Monday, September 06, 2010

End-of-summer weekends

I made it through the first week of school! I was exhausted by Friday, but it was a good week. I even rode my bike each day, as the ride to school is much shorter than to the Exploratorium. My goal is to bike while it is light in the evening, and until it starts raining. I don't think I can do it in the dark or the rain.

As the end of summer approached, each weekend became even more precious...they went by so quickly! In August Dan took me to Chez Panisse for a belated birthday dinner. It was my first time eating downstairs. How to describe the experience...I thought it would be difficult to live up to my expectations, but I need not have worried...it was amazing! The food was delicious, and everyone was so nice. They even let us walk through the kitchen at the end, which was gorgeous, of course. I was so happy. Then we went to hear Noe Venable perform at the Hillside Club. A perfect evening!

Outside Chez Panisse
Post dinner, very contented

The following weekend Dan was a groomsman in Derek and Kimberlee's wedding. The ceremony was at Nestldown, a beautiful retreat in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There is whimsy all over the grounds, including a miniature play cottage, fully furnished!

Carol & Dan at the cottage door
Miniature play cottage

The place is like a dreamland for children....animal-themed sculptures and topiaries dot the grounds...real bunnies too...and a butterfly bench.

Butterfly
Butterfly bench

During the break between the morning ceremony and the wedding banquet in the evening, we visited baby Chase, who is chubby and adorable. I was too busy holding him to take any photos. I did make him a reversible bib.

Reversible bib for Chase
Monkeys & pooches

I made a bib for my coworker's daughter too, who arrived yesterday! Looking forward to meeting baby Tabitha soon.

Reversible bib for Tabitha
Tadpoles & flowers

And then! This weekend we celebrated Debbie & Rafe's wedding at the Ralston White Retreat, an old mansion in the redwood forest near Mount Tamalpais. It was a lovely spot, and the ceremony was beautiful. Such a perfect day!

Debbie & Rafe
McBerg

I was having so much fun that I forgot all about my camera...I didn't even think to take pictures of the cupcakes I made for the reception! Diana and I did get a shot together at the end of the night...our table was right next to the piano and library.

Carol & Diana
Two teachers in the library

I also made an apron for Debbie as part of the wedding gift. (I didn't think to photograph the accompanying dishsoap apron and cloth napkins.)

Apron for Debbie
Kitchen floral

Ahh, late summer weekends....already am looking forward to the next one!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Island life

I am back in the foggy city after a week on the big island of Hawaii...and I wish I were still there! Dan and I had so much fun exploring the island, the time flew by far too quickly. The first thing we did after landing (and picking up the rental car) was go for a swim at Hapuna Beach...I was so happy to be on the island!

Hapuna Beach
First swim

From there, we drove through Waimea, where we ate lunch and stopped at a farmers market for fresh bread (still warm!), ripe tomatoes, tiny green beans, and beautiful baby lettuces. And purple peppers and broccoli. We also picked up honey and avocados from a stand near these cuties.

Sheepies in Waimea
Sheepies in Waimea

Then we made our way to Honoka'a, where I ate my first hot malasada, a Portuguese doughnut, at Tex Drive-In. Dan had pineapple filling, and I had Bavarian cream. Then we shared a plain one. Yummy. They make a lot of malasadas at Tex Drive-In. We would be back for more the next day.

Malasada making
Cutting and frying

We enjoyed the dusk color in the sky over the ocean from our cottage, and I made dinner with the goodies we picked up earlier. A great first day!

Dusk at Luana Ola
Dusk color

After breakfast that included fresh pineapple from the garden, we headed to Waip'o Valley the next morning. The view from the overlook was gorgeous.

Waip'o Valley & black sand beach
Morning view

The 25% grade road down to Waip'o Valley is steep. Our rental car was not a 4WD, so we hiked down the almost 1-mile, 900-ft descent. Yikes! But it was worth it...the valley is so green and lush, like a tropical wonderland.

Walking down to Waip'o Valley
Lush greenery

Our plan was to hike into the valley and go swimming near Hi'ilawe Falls. We saw and heard so many birds along the way...also butterflies. After crossing a stream, we were unsure about the trail. So we headed to the beach instead. And spotted a couple of mongooses.

Beach at Waip'o Valley
Dark sand beach

We hiked over the beach rocks to find Kaluahine & Waiulili Falls. Dan was very fast hopping over the rocks. I was slower and spotted some stripey lava rocks and many lil' crab exoskeletons. Eventually we saw a trickle that may have been Waiulili Falls. Luckily, the ocean view made up for the lack of waterfall.

Carol on a giant rock
Standing on a big rock

From there we hiked back over the rocks and ate lunch by the stream...and then we had to hike up the hill! The sun was out, and there were many more visitors by the time we made it back up to the overlook.

Back at the overlook
Afternoon view

After all that hiking, we took a drive along Old Mamalahoa Highway, donned our headlamps, and checked out a lava tube cave formed from Mauna Kea lava flow. The cave entrance was covered in ferns. We did not venture very far into the cave, there were so many different paths, and I was afraid we might get lost. Also, it was spooky! But we did see stalactites and sap-covered tree roots on the cave ceiling, and a few strange white silky egg cases (maybe?). Mysterious...

Dan the spelunker
Dan the spelunker

After all that exploring, it was time for malasadas! This time I had chocolate cream, and Dan had guava. Yummy.

Carol eating a hot malasada!
Malasada!

After our snack, we checked out the tropical garden by the parking lot. Dan likes these firecracker flowers, or at least that is what he calls them.

Dan with firecrackers
Dan with firecrackers

My friend Jeff likes to point out hibiscus flowers, so we thought of him each time we spotted them...we saw them in so many colors on the island!

Carol with yellow hibiscus
Yellow hibiscus

The next morning we left Honoka'a and headed south. We took a scenic detour along Old Mamalahoa Highway, crossed over an old bridge and stopped at a pretty park.

Stream at Waikaumalo Park
Stream at Waikaumalo Park

The scenic detour was indeed very lovely. So many palms and ferns, tropical plants and flowers, and little streams off the side of the road. We also stopped at an old Japanese cemetery, surrounded by greenery. It felt very peaceful there.

Steps to Honohina
Honohina Cemetery

Then I had my first shave ice! Yummy. We also stopped at Onomea Bay and hiked the short trail to shore. There is so much to see on the island!

Onomea Bay
Onomea Bay

Then it was time for a blackberry malasada at Baker Tom's. I think I like Tex's malasadas better, but this one was good too.

Dan eating blackberry malasada
Dan eating blackberry malasada

Nourished with shave ice and malasadas, we embarked on a tour of waterfalls. First up was Akaka Falls State Park, where we hiked the loop trail and saw tiny Kahuna Falls. The tropical forest was so green! At the end of the trail was Akaka Falls, whose long drop was a bit more impressive.

Akaka Falls
Akaka Falls

In Hilo, we stopped at Rainbow Falls. It had been raining on and off throughout the morning, but it was too overcast to see any rainbows...especially since there was barely a waterfall! It was funny to see all the people getting off the tour buses to see this tiny waterfall.

Rainbow Falls
Rainbow Falls

We continued up the road to Boiling Pots and Pe'epe'e Falls; these pools feed the waterfall downstream. It reminded Dan of Semuc Champey in Guatemala, on a much smaller scale...but we couldn't swim here.

Boiling Pots
Boiling pots

So we continued on, over a bridge, upstream to Wai'ale Falls. We hiked up to the falls and went swimming in some of the pools that feed the waterfall. Dan thought the water would be too cold, but I convinced him to jump in. It was very refreshing.

Wai'ale Falls
Wai'ale Falls

Carol swimming in the pools above Wai'ale Falls
Swimming

On the hike back, we saw more pools on the other side of the trail! We'll have to return someday to explore more.

More pools!
More pools!

After our waterfall tour, we had lunch in Hilo. We went to Cafe 100 where Dan had loco moco with Portuguese sausage. I had the Island Girl plate lunch...beef teriyaki, tempura shrimp, and the requisite two scoops of rice and one scoop of macaroni potato salad...so much food! (I shared with Dan.)

Dan eating loco moco
Dan with loco moco

After lunch I had my second shave ice of the day at Itsu's. This one had lychee and lilikoi (passionfruit) syrups, azuki beans, and condensed cream. Yummy. Dan had one too.

Second shave ice of the day
Second shave ice

We left Hilo and drove on to Crater Rim Cabin, just outside Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. How to describe this place...it's like a dream. The coziest most perfect cabin in a forest near a volcano. Barry welcomed us and gave us a tour; we also learned from him that the island was in the midst of a multi-year drought, hence the barely-there waterfalls. We decided to go into the park and check out the lava flow that evening. (When we returned, he had hung up our damp clothes and towels to dry. Such service!) After stopping at the visitor center, we got our first view of Kilauea Iki and Halema'uma'u craters. The volcanic landscape is quite a sight.

Kilauea Iki crater
Kilauea Iki

We also went into Thurston Lava Tube, which is HUGE! We walked through the lit part of the cave, then continued on through the unlit extension with our headlamps and flashlights. Lots of interesting rock formations, stalactites...also spotted more of those strange white silky egg cases (?) that we saw in the first cave. At the end we turned off our lights and were surrounded by complete darkness. Eerie!

Then it was onto Kalapana for possible lava flow viewing. We stopped first at a farmers market in Kea'au for cucumbers, lychees, and strawberry papayas. We also got "banana snacks," which are dried bananas that taste like banana candy. (There are so many varieties of bananas on the island! We mostly ate the small "apple banana" variety. Delicious.)

When we arrived at the end of the road, I was disappointed that we could not see the water, as I was hoping to see lava flow into the ocean! The pahoehoe lava covered the landscape, though there were still houses scattered about...very surreal.

For sale
For sale

So much lava
Pahoehoe lava as far as the eye can see

As darkness approached, some glowing lava appeared in the distance. The flow increased over time. So amazing that the sunlight obscures the glow, so it is only visible at night. We also saw trees catch fire from lava further away! And the red glow from lava falling into the ocean...though we could not see the actual lava flowing into the ocean.

Lava!
Lava!

After the excitement of seeing lava flow, we drove back to the cabin, where we were greeted by fresh flowers from the garden, books about the area and local bird and flower guides, a cozy fireplace, and a king bed warmed with an electric blanket. The kitchen was stocked with fresh fruit, bread, cereal, milk, eggs, coffee, honey, jam and more...and we fixed ourselves a hearty breakfast the next morning. We also packed a lunch and were off to the park again. We hiked part of Crater Rim Trail, passing by many steam vents and even saw a rainbow!

Rainbow!
Rainbow in Halema'uma'u crater

Then we made our way over to the Sulphur Banks, where there were colorful crystal formations, more steam vents, and a strong sulphur smell.

Sulphur & steam
Sulphur Banks

After checking out the galleries at Volcano Art Center, we drove down Chain of Craters Road and hiked the Pu'u Huluhulu trail...more pahoehoe lava...

Dan on Pu'u Huluhulu trail
Dan hiking the lava

We had lunch at the end of the trail, and saw what we think was Pu'u O'o crater steaming in the distance, the source of the lava flow from the previous night. Not sure though.

Pu'u 'O'o
Pu'u O'o, possibly

We continued down Chain of Craters Road to the ocean and checked out the Holei Sea Arch. Then we returned to the cabin to relax after all that exploring! We also tasted some interesting wines at Volcano Winery, like Hawaiian Guava and Macadamia Nut Honey. Not sure if I loved the taste, but the aromas were wonderful. At dusk we returned to the park to see Halema'uma'u crater glow at night, from Jaggar Museum. The red glow of magma beneath the surface appeared brighter as the sky darkened.

Halema'uma'u crater steaming at dusk
Halema'uma'u steaming at dusk

Red glow in darkness
Red glow of Halema'uma'u at night

As it got darker, we saw so many stars in the sky...and swirly white galaxies too. I think we saw the Milky Way, but maybe also Andromeda? Not sure though. The next morning we had breakfast and packed up, then reluctantly bid farewell to the cabin. But first we took a final stroll through the dahlia garden.

Dahlias at Crater Rim Cabin
Dahlia garden

Dan & Carol at Crater Rim Cabin
Posing with dahlias

Then we were off to the Kona coast! We stopped at Punalu'u black sand beach to see the sea turtles. There were so many! Most of them were swimming in the tidepools, munching on seaweed...others were basking on the beach.

Sea turtle at Punalu'u
Honu

Black sand beach
Black sand beach

I was so excited about the turtles that we somehow dropped the camera in the ocean. Oops. (The pahoehoe lava was slippery.) Who knew a few seconds in the water completely ruins a camera? Luckily it was an old camera, and later I was able to retrieve the photos on the memory card. Phew!

After lunch at the beach, we had a mango malasada (not so good) at Punalu'u Bake Shop, sampled Hawaiian sweet bread, strolled through the garden, and smelled the flowers at a farmers market...then tasted coffee and macadamia nuts somewhere along the way, I fell asleep in the car...and then we arrived at Ka'awa Loa in Captain Cook! Michael gave us a tour of the house and garden, then set us up on the lanai with mango juice, macadamia nuts, and freshly baked double chocolate brownies. I was so happy. After a soak in the hot tub and a refreshing shower in the outdoor lava showers, we went into town for a new camera and dinner at Rapanui Island Cafe. Yummy.

The next morning I wandered the garden, read on the lanai, and had a delicious breakfast made by Michael: banana pancakes and pineapple-bacon sausages (and soysages), pineapple, mango, papaya, and bananas from the garden, plus Kona coffee and fruity yogurt smoothie...mmm...what a great start to the day! We got some snorkel gear from the garage, rented a double-kayak, and drove down to Kealakekua Bay.

Kealakekua Bay
Kealakekua Bay

We kayaked across Kealakekua Bay to Ka'awa Loa Cove to snorkel and saw so many fish, urchins, and coral. But we did not see any spinner dolphins along the way, so I was very disappointed. (But we saw them later in the day at Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, yay!)

I snorkeled here
I snorkeled here

I swam most of the way back, which I enjoyed more than kayaking. Then we went to Kalama's for shave ice! I even shared with Dan. I think this one was lychee, lilikoi & guava with coconut cream. Yummy.

Dan eating shave ice
Dan eating shave ice

We ended up having lunch at Kalama's too. Dan and I shared the laulau plate lunch. Laulau is kalua pork wrapped in taro leaves...the pork was very salty...served on two huge scoops of rice with a scoop of macaroni potato salad, of course. It was a lot of food.

Carol and laulau lunch plate
Carol with laulaus

But I saved room for another shave ice...there's always room for shave ice! It can be a long wait for shave ice at Kalama's, but so worth it. Yummy.

Carol eating shave ice at Kalama's
Post-lunch shave ice

After lunch we went to Pu’uhonua o Honaunau, the Place of Refuge. There was a feeling of tranquility throughout the park, with the rustling palm trees and gentle ocean waves. We also saw some sea turtles swimming in the water. The volcanic rock walls are impressively long and wide...apparently the rocks were not cut, and no mortar was used to build them!

Pu’uhonua o Honaunau
Pu’uhonua o Honaunau

Dan and volcanic rock wall
Dan with volcanic rock wall

Lil' sea turtle swimming in Pu’uhonua o Honaunau
Little honu

After our walk, we went snorkeling near the Place of Refuge, and saw more fish, urchins, and corals. And then! After we got out of the water, we saw spinner dolphins just off shore! So many! I was very happy to see their dorsal fins as they jumped out of the water, since I had been so disappointed earlier in the day. Yay!

After a day of adventure, we went back to Ka'awa Loa and relaxed on the lanai. Then it was dinnertime at Manago Hotel. Dan and I loved the atmosphere at this restaurant. It was like an old-school cafeteria, with lots of families eating dinner together. The side dishes are served first from a cart: a huge bowl of rice, tofu with pork, delicious bean sprouts, and potato tuna noodle salad...and that's just the side dishes! Dan had the pork chops, and I had opelu, after the sides. Delicious.

Dan ready for dinner at Manago Hotel
Dan ready for dinner

The sunset after dinner was gorgeous! Even from the parking lot of Manago Hotel. Aaahh, Hawaii...

Sunset after dinner at Manago Hotel
Parking lot sunset

The next morning brought another delicious breakfast: quiche, bacon, sweet taro bread, lilikoi, dragonfruit, starfruit, mango, banana, lychees, pineapple, and jaboticaba, round berries that look like olives and grow on the bark of the tree!

Breakfast day 2
This is the life

View of Kealakekua Bay
The view is pretty good too

After breakfast we went snorkeling at Kahalu'u Beach Park, where we saw even more fish than the previous day's snorkeling. And another sea turtle munching on seaweed. Then it was time for more shave ice. We picked up a BBQ sandwich and Spam musubi, and had lunch at Kua Bay beach.

Spam musubi
Lunch time

After lunch we went swimming and boogie boarding. It was so much fun, lots of good waves. And it was Dan's first time boogie boarding! I think he enjoyed it. Then we were off to Kiholo Bay for some more exploring.

Kiholo Bay
Kiholo Bay

Lots of gravel-y sand and pahoehoe lava on the trail. I swam across to visit with three basking sea turtles. We also found a lava rock arch on the trail.

Dan in a lava rock arch
Dan under a lava rock arch

And the Bali House, very fancy. Apparently the owner is Paul Mitchell of haircare fame, and it was built piece by piece in Bali, taken apart and shipped, reassembled in Hawaii...then the wood shrank...or so it said in our guidebook.

Bali House
Bali House

After the day of exploring, we returned to Ka'awa Loa for a soak in the hot tub, and enjoyed a tasty dinner at Teshima's. And then it was our final morning! So soon! Our last breakfast was Polynesian toast (French toast made with sweet taro bread), Portuguese sausage, pineapple, mango, papaya, dragon fruit, bananas from the garden...so yummy. And then it was off to the airport!

Breakfast on the last morning
Last morning

Big Island
Farewell, big island

We had such a wonderful time exploring the island...I was very sad to leave. I can't wait to go back!