Tuesday, September 28, 2010






Monday, September 27, 2010

Wrapping up the helicopter photos

Both of these are of the NaPali Coast.

I don't remember where that one was exactly, but it was very dramatic in person.

And here we all are afterwards! With our pilot in the helicopter - he was awesome, excellent dry sense of humor, and lots of great info about the island and the things we were seeing. And Dave really, really enjoyed it, and was not at all motion sick, in spite of what one might think from the photo. ;)

There are so many more pictures, but I either can't settle between a bunch of different versions, or I don't feel like they quite convey the experience as well as the ones I've posted. So they may come out some time in the future.

Sunday, September 26, 2010


Where: up
When: June 25, 2010

Last night a character in my dream watched as I made less than impressive attempts at flight, and then made a comment that reminded me that the world I was in was an imaginary construct, and in that moment the dream city fell away and I raced through an empty sky, the wind ripping at my clothes and my hair.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fly Away

We went in a helicopter! With NO DOORS!! Look how excited we were about this:

Here are some of the things we saw:

That was as we were approaching the NaPali Coast which I posted a picture from the other day. It really looked liked this, as we came up over the ridge, from terrain that had been rather harsh and desert-like, the coast nearly glowed, it looked like a backdrop, or a set.

Looking back up the coast:

You can see in the upper left where the helicopter...um... wing? Blade? got into the photo. Dave very patiently removed this from one of the other pictures, but I don't have that much patience, sadly.

Oh and just to be clear:

NO. FREAKING. DOORS. So awesome! I spent some time in the beginning testing the seat belt to see whether and where it would lock when I leaned forward. Once I knew where that was, I felt much comfier.

More pictures to come, although I'm still going through them trying to decide which to post, and this week is going to be really busy, so it may be a couple of days.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Bird's eye view

Where: The NaPali Coast, Kauai, from a helicopter
When: August 23, 2010

Many more where this one came from - narrowing them down has been incredibly difficult. I'll try to piece them into a story this week, but it's going to be a couple of days, this week is going to be really busy!

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Where: Oahu, HI
When: August 22, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Guest Artist: Dave Powers

Where: On top of Diamond Head Crater
When: August 22, 2010

This is a little out of order timewise, I think, although I really didn't take many pictures after the shark/coffee/coast day. I wasn't able to come with Dave on this walk because I was somewhere out there learning to surf. The apartment we stayed in was the third building in from the left of the photo. It was lovely and quiet, and we could hear the fountain in the park.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Guest Artist: Shawn Stieman

Yay! Ok, now give me my camera back.

(Where: At the top of the spontaneous hike towards the end of the drive back from the North Shore
When: August 19, 2010)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

More views

Where: On the spontaneous hike towards the end of the drive back from the North Shore
When: August 19, 2010

Also, some Hawaii politics on the drive back:

I hadn't actually seen that sign while we were driving, it was only going through the photos that I realized there was a great big "take back Hawaii" billboard.

Thursday, September 9, 2010


Where: Towards the end of the drive back from the North Shore
When: August 19, 2010

This was a jam packed day, but we're almost done - after the sharks, and the coffee, and the drive back along the coast, we passed by what looked like a great, quick hike. So we parked and hiked it! I say hike - it was fairly uphill, but paved, so not that hike like, but more vigorous than a walk. Also it didn't take us very long. But then we were moving pretty fast. I ran most of it, because I kept stopping to take pictures and then had to run and catch up to Dave and Shawn. Anyway, great views:

I'll post some more from the drive and the hike tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Coffee Counting (and tasting!)

Where: Waialua, Oahu, HI
When: August 19, 2010

As if getting to witness the coffee roasting experience, as well as get educated on the production and processing of coffee wasn't enough, after THAT Derek invited us back to his office to learn about grading and tasting coffee!

So, grading coffee involves taking a sample of a batch of coffee - the size of the sample is always consistent - and going through each and every bean to see whether there are any with a weird shape, or discoloration, or mold, or anything that looks funny. This sample was split up between three people, so it didn't take so very long, but I imagine doing it on your own gets pretty eye-watering, so it helps to use a nice brightly-lit magnifying glass:

Once you've separated out all the weird/funky/not-quite-right beans, you weigh them, so you can get a ratio of good to bad beans in that batch. Of course, based on the banter we witnessed between Shawn (aka Dr. Coffee) and Derek, some bean counters are pickier than others.

Oh hi Shawn! You just drink your coffee there, no one's talking about you. ;)

The reason that the coffee grower wants to do this, is that coffee is assigned grades by the state, so there's an inspector who is going to do this. And if you can estimate what grade the inspector is going to give the coffee, then you can estimate your profits, because of course the better the grade, the more expensive (and, in theory, delicious) the coffee.

While counting beans, we got to drink some delicious coffee and also taste some awesome chocolate!! Coffee and cacao like similar growing conditions, so they are usually grown on the same plantations. At least, I assume that's why that happens, I'm not actually sure. But the point is - chocolate!!

That's Derek in the back, explaining stuff. The big hunk of chocolate in the front there was a gold medal winner at a recent chocolate convention, apparently - it was awesome. It was a milk chocolate, and had a lovely, delicate, complex and slightly fruity flavor. Delicious. And next to it on the right is some dark chocolate, which was also fabulous.

I am currently savoring a delicious cup of Derek's Waialua Peaberry coffee which I got to take away with me from this, and it is probably the most delicious cup I've had since I've gotten back to the mainland. I'm going to be awfully sad once this is gone. I'm going to have to go on a hunt...

If any of you happen to be in Hawaii, and want an awesome coffee education and to get to taste some delicious coffees, get in touch with Shawn! While he primarily consults with coffee growers on how to grow the most delicious coffee possible (apparently growing conditions have a tremendous impact on the taste of the final product - coffee is a lot like wine, actually), he also does private cuppings/tastings for us every day folks, and every time I talk to him I learn something new and awesome. Plus, he is delightful to hang out with.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Beach Break

Let's take a break from coffee for the day - just head up through these trees...

And turn right...


(Where: On the drive back from the North Shore somewhere
When: August 19, 2010)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Where: North Shore somewhere, Oahu, HI
When: August 19, 2010

That is a photo of our dear friend Shawn Steiman, aka Dr. Coffee, explaining how coffee is graded while holding some green coffee beans. Let's zoom in:

They don't look nearly as delicious when they aren't all roasted, do they?

The greenery you can see behind Shawn in the first photos are actual coffee plants, with actual coffee fruit on them - here is a highly mediocre shot so you can see what the fruit, which is called a "cherry" looks like:

In the way of most fruit, ripe = red. We got to snack on some - they have a lovely mild, sweet, honey-like flavor. You are supposed to bite the end, then squirt the seeds into your mouth, and suck on them for a while, as the fruit bit is a thin film over the seed. It's quite refreshing when standing in the hot sun.

The coffee is harvested by hand or machine, it depends on the plantation. It can either be harvested selectively, so that only the ripe cherries are picked, or it can simply be stripped, with green and ripe cherries going together. Once you have the cherries, you dump them into a machine that separates red from green (ripe cherries sink in water, green ones float), then into another which takes the skin off and starts to take the pulp off. There are apparently a bunch of different ways to do this.

Derek, Shawn's friend, who manages this plantation and was kind enough to show us around and explain how all the machines worked, went through all the reasons some ways are better than others - for example, if you leave more fruit on the coffee when it goes into the drying process, you can alter the flavor. BUT if you are trying to dry beans in less than desert-like conditions, with some nice, sugar filled fruit on it, you will primarily get rotten fruit.

I'm afraid my reporting on this subject is awfully thin - I was more focused on taking pictures than on the explanations. So with that said, here is a photo of said machinery:

And here's one of Shawn explaining said machinery to Dave:

And one of the drying racks:
Drying Racks

Tomorrow, more on sorting and grading coffee!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Mmmmm coffee

I had no idea coffee roasting was so steampunk.
Where: North Shore somewhere, Oahu, HI
When: August 19, 2010

This was basically the coolest day ever - it started with the sharks, then Shawn took us to a coffee plantation, which was right next to a shop owned by Bill Martin, who is a local coffee roaster. So we got to hang out with Bill and chat with him while he roasted couple of batches of coffee. And can I just say that coffee roasters are simply the most awesome looking machines ever?? I mean, how completely steampunk is that?

So the roaster has to sit by the machine and monitor the roasting process - he (or she, as the case may be) has an idea of how dark he wants the particular roast to be, so he's watching the internal temperature, the color of the beans (through a little window), and he also has a scoop that he can use to pull some of the beans out mid-roast to taste them and see how it's going. Once he decides it's been roasted sufficiently, he pulls a lever, and dumps it all into this bin:

See that wooden handle just below and to the right of where his hand is? That's the scoop - if you pull it out there will be beans on it.

As the beans fall into the bin, those big metal arms are rotating, cooling the beans off.

There is an opening on the side of the bin, which the beans gradually get pushed through, landing into the bag they get stored/transported in:

It was so cool to get to watch the whole process, and to chat with Bill about the techniques involved. Here he is in action:

You can see the opening where the beans will get pushed through in the lower right of the photo - towards the end of the cooling process there aren't enough beans to allow them to fall out on their own, so he is using a brush to push the remaining beans towards the opening.

So much fun! Plus the shop was in a big warehouse, so it had all kinds of fun things to browse through - things carved out of wood, shirts, saris and furniture, coffee and chocolate and glass art.

Then behind the shop is what I am calling the plantation but that particular section was where they process the coffee, starting with the whole beans. More on that tomorrow, hopefully with Dave's help because I am never going to remember all the bits and pieces involved.


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New York City, United States

About This Blog

This is my first blog attempt. It hasn't been kept up over the last year, for some reason being pregnant really ate into my creativity, and I picked up the camera very rarely. I am thinking about starting it up again, but am not sure what direction to take it in.

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