Phoenix Has Risen at the House of Bonsai

House of Bonsai, lanai with bamboo railing overlooking koi pond
House of Bonsai, lanai with bamboo railing overlooking koi pond

Aunty Fung’s house burned down last year from a fire that completely wiped everything out. She lost it all but recovered with strong resilience as friends and family surrounded her with love. She didn’t lose her bonsai garden, the koi fish pond or her vitality for life. And despite the insurance company struggle, Aunty Fung and Uncle Mike rebuilt her House of Bonsai in less than a year and the “Phoenix has Risen.” Her home is beautiful. It has a usable covered lanai (porch) now that overlooks the bonsai garden. They added a mini Liliuokalani Park red bridge over the koi pond and she now has a meditation room with tatami mats and all.

Meditation room with tatami mats
Meditation room with tatami mats

My sister Julie, my good friend Dove and I got to stay over in the connecting Ohana suite. We did Tibetan Rights exercises in the morning then had fresh papaya and a breakfast casserole that we couldn’t stop eating. If you’re thinking of visiting the Big Island of Hawaii and want to stay near Volcano National Park, look her up and you could get a taste of the experience too. Aunty Fung’s place is going to be available as a vacation rental again. https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/230529?s=5lz5

One of many bonsai in the garden
One of many bonsai in the garden

Paddle Boarding at Reed’s Bay

Photo of two girls paddle boarding in Reed's Bay, Hilo, Hawaii
Nina and Dove paddle boarding in Reed’s Bay, Hilo, Hawaii

My Mom has pretty awesome friends. They packed their truck with their paddle boards and gave us the keys for the day. What! We cruised through Hilo with the windows down, soaked up the sun and  felt the breeze blowing through our hair. Then all of a sudden I noticed the boards almost falling out of the truck bed. Ahhh, the wind caught the boards. I slowed down and we pulled over to rearrange and these two guys stopped to help. So nice. They went off to surf and we slowly headed to Reeds bay. Ro was there to meet us. She took us out to her favorite hidden spot where the water is fresh, clear and cold. Then we decided to paddle out to the break wall but by that time it was 10:30 am so the wind was picking up and it was getting a little choppier. What a work out! That wall in Hilo Bay is way farther than it looks. But we built up a good appetite and headed over to Hilo Rice Noodle for an ono lunch treat. I wish everyday were a paddle boarding day.

Group of girls after a morning of paddle boarding at Reed's Bay, Hilo, Hawaii
The girls after a sunny morning of paddle boarding at Reed’s Bay, Hilo, Hawaii

Wooow Laulau!

Our mom rocks.  She’s a naturopathic RN who lives a wholesome life with organic gardening, microwater, ayurvedic toothpaste, composting, loves her neighbors, and administers naturopathic treatments at a rehabilitation clinic in Kalapana on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.

During a recent trip home I was lucky enough to eat her cooking almost 3 meals a day.  On one special day she made pan-style laulau that was absolutely fabulous with kalo leaves from her own garden.

Ingredients: Lu‘au leaves, uala, kalo, organic chicken thighs, butterfish, fresh coconut milk, Hawaiian salt

Step 1:

Lu‘au leaves in pot after steaming
Step 1: Steam Lu‘au leaves until soft but still bright green. Plunge in cold water to stop cooking, drain.

Step 2:

Cut kalo, uala, and butterfish into bite-size pieces
Cut kalo, uala, and butterfish into bite-size pieces.

Step 3:

Line a pan with rinsed ti-leaves, then a layer of the steamed lu‘au leaves
Line a pan with ti-leaves, then a layer of lu‘au leaves.

Step 4:

Add (4) organic chicken thighs
Add (4) organic chicken thighs.

Step 5:

Layer uala, kalo, and butterfish pieces evenly.  Sprinkle with alaea (Hawaiian Salt).
Layer uala, kalo, and butterfish pieces evenly. Sprinkle with alaea (Hawaiian Salt).

Step 6:

Cover completely with another layer of steamed lu‘au leaves
Cover completely with another layer of steamed lu‘au leaves.

Step 7:

Mom then adds her own untraditional ingredient of coconut milk to make everything moist and ultra-tasty before wrapping the ti-leaves over the top and covering tightly with foil
Mom then adds her own untraditional ingredient of coconut milk to make everything moist and ultra-tasty before wrapping the ti-leaves over the top and covering tightly with foil.

Step 8:

Unwrap carefully - steam will be very hot.
Unwrap carefully – steam will be very hot.

Serve and Eat!

The end result is an ono-licious concoction somewhere between traditional Hawaiian laulau and the Samoan version of palusami.
The end result is an ono-licious concoction somewhere between traditional Hawaiian laulau and the Samoan version of palusami.

Maku‘u Farmers Market

This past February, my sister Nina and I took a quick trip home to visit the ‘ohana (family), friends, and get some sunshine and reprieve from the polar vortex that has been wreaking the winter doldrums upon the East Coast.

One of our first stops was Maku‘u Farmers Market in between the towns of Kea‘au (where we grew up) and Pahoa in the district of Puna on the Big Island of Hawai‘i.   A fantastically diverse cultural event, this market opens every Sunday and features live local musicians, food, and everything else under the sun.

While the fruit and vegetable vendors are steller, we were focused on munchies, souvenirs and gifts this time around. Here are just a few of the highlights:

  • Filthy Farmgirl handmade, organic soaps from Kalapana
    Filthy Farmgirl handmade, organic soaps from Kalapana

    Handmade organic soap from Kalapana (Filthy Farmgirl) – I bought five bars  for $5 a piece and so far have indulged in the coconut deliciousness of the Filthy Surfer bar.

  • Palo Santo sticks from peru and ecuador ~ ever wondered why
    Palo Santo sticks pictured on far left at front of table
    Palo Santo sticks pictured on far left at front of table

    some natural health food stores sometimes have a wonderful, subtle, natural smell? It’s often because they carry Palo Santo sticks which are naturally fragrant and can be burned or just placed on a table/ledge.

  • She makes awesome Thai Papaya Salad
    She makes awesome Thai Papaya Salad

    Thai Papaya Salad from my favorite little thai vendor who mixes each salad by hand in small batches with custom amounts chili pepper to taste. Shredded raw green papaya, carrots, green beans, chili peppers, limes, peanuts, and fish sauce….heaven!  She also makes amazing yellow tofu-pumpkin curry which I inhaled with a portion of sticky rice.

MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!!!

The cultures of Hawai‘i are diverse and the fusion of flavors makes the taste buds tingle like nowhere else on the planet.  I have satiated my craving for thai curry, papaya salad, fresh coconut water with spoon meat, kalo, uala,  raw lilikoi-cane juice, and kaffir limes leaves temporarily until primal senses draw me home again.

Maku‘u Farmers Market is a great venue for immersing in one of the most grass-roots, sustainability-minded, artistic, and hippie/hipster communities on the Big Island.  However, all of the farmers markets on the east side have beautiful, tasty things to offer, and Volcano Village (Cooper Center), Kino‘ole and Hilo Farmer’s Markets should not be passed up.

Ho‘okupu

My eyes pop wide open at 1:30am…..I lie in bed for hours and possibly drift in shallow sleep until I wake again at 3:30am ready for action!!!  I practice mindful breathing while the sadistic roosters in the neighborhood cockle-doodle-doo in the black stillness of pre-dawn.  Just as 5:30am rolls around and I finally drift off to sleep my alarm goes off and I grudgingly roll out of bed. It’s the first day back in Hawai‘i after being away for two years and we’ve made arrangements with very dear friends to give ho‘okupu at the crater this morning.

Kanani and Alexa preparing the Ho‘okupu
Kanani and Alexa preparing the Ho‘okupu

My sister and I pick up Alexa before heading to Kanani’s home to construct the ho‘okupu at 6:00am.  Kanani has prepared ti-leaves as well as ti-leaf lei in advance for us.

Ti-leaf stems are placed in the center to create a circular arrangement of the traditional Hawaiian container for transporting gifts or offerings.  Ti-leaf lei binds the stems together while uala (sweet potato) are placed in the arrangement, and hand-made salt from the salt plains of Kaua‘i is sprinkled over the cooked uala.  The tips of the leaves are folded up and over the contents to join the center of stems and are bound with a second ti-leaf rope.  Curly ti-leaves (used only for ceremony) are placed in the middle of the arrangement for decoration.  It is beautiful and artfully constructed.

Ho‘okupu (Hawaiian ceremonial offering) with ulala (sweet potato) and alaea (red Hawaiian salt)
Ho‘okupu (Hawaiian ceremonial offering) with ulala (sweet potato) and alaea (red Hawaiian salt)

As we create the container we set our intentions. They are along the following lines: To reconnect with ‘ohana (family); to ground and center; to honor our home, our island, the land on which we were born and raised; to be guided by our ancestors as we walk a path of divine purpose with wisdom, grace, success, and happiness.  

We drink really good organic coffee that my mom has made, and eat some of Kanani’s delicious homemade pumpkin bread before heading up to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.

Nina, Alexa, and Kanani at Halema‘uma‘u crater
Nina, Alexa, and Kanani at Halema‘uma‘u crater

The light of day is announcing the rising sun and we drive up to Halema‘uma‘u crater just in time. Kanani puts a Kapu on us – only loving, peaceful thoughts are allowed as we approach Pele’s domain.

Kanani, Alexa, Jules under the transforming clouds and dramatic sunrise at Halema‘uma‘u crater
Kanani, Alexa, Jules under the transforming clouds and dramatic sunrise at Halema‘uma‘u crater

We offer our voices and recite several oli at the ledge of the crater, we listen, we watch, and nature responds.  Kanani points to the expressions of nature ~ the direction of the steam on the floor of the crater, the voices of the birds, the qualities of the clouds and sky, the movement of the trees and surrounding brush.  We pay attention in the present moment as we witness the dramatic sunrise and offer the ho‘okupu. With Kanani’s graceful presence, and loving guidance we are humbled to call upon the ancestors and the spirit of Hawai‘i to guide us, protect us, and grant us knowledge of the wise hidden things.

Nina, Alexa, Jules wearing Kihei, offering Ho‘okupu at Halema‘uma‘u crater
Nina, Alexa, Jules wearing Kihei, offering Ho‘okupu at Halema‘uma‘u crater

As we live, we learn to let go of that which we do not need, to express gratitude for the opportunities we have to serve, and to devote ourselves to the present moment and the gift of life. Mahalo and Aloha to all the sisters out there ~ we support, uplift, and inspire each other to a higher calling.

Grandma Shiohira

Her haole name was Helen Shiohira, but her family knew her as Shizuko Funakoshi.

Growing up, my sister and I would spend summers on O’ahu in Aiea with Grandma; the highlights of our 2-week vacation being the shopping trips to Daiei, dinner at Kyotaru (Now Gyotaku)  Restaurant, and excursions to Shirokiya.

Grandma taught us how to cook Nishime (Japanese Vegetable Stew often served on New Years), mochi, andagi, apple cake, and so many delicious recipes.  She passed away in 2007, but some of her incredible recipes are in this category.

 

We are 2 sisters from Hawai‘i who love to share our adventures

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