Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finding Blue Hawaii

When Lily asked me to accompany her to Hawaii to say farewell to her sister, I immediately accepted. I packed with an eye to respectful attire while preparing my heart to support and encourage my friend through a potentially difficult moment. I concentrated on what I could give. But as I have found over and over again, the gift of friendship and love spills a bounty of blessing right back onto me.

In meeting Susan a year ago I gained access to a personal side of Lily that had been previously unknown. Though stricken with Alzheimer's that robber her of short-term memory, Susan had free reign of memories from long ago and shared them freely. We learned how Susan, the first-born, battled sickliness as a child, thus Lily (second-born) received instruction from mom to always, "Take care of your sister!" Setting off for places like the Catholic boarding school they both attended in Taiwan brought about the regular call to care for Susan. Throughout childhood and beyond Lily "Took Care" of Susan even to the final days and beyond.

Their bond deeply twined their hearts.

Lily's devotion and love shined brightly for all to see as she clutched a portrait of Susan and herself amongst the flowers of my gardens (formerly resting on the casket) and watched over the last details of Susan's burial.

Lily took care of her sister . . . and did it well.

After the ceremony, we gathered at an obscure looking restaurant in a typically-Hawaiian strip mall. All admonishments against "judging a book by its cover" applied to this unassuming little place that rolled out the most FABULOUS gourmet Chinese feast I have ever eaten!! Seriously! The taro duck ranked as my favorite, but the chicken, fish, scallops, beef and many many vegetables (like fried spinach -- Delish!) that poured forth in each new course caused me to gasp at the thought of dessert . . . until it arrived: A platter of delicacies including ice creams, puddings, chocolate decadence, and even red velvet cake (my favorite!).

We celebrated Susan's life with smiles, laughter, a few tears, and lots of good food. She may have been attending the wedding feast in Heaven without us, but Chef Raymond of Pah Ke's did his best to compete without a bit of complaint from us.

We left with smiles of satisfaction.
Susan would have loved to see this happy family portrait.

Now that the tasks had been completed, we bid farewell to the family and returned to our hotel to rest. The day had taken its toll. At day's end we slept soundly and awoke Wednesday with a full day on this Island Paradise stretching out before us, as we didn't leave until Thursday afternoon.

And so I entreated Lily to show me her "Blue Hawaii." She complied, and the stories and places came together wonderfully as Lily walked back to days long ago when she first came to the Island of Oahu, proudly clutching a fresh degree from Michigan State in Hotel Management (even today she has a school pennant hanging in her Grass Valley office). Well-acquainted with Elvis' film Blue Hawaii, Lily took a position at the elegant Ilikai Hotel (as seen on Hawaii Five-O, she always reminds me) in the heyday of Hawaiian tourism of the 1960's.

The Blue Hawaii of those days looked less like this . . .

And more like this.
This romantic isle of swaying palm trees

Exotic Banyan Trees

And sweetly fragrant Plumeria

The islands attracted a host of celebrities and stars and Lily's job in management kept her in steady attendance to some of the greatest celebrities. She is quick to note that Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-O fame was soooo vain that he would only allow photos of his "best side." She recounted meeting Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, and countless other delightful "stars" who were really just nice people. She mentioned that Don Ho drank too much, but entertained everyone with genuine enjoyment. Her greatest praises fell on Elvis Presley. "He really was nice . . . the nicest I met," she would recall. "He had to stay in his hotel room a lot, because the fans really gathered around and he signed autographs and gave kisses or took photos as much as they wanted. He was never rude." Lily also believed that his movie, Blue Hawaii, really captured the spirit of the Hawaii she came to in the 60s as tourism mushroomed.

In this Romantic Paradise, Lily met Chef Karl and they married (complete with a three-week honeymoon to romantic Kauai). Their careers took them to Hong Kong and on around the world to work in some of the finest hotels. Their high-profile careers brought them back to Hawaii, wherein Lily became a manager in the Halekulani Hotel's 5-star restaurant, La Mer.

The hotel resembles a rambling plantation from Hawaii's golden days of pineapples from Paradise. The beauty literally spills out unexpectedly from every place imaginable.

The rolling greens and open verandas invite one to step back in time and live with genteel grace and T-I-M-E to spare for drinking in the tropical splendor wafting on a balmy breeze. I happily played along with the magic . . . and it felt WONDERFUL!

Luxury waits around every corner. If the warm waves of Waikiki do not entice you, maybe this sparkling blue beachside-pool will do the trick. Such choices . . . I love choices.

I tried to convince Lily that a table at La Mer would suit the mood and it would be my pleasure to have her as my guest, but she wouldn't budge. Lily doesn't fancy French food with all its sauces and fats . . .

Instead, she directed me to the tropically-infused option of dining under the swaying palms and setting sun. The magic continued as we made our way to The House Without a Key. Smitten with the charming name, I followed her lead to another facet of Lily's Blue Hawaii.

A Blue Hawaii for Lily (naturally) and a Chi Chi for me (only our bartender knows for sure if we imbibed fully or not -- *snicker*), paired nicely with some Maui chips while we awaited the arrival of our Sashimi and Beef Satay.

The tradewind-swept stage hosted crooners in the traditional style, while a lovely Miss Hawaii of yesterday swayed gently in the telling of her Island's special beauty. More fairytale than ever, we sipped and sighed and enjoyed the sheer beauty of this tranquil moment.

The sun gently slipped low on the horizon, igniting the sky with that every-day event:
A Spectacular Sunset

As murmurs of "Ooh" and "Aah" floated amongst those gathered together, our attention focused on an announcement by the Hawaiian trio. By special request they would be reaching back to share two timeless favorites. As the intro to Tiny Bubbles floated our way we all smiled that silly smile associated with those little bubbles. But then a hush fell over the veranda as we heard the gentle singing of the words by a patron. Seated next to his long-life love, this romantic man sang every word into the tear-sparkled eyes of his darling wife. When he belted out "I'll love you 'til the end of time" I felt my cheeks glisten. (I missed Gary; I know Lily missed Karl.)

The next song caused everyone to grab a hankie, as the trio crooned The Hawaiian Wedding Song to the still-in-love couple. My writer's mind ran a jillion scenarios for this couple, but none matched the brilliance of his smiling face gazing into her deep pools of love as he promised all over again to love her to the end of time.

We breathed deeply, feeling so relaxed and happy to be enjoying a moment of such joy -- thankful that once upon a time Gary decided to celebrate one of our our anniversaries at a Swiss Restaurant in Grass Valley and that day has led to all of this . . . and more.

Oh thank you, Lily, for showing me your Blue Hawaii.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Respite Wednesday

Answering the Call

I avoid the phone. Solicitors and survey-takers forced a silenced ringer and an answering-machine sentinel long ago, whilst I juggled babies and laundry and bubbling pots. No time to be wasted. Thus, the unknown caller of today rarely receives a “Hello” but rather hears a signalling "BEEP." The lucky leave a message and possibly receive a “pick-up” mid-sentence or a “call back” promptly.

Yesterday, a friend called and commenced leaving a chatty message about a tablecloth for our upcoming Christmas Tea; when I picked up the call mid-stream I heard the chatty cadence melt as teardrops fell freely in the background of her voice. Though she sought to cover it, I heard exhaustion and stress.

I invited her for tea . . . and she said, “Yes!” brightly.

Two hours later we sat at my dining table with quiche-laden plates (Costco’s finest offering, frozen just for such an impromptu occasion), spinach salad, fresh fruit, and a just-baked pumpkin bread my friend had brought along. The teapot steeped gently, setting a mood ripe for relaxation and friendly sharing.

As the tea went down and warmed the hearts, the corners of the mouths drew up into smiles, eyebrows shot up in laughter, and tears gently sparkled in the eyes engaged in heart-to-heart outpourings.

We solved no problems, really, but we did spread them thickly with a healthy dose of friendship and loving touch wrapped in prayerful cloaking. The friction died away as the lubrication of love preserved the smooth-running nature of a balanced walk between the needs of those we love and our personal needs.

A time-out for tea can make a world of difference.

I’m so glad I answered the call.

* * * * *

A Cup of Tea

When the world is all at odds and the mind is all at sea,
then cease the useless tedium and brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in it's fragrance, there is solace in it's taste;
and the laden moments vanish somehow into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There is beauty as you'll see.
All because you briefly stopped to brew a cup of tea.

~~ William Gladstone ~~

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Praising The Lord!

Some time ago I whispered a prayer request regarding a drop in my white blood cell count. So many of you came forward to pray for me and encourage me with all manner of personal touches. I felt as if you had come along side me to swim upstream through a bit of choppy water. (Even now I tear up at thoughts of your kindness.)

Well, I am delighted to report that my three-month bloodcount showed that my white cell count has returned to normal. (It hasn't been in the "normal" range in over four years!)

Thank you so much!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shop, shop, shop

Get on your shopping shoes! We're going to Downtown Honolulu for some serious shopping in Chinatown and a few other places.

Naturally, I popped in to the famed "International Market Place" and picked up some earrings, purses, luau dresses for the girls, tasteful T's for the guys, and faux tropical flowers to tuck behind girlish ears . . .

BUT -- I really yearned to see the foods of Hawaii all splayed out for selection to be carried home for delection. I'm an a-typical shopper who prefers to view the food rather than the souvenirs.

So, Lily bid me grab comfy shoes and we set out.

We stopped in for a breakfast at this cafe

Wherein she had shared many a delightful breakfast with her mom and dad (obviously a family favorite eatery serving breakfast all day and within walking distance of their high-rise condo). It offered standard breakfast fare, with the exceptional jug of coconut syrup on the table (had to try it -- delicious!) and passionate fruit juices on the menu.

After paying the tab we hopped on The Bus

And made our way downtown.

We stopped off at The Palace for a tour, but I mentioned that earlier. Walking from the palace to the heart of China town brought me exactly what I sought:

Market Stalls brimming with Hawaiian Style.

Fresh Fish

Or just the parts . . .
Chicken feet
(hmmmmm . . . Dim Sum makings, I see) Pork items of various cut

Or maybe you prefer Goat?

Or Beef?

Or perhaps . . . NAH!
(This proved a bit much for even me,
quintessential hunter of unusual food.)

Stepping over to the exotic rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables
refreshed me after the meat survey,
reviving my sense of sheer wonder at the choices.

I never did manage to get the name of the pink beauty
nestled next to the Star Fruit and persimmon

The Lotus Root got me to wondering how you would prepare it . . .
Boil? Bake? Steam? All of the above?
Avocados the size of my hand?
This may be a bit closer to Heaven than I originally thought!

Fabulously dressed Lychee Nuts

And NOODLES, Noodles, noodles!

Noodles? Precisely what we craved for luncheon.
So we slipped into a side door at the entrance of another grocery store.
(I thought it was a break room for employees,
Until I realized it was far TOO SMALL for even that.)

Lily beamed at her success
in finding this "special" noodle shop from memory.

She immediately set out to order lunch for the two of us.

Tea arrived, naturally

Followed by rice porridge
(and those peculiarly delicious 1000-year-old eggs)

With Noodles and Shrimp soon thereafter.
SCRUMPTIOUS doesn't even begin to cover the velvety smooth noodles,
paired with the sublime taste of shrimp cooked just so to perfection.
(Though the heads and shells tip off those around that I am not Chinese --
I carefully peel and remove all but what I choose to ingest,
while Lily removes head and chews out all the rest from the shell
removing a stripped shell at the end.)
We left and stopped off to take a peek
into the Japanese market at Ala Moana Shopping Plaza.

These pre-packaged and minutely managed meal items
proved quite a contrast to the Chinese markets . . .

Well, not completely different.

After all the luscious and unusual foods
I had little desire to look at Prada bags and Hermes scarves,
so we left the mall and came back for one more
Pai Family tradition:

Ice cream at Lappert's
in the Hawaiian Village,
our home base.

I lapped up an exotic coconut, macadamia, fudge swirl
while Lily selected her favorite: Chocolate.

We made our way up to the room to give our feet a rest
before setting out for the Halekulani Hotel -- Hawaii's finest.

Lily served as management in the 5-star restaurant La Mer,
But I will have to save our last adventure for another post
as it is dinner time around here and I'm needed elsewhere.

So, take a rest, freshen up a bit, and get ready for more beauty
and memory-making adventure as Lily takes me down memory lane
to the "Blue Hawaii" world she came to in the 60s.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sunday Wonder

O come, let us sing unto the LORD:
Let us make a joyful noise
To the rock of our salvation.

Psalm 95:1

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A Taste of Hawaii . . . sans pineapple

Hello sweet friends,

I am pausing from my cottage duties for another saunter through the Hawaiian memories I stored up as souvenirs to share with you. Many of your comments reveal that you have never visited this Island Paradise, and I would encourage you to put it on your list of "Musts" should the opportunity arrive. Gary and I cruised the Islands about 5 years ago and caught a glimpse of each. He favored the Big Island and I chose Kauai as my special place to dream of returning to. This trip I only visited Oahu, but Lily and her family opened my eyes to sights I never new existed.

For starters, the food that I typically gravitated to came served up with muu-muued waitresses sporting plumeria behind an ear as the gentle strains of a slack key filled the air. Tropical fruits spilled from every plate, nestled next to fresh fish and steamed veggies. This was NOT the food that I would be eating on this trip. Instead, Lily's family swept me up into the world of Chinese cuisine and Island food the "Locals" lap up.

Are you ready? Hang on because you may be as surprised as I at what we ate . . .

For starters Charles picked us up at the airport, wreathed us in leis and hugs, and then transported us with luggage to the hotel. Later he returned with two of his children, in their early twenties -- delightful, fun young folks with i-phone in hand and "Yelp" reviews galore to guide us away from a "boring" trip through Hawaii.

The first meal of our trip came after a loooong plane ride of poor food choices. Lily and I passed on the breakfast burrito (is that what that was?) and opted out of paying $10 for a "Sushi box lunch" offered by an airline cutting costs EVERYWHERE -- truly a scary thought. Thus, we arrived in a famished state. Charles whisked us away to a red silk palace for Dim Sum. These enchanting dumplings and parcels of deliciousness made me feel in a fairytale. I downed at least one of everything that trundled by on the bamboo-box laden trolleys that rounded each table, even partaking of chicken feet and rice porridge with thousand-year-old eggs (I don't even want to know how they make these goodies). I kept my chopsticks moving and emerged from the restaurant with a very satisfied smile. (Sorry, no pics -- too hungry to use chopsticks and camera at the same time. Also, as the ONLY Caucasian in the restaurant I already stuck out, no need to complicate that by flashing away at the food.)

Later that evening we met some other Chinese friends at a "Family" style Chinese restaurant. Once again, I served as the lone Caucasian diner, but these warm and friendly people included me like we were old friends. Orders of oysters, lobsters, shrimp and candied walnuts, chicken crisped-just-so, and so many other new delights filled my plate, that once again I couldn't manage a single picture. By now jet lag had overtaken me and I drowsed through the conversation as it drifted mostly to Chinese . . . and I couldn't understand a word of it. I learned to tap the table to signify "Thank you" in reference to a legend wherein a Chinese Emperor liked to disguise himself as a peasant and eat among the subjects, who knew him to be the Emperor and tapped the table in reference to his offers of tea as a way to "bow" without blowing his cover. I tapped the table often that night and made it through to bedtime on the sheer force of the caffeinated tea.

Next day dawned with promise of seeing a "Local" side of Hawaiian dining. First off: Obama's favorite hang-out -- The Rainbow Drive In.

I would have breezed right past this place in a rental car, for certain. (Probably will the next time I visit . . . )

We seated ourselves in the "retro" decor after lining up at the window to order from the gravy-laden menu. I "chickened out" and ordered shoyu chicken with rice and macaroni salad (standard sides with all orders). I did sample the house specialty (Obama's reported favorite) of a cup of meat (mysterious nature), rice, gravy (greasy brown stuff), topped by a fried egg. It was "different" . . . enough said. I will say, however, that the macaroni salad was absolutely creamy-delicious. Worth the price of the "meal."

After that special lunch we walked down the street to find the purported BEST shave ice on the Island.

Lily scoffed at the ice shaved by "machines" now, recounting the days when the shaving happened by hand crank. Regardless of the method, these ice shaving fell like snow into a delicate mound that melted as soon as it hit the tongue. Amazingly soft!

Opting to try a Chinese treat, I enjoyed Hawaiian shave ice with Adzuki Bean sauce. It was SCRUMPTIOUS with it's chewy beans and sweetened condensed milk sauce. This I would order again! Yum!

I-phone in hand, the kids bid us follow around the Island to the "Best Rated" shrimp truck according to Yelp, an internet sounding board for opinions on just about everything. We journeyed to the top of the Island . . .

. . . to find THIS!

We ordered at the truck's window and then seated ourselves in another "informal" dining room (quite a change from that red-silk Dim Sum palace) to await the shrimp.

When the goodies arrived drenched in garlic (Scampi style) or lemon butter, we dove in.

In no time we had satisfied our shrimp daily requirement with a sigh.

Though it was good, I would venture to site that the shrimp may have been a tad overcooked and over flavored. Lily, promised to treat me to REAL fresh shrimp later in the week. (You won't want to miss that post . . . I'm salivating as I download those pics -- truly YUMMY!)

BUT . . . I need to stay on topic here, as I must conclude this post swiftly and be off to Costco for our monthly stock-up trip.

So I will leave you off with another lovely sunset on the shores of Hawaii. This time being on the North side with waves most frightful, unless of course you have a surfboard in hand and a strong pair of legs. The legendary Pipeline crashes onto these shores.

As for me, I waived the surfboard and opted for another pedicure -- beach style.

Once again I flopped to bed that night with a satisfied grin, having had a local taste of Hawaii that I shall always remember.

But where, I wondered, do the locals go to shop for food on a regular basis? Lily was only to happy to show me later in the week.

As I hear the car starting in the drive downstairs, I must wrap up this post and invite you back again as I continue downloading and sharing of my grand adventure in Hawaii with Lily. I'll be back with even more unusual sites. ; D