The (Mostly Hawaii) March List – 2018

I would wish you all Happy Spring, but it’s not really spring here, which I am also not happy about. The first half of March was a blur, but the second half slowed down quite a bit as we were in Hawaii for break.

1) The neighborhood pheasant thinks it’s spring, however, and he’s been ’round the house many times already. Every year we wonder if he will be back and every year he comes back, pecking at the mirrored kick plate on our front door, thinking he’s found a friend (or rival, perhaps). He’s a beauty.

Save for the Hawaii trip, March must not have been very exciting because I have close to zero photos on my phone taken in March, unless you are interested in screenshots of hairstyles that I like. Those I have about a million of and of course now you want to see one of them, so here you go.

2) I’m getting my hair cut next week, which is counter intuitive because I’m actually trying to grow it out, but it’s super jacked up for so many reasons, but I think the best thing to do is get a really nice trim and then let it grow out (wow, I am so interesting right now, I can hardly take it).

Also ignore the URL, oh my gosh. I got this photo off Pinterest, I promise (why so pensive, Sienna? Are you trying to read my mind?).

3) I was going to write a separate post about just Hawaii flowers, and another one about Hawaii food, and maybe another one about family and culture, but we all know that is not happening with my current state of affairs (#hotmess), so let’s go ahead and talk about Hawaii right now.

First of all, I love the shock of coming home and realizing that I grew up on a tropical island. I mean, obviously my whole life I knew I was living on an island, but the realization of how different it is than say growing up in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, is always kind of a fun awakening, if even for a split second. Like, holy crap! I grew up on a straight up tropical island!! That’s amazing!

Besides the humidity, the plants are a big clue that you’re not in Kansas anymore. Hawaii plants don’t care about boundaries; they will grow and grow wherever they please. And often times the property owners of said plants will just let them. I mean, why fight it, I guess.

4)  Secondly, food. And lots of it. Like endless supplies of it. I imagine the Asian Mom, Auntie, Grandma, is very similar to the Italian Mom, Auntie, Grandma and therefore every day there is something new to eat and not only that but you HAVE to eat it because they made it. Just. For. You. Image result for gritting teeth emoji Oh I do appreciate it, especially the endless supply of fresh coconut that was prepared a week before our arrival and frozen for us in little ziplock bags so I could take one out to thaw every couple of days, but it’s a lot of pressure!

The desserts alone will stress you out. Actual conversation with self after dinner: “Hmmm…I’m not hungry. But maybe I can eat something small for dessert. Should I have the brownies? Or maybe the mochi squares? Or wait, Auntie just made halo-halo and baklava and what about the chiffon cake?” I mean.

The above spread was for a party we had at my Grandma’s home (rehab center). Those noodles bottom right were made by my Auntie. Pancit, a traditional Filipino dish. She makes hers with fishcake and lots of scallions and shitake mushrooms. So good.

5) Speaking of noodles, you can’t really visit Hawaii and not eat noodles. We had spicy miso ramen bowls like we always do, but this trip I went to a new spot called Piggie Smalls and got their garlic noodles with shrimp and it was ah-maz-ing.

I planned on saving half of it to take home with me, but I ate the entire thing.  They look kind of blah in this photo, but they were divine and I should have gone back another time for more.

6) So back to the party for my Grandma. She will be 95 in June (I think?) and just a few months ago she got sick and had to be moved to a home (she’d been living with my mom and Auntie, her daughters). She is well taken care of and mom and Auntie visit her pretty much daily. She mostly remembers people, with a little reminding, but is not nearly as talkative as she was even a year ago.

She is the matriarch right now in our family circle and it is very sweet to see everyone gather around her and treat her with dignity and respect. It’s inspiring and humbling.

7) Hawaii fashion is very casual and pretty much anything goes. For example, here you see an older lady doing some bold pattern mixing. And guess what, she does not give two hoots about your opinion on the matter (which I love).

8) The weather wasn’t great, but we did get to the beach a few times. Our first stop was Sandy Beach, or Sandy’s, as the locals call it. It’s not a swimming spot for the average swimmer – the waves are unpredictable and really strong. A lot of surf/bodysurf competitions are held at this spot.

I took a lot of pictures with my new camera, determined to use it on the manual setting. I never go the light quite right, but it was a huge learning experience and now I know how (after some Googling) how to shoot in bright light with reflections off water and sand.

9) On the way home from Sandy’s, we stopped at the Leonard’s malasada truck (I can’t seem to get off the food topic), which you must do, for the proper live-like-a-local tourist experience (not so much the truck but Leonard’s malasadas in general).

10) I could show you hundreds of flower photos that I took, but here are a few of my favorites. Hibiscus, ginger, bird of paradise.

11)  One afternoon I took the short walk from my mom’s house to The Lady of the Mount monument, where I spent and hour and a half taking photos of all the plants and flowers. No one else was around and it was such a nice “me time” moment.

So many cool plants to photograph, but this one cactus in particular caught my eye. It was subtle, yet flashy, understated, yet vibrant.

12) Another thing I learned during this trip about photography (which I suppose you could turn into some kind of metaphor about life if you were that kind of person and had the time to word it correctly) is that sometimes finding the light means stepping out of it. Capturing shadows, capturing darkness.

Plus, I love a good moody photo. I mean, this double hibiscus is giving it to you right here.

And that’s a wrap. I hope that wherever you are, if spring has not yet arrived at your home, that it will come soon. Wishing you the loveliest April.

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The Naples Florida List – 2017

Adult vacation – woohoo! The first real one since our honeymoon. When I found out we were able to go, I was beyond excited. An entire weekend of sun and relaxation and friends. I mean, I was giddy.

Plus, I’ve never been to Florida! Which is a big deal because everyone here has been at least once, and many people have homes/condos there, where they escape to during colder months. I remember all my New York relatives driving down to Florida each each, wondering what it was like.

1)  We took a really early flight (woke up at 5:30am), which was harsh, but once we got going, not too bad. Plus, thanks to Delta miles, we flew first class. As soon as we got on the plane, my husband ordered a vodka soda because 1. adult weekend 2. rockstar. That’s my plain hot water next to his big boy drink.

2)  Even though I need to be medicated to fly, I love looking down at the landscape on takeoff and landing. It was neat seeing the little channels/outlets (don’t even school me on the terms, I will not remember) and it reminded me of all the books and movies set in the Florida everglades (which I’d love to explore on another trip).

3)  My girlfriend invited eight of us (including her and husband) to stay at her parents’ condo in Naples. Long story short – water damage, mold – we ended up staying in another condo in that same building, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is that we stayed in Naples, in a condo along the beach. The weather was hot hot hot and I welcomed it with arms wide open.

4)  First stop: a leisurely lunch across the street. I can’t remember what I had but I was hungry and finished it and also finished off my friend’s pizza (“are you going to eat that?” classy.), so it must have been delicious.

5)  After that, we hung out on the beach for several hours. The Gulf was probably the warmest water I have been in. I hate being cold and I hate being in cold water, but I love being in warm water, so it was a nice surprise for me because I could get in and enjoy it right away!

6)  I spent some time alone, walking along the shore, looking at and collecting shells for the girls. The sand was powdery white.

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Not my photo – grabbed off Pinterest.

7)  We went to the best Italian restaurant for dinner – Campiello – in the very quaint downtown area. They had homemade pasta, which I of course ordered and loved. I think I was one of the youngest people there which was awesome.

Apparently Naples is pretty fancy and also (and probably also because it’s fancy) there’s a large population of retired folks who have homes there. Also, it was the off-season which meant that many people were not in town. Whatever the reason, I actually felt young, which has not happened in a while.

8)  Naples sunsets are gorgeous.

9)  The next day was my friend’s birthday. The night before, we (by we I mean everyone but me because I was asleep) decorated the condo to surprise her in the morning. It was really cute.

 

9)  The guys went golfing (it was in the 90s – eek! Not sure how they survived, but they did) while the girls went to yoga, then brunch downtown and window shopped and grabbed coffee. It was so nice to be leisurely and not have any plans.

10)  Before pre-dinner cocktails, I popped in to the condo’s free library/book exchange and spent way more time there than I’d planned. I found three books that I had to have. One that I’ve been wanting to read – Dead Wake by Erik Larson about the Lusitania. Love, love, loved his book Devil in the White City. Read it if you haven’t.

Speaking of cocktails, because 1. adult weekend and 2. rockstar, my girlfriend packed a whole suitcase filled with drink supplies. I thought she was joking when she posted something on Instagram, but as it turns out, she bubble wrapped simple syrup, fresh lime juice from Farms Market, and a plethora of other things. Hysterical. But also amazing.

11) On our last full day, we rented a boat and took it I don’t even know where…to a little spot that is usually not as busy as it was (Memorial Day weekend), but we found a spot and docked.

I loved seeing the birds’ nests on the signs as we drove along. Oh and we saw dolphins!! Oh my gosh, it was…so fun to see the pair of them playing. One of the highlights for sure.

I also liked seeing a lot of plant life that was new and different to me. Some of them reminded me of Hawaii plants.

We saw a bunch of pelicans on our boat trip. I so love pelicans. They’re so prehistoric-looking. Kind of goofy up close, but when they are in flight, they look really cool

12)  Seven hours later, we pull up for dinner at a Mexian place called Mr. Tequila. A bunch of people ordered their signature drink, which is a margarita with an upside-down Corona in it. Ay carumba. I did not partake, thankfully.

13)  I was so relaxed and happy that I didn’t even take my mediation on the flight home. Big mistake. The screen showed two minutes to landing and 3000 feet (or something like that), then all of a sudden, lots of turbulence and a quick ascent into the sky and a big turn and more turbulence and I was freaking. OUT.

I know stuff like this happens all the time and of course it was the pilot being safe and not landing in a storm, but still. The only saving grace (besides the fact that we landed with our lives intact) was the phenomenal view of the storm over downtown Detroit. Photos do not capture the powerful beauty of that view. I had to muster all my inner strength to bend down and fish around for my camera and snap a pic. All the while, digging my nails into my husband’s arm.

Except for those last few minutes of the plane ride back, our trip went by in a flash. If your friend ever invites you to Florida, please say yes!

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Hawaii Vacation – A Reflection

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There’s a lot I could say about our Hawaii vacation. That it was so many things to be home. Amazing, heartbreaking, nostalgic, relaxing, invigorating, disappointing, delicious, fun.

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In Hawaii I settle into myself differently than here, or even compared to San Francisco, a place that I consider to be my heart’s home. There’s something about the islands that makes you take it down a notch – makes you not care about wearing the same outfit three days in a row, or not think twice about that second helping of dessert, or not worry about whether you should end an email with “Very Best” or simply, “Best,”.

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Mom’s neighbor’s house. She lives in Kalihi Valley with my aunt and grandma. It’s very lush, which means it’s also very buggy!

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I think Hawaii does that for everyone, tourists and residents alike. But for me there is a “coming home” element to it that somehow takes it to a different level. And it’s not just because my family is here (which of course plays a big part though).

My whole perspective on who I am changes. For example, I can walk into a store and feel comfortable chatting it up with the sales reps (which I do NOT do). Or when I’m with people who’ve known me forever (I went to a high-school reunion while I was there) – it’s all so….easy. To just be. It’s hard to explain.

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Class of ’90 (eek!)

They say Hawaii is full of ancient magic (it is no joke, you guys – the ghost stories I could tell you  – many from the mouths of people who don’t, or who used to not, believe in spirits).

But it’s magical in other ways, too. Its beauty, that I appreciate more and more each time I visit, its ability to make me slow down (even when I don’t want to) and its powerful reminder of where I came from, where my mother came from, where her mother came from and back and back and back.

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Mom with our little girl, making leis from her stephanotis flowers.

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Easter, Hawaiian style.

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My trip was hardly deep or spiritual. We did a lot of beach time, family time, eating, lazing around. The usual vacation stuff. But then, when trying to explain the trip and looking at all the photos and really thinking about what Hawaii means to me. There’s a lot there. And the beauty of it is that it will all still be there when I return. Until we meet again. A hui hou.

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Hawaii – Early Mornings

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There’s a six-hour time difference between Michigan to Hawaii. Even though we stopped in San Francisco for a few days, our little one never quite acclimated to the time change. She normally woke up around 4:00am, wide awake and ready to take on the day.

Me, not so much.

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But her early wake-ups did give me the opportunity to go running at Ala Moana beach park before it got too crowded or too hot. Twice I arrived before the sun came up. It was peaceful, seeing the moon quietly hovering over the water and later, exhilarating to watch the changes in the sky as the sun announced daybreak.

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There are surprisingly a lot of people at the beach at this time of day. Mostly senior citizen walking in pairs, but there were one or two boot camp-style exercise groups and people like me, out for a morning run to jumpstart their day. The surfers were up, of course, and the fishermen, doing what they do.

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I spent the early mornings of Good Friday and Easter Sunday at the beach, reflecting on spiritual things, life things and just getting my Zen on.

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If it weren’t for the four-year-old’s internal clock, I wouldn’t have had these great soul-cleansing moments. Usually I’m not very good at going with the flow, but this time I relented and was able to reap all the benefits of giving in to what you can’t control…

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..which is much easier to do in Hawaii while on vacation.

First Stop, San Francisco

We were only in San Francisco for two and a half days, but we were able to make to several of our favorite spots. I was hoping for sun, but we got the typical cold and fog of early spring (and summer and winter and often fall). I miss seeing the fog, so it was just as well.

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Small Town USA – Lowville, New York

IMG_2566 (1024x1024)The closest town to Chase Lake (see, I’m writing it like the locals now) is Lowville. Wikipedia says that it has about 5000 residents. It has the usual – a few restaurants, movie theater, some shops, post office and library within a couple blocks of each other.

IMG_1917 (1024x1024)IMG_1915 (1024x1024)IMG_2301The restaurants were what one might expect. For example, I ordered an “authentic Caesar salad” and got romaine lettuce, sliced onions and Wish-Bone Italian dressing on top (I used the stuff in college. I know the taste).

The girls and I did visit a nice cafe called Z Cafe, that was charming and welcoming. The coffee was surprisingly decent and the best thing I can say about the scones and muffin is that they were edible. BUT…we weren’t in town for the food.

IMG_2345 (768x1024) IMG_2388 (1024x1024) (1024x1024) IMG_2565 (1024x1024)I did love that the area is not a destination point. Which is to say that if you don’t have a reason to be there, you’d never go there. It’s not a tourist spot. The girls and I walked around town one day and we all enjoyed the quaint buildings and farmhouse-style homes. We took pictures in old doorways and played in gravel lots.

IMG_2643When heading back to my Dad’s place, I took a wrong turn and found this gem. A true treehouse. She’s a beauty.

I don’t think I can describe myself as a wanderer. I like home (whatever that is, nowadays) and all of its comforts. But I do enjoy exploring new places and being an observer. Figuring out what makes a place tick.

There’s something about a small town that’s so vulnerable. And I love that. I appreciate that. And there’s also an element of take it or leave it. No apologies. I wish I were more like that…. This is me. I’ve got nothing to prove. You want a Caesar? Here’s some Wish-Bone Italian. It’s so bad, but it’s also so awesome. Rock on, Lowville. See you next time.