Botanical Wonderland

I cannot possibly end my ramblings about visiting Kaua’i without taking you to the North Shore and delving into horticulture. For Ron and me, experiencing all this alongside my sister, Deborah, gave us wonderful insights and up-close, local experiences one can only get from someone who has lived there for more than two decades.

There were so many more wonders to see beyond the Hawaii state flower, which is the Yellow Hibiscus. Side Note: Since 1923, while Hawaii was still a U.S. territory, the official flower was the Red Hibiscus, which it carried forth into statehood in 1959. However, in 1988 Hawaiians voted to change the official flower to the Yellow Hibiscus, after it was discovered that the red one wasn’t native to Hawaii.



Hibiscus blooms in many delightful shades. The flowers, trees, and other plants form a colorful palette for Hawai’i’s splendor.


There is nothing quite like starting a day off at dazzlingly dramatic overlooks of such classic places as Hanalei Bay.

Of course, we also wove our way down to the water’s edge, where we stood in awe of the magnificent mountains of lava that now grow lush with tropical vegetation. Over millions of years, the steep edges have eroded away, creating large swaths of gorgeous beaches.


Then Deborah, Ron, and I walked out on the famed Hanalei Pier, built in 1892 and restored in 2013. Here I felt as if I was standing in the middle of Paradise. OMG!





Also in our travels, we saw flourishing crops of taro, coffee, papaya, and much more.



We walked around the various towns, like Hanalei and Kilauea’s historic Kong Lung Market Center.


We lunched like the locals… Sir Ronald relished a caprese panini and a bowl of cabbage & pork soup. I went vegetarian (for one meal) with Deborah and dined on Creamy Spinach Maharaja soup.


I got to take part in one of Deborah’s weekly International Folk Dance Classes. (Sorry, but there are no photos because I was very busy dancing!)



A dramatic spot to visit was the Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge, which revealed more dramatic lava cliffs named Crater Hill, just across the cove from the lighthouse.

This area is gleefully graced by hundreds of birds from the 6- to 7-foot wing-spanned Laysan Albatross and red- and white-tailed Tropicbirds or koa’e to the red-footed boobies and the Great Frigatebirds that soared overhead, literally looking to pirate some other bird’s catch for lunch.


And, as everywhere else in Hawai’i, we saw the Nene Geese. These are endemic to the Hawaiian Islands; thus, they are found nowhere else. Fittingly, they became the official state bird of Hawai’i in 1957. (Side note: This is while Hawai’i was a U.S. territory, as Hawai’i did not become a state until 1959.)


We also learned about and saw the wedge-tailed shearwaters or ua’u kani, with their 3-foot wingspans. Their chicks hatch from a single egg in July & August. I did spy one chick in its burrow, likely preparing to fly. By November, after 103 – 115 days of being fed by their parents, they take their first flight out to sea. And they do not return to land for at least 3 years. In November, islanders turn off their outside lighting as the wedge-tailed shearwater birds are drawn to light.

And this area, marking the northernmost point in the Hawaiian Islands, also serves as a sanctuary for humpback whales and other wildlife.

One of the most famous North Shore residents is a 70-year-old albatross named Wisdom, who hatched yet another chick this year, fathered by her partner, Akeakamai, with whom she has been since 2012. The Albatross mates for life, but Wisdom has outlived her mates. The Laysan albatross typically lives for between 12 and 40 years.



Because of its proximity to the lighthouse and wildlife refuge, Albatross and friends often also live and nest at the nearby Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens.  Many other birds call the gardens home, such as the Gallinule duck.





A lovely lagoon there also serves as home to a great many koi.




As you can imagine, the garden island of Kaua’i boasts several such large botanical gardens. However, this one also has wildly imaginative theme gardens, fascinating forests, and the largest bronze sculpture collection in the United States.




For my sister, Deborah, Ron, and I, this proved to be a most educational day with exposure to art, beautiful flowers, and amazing trees. (I will focus on nature and its flowers and trees today, so if you are not into horticulture, stop reading here.)



Na’Aina Kai all started when Joyce and Ed Doty retired to Kaua’i in 1982 and built their retirement home here. A front yard landscaping project on their 12-acre lot quickly grew into a 240-acre botanical garden collection of various themed gardens.





Their residence was named Na’Aina Kai, which translates into “land by the sea.”




And as we stood on one of several lookouts, we knew the property was perfectly named.

By 1999, the property had grown from 12 to 240 acres… all filled with exotic plants, sculptures, fountains, and a lagoon.


The Dotys donated the entire 19-million-dollar property to their private foundation and built a new home into which they moved. They then opened the gardens for the public to forever enjoy.


Even their former residence with its stunning custom pool, waterslide, and waterfalls, is now used for private group gatherings.


One of the lookouts perched high above the ocean’s surface, delivers a sneak peek at the gardens’ very popular setting for weddings.


Others simply made us gaze out at the splendor of it all… even local folks, like my sister, never seem to be able to take it for granted.


Macaw Flower aka Shining Bird of Paradise aka Lobster Claws



Naturally, the highly exotic, tropical flowers fascinate all visitors… For instance, consider the Macaw flower, also known as the Shining Bird of Paradise and as Lobster Claws.





Shell Ginger and Pink Quill

There’s the delicate Shell Ginger in several shades of pink. The same is true for the Pink Quill. I saw more Breadfruit growing in the gardens and the stunning Cattleya orchid.

Breadfruit and Cattleya Orchid

We also saw the Cabbage Palm and the Elkhorn Fern.

Cabbage Palm and Elkhorn Fern

Peacock Flower aka Red Bird of Paradise

For stunning color, check out the tropical native Peacock Flower, also known as the Red Bird of Paradise.

Then, of course, there’s the Green Bat Flower, which is bafflingly delicate. And other delights, such as the African native Roselle Hibiscus, also known as Luo shen hua.

Green Bat Flower and Roselle Hibiscus aka Luo Shen Hua

Brunfelsia Pauciflora


I particularly liked seeing a beautiful flowering tree that I have loved for decades, called the Brunfelsia Pauciflora, or better known in southwest Florida as Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow. The flowers bloom as a deep purple, before softening, first to lavender and then to white, before fluttering to the grass below.


Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow


Teak leaves & Teak


We were all amazed at the great care the Dotys took in every different garden and forest area. They planted the Hawaiian Islands’ first teak trees.

Though told that teak couldn’t grow in Hawai’i, they did it anyway. Now the site hosts a flourishing teak forest.


Na;Aina Kai Teak Forest

Candelabra Cactus aka Dragon Bones


They were also told that cacti could not possibly grow in a rainforest, but they figured out how to create drainage. Large and small cacti thrive, like the Candelabra Cactus, also known as Dragon Bones.





An abundance of other fascinating trees thrives here. On tours with all volunteer guides, visitors experience such splendors as Ironwood, a flowering pine tree and the multi-colored bark of the Rainbow Eucalyptus.



Rainbow Eucalyptus

Then there is this odd tree with black and white bark that makes one wonder if the tree is sick. But no, it’s simply the look of the lemon-scented Gum tree, an Australian native. We also saw common bamboo, also known as Golden Bamboo. Plus, we caught sight of the Great Morinda or Nona, which is also known as Cheese Fruit for the peculiar lumpy fruit it bears.

Lemon-Scented Gum Tree, Golden Bamboo, and Great Marinda aka Nona aka Cheese Fruit

Indian Banyan Tree



Then there are the Indian Banyan trees along with the Rubber plant, which is a member of the Fig tree family.





Rubber Plant



Like the Banyan, the Rubber plant grows “top-down” by dropping roots from its branches.





Bald Cypress Tree


We also saw the Bald Cypress, usually found in southeastern areas of North America… the one tree that suffered no damage during 1992’s Hurricane Iniki.



Date Palm



There was also the Date Palm, an evergreen with an abundance of edible, orange fruit.






Because this is also a sculpture park, I should make note of the Cheese Tree… a creative bronze sculpture bearing all sorts of cheese. (wink wink)

Whimsical bronze sculpture of a “Cheese Tree”

The Na’Aina Kai Botanical Gardens and Sculpture Park is a not-to-be-missed adventure for any plant fans visiting Kaua’i. But if delightful bronze statues are more to your delight, hang on for tomorrow’s article.

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Big Island Eruption Time

With Mauna Loa on the Big Island erupting again for the first time since 1984, she has been long overdue. Volcanoes are interesting. Officially, there are 161 volcanoes that are considered “potentially active” in the U.S. 48 are in continuing eruption status. That means eruptions could be daily or weekly, but “continuing eruption status” means the volcano erupts at least every 3 months. So, as the world’s largest and most active volcano, she has been on “vacation” for a very long time.

Looking across Kilauea volcanic crater at Mauna Loa

Big Island residents have been alerted to be ready for evacuation. If Mauna Loa decides to blast out sideways, lava flows can be dramatic, fast-moving, and difficult to predict.

While there, we knew steam vents were very active. I had started “checking” active volcano status while we were on the island, as the status was Yellow, for “Advisory,” and had changed to Orange for “Watch.” These are much like the Hurricane warning levels. Naturally, the status for Mauna Loa is now Red for “Warning.”

Anyone can check all volcanoes in the U.S. online at

We felt none of the earthquakes that had been going on for the last few weeks, and that is just fine with me. From Kona, the lava flows are very visible after dark. We just hope everyone on Hawai’i’s Big Island stays safe.

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National French Toast Day

French Toast Wedge

While visiting Hawaii, we were treated to French Toast prepared in a variety of ways. There was Pineapple French Toast, Chocolate French Toast, and Traditional French Toast. And yet, I saw nothing “traditional” about it. (Just an observation; not a criticism.)

They had baked the bread dough on a pie plate. A wedge-shaped slice was a serving, rather than a standard bread slice. I enjoyed it with 100% maple syrup, which provided plenty of tradition for me!

Plain French Toast

We looked at Cranberry Orange French Toast a few days before Thanksgiving, so today I thought we’d present the traditional version. French Toast is truly Super Simple and takes less than 10 minutes from start to finish. Try it with your favorite bread varieties, including raisin bread! Or halve crescent rolls or croissants in place of bread. Go full-out holiday style and dip your bread slices in your adults-only eggnog. Or turn a Thanksgiving leftover, such as banana or cranberry nut bread into French Toast, and you just may find yourself saying, “Ooooh-la-la!”

Super Simple French Toast

For every 2 slices of bread:

1 lg egg

¼ c milk or half-and-half

½ tsp ground cinnamon and/or ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt


Whisk together everything except your bread and butter in a shallow bowl or pie plate. Place bread slices in mixture one at a time, turning over to soak both sides. Cook in large skillet in butter over med heat for 2-3 minutes per side. Serve hot with your choice of toppings, such as softened butter, pure maple syrup, whipped cream, powdered sugar (or monk fruit), berries, sliced fruit, or brown sugar.

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Kauai Movie Buff Alert!

Beach on Napali Coast by Nenad Radojcic


While visiting Kauai, we learned of many places that have served as perfect settings for film and video. More than 70 movies and television series have used the island of Kauai for settings that have depicted a vast array of world locations, both real and fantastical!

Hanalei Valley

Many of the spots can still be visited today, and, inadvertently, we did! Others are tougher, as they are on private property or only accessible by air or boat. But Hollywood has loved Kauai since the 1934 melodrama “White Heat” was filmed on Kauai.

Where the Wailua River meets the Pacific Ocean

1950’s “Pagan Love Song” was filmed on Wailua Beach, which also represented Australia’s Queensland for the 1983 TV miniseries, “The Thorn Birds” with Richard Chamberlain and Rachel Ward.


Lumaha’i Beach



We can easily picture Mitzi Gaynor washing that man right out of her hair on Lumaha’i Beach in 1958.



Remains of Coco Palms Resort




The entire “South Pacific” cast stayed at the once glorious Coco Palm Resort.



Hanalei Bay


Of course, featured was the famed Hanalei Bay, as well as Mount Makana towering over Tunnels Beach, serving as “Bali Hai.”


Tunnels Beach and Mount Makana


Makua Beach is nicknamed Tunnels Beach because of the many lava tube caves under the water’s surface. But it’s the sandy surface that has captured makers of several films since South Pacific.


Makua aka Tunnels Beach with Mt. Makana

Among the better-known is 1981’s “Body Heat with Kathleen Turner and William Hurt. Never mind 1958’s “She Gods of Shark Reef,” but 2011 “Soul Surfer” was also made at Tunnels Beach, and tells the harrowing, true story of teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton who lost her left arm to a shark attack. Hamilton does her surfing stunt work in “Soul Surfer,” reflecting her dramatic comeback.

Hanalei Bay

Lydgate Beach


Of course, 1961’s “Blue Hawaii” found Elvis Presley romping on the Coconut Coast, Hanalei Bay, and at Lydgate Beach.


The lagoon at the old Coco Palms Resort



The famous wedding scene was filmed in the lagoon of the Coco Palms Resort in Kapa’a.


Ke’e Beach on Napali Coast


Other famous Kauai film beaches include Ke’e Beach, for scenes in “The Thornbirds” and 1990’s “Lord of the Flies,” along with Danny Devito and Billy Crystal’s “Throw Mama from the Train.” That 1987 release was also filmed at Kauai’s Kalihiwai Beach.

Moloa’a Beach and Bay



Though the tv series was done in the Bahamas, “Gilligan’s Island” was on Kauai’s Moloa’a Beach and Bay for the 1964 pilot and first episode.



Kukuiula Harbor



The lists go on and on…. 1977’s “Islands in the Stream” was filmed in Kukuiula Harbor.


Jurassic Ranch



1998’s “Mighty Joe Young,” used the north shore’s Jurassic Kahili Ranch.



Mahaulepu Beach


1974’s “Castaway Cowboy” was filmed on Mahaulepu Beach.



Sign in historic Hanapepe


Even 2002’s animated feature film “Lilo & Stitch” used the tiny town of Hanapepe and the North Shore’s Kilauea Lighthouse as inspirations, and 2009’s “Avatar” chose Kauai for its non-CGI scenes.

Kilauea Lighthouse

Kipu Kai photo credit to Parrish Kauai


Kipukai Beach set the scene for 1991’s “Hook” and also played host to 1998’s “Six Days, Seven Nights.”  That film brought Harrison Ford back to the Napali Coast. It’s hard to forget the crazy leap he and Anne Heche made of Shipwreck’s Cliff to escape the pirates.

Shipwreck Beach and Cliff


Of course, Ford’s first foray into filmmaking in Kauai happened for 1981’s blockbuster, “Raiders of the Lost Ark, filmed near Lihue’s Menehune Fishpond on the Hule’ia River.


Famous cast members are not likely to balk at going on location to Kauai.

Waimea Canyon

Ahukini State Recreational Pier




1963’s “Donovan’s Reef” brought John Wayne and the cast to settings in Waimea Canyon and at the Ahukini Pier.




Hanamaulu Beach


Filmmakers also used Kauai’s Hanamaulu Beach and the Wailua River in representing Haleakaloha Island and French Polynesia.



Wailua River

Napali Coast photo by Kathy VanDeventer

Mt. Makana and Tunnels Beach


The 1976 remake of “King Kong” brought Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange to settings from Tunnels Beach and the Napali Coast to the idyllic surroundings of Makana Mountain.


Jo Jo’s Shave Ice in Waimea town


1992’s    “Honeymoon in Vegas” with Nicholas Cage, Sarah Jessica Parker, and James Caan, featured several Kauai settings.


National Tropical Botanical Gardens


These ranged from the town of Waimea to the Lawai National Tropical Botanical Gardens.




Wailua Falls photo by Zane Persaud


The 2008 action comedy “Tropic Thunder” with Tom Cruise and Robert Downey, Jr was set against the dense backwoods of Kauai and the Wailua Falls, not in Vietnam at all.


Hanalei Bay

The Descendants” with George Clooney set the 2011 release on Kauai’s North Shore, at Lihue Airport, and at Hanalei Bay.


Napali Coast photo by Casey Horner



Not stopping there, they also filmed along the Napali Coast, Kipu Kai, the famed Tahiti Nui Bar, Kipu Ranch, and the Kipukai Beach overlook, along with the towering waterfalls cascading down Mt. Namolokama.




Mt. Namolokama with its lengthy waterfalls

Honopu Beach on Napali Coast photo by Chor Tsang


2019’s “Fast & the Furious Presents: Hobbs & Shaw” brought Dwayne Johnson to Honopu Beach on the Napali Coast and into the Kalalau Valley.



Johnson returned to Kauai for his thoroughly delightful 2021 “Jungle Cruise” Disney film. They worked on the Wailua River, not the Amazon.

Opaeka’a Falls



Other scenes included the Kilohana Plantation Railway, Kapaia Reservoir, and the popular Opaeka’a Falls. What fun it was to stand looking at actual settings from films we have enjoyed!



Wailua Falls


Waterfalls always have a giant pull on filmmakers. 1978 – 1984 The hit weekly television series “Fantasy Island” brought Ricardo Montalban to Kauai and featured the Wailua Falls and Wailua River State Park.


Olokele Canyon


With all the Jurassic films taking advantage of Kauai, it’s no wonder people still look for dinosaurs in the Olokele Canyon or on the Napali cliffs from 2015’s “Jurassic World.”



Napali Coast photo by Kathering Loydall

Moreton Bay Fig Tree roots



And standing amidst Moreton Bay Fig trees with roots as big as 5 feet tall, you just might find yourself looking for some dinosaur eggs.




Manawaiopuna Falls



Here’s an interesting side note. While filmmakers took advantage of Kauai’s 400-foot Mauawaiopuna Falls for 1993’s “Jurassic Park,” with just one day of filming remaining in the summer of 1992, Category 4 Hurricane Iniki hit Kauai. Filmmaking stopped.




Ruins of Coco Palms Resort


The Coco Palms Resort, the once glamorous playground for the rich and famous, was destroyed, along with more than half the homes on the island.


Poipu Beach

Honopu Arch

But Kauai’s resilience remains remarkable. They were back to hosting filmmakers within a year. One which used various sites on Kaua’i was 2011’s “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides.” Johnny Depp was brought onto the scene at the Honopu Arch on the Napali Coast by helicopter. Visitors today can get there by boat.

And these tidbits are just about Kaua’i, the Garden Island. Whether we are movie buffs or not, there are several more islands, and they are all most assuredly worth visiting for the true star power of the scenery.

North Shore Sunset

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Encourage Someone Today



“Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”

— Oprah Winfrey (1954 –  )

American talk show host, television producer, author, and philanthropist


When my book entitled, “Encouragement: How to Be and Find the Best” was released in 2019, I could not have guessed the positive ripple effect it would have on people. Feedback continues to be deeply rewarding, as people send messages to me about how uplifting they found this fast read (or “listen” for those on audiobooks) to be. There is no greater gift than learning we have made a positive impact on some corner of our little world. If you know someone who needs a boost, you can grab a digital edition for them for less than 3 bucks.

Heading into the holidays is a joyous time for many and a difficult time for many others. I have always believed that people choose to be an Encourager or a Discourager. While it is always important to always try to encourage people, this rings resoundingly true now. Just do the best we can.

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Gratitude and Friendship

Our table was blissfully filled with a dozen fabulous friends.

Feasting and frivolity were the order of the day. I hope you all had a blessed Thanksgiving.



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Happy Thanksgiving!

One of the most influential voices in the 19th Century was born in Newport, New Hampshire in 1788. Sarah Josepha Hale was born to parents who believed in education for both boys and girls, so she was encouraged to study and then became a writer. After only 9 years of marriage, her husband passed away, leaving her with 5 children. Relying on poetry for income, she wrote the famous nursery rhyme “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” Hale moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where she became the editor of the leading women’s publication of the day, Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1837.

In 1846, she started petitioning the President of the United States and other leading politicians to create Thanksgiving as an annual American holiday. Largely ignored, finally, in the midst of the Civil War, it was President Abraham Lincoln who was moved into action by her letter in 1863. Thus, at long last, an annual celebration of Thanksgiving and Praise was established.

Remaining a strong voice, she worked hard to get the Bunker Hill Monument completed, among other accomplishments. Hale retired in 1877 and died two years later at the age of 92.

Many thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale… and Happy Thanksgiving to all.

(Photo by Stephanie McCabe)

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Lessons and Learning

While visiting the island of Kauai, we stayed at the Marriott Waiohai Beach Club on the south shore in the Poipu Beach area.


The grounds are simply gorgeous… so much so that hubby says he wants to marry the landscaper and take them home.


A large koi pond was nestled beside the adults-only relaxation pool.

And there were two additional pools… a large primary swimming pool, plus a smaller one directly on the shore.

Outside our room was a lagoon with waterfalls all set amidst swaying palm trees with views of mountains and the Pacific Ocean, of course.



Your hammock awaits you!





I was impressed to see that even resorts continue to protect and preserve sacred lands and temples. We had the remains of one such temple right beside a swimming pool.

This proved to be both an ideal location to watch the early morning surfers and catch the glorious sunrise.


Our “room” turned out to be a large apartment with two king bedrooms, two bathrooms, a full kitchen, a dining table for 8, a laundry, 3 wide-screen TVs, and a private lanai in the back.


As our space was so enormous, Sir Ronald invited my sister, Deborah to stay with us during our visit to her island. This gave us super sister time!

Naturally, we also continued enjoying many local foods. Deborah had made some Bruddah’s Ulu Bars. Totally vegan in her diet, these bars deliver a yummy treat with no flour… just ripe breadfruit, dates, bananas, ginger, cinnamon, and allspice.





Ulu is breadfruit. Quite common in Hawaii, ulu is a starchy carb like rice, corn, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. It originated in New Guinea and the Philippines.




She also introduced us to Kulola, a sweet confection made from kalo (taro), waiu nu (coconut milk), and kopaa (sugar) by the Aloha Aina Poi Company in Waimea, Kauai. Kulola has a dense cranberry jelly-sort of texture, though finer. The flavor is reminiscent of fig, as in a Fig Newton cookie, but not as sweet and with no seeds. We sliced it and munched the yumminess atop crackers.


And she brought apple bananas, which look like the more familiar traditional bananas, except they are about half the size.




Plus, we gobbled up a yummy lilikoi (passion fruit) pie, with a crust made from breadfruit, macadamia nuts, almonds, honey, vanilla, and sea salt.




Finding a few local haunts, we enjoyed beef potstickers at the Cabana Bar and Grill, which also served up absolutely ahhhhsome ahi tuna tacos.



We also found that Portuguese sausage regularly replaces traditional breakfast sausage and even bacon. It was delicious on my giant grilled croissant sandwich with a fried egg and cheese. Portuguese sausage has been a staple in the Hawaiian Islands since the Europeans first settled here and started ranching in the early 1800s.


On an interesting side note… Hawaii was the first state in which McDonald’s varied its menu to suit cultural diversity. Even back in the 1970s, they offered both Portuguese sausage and poi.

The first European to set foot in Hawaii was Captain Cook back in 1778 when he came ashore at Waimea Bay on Kauai. What we now know as Hawaii, he named the Sandwich Islands, after the Earl of Sandwich.


There’s no escaping history here, which I greatly enjoyed as the rich culture is so deeply diverse. For instance, just off the coast of Kaua’i is a large island of which I was totally unaware.


Ni’ihau in distance across the water from our hotel

Ni‘ihau is the westernmost and 7th largest inhabited island in Hawaii. 17 miles southwest of Kaua’i, it contains 69 square miles. It is owned by Bruce and Keith Robinson, descendants of Elizabeth McHutchison Sinclair Robinson. She purchased Ni’ihau in 1864 from the Kingdom of Hawaii for $10,000, or about $175,000 today.

Elizabeth McHutchison, born in Scotland in 1800, married sea Captain Sinclair in New Zealand and bore 13 children. He was later lost at sea with their eldest son. Looking for a fresh start, she moved the entire family to Vancouver, Canada, and then California in the U.S. Not caring for either location, she moved everyone to Hawaii, where the King found her a fascinating person. Because her late husband had always fancied having an island of his own, she purchased Ni’ihau in 1863 when the King offered it, but that was only after turning down sites including the Waikiki area and Pearl Harbor on Oahu and Kapa’a on Kauai’s east side. She remarried, became a Robinson, and had 3 more children. Cattle ranching was the initial activity, but due to the island’s arid conditions, this became too difficult. Fishing is the primary activity now.

In 1915, Ni’ihau became closed to outsiders, reflecting the Robinson family’s dedication to preserve Hawaiian culture and tradition. People must be truly 100% native Hawaiians to live there. Truly “The Forbidden Island,” Ni’ihua is off limits to all outsiders, except for the Robinson family and their relatives, as well as U.S. Navy personnel, government officials, and invited guests. The residents speak only the Hawaiian language. Transportation on the island is by horse or bicycle. There is no modernization, which means, no telephones, television, radio, nor computers… no indoor plumbing, refrigeration, nor electricity. Anyone traveling to Kauai or anywhere else can return as long as they did not drink alcohol, smoke cigarettes, or gamble. Thus, the population has dropped from 700 in 1915 to just 30 in 2022.

The natives make a gemlike shell lei, called lei pūpū. A single lei can sell for thousands of dollars. The one in the photo (not my photo) is a genuine Ni’ihau lei pūpū necklace, for sale on eBay for a cool $32,000. Yikes! Hawaii protects this native trade by laws that require all shells to come from Ni’ihau, and the jewelry must be made entirely in Hawaii.

For Hawaiian natives, including those of many mixed cultures, children are still raised by grandparents, because the parents work all day. Specifically, your tutu, or maternal grandmother is the one who is most responsible for raising the children. As our Hawaiian guide, Kana’e explained, “She is the one you know is your grandmother. Hawaiians did not have a society where there was one man and one woman in a marriage. A woman could have multiple husbands, and a man could have multiple wives. You may not know who your birth father is, but you know your birth mother and her mother. So, the maternal grandmother rules. She even names all children. A child is named by destiny at the moment you are born. You cannot change your name, as it would be disrespectful.”

The Hawaiians remain a highly spiritual people. In an earlier article, I mentioned seeing a prominent, double peak on the northern shore of Kaua’i as our ship approached the island. This is part of the Kalalea Mountain range near the town of Anahola.

As these mountains stretch toward the Pacific Ocean, one particular “spike” stands out. The wider one is Hokuyalele Peak, and the skinny spike is Mono Mt.

It appears like a shark fin, and the word mono means shark. The gap or space between the mountains was actually a lava tube, worn away by thousands of years of erosion.

Together, the two peaks form the entry point for all souls coming to the earth. Is this local legend, faith, or folly? A great many people still hold fast to the belief that it is here in these Anahola Mountains where all souls enter the earth. Visiting in 1994, the Dalai Lama agreed with the strong spiritual connection that this “hole in the mountain,” called a Puuanakoua, is where souls enter the earth.


On the spiritual note, March 30, 1820, is noted as the date that Protestant missionaries from the northeastern U.S. first arrived on the Big Island, the eastern most island.


On the western end of the archipelago, The town of Hanalei still has one of the very earliest Hawaiian churches.






Wai oli Hui’ia Church has been holding regular services since 1834 in both English and Hawaiian.


Hubby Ron and my sister, Deborah by the church

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National Cranberry Relish Day

Leave it to cranberries to get two official days back-to-back. Because my cousin, Barbara Cote asked if I make our Grandmother Burnham’s Cranberry Orange Relish, I knew I needed to post a recipe today in celebration of all the marvelous meals that came out of Grammy’s loving kitchen. Sorry, because I do not know if this recipe is or is not a spin on the way she made the relish. I just know I always loved it! She likely prepared it with no recipe card at all!

Cranberry Orange Relish

There are many renditions of cranberry relish that add finely diced celery, chopped walnuts, apples, or pears. Here’s a family favorite, time-tested rendition, simply with oranges.

3 c cranberries, chopped

1 c sugar

1 teaspoon grated orange peel

1 tsp grated lemon peel

½ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

Dash ground cloves

2 oranges, peeled & chopped

Combine, cover, and refrigerate 24 hours before serving.

KISS Tips: This is an old recipe, as I made it back in 1980. I now tend to cook without sugar. Replacing the sugar with granulated monk fruit works great. As I prefer it less sweet, I only use ½ cup. This is also yummy with the addition of a T of liquor, such as Grand Marnier or even peach schnapps.

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National Cranberry Day

Cranberries are easily one of my favorite fruits. I get caught popping these fresh, tart little berries into my mouth all Fall.

Being Thanksgiving week in the U.S.A, cranberry sauce, cranberry bread, and even cranberries in stuffing become wildly popular.


Knowing that many of us host large gatherings, I know that easy, make-ahead brunch dishes are also sought. Here’s one from my 2014 release, “Cranberry Cooking.” (Yup! This little 5×8 gem is still available in both print and digital formats.)




Cranberry Orange French Toast

This was a 2004 creation for a big family brunch during the holidays. Definitely feel free to toss in a half cup of fresh cranberries!

1¼ c dried cranberries

4 T finely chopped pecans

16 slices (1” thick) of soft French bread 3×2-1/2” diameter

6 extra large eggs

2 T finely grated orange peel

2 c milk (or half-and-half)

1½ c orange juice

4 t butter, melted

1 c 100% maple syrup

Butter a 13×9” glass baking dish. Sprinkle cranberries and pecans evenly in bottom of the dish. Arrange the bread slices on top in a single layer. In large bowl with whisk, beat eggs. Stir in orange peel, milk, orange juice and butter until smooth. Pour egg mixture over bread. Cover tightly with foil. Refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight. Remove from fridge at least 1 hour before baking. When ready to bake, heat oven to 425°. Uncover baking dish; bake 25 to 30 minutes or until bread is puffy and edges are golden brown. Serve with warmed real maple syrup. Makes 8 servings.


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National Absurdity Day

This is a day to be zany and do silly things as if we need a specified day. History is full of examples of human absurdity. For example, in 1913, when the U.S. postal service launched, children falling within shipping weight limits could be “mailed” cross-country for as little as 15 cents.

Our states are packed with examples of interestingly bizarre laws. They are apt to make you say, “Duh” or “Huh?”

For instance, billboards are illegal in the state of Hawaii. So, folks get creative, as evidenced by an auto dealer’s gargantuan gorilla atop the building.

Eavesdropping is illegal in Oklahoma.

An Alabama law prohibits driving while blindfolded.

You can’t honk your car horn near a sandwich shop after 9pm in Arkansas.

In Iowa, you may not sell cars or RVs on a Sunday.

In Minnesota muddy tires are considered a public nuisance.

In Indiana, you mustn’t ride your horse faster than 10 mph.

In Rhode Island, it’s illegal to race or test a horse’s speed on a public highway.

In Massachusetts, it’s illegal to tell fortunes without certification, and you must live in the state for at least 1 year before you can apply for a license. Well, at least you can then work. In Pennsylvania, it’s not allowed to pay a fortune teller or psychic. Oregon law took it one step further mandating that no occult arts may be practiced, including “fortune telling, astrology, phrenology, palmistry, clairvoyance, mesmerism, spiritualism, or any other practice generally recognized to be unsound and unscientific.”

As of 2011 in Tennessee, it’s illegal to share your Netflix password, even with someone living under the same roof.

Also in Tennessee, you cannot hold public office if you’ve been in a duel.

In Georgia, it’s illegal to live on a boat for more than 30 days.

A 1973 law in New Hampshire outlawed carrying or picking up seaweed off the beach at night.

In Montana, all live performers must remain onstage.

In Massachusetts, you must sing the National Anthem correctly, without any embellishment or addition of other melodies. (I guess they did not care for Jimi Hendrix.)

In California, it’s illegal to whistle for your lost canary before 7 am.

It’s illegal to hunt on Sundays in Virginia unless you are killing raccoons.

In North Dakota, you need a health department permit to exterminate a pigeon.

In Washington, it’s illegal to kill Bigfoot.

In Missouri, wrestling a bear is banned.

In Kentucky, you may not bring a reptile to church.

It is against the law in Arizona to spit on a public sidewalk or in a park or public building.

As of 1999 in New Jersey, it’s illegal to wear a bullet-proof vest while committing a crime.

In 1931 (repealed in 2010) a West Virginia law banned “lewd and lascivious cohabitation and conduct before marriage.”

A South Carolina law (repealed in 2016) made a man guilty of a misdemeanor if he seduced an unmarried woman using “deception and promise of marriage.”

In Vermont, a woman may not wear fake teeth without her husband’s approval.

In Kentucky, a woman cannot marry the same man four times. (Ummm… Was this an ongoing issue?)

In North Carolina, it’s illegal to hold a meeting while wearing a costume.

And in New York, you must not wear a mask at all, unless you are at a party or a gathering that’s received proper approval.

In Louisiana, sending someone a surprise pizza is considered harassment, warranting a $500 fine.

To prevent traffic jams in Maine, a law prohibits parking in front of Dunkin’ Donuts.

In Georgia, a 1961 proclamation in Gainesville made it illegal to eat fried chicken with a fork.

There will be no sleeping in cheese factories in Wisconsin.

Kansas made it illegal to top a slice of cherry pie with ice cream, but it seems the law was never enforced.

In South Carolina, you can’t play pinball if you are under the age of 18.

In North Carolina, it’s illegal to sell or consume any alcoholic beverage in a room where bingo is being played.

In Minnesota (until 2015), nursing homes and senior centers were limited to just 2 days of bingo per week.

In Maine, dancing is prohibited at establishments that sell alcohol, unless that establishment has been issued a “special amusement permit.”

Okay… all such amusement is welcome on this National Absurdity Day.

Special thanks to USA Today and Good Housekeeping for these delightful tidbits.

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Be Positive



“Positive anything is better than negative nothing.”

— Elbert Hubbard (1856 – 1915)

American writer, publisher, and philosopher


(Photo by Joshua Earle)

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Adoption Update

Because November is National Adoption Month, I thought you might enjoy a little adoption update. Back on June 10th, I posted about our friends Rick and Claire Johnson watching over two tiny, twin fawns that had been orphaned when their mom was struck by a vehicle on the road near our ranch. Keeping them safe from predators at night in a stall in our barn, but opening the door during the day, the struggle was on to help them stay alive while awaiting space with a wildlife rescue service. Thankfully, after just a couple of days, a doe in a herd of deer on the property appeared to have lost her own fawn, and she sniffed out the babies and chose to adopt them, nuzzling them to join the herd and slip into the woods.

It’s fun to report that the fawns are growing up gracefully! We see them once or twice a day, romping about the pastures, still very much under Mom’s watchful eye. They can now even bound beautifully over our horse fencing… with a bit of a running start! But they mostly just prance and play.

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The Oldest Hawaiian Island

Cruising toward Kauai, our final island on our Hawaiian tour, I spied where the Kalalea Mountain range stretches to the sea in the northeastern portion of the island.



I later learned that the two jagged peaks at the very end are revered by locals as the place where all of our spirits enter this planet.


And suddenly, there was my sister, Deborah, waving both arms from the lighthouse as we entered the Nawiliwili Harbor. Tears flowed down my cheeks the entire time as we sailed into the harbor.



My sister has lived on the island of Kauai for 22 years. FINALLY, we got there to visit her Paradise for the first time.


She knew we had a full island tour, but she also knew the first stop that we would make, so she met us at the Wailua River State Park.



Deborah enjoyed meeting our guide, Kana’e, who is half Hawaiian native and taught us a great deal about the culture.



Displaying the true essence of my highly spiritual sister, Deborah offered a blessing at the sacred site there known as Hikinaakala Heiau. Since the 14th century and until the traditional Hawaiian religion was abolished in 1819, this was the political and religious center of Kaua’i.




In ancient times, a heiau was a place of royalty, yes… but also refuge. This was a pu’uhonua or place of refuge.  In times of war or turmoil, if anyone in trouble could make it to the temple, they would be safe as long as they remained there.


The remains of the temple still call for great respect. Entering is even ka’pu or forbidden for non-natives.


Also at the State Park is the Lydgate Beach Park. A mighty undertow threatens swimmers at the mouth of the river and has carried many out to sea, including the Lydgate’s 2-year-old son. They wanted no other families to suffer their loss and had large lava boulders added around an enormous area by the beach, forming a natural, yet safe swimming and snorkeling area. The beach park was named in this family’s honor.


Leaving my sister for a while, we continued our tour of Paradise.


Nearby, my eye-opening cultural education continued. A large cluster of rocks featured a flat, square one in the front and center. Any princess or queen who was pregnant delivered her baby here in front of all to see, as they wanted the people to witness the birth of the next king or queen. Yes, they have medical centers now.


Further along, we learned that the 20-mile Wailua River is Hawaii’s most navigable river, as it flows from the 5,148-foot Mount Wai’ale’ale in the center of the island. Weaving through lush jungle landscapes, the river weaves through the settings of seven different ancient temples or heiaus.


Among our stops was one for the famed Opaeka’a Falls, from the north branch of the Wailua River. Interestingly, Opaeka’a means “rolling shrimp,” which once were readily available in the stream.





This 40-foot-wide waterfall drops 151 feet into a hidden pool. A lookout also offers a perfect peak into the Wailua River Valley.




En route to the Waimea Canyon, we drove down Tunnel Road, with its arching trees creating a beautiful tunnel effect. It is also known as the Tunnel of Love, as many couple choose to risk the 50 mph traffic to say their “I Do’s” under the tunnel. Go figure.





This is near one of Kauai’s stunning country clubs, including one where we saw the Hawaii home of famed NFL quarterback Drew Brees. There are many multi-million-dollar celebrity homes.


But as our guide pointed out, the $80,000 annual membership fees are mere “chump change” for them.


One phenomenon along the lava rock coast is something called blowholes. When large waves crash into the shore, the pressure pushes water straight up through a vertical lava tube hole, delivering a whale-like vertical blast of water. On Kauai’s south shore in the town of Koloa just after Po’ipu Beach, we visited a most spectacular one called the Spouting Horn. The surf crashing into the rocks forces the spout of water as high as 50 feet into the air, bringing smiles to all faces visiting this most highly photographed site.


Then came the highlight of this day’s tour… Waimea Canyon. The word “Waimea” means “reddish waters.” When it rains, waters pull color from the red rocks as the river makes its way through the canyon to the sea. Colorful and lush with birds, plants, and wildlife, this is a must-see for any visitors to Kaua’i. Dubbed the Grand Canyon of the Pacific, it does not begin to equal the size of the one on the mainland.



Waimea Canyon is a mere 3600 feet deep versus 5280. It’s also only 1 mile wide, rather than 18 and only 14 miles long, rather than 277 miles. (Of course, the entire island of Kaua’i only measures 33 x25 miles.)

This all acknowledged, the dramatic beauty of Waimea Canyon is staggering. Whether viewing from the various lookouts that are accessible by road or hiking the multitude of trails, its dramatic vibrancy remains unforgettable in all directions.

The weather was on our side. Only as we prepared to depart were the misty clouds forming down the side canyons. This happens daily by the trade winds picking up the warm ocean waters and getting caught up, forming clouds beside the high volcanic peaks.


Serving up a stark contrast is a crazy little town on the southwest shore. A small village now, Hanapepe used to huge and was known as Party Town from WWI to the 1950’s. Then it was filled with bars, brothels, and US military personnel. Then Kauai closed all the bars and brothers, and they were replaced by a dozen churches. Due to its Friday night “Art Walk” event, Hanapepe is now known as Art Town. Not through with this day’s Hawaiian adventures, our next stop was some shave ice at Jo Jo’s in Hanalei. (Naturally!)

We were then off to the Luau Kalamaku at the historic Kilohana Plantation. The sounding of the conch shell signaled the Imu Ceremony for the unearthing of the roasted pig.


This was followed by what was dubbed a “scrumptious buffet” of local Hawaiian specialties. In truth, the food was sadly mundane, especially after we have enjoyed so many delightful local dishes. (It even made the cruise ship buffet look gourmet.)

However, the music and choreography made up for it. Through music and dance, the professional cast relayed the legends and lore of the first Polynesians finding their way to the Hawaiian Islands.


Such a day and evening… and our time on Kaua’i was just beginning!

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National Fast Food Day

Yikes! Who knew??!

Popularized in the U.S. in the 1950s, fast food is here to stay. Drive-thru, take-out, or dine-in… we all have our favorites and those we love to hate. Seriously, have you ever gotten a fast-food sandwich that actually looked like the ones they picture?

Grilled, fried, or broiled… what is your favorite? Or your favorite one to despise?

I used to say that McDonald’s french fries were the no-contest best… crispy and perfect every time. However, that is no longer the case. No other spot has topped them, but consistency in the franchise world has simply vanished. You can now order a great favorite one day and get something quite unrelated the next time you order it, even from the exact same location.


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National Hermit Cookie Day

I love the zesty fresh taste of spices. A particular fondness lingers for ginger and clove, both of which are usually prominent in the hermit cookie recipes. If you like a spicy, chewy, melt-in-your-mouth bar cookie, this could easily become a favorite go-to recipe!


Here’s my simple update to a timeless classic favorite!

1 c butter, softened to room temp

¾ c monkfruit or other granulated sweetener

¾ c coconut sugar or other brown sugar

2 lg or x-lg eggs

½ c molasses

1 tsp baking soda

¼ c warm water

3½ c almond flour

1 tsp each: cinnamon, ginger & salt

½ tsp each: nutmeg & ground cloves

2 ½ c raisins, covered with cold water & boiled 15 minutes; drain & cool

Cream butter and sweeteners together till light and fluffy; then add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each. Stir in remaining ingredients and spread in well-buttered 13×9” baking pan.  Bake 25-30 min at 350º F.  Let cool on wire rack before cutting in squares or bars.

KISS Notes:  Add ½ c of chopped nuts, if you like. You can also replace all or part of the raisins with other dried fruit, such as cranberries, apricots, or cherries. These also freeze very well.


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National Homemade Guacamole Day

Everyone has their favorite guac, and this is your day to enjoy it your way. If you haven’t made it at home, give it a go!

Super Simple Guacamole

Guacamole is so easy and fast to prepare you’ll find yourself making it often.  Adjust hot pepper sauce, onion, and garlic amounts to suit your preferences. 

4 ripe Haas avocados, halved, pits removed; flesh scooped into large bowl
¼ c freshly squeezed lime juice (and more for the surface)
0-8 dashes hot pepper sauce (to suit your taste)
½ c finely diced sweet onion (or ¼ c red onion)
½ – 1 tsp finely minced garlic

¼ tsp ground cumin (optional)
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 medium plum tomato, seeded, finely diced

Use a sharp knife to coarsely dice avocado flesh.  Stir in remaining ingredients, which will partially mash avocado to your desired chunkiness.  Spoon into serving bowl & liberally spritz surface with additional fresh lime juice to delay or prevent oxidation browning.  Then loosely top with plastic wrap, pressing down with your fingertips to remove any air pockets between guacamole and plastic wrap.  Refrigerate till serving time. To serve, remove plastic wrap & stir guacamole.  Serve with crispy bacon, raw veggies, and/or warmed corn tortilla chips.

Or try adding a fresh spin, such as Lobster Guacamole, by adding half a pound of coarsely chopped lobster meat. Or go for Fruity Guacamole, by adding diced mango or papaya or even fresh berries. Another favorite of mine is Bacomole. You guessed it, added 8 crumbled slices of crisply cooked bacon. (This also makes an awesome deviled egg filling; simply add the mashed yolks to your guac.)

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I pause from my typical postings on this day for a brief look at Life as it has been affecting me over the past couple of months. Life. We are not in charge.


Yesterday, we attended two precious gatherings of people. Interestingly, speakers at both said, “We are gathered here today for a celebration of Life.”

Sadly, one gathering was to honor a life that passed far too young. The other was celebrating two merging lives beginning a new phase of their time together.

Ron Morton left us at just 47 years of age. The decorated, special operations U.S. Navy veteran lived his life fully, if not overflowingly. A genuine person, a dependable and devoted friend, and the proud father of Kaden, he had spent many hours in our home.


With my hubby being Ron Martin, whenever they were together, we called them Ron Squared. Ron Morton will be forever missed, and never forgotten.




A Facebook posting of his from nearly one year ago served up a memorable slice of his philosophy. “Life is a puzzle. Solve it with the right pieces.”






From the military honors and service at Brookwood Park in Landrum, SC we then drove to Saluda, NC. A wedding had been meticulously planned deep in the gorge, along the banks of the Green River.



Guests were welcomed with hot cider, popcorn, and donuts prior to the ceremony.

Misty Proctor and Brian Davis hosted a full array of friends and family at a unifying celebration of their love.






The groom glowed, and the bride was radiant. The famed river provided a rousing backdrop for the event’s autumnal color scheme.


The reception that followed flowed with their creativity and passion, from the do-it-yourself caramel apple station and Cuban food truck catering to the West End String Band and the kayak paddle bridal couple welcome.

Conflicting emotions filled our hearts yesterday. Loss and love. But that has been a theme for the past two months.

We had suddenly lost a dear friend, Tom Kraemer, in Marco Island, FL earlier this Fall. Ron always had the knack for making The Chief smile! But just 3 days before Hurricane Ian slammed into southwest Florida, I got the hauntingly painful, middle-of-the-night text from his wife, Rose.


We love her to the moon and back, and his sudden loss smashed all sensibilities and left her in shock. Not that she could mourn in peace, because the category 4 hurricane was about to add more distress. Finally, when the church reopened, and she could hold a memorial service, Ron and I ended up communing in spirit, rather than in person. Due to so much hurricane-related property loss, there were no flights, no rental cars, and no hotel rooms. We wanted to drive the 13 hours, but we would have to drive straight back as we were departing the next day for our long-awaited (and already twice canceled) trip to Hawaii.

Talk about conflicted. Life does this to us. Celebrate while we can.

These celebrations of life hardly stop there. This Fall served up many blessings in the form of healthy, new babies, too. We have felt so richly blessed by the birth of our second grandbaby, Ayla on October 18. Adam and Caiti’s growing family reminds us that the circle of life is real, worthy, and beautiful.





We should and do celebrate lives just starting, lives joining in love, and lives lived.




Life is fragile. Lives are fragile. Celebrating Life continually reminds us to value and cherish each moment, even when it feels far too fast and fleeting. Go with the goal… face Life fearlessly!


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National Happy Hour Day

Before we can enjoy Happy Hour, we must dance our way through several other hours first. Let me begin with a little Big Island info.



Of the 13 distinct climates found on Earth, 11 are right here on the Big Island. No arctic glaciers nor desert sand dunes exist here, but you could ski in the morning and sit under a tropical palm tree on the beach in the afternoon. The population has grown from 185,000 to 200,000 since the Covid pandemic. That also drove home prices crazy, just as it did elsewhere. On the rainy side of the Big Island, the median home price in Hilo of $375K jumped to 600K. In Kona, a small home now runs between $800K and one million dollars. Eek.

Our second day on the Big Island was spent in Kona, on the west side of the island. We had a Zodiac Boat adventure. This was a rollicking excursion. Our inflatable Zodiac could handle 17 guests, but we had just 7. Perfect!

We cruised the Kona coastline for 17 miles to our snorkel site… a “no fishing” bay filled with superb coral and massive schools of colorful fish!!! It is amazing when Yellow Tangs, for example, are schooled together in such numbers that they boldly color the water… yellow in this case.

On the shore stands a statue in tribute to Captain Cook. This is the site where he had come ashore and initially thought to be a god. This is also where he died as the people no longer viewed him as a god. Further, and there are conflicting stories on this, he got upset about the people borrowing the long boat they had given to him. When he challenged them, they killed him. Or it is said that when he challenged them in his conversation with the King or Chief, Cook touched his arm, which is forbidden, so they killed him… OR stabbed him… or not…. He may have tried to swim back to his ship, but since he could not swim, he drowned. Regardless, they burned the flesh from his bones in the honoring method used for chiefs and kings… and then buried his bones in a secret place.

(This was the standard method for high-ranking leaders, so that no one could steal the powers of his spirit.) The secret places were always lava tubes in steep walls along the coastline.


In addition to learning culture, history, and lore, we also enjoyed Parrot Cove, where dozens of green parrots now nest on the steep walls.

No mongoose can attack their nests and eggs here, so it is wise. The mongoose was brought to the Hawaiian Islands to rid them of rats. However, since mongoose like daylight, and rats are creatures of the night, all they got was more trouble. The mongoose love to dine on bird eggs, which is leading various species down the path to extinction. Fortunately for the island of Kauai, a mongoose bit the handler when he was bringing the crate from the boat. He was ticked off and threw the crate of mongoose into the ocean, drowning them all. Inadvertently, he thus protected the birds on that island.

We learned that only two mammals are “endemic” to Hawaii, thus found nowhere else. Monk seals and teeny tiny bats, barely the size of mice. However, these bats do not like the many captivating caves along this ragged coastline. Because bats are blind, they rely on sound to fly. They do not like the caves on the Big Island because lava has no echo!


Other caves and bays are known for where manna rays feed at night to where bones of ancient kings were buried. Every turn was eye-opening.

We were also blessed by large pods of dolphins.



Then it was time for Happy Hour, so should we return to our ship? Later.



Instead, we hung loose with the locals. This included a splendid little gang of geckos.




Yes, they like a maraschino cherry with their piña colada… or just the cherry.



What fun we had at Da Shark Shack. I mean, it was “Sharktober,” after all, and even sharks are protected here.


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National Sundae Day

Sundae makes Fun Day on each and every day you choose. But must “I scream; you scream; we all scream for ice cream” necessitate traditional ice cream in that sundae? I used to think so. But now I’ve been introduced to Hawaiian shave ice, and just wait until you have it as a sundae!!!


Trust me when I say that shave ice is NOTHING like a snow cone. The more familiar icy mainland treat could never work as a sundae. It truly is just finely crushed ice in a paper cone into which a fun, but “fakey”-flavored syrup is poured. No snow cone can hold a candle to even a commercial Hawaiian shave ice. If you’ve been to Hawaii and indulged in the classic frozen treat, you know exactly what I mean.

Shave ice is such a thinly shaved ice that the powder-like texture truly feels like fresh snow. (Only those of us who’ve lived in snow belts know the plainly naturally fun of munching on freshly fallen snow.) Like snow, the fine shavings also more readily “absorb” the flavored syrups. If the differences stopped there, it would be enough. But NOOOOO!

The best Hawaiian have ice vendors now pride themselves on their made-in-house syrups, many adding no artificial sweeteners, flavors, nor colors. The quintessential first-timer’s shave ice experience features a rainbow of colors and flavors in a nicely mounded bowl. Two of the standards in the rainbow will be strawberry and banana, and not just food coloring and sugar. Further, most shops offer between two and four dozen single flavors. These do not mean just the familiar cherry, grape, lemon-lime, and blue raspberry sugar syrups either. (You know, our traditionally beloved snow cone “flavors.”)

Think “snow cones gone gourmet!” Flavors go wild in Hawaii, AND they are for real! Pineapple. Mango. Li hing (sweet & sour, plus salty). Strawberry. Banana. Mango. Guava. Almond. Root beer. Chocolate. Papaya. Peach. Green tea. Dragon fruit. Passion fruit. Catamansi (a sassy citrus fruit, native to the Phillipines). Plus, they serve endless combinations, both classics of their own and whatever else the customers want!

But we need not just enjoy our Hawaiian shave ice as it is. They traditionally top these delicious, snowy sundaes with a drizzle of something sweet. At commercial shops, it’s apt to be a bit of sweetened condensed milk, which makes the shave ice a Kakingori. At the shops and trucks that feature Hawaiian-grown or Hawaii-made ingredients, you may find a topping to be a “honey-thick” passion fruit cream called liliko.

Now, in light of this being National Sundae Day, let me take you to the true “Aloha in a Bowl.” THIS is how Hawaiian locals do shave ice.

You first scoop locally made vanilla, macadamia nut, or coconut ice cream into your bowl. Pile the shave ice on top. Then a favorite house-made syrup is generously poured over the ice, followed by a drizzle of Haupia. (This is basically a cream pudding made from freshly grated coconut, cornstarch, sugar, and water.) You can even dash fun bits on top… from chunks of fruit, like papaya or kiwi, or a sprinkle of fresh or roasted coconut flakes.


One that I especially “wild,” because it stood out as a total news flash to me is called “Li hing,” which I mentioned earlier. This is a red powder made from ground plum skin, combined with licorice, red food coloring, and salt. While a taste for Li hing is an acquired one, I am told it’s a special treat.

We first learned about it in Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Since the early plantation days in Hawaii and the powerful influence of early Portuguese ranchers throughout Hawaii, Portuguese sausage has remained extremely common and popular. The same goes for malasada. In 1952, Leonard’s Bakery in Honolulu became the first bakery to make the Portuguese donuts, and the shop still gets lines of daily customers! These delightful dough balls are deep-fried and then rolled in sugars of many colors. The best ones are also filled with coconut cream. AND you can sometimes find them sprinkled with red powder. Yup! Li thing.

Whether you opt for that on your donut or sundae is purely personal. Li hing is not used on most servings. Then again, neither is seaweed, but you can get it on your shave ice in certain places. What!!!???!

Many popular combinations are featured in Hawaiian shave ice. Sir Ronald and I kept it very simple with just strawberry added to piña colada, atop macadamia ice cream. But other combos called out gleefully. Consider Almond Joy, with its coconut ice cream topped with shave ice, coconut milk, chocolate sauce, roasted coconut flakes and crushed almonds. Perhaps Dragon’s Blood is more to your taste with shave ice piled atop macadamia nut ice cream, followed by dragon fruit, pineapple juice, a drizzle of organic honey and a fresh fruit garnish. Or go for Kauai Coffee. Yup, move over Kona as Kauai takes over! This gem for coffee aficionados features your choice of vanilla, macadamia nut, or coconut ice cream, shave ice mounded on top, followed by coffee cold brew, then a chocolate-coconut cream, sprinkled with chocolate cookie crumbles.

OMG! True Hawaiian shave ice will scintillate your senses! The Hawaiian expression for awesome exceptional flavor, “broke da mouth” definitely applies here.

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The Big Island

Being greeted by a rainbow as we cruised into the harbor, we knew we were in for a great day. And a wonderful new adventure!

The Big Island is home to Kilauea, the world’s most active volcano. Simply having to go there, we began our adventure in nearby Hilo. Visitors only come here to see the volcanoes, and for pretty good reason. Hilo gets 12 feet of rain per year. Yikes!

It’s also known as the Tsunami capital of the world, with the last 3 major ones claiming lives and wiping out much of Hilo in 1946, 1960, and 1975. No wonder there are just 3 hotels in this quaint little city. And where buildings formerly stood near the water’s edge, are now a great many beautiful parks.

Babe Ruth Banyan Tr

Babe Ruth Banyan Tree



It was suggested that Banyan trees could withstand tsunamis. Thanks to a “celebrity” program, Banyan trees began to be planted in what became known as Banyan Drive. From Presidents Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon to Amelia Earhart, Cecile B. DeMille, Arthur Godfrey, Louis Armstrong, Babe Ruth, and more, Hilo’s Walk of Fame grew and still flourishes with more than 50 trees.


Ohi’a lehua Blossom


Thanks to Kilauea, many other endemic- to-Hawaii plants and trees flourish on this island. One of those is perhaps Hawaiʻi’s most iconic tree, the “ohi’a lehua.” Found only in the Hawaiian Islands, they are noted for their gorgeous, fluffy flowers. We were fortunate to still find some still clinging to fiery red puffs! I can only imagine how it looks when the entire tree is covered with these flowers.

Also, while driving to Volcanoes National Park, I learned a lot about volcanoes. Plates in the earth’s surface are constantly moving, but the “hot spots” underneath them remain, erupting in volcanoes, such as the 137 Hawaiian Islands (many of which are now underwater) that cover 2,000 miles, stretching all the way to Midway. Geologists tell us that the Hawaiian Islands are moving west, away from the hotpot, at a rate of 4” per year. This decreases the likelihood of lava flows in most of the islands. Also, in theory, this means the Hawaiian Islands will reach Japan in some 6,000 years.

With the time it takes for volcanoes on the ocean’s floor to form new land, and with the fact that the earth’s plates are still moving, the islands’ ages differ. The eldest are the furthest west. Thus, Kaua’i is the oldest Hawaiian island at 5 million years old, followed by Oahu, which is between 3- and 4 million years old, then Moloki at 2 million, Maui at 1 million, and finally the youngest, which is The Big Island. At a mere 750,000 years old, The Big Island is still forming thanks to Kilauea. This pewing volcano has been erupting continuously since January 3, 1983.

Currently, its crater measures 93 x 76 miles. I say “currently” with all deliberateness. Kilauea has added 200 million more acres off the national park as it has flowed into the ocean just since its last major eruption on September 29, 2021. Seriously, in barely 13 months. Prior to that, the primary crater was 400’ across and 200’ deep. It is now 4 times wider and 1600 feet deep.

Looking into the crater in daylight, the lava’s red color is masked by the thin black crust that forms on top. At night, however, the lava glows strongly through all the cracks and vents.


The famed Thurston Lava Tube is no longer accessible for tour busses because of the many sinkholes under the roads after so much lava flowed. Oh, a “lava tube” is formed by flowing lava. The fiery red part cools and turns black on the outside rather swiftly, but the hot lava continues its flow toward the sea inside. Once that eruption ceases, the outer black layer hardens into lava rock, leaving the path the lava followed empty. These lava tubes can be as small as a foot in diameter or so large that humans can easily walk inside. And they can continue for many miles.

Since the last violent eruption, Kilauea’s lava lake is filling the crater once again. In just over 1 year 29.2 BILLION gallons of lava have been added to the lake. And between September 5 and October 26, 2022… just 21 days… 2.9 BILLION gallons have been added, raising the lava lake by 496 feet.

“Fascinating” is how I describe standing on ground that we know will be gone with the next earthquake on the Big Island. So many fissures in the land are visible, it was rather disconcerting.


Steam constantly escapes through vents in the earth and lava rock for miles around. Seeing them and feeling their intense heat felt surreal.


And we could see burnt remains of a few structures around the crater’s edge.


While Kilauea is still erupting, it is not the world’s largest volcano. That honor belongs to another volcano, also on the Big Island, which remains at an elevated threat level to erupt again. While Mauna Loa is Earth’s largest volcano, Mars can boast of having the largest one in the solar system. Scientists say it’s the size of New Mexico.

Yes, indeed… Hawaii has a whole lot more than great beaches happening!

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Sunrise on Haleakala

Haleakala is a rare and sacred place with an abundance of stories from both ancient and modern Hawaiian times. The seemingly barren volcanic landscape delivers a stark contrast to the sub-tropical rain forest just below the massive crater, which measures 7 miles long, 2 miles wide, and 2600 feet deep.

At 2:30am, the alarm rang for our sunrise excursion to Haleakala. Our driver, Preston, has been driving this long switchback route up and down the mountain for a decade, and he was wonderful.

We knew that at 10,000 feet above sea level the temperatures would feel far less than tropical. But WOW! Cold wind! 40 degrees. Not that we would have wanted to pack heavy winter coats, hats, scarves, and gloves, but we sure could have used them. Haleakala National Park temperatures tend to be 30-50°F with 10-40 mph winds. Naturally, it is coldest in the morning and overnight, AND it can be much colder… even icy. Weather was on our side, but we saw a picture of how the clouds at crater level turn into columns of ice crystals in winter.



We had a long wait for the highly worthwhile victory of the gloriously famous sunrise here. This is why there is always a crowd to await the sunrise here. Park rangers and other locals immediately broke into song as soon as the sun had risen. They do this every single morning! I found it a most appropriate way to celebrate dawn on the mountain whose name means “house of the sun.”


There was no road up Haleakala until the early 1930’s. And yet, Haleakala has been a visitor attraction since the late 1800’s, when Samuel Clemens wrote, “It was the sublimest spectacle I ever witnessed. And I think the meaning of it will remain with me always.”

That is true for me, too. Witnessing sunrise on Haleakala is one of those magical moments we wouldn’t even know should be on our bucket list.

Haleakala on the island of Maui in Hawaii is the world’s 3rd highest peak in the most remotely isolated land mass. Maui was actually formed out of 2 volcanoes, rising from the ocean’s floor. Haleakala forms more than 75% of the Hawaiian Island of Maui. (The rest is formed by another volcano, Mauna Kahalawai. After enough eruptions, she finally rose above sea level.

Check how big Haleakala is from base to summit. Though erosion has chopped off 2,000 feet, Haleakala still stands at 29,704 feet from base to summit. Yup. That’s BIG. She stands taller than Mount Kilimanjaro (19,341’), Mount McKinley (20,320’), and even Mount Everest (29,029’).

Atop Haleakala you will find “Science City.” There are several observatories and powerful telescopes.


Even more interesting are some of the species endemic to Hawaii, meaning they are not only native, but they grow nowhere else on earth. One example is the Haleakala Silversword. Its Hawaiian name is ‘ahinahina (which is pronounced like ah-HEE-nah-HEE-nah. This literally translates to “white white,” as the Hawaiian language has no single word for “silver.” This plant grows at 7,500 feet up the mountain and only blooms once per year. They have a soft, hairy feel to them, like the spot just above a cat’s nose. My picture lacks the blossom, as they are done blooming by fall.

Fortunately, our driver, Preston shared his photo with us, and I now share it with you. The base is only knee-high, but with the blossoms, the plant can grow to 8 feet tall. Crazy! Stunning to see the fascinating species that survive and thrive here.


Another favorite, though hardly endemic to Hawaii, is a partridge-like bird we saw scurrying all about our vehicles and the edges of the crater. We learned it is the Chukar partridge, native to Eurasia. The upland game bird is from the pheasant family. So, go Hawaiian and have a Chukar in your pear tree for the 12 days of Christmas.

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Election Day


“It’s time for greatness — not for greed. It’s a time for idealism — not ideology. It is a time not just for compassionate words, but compassionate action.”

— Marian Wright Edelman (1939 –  )

Founder, Children’s Defense Fund

Whether you feel tired of all the political divisiveness or not… whether you’ve grown weary of cancel cultures or not… whether your passions rest with the economy, the Constitution, healthcare, the environment, human rights, social liberties, or anywhere else, today is the day where all US citizens have both the right to vote and obligation to exercise that right. Vote because each vote matters. Vote because there are many millions around the world who do not get the right to freely vote. Vote because we can.

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Here Today… Gone to Maui

On our cruise, we got to enjoy 2 days docked at the Kahului Port on the island of Maui, known as The Valley Island. Cruising into the harbor, I could easily see how the warm moisture from the Pacific Ocean is captured on the windward side of the island by the giant volcanic mountains. Thus, a lovely tropical rain shower is likely in some places, while the other side of that mountain stays dry.

I also find great interest in learning about cultures, whether in our own nation or traveling abroad. For example, while the battles of the ancient Hawaiian kings are legendary, each of the ruling chiefs of the islands of Hawai’i promoted peace and prosperity through unity. Once recreational grounds for Hawaiian royalty, areas on the island of Maui feature fine beaches, swimming, and snorkeling.

That’s how we spent our first day here. On one of Pacific Whales Eco-Adventures’ 65’ power catamarans out of Ma’alaea Harbor, we cruised 5 miles into the Pacific to Molokini, which is actually a steam release crater. It was formed during eruptions of the now dormant, great Haleakala volcano.

The Molokini Crater is a crescent-shaped islet known for its crystal-clear waters, abundant coral, colorful fish, and resting seabirds, including the Great Frigate, which still appears to be rather prehistoric.  As a protected conservation area, this volcanic crater is only accessible by boat with a certified tour operator.

Molokini Crater is noted as one of the Top 10 snorkeling sites in the world. Many types of colorful fish and lots of bulbous coral live here. The coral is not too colorful, but it’s plentiful and healthy, along with black and red huge sea urchins and a couple of jellyfish.

My favorite fish at Molokini included the black triggerfish (black with a thin turquoise stripe). They are noted as the clean-up crew, munching on all the debris left by other fish. I also loved the royal blue fish which sported bright yellow tails and red fins, both top and bottom.

I learned that the large fish with shimmering aqua back halves and also many green scales with colorful adornments are rainbow fish and terminal red lip parrotfish. Each can produce 1 pound of sand per year!!! (This is from chomping on algae!) So, we can thank these beauties for the sandy beaches.

The Moorish Idols appear as black, white, and yellow angel fish, but the bright Yellow Tangs were even more radiant. We also saw trumpet fish and a yellow fish with black vertical stripes at the face and where the tail meets the body. We learned they are Milletseed Butterfly fish.


En route to our second site on the south side of Maui we first looped around the back side of Molokini. Here you can snorkel or dive along a 300-foot vertical drop straight down the outside wall of the crater. Yikes! As the island is about the size of a large ship, Molokini was used for serious target practice during WWII. The scars of battle still show.

During the Ice Age, the water line was much higher, and those ancient lines are still clear, as well as layers showing the results of various eruptions.  When the Pacific Whale Foundation’s Pac-Eco group takes swimmers here they call it ‘The Wild Side.’

We also saw something that we came to recognize as common in Hawaii…. Rows of windmills, generating electricity. I’ll share more on that in another post.

Our second site featured many caves in the dive area. The topography of this dive site was dramatically different, featuring a mostly sandy bottom into which a large and sudden protrusion of lava appeared, many feet high and filled with large crannies and caves.

And we watched out for sharks. We were there in late October, also dubbed as “Sharktober,” as they see so many sharks. Of the 40 shark species found around Hawaii, only about 10 are seen close to shore… including the hammerheads, various reef sharks, and tiger sharks. Great white sharks tend to only be seen between January and April when water temperatures drop below 75°F. We learned that when sharks die, their teeth become fossilized and turn black. If you buy white shark teeth, the shark was killed to get them. Eeek. Regardless, we were pleased to learn about sharks but not see any!

We did get to see the green sea turtles. We learned we must stay 10-15’ away from them as they are near-sighted, might not see us, and could accidentally bump into us. These sea turtles are important in Hawaiian culture, as many believe they are ancient ancestors.


I also got “the sighting of the day,” as I spied the pod of spotted dolphins swimming toward our boat. Local law prohibits the tours from letting us get into the water with dolphins, but these dolphins came to us, and a few folks were still in the water.


Back in the port harbor of Kahului we saw a hydrofoil windsurfer. Yup, he “blew” past fellow windsurfers. We enjoyed a grand day that was barely the beginning of our Hawaiian Island adventures!

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National Nachos Day

I love nachos of all sorts. A marvelous Mexican chef and restauranteur taught me to make them with a single layer of chips, individually adorned with cheese, sauce, and any other finely diced toppings you need. That is still my favorite preparation.

Naturally, traveling in Hawaii means trying Hawaiian nachos, which are made with Hawaiian pulled pork. Polynesians were not the only people to settle in the Hawaiian Islands. They were joined by numerous Europeans, along with ranchers from South and Central America.

Pork in any form is by far the most popular protein in Hawaii. It was first brought to the islands by ancient Polynesians.  True Hawaiian Kalua Pork is smoky, tender, flavorful, and juicy (never dry). Traditionally, it is served with cabbage, Hawaiian macaroni salad, and rice.

As your friendly, traveling foodies were walking down Waikiki Beach, we stopped at a beach bar. Go figure! Sir Ronald had the Hawaiian Pork Tacos, filled with their traditional smoky pulled pork, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, sriracha cream, and some fresh pineapple on the side. I chose Hawaiian Pork Nachos… with nacho cheese, the same seasoned juicy pulled pork, fresh pineapple-pepper salsa, sriracha cream, and sliced jalapeño peppers on the side.  Yummy!!!

Then we spent time at the pool. Needed to rest… I mean, work those calories off. Hah!

So, you’d like to make Hawaiian pulled pork at home. It’s easy, freezes well, and makes a yummy variation to our traditional mainland or southern pulled pork.

Smoky Hawaiian Pulled Pork

Hawaiian pulled pork is smoky, sweet, and tangy. Try it on rice or nachos, in tacos, sandwiches, or lettuce cups. We can dig a backyard hole to make this in a traditional underground Hawaiian oven… an imu, making this Kalua Pig. The smoky flavor is aided by the pig being seasoned with Hawaiian red sea salt and wrapped in ti or banana leaves and cooked over wood. Having no imu nor such leaves, we can Super Simplify it with liquid smoke or smoky paprika.

3 – 3½ lbs pork butt or boneless pork shoulder, sliced 2-3″ thick

1 T Hawaiian red sea salt

3 T olive oil, or as needed

1 lg sweet onion, chopped

1½ c chicken or turkey stock

1 c pineapple juice

½ c tamari or soy sauce

3 T sweet Thai chili sauce

2 T each: minced ginger and brown sugar (or golden monk fruit)

1 T each: minced garlic and smoked paprika (not sweet or hot) (or 2 tsp liquid smoke)

2 T cornstarch whisked with 1 T cold water (optional)

Rub all sides of the pork with Hawaiian sea salt and quickly sear in batches in olive oil in a skillet over med-high heat just till lightly browned. Transfer meat to slow cooker on high heat setting. Combine onion, stock, pineapple juice, tamari, chili sauce, ginger, brown sugar, garlic, and smoked paprika. Stir into the pork. Cover and reduce heat to low. Let cook for 8 hours. Then remove meat to heavy flat baking dish with sides (to catch liquid). Shred using 2 forks. Stir in as much of the cooking liquid as desired (after stirring in the cornstarch slurry, if you prefer the liquid thicker).

KISS Tips: This reheats beautifully, and the flavors improve. If using sweet or Hungarian paprika, add 1 tsp liquid smoke for the traditional smoky flavor. Keep some fat on the pork butt for flavor and moisture. Make this in an Instant Pot-type cooker to reduce cooking time to 30 min. To truly make this more traditionally in the slow cooker, simply cover the seasoned meat with water in which you have added 1 T liquid smoke, rather than adding all the other seasonings.

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Yes! Oahu Is Correct!

Sean O’Kane got it right! He recognized the classic spot on the North Shore near the Polynesian Cultural Center.

Ron and I spent just a couple of days on Oahu, before boarding a cruise ship. We stayed 3 nights on Waikiki Beach.






We wanted to visit Pearl Harbor and the USS Arizona Memorial, which we found to be extraordinarily moving. When the Japanese bombed Battleship Row and the airfield on December 7, 1941, they launched the United States into World War II. 1,177 sailors and Marines were killed on the USS Arizona alone, and the ship still lies on the bottom of Pearl Harbor and is the final resting place for more than 1,100 of those killed that day… and a number of survivors who later chose to have their ashes interred with their fallen shipmates.

People often toss fresh flowers into the water as a tribute. Now and then a few drops of oil still escape from the sunken wreckage, rise to the surface, and then spread upon the water till gone. We got to witness this.


Then we visited the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. The grounds are beautiful and meticulously maintained. Over 60,000 military service personnel are buried here.

Stunning views overlook Honolulu and the famed Diamond Head dormant volcanic crater.


(PS… Honolulu only looks good from a distance.)

On our second day, Ron and I drove around Oahu, starting by heading east around Diamond Head. We drove through huge volcanic lava-formed mountains and oceanside cliffs.

Yes, the waters truly glow in turquoise blue, although my phone camera often failed to capture it well.

Windshield Time… Oahu style!

Looks rather “Jurassic Park,” I know. But just wait until we get to the actual island where they were all filmed. THAT is amazing!!!

As we reached the north shore, we saw fields of huge windmills, capturing the trade winds to generate electricity. (Despite the many solar paneled buildings and solar panel farms and windmills, Hawaii has the dramatically highest electricity costs of anywhere in the USA.) Seeing the giant fields and rows of windmills looked very Stephen King’s “Langeliers.”


Though this is not the time of the famed high surf at Pipeline and Waimea Bay, we got to go there.


Being there was important for my former Surfer Dude, shown in a photo with Waikiki’s 9-foot bronze statue of Duke Paoa Kahanamoku, the Father of International Surfing.


“Dangerous Surf Break” and “No Swimming” signs abounded. Waves were only 5-6 feet high, but they were higher on the outer edges, which are packed with rocks. These were NOT the huge 30-50’ surf that happens in January.


Naturally, we enjoyed wonderful food… like fresh pasta at the outdoor Arancino di Mare Italian Restaurant.



We dined there with our friends, Ken and Priscilla Rondeau, who were also cruising the Hawaiian Islands with us. I loved the tagliatelle with Italian prosciutto and mixed mushrooms with alfredo sauce. Oh, yes!!!!

Your poolside chair overlooking Waikiki Beach awaits.

A new favorite of mine came with each morning’s breakfast. In addition to my fresh fruit, crème brûlée, and sticky bun, I loved fresh salad greens with papaya dressing. When in Hawaii… enjoy!


Papaya Dressing

This is refreshingly delightful drizzled over spring greens or baby spinach!


½ c white balsamic vinegar

1/3 c honey

2 tsp Dijon mustard (or ½ tsp dry mustard, not hot)

½ -1 tsp freshly grated ginger

¼ tsp kosher salt

¾ c virgin olive oil

½ c fresh papaya, cubed

3 T papaya seeds & pulp

¼ c minced sweet onion (or shallot)


Combine vinegar, honey, mustard, ginger, and salt in blender. With blades turning, then slowly drizzle in olive oil until the dressing is emulsified. Add papaya, seeds & pulp, and onion, pulsing till seeds are chopped. Refrigerate in a sealed container for up to 2 weeks.

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Guess Where We Are!

Yes, it’s an island… a very specific island. Can you name it? (Only true guesses, please. Just email, text, or private message to me if you know because Sir Ronald or I shared the info.) Think now… the visual and video hints will make you say, “Of course!”

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National Sandwich Day

Most historians agree that the sandwich was “invented” by John Montagu, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, and thus, the name. It is noted that the “problem gambler” did not like leaving his card game for any reason. He asked that his serving of roast beef be placed between two slices of bread so he could eat with his hands. Yup… that simple.

Meats and cheeses, veggies and spreads… all sorts of delicious flavor and texture combinations now go between bread slices or in bread pockets or in wraps or various kinds. They may be hot or cold, room temperature or even frozen (if ice cream-filled). Enclose them or enjoy them open-faced, sandwiches are total winners.

When I go out for a sandwich, there is little that tops the Copper Door’s Rustic Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato-Basil Soup. Yup… I feel like a kid again. But cut up the sandwich into smaller triangles (3 per half) and enjoy an adult beverage while you decadently dunk the sandwich bites in the soup, as if it were a dip.

Copper Door is part of a New Hampshire-based restaurant group. If it’s not a place you can get to, I understand. Make your very best creamy/semi-chunky tomato-basil soup and serve with gloriously grilled sandwiches with thick slices of bread and gobs of fabulous, melty cheese, all grilled to crispy perfection!

The Earl had it right. Meal complete.

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“Destiny of Determination” Launch Day

Book 2 in my Destiny trilogy officially becomes available today! While both sweet and heart-wrenching, this story is also 100% true.

Mom’s friends have been so excited because they know that as this story of her family progresses, this is where she will come into the picture. Yes, indeed. (I do live to not disappoint.)

Now, I am already getting hounded by advance readers who are anxious for Book 3. That will happen, but not until late Summer.  Meanwhile, I look forward to hearing what readers think! Does the story touch you? Inspire you? Bring a smile to your face or a tear to your eye?

If you read it, I would love to hear your thoughts. Please feel free to post comments on Amazon, GoodReads, Barnes & Noble, or anywhere else you check for books. I thank you for all the encouraging support as I move through this process.

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National Fun with Fondue Month

Fondue adds fun to any entertainment plan. It’s versatile and very easy. Anything you like can serve as “dippers.” Try crackers and breads, or meats, seafood, vegetables and fruits. To show you how simple it really is, here’s is an early recipe creation showing my emerging Keep It Super Simple thinking back in the early 1970’s.

Fondue was very “in,” and this recipe was very easy.  Both fondue and simplicity are back in vogue, so this vintage recipe, originally created by my KISS Kitchen, is perfect.

1970’s Cheese Fondue

1 can cheddar cheese soup

1 single serving can (6-oz) tomato juice

1 envelope dried onion soup mix

2 c shredded Swiss cheese

1 c shredded Cheddar cheese (mild or sharp)

1 c shredded Monterey Jack cheese

Heat and stir together all the ingredients until melted, thick, and stringy. Serve and keep warm in a fondue pot with large cubes of crusty French bread, whole mushroom caps, fresh broccoli florets, sweet red pepper sticks, and wedges of Granny Smith apples.

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Happy Halloween!

With Halloween falling on a Monday this year, a great many parties and celebrations happened Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday! For those who cherish this holiday… like a few special friends of mine… nothing could be more perfect.

Some embrace the holiday’s origins, others celebrate with Trick or Treating, and still others choose to ignore the holiday altogether. Do what works for you.

Historic records show that Halloween’s roots live in the ancient Celtic festival of Samhain. This was a pagan religious celebration to welcome the end-of-summer harvest. Costumes were donned as people danced around bonfires to ward off ghosts and evil spirits.

By the 8th century, Pope Gregory III designated November 1st as the time to honor all saints. All Saints Day came to incorporate some of the old Samhain festival traditions. Thus, the night before All Saints Day became known as All Hallows Eve, leading to today’s Halloween.

My family has always enjoyed the fun of Halloween. Mom baked fresh gingerbread boys, and we decorated them with raisins, sliced maraschino cherries, gumdrops, and M&Ms.

Decades later, another generation of trick-or-treaters was finding their way back to the home that I then owned, causing me to bake over 200 gingerbread boys (& girls) each year. Oh, yes… I always put out a big bowl of individually wrapped candy bars, too. Many little ghosts and goblins had properly been instructed by their parents to not collect home-baked items. But many more were being driven there by their parents precisely to score one of those freshly baked gems.

Thanks, Mom! Thanks for teaching me to cook, bake, and celebrate all that is wonderful around us. Especially I thank you for teaching me to appreciate all our similarities and differences. We are so blessed that your love and fun sense still sparkle today. I simply love how you now have a chef and a team of decorating ladies cooking up more than 1,000 gingerbreads every season at your independent living apartments. Bravo!

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National Candy Corn Day

This is officially the day to celebrate America’s favorite “vegetable.” Candy corn was yellow, orange, and white to represent the bright colors of corn kernels. Talk about sweeeeet! If you are a fan, you most assuredly have a sweet tooth. George Renninger of the Wunderle Candy Company is said to have created candy corn in the late 1800’s.

We can be certain that today’s candy corn is made in bulk by machines. Back in the 1800’s, the hand-made confection was made from corn syrup, sugar, water, marshmallows, fondant, and carnauba wax (made from the leaves of a palm tree).

Nothing healthy allowed in there. But, if this is your “thing,” take a day off from healthy eating and have some candy corn. (Don’t tell your dentist.)

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Good Habits Take Practice

“Moral excellence comes about as a result of habit. We become just by doing just acts, temperate by doing temperate acts, brave by doing brave acts.”

— Aristotle (384 – 322 BC)

Greek philosopher

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“If we cannot live so as to be happy, let us at least live so as to deserve it.”

— Henry David Thoreau (1817 – 1862)

American naturalist, poet, and philosopher

As written in his Journal on January 21, 1838

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National Popcorn Poppin’ Month

My folks used to say that I could live on hot dogs and popcorn. They were probably right.

When I smell popcorn popping, I feel as though I could literally float in its direction, lilting across the space on the deliciousness that is filling the air. I remember Dad popping corn in a square metal box on a long handle… as we’d sit around a bonfire anxiously awaiting our turn to grab a big handful when it got passed around.

Even today, the moment that hubby asks, “Would you like to watch a movie?” I am instantly in the kitchen starting to pop corn and melt butter.

For this salty girl, very little is more satisfying… right down to the very last tiny bit at the bottom of the bowl.

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Just ONE Week to Go!!!

Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family gets released in digital and paperback formats in just one week! This is a very personal story for me, as it continues telling the Armenian side of my family’s story. No worries if you have not read Book 1 in the Destiny trilogy. While Destiny of Dreams: Time Is Dear delivers some powerful background information as to how and why the family was fleeing from Armenia, Book 2 stands nicely on its own.

That said, I am honored to share some of the advance review comments. (I won’t bore you with the full reviews. Later I will likely post those on my website for those true devotees.)

But, as a dedicated theatre actress, I nervously await reviews. Yes, positive reviews are preferred, but “snarls” are also welcomed… It’s only when “they” STOP talking that we’re in trouble. One of my quips has long been, “Love me or hate me, but you’re gonna know I hit town.”

“Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family”  Early Review Snippets

“This is a brilliant blend of both fiction and nonfiction storytelling. The author did an incredible job of relaying the experiences and powerful memories of her family, showcasing the struggles to make a place for themselves in the United States and the hurdles they had to overcome from a society that judged and looked upon them with suspicion and even at times hatred.

“The themes of immigration, family, and the pursuit of acceptance were felt so powerfully here in this narrative and made the story flow smoothly. The author’s emphasis on character growth and history and culture was brilliant to read.

“Captivating, inspiring, and hopeful, author Cathy Burnham Martin’s Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family is a must-read genre fiction meets biography nonfiction style narrative that you won’t be able to put down.”

— Anthony Avina, author, journalist, blogger

 (On Request Magazine)


“What another incredible story in Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family by Cathy Burnham Martin. Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family is a journey through time and ancestry, as the author shares her family’s memoirs, (and her own), and their love, and strength. The author dedicates this story to her mother, who dedicated her life to her family, faith, friends and community. It’s a very powerful story, and I am so honored to be able to read and share in this family’s memories. Take a step back, enjoy the story, as if the author is telling you her family’s tale. I am a definite fan of this author! Whatever this author writes, I read. This author brings the story to life. It’s one of those embraceable stories. It’s definitely un-put-downable! It is always an honor to read this author’s books. This author is a great storyteller. Masterfully written! This author not only tells the story but shows it with words as well. I will definitely add more of this author’s books to my bookshelf. Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family is a definite recommendation by Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews.”

— Amy’s Bookshelf Reviews


“I did not think this trilogy’s book 2 could possibly top book 1’s tough material, which was intricately woven through a true family story. But I loved it! Martin beautifully puts a face on an often-forgotten slice of the human experience from Armenian immigrants’ perspective. Destiny of Determination is detailed, loving, and inspirational with plot twists that totally caught me off guard!”

— SD Carter, Goodreads & Library Thing


“I never expected this book to be this mind-blowing. I was astonished at how fascinating this book was. Unlike me, I took this book and made sure I finished it without a break. At some point, while reading, I discovered that true love is all about sacrifice. The Hrant story is a typical example. John and Aram defied all odds to make sure Hrant got a good life. I loved the title of this book because it tallied so much with the book’s contents. Life has its bad side. Most of the time, people give up. This book shows the need to always be hopeful and determined. This determination brings us to our dreams. This book has one of the best designs and organization. I loved how the author took the time to make this book so presentable and mind-blowing. The use of pictures and maps proves the authenticity of this book, which is necessary for historical fiction. I commend the author greatly for this amazing work.”

— White Edwin, Online Book Club


Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family is based on true events and is very emotional. The story begins with the present and went back to the beginning when everything started. The pace was fast, and the book was easy to read. I was intrigued from the beginning and could not put it down. I just kept turning the pages to find out what was going to happen. The characters were skillfully handled. I could feel the heartache of what happened and the joy of being together again. The story is exceptionally written, and Martin’s writing skills made me part of their life. At the back are delicious recipes that give a better insight into their culture.”

— Alma Boucher, Readers’ Favorite


Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family is Cathy Burnham Martin’s engrossing true account of her ancestors’ escape from the Armenian genocide and the rebuilding of their lives in America. This multigenerational family saga, told mostly via backstories and history, is full of joy, sorrow, and the miraculous, including a startling miracle at the book’s end.”

— Self-Publishing Review


“From a persecuted and reviled existence in their beloved Armenia, Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family, sees the survival of a fractured family as they struggle to make a new life for themselves in the United States. With a focus on Hrant, the youngest son, this uplifting memoir spans over a Century of love and loss, and of acceptance and discrimination. The family’s inspiring and entrepreneurial journey and their successful integration into the American way of life brings into sharp relief the plight, suffering and inner strength of refugees, along with the challenges a change in cultural surroundings may bring. With touching sensitivity, Cathy Burnham Martin describes their heart-stopping moments of separation, and their tenacity in holding on to their love, as Hrant confronts his family. This beautiful love story binds her story together, as does the family’s heart-warming support of one another. Burnham Martin’s compassionately written account of Hrant, whose early years had been filled with so much hatred, danger and upheaval but could still look at life with genuine hope, and speak in a consistently strong, but gentle voice to end ignorant and chauvinistic attitudes, is an inspirational testimony to the warm and forgiving nature of this gentle and peace-loving race. A thoughtfully written and historically fascinating memoir, it is highly recommended.”

                                                                               — Book Viral Reviews

     “Ancestral stories, as found in the Destiny series, are a brilliant way to honor our heritage while entertaining and educating others. In Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family, the author is meticulous about preserving historical clarity and quality, all while charting the admirable course of Hrant Gulumian and his progeny. Besides the rousing adventures of young Hrant, the author has included several touching family photographs, a character directory, a helpful timetable of relevant events, and a comprehensive list of additional resources to expand our knowledge of Armenian history and culture.

“Throughout all the ups and downs, whether victims of crime, intolerance or persecution, Hrant proves time and again that faith and perseverance are rewarded. A moving reminder of the challenges faced by immigrants of any nation and at any time, Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family is an impassioned continuation in this imitable family’s saga that is sure to touch your heart.”

— Indies Today


“Historical fiction readers who like tales of coming of age, survival, and revised destinies will find Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family a fine second book. While it’s recommended that the first book, Destiny of Dreams, be consulted before this continuing story, this is not required in order for newcomers to become immersed in the events that carry Hrant Gulumian and his family to a new life in America. Cathy Burnham Martin brings the past to life with rich descriptions that both continue her family’s true story and introduce fictional embellishments to capture the action and feelings of her characters.

“The introductory review of primary characters from Book 1 gives newcomers an easy opportunity to slide right into the lives and people in Book 2, while modern experiences contrast with family interactions and past memories through inviting dialogue and interpersonal relationships.

“Set in the 20th century, the events trace the impact and roots of bigotry and prejudice on multiple generations as their lives grow to embrace both family precedent and modern-day challenges. Complete with family recipes and reviews of better days and strong reactions to life’s adversity and promise, readers receive an immigrant experience that captures and contrasts the nature of immigrant family worlds.

“While highly recommended for historical novel readers, Destiny of Determination should also serve, along with its predecessor, as a starting point for book club and family discussions about Armenian history, family relationships, faith, and perseverance against the changing backdrop of American lives, prejudices, and ideals.”

— D. Donovan, Senior Reviewer, Midwest Book Review


Destiny of Determination: Faith and Family by Cathy Burnham Martin tells the moving story of an Armenian family forced to flee their country, amid the Armenian genocide of 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turkish government, to find better lives in the United States. What follows is the unfolding of a family saga as they endure economic woes, with cultural and discrimination challenges in a new country. Destiny of Determination is based on the true story of the author’s Armenian roots, and it should serve as an inspiration to all of us. Driven by faith, determination, and a strong family bond, the Gulumian family withstood all the challenges they had to face. The author carefully chronicles the milestones in the lives of Hrant and Marjorie Gulumian in such a way that it feels like the narrator is directly speaking to the reader, and this makes the book an engaging read. From the horrors of the genocide to the new life in America, tradition clashes with modernity, family values are upheld, and the Gulumian family continues to thrive. Sadly, the theme of the book continues to be relevant today. Highly recommended!”

— Maria Victoria Beltran, Readers’ Favorite


“America was the land of promise for many refugees from the Great War (later known as World War I) and in this case, the Armenian ancestors of author Cathy Burnham Martin. Despite all the tragedy that the Gulumians had faced in Armenia, they hope for new beginnings in America. This book draws attention to an aspect of World War I that is not commonly taught in our history classes. Cathy Burnham Martin has a unique writing style that is easy to follow yet filled with so much emotion.”

— Delene Very, Readers’ Favorite

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National Butter Day


I love butter. No substitutes, please. (In fact, if you read the ingredients on substitutes, you will not likely let them cross the lips of anyone you love.)

Real butter on hot popcorn beats movie theatre “buttery topping” every time. Butter melting into the nooks and crannies of a toasted English muffin makes me smile… just before I take a large, crunching chomp! And when I am even thinking about steamers or chunks of hot lobster or king crab legs, I know I will be dipping them in freshly melted butter… and I do NOT mean clarified butter. I want all the solids and saltiness. (Just go with clarified butter when you need a higher smoke point for some cooking.)

Now, I could go on and on about yummy foods with butter, but I will not torment you any further today. Instead, I will share a recipe that simply sings out for butter. Even as a child, I went wild for fresh, hot popovers, served with plenty of softened, salty butter. So, try these Lemon Popovers if you have a hankering. If you rather have traditional popovers, simply leave out the pecans, zest, lemon juice, and honey from this recipe. My other suggestion is that you plan on only serving 4 or 5 of these, which lets you consume 1 or 2 immediately by yourself. (Just to be certain that they are okay for everyone else, of course.) LOL

Lemon Popovers

Rarely do I state in a recipe to preheat the oven. For popovers, I state it clearly… and with the popover pan in the oven. You will LOVE how this helps popovers rise more fully and get perfectly crisped edges.

2 lg eggs, at room temp

1 c milk

1 c flour

½ tsp salt

6 T finely chopped toasted pecans, divided

2 tsp freshly grated lemon zest

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

8 T butter, softened to room temp

8 T honey

Preheat oven with 6-cup popover pan inside to 450°F. Meanwhile, whisk eggs and milk till well blended. Then whisk in flour and salt just until smooth, but no more than that. Stir in half the pecans, along with the lemon zest and juice. Then spray your hot popover pan with cooking spray right to the tops of the cups. Fill the cups half full with batter & bake 15 minutes. Without opening the oven door, then reduce heat to 350°F. Let bake 10-15 more minutes. Meanwhile, combine the butter, honey, and remaining pecans. When you remove the popover pan from the oven, immediately remove popovers to a wire rack and pierce the side of each one with a sharp knife to let the steam escape. Serve them piping hot with the pecan honey butter. Makes 6.

(Photo by BD McIntosh)

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Sing Your Song!

“I feel like a tiny bird with a big song.”

— Helen Keller (1880 – 1968)

American author & disability rights activist


Whatever your song may be, and however your voice may sound, sing it loud. Let your life take flight!

(Photo by Joshua J. Cotton)

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Our Good Earth

“If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them more than the miracles of technology.  We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it.”

— President Lyndon B. Johnson (1908 – 1973)

36th U.S. President

Upon signing of the Wilderness Act, 1964

(Photo by Hendrik Cornelissen)

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National Nut Day

I am a nut. If we are what we eat, then I am truly nutty. I like them all… pecans, walnuts, cashews, almonds, Brazil nuts, pistachios, pepitas, macadamias, hazelnuts, and even the ones, like peanuts, that aren’t really in the “nut” category.

Nutcracker Museum reports that nuts were a regular part of the human diet from as far back as almost 800,000 years ago. Nuts have a long history. Pecan remains from 6100 BC were found in a cave in Texas. Greeks and Romans touted walnuts as a gift from the gods. Macadamia nuts have long been associated with Hawaii, but they were originally grown in Queensland, Australia and were eventually brought to Hawaii.

Because Mom’s Pink Cake was such a hit on National Angel Food Cake Day, I want to share another of her superb recipes. This gem is from 1985. Mom (Glenna Burnham) repeatedly earned her “Best Cook in Town” reputation.

Glenna Burnham’s Macadamia Nut Cream Pie

Make and bake a 9” or 10” pastry shell with high, fluted edge.


1 T gelatin (1 envelope)

¼ c cold water

½ c sugar (or favorite substitute)

½ tsp salt

1 ¼ c milk

3 slightly beaten egg yolks

1 tsp pure vanilla extract

½ c heavy (whipping) cream

½ c chopped macadamia nuts

3 egg whites

¼ tsp cream of tartar

½ c sugar (or favorite substitute)

Sweetened whipped cream

Macadamia nut shavings (or chopped)

Soften gelatin in the cold water. Meanwhile, mix ½ c sugar, salt & milk in saucepan; cook over low heat, stirring constantly until scalded. Remove from heat. Slowly stir half the mixture into the egg yolks; then blend back into hot mixture in saucepan. Cook over low heat, stirring until it begins to boil. Immediately remove from heat. Stir in softened gelatin. Cool. When mixture is partially set, beat with rotary beater till smooth. Blend in vanilla. Then gently fold in the whipping cream, whipped until stiff, and the ½ c chopped macadamia nuts. Make a meringue of the egg white, cream of tartar, and ½ c sugar. Carefully fold the egg yolk/whipped cream mixture into the meringue. Pile into the cooled baked pie shell. Chill in the refrigerator until set (about 2 hours). Remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before serving time. Top thickly with the sweetened whipped cream and sprinkle macadamia nuts shavings over the top. Serve cold.

(Photo by Whitney Wright)

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