Hawaiʻi Island

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I flew to Kona this past weekend to meet my boyfriend’s parents for the first time. I was about six-years-old the last time I went there. My grams brought me one summer to visit her brother in Hilo and he took us around the island. I remember the drive to Kona was so green and lush, we didn’t see any buildings or manicured residential areas anywhere. Hawai’i Island residents used to be spread out, mom and pop stores were the norm and fresh Hawaiian food was the best you’ve ever tasted. Those were the days!

Back to this weekend…we went hunting for the best açaí bowls on the island. The bf’s niece suggested that we head over to Big Island Juice Co. in Hilo. We took the new Saddle Road and passed chilly Mauna Kea to get there. Upon arriving at our destination, we found it was next to a hookah shop and other local businesses. We walked into Big Island Juice Co. and they suggested their signature Dragonfruit Bowl, which they served in a real pineapple bowl, topped with granola, honey, kiwi, and pineapple. It was glorious and oh so melty. The dragonfruit was a bit tart, but the honey and toppings made it the perfect light meal. It was a humid day in Hilo and we needed the refreshment.

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Look at how big it was! Served on top of their branded cutting board. It was actually so melty that my hands were stained pink the rest of the day.

While in Hilo, we also hit up one of my favorite places…Two Ladies Kitchen! I died. They had so many varieties of mochi. I’m usually very picky about mochi, my preference is either traditional plain mochi or with azuki beans. Two Ladies is so good…they stuff full strawberries, grapes, poha berries, and other seasonal fruits into their mochi and it’s even more delicious. I tried to be good and eat only one of each. My bestie in Honolulu requested some so I planned to eat the rest with her…only to realize I left it back in Kona on our way back. #epicfailure

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Here’s a better picture of the mochi that we bought but left back in Kona. I get sad every time I think of it. The box on the left is the strawberry mochi. The plastic container on the right had a variety of manju, blueberry mochi, ube manju, shiso mochi, chi chi dango, and peanut butter mochi.

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Who goes to Kona and doesn’t order Kona coffee? We drank AND ate it later that day. Kona coffee ice cream was so refreshing in the Kona heat. I can’t forget how yummy it was.

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One of the other things on my list was to visit the farmer’s market in Kona. We picked up a fresh Maui gold pineapple, which is super sweet and less acidic than most, a fan for the humidity and lack of decent air conditioning in our car, and I needed a hat (from Cookies Clothing) to hide the messy hair from the long drive.

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I’d like to go back soon and hike down Waipiʻo Valley. We drove through Waimea and Honokaʻa to get there, only to see that you have to hike to get down to the black sand beach below. Shucks. I should have done more research. Oh well, next time!

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The “Non-Vegas” Person’s Guide to Las Vegas

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I hate how so many people love Vegas. It’s a superficial oasis. Nothing natural about it. Going to there was never on my list until earlier this year…my two cousins, Maria & Belle, suggested that we all see Mariah Carey’s concert at Caesar’s Palace in August. I’ve only been there as a kid and I didn’t think much of it.

Oh whale. Why knot. It’s another opportunity to hang out with them and that was worth the alcohol I’d have to consume to feel part of the group.

I booked my ticket and the boyfriend and his roomie joined us. Fast forward to two weekends ago, I was nervous about going and being a party pooper. I secretly strategized my getaway plan for when we go to a bar and shots magically show up in front of me, eyes staring me down to tank my drink and down the shot. Ugh. I’m too old for this, I told myself.

We arrived at the Bellagio and the first thing I smelled was smoke. Cigarette smoke. Ugh. Disgusting. I couldn’t handle how strong it was (I’m probably spoiled by Hawaii’s no-smoking within 50 feet of a building law). I’m so sensitive to smell, guys. I can’t stand it and it makes me feel nauseous. I’d say it’s the number one reason why I would never stay at the Strip again. Aside from going out with my cousins, boyfriend, and his roommate, I avoided Las Vegas Boulevard at all costs. I didn’t care how glamorous people dressed or how grandiose the hotel displays were…I wanted to get out of there. The whole experience was a bit impersonal, to be honest, which is why I forced my cousins and bf to join me in my search for real experiences.

I’ve compiled a list of places and eateries that I did enjoy. This list is for anyone who dares venture off the infamous Strip. Thanks to Yelp for saving me money and my sanity.

Chinatown, Las Vegas

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Chinatown in Las Vegas? Yeah, I never heard of it before. But it’s like brand spanking new. This is the first clean and oddly spaced out Chinatown I’ve ever been to. It looks like everything was built a couple of years ago. Most of the shops and eateries are located on Spring Mountain Road, a convenient three minute ride from the swanky Strip.

We walked around and ate at Magal BBQ, which was obviously not Chinese, but they had great Korean bbq and our server so happened to be from Saipan. Score! He treated us to a bottle of soju, which he happily drank with us. We walked our full bellies off across the street to J’s Karaoke Bar, a Korean (there’s a pattern here, we go to Chinatown for Korean food and soju, obviously) hiphop themed bar. My cousins and boyfriend had a great time singing and taking shots in the dimly lit room we reserved for ourselves.

On another night, we went to Sushi Kaya, where you can eat unlimited sushi for $28. Let’s just say they lost money with us. I never order sushi inland, but this place obviously flew in their fish and uni. I was peer pressured to try uni for the first time here and it wasn’t bad.

I promised myself I’d try a good Chinese restaurant, the Pho Kim Long pho restaurant, and the tea shops next time I visit.

Seven Magic Mountains

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Prior to arriving in Vegas, I noticed at least four people that have been here in the last few months. I read up on it here. You can see the colorful rocks from the freeway and it’s only fifteen minutes away from the Strip (without traffic). It’s really in the middle of nowhere and that’s the beautiful part. The art installation will be up for the next two years. I highly suggest visiting this if you need a break from the casino.

The bf rented a car specifically to drive me out here because it’d be ridiculous to Uber it and have our driver wait until we were done taking photos. We spent about 45 minutes here taking photos, touching the rocks and talking to a few locals.

Downtown Las Vegas – Arts District

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I learned that Downtown Las Vegas was the “old Vegas.” The bf took me through Fremont Street, which was a tackier-but-cheaper version of Vegas. It still wasn’t for me. We then rolled through the arts district and saw lots of murals and hipster-esque eateries with no lines (yay! no waiting!) and free parking. This is where the locals are. I was sold. This is my kinda place.

Viva Las Arepas

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Venezuelan food was not on my list when planning our weekend getaway to Vegas. By the third day, I was over the endless lines at eateries on the Strip and I wanted food that was authentic and an atmosphere that was less chaotic. I quickly Yelped “best cheap lunch” and came across Viva Las Arepas, a Venezuelan eatery that had five star reviews and it was just a five minute Uber ride away from the Bellagio.

Can I just say arepas top burgers any day?! I loved it. Everything was cheap too. We saved a lot of money on this trip and still ate to our hearts content. We ordered the roasted pork butt, reina pepiada, and the wood fire beef arepas with an empanada. I can’t even describe how satisfying it was after a night of peer pressured drinking and debauchery. It definitely beat long lines and mass-cooked dishes.

Neon Boneyard Museum

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I know this section merits more than what I’ve experienced, which was just a side tour of the museum, but it’s really worth checking out if you’re exploring Downtown. We pulled up to the half empty parking lot at the Neon Museum and walked into the main lobby. The girl at the counter told us that they are booked for tours for the day (really….the parking lot was barely filled). Apparently, they try to take care of the old neon signs by limiting the amount of visitors. The only section that was open was a small section of their property that had the old Golden Nugget sign and a bunch of others that were neat to see (touching is prohibited).

That’s my list of non-traditional Vegas things to see and eat. If I was given a ticket to Vegas, I’d definitely stay at a smaller hotel and eat at Chinatown and Downtown daily. I’m sure there’s lots more Vegas can offer to those weary of large crowds and glam lifestyle.

Note: All photos taken with my iPhone 6+. Not bad, Apple. Not bad at all. 

Eating Pretty

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There’s something attractive about a colorful sort of clutter, especially when it comes to food. I grew up in a predominantly Asian household in Honolulu. We mainly ate Chinese and Korean food for lunch and dinner, so there were always lots of little dishes around your main entrees. Dishes such as pickled radish, umeboshi, choy sum in oyster sauce, fermented soy and chili pastes…you name it, they were on the table.

No meal was complete without a sauce to dip your protein in, a crunchy vegetable element, or some fruit to clean your palate.

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Lately, I’ve been posting some of my own cluttered meals on Instagram. They’re really simple things like a breakfast bowl with granola and an egg on the side. I dress things up a bit with fresh fruit from the market or from our backyard.

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This summer, our mango tree is producing fruit like no one’s business. We have mangos falling off the trees because we can’t keep up with the picking. To switch things up in the morning, I incorporate other fruits that make their way onto our kitchen counter (thanks to my uncle) and some savory breakfast items such as rice with furikake and tsukemono.

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I also have a ton of scarves and fabric laying around the house. I used to have a scarf fetish (yes, I live in Hawaii) back in the day. I’d use them to dress up small tables, hold my hair in place, or function as a pareo at the beach. They definitely brighten up an early breakfast.

Souvenirs from Spain and Italy

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Aloha!

I’m finally back home in Hawaii. I’ve been so busy since I returned. Work and family are keeping me busy so I put off unpacking and downloading photos until now. I’m going to start this series of travel-related posts with some of my favorite (non-food) things I took home from Spain and Italy.

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The first photo is of a shell dish that I picked up at La Boquería in Barcelona. It was cheap and so touristy but I wanted something from the Mediterranean Sea since it was too cold to dip my toes in it when I was there. Inside of the beautiful shell are clay figurines of things you’d find at the market, or mercato, in Napoli. The busy and grimy city of Napoli was exciting, mostly because of the little things we found on the Via dei Tribunali, a popular street with bakeries, eateries, and tiny shops. Along a side street of Tribunali, we stopped at A. Ferrera, a shop owned by clay artist Ferrara Antonietta. The clay figures were adorable and so cheap. I couldn’t resist buying a few.

The second photo is of a book (and a Barcelona metro ticket tucked in the front) that I bought in Palermo. Pan de Limón con Semillas by Barcelona-born writer Cristina Campos. I wanted something local and from a common bookshop/newstand that locals go to regularly, so I chose this literary gem that is based in Mallorca. I’m going to start reading it after this coming week…after all my projects that I must catch up to.

The little tan journal is something very special that I bought in Florence. After we visited the Duomo, we ventured towards the local market, lined with vendors of all sorts. One of the first vendors, unique as hell, was selling customized real leather journals. He stamped my name inside. I was only able to bring a couple of these back since they were going to weigh my luggage down, but I thought it was the perfect thing to bring back to some special people. The journals were not cheap, but they were worth every penny.

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This third photo is just more of the beautiful figurines from Ferrara Antonietta. Artichokes are all over Italy and they’re served fried, baked into pizzas, and steamed. Their artichokes are also different colors, which I thought was beautiful.

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Ah. This last photo is of a few things I picked up in Mallorca. Shopping in Europe isn’t really my thing…just yet. It is quite possible that I haven’t hit the real local shops, but Zara and H&M are huge with the Spanish. Aside from the mauve fringe earrings on the right, everything is from Sfera at El Corte Inglés, which is a huge multi-level department store in various cities. It’s like a Macy’s, that’s the only type of department store I can compare it to.

Stay tuned for the real travel shots…I have so much to share!

Spalding House

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Floppy hat, House of Aria, top (sale rack), Eden in Love.

Formerly known as The Contemporary Museum, The Honolulu Museum of Art’s Spalding House, is hidden under shady trees in Makiki. Kevin and I drove up to see the new exhibits and unfortunately, the main exhibit section was under construction. We opted to grab a snack at the café downstairs. I had a cup of the tasty vegan tomato soup and he had the flourless chocolate cake.

Once we cleaned our cup and plate, we walked through the garden and took a peek at the soon-to-be completed outdoor surfer exhibit. The artist replaced the tennis court with his version of the ocean and all things surfers encounter in the water.

Admission is free on Saturdays. I highly suggest calling to see if the exhibits are completed before you go…unless you’re only up for a bite to eat.

Seattle, Washington

My godsister, Maria, had graduated from the University of Washington and I made a little trip up there to help her celebrate and visit the rest of my cousins in Seattle. Small kine family reunion turned into a fun trip around the city! Here are some snapshots from my trip.

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I arrived a day before the graduation festivities started so that I can fit in some culture and sight-seeing. I went to SAM alone to get familiar with the local culture and history. My fave exhibit was the Pacific Northwestern American tribal art.

 

Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream

I can’t even figure out how to describe how excited I get when it comes to ice cream shops that make their own unique flavors. Don’t even try to come here and order a vanilla cone because there’s no point in living if you don’t try their earl grey or sasquatch flavors. Mis primas definitely know their desserts.

Let’s EAT

My family is all about eating. Like…we eat when we’re happy, sad, angry and bored. There’s no way around it. That’s how islanders live and enjoy life. I busted out the GoPro for a groupie shot for this one.

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Another shot with my not-so-little cousins. ❤

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Chihuly Garden and Glass

I’m pretty sure that glass artist Dale Chihuly had an exhibit at the Honolulu Museum of Art a few years ago. I swear I’ve seen his work before. In searching for attractions in Seattle, I came across the Chihuly Garden and Glass exhibition, which is located right next to the Space Needle. Each room features a theme of various glass art. My favorite part of the exhibit is the garden and greenhouse. The garden features glass art that looks like real plants along with some interesting plants and flowers. If you were to visit Chihuly and the Space Needle, best deal is if you buy your tickets online.

I spent my last days enjoying pauhana happy hour sessions with my cousins and catching up with them.

Aside from the traffic, Seattle is a wonderful place where I could see myself living for a few years. The city is beautiful, ethnically diverse and it seems a lot more laid back than how I perceived it to be.

Kris Atomic

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The Unusually Modest Mermaid by Kris Atomic

Lately I have been experimenting with acrylics, watercolor and even mixing the two. I’m not going to lie, it frustrates me that I can put together a visual concept on the computer or take a decent photo but my clumsy fingers and palms can’t even produce a decent image on paper. In my little journey to finding inspiration and ideas to practice with, I stumbled upon the English illustrator Kris Atomic. I’ve seen her work before and when I found her blog, I became fascinated with her characters.

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Kris Atomic at work.

Although her characters may be a little too English for my taste, I like her style and her badass sense of humor.

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Who doesn’t love a Chronic Bitchface?

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Details.

Ugh. I’m sick with jealousy.

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See more of Kris’ work here.