Sunday, January 29, 2017

Heavenly Hana

We had a fantastic view of Big Island on the island flight to Maui, and saw the snow covered top of Mauna Kea, surrounded by green valleys and lava flows. A voluptuous landscape with so many curves. In just 40 minutes we were landing at OGG International airport.

We picked up our blue convertible, stocked up on supplies at the local Kmart, and then made our way to the Road to Hana.

views along Hiway 31
Highway 360 had many spots to pull over and admire the view, but they were often full and unavailable. No matter, because just passing through the scenery was a feast for the senses. It was a clear day so the top was down. The rainforest had a sweet, stirring scent. We often heard waterfalls but couldn't see them. We stopped many places along the way, including the vintage Hawaiian village Keanae.

7 Sacred Pools
It was easy to find our Hana cottage and unpack before heading to the beaches in Waianapanapa State Park and the Hana town. Then 'home' to make dinner and enjoy a hot tub on the porch.

Palapala Hoomau
Congregational Church
The next morning we made our way up the coast to Oheo Gulch and Seven Sacred Pools, driving alongside the ocean or high on cliffs looking down at the surf. It was a spectacular drive, but also nerve-wracking, with narrow roads and sudden twists. We ventured further to the Palapala Hoomau Congregational Church, to visit the simple gravesite of Charles Lindbergh. When he learned he was dying, Lindbergh requested that he be secretly flown to Hana where he had already planned his burial ceremony. He told friends at the time that he would "rather spend two days alive on Maui than two months alive in New York."

We had a delicious late afternoon roadside plate lunch before heading to the Red Sand Beach near Hana. The path down is treacherous and narrow with jagged rocks below making for dire consequences. Slippery with pine needles and scree in spots, we went slowly and cautiously, and were rewarded with a gorgeous respite. Others had made the trip, too. A trio of women and their small children digging in the sand; a crowd of naked tattooed kids jumping in the surf; an older man meditating; young girls doing yoga and taking selfies on the beach. Fellow travellers.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Visiting Hilo

Lava tube
A few people in Kona, when they heard we were headed to Hilo, said we wouldn’t find much there. “A couple hours in Volcanoes Park and you’ll be done.” Many visitors don’t venture into the Crater Corridor because it takes at least three or four hours to make your way down to the sea and back again, but I’m so glad we did.

We were staying in a place right next to the park, so were able to return two nights in a row to watch lava dance in the crater and marvel at the number of stars overhead. The volcano spume was extremely active and the lava lake high, which even brought the locals out to watch.

We came to Hawaii for the beaches and volcanoes, and also for the tropical plants. Our Hilo B&B was right in the rainforest, surrounded by green. We visited the Hawaii Botanical Garden, and spent half a day ogling the anthurium, orchids, bromeliads, air plants, tropical palms, the lily pond, Cook’s pine. Everything so green, with palms and trees towering overhead and the sound of ocean waves beating on the shore.

It turned out Hilo had a guitar and ukulele store. Once I held one beautiful koa wood instrument I wanted it instantly. The Kanile 'a concert ukulele is now in my possession and inspiring me to become a better player.

Late in the afternoon, we still wanted to see the tide pools at Kapaho. Unfortunately, we got lost and took a wrong turn, and found ourselves at the end of the earth. Literally. In Kaimu Bay I was able to stand on land younger than me, something on my wishlist.

Big waves were crashing on the rocky shore and Rob and I watched a young red-headed girl approach them, seeming determined to jump in. She took a few steps and a wave hit her, knocking her down and tumbling her right into the water. She looked like a mermaid in the sea foam.

Big Island, Kona, Mahai’ula Bay

Getting to this white sand beach required a drive along an untended road across a lava field, and then a twenty minute walk over a rocky path. 

A series of abandoned, deserted buildings on the shore are what’s left behind of Kalahikiola, an isolated fishing community established here in the 1880s. We counted four big turtles poking their heads above water, looking for a place to come ashore.

Despite it being out of the way, there were about twenty people playing in the waves, and some of us snorkelling. Rob saw flounder and one of the turtles checked him out from a comfortable distance. When I went in, I saw colourful tropical fish I later identified as bullethead parrotfish and convict tang. A crab or two. And a day octopus - if it hadn’t moved, I wouldn’t have spotted the creature at all, its colours blended so perfectly with the sandy bottom. Multiple legs gave it thrust for its curious ballet.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

National Volcanoes Park

When we drove up to the park meeting centre, two female park rangers were giving ukulele lessons. I talked them into posing with me and my Scarborough Ukulele t shirt for the ukesters back home.

Another ranger was explaining about how volcanoes were formed, so we listened in. The geologic explanation was interesting, with magma bursting through the crust of the earth. The guide added that science has proven the ancient stories to be true.
Namakaokahai followed Pele throughout the Hawaiian Island chain, until Pele finally settled in the high mountains of Mauna Loa, which proved too high for the ocean’s waves to reach. Pele gained confidence here and engaged in battles with Namakaokahai. To this day, Pele’s eruptions from Hawaii Island’s volcanoes flow thick and hot till they reach the sea -- symbolizing the match in strength between the sisters of fire and water.
Just as the legend states, the northwestern islands of Kauai and Oahu are older than the southeastern islands of Maui and Hawaii.

I love the fact that new land is being created every day in Hawaii, and that you can stand in places that are younger than you are.

It turns out our visit was on a remarkably clear day, as it is not often visitors can see the top of Mauna Loa. We loved exploring the natural wonders in the park, including steam vents, craters, lava tubes, lava flows and sea arches. A list mist brought a perfect rainbow to our side.

The jungle was incredibly lush, and we had the good fortune of coming across a native guide explaining uses of the Ki plant: making clothing, providing food and medicine, keeping bad spirits away.

Our B&B is just around the corner from the park, so we went back at night for the spectacular view. It looked like a city on fire.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Big Island - South Point

Often in life it is the journey and not the destination. With Papakolea (Green Sands) Beach it is both.

The drive from our place took us to South Point, which lays claim to being the furthest point south in the United States. We stopped to admire the vista from high on the volcano, and then drove down into the valley. In one magical brief moment, we saw a rainbow and whales sounding.

At the end of South Point Road, natives offer rides to the final destination. We opted to walk the two and a half miles, and it turned into a long hike over desolate terrain. Reddish clay dusted with green sand, with dry sedges lining pathways. A light drizzle kept us cool along the way, but we arrived drenched about an hour later. 

To access the beach itself you climb down a ladder and steep trail. It looked precarious, but I hadn't come this far to stand at the top and look down at a beach. It wasn't really all that difficult, after all.

We enjoyed the view for a long while. The sculpted cliffs are remnants of cinder cones, sculpted by the wind. Ocean waves tumble onto the beach. 

This is one of only two green sand beaches in the world. Depending on the light of the day, you will see different casts of green. I saw an olive colour, flecked with gold.

We rode back to our car, by standing in the back of a four wheel drive truck. A bumpy ride, where at points we were almost upended.

On the map, Panalu-u Beach was just around the corner. We arrived to a black lava shoreline with green succulents framing the sea. In the crowd I could pick out three or four people we'd seen on the Green Sands beach, making the same driving tour. Taking in the sights.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Kona Coffee

Here I am in Hawaii, eating mango, papaya, and macadamia nuts, and drinking coffee as part of a 100 mile diet.

Monday we toured Greenwell Farms. Kona's oldest coffee farm was established in 1850. 

Some of the trees producing coffee here are 117 years old. While these trees don't produce a lot of fruit, the flavour of the bean is deep and complex, and used to make Onouli coffee. We sampled Peaberry, Full City Roast, Espresso, Jenny K, and Autumn Harvest. A full range of tastes and bodies. Coffee heaven!

As we were driving around the countryside, we saw lots of coffee trees. In addition to growing beans, Greenwell buys from the many independent growers in Kona. 

Beans are harvested August to November, and must be picked by hand, because each bean ripens at a different rate. Then they are inspected for beetles and if there is too much damage, are discarded. On average, a tree will produce 2 - 3 pounds of coffee in a year - and that's before drying. It's a very labour intensive, time-consuming business, which is part of the reason why Kona coffee is so expensive. To order this coffee and have it shipped home would be more than $100 a pound, so when we left with 12 ounces of Jenny K we felt we were leaving with treasure.

Coffee cherries are the new superfood. These are the colourful red casings that have been discarded for years by the industry. Now they've been discovered as a powerful anti-oxidant. The latest superfood is touted to to boost the immune system, protect against free radicals and act as an anti-inflammatory. So within a few days of receiving the bean, Greenwell farms now preserves the fruit and uses it to create a wellness drink called Kona Red.

Coffee beans dry in the sun and are turned so effects are even. At peak harvest, because there are enough beans to fill them, drums are used. Tasters can't tell the difference but the romantic in me will imagine kona coffee sun-dried, always. Once thoroughly dried, beans are roasted.

There is so much difference between coffee beans, which is in part terroir, but also the roasting. Flavour is so much different for the same bean, when roasted to light, medium or dark. Even then, the temperature at which they are roasted and the length of time make a difference. A hotter temperature means the bean will pop that much faster, but sometimes to achieve the proper effect you want to take a bit longer to pull the full flavour from the bean.

Sipping the Jenny K now, and really appreciating the depth of the taste and incredible finish. I would pack my suitcase with it, but roasted beans last only 4-6 weeks. Greenwell sells their green beans in 100 pound bags, so maybe we could get enough people together to make a purchase...

Monday, January 23, 2017

South Kona

Our first day in South Kona we visited Pebble Beach, its black sand making the water and sky so much more blue, with frothy surf foaming as it broke on the beach. So calming to feel the pulse of the ocean and a gentle breeze.

Hawaiian Islands are younger than earth's continents and haven't been populated long, but have such fascinating stories.

Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park has preserved a great wall Hawaiians built from lava rock 400 years ago to protect their sacred space, with wooden totems honouring the gods; and fishponds to feed the king and kahunas.

In Kealakekua Bay State Historic Park we stood beside the remnants of a Hawaiian village and looked over to a monument honouring Captain Cook; in this place worlds collided with the arrival of Captain Cook in 1779.

The place we're staying has a sunset view of the ocean and a morning space for yoga and meditation.

During the day we can watch birds and butterflies, at night we are wakened by roosters crowing and coqui frog contests. Cute little geckos hang out on the lanai and in the shower. Not so cute is the scat the rodents leave. The first morning half a papaya was gone from the fruit bowl, so now everything gets stored in the fridge.

Papaya, passion fruit, mango and banana trees grow on the property. This morning we enjoyed fresh passion fruit grown outside our door for breakfast.

New Job New Year

The first day back to work in the new year, I started a secondment working on interministerial business.

My new colleagues are supportive and friendly, and I’m using skills I enjoy (writing, connecting, planning, organizing, and strategizing). The work location is great, and my office is comfortable and bright. I hung a photo mobile from the ceiling with pictures of sailing, and it moves softly overhead, so when I feel stressed I can take a moment to pause and imagine myself on the water.

Transitions are always demanding, but this one especially so. The first three weeks included a quarterly executive and regional meeting with travel to Kingston; a regional election to coordinate; and a major conference to organize. All the while doing the administrative work of setting up generic mailboxes, transferring communications devices, getting trained in new software, etc. etc. etc.

I'd previously booked my three week vacation to Hawaii, so I was working doubly hard to finish up work and also make sure everything was in order for the trip. The day before the plane would leave to Hawaii, we'd be holding the big conference.

The theme was public sector renewal and leadership engagement. In addition to the in-person attendees, we worked with a team to webcast the event to another 90 locations and record it for digital archives. Since returning to the public service I’ve attended many inspiring events in the Ontario room, an impressive space reserved for larger groups of two hundred, and that's where our event would be held. On the way out we did a quick poll to take the pulse of attendees, and the responses confirmed people were leaving feeling inspired.  

The night before, it was a great feeling to look around the room and realize I'd played a major role in getting things ready. When the event was over, I definitely felt lighter walking out the door.

After the first whirlwind 3 weeks, I’m now off on a whirlwind three week vacation to that I booked months before.


Friday, January 13, 2017

Full Wolf Moon - Jan 2017

The moon woke me up this morning at 5 a.m., it was blazing bright through the skylight. I watched it for at least 20 minutes through the bare branches of the trees. Clouds came and went and the light muted or popped, dancing against the tree silhouettes.

My mind has been racing lately, what with starting a new job and getting up to speed and entering at a very busy time, with long days and longer to do lists. When I was first awakened I closed my eyes tighter and tried to get back to sleep, but then thought, why not take advantage of this stillness and just drink in the moment. Following the advice of the poet Roethke, I wake to sleep, but take my waking slow...

The moon is officially full this morning at 6:43 am.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Friday night

Yesterday I left work and dropped by both the ROM and AGO before heading over to the Rex for a set, and then enjoyed a cocktail at Note Bene.

What a great way to end the first work week of the year.

I was determined take in some more colour therapy before Chihuly left town, so after work bussed down the street to the museum. This was my fourth visit to the Persian Ceiling, where I took advantage of the beanbags on the floor to lie down and look up for a full twenty minutes, trying to absorb the brilliant hues.

Persian Ceiling

I had a half hour to kill before meeting up with friends at the Rex, so decided to drop into the AGO for a quick peek at the Mystical Landscapes. My 6th time to this exhibit. Each time, I I gaze at the Van Gogh's and Carr's and Jansonn's and find that something new catches my eye, and I wonder how I could possibly have missed it before.

Then on to the Rex Hotel. When I walked in to the crowded room there were no seats anywhere, but there were some friendly faces from BPYC at a table right next to the door. Ross and Cheryl pointed me to Rob standing by the bar. Our timing was perfect as the set was just ending, so we ended up snagging the entire table, right at the front. Our party of 6 was able to join Ross and Cheryl for the best seats in the house!

The band was the Jive Bombers: 6 horns up front with bass, drums and piano behind, accompanied by a female singer with a big, growly voice. Great tunes.

Liz, Darcy, Barb, Colin, Rob and I then went next door to Note Bene. Aviator gin made a nice martini, with hints of lavender and cardamon. Perfect way to end the night.

I love Toronto!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Happy New Year!

Foodie fest on New Year's Eve! This time, with a seafood theme.

Maureen, Dick, Rob and I went to Caroline's and Jim's. Their extensive reno complete, with the house built around a dream kitchen.

Maureen offered crab cakes with a sweet remoulade and I poached pears with saffron syrup, but otherwise it was Caroline's culinary skills that orchestrated the feast.
  • Crab Cakes with Sweet Remoulade 
  • Beausoleils Oyster from Miramichi Bay, New Brunswick, drizzled with Old Pultney whisky 
  • Appetizer of Scallop Mousseline with Lemon Caper Sauce
  • Salad of beets, blood orange, fennel and pea shoots
  • Main of Lobster with Warm Aioli Sauce, paired with champagne
  • Poached Pears with saffron syrup and Palmier cookies

Each course beautifully arranged, and a variety of textures and tastes. We enjoyed more than four hours at the table, one course flowing into the next.

The crab cakes, crunchy on the outside and smooth inside. 

Beausoleils, small oysters packed with flavour, with the Old Pultney single malt drizzled on the oyster to intensify the taste and mouthfeel. 

Scallop mousseline melted in our mouths and revealed layers of flavour. Not something you want to eat too quickly, but savour with each spoonful.

The main course was definitely the main event. Everyone helped remove the lobsters from their temporary cardboard homes and then Jimmy cooked them outside in a large boiling pot that billowed steam into the darkness. The elegant table was covered in newspaper so we could dig in at our individual places settings. It was unbelievably satisfying to crack the shells away to get at the tasty bits inside. Our savage behaviour and occasional grunts a contrast to the crystal so delicately sparkling with champagne bubbles. 

The pears poached for more than 2 hours with saffron, vanilla bean and cardamon while the courses progressed. The warm soft texture contrasted with the cool yoghurt and crunchy palmiers. Pomegranate seeds brought colour to the plate.

Before we knew it, midnight was chiming. We chose the song Hallelujah to sing in the new year. So much fun we had to do it more than once, so started with Leonard and finished with kay D. 

This was our 18th get together! More to come...

March 2016, Spanish Tapas
December 31, 2015, Chinese for New Years

April 2015
, Foodie Fete

March 2014, Foodie Feast High in the Sky
February 2014, Viva Vino Italiano
Dec 31 2013, Tis the Season

June 2013Salad Days, Summer Solstice
April 2013 Oo la la
February 2013, Indian Feast
November 2013, Comfort Food

February 2012, Soiree Quebecoise
New Year's 2012, Bonne Anne Soiree
November 2011, Italian

March 2011, Irish in the Sky
Jan 2011, Maple Leaf Forever
November 2010, Spanish cheeses