Sunday, October 13, 2013

Waimea Valley

"The steep, junglelike terrain of the Waimea Valley, about an hour by car from Honolulu, is home to more than 5,500 species of plants and 1,875 acres of tropical rain forest stretching from the mountains to the sea. It also holds some of the rarest and most important native Hawaiian archaeological sites, including temples, countless burial caves, and stone fishing shrines where fishermen once appealed to the gods for blessed, prolific journeys."  NY Times.

 This is our very first trip to Waimea Valley, and it will not be our last. There is so much to see and the Kamaina Rates make it quite affordable!
Check out the size of this green Anole! (most of the ones see are about the size of this guy's back leg!)

Though the waterfall is the main attraction here, we spent hours and hours in the gardens and trails.

As usual the plants are so big, thick, and shiny, they totally look fake!

Many of the plants had labels, but most were either their Scientific Name or Hawaiian Name, so I forgot most of them But WOW they were beautiful!

All of the trails we found were beautifully constructed and well kept!

Here is Richard in one of the recreated structures at one of the historical sites.

We love love love the roots on these trees!

Jungle Fowl! (more commonly called 'Chicken')

Loved the colors on these! Their shape reminded me of impatiens.

Fun little fuzzy flower/seedpods? I like the red veins on the leaves.

Dr Seuss?

Isn't the corkscrew growth pattern on these neat?

This type of plant still blows my mind... the flower within a flower:

Richard with a giant dead leaf

I liked the inside of this long trumpet shaped fower

These may be related to Poinsettias

A type of Orchid?

 These thorny vines/bushes grow everywhere on the island. Another case of a flower within a flower:

These reminded me of Columbines:

These two next ones smelled HEAVENLY! I think this one is White Ginger:

No idea but So pretty and sooo fragrant:

Oh Hey look we found the falls!

We were going to go swimming but you have to wear a life vest...I dont think they wash the life vests... and there were a lot of people there... We decided to go back into the trails and flowers.

Look! This tree has curly hair: 

Can you guess what these flowers grow to be? 


More Chickens!

These are my favorite birds on the island:

They are Common Wax Bills. They only grow to be 4" and feed on grass seeds. They are sooo cute! They are tiny and quick so I am very very proud of these two pictures.

Here is a video I took of a Shama Thrush singing away! One of the most beautiful bird songs ever!

This is a different one I was able to get a picture of:

These water lilies were HUGE and so beautiful!

Another Anole hangin out:
Check out the lovely blue color around his eye:

Another plant fitting of a Dr Seuss story:

These are 'Alae 'ula . Hawaiian Moorhen. They are endemic to Hawaii and extremely endangered. It was really exciting to see them in such large quantities here:

We got eaten alive by mosquitoes, but had an amazing time! This is definitely a spot we will be taking any of our friends and family who come out to visit!

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Welcome Fall!

Summer in Hawaii was HOT... Dead hot. We burnt out our little AC and had to buy a new bigger one. At work we took on selling combo AirConditioner/Photovoltaic Systems, and cant keep up with demand. So when the first rains of Fall started to fall I could hardly believe how happy they made me. Contrary to common belief there are seasons here. They are very subtle to the untrained eye but I've come to love them. To celebrate the cooling rains we purchase some 'Gourd-ous' Jack-o-Lantern gourds from a lady on Etsy
Found a great Polish Food Blog
She has most of the recipes in English if  you scroll down
And I tried this new recipe:

Pumpkin Donuts with Buttermilk Glaze
Ingredients for about 33 donuts:
3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 package baking powder ( 10 g )
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice ( see recipe below )
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons soft butter
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree*
Canola oil for frying

* My recipe for pumpkin puree: 1 Hokkaido pumpkin cut into pieces, remove the seeds and fibers. Bake about 30 minutes, covered, in a preheated oven at 180°C, and then blend until smooth. Divide into parts (approximately 250 g = 1 cup ) and pack in a plastic bag , store in the freezer.


In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: the flour, baking powder, salt, pumpkin pie spice and sugar.
Whisk together all of the remaining ingredients (except for the canola oil) in a second, medium bowl.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir them around the bowl until the mixture is well combined.
Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, rolling the donut dough to approximately 1/4  -1/2″ thick. Cut with a donut cutter.
Heat 2 inches of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gently slide the donuts into the oil, frying on the first side until the edges of the donut are lightly browned, flip carefully and allow to cook on the other side until lightly browned.
Remove and dunk immediately into buttermilk glaze. Allow to air dry on a cooling rack before serving.
Buttermilk Glaze:
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
In a small bowl, whisk together all ingredients until smooth. Dip hot donuts in the glaze, then allow to air dry on a cooling rack.

They were the single best doughnuts I have ever made... Possibly even the best I have ever eaten! 
I cut the recipe in half and had to add in a little extra flour. It was pretty easy too. 

Here are the results:


I live in Californ-ni-ya! ANNNND That's where I plan to Stayyyyyyyy! 
That is the song I learned a a small child elementary school and it is hardly the first of its kind. There are thousands of songs singing the state's praise. And who can blame them... it's an AWESOME PLACE!
When I was in 4th grade our history lessons were focused on California, I remember being shocked when I talked to my cousin in Washington who was also in 4th grade and found out that they weren't studying California too. I just assumed that everyone learned California History because it was such an important state.
I mean come on.. how many Washington Songs have you heard this week?

I've grown up a little since then and realized that other states are also important and other people do love where they are from too. But deep down inside every time I hear, California Girls (beach boys), California (phantom planet), Save me San Francisco (train), California Dreaming (the mamas and papas), or any RedHotChilliPepper or Sublime song. I cant help feeling like the rest of the nation/word recognizes that California is the Best. 

So you can imagine how I felt when I saw my beloved state out the window for the first time in 2 years!

San Francisco  Airport :
First impression:
When did everyone start walking so FAST! I felt like I was about to get run over constantly! I'm still considered a fast walker here in Hawaii, but I must have slowed considerably in the last 2 years.  So I'm dashing here and there with my carry-on full of Macadamia Nuts and Pineapples (35lbs worth!) trying my hardest not to get run over, Starving! so I start trying to find some food. 
2nd ipression:
EVERYTHING is Organic!
There is a significant lack of organic food on Ohau. I could hardly believe the overwhelming quantity of organic food priced almost exactly the same as the... wait ... can you even get non-organic here... Seriously I think it has just become the norm. How awesome is that! Anyways, I got some Grandma's homemade organic chicken noodle soup, with organic apple juice, an organic apple, and a homemade organic sourdough crusty roll!
3rd Impression:
Oh Sweet Heavens I've missed good bread! Bread is not a staple food here, rice is. The same way we have bread at breakfast lunch and dinner they have rice. You are literally served rice with breakfast. (still getting used to that)  I have dearly missed good bread. Especially, California Sourdough. Also my salt expectations have gone way up. By the time I finished the soup I could see how it probably had the correct level of saltiness, however I guess kind of like salt miners, spending so much time in a salty ocean  must lower your tasting levels.

Visiting Jeff and Amy in Weaverville: 
I was lucky enough to rent a car with unlimited miles because I made up for my lack of road tripping:

First stop: Visiting Jeff and Amy and Milo in Weaverville:

I wish I had taken more pictures, the drive between Whiskey Town and Weaverville is drop dead gorgeous!
It was so much fun to visit them. Milo (their little boy) was an infant when I saw them last. Now he was an adorable, smart, flirtatious little toddler! It was especially nice to talk with someone who had lived on the islands too :) 

But back to my own beautiful Hat Creek Valley.
(this is a pic taken by a girl who writes this awesome blog about her backpacking: You should read it!)

It was so good to be home but bitter sweet. The people who own the home my parents live in decided to sell it so this will be the last time that I can call this property home. 
Even working and commuting full time my mom's garden looked AWESOME:

The Highlight of this trip was definitely backpacking the Thousand Lakes Wilderness Area with Eli:

The 'little rental car that could', hauled us up the dirt road deeper and deeper into the mountains:

My Dog is getting old... Graying hair, milkier eyes, faulty back end.... but a good car ride turns back the clock every time:

Lava Flow:
Hawaii and California have been my two very favorite places to live... I must have a soft spot for volcanoes :)

I love love love the Geckos here in Hawaii but I miss cute little snakes:
He was an especially brave little guy! Stayed in the trail the whole time while we walked around him and took his picture.

Best part of NorCal Hiking: Cool, well kept, empty trails

You could tell we were approaching one of the lakes as it started getting greener!

Lake HO!..or maybe Swamp ho!

It is pretty late in the season so some of the little lakes had turned swampy. Jenny - the dog who is afraid of water, always forgets she is afraid of water when we go hiking lol. She gets some of her crazed border collie look back in her eyes and becomes 'Swamp Dog'

First of the Thousand lakes -- Lake Barret

Eli happy to be back:
Eli helped restore miles and miles of the trails out here for his Eagle Scout project a decade ago.

One disturbing fact was there was a lot of dead wood. When the fire comes it will be devastating..

I'm glad it hasn't burned yet :)

So beautiful!

Relaxin country style:
It was nice to just sit in the quiet, read and snack. The water was all from the lake, purified by Eli's nifty little water filter. I was very impressed with how well it worked!

Meadow camp:
We ended up camping a little ways away from the lake in a meadow that probably used to be a marsh, but had dried up since it was so late in the season.
Awesome gear rentals:
I don't own any backpacking gear so I rented some from American Sportsman Outfitters. I was super happy with the quality of gear, they shipped it right to my Mom's place, gave me an extra rental day free (because of the holiday) and shipping it back was a piece of cake! 

Swamp Dog guarding the tent

Dinner actually was delicious, Eli was just making a funny face in the picture. See the nice little bench and fire ring we made:

After drying off Jenny made the transformation from Swamp Dog - to Regal Pedigree Canine:

I love fire:
After the sun went down, it got cold... bitter bitter cold. Jenny who happily hangs outside in the snow all winter started shivering (part of that due to the fact that she has her summer hair cut right now)
When it was time to go to bed her jaw had started to chatter and since we knew she would freak out if we tried to put her in a tent we decided to make her into:
Sweater Dog

She was very insulted that we would do this to her, but she stopped shivering almost immediately and survived the night much more comfortably.
Here is a cool panorama I made of the lake the following morning:

Be sure to click on it to make it full screen.

When we are hiking in wilderness (away from cars or cows) Jenny is a pretty good dog, she runs ahead or falls behind but she always stays in ear shot and behaves well if we run into other hiker. So when she went wandering off we thought nothing of it.
Before the lost dog fiasco:
But at about the halfway mark, she still hadn't caught up. She wasn't responding to whistles or calls and was nowhere to be found. I stayed with the packs and Eli ran up and down the trail back to where we had last seen her. Nowhere to be found. Finally he runs clear back to the lake and there's Jenny all like "Hooray! you came home!.. I've been waiting for hours for you to come back" She had apparently lost track of us, decided the lake was our new home, and just decided to wait for us there. She and Eli were pretty whooped by the time they got back to me at the halfway point. 
And Jenny was thoroughly whooped by the time we got back to the car.

After the lost dog fiasco

We weren't too worn out to enjoy the view on the way back out though.

Later Eli and I went to the Intermountain Fair. This is where we entered bake goods and flowers as little kids, and showed and sold our pigs as older kids. 

It was fun to see the animals and exhibits. We even ran into some old friends we hadn't seen in years.
I found this beautiful succulent planting that got best of show, and then realized my kindergarten teacher was the one who entered it!
Apparently my kindergarten teacher has Pinterest ;)

OOOO funnel Cake

Some Last Minute Reminiscing before taking Eli back to Reno Airport: 

(I have more pictures and more stories however life is overwhelmingly busy at work so by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is get on the computer.  .. so like so many of the vacation posts, I'll try to fill them in at a later date)