Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Perfect!

Every once-in-a-while a plan turns out perfect and yesterday was one of those days.  Michele's cousin, Mike, and his wife, Tami, arrived aboard the Grand Princess and we met them at Pier-2 at nine AM for a whirlwind, one-day tour of O'ahu.

First stop:  Pali Lookout.  Rush hour was over and being a Monday, our drive up Pali Highway to this site was easy.  The lookout wasn't crowded and it was as easy at it can get to show Mike and Tami this magnificent view of the Windward O'ahu.  In no time, we were on our way to the North Shore where Tami was especially excited to see and hear the waves crashing ashore.

The 37-miles passed by quickly and soon we were turning into Waimea Bay Beach Park, one of the most famous North Shore surfing beaches.  Luck was with us and being early didn't hurt, as we were able to find a parking place.  The water conditions could not have been better and we all had a great time body surfing and just playing in the waves.

Lunch at Haleiwa Joe's was next on the agenda.  The perfect day continued as we found a great parking spot AND were seated on the lanai, with a wonderful view of Haleiwa's small boat harbor.  The food was excellent and the setting and service were...perfect!  We couldn't leave Haleiwa without visiting Matsumoto's grocery store for one of their world-famous shave ice treats.  As we entered the small store, only one couple was in line!  Truly, luck was with us today.  In fact, we were at the head of the line so quickly, Mike and Tami needed more time to select their flavors!

We headed for home after lunch, yet again, without any serious traffic--another "miracle".  The plan called for a shower, a bit of rest and a Mai Tai or two before departing for Waikiki to view the sunset at the "House Without A Key"  at the Halekulani Hotel.  They loved their first visit a year ago, and were eagerly anticipating another spectacular sunset at this picture-perfect setting.

They don't take reservations for sunset on the lanai, so you arrive and hope for the best.  Luck was with us once again as we were seated at a great table, close to the trio and hula dancing.  The setting could not have been more beautiful.  Sunset and dinner cruise ships were sailing just off Waikiki Beach as Diamond Head began to slip into shadow.  The sun was putting on its usual magnificent display for guests as it drifted into the glorious Pacific.  All of this beauty, accompanied by the sweetest Hawaiian melodies and lovely hula performance.  No green flash, but no one complained.  We sat marveling at how wonderful the day had been.  We drove Mike and Tami back to their ship and said Aloha Oe with hugs.  It was a perfect day.

The Grand Princess at Pier-2 in Honolulu Harbor.  This magnificent vessel was Mike and Tami's transportation choice.  None too shabby, in my humble opinion.  She arrived at 0630 Monday.

The view from our first stop, the Pali Lookout.  The view of windward O'ahu is breathtaking.

Looking to the north, the Ko'olau Range dominates the view.  From here, it's on to the North Shore and the beach!

A great shot of Waimea Beach Park.  The waves at this famous big surf spot were just perfect for us novices today.  Big enough to thrill us, but small enough to not kill us.  Tami was a real trooper, too.  She told us she didn't plan on going in, but seeing Mike and me having a great time was all she needed.

Here's Tami almost being knocked over by the shore-breaking wave.  Yeah, that's me in the subdued colors. :)  I dress like this so the lifeguards can find me if I'm swept out to sea.  I'd also like to say the white spot on the top of my head is another aid to lifeguards, but you probably recognize a bald spot when you see one. :))

Mike, Tami and me venturing out to catch the next wave.  Michele stayed on the beach and took these photos, as she's still recovering from recent knee surgery.

We survived another wave.

Some of the shore-breaking waves were darn near scary today.  Here, Mike and Tami brace for impact.  The gentleman to my right is another happy camper enjoying this fabulous surf.

Tami...done in for today.  She had a great time and loved the waves--perfect!

Tami took this selfie of her, "Toes in the Sand".  Hey!  Let's go have lunch!

Welcome to the "House Without A Key" at the Halekulani Hotel on Waikiki Beach.  I cannot think of a more relaxing and beautiful place to have some wonderful umbrella drinks and watch the sunset.  The hula and Hawaiian music are the perfect accompaniment.

It's obvious from this image, that Tami and Mike are enjoying themselves.

Our hula dancer for the evening.  Her graceful dancing truly expressed "Aloha" to the guests.

Michele and Tami enjoying the evening.

Diamond Head at dusk.

Navitek I and the Ali'i Kai cruise ships just off Waikiki Beach loaded with passengers waiting for the sunset.

Shall we dance?  Tami and Mike take advantage of the music and the moment.  Talk about perfect!

Wow!  Few places on the planet can match the middle-of-the-Pacific sunsets and here's another example.

As mentioned, no Green Flash today, but you would never hear anyone here complain.  Besides, there's always tomorrow! :)

As dusk becomes evening, guests continue to enjoy the beautiful setting.  That ship on the horizon is the Star of Honolulu.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

The hula continues, under the stars.

And beneath the moon, as well!

A final Aloha to the guests.  Soon, we had Tami and Mike back at Pier-2, where we said our goodbyes and Alohas.  At about eleven PM, the ship would depart for Kauai and more adventures for Mike and Tami tomorrow.  Aloha Oe!

Hope your day was perfect, too.  

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Green Flash Confirmed!

A week ago, 16 February, to be precise, I got the camera ready to snap some photos of the sunset.  The final shot appeared as a tiny line of green which I thought was just another quirk of the combination of camera optics, software and a dab of atmospherics.  A month or so ago, a similar green appeared in a sunset photo and I thought nothing of it.

The difference this time was the TV weather man, Mr. Guy Hagi, showed a video someone had sent him of the Green Flash this day!  Confirmed!  For the second time since moving here, I've captured the Green Flash.  The only thing missing was the actual flash.  The video didn't show it, either, and that's why I didn't think it was the real deal.  Seeing that green "flash" in person several years ago made it REAL.  Frankly, I'm not sure a camera or video device is capable of recording it.  At any rate, here it is:

Getting there...

Almost show time...

Holy Atmospherics!  The Green Flash, minus the "flash".

And here's how my self-portrait at 65 looked as of yesterday.  It's been a series of experiments with color and values for the past two weeks.

A detail of my noggin. 

Sunset, February 20th.

Today, we're taking family from Las Vegas on a whirlwind tour of O'ahu.  They pulled into Honolulu Harbor this morning, aboard the Grand Princess cruise ship.  We plan on showing them Punch Bowl, the Pali Lookout and the North Shore.  We'll end the day on the lanai at the Halekulani Hotel with umbrella drinks and sunset.  They'll be more-than-ready to return to the ship to rest up!  Overnight, their ship travels to Kauai.

Have a great week everybody!  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Chinese New Year Dinner

Again this year, we were honored with an invitation to join our friend, Nan, and her family, at their  Chinese New Year dinner.  Like last year, it was held at Little Village Noodle House, a wonderful neighborhood restaurant located only a few minutes walk from our building.  Normally, this important meal to celebrate the coming year is held on New Year's Eve, but that would've been on Friday a week ago and the date didn't work out for Nan's family.

The ten-course meal consists of a wide variety of dishes, each having symbolic significance for the New Year, in this case, it's the Year of the Ram.  Nan's son, Randy, is a very knowledgeable wine aficionado and who knew...a wine maker, too!  He surprised us with a bottle of his own label and it was terrific.   

We were all seated at a large round table which featured a rotating turntable, (Lazy Susan) in the center.  All the dishes were placed on it and we'd spin the tray to enjoy the next course.  

Michele was shopping in Chinatown this morning and took this photo of the Little Village Noodle House menu.  Nan tweaked it a bit to make sure her favorites would be served.  What a feast!  Click on the photos to enlarge.

Our private room in the restaurant made it really special.  Only Nan's son, Randy and me are missing from this photo.

Nan and Michele waiting for the food to arrive.

Shea and his mom, Allison.  As the youngest person there, Shea received red envelopes each time he'd serve us tea or, in this case, wine.  You can tell he's serious about this.  I'm guessing he made enough to pay for his first year at the Ivy League university of his choice! :)

Marge and JoAnn.  Marge is Allison's mother and JoAnn is Nan's daughter.  I realize this is complicated but stick with me.

So...here we have Allison (Marge's daughter), Randy (Nan's son) and their son, Shea.  Easy...right!  Shea's older sister attends Penn State University.  We united in prayer that she thaws out by June!

"SYL", or Snooze You Lose, the wine bottled by Randy, his wife, Allison and friends at Oeno Winemaking in Kailua.  Who knew!!!  Allison created the great abstract label artwork.  Randy, a oenophile, had the most to do with the contents, which, by the way, was superb.  To learn more about the process and Oeno...visit their website at www.oenowinemaking.com.  Then move to Hawaii and let the party begin!

They ordered a barrel of this fine wine, then created their own label and had a bottling party at the Oeno Winemaking location in Kailua. Sounds like delicious fun!

The first two courses to arrive.  A do-it-yourself lettuce wrap, stuffed with pork and non-shark fin, shark fin soup.  I can't believe I caught the soup in mid-pour!  Life magazine look out! :)

A mountain of salt and pepper pork chop showed up next.  It was delicious, too.

This is Nan's favorite, honey walnut shrimp.  It's one of my all-time faves, too.

The white puffy buns lovingly surrounded exquisitely succulent and juicy slices of roast duck and the mouth-watering crispy skin.

King crab next graced the table.  I'm sure it was loaded with Good Luck for the New Year!  Nan made a special order for Shea...orange chicken.  He was kind enough to share and I can confirm it was really great!

What's left of the scallops, spinach and mushrooms.  It was fabulous.

Our dessert was coconut-tapioca pudding.  Light, refreshing and just sweet enough!

Randy (Nan's son) and his son, Shea, sharing a father-son moment after the great meal.

Marge and JoAnn enjoying themselves.

What a wonderful evening!  It was a great honor to be included in this wonderful family's New Year's Dinner and knowing them all from last year made it even more special.  Our heartfelt thanks go out to Nan for inviting us to share this treasured tradition once again. 

Monday, February 16, 2015

Lunar New Year Parade, 14 February 2015

Saturday was special here for two reasons:  The Lunar New Year Parade and Valentine's Day.  We wouldn't miss the parade as it's one of our favorites and who can miss Valentine's Day?  C'mon along and join the fun:

The parade was led by this banner proclaiming "A Night In Chinatown", a street fair which began about noon and would continue during and after the parade.

We headed across the street to Chinatown about an hour prior to the start of the parade, scheduled for 3:30 PM.  The streets were closed off, and vendors had set-up stalls selling every conceivable thing to honor and celebrate the Lunar New Year.  There were several stages set-up for live music and countless food stalls selling traditional New Year's fare.  The color red represents good luck, wealth and happiness and it was particularly well represented at this stall.  Green and yellow are also very important colors, seen everywhere during the new year celebrations.

See what I mean! :)  I almost bought some, but Michele said my "good luck" drawer was already full.

One of many food stalls selling everything tasty and special to Lunar New Year's health, wealth and happiness.

This lady is frying gau gee.  At only $1.25/piece, we shared one of these tasty delights.

A close-up view of these treats filled with a savory stuffing.

On to the parade!  The Grand Marshal acknowledges the crowds.

Everyone in Hawaii loves a parade, especially at Lunar New Year.  Here's the navy band proudly marching along to "Anchors Aweigh".

The pageantry is truly grand, with colors of red, green and yellow--all good luck colors.

Recently elected Governor of Hawaii, the Honorable Mr. David Ige, shakes hands with a constituent, who just happens to be Michele.

Holy Kitty Litter Batman!  Michele teased this lion and it's taken her arm up to her shoulder.

Here comes the Royal Hawaiian Band.

Gusty winds accompanied the parade today and the huge, colorful flags were really moving.

Two princesses from the Narcissus Pageant.  What would a parade be without beauty queens and politicians?

A troupe of lion dancers make their way across Bishop Street.

Mayor of the City and County of Honolulu, the Honorable, Mr. Kirk Caldwell, greets the people.

Lion dancers.  The colors of their costumes are so striking.

A blow-up of the photo above.  I loved the joyful expression of the "southern half" of the Lion dancer team.  The lion dance organizations are a mix of tradition, social club and fitness program.  The team members change positions frequently, never missing a beat of the drum traveling with them.

And speaking of lion dancers...Another hungry beast nearly consumed Michele's arm, dollar bill and all!  Maybe a dollar isn't enough these days!!  I'm just guessing, but it wouldn't surprise me if relatives of team members "feed" them much larger denominations to reward their efforts and performance.  They certainly earn the respect of parade viewers with their enthusiasm, fun and joy.

Michele especially loves to "feed" the younger lions.  They don't bite yet. :)

One of my favorite photos of the parade captured this youngster's joy at being a part of the show.

A large dragon signals the parade finale.  It's a thrill to see this beast maneuvered through the streets, entertaining children and adults alike.  This team worked very hard to control it in the windy conditions today.

A closer view of the dragon.  Again, notice the great smile on one it's handlers.

Finally, we ended our day with a gorgeous sunset:

I got lucky catching the plane about to land on the reef runway.  The passengers on the port side must've really enjoyed their arrival in Paradise!

Almost gone and so was a great day.  Hope you all had a wonderful Valentine's Day and Lunar New Year's celebration, too!