Almost Touching the Moon on Mauna Kea

If I had to choose one thing about Hawaii that I love love loved the most, it would have to be Mauna Kea.  Maybe it was the lack of oxygen at 9,000 ft+ above sea level.  Maybe it was the utter quiet.  Maybe it was the twilight and watching the mist descend and form clouds around us.

Maybe it was all of those things.

But it was magical.

Hang loose - the theme of the trip

Hang loose – the theme of the trip

I wrote about the high-powered observatories in my last post.  This is where they live.  People come from all over the world to observe the sky from atop Mauna Kea.

This mountain is technically the tallest one in the states, bottom to top (Mount Everest has a higher top elevation, but its base is above 10,000 ft).  Mauna Kea’s base is actually far under the ocean.   So what I’m saying is it’s steep.  I have altitude sensitivity, so I started feeling funny around 6,000 or 7,000 ft.  My husband never seems to notice any external stressors like that — he’s the person who can drive home from the optometrist with his eyes dilated, when I’m still fumbling for my water bottle 8 hours later.  So when it comes to driving up the side of a mountain, climbing 9-10K feet in an hour or so, let the one who can breathe do it.

The drive up is gorgeous, taking about an hour

The drive up is gorgeous, taking about an hour

 

On the way up, there are no filling stations, no McDonald’s, and only scattered houses.  Mostly there are cows.  And sheep.  Donkeys.  And signs to let you know that the donkeys will be crossing the road at daybreak and twilight.  We found those particularly amusing.  Probably the lack of oxygen.

But Mauna Kea is such an attraction because of the high elevation, the great views, and then, as the sun sets, the stargazing.  It is so dark out there with the lack of ambient light and the sharp jutting of the mountain into and above the clouds that you can see stars unlike anywhere on earth.

Everyone spoke in hushed tones

Way up here, everyone spoke in hushed tones

Not sure if they were pledging their lives to one another or breaking up

Not sure if they were pledging their lives to one another or breaking up here

You can draw your own conclusions

You can draw your own conclusions

These snaps were taken atop an embankment above the visitors’ center.  Hiking up it made me a little nervous.  Imma really scared of heights and there are no safety rails on this thing.  But getting up there was worth it.

So worth it.

New favorite selfie

New favorite couple selfie.  High above the clouds.

Representing the Herd

Representing the Herd — this is a picture from earlier in the evening, see how the clouds are just starting to swirl?

It is undoubtedly the number one thing I would recommend doing if you visit the Big Island.  I’m not the type of person who likes to go to the same vacation spots over and over again, but I can’t wait to go back and visit the mountain.  I loved it so very much.

Hope your brakes have been serviced

Hope your brakes have been serviced.  Ah — it’s a rental, whatevs.

Goodnight, Mauna Kea.

Goodnight, Mauna Kea.

 


I Don’t Even Know Where to Start

I added a new state to my list!  I don’t want to oversell it or anything, but Hawaii was basically the best week of my life.

We just returned from a week on the Big Island of Hawaii, which is not where Honolulu is.  (I didn’t know this when we started researching the trip because I thought the Big City = Big Island.)  Everyone we talked to seemed to have went to the Big Island, and they told me how much they loved Waikiki.  But actually if they were in Waikiki or Honolulu, they went to Oahu.  All of this not really well laid out in the Hawaii tourism brochure (they still make those, right?  paper brochures?  sure, they do).

Image via nationsonline.org

Image via nationsonline.org

See?  We were on the Big one.  The one that’s actually called Hawaii, strangely enough.  It’s very rural.  You need a car to get around.  We stayed in a cottage in Captain Cook, which is on the Western side of the island.  And while it’s a Big Island, you can still drive around the whole thing in a day.  And we did this.  We went from swimming on a beach that faced a mountain to driving through a rainforest to an amazing waterfall.  And then through the lava desert.

One of my favorite parts of the trip?  Learning there are NO SNAKES in Hawaii.  Ahhh!  I was hiking everywhere after I heard that.  Fearless!  (Except for falling into treacherously deep holes, which is a serious possibility).

But what made it so spectacular?

Well, it’s more than one blog post’s worth, that’s for sure.

But let’s start small: live volcanoes, mountaintops where you are standing above the clouds looking down on them, swimming with sea turtles… THE FOOD!  It was all so relaxing.  I found being 6 hours behind the East Coast actually kind of therapeutic.  You aren’t trying to stay up on what’s happening because you aren’t awake at the same time that those crazy East Coasters are.

Everything seemed to melt away there.

Not least of all because everything closes at 9 p.m.  I wasn’t prepared for that.

And the darkness.

They have some of the world’s most powerful observatories on the Big Island.  You’ve never seen a dark as dark as it gets on the Big Island.  Never.  You haven’t.  Simply.  Say you’ve been in the backwoods of the continental US of A where it’s pitch black?  No, that’s just cloud cover.  You have some ambient light somewhere within a few hundred miles.

But on the Big Island?  Nothing.

Darkness.

Which makes the mornings a little sweeter:

This is the view from the lanai where we had breakfast a few mornings

This is the view from the lanai where we had breakfast a few mornings during our trip

Yes, really, can you even believe this view?

Yes, really, can you even believe this view?

Lanai is Hawaiian for porch.  It doesn’t make me sound pretentious to call it that.  That’s just what it’s called!

And these are the type of standard breakfasts in Hawaii:

The papaya special

The papaya special

The papaya special is half a papaya, lilikoi yogurt, and coconut.  And eggs (my favorite!) and coconut BREAD.  Plus, Kona coffee.

KONA coffee — yes, I said it.  If you’ve never had it, you don’t even know.  I had it at the Polynesian Resort at Walt Disney World years ago, and it stuck with me that long.  That’s how good it was.  And then my best friend from professional school was actually from Hawaii, so she brought me some Kona one year for Christmas.  So good.  It’s everything you want in a coffee.  It’s deep without being dry, and it’s strong enough to wake you the hell up. They grow the coffee beans under that lanai in that picture up there.  That’s pretty local, my friends.

And from breakfast, we went to the end of the world:

The southernmost tip of the United States

The southernmost tip of the United States, poetically called South Point

But that’s for another post!  Still suffering from jetlag and have to answer the Sandman when he calls, which is right now.

Goodnight, and mahalo for reading!


No Sleep ’til Cleveland

This week has been a whirlwind from start to finish.  Unexpected things cropped up, some fun trips that had been planned for months were had, and I celebrated my anniversary with my husband.  (A piece of I-can’t-believe-this-is-real-life news to share: we are going on our 5-year wedding anniversary trip next week to HAWAII!  Elated doesn’t begin to cover it.   We are staying on the Big Island and doing the Airbnb thing for the first time.  I will be sure to let you guys know how it goes.)

I also wrote my first blog for the Wild Ramp this week.  It’s about kale chips and Kate Middleton.  You can read it here.  And if you aren’t familiar with the Wild Ramp, you can read about it here.

Needless to say, this week had some bright spots.  One of the best parts of this week was trekking up to Cleveland on Thursday for a Tori Amos concert.   I don’t talk about music much on the blog, but I have lots — LOTS — of thoughts on music and strong views about it.  I’m not nearly as oppressive with my views as I used to be (I wasn’t above making “mix tapes” for anyone who would listen), but I still can get lost in a great album for hours, days, or months on end while I try to tear it apart and devour every layer of it.

So the SO and I piled into the car around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and hauled ass to Cleveland.  And I do mean with the quickness.  The tickets said 7:30 and it was a 4-5 hour drive, according to the GPS from where we were at the time.

We arrived just as the opening act was finishing up.  I don’t know how they were.  I actually have no idea.

But Tori Amos, if you haven’t had the pleasure of knowing her music yet, is a woman who become popular in the 90’s as a Girl with a Piano.  (She plays two of them at once with ease — pretty entertaining to watch.)

She’s written about everything from rape to fantastical creatures to sex from the female perspective.  She frequently phrases her songs as speaking to the “girls,” the young people in the audience who need someone to tell them to stand up for themselves and know when to walk away when things aren’t working out.

Devil horns... ?

Devil horns… ?  Sure, OK.

Did I mention she can play two pianos at once?  And doesn’t usually play with a band?  (I think I’ve seen her once live with a band — that’s it.)  You don’t miss it.  The experience is otherworldly, and Thursday at Cain Park, she was on fire.  [The quality of these pictures is lacking, I know.  Blame the iPhone, as I usually take my pics on a Nokia.]

I’ve never been to this venue previously.  It was an amphitheater in the middle of a very well-kept park.  There were lots of families playing tennis, kids in a skate park, and other kids out walking.  The amphitheater just kind of blended into the scenery.  Although I didn’t get a shot of it, what I loved about the venue most was while you sat in the audience, you could still see all the greenery around you and glimpses of cars through the trees.

V__5038 (1)

And the security was pretty relaxed and friendly as well.  They didn’t mind us taking pictures (just don’t flash brightly), and they didn’t care if we stayed in our seats or hung out in the aisles.

Near the end of the concert before the encore, Tori played Cornflake Girl, which is the song everyone knows her for, even if you don’t know any of her songs.  Lots of people left their seats and went in for a closer look at the stage, including us.  No one seemed to mind that we were hogging in on their space and we had a much closer view.  It was a very communal atmosphere.  We all love Tori.  And Tori loves us:

Tori Hearts Us, to be specific

Tori Hearts Us, to be specific

She professed her love for Ohio, as she has through her music, saying that if you can get the boys and girls in Ohio to care about what you are doing, then you are doing something right.  There’s something very true about that.

One of the other highlights of the show was her cover of Nine Inch Nails:

From the @toriamos Instagram account

From the @toriamos Instagram account

When she started to play “Something I Can Never Have,” a Nine Inch Nails song from the Pretty Hate Machine album, I believe the girl next to me went into near-hysterics.  Tori famously is/was friends with Trent Reznor at one point, just as she is famously friends with Neil Gaiman.  (Her story with Neil is a bit more entwined, as she is often cited [incorrectly, but accurately in spirit] as the inspiration for the Delerium character in the graphic novel Sandman series, and they still appear in each other’s works from time to time.)

All in all, this concert was an excellent reason for being severely sleep deprived the next day.

And if you’ve never listened to Tori, but want to know what she’s all about, pull up your Spotify and add these songs to a new playlist:

Tear in Your Hand

Caught a Lite Sneeze

The Waitress 

Northern Lad

Pancake

Jackie’s Strength

That should give you some idea about her if you don’t want to just start in chronological order and work your way through the entire catalog.  (I know that’s a lot to digest, but if you dig it, you would really thank me in a few years.)

But inn-ee-whey—

So these next few weeks will be more flashes before my eyes, as we have just a few short days before we leave for Hawaii.  And then, I’m sure I will blink and be home, and then football will be starting . . .

Until next time, these are this week’s questions:

What is the best concert you’ve ever seen?  Or what is one album you can listen to over and over and it never gets old?  


On Mortality

Have you ever woken up one morning and before you even opened your eyes, your mind started racing about all the things you could do with your day?

This is pretty much me, every Saturday.  Because there are so many fun things to do, some of my no-plans Saturdays look like: 

1) Park with the dog

2) Yoga

3) Brunch

4) Shopping/Reading new favorite book/Sitting by the pool

5) Wining with friends

6) Spending time with husband

7) Walking the dog

8) Sleeping

Some of my no-plans Saturdays are more like: 

1) Walk the dog

2) Faceplant on the couch

3) Walk to the fridge, eat string cheese

4) Velcro backside to recliner

5) Walk to the fridge, eat whatever ice cream you have squirreled away

6) Look at text messages, reply to none

7) Faceplant on the couch

But all the while I’m watching those streaming VERONICA MARS episodes, I’m also thinking, in the back of my mind, “You’re not reading the classics, you’re not reading at all, you’re not writing anything, you’re not doing anything to better yourself, you’re just sitting here.  What are you doing exactly?”

OK, maybe not exactly when I’m watching V-Mars because she is ree-dic-cue-less-lee awesome, but generally, when I’m watching TV.  Because there is a lot of TV.  I can’t watch it all.  I will never go back and finish watching Dexter.  I have maybe seen one episode of House, and I’m totally cool with it.

And there are a lot of books.  I can’t read them all, no matter how much I may want to.

So how to pick what you will do?  How to choose how you will spend your days?  Do you guard the ones without plans as jealously as you guard the ones with?  Are you comfortable sitting at home with yourself?  Are you too comfortable sitting at home with yourself?  It’s a fine line to walk between never doing anything and doing everything, with being friends with yourself first.

So you make choices and you spend every minute you can doing all the things you can to make it count.

Because, you know, life is one big present.  And you should be excited about it.

I was about five years old and ready for my first (and last) parade.  Stoked!

I was about five years old and ready for my first (and last) parade. Stoked!

 


Here, Chickie Chickie Chickie

If you want a good indication of how far Huntington has come in terms of cultural progress over the past few years, the best place to look is Heritage Station.  During the last decade, it was mostly known for its flagship restaurants that rotated out every few years (if they lasted that long).  Now, it’s part of a downtown revitalization that I hazard to guess hasn’t been quite as promising since my grandmother used to go to the large department stores downtown.  When all of those stores moved to the Barboursville Mall, things became a little rough for shopowners downtown.  Downtown suffered.

Enter Pullman Square, which is one block over from Heritage Station.  It took a while for it to find its groove, to get its customer base figured out, but I think it’s done a pretty good job of starting something wonderful.

But one of the most telling signs that things are really looking up downtown is that we now have our VERY OWN FOOD TRUCK.  Chickpeas Mediterranean Grill has come online recently, and was parked at Heritage Station last night.  Despite the rain, they had a steady flow of business.

They have a pretty sweet looking ride

They also have a pretty sweet looking ride

When the owner asked if we wanted our food to go and we said yes, she asked if we came down to Heritage Station just to get her food.  We again told her yes.  She literally fistpumped inside the truck.  It was great.  She was very gracious, thanking us for supporting the truck.

I believe this is her happy face.

I believe these are their happy faces.

So off we went with our baba ganoush, chicken shawarma, and falafel.

Baba ganoush, so fresh, so green

Baba ganoush, so fresh, so green

Falafel in the front and shawarma in the back (sort of like business in the front and party in the back)

Falafel in the front and shawarma in the back (sort of like business in the front and party in the back)

The wraps were made fresh as we stood there.  The chicken was shaved off of its broiler as we watched (spinning meat — always a treat).  They have other side options, too, such as hummus, and vegan grape leaves (yum!).

Baba ganoush, if you’ve never had it, is basically the texture of hummus, but it’s made with eggplant, so the flavor is more complex and smokier almost.

Falafels are deep fried chickpeas and other spices, generally.  I’m not sure what she put in hers, but I liked it.  I may go for the spicy option next time, though.  We were both offered it on our wraps and declined.

Chicken shawarma is shaved, broiled chicken.

Both of the wraps had a tomato, cucumber, and tzatziki sauce on them.

Also, one of the best perks for us millennials is they accept Square payments, so you don’t have to carry cash.

So I recommend hunting them down the next time you’re downtown for dinner and hankering for something a little different to delight your tastebuds.  I’m not sure of their schedule, but you can find up-to-date information about where they’ll be parked on their Facebook page.

Best of luck to Chickpeas, and I hope this is just the first of many successful food truck endeavors in Huntington.

What is your favorite restaurant to open in Huntington in the last 3 years?  Have you checked out Chickpeas yet?  


On Top of the World

One of life’s small pleasures is finding something unique in an unexpected place.

My husband and I went for a date night on Friday.  We were going to go to the movies, but on a whim, decided to go for  a country drive instead. We moved into a new county last summer, and we still don’t know all of the roads.  So we went out a winding, twisting road and that led to another twisting road, and another.  Until we came out to the edge of a nearby town, and saw this, which we couldn’t resist climbing:

It went up and up and up

It went up and up and up

A beautiful little shaded area

A beautiful little shaded area

It is built onto the top of an overhang, where you can see Kentucky and Ohio.

 

The sunset was perfect:

In my experience, I've never seen sunsets so beautiful as those that happen in the Ohio Valley

In my experience, I’ve never seen sunsets so beautiful as those that happen in the Ohio Valley

Obligatory selfie

Obligatory selfie

At the base of the hill was probably the most unique feature, though, the Haunted Tunnel.  Definitely something I want to check out this Halloween (even though I am a total scaredy-cat, I still love haunted houses and such):

The art on this thing is pretty decent --- the hanging vines really set the mood, though

The art on this thing is pretty decent — the hanging vines really set the mood, though.

 

Just those few hours away from everything with no set destination in mind really helped to clear my head from the workweek.

I also have a bit of blogging news to announce this week.  Starting next month, I will begin a regular monthly guest blog for our local market, The Wild Ramp.  I’m very excited to work with them to share new ideas and learn about the local food economy.

I will probably have a few blogs with recipes in them when we get rolling, so I think today would be a perfect day to start with that.  I’ve been drinking my breakfast a lot lately.  Smoothies have become a regular staple in our house.  I usually make enough for two smoothies so I can either freeze one to drink later or make enough for both my husband and me.

This week, I’ve made this particular concoction a few times and it is delicious:

2 cups almond milk

1 banana

2 cups frozen blueberries

1 cup mango

1/2 cored fresh apple (skin on)

some honey to taste (how can you really effectively measure honey?)

1 tbs chia seeds

A neon bendy straw is vital

A neon bendy straw is vital to my enjoyment of said smoothie.

I hope you like it as much as I do!

Questions of the week:

What are your favorite date night activities?  Where is your favorite place to take a lazy drive?

 


What Are They Thinking?

I spend a lot of time with my fuzzy beasts.  So much time that, as a 29-year-old woman, of course I frequently wonder what they are thinking.  In order of neediness, they are as follows:

Ripley, age 3.  A brindle greyhound-sheltie-Pekingese-Mastiff mix.  (Really.)

Ripley, age 3. A brindle greyhound-sheltie-Pekingese-Mastiff mix. (Really.)

Ollie, age 4.  Her loudmouthed brother.

Ollie, age 4. The loudmouthed middle child.

Maggie, age 9 and 1/2.  She is the silent killer.

Maggie, age 9 and 1/2. She is the silent killer.  She knows she’s smarter AND prettier than you.

I’ve been an animal lover my entire life.  I cried when I watched Blackfish.  I brake for turtles on the road and help them across (recent development, but hey, I’m claiming it.)

ASPCA commercials make me so anxious I have to change the channel, and I basically cringe at the sound of Sarah McLachlan now.  (Funny-slash-sad story I went to see Sarah once when we lived in Louisville and the two women in front of us wailed — WAILED actually, sort of brayed — during most of her set.  Finally they got up and left.  It was a bit distracting.)

On a long weekend like this one where we don’t have any particular plans, I end up taking Ripley for lots of walks, and we spend quite a bit of time in the backyard near the pool.

Now that it's over her head, she's not such a fan of the water.

Now that it’s over her head, she’s not such a fan of the water.

This is turn causes the middle child, Ollie, to stand at the backdoor and cry.  He cries as if he’s been abandoned, like all he’s ever wanted to do is come outside into the sunlight, into freedom.

When I let him outside, what does he promptly do?  He runs over to the grass (or maybe even the lilies, which are toxic to cats, btw) and starts scarfing it down.  Grass, grass, grass, munch, munch, munch.  Give him 30 minutes, and it’s regurgitated all over the dining room floor (precisely on the edge of the new rug, we couldn’t be bothered to do it on the hardwood or one of the old rugs — nope).

Exactly, Maggie.  Get 'em.

Exactly, Maggie. Get ‘em.

So after a day outside, maybe mulching or weeding or  cleaning the garage, a lot of times you just want to chill.  But generally, this one’s energy never seems to be depleted:

What are you doing?

What are you doing?  Do you want to throw the frisbee?

When I first got her in 2012, I was training for the Marshall half-marathon.  I would take her on my practice runs, going anywhere from 3-5 miles, several times of week.  It didn’t phase her.  Like, at all.  I came to realize that I would never be able to tire this dog out.

So we live with it.  We try to get her as much activity as possible, and of course I have the Mommy Guilt from working a full-time job.  I guess with human children they eventually go to school and the guilt is somewhat abated.  With The Dog, she is always a baby child.

This was one day in the spring when I had to work from home due to a major water line burst (yay, homeownership!).  It was like they knew it was a weekday.

This was one day in the spring when I had to work from home due to a major water line burst (yay, homeownership!). It was like they knew it was a weekday.

They are so excited when you come through the door, it makes you wonder what it is they do all day.  Do they have rounds of Street Fighter-style matches?  Do they snuggle and read recent literary classics?

"It was hard to tell who the protagonist was in this yarn, Ollie, don't you agree?"  "I heartily disagree, Ripley, as I felt the story truly centered around Dee, the would-be movie star."

“There were so many great characters, it was hard to tell who the protagonist was in this yarn, Ollie, don’t you agree?” “I heartily disagree, Ripley, as I felt the story truly centered around Dee, the would-be movie star, more so than anyone else in this inspired tale.”

Regardless, they all hate Mondays.  I think they allow themselves to forget, just for a day or so, that we have jobs that need attending, and the getting-ready routine of Monday always inspires literal huffs and hiding of faces in the pillows.

"Why, Mom, why?"

“Why, Mom, why?”

I guess they think if they hide their faces, they don’t have to acknowledge the weekend is over.

I’m right there with ya, Rip.

 


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