Family + Telling the Girls + Bugs

Family portrait

Spring 2012

I haven’t talked about my family a whole lot yet, but family is pretty much the whole reason for the move. This is probably my favorite photo of my three loves. My husband (who is the most private person I know – bless his heart for not collapsing when I told him about the blog) was being silly with the girls one morning and I captured this sweet moment. Lucy was about six months old and Penny had just turned three.

Speaking of the girls, we finally told them about the move last night. The first words out of Penny’s mouth were, “I’m not really that excited because I don’t like walking in Michigan….they have worms!” Not the response we were expecting, exactly, although it wasn’t entirely out of left field. Last summer when we were there, Penny was freaked out by all the bugs.

In the backyard

In the backyard. (No bugs.)

To her credit, they were kind of creepy, especially when they crawled up from the dirt and onto the hot stones of Nana’s deck or concrete sidewalks of the neighborhood. They would writhe around, flipping and flopping, and if they couldn’t find their way back to the earth, they would eventually shrivel up and die. There were also lots of beetles and bees and other flying insects. We rarely see bugs here, even in our backyard.

I feel her pain. Bugs make ms jumpy, too. My gross-out Michigan bug moment was during my early evening runs. Every couple of blocks, I would run through a swarm cloud of tiny bugs in a funnel formation (what were they doing? And what kind of bugs were they? I would Google it, but then I’d have to look at buggy photos). Every once in a while I would inhale one. I got to where I could spot them up ahead, and whenever I reached a swarm, I would flail my arms in an attempt to keep any bugs from entering my nose or mouth. Sometimes I’d let out a battle cry while doing it. Preeetty sure the locals could tell I wasn’t from around there.

Penny and I have some manning up to do, for sure (she’s been talking about worms all morning), especially since I plan on composting and planting an edible garden. I’ll let you know how it goes down.

Hawaii: the Food

For my family (as is the case with most, I imagine),  a carefully planned and prepared meal equals love. The first night of our stay, my Auntie Melinda steamed a large uhu (aka parrot fish, and you can see why) that she got for $39 at Tamashiro Market on an outdoor gas wok as part of our huge dinner spread. After steaming, the fish was topped with oil, green onions and cilantro. My sister and her family came over and also her husband’s parents, who were in town for their annual visit.

Haupia Pie

Haupia Pie. Yum.

In addition to the usual sides of salad, rice and veggies, there was Korean meat jun (the only dish bought vs. made), thin strips of beef coated with egg and flour, fried and served with dipping sauce. AND miso butterfish (black cod), a white, flaky fish marinated with miso, mirin, sake and sugar and then baked or broiled. AND rainbow jello and a haupia “pie,” a layered dessert starting with a macadamia nut crust, then Japanese sweet potato (purple), then haupia (a coconut milk and sugar concoction with a custard-like texture).

Halo Halo + Coffee Mug

Halo-Halo + Coffee = Breakfast of Champions

Waiting for me in the fridge the next morning was a Filipino specialty, halo-halo (“hodge-podge” in Tagalog). There are so many different versions of this dessert. Basically, it’s a concoction of condensed milk plus a bunch of wacky ingredients (kidney beans, rice, gelatin, yams). Auntie’s not-too-sweet version is filled with tons of grated cantaloupe, papaya, avocado and coconut. There are also tapioca beads, palm fruit and some strange pink Japanese gelatin that I always pick out. I put an ice cube on the bottom (if I’m lucky, as I was this time, Mom will have frozen fresh coconut water cubes), dump a bunch of halo-halo on top and eat it with my coffee. Super YUM.

Ramen noodles

The perfect bite.

I love, love, love noodles. Italian pasta and Japanese ramen are at the top of my list. I can make Italian food all day long, but don’t know how to make ramen broth. Whenever I go to Hawaii, I always ask my sister to come with me to Goma Tei, a small noodle shop in Ward Center. We usually sit at the counter and I always get the same thing – Tan Tan Ramen, a basic spicy broth with char siu (Chinese-style bbq pork), green onions and greens (broccoli rabe or spinach or some Asian green that is very similar). SO good. Salty, with a hint of sesame and just enough heat.

Menu at Goma Tei

Menu at Goma Tei

That meal may very well have been my last taste of homemade ramen for 2014. (And dare I say 2015? No way. Surely not). And who knows? Maybe there is a hidden noodle shop in some Detroit alley that makes the best ramen noodles East of the Mississippi. Maybe. But… probably not.

If you ever find yourself in Hawaii, I urge you to try some of the local flavors. They might be weird, they might taste icky, they might taste awesome, but they will most assuredly be made with love.

Home

My mom's house

Mom’s House

We’re back from our short Hawaii trip and I have lots to share! Even though my whole family (except me) was sick with colds, we had a great time. We didn’t leave the house much, but the purpose of the trip was to spend time with family, which we did.

Road to Kalihi Valley

My mom lives in a neighborhood called Kalihi Valley (you might know the area from HGTV. They recently featured a home there, which is currently for sale). The valley is nestled between a lush mountain range, so it gets lots of rain and is very green. She lives in the lower level of a cinder block house and my Auntie and Grandma live up top.

My sister and her family live a few blocks down from my moms, at the bottom of a really steep hill (that used to be steeper before the city paved it a few years ago), in the same house where my grandparents lived when they settled on Oahu. My mom, sister and I lived in the smaller back house until my grandpa had the duplex built (early 80s?).

momsginger

Loads of ginger flowers.

Looking up at mountain range

My grandpa was a natural gardener; it was in his blood. The plants liked him, too. They listened to him and gave back to him. Sadly, he’s no longer around to pass his secrets on to me, now that I’m willing and eager to pay attention. My 90-year-old grandma still tends to her plants when she can. She loves orchids especially.

grandma

Grandma

Every inch of the small front yard has a flowering or edible plant on it and the perimeters around the house are filled as well. There’s ginger, ginger root (which my mom dug up for me to take home), papaya, malunggay (also called moringa. found in lots of Filipino dishes), tomatoes, bananas, eggplant, chives, green onions, edible ferns, bitter melon, bird of paradise, orchids, poinsettias, gardenias, succulents and aloe (I’m  sure I’m forgetting some!).

The green thumb gene may have skipped a generation (my mom is an excellent gardener. me, not so much), but I’m still going to try my hand at it in Michigan (we’ll have a backyard all to ourselves!).

momspapaya

Papaya and bitter melon vines.

momsgingerroot

Ginger Root

momsaloe

Aloe

I never realized how different Hawaii was from the rest of the country until I left home and came back to visit. I know it seems pretty obvious. It’s an island with island culture, but it was simply just “home” to me. Each time I go back, I am more grateful that I grew up there and have roots there. It will always be home, just as San Francisco will always be home, long after I move.

It’s Electric! (aka: GAH!)

electric stove

The stove.

Oh my gosh. I just found out that the stove in our rental apartment (where we’ll stay when we first move to Grosse Pointe) has an electric stove. I’m kind of freaking out. I don’t know what it is, but I have a huge aversion to the electric stove. I see one and I make a funny noise and start backing away with my hands covering my face.

I need to preface this rant by saying that I am first of all grateful beyond words to friends who are renting us the apartment dirt cheap, not to mention having to fix the place up for us and move a houseful of furniture elsewhere, just so we can move in all of OUR crap.

But back to the stove. Cooking is one of the things that makes me happy. And I am going to need to go to my happy place a lot in this apartment, I just know.

Does anyone out there have any tips on how to cook electric?!

How not to burn popcorn, for example? Really, how not to burn anything. Or how to bring a delicate sauce to a slow simmer?  Or how to remember not to put my hand on a hot burner that wouldn’t still be hot if it were a gas stove!