Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friday, March 23, 2012


I spent the morning with my grandma.

7,000 boys went down with the Arizona, she said. Your grandfather wanted me to see it. To see my reaction, she said. That was the first time I went to Hawaii. I didn't want to go, she said.

Darjeeling, India. That was the best trip of my life. We spent five weeks crossing India, she said. Your grandfather was very good to me, knew I loved the mountains, knew I wanted to be near the Himalayas. We had no itinerary. At every stop, we asked at the hotel where we should go next, and we went there. The people were so nice, so beautiful.

The train in Darjeeling Limited comes to mind. The image of my nearly Gothic Victorian grandmother in a hat and pearls, her white-white hands clutching the railing as their 1st class car rocks back and forth. Tea. There would have been tea.

The best I've ever had, she said.

Was he deployed during the war, I said. What war? My dear, there have been so many wars since I was a little girl, she said.

Korean, she said then. For two years he went back and forth to Hawaii. I didn't see him shed any tears when he had to leave, she said. I had a baby each time he left.

You can't shake my faith, she said. I've known what was true all my life, it just took time to find others who did too.

I hope someday I'll see more of you, she said. You know you can always stop working. You chose to start and you can choose to stop, she said.

I can't, grandma. I have to work. I would just have to do something else, and I would be even busier.

Not even if you were very careful? she said.

Not even then, grandma. Not unless I very carefully turned back the clock, married a big sailor, had a mess of kids, and hopped trains across India. Had daughters with issues and granddaughters with questions. Not unless I was you.

But I will take you to the Himalayan restaurant. And I won't cringe when you tell the polite waiter about Darjeeling, how good the tea was, how much your husband loved it there. I won't cringe at all. I'll let you be you since you love me.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Meet the Goodwin Project

I tripped and fell hard over these folks while researching farmer's markets on the North Shore.

To be honest I have mixed feelings about rejecting society and choosing a nomadic existence (where children are concerned), but I have enormous respect for the intention...the desire for a mindful and spiritual existence. Do I think "society" offers that? Definitely not.

I did my own version of dropping out in my late teens; following the Grateful Dead, hanging out on a commune, living in an Airstream on a bluff overlooking the Lost Coast (on a Native American burial ground no less), making pita in a wood burning stove, and studying midwifery. In my experience many get lost living like this; few find themselves.

Regardless, I felt some major soul-ache looking at these graceful and lovely people. It was a little bit like looking at what could have been and almost was.

Especially if you've never had the chance to shake free of the heavy responsibilities and demands of this system, I know that this kind of life can hold enormous appeal. Just read their compelling bios and tell me you don't want to know more:

"Aamion was bare handing prawns from a clear creek in Namuamua Village, Fiji, before he could talk. His vagabond dad made home not in one place, but amid a seasonal passage to outposts in New Zealand, Kauai, and Fiji. He is as much a son of nowhere as he is comfortable everywhere. Work and play are blurred for him, and done hard especially now that he and wife Daize have added a second child, True, to the brood.

Daize attracts people wherever she goes, for something more than her sunny magnetism. Whether noseriding over piercing reef or navigating a varied upbringing she got through unscathed. As a teen she was the face of Roxy, an icon in the rise of women’s surfing, and longboarding world champion twice. Through her resourceful creativity Daize has manifested a blessed life. Trolling the Hanalei farmer’s market for tasty mangoes so her kids don't crave candy, she’s a happy, purposeful mother who knows the earth provides.

Aamion is proof that the ocean does too, whether riding big barrels to the podium in the Volcom Pipeline Pro on Oahu’s North Shore, or landing a monster dog tooth tuna with spear while no one is watching. He intuits the less you say, the more people listen, and their son Given, 3, learns this first hand. The unassuming words from Given’s gravelly throat offer clues to his atypical worldview. The Goodwins drop into the bigger waves in life with clear eyes, setting up for the high line."

Do you have a secret (or not so secret) drop-out dream? What does it look like? Farm? Yurt? Costa Rica jungle?

Would you ever go "off the grid" with children?


Their movie teaser is just shimmering with life...the millisecond-long birth scene had me crying, and I am so looking forward to the full-length movie. Try not to be so jaded, all you naysayers!


Monday, March 19, 2012

Kauai (again) and more travel hacking

Yuck, today the raging hail storm that swept Southern California has turned into the ugly grey weather equivalent of post-nasal drip. This seems like a good day to tell you that in a few days, we will be back here:

For sure eating a grass-fed burger here:

But our first stop will be in Princeville, where a little old Japanese lady makes the world's best sushi in a corner of the little grocery store.

If you know me, you know I'm not Hawaiian Tourist Lady. I own no bikinis, sarongs, sun visors, toe rings, tanning salon memberships, or Mai Tai recipes. Which is how I always imagined Hawaii would be. But I wrote after our last visit that Kauai taught me the difference between "travel" and "vacation". The North Shore is lush jungle, largely uninhabited (there are pockets of houses along the rivers and nestles against the mountain), and nearly devoid of tourist amenities. It's perfect.

On our last trip we rented a gorgeous home on a large property. It had a sprawling lawn that rolled out to the river's edge, and beyond that was a forested mountain (we were in the river valley that provided the scenery for Jurassic Park!)

Since we traveled with my mom and dad, we wanted lots of room to spread out, and because we split the cost it was only $100 a night for each family! We had a hot tub and a barbecue where we grilled the freshest fish every night.

The entire top floor was a huge, open suite and veranda with sweeping views of the river valley. It felt so luxurious, and yet we came home with most of our spending money unspent!

This time we're trying something very different; a farmhouse on a working organic farm/orchard! It's supposed to be on a bluff above a secret beach, and they deliver organic produce to you for breakfast every morning. The house is much more rustic than on our previous trip; the second "bedroom" is actually a second floor sleeping loft at the top of a ladder, which the boys will love! It has another bedroom, small bath, lovely rustic farmhouse kitchen, a living room, and a porch, but best of all it's on several private acres at the edge of the farm, and just a five minute hike down to the beach. We booked it at something ridiculous like $97 a night (it has since gone up a bit and is becoming harder to book!) I'll be sure to provide links and reviews once we return.

If you read this blog at all, you know I'm not paying for most of this trip, right? I'm becoming a real bully on Twitter, saying to people who talk about upcoming trips, "You're not paying for that with money, are you??"

I've written a bit on earning miles for free travel-

Here, here, and here. I'm passionate and long-winded about it for this reason: it takes quite literally five minutes of work a year to take a free trip. You could invest a lot more time if you like, and it does become a bit of an addictive game, but I firmly believe that unless you have really wrecked credit, it's within everyone's reach to get enough miles for one big trip per year.

I'll break down the strategy for our upcoming Kauai trip:

Flights-last year British Airways Chase card had a 100,000 mile sign-up bonus. I opened one for myself, one for the hubs. We ended up with about 220,000 total BA points. BA changed their award program and made it a lot less lucrative, but some trips became much cheaper under the new program. Hawaii from the West Coast is now only 25,000 miles round trip with BA (but 35,000-40,000 under most airline programs). I redeemed 100,000 miles for our tickets plus $20 each in taxes. BA was running a special and gave me back 10,000 miles. So, 90,000 miles and $80 in taxes. We still have a ton of miles left, which will cover our (hopefully near future) South American trip.

Car rental-I had a 75,000 "Thankyou points" bonus from a Citi Thankyou Rewards card. Redeemed 22,000 and no cash to rent a Dodge Challenger for the week.

Lodging-I have lots of Starwood and Carlson points (and I hope you do too now!), but I always try to rent a house or apartment when we travel. I totally prefer the experience, and we save hundreds and hundreds of dollars not eating out three times a day. This time our rental cost about $750 after taxes and cleaning fees.

So, aside from groceries (which we would have to buy if we stayed home anyways), the total cost for a family of four to spend a week in Kauai is $830.

If you have any good miles/points advice of your own, or if you've gotten in on any of the deals I've posted about, let us know!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Let's shop for vintage clothes in London today, shall we?

Not for realz, yo! My kids are sick. Otherwise, YEAH I would hop a red eye with you! Get some bangers 'n mash, molest some Queen's guard guys, hang out in some red telephone booths, meet up with Hugh Grant for a nip of whiskey and put my shopping bags in the boot of his Aston Martin. You know, what we USUALLY do when we cross the pond to shop.

Nope, today we will do it American-style, from the comfort of our own McMansions, with our coffee-not-tea, munching on our toast toasted on BOTH sides.

Alright, even I've had it with these weak racial caricatures (some of which might actually be Irish and not English [and based on lyrics by the Police],, I can't even be bothered to be accurate when I'm making fun of people).

So, you ladies-who-read-blogs-thus-know-everything, you know about ASOS right? Kind of similar to ZARA, pretty affordable, purveyors of the orange pants I so unspectacularly blogged about last week?

This fancy lady(famous treehouse designer, member of the Nashville Cats all-female biker gang) got me hooked. Just like Euro cigarette smoke doesn't smell as bad as American, cheap Euro clothes are pretty superior to cheap American clothes and they're not genetically modified because of those progressive EU standards.

But guess what? I found out they have this thing called ASOS Marketplace where edgy British girls who look like they will cut you model some awesome Euro vintage clothing THAT IS FOR SALE FOR NOT A LOT OF MONEY! Most of it is in the $30-$40 range, and shipping is $10-ish.

Here are some of the highlights, but I'm telling you, I only made it to page ten of like 436 pages.

A psychadelic purple panther caftan, the must-have of the season!
The green hair thing and shoes let you know that this is not an American situation going on here...

I feel like Kelly Wearstler would try to rip this dress off your body if she saw you:

A non-traditional wedding dress maybe? For those "wine in Mason jars, bluegrass band in a barn" wedding people?

Who could not wear this dress? It would look good on everyone.

I just know this girl is in an awesome scooter gang. I'll take that body AND the amazing dress, thanks. I think this is going into my "If I ever get my boobs did" scrapbook.

Best for last? Yep. A littler spendier at about $100, as it's 60s Pierre Cardin from back when he was a thing! The details on this dress are superb. I would wear it with purple tights, but I wear purple tights with everything. You would look good in this dress until you're 80. It's just so perfect. Forgive her for not smiling...she's a little angry about the awful drooping bunting on the wall and the giant doily she's standing on.

Monday, March 12, 2012


Hey, look at me being a man of few words! I think we can all use a break from my soul-searching, no?

I love each of these pieces more than the last. Get 'em while they're hot and fresh in the shop.


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