Thursday, May 26, 2016

Our Weekend in Kauai

We recently took a weekend trip to Kauai and had a great time.  If you sign up for Hawaiian Airlines miles, you will receive emails when they have sales.  I found a weekend package for two nights hotel, air, and rental car for about $700.  We had such a great time, we're planning a longer stay next year (still less than a week, though).

I had never been to Kauai and Larry hadn't been since he was a little kid -- one of his sister's used to live in Lihue -- so it really was new to both of us.

I had a couple of bucket list items I was able to check off -- not huge things, but still.

Here's my list:

Hamura Saimin.  Check.
Lappert's Ice Cream.  Check.
Kilauea Lighthouse.  Double Check (you'll see why soon).
Waimea Canyon.  Still on the bucket list.

We flew over Friday afterwork.  Amazingly, our flights went all the way to Lihue with stops on the way (Maui going and Honolulu returning).  So we got to sit on the bus plane direct.  Haven't done that on a plane in years.  With stops, the flight took a couple of hours, but the view from the window was great.  The north shore of west Maui, Molokai up close, then Kauai.  On the way home, I got to see the whole west side of Oahu from the air.

I generally don't like to rant too much, but I have to say my experience with National rental car was very off-putting.  Veiled threats from the counter person.    Upon declining the additional coverage, she demanded I provide my insurance company name and details and then told me, "Yes, but if you damage the car, you will still have to pay your insurance $500 and your rates will go up for three years".  She also implied I would be responsible for any scratches on the car.  After speaking with the manager, it turns out they are only interested in dents that are "fist size or larger".  I refrained from demonstrating to the clerk the size of my fists and the dents they can leave.  I can understand the up-sell, but this was beyond anything I had ever experienced.  We proudly took possession of a Chevy Spark.  We spent the weekend referring to it as the "clown car".  Or half car really.  It was gutless, but I appreciated it's very narrow turning radius, which I demonstrated regularly all weekend.

First stop:  Hamura Saimin.  Everything I hoped for and more.  If you like your noodles more al dente, order them half cooked.  Yum.  I also recommend the tempura shrimp as a side dish.  The counters are old school style that continuously wind in several "U" shapes throughout the room.  Here's a shot:

We waited in line for about half an hour before being seated.  Be aware of where you are in the queue as seating is strictly self service.  You sit on little stubby stools instead of chairs and the counter is low.  Here's my saimin.  I failed to take a photo until halfway through the bowl.  It's served with hot mustard and soy sauce, which you mix together, similar to what do when eating sushi.  You dip your chinese-style spoon to grab just a bit of the sauce, then you fill the remainder of your spoon with noodles using your chopsticks.  Takes practice.  The flavor is sublime.  I want more.

When we left, it was dark and rainy so we headed to our hotel, which was an old style 1960's number that had been refurbished.  Simple, cheap, and we'd stay there again.  It was just south of Kapaa, so a good location.  Here are some shots of the hotel.  The restaurant, while not great food-wise, is the only one that sits directly on the beach and is somehow related to Huggos in Kona.

That bloody mary, while looking great, tasted awful.  Ah well, the view was nice.

One of my favorite stops of the next day was Kilauea Lighthouse.  Turns out it was having its 103rd anniversary and was free to the public that day.  I also met a lady working in the gift shop that knows my step brother, who lives in Cazadero.  We spent five minutes trying to remember his second daughter's name.  All three of us failed.

We hid the lighthouse in the prime of nesting season and caught an amazing number of birds:  red footed boobies, shearwaters, and frigate birds.  Apparently also albatross, though I don't think we saw any.  Also nene geese.
Here's the lighthouse: 

To celebrate the anniversary, they lit it up at night, which we observed from Annini Beach:

Unfortunately, you couldn't tell it was lit with the naked eye.  Fortunately Larry brought his obscenely large binoculars and we could see the dim lighting.  Sweet.  They were also good to use for viewing the nesting red footed boobies across the inlet.  Those tiny white things in the picture are nesting birds.  They have a three foot wingspan:

And here's a video of a nene goose eating lantana (who knew?).  The boobies are across the water and up the cliff, shown at the end of the video.

It was very exciting to see so many birds.  The wedge-tailed shearwaters were mating and it was hilarious to hear their sounds as you walked past thick bushes.  I didn't capture any audio, but this is what they sound like:

We also drove up to the north shore all the way to the end of the road.  Unusually, I didn't prepare much for this trip and my knowledge of Kauai was limited.  I think that worked to my advantage for the short weekend as I had no expectations.  So when we drove around a bend in the road, we were quite shocked to see this:

As I walked into the cave, I thought, "oh good, there's some guy way in there.  That'll make for a good reference shot.  Hmm.  I wonder where Larry went.  Oh shit.  That is Larry".  After 30 years (yeah, it was our anniversary weekend), I still need to buy a leash for that guy.  He wanders off.

The area is called Tunnels and the beach looks great.  There's camping and you can find the tiny shells that Niihau necklaces are made of (technically, they're Kauai shells, but, you know).  One family was using a colander to separate the tiny shells from the sand.  I made Larry take a class on how to make the necklaces once, so I'd like to go back and collect enough for a bracelet.  Collecting shells is somewhat controversial.  Some are okay with it as they are renewable and would only breakdown into sand anyway.  Others say leave them be.  You decide.

Dinner was going to be Korean BBQ in Kapaa, but we found a street faire instead and ate grilled pizza and filipino food instead.

The next day, we headed south and checked out the Poipu area.  Oh my God, so much sun!  Too much for me.  I prefer the cloudiness of the north and east shores, for sure.  We did stumble across this amazing shave ice place called, The Fresh Shave.  They have unusual flavors, which they make all themselves.  I had lime and coconut with chia seeds.  Your straw comes with a little paper mustache attached.  Seriously good.

After that, it was back to Hamura's for a final bowl of saimin before heading off to the airport.  I think we got home around 9.  All in all a great weekend.

We stayed at the Aqua Kauai Shores Hotel.  Cheap but good.  Only one cockroach.  So there's that. 

Next time, I'd like to spend three or four nights.  Kauai is small, so if you want to do a lot of sightseeing, it might not be for you.   I'd like to go hang out and eat.  If you like that, go to Kauai.  Nice beaches, too.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Thoughts on Our Weekend in Waikiki

Last month we flew over to Honolulu for the weekend.  I used a combination of sale fares and miles for the flight, points for the rental car, and a dear friend comped us for two nights at her time share.  Cost for three people for a weekend in Waikiki: $300.  Sweet.

I haven't been to Oahu in about 15 years.  We used to fly there regularly, until we traveled to the Big Island once.  Then it was all over for us.

While expensive, it is very easy to travel inter island by plane.  The airports are convenient and generally well run.  Hawaiian airlines has a great on time reputation and I always feel like a little kid when they serve you juice on the flights.  Hilo to Honolulu is less than an hour and you get to see every other island on the way up the chain: Maui, Kahoolawe, Lanai, and Molokai.  Sweet.

We took an early flight Saturday morning and arrived in Honolulu before 10 o'clock.  Thank you Hertz.  You may be a bit more expensive, but you are hassle free.  Our first stop was Royal Kitchen.  Amazing managua (pork buns) and pork hash.  Actually, they fill their buns with many different things (curry chicken or purple yam, for example) and we bough enough to nosh for the whole weekend.

The girls headed off for a day at the Ala Moana mall.  Boy has it grown!  No more Sears (and of course, no more Liberty House).  It is a great place to spend the day shopping.  We walked all three levels and went in to many stores.  The mall was busy, but not overwhelmingly crowded.  Sephora, Lush, Nordstrom, Apple:  we did it all.  We didn't go into Bloomingdale's.  I guess we're saving it for next time.

Magnolia Bakery has an outpost here and the cupcakes are great, but I think Sift's in Sonoma County are better.  I do highly recommend their Red Velvet Cheesecake.  Oh wow!  There's also a night kiosk and umbrella-covered chair area in the middle of the second level that's great for sipping iced tea and letting your dogs rest.  Here's a shot:

The second day we headed to the north shore and stopped at one of the trucks in Haleiwa for garlic shrimp. The north shore was busy on a Sunday and the traffic when we got back to Honolulu was 70% stop and 30% go.  Maybe 80/20.  Traffic in Honolulu is gridlocked much of the time.

Sunday night we hung out in Waikiki and tried to find the hotel we stayed in twenty years ago.  Yeah, it's changed that much.  The Nuuanu apartment building (on Beachwalk?) was still standing.  I looked it up on airbnb or VRBO and some of the apartments are available for vacation rental.  I remember seeing that building years ago -- such a tiny hold out in the midst of tall hotel buildings.  I think we'll stay there when we go back in November for a long weekend.  It was fun to walk around at night and see all of the shops.  I'd like to try a few more hole-in-the-wall eateries, particularly the ramen shops.  The only really odd thing was how much real grass is being replaced by astro turf, both in Waikiki and at the mall.  Pave paradise and put up a parking lot.

If you go to Waikiki and you like Korean food, I highly recommend Yakiniku Kuhio tucked back in an alley just off the corner of Kuhio and Seaside.  Very yum.

Here's a last shot of the fountain/koi pond at Ala Moana Mall:

Next time we'll skip the rental car and rely solely on walking and Uber.  While you can rent a car cheaply, the parking garages in Waikiki are still a royal pain in the ass and you really don't need one unless you are venturing out of Honolulu. 

We just got back from a weekend in Kauai and I'll share that with you soon!

Thursday, May 19, 2016

On Netflix in May: To Catch a Thief

One of my all-time favorite movies is on Netflix this month:  To Catch a Thief.
Classic Alfred Hitchcock starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly.  It was shot in wide screen (Vista Vision, I think) and has been digitally remastered.  It looks gorgeous on my television.  

Wearing costumes by Edith Head and makeup by Wally Westmore, Grace Kelly is stunning.  Cary Grant is fabulous -- both at the height their careers.

If you are familiar with Alfred Hitchcock's work, you'll already know that he appears as an extra in every film he ever made.  I'll simply tell you he appears early on -- I don't want to spoil it for you.

If you enjoy this film, I'd recommend Rear Window (James Stewart and Grace Kelly) and North by Northwest (Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint).

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

We Have a Chicken Situation

So I've mentioned the chickens down the lane a few times.  We'll guess who came calling today?  A mama and her eleven chicklets.  Man, they are seriously cute puff balls.  I have no idea if they'll stay.  I've actually heard them under our bedroom window for a couple of days now.  We're on their route.

They are all white, except for the two brown ones in the picture.  We bough some chicken food (small bag), just in case we can entice her to stay.  She likes the worms in the compost pile.

Stand by for more updates!

Thursday, May 12, 2016

My Five Favorite Films with the Name 'Joe' in the Title

The other day I got to thinking about movies with the name 'Joe' in the title.  Why, you ask?  I've got no idea.  It's just the way my brain works.

Some of my very favorite movies are on the list.  And the originals/remakes are great, too.  So if you're in the mood for an obscure movie (and a good one), stick around for the list.

1.  A Guy Named Joe.  Spencer Tracy and Irene Dunne.  Already you can't go wrong with this movie.  Van Johnson's in it, too.  It's an all-star cast.  Maybe you saw Steven Spielberg's remake, Always. That one has Richard Dreyfuss, Holly Hunter, and John Goodman.  Both are excellent.  Both follow a similar story line, with the original taking place during WWII and the remake in the late 1980's.  I hesitate to tell you the story line because I don't want to spoil it, but I'll tell you it's a love story that involves airplanes and loving someone enough to let them go.  Please go watch both of them.  I own less than 20 DVD's and Always is one of them.

2.  Joe Versus the Volcano. You may have seen this one.  Then again maybe not.  I read somewhere it was Lloyd Bridges' last film.  You can fact check me on that one.  Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan (playing three roles).  Tom's got a brain cloud and is going to appease a god by jumping in a volcano.  I just watched it for the first time in many years last week.  Still fun.  I love you Tom Hanks (he went to my high school, btw.  See, I didn't just attend school with axe murderers.  Of course he's much older than me).

3.  Joe's Apartment.  This obscure 1996 film stars Jerry OcConnell.  Prior to this film, everyone knew him as the fat kid in the movie, Stand by Me.  It's a musical, where all of the singing and dancing is done by giant cockroaches.  Yep.  Not for everyone, but funny.  Don Ho has a small part as a bad guy.  Go Don Ho.  This one will be hard to find.  Looks like there are some clips on YouTube, if you're curious. 

4. Mighty Joe Young. The original is my husband's favorite childhood movie.  Classic Ray Harryhausen stop motion (he also was responsible for the original King Kong animation).  Worthy of watching.  I liked the remake a lot, too.  Early Charlise Theron. Already you can see her acting chops.

5.  Meet Joe Black.  Brad Pitt.  Did I mention Brad Pitt?  Anthony Hopkins as well.  A quirky concept for a movie.  The original was Death Takes a Holiday.  It's a pre code 1934 film with Fredric March.  I've seen it.  I like it, but I like the measured pacing of the remake even better.

Did I miss anything?  Let me know!

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Hey, I found Chummy!

You probably didn't know she was missing, but I found Chummy.  She's in the Melissa McCarthy movie, Spy, playing a plucky side kick. It's available to stream on HBO -- and probably other outlets shortly. 

The actress' name is Miranda Hart and I look forward to seeing her in more things.  As for the movie, I'm not sure I can really recommend it.  I've seen Melissa McCarthy in much better roles, but if you've got two hours to kill, you might watch it just to see good ole Chummy.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Book Series: The Last Survivors by Susan Beth Pfeffer

I am just finishing up the fourth book in the series and I have enjoyed it.  Not sure if there will be more books, but it seems like it.  An interesting concept:  a very large asteroid hits the moon and knocks it out of orbit.  Much chaos ensues.  I recommend it, but it is dark.  YA fiction.

The series is pretty dark, and while I was reading the books, I was prepping for the 2016 hurricane season, which begins June 1st.  Nothing like reading about people running out of food and water to make sure you've got two weeks' worth of food and water for the family.  My job also requires me to keep 48 hours' worth of supplies at my desk, so I'd better get cracking on that, too.  Right now I only have my Hello Kitty toothbrush and some bandaids.

Do you have emergency supplies set by at home?  At work?  In your car?  Here's an easy solution and only $35 bucks.  Hopefully you'll never need it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Nespresso...what was I thinking?

During the pare-down process of moving to Hawaii, I really went minimalist.  How far could I go in stripping down possessions during the move?  For the most part, I think I chose wisely and brought only what I deemed the essentials, but I did miss the mark in a few areas.

I missed my espresso.


I really should have kept my marvelous Nespresso machine.

Here's the thing:  that sucker is expensive to use to make coffee.  Each capsule costs about $0.70 plus shipping.  If you want two shots, double the price.

Here's another thing:  in Hawaii, a tall Starbucks latte will set you back $4.75.

Luckily, I had a refund on my tax return so I threw down another $200 for a Nespresso machine and am happily sipping espressos once again.

Nespresso has some new models out, one is even bluetooth, but I didn't see the advantage of having the machine turn itself on and brew and espresso -- I still have to pour and froth the milk and preheat my cup -- so I bought the Citiz, a tried and true version:

I am keeping my latte sipping to a minimum, but you have to stop and enjoy the little treats in life.  For me, that is taking a moment to make an espresso, stop, sit, sip, and enjoy.