24 December 2009

22 December 2009

Christmas Gifts in the Works

Handmade and carefully purchased gifts are beginning to stack up under the little tree and in the living room awaiting wrapping. This year gift tags are crafted from bits of wrapping paper cut or punched from the wrapping paper and glued to card stock. Ribbons are yarn, jute, grossgrain and cord. Papers are printed holiday wrap, red and brown kraft paper, colors are varied and bright with very little red or green in sight. Gifts are simple and useful small treasures chosen just for each person's likes and needs. Sewing machine has been out and used for one entire night, scissors have trimmed, papers and trims cut. A few samples of what have been in the works around here follow.

21 December 2009

Ted's Bakery, Sunset Beach

When on Oahu, at least one good drive around the island is in order. Chances are you’ll spend a day on the North Shore where you can visit the historic town of Haleiwa, watch the surfers and and eat some good pizza or Mexican food and finish your meal off with a shave ice covered in sweetened condensed milk. Mmmm.

Continue your drive north and you there are great beaches, spots for snorkeling, a bay where you can see Sea Turtles, and TED’S BAKERY!

Ted’s serves a large variety of pastries, breads, cakes and pies, and a full breakfast menu, sandwiches and Hawaiian plate lunches, a large variety of coffees and PIES!

Not just any pies – amazing custard pies with names like Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cream Pie, Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie, Peach Bavarian Cream Pie, Passion Fruit Cheese Pie, Pineapple Cheese Pie, and Pumpkin Haupia Cream Pie.

My favorite is Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cream Pie and Chocolate Haupia is pretty great too.. A Ted’s pie is well worth the stop or check in local grocery stores where they are also available. You will not be disappointed!

Ted's Bakery
59-024 Kamehameha Highway
Sunset Beach, CA
(photos via)

20 December 2009

Kualoa Ranch: Paradise for Adventure

Each year during out Hawaii trip, we look for one new activity we have not ever done before.  Last year we chose Kualoa Ranch on the Northeastern coast of Oahu. An absolutely gorgeous setting across the Kamehameha Hwy from the ocean, Kualoa Ranch is a stop with activities for every age.  Kuloa Ranch has its own unique history. It is a family owned and operated ranch with a focus on good stewardship of the land, preserving cultural and historical value and creating recreational and agricultural opportunities sustainable with respect and care for the environment

The 4000-acre working cattle ranch, about 35 minutes drive from Honolulu, was established in 1850. The terrain spreads from the sea to towering mountain cliffs, open valleys and dense rainforests. On an island full of stunning views Kualoa Ranch is breathtakingly beautiful. Activities include horseback riding, ATV adventures, hiking, biking,  gun range,  jungle expedition, fishpond and garden tour, hula lessons and cultural events.  They also welcome weddings and other special events and large group activities. There is also a café and lovely store in the ranch headquarters. I was impressed with the store, having shopped for Hawaiian products, books and papers around the island they had one of the best collections of items in one place anywhere on Oahu.

Kualoa Ranch has been the filming location for many television shows and movies, including Jurassic Park, Pearl Harbor, Godzilla, 50 First Dates, Magnum P.I.  and Lost

Our group chose the ATV adventure and we loved it. The terrain made for fun ATV-ing and our tour guide gave us the scoop on the WWII bunker’s history, background on the ranch and took us to the sites of several film sets. The nature was amazing, the views delicious and the challenge of maneuvering the ATVs up and down steep dirt trails and across broad valley made it a great adventure for all the senses.

Not far from the entrance to Kualoa Ranch is a beach park that is a photographer’s paradise. There are so many fantastic looks in this one park you can practically turn a camera in any direction and get fantastic shots of jutting mountain cliffs, blue skies, small islands just off shore, ocean views and the road back to Kaneohe. I’m looking forward to my next drive up the Northeastern coast of Oahu and a visit to the Kualoa Ranch! 

13 December 2009

A Few Remedies for Cabin Fever

 It’s been extremely cold or raining here in Southern California for the better part of a week now. During the week, activities kept things busy. But today, with two houseguests, one a three year old, and rain falling by the bucketsful, the cabin fever started in big time. In a small apartment, cheery Christmas music and keeping the holiday lights on all day can only carry you so far.

I knew in advance it was going to be stormy this weekend so here was my plan.

1.    Plan to get out of the house at least once each day. This requires gathering and preparing the appropriate attire: the right footwear, jackets, hats, umbrellas, etc. Today went to the gym, a holiday party and a walk to see Christmas lights during a respite from the rain. It was still wet and windy, but fresh air is fresh air at this point.

2.     Figure out some fun, creative and cozy meals. Soup and grilled cheese or homemade cornbread or biscuits always a hit. Mix up a fresh salsa to give the day a little spice or bake cookies that everyone can help make and eat. Today I baked up a Dutch Pancake. It’s always fun to see how the big pancake crawls up the sides of the pan. And it’s much less labor intensive than American Pancakes. While the pancakes were baking I showered, cooked bacon and whipped up a couple of omelets to go along with the Dutch Pancake.

 Preheat oven to 425 Fahrenheit degrees. Melt ½ c. (one cube) butter. I do it in microwave. 60 seconds. Pour into a 13x9 inch baking dish. Mix in blender 5 eggs, add 1 ¼ c. flour and 1 ¼ c. milk. Blend until smooth and a little frothy. Pour into the butter in the baking dish. Cook for 20 minutes.
      Come up with a few little craft projects. In the morning we made little angels from a Christmas kit I bought at Michael’s last week. A couple of dollars for an hour plus of entertainment. The Little Bug also learned to use scissors today and cut a piece of reject scrapbook paper into little bits and had quite a good time. Coloring and other varieties of projects will save you when things start to head south, people start getting irritated or a little person asks you one more time what you are doing and if they can help.

4.       Make a list of television shows or movies you can sprinkle in to break up the day. I try to look through favorite channels once in a while and record shows that will come in handy in a crunch: movies, dinosaur shows, Christmas specials, etc. Then when we need a little something to break up the monotony I can turn on the TV for a while. This seems to give everyone something else to focus on rather than getting in each other’s way and on each other’s nerves. Tomorrow I have a special 20 minute Christmas movie for our evening’s entertainment.

     Get some exercise. Tonight we loved the wonderful walk in the fresh air.  This morning we bundled up and went to the gym. I think the exercise in the morning and evening must’ve helped to get the excess energy out and give everyone some individual space. Fresh air is wonderful. Having worked a few winters at a couple of ski resorts and seen much of Northern Europe on foot or bike in the cold winter and spring months, there is something very invigorating about being out of doors and properly dressed to enjoy it. Very good for the soul and rosy cheeks! If it’s just too cold to be outside, put on some music and dance around the house, find a place with several flights of stairs that can be walked up and down or a mall you can walk around briskly.

      Hope this helps you find your way through the cold spells crossing the country! And share your ideas! What do you do to remedy Cabin Fever? Leave a comment below for all our sakes!

11 December 2009


When I first read about this recipe contest at A Little Sussy, I thought I should enter my sandwich. But I got busy and the deadline passed. But then they extended the deadline and I felt it was a big nudge from the universe that I should at least try writing down my recipe –which turns out to be quite a difficult thing to do in proper terminology and detail so that another person can follow it. But it was a great exercise! I figured the experience as a whole was just for me to enjoy working my creative muscles.

Last week when the 12 finalists were announced, I was one of them. As I read through all the entries a wave of “who do you think you are to try to compete with these people and their amazing recipes” washed over me.

I’m still in shock after 24 hours. When I got the voicemail from Christin telling me I’d won, I totally went into shock after she said, “You’ve won the trip to Boston.” Seriously went numb. I looked at my friend in the next cubicle over, who helped me a bit with my recipe and gave me lots of encouragement, and pointing to the phone, mouthed, “I WON! I WON THE CONTEST!” Then we shared a brief moment of pandemonium with the work team, celebrating.

Later I shared a celebratory dinner with the man who is the inspiration for my recipe and for whom I have shared many sandwiches. I am very excited -- I haven't been this giddy excited maybe since I was 13 -- and I want to thank Nicole of A Little Sussy and Christin for the opportunity. I look forward to meeting you both!

The details of the recipe will have to wait for now. Cookbook will be out next year. Hooray! And BIG THANKS to all the friends who visited A LIttle Sussy and left comments, especially those of you who had technical difficulties! You're support is a great gift to me! 

09 December 2009

Big Announcement Coming Soon!

Very exciting news coming soon!

Something very cool happened tonight.
As soon as I'm allowed, it will be announced here!

05 December 2009

Top 10 Finalist! Hooray!

YEAH! I made it to the TOP 10 FINALISTS in this international foods recipe contest! The winner’s prize is amazing! I would die to win!

I had a good feeling yesterday when I read that the results would be announced. My recipe is for a French Chicken Cranapple Brie Grilled Sandwich which I created over the past 18 months of sandwich making for two people who love turkey sandwiches. I started incorporating new ingredients as I began growing my own basil and tomatoes on my patio. Why did I live in California for 10 years before I tried growing a vegetable garden on my patio?

The sandwich is grilled or toasted, with herbed chicken, cheese, sliced apple, chopped basil, cranberry compote or sauce, lettuce and tomato. It’s so yummy with a plate of crudite and some crunchy chips!

It’s been fun to experiment on my Martha Stewart two sided stove top grill/griddle which I purchased for a mere $12 at Marshall’s. I still have a lot to learn as a cook and recipe creator, but it’s been an awesome 18 months of cooking, experimenting and learning. Some of my best lessons have been on proper stove-top cooking temperatures and giving pans time to heat up properly before you start cooking.

I guess I can admit that in the process I also started a pan of butter on FIRE one night –pan a little too hot apparently. I’ve been cooking since I was tiny and it’s been burned into my brain that if you have a stovetop fire you can remove it from flame and put a lid on it or other options. What did I do? Screamed for help. So embarrassing! Luckily the butter burned itself out before we could act. Okay, while I'm confessing I also started a paper towel on fire and melted the side of a plastic container that was too close to the gas burner.

I’ve also learned how to experiment with herbs, oils and liquids, and the biggest feat ever, I learned how to cook a steak. I actually grew up on a farm where we had our own home-grown beef and poultry. But because I’ve never been a big fan of meat, I never became proficient in cooking it. But I finally studied up and learned to cook a mean, fat steak, awesome pork chops and fried chicken. I can even eat a pink steak and enjoy it as long as I don’t look at it when taking a bite.

Entering the recipe contest was a big step for me. Took a lot of time to document the recipe and the story behind the recipe including history of each ingredient in France.  Even looking at the other finalists I wonder what I was thinking when I thought I could enter. But what a great experience, to push myself to do something I didn’t think I could do. Isn’t it amazing how many things we end up doing that we had no idea we could do. I should do that more often and have more faith in myself. How about you?

PS -- At some point this was changed to the top 12 instead of top 10. If you have a chance, hop over to the site and leave a fab comment on my recipe will ya? Danish Puff Pastry and the Bortsch are getting way too much love in the comment section. ;)

Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch & Crab

photo via
A few posts of Hawaii still coming. First, let's talk about food again! If I even think about my favorite meal at Sam Choy’s Breakfast, Lunch and Crab my mouth starts to water! Sam Choy’s is not the fanciest restaurant in Honolulu, but it is my favorite. It’s so Hawaii: laid back, easy-going, delicious and filling. I’ve celebrated several happy evenings there with my family and friends and we have never been disappointed. The décor is laid back, vintage fish house: clapboard walls, fish tanks and there is an old boat in the center of the restaurant. There is also no shortage of fantastic desserts!

Sam Choy is vintage Hawaiian cooking. Sam grew up cooking in his father’s restaurant, preparing traditional Hawaiian Luaus for up to 800 people on weekends. The Choy family has a great heritage is Polynesian cooking!

If you can’t make it to Sam’s for dinner tonight you can visit his website, samchoy.com for some of his favorite recipes and make your own Hawaiian-style dinner tonight!

04 December 2009

A Nice Attitude About Christmas Gift Giving

Now that the Thanksgiving Weekend is behind us, my thoughts are slowly turning to Christmas shopping. Most years I love making a list and coming up with creative ideas for gifts I hope the people on my list will love. With so many people talking about cutting back the past two years, I feel like it's almost taboo to give someone a really nice gift. By really nice gift or generous gift I mean something simple, filled with love, thoughtfulness and care.

On one hand it seems like you run the risk of making people feel bad if you get them a nice gift or if you get them a gift at all because it becomes implied that they should've gotten you something, whether or not they wanted to or can afford it. That doesn't feel like the Spirit of Christmas to me.

In my heart I want to just do things the way I usually do them, simply but generously. But then it feels like everywhere I turn people are either saying, "We're not doing gifts this year" or "Let not get each other a gift this year," or "Let's only draw names and only spent (blank) amount total on one person." I realize we're in a new economy and it's important to be frugal with money and plan for the future, but all these restrictions on to whom and how I give make me uncomfortable.

Is anyone else out there feeling a little weird about the new gift giving "economy"? Can I just give what I want to give to whom I want to give it to, or do I have to play by all these  new and restrictive rules? Talk to me people. Comment, please.

01 December 2009

Dating Suggestions for Women of Style

If you are a lovely woman looking for a good man here are a few tips from me and some lovely women who’ve found their good man.
 Put yourself out there in any way you feel comfortable. For great motivation I’ve listed a few great books at the bottom of this post. You should also check out  iTunes, there are some great free mediations for finding the love of your life! Sign up to play on a co-ed sports team or go to events where you’ll know you’ll meet the kind of men you’re interested in. Join a high-quality online dating service and go about it smartly and safely. Just do SOMETHING to stir up your world a little bit and get you meeting great guys!

Try to get the ball rolling by just simply making eye contact with all the men you come in contact with each day. You don’t have to marry them or even date them, just get in the habit of politely and warmly smiling at men. If you run around looking down, distracted and too busy to give men the time of day you’ll miss seeing the good ones and all the men whose path you cross will get the impression that you aren’t interested.

I’ll give you an example from my life. After I’d been practicing this for a couple of months I walked into Trader Joe’s on a Saturday night about 9pm. First I have to say the place was loaded with perfectly nice looking men of all ages and there were very few women there. As I had trained myself to do, I made eye contact with every man I passed and smiled. It was as if I was the only woman on the planet. Men everywhere could feel my outgoing energy and I swear to you every man in the checkout lines made eye contact with me and smiled. A gracious, charismatic, kind woman is a major eye catcher to men.

Go on confidence builder activities. Here’s my best yet. I didn’t plan this in advance, but if ever need a lot of help on a project I will follow this game plan forever. One day I bought a headboard in the IKEA as-is section. Is was in good shape except for a small crack which I thought I could fix. I envisioned painting it dark brown and adding a few inches onto the legs so that it would stand higher above my bed. I walzed into Home Depot in a pencil skirt and high heels. You wouldn’t believe how quickly I was asked if I needed help! The first gentleman who came to my assistance took me all over the store giving me solutions to the fixes I needed to make and came up with better ones than I had originally come up with. Then he passed me onto two other men who were more than happy to assist. They cut special wood and metal pieces for me and made sure that I had everything I needed. It was the best “practice date” I’ve ever been on! Great confidence builder! So if you are ever feeling low, head to your nearest hardware store in a pretty little skirt and heels with a project!

3)      Be nice to everyone you meet. The good men are watching. I remember one night I was talking on the phone with a great guy I was just getting to know. We were looking forward to our first date the next day. He worked nights, I worked days and getting together via telephone or in person was a challenge. He had just woken up in the late evening and run to the grocery store and called me to chat. He politely asked me to hold for just a moment while he had his handful of purchases rung up.  That was very polite to both me and the cashier. While I waited I had the chance to overhear his conversation with the grocery store clerk. In a warm, friendly manner he greeted the clerk and chatted, cracked a joke, and graciously thanked the clerk for helping him and wished him a good evening. I realized in that moment that that was a phenomenal opportunity for me to see how respectfully he treated people, that he was good humored, friendly and had a spirit of gratitude. It spoke volumes about him.

Wear a casual skirt on a first date. This may sound silly, but men like to be men and for their women to be women. Nothing speaks woman to a man like the curves of the feminine body in a skirt. It can be a casual skirt and sandals, that’s almost best because it’s not too serious. A skirt says you’re in touch with your femininity, you’re girlish, soft. It shows a little below the calf skin, it’s flirty and fun.

From my good and happily-married friend Carla, "My husband still remembers that I wore a skirt on our first date and how he loved that. It made him feel that there were distinct roles – he was the man and I was the woman and he treated me so respectfully and kindly.

Skirts are so feminine. I believe men are visual and what better way to visually say, “I am a feminine woman.” Men aren’t looking for another best friend; they want a woman who knows how to be just that, a woman.

I've shared this idea with several of my single friends.  Some just look at me like I'm crazy and others at least try it -- after I keep bugging them about it. All I can say is "Don't knock it until you try it!"  It doesn't hurt anything or anyone.. what have you got to loose?"

Now you’re not going to find the man of your dreams just because you wore a skirt on your first date, but I will say that Carla and two of her closest friends are either in long-term relationships or married since wearing a sporty, feminine skirt and simple sandals on a first date with a great guy.

5)   Be in good physical condition and maintain a lovely appearance.    Here’s a tough one for some people. But I’m going to put it out there. Men and women both want to be with someone who is healthy and in great shape.  Please note that I did not say women who look like a Barbie Doll or men built like G.I Joe and  are consumed with their appearance at the loss of other important facets of a highly functioning soul.  If a person is healthy and in good shape he/she deserves to be with a partner who can keep up with him/her, who is taking care of the body God gave him/her and puts an emphasis on his/her appearance and overall well-being including moral character and a winning personality.

Weight and appearance are not places to hide in denial or refuse to change. God made us to be healthy, strong and beautiful and you are not being true to yourself, to your maker or the man/woman of your dreams if you aren’t putting an emphasis on your health and well-being. Don’t get caught in the “I just want a partner who will love me as I am” trap. If you feel great about yourself and have a command of your overall health and well-being you have a much greater chance of finding and enjoying a really amazing relationship because you’ll be living in your truth, in the fullness and beauty of who you are. Not to mention the overall health and quality of life benefits you will enjoy!

For more great dating tips for women and advice about men, here are a few books I recommend:

4)      Getting to I Do, by Pat Allen
Happy Dating!

Play Day

Quite out of the ordinary, I spent the Saturday of Thanksgiving weekend at The Hinkle Family Fun Center.  Mini-golf, go carts, climbing walls, jumpers, skeeball , pizza and pitchers of soda.  Pretty outside the normal routine of daily work and commute, and weekends trying to catch up on housework and errands with a little fun squeezed into the corners.

The day at The Hinkle Family Fun Center reminded me that it’s important to play and take time out to just have some silly fun. Three kids and three grownups all pulled golf balls from frigid, elbow deep waters in the mini-golf course, some of the grown men got a little crazy with pin ball and I had the great fortune to remember how much I love air hockey. Playing with the boys was pretty rough. The puck was flying in all directions off the table. We definitely got a few looks as we crawled under the other amusements retrieving the puck. I was proud to have held my own with the rough boys too.

Seeing the dads come to the table with a pizza and two pitchers of soda brought me back to my childhood. I hadn’t seen soda in a plastic pitcher in years. There was a pizza spot when I was about 10 that was very popular in my hometown. There was a pipe organ and it accompanied old silent movies on a big screen. I remember going there with kids from school for birthday parties and with my family. Pitchers of soda brought me back to a simpler time when fun was plentiful and easy to come by and all kids ate a little greasy pizza and soda now and again.

Things were a little different than when I was a kid. Now you put cash on a debit card and slide it through the pay box in each game.  But in old-fashioned style, we ended up with piles of tickets from playing the games that had to be redeemed and we left with a small dolphin stuffed animal and some candy.

After a couple of hours out in the cold followed by the loud din of the arcade (that’s the adult in me talking) we were all ready to head for home and a nice Saturday nap. Over the next couple of days the kids were still talking about all the fun they had at The Hinkle Family Fun Center and I was impressed with how invigorating it was to do something so un-grown up for a while and live life on the simple side. I recommend it to all, a day playing like a kid. You might just find your own “air hockey” love again.
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