Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Hawaii Spring Break 2016: The Big Island

With fear and trepidation, armed with four different bottles of mosquito repellent, we braved the reports of dengue and zika and descended upon the Big Island of Hawaii the last week of March.  It was unfortunate timing on my part, not in part due to the potential health risks, but because I did not adequately factor in what it would mean to be out of the office the last week of the quarter, coincidentally the last week of the quarter in which annual reports would be due.  Never again! If my kids have spring break during that last week of March in the future, they will be sticking around town in one of those over-glorified daycare programs labelled as spring break camps.

Day one, we decided it would be pool time and getting our bearings, which meant stopping by Target to buy a case of water and a boogie board.  Last time when we were on Oahu we realized only towards the end of the trip that renting a boogie board was ridiculous, $12/day and $36/week.  This time we were smart and picked one up for $18 on the way to the hotel.  Due to the mosquito-related outbreaks, the hotel was pretty much empty.  We had the pool and game room to ourselves for large stretches of the day.  It was a bit disconcerting to see such a large resort with not many people around, unlike our experience last year where crowds were the norm.  The Sheraton Kona has a completely different atmosphere than the Sheraton Waikiki.  The lack of crowds meant we were able to get a suite without any difficulty so we all had plenty of space when we slept.  We finished off the night with the Luau, which was a lot of fun and good food although we were all so jet-lagged we missed most of the show and went back to the room to sleep.

Day two, morning swim and then drive to the Poke Shack to wait for it to open.  Apparently it is the BEST RESTAURANT IN THE WORLD.  I love poke and I would say that it is very very delicious, however, I would not pick that meal over the tasting menu at Jean Georges in NYC or San Chon in Seoul.  However, it was fresh and delicious and now I can say I've eaten at the best restaurant in the world, according to Yelp!  Since the kids were not interested in eating raw fish for brunch, we took them to Subway, at their request.  I will not write about H's food preferences here since he read my post from last year and was angry about it!

We visited the Hulilee Palace, which is not exactly what I thought a "palace" would look like given my visits to Buckingham and Deoksugung.  We tried to walk back to the hotel but it was almost 90 degrees so we rode the trolley for most of the way and then had to call Stewart to pick us up after we made a Longs Drugs run at the penultimate trolley stop.  I'm glad CVS wasn't able to get the name change pushed through in Hawaii, it's like a blast to the past to be able to go to an actual Longs store.  We loved the 50% off Easter plush and couldn't stop laughing at Snoopy and Woodstock dancing in tandem. Of course, I had to buy Snoopy and bring him back to California.

Day three, VOLCANO day.  First we drove to Hilo to go to the Farmers Market.  Last year, we had an awesome time at the Farmer's Market near Diamond Head. It was super huge and there were all sorts of delicious ready to eat items, more like a farmers market and a street fair.  The Hilo farmers market was good for produce but did not have much in the way of hot food and was much smaller. The boys did get delicious Polish sausage from the Polish sausage food truck outside the farmers market while the rest of us ate the fresh spring rolls and chicken and rice dish we purchased at the farmers market.  We also enjoyed some delicious fresh bread and pastries at Papaa Palaoa Bakery, which is walking distance from the Farmer's Market.  The scones are excellent and the quiche is great even cold. It was already a hot day so it was refreshing to have it cold, but they will heat it up for you if you wait.

Rainbow Falls was definitely worth the trip, not for the view of the actual falls but because of the hike to the rock area. It was a bit too risky for a klutz like me so I didn't attempt it but the kids had a lot of fun. From there it was a drive to the Volcano.  The temperature drops about 20 degrees so you definitely need to layer.  The kids enjoyed the brief visits to the steam vents and the lava tubes. We would have liked to have a longer hike, but Princess E couldn't handle it.  After filling up at the army base gas station, we headed back to the hotel with a short detour at the black sand beach.  H was happy to get his free fourth grader pass to the national parks.  It might be the first and only time we use that benefit before it ends, but at least that's one benefit paid by our tax dollars that we did take advantage of this year!  The drive was very slow and we couldn't quite make it back all the way to Kona to eat so we stopped at Keoki's Roadside Cafe.  We were famished and thoroughly enjoyed the fish and chips.  The owners are transplants from Texas who moved so they could have a slower way of life.  So if you are from the Northeast or Bay Area, the pace of life in Hawaii might make you have a heart attack due to frustration.

Day four, we wanted to walk along the Kona coast but the surf was too rough.  So we went on a
pretty informative coffee plantation tour at Greenwell Farms.  Only when I got there did I realize that it was same plantation that I had toured over a decade ago.  So I've been on two coffee plantation tours in my life and they were of the same place.  The coffee was delicious, of course, and samples were unlimited! The difference between Kona coffee and rest of the world coffee is that it leaves no bitter aftertaste. It is a truly a miracle on your tongue.  The boys were less appreciative but they did get to eat bananas grown on the plantation, which were super cute and tasty.  In the afternoon we made it to Hapuna Beach. Great snorkeling but I lost my sunglasses when the waves toppled me over.  At least this year I didn't have sand lodged in my ear requiring a trip to the ENT upon return to the mainland!

Our final day we had a great time at the pool in the morning and then took a submarine tour.  One of the kids does not like salt water so we had to abandon our plans to go on one of those boat tours where they take you out to go snorkeling and to swim with ocean creatures (that person spent our entire afternoon at Hapuna sitting in Princess E's stroller).  So the only way we could see the fish up close was via submarine. Princess E was really scared of the boat ride out to the submarine and we had to distract her by getting her to take funny photos.  We flew back that night on the redeye back to SF.  We were all glad to be back and collectively agreed never to go to Hawaii again.  The Big Island. Too much for city folk like us.  Give us pavement and multi-lane freeways.  One upside is that since the pace of life is much slower on The Big Island, I didn't arrive back from vacation exhausted like I usually do.  The jet lag was difficult to get over for all of us, though.  If we go anywhere during the school year from hear on out we'll be flying east or in the same time zone so the kids don't fight me about getting up for school.  Aloha!

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

March 1st Movement

Koreans have been a people suppressed and subjugated by many nations around them for thousands of years. It is so much a part of a Korean person's identity, the "han" that is interwoven into the subconscious and makes us a people with a bent towards depression and fatalism. I'm reminded of that today--March 1st.

Approximately 2,000,000 Koreans had participated in the more than 1,500 demonstrations, many who were massacred by the Japanese police force and army.[2] The frequently cited The Bloody History of the Korean Independence Movement (Hangul한국독립운동지혈사hanja韓國獨立運動之血史) by Park Eun-sik reported 7,509 people killed, 15,849 wounded, and 46,303 arrested. From March 1 to April 11, Japanese officials reported only 553 people killed with over 12,000 arrested, 8 policemen and military killed, and 158 wounded. Many arrested were taken to the infamous Seodaemun Prison in Seoul where they faced torture, death without trial or due process.
It's likely also why Korea is a land of fierce beliefs, in Christianity and Buddhism. Of course suffering comes from God, suffering refines you and suffering brings you to enlightenment. We were just born to suffer. I'm not trying to impart any words of wisdom or reveal a deep insight into your Korean neighbor. I'm just saying I feel it today. So much sadness, I can touch it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

January blues

It's after Christmas, after New Year's, after my sister-in-law's wedding.  I've lost motivation to exercise. The Fitbit is not helping. I look at the steps 5000, 6000, 7000, meh, that's fine with me. I do think I might have a brain tumor because I've been having daily headaches. So I've been giving Stewart many instructions on what to do with my dead body.  One thing is I want to be cremated in my wedding dress. But I can't be sprinkled anywhere since my wedding dress has some lbs of sterling silver threading woven in. He said he would put me on the mantle but I'm thinking the kids will knock it down and then I'll be swept up by a vacuum and deposited into the Milpitas garbage dump. SO I'M REALLY DEPRESSED!!!!!!  Hopefully January will pass quickly.

Dear God, help me put my hope in you. Give me the motivation to want to be closer to you. IJN, Amen

Monday, January 11, 2016

Happy New Year!!!

I think I am going to try a new approach this year. Blog more often and use this space for what I intended to originally, to remember the episodes of my life.  Hopefully I can read the posts in 20 years and stave off dementia.  Right now I'm concerned about that happening due to the latest feature I read in the NY Times about a lawyer who fought a 20 year battle to reveal the dangers of nonstick pans.  Read it and then immediately throw all your nonstick cookware away.  So here goes, five things I would blog about if I had had the time:
1) KOREA TRIP 2015--will probably be one of the everlasting memories of my life. I was able to be in Korea for 9 days with my sisters. This has never happened before (since my youngest sister was born in the US) and probably will never happen again.
2) Going to Disneyland with three kids as a solo parent--absolutely need to call in reinforcements, luckily friends were able to meet me on both days we were there.
3) Turkey dinners--actually more cost effective to pay to eat at a high end restaurant. The food will be better and you can avoid exhaustion. I do think Alton Brown has the best/easiest holiday recipes.  Even three days is not enough to defrost a 15 lb turkey!!!!
4) Resolutions--get stuff fixed around the house and install an outside outlet so I can charge my car and not get stranded outside.
5)  Throwing stuff out to simplify and minimize my life to stuff that brings me joy--today that stuff is a non-stick pot and pan. I know I have to do it with my bakeware as well but baby steps. I have a hoarding problem and this will be painful.

So there is my short and sweet first blog post of the year. Happy 2016 friends!

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Spring Break Hawaiian Style

It's October but I want to pretend we just got back from Hawaii (where we went for spring break).  It was our big trip of the year and it was fabulous.  I've been writing this post in my free time since April--it's taken a long time to recap. I wonder how long it will take to recap our Disneyland trip in August!  Listing our fun Oahu itinerary here so I will remember for all time:

Friday, swimming at the hotel, Sheraton Waikiki (because you can get Dole Whip there!), dinner trip to musubi cafe. Four of us like to eat spam musubi. One of us is a complete twinkie, banana, you name it and will not eat Asian food unless it is plain noodles (think udon or kalguksu without the broth or anything) that taste like nothing. H won't even eat plain white rice anymore. He has some serious issues. So while the rest of us were stuffing rice and seaweed creations into our mouths, he had to sit there with a sour look on his face. On the way back we got him some popcorn chicken from KFC. I don't know how many other people go to Hawaii to eat KFC, Burger King, Subway, McDonald's and even R had to join in the fast food frenzy with his favorite orange chicken from Panda Express!

Saturday, wake up early to eat breakfast at Bogarts and have the biggest most deliciously decadent haupia macadamia pancake ever, hiking up Diamond Head with one of my besties from law school, C and her partner B. B was so nice, she stayed with R when he started protesting that he was too tired. Somehow she miraculously convinced him it was worth going to the top and he made it all the way up.  Afterwards we sampled the many offerings at the farmer's market and I bought many many jars of delicious jam. If you were at our wedding, you know that we gave Hawaiian Sun jam as part of our wedding favor. I love Hawaiian flavors like passion fruit, guava, pineapple, which are all so good on freshly made scones.  I pretty much love Lilikoi anything and wanted to name my daughter Lilikoi but Stewart wouldn't let me name my daughter the same names as his sisters so Lili was ixnayed from the get go.

Sunday, Hanauma Bay. If you get there before 8, there is no attendant to take your fees so you can enter without paying a fee. H loved it and had a great time snorkeling. R was back to his fearful, tired self and spent the entire time sitting in the stroller. E had fun making sand castles. I have to say, going to Hanauma Bay was a bit disappointing considering how much I enjoyed it the first time I went there, which was over 12 years ago.  Back then there were turtles and many many schools of fish that swam very close to shore. I was pretty amazed by it. This time, there were not as many fish, which I was told is due to tourism and the ban on feeding the fish. It was still well worth the experience, especially since it was FREE!
Monday, Breakfast at Aulani, tour of Dole Plantation, North Shore drive through to get to Masumoto Shave Ice.  The breakfast at Aulani was great. When you go to a character breakfast in the Disney Parks (I've been to the Minnie and Friends breakfast at Disneyland and Pooh breakfast at the Crystal Palace) you feel a bit rushed because there are so many people they need to get through there and plus the eating time is taking away from your stand in line for Space Mountain time.  At Aulani we were able to take our time and eat the many many plate combinations offered at the buffet.  They sang R happy birthday since we were there for his birthday. The kids got up to do the dance and activities during the breakfast. This was similar to the character breakfast at the Disneyland hotel in Anaheim. You have to look at the meal as an experience, otherwise your palm will hit your face when you realize you just paid $$ for your child to eat one mini pancake.

The tour of the Dole Plantation was everything we thought it would be. A great train ride through the different fields where we saw really cute baby pineapples and the other fruit that grew on the farm. If you didn't know, any pineapple that says Dole on it that you can buy in the supermarket is actually from Dole plantations in the Philippines, not Hawaii as Hawaii can only grow enough for the local market. The kids had a great time in the maze and I had a great time inhaling more Dole whip! I was still really full but I wanted to see why people loved the North Shore shrimp trucks. We went up there and I was not that impressed. I think it's because I had the garlic shrimp fried rice at Bogart's our first morning in Honolulu and it raised the bar as to what constitutes flavorful shrimp. I need to get some more of that fried rice!!! Matsumoto Shave Ice was good, but not better than the shave ice we had at the stand in front of our hotel.  Of course H was not eating any of this so we had to stop by the food court on the way back to the hotel so he could get his subway sandwich, cold cut combo footlong on flatbread with nothing else on it. Sometimes it feels like such a waste of money because he's getting a piece of white bread with fake meat. I have no idea how that boy grows.

Tuesday was our trip to Pearl Harbor.  I have a lot of Japanese friends, I love Japanese food, I've visited Japan, I have Sony, Panasonic, Sanrio, Muji, etc stuff all over our house. But after you visit Pearl Harbor, you have this feeling like you never want to encounter anything Japanese ever again. The stories of all the people who were killed and affected by that attack and the images, the huge images of destruction, the names of the sailors on the wall of the memorial, and the artifacts from the era all really get to you.  I noticed that while there are Japanese tourists all over Hawaii, very few were at the USS Arizona Memorial. It would be too hard when you are there for vacation, not an exercise in self-loathing. I suspect that Americans who go to Japan on vacation do not visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I certainly didn't.  I fully believe in the theory that the US military knew about the attacks and could have mobilized to stop much of the destruction, but let it happen anyway because they wanted Congress to vote to enter the war.  So many lives sacrificed.

Our last day we were supposed to go play with dolphins but after reading all of the reviews of how inhumane those places were we decided just to hang at the beach and pool. Somewhere thrown in the trip was H's surfing lesson, hiking to a waterfall, outlet shopping, Leonard's, Costco, Liliha Bakery, and two hours spent at the Ross Waikiki because it's open till 2 AM!  We also met our friends from church, who coincidentally were staying at the same hotel in Waikiki. The wonders of social media, they posted a photo at a hotel on FB and another friend commented, Eunice is there too!

There are still so many things we wanted to do so we will definitely be back. None of us are stay still and relax type people so I don't think we will be making it to Maui or Kauai.  Maybe our next trip will include the Big Island--I remember the volcano being pretty cool! Aloha!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Public Service Announcement: How to avoid a $200 auto detail bill due to child's EPIC vomit

R has a weak esophagus. At least that's the official diagnosis as to why he has the ability to vomit on a dime. So after two crazy vomiting episodes in the past two weeks, I thought I should share some tips of how to deal with the mess.

1. Get a cover for the back seat of your car. I don't know why other moms didn't tell me this the minute I became pregnant with H (oh wait, we didn't have a car in Manhattan) but if you have a child that is in a child safety seat, get a waterproof pet cover for the entire back row and put the seat on top of the cover. Look at this one on Amazon for $32. It is padded and waterproof. I did find one that is not padded that is less than $20 but if you have older kids who will be sitting on top, I think the padded ones are nicer.  And it's really funny because the minute you switch categories from a pet car cover to a child car cover, the same exact cover goes from $20 to $80. Sorry, I'll save my money and go with the one for Fido. Anyway, this means if your child vomits or has a diaper blowout or decides to put her leaky sippy cup spout side down next to her, at least you can just wash the cover and not have to pay $$$ for a car detail.

2. But if you experience a R-size vomit incident where the vomit is dripping down the insides of both seat belt openings into the insides of the actual stuffing of the car seat (not just the child safety seat) because you don't have a car seat cover and you don't want to pay for a detail since it's going to happen again, then there is another product that I love and have used for many many bodily fluid accidents in the car and on their beds. The name is totally awesome--Urine Destroyer. Believe me, when these accidents happen, you definitely feel like destroying something or someone (under 4 ft tall!). It actually is an enzyme that will kill the bacteria causing the horrendous vomit or urine odor in your car. I've also used it on carpet, very effective on smells, not effective on pink sharpie.

3.  Of course, the best way to avoid the accidents all together is to stop your kids from eating and drinking too much. R doesn't have the best self control when it comes to food so I have to remind him if I notice that he's been eating nonstop for an hour. or two. or three. which happens at Cub Scout camp if your camper doesn't like to hike or do outdoors stuff. Why is he in Cub Scouts? But if you're too late and your child has over-indulged, then make sure you have sick bags on hand. You can get them for free when you go to a dr appt, ask the nurse for a few. If you exhaust that supply, they are also available at most pharmacies.

Please, new moms out there, save yourself some aggravation and get the car seat cover. Isn't it nuts that I'm on kid #3 turning 4 this year and I only figured this out now?  Absolutely no payments were made for this post and all opinions are my own, but if you have any airplane vomit bags, please send them my way. THANKS!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

From Left to Write: The No More Excuses Diet

It's hard to write this post because all I have are excuses. But mostly I think my excuses stem from not caring that I'm fat. I'm fat. It's ok! All these crazy diet books are out there but I have no motivation to exercise to the degree required to get to my pre-baby weight because I don't care!!!! Of course I'm influenced by posts from other moms who are embracing their fatness and happy in the process. But I wanted to try. I thought maybe if I signed up for The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang, it would get me going, but so far, I haven't really exercised any more than I did before the book. I do try to follow the stricture to stop eating 3 hours before bedtime, so maybe that's something!

I'm a list person, I like to cross things off that I've accomplished but then lose all motivation to do those things again. I worked out and dieted every day so I could lose 30 lbs for my wedding. Done. I trained for six months so I could run a marathon. Done. I gave up fried potato snacks for one year's new year's resolution. Done. I worked at a startup. Done. I started blogging so I could go to BlogHer in New York five years ago. Done.

So the things that are remaining on my bucket list are: walk from Kathmandu to Everest base camp, skydiving, and write a book. All of which are things I'm going to do once my kids go to college, mostly because for the first two things, it will matter less if I die trying. So for the next 12 years I have no motivation to do anything!

Actually that's not true. I did have a few New Year's resolutions for this year. Climb Mission Peak, done. Frame my law school diploma from 12 years ago, done. Clean out my garage so I can park in it--this one is blocked by the fact that our annual MOPS rummage sale is in May and our church community group garage sale is next month.

I'm waiting. For my Pavlok. I need that will really SHOCK me into getting back into shape and sleeping earlier. I am acknowledging I have no will power. I have no motivation so I need something external to really poke and prod me into the right direction. The Pavlok is one of those wearable fitness devices that tracks your movements. If you don't reach your goal, it will give you an electric jolt. Perhaps not the best idea for someone with a minor heart issue, but at this point I'm willing to try anything.

Another random post from random mommy. If you would like my copy of the No Excuses book, please let me know and I will send it to you!

This post was inspired by The No More Excuses Diet by Maria Kang who shares her no excuses philosophy that motivated her to become more fit. JoinFrom Left to Write on March 12th as we discuss The No More Excuses Diet. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.