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The forecast is hot and sunny

26 Aug

Dickon on Waikiki Beach

I was asked the favourite place question again the other day.  Rain drops were chasing each other down the window in a race to the sill, the boys were sniffing and nose blowing, and we were all shivering slightly in a not put quite enough clothes on for the weather sort of way.  I gave my it’s hard to choose answer.  Then I looked out of the window, and it came to me.

We spent last winter on the beach.  From November to March we were in Hawaii, New Zealand and Australia.  We swam every week, usually every day.  Sometimes we swam in pools, sometimes rivers or lakes, but mostly we swam in the sea.  Clear, tropical, saltiness, as warm as bathwater.   Sometimes there were big waves to duck under and make us scream, sometimes there were little spotty fish and coral to marvel at through leaky masks, sometimes there were surfers wearing Santa hats.  Always it was warm.  I couldn’t choose just one, but my favourite place was the beach*.


* Disclaimer: I reserve the right to have a different favourite place next week. And the week after that.  And so on.

Man versus food

6 Dec

We’ve not watched much TV, well the children have, but the grown ups haven’t. Partly it’s because we’ve not often had access to a TV in the evenings because the children have been asleep, and partly because we’ve only had the free channels, which aren’t terribly good.

Special mention has to go to two programmes, The Real Housewives of Beverley Hills, which satisfied my I’m a Celebrity longing for a couple of evenings, and Man Versus Food. The latter basically involves a man, can’t remember his name, visiting restaurants around the USA and being challenged to eat gargantuan quantities of food in one sitting. The world’s biggest burger, that kind of thing. Man usually wins. As a format it gets tired pretty quickly, but for keen students of American culture, it has a lot to recommend it.

Today is our last day in America. I made a request that we go out and have a proper American breakfast. Steve chose a restaurant in the less fancy of Waikiki’s two Hiltons because it’s pancakes got a good write up in the Lonely Planet.

We arrived and looked at the menu, $15 for pancakes seemed a bit steep, but we were there and we’re used to sharing our food as portions are so big. Then we noticed the little announcement on the menu, “as seen on Man vs. Food”. We could not have chosen a more fitting venue for our last breakfast.

We just ordered one portion, the Elvis, with bacon, banana and peanut butter. It seemed only right.

Well. Apparently the record for one person to eat a stack of the Hilton’s pancakes is 15 minutes. He didn’t have to pay his bill. There was no way on earth we’d have achieved that. Each pancake was the size of a large pizza. Have you ever tried to eat a pancake the size of a pizza? I can confirm that it’s not easy. We struggled manfully for about 20 minutes with the delicious but ginormous portion, then our friendly waiter offered to box the rest up for us. It was without doubt the most entertaining meal we’ve had in Hawaii, and also the best value. $15 is a steal round these parts. And we’ve still got more than enough for tea.

PS picture above not actual size.


5 Dec

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I’ve posted these for Silent Sunday at Mocha Beanie Mummy beause I like them.


2 Dec

My knowledge of Hawaii before I came here was formed entirely from Elvis films and The Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland.  I had certain expectations of kitschness.  Which so far haven’t been entirely met.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s been lovely, turtles, religious hula chanting, peaceful places of refuge yada yada.  But I was starting to wonder if my mental image of Hawaii really exists or was just a figment.

This week we’re in Waikiki.  A place so like it should be that it might be fictional.  It is wonderfully kitsch.  It’s brash, high-rise, always sunny, palm trees swaying on every corner.  We’ve heard Christmas hula music, watched bronzed surfers strutting along the sea front, debated buying hula Christmas decorations,  sat next to cheerleaders on the bus and seen a proper, non-religious, un-tasteful, hula show.  I’m glad Waikiki really exists.

So, how’s it going?

1 Dec

We’ve been away from home a month today.  It’s gone amazingly quickly, but it also feels like an incredibly long time since we left.

We’ve not enjoyed, but coped very well with long flights and big time changes.  The children have been largely patient with the endless waiting around involved in such things and remarkably accepting of their lives being turned upside down.

We done so many things, some of which I’ve blogged about, many of which I haven’t.  We’ve rarely had a day without seeing or doing something interesting, sometimes planned, sometimes by serendipity.  Not everything has gone our way of course.  We travelled half way around the world to see lava and the pesky lava got all over enthusiastic, meaning we weren’t allowed to feel its heat.  But we’ve also done wonderful things we couldn’t have planned for, like spening the day on the beach with turtles, or watching a rehearsal of geniune Hawaiian hula and having the meaning of the chants explained to us.

The day to day mechanics of travelling have gone suprisingly smoothly so far.  We’ve spent a week each in four different places and are now in our fifth.  Our days seem to follow a routine of waking early, breakfast and some internet, school work, postcard writing time before about 9am.  Most days we’re then out all day, usually returning in time to cook tea.  We’re eating all of our meals together and we’re all in bed quite early, the adults doing more computer stuff, watching TV or reading for a couple of hours after the children are asleep.

Sleep was one of my biggest worries about this trip, but it’s really been OK.  Of course there are days when we’re tired, the boys in particular, but it’s not any worse than after a busy week at home.  Some nights the five of us have all slept together and the children have slept together every night.  Eve and Ned have been sharing double beds and Dickon’s had a variety of makeshift beds and campbeds.  As I type he’s sleeping on a $3.69 inflatable lilo from the ABC Store down the road.  Considering all this, I think they’ve been sleeping pretty well.

Laundry’s been easy so far, with washing machines everywhere we’ve stayed. Our three outfits each have been ample, as long as we wash every couple of days.  Internet’s also been good.  Everywhere we’ve stayed so far has had wifi of a sort.  Some of it very good, some a bit weak and some stolen.  Shhh.  I’ve found it pretty easy to blog, upload photos, make videos and keep in touch with friends and family.

As a family we are getting on well and enjoying each other’s company, the children usually do a great job of entertaining each other.  Of course there’s a bit of grumpiness, arguing and fighting, children and adults, but no more than we’d have at home.  Despite getting on well, I think we’ve all missed friends and family at some  point or another.  We all very much enjoyed the week we spent staying with a family with similar aged children.  It was good to have new people to talk to and lovely to make new friends.

Food has not been a highlight so far.  Hawaii is outrageously expensive, so we’ve mostly eaten turkey sandwiches, rice and pasta.  Plasticy bread from the supermarket is $5 a loaf, I saw a packet of 10 slices of processed cheese for $6.50 and even locally grown pineapples are $5 a pop.  Which I’m pretty sure is more expensive than Waitrose.  I’m looking forward to Asia on the food front.

The school work seems to be going OK.  We’ve not stuck to our plan of doing half an hour every morning, but I think we’ve done quite a lot.  Eve has almost finished her literacy workbook, I’m not sure how much has gone in, so we might have another look at some of it, but she’s certainly getting through it. She’s also been reading a lot and we sporadically do times tables.  I taught her percentages and their relationship to fractions using only American coins and some beer bottle tops, which I was very proud of.  The boys aren’t keen on their workbooks, but seem to have a natural inclination to learn anyway.  They’re always counting things and asking what words mean, so I don’t think they’d suffer if we did no proper work with them. They all enjoy playing maths games on their iPods and using the BBC schools website.

Eve and Ned are now swimming extremely well as long as they wear their snorkels and Dickon has overcome his fear of water.  We’ve been to the beach almost every day and are very appreciative of the wonderful Hawaiian weather, even if the children are sad about missing the English snow.

Hawaii is truly a magical place, and I’m glad we’ve spent our first month on these volcanic islands in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  We’re off to New Zealand next week, which will be a whole new adventure…

Dickon and the chocolate factory

30 Nov

We have been staying in the arse end of nowhere this week, down a dirt track in the jungle. While it has it’s good points, it’s meant a lot of driving. So we’ve started listening to audio books on our many trips up and down the volcano and to and from the capricious lava flow.

We’ve heard all of the BFG and have just started on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The latter generated lots of conversations along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be cool if those trees were made of sugar?” and “Look! That’s just like a giant gobstopper.”

This morning, as part of our Auntie Mabel goes global programme, we decided to visit Big Island Candies, a biscuit shop that according to the trusty Lonely Planet, has a window onto the factory floor. As it’s Sunday, we assumed that the factory would be shut, but at least the shop would be open. And it’s in between the waterfall and the beach, so why not?

As we got out of the car, Dickon said, “I hope they have free samples”.  He wasn’t disappointed.  We opened the doors to be greeted by a sight of Christmassy wondorousness, with sparkly red decorations dangling from the ceiling, trees covered in bows and red and white striped paper chains everywhere.  And a friendly lady handing out samples.  We wandered over to look through the large windows into the factory and were happy to see a small production line of ladies dipping all manner of things in chocolate.  “It’s just like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory!” Dickon gasped, and it really was.  Except the staff weren’t knee high and orange, but other than that…

And then we noticed the samples.  On the shelves, next to each product, was a bowl with samples.  We tried everything, as you do, and there was very little we didn’t like.  Minty brownies, lavender biscuits, shortbread in every guise, macadamia popcorn.  They were all good.

There was a section for products aimed at the many Japanese tourists who visit Hawaii.  These didn’t look quite so appealing, chocolate covered dried squid would be particularly challenging I think.

After trying everything once, Dickon went back for seconds and started emptying bowls, so we left before we were chucked out, but only after buying some minty brownies.

In the car on the way to the beach Dickon said “that is the best place in all of Hawaii.”


26 Nov

I’m behind the wheel of the red Dodge.  The smallest car we could get.  A little ant next to the giant stag beetles of the other American cars.  Are you sure it’ll be big enough asked the rental company employee looking at our children.  Yes, in Europe it’d be considered quite big.

The towering pine forests of the Big Island’s North East coast create a dramatic canyon and it’s a beautiful road.  For once, it’s not so twisty that I can’t appreciate the scenery for fear of skidding at speed down a volanic ravine.

Except.  One of my dozens of mosquito bites suddenly makes itself known.  It’s on the ankle of my non-driving foot.  It’s as if a thousand tickly needles are working on my skin.  I am consumed with an overwhelming urge to scratch it.  But I can’t.  We’re travelling at 55 miles an hour, cars infront and behind.  I can’t reach my ankle without taking my eyes off the road.  The desire to scratch takes up all the space in my brain that is not taken up with driving.  The throbbing, crawling under my skin is torture.  Before long, my other bites start to itch and it’s all I can do to drive safely.  I start to fantasise about a dog sinking it’s teeth into my leg as a means of relieving the itching.

Eventually, twenty long miles later, we arrive and I park the car.  I scratch and scratch and scratch with both hands, eight fingers and two thumbs.  The relief is glorious.  I continue to scratch until it becomes painful, and then I scratch some more.  I’ve never been so happy to feel pain.  I’ve drawn blood,  but I don’t care.  Finally, I’m not itchy anymore. I can think about other things.

Until it all starts again.


One of the prompts for this week’s writing workshop at Sleep is for the Weak was ‘itch’.  It spoke to me.