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!

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.

It’s August.  Budget is done, pet sitter arranged, out-of-office set on email and voicemail, and bags are packed.   I should be thrilled to be heading out to Maui for the Annual Family Trip.  So why am I not feeling it this year?

Perhaps it’s because things were so rushed in the weeks leading up to the trip.  Being crazy-busy to the point where my family was ready to stage an intervention is not a good place to be right before a holiday.   Or the fact that Vlad wasn’t arriving to join us until Friday.   Perhaps it’s because I wasn’t able to find a swimsuit once again this year – the designers obviously didn’t read my blog post last year of I swim therefore I stress.   Whatever the reason, I just wasn’t in the proper mood.

It must have been the Travel Gods playing one of their games.

That funky mood stayed with me all through the long airport security line (sigh!), the line to get sandwiches for the flight, and the pre-flight hoo-hah where we were delayed waiting for some dude who checked his bags and then didn’t show up.   After 30 minutes, they hauled his bags off the plane and we were ready to go.  Wait – what’s that loud voice I hear?  The clueless dude who spaced in the terminal and had the gall to argue loudly with the flight attendant why his bags were removed from the flight and wouldn’t arrive for another day.

Dude – you’re lucky you weren’t lynched as you made the long walk to your seat in the back of the plane, muttering under your breath.  Trust me, we all thought about it.

This was the first time we took the nonstop Alaska Airlines flight from San Jose to Kahului.  It’s a tiny little 737 plane, chock full of screaming babies, wiggly toddlers and harassed, stressed-out parents.   We had a surprisingly pleasant flight, once the angry dude was strapped in and we could take off.

The flight attendants on our plane were the nicest I’ve been exposed to on domestic travel in a long time.  They didn’t overload on the ‘Mahalos’ (a major pet peeve of mine) and didn’t make the plane say “Alooooooohhhaaaa” back to them, which increases the [GAG] factor.  (Are you listening, United?)  They joked with the passengers and were attentive to those parents who wouldn’t control their kids.   One of these awesome attendants actually took a parent to task, to the delight of all of us around him.

Alaska, unlike other airlines who shall remain nameless unless I get really ticked off at them, does not believe in dehydrating their passengers.  There are 3 beverage services on this flight, the last of which serves mai tais to all those over 21.  When I looked a bit skeptical, the flight attendant leaned down and said “it’s good – it’s from Trader Joe’s”.   Gotta love that.

We did a bit of a turn around Maui to come in to the airport, and looking out the window, I could see Kahoolawe on the left and we did a nice turn (with only a bit of rollercoastering – this pilot was good!) and came in over the sugar cane fields to the runway.   Ahhh – seeing the red volcanic soil interspersed with green from all the yummy things growing in the fields, I felt the stress start to melt away.

By the time we meandered down to baggage claim, our bags were there waiting for us.  That has NEVER happened at Kahului, and we even got out without having anyone fall onto our suitcases. (see blog entry Aloha, Travel Gods)

There it is – that Aloha feeling.  I have it, and I’m happy.  I’m also going to take Alaska Airlines to Hawaii from now on.  A great flight and awesome service always starts a trip off right.

Mahalo, Travel Gods.   I really needed a break, and I’m grateful you decided to go easy on me.  I will pour a libation in the sand to you tonight in thanks.

Balm for the Soul

One of the nicest things about being on the west coast of anywhere is you get to see the sunset over the water. Sunrises, while lovely in their own right, are not the same. You can’t really relax with a glass of wine and watch a sunrise.  Well, I suppose you can, but if you do, you have another problem.

Sunsets over West Maui are some of the most beautiful I’ve seen anywhere in the world, and I’m not the only one who feels that way.   When talking to friends and readers who have been to Maui, one of the first things they always say is “and the sunsets are amazing”.  When you think that many of them live in California and see water sunsets all the time, you’ll understand these are something very special.  Look at these pictures and you’ll see why.  I have dozens of these, each wonderful in its own way.

Who watches sunsets?

It’s always fun to see how many people come out to watch a sunset when in a resort setting. It seems there are  days when there are more people on the chaises watching the sunset than there were during the day to enjoy the beach.   As a long-time people-watching fanatic, I love to classify the groups around me.

The Honeymooners can be spotted immediately.   Smooching and cooing are normal, but some go a bit farther.  There’s always the one couple whose antics prompt comments from the little-peanut gallery like  “Mom – what are they doing?”.   The laughter from the other guests at this innocent comment usually breaks up the action, and results in applause and calls of “encore, encore”.

Yeah – we’re a tough crowd.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Golden sunset

Children as a species are supremely indifferent to sunsets, and it’s fun to watch the thoughtful parents try to enjoy the view at the same time as preventing their MiniMe’s from disturbing the other guests. The smart ones bring out some sort of hand-held video whatevers and are able to enjoy in peace.

I’m not even going to talk about the idiot parents who let their kids disrupt the experience.  They deserve to live with the bratty kids they’ve raised.

It’s the Partiers that can spoil the experience for everyone. You know these guys – the loud ones who come out with pitchers of some green or pink tinted concoction and spend their time laughing inordinately at how Jim-Bob’s nose looks just like Molokai’s mountain.

Last year the rudest partier swam into a swarm of jellyfish the next day.   Karma.  Just sayin’.

An incredibly beautiful site

Then there are the Appreciators – the fellow guests chatting quietly on the chaises, watching nature at it’s finest.  And here, it’s very fine indeed.

We like to bring a glass of very nice wine, our cameras and our silence.

After a long year of the Daily Grind, I find myself fondly thinking about this sunset, and the peace it brings to my soul.

It’s time to plan another trip to Maui.  Now you know what I’m going to do this holiday weekend.  Jealous??

I acknowledge the complete mastery of the Travel Gods, and will no longer fail to give them their due when traveling to Maui.

After a lovely two weeks with the family on Maui, we packed up our gear and headed to the airport.  A nice smooth flight to Los Angeles (when flying on miles, United likes to make it as difficult as possible for you so you’ll throw up your hands and pay instead), and we thought we had it made. A two hour layover for the connecting flight to San Francisco was just enough time for a beer and some pizza at LAX. We thought we had the Travel Gods beat.

Right. The laughter in Valhalla must have been deafening as the Travel and Weather Gods teamed up for a real doozy.

After an ATC delay of 30 minutes on the LAX tarmac due to delays in SFO, we finally were airborne for the 55 minute flight from LA to San Francisco. It’s a nice flight, but as we approached the Bay Area, the captain came on the speaker to say we were in a holding pattern and should be landing in 15-20 minutes. Not unusual – even a strong breeze causes delays in SF.

Well, 45 minutes later, we’re still holding, and the captain comes back on to announce that we’re going to have to make an emergency landing in San Jose Airport to take on more fuel. It’s about 12:45am at this point, we’re an hour late landing, and now going to the wrong airport – with no ATC. The captain had to do a declaration landing, warning other pilots over the radio he was coming in for an emergency landing.  I could almost hear the Travel Gods having a jolly time over this one.

So, there we were, 2 miles from home, and stuck in a full sardine can of very unhappy passengers and flight crew, looking at the dark airport, and hoping someone came soon with a fuel truck. The captain was not too encouraging about when we would get to take off. With my luck, we could be stuck there until dawn.

Several passengers (Alexei being one of them) asked the crew if we could just get off here, but no luck there. The airport was closed, and we couldn’t get a gate to get to the terminal. Hey – I would have jumped the fence and walked home at that point.

After another hour of waiting, the guy with the fuel truck poured the equivalent of an emergency can into the tank, and off we rumbled back into the air. 7 minutes from wheels up in San Jose to wheels down in San Francisco. That’s how long it took us – has to be the shortest flight that landed on wheels on record since Orville and Wilbur. The passengers all wearily clapped their hands when we finally arrived.

Looking out the window as we landed at 2am, the reason for the delay was obvious. The Weather Gods conspired with the Traffic Gods once again.  SFO was socked in with fog that reached the ground. There was NO visibility pretty much anywhere at the airport. The funny thing was – there was NO fog anywhere else – 100 yards from the airport was clear all around.    We finally got home around 3am.

There is no way this was a coincidence.    It was clearly divinely caused.    No mere mortal can compete with the combined forces of the Gods.

Before my next trip, I will sacrifice an old suitcase to the Gods in the hope they will leave me alone.

Yeah, right.



I wrote earlier about my trials finding an appropriate swimsuit. It has become increasingly obvious I’m in the minority when it comes to appropriate beachwear. Some of the disasters we saw on Ka’anapali Beach made our eyes bleed. For those of you anticipating a visit to a beach destination somewhere, here are 10 easy rules we came up with on our last trip. I apologize in advance for the gruesome visuals, but since we HAD to see them, it’s only fair to give you a sample of the experience.

  1. A string bikini top is not meant to tie around your waist. If that is where your breasts are, you shouldn’t be wearing a two piece suit of any species.
  2. Speedos. Just Say No, gentlemen. People have a hard time taking you seriously when you’re wearing a banana-hammock.  Not to mention keeping a straight face…
  3. If your bikini bottom needs extender-strings, then perhaps it’s a bit too small, or you shouldn’t be wearing it at all. Just sayin’….
  4. Anything you stuff into your suit or pocket of your trunks may come dislodged while you’re in the water, and then you’ll have to dive to them to the intense amusement of everyone around you.
  5. White suits and surfshirts leave little to the imagination when wet and looks like you’re wearing milky Saran Wrap.
  6. Get to know your razor. Please. They have them at the front desk if you forgot it.
  7. If you’re tanning and have your bikini top untied, please remember that fact before you sit up or roll over.  There are children all around, and the looks you’re getting may not be as complimentary as you think.
  8. Wearing a wet swimsuit doesn’t mean you will catch a cold. Changing suits under a towel in public is rarely done well, and usually shows more than you think. However, it’s great entertainment for those of us watching you try to do it.
  9. If your teenage daughter is wearing a bikini, that doesn’t mean you can. In fact, it usually means that you shouldn’t.  Really shouldn’t…
  10. Guys –  your suit is loose at the waist, please don’t dive into the pool before you check the strings. Although watching you try to disentangle it from your ankles while under water is amusing, you could drown. Don’t count on anyone jumping in to help you. We’re all laughing way too hard…

So, here’s to all the people who gave us a laugh with their Good, Bad and Ugly swimsuit choices. Cheers and thanks for the chuckles – especially if that wasn’t your intention!

Lovely North Ka'anapali Beach.

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