Tuesday, October 02, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin Wants to Go to Disneyland

I'm real tired of the news of late. My soul needs a break. I need some joy. And some Halloween fun that is heavy on smiling pumpkins and silly singing spirits.




The Manic Hobgoblin wants to splurge on a trip to Disneyland for the (not so scary) Halloween fun. MH convinced me that we can earn some more Hilton Rewards points by staying at Homewood Suites by Hilton, just a mile away from Disneyland. MH loves reward points programs. MH also found direct flights from Austin to Santa Ana, California on Frontier Airlines for $49 each way. So far, I'm following along with MH.


Haunted Mansion at Disneyland:
way less scary than the prices for Disneyland parks


BUT! Holy guacamole! The park ticket prices for Disneyland are where MH lost my support.

*sigh*

Sorry, Manic Hobgoblin. Nope. We can't go to Disneyland for Halloween.

I'm just going to start this video of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. This will have to suffice for the moment. Also, no more looking at twitter for a few days.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Murakami Exhibit: Worth the 6 Hours of Driving

This past weekend, Chad and I took a short road trip (three hours each way) to the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for an exhibition of Takashi Murakami's artwork titled "The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg". 



Mr. DOB in a more tame sculpture installation.

Aren't they cute? Those are shrunken heads atop their poles.

Caution: may cause seizures and/or too much joy.

This happy mural greets visitors.

A ginormous Mr. DOB parade balloon suspended from the ceiling 30 feet up.



Chad and I loved this exhibition so much! Japanese historical themes of warriors, dragons and monks meet modern manga cartoons meet bright pop-culture iconography. Though some of Murakami's work echoes Sanrio cuteness via a fever dream, much of it is delightfully subversive and best suited to adults. Do you really want to explain the satire of overt sexualization of cartoon characters to your eight-year-old child? I don't. Nor do I want to awaken in the middle of the night to calm them after the nightmare caused by sharp-toothed Hello Kitty type monsters with way too many eyes staring blankly.


The enormous scale of many of the artworks mesmerizes. Just when you think you're done looking at one of the giant, detailed artworks, you see some other image within an image to ogle. Other installations overload your vision with literal wallpaper topped with canvases as a background to a busy sculpture, all with the same design motif. 

The architecture of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth impresses with grand scale, shallow pebble-bottom reflecting pools surrounding the building, an outdoor sculpture garden and an intriguing permanent collection starring the likes of Andy Warhol, Donald Judd and KAWS. I'll definitely make the drive again if a future exhibition catches my attention.

If you live within driving distance of Fort Worth, Texas you can also see the Murakami exhibition through September 16, 2018. *Click here for more info.* This exhibition was originally organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago. Maybe it will travel to other museums. Catch it if you can!

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Manic Hobgoblin: Already Planning Next Vacations

I've mentioned the Manic Hobgoblin who haunts my thoughts sometimes, right? He shouts over the quiet, rational voice that usually narrates my inner monologue. I didn't even finish my Maui blog posts before Manic Hobgoblin (M.H. for short) started planning our next grand excursions. Here are the five places topping M.H.'s travel destination list.

1. Scotland (focusing on Edinburgh)



2. Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland




3. Niagara Falls




4.  Pacific Northwest Road Trip



5. Budapest




BUT FIRST:

Chad and I need to visit my grandmother for her 90th birthday in August in Arkansas.

We need to visit Chad's family in the Atlanta area in the fall.

We need to visit my family in the Raleigh area.

I've tried (in vain) to reassure M.H. that after all these family trips, Chad and I will start saving up enough money and "Paid Time Off" for one of M.H.'s adventures. M.H. is not pleased by this timeline. He has hijacked my MacBook and started researching already. Yet again, M.H. proves he has no chill.

Sometimes I kind of hate the Manic Hobgoblin.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Conclusion/Reflection




I highly recommend the Westin Maui Resort! The resort is gorgeous and conveniently located.The adults-only pool really is adults-only. There are five pools, so plenty of family-friendly pools too. I loved that we could rent snorkel gear and walk down the beach to amazing snorkeling at Black Rock. I loved that Westin Maui offers onsite restaurants, is a five-minute walk to Whalers Village restaurants and offers the free shuttle to Lahaina attractions.

I'm glad we didn't rent a car on Maui. Between the Westin shuttle bus, Lyft and guided tour pickups, we didn't need our own car. Consider when renting a car not just the car rental cost, but also the $30 per night parking cost at most resorts on Maui. Gasoline also costs a lot more on Maui.

I kind of wish we'd done Hike Maui's Hana Hiking Trip instead of the Road to Hana van tour. I'd love to see even more bamboo forests and even more waterfalls close-up, but we really enjoyed the Road to Hana van tour with all of its stops. Above all, I'm really glad we didn't try to drive the Road to Hana ourselves.

I wish I'd made reservations ahead of time for restaurants at Whalers Village (especially Monkeypod), instead of being surprised by the long lines & waits at dinner time. The outrageously long lines at dinner time meant that we ended up eating from the burrito stand one night. The food was fine, but scurrying back to our hotel room to sit on the floor and eat was not glamorous. We do that (eat takeout on the floor) at home. I want a little more from vacation.

Chad took a surfing lesson that he enjoyed. I wish I'd gone to watch (and take video).

AdventureMaui.com made planning and booking our tours, hikes and surf lessons so easy. I highly recommend AdventureMaui.com !

I'm sorry that the United States of America basically subjugated Hawaii into statehood which many Hawaiian people didn't want. If you go to any Hawaiian island, be prepared to be reminded of this history. It's uncomfortable, but deal.

Like many popular tourist destinations, I sensed an undercurrent of resentment towards tourists from some locals. I'm sure it's rough to depend on tourism for the economy, but also to be real tired of tourists. I get cranky about the crowds in Austin during the numerous festivals such as Austin City Limits Music Fest, South By Southwest (SXSW) eighteen-day everything festival and Bozo Fest*.

Maui feels a lot like an idyllic paradise, and is priced accordingly. Be prepared. Everything (food, hotels, tours, activities, clothing) is much more expensive than on the mainland.

I'm so thankful for our Maui experiences. That said, the air travel time of eight hours in cramped economy class and the financial costs of a Maui vacation make this a once-in-a-lifetime trip for us. There are so many other places on this glorious planet that Chad and I want to see!








*Bozo Fest is not a real festival in Austin. It just feels like that sometimes with all the street closures and crowds.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Hiking Haleakala on Maui (& Trying Not to Pass Out)


First trail at Haleakala where some green stuff grows up in the clouds.


Maui boasts a dormant volcano crater at Haleakala National Park. The tallest peak of Haleakala tops at 10,023 feet elevation. Chad and I hiked two trails at Haleakala for a total of four miles. During our hikes at Haleakala we stood at eye level with clouds. The air is very thin and cold at that height, but the sun can burn your skin quickly. It felt a little difficult to catch our breath, both from the hiking exertion and the thin air. From the summit of Haleakala, we looked down through the clouds into a massive depression/crater 7 miles across, 3 miles wide, and nearly half a mile deep. The surrounding walls of the volcanic crater are steep and the interior mostly barren-looking with a scattering of volcanic cones. The ground is made of red and black sand, which is actually volcanic ash. The views are breathtaking and otherworldly. Chad and I felt very small in such a big, open, barren space. It was fairly difficult to hike on the steep, sand-like ground at the peak elevation in the thin air, but we did it! 

A person could rent a car, drive to Haleakala National Park and hike trails on their own, but Chad and I appreciated that Hike Maui picked us up at our resort, drove the winding roads, provided: lots of snacks, lunch, sturdy rain/windbreaker jackets, backpacks and a friendly, knowledgeable tour guide. Our Hike Maui guide, George, gently reminded us to drink plenty of water, handed out lots of snacks to fuel our journey, reminded us to reapply sunscreen often and pointed out native flora and fauna. 



Second trail in the barren crater area up in the clouds at 10,000 feet elevation.

I appreciated this experience with its amazing views. We were physically exhausted at the end of the day. My semi-shameful confession: if I had known how difficult the hiking would be at that elevation, I might have been tempted to just enjoy the observation deck and the sweeping vistas from the edge of the parking areas. Please feel free to do the lazy observer option if you go to Haleakala. Or be a badass and do the hiking. 

If you choose to do the hiking:
Wear good hiking boots with ankle support.
Apply sunscreen and reapply often. The sun at that altitude is no joke.
It can get cold, windy and rainy at Haleakala. Wear layers of water-resistant clothing.
Hydrate and eat plenty, so you don't get altitude sickness. Forget the diet on this day, because you need fuel.
If you go with Hike Maui, let them know ahead of time if you're vegetarian. They'll happily accommodate you with a Gardenburger sandwich at lunch. 




Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Five Best Meals on Maui

Dear Foodies,

Don't get too excited about this list, because:

I'm a vegetarian. (I love animals. No, they are not delicious. Don't get me started. You'll regret it. I promise.)

I sometimes care just as much, or more, about the decor and ambiance of a restaurant as I care about the food. (Food trucks should have cute outdoor dining areas, or better yet, be a stepping stone to a cute brick & mortar restaurant. With air-conditioning. And comfortable seating.)

I eat food, but I'm not a Foodie. It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish.

I'm allergic to peanuts. (I love peanuts, but not so much as to withstand the swollen lips and full-body rash that my peanut allergy induces.)

I am soy sensitive. (Tummy trouble: enough said.)

I hate wine. I'm real picky about mixed drinks and beer. I'm generally a light-weight about the alcohol beverages with a strong aversion to hangovers.

Even on vacation, Chad and I aren't gluttons. We're both just a little too body-conscious. I would love to be the kind of person who could enjoy more calories and flavors and alcohol, but I'm not.

You've been warned Foodies. Here are my top five favorite meals during my recent trip to Maui.


1. Monkeypod Kitchen (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)


The space at Monkeypod Kitchen is gorgeous. One wall features huge windows with views of the pretty beach. The seats and banquettes are upholstered in Schumacher's Chiang Mai Dragon fabric. The glass back wall of the bar encases antique glass fisherman's floats with light bouncing around beautifully. The vibe here is relaxed like, sure, wear your flip-flops and swimsuit cover-up, but also lush and lovely with attention to design.

Remember just now when I said, "It's rare for me to rhapsodize about a dish, so when I do, it's a very special dish."? Get ready, I'm about to rhapsodize about a dish! I had the most amazing gnocchi with mushrooms and kale dish at Monkeypod Kitchen. I ate all but one bite that I very grudgingly shared with Chad. Monkeypod Kitchen also serves lovely, delicious cocktails and pies. I loved this place so much! If you go to Maui, eat here often, and report back to me.


2. Choice Health Bar (at Whalers Village, Ka'anapali)


Chad and I were so beyond tired and hungry one evening in Maui after a rigorous day of hiking. Chad volunteered to scamper over to Whaler's Village and pick up dinner from the Choice Health Bar. We both loved our hearty kale salads and amazing vegan smoothies. Everything here is delicious and surprisingly satisfying. This place serves healthy food with an emphasis on yummy. I wish we had made the time to dine at sit-down restaurant down the road in Lahaina, but the Whaler's Village pickup location was super-convenient to our hotel.


3. Maui Brewing Company (Lahaina at Kahana Gateway Center)



Beer is "liquid sunshine" according to Ruby, our friendly Lyft driver who drove us to and from Maui Brewing Company's restaurant. Chad and I shared a sampler flight of four beers. My favorite beer was the Bikini Blonde Lager, closely followed by the Pineapple Mana Wheat. We shared an order of Tots Dynamite: tater tots with beer cheese sauce, jalapeno, green onion, kimchi aioli, caramelized onion and garlic crema.  We could have stopped there with the food due to the generous portions, but we had already foolishly ordered entrees. Oops. I had exactly three bites of a deliciously hefty Veggie Burger before boxing it to go. Maui Brewing Company gets philanthropy points for donating half the profits from veggie burger sales to the Maui Humane Society! Chad had the veggie Teriyaki rice bowl, sharing two bites with me. Packed with veggies, the rice bowl was tasty and filling.


4. Lahaina Pizza Company



This deep-dish pizza packs a well-prepared punch. Yum! Chad and I each ordered the lunch special of a small house salad and a personal size pizza. We were pleasantly full after our meal; versus lie on the floor and don't breathe too deeply full. Lahaina Pizza Company has many local beers on tap and serves tempting cocktails. We enjoyed the tropical iced tea, instead of a cocktail, because we're no fun. The tea was refreshing with fruity overtones. This was one of the best value meals on Maui, with the added super-bonus of a million dollar view from this second floor restaurant overlooking the beachfront.


5. Frida's Beach House



Frida's Mexican Beach House Restaurant Commercial from Sascha Bauml on Vimeo.

Again with the amazing views, Maui! And, yeah, we ate Mexican food in Maui. We're from Austin. We need fresh salsa, tortilla chips and beans at least once a week! I appreciated the Chile Relleno and a house margarita on the rocks mucho. This meal was on the expensive side, but worth it.

Check back for more from Maui soon.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part Three




About a year ago when I started planning our trip to the Hawaiian Islands, Chad and I weren't sure which island/islands to visit. I bought a copy of Fodor's Travel Essential Hawaii from Book People. I asked every friend who I knew had traveled to the Hawaiian Islands. I read tripadvisor reviews. I watched youtube travel videos. I also made an honest wishlist for our vacation. Chad and I didn't need nightlife. We didn't want a "city" experience. We don't golf or play tennis. We wanted hiking, rain forests, beaches with wade-in snorkeling and a relaxing vibe. I am a bit scared of active volcanoes, but totally comfortable with a dormant volcano. All of my interviews with friends, reading the guide book, watching youtube traveler videos, reading reviews on tripadvisor.com and reviewing our wish list helped me decide on Maui, and only Maui, for our week-long Hawaiian vacation. Chad and I were both really pleased with our choice. 




Tuesday = Snorkeling Day!

One of the reasons I chose the Westin Maui Resort was its proximity to Black Rock Kaanapali. Black Rock is a prominent rocky peninsula on the North end of Kaanapali Beach. The rock outcropping makes for calmer waves nearby. Chad and I rented snorkel gear from the beachfront towel shack at Westin Maui, easy-peasy. I am not a strong swimmer, so I rented a floaty belt. I looked ridiculous. Better safe than sorry! We strolled about seven minutes down the beach, found a spot to park our towels on the beach at Black Rock and waded into the crystal clear waters. No boat needed! (Fun fact: All of Hawaii's beaches are public, even those in front of exclusive resorts. Hawaii state law requires all resorts and hotels to offer public right-of-way access to the beach, along with public parking. Yay!)

The farther we got from the shore, the less crowded it was. That said, we were careful to pop our heads up every few minutes to stay aware of our surroundings and kept tabs on each other. We reveled in the clear water and the variety of tropical fish we could see. I saw lots of other snorkelers using GoPro waterproof cameras on selfie sticks or on headbands. For a second I envied the GoPro users, but then I remembered to just enjoy the snorkeling. Chad and I saw so many beautiful fish including: butterfly fish, needlefish, parrotfish, surgeonfish, boxfish, damselfish, Moorish idol, goatfish and big marine turtles. A big turtle swam right past me while snorkeling. I tried to be respectful of the turtle's space. These are endangered species. It is against the law to "pet" them, bother them, touch them or chase them. The turtle swam closer to me as an official looking person in a uniform on the shore yelled at everyone to stay at least ten feet away from the turtle. I backed away from the turtle as best as I could in my flippers. I hope the turtle wasn't offended. 

*Click each fish name for links that have photos.*


Here's a lovely GoPro video of snorkeling at Black Rock. Thanks to Jim Sheaffer for sharing!



More from Maui soon, including top 5 meals, hiking at Haleakala and exploring the resort.


Monday, May 28, 2018

Maui = Amazing, Part Two

A bit of history: Before Hawaii became the fiftieth state of the United States of America in 1959, Hawaii was a sovereign nation recognized by the United Nations. The monarchy of Hawaii was overthrown by resident European and American capitalists in 1893. Hawaii was an independent republic until 1898 when it officially became a territory of the United States. The Iolani Palace in Honolulu served as the capitol of the Republic of Hawaii. The Iolani Palace featured electricity, indoor plumbing and working elevators before the White House in mainland United States of America did.

Thanks to wikipedia and the television show Adam Ruins Everything, I had a basic understanding that not all the history of Hawaii was rainbows, beaches and palm trees. There were also plagues brought by germy explorers, stolen land, wrongful subjugation, squashing of native traditions and other shameful stuff most people don't like to think about while on a tropical vacation.



Our tour bus driver on the Road to Hana delivered a heavy-handed sermon on these historical misdeeds and traced his native Hawaiian bloodline, all before we stopped for breakfast. Our tour group consisted of Chad and me from Austin, another couple from some other part of Texas and seven African-American (this is relevant, I swear) senior citizens from Chicago who were all acquainted with each other. Our tour bus driver went on to state as part of his history lecture that Barack Obama was not legally president of the United States of America, because he was born in Hawaii which should still be recognized as an independent nation. This statement was met with stony silence from every person on the bus (besides the driver) and a few dropped jaws.

Later our tour guide/driver relayed a story about chickens on Maui getting loose during a hurricane, explaining the feral chicken population. He said, "Like Malcolm X, these chickens were saying, 'Free at last, free at last. Thank God, we're free at last." (Nope. That is a loose quotation taken completely out of context from a speech by Martin Luther King Jr.) After a beat, one of the ladies from Chicago said, "That's okay. He doesn't know our history. He knows his own history." I appreciate that Carol from Chicago said this, and diffused an awkward and offensive moment.

Assuming you don't get the same tour guide driver we endured, I highly recommend taking a guided tour with a professional driver of the Road to Hana. The Road to Hana features 617 curves, 54 one lane bridges, tropical rainforests, bamboo jungles, black sand beaches with lava tubes, waterfalls, cliffs and tropical streams with pools. We enjoyed the breathtaking scenery while a local, professional navigated the crazy curves and one lane bridges. Our tour stopped at a beach with lava rock outcroppings, a famous black sand beach, Oheo Gulch (a.k.a. Seven Sacred Pools), a lovely local farm to market stand, Wailua Falls, Charles Lindberg's gravesite and another farm to market stand in the rolling hills of the dry side of Maui. The Road to Hana tour allowed us to see an amazing diversity of Maui landscapes and climates. The day we went was drizzly, but the day before we went had heavy rains complete with rockslides. Thankfully we weren't impeded by rockslides, but were treated to rushing waterfalls.

Keanae Peninsula


Keanae Peninsula


Black Sand Beach



The beautiful flowers hanging in those trees are bright turquoise


Baby pineapple plants

Oheo Gulch (a.k.a. Seven Sacred Pools) raging waters

A tall, raging waterfall & some ladies' heads

Maui's version of the Grand Canyon


Due to a brief stop to let road construction clear and traffic on the way back to our resort, our Road to Hana tour took just under thirteen hours. We loved the amazing views on Road to Hana! My photos from that cloudy, drizzly day don't do it justice. In retrospect, I even appreciate the history lesson from our tour guide. But, for real, he should work on his heavy delivery, and consider his audience with a bit more care and thoughtfulness. 

More from gorgeous Maui soon. (So. Much. More.)

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