First Time Host of Thanksgiving-Most Wonderful Time Of The Year Begins!

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Happy happiest season of all! There will be party for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the rain! There’ll be much mistletoeing and hearts will be glowing when love ones are near! It’s the most wonderful time of the year!”

The holidays are here again! Where has the year gone? This year I decided to host Thanksgiving dinner at my apartment.  I kept telling my family that when I moved out again I wanted to host the next Thanksgiving dinner at my place. Well I got my wish, and I admit it was no easy task to prepare for. I decide to go simple instead of all out feast for a complete newbie.  Here is the menu for my first dinner:

As you can tell, I don’t do turkey. I never had a liking for roast turkey around Thanksgiving or even turkey that was not lunch meat (weird thing really). I never was into green bean casserole either. I think the thought of green beans in anything baked just grosses me out, along with the cranberry salad with jello chunks in it, or maybe it just the fact that my family growing up never did the whole Norman Rockwell American Thanksgiving. I remembered there was roast beef instead of turkey with all the trimmings like you would have a Christmas time during the Victorian era. But there is one tradition I have never understood, waiting in the cold on Thanksgiving day in line to be the first one through the door on Black Friday. Those people are just plain out of their minds!

Ok back to the dinner part. My table setting this year was my Fiesta wear Mom had bought me long ago. Using the two different colors Cobalt Blue and Sunflower Yellow made for a striking dinner scape. Inside the smaller bowl on top of the play setting were red and green M&Ms and two Dove chocolate pieces for each person to enjoy. Nana who is diabetic just was tickled by having chocolate she can indulge in. I’m very happy the whole play setting turned out so well.

Dinner turned out really well for my first attempt at hosting Thanksgiving. I started on preparation the night before in gathering up all the ingredients I needed. The big main event was the ham. A few months back I came across a recipe on Pintrest for Pineapple Crockpot Ham. I had to try this out for myself. I will say it is the easiest recipe I had to do for the dinner. It only has four ingredients: ham, brown sugar, pineapple juice and maple syrup (I substituted the maple syrup for Blue Agave). Oh my! The ham turned out perfect. I would repeat this recipe next year if I am hosting again. The green salad I out did myself. Ever since I can remember my Mom would make these elaborate looking salads by being creative with the veggies. One thing she had taught me is presentation 9/10ths of the points. Does not matter if the dish tastes nasty, as long as it looks good people will eat it. Salad was a hit for everyone, and there was everything in it that people liked. I also tried my hand at making the Olive Garden Salad Dressing. This turned out ok in my opinion, but I could really taste the vinegar in it. I think I will have to figure out how to make it less vinegary and more like the one at Olive Garden. People liked it, was not overly sweet dressing like the ones some people have. I did put a new twist into the dinner! I made cheesy corn cakes! Now I did not follow the recipe to the full extent because I looked at this dish to be a base for everything else and did not need to compete with the ham. The corn cakes turned out great, and were a hit. I will keep in mind to make these in the future for Thanksgiving or any fall celebration. The recipe is a great base for making corn cakes. I spent my summers growing up in Rouge Valley Oregon. This area is the home of Harry and David Fruit Company. As a tradition every Thanksgiving and Christmas Nana brings up two bottles of pear or peach sparkling cider to enjoy with our dinner. This year was no exception.

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After dinner the family and I went for a walk to walk off our ham dinner (also to bring our blood sugar down a bit) before dessert. Was a lovely stroll with the fall sunshine, and seeing other people out and about walking off their turkey dinner.  After a nice walk, we came back and relaxed until it was time for dessert. I setup my Christmas tree and started decorating it with the help of the family. For dessert Mom and Nana made the famous family Apple Crisp. In the past I have made this for a church party and received great reviews. While eating our apple crisp, we did another family tradition, Christmas Crackers. Christmas crackers are an English thing done around Christmas, but the family does them also during Thanksgiving. Real Christmas crackers have the really good stuff inside them, not the cheap plastic stuff. One item out of the crackers is the funny crown hats. Tradition states we must wear ours through the desserts and during the game of Pit.

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Oh Pit! This game becomes very competitive in my family. The point of the game is to collect all the cards for one commodity before the other players do. The more players there are the more chaos there will be in playing. Playing with us is not for the faint at heart.

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My win: rice!

After a few rounds of playing pit, it was time to pack up the leftovers and the family head home for tomorrow where we have to be up bright and early for the Costco Cookbook we get every year. Every year on the day after Thanksgiving Costco hands out a cookbook with recipes compiled using ingredients Costco sells. Mom has to have one every year. So instead of braving the huge crowds at the malls, we brave the crowds at Costco. This time I made out with an external hard drive for all my pictures I take and real Toblerone Swiss chocolate. Not bad!

IMG_0534[1]Now for the most wonderful season of all to begin with snow in the forecast this Monday. I guess the Seattle snow storm has a planned appearance for us all now. Lets see how long it will stick around.

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Oahu’s Windward Coast Vacation Days 12-15 (Last Days)

Day 12: Zip lining & Beach

Zipping through the palm tree tops! Three rides 1,200 ft! At first when I saw how far off the ground I was going to be, I started freaking out. I’m not afraid of heights, but it looked to be very scary. Now that I tried it, I will be doing it again. The morning started off with a down pour for five minutes, then cleared up long enough to take three rides down. The first two rides were with Mom , and then the last one was just me by myself. Once I got through the first one, I was fine to take the last two rides down. It was very short ride, and so I recommend getting at least more than one ride to really experience the zip line. I now can add this to my life experience list and hope to try out the one near home called Wild Life Trex near Seattle. The rest of the day was spent at the beach again just relaxing.

Day 13: Marine Base Crazy & Last minute stuff

Another relaxing day getting last-minute stuff done before we leave for home. Took on last trip to the Marine base to do some last-minute shopping at the Exchange. When I stepped outside the store I saw a new sign that appeared in front of the doors. Apparently the new base commander is trying to keep the unmentionable people from “polluting” the base and disrespecting the military environment. So just imagine the pictures you see on People of Wal-Mart website and you have a good picture of what was posted on this sign. These were the things that are not allowed to be worn when on base. I really could see why the commander is doing this and why he doesn’t like half-naked people walking around base when not in uniform. The whole time I was on base (even Bellows had a dress code in their commons areas) I never say anyone out of uniform looking like a bum.  I just go some Hawaiian theme stuff to take back to Seattle at the Exchange.

Relaxed on base for a bit and started to see Man of Wars washed up on the beach. Remembering there was a full moon when we got to Hawaii and five days later the jelly fishes started to appear, every time we walked the beach we had to make sure to watch where we stepped or else get stung by the blue tentacles. Later that evening we all went out with my cousin one last time to a small local pizza place in Kilua.  The place was busy with locals stopping in to grab a slice of pizza or a whole pizza for dinner. The pizzas are huge at Bob’s Pizzeria, and so a whole pizza can easy be shared with five people. I had two big slices which amounted to four small slices.

Now here is a funny story in a way to share….When we went to drop off my cousin at the Marine base, we did not go through the main gate as we have in the past, but he back gate where the housing is. A huge mistake because when we pulled up and my cousin showed his ID, the guard at the gate wanted everyone’s ID. Apparently there is a huge crack down at night due to a Marine sneaking a prostitute on base a few weeks back and getting caught. Also the guard in a moment of putting his boot in his mouth made it almost clear that he thought Nana, Mom and I were prostitutes! Nana and Mom felt offended, but for me I just though “oh thanks for letting me know I look like one.” As I was stating in above paragraph, the commander of the base is really on a crack down. We did drop my cousin off at his barrack without anymore trouble from the Marine Security Force.

Day 14: Sea Turtles

Our last full day in Hawaii. We did some last-minute shopping again and packed up our bags for our afternoon flight back to Seattle. Walked the beach one last time (ok a few times). While on one of our walks we saw a group of sea turtles swimming along the beach. A half a mile down there is a little cove where the waves are strong and the turtles get stuck in. All three turtles tried their hardest to swim back out to sea, but kept getting swept back into the rocks. At one point one came very close to some kids in the water and freaked them out along with the poor turtle. I believe the three turtles did get out when the waves calmed down a bit.

While packing for the trip home, I realized I had bought a lot of Hawaiian food. Hmm…I think I will need it when friends come over for tea and a Hawaiian short bread macadamia nut cookies.

Day 15: Going Home

Going to the airport was crazy stressful adventure. Why? Because 1) my suitcase all of sudden put on weight, 2) security check point was a mad house and I thought for sure I was going to throw my shoe at TSA (Sea-Tac has it down to a science), 3) USDA inspection line was crazy! Poor Nana had to be patted down because she set off the metal detector and her sleep machine had residue of liquid in it. Really just wanted to get on the plane and get to Seattle without anymore stuff happening. The flight was six hours as usual. The only crazy part was landing in Seattle after a huge windstorm came through. Overall, the six-hour flight went off without much stuff happening. When I left Seattle for Hawaii the temperature was 70 degrees F, when I came back it was 50 degrees F and a storm blowing through. Just shows how much the weather changes within two weeks of being gone. I still look at my phone’s weather app for Bellows to see what the weather is at the moment. I miss the warmth, but Seattle did have a wonderful summer with all the sunny hot weather we had. I can’t complain.

I really enjoyed my two-week adventure on Oahu Hawaii. I will of course return to the islands again in the near future. I think the next island to visit is Kauai or Big Island. I am glad I had the chance to see my cousin while he is stationed at K-Bay, and hope he has a great time while there.  I loved not having to do all the touristy things this time. I really got to see the island from a different perspective. I know now all the main freeways, and know which major highways lead to where. Great to stay somewhere other than Waikiki for a change. I really got to see the beauty of the island without the sky scrapers in the way. I still would love to hike up Diamond Head since I did not get the chance this time. I guess I will be making a return visit again.

Mahalo for reading about my adventure in Hawaii! Hope you enjoy Hawaii really soon.

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Ohau’s Windward Coast Vacation Day# 11 (Punch Bowel & Hawaiian Plantation Village)

_DSC0262_edited-2Now at this point you may have figured out I have some connection to the military. I grew up with its presence in my life, and it has shaped a part of me. I have great respect for the military and those who sacrificed for this country. A few years ago I had the chance to visit the USS Arizona Memorial and USS Missouri with a choir group I was in high school with. This time I wanted to visit one last dedication to the Pacific Fleet.

Eight years ago I visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, “Punch Bowl” with the choir group I was with. I never had the chance to step off the bus and take a closer look at the memorial part, but looked out a tour bus window as it hurried through the cemetery. Now on a stormy gray day in Hawaii, I had the chance to see it without the tinted glass. When we were there, it had a very quiet peaceful stillness that made the whole experience worth while.

From one end to the other, the tile maps detailed all the important campaigns from WWII to Desert Storm. Each representing all branches of the military involved in these key battles. Chapel was filled with flowers dedicated to all those whose grave is only known to God, and a dedication to took place a few hours before we arrived. On the outside walls are the names of those who’s remains were never found, buried overseas, and those who remain missing in action or prisoners of war. Each name represents the cost of freedom and cost of sacrifice one makes for country.

Later that day we headed to the Hawaiian Plantation Village museum. I will admit this, I like anything historical since every car trip with my Granddad resulted in stopping at least one historical marker or attraction along the way. But for some reason I found this place a little boring. I don’t know if it was just the tour guide or I was getting tired of the slow pace of things. This don’t mean I would not recommend it to anyone because I believe it is still a place to visit. To fill you in Hawaii is multicultural identification has its roots in sugar plantations of the early 1800s. Up until the 1960s the sugar plantations of Hawaii thrived (think back to Dole Pineapple Plantations). In the 1800s to the 1960s plantation owners recruited Chinese, Filipinos, Europeans, Puerto Ricans , Native Hawaiians, Japanese, and Koreans into working for the plantations. The museum tour showed the many different distinctive houses each generation of plantation workers and their heritage had. Also showed how each plantation was run depending on what its main crop was. Most of the volunteer tour guides has some background in the sugar plantations. Ours had parents who worked in the fields, and he too had worked for the same sugar plantation as his parents did. He said many generations of plantation workers worked until the closing of sugar plantations in the 1960s. Some had six generations all worked for the same plantation.

 

 

Tita’s Grill- Kahuka, HI

Tita’s Grill

56-485 Kamehameha Hwy
Kahuku, HI 96731

Two years ago my parents came across this little outdoor restaurant on the way up to North Shore. On a return visit I had to visit this place to try for my self. Goodness this food is good! The place is on the corner right across from the Kahuku high school.

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Ok on to the food! Garlic Shrimp Plate ($13.00) is what all the locals rave about, and even  those on Urban Spoon have said this is a must to order, so we ordered one to split. Mom never had that good of shrimp because the shrimp is fresh, fresh from the shrimp ponds up the road. You cannot even get shrimp fresh in Seattle, nor as big,. The shrimps are huge, plump, juicy and the garlic butter was not over powering of the shrimp either. Usually the shrimp in Seattle restaurants have a dry rubbery texture and swimming in liquid which is disgusting to say the least. At the price of the shrimp plate, was worth the amount. In Seattle shrimp cost twice as much for a small-sized plate and small-sized shrimp.

Garlic Shrimp
Garlic Shrimp

The menu had other things than shrimp. I ordered the Teriyaki Beef Plate ($9.50) which had melt in the mouth taste. Most of the “plates” come with macaroni salad and rice. Lots of places in Hawaii serve lunch plates like this. I’m glad it did not come with spam! Nana ordered the Health Shrimp Salad ($9.50) which had the same large shrimp as the garlic shrimp plate. The only thing different is it does not come with mac salad and rice.

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Teriyaki Beef
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Healthy Shrimp Salad

The food items are large portions so splitting between two people is not uncommon. Watch out for the drink proportions because a “small” is like a medium, “medium” is a large, and “large” is an extra-large. I ended up with the small instead of the medium for a drink. After our meal the owner of the place was coming around with fresh pineapple- Dole pineapple. The guy said its great for advertising and to say thank you to all the customers for making it number one place to eat on Trip Adviser ( Urbanspoon rates it as a 90% overall). The pineapple was crisp and cold and perfect ending to our lunch.

2017 Correction: It is a cash only establishment.

Oahu’s Windward Coast Vacation Day #10 (North Shore)

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Day ten was all about our adventure along the north part of Windward Coast and the North Shore. Last time in Hawaii I only got as far as Laie (Polynesian Cultural Center) so naturally I wanted to see the other small surfing towns along the Kamehameha highway.

Our first stop was at the Tropical Farms where they grow some of the famous macadamia nuts. Inside their store, there are tons of macadamia nut products. Any possible flavor roasted with the macadamia nuts can be sampled. The ones I liked were the garlic (theses are very garlicky and if you want to kiss someone, make sure they to had some too.), cinnamon sugar (very sugary), plain roasted, coffee roasted, and jalapeno spiced nuts. Also for the first time I tried the macadamia flavored Kona coffee which is the bomb with macadamia milk! Starbucks cannot compete! I wonder where I can find this coffee in Seattle? I will have to check this out. Tropical Farms is also one of those touristy stops, so I still recommend coming early to have the chance of seeing the farm without the crowds. To bad we did not have the chance to go on the farm tour since we did get there an hour after they opened. But I still had the chance to cracks some nuts! Apparently to crack a macadamia nut the native Hawaiian way you pry open the hard woody nut casing to reveal a lighter colored nut shell. Then using an old tree stump and a good size heavy rock you whack the nut with the rock until the casing splits open to reveal a white fleshy inside-the macadamia nut. The process is close to un-shelling peanuts. I did open my nut with only one whack of the rock, but I did mash the inside a bit.

A mile down the road we stopped at the Kualoa Beach Park in Kualoa to see the small island off the island called Chinaman’s Hat (Mokolii Island). This park affords a great view of the Pacific ocean, Kaneoha Bay, Chinaman’s Hat and the Ko’olau Mountain Range ( setting for lots of movies and TV show back drops). Across the road from the park is the famous Kualoa Ranch where Jurassic Park was filmed.

We stopped for lunch in Kahuka for the famous garlic shrimp plates that are famous in this part of the island. Two years ago while driving up to the North Shore, there was a little shrimp stand that sold plated lunches called Titia’s Grill. Outside this town there are huge shrimp farms where they harvest shrimp for the whole Oahu Island. And really there is no difference between farm grown or wild grown shrimp. I recommend  this place for lunch or dinner and try any of their shrimp plates especially their garlic shrimp!

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As we continued along Kamehameha highway towards Haleiwa we stopped at Sunset Beach. This beach has a little secret. This beach is said to have Sea Turtles coming up on the shore and lay to the beach. To bad this time when we went there were no sea turtles lying on the beach. I would love to say the turtles knew when the tour buses came and so scurried back to the water, but the life guard said most of the time the turtles were either on the beach at sunrise or sunset.  When we pulled into this beach’s parking lot there was not a bus insight. Come out of the bathroom two minutes later, the parking lot looked like chaos! Goes to show how anything in Hawaii can change in a blink of an eye 🙂 .

An hour later we pulled into the town of Haleiwa, the surf capital of the world. The beaches were packed with surfers, snorkelers and paddlers enjoying the surf. The waves were not as much monsters yet because it was still summer, and winter is when the huge waves usually came into play for surfers. Since I was in the North Shore area, I had to try the famous local shaved ice treat. So where did I go? To the famous Matsumoto Grocery Store for the rainbow shaved ice. The picture looks like the shaved ice must be a large, but this is the smallest they had. At this point I figured all things in Hawaii are done big, and never small. This motto suited me just fine. At $2.50 a pop, I thoroughly enjoyed it! Having it run down my legs trying to eat it, and having the stick sweet mess all over my hands brought the child out of me again. Matsumoto is not the only place in town that sells shaved ice, but this place is the most famous and popular spot to try one. As you see from the picture below, there are many different flavors you can order. All those flavor combinations, and do I want ice cream or azuki beans on top of the ice? I will have to come back to find out next time I’m there.

At this point I still was not done with ice anything. Just up the road from Matsumoto is a little ice cream parlor called Scoop of Paradise. Oh man, sorry Dave’s Ice cream, this place has the best ice cream so far on the island. Ice cream here is made from real cream like the Italian ice cream which makes this ice cream creamy and rich. Chocolate Macadamia nut and Pineapple Cheese cake were the flavors I tried together.

A few hours later we all head out-of-town towards Bellows AFS. On our way back I wanted to stop at the Fine Ass Chocolates and Coffee place right off the highway. The famous “Donkey” balls chocolates are sold. Just the name of the place sounded bad ass! I bought some chocolates called “Dirty” balls and “Flaky” balls in dark chocolate. I did try the “Fire” balls which has pepper flakes it the middle. The major hit for the family is the Flaky balls with coconut in the middle.

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