A Kona View: a Labor of Love from the Slopes of a Volcano

When we booked the VRBO on the Big Island of Hawaii back in the summer, I guess I didn’t realize I was signing up for an eco-tourism experience. We were taken in by the images of the infinity pool overlooking the Pacific in the distance, the dramatic sunsets and the spacious accommodations. But our getaway was about more than views and getting some sun; during our stay we learned a lot about Hawaii’s history and its Kona coffee culture.

Kona View Estate offers a 2 bedroom, 2 bath Vista Suite for four people that has a well-appointed kitchen, comfortable sitting area and tremendous views of Kailua Kona down 1,500 feet below. They also have a 1 bedroom cottage adjacent to the suite for rent as well. The owners live in the semi-connected home next door. Rather than finding their presence to be intrusive, it had its benefits!

Typically, when we visit Hawaii, I love being next to the ocean to listen to the crashing waves lulling me to sleep. I think that is part of the feeling of a tropical getaway. But I have to say, I think staying “up-country” on the steep volcanic slopes of Hualalai was an even better experience.

We were surrounded by a two-acre Kona coffee farm, the random rooster crowing in the distance, colorful small birds and butterflies speckled our views of the Pacific coastline down below, and mountain breezes gently swept the deck cooling us from the warm island sun. Every night, the sunsets were broad and expansive, filling the sky with a fiery spectrum as the sun sank beneath the Pacific’s edge. Nighttime brought the sweet chirping of the coqui tree frogs, and the twinkling gemlike lights of Kailua Kona below.

Owners Randy and Atsumi Phillips offer a few extras to their guests. Their concierge service provided us with a stocked refrigerator and pantry per our emailed grocery list upon arrival. This was such a great benefit following our six-hour flight from Seattle and half hour drive to the property. We were able to cook dinner and just chill for the first evening while we did some research and made plans for the rest of the week. They also included a bag of their award-winning coffee, so we could brew our own throughout our visit.

Randy greeted us when we arrived, showed us the place and concluded by saying he would have a freshly-brewed carafe of their own Kona View Coffee, ready and waiting for us outside our door promptly at 7:15 am. I think Brad particularly perked up over this being a habitual coffee drinker.

And right on time, our coffee magically arrived. Brad takes his coffee black – it’s a different flavor from dull Starbucks, or a washed-out diner, or a flavored Keurig. It’s deep, and a little bit fruity and tastes kinda…well, natural.

I like mine with lots of milk and sugar, and there was something so special about sipping a cup of fresh Kona coffee, stepping out onto the patio, staring out at the bushes the very beans had been picked from, feeling the cool air, and gazing at the Pacific from above. I started thinking about lifestyles and careers, family and retirement, and how with life, you can carve out the experience that you want with some effort, patience and love.

Brad and I planned our week together. We wanted to go to the Mauna Kea Visitor’s Center at 9,200 ft for the sunset and stargazing, we wanted to go to the famous white sand Hakuna Beach, and the Hawaiian Botanical Gardens and Akaka Falls on the Hilo side. We were hoping to squeeze in a helicopter ride around the island. We also wanted to explore the culture.

One morning we headed to the Kona Historical Society Museum. The museum is very small, but details the amazing history of Kona coffee from its beginning in 1828. There were so many incredible photographs, and details about immigration, the wars, the struggle of the farmers, the laborious process of coffee picking, world economics, and the coffee bean growing cycle. And we happened to be there during the Kona coffee festival. There were daily competitions, events and tasting that we could explore at a discount if we so desired. This prompted us to reach out to Randy to ask him for a tour of his own coffee farm.

Randy met us one morning and gave us background on his two-acre farm. According to their website, their coffee trees are Kona Typica which is a strain of Coffea Arabica. They dry process and grade all sizes of their beans separately and they all go on a gravity table to separate any beans of each size that are not the proper density. They then recombine the top three sizes by the ratio that they came off the tree to make our Estate Blend. They process their cherry three different ways: pulped natural, wet process, wet process/fermented to offer different flavor profiles to their coffee, and are one of only a few farms in Kona to do this.

We were even an audience for a roasting of the beans. Randy and Atsumi have a full commercial workspace which features a Giesen six Kilo drum roaster. Their roasting process is computer aided and they roast to order any day of the week. They also have a coffee of the month club where they will send you coffee on a regular basis.

The honey-colored beans went into the bright red, large Dutch roaster. After several minutes, you could hear the “first crack” of the beans, which sounded faintly like popping popcorn. The fragrance of the roasting beans started filling the small room, with its warmth and sweet bitterness. Atsumi opened the door and dark brown beans poured out. She extended her palm to us containing two freshly-roasted beans for us to taste. The warm bean tasted like coffee, of course, but also like chocolate, and chiles and oranges. They said they would package up our coffee for us to take home.

Brad and I have stayed at about a dozen VRBOs over the years, but I think this was my favorite. It’s not only the gourmet kitchen and the spaciousness, the views of the coast from the infinity pool, the hot tub at sunrise every morning and at night under the stars, the sound of the little tree frogs carried by the mountain breezes. All that was absolutely tremendous in itself. But I think a place that can inspire, and make you dream a bit, and wonder about life and reflect on love and family, all the while encompassing you in a Kona coffee embrace …well, I think that beats an ocean front hotel room any day.



One Look in My Eyes

Sipping sweet, orange sherry
Under a full moon
On a boat, in the rain
He strums his guitar playing Neil Young
His old man, the British reverend
Looks at him, looks down
At his shoes

A diamond ring and polished nails
No music but the shore
Telling you it won’t go away
Without a key

There is a woman
Crucified to the bow
Of this boat
The tradewinds blowing
Through her long, black hair

She is alone
With the waves
From the shore
That won’t let
Her forget
She is there

Ruby red gems, and lips
Tomatoes and peppers
Spicy and hot
Tequila and beer
With salt spray and

Rays of moonlight
Stripe the ocean
The mountain
Is blue, purple and grey

Everyone is tired
And drifting
In an orange meditation
Sailing on the Caribbean Sea
Watching God
Watching me
Let this moment, this beauty
Stay with me
Stay with me

Boat (2)




Santa Cruz: Summer Days Drifting Away to Oh, Oh Those Summer Nights!

Birdsong Boardwalk Sunset

I travel quite a bit. And my daughter does not accompany me when I do. So when I returned home from one journey, I suggested we get away together to celebrate her upcoming 14th birthday and her 8th grade graduation. The only stipulation: it had to be somewhere we could fly to on my Alaska Airlines miles, and I didn’t have a whole lot to begin with.

Kenzie’s eyes lit up and she said, “Oh yeah! We are going to Santa Cruz!!!”

I totally understand my daughter’s allure. Santa Cruz, CA., is a beach community in the Central Valley. I used to go there from the Bay Area often during the summer months while I was in high school. I have lots of fond memories of yelling “Road Trip!” with my friends Sally and Heather and climbing into my convertible red ’63 Valiant, twisting and turning through the redwoods of Highway 17 to go body surfing in the cold Pacific with an occasional harbor seal, dance at reggae and goth concerts, and get kissed by the sun and salt spray on the beach.

It’s not upscale, like Monterey or Carmel, both of which I absolutely adore. It’s a bit rough around the edges. Peppered with aging surfers, skateboarders, assorted tattooed hooligans, hippies still tripping on LSD from the 70’s, and lots of beachgoers, but beautiful coastline, picturesque architecture and great food.

And you need to understand, my daughter is a rollercoaster aficionado. She has been a thrill seeker for as long as I can remember. As a baby, she readily scaled the sides of her crib to escape its confines and climbed chairs and counters. She used her feisty strength to push the boys out of the way to get to the top of slides as a toddler. So when she went to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk on a class trip last year, and the teacher wouldn’t let the kids ride any rides because she didn’t get waivers ahead of time, I think that ignited the stubborn streak in Mackenzie to return one day and conquer the Big Dipper and the Typhoon. And that day had arrived.

I easily booked tickets for July 4th for 5k miles each way, which is a screaming deal. Especially since I have status and got us into premium seating for free.

Rather than stay in a hotel, I thought it would be fun for her to choose a VRBO for our stay. Mackenzie scoured the site, and narrowed the massive list down to two properties. After developing a pro’s and con’s list, she selected a pretty eclectic choice: The Birdsong Cottage.

This Westside two-bedroom cottage, only a 20-minute walk to the Boardwalk, is owned by an artist and a master gardener. Small, but whimsically decorated, the cottage is surrounded by pops of color from plants like wisteria, roses, trumpet vines and honeysuckle. It was so pretty, and different, and I think it appealed to Mackenize’s artistic side. She loves talented interior decorating and truly appreciates an eye for design.

I told my boyfriend Kenz and I were going to hit the road in the summer and he asked if he could tag along. Mackenzie gave the nod of approval, but I only thought it fair she invite a friend, so her good friend Emma would join us as well.

On July 4th, we were all bumped up to first class for the flight. Such a great way to start our trip! We rented a car at SJO and drove an easy 40 minutes down Highway 17 to Santa Cruz. I’ve never seen that road so empty, but I guess July 4th is the day to stay home and bbq.

We arrived at the cottage and walked up to the front gate, the pathway lined with fragrant jasmine. The gate opened up to a small garden patio and side yard stretching the length of the house. The girls burst through the backdoor to start exploring.

What a beautiful space! Each room was designed with so much care, and finesse. It’s as if the owner took into account every view, from every vantage point. Green, and yellow, and red, stripes and flowers, hardwood floors, and tiles, and small details like whimsical lamps, decorative plates, and curtains with a Van Morrison lyric. The girls and I were in awe and full of positive exclamations. Brad said, “This place is weird.” I said, “You have to view it with an artist’s eye.” “Not my eye,” he retorted. Well, we loved it anyway. Mackenzie and Emma ran through the house, continuing to discover its treasures and nuances, and laid claim to the comfy living room furniture, huge TV, bedroom and private patio.

That left Brad and me with the master bedroom, or what he laughingly referred to as the “passion pit.” The bedroom was deep crimson in color, with a high, soft king-sized bed you literally melt into. The bed faced a gas fireplace and a TV. A small office was off to the side; the perfect place for Brad to do his 5am conference calls without waking any of us up. The bedroom also has huge French doors that open up to the side yard. We opened them up, closed the screens, sank into the bed and drifted into a much-needed afternoon nap, with the cool sea breezes carrying the songs of the birds through the garden.

I remember lying there, amazed at how successfully the owners had blocked out the sounds and the views of the surrounding homes from the courtyard. I felt like I could have been anywhere, but somewhere remote, and peaceful, and so content.

The days that followed were filled with trips to the Boardwalk so the girls could fulfill their need for fun. And there were discount coupons too, so they could ride all day for less than $15. The Boardwalk is not like Disneyland or Great America; it’s a mixture of a high-end carnival with great rides, fun games, novelties and outdoor movies on the beach. We saw Grease one night; the beach packed with hundreds of people in fold up chairs, eating garlic fries and smoking pot. (ugh). They also have a really fun mini golf course to play and arcade to explore.

We went to Seabright Beach to get some sun on our Washington state-translucent skin and frolic in the waves, and we also went to Capitola for the day. The Capitola Beach Company was a great find with rentals on the beach. The girls wanted to do stand up paddleboarding (SUP) and they had the option of exploring the river rather than the ocean. The guys walked their boards down to the river for them and offered to bring them back. They spent an hour leisurely exploring the river under the warm California summer sunshine. When we returned to pay (only $20 each per hour) I asked about surf lessons. They explained Capitola is the best place to learn how to surf and most of their instructors started there. Mackenzie is excited to come back and try during a future trip.

Each night at Birdsong we made dinner. The kitchen was well appointed and they have an excellent barbeque in back, too. We saved a ton by making spaghetti, and grilling sausages and preparing halibut. Brad and I had fun cooking for the girls and it was a healthier option than Mackenzie’s original plan to survive for three days off of Dippin’ Dots.

I think overall, Santa Cruz was a great place to bring a couple of teens for a few days. And it was certainly a good destination for me. I bought a sweatshirt that says, “Salt Water Heals Everything,” and that is exactly how I feel. There is something so restorative about the beach. The cry of the gulls, the salty breezes, the pastel sunsets reflecting off the cool blue, liquid horizon.

Maybe someday I’ll live by the beach again. Until then I’ll suffice with oceanside injections now and then. I think there was everything the girls could have wanted out of vacation here. And we loved the cottage. Truth be told I’d love to stay right on the beach. But if my ideal place isn’t available next time, I hope Birdsong is. One bathroom with two teenage girls was slightly challenging, but nevertheless, the cottage had a bit of a Bali Ha’i quality to it, which made me feel like we had found a bit of a mystical garden. I hope we come back someday.

June 23rd: Beer and Baptism in Puerto Rico

It’s approaching a very special night of the year, at least in Puerto Rico. June 23rd marks La Noche de San Juan Bautista, or the Eve of St. John the Baptist. Not only is it an annual event, but it’s quite possibly the most epic party I have ever attended.

I was 17 when I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to San Juan, Puerto Rico. Three friends and I decided to take some time off between high school and college. My friend Carol’s sister lived in San Juan and invited us to stay for a few weeks. Well, we decided to stay for six months. And then for me, it turned into four years.

We rented apartments and found jobs and started assimilating into the culture. This honestly meant hanging out and working with the expats primarily. That was simply because we settled in the neighborhood of Ocean Park, 5 miles east of San Juan, and as much as we tried to learn Spanish, most of us were not great at it and did not put in the effort we should have. I really regret that now.

I worked as a waitress in a Tex-Mex restaurant called Mona’s. And I just have to point out that Tex-Mex has absolutely nothing to do with Puerto Rican food. God but it was good. One of the owners was originally from Mexico and the other owner Jay was a talented cook. Together they created a delicious menu with items I still crave to this day: Chicken Mole, Ceviche, Enchiladas, Chile Con Queso, Jay’s Chili with chunks of steak, Chicken Burritos with fresh jalapenos and sour cream, Flan de Coco….

The restaurant itself didn’t look like a traditional Tex-Mex place. We only had 18 tables in the L-shaped room. The six windows in the main area weren’t covered with glass; they were giant wooden squares the staff would prop up with wooden slates. When the torrential tropical storms would descend, we would run to the windows and try to close them as quickly as we could, usually getting soaked in the process. We became such a popular night spot we had to get a bouncer. No joke. A little Tex-Mex place with a bouncer. The line out the door would be an hour long. The bar area was standing room only. I had to carry trays full of margaritas, my arm fully extended upwards, as I snaked in and out of the bar crowd. After midnight, sometimes drunk guys would try to crawl through the windows to get in.

I remember the first June 23rd I went to work at Mona’s. The owner told me we would be shutting down around 8pm. I asked him why and he was shocked to learn that I didn’t know about La Noche de San Juan Bautista.

Centuries ago, the Catholic Church started merging their holidays into the existing pagan rituals. So it’s no coincidence and St John the Baptist’s birthday celebration happens to coincide with the summer solstice. St. John is the patron saint of Puerto Rico. In fact, the whole island used to be called San Juan. Nowadays, the evening of June 23rd on the island is pretty much one of the wildest parties around.

Things shut down for all intents and purposes in the evening, and everyone heads to the beach. The whole island – but the most popular beaches are those around the Condado, Isla Verde, Carolina, and my own little neighborhood of Ocean Park.

That night my friends and I ventured down to the beach around 10pm, four houses away from my apartment on La Calle Elena. There were hoards of bathing suit clad people on the beach under the moonlight on the humid, June night. You could smell roasting pig, hear bongos and drums and guitars, salsa and merengue music playing from ghetto blasters, people laughing and singing and yelling. And there was a lot of beer being consumed. The Atlantic’s waves crashed softly and rhythmically before us, gently pounding into the sand. We drank cold, local Medalla beer and partied for hours with people we knew, and people we didn’t, on that Ocean Park beach.

And at midnight, everyone entered the ocean, backwards, three times. The water is thought to be blessed, so this “baptism” of sorts is thought to cleanse you of all bad spirits and bring good luck throughout the coming year. Some believe seven dunkings are better, some think 12 are more effective. Whatever the total, it’s a great local custom and a mandatory method for rejuvenation on the island. And then the party continued into the night.

Today is June 23rd, and here I am decades later, living in Redmond, Washington. I’ll be heading to a soccer tournament tonight for my daughter. There isn’t a beach in my immediate future. But there is a hotel pool, and I just might have to have a beer at midnight, and go for a dip in fond memory of my Caribbean past.

La Noche




14 Airline Travel Hacks to Benefit the Frequent Flier

As a traveler who flies often for business and pleasure, I have learned a thing or two about air travel. I thought I would share my findings with you in hopes that they help you take advantage of a few things. If you are a seasoned traveler, you are likely aware of these tips, but you never know, there could be a nugget in here for you, too.

  1. Coffee and Tea On Board: I don’t drink coffee on flights, and now I’m going to add tea to that list. Apparently flight attendants won’t drink it either. According to a recent article by Food & Wine: “As NBC 5 noted, the water for tea and coffee comes from the tap, not from a bottle, while in flight. And that water could be downright disgusting. According to a 2004 EPA sample of 158 planes, 13 percent contained coliform. Two of the airplanes were found to have dangerous E.coli in the water. And as Business Insider reported, an additional EPA study found that one in every eight planes fails the agency’s standards for water safety.” No thanks…
  2. Booking Tickets: I fly on several different airlines. Not only should you check their websites when purchasing tickets but you can also check travel sites for deals. I often use Expedia.com and Travelocity. I prefer these as you can purchase each way of your journey separately, i.e. you can book one way on Delta and return on Alaska, if you so choose. Combining flights like this will often give you the best price. I have also read multiple articles that if you are looking for the best price, shop Tuesday or Wednesday morning, 5-6 weeks out for regional U.S. travel. I have found that prices can differ by almost $300 if you wait for the sweet spot for long, regional hauls, but you have to be pretty diligent about checking.
  3. Airports: I find that most airports are adequate enough, but there are some that I will avoid like the plague. (LAX) Los Angeles (poorly organized and packed), (CDG) Paris (has anyone ever been here when there hasn’t been a labor strike?), and (KEF) Reykjavik (the island has outgrown this airport) should all be avoided in my opinion. I do have some favorites hubs though, including (DTW) Detroit, (MSP) Minneapolis, (AMS) Amsterdam, (SLC) Salt Lake City and my own (SEA) Seattle. These five have great amenities and are extremely efficient and well organized. And if you need to fly into the San Francisco Bay Area, try flying into Oakland (OAK) instead of SF. Same if you are heading to LA, fly into Ontario (ONT). These are smaller, under-utilized airports and so much easier to exit. But when I’m choosing a layover location, I always take the time of year into consideration. I genuinely haven’t had many cancelled flights due to weather even in the winter, but it does indeed happen. I also always opt for a layover longer than an hour. Having a shorter layover stresses me out because sometimes planes have slight delays, but that throws your connection into chaos, and I am no sprinter. So instead, I’ll catch up on email and grab a bite.
  4. Apps: GateGuru is a great free app to help you get around airports throughout the world. It provides terminal maps, tips and a list of amenities and where to find them. I am also very fond of the Delta app, which now includes a map feature as well as directions to places and walking time. Super useful!
  5. Matching Status: Having status with an airline really helps as it gives you the choice of better seats and the possibility of upgrades, of course. I think it also helps with the level of customer service you receive. One thing I discovered this year is that many airlines will match the status of their competitors. For example, my boyfriend is at Diamond level with Delta. Alaska has a program where they will match a status for one year. So he is now a Gold 75k with Alaska too, their highest level, for one year. Delta also offers this program, and I wouldn’t be surprised if others offer it as well. It’s only for one year, but it’s free. You just need to fill out the paperwork.
  6. Premium Class: I’m not sure I would pay for this class of service but it certainly is nice to be upgraded into it. Delta Comfort, for example, offers more comfortable seats and legroom, a basket of free snacks generally presented a couple of times each flight, and free alcoholic beverages. One thing I have found lately is that I will often book a seat in the main cabin – typically in the first row. Delta Comfort sometimes sells out, leading me to sigh sadly and say “oh well.” And then I get on the plane and the online seating map did not show the correct configuration of the plane. It turns out that my first row main cabin seat is actually in Delta Comfort. Nice surprise! This has happened multiple times, so I recommend booking the main cabin seat as far forward as you can.
  7. Airline Credit Cards: I’m not one to collect credit cards, but I did recently apply for a Delta Reserve American Express. It’s $450 a year (ack…) but it includes an annual companion fare ticket for $99 good for anywhere in the U.S., individual membership into the Delta Sky Club, and other benefits. I can expense half the cost for my home business, so it’s completely worth it to me. Plus, with the card I received 10,000 miles – which were applied both to my status for next year, and to my overall miles I can use for ticket purchases. That was a very nice surprise.
  8. Companion Fare Tickets: As long as you don’t mind paying the annual fee, many airlines include a $99 companion ticket with their credit card promos. I have gone to Hawaii with someone twice now, and round trip for two has come to a total of $800 each time. If you are planning on a long, expensive vacation flight like this, it’s completely worth it. You have to use it yourself though, you cannot give the benefit to someone else.
  9. Airline Lounges: The expense (via my Delta credit card) of a membership to a lounge is completely worth it to me. I typically eat 2-4 meals in airport restaurants per trip and they are pricey. The Delta Sky Club is a little haven to me. I can charge my phone, access free wifi, sit comfortably, have unlimited beverages, including alcohol (although I don’t recommend tying one on while flying – it’s dehydrating), a cappuccino or latte, and a buffet of food. Ok, the plates are basically the size of saucers, and there is typically not real hearty food to choose from, but for me, veggies, hummus, cheese, fruit, snack items, soup – I can easily make a meal of that. And, it will typically be healthier than what I buy in at a Chili’s or a pub. And, some Sky Clubs have showers. The thought of coming back from Europe and hitting a shower during a layover sounds pretty good to me. Oh, and by the way, you can also book a massage in Seattle and JFK https://asandaspa.com/delta/delta-sky-club-asanda-spa-seatac/seatac-information/, and do yoga at JFK some Saturday mornings. I’m not kidding. You are also in the lounge with other business people typically, so you never know who you will be networking with.
  10. Medallion Benefits: Some Delta frequent fliers aren’t aware, or they just don’t take advantage of it, but the higher levels of status with Delta offer some pretty cool benefit choices, such as gifting status to someone, free global and regional upgrade certificates, a Delta gift card, a Tiffany’s gift card, membership to the Sky Club. This is all in addition to the automatic upgrades one typically receives. Most people reach status through business travel, so it’s simply free stuff! And next year, Delta’s highest level will receive three benefits to choose from, and their second highest will get two.
  11. Flying on Miles: I think most people know to take advantage of this, but what I didn’t realize is that Delta and Alaska, for example, will upgrade their customers flying on mileage tickets. I recently flew to London on miles, and I was upgraded to first class on Delta for the leg from Seattle to New York. That’s a long flight and the plane’s first class seats reclined to a vertical position. Oh, thank you! You might be surprised by the relatively low mileage requirements for global trips. A friend recently traveled from Seattle to Sydney, Australia round trip for 82.5k miles through Alaska. Her husband went for business, she met him afterwards, and they had a couple weeks of vacation out of it. Plus, Alaska recently lowered their miles requirement for short trips. Three of us are traveling from Seattle to San Jose, for 5k miles each way. And we are traveling on my boyfriend’s Gold 75k itinerary, which he got on promotion without ever flying Alaska, so we are likely to be upgraded to first class. Pretty cool.
  12. Surveys: Most airlines will send you a survey at the completion of your flight. I’m a nerd, I usually respond. And they do read them. I have received credits for future flights when I have had a valid complaint. Ok, I’ll take it!
  13. Airlines: Over the years I have developed my preferences. Everyone is different of course, but here are my thoughts on this:

–          Delta. Delta is my first choice nowadays, and I cannot say enough nice things about them. They also have great customer service, they are reliably on time, they fly everywhere, I get upgraded to Delta Comfort almost every flight, and often to first class, plus they offer free movies which Alaska does not. Great mileage program, too.

–          Alaska Airlines. This is an awesome airline, especially if you are based on the West Coast. Great customer service, good selection of code share partners, possibly the best food, generally on time. I adore Alaska but they do not fly the route I need the most often.

–          American: Good God, avoid at all costs. Yes, they are cheap but UGH. Almost always late and I’m not a fan of their customer service.

–          KLM: I’m a huge fan of KLM for trans-atlantic flights. Last time I flew to The Netherlands I was able to automatically upgrade to premium because of my status with Delta. My boyfriend and I were hoping we could be automatically upgraded into first class but because of the code share rules that wasn’t possible. However, on the day of the flight, we were offered first class upgrades for an 80% discount. Their service in first class was stellar and full of special nuances. I highly recommend flying KLM if you have the choice.

–          IcelandAir: It’s an affordable option when you are flying from the States to Europe, but that but that Reykjavik airport…what a nightmare. Personally I think it’s worth spending the extra money so you don’t have to deal with that place. I have heard that they are expanding it though, so maybe improvement is on the way. I found it too small and frustratingly inefficient.

14. BYOH: Reddit user ichigo29 says “I used to work for warehouse that supplied a certain airline with items. The headsets that are given to you are not new, despite being wrapped up. They are taken off the flight, “cleaned”, and then packaged again.” Uhhhhh….gross!

The more you travel, the better your perks will be. But even if you can reach the lowest level of status I highly recommend it. The premium seating with the opportunity for upgrade, free baggage and great customer service makes it really worth it. Plus airlines have partners and many of the benefits will cross over to their code share airlines. Choose an airline and stay brand loyal. And if you travel a lot, choose two if you can.Air Travel

Do you have a useful airline tip? Please comment below!




The Cake Campaign

CakeNow that I’m a small business owner working from home, I’m realizing the advantages. But there are definitely disadvantages, too.

I worked in the agency and corporate environment for a total of 19 years. But now that I work from the solitude of my own little home, I have had to make some adjustments.

Of course, you hear all the time about the benefits of abandoning the corporate lifestyle. For me, these include:

–          Freedom: I can work from anywhere I want to. Whether that is my home, a coffee shop, in Canada, in Europe, wherever I choose. And if I want to take that afternoon pilates class, I can.

–          Time: The commute for the average American is increasing. I once had a job where my commute was 90 minutes. Each way. I spent three hours in a car every working day. If you calculate that time over the year, it’s like spending the entire month of July in the car. Plus, especially for women, think of all the time you spend each day getting ready for the office. Now, my hair goes into a ponytail and I’m quite comfortable in my yoga pants, thank you very much.

–          Attitude: I confess that this is the happiest I have ever been in my life. Particularly because I now have spare time to be creative. I was too tired and busy to pursue the hobbies that make me fulfilled, but now I can – like writing, and painting, and cooking more often. My friends have commented on the significant change in my mood.

–          Excitement: It might not be for everyone, but I don’t know where my next paycheck is coming from. There is something about the pursuit of new clients that is a bit exhilarating. For some reason, I love this part, and I can’t wait to learn about them and start working with them.

–          Master of My Own Destiny: This was probably the biggest a-ha I’ve had. I took time and thought – what do I want my life to look like? What is important to me? I love the industry I work in, I love to travel, I love to write, I love spending time with my teenage daughter and my boyfriend. So I’ve designed my life so I can do all of it.

–          Empowerment: It’s nice to know that all the hours and sweat I put into my work directly benefits me. There is also something special about being a woman and owning my own business.

Those are indeed some of the benefits. I am truly living my dream right now.

But what I wasn’t expecting was the isolation, and the loneliness. One of the best aspects of working for a huge corporation is the camaraderie, and the laughter. It’s hearing everyone’s stories and ideas. Commiserating sometimes, and offering a shoulder to cry on at others. Sometimes I look forward to going to the store just to be with people, and to have a two-minute conversation with the check out clerk. That said, the loneliest time of my life was also when I worked for a corporation, with thousands of other people.

The other thing I miss? Being perfectly honest? I miss the cake! I swear to you that we must have had a cake a week. For a birthday, or a promotion, a retirement, a going away party, an anniversary. Not only in my department, but other departments too. Sometimes they would leave leftover cake in the break room; that surprise piece of Costco white cake with its sugary frosting flowers is something really special. I don’t think I have had cake since 2015. Oh, wait. I had a client dinner in February. I shared some cake there.

It’s been predicted that by 2022, 60% of the office workforce will be working from home. I think they might be right. And I will make a prediction that the Costco bakery will go out of business. Without that office population supporting their cake sales…

I kicked off my new company recently. My “office of one.” I didn’t have a room full of coworkers to celebrate my launch. So do me a favor. If you are a friend of mine, participate in my Cake Campaign. Next time you go to the store, buy yourself a piece of cake. It doesn’t have to be cake really, maybe a cookie, or a peach, or a dozen happy sunflowers. Think of me, and wish me well in my new venture.

And if you don’t know me, I encourage you to do the same anyway. Enjoy your treat, and maybe think about a dream deferred. One that is sitting in the back of your mind somewhere. Maybe it’s those guitar lessons you wanted to take, or French classes, or maybe think about that quirky home you’d like to own someday. That old one in Seattle. Or Monterey. Or Tuscany. Let yourself daydream a little.

To dreams…

How to Speak Canadian

I was born and raised in California, and I didn’t realize how different Canadian culture is compared to American culture. Now that I am spending half of my time living in Ontario with my long- distance boyfriend, I’m realizing how much I didn’t know.

I remember years ago a Korean coworker of mine loved to joke about the white people at work and she would constantly call us “Crackers.” Finally one day, I said to her: “You know, it hasn’t been easy on me. You probably don’t know this but I come from a mixed marriage.” She was very embarrassed and apologized. “Melinda, I am so sorry. I had no idea.” And I said, “Yes, my father was American and my mother is Canadian. It’s been rough on me.”

I may have been making light of a serious struggle that many people genuinely experience, but there were subtle differences in my upbringing. I always thought of my mother as reserved, and nice, and polite. I didn’t realize she was just…Canadian. She was just so different than all the American moms. It puzzled me because in our household, we really didn’t talk about Canada, or her childhood, and she didn’t have any accent of note. And as a child I always thought (and I’m going to offend every Canadian relative and friend I have) Canada was just a smaller version of the U.S. with a bit of a different accent and currency. Well, I was very wrong.

I’m learning that there are some significant differences in language and culture here in Ontario as compared to the West Coast of the U.S. I have compiled a list detailing a few of these differences. Some are just my personal observations, some are language differences, often between myself and my passionately-patriotic, Canadian boyfriend Brad.

Accent: Even though the difference between Canadian and American accents is slight, it does exist, and it has caused some misunderstandings between Brad and me. For example, we were on vacation in Maui and trying to figure out what to do on our last day.
Me: There is a cool sounding hike on this mountain, and then maybe we could go to the waterfowl sanctuary?
Brad: That sounds great! I’d love to do that!
Me: Oh, cool. OK, I didn’t think you’d be that enthusiastic. Awesome!

The road to the hike was closed so we drove and drove and drove until we neared the airport.
Me: OK, it should be right around here.
Brad: Well, that seems kinda weird. We are at sea level.
Me: What does that have to do with anything?
Brad: Um, most waterfalls are not at sea level, especially not by an airport?
Me: Not “waterfall” – “waterFOWL!” As in birds. Who ever heard of a waterfall sanctuary? It’s a sanctuary for birds!
Brad: We are in Hawaii. Of course I thought you said waterfall. And why can’t it be a sanctuary? That sounds very peaceful. I couldn’t understand you with your American accent.
Me: Omg, no it’s waterFOWL. I thought you seemed overly enthusiastic to see birds. We drove all this way. Do you still even want to go?
Brad: Sure. Why not.

We arrive at the small brackish pond, peppered with lots of litter … and no birds. Just a pathetic middle-aged stranger, standing on a pier, looking through binoculars, wearing a baseball cap that said “Toronto.”
Brad: I think this is the worst place you have ever taken us.
Me: Sigh

American cheese: We were going to grill some burgers and I wanted to top them with American cheese. I went to the market and walked up to the cheese counter.
Me: Could I get just a couple of slices of American cheese?
Cheese Girl: American cheese? What’s that?
Me: Yes, like cheese? You put on burgers? It melts well?
Cheese Girl: What, like cheddar? Or is it like swiss?
Me: No…it’s…yes, just give me cheddar. Thank you.

I discussed this with Brad later.
Me: Don’t you guys have American cheese here?
Brad: No. What is it?
Me: You know, the cheese they use typically on fast food burgers?
Brad: Like cheddar?
Me: No!
Brad: That Big Mac song, isn’t there mention of cheddar in there?
Me: No, there isn’t. Because they use American cheese. It’s a little rubbery, yet creamy, with no real flavor, and melts well?
Brad: Oh, you mean Kraft singles. Well yeah, we have that. That’s processed cheese. Nobody actually knows what those are made of.
Me: But that’s American cheese!
Brad: It’s like congealed cheese-gelatin.
Me: Yes, exactly!
Brad: Nobody calls it American cheese.

Ashphalt: Canadian for asphalt.

Beer Store: A chain of stores dedicated to selling just beer. I’m not sure why this necessary. I guess they just like their beer? I really don’t know, but I do know that beer is sacred there.

Bob’s Your Uncle: A phrase Brad uses when he is happy things have come together well, as in “et voila” or “and there you have it.” I had never heard this before and I couldn’t figure out what he was trying to say. It appears to be of British origin.

Boxing Day: December 26th. It’s a holiday in Canada. I haven’t met a Canadian yet who could explain this to me; I had to look it up. Dating back to Victorian England, on this day servants of the wealthy were given the day off as they were typically working on Christmas. They were allowed to celebrate on the 26th and would be handed a box to take home, containing gifts, bonuses and sometimes leftover food.  In my home, we never celebrated it when I was growing up. I asked my mom once what it was because she would refer to it and she said: “It’s the day after Christmas, when Canadians box everything up and return things to the stores.” I really thought that’s what it was for years. I don’t know. Maybe that is how Canadians celebrate? I still need to get to the bottom of this.

Butter Tarts: A delicious pastry filled with a ton of butter, brown sugar and raisins. My mom makes hers with currants and serves them during the holidays. I had no idea growing up that these were Canadian. OMG so delicious.

C-Hair: A unit of measurement. Brad was fixing his thermostat and said he needed to adjust it “a c-hair.”
Me: What’s a c-hair?
Brad: Well, it’s a part of a woman’s anatomy….
Me: Why would you say that? That’s really gross. Why not call it a “p-hair?” Is that a Canadian term?
Brad: No, it’s not Canadian.
Me: I’m looking that up. Ah ha, it is! It is Canadian! It is a Canadian construction term. And, it’s also used by the American military, but that’s not the point…
Brad: See. It’s American.

Canadian Bacon: Hold on to your seats Americans, because this is a real sore spot. There is no such thing as Canadian bacon in Canada. Canadian bacon in the States is actually more like ham and comes from the fatty belly of the pig. Beloved on Eggs Benedict and Hawaiian Pizza. But “Canadian Bacon” in Canada is actually from the pig’s loin and is also rolled in ground yellow peas or cornmeal before being sliced, hence it is called “Peameal Bacon.” I know, wild, huh?! And just a tip: Don’t ever say “Canadian bacon” in Canada. You could incur some wrath.

Curling: National sport where people slide on ice, sweeping a pathway with brooms for a really heavy round stone to land strategically on a bulls-eye. They yell stuff, like “HARD!!!” I’m still slightly confused but at least I am able to stay awake during matches now. I think I’m starting to get it.

Dates: Canadians write dates like Europeans do. For example, May 11th, 2017 is expressed as 11-5-17. I have Canadian clients and took their checks to an American bank to deposit.
Teller: I’m having trouble depositing these, but I’m new. Let me get my supervisor. Supervisor: I’m sorry, but these checks are outdated. We only accept checks for 6 months.
Me: Outdated? But I just got these. What do you mean?
Supervisor: Oh wait, they are from Canada. Sorry! I thought they were from November.

Double Double: If you go to Tim Horton’s, like thee doughnut and coffee place in Canada, and you order a regular coffee, you are going to get it automatically with cream and sugar. Many people order a Double Double, which is two creams and two sugars. Or a Triple, Triple. I drink black coffee and learned this. But now I’m starting to drink coffee with milk and sugar. It’s like I’m evolving into one of them…

Garburator: Canadian for garbage disposal. It seems that no one really knows why it’s called this.

Hockey: Where a nation of the politest people on Earth passionately rejoice over hand-to-hand combat taking place between guys ice skating. Many players have missing teeth, and bleed. They also try to slap a very small, fast-moving “puck” which you can’t really see into a net. Sometimes catfish is thrown out onto the ice. Don’t ask me. There is also a guy named Don Cherry, who appears between periods as a commentator. He looks a bit like Colonel Sanders and dresses in flamboyant suits which all appear to be from China. He talks about hockey but I never really follow what he’s saying. They always show a picture of Blue, his white bull terrier, who apparently died 20 years ago. I like hockey. Especially because I really like Don Cherry. I watch for this reason alone. And yes, we have hockey in the States, but I never watched it, or went to games. This is all new to me.

Holidays: Holidays in Canada are fascinating to me. They have Canadian holidays. And British holidays even though they are not a British territory anymore. And sometimes they celebrate the same holidays as us, BUT on different days. It’s very hard to remember which is which. Like Victoria Day which is the Monday between May 18th – 24th which celebrates Queen Victoria’s birthday. It’s very close in time to our Memorial Day, the last Monday in May. Victoria weekend is also when Canadians plant things because there will likely be no more frost. They also refer to this weekend as May two-four, because it is a party weekend. (See two-four). Do NOT confuse this with May 2nd – 4th. That is not what it means. We celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September, as do the Canadians. But there it is called Labour Day. Canadian Independence is July 1st, ours is July 4th. So they take place the same week generally. Thanksgiving in Canada is celebrated on the second Monday in October and deserves its very own entry. (See Thanksgiving).

Homo Milk: Canadian for Vitamin D milk. It’s weird to go to the store and see a carton of milk that says “HOMO.”
Me: That’s kind of politically incorrect.
Brad: There is nothing politically incorrect about it. Homo stands for a lot of things. In Greek it means “same.” It refers to homogenized milk here. Just because everyone in your country is homophobic doesn’t mean it is an offensive term here.

Icing Sugar: This really confused me. I was making a spice cake and needed powdered sugar for the frosting. I couldn’t find it and asked someone for help finding the powdered sugar. They had no idea what I was talking about. But I did indeed find the “icing sugar.” Arg.

I don’t know what to tell you: Brad often says this to me when I’m rambling on and on about something. But one night, he said it during an argument so I thought it might have a different meaning and looked it up. And it said, “A polite way of telling someone to shut the fuck up.” I guess it’s kinda like “Bless Your Heart” in the South. I confronted Brad about his Canadian expression of politeness and he said that is NOT what it means. But now we just say it when we want the other person to shut the fuck up and we act very offended. It’s all in good fun and makes us laugh.

JT: Aka Justin Trudeau, the Prime Minister. Handsome, soft spoken, kind, thoughtful, smart, funny, feminist. All things that I think of when I think “leader of the free world.” I know some people won’t agree with me, but that’s how I see it. And I swear to you, during every trip to Canada, someone has to talk to me about Trump. And I end up apologizing, on behalf of our country, to each of them. Trust me. It’s not a good scene here when it comes to this topic. And the Canadians are feeling quite a bit of superiority. And rightly so.

Katie Bar the Door: An expression Don Cherry (see hockey) uses to mean “Trouble is coming.” Apparently this expression isn’t used often outside of the U.S. and it is originally of Scottish origin. I included it though as it was very Cherry, and I love him.

Ketchup Chips: A popular flavor of potato chips in Canada. Kind of a dark burgundy color, and tastes like ketchup mixed with salt and vinegar. A bit repulsive at first, and then … strangely addictive.

LCBO: The Liquor Control Board of Ontario. The only retailer of liquor, wine and beer in the province. They have a quasi-monopoly for alcohol sales in Ontario. They actually have a pretty decent selection and I go here to get my Californian and Washington wines. Interestingly, the Beer Store has a monopoly on 12 and 24 case beers, but you can buy beer at the LCBO, too. And it’s colder beer than what you will find at the Beer Store. This makes no sense to me.

Metric System: OK, look. I’m a smart woman. I’ll figure it out. I just have to do some calculations. But it’s so frustrating that recipes are written in pounds and cups and grocery stores’ measurements are in grams. Arg.

Music: The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has a mandate to make sure that Canadian artists and stories reach the Canadian public. They expect a percentage of broadcast content to be purely Canadian. Everybody loves CanCon (Canadian Content)! I think this is fascinating and also extremely valid. I listen to the CBC constantly and hear musicians, authors and stories out of Canada. I’ve become familiar with some Canadian bands and have fallen in love with songs by the Northern Pikes and The Watchmen. Brad’s band, “Running With Scissors,” performs an all-Canadian tribute, including I’s the B’y (or “I’m the Boy”). This is a ballad from the 1800s out of Newfoundland and a favorite of classrooms and choirs across the country. Canadians are very familiar with this tune. I had never heard it. But now I am waking up singing: “I don’t want your maggoty fish, they’re no good for winter. I could buy as good as that, Down in Bonavista.” Very catchy and jig-inducing.

Newfies: A friendly slang term for people from Newfoundland. Canada is rampant with jokes about Newfies, and apparently Newfies are commonly the source of such jokes. Newfies are characterized by a very strong accent that is extremely hard to understand. To hear how Newfies talk, give this a listen. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqLuIXwsLD  Exceptionally hard workers, those Newfies, according to their reputation. Click hear to listen to a Newfie suggesting he is the right guy for the job and have a good laugh while you are at it https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vWlIvfQTck.

Pencil Crayons: Canadian for colored pencils.

Politeness: Canadians are truly polite. If you step on someone’s foot in Canada, they will apologize for being in your way. It’s endearing, and I have to remember to taper my ascerbic wit when I’m there, because people really don’t understand me. But sometimes, I don’t understand them. I’ll be invited to something and I’ll accept, but then I’m left thinking, “Wait, I think they didn’t mean it. I think they were just being polite. I’m not really invited anywhere.” It’s hard to figure this part out.

Runners: Canadian for tennis shoes.

School: Canadians have different words when referring to school. For instance, they don’t say 2nd grade, they say grade 2. Not 7th grade, but grade 7. Not high school but secondary school. Which always confuses me because I think they are talking about middle school, but they aren’t. They don’t know what middle school is; they don’t have it. Middle school is part of elementary in Canada. Brad’s Note*: And we have Universities and Colleges here. Colleges are more vocational, whereas Universities are higher learning. You get a degree from a University and a diploma from a College.

South of the Border: Ok, please understand that I am from California. South of the Border means Mexico to me, as well as it does to most Americans, I would think. To Canadians, this refers to the States. This took me an embarrassingly long time to figure out.
Me: Where are you headed today.
Business Traveler: I’m headed South of the Border.
Me: Oh really? What part?
Business Traveler: I’m going to Monterey (California)
Me: Monterrey? (Mexico). Wow, I guess you will be getting some sun, huh?
Business Traveler: Yes, it should be nice.
Me: Probably some good food.
Business Traveler: Yes, I’m looking forward to it. The golfing should be good.
Me: Oh really? I didn’t know Monterrey (Mexico) was famous for their golf.
Business Traveler: Oh yes, some of the best in the world.
Me: I guess that surprises me. When I think of Monterrey (Mexico) I think of violent crime.
Business Traveler: Really? In Monterey? (California)
Me: Yes! Kidnappings and carjackings and shootings. It’s really bad!
Business Traveler: Well, I think the Pebble Beach area should be fairly safe, no?
Me: Pebble Beach? Oh! You mean Monterey, California! I thought you meant Mexico! Why did I think that? That’s so weird…

Swiss Chalet: A chain restaurant known for its chicken. The Canadian band the Bare Naked Ladies refers to this place as the Chalet Swiss in their song One Week. It’s a bit of an institution, and very important to my boyfriend. He took me there as a bit of a litmus test. Apparently if I did not like it, he would have dumped me. It was yummy, except for the Chalet sauce – very heavy with allspice, I think. Brad could drink this. No thank you.

Thanksgiving: This fascinates me as I love Thanksgiving. It’s a delicious food fest with fantastic leftovers and all-day football, and you get to hang with your family. Which is a good thing. To most people.
Me: I don’t understand why Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving. You didn’t even have any pilgrims.
Brad: It has nothing to do with fucking pilgrims. It’s about being thankful for the harvest. Me: Maybe, but it’s suspiciously like ours but like it never really caught on, you know? Brad: That’s because it’s a celebration of the harvest foods. It has nothing to do with your country.
Me: Oh.

Thanksgiving in the States is celebrated on the fourth Thursday in November. It’s a very important gathering for family, food and football. It’s been a federal holiday since 1863. The first Thanksgiving was celebrated by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims in 1621 who enjoyed a three-day feast together. Traditional food varies by region in the U.S. but typical foods on the Thanksgiving table include turkey, stuffing (or dressing, depending on where you are from), squash, green bean casserole with fried onions, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. I have spent days putting together a Thanksgiving meal and it’s absolutely wonderful. It’s a big deal here. Many people celebrate with an after dinner nap on the floor. At least that was how my family always celebrated.

Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving too, but on the second Monday in October. Apparently, the very first Thanksgiving occurred in Newfoundland, Canada in 1578. Yep, before our pilgrim’s celebration. Yes, it’s originally a Newfie thing, except they called it “Tansgibidibinon.” It’s been celebrated as an official holiday since 1879. Thanksgiving corresponds with the English and European harvest festivals. The Canadian Football League holds a nationally televised doubleheader, the Thanksgiving Day Classic. The holiday is not a big deal in Canada, and many people in Quebec don’t celebrate it at all. The Revolutionary War sent scores of American refugees to Canada bringing the customs of American Thanksgiving to Canada, like the food. The protein varies. Maybe turkey, or ham or chicken. But it is typically served with mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, veggies and pumpkin pie – harvest foods. Regional specialties may also include salmon, nanaimo bars and butter tarts. Many people celebrate with a long after-dinner stroll.

Trackpants: Canadian for sweatpants.

Two-four: Canadian for a case of beer.
Brad: Hey, could you swing by the Beer Store and pick up a two-four for the band?
Me: Oh, what, like two four packs?
Brad: (Laughs) No…it’s a case of twenty four beers.
Me: Jesus, can’t you guys just say what you mean? Why do you have all these code words for everything?

Toque (or tuque): A knitted cap worn in cold weather. (I call this a beanie but Brad adamantly says that is NOT what a toque is).

Washroom: Canadian for restroom. I once asked someone where the restrooms were and they had no idea what I was talking about.
Me: Why do you guys call it a washroom?
Brad: The better question is why do you guys call it a restroom. You don’t rest in there. Me: Sometimes I do. Sometimes I take a little rest for a few seconds.
Brad: You wash in a washroom.
Me: Maybe some Americans don’t?
Brad: Uh huh. Exactly.
Me: Apparently we are better rested though.

Zed: Canadian for the letter Z. Brad bought me a mug with the letter “Z” on it. He calls it my “Zed mug.”

As you can see, it’s a bit of a learning curve for me. But that’s ok. I’ve lived in foreign countries before and it always takes a bit of adjustment. It’s just that in my own ignorance, I didn’t realize how foreign Canada actually was. Of course, the similarities far outweigh the differences, and the differences are really pretty fascinating and kinda wonderful. I won’t be emigrating for a few years yet, but I am looking forward to it. But right now, I am madly in love with a Canadian man, who is very nice. He opens doors for me, and carries my shopping bags, and makes me laugh, and treats me well, and we have a ton of fun, despite our cultural differences.