Big Merrie Monarch Push at BigIslandOnTheCheap.com

It’s almost Merrie Monarch week here on the Big Island. I love this week, when Hilo town shimmers and comes alive with people and flowers and hula everywhere.

Over at Big Island On The Cheap, we are going to be hitting Merrie Monarch hard. We’ll have a bunch of features — where to eat, half- and full-day trips to take around Hilo, all the exciting things going on with Merrie Monarch itself, some great local coupon deals that are exclusive to our readers (whether residents or visitors),  and some other surprises, too, which are already in the works. 

picture-5I just finished writing up our first Merrie Monarch-related post. It’s about taking a day trip up to the Volcano area, and it’s up now. 

So that’s what I’ve been working on.

Are you coming over for Merrie Monarch? Attending yourself and sitting on those hard hard benches (totally worth it)? Watching on TV? Sitting this one out?

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Needed: Merrie Monarch Tickets

Does anybody have extra Merrie Monarch tickets I could buy from them (at cost)?

merriemonarch1
Photo Thomas Tunsch. Used by permission

One year my friend was on a mission to get Merrie Monarch tickets and asked a stranger in line at Starbucks, and said stranger indeed had extra tickets.

I haven’t asked at Starbucks yet, but how about you, online world? Surely you’re more effective than hitting up strangers at Starbucks!

I’d throw in a signed copy of my Exploring Historic Hilo book, if it helped.

Please ask around, tell your friends, all that. Let me know! I would really appreciate any help.

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Culinary Mystery Novel “Captain Cooked” by Stephen Grogan

We went to Hilo Bay Cafe for dinner the other night while my mom was here visiting. That is such a great restaurant – inside it’s really got the ambience happening, in spite of its unlikely location in a strip mall adjacent to Wal-Mart, and the food is always so fresh and good.

While there, I talked with them about getting some recipes for an author I’m working with. Stephen Grogan, a Las Vegas author of a previous book called Vegas Die, is, interestingly enough, writing a culinary/mystery novel set here on the Big Island. He hired me to edit the manuscript for Hawai‘i references and history and culture.

Stephen Grogan
Stephen Grogan

He actually found and hired me through this blog, which proves that blogging is definitely worth the time and effort. We did all our business together by email.

Steve’s new book’s title is great: “Captain Cooked.” How could I resist that? I did the edit, and helped him gather up some Big Island recipes to go into the book too. The chef at Hilo Bay Cafe has agreed to provide a couple recipes, too.

There’s an interesting gimmick in Steve’s previous book. He hid a dagger somewhere in the metropolitan Las Vegas area, the book provides (kind of hard) clues to its location, and the person who finds it takes $25,000! 

People have been actively seeking it for quite awhile now. There’s even a forum where they go to discuss clues and such. 

He’s going to do the same thing with Captain Cooked, so stay tuned for how to win your $25,000! I’ll let you know when the book is coming out.

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Our “On The Cheap” Sites To Launch 3/10

Leslie: “Oh, nothing much; what’s new with you?”

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

CONTACTS:
Leslie Lang
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
808 964-1494
Twitter: @LeslieLang  

Kris Bordessa
hawaiionthecheap@gmail.com
530 295-0887
Twitter: @KBordessa

“On The Cheap” Websites Highlight Best Bargains on the Big Island and in Honolulu

Hilo, HI – March 6, 2009 – Tuesday, March 10th is the official launch of two new online sites – Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap – which are dedicated to bringing Big Island and O‘ahu residents and visitors up-to-the-minute information on free, discount and cheap things to do and other local deals.

Motivated by the current coupon-clipping climate, Big Island writer Leslie Lang and former Hawai‘i writer Kris Bordessa started the websites, which are updated most weekdays, to help Hawai‘i’s residents and visitors get out and about “on the cheap.”

To celebrate the sites’ launch, both Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are having daily contests for the first week – or more – starting March 10th. “We’re all about deals, so we’re getting off to a good start by giving away all sorts of great Hawai‘i-related gifts,” says Lang. “Chuck Moore hula girl t-shirts, Macario photographic prints, locally created ceramics from the Hilo art gallery High Fire Hawai‘i, some Hawai‘i-related books, a gorgeous woodblock print donated by Volcano Artist Margaret Barnaby and there will be some other surprises, too.”

In addition, Big Island On The Cheap.com is offering printable, discount coupons to ‘Imiloa Astronomy Center, and Honolulu On The Cheap.com is offering discount coupons to the Waikiki Aquarium. “We are excited to promote both of these great attractions that we ourselves enjoy,” says Bordessa, “and also honored that they were so enthusiastic about offering support to our new venture.”

Over the past several weeks, thrifty readers of Honolulu On The Cheap and Big Island On The Cheap have learned about free Hawaiian music concerts, yoga classes, history lectures and even an Avocado Festival. That’s in addition to dozens of deals on everything from malassadas and sub sandwiches to hotel rooms.

“Everyone—including us—is looking for deals right now,” says Lang. “And they’re out there. We’re just trying to make it easy for people to find them.”

Listen for Leslie Lang on the radio Tuesday morning; she’ll be discussing the websites and their official launch at 8:05 a.m. on the Big Island’s Mynah Bird show, which is at KHBC/92.7 FM and KONA FM at 92.1 FM.

Big Island On The Cheap and Honolulu On The Cheap are part of a rapidly growing network of independently owned and operated “On The Cheap” sites, which are launching nationwide on March 10. A complete list and links to Cities On The Cheap websites are available here.

About Leslie Lang
Leslie Lang is a Big Island–based freelance writer who works as an editorial consultant (writing press releases, newsletter items, blogs, speeches, reports and more for businesses), as well as a freelance magazine writer and book author who specializes in writing about Hawai‘i. She blogs at http://blog.leslielang.com.

About Kris Bordessa
Kris Bordessa, formerly of Hawai‘i and now living in California’s Gold Country (where she also runs Gold Country On The Cheap) is the author of several books and writes regularly for national magazines about family travel.

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Isabella Bird & Other Historical Non-Fiction to Read While Traveling

I have a good friend coming to visit here on the Big Island next week, a history buff like me, and I’ll have to find out if she’s ever read Isabella Bird.

isabellabird

I love reading an interesting book about a place while exploring it, and I highly recommend Isabella Bird’s book if you’re planning to visit (or if you live in) Hawai‘i.

I can remember reading Sarum when visiting Salisbury Cathedral, and Jane Austen in, of course, Bath. And Michener’s Iberia (or parts of it anyway; I remember a great section on gazpacho that sent me seeking the stuff at every turn) while in Portugal. And, oh, The Agony and the Ecstacy while in Rome — that was a wonderful decision.

Isabella Bird was born in England in 1831, and (from Wikipedia), “was a sickly child and spent her entire life struggling with various ailments. Much of her illness may have been psychogenic, for when she was doing exactly what she wanted she was almost never ill. Her real desire was to travel.”

Gotta love that. 

She sure did travel. Among many other adventures (and writings), she was in Hawai‘i in the 1870s, and later wrote the book The Hawaiian Archipelago: Six months among the palm groves, coral reefs, and volcanoes of The Sandwich Islands. She was a thorough, descriptive and upbeat writer and I enjoy reading her accounts. I also admire her for traveling alone as a woman in the 19th century and having so many great adventures.

Here’s a description of Hilo from her book:

What Honolulu attempts to be, Hilo is without effort. Its crescent-shaped bay, said to be the most beautiful in the Pacific, is a semi-circle of about two miles, with its farther extremity formed by Cocoanut Island, a black lava islet on which this palm obtains great perfection, and beyond it again a fringe of cocoanuts marks the deep indentation of the shore. From this island to the north part of the bay, there is a band of golden sand on which the roar of the surf sounded thunderous and drowsy as it mingled with the music of living waters, the Waiakea and the Wailuku, which after lashing the sides of the mountains which give them birth, glide deep and fern-fringed into the ocean. Native houses, half hidden by greenery, line the bay, and stud the heights above the Wailuku, and near the landing some white frame houses and three church spires above the wood denote the foreign element. Hilo is unique.

Hilo still looks pretty much like that! I can picture it. It’s a great book if you’re interested in reading more, and it’s easily available in paperback.

What books have enriched your travels? I’d love to hear.

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Hawaiian Style: Eating Poi

My husband Macario harvested some kalo (taro) and made some fresh, delicious poi today. Our 4-year-old couldn’t get enough. And then we had some more.

poi

In the old days, poi was pounded with stone pounders, and Macario, who comes from a long line of kalo farmers, can do it that way, too. But nowadays, we use a Champion commercial juicer. So easy. I think some of our ancestors would have used a Champion juicer if they’d had one. 

It got me thinking about an article I once wrote for the Hawaiian Airlines in-flight magazine Hana Hou! It’s all about poi — history and culture, taste, making, eating.

I dug out the article and reread it, and then I thought maybe you’d like to read it, too.

Poi is such a staple food to Hawaiians. And it’s so delicious. If you read the article you’ll see how important poi is to us.

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Freelance Writing & Kukui Nut Trees

For lunch today, I had a picnic with my husband and little girl in the shade of our big old kukui nut tree. We brought along my daughter’s Bob (learning to read) books, and decided we will call it “The Reading Tree” and sit there sometimes to practice reading. She loved that.

After we ate and read and played some little kid horseshoes, I lay back on the green- and blue-striped picnic blanket and watched a white, cottony cloud barrel across the perfect blue sky. After awhile, my daughter and husband wandered off and I actually napped briefly. When I woke up, it was to the feeling of warm sun on my face when the kukui leaves momentarily parted. It was excellent.

It was a work day.

Oh, the freelance life is definitely not all sitting around in pajamas and watching Oprah, let me tell you. 

If you’re good at what you do, and busy, it’s really an awful lot of work. I can remember, years ago when I started freelancing, being surprised at how hard I was working. (Maybe I had been expecting pajamas and Oprah.)

It is, of course, a real business with real work that needs to get done, well and on time. In addition to the interviewing, writing and revising, there’s always marketing that needs to be done, to keep the work coming in, and then invoicing and estimated taxes and lot of other paperwork, and keeping up with supplies, because nobody’s filling the supply cabinet but you. And a whole lot more.

Generally I keep regular work hours, which is what works best for me. I don’t sleep in on a work day (unless I’m sick, and then the flexibility is lovely), and I don’t chat on the phone during work hours. There is work to be done.

Once in awhile my regular work hours just aren’t enough, and there have certainly been times when I’ve worked into the wee hours, or pried myself out of bed much, much earlier than my body appreciates to squeeze in a couple extra hours.

But then again. Then again — occasionally I take the time to do something like have a lovely, relaxing picnic with my family in the middle of the day.

And then I am reminded of how much I appreciate the freelance lifestyle. The work is interesting, I have total control over how my career progresses, and I can sometimes take a little time off to do what’s important to me and my family — like picnicking and then napping under a kukui nut tree. I can’t imagine living any other way.

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Happiness is a Warm Pond

Another place I sent my mom and her friend recently, while they were here touring the Big Island, was Ahalanui Park. It’s next to the ocean down in Pahoa and has a lovely, thermally heated pond.

The pond used to be part of someone’s estate down there in volcano country. Long ago owners enclosed the ocean end of the natural pond with rocks. They left a channel between the rocks, so the tide still moves in and out throughout the day. Now the pond is part of a county park.

The water feels delicious, like a very, very warm bathtub that never goes cold. And the setting is beautiful. Slipping into this water, in my book, is just about perfect.

Once I took a visiting friend there around lunchtime and we sat there, soothed and happy, talking until it got dark. 

My mom and her friend loved it, too.

We are so lucky to live in such a beautiful place.

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Hilo Rated a “Dream Town”

It’s official, though we here in Hilo already knew it. 

Hilo is one of the country’s “Dream Towns.”

Bizjournals.com just reviewed 140 “micropolitan areas” in the country (From Bizjournals.com: “A micro consists of a central community with 10,000 to 50,000 residents, along with the surrounding countryside. It is, in effect, a small-scale version of a metropolitan area.”)

Hilo came in #41.

This really isn’t a surprise to most of us who live here. It truly is a wonderful place to live. The town is fronted by a beautiful crescent bay lined with coconut trees. Unlikely as it sounds, the bayfront is void of development (because of the area’s propensity toward tsunami–which is, perhaps, one of the only non-dreamy aspects) and is, instead, parkland. It is lovely.

Buildings in downtown Hilo are all low-to-the-ground, nothing more than two stories, and many were constructed in the early 1900s and so there is interesting architecture everywhere. I wrote a book called Exploring Historic Hilo if you’d like to read more about the town’s history, and see some terrific old photos.

There are good restaurants, interesting shops and one of those terrific old movie theaters, the Palace Theatre, that shows art house movies. The farmer’s market at the corner of Kamehameha Avenue and Mamo Street sells amazing tropical flowers and even more amazing tropical fruits (think lychee, rambutan, papaya, mango, durian, longan and dragonfruit, just off the top of my head).

The air smells of salt and flowers and the pace is slower here, and that suits us just fine. It’s a casual, laidback lifestyle with lots of friendly people. If you see someone walking around in a suit and tie, they’re certainly here on business from somewhere else.

Bizjournals.com used different categories than mine to come to its conclusions. It used U.S. Census Bureau data to analyze 20 statistical categories — such as population growth, commute times, median household income, poverty rate, unemployment rate, homeownership rate, and others — to calculate each town’s “quality of life” score and rank the cities. 

In 2006, Hilo’s “micropolitan area” (Hawai‘i County) had a population of about 171,000, the average work commute took 25 minutes and residents had a median household income of $55,390.

Here are the country’s top 10 “dream towns,” but I’m happy here in #41. I’m not going anywhere.

  1. Bozeman, Montana
  2. Jackson, Wyoming
  3. Durango, Colorado
  4. Easton, Maryland
  5. Laramie, Wyoming
  6. Edwards, Colorado
  7. Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina
  8. Pierre, South Dakota
  9. Silverthorne, Colorado
  10. Los Alamos, New Mexico
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Let Me Introduce Myself

Here in Hawai’i, we introduce ourselves when we meet by telling who our family is and where we’re from; we put ourselves into a context, and try to establish some sort of a connection to each other. It’s traditional among Hawaiians. So let me tell you who I am.

My name is Leslie Lang and I am a freelance writer living near Hilo, Hawai’i. That’s on what we call the Big Island of Hawai’i, on the east (windward; rainier; lush) side of the island.

My father’s family is from this island. Some go back to the beginning, when Polynesians first landed on this island and eventually evolved into Hawaiians, and others were English and Chinese.

My mother’s English/Irish family is from West Virginia, deep in the most beautiful hills where the trees turn brilliant reds and oranges and yellows in the fall, and where they make really good cornbread in a skillet in the oven. I do that too.

It’s a pretty diverse genealogical background, huh? I love it all.

My family lives in my grandmother’s wonderful old rambly home in the country. It’s a good life.

I have a lot of stories to tell and some other things to say, and I am a writer, and so, voila! A blog.

I’ll post here about:

  • Freelance writing (Who, what, where, how and probably even why)
  • Being self-employed (Coming soon: Is it riskier, in this or any economy, than working full-time for one employer? Or much, much safer?)
  • Living in Hawai’i (It’s a pretty great place to live)
  • Historic Hilo town (I wrote a book recently about beautiful Hilo and its history)
  • and, I’m sure, how all these subjects intersect in my life

Whether you are looking for a writer, are yourself self-employed as a writer (or want to be) and are interested in how others do it, or are interested in Hilo or Hawai‘i in general, I hope you’ll check back! Or even subscribe to my feed. I’ll try to keep it interesting. And please, always feel free to continue the conversation by leaving a comment.

You can also always contact me at leslie@leslielang.com.

Aloha,

Leslie

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