Pausing between Stop and Go on Oahu’s North Shore [pt 2]

Previously, I shared how I eased into a week of island life by wandering around some of the North Shore’s laid-back beaches, towns, and nature reserves. Looking for a rinse, lather, repeat scenario? Then read on.

Back when I had more of a brain, I swear I read that new experiences—be they pleasant or stressful—focus the senses. How else to explain the fact that I’m terribly oblivious to things in my real-life surroundings, but tend to skew much more I was blind but now I see on vacation?

On Oahu’s North Shore, a watchful figurine keeps an eye on the waves and those who ride them

Even if I’m mistaken, surely being relaxed enough to notice the striking markings on neighborly geese, green sea turtles, and dogs was a sign of positive things happening to my body and/or soul.

Renting a tucked-away space on property one hour and a world away from Honolulu airport increases the odds of sharing space with real personalities

Since the line between “attentive” and “obsessed” can be a bit blurred for me, though, I’ll keep mum about how many times rocks had a starring role in my photos.

The historic Lili’uokalani Protestant Church sits right in the thick of what passes for action in low-key Haleiwa

Admittedly admiring the stones’ craggy textures and subtle shadings was easier from land than from sea. Bad enough that I’m incapable of getting out of ocean swell without banging myself up on any nearby rock—once Mr Vix and I decided to attempt standup paddleboarding my seemingly magnetic attraction to hard, jagged lumps became even more problematic.

I didn’t realize that until I was actually on (or more accurately off-and-on) a board, of course. Others made wafting across glossy water look so effortless!

At least my athletically inclined companion was also quite…challenged…by the activity. As the dunkings mounted and the learning curve refused to budge, we exchanged meaningful looks with the small dogs hitching a ride with their paddling owners.

Top, standup paddleboarding in Waialua Bay looked so simple; Bottom, my trusty hat and I were both wet and bedraggled after my first attempt at monkey-do

Luckily, our second attempt to SUP was a much closer match to our fantasy script. Late afternoon sun, stretches of the stunning Anahulu Stream to ourselves, green turtles sunning themselves on the banks, and actually STANDING UP versus kneeling or falling in.

While mere onlookers a few years ago, this visit we were the ones standup paddleboarding along the ridiculously picturesque and tranquil Anahulu Stream while bathed in golden light

Though I’d arrived on the island wanting to spend every daylight minute of my trip in the water, laziness and nosiness won out. Even in the relatively remote North Shore area, we had to make concessions as to which activities could be fit in and which canned due to time. Which may be why Haleiwa was officially named a historic, scenic, and cultural district in the early ’80s, but what do I know?

What I do know is that there were plenty of minutes on our trip for both repeat stops at juice bars and for capturing the business end of a watersports shop…

L, Don’t even think about leaving Lanikai Juice and its heaps of locally grown goodness without an antioxidant rainbow in your hand; R, a local watersport landmark continues its bold color scheme around the back

…as well as for aimless driving around that let us admire small businesses in action and repose…

A moment of rest at Paradise Shrimp Farm’s roadside stand in Waialua

…and for taking in views where volcanically pigmented earth met up with sky and luxurious growth.

While sugarcane’s influence continues to decline, this drive-by shot gives a glimpse of how agriculture still rules on Oahu’s North Shore—good news for fans of the island’s pineapple, coffee, vegetables, and more

All of which made me (once again) glad that so many West Coasters consider Oahu the proverbial red-headed stepchild of the islands. I don’t know how anyone can turn up their nose at a spot that has all of the above plus the gorgeous Waimea Valley Reserve, but hey: more exotic tropical foliage, wildlife, and archeological remnants for me.

Enter the public portion of Waimea Valley Reserve’s nearly 2000 acres and discover a setting filled with tropical foliage and wildlife…including some endangered strains and species

At the Waimea Valley Reserve, beauty and critters are around every corner, and amazing birdsong seems to accompany one along every path

Though just a North Shore visitor, I’m aware that the area’s last 100+ years of history includes colonialism and careless use of the land as well as typical 21st century social problems. And while the busy town of Wahiawa may not be full of rural delights, I’m glad there’s a story of renewal and preservation unfolding there that’s a counterpart to the conservation efforts in the Reserve.

Wahiawa’s 2011 public transportation center acknowledge’s the town’s present needs and pineapple plantation-centric past

So here’s to places that share their beauty and their history, their changes and their struggles, their stories and their bounty. Sometimes the exchange is exactly what’s needed to create a bridge from one’s own past to a richer, more colorful future.

Kamehameha Highway has little in common with its 4-lane-plus cousins, winding along the North Shore’s beaches, towns, and agricultural parcels

PSA: Take a history-laden video tour of Waimea Valley Reserve

Moroccan meets Modernism in Palm Springs [pt 1]

Last December I said to my beloved, “Let’s skip getting each other holiday gifts and put the money towards a short getaway in late winter!” In theory, it seemed brilliant; in actuality, though, it helps to have a life—and personality—conducive to executing such proposals.

While I’m proud to say my ability to rationalize vacations is so well-developed it’s available for purchase, the job that makes it possible for me to justify indulging wants vs basic needs is wedged in a “significantly under-resourced” workplace where being out for any reason makes coming back worse.

As those who are or have been in similar environments know, trying to engineer one’s escape becomes yet another time-related pressure. Make a run for it too early, and the benefits of leaving fizzle out quickly; break away too late and recharging becomes a pipe dream.

By mid-February even the optimists around me were taking massive hits to their sunny-side-up outlooks. Not at all coincidentally, that’s about the period I told Mr Vix that if he couldn’t get his convoluted schedule to coincide with mine in the very near future, I’d be taking a romantic trip with me myself and I.

Finally, however, we managed to carve out 50 joint hours for sun. And sights.

Enter Korakia,* situated approximately one million miles away from my PNW life:

The courtyard of Korakia’s Moroccan-influenced half sets the tone for the rest of what one discovers on the 1924 property

Or more precisely: located in Palm Springs, formerly and regaining-ground-as California’s desert playground.

While Mr Vix and I had given serious thought to staying in one of the area’s restored 50s/60s hotels for our first trip to the area, the chance to spend a few days wandering around the 1.5 acres where Korakia’s 28 rooms, suites, bungalows, and guesthouses sit in all their 20s and 30s glory won out.

I admit my Persnickety Bohemian side might have been a little vocal about picking the spot with a half-Moroccan, half-Mediterranean, all-boho luxe setting. And from the moment we drove up to the second I left, I was in heaven. Textured and patterned meets stark! Color meets neutrals!

Korakia’s aesthetic — a mix of textured and stark, color and neutrals — is used to great effect in the lobby

We may have been staying in one of the most budget-friendly rooms, but we had free reign of both sides of the property. Eyes, ears, nose, taste, skin—engaged and delighted in ways that took me exactly where I wanted to be: far far away from elevated cortisol levels.

A detail from Korakia’s bar area, located on the Morroccan side of the pensione

It didn’t hurt that 80+ degree daytime weather meant I was able to trade raingear for sunhats, ridiculously large sunglasses, and SPF’d bare skin. Or that the pensione’s rooms have no telephones, TVs, or clocks to tether one to time or the outside world.

My Persnickety Bohemian side was only too happy to trade in cold rain for 2 days of 80+ degree weather and a boho luxe setting 

With the property designed to minimize overnight guests and maximize privacy, I had no regrets about having to compromise my preferred vacationing like the other half lives style due our abbreviated time frame.

When the San Jacinto mountains are one’s backdrop, it’s hard to go wrong…but I saved my pennies for one of Korakia’s most modest room offerings due to how they get it extra-right

Now, I get that my appreciation for Korakia’s design may not be universal. And I have no doubt that the weathered-to-pristine ratio is carefully calibrated for effect. But when the “weathered” portion includes rustic candleholders that light one’s pathways and glimpses of 1920s tilework, I have to say the math works for me.

I’d bet the pensione’s decisionmakers calibrate the weathered-to-pristine ratio very carefully — but who can fault an equation that includes rustic outdoor candleholders and 1920s tile?

There’s no doubt in my mind that it takes a lot of work to do surface imperfection so perfectly, and I applaud the effort.

If excellent coffee, fresh-squeezed juice from on-site oranges, and friendly low-key service don’t outweigh slightly frayed table mats, non-starched linen, and blossoms that were at their best for early vs end-of-service eaters, Korakia may not suit

If there hadn’t been so much we wanted to do during our 50 hours away, I would have spent more time lounging poolside on the inviting daybeds

Given our time frame/decompression challenges I’d deliberately chosen someplace touted as highly experiential and illusory, and Korakia offered those qualities by the bucketful. It was tempting to stay put the whole trip, sure…but with mountains, museums, and modernist landmarks out there, how could two soggy Oregonians resist soaking up a variety of desert goodness?

* No monies were received for the writing of this post, though I probably owe the talented Linda of Lime in the Coconut a kickback for bringing Korakia to my attention in one of her “here’s yet another gorgeous setting” features.

Next: Part 2 of Moroccan Meets Modernism in Palm Springs, in which I semi-reluctantly engage my brain by visiting the Palm Springs Art Museum (and share a bit more of Korakia)

Condé Nast thinks my backsplash is a glamour do

In the Vix Household, we excel at turning renovation-related molehills into mountains. So by the time our (fairly) budget, seemingly endless, mostly DIY kitchen reno came to a point where form could take precedence over function, I was thrilled.

When choosing the flooring, cabinets, counter, hardware, and sink, we’d factored in lots of variables. Cost. Durability. Practicality. Design. But once those items were out of the way a tiny swath of L-shaped space remained in limbo: the backsplash.

I knew an easy, inexpensive solution (paint). And I knew a solution that was popular among those renovating older houses (white subway tile).

But I listened to my gut, and my gut said to go another way. So I did:

7-plus years after I grappled with thinset and grout, my pal Ms Eileen took this beauty shot of my fancypants SICIS iridescent tile and its companions (regular ole laminate counter, big box store cabinets, and generic sink/faucet)…now editors control its fate

And other than still wishing I’d done the install before I had to wind myself around a corner cabinet, I have no regrets about slapping up my pedigreed, school-of-sardines tile amongst my more generic items.

Fancy Italian tile + materials: $400. 7+ years of daily pleasure: Priceless!

HOWEVER

I’ll admit I’m a little envious that my tile’s life always seems to be more exciting than mine, a hypothesis confirmed when a photo editor from Condé Nast’s Fairchild Books division recently asked if I would allow a shot of my backsplash to be used in their Foundations of Interior Design textbook.

Granted it’s one of their instructional publications, not Architectural Digest…but the invitation is still pretty exciting around these parts.

Especially since my tile doesn’t live in a sleek urban loft with high-end appliances and a thick stone counter, but in a funky 10 x 15 foot space with low-to-the-ground windows, 4 doors, and a beloved but problematic hutch that’s the only vaguely original built-in left in the joint.

And as most of our money went into boring structural things like plumbing and electricity, the bulk of our kitchen ingredients came from big box stores or no-frills warehouses with remnants from commercial jobs.

The tile was/is definitely the odd one out. See?

Vix Household Kitchen, Before and After (towards back door)

Vix Household Kitchen: Not up to NKBA standards, but lots of shiny plus a rehabbed hutch

Apparently there’s something to be said for spending one’s youth in narrow and/or tiny square’d kitchens with people and pets underfoot, because while our “after-to-date” kitchen isn’t exactly setting the world on fire with its efficiency, I rarely get aggravated when cooking in it. Guess it’s all just…wrong in all the right ways to me.

[Though I still wish we’d get around to a new back door!]

Of course dear, dear Condé doesn’t want to show students the whole hot imperfect mess—they just want a beauty shot of the tile.

Enter Ms Eileen, who happily agreed to a photo shoot though she had to be arm-twisted into claiming the accompanying photo credit should her masterpiece make it through the book’s final editing process.

Whatever the selections when the textbook goes to press, though, the luscious little blue-green zone will always be a winner in MY book. In fact, I’ve come to realize that my ‘splash has done more than brighten my kitchen—it’s helped change my closet. Call it backsplash therapy, baby, and color me a convert.

Kitchen-to-Closet Confidential: Lessons My Backsplash Taught Me

1. Mixing curvy with straight adds visual interest

2. Simple lines can make cheap look more expensive, and one pricier item can class up budget items

3. A little pattern elevates the Sarah, Plain and Tall elements

4. It’s worth spending time to figure out how—or if—to use low, medium, and high contrast

5. Whatever the other kids are doing, choosing colors that one loves AND that make one’s skin look like a million bucks ups the chance of long-term happiness

L, many of my current closet colors; R, the backsplash shows another of its many shade variations

Over the last 2 years I’ve slowly come to embrace purples and peeenks on more than just my walls

What can I say? Blame/credit the damn backsplash!

6. Self-defining my personal style as “Minimalist Magpie” and “Contrarian Classicist” (with their love child, the Persnickety Bohemian, wriggling in here and there) helps save time and money when shopping…and keeps me from taking the quest to dress myself too seriously!

Gratuitous Color Shot #8: Could you elaborate on that?

At the risk of messing with my street cred as “the least Zen person I know,” “kinda tightly wound,” and “a massive overanalyzer,” I am constantly trying to be more accepting of what the universe sees fit to offer me.

Especially when it sends me signs—sometimes literal signs—to chill no matter how ragged and beset I may feel:

Is the message behind the message ‘last one standing’ or ‘doesn’t stand a chance’?

LIKE WOW, RIGHT?

Unless I’m misinterpreting the message and I’m supposed to aim myself at people and try to take them down, way down.

[Which actually fits better with my grudge-holding, argumentative personality. And it’s not as though the universe’s micro- and macro-level choices are above reproach…so why SHOULD I trust it will take me in a useful and/or life-enhancing direction?]

If I’m going to get serious about ceding control/practicing acceptance, however, I really need a Quick Start guide. Because otherwise I don’t see myself mastering Being the Ball anytime soon. I mean when my days aren’t PACKED FULL of trying to influence people over whom I have zero control, they are positively brimming with passive, slack-jawed waiting for various proverbial stars to align in my favor.

Sure, Kathy the Idahoesque Acupuncturist offered a morsel of help when she recommended I visualize being a fish who lets the currents take me where they will.

[Me: “I feel more like a salmon. How about I visualize a salmon getting upstream in spite of the currents?” Her: “No.” Me (silently): “Killjoy.”]

But I need a little bit more direction than that.

Especially since I have to say that stumbling around trying to be the Ball or a Fish or the Wind Beneath My Wings usually leaves me depressed or fed up. And when I hit a certain point of fed-upness I start to detach from my usual outcome-oriented desires/fears, a state of mind I like to call “going all Thelma and Louise.”

POLICE (O.S.)

(over loudspeaker) Place your hands in plain view. Any failure to obey that command will be considered an act of aggression against us.

I repeat, turn your engine off and place your hands in plain view.

INT. CAR – DAY

THELMA
What’re you doing?

LOUISE
(loads gun) I’m not givin’ up.

….

POLICE (O.S.)

(over loudspeaker) I repeat, cut your engine off and place your hands in plain view.

THELMA
Ok then, listen. Let’s not get caught.

LOUISE
What’re you talkin’ about?

THELMA
Let’s keep goin’.

LOUISE
What d’ya mean?

THELMA
(indicating the Grand Canyon) Go.

LOUISE
You sure?

THELMA
Yeah. Yeah.

Maybe Going All Thelma and Louise is a subset of Being the Ball; hell if I know. I also don’t know how people in truly life or death situations weigh their odds without losing their minds.

But when it comes to fraught yet garden-variety decision making, I’m starting to realize it’s only when I really and truly stop trying to please others that I’m likely to be rewarded.

And it kind of bothers me that I usually get what I want when I demonstrate that I’d rather go over a cliff than surrender. How does that jive with what one hears about compromise and cooperation and everyone loving a team player, huh?

But I guess people with power—people who have something others want—often respond better to bravado than supplication. Or often enough, anyway. So after recently negotiating for something fairly big in my generously termed professional life, I’m adjusting to (and cautiously celebrating) the results.

Trouble is, there’s a part of me that can’t stop remembering how good my foot felt on that pedal….

If I lived a catalogue life

As the Vix Household gene pool has a lot of OCD: Hoarder Division chromosomes swimming around in it, we like to scare ourselves straight every so often.

After spending a chunk of the holiday weekend watching 4 hours of hardcore decluttering shows in a near-row, I’ve decided scared-straight-once-removed is a far superior way to experience homes that have too much crap in them. Turns out it’s just as motivating to sit on my butt ogling piled-up boxes, papers, and unspeakable junk as it is to visit an OH MY GOD GET ME GASOLINE AND MATCHES abode!

And it’s so much less stressful.

The downside of acquiring such externally-driven motivation is that one has to act quickly before it flees. While Mr Vix returned to his basement clear-out project, I decided to plow through all my “I’ll recycle this after I read/cook/re-enact it” towers and to take on my overflowing, horridly dusty bedroom bookshelf.

[Because really, the odds that a future houseguest couldn’t get along without a borrowed copy of Scruples 2 are pretty slim.]

It’s all very freeing, once one gets over the guilt of thinking:

If I were a better person, I’d save all these things which could help me be a better person.”

Unfortunately, some dreams die harder than others. Granted every single book is now dust-free and uncrowded…

Mr Vix's childhood sock monkey + non-compulsively-collected pottery top a random variety of tomes

but I’ve been meaning to do something arty with my accessories forever, and I’m no closer to a solution than before. In fact, I’m probably farther away given that I no longer have this tearsheet to shame—er INSPIRE—me into changing the status quo:

Coming to terms with the fact that my accessories and I aren't "goin' there"

A “quo” which involves eco-friendly but pedestrian boxes.

Semi-accepting that the non-crown jewels are staying here

If only disposing of a sliver of paper didn’t trigger an endlessly-looping set of rhetorical questions:

If I lived a catalogue life, would a sock monkey guard my jewels?

If I lived a catalogue life, would Mr Vix have an addiction to tools?

Guess it’s good to know that for every self-defeating crazy I escort out of my life, there’s an equal and opposite crazy ready to take its place. Normally I’d be at least somewhat tempted to have a good wail about that—but with ole Sock Monkey’s newly glittering eyes just DARING me to fall apart, I’m determined to hold steady. Too bad I didn’t unearth my stiff upper lip from beneath a mound of past-their-sell-date magazines….

Perhaps I'll reframe this as "my little corner of delight" vs my accessory-station failure