land of spam musubis and tanned hello kitties

our hawaii trip seems like a distant memory already, but it was only last month that D and i were cruising through oahu’s micro-climate in our little convertible, marveling at how we blended in with all the other asians and looking forward to our next meal, which would invariably include rice a plenty. oahu was filled with just as many asians as i remembered from my trip years ago in college (and correspondingly delicious food).

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one of our first stops was the little town of hale-iwa on the north shore. there, we consumed fresh fruit smoothies that tasted like the fruit had fallen off of trees straight into the blender, buttery shrimp from the ubiquitous shrimp trucks, and oh — i almost got attacked by a chicken (much to D’s delight).

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the dole plantation beckoned with promises of “the world’s largest maze” and its pineapple express. once there, we opted out of the flat and soggy looking maze and hopped onto the pineapple express train, where i couldn’t stop humming along to the train’s theme song. when i refused to cradle the requisite pineapple for a photo opp, the plantation theme park lady thrust the pineapple in D’s direction like a trophy, apologizing to D. apologizing for what? for being with someone who refuses to hold a prickly pineapple? i glared at the ugly pineapple.

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we also explored little beaches along the east shore, from lanikai to waimanalo.

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D found a farmer’s market for us to explore.

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blending into swarms of asian locals and tourists at the diamond head farmer’s market, we consumed poke bowls of fresh, meaty poke (raw fish) atop rice, mason jars of juice (yes, mason jars have made their way from brooklyn to oahu), and other asian-influenced bites.

D pointed out that the hello kitty dolls sold in hawaii were tanned (yes, literally tanned). i looked closer. they were indeed tanned.

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one of our favorite stops was the whole foods along the east shore. bento boxes adorned the shelves, a huge smoothie bar lined one of its walls, and there was, behold, a poke bar serving up poke of your choice with yes, rice.

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on one of our last days, we went to see the honolulu christmas lights. we had seen people running around on the beaches with santa hats and were amused. we weren’t disappointed.

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we saw trotting past us cinderella’s pumpkin carriage, lit up in all its glory. note: we did NOT take a spin in this pumpkin carriage, thank god.

some of the most breathtaking moments though, couldn’t be captured on camera. like the feeling of seeing someone you adore basking as happily as you in the warmth of a sun so unlike the sun you left behind. or the feeling of awe and wonder as we cruised along pali highway, its majestic and somewhat frightening landscape threatening to swallow us whole as the wind whipped our hair. the mountains, pure emerald green, rose up into giant formations of pinnacles. we could only throw our heads back and be consumed by it all, knowing we would soon be returning to a gray landscape of skyscrapers.

“the cat”

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the cat. that’s the name of a radio station, apparently. your [rental] car radio will tune into that station when you’re in the catskills. it’s a sign you’ve made it out of the city. that’s what we listened to on our blissful J4th weekend.

the riverloft. that’s the name of the place we stayed at. a loft. riverside. also creekside. with ducks and ducklings bobbing down the creek. straight out of a coastal living magazine.

the culinary institute of america. that’s where we wandered the halls of and feasted at – more hogwarts-esque than culinary school. me: “why do we only see people walking on the freeway near the culinary institute?” d: “they have no money left for a car after their tuition.” we gobbled up halibut, truffle fries, and giant cookies, courtesy of the culinary institute students.

the rain. that’s what we drove through and reveled in. even the rain was beautiful. non-city rain casts a spell when it sweeps across vast expanses of uncluttered landscape. when you’re driving through it, it’s exhilarating. especially when enveloped in giant trees. again, unlike city rain. city rain is just gross.

we were sad to return to concrete.

let there be snow(mobiles)

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if there’s going to be buckets of snow, then we might as well enjoy it. in this my eighth winter in new york city, i figured that was the way to go. why fight it? yet another snowstorm is about to descend on this crazy city. so davey and i zipped our way out of the city and onto snowmobiles. thank you, catskills.

me: “how did you get that helmet onto your head?” D: “omg, i’m not going to be responsible for getting that helmet onto your head! i don’t want to be responsible for the consequences if your head gets stuck in there!” and so, our adventure began. i loved every minute of it. there’s something about being wrapped around that much metal and zipping across trails of fluffy snow. encased in a huge helmet, my head snapped back like a bobble head when we slid down snowy hills. dave insisted that i’d only gone at __ mph, but i’d like to differ.

and before we know it, winter will have left us.

gwyneth, a coffee drenched doodle dog, and a mini riot. all (or only) in the hamptons

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i cringe when i’ve had to write “the hamptons.” so i say “montauk” instead. that’s slightly less cringe inducing. and i’m not one to cringe easily.

well, that’s where i was this past weekend + a day.

other than being one of those rare snippets of time you know you’ll remember for years after [because spent with some of the friends you love most], the weekend was confetti’d with some new york style “you’re kidding, right?” moments [only to be found in extensions of nyc such as the hamptons]. [insert cringe].

and so began our mission of tunneling our way into a bookstore in the hamptons for, of all things, a signature from gwyneth. paltrow. is there any other?

we may be thirty somethings holding down legitimate careers, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t jostle our way through a mini riot for this sort of thing.

a half hour before the big event, we queue up. the line wraps around the bookstore. we’re informed that not everyone will get in. the door shuts five heads in front of us. those five heads and all the heads behind those are not happy ones.

a lady with a massive doodle dog somehow sneaks her way to the front of this “waitlist” line. how a lady with a giant doodle dog sneaks her way anywhere is beyond me.

the persecution of this lady and her giant doodle dog begins. it’s a line of 50+ against this batty lady with a doodle dog. she fights back. the dog does not. coffee [iced, not hot, thank god] gets spilled all over the dog. the poor dog shakes off the coffee. the coffee sprays a great distance [in slow motion], soaking a good portion of the pissed off new yorkers at the front of the waitlist line.

a heavily botox’d lady behind us attempts to bond with us. her moment is here. “oh, look at that poor dog. with coffee all over it. can you believe that lady? unbelievable! i bought my gwyneth cookbook in advance. i brought my receipt in case they wouldn’t let me in – look!”

more people appear out of nowhere, jostling their way to the front of this “waitlist” line. it’s survival of the sneakiest [and the shameless].

one such sneaky shameless lady with a huge scarf wound over her head pops out of nowhere, claiming to be “the press.”

“where’s your press pass?” asks some of the pissed off new yorkers. a man with a giant camera lens menacingly extends his giant lens towards her.

miracle of miracles, we somehow make it in. and meet gwyneth, who is perched on a wooden booster seat of sorts, looking overwhelmed and annoyed. it must suck to be you, gwyneth. for a moment, i feel sorry for her. but hey, she’s gwyneth freaking paltrow.

the green mountain state

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there’s a reason they call vermont “the green mountain state.” true to its name (especially in the summer), it is both super green and super mountainous.

and like the dairy it produces in spades, there’s something so wholesome about the whole state. chittenden was our town of choice for the Fourth and we drove through lots of other little towns en route, so i can’t speak to every single town in vermont, but the towns we did see were wholesome as dairy. [btw, the cheese is just amazing there].

we rode [horses], swam [in a pool], kayaked [on a lake] … wholesome activities to go with the wholesome state.

not surprisingly, the un-wholesome people [including us, probably], were out-of-staters.

one in particular [two if you count her dog as a “person”], was from jersey [shocker].

this particularly unwholesome individual let loose her tiny dog [also from jersey] into the riding ring we were riding around in [on horseback], then proceeded to call out the dog’s name in the shrillest voice possible. thank god the horses didn’t spook. where do you think this is, lady? spain? [see very first blog post]. dogs should be on leashes – especially when around horses.

from the front, the place looked like an edward hopper painting. [what a pretentious comment!].

and from the back, it looked like the backdrop for downton abbey. [only slightly pretentious].

even the rain was unlike new york city rain – not gross or mixed in with the trash swirling around nyc, but clear and crisp and *wholesome*.

we vowed to return.

daughter, like mother

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i love my mom. and i love her love of odd things. when i was little, i hated it when people told me i was nothing like my mom. this proves them all wrong. at least we are amused by the same things.

of the pictures i had sent my mom from spain, one was of a little huddle of cabbage patch like miniature nuns. figurines, that is. but chubby with crazy eyes, like cabbage patch kids. [cabbage patch kids freaked me out as a child, but were oddly mesmerizing with their fat cheeks and pinwheel eyes]. we had spotted these nuns in a storefront window alongside marzipan. in cordoba [i think].

i open up my mom’s reply email. attached is the same picture. at least, that’s what i think initially. “i saw those same little nuns … in cordoba, i think” she writes. “i couldn’t walk past w/out taking a pic of them … i mean, they just jumped out at me.”

unwittingly, we had snapped photos of the same cabbage patch like nuns. she had gone to spain with my dad a few months before me. “thanks kyung,” she’d told me. “your dad and i appreciate your christmas gift of a spain trip.”  at this point, she proceeded to laugh into the phone. 1) this was after i had been telling her for years that i’d wanted to go to spain with her. and 2) i had no idea they had decided on spain. i only knew that my christmas gift was a vacation package to wherever they’d choose. 3) i can’t believe she thinks this is hilarious.

i suppose i do take after my mom, after all.

spain: the land of off leash dogs and pork in every dish

so i recently got back from a two week trip to spain. it’s truly a beautiful place. somewhere i’d most definitely return.

other than looking a lot like stanford in many places (c’mon, just look at the picture), some curiosities. for one, the spanish seem to be unaware of the concept of a dog leash. as in, their dogs run around leash-less. the first time i encountered this, i jumped a little. was this off leash dog going to attack me? whether trained or just plain smart, these spanish dogs are able to trail their spanish owners very closely, despite their off-leash-ness.

pork. jamon. it’s everywhere in spain. and i mean everywhere. pieces of it in every dish (whether it’s paella or a plate of shrimps or a ham sandwich), they manage to squeeze it in. as in, if you order a ham sandwich, it will come with a few unasked for slices of bacon (yes, bacon), wedged in between the ham and bread. i even found a few pieces of pork in a plate of shrimps i ordered. they love pork so much that even their salt and pepper shakers come in the shape of pigs (which are actually quite cute).

tapas. small plates. the spanish seem to subsist on them. restaurants were filled with countless small plates heaped with all sorts of food (with pork pieces in all of them, of course). it was hard to find actual entrees on menus.

one of our stops was pamplona – the city of the running of the bulls. like, literally. on one fantastic day each summer, once a year, all hell breaks loose. as in, the bulls are let loose. to run wild and free (in the streets, with pedestrians). thank god we were not there for that. we did get to see the streets where these bulls would soon run amok, with people dodging them (and other people watching from high priced balconies purchased specifically for this purpose).