What I learned turning 39

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I had it all planned out.

My birthday happened to fall on a Thursday when I had no plans. None. I couldn’t believe my luck!

So I decided to actually spend a day doing everything I loved to: surf in the morning, breakfast with the guys I surf with, hike Makapuu with my dogs, maybe relax on the beach with a book, then hit the surf for an evening session and eat somewhere with great food. I wasn’t going to check e-mail or do any work of any kind. It was my birthday — and my last in the 30s — and I was going to spend it the way I had wanted, dammit.

But like most things in life, they don’t always turn out the way you expect — or want.

I did manage to catch a few waves in the early morning, but that’s about the only thing on my list that actually happened according to plan.

I should have known when I stepped on something sharp and hard on the way back to my car that this wasn’t going to be my favorite day.

The “Check Engine Soon” light flickered on while I was driving down to the beach. And when I was about to head home, it started making a clunking noise, one that my mechanic said could be bad, really bad, like, tow-the-car-to-my-shop bad. And the bottom of my foot, where the shard was lodged, was starting to ache.

I had to skip on breakfast at Rainbow Drive-In and spend the morning, instead, sitting outside my mechanic’s shop in Kakaako until my mom came to pick me up.

So we grabbed breakfast at Pancakes and Waffles Hawaii in Kalihi (photo at top), where we gorged on honey butter chicken, mini waffles, buttermilk pancakes and vinha d’alhos (Portuguese pickled pork). It wasn’t on my to-do list, but I wasn’t complaining, either.

I wasn’t sure when the car would be ready that day — or if it would even be ready that day — so I couldn’t do much of anything. I stayed home, watched Netflix, took a nap, walked the dogs and did nothing much remarkable.

IMG_1939I wasn’t in the mood to surf that night, and I didn’t feel like sitting in a bustling restaurant, ordering dishes I couldn’t pronounce. So I made comfort food bentos — Spam musubis, shoyu hot dogs, shoyu eggs — and headed to Waikiki to watch the sunset. Bubbies was my dessert. No singing “Happy Birthday” necessary.

My day didn’t turn out much like anything I had originally planned — and I learned a few things with that experience.

You can’t control everything. No matter how much you want to, you really can’t. So much in life isn’t determined by you and you have to learn to just go with it. It’s not the easiest thing, especially when your plans are derailed; it’s frustrating. But it’s important to realize the only thing you can control is how you deal with these situations, not the situations themselves.

Sometimes the surprises are better than your plans. I hadn’t planned on eating breakfast with my mom — and because my car broke down, I was able to. And that was one of the highlights of my birthday.

Doing nothing can be a good thing. I’m not one of those people who enjoy lounging around the house, doing nothing. I don’t sit in front of the TV for hours or even take naps. But sometimes it’s a good thing to recharge and unwind. It’s a lesson I haven’t quite learned yet, but I’m starting to.

There’s always tomorrow. Sure, Thursday was my birthday, but that’s just an arbitrary date. All the things I wanted to do — I can do today. Or tomorrow. And even over the weekend. I can’t worry about not accomplishing everything today, right now. I have to learn to let go and realize the surf will be there in the morning. It’s all good.

Thank you to everyone who sent birthday wishes via the blog, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Instagram, e-mail, text message and every other way technology has allowed us to stay in touch. I appreciate all the love!

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The country you’re most fascinated with

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Ever since I can remember, I’ve always been fascinated by Greenland.

Well, to be honest, I thought Iceland was the coolest country in the world — until I discovered Greenland in probably the World Book Encyclopedia.

There was just something dazzling about the world’s largest island smack between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. It’s mostly ice — in fact, more than three-quarters of it is covered by the only contemporary ice sheet outside of Antarctica. And yet, more than 56,000 people live in this autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark.

And I have no idea why.

The fishing should be good, I suppose. And according to the official tourism site of Greenland, the country is a “land of milk and honey when it comes to food and drink,” with numerous gourmet restaurants that combine Greenlandic ingredients with French, Thai and Japanese cuisines. There’s “brættet,” or local game and fish markets, found in all towns. And the “boards,” or supermarket freezers, are full of meat from whales, seals, reindeer, muskoxen, lamb and fish.

I’m not kidding when I say this: I’m dying to go.

Yes, the average temperature in Nuuk, the country’s capital, ranges from 18 to 45 degrees. And yes, there are dangerous land mammals about, including polar bears, musk oxen, wolves and the arctic fox.

But it just seems like a place you need to visit to figure out.

I’m curious about the Greenlandic Inuit, which make up about 88 percent of the population. I’m interested to see how far-reaching Dutch culture is. (I happen to be part Dutch.) And I can only imagine the hiking and kayaking here are mind-blowing.

So what country are you completely fascinated by? And are you putting it on your 2015 travel list like I am?

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Found: Mochiko chicken and fried saimin at Sam’s

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I’m always looking for really good mochiko chicken and fried saimin — and for two reasons.

One, I haven’t really had good, flavorful mochiko chicken except at potlucks — and I can’t seem to perfect my own recipe, either. And two, my mom loveslovesloves fried saimin, like no one else.

So you can imagine my utter delight when I found a place that sold stellar versions of both.

Sam’s Delicatessen on Nuuanu Avenue next to Bangkok Chef has been in business for years. And while it serves Korean takeout — one of my favorite things to eat — I had never been there until recently.

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Outside the eatery on Nuuanu Avenue.

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The usual suspects for banchan, or Korean side dishes.

Sam’s, which has a small dining area, serves typical Korean dishes such as kalbi, meat jun, bibimbap and mandoo kook soo in regular, combination and mini plates.

But there are a few interesting additions to the menu like tofu katsu, chicken wings and a Hawaiian plate with laulau and kalua pig with cabbage.

And then I saw it: mochiko chicken, fried noodles.

OK, so here’s the deal about these two dishes for me: the mochiko chicken has to be flavorful — and I’ve found that isn’t always the case. The batter is bland, the chicken isn’t salty enough, it just falls flat.

And when it comes to fried saimin, it has to be simple. I’m not into heaps of cabbage, bean sprouts, shredded cabbage and seven different kinds of meats cut up into small strips. Nope, give me just some kamaboko (fish cake) with green onions and I’m set.

Sam’s does a great job with both. The mochiko chicken (top photo) is sort of like popcorn fried chicken, the pieces are bite-sizes and perfectly fried. The fried saimin (below) is well seasoned and not complicated.

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The price seems high — $7.85 for a fried noodle plate, $8.05 for a mochiko chicken plate — but you do get rice and four sides. Plus, these plates are easily sharable.

Oh, and yes, Sam’s takes credit cards! Bonus!

Sam’s Delicatessen, 1627 Nuuanu Ave., Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday, closed Sunday. Phone: 808-524-7777.

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When you’re a bad friend

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Something happens when you’re older, aside from the obvious weight gain and memory loss.

You sort of forget what it means to be a friend.

Or maybe your definition of a friend changes.

Whichever. I feel like that’s what’s happened to me lately.

In high school it was easy. Friends were the people you hung out with every morning before class or after school. They were the people you called late at night to cry about a breakup or gush about a new crush. You brought an embarrassing amount of flowers and helium balloons to school on their birthdays and wrote them letters, neatly folded into origami-like forms, when you were in class.

Friendship got trickier in college. Most of us had to juggle full class schedules, extracurricular activities and part-time jobs. I didn’t have as much time as I did in high school to hang with my friends — most of my spare time was spent working or studying — and I didn’t see them as often during the day, either. We all took different classes, had different breaks, or weren’t even on the same island anymore. We wrote letters every now and again — yes, this was before e-mail — and called on the weekends. But it wasn’t the same.

And now fast forward nearly 20 years and I can’t even remember to take the laundry out of the dryer much less post, “Happy Birthday!” on someone’s Facebook wall.

I don’t know what happened to me — or if friendships change over time and there’s not much I can do about it

I’m a firm believer, though, that all relationships — and that includes friendships — need to be nurtured and require attention. You should call, you should check in, you should be there when they need you. But as we get older, the face-to-face time gets harder and harder, and you suddenly realize you haven’t talked to or seen your bestie in months.

Lately, I think I’ve been a bad friend. Despite my social nature, I tend to hide out a lot. I like to be alone, spend time with my dogs, hang with my family, watch whatever’s on Bravo. As most of my close friends can attest, it’s hard to get me to go out these days. Party invites and tweetup RSVPs sit untouched in my inbox for weeks. I dread going to events where there will be more than 10 people in attendance. I do it and I almost always have fun while I’m there — it’s just hard getting me there.

That’s not an indicator of a friend gone bad. It is, though, when I can’t meet friends for lunch or text them on their birthdays or send thank-you cards.

I used to be better about it. I don’t know what happened.

I had a conversation about this with another super-busy blogger type and she said friendships shouldn’t be overly complicated. If she doesn’t see you or hear from you in weeks, fine. But when she needs you, she expects you’ll be there. I guess that makes it simpler.

And people can be bad friends but great acquaintances. And maybe we should determine what the nature of the friendship is before getting our feelings intertwined and ultimately hurt.

I feel badly for all the friends who might have felt dismissed in recent years, displaced by my dogs or my sick sister or my big move from Aina Haina. I really don’t have any excuse. It was never intentional; my life got in the way. But it’s always good — not matter how much it hurts — to get reminded of that every once in a while.

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Coming soon: Fresh Cafe Downtown

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Five years ago Tiffany Tanaka started Fresh Cafe in Kakaako, and it quickly became the hot spot for hipsters, college students, young entrepreneurs, art lovers, and WiFi-seeking cofficers in town.

Now she’s opening a second location, aptly in burgeoning Chinatown, bringing the same kind of unique-gathering-space concept to the downtown area.

“It’s going to be Fresh Cafe 2.0,” Tanaka said at today’s media preview of the restaurant. “We’re trying to bring Fresh Cafe up another notch, to another level.” (Don’t worry, the Kakaako location will still remain open.)

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Fresh Cafe Downtown will open in stages starting in a couple of weeks. It occupies the huge space — more than 5,000 square feet — that was vacated by the beloved Indigo’s, which closed in September 2013.

There will be several components to the new cafe: a pizzeria that will serve pies at lunch and late at night, a coffee bar with pastries (below), and an indoor and outdoor dining area with new and unique menu items.

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Here’s the cafe’s coffee bar, which was also serve pastries and desserts.

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Here’s the main dining hall, which will feature art by local artists — very in line with Fresh Cafe’s philosophy on promoting creativity and local talent.

Because of the largeness of the space, Tanaka said she will be opening the pizzeria first, maybe in a week or two, with service until 3 a.m. (“When you have no place to go at 3 a.m., we’ll be here,” she said, laughing.) Next will be the coffee bar — where the old Green Room was — and the actual restaurant will open in a month or two.

Several dozen media folks in town were invited to a preview of the restaurant today, to sample some of the menu items and browse the space.

Here’s what the event looked like — and what you can expect from Fresh Cafe’s second location:

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Sangria and Bloody Marys got the event started.

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Sarah Honda, editorial director at HILuxury, and Martha Cheng, food editor at HONOLULU who pens the blog, Biting Commentary, were both there, among the dozens of media who turned up for the lunchtime event.

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Tiffany Tanaka, one of the co-owners of this space, addressed the crowd in the main dining hall. She said she was nervous and read her thank-yous from her iPhone.

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Here’s the Lime Jello with haupia and diced mango tossed in an Earl Grey-and-lychee syrup.

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This is a Chinese rice cake with apple mousse, bacon and a black sesame puree.

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Here’s the arugula pizza with an herb cheese spread, chia seeds and coco nibs.

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Finally — a REAL Hawaiian pizza! This was came topped with kalua pork, Portuguese sausage, lup cheong, lomi tomato sauce and spinach.

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This is the spinach artichoke pizza with marinated artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers, spinach, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and Prosciutto.

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Of course, everyone got a swag bag, packed with oatmeal cookies and reasons to come back!

Fresh Cafe Downtown, 1121 Nuuanu Ave., Suite 105. Will be open in stages starting in a couple of weeks. Visit the site for updates.

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