Monthly Archives: April 2013

Hawaii Bucket List

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We lived in and near Washington, DC for just over three years and like idiots, we didn’t accomplish a third of our DC bucket list.  It is silly!  How does a person live in such a historic place and not take advantage of all it has to offer. Before we moved to DC I grand intentions and started researching things I wanted to do while we lived there.  How sad is it we didn’t even make a dent in that list; epic fail.  Even as the last months/weeks/days ticked away I mourned the list but still did nothing about it.

Now we are in Hawaii and there is so much to do, so many adventures waiting to happen.  To clear my guilt of missing so much in DC, I have made a goal to write and keep a ‘Hawaii Bucket List” and actively work towards checking things off regularly so when we leave these beautiful islands I will not feel the guilt I did before.

In no specific order and not limited to, here is my Hawaii Bucket List:

Stairway to Heaven aka. Haiku Stairs

Stairway to Heaven
aka. Haiku Stairs

•   Go to Big Island
•   Go to other islands
•   See lava flows/volcano
•   Historic Pearl Harbor & USS Arizona
•   Dive with sharks
•   Whale watching/diving
•   Koko Head hike
•   Stairway to Heaven hike
•   Parasail
•   Disney Character breakfast
•   Luau
•   Hula lessons
•   Surf lessons
•   Paddle board
•   Camp on the beach
•   Waterfall hike
•   Historical Hawaii tour/museum/sites
•   Hawaii marathon
•   Deep sea fishing
•   Pro Bowl
•   Scuba
•   Snorkel Hanauma Bay
•   Black Sand beach
•   Explore Chinatown
•   Turtle beach
•   Cliff jump
•   Byodo-In Temple
•   Sunset sailing
•   Skydiving (Scheduled for May 18th)
•   More as we discover it!
That is just what we have been talking about doing since coming to the island.  I have made this list into Word.doc and printed it!  It now hangs in our kitchen, a place where I can see it often so it reminds me to get off my ass and do stuff.  This adventure in Hawaii (thank you Army!) is a gift and I’ll be damned if I let it pass without taking full advantage of every second we are here.

To give credit where credit is due, image stolen from www.unrealhawaii.com, an AWESOME site that can get anyone pumped up for adventure in Hawaii.

The Weird Sisters

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Less than a week ago I laid out eight or so books on the couch and had Reece pick the next book I’d read.  I had discovered that by focusing on one book at a time I was able to get more invested in the novel and subsequently, enjoy it more.

Before kids I would read six or more books at once.  Pick up one when another bored me or buy a new one and start it immediately.  But kids makes that a bit difficult.  Yes, I can still read multiple books at once but I found that I wasn’t choosing to read when I had free time because it would sometimes take time to figure out what was happening where I left off.  If I am only reading one book, my focus on just one story, I am able to pick it up and put it down at a moment’s notice with little time wasted getting back into the right frame of mind.

The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown

The Weird Sisters
by Eleanor Brown

I literally just finished The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown and I can’t shut off the ‘happy’. (Sidebar: how great that I can use ‘literally’ in a sentence and not only have it grammatically accurate but have it match the subject of the sentence, literature!)  I was not prepared for how much I would adore this book.

When I started pulling books from my library for Reece to choose from I acted with little thought of the story within the pages.  I remembered the high I got when I became interested and purchased the books and wanted to relive that feeling by finally reading one.  I set them all up in an even line on the couch and told Reece to pick.  I couldn’t decide which one to read next so I figured I would let him choose.  He walked back and forth –taking his new job so seriously- and finally picked The Weird Sisters.

I felt a bit deflated.  Yes I pulled it off the shelf as an option but it wasn’t one I was particularly leaning towards.  I told myself I would read the book he picked no matter what and dammit I was going to read it!

Now, trying to think back, I can’t remember why I wasn’t eager to read it.  It sounds so interesting to me now; three sisters, Shakespearean undertones, classic literature quotes and as it states so perfectly in the back cover synopsis, “not even a book can solve what ails them.”  A book filled with characters who love to read!  That is me!

First on the writing style because that is more important to me than the story.  If I can’t get past the author’s voice I will not enjoy the book.  I was so confused at first.  The narrator wasn’t clearly defined.  Everything was in the third person except when “we” or “our” was used.  All three sisters were telling the story using a collected voice.  I began to figure that out but it was confirmed on page 118, “we whispered to her” in reference to telling one of the three something.  Once the collected voice ‘clicked’ for me it didn’t seem out of place anymore; if anything, it was comforting.  Their father, a Shakespeare enthusiast and professor at the local university, continually quotes his idol in conversation; as do the girls but not with the same frequency as their dad.  The quoted Shakespeare may seem intimidating at first but it effortlessly becomes part of the dialogue; unique.

Then comes my thoughts on the characters.  All three have stereotypical undertones but came off as mostly believable.  Crazy thing is, if the author would have included a fourth sister it could have been an inflated image of me and my three sisters (years ago before we all grew up and became responsible adults).  The responsible/motherly/overbearing one, the business/big city/fashonista, and the careless/immature/free-spirited one.  All three sisters bring their troubles to their childhood home as a way to –attempt to- escape them and to help their mother as she battles breast cancer (seriously, breast cancer?  Are you trying to hit close to home for me, Ms. Brown?).

It was refreshing to taste from all three sisters perspective.  The troubles these sisters are going through rings true for so many sisters; thinking she has it better than me, she has her shit figured out, she is our parents’ favorite, and so much more.  All sisters think like this whether it be a conscious thought or one that haunts without ever identifying itself, it is there.  We are all our own worst critic while easily focusing on what seems like others have right.  One sister wants what she thinks her sister has but, in reality, that sister doesn’t have her shit either.  Their mother explains it best -and catches her girls off guard- when she says, “we’re all fuckups.” Although they were already on the path to realizing that, their mother’s colorful exclamation acts as a light-bulb moment for her daughters.

There is so much to say about this book and I could go on for days –I may already have- and still not cover all the little things I liked.  Like the kittle details that make a big impact, the intricacies that add so much.  This book was enjoyable and I look forward to Ms. Brown’s future works.  The concept isn’t exactly original, the characters go through personal transformations to come out better on the other side, but it didn’t feel like a book I’ve read before.  They figured themselves out, made some tough decisions, became better sisters to one another, and learned a little about humanity in the process.  It has made the list of books I would recommend to a friend, especially if you have sisters.

 

To give credit where credit it due, image stolen from Amazon.com.

ISBN 978-0425244142

 

Flavor and Fire Mahi Mahi

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And now for another adventure in our Kitchen.  On the menu tonight was Spicy Mahi Mahi.

I love to use a recipe as a starting point, an idea, but not as something that requires precise following.  What is silly is that when it comes to developing a recipe from thin air, I get nervous.  Give me the vaguest instructions and I can pull together a full five course meal but if I have to come up with something entirely on my own I just don’t know where to start.

Kyle challenged me to make dinner tonight with no recipe or direction.  The mission:  I was to make Mahi and make it spicy.  That was it.  That was all I had to go on.  As I defrosted the fish I stared into my open cabinets at a loss.  What was I going to do?  Where do I start?  What spices would work well together?  How do I make something spicy but still flavorful?

I started with what I am familiar with.  Seared fish is always a winner so I knew I would sizzle it in a pan with some olive oil.  When making fish it is a good bet that some sort of citrus will pair well so I went classic and brought out some lemon juice; easy.

Chile de Arbol = AMAZING

Chile de Arbol = AMAZING

Now came the part where I would have to tap into my own brain and get a little creative.  We like spicy and that was tonight’s requirement, so I pulled down my spices container and started browsing.  Cayanne, check.  Onion powder seemed like would be a good partner.  Rosemary has been a favorite lately so I grabbed it as well.  Salt and pepper, that is just a given.  Where things fell off the beaten path was when I remembered I had some Chile de Arbol that I have been looking for a reason to use.  I chopped them up and added them to the rub.

As the fish whispered softly in the hot pan my nose, throat, and eyes felt the effect of the spices I used.  I was terrified I made it too spicy and we would have to find something else to eat.  It was so intense that I kicked Reece out of the kitchen so he wouldn’t be bothered by the spices lie I was.

I finished cooking and made our plates.  Kyle and I gave it a final look, cheers, then took a bite.  It was amazing!  The spices were spicy but there was so much flavor to back it up.  It is safe to say I am happy I wrote down what I was doing because this recipe will definitely be made again!

So, if you’re like us and like a little fire in your flavor, give this a try!

Flavor and Fire Mahi Mahi

Ingredients

2 servings of Mahi Mahi
½ tsp cayenne
1 tsp onion powder
½ tsp rosemary
Salt and pepper
Garlic chives (optional)
Fresh minced garlic (I have a jar of it in my fridge that I use in unmeasured scoops)
Lemon juice (1 lemon or a few tablespoons of the bottled kind)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (for the pan, a few tablespoons at most)

Directions 

Isn't it beautiful?

Isn’t it beautiful?

  1. Chop the chile del arbol.  (1/8-1/4 inch in size will work, no need to get precise or fancy)
  2. In a small bowl or zip-top bag combine the chopped chile de arbol, cayenne, onion powder, and rosemary.
  3. Rub the Mahi with lemon juice.  You don’t want it drowning (can you drown a fish?) but you want it on every square inch.
  4. Salt and pepper to your liking.
  5. Pour the spice mixture onto the fish and give it a rub.  (You want to rub down both sides so make sure you don’t waste all the spice mix on the first side.)
  6. In a non-stick pan with a little EVOO sizzle the mahi using medium heat (you can go just above medium but do not venture into the “high” area.)
  7. This step is MUY IMPORTANTE!!!  Don’t mess with the fish!!!  Let it do it’s own thing.  Don’t move it around the pan or squish it or poke it, you will only piss it off.  Wait until the fish turns white-ish about halfway up from the pan; that is cooked fish.  Once you see that half-way whiteness then you may flip.
  8. Remember that fresh minced garlic?  Now we use it.  Grab a little scoop of garlic and drop it into the pan along with the optional chives.  Scoot the fish on-top of it and let it sizzle under the fish as it finishes cooking.
  9. Once the fish is white and flakey it is done.  Pull that delicious creation out of the pan and serve it up to anyone who likes a little fire with their flavor.

Picnic Table

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Now that we have a house my brain is going crazy with real ideas on how to make it ‘our home’.  I am all over Pinterest looking at the Home Décor tab and fun DIYs to personalize our new place.  Since coming to the island all I wanted to do is settle but living in this temporary house has left me with an itch I have to wait to scratch.

Yesterday I got a little ahead of myself and hopped on Craigslist.org; bad idea.  As I scrolled through the furniture section I came across this adorable picnic table.  It was perfect.  A good sized table with detached benches that needed repainting!  My heart started racing and I began to feel that desperate feeling that if I didn’t call the number and claim it right away someone else would scoop it up and all the idea that that table brought up would be smashed.

Just imagine it bright tangerine and yellow!

Just imagine it bright tangerine and yellow!

I called and told the lady I wanted it but still needed to clear it with Kyle AND find a way to pick it up.  I immediately sent an email to Kyle and being such a great hubby he said, “if you want it, get it.”  Then a friend on Facebook who has a truck offered to help us pick it up.  I called the woman back and told her we’d be there after dinner.

So last night we drove to the other side of the island to pick it up.  When we got there it took me less than a second to really fell in love with it.  I does indeed need a fresh coat of paint but that is another thing that makes it so perfect.  Sometime I get nervous over the idea of refinishing something that is okay the way it is but this table has paint chipping off so there is no choice in the matter, I need to paint it.  Yay!

Right now it is sitting in my carport, waiting.  Kyle and I have been discussing color(s) we think would look best.  I want something tropical/summery/Hawaiian/fresh/clean, a lot to pack into a color.  Kyle just doesn’t want it purple, haha.  I am thinking a rich tangerine with yellow accents!  One day soon we will head to the store to pick out the colors and make the final decision then spend a day painting it as a a family.

This table will be perfect for our new backyard.  I haven’t seen our actual yard yet but I have a pretty good idea of what to expect; tall privacy fence around a decent sized yard between the house and detached garage.  I can already guess where I want it and how much use it will get over the next few years.

What is more perfect is the memories we have yet to make around our new picnic table.  With the weather being great year round we can eat so many breakfasts, lunches, and dinners outside.  It will be a great to have when we have cookouts, parties, or just a couple friends over for a simple afternoon get-together.  I can already see it, outdoor toys scattered around the yard, the kids sweaty and playing, and dinner being brought to the table so we can eat as a family.

Light at the end of the tunnel

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Once again, we are on the verge of moving.  Kyle and I took the house we currently live in because we were promised by the housing office that we would be out by August.  This house is small and gross and no matter what I do to it, it doesn’t feel like home.

Months ago we attended a town hall meeting where the housing office gave us info on our impending move-out but what we most looked forward to was the release of the list!  This list had every family who lived in our neighborhood and was waiting for a new house.  We were the last to move into the neighborhood and because of that, we were last on the waitlist for a new house; number 78.  I resigned to the idea that we weren’t getting out of this house until the very last second, late July.

Every so often I call housing to see how much we’ve moved up on the list.  Each time I called I expected the worst but was more often surprised by our place.  35, 21 and when I called on Friday we were 5!  I fully expect to get a phone call sometime this week or early next saying they have a house for us!  Summer months are when most people PCS (Permanent Change of Station) so each day more and more people are putting in their notice to housing.

Reality is, we haven’t been offered a house and it could still be weeks before we are offered one.  The chances are better that we will get offered one soon but nothing is guaranteed.  Also, even if we are offered a house this afternoon it could still be up to six weeks –or more- until we are able to move in.  We would have to wait out the 30-days between the previous tenants giving notice and moving out and up to two weeks for repairs and prep for us to move in.

I hate this feeling of being in limbo.  We know our move is sometime soon so we don’t want to settle into this house any more than we already have but since we don’t have a move date yet I don’t want to live on limited resources by packing our stuff.

What is even worse than the feeling of limbo is the bad case of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ syndrome Kyle and I are both expperiencing.  I am getting annoyed by things in this house that I have been okay with and living with since we moved in.  Like the too little fridge that isn’t able to hold all of our produce, and the stupid stove-top that is crooked so pan liquids pool to one side, and lack of natural light downstairs, and the stupid neighbor with a motorcycle that revs his engine every morning at 5:30 resulting in BOTH kids waking up!

I am ready to be out of here.  I can’t wait to get into the new house and settle in like we haven’t been able to do for the last few years.  I am going to hang pictures, paint, decorate, and make it a home.  I no longer see the good of this house we are in and I am glorifying the new house without even having one yet.  The only thing I can do is just keep waiting and -hopefully soon- get that very exciting call that says it is finally our time!

The Midwife of Hope River

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I sometimes feel silly having a blog name “What a Novel Thought” because I haven’t been posting a book reviews lately.  I still love to read but my reading time is drastically lower than I would like it to be meaning it takes longer than it did before kids.

Funny thing is I have been reading and finishing books but haven’t felt anything worth reviewing, which is in itself, silly.  That is what reviews are for, but I still feel bad bashing a book.  I hope that my book will be out there one day and I would be heartbroken if I came across a bad review.  It is an author’s hard work and dedication put between the two covers so I have a hard time publishing my negative review.  I need to get over that.  No matter if a book is stellar or crap, I need to write about it.  That is what I originally wanted this blog, a review of literature.

Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman

Midwife of Hope River
by Patricia Harman

I recently finished The Midwife of Hope River by Patricia Harman.  It is about a midwife –go figure- of Hope River -really?- and year in her life just at the start of the Depression.  Right off the bat you can guess some deliveries will get complicated, others easy and that is exactly the case.  Sadly, the variances in deliveries are some of the only intense moments of the story.

If you have EVER wasted time watching Lifetime Movie Network or a movie produced by the Hallmark Channel you could figure out the ENTIRE storyline of this book.  Everything was so cliché and predictable.

– The narrator, being a barren, single female, needs a veterinarian for her sick cow.  The vet happens to be a single man. Can you guess what happens?  They deny their chemistry but have a one night fling later in the story after a she has a bad day and miraculously becomes pregnant.

– Her assistant/housekeeper, who happens to be black, becomes more like family than employee and when the KKK comes to terrorize the two women fight them back and save their house all while wearing flour sacks over their heads so the bad guys don’t know they’re being outsmarted by women.

– Nearly ALL the deliveries are successful, with no tearing.  Not one of complicated pregnancies/deliveries are the midwife’s fault but she is able to save the day no matter what is presented to her.

– It ends with everyone happy and all loose ends tied with a rainbow printed bow.

Every page I turned I could predict what would happen next and I was NEVER wrong.   There were no sharp turns, no cliffhangers, no gasps!  Every manufactured word was expected.  I found myself rolling my eyes which, coincidentally, was a great break from what I was reading.

When it came time to write this review I went to Amazon.com to get some of the book’s basic information and was FLOORED to find reviewers gave it 4.7 out of 5 stars!  I read some of the reviews and most said exactly what I am saying but with more of a positive spin.  That got me thinking.  Yes, it was well written.  Ms. Harman’s writing style is mostly enjoyable.  The characters, although cliché, were likeable.  The setting was interesting and not too overused by other authors.

I don’t want to discourage anyone from reading this book.  It is okay but just not my cup of tea.  The predictable storyline bothered me but I am not the type to like Lifetime-type movies.  There is a reason Lifetime and Hallmark are successful stations, people like them; just not me.

I don’t typically don’t give my books away but this is one I have no plans of reading again.  If anyone would like to read The Midwife of Hope River I will mail it to you, just let me know what you think of it when you’re done.

To give credit where credit is due, image stolen from Amazon.com.

Glued to the TV

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Every time something big happens I become glued to the TV.  I don’t care much for reality shows and there are only a handful of dramas that I watch but I am a junkie when it comes to the news.  You can find me on the couch, Monday through Friday, watching NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams.  For me, regular exposure to the news is as necessary as breathing.

Monday morning (remember, we are six hours behind Eastern Time) as I worked out explosions rocked the Boston Marathon.  I was oblivious to what was going on because I wasn’t watching TV, but after I was done working out I hopped on Facebook and saw something wasn’t right.  A friend from high school who now lives in Boston updated her status saying that said she was okay, she was not injured by the explosions, and thanking everyone who expressed concern.

Explosions…!?  I hurried to the TV and flipped on the news.  There it was, live coverage of the events unfolding in Boston.  Crazy.  Reports of two dead, many injured.  One of the dead was an eight year old.  Many more injured.  Three dead.  Eight year old was a boy watching the race with his family.  100+ injured.  Mistaken identity caused one victim’s family to believe she was alive only to discover later it not be the case.  150+ injured.  Third victim identified late after permission given by family in China.  200+ injured due to delay injuries.

I can’t turn it off.  I see a red banner saying “Breaking News” and it pulls me back in.  The TV has been on, non-stop but muted, since Monday.

Then there was the fire turned explosion in West, Texas.  First it was just breaking news following a fire in a Texas fertilizer plant.  Nothing substantial but something enough to act as a little break from the chaos in Boston.  Shortly after the start of the fire coverage the story took a dramatic change into covering a massive explosion as a result of chemicals present mixed with the fire.

Mixed reports of how many dead.  First responders unaccounted for, missing as a result of blast.  Buildings leveled including nursing home, middle school, high school, and many homes throughout the town.  Five dead, could be up to 35.  Interviews with bloodied victims.  Analysis of what happened.

Breaking News!  FBI press conference.  Images released of ‘suspects” in Boston Marathon bombing!  Suspects?  Plural?

I said to Kyle, “I give it six hours.  We’ll know names within six hours.”  We went on with our day; he to work, me with the kids at home but the TV –muted- in the background.

Around dinnertime.  Breaking News!  MIT officer shot.  Not a lot of coverage on it though, still more focus on West, Texas explosion.  Details on the MIT incident released in a slow trickle.  Kyle and I quickly agreed that this was related to Monday’s Marathon bombing.  The news, still on, was un-muted and Kyle and I watched on the edge of our seats.

As the minutes go by, more information is released but reports didn’t want to link the explosions to the MIT shooting without official confirmation.  After a while it became obvious, even if the news would not confirm it, they must be related and this was going to be a big story.  We watched until we fell asleep.

As soon as I woke up this morning I turned on the news.  Boston on lock-down.  Confirmations of the link.  Biographies of the suspects.  Explosive devices and controlled detonations.  Shoot-outs.  Suspects’ family and friends talking to the media about the two. One was 26 (dead), the other is only 19.

It is still unfolding.  The news is still on and I can’t peel myself away.  They are not breaking anything new right now but I can’t stop watching.  I hope this ends soon.  I hope this kid is captured alive and justice is taken the proper way.  I hope nobody else is injured or killed.  I hope this ends soon but no matter how long it takes you can guarantee that I will be watching.

Oh! News Conference!