Channeling Martha Stewart and other crazy musings from a busy woman

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Home Improvement: The never ending story

In 2002, we purchased a 70′s era home in Hawaii Kai. At that time, it was definitely a buyer’s market and we got the house for a steal. To be honest, I didn’t want this house because wallpaper was used extensively in every room, the washer and dryer were located in the garage that was only accessible by a narrow staircase and the kitchen was butt ugly. Even though we got a great deal on the house, the only remodeling we were able to do was remove the wallpaper and upgrade the bathrooms.

Fast forward twelve years and the deferred maintenance has finally caught up with us. Our home improvement journey actually started at the end of 2012 when we had to replace the master bathroom “tub of death” (a Jacuzzi style monstrosity) and put in a walk-in shower. Then we asked our contractor to replace the front deck and porch railings. After that, we had the house painted and suddenly we were no longer the ugly house on the street anymore! As we admired our newly painted home, we realized that the windows needed to be replaced. And when you put in new windows, you need new window treatments so plantation shutters are now on order.

So now that the exterior of our house looks wonderful and our master bathroom is finally complete, we have one last project — the kitchen. My kitchen has been a source of embarrassment for me from day one. I enjoy cooking and baking and my kitchen is not conducive to those activities. I firmly believe it was designed by a man who never cooked a day in his life. It has laminate countertops and particle board cabinets (you know, that lovely faux wood). The floor is linoleum and the lighting is horrible. It’s ugly, outdated and most importantly, it’s not functional.

I’m excited to finally have the chance to design a new kitchen. I’m going to blog about this process because as fun as it is to shop for appliances and finishes, it’s completely overwhelming (especially if you’re on a budget). I’ve included some photos of our current kitchen so all 16 of my readers can feel my pain.

 

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In late January, my husband and I took a 12-day cruise to Australia and New Zealand. It was the trip of a lifetime and we had a wonderful time.

Some observations from our two-week adventure:

  • We survived each other 24/7 for two entire weeks! I think we’ll be okay during our retirement years.
  • Dining in Australia and New Zealand is very expensive. More than what you would spend in Hawaii. For example, a simple breakfast at a cafe in Sydney cost us $35, not including gratuity.
  • The sun down under is really hot. We had the worst sunburn of our lives while we were tooling around Sydney.
  • New Zealand is absolutely beautiful. It’s what Hawaii probably looked like before development. Most of the ports we visited reminded us of Waimea on the Big Island. Pristine coastlines and cute little towns.
  • There are lots of Chinese people living in Australia. And by the way, Chinese tourists are the rudest people on the planet. I’m not kidding. No respect for personal space. Pushing and shoving their way in a crowd is their normal. China is so not on our bucket list.

Here’s a link to our photo album. Enjoy!

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Taking charge of your health: it’s that important.

I’m a little annoyed at the big deal the media is making about Angelina Jolie’s revelation that she had a double mastectomy. For the record, there have been other celebrities that made the same choice but it didn’t generate the level of media coverage that has occurred in the last 24 hours. For what it’s worth, I applaud her courage to talk about her high risk for breast and ovarian cancer and her decision to have surgery. It may not be the right choice for every woman, but that’s my point. It’s her choice and we should respect it. I don’t understand why people who know nothing about her, and even less about breast cancer, BRAC and treatment options, find it necessary to criticize or question her decision.

I’m considered high risk for breast cancer and while it’s unlikely that I have the genetic marker, I would make that same choice if I did have it because I know I couldn’t live with those odds. In fact, I would take it to another level by not only having the double mastectomy but also opting for a complete hysterectomy.

Yes that’s drastic but let’s be honest here. I’m way past my child-bearing years and I don’t have to breastfeed anymore (small blessings). Besides, I’m not the kind of woman who defines herself by her “rack” (or lack thereof in my case) and if I suffer from any form of vanity, it’s my ridiculous fear of losing my hair even if it drives me crazy on a daily basis.

People should applaud the actress for taking charge of her health, something that all of us should be doing instead of waiting until chronic or terminal illness takes over our lives. Think about — and I’m as guilty as the next person of not doing this — if we all took better care of ourselves by eating right, exercising and educating ourselves about health and wellness, our nation might not be in the health crisis that we’re currently in.

Like Angelina, I want to be around to see my kids get married and to spoil my grandchildren so I will do what’s necessary to keep myself healthy. Life is short and I have yet to tackle my bucket list. Get your mammogram, ladies!

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Adventures in Japan

To celebrate my mom’s 75th birthday, she took all eight of her grandchildren to Japan in December (her adult kids had to pay their own way).  We started our adventure on December 20th, departing Honolulu for Tokyo on a lovely 9 hour flight (well, my flight was actually lovely since I flew first class).  Since we were such a large group (14), we had a tour guide and a chartered bus for most of our stay in Tokyo.  It was a first visit for the majority of us so it was nice to have a guide. Her name was Naoko and she was very helpful. Highlights of our trip included Tsukiji Fish Market (best fatty tuna sushi ever); Oedo Onsen; Ghibli Museum; Skytree (think Space Needle); shopping at Daiba (dollar store) in Harajuku; riding the gondola in Hakone and a boat tour of Lake Ashi; visiting with the Okano family at their temple and family home in Yokohama; and Shinyokohama Ramen Museum, also in Yokohama.

On day six, our tour guide helped us get on the bullet train to Hiroshima where we met up with another tour guide, Satoko. We visited the Hiroshima Peace Museum and Memorial.  That was a very somber experience for all of us. The next day, we went to Miyajima Island, home of the rice scooper and super friendly deer.  Too bad it rained that day.  It was bad enough being cold!  We got around the island with our umbrellas and stopped at the various shops to eat warm manju and other goodies.  That afternoon, we caught the bullet train to Osaka for the remainder of our trip.

While in Osaka, we visited the Kuromon Fish Market which is famous for oysters and fugu (balloon fish).  I did try the fugu sashimi at a sushi restaurant and was unimpressed (at least I lived to write about it).  The market also had a lot of produce vendors and the tangerines, strawberries and bananas were delicious. In my opinion, the sushi was better at Tsukiji.  We also visited the Osaka Kaiyudan (aquarium) and saw their whale shark. Impressive!

We also took a day trip to Kyoto and I was so disappointed because it rained really hard that day.  Kyoto was the one place that I wanted to see because it’s like old Japan and I wanted to see geisha.  It was truly miserable that day.  Our tour guide Yoko ended up taking us to an enclosed “mall” and open market instead but that was a bust.  The open market was very crowded because people were getting ready for the New Year.  It was so crowded that I actually had a panic attack and turned around and went against the crowd so I could get out of there!  I ended up sitting at Tully’s Coffee, sipping a tiramisu latte to wait for the rest of the family. I wish we had Tully’s in Hawaii, but I digress.

On New Year’s Day, we visited Sumiyoshi Shrine (one of three that we saw on this trip) to ask for New Year’s blessings.  Generally, you have to throw a yen into the shrine, bow twice, clap, make a wish and then bow again.  However, there were so many people at the shrine that Yoko said not to get to close because we would get hit by coins.  Seriously, people in the back (including my sons) were just flinging their coins toward the shrine.  Of all the shrines we visited, this one turned out to be the most fun.  As we made our way in, we saw people on the ground sifting through the pebbles.  Turns out that the temple paints the five power characters on the pebbles and you’re supposed to look for all five for good luck.  Of course, all of our kids (and a few adults) had to join in the fun.  There was also a street fair featuring lots of interesting food and carnival games.

No trip would be complete without shopping and we did a lot of that on this trip.  Particularly at the Daiba stores, Tokyu Hands and The Loft (not the Ann Taylor Loft).  My sister purchased every pen imaginable in Japan.  I bought things like Japanese paper gift bags, tiny gift tags, kitchen gadgets, pens (not as much as my sister) and of course, food. I think my kids and I went overboard with the weird flavored Kit Kats, Hi-Chews and Mentos.

Overall, we didn’t have any major disasters.  We did have one train incident where half the group didn’t get on the same car with us and we weren’t sure if they heard the name of our stop.  It worked out and no one got lost.  For me, the highlight was the food although I admit that I’m tired of Japanese cuisine right now.  During our layover at Narita, we ate sushi (super good for an airport restaurant) and then we ate at McDonald’s!  By the way, it tastes exactly like it does at home but they have cuter toys in their Happy Meals.

Japan was a lot of fun and I’d love to go back, but I am SO happy to be home after being away for 12 days.  I think my body and brain have finally recovered from the jet lag. I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with family and friends.  Wishing all of you a prosperous 2013, filled with love, good health and happiness!

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Sometimes you just have to splurge!

Last weekend, I took Friday off to extend my long weekend. I spent the day shopping at Ala Moana and Kahala Mall and wouldn’t you know it, the items that I really wanted to get were not available. There’s nothing worse than having a day to shop sans children and then you can’t find anything. Last night, I had to pick up take out from CPK Kahala and since I was early, I walked around Macy’s for a bit. Lo and behold, I found my DKNY jeans in the right size and length and it was on sale for $29! I also found a really cute INC cardigan on the clearance rack. Both pieces were roughly $52. I used one of those $20 off a $50 purchase coupon and the remaining $4 on a gift card and ended up paying less than $30 for both items. All that in 10 minutes. Go figure.

So this morning I got an email from Banana Republic promoting their red envelope event this weekend. Since I was in a funky mood from work and there was a beautiful A-line skirt that I had been eyeing, I decided I would check it out after work. When you walk into their store, they hand you a sealed envelope. Your envelope contains a discount from 20 to 50-percent.

I get to the store and get my envelope. I didn’t open it because I thought it might be void if I did (found out later that I could open it immediately). I head straight for the petite section, browse the sale racks and then found the skirt (still not on sale). After deciding there really wasn’t anything else I wanted, I proceeded to check out. The sales clerk opened my envelope and practically screamed. I had a 50% discount on my total purchase. I asked if that was hard to win and she said yes as most people only get a 20% discount. She was really sweet and asked if she could hold my skirt while I continue to shop!

I paused for a minute and nearly ran upstairs to grab the same skirt in a different color but I stopped myself. The poor sales clerk was clearly dumbfounded. To tell you the truth, so was I. Restraint in a clothing store is a skill I haven’t yet mastered. I don’t know why I didn’t buy more stuff. It’s highly unusual behavior for me. I wonder if I should try a different mall tomorrow?

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Blast from the Past!

I attended my — wait for it — my 30th class reunion last night. There, I said it. Now all of my 16 readers know how young I am. I don’t know why some people get uptight about attending reunions. I suppose the argument can be made that one should never return to high school because supposedly you’ve “moved on.” Or why should I bother to see my classmates when I see my high school group regularly? You know what? I still hang with my childhood peeps but I don’t mind catching up with classmates every few years.

The past two reunions have been relaxing and incredibly hilarious. I think when you get to my age, you’ve embraced who you are and don’t really give a *#**! about what people might say or think about you (and if you haven’t, then you’re wasting precious time worrying about stupid issues). So we gained some weight or lost some hair. For the most part, I think my classmates look younger than our true age. Several of my classmates are grandparents many times over. Some of us are just getting started. It’s just nice to share pictures via our iPhones and swap stories about our lives after graduation.

I think what amazes me about my classmates is our ability to enjoy each other’s company. We may not have been true friends in high school but on reunion night, it’s so much fun to talk story, crack up as we look at our old prom photos and play crazy trivia games like how much did Spam cost in 1981 or “Name that 80′s song.” My personal favorite is laughing at our awful 80′s fashion faux pas and the big hair. Truly awful, I tell ya.

In true class of 1981 fashion, we had to be asked several times by hotel management to vacate the premises. Not because we were drunk (okay, some classmates who shall remain unnamed were a tad tipsy) but because we were having too much fun to say goodbye for another few years. The stragglers moved down to the main floor and about 20 minutes later, we made it into our cars and drove home.

As with past reunions, a few classmates continued the party elsewhere and I’m sure there will be some funny stories to share next time around. Speaking of which, our next reunion will not be celebrating an anniversary but rather our big “5-0.” Gotta admit I cringed writing that statement but I’m looking forward to a fun girls only weekend in Vegas in two years! Congratulations to the reunion committee for a fantastic evening!


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Random musings

I haven’t been in the mood to blog lately mainly because I’ve been busy and of course, really tired.  What else is new?  Anyway, here are a few of my random musings that I’ve accumulated over the past few weeks.

  • I had a blast this summer volunteering with ProjectFocus Hawaii (www.projectfocushawaii.com), a photography internship for children.  But then again, I always have fun with this group which is run by Laurie Callies and my sister-in-law Lisa Uesugi.  This year we worked with children from Down Syndrome Ohana of Hawaii.  These kids are beautiful and so incredibly happy.  They truly brought joy to everyone this summer.  Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/projectfocushawaii and see what “Shine:  Inspiring Joy Through Their Eyes” is all about.  Make sure you have your tissue handy because you’ll need it!
  • Sometimes it’s good to let kids be kids during the summer.  Both of my sons opted out of summer “learning opportunities” and spent their entire summer fishing and diving.  It makes me happy that they get along so well now as that was not always the case and it was great that they included their cousin Jack in their ocean outings.  The weekly trips to the North Shore also meant that Grandma Linda got to see her “Eastside” grandsons a lot more this summer.  All three boys quickly figured out that Grandma will make them lunch!  To top it off, Micah and Jack finally scored, catching a pretty nice papio and oio!  
  • Achilles tendonitis/tendinosis sucks!  It’s a chronic condition and apparently quite common for middle age women.  Thanks, doc! Fortunately it doesn’t require surgery, but the pain is constant and the physical restrictions are frustrating.  Don’t get me wrong…I LOATHE exercise but now that my options are limited, I’m really quite upset.  Go figure.
  • Things that make you go “hmmm.”  We saw Planet of the Apes yesterday and yes, it’s a very good movie.  It’s also a very disturbing movie and a good reminder that medical research should done with great caution and respect, even if our intentions are good.
So now the summer has come to an end.  Micah has started high school and Matt goes back to UH in a week.  Life is slowly returning to normal.  That can only mean one thing.  TRAFFIC!
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Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous (and I’m not talking about me)

I’m on vacation this week and so I tagged along today with @melissa808 (otherwise known as Melissa Chang) and her friend Rick Nakama as she viewed several properties for sale in Waialae Nui Ridge.  One of Melissa’s many projects is a real estate blog for Honolulu Magazine so she gets to view all kinds of homes across Oahu.

Today we viewed several homes on Waialae Nui Ridge.  The first house had spectacular views and a nice little rental apartment with a separate entrance.  The house had an interesting layout and while it showed well, the decor was outdated.

The second house we looked at was affordably priced considering the East Oahu zip code but I was underwhelmed.  The MLS listing made it sound like the views were spectacular.  Meh.  It was kind of a weird layout and had a definite 80′s look to it.  If I were to buy the house, I would remodel the kitchen and bathrooms to bring it up to date.  At least it didn’t have butt ugly wallpaper like my house did when we bought it in 2002. Homeowners and interior designers should ban wallpaper from their decorating tool kits.  Just saying!

The last house we looked at was fabulous in every sense of the word.  Located in a four-home gated community on top Waialae Nui Ridge, this property is on the market for $4,950,000.  That’s not a typo.  It had spectacular views of Diamond Head (you can see into the crater), Waikiki and Honolulu.  Beautiful kitchen, two Harry Potter closets (one for wine) and an infinity pool.  This house has two levels with a huge master suite and two, yes that’s right, two walk-in custom closets.  The woman’s closet was much larger, as it should be.  The lower level featured a small master suite, a recreation/home theatre room and a smaller room that could be converted to a craft room or a guest room.  The entire lower level opens to the pool area.  My first thought after viewing the lower level was “Matt would love this part of the house.”  Then I realized that if we ever had the means to buy such a property, our children would never leave us!  Melissa also mentioned that there’s another basement level that is unfinished but could be converted into another living space.

I’m not going to any more of these showings with Melissa because it makes me depressed to see how the beautiful people live.  How is it that there are so many wealthy people in Hawaii who can actually live this lifestyle?  Granted we’re not poor but I don’t think we could even afford the garage at this house.  Sigh.  Anyway, enjoy the photos and daydream a bit about what it might feel like to be rich and famous!

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Grieving for Japan

You know you haven’t blogged in a while when you can’t remember your WordPress login and password!  However, I digress.  Like many people in Hawaii, I have been deeply affected by the devastation in Japan from the recent earthquake and tsunami. I still can’t believe it happened and when I see the constant barrage of videos and photos of the aftermath, I feel like I’m watching a movie.  I wish it were just a movie because it breaks my heart to hear about the growing death toll and the nuclear crisis that is now consuming everyone’s attention.

As I watch the coverage, I am amazed by the resilience of Japan and its people.  Not once have I seen or heard a report of looting.  Or rioting at stores to fight for the last ration.  When instructed to conserve electricity, people comply quietly with no complaint. Many have family in Hawaii and elsewhere who are encouraging them to evacuate to safer areas yet they refuse to leave their country.  What saddens me most though are the nuclear power plant employees who continue to work in extremely hazardous conditions in order to protect their fellow citizens.  It’s truly amazing to witness the human spirit at its best.

So did we overreact this time around?  I don’t think so.  There will be another disaster and Mother Nature may not be so kind. Having worked in my hospital’s command center that night, I was somewhat distracted by concern for my own family.  My husband also had to report to work so our kids were “home alone.”  Yes, they are older and we live on a mountain ridge but I couldn’t help but worry about what might happen if the tsunami hit East Oahu.  There’s only one road in and out of East Oahu and if it was destroyed by a tsunami, how long before the two of us could get back to our family?  I really don’t want to know the answer to that question because it would seriously freak me out.

There’s a lot to be learned from these past two and a half weeks.  Put together an emergency kit and have an evacuation plan for your family.  Stock up on canned goods and water (and don’t forget the toilet paper).  We do this every time we dodge a natural disaster yet can any of us honestly say we are really prepared to survive for a week or two after the event?

That said, please show your aloha for the numerous fundraising efforts that are taking place across our state to help Japan.  I know you don’t need another t-shirt and it’s tough right now to part with what little disposable income we have but it’s the least we can do to help a country that has always supported Hawaii.

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Lunch with the ladies

My tweeps @melissa808, @nonstopmari, @lenahanson and I checked out Umami, a new Japanese coffee and sandwich shop at Harbor Court.  Umami opened a few weeks ago in the space formerly occupied by Satura Cakes.  While the new owners didn’t do much to change the interior or exterior, the vibe is definitely trendy Japanese.  Think Shirokiya food court but with a Martha Stewart flair. Everything in Umami is beautifully packaged and every time I’m there, I wander aimlessly looking at all the pretty things to eat.  Although it’s a “grab and go” eatery, they have a lot to offer for breakfast and lunch with a variety of bentos, sushi, sandwiches, daily specials, coffee and tea drinks and of course, desserts.

Since Melissa and Mari were there to do “research” for their NonStopHonolulu website, we ordered a lot of items to share (it was a tad embarrassing).  On today’s menu: kalbi fried rice, lobster sandwich, lobster inari, salmon BLT, char siu pizza and a Reuben sandwich.  I think we all agreed that the lobster sandwich was the hands down winner.  Delicate lobster salad on fluffy white bread, ’nuff said.  The lobster inari was also good however the lobster was a bit overpowered by the sushi rice and aburage but if you like cone sushi, you’ll like this item.  We also liked the kalbi fried rice which was your basic fried rice with sliced kalbi.  If there was a side of kim chee, it would have been perfect!  Lena also ordered soup and Mari ordered a sushi hand roll and a couple of bentos to go.

As for dessert, we tried the strawberry shortcake and the red velvet cake.  I had a piece of the red velvet cake last week and thought it was dry so I was very surprised when it was actually pretty good today.  Don’t worry mom, your red velvet cake reigns supreme and you could probably make a fortune if you sold your recipe to Umami.  I was disappointed with the strawberry shortcake which consisted of both chocolate and vanilla sponge cake.

Overall, I think it’s a great place for breakfast or lunch.  It’s nice to have a eatery that doesn’t require me traipsing through downtown in three-inch heels. Business appears to be brisk so I’m hopeful that it will continue to thrive. They also cater so it’s perfect for a downtown lunch meeting.  Thanks to my tweeps for a great lunch!

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