Tag Archives: Hawaii

Today’s Happy Shot — and why I love my vet

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My husband and his family have been taking their pets to Feather and Fur Animal Hospital for years.

When we got married, he insisted I take my two dogs there, too.

I was on the fence. I really like the vet who’s been taking care of both Sunny and Indy since they were pups and the thought of going somewhere new — and trusting someone new — wasn’t appealing.

Vets are like hair stylists, dentists and mechanics. You find one you like, one who you’re comfortable with, and you don’t change.

But working with the vets at the Kailua animal hospital with ‘Elua these past few months have really changed my mind.

There aren’t many clinics that have vets who know how to treat and care for birds and exotic animals. But Drs. Kirk Ayling and Mina Khoii were both knowledgable and compassionate in how we handled ‘Elua’s ailing health. They both plainly laid out our options and explained each scenario so we could make the best choice for our bird. It made me feel a ton better knowing ‘Elua was here with these two.

When my husband and I went to the hospital to say goodbye to ‘Elua, Dr. Khoii, who has worked as an associate veterinarian at the Honolulu Zoo and has handled plenty of chickens there, went over exactly what would happen when we put down our bird. She said that since the infection caused fluid build-up in her belly, she couldn’t inject the euthanizing drug there. (Usually, it can be injected in the belly and we could have held her while she died.) Instead, she had to administer the drug in her wing, so we could only stand by and watch.

Dr. Khoii was sympathetic and kind. I could tell euthanizing animals — not matter how humane — wasn’t her favorite thing. But she kept reminding us that this was the most compassionate choice for ‘Elua.

She brought in a box of Kleenex for us and let us spend a few minutes with ‘Elua after. We could even leave out the back door to avoid the sympathetic stares and concerned looks on the faces of the folks in the waiting area.

It wasn’t easy, but Dr. Khoii made us feel good — well, as good as could feel — about our decision.

And then, the other day, we got a card from her and the staff at Feathers and Fur (above). And the card included a few of ‘Elua’s feathers.

It was the sweetest, most thoughtful gesture of sympathy I could have ever imagined getting from anyone, much less our vet. It rendered me speechless — which, if you know me, isn’t easy — and made me feel a lot better, not just about our choice to euthanize ‘Elua but to switch vets, too.

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#FUUD: Salted Lemon in Liliha

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I’m always on the lookout for a good acai bowl.

And when Salted Lemon opened up near my (new) ‘hood this summer — and I heard it sold sizable acai bowls filled to the brim with fresh fruits — I had put it on my list of places to try.

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Outside the shop on Liliha Street.

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Inside — decorated for Halloween!

It’s not the easiest place to find — unless you’re familiar with the Liliha area.

The shop is in an old shoe store on Liliha Street next to the iconic Jane’s Fountain. (I love that place.) It really brightens up the neighborhood, giving this aging community a boost of cool.

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Salted Lemon was opened by Patrick Nguyen, whose parents ran Bob’s Market for 26 years. He started making juices for his mother when she was battling cancer — and that became the basis for the menu here.

Taking up an entire wall behind the counter, the blackboard menu has three basic categories: juices ($7 for 16 ounces), acai bowls and smoothies (between $4 to $5 each). Nguyen prefers to use the natural sugars from fruits and veggies, with simple syrup, to sweeten the drinks.

I’ll be honest, I’m not much of a juice person, despite my attempts at juicing in the past. I came for an acai bowl — and that’s exactly what I ordered.

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The acai bowl — with soy milk.

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The acai bowl — with apple juice.

Salted Lemon’s acai bowl ($9) looks like this (above, both). The acai made with soy milk is nice and thick, perfectly chilled with the consistency of sorbet (my preference). It’s got apple banana slices, strawberries, blueberries, bee pollen, lehua blossom honey and granola.

We ordered acai sweetened with apple juice instead of soy milk — and it took about 10 minutes longer to make. (The acai is pre-made.) That made the acai not as thick and it melted a lot faster. (I’d opt for the soy milk version next time.)

And at $9 a bowl, it’s a bit pricey.

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The couple next to us ordered the papaya bowl ($7), a half Kahuku papaya filled with Greek yogurt and topped with blueberries, bananas, granola, honey and chia seeds. This looked pretty refreshing and tasty.

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I had to order the shop’s signature drink, the Salted Lemon ($4), and I was surprised at how much it grew on me.

At first, it was a bit unusual. It’s made from lemons that are brined and fermented in the sun for months, then combined with bits of lemon peel. I feel like if I were sick, this would be the surefire cure. It was salted and sour and sweet and perfect. I could have had six of them.

It’s nice to know there’s a shop so nearby that serves the kind of refreshing drinks perfect for these humid days.

And yes, there’s WiFi, too.

Coffice, anyone?

Salted Lemon, 1723 Liliha St. in Honolulu. Hours: 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. Phone: (808) 538-1291

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#CatTravels: 48 Hours in Ireland

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Years ago, back when I worked at the now-defunct Honolulu Advertiser, I plugged in “Dublin” in a travel booking website and found roundtrip tickets from Honolulu for less than it would cost to fly to Vegas.

And I didn’t go.

It always lingered in my mind, the fact that I let that opportunity get away from me.

So I’ve been thinking about Ireland ever since.

Not that I have any connection to the North Atlantic island. I’m not Irish (that I know of) and I don’t drink Guinness.

But I do love Oscar Wilde (his middle name was O’Flahertie), soda bread, Lucky Charms and the color green.

All kidding aside.

Ireland is one of those magical places, where the lush countryside is as emerald green as it appears in travel guides. The sea cliffs are as dramatic, people as friendly. Everything about Ireland is exactly how I had imagined. It’s the kind of place that makes you believe in fairies and monsters.

When we were planning our honeymoon to the United Kingdom, we, of course, included Ireland. Our friends had just come back from a two-week adventure across the island — the largest in the British Isle archipelago and third-largest in Europe — driving along its southern and western coastlines, staying at little bed-and-breakfasts along the way.

It sounded so quaint and idyllic.

There was no way we could be that relaxed on our two-day jaunt.

Originally, we were going to spend five days in Ireland. But my husband convinced me to rebook our flights and hotels so we could spend more time in Scotland, instead. So we had just about two full days in the country — and really, that wasn’t enough.

DAY 1

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We flew into Dublin and rented a tiny Nissan Micra from locally owned Dan Dooley Car Rental. Like in the rest of the British Isles, you have to drive on the left-hand side of the street, opposite of how it is in the U.S. And having a small car, trust me, was a good thing. (Roads are perilously narrow.)

We were heading to Cong, a teeny village straddling the borders of Galway and Mayo counties with less than 200 residents. (It’s also the home of Sir William Wilde, historian and father to the prominent playwright.) Its claim to fame is Ashford Castle — and we were staying there for the night.

It was going to take about two and a half hours to get there — I was driving, too! — so we stopped halfway to Cong at a small town called Kilbeggan, famous as the location of the oldest recorded incidence of a tornado in Europe.

But that’s not why we were there.

We wanted a drink and a quick bite to eat (above, second and third). And the Saddler’s Inn delivered — with a cold pint of Guinness and ham and cheese sandwiches. (That was the only thing on the menu!)

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Just before sunset, we arrived at Ashford Castle (above, first), one of Ireland’s finest luxe hotels converted from a Victorian faux lakeside castle. It was built on the site in 1228 by the Anglo-Norman House of Burke right on the banks of Lough Corrib, Ireland’s second largest lake.

We had some time to kill before dinner, so we walked around the property, which sprawls over 365 acres of land, much of it wooded. There were neat paths that meandered through perfect gardens. Such a gorgeous area! The hotel offers various activities that allow you to truly absorb your surroundings, including cycling, skeet shooting and kayaking in Lough Corrib.

We had dinner at Cullen’s at the Dungeon (above, fourth), the more casual dining experience at the castle. I tried an Irish specialty: beef and Guinness stew.

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We had breakfast in the immaculate George V Dining Room (above, first and second), with a buffet spread that included cheese, salami, croissants, soda bread, scrambled eggs, bacon, black pudding and fruits.

We needed the fuel for our long, complicated drive north to the Céide Fields in the northwestern tip of Ireland.

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The Céide Fields is an archaeological site that contains the oldest known agricultural field systems in the world. Using various dating methods, it was discovered that the creation and development of the Céide Fields goes back some five and a half thousand years.

We first stopped at a viewing spot to see the 365-foot cliffs of Ballycastle (above, first), these horizontal layers of sandstone roughly 350 million years old. Mayo County is home to the country’s highest cliffs — yes, taller than those of the famed Cliffs of Moher — and second highest in all of Europe at Croaghaun, Achill Island. (The Benwee Head cliffs in Kilcommon Erris stand nearly 900 feet straight above the wild Atlantic.) The coastline here was just breathtaking.

But we had come to see Céide Fields.

We walked up to the visitor’s center (above, second) built on the archaeological site of what is considered the most extensive stone monument in the world, stone-walled fields preserved beneath a 5,000-year-old bog. We got to see parts of the wall (above, third) that had been uncovered.

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Then we were back to Ashford Castle for some hawk flying. The oldest established Falconry School in Ireland gives you chance to fly a hawk around the woodlands of the castle in a one-hour private Hawk Walk.

Uh, of course we were doing it.

We met Tommy (above, first), one of the instructors and bird expert, who introduced us to Andes, a Peruvian hawk and champion hunter. He explained how this whole thing was going to work: the hawk would be tied to the glove as we walked to an open area on the castle grounds. Then we would let it fly away, calling it back with a small piece of raw beef hidden in our gloved fist. “You don’t train a hawk,” Tommy said. “You learn what it needs.”

These hawks — and falcons (above, third) — were amazing. Among the most intelligent birds in the world, hawks boast exceptional eyesight, able to perceive the visible range and the ultraviolet part of the spectrum. Not only can they see greater distances than humans, their visual acuity is eight times that of ours. In addition, these birds of prey can attain speeds in excess of 150 miles per hour, traveling thousand of miles a year. They are pretty astounding creatures, and handling them was very humbling.

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It’s hard to top flying a hawk, but spending a night in Doolin (above, first) wasn’t too bad, either.

Doolin is a coastal village in Clare County, best known for being the capital of traditional Irish music. We didn’t know this at first, but when we checked in at the charming Twin Peaks B&B (above, second), the owners were quick to tell us to get our meals before 9:30 p.m. After that, they said, the music starts and you’ll be hard-pressed to find an open seat.

And they weren’t kidding.

The pubs on the town’s very small main street was packed with people eager to hear live traditional Irish music. We popped into The Chocolate Shop (above, third and fourth), next door to Doolin’s famous Gus O’Connor Pub, for a little snack. This place is one of the few shops that carry the Wilde Irish Chocolates, handmade artisan chocolates that are to die for.

We stopped by O’Connor’s just for a quick bite — I got a burger with bacon and cheese, my husband got fish and chips — then called it a night. We had a big day tomorrow of surfing and beer-drinking.

DAY 2

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Prior to our arrival in Ireland, I had been emailing with Cathal “Ben” Bennett, owner of Bens Surf Clinic located in Lahinch, known as one of the best surfing spots in all of Ireland (above, first three).

The beach is the spot for lessons, too. There are several shops offering surfing instruction and board rentals, so it was a perfect place for us to get wet in Ireland.

Ben had emailed me the night before and said the waves were decent and the conditions really good. He wasn’t kidding. Aside from the nip in the air, we were greeted with blue skies and sunshine — and small waves. We suited up — we were wearing a 5/3 mm wetsuit and booties — and paddled out.

To be honest, I was a bit concerned about the cold. The water temp here was around 60 degrees — the average water temperature in Hawai‘i is 74 degrees — and I had never worn a wetsuit before. But as soon as we paddled out — and Ben did tell me this — the cold wasn’t a factor at all. My hands warmed up pretty quickly, and by the time I got out to the lineup, I didn’t feel the chill at all. In fact, it got a bit warm. And when we got to shore, we shed our wetsuits and wore T-shirts for the rest of the morning.

I have to say, this was probably one of my favorite experiences on this entire trip.

We wandered around Lahinch for a bit, grabbing a beer at a local restaurant that faced the ocean and popping into the Celtic T-shirt Shop (above, fourth), which specializes in artistic Celtic designs. Cool little town.

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After cruising around the beach town, we jumped into our rental car and drove two and a half hours to Dublin, where we were going to spend the night before heading back home.

You can’t come all the way to Dublin without visiting the Guinness Storehouse, especially if you love beer the way my husband does.

Open in 2000, Guinness Storehouse is a Guinness-themed tourist attraction at St. James Gate Brewery. The building in which this seven-story beer lover’s mecca is located was constructed in 1902 as a fermentation plant. Now, it tells the story of Guinness, the beloved Irish dry stout that originated here.

The self-guided tour covers the history of the brewery, the process, a showcase of advertising, even an interactive exhibit on responsible drinking. The draw, though, is the tasting. You learn how to properly drink a pint of Guinness — lift the glass to your mouth and take in a good-sized mouthful to get the perfect sip — and what makes this stout unlike any other.

Then you can head up to the Gravy Bar with 360-degree panoramic views of Dublin — and where you pick up the free pint that comes with your admission ticket.

Not surprisingly, a lot of people just head straight up to the top floor and skip the exhibits.

We had been told by everyone, even some Scots, that you have to drink a pint of Guinness while in Ireland. “Guinness doesn’t travel well,” people said to us. And they were right. There’s something about the perfectly brewed mouthful, that slight tang, its thick and creamy head, that you don’t really get anywhere else but here.

Then again, you can say that about everything we experienced in Ireland. It’s so much better done there.

Thanks to everyone who followed our #FoxHoneymoon here, on Facebook, on Twitter or on Instagram! It was a pleasure sharing our experiences with you! Hopefully we have inspired all of you to take that dream trip to Europe — or anywhere in the world, to be honest. There’s lots of exploring out there. What are you waiting for?

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#CatTravels: Arriving in London

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It really wasn’t that bad getting to London.

We flew on Alaska Airlines to Seattle, then Delta straight to Heathrow. Including the layover time — which, by the way, we strategically used to eat some of the best chili cheese fries I’ve ever had at the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport — it only took us maybe 18 hours total.

Not bad for traveling directly around the world.

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While we could have taken the Heathrow Express trains, which take you from the airport to Central London in 23 minutes, we opted for the London Underground, also known as the Tube. This rapid transit system serves 270 stations and has about 250 miles of track, half of which are above ground. Opened in 1863, it’s consider the world’s first underground railway upon which other systems — like in New York and Japan — are modeled.

It took us about an hour via Tube to get to our hotel in the Bloomsbury district, an area of the London Borough of Camden near the Euston Station. It was developed by the Russell family in the 17th and 18th centuries into a fashionable residential area noted for its garden squares. In fact, there are three within walking distance of our hotel.

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I booked a room at the Ambassadors Bloomsbury, a modern boutique hotel just down the street from busy Euston Station and a short walk to the world famous British Museum.

It’s always difficult booking accommodations in a foreign city. You don’t know what to believe. Hotel websites say one thing, then guest reviews say another. I read mixed reviews on this hotel, with some complaining about the room size and unfriendly staff. My only requirements were simple: in a safe neighborhood near a Tube station and with a private bathroom. (Many hotels still have shared bathrooms.) And I have to say, so far, this hotel exceeded my expectations. I actually prepared my husband for what I figured would be uncomfortably small rooms. But if you’ve ever stayed in Tokyo or Hong Kong — which we both have — this is pretty spacious.

But it’s not cheap. I couldn’t find room rates for less than $250 USD a night in Central London. And yes, I was going to pay more for a private toilet in our room.

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And there are tons of restaurants in this area, serving everything from Indian to Chinese cuisine.

My husband has an obsession with fish and chips, so we, along with two friends from London, headed to North Sea Fish Restaurant, about half a mile away.

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It’s not a swanky place, but it had good reviews online. This restaurant started as a small takeaway (British for “takeout) serving fresh fish and chips with hardly any seats. But in 1977, a new owner transformed this into a bona fide restaurant that included a liquor license and a renovation that added 60 seats.

Today, the restaurant is even bigger, and the Beauchamp family still runs it. (His widow still makes desserts, starters and soups for the menu.)

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Of course we had to try the fish and chips!

The fish here is delivered fresh every day. The fish is deep-fried in pure ground nut oil in a crispy batter and served with chips (or fries). And unlike other places we’ve been to, you can actually choose the kind of fish you want, from dover sole to Scotch salmon to the traditional cod.

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My husband couldn’t have been happier eating one of his favorite English meals — and in London!

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Here’s the tuna, one of the daily specials, soaked in a tomato-based sauce with carrots and broccoli.

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I had to order the onion rings, which came in an incredibly light batter. But I was polite and shared. (smile)

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After dinner, we decided to take a walk around London. We headed south to Covent Garden, a lively area in the West End filled with restaurants, bars and shops. It’s in an old fruit and vegetable market in the central square, surrounded by theaters and the Royal Opera House.

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Though we were full from dinner, I couldn’t resist getting a macaroon — OK, I bought four — from Laduree, the famous French bakery that has an outpost here.

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Then we walked through London’s very small Chinatown on our way back to Bloomsbury.

There are more than 100,000 Chinese Brits in London. This area, in the city of Westminster, is packed with restaurants, bakeries, supermarkets and souvenir shops.

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On our way back, we passed the British Museum — it was our landmark to make sure we were heading in the right direction — and stopped for a beer at the unassuming Museum Tavern.

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It definitely felt like a traditional London pub, with a nice selection of beers and spirits including Harvey’s Sussex Best, Timothy Taylor Landlord, Theakston Old Peculiar, Daleside Spring Frenzy, Young’s Gold, Hobgoblin and Fuller’s London Pride.

We found a table but had to order from the bartender working at the gilt-mirrored back bar, a nod to its predecessor, the Dog & Duck, which was in operation from the 1700s.

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Not a bad way to finish a long day of traveling, Tube-riding and eating.

Tomorrow is another day!

Follow Cat on her #FoxHoneymoon to England, Scotland and Ireland on Twitter @thedailydish and Instagram @catherinetoth. Track her travels at #CatTravels.

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#CatTravels: Heading to the U.K.

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It’s always the case, right.

I’m scrambling to finish my work, clean the house, and run errands before we leave for Europe — and everything that can does go wrong.

My computer won’t back up my photos.

My laptop get hits by some kind of weird virus and I can’t book anything online.

And my credit cards — yes, both of them — get compromised.

All on the day before we leave for our two-week adventure in the United Kingdom.

Luckily for me, I don’t stress that easily. (OK, I stress, but you’d probably never know it.) If I forget anything — save for my passport and iPhone — I can buy abroad. And whatever I can’t finish, oh, well.

This trip has been a long time coming.

We actually had this planned honeymoon before we even discussed our wedding. (And let’s be real, there wasn’t much to discuss in that department. Beach, minister, marriage license and we were set.)

My husband traveled around Europe with his family when he was a kid, making a circular, two-month trek from Amsterdam to Paris to Hungary — and everywhere in between.

Everywhere except the U.K.

So when we talked about places to visit, this area — England, Scotland and Ireland — ranked high on the list. (In case you’re wondering, we also considered New Zealand, Alaska and Peru.)

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I’ve been to London (above) twice. And while it’s a big city with all its urban flaws, there’s still an old-world charm to the place, with castles in the middle of modern buildings and cobblestone pathways where you’d expect paved roads.

While there’s lots to do there — British Museum, Westminster Abbey, Harry Potter Park — we decided to take a side trip to Bath in southwest England, a World Heritage site and major tourist area. It’s also closer to Stonehenge — read about the latest findings about what’s underneath it here — and the WWT’s Slimbridge Wetland Centre, where we can feed nēnē (Hawaiian goose). (The organization was responsible for breeding the goose and staving off its extinction.)

And then there’s Scotland (top photo) and Ireland, two places neither of us have been, and likely the highlight of our trip. The Highlands, Edinburgh Castle, the search for Loch Ness, the Irish countryside — we’re going to see it all.

And yes, we’ll be in Scotland for the historic independence vote on Sept. 18.

So whatever happens, it should be interesting.

And whatever happens, I’ll definitely be blogging about it!

Follow Cat on her #FoxHoneymoon to England, Scotland and Ireland on Twitter @thedailydish and Instagram @catherinetoth. Track her travels at #CatTravels.

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