Sunday, November 22, 2020

A Pandemic Holiday in 2020


Thanksgiving is nearly upon us. I'm reflecting, this year, on what makes holidays so important. It's being with our loved ones, it's everyone taking "time out" and "time off" to be present and re-focus on what's most important. I'm guessing that very few of us who share our lives and families and activities and children and grandchildren on FB would not say that "family" is the most important thing in our lives.

So this year will be special, but in different ways. Many of us will not be gathering in the large family groups that are traditional for us. "Come one, come all" is not the hail this year. And that's OK. We will celebrate our traditions in new ways. T will be staying at home in Portland, cooking his 1st turkey for he & Mom C, and is calling to ask for directions and advice. 2nd T is spending the holidays with M in NB, and is calling asking for recipes for favorite side dishes that he can contribute. What a wonderful continuation and extension of family traditions!
And G-Bob, T-Bob and C-Bob are all snuggled in with their respective families. Nobody all alone is the key for me.
Mr. C & I are actually spending our first holiday season in Hawaii. We've spent quite a lot of time discussing how we want to frame this -- traditional? Hawaiian? Pineapple on the turkey, or Kahlua pork instead? If we are going smaller, for just the two of us, does that mean we cut down on the # of side dishes? So which are "must-haves" and which are "can-do-withouts"? It's led to some interesting conversations and reviewing what exactly makes the holidays the holidays for the two of us.
Of course, for those who know me best, you'll know that it's hard for me not to have 20+ people at my table. Uncle P& Aunt D, I feel a bit like I've deserted you back in St. George. (At least I know what a great cook D is, so you won't suffer too badly, Uncle P!) I've even toyed with the idea of doing a TG dinner for the staff here at Beach Villas -- but then we can't gather in groups more than 5 (inside or outside) right now anyhow, according to the Mayor's edicts, so that's a no-go.
So we re-focus this year on the prime thing. Staying safe and well. Making sure that all of us will be present at NEXT YEAR'S holidays is the only priority for THIS YEAR'S holidays, in my book.
Yes, it will look and feel differently, that Pandemic Holiday season of 2020. But we'll still be here to talk about how it looked and felt different. I, for one, do not want to face an empty chair at next year's TG table if we can avoid it by taking precautions to protect each other. It's 20+ or bust for next holiday season at my table -- and I'm looking forward to that.
And you're all invited.

Friday, May 3, 2019

To Pet or Not to Pet

We've got some exciting news at our house.   There's a new baby on the way.   Nothin' cuter than a Boxer puppy -- not in my book, anyhow.

I get asked this question a lot (a lot!) -- "How can you have a pet when you travel so much?"   The answer is simple:  We've been blessed to have lots of dog-share partners.  Folks who love the novelty of having a dog in the house for a short period of time (when we're absent) but don't really want (or can't really have) a full-time pet.  It's surprising how many of these people we've come across, and have come to appreciate.  It's a win-win-win.

Many of you knew Jazz, my previous Boxer.  Jazz was the very best doggie -- perhaps anywhere on the planet -- ......but she left us to go to doggie heaven at Thanksgiving time a couple of years ago.   

I kept thinking I would get past it.   But.   I have not.  I miss her as much now as that momentous day she left me.  Maybe more.   

To the point that I've kept her blanket, which still has the feel & smell of her, and when we come back home from being gone Mr. C will catch me crying into it 'cause she's not there to greet us.   I know, I know, grown woman and all that.   But if you knew Jazz, you know why.  And if you didn't know Jazz, then.....I'll never be able to explain it to you.

Jazzy was the kind of dog you could just talk to, and she understood what you were saying.   Sometimes she even talked back -- and I always understood her, too.

Boxers are highly responsive and affectionate, and so she always wanted to be where I was.  She shared my morning cuppa' time, whether inside or outside.  

She shared my pool time -- it's unusual for a Boxer to take to swimming like she did, but because I loved the water she did too!  

If I sat to read a book or watch some television or a movie, she was at my feet.  Always.  Many times I sat with her on the floor so that she could be closer to me (I mean, it's only fair since she wasn't allowed on the furniture!).

Well, at least she wasn't allowed on the furniture at MY house!   
Mary Chapman, though, was another cup of tea.

And sometimes she had a buddy to play with, that's always a good thing!   Here she's with Mary's dog Fabius.  And yes, once again, on the furniture.  
(She really liked staying at Mary's place!)

And she adored son Trevor -- nobody gave her a roughed up ear rub like he did!   

She saw me through the very worst time in my life.  I moved her crate into my room so that I could hear someone breathing when first sleeping alone after 33 years.  She made sure my life and my house (and my heart) were not completely empty during that time.

She was good for me in so many ways.  Companionship, exercise, stimulation, activity, loyalty, so much love and affection.   And I still miss her terribly.  (Excuse me for a moment, I have to go find a tissue.....For real).

You were the best of the best, Jazzy, and I was so lucky to have you 
and the many who shared you with us!   

So now that our lives have settle down a bit, and I've realized that I can't get over losing her, we've decided it's time to remedy the void she's left.  While no one can replace her, I just can't seem to get past now having a dog in the house.

So it's time to add a new puppy to our family.   Now that we are settled in our new home, which as an acre + for her to claim as her own, with bunnies AND jackrabbits (they're 2 different critters) and birds AND ducks in the pool and roadrunners AND quail and frogs to chase.......Now that we are nearly fully retired, now that we are both at home full-time (except when traveling!).....It's just time.

Mr. C is as excited as I am.   Yes, a new puppy is a lot of work.  Yes, they take a lot of time to train properly.  Yes, I couldn't be more excited about all of it.

Our local "Puppy Store" has a couple dozen puppies of all breeds -- none of which knocked on the door of my heart.  Exactly one Boxer -- already a rescue dog at 20-some weeks, sequestered in the back room because he's "getting over something".  For $1,500.00!!   Holy smokes, you've gotta' be kiddin' me!!  

So Mr. C went on the hunt for a litter from a private breeder.   The registered dogs are still super expensive.  But I don't want to show her or breed her, so I don't really care if she's papered or not -- I just want the traits of the breed.

And this is what he found.  
A litter of 6 adorable puppies with a family who owns both Mama & Papa Boxer.  At a fraction of the price of the Puppy Store.

And, while we have our eye on our favorite, 
I believe she also has her eye on us........
She's only 4 weeks old, too young to leave Mama, so

Story to be continued.........

Sunday, August 26, 2018

After the Hurricane

I'm not really the patient type.  Even if it's problematic -- especially  if it's problematic, I'd just as soon wade in and get it over with.

Sitting for the last 3 days, fully prepared for the last 2 days, just waiting for an impending storm.  Well, it's been driving me crazy.

Hurricane Lane sat and stared us right in the eye -- just stalled right off the island of Oahu -- contemplating whether to come whallop us or not.

He chose not.

So after all this effort and preparation and waiting and trying not to worry the all the people who care about us (it's humbling how many were worried for us!) -- after all of that, we got nada.  Zippo.  No action.  No big winds, no big rains.   On our side of the island, we didn't even get blasted with the rain they pretty much promised us!  All those folks who DIDN'T cancel their Hawaii vaca's are lookin' pretty smart right now.

So once again, the island is spared.  We are grateful, don't get me wrong.  But it's hard to see the amount of effort and lost revenue for our island families who depend so heavily on tourist dollars.  

So this morning's beach walk was interesting.   All the Ko Olina properties are in full re-set mode.

I found a this cute little "Aloha" message at the beach, formed from little yellow pods that were blown down in the winds.

4 Seasons are fully back in business 
(these decks were completely cleared for the Hurricane).

Disney's Ahulani staff is busy re-digging their umbrella spots.  Big job!   
This beach was completely cleared for the Hurricane.

As was Marriott's beach.  They are all set to reset.

Theirs is the only lagoon that I see mucked up like this.  And I do not profess to know if it's Hurricane related or not.  I just know I've never seen it like this before.

Question of the day:   
How many Hawaiian hunks does it take to re-launch the Disney Outrigger Canoe??

This group is celebrating their annual "Reunion Abroad".  What a cool idea!!!  

They are, evidently, "Batch of '81".

But by far the best sight of the morning were a pair of Hawaiian Monk Seals that came in to rest.   This is an endangered species in Hawaii, there's only about a thousand of them left -- and they are endemic (Gbabes, that's one you can look up!) which means they are native to Hawaii and not found anywhere else in the world.  And this is why I always marvel when my path crosses theirs!  Pohaku is someone we've watched come & go from our beaches since first living here in 2010.   Some of you have seen her when visiting, I know the Grandbabes remember her from year-to-year.   She's just come from Kauai, they tell me -- she goes "home" each year to give birth.  The hopeful fella with her on the beach is Rip -- he's thinking she might be ready to get pregnant again, soon, and he's willing to volunteer for the job.     And so the cycle of life continues.   

Our Port is open for business, so hopefully those empty shelves will be restocked soon.   I see the freighters back in our Ko Olina harbor, and the dolphin & snorkel expedition boats are running in & out right on schedule, too.

Our beautiful Beach Villas have been re-set, also.
   Somewhere down there is a lounge chair that's callin' my name.   
At least until the next Hurricane / Tropical Storm / Tsunami!

Friday, August 24, 2018

In the Path of Hurricane Lane

We've been in Hawaii for several "Events of Nature", including a couple of tropical storm warnings and a couple of Tsunami warnings.

This would be our first hurricane, though.

On an island, these storms take on new meaning.  We not only must survive the storm itself, but we must survive the limited supplies during and for weeks after.

We are such a small target, this cluster of tiny islands in the middle of the Pacific.  It's sort of miraculous that there could even be a confrontation, yes?   How do we happen to cross paths with these major storms?  What did we do to garner this kind of attention?  They've got the entire Pacific to use and abuse as their playground, why pick on lil' ole' us?!?   What a tiny target we are in the larger scheme of things.

Nonetheless, we are slotted for this Category 5 Hurricane.

Here's what we've learned so far:

A Hurricane Watch is different than a Hurricane Warning.  Both of which are different than a Tropical Storm Watch or Warning.

A Hurricane Watch means that hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area; And a Hurricane Warning means that hurricane conditions are expected somewhere in the warning area, and preparations to protect life and property should be "rushed to completion".

I suppose that's an important distinction, but ..... not to me, sitting on the island, waiting for the worst of the storm.

We're on the island of Oahu, so we have the advantage, if you can call it that, of the fact that Hurricane Lane will first hit the the Big Island and then Maui; and that will give us an idea of the velocity of the winds and the amount of rainfall expected.

20 - 30 inches of rain is predicted.   That's a downspout.  Flooding on the Big Island -- pictures just coming through on the 10 o'clock news tonight -- is major.  

There is a lot of talk about stocking up. 14 days worth of food & water for each member of the household.  That's daunting.

Shelves are empty here.  Even the evening news states that big stores like Costco are officially out of the following:  Bottled water, toilet paper, batteries, and generators.  I've never heard Costco's inventory announced on the evening news!   Coffee.  They didn't say anything about coffee.  I'm going to need extra coffee to get through this.

The deal here, on an island, is that we will be out of these basic necessities for some time to come. 

There are looooong lines at the gas pumps -- for the same reason.  I heard a visitor remark that they thought it was so odd.   After all, it's not like you're going to jump on the freeway and drive to the next state to escape the storm.  But if you know the understand that a full tank of gas means you'll be able to get to work (or to the beach) after the storm passes, and you'd best get it full before the island runs out of gas.  Literally runs out.

The Honolulu Port closed two days ago.  An official notice was sent to all vessels that all who are over 200 tons are expelled to sea -- until further notice.  This tanker is pulling out from our smaller port @ Ko Olina.   Bye-bye big guy.

Then, the Port authorities will gradually stagger re-entries -- if the Port remains undamaged that is.   Otherwise it may be weeks while repair supplies are rounded up (remember, these supplies ALL come in -- you guessed it -- through this same Port!) and repairs are made.  

I learned that the other islands will suffer along with us, as ALL supplies for ALL the islands come first into and are off-loaded to Honolulu's Port; and then are re-distributed to the other islands on smaller vessels.

While all this makes perfect sense, and we have the basics in place, I'm a little worried about my Kona coffee supply.  Should have zipped out to the Coffee Farm (on the way to the North Shore) for an emergency supply.

Our island tourist attractions closed on Thursday at noon.  Pearl Harbor was one of the first to announce, along with  government offices and schools; and other attractions soon followed suit.  This is designed to keep both visitors and island employees safe.

Our Ko Olina Community is entirely shut down, also.  The resort hotels nearby have announced that they are servicing in-house guests only (no running down there for shelter or to snag a meal in their on-site restaurants!); Ours is a Resort Condominium, so we have no on-site restaurants, but our Beach Bar is closed.

 I learned from some Florida guests who've weathered Hurricanes back home that one of the safest places for the pool furniture -- can be at the bottom of the pool!   All the rest had to be stacked and roped in place;

All the equipment and furnishings in our beautiful open-air front desk had to be relocated.  It's been an amazing thing to watch the staff pull all this off!   Islanders have a tremendous respect for storms -- understanding that we are on our own out here in the big Pacific Ocean -- and nobody wins when they scoff at Mother Nature. 


We've pulled in all the lanai furniture, as has our entire complex and all of our neighboring hotels -- as anything that's not bolted down can become a projectile in high winds.  It feels a bit like a ghost town around here!

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Wandering in Athens

It’s May 1st, also known as Labour Day in Greece.   My Eyewitness Travel Book tells me that traditionally, families would go to the countryside & pick wild flowers, which were then made into wreaths with garlic to be hung on doors, balconies, fishing boats, and even car “bonnets” to ward off evil.  In major cities, like Athens, there may also be parades or rallies, usually led by the Communist Party.  

We are lucky like this – we’ve experienced some interesting such rallies / protests / demonstrations in other countries – so I’m privately kind of excited to see what happens today.

We see some evidence of Police presence as we round the corner onto the street bordering the Acropolis – where the Parliament Building sits, just down the road.

But first we are on the hunt this morning for coffee – the real stuff, the kind that will sustain us through jet lag and propel us well into our 1st day in Greece.

Trip Advisor tells us that there is an establishment within range of our fine hotel will serve both as a coffee station and also supply us with breakfast – except, alas, they are closed today for Athen’s version of “Laboror’s Day”.   So we happen upon “The Coffee Dive” instead, and it is very fine indeed.  

Greeks love their coffee as much as any nation we’ve visited, so we are right at home right from the start.  I'm especially attracted to the open-air counters here that allow for excellent people-watching.

This roasting machine and grinders are testament that the grounds are fresh-fresh, and oh!  The coffee itself is divine.  Not to mention the heavenly aroma they are serving up along with the cuppa'.

I feel that I must order “Greek coffee” (while in Rome, you know), even though I’m not certain what that means, exactly.  Turns out it’s very finely ground beans, almost a powder, which is then boiled with water in a copper pot – and served without filtering.  

This explains the inquiry, when ordering coffee for the rest our month’s stay “Filtered or no?”.  It’s thick and delicious and very sustaining.  I’m happy!

Now we must still find breakfast, however; we go back to the sidewalk café’s bordering the Acropolis and the Acropolis museum, and settle on the “Regal Café” – as it serves some American style eggs & such.  (I’ve found that I do better with jet lag if I can stick to my morning routine for the first few days, at least until my body adjusts to eating meals at hours of the day it’s meant to be sleeping.)

Mr. C’s Regal "Hotel" Breakfast comes with the usual bacon & eggs, albeit on the toast instead of beside it; but Frankfurters instead of sausages, and adds some local cheese and fresh tomatoes. 

My "Breakfast at Tiffany's” is a real treat – a base of brioche bread with a drizzle of syrup, then a layer of cheese, thin-sliced smoked turkey, and a poached egg on top.  It’s a cross between an eggs Benedict and French toast, to my taste buds at least.  I like it well enough that it is on the list for another Athens day breakfast.  My “side” of bacon is added to the layers – and serves as a delicious error in translation.  

They offer a wide variety of freshly made crepes, also -- but that will have to wait for another day.  I am curious about adding mayo or potato chips to my Frankfurt sausage crepe!

Here's a travel tip:  Always ask them to leave the menu with you after you order.  It's an educational tool (and sometimes a source of great entertainment) to browse this while you wait for your food to arrive.  If your wait person speaks English well, it also gives you a chance to ask questions about the menu or the food customs -- either for a repeat visit to this particular establishment, or another somewhere down the road.

Another cuppa’ (this time filtered) and fresh squeezed orange juice, along with the admonishment to "Have a Coke!" and some people watching gets us into gear for the day.  

We are so pleased to be on-our-own, as we watch groups schlepping by with their bags and tour guides.  I am happy not to have someone rushing my coffee and people-watching time!

It is our custom to wander on the first day in any city.  We have the luxury of a day to spend “adjusting”, and while we may cover a lot of ground (it’s a 10 mile trek by day’s end!), it’s at our own pace and it’s about what catches our fancy instead of a hard agenda.

And so we wander.  We are on foot as we explore the little streets and alleyways close to our hotel; 

We see that natural sponges and spices are in ready supply at the little shops we pass, as are packaged olives.

Their “Mini Mart” is not so similar to ours. 

I notice that this sign is in English – meaning it’s meant as a message to the tourists who visit, it's not directed to the locals.  Shame on us.

Here, people sit, as they do in most of Europe; people-watching, lingering in the shade, lingering over a coffee.  

They are less in a hurry than we are used to.  I like it.

They linger over newspapers and magazines, too, rather than computer screens and IPhones.  I like that, too.

We pass some little churches -- but alas, the Greek Orthodox religion (mostly) prohibits visitors or photos, so we must be content with the outside view.


Maybe another day.

Looks like it's lamb for lunch here.  Or more lamb.  I had to look up  "Giouvetsi" of veal -- it would seem to be a Greek dish of meat (veal, chicken, shrimp -- or goat!) with orzo and tomato sauce -- and Feta cheese, of course!  I will tell you that I didn't see this on any subsequent menus -- and we ate exclusively Greek the entire time -- so I'm not sure if that means it's a tourist-type dish?

We're not sure what to make of this -- we assess that it's a district that's trying to raise funds for restoration of these old buildings.  Evidently there is some opposition, stating that Tom's "Irish", not "European".  


But his donation box still stands, if you want to contribute.  And we got a kick out of the "Land of Opportunity".


Mr. Google, when consulted, let’s us know that we are close to the famous “Plaka” or shopping district, and we decide that suites our mood. 

This turns out to be an interesting mix of old-world artisan’s shops and the usual tourist-y crap.  We find hand-painted vases and hand carved chess sets, as well as leather goods (both of fine and unimpressive quality).   There are clothing shops, and lots of trinkets.  

I must admit these bottle openers were something new for me; and later we see more of the same, only more fancy.

Whether in humor or otherwise?  I’m still not sure…..

We pause to admire some high-quality rugs & carpets at a store called "The Loom"; and are instantly engaged in conversation with the shop owner, whom, upon learning of our extensive itinerary, invites us in so that he can write down the name & address of his Aunt who is the proprietor of a small Bed & Breakfast Inn close to the Castle town of Monemvasia ,where we will be in a couple of weeks.

 Theo is of the most engaging personality, and offers us a bit of wine while he “chats us up” --- and starts to showcase his wares.  We are genuinely interested, as we’ve recently purchased a substantially sized new home, and still have need of rugs in several different locations.

Here's a travel tip:  Steve is looking up "The Loom" on his Trip Advisor ap, even while we're in the store.  The reviews are fantastic, and this adds to our trust level.  Do the same thing for a restaurant that you are strolling by, or an attraction that you "happen upon".  It can help you decide "on-the-spot" whether it's something that you want to participate in, or no.

At the end of the hour we have a new friend, and a new rug for our living room – at a very reasonable price, and with free shipping home.  It’s already been a great trip to Athens!

A quick toast of ouzo (the Greek version of Italy’s Grappa) sets us on our way.  

Next we stroll the square, which offers a farmer’s market of sorts;

The grapes are enormous!

Then into the famous flea market, which houses everything from junk to fine jewelry.  The entire Monastiraki District is full of bazaar and market stalls, one can spend as much or as little time as you wish.  We’re not big shoppers, it’s just not why we travel, so we stroll through rather quickly.

Got your local "bongs", in addition to the standard stuff.

And yes. 
 We are seeing these displays everywhere we go.  
And I still don't know exactly why......

Athens reminds me a bit of Rome, in that you can hardly walk a few blocks without tripping over something absolutely fascinatingly ancient. 

This happens to be Ancient Agora, on our list of “must-see’s” for Athens, so we are pleased to discover it along today’s path. 

Agora formed the heart of the city at one point in it’s history (around 600 BC).  The council and law courts were housed here, as well as the city mint; social and religious events took place here as well.

Some of the buildings have undergone restoration, like this, the Library of Hadrian.   Alas, the Agora Museum, where we would have learned much more of it’s history and enjoyed the statues and other artifacts that remain, is closed today for “Protomagia”, or May Day.

Now it’s time to make our way back to our hotel in anticipation of our first Greek dinner.  We’ve decided to attend the restaurant of our new acquaintance from last evening (see "Arriving in Athens" post) who promised to show us our way around a Greek menu – which is an invitation I never turn down.

Liondie did not disappoint, nor did the proprietor of the establishment.  Plates to share are common here, and so we ordered a “Mix Greek plate for 2 people”.   It was, honestly, some of the best Greek food we had the entire month we were in Greece – eating exclusively Greek food, as is our custom.

After appetizers of Zukkini balls (their spelling) and pita bread with traditional tzatziki as well as a spicy humus; 

Then the main dish of traditional Mousakka, stuffed peppers, and roasted lamb with potatoes arrived.  All perfectly delicious -- comfort food, if you will.   We are ravenous, (you'll remember that we had breakfast, but you heard no mention of lunch.....) and so we devour it all. 

Too stuffed for desert, we try to defer.  But that’s not how it works here in Greece.

We are served a small coconut cake called “Ravini”, and a small clear desert liquid -- Ouzo again, as a “gift” for coming here for dinner.  We find this to be the custom throughout mainland Greece, with few exceptions, throughout our trip.  Desert and a desert drink are "on the house".  It would be rude to refuse.

So we toast the evening and our host, and we make our short way “home” to the Hotel Ava, just around the corner.

It’s been a most excellent 1st Day in Greece.