Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Natalani's New Years Resolutions

Yep its that time of year - again! I tend not to keep my resolutions as I never write them down, but now I have my blog to keep me on track. So here are my resolutions for 2009; I hope to reflect on this list in 12 months and be satisfied that I have done what I said I would. Happy New Year!

Natalani's New Years Resolutions
1. Blog more - at least 5 posts per week
2. Eat less - exercise more - 4 times per week
3. Take up one new hobby
4. Sleep less
5. Less shopping - more money saving

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Movies Filmed in Hawaii

Hawaii has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, perfect for Television shows and movies. Hawaii has been a prime location for shooting independent and major motion pictures, surf videos, travel and lifestyle shows. The film industry in the islands continues to thrive as the Islands grow more diverse and beautiful every day. From volcanoes to snow-covered mountain caps to sea-level reef shots, the Hawaii offers a range of views that no other location can. Upon doing some research, I was amazed to find out just how many movies have used Hawaii for part or all of their filming. Here is a list from the last 10 years, and I have a feeling there are more that I may have missed!

2007
Heatstroke
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull
Forgetting Sarah Marshall
Tropic Thunder
Pirates of the Caribbean

2006
Supergator

2005
You, Me & Dupree
The Shaggy Dog
Snakes on a Plane

2003
The Hulk
Embracing Mana
Along Came Polly
50 First Dates
Tears of the Sun

2002
Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle
The Big Bounce
The Rundown
Tears of the Sun
Blue Crush
Final Exam
Kapu
Die Another Day
The Day After Tomorrow

2001
Lilo and Stitch
The Time Machine
Dragonfly
Planet of the Apes
Final Fantasy
Punch Drunk Love
The Ride

2000
The Night Marchers
The Testaments Waikiki: In the Wake of Dreams
Jurassic Park III
Windtalkers
To End All Wars
Pearl Harbor

1999
The Big Show
Off the Lip

1998
Molokai: The True Story of Father Damien
Moonglow

Monday, December 29, 2008

Hawaiian Top 10 - 2008

Every magazine I have read this week has a top 10 list of some sort, whether its top 10 books, top 10 blunders, top 10 restaurants and so forth. So to keep in the spirit of all things top 10, I have compiled my top 10 favorite things about Hawaii (in no particular order!) - enjoy.

1. Shopping
2. Waikiki Beach
3. Duke's Waikiki
4. Weather
5. Hawaii Warriors
6. Dog The Bounty Hunter
7. Barefoot Bar
8. Magic Island (where I got married)
9. Alan Wong's
10. The Aloha Spirit

Happy holidays to everyone and be sure to keep reading Natalani in 2009!


John & I at Duke's Waikiki, where we first met!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Back in Seattle - Back on Natalani

Merry Christmas everyone! After a very stressful week I am finally back in Seattle and ready to write again on Natalani. The weather in the Pacific Northwest has been nothing short of terrible, and its weeks like this that I try not to look out the window, and just dream of Hawaii instead. Don't get me wring, a white Christmas is certainly a change of scenery from Sydney and Hawaii, but being trapped in the house is no fun.

I have a few more days of vacation and then its back to the grind. I am looking forward to 2009 as I have set a lot of blog related goals, so be sure to check back often about all things Hawaii!

Monday, December 22, 2008

Stuck at Disneyland For The Holidays

Just a quick post today as I am currently on the hotel computer in Anaheim that charges by the minute to use the computer! I went to Disneyland for the weekend during the worst storm that Seattle has seen in years - hence to say my flight was cancelled, and I am now trapped in California. We have booked a flight for December 24 with another airline, but no promises that the flight will take off. So, until I can get home there will be limited blog postings. Boo. Please keep your fingers crossed that I will make it home for Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Target to Open in Hawaii in March

Yesterday at the Hawaii Convention Center, people were lined up as early as 4.30am to be interviewed for jobs at the two new Target stores, opening on Oahu in March 2009. Read the full report from the Honolulu Advertiser - here. The declining American economy has impacted the state of Hawaii significantly - in fact, even my previous employer, Communications Pacific has had to lay off people and cut the hours of some, which really surprised me. Due to rising joblessness on O'ahu alone, the ranks of the unemployed have grown from from 11,250 last December to 17,350 as of October, which made for a highly competitive atmosphere at yesterday's job fair. That's a huge amount of unemployed people, given the population of the O'ahu is just over one million people.

Target was able to process over 1,000 applicants who turned up for interviews yesterday, and the good news is that there are still positions available. The job market in Hawaii now is more competitive than ever before, and people with good skills and experience alone will need to show that they have that extra something if they want to be considered for a position. My suggestion: if you are unemployed and have some spare time, start learning a new skill, or undertake some training so you will be ready when the right role presents itself. You can never learn too much!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Honolulu City Lights


Every year downtown Honolulu gets a visit from Santa and his Hawaiian friends at the annual Honolulu City Lights Celebration. 2008 marks the 24th year of this tradition, where you will see the many wonderful characteristics and uniqueness of the people of Hawaii and their island home. The theme of the lights this year is "Ku'u Home - Our Home" - where Honolulu is highlighted and displayed as a special place where diverse cultures intertwine, where history blends, and where the Spirit of Aloha is embraced and shared with families, friends and visitors.

The City Lights Celebration will continue now through the end of December, so if you are heading to the Islands for the holidays, be sure to head downtown (in the evening for the best look) to witness this special display. For more information visit the website.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Pro Bowl 2009 - We Have Our Tickets



John was able to get tickets for the 2009 Pro Bowl this week. He is taking his good friend Jimmy to the game instead of having a bachelor party before the wedding. I was just reading in the news today that Peyton Manning, Eli Manning and Brett Favre will be there, among others. Although the game will be much more laid back than the regular season, it should be great for celebrity spotting! The sad news is that Tony Romo won't be going, but 5 Cowboys will be in attendance.I am thinking that I will be sure to see a few of these guys walking the streets in Waikiki - time for a photo and autograph!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lanikai Beach




My good friend Jimmy is getting married in February, and has decided on Lanikai Beach for the location. Located on the eastern side of Oahu, Lanikai beach is a short distance from the famous Kailua Beach, minus the big crowds of people. Lanikai itself is made up of a few streets and lavish homes, all but cut off from the rest of Kailua by Ka᾽iwa Ridge. Kailua Beach County Park is simply stunning, and often features on prestigious lists like “World’s Best Beaches" on the Travel Channel. It makes for an ideal swimming spot all year round, with water is so clear it’s amazing. There are no hotels in Kailua, but if you have a day to spare I would strongly suggest heading here for a wonderful beach experience. You can rent a car to get there, but it is also accessible by bus – check out The Bus timetable for the right bus route. I can’t wait to see the photos from the wedding – with one of the best backdrops in the world, its sure to be a wonderful day.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Hawaii on a Budget

With Christmas fast approaching and the economy in steady decline, I am watching my wallet very carefully. Everything seems to be more expensive (food, clothes, you name it). So as I start preparing for my next trip to Hawaii in February, it got me thinking about things that we could do that wouldn't break the bank. Hawaii has so many wonderful natural resources that you could plan a vacation on $50 per day or less (or maybe less depending on how savvy you are!). Here are a few things that I will be doing while I am there that won't break the bank:

1. Swim at Waikiki Beach
2. Watch the sunset
3. Get a bus pass and travel around Oahu for 4 days for $20
4. Go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay (only $5 entry fee)
5. Climb the Koko Head Crater
6. Walk to the top of Diamond Head
7. Head to Chinatown for great food that is inexpensive
8. Rent a kayak and head out in the surf
9. Visit the Dole Plantation
10. Visit Pearl Harbor

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Cheeseburger Beachwalk Opens at Waikiki Beach Walk



Great News! Another restaurant has opened at the Waikiki Beach Walk - appropriately titled, "Cheeseburger Beach Walk". The restaurant is open for breakfast, lunch, dinner and cocktails, and is located on the center's second level at the top of the escalators on the mauka end of the building. The restaurant is open daily from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m.

Operated by Cheeseburger Restaurants, the chain is known for its gourmet burgers and fries, as well as its selection of sandwiches, salads and seafood. There are also a number of vegetarian options for patrons looking for alternative menu choices.

You can out more information about the growing list of great restaurants at Waikiki Beach Walk here. I love that Lewers St. has had a face lift and now offers a great selection of great dining and shopping choices for all visitors to the Islands.

Hawaii State Quarter - What's That Phrase?

Someone was on my blog recently looking for the translation on the back of the new Hawaii State Quarter - and thankfully my friends at Hawaii Magazine recently did a blog post on this - read the complete story here - thanks to John and Derek!

Monday, December 8, 2008

2008 Hawaii Bowl

I stayed up way past my usual bedtime on Saturday night to watch the Hawaii Warriors play their final game of the season, against the Cincinnati Bearcats. To my disappointment, Hawaii lost it in the final quarter of the game, final score being 29-24. Bummer. They had a much better season last year with Colt Brennan as quarterback, but he has now moved on and is the 3rd starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins – too bad he hasn’t had a chance to play this season.....

The good news for the Warriors is that they get to go the Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium on December 24! Bad news – they are playing Notre Dame, who have had a less than impressive season this year, finishing at 6-6. The Irish have played in Hawaii three times before. The Irish played in the 1984 Aloha Bowl, losing 27-20 to SMU. The Irish also traveled to Hawaii to play the Warriors twice, beating them 48-42 in 1991 and 23-22 in 1997.

I went to the Hawaii Bowl a couple of years back – and it was awesome! Hawaii wasn’t playing unfortunately, but it was still a fun afternoon out. When Hawaii plays in the Hawaii bowl, the turnout is much higher and the die-hard Hawaii fans turn out in droves to support their team. The fact that the game is on Christmas Eve is a draw card for me, as in Hawaii you are definitely NOT sitting by the fire, drinking hot chocolate and singing Christmas carols! You are at the beach, shopping, or – at the Hawaii Bowl!

If you are going to be in Hawaii over the holiday season, why don’t you head out to Aloha Stadium and support the Warriors? You can purchase tickets at Aloha Stadium website. For those who will not be in Hawaii, the game will be broadcast on ESPN. Enjoy the game and GO WARRIORS!

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hawaiian Coffee

Its late on Friday afternoon, and all I can think about is coffee. Did you know that Hawaii is the only state in the US that produces coffee? Though coffee is not native to the Hawaiian Islands, the climate and topography of the Islands offers some of the most ideal growing conditions in the world – thus producing some of the best coffee in the world.

Although coffee is not native to the Hawaiian Islands, the climate and topography of the Islands offers some of the most ideal growing conditions in the world – thus producing some of the best coffee in the world. Coffee was first introduced to the Islands by Chief Boki, the Governor of Oahu, in 1825. He acquired coffee plants in Brazil while aboard a British warship, the H.M.S. Blonde. These first coffee plants were planted in Manoa Valley, on Oahu, where they flourished. From this original planting, coffee trees were introduced to locations around the Islands, including the now famous Kona Coast. The Kona coast on the Big Island of Hawaii has been described as the Napa Valley of the coffee world. The Kona coffee growing region is only about fifty square miles in all, and is farmed largely by small landowners. A lot of the coffee you see in Hawaii is marked 100% Kona coffee, or 10% Kona blend etc. If you can get your hands on the 100% variety, I strongly recommend it - although it is more expensive, its worth the investment. Be sure to check the labels to make sure its the real deal - there are a lot of Hawaiian coffee brands out there, with many being less than 100% Hawaiian coffee.

Some of the brands I would recommend you try during your stay in Hawaii are:

Hawaiian Coffee Company - produces Lion Coffee and Royal Kona Coffee

Maui Coffee Roasters - also roast Kona coffee beans

Hula Daddy - this coffee company has recently received a historic 97-point score out of a possible 100 for its Sweet Kona Light Roast coffee in the December edition of Coffee Review .

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Hawaiian Weather - Sunny and 80
















One of the best parts about living in Hawaii is the consistently gorgeous weather. It is so nice to wake up, open the blinds and look out to the sunshine, almost every day of the year. There are really only two seasons in Hawaii: summer and winter. The average daytime summer temperature 85º F. (29.4 C) while the average daytime winter temperature is 78º (25.6º C). Temperatures at night are approximately 10º F. lower. If you are a fan of the heat, it doesn't get much better than this. The picture above is a typical 5 day forecast report.

The wettest months in Hawaii are from November to March, but all this means is that it helps to cool down the temperature - by no means should you worry about the rain disrupting your vacation plans. Because of Hawaii’s trade winds, there is almost always a cooling breeze. Several times during the year the trade winds will stop completely and the wind will switch around to come out of the south or west, bringing stormy or hot sticky weather. Islanders sometimes call this Kona weather, because kona means leeward or South, and this points to the direction from which these weather systems arrive. But most of the time, the weather is so pleasant that you might forget to go indoors. I used to spend as much time as possible outdoors, as there is nothing quite like fresh air and the smell of the ocean in your backyard!

What is funny though is how your body becomes adjusted to the weather, no matter where you live. During one winter in Hawaii, I remember the temperature got down to 65 degrees, and I headed to work with a scarf, gloves and jacket on - for Hawaii that was cold! Now in Seattle, its starting to get down into the 30s at night, and I am still going outside without a jacket - crazy!

If you are planning a vacation and are wondering when the best time is to travel to Hawaii, I would give the following suggestion:


  • If you like it REALLY hot - Late August/September
  • Pleasant - November
  • Mild - February

No matter when you go - you can be guaranteed to come home with a killer tan!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Hawaiian Holiday Shopping Guide


Can you believe it's almost Christmas? Time has flown this year, and I don't know about you but I have been tardy with purchasing my gifts for the holidays. In recent years, I would start buyings gifts around September, and spread them out so I didn't have a nasty credit card bill at the end of the year. But this year, for a number of reasons, I have not done my shopping and expect this bill to arrive under the Christmas tree (along with a bunch of presents I hope!)

Have you thought about buying Hawaiian gifts for your friends and family this Christmas? If you read this blog, its probably because you like Hawaii, so why not share the Hawaii with those you love? My good friend Catherine was kind enough to send me this blog post from Two Japanese Bruddahs , which is a great compilation of Hawaiian gifts that you can buy during the holiday season - thanks Catherine! My picks on this list: SPAM Cookbook and Royal Kona Coffee. Thanks to the Bruddahs for this great story.


Friday, November 21, 2008
Two Japanese Bruddahs’ Holiday Shopping Guide

"Budget" may be the theme of this year's holiday shopping season for many of us. But that just means we may need to be more creative in our gift giving.

Unfortunately, "creative" isn't often mentioned in the responses I get when I give presents, so I turned to the wonderful Bay Area members of GlobalPauHana.org for advice on Hawai'i-related gift ideas.

My college buddy Kim Shinjo recommended Kimochi's Silver Bells Arts & Crafts Faire on Dec. 13 as one place where you might be able to find island style items. "Mostly cute stuff for women," said Kim. The fair is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at The Event Center at St. Mary's Cathedral, 1111 Gough Street, San Francisco.

Kim and Curtis Otaguro both mentioned CyberSnacks.net, the website of Wholesale Unlimited, Inc., where you can order hundreds of items, ranging from kakimochi, arare and senbei to specialty cookies, dried seafood, jerky and candies.

My absolute favorite on CyberSnacks.net is the "hurricane popcorn" - popcorn, furikake, arare and butter. If you haven't tried it, get some. It's almost better than spam.

One of Hawaii's best known local snacks purveyors, Wholesale Unlimited got started by Betty Honma in the 1960s by selling beef jerky wholesale to local bars and markets out of the trunk of her car.

And at about the same time that Betty was driving her goods around Honolulu, Bryan Li's family was starting their own local snacks shop focusing on crack seed, also known as li hing mui or see mui. Visit CrackSeedCenter.com to see their gift baskets and other items.

Curtis also recommended Nikkei Traditions in San Jose (nikkeitraditions-sj.com) as a stop on your gift hunting trail and the website for Bess Press (besspress.com), publishers of books like Ann Kondo Corum's "Hawaii's 2nd SPAM Cookbook;" the classic "Pidgin to Da Max" by Douglas Simonson, Pat Sasaki and Ken Sakata; and the newly updated version of "Japanese in Hawaii: Okage Sama De" by Dorothy Ochiai Hazama and Jane Okamoto Kemeiji.Corum's SPAM cookbook has almost every imaginable recipe for SPAM, including Green Eggs and SPAM Musubi, Easy Cheesy SPAM Crisps, Local-Style SPAM Burritos and Japanese SPAM Loaf.

Satomi and Byron Goo's The Tea Chest (TeaChest.com) was on Davina Lam's list. "They carry the plantation iced tea blend that Alan Wong's Pineapple Room serves," she said, referring to the restaurant in Macy's Ala Moana. On their website, the Goo's mention that they're the exclusive distributor of Shin Cha from Onoen Farm, which began tending the Japanese Emperor's private tea plants a century ago.

Davina also likes RoyalKonaCoffee.com for their seasonal holiday coffee blends, Island-Collections.com for the beautiful koa pieces and TajClubhouse.com for all the kids in the family.

Alyce Lee recommended Taj Clubhouse as well. She also likes buying holiday gifts from MadeInHawaiiStore.com, especially their jams, honey, mochi and interesting Japanese snack items. She also likes Honolulu Cookie Company (HonoluluCookie.com).

Honolulu Cookie Company is a good alternative to the perennial chocolate-dipped shortbread cookie maker, Big Island Candies (BigIslandCandies.com), which recently introduced a line of truffles that includes Mocha, Hibiscus, Dark Chocolate, Yuzu and Coconut flavors.

A big mahalo to Alika Hollister, Terry Akiyama, Myron Ho, Kendall Lee, Kevin Sakuda and Katherine Eslao for their gift ideas. I couldn't fit all the great ideas into this column, but appreciate their suggestions.

Keith Kamisugi and Kyle Tatsumoto are the Two Japanee Bruddahs. Read past stories at TwoJapaneeBruddahs.com.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Luau Party Supplies


I was surfing the internet this afternoon and came across this great website for all your luau party supplies - Hawaiian Luau Party Supplies. This is a most comprehensive collection of items that will make your luau a success. Among my favorite items are the grass skirts, tikis and ukuleles. The website has a nice sidebar with information about luaus, such as party decoration ideas, luau serving suggestions and also historical information about tikis, ukuleles, and hula.

Online shopping makes everything so accessible these days - it's awesome. You don't need to live in Hawaii to have a truly memorable luau - just a credit card and a bit of creativity!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Honolulu Advertiser


Hawaii's daily paper is The Honolulu Advertiser. When we lived in Hawaii, I used to read this paper religiously - it is a great source of all things Hawaiian. The good news is now you can access it online, so I use their website as a way of keeping up to date with all the latest Hawaiian happenings. I have never been much of a fan of reading the daily paper, but I find that this paper is concise, factual and interesting. The Advertiser has some interesting lifestyle sections, and now the online version has some great blogs, including Urban Mix Plate, written by Melissa Chang - you can also follow her updates on Twitter.

Two sections of the paper that I want to call out are the My Advertiser section, which has user-generated content, so you can actually add your own news, stories or events in your local area. The other section that I find interesting is Island Life, which includes delicious recipes, travel info and fashion.

If you are planning a trip to the Islands, I would suggest subscribing to the Advertiser's RSS feed for a few weeks beforehand, so you can find out what's happening during your upcoming trip. You may find out that there is a festival of interest, some killer waves, or a new restaurant opening. Keep the Advertiser in your favorites - its a great Hawaiian resource.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Pūpū's Anyone?

After my uneventful Thanksgiving meal yesterday, I realized just how much I love finger food, appetizers, snacks, whatever you want to call it. I love food that is bite-size, mainly because you can sample a number of dishes at the same time. I wish I had planned more yesterday for Thanksgiving and my birthday, but it was nice to have a day of doing nothing. But it got me thinking about Hawaiian food again, and how there are so many great dishes that you see on the menus at Hawaiian restaurants that you can make at home, that typically fall into this category of finger food, or pūpūs, in Hawaiian.

Every Hawaiian menu will consist of a variety of pūpūs, and many will advertise 'heavy pūpūs', which often means buffet style, so you can have a much as you want of the dish. Typically, pūpūs are made from recipes including chicken, shrimp, pork and vegetables. One of my favorite pūpū dishes is Poke, which is cubed and seasoned raw fish, usually tuna. You could also use shellfish or mussels, but fish is the most common way to make this dish. Poke is a Hawaiian word meaning "section" or "to slice or cut". Because a fish poke recipe calls for the fish to be served raw, I would always use sashimi -grade fish for freshness and quality, however be warned that some restaurants may not always serve sashimi-grade fish, which increases your risk of food poisoning if the fish is not extremely fresh. If making Poke at home, be sure to purchase your fish from a fishmonger who has a good reputation for quality.

Here is a great Poke recipe from famous Hawaiian chef, Sam Choy. Please try this recipe out, but I want you to know that Sam Choy has produced a Poke cookbook (yep he really loves Poke), which you can purchase at Amazon.com. So if you and your guests aren't big fans of raw fish, this book has more poke recipes that might please the palate. Yum!

Sam Choy's Award Winning Poke

Ingredients
2 lb Ahi tuna, cubed into 1/2 to 3/4 inch squares
3 oz chopped green onion
3 oz diced onion
2 oz chopped ogo (fresh seaweed)
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
Hawaiian salt to taste
Secret Ingredient: Kukui nut

Method
Combine in mixing bowl; add dry ingredients and chill.
Serve and enjoy.



Thursday, November 27, 2008

Northwest Hawaii Times

Happy Thanksgiving everyone - and Happy Birthday to me! Wow, another year comes and goes, and this year I have decided to look to the future rather than reflect on the past - I have a lot of plans and a lot to look forward to these next 10 years - better make them count.

My husband was on a work trip recently and came across this quaint newspaper called Northwest Hawaii Times. It is a collection of Hawaiian news, letters, articles and recipes for those who live in the Pacific Northwest, missing Hawaii. Unfortunately you cannot subscribe and they do not deliver, but if you email the publisher, Rochelle dela Cruz (rdelacruz@northwesthawaiitimes.com) she will be able to let you know where the various locations are in the Northwest that you can grab a copy. If you can't find one near you the website is just as good.

In the November edition, there are stories on the following:
  • New airline service for Inter-Island Market (Mokulele Airlines)

  • Hawaii's Nets-to-Energy Program

  • 2nd Annual UKEtoberFest in Eugene, OR

  • Hawaiian Music - New Releases

  • Recipes using Papayas

Those of you who live in Seattle and the surrounding suburbs - I hope you like reading this paper - it's not the Seattle Times, but it sure has lots of aloha!

Must sign off now - the Cowboys will be on in 45 minutes!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Getting Ready for Thanksgiving

I was lucky enough to take the day off work today, which is great as I get to catch up on all the things I can never do during the week due to my crazy schedule. One thing I promised myself I would do over this extra long weekend was a LOT of blog entries. I love writing this blog as it connects me with Hawaii, and connects my readers too. I really miss being there, and as Thanksgiving and my 30th birthday are happening tomorrow, its makes me reflect on all the good times I had in Hawaii, especially around my birthday. One thing that John does for me every year is he bakes a cake - and he is not the best in the kitchen, so this gesture is very sweet. We don't usually eat much of it, but its the thought that counts! And this year, if the cake wasn't enough, we will be at home on my birthday to watch my favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys, kick butt against the Seattle Seahawks - ahhh I can't wait!

Usually for Thanksgiving, I would cook something for lunch or dinner - but this year, we are doing it right. So tonight, off to Ray's Boathouse for dinner, and Friday night, off to SeaStar with our favorite friends Debbie and Brian - looking forward to a catch-up!

I still have next to no voice thanks to the New Kids concert - but it was worth it. I do have a good appetite though and plan to indulge over the Thanksgiving holiday - I have been working so hard at the gym for the last few months, so its time for a treat. If I was in Hawaii, I think I would be heading to Alan Wong's for the degustation menu, or, for something more relaxed I would head to Duke's Waikiki for some live music and delicious calamari. Whatever you do this Thanksgiving, enjoy!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Back to Hawaii Blogging - Hawaii's 50th Anniversary

Ok, so I was able to share my memories from the New Kids concert, and now its back to the business of all things Hawaii. Thanks to those who read my blog post about New Kids!

Did you that Hawaii will be celebrating its 50th anniversary of becoming the 50th state in August 2009? Nearly 9 percent of the population claim to have some degree of native Hawaiian ancestry. Recognized by Governor Lingle as an official part of the statehood celebration, groups and individuals from the mainland are invited to participate in arranged events, including American Musical Salute to Hawaii, "Aloha 50" birthday party for 50 year olds, and the Aloha Classic Music Festival. However, while some will be celebrating, many native Hawaiians believe that statehood was a theft of their nation and press for sovereignty. In 1993, President Bill Clinton signed a resolution apologizing for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom. One of the only places in the Islands that truly reflects traditional Hawaiian life and culture, is on the island of Ni'ihau, off the coast of Kauai, where 160 residents of native Hawaiian origin live and speak the native Hawaiian language. How awesome is that? I would love to take a trip to that island some day, although I don't think the residents would be too impressed if I asked to interview them for my blog - or if they would know that a blog is for that matter.....

Even if you can't make it to Hawaii in 2009, you should take the time to celebrate this momentous occasion. My suggestion - have a luau, or perhaps head out to a nice Hawaiian restaurant in your area (if any). But do celebrate; the Hawaiian Islands are a place of dreams and good times, not to be forgotten. John, Jimmy and I will be celebrating in February - can't wait!

Monday, November 24, 2008

NKOTB - A Night To Remember


This post has nothing to do with Hawaii; however I wanted to share my experience with you as I had the night of my life on Saturday night when I attended the New Kids on the Block concert at the Tacoma Dome, in Seattle. I had been waiting for this night for over 6 months, as I had purchased the tickets in May and was counting down the number of sleeps till the big event. NKOTB were a big part of my childhood/adolescent years, and I hate to think about how many hours I spent dreaming about how one day Joey McIntyre would finally know who I was and would whisk me away to the land of New Kids. Sadly that didn’t happen, however I got as close as I could with the tickets I had at the concert on Saturday. We had great seats, and to my surprise, there was a second stage right in the center of the floor where the New Kids performed 3 songs – right in front of where we were sitting!! My heart fell through the floor when they were performing literally a few feet in front of me, I couldn't believe it!

The concert itself was truly awesome. The two supporting acts were rockin’; both Lady GaGa and Natasha Bedingfield did a great job of getting everyone pumped for the New Kids. I was on my feet for over 3 hours, jumping up and down and screaming like a teenager. And yes, I am experiencing severe difficulty with talking today in case you were wondering....

The New Kids performed a great selection of their old and new hits, my favorites being “Please Don’t Go Girl” “Summertime” and “Click Click Click”. Their dance moves dated back to the ‘80’s, which was so funny but they did such a good job of pulling it off. The performance itself was both moving and inspiring. Towards the end of the show, they did a slideshow of people in their lives that have passed away, and I was touched to see they had included Heath Ledger, who passed away in January of this year. Danny Wood’s mother also passed away 9 years ago to breast cancer, so it was awesome to see that they were raising funds for breast cancer research at the concert. One thing I noticed about these guys was that they were so normal – it was obvious that they were so excited to be performing together, and that they felt blessed to get this opportunity again – who would have thought that they would bring the house down after 15 years apart!

I was lucky enough to have my thoughts about the concert included in an article in the Seattle Times last week (thanks Marian Liu!) – This is the first time in a long time that I have been so passionate about something, so I wanted to share it with you – if you haven’t listened to New Kids in the last 15 years, their new album is worth a listen – you can get it at Amazon. Thanks also to my husband who I dragged along to the show, who was ‘violated’ by a number of women while waiting for a beer to drown his sorrows!




Friday, November 21, 2008

Weekend Luau Recipe

Aloha Friday! So glad its the weekend - have a lot to do, in particular, attend the NKOTB concert and prepare for Thanksgiving AND my 30th birthday (same day)! I would love to have a luau at my house this weekend, however with the work week I had it's unlikely that my husband will even have a meal cooked for him at all - so he will have to settle for takeout. However, if anyone is planning on having a luau this weekend, I have a fabulous recipe from Alan Wong's New Wave Luau Cookbook to share - although a little complex, I can guarantee it will be delicious if you follow the steps. This would be served as an appetizer and is easy to double/triple the recipe depending on number of guests. Have a great weekend everyone!

Chilled Tomato Soups with a Grilled Cheese and Kalua Pig Sandwich

Serves 4

Soups
2 ripe yellow tomatoes
2 ripe red tomatoes
2 teaspoons Chile Pepper Water (water, garlic, chili,vinegar, ginger - blended together)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
Salt, to taste
1/4 cup olive oil

Sandwiches
4 ounces foie gras
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 tablespoons butter
8 slices french baguette, about 1/2 inch thick
4 slices Fontina or mozzarella cheese, about 1/4 inch thick
4 tablespoons Kalua pig, or shredded smoked or roasted pork (optional)
4 triangular sections of lavosh, or poppadom, for garnish (optional)

Method
  • Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Place the tomatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and coarsely chop the tomatoes, keeping the colors separate.

  • To make the yellow soup, in a blender combine the yellow tomatoes and 1 teaspoon each of the Chile Pepper Water and garlic. Season with salt and puree until smooth. With the blender running, add half of the oil and blend until incorporated. Transfer into a small pitcher with a lip so it can be poured easily, and chill.

  • To make the red soup, in a blender combine the red tomatoes and the remaining Chile Pepper Water and garlic. Season with salt and puree until smooth. With the blender running, add half of the oil and blend until incorporated. Transfer to a second small pitcher with a lip, and chill.

  • To serve from opposites, simultaneously pour both soups into individual wine glasses to form a half-and-half or yin-and-yang pattern.

  • To prepare the sandwiches, using a warm knife, cut the foie gras into 4 slices about 1/4 inch thick and season with salt and pepper. In a small saute pan over high heat, heat the vegetable oil. When the pan is very hot and the oil begins to smoke, sear the foie gras for about 10 seconds on each side, or until golden brown. Let cool slightly.

  • Butter the bread slices on one side and place half the slices, buttered side down, on a work surface. Place a slice of cheese on the unbuttered side of each sandwich and top with the pork and a slice of foie gras. Close each sandwich with a bread slice, buttered side up.

  • In a saute pan over medium-low heat, cook each sandwich for about 1 minute on each side, or until the cheese has melted and the bread has turned golden brown.

  • To serve, slice each sandwich in half and serve on a small plate to the side of each soup glass. Alternatively, place the triangular piece of lavosh or poppadom on top of the soup glass and balance the sandwich on top.

The photo below is what the finished product should look like - it may take a couple of attempts to get it as perfect as Alan Wong!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Entertain Your Luau Guests

As promised, I am writing a few posts about how to host your own luau, whether you are in Hawaii, or, like me, locked up inside watching the snow gather on Mt. Rainer. A luau is a great way to pretend to escape from the cold winter weather. I find that anything related to Hawaii immediately makes me feel 10 degrees warmer - I was reading a cook book last night written bu one of my favorite chefs, Alan Wong, and immediately I felt like getting a tan and putting my swimmers on! So, if you want to feel like summer (I personally feel so much happier when I can see/feel the sun) - think about having a luau so you and your friends can relax and think about the good times!
You can personalise your luau in a number of ways, but as I mentioned before, you really want to try and make your luau authentic, so you could do this by serving traditional food (e.g. pig, seafood, fresh island fruits & vegetables, or perhaps by arranging activities at the luau such as hula dancing. Here is my top 5 entertainment ideas for your upcoming luau:

1. Have someone come to your house and teach hula to your party group - and capture it on video for laughs later

2. If you know someone who can speak Hawaiian or can talk story, invite them over to share some Hawaiian tales

3. Buy some Hawaiian CD's and play authentic Hawaiian music throughout the luau. Brother IZ has some wonderful albums that you can purchase from Amazon.com

4. Make your guests come dressed in Hawaiian attire - this can be as simple as an aloha shirt, or perhaps a more elaborate option such as a hula outfit, complete with grass skirt

5. Get some fresh flowers and make leis. Your guests can then take them home as a reminder of your fun Hawaiian evening

Monday, November 17, 2008

Spam - The Affordable Meat?


Interesting story in the New York Times today about Hormel Foods and SPAM - business is booming as families in the US look for alternatives to fresh meat in an attempt to save money. I wrote a post on SPAM a while back and mentioned how I would never eat it, and I want to assure my readers that nothing has changed, despite the looming economy. There will be no SPAM recipes on my luau menus (or any other menu for that matter) - sorry!


Ready for a Luau?

It's Monday and I am ready for a party. Why? It's already been a bad week and it only started today. And, because in Hawaii, there is always an excuse for a party. This is the first post in a series of posts about Hawaiian food. I have always been a foodie at heart, and in Hawaii there are some long standing traditions associated with food. One of the first things most people think of when you think of Hawaiian food is the luau (in Hawaiian spelt lū‘au) - literally a Hawaiian feast, prepared to honor holidays and to celebrate weddings, birthdays, house warmings and any other occasion you can think of. Foods served at a luau include roast pork, sweet potatoes, fish, rice, fresh fruits and punch. The centerpiece of any luau is the roasted pig. To decorate for a luau, you would use an abundance of fresh fruit, fresh flowers and large leaves or fern fronds.

Many people come to Hawaii expecting to see a traditional Hawaiian luau, and there are plenty of places that claim to offer this experience, such as Paradise Cove , and the Polynesian Cultural Center. I have not been to either, but I have heard from more than one person that these are both very expensive tourist traps, and really aren't very authentic (I just checked the price and they start at US$83 for tickets at the Polynesian Cultural Center. My suggestion: meet some local Hawaiians on your trip and head to their home for a true Hawaiian luau experience.

I plan to post some luau recipes this week so perhaps you can try having a luau at your home - you may not be able to feel the breeze of the ocean blowing through your hair but no-one said you can't pull out the brightest aloha shirt you have and party! Enjoy the week!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Aloha Friday!

This week has moved quickly, and as I stare out the window in Seattle, I dream of Hawaii and the beautiful weather. Right now in Seattle it is gray, overcast, and downright miserable. Yuck. Fortunately I have so many awesome Hawaiian memories to get me through the bad days. I have been thinking a lot about my good friend Catherine lately and the fact that she is coming for a visit next year. She is now hooked on Hawaii like me, so no doubt she will be doing a quick stopover from Sydney on her way to Seattle. Catherine stayed with us when we lived in the tiny apartment in Pau St - and boy did we have a great time! With hubby away it was a great chance to catch up on some much needed girl time. We did the usual, shopping, cocktails, shopping, more shopping and tanning. It was awesome. I just came across I picture that I took of Catherine when we were having lunch one day at Cheeseburger Land- one of my favorite places to eat in Waikiki. Modeled on the famous Cheeseburger in Paradise Restaurant chain made famous by Jimmy Buffet, this place rocks for indulgent burgers and fries. Perfect with a few beers - just be sure not to eat there too much - lots of calories!

Catherine - Can't wait to see you in Seattle real soon. No beach here but plenty of shopping and cocktails!

Happy Friday everyone!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

US Mint Unveils the Hawaii State Quarter

The release of this coin happened to coincide with the race for the presidential election - perfect timing! Here's a link to the story on KHNL 8 in Hawaii about the coin and its release. The picture of the coin below is courtesy of the Honolulu Advertiser.



Hawaiian Words, Phrases and Language

One of the things that I wish I had spent more time on while I was in Hawaii was learning to speak the language of locals. I think I avoided it mostly because I was afraid that I would not say the words correctly - I wouldn't want to offend the Hawaiians! However I realize now that by attempting to learn and giving it a shot, this is more respectful than ignoring altogether. I have purchased a Hawaiian phrasebook which I regularly read, so I can start to get up to speed. Here are some phrases that you should consider using during your next trip to Hawaii - the locals will love you for trying:

1. Happy Thanksgiving - Hau’oli La Ho’omakika’i

2. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year - Mele Kalikimaka me ka Hau'oli Makahiki Hou

3. I Love You - Aloha Au Ia 'Oe

4. Thank you very much - Mahalo nui loa

5. Until we meet again - A hui hou kakou

6. Welcome - E komo mai

I'm sure you're thinking how on earth do I pronounce some of these words? Well, The 5 vowels a,e,i,o and u as well as the 7 consonants h,k,l,m,n,p, and w make up the entire Hawaiian alphabet. In the Hawaiian language a consonant is always followed by a vowel which also means all Hawaiian words end in a vowel. It is easier to pronounce words when you break them down into single syllable chunks. Sometimes the letter W is pronounced the same as V as in the traditional pronunciation of Hawai'i which is phonetically pronounced huh-vi-ee rather than huh-why-ee.

In the Hawaiian language a symbol directly over a vowel called a kahakô indicates that the vowel sound is to be elongated. A apostrophe like symbol called an `okina indicates a quick pause in the word, as in "ah-ah" for the word a`a.

True Hawaiian locals actually have another 'language' that they use, called Pidgin. True pidgin spoken in Hawaii is more like Hawaiian slang, not the pidgin language spoken in the South Pacific Islands. A rich local culture lies behind Hawaiian pidgin, and seems to rub off on those who stay for any length of time. Many people, especially in the country areas and outer islands, speak only da kine, true Hawaiian Pidgin. I have to say that when we lived there I found myself picking up some of these habits - like saying 'ya' at the end of every sentence! Some examples of pidgin words include:

1. Brah - All the bros in Hawaii are Brahs; brothers; pals (you hear Dog the Bounty Hunter use this a lot)

2. Haole - A word that used to mean foreigner, but now means a white person or Caucasian - my Hawaiian friends used to call me this a lot! I believe that this is often used in a rude manner - i.e. its not a compliment to be called a Haole - its almost used in a sarcastic manner

3. Kamaaina - A long time island resident or local

4. Malihini - A newcomer, tenderfoot or recent arrival

5. Wahine - A young woman or girl; female; wife. Written on a door it means "Ladies Room".

I strongly encourage you to try and incorporate some words or phrases into your trip to Hawaii to get a real Hawaiian experience. There are some great pocket-size word/phrasebooks out there that are inexpensive; pick one of those up so you can be ready for any conversation!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Chinatown


In every major city there seems to be an area known as Chinatown. In Sydney, Chinatown was one of my favorite places to eat Yum Cha (also known as Dim Sum) and to stock up on cheap, delicious Asian groceries. Here in Seattle, Chinatown is part of the “International District”, which incorporates a number of cultures represented in the greater Seattle area. In Honolulu, Chinatown is a tourist destination in itself and worth a visit next time you visit the Islands. Chinatown in Honolulu happens to be the oldest Chinatown in the United States.


Chinatown is the epicenter of Asian culture in Hawaii, and boasts a wide variety of commendable, well priced eateries, including a number of Thai and Vietnamese restaurants. Also in Chinatown, you will also find a selection of Filipino, Korean, Japanese and Indian restaurants. Other things to check out include farmers’ markets, gift shops, lei stands and art galleries.

If you want to get the most out of your Chinatown experience, I have a few recommendations to keep in mind:

1. Go early – everything happens in the morning, and you will be spoiled with the selection of produce available, including locally grown fruits and vegetables, Pacific fish, and freshly made noodles

2. Wear comfortable shoes – the Chinatown district area spans over quite a few blocks and there is a lot of ground to cover if you want to see it all

3. Avoid dressing like a tourist – leave your camera etc at the hotel (if you can) – and avoid bright aloha shirts and shorts – because this is such a local area, you will stand out and, I hate to say it, may be an easy target for theft.

To add to my last point – it is a little scary walking around Chinatown but it is totally safe – just don’t go late at night if you can avoid it. Plenty more to see during the day anyway!

For more information about Chinatown you can visit the official website.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hawaiian Street Names

Hawaiian street names can be difficult to pronounce - those in Hawaiian that is. What emerges from Hawaiian street names is a sense of Hawaiian history, language, land usage, people and culture. The first street names in Honolulu were a mix of English and Hawaiian words, and in 1850 during the reign of King Kamahameha III, the Privy Council adopted 35 street names, and to date, 17 of those original names have survived to this day. Check out the list below - have you driven or walked down any of these streets?

1. Beretania
2. Fort
3. Hotel
4. Kina`u
5. King
6. Marin
7. Mauna Kea
8. Merchant
9. Mission
10. Nu`uanu
11. Punchbowl
12. Queen
13. Richards
14. School
15. Smith
16. Victoria
17. Young


Streets in many Hawaiian communities have an identifiable theme. For example, in Hawai`i Kai, all streets have island place names. In Kahala, they are named after birds, and in Mililani they are named after stars, days and nights.


I picked my top 5 street names and wanted to share the meaning with you - hope you find it informative!


1. Lanipili Pl (Honolulu) - A heavy rain, lasting many days, or a cloud burst

2. Ala Wai Blvd (Honolulu) - Canal. Literally: water path

3. Kuhio Ave (Honolulu) - Standing diagonally

4. Hukilau Lp (Waialua) - Seine (a fish net with sinkers on bottom and floaters on top); to fish with a sciene

5. Kapo Way (Honolulu) - A sister of Pele. One of her adventures resulted in the formation of Pu`u Ma`i (known as Koko Crater)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

NFL Pro Bowl 2009

It's Sunday morning and as usual, my husband is hunkered down on the couch waiting for the weekly NFL football games to begin. In the US during autumn and winter, it seems that weekends are reserved for football only - college on Saturday and NFL on Sunday. For me, that's a little too much football - I can usually tolerate about half of one game, and then I'm done. However, every year at the end of the NFL season the best players as voted by the fans, players and coaches head to Hawaii for the annual NFL Pro Bowl, a football game between the AFC and NFC all-stars.

The game has been held at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu (home of the Hawaii Warriors) since 1980. The game caps off a week of festivities in Hawaii in late January/early February, and the next game is scheduled for February 8, 2009. Apparently, the NFL was exploring the possibility of moving the Pro Bowl to the host site of the Super Bowl, and holding it the weekend before the Super Bowl starting in 2009. However, the league decided to retain the 2009 game in Honolulu. It's unclear if they will be revisiting this issue for the 2010 Pro Bowl game.

We are thinking of going to the Pro Bowl next year - I think one of the things that makes me dislike football is sitting out in the freezing weather for 4 hours. However, there is no such thing as cold weather in Hawaii. So, with a few beers, sunshine, and some cute football players, I think I might actually enjoy myself! Let's hope my favorite player, Tony Romo from the Dallas Cowboys makes the cut!

Aloha Stadium - Pro Bowl

Friday, November 7, 2008

Kalakaua Ave Top 10

I was just reading the Eyewitness Travel Top 10 guide on things to to in Honolulu and Oahu. It's hard to list the top 10 things to do in Honolulu - there are so many things that are worthy of making the list. The book breaks Honolulu and Oahu into a number of different lists - my favorite list in the book being the Top 10 on Kalakaua Ave. So here we go...keep in mind that these things are probably the most popular....but not necessarily the best in all of Oahu.

1. Royal Hawaiian Hotel - This pink hotel located in the center of Waikiki is a must visit, even if you can't afford to stay there. The architecture is amazing, and the Mai Tai bar is legendary.

2. Sheraton Moana Surfrider Hotel - Affectionately called the first lady of Waikiki, this hotel was the first hotel in Waikiki and is over 100 years old. They have a great outdoor dining area right by the beach, perfect to watch the sunset or to sip some cocktails.

3. Waikiki Beach - You can't visit Hawaii without going to Waikiki Beach. It is rumoured that a lot of the sand on this beach has been imported due to erosion problems. But you get the real touristy beach experience here - surfing lessons, shave ice, outriggers and locals - what more could you want? Just be prepared to share the beach - there isn't a lot of room during the peak season and you may find yourself sitting on top of someone else's towel.....

4. Duke Kahanamoku - I have written a post on Duke before - a perfect place to leave your lei as a sign of respect for this "Ambassador of Aloha".

5. Kapia'olani Park - Spanning 170 acres, this park is now used by locals and tourists alike for family gatherings, music and festivals. I think I have seen farmers markets down there also.

6. Honolulu Zoo - Although this can't be compared to Taronga Zoo in Sydney, this compact Zoo has a few cute creatures to look at. Good for the kids - although it gets very hot walking around inside.

7. Waikiki Shell - This concert venue is extremely well-known and popular. They host a range of events including the Honolulu Symphony and other local Hawaiian acts.

8. Waikiki Aquarium - The aquarium is also popular with the kids, and is popular for sharks and Hawaiian Monk Seals.

9. War Memorial Natatorium - In 1927 a Natatorium was opened and dedicated to the honor of the 101 residents of the Hawaiian Territory who died during World War 1. It is currently in a state of disrepair, because of local disagreements over health and commercial matters related to the restoration project.

10. Diamond Head - Located at the end of Kalakaua Ave, this amazing crater is not to be missed. Be sure to get there and take the hike up the crater, to discover amazing views of Oahu and beyond. Try to go early in the day as it gets extremely warm as you make your way up the crater.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Hawaiian Wedding

Today is my 34 month wedding anniversary - yes the relationship is still so new that we celebrate month anniversaries (well I do anyway)! I wanted to share the story of how John and I got married, and give you the link to the reverend who married us.

We decided to get married spur of the moment - it's a long story, but we ran out of time to make a decision (I had to fly back to Sydney the next day so it literally was a time issue). So we decided yes, let's get married. Ok - so what do we do now? Hawaii is famous for weddings - so we did a google search and found a priest. It was a total business transaction:

1. Call the priest
2. Make an appointment - for 12 hours later - to get married
3. Pick a location to get married
4. Pay the fee
5. Run to Tiffanys and buy wedding rings, then head to Ala Moana Center for a wedding outfit
5. Turn up at Magic Island and get married!

That probably sounds so strange, but its literally how it happened. And despite of the strangeness of deciding and making a huge life decision in a 12 hour period - it was the best experience!

We decided to get married at Magic Island, which is right by Ala Moana Center. Great views of Waikiki and Diamond Head. We had one witness (John's best friend Jimmy) and the Reverend. We had the ceremony and then had photos taken on the beach. It was so personal and romantic. If you are planning a wedding and wish that you could elope - this is the way to do it. Apologies to my friends and family that were hurt by what we did, but this saved a lot of time, money and stress, and was what we wanted to do - and that's what is most important.

Every year when we go to back to Hawaii we get a photo at Magic Island - our upcoming vacation will be no exception.

Our wonderful Reverend's name was Jerry Le Lesch and you can reach him through his website. Enjoy the wedding pics!




Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fun Hawaii Facts

In keeping with my theme this week of interesting facts and stats about Hawaii, I wanted to share a few more things that I found out this week about the 50th state.

Did you know.......
  • Hawaii is the most isolated population center on the face of the earth. Hawaii is 2,390 miles from California; 3,850 miles from Japan; 4,900 miles from China; and 5,280 miles from the Philippines
  • Hawaii is the only state in the US that grows coffee
  • The Hawaiian Islands are the projecting tops of the biggest mountain range in the world
  • Hawaii has its own time zone (Hawaiian Standard Time). The time runs two hours behind Pacific Standard Time and five hours behind Eastern Standard Time
  • Iolani Palace (Oahu) is the only royal palace in the United States
  • Two of the tallest mountains in the Pacific - Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa - dominate the center of Hawaii (Big Island)
  • Most of the world's macadamia nuts are grown on Hawaii (Big Island)
  • Haleakala Crater (Maui), is the world's largest dormant volcano
  • From east to west Hawaii is the widest state in the United States

Interesting huh? Hawaii has a lot to offer from a history perspective. I enjoy learning something new every day.

Hawaiian President


I wanted to write a note yesterday as it was election day, but unfortunately things in my life got a little out of control in a number of areas. So, its the day after the election and I am sure no-one is surprised that we have a new democratic party (and Hawaiian born) President - Barack Obama!!
There was a great story in USA Today about what Obama means to Hawaii - he is a source of great pride and opportunity for the Hawaiian people. How we will see this come to fruition is anyone's guess - but the fact that Obama is from Hawaii sure makes me hopeful for a better future for the Islands.

Congratulations to Obama and although I am not a US citizen I am thrilled that change is on the way for this country - it's the change we need. We have a big poster at home of the picture to the left and it sums up the feeling we all have when we think of the new President - hope. Good job Obama and we look forward to seeing you in the White House!

Monday, November 3, 2008

State Symbols and Emblems


I am really into getting the stats about Hawaii. I enjoy learning more about the state's history - it helps you to better understand the culture. Today's history lesson is in State Symbols and such - I hope you learn something too!

Bird: Nene (also known as the Hawaiian goose). This bird is on the endangered species list.

Dance: Hula This dance was around before Nintendo introduced Wii Fit!

Fish : Humuhumunukunukuapua`a (also known as the rectangular trigger fish or Hawaiian trigger fish) - try saying that after a few beers. This fish is so beautiful that I am reluctant to eat it.

Flower: Pua Aloalo or Ma`o-hau-hele (Hibiscus brackenridgei)

Gem: Black Coral

Mammal: Hawaiian Monk Seal (very cute)

Marine Mammal: Humpback Whale

Popular Name: The Aloha State

Song: "Hawai`i Pono`i", written by King David Kalakaua

Team Sport: Outrigger Canoe Paddling

Individual Sport: Surfing

Tree: Kukui Tree (Aleurites Moluccana)

Motto: "Ua mau ke ea o ka aina I ka pono" (The life of the land is perpetuated in righteousness)

Language: Hawaiian (although almost everyone there speaks English)


Island Colors:
Hawai`i - Red
Maui - Pink
O`ahu - Golden Yellow
Kaua`i - Purple
Moloka`i - Green
Lana`i - Orange
Ni`ihau - White

I hope you enjoyed your Hawaiian history lesson today. Its great to learn new things about other cultures and regions and Hawaii is no exception.


Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween


I shared with my team mates at work this week that in Australia we don't celebrate Halloween the same way that Americans do - however, in an attempt to immerse myself in US culture we bought a pumpkin and a bunch of candy (although I probably won't share that with the kids that knock on our front door, that will be all for me). We are going out for dinner tonight instead of being festive (I am wondering how fun trick-or-treating in Seattle could possibly be when it's always raining). The cats did get into the spirit - Squid's favorite food is pumpkin and Batman is a very cute black cat. Happy Halloween everyone!








Hawaii Foodie Buzz


There was a great article in Pacific Business News this week about two Hawaiian restaurants making the list of top 40 Best Restaurants in the US (as selected by Gayot), one of those being Chef Mavro Restaurant. I was lucky enough to dine there when my mom came to visit Hawaii in 2007. I met Chef Mavro (see pic) and took a bunch of pictures of the food, but sadly turned the menu of the evening over to my former boss back at the Seafood School in Sydney, so I can't remember the names of the dishes we ate. What I do remember though was the amazing experience we had, the local produce we tried, and the excellent wines that were matched to the food. Chef Mavro is a deserving recipient of this award - congrats Chef! Below is a picture of a dish made with goat's cheese from the Big Island, which I actually got two servings of because it was so delicious!




The other restaurant from Hawaii in the top 40 list was Ono Hawaiian Foods, which I have not yet experienced, but have added to my list for our vacation in February. From a quick glance at their website I noticed that the food is cheap and the local produce is abundant - something I am always proud to promote. I did notice that Spam is on the menu - which is I would expect and still find funny to think about (refer to yesterday's post on Spam for more info).

Congratulations to these two restaurants. As a huge fan of Alan Wong's I am disappointed that they didn't make the list, but they do feature prominently on other best restaurant lists throughout the world. Be sure to check out all these places on your next Hawaiian vacation - you won't be disappointed!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Spam in Hawaii

I bet you are wondering what this post is about. Not email spam, but in fact SPAM in a can. That's right, the highly processed and reconstituted pork product in a can. You have to go to their website for a laugh - it's one of the funniest sites I have seen in a while. In case you didn't know, Hawaiian people are obsessed with Spam. It was introduced during World War II, when fresh meat was scarce. In the US, Hawaiian people eat the most amount of Spam per capita, with the count being over 16 cans per person each year. Hawaii is the only state in the US where Spam is featured on the McDonald's menu. Burger King in Hawaii has now started offering Spam to compete with McDonald's. Is this crazy or what? Who in their right mind would eat Spam as a replacement to fresh meat? Lots of people by the looks of it! The perception of Spam in Hawaii is very different to the perception on the mainland - it is now a staple in the diets of many in Hawaii and - I hate to say this - is sometimes considered a delicacy....ewww.
I wanted to share an article with you about Spam etiquette - this article is great - and hilarious. I want to remind my readers that I do NOT eat Spam, nor do I ever plan to. However, I do want to acknowledge that Spam is a cultural thing and I want to be respectful of that. It has been a very affordable and versatile product for a lot of people in the Islands. Just don't try and make me eat it.

The Hawaiians are so crazy about this stuff, that they host an annual Spam Jam Festival , which features live music, food (Spam obviously), crafts and a Mr or Ms. Spam Pageant. I can not wait to experience this once we get back to the Islands. Plenty of Kodak moments to be had. Yum!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Ritz Carlton, Kapalua

I haven't written about my travels to the other Islands as yet. I have been to the other major Islands (Maui, Kauai, Big Island) a few times, so this post is about my trip to Maui with my mom when she came to visit in 2007. She stayed with us in Honolulu and we decided to sneak away for the weekend and head to luxury at the Ritz-Carlton, in Kapalua. We spent a full weekend there, and it was so wonderful that I didn't want to leave. The facilities were amazing, especially the pool and the pool bar! The hotel does have its own private beach, but when you live in Hawaii you tend to get tired of the surf all the time, so relaxing in the huge swimming pool was a nice change. I was used to the heat, and stayed out in the sun for hours (with sunscreen on of course) - but my mom was not so impressed with the need to get fried like a lobster in the sun, so she chose the shade option. Personally I think she wanted to leave the hotel and see a bit more of Maui, but I have decided that after that trip, and a recent trip to the Wynn Las Vegas - I am a resort/relax by the pool/cocktail drinking gal. When we were at the Wynn I could have slept by the pool I loved it so much. Not sure what the obsession is but note to self: purchase a house in a warm area with a pool as soon as possible!

The Ritz-Carlton is made up of a number of guest rooms and suites, at a price for everyone. Mind you, we ate at one of the restaurants for dinner, nothing fancy but the bill was nearly $US400 - so be prepared to bring a few extra $$ with you to fully enjoy the experience and what the hotel has to offer. The one thing I really liked about the hotel was that they used a lot of local ingredients. Hawaii produces a wide variety of food, from Maui onions to goats cheese from the Big Island. Of course, there is also the obvious - pineapple, coffee and sugar cane.

Enjoy some snaps from our vacation. If you have time to go to Maui for the weekend, I would definitely recommend staying at the Ritz-Carlton - I hope I will get the chance to go back one day soon!




One of the wings of the hotel - looking out to the pool



The private Ritz-Carlton Beach




Ahhhh the pool!

Monday, October 27, 2008

So How Do You Get To Hawaii?




There are so many airlines that fly to Hawaii now – but my recommendation is Hawaiian Airlines. I flew with Hawaiian the first time I visited the Islands, and have used their services ever since. They fly to Hawaii from a number of major cities in the US, as well as Sydney, Samoa, Tahiti and the Philippines – perfect for me! They also offer an extensive inter-island service to Maui, Kauai, Big Island, Molokai and Lanai.

Hawaiian airlines is different to other airlines in regards to the experience they provide during flight. I honestly think that their seats are roomier, and that there is more leg room, even in economy. The provide meal service on every flight, which is hard to find with other airlines these days. Most of their employees are from Hawaii, and I think that makes all the difference. They are so laid back and polite, but professional, and provide great service throughout the flight. I have enjoyed every flight I have taken to and from the Islands thanks to the team at Hawaiian Airlines.

If you are like me and travel to Hawaii on a regular basis, I would recommend getting the Hawaiian Airlines Visa Card – you earn Hawaiian miles for every dollar you spend, and at present you can get a return flight from Seattle to Hawaii with 35,000 Hawaiian miles – it sounds like a lot but you would be surprised how quickly the miles add up when you use your credit card for all your household purchases.

Thanks to Hawaiian airlines for the great service – you have a customer for life right here!