Dec 31, 2011

Rainbows & Wrecks

There have been a few wrecks strewn in our wake this year. We've had some rough waters to transit; more than once I was certain we were about to be washed up.

Mahalo to our dear friends and beloved family for the support and strength they shared with us in 2011. You kept us afloat.

The sun is shining, the seas are calming. We're hopeful for a bright and better year ahead.

(those of you familiar with West Maui will recognize the wreck of the Dolphin, a steel-hulled sailboat that lies wrecked inside the reef just off Lahaina)

Dec 30, 2011

Our Knight in Shining ... Cargo Shorts?

It was Jeffrey to the rescue this morning. Again.

When 8' tall sliding glass doors stop sliding, who are you going to call? If it weren't for door-man, diver, generally excellent dude Jeff Corliss, we'd be seriously out of luck in the "hey, it doesn't work anymore!" department around the House of Good Living.

Thanks, buddy.

Dec 29, 2011

Fixin' Things

There seems to be some concern amongst our mainland friends that all we do at The House of Good Living is hang out in the sun and surf. Nothing could be further from the truth. Really.

While it's true that part (okay, the bulk) of each day is set aside for R&R, we also have to spend time fixin' things. Each time we return to our little piece of paradise it seems something has broken in our time away. Thus begins the adventure in repairs, island-style. First, identify the parts needed. Second, determine if locating said parts will require a drive over to the Far Side of the island. And then, head to the beach to contemplate how long we can put off the project.

Today was a big day in the fixin' business; we had screen doors to get back on track, shower drains to snake and a favorite clock that refused to tock. Thanks to the help of handyman/neighbor/all-around great guy Jeffery, tasks one and two proceeded as planned. Well, except for that whole plumbing-snake-stuck-in-drain-then-exploding-in-Greg's-face part.

Task three went a different, less successful direction. Oh well. Who needs a clock anyway? Let's go to the beach!

We thought OUR home was small

We made a quick trip through Costco yesterday so that dad could get a piece of pre-flight pizza. The place was its usual jammed-to-the-gills full of folks bulking up on gift packs of macadamia nuts and toilet paper. But, even that mass of people couldn't compare to the state of the little car parked next to us outside the store.

Check it out ... the beast HAD to be 150 + lbs.

The poor guy was moaning*. We interpreted his distress as anxiety over the fact that the soon-arriving bag of kibble wouldn't fit in the vehicle with him.

*"moaning" was actually more like big (really big) sighs. The windows were down and it wasn't too hot so we didn't feel the need to call the SPCA.

Dec 23, 2011

Full Speed Ahead

"So we sailed on to the sun,
Till we found the sea green,
And we lived beneath the waves,
In our yellow submarine ...."

Some of you may already know this fact: My dad doesn't swim. Or float. Forget about seeing him wading up to his ankles, much less his knees. He's just a little bit afraid of the water. And, he doesn't like fish that much either.

Therefore, it was a big deal when he said he'd be interested in taking a little cruise - underwater - while visiting the House of Good Living.

So, off to our deep sea adventure we went aboard the Atlantis V (built in Everett, WA). Our destination: a series of coral reefs which lie 129 feet below the ocean's surface alongside a sunken ship. Dad was a trooper the entire voyage and I'm pleased that we got to see spinner dolphins, lots of reef fish and even a white tip shark.

The Maui Ocean Center was next on the list and dad's immersion into all things water-borne on Maui became complete. A couple of beach visits (Dad's partial to Kapalua Bay), turtle-watching and whale-spotting rounded off the organized activities during his visit. Which is now coming too quickly to a close. He flies out tomorrow. The bottle of SPF 90 sunscreen that made it to Maui in his carry-on is going to stay with us. As are too many nice memories to recount here.

Aloha, Dad. We'll miss you.

Dec 22, 2011

My Humu Honey

Nearly every telephone conversation I have with nephew Cole goes something like this ...

Cole: Did you swim with the Humuhumunukunukuapau'a today?

Me: Yep, I did. They said "aloha, aunty!"

Cole: What else did you see? Did you see the eel that almost bit Dad in the belly?

Not only did my amazing nephews master the pronunciation of Hawaiian fish names during their last visit to The House of Good Living - they also witnessed the near evisceration of their father (to him tell it, that is) by the reef's resident moray eel. While it's true that the eel's toothy face DID get a little close to the belly floating above it, I think it would have only been a flesh wound.

Be that as it may, I swing wide around the rock where I know the eel hangs out. The crazy-neon-striped Humu seem positively benevolent in comparison; I totally understand Cole's fascination with their fluttery little fins and blue teeth. Literally translated as "triggerfish with the pig-like short snout", the Humu can be drab-colored when resting but will glow with color when it feels safe and unthreatened.

The Humuhumunukunukuapau'a is the state fish of Hawaii. However, it's not the longest Hawaiian word. That "honor" belongs to another fish: Lauwiliwilinukunuku╩╗oi╩╗oi - a type of butterfly fish whose name translates as "long-snouted fish shaped like a wiliwili leaf." Don't you just love this language?!

Dec 21, 2011

Hat Daddy

Look who arrived this afternoon! The rain went away and the sun came out just for him.

Dad showed up from PDX right on time sporting a vintage Aloha shirt. We knew there was no way we could fit Home Depot floor tiles, groceries, luggage AND Dad into the convertible so he cruised from the Far Side in style thanks to the Corliss's big rig (thanks for getting Dad here, J & J!).

We've got big plans for his week with us: an Atlantis Submarine trip, a visit to the Maui Ocean Center, walks on the Kahekili boardwalk, touring the Bailey House Museum, maybe even taking a Zipline. You've been taking those vitamins, Dad?!

This year we're taking a pass on the usual Christmas practices; we've agreed that a traditional holiday without Mom to celebrate with is just too hard. That's why we're looking forward to sharing "Sunday Dinner at Shirley's" with Dad. This weekend the delicious, heart-warming event falls on Christmas Day - lucky us!

It's a blessing to have Dad in the House of Good Living tonight.

Dec 20, 2011

139 Ways

The House of Good Living is bordered by two natural wonders: the Pacific Ocean in our front yard and the magnificent West Maui mountains at our back. At 5787', the highest peak in the 18 mile-long volcanic range is the sacred "Hill of Enlightenment" Pu'u Kukui.

Pu'u Kukui is notable for several reasons. It's home to trees and plants dwarfed by too much rain and wind and too little oxygen in the boggy soil. It's an essential water catchment system for all of West Maui. And, (are you sensing a theme?) it's one of the wettest places on earth with an average annual rainfall of 40 feet. It rains here. A LOT.

The Hawaiian language has 139 words for rain. There is paka (raindrops), pakaku (rain falling in large drops), pakapaka (a heavy shower of large raindrops, paka ua (raindrops making a noise as they spatter on dry leaves), paki'o (showery rain), and paki'oki'o (to rain in short showers and often). It's been so wet here the past couple of days that I've started using some of these words just to keep my brain from fogging up. The most amazing rainbows show up between the pakapakas, reminding me that the sun is shining. Somewhere!

You can read more about the Pu'u Kukui natural preserve and learn what Maui Land & Pineapple is doing to protect this amazing area.

Dec 19, 2011

Upcountry Ohana

Know this guy? No? Well, here's an intro if you haven't yet had the pleasure of meeting our Maui cuz'n, Mistah Bubba McLean.

Bub's a fourth generation Hawaiian, son to Bruno and Cyn, brother to Mino. He's an Olympic-caliber pole vaulter (holds the Hawaii State record and is a two-time National champ), graduate of Berkley in Pol. Science and is in his second year of the prestigous USC Film School. A fearless waterman with a deep respect for the ocean, Bubba fishes commercially in Alaska during the summer when not surfing or paddling between the islands of Hawaii. He's helped a friend survive a shark attack. He's too cool for words; we get our vicarious thrills through his exploits.

Bubba's a genuinely great guy with a huge heart and sharp mind and, best of all, he's part of the family or "ohana" we love the most here on Maui. They're spread between the north-side jungles of Haiku and Kula - that region of Maui called "upcountry" that stretches along the side of Haleakala.

Yesterday our upcountry ohana treated us to a feast. Jeremy brought Mahimahi, Ono and Ahi from Hana and added all that plus chicken and steak to the grill. Roasted fingerling potatoes, asparagus, green beans and Kula greens rounded out the meal. The whole wonderful troupe was there and we were honored/delighted/blessed to spend the day in their warm embrace. The House of Good Living had to stretch it's physical limits a bit in order to take in an upcountry address but boy, are we sure glad it did. Mahalo, family.

Dec 18, 2011

Pupu at Duke's

Saturday evening's glorious skies and the uninspiring contents of our 'fridge convinced us. It was time for Duke's!

The 1.25 mile stroll down Lower Honoapiilani to the oceanfront restaurant had us feeling so virtuous that we ordered three pupu: Ahi tacos with wasabi sauce, Kahuna slider and Korean-style sandwhich on steamed rice bun.

We reflected upon the delicious-ness of our dining decision during the postprandial amble back to the House of Good Living. It took about a nanosecond to conclude that the only way to finish off such a taste-sensational evening was with a bowl of Maui-made Roselani's ice cream. Oh, yum.

Turtle time

One of the *many* cool aspects of life at the House of Good Living is the unusual set of neighbors we're given.

The Honokowai Honu who visit the breakfast buffet on our ocean reef provide us with daily entertainment. Calm mornings can bring up to a dozen green sea turtles. An afternoon's snorkel will generally result in a couple of turtle encounters.

The Turtle Trax folks on YouTube are the same researchers who've documented the resident turtles (many of which migrate between Maui and the French Frigate Shoals nearly 500 miles away). If you're wondering why I endlessly enthuse about floating with these sea creatures, check out this video of our reef's largest inhabitant "Zeus".

During yesterday's snorkel at Kapalua Bay, I came across a young Honu who was just waking up from his nap under a coral shelf. He yawned in my face when he emerged from his hidey hole. With a sweep of his fins to the surface he swam for a little air before circling around his patch of sea bottom and returning to his napping spot. His afternoon activity was remarkable similar to Greg's. No wonder I find them so entertaining.

Dec 17, 2011

Beach hair

We feel pretty darned fortunate when our biggest concern of the day is how our hair looks after a day at the beach.

Note: I'm using the royal "we" as the photo should make it obvious that one of us isn't too concerned at all. Looking good, Greg!

All it took was a float in the ocean, some sand applied to the roots and then a top-down drive back to the House of Good Living. Voila! Three simple steps and you too can look like a palm tree.

Dec 16, 2011

They're baaack!

Yesterday's calm Auau Channel (the 8 mile long, shallow waterway between West Maui, Molokoai and Lanai) provided ideal conditions for confirming that our pals from the Pacific Northwest are arriving for their winter holiday in Hawaii. Aloha, Humpbacks!

We excitedly proclaimed over each spout, high-fiving the fin slaps and tail waves. A breach and the synchronized spouting of three at once had us grabbing the binoculars to check if a calf was in the crowd.

Interestingly, yesterday was the first of the "No Parasails or Jet skis" season. Look who showed up to celebrate!

Dec 15, 2011

All Aboard

This morning's calm ocean conditions were too perfect to ignore. Out of its hiding spot in the torch ginger plants came the yellow kayak.

By 9:00 AM we were splashing our way over the reefs in search of (shhhh, don't tell) the secret snorkel spot Jeff and Joan have been raving about. A meandering young sea turtle kept us company for a while until he decided we weren't that interesting.

After sighting the landmarks - elevated walkway, 2nd palm tree to the south - we dove (truthfully, it was more of a sideways falling off manuever) into the crystal clear water. Ahhhh ... aloha, Humuhumu! Hey, Morish Idol! Mind if we hang out in your dining room for a while?

Re-boarding was more challenging than expected. But, after righting the capsized beast and retrieving an errant snorkel set from the reef below, we were sailing homewards with a freshening breeze. The swells had picked up during our hour submerged so we were able to surf right up to the House of Good Living. If a person didn't know better, it might have looked like we knew what we were doing.

Dec 12, 2011

our "Year in Review"

One of the blessings of this time of year is the opportunity to connect with treasured friends and family. I write this Holiday Letter with fond thoughts, good memories and the hope that the coming year brings you the gift of joy-filled times with your favorite folk.

The past year brought a blend of sadness and joy to the House of Good Living. Yet, even with the challenge and sorrow, we were blessed with fun adventures and celebrations with family. Delicious, drawn-out times with good friends helped to make the roughest of times bearable. We're immeasurable grateful for the kind words and thoughtful gestures shown us. We've been taken such good care of.

2011 began with a month-long RV ramble down the California coastline from the Bay Area to Santa Barbara and then over to Palm Springs. Fine weather, biking, hiking, golfing and being hosted in style by the Foleys and Gustafsons were the highlights of the trip.

A bit of advice for anyone contemplating such a drive: Take your time, walk the beaches, spend at least a night in one of the ocean front California State Parks and don’t even consider passing up a day’s visit to Hearst Castle.

Photo taken in front of our firepit on the beach at Carpenteria State Park, just south of Santa Barbara.

Spring brought us precious time with my mom who daily modeled a grace and dignity which awed us all. Her release from pancreatic cancer came mid-June.

Edie Dietrich was a most amazing woman. She was a nurse, musician, teacher, truck driver, gardener, great friend, dear mother, beloved wife and an extra-ordinary grandmother. She is deeply missed, particularly now during the holidays - her favorite season of the year.

Here's a Picassa album with a few of my favorite photos of mom. Photo on the right is of mom and me, on the beach (of course) just a few days before my little (now 6'5") brother Scott was born.

Summer found us balancing time on the boat with visits to the hospital. Greg’s open-heart procedure in May provided him with new aortic and mitral valves but also revealed a greater degree of radiation damage to his chest cavity than expected. The resulting complications required additional surgeries and hospitalizations.

Greg wasn't about to let the inconvenience of stitches and IVs slow him down. Nope, not him. We enjoyed cruising with the club to Port Townsend (where he golfed) and Port Ludlow (where he golfed some more) and in the San Juans (where he crabbed). We credit Greg's recovery to the care and compassion shown us by our outstanding neighbors and friends from the Shelter Bay Community. (Though, his stubborn, resiliant character likely played a part, too!)
photo: "Patient and Nurse Finch" at SBYC's October dinner ... note the patient's beverage container!

By the time autumn rolled around our routines were back in place - leisurely walks with Ray the dog, dinghy trips, themed dinners with SBYC. A much-anticipated Thanksgiving visit with the nephews (who are the smartest, coolest 10 and 12 year olds EVER) was a highlight of the season.

Planning our winter trip to Maui was as easy as putting a couple of swimsuits in the carry-on bags and then - whoosh! - we were back in residence at The House of Good Living.

As much of a cliche as it may sound, it's true: Life is good.

The blessings bestowed upon us outnumber the troubles.

And the best gifts of all has been the presence of beloved friends and family.

We wish you peace, joy and comfort in the coming year.

Maui Christmas!

Dec 11, 2011

Three years, one week and a day ...

...has elapsed since my last blog post. I had to paw through cobwebby corners and brush all the dust off before I could even open up this poor, abandoned place of ours. It's GOOD to be back!

When last we visited, the House of Good Living was undergoing the kind of extensive renovation project that leaves inhabitants feeling very little aloha. That's all pau (done/finished/over in Hawaiian) thank goodness. Sadly, the magic of this place went missing when health and mainland issues allowed us only short visits back to paradise.

Now, back on the island, with the sound of waves and rustle of palms to soothe and long morning beach walks to awaken, I'm so pleased to announce that the House of Good Living's door is wide open. We can't wait for you to visit!

(couldn't resist sharing our morning papaya with you - mmmm!)