If you read my post from last year, Prank Envy, you will have met our friend Terry and his highly-developed sense of humor.  He decided to give it another try this year to see what kind of results he would get this time around.

It’s kind of a social experiment, isn’t it?

Once again, Terry posted his “Cat Found” papers strategically around the neighborhood.  On my way into the office this morning, I stopped in our neighborhood coffee shop for some much-needed caffeine for my early-morning drive.  I saw several other early-morning punters clustered around the bulletin board and laughing.  After ordering, I wandered over to see what was so funny.

Here’s what I found.

“doesn’t this guy know that’s not a cat?”

One lady was about to call and wake up Terry because she thought he was mentally challenged and needed to know that this was a wild creature, not a pet, before he was bitten.  She was very concerned.   I didn’t say anything, preferring to see how this played out.    I also figured if Terry was awakened at 6:45am, it was his fault.

The next guy figured out it was a prank and thought it was the funniest thing he’s seen in a long time.   He also played along, telling the concerned lady that he hoped the possum wasn’t in the guys house.  The other two guys standing around picked up their coffees, took a picture of the board to post to their facebooks, and left.

By this time the workers at the coffee shop were interested, and all came out to read it.    I was putting sugar in my coffee and stirring it nonchalantly, when I heard “hey – that’s a possum!” and “gee, should we call and tell this poor guy?”.   I nonchalantly  walked up, took a picture with my phone, and said that I’ve seen that possum before, and wanted to double-check to see if it’s the one who lives in my back yard.

That got me a few stares.  I then walked out and enjoyed a good laugh in the car.

By the way, the concerned lady had her cell phone out as I left.

I wonder if Terry got his wake up call after all?

I’ve been out of touch for quite some time, and I apologize.   I’ve been working so much lately that I’ve been neglecting my creative side.  I have a new mid-year goal.  To write more.

The impetus for renewing my blogging efforts is my recent trip to Moscow.  No, not Indiana.   Would you believe I actually had to explain to a hotel 800-number operator that they have a Moscow in Russia too?  Honest.  Vlad overheard me on the phone and had to sit down, he was laughing so hard.

I was honored to attend the World Media Summit, hosted this year by Russia’s national news agency, ITAR-TASS.  It’s a biennial event, invitation only, to journalists from around the world.   I met some very interesting people, participated in fascinating discussions, and saw a lot of the incredible sights in Moscow.  It was a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I had an absolutely marvelous time.

So watch this space for posts on my trip.  Ciao for now!

Ahhh.  That’s it.

These are the only words that usually escape my lips during a massage – as it should be. When on Maui, the main goal is to relax, and you just can’t do that with all your muscles still carrying the tension of the past year, or month, or week.  Whatever.  We make it a point to start off our vacations with a little body-work.

This year, Vlad and I elected to do an 80 minute couple’s massage at the Heavenly Spa at the Westin Maui Resort.  Before I get any angry emails from my readers, a couple’s massage is one room, two tables, and two therapists.   We chose it because we’re getting the same treatment, and going with the couple’s version saved us about $50.

I was highly disappointed they didn’t have the Island Body Butter treatment this year.  It was on their website, but when I called to book it they said they can’t get the product any more.  Rats – I was really looking forward to it.   My bank balance, however, was very happy with the situation.   Hmm – maybe I can get that extra pair of sandals after all…..

One of the things I usually like best about the Westin Spa is the steam room, sauna and jacuzzi in the Women’s locker room.   However, I was a bit disappointed this time.  The jacuzzi was only lukewarm, and the steam room had a moldy kind of smell in it instead of the usual eucalyptus.  It was very unusual, and it was strong enough for me to back out of there fast.  Pity – I really enjoy time in steam rooms.

This gave me more time to sit on the wonderful chaise, sip cold  cucumber-lemon water and watch the play on the ocean in front of the huge windows.   There was a pod of dolphins frolicking in the distance, followed by a bunch of tour boats.  I saw one punter in the biggest boat lean out for a photo and fall into the water.   I’m sure it didn’t do his or her camera any good, but that’s one way to swim with dolphins!  There was only one other lady in the quiet room (another unusual event – usually there are a lot of people at this spa!) and she and I enjoyed a quiet laugh at the sight.  Vlad and Alexei missed it – they came into the quiet room a minute later .  For a look at the spa, click here.

Alexei had the hot stone massage because he tweaked his swing a while ago, and it was bothering his back.   A few sessions with his favorite pro cured the tweak, and Alexei hoped the massage would bring him back to fighting form.  After all, he would be playing two rounds with his uncle in a few days, and he wanted to be in good enough shape to beat the tar out of him.  He really enjoyed the massage, but his uncle was still able to keep up with him on the golf course – but that’s a different story!

Vlad and I went in for our massages, and it was as good as always.   They’ve done some funky stuff with the aromatherapy choices (can hardly smell them!) but the massage itself was just what we needed.   Be sure to ask for Diana or Jeff (our two therapists) when you make an appointment.  They were both pretty awesome.

Back we went to the car, missing most of our brains, but with very happy muscles.    Hmm – nap or dinner?   Nap or dinner?   Which would you do?

(Yeah – we chose dinner too….)

That’s the mantra my 9 year-0ld nephew Harald (he chose his blog-name after the famous Nordic hero) travels by.  We’re not talking about a small plastic shovel, either.  This is a metal spade of medium size and good quality.  Perfect for a born digger.

Bro and Alexei enjoy Harald's Sand Bar while Harald works on the water diversion.

Give Harald a shovel and a vast expanse of beach, and he’s as happy as a clam.   Literally.   He will dig and build all day, and be completely exhausted by 6pm.   He’s the perfect kid.

He builds cool stuff too.  The other day he decided that what our beach needed was a Sand Bar.  So he built one – with excellent engineering.  It had cool benches and a table in the middle where we could put up our feet and place our beverages in comfort.

Both Harald’s dad and Alexei were the envy of the beach as they sat and enjoyed a cool drink, the waves, and one very busy kid.

Harald putting the Army Corps of Engineers to shame.

Next, Harald decided the Sand Bar needed to have a moat around it so when the tide came in it would flood around the structure, and not get the people sitting inside wet.

Did I mention he’s 9 years old?

I wondered what happened to the E gene (engineering gene – don’t tell me it doesn’t exist!) in our family.  It’s pretty obvious Harald has it.  He proceeded to dig a moat around his Sand Bar that could have been used around a levee.

If the Army Corps of Engineers have a talent scout, they really need to check out Harald.  The kid started building with blocks as a baby, and hasn’t stopped since.

Harald's pyramids, paddle, shovel and boogie board. Just what every engineer-in-training will have on holiday!

The next big event was Harald reproducing the Pyramids at Giza.   Seriously.  With the aid of a paddle, he not only built the three main pyramids, he also did an irrigation moat around them and a levee wall to keep them protected from the high tide.  He learned his lesson from the sand bar.

Yep.  9 years old.

Building is not all Harald does.   He also likes to bury things.  Shells, rocks, people – you know, just the stuff all normal genius-kids like to do.

I’ll leave you with a pic of Harald and his good buddy  who was also on Maui with his parents.  If this is what Harald does to his best friends, it would be interesting to see what he does with people who tick him off.

I really do need to keep up favorite auntie status.

This kid is going places!

Watch out - Harald wields a mean shovel!

Barefoot Bar:

This place in Kaanapali’s Whaler’s Village is one of our favorites,  with a nightly hula/live music show, known as one of the best on the island (different from a luau!).   It’s a very nice show with excellent live music that varies from Hawaiian slack guitar and traditional tunes to Jimmy Buffet and Bob Marley.  They have two restaurants – their Barefoot Bar, which is a big sand pit (yes, you do go barefoot) with chairs and tables under umbrellas that serves excellent, reasonably priced pub food – families with kids can go here with no problem, and the kids love the show.

Not your traditional pub menu, however.  Yes, they have excellent burgers and sandwiches, but they take it one step beyond for those

These crab wontons are incredible!

with palates.  Their hors d’oeuvres are also superb.   We love the crab wontons in soy-mustard dipping sauce.   Alexei and I start craving those wontons about 3 months before each trip, and we have to have them at least 3 times each trip.  Try them – you can join me in figuring out how they make that sauce – and then please let me know how you did it.

For entree’s, their burgers are really good, their fish sandwich is excellent (ask for the ahi to be seared!) and their fish and chips are actually really good – not greasy at all, but crisp and in a light batter.   My nephew Harald also  gives his highest approval on their kid’s menu.

For dessert, go for the brownie sundae with raspberry coulis.   Yum.  That is, if you can still face food after that dinner!

No reservations at the Barefoot Bar – you must put your name in and wait – up to an hour during primetime.  Nice thing is that they have a GREAT bar with a lovely view of the sunset.  You can also order dinner from the bar tables.  For a large group with fussy children, send someone early to put your name in and order a drink at the bar.  Or, if you like shopping, you can wander around the very good shops in Whaler’s Village and pick up that swimsuit, sandals or goodies to take back home.

The view from your table at the Hula Grill

Unfortunately, they’ve reduced the quality of their liquor, and the best vodka they have is something called Three Olives, which is not good at all.  I tried what USED to be my favorite chickdrink, the Plantation Lemonade, and the new ‘top shelf’ vodka they have just ruined it.   Rats.   I switched to their draft beer that is from the Maui Brewing Company and I have to say it’s EXCELLENT!   They have a great Big Swell IPA, their Mana Wheat has some overtones of pineapple (trust me, it works!) and their Bikini Blonde is a nice light lager.  They also have a proprietary brew called Barefoot Brew that is mid-range hoppy and very good too.

They also make a pretty good Mai Tai – but be sure to ask for Meyer’s dark rum, or you’re in for a nasty surprise.  That is, if they haven’t cut more corners and gotten rid of it.  If they have, stick to the beer.  You won’t be disappointed.

Hula Grill (main dining room):

The restaurant section of the Hula Grill is excellent.  A bit more expensive, but the menu is very imaginative and very good.  Chef Peter Merriman has an excellent menu and the place is wildly popular at a very reasonable price for the quality of the cuisine. The kids menu is the same as at the Barefoot Bar.   A wide variety of specials supplement a strong set menu.   Don’t make any decisions until you hear the daily specials – you won’t be disappointed.   Reservations are imperative.    We always eat at the main restaurant one night, and the barefoot bar one or two nights, and have yet to decide otherwise.

May the Restaurant Gods be with you!

Maybe it’s because my BFF is a well-known stylist, and over the years some of her good fashion taste has rubbed off on me, but I now see fashion trends walking around on the beach, and while there are some really great looks out there, there were some where I wonder just what these people see when they look in the mirror.   Here are a few that really stood out:

  • The biggest laugh this trip has come from seeing guys pull their boardshorts as far down on their hips as possible without getting arrested.   It actually looks great if they’re doing it to show the pattered boxers or compression-shorts that they’re wearing underneath.  However, on those who are doing it without anything on underneath, it brings all new meaning to the term ‘shortage’.   Dudes – unless you’ve really got something to show, all this does is show what you don’t have, if you get my drift.  We are not impressed.  In fact, the smiles you see are us trying very hard not to laugh.   So put on some boxers or pull up your shorts – please.
  • There are less mother-daughter matching bikinis roaming around this time, which is a nice trend.  I guess they read my last blogpost “Bikini tops don’t tie at the waist”, and realized just how sad that looks.  Nice going, ladies!
  • Banana-hammocks are in short supply this year, even from the Europeans staying at our condo complex.  A very nice trend that has earned applause from everyone.  My nephew Harald saw one yesterday on an older gentleman, and even at 9 he knew it was So Wrong.  His comment was “didn’t he know how funny he looked?”.  Pearls of wisdom there, gentlemen.  You do look funny to the rest of us.
  • Hats are in!  Guys, gals and kids are all wearing head-protection, and that’s just great to see after all the years when I’ve been the only one at the beach with a brimmed hat.  Hat shops and kiosks have sprung up all over the island.   I was even able to find a sun-visor at Cruise in Whaler’s Village that’s made of bathing-suit material that I now wear while swimming.   Just rinse it out at night, and it’s ready to go the next day.   Several ladies at the pool asked me where I got it  and the next day there were a whole bunch of them in the pool.  Nice to start a skin-saving trend.
  •  Awesome beach cover-ups.   I’ve seen beautiful pareos, lovely tunics, and even a few pairs of sheer palazzo pants with matching tunics that were very fetching.
  • Full body-suits for kids is a great trend that must have dermatologists applauding everywhere.   This protects their skin and reduces the risk of skin cancer later on.  We’ve seen it on a lot of babies and small children, and I think it’s awesome.  Good work there, Moms!

I’ll leave you with this parting comment – - His and Her muumuus and Hawaiian shirts went out of fashion 50 years ago, folks.  If you want to advertise that you’re from Hickville, go to Bubba Gump’s for fried fish, not to Hilo Hattie’s.   Hawaiian shirts with orange parrots really need to be confined to the poker table, and when it’s combined with a plus-size muumuu on your honeybunny, it makes our eyes bleed and wish we had a camera to catch the sight and record it for posterity.  You get bonus points if you wear socks with your sandals.

May the Fashion Gods be with you.  Please.

I’m a huge fan of farmer’s markets, and if I HAVE to go shopping, I much prefer to patronize local growers and traders than huge megasuperwhatevers.  Here on Maui there are a few small farmer’s markets that pop up in parking lots, at beach parks, or just off the side of the main highway.  In most cases, they’re just one or two small growers that have their produce on tables behind their truck.   Those guys tend to move around a lot, so if you see one, stopping is a good idea.  It’s a bit harder to find one that is stationary and regularly timed since they rarely advertise.

Alexei choosing the perfect tapenade and mugging for the camera.

The one thing they all have in common is delicious produce picked at the peak of ripeness, and you can’t beat it for flavor.  I’m also a bit of a nut for organic produce, and that’s very hard to find at supermarkets.

Just be sure to bring your own reusable bags – Maui County does not allow plastic bags to be sold at any foodstore.  I never travel without a couple of lightweight grocery bags, and a large selection of mesh fruit and veggie bags.  Two years without store bags is my running record, and one of the ways I’m trying to be green.  Every little bit helps.

There’s one particular market near our condo that runs three times a week.  It’s run by a local organic market in Honokowai, and they’ve converted their parking lot to hold tables and awnings.  The market is from 7:30 to 10:00am Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays – get there early because the good stuff goes fast.   The tables are full of boxes of local fruits, vegetables, breads (including gluten free), salsas, guac, spreads, dips, local honey and whatever you can think of.  They also give free samples of some of their more luscious fruits to entice the punters to buy more.

And before I get inundated with email, no, I don’t cook  while on vacation.  This stuff is for breakfast and lunch only.  That I do fix, while Vlad and Alexei enjoy their kona coffee and guava juice on the lanai.  They take ME out to dinner, so it’s all good.

Our usual haul includes:

  • Maui Gold pineapple – it has a lower acid-content than the usual kind that you can find on other islands, or on the mainland.  The fruit is a deep gold and is incredibly sweet.  Don’t cut out the core – that’s the sweetest part of the fruit and is edible.  Eaten with the tarter portion, it creates a nice flavor mix.

    Doesn't this look yummy?

  • Papayas -  There are two types of papayas sold locally.  Regular Hawaiian papayas have a deep orange-gold color inside and are yellow-green mottled on the skin when ripe.   Sunrise (or strawberry) papayas have a similar skin, but the inside is a peachey-red color – just the color of the sun as it rises over the ocean.   Both are best eaten with a wedge of lime squirted over the top.  Scoop out the seeds, squeeze the lime in the cavity, and devour.  Ambrosia!
  • Apple-bananas.  These little bananas are 4-5 inches long and have a slightly apple flavor.  They’re very different from the ones you get on the mainland, and once you try one, no other banana will satisfy you.  They’re high in potassium and absolutely delicious.
  • Lilikoi (passionfruit).  These little fruits are best when perfectly ripe.   Don’t let them over-ripen – the taste is just not the same.  It can be tricky to find the ones that are ready to eat.  Have one of the experts show you the best ones to buy.
  • Dragonfruit – the yellow-skinned ones with the white flesh are my favorite.   I got hooked on these pretty fruits in SE Asia, and the local Hawaiian variety is just as good as the ones I used to devour in Thailand and Malaysia.  Peeled and sliced, the white flesh with black seeds are slightly tangy and very refreshing on a hot day – they have a kiwi-like flavor that is lighter and a bit sweeter.  Careful of the red dragonfruits – they’re a bit sweeter than the white, and are great in salads, but the juice stains and WILL NOT COME OUT of clothes.   Yes, I did learn that the hard way.  I go with the whites since I’m basically a klutz, and tend to wear what I eat.
  • Kula greens – these baby lettuces are grown on the cool slopes of Haleakala and are full of flavor.
  • Heirloom tomatoes – the volcanic soil in Hawaii produce some of the best tomatoes in the world.   Try one and you’re spoiled.  Wow.
  • Local cheeses, dips and spreads.  We usually indulge in the garlic-olive cream cheese for morning bagles, as well as the tapenade, and spicy and pineapple salsas.  The tapenade this market sells is superb.  Just the right amount of garlic, and a great mix of olive types – all locally grown.   Add some crackers and lunch and evening appetizers are thereby taken care of for the duration of the trip.
  • Local honey – there are a whole lot of very happy bees on the Islands, and the beekeepers make some of the best honey in the world from the tropical flower nectar they produce.   One of my favorites is the honey made from macadamia nut flowers.  Try it.  Trust me, you’ll take home a few jars.
  • Local breads – home-baked sweetbreads and locally baked breads abound at these markets.  Our favorite is a sweet pineapple bread made by a very nice lady who lives in Napili and sells her wares at the market.   She also has a series of gluten-free breads that look pretty good.  Haven’t tried them, but they seem to sell well.

When you visit a farmers market, just don’t be surprised when you go up to the checkout table if the guy tells you that you need to bag your own stuff because he’s “just not feeling it today”.   This is Hawaii, where Hang Loose is not just a term, it’s a lifestyle.

Home again, home again, jiggety jig.  Time to make a really good breakfast for the boys.

Hang loose.

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