Thursday, November 29, 2007

Good fun with bugs and reptiles

Ladies and gentlemen.... the BEETLES! Yes, we are experiencing beetle-mania. No, not the Beatles. I'm not talking John, Paul, George and Ringo. I'm talking beetles, like the bug. We are inundated with little brown beetles. Hundreds fly into the lanai every night, then slowly walk around. They walk on the tables, chairs, windows, decking. Beetles here, beetles there, beetles beetles everywhere.
These beetles are really very boring. They both fly and walk very slowly. If they flip onto their backs, they cannot right themselves without help. If you touch one, he pulls his legs and antenna in and plays dead. Leave him alone for a moment and off he cruises, steady as she goes. Where's he going? Nobody knows. Once the beetles land, they don't seem motivated to take off again. They just cruise around on foot. They become pedestrian beetles. I don't know what they eat or what eats them. Truth be told, I sort of like the little buggahs. Unless they land in my beverage. Then they become like the gnats. I definitely prefer the beetles to the gnats. I HATE the gnats. The gnats seem to have subsided just a bit. Maybe the beetles eat the gnats....
Last night we spotted a gecko on the window. I definitely like geckos, what with their big, buggy eyes, sticky feet, appetite for nasty bugs and of course, their sexy English accents.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, November 26, 2007

Road trip with dad

Pops and I hit the soggy trail today and made our way to the northern tip of the island. We visited the towns of Hawi (pronounced ha-vee) and Kapa'au, then Pololu Valley lookout. As you can see, it was a spectacular day at Pololu. I vowed to return soon to hike to the black sand beach at the bottom, a task my dad is not really up to these days. As we passed through Kapa'au, I pointed out the statue of King Kamehameha and noted that he was born here, near Hawi. Dad looked at the sculpture, then said, "I thought he was fatter."
"Fatter?" I asked.
"Well he's fat in the movie," he said.
"What movie?" I asked.
"Well, in all those movies the king of the natives is always fat," he said.
"So there's no specific movie, just movies in general when you've seen a king on some island?"
"Yeah," he says. My dad isn't one to dwell on the detailed accuracy of history. The other day on the phone, he tried to tell me that Dwight Eisenhower "invented" the military industrial complex.
"He didn't invent it," I said, "he warned of it's power. There's a big difference."
"No, that was Truman. Eisenhower invented it."
Much like Al Gore invented the Internet, no doubt.
There's no good that can come out of an argument like this, so I craftily changed the subject.
I'm guessing the "movie" he was thinking of upon seeing the Kamehameha statue today was actually an old rerun of Gilligan's Island.
We ate creamy and delicious cones at Tropical Dreams in Hawi. I enjoyed coconut. He savored Tahitian vanilla.
I love Kapa'au. I want to live there. They have everything you need; small grocer, a couple of restaurants, shops, theater and a hardware store. At Hawi and Kapa'au, the feel of old Hawaii (pronounced ha-vy-ee) is alive and well. Unfortunately, real estate there is a little out of my price range. OK, it's a lot out of my price range. But hey, a girl can dream....

On our way home, we stopped to pick up some tasty Thai food in Hilo Town. While we waited for our order, we walked around the block. That's one single block. During that achingly slow stroll, he complained that I was working him too hard.
"I thought you said you were suppose to exercise?" I said.
"This isn't helping. This is just going to make my legs sore tomorrow. They're cramping up now," he whined. Mind you, we were barely moving over a flat surface. I felt like I was shuffling along with Tim Conway as the old man.
"But you have to start sometime. Why not now?"
No answer. Just some giant, exhaustive sighs and a few hacks. Then he lit a cigarette. Alrighty then....

Truth be told, however, it was a really nice day with dad.

We returned to Glenwood in the driving rain.
The Buddha rama, Pad Thai, masaman and summer rolls were totally onolicious to da max, cuz!

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Turkey day in paradise

It seems that Lucy has taken a page out of Mr. Sox's relaxation instruction manual.... She's a pretty quick study, that girl.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING! It was busier at the winery today than I expected, but still relatively quiet. I took a brief break to stroll back to the vineyard to shoot a couple of photos. The first, below, is a large hole in the lava. It looks to be at least 12 feet deep. The story I've heard is that the original owner of the winery drove his tractor right into it and lived to tell the story, suffering only a few scratches. The scenic shot is taken through what are some pretty pathetic looking grape vines toward Mauna Loa. I know it's November and grape vines throughout the northern hemisphere are looking a bit scrawny right now, but these look like this pretty much year round. The red blossom below is a lehua. The tree upon which it blooms is the Ohia. Hawaiian legend has it that the tree is, in fact, a brave warrior. Pele, the fire goddess, goddess of the volcano, fell in love with the warrior and asked him to marry her. He was in love with another, so he refused. When he did so, Pele became not just a little miffed and turned him into a tree. (She can be a bit pissy like that.) The other gods were unable to reverse her spell. So they turned his true love into the lehua flower so that the two could always be together. It is said that when a person picks a lehua blossom, it rains. The raindrops represent the tears of true lovers being separated. Isn't that romantic?

I can't tell you how many people came into the winery today and immediately asked, "Are you open?" This, after passing through our open gate, walking past our "open" sign, seeing our door wide open and finding us inside with music playing. At least a dozen times I was very tempted to say, "No. We're closed. We just thought we'd come hang out here for no good reason on Thanksgiving Day because working for peanuts and spending the day schmoozing with total strangers is so much more fun than eating Turkey and punkin pie 'til you burst, watching football and partying with family and friends." Instead, I and my coworkers oozed aloha, telling people we were open just for them. What the heck. We were, after all, being paid time and a half.
Whitney, my co-worker, got the call of the day. When she answered, "Volcano Winery," the woman phrased her question like this: "We're on the road to Hana. How do I get to your winery?"
"The road to Hana?" clarifies Whitney. "Are you on Maui?"
"Yes," says the woman. "Can you give me directions?"
"Well," explains Whitney in her most patient voice, "We are on another island."
"What does that mean, you are on another island?" asks the woman.
"We are on the Big Island. You are on Maui. They are different islands," says Whitney, who continues, "There is another winery on Maui. It's called Tedeschi. Are you looking for them?"
"No," snaps the brain trust. "We've already been there. We're trying to find you."
Whitney again tells the woman that we are on a different island than she is.
"I don't understand what you mean by another island?" the woman continues. Whitney is now at a loss as to how to continue. She is about to launch into a description of the archipelago and a definition of an island as a separate land mass surrounded by water, when the agony of the conversation is abruptly and mercifully ended. It was then that the ditzy bimbo's husband grabbed the phone to intercede. After some more discussion, he did seem to understand that "different island" actually meant "different island."
"We'll be there in a few days so we'll see you then," he says, then hangs up.
Great. I can't wait to meet the little woman. She'll probably request driving direction to Princeville. This, after crossing our threshold and asking, "Are you open?"

Tomorrow, we'll cook our brined turkey. I can't wait.
A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Pops in town

My dad arrived last night. He just made his connection, but his luggage did not. No problem. It made it's way up to the rainforest this morning before 9 a.m. That made him feel better. He was fretting. Really fretting. My dad doesn't travel much, so every aspect of the trip is an adventure. He's content now. It's always comforting to know you'll be wearing your own underwear throughout your vacation.
Yesterday was perfect. Beautiful, sunny skies with a slight breeze. It was sunburn weather, to be sure, as I spent a few hours on the tractor, cutting grass under the tropical sun. There was no vog and few clouds. It was a really rare day.
Today, was not sunburn weather. Today was curl-your-hair, rust your underwire weather. First, we braved the deluge to get to the highway. Hilo was drier, but no less challenging. The Thanksgiving meal shoppers were out in full force, jamming the aisles of KTA. There were hundreds of pumpkin pies stacked in the bakery and they were being snapped up quicker than you could say high fructose corn syrup. We grabbed one. Pops and I adopted a pretty successful approach to our shopping. It was really tough to push a cart down the aisles. So dad guarded the wagon while I perused the shelves, unencumbered by the cart. Sometimes I found myself turning sideways to get between all the other people and their overloaded wagons, to grab what I needed. Then, fleet of foot, it was back to the cart and on to search for the next item. Of course, without a list, I forgot to get a few things. That's kinda my shopping style. Still, we managed nicely and will enjoy a nice feast on Friday. I'll be working at ye 'ol wine factory on Thursday. So Ron and Dad will be on their own for the official Turkey Day, watching games, scratching, drinking, swearing, eating junk food and doing what men do. MY dad's pretty chatty, so I suspect Ron's ears will be bleeding by the time I get home.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Wowie sowie!

This morning our modem died. Or, as they say in pidgin, "Da kine all bus' up. It wen go junk." Ron needs his modem to work, so he took Crawford for a ride to town. Crawford loves to ride. Meanwhile, I took Doc and Hopps for a nice long walk. As we were heading home, we heard rustling in the bushes along the roadside. Then, there she was. The biggest, fattest feral pig I've ever seen. Whoa! Dis one fat wahine pig. I've seen fatter pigs in barnyards, for sure, but not fatter wild pigs. She must have gotten into some good gardens. The chubster swinette waddled away as fast as she could once she saw us. The dogs were mildly excited by her. Ah, the adventures of rural living in Hawaii.

That was pretty much the highlight of my day. The winery was busy and the day went by quickly. There were lots of nice people buying lots of wine. There was one woman in particular who made me smile. She was also not just a little irritating. Here's a taste of how the tasting went with her:
I explain, "This wine is made with 100% symphony grapes. Symphony is the name of the grape. It's a cross between a granache gris and a muscat."
She asks, "How much muscat is in here?"
I say that there is no muscat in the wine. The muscat is a grape used to cross with the granache gris to create the symphony grape. Symphony is the name of this grape. This wine is made with 100% symphony grapes."
Then she says, "I can really taste the muscat."
OK then. I describe another wine. "This is the Volcano Blush," I say. "It's made with 50% white grapes and 50% jaboticaba. (The photo above shows how it grows.)
She takes a sip and says, "This must be mostly grapes. I can hardly taste the jaboticaba." Of course, she's never tasted jaboticaba before, but somehow she knows this. (Most people say just the opposite, by the way.) I say, "Well, it's actually half jaboticaba." She ponders this. "It's an interesting fruit flavor," she says. "How much jaboticaba did you say is in there?"
This is where I begin screaming "why me?" inside my own head while outwardly grinning and agreeably nodding.
Later, I explain the Mac Nut Honey wine. "It's made from honey that bees make when they pollinate blossoms on macadamia nut trees. That's why they call it macadamia nut honey. There are no nuts, grapes or fruit in the wine. It's just made with honey." She tastes it, then asks, "How do you make wine out of macadamia nuts?" "Well," I say, "There are actually no nuts in the wine. It's macadamia nut honey wine."
"How can you call it wine if there are no grapes in it?" she asks. This is actually a pretty common question. I explain that wine can be made from just about anything. There's blackberry wine, for example, and even dandillion wine. We make these wines you just tasted from jaboticaba and guava. She tastes again. "It tastes like honey," she says. (Gee. I wonder why? Lot's of people say this too, but by now, coming from her, it was especially grating.) "What kind of grapes are in this again?" She asks. I answer, "There are no grapes. It's fermented honey."
So when I say she made me smile, she made me smile when she left.

On a positive note, I did earn eight bucks in tips today. That's $8.25 to be exact. I know, I know. I have no intentions of spending it all in one place. I plan to diversify. One shouldn't put all of one's tips in one basket, after all....

Oh, and we played a lot of Jack Johnson today in the tasting room, which really always does make me smile.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

On a mission

We use a lot of bubble wrap at the winery. Rolls and rolls of the stuff. Not only is it expensive, it's plastic. It never goes away. It lasts in the environment forever. We also hand out oodles of plastic bags every day. Plastic has become a menace the world over, but is especially troublesome here in Hawaii, where it kills all manner of animals, choking monk seals, strangling green sea turtles and poisoning endangered sea birds. It's unclear to me why the state hasn't simply banned all plastic grocery bags outright, not to mention those rings that hold six packs of soda cans together. Did they not see Dance of the Penguins? So I've taken it upon myself to convince the decision makers at the wine factory that it's time to get rid of both the bubble wrap and the plastic bags and replace them with something biodegradable and made of recycled material. My contention will be that, even if we have to pay a little more for such products, we will be able to tout our eco-friendliness in our marketing literature, making us more appealing to the ever growing legions of environmentally conscious consumers. I've just begun my research. Who knows. Maybe I'll find packaging and bags that are even cheaper. It seems nobody has checked into it one way or another. So, I will.

Poor little Crawford is beginning to drag her back leg a bit more now. On a short walk yesterday, he rubbed a spot raw on the top of her foot. So we're resting and healing while I figure out some way to protect that part of her paw. She can actually walk pretty well when we walk at a good pace. When we go too fast, she struggles. When we go too slow, she has trouble oriented her feet. She really needs the exercise so as to maintain good muscle tone in her legs. For now, we'll stick to romps in the grass. That's good too. The good news is that she's still relatively strong, feels no pain and is very happy, if a bit frustrated that her hind quarters don't quite cooperate as well as she'd like. I think the medication I'm giving her is slowing the pace of her disease.

Today was a pretty average day at the winery. We spent time re-arranging merchandise for better display and decorating modestly for the holidays. We put up these cool, small, fake Christmas trees that need no lights because they have fiber optic tips on the branches that light up. They're pretty cool. Of course, I'm easily amused.

Ron hung out with our neighbors Eddie and Sarah today; the neighbor for whom we were babysitting Snowflake. They knew the little guy was weak and struggling, so were not completely surprised that he didn't make it. Turns out Eddie knows just about everything about the flora and fauna around here. He took a tour of our property with Ron and told him what was native and what was not as well as the common names of several plants. Eddie was pretty impressed with how much we'd done to the property. He is also a retired police officer and gave Ron the scoop on the two major drug busts in the neighborhood over the the past couple of years. Eddie told us that our pond, which is very small and overgrown with tall grass, was once as large as an acre and fairly deep. The former owners raised tilapia there. Then, a few years ago, an earthquake created a crack in the bottom of the pond and drained it to it's current level. It's kept as full as it is now by a stream. When the rain stops and the stream dries up, so does the pond. Ron said he learned more from Eddie about this place in one hour than he's learned in nearly two years of living here. We do have really nice neighbors here.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Today's agenda: buns and boobies

Today was a beautiful, if muggy day on the east side of Hawaii Island. I spent some time today sucking up dust bunnies and scrubbing plates and pans. Most of my day was spent in town, where it dawned on me that here I am, living in a place where it's 83 degrees in Mid-November. That's pretty cool (because it's warm, that is), especially since it did not rain today. It has been humid, however, making it a bit uncomfortable. Not that I'm complaining.....

Bumper sticker of the day: "Normal people worry me."

Me too....

So there I was, strolling aisles of KTA (that's a local grocery chain) when a diminutive Japanese woman notice the bakery-fresh hot-dog buns in my basket. "Oh those hot dog buns are good, yeah?" She exclaimed, pointing to my buns. "Yeah," I agreed. "Fresh baked at the store. Better than regular buns." And so it went today. I had originally gone to Safeway to buy buns, etc., but made the mistake of looking at the ingredients on the buns they carry. Both listed high fructose corn syrup at a major ingredient. Say what? So I went to KTA. They bake their own buns and are smart enough not to list the ingredients. Ignorance is bliss.

I faced the trauma of bra shopping today as well. Trying on bras is almost as horrible as trying on swim suits. It is, however, a necessary evil. That's especially true for me, since my current collection of over the shoulder boulder holders is verging on tatters. I sprung for two. Or is that four? Guess it depends on how you count 'em.

I recently learned that Google now offers an alternative portal for web surfing. It's called "Blackle." The screen background is black. Because it's black, it uses substantially less energy than the standard white background. It's a no fills option, but it works just fine for me. After driving around town today, spewing fossil fuel, it feels a little better reducing the size of my big fat carbon footprint at home.

I live in a rural rainforest. It should be quiet and peaceful. Most of the time it is, with the exception of the mooing, barking, bah-ing, squealing and shooting. Yes, shooting. Actually, the squealing usually comes after the shooting. It' goes "Bang, bang -eeeeeeeeeek!" In most neighborhoods, if you heard shooting, you'd call the cops. Here, you don't. Your first inclination is that someone is blasting pigs again. I am so0o0o0o0o0 glad I'm not a pig. Literally speaking, anyway.

A hui hou. Aloha!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Bye bye Snowflake

We're taught when we're small that if we just try our best, if we just work hard enough, that we can succeed. We learn later that that is not always the case. Our little Snowflake, the kitty we were charged with feeding for our neighbors, died today. This, despite our best efforts to care for him.
When we first brought him home a few days ago, he seemed OK, though he was still very thin even after the neighbor had been feeding him for several days. His eyes were a little watery and sticky when he woke up from sleeping. Otherwise, despite his rough start in life, he looked like he had a good chance to fatten and grow into a healthy cat. The first day he ate pretty well. Eddie, the neighbor, had said that he could make it through the night without food, despite the fact that he'd been feeding him every three-four hours. I didn't think that was such a good idea, so I got up for 2 a.m. feedings and to cuddle him a little. He didn't love being fed by a syringe, but he did it. He peed and pooped. He mewed up a storm. I put him on my shoulder and he purred like a tiny buzz saw. All seemed well. On day two, we switched to a bottle, which he seemed to love. He grabbed on and gobble down his formula. He ate plenty and displayed much more energy. He even climbed out of his box. He clawed his way up my shirt to my shoulder. He was wobbly, but took a little spin around a towel I laid down for him on the floor. We put him in another, more secure crate, just to be safe. He pooped and peed some more. That evening, he ate and slept well. We were cruisin.' He again fell asleep on my shoulder, purring. He woke me up crying to be fed and cuddled again at 2 a.m. The next morning, however, he seemed listless, much like Eddie had described him to me the morning before I picked him up. His appetite had diminished. Eddie had described bouts of this as well and said that he fed him more than he wanted to eat with the syringe just to make sure he was getting the nutrients he needed. I had to do some serious encouraging to get him to eat. By afternoon, he was a little perkier, so we thought we were back on track.
This morning, he was surprisingly weak and had no interest in food. I called the vet and Ron rushed him in. He was diagnosed with a severe upper respiratory infection. The vet said that such an infection does not happen over night; he had had it for weeks. He also told us the kitty was four or five weeks old, not the three weeks we had estimated based on his size. Poor little guy had infection in his sinuses and ulcers in his mouth and throat. The runny eyes were part of the illness, too. The vet gave him a shot and prescribed additional medicine for him. At about 12:30, Ron called me at work, very upset about the limp little Kitty our little snowflake had become. The clinic was closed, but I called the vet anyway to see if there was anything we could do. He didn't call back. Anyway, by the time I got home a couple of hours later, I saw that he had no strength at all and could hardly hold up his head. He did mew when I arrived, however, which Ron said he hadn't done in hours even when he picked him up or stroked him. I got him to eat a little by forcing little drops of formula into his mouth that he had to swallow. I laid on the couch with him on my chest to comfort him. He fell asleep and I tucked him into bed. He died about an hour later.
In just three days I had fallen for this little sickly little kitty. When they asked for our help, the neighbors also asked if we would like another pet. We laughed it off and said no. But after the first day I had begun to reconsider that. I was fully prepared to keep him. I'm not looking forward to telling the neighbors of his passing. He was a sweet little fella whose life was way too short. Still, in those few weeks, or at least in the last three days with us, he was very much loved. Bye bye, Snowflake.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Kitten sittin'

I've been doing a fair amount of babysitting lately. Last weekend, I checked in on my neighbor's dog, taking her for short walks and feeding her in the evenings, sharing her care with another neighbor. Now, I've taken on a new responsibility. This one's a bit daunting. It's a very tiny kitten.
Another neighbor is a middle school teacher. One of her students found the abandoned kitten and brought the little guy to school in hopes that teacher could help. Sarah's students know that she lives in the country. They assume she knows something about animals. Actually, her husband Eddie does know. He's been hand feeding the little fur-ball for several days now and the kitty's doing alright. He's still a little skinny but is trying to stand up and has a good grip when you put him on your shoulder. They have a big wedding to go to this weekend, however, and have had reservations for months to attend with their entire family. So we volunteered to take care of the tiny feline. Ron has already started calling him Snowflake because he (at least we think he's a he) is all white. We'll be feeding him about every three hours or so through the day. Eddie says he can now make it through the night without a meal, but I may get up to give him one anyway. The dogs are very intrigued by this newcomer, especially Doc. He would never hurt the kitty. He just wants to give him a good sniff. But the little tike is way too small to be ready for the enormous nose of the Doctor Dog. He might just get sucked in!
The vog has been brutal off and on over the past several days. That, combined with nighttime thunder storms have me feeling a bit wheezy and not just a little sleep deprived. The sleep deprivation come from Hopps. She HATES thunder storms. She gets so scared she shakes violently with fear and jumps up in the bed and can't settle down. Poor baby. Crawford and Doc aren't too keen on all that flashing and rumbling either. So last night, I finally just went out to sleep out on the couch. Hopps and Crawford came with me. That end of the house seems quieter. So the girls sacked out on the floor next to me. Doc crawled into bed with Ron. At least it's a comfy couch. The cats seem un-phased by the thunder, although I know they dislike earthquakes. Hey, so do I. That's a whole different kind of rumbling. Anyway, now you know why I'm sleep deprived.
Business is hoppin' at the winery. Business is picking up as the holidays approach. We had a big debate today about whether to start playing Christmas music. A couple of us (including me) said, "Why not? We love Christmas music." Others were adamant: "Absolutely not before Thanksgiving," they said. We did sneak a little into he disc player and got a little stink eye from the customers. They seemed to think it was a little early, too. Shoots. I guess we'll have to wait a few more weeks.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Cat naps and dog yaps

Mr. Sox is really good at relaxing. He's my role model. My hero.

I've been privy to some funny jokes lately, so I thought I'd share them here.

I actually sort of made this one up myself after hearing another version:

How much money do pirates pay for corn?


This one I can't take any credit for, but it's darn funny:

A pirate walks into a bar. He has a steering wheel wedged in his crotch. The bartender sees him.

"Hey Mr.," he says, "Do you know that you have a steering wheel there in your crotch?"

"Aye," says the pirate, "and it's driving me nuts!"

And speaking of driving:

Tiger Woods walks into McDonald's. The girl behind the counter recognizes him. She's not a golf fan and knows nothing of the game, but she's seen him on TV none-the-less.

"Hey," she says, "I know you. I like you on those car commercials."

"Thanks," he says. She delivers his Egg McMuffin and coffee. Tiger reaches into his breast pocket to fetch some catch to make his purchase. As he does this, two tees fall out onto the counter.

"What are those?" she asks.

"Oh those hold my balls when I'm driving," he replies.

"Wow," she says. "Buick thinks of everything!"

Today was beautiful except for one 10 minute downpour at about 1 p.m. Doc and I started morning with a fun trip to the veterinarian. Doc used to love to ride in the car. Ever since we drove him to an airport and put him on a plane to fly across the pacific, however, he has been unable to ride. He starts out OK. He even seems happy to be in the car. Within moments, however, he transforms into a complete basket case, crying, drooling, shaking in fear. The worst part is that he tries to climb into my lap while I'm driving. That's not so good. If he were a shitzu or a bijon frise, I wouldn't mind. But he is a pretty big boy; an 80 lb German shepherd - husky mix. Not exactly what you'd call a petite flower if you know what I mean. So, to get him to the vet, I drug him. I gave him the tranquilizers at about 7 a.m. He's still pretty mellow tonight at 6:30 p.m. A drugged dog is a good dog, I must say. Typically, mellow is not an adjective I'd use to describe Doc. Psycho-yes. Schitzo - that too. Chatty - sometimes. Bratty - regularly. Sweet despite his issues? Definitely. Mellow? Almost never.
He's fine, by the way. We just had a checkup and vaccinations. He's lost a few pounds, too. Wish I could say the same.

Gotta go cook dinner. What was I saying about wanting to lose weight? Tonight, it's pork ribs on the grill. Onolicious! Hey. You only live once.

A hui hou. Aloha!