Thursday, October 29, 2009

Relaxing at home

It's quiet around the house tonight. Zac is off doing some Navy stuff so Toivo and I are spending some quality time sitting on the couch watching tv. The only reason I'd consider leaving the house is because I've got great hair right now. I went to the salon and got my hair trimmed this afternoon. It looks like Toivo will be the only one who gets to enjoy my freshly washed, cut and styled hair. At some point in my life I'll get smart and get my haircut before doing something more worthy, like going out to dinner. Usually I get my haircut and go grocery shopping or something equally un-glamorous. If I'm shelling out a nice chunk of change for a haircut I might as well get some use from it. But not tonight. I'm relishing my evening of nothing.

It's been crummy here, weather-wise, the last few days. The trade winds have stopped, the humidity is in the high 60%s and the vog is fierce. (Volcanic ash + fog = vog) A couple days ago I though I was coming down with a cold. I was feeling kind of phlegmy and my throat was a little scratchy. I realized after my symptoms didn't change that it was probably due to all the crud in the air right now. Today I could hardly make out the mountains out the back window. That's a lot of particulate matter in the air. On top of the vog, it was really cloudy today. Kind of like those dreary, November days where it rain steadily and you want to curl up with a book. Except that here it's 87 degrees and the rain stubbornly remains collected at the top of the two mountain ranges. (If there's no wind the rain doesn't move - it just stays around the higher altitudes.)

Ha ha ha! Too funny. I'm watching the evening news and the weather man just said we're going to get our first Hawaiian "Arctic Blast" of the winter season next week: High of 82, low of 71. Life here is surreal. They even have a shivering "cooler" written over the forecast for that day. I love it. Although I'll probably be rocking jeans and a long-sleeved shirt whining about the temps . . .

Speaking of temperatures, I'll be testing my Minnesotan-ness in a couple of months when I return to the motherland at the end of December. I am a bit worried that I have become soft in my time in Hawaii. (See the previous paragraph.) Not only am I thrilled to be able to see my family and friends again, I am also ecstatic at the thought of sweaters, mittens, heavy jackets, and hot chocolate. Zac and I are going to be spending some time in California with his parents and sister and then I'll be heading on to Minnesota while Zac returns back to Oahu. I was in Minnesota just this last May, but I had a hard time thinking about being back on the mainland (California) and not heading home. So I get to frolic in the snow in a couple of months - I can't wait!

Speaking of Minnesota, Zac and I went out to dinner last night. Sitting at a table behind Zac, in my line of sight, was a guy who looked almost exactly like Nick Punto of the Minnesota Twins. I kept staring at him and I think he started to get a little alarmed. I knew it wasn't him, but I'm telling you this guy looked sooooooooooo similar. I whispered to Zac, "There's a guy who looks like Little Nicky Punto behind you." Zac tried to get a look but it would have required him to be a more than a little obvious, so he waited until we stood up to leave. Then he glanced over at the guy I was talking about. Zac chuckled - he knew the guy. Apparently the guy is a Lt. on one of the ships. Like I said, I knew the guy wasn't LNP, but I was still kind of hoping . . .

You know, some hot chocolate sounds kind of good right now. I think I'm going to go make some, just to practice getting back into the swing of winter things.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Rainbow Wahine Volleyball

Before we came out to Hawaii, Zac was stationed in El Salvador for 13 months. Towards the end of his time there I went down to visit him for a little less than a week. (I have a few posts about the trip - browse through the July 2008 stuff.) On one of the days, Zac drove me up to the top of the (long dormant) volcano just outside of San Salvador. We parked the car and started milling about the paths that ran around the rim of the crater. It was very green and very beautiful. It was difficult to get a picture that adequately showed how deep the crater was. My abilities of showing depth of field on my camera are lacking. After we had taken in the scenery we headed back down towards the car. On the way up the path was a group of people speaking English. We stopped to say hi, as it seems like the thing to do when you're in a foreign country and encounter people speaking the same language as you.

As we talked to the fellow Americans, another man approached their group. He joined the conversation just as Zac was telling them about why he was in El Sal (the military) and where we were going next (Hawaii). The recently arrived man's eyebrows popped up and he smiled. "I'm the coach of the women's volleyball team for Hawaii," he said. Just to confirm that he wasn't pulling our leg, he reached into his wallet and handed us his business card - Dave Shoji, Women's Volleyball Coach. It looked official - it had the University of Hawaii logo on it and everything, but seriously? What are the odds of running into a person from Hawaii at the top of a volcano in El Salvador?

Coach Shoji told us that if we needed anything when we got to Hawaii to give him a call. Zac and I were still a little stunned to have run into someone who knew Hawaii intimately on our walk. We thanked him and our two groups parted ways. As we walked back to the car Zac and I laughed at the thought that one of few contact people we had in Hawaii was the coach of the women's volleyball team. I should note that both Zac and I love women's volleyball, especially at the college level. Nebraska is routinely a national contender and Minnesota's team is pretty good so we were excited that we had met the volleyball coach. The water polo coach - while I'm sure he is a pretty cool person too - would not have garnered the same reaction from us.

When we got back to Zac's apartment I looked up and sure enough, Dave Shoji is the coach of the perennial contender Hawaii Rainbow Wahine. When we got to Hawaii we made a point to go see some of the volleyball matches. As the NCAA tournament started I asked Zac, "Should I send the coach a 'good luck' e-mail? Do you even think he'll remember who we are?" Zac was confident that we were probably the only Navy people moving to Hawaii that Coach Shoji had met on his trip to El Sal, so the odds of him remembering us were decent. So I sent Coach Shoji this e-mail:

Coach Shoji,

My husband and I met you this past July in El Salvador. We were at the top of a volcano just outside of San Salvador. You gave us your business card when we mentioned that we were moving to Hawaii this fall, due to my husband's new Navy orders. We arrived in Hawaii in September and have enjoyed watching your team play on television. Today we finally made it to campus to see a game in person. We cheered loudly and were thrilled to see you win the WAC championship. We will certainly be following the team as it goes through the NCAA tournament.

Wishing you and your team continued success,

Kate and Zac Kotschwar

He sent back:

kate and zac, thanks so much for coming to the game. we hope your time here has been good. keep in touch and let me know if you need anything, aloha, dave

First off, I was flattered that he used his name, not title, to sign the note. How very familiar of him! And the fact that he again offered his assistance just confirmed to me that he wasn't just being polite at the top of the volcano.

Flash forward one year - tonight the Rainbow Wahine take on New Mexico State. Coach Shoji has 999 career wins as the Wahine coach. He has been the head coach of this team for 35 years. Tonight's win would make 1,000. Only one other coach in D-I women's volleyball has that many wins. (The coach at UCLA.) That, folks, is what we call impressive.

I am confident that the Rainbow Wahine will win tonight, and I am confident that after the win I will send Coach Shoji, er, 'Dave', an e-mail congratulating him.

For a interesting article about Coach Shoji and the Rainbow Wahine program, check out this article from the Honolulu Advertiser.

We're not going to the game tonight, but we'll be watching it on TV. And we'll be cheering: Let's go Bows!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Goodbye to Fred

Fred had to go. It's not that I didn't like Fred. He's cute as a button, but he was spending too much time in the kitchen and he needed to leave. I tried to persuade him but finally I told Zac this evening that Fred needed to be removed. By force, if necessary.

Fred is the gecko that had taken up residence in our kitchen about a week ago. I discovered our housemate about a week ago when I walked into the kitchen one night, turned on the light, and discovered a gecko paralyzed with fear on my counter top. I was startled, jumped and then giggled at my reaction. Zac, from the living room, wanted to know what was so funny. I told him we had a gecko in the kitchen. Zac asked, "Is he missing a tail?" I replied "yes" as the gecko took off for refuge under the microwave. "Oh, he's been around for a couple of days," Zac informed me. I was feeling generous and decided to let the gecko try to sneak back out of the house. "Maybe we should name him," I suggested. "Let's call him 'Fred'" Zac answered. (That's usually Zac's answer. Everything is either 'Turbo' or 'Fred' to Zac.)

Fred popped up every now and again over the last week or so. His tail started to grow back. Who knows where his tail fell off in the first place. Actually I don't want to know where his tail fell off. I've convinced myself that it happened outside the house, otherwise I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. I'd walk into the kitchen and Fred would run his usual route across the counter to his hiding place under the microwave. Today as I was cooking, however, I decided that Fred's time here was coming to an end. I was concerned about leaving my pumpkin bread out on the counter if I had a gecko climbing all over it during the nighttime.

Tonight as I walked into the kitchen Fred was on the counter. This was it. It was time. Time to go. Of course this posed a challenge as I am too much of a chicken to try and pick up Fred myself. I spent a few minutes arguing my case to Zac as to why Fred had to go. Zac argued very strongly on Fred's behalf, but in the end Zac agreed to reunite Fred with the great outdoors. Zac moved the microwave which shocked the heck out of Fred. I think Fred was under the impression that the microwave provided an impenetrable fortress of refuge. Luckily his stunned reaction gave Zac the opportunity to scoop him up with Fred's cute little gecko face poking out of Zac's gently closed fist.

Zac took the opportunity to torment me like a little boy in a school yard trying to creep out a female classmate. He chased me around the kitchen a bit threatening that Fred was going to, "get me." I was not amused. Well, maybe a little amused. But not very amused. After Zac was satisfied with my displays of wimpiness, Zac took Fred to the back door and let him out. Fred is now back outside, where he belongs, with exciting stories to tell to the other critters that lurk in the backyard..

Friday, October 9, 2009

The power of water

This is footage from a security camera at the FBI office in Samoa. It captured some of the power of the tsunami that hit on Sept. 29. The first minute is a couple of guys walking across the parking lot. You can see one of them look back over his shoulder at something. Then another guy starts walking across the lot. Something catches his attention in the same direction and he starts running back towards the building. Then the cars are tossed around like bumper cars. Really eerie.

See it on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Understatement of the year

Joe Mauer, being interviewed by ESPN after the win.

"How 'bout that game today?"

Indeed, Joe. Indeed.

Go Twins!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Fool me once . . .

shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

There's a Thai restaurant near our house that Zac and I love. Love, love, LOVE. We go every three or four weeks. At this point we've had about half the items on the menu and we've yet to find something that isn't utterly delicious. Almost every time we go we end up ordering a side of chicken pad Thai. I'm salivating just thinking of it.

Zac and I decided that we should try our hand at cooking some tasty Thai treats at home. We spent a good deal of time in the cookbook section of a local bookstore and finally decided on a Thai cookbook which contained photos at each step of preparation. It seemed easy enough so we purchased it. We looked up a few dishes we wanted to make, pad Thai included, and assembled a list of ingredients that we needed to get. (Up until then fish sauce hadn't been a staple in our pantry.)

A couple months ago Zac and I tried making pad Thai for the first time. It turned out poorly. If the Thai restaurant by our house makes a "10", this was about a 2.25. The flavors were flat, and most importantly, the noodles were undercooked. I can't figure out how to describe what it's like eating undercooked rice noodles, but it's unpleasant. Zac and I took stock of what went wrong, what went right and decided to try again at some point.

Tonight was our second attempt. Because the texture of the noodles was the main culprit last time I resolved to (at the very least) get the noodles right this time around. I soaked them in cold water overnight, per the instructions, tossed them into the hot pan, per the instructions, heated them until they were translucent, again - instructions, and then added the sauce and let it cook. Now the instructions claim that once the sauce is in the noodles should be very close to being done. Well, I continued to cook my noodles for more than 15 minutes after adding the sauce, sampling noodles every couple of minutes or so waiting for them to soften up. No go.

Finally as I approached 20 minutes I thought, "These have to be done by now." I turned them off and dished up supper. The sauce looked better this time, though there wasn't enough for my liking. It smelled alright. I scooped up a bite and tried it.

Dang it.

If last time's batch was a 2.25, this attempt was a 3.0. (And that's only because the sauce seemed to come together a little bit better.) I'm royally ticked off. I pride myself on my cooking - or at the very least for being able to follow a recipe. Usually if I foul up a dish on the first go around I can fix it on the second attempt. That didn't happen this time around. I'm flummoxed and befuddled. And downright crabby.

I'm reluctant to give this dish a third try because at some point I'm just wasting ingredients. I looked online and some people have suggested boiling noodles before trying to add them. But I'm sure it will take me a few attempts to get the boiled noodles to the right texture. For the frustration and stress this is causing me I had might as well just order some take-out from the restaurant.

So while Zac was a trooper and ate some for supper, you'll have to excuse me, but I have to go make a bowl of corn flakes.