Saturday, December 31, 2005

May You Take Next Year One Day at a Time

Sunsets and Turtles and Seahorses, Oh My.

Hawaii long ago lost the Polynesian Aloha that we are told is there in brochures and photos. It is a friendly but sterile place to holiday in the South Pacific. It has become the common place of beaches, surfing, shopping and fancy hotels, not much different from other vacation spots. The natural beauty of the islands is the only remnant of the original place and this is hanging on by a thread. The island of Maui retains a little of the 1960's hippie time and is the only island where you can listen to real Hawaiian music on the radio station.

Our two week trip to the island of Hawaii renewed many memories as it does each time we visit. But this time, I actually tried to get Polynesia to creep back into my old soul and with a little effort it did even though we were jetsetting. We were on Oahu three days, Kauai one day, Maui one day, Hawaii (The Big Island) two days, and then our vacation actually started and we were back on Kauai for 8 whole days. This vacation was also a little different from many we have taken due to a personality change in my husband. Hubby is the kind of person who thinks vacation days should begin at 6:00 AM and go through to 10:00 PM filled to the brim with activities---it probably has something to do with getting your money'’s worth, but he is also the kind of person who lives life at a the 110% blowout level. This time we actually slept in until 8:00 AM most mornings and were in bed before 10:00 PM. What a REAL vacation.

Ok, close your eyes and think warm ocean breezes and rustling coconut palms above your head with a gentle bubbly wave caressing the beach at your feet. Smell the plumeria blossoms in the lei on your shoulders. Maybe you can e
ven think about my newly discovered cocktail, a Kaffir Lime Drop, just for the fun of it. (Remember I have got this thing for kaffir lime trees. I was even was able to find one in one of the botanical gardens and took the photo below. I like to think that the fruit is a lot like me(…) bumpy on the outside, but filled with fresh zest on the inside.)


We arrived in mid-afternoon after the '“red-eye' flight. Bofore hubby'’s meetings started we took a drive to the Nuuanu Pali Lookout on the island of Oahu. This is a short drive from Honolulu to the other side of the island. There is a parking lot, then a short walk to the overlook that can be seen in the lower left of the picture. This is the view from the lookout . Pali is an Hawaiian word meaning cliffs. Well, it was certainly breathtaking and always brings back the memories. On some days this view has a strong ocean breeze blowing you over back into the parking lot. A Colorado mountain girl loves her mountain views.

We left the lookout and decide to get away from the crowds and hike down the abandoned paved road nearby on the back of the mountain side. Glad our timing didn'’t coincide with this '“little'” rockfall above.

This view above is from our Oahu hotel room balcony. Why a picture of an ongoing construction sight you may ask? It was taken for reasons of nostalgia and a painful realization. This site was once the location of the Tahitian Lanai Restaurant where my husband proposed to me late one night after his red-eye flight from Florida and where we had our little wedding reception the day we were married many years ago. We are now really old, having out-lived the buildings in our memories. Geeese!

When I first arrived in Honolulu, many years ago during a week of job hunting, I stayed at the YWCA located on one floor of a high rise across from this park - —which is part of the Fort DeRussy military R&R site. At the time I was there, Fort DeRussy was filled with soldiers from Viet Nam on R&R. I don'’t like to think about that. In the background in this photo are the aging YUPPIES doing some kind of tai chi or something in the park. Silly looking, I think. I have never been a group participation type person.

This is a view back to our hotel area from the Ala Wai Yacht harbor in Honolulu. I also lived here on a boat, a unique catamaran, for several months during graduate school. (Another life story.) The harbor has not changed much although the water doesn'’t look as clean as it used to.

I shopped at the Ala Moana Shopping Center the following afternoon. This is a paradise if you love to shop. It combines all the high end stores from the mainland U.S. with some of the Asian stores. I noticed that most of the woman sales clerks (which are at least partially Asian) dye their beautiful black hair a red-brown color - which is NOT flattering. My favorite Asian store was gone unfortunately.

Well, our next stop was Maui for just one day. Above a lovely view of a sunrise from our hotel on Maui.

Next stop for a day and a half was on Hawaii or as it is also called, the Big Island. On the left side in this photo above, if you look closely, you will see four people. One is a photographer, another is a woman in a long white muu muu with a Bible in her hand and the other two people are a couple getting married (or renewing their vows). I accidentally encountered this ceremony walking along the beach from my hotel. I was trying to get photos of the several large turtles coming to the surface in the water. But the turtles were relating to the ceremony in some Kharmic way, and I sensed my photo was not going to happen. So, no cool photos of turtles, but I bought several wooden and glass ones to add to my collection.

While on the big island we visited an acquaintance that knew a small company that raises shrimp and seahorses. We were introduced to an energetic young couple trying to start a very interesting business. The first photo is at a rock quarry with native tiny red shrimp that can just barely be seen. These are those little red shrimp that you can purchase in those '“environmental'” water globes that are sold. The globe is balanced with plant life and the shrimp seems to live forever in them. The seahorses are not indigenous to Hawaii and therefore sold only on the mainland U.S. They actually have to be habituated to people so that they don'’t get stressed out and die and that is why they are gently handled before being sold.

I will post part two of my Hawaiian adventure in few days.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

First New Year's Resolution

I have a told in my tose, I tant breed...I resolve to stop kissing cute faces with snot running down them!

Monday, December 26, 2005

My Hawaiian Bird Journal

Our trip in Hawaii included several hikes along the coast or over the high ridges of those jewel-purple mountains. There were many bird sightings. I wasn’t able to get pictures of all the elegant and rare birds we saw because I don’t have a telephoto on my camera (maybe this is next year’s Christmas present?). I did get some photos of the closer, more common or less shy birds.

In honor of Hedwig (and all other bird and nature lovers) here are my bird photos. I also did some research on the Internet so that I can pretend I know what I am talking about. Most of the photos were taken on Kauai, the Garden Island, where more than 80 species of birds are present but some of the photos may be on other islands…I didn’t make sure to mark where pictures were taken.

The state of Hawaii includes 6 major islands as well as other small ones. Therefore, this island ecology creates unique birdlife because of its isolation. According to several books and the Internet, 32 species of alien (introduced) birds, are now known to breed on Kauai where we spent most of our time. Many species have evolved in their own leisurely fashion to some 78 bird species unique to the
islands in Hawaii. Resident species remain permanently in Hawaii; visiting birds regularly come to Hawaii for only part of each year crossing that vast Pacific ocean.

When Polynesians first settled in Hawaii roughly 2,000 years ago (Kirch 1982) they also brought some of their favorite bird and plant species. One bird species brought by the early Polynesians still survives in Hawaii, the red junglefowl (Gallus gallus),
ancestor of the domestic chicken. The Hawaiians called it moa, not related to the flightless bird in New Zealand also called moa. The Hurricane Iniki forced chicken farms to release even more domestic chickens in 1992. The island of Kauai has very few or no introduced mongoose (depending on who you talk to or what you read) and therefore, these newly released chickens seem to have proliferated more successfully on this island. Mongoose were introduced to take care of the growing rat population in the sugar cane fields, but some idiot didn’t know that mongoose are diurnal (day feeders) and rats are nocturnal (night feeders), so birds and bird eggs got a double hit. At least jungle fowl keep the insects down and make sure you don't sleep too late on the mornings of your vacation---but probably to the detriment of the island ecology overall. These chickens are EVERYWHERE!

The first photo above is the view from our hotel balcony showing the jungle fowl cleaning the lawn of bugs and the other photo was taken in a parking lot near a hiking trail. In every instance children absolutely loved the chickens.

Another introduced species is the Brazilian Cardinal (Paroaria coronata). The islands also have smaller numbers of the red cardinal that we know. This fellow visited a rooftop seen from a side of our hotel balcony every morning because someone threw bread to that area!! The second photo is another cardinal in a plumeria tree below our balcony.

Then of course, even more adventurers landed on the islands after that first group of Polynesians. According to Robert L. Pyle of the Bishop museum (Hawaii) “16 species of birds (resident-native) have become extinct since Captain Cook's visit; 35 or more species (subfossils, probably native residents) were extinct before Captain Cook's visit; and about 150 species are alien introductions not established. Adding these to the 272 species here now constitutes about 475 species of birds known to have occurred in Hawaii.”

Affecting more change were more animals being bought by Polynesians and others, animals such as pigs, dogs, cats, rats, cattle and the mongoose (which I mentioned above). This changed the fragile ecosystems, endangering many native bird populations. Most devastating of all was the destruction and loss of natural habitat when lands were converted to agriculture (sugar cane first and now other crops such as coffee and pineapple) or development (they are continuing to “pave paradise to make a parking lot.”) Today, 30 bird species are considered endangered, and one is threatened. Hawaii is noted for having large numbers of rare and endangered plant and animal species.

One of my favorite birds, not a native and hardly endangered, is the Perkutut. My love for this bird comes from memories of its’ sweet gentle song which I heard each day when I lived thereas a young student. I had arrived on Oahu with little money, plans to go to graduate school, and knowledge of no one on the island (another life story someday). Each day this little bird woke me with his lovely song. This is also known as the Zebra dove, the Indonesian common name is “perkutut”, and its scientific name is Geopelia striata. It is among the smallest of the terrestrial doves, probably introduced from Asia. It is shy, and while ranging widely to look for food or escape harassment, it is not migratory and can be found everywhere in the Hawaiian islands. His head an neck are a gentle sky blue.

I can’t tell if this is a Golden plover below or the lesser plover—but I am inclined to think is is the lesser plover, but I am not a bird expert. We saw a number of these on the beach, they were shy and it was hard to get a good picture. The Golden plover migrates all the way from Alaska, maybe the lesser plover does also (?), I don't know.

The next photos were taken at a wildlife refuge. The interesting excavations that you see in the first photo are little bird homes we saw on the side of the hill as we walked out to the lighthouse at the Kilauea National Wildlife refuge on Kauai. If you look click on that photo and look closely at the center top hole, you can see the park service has inserted some support to help with bird home development--or maybe the building inspector was out and required more roof support? (Sorry that should go on my building blog.) These tunnels are the home of Shearwaters (see photo of sign) which nest in burrows in the soft soil of this Kilauea Point overlooking the ocean (sorry no photo of the actual bird). My husband said he can remember hearing these birds moan and groan at night when he was camping in Hawaii years ago. Great frigatebirds, brown boobies, red-tailed and white-tailed tropicbirds, and Laysan albatrosses can be seen from this point as well, but I didn’t get good pictures—just the white dots in the distance. Some of them swooped dramatically overhead catching the air currents against the side of the hill . I also tried for those photos in vain. We also saw Green sea turtles and distant humpback whales in the water.

Next is this ‘evolved Canadian goose’ which was really fun for me to see. They were much rarer when I lived in Hawaii many years ago and I never saw one. The Nene (pronounced "nay-nay") is a land bird and a variety of goose. Because of the rough lava terrain the bird has evolved from a traditional goose by transforming its webbed feet into
a claw-like shape and modifying its wing structure for shorter flights. Hunting and wild animals all but destroyed the species until they were protected by law and a restoration project was established in 1949. This is Hawaii’s state bird and is thought to be a descendant of some ancient Canadian goose that got off track, in the late 1700s. According to some research I did on the Internet, 25,000 Nene were thought to inhabit the Big Island, but by the 1950s the population had dropped to an estimated 30 birds ( I lived there in the late 60s). We talked to the ranger who said there are thousands now, but a web site states that it is estimated about 300 Nene currently survive on the Big Island, 200 on Maui, and possibly 160 on Kauai. This little family in the photo has two new ones to add to the population.

The Hawaiian stilt Himantopus mexicanus knudseni called Ae`o in Hawaiian is a subspecies of the North American stilt. This stilt differs from the North American stilt in size and color by having more black on its face and neck, and a longer bill, tarsus, and tail. It is estimated there is a stable population of 1,200 to 1,600 birds with Maui and Oahu accounting for 60-70% of them. This photo was taken during a private self-directed garden tour that we took. There are several large botanical gardens on Kauai. The tours are not inexpensive, but the money goes to preservation of plant and animals and habitat.

The photo below is of the ‘Alae ‘Ula or Hawaiian Gallinule (Gallinula chloropus sandvicensis). They call this a subspecies of the common moorhen. I found this fun story about this bird in the Hawaiian culture. "It was in the days before fire was known to the people, and the gallinule took pity on them. Flying to the home of the gods (the volcanos), he stole a blazing brand and brought it back to earth. During his flight the gallinule's formerly white forehead was scorched by the volcanos' fires -- thus its name "alae" signifying a burnt forehead. Today all gallinules bear a red frontal shield on their heads." The bird builds its nest in water vegitation laying 6 to 13 eggs. This bird is fairly secretive and I felt lucky to get a picture of this group with their young fowl on edge of this dam in the garden. You will have to click on picture to see the fuzzy young one on the left hand side.

I also saw one of the Hawaiian short-eared owls (Pueo) sitting on a utility line as we sped by in our rental car to the hotel, but it was impossible to get a photo. We also saw the Apapane and the Iiwi which are pretty in color (red or green), but very fast in darting about, so again, no pictures. Maybe I’ll have pictures if there is a next time. Below is a photo of their favorite tree with their red honey filled flowers up in the high misty hills of Hawaii.

Next post on the plants we saw.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Eve dinner 2005

Son is coming for Christmas Eve dinner and then we are on our way to see King Kong tonight. I have been anticipating seeing this for months!!

Since my son doesn't get much home cooking and I don't want a large meal before Christmas dinner tomorrow I am preparing the following.

Christmas Eve Dinner:

Scotch Broth (which really is a stew)

2 pounds cubed lamb (if you get bones use them too)
9 cups water
2 tsp salt (add one and taste for saltiness after you add the herbed salt below)
2 tsp herbed salt (like Herbs de Provence)
1/2 tsp thyme
12 peppercorns
4 whole cardamom pods
1 bay leaf
2 tblsp. dried celery flakes

(This second group to be added later)
1/4 cup butter
l/4 large onion chopped fine
2 large carrots or enough small carrots diced
1/2 cup diced fresh celery
1 tblsp. diced garlic
1/2 cup barley
3 tblsp flour
1 cup whole cream

Brown lamb in pan with a little oil. Add all of the ingredients in the first group and simmer for at least 3 hours.

When done simmering add all the ingredients from the second group (EXCEPT flour, barley and cream) to another pan and saute but not until brown, just until slightly cooked and flavors mix. Add last flour and barley in the second group and heat for 2-5 minutes longer.

Add the above to the hot lamb stock with lamb--you can strain other ingredients if you are particular from the lamb stock before adding the above--heat all through. Stir in cream and simmer 10 minutes before serving with some nice crusty bread and butter.

For dessert I am serving gingerbread and vanilla ice cream.

Watching football while gingerbread bakes. Boy the apartment smells nice.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Holiday Season 2005

What a rush I am having. I can't believe that I have done this!

Well, let me begin at the beginning. By that, I mean beginning about 20 years ago.

I had small children then and these holidays came with much responsibility. I would spend the months preceding December 25th baking cookies and freezing them for later decoration. I would be making unique and quality crafted tree decorations for the church sale (one Christmas I made felt Mrs. Santas in White, Black and Asian mode even!) I hand wrote notes on about 75 Christmas cards and got them out in the mail before I got my first card from anyone! I mean it was genius.

I would get the cookies thawed and decorated and take a package to each of my neighbors going door to door.

I would decorate my house from rafter to front door. I gathered my own greens from my yard and wove in ribbons and decorations...I REALLY did.

I would have my gifts shopped for and mailed in plenty of time to beat the long lines at the Post Office.

So, I had quite a system going. I mean I was a little snarly by the 23rd -- or the 21st if they forgot my birthday--but a little bourbon in the egg nog and I was mellow again. Come to think of it, we went through lots of bourbon that month.

Well, guess what I have accomplished this year and it is only the 23rd!!!

Trees up and decorated - 0
Cards sent - 0
House decorations up - 0
Cookies baked - 0
Crafts completed - 0
Gifts mailed - 50%
Gifts purchased - just enough

Dinner shopping--none--guess what?
I have finagled dinner at my daughter's in-laws' house.

Guilt for all this -0 (or should I say priceless?)

Happy Holidays! Joyoux Yule! Mele Kalikimaka! Greetings on whatever or however you celebrate!

(Finally got my part 1 draft on the trip posted below)

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Hawaii trip--Part 1.

Well, as I anticipated, the trip was a little crazy in the beginning due to using free miles, this meant we left at strange times and took longer routes. We had a 5 hour lay-over in San Francisco. Years earlier if this had happened we would have just suffered it out at the airport, but we are now older and with more discretionary income, so we took a taxi into town for a dinner at the harbor. We ate king crab, which is not that salty dried stuff you get on the East Coast. It actually tastes more like crab and your face and fingers smell fully of your gluttony when you are done. They gave us bibs with good reason. I washed very carefully knowing I would be sitting next to strangers on the long plane ride over the Pacific.

I have visited San Francisco before and knew the temperatures would be mild and the culture very liberal. The mild climate meant that there were homeless or drifters in the parks, all in very good humor doing street dancing and singing and dressed most colorfully. It seems everyone in California has a talent of some kind.

We encountered a 'farmers market' down near the docks. This was a little different than most farmer's markets you might be used to, because San Francisco's customers are relatively well-educated and upscale in income. So we saw stalls with fresh oysters and sushi, exotic flowers, homemade soaps and perfumed oils, unusual sauces and syrups (One sauce was a cherry jelly with chile peppers in it!), and this fruit (?) below that I had never seen before.

We bought some dried pluots (I can't remember how you spell this but it is a cross between an aprico
t and plum, I think. Ours were a deep burgandy red, not like the picture on the webpage linked above.) These were very tangy in their sweetness and they lasted as great snacks through a good part of our Hawaii trip. (We didn't think we had to report them to USDA upon landing in Hawaii because they only asked about "fresh" fruit. Anyway, if they had had bugs we ate them!)

I took some photos of the lovely sailboats, one of one of the many yacht harbors and of course, the smelly, noisy seals airing their armpits as they do---see the fellow in the upper middle.

As you can see, they also do Christmas in San Francisco. After our early dinner we headed back to the airport and on to entry on my journey.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

My Present? A Rapidly Fading Tan

300 digital pictures later! Really didn't want to come back. Will blog about it later, since today is my birthday! Happy birthday to me!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Aloha nui loa

View of Honolulu from Roundtop

I am leaving on a jet plane (Oooo, sounds like an old favorite song of my youth) early on Saturday. Friday I am packing, doing laundry, tying up loose ends. (It seems the older I get the more my life unravels and the more loose ends I keep trying to tie back up!)

Anyhow, checking the flight plan once again it appears that my trip will be from here and via San Francisco arriving in Honolulu on 12/3.. 12/6 leave Honolulu for Kauai. 12/8 on to Kona (via Honolulu). 12/10 back to Kauai (via Honolulu.) 12/19 leave the Pacific and head back home. Needless to say this whole mess is more complicated than it needs to be due to my using free miles and hubby's meeting schedule.

I hope to look up a number of old friends as we have many in Hawaii. I will try to blog, but since I am NOT bringing the heavy old laptop from work, I can't promise anything. I know you will all be so disappointed. Hopefully more so than my family in Colorado was when I told them there wouldn't be emails for a while. My son is jealous and my daughter will miss the free babysitting. Ah, such is life.

Of course there will be pictures, warm pictures to contrast with the winter weather that will greet me upon my return.

Keep an eye on the house building project for me---make sure they don't cut any corners.

Aloha nui loa.