Happy Birthday. It's tricky calling the grandparents because you have to let the phone ring long enough so that they have time to get up from their recliners and get to it, but you don't want to let it ring so long that they'll get up out of bed to answer it. Also, 9:30? I wasn't sure if they'd be in bed or staying up for the news. I think they were in bed. So, yesterday, I finally got hold of Grandpa, but either my cell phone reception wasn't very good or Grandpa's hearing is finally starting to go or maybe a little of both. I was trying to explain that the reason I missed his birthday was because I spent the last two days on the North Shore and didn't have cell phone reception. Not the North Pole, not the North Slope, the beach on the north side of the island. We finally settled on the fact that I was calling from Hawaii. Close enough.

Anyway, the reason I was on the North Shore was because we had some monster waves rolling in, and rumor had it that The Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau was going to run. Eddie Aikau was a life guard and big-wave surfer who lost his life when the double-hull voyaging canoe that he was on capsized on its way from Hawaii to Tahiti in 1978. Eddie tried to paddle back to Hawaii for help but never made it. The Eddie is a big-wave surf competition at Waimea Bay that only goes if the waves are going to be sustained at 20 40 30 feet* or more for at least eight hours. Since the competition began 25 years ago, surfers brave enough to face these huge waves have waited for the word to paddle out in honor of their fallen brother, but the waves have only been big enough to hold the competition seven times prior.

This year, forecasters were saying we might see 60-foot waves, and that The Eddie might run on Monday, December 7th. Monday morning the big waves were rolling in, but overall conditions were deemed not-quite-right, so The Eddie was put on hold until Tuesday. Hubby and I went up north anyway because he had to fly out that night and would not be here for the competition if it went on Tuesday (which it did). While I'm pretty sure we didn't see any 60-foot waves, we did see some pretty big surf, and there were guys out surfing it. Here's one of the pictures that Hubby snapped.

I know it doesn't look like much here-it's hard to show perspective on things like the ocean-but if you look just to the right of the center, there is a guy on a surf board coming down the face of that wave. Here, let me see if I can help you:

When you figure that surf board's a good 10-12 feet or so and then do the math, it kind of gives you chicken skin, doesn't it? For some more pictures that do actually manage to capture some perspective and detail from this day-professional photographers and all-you can do a quick search** for "Eddie Aikau 2009 photos" and watch this highlight video (it's all impressive, but check out the stuff they are riding through starting at 2:37 and again at 3:28). You may notice the jet skis in some of the video, but this wasn't a tow-in competition; the jet skis were just there for rescue and to tow the surfers back in to shore at the end of a big ride. I also saw them towing photographers out, but as far as the surfing goes, if you wanted to surf it, you had to paddle out to it. Also, I would recommend watching the videos in full-screen mode. You lose a little clarity, but it's much more exciting that way!

Since Hubby was out of town on the big day, my cousin came with me to enjoy the big waves. Well, she would have come whether Hubby was here or not, but what I'm trying to say is that I didn't have to go hang out all by myself. That would have made the 50-minute wait in the bathroom line even more of a bummer. Here are a few of my pictures from the day of the competition.

If you were trying to call a business in Hawaii on Monday and couldn't get hold of anybody, this might be why. Anybody who wasn't already here, was stuck in traffic.

Here's what things looked like a little closer to the shore. I believe this is Kohl Christensen coming in after his awesome ride, which you can see in the highlights from in Heat 7. His ride starts at about 00:41.
By the way, you can watch the highlights of all the heats on YouTube.**  Each video is only about 2-4 minutes, and remember: Full screen!

This was the view from where we were sitting on the beach for the first few hours. The waves were pretty small by the time they reached us, and by "small" I mean "only" 8-10 feet.

This was our view of the surf action. Again, see the tiny little surfer coming down the wave? He's on the left, about 1/3 of the way in. I realize this isn't going to win any photo competitions, but it is a pretty accurate depiction of what we were experiencing on the beach. 

If you like big waves, you might also like:
Billabong Odyssey This has possibly my favorite surfing clip of all time as its trailer. (Historically, this clip has been mislabeled as "Surfing a Tsunami". It's not a tsunami; it's a surf break called Peahi, aka "Jaws," over on Maui). As amazing as the surfing is here, I'd like to point out the cinematography. Watch it again (and again and again and again...) and think about getting that shot. Awesome.

*2/9/16--40-foot faces according to the Quiksilver blog, 30-foot according to the news, 20 if you're calling it big. Let's just go with BIG.

**2/9/16--Unfortunately, Quiksilver doesn't seem to be big on archiving. When I originally wrote this post, I had links to some great videos and photos on their website; and while the videos seem to have migrated over to YouTube, I can't seem to find the photos anymore, so search away.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Molokai-Day 2

So, I told you about Day 1 of our visit to Molokai about 10 days ago. It was only a three-day trip (Fri-Sun), but at this rate, you all get a month's worth of Molokai!

Just a reminder that Amber (@tiabla)worked to set up a promotional weekend retreat at Aqua's Hotel Molokai, so our stay there as well as our dinner Friday night at the Hula Shores restaurant was free. Woohoo!

Saturday morning we decided to grab some breakfast at Hula Shores before exploring the island. I ordered the three-egg omelette, but with two eggs, and my husband ordered the short stack of pancakes. While we waited for our food, we enjoyed the peaceful ocean-front setting, with a great view of Lanai. Again, I didn't get any good pictures of the food, but there was lots of it, enough that Amber didn't need to order anything when she came down and joined us later. We had enough left over that she had a whole meal of her own! Luckily, @Melissa808 was more on top of things, and she got some good foodie pics for her blog, Urban Mix Plate. Please visit her post, Unplugging on Molokai (Part 2) to get an idea of what we were dealing with. This is no place for amateurs!

After all that food, it was time to visit the Farmer's Market! Where we could go look at more food! So, seven of us piled into a van and drove into Kaunakakai, which is the place to be on Saturday mornings. You can buy fresh produce and see wonderful arts and crafts from local vendors. Again, I failed to get any good pictures-morning's not my best time, OK?-but, again, Melissa came through! Without any coordination on our parts, she managed to get all the pictures I would have taken, so I'm going to send you back over to her blog, this time for Part 3 of her Unplugging on Molokai series. I particularly liked the painted gourds and coconuts-they're very whimsical. I grabbed a business card from the lady running the stand with the intention of putting in a link to her web site but somebody threw it away. I won't name names, but I think it was my husband. I did, however, manage to get a picture of what might be the cutest dog in the world. (Here I will dazzle you with cuteness and hope that you will forget about my lack of journalistic skills).

You can see how I might have been distracted, no? Now, I can't guarantee that you would see this same dog if you went to the Farmer's Market, but it might be worth a trip just to check. And now you forgive me for not having pictures of eggs, right?

After the Farmer's Market, we returned to the hotel so that people could drop off their loot and to reassemble for the afternoon's activities. Some people decided to lounge in the bar for the afternoon, others decided that a hammock was the perfect location for a nap. We (me, my husband, and Amber) decided it was time to drive around and check out the island. We jumped on the road and headed east, for a beautiful drive toward Halawa Valley. The road from Kaunakakai to Halawa Valley is 28 miles, the last seven of which are narrow, one-lane and winding. (Coincidentally, Hawaii's longest continual coral reef, just off the south shore of Molokai, is also 28 miles and accompanies you for most of the drive, even though you can't really tell from the car.) Since there aren't too many places where you can really stop and take pictures-narrow one-lane road and all-I was just snapping pictures through the open top of our Jeep. So, this picture is a little blurry, but it gives you an idea of where we were in relation to the ocean-not a lot of room for error here.

There are a couple of places that you can stop on the way to Halawa Valley. Puu O Hoku Ranch has a little store where you can grab a snack or some locally-crafted items. The thing that most intrigued me was the Pepsi Natural-I had no idea such a product existed, so, of course, I had to try it. It was good, but it reminded me more of a root beer than a Pepsi.

After our stop at Puu O Hoku Ranch, we continued on to the Halawa Lookout, a place where you can pull over and get some pictures. See the waterfall waaay at the back of the valley?

Now that we could finally see our destination, we were even more happy about our decision to take this drive. After the obligatory tourist stop to "Oooooh," and "Ahhhhh," and take pictures, we continued on down to the beach area.

From there you can hike around the valley, up to the waterfalls, but it is recommended that you coordinate with a guide as much of the land is privately owned. I've seen and heard a couple different pieces of advice regarding guides, so it would probably be best to check with the locals once you arrive on island. If you are staying at Hotel Molokai, you should be able to arrange a tour through them, and I would expect to pay up about $75/person.

We didn't hike around the valley, as we had plans for the evening and didn't want to be out too long, but we did ford the stream to walk along the beach for a little while, enjoying the beautiful setting and trying to keep our pants dry.

You might think I'm holding a fish in my mouth. I'm not. It's a Peppermint Patty, but it's not even my Peppermint Patty. My husband foisted it on me half-way across the stream, and it was already open, so I couldn't just put it in my pocket and it was too hard to hold it in my hand without getting chocolate everywhere and keep my pants out of the water. Sheesh.

After a beautiful day out in nature, it was time to return to civilization and check out the Saturday night jazz at Coffees of Hawaii, but first we had to make an airport run to drop someone off and stop to take some sunset pictures.

Just as Hula Shores at the Hotel Molokai is the place to be on Friday nights, Coffees of Hawaii is the place to be on Saturday nights between 6:00 and 8:00. Everyone gathers here to listen to some great music and visit with friends. There is a limited menu available and, of course, coffee, but you can BYOB. We listened to Molokai Jazz, perused the Coffees of Hawaii gift shop and enjoyed some red wine. The music was great, the female vocalist has a wonderful velvety voice and seemed to know almost everyone in the audience, and we walked away with a whole lot of coffee. Everybody out there knows about Kona coffee, but we've been fans of Molokai coffee for a few years now, so we were stoked to visit the mother ship of one of our favorite products. Bonus! Coffees of Hawaii is a member of 1% For the Planet, a group of businesses that have pledged to donate part of their proceeds to environmental causes.

While the menu at Coffees of Hawaii looked good, we were holding out for pizza at the Zagat-rated Molokai Pizza Café. While we were waiting for our flight to Molokai, we met a woman who lives part-time on Oahu and part-time on Molokai, and she works at Molokai Pizza Café and invited us to stop by during our visit. So, we did. Although the restaurant looked like it was in near-closing cleaning mode, we were greeted like family with big hugs and enthusiasm by our airport buddy, B. We ordered a pepperoni pizza and a BBQ chicken pizza, both of which were really good. The crust was light and crispy, and the BBQ sauce had an odd sweet flavor which might not be for everyone, but I liked it. We told B we were planning on a big hike the next day, and she said they could wrap up some sandwiches for us. So we ordered some sandwiches, which were huge! Also, they wrapped all of our pickles separately, which we very much appreciated when we opened up our non-soggy sandwiches the next day.

After an early breakfast, Farmer's Market, driving along the coast, hanging out on the beach, an airport run, jazz and wine and a pizza dinner, you'd think our day would be done. Wrong! We still had the Saturday-night bread run. The what? The late-night bread run for fresh bread from Kanemitsu's Bakery. You saw pictures of their day-time operation at Melissa's blog. This is the other place to be on Saturday nights. We had heard from several locals about the drug-deal-like quality of walking down a dark alley in the middle of the night, knocking on a door, and waiting for someone to appear to take your order, but until you actually go, you're a little skeptical. And then you drive into the middle of Kaunakakai, where all the shop owners have long since closed up for the night, and you start walking. And you think, Seriously?

Yeah, seriously.

Now, we had just gorged ourselves on pizza, and we weren't particularly hungry, and we were really doing this more for the experience than anything else (except Amber, who was trying to avoid being beat up at work on Monday for returning from Molokai without any Kanemitsu bread!), but when we got back in the van and decided that we should at least taste this know how sometimes something is so good that all you can do is laugh with joy? Yeah, that's where we were. It's worth staying up until 10:00 for the bread run.

After that, it was finally time to return to our room at Hotel Molokai to rest up for our big hike the next day. We were afraid that we were going to have a repeat of the bar noise from the night before, but everything seemed to die down pretty quickly, and we were left with a quiet, relaxing night's sleep.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Weekly Geeks 2009-42: Podcasts Anyone?

This week, Suey wants to know what podcasts we listen to, "preferably book related, but not necessarily so."

Well, the first book-related podcast that comes to mind is Books on the Nightstand. Ann Kingman and Michael Kindness link to their weekly podcast in their blog by the same name. Each week they discuss books they love, books they can't wait to read, books by genre, and whatever else they think their listeners might be interested in. I always enjoy listening to their podcasts, but I can't listen to them in the car because I always end up needing to write down the titles to at least two or three books, and I don't want to try to do that while I'm driving! I find this to be a good end-of-day podcast-you can sit in the dark and listen to a couple of friends talk about books, add a couple of titles to your ever-growing TBR list, and then go to bed.

My other favorite podcast has nothing to do with books at all. It's Car Talk, and it's hosted by Click and Clack, the Tappet brothers, a.k.a. Ray and Tom Magliozzi, a couple of MIT-educated auto mechanics who take calls about people's cars. I know this doesn't sound very exciting but it's hilarious! Click around on their web site a little bit and you get a feel for the self-deprecating wackiness that Tom and Ray exude on every show. It's impossible to listen to them and not be in a good mood by the end of it. They clearly have a great time doing what they're doing, and it comes across in every podcast. You don't have to be a car enthusiast to enjoy this show, heck, you don't even have to own a car! This one is good for listening to in the car though!

Anyone Flying to Hawaii Any Time Soon?

Because if you are, Hawaiian Airlines is offering $25 off each ticket for you and a buddy. (This works for anyone flying from Hawaii to the mainland also). You have to be a Hawaiian Airlines member (you can join for free), and it does have to be a round trip ticket. Why am I telling you this? Because I like Hawaiian Airlines. For years, my husband has built up miles on United, and we've been able to take advantage of them a few times, which has been a great advantage to us. I know how loyal people can be to their miles. Once you've started accumulating them with one airline, you don't want to have to start all over with another, but we've recently made the decision to use Hawaiian Airlines wherever possible, even if it means losing miles on United.

Here's the thing: I like Hawaiian Airlines so much better than United. (If I'm not mistaken, I have at least one regular reader who is a United Airlines employee. Let me just apologize now. You might want to skip this part). For one thing, Hawaiian Airlines' flight attendants don't make a point of telling you, "We're here primarily for your safety." In other words, please don't bother us for menial crap like blankets and extra water. For another, I'm willing to bet that a lot of people have had experiences with United that allow them to commiserate with Busy Dad. Also, in my former life I had to deal with their automated lost luggage "assistant," who, if I remember correctly, is named Simon. Simon will say things like, "Please state the city that you landed in," and you'll say, "Denver," and Simon will say something like, "I think you said, 'Saskatchewan.' Is this correct?" and after 20 minutes of this, someone in your office will tell you to stop yelling, you'll flip them the bird, and they will crack up because they've never seen you this pissed off before, and Simon will tell you that he is unable to help you and to please hold while he gets an agent for you. You will tell the agent all the same things you told Simon, but now you will be cranky and mean to the poor guy in India who is just trying to earn a living for his family and, truth be told, is probably just as sick of cleaning up Simon's messes as you are frustrated. To be fair, it's been about five years since I've had to deal with Simon. Maybe things have improved.

Okay. So, where was I? Oh, yeah, fly Hawaiian Airlines instead! Granted, they don't go to all the places that some of the other major airlines do, but they will take you to a lot of places in the Pacific, and miles build up fast when you're flying trans-Pacifically. Also, I don't know about you, but I'm tired of going out of my way to give my money to companies who don't give a crap about customer service. If I'm going to spend hundreds of dollars on something, I'd just as soon give it to a company that I like and that I want to support, especially in these economic times where everyone should be fighting to hold on to their customers. My husband recently flew to Korea via Hawaiian's code-share partner, Korean Airlines, where the staff came out and personally and sincerely thanked each passenger individually for choosing Korean Airlines. Granted, he was in the business section, but still. When was the last time you were treated that way?

I honestly didn't start this with the intention of turning into an "I hate United" post, it's just that they are the airline that I have the most experience with. I'm sure other airlines have their fair share of disgruntled customers, and United probably even has somebody out there with a stellar customer-service story. Hawaiian's not perfect either-you still have to pay the extra baggage fees and pay for headphones and snacks (their snacks are really good!), but their meals have always been good, and I'll gladly pay the earphone fee to have the extra 2 or 3 inches of legroom that you get on Hawaiian. You know what I'm talking about. You've been stuck in that middle seat, trying to reach that dropped pen or the gum in your carry-on only to realize that you are going to have to dislocate your shoulder in order to reach it or ask someone if you can borrow their screaming baby to crawl around under your seat to get it for you, neither of which are ideal options. So, instead you just deal with the cramp that's already formed in your neck and try not to breathe on the guy next to you for the next 8 hours.

So, anyway, there it is, my post urging you to fly Hawaiian Airlines if you ever get the chance. Let's re-cap:

  • Friendly staff
  • More leg room
  • Best snacks I've ever had on a plane
  • Good meals
  • #1 in National Airline Quality Rating (I didn't mention that above, but I wanted to throw it in).
  • Less chance of offending your seat mates with your bad breath because you can't reach your gum.
  • Another thing I didn't mention-they also have gaming devices available for rent

  • Limited destinations
  • Baggage, snack, headphone and gaming device fees still apply
Please feel free to share any stories you have about good airline customer service. I always like to hear stories of good triumphing over evil, even if it's from United! ;)

11/24/09-Edited to add: Per Beat of Hawaii's October 27th post, Hawaiian pilots have been talking about striking, so if you do choose to travel Hawaiian, it might be a good idea to have travel insurance in place that would cover such a contingency. Please check out their whole article for more details and a different point of view on Hawaiian Airlines.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Prematurity Awareness Month

November is Prematurity Awareness Month®, and November 17th has been designated as Fight For Preemies day over at Bloggers Unite. Hundreds of bloggers have signed up to blog "for a baby [they] love and to help others".

According to the March of Dimes, "Nearly 13 million babies worldwide are born prematurely each year, and more [than] one million die."1 In the United States, one out of eight babies is born prematurely.2 Premature birth can cause serious complications like respiratory distress syndrome, bleeding in the brain, heart problems, intestinal problems and eye problems leading to vision loss.3 If a baby survives all these, he could still be left with cerebral palsy, mental retardation, chronic lung disease, blindness and/or hearing loss. Many times, the reason for premature birth is unknown. The March of Dimes is committed to finding out what causes it and how to pevent it.4

I imagine most people will be blogging about their own babies, nieces or nephews, maybe their friends' babies or babies that they have taken care of as doctors or nurses. I have experience with none of this. I've never had children, so although I can imagine, I don't really know what it's like to be scared for your child, to bring a life into the world and then not know if you're going to be able to hang onto it, to wonder what difficulties your child will face as she grows up, to lose a child because he was just too small to fight. My life has, however, been changed by a preemie, and that's why I'm blogging today.

The odds are stacked against premature babies today, even with all the advances that have been made in medicine and technology, so you can imagine what they were back in 1972 when my husband was born 3 months early, weighing just 2 lbs., 2 oz. The odds were so bad, that the doctor who delivered him was going to throw him away. Now, maybe this speaks to the character of the doctor more than it does the state of medicine at the time, but for whatever reason, the doctor who delivered my husband was going to THROW HIM AWAY. He had so little faith that a baby that tiny would be able to survive that it wasn't worth the effort to try to keep him alive. Maybe he was just trying to save my mother-in-law the inevitable pain of losing a child after watching him struggle for life, maybe he thought a baby that tiny would be plagued with medical issues that would cause him to suffer the rest of his life, or maybe he was just trying to save his hospital some money. I don't know. What I do know is that my mother-in-law was A) coherent and B) damned if she was going to let some doctor throw her baby boy away. Luckily, the nurse in attendance felt the same way and was strong enough to stand up to that doctor and intervene on their behalf.

Like all preemies, my husband spent a lot of time in the hospital before he was able to go home, and understandably, his mother has always been a little more protective of him, even though he's not the baby of the family. Ladies, you know how hard it can be to win over your mother-in-law when you're coming in and taking away her little boy; well, try coming in and taking away this little boy. We've brokered a peace, but it was definitely rocky for a while!

Thanks to his mother's strength and belief in him, my husband did, of course, survive. He's always been ambitious and able to find a way to achieve his goals, even when everyone standing between him and his goal was telling him, "Sorry, that can't be done," whether it's gaining entrance to the Air Force Academy or getting a notary to accept his autographed picture from Miss Hawaii as his official form of ID. Seriously. His coworkers always tease him about his Jedi abilities ("These aren't the droids you're looking for."). I've always just written this off to the fact that he is unfailingly charming, but now that I think about it, I guess he's been honing these skills since birth.

Since his birth waaaaaaaaay back in 1972 (I'm just giving you a hard time, Babe!) my husband has grown into one of the smartest, funniest, most generous and thoughtful people I know. He's also one of the most active people I know-he hikes, cycles, dives, climbs trees, surfs, kite surfs and kayaks-he is a preemie success story if ever there was one, and I can't imagine my life without him.

Luckily, my husband has been a fighter since the beginning, and he was able to overcome the great odds that faced him when he was born. Not all children are so fortunate; some struggle more than others, and some aren't able to overcome the difficulties of being born prematurely. The March of Dimes is committed to giving "all babies a fighting chance against the threats to their health: prematurity, birth defects, low birthweight".5 Of course, there are other ways to help besides a monetary donation, but if you would like to make a donation, now is a great time to do it. If you use your MasterCard to make a donation between now and the end of this year, MasterCard will match the donation (up to $225,000 in total). If you are going to donate, why not do it now while a matching gift program is in place?

I've never donated to the March of Dimes before because, honestly, I didn't really know what they did-it wasn't relevant to me. It still isn't relevant to me in the same way that it is for a lot of people, but there is a connection there. I will be donating a set amount to the March of Dimes this year, but additionally, I will donate $5 for each person who comments here. I'll bump it up to $10 if your comment includes a link to your story about the special preemie in your life.

Visit Bloggers Unite to read other stories by bloggers who are Fighting for Preemies or to add your story. Thanks to @GlendaWH, @Starbucker and @molokainews for tweeting about this.


Saturday, November 14, 2009

Molokai-Day 1

I recently had the opportunity to take advantage of a promotional weekend offered by Aqua's Hotel Molokai. They were hosting an Unplugged Retreat, a chance to get away from all the blogging, twittering, Facebook-ing, iPhone-ing, and texting that usually goes on in our lives and actually enjoy a beautiful place like Molokai. Our room was free as was dinner Friday night at Hotel Molokai's Hula Shores restaurant. We arrived Friday afternoon and departed Sunday evening. I decided to break this out into separate posts, one for each day, instead of one looong rambling post.

On Friday, we flew via Mokulele Airlines to the island of Molokai. Our flight was delayed and our pilot was a little snippy because when he finally showed up to escort us out to the plane, my husband had gone out of the gate area to see if he could get any information about our flight since there is no information available inside the gate. That's right, you have to walk back out through security to the little Mokulele counter to find out any information about your flight. Then, of course, you have to come back through security. So, just know that going in. Once we got in the air, it was only about a half-hour flight on our nine-passenger plane, and it was pretty smooth until we got over Molokai where things got a little bumpy. Luckily it's a short flight and you have a great view of the islands as you fly over toward the airport.

Flying over Molokai, looking at Lanai (I think. We might be looking at Maui, but I'm pretty sure it's Lanai. Can anybody help me out on this?)

When we arrived at the airport we went to the rental car counter (THE rental car counter-there's only one!). Here I have to give props to Alamo for their customer service. Both our pickup and our drop off were very pleasant experiences. The women who were working behind the counter each time were so friendly and made us feel like we were really being taken care of.

When we arrived at Hotel Molokai, we were a little surprised. It doesn't look like a traditional hotel, it sort of sneaks up on you.

The parking lot is in front, so it's set back just a tiny bit off the road, but it's almost easy to miss-it blends into it's surroundings a bit better than most of the giant hotels in Waikiki I guess. We got the keys to our room and found our Garden View Deluxe room nicely appointed. You can tell that the property is an older property, but they have done a nice job updating the rooms. I would say that the pictures on their web site are a pretty accurate representation of what you actually get. No magic cameras here! We also had a huge lanai (at least by Hawaii standards), big enough for a largish four-person table and a porch swing. Our main view was of the banana trees planted outside our balcony, but from the outer side of the lanai, you could see the ocean. Even though the buildings here are fairly close together, they've done a good job of maintaining privacy on the lanais. Here's a poorly-adjusted picture looking from our room to our lanai, but you get the idea. Hey, I never claimed to be a professional photographer.

The other side of the room, opposite the lanai, was all jalousie windows. This is great for letting in air-not all rooms have A/C-but not so great for privacy since ours opened up on the main walkway between the front desk and the restaurant, and there are no window coverings. Also, jalousies provide absolutely no insulation from noise, and since we were close to the restaurant/bar area, there was a lot of noise. This was the view from our room.

After we got settled in to our room, we decided we still had some time to drive around and check out the island before our dinner. We drove up to the Kalaupapa Lookout and Phallic Rock. As you might expect, the Kalaupapa Lookout looks out over the Kalaupapa Peninsula. If this sounds familiar to you it's because it is where the recently-sainted Father Damien did his work with patients suffering from Hansen's Disease (leprosy). In 1866 King Kamehameha V exiled people suffering from the disease to this isolated peninsula. Today, Kalaupapa is a National Historic Park. There is still a settlement there, but people are not confined as they once were. Visitors are allowed to the settlement, but arrangements must be made ahead of time to fly in, hike in or ride in on a mule. I've heard this can be a pretty treacherous hike, so research your options ahead of time if you do decide to go.

Anyway...the lookout was beautiful. It is surrounded by a gorgeous wooded area that felt very "Where the Wild Things Are" to me and, of course, provides an excellent view of the Kalaupapa Peninsula.

After admiring the view here for a few minutes, we walked back to the parking lot and headed over to check out the Phallic Rock. Because how can you not? What can I say. This is one aptly named piece of nature. How could it not have some lore attached to it? Just imagine you're the first person to discover this-you're walking along one day and all of a sudden, "Whoa. Hey, what's this?"

", that looks slightly...let me just walk around and examine this a little more before I make any final..."

(Running back to village) "You are not gonna believe what I just found! You guys gotta come see this!"

So, our curiosity assuaged, it was time to return to the Hula Shores Restaurant at Hotel Molokai for their weekly Aloha Friday Sunset Celebration. Every Friday people from all over the island gather here for music, drinks, hula, story-telling, general camaraderie, and, of course, food. What Hawaiian gathering is complete without food? We heard from many people that we talked to on the island that this is the place to be on Friday nights, and it seems they were right. By the time we got there at about 5:45, the parking lot was full, and we had to park on the road. We missed most of the hula, but there was music going all night long, and we got there just in time to wash our hands and go to dinner.

Before dinner was served though, everyone stood up and joined hands (good thing I just washed mine! I hope everyone else did too...); I thought someone was going to say grace, but instead the band started playing, and everyone started singing. Well, I say "everyone," but I mostly just swayed and smiled since the first song was a Hawaiian song that I didn't know. Later it morphed into another song, something patriotic, I just can't remember what. I think it was "This Land is Your Land." By the time I figured out that I actually knew what was going on it was over. Story of my life.

Dinner was wonderful. Our gracious host, Michael Drew, General Manager of Hotel Molokai, started us out with some yummy pupus followed by our tasty entrees which were accompanied by good drinks and followed by a rich cheesecake for dessert. I ordered the Huli Huli Chicken, which is the island version of rotisserie chicken, and it was perfectly cooked. It had great flavor and was still very moist. I didn't get any good pictures of the food, but @NctrnlBst got some good pictures and posted them in a slide show at the end of the great post he wrote about his weekend on Molokai. He also provides a better and more thorough explanation of our unplugged weekend. So, please head over to check out his post on his blog, Baker's Hours.

After all this great food at the end of a long week, we hit the wall. It was time for us to retire while the Unplugged Retreat raged on in the bar below us. This is the part where we found out that not only is our room not noise-proof, but actually acted as a bit of an echo chamber. It didn't matter. We were tired enough that we were able to sleep through the band, and the raucous laughter that continued well into the night and into the wee early hours of the morning, which I'm told was about 11:00 or so, maybe midnight. I think I'm getting old.

And so ends our first day on Molokai. Join me later in the week and I'll tell you about late-night bakery runs, amazing hikes and what might actually be the cutest dog ever.

Anyone else who has pictures and/or blogs from this weekend, please feel free to leave a link in my comments. Thanks!