Nov 30, 2014

Aloha, Olsens!

We're celebrating the arrival of special guests this afternoon who are fleeing the frigid Pacific Northwest for their first visit to Maui. That's reason to celebrate, right?!  Stay tuned for adventure stories over the coming week.

On the topic of very welcome guests: this morning brought my first sighting of Maui's much-anticipated winter visitors ~ the humpback whale.  Greg's been able to catch a half dozen breaches and tail slaps but I've missed them all until now.  Here's hoping we can combine adventures of both the whale sort and tourist sort!

Nov 28, 2014

Rainbow Friday Wrap-Up

No Black Friday for us on this day after Thanksgiving ~ there are rainbows in every direction we look this morning!
There's been some serious feasting at the House of Good Living this past week, culminating in last night's poolside Thanksgiving potluck ~ 2 turkeys, 20 lbs of mashed spuds ~ it was quite the meal!

It's always good times and good food with our Hawaiian ohana at Hale Ono Loa.
Cousin Cyn shared her lovely self with us this past week, too. And I practiced my daily meditations with some new friends in the koi pond right outside our front door.
The open air lounge alongside the pond & fountains is filled with bird song and gentle breezes in the morning.
Even our stormiest days at the House of Good Living have a bit of sun somewhere.

Nov 20, 2014

Passionate Fruits

Lilikoi Lani's front lanai overlooking tropical gardens
Earlier this week we were introduced to one of the most beautiful upcountry homes you'll find in the islands: Lilikoi Lani Maui. Located on a verdant two acres, this boutique vacation rental is just a couple minutes from historic, hip, Makawao. The handsomely appointed home and cottages were inspired by Maui's plantation era and balance the charm of yesteryear with the luxuries sophisticated travelers dreams of. I'd happily spend days rocking on the front lanai!

Our hostess was the home's lovely owner ~ Colleen. She graciously shared tropical treasures from the trees which surround the home and give the property it's name ~ the Lilikoi. You may know this delicacy by another name: Passionfruit. Rich in fiber, vitamin A and iron, the lilikoi or passionfruit is full of health benefits and antioxidants.

lilikoi martini
This exotic fruit is quintessentially Hawaiian: tangy, sweet, abundantly found on vines threading their way through guava or lime trees, and used in a variety of delicious ways including baked goods, fruit butter, syrup, ice cream and marinade for meats. And ~ last but not least ~ our current favorite application: refreshing adult beverages.

We'd hardly walked through the door at the House of Good Living before Greg was going all ninja on three beautiful yellow lilikoi (lilikoius?). It was easy to determine which fruit were ripest; all it took was a shake to tell if the flesh was at it's juiciest, jiggliest stage and then off went its head. Greg stirred up the contents (a blend of citrus-flavored flesh and floral-scented juice with digestible seeds) before adding a shot of martini-quality gin to one, margarita-making tequila to another and rum to the last. Each drowned fruit then went into the freezer for an hour before re-emerging as single-serving lilikoi shots, organic style. The result: fresh squeezed deliciousness in nature's own packaging.
3 drunken fruits
Had it not been for the generosity Colleen shared with us, we would have missed out on experiencing a beautiful place and the tropical tastes that will now always bring Lilikoi Lani Maui to mind.  Please, check out this vacation rental on Facebook or VRBO if you're considering a family or group holiday on Maui.

Nov 19, 2014

Moving On

My man and his German love machine

Our relationship with cars at the House of Good Living is, in Facebook vernacular "complicated." We've flirted with, dated, committed to and experienced heartbreaking separation from quite a few vehicles over the past eight years.

For a time, a rugged Ford 150 made endless trips to the landfill with our construction debris and I confess to having a bit of a crush on that bad boy. But, as often happens, the tough attitude signaled a rough ride down the road so he rumbled back Upcountry without us.

We filled the gap with an SUV shipped from the mainland and that rig took to Hawaii in nothing flat. Quickly bedecked with turtle stickers and rainbow plates, the Exploder was the stereotypical beach buggy, right down to the miasma created by wet dive gear anytime the windows were closed for more than an hour.

I lost a little bit of my heart when that relationship ended and, as can too often happen, filled the gap with an unsuitable infatuation - a Mazda Miata. Maybe it could have worked. We might have had something that wasn't completely wrong IF the trunk wasn't already filled with a gigantic amp and IF the ragtop hadn't been permanently vented by holes. As it was, that darling little car couldn't be held by the bounds of earth and flew off the road to Hana, captured again, temporarily, by a tree. Fly, white dove. Fly.

Car du jour is in our life because Greg man-crushed on it from his very first sighting. He managed to structure a condo purchase to include the beauty and (just speculating here) was more excited to have the car keys handed over than the title to the condo. Can't fault the man for his taste ~ it's a gorgeous European and super fun to drive. However, like many beautiful objects of affection, it's high maintenance and tends to withhold if left too long without attention. At first it was just a little pout and sulk. But as time (without daily petting) went on, the bitch began throwing major tantrums. We began talking about a car divorce after a paroxysm of spite left me covered in hydraulic fluid. The surreptitious search for a suitable replacement felt a bit like illicit love.

After so many attempts at a healthy relationship, it feels like we've finally landed on the right partner; strong and reliable, not so handsome as to attract punitive envy, capacious enough to camp in ... this one feels exactly right. We brought it home a couple of days ago and it already feels like we've slipped into our own skin. Even better, it's ability to twist time/space creates a black hole into which I'm able to dump endless quantities of Costco-sized paper goods. Maybe this is indeed "The One" for us.
Count 'em: 8 crates of tissue and towels just behind the back seat!

Just in case you're considering a car on Maui:
If you're planning a long trip, Maui's version of rent-a-wreck has decent deals for long stays. It has provided our main method of transportation for quite a few visits. We have managed a two month stay by using bicycles, the bus and carjacked friends but recommend renting a car unless you're willing to give up control of your schedule.

Nov 15, 2014


my reading room
Foiled. Forestalled. Derailed.

Shingles and sharky waters have interfered with my plan to swim every day so I use up ocean time with a thesaurus. That's not a complaint, by the way. Words and their meanings fascinate me. People who can string words into stories are my idols.

I enjoy reading. Anything. If presented with a cereal box, an encyclopedia, a dictionary, I'd read it as a kid. Today I remain infatuated with books and the stories they tell. My wallet has more library cards than credit cards and there's generally a book (or three) at my elbow or in my bag.

With the water off limits and time on my hands I've taken to reading stories relevant to my current place in the universe.  One of the more enthralling stories I've come across is a historical drama, filled with intrigue, powerful characters and a redemptive conclusion (as most of my favorites tend to be ~ I like happy endings). In short: it's the story of Maui. And it's a very different tale than many beach-going, mai tai-sipping visitors think they know about the island.

Here it goes: 
Legends say the demigod Maui hauled up the Hawaiian Islands from the sea with his mighty, magical fish hook and snared the sun atop Haleakala in order to slow the day so that his mother's bark cloth could dry. The island of Maui and the constellation "Maui's Fishhook" (aka Scorpius) is named after this mythological figure. There are a number of other Oceanic legends about Maui and his feats but I'll leave those for you to read later.

Oral history tells a different story: 
Until the 15th century, Maui was comprised of several chiefdoms. These were united by King Pi'ilani who merged the factions into a single royal family or ali'i. The island prospered peacefully under this rule for more than two centuries and today we can still see remnants of the King's Highway that circled the island along its coast. The last king of Maui - Kahekili - was defeated in 1790 by King Kamehameha the 1st in an epic battle. Kamehameha took control of Maui and made Lahaina the new capital of the unified Hawaiian kingdom. 

Here's where it starts to develop into a truly interesting story: we throw in Spanish castaways and the always devilish Captain Cook shows up. Next, American fur traders and whalers of all nationalities make their debauched entry into the scene. Toss in a bunch of missionaries and a Hawaiian Queen with power issues and we have combustion equal to that volcano which decides to erupt at about the same time. Kaboom. And all that's BEFORE the plantation era and the US government's scheme to overthrow the monarchy which add contemporary literary tension to the tale. Oh yeah, and a war. How's that for a dynamic plot?

See why I can't tear myself away from this narrative? Wouldn't you want to keep reading?

Nov 13, 2014

Fins to the left. Fins to the right!

Well, it happened again. Sharks and swimmers don't play well together and this afternoon's event vividly illustrates why.

What makes this shark encounter personal is that it happened at "our" beach. No, not the beach right out front of the House of Good Living (which was the site of a fatal shark attack a decade ago and more recently this attack). Rather, it occurred directly offshore our favorite spot to gather with friends and watch "Beach TV"~ the always entertaining spectacle featuring visitors and locals alike.

Today's water conditions were suspiciously "sharky" from the beginning; big surf churned up the bottom and light rain diminished visibility further. When the water's like this, we opt to stay out of the waves. Most of the surfers out front made the same decision and the break was empty by noon. The reason: the lower the visibility, the more likely some big creature will bump into you by mistake. And then, in trying to figure out what it's just bumped into, will take a nibble to see if it tastes good. We try to avoid getting bumped into.

I'm certain the man who was bitten today would argue the point BUT there's very little reason to fear a shark attack on Maui. In fact, it's not believed that the creatures actively seek out swimmers. Turtles, yes. And people sitting on surfboards with feet dangling, maybe. However, you're more likely to be killed by a coconut or lightening strike or volcanic eruption than by a shark when on vacation in Hawaii. That last sentence doesn't make for great tourism campaign language, does it? But I hope it can provide a measure of reassurance for our guests. Let's try again: "Stay out of murky water and watch out for volcanoes." Is that better?

Nov 12, 2014

Wedding Crashers

We broke a bunch of etiquette rules yesterday and showed up, uninvited, at someone's beach wedding. Terribly rude, right?

Getting "Maui'd" is a popular method of sealing the deal between two lovebirds and the wedding industry is big business here in the islands. Search Pinterest or Google for "Maui Beach Wedding" and you'll find a panoply of lovely, surf and sunset filled images of gorgeous people tying the knot. Glowing brides, swaying palms, fragrant flower leis ~ all the images seem to suggest that every day will be a holiday once married. As it should be.

When we heard that a distant cousin was getting married just down the beach from the House of Good Living it seemed like a good idea to crash the party. Gathering up two leis (orchid for the groom and tuberose for the bride), we tried to arrive as inconspicuously as possible, using palm trees as cover until popping out onto the grass at the beach park. Our timing was a little off and our unexpected presence elicited considerable surprise from the bride when we arrived mid-ceremony. Awkward.

To be clear, we weren't the only uninvited guest; cousin Cyn had also dropped in. But I think she received a quasi-invite via Facebook so perhaps she was expected. We definitely weren't included in the plans and have to give big kudos to the celebrants for their warm welcome and graciousness. The bride was beautiful, the groom most handsome and their family absolutely delightful. We wish them a happy Hawaiian honeymoon and joy-filled life together. And may they be saved the surprise of uninvited second cousins from all future events.
Maui'd cousins

Nov 11, 2014

Big Surf Forecast

watching the surf at S-turns
A major NW swell is due to arrive today and it's being called the biggest surf of the season. That means we have perfect seats here at the House of Good Living for watching paddlers and surfers on the local-knowledge spots located right out front of us.

"Mushrooms" is a short ride that shallows quickly and gets a lot of beginners on SUPS which makes it something of a demolition derby at times. "S-Turns" is just a few hundred yards south and notable for it's own dangers; urchins, rocks and a fatal shark attack 10 years ago.

Today both spots are teeming with adventure seekers taking advantage of the big conditions. Being SUP-less this season (and banned from ocean activities until post-Shingles) I watch with gritted teeth as it seems everyone else is enjoying what I'd love to be doing. But then I consider how lucky I am to be here, watching the big beautiful waves roll in, and it (almost) makes it all better!

Fish Tales

Greg's bigeye tuna
Sashimi. Sushi. Poke.
These words thrill me because each can feature the ruby-colored flesh of my favorite fish ~ Ahi (aka Yellowfin or Bigeye tuna). Firm and mild flavored, Ahi has a silky texture and is an excellent source of healthy, extra-lean protein. Even better, it's sustainably fished here in Hawaii.

We went fishing* a few days ago and came home with a beautiful 12 pounder.  Greg worked magic with his fillet knife, converting the fish into steaks, poke and ready-to-eat sashimi. He went traditional with the poke; a little soy sauce, onion, sesame oil and avocado to garnish ...voila! Taste sensation. Next up was our sashimi. A little less traditional this time, he prepared the ahi steak by rolling it in lightly crushed black pepper and garlic. A hot pan with olive oil was at the ready but the fish just got a kiss on all sides before transferring to a cutting board for thin slicing.  Served with lime-dressed avocado, sticky rice and wasabi, the ahi was indescribably delicious. If I'd not known what it started life as, I'd have guessed it was grilled portabella mushroom or filet mignon.

fishing*: our preferred method is to visit Lahaina harbor and use a $20 bill as bait

Nov 8, 2014

Moon(ing) over Maui

Moon-set between Molokoai & Lanai
I've shared before how much we enjoy the technicolor sunsets our West Maui vantage point provides during winter months. The accompanying day's end ritual contribute to the sense that each approaching twilight is an event to be honored. There's a quiet gratification in setting aside time to say "mahalo" to the day and "aloha" to the night. Spending time in a place where that happens at each day's end helps me honor and mark the gifts of the past 24 hours.

This past week's waxing moon and very early morning moon-sets deserved the same celebration. Thanks to an early morning telephone call (folks: 7 am in Washington State is 5 am in Hawaii), I was able to enjoy the occasion. Mahina was at her most serene in that last hour before she dipped into the sea. The sky over the mountains was brightening with a new day even as the moon hung in the clouds at ocean's edge. A single bird song proclaimed night was done and the moon's job completed.

Nov 5, 2014

eat. beach. sleep. repeat.

There's a comfortable rhythm to most days at the House of Good Living. Yesterday was one of the more satisfying examples of just how soothing that tempo can be. The sun dawned, the waves rolled in and we wandered down to a favorite sandy spot for an afternoon of visiting and floating with friends.

The 5:30 AM telephone call this morning should have alerted us that today was going to have a decidedly different pattern.  Lost car parts, broken dishwashers, a missing microwave turntable (puhleeze, tell me how does a housekeeper misplace part of the microwave?) are all conspiring to keep me from the beach today. Our yin-yang of life here ~ with bright days and dark days ~ could use some improving upon. So, I'm going to take up the mantra: eat. beach. sleep. repeat .... eat. beach. sleep. repeat.

Nov 4, 2014

Our week in review

Nov 3, 2014 sunset from House of Good Living
We've been enjoying a series of technicolor sunsets this past week ~ the kind that herald winter is coming to the Hawaiian islands. 
Winter is Coming

There's a bunch of science to explain why our twilight is more brilliant in winter than in summer and even more science to explain the role of volcanic particles, relative humidity and photochemicals. Whatever. Maybe knowing the whys would increase the wonder but I'm thinking it's all quite pretty without the details. 

It's common practice to pause and watch the sun set, saying "mahalo" to the day and "aloha" to night with ceremonial conch blowing. Our Valley Isle neighbors do themselves proud every night with bugle-quality breathwork. It seems a peculiar skill but it does lend a certain ancient quality to the sunset ritual. 

Another ritual realized this past week: my
new blue slippahs
annual slippah acquisition. The "Locals" I prefer to slap around in were on sale at Times for a paltry $5.58. Happy, happy. Greg's delicate arches require more substantial footwear that cost ten times the price of my bright plastic flippity flops. Lucky me.

Our week wrapped up with a homage to one of our favorite Maui activities: Sunday Dinner at Shirley's. We've enjoyed seven years of gathering as Maui family to share meals and stories. However, now that Shirley (we love you Gram!) has moved back to the mainland, the title's been modified to "Sunday Dinner at (insert location)". Could be the beach, could be poolside or could be right back on our own lanai. It's not so much the "where" as the "why" ~ the opportunity to gather with friends and count up the blessings.
Sunday Dinner with the Ohana

Nov 3, 2014

To GO or not to GO

Buckled up and ready to GO
"Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer."

I've read this unattributed quote over the years and each time it make more sense. The drawback advantage of partnering with a man who's never met a trip he doesn't want to take is that I've learned firsthand the truth in those words.  I'm a homebody who'd often prefer to nest with a good book, married to a man who often prefers to see what lies beyond. 

We've had to arrive at a balance. I find meaning in planning and preparing. Greg values the freedom of spontaneity. Sharing what I learn provides structure to our travel while he stretches my natural inclination to stay within the comfort of the familiar. As a result, I think we both come away a fuller appreciation of the experience we've shared. But, oh boy, is it sometimes a test.

Despite the distance, journeying to the House of Good Living doesn't really fall into the "travel resulting in riches" column as it's more a commute than an adventure. However, once we've arrived and settled in, the familiar sights and sounds of our Maui "home" elicit a release of tension unlike anywhere I've ever been. My exploit-seeking partner contents himself with long soaks in 83* ocean waters and daily treks to the lime tree. As for "happiest-when-nesting" me? Well, I'm checking out Google Earth for best routes to our next escapade. 

Nov 2, 2014

Our open door policy

Aloha ~ Come on in!
We keep our doors open here in the House of Good Living. Lanai doors, front doors, bedroom doors; they're only closed if we're away for a while. It would feel reckless to do this back on the mainland. However, here on Maui an open door invites cooling trade breezes, flower-scented air and the sound of the ocean's rhythms.

Infrequently, random passers-by will use that open door as an invitation to enter.  Like the old dude who ten minutes ago just stepped in, took his shoes off and looked around before it dawned on him he was an entire floor off his intended destination. Aloha, confused old guy. Have a nice day.

It's this kind of casual approach that contributes to my (admittedly subjective) definition of quality of life. When I relax my need to control what happens next and open the door for anything, anyone, anytime, I find myself a little closer to a state of gratification. That open door has led to watching a sun set and the stars shine in the company of others who value a simple evening.  It allows me to spend days within earshot of waves. 22 years ago an opened door brought me a partner in adventuring, floating and learning.

Most recently, that door has served as a portal for lessons in patience and acceptance which piggybacked their way into my life in the form of Shingles. Or as Greg calls it: Vanessa's leg herpes. Who the heck takes a vacation and comes down with Shingles? I'd been attributing the pain in my backside to the fall off a ladder I took the day before arriving on Maui. But a weekend beach visit revealed a suspicious blistery rash on my thigh and today I'm feverish, achy and cranky. The first two are a result of the virus, the latter because the ocean is verboten to me.  Maybe even for weeks, according to the doctor.

Oct 30, 2014

"A" is for ...

Yep. That's a testicle tree.
The amazing, abundant, appetizing avocado.  The word and all its delicious meaning was derived from the Aztec name ahuacacuauhitl translated as "testicle tree." Indeed. Having recently enjoyed the shady comfort provided by the dense evergreen branches of such a tree, I can attest to the appropriateness of that name.

It's a fruit, you know. Even though it's green and savory (like a vegetable) and has high levels of unsaturated oils, minerals, vitamins and reasonable levels of proteins, the avocado is second only to the olive (another fruit, by the way) in oil content. It's strange fruit but extraordinary for reasons beyond it's vegetative qualities. The tree will have abundant flowers during pollination time but only 1 in 5000 blossoms will set for fruit which means there's a real survival of the fittest going on for each green orb.

Avo Hunter
Maybe you're not a fan. Perhaps too many bowls of gelatinous green goo have been passed off as
guacamole and you're skeptical of including anything that color or consistency in your food pyramid. I get it. They're not very friendly fruit, are they? With their knobby black skin and big pits that never grow in the windowsill Dixie cup even though everyone said it was the easiest science experiment ever.... urrrghhhh. Oh, I'm sorry. Fifth grade flashback.

What I'm rhapsodizing about today isn't that boring, suspiciously mushy, supermarket Calavos 'cado. We're in avo Nirvana here in the House of Good Living and it's time the word got out: Hawaii is the world capital of gourmet avocado.  Over 200 varieties of avocado trees grow here and all three "races" are represented ~ the West Indian, Guatemalan and Mexican types provide terrific diversity in growing altitudes, microclimates and harvest times.  It isn't just that Hawaii has more types of avocados; Hawaii has better-tasting avocados. The buttery, nutty flavor that makes the avocado uniquely savory among fruits comes from its concentration of vegetable fats.  And the Hawaii avo is the king of fats. Your California Hass has a fat content of about 8%; the fat content of the Kahalu'u, on the other hand, can reach 25%.  It's like eating butter.  But in a good, green way.

count 'em: 1, 2, 3, 4 varieties plus other tropical goodies....
Yesterday we visited Cousin Cyn's avocado grove, harvesting four varieties.  And by harvesting, I mean I stood and pointed at the testicles, I mean fruit, while Greg wielded a lacrosse stick at the trees' tender undersides.  It was that easy.  And, since avocados don't/won't ripen on the tree (something to do with enzymes, blah, blah, science words, blah) now we just sit back and let the brown paper bag work its magic on those little nutritional treasures.  Oh, the joy that awaits ...

Oct 28, 2014

I need the sea

I need the sea because it teaches me.
I don't know if I learn music or awareness,
if it's a single wave or its vast existence,
or only its harsh voice or its shining
suggestion of fishes and ships.
The fact is that until I fall asleep,
in some magnetic way I move in
the university of the waves.
                       Pablo Neruda

Oct 23, 2014


Maui's waiting for me on the other side of tomorrow which means it's countdown time here on the mainland.

Mail forwarded? Check.
Paper delivery stopped?  Got it.
Dog headed to Camp Scratch & Stick? Done and done.
Teleconferencing set up for committee and board meetings? Uhhh ... oops. DogGONE it. 

Best reason to head to Maui this time of year? I get to escape the PNW's every-falling rain. Hardest part of leaving the mainland? Managing my community volunteer work from 2600 miles away. Poor me, right?  

I'll let you in on a little secret: When I'm on that conference call for your 9 AM meeting on the mainland, it's 6 AM on Maui and I'm still in my pajamas. The noon luncheon meeting? I've progressed to swimsuit. And, by the 6 PM board meeting I'm probably relaxing post-beach, in my "conference chair" on the lanai, wearing a sarong. And no shoes. Definitely no shoes.