Friday, January 29, 2010

Hawaii Trip - Day Ten (10/30/09): Lounging & A Luau

Three months later, I am still blogging about Hawaii.... Just a few more days to go! (It's probably just as well that I never blogged about the Spain trip--who knows how long that would have taken?!) On Friday the 30th, I requested that we have a true vacation day. My rib was still sore, I was kind of tired, and I knew we still had a few big adventures left. So we spent most of the day just hanging around the B&B. Tomkin took a nap after breakfast, and I checked my e-mail and Facebook up at the main house. As usual, we slathered up with suntan lotion. We were determined not to get burned! I got a bunch of food from the refrigerator, and we had a nice little picnic outside the coffee barn. Then Tomkin brought the computer up to the main house and hung out on the lanai for a while. From that spot, there's such a gorgeous view! We walked back over to Keke's for lunch. Even though it's so close, it was a little scary to walk there, since you have to go right along the highway. Once again, I ordered the brisket sandwich (sooooo good!), and this time Tomkin got one, too. The male owner wasn't there, but his wife was. When I sent Tomkin back up to get more BBQ sauce, I saw him chatting with her and then handing her his hat. Her husband had been complimenting him on it when we were there before, so Tomkin thought he should have it. (I thought that was so sweet!) We saw the husband show up a few minutes later, go inside, and then come out with the hat. I thought he was going to cry! We sat and chatted with him for a while (such a nice and interesting guy), and then we headed home. We had a little time to rest before we got ready for our second luau. We left about 4:15 and followed our GPS's directions. Unfortunately, this one time it steered us wrong. It felt like we just kept driving and driving.... We stopped a couple times and asked for directions and then finally arrived at the very secluded Kona Village Resort at 5:00. We got in line, and I was given a beautiful head lei. Even though we didn't arrive early, we still got excellent seats. At the end of our table was a gay couple from New York. They were awesome! Very fun to talk to. And across from us was a young couple on their honeymoon. We all had a mai tai (actually, I had Tomkin's), and then we were led to the nearby "imu" area, where the pig had been roasted in the ground. There was also an oven where turkey and vegetables had been cooking. A woman explained the traditions and cooking process as a bunch of men lifted layers of coverings off the food and placed the meat onto some boards. One thing I noticed as I looked at the crowd was how colorful all the clothes were! Not just grays, blues, blacks, and browns as you often see in Minnesota. We all headed back to our seats, and then we got to go through the buffet to get food. It was amazing! That pork was one of the best meats I've ever had. I also really enjoyed the mashed purple sweet potatoes, the pineapple, and the crab legs. And I tried the poi again, but still didn't care for it. I managed to save room for dessert and coffee, but then I was stuffed. The show started at 7:30. The dancing was impressive and entertaining--and not nearly as cheesey as the previous luau we'd attended. Both Tomkin and I really enjoyed it. The show ended about 8:15, and then Tomkin and I wandered around the resort. It turns out this is where the movie stars stay when they visit the island. The CHEAP rooms are $410 a night, and they go up to $1200 a night. Yikes! But it's a beautiful place--and huge. One highlight of the resort are the petroglyphs on the land. Tomkin and I found them and walked out on the wooden trails around them, but we couldn't see much since it was so dark. We headed back to the B&B for our last night in the coffee barn. Tomkin did a little research into our next few activities, and I worked on packing so we could head out in the morning. That side of the island doesn't get much rain, but it was pouring that evening! Kind of strange. But it was nice to have such a relaxing, low-key day.

Quick Update

Just a quick update about Chloe. She didn't end up having surgery! A few days before we were due to take her in, we decided to schedule a consultation with the surgeon since Chloe seemed to be doing better. The surgeon examined her and said that Chloe probably had a partial ACL tear, but they would prefer to wait until it was fully torn before operating. Since then, Chloe has gotten to the point that you'd never know anything was wrong. We've taken her on a couple walks, and she bounds around the house with her old playful spirit. What a relief! There's still a chance that her ACL will tear, in which case the vets recommend surgery. But now that we've had a little more time to look into things, we're thinking that we would try to either fit her with a leg brace, treat her with meds and physical therapy, or find another alternative to surgery. In addition to being expensive, it's apparently quite traumatic for the animal and has a long healing process. We've had a number of people tell us that we shouldn't do the surgery, but we're still exploring all our options.

In other good news, Chloe and I attended our first North Star Therapy Animals meeting, where Chloe received her official new leash and bandanna! We are going to the Minnesota Veterans Home this Tuesday for a tour and interview and, if all goes well, we'll be volunteering there twice a month. Much of my previous volunteer work has been in nursing homes, and I like the idea of combining that with visiting veterans. My grandfather fought in WWII, and this seems like a nice way of honoring his memory.

Tomkin is starting to get busy with weddings again. He's got one this weekend and another one next weekend. And work is picking up for me as well. I had made a New Year's resolution to have more unscheduled time, and it's been going well so far...but I can already see February and March booking up. I really have to make a concerted effort not to fill all my available time. But I sure appreciate when I have a few free hours to read, work on a project, or just relax with Tomkin and Chloe.

Anyway, now back to my regularly scheduled Hawaii blogging!

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Latest News

Before I return to blogging about Hawaii, I thought I'd interject a short update about what's been happening around these parts more recently. A couple weeks ago, Chloe started limping and whining, and we thought she might have sprained a leg while playing at the dog park. But after a few days, when it seemed to be getting worse rather than better, we decided she needed to go to the vet. So last Tuesday morning, while Tomkin stayed home so the furnace guy could do a yearly checkup, I took Chloe to Grand Avenue Vet (who we love!). After examining Chloe, the vet said she suspected that Chloe had torn her knee ligament and would probably need to have surgery. As she wrote up an estimate for the full diagnosis procedure, I shot Tomkin a text message to update him. He wrote back saying that we needed to get a new furnace and air conditioner, at a cost of about $8,000! Needless to say, we did lots and lots of talking about finances and options. After some phone calls and research, we discovered that we did NOT in fact need a new air conditioner (phew!) and we could get a furnace for about $1,600 after a tax credit and three rebates. So today we had our new furnace installed! Hopefully we won't have to do that again for another 20 years. And, after bringing Chloe back for X rays and a more thorough diagnosis, we have scheduled her knee surgery for this Friday at Veterinary Surgical Specialists in Inver Grove Heights, MN. It'll actually cost more than the furnace, but since Chloe is a healthy dog and we hope she'll live another good three or four years, we figure it's worth it. She's a member of the family, after all, and we've pledged to give her the best care we can. Unfortunately, this means we won't get to start doing therapy dog work for a while--her rehabilitation will run about four to six months. But hopefully by June she'll be good as new. Of course the weather has now warmed up considerably (it's amazing how springlike temperatures in the 20s can feel!), but we're refraining from taking Chloe on any walks. Right now she spends most of her time on the couch. But thankfully she's on some good anti-inflammatory and narcotic drugs, so she doesn't seem to be in any pain.

Also last week, my mom and Dick were out with their dogs, Bosley and Buttons, chatting with some neighbors when all of a sudden two other dogs came running from out of nowhere and started attacking Bosley and Buttons! Mom yanked Buttons (a bichon frise) off the ground, and one of the dogs clenched on to her legs, causing lacerations as his teeth ripped into her skin. Dick bravely threw himself on top of Bosley (a boxer mix), and both of them ended up getting bit. Dick is now on antibiotics for a swollen hand, and Bosley got bit in the chest and might have nerve damage in one of his front legs. Thankfully, the man whose dogs did the attacking apologized profusely and has offered to pay all the applicable bills (already in the hundreds of dollars). Hard to say, though, if there will be any lasting physical or psychological damage.

In happier news, Tomkin and I celebrated Christmas with my dad, Sandy, Phillip, and Alex this past Saturday. We were dog-sitting Watson (a sweet chocolate lab) for the weekend, since his human parents had a baby girl on Friday night (congrats to Roxanne & Jim!), so he and Chloe both came along. We enjoyed a big turkey dinner with all the trimmings (and I made two mousse pies for dessert!), opened gifts, and then sat and visited. It was a really fun day! And both dogs were very good.

Oh, and we booked tickets to visit Jenny and Allison in Portland! We haven't been out to see their new place yet, but we'll finally get to see it (and them!) for a long weekend in April. Very excited about that.

Also, I'm switching to a new program for my premarital counseling services. Last Friday I attended an all-day workshop to get certified in the PREPARE/ENRICH program. I'm really excited about it, and I think it'll be really helpful for couples. I'm not working on any grants right now, but those should be starting up again soon. In the meantime, I'm getting familiarized with PREPARE/ENRICH, working on some other wedding-related projects with Tomkin, spending some wonderful time with friends, and catching up on my to-do list. I hope that all of you are doing well! Take care, and thanks for reading my blog. :-)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Hawaii Trip - Day Nine (10/29/09): Life's a Beach

After another fabulous breakfast at our B&B, we packed up some picnic food and beach gear, lathered up with suntan lotion, and headed to Hapuna Beach. Most of the beaches on the Big Island are made of lava rock, but there are a few actual nice beaches, and this is one of them. In fact, it's often voted Best Beach on the Big Island. It was about an hour's drive north; we arrived about 10:45. It was a gorgeous day, and the sand was soft and lovely. There weren't any shady spots, so we just set up our stuff out in the open. We walked down one side of the half-mile-long beach, toward a hotel. (So romantic!) Then we made our way back to our spot on the beach, settled in, and had some lunch.After some people-watching, we decided to check out the water. I enjoyed bobbing around for a little while, but then the crashing waves and saltwater started to bother me, so I got out. (I have learned not to push it!) Tomkin decided to try body-surfing, so I watched from the shore and took some photos and video. He was amazing! He would fly into a wave and ride it up to shore, with no board whatsoever. It was really fun to watch him. Eventually, a lifeguard came over and posted signs about the dangerous current, so Tomkin decided to get out of the water. We rested on the sand for a while--Tomkin was pretty pooped! Then we walked down the other side of the beach and watched a group of well-seasoned boogie boarders riding the waves. One guy was only using a cafeteria tray! We packed up our stuff and headed back to the B&B. While I took a shower, Tomkin called Fletch to check in and see how things were going at home. (Fletch and Liz house- and dog-sat for us.) Fletch said that the first few days, Chloe kept looking in all the rooms, as though she was looking for us. Eventually she stopped doing that and settled in to life with her new people. I really missed her while we were away, and I felt bad that she had missed us so much, too!

Tomkin and I headed back to Keke's for an early dinner. I got the brisket again, and Tomkin ordered the ribs. That food was SOOOO good! The owner came back out and chatted with us, and he invited Tomkin to join him out in front--said to bring his camera along. Turned out some friends had just caught a wild pig, which they had in the back of their pickup truck, along with their dogs, one of whom had gotten injured during the hunt. (I'll refrain from posting close-up shots of the pig.) A lot of people told us about the wild boars on the island. Some people hunt them with bows and arrows, but other people just use their bare hands. Often they'll have their dogs chase down the pig, and then they'll go up and slit its neck. Kind of gruesome, but I sort of admired their willingness to slaughter their own food like that. (And it's a good way to get a lot of meat for free!)
Tomkin and I left about 3:30 and headed to a nearby spa for our couples massage. We arrived at what looked like an apartment building and stepped out of the car, obviously looking confused. A woman rushed down the stairs from one of the apartment balconies and started talking with us. We said we were looking for the spa, so she told Tomkin to get in the car and follow, and she took my arm, introducing herself as Mimi. I wasn't sure if she worked for the spa or what--turns out she's just a friendly neighbor. As we walked, she told me that she has lived on the Big Island all of her 50 years, and she had been in that apartment for 14 years before she even knew there was a spa next door! She told Tomkin where to park (nothing was well-marked, but that was pretty much the case all over the island), and she led us up the path to the spa. She was so sweet and warm and kind. She even hugged us both before saying good-bye! The woman from the spa welcomed us and led us to the hot tub. The place was absolutely gorgeous! Everything was outside, but it was all landscaped for privacy.
We got to soak in the beautiful hot tub for half an hour. It was so luxurious. But also funny--we saw a mama hen and her chicks run by! One of the spa employees told us to head to the massage room when we were ready. So we walked down the path, where we met Derek and Leila, our massage therapists. They both had a very calming presence. Derek sang a prayer to ask for guidance before they began our 90-minute massages. What a treat that was! Tomkin had originally gone along because it was something I'd wanted to do. He'd never had a professional massage before and wasn't expecting much. And I think he ended up enjoying it even more than I did, which is saying something! The only bad thing about the massage is that the pressure ended up magnifying the pain in my ribcage for the next day or so. But it was still totally worth it. We both felt very peaceful and calm when it was over. We headed back to the Coffee Barn and spent the rest of the evening reading and relaxing, and Tomkin made this video of our time at Hapuna Beach.