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Monday, May 26, 2014

Imperfect Paradise by Dan Dembiczak



I'm so proud of Dan Dembiczak, whose first novel - Imperfect Paradise - is available for sale in both eBookor Paperback on Amazon.com!

The story follows Sarah Chizek, a recently married woman from San Francisco, as she travels to the Big Island of Hawaii for her honeymoon and is left to reflect on her life while her new husband golfs all day.Neglected and alone in an unfamiliar place, she first turns to food and alcohol, then finds herself attracted to a hotel worker.The book follows her as she considers the choices she made in the past that led her to this place, and makes new choices - some empowering, some desperate.

The book also captures the Big Island as only someone who knows it as well as Dan could.  At one point in the book, Sarah is exploring the island and Dan's knowledge of out of the way places and tourist destinations alike provide a 'sense of place' that grounds the book solidly in the beauty of Hawaii.  From the Thurston Lava Tube bustling with tour groups to the eerie quiet of the forest in Mackenzie State Park, Dan transports the reader to paradise, albeit an imperfect one.

One major inspiration of the book is The Awakening by Kate Chopin, a novel published in 1899 that still resonate with readers today, and considered one of the earliest examples of feminist literature.It also follows a woman, Edna, who's left alone by her husband and turns her attentions to a young man, while she is constantly reminded of her duties as a woman by her friend Adèle.Like Sarah, Edna makes some desperate choices.

Dan put years of work into this book, writing and rewriting, working with editors, submitting it to publishers, and finally choosing to get the work into people's hands faster by self-publishing through CreateSpace and KDP.It's now been downloaded by over 4000 people, in addition to lots of paperback sales.Dan's discipline and creative energy are so inspiring to me, and I'm incredibly proud of him.

As a sci-fi, memoir and non-fiction reader, primarily, I can honestly say that Imperfect Paradise is a really wonderful book and is hard to put down.  More than one person has said they read it in a single sitting, and I had a similar experience.  A friend told me that after she finished it, she forgot and went to continue reading, only to be disappointed when she remembered that she'd already finished it.  It would be a great summer read for while you're on vacation, an excellent choice for a book club (alone, or paired with The Awakening), and is also a well-written, thought provoking and satisfying novel.

From the words of some of his readers:

"It's a fast read that kept me entertained to the end so perfect for a plane ride or time at the beach."

"He shows the breadth of his talent with this often heart-aching portrayal of a newlywed woman finally beginning to look at life through her own eyes."

"Dembiczak's beautiful writing connects you with Sarah from the first page."

"Sarah's that friend you helplessly watch as she goes through the motions of life, following the expectations of her fiancé/husband & family."

"It captures the beauty of Hawaii and its effect on people, with surprising results."


"This is a "must have" book for vacation, a lazy weekend or a book club so one can enjoy the suspense while sitting beach side with a cocktail or enjoying gossiping about the steamier chapters with friends."

" Hawaii really came alive."

"This is a novel to bring on your beach vacation, yes, but it's also a book to read if you want to feel some liberation."

"This book definitely challenges the traditional views on marriage and highlights the struggles modern women may find themselves facing when it comes to relationship and career choices."

"Although I had mixed feelings with the character's choices, the revelations about her life reminds the readers that happiness, as well as individuality, is a driving force to who you are."

"I read it in one sitting, and would recommend to other readers!"

You can pick up Dan's book on Amazon.com in eBookor Paperback format.If you get the chance to read it, we would love to hear what you think.Every review on Amazon.com and Goodreads helps more customers find it and feel confident in their purchase.  If it was a movie, I would say the novel is PG-13, given sexual situations and one reference to marijuana use.

If it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, consider helping us spread the word about this great book by liking it on Facebook, or adding it to one of your virtual shelves on Goodreads.You can also help the good reviews for the book on Amazon.com float to the top by rating them helpful.

Dan is already nearly 30 chapters into the first draft of his second novel, a story of death, adultery, and yoga set in Seattle and Maui called "The Hardest Pose is Corpse Pose".

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Little Hawaiian Vocabulary

We're here on the Big Island again (visiting Kona), and it struck me that knowing a few Hawaiian words can come in handy while visiting the islands.

Aloha - Just about everyone knows 'Aloha' is a greeting here in Hawaii, as well as a way to say "Goodbye".It can also be used as a noun, as in the "Spirit of Aloha".The definitions and uses of the word are many, but the essence of Aloha might be described as an openness, a warmth, or a kindness being shared between people.

Mahalo - Perhaps the second-most familiar of Hawaiian words is "Mahalo", meaning "Thank You".A coworker once commented on how often the flight attendants on Hawaiian Airlines use this word.She had a flight where the inflection on the word made it sounds more like "I'm Sorry" was being conveyed.This was also the word printed on garbage cans in Honolulu for years (if memory serves), leading folks to think it meant trash.

Hana Hou - Speaking of Hawaiian Airlines, their inflight magazine (which we subscribe to at home, of course is called "Hana Hou".The phrase translates loosely as "Encore", and if you ever find yourself at a Hawaiian music concert, it's what folks will scream at the end of the show to convince the artist to do one more song."Hana" means work in the Hawaiian language, and "Hou" means again.

A Hui Hou - Although you may here folks use "Aloha" as a way to say "Goodbye", you're more likely to hear "A hui hou" from friends.It essentially means "Until we meet again".

Pau - At a restaurant or bar, your server may ask if you're "Pau".This Hawaiian word means done.

Pau Hana - The Hawaiian version of Happy Hour, "Pau Hana" translates as work done, meaning it's the end of the work day or work week, so let's relax with a drink.

'Ohana - The word for family in Hawaiian, "Ohana" is frequently used to refer to a more extended family than strictly blood relatives.

Kama'aina - Although this term translates in Hawaiian to "Native born", the term has come to mean anyone who has made Hawaii their home.You'll sometimes see discounts at resorts and restaurants for kama'aina.

Aina - The word "Aina" means land.

Kanaka - "Kanaka" means people, and is alternately used to refer specifically to people of Hawaiian descent, or all people.

Menehune - A woman I knew who lived on the islands for many, many years referred to the "Menehune" as Hawaiian leprechauns.They are a possibly mythical race of small people who lived on the islands long ago - before Polynesians arrived - and built fish ponds, shore breaks, and other architectural marvels.Some historical records suggest they may have actually been the first human settlers of the islands, from the Marquesas, who were later wiped out by the later Tahitian settlers.An early census record is said to list 65 Menehune.Given the stature of the early Hawaiians (many of the early kings were reportedly 7 feet or taller), the relatively short statured Marquesans would have easily seemed like dwarves.

Honu - The sea turtle has special protections in Hawaii (never, ever touch or harass one), and seems to have a special place in many people's hearts.The Hawaiian term for turtle is "honu", and an iconic symbol for the reptile is found emblazoned on just about anything you might sell to a tourist.

Mauka & Makai - Rather than using compass directions, Hawaiians often use the terms "Mauka" and "Makai" to mean toward the mountains or toward the sea, respectively.Dan G remembers the difference because the first syllable of the word is identical to that of the english word "Mountain" - despite the difference in spelling.


Lau lau - A local favorite, this little bundle of leaves usually hides melt-in-your-mouth delicious pork, greens, and a little butterfish inside. Liliko'i - The Hawaiian word for passionfruit, "liliko'i" is used to flavor everything from sweet breads to sauces to margaritas.It's also our favorite flavor.

Ono - This Hawaiian word has two meanings that are somewhat intertwined."Ono" can refer to a specific type of fish frequently the catch of the day (and also called Wahoo).Or "Ono" can mean delicious.So in theory, you could enjoy some Ono Ono.

Kava - "Kava" (aka "Awa") is a drink made from the dried root of a plant.It has calming properties, and can make your mouth feel numb.

Taro - Also known as "Kalo" in Hawaiian, taro is the root crop most synonymous with the islands.Traditional Hawaiian beliefs say the first human came from a taro plant, making the Taro plant an ancestor.It's most common manifestation is as

Poi - the purple paste made by steaming and pounding the taro root.We both love the taste, especially with a little salt and paired with kalua pig, though many consider it an acquired taste.

Kalua Pig - Delicious pulled pork cooked in an underground oven called an Imu.

Frommers also has a great slideshow with their picks for the Twenty words every Hawaii Visitor Should Know, including both Pidgin and Hawaiian words.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Big Island Recommendations

Given our love of the Big Island (and our many visits), friends and coworkers planning vacations to Hawai'i have begun to ask us what we suggest.We figured it's about time we compiled some of our favorite spots, activities and resources in one place.

The first thing we recommend is to get a copy of "The Blue Book" - Hawaii The Big Island Revealed: The Ultimate Guidebook.This is an incredibly comprehensive guidebook to the entire island of Hawaii, and it's indispensable as a resource while you're there (and before you go).


Places to Stay
  • The Falls at Reeds Island - this is the place we got married, and though pricier than other options, it's well worth it for the privacy, gorgeous setting, and comfortable, fully appointed home.It's also a short walk into Downtown Hilo - though the walk back can be a little spooky at night.

  • Mika Taki - another amazing property on Reeds Island, with several bedrooms and a Japanese soaking tub.

  • Kapoho Shangri-la - like a resort all to yourself, this rental house is truly a shangri-la.It's located in the Kapoho subdivision - one of the greatest and safest snorkeling spots on the island - and even has a lava rock pool in the yard that you can snorkel in - though you'll share the pool with koi and tilapia.It also has a hot tub, three bedrooms and a fully stocked kitchen.

  • Hale Kipuka - we're not sure if they're still renting this home out (they were working to sell another house and planned to move into this one back in 2007), but if it's available, it's a great deal in a beautiful spot.Just a few minutes walk to Kehena Beach on the Puna coast, it's part of a small community in the jungle, and the grounds have fruit trees where you can pick fresh limes for your Mai Tais!

  • Kehena Beach Oceanfront Retreat - This beautiful home just a short walk from Kehena Beach was where we spent 2 of 3 weeks during one trip to the island.It has a pool, hot tub, sand floor meditation room, and is filled with artwork with a very Bali feel.Although there's just one bedroom in the main house, the place is huge - not including the two guest rooms in the adjacent building.

  • Royal Kona - this is the hotel where we've stayed during every visit to the Kona side of the island.It's not a high end spot, but the staff have always been great, the hotel includes a full bar and a great restaurant right on the water, and it's right on the end of the main drag of Kona - making it easy to walk to shops, restaurants, etc.

  • Hilton Waikaloa Village - though we've never stayed there ourselves, some of our family stayed here after our wedding, and had a blast.It's an all inclusive resort that's a short drive to Kona, but our family found they never really felt like leaving - since the grounds have everything from restaurants & bars to a ocean-fed lagoon for swimming with turtles, and even dolphins!The place is so enormous, there's a train to take you from one end to the other.It's not cheap and a you can't walk to downtown Kailua-Kona, but if you've got kids or are looking for a pampered experience in a beautiful setting, it's worth considering.

  • Hilo Hawaiian Hotel - though we haven't stayed at any others, we're told this is the nicest hotel in Hilo, located right along Banyan Drive.

  • VRBO - nearly all the vacation homes we've stayed in on the islands have been places we've found while searching Vacation Rentals By Owner.We've never had a bad experience or been disappointed.




Food & Drink

Before we reveal our favorite spots to eat around the island, there's one island treat you gotta try: Shave Ice (aka Ice Shave).If you've never had one before (and even if you have), you should DEFINITELY get a Shave Ice while in Hawai'i.It's like a snow cone, only way better in terms of texture and flavors.Instead of gritty bits of ice with cherry/grape/lime syrup that just runs to the bottom of the cone, the ice is literally shaved paper thin, which allows it to hang onto the delicious syrups.If you wanna go all out, get ice cream and azuki beans in the bottom.There's a little cart on Ali'i Drive, right by the Royal Kona in Kona, and Wilson's By the Bay and Hilo Bay Sugar Shack are good bets in Hilo.Dan G's favorite is liliko'i (passion fruit).

    Hilo
  • Ken's House of Pancakes - a great 24-hour diner in Hilo, with the most delicious macadamia nut pancakes you'll ever taste.Be sure to get the trio of syrups to try on top: Coconut, Guava and Passion fruit!

  • Cafe Pesto - a relaxed yet upscale Italian restaurant that uses fresh local ingredients to create unique island-inspired dishes.Casual enough for a quick lunch in shorts & flip-flops, but fancy enough that we held the welcome dinner for our wedding here - and they treated us wondefully.The service has always been great and the food is excellent.

  • Reuben's Mexican Food - looks like a hole in the wall from the street, but the place is really big and the food is too.Friendly service and tasty margaritas, right in Downtown Hilo.The Mexican flag on your table is how you let your server know you need something - like a liliko'i margarita in a pint glass.

  • Cronies Bar & Grill - a Midwestern sports bar in Downtown Hilo, where you can watch a game, drink a beer, and enjoy a burger (or the delicious Kalua Pig Caesar Salad).

  • Cafe 100 - known as the (possible) originator of Loco Moco (rice topped with egg, ground beef and brown gravy), this Hilo drive in is well worth a stop in to select one of the dozens of varieties of Loco Moco on the menu.

  • Two Ladies Kitchen - tucked a few streets off the main drag of Hilo, Two Ladies makes hands-down the best fresh strawberry mochi on the planet... or at least in Hilo.

  • Hilo Bay Cafe - We've now been to this high end eatery twice, and the service and quality of food is impeccable.Along with Kaleo's in Pahoa and Cafe Pesto downtown, this would be a great pick if you're celebrating a birthday, anniversary, or just want an excuse to dress up a bit

  • Hilo Burger Joint - Excellent burgers in a tavern style atmosphere.A bit dark, but the food and beer are well worth it.

  • Big Island Pizza - Awesome pizza spot off the main drag (right near Hilo Burger Joint).The Coconut Prawn pizza (with Thai flavors like peanuts and sweet chili sauce) is not to be missed.

  • Pahoa
  • Kaleo's - in the heart of rugged little Pahoa sits this fancy yet comfortable restaurant featuring a wide range of dishes, from steak and pastas to curries and katsu.

  • Luquin's - pitchers of margaritas and lots of vegetarian options at this Mexican eatery.Full bar available, unless it's not.

  • Ning's Thai Cuisine
    - awesome Thai food.Be sure to get the Thai Iced Tea with Coconut Cream.

  • Sirius Coffee Connection - Pahoa's local coffee shop, where you can get your morning caffeine fix along with plenty of aloha.

  • Kona
  • Don The Beachcomber's - located at the Royal Kona, Don's is a destination in and of itself, whether you want to enjoy a flight of Mai Tais at the oceanside bar, a casual breakfast, or want to treat yourself to an elegant dinner with a view of humpback whales.Also the host of a Mai Tai contest every August.

  • Lulu's - Burgers, sandwiches, beers and cocktails in a tiki-bar type atmosphere, on the second floor with a great view of the bay.

  • Huggo's On The Rocks - kick off your slippahs and feel the sand between your toes while you sip a Lilikoi Chi Chi and watch turtles graze on limu just a few feet away.

  • U-Top-It - the home of taro pancrepes, a hybrid of the pancake and crepe made with taro flour and topped with your choice of tons of savory and sweet ingredients.Dan G always seems to get the Hula Girl.

  • Wasabi's - a small but wonderful sushi spot on Ali`i Drive, featuring some interesting rolls.

  • Kona Brewing Company - a long walk or a short drive from the main drag, but worth the effort for great beer and even greater pizza.

  • Other
  • Luke's Place - Hawi's own tiki bar and restaurant, serving local grass-fed beef burgers that are as incredible as the staff are friendly.Walk through the dining room to the tiki bar to the left, and grab a spot at the bar.

  • Tex Drive In - if you're driving North out of Hilo, or just want to try a decadent, historical treat, stop in Honokaa at Tex Drive In for a malasada - a Portuguese doughnut brought to the islands by plantation workers from the Azores back in the 1800's.


Natural Wonders

Beaches, Swim & Snorkel Spots
  • Punalu`u Black Sand Beach - a large black sand beach on the South side of the island, with plenty of parking and a near guarantee of seeing green sea turtles.

  • Kehena Beach - known for its nudists as much as its black sand, this secluded beach on the Red Road is a fun spot to catch some rays.

  • Kahalu'u Beach - it's well worth fighting the crowds at this prime snorkeling spot in Kona, where we've seen turles, rays and tons of fish.Possibly the most abundant spot for fish and the easiest snorkling in terms of accessibility, as the beach slopes gently into the water.The area is guarded from the open ocean by a rock wall, life guards are often on duty, and the water is waist deep in most areas, making it a safe spot for less experienced swimmers.

  • Captain Cook Monument - rent a kayak and paddle across the bay to Captain Cook Monument, where you can park your boat and snorkel in the clear waters filled with fish and the occasional dolphin pod.Be sure to secure your valuables and food, as the mongoose population is out of control, and they'll dig through your things to find something good to eat.

  • Kapoho Tidepools - some of the safest and best snorkeling on the East side of the island, these tidepools trap fish that swim in during high tide, creating fully enclosed, calm pools teeming with life at low tide.Keep an eye on the tide, however, and don't stray too far out, as the currents can become strong.

  • Ahalanui Hot Pond - a natural hot pond near Kapoho that's been cemented in a bit to create a giant hot tub where you can soak away that last bit of work stress you haven't been able to shake yet.

  • Richardson Beach - A great Hilo-side snorkel spot with lifeguard on duty.Beach is shady but water stays relatively shallow (good snorkeling depth) for quite a ways out.We ran into our waiter (Wesley) from Reuben's and Amy from One Gallery at this favorite of locals.


Organized Adventures
  • Big Island Candies - The 'tour' consists of looking through a big window at workers making the signature candies and cookies, but they are RIGHT THERE on the other side of the glass.Free samples and lots of interesting sweets.Chocolate covered Ika is not for the squeamish.

  • Body Glove Snorkel Tour - Super fun cruise out of Kona, with music, food, cocktails, a slide, and lots of time at a prime snorkel spot.May also include upgrade options to Snuba or Scuba.Dan G did the snuba with guide Caleb Wolfson, and it was a great experience.You're connected to the surface, but can dive down 20 feet or so to see things on the bottom or tucked in caves.Caleb was a great tour guide to the ocean, and made Dan realize how much you can find by turning over rocks while snorkeling.

  • Kona Honu Divers Manta Ray Dive - One of many groups doing the Manta Ray dive, which should not be missed (unless you're deathly afraid of the water, the dark, or both).The experience of floating above a bright light while huge manta rays swim around you is unbelievable.And it's pretty crowded.If you scuba, it's a little less so down on the bottom than on the surface.

  • Hawaii Tropical Botanical Garden - Beautiful tropical gardens to walk through.Don't forget your bug repellant!

  • Nani Mau Gardens - A great spot to go if you want to see a variety of tropical plants and trees, in particular fruit trees.Tram tours and self-guided walking tours available.Caters heavily to Japanese tour groups.

  • Pana`ewa Rainforest Zoo - A donations only zoo where you can visit Namaste the white tiger!

  • Ocean Rider Seahorse Farm - A bit pricey (over $75 per person, if memory serves), but you get to touch a seahorse.Where else can you do that?

  • Wailoa Park

  • Maunoloa Macademia Nut Factory - Self guided tour, parts of which may be off limits if wild pig activity is high.


Relax & Renewal

History & Science

Living Aloha

Resources

Things We Want to Do

Monday, March 22, 2010

Ke Ala 'Ula - Our Tiki Bar

After about a decade of apartment life on Seattle's Capitol Hill, Dan & I moved South to Beacon Hill a couple years back.We rented a great little house just off McClellan.The market was at a peak, and we didn't want to commit to a specific neighborhood until we knew if we liked living in a house, in South Seattle, maintaining a yard, and could handle a little longer commute.The result was that we loved having a house and yard, and didn't mind being a little further out from the core of the city.While living in that house, we transformed an odd little room into a makeshift tiki bar, which we enjoyed as a place to entertain and to escape reality once in awhile.

After two years though, we were ready to buy something of our own.The market bottomed out, the Obama administration was offering tax credits for first time home buyers, and we were ready to have a home of our own.We hooked up with realtor extraordinaire, Sarah Rudinoff, and gave her our list of needs and wants for our new home: including that our new home must have a space we can completely convert into a tiki bar.

After a fairly short search, we found our dream home in the Seward Park Neighborhood, and it included a 18' x 8' pass-through room connecting the former back door with the new laundry/garage addition and the backyard.When we viewed the house, the former owner even had it staged as a bar of sorts - with a leather couch, small wooden bar and wall-mounted TV.

We knew this was the perfect space for our tiki bar.



After moving in and settling a bit, we got to work, first painting the ceiling Surfer Waves blue.



I drew up some general plans, did a lot of measuring, and placed an initial order with Forever Bamboo for materials, including split bamboo poles, bamboo paneling, and lauhala matting.After a little trial and error, Dan & I figured out methods for applying the matting to the top of the walls, paneling to the lower half, and bamboo as a chair rail and trim.



The next big step was to begin building the bar itself, and we opted to start with Billy bookshelves from Ikea as the starting point - with the goal of covering and adapting them to the point that they'd be unrecognizable.



Unfortunately, during a cold snap during the winter, some pipes froze in the walls of our new bar, so I had to pull down large sections of wallcovering to find the problem spot, fix it, and then insulate the pipes in hopes of avoiding this problem in the future.Thankfully, none of the pipes cracked, so we avoided major damage.



Crisis averted, we kept moving forward with the bar build - adding 1/4" plywood as a covering on the front and sides, topping the bar with 1/2" plywood.

I covered the front of the bar with bamboo paneling to match the walls, then edged the top with split bamboo.We covered the top with lauhala matting, sealed it with Mod Podge, then attached vintage-style Hawaiian postcards.All around the edge, I glued down electroluminescent (EL) wire from Cool Neon, then poured multiple coats of bar top epoxy to create a thick, smooth, waterproof, clear seal.



Connected to a driver, the EL wire lights up, giving the entire bar top a red glow.



Once the walls and bar were complete, all that was left was to stock the bar and decorate - which we did with the wealth of artwork and nick-nacks we've collected through the years, as well as with some gifts and some items bought on ebay.





Put all together, the effect is exactly what we hoped for: a room that, when you walk into it, transports you from often rainy and cold Seattle to somewhere tropical where your only worry is whether to drink a Mai Tai or a Pina Colada.

We christened the bar "Ke Ala 'Ula" - which means The Red Road, both because the bar looks like a glowing red path, and because the Red Road is the name of the road along the southeast corner of the Big Island, one of our favorite places in the islands.It runs from Kalapana (where lava flows wiped out the fishing village and blocked the highway) past Kehena Beach (where I spent my first week on the island year ago) to Kapoho (with it's beautiful tidepools).



There are still some finishing touches left - some artwork to put up, cushions to make for the bar stools, and hopefully someday a real reef aquarium... but for now, we're loving our Hawaiian escape inside our home, and enjoying sharing it with friends and family.



After the build was complete, Sarah had a photographer (Elizabeth Petrak) come out and take pictures of the bar.They turned out beautifully:







Saturday, March 20, 2010

Kona 2010 Day 8

Saturday.

Our flight wasn't until 12:40 so we had a leisurely final morning.Breakfast at the hotel so Dan could get his mac nut pancake fix.We then soaked up Kona scenery for the last time (until our next trip).



Goodbye, Royal Kona.





View from our side balcony.



Our journey home was delightfully uneventful.Had an iced tea at the Kona airport, and sat outside in the sun until our flight boarded. Our layover was short in Honolulu so we zipped in and out of Kona Brewing Company without any time for food.We were home close to 11pm, which was 9pm, which is when we often go to bed during the week.But after sleepin on the plane and crossing time zones, we were not ready to sleep for several hours.

While it was a pleasure to explore Kona more, it felt strange not to be on the other side of the island.That's the thing about the Big Island.It's big.It's difficult to see it all in one trip - well, really see it all.Our wish list gets widdled down, and then grows again as we spot something new on the street or in the local paper.It's epic.We've been there 4 times together now, and it feels as though we've only scratched the surface on many levels.At the same time, we are often mistook for being kama`aina when we're out and about.

Never an easy place to leave, we're brought back with renewal, aloha and the ambition to return!

Kona 2010 Day 7

Friday.Our last full day in Kona.We started off with our last snorkel of the trip, back at Kahalu`u Beach.The water was nice and calm, as we got there early - or, in Hawaiian, malie.



Right when I got in the water, I looked down and there it was.Finally.After 6 trips and countless snorkel excursions, I finally swam with a honu (green sea turtle).Dan had his first experience earlier in the week, but it took me until Friday.It was a perfect ending to a wonderful week in the water.He was headed for the beach.Later, I caught up with him and took his photo.



Coming down from the excitment, we indulged in a big lunch at the hotel, where Dan discovered his new favorite drink.



The rest of the day was a mdely of running, napping and souvenir shopping.The hotel's gift shop has been transformed and they now carry higher quality items (and less clutter).I hate clutter.

The front desk informed me that the lu`au had changed a bit, but we opted not to take part this trip.We did get a glimpse as we were headed out for dinner that night.



After a week of eating out, one starts to crave ligther fare.So, we found ourselves back at Bongo Ben's that night for another round of salads.We followed that up with some unusually flavored shave ice.I had key lime, fuzzy navel and something called "suicide."I especially liked the key lime.Very tart.It's funny we never really took notice of this guy's cart as it's right next to Huggo's.

Earlier in the week, we went to this sacred land to buy avocado and mango bread.It is a well-groomed plot of land that is usually gated shut.Apparently, they allow churches to sell baked goods there.



We finished up the night at ABC Store, redeeming our gifts with all our receipts from the week. We ended up with a reusable shopping bag and 2 coffee mugs.

Kona 2010 Day 6

Thursday.


This is where I got my iced coffee every morning.



We took it pretty easy today, after a marathon of snorkel/activity on Wednesday.We started the day at Lava Java, sharing of their famous "cinnamon pull-a-parts."I'm glad we shared because even half had us feeling a little too full/sugar-weird for several hours after we ate.Delicious in the moment, though.The one-night stand of breakfasts, I guess.



As we warded off diabetic comas, we sauntered up and down the main drag, shopping for birthday gifts and souvenirs for co-workers.This store turned out to have some finds.



We also took the self-guided tour of Hulihe`e Palace, once the vacation home for Hawaiian royalty.It has been restored as a museum, with each room appointed with artifacts from the ali`i.It was severely damaged in the earthquake of 2006, but thanks to generous donors the palace is now back in its rightful place as a symbol of Hawaiian History and elegance.



The palace was originally built by Gov. Kuakini, but later embellished by King Kalakaua as it wasn't "palatial" enough for his standards.Before Kalaukaua took ownership, Hulihe`e served as the chief residence of Princess Ruth for most of her life.However, she always preferred to sleep in a grass hut on the lawn, not being one for opulence. Admission is cheap and the staff are very knowledgable.While we out on the lanai (that Kalakaua had expanded), one woman told us the story of how the palace got its name.To find out, check out this awesome Big Island blog I just stumbled across.

Kuakini also built Mokuaikaua Church, across the street from the palace.



It was warm all week (drought), but Thursday was exceptionally clear and warm.



I made up starve ourselves all day so we could gorge that night for our special dinner at the hotel's restaurant.I recently started a new job, and a going-away gift from my previous department was a very generous use-it-for-anything VISA.We decided to use it for a special meal together.Surprisingly, we didn't even use it all up!The restaurant is right on the water, making it a romantic spot to dine.



We even got a bit of a show from some humpback whales.

You can read all about the dinner on Dan's food blog.I will just say it was well worth the discomfort of not eating anything but a cinnoman roll all day.

They were celebrating his birthday.