#CatTravels: My first visit to Lānaʻi

By March 18, 2015 #CatTravels


I’ve eaten stinky tofu on the streets of Taipei City, fed kangaroos in Brisbane in Australia and surfed the cold waves in western Ireland.

But I’ve never been to Lānaʻi.

Yes, the island that’s literally 80 miles away. If we weren’t separated by water, I could drive there in a couple of hours.

There’s really no good reason why I’ve never been to Lānaʻi. I’ve heard the stories and seen the photos of the two luxe Four Seasons properties there — Mānele Bay and the Lodge at Kōʻele — and have always wanted to visit. I imagined snorkeling in the calm waters of Hulopo‘e Bay, hiking along the oceanside path to Pu‘u Pehe (Sweetheart Rock), and just relaxing in front of the fireplace at the lodge.

But the cost — the hotel rates weren’t cheap — was a big deterrent for me, and I wound up using that cash to invest in trips to more exotic locales.

Still, Lānaʻi was always on my mind.

So when I got invited to fly there with a bunch of social media influencers to experience the updated service of Island Air and tour the multimillion-dollar renovations to the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Mānele Bay, I took it.

And I learned a lot, too.

Lānaʻi has been long known as the Pineapple Island because it was once an island-wide pineapple plantation. Now, it could be called Ellison Island, as tech billionaire Larry Ellison owns 98 percent of it, including the two hotels and airline. Unemployment has dropped dramatically and he’s already made major improvements to the island’s infrastructure. (Learn more from this story in the New York Times’ Magazine.)


Island Air flies five times a day to Lānaʻi — it also flies to Maui and Kaua‘i, too — with an average one-way rate of $62, making this a great deal for interisland travel.

“I truly understand the importance of air to an island state,” said president and CEO Dave Pflieger (above) to us. “We’re growing and fixing this airline … There’s a lot of potential here and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. (But) give us a shot. We’re a choice.”



I’m sure some of you probably thought Island Air flew those cramped 9-seater prop planes. Actually, the airlines has a small fleet of 64-passenger planes like the one above. (This is an ATR-72 twin-engine turboprop, in case you’re wondering.) It’s spacious enough for the 30-minute flight. And really, what else do you need besides a comfortable seat and a complimentary cup of coffee?


We arrived on Lānaʻi in the morning — along with produce, fish and other retail products that’s loaded on every flight from O‘ahu. We hopped in a van to get a quick tour of Lānaʻi City.

The entire island has about 3,000 people and is the smallest inhabited island in Hawai‘i. There’s one school — Lānaʻi High and Elementary School — that serves the entire island from kindergarten through 12th grade. There are three grocery stores and a bar and a smattering of boutiques and art shops — and that’s it. There are no shopping malls or fast food restaurants or traffic lights here. It’s a world apart from bustling O‘ahu.



We stopped by the Lodge at Kōʻele, which is closed while the other hotel at Mānele Bay is being renovated. This hotel is a favorite of my friends, who prefer the mountain lodge feel — so different from what we’re used to — to the oceanfront Mānele Bay. This stunning retreat offers horseback riding, clay shooting and an archery range.

And the roads leading here are lined with majestic Cook pines, which only add to the country beauty here.


Next, we arrived at the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Mānele Bay, immediately greeted by the smiles and stellar service for which this luxe chain is known.

I was eager to see the renovations — the price tag hasn’t been disclosed — to this already gorgeous hotel.



Here’s one of the guest rooms (above), this one on the first floor and facing the garden. Everything from the walls to the in-room technology has been upgraded. These new rooms feature mahogany floors, teak walls and extra-comfy mattresses that were specially made for the Four Seasons. The windows are controlled by a touchpad, with blackout rolling shades for privacy.

The in-room refreshment area is stocked with beautiful glassware, a Nespresso coffee maker, and a customizable stocked mini-fridge. And the bathroom had an overhead rainshower, a TV embedded in the mirror, and a toilet that greeted you by lifting its lid. (And I loved that the seat was warm!)

The new look comes with a new price. While before, you could have gotten deals to stay here, the lowest kama‘aina rate is $800 a night. (The cheapest rack rate is $900 a night.) That’s well outside my price range.

But who’s going to stay in the room?

We ventured outside, touring around the main lobby and pool area, which will all be completely different by the end of the year. (The hotel is closing from June to December to complete the renovations.)




As lovely as these area are (above), they will be completely overhauled by next year. The hotel will boast a private adults-only pool with breathtaking views of the bay and a lobby area that will be transformed into a lush garden.



The hotel took us to lunch at VIEWS at Mānele Bay, the restaurant at its world-class golf course. (Both the restaurant and the course will be open during renovations.)

This restaurant, with panoramic ocean views, features a menu robust with local ingredients, including greens and veggies grown on the island.







We started (in order, from top) with the summer rolls, filled with shrimp, rice paper, basil, mint, cucumber, macadamia nut and mangoes; and the kalbi rib lettuce wraps with peanuts, rainbow carrots and radishes wrapped in butter lettuce.

The Makai salad is one of the restaurant’s most popular, featuring lobster, scallops and shrimp over Big Island-grown greens, mango, papaya, avocado and tomatoes, topped with lilikoi dressing.

The Baja fish tacos uses whatever fish is in the kitchen that morning, with a salsa fresco and a lime cream dressing. The Hulopo‘e Bay Prawn BLT is another favorite — particularly among the staffers — with prawns and bacon paired with caramelized onions and a creole aioli stuffed into a pita bread.

And I had the VIEWS Burger with aged cheddar cheese, guacamole, lettuce, tomatoes and bacon, with a side of thick fries.

We needed to walk after this.




There’s a little trail from the hotel, across Hulopo‘e Bay and toward the point to a rock formation called Pu‘u Pehe (or Sweetheart Rock).




Pu‘u Pehe is one of the most famous — and most photographed — natural landmarks on Lāna‘i. The story goes that Pu‘u Pehe was the name of a beautiful girl from Maui who was captured by a young warrior from Lāna‘i. He brought her back to these cliffs and, afraid of losing her, kept her hidden in a sea cave. One day, he had left the cliffs and a storm arose. Huge waves devastated the cave, drowning the girl. Stricken with grief, the young warrior retrieved her body and carried it to the top of the steep rock island for burial. He then jumped off the 80-foot summit to his death in the ocean below.

Hence, Sweetheart Rock. (The literal translation of Pu‘u Pehe is “owl trap hill.”)




The rest of the group stayed behind while I walked back to the hotel to check out. I couldn’t stay overnight — which, if you consider the room rate, might have been my last and only opportunity — but that’s OK.

The trip was just meant to introduce me to what Lānaʻi has to offer. And though we only drove through the small town and stuck to the areas around the resort, I knew that beyond the bay and across the hills was more to be discovered.

So I’d better save my money now!


Thanks to Andrea Oka, Michelle Hee and Sonja Swenson for arranging the FAM tour of Lānaʻi on Island Air. And thanks to the awesome staff at the Four Seasons Resort Lānaʻi at Mānele Bay for the hospitality. Fun times! Hope to be back soon!

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#WeekendDish: Old-fashioned bread pudding

By March 10, 2015 Musings


I love recipes that allow me to clean out my fridge, freezer and kitchen cabinets — and bread pudding is perfect for that.

All the bread that’s about to mold over, all the raisins sitting in the pantry, all the milk that’s about to expire — throw it in a pan and bake it with butter! There’s nothing better than that!

So I made it the other day, after frantically cleaning out the freezer — is there any way to clean out the freezer? — and pulling everything out of the kitchen pantry.

Then I had another idea.

Why not bake it in a cupcake pan?


Not only are they ready in individual servings, but if you like edges — and I love edges! — every piece has ’em.

So that’s what I did.

And after I posted a photo of it on Instagram, I got a dozen requests for the recipe. So here it is!

(If you don’t want to use a cupcake pan, this recipe calls for an 8-by-8-inch pan. You can double it for a 9×3 pan instead.)

Happy baking — and cleaning!


Here’s the recipe:

Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding


2 c. milk (whole milk, if possible)
5 c. bread, cubed
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 to 3/4 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2-1 tsp cinnamon (or more, if desired)
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. raisins (if desired)
3 T. butter (or more, if desired)


Heat oven to 350ºF. Heat milk and butter over medium heat until butter is melted and milk is hot. In large bowl, mix eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt. Stir in bread cubes and raisins. Stir in milk mixture. Pour into greased 8×8 pan — or a cupcake pan!

Bake uncovered 40 to 45 minutes or until knife inserted 1 inch from edge comes out clean. Serve with ice cream.

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Apple, tell me why I need a watch now

By March 9, 2015 Musings, The Daily Dish


Right now, as I type, Apple is about to unveil the details of its latest reason to blow your next paycheck at its Spring Forward event in San Francisco.

The Apple Watch.

Yes, a watch.

Remember those?

Here’s what I find interesting: thanks to companies like Apple, who gave us the smartphone that does more than make phone calls, and the tablet, which makes our laptops feel obsolete, most of us ditched our watches. I mean, why wear a watch when we’re covered with devices that tell us what time it is?

And now the company wants us to wear watches again.

I don’t get it.

I will say, as a former watch wearer, the concept is intriguing. The Apple Watch, the first wearable product from the tech giant, will be like a smartphone on your wrist. It can take calls, receive messages, play music like an iPod, track your fitness like a Fitbit, make purchases via Apple Pay, even act like a remote control for your Apple TV. (It goes on sale in April.)

Yes. It will do all that — and probably more. (I’m just waiting for Apple CEO Tim Cook to explain this part.) And it’s not entirely ugly, either. The device, which will start at $349, will come in two sizes and several styles, including the ultra-luxe 18-carat-gold Apple Watch Edition.

So will I buy one?

That’s a good question.

Lucky for Apple, I just ditched my Fitbit Charge because I didn’t need it anymore. But the one function I did enjoy on that activity wristband was the caller ID function. And Apple will have that and more.

I wouldn’t have to even move to grab anything to see who’s texting me, who’s calling me, who I’m supposed to meet for lunch later today, what the weather will be like. It will be all on my right wrist. I might not even have to stop typing!

It’s almost better than the larger iPhone 6 Plus, which I’m still debating about. I mean, I’ll never have to carry this device. I will be wearing it. Awesome.

The downsides: The Apple Watch — at least the sports version — isn’t waterproof but maybe water resistant. (That’s bad for me, who’s always in the water — and forgets to take off things like Fitbit Charges while showering.)

And it’s just one more thing I’ll have. Honestly, if I buy this watch, I can add that to the collection of Apple products I have: an iMac, a MacBook Air, a MacBook Pro, an iPad 3, an iPhone 5, an iPod Nano, and one of those classic iPods.

It’s Apple overload!

So am I getting the Apple Watch? I guess I have a month to figure out if I really need it in my life.

Or, like usual, I’ll let Apple convince me.

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One more month of being 30

By February 27, 2015 Musings, The Daily Dish


I don’t know what it is about turning 40 that has me, well, quietly freaking out.

I think it has less to do with actually aging — I feel 28 and eat like a teenager — and more to do with one simple fact: I like being in my 30s.

I was 25 when I got my first “real” job, one that utilized my college degree and gave me health benefits. I walked — OK, stormed — into the newsroom full of ideas and enthusiasm, exactly what you’d expect from a recent college grad in her 20s.

And while my effervescent personality was mostly embraced by my coworkers, I was still considered a kid in the field. My age — and perhaps my eating habits — kept me in the “Oh, she’s just a baby” category, and I felt like I always had to prove myself to the office veterans.

Fast forward to 30, though, and things suddenly changed.

While my metabolism slowed down — honestly, it felt like my body completely shut down on my birthday — my self-confidence grew. I felt competent and appropriately cynical, still idealistic and hopeful but more honest and grounded. I found a depth in life I didn’t realize was there when I was younger. The way I viewed people, their actions, the world — that all changed. It was a paradigm shift in many ways — and I liked it.

Turning 30 wasn’t a big deal at all. In fact, I actually looked forward to it. I wouldn’t be dismissed as some young kid with no experience and no idea what life was really about anymore. I would be 30 — and I would have arrived.

(Except, to be honest, I had the stomach flu on my birthday and all I remember was throwing up the cheesecake my mom made for me in my parent’s bathroom. It wasn’t one of my finer moments.)

But in a month I’ll be 40 — and it’s not sitting well with me.

I don’t want to be 25 again. (Thanks, it was fun, but I’m over it.) And screw going back to high school. But 30 — that was a great decade.

I worked in a lively newsroom with talented writers, many of whom are still my close friends. I fought for sustainable fishing practices as part of a marine conservation campaign with The Nature Conservancy. I taught journalism, developed products for Rainbow Drive-In, traveled around the world, grew plants, killed plants, wrote more stories about native birds than I ever thought possible, got married, got divorced, got married again, acquired three dogs and five chickens and a baby goat. It’s been quite a whirlwind.

People who are beyond 30 have told me the 40s are the best. But I’m skeptical.

The 30s were great. Did you read that list? How can you beat that?

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Why I love my Fitbit Charge —  but stopped using it

By February 26, 2015 Musings, The Daily Dish


I don’t have any good reason to get a pedometer or an activity tracking device.

I just wanted one.

Especially after talking with my friend, Brian, who could have been a spokesperson for the Fitbit Charge, an advanced activity wristband that tracks your steps, calories burned, floors climbed and even your sleep pattern.

Why I wanted one… It’s hard to explain.

I was definitely intrigued with the option to track my sleep, which this device does automatically. (Some others require you to switch to sleep mode. Which I would likely never remember to do.) It figures out, based on your lack of movement, when you’re actually asleep, how many times you wake up in the middle of slumber, and how restless you are. Pretty interesting data.

But I was also curious about how many steps I take in a day — and what that translated to in terms of distance and calories.

See, I think I’m a pretty active person, in general. I walk the dogs twice a day, often for miles. I hike at least once a week. And since I tend to forget things at home — iPhone, keys, the garbage I’m supposed to take out — I tend to walk up and down my front stairs a lot.

But I wanted to know just how active I was. And whether being that active meant anything.

So I logged onto Amazon to see what my options were.

The San Franciso-based Fitbit has been around since 2007. Its original tracker — now called the Fitbit Classic — had all the basics, tracking steps, distance, calories and sleep. The Ultra came out next, adding an altimeter (tracks elevation), stairs and a stopwatch to time activities.

In order to compete with other tech-based fitness devices — namely, Garmin, Jawbone and Nike — Fitbit added different styles to its lineup, including the One and Zip models, which you clip on. They were the first to sync wirelessly using Bluetooth. Then it introduced the Flex, which you could wear around your wrist.

And then there came the Charge.

Sleek, nondescript, functional, easy to use, full of features including caller ID and the ability to link up with friends — and just $124. I was sold.

My goal, as is most users’ goal, was to hit 10,000 steps in a single day.

So what’s the magic of 10,000 steps?

It’s a rough equivalent to 30 minutes of activity, which is recommended by the Surgeon General. And the step count is approximately — very approximately — five miles.

I decided to get one for my husband and mom, too. (Husband hasn’t even charged his Fitbit yet; Mom uses it every day.) I wanted to gauge my fitness level with others.

Turns out, I’m pretty fit. I often hit 8,000 steps by 10 a.m., thanks to daily morning walks or hikes with the dogs. I figured out that if I walk the dogs in the morning, then go about my daily activities, and walk or run in the afternoon, I’ll hit, if not exceed, 10,000 steps.

There are some days when I surpass 20,000 steps. (Amazingly, my mom sometimes doesn’t even break 4,000 steps. She’s loving the retired life!)

And that’s why I stopped using it.

I love the Fitbit, don’t get me wrong. But I’ve got everything I need out of it. I’m not tracking my eating habits or water intake. I’m not trying to lose weight with it. I just wanted to know how active I was — and that’s pretty much it.

Here’s what I like about this device:

• It easily syncs with my iPhone (Androids, too) and laptop, on which I can see my progress. The charts are visually informative and easy to read.
• The sleep function is interesting. I found out that all I need is seven hours of fairly restful sleep to feel good.
• It’s smaller and sleeker than a watch, so wearing it isn’t awkward. The wristband is comfy, too.
• It charges super quickly — just 20 minutes for a full charge. And it lasts about a week on a single charge.
• Seeing how many steps I had taken motivates me to reach 10,000 every day. If I see that I’m at 8,000, I’ll go for a walk or run — just to hit that number. So that’s good.
• I actually like the caller ID function. Since I keep my phone on vibrate mode — and, I’ll be honest, I’m always misplacing it — it’s nice to get a buzz on my wrist with the caller’s name to let me know someone is trying to reach me.
• The alarms are helpful, especially if you set it to buzz after a few hours to remind you to get up from your desk and walk around.

What I didn’t like — and this list is way shorter:

• The Fitbit is NOT water resistant, which doesn’t work for me. I’m active in the water, so this device can’t track that activity — and I keep forgetting to take it off. (It will survive rain, sweat and the occasional shower.)
• The wristband is comfortable, but the snap-fast clasp has a tendency to unfasten on its own.
• It’s pricey, especially if, like me, you only need it for a month to gauge your fitness.

So that’s my take on it.

Do I regret buying it? No. I learned a lot about my activity habits and sleep patterns.

But I wish I could’ve just rented it, instead.

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