Turned 41 and joined Snapchat. Weird, right?

By April 1, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish

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A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to a journalism class at the University of Hawai‘i-Mānoa, primarily about social media.

Now, I know a fair amount about the topic. I’m active on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. I’ve lurked on Pinterest and update my bio on LinkedIn. I’ve even been known to Periscope and add photos to Google+ every so often. I even have my own YouTube channel (that hasn’t been updated in a while.)

That’s pretty good, especially for someone “my age.”

But there’s a whole world of social media I know absolutely nothing about.

It’s called Snapchat.

And, quite honestly, the color of the site alone disturbs me.

Screen Shot 2016-04-01 at 11.32.19 AMSnapchat is an image messaging app that allows more than 200 million people are actively posting, sharing, commenting and viewing photos and videos that magically disappear after 24 hours. Of its active users, most are between the ages of 13 and 23, with a growing number over 40 (like me). Most of the images posted are selfies — no surprise — with the false belief that these images will never surface again. (Highly unlikely.)

I never had any interest in joining Snapchat. None. I’m already bogged down with the social-media platforms that I’m already using — why in the world would I want to add another one?

There’s a misconception out there about social media and me, mainly that I love it. In all honesty, as much as it’s helped me promote my writing and led me to build relationships with old and new friends, it’s become the bane of my existence. There’s always something I have to post or read or comment on. I have to strike a balance between posting enough photos and way too many. I’ve ruined many meals with my quick-draw iPhone skills and shared way too much with people about my life.

And, when I think about it, I do spent more time than I’d like to admit on my phone or laptop, browsing through feeds or responding to comments.

I hate living my life through social media.

So then I did the strangest thing: I joined Snapchat.

I’ll be honest: I though it was going to be a cinch. I’ve semi-mastered the other platforms; they’re all set up to be fairly intuitive, particularly to non-tech natives like me. Snapchat sounded easy enough — sign up, post videos or photos, done.

Not so much.

First of all, the dashboard is confusing. You swipe instead of click and I don’t know how to find people to follow. (Heck, I don’t even know who’s following me!)

Then there’s the problem of “real time.”

See, I don’t always post photos of places I’m currently at, for various reasons. Sometimes I forget, sometimes I don’t have Internet connection, sometimes I don’t want people to know where I am at all times. But with Snapchat, you have to be where you’re posting. It doesn’t work otherwise. Meaning, I can’t upload anything that’s not taken in real time.

That was my first challenge.

The next one was simply this — and it was quite a revelation: My life is fairly dull. I surf — though I can’t Snapchat that — and I hike — but the same trails every morning — and I go to work. At some point, I might eat something. But most of the time, I’m sitting at my desk, working. I’m writing or editing a story or browsing the Internet. I may grab a food magazine and read it. I frequent the bathroom. (Not quite Snapchat-worthy.) I might drink some water or stop at 7-Eleven for a Diet Coke. It’s pretty uneventful.

So what do you do when you’re life is pretty ho-hum? Who cares about your posts?

I went back to Instagram and look at friends’ feeds, wondering, “Is their lives really that amazing?” Of course not. We only post the good stuff. We don’t want people to know what we’re really doing. It’s not interesting enough.

Welcome to Snapchat. The documentary of your pretty boring life.

So here I am, Snapchatting my home lunch or Indy playing with his toys or the three (OK, it was more like 15) Reese’s peanut butter cups I ate on Wednesday afternoon.

And for whatever reason, people care.

Maybe because it makes us more normal than our IG feeds. Maybe it’s satisfying to see that people’s lives aren’t so glamorous as we think. Or maybe we just have way too much time on our hands.

I’m thinking the latter.

***

If you’re even remotely interested in my humdrum life, find me on Snapchat @catherinetothfox. It may not last for long. LOL.

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A week after ‘The Eddie,’ and we’re still enthralled

By March 7, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish

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There aren’t many sporting events that we think about a week after it’s over.

Not many people remembers the finisher of the Honolulu Marathon or can even recall who won Super Bowl 50. (It was Filex Kiprotich from Kenya and the Denver Broncos, in case you’re wondering.)

But people are still talking about the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, the epic and legendary big-wave contest held at Waimea Bay on O‘ahu North Shore.

It was held for the 9th time in 21 years on Feb. 25, with 28 invited competitors — the most experienced names in the big-wave surfing world — riding waves at least 40 feet tall. The one-day event is more than just a surf meet; it’s a tribute to Eddie Aikau, a local North Shore lifeguard who was lost at sea after paddling for help after the Hōkūle‘a ran into trouble on its first long-distance trip back in 1978.

The last time it was held — and I was there — was back in 2009. We braved the traffic and crowd back then. And we didn’t even stay for the entire contest. (I had to go to work.)

Man, a lot has changed.

This year’s Eddie lured more than 25,000 spectators from around the world who lined the beach, sat on rock walls and stood along the highway to be part of something historic. They posted photos on social media using the hashtag #EddieWouldGo, which trended around the world. The whole eight-hour show was streamed live online, effectively slowing down the Internet connection at countless offices all over the island — including ours at PacificBasin Communications.

Like many of us, I had no intention of driving out to the North Shore to be part of what I knew would be a mess of traffic, crowds and craziness. Instead, I sat mesmerized at my desk at work, watching the live feed on my iPhone. Even on a small screen, the waves looked startlingly huge. As much as I love to surf — and it’s been devastatingly flat on the south shore recently — I would nevernevernever want to be sitting out at a lineup with a swell that big rolling in. That would qualify as one of my worst nightmares.

Yet, there they were, these brand-name surfers from around the world, seemingly cool and collected in the presence of absolute terror and danger. Even Aikau’s 66-year-old brother seemed fairly calm as he surfed some of the biggest waves of his life.

And every media outlet covered it in some way. Esquire, The Washington Post, The Guardian, CNN — if you didn’t mention it, you were missing out on the most talked-about and the absolutely coolest thing happen that day. Even today, more than a week later, folks are still tweeting about #EddieWouldGo, sharing photos or posting congratulations messages to local boy John John Florence, who took the title.

I admit, I watched the replay of the event this past weekend, not at all bored with the rides I had already seen the week before. It was still exciting, still captivating. There really isn’t any sporting event quite like this, one that captures our attention — which, let’s be real, isn’t very focused these days — and ignites our imagination. These surfers seemed like superheroes, and we can’t get enough. At least I couldn’t. And I think it will be a long time before many of us forget it, either.

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#40trails No. 17: Mānoa Falls, O‘ahu

By February 18, 2016 #40trails

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HIKE: Mānoa Falls, O‘ahu
WHEN: February 2016
LENGTH: 1.6 miles roundtrip
DIFFICULTY: Easy; great for novices, kids, families and leashed dogs
FEATURES: Well-worn trail, valley scenery, often wet and muddy, mosquitos (so use repellent), restrooms at the trailhead, fee parking, dog-friendly, small waterfall and swimming hole at the end, links to another trail. Be careful of landslides, falling rocks and ongoing pig control in the area on Wednesdays and Sundays.

I honestly can’t remember the first time I hiked to Mānoa Falls in the back of this lush valley. I know I was pretty young because the waterfall, in my memory, was huge.

And it’s really not. Mānoa Falls is only about 150 feet tall and not much more than a trickle every time I’ve seen it since. It’s really not that impressive.

But then again, that’s not the main draw of this hike.

The Mānoa Falls Trail is an easy, pleasant stroll though verdant Mānoa Valley.

The trailhead is located at the end of Mānoa Road, right at Paradise Park, a one-time exotic bird and plant attraction that closed in 1994. The parking lot is to the right. You park, walk into the Rainbow’s End Snack Shop — where, by the way, you can pick up whatever hiking essentials you’ve forgotten at home — and pay $5. Then you put the ticket on your dashboard and walk to the trailhead.

It costs $5 to park here.

It costs $5 to park here.

Inside the snack shop, where you can get everything from bug repellent to microspikes.

Inside the snack shop, where you can get everything from bug repellent to microspikes.

Follow the sign to the trailhead.

Follow the sign to the trailhead.

The start of the hike.

The start of the hike.

The walk to the trailhead might be the most dangerous part of the entire hike. You have to follow the narrow, winding road past the Lyon Arboretum to the start of the trail.

This is more of a walk than a hike, as the trail is well-worn and the incline very minimal. You’ll walk through Eucalyptus trees and a forest of bamboo, completely surrounded by trees and ferns. Despite the crowd — we probably encountered around 50 people by 9 a.m. — it seems quiet here.

As we started the hike, we noticed the trail is undergoing renovation, which calls for the installation of informational signs along the trail. The areas have been cleared and the structures for the signs are there, but they’re littered with stickers and vandalism. No idea when this project will be done, but it’s a great idea since this trail is one of the most popular on O‘ahu.

This hike is an easy walk through a lush rainforest.

This hike is an easy walk through a lush rainforest.

It's a nice escape from the bustle of Honolulu — and it's just minutes away.

It’s a nice escape from the bustle of Honolulu — and it’s just minutes away.

I love walking through bamboo, and this trail has a nice grove of them.

I love walking through bamboo, and this trail has a nice grove of them.

Right before you reach the waterfall, there’s a signed junction to the left in a grove of mountain apple trees. This leads to another trail, the 8-mile-long ʻAihualama Trail. The path here is rocky and narrow at first but opens up later and finishes with 360-degree views of Diamond Head, Waikīkī, Pearl Harbor and even Waiʻanae. This hike climbs to the top of Tantalus and is rarely crowded. If you’re up for the challenge, consider taking this route.

And if you’re not, you’re very, very close to the falls.

The start of the ‘Aihualama Trail.

The start of the ‘Aihualama Trail.

The end of the trail is here, at this waterfall. This is where most hikers stop.

The end of the trail is here, at this waterfall. This is where most hikers stop.

It takes about 20 minutes to get to the falls, which spills into a small swimming pool below. I was surprised to see people actually lounging in the small pool. First of all, a landslide in January 2002 closed access to the pool and waterfall. And second, it’s not especially inviting. It wasn’t like a difficult hike where you need to cool off. And the pool is small, very small, too small to share with 15 other people.

But I digress.

VERDICT: New to hiking? Then this is the trail for you. It’s easy and well-worn with hardly any incline, yet you’re surrounded by thick, lush greenery. While there’s no summit view like you’d get on a ridge hike, the entire walk is peaceful and gorgeous. But it’s a popular hike, so expect crowds, especially after 9 a.m. on weekends.

***
Follow my hiking adventures #40trails at Instagram (@catherinetoth), Twitter (@thedailydish) and Facebook (/thecatdish).

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When your dog is sick

By February 16, 2016 Musings, The Daily Dish, The Dog Dish

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I often wonder what my dogs would say if they could talk.

And usually, I’m glad they don’t. I don’t know if I could tolerate hearing Indy nag me all day for a rawhide treat or Sunny complaining about her dinner.

But there’s definitely one time when I wish they could talk: when they’re sick.

It’s so hard to try and figure out what’s wrong with our pets. We look for signs — she’s not eating, she’s lethargic, she’s panting more than usual, she’s vomiting — but we can’t often tell what’s the underlying cause. It would be so much easier if they could just tell us what’s ailing them.

I felt this way recently when Opae, our eight-year-old rat terrier mix, fell ill.

A few days ago, in the middle of the night, we heard that usual gag of vomiting. She spit up a bunch of grass she had eaten earlier, and I didn’t think much of it.

But later that morning, on our regular hike up to the Makapu‘u Lighthouse, she pooped globs of blood. In fact, blood continued to drip out of her anus. I freaked out, called the vet, and made my way down the trail and to the car.

Turns out, Opae had some kind of gastrointestinal infection that required a round of antibiotics and a bland diet. But when we got home, the diarrhea continued — only it was spontaneous. She couldn’t control it. She was embarrassed and in pain and we didn’t know what to do.

After two nights of this, we packed her up and went back to Feathers and Fur Animal Hospital in Kailua, which offers emergency care services. Opae hadn’t been eating, hadn’t been drinking water, hadn’t been sleeping. We were desperate.

There aren’t many situations that stress me out more than my dogs being sick or unhappy. I feel helpless and useless — and I hate watching them suffer.

This is how I felt all weekend. Let’s just say I ate a lot of chocolate and didn’t sleep much.

Our vet recommended Opae stay overnight to get a new round of antibiotics via an IV. She wanted to monitor her, make sure she was eating, drinking, pooping properly.

We didn’t pick up her until Monday afternoon, after more than 24 hours at the animal hospital. She was scared and miserable and ready to come home.

And we were ready to have her home.

Opae was discharged with two different kinds of oral antibiotics and packets of probiotic powder that we have to dust on her food. She can’t eat anything but bland food — like chicken and rice — and her physical activity is limited to just walking short distances.

As soon as she came home, she started acting normally — running up the stairs, wagging her tail, drinking water and begging for snacks. Our sweet little Opae was back — and it felt great.

Now I hope I can get some sleep finally.

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Learning wine from the master

By February 5, 2016 Food

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I know hardly anything about wine.

Except that it’s alcoholic, it comes from grapes, and I like it.

Like most wine novices, I’m stuck in a single category of wine. Right now, it’s anything sparkly. And I can’t seem to get out of it.

So when I found out about a new series of wine classes offered by Hawai‘i’s master sommelier Chuck Furuya at Vino Italian Tapas & Wine Bar, I quickly signed up for the first class in early January.

Except by the time the class was announced — via the restaurant’s newsletter — it was already filled.

You’ve got to be kidding me!

Luckily for me — and, apparently dozens of others — Furuya opened two more classes in January to accommodate the growing wait list of interested wine-o-philes eager to learn from the master. (Furuya, who co-owns Vino, became only the tenth person in the U.S. to pass the rigorous Master Sommelier exam back in 1988. He created the wine pairings and wrote the wine introduction for the first Hawai‘i regional cuisine cookbook, “The New Cuisine of Hawai‘i.” He’s kind of a big deal.)

The class was entitled, “Wine 101,” a basic primer to wine. (The next class is aptly labeled, “Wine 201,” but it doesn’t mean it’s a progressive series. All of his classes are introductory.)

It was held in one of the upstairs room at Vino’s new location at the Waterfront Plaza, basically across the breezeway of its previous spot. The class is limited to 25 people, each getting to sample eight different wines equally no more than 12 ounces total. (“That responsible,” Furuya said.)

This class was all about chardonnay — yay! — and it started with Furuya explaining the world of wines. I had no idea there are about 10,000 grape varieties, of which less than 1,000 make suitable wine. And I didn’t realize that big-box retailers like Safeway and Costco only buy what sells, not concerned so much about quality or niche demand.

Furuya shared with us his values when it comes to wines: These are wines from families who run their own vineyards and who have invested in this product, he focuses on heirloom or heritage vines, and he likes to work with people who farm sustainability. He likes his wines to evoke a sense of place.

Of course, this all went over my head. I drink wine because it tastes good — and I don’t know much more beyond that.

But that’s what was so interesting about this class. You walk out knowing a little more than you did coming in.

Here’s how it worked: We sampled two wines, side by side. First, he asked us to smell the wine. Does it smell fruity? Does it smell like the ocean? Next, we sipped and identified the body of the wine, the weight of the wine in our mouths. “It’s like comparing skim to whole milk,” Furuya said. Then, we noted the acidity of the wine. This is what allows it to be paired with certain foods. And finally, we tasted it. Was it dry? Was it full-bodied? Was it sweet or salty?

We did this four times, noting the subtle differences between each glass of chardonnay. Some had a more mineral taste, an indicator of where these vines grow. Others were big and bold and showy.

I couldn’t believe how much I had learned in just an hour! I figured out that I liked lighter-bodied, medium-dry chardonnay. Who knew!

***

For anyone interested in signing up for Furuya’s wine classes, get on Vino’s email list at vinohawaii.com or call (808) 524-8466 for reservations. Cost is $25 per person (not including tax or gratuity) and tasting participants who dine at Vino right after the class get 25 percent off regular menu items.

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