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2019 - The good , the bad, the ugly. Year End Review

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Each year on New Years Day I take time to reflect on the past year. Some years are wonderful. Some are uneventful. And some I am just glad to see be over. 2019 was one of those years. There were good moments. And then there were some bad ones. Nothing unusual about that. But the bad ones seemed to be overwhelming this year.

Mark changed jobs twice this year. The bank where he was employed was sold and he had to find a new job. This was a bad situation that worked for the best. He found a new job well before the bank finally closed so he was never really unemployed. He phoned me from work one morning and said to me I start the new job in two weeks. So lets plan a last minute trip before I start the new job. I am never one to turn down a chance to travel. Out of nowhere we decided to go to Milan.

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I love Milan. I had been to Milan once before in 2002. But many people are unimpressed with Milan. On my first trip even the woman at the ticket counter in the airport asked me "Why Milan?" So I was bit concerned Mark might be unimpressed also. But I had nothing to worry about. Mark loved Milan as much or even more than I do.

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Mark chilling at a ristorante in the Galleria in Milan

We also had the chance to take a train to Bergamo while in Milan.

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Beautiful Bergamo

Also on this trip I had the chance to return to my beloved Switzerland. And any year I can visit Switzerland is a good year. While in Milan we took a side trip to Lugano. It was definitely Switzerland but it also had a very Italian feel to it. It's right on the border of Switzerland and Italy. There is just something about Switzerland that captures my spirit even if they are speaking Italian.

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The beautiful Lugano Switzerland

Mark started his new job after we returned and it worked well for him. But then out of nowhere he received another job offer. The job had a good increase in salary and also was a much better commute for him. So after just a few months he bid farewell to the new job and started his adventure to a job in our neighboring county. And he really likes the job and everyone who is working there. Even though I have said this was not a great year for us, work wise it's been a great year for Mark.

Because Mark was in a new job we were not able to travel this summer. But don't feel bad for us. We spent every weekend this summer visiting local breweries in the Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Virginia area. It was great fun. We were entertained every weekend. And we got to try both very good and some mediocre beers. But even mediocre beer isn't all bad.

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RAR Brewery - Cambridge Maryland

The year was going well. Mark was enjoying his second new job of the year. My daughter Katie was hired for a new position with a large increase in salary. And then the ball dropped. My daughter Danielle was made redundant at her job. She was completely unprepared. She was given a small severance package. And she remained unemployed the rest of the year. Then to add fuel to fire her wife was let go from her job also at the end of year. We are all hoping after the holidays are over they will be be able to find new jobs the first of 2020,

In November we were able to travel once more. Our friend Gillian from Manchester, England joined us for a week in Hawaii. It was Mark and my fourth trip to Hawaii. And once more we were overwhelmed.

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December found us with two more problems. My daughter had to have cervical surgery. She had to have a disc replaced in her neck. Then her boyfriend had emergency surgery two weeks before Christmas. To top all of this, Danielle and her wife were unable to join us for Christmas due to their job situation. We had a very uneventful Christmas missing Danielle and Andrea. We spent the morning on our Iphones with face time opening presents together.

We lost some dear friends this year. A beloved extended family member passed away on Christmas Day. We lost family members in Mark's family. And we lost a beloved little dog named Kobi who has been a part of our family for fifteen years. We have continued to watch Mark's Mom slowly fade away to the monster of Alzheimers. But we still have so much to grateful for. And we have a lot to look forward to in 2020. We are already planning some travel for February. I am assured Danielle will find new employment. I have a 50th high school reunion in mid 2020. 2020 you are the beginning of a new decade. We are counting on you to start of this decade better than the last one ended.

Posted by littlesam1 21:10 Tagged italy christmas hawaii switzerland milan Comments (5)

Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Mai Tai's, Alex O'Loughlin and Another Bi


View Hauʻoli Lā Hānau - Another birthday in Hawaii 2019/11/12 - 2019/11/21 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Birthday morning on our rooms 9th floor deck at Aston Waikiki Sunset Motel

My husband Mark does not really care about birthdays. He does not particularly like celebrating his own birthday. It's just another day to him. But that is not me. I love birthdays. When the first day of November roles around I get very excited. That's because I don't only celebrate the day I was born. I celebrate the entire month. I usually jokingly label my photo's The Never Ending Birthday Celebration every year. Mark humors me and always goes along with my celebration month. He even goes out his way to make it special because he knows how much it means to me. Two years ago when I turned 65 he took me to Hawaii so I could climb Diamond Head on the my birthday. Hawaii has almost become our second home. We have traveled there four times in the past six yeas. It was such a thrill to stand on top of Diamond Head and take my photo on my 65th birthday. Now thanks to Mark, two years later I found myself back in Waikiki for another birthday.

We woke up early and the weather did not look good. Each morning when I woke up on this trip I looked out of the huge window and in our room to check the weather. And most mornings there was beautiful sunshine. On my birthday I woke up and looked outside to see a very dismal cloud cover.

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Oh well. I was not going to let it ruin my birthday. We had already had seven perfect days in the Never Ending Birthday celebration. So I was not going to get upset over a cloudy possibly rainy day. We were not planning on climbing Diamond Head this year anyway. But within the hour the sun started to appear and burn away all of the clouds.

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So I showered and got dressed in my Hawaiian shirt and prepared for the days adventures.

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My shirt almost matches that beautiful blue sky.

The first order of the day was a huge birthday breakfast. We love the breakfasts in Hawaii. I am not usually a breakfast person. But when I get out on the islands I love their huge breakfasts. We usually eat at one of two places near our hotel, either Cheeseburger in Paradise or LuLu's. Both serve huge delicious breakfasts. But I wanted something different on my birthday. So I told Mark and our friend Gillian, who was with us on this trip, I wanted to walk down Kalakaua Avenue to the Maui Brewing Company for breakfast. It was a good walk from our hotel to the brewery but I had seen photos of their breakfast and new it would be worth the journey.

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And I was correct. This was the best breakfast I had eaten on the entire trip. I had Banana Brûlée pancakes with macadamia nuts. The banana's had a crunchy sugar coating. The macadamia nuts were sweet and delicious. And the maple syrup was infused with an IPA beer from the brewery. The IPA was not to strong to take away from the syrups sweetness, it just addressed it perfectly. This was a great start to my birthday.

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Now that's a happy breakfast face.

We had turned in our rental the car the previous day so we could not drive any place outside of Waikiki. So my plans for my birthday were nothing like the previous year when we climbed Diamond Head. I had a few things in my head I wanted to do though. The big breakfast at Maui Brewing was the first thing and I was able to check it off as accomplished. My next goal was a birthday Mai Tai at the Hula Grill at the Outrigger Waikiki Beach Resort. In my opinion they make the best Mai Tai's in Waikiki. Later that evening I wanted to go to Arancino di Mare for an Italian meal. It's Hawaii, why not Italian? And finally I wanted to end the day at late night happy hour at Cheeseburger in Paradise. So nothing extravagant was planned. It was our last day in Waikiki. We were flying home the next day. So this plan was perfect in my opinion.

We left the brewery and walked towards Honolulu but we never actually got outside of Waikiki. We, or rather I had a major distraction. We did take some time for goofy photos. That should be of no surprise to anyone. I saw a tattoo parlor and thought it might have been fun to get a tattoo for my birthday while in Hawaii, but I really had not budgeted for that. So instead I just too silly photos outside of the parlor.

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I saw a tall condominium where I told Gillian that Mark and I could by our dream home. Gillian basically said dream on and let me know when you hit the lottery. I'll move with you.

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I still think one of the corner units by the upper pool would be an excellent investment. Maybe I can convince Mark this by my next birthday?

I then saw an interesting statue. It was not a memorial or religious symbol so I did not feel wrong for taking a funny photo with it.

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We then saw a pretty park and decided to cross the street and look at the flowers and trees in the park. As we entered the park we saw some white trailers in a circle. On closer look we realized they were dressing rooms and crew trailers for the TV show Magnum P.I. There were also signs directing you the from the trailers to the filming area for the show. We decided to follow the signs and maybe get a chance to see them filming a scene from the show. But here is the story. Every time Mark and I have gone to Hawaii I have always joked about running into Alex O'Loughlin who plays McGarrett on Hawaii Five 0 I am a huge fan of the show and have watched every episode since it started telecasting ten years ago. And Alex is a real fantasy for me. But each year we have not run into him or any of the crew filming his show. I like Magnum P.I. But it's not Hawaii Five 0. So seeing the trailers and maybe the cast would be fun but not the major thrill of Hawaii Five 0 or Alex.

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We followed the signs to the Outrigger Reef Hotel. This hotel is another one of our favorite bars with one of the best beach views in Waikiki. When we got to the hotel lobby it appeared the film crew was leaving. Then we saw two aids walking with Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0!

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Chi McBride from Hawaii Five 0

I just stopped in my tracks and stared. So they were filming Hawaii Five 0 even though I only saw production trilers for Magnum P.I. My first thought was it's my birthday and I am going to see Alex O'Loughlin. But we never saw him. Apparently Chi was the last actor to leave the set that afternoon. So we continued on to the Reef Bar at the hotel. We did ask the bartender about the filming and he said it was not unusual to see it going on if you worked in Waikiki daily. Gillian told the bartender that I needed a drink. She said it's his birthday and I had just missed seeing Alex. The bartender laughed and asked me if it really was my birthday and I said yes. He mixed a mai tai and passed it across the bar to me. He said, "Here you go. Happy birthday! Compliments of the house!"

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Having to chill my brow at the thought of almost seeing Alex.

I jokingly told him I needed to chill. Being this close to Alex had me over heated. He laughed. Before leaving we decided to toast Hawaii Five 0 with a a Kona Big Wave. Kona is one of the beers that has product placement on the show regularly. The bartender then asked if we wanted one more. He said to stick around. Alex might be returning. We laughed and thanked him but we needed to move on. Their mai tai was good at the Reef Bar but it could not compare to my favorite at the other Outrigger Hotel's Hula Bar farther down the street. And having one there was my original plan for the day.

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Pretending I'm drinking a Kona beer with the cast of Hawaii Five 0

We thanked the bartender, tipped him well for his kindness and left the hotel. As we walked through the lobby we saw several big cars pull up in front on the driveway and we saw a lot of people getting out of them and heading into the hotel. It was the production crew returning! I was a bit preoccupied and looking all around when Gillian and Mark started yelling at me to turn around. They kept saying turn around, look behind you. And I turned and there was Alex, McGarrett in the flesh. He just walked past me. Wow...this was a birthday present.

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He was surrounded with production crew and they were trying to get him out to the filming location on the beach. He did wave and acknowledge some of the fans in the lobby. Mark and Gillian are both saying to me "Where's your phone! Get a photo!" Well I was just too excited. I did get my phone out and was trying to open the camera but I was all thumbs and he was gone before I could get a photo. But I didn't care. After six years and four visits I finally got to see a filming of the show. And it was on my birthday.

We left the hotel and headed back to Kalakaua Avenue. We did some window shopping at the high end stores that line the avenue. Then we eventually ended up at the Outrigger Hotel where the Hula Grill is located. You can try mai tai's all day, up and down Kalakaua Ave and you will not find one better than the one they make at the Hula Grill in my opinion. And after four visits in the six years I will admit I have tried them all. It was getting late in the afternoon. By the time we reached the Hula Bar we were getting hungry and also needed something cool due to the heat of the afternoon. I remembered how Gillian had mentioned my birthday earlier and I was given a free mai tai. So I decided to try it one more time. I mentioned my birthday to the bartender and voila! There was a complimentary mai tai sitting in from of me. And it had a smiling face on the glass as if to say Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry! (Happy Birthday Larry).

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I did need some lunch. I'd had two mai tai's and a beer on an empty stomach so far today. So I ordered shrimp taco's at the bar. They were an excellent fusion of Hawaiian and Mexican food.

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And then I ordered one more mai tai because they are so good here.

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So this had been a three umbrella day... so far.

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After lunch we returned to our hotel. We all needed to rest for a while. We had done a lot of walking and I had done a bit of drinking.

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After napping and showering Mark and I were ready to head out for my birthday dinner. We picked an Italian restaurant near our hotel. It was going to be something different from our standard Hawaiian vacation meals. We have several inexpensive Hawaiian shirts we have bought as souvenirs over the years. But on our last day we always save our dress Hawaiian shirts to wear. So we dressed up and headed out with Gillian to Arancino di Mare for an Italian dinner.

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It was the perfect ending to a very special birthday. But it still wasn't quite over. We decided to stop in to Cheeseburger In Paradise for their late night happy hour. It was near our hotel and had become our night cap stop on several nights. We had gotten to know the two evening bartenders, Andrew and Caleb very well. When we walked in Caleb laughed and told Mark and I that we had gone more Hawaiian than him. They are required to wear Hawaiian shirts and accessories while they are working. He said "Look at you two. The shirts, the kukui nut leis, and Larry you even have on the Makau fish hook necklace. I feel like I dressed down tonight." I used my birthday excuse once more to see what would happen. I told him we dressed up for my birthday dinner. He laughed. Then I told him I had been drinking free mai tai's all day. He said " but I bet you haven't had a birthday shot yet have you? " Gillian and Mark both laughed and told him that I had already had enough free drinks for one day. And then he asked me again if I wanted a birthday shot. And of course I said "Hell yes!" Jacob then made me a shot he called Hawaiian Gummy Bears and toasted my birthday.

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Everyone should have Hawaiian Gummy Bears for their birthday.

We ended up all smiles by the end of the night at Cheeseburger in Paradise.

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And still the night was not over.

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Our bartenders : Andrew and Caleb

We had learned from the bartender Andrew on a previous night that he was from Perry Hall, Maryland. Perry Hall is only about ten minutes from where Mark and I live. It was another one of those small world stories. After I finished my shot that Jacob had made for me, Andrew pointed to another man at the end of the bar. He was a local regular at the bar. Andrew told us that he was from Edgewood, Maryland and I should go say hello to him. So still in the happy birthday spirit I walked down to the end of the bar and said rather loudly "Hey Edgewood. How are you doing?" The guy looked at me like I was crazy and asked how in the hell did I know Edgewood, Md. I told her I had worked there for quite a few years at the US Army base. He laughed and bought me one last drink. . But you know what they say on the internet. Photo or it didn't happen. So then we took a photo together

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Making friends from Maryland while in Hawaii

Finally back in our hotel room. From the cloud cover in the morning, to the sunshine in the afternoon, to the darkness of night

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Hauʻoli Lā Hānau Larry. Happy birthday Larry. If you have to get old, this is the way to do it.

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The birthday is over. One last shaka "hangin loose" salute before the lights go out. And yes the lights did go out. We had a sign on our door telling us the hotel was to lose power at 11:30 pm until approx 4 am. for emergency maintenance. At least they left us a little survival kit.

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Mahalo (thanks) Gillian for joining us on this crazy adventure.

And a very big Mahalo to Mark for making it all happen.

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Posted by littlesam1 17:08 Archived in USA Tagged oahu hawaii waikiki birthdays mai_tai cheeseburger_in_paradise hawaii_five_0 mcgarrett alex_o'loughlin chi_mcbride @alexo'loughlin @chimcbride @cheeseburgerinparadise Comments (6)

Honeymooning in Hawaii with Elvis and Dennis The Menace

Everything I need to know about Hawaii I learned from Elvis and Dennis the Menace


View Larry and Mark Go Hawaiian - Sept 2013 on littlesam1's travel map.

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I am a child of the 1950's. I was born in 1952. There were only forty eight states in 1952. I entered the first grade in September 1958 at the age of five. I turned six while in first grade. Hawaii became the fiftieth state on August 21, 1959 just two weeks before I entered the second grade. So in 1959 when I was in the second grade the addition of two new states, Alaska and Hawaii, was something exciting. At the age of six I became fascinated with our new fiftieth state. I can remember going home from school all excited and asking my parents when were we going to be able to visit the new fiftieth state of Hawaii. We were a working class family. My father was a heavy equipment operator and drove a tractor and trailer for the Department of Defense. We lived in a rented house in a small town in Maryland. Hawaii was in a different world from us. My sister was just born in 1959. My father, who was taught by his mother to use a sewing machine, made my mother's maternity clothes for her to save money. We weren't poor but we did not have a lot money for extras. Vacation meant driving down the street to Jeff Baldwin's boat dock and talking our little boat out to the "flats" just off the city park in Havre de Grace, Maryland to go swimming on Saturday afternoons. The closest I got to Hawaii was getting my parents to buy me the comic book Dennis In Hawaii - congratulations to our 50th State.

I must have read that comic over one hundred times. Dennis and his family flew on Pan American Airlines to Hawaii. Dennis yells to the taxi driver taking them to the airport "We're going to Honey Lulu". This little boy wanted to go to Honey Lulu also. Dennis got to go to Oahu or "Wahoo" as he called it. He saw a heavy lady in a moo moo and asked his mother if it meant moo moo like in cow. He went to Pearl Harbor, and even though he was too young to understand, he still got teary eyed at Pearl Harbor. Dennis got to taste poi at a luau and thought it tasted like school paste. Dennis even included a glossary of Hawaiian words for me to learn and practice saying.

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Two years later, in 1961, the new state of Hawaii was still big news. Hollywood was making movies about the new fiftieth state. Surfing was becoming a new fascination. Movies set on the beaches of Hawaii were very popular with the small town Saturday afternoon matinee kids. And who else, but Elvis Presley, would capitalize on it it best. I still had my Dennis the Menace comic book, but now Elvis now brought Hawaii to life on the big screen. I saw the movie Blue Hawaii at the State Theater in my little home town on a Saturday afternoon. From the moment I saw the opening credits and the view of Diamond Head my fascination with Hawaii grew even stronger. As you can see above those opening credits still make me smile.

Now I just had to go to Hawaii. Elvis was there. He sang on the beach. He surfed. He rebelled against his parents. He got married and sang the beautiful Hawaiian Wedding Song on a canal in Kauai. I learned about luau's and what the words hooki lau meant from Elvis. What I did not learn from Dennis, Elvis taught me.

Hawaii did not become a reality for me for many years. My best friend from high school and I talked about going to Hawaii after we graduated. I started to save some money for the trip. World travel and tourism was still in it's infancy in 1970. So the thought of going to Hawaii was a real fantasy for us at the time. In reality my best friend got married and I used my savings to go to college. Hawaii remained in the world of Dennis the Menace comic books and Elvis Presley movies for me.

I had two other opportunities to go to Hawaii over the years, but both times they did not happen. One of the planned trips was going to allow me to stay at the Royal Hawaiian Hotel where Gidget and her family stayed in the movie Gidget Goes Hawaiian. But Hawaii was still a fantasy for me and would continue beckoning me in the future.

In 2013 I started thinking about Hawaii again. I had long lost my Dennis Goes to Hawaii comic book. However with the technology of Ebay, I found an original copy of the comic book at a price much higher than the original twenty five cents. But I wanted it. When it arrived I was a kid again exploring Hawaii with Dennis and the Mitchell family. The Elvis movie Blue Hawaii had been in my DVD collection for many years. It still fascinated and inspired me, even with it's cheesy dialogue and plot. I was getting older and knew I still wanted to see Hawaii but wanted to go before I was too old to enjoy it. I wanted to go before I needed a cane or walker. So sixty seem liked a good age to finally visit the island paradise.

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Little did I realize at the young age of six that fifty four years later I would finally get to visit Hawaii. And I would not need Dennis' glossary of Hawaiian words because I would be going to "Honey Lulu", as Dennis called it, with my husband Mark who is a linguistics master. Same sex marriage had just been legalized in our state of Maryland and we decided to go to Hawaii for our honeymoon. We had not traveled for two years, which was an eternity for us. We had recently bought a new house, but we unable to Mark's previous house, so we were paying two mortgages for over a year until his house was sold. Much like my parents, we did not have a lot of extra cash for traveling at this time. But with the sale of his house and now being married the chance of a Hawaiian honeymoon was becoming a reality.

I was a little nervous about finally going to Hawaii. I had such high expectations and was afraid I would be disappointed. I love to travel, but I hate touristy places where nothing is authentic. I love to meet locals, explore foreign cultures, and learn lots of history. Hawaii was touristy. Some places were not authentic. But there was so much more to see and explore than I had expected. When I returned home with over a thousand photos I was overwhelmed at what I had seen and learned. When my daughter came to visit and to see my photos I broke out the Dennis the Menace comic book and showed her how I had followed Dennis The Menace's adventures and she was amazed that I had been able to recapture Dennis' trip all these years late. . I showed her where Dennis had visited and where I had visited. Everything I had learned from Dennis was still there.

As I slowly labeling and organizing my photos after I returned I often had Elvis's Blue Hawaii on my big screen TV. Along with my guide books, notes I wrote, and Dennis's guides, I also have Elvis's travelogue to be my companion in remembering the details of the vacation. Elvis wore a blue Hawaiian shirt on the movie poster and sound track album cover to Blue Hawaii. Can you guess what color shirt I bought in Hawaii to wear to the luau?

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I will close this with words from Dennis the Menace and the Mitchell family on the last page of the comic book.

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Posted by littlesam1 14:01 Archived in USA Tagged honeymoon elvis oahu hawaii statehood honolulu blue_hawaii dennis_the_menace Comments (5)

Return to Paradise - Hawaii Calls

Turning 65 on Diamond Head


View The Who's Gonna Fill Their Shoes Tour - Nashville & Never Ending Birthday - Oahu Hawaii November 2017 on littlesam1's travel map.

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Diamond Head overlooking Waikiki

I turned 65 November 2017. It was not a joyous thought. Turning 65 bothered me very much. I started thinking about it and dreading it November 2016 when I turned 64. Birthdays had not bothered me in many years. The last birthday that I dreaded was my 30th. I honestly thought I was getting old and was over the hill. Thirty seemed so ancient. After that birthday I was fine. Turning 34 was easy. Turning 40 never bothered. But turning 65 was a jagged little pill to swallow.

My daughters wanted to do something special for my birthday. But I told them I did not want to do anything. I was not wanting to celebrate this birthday. I just wanted the day to pass and get it over with. No thoughts, no party hats, just a quiet day to not thing about the dreaded 65. Then my husband Mark asked me "What can we do to celebrate your birthday?" I told him the same thing. I did not want to do anything. Maybe sit at home, turn on Turner Classic Movies and have a bottle, not glass, of wine. But Mark knows my heart. He knows my love of travel. He said to me let's go somewhere. Name the place and I will make it happen. We talked about Italy as a possibility and a few other places. And then Mark said "What about Hawaii." And my eyes lit up! There is no place either of us have enjoyed more than Hawaii.

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Ashton Waikiki Circle Hotel

So in mid November we found ourselves at the Ashton Waikiki Circle Hotel right on the beach in Waikiki. We saw the hotel on our two previous trips to Waikiki and it had always caught our interest. It's one of the older hotels on the strip but it's a fun hotel. The round shape of the hotel gives the rooms an interesting shape and also great views from any angle. Although our room was in the back we could still see the beach from an angle on our deck. It was an affordable and interesting choice.

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Shaka brah - cruising in our rented convertible

We rented a convertible car and with the top down we enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air driving around the island. And not once did I think about the dreaded birthday. We drove up into the mountains, explored historic graveyards, and explored secluded beaches.

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We spent our evenings dining and drinking local Hawaiian brewed beers.

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Where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embraced in waves in the movie From Here To Eternity

Two days before my birthday we explored the beaches on the north shore of Hawaii. It's the winter season when the waves are tall so it was great fun to watch the big waves at Waimea and the other beaches. We got to see the famous beach where Deborah Kerr and Burt Lancaster embraced in the surf. I even got to take this 65 year old body for a nude dip on one of the north shore beaches. You can thank me later for not posting photos.

My plan was to climb Diamond Head on my birthday. I thought it would be the perfect way to celebrate. I had climbed Diamond Head three years earlier and knew it was a good hike. So I did not want to wear myself out the day before and not be able to enjoy the hike on my birthday. While we at the Maui Brewery Company, one of our favorite bars in Waikiki, the bar tender told us about Manoa Falls. He said it was between Waikiki and Honolulu and had an easy trail and was very worth seeing. Manoa Falls is located in Manoa Valley in the rain forest between Honolulu and Waikiki. The falls is 150 feet high and empties into a small pool of water. Since the area around the waterfall is considered a rain forest it is prone to heavy rainfall often raining daily. We were told it was a beginner trail so we should not have problem. So we decided why not? We wanted to see the falls and it sounded like an easy hike. So it should not interfere with out plans to hike Diamond Head the following day,

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Manoa Falls - Oahu

The falls were beautiful. And yes it does rain in that area every day. And no the trail was not a beginners trail! The first half of the hike was not difficult. The trail was paved and wide for the most part. But the second half was another story. The trail narrowed and the tropical plants grew taller and thicker. We ended up climbing wet slippery rock formations and sliding in muddy trails. It was quite a journey. It was a lot more than I had expected. But it also was not an advanced or dangerous trail. We were tired the next day, but we both agreed the climb up Diamond Head would happen.

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Mark and I on the trail to Manoa Falls

The next day was the big day. And also it was our final day on Oahu. So no matter how tired we were from our many days of walking and swimming this the day we had to climb Diamond Head

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Field below Diamond Head as we begin our hike

We arrived at Diamond Head the next morning. I was now officially 65 and it was time to finish the planned celebration. The volcano seems impressive from the bottom. But the hike is not difficult. The hike up Diamond Head is only about 45 minutes. It was much shorter than the hike to Manoa Falls the previous day. The path is wide and well paved with hand rails and benches to stop and rest if you need them.

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Mark on the trail to the top of Diamond Head

It's an easy climb but with heat and humidity on Oahu it is a bit tiresome. There are wonderful views as you climb the base of the mountain. When you get near the top there are steps you have to climb a set of steps so it best to know this in advance. There are 74 four steps that lead to a tunnel.

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I survived the 74 steps and then made it through the tunnel

After leaving the tunnel you still are not at the peak of Diamond Head. Once you leave the tunnel you see another set of steps. 99 steps this time. You can hear the sighs and the voices saying "Oh no" as you leave the tunnel. But it's really not that bad.

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The final 99 steps to reach the top of Diamond Head

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Mark on top of Diamond Head with the volcano caldera behind him

And we made it. We climbed the trail, steps, and walked through the tunnel. I turned 65 and I climbed Diamond Head. And it was worth it. I spent the dreaded day not thinking about the age, not dreading the moment. I realized once more, just as I did turning 30, that age does not define you. It would have been a lot easier at 30 than at 65 to climb Diamond Head. But it would not have been a major accomplishment at 30. And I would have not appreciated the experience as much. We are going back to Hawaii again this coming November. I do not know if we will climb Diamond Head again or not. I may just save that for turning 70.

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Happy to be 65 on the top of Diamond Head

(Thank you Mark for making all of this happen. You will never really understand how much I appreciated this.)

Posted by littlesam1 14:10 Archived in USA Tagged oahu hawaii honolulu waikiki diamond_head birthdays manoa_falls Comments (0)

Traveling with the perfect cocktail

Drinking Around The World

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I love a Manhattan. To me it's the perfect cocktail. It has three ingredients. It's has a history. And it tastes delicious. If I am out for a special evening a Manhattan is the perfect way to compliment my night. It's not for the light weight drinker. It's boozy. But if you sip it slowly it will not harm you so don't be afraid of it.

Basically I would describe it as a whiskey martini. But that is not giving it justice. It is made with three ingredients. Whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters. It is garnished with a Maraschino cheery at most bars. If you are at a higher class bar you will get a brandied cherry instead of the waxy chemically colored Maraschino. Some bartenders use a lemon peel for the garnish but I honestly think the classic brandied cherry is the best. However I will not turn up my nose or judge the bartender for the lemon peel. And I usually have to accept the Maraschino cherry from most bars and I don't complain.

Now the question is what kind of whiskey. Most recipes call for a Kentucky bourbon or Canadian Whiskey. And these days Rye whiskey is making a big come back in Manhattans. This is the classic choice and the one I prefer. Please don't offer me Crown Royale in my Manhattan. I am a bit of snob that way.

When I travel I like to sample a Manhattan in the area I am visiting. And it's fun to see how the different bartenders treat the three simple ingredients. One of my favorite Manhattans came from a bar in Charleston, South Carolina named High Cotton. If you have a Manhattan at High Cotton you will be transported back to the 1920's and think you are in a speakeasy. Their recipe is simple and classic. They don't experiment or try to wow you with new age additions. The High Cotton Manhattan is made with bourbon , Carpano Antica vermouth, a splash of bitters and brandy soaked cherries. I would travel back to Charleston tomorrow just to have one of their Manhattans. We frequently travel with out friend Gillian Hobson from Manchester, England. We took her to Charleston four years ago and one of our first stops was to introduce her to the High Cotton Manhattan. She left High Cotton with a very big smile on her face and a bounce to her step.

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Mark and I love New York. And I love cocktails in New York. Years ago when Sex and the City was popular I wanted to go to New York for a Cosmo just like Carrie Bradshaw. It was fun. But a few years later in New York I wanted the classic experience. I wanted a Manhattan in Manhattan. And I have to admit there is no comparison. If your in New York you really owe yourself a Manhattan in Manhattan. Historically it is suggested that the Manhattan originated at the Manhattan Club in New York. The story goes it was invented by Dr. Iain Marshall in the early 1870's for a banquet hosted by Jennie Jerome. She is better known as Lady Randolph Churchill, mother of Wintson Churchill. The event was in honor of the Presidential candidate Samuel J. Tilden. The event was such a success the drink became highly fashionable. But don't let anyone fool you with this story. Lady Randolph Churchill was in France during this time and was very pregnant. So the story is likely false. Another story tell us it was invented in the 1860's at a bar on Broadway near Houston Street by a bartender named Black. So no one really knows the origin of the cocktail but it does have a long history.

Mark and I were once again in New York City with our friend Gillian. She does tend to end up in our travel stories frequently. We spent the day sight seeing. This was Gillian's first trip to New York so we wanted to show her all of the sights. At the end of a busy day we ended up in a bar not far from Wall Street where once again I had a Manhattan in Manhattan. I must have had a couple of drinks because here I am afterwords grabbing the Wall Street bull by the balls. No explanations no apologies. Go to New York. Have a Manhattan in Manhattan and then share your story with me.

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My next rule for Manhattans. Watch your bartender. A Manhattan is a simple drink. Any good bartender can make one. But if you have doubts about your bartender I suggest skipping the Manhattan and just order a glass of wine. Why waste the experience on a bad drink. My daughter Katie and I were in Nashville earlier this year. We had spent the day walking and exploring the city. At the end of our evening we wanted to relax and have a cocktail before returning to our hotel. We found a beautiful cocktail bar called The Henley at the Aertson Hotel in Nashville. The bar was decorated with photos of Bette Davis's eyes. So this made me happy. I noticed the bartender was young. She was probably in her early 20's. So I asked her politely if she knew how to make a Manhattan. She looked at me and smiled and said "Oh, of course." So I ordered a Manhattan. Then I watched her closely. She did not go to pick up the bourbon, or the vermouth or the bitters. She went to pick up her cocktail bible. She had no idea how to make a Manhattan. I knew then it was not going to be a good experience. And she did make it wrong. And she did forget the cherry until I reminded her.

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My main rule about Manhattans is to not mess with it. Don't experiment with it. Don't try to update the recipe or put your own personal touch on it. It's a classic. It does not need embellishments. However for every rule there is an exception. And if some one offers to make you a Smoked Manhattan go for it. Placing your cocktail glass over some smoked hickory chips before filling it with the Manhattan is a surprising delight.

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I was in Waikiki November 2017. Once again I had been walking all day and ready for a relaxing evening with a cocktail. I had many Maitai's in Waikiki during my stay. But this day I was ready to just relax and enjoy a Manhattan. And what do I see on the menu but a smoked Manhattan. I was ready to break my rule and try this new idea. Something about the smoke and the rye whiskey just sounded perfect to me. I was in the bar at the Outrigger Hotel. I could see Diamond Head in the distance from the beach hotel's windows. It was the perfect location for this perfect drink. Now much like Charleston, South Carolina, I would return here to Waikiki tomorrow just to have another one of these drinks.

One of my favorite movies is Honky Tonk Freeway. You've probably never heard of it. It is considered one of the biggest box office flops of all time. But I saw it and loved it. In the movie Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy play a senior couple who are traveling to Florida. Hume thinks his wife has a drinking problem. She tends to order five old fashions with her lunch each day. Finally he tells her that he thinks she has a drinking problem.

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Jessica responds that she is not an alcoholic. She says your sister always sucks her fruit when she is finished with her drinks. Now she is an alcoholic. I never suck my fruit.

Here I am after a very good Manhattan. I was not traveling, but here at home in Baltimore at Jerry D's, one of my local favorite restaurants.

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Yes Jessica Tandy. I sucked the fruit. And it was good!

Posted by littlesam1 21:48 Tagged new york bars hawaii drinks honolulu waikiki baltimore nashville manhattans bette_davis _eyes Comments (0)

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