Tuesday, May 13, 2014

San Juan Capistrano Mission

Mother's day- a day of mixed feelings. My mom passed away 9 years ago. That lost feeling had not diminished with time. Not a day went by since her passing that I don't think about her. To this day, I'm envious of my friends who still have their moms around to do things together or visit with no matter how old they are. 

Mother's day buffet brunch overlooking a golf course  in Laguna Beach.
 Nice table setting
Lovely desserts 
On the other hand, it's a day that my husband and I always celebrate as my mother in law lives with us. It's usually a mother's day brunch at a local restaurant and then a trip to the beach or a local landmark. This year was San Juan Capistrano Mission. SJC Mission was founded on Nov 1, 1776 by Father Serra . It's interesting to see the architecture and imagining how life was more than 200 years ago. It was a hot afternoon and walking around the uneven terrain in 4 inch heels made it an uncomfortable walk. Managed to take a few pictures and hopefully will be back in the future for more. There's a lot of history to this place as every elementary school students in Southern California had to build a replica of this mission or do a project on it.

                                       Beautiful pathway leading up to the Father Serra's statue.
                                                          Statue of Father Serra
                                 The wall of the Grand Church- destroyed by an earthquake.
                                               The Mission Basilica SJC in the background
                                                                    Living quarters
                                                              Koi and lily pond.

                                                                 Red bougainvilleas
                                                                 Cactus flowers
                                                                      Bee buzzing...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Big Island- volcanoes, beaches,luau

It rained almost daily the week that we were in Big Island, Hawaii. Kinda dampened the mood a little. Didn't get to see as much as I'd like especially the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Managed to walk the muddy trail of Kilauea Iki Crater, explored the Thurston lava tube and caught a glimpse of the lava flame at night. All done in the rain under shivering temperatures and freezing winds. We were in t-shirts and shorts as we started out from the northern part of the island where the temperature was in the 80's F. By the time we reached the park, temperatures had dropped into the 40's. Ended up having to buy long sleeve shirts from the gift shop. Should have listened to myself when I had originally planned to stay a night at the park but, vetoed by my husband. It took us 7 hours to get to the park as we're making stops along the way and another 2.5 hours back to the house.

On the way to the Volcanoes Park, we stopped by the beach at Kona Paradise. Beautiful black stone beach. Remote and just a couple of locals around. Mind you, these eye pleasing stones are hot. They are smooth stones speckled with green mineral and once pulverized will produce green sand.
A view of the South Point tip- the southern most point of the USA. From this viewpoint, it's another 30 minutes drive to the location itself.
Hawaii has a diverse landscape. We passed through lava grounds, ranches, and farmland along the west coast on the way to South Point. Curious horse approached the fence as soon as we stepped out of our car with our cameras.
     Blow hole at South Point. A mini waterfall formed as the wave crushed into the hole.
Shorelines of the South Point looking north. We didn't get to the southernmost tip as we're running out of time to get to the Volcanoes Park.
                                     One of a few daring souls jumping off the cliff.
The Green Sand Beach. A very bumpy 30 minutes ride in a rickety SUV driven by a local will take you to this view. If you want your insides rearranged, this is the ride. Worse than the ATV ride that we took in the rugged terrrains of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. There were folks that prefer to walk the 3 miles to this beach under the hot sun. Is it worth it? I'd say it's not a must go beach as nicer beaches with easier access are not hard to come by in Hawaii. I can barely make out the green color in the fine sand but, that's what it is called. Crystal clear warm water but rough waves.
                        Kilauea Iki Crater in the fog and rain. Was hoping to spend more time here.

The white sand beach at Mauna Kea Resort. Rows of beach chairs lined closely together- not for me. Prefer our own beach at the rental house.
Par 3 of Mauna Kea Golf Course. The kids did nine holes on the lovely course. We kinda got lost on the way back and wandered into the next door Hapuna Prince Golf Course.

              Imu ceremony. Digging out the whole pig from the fire pit before luau dinner.

                                                       Succulent and aromatic kalua pork.
Wonderful luau venue, surrounded by the tree groves, ocean views and spectacular sunset. It drizzled a little and was windy that evening. Thus, whatever the wind picked up went into our drinks and food as well.
Buffet dinner was better than expected. Came with complimentary mai tai and juices. A nice spread of lomi lomi salmon, ahi poke, poi, wild fern, purple potato chips, shrimp cocktail, kalua pork, laulau pork, sushi, salads, desserts and fruits.
Entertainment of the night- King Kamehameha and his courts, followed by acts from Tahiti, Samoa and the Hawaiian Islands depicting the history of Hawaii. An enjoyable evening, overall.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The best meal in Big Island.

Merriman's in Waimea- wish I'm there right now. The best meal we had during our week in Big Island. Exceptional food and presentation with attentive service made it an unforgettable meal for me. Blew my mind away!
Ahi Poke with purple potato chips, guacamole and a hint of spiciness.
                                     The most tender and melt in your mouth lamb chops.
                              Trios of seared mahi mahi, filet mignon and monchong.
                                                   Local beef- grilled to perfection.

Can't resist the temptations- molten chocolate purse with Tahitian vanilla ice cream. Runny inside with a crunchy bite.

The best macadamia nut cookies paired with creme brulee rounded up a very satisfying meal.

Big Island, Hawaii.

First day in the Big island, we went to the Hilo's Farmers Market. Plenty of food, vegetables, flowers, fruits, drinks, arts and crafts, etc. Tried the spam musubi, malasada, sushi, pad thai, and ginger drinks which turned out to be just ok. Bought a few vegetables like "龍鬚菜" or "dragon whiskers vegetable", wild fern, purple potatoes and winged beans. Had to buy the local papayas for $1 (6 in a bag), mangosteens, pear apples and rambutans. My city boy husband decided to lug home a big, old coconut as well. Up till the last day, he had no idea how to get to the juice inside. Watching him throwing the coconut around hoping it would crack open was the highlight of my vacation.

                                                        Very ripe and sweet papayas.
Pear apples with mangosteens in the background. Quite bland and lacked texture compared to the ones that we had in Taiwan or Malaysia.
                                                                        Wild fern

                                                         Jumbo Chinese gourd.
Giant durians- wanted but didn't. Would be a waste as I'd be the only one eating it.  My husband just had to buy a bigger and older coconut after watching the little girl enjoying her drink.
Red bananas- supposed to be sweeter than the yellow ones. Wasn't the case with the one that I tried.
                                                               Beautiful Akaka Falls.
We did a zip lining tour near Akaka Falls in the drizzling rain. We did 7 lines total, starting from a few feet above the ground to the final one at 3150 ft long and 500 ft above the ground. My daughter who was very hesitant in the beginning wanted to do it again as the tour ended. Flying over the 250 ft tall Kolekole Falls and having full view of the water plunging down from the cliff was an exhilarating experience. Freedom, freedom............ Took some of my nerves away.
                                    Akaka Falls National Park- serene and tranquil after the rain.

This was one of the wahoos that we caught on the second day that we were in Hawaii. We chartered a boat for US$750 and managed to catch 4 wahoos- more like the boat crew hooked them up and we reeled them in. As my husband was reeling in the first wahoo, the boat captain announced that the catch belonged to the boat. I'm not sure if that's the rule in Hawaii or just the captain's as we've chartered fishing boats before in different countries and had never heard of such a claim. Nonetheless, my husband had to negotiate with the captain to keep one of the wahoos.
Nice sized wahoos which the local market was selling for $13 to $21 per pound. My husband reeled in two of them while my son and I did the other two. Needless to say, arm muscles were sore for the next two days.
Getting ready for our first dinner at the house. Clockwise from the top- "dragon whiskers vegetable"- one of my favorite, winged beans and wild fern.
Wahoo sashimi with stir fries and papaya salad. Liked the wahoo a lot- delicate and flavorful either raw or seared, not much seasoning needed.