Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part One

Sorry for the delayed travel post. I've been dealing with a bummer of a health issue: nothing serious, mostly just annoying.

After a year (not exaggerating) of research and careful planning, Chad and I finally took a much anticipated week-long trip to Maui in April. Maui delivered everything I hoped for, plus a little extra. Big thanks to Adventure Maui for excellent activities bookings made easy! We got a discounted flight plus hotel package on Expedia, so check them out too for your travel needs.

We flew American Airlines from Austin to Dallas-Forth Worth, then straight to Maui's Kahului Airport. Eight hours in economy on a very full flight felt less than delightful, but the American Airlines flight attendants were very good natured and nice. Free movies on seatback screens and a free meal (veggie wrap with chips & a yummy cookie) made the time pass a bit more mercifully. Landing in gorgeous Maui made the long flight worthwhile.

After a long, scary shuttle ride during which our driver juggled a work-issued walkie-talkie, their personal phone and an i-Pad with route information while weaving over the center line and other lane lines, we arrived safely at the most beautiful resort I've ever seen. Hello, Westin Maui Resort and Spa! Glad to meet you!


photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort

photo courtesy of Westin Maui Resort



We arrived on a Saturday evening during light rain. We were tired, jet-lagged and hungry. So naturally we partied all night at the most exclusive clubs. Kidding! We had dinner at one of the hotel restaurants, walked around the gorgeous resort a bit, unpacked and settled in for necessary sleep.

We chose not to rent a car for our Maui vacation, which worked out beautifully. Between the Westin resort shuttle into Lahaina, guided tours with resort pick-up and three Lyft rides (less than $60 total with tips for all three rides), we did not need a car.

Sunday morning Chad and I took the free Westin Shuttle to Lahaina Wharf Cinema Center, conveniently close to Banyan Tree Park. This spectacularly large banyan tree was planted in 1873, and has grown to cover an area of about 0.66 acres, topping out at 60 feet in height with sixteen additional trunks radiating from the original trunk. The shade and benches in this park offered a nice respite from the bustling Front Street noise of t-shirt shops, restaurants and wily pedestrians going nowhere fast.








Chad and I walked around the waterfront a bit, admiring the beach views. We shopped a little for obligatory postcards, shell necklaces and chocolate covered macadamia nuts. Then we caught the Westin shuttle back to the resort to get ready for the evening's entertainment.

One wardrobe change later, we hopped back on the handy Westin shuttle to the Old Lahaina Luau. Greeting guests with a strong cocktail (or a lovely fruit juice for the non-imbibers) set the tone for fun and hospitality. Before the show guests are encouraged to walk around to different cultural demonstrations such as hula dance lessons, wood carving, block printing and photo opportunities. We scored seats right next to the stage, because I booked our reservation eight months before our trip. Chad is leggy, and not especially limber, so I think he struggled a bit with the pillow on the ground seating situation in the front rows. He might have better enjoyed the cheaper chair seats a bit farther from the stage.

The main show started just after sunset. The performers put their heart and talent into the dancing while narrators explained some history of the Hawaiian islands. (Spoiler alert: the missionaries banned traditional hula dancing and native traditions for a long time in a misguided attempt to spread their good news. Not a good look, missionaries.) The music was performed live by musicians off to side of the main stage. Dinner was self-serve buffet style between dance numbers, and was vegetarian friendly with plenty of options. The food was very good, but it was a buffet, so go for the overall experience; not for a made-to-order foodie adventure. Servers cruised by throughout the evening offering more cocktails and juice from the open bar. A giant dessert platter was served family style to each table. Each guest received a thoughtfully packaged mini banana bread loaf on their way out after the luau.









More from Maui soon, I promise. Aloha until then!


Friday, March 23, 2018

Five Songs for Flashback Friday

Something about spring and rising temperatures inspires nostalgia for music, movies, television and books from my spring break and summer times as a wee child. I had advanced tastes and sensibilities, being way too obsessed with MTV way too young. When I was in kindergarten I sang all the Duran Duran songs to the middle-schoolers who shared my same school bus, much to their delight.

1. Duran Duran, "Ordinary World"




2. Jennifer Paige, "Crush"




3. CeCe Peniston, "Finally"




4. Deee-Lite, "Groove Is In The Heart"




5. Run DMC & Aerosmith, "Walk This Way"




Friday, March 02, 2018

Five Things for Spring

Usually Austin does not have winter longer than 3 days, but this year we totally had a cold, drippy winter complete with two snow dustings and multiple freezing days and nights. What?! I'm excited for spring this year in a way that I have not been in years past. Though not officially spring until March 20, I see buds peeking out already. Here are five things I'm looking forward to this spring in Austin.

1. Strolling through Zilker Botanical Garden










2. Kayaking again on Town Lake (a.k.a. Lady Bird Lake)






3. The view from Mount Bonnel




4. Checking out the Yippee Ki Yay installation at Pease Park


Photo from PeasePark.org



5. Visiting Ellsworth Kelly's 'Austin' structure



Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Local Nonprofits I Love in 2018

Amplify Austin Day occurs March 1 - 2 this year. Amplify Austin Day is our city's annual community-wide day of online giving. The 24-hour period provides an easy and fun way for our entire community to give together while helping local nonprofits. Together we raised $9.8M for nearly 700 Central Texas nonprofits on Amplify Austin Day in 2017. Over the past five years, Amplify Austin has raised $35M for hundreds of local organizations.

Chad and I support several nonprofits (local, national and global) with scheduled monthly gifts. Amplify Austin Day provides an opportunity to support many worthy causes. Here are the local nonprofits closest to our hearts. 

1. Emancipet's mission is to make spay/neuter services and veterinary care affordable and accessible to all pet owners. Emancipet envisions a future where all pets are happy, healthy, and living with families whose lives they enrich. 




2. Meals on Wheels Central Texas seeks to nourish and enrich the lives of the homebound and other people in need through programs that promote dignity and independent living. 



3. Central Texas Food Bank is a leader in the fight against hunger for nearly 35 years, with the mission to nourish hungry people and lead the community in the fight against hunger. 





4. SAFE stands for Stop Abuse For Everyone, and is a merger between Safe Place and Austin Children's Shelter. The SAFE Alliance's mission is to lead in ending sexual assault and exploitation, child abuse, and domestic violence through prevention, intervention, and advocacy for change.





5. Caritas of Austin believes that when every person has a stable place to call home, they can realize their full potential and contribute to our community. Caritas builds wellbeing by making sure that people have a safe home, access to healthy groceries, jobs that provide a reliable living wage, and educational opportunities to learn life skills. 






6. KLRU is Austin's Public Broadcasting Service station. I grew up on shows like Sesame Street and The Electric Company. PBS programming taught me the alphabet, how to spell short words, colors and how to share before kindergarten. (I know, HBO bought Sesame Street, but only recently.) As an adult I enjoy BBC import shows and locally produced shows.







Whether you live in Austin or some other lovable place, find ways to support nonprofit organizations you believe in with your time, talents and/or money.


Monday, February 05, 2018

New-ish Network Television Shows I'm Loving

Did you miss me? I got stuck in some January doldrums. I was also reviewing my Spanish language lessons, trying to get up to speed for Conversational Spanish 3 classes. Necesito estudiar mucho.

Here are new-ish network television shows I'm watching and enjoying. All six are either in the first or second seasons. I hope they all get renewed. (Or in the case of The Mayor, picked up by another outlet for another season.)

1. The Good Place on NBC



The Good Place makes me feel hopeful, without being preachy or self-righteous. I love the twists, turns and somersaults this wacky story takes. There are a few episodes that feel a bit slow, but stick with it. You'll be glad when the revelations roll in!


2. The Mayor, was on ABC, currently on Hulu



I'd vote for Courtney Rose for mayor. What a breath of fresh air this young man brings to city politics! Mayor Rose's heart guides him through a steep learning curve, as does his intelligent and driven advisor, Valentina Barella. I love this show! I can't believe ABC pulled it from the lineup so unceremoniously. Maybe some scandal involving one of the main actors or showrunners has yet to break and shed light on the situation, but I hope not. I hope Hulu makes a second season of this delightful show.


3. Kevin (Probably) Saves the World on ABC



I like Jason Ritter's face. He portrays a flawed, likeable, bumbling guy trying to become a better person, and maybe save the world, one good deed at a time. I really want to see how this plays out. Yvette, his spiritual guide, is super-fun while providing a grounding force. She's figuring it out as she goes, wearing really great outfits along the way.


4. Superior Donuts on CBS



The cast of this show is awesome: Jermaine Fowler, Judd Hirsch, Katey Sagal, Maz Jobrani, David Koechner, Diane Guererro, Rell Battle. Each episode feels like a gentle social studies lesson in being a good human with plenty of laughs.

Chad and I got to see a live comedy set by Jermaine Fowler, and he is hilarious. Jermaine picked on Chad a bit for one of the jokes, and (of course) it made us love the set even more.


5. Young Sheldon on CBS



If you already like Big Bang Theory, then this show about the young, precocious Dr. Sheldon Cooper is a solid bet. Although I wasn't as smart as little Sheldon, I was definitely the odd duck in my family growing up, and I can so relate. All the actors on this show are fabulous, and I especially love Annie Potts as the sassy, meddling Meemaw. (Meemaw translates to grandmother for those of you unfamiliar with Southern vernacular.)


6. Riverdale on The CW



I feel ridiculous for watching this show, because it is so over the top melodramatic, and aimed at kids half my age. I love the lush, moody visuals of Riverdale. This darkly reimagined Archie comics world brought to life delivers sudsy soap opera style story lines. Everyone on the show is gorgeous. I might catch up on a few missed episodes later. It's a guilty-pleasure, for sure.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Manic Hobgoblin: Christmas Edition

I often have an inner monologue running. Most of the time that quiet voice exudes kindness and acceptance. Sometimes that gentle voice helps me focus on a project, or urges me to finish a necessary task. Sometimes that voice reminds me to take a breath before responding. I'm at peace when this voice speaks. My usual inner monologue voice reinforces a highly-curated collection of my best qualities.

Every once in a while, a different voice interrupts. I call this voice Manic Hobgoblin, or MH for short. MH exudes insecurity, never feeling as if anything I do is enough. MH, always wanting more, blows budgets and overextends time commitments and shows zero concern for my personal well-being. MH seemed to be in hibernation for a long time. Today, December 23, MH awoke. MH thinks that one Christmas tree in the house is not enough. MH says I should dig out the second (faux) Christmas tree from the shed and decorate it as a fun Christmas Eve project. MH says it's not enough that Chad and I went to Austin's Trail of Lights at Zilker Park. We MUST also go to Winter Wonderland at Circuit of the Americas. MH thinks I should stay up all night doing the 1000 piece Christmas Santa jigsaw puzzle. MH wants me to get up early and make one last mad-dash to the grocery store tomorrow on Christmas Eve, despite the overstuffed kitchen cabinets and refrigerator. MH also thinks I should hit some post-Christmas sales on December 26. In short, MH has no chill, and Christmas is his time to shine, shine, SHINE!

Manic Hobgoblin, you are crazy, and not at all in a fun way. Stop watching those cruddy commercials during the saccharine-syrup Hallmark movies. Step away from the Pinterest board, MH. Here, look at these pretty pictures from the Trail of Lights. Have a store-bought cookie. Pop open a diet ginger ale. Put your feet up. You're feeling vvvveeeerrrrryyyyy sssssllllllleeeeeepppppyyyyy.















Sssshhhhh. Manic Hobgoblin sleeps again. Let's keep that creature from stirring. Merry Christmas.