Saturday, January 30, 2010

FIJI at Last

This was written on January 26th, and now it is January 30th, the first time I've been able to upload from my computer.

OMG – we’re in Fiji!

The flight took almost 11 hours, but I slept off and on for about 5 ½ hrs of that time. Got to watch a movie, Bandslam, which was entertaining if not the best movie I’ve ever seen. I also read and finished an easy read book, nothing great or I’d tell you about it. What can I say about airline food? I’d ordered a gluten-free meal and my dinner was smoked salmon on two rice cakes with a leaf of lettuce. I took the salmon off the white rice cakes and put it on one of my millet, brown rice, flax seed crackers from Sami’s Bakery, which I order on line. They have great pizza crusts and a nice spinach wrap I use too. My breakfast then consisted of eggs with a bit of chopped tomato and a bit of chopped spinach and was tasty, much to my surprise.

We arrived at 5:15AM at Nadi Airport in Fiji. Our hotel, Club Fiji, sent a van to pick us up. By 6:30AM we were in our room, Bure 4, (a bure is a small place, some have walls and some don’t) as I had booked our room for the night before, so we could have early check in and have a place to put our heads down for a bit before the day really started. We slept for another hour and a half, got dressed, and went on a ½ day tour, which took us to the Sleeping Giant Gardens, which Raymond Burr, who played Ironsides, had planted. You can’t imagine the colors of all the orchids. Art snapped photos of maybe two dozen compositions I’m going to play with when I have time using my Chinese inks and brush painting. Then, the tour, we were in a taxi for two, took us to Laukota, a small city, to the market. It was really two markets, one fresh veggies and fruits, and the other handicrafts. I was impressed with the food but not the handicrafts. Not that they don’t have beautiful hand made items here, but the market was really small and I saw very little that was of interest. Although, I did like the tapas which were made from tree bark; we just don’t have anywhere to hang one. We also stopped at First Landing, which is now a resort, but is the place where Captain Cook first landed in Fiji, at least I think it was Captain Cook. They’ve developed the small island, just of the mainland of Fiji, into the shape of a left foot. Very picturesque to see. Glad we stopped. Back to the hotel for lunch, where there was very little on the menu for me to eat, so they made me a piece of grilled MahiMahi and some salad on the side – wonderful.

We had made reservations for massages on the beach for late afternoon. It was so peaceful and there was a lovely breeze under the bure (here it was open with a thatch roof). And best of all, it was relaxing. After my massage, I went first, I went back to our room and took a nap. Traveling is tiring. Art came back after his and we both slept a bit more, showered, dressed and went in for dinner. The main area of Club Fiji is all open. You first go to the reception area in the front and to the left is an area with a wide screen TV for sports or to watch DVDs. Next to that is the restaurant. The chairs are really comfortable and each has a bolster cushion to lean against. Many of the views are of the beach, water, other islands, and the sunset, which was a bit disappointing after the spectacular sunset we saw from Brian’s kitchen our last night in LA. Here, there were a lot of clouds and no fabulous colors; in LA, the oranges had a touch of pink to them and then as they started to dissipate, the orange intensified and so did the pink to a deep fuchsia, which I’d never seen before. We did not get a photo of it, I’m sorry to say.

WE ordered only Fijian items for dinner. I had two appetizers for my meal – one was Kokoda, which is a local white fish marinated in coconut milk and lime juice with a bit of spices and raw vegetables in it; it was served cold and was wonderful. My second item was Palusami, which consists of tomatoes, onions, and spices wrapped in taro leaves and steamed. I envisioned these packets of leaves folded around the inner ingredients, but it was a soft mixture of the steamed items, almost a mush but a nice texture, served with white rice. This was very tasty too, and Art liked this item better than the marinated fish. He order a dish called Ika Vakalolo, which was also the local fish cooked in coconut milk with lots of vegetables in it, served with fried cassava on the side. It was extremely flavorful.

After dinner, we checked out, as we have to leave for the airport at 6AM tomorrow morning and reception will be closed. We’re now back in our room, Art is sleeping, and I knew if I didn’t start writing things down, I’d never get to it. So, off to bed for now. I’ll write more later, as I can’t post this until I have an internet connection.

Reminiscing about LA:

Our last night at Brian’s was a delicious one. I was feeling really tired, so I took a nap, and he cooked dinner by himself, which he usually does with Grace as his sous chef, except I usually work with him when we’re visiting. He made my lemon Chicken recipe, so easy and delicious – I’ll write it down at the end of this blog entry. With it he made broccoli rabe in olive oil and sliced garlic – wonderful, and I love the flavor of a bit of bitter in the greens. Then, I had roasted an eggplant earlier in the day, and Brian made a pasta sauce, as he had a friend over who was vegetarian, of eggplant, zucchini, onion, red peppers, and fire roasted diced tomatoes which he served over my rice pasta; I can’t think of the pasta brand, but it’s very good as it doesn’t get soggy. I’ll have to add the brand at a later date. Dinner was yummy.

On Sunday the 24th (we flew out at night on a 9:20PM flight), we met our oldest friends for brunch. It's been so long since I wrote that I may have already written about this, so I won't again.

Wednesday, the 27th
We flew on that early morning flight to Auckland, a three hour flight; after our other flight, this one felt as if it went very quickly. Luckily, it was uneventful, the best kind.

We were picked up by our car rental company and it proceeded to take 2 hours to get our car. We went through three before we were satisfied. The first had a wet trunk and we felt it wasn't a good idea to travel that way. The second one wouldn't start so they changed the battery, and it still wouldn't start. Not an auspicious beginning. Finally, the third car came and it's fine. I do have to tell you - DON'T RENT FROM QUALITY CAR HIRE, as their customer service leaves a lot to be desired.

Finally, we were on our way to Meryl and Michael Hartshorn's home. They're members of ATC (Affordable Travel Club), a  good group to join., which allows you to stay with people for up to 4 nights at 20.00-30.00/night. Our hosts were lovely and spent a great deal of time helping us deal with the issues of finding a cell phone and planning out our trip. Although we're still winging it, they made lots of suggestions. When we first got to them, we were too tired to do any sightseeing, so we rested a bit and then went out for dinner by ourselves. They provided breakfast both mornings we were with them.

Art and I really like staying with people. We've been members of an organization called Servas since the early 90s, which was first formed after WWII, to promote peace around the world. Servas members are either hosts or travelers, and you don't have to be one in order to be the other. Joining them allows you to stay up to two nights in people's homes; no money is exchanged, and they provide two breakfasts, one dinner, and you either take them out for dinner or cook for them in their home. It's a wonderful organization. We first joined when we were going to Italy and we were travelers. We had such a good time that when we came home, we joined as hosts and have been host ever since. For the last 3 years we've been day hosts and haven't had anyone call. Oh well. Hopefully they will this year! Staying with people really gives traveling a whole different flavor, one we really love. Some of our most treasured moments were because of Servas hosts making suggestions of what to see and our changing our plans to follow their suggestions.

I'll write about our first sightseeing day in Auckland a bit later. Off to bed for now.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Another Day

It's sunny today. Yea!!!!!!! We had a lovely dinner with Grace's folks last night at a reasonably priced vegan restaurant. It was delicious. Wish we had one like it in SE FL.

I've been rearranging my blog site and trying to figure out how to post the logo for the BJP in a permanent place on the blog. I'll work it out eventually, sooner rather than latter I hope. I can just paste it here:

Member Logo 
But, I want it permanently present on the side of the posting area. Guess I need to contact blogspot.

Doing laundry now. Isn't that something to put on Flickr? Getting repacked so tomorrow won't be too hectic. We're planning on seeing our oldest friends, not age wise, for brunch tomorrow. Art with to high school with him.

Today, we're having the kids wedding coordinator over for a meeting and for lunch. I made a huge salad with lots of goodies, jicama, fennel, heirloom tomatoes, in addition to the usuals, like peppers, radishes, carrots, and sprouts. For toppings, we used the leftover cold salmon and grated raw goats milk cheese. Everyone enjoyed it and we all learned a lot about timing of what to do and suggestions for decorations. All in all, an excellent meeting, and I feel they have a good support with their choice of coordinator.

Friday, January 22, 2010

CA Dreaming

I just clicked on the Breast Cancer site, which I mainly do everyday. It benefits them and takes two seconds to do. So, please consider doing it too.

It was raining again this morning, although it's not right now. It is predicted to rain again this afternoon. Good thing we didn't plan on a lot of sightseeing. This has really been a trip to visit with the kids and help where we can with some wedding plans. Last night it actually hailed. Cold and wet - not my thing. It was good to be home.

We finally cooked last night. Brian loves to cook and Grace makes a mean salad. We cooked together a deliciously moist poached salmon with a goat's milk yogurt sauce of fresh horseradish and dill, Greens (mustard greens and kale) sauteed with a bit of olive oil and sliced golden garlic, and a big multi-item salad. I so prefer to eat at home, where I know what's going into the cooking.

We're off to do errands today and I'm going to check out more hotels for the out of town guests. Santa Monica is a neat place to visit. We're going out for dinner with Grace's parents tonight; it'll be good to see them again.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rainy LA

It's still so cold and rainy here! In the rain, we went to a Farmer's Market yesterday, in Santa Monica, and they were close to closing up due to the weather. Bought some heirlooms grape tomatoes, wonderful, and Art got some strawberries. He likes the CA berries better than those grown at home in FL. We spent the day in Santa Monica, as that's where Brian, our son, and Grace, our future daughter-in-law, will be married in July. They wanted us to see the venue for the wedding.

Art, Brian,and I had a lovely lunch at Urth Cafe; their vegetarian chili was warming and filling. Grace teaches school and had to work; she joined us later in the afternoon. It was still cold and rainy outside. We looked at hotels for the out of town guests and then the venue, which will be lovely. It's an old building, 100 years old, in the heart of Santa Monica, near the Promenade and not far from the beach. They wanted a venue where they could bring in their owner caterer, as food is as important to them as it is to me. Good food, good people, and good times!

After spending some time at the venue, we met a friend of theirs at Musha, a Japanese tapas restaurant, something I'd never heard of. They were very accommodating, and although I couldn't eat everything that was ordered, I had some really wonderful items, such as salmon marinated in sake and miso and then grilled, and a seaweed salad on greens where they made the dressing with tamari without wheat, so it was gluten-free and I could eat it. Definitely a restaurant I would recommend to anyone who visits this area. I don't know if out-of-town wedding guests will have time to eat dinner elsewhere, other than the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and Musha is only open for dinner, but if it could be managed, it would be a treat for whomever tried it!

Before we left on this trip, I finished the front of my Bead Project Journal entry for January, although I haven't completed it altogether. I haven't decided if I want to make it into a pouch or a wall hanging. It will also have a beaded bead which will hang from the bottom point of the heart. The BJP is a wonderful fun experience, which Robin Atkins started. She's an amazing artist, working mainly with beads and has written several great books. The BJP has over 300 artists participating each month. I'm excited to be a part of this project. Here is the link so you can see my 1st heart.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010


Our first day of travel, Miami to Los Angeles, was a relatively easy one. Early morning pick up so we arrived at the airport before 9:30AM, not bad traffic. Our taxi driver was from Haiti, luckily from Gonieves, so he didn't have family in Port-Au-Prince and hadn't lost anyone close to him in the recent earthquake. We're still waiting to hear from our supplier down there about how he and his family are; no news and the waiting is painful.

Going through security at an airport is always a treat. I made a delicious salad for my lunch and brought salad dressing, Organicville's Tarragon Mustard yummy, with me. However, in this case, I forgot about the no large amounts of liquid with security. I offered to just pour a bit on my salad and throw out the rest, but they wouldn't let me - this isn't a cafeteria, I was told. They wanted us to put our shoes back on, go all the way around, back out of security, pour whatever I wanted, and then come back through. I decided to forgo my dressing, as I had also brought a lemon and would use the lemon juice on the salad. Oh well. Somehow, it's gotten turned around and it's politically incorrect to target someone who looks like a terrorist, but salad dressing, where I was going to put it on my salad and eat it, is a threat.

I know it's not true for everyone, but, for me, food and eating are among the great pleasures in life. Having had cancer has opened up a whole new world in learning about different foods and trying out new recipes, or tweaking the ingredients in ann old one to suit what I'm choosing to eat. It's all a choice - no one had told me I couldn't eat such and such, although recommendations have been made about what inhibits the growth of cancer cells and how to have a more alkaline body. I get choose what I want to do for myself! It's important to realize this and KNOW that it is a choice. It makes it easier to not eat chocolate, because if I choose to have a piece, I will, but I usually choose not to, due to the caffeine and sugar contents.

One the first things we did after dropping our luggage off at Brian's home was go to Whole Foods to pick up some alkaline water. At home, I have a filtering machine which separates the alkaline from the acid water; it's the Jupiter brand and works really well. While at Whole Foods, since it was dinner time, and Grace wasn't suppose to be home until close to 8PM, we had dinner there. I discovered raw falafel - delicious. Too bad there wasn't a soup there I chose to eat, due to cream, sugar, or something else I'm not having. It's really cool here, 55 degrees when we landed and rainy, so something hot would have hit the spot. However, the falafel and salads were good too. We finished our shopping and went home to find Grace got there earlier than expect. Great to see her too.

I'm finishing this Wednesday morning, as I was too tired last night. Off to have breakfast.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Beginning

Okay. Here goes... I guess I need to start somewhere, but Im just not sure where that is. Food. I seem to be all about food. At least, that's what I'm told by my very good friends. It seems that no matter what else I do, and I do a lot, plus I'm writing a cook book, food always seems to be part of it.

We're (my husband, Art, and I) getting packed for a seven week trip and we leave tomorrow morning. All my stuff is out but not yet packed. So, maybe I should leave this for a bit later when I'm really ready to go.....

Part of my packing is also about food. I'm a cancer survivor, which I'll be blogging about too, so I follow certain parameters with my diet. Traveling is sometimes a challenge if you're watching what you eat. I'm taking certain items with me that may be difficult to find in New Zealand, or at least they will start me off down there, until I find my way around, such as cereals (I'm gluten-free), so I'm taking Puffed Millet and Quinoa Flakes, one cold and one hot, both very tasty and found at Whole Foods, a health food store. Also for breakfast I have a couple of different raw granola mixtures - although I don't usually eat dried fruit, which is in both, as dried fruit's natural sugar is more concentrated (I'm sugar-free, using only Stevia and Agave). I have crackers I really like, made of millet, brown rice, and flax seeds (, and then several other items that need to be packed.

Resources will be shared here and in my cookbook. I'm toying with two different titles, and I may end up with something completely different once I've completed it. Here's what I'm thinking about:
A Wellness Journey Cookbook:One Cancer Survivor’s recipe for eating and being well with the spice of life
The Spice of Life Wellness Journey Cookbook

This cookbook will be for cancer survivors and people with Celiacs Disease who can't eat gluten. Of course it'll be healthy for anyone who wishes to use it, as each item will be delicious, so you don't have to be on a diet, or you can be on one like Art is, the See Food Diet, if he sees it he eats it, in order to use the book.

I design jewelry and do bead embroidery; here's a link to my website, Mermaid's Jewelz

Got to go for now. Have to make dinner and finish packing. I'm open to all comments.