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.

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

Updated: 12/2017

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.

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zipping along

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me zipping along

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.

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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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Disclaimer: All links are for reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive or am paid for promotion on products mentioned in this post.

Oahu’s Windward Coast Vacation | Day 7 (Valley of The Temple), Day 8 & Day 9

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Update: 12/2017

Confused? Looks as if I made a short trip to Japan when really this temple is in Hawaii. I came across this little known tourist attraction when researching for things to do. The temple is called Byod O-In Temple and it’s a replica of a 10th century Buddhist temple in Uij Japan. This temple is in a Memorial Park/ cemetery where all religions are represented.  For six dollars per a person (CORECTION: The Byodo-In- Temple charges $3.00 per a person now.), you can tour the grounds and take pictures. The settle is very peaceful and looks as if you are up in the mountains in Asia.

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Me ringing for good luck
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Iron Bell of good luck

Ringing the large iron bell at the temple is something to do for Buddhist believe  ring the bell is to cleanses the body, mind, heart and soul of negativity. By one gong of the bell, negativity is swept away for a long a prosperous life ahead. Buddhist use it as a way to bring good luck. Well I wanted some good luck for myself, and so I rang the bell. Black swans are supposed to be keepers of surprises and keep the negativity of spiritual world in check. Plus I have never seen Koi fish as huge as the ones living at the temple. My goodness they are huge!

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Koi and a black swan

Inside the temple is a Buddha shrine where offerings, and incense are burned. The massive Buddha statue in gold leaf dominates the room. This picture doesn’t even begin to describe how ornate the inside of the temple is. Even going bare foot out of respect was not so un natural as it would seem if this place was in a colder environment.

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Buddha shrine

Before lunch we all head back to the Marine Base to pick up some more supplies for the coming week at the Commissary. This time the place was not as much busy as the first time we came. A few months back I came across an article on how civilians are upset at how the military families have lower food prices for groceries. They called it the Ketchup-Gate. Honestly people, I don’t understand the uproar?! Meat prices are maybe dollar cheaper than civilian grocery stores, and that is for select cuts of meat. Just think of it this way, most commissaries are on military bases outside the US is places where there is no standard grocery store, or local food prices are much higher of worse rationed! Most military personnel do not get paid nearly as much as they would in the civilian world. Lower your rank, the less money you make. Also there is a 3% surcharge tacked on to the bill to keep the commissary going. So think of Safeway tacked on a 3-5% surcharge on your bill along with any food tax you had to pay. You would no like that would you?

Nana has this little saying, why not have dessert first. For most of the vacation the justification was to have dessert first, then have whatever else last. On our way back from shopping at the Marine Base, we all stopped in for an ice cream at the famous ice cream shop Dave’s. Dave’s is famous for their had made ice creams, and is ranked one of the best ice cream shops on the island of Oahu. Unfortunately they do not make the passion fruit or pineapple ice cream. But their Coconut Macadamia Nut ice cream was delicious  as ever. As you can see, there is a theme going here. I have found to like coconut and macadamia nuts mixed together in a form of a desert. How this came about is still unknown to me. After a shop for pure sugar, it was time for some surf and sand at Bellows.

IMG_0311Day eight was just relaxing on the beach and resting from a wild night with my cousin the previous night. Later after going to the Valley of the temples, I was taken to Waikiki for a night out on the town. I partied at Rum Fire Bar and danced into the wee hours of the morning at Moose’s Bar. I had to spend some a day recovering from a hang over and realizing even in my mid twenties, I just cannot go too wild anymore.

Day nine we all headed in the afternoon back into Waikiki again for our last chance at anything we wanted to do there. We walked through the Royal Hawaiian Shopping Center to beat the heat. I will tell you this, the beaches in Waikiki are a lot hotter in temperature than the beaches around the island. As soon as I stepped onto the sand, I thought my feet were going to burn through my sandals after walking on a path for a few minutes, I just wanted to find some shade or a cool spot to be in. I do believe with all the concrete and buildings all around, there is more heat being generated, and while the rest of the island is cloudy, Waikiki/ Honolulu is sunny.There is no wind blowing either unless at night.

I did tour through the famous International Village Market Place before it is shut down for good. Apparently by the end of October, all the shops have to move out so developers can tear it down and build a hotel on the spot. Sad to see one of Hawaii’s old attractions being destroyed just so more profitable venture can take its place. I’m very glad to visit this iconic spot while I was here! Just sad (CORRECTION:The old International Village Market Place is no longer after the summer of 2013. As of 2016 a newer version of the International Village Market Place has been completed and the stores are more up scale then what was there before.). I wished I had bought something there just for the novelty, but after going from one store sell Hawaiian wear to another with the same stuff, I just could not being myself to do it. Nana did find something humorous among all the touristy nick nacks.

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Obama License Plate

Then back to Bellows to cool off and relax on the beach again.

Disclaimer: All links mentioned in this post are for further reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive nor am paid for promotion of any products mentioned in this post.

Oahu’s Windward Coast Vacation | Day #4 (Dole Pineapple Plantation & Hawaiian Birth Stones)

Update: 12/2017

The day  started out with a tropical storm blowing in off the Pacific Ocean. Just by looking at how the rain and wind was blowing, you may have thought a hurricane was hitting land. Seeing how stormy the waves looked as they came crashing on the shore was a sight you only read about. Breakfast was Hawaiian sweet bread with passion fruit jam and Dragon fruit sliced. You really get spoiled here in Hawaii with all the fresh fruit. Pineapples in the continental US are not as good as fresh Hawaiian pineapple right off the tree.

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Stormy weather

Originally we had planned to go to the North Shore, but looking at the weather we decided to switch days with another activity. Instead we all went to the Dole Pineapple Plantation in Wahiawa. Getting there was an adventure in itself. I believe the GPS had us going in the direction of the Waikiki instead of Wahiawa. Eventually we arrived at the plantation just as the tour buses were unloading all the tourists for the day. The store was crowed with people going nuts over anything Dole pineapple related. As always when anyone of us from my work group goes somewhere for vacation we bring back something for the group. I bought two small bags of Milk Chocolate Pineapple Crunch ($4.95) for everyone to try ( my group loved it!). I also got two beautiful hair clips (one is for Mom for Christmas), and a lovely picture of Spam Macadamia Nuts. There you have it, Spam is now a flavoring for nuts! Now for those who never had a real Dole pineapple, you need to try one when you are in Hawaii. Reason why is the pineapple is not like the ones you buy in the stores in mainland US. They are a lot sweeter and juicy.

Only in Hawaii can you get pineapple ice cream, and only at the Dole Pineapple Plantation (CORRECTION: Dole Pineapple Whip is now at Disneyland parks and at select Munchies stores. Still try it at the plantation since it is fresh from the plantation fields. Even better have it anytime you are in Hawaii!). So naturally I wanted to try what pineapple ice cream would taste like. Oh my goodness, you have to try it! There are two ways you can have it, one just the soft serve without the pineapple chunks on the side, or the second way with pineapple chucks (Dole Whip). Either way, they are both really good. I ordered the regular without the pineapple chunks ($4.50) and tried my Mom’s which had the pineapple chucks ($4.95).

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Pineapple ice cream

After an ice cream comatose, we toured the garden with all the various pineapple plants from around the world. I never realized there are many different varieties of pineapples, and each have their own destructed characteristics. I guess we are all use to the pineapples that were cultivated by Dole which is the most recognized species of pineapple around the world. While touring the garden there was several geckos (looked like the Geico Gecko, but does not talk with a Australian accent) sitting on some of the leaves enjoying himself. Geckos are all over Hawaii and there was even one sitting in the bushes at Bellows one day.

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Gecko
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Pineapple (Dole)
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Mom and I in a pineapple
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Pink Pineapple

According to the Guinness World Record book, Dole Pineapple Plantation has the largest corn maze in the world back in 2009. This the reason I had to get lost in a corn maze in Hawaii, and live to tell the tale. Plus saying you survived the maze in a tropical rain storm is even better! So Mom, Dad and I decided to do the maze as a family building exercise. The maze costs around $6.00 a person, but I had a coupon for buy one admission get one free. I was the one free since I though up this idea in the first place. Half way through the maze we all three got soaked with rain dumping from the sky. But hey, we are all from Seattle, and the rain was like taking a shower compare to back home. As people were scurrying along to get out of the rain, we all three made our way around the maze looking for the hidden symbols we had to find. The secret to the maze is, going around the outside from one end of the maze to the end, and only sweep inward when you are close to the target. With this strategy we did the maze within forty-five minutes instead of hours.

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My maze scavenger hunt card

Later we jumped back into the car and head a little bit down the road to Kukaniloko (Hawaiian Birth Stones). The site sits back off the road in a farmer’s field on North Wahiuwa Hwy 80 and Whitmore Ave where a small odd road goes off towards a field. If you are not looking for it you will miss the entrance. This place is one of a few sacrate place to the Hawaiians, and the story is when a women gave birth on the stones, her child will have high or royal status in the kingdom. The place is very peaceful place and calmness. There is a little bit of an energy coming off the stone and having sit on one, would make you think maybe my future kid will reach high status. After we viewed the site, I realized the red clay stuck to my sandals are like glue hard glue! Took a lot of elbow grease to scrub off the mud/clay off the sandals.

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Birth stones
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Nana and I sitting on birth stones

On our way to the Dole Plantation we passed through the famous Waiahae Mountain Range on the Kolekole Pass. The area around the pass looks like a scene out of the TV shows Lost, Jurassic Park, and other tropical island shows.

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Pass of no return (j/k)!

That night the full moon made spectacular appearance over the ocean. Looks like the postcard scenes you see with the full moon over Diamond Head.

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Full moon

Disclaimer: All links mentioned in this post are for further reference and are in no way affiliate links. I do not receive nor am paid for promotion of any products mentioned in this post.