Real Estate is Hot Again

Aloha!

Real estate is on fire in California… I share this with you because the common wisdom is that Hawaii follows California. So if you’re thinking of moving to Hawaii, the time is now.

Yes, I’ve said this before. However, that was before I became personally embroiled in California real estate, and now I see it in the big picture. Home prices in the Bay Area have hit a milestone: median prices for all types of housing topped $500,000 for the first time in five years.

I am the executor of my mother’s estate, which means I needed to sell her house in the Bay Area. It went on the market, had open houses for two weekends, and got 18 offers. 18 offers, people! Almost all of them were well over asking price. I was floored. Then of course, I had to weed through the 18 offers, and ended up countering five of them. It was a very difficult decision to make the final choice, especially knowing that there are many young families out there who are desperate to buy a home while interest rates are historically low.

I have a friend in California who has been actively trying to buy a condo. One of the units she placed an offer on got 28 offers. She was very discouraged, but after five months of looking and putting in offers, she prevailed. The secret in this market is to be extremely patient. Also, to be excited about a house, but not crushed if you don’t get it. Easier said than done.

The reason for the on-fire real estate market in the Bay Area is that housing prices have risen to where underwater homes can finally sell at a profit. And yet, people are still leery of the market, and many are holding back to see where the prices will land. This has created a seller’s market, and a huge demand for very few houses. “I’ve been in real estate for 32 years and this is the lowest inventory we have ever had,” said Caroline Miller, president of the Silicon Valley Association of Realtors.”We’ve had multiple-offer markets before, but it’s just incredible. There are anywhere from three offers up to 20 or 30 offers, it’s just been crazy.”

As I said, Hawaii follows California. Are you planning to move to Hawaii? Do you hope to buy a house? Then hurry, please.

What is the housing market like in your area? Please share your stories.

A hui ho! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the “follow” button on the homepage.

Aloha, Jamaica

The Patchwork of Life

Aloha!

When people start writing to ask, “Are your okay?” I know it’s time to blog again.

Interesting question… are you okay? Having lost my mother, I have to say it’s hard to realize I will never again pick up the phone and have her be on the other end. She was 77 years old. That would’ve seemed old at one time in my life, but this was a woman who still went to water aerobics three times a week, who went to lunch and the movies with friends every single Friday of her life, no matter what. In fact, three of us went to the movies the evening of my stepfather’s funeral…nothing like a good comedy to ease a transition. Mom was all about enjoying life. (Which begs the question, where are all the good comedies? But that is another post.)

I want to write about the concept of chogak po. I am reading the book “Honolulu” by author Alan Brennert. (I don’t know how this one escaped me; it was published in 2009 and was the winner of “Elle’s” Lettres 2009 Grand Prix for Fiction.) It’s about a Korean woman who travels to Hawaii as a “picture bride” in 1914, but she does not find the life she has been promised, and instead must make her own way in a strange land. Chogak po is the Korean word for patchwork cloth, cobbled together from leftover scraps of material. They have an abstract beauty, but the protagonist asks her mother why she does not make more elegant creations, because she is capable. The mother replies, “When we are young we think life will be like a su po: one fabric, one weave, one grand design. But in truth, life turns out to be more like the patchwork cloth–bits and pieces, odds and ends–people, places, things we never expected, never wanted, perhaps. There is harmony in this, too, and beauty.”

I am trying to see harmony and beauty in my life, at a time when so many things I never saw coming and never wanted to deal with are expected of me. It has been four months since my mother passed away, and I am still wading through the paperwork and making daily phone calls in connection with her business affairs. Who knew?

One bright spot is my friend, Suzanne, who went through this a year before I did, and has been my mentor and guide. There was a time in my life when I was ahead of all of my friends in doing the important things such as buying a house, starting a business, etc. and they were constantly relying on me to guide them through the intricacies of those things. I used to think, “When is it my turn? When do I get someone to explain things to me?” I am just so glad that when it has come down to important decisions such as the timing on when to sell my mom’s house, I have had Suzanne to say, “Take your time…don’t let anyone push you or hurry you. As Executor, you are in control.”

Moving to Maui is much the same as that patchwork Korean cloth. Everyone thinks life here is going to be perfect (it’s Paradise, right?) and they have a grand design in mind when they come. But in truth, it turns out to be full of things no one can understand until they have fully lived here…not just part-timed it, or vacationed here. Vacationing in Maui means hanging out with other tourists and doing tourist things. Living here means reality: understanding pidgin and the local ways. Accepting that everything moves at a glacial speed.

Some things just can’t be fully understood until we’ve lived them ourselves.

A hui hou! Thanks for stopping by…If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the homepage.
Aloha, Jamaica

Baby Dolphin Birth (Video)

Baby Dolphin Birth (Video)

Aloha!

Dophin Quest on the Big Island http://www.dolphinquest.com/index.php/dgh-2012contest recorded the live birth of their newest baby dophin in a man-made lagoon at the Hilton Waikoloa Village resort, where visitors are encouraged to touch and swim with the dolphins. The female baby was born to Keo, a 12-year-old first-time mother. The video shows the tail emerging first and then the baby popping out. She goes to the surface for air before swimming with her mother. You can view it here on youtube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYcBJnbpqo8. Dolphin Quest officials said that in the wild the survival rate of babies born to first-time mothers is about 50 percent. The new baby appears to be thriving.

Dolphin Quest is holding a contest to name the little one, along with two others born recently, one to a 27-year- old named Pele and the other to a 28-year-old named Kona. Submissions for names should be Hawaiian words. The contest runs through Dec. 14th. Submissions can be made in person or online , and winners will get a swim for two with the dolphins and a photo CD.

Sounds like a good excuse for a trip to the Big Island!

Did you ever swim  with the dolphins? What was is it like?

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

3rd Shark Attack in 3 Weeks

Third Shark Attack in Three Weeks

Aloha!
We are three for three here on Maui. Three shark attacks in three weeks. It’s beginning to feel like we’re living in a small town on the eastern seaboard and Jaws is on the loose. There was also a fourth attack off Kauai.

For the first time in 12 years, I have asked Mike to stay out of the water. Usually I’m glad to see him go surfing. It’s kind of like sending him off to church; he comes back with a big smile and attitude adjustment. But this is worrisome, we’ve never seen this kind of shark activity, and Mike, who has lived here his whole life, says he’s never heard of this many shark attacks this close together. The news reports say it may have something to do with an increase in the turtle population, the shark’s favorite food.

30-year old Marc Riglos was participating in the 2012 Maui Roi Roundup, an invasive species spearfishing tournament. He said the shark took a bite of his ankle then tugged it from side to side. “I thought I was going to die out there. (It) was crazy,” he said. With the help of his dive partner he was able to get back into shore, but they were 300 yards out and it took 25 minutes.

Riglos says he hopes that doctors can save his foot. On KHON 2 news last night, they showed him in his hospital bed at Maui Memorial Medical Center. His right ankle is stitched the entire way around. Riglos said his foot was literally hanging by a tendon.

A marine biologist interviewed on KHON said that the best way to fight off a shark is to get your fingers into the shark’s eyesockets or gills and tug hard, and they’ll back off. Um, easier said than done while their jaws are wide open and headed straight for you. When Mike worked as a professional diver, he said that the divers would stay in a circle and if a shark approached they would take the respirators out of their mouths and scream at the shark, and that worked, too.

Seems to me you don’t need a degree from Harvard to figure out you should maybe just stay out of the water right now.

If you have ever seen the “Shermans Lagoon” comic strip, it is a microcosm of marine life and they all have human characteristics. The big, dumb shark Sherman, his wife and son, the crab and the turtle all talk and comment on what’s going on up top. They stake out Unsuspecting Vacationers floating on the surface and decide which ones will taste best for dinner. It sounds morbid, but it’s quite funny.

Given that, I began to wonder if the sharks have just been watching too much television down there… Too many paid political advertisements. They got so frustrated, they just had to take a big BITE out of someone.

At least today that will all be over! And if the shark activity calms down… Well, what can I say. I was right.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Homepage. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Fall for Maui

Fall for Maui

Aloha!

It doesn’t seem like there would be much change in seasons in Hawaii, and it’s very subtle, but it is there. Especially in Upcountry Maui. On the mainland I always enjoyed the change of seasons… Getting out all of the fall decorations, the Halloween decorations, the Thanksgiving decorations… And the places to buy them were of course, endless.

Not so on Maui. Stores such as Walmart or Kmart only bring so much in to the island per season, and once it’s gone, it’s gone. So if you go to Ben Franklin Crafts and see something you like, you’d better buy it now. You also learn to improvise with what nature provides on Maui. In the same way that I might have gathered Fall-colored leaves in California, here I gather Fall-colored shells to make my dining room table centerpiece:

Our mango tree in the backyard also provides a clue that fall is here on Maui. If you look closely in this photo you’ll see that we have older yellow leaves dropping, healthy older dark green leaves, light green brand-new leaves coming in, and to top it all off: it’s flowering with new fruit (that’s the brown  fuzzy-stuff).

Mango Tree on Maui

What this means is there’s never a good time to prune a tree in Hawaii. Our citrus tree in the front yard does the same thing. It’s a tree that’s been grafted with tangerines, tangelos, and oranges on the same tree. The tree has become enormous because there is constantly a cycle of new leaves and new fruit. When the heck do you prune, without losing fruit?

It’s also a season of harvest here. We have more apple bananas (the very sweet ones that taste more like a pear) than we know what to do with. This morning I grilled bananas on the griddle when I made the french toast. Every morning we have smoothies with two bananas in them. We hang the bunch from a rafter in the garage to keep the rats out of them:

And why yes, that IS a surfboard hanging there in the rafters too. Thanks for asking. And that second refrigerator in the background is not a “beer frig”, because in Maui almost all dry goods have to be refrigerated or use lose them to bugs. So that frig has flour, sugar, bread crumbs, bread, cornmeal, etc. in it. If you don’t refrigerate your bread, it can mold in a day or two.

The other bounty we can barely keep up with is the lilikois (also known as passion fruit). Here is a few days’ worth that have been gathered:

It doesn’t help to call my friends and ask if they’d like some fruit, because they have the same problem. So I’ve taken to hauling fruit to Kahului when I go down the hill, and giving it away. Yesterday a doctor got eight apple bananas in a brown bag. He is a fierce Korean guy who pretty much scares me spitless. I gave him the bananas and he lit up. As he was leaving the room he said “This will be my lunch” and I teased him and said, “Hey, I know you have children!” and he just laughed, because those kids weren’t getting any of those bananas. That’s the first time I’ve heard him laugh! Food, the universal language.

Here’s a recipe for Lilikoi Martinis. My thanks to Shel and Clay Simpson for turning us on to these intoxicating gems.

Lilikoi Martini

1 ounce (a shot-glass) of lilikoi juice

1 ounce of Vanilla Vodka (I’m a wuss and use half that amount)

Fill a glass with ice. Shake the above two ingredients together, add to glass, then top it off with ice-cold water.

I get creative and substitute out recipes that involve lemon juice, such as a Lemontini or Lemon Drop. So, to the above recipe I will also add a little St. Germain (YUM) and substitute club soda or seltzer water for the plain water.

Next time you get your hands on some lilikoi juice, enjoy a martini. You can possibly find the Perfect Puree of Napa Valley lilkoi puree in your gourmet grocer’s freezer section. And if anyone has figured out a fool-proof method for pruning the ever-flowering fruit trees in Hawaii, give a shout.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home Page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Maui War Brewing

Maui War Brewing

Aloha!

For the past two weeks, Maui Time Magazine www.mauitime.com has run articles in regard to the practice of burning sugar cane on Maui. Until you live here, you just can’t imagine how the cane burning and its attendant smoke can affect you. This taken from my back porch:

One physician’s (a radiolgist) letter to Maui Time is excerpted here:” I am in excellent health and am not sick…yet I have been coughing non-stop today. As my windshield was covered with cane ashes this morning,  I assume that my cough is due to cane burning…particularly disruptive as my job as a radiologist requires me to dictate for approximately nine hours per day…if I can’t do my job effectively I may have to move. If I move, it will likely be out of Hawaii. I live and work in Kihei.” He goes on to say that he was talking to retirees who spend part of the year on Maui, and they stated that the smoke made them cough and “feel lousy.” They were discussing not coming to Maui as often, because of it.

The radiologist wraps up his letter with: “I have two small children and although I love otherwise living on Maui, I feel irresponsible as a parent to continue to subject them to forced inhalation of cane smoke. I hope that those in charge of making decisions regarding the burning of cane on Maui also feel some responsibilty to care for the health and welfare of it citizens.” Please note that Hawaii has the highest incidence of asthma in the country, which particularly affects children, and early on.

Sugar Cane Ash

I took this photo of sugar ash by a curb in Kahului. Imagine what that does to your lungs! It is greasy, tarry and sticky, so it sticks to your car, your porches, your garbage cans, and your walkways at your home.

Maui Time states “Maui’s fight over sugar cane burning gets even hotter.” The truth is, there isn’t much of anything that gets Mauians more fired up than the cane burning and its smoke. This past week it lead to a woman having rocks thrown at her and being called a “Haole *%@^” when she wound up on the wrong side of the street during a planned sugar-cane rally! The opponents were employees of HC&S, which employs 800 people. A recent petition, circulated to stop the burn, garnered 8,000 signatures.

HC&S burns 400 ACRES of cane per year, which comes out to about 70 acres per day (roughly the size of Disneyland.) Try as you might to think you can escape it, if you are out and about, your are breathing it. Also,many Maui people don’t have air-conditioning (they didn’t move to Hawaii to live in sealed boxes) but with the cane smoke, are forced to keep their windows closed and as one woman put it “to circulate the smoke already in the house.” (My experience is that even with the windows closed, some smoke seeps in.)

A woman with the initials A.I. wrote: “Today my daughter is home sick , after weeks of burning (the accumulative affects that her immune system just can’t handle indefinitely)…she has been home bound all weekend and her asthma is too bad for her to go to school.I am an independent contractor, and I don’t get sick pay when I stay home with my children.” She ended with:

“It may cost HC&S profit to change their farming practices, but think of all the other businesses that won’t be paying sick leave due to cane-related illnesses.”

And what about health care?

I personally am one of the people whose asthma is aggravated by the smoke. I did not have asthma before moving to Hawaii. We are fortunate if our trade winds blow the smoke out. If the trades are down, this is what we look at and breathe for hours:

Sugar Cane Smoke on Maui

Another piece of the puzzle to think about, when you’re wondering what it’s really like to live in Paradise.

A hui hou! If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the Home page. Mahalo for stopping by!

Aloha, Jamaica

Other Side of the Coin

Other Side of the Coin

Aloha!
Without asking, I got to hear the other side of the story from the medical community. I’ve been seeing a physical therapist for my tennis elbow, and we had a chat on Saturday. She told me she’d never worked anywhere else where patients were so uncooperative as they are on Maui. Why do you think that is? I asked. She said as far she was concerned we needed to look at the type of person who typically moves to Maui to begin with… Rebels, those who can’t fit in anywhere else, and misfits (her words). She said she could tell the minute she met me that I would do the exercises she prescribed, however, most people gave her backtalk and told her reasons why other things would work better! And then didn’t do the exercises.

Another piece of this story is that I had gotten physical therapy 10 years ago at the same place but it was owned by different people, a couple from New Zealand. I really liked them, but they’re gone now… This is the cycle on Maui. No matter what or whom you love: a restaurant, a hairdresser, a doctor, a tradesperson… They leave. They open a business, find out how hard it is on Maui with such a small population, and poof! they’re gone.

On another note, this physical therapist told me how hard it is for her to get a date on Maui. She’s cute, funny, intelligent, and holds multiple degrees… But she’s over 40. You wouldn’t know that to look at her, she surfs every day, but she said the guys just don’t ask her out. Again I asked, why do you think that is? She said because she reads at the beach the guys say she’s too smart, and it’s off-putting. They also want someone in their 20s. She’s resigned herself to being alone. Isn’t that sad?

A hui hou! Mahalo for stopping by. If you’d like to subscribe to this blog, please click the Follow button on the homepage.
Aloha, Jamaica