16th For an Evening

Turning 30 is a big deal. Especially if you’re a woman. My friend Ariele’s long time friend from college and former weed buddy turned 30 yesterday. To celebrate she invited all her long-term friends from various stages in her life, many of whom had never met before, to Dream Downtown hotel on 16th and 8th.

Very cool hotel. Apparently the new happening place as well. The room was awesome! Appeared as if in a world of bubbles, fresh, clean and white, with rounded windows and bursts of red.

Our room was similar, but with two full beds. http://www.pretentious.eu/node/282

The lounge in the lobby is the main attraction. With huge burly bouncers who select only the best to enter. They are incredibly picky, choosing only those with beautiful smiles and crisp appearance.

The night began with pre-gaming in the hotel room. Vodka and lots of it. Then the champagne was popped. The crowd was interesting, from various walks of life and even different cities. A New Jersey native, who grew up not far from me and is currently living in Miami working for a private equity firm, started a conversation with me about dogs. Her’s is adorable and she fell in love with mine. No one can resist Darby’s sweet eyes.

After lots of chatter and a few pictures, we headed downstairs to attempt the dreaded feat of getting past the bouncers. We all looked amazing, great crowd, but the bouncer spotted one among us, one of the guys, that he would not let in. The rest of us could go, but not him. Not wanting to abandon a fellow friend, the birthday girl decided to hang out in the hotel room a bit longer till the next bouncer showed up and we’d try with him. Success.

At this point our crowd had doubled, but alas it was getting late and Ariele had a dental convention early in the morning. We called it a night and both headed home, but only after stopping at the nearest pizza parlor for some drunk munchies.

Starting a Small Business

My cousin Nicole and I went out to lunch at the Twisted Elm in Elmwood Park, NJ. She works there on weekends as a server.

The food was phenomenal. We split a spicy garlic shrimp appetizer, white clam pizza and lobster grilled cheese. Not exactly on either of our diets as we’re both trying to remain predominantly vegan, but it’s the day after Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving went very well for me. I stuck to the salad, green beans, sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce. I did have a piece of chocolate cream pie which does contain dairy, but again, it’s once a year, right?

In regards to the title for this post, over lunch, my cousin and I discussed our interests in the small business world and as we’re both quite busy doing other things (school and work) we don’t have the time to dedicate to opening a legitimate store-front business. Yet we still  have a strong interest in doing something for ourselves. After mentioning my interest in eventually opening a doggy day care with a doggy gourmet bakery, Nicole jumped on the idea of just selling dog treats.

Lightbulb.

We began to discuss the options. As this occurred only 3 hours ago, no decisions have been made, but we have decided to move forward with creating a small online business with holistic, all natural dog treats. Clients would be online orders, local pet stores, and we could also sell at craft fairs.

I love new ideas and I love getting into new things. We’ve begun the research in regards to zoning, licensing and legal issues as well as recipes. I’m really looking forward to putting this into action this week.

Hawaiian Adventures Day 7-8

Wednesday, November 2nd 

This was our last day in the hotel Hale Koa. We had no reservations for that evening or the next. The sense of freedom provided by this kind of last-minute planning is fun and exhilarating; however, I am accustomed to going to places you need to book months in advance. The plan was to catch a flight to the big island (Hawaii) and stay for two nights in the military camp on the volcano. I had to quell my fears of not getting a flight and being unable to find a hotel and what to do with all the luggage… I hushed my mind into silence and told Kyle, “my faith is in you.” I just relaxed and let him deal with it. Definitely more his style to play things loose and free.

We woke up early to check out this cute cafe Kyle found by the University, The Tea Farm Cafe. Great place with a huge selection of teas, desserts and quick lunches. The conversation revolved around small business integrity, expansions and perversions of any type of heart and soul by expanding and selling out to corporate enterprises. Kyle is a business man. He sees a small privately owned cafe such as this as an opportunity to buy, incorporate, maintain that small, local feel without anything actually being small or local, then sell for a profit. While I am all for capitalism and free markets, if I were to purchase or open a cafe such as this I would incorporate a strong local farmer, locally grown and locally sourced presence. I fully believe in the integrity of small business and would treat it as my baby, protecting it from the negative energy of big, out of control companies, and only expanding to the point where I can still control everything.

I would love to open a small cafe or juice bar. Something manageable in an area with enough local flare to do a fair business. The restaurant world is tough to manage a profit without selling out to someone, plus it has become incredibly difficult to attain the amount of money required for such a venture. Maybe one day.

After a brunch of caesar salad, chicken pesto sandwich, green tea tart, and an almond tart, we said farewell to the mustang and headed back to the hotel to pack. We were extraordinarily late for check-out, but managed to sneak by without any fees or nonsense from the staff and headed straight to the pool to down the remaining alcohol from the mini fridge. There was almost an entire bottle of tequila and a bunch of spiced rum left over.

This quickly disappeared.

We grabbed some appetizers at the bar to hold us over for the evening (drunk munchies) before heading upstairs to catch the shuttle for the airport. For about $360, a price I thought a little steep, we were able to get round-trip tickets to the big island for that evening. Kyle was still working on some tequila and orange concoction up until the security checkpoint at the airport. He was very chatty with the guards.

The flight to the big island passed quickly. We were drunk, giggling and just having a good time. Kyle kept trying to sneak me to a more secluded seat so we could fool around, but it was such a small plane there was no way to manage… basically I chickened out.

Touchdown on the big island around 8pm. At this point Kyle had sobered up and we rented a car and took the 40 minute drive to the military camp in the pitch black.

For a military camp in the middle of a national park, this place was nice. We had a hot tub. With jets. Apparently this was once an internment camp. They’ve certainly spruced it up since then. It didn’t take us long to settle in, cuddle up and watch a few minutes of television before passing out in each others arms.

Thursday, November 3rd

With nothing reserved for the day and no idea what to do, we rose early to try to figure things out and potentially catch an 8:20am tour bus around the Hawaiian Volcanos National Park. Our first stop was the activities booth at the military camp. After making friends with the woman in charge, we headed out with a handful of brochures of the best places to go and a map marked up with all the good stops to see craters and black sand beaches. We grabbed a quick breakfast at the camp and started making phone calls to helicopter tours trying to snag a seat for that morning or afternoon. We ended up getting a 2pm take off with Blue Hawaii Helicopter Tours.

The morning was spent cruising around the national part in our red Ford Focus rental, stopping at all the little Xs on the map. Our first stop along Crater Drive was a short hike through the jungle and into underground caverns carved out of the earth by the volcanic action of the island. Across the street was another path edging along the top of a cliff looking down into a massive crater with a path running directly through it dodging steam vents.

Crater Drive twisted and turned through lush jungle and barren charcoal landscapes. We stopped at most of the craters along the way. None compared to the magnitude of the first crater (pictured above).

Crater Drive continues through the national park until it reaches the beach where it comes to an abrupt halt. The drive was incredible, twisting roads and gorgeous scenery with the smell of the sea and the volcanic gases in the air. Parts of the land looked ravaged by recent lava flows whereas others were lush and green.

As we made it closer to the ocean, the terrain leveled off and the most amusing sign of a man running into a wave welcomed us and warned us of potential for getting swallowed up by a tsunami.

The presence of the sea was overwhelming. White water licked the coast line in a display of power only mother nature could conjure. Many moments passed, enjoying the spray of the sea, the fresh salty air, and being careful not to get too close to the edge.

The drive back was just as pleasant. We were both quiet, admiring the surroundings and silently contemplating the incoming mass of gray clouds.

We drove back to the entrance of the park and began the 45 minute journey to the airport. The clouds grey darker and soon a light drizzle began to speckle the windshield. About 10 seconds later the heavens opened up and pelted the car with big, heavy raindrops, soaking the surroundings and blurring our vision. We slowly made our way to the airport, stopping briefly for a quick-lunch. I let Kyle drive from there. The rain was blinding.

Upon arrival, the rain abated to a sprinkle and then not at all. We began to get prepped for the flight, safety instructions, gear, where we were going to go… Then they received a call from the pilot canceling the ride due to the incremental weather.

Disappointment.

This was something Kyle was really looking forward to, and I as well, being I’ve never been in a helicopter before. He was frustrated and dismayed. We tried to re-book for the following morning. Their only available was a 10am flight, but we can a 10:30 flight booked with Hawaiian Air back to Oahu. We booked it and hustled over to Hawaiian Air to try to make our flight later. It would cost an extra $200 between a higher fare and fees this on top of the $400 for the helicopter was simply too much. As we were walking back to cancel the flight, disheartened as we accepted it was not meant to be, we passed Paradise Helicopter Tours, another place we had called that  morning. Kyle asked about the afternoon, all booked or canceled. We began to walk away when I asked about the following morning. There was a 7:10am flight with two spots open. And it was open air. Snagged it. Weather was still a nuisance, but this was a second chance.

We spent the rest of the afternoon getting some essentials at Wal-Mart (my least favorite store) and grabbing dinner. The sun was still up when we made it back to the camp. There was a gorgeous full rainbow painted across the sky. Both ends were visible. It was gorgeous. We took a break for a while, wrestled a bit, and then headed out to see the Caldera glow of Kilauea.

The night came to a close with a steaming bath in the hot tub.

Today’s Eats

After Hawaii, I have been progressively shifting back towards the vegan, high raw diet. It has been a slow transition mainly as I have been too busy to go grocery shopping and heavily relying on the food my mother brings home and cooks for dinner, normally healthy, but far from vegan.

Today was a fantastic day.

For breakfast I made banana chia pudding and had half a grapefruit.

Banana Chia Pudding

– One ripe banana

– About 1/4 cup chia seeds (I eyeball it)

– About half a cup of coconut milk / nut milk

– Teaspoon of vanilla extract

– Dash of cinnamon

– Honey (optional)

I put all the ingredients in a bowl, mash it all together with a fork and allow to sit on the counter or in the fridge for 15-20 minutes. This allows the chia to absorb the liquid and swell. You may need more milk. I sprinkled with a few goji berries Yum!

For lunch I made a curry salad lettuce wraps.

Curry Salad

– Half an apple

– 1 stalk of celery

–  1 mini cucumber

– 1/4 sweet onion

– 1/4 cup raisins

– Tablespoon of raw pepitas

– Salt, pepper and curry powder to taste

Dice all the ingredients very small. It makes the meal much more enjoyable. I made little lettuce wraps with the salad and romaine leaves. Very tasty and very filling. I also added a tiny bit of tahini to the salad to make it stick together a bit. No more than a teaspoon. I enjoyed this with a large mug of hot yerba mate.

For Dinner, I ran out of fun ideas and didn’t have a lot of time or food, so I ended up making a bit more salad with lettuce wraps, same spices and everything. It was just so good the first time around I needed to do a repeat. I had the other half of the grapefruit for dessert. Then, naughty me, toasted a piece of rye bread with Earth Balance fake butter. It is hydrogenated oil free, but still not the best choice. Overall, a great day. Goodnight!

Hawaiian Adventures Day 6

Tuesday, November 1st 

Today was busy. But not in a bad way. The chill island vibe was ever-present, just a long list of activities took us from sunrise to sunset.

We rose early, hopped in the mustang with some snacks and headed off to the eastern shores of Oahu to Kahana Bay Beach Park for a two-hour kayak and snorkeling excursion. The drive was incredible. Cruising along the same highways as the previous day but with a slight drizzle in the air. As long as we drove fast enough, the water never touched us.

Upon arrival, the parking lot was dotted with Moa chicks, native wild chickens, adorable little birds with various markings, some white some speckled brown. They hustled out-of-the-way as we pulled up.

Our host, a lovely young man who was very informative throughout the entire trip (he even  brought water bottles and snacks, you can’t beat that), helped set us up with life jackets and snorkel gear. Two other couples arrived, one from the UK and the other somewhere in the states. We walked down to the cove and spotted three tandem kayaks. Kyle and I desired singles as we are both a bit independent and headstrong. I started laughing. There was going to be trouble; nothing harmful, just some playful competition.

We shoved off and headed into a strong wind and current pushing against us. The first part of the trip was a kayak across the bay to Coconut Island. This is where “Gilligan’s Island” was filmed and it also played host to a bunch of celebrities, politicians and wealthy people before becoming part of the university’s biology program. The kayak across seemed to take forever! It was fun, but a tough paddle. Kyle and I managed to get there without too much difficulty. We were the first couple to make it, of course, but not without some splashing and poking fun at my inability to maintain any sense of rhythm.

The island was beautiful, lush and green surrounded by clear waters, white sand and colorful reefs. Kyle and I were both first timers at snorkeling. He jumped right in no problem. I stared at the water for a moment contemplating the best way to get in without my flippers causing a commotion. I opted for a gentle tumble off the side and immediately started breathing.

Peculiar. The sensation was uncomfortable at first, strange pressure against the face and breathing in and out of your mouth with a hyper awareness of your surroundings, but AWESOME. Getting this close to the fish and coral was incredible. The abundance was astounding. There were fish everywhere, of all different colors and sizes. We saw a bunch of brightly colored angel fish, a porcupine fish, as well as some larger silvery fish. There were an incredible amount of sea cucumber. At the time I was unaware of what they were and could not help but see the resemblance between tapeworms. I steered clear.

Diving into the deeper depths to peek into the crevices under the coral, I spotted a gorgeous sea turtle. I caught a few photographs with an underwater disposable (I’ll post the photos when I get them developed). Kyle and I swam along the edges of the coral before heading over to the shallower regions. He, scared of having his pecker bitten off by an eel, followed me bravely over bits of deeper coral as we neared the shore. Without realizing I turned and started to head over some very shallow coral. I did not hit anything, but Kyle did not dare follow me. The masks play tricks on you. The coral appears much much closer than it actually is. Kyle did not dare follow me and it was awfully amusing watching him attempt to find a way back that was deep enough for his comfort levels.

We headed back up to the boats and over to another location. This was much deeper and less secluded. It was a round area in the middle of the bay that sunk down like an underwater crater. The walls were coral and the bottom was a bit too far down to visit, but it was mainly sand with scattered coral. Here the currents were stronger, water cooler, and fish larger. There were still many tiny brightly colored fish hidden along the coral.

Back into our bright yellow kayak, we started to head back to the cove. With the wind and the current at our backs the trip is easy-going; we downed a water bottle and a granola bar along the way. After a quick shower and freshen we hopped back in the mustang and continued north along the east coast. Our destination: Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck.

This place was recommended to me by the man I met on the plane ride over. It is famous for its shrimp scampi. The truck is this old beat up thing covered with signatures and doodles from patrons.

madehealthier.com

The scampi was amazing! Kyle had the spicy shrimp, way too hot for me to handle, and we split a tasty pina colada. It was peel your own. We both… well not so much Kyle, but I made a mess of my hands tearing at the shrimp and reeked of garlic for the rest of the evening, but it was totally worth it. Delicious. There were a bunch of shrimp trucks along the North Shore, but this definitely had the largest crowd and seemed to be a hit with the locals.

Feeling full and a bit sleepy, we took a slow drive along the surfer beaches, did not catch a glimpse of the pipeline, but we did not hang around long to seek it out. We continued our way to Waimea Canyon State Park. This was recommended to us by the guy at the Naval base. It is a gorgeous stroll through luscious botanical gardens full of tropical flowers and plants, some native some brought in from various islands and countries.

Common Moorhen

We made are way slowly through the twists of paths and foliage full of shrimp and content to stroll in the warm afternoon sun and occasionally sneaking off into dark shadows to steal a kiss. Due to massive amounts of rain the previous night, bits and pieces were closed to foot traffic and the waterfall was closed to swimming. This was a big disappointment as we were both really excited about having a romantic swim in the falls.

Despite being closed for swimming, the falls were a stunning sight. With at least double the normal flow, the water was pounding down and the spray could be felt from the shores. We sat at the rocky banks for quite a few moments, silent and in awe, or maybe just tired and full, but it was an impressive view.

We made our way back to the car and drove in the direction of Waikiki as the sun began to set. We took a slight detour to drive along a road we spotted from kayaking in the bay. The road was attached to the side of one of the mountains and appeared narrow and windy. It was Highway 3. The detour in getting there took quite some time, especially with my inability to give proper directions, but we made it and cruised along the H3, top down, and darkness all around us except for the far off view of shining lights from the various towns. For me, this drive was relaxing. For Kyle, it was the perfect adrenaline rush to end the day.

Once at the hotel, we freshened up and headed down to grab dinner at one of the hotel restaurants. This was the moment of our first Mai Thai’s. They were deliciously strong and sweet and everything amazing. Once a nice little buzz developed, the hotel room awaited us for a romp in the sheets before passing out.

Searching for Balance

Despite the challenges I have faced and the failures I have been through while trying to create a vegan and primarily raw lifestyle, I still plan on persevering and trying to get into a system that works for me.

The move to go immediate 100% overnight does not seem to work for me as I see all the things I am excluding from my life rather than the extra things I am including, such as the kiwis and green juices and the dates. It is difficult to change a thought process, but thinking about this as a good thing, not just for my health, but for my soul and overall sense of well-being, rather than as a constrictive diet seems to be helping.

My greatest challenges are dealing with the amount of junk food constantly in my house. My brother likes to snack and on the worst things. I need to focus on spending as little time in the kitchen as possible and only preparing my meals and snacks rather than assisting my mother cook and making sandwiches for my brother. At some point, I know I will be able to trust myself doing these things, but right now, at the very beginning, it is a temptation I cannot quell. This as well as the pressure of my immediate family to continue to eat meat and dairy as it is “healthy.” My parents grew up on the meat, potatoes and vegetable diet and have continued in this manner making slight substitutes to keep things low-calorie and low-fat. While my mothers cooking is considered healthy, it is not in line with my goals.

After falling into my boyfriends temptations and pretty much eating whatever I wanted in Hawaii, though fairly healthy, I allowed myself a few days to get over my jet lag and stock up on groceries in preparations for yet another attempt. I have formally cut out all animal products. Sticking to a vegan routine for a few weeks before trying to go raw will hopefully make the transition easier.

Today I made a strawberry banana smoothie with coconut milk for breakfast. This was after I had a large mug of yerba mate and 24oz of water (David Wolfe, raw food extraordinaire, frequently mentions the importance of consuming a lot of water in the mornings before eating any food).  For lunch I made avocado lettuce wraps (avocado, raisins, salt, pepper and lemon juice wrapped in romaine). I have yet to eat dinner, but I have some yummy lentil soup in the fridge and I may make some salad to go with it.

This is a good start.

The Role of Men in Today’s Family

I walked into the kitchen a few minutes ago to grab a quick mug of chamomile before heading to bed. Overhearing talk on the television of a famous clip from Ray Romano trying to put out a fire in the kitchen caught my attention and I popped into the living room to see what program my mother was caught up in.

She was watching a reflection on family sitcoms over the past few years and the family roles being played. The clip of Ray trying to put out the fire started when his wife asked him to go grocery shopping. He brought home the wrong type of tissue. Not a big deal, but “not the kind we normally get.” Not having the ability to perform small tasks correctly affected his manhood. To prove his ability, he began to make dinner for himself leaving the tissue box a little too close to the stove causing a fire. His attempt to put it out failed miserably as the garden hose he dragged in from outside simply did not reach. His wife, in a strong show of bravado and quick wits rushes in, grabs the fire extinguisher from a lower cabinet and puts out the flames within moments. The water flow from Ray’s hose quickly diminishes as does his manhood.

A few points are brought up after this by various actors and their opinions on the role of the husband/father. Things are not what they used to be. The man used to provide for the family, but not take part in the household chores or be as involved in their kids lives. Today, men are expected to support the family, make it to every little league game as well as assist in the household chores.

Most of the commentators on the program were men and found this to be a very challenging task. Bringing the concept to my mother’s attention, she agreed, stating that it is difficult to manage all these things when working a full-time, stressful job.

I brought up the point that while the role has changed for men, it has also changed for women. Most women are now working full-time jobs, still running the entire household and raising the children. It is not crazy to expect the man to assist in minor household chores and to be supportive of their children.

My mother’s counterpoint focused on the fact that many women do not necessarily need to work. That commercial America has made couples want more and more out of life (material things) and this forces both partners to work in order to make even more money to compensate for wants and desires. Or, the women simply choose to work for whatever personal reasons.

It is my thought that considering the current state of the economy, both partners feel obligated to hold a job in case the other loses theirs or to compensate for the money lost in the markets. With the rising costs of college tuition and the need for a private high school education as most US public schools are poorly run, the extra income can go a long way for their children’s well-being. As for women needing the sense of independence, take a look at the divorce rates. I myself would not want to risk being out of the job market for 5+ years to raise a family when the chances of being divorced and forced back into immediate employment are just shy of 40% continuing to increase. There is also pressure from husbands to work. That pressure did not exist when my mother was getting married. Today, husbands like to see their wives being productive and successful. They certainly don’t want them to make more money than they do, but there is a level of expectation to be with someone successful who cares about their career.

Call me a cynic if you will as most of this is a very dark outlook on the fate of America’s women and families, but realize that I am in a very happy and loving relationship and expect that to continue to grow and blossom. I am also not a feminist. Just sharing my point of view. I’d truly love to hear some other ideas if anyone feels strongly enough to offer input. The program also continued to discuss the role of the gay male couple on Modern Family and the adoption of their child. I was more focused on the working wife / new ideals for the father deal. Let me know your thoughts!