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Photo: Alina Mendoza

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the way I consume information. Like many of us, I spend a lot of time online on my computer and smartphone reading the news, watching videos, scrolling through my social media feeds. That’s a lot of screen time, and for someone who relies daily on email and Google docs and internet research to do my job, and as someone who appreciates good storytelling, I’ve turned to podcasts to inform and entertain me while my eyes catch a break.

Similarly, I’ve increasingly become interested in digital wellness* and how our relationship with technology continues to evolve. In some small way, I consider podcasts an act of self-care; a form of creative nourishment on one hand and an opportunity to unplug from emails and scrolling on the other.

Below are some of my favorites that have served to inspire, teach, entertain and challenge me to consider perspectives beyond my own and immediate surroundings.

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Arriving in Queenstown, New Zealand

I’ve traveled a lot. I was two when my parents put me on a plane to spend the summer with my grandparents on the East Coast. Throughout my childhood, they continued to send me East every other summer. Other times, we bounced from Kaua’i to the other islands, to California, Canada. There was even a South Western road trip before I went to college. These were the days of Mom’s travel binder stuffed with printed MapQuest guides, printed flight and hotel confirmations. Pre-iPhone.

As an adult (or “adult”), I’ve taken short business trips to week long vacations, to even longer working and living situations across the country and abroad.

Below are some things that help me travel with confidence and ease because when we travel, that’s what we want. We want the process to be as painless as possible for our wallets and peace of mind. We want to get right into the experience.

These items help me do that*:

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Given the strength of Europe’s obvious culinary powerhouses like Paris and Barcelona, Brussels may not immediately jump to mind as a foodie destination. But, there’s more to the city’s food scene than Belgian (not French! As is the common refrain in the city) frites and waffles, as I learned during a recent trip with Visit Brussels.

Case in point, the Lebanese feast we tore through in the Ixelles neighborhood that was one of the most memorable meals of the brief, four-day visit. Think creamy hummus, beets, greens and yogurt-based condiments to drizzle or dollop over it all. Don’t forget the pita, and generous pours of Lebanese wine (my first taste).

Eat, converse, imbibe, repeat. It was glorious. And then the meat course came, and for that I was…not prepared. I should have slowed my roll with the hummus!

And yet, the smell of perfectly charred meat––chicken, lamb, whatever––is painful to resist.

Other culinary moments included stopping for Pasteis de Nata (yes, more than one) in between Art Deco and Art Nouveau tours, amusing myself over Brussels’ “Perfect Egg” dish obsession (like the city’s avocado toast, it seemed like the appetizer was everywhere) and stumbling into chocolate mousse by the scoop near Grand Place, a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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You can’t go to Brussels and not have chocolate.

In short, would return, highly recommend and next time, I’m hitting up some of these dishes.

What I'm Reading: The People in the Trees

The People in the Trees is a story about what happens when the quest for immortality unravels humanity’s dark side. It is also a story about what happens when cultures clash; or when one culture imposes itself on another to detrimental consequences.

In Hanya Yanagihara’s novel, the story is told as scientist Norton Perina’s memoir. Perina, our protagonist, discovers a fountain of youth during an anthropological excursion on a remote, thickly forested island in Micronesia. The golden ticket: a special turtle the native population eat when they reach a certain age.

Unfortunately, vitality of body does not equally mean vitality of mind. Those who eat this special turtle live far beyond the normal lifespan, and while the body keeps up physically the mind deteriorates with time.

We follow Perina through discovery, ambition, recognition and a moral reckoning he – and we – must grapple with.

Language runs longer than concise and footnotes throughout – which are annotated by Perina’s friend (lover?!) – read academic, with lots of scientific citations and tangential anecdotes that paint a picture of Perina’s meteoric career and the savory (and not so) characters in his orbit.

Yanagihara’s novel is a literary adventure, and a timely read given current conversation about globalization, the me too movement and environmental concerns.

Read this book to lead your moral compass through its acrobatic paces. The author poses these questions, in an interview with Vogue,

“It’s so easy to affix a one-word description to someone, and it’s so easy for that description to change: if we call someone a genius, and then they become a monster, are they still a genius? How do we assess someone’s greatness: is it what they contribute to society, and is that contribution negated if they also inflict horrible pain on another? Or—as I have often wondered—is it not so binary?”

 

For further reading from Polynesia, check out this insider’s travel guide to Honolulu I wrote for New York magazine or this essay about the breakfast plate in Hawaii that unlocks its multicultural history, for Food 52.

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San Diego may be the eighth largest city in the country, but walkable pockets like Little Italy make it feel cozy and manageable. My mood guides my appetite, and most times I’m in the mood for strong coffee and sweet and savory foods prepared with no-fuss and quality ingredients. I’m also into the sort of places where you can linger as long as you like, and Little Italy is bursting with these establishments.

In the years that I’ve either worked and/or played Downtown, here’s my most-frequented eat and drink list in Little Italy:

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Postcard from: Viñales, Cuba

The Western town of Viñales is elemental, even more so after having spent several consecutive days roaming the lively streets of Havana; all crumbling concrete and precarious structures.

Moody clouds made good on their threat and rain would eventually drench the valley during our day trip. My Keens squelched through mud and side stepped puddles.

The air was grassy, earthy, pure.

In contrast with the mangy dogs and cats in Havana, we watched chickens strut around on unusually long legs and horses swish their tails as they rode past us in a caravan, led by their human counterparts.

Three piglets scampered across our path as we pulled in and out of the organic farm where we’d have lunch and tour their eco-friendly cultivation practices.

Lunch on the farm was a backyard bounty of vegetable soup, fresh chopped salads, roasted chicken and pork, mounds of sweet potato and taro, and the ever-present beans and rice.

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As if being surrounded by expansive fields and farm animals weren’t enough, the red and white checkered table cloth of our communal table seemed to say,

“You’re definitely in the country now.”

It was a welcome type of social networking that can be hard to come by in urban, technologically connected environments. From a privileged, American perspective, it felt luxurious.

My introduction to Honolulu’s Kaka’ako neighborhood was hard and fast, and I liked it. On arrival, I was immediately ushered into cocktail-centric and appropriately named Bevy to clink Lilikoi-whiskey cocktails and other fruity concoctions––like, within a half hour of landing. I smelled like airplane and my hair had already begun to frizz from the island humidity. I didn’t care. I was surrounded by family, new friends, good drinks and the island intonation I hadn’t heard in nearly two years––and easily slipped back into during the seven days I was home.

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Kaka’ako is trendy yet local; friendly, inviting and casual. It is the island lifestyle elevated, yet it seems the fun I had while visiting is just the beginning of a 15-20 year plan to revitalize the area, according to Our Kaka’ako. Backed by Kamehameha Schools, the intent for a walkable, live, work, play environment with ample green space is already evident in the handful of small eateries and watering holes that dot the cross streets of Ala Moana Boulevard.

A pint at Honolulu Beerworks.

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