Browsing Category "reviews"
14 Oct

My Oahu and Honolulu City Guide for Design Sponge

I wrote a new Oahu and Honolulu City Guide as a guest post for Design Sponge a few months ago. Life has been busy so I kind of forgot to write about writing it! The guide lists about 75 of my favorite shops, restaurants and things to do on Oahu. I split it into three areas – Honolulu (beyond Waikiki), the North Shore (Haleiwa) and Kailua (windward Oahu) and created a Google map to go along with it.

See the full guide on Design Sponge.
See the Oahu City Guide Google Map.

I hope fellow bloggers find it helpful as they plan to visit Oahu. And as I said in the post, I’ll probably still feel like a visitor years from now! I guess I should head over to see if anyone has left new recommendations in the comments. Speaking of comments, the format of the post is a little confusing because they left the comments up from a previous Hawaii city guide even though mine is completely new and only for Oahu. (Just skip down to June 2012 for the real comments.)

Here’s a peek at one of my favorite stores I listed in the guide – Pacific Home. I want that chair!

9 Dec

#14: Do a 30-day yoga experience – 30 before 30 list

"Can I have some more yoga, please?"

It took me a year and a half to finally step up to my yoga challenge goal – but I did it! During November, I redeemed my Groupon for a free month of yoga at Yoga Union in SE Portland. Technically I cheated, since I didn’t do a 30-day experience… it was more like four times a week. However, this is my goal and I can complete it how I wish.

I’ve done plenty of yoga over the years but usually not more than once a week. My goal was to go enough that I would develop a routine and really move forward in my “practice.” The fact that I was living by myself in November made it a perfect time to devote some energy to yoga and really center myself in preparation for the life changes ahead. (Moving!)

Things I learned from my yoga challenge:

  • Teachers DO matter – and a higher-quality studio generally means higher-quality teachers.
  • I love hot yoga.
  • The different styles of yoga are actually very different. I enjoyed every class I went to, but particularly the restorative classes on weekdays and more intense/energetic classes like hot yoga or prana vinyasa on the weekends.
  • I can focus for 90 minutes! No really, I had never attended a yoga class longer than 60 minutes. Most of the Yoga Union classes are 90 minutes. The time flew by!

Overall, this was a great experience. And one of my favorite habits was extending my post-yoga “me time” with a chai tea latte or a walk on Mount Tabor! I would definitely consider another yoga-intensive experience.

22 Jul

50 new restaurants in 2011

Every year my husband and I try to visit at least 50 new restaurants. Thanks to check-ins via Foursquare and Facebook, it’s now super easy to track these new locations. We hit 50 new places by May this year! This post inspired me to make a list of my own. Here goes:

  1. Pizzicato – The Puttanesca with artichoke hearts, feta and kalamata olives is yum.
  2. Timberline Lodge – We had three meals here. Best hot chocolate in America, I guarantee it.
  3. Pambiche – You had me at plantains. Desserts are fanciful.
  4. Meat Cheese Bread – Green bean sandwich is delish.
  5. Sweatpea Baking Company – Good vegan cookies, hold the attitude.
  6. Jam – Ty’s Big Breakfast, please! My favorite breakfast place of 2011.
  7. Oasis Café – Meh. But husband liked the calzone though.
  8. McMenamins on Broadway – Pass, I think we had a Groupon.
  9. Rimsky-Korsakoffeehouse – Not my style. At all!
  10. Kettleman Bagel – Mmm, mmm lox.
  11. Veritable Quandary – Great, under-the-radar brunch spot.
  12. Savoy – We hit the happy hour. Deep fried cheese curds were darn good.
  13. Bumblekiss – Take it or leave it. Maybe it’s because I have a ping pong table at home? 😉
  14. Fuego de Lotus – Venezuelan food cart. Yummy but pricey.
  15. Pix Patisserie – One of those places I should have been to but hadn’t. Favorites are Shazam and Queen of Sheba.
  16. Nicholas Restaurant – Another Portland classic I’ve passed up. Great food, but I’ll take Ya Hala over Nicholas any day.
  17. Hollywood Burger Bar – Building and atmosphere = +5 hipster points. Food = greasy.
  18. Fenouil – Oh why did you close? I was just getting to know you…
  19. Byways Cafe – Acceptable but not remarkable breakie. Awesome wait staff though.
  20. Pastrygirl – Hands down, best cookies in Portland!!!
  21. Thai Chef (Maui, HI) – Do not go here!
  22. Sansei Seafood Restaurant & Sushi Bar (Maui, HI) – Go for the butterfish sushi, stay for the karaoke.
  23. Kihei Caffe (Maui, HI) – Best breakfast on Maui. Can’t go wrong with sweets or savories.
  24. Hula Cookies (Maui, HI) – Huuuge ice cream sandwiches.
  25. Star Noodle (Maui, HI) – The best restaurant on the planet. Seriously, my favorite. Everything is great, the share plates, Vietnamese crepe, malasadas…
  26. Honolua Store (Maui, HI) – Great sandwiches, and it might be the cheapest lunch you have in Maui.
  27. Julia’s Banana Bread (Maui, HI) – The little green banana bread house. Good bread and coconut candy.
  28. Fish Market Maui (Maui, HI) – Get fresh fish and a rub or marinade to go.
  29. Aloha Mixed Plate (Maui, HI) – Pass, just go to Star Noodle again.
  30. Maui Tacos (Maui, HI) – Go elsewhere, save yourselves!
  31. Flatbread Pizza Company (Maui, HI) – Just OK, but it seemed very popular so maybe worth another try.
  32. Aunty Sandy’s (Maui, HI) – Good banana bread, but not as good as Julia’s. 🙂
  33. Food trucks on the road to Hana (Maui, HI) –  Not sure the name, but there is a parking lot of five or six food trucks halfway to Hana. A great find after hiking!
  34. Makawao Sushi & Deli (Maui, HI) – Average sushi, but you’re in upcountry.
  35. Charley’s Paia (Maui, HI) – Surfing cowboys and Willie Nelson love it, but I’ll pass.
  36. Oaks Bottom Public House – A mistake.
  37. Juan Colorado – Tualatin – Another mistake.
  38. Bunk Bar – I heard good things but was disappointed in my small, spendy sandwich and drink.
  39. Toast – Biked here and really liked it. Go Woodstock!
  40. Dove Vivi – Good cornmeal crust pizza.
  41. Gather (Berkeley, CA) – What a treat! We had a very special dinner here.
  42. farm:table (San Francisco, CA) – Great coffee, good breakfast. Only two food choices.
  43. Ghirardelli Original Chocolate Shop (San Francisco, CA) – You know you have to do it, but it’s not great. 😉
  44. Boudin Bakery & Cafe (San Francisco, CA) – Meh.
  45. Melt! (San Francisco, CA) – Cool North Beach location. Very chill.
  46. Murray Circle Restaurant at Cavallo Point Lodge (Sausalito, CA) – Dreamy, dreamy brunch. Oh happy day.
  47. Fish. (Sausalito, CA) – Favorite San Francisco dining experience. I had the fish special and it was amazing!
  48. Papalote Mexican Grill (San Francisco, CA) – Good burritos in the Panhandle area.
  49. Restaurant St Jack – I am disappoint. I so wanted to like it, but didn’t. The building is adorable though.
  50. Artemis Foods Cafe – Cute little Division coffee shop with friendly baristas.

Well, that wraps up my first 50 new restaurants of 2011. Happy noshing!

8 May

I deserve a gold star for reading 13 books in 13 weeks!

Success! This is my proudest “30 before 30” accomplishment so far. I initially thought reading 13 books in 13 weeks would be a breeze, but it was quite the commitment, make that a 4,284 page commitment!

Luckily I had a vacation on my side where I was able to knock out a whopping five books. In all, I read an average 50 pages a day for three months. Here is my reading list with a thought or note about each book.

The Imperfectionist​s by Tom Rachman
A great story with deep character studies. If Tom’s writing style was less engaging, I would have considered this a slow read. However, it kept my attention and I might even call it brilliant. I really enjoyed this book!

Steve Martin writes books? Yes, yes, “Shopgirl” was a hit, I know. But coming out of this book, my biggest thought is about how one can be gifted in so many areas. Impressive.

Bossypants by Tina Fey
Tina Fey is the most hilarious human on the planet. I accidentally deleted my half-read copy of Bossypants from my Kindle on vacation and I think the entire hotel heard my angry she-roar. Alas, I had to finish it when I got home. This book had me rolling with giggles and there are so many great quotes. One of my favorites: “By the way, when Oprah Winfrey is suggesting you may have overextended yourself, you need to examine your fucking life.” Oh, I heart Tina Fey.

The Idiot Girl and the Flaming Tantrum of Death by Laurie Notaro
Meh. Either I’m getting old, or Laurie Notaro is just not as funny as she used to be.

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Freedom by Jonathan Franzen
While aspects of the characters exist in all of us, the train wreck of self-indulgence was a little hard to take for nearly 600 pages, or 24 hours, since I got the audiobook for free on Audible. The first half was pretty good but then it went on and on and became unbelievable … and then I got to the point where I didn’t even care if it was believable because I just wanted it to be over. I wasted a day of my life on the book (granted it was spread out over a month during my commute, but still).

The Help by Kathryn Stockett
Now if there was ever an exceptional audiobook, this is it! A truly enjoyable listen and a great, mesmerizing story.

The Winter of Our Discontent by John Steinbeck
A classic that manages to still feel contemporary. This is easily now one of my favorite books and I’m going to take another trip down Steinbeck lane.

Stones into Schools by Greg Mortenson
I finished reading the “Three Cups of Tea” follow up just a few weeks before the news broke on Mortenson’s fraudulent ways. I was crushed and spent way too many hours reading news stories and Jon Krakauer’s “Three Cups of Deceit.” While Mortenson has obviously been less than honest, I would still consider his work to be a huge success if you take into account the international awareness he has generated for education and humanitarian efforts in the Middle East. Such a sad tale.

I already did a recap post about this book, where I called it magical. I’m still thinking about it.

5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth by Matthew Inman
A jolly good read with classic “the Oatmeal” humor.

Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
I went to a reading/talk by Joshua Ferris at Bumbershoot a few years back but hadn’t actually read his book. While it’s an interesting story and look at a moment in time (the dot-com era), it just seems weird given the current financial crisis, recession and sweeping layoffs. A fine read, but a little depressing.

One of my favorite recent novels. It was a wild tale of a ride! Reminded me somewhat of a mashup in style between Steve Toltz’ “A Fraction of the Whole” and Yann Martel or Khaled Hosseini.

Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell
Hurray, hurray for Malcolm Gladwell and my favorite genre of armchair economics.

So that’s it. It has been an inspiring 13 weeks. Reading (almost anything) puts so many great ideas in my head; now it’s time for them to simmer. And I should probably start looking for pennies to pay off my library fines.
20 Mar

13 books in 13 weeks: “The Alchemist”

I finally read “The Alchemist” and, indeed, it is magical. I really enjoyed the simple but inspiring tale, but rather than attempt a review, I’ll share some of my favorite quotes:

“Don’t be impatient … Eat when it’s time to eat. And move along when it’s time to move along.”

“There is only one way to learn,” the alchemist answered. “It’s through action. Everything you need to know you have learned through your journey.”

“… when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

“Don’t say that again. Life might be listening, and give you less the next time.”

“Everything that happens once can never happen again. But everything that happens twice will surely happen a third time.”

Four books down, nine to go.