Last week I had the most wonderful vacation in and around Honolulu, Hawaii. We mostly stayed in the Waikiki Beach area and on Oahu (no island hopping) due to our reason for going in the first place: new baby in the family! My brother (who is in there studying at the university for a master’s in food science) and his wife welcomed a baby girl on August 13. (Sorry, no pics—I feel weird about posting photos of other people’s kids.) But I can tell you she is the cutest, sweetest little baby girl ever, of course! So says her proud auntie, at least! 🙂

Anyway, here’s a breakdown of our activities (besides baby holding, cooing, and cuddling) all week:

Lots of beach time at Waikiki, even squeezing in a little reading! Waikiki itself is an exceptional tourist trap—lots of high-end stores, chain restaurants, etc. But it’s fun, lots to do, and at the beach the salt water (and basically just being there!) is incredibly restorative.

Waikiki pics

Hiking up Diamond Head. This state monument is a dormant volcanic crater, which has a lot of military history and breathtaking views.

Chief’s Luau—cheesier than Wisconsin, pretty touristy—but a lot of fun nonetheless! Excellent dancing and drumming, and super entertaining. The best part was that it made me want to learn more. I wish I had had time to go up to the Polynesian Cultural Center. Maybe next trip!


Yoga on the beach at sunset. I highly recommend Karen’s class if you’re ever there! I felt so centered and refreshed afterward.

Sunset yoga

And definitely the highlight (not counting my niece and family time, of course): Pearl Harbor. I was so moved by the memorial to the USS Arizona. Very emotionally powerful. Think of the Vietnam Memorial, if you’ve been there—it’s a similar vibe. You can see the ship below the memorial, which is propped above and has the names of the men who died on the day of the attack, December 7, 1941, including the 900+ men that are still below, inside the ship. Visiting the site was perhaps extra special for me since I went with my father, a Navy veteran. He gave me some insider perspective on what it was like to serve and live on a ship (although he was on an aircraft carrier during the Vietnam War, not a battleship) and all the dangers you’d face, in the midst of forging bonds of camaraderie. He said that fire on the ship was always the greatest fear, because you’d be forced to shut the hatch doors on your friends, for example. Honestly, mere words are so ineffectual here—I’m not doing the experience full justice. But if you are ever on the island of Oahu please make a visit to Pearl Harbor a priority. I can’t recommend it enough.

Although I wouldn’t say Waikiki was necessarily a culinary destination, I did have poi (ok never having that again: taro root base, a pasty texture and particular sweet-and-sour flavor while still pretty bland), Spam musubi (like a big piece of sashimi with marinated, sautĂ©ed Spam instead of fish. Not bad!) and some really fabulous fruits and sushi. My parents were able to extend their trip for a second week, but I had to come back home after just one. But! I’m planning to return over the week of Thanksgiving with my husband if we can swing it, and I’m already forming a list of things I want to make sure to do when we go back!


[Photo credits: All © Kristin Shafel Omiccioli / mylittleheartmelodies.com, except top two photos in yoga collage from Beach Sunset Yoga Hawaii’s Facebook page.]

on vacation: aloha!

I’ll be away from the computer this coming week because…

I’m ON VACATION IN HAWAII! My first niece was born August 13, to my brother and his wife who live in Honolulu (my brother is there getting a master’s degree in food science at the University of Hawaii). We haven’t seen my brother and his wife in a year (since they moved there, Skype doesn’t count!) so I’m thrilled to spend time with them in person, and of course meet our darling new girl!

Because this trip is mostly about the baby, we don’t have tons of plans set in stone—just enjoying the location (they live a block or two from Waikiki Beach) and the family being together. I did sign up for a couple of yoga classes, and have my eyes on Diamond Head, maybe hitting a few golf balls at a driving range, hiking a few trails, and hanging out on the beach a lot! We do plan on going to Pearl Harbor towards the end of the week, too.

And of course part of the fun is choosing books to bring along! Here’s what I got:

  • Summer House with Swimming Pool by Herman Koch
  • Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
  • The Enchanted by Rene Denfield

And I also started Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson on my iPad this week. Honestly I should bring along The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan, too—it’s this month’s selection for my book group at the library but I’m nervous about taking a library copy somewhere so far. I would have loved to participate in Bout of Books 11, too. Oh well, anyway, I bet I won’t even get through one whole book! 🙂

See you guys next week!

[Photo credit]

top ten tuesday: beach bag books

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, a fun way to get yourself thinking and sharing about books and bookish things.

June 3: top ten beach bag books

This week’s TTT topic has me back on the bandwagon, because:

That’s RIGHT I’m going to Hawaii in August!!!!!! For the birth of my first niece. I’m so excited! And of course I’m already thinking about what books I’m going to bring. I likely won’t bring 10, but here’s what I’m thinking about choosing from (not counting the ebooks on my iPad, which I’m definitely bringing along):

  1. Driven by Donald Driver
  2. The Silent Wife by A.S.A. Harrison
  3. Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan
  4. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver
  5. Zone One by Colson Whitehead
  6. Packing for Mars by Mary Roach
  7. We Need to talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver
  8. Midnight in Peking by Paul French
  9. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon
  10. Perhaps treat myself to a new book!

Disclaimer: I never seem to have/make any time to read while visiting family, so no promises I’ll even make it through one whole book while on that trip, ha! 🙂 Although there will be a lot of time on the planes to and from for reading.

What’s going in your beach bag this summer?


Last year my brother moved to Hawaii to start his master’s degree, so when that happened I kind of had my radar up for books set or about there. Moloka’i by Alan Brennert was popping up all over book blogs, so I knew I had to read it to get my Hawaii fix. From Goodreads:

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka’i. Here her life is supposed to end—but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

I really enjoyed Moloka’i. From the cover image I sort of worried it might be a YA (which is not my thing), but I was pleasantly surprised and hooked after about 50 pages in. I thought the characters were all developed so well and wholly memorable—from Rachel’s family members, to Sister Catherine, to Leilani and Kenji—and even minor characters in between. I really loved how Brennert steeped his fictional characters so seamlessly in actual history, even basing some of them on real people from the settlement.

Mostly I loved how, well, realistic Rachel’s life was. What I mean by that is, the events and twists and turns in her life weren’t predictable, and she faced both great joy and great sorrow. I think the ending was perfect, and exactly how I was rooting for it to wind up. hover-over spoiler here.

I was impressed how Brennert was able to span an entire lifetime in Moloka’i, without it ever feeling boring or dragging, and in less than 400 pages! The book has the feeling of an epic but without the heft, and I believe under different circumstances (more free time) I could I have read this much more quickly. Brennert’s attention to details and research was clear from the start, and I think really enhanced the story and the world and time in which Rachel lived.

I’m happy to have learned some history about my brother’s new home for the time being, and especially the folklore and mythology that Rachel learned from Haleola will stay with me. Despite the hurt and suffering (and Rachel endures plenty of that), there is a lot of hopefulness, strength, and perseverance in Moloka’i too. Great read!

Moloka’i is my first of twelve books read for the 2014 TBR Pile Challenge.

Read from February 4 to 12, 2014.