Late afternoons in MńĀnoa

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It has been oh so chilly here in Honolulu and seeing the clouds hang low, covering the mountain tops behind my office remind me to take a moment to breathe through the holiday rush. Can we all just sleep in for once and enjoy this cool weather?

Hawai Ľi 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 a√ßa√≠ 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 Waipi Ľo Valley. We drove through Waimea and Honoka Ľa 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!

Palermo, Sicily

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La Vucciria

We arrived in Palermo on a Sunday. We worried that most locals and shop-owners would be at home kicking it with the family, but we were determined to find out where the locals hang out and shop on their day off.

Walking through the streets of Palermo wasn’t as clean as we thought it’d be.¬†The tourist areas such as the duomos, or cathedrals, and the marketplaces were clean. But when you walked through the narrow streets, you notice the linens and laundry hanging above you between apartment buildings, delicates strewn from balconies, and the scene is just a tad bit darker and dirtier than what I had imagined.

I noticed on certain streets, there were little shrines for the streets named after saints, some even carve a figure of the saints out of the building.

We were given a map when we disembarked off the ship. The city is easy to navigate and explore on foot. Our first stop was at La Vucciria. Of course, being a Sunday, everything was closed except for a gelato shop on the left.

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One of the cathedrals we passed on our way towards the marketplace.

I read that Mercato Ballaró, an open market on Via Ballaró, was open on Sundays, so we walked towards it and passed a few intricate cathedrals, one of which we said a prayer for my Uncle who had recently passed that week.

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Olives, spices, and fresh vegetable stalls were the most fragrant at Mercato Ballaró.

We lost our way a bit through the narrow streets and saw locals with green, plastic bags. They pointed us towards the mercato and we found long streets full of blue and orange tents and lots of locals doing their grocery shopping.

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Fresh seafood salad

My Aunt, Uncle, and mom had so much fun looking at the fresh produce. We watched trucks drive in and deliver fresh seafood from the port. Vendors quickly collected their share and prepared the mussels, squid, octopus, prawns, and fish.

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Aunty Reen bites into a fresh focaccia pizza bread.
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Trinkets and clothing can be bought further down Via Ballaró.

Palermo is full of colorful buildings and things to see. Even on a Sunday, we found ourselves stumbling upon great places to explore, such as the Piazza Pretoria, which boasts the precious Fontana Pretoria, an elaborate fountain with scantily-clad statues.

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Shakas from Palermo!
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The absolute BEST calamari in the whole world!

Right outside of the Piazza Pretoria is a yummy restaurant named Pizzeria Bellini. A must if you’re in Palermo! You have the option of dining on their beautiful yellow tables outside or cozy up to a hot, fresh pizza inside.

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When in Palermo, you must dine outdoors at Pizzeria Bellini.

I really enjoyed Palermo. While my family didn’t care for the dirty streets, they enjoyed the food, sights, and how the city embodied everything we thought Europe would be like. The fresh seafood they serve at the mercato and the restaurants is so fresh and rich tasting, you can’t help but order a few dishes to accompany your tasty bellini or vino rosso.

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 Boquer√≠a 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 Lim√≥n 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 Ingl√©s, 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 caf√© 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.

Mauna Kea and all things that should remain sacred

mauna keaMauna Kea with my best friends. (Circa January 31st)

In January, I surprised my best friend with a trip to beautiful Hilo, where we indulged in the best strawberry and grape mochi at Two Ladies Kitchen, walked through a colorful farmer’s market and hiked along a dead volcano. One of the highlights was going on a private tour of Mauna Kea, commercially known as the tallest mountain on earth, culturally known as a sacred¬†place where the Hawaiian deity Poli’ahu dwells. It is a place where Ali’i would trek its harsh, freezing temperatures to worship and pay tribute to their gods. It was an unreal experience to have with my friends and it was just a perfect moment in my life.

I could explain to you the controversy that surrounds Mauna Kea at this moment, but instead, I will share some of the things that I believe should be kept sacred, just like this mysterious and beautiful mountain that made it into my¬†“epic memories” folder.

1. Indigenous places of worship and untouched lands. 

It is 2015. We should all be educated and culturally aware of indigenous rights, history and effects of colonization. If you live in the islands, somehow your field of study/work will involve some kind of decision or consideration due to preservation of culture or history. There are so many articles, books and other reading materials out there that even the laziest reader will be able to get the gist of the importance of cultural or historical preservation. Even when it comes to untouched lands, like Pagan, ugh I don’t want to start a rant, but does everything have to be used for bomb practice? Look at Kahoolawe, Vieques and the Marshall Islands. #savepagan

2. Our bodies.

We need to eat vegetables, wear sunblock and do yoga. I may not look like it, but I eat my recommended daily amount of veggies (sometimes more), wear at least SPF 35 on my face and forearms and do yoga a few times every week. Doing this makes me feel great and happy.

3. Your relationship with your God. 

This is a touchy one. I’d describe myself as a sporadic non-practicing Catholic who floats between Catholic and Christian churches. Going to a Catholic church makes me feel comforted and grounded. I feel like I return to who I am and who I imagine myself to be when I get older. But damn, have you heard the kind of music they play at Christian churches nowadays? I mean, they make worship feel and sound fun. I go for the live jam sesh, devos and free food, but when it comes to openly sharing my own struggles with the entire congregation and praying out loud…like with my voice…I start to get uncomfortable. Other than that…I pray every day. I ask my God to give me patience to tolerate the obnoxious, love for those who can’t help themselves, determination to extend my leg in half moon pose and gratitude for everything I have. Whoever your God is, rely on him or her to give you that spiritual boost to continue life in a positive way. It’s better than bitching all day. Bitching makes you look ugly. Don’t do it often. Be tight with your God and moisturize daily.

4. Paperbacks

Being a nerd, I am always on top of the latest technology. Although I love iPads and my boyfriend, the iPhone 6 Plus, I still read paperbacks…maybe a hardcover or two if they’re on sale. I own a Nook, but lost the charger. So it’s pretty fair to say that paperbacks (and hardcovers) should remain sacred because they won’t need to be recharged, updated or bought for more than $15. My Nook is now a coaster on the nightstand.

5. Passion

Passion¬†drives you to do your best in everything you do. Working in the non-profit sector doesn’t make me rich, but it keeps me fulfilled in life. I see lives changed and problems solved. My body and mind may be weary but my soul and heart are so full. My best work was inspired by what I’ve seen and experienced by giving to others.

Also, being in a creative field, if I am not passionate about something, it takes me longer to create it, which makes the client or your director impatient. That’s when you have to delve further into the purpose of what you create or produce. For example, I had to create a graphics package for National Donut Day. I did not have the slightest interest in donuts (first of all, they’re not my fave, second, I didn’t get why it was declared National Donut Day). My director recommended that I read a book to draw some inspiration. After that, I got it. I knew exactly what to do for the graphics package and it became a hit. Passion gets you places. It also shows you how to succeed.

There are probably more things that I could add to this list, but there’s no time. Sometimes it is best to keep a short list of things you consider sacred. It helps to remind yourself about where you come from and who you are.

From Cairns to Sydney

 Processed with MoldivMost of our travel adventures happened before and after the tournament in Sydney. Here we are in Cairns visiting art galleries, the Esplanade pool and walking along Grafton and Abbott.

Brentt and I only had a few days to explore Cairns and Sydney before and after the tournament. Cairns was our first stop from Guam. We stayed at the Holiday Inn (now called Double Tree) and it was in the perfect location. We could walk to the main Cairns Esplanade strip in less than five minutes and to the shopping mall in 15 minutes. The good eateries, ranging from Italian to Japanese, were scattered along Abbott and¬†Grafton streets. Along the Esplanade, you’ll run into tourist traps and shops with crappy souvenirs – something we’re already used to in the islands, so we just kept to Abbott and Grafton, where there were more of the Cairns locals walking around.

Processed with MoldivWe stayed in Kurri Kurri, in the outskirts of Sydney. There were wild kangaroos right outside our rooms and witnessed beautiful sunsets. I even got to sample the local wine.

The “beach” at Cairns isn’t that great. It’s brown. You’d have to ride a boat to the Great Barrier Reef to log in some great snorkeling…or you can just settle for the public pee-pool at the Esplanade. Your best bet to get some sun (other than going to the GBR)? Spend the day at the beach¬†down Captain Cook Highway past the airport. The beaches are still brown, but at least it’s shallow, you can walk on sandbars and bbq like the locals.

After Cairns, we headed to Sydney via Virgin Australia. Most of our time was spent on the golf course (see previous post) and the only food available was fried EVERYTHING. French fries, chicken schnitzel, fish and chips, etc. Not the most comforting way to go with two hungry island kids craving anything with some Asian spice and rice or noodles. On our last day, we had a couple hours to visit the Harbour Bridge and Opera House. Our hosts from Hawaii were irritated by the traffic and ready for their flight back to Hawaii so we didn’t have a chance to fully explore the city. But we made the most of it and took lots of photos during our last day in Sydney.

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Our official last day in “Straya” was spent at Hartley’s Crocodile Farm.

We then arrived in Cairns (again), returning from Sydney, we were weary travelers, enduring a rough flight on Virgin Australia and starved after refusing yet another fried meal. After checking into Rydges Esplanade, we took a 20 minute walk to grab some dinner and stumbled upon what looked like a bar from the outside, Rattle & Hum. It happened to have the best pizza in Australia that we had access to at the time.

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This is something we’ll always remember about Australia. Its wildlife, sights, kind people and wonderful weather amazed us everyday.

We also decided to visit Hartley’s Crocodile Farm, which was 45 minutes away from the hotel. We bought a package for two that included the passes to the farm and transportation to and from our hotel for $111 AUD. It was fun! We covered the entire park in about two hours and relaxed with lunch at the restaurant. It was their 80th Anniversary so they had face painting, a free photo booth and complimentary croc sausages. It was the perfect way to see everything we wanted to see in Australia: crocodiles, koalas, cassowaries, wombats, wallabies and kookaburras.

It was a great trip for Brentt and I. We’ve traveled to other places before, but this was our first brother-sister trip to another country. We enjoyed every bit of it. Oh dear Australia, it’s been unreal. It might be a couple years until we return, but until then, we’ll cherish the memories.