Sunday, March 28, 2010
Yes. But only for now. Because there will be one more cake next week and we'll be right back to me eagerly posting it online even before the dishes are done, begging for your admiration and adoration. For now, however, I have something of an entirely different nature to brag about.
Three days ago I bought one of those giant, mostly air-filled bags of organic, baked apple chips. And though I'm trying to lose a few pounds before our big trip (so far I'm up two pounds, so I'm gonna say it's not going so well), Ryan and I proceeded to dust off the entire bag in.....two days. TWO days!!! But it gets worse. Because as I was squashing the bag in shame to bury it into the trash, I was horrified to see these words prominently displayed on the back of the bag- 30 APPLES IN EVERY BAG!
Thank God I shared some of the bag with Ryan (I'm not entirely sure, but I think he ate about 6-7 of the chips before he decided it was far more fun to put them into my mouth for me...and yes, I obliged only because I just can't say no to the little 'uns). So I'm pretty sure I only ate twenty-nine and a half apples in two days.
All I can say is this- if you've ever wanted to experience a cleanse but haven't wanted to spend the bucks to get one at some fancy schmancy spa- you're in luck. Because you get one from Costco for just under $7. And though you might start to feel kinda sick of apple chips around say, apple #23, push through. Because I believe in you, and I know you can do it. And if all goes well, you'll feel lighter than you have in years (but I assure you, you won't be).
Friday, March 26, 2010
This cake was a lot harder to make than the baby shower cake, so there were A LOT more mistakes! Still, it was fun to do and definitely challenging, because unlike baby shower cakes, there are very few people who make ukulele cakes. I couldn't find more than a few online, and I wasn't super crazy about 'em, so I decided to try and make my own!
Step #1- Trace out an ukulele form on paper and use to cut/shape cake. I didn't trust my clumsy, shaky hand to freehand it, so I just traced Ryan's toy one on an 8.5 x 11 sheet of paper. Then I found an old cardboard box (your tax dollars at work!) and covered it with waxed paper to use as a cutting board since my cutting boards were too small. I used a 9 x 11 pan to make the cake and pieced this baby together using scraps from around the body of the ukulele to extend the neck of the instrument (or it would have been too small/short)!
Psst- it's a German chocolate banana split cake (has chunks of sweet apple banana and walnuts in it)!
Step #2 - I covered it with four different colors of fondant and decided against carving out the sound hole since it would have taken much longer, though I'm sure it would have looked cooler!
Tad-da! The finished product!
Step #3 - I used white (edible) pearl nonpareils for the fret markings, and fondant and toothpicks to make the four white tuning heads since I didn't want to buy/make modeling chocolate. And I used a pizza cutter to cut out the strings since I couldn't have cut them that thin/narrow with a knife without tearing the fondant. I definitely wouldn't be able to do this without the 10-lb. no-stick/teflon rolling pin I bought in WA that I lugged around for 2 weeks! And I can't wait to buy a few more shape cutters next month in NYC/CA so I can make funkier designs (using minimal effort)!
Rich kept laughing and grinning when he saw the finished cake while I danced around excitedly (I couldn't keep it a surprise any longer!), so I'm happy! :-) It took some time and effort, but of course it's always worth it once I'm done! Two cakes down...one more to go!
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Here's the cake I made today for a baby shower tomorrow! It was soooo much simpler to make than I thought it would be, guess I'm getting a little better/more confident at working with fondant! I was thrilled to finally find the little white pearls (bordering the bottom of the cake) in Kona! Love them.
Cake #2- Roy's 37th birthday, design TBA!
Monday, March 22, 2010
I did waaaaay better than I thought I would!!! 2:09! Because of the lack of running/training, I had predicted a 2:20-2:30 finish, but was secretly hoping I could pull off a 2:15 (mostly because the irony is- though this was the ONLY half marathon I never trained for, it was also the ONLY race I've ever had family at!). So I definitely had some extra motivation!
I started off feeling pretty good, reminding myself that I had nothing to lose, and everything to gain...because how can you beat yourself up when you sacrificed nothing (other than gas and hotel money) to get there? :-) Miles 1-6 whipped right by, so at the halfway point when I called my dad to let them know where I was, I also checked my watch and saw that I was running just under 10-min. miles. I figured if I could remain strong for another 2-3 miles, that I could probably match or beat my Kona time. And that ended up being pretty accurate, because right around mile 9-10 I started to feel pretty tired. I think I held on pretty good until mile 10 (right before the bridge into Hilo), but I swear, miles 11 & 12 were rough- I was trudging. Still, it was good enough to cross the tape with my second best half time ever, so I was very, very pleased, surprised and thankful!
Oh! And though I chatted up a few other runners waiting for the shuttle and at the starting line that day (a neurologist, a psychotherapist, a state parks worker, a newly married couple), it was also nice to see a few familiar faces- Jason & Melissa Braswell (co-owners of the Big Island Running Co.) were there too- Melissa ran the half and placed 24th overall (!!!) and Jason took 2nd in the marathon and was this close to winning it!
The lengthier race report
Pre-race- The day before the half, a thoughtful friend in Hilo (thanks, Andrew!) called to tell me that it had been raining all week there (not unusual), and that I should 'bring raingear.' Huh? I live in hot, dry Kona, HI. Telling me to 'dress for rain' is like telling me to 'dress sexy.'' In other words- not gonna happen, bud. Momma ain't got the gear for it. Nonetheless, I did pack an extra pair of socks and bummed some Scotchguard off my dad so I could coat the running shoes a few times. And since that's as 'rain ready' as I get, we were off to Hilo!
The weather - Sure enough, once we got there, it was alternately drizzling and pouring all afternoon. Though I normally love the cooler, wetter, lusher green side of the island, I wasn't digging the idea of splashing through rain puddles all day (which I'm pretty sure is what slowed me down from my intended 5-min. mile pace to my actual near 10-minute miles). Thankfully, other than a few minor drizzles that morning and one small downpour over the last 2 miles, the weather held up (for most of the half marathoners anyway).
The race course- I don't think I can reiterate how much I loved this half marathon course. Yes, it had the legendary rolling hills, for about 8 miles, but most of them were fairly gradual (and long) in grade, so it wasn't like you were running up and down a steep, relentless roller coaster. What I loved best about it is a tie between the scenery (waterfalls, bridges over streams, rickety little houses on stilts, lush green landscape, ocean, surf, birds chirping, roosters calling) and the overall descent into historic Hilo. Though it was a little disconcerting to start off so high and see the town soooooo far away down below (Are you sure that's only 13 miles?!), it was also pretty really neat to be able to see the entire race course stretched out in front of me.
The plusses of the race? Despite being a friendly, small-town race, there is adequate race support, it's very organized, well marked, scenic, affordable and stress/crowd free. The cons? If you thrive on crowd support, well...you're not gonna find much. It's a small town. Aid booths are well staffed, but in between them? It's just the crickets chirping! But since running is by and large, a solitary sport, I don't think anyone is dismayed by this. Again, it's a tiny race. You'll have to fly to Oahu for the Honolulu Marathon for that kinda hoopla. And of course, I do miss the Expos of LA & San Diego that took up huge arenas and where you could scoop up hundreds of dollars of cool stuff.
Finish Time: 2:09
Speed: 9:51 min. miles
Overall: 112 out of 357
Not bad for someone who considers Cheetos a protein source and pizza a carbohydrate!
Ryan showing his support for me back at the hotel while I ran miles #1-6
Posing at the finish line with one-eyed Ry, the littlest bro (JJ), his lovely lady Lynne and the sign they made me!
I bet R.E.M. was thinking of me when they wrote "Shiny Happy People." Lesson learned- mop the sweat, sunscreen & glistening rainwater off your face before posing for post-race pictures!
Ry & mommy after the race near Hilo's Bay Front
Thursday, March 18, 2010
If you're thinking, "Gosh Jo...I think I'd run a half marathon!" then you just might be my soul mate. Because that's exactly what I'm going to be doing this Sunday! And why not?!
1. It's already paid for!
2. I'm gonna be sooooo bored if I don't (Rich has to attend an Advanced Cardiac Life Support class all weekend!
3. Since I'm still on a break from running, there is no pressure!
I figured if I could get my old hotel reservation back (check!) and I could rustle someone up to watch Rizzle while I ran (check!)- then I was fated to do it. So I'm in!
And before you wonder whether my earlier decision (to not run the half) was a bluff- I assure you...my finish time* will most definitely convince you otherwise.
*That is, assuming I finish and don't get carted off the course by the race director for crying too loudly.
A few quick stats-
- My half marathon PR was in 2006, when I ran a 2:05 in Santa Barbara, CA. I was running roughly 3-4 days a week at that time, and about 5 pounds lighter than I am now.
- I've run only one half marathon since getting pregnant in 2007.
- That half marathon was in June 2009, where I ran a 2:15. At that time, I was running 1-2 days a week, but had run one or two 13-milers before the big day.
At present, I usually walk a few miles a day, but am only "running" one day a week, anywhere from 10-12 miles (half of which is walked). So while I can't say I'm totally out of shape, I definitely have no business trying to run a half marathon. I am well aware of how utterly exhausting it's going to be, but because this is the least prepared I've ever been for a half, I'm hoping to do something I'm not sure I've ever done before- running a half just for the heck of it. It certainly beats sitting at home!
The lush, scenic race course is described as being along the 'coast of old Hawaii' (think bridges, waterfalls, ocean, rainbows, etc.). Reviews on MarathonGuide.com describe the first 10 miles as having fairly challenging rolling hills that take a toll on the knees. Eek. I want to ask that you wish me all luck, but I don't deserve it. I didn't train, I didn't prepare, I don't even have the right shoes for the first time in a half! I got blisters for the first time in years last weekend! I'm in for a world of hurt!!! But I won't focus on that...I'm just gonna focus on taking Rizzle out and about, getting to visit Ryan's Uncle JJ & Aunty Lynne, seeing another side of Hilo and having fun!
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
A few nights ago, Ryan (who used to loooove his baths) started crying during bathtime. So Rich figured out how to make it fun again!
Psst...if you are also sad and cry during your bathtime, here's how to make it fun again- put some cold water in a sippy cup, then pour it on your chest every 5 seconds. Instant hysteria!)
Saturday, March 13, 2010
We ran in the same race last year, but this year seemed was a lot different. For starters, we didn't know anybody at the race last year, and this year we probably bumped into a dozen people we knew (kinda nice)! And I guess we improved a bit too- because even though we pushed 40+ lbs. of Ryan & jog stroller this year, we still managed to shave a few seconds off our time from last year- 9:43 minute miles! While this speed is (juuuust) shy of endorsements and a Wheaties box offer, I have to point out that Roy never runs at all, I now only run ONE day a week, and mostly downhill...and we both NEVER run pushing Ryan (unless it's race day)! So we're pretty much flying by the seat of our pants out there and having fun (although when I think about it, it's really not all that fun until it's done)!
Me & Bree!I was a little nervous when Bree's friend took this photo of us from like, two feet away. Because I happen to know that one of us (and I don't want to embarrass Bree and mention names) has premature graying, ricebowl bangs and bad skin that trust me, looks A LOT better from about 5-6 feet away. I was also flustered because unlike Bree (a professional triathlete), who had finished the race oh, a few minutes after it started- I had just finished the race, and was very red, sweaty and breathing heavily. So I pretty much assumed I would end up looking like an aging, sweaty Asian male! ;-) Thank God it wasn't that bad!
Me chowing down on my 38th appetizer at the Brewers Festival
The Brewers Festival was soooooo fun- tons of good food, tons of fun beer (raspberry beer! cappucino beer! citrus-y beer! peanut butter beer!), tons of people! And the site- the King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel luau grounds, is so beautiful! It's right next to one of my favorite beaches (Kaiakeakua)!
Rich with one of his five beers that night...cheers!
This was definitely one of our most eventful, enjoyable weekends ever!!! Next up? The Mac-a-thon 10k in a few weeks, planning an Easter egg hunt for six little boys, and a birthday party for a not-so-little-boy I used to call Roy! ;-)
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
I would like to say I chowed down because I received some bad news (which I did). Unfortunately, the bad news I received was about 15 minutes after I ate all that junk, so it's anyone's guess as to why Miss Centered & Evolved pounded all that crap.
Anyhow, about 20 minutes after I was feeling stuffed and bloated, I got what can only be described as 'concerning' news about our pending land sale. And then a few hours after that, I realized that our 6-month car insurance bill and our two life insurance policies were both due (side note: quite possibly the only advantage to being a lesbian couple is that you both get to avoid paying the higher male premiums...think about that before you 'choose' to be straight or gay). Yes, I'm being snarky. And to top it all off, we're on roughly day 6-7 of Ryan teething again, which has made him very tearful, cranky, stubborn and at night- restless.
So all of this news put me in a bit of funk yesterday, until I realized that all of it- the arare/animal cracker gorging, the land sale hiccup, the pending bills, fussy combative Ryan...they're probably a test! My first test!!! The universe is testing my happiness resolve!!! So just to prove that ain't nothing gonna break my stride, nobody's gonna slow me down, oh no, I've got to keep on moving- mama ain't breaking.
In fact, just to spit in the face of, gosh...all the negative vibes? I'm going to list everything that HAS gone right since then (some even to be accompanied with photographic evidence)!
1. Though he usually stares suspiciously at it from a distance, Ryan finally sat in his potty for the first time last night! He was wearing a diaper, but hey, it's a start!
2. Grandma F got Ryan a beautiful whirly gig yesterday! He loves those things! In fact, he loves them so much, that he insisted on bringing it into the house last night. You know, just for safekeeping. Well that and so he can parade around with it shouting "Big flower! Big flower!" all the time.
3. Yesterday's trip to Target to outfit my parents with their first sets* of long underwear (ever) was very, very successful! Not only did I net some sweet, black, tagless and seamless C9 long john tops and bottoms for my mom AND dad, I got 'em for 75% off! So instead of paying $48 per set, I paid $12! I was stoked by the deal that I ended up getting Rich and I new pairs too! Three cheers for national retailers having to discount their winter gear in Hawaii!!!
*Try convincing a macho, local, Japanese male over the age of 60 to don some skintight, black long johns from head to toe....yeah, not too easy. I had to force him to try them on, and then once he did, he began facetiously pirouetting around to the Nutcracker since he claimed he looked like a pretty ballerina!
On a separate, but related note- I remember buying my first pair of long johns in Japan. I didn't know any better, so I bought a pair of men's because that was all they had (and FINE...all that I could actually fit as well). Unfortunately, I quickly learned that this meant that they came with....a weiner hole opening in the front! I hated 'em, but I had to wear them all winter long. I prayed that I wouldn't get hit by a car that winter. I couldn't have imagined the red-faced EMS crew having to cut off my long underwear and noticing the weiner hole. I think I would have preferred to crawl home with my broken femurs. But I digress. Back to the issue at hand.
4. Today's school excursion was awesome. When I first heard that the school trip was to plant trees together, the old me couldn't help but think- booooooring. But the newer, happier, joyfully abundant, cup-runneth-over me? Yeah, it also thought the trip sounded boring. Not to mention dirty. So at first, I wasn't even going to go (since we usually have a standing play date on Wednesdays). But I was able to switch things around a bit so we could go, and of course, we ended up having a FABULOUS time. Ryan got to use a shovel just his size to help plant a native Hawaiian tree! (see below) He also received his own little taro plant, a bucket and shovel, an adorable bento (boxed lunch) and a book on plants. Huge kudos and thanks to his school teachers, the (Jack) Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation (yes, the singer Jack Johnson), the Outrigger Keauhou Beach Hotel for their ever present aloha to the local community, the Partners in Development Foundation and the DOE for promoting such an excellent environmental program.
5. I am not eating like a pua'a today.
See? I'm not falling for all that negative horse puckey. I passed.
Monday, March 08, 2010
Having said all that, I think this is the happiest I've been in a long time. Because lately, everything seems to be falling into place- selling our land, getting a house, camping at Kalopa, the upcoming Kona Brewers Festival festivities, going on vacation to NYC, San Diego & San Fran (and getting to see so many people that we miss and love), planning Ryan's 2nd birthday, celebrating our 13th anniversary, my mom's 60th birthday party, planning our first children's Halloween party, participating in ALL the local races, etc. And scattered throughout the rest of the year, getting to spend time with a string of visitors- Leeanne (again!), Kay, Dave & family, Kathy. (It's one of the greatest blessings living on a tropical island- plenty of visitors!)
Please don't think that I'm trying to brag or insinuate that my life is perfect. My life is of course, far from perfect- I'm the absolute slowest and chubbiest that I've been in years. I still get bored watching a 1-year old all day, still live at home, still have graying, ricebowl bangs, still worry about money, still wish my husband didn't have to study so much, still worry that I'm eating too much, still feel guilty that I let my son watch so much Sesame Street each day, etc. But I think that the recent events have helped my happiness level finally catch up to my gratitute level. What I mean is- I believe that I've been always grateful for what I have, I just haven't always been happy about it. And now I am. So I think...no, I know- that this is a very good place to be.
I just hope this happiness is based on more than just getting the things I want. I want it to be a sustainable contentment, I want it to authentically radiate from within even when I don't have something fun coming up this weekend, or the next, or the next one after that. For quite some time now, I've had to repeat to myself over and over again, "Happiness is a choice...happiness is a choice..." And so from this day forward, I will do my best to choose happiness, even if it rains every day in New York City while we're there, even if my deam home deal falls through, even if Rich were to lose his job or Ryan gets an F in kindergarten. ;-)
And so here's what I think I need to do in order to stay in this happy, warm and pleasant place-
1. Reignite the daily meditation. (I know, I know, I reignite this every other month. I'm a terrific flake.)
2. Lose a few, maybe three or four before our trip. (Don't want to travel feeling bloated & embarrassed.)
3. Stay active- walk more (I've sloughed off), and plan that next excursion! (If I know doing new and fun things make me happy, why not fuel the fire?)
That's it. 'Cause as I like to say, that's plenty. Stay tuned.
Sunday, March 07, 2010
But even without a mess hall- the Kalopa campgrounds just might be the prettiest spot on the island. Though I really hate to brag, I was so initially taken aback by the campgrounds that I creatively called them...(wait for it)...the Garden of Eden. (I know- when I'm on, I'm on.) But now's not the time to show off my literary chops. I'll just say that as fun as the Camping Club's 1st Annual Trip was to the Namakani Pai'o cabins at the Volcanoes National Park was last March- this trip definitely one-upped that one.
Before I jump in with the extensive gushing photo commentary of our trip, I want to point out that I am not the hardiest of campers. While I'm definitely in love with the idea of camping- sleeping under the stars, cool grass beneath my feet, huddling 'round the campfire and all that...the reality is- I would much prefer to hike all day in the woods, and then retire each evening in a hotel, preferably one in the $400-500 range, with a modern, bright, shiny commode, a warm shower, thick, warm, fluffy towels, a soft bed with clean, 1500+ thread count sheets still lingering with the scent of detergent, and a 90-inch flat screen cable tv. Free internet and pillow chocolates are a nice bonus.
Cabins, on the other hand, creep me out. I cringe from the moment I step foot into a cabin- and feel a heaviness in my heart that does not subside until the minute we leave. Old buildings, especially hotels and cabins, cause me distress. And Kalopa (shudder), was no exception- the cabins are ancient, and because of the constant rain- smell like mold. They also have very uncomfortable dirty, thin, prison-issue mattresses (the camp caretaker confirmed that they really are made for prisons), and are filled with bug carcasses, cobwebs, the requisite mildew-covered shower curtains plastered with the bodily hairs of other campers. We also found some bonus amenities- used q-tips, matted-up tissues and a pair of blue, sexy undies (unfortunately, not our size). The last difficulty of note that we experienced was the loud, incessant nighttime screeching of the coqui frogs. Though the volume is not quite enough to keep you up all night, a set of ear plugs and some softer, supplemental bedding will go a long way. And if you're coming with children or suffer from adult ADD yourself, you may want to bring along some books and/or a fully charged-DVD player/tablet for when the rains come down. Because they will. ;-)
And so having said all that, I want to (partly) attempt to redeem myself by saying that I do not go camping so that I can come home and moan and whine on my blog about how horrid the conditions were. I go camping because I do enjoy the beauty of the outdoors, but also because I want to come home and brag on my blog about what an amazing martyr I am. No really- my husband, son and nephews LOVE camping. And so quite simply, I do it for them. :-)
My last long-winded blather? Even though I complained mightily about the cabins, this is no reflection of the campground caretakers themselves, who are already stretched too thin and basically have no budget to speak of. A huge shout out to the very kind, friendly and hard-working camp caretaker and his crew up there. Patrick Paiva is doing an amazing job- I've never seen a more immaculately manicured, lush green landscape. The park grounds have been lovingly and meticulously well-cared for by Patrick for over 20 years, and it shows.
Minutes after checking in, the rain started...so we got settled in and then holed up on our cabin porch to wait out the rain.
No trip is complete without Daddy bringing all his schoolbooks to study with!
We always stop in Waimea any chance we can- love the cool breezes, misty rain and cowboy theme (yes, in Hawaii! Waimea's Parker Ranch was once, and may still be, the USA's largest privately owned ranch!). So all in all, great fun...and as you can imagine, I'm already planning the Camping Club's 3rd trip- BEACH CAMPING! This will be my first beach camping trip as an adult! If I have my way, it will be well before the end of the year. Don't think I can wait until next March!!!
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
- Got to see Leeanne, one of my 'besties' from elementary school (4th grade to be exact, she taught me how to properly fold a sheet of binder paper in half, a very important life skill) all week while she's been in town! I'm been trying to convince her to ditch Chicago and come back to the islands (so thank you tsunami mass evacuation, you really helped win her over)!
- Also got to have dinner Fumi-chan, another old pal (from my golfing days) & her new husband, Matt. Even though their dogs excitedly licked me in ways I'm not sure canines and homo sapiens are legally permitted to- I had a fabulous time. ;-)
- Today is Girls Day, and as is the new family tradition- my grandmother, my mother and my sister-in-law and I had lunch together. And even though Rich has been super-duper busy with work, he remembered to get me some treats on his way home- li hing mui gummies, arare, pumpkin crunch...definitely a keeper that one!
- I gots mama some new, black running shoes! I loved my black MBTs, but now that they're worn out (and because I was never entirely convinced they benefitted me), I figured why not get a pair I can both walk/run in? Love 'em.
- I've been helping my brother and sister-in-law start to look for their first place together. There's nothing I love more than combing through the MLS, visiting properties, making offers, getting prequalified, etc.
- We're buying our air tickets for our big NYC/CA trip tomorrow night! So it will soon be official!
- Tomorrow is our Friday! We leave for our Kalopa mountain camping trip on Friday morning, so once we're back from school tomorrow, I'm going to finish up the packing and tending to the 13 very hungry pit bulls we're leaving on the property to protect our valuables.
- ...And then once we come back, it will the week of the Kona Brewers Festival!!! A race, a golf tournament, a dinner, the tastings at the Brewers festival! Plenty to look forward to!