Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Casa de mi Padre (2012)

I cannot even begin to describe this brilliantly funny movie that stars Will Ferrell.  How twisted is this movie whose dialogue is entirely in Spanish -- including Ferrell who speaks Spanish the entire time so I was stuck watching the goofball with English subtitles.  The props?  The mountains are fake, the lagoon shot inside a studio, most driving scenes with a screen projecting moving landscape, all interleaved with real shot on site sequences.  What is funny is the way the director pokes fun at the whole process of integrating fake scene shots with real scene shots non-seamlessly, on purpose of course.  The fake white lion (or some kind of cat) is awesome.  Robert Rodriguez meets bad SNL sketch equal pure fun!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Hike #11 - Mt. Rubidoux

As summer vacation winds down, I decided to take the kids to Mt Rubidoux just so they don't get tired of the mountain trails in the Angeles National Forest.  I've been here only once before -- actually riding from Rancho Cucamonga to the top and I figured the kids might enjoy it.  Not the traditional trail hike but 3 miles of paved walking, traffic closed to cars and mostly pedestrians and cyclist.
On the east side of the mountain are all these prickly pear cacti growing wild.  On the background is the City of Riverside, with several buildings from the University of California Riverside very visible from the top.  Up here, I really get a good perspective of Riverside and surrounding cities.

At the top, we crossed a small ridge to get a good view of the City of Corona and the Santa Ana hills in the distance.  We explored the top a bit -- walked to the Serra Cross (after the Franciscan Junipero Serra) and the whole time, I was wondering there's really quite a bit of history on this little hill.  As with last week, we consumed all our water by the time we got to the top and it can't cool down soon enough in the IE.  I can only do so many of these hikes in 90 deg heat.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Egg Roll Express, Pasadena

BBQ pork fried rice, steamed dumplings and wonton soup.  300 steps from the front door of our old Pasadena home.  The kids' nanny, Liliana took them here as early as 2003 for lunch.  We hardly ate inside but alway got take-out.  Not the best Chinese food but the convenience is hard to beat.  Egg Roll Express on Washington Boulevard is next to our other local place, Domenico's Italian.  The kids and I stopped by Egg Roll Express on Thursday after an afternoon at Universal Studios.  It was nostalgic being in here and ordering, guess what?  BBQ pork fried rice, steamed dumplings and wonton soup.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Hike #10 - Mt Wilson Trail, Sierra Madre

I did not intend to hike the Mt. Wilson Trail last Sunday but it was the closest hike to Chantry Flats in Arcadia -- which was so packed I could not even find parking for a mile down the road.  The last time I  hiked from Chantry Flats, there was hardly anyone up there.  Is it because everyone wants to go to Sturtevant Falls?  Has Arcadia grown so much?
As summer winds down, I do wonder if the kids will want to keep on doing these hikes.  We're on track to complete 13 different hikes during their 11-week summer vacation.  We're lucky to have so many trails all within 30 miles of home in Rancho Cucamonga.
It was the hottest hike we've done.  Around 2pm in Sierra Madre, it was 90 degrees and we ran out of drinking water just as we got to our destination -- First Water (sign below) -- which is 1.6 miles from the start of the trail.  Given the extreme heat, that's all we can handle that day.  First Water is just a stream where we played around for a bit but were not able to drink any water.  There was a sign that said Bear Spring - Good Water but we didn't want to take that risk.

Friday, July 20, 2012

July 20, 2012

Will never forget this day.  I heard President Obama around 715am on the radio about some shooting in Colorado.  Aurora, a suburb of Denver the report said.  It's not any typical Friday.  A dozen dead.  Another 55 wounded.  Shot.  I know people who live in Aurora and throughout the metro Denver area.   I've travel on business to Aurora.  The kids wanted to see The Dark Knight Returns.  As a parent, you hope you raise your children to be incapable of this terrible act of violence.  As a parent, you hope your kids do not suffer the same fate to a similar random act of violence.  Four legal guns purchase in the last 2 months.  If this doesn't change the way this country deals with guns, I don't know what will.  But there will be other days for politics, President Obama said in his speech.  Sad.  The country will never be the same again.  Very sad.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

The Enlightened Cyclist

One of the funnier books I've read on cycling culture.  Even though I understand road racing, there's a whole world of the two-wheeled life that I don't even come close to understanding.  Bike Snob NYC provides an insight into the strange subculture of commuters, hipsters, fixies, cars vs bikes, bikes vs bikes, etc.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Island On The Mainland

Besides Mai Tai's, this is the only other drink I consume when I'm in the islands.  My regular stores, Vons, Ralphs, Trader Joe's or Fresh N Easy do not carry anything from the Kona Brewing Co.  Last night, I went into the Bev Mo in Rancho Cucamonga looking for some other brew (looking for Endless Summer which I haven't seen anywhere else but from a truck I was following on the 405 freeway).  Didn't find Endless Summer but I did find these Kona Brewing Co. lager and ale six packs -- at a sale price of $7.99 each.  That is less than what I paid in Kapaa 3 weeks ago so I was pretty stoked!  I should really go back to Bev Mo and get a few more of these.  Beats a 5-hour plane ride to the 808 state.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

It Was Good While It Lasted

Amazon will start charging sales tax in September and for the last 10 years, I had bought most of these art books from them at a much discounted price.  Normally, I would thumb through a book associated with a museum exhibition and I am really just too cheap to pay $70 for a book, so I get it online for $35.  In addition to the free shipping, the fact that I have to pay no sales tax got me sold on the deal.  Well, I have literally a month and a half to buy from them before I get taxed as if I'm going to the local bookstore.  And sometime last year, I started buying household items like shoe polish, bike parts, clothing, etc from Amazon as well.  For me, a bulk of my Amazon purchases are really not necessities -- more like impulse buys or luxury items.  A few dollars of taxes won't break me but it's the damn principle of having to pay more taxes.  Screw 'em all.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Hike #9 - Bear Flats

Our first hike since we got back from Kauai; the 9th one for the summer.  Quite a change from the last hike we did in Kauai -- the muddy Pihea trail; this one is actually close by.  Access to Bear Flats is from Bear Canyon Drive in Mt. Baldy Village.  The actual hike is only 3.5 miles round trip but with the walk from where we parked to where the trail started added another 2 miles.  Overall, not a bad 5.5 miles for a Sunday "stroll". We started tahe hike at 1130am yesterday but most of the uphill trail was shaded from old growth oak trees.  Bear Flats was somewhat of a disappointment other than a sign that says "Backpack Stoves By Permit" only.  This is very, very dry terrain.
JJ had to refresh his head from a cold water stream once we got to Bear Flats.  The hike up was challenging with the elevation starting at around 4500 feet.  I need to confirm but based on my topographic map, it was a 2000 feet elevation gain to Bear Flats from the village.  The hike down was not easy as well with the steep downhill that's not too kind for knees.  We did see several hikers coming down with their hiking poles to help ease the descent, I assume.
This is the view facing southeast.  The village is at the center of the photo and in the far distance, we saw Upland/Rancho Cucamonga.  Overall, the hike was fine but the kids were so used to having some kind of reward at the destination (e.g. waterfall, mud, abandoned mine) that they were somewhat disappointed.  However, I'm absolutely sure they got a decent workout.  We grabbed some tacos for lunch and they wolfed them down like gangbusters.  I just can't believe they have 3 weeks left in this summer vacation and it's been a blast.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

No.90 Goat's Milk Soap

Within the past year, I've been trying different soaps in the hope that it will balance out the hard water that we get from the Cucamonga Valley Water District.  It's been a lot of trial and error from handmade soaps from the Soap Kitchen in Pasadena to my local Sprouts Market.   This one from Sprouts caught my eye with its use of traditional type on the packaging.  Not Helvetica.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Memories Of Kamalani Playground

There's always a point in life when you move on to the next phase.  Most of the time it is distinct and life changing.  Other times, you really need to pay close attention or you'll miss it.  Kamalani Playground in Lydgate Park in Kauai was built by 7000 volunteers back in 1994 and when we first visited Kauai in 2005 with the kids, we were just in awe at the size of this playground.  Not a typical park playset on the mainland, Kamalani (Hawaiian for "chief's child") is so complex that you can play there for hours and just about the only way of navigating through it is by using these ceramic mosaics scattered along its walls and corners.  In 2005 and 2007, we visited the beach at Lydgate Park several times and then played at Kamalani immediately after.  This year, I took the kids to Kamalani and although the kids still ran around, it just wasn't the same anymore.  Body surfing and body boarding in Brennecke's Beach in Poipu was more their "thing".  I understand.  After all, JJ and Sam are now 12 and 14, respectively.  So given that I will most likely book our hotel in Poipu next time we visit, we will probably not return to Kamalani.  Last month, I did take several photos of these ceramic mosaics just to serve as a reminder of the countless hours we've spent enjoying our time there.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Portrait of My Kids (2008)

This photo was taken in 2008 in the driveway of our Pasadena home.  The kids were heavy into skating and riding the Ripstick and on any given day, they were outside just being kids.  I look at this photograph today and only now do I read what their faces were telling me at the time.  They were being struggling with just being kids because their innocence was about to be taken away.  2008 was a very difficult year for everyone and when I look at my kids today, I am just beginning to sense that things are going to be alright, in good part, thanks to the strength that Maura had nurtured into them.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sudoku Addiction

I don't know how I find time to do these Sudoku puzzles but I've been averaging 3-4 puzzles a day since I bought this book "Wicked Sudoku".  Once I developed an algorithm for solving a puzzle, it became a matter of really just looking for specific clues.  In the past, I've used our annual flight to Hawaii for time to either write, draw or sleep but this time around, I finished a few Sudoku's in the Demanding category.  The first 100 of the puzzles in this book are Demanding and the second 100 are of the "Beware: Very Challenging" category.  So far, it's satisfying to complete these so we'll see how long I can stay focused.

Monday, July 9, 2012

The Thrift Store Solution

The problem of about three dozen unplayed movies on VHS format when my VCR died about a year ago persisted until I found the solution a month ago.  I tried looking online for a new VCR but just couldn't get myself to procure a brand new unit for about $100 just to play some old movies I have on VHS.  Cult classics like Miracle Mile, Endless Summer (above), Point Break, The Killer are all new to my kids -- who discovered my VHS collection sitting in a closet but with no working VCR.  After I made a donation to the Goodwill Store in Upland, I decided to look inside to kill some time while the kids take their Friday night music lessons at Alta Loma Music.  For $7.99, I bought a used VCR in perfect working condition and soon enough, the kids were watching the Bruce Brown classic for the first time.  JJ remarked how good the soundtrack was to Endless Summer and how he ranked it in his top five movies list.  I know this cheap VCR probably will break down in a couple years so I'm actually considering getting a couple more used units from the Goodwill Store as a backup.  Analog rules.  Thrift stores rule even more!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Moon Glow I (2012) - by Schar Freeman

When I bought this original piece of art in Hanapepe last week, two things of note are worth mentioning.  I'm typically not a seascape-type of person.  Never had been and probably never will be.  Nothing about other artists' work have interested me from the overpriced blue-ocean-whale-dolphin gallery products are most tourist traps to watercolors of waves splashing on the shore.  The other thing is that I don't usually buy mixed media pieces just because I just can't decide whether they are paintings or sculpture.  When I found 3"x2.25" painting at the Banana Patch Studio, I knew I just have to buy it.  Just the previous night, the kids and I sat at the beach just outside our hotel and this image is what I had embedded in my mind to represent that special moment.  We had just got back from dinner around 9pm and Sam and JJ asked if they can eat their treat by the ocean.  I hesitated but agreed when I realized the ocean was moonlit and the breeze was most pleasant.  I've been searching for any sign since we got to Kauai days earlier and at that moment, I realized that it was all in front of me all along.  My kids happiness is the key to my happiness.  I probably will never buy another artwork by Schar Freeeman but this particular one titled "Moon Glow I" will forever remind me of that thought I had on the night we all sat on our beach chairs enjoying what we have in front of us.  Life.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Smith's Luau

In Kauai for 11 days and not eating in the same restaurant more than once is a worthy feat.  But the main meal we all looked forward to was going to a luau -- which we haven't done since December 2007.  Ironically, the last luau we went to was held at the Marriott, which is were we stayed on this trip.  However, that luau (Hiva Pasefika) is no longer around so we tried Smith's Garden Luau just steps from the Wailua River.  Above is the obligatory luau photo that was taken with me and my two hapa haole boys as we entered the Smith compound.  Who would risk going to a luau named Smith's and not question its Hawaiian authenticity, right?  (Turned out Smith is 3rd generation Hawaiian but is the paternal name from England.  Maternal is full Hawaiian.)  The food from Smith's is much better but maybe that's not a valid comparison since it's been 5 years since I've been to a luau.  One thing I'm sure, however, that the Hiva Pasefika show was better, had audience participation and more professional.  Smith's is a family-run business and that includes performers.  Overall, if I have to go to a Kauai luau again, I'll probably go back to Smith's.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hike #8 - Pihea Trail

Two words to describe this trail we did today. Breath-taking. Muddy.  Most of the 3.5 miles we did to Alakai Crossing and back were of the breath-taking variety with amazing views of the Na Pali coast on the west side of Kauai or the greenest of forests we've had the good fortune to hike through.  However, there is a 1/3 mile stretch just after Pihea Vista that is muddy, slippery and fun.  I'm guessing the elevation to be somewhere between 4000 and 5000 feet and I don't think the ground ever dries anytime.  The red Kauai dirt coupled with ever present mist creates the most challenging hike we've done to date.  And the most fun as well.

Below is Sam with the Na Pali coast below.  A good 4000 feet from the ridge where we started the hike.  We heard several helicopters -- the primary way to tour the coast.  The other way is via boat (usually a catamaran) and I'm assuming hiking is the least popular method.  I'm still hoping the kids would like to hike down the coast some time in the future.

We didn't expect mud when we started.  In fact, I started hearing complaints about this hike being boring, as if views of the Na Pali coast was not good enough.  About 1 mile into the hike we started seeing people on their way back with mud on their shoes, legs, shorts, hands, etc.  At that point, I knew we were in for an adventure.  So it became a game of who can hike through the mud without getting any on their leg.  Nobody got any mud on their leg but Sam fell on his butt at least 3 times from slipping.

There were these wooden boards covered with chicken wire that was laid over the forest floor that made trekking across the swamp easier.  At some point in the future, I'd like to do the entire Alakai Swamp trail as well -- which I've read had these boards for most of the hike.  On our way back the car, we were talking about how boring our hikes back in California would be.  These last 10 days were just the most amazing time I've ever had on these islands.  I don't see how we can ever consider any other island for next year's Hawaii trip.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Strawberry Guava

I was introduced to the strawberry guava during our hike to Nounou Mt Trail a couple days ago.  Little did I realize that these trees grow at an alarming rate and tends to take over countless acres of native Hawaiian forest.  Also known as "waiawi", the plant was introduced in the 1800s from Brazil and is actually Hawaii's most destructive non-native species.  I never really had an appreciation for why I had to fill out the agriculture declaration forms flying into the islands but after what I've read on the strawberry guava, I do now.  The only thing worse than the strawberry guava taking over Hawaiian forest is the state government using herbicide (poison) to eradicate the plant -- which had been proposed but hopefully rejected for obvious reasons.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Hike #7 - Nounou Mountain

I was a little hesitant to do this hike based on what I've read on its dangers but today, I decided we take a conservative approach to the ascent up Nounou Mountain in Kapaa.  The good thing about the hike is that it's literally a mile from where we're staying in town.  There's actually several good things about this hike including the excellent workout I got (1.6 mile with 800 ft elevation gain), a great view of Kapaa, Wailua and Lihue and the nice tropical terrain.  This is Hike #7 for the kids and the 3rd we've done while in Kauai.
This is the 10th year the kids have been going to Hawaii and for the first time ever, I felt that we can actually appreciate much more what the islands have to offer. We tried some hiking in Oahu last year but those were more of the short, tourist walk variety.  Maybe next year, we take on longer adventures like backpacking or day hikes.
Below is a good view of Wailua and Lihue in the far distance.  The eastern trail that we hiked up took over an hour and our shirts were soaked from the humidity.  One of the things I read about is the number of accidents on this hike especially during the wet months.
On our way back, we were fairly relaxed so we started looking for some of these small guava plants for ripe fruit.  Unlike the guavas I grew up eating (typically the size of a ping-pong ball), these are no larger than a small grape.  Sam tried a couple ripe ones and of course, I had several.  There were literally thousands of guavas growing in the wild it seems.

Kalihiwai Beach

On our way trying to find Secret Beach, we ended up in Kalihiwai Beach just half a mile west of the Kilauea.  There was no sign on the main road whatsoever about this beach so there were hardly any tourists(except us) enjoying the surf.  Mostly locals, which I can tell from the cars they drive (no self-respecting local would get caught dead in a Chevy Malibu.).  The waves are not as good as Brennecke's but I got a few good rides on the boogie board, nonetheless.
The lava pools, which is supposed to be accessible only from Secret Beach is actually just to the right of the cliff in the photo below.  I looked it up in the map when we got back to the hotel and realized we were oh, so close.  But the consolation prize of Kalihiwai Beach wasn't bad.  We stayed at over 2 hours, playing in the sand, boogie boarding and body surfing.
 I did notice this surfboard memorial nailed to a tree for a certain Bruce Sinjin Perdue who died at a young age of 23 sometime in May 2012.  With a little bit of research, I found out he died in car accident driving home to his residence in Kilauea.  I've never been to Kalihiwai Beach before but it certainly looks like a small, tight-knit community and can only imagine how devastating it must be to lose someone so young to tragedy.  If I lived here, I would have my ashes spread here as well.