Monday, January 16, 2017

Justin's 36th birthday

Justin is now officially 36. Jon flew up to spend the weekend playing games and making it a special weekend for Justin. I wanted to take him away for the weekend, but he wasn't feeling it this year. We did just get back from Hawaii, so it was a mini stay-cation. I was pretty sick the whole time, but I did my best. We went to all you can eat sushi with Justy on Friday night after piano. Saturday Larry and Theresa took the boys for the afternoon and night. Jon, Justin and I played games, went to the movies to see La La Land, and had posole for dinner. For dessert - Justin's choice - mochi, chocolate covered honeycomb, and homemade scotch mallows. It was of course delicious. On Sunday we had Chinese food to bookend the weekend. Now we have a week of his birthday meals on the horizon. I think he enjoyed his weekend (minus me being sick).

Disney Dazzle

 
All semester I have been working with Mr. McPherson and the 5th graders on the musical, Disney Dazzle. It was finally time to perform and overall it went very well. They had three performances - one for the little kids, one for the bigger kids and one for the parents. I would definitely call it a success. The parents even gave the kids a standing ovation. Here is the blurb the Principal put in the newsletter home to all the parents:
The fifth grade students dazzled us with two school performances and one family performance this week. We want to recognize not only our talented actors, singers, and dancers, but also our fifth grade team, Mr. McPherson, Mr. Tubach, and Maestra Hossain. And last, but certainly not least, bravo
Mrs. Katz for all of the effort and hard work putting together an amazing show. 
I was feeling really sick during the performances, but the show must go on (and it did - without a hitch). Jon came up for Justin's birthday so he even came to see the show. Everyone who saw it enjoyed it and the kids even gave me flowers at the end of the performance, which was very cool, and appreciated.
It was fun to perform and have the kids perform. It was no easy task in the mean time. Now that it's done I'm feeling a little overwhelmed at having to start back over from scratch with a new batch of students. I feel like the teachers expectations of me are extremely high based on what I did with the odd grade kids. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Hawaii

We have officially taken the boys to 30 states - no small feat, but so worth it! The Hawaiian culture can't be beat. Of everywhere we have gone this has been the most friendly, laid back atmosphere. It was absolutely delightful to be around the people in Hawaii!
 DAY 1: New Years Eve was spent on the way to Hawaii for a week long trip. We spent the morning on the airplane to Maui and when we landed, after grabbing the rental car, we headed straight for Tin Roof to have some lunch. Top Chef alum, Simon Simeon's restaurant. Well, guess what... he was there in the front of the restaurant. We got to take a picture with him. He was a really friendly guy. I told him that I expected his food to be really good. He joked that he just picked up the freshest stuff from Costco. His food was delicious. As soon as we ate it Justin was already planning the return trip. (It didn't work out based on timing, but the food was delicious and a great start to our trip). We went to our hotel, but the room wasn't ready so we went to a little mini mall and walked around and found some great stuff- a dress, Vander got a pooka shell necklace with a turtle, kid aprons, Justin got a pineapple wooden bowl and a turtle, and Oliven got his new friend Tusky and a wooden turtle as well. We bought some food supplies at Safeway and headed back to the hotel.  We went to Kimo's Maui restaurant for dinner and watched the sunset from our table as the waves lapped up on the beach. I enjoyed it while sipping on a Lava Flow beverage and the yummy crazy overpriced food. It was incredible - dare I say an island paradise. And, the first day in Hawaii would not have been complete without dipping our toes in the ocean. We went to bed early (I know, sacrilege on New Years Eve) because we planned to get up at 4am to drive to Mt. Haleakala to see the sun rise. They blasted music from 9pm-12am, which only seemed to keep me awake. I really should have just gone down stairs - I heard the whole thing anyway! The view from our hotel was of the ocean, a stones throw away. It was truly breathtaking. Goodnight...
DAY 2: What better way to start the brand new year then with a beautiful sun rise on the top of a mountain. Sunrise at Mt. Haleakala National Park is said to be the most beautiful sunrise in the United States. It was a 2 hour windy drive from our hotel room. 4 am came very fast, but really who doesn't want to wake up well before the sun on the first day of the new year!?!  Seriously though, welcome to 2017 everyone! Happy New Year!!! Justin got out of eating collard greens and black-eyed peas this year. It was a stunning sunrise above the clouds. Oliven did not like that it was 37 degrees outside, but I personally thought it added to the ambiance (though it did add a lot of bulk to our luggage to pack gloves, jackets, and scarves).
The next thing on our agenda was to stop and have breakfast and drive the road to Hana to see all the waterfalls, scenery, and to take beautiful hikes. Being that it was New Years day, the restaurants opened late, so we had sandwiches from an open shop and headed up the road. We got to see Twin Falls at Mile marker 2. It was two pretty waterfalls with some hiking around to see all the angles. It was very muddy and squishy. It was also raining. The boys decided to have a coconut with a straw in it - coconut juice straight out of the coconut cut to order. Vander also had a cute little banana. It was raining pretty hard at that point and the vendors told us that it had been raining pretty hard for the past three days and there were lots of mudslides blocking the roads. We decided we would continue on to see how bad it was. By the next stop we gave in. Justin and I got out of the car to see a scenic overlook and after getting immediately drenched we decided it was time to head back. We were bummed, but there wasn't much we could do as we were informed that they were closing most of the the points of interest due to unsafe conditions. So, no road to Hana for us. I checked with a few people the next couple of days and they said that it was still rained out during our entire time in Maui. It just wasn't meant to be this time around. I guess we have a reason to go back to Maui some day.
By the time we got back down the hill Cafe de Amis in Paia was open. They are known for the crepes and Indian food. Louise in my cookbook club said that we had to go and get a lentil crepe. It was pretty good, but the wait was long. And, by the way as soon as we got back to town there was no rain at all.
With our day no longer accounted for it was time to go hang out at the pool. The boys wanted to try out the water slides. I just wanted to hang out at the beach. We did both. The pool was a bit cold for me, but the beach was delightful. The boys were both very excited to see how warm and clear the water was. They liked it as much as I did and we all ended up in the water at the beach - even Justin (and he liked it)! He informed me that he likes the ocean, just not the sand. Ummmm...they kind of go together. ;) For dinner we ordered some happy hour appetizers by the pool. The pork nachos were probably the best nachos I have ever had. It was a nice end to the evening, and it's always fun to say, "Just charge it to my room."

DAY 3: We started our day off at a restaurant called Slappy Cakes. You get to order a bottle of pancake batter and make pancakes on the griddle in the middle of your table. It was super fun for all of us. We ordered other delicious food to eat while we played. I ordered a coffee drink with liqueurs in it, but they weren't allowed to serve it until 9am - apparently that is the law in Hawaii. When we got back to the hotel we headed down to the beach. The plan was to go for a walk on the beach, but the boys and I couldn't resist getting in the water and playing. I did lots of piling sand on myself cause it's fun and exfoliating. It was hard for Justin to watch all the sand being enjoyed so he headed up to the hotel room while we played until I felt like we needed to re-sunscreen. After showers we went to downtown Lahaina to walk around, see the Banyan tree, and take a submarine ride. 
We took a big boat out to the submarine's docking point (in the very middle of the ocean according to Oliven). The submarine went down about 128 feet and we got to see all kinds of underwater creatures. The boys thought the sub was pretty fantastic. After the submarine ride, while Justin was putting more money in the parking meter, we ended up in an ice cream shop that sold fresh cookies with ice cream in them and decided it was snack time for sure. They called their ice cream sandwiches Mo'o. It was yummy. So yummy we went there again the next day. After ice cream it was time to go wait in line for the show we had purchased tickets for the night before at the hotel. It was about the history of Hawaii, told through song and dance called, Ulalena. We had some popcorn and watched a bright, loud, colorful show about Hawaii and it's gods. It was a bit confusing. The boys didn't love it. It was a lot of money for a show that was good, but forgettable. Oh well, you can't win them all. I think I would have liked it better if Vander hadn't been complaining to me during the whole thing. We had street food for dinner and headed back to the hotel.
 DAY 4: The pool for Oliven and Justin and for Vander and me, the beach. Vander and I walked way down the beach and found a shady spot to play. Vander dug a deep hole and decided it was a toilet. He was very happy with himself. I enjoyed the quality time with him just hanging out and talking. I also really enjoyed the water, the sand, rocks and the view.
Justin had planned that after we checked out of the hotel we would go to a couple of different beaches, and while I would have loved to have done that I know my husband and being sandy the rest of the day and on an airplane would have been a nightmare for him, so instead we went to teddy's Bigger Burgers for lunch, and then down town to walk around and enjoy the town of Lahaina again.
We decided going back to get ice cream sandwiches just made good sense. The guy working there gave us four free cookies for later just because he was a nice guy. I seriously loved Maui. The people were all so laid back and super friendly. We checked into the airport and flew to Oahu for the rest of the trip. When we landed we drove straight to a place Justin had read about, where all the locals go, called Helena's Hawaiian Food.  It is a small place, with only a few parking spaces, and a long line out the door.  We decided to wait because they said it would only be a 15-20 minute wait.  It took more like 40, but the food was well worth it.  We ordered a family meal and a couple other things off the menu (I loved the luau squid, Justin loved the spare ribs, Vander the pork, and Ollie the fried Butterfish).
DAY 5: It was finally the right day to put my hair into a bunch of pony tails - my Hawaiian hairdo. It's been years,but I came up with this hair style while in Hawaii with my grandparents when I was in high school. My grandma was so embarrassed she wouldn't let me ride the elevator with her (she didn't want travel agents to get a bad name), so I took the stairs that day. Vander saw my hair and said he couldn't be around me. He changed his mind, but it was funny how similarly Grandma Gretchen and Vander reacted. We walked down to Duke's Market place and the boys got to haggle for the first time. I tried to show them how it's done. It is one of my least favorite things. Justin and I are not good at it. Freddy thinks it's a blast. Each of the boys bought a puzzle box made in Hawaii. Vander got a turtle box and Ollie got a dolphin box. The boys wanted to buy them for $25 and $20. I  was able to get them both for $41. I bet Freddy would have gotten them both for $30, but at least the boys got the idea. They really were worth more than we bought them for and the boys were happy with the prices. They both had their Christmas money with them so they weren't on a really tight budget this trip.  We went to Marukame Udon for breakfast and had fresh udon bowls and tempura -yum! Vander wanted to go back and use his own money to buy tempura, so clearly he enjoyed his breakfast.
Tahiti - 18th generation totem ancestor.
On to the Polynesian Cultural Center for the full day (noon to 9:30pm). What an amazing place. I laughed and smiled so much during our visit. Each different culture had a show and activities you could try. There was more to do than we could possibly do in a day (or possibly even 2 or 3 days). The very first show we saw was from the people of Samoa. The guy who ran the show, Kap, was super funny. He showed us how the Samoans make fire. Then another guy climbed to the top of a coconut tree. They showed us how they get coconut milk from essentially pureeing the coconut meat (with a contraption that you sit on. He said they used to use shells, but now they use metal. So, coconut juice is what is inside the coconut when you first open it, then the milk comes from the flesh, and if you heat that up and skim off the top you get coconut oil. We saw shows from the cultures of  Aotearoa (New Zealand), Fiji, Tahiti, Tonga and Hawai'i as well.
Ancient Tahitian wedding ceremony
We also saw a canoe pageant of all the cultures and got to be a part of an Ancient Tahitian Wedding Ceremony in which Justin and I renewed our vows and it was symbolized by a plant tied together over our hands. We learned to twirl poi balls, tried our hands at making fire, got to tap bamboo stick instruments (Fiji) while Justin got up and danced (since his birthday is in January). There was stick throwing, lots of dancing and chanting and whooping. There was also lots of tongues being stuck out. We also got to try green banana roasted in coconut milk. It kinda tasted like potatoes. Apparently the men do all the cooking because they respect their mom's and sisters and don't want them to get burned over the open fire. Overall, the Cultural Center was super fun and we learned a ton of really neat information. It really made me want to go to Samoa. Dare I say that this place was better than Disneyland. To me, it was. There were lots of other things, but we couldn't do them all. After the wedding ceremony it was time to head over to the Luau. They, of course, had roasted the pig underground and dug it up for us to see. Not surprisingly, it was delicious. The boys tried poi for the first time. They didn't really enjoy it, but I liked it (I thought it was good with the pork). They did enjoy the purple taro rolls. Oliven really liked the guava and papaya. (They swear they don't like papaya at home, but in Hawaii it's delicious- suspicious). We enjoyed the show and there was a 9 year-old fire dancer. He was the reining intercontinental fire champion. He was really good. Vander was impressed that the fire dancer was practically the same age as him.
After the Luau we went and scoped out the Ukulele store so that I could buy one. The boys decided that they wanted to get it for me for Mother's Day (Ollie's idea, which was super sweet). They decided to let me have it now though since I would see it anyway, as hiding it would have never worked. Apparently it is pronounced ook uh lay lay.We picked one that the ukulele guy said was a good starter one and bought a pretty case and were on our way to the big show: "HA - Breath of Life". Wow, what an incredible show. Truly breath taking. It was all about the cycle of life from birth, childhood, adulthood, finding a mate, marrying, dealing with death, having babies of your own. Each section was told in the way of one of the cultures with beautiful authentic clothing, individual style, passion, lots of smiles, amazing dancing, and beautiful sound effects. The fire dancing was absolutely astonishing. I can't believe what they can do with fire! Too bad Oliven missed most of the show because he was so tired. We couldn't even wake him up to watch it - we tried. The boys slept in the car on the way back to the hotel.
DAY 6: We were all pretty tired because Vander made sure to wake everyone up WAY TOO early every morning and we had gone to bed pretty late. We went to the Hula Grill for breakfast, where I got a mochi waffle and we all had a plate of tropical fruit to go with the ocean view. We spent our morning at the Dole plantation after breakfast.  We went through the World's largest maze (Guinness book of World records 2008). In the maze you get to learn all about the different Hawaiian islands when you stop off at the stencil stations. It was quite a large, confusing maze with lots of mud on the ground, but Justin did a good job navigating us through, and we all enjoyed ourselves. We went on the Pineapple Express train. We grabbed a Dole Whip cone before getting in the line to wait for the train. It was crazy good. It was intense pineapple flavor, and was so big even Vander couldn't finish his. Because I had had to sleep extra we didn't get a chance to go to Banzai Pipeline beach and see the huge waves, which Ollie told me on the airplane home that he really wished we had gone there. Well, too late now.
We had a reserved tour at the Pearl Harbor Memorial on the SS Arizona so we had to hustle after the train ride. We watched a short video and took a boat ride over to see where the SS Arizona ship had been sunk during the attack on Pearl Harbor. It was a very, sad, somber memorial. I think the boys really learned a lot about World War 2 and why the American's got involved. I know they will learn more later, but they definitely felt the sadness if not the weightiness of the memorial.
 We were pretty close to Helena's, so it really just made sense to go there again. It was authentic amazing Hawaiian food in Hawaii, so we headed in with no wait at all this time, which made it even better.
DAY 7: We were planning to spend most of the day at Hanauma Bay to snorkel, but I was super low
on sleep and needed it desperately so Justin let me sleep in before we went to the Capitol building. Parking in downtown was an absolute nightmare. It took us at least an hour to find a spot. The couple of lots we found were over $8 an hour pretty far from the Capital building or $20 for two hours. Justin was not impressed or interested in that kind of financial investment. So, we kept looking, even though all 3 of the guys really had to pee. We had chugged some water bottles before leaving the hotel. Justin kept having the kids get out to go to the bathroom at various places and there were no public restrooms. Apparently downtown is only for people who work in downtown with all the permit and reserved parking. Blech. This alone made me appreciate Maui more than Oahu. We finally found a spot. The capital building is clearly not toured very often as it was pretty difficult to find information and none of the buildings were accessible. It was VERY different from every other capital building in that it was outdoor with no dome. Instead it was the shape of a volcano with an open middle. I wasn't impressed, but Oliven enjoyed seeing it.
On to Hanauma Bay for an afternoon of snorkeling fun on the beach. We all really enjoyed the reefs and swimming around. Van and Ollie were both very glad that I taught them how to snorkel before we went to Hawaii. They didn't love practicing over the summer, but they both agreed it was totally worth it in the ocean. All of our favorite was a giant rainbow fish in the water about the size of maybe a car tire (maybe a little smaller, but very large). Van and Justin got to see a sea turtle. We saw lots of schools of fish. Vander and Justin went out several times. Oliven and I found it a bit cold for us so we only went out once, but we stayed out for a while. We then enjoyed the sandy beach. It was really a delightfully relaxing, beautiful afternoon. That is saying a lot considering that Justin was at the beach with us. ;)
For dinner we went to Ono Seafood and had the poke bowls. They were absolutely delicious. The boys liked the tako (octopus) the best. Justin and I liked the tuna. This place was rated by Yelp users as the 14th best place to eat in America in 2016. (The udon place we had had for breakfast was also on the list at 10 and Helena's was 63).
DAY 8: Before heading home we wanted to squeeze in one more adventure. We went to hike up to
the summit of Diamond head mountain. The parking lot was full so we had to park a little ways down the hill. Vander and I "hustle hiked" (we went really fast up the mountain) and Oliven and Justin met us at the top. It was a very beautiful view (are you sensing a pattern here in Hawaii???). We didn't have a ton of time before it was time to check out of the hotel and Justin wanted to get back to take a shower before we went to the airport so we headed back to the hotel. There was a lunch spot we tried to stop on the way to the airport, but apparently it was closed for a few months, so that was a no go. The rest of the day was spent dropping off the rental car, chugging waters, eating carrots and peppers in case they couldn't go through the agriculture check, going through security, and waiting for the airplane (which was delayed). They started offering $400 vouchers to wait until the next day, but I knew that would stress Justin out, so I told the lady if they go to $600 we were in. She said she couldn't do that, so we didn't end up staying another day. I know it sounds great, but you really don't want to stress Justin out unless it's a really good payoff.
As for the trip on the whole...it was beautiful, relaxing, amazing, interesting, exhausting, fun, dirty, stressful at time, and I am so glad we went.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

New Years Eve


New Years Eve was spent on the way to Hawaii for a week long trip. We spent the morning on the airplane to Maui and when we landed, after grabbing the rental car we headed straight for Tin Roof to have some lunch. Simon Simeon from Top Chef's restaurant. Well, guess what... he was there in the front of the restaurant. We got to take a picture with him. He was a really friendly guy. I told him that I expected his food to be really good. He joked that he just picked up the freshest stuff from Costco. His food was delicious. As soon as we ate it Justin was already planning the return trip. (It didn't work out based on timing, but the food was delicious and a great start to our trip). We went to our hotel, but the room wasn't ready so we went to a little mini mall and walked around and found some great stuff- a dress, Vander got a pooka shell necklace with a turtle, kid aprons, Justin got a pineapple wooden bowl and a turtle. We bought some food supplies at Safeway and headed back to the hotel.  We went to Kimo's Maui restaurant for dinner and watched the sunset from our table as the waves lapped up on the beach. I enjoyed it while sipping on a Lava Flow beverage and the yummy crazy overpriced food. It was incredible - dare I say an island paradise. And, the first day in Hawaii would not have been complete without dipping our toes in the ocean. We went to bed early (I know, sacrilege on New Years Eve) because we planned to get up at 4am to drive to Haleakala to see the sun rise. They blasted music from 9pm-12am, which only seemed to keep me awake. I really should have just gone down stairs - I heard the whole thing anyway! The view from our hotel was of the ocean a stones throw away. It was truly breathtaking. Goodnight...