Friday, November 9, 2012

My Dog Has Fleas (GCEA)

ukulele, kona, Hulihue'e Palace, Kona Town, Kahaluu Beach Park, Kona Trolley
You've never truly had the Hawaiian experience until you take a ukulele lesson from Kumu Lale on the grounds of the Hulihue'e Palace on Kona Bay.  This happens every Friday morning from 10 - 12 and all you have to do is just "show up".  Some call her "Kumu" (teacher) and some call her "Auntie", whatever you call her, she is a gracious, patient teacher who enjoys introducing Hawaiian music to anyone willing to learn.

So this is how I've been passing some of my time during the last two weeks - improving my uke skills and basking at the playgrounds of Hawaiian Royalty.

Actually as far as palaces go, Hulihue'e is not terribly grand. But it is a lovely Hawaiian style building fronted by a wrought iron gate decorated with the royal crest. The palace is now a museum showcasing Victorian artifacts from the era of King Kalakaua and Queen Kapi'olani.
It was considered the summer vacation home to the royals.  I don't know why - every place is a vacation palace in the islands.  But there could be some historical significance to the location with Makuaikaua Church (Hawaii's earliest Christian Church built in 1820) directly across the street and Ahuena Heiau (the last royal residence of the great King Kamehameha l) within view.
And King Kamehameha l is a big deal here.  Highly regarded as a warrior, diplomat, and leader, he holds a place of great esteem in every Hawaiian heart, almost to a spiritual level. Legend has it that he was born in 1736, the year Haley's Comet passed over the islands. He is credited with uniting the islands and was the first ruler of this island nation. Ironically he spent his later years at his compound in Kailua-Kona, now the site of the King Kamehameha Beach Hotel, the starting and finishing points for the Ironman World Coampionship Triathlon.
I've spent my entire time here in Kona without a car. This has been a valuable experience for me as I've had to be organized and follow a schedule if I wanted be at my destinations on time.  I have done a lot of walking and I have found that the public transportation, that is, the city bus, is a bit confusing and actually spent several hours on it one afternoon because I missed my stop (actually I got confused).  I hate thinking this, but at times I felt like I was in a third world country riding on that rickety bus. This could be because I usually don't ride city buses (although this bus was different from the ones I've seen in the WV).
Lucky for me, I found another form of transportation which is very reliable, and fun, and stops by my condo complex every two hours, and the driver is always nice to you.  It's a delightful green open-air trolley which is contracted by the Sheraton Resort at the far south end of the Kona coastline and is used to shuttle their guests and anyone else with $2 into and around Kona Town.  One afternoon, when the trolley didn't have a lot of passengers, the driver (who was an Hawaiian) actually gave me the grand tour from one end of the line to the other (from the Sheraton Resort to the Kona Brewing Company) and explained all about how and where the Hawaiians lived on the coastline before the Westerners arrived.  It was quite a story - amazingly the islands are  loaded with existing old historic and sacred sites - and being a haole, I was a little uncomfortable at times about how the story ended.

So today I'm going to catch the trolley and go to a really great snorkel beach called Kahaluu Beach Park.  Some say it's the best snorkel beach on the island.  It has quite a bit of historical significance and is considered by many Hawaiians to be a sacred place.

All I know is there a tons of wonderful  reef fish (all colors of the rainbow) to be seen, and abundant sightings of the Green Sea Turtle swimming throughout the bay.  It's a calm and safe place to snorkel - there's a life guard, and it's beautiful. It was here that I saw my first Yellow Tang that was not in an aquarium and they were huge.  So you see quite large fish (all the fish you see in a marine aquarium and some you haven't), and if you carefully look around you can find little nursery sites in the Brain Coral with tiny little fish that look exactly like the big ones.

It's so compelling out in the bay that it's difficult to pull yourself away from looking down into the water at the sea life.  But you need to be watchful, for even though it's a safe place to snorkel, there are currents that can take you out or down the coast farther than you'd like to go.

Well it's time to get my snorkel gear read and get out of here -  before I miss the trolley again!

I couldn't resist putting in another picture of a sunset.  The sunsets on the Kona side of the Big Island are so spectacular -  you cannot take a bad picture. The one below is totally untouched or enhanced.  I will be leaving Kona in a day, going on to visit Hilo - the other side of the island - the side with no sunsets! So aloha a hui hou kakoui Kona.

REMEMBER:  Buy Local When You Can!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Kona Town

At this time I'm sitting on the deck at Bongo Bens, on the bay in Kona Town – eating a quesadilla, sipping a Margarita, watching the cloudless sky over the blue Pacific, and writing these thoughts down for my next blog post.  I wonder if this is how Earnest Hemingway felt  as he sat in a Paris café writing the greatest literature in the world – I suppose not.

As you’ve seen in the previous post, sunsets are beautiful along the Kona coast.  I have to wonder how the Hawaiians felt as they saw the sun setting on the horizon all those hundreds of years ago at this very spot. Of course they weren’t watching the cruise ships anchored in the bay, or sipping a Margarita and listening to the gentle, melodic music of the islands. So they probably felt somewhat different, but nevertheless saw something in those sunsets that contributed to the understanding of their world.

Today, as I was walking into Kona Town, I was called “Auntie”.  You remember - that term of endearment and respect  the young use to address the old here in the islands.  Well, I was a bit taken back by it, as I hadn’t thought of myself in that way, and the guy was a surfer dude with long kind of blonde and graying hair, somewhat younger than me (but no youth), so I was amused and tried to act gracefully.  I’m still amused (chuckle).  A new label for my aging self -  I better eat some more papayas.

What they call Kailua Kona or the Kailua Village is the historic part of Kona on the bay.  Although a charming village where the weather and water are considered the best, and the cruise ships dock once or twice a week, it does seem a bit worn so to say, evidently the big money is moving to the expensive resorts along the coast to the north.  

I’ve rented a really nice place along the coast to the south so that should tell you something.  North or South it doesn’t matter - the weather here is really unbelievable.  You are NEVER (never ever) cold or chilly.  The gardens are impeccable, bananas are growing at my door (this is amazing to me).  The parasailors float  in the sky overhead every 5 minutes all day and the dolphins are playing just off shore. Hey - it's paradise! 
I’ve taken to feeding the birds on the lanai with bread crumbs (which is completely against the rules in the condominium complex) but it is fun to watch them.  

The main visitor is the Yellow Billed Cardinal, an introduced species from South America and member of the Tanager family that is mainly found along the Kona Coast.  
Another species, also introduced from the South America, and also a member of the Tanager family, is the Saffron Finch – a pretty little bird, and quite abundant all over the islands.  

My last visitor is the Zebra Dove, native of Thailand, were they are considered good luck and kept as pets for their sweet “coo”.   These opportunistic rascals enjoy life everwhere from the luxurious gardens in the resorts to the street-side cafes in Kona Town.

Apparently the island is full of charming little birds that have no business being here and are unfortunately rapidly replacing the native Hawaiian species.

Aloha  a hui hou kakoui
 (Farewell until we meet again!)   


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

My Asian Garden

Portland Japanese Garden, Portland Chinese Garden, Asian Garden
Three years ago I had this little patch of ground hidden away in the back of the property and decided to turn it into my own Asian garden.  With few financial resources to use on this project and even less skill or knowledge about landscaping the stylized Asian look, I was on a real mission and a real challenge.
Fortunately I was physically able to do the hard work like dig out what remaining grass was growing, build a couple of berms, and slope the area to achieve a pleasing vertical and horizontal perspective.  I searched through the used book store and found many books on Japanese garden design and did a lot of research on the web.  I kept my eye out at nurseries and garden centers for plant materials (on sale) that would fit into my design, lugged them into the backyard, dug, amended soil, and re-dug and amended soil until I placed them were I thought they should be to achieve the Asian look.
Although I was pleased with the initial results, I quickly realized that it would take several years of a dedicated maintenance regime for the garden to look like a beautiful Asian garden. Since that time I have worked and watched the garden mature, from the moss floor spreading out into a full green carpet, to the ferns, azaleas, pines, and  bamboo filling out.

The garden isn't truly emblematic of the basic structure and philosophy that a traditional Asian garden requires, but I think I did accomplish the desired result which imparts a sense of peace, harmony, and tranquility and the feeling of being a part of nature.  And although the garden, as with all gardens, will continue to grow and be amended again and again, I’m happy with it as it is now. Most importantly, the garden reminds me that it’s the journey not the destination that teaches and inspires.

If you are interested in learning more about the Asian style of garden design or just visiting an authentic Asian garden, there are two internationally acclaimed gardens in Portland.  Both of these gardens have informed, inspired and delighted me, and they are well worth the trip and the admission fee.  
The Portland Japanese Garden is thought to be the most authentic Japanese garden outside of Japan and is truly a haven of tranquil beauty.  

On Monday, November 12, you can visit the garden free of admission.  For more information follow link above to their website.  This Saturday, October 27,  from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm the Friends of the Garden will have their annual Maple Plant Sale.  More information about this event is also on their website.

Also, offering a glimpse of Chinese culture, beauty, and harmony is the Lan Su Chinese Garden located near Chinatown in downtown Portland. Inside the garden is an authentic teahouse such as can be found during the Ming Dynasty. Light meals and snacks are offered along with numerous varieties of tea to suit every mood and season. Live performances range from Chinese er-hu music to song and poetry.

Life is good - bye for now.  Evelyn

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Saturday Afternoon in Portland

Spend an afternoon in Portland sometime.  Meander around one of those unique districts that Portland has to offer with quaint cafes and even quainter shops.  It puts the pizzaz back into your thinking and gets the creative juices flowing.

This Saturday I was in the Pearl, but there are other districts in the city which give off their own unique vibe as well.  The original purpose for the trip was to check out an urban garden shop for some new garden design ideas.  But as soon as I parked the car I couldn't resist the lure of the street.

The Pearl District is made up of old warehouses converted into new swanky condos, and busy hip shops with an amazing diversity of people, and things to do and see. I wondered into the cool Pro Guitar Shop (a brave new world in that place for sure) - the largest guitar shop in the Portland Metro area with an amazing wall display of any guitar you'd ever want to see or play.   Then there was the French Cut Hair Salon - effortlessly seductive and charming!  I couldn't resist popping in for a peek at their very chic salon and they were graciously welcoming - like meeting an old friend.

Made another stop at the Tea Zone and Camilla Lounge - tea, coffee, jazz, blues, cocktails, food - who would think about putting all those things together and yet it worked so well.  Then on down the street you'll find the exquisite French Quarter Linens - luxurious, stylish, sophisticated, elegant and expensive, but worth a look for some fresh ideas.

Now there's no shortage of incredible places to eat in Portland.  In fact it's pretty overwhelming unless you have something specific in mind before you make the trip.  It was Lebanese food that was on my mind and I was determined to get it.  And there's no better place in town then Nicholas Lebanese Restaurant on Grand Avenue just across the river.

Outside it looks a little like a bit of a hole in the wall, but inside awaits the most delicious middle eastern food you'll likely get in Oregon.  They are open all day and serve a variety of meat, vegetarian and vegan dishes, in fact, the menu is daunting. So watch out - your eyes can be bigger than you stomach in this place.  To get you started you'll be served a mouth watering giant, fluffy, steaming pita along with a herb olive oil dip.  The main courses are huge, in fact they could easily serve two.  Nicholas's is a bustling energetic place with a touch of middle eastern ambience.  Great eats too!

As I said in the beginning - spend an afternoon in Portland sometime - it stimulates the mind and soul.

Life is good - bye for now.  Evelyn

REMEMBER:  Buy Local When You Can!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Autumn - The Changing of the Guard

Now that we’re in the crossover season, I’ve been spending a lot of time cleaning up the garden - putting it to bed for the winter.  It seems to take you by surprise, this time of year, because just when you think things are winding down, there’s still so much left in the vegetable garden to pick and process.  If fact it can be the busiest time of the gardening season.  It took the tomatoes so long to ripen - we didn’t really have a good crop until September - and now we’ve got to quickly salvage what’s still on the vines (and there’s plenty) before the first frost.  Last week instead of canning them, I decided to blanch, peel, chop and then put them in quart freezer bags for the freezer.  This way I can do what I want with them later when I have so much more time (during those dreary nothing to do Winter months).

I took a drive out into the country and realized that October has become a boon for pumpkin and squash farmers.  Kind of like what u-cut Christmas trees are to Christmas tree farmers. Out at Heiser Farms on Grand Island,  it’s almost an amusement park with hayrides, a corn maze, a hay maze, little railroad station, fantastic pumpkin slide, pick your own pumpkins, and my favorite – pumpkin smashing.  Yes pumpkins smashing - the most mindless activity that is so astonishingly laughable (joyously funny!).  

This is the way it works – the pumpkins are shot out of cannons only to swoosh through the air (like cannon balls) and splat hundreds of yards away in the field.  And then you laugh and they do it again!  Heiser’s is open every weekend through October so you better get out there, pick you pumpkin, and watch the pumpkins splat.

Lastly, I can’t write about Autumn (Fall) without mentioning the stunning (dare I say kick-a--?) beauty of the trees and fall flowers.  You know the drill - patches of crimson, butterscotch,  creamy yellow, and burgundy leaves bursting forth in the last show of glory before the inevitable.  It’s the same routine every year, yet it never fails to thrill and inspire.