Friday, March 30, 2007

Everybody's Doin' It!

Now even Mary's paper dolls have their own blog!

Friday, March 23, 2007

Spouting Horn

After leaving Waimea Canyon, we drove to see the Spouting Horn. When a wave comes in, water is forced through a small hole in the rocks, creating a water spout. Mary has a cool video on her blog.

Last time Scott was here, he and Mom H. just walked right out on the rocks to the Spouting Horn. Now there's a fenced off overlook. I guess too many tourists were falling into holes. To get there, we first had to walk through a gauntlet of souvenier carts. On the way back we bought Mary and Audrey necklaces. They're pretty well-made for dollar necklaces.

Waimea Canyon

Mark Twain called it "The Grand Canyon of the Pacific", and yesterday we drove all the way around the island to see it for ourselves. It was about a two hour drive from Princeville, where we're staying, clockwise around the island to Waimea Canyon. It would be shorter if we could go counter-clockwise, but there are no roads through there, because it's all rugged cliffs (so it actually wouldn't be shorter).

Scott and Mom H. went to see the canyon when she visited him in Hawaii when he was in the army. They drove all the way up to the lookout and it was so foggy they could hardly see past the guardrail. We lucked out this time and had pretty good visibility. There are only a few days a year when it's really clear, and that's when they take the tourism photos. We were able to see all the way across the canyon, and it was just a little cloudy. It really was spectacular. Birds flying on the other side of the canyon looked like little white dots. It looked a lot like the Grand Canyon, only with lush green vegetation.

Audrey was more interested in our picnic lunch than in looking at the canyon.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Luau Night

Last night we went to the Smith Family Garden Luau. No, we didn't just show up to some family's backyard barbecue. The Smith Family is a big tourism company, running tours and luaus for over 50 years. We arrived at their garden paradise along the Wailua River, where we started our kayak adventure the other day. They greeted us with shell leis and had us pose for a picture (available for purchase later) with two hula dancers in costume. A whole tour bus full of people in Hawaiian shirts pulled up about the same time we arrived. After checking in, we wandered through the gardens. There were also narrated tram tours, but we thought the kids would rather walk. Besides, we already knew what most of those exotic tropical plants were, since they grow in South Florida (more landscaping ideas).

After some time in the garden, everyone assembled for the imu ceremony. The host described what was happening while two young guys in sarongs dug the roasted pig out of the pit. They peeled back the banana leaves and tossed the hot lava rocks back into the pit with their bare hands. The host said normally at home they use tongs, but the guys noticed some pretty girls in the crowd and wanted to impress them.

The meal was served buffet style. The shredded pork was delicious, and so was the mahi mahi, and just about everything else. None of us cared for the poi, which is taro root paste. It's purplish gray goop without much flavor. It's not too bad if you eat it with the salty pork, but it's not something I'd want to eat a lot of. Our kayak tour guide said at his nephew's birthday party last weekend, the family served 300 pounds of poi, and only had 5 pounds left over after the party. So apparently Hawaiians eat a lot of this stuff.

During dinner there was a trio playing and singing Hawaiian music. After a while, they brought up one of the cousins to demonstrate some hula moves. She asked for volunteers to try a dance with her, and you just knew Mary was going to end up on that stage, didn't you? After she was done, Mary showed us all the hand motions and told us what they all meant. She was still running through the story when Scott took her to the bathroom on the way to the after-dinner show, so all the men waiting in line for the urinals got to hear the story of how the fish came to Hawaii.

The show was in an outdoor amphitheater. The audience area was covered, which was good, because it rained a bit during the show. They put on a big production, with a live band, real stage lights and special effects of a volcano erupting. They performed dances from Hawaii (ancient and modern dances), Tahiti, New Zealand, China, Japan, Philippines, and Samoa. In the New Zealand dance, the women twirles poi balls on the ends of strings. Mary got to try that at her Girl Scouts Thinking Day a couple weeks ago. The Girl Scouts didn't twirl flaming poi balls, though, like these dancers did.

The grand finale was the Samoan fire sword dance. I couldn't believe some of the stuff this guy did. He didn't just twirl flaming swords. He put them on his face, laid on them, stood on them, you name it. He started with one sword lit on one end, and when he wanted to light the other end, he didn't light it from a torch. He just grabbed a piece of fire from the lit end and put it on the other end. Mary liked his performance the best. Audrey didn't see any of the show. She went to sleep right before the show started, and nothing woke her up, not the erupting volcano or the firecrackers for the Chinese lion, or being carried out to the car.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Hula girls

The grocery store sold these hula girl kits cheaper than the souvenier shops. We put some Hawaiian music on the radio and the girls performed a hula show for us.

Tropical landscaping

This morning on the way to the grocery store I took some pictures of landscaping ideas for the backyard.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Kayak tour

Today was the big kayak adventure. We took a 5 hour kayak and hiking guided tour to see a remote waterfall. First we paddled two miles up the Wailua River. It was smooth and easy most of the way (except for the fact that it's a lot more paddling than we're used to!). In fact, the river is so slow that paddling upstream is easier than paddling downstream, because of the breeze coming off the ocean. When we got close to the head of the hiking trail, we had to get out and pull our kayaks through shallow water. The current was stronger there, and the rocky river bottom was pretty slippery. The guide told us to leave the kids in the kayaks because it would have been to hard for them to walk there. Then, we parked the kayaks, waded across the river and started our hike.

The trail followed the river through the jungle. It was beautiful scenery, but we didn't get to appreciate it fully, because we had to watch our feet carefully. The ground was muddy and very slippery, and parts of the trail came very close to the edge of the bluff. The guide carried Audrey most of the way, but Mary managed the hike with just a little help. She did great, and the couple on the trip with us said how impressed they were with her. She sang most of the way there, until near the end when she was tired and muddy and hungry. She was crying by the time we got to the waterfall, but lunch and a rest perked her up, and she sang the whole way back to the kayaks.

The trail led us to the base of a high waterfall, with pools for swimming and wading. We ate lunch there, played in the water a bit and enjoyed the view. When it was time to head back, I carried Audrey in the backpack. It was a lot slower hiking back because the trail was a lot muddier from all the tourists, and I had to be extra careful with Audrey on my back. I wiped out once, but she didn't even wake up.

When we got to the waterfall, there were only a couple other people there, but by the time we left, it was getting pretty crowded, and when we got back to where we started huge groups were setting out, ten or more kayaks in a group, with two or three people per kayak. We were glad we got up early to go on the morning tour.

Mary reminded me that our tour guide said three words you never want to hear your tour guide say: "Check for leeches."

Monday, March 19, 2007

Kilauea Point Lighthouse

After our visit to the Queen's Bath, we drove to the Kilauea Point Lighthouse. The area is also a National Wildlife Sanctuary, and a great place to spot birds. We didn't stay long, because Audrey was ready for a nap, and tourists aren't allowed up to the top of the lighthouse. We admired the beautiful views, then hopped back in the car to go home.

The Queen's Bath

This morning we went to the Queen's Bath. We drove through the neighborhood where we're staying, and pointed out all the houses and landscaping that look just like South Florida. When we parked and hiked down the path through the jungle, we were in another world. The path started out as rock stairs built into the side of the hill, but quickly turned into a narrow dirt path, with boulders and tree roots to use as steps. We came around a bend and discovered a rushing waterfall. I tried to get a picture of Scott and Mary, but Audrey was eager to rush along the path without me, so I had to catch up. She's an intrepid explorer. She'll climb any rock and wade through any shallow water, dragging me along with her.

The pictures in the guidebook showed the Queen's Bath as a calm, quiet pool in the rocks, with people swimming in it. Not today! Those pictures must have been taken in summer, because in the winter the surf is much rougher on the North Shore of Kauai, where we're staying. Scott and Mary found one calm little spot, but the Queen's Bath was full of crashing, churning, foaming waves. It was spectacular.

Manini-holo Dry Cave

Today's adventure was to the Manini-holo dry cave. It was dug by the chief fisherman of the Menehune (sort of like Hawaiian leprechauns) in search of the supernatural beast who was stealing their fish. We walked into the cave and looked around a little bit, then went to the beach across the street. There's a stream that runs down the mountain behind the cave and across a low spot in the road and down the beach. The stream water was cold, much colder than the surf. Sometimes a big wave would roll all the way up the beach to the stream. The kids had a great time playing here, because they could actually go in the water. They didn't go very far, although there were other people swimming, and one guy attempting to surf. Mary and Audrey mostly played wave tag. Audrey got knocked down a couple times, but she seemed to enjoy it. She also liked climbing up the sandy bluff and sliding down. All the other tourists got a kick out of how sandy she was. The sand was so soft and deep, I loved jumping on it to see how far down my footprints would go.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Lava Rocks

Aloha from the Garden Island of Kauai! We took the evening flight from San Francisco last night, stayed at the Honolulu Airport Hotel, then hopped over to Kauai this morning. We're staying on the North Shore, in the Princeville development. It has a mix of houses, condos and golf courses, and looks like any snowbird neighborhood in Coral Springs or West Boca. But the rest of the island is pure Hawaii. It was too early to check into our resort when we arrived, so we drove down the road to Anini Beach. It used to be called Wanini Beach, but the W fell off the sign years ago, and the locals decided it was easier to change the name than to fix the sign. There's also a church near Princeville called The Church of the Acific.

We didn't drive all the way to the beach park. We just pulled off the road at a turn-out and explored the beach right there. The offshore reef keeps the water near the shore calm. The kids loved climbing on the lava rocks and digging in the sand. Audrey also loved taking baths in all the little pools in the rocks. She needed a bath because she kept walking right under the sand Mary was dripping on the ground.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Monterey weekend, part 4

Sunday morning after breakfast in the dining hall, we checked out and drove to Carmel. We decided to take the scenic route, called the 17 Mile Drive. The road winds along the coast through the exclusive community of Pebble Beach (where the famous US Open golf tournament has been held). In fact, Pebble Beach is so exclusive, it costs $9 just to drive through it! But the scenery was worth $9. It was a gorgeous warm, sunny day in an area known for its fog. The rocky coast is so different from what we're used to in Florida.

Once we arrived in Carmel, we spent some time in a toy store and then walked around enjoying the quaint historic downtown while looking for a restaurant for lunch. Carmel is a dog-friendly city. Businesses we passed had boxes of dog treats or dog-bone-shaped water bowls sitting outside their front doors. We ran into another Fellow in town while we were shopping for hats for the girls. After lunch, it was time to head home. Scott's final project in his design class was due the next day, and Audrey was ready to nap in the car, so we took the non-scenic route back to Palo Alto, ending our beautiful Monterey weekend. It was one of the highlights of the year for me.

Monterey weekend, part 3

After the lecture at the aquarium, we went tide pooling with another marine biology expert. He met us at the Hopkins Marine Station, which is run by Stanford and is just a short walk from the aquarium. He gave a short talk, then let us loose to explore. We saw lots of seals swimming along, and one big one sunning itself. Beach glass was more abundant than at any other beach I've been to. We poked sea anemones and picked up abalone shells. When we tried to pick up a starfish, it suckered tight to the rocks. Bill Gilly was on hand to answer questions about our treasures.

For lunch, we ate at a restaurant on Cannery Row. That evening, after dinner, the grownups were treated to a talk by a John Steinbeck expert, who, it turned out, is married to Bill Gilly the squidologist. I stayed in our room to put Audrey to sleep, but Scott filled me in later. Steinbeck went to Stanford, but he just took whatever classes he wanted and didn't pursue a degree, so he was kind of like a Knight Fellow. He very much wrote about place, and since we were visiting the place he wrote about a lot, she quoted passages about Salinas, where he grew up, and Monterey, where Cannery Row took place, and Tortilla Flats. Steinbeck was commissioned by one of the San Francisco papers to document the Depression food problems. The farmers wanted to keep their prices inflated, so they threw their surplus food in the river. Poor people would pull it out of the river, so the farmers would pour kerosene on it and post guards to keep people from taking the food. Steinbeck's research led to his writing The Grapes of Wrath.

Monterey weekend, part 2

On Saturday, the Knights had a special presentation at the Monterey Bay Aquarium with an aquarium expert. He showed us cool high-definition pictures and footage taken with their deep sea camera. There was one clip of a squid that saw its reflection in the camera lens and came over to investigate. Once the squid realized it couldn't eat the camera or mate with it, it swam away. The footage looked too real to be real. At first, we thought he was showing us computer graphics, because how could anybody get such amazing footage of deep see creatures, and from so many angles? He could really zoom in to show us the tentacles of tiny gooseberry jellyfish. The kids (and grownups) all asked a lot of questions, and one of the Knight directors kept calling Mary "Mary the Marine Biologist" because she knew so much about angler fish. Watching all those Animal Planet shows is a good thing, I guess. After the presentation, there was time to explore the aquarium, and we came back after lunch to see more. The jellyfish exhibit was beautiful, and the kids really liked standing under a crashing wave (inside a huge window, of course).

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Monterey weekend, part 1

The Knight Fellows had a group trip to the Monterey Peninsula last weekend. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was awesome, and we had a great time! We stayed at Asilomar, a former YWCA conference center that is now run by the California State Parks system. It's in a wooded area along the beach. Monterey is a couple hours' drive south of here. We hopped on the road right after picking Mary up from school and had an easy trip. Along the way, we passed through Gilroy, home of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, and Salinas, home of John Steinbeck. More about Steinbeck later.

The Fellowship was housed in two buildings at Asilomar. The families all stayed in Woodside, which had hotel-type rooms around a central living room with a fireplace, and a big deck. We saw deer from the deck in the mornings. They didn't seem to mind us at all. After we checked in, we headed down the boardwalk to explore the beach. Most of the families ended up at the beach that afternoon. Everyone had a great time digging in the sand and getting their feet (and sometimes more than their feet!) wet. We didn't make it down to the other end of the beach to climb on the rocks because the kids were having so much fun where we first landed. I was amazed at how wide the beach was. I'm used to that little strip of sand between A1A and the ocean in Ft. Lauderdale.

I'll post more later about the Aquarium, tide pooling, Steinbeck, the 17 Mile Drive, and Carmel.

The photos aren't loading, so I'll add them later.

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

Happy Chinese New Year! Welcome to the Year of the Boar 4705. We went up to San Francisco this weekend for the Chinese New Year parade. The streets of Chinatown were closed to traffic and booths were set up all over. Some areas of Chinatown were so packed we could hardly move through the crowd. The girls picked out lion puppets at one of the souvenier booths. There wasn't a whole lot of boar merchandise out on the street. It was mostly the same stuff they sell in the stores: watches, wallets, and other junk. The line for the free goodie bag at McDonald's was blocks long. There was another really long line that I never did figure out what it was for. We played in the park across the street from our hotel for a while, and took a break in the hotel room before picking up some take-out and eating it in the bleachers while waiting for the parade.

It was a good parade, but loooooooong - over two hours. Audrey watched the first dragon then slept until the firecrackers accompanying the final dragon woke her up. I can't even count how many lions and dragons we saw. There were a lot of groups of schoolchildren dressed as pigs (year of the boar, you know). The parade started out like all our parades in Plantation, with city officials in convertibles, only these big city folk don't throw candy. Even the mayor, who is in the middle of a scandal for having an affair with his campaign manager's wife, was in the parade. I didn't know if we were supposed to boo, cheer, or heckle. The highlight for us was the float with Yul from Survivor. We cheered loud for him, and Mary yelled, "We saw you win!"

Friday, March 2, 2007

Sea World

We had lots of fun at Sea World in San Diego. We fed and touched dolphins, picked up starfish, visited the polar animals exhibit. We sat at the top of the Soak Zone in the Shamu show and only got a little bit sprinkled. Audrey slept through the whole Shamu show. She watched the sea lion and dolphin shows with us, though. It was a beautiful day at first, then the weather turned cloudy and cool. We bought a beach towel to wrap Audrey in so she could stay warm. Scott wrapped himself in it when the kids were playing on the playground.

Riding to school on the big pink bike

Audrey's daycare is only a 5-10 minute bike ride from our apartment. She likes to ride there on the bike, and we sing "Riding to school on the big pink bike" to the tune of "Skip to My Lou". We only take the car if it's really rainy, and we haven't had to very often. It's been rainy lately, but it hasn't rained hard at that time of the morning, so we have only gotten a little wet on the big pink bike.

Spring has sprung!

Although it still feels wintry to us South Florida wimps, some of the trees have decided it's spring, like this one in our courtyard. Audrey helped me take the picture.

Thursday, March 1, 2007

You know you live in Silicon Valley when ...

Mary had a play date after school with her friend Sydney. Sydney's dad had some car trouble, so her mom and the kids had to drive to Santa Clara to rescue him. What to do while waiting for the car to be fixed? Drop into the Intel Museum, of course! Mary came home with an activity guide from the museum. There were activities to do at the museum, and activities to do at home. Her favorites were writing her name in binary code and testing materials to see which ones were conductors, semiconductors, and insulators.