Monday, February 23, 2009

Big Island Blogging...Avocados, Beyond Guacamole

Avocados are a most prolific fruit in the islands. the re are many varieties, but sharwell and "butter" are the most popular in the local farmer's markets. On Friday we hit the Kona Village Farmer's market in the late afternoon. I asked one of the farmers if he had an avo ready to hard ones please. He offered, at a discount, a huge soft-ball sized "butter" avocado for $1.

Cut open , it revealed a huge seed, but when removed, left a very large receptacle just right for what we had in mind for dinner,

About 2 years ago, I read a recipe in Sunset magazine for GRILLED avocados. I really consider it more a technique than a recipe, because it can have so many variations, depending on your individual taste, or what other things are available. Here is how we did it...

Cut avocado in half and remove the seed. Squeeze on some lemon or lime juice.

Brush with oil...olive, macadamia nut, vegetable, whatever.

Season with salt , pepper and/or seasoning you like.

Put on hot grill, cut side up, to let the bottom heat through a bit.

Flip to cut side down, and grill 2-4 minutes until it has nice grill marks.

When done, fill the center with whatever you like...we used a fresh island-made salsa from Adriana's in Captain Cook.

On other occasions we have used blue cheese dressing. This is where you can let your creativity take over! You can eat it with a spoon, fork, or just dig in with crispy tortilla chips! So "ono" (good)!!

PS...the 2 ounce bottle of Tobasco was used to give perspective to the size of the avocado.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Big Island Blogging...Whales Tales, or Tails?

The humpback whales has the best deal in the travel world...spend your summers in Alaska, then travel to the warm waters of Hawaii for the winter. Although Maui is considered their prime resort residence, they are frequently seen off the Kona and Kohala coast of the Big Island.

All of the units at Kona Makai have at least a partial view of the ocean. Our unit is in one of the buildings closest to the water, on the third floor and with a good view of passiing boats, dolphins and whales. Yesterday morning, the call went out from a couple of balconies..."Whales"! residents grab binoculars and train their eyes on the water. Bill has his tripod set up to go camera, 500 mm lens and a "doubler"...that makes 1000 mm and a good view of passing humpbacks. Although you can't tell from these pics, there were 2 big ones...
The dark area on the right side of the photos is a palm tree!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Big Island Blogging...Sunset Social Hour

In Hawaii the setting sun is a time when most of the action stops and friends and strangers alike gather the celebrate the end of another lovely day. At Kona Makai it is definitely a social hour, discussing the day's activities, grilling fish or steaks, and greeting new folks who have just arrived from the cold weather of the mainland.

The Kona coast has many wonderful places to stay, but this has become our favorite over the many years we have been traveling to Hawaii. Many of the folks here are either permanent residents, or spend the winter months away from the cold. The grounds are beautifully landscaped with so many varieties of tropical plants it could almost qualify as a botanical garden.

The question of the day is always "will there be a green flash?" When the atmosphere is perfect, the light of the sun, as it slips below the horizon, shines through the water and there is a flash of green light.

There was no flash last night, but Bill will keep trying to capture one to share with all our friends.

Big Island Blogging...How We Work!

Working in paradise! Well, not all the time! We have our office set up down to a science since we started staying at Kona Makai several years ago. We used to share Bill's lap-top, but now that I have my own, we only share the printer. This is a real "cozy" arrangement, but it works.

I have been gathering ideas for future posts on this blog. Yesterday was a hike to our favorite beach, last night was the "sunset social hour" and coming soon will be a rescipe for "Fresca de Lulo". So I hope you will come back for more!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Big Island Blogging

Aloha from the "Big Island" of Hawaii! We arrived on Friday afternoon and began with our usual routine of hamburgers at Drysdales, followed by a quick visit to the KTA (grocery store) for a papaya and lime (the next day's breakfast). this is a pattern we have followed for many years and gets our Hawaiian holiday off to a good start.

The view from our condo...morning.

Saturday morning it was time to visit my favorite market...the Keauhou Farmers Market. Unlike some other markets in the area, this one sells only 100% Hawaiian products and it is such fun to talk to the farmers and bakers and listen to the music of a local trio palying ukuleles and singing favorite Hawaiian songs.

For $5.00 we bought a "Dancing Lady" orchid to brighten our already sunny lanai (balcony). then we filled our shopping bags with local fruits...tangerines with wrinkly skins, green apple banans that will need a couple of days to ripen, avocados (so ripe the grower gave them to me...perfect for guacamole), papayas, limes and lulos (more about them on a future post). And of course my favorite Kona coffee..."Kona Lisa". Please note (if you can see it on the label) that "Kona Lisa" wears a haku lei on her head and holds a cup of coffee in her hand. You can order this wonderful coffee shipped to the mainland from Ron and Mary Lake ...

In the next few days I hope to add more posts about our current adventures in paradise. We have been doing this for over 25 years and there is always something new to experience and share.

If you add your e-mail address to the Subscribe box, you will get an announcement when there is a new post. Coming up next...what is a lulo and what do you do with it?

Aloha and Mahalo!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

From Esther to "O"

Esther Williams was my hero! As a child of the 40's and 50's I had a a passion for movies, mostly musicals. Since I also loved to swim, it was only natural that I wanted to learn water ballet.

When I was 12, my Mom found a class at the Kansas City YMCA. My teacher's name was Carol Flynn and if you are a resident of Leawood, KS for any length of time, you probably know about her...She taught at the old Leawood Country Club and Lake Quivira, also. We learned to do "stunts", my Mom sewed costumes and we gave shows in local pools and lakes.

Later, water ballet became synchronized swimming with more serious rules and regulations. Stunts became "figures" as in figure skating. It also got a lot harder! We learned the "egg-beater" kick from the water polo players and started moving up out of the water. That's when I started coaching and judging. We started at my neighborhood pool in Round Hill, then on to Johnson County Parks and Recreation where the competitive team "Terrafins" was formed.

In 1982 the world of TRAVEL came into my life and I drifted away from active participation in the sport which had finally entered the Olympics. This is when the sport got really serious. Oh, I loved the spoofs on Saturday Night Live...most synchro-swimmers don't take offense...they just laugh and know what great atheletes they really are.

Now retired competitve swimmers and divers can earn a living after competition...they head for Las Vegas and the big Cirque du Soleil type shows..."O" at the Bellagio Hotel and "La Reve" at the Wynn. "O" (anglicized from "eau"...French for water) has been on the strip for almost 11 years. "La Reve" (also French, it means the dream) opened in 2005. They are two of the top selling and most expensive shows in Las Vegas...and worth every penny.

See what "O" is all about...

Esther had the we have Las vEgas.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


One of the most interesting segments of my life is about to end. For two years my husband and I have carried on a long distance marriage, me at home in Overland Park and he at work in Las Vegas. No, he wasn’t playing in the casinos, but coordinating construction of Steve Wynn’s newest hotel and casino …The Encore at the Wynn. The hotel and casino are now open and filled to the brim (at least during the recent Consumer Electronics Show).

Last May I had the pleasure of touring the hotel, wearing hard hat and boots, tripping over pneumatic hoses and dodging dangling electrical wire. Then we went to the roof, something not too many people will ever have the opportunity to do. Here is the proof!
Now take a look at Steve Wynn on the roof! (You might have to cut and paste the link into your browser.)

People who haven’t been to Las Vegas in many years, ask where the Wynn and Encore are located. If you recall the Desert Inn (it had a golf course) that is where Wynn and Encore stand. Sadly, there is rumor that the golf course may give way to additional condominiums, but for now it is a green oasis with a $500 fee for 18 holes. Personally I think the hotel/casino complex is the classiest looking structures in the “City of Sin” and no dollars were spared to make them absolutely gorgeous. Both are decorated in a style to attract visitors from Asia where gambling is a popular pass-time.

Are there bargains in Vegas? For now room rates are lower than usual to attract business in a weak economy, unless there is a big convention is in town…then they go back up. Dining out in signature restaurants is not inexpensive and a really good meal with pre-dinner drink, appetizer, entrée, dessert and wine will average $100 and up per person. But Bill’s experience is quality is very high. His personal favorite is SW at the Wynn. I had the best crème brulee of my traveling life while there. Better than Paris. For Italian we like Enoteca San Marco in The Venetian Hotel. Developed by Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich…it is so authentic.

So the excitement is over! We have both learned a lot … negotiating the Southwest Airlines web-site, arriving and departing McCarran Airport, the best meat market in Vegas (Larry’s Western Meats), Trader Joe’s (sure wish Kansas City had one) and some of the worst driver’s in the world. We also learned how much we take for granted about living in the mid-west … green grass, green trees (not now!), fresh fruits and vegetables from our garden or a local farmer.

So in a few days I’ll fly to Vegas and help pack the Trailblazer, clean the condo and then a two day drive home. Hope the weather cooperates!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Fried Dill Pickles

FRIED DILL PICKLES … Most people say “What?” Our family says “How soon can we have some?”

This is a travel story of sorts. In the late 70’s, my husband Bill, the architect, was supervising construction of an addition to a small hospital/nursing home in Jena, Louisiana. This town is so small he had to spend the night in the nursing home, or at the home of the administrator, because there were no hotels or motels. He often took his meals in the existing hospital cafeteria, but for a “special” dinner he would go the "The Cock Of The Walk" in Natchez, Mississippi… about a one hour drive away.

Anyway, Bill would come home and rave about the fried dill pickles he had eaten at the restaurant, mostly known for it’s fried catfish. Well, like most people, when he told me about them I said “What?” Then I had a chance to drive to Jena with him on a photo safari. It seems that the administrator wanted pictures of the local Louisiana countryside to put on the walls, as most of the residents of the nursing home had never been outside of the parish (county). While on the trip I finally got to taste those pickles. WOW!!!

My recipe was developed in an attempt to duplicate what I had eaten … but a small deep fryer can not do the same job as the giant vats of fat in a commercial kitchen. Frankly, deep frying is a pain in the you know what, so this snack has been relegated to the status of “only before Christmas dinner”. There are exceptions, of course, but not many.

This post is dedicated to my all male family…Bill, Will, John and Grampa V. It seems I can never make enough!

Fried Dill Pickles
or other vegetables

Beer Batter:
3/4 Cup self rising flour or biscuit mix
1/4 Cup corn starch
1 Cup beer

Keep in proportion but increase volume of each ingredient depending on how many pickles you want to do. Batter should coat pickles (or vegetables) evenly -- Add flour if too runny (thin) or beer if too thick to "flow" evenly.

Kosher Dill chunks or chips, a big jar.

Drain pickles well, pat dry with paper towels. Shake in sack of flour, 6 - 8 at a time. Shake off excess, coat with batter. Deep fry in oil at 375° until golden brown. Drain, sprinkle with salt. You can do 20 - 30 minutes before serving and keep warm in oven. Or, freeze after cooled, and re-heat at 425° for 15 to 20 minutes.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


INDULGENCE …the word usually carries a negative connotation … Michelin starred restaurants, days of spa treatments, diamond necklaces, Rolex watches, around the world cruises, etc.. But the true meaning of indulgence … unrestrained pleasure … applies to many simpler aspects of life. Home grown summer tomatoes, big juicy blackberries, fresh baked bread, wine from a local vineyard, a room in a small palazzo in Tuscany, fresh papaya in Hawaii …. I could go on and on about indulging in the simple pleasures of travel, food, wine, art and gardens. That is what this blog will do.

A profession in travel has allowed me many indulgences … and the ability to share it with fellow travelers. This blog will give my friends an opportunity to experience, through words, some of my favorite places. Maybe a family recipe for fried dill pickles, a special museum in my home town (or abroad), the construction of a mega resort in Las Vegas, the simple pleasure of an urban garden.

The world is full of indulgences…simple and grandiose, I want to share my experiences and hope you will join me in future adventures.