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sunday dinner: ahi tuna poke.

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As Hawaii week comes to a close (although it will never really be over, will it), we must talk about the food. Oh, the food. It’s secretly/not so secretly the main reason I travel. I don’t feel I’m alone in this. My friends and family might give me the crazy eyes when I tell them I’m flying half way across the world to spend six days in Hawaii on a whim, but whatever, I’ll be the one drinking mai tais and eating fish caught fresh that day while watching a technicolor Hawaiian sunset, so who’s winning at life now?

The food we had in Hawaii was a fantastic mix of Asian cultures and local island favorites; we ate our way through China and Japan and Korea for days (all in one strip mall, in fact — yes, the BEST food in Hawaii is always found in a strip mall), and that’s not even covering the more traditional Hawaiian dishes like poi and kalua pork and lomi lomi salmon. I somehow escaped the islands without trying spam (which I really wanted to do!), but I made up for it by eating as many manapua I could get my hands on.

But. If we’re talking about the true hero of the trip, my absolutely favorite thing I consumed in my time in Hawaii, something I ate at nearly every meal, it’s poke. I could write an entire album of songs (probably even a multi-disc collection) about my love of poke. No, not the annoying, seemingly useless Facebook feature. I’m talkin’ Hawaiian poke (pronounced po-kay), and if you haven’t experienced this little Hawaiian gem, you’re not living life to the fullest, my friend.

A few things about poke for you to know. You must enjoy raw fish to enjoy poke. What is essentially the Hawaiian version of ceviche, poke’s main ingredients are typically raw fish (most popular is ahi tuna), soy sauce, some form of onion (spring, sweet, Maui or otherwise), and finely chopped macadamia or kukui nuts. Poke is usually served as an appetizer, or pu pu in Hawaiian, and it is deliciously addictive. Our first night in Hawaii I was invited to the house of my friend’s family for dinner. Pu pus came to the table and I casually swiped a piece of poke with my chopsticks and was so enticed by the salty, buttery, slightly sweet flavor I almost fell out of my chair. Picture me trying to be polite and gracious and charming while also trying to covertly shove as much poke in my mouth as possible. I’m sure I was the picture of manners; just call me charm school over here.

When I left Hawaii, I knew the first thing I wanted to attempt to make at home was poke, and tonight I have done just that. While searching out the ingredients will take a bit of effort (and unfortunately, there are a few things you just can’t get outside of Hawaii), actually putting it together is a breeze. The soy sauce does all the work for you, so all that’s required is a little chopping and you’re done. I’ve made some slight alterations based on my preferences (believe me, I tried about 500 different kinds of poke on your behalf, so consider me an expert in this field), but this is a pretty straightforward, ‘basic’ recipe. The flavors, however, are faaaaaar from basic.

OK, you ready? Let’s do this.

Hawaiian Ahi Poke (adapted from Hawai’i Magazine)

1 lb fresh ahi steaks, cut into cubed, bite-size pieces
¼ cup soy sauce (shoyu)
¼ cup chopped green onions (tops included)
¼ cup chopped sweet yellow onion (if you can get Maui onion, otherwise a nice Vidalia will do)
2 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
1 jalapeño pepper, cored, seeded and diced (optional but highly recommended)
sea salt, to taste (if you use full sodium soy sauce, you won’t need this)
2 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds

There’s really not much to say in terms of prep other than chop everything up according to the above, place in a large container (I used a large tupperware, but you can just as easily use a big mixing bowl) and refrigerate for at least two hours. I’d recommend serving this as an appetizer, or you could eat as a main course alongside an asian-inspired salad and some rice. No matter how you enjoy it, it will, for if only a fleeting moment, give you a feeling of island breezes and a slower way of life. I will long for it dearly, I will dream of it often and I will one day return.

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A few other foods I enjoyed greatly while bopping around Oahu are the following:

Malasadas (Portuguese donuts) from Leonard’s Bakery: pillowy soft, some rolled in cinnamon sugar, some filled with coconut cream or chocolate, some just a plain old delicious donut…no holes necessary. YUM.

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Korean food from Kim Chee II Restaurant (heck yeah, strip mall feast): sometimes after a long day in the sun, you just want an explosion of flavor in your mouth, and Korean delivers strongly in that category. From short ribs to mandu to bi bimbap, it’s all delicious, all the time over here.

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Kona coffee, literally anywhere: not much to say here other than it’s so good it’s made for ROYALTY.

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Hawaiian Plate Lunch and Slush Float at Rainbow Drive-in: think of it as a Hawaiian ‘meat and three’ (for those of you who have never been to the South, I don’t really know how to describe this to you other than it’s some good down home cookin’). You choose your meat — usually fried chicken, BBQ steak, fried fish, what have you — and it comes with a side of ‘mac salad’ and rice. You can reserve your gravy for your meat (as I did), or you can go crazy and put it on everything. Accompanying this is a magical concoction called a slush float, which is basically a 7-11 strawberry slushie that’s had a love child with an ice cream float. It’s sugary and sweet and oh so good, and it’s a perfect balance to the saltiness of the plate lunch. Listen, I never said eating in Hawaii was healthy. I did, however, say it was delicious.

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makeup monday: beauty must-haves for your next vacation.

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Hey guys! It’s been a long time and I missed your faces. Summer is in full swing and that means I’ve been prioritizing outside time over inside time, and usually inside time is where the blog magic happens. But. I’m back! And it’s gonna be a good week.

Why, you ask? Because I just returned from a glorious visit to the islands, and by the islands, I mean Hawaii, and by glorious I mean it was the best. THE BEST. #thebest. And I want to talk about it forever and ever because it was pure magic. And I want to keep it fresh in my mind so I don’t forget the deliciousness that is the island life. So this week is Hawaii week over here on the old blog. From now until next Sunday, it’ll be all Aloha, all the time. Get ready. It’s gonna be great.

And to kick off this island extravaganza, we’re talkin’ travel beauty. Truth be told, my travel beauty routine isn’t much different than my summer beauty routine, in that I seek out products that are easy to use, good for the skin, and able to withstand the heat and humidity like champs. I do find, however, that travel beauty can be even a bit lazier than summer beauty (which is great!) because you don’t need to master that perfectly made up look; it’s more about blurring the edges and giving yourself that beachy glow (while also protecting your skin from the summer elements).

I also tend to seek out products that have multiple uses so 1) I don’t have to check a bag, and 2) I’m not that crazy lady at airport security who has like fifteen clear plastic bags full of toiletries instead of the allotted one bag (I’m still usually that crazy lady).

The following are the twenty things you’ll find in my travel beauty bag (I know twenty seems like a lot but that’s covering skin, hair and makeup…and yes, I count sunglasses as a beauty product…gotta protect those peepers!), all of which I’m able to fit (snugly) into one larger-sized cosmetic bag. These were lifesavers in Hawaii and kept me looking fresh, beachy but not too beachy (if you know what I mean), and kept my skin happy and protected in the strong island sun.

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From top left: 1) hair bands, goody ouchless hair elastics. 2) bronzer/blush/highlighter, urban decay naked flushed palette. 3) lip balm, this works turbo balm. 4) fragrance, elizabeth & james nirvana black rollerball. 5) sunglasses, tory burch t-print aviators. 6) argan oil, josie maran argan oil. 7) sea spray for hair, bumble & bumble surf spray. 8) eyeshadow, urban decay eyeshadow in toasted. 9) hair brush, conair travel hair brush. 10) waterproof mascara, maybelline big eyes waterproof mascara. 11) hairspray, nexxus travel size comb thru hairspray. 12) brow pencil, anastasia brow wiz in caramel. 13) eyeshadow primer, urban decay primer potion. 14) lipstick, nars lipstick in schiap. 15) clear nail polish, dior nail glow. 16) cc cream, clinique moisture surge cc cream spf 30. 17) cream blush, nars the multiple in portofino. 18) individual false eyelashes, ardell. 19) waterproof eyeliner, chanel stylo yeux waterproof. 20) bobby pins, goody.

1) hair bands: I get scolded regularly by my fashionista friends for perma-wearing a hair band around my wrist, but it is literally my worst nightmare to be caught without one just when I need one, and that goes doubly for when I travel. My travel hair style tends to be of the ‘pile it on top of my head variety’, especially in warmer climates, so hair bands at an arm’s reach (or wrist’s reach in my case) are mandatory.

2) bronzer/blush/highlighter: this might be on some people’s ‘maybe’ list for travel beauty, but I find a combo palette that includes bronzer, blush and a highlighter one of the easiest, low maintenance ways to add a little pretty to your travel beauty routine. During the day, a sweep of bronzer over the face (after a liberal application of sunscreen, of course) keeps you fresh; adding a little blush to the apples of the cheeks and a little highlighter to the tops of your cheek bones sets you up for an easy, breezy evening look. I love the Urban Decay palette pictured, but Nars and Neutrogena both have great options as well.

3) lip balm: whatever your preferred method of moisturizing your lips, please don’t forget it when you travel. And please don’t forget the importance of SPF if you’re headed to a sunny locale.

4) fragrance: this one might be a ‘nice to have’ but I always love a little spritz of something when I’m on vacation.

5) sunglasses: does this one really need explaining? Fashion accessory + protecting your eyes from the damaging effects of the sun = win.

6) argan and/or coconut oil: use it as a moisturizer, use it as a makeup remover, use it as a sunburn soother. It’s the multi-faceted-iest of the multi-faceted beauty products.

7) sea spray: when it comes to styling my curly mop while on vacay, this stuff is my jam. Spritz it all over and not only does it give me a perfect beachy wave, it helps to control frizz, which is a must in humid climates. Combine with a little hairspray for hold and you’re set to go.

8) eyeshadow: choose a neutral shade you love and you only need to bring one. When I’m on vacation, I’m not doing any fancy eye makeup, I’m probably not even applying it with a brush (fingers for the win). I wear one shade to give my eyes a little oomph and leave the rest at home.

9) hair brush: um, this one’s self explanatory. I hope.

10) waterproof mascara: I don’t wear anything else during the summer and the same goes for summer travel. It’s quick and easy to apply, it adds just the right amount of ‘look’, and the waterproof formula ensures I can take a dip in the ocean or pool and keep on truckin’ with my eye makeup intact.

11) hairspray: the best combatant of my mortal enemy, humidity. I spray it all over before I head out for the day, and by using a lighter hold formula, it keeps frizz at bay while not feeling super ‘crunchy’.

12) brow pencil: this is one of those prissy girly things I just can’t give up. No matter whether I’m going to work, to the club, or across the street to get coffee in my PJs, I still have to do my brows before I leave the house. The Anastasia Brow Wiz makes that a quick and easy task and keeps me looking groomed but natural all the day long.

13) eyeshadow primer: just because I’m only using one shade of eyeshadow while on vacation, doesn’t mean I want it melting off my face. Primer is the only way to ensure even the laziest of looks stay in it for the long haul.

14) lipstick: this is my second girly add to my travel bag. I don’t need to go into my serious, long term relationship with lipstick AGAIN. Suffice to say, no matter where I am in the world, there will be several lipstick options nearby at all times. For most people, a nice neutral or pretty pink shade will do the trick; for me, vacation is the perfect opportunity to rock a bold lip (and maybe for you too?).

15) clear nail polish: I usually try to work in a mani before I head out on vacation, but if I don’t have time, I’ll throw a bottle of clear polish in my bag to get me through. This way my nails are still shiny and pretty but I don’t have to worry about chips or smudges that you might get with brighter colors.

16) cc cream: for me this is the dream face product for vacation. It’s easy to apply, usually high in SPF, and it’s everything you need in one product so it cuts down the number of bottles you’re throwing in your cosmetic bag. I love the way Clinique’s CC cream mattifies my skin, gives me a hint of color, and doesn’t look too ‘made up’. The SPF 30 doesn’t hurt either.

17) cream blush: the easiest of the easy beauty products. Add a little pop of color to your cheeks and a touch of mascara and you’re ready to face the day. Add another layer and set with powder or a powder blush and you’re ready for a night out on the town.

18) individual false eyelashes: these are just FUN. If you have a special occasion dinner or activity during your trip, false lashes add a bit more definition to your look while still looking completely natural (vs a full strip of lashes which can sometimes look too overdone). If you’re not going to try new things while on vacation, when are you going to?

19) waterproof eyeliner: this probably also falls on the ‘nice to have’ list, but I think it’s a great option for a day-to-night transition. Add a little definition to the base of your eyelashes or go a little smokier and blend with your finger; either way the waterproof formula will ensure that your look stays in place (and it comes off easily with a little argan oil!).

20) bobby pins: for when you want to attempt a slightly fancier hairstyle than messy ponytail and/or topknot.

 

 

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quick tip: what to wear when you travel.

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Vacation! Huzzah. It’s about gosh darn time. I’m heading out to see the parents (affectionately referred to as Barb and HTRP — Hal the Retired Plumber) in North Idaho for a full week of relaxation in the wilderness. Idaho is the anti-Manhattan in the best possible way. The air is clear and there are no taxis honking wildly and a ‘traffic jam’ is only ever like five cars slowing down because there’s a moose in the road. It’s a glorious adventure in great sleep and days spent in the kitchen and dinners at the picnic table in the back yard. I. Can’t. Wait. I love me some city but I’m a country girl at my core.

Getting from New York to Idaho, as you can imagine, is a bit of a trek. Multiple flights and a significant drive are par for the course, which is why when it comes to my travel wardrobe; comfort, longevity and multi-purpose use are at the top of my list. No one needs to look like a total schlub when they’re traveling (don’t even get me started with the people who wear their pajamas to the airport), but your wardrobe should be thoughtfully selected — this isn’t the time for a ball gown either. You can meet the needs of your travels and do it stylishly with a few simple tips.

A few things to consider:

Planes and airports are dirty places. Like really dirty. Choose an outfit that can handle that. Stick to dark colors and durable fabrics in case your seat mate decides that some of their red wine would look really great on your jeans. Leave your whites and pastels at home.

Temperatures tend to fluctuate greatly during travel. Who hasn’t been on a flight that was stifling one minute and freezing the next? Come prepared with layers to ensure you’re equipped for whatever temps come your way. Stick to natural fabrics that are breathable and are less prone to wrinkles. And factor in the weather at your destination — do you need to bring a jacket? Does your outfit translate easily to different climates? Don’t forget your sunglasses!

You carry a bunch of shit with you when you travel. You know you do, so invest in a stylish yet durable travel tote. Don’t bring your entire apartment with you, but have a bag big enough that it can easily carry your wallet, a bag of travel-sized toiletries, your laptop/tablet, a snack for the plane, and anything you’re taking to entertain yourself during your flight or layover.

You’re basically going to get naked going through security. With security protocol the way it is these days, keeping it simple is key. I’m loving the gladiator sandal trend for spring, but if I can’t slip my shoes on and off with ease, they’re not my day-of travel choice. This applies to clothing as well — choose pieces that are easy to take on and off and limit the amount of accessories you wear. This will save you time getting through security and will limit the serious side eye you’ll get from other travelers when it takes you 20 minutes just to disrobe.

Below are a few favorites from my travel wardrobe (incidentally also what I’m wearing today, minus the Givenchy tote — but isn’t she pretty?). These get me from Point A to Point B with ease, and I look good doing it. Onward to Idaho!

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quick tip: find the best seat on the plane.

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OK, let’s rank the things I care about deeply based on how much I talk about them with my friends:

1. Beauty products and how to get the most out of them (this one’s just obvious, isn’t it?)
2. Simple and delicious food (here, there and everywhere)
3. Comfortable and efficient travel (oh Lordy, do I have a novel’s worth of commentary on this one)

That third one is a subject I have yet to tackle here on the blog, so let’s get into it, shall we? I’ve been fortunate enough to see quite a bit of the world in my 33 short years (being the daughter of a plumber who also happened to have his pilot’s license), and over time I have curated quite a list of particulars when it comes to how I like to travel. I am a loyalty program enthusiast mostly so I don’t have to wait in long lines. I have a very specific and limited ‘day of flight wardrobe’. I don’t check a bag, ever.

And very high up on that list? I am (SUPER) picky about my seat on the plane. I like a window seat. I like sitting in the front of the plane. I like as much leg room as possible even though I’m only 5’4″. And since I don’t have endless disposable income that would allow me to sit in First Class for every flight, I rely on one simple thing to ensure I choose the cream of the airline seat crop — SeatGuru.

Screen Shot 2014-03-25 at 11.08.37 PMI don’t even remember how I discovered SeatGuru, but it has changed the way I travel. It’s so simple: you enter your flight information into their system, and it returns with a map of the plane, a list of in-flight amenities (wifi, entertainment systems, meals, and the like), and best of all — it shows you which seats are the best seats on the plane (and which are the worst). You can follow the easy red/yellow/green color coding system for a quick view or you can mouse over the seats for more details. Pull this up as you’re booking your ticket and selecting your seats, and even if the best seats on the plane are taken, it will at least help you avoid the dreaded ‘red seats’ (usually seats with no window, no ability to recline, or those with close proximity to the bathroom). You will know what it feels like to be an informed traveler and your flying experience will be better for it.

So check out SeatGuru the next time you’re booking a flight. It won’t save you from the overly chatty seat mate who isn’t picking up on any of your ‘I just want to read my book in peace’ signals, but is there any way to avoid that when traveling? (Seriously, is there? Because I seem to be a magnet for over-sharers. Build me a website to deal with that.)