Monday, November 24, 2008

History, Crustaceans and Family

This is the quick and dirty version of the East Coast trip Kevin and I made at the end of October. The main purpose of the trip was to meet the family and attend the annual family pumpkin carving. By meet the family I mean ALL the family. I got to meet everybody on both sides with the exception of one uncle and a cousin. I also got to meet all the friends. By the end of the trip my head was spinning. In addition to the family fun we also squeezed in quite a bit of sight seeing along the way.

The first day was spent walking around DC. We clocked it at 14 miles of walking (Kevin wore his Garmin). So many amazing things to see. We didn't even begin to scratch the surface. We saw all the monuments and famous buildings, went to the National Archives and saw the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights (so damn cool!), walked up the steps of the Supreme Court to the front door (didn't know you could just do that) and saw many, many armed guards on top of the White House.

The Lincoln Monument was truly impressive and standing at the top of the stairs on the very spot where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his "I Have a Dream" speech and getting this view of the Reflecting Pool and the Washington Monument actually choked me up a little. Stunning.

Great words of wisdom from FDR at the FDR Memorial which was my second favorite memorial in DC. These guys are statues of men waiting in a soup line during the Great Depression at the FDR Memorial.Kevin and George Mason both deep in thought. George contemplating freedom, Kevin contemplating lunch.The Korean War Memorial. The White House. Soon with new and improved occupants!On the Baltimore day we went to Fort McHenry and got to walk around the fort and walk on THE ramparts mentioned in the national anthem. I admit to being clueless as to what a rampart was before this trip. Now I know. Here is a picture from the top of one!A bomb that did not burst in air that night.

On our one afternoon in downtown Baltimore I made sure we got to bring out my inner baseball dork and go to Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Being October and Baltimore, there weren't any games going on. Much like the Mariners, it will be many years before the O's see October baseball. However, it was still a beautiful park and I can't wait to come back and see a game there. Useless factoid: Babe Ruth was a Baltimoran. They have a statue of him outside the park.
We also got to spend the day at Gettysburg! For you history folks this is the view from Little Round Top looking out at Devil's Den. Civil War cannon.Civil War cannon on top of Devil's Den.I am completely envious of the history that they have on the East Coast. We have the stunning natural beauty in the west (but enough about me) but they are surrounded by important American history. His friends live right near Gettysburg and frequently eat at a house that was built in 1776, served as a hospital during the battle and was also a stop on the Underground Railroad. I get to eat at a pizza place in Ballard that might have been a brothel once. They win.

The one thing Kevin insisted I must have before leaving Baltimore was steamed blue crabs. I have been hearing how fantastic these little buggers are for two years so I had to give it a whirl. Baltimorans are crustacean obsessed people. Crabs and crab related items are everywhere. Dig the hat?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


My brain has packed away the textbooks, shut itself down and is ready to commence winter break. Problem is I still have five nights of classes, three tests and a project to complete. Can someone please sync my brain to my school schedule?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Happy Birthday Kevin!

Happy 39th birthday (+two days) Kevin! You are now officially almost 40.
We celebrated the birthday this weekend with Pacific Northwest Ballet's "New Works" program on Friday night. OK, that was already part of his subscription and not officially birthday related but it was still a good start to the weekend.
Saturday was sleeping in, meeting his friends at Red Hook Brewery for beer, wine tasting at Chateau St. Michelle, back to Red Hook for more beer and food, and finishing the evening with a concert for KBCS at Town Hall.
There was also this tasty and glorious cake.

Not to toot my own horn too much but this thing was the best German chocolate cake I have ever had. Mmmmmmm! Kevin enjoyed it too.
The birthday festivities continue next weekend with a three-day weekend at McMenamin's Edgefield.
Here's to a great year sweetie!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Reasonable Facsimile of Harmony

This qualifies as cuddling for my cats. I am so proud of them. Oliver was even AWARE that Jackie was that close. Of course the minute I sat down on the other end of the couch he got up, biffed her on the head, chased her off the couch and then came over to sit next to me. It was touching while it lasted though.

The Sun Shone A Little Brighter Wednesday Morning

There is so much to say after the election Tuesday night and I know it has all been said better in a thousand columns and other blogs. However there is so much I am feeling right now that I still feel the need to say a few things myself. I cried Tuesday night when I heard Obama won. Tears of relief that our country might finally be making a turn down a better path. Tears for the hope and new promise we have been offered. Tears that my country was able to put aside its racism and elect the first African-American President. Tears for the frustration and anger I felt over the past eight years of bungled and embarrassing "leadership".

I don't think I will ever forget the feelings of anger and bewilderment of the 2004 election. Who were these people who elected this man again? Where was MY country? How dare the right wing keep telling me that me, my friends, my family weren't moral or didn't have "family values" strictly because we vote Democrat. Don't question my patriotism because I question the direction my country is headed. I was tired of our points of view being marginalized and now, with this victory, I feel like we have been heard. An America I was convinced during the caucuses would never elect an African-American has proven me very, very wrong. I have never been happier to have been wrong than I am now. I know Obama's election isn't a panacea for this country. He won't fix all of our problems and the mess he inherits will probably take generations to clean up. But for the first time in my life I feel the cynicism of politics being pushed aside a little and feelings of actual hope entering my withered jaded little heart.

One of the greatest qualities Mr. Obama has is the ability to inspire. This is a man who is doing this not just because of ego but because he truly believes he is a public servant and can make this country and this world a better place. I felt that throughout the campaign and particularly on election night. He can inspire us all to be better people and to bring about change in ourselves and our communities. The leader has been but in place but the words of another leader keep echoing in my head and I wonder now . . . what can I do for my country?

Monday, November 3, 2008

Happy Election Day!

I am feeling cocky (and have to go to school tomorrow night) so I made my Victory Donkey cookies a day early. Yes, I am aware that they kind of resemble Victory Rabbits or Victory Aliens but trust me...they are donkeys.

For my friends far and near that won't get to partake of the sweet taste of victory cookie, please enjoy a virtual taste. Please ... I have nine dozen of these things.
On a sour note, my budding career as cookie decorator took a hit when I realized that I had inadvertently made a herd of
Ku Klux Donkeys. TOTALLY not my intention.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Hawaii Part Two: Big Island

We flew from Maui back to Kona which has the coolest airport I have ever been in. You can stand and turn in a circle and see the entire domestic section of the airport. The airport is also almost entirely open air. The waiting areas at the gates are under thatched looking roofs and open to the beautiful Hawaii warmth. We also got to deplane old-school: portable stairs to the tarmac! I have always wanted to do that. No lei grettings at the gate (dang!) but Kevin did arrange for someone to meet us inside the airport in Maui with leis when we first arrived.

First day in Kona we went to a luau. Fun times, fabulous tasty pig unearthed from the ground where it had been cooking all day, good show but I don't need to go to another one. The Tahitian fire dancing was impressive though.

Post luau Hawaiian overkill.

Kona is filled with these darling little guys.

Geckos everywhere! They were all over our B&B that we stayed at. This little guy was at a craft booth we found. One of the ladies there feeds them every day by opening little single serving size peaches and the geckos come down and drink the peach juice. We took a long walk all around Kona including a few beaches with a few more sea turtles. That night we went to Kona Brewery for delicious food, great service from an English guy who knows his beer and many, many tasty beers for Kevin. Although, as he will point out, he never even had a whole beer. These were merely samples. Lots and lots of samples.
He was relieved to finally be able to find good beer because the islands are mostly filled with Budweiser, MGD, and Corona type beers which he hates.

The next day we were off to the eastern side of the island to visit Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. On the way we stopped at Mountain Thunder coffee company where I got to taste fresh off the farm Kona coffee.Wow. Huge difference. I always have to doctor my coffee up with milk and sugar but this was so smooth and not bitter that I drank it black. True Kona is definitely worth more money. However, maybe not what they charge for it.

Hawaii Volcanoes National Park was one of the more phenomenal things I have ever seen. The volcano, Kilauea, has been erupting since the 80's which is the longest continuous eruption ever recorded. In March of this year the volcano began a large steam eruption from its crater that is still going on today.

The rangers say that in this new crater the magma is only about 300 feet from the surface. At night you can see the glow from the steam vent. Watching the steam continuously curl and swirl and rise from the crater is mesmerizing. Kevin and I could have pulled up chairs and sat and watched it for hours. This is one of the best views from any restaurant I have ever been in. You get to eat your breakfast and look out on a volcanic eruption. How freaking cool is that?! You can also stay here at the Volcano House and some of the rooms have crater views. We opted for more frugal accommodations and were in darling little tiny national park cabins instead. View not so good, price so much better.
We took a hike through the Kilauea Iki crater. One of the best hikes for a "wow" factor I have ever done. Kilauea Iki is a crater on Kilauea that erupted back in 1959. It filled its crater with 400 feet of lava. The crater is now half its original height. It took 36 years for it to harden and you can still see steam rising from cracks in the crater floor because there is still hot rock below from this eruption 50 years ago! Thrilling to be able to walk across something like this.The view from Kileaua Iki crater rim with the current steam eruption from Kileaua in the background.
At night we drove out to the ocean where the current lava flow was entering. They keep you about 3/4 of a mile back from the flow but we got to see the steam cloud from where it was entering the ocean and the glow from the lava. As the night wore on and it got darker we were able to see globs of lava shoot up into this cloud every so often. We sat there on a previous lava flow from the early 90's through intermittent heavy rain showers for about two hours to watch this. Phenomenal. Awe inspiring. We were seeing new land being created.

Next day was back to the Kona coast for more snorkeling and seeing some ancient Hawaiian historical sites like this Place of Refuge (I am not even going to try to type the Hawaiian name).

If Hawaiians who were in danger of being killed could make it to this place alive they were absolved of whatever sins they had committed and were allowed to live. Sins could be something as simple as looking at the chief or walking in the chiefs footsteps. Pretty strict society.

So there is our Hawaii trip in a (big) nutshell. We are definitely going to go back some day and see and do the things we didn't get to on this trip. Aloha!

Hawaii Part One: Maui

Gee, since it has only been about five weeks since Kevin and I got back from Hawaii I guess it is time I got around to writing a little something. I have finally found a few minutes to organize a few photos and type up a little bit about the trip. This is the bare bones of our trip. We saw so many beautiful places and did so much cool stuff but I will spare you the over the top detail I would love to put in here.
We flew into the Big Island the first day and took a little 20 seat prop plan over to Maui (hate to fly, hate to fly). The first night there we got some gear at Costco and went out for some Hawaiian food.
The first morning on Maui we went on a snorkel trip out to Molikini crater. Molokini is an extinct, crescent shaped volcanic crater that is now home to oodles of coral, fish, eels and other aquatic critters. The boat also has an all you can eat BBQ and free beer. This was a beautiful intro to Hawaii. Sunshine, water, fish, burgers and three beers before noon.

The next day was our one "relaxation" day. We had nothing planned and nowhere to go. We did get up early to watch the finishers in the Maui marathon/half-marathon that we were supposed to run. Let me just say that I am beyond glad that I decided not to run this one. The heat and humidity were oppressive just standing at the finish line for an hour and half. There was no cool ocean breeze and temps were in the high 80's. This would have killed me. No way I could have beat my Eugene half time. No way, no how. Kevin felt the same way. We did enjoy cheering on the other runners though and getting to see the fast marathoners finish. From our usual vantage point at the back of the pack we never get to see these guys.

Anyway, we spent the early afternoon on the beach swimming and snorkeling where we found our first sea turtles. These guys are the coolest things. It was a thrill to be in the water with them. And don't worry, we didn't approach them. They just would swim around everybody and do their own thing.

This is Kaanapali Beach which was right outside our hotel and where we spent the relaxation day. Gorgeous beach. Beautiful, friendly but still very nice resort called Kaanapali Beach Hotel. It was the best and I would recommend it to anyone.

I had one of those perfect moments later in the afternoon. Kevin and I went to a restaurant that had an outside bar with sand for a floor. We sat with our bare feet in the sand, gentle ocean breeze (too late for you runners), Jack Johnson-esque singer, tropical umbrella drinks, sweetie by my side, looking out at the ocean and feeling completely relaxed. If I could have bottled that feeling . . . Maui is also probably as close as I will ever get to my dream of a sock free/barefoot life. Later that night we watched a free family musical act/hula show outside the hotel that was better than the one we paid for at the luau we went to on the Big Island. Everything at this hotel really felt like you were part of the ohana (family, to us mainlanders).

Oh, appropos of nothing, apparently Hawaii will try to kill you if it can.

The next day we left the hot, dry western side of Maui and drove towards the warm, wet eastern side. On the way I made Kevin stop at the Surfing Goat Dairy because I felt the need to commune with the goats. We ate tasty goat cheese and got to hang with the ungulates for a bit.
We then drove up the windy hills to Haleakala National Park. Views from the top were almost non-existent because we were at about 10,500 feet and above the clouds but it cleared for a moment and we got to see some of the crater on Haleakala.
After Haleakala we drove the incredibly overrated road to Hana. Twisty, windy, with something like 60 one-lane section and bridges. Annoying and it made me sick to my stomach. People call this the prettiest drive in the country but I think they are cracked. Its nice and all but not nearly as nice as the hype makes it out to be. The next day in the Hana district we went for the coolest horseback ride.

The company is owned and operated by native Hawaiians and our guide performed a few chants before and during the ride for us. He also spoke a lot about the history, flora, fauna of the region. Having grown up in the area he was very knowledgeable about everything we were seeing. He was interested in people not just going for a horse ride but actually learning something about Hawaii, its people and its culture. On the ride up in the hills we got to pick fresh guava from horseback and eat while we rode. We stopped with this as our view.

I wish you could get a sense of the size of the falls. To give you some idea look at the right side of the photo and the soft, carpet like greenery. Those are bamboo trees (nasty, invasive species) and they are about 40 feet tall. This was one of the more beautiful spots on the island that we went to. The horses were the perfect trail ride horses. Docile followers who obey every command. Bad qualities in humans; ideal qualities in a horse. The horses are all younger rescue horses and they couldn't have been better. My horse was Kona and I knew he was perfect for me when I first walked over to him and he began to pee an absolute flood and farted. The ride leader chose well!
On the way back from horseback riding we stopped and swam in the famous Seven Sacred Pools which are neither sacred nor seven. The next morning we stopped at the black sand beach in the state park where we stayed. Stunning. Oh my God was this beach was beautiful. This state park is also where we saw the first of many, many mongoose (another invasive species). It is also the home to cabins that looked like the perfect place to unwittingly star in a horror movie. I will stay almost anywhere but that place really freaked me out the first night. We found this little critter/turd on the beach and tried to "save" him. After chucking him back in the surf and watching him bob on the surface it occurred to us that perhaps we just committed sea slugicide instead. I think we would be acquitted on some sort of marine life good samaritan clause though.

Next day was back along the *&%ing road to Hana and to the airport for our flight back to the Big Island.

O' Happy Day!

The eggnog lattes are here! The eggnog lattes are here!