Jan 30, 2013

Long time, no blog

I'm sorry. All enthusiasm and energy has left the building. I can barely construct whole sentences because a crazy flu/cold/misery bug has crawled up my nose and taken hold of my brain.

The House of Good Living is strewn with used tissues and punched-out packets of cold medicine.  This is how sick I am: even the sight of whales barely gets my head off the pillow.  Greg is doing his best to provide care. He waded through yesterday's monsoon to fetch ingredients for salad and brought me pizza for lunch today.

Hopefully tomorrow I'll be feeling well enough to tell you all about the REALLY BIG DEAL that's happening to us right now.  Maybe.

Jan 25, 2013

Woman Who Paddles With Whales

Me. Yep, yours truly. I'm sunburned and still feeling the motion of the ocean under my feet and I think my shoulders have disconnected from my body but I'm thrilled to proclaim that I PADDLED WITH WHALES today.  Very, very happy here tonight.

Here's how it came about: The sunrise brought calm ocean conditions so off I paddled. Once I reached the one-mile offshore location where we daily observe transiting whales, I sat down on my board to wait ... and wait ... and wait some more.  Nothing, nada, nil. For nearly an hour it was just me and the occasional sea turtle.  One other intrepid paddler floated by and asked "see anything?" to which I answered (hopefully) "not yet."  Undiscouraged  but hungry I returned to the House of Good Living for a late breakfast.

I'd put the board away, taken a shower and changed clothes when something up the coastline caught my eye.  Through binoculars I saw several groups of whales moving my direction.  I calculated that if I really really went for it, I could intercept them by the time they reached our latitude.  So ... back on went the wet swim suit and out I raced to my offshore position and .... there they were.  A mama whale and escort and calf who cavorted with 4 full breaches and another 4 or 5 spy hops.  This group was followed by three others who slowly moved across my bow, sounding, spouting, splashing and fin slapping their way south.  Keeping in mind the Federal officers who visited P after his close encounter via kayak, I kept a respectable distance and marveled at these magnificent creatures.

This was a really, really good day.

Pupu Party

We're a convivial bunch here at the House of Good Living.  Give us a reason to gather and celebrate and we'll be there.  A couple of nights ago found us with time and opportunity so we proceeded to make festive with a poolside gathering.  It was really nice. All the men looked like Magnum P.I. Sort of ... if you squinted.

There are two common components of any such event:  men in Aloha shirts and a variety of Pupu.  It's likely you're already familiar with the whole brightly colored shirt thing.  It's just what's done here.  We can talk fabric and climate another time.  Pupu, on the other hand, may require an explanation, so here goes:  Way back when, before Costco and Whole Foods, people in Hawaii had to go hunting for their preprandial treats and often snacked on the periwinkle-like snails called "Pupu" that lined the seashore. Yum, right?

Today we understand Pupu to mean a delicious tidbit that would otherwise be called  hors d'oeuvres or canape' in any other locale.  Pupu can range from simple (a bowl of island-grown nuts) to stupendous (seared ahi sashimi) with most falling squarely in the tasty column.  At our little poolside party we enjoyed Pupu of all variety: grilled sausages, meatballs, stuffed 'shrooms, salmon roll-ups, deviled eggs ...all way, way better than freshly harvested sea snails.

A few of us gathered last evening, too.  Sharing a bowl of nuts over a game of dominoes we were serenaded by a neighbor who played his ukelele while the sun set.  Even without Magnum, that was a Pupu party to remember.  Big mahalos to J and J for the game and P for the music to watch the moon rise by.

Jan 21, 2013

I sure miss these guys

from left to right:
Opus the Amazing, unknown labradoodle,
Milo the terror, and our beloved, noble Raymond
Life at the House of Good Living requires sacrifice.  A really big sacrifice.  I'm not talking about lifestyle: we adjust to the transition from 3600 squares to 568 squares with little difficulty.  It's much harder be 2 hours and 2600 miles away from dear friends and family.  The really, really hard part of being out here in paradise is leaving our best-est friend (and his canine cohorts) way back there across the ocean.  Raymond (Opus, Milo and unknown Labradoodle from Leavenworth) ~ WE MISS YOU.

See that picture over there .............

That was taken tonight.  In our mainland house.  Without us there to enjoy the anticipation of whatever treat was poised over their collective and hairy heads.  It's SO hard to be away from our pup(pies).  Thank you and MAHALO to our dear friends (the lovely Claus and Turid) who are watching over our beloved dog and his pals.  We're very sorry the sewer pump isn't working and that you have to go to the garage to flush the toilets. The dogs look good, though!  Keep up the good work.

Now, I've seen it all.

"Look at me!" says the exuberant humpback whale
It's exciting times here in whale-ville.  Our ocean is teaming with Humpback activity.  In the past two days we've watched multiple competition pods posturing for attention, newborn calves pushed to the surface by their mothers and, just this morning, saw three simultaneous breaches by exuberant males.

That. Was. Amazing.

Three whales breaking the surface ~ with their entire body ~ at one time .... I can die happy now.

The only thing that could have made the experience better would to have been there on my paddleboard.  Maybe that will happen in my next life.

Jan 19, 2013

Fun on a stick

Shrewd observers with keen eyes can tell when it's been a particularly good day at the House of Good Living. Around here it's possible to calculate the adventure index by counting the number of beach items in occupancy on the bamboo ladder.  When capacity is exceeded and the overflow takes up real estate on chairs and table, we know it's been an exceptional day!
Yesterday's splendid array serves to illustrate this principle.

  • requisite towels and beach sheet
  • snorkel set ~ times two
  • swimming suit ~ times four.  Why four?  'Cause there's few things less enjoyable than putting a wet suit back on after removing it to take a break from ocean activity. Yesterday was a two suit per person day
  • swim fins ~ times two
  • mesh beach bag suitable for carting lotion, books, gear, snacks, H2O
  • bag of golf balls
  • sun umbrella
Inquiring minds may ask:  Why a ladder and not a clothes line?  Fair question.  Answer:  We're a small, small part of paradise here; going vertical with our wet stuff allows horizontal enjoyment of our oceanfront lanai (i.e. Greg's nap space is sacrosanct :).

Jan 18, 2013

Adventures in Paradise

We enjoyed a significant number of adventure-filled days in the past two weeks, courtesy of the Hays Ohana.  The last of the bunch departed the House of Good Living yesterday, leaving us bereft of their wonderful company but with a packed-to-the-gills refrigerator (not sure exactly what to do with the miso paste and sake, Anne, but mahalo very much).

Here's a partial list of this week's escapades:
  • Paddling with whales.  Yep, that's right.  We got into whales via kayak (Greg and Anne) and paddleboard (you know who).  It took a while to paddle the mile or so offshore but we did and found what looked like a mama, her escort and a calf.  I may have frightened them away with my noisy delight.
  • A farwell to kids.  The Hays offspring flew back to their winter wonderland on Sunday.  The remaining adults took naps. Long naps.
  • Meal upon delicious meal.  We discovered the best way to eat well:  travel with Anne Hays.  That woman can cook!  I've already discussed the coolers that accompanied her and Adam on Alaska Air as "checked bags," right?  The day after their arrival we were feasting on ribs.  Subsequent days brought roasts followed by leg of lamb, followed by salmon, halibut ceviche, ribeye steaks, salmon patties, halibut hash ... there were many days of deliciousness.  
  • Tripping.  Rob, Anne and myself day-tripped over to Lanai for a visit with their buddy who splits his time between Hawaii and Nome.  He treated us to a jeep tour of the island that finished with a couple hours spent at his Hulopoe Beach camp (complete with hammock and outrigger canoe).  Can we say "wonderful?"  We're thinking a few days of beach camping may be in order next winter.
  • The birds and the turtles.  Ocean conditions and opportunity finally aligned closely enough at Kapalua Bay to allow for snorkeling whereupon which we observed Hawaii's own version of "the birds and the bees" lesson when a pair of turtles started getting it on at the shoreline.  The shoreline that was peopled (kidded?) with children.  Some stood and stared.  Some put on masks and snorkels for up close and personal views.  Horrified others hurried their families away.  We sat and marveled at the whole display.  While the turtle tupping was interesting, it was the family with 7 kids under the age of 11 that really got our attention.  How do they do that?  
  • Downton Abbey, Maui-style.  On the Hays' last full day on-island we journeyed to the place of privilege that lies far, far away.  A place where manses gleam in the sun with nary a speck of red dirt tarnishing their white-washed walls.  A place where bikinis sparkle and poolside cocktails are considered a bargain at $14.50 (commemorative tiki cup only $22) ... Wailea.  
  • Whales, wonderful whales.  It's marvelously entertaining and thrilling to watch the array of whale behavior visible from our little hale.  The downside?  it takes twice as long to get a chore done or blog post written because I get so sidetracked by the splashing, flashing, breaching and breathing.
  • Again, paddling .... blah, blah, blah.  I'm on the board as much as possible. I love it.  I don't know what I'm going to do when we return to the mainland.

Jan 13, 2013

A few happy faces

Dinner at Dukes
Sunday morning football crowd 
Seahawk cheerleader, Maui-style

Jan 12, 2013

Whale Ho!

It's humpback whale time in Maui and we're delighted to have choice seats for the show.  Our front yard is the Auau Channel which is considered one of the best spots in the world to watch the Kohola ~ the Hawaiian word for whale. During winter months this body of water ~ between Lanai, Molokai and West Maui ~ offers up all kinds of Megaptera novaeangliae behavior.  We've seen newborn calves guided along the surface by their mothers.  We've watched aggressive males battling for attention in competition pods. Mighty tail slaps, impressive breaches, 12 foot high spouts ... all this gets us very excited, even months into the season.  One of the unexpected delights of being this near whale activity is hearing their songs when snorkeling the reef out front.  I hold out hope that some day I'll be paddling along and have a whale come up right alongside.  That would be thrilling.

On the topic of on-the-water thrills: Yesterday I was out on my SUP, enjoying the downwind leg of a paddle up the shoreline, when I was startled by the splashes and flashes of a school of flying fish that began leaping out of the water along and behind me.  "Hmmmm...," I asked myself, "Self, why are those fish exiting the water in such a hurried fashion?  Could there be something chasing them?"  Afraid to look down and not wanting to be bait myself, I paddled like crazy in an attempt to get ahead of whatever toothy creature might have been scaring fish right out of the sea.  When telling this story to my nephews this morning, I was informed by the kid with ichthyological leanings that it was likely a barracuda or white-tipped reef shark that prompted the fish flight.  Yeah, thanks a lot, kid.

Jan 10, 2013

Weekly Wrap-Up

There's been a whole lot of activity around the House of Good Living this week.  The Hays Ohana has upped the busy-ness factor by sixfold and the days have been racing by.  Good, fun, loud times.  Here's some of what has been keeping us hopping:
  • Greg attended the PGA Tournament of Champions held just up the road from us in Kapalua and came back with some excellent loot ~ I mean giveaways ~ from the pro shop. Golfers had to endure three days of start/stop play because of nasty weather. It must have sucked to get all primed to play, get a couple of holes into the day and then have play cancelled - day after day after day.  I'm guessing the pros all headed to the beach and had their caddies fetch fruity drinks instead of drivers and irons.  That's what I would have done.
  • Tiny Raymond caught a ride over the ocean with his Hays buddies.  He hangs out with Artie the anthurium these days.  Characteristically, he immediately located and claimed the most ball-shaped objects upon arrival.
  • Our men went fishing and came back skunked and sunburned.  Oh well.  They got a decent boat ride out of the adventure.  And saw whales.  And dolphins.  Since we're fish-less, we're continuing to plow our way through the coolers of roasts, loins and steaks brought from La Conner.  I understand leg of lamb is on tonight's menu.
  • I've been paddling, paddling and paddling.  Still falling in. Still loving it. Got little James out on the board this morning: "Let's go to the waves," he said.  All right, little dude!  So we did, to the consternation of Grandma Anne who we left on shore.
  • We're all about beaching.  Or, more accurately: sanding.  That's what beach time with kids is mostly about.  It's mind-boggling how much sand can be introduced to every orifice on a little one's body and then transferred to accompanying adults, towels, vehicles and ~ ultimately, shower basins.
  • Tiny Raymond and his citrus balls
  • There's been pool time, tour time, lots of delicious meal time and ~ thank goodness ~ nap time.  Throw in a couple of condo fix-it projects and a fun "adults' night out" at Dukes and this week has flown by.  All in all: good times!

Jan 6, 2013

Aloha, Hays Ohana!

The House of Good Living gained six beautiful new faces overnight.   Alaska and La Conner branches of the Hays family tree joined up here for a Hawaiian holiday and we get to make like twigs tagging along on their adventures.  We imagine there are many fun times waiting in the week ahead with this bunch.  Chief among the gifts this company brings is the pleasure of watching Paige (6 yrs old) and James (2 yrs old) become acquainted with ocean waves, sandy beaches, chirping geckos and gigantic bunches of bananas growing right at eye level.  The fact that the two coolers of delicacies accompanied the Hays' troupe has absolutely nothing to do with our enthusiastic welcome.

Jan 4, 2013

Fruits of our labor

labored fruit
papaya and banana in top basket, citrus below

A couple of days ago we launched a sneak attack on the House of Good Living's papaya tree.  To clarify, in reverse order:
  • It's not really our papaya tree.  It's a volunteer started from seeds dropped by a resident Java Finch (love that bird), that sprouted between the row of palms lining our walkway.  Papaya trees grow really fast (I've written about them before, here) and fruit should be picked when it turns from dark to bright yellow/green.  Thus ....
  • Our sneak attack, or ~ as Greg called it ~ "our strategically timed fruit extraction event" needed to happen silently and quickly.  You know, sneakily.  Here's why:  this tree grows right alongside the walkway onto which everyone's front doors and bedroom windows open.  This fruit had been ripening right there - just out of arm's reach of everyone passing by.  We wanted to pick it without anyone noticing because ... well, there's really no good reason.  We just felt like being sneaky.  
I wish I had a better story.  The fruit was there for anyone to pick.  No one was picking it.  Thus ... us.  And our stealthy, greed-motivated fruit extraction event.  There. I confessed. We were being greedy.  People were letting a little thing like a 25' tree height get in the way of picking fruit that was going to rot on the stem otherwise.  So we silently, carefully, sneakily removed the ripest fruit and left the rest for someone else to pick.  How did we manage this without anyone being the wiser?  I'll just say that it took a paddle board leash, a paddle and extraordinary balance by Greg.  Use your imagination!

Actually, the papaya poaching was just the latest in a series of fruit-based activities.  Cousin Mino gave us beautiful box of island-grown citrus upon our arrival which we've augmented with on our walks to the abandoned lime tree down the road.  The House of Good Living has two enormous banana bunches from which we've been harvesting the past week, too.  Very little effort expended in gathering results in a great return of fruity enjoyment.  That's how easy ~ and delicious ~ life is here.

Jan 3, 2013

Our roommate(s)

Arthur the anthurium
We live small here in the House of Good Living.  Bed, bath, kitchen, entertaining and living space all take up less than 560 square feet.  Way back in '08 I wrote about the benefits (and one drawback) of living small and my enjoyment of our compact home continues today.

Not unlike spending time on a boat, one has to discover for oneself if this kind of life will work.  Can your wants be reduced to your basic needs?  Can you accept that efficiency takes priority over extravagance? We have systems that aid in the our enjoyment of these few hundred squares. The bed is made upon leaving it; shoes are stored under the entry table; and while we love to host pupu and dinner parties, our nightly occupancy is limited to two (visits from family don't count).

Then, Shirley brought Arthur into our lives.  Overnight we tossed our occupancy restriction and gained a roommate who's rosy face welcomes us every morning.  Artie ~ as Greg calls him ~ and his lava rock have taken up residency on a piece of Clay in Motion pottery (a wonderful gift in itself from Walla Walla cousins).  Artie is an anthurium, a tropical plant that thrives in our climate and offers long-lasting blooms surrounded by glossy heart-shaped leaves.  He's low-maintenance, requiring only a bit of water and protection from direct sun.  We take him to the lanai at night and suspect the mo'o likely go for swims in his basin.

Yep, the mo'o ... those rascals are still around.  I guess they're kinda our roommates, too.  Like Artie, they don't take up any room to speak of plus they have entertainment value a mere plant can't provide.  Our little home is now graced by a little plant and little bug-eating monsters.  There's a pleasant balance to that, isn't there?

Jan 1, 2013

Aloha, 2013!

Ha'oli Makahiki Hou from the House of Good Living!
beach snoozing, Greg-style
Out here in the middle of the Pacific we're greeting the New Year with a mix of sun, surf and Hawaiian blessings ~ aka: intermittent rain showers.  These are perfect conditions for both rainbows and napping off the excesses of last night.

It is with grateful hearts that we reflect on the past year.  In 2012 we enjoyed many fun adventures with friends, were blessed with the addition of Patsy Dietrich to our family (nice job, Dad ~ we're so happy for you both), and had no extended hospital stays!  Excellent gifts, every last one.  We look forward to the opportunities this new year brings and are hopeful of an adventure or two here in our little piece of paradise with YOU, dear reader.   Meanwhile, we'll content ourselves with some of the simple Maui pleasures we enjoyed today:  fresh-from-the-tree fruit for breakfast, long naps under a beach umbrella, and watching the sun set behind Lanai from our own lanai.
our last sunset of 2012