July 31, 2013

‘Ahi - Tuna (Poke Part 2)

If you'd like to try out poke, the most common type you'll encounter is ‘ahi. It's the Hawaiian word for tuna and the word is used almost exclusively - I don't think I've ever seen "tuna" unless it was referring to the canned type.

In case you're a big fish aficionado, ‘ahi can refer to both the yellowfin (kihada) and big eye (mebachi) varieties. Since yellowfin is more common, it's less expensive, and more likely to be used in poke. This helpful seafood website gives Hawaiian names for fish, as well as its sustainability and other interesting facts. Since the Hawaiian and English names for some fish are both used here, I never could keep them straight and this site cleared it up a bit for me.

In case raw fish sounds a little, ahem, fishy to you, keep in mind most cultures have a specialty raw fish recipe. There's ceviche, carpaccio and sashimi, to name a few. The nice thing about poke, compared to sashimi is the sauce. Of course you enjoy the flavor of the ‘ahi, but it is covered in other delicious flavors, like sesame and onion, to help mask the fish if you're worried you won't like it. It's also cut into bite-sized chunks to make it easier to eat. And share! By ordering it with friends, you get to try it without worrying about wasting a whole plate if you don't enjoy it.

But you should order it, because you will probably like it! If you want even less risk, ask to try a piece of ‘ahi (pronounced ah-hee) at a poke counter.

‘Ahi may be the most common seafood in poke, but can you guess what I'll cover next?

(This is part 2 in a series on poke. Click here for part 1.)

July 28, 2013

How to Order Poke (Part 1)

You really can't go anywhere that sells or serves food without seeing poke. It was one of those things that we were really confused by when we first arrived "What is a poke?" "Does it have anything to do with poking?" "I want to try it, but... how do you say it correctly!?"

Since this is such a common food and there's a lot of non-English terms involved, it's pretty important to cover. This is the first in a series of how to order poke.

Definition: Poke means to slice or cut into pieces. So if you slice up some seafood and make a salad = poke. Traditionally it was seasoned with sea salt, seaweed, and crushed kukui nuts. After contact with various cultures, it has evolved and now there are hundreds of varieties to choose from with different meats, vegetables, sauces and seasonings to suit your tastes.

Pronunciation: poe-kay, rhyming with okay. However, you will hear "poe-key," which is not technically correct (because it would be spelled "poki"), but it is an acceptable variation. So either way you say it, you'll get fed.

Location: Fine food markets, grocery stores, convenience stores, farmer's markets, your friend's luau. Basically everywhere.

The grocery store Foodland wins poke popularity contests
Poke on white rice = poke bowl
You can even buy it at Costco in reasonable amounts!
Although it's common in Hawaii, if you live elsewhere and would like to try poke, here is a recipe! Keep reading for more food terms to help you order some ono poke!

July 23, 2013

One - Sand

Although we live only minutes away from some of the best beaches in the world (according to Dr. Beach), one thing used to keep us from heading out to enjoy those beaches. The one (pronounced oh-nay), or sand. I know it's a ridiculous thing to complain about, but it's hard enough to get sand out of those hard-to-reach places... but then trying to get it off of your kids too? It used to drive me so crazy that I dreaded going to the beach. If this is true for you, read on to see how we're minimizing the one-phobia!

Language tip: One is not really used in day to conversation, so don't try to say "I love the powdery one on that beach!" However, it is very common in place and street names, so it will save a lot of confusion to say it correctly. Say oh-nay, not the number 1.

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you'll know that for the last two years, our kids spent most of their time on the sand. And not just gently scooping it into buckets with shovels. I don't know about your kids, but mine like to dig like crazy, wild dogs. So they end up looking like this:

I'm pretty sure they make cement by mixing sand with sunscreen. Or at least they should because it does not come off!

Even after a thorough shower at the beach, somehow this pile of sand still ended up on the bathroom floor (it looked way more dune-like in real life). I have to remind myself to calm down and just get the vacuum. But, most of the mess is contained when we remember to remove our swim suits in the tub. Many people here have outdoor showers to help with that. We unfortunately do not, and we found that the screams that come from hosing them off in the driveway are not worth it, so they trek upstairs.

In order to avoid the sandy floors and cars, here are some handy tools we keep in our car for beach days. Paper towel, brushes, beach blanket, change of clothes, garbage bag and jugs of water (not pictured). The beach blanket doesn't really keep the kids clean, but is more for the adults and the food. I wish I could give you a simple step-by-step method for sand removal, but it really depends on the type of sand you're dealing with, so you must experiment! Which means trying out different beaches - best homework ever!

Some handy hints: We've found that if you shower at the beach, a jug of water is usually sufficient to get the strays off your feet. However for those beaches without showers, (or if your kids kick and scream through the cold water showers and you'd rather just quickly dash home) you need a brush to help. Fine sand works best after drying out - so brush first, then rinse. More coarse sand does better with a quick rinse then brushing. You'll notice we have two brushes - one is a beauty product and the other is from the automotive aisle. Both work fine, but some people think one is too "scratchy."

Hopefully with these hints you too can finally enjoy the "White Sandy Beach" in Hawaii (or in your neck of the woods) without cringing about cleaning up! What are your favorite beach clean up tools?

July 19, 2013

Mo’o - Gecko

Every morning, the kids fight over who gets to open the "gecko door," the screen door leading down the stairs where the mo’o live. We have a family of at least three. Although there were more before "the accident."

RaeRae had a visitor in her room one night. It was a Madagascar gold dust day gecko. Unlike the other types of lizards and geckos that sneak inside, this one was cute. I tried to catch it or chase it outside, but it just ran around the ceiling, so we let him stay. And he stayed for two days, and during that time he became her "best gecko fwiend" and she couldn't sleep without him watching over her.

Reading to her gecko "fwiends"
One night, I shut the window to keep out the rain. But it didn't shut quite right. I didn't think about it until the next day, when I saw something that used to resemble a gecko in the window frame. Thankfully it was up high enough that Rae couldn't see the mess. I enlisted the help of Kyle to get it out and dispose of it before she could find out. She was disappointed that her gecko "fwiend" wasn't watching her at bedtime, but she thought he'd return the next day after getting some bugs.

Those happy thoughts didn't last long, as I heard crying in the bathroom. Seems the gecko had been disposed of in the toilet, but not flushed. To this day, she'll occasionally ask "Who smashed my best gecko fwiend"?
Distinctive gold spots on his neck and tail
As you can tell by their name, the Madagascar gold dust geckos are not native to Hawaii, which usually is a problem for plant and animal species. For some species, like their larger cousin the giant day gecko, you should call and report a sighting, but not these cute little guys. For a brief history of geckos in Hawaii, you can read more here.
They startle easily, sorry for the shot through the screen door
There are other kinds of lizards and geckos around, but they are mostly nocturnal - and uglier. Although we might be influenced by the talking mo‘o from the Geico ads, we love seeing these guys. Not only are they brightly colored, but they also eat nasty bugs!

And we'll be a little more careful with doors and windows so hopefully we won't have any more tragic accidents in the future!

July 12, 2013

Mokoli’i - Chinaman's Hat

Here's the secret: I'm not adventurous. Also, I'm a pretty bad swimmer. And my level of anxiety in the ocean is probably clinical. So swimming to an island 1/3 mile offshore, with our kids in a raft seemed like a really terrible idea.

Despite all that, we spent an afternoon swimming out to Mokoliʻi, locally known as the very politically correct Chinaman's Hat. Because it looks like a hat. It really could be any kind of hat, but since the Chinese were a large immigrant group here, it stuck. Based on its shape, to me it looks more like "Sorting Hat Island." 
It looks so far away!
Anyway, Kyle had done it twice before, once with our son in the boat. So I had to trust Kyle. And take lots of calming breaths.
Shaka time!
Wisely, Kyle brought along a jump rope to tie to himself so he could tow the boat. It also served as a communication device in case of emergency.We had a safety briefing so if anyone fell out of the boat, someone would pull three times on the rope. Glad that wasn't an issue!

Halfway there!
Photo courtesy of the children
Spotted a honu!
Using slippers to help swim better
Made it!
View of Oahu from Chinaman's Hat

The swimming leg of a sprint triathlon is shorter than that! So if I can do a triathlon with a snorkel and goggles, and stop halfway through for a snack break, then I'm all set!
This guy can climb!
And so can this girl!
Secret beach!
You can see the island of Moloka‘i on the horizon - just look in the big gap between the two little islands

The clouds looked ominous, but just stayed over the mountains
More climbing
This cave was sandy last time they visited

Looking at tide pools
Found a little hermit crab
And an even littler one!
Feather duster worm: before...


...and after.

Enjoying their free ride with a free sucker

Although I'm not really a risk-taker, I'm thankful for my adventurous husband who forces me out of my comfort zone so I can experience cool things like this!

You can do it too! To access Chinaman's Hat, you'll want to park at Kualoa Beach Park (not the ranch). Any place will do, but there is a rock wall protecting the beach in some areas, so unless you want to hop over it, launch from a different spot on the beach.

Although I'm not a strong swimmer, I can swim and have done so in open water before, so please do use caution. It is possible to walk most of the way to the island at low tide, since the water is about 4 feet deep. But, there have been drownings - be aware of the time for high tide and ask the lifeguards about the currents if you are unsure.

And if you want to try it, you can always borrow our raft!

July 9, 2013

Nalu - Wave

It's not surprising that in Hawaii, most kids are comfortable in the water from an early age. It's not uncommon to see naked babies swimming underwater and preschoolers surfing. But if you live in a state where you're never more than 20 miles from the ocean, you have lots of exposure to the water. We are from Michigan, and if you're not up on US geography, it's a peninsula shaped like a mitten, surrounded by the Great Lakes. So we were used to the water. And were cool with nalu, waves. Or so we thought.

Back in 2010:

On our first visit to Hawaii, we took a trip to the North Shore to see the big waves. Unfortunately, they were so big there was a beach advisory and the kids had to be kept way back on the sand. The older guys thought they'd have fun body surfing.

Getting ready to dive in
They did have a great time, although getting out of the water was quite a dangerous task because the waves broke hard right on the shore and would proceed to suck you back in. And then hit you again. And again. Now we know better and we're so thankful no one was hurt!

Pretty sure lifeguards love when tourists do this stuff!
Back in 2011:

Despite Michigan having many lakes, our kids didn't have that much exposure to swimming. So when we arrived in Hawaii they were almost afraid of the water. The ocean might look almost the same as a lake to an adult, but for a child the waves are much bigger, louder and saltier! They preferred to play in the sand, only using the ocean to get water for their sand castles...

...and giant holes in the sand. Which, looking back are a great way to keep them from escaping!

Another haole mistake about waves. After we had first arrived, there was a big storm. Since it was winter, we thought going to the North Shore would let us see some killer waves. However, they weren't that great. And no one was surfing. That's because the wind in a storm causes waves, but the big swells you surf on come from miles and miles away. And most people don't like surfing waves in a storm. For obvious reasons of getting rained on and poor visibility, but also because it stirs up the sand and makes the water nasty. Now we know to actually listen to the weather and surf report to find out when to watch the surfers in action!

Now in 2013:

For safety's sake, it was nice that the kids were content playing in the sand without sneaking into the waves. However, we realized they might actually need to learn to swim one day. It has been a gradual process, and there might have been some long discussions about sharks, seaweed and being brave. Once they realized riding waves was fun, it was a good motivator.

Body boarding with a life jacket
They've both started swimming lessons, and although there's still a long way to go before they'll be surfing, it's awesome to watch them conquer their fears and be able to enjoy the nalu that grace our shores.