ancient arabic treasure chest

A Beach to Ourselves at North Shore on Oahu

It was our first day in HawaOahuii and in the afternoon we decided to walk to the beach from our hotel – the Courtyard Marriott Oahu North Shore. We had a nice view of the ocean from our second-story hotel room, but we couldn’t see the beach itself and were anxious to check it out. So we rented some beach chairs (very affordable by the way) at the cabana stand at our hotel, and in less than 5 minutes we were on the beach. We were pleasantly surprised to find it open and vacant. I mean how often do you get an entire beach on the ocean to yourself?

We set up our chairs near the grassy path to the beach and got out a couple good books, and started to wind down from our hectic day before getting on and off three planes to get there from the East Coast of the U.S.. I noticed right away that the Pacific seemed wilder than the Atlantic. The waves seemed stronger and more erratic, and the water much bluer as well. The other thing that struck me was that there weren’t any seagulls flying around. In Googling this, I learned Hawaii has no seagulls – it also has no snakes by the way.

Even though it was around 90 degrees that September day, it didn’t seem hot because of the steady breeze blowing across us. The sound of the waves was calming, and in the distance to the north, we could see waves crash on the giant log-shaped rock near a point. I later learned this was La’le Point. Toward the south we had a lovely view of small mountains, also in the distance.

And in the couple of hours that we lounged on the beach, we only saw a few people at all. Far down the beach, there were two or three people walking, and another couple also came down from the main path to take a walk. There was also a resident from one of the nearby houses, who appeared to be a native, who walked out into the water carrying a little boy. He stayed there with him for a long time, walking and dipping down into the water, while the boy held on to his neck. This appeared to be a father and son, the father patiently letting his son grow accustomed to the water, in a routine that perhaps he’d repeated many times before.

At some point, an older Hawaiian woman, maybe part Japanese, with a group of women from her family — her daughters and granddaughters — came down the path to the beach near us, and they all began tossing beautiful pink orchids into the ocean. They asked if we would take a photo. I got up from my beach chair and went over, and they huddled together, some embracing, while I snapped off some photos on a phone that one young woman handed me.

The older lady explained to me that a couple years before, her husband had passed away. She said he had been cremated and they’d come down to the ocean and tossed out his ashes at this spot. And now, every year they come back to throw flowers into the ocean as a remembrance and celebration of his life. They seemed happy. I asked the woman if I could have a flower, and she gave me one, which I’ve pressed in a book.

Between the young boy with his father and the older woman with her children and grandchildren, I realized that Hawaiians have a special connection with the ocean which they seem to carry throughout their lives, and perhaps even beyond. Being a girl who grew up next to a river, I could very much relate to this.

ancient arabic treasure chest

The Route 58 Delicatessen

We were driving around Norfolk and Virginia Beach recently checking out flea markets and antique malls and found this place tucked away in an unassuming shopping center off Virginia Beach Boulevard. We paused and almost stopped in a trendy looking place in the same shopping center, but decided to go a little farther, and one look at the kitchy signs on the front window and we knew we had to try the Route 58 Delicatessen.

Once we were inside and got a good look at the menu, we knew this was a good pick. It was just the sort of place Guy Fieri would feature in “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” on the Food Network. It was a true New York deli with everything you’d expect to find in one  – from knishes and potato cakes to chopped liver and bagels with salty lox.  After looking at the menu, we had to try the corned beef and pastrami, for which we learned they are well known.

After perusing the menu, we had to try the corned beef and pastrami — wha t we learned they’re best known for. The portions were so large that we ended up taking out enough for a least one more meal, maybe two . Matt ordered the hot corned beef and pastrami combo, and I was intrigued by the Deli Dogs — two hot dogs covered with chopped corned beef and pastrami, served with cole slaw pasta salad or potato salad.

The meats were perfectly cooked, everything was delicious and the service was fast and friendly. Our only complaint was that we had no room left to try a dessert and the cheesecakes and other desserts looked amazing. The portions were so large that we ended up taking out enough for a least one more meal, maybe two. This is one place that we definitely want to visit again.

The Route 58 Delicatessen is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week.  It is located at 4000 Virginia Beach Boulevard. Prices are affordable – we give it $$ out of a possible $-$$$$$. Visit the deli’s website at

ancient arabic treasure chest

Sunrise Over the Atlantic

There’s nothing quite like walking along an ocean shore to make you realize how small and insignificant you are compared to the big, wide world.

Having said that, there’s also nothing quite like watching the sunrise over the ocean early in the morning to put things into proper perspective, no matter what’s going on in your life at the time. I got up early recently while visiting Virginia Beach to watch the sun rise over the Atlantic and was glad that I did. Here’s a shot I took.     (-L)

ancient arabic treasure chest

Swiss Chard Is One of the Most Nutritious Veggies – Why Not Try It?

Swiss chard is in season once again and readily available at local farmer’s markets as well as in many grocery stores. Swiss chard looks similar to collards, but has bright red veins and stems and the flavor is a little different.

We learned that it’s quite nutritious, and also readily available year-round, not just in the spring. We also did some research and found out that Swiss chard is one of the most nutritious vegetables, ranking second only to spinach in total nutrient richness.

Here’s a simple recipe we tried for sauteed chard with onions and garlic.
-1 bag of Swiss chard (14-16 oz.)
-1 medium onion (any type)
-2-3 cloves garlic
-2-tbsp. olive oil
-1/8-tsp. red pepper (optional)
-Salt and pepper to taste
Food Prep:
Mince garlic and dice onions. Remove stems from chard and chop stems into 2-inch pieces. Roll leaves and cut every 1-2 inches.
How to Cook:
Add oil to heated saute or fry pan. Add onions and garlic  and saute until soft and lightly browned. Add chard stems to pan, and cook for about 10 minutes until tender. Then add chopped chard leaves, cooking one panful for about 2-3 minutes before adding more leaves to the pan. When all leaves are cooked, add salt, black pepper and red pepper to taste. Serve warm.

ancient arabic treasure chest

Finding Favorites at Virginia Beach

Making the most of a drizzly rainy day sitting on the beach overlooking the Atlantic in 2016.

After using a friend’s timeshare in Virginia Beach for a week a few years back, we found the beach to be a good place to unwind and liked the fact that it didn’t take a lot of travel time to get there and back from Richmond. Not only are we a short walk from the ocean, but there are lots of excursions and day trips that you can take from the beach if you want more variety.

We now own the timeshare, and soon we’ll be going back for the third time as a couple. Our week hits right before the Memorial Day rush so it’s not as crowded when we’re there. Every year we try to include a few new things in our plans – last year we took a day trip to the Norfolk Harbor, took a dolphin watching boat trip on the ocean, and rented bikes and spent half a day biking up and down the boardwalk. Once was probably enough for the dolphin watching trip, but riding bikes along the boardwalk was a lot of fun and definitely something we want to do again. We also stumbled across a great little restaurant in Norfolk that we’d like to try again – The Green House Kitchen.

Continue reading “Finding Favorites at Virginia Beach”

ancient arabic treasure chest

Little Pallet Houses that Can Make a Big Impact

Using pallet houses made of wooden shipping pallets to temporarily house refugees and people in all types of emergency situations like natural disasters is a really cool concept. Not only are wooden pallets available all over the world, but they are typically readily on hand in crisis zones because they’re used to ship food, water and supplies. And often they’re just discarded or burned.  Lisa recently spoke to the New York city architect who came up with the pallet house concept, along with her partner, about how these tiny structures have the potential to house people in crisis situations all over the world. Lisa did the interview for Pallet Enterprise magazine, and you can check out the article here.

ancient arabic treasure chest

Takara Ramen

We’ve watched a lot of cooking shows about ramen noodle soup, and are intrigued by the versatility of this Japanese staple. Ramen is basically Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a fish- or meat-based broth with some basic add-ins like pork, dried seaweed and scallions. Though relatively simple by nature, there are apparently endless ways to add complexity and layers of flavor to this soup. In fact, nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of it.

You can often get a basic ramen soup at many Chinese or Japanese restaurants, but we were really excited when we stumbled upon Takara Ramen, a restaurant dedicated almost exclusively to authentic Japanese ramen, right here in Richmond not far from home a few months ago. We’ve returned several times since then, and like the service, the food and the casual atmosphere. And don’t worry if you’re not sure of the correct way to eat ramen, the directions are displayed in bold text across the bar at the front of the restaurant. And yes, slurping your noodles is an essential part of the whole ramen experience.

We’ve tried several of the different soups offered as well as the appetizers, which are extremely delicious, even if the portions are a bit small. The soups are served in really large bowls, and are delight to all the senses, including smell and sight. The only dish we haven’t really, really liked so far is the curry beef and rice, ironically one of only a few items offered on the menu that’s not ramen.

Takara Ramen is open for lunch and dinner, and is located at 9468 W. Broad Street in Henrico. Prices are affordable – we give it $$ out of a possible $-$$$$$.

ancient arabic treasure chest

Matt’s Bone Broth Soup

There is an ancient saying: “A good broth will raise the dead. “

Bone broth has apparently become a new “thing.” Hipsters in Brooklyn are sipping bone broth and it seems there are exaggerated health claims being made. Bone broth is good for you. It’s an ancient food and I think I first read about it on, the site that spends some effort promoting a return to traditional foods to improve health.

I read that it was good for you and based on very little information began figuring out how to make it. The bone broth has a lot of nutrients and collagen and it gives the body what it needs to repair cells. That’s why I think it’s a good thing to eat when you’re fighting a cold, flu or infection. Adding lots of healthy vegetables makes it even better.


I usually try to get soup bones from grass fed beef for better nutritional content. To make a big pot of broth or soup, you will need about 3 lbs.

Put on a big pot of water on the stove and bring to a boil. While the water is coming to a boil, bake the bones in the oven at 375 degrees for about 45 minutes so they will be ready for the pot.

After the bones have baked, add to the boiling water and cook for a good while,  6 – 8 hours at least. You can go longer, even 24 hours; I usually simmer them for about a day (this is not a quick thing to cook). I also add 1/4-cup of apple cider vinegar to increase acidity.

After the broth has simmered for a good long while, chop up veggies (I chop the kale into 1″ squares, finely chop the stems) and add these and broth to the soup. Add salt, pepper coriander, turmeric, bay leaf;Trader Joe’s 21 Season Salute is one I often add.