Friday, December 27, 2013


Christmas Eve, our landlords, a young couple with two beautiful children, stopped by to bring us a lease extension for another year here and to share a cup of Christmas cheer.  Their visit worked out perfectly for me.  I'd tried to get them to allow me to come by their home to drop off a couple of pieces of misdirected mail.  My plan was to give them, not only their mail, but the double portrait of their children, too.  When they offered to bring the lease documents here, I instantly agreed. :)

They arrived in the afternoon and we showed them around since they hadn't seen their place in a long time.  Soon after that, Michele invited the children to have a look at their former bedroom and to secretly see themselves on canvas.  Our plan worked well and a minute or two later, they were asking Mom and Dad if they could show them something.  Cori and Alex proceeded into what is now my studio to see what had piqued the kids interest.

What a surprise they had!  They had not seen my blog and had no idea I finally decided to paint the portraits from their favorite photo.  They both stared at it for some time, moving back then closer and back again.  We had a good time discussing the painting before heading for the lanai and something cold to drink.  A toast to the holidays was certainly called for and we all clinked glasses in the sunshine.

Here's the finished painting...that is, unless they request changes after living with it for awhile.  I offered to make corrections because for the painting to be successful, the parent's ideas about how their children look MUST be heard and responded to, in my humble opinion.  It was a very nice Christmas Eve, I think, for all of us.

Christmas Day was quiet and spent doing pretty much routine things.  Michele swam and I jogged.  I was going to turn the jog into a post, but Honolulu was so quiet, I decided to simply run.  For dinner, we decided to visit our favorite neighborhood restaurant, Hunan Cuisine.  We took a gift for the wonderful family who own the restaurant and Jialan, their English-speaking daughter, was (thankfully) able to convey our feelings to her parents, WenHua and AiYuan on this special day.  Our dinner was superb, as expected, but came with a surprise for us.  They would not allow us to pay for our meal!  We certainly had no expectation this would happen, but we now wished we'd given the gift after we'd paid!

 Hunan Cuisine kitchen is just behind this area. 

The day after Christmas, Michele made us a delightful breakfast, turning slices of a  Panettone into French toast!  Whew!! Talk about a sugar high!  Funny thing was, neither of us were hungry until dinner that night.  How did that happen.  I was expecting a blood sugar crash of epic proportions.

 French toast made from slices of Panettone!  Yummm-m!:)

So, we enjoyed the sunset that evening and we're now looking forward to New Year's Eve.  I hope your celebrations were wonderful, no matter what form they took.  I'll close this post by saying how challenging it is living in such a melting pot of world cultures.  Many people here do not celebrate Christmas and don't use the Gregorian calendar, other than for international business purposes.  China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam use the Chinese calendar (Han calendar) for civil purposes and there are many people living in Hawaii and Honolulu from these countries.  Luckily, everybody plays nice and respects other cultural practices.  If one is sensitive to cultures other than one's own, it takes quite a feat of organization to keep track to who is celebrating what and when.  We are still working on this project! :)

Another beautiful sunset as seen from the lanai.  It never gets old!
Happy New Year everyone!  That is, if you use the Gregorian calendar! :)

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winter Solstice--Saturday, 21 December 2013.

It sure doesn't seem like the shortest day of the year today, much less, the start of winter.  Checking the sunrise/sunset chart, the day portion of Honolulu's Winter Solstice this year is10-hours, 50-minutes and 12-seconds!  I can most definitely live with that. :)  Imagine the joy ancient peoples living in cold-weather climates must have felt when their tribal shaman told them that, after today, the days would begin to grow longer!  And that in a few months, winter would release its icy grip on their land.

I awoke early this morning, not on purpose, it just happened.  Lucky for me, too, because I was treated to the longest lasting, most intensely-colored rainbow seen since moving here nine months ago.  And some truly painting-worthy clouds--if only I knew how to paint them.  On with Nature's spectacular show...

Clouds over the Pacific at 7:12 AM.  The sun comes up behind and to our left, illuminating these huge, billowing cumulus clouds.  The pinks, oranges and white against the clear blue sky made me glad I'd gotten out of bed an hour earlier.

A few minutes later, they're still spectacular in their colors and shapes.

I don't know how long this amazing rainbow had been visible before I noticed it, but we'll start the clock at 7:44 AM--the time stamp of this image.

A minute later, this was taken to show the scope of the event.  I leaned over the lanai railing as far as possible, but it went over the building, well beyond my view.

This was taken at 8:00 AM, as I observed the rainbow moving toward us.

It's 8:15 AM and still going strong.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

I've zoomed-in to capture the rainbow in front of, or enveloping the huge container-moving cranes at the harbor.  The time stamp on this image is 8:16 AM.

Michele woke up in time to enjoy the never-ending rainbow.  Time now:  8:22 AM

Amazingly, this final photo was taken at 8:32 AM, though the show continued for about ten more minutes!  I've never seen such strong and clear colors.  I can only say, "Wow"!

And finally this morning...our little lanai garden.  The plants are all doing very well--we've even noticed that the Christmas tree seems a little taller! :)  I hope you had a good morning, too.

But, were not done yet!  How about a look at the spectacular Winter Solstice post-sunset sky.

The sun dipped below the horizon this evening, partially hidden by clouds, but I had a hunch the post-sunset sky might be special.  It was!

I zoomed-in a little to show more detail of the dramatic cloud formation and fiery illumination.

PS  The President and his family arrived here last night at 11:30 PM.  I'm guessing they're sleeping-in today, since they haven't called to say hi or Mele Kalikimaka.  Maybe later. :)

PS,PS  Michele and I would like to wish all of you who celebrate Christmas, a very merry one, along with all good wishes for the New Year. :)

Happy Holidays from Honolulu!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Michele Takes A Surfing Lesson!

Wow!  Yesterday, Michele took her first surfing lesson!  I'd been coaxing, begging, pleading and even tried goading her into trying something challenging and she finally did it.  In truth, I used a bit of leverage provided by a birthday.  I told her the only gift I wanted was for her to try something out of her comfort zone and the surfing lesson was her choice.  Swimming with sharks and para sailing did not make the cut this time.  There's always next year, however! :)

A little before one PM, we drove to the Fort DeRussy garage, parked, then walked about a mile to Star Beachboys ocean sports concession on Waikiki Beach.  To learn more about them, click here

On Waikiki Beach, looking west.  The Royal Hawaiian Hotel is dwarfed by the Sheraton Waikiki.  I thought you'd want to see exactly where Star Beachboys concession is located.  Click on any of the photos to enlarge.

We're still at the Star Beachboys area, looking east toward Diamond Head.  The outrigger canoe is one of the available ocean sport activities anyone can sign-up for.  One of the Beachboys asked me if we'd like to go out in it and hit the fairly high surf after Michele's lesson.  I told him I doubted she'd have the energy left to help paddle this canoe out.

Star Beachboys are all high tech, too.  These small, portable solar panels are used to power their computer and card reader.  Sweet!

Just a few meters down the beach is a catamaran available for rides.  This isn't associated with Star Beachboys, however.  When they're ready for passengers to come aboard, a crewman uses a conch shell like a trumpet to let everyone on the beach know.

Michele signed-up for a semi-private lesson and before long she was meeting her instructor, nicknamed, "O" and Stan, her fellow "student".  Stan was born in China and now lives in the San Francisco area.  The rest, as they history.

Michele, Stan and their instructor, "O".  "O" had both Stan and Michele don bright yellow shirts to help him keep track of them.

"O", showing his students how it's done.  I benefited from their lesson, too.  It's been quite a while since my adventure.

"O" demonstrates the initial move toward standing up.  His students were enthralled, as is clearly evident.

The ultimate goal for today.  Standing on the board, riding a wave.

Stan and Michele practice the moves just as "O" taught them.

Michele surfs!  I think you can see the smile on her face as she imagines the excitement and fun to come!

Paddling out.

The goal is in sight.  The south shore of O'ahu had some really great waves today.  Notice the surfboard flying in the right side of this photo, as someone wiped out.

Almost there.  You can see the leash attached to Michele's ankle to keep the board from getting away after a fall.

Success!  Here is Hawaii's newest surfer returning to shore.  A Beachboy is ready to assist her.

She calls it a day.  And what a day it was!  You can see why this is called a long board.  She told me she caught three waves on her knees and almost stood up for another.  All-in-all, the effort was hugely successful and I have no doubt she'll try again.  Like most things, each step forward makes you want to take another.  I know she'll be standing up long before we settle into those rocking chairs! :)

I could not have been more proud of Michele today.  She met the challenge with a smile and was fearless.  Who knows what this experience will do to propel her into even more challenging activities.  After all, we didn't move here to simply be warm on the lanai, watching life go by!  Unfortunately, they did not offer photos of her experience today.  Luckily, I had my trusty Canon camera to document as much as I could.  The Beachboys camera is vastly superior and it would have been great to have their photos.  Oh, well, maybe they'll catch her next time, when she's standing up and riding the waves of Waikiki.

Here's their camera!  Notice, that no one is operating it. :(

After the surfing experience, we walked to Fort DeRussy beach for some snorkeling, then lounged around the pool for an hour or two.  It was quite a day.  Hope yours was, too.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Odds And Ends.

Time to play a little "catch-up".  Yesterday and last night--most all the evening--we watched a film crew set-up for and shoot what we guessed was part of an episode of, "Hawaii 5-0".  Today, Michele wandered among the still present crew and found out all the work was for a movie, the name of which, according to a security guard, was simply, "unnamed".  She also discovered that Cameron Crowe is the man behind the production.  FLASH UPDATE:  Good old Wikipedia has saved me once again.  According to this impeccable source, the film is titled, "Deep Tiki".

Quite on the set!  The four cherry pickers hoisted extremely powerful lamps into place and you can see just how bright they made the area.  The surface parking lots is crammed with trucks and equipment, plus the dining tent.  The actual shooting took place on the other side of the greenish multi-level parking garage.  We have no idea why they flooded the skyscraper with so much light, but it must've been in the script.

Here, at the far right corner of the parking garage, is where the shooting was taking place.  It's called, Mark's Art Garage and has an art gallery located at street level on the opposite side of our view.  Click on the photos to enlarge.

After we enjoyed another beautiful sunset, we got serious in our study of the workings of a feature film.  The logistics are truly complicated, yet the professionals in charge of the production seemed to know exactly how to get the amazing variety of electrical and mechanical equipment, construction tools and materials, lighting, costumes, cast, crew and caterers, plus, a circus-sized tent for feeding literally, a "cast of thousands", organized and ready to actually shoot the film.  They took over a half-block-sized surface parking lot, kitty-corner from our building and shoe-horned all the vehicles and equipment into it.  Well...not exactly.  The streets adjacent to their intended shooting spot were lined with additional trucks and vans.

  This a zoomed view of the action.  The crew used lightweight black screens to keep prying eyes and video cameras from stealing a view.  The orange awning belongs to one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants, Epic.  The small side street to between Epic and Mark's Art Garage contained the set.

Our perch, eighteen stories above this "show within a show", could not have been better.  We debated walking across the street to mingle with all the passersby, but experience has taught us that a comfortable view from above is vastly superior.  We were able to take-in the full scope of the production as the many chess pieces moved about the board.  As darkness fell, four strategically-placed, "cherry pickers", extended their booms, each raising a small platform loaded with two huge movie lights and operator, into positions selected by--and I'm only guessing here--the Director of Photography.  The illumination was powerful, to put it mildly and the entire block was bright as day.  We aren't sure if the lights were to help the crew do their jobs, or if they were for the actual scene.

Dinner while watching a movie...being filmed.  How 'bout having your garnish growing on your table! :))  And yes, those are binoculars next to my wine.  It's a stir-fry with rice and vegetables, a little pork belly and a dash of red pepper flakes.  The wine is an inexpensive Pinot Grigio.

So we dined on the lanai, keeping ever-watchful eyes glued to the show below.  Most of the workers stood around talking, in stand-by mode, in case any of the equipment malfunctioned or needed to be moved.  Beneath the large tent, tables and chairs were set-up and there was always a number of people eating, drinking, playing cards or reading.  Maybe they were "extras", waiting for their call to the set.

The strong light bounced off the building and made a beacon in the night sky.

A peek inside the dining/relaxing/waiting tent.  During the evening, especially on the second night, several van loads of what we assumed were "extras" arrived and most ended-up here.

Eventually, around eleven PM, we thought shooting was complete.  We were wrong.  We gave up and went to bed as they worked into the late night.  Today, their trucks and gear and the dining tent were still in-place.  Late morning, Michele decided to take a long walk and, of course, the set was directly in her chosen route.  She wasn't gone more than half an hour when I received her call about the movie.  They are back at work tonight, for what Michele was told will be another sixteen-hour day.  Whew!

Dinner last night.  This ramen-esq bowl of deliciousness was prepared by Michele using local bok choy and other veggies and nesting just below the meat, vegetables and wonderful broth, is a soft-boiled egg and the noodles we purchased in Chinatown at the noodle factory the day we were showing George around.  It was "slurping good". :)))

They did work late on their second night here and the lights were still blazing at 4:30 AM!  This morning, by about 10:30, the parking lots had been returned to normal.  No sign of the previous two nights labor was to be seen.

I've been painting regularly during the mid-morning to early-afternoon hours and have semi-finished a self-portrait from life (per the direction of Randall David Tipton).  Not to be out-done by Rembrandt, I try to document my voyage through this life.

Keeping with the post title, this is certainly "odd".  It's only 20 x 16-inches, despite what it appears.  I'm reflected in a mirrored closet door while taking the photo.  Make what you will of this.  Maybe it suggests a fading away.  That, or it was so awful, something had to be done.

The double portrait of our landlord's children is just about ready to sign as of today.  I've been tweaking the fine details in their costumes and can't do much more.  I'd like to get this to them before Christmas, so time is of the essence.

Austin and Amber, 2013, oil on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.  The photo did its usual thing of making hard-edged transitions between colors, particularly in the faces, but rest assured, it looks much better in person. :)

I hope your day was interesting!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Aloha Oe To George.

Michele's cousin, Mr. George Pichini, sailed back into Honolulu this morning and is just getting airborne on his flight home as I type this at about 5:00 PM.  George told us he'd be disembarking Norwegian Cruise Lines, "Pride of America", at about 7:30 AM, so I thought I'd jog over to Berth-02B where we would wait for Michele to arrive with the car.

NCL Cruise Lines, "Pride of America".  George took an inter-island cruise and left the ship today to return home.

On the jog to the ship, I passed this Hawaiian Language, "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" display (complete with Santa's elves) on the state capitol grounds.

A view of Kewalo Basin as the sunrise hits buildings and Larry Ellison's yacht, Musashi.

"All ashore who are going ashore!"  George, a landlubber again, wandering aimlessly...until he heard me call his name. :)  Click on any photo to enlarge.

I left home at just past 6:30 AM, figuring the run would take me between 35-40 minutes.  My goal was to be there about fifteen minutes ahead of his arrival on shore.  It all worked as planned and we loaded his bags into the car when Michele arrived and headed home.

George had already eaten breakfast, but we had papayas, mangoes and pineapple for him, so how could he resist?!  We sat on the lanai, enjoying his tales of the cruise and the comfortable morning air.  Since we had to get him to the airport by 2:00 PM, our agenda was limited.

George taking a phone call on the lanai. 

We asked if he'd like to wander around Chinatown and he said, "Sure."  The markets were crowded with mostly locals, intermixed with tourists from the two cruise ships in town today.  We're pretty sure he enjoyed seeing the variety of people performing their daily shopping chores in such a vibrant environment.

A statue of Confucius in Chinatown.

A still sleepy vendor catches forty winks.

Pork belly found at one of the many butcher stalls in Chinatown.

At the same stall, juicy, golden brown ducks were hanging.  We watched a lady puncture one of these, being careful to save the juices (in the bowl) then, wielding the meat cleaver with great skill, cut it into pieces in the blink of an eye.

This amazing example of horticultural skill was flourishing on a display counter top in one of the many busy markets.

Two very colorful fish available at a seafood stall today.  Sorry, I didn't get the name. :(

Nothing is wasted here, so most any part of anything is for sale.

Again, I'm sorry I don't know the name of these fish, but the color was great.

Okay, okay, I know this one...let me see...Yes!  It's SPAM, an island favorite since it was introduced during the Second World War.

On our way home, we just had time for a quick look inside the Yat Tung Chow Noodle Factory.

A number of vats of fresh noodles drying, with triple-fan assistance.  The aroma alone was making us hungry!

This gentleman is hard at work turning the mound of yellow dough into delicious noodles.  I've been back here where the magic happens before and it always amazes me that I'm not prohibited from doing this, or at a minimum, forced to put on a plastic bonnet and white coat.  George was hesitant to follow me back, but finally threw caution to the wind (along with propriety) to have a look.

Noodles were everywhere.  Since all of us are Italian to a greater or lesser extent, we felt like we'd entered an upper level of heaven! :)))

Not wanting to leave the factory with only a "thank-you", we bought this five-nest, one-pound bunch of fresh noodles for $2.65.  I can hardly wait to see what Michele will do with them, but my guess is it will have pork belly, a wonderful broth, vegetables and, of course, these fabulous noodles! :)))

Back home, we enjoyed a lunch from the cafe in our building.  Heidi, the chef and operator/human dynamo, prepared personal pizzas for us and delivered them to a shaded table near the pool.  The pizzas were more-than-ample and delicious and we had the beautiful setting all to ourselves.

We made it out of here in time to get George to the airport (almost) on schedule.  There, we  hugged and said our farewells.  The famous song, "Aloha Oe", comes to mind at such moments and we do hope we'll see George again.

To end this post, it seems appropriate to share this image of a departing plane along with the setting sun.  Farewell, George, until we meet again.

It was a full day to be sure, and a very good one.  I hope your day was, too.