Friday, September 30, 2016

A Big Night

Wednesday evening was indeed, a big night.  Take a look:

Two of the nicest people to have graced our home to date:  Dr. Bill Carr and his wife, Beng Imm.  Mimi, Beng Imm's sister, our neighbor and great friend, told me they were on their way to Bali, with a short stopover in Honolulu.  She also mentioned they had spent two weeks in Tuscany once.  With Michele still traveling the world, I threw caution to the wind and invited all three here for an Italian gastronomic extravaganza!  What could possibly go wrong?!  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

Say hi to our very dear friend, Mimi Beng Poh Yoshikawa. 

Normally, such dinners are a team effort with Michele being the Captain.  She begins preparing days in advance, creating a menu, shopping and planning the pacing of the meal.  She makes a detailed schedule of when the various course components must go into the oven, come out, and be served.  She even decides on which serving bowl or platter to use for every menu item.  She is a superb culinary choreographer, as well as, chef, so taking on the challenges of planning, preparing and serving a multi-course dinner alone, for guests I'd never met, was a bit daunting.

The local weather guessers promised a nice sunset and did not let us down.  Sorry I didn't get a few earlier shots, but we were inside having drinks and almost missed the show.

Despite being pretty busy, I was able to get photos of some of the dishes on the menu.  Prosciutto di Parma with cantaloupe and pineapple was one of several items served during the antipasto course.  I would have never thought of serving this with pineapple, but it worked rather nicely.  We are, indeed, very lucky to be able to find many genuine Italian specialty items here in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. 

This is salame di Toscana.  Other items on the antipasto menu included three types of bruschetta/crostini.  If you look up the meaning of these two Italian words, there are several interpretations, but in general, they refer to small pieces of bread, toasted and topped with almost anything, including the most simple preparation:  rubbed with a piece of garlic, toasted, then drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil, along with a pinch of salt.

For this dinner, I served  one with olive tempenade, another topped with a mini-Caprese salad of cut-up cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil leaves and extra-virgin olive oil, and finally, one with an artichoke spread.

I did prepare one other traditional favorite, but didn't serve it.  It's called, acciugi, which is the Italian word for anchovies.  It consists of anchovy fillets in extra-virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, chopped garlic, Italian parsley and is served on toasted bread.  The first time we had this treat was at a late afternoon picnic.  They called it a "merenda" which means afternoon snack.  It was far more than a snack, with many of what we would consider substantial appetizers.  This is an extremely salty "snack", but that's why wine was invented! :))  It's still in the refrigerator, though I've been chipping away at it.  I'm not sure whether or not the Italians tried to reduce the saltiness with rinsing or some other method, but it would make this dish a whole lot easier to take.

Remnants of my first course, (primo piatto) penne with meat sauce.  I was too busy to eat much of anything, but after the guests departed, I chowed down with gusto!

One of the dishes to accompany the roasted chicken "secondo" was peas with pancetta.  The saltiness of the pancetta was the perfect accompaniment to the peas.  I also drizzled them with the rendered fat.  The mouth feel of this simple dish was, in a word...luxurious.  But then, I like my own cooking!

Another of the "contorni", or "side" dishes served with the chicken.  This is what remained of the roasted potatoes.  You may notice a variety in the color/done-ness of the individual pieces.  In my defense, I offer the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:  "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds." :)  So, cut me a little slack.  I never said I was as good a cook as Michele.  I have no photo of a third offering consisting of green beans with a little chopped garlic, extra-virgin olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar and chopped Italian parsley.

The fruit and cheese course:  The cheeses included a domestic version of Italian Asiago, a pecorino from the Lazio region of Italy and a young sheep's milk cheese from Spain--Manchego.  I also offered Italian raw honey to put on the pears.

The dessert course, or dolci, was a selection of fantastic pastries from Saint Germain, a local bakery.  No photo I'm sorry to say, but trust me, they were beautiful.  Mini tiramisu, a mini cheesecake, a couple of fruit tarts, an eclair and two cream puffs.  Coffee was followed with a selection of beverages known to aid digestion or just keep the buzz going.  The favorite seemed to be Averna.  And one of my very favorite Italian sayings is:  "Vino ammazza caffe."  It's a tongue-in-cheek way of saying "Let's have more wine to overcome (kill) any sobering impact from the caffeine.   

All things considered, with the deck stacked against me, I believe the guests had a wonderful time and I think Michele would've been proud of my effort.  I imagine they slept very well on their flight later that night, scheduled for a 1:58 AM takeoff!  

Hope you all had a great day and enjoy a wonderful weekend.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

A Very Strange Cloud

Yesterday, I was enjoying a beverage on the lanai at sunset and saw a very unusual phenomenon.  It appeared to be a vertical, very bright line--way brighter than anything near it.  I took a bunch of photos, just in case it was a one-in-a-million atmospheric curiosity or better still, space aliens. 

Even as the sun dropped beneath the Waianae Range, this whatever it was remained very bright and did not move.  Finally, I took a look at it through the binoculars and darn if it wasn't just a lone cloud.  Looking at the photos, whether or not you've had a drink, I think you'll agree it's truly unusual.

This photo was taken with my Canon camera, and it's a pretty-decent representation of what I saw.

This is how my Samsung phone camera saw it.

Another cell phone photo.  The object was almost brighter than the clouds closer to the setting sun.

Canon camera again, with lots of zoom and it's clearly just a cloud. :(  Well...in another week or so, the sun will be dipping into the Pacific and at least we'll have more chances to see the Green Flash again. :)

This shot of the setting half-moon was taken at the golf course this morning. 

On the beautiful second hole, I put the phone camera on the "panorama" setting and captured the entire view.  Click on this, or any of the photos for a closer view.  That's Stan and Marv on the far right.

An colorful inter-island jet taxied by the green of the third hole.  I've always been a fan of Hawaiian Airlines livery.

A UPS Boeing-747 cargo hauler taxis to the reef runway.

This expansive Bougainvillea display graces the first tee box and is seen here from the eighteenth green.  Love the "autumn" colors in Hawaii.

That's all folks!  Have a good day tomorrow.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Michele in Italia

Michele is currently in Italy--Pitigliano, to be specific--in southern Tuscany, on this leg of her halfway-round-the-world biennial vacation.  She sent a bunch of photos of family, friends, food and the scenery today and I thought you'd enjoy seeing this place we love so very much.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

Say "Ciao" to sisters Wanda and Anna Giannelli.  Wanda is married to Tarziello Niccolai and Anna is married to famous stand-up comedian (and cousin to Michele) Mario Stefanelli.  These two ladies speak superb English and without them, out life in Italy would have been so-o-o much more challenging.

Anna and Mario's daughters, Emmanuela and Claudia.  These young women were teenagers during our time living there.  Where did the time go?

Michele tells me this is a new walkway on the back side of the old city.

A pizza restaurant in the old town.  One summer night, we went here to dance under the stars.

This is Liviano, my barber in Italy.  He seems to have even more hair than when I visited his shop, but then, so did I. :)

Michele took this photo of a tractor bringing grapes to a community winery.  It's the time of the vendemmia (grape harvest) in Italy.  Her vantage point is a pedestrian bridge over the road.

The only hotel in the old section of Pitigliano, Albergo di Guastini.  We have stayed here a couple of times and the views from the rooms on the back side of the hotel are breathtaking.  They also have a very nice restaurant and a bar which they recently sold to a local family.

Wanda and her husband, world-renowned motociclista and Dad, Tarziello, preparing lunch for Michele and Anna.

The primo piato:  mezza penne with smoked salmone and lemon.  Not your everyday pasta sauce!

Secondo, (second plate) was pork tenderloin with a kiwi sauce.  Michele said the kiwi acted much like lemon to brighten and balance the sauce.

Contorno was peas with pancetta.  Of course, all the Tuscan bread you can eat is available, too.  This is exactly how I remember the typical second plate.  Manageable portions.  And the meat sauces were usually just juices from the pan.  They provide just enough moisture to accompany the meat.

Michele brought the dessert.

Anna showing some young cheese from Sardinia.  They all drove up to visit Emmanuela and Nicola on the spur-of-the-moment and enjoyed a wonderful dinner.

Claudia, Emmanuela and their father, Mario working on the dinner.

This is Nicola, hardest working chef in Italy.  He brought a beautiful bowl of fresh figs for the dinner.

I feel sorry for anyone who has not had the opportunity to taste ripe figs, straight off the tree.

Arrivederci ladies.  Michele, Anna and the new owner of the Hotel Guastini Bar (I think) having a good time.  The bar is now called, La Mandragola.

Hope you all had a good day!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Moving On...

Been busy the past week or so, with everything but painting.  It has not stopped, however, evenings on the lanai to wind down and enjoy nature's finale to each day.

On September 9th, I caught a small aircraft heading for what reminds me of "The Twilight Zone", beyond those massive clouds.  Wonder if it made it?

The sunset that evening reflected in downtown buildings.

A large passenger jet approaches the runway, with that intense sun about to say "goodnight" to Honolulu.

Sunday, I was invited by Rick Chang to join his other golf club playing at The Turtle Bay Hilton's George Fazio course.  The North Shore resort has another course on the property, designed by Arnold Palmer.

The Turtle Bay Hilton across the bay.

Rick hits his approach shot to the uphill green. 

At the green we were rewarded with an ocean view.  The hotel has jogging paths, horseback riding and all sorts of other things to keep guests busy in case they're not golfers.

Caught up to today, Tuesday, September 13th.  A huge Air Force Boeing C-17 Globemaster III  transport aircraft departs Honolulu at sunset for an unknown destination.  Or maybe it's a local training flight. :)

It was a spectacular sunset this evening.  Hope you all had a good day and your tomorrow is even better.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Pacific Ocean--1, Gary--0

O'ahu dodged two hurricanes the past couple of weeks, and the 47th-annual Waikiki Roughwater Swim went as scheduled on Labor Day.  I felt confident I'd be able to finish the race under the "official finisher" maximum time of two-hours, forty-minutes.

Michele and I arrived a little over an hour prior to the 8:30 AM start.  The first, or "A" wave would consist of elite swimmers, including a couple of Olympians this year.  I was in the "D", fourth wave and would be starting at 8:45 AM.  I checked-in, had my entrant number written on both arms and  wave letter on each calf.  I picked-up my timing chip and strapped it around my ankle.  There was plenty of time to get in the water for a little warm-up swim.   

We were alerted during the pre-start safety briefing, that we would be facing an outgoing tide and strong current.  When you enter this event, you are cautioned to avoid starting if you think ocean conditions are beyond your abilities, but I don't think the brief scared anyone away.  We wouldn't be there is we didn't think we could complete the swim.

The gun sounded on time and we watched the elite group takeoff.  It was like watching a pod of dolphins zooming toward a bait ball.  As each successive wave started, we moved ever closer to the water and our turn.  Several of us decided to let most of the group go ahead.  It's a nice way to avoid flying elbows and maybe having your goggles knocked-off.

The first leg of the race is 677-meters out.  A large orange buoy marked the right turn to parallel Waikiki Beach for the next 2,305-meters.  The swim became increasingly challenging as I approached that buoy.  The current kept pushing us away from it.  Most of us were able to get to, and beyond it, but we now had the current directly in our faces.  We had been advised during the safety brief to head toward the beach after passing the buoy, to reduce the current's impact, but even after making the turn, headway was impossible. 

After swimming without any forward progress for several minutes, I became concerned.  Busting my gut to get out of the current by heading toward shore might lead to an escape, but would significantly lengthen the course.  That might jeopardize my chances for making it to the halfway buoy by the maximum time allowed and result in an end to my day.  Also, I'd eventually be forced to return to that current in order to round the final buoy.  The current was so strong, even the slightest pause to get my bearings resulted in losing whatever minimal progress I'd made.  And I wasn't alone.  Many swimmers around me were struggling, too. 

The only other choice was to surrender, raise my arm in the air and wait for assistance.  I decided it was better to stop with some strength left in case all the rescue personnel were busy.  Had I waited until exhaustion set-in, the current would've been zooming toward Diamond Head, perhaps out of sight of help.  A volunteer on a paddle board came up when he saw my signal and I grabbed the side of his board.  Soon, a jet ski arrived, towing a sled with another swimmer on it.  I joined the young woman on the sled and we were taken to shore.  The post title pretty-well sums up the day.

I wasn't feeling too great yesterday afternoon, disappointed that I failed to finish.  That feeling was greatly eased when we saw a tease for the early evening news:  "Lifeguards Help Three Hundred People To Shore".  I was astounded, to put it mildly.  At the end of my race, I could see a bunch of others needing help, but had no idea it was so many.  Apparently, many swimmers ahead of me, failed to make the halfway point in the two-hour maximum and they were assisted out of the water.  Knowing that, I didn't feel nearly as bad.

I've taken a look at the finishers list and only 434 people made it.  I haven't seen the final tally of entrants, but approximately 700 were signed-up as of a couple days prior to the race.  Of the 30 entered in my 65-69 age group, including me, only 12 out of 30 finished.  Since 2000, there have been two other races which did not go well, and last year the event was cancelled due to dangerous conditions.

So, despite the disappointing outcome, it's a check in the box for me and I don't think I'll do this again.  Like running the marathon before turning 65, this is now done.  Time to concentrate on painting, some golf and enjoying life.  I'll certainly keep swimming, but not with any specific goal in mind, beyond exercise and enjoyment.  Here are some photos of the day:

Ready to go!  Plenty of sunblock, race number on both arms, wave letter on each calf and yellow swim cap to identify those of us in wave "D".

Kaimana Beach crowded with race participants eager to get in the water.  It was a beautiful sunny morning, but the New Otani Kaimana Beach Hotel shaded the beach at this time.  Click on any of the photos for a closer look.

"D" wave is next.  Yeah, that's me in the board shorts with the Hawaii state flag.  The thing on my ankle is the timing chip, NOT a police monitor! :)

The race is on!  Not for long, but everyone was optimistic about now.

Final goggle adjustments.

On the way.

Taken from the Labor Day news broadcast of "Hawaii News Now".  This is the most correct wording of what happened.  Only two or three swimmers needed a genuine rescue.  Some of the TV stations chose much more dramatic captions to keep viewers tuned-in, but sadly, aren't we all used to that.

Hope you all had a good day!