Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sunsets And The Super Moon.

Some photos from the lanai the last couple of days:

This is the August 11th sunset, along with an Hawaiian Airlines jet heading for one of the other islands.

A longer view of the August 11th sunset.  The sunset colors have been truly beautiful lately.

This was taken on the morning of August 12th as the "Super Moon" was setting.  I know this doesn't make the moon look particularly super, but technically, it was a day after the actual event.  That's what I get for zooming-out to have something else in the photo. :(

Wow!!  Yeah...I know, pretty boring.  I waited patiently for one of several airliners departing from Honolulu International to cross its path, (or come close) for what would have been a much more interesting photo, but was unsuccessful.  The one aircraft that did come close did so before I was ready and I missed the shot.  After that, the moon sank lower, becoming much more difficult to see and the aircraft didn't cooperate, either.

August 12th sunset.  As the sun's path moves to the south, it's now visible setting behind the Waianae Range and before long, we'll watch it slip beneath the waves again.  A day or so ago, the local news featured a video taken which caught the "Green Flash".  Sure hope we see it again some day.

An inter-island flight departing as the sun sets.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

A few seconds earlier, another shot, zoomed a little.

Finally, the sun adds a golden glow to these puffy clouds .

Hope you all had a good day.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Tropical Storm Iselle, 8 August 2014

Hawaii is normally ignored by the world's meteorologists, due to her boringly perfect weather.  Thanks to El Nino, things are a bit different this year.  "Iselle", born off the west coast of Mexico, grew into a Category III hurricane at one point in its journey across the Pacific and took direct aim at the Hawaiian Islands.

Early Friday morning, she made landfall as a tropical storm, on the Big Island of Hawaii.  The storm did plenty of damage, which has likely been documented by TV crews even as I write this post.  Maui also received a lot of damage and flooding, but not as much as had been feared.  O'ahu was next in line for heavy rains and gusty winds.

Last evening was normal for people on O'ahu, as Iselle wasn't predicted to reach us until sometime in the morning.  Since Hawaii has not been hit by a hurricane since "Iniki", in 1992, all precautionary measures were taken to keep people safe.  When I got up this morning, winds were blowing hard, with even greater gusts, along with lots of rain--sometimes falling almost sideways.  I saw no downed trees or damaged buildings and our power was still on.  The Honolulu streets were mostly empty as many businesses, schools and government offices were closed.

As the morning passed, winds diminished slightly and rains became intermittent.  High tide was to occur at 2:45 PM, so I decided by one PM that it was time to venture out for a firsthand view of what Iselle had--or hadn't done and to get some photos of the predicted high and rough surf.  Join me on my tour:

On Fort Street, a pedestrian-only area, this small tree was cracked and bent-over, the first sign of damage from the winds.  Click on any of the images to enlarge. 

Along my route, a federal government building has a long hedge of hibiscus plants.  These two beautiful blossoms withstood the winds and rain in such fine shape, I had to take a picture.

At the entrance to Kaka'ako Waterfront Park, I came upon another victim of the winds.  When I arrived, the gates to the park were still closed to vehicular traffic, but anyone could walk in.

All city parks were closed as a precautionary measure, but I did find this lone fisherman casting a line into the churning water.  He hadn't caught a thing. :(

A view of the empty park and wind-blown palms.

High tide and tropical storm surge produced these breakers.  Diamond Head made it into the photo, too.

View to the northeast.  The clouds were magnificent and had probably dropped all their rain on the windward side of O'ahu.

My destination today...Point Panic.  I've posted about this body surfing spot previously.

If you look closely, you can just see a body surfer's head above the wave, to the left.  It was rockin' and rollin' pretty good this afternoon and the locals were there to enjoy the fun.

Farther away, on the east side of Kewalo Basin harbor entrance, some very talented surfers were putting on a show.

Two young surfers head toward the concrete steps leading out of the water.

A surfer at the head of the steps leading down to the water.  I don't know if he was coming in or preparing to go out.  Beyond is Kewalo Basin, one of Honolulu's smaller vessel harbors.  Those ominous looking clouds never came our way. :))

More surfing action, with Diamond Head for a background.  Sweet.

These folks make it look so easy!

Before heading for home, a shot of two very lonely looking body surfers.  I was talking to one young man about it, asking if he'd ever had a leg cramp while out there.  He had, he said, and to stop it, he told me he reached down, grabbed his foot and pushed.  Wow!  By the way, there are no lifeguards posted at Point Panic which has, thus far, kept me on shore.

On the way out of the park, I saw this downed palm frond.  As I said, O'ahu was VERY LUCKY today!

I know you must be asking...What in the world is this photo doing here?  As I continued out of the park, a police car passed by.  As it did, I could clearly hear the crack and crunch as its tires rolled over some of the many nuts in the street.  Immediately after the car crushed the tasty treats, these two birds (common Mynas) zoomed in and began to have an "early-bird" dinner.  I was amazed at how they've adapted to urban living, allowing passing vehicles to prepare their meals.

So, we were lucky this time around, though I hope the other islands recover quickly from their storm damage.  The Hawaiian Islands location on the globe has protected them for countless years, from countless storms.  In this respect, the islands mimic current thinking about our planet's place in the Solar System.  Both Hawaii and earth, exist in their own "Goldilocks Zone". 

Have a nice weekend, everyone!   

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Italy, June 2014.

Michele visited Pitigliano, Italy, during her recent "half-way round the world tour" and took some wonderful photos I thought you might enjoy.

View of Pitigliano.  Click on the photos to enlarge.  Pitigliano was the birthplace of Michele's father, who emigrated at age seven, with his mother and brother, Aldo.  Following my retirement from the navy, we lived nearby the town from autumn of 1994 until the spring of 1996.

Say "Ciao" to Anna and her two daughters, Emanuela and Claudia.  Anna was our "angel", helping us with everything from finding a place to live, to learning the language, getting a car and setting up a bank account.  She also invited us to countless wonderful lunches and dinners.   We can never thank her and husband, Mario, enough, or ever come close to repaying all the many kindnesses they bestowed upon us, making our time in Italy, "La Vita Bella".

Anna, without her "Hollywood" sunglasses.  I cropped this from another of Michele's photos and just may turn it into a painting.  The photo captures her sense of fun and that twinkle in her eyes! :)  If I can just capture her glow, strength and vitality, too...

This is Anna's husband, Mario.  He's the hardest working man in Italy and was every bit as helpful to us as Anna.  He even cooks!  Once, at a birthday party, he prepared spaghetti con aglio-olio e peperoncino (spaghetti with olive oil, fried garlic and red pepper flakes).  Nothing unusual about that, but I once made the mistake of telling him I enjoyed the heat provided by the chilly peppers.  Thank goodness the spaghetti wasn't the only item on the menu that night!  Mario added so many pepper flakes, even he was sweating as he ate a plate full with a sly grin on his face.  I could barely stand it, but kept eating, trying to pretend it was perfect.  Of course, Mario knew it wasn't true, seeing my eyes water, my nose running like an open faucet and steam and smoke coming from my mouth and ears! :)  He had almost as much fun being a prankster as Anna.

Just in case you don't believe Mario actually cooks!  And how 'bout that apron! :))  Those are mild peppers in the frying pan, where they'll be lightly cooked in olive oil and served with that great looking Tuscan bread Anna has sliced.

I'd like you to meet Wanda (pronounced, "Vonda"), Anna's sister.  She's on her balcony which has a beautiful view of the surrounding hills and homes.  Wanda and her husband, Tarziello, were also very helpful, as well as, kind and generous to us.

Anna, Emanuela, Claudia and her boyfriend, Michel, along with Michele, enjoyed lunch at La Bottega di Stigliano in Siena.  This unique market and restaurant is co-operated by Emanuela's boyfriend, Nicola Vizzarri.  In addition to cooking at the bottega, Nicola co-owns Cuoco A Domicilio, a catering company, which also offers cooking classes!  Busy man!!

 Emanuela is a professional sommelier and Director of Hospitality for the Mazzei family, winemakers in Tuscany since 1435.  Codice (Code) V is one of their many fine wines.  Here's the translation of the story of this wine:  "The result of an advanced research project, Code V embodies the most unique characteristics of the Vermentino grape from the Tirrenean coast.  This wine has a sunny character, is savory, very mineral, with a muscular structure and a refreshing dry finish, typical of this grape variety."

Before lunch, Emanuela took Michele to see this Mazzei family aging cellar.

On to lunch at La Bottega di Stigliano!  Ravioli stuffed with cheese and spinach with a walnut sauce.  Michele said it was fabulous and she knows Italian food!

Someone chose tira misu for their dessert.  Nice touch with the cocoa powder fork silhouette.:))

Emanuela and Claudia in front of a multi-tier dwelling with a beautiful garden.  Michele said this shot was to show the garden, so click on the photo for a closer view.

Seeing these photos brought back many wonderful memories of our time there.  We haven't completely given up on the idea of living in Italy, but for only a couple of months a year.  You'll be the first to know if we can work it out!! :)))  Ciao il mio amici!  

Saturday, August 2, 2014

A Sunset, New Moon, "Celebrity" And USNS Mercy.

Some photos from the last few days in Paradise:

Sunset, 31 July 2014.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

Same sunset, a little while later.

The same night, the new moon on a beautiful evening in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

Earlier on the 31st of July, another "celebrity" is ready to pick.

Finally, on August 1st, we saw the USNS Mercy, a gigantic floating hospital, passing behind the tanker, Almi Sun, on her way to Pearl Harbor as RIMPAC wraps up.  In the foreground, you can see the Coast Guard Cutter, Kukui, WLB-203.  She's a 225-foot long, Juniper-Class seagoing buoy tender.  To learn more about the Kukui, click here

Hope your summer days are filled with wonders, too.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

USS Ronald Reagan Returns To Pearl Harbor

Got lucky again today.  I looked out to sea and there, for the second time, was the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) heading into Pearl Harbor.  I missed her getting underway to take part in the month-long RIMPAC exercises and I'm just guessing now, but think she's returned to give the crew some hard-earned and well-deserved liberty, Hawaiian-style, before sailing off to her next mission.

Have another look at this magnificent ship.

The U.S.S. Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) just outside Honolulu Harbor, on her way to Pearl Harbor from participating in the world's largest naval exercises, RIMPAC.

Not far from the entrance to Pearl Harbor, she passes a large airliner taxing into position for takeoff on the reef runway.  Click to enlarge any of the photos.

Next for takeoff, a Korean Airlines-747 heads for the runway.  Must've been a great view for the passengers seated on the starboard side!  It's as close as most people will ever get to a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier...or want to! :)

Finally, the Korean Airliner on her way home.  Aloha Oe everybody!

Hope your day was filled with sunshine and Aloha! :)

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Home-Grown Tomatoes

Does anything say "summer" as much as home-grown tomatoes?  For having only a single plant, growing in a pot on the lanai, we've done pretty well.  Take a look at what Michele did with some of the red-ripe beauties:

Insalata Caprese--featuring home-grown "Celebrity" variety tomatoes and home-grown basil.  The pita bread wedges came from Kamal's restaurant, Kan Zaman, where last Thursday evening we were treated to a most wonderful Moroccan-Lebanese dinner.  A nice glass of Chianti accompanied this beautiful dish.  Buon Appetito!

Same plate, with the already-bitten pita wedge, in early evening light.  Only two things could have made this even better:  One--enjoying it in Pitigliano, Italy, with Mario, Anna and the rest of the family... and Two--using genuine Italian Mozzarella di Bufala .

Hope everyone had a relaxing Sunday!

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Night To Remember.

Last night, we were treated to one of the most interesting, eye-opening and fabulous meals we've ever had the pleasure to enjoy.  Kamal invited us to his restaurant, Kan Zaman, as a thank-you for the portrait of his father and last night was THE NIGHT.  You are invited to join us.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge. 

This starter, not on the menu, was mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, olive oil and pita bread.  It was as delicious as it looks and though it may sound hard to believe, was quite filling.  This, and perhaps one other soup or salad could easily make a meal, but not tonight!

Their blog mentions the fact that the Lebanese people began making wine 2,000-years before Alexander the Great and they encourage guests to bring a bottle of Lebanese wine.  We didn't have any Lebanese wine at home, but did have this very nice bottle of 2012-Argyle Pinot Noir, made from grapes grown in Oregon's Willamette Valley, about an hour south of Portland.

For a second appetizer, Michele selected Taktouka, a cooked salad made of tomatoes, bell peppers, olive oil, spices and herbs, served with pita bread.  If you've ever enjoyed caponata on the island of Sicily, you would love this dish.  I ordered a bowl of lentil soup, curious to see how it was prepared compared to the Italian version we love so much.  You will have to take my word that it was superb, because I was so busy slurping it up, I forgot to get a photo!  The taste was similar, but subtly and exquisitely different from the Italian style.  Also, the lentils were pureed, resulting in a smooth, creamy soup.  Both the taktouka and lentil soup are excellent examples of how thoroughly cultures and cuisine in the Mediterranean area mingled over the centuries.

Michele's main course was chicken taouk, served on rice, with tabouleh (chopped fresh parsley, tomatoes, onions, with olive oil and lemon dressing) here, atop hummus, warak inab (grape leaves stuffed with rice, mint and lemon and served with a mint yogurt sauce and pita bread

I selected lamb tajine, tajine-style braised lamb shank, with preserved lemon, saffron, white beans and herbs.  It was so rich and falling-off-the-bone tender, I surrendered before finishing.  I can hardly wait until tomorrow...leftovers! :)))

Luckily, we both stopped early, saving room for dessert.  Michele chose katayef, an Arabic banana pancake with orange blossom cream, honey and toasted nuts.  In a word...WOW!

My selection was baklava.  I simply love the combination of layers of filo dough and nuts, drenched in honey.  It's another example of a food common throughout the Mediterranean area and the Middle East.  It was delightful. :)

Though the sweet mint tea is standard here and truly delicious, I opted for coffee to accompany the baklava.  Ashley brought this small pot of French press, allowing me to do the honors.  Bless her heart for erring on the strong side.  I used up nearly every packet of regular sugar, as well as, the non-calorie sweetener, along with two small vials of cream!  By then, it was just right and a great cup of coffee.  We were very impressed that they serve French press here.  Thanks, Kamal!

Michele snapped this photo of a very contented customer.

Amazing just how much we took home!  We know what's for dinner tomorrow night! :)))

The folks who made the evening extra special:  Kamal, along with Samantha (left) and Ashley.  The title of this post says it all.  Our knowledge of Moroccan and Lebanese food prior to this fabulous dinner was sorely lacking.  Now, our eyes (and taste buds) have been exposed to a whole new world of great tastes in a setting as warm as home.  If you're ever lucky enough to visit Hawaii, (or already live here) put Kan Zaman Restaurant on your Must Do list.  You'll be glad you did!