Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Power of Music

Sitting here at my computer, working, I have my itunes cranked up and it is randomly selecting songs for my listening pleasure.

The power of music is incredible. A song can literally take my mind to another place and time or vividly bring to life feelings that I thought had no life left.

Every time The Beatles' "Revolution" plays it takes me back to my childhood. It was my first 45 single. I loved that little 45 with the green apple. On the A-side was "Hey Jude", but I fell in love with the B-side, "Revolution". "We all want to change the world" Right? "But when you talk about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out." Yes, of course. "Revolution" and "Let It Be" are my all-time favorite Beatles songs.

Speaking of Beatles, Paul McCartney & Wings, "Band on the Run" transports me to our front yard on NE Royal Ct. in Laurelhurst where I would spend warm Sunday mornings on the grass listening to Casey Kasem's America's Top 40 on the transistor radio. "Well, the rain exploded with a mighty crash as we fell into the sun."

I cannot possibly hear Prince's "Little Red Corvette" without thinking of sitting on my bed studying at Manzanita dorm my Freshman year at ASU. The music video to "Little Red Corvette" used to play regularly on MTV and I watched it on the big screen at Dash Inn Cantina. Anyone that went to ASU in the 80's knows Dash Inn, a dive Mexican food place (sorta, but most people did not really go there to eat) in Tempe across from Arizona State. Sadly I think it was torn down, just like Michael's fraternity where I used to dance regularly to Prince.

This one may seem a little out of place, but the memories cannot be denied. I really like the Soundtrack to Disney's The Little Mermaid. I used to listen to the songs on the stereo when I was pregnant with Joey in 1991, especially "Part of Your World". When Joey was an infant, he had colic, but The Little Mermaid CD always calmed him down. I guess it is true what they say about babies being able to hear from inside the womb.

Queen and "We are the Champions" was a hit single when I was in High School. It used to remind me of High School, but now it reminds me of Sammy and the part of his Bar Mitzvah video where I highlight his years playing sports, especially his five years playing youth football. "I've had my share of sand kicked in my face - but I've come through." Sammy will always by my champion. I LOVE Queen!

And finally, there is R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts"... a song that always, without hesitation, for the past six years or so, has made me think of Michael's Brother, David. Today is the six month anniversary of the day David decided to end his life. It is still so incredibly painful for everyone that knew him.

"When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on
Don't let yourself go, 'cause everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes...

If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on... "

I cherish the power of music. Sometimes it makes me feel sad, sometimes happy, but mostly it just makes me feel.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Something's Fishy...

 I knew my water was tasting a little funny lately... Oh, Chloe!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Mesmerized by the Beauty

Mesmerized by the beauty of the Fall colors in our yard on another gorgeous sunny Portland day.
(with the Macro Lens)


Japanese Maple

Lace Leaf Japanese Maple

Japanese Maple

Red Japanese Maple

Lace Leaf Japanese Maple

Unripe Fig

Ripe Fig

Hydrangeas turn dusty colors when the temp changes


Fuchsia Buds


One Lone Echinacea left in the yard

Blueberry Bush

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Aloha nui loa Kaua'i

Purely for my own entertainment, I have decided to add a grading system to my food/restaurant reviews. As promised, here is an accounting of our latest food journey on the island of Kauai. It is mostly in chronological order, not in order of favorites.

We hit some great places and some not so great places and we missed some of both as well, I am sure. We shall return.

A = Excellent
B = Good to Very Good
C = Mediocre
D = I wouldn't go there if I was you, and we shouldn't have gone there either!

Each restaurant will be graded on
1) View. 2) Atmosphere. 3) Overall Food.

Oh, and disclaimer here... no breakfast reviews. We opted to go to the grocery store the first night and pick up some fresh fruit, homemade English Muffins, Greek Yogurt, Kashi cereal and milk ($7/quart milk... YIKES!!!, but it did last the whole week). Food is very expensive in Hawaii but since we didn't plan on getting up early, and there was no restaurant on property, it worked for us.

We started our journey right at our timeshare, Marriott's Waiohai Beach Club. This timeshare does not have a "real" restaurant. It has a Marketplace with food to go and the Beach Front bar, which basically carries the same food as the Marketplace Grill. After arriving and settling in to our unit, we ventured down to the beach and then watched the sunset from the Honu Bar.

We shared a pupu platter and a fish sandwich. The pupu platter included some delicious pulled kalua pork sliders on taro buns, beef skewers, & BBQ'd short ribs. Sliders were excellent, other pupus were mediocre. The fresh catch (Ono) Sandwich was delicious although they do not serve the food on plates with regular silverware. They serve you out of to-go containers with plastic silverware, which is not very nice. We also shared a Pina Colada Smoothie, which was very good. On another day we shared Kalua pulled pork Nachos. They were a little hard to eat and very greasy.

Honu Bar
View: A
Atmosphere: C
(although it is on the beach, it is not a restaurant and the to-go containers are a bummer)
Food Overall: B-
Advice: Stick with smoothies or Fresh Catch options.

Above: surfers at Poipu, Sunset

Yummy Smoothie:

Monday we traveled North to Hanalei:

We sort of made the mistake of just stopping and going in to the first restaurant we found. The name of the restaurant was Bouchon's and it had a great view and a decent looking menu. Something we decided once we were already in the restaurant--> don't bother looking at the reviews unless you plan on walking out, or it might possibly sway your food order. I waited until after we left to read the reviews, which were mediocre. Michael ordered the Hanalei Burger (Teriyaki Burger), which was over priced at $11, no sides or fries included. Nothing special. I ordered the Baja Style Fish Tacos (Mahi Mahi that day) with Jalapeno infused Sour Cream. Yum! It was 15 bucks but it was fresh and it was delicious. We could have shared it. In fact I did give one of the tacos to Michael and still had more than enough food.

View: B (Mountain Range View)
Atmosphere: B-
Food: B
Advice: We heard their "Famous" Mai-Tai is pretty darn good.

Bouchon's Fresh Fish Tacos:

We really enjoyed the fact that the timeshare is in the Poipu area of Kauai. There are so many great shopping and restaurant options. Later Monday evening, we were checking out the local town and happened upon Pizzetta, and it smelled awesome. Historic Old Koloa Town is only a couple miles from the timeshare and the shops and restaurants are quaint and cute. I fell in love with Island Soap Works. Anyway, we ordered a pizza to go from Pizzetta. I can't really rate the restaurant, but I would give the pizza a solid B+. Delicious sauce, but as with most pizzas, probably best eaten right in the restaurant. The crust wasn't really crispy enough.

Another convenient shopping area near Poipu (even closer than Koloa Town) is the new Kukui'ula Village. We frequented this shopping center. It had a handy high-end market (Living Foods Market & Cafe). There was also a Bubba Burger, which we had to try:

Everything was great about Bubba Burger except, for me, the meat was not ground well enough. I know that sounds weird, but I don't want to go into it here. The meat was locally grown, so that was a good thing. Not exactly In-n-Out, but better than most fast food burgers.

Bubba Burger, Kukui'ula Shopping Village
View: C
Atmosphere: B (Nice porch with tables)
Food: B

Another restaurant we frequented at Kukui'ula Shopping Village was Merriman's Downstairs. Merriman's has a fancy restaurant upstairs, which got high marks from internet commenters, but we were saving the big money for a couple of other restaurants, so we opted for the less expensive, less liked Downstairs cafe. We ate a dinner and a lunch at the Cafe. The menu is the same all day. When all was said and done, we had sampled the Pineapple Glazed Chicken Wings, the Island style Fish Tacos, The Grilled Fresh Catch of the Day Sandwich and the Pesto & Goat Cheese Flatbread. It was all very very good.

Merriman's Downstairs
View: B
(mostly interior courtyard of the lushly landscaped shopping village, but also a peek-a-boo view of the ocean to the South)
Atmosphere: B
Food: B+

Above: Merriman's Downstairs Cafe is bottom floor on the right side of this pretty yellow building.

We had an early dinner at Keoki's Paradise one evening. Michael had Fish and Chips, I had fresh fish sandwich (running theme because generally speaking they were all very good... what's better than fresh Hawaiian fish). From our experience, there is nothing special about Keoki's food, and the prices, like the rest of Kauai, are high.

Below: Keoki's Paradise at Poipu Shopping Village

Keoki's Paradise:
View: B (lushly landscaped, but actually located right on Poipu Road)
Atmosphere: B+ (a little over the top themed, but nice)
Food: B-

Above is the view of Poipu Beach from Brennecke's Beach Broiler and we're sorry to say, the view is really all they've got going for them.

Brennecke's Beach Broiler
View: A
Atmosphere: C
Food: C

Below: Josselin's Tapas Bar & Grill at Kukui'ula Shopping Village, Koloa Town

I just have to say everything about this place is amazing. Well, it really has no view to speak of, but everything else is amazing. The home baked breads and olive oil. Amazing!

The beef brisket filled bao were delicious...

The seared duck breast salad with mizuna, avocado, pineapple, candied pecan and goat cheese filled biscuit was wonderful:

The Poached Oxtail Ravioli with Vietnamese "Pho" Broth was superb:

And we had a couple of other dishes. Either I did not take a picture, or the picture didn't turn out. The lighting was extremely difficult to work with, but the food was so good. We also had Wood Oven Naan Bread with Yogurt Cucumber Dressing and Eggplant Dip and a fabulous braised short rib stew served in a little cast iron pot. Our waiter was the best all week. We wish we had had the time and money to go back to this restaurant again.

Josselin's Tapas Bar and Grill
View: C
Atmosphere: A (they had the comfiest sofa style seating)
Food: A

We took a little drive one day looking for some local-style plate lunch grub. Michael lived in Honolulu for a summer when he was in college and he loved the hamburger steak with dark brown gravy served on white rice. Modified Loco-Moco, because he doesn't go for the egg. I had read a little about Hanapepe town, about a 20 minute drive from our timeshare. Bobbie's Restaurant in Hanapepe had some great reviews. We stopped in and were a little overwhelmed by the choices. The place is VERY modest with menus all over the wall. They had just about every Hawaiian lunch special you could dream of and then about a dozen bento lunch specials, which were combinations of everything on the menu + more. Hindsight being what it is, I should have stuck with the local fresh fish special, Ahi with lemon sauce... but that didn't sound all that exciting so I went for the Bento Special #2 (I think it was). It included: Korean Style Chicken Stir Fry, Fried Saimin, Hawaiian macaroni salad (basically macaroni and a boat load of mayo) and then an extremely rich pulled pork covered in gravy. Yeah, even while I am typing this I am feeling a little queasy. Michael went for the rice, hamburger steak and gravy. Michael's came with macaroni salad also (not expressly stated on the menu), which he would not touch. He probably even resented it being on his plate. The chicken, although very tasty, was stir fried in a sweet glaze and then deep fried. When the plates arrived, there was, no joke, enough food on our plates to feed at least 6 people, at least! My food was way too rich. I ate maybe 1/10 of it and then I was sick for the rest of the day. I mean, I can pack in some rich food, but this was rich food that my stomach had never seen before. Michael's gravy was way too light for his liking, it looked more like chicken gravy. All in all, for us, Bobbie's was a bust. Hanapepe town itself kind of looked like a little old Hawaiian ghost town filled with art galleries. We hightailed it out of there, more than a little embarrassed that we had waisted so much food. No pictures--be happy about that :)!

Bobbie's Restaurant, Hanapepe Town
View: D
Atmosphere: C-
Food: D (this is very biased, I realize, but man, I was sick for the rest of the day)
Advice: Next Time we will try the little lunch shack at Sueoka's Grocery Store in Koloa Town for Hawaiian style plate lunch. The food looked great, the people seemed happy and the prices were the best we had seen on the island. Great reviews on the web as well. By the time we realized our mistake at not going here, it was too late. We did not want to ruin our dinner appetites for the next two restaurants.

When we were staying at the Marriott Waiohai Timeshare with the kids about five years ago, we tried Roy's Restaurant for the first time. It was a lavish dinner for our family since our kids do not eat from children's menus and Roy's can be expensive. Actually Sammy has not eaten from a children's menu since he was about five and Joey never would eat from the children's menu because he did not prefer the substandard cuisine and dishes mostly made with melted cheese, which he does not like. Yes, welcome to the world of Joey. Anyway, I digress. We took the kids to Roy's and Joey ordered the small plate of one of the most amazing dishes I have ever eaten (yes, everyone had to have a bite of Joey's food): Roy's Hawaiian Style Misoyaki Butterfish.

When Michael and I planned to dine at Roy's, we already knew what we were going to order. We ordered their amazing crab cake appetizer:

their amazing misoyaki butterfish:

A salad, because at some point you have to have your greens...

And the decadent Melting Chocolate Souffle Cake:

Roy's Restaurant, Poipu Shopping Village
View: C (its in a shopping "village", you don't go there for the view)
Atmosphere: B- (just okay)
Food: A (dare I add a plus to this?) yes... A+

And finally, the reason we went to Hawaii in the first place: Michael's Birthday and so, Michael's Birthday Dinner. We knew the food was not going to be up to the lusciousness of Roy's or even maybe some other restaurants in the area (that we didn't have time to try because we were only there for seven short days), but we went here for the romantic view and that is what we got...

Sunset at The Beach House Restaurant:

We enjoyed the Crispy Crab Stuffed Ahi Roll with Soy-Wasabi Vinaigrette:
(This is only half of the dish because by the time I remembered to take a picture, Michael had already eaten his half)

I was getting ever so slightly bored with fresh caught Hawaiian fish (I know, I know, I am so so stupid) so I ordered the Oven Roasted Breast of Chicken Stuffed with Wild Mushrooms and Gorgonzola, Fresh Kaua'i Herb Polenta Cake and Port Wine Demi Glace (which was just okay):

But Michael ordered the House Specialty Macadamia Buttered Local Fresh Fish (Mahi Mahi) with Citrus Aka Miso Beurre Blanc and it was, yes, amazing. That sauce IS as good as it looks:

We ordered the very odd, but very tasty dessert special of the night (since it was Michael's Birthday). It was a starfish shaped pastry filled with chocolate and macadamia nut mousse. It was good, kind of like a fancy cream puff:

The Beach House
View: A+
Atmosphere: A-
Food: B+

And this marathon post has come to an end.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Day Memories

What a beautiful Election Day afternoon it has turned out to be here in Portland. The promised sunshine is here, shining brightly on all the beautiful leaves, red, yellow, orange--gorgeous. Mt. Hood looks so majestic against the blue sky, still holding on to a good deal of the snow from last week even though it is better than 60 degrees down here in the city. Today is also my Mom's birthday. I am so glad it turned out nice.

Ahhh, Election Day. Some good memories, some bad. I remember our high school mock election Fall of my senior year when Jimmy Carter lost miserably to Ronald Reagan. I love Jimmy Carter. I loved him then and I love him now. He is a forward thinking, ethical man. I was sad I was unable to vote. I wanted my vote counted on the side of Jimmy Carter. I recently watched a CBS 60 minutes Lesley Stahl interview with Jimmy Carter--it made me smile. There is also an episode of Paula Deen's Food Network Show where Paula travels to good ole Plains, Georgia. They make a meal in the Carter's modest kitchen and Paula, Jimmy & Rosalyn sit down in front of the TV and eat their meal on TV trays. I love America. Anyway, this post is not a political commentary, nor a platform for my Jimmy Carter love fest.

My election day memories are not political at all, actually. When I was a child, Aunt Babe (George's Sister, Marie) used to coordinate the efforts for their local polling center near 33rd & Alberta. Mom used to be one of her volunteers. Inevitably my Sister Tiff would get sick or injured in some way on Election Day. Mom's back-up babysitter was always Aunt Babe and Election Day took them both out of action. One especially rough Election Day, Tiff and I were both at Laurelhurst Elementary School. I was probably in 6th grade and Tiff in 1st. Her class had been playing on the playground for afternoon recess. They were playing a game of Red Rover... you know, "Red Rover Red Rover, send Tiffany right over." Somehow, and don't ask me how, Tiffany ran smack into the tether ball pole. Ouch! She was down and out for the count. She ended up being mostly fine, but she did throw up on the way home.

Sometimes Dad would take us over to the voting center and we would deliver dinner to the volunteers. It was exciting watching all the people lined up and then it was kind of mysterious how they stepped in behind the curtain to cast their ballots. When I was old enough, I volunteered there as well. It felt like I was making a difference by helping out on Election Day. Of course the time of polling booths and voting at the local library or bank or community center is gone here in Oregon. We are 100% mail in ballot only. There's really no mystery in that. But it was fun while it lasted. Maybe that is why I always procrastinate until Election Day to fill out my ballot... and run over to our local drop box at A-Boy just before 8pm, so I can feel some of the excitement. Or maybe I am just a procrastinator :).