Turtles and Warriors… yes, all in one day!

Yesterday was a great day!  We got up, put on a zillion layers of sunscreen, then headed to the North Shore to a small cove called Turtle Beach.  It’s just a pull-off from the highway and you park on the side of the road then cross over to the beach.

But that small area is magic!  It’s named Turtle Beach for a reason!  Turtles love to hang out, swim and sun themselves right there — next to the highway and among the throngs of tourists.

Turtles and snorkellers both like the waters at Turtle Beach.

Turtles and snorkellers both like the waters at Turtle Beach.

Heading back to the water after a morning sun nap...

Heading back to the water after a morning sun nap…

We spent about an hour at the beach, but since we had reservations for the macadamia nut farm up the road, we couldn’t stay longer.

The Tropical Farms Macadamia Nut Outlet is nestled in the valley of the Kualoa Mountains.  It’s a stunningly beautiful place that has been used as the setting for LOST, the wedding scene in 50 First Dates, Jurassic Park, Fantasy Island, and many other movies and TV episodes.  It even was cast as a Korean concentration camp in an episode of Hawaii Five-O!

Our tour took about an hour as Chief Laumoli (which he translated as Mauloli, always hungry) was our witty and knowledgeable host.  We took a quick tour through the flower fields.  The ladies from Wisconsin were enthralled to see bananas up close along with torch gingers, heliconia, and birds of paradise… and even after 2 months of living with all these plants in our backyard, I still find them amazing and beautiful.

Red heliconia beds at the farm

Red heliconia beds at the farm

Then we stopped in the “Coconut Grove” for a short entertaining section.  Our guide showed us a traditional method of creating fire from rubbing 2 sticks together and putting the embers into dried coconut husks.  Then another guide emerged from the hut with 2 poi sticks and took the fire and deftly lit his sticks, tossed the firestarter somewhere safe — and danced!

Poi dancing in the coconut grove

Poi dancing in the coconut grove.

When that concluded, we took a short boat ride around Moli’i Pond, which is the largest manmade fishpond in the world. The ingenious system of rocks to block in the large fish, but let the smaller ones pass in and out, allowed for an ample stock of milkfish, crabs, barracuda, and other fish for the ruling elites in the old days.

View of the Kualoa Mountains from Moli'i Pond.  The boat on the shore was used in a Hawaii Five-O episode.

View of the Kualoa Mountains from Moli’i Pond. The boat on the shore was used in a Hawaii Five-O episode.

The tour concluded by a quick trip through the fruit groves of mango, guava, custard apple, starfruit, jack fruit and coffee trees.

A glorious coffee plant!

A glorious coffee plant!

I took this selfie in the bus with my cellphone...

I took this selfie in the bus with my cellphone…

Today we plan to head back to Turtle Beach and then stop by Shark Bay.  Unfortunately, our underwater camera died yesterday so we will have no photos from snorkelling.  But so it goes.  It will still be an amazing experience… even without photos…






Back home in Honolulu!

We went.  And now we’re back.

The cats are at the Purring Parrot, a specialty cat hotel with lots of climbing space, toys, and a webcam.


They were a little hissy-faced yesterday, but considering that they had just endured a ride in the car to New Jersey, disorganized TSA screenings, and a 6 hour plane ride, then another ride in a car where they were left in an interesting but new place *without* the comforts of their usual human staff.  When I checked in on them via webcam this afternoon, they were both napping peacefully.

And now I can relax and start to really enjoy our last month in Honolulu.

I did manage to pick up an interesting product at a Duane Reed drugstore during our whirlwind trip to New York — and will review it soon.  And I’m planning on creating a Hawaiian spa-in-a-box to send to my sister-in-law (who works way too hard and drives too much and needs a day at a spa.) So, of course I will have to try things out myself before I pass them along to her — and I’ll share my views with you!


So let’s raise a glass to the end of winter, the beginning of spring, and a lovely month of April!


Where I’ve been and where I’m going

It’s been a whirlwind week.

I visited a friend on Kauai and enjoyed the lush, green scenery. So many wonderful waterfalls!

Opaeka Falls in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii

Opaeka Falls in Kapaa, Kauai, Hawaii

We ate, we pinned (mutual Pinterest junkies), we worked, and we played.

At the Hanalei Bay scenic overlook

At the Hanalei Bay scenic overlook

She did jagua (a body art dye made from the South American Genipa plant -- lasts 1-2 weeks) and I did henna (from the Middle Eastern henna plants, stains the skin and lasts 1-2 weeks)

She did jagua (a body art dye made from the South American Genipa plant — lasts 1-2 weeks) and I did henna (from the Middle Eastern henna plants, stains the skin and lasts 1-2 weeks)

I got home Sunday, and today I finished my muumuu…

I made this muumuu in sewing class!

I made this muumuu in sewing class!

And tomorrow I fly back to the mainland for 8 intense days.  I have a day in San Diego, then Hubby and I will fly to New York on Thursday.  We pick up Java from the pet hospital on Friday, and the fly back to San Diego with both cats on Monday.  The cats will stay in San Diego and we will return to Honolulu for the final 4 weeks of sabbatical on April 2.

I will try to post from the road, but given that I’m leaving the laptop in Honolulu and I find the iPad an awkward tool for blogging, there may or may not be many posts.

I leave you with a view of Anini Beach on Kauai… amazing to find a secluded beach on such a crowded island! It was so beautiful and peaceful that I could have stayed there for days.

Lovely Anini Beach on Kauai, Hawaii

Lovely Anini Beach on Kauai, Hawaii



Happy Pi Day!

It’s that time of year again! 3.14.  When the date matches the irrational number, Pi — or at least 2 decimal places.


NPR threw down the gauntlet and challenged us all to write “Pi-ku”

That’s a strictly measured poem about Pi.

3 syllables
1 syllable
4 syllables

My attempt:

Pie adds to



Usually I do celebrate Pi day by baking a pie.  However, this year two things are working against me and the pie…1) no real oven. It might be possible to bake a pie in a toaster oven, but I’m just not that desperate, and 2) Hubby left town this morning. That would mean baking and eating a pie all by myself.

So, instead, I wrote a pi-ku and walked a 5k (3.14 miles).

And tonight I’m going out with some friends to an Indian restaurant.  I doubt there will be pie on the menu… but if there is, you know I’ll get a slice!

How do you celebrate Pi Day?

Life happens… an update

It has not been the most stellar time in paradise. Rain, fitful sleep, many early morning phone calls to the veterinarian in New York (6 hour time difference is not fun!), and a UTI have been the order of the week.

Miss Java at the Pet Hospital

Miss Java at the Pet Hospital

Java (and her “sister”, Sahara) have been under the care of my patient Mother-in-Law.  Sahara has been the problem cat — jumping where she shouldn’t jump, knocking things off shelves, opening doors and snooping in closets.  Java was the sweet one… until she started drinking excessively… which lead to peeing excessively… not necessarily in the litterbox.  The straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back was when my mother-in-law returned home to find all her towels had been knocked down out of the closet — and all of them had been peed on…. and there were also puddles in the bathroom.  The volume was incredible — even if both cats had a peefest.

So, last Friday, Miss Java went to see the veterinarian (thank goodness, our friend who was helping out with the litterbox changes just happens to work at a veterinary clinic!).  She had a mouth ulcer and was dehydrated.  They put her on an IV and ran a full range of tests. She started a course of antibiotics for the ulcer.

The tests all came back negative — including the one for kidney disease which she had tested positive for back in October! The vet is at a loss to explain her excessive drinking. But the antibiotics have been working well to clear up the infection and after a few days of subcutaneous fluids, she is back to normal.

But she can’t go back to my mother-in-law’s house.

And she can’t come to Hawaii (very strict quarantine laws).

It’s been a sleepless week working through all the options. And yesterday, we decided to take a week to go retrieve our cats from New York and bring them back to a cat’s only hotel in San Diego, The Purring Parrot.

Located in lovely Point Loma, The Purring Parrot features very attentive staff, views of an aviary, and lots of climbing space.  And webcams. It won’t be home, but it will be close enough.

So now the travel arrangements and reservations have all been made.  Family discussions have started.  And it will all work out.  Hubby leaves for a conference in Arizona tomorrow. When he returns to San Diego, I’ll fly out to meet him and we’ll fly to NY at the end of March.

Now I just need to figure out what the best place is for Miss Java for the next 2 weeks.  Sister-in-law is contacting her list of catsitters for options.  And I just need to stay calm, get enough sleep and know that by Monday when Java is discharged, we will have a plan.

Honolulu Festival Fun

It was a mostly rainy week-end in Honolulu, but when the skies cleared on Sunday morning, we hopped on the bus and headed downtown for the Honolulu Festival. It was so large that it was held in 3 venues — the Hawaii Convention Center, Waikiki Beach Stage and Ala Moana Center.  Because we only had a few hours, we decided to go to the Convention Center first.

The Hawaii Convention Center is a gorgeous building with tall palm trees both indoors and out.  There were 3 performance stages there along with several exhibit halls full of information, crafts and hands-on cultural exhibit booths from around the Pacific Rim.  The theme of the event was Pacific Harmony — and there were exhibits from native Alaskan groups, Filipino groups, Chinese and Korean groups — but the majority of exhibits and performances were from Hawaiian and Japanese groups.

The first performance we saw was the Japanese Taiko Drum Ensemble, Wadaiko Mamezakura.

They were a very dynamic and energetic group.  It was impossible to doze off during the performance!


After the performance we headed into the main exhibition hall.

The variety and quality of the Hawaiian quilt exhibit was amazing!

The variety and quality of the Hawaiian quilt exhibit was amazing!

There were a lot of educational booths, such as this one that gave one-on-one kanji instruction.

There were a lot of educational booths, such as this one that gave one-on-one kanji instruction.

I didn't know that Japan had log-sawing competitions!

I didn’t know that Japan had log-sawing competitions!

Say hello to the Taiwanese Techno Gods -- they walked, talked, and played funky music!

Say hello to the Taiwanese Techno Gods — they walked, talked, and played funky music!

After the the end of the exhibits, we headed down Kalakaua Avenue to watch the Festival Parade.  There were more than 64 groups marching!

A Hawaiian Chiefess takes a few pix with her iPad before her group's turn in the Parade.

A Hawaiian Chiefess takes a few pix with her iPad before her group’s turn in the Parade.

This is just one of many hula schools who performed.

This is just one of many hula schools who performed.

This was one of many groups of delightful Japanese dancers.

This was one of many groups of delightful Japanese dancers.

This dragon bowed and swayed and greeted its adoring fans.

This dragon bowed and swayed and greeted its adoring fans.

This dragon boat brought up the rear of the parade with a bang!

This dragon boat brought up the rear of the parade with a bang!

And then, after the parade, everyone walked down to Waikiki Beach for the fireworks display orchestrated by Nagaoka Fireworks company in Japan.  The music was broadcast on a local radio station, but very few people in our section (including us) had fm radios… but the show was amazing even without music!

Here is the finale of the show!









Happy International Women’s Day!


Happy International Women’s Day!

Here is the challenge set down by Amy Askin of Beloved Atmosphere:

Challenge: Take a moment today to tell a woman how she has a positive impact on your life. :)

So… thank you, dear Readers! For inspiring me to keep writing and sharing bits of useless information and stories with you. (There might be a man or two among you…. you inspire me, too!)


March (music) madness

I am in love again…

With an ukelele… and singing lessons.

I stopped by the Manoa School of Art and Music because it was in our neighborhood shopping center, the door was open and I thought I might ask about art lessons. It turns out that there are no art classes at the moment, so I impulsively signed up for both voice and ukelele…

This is not as crazy as it might sound. In a previous lifetime, I used to sing and fiddle in both early music ensembles and Celtic bands.  But since we moved to San Diego in 2000, I just wasn’t able to find the right combination of non-neurotic musicians and a synchronicity of schedules. So for the past decade or so, I’ve just focused on other things.

I wasn’t sure how things would turn out.  It’s been more than a decade since I’ve sung and I’ve never played anything that is chord-based.  But it turned out that I wasn’t very rusty at all — things came right back and my vocal range is still fairly close to what it used to be decades ago.  AND, although the ukelele tuning and fingering is very different from a violin (or mandolin which I can also play), I picked the basics up in our first lesson.

Teaching an old dog (or lady) new tricks

I’ve been doing some reading on aging brains and the capacity to learn.  I have noticed that I don’t remember things as easily as I used to and that I have to use tricks (like a basket for the housekeys) to keep some things running smoothly.

According to an article in the New York Times, older brains have a hard time remembering new things because they have a hard time forgetting old things. It is crucial to have BOTH the capacity to learn new ideas AND the capacity to weaken old memories. And the older we are, the more memories we have.  So that explains why I forget the Japanese phrase for good afternoon that an exchange student taught me last week, but I still remember a number song in Spanish that I heard when I was 7… those old memories were laid down when I had little else in my brain to get in the way.  But now, I can blame all those other things crowding the language file in my brain for interfering with my ability to recall how to say, Good Afternoon in Japanese. (Konnichiwa is good day… Ohayo gozaimasu means good morning….I learned those words in college, but good afternoon?.)

But brain overload does not explain why when I took a class on Art History a couple of years ago, I sailed through with very little studying even though I had never taken that kind of class before.  The explanation for my good grade in Art History is precisely because my brain is filled with memories.  And the older we are, the better we get at making connections.  So while my young classmates were just trying to absorb all the names and dates and countries, I was making connections between art styles and historical events, between music and architecture and politics… and since I had context already, the art pieces just fit into what I already knew and enlarged that picture. A+

AND, there are other researchers who have noticed that adult learners still have the capacity to learn, and learn with precision and accuracy, albeit at a somewhat slower pace than children. They postulate that the main difference is focus. Yes, younger brains are more plastic and have less junk cluttering up the filing cabinets, but they also benefit by the quality of focus given to what they are learning.  The average child learning a second language is in a classroom, has homework, and spends a lot of time just focusing on learning.  The average adult might take a class, but also have to go to work, make sure the bills are paid, the garbage goes out, the car has enough gas, the groceries are taken care of… the average adult has more on their plate to divert their attention than the average kid.

So what’s a busy adult with a full brain to do?

1. Do short bursts of study more frequently.  So instead of practicing the same chords over and over again for an hour, I should play the chord sequence a couple of times, then listen to the song I am learning, then do some fingering exercises, then do something else.  Apparently, when we focus too intently on trying to memorize something, we tend to push the issue and learning becomes harder.

2. Focus on the outcome instead of the structure.  So, for singing, one should focus on the sound quality rather than the placement of the soft palette or for a golfer to focus on the motion of the swing instead of the hand placement.

3. Find ways to incorporate your new knowledge into your daily life.  Seek out people to practice Japanese with. Sing those songs while washing dishes and make dates to play golf.

4. Enjoy the process.  If it’s not enjoyable, then why are you doing it?  There’s no test, no grade, no requirement to learn anything else once you graduate from school… so why bother?

Because it’s fun!

And that’s what I’m having now!


MAC Attack

It was a rainy week-end.  I was feeling a bit blue because 1) plans to go rent a car for the week-end and go snorkelling had been nixed due to the “winter storm” (which caused storm surges, 45ft waves off the North Shore and heavy soaking rain), and 2) I had a report from my long-suffering mother-in-law that our bad cats had knocked all the towels down out of the closet and peed on them.

The bad cats and the mother-in-law are in New York, 6000 miles and 5 hours time distance away.

They look so sweet when they are sleeping...

They look so sweet when they are sleeping…

So we decided to take the bus to the Ala Moana Mall, get some Yummy Korean BBQ and run a few errands.

When we got there, the center stage which usually has lunchtime hula performances was a giant MAC studio!  There were dancers in frothy flower-inspired confections and free makeovers for all!  Just what the doctor ordered to take my mind off my troubles!

Before the make-over

Before the make-over

Jessica (and about 30 of her closest MAC make-up artist friends) analyzed my coloring, and decided to give me a glowy look with eyes inspired by orchids…

The event was to celebrate MAC’s spring limited edition line called: A Fantasy of Flowers, “a dream world bursting with brilliant blooms of color…” So that might explain why my artist was thinking of orchids…

Jessica and about 30 or so of her make-up artist friends perform free makeovers for the masses of Ala Moana in downtown Honolulu on March 1.

Jessica and about 30 or so of her make-up artist friends perform free makeovers for the masses of Ala Moana in downtown Honolulu on March 1.

First, she prepped my skin with a spritz of Prep & Prime Skin, then blended two colors of foundation in her hand which she applied with a brush. She gushed about the brush, the 159 Duo Fibre Blush Brush, and confided that it is her go-to brush for foundation, blush or finishing powder. Then she added a glow of blush (Azalea in the Afternoon).

Jessica applied purple eyeliner on top and gold eyeliner underneath my lashes.

Jessica works her MAC magic on me.

Since I already had on purple eyeliner (which elicited several squeals of approval from other make-up artists — it is, actually a Sephora eyeliner in Eccentric Diva — when set with powder, it stays put even in extreme heat and sweating conditions…), Jessica decided to use the dark olive shade from the “In the Meadows” quad on my outer corners, then she brought some of the green in over the olive and across the middle of the lid.  The vanilla shade was used to open up the inner corners of my eyes and under the brow bone. Then she used a gold eyeliner on my lower lashes and finished my eyes off with several coats of False Lashes mascara. A swipe of Star Quality lipgloss (a sheer watermelon shade) completed my look.

Apres make-over

Apres make-over

Even hubby was impressed.

I felt so much better after a quick pampering.

And then I bought “In the Meadow” shadow quad and the Star Quality Creamsheen glass lipgloss. I would have bought the blush, but it was (alas) gone when I got to the check out counter.

Hubby’s birthday is tomorrow and I plan to use my new make-up tricks when I get dressed up for our dinner out.

Have you had a makeover that transformed your mood?



Friday Fitness: February Wrap-up


It has been a whole month since I weighed myself.  We don’t have a scale here.  And it feels both odd and liberating.  I just have to go by how things feel and fit.

And I can report that there seems to be little change. Which is a victory, considering how much  Kona coffee ice cream, chocolate covered macadamia nuts, kahlua pork plate lunches and coconut pudding I’ve been putting away.  I never eat that kind of stuff back home… but here it’s new and exciting and… irresistible…

Nommy plate lunch! This one has Chicken Katsu, mixed Asian veggies, rice, macaroni salad and kimchee!

Nommy plate lunch! This one has Chicken Katsu, mixed Asian veggies, rice, macaroni salad and kimchee!

So it’s good to know that despite an increased calorie intake, I am staying about the same size.  Everything still fits.

And the reason for that is increased amount of walking.  According to Bitbit, my fitbit ONE, last week I logged 40 miles. That’s just walking with hubby to his work each morning, going shopping, and running errands.  When you don’t have a car, it’s easy to rack up those walking miles!

And I’ve also started doing a simple upper body routine with an 8lb dumbbell and I hang (and then unhang) laundry 3 times per week.

And while I don’t feel stronger — I still get winded walking uphill to the house, I know that I am getting stronger. And that helps make the sore feet and shoulders worth it.