Kimo’s/Leilani’s/Duke’s/Kapalua Grill:

Here you find the same menu, three locations, and nothing fancy.  It’s a great place to take adolescents who eat everything in sight and aren’t too picky about the quality.   They have local fresh fish, prepared one of three or four ways, depending on the fish and the special.   We used to be able to recommend the Ono or Opakapaka, either broiled with lemon-caper butter, or with the orange marmalade/macadamia nut glaze, depending on your cholesterol level, but based on the lunch we just had, I’m not sure I can even recommend it anymore.   Large portions are served, with salad and dessert included.

Hula Pie - nice presentation, but not as good as in the past.

Kimo’s is located on the main street of Lahaina, and they have a great bar for sunset watching.   I just wish the food was better.  It has seriously deteriorated in the past year.  We had lunch there yesterday, and the fish tacos had a slab of some brown fish in it rather than the nice flaky white fish we remembered, and my reuben sandwich had flavorless pale pink pastrami that looked like it came out of one of those meat packages I’ll never buy at Costco.  Yuck.

Our favorite dessert, the Hula Pie, has also been cheapened.  It used to be smothered in hot fudge, but now it’s thin chocolate sauce.   They’ve also reduced the quality of their top-shelf liquor – another cost saving tactic that has now lost a client in our family.  Cost saving is right.  We’re not going back.

If you can get past all of this, and really don’t care about good food, children are welcome at the bar tables in all the restaurants, and they serve a variety of ‘virgin’ drinks.    Leilani’s is located in Kaanapali’s Whaler’s Village, on the water.  It is another place for a sunset drink (assuming you don’t mind the downgraded alcohol quality) and we used to like it for lunch.  Didn’t even want to try it this year after the Kimo’s debacle.   Duke’s is at the Marriott Timeshares in North Ka’anapali just before Honokowai, and I heard from some guests at our condo complex that the sandwiches they had were pretty good.  Maybe they’re not saving quite as much up there.  The Kapalua Grill is in the Inn at Kapalua, and has a good view of Molokai when it’s not raining – which is not very often.

Very popular with families, these restaurants don’t take reservations, but are large enough that there is usually only a short wait.  We recently heard that the Kapalua Grill was taking reservations, but have yet to confirm that personally.  And at this point, there’s NO way we’re going to chance it.

Hard Rock Café:

Been to one, you’ve been to all – the only thing different is that this one is on Lahaina’s main street, in the shopping center, and the t-shirts say “Maui”.  ‘Nuff said.  Tour buses stop there and disgorge lots of tourists just after they’ve been to Hilo Hattie’s for his-and-hers Hawaiian shirts and muumuus with the requisite black socks and light shoes or sandals.   Good for a look as you’re walking by, and a laugh.   Wear earplugs if you’re eating there.  The music is very loud at some tables.

Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Factory:

Yikes. Located on Lahaina’s main street, across from Longhi’s.  We’ve never even been tempted to try this one.  If anyone is brave, please let us know how you liked it.  We have some good stuff written about  in the guest book from some of the guests who rent our family’s condo, so it seems to have some allure for people who like their fish fried.   You can see a large line of very large people waiting to get in at early-bird dinnertime, all of whom obviously love fried fish, if you know what I mean.  With so many excellent restaurants, I don’t understand why people would waste their time here – I guess the low prices bring them in.  The only thing I know in its favor is that it has a great view for the sunset and their name comes from a very good movie.

Buzz’s Wharf:

In Ma’alena, on the way to Lahaina or Kihei from Kahului Airport.  Terrible place.  Alexei had their clam chowder for lunch after golf on his last trip and spent the evening  in the bathroom with food poisoning.   Need I say more?

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.

The UBM office. Note the newsroom setup.

As the first full-time teleworker for the company I work for, I haven’t had a true office desk in the past 14 years.  Early this year, I started the long commute to our San Francisco office once a week to help out our new staff – as a favor to my boss.

I discovered how different it  was to have something called co-workers that didn’t have to be interacted with virtually.

 

  • It was strange at first to have someone near me speaking in something other than Cat.  I had to re-learn English – although I still growl when annoyed.
  • I  hate the commute.
  • Humans tell jokes and are fun to have around.
  • They also appreciate the fruits of your baking efforts.  My husband and son regard them as a right, and complain when I experiment and something is not perfect.  The office is just happy to have anything sweet.  The grand marnier brownies I made a few weeks ago underwhelmed my family, but the office loved it.  I could get used to this.
  • You indeed get less done, but the thrill of helping others around you more than compensates for getting a bit behind.
  • Did I mention how I hate the commute?

The view from the office sundeck

  • It’s fun to get dressed up in something other than shorts and t-shirts and to put on shoes for a change.  My BFF is a talented stylist and she’s set me up with a wardrobe most people would kill for.  It’s nice to be able to use it when not on a business trip.
  • Our office in San Francisco has an awesome view of the Bay Bridge and the San Francisco Bay.
  • The office also  has a gorgeous sun deck for the days when the sun comes out.  It’s nice to be in California and have an office with a sundeck, complete with cushioned chaises, tables for lunch, and of course, this view.
  • I really do hate the commute, but it’s nice once I’m there.
  • The office is fully sustainable, with advanced recycling, energy efficient everything, and it’s open, airy, and full of really fun people.  I’ve been in most of my company’s offices around the world, and I have to say this is the nicest as far as space planning.

To make things stranger, I have an actual desk in this snazzy office.  Frankly, it’s the first time ever that I’ve been working in an office setting and haven’t had a private office, but I’ve adjusted pretty well.   I have the requisite kid picture of my son in his graduation tux, and I also have a picture of Alexei swinging a golf club that was taken by my Uncle Bob.  I can tell when people are golfers – they stop by my desk and comment on how much money they’ve paid to get a swing that will never be as good as his.

I’m not going to mention how much money I paid to get him that swing.  Nope.  Won’t even mention it.

I also have the required office trinkets.  A small elephant statuette that I brought back from South Africa.  A pair of wind-up shoes given to me by a long-time client.  Other stuff friends have given me over the years.  The required company awards that were cluttering up my office closet at home.  That kind of thing.    Apparently it’s not enough.

Todd Was Here

We have a lot of other colleagues from offices around the country visiting San Francisco.  I’m convinced it’s  because they really want to get away from the weather wherever they live.   As a result, my desk is used mostly for visiting executives.  Apparently, they got together and decided my desk looked a bit to severe, and needed some more decoration.

A few weeks ago, my colleague Todd was here from his home office in Atlanta.  Todd started the tradition of leaving me a gift to let me know he WAS THERE.  I was touched.  He took a picture of himself and printed it out.   I came into the office a few days later and saw his mug tacked to the divider-wall.

Dang.  It really needed a “Best Wishes from Todd”  or a “Loved Using Your Desk” on it for me to keep it up there as a permanent fixture.  So, I put it on one of the shelves below my desk and told Todd the next time he came out here he needed to sign it or he couldn’t sit at my desk again.

The race was on.   The next visitor to use my desk was my boss, Bob.   He flew in to escape the heat in Chicago, see the view, and soak up a bit of fog and blessed coolness in San Francisco.  Oh yeah – he also needed to work with the team, but they all say that.

 

Bob's few cents worth.

Bob has a delightfully dry sense of humor, and one never knows just how it will manifest itself.  I received an IM from him that day that said the picture of Todd on the shelf below was creeping him out.  A few jokes went back and forth, and when I came to the office a couple of days later, I found Todd’s picture back up on my wall, and a little present from Bob arranged in a nice zen pattern on my desk.

I kind of like this trend.  First a picture, then cash.  Things are looking up.

I still hate the commute, but I do like the presents.

I won’t be going to the SF office now for a couple of weeks, and there will be quite a few people visiting our office to escape the heat/rain/humidity/smells in their own cities.  Oh, yes, and to do a little work too.  I’m expecting to have several more presents left on my desk.

I’m particularly fond of orchids, folks…  Just saying.

Have you ever wanted to mess with people just for the sheer fun of it?  Or wondered just how many stupid people there are out there?  C’mon – admit it.  We all have, but few actually figure out a clever way to do it.   Our friend Terry came up with one of the cleverest schemes I’ve seen in a long time and it’s too good not to share.

I have to set the scene – Terry has a highly developed and deliciously warped sense of humor.  He’s a legend in our circle of friends for his practical jokes and off-beat comments, and his wife is a saint.  At Halloween he’s famous for making kids answer history questions, and then gives them not only really good candy  no matter whether their answer is right or wrong, but also a glow-necklace to help keep them safe as they go door-to-door.  That’s the great kind of guy he is.

Here’s what he came up with a few weeks ago.

Did you lose this cat?

Terry posted these flyers on on the neighborhood power poles and community bulletin board at our local family market.  Gleefully he waited to see who and what would call his mobile phone in response.   He was not disappointed.  He got two really great calls.

The first call was someone pretending that it was his cat.  Terry said ‘That cat is vicious, man!  We had him in the house, but he’s not housebroken.  He started tearing up the place, so we had to put him outside.  I’m not sure if he’s still in the backyard, but I can go check”.   He then said with his head turned from the phone “Honey, is that cat still out there?  You can’t find it?   Maybe you should look outside”  The guy on the phone told him “Duuuuude, that’s not a cat, that’s a possum”, obviously not realizing HE was the one being pranked.    Terry responded  ” Hey – did you lose a cat or didn’t you?   Why did you call me then?”  Click….  Hmmm – maybe the guy finally caught on…

Next call was from some giggly girls, and he played the voicemail they left for me – it was priceless.  I can’t replicate the California High School Girl accent in print, but here is what she said “We lost our cat in the Rosegarden.   It might be our cat.  (giggle, giggle) Can you see if it responds to his name?   Please?   It definitely has rabies, so don’t put your fingers in his mouth. (hee hee)  Bye – I hope it’s not an inconvenience (giggle, giggle)”  click.

Awesome.

The flyer was up for 2 days before someone took it down.  Terry now knows who puts these things up, but wonders who actually takes them down?

He’s already planning his next prank.   I can’t wait to see what it is.  Knowing Terry, it will be REALLY good, and if he gives me permission, I’ll share it with you too.

Yep.  I have Prank-envy.  I admit it.

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??

Those are the words you never want to hear from your child while you’re on a business trip – they conjure up visions of vet visits, broken treasures, missed commitment for a school event, natural disasters, burglaries, and other calamities that are too horrible to put in writing.

I was one week into a two week business trip to Hong Kong several years ago when I heard that phrase.

Alexei was about 8 years old at the time, and I thought I had everything taken care of at home before I left.  Meals were cooked and frozen for use while I was gone.  Baseball carpool was arranged for practice and games.   BFF and Mother-in-law were on standby in case Vlad couldn’t pick up Alexei from school,  or if he needed an evening sitter for a business event.   Alexei’s school was notified of emergency call change since I would be in Asia.   Doctor and vet phone numbers posted on the refrigerator so my engineer husband could see them easily if needed.

What on earth could go wrong?

“Dad sent me to school in damp pants!”

I almost fell out of my desk chair.  The visual that created had me laughing hysterically.  My staff were looking into my office wondering what was going on.  I had to find out the story.   The details that followed were priceless.

Alexei’s school had a uniform requirement that I loved and he hated.  It was strict and there were only certain things he could wear and not get sent to the Principal’s office.    Vlad had to do laundry the night before since Alexei had playground dirt on every piece of uniform clothing we had.

Since the only time Vlad even knows we have a washer and dryer is when one or the other is malfunctioning, he was a bit stymied by having to use two large pieces of Equipment Designed for Females (his term, not mine) before going to bed, but he gave it his best shot.   I have to hand it to him – he got the washer going and put the clothes in the dryer before heading up to sleep.

The problem came the next morning when Alexei went down to the laundry room before breakfast to get his clothes.  Vlad had set the dryer on “Air” rather than one of the heat-based drying settings.   Every piece of clothing Alexei pulled out was wet.  Since time was short, and Alexei had to get to school and Vlad had to get to work,  Alexei got to wear wet uniform pants to school and sit in them all morning until they dried.   Vlad said Alexei couldn’t wait to get home that evening to call me and tell me the story.

“You have to teach me how to do laundry, Mom.   Dad can’t be trusted to do it right”.   8 years old, but very wise.

Vlad hasn’t done a load of laundry himself since that day in 1998, and I’m still wondering if he planned it that way.

I read an article this morning about how the US is the “no vacation nation”.   It is disturbing to read just how true it is.  Yes, I’m guilty of  taking my mobile phone with me during the day while on holiday – even to the beach.   I feel better because pretty much everyone else is doing it too – either that or they’re playing Angry Birds poolside.

Yeah – I vote for the Angry Birds too.

Not everyone in the US gets ANY paid vacation leave at all.  There is no law that requires any PTO (paid time off) for full or part time employees and there are companies out there that exploit that ruthlessly.   One of my friend’s husband has an important position in his company, and consequently does not get any paid vacation – period.   He’s lucky if he can sneak away for 4 days off around Christmas or Thanksgiving.  My friend takes her kids on vacations alone, to be joined by hubby on weekends.  She told me he’s just glad he’s working.

That is no way to live, working for Scrooge Enterprises.

My friends and colleagues from outside the US think we Americans are too focused on work, and staying ahead.   I tell them sadly that it’s not staying ahead these days, it’s staying employed.  The unfortunate reality of recession is that employers can take advantage of employees in ways of cutting benefits, time off, and the employee can’t do anything about it if he or she wants to keep the job.

Now enter another reality – the economy in the US is getting better as is the job market, and employers who take gross advantage of their employees are going to see valuable talent walk right out the door in search of better benefits – including vacation.   It’s already started – I know many people who have left their version of  Scrooge Incorporated in all it’s various industries for a nicer environment and a few days of rest.  It seems so simple,  but in looking after the bottom line, many companies are ignoring that it costs more to hire and train a new employee than it does to offer vacation and benefits that will keep their skilled workforce.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the Ghost of Vacations Past would visit some of these latter-day Scrooges and scare them into treating their staff  better?   Yep.  I think so too.

It’s times like this I realize how lucky I am to work for a company that understands the importance of employees who can mentally function, and consequently not only give generous vacation benefits, but also prod me to take as many of my annual days as I can.   Consequently, I don’t mind sitting at the beach with my blackberry, making sure all is good back at the ranch.

No, I’m not playing Angry Birds.  Really I’m not.

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