Saturday, December 31, 2011

Last Day of 2011

Counting down the minutes until 2012... The night is clear, brimming over with stars. Neighborhoods in all directions are sending off celebration fireworks, stealing "the silence of immensity" and turning it into a chaos of cluttered color. 

When I put my new calendar on the wall, I look back on the old calendar, looking at all the birthdays, the Bible studies, the movie nights, the piano lessons, and I see moments and faces and smiles. I remember laughter and pain and anxiety and happiness. I look at all the days of things that we do, and I think, "So this is a year. This is all that goes into one single year of our lives." And as cliche as it seems to say, the new calendar is blank, the days unwritten. Who knows all the joy and sorrow that will come. It is like starting a new book, smelling the beautiful pages and wondering how the story will unfold. 

This afternoon, we made an adventure along the sea cliffs. For a change, the day was sunny and blue-skied. And the ocean... was the perfection of deep tangible color. And despite the troubles of day-to-day life, I felt happy to be on the edge of the sea, in the midst of God's creation, enjoying the company of some of my dearest friends. There's a reason we don't know the future. We are meant to live today, to remember the past, and to hope for the future. Here's to a New Year, given by God for His glory and our enjoyment.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas Eve!

If I have been a little internet-absent, forgive me. I hope to be more online soon, when life settles down a little bit. For now, let me wish you all a Mele Kalikimaka, as they say Merry Christmas here in Hawaii. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011


Happy Thanksgiving! It's sunny and blue-sky cheerful here in Hawaii. I have been blessed beyond measure. After baking like a crazy woman last night, I have been relaxing all morning watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (of course, five hours behind everyone else). Now we're waiting for all the dinner guests to arrive and the real party to start. I hope you all are having a wonderful, safe weekend filled with family and friends! Stay out of Walmart if you value your life, and remember, you really do have to sample every kind of pie.

"Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise You. The earth has yielded its produce; God, our God, blesses us. God blesses us, that all the ends of the earth may fear Him." 
Psalm 67:5-7

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Lizard in My Shower

Lizards and geckos are an everyday sight around here. I've gotten used to seeing them on the ceiling, in all the windows, in my bedroom, and even in my bathroom. I'm so used to these cute-toed critters, that I don't even care if one or two clings to the bathroom wall above me while I take a shower. It's too much of a hassle catching them. Besides, they eat insects. The lizards and geckos are pretty clever at holding on with their toes. They rarely fall from their vertical and upside-down perches. But sometimes they do. And sometimes they fall in your shower. 

This tiny baby lizard fell in my shower tonight. Thank goodness I just getting out, and he didn't fall on me. I think the steam from the hot shower made him lose his grip on the wall, and tumble down he did. He survived, of course, but he got a little wet and sudsy. That was nothing. He was petrified of my camera though, and after trying unsuccessfully to get away from it, he froze like a statue. Poor little guy. I think he's still recovering from the trauma. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

Too Many Chickens

There are chickens. Everywhere. Sure, Hawaii has monk seals and sea turtles and humpback whales and geckos and albatross. But the animal most commonly sighted (on my island at least)... is the wild chicken. Some people say that farm chickens were set loose during Hurricane Iniki, and ever since they've multiplied to the billionth power. The roosters crow at ungodly hours; the hens roost beneath every other bush. They have no predators (hello, cats?) so they have no population control. We see them in parking lots, on the highway, on telephone lines, on distant hikes up in the rainforest. They are simply irritating, for no other reason than that there are too many of them! You can't even eat them - there's even a t-shirt that describes that the only way to cook a wild chicken is to put it in a pot of boiling water with a lava rock. When the lava rock is tender, the chicken is done.

This is our local chicken herd:

Monday, October 31, 2011

Nautical Pumpkin Carving

Happy Reformation Day! I'm savoring the last few hours of October out here in Hawaii. It is already November on the East Coast. Hard to believe. One of my favorite things about this time of year is the harvest. When I was a kid, we used to bundle up in sweaters, pile into the van, and find ourselves in a fading apple orchard on a crisp autumn afternoon. We'd pick the apples, take a hayride, and drink hot apple cider. Then we would head to a pumpkin patch and pick our own glowing orange pumpkin for the front stoop. 

We don't have pumpkin patches or apple orchards in Hawaii, but somehow the grocery stores still manage to ship in our pumpkins, bright and shiny like they just came from the farm. It seems a little silly to put pumpkins out on the steps here (right next to the palm tree and hibiscus bush), but this year a group of us carved some pumpkins for a contest. Since I love living coastal, I thought I'd try something different this year. I found a really cool blogpost that inspired me to do my own nautical pumpkin carving. It turned out better than I expected:

This ship design reminds me of New England, for some reason. Nantucket and the old whaling days and Moby Dick and sailing by the stars and all that. It was so much fun to make this, and it wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. It took about 3 to 4 hours to finish though. 

First I set up with a collection of ice cream scoopers to excavate the pumpkin seeds, knives, an ice pick, and plenty of candles to light up the evening. Also, you can see my pumpkin Seed on the left. Yes, we like to name our pumpkins before we cut their hearts out. 

There was also plenty of candy corn, of course. (which I forgot to eat in my enthusiasm for pumpkin carving and ginger snaps) 

Using the image on Quaint Living, I drew the picture of the ship on a piece of paper, cut it out, and taped it to Seed. Using the point of a knife, I pierced the edges of the picture to make tiny holes on the pumpkin. When I took the paper off, I used the holes to guide me as I cut out the picture. I didn't want to carve all the way through, because I wanted my ship to glow. So I used a flat-headed screwdriver to chisel out the pumpkin until I could see the light through it. Once I finished with the ship, I carved out stars on the other side, then poked holes all around with the ice pick to make it extra sparkly. 

We took our pumpkins to a Reformation Day Party, where they decorated the tables for a lovely dinner out of doors. Note the uncooperative tropical flora.

 It was a great party with costumes and pumpkin pie and good friends. The pumpkin contest was held American Idol style, with our three judges making snarky comments. Despite a sudden downpour, the contest held off, and Seed won second place :) 

Monday, October 24, 2011

More from the Alakai Swamp

Back in September, I posted this about the Alakai Swamp Trail. It's one of my favorite adventures here on the island. The Alakai Swamp is the highest swamp in the world, close to the wettest spot on the planet, Mount Waialelale. The climate is so different from much of the rest of Hawaii, getting over 400 inches of rain a year. It really feels like another world. Recently, I combined photos from three different hiking trips to the swamp for an article on HubPages. If you would like to see them and learn more about the history of the Alakai Swamp Trail, click here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Sudden Silence

The Saturday sluggishly slides into existence, like an extension of last night, the straightforward and almost dull appendix to a fascinating but incomprehensible story. I look out to the quiet hillsides, balancing heavy clouds on their heads, and even now the drops fall, splattering on the deck in tiny puddles which connect and flood together the wood. Or at least they would flood the green algae-covered wood of the deck, if only the clouds could make up their minds to dissipate and collapse into nothingness. I see patches of blue fighting to come back, and I wonder why the sky has differing shades everyday. There is probably some scientific reason that I might hear someday and then promptly forget because I like the not knowing the reason. It is powder blue one day, distant and unreachable, and deep sapphire the next, a gemstoned ceiling. That is all.

A sudden silence, like a Saturday in the middle of nowhere, gives way to confused contemplation. I hold onto myself, knowing full well the risk of losing everything in the midst of such rampant quietness. On edge, I feel the insatiable desire to have it all at once: the glorified past, the touch of today, the anticipated future all in the same moment. Sitting by my piano, I can look out to the sea, like a smudge in the distance. I remember having been there, by the ocean, and I can see it now, and I will return to the ever-breaking, ever-renewed suffering soul of the sea.

I have been rereading To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. Today I came to the part near the end when Lily Briscoe is remembering the summer long ago before Mrs. Ramsay died. She reminisces about one time when they were down by the shore, and Mrs. Ramsay was writing letters tinged with sea salt. Mrs. Ramsay looked up and saw something floating out on the water. But she was near-sighted and couldn't tell what it was.
"Is it a boat? Is it a cask?" Mrs. Ramsay said. And she began hunting round for her spectacles. And she sat, having found them, silent, looking out to sea. 
It is the not seeing and then the seeing and then the being silent.  Looking out without my glasses, all I see is blurred shapes, splotches of color colliding together in chaos. I then look through the clear glass and suddenly I see the lines and the boundaries, the glorious details I had missed. It is for this reason that I am glad I have both perspectives. Without imperfection, I would fail to appreciate the beauty. Without the moments of blindness, I would run over the moments of clarity with reckless disregard. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, You Are Mine

My dearest Monday, I have three words for you: Kiss My Grits. I refuse you the power to become just another weekly cliche. Outside, the world is glowing and alive, and you, Monday, are a day just like any other. Full of possibilities and breathable air and birds singing. I read somewhere that if "Monday" were a French word, it would literally translate "My Day". Monday, you are mine. 

Besides, I've already had an entire pot of English breakfast tea this morning. I can't tell you how happy I was to discover a grocery story on the island that actually sells loose-leaf Twinings. Very Happy.

Have you seen the moon lately? The Harvest Moon. I heard it is the smallest full moon of the year.

You all know how I adore autumn. In return for all the lovely blogs that share the long-lost fall beauty with me, I thought I'd share some shots of the vibrant green hillsides that surround me here.

Get the picture? I live in the definition of green. Actually, I don't live in that exact spot. These were taken up in the "mountains". We went hiking in the rain, which is better than it sounds. The sun would shine for a few minutes, then clouds would cover up all the blue, letting the rain fall in showers. We met a couple of Canadians on the trail, and one of them said something I've thought ever since I moved here - It's like the produce section of the grocery store; the rain comes every once in a while to freshen everything up. We only hiked a mile in, before we were craving hot chocolate. On our way back, we were reminded to scrub our boots, to rid them of weed seeds. Number One: we weren't wearing boots, and Number Two: scrub them with what? And don't forget, horses can track seeds too. 

After the trail (and a hot chocolate run at Starbucks), we went to this place where all the driftwood in the ocean seems to collect:

We also saw this pretty awesome petroglyph made by the ancient Hawaiians:

But the best part of this "almost roadtrip" was the Discovery of the Lighthouse. For quite sometime, I've seen a lonely lighthouse in the distance, not knowing how to get there. There are no signs, no apparent roads. But thanks to the kindness and patience of a good friend of mine who remembered, we finally found it. We had to get out of the car, cross a golf course, and follow an abandoned trail, but we found it. 

Looking back from the lighthouse, we saw the afternoon sun pushing through the rain clouds, gilding the grandfathered sea. It was a beautiful day. Like today is going to be.

And Monday morning is over, just like that. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Dear October... Hand Over the Apple Cider

Dear October, I love you.

If I had a pet squirrel, I would name him after you.

But you never come to see me. So I pretend you are here by finding your favorite things.

Like the almost overcast sky of today, the sprinkling of rain, the hardly cool breeze.

Like the movie "You've Got Mail".

Like imitation maple leaves the size of quarters.

Like the bottled apple cider that reminds me of orchard picking-and-canning days.

Like black cats with yellow eyes.

Like Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

Autumn means this and so much more to me. After a hot month of September, the weather is cooling down a bit, leaving me a contented celebrator of the fall season. This time of year makes me happy to be a teacher. We might not have apple orchards or pumpkin patches here in Hawaii, but we can still appreciate the marvelous month of October, albeit mostly by taste. I've been downing my fair share of hot apple cider and pumpkins spice lattes of late. Funny how memories get trapped into food. 

At any rate, I recently was able to transform a boring bottle of pasteurized apple cider into amazing liquid autumn with just a few spices.

Hot Apple Cider

Pour 2 quarts apple cider into a large stockpot. Add:

1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 pinch nutmeg
1 large orange, quartered with peel

Simmer for an hour or so. 

Serve in mugs with whipped cream and drizzled caramel sauce.
The result is absolutely delicious! Then send yourself a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils and watch "You've Got Mail". Instant Autumn.

Happy October to you all, and for those of you in chillier regions, keep the posts and pictures coming! I live on them <3

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