Wednesday, October 28

Flight 22 is off to Honolulu

(It's an Avalanches reference that's been stuck in my head for weeks - we weren't really on flight 22)
We are home, back from a week in Hawaii with Jo, Marty and the traveling bears (Jo's folks). I was there to give a paper at the ASHG conference and to catch as much R&R as possible (defined, in my book, as good food), but also get into the swing of traveling with my family! Speaking of which, Marty did an incredible job on the flights. Saying he was well behaved implies he could have behaved badly and I think he's still too young for that (mostly) but he was very chilled out about the whole traveling thing. We had a one hour flight to Dallas, then a very quick dash through the airport to make our connection which was an ~8 hour flight straight to Honolulu. The flight over was the trickiest because it basically ran through the entire 'awake' part of his day. Combine that with the fact that he usually likes to be held and walked, not held sitting down - he did remarkably well! He slept, fed, chilled out and only cried briefly a few times. On the return flight he slept for the entire 7 hours!

The traveling Roo

We also managed to work out why Marty hates his car seat... We always thought it was simply that he didn't like the reclined position but now we discover that it is because we've been attaching it to the wrong sort of car! How silly of us. While trying to get a taxi for 5 people plus baby/car seat from the airport to the hotel they eventually gave up on minivans and sent us off in a limo! So my first trip through Honolulu was riding in style (and at taxi rates!) When the driver offered to pick us up for the return we jumped at the chance - and it seems that two trips in a limo was all it took to cure him of his seat-hating 0_o

We were staying at the Hilton Hawaiian Village - an all encompassing fake plastic shiny shiny mega-plex of vacationy goodness. It provided the impression of a whole Hawaiian experience without you really having to have a Hawaiian experience at all! Five towers, various pools and waterparks, an artificial lagoon filled with fresh seawater about 50m from the beautifully clean Pacific Ocean (I guess so you can virtually swim in the Pacific?)

On arrival at the huge indoor/outdoor central reception you're greeted by incredibly well manicured tropical gardens, fountains, pools and a vista out to the palm-tree studded Waikiki beach and sparklingly clean Pacific Ocean. Plastic fantastic and non-native as it was, it was impossible not to be impressed.

Josie with the Roo in his carrier* at reception, looking out over koi filled ponds, the main pool and the beach.
*Every new parent should be given one of these, they are the most useful baby thing ever.

The hotel complex was set up so that you never really had to step foot outside into Honolulu proper. There were more restaurants and shops than you could poke a stick at, some of them even half decent! The gardens were incredibly well tended and an absolute delight for us San Antonians whose daily dose of botanicals consists of live oaks and more live oaks.

The many ponds were full of water lilies, stripy blue fish, massive koi and even turtles!

The hotel complex was also filled with an incredible array of wildlife (although I'm not sure any of it was Hawaiian per se) including stinky African penguins!

There were randomly placed giant parrots all over the place and I spent an amusing few minutes watching one particularly bad tempered one refusing to come to its handler to be put away by hopping to the absolute top if its climbing frame! There was nothing more between us and them than a warning sign, although those beaks were warning enough not to get too close.

The complex was also filled with all sorts of other bird life including these wonderful flamingos!

Marty also adjusted really well to the 5 hour time difference...better than we did in lots of ways. The conference started at 7am each morning (argh!) but the time difference was in my favour there. My talk was Thursday morning (we arrived the Saturday before) and it went pretty well. The conference was huge with 6000+ attendees, but the exhibit (read freebie) section wasn't so hot this year...I guess the companies didn't want to have to take too much stuff with them. Aside from the conference we spent most of our time working around Marty and his sleep/eat/play schedule, which allowed us to do quite a lot including a trip to the Foster Botanical Gardens (more about that later), a wander through China Town, shopping at the Ala Moana shopping mall (best food court ever...again more on that later), swims in the pool and the ocean as well as lots of yummy food experiences!

Mama and Roo getting ready for a swim

Our room was perfect for the three of us - quite big with a separate kitchenette area (great for handwashing) and the bed was ENORMOUS! Marty loved it, as you can see.

The room was big enough that we didn't feel like we were going mad when we were forced to spend time there, by our own jetlag/exhaustion or Marty needing to nap. We even had people 'over for dinner' a few times.

Me and my boy reading the comics on our huge couch

Our room was on the 28th floor of one of the towers so it had some pretty specky views, although I had to be careful taking Marty on the deck (lanai) since Jo developed some pathological fear that I would somehow manage to drop him over the side.

Evening view out over the Hilton lagoon and the ocean

View towards Honolulu City from our deck

Sunset over the Pacific from the deck

Yes I know there's a shot like this already but I liked them both and couldn't decide!

The pools were nice but the ocean was simply delicious, aside from the sharp bits of dead coral underfoot.

The breakers were a fair swim away so the beach itself was very calm. The water wasn't hot like the Texas Gulf Coast, but it didn't bite like Tassie either!

Looking out across our little patch of beach down to Waikiki proper and across to Diamond Head (volcano crater)

Jo wanted photos of palm trees and there were plenty! The don't offer quite enough shade though...

I could have done a lot of lying down and looking up at this, well, if it wasn't hot and I was entirely burn resistant!

Literally meters from this gorgeous beach was the equally gorgeous if entirely artificial Hilton lagoon (which was public access at least, unlike the rest of the pools)

The Hilton lagoon early in the morning before it was swarming with people - it looks like a deserted island but it is an illusion!

I'm guessing this s why lots of people opted to swim in the lagoon, although we didn't really have any trouble in the ocean (maybe a few tiny stings but nothing worse than Oz)

These signs seemed to suggest that the ocean was incredibly dangerous - Lions and tigers and bears oh my!

Anyhow, this post is way too long so lets just say it was a great trip, we all had a fab time and I'd love to go back one day. There are two more Hawaii posts coming, one quick one about food (of course) and one for the bot gardens (simply for the pics). Aloha!

One last shot of the lagoon looking back towards the entire Hilton complex

Saturday, October 17

Visited by 'escapees from the bathroom'!!

A present arrived in the mail today that made me laugh so hard I had to share it with you all immediately! My sister and her partner ordered these little beauties from Sweden for Marty and he is going to love them (we sure do!)

Pee and Poo! Although I think we might call them Pipi and Popo (which I think is the Spanish version?)

We're off to Hawaii bright and early tomorrow for the American Society of Human Genetics meeting, and some much looked forward to R&R! I probably won't be able to post any photos until we return (not taking the camera transfer cable) but I will be sure to take LOTS. For now though, here's a vid of Marty practicing his pool swimming (from September)

video

Honolulu here we come!

Thursday, October 15

Gnocchi (or my latest obsession)

I always thought I hated gnocchi. Tough, chewy, tasteless lumps of potato dough masquerading as pasta. That is, until Tre. Tre Trattoria is a restaurant here in San Antonio. We first visited for two reasons - it was Josie's birthday and we needed somewhere new to take 'the group' and it looked (from the online menu) more like the places we ate at in Italy (ok make it 3 reasons, they had linguini with clams on the menu...my favorite!) That night 90% of our party ordered the wild mushroom tagliatelle and the rest went with the clams (best I've ever had outside Italy) and we were all smitten and there was much rejoicing and the people were happy. The point is, it wasn't until a later visit when a generous friend ordered an extra plate of gnocchi to share with the table that my obsession began...

This gnocchi was panfried and crispy on the outside, soft and fluffy on the inside and tasted absolutely delicious! I was in love. Not only did I want to never stop eating it, I wanted to make it, to master it, to own it! I obsessed about this gnocchi for days. I read recipes online, watched videos, I even got in touch with Jason Dady, the head chef and one of the owners of Tre for tips. The other night I had the ingredients and some time on my hands so I took the plunge. I won't post the recipe here, not until I practice a few more times, but as a starting point I used this one from Gourmet (side note - I still can't believe Gourmet is over). I'm not sure if you can get to the recipe without registering but it is from Urban Italian.

The big difference between this recipe and lots of others I read was baking the potatoes, and adding the egg/oil/seasoning mix to the sieved potato flesh while it was still hot enough to bind the egg protein somewhat. Also minimal dough manipulation to keep it fluffy. Here's my dough ready to go (black flecks are pepper, probably leave it out next time).


Then I immediately cut it into 6 pieces and gently (but quickly) rolled out dough strings and cut them into diagonal slices.


I kept the cut ones covered in cling wrap while I worked to stop them drying, although the whole process was so quick they'd probably be fine.


The trick Chef Dady told me was to poach them (about 2 mins, till they float to the surface) them (gently) plunge them into ice water. From here I let them drain on paper towel, dry out a little, and them pan fried them in butter until they browned on each side.

Bit of fresh grated Parmesan and some pepper and we have dinner!

Oh and if you're looking for updates on the Roo, make sure to check out the Traveling Bears.

Sunday, October 4

Visitors

Marty has shown himself to be a real social animal of late since we've been lucky enough to have a steady stream of visitors. Our friend Julie came to visit for a week as part of her 'North America 09' tour. She didn't get to see a whole lot on San Antonio, although she did spend a day exploring downtown and the river walk on her own, but she slotted in well with the daily Marty and Mama routine. We did make it out a few times, including a trip to our new favorite restaurant Tre Trattoria (more about that another time).

Jules and a somewhat floppy Roo

Our dear friend Brandon has also come to visit us twice in the past few weeks! He's a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines but San Antonio is still well out of his normal route. Brandon is such a lovely boy - we'll be incredibly lucky if Martyn turns out to be half the man Brandon is (pr half as good looking). Marty definitely enjoys his visits, lots of big grins! This last trip Brandon came for breakfast (a good Aussie cook-up but healthy too!) then, since it was such a perfect day, we went out for a walk and some shopping. Brandon carried the Roo in the front pack and had fun pretending to be the handsome daddy :D

Marty helping Brandon with his stomach crunches

Also, in between Jules and Brandon, our friend Lara dropped in for dinner and brought her absolutely adorable 4 month old girl, Lynnea to visit Marty. He was a gentleman and shared his 'lucky Claire blanket' with her!

Lynnea and Marty getting to know each other

And to top off visitor season, the traveling bears (aka Jo's parents/my outlaws) arrived last night looking not too shabby for 30+ hours in transit! To herald their arrival San Antonio turned on the weather with stormy skies and 100% chance of precipitation, typical!

These visits are bittersweet, however, since we know there are so many other people who wish they could meet Marty (some of whom are even foaming at the mouth -yes I'm looking at you Rennie). Not too much longer to wait.

Marty Roo - sucking people in like satellites since 2009...

Friday, October 2

A special treat from the Roo to his fans

One of the best things about having your own child is being able to torture them dress them up in their fancy duds. These particularly awesome duds came from Katy and Jennifer (she made the hat!)




See my dimple? I'm flashing it for you!