This Week of Lights

Hanukkah, or Chanukah, meaning “dedication,” is an eight-day Festival of Lights celebrated by the Jewish faith. This year, it began at sunset on December 1.

The second temple in Jerusalem was rededicated after a successful uprising of the Jews against the Syrian government. Their leader, Judah Maccabee, lit the branched menorah, which was to burn every night.

According to legend, there was only enough olive oil to keep this candelabrum burning for one night, but it continued for eight nights. This gave them time to locate more oil to keep it burning after that time. This is an exceptionally abbreviated history of this celebration, but you can read more details of the history behind Hanukkah here.

Traditionally, latkes or potato pancakes are eaten during this period of time. You may wonder what the connection is between potato pancakes and Hanukkah. The latkes are fried in generous amounts of oil to symbolize the oil that kept the menorah burning for eight nights, although I imagine in today’s time, many look for lower fat ways to make their latkes. Just recently, I saw a recipe for sweet potato latkes that looked delicious and healthy!

The basic recipe for latkes is grated potato and onion mixed with a beaten egg, a couple tablespoons of matzo meal or flour, salt and pepper to taste, and made into small pancakes. These are smashed flat and fried in a skillet in several tablespoons of olive oil, turning to brown on both sides. I remember eating these topped with applesauce. I have read that the starchier the potato, the crispier the latke. If you search Google for latkes, you’ll find all sorts of variations.

Oh my, I’m getting hungry for latkes!

Shalom!

Season of Light

During the month of December, there are many celebrations from various cultures, faiths, and events to remember.

Many of these are linked to the winter solstice, which has been celebrated throughout history as the “rebirth of the sun.” The natural rotation of the earth was not known in earlier times, so the shortest day of the year (December 21) and the gradual lengthening of days afterward took on a meaning that has largely been forgotten.

We don’t know the exact date of the birth of Jesus, but over time, his birth was also associated with this “birth of the sun,” or many say “birth of the Son.” Early Christian celebrations were generally observed on days that were already holy days, such as the solstice, to help make the transition to Christianity.

…Shab-e yalda, the rebirth of the sun, was an ancient Iranian ceremony that reflected the basics of goodness and light against evil and darkness. (from Suite 101 – see link)

There are many other interesting days of celebration listed on that last link, including The Festival of the Wild Women!

Because I spent many years in Arizona, and Tucson in particular, one of my favorite December traditions is Las Posadas. This procession is a reenactment of the trip Mary and Joseph made from Nazareth to Bethlehem. A group dressed as angels, shepherds, and the holy couple go from house to house seeking shelter. The word posadas means “lodging” in Spanish. At each home, these “pilgrims” are served various foods, including tamales.

There are many other dates to honor during December, but three stand out for me as a special way of honoring this season of lights. They are World AIDS Day on December 1, Pearl Harbor Day on December 7, and Human Rights Day on December 10.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Lessons from Lava

The official theme of this blog is ” homesteading, food, travel, and philosophy from the side of a volcano in rural Hawai`i.” So far, I’ve done mostly the first three, but very little of the fourth – philosophy. I could elaborate philosophically on many topics, and over the next few months, bear with me as do more of that.

The official title of this blog is “Lava to Lilikoi,” and that is a great deal like saying “how to make lemonade out of lemons.” In other words, when given an acre of lava, how do you produce lilikoi (our name for passion fruit) in abundance?

The drought has discouraged me from doing a lot of gardening, although I did plant 45 garlic cloves this week! They don’t like a lot of water, so this area should be perfect for them. I bought a pound of California softneck garlic from an heirloom seed company, since most stores sell garlic that is treated to prevent it from sprouting. (I understand that health food stores might have organic non-treated garlic, however.)

The opening photo shows some of these garlic bulbs, plus a few miniature pumpkins from the grocery store, and a couple of even tinier acorn squash that never did grow big enough to eat!

One of the many lessons of gardening I have learned has been not to plant anything that requires plenty of water, plenty of rich soil, or a different climate.

For example, my geraniums have taken over various spots of my acre, and they add a great deal of color to an otherwise gray landscape. Herbs in pots are growing nicely. I have been able to get some delicious beets and arugula occasionally. My donkey tails seem to do well. Palms that don’t require a lot of water are doing okay. Various flowering shrubs have done fine (when the Mouflon sheep don’t eat them). Other veggies did quite well when we had regular rains, or when the birds didn’t eat them.

Please don’t mistake this for complaining! I’m just stating facts about my own particular situation. Everyone in my garden club seems to be suffering from the drought, too.

So on this weekend after Thanksgiving, I want to give thanks for the beautiful ancient ohia trees scattered around my acre, for the hens that give me delicious fresh eggs, for the splashes of magenta, purple, orange, blue, red, pink , white and yellow that adorn my lava “lawn,” for a year-round temperature that allows me to be free from snow and ice. Living and gardening on lava makes me thankful for every single sprout!

I’m also grateful for my friends, whether here or on the mainland, who keep in touch; for my students who challenge me, and who keep my mind active and alert; for good health that permits me to continue gardening and teaching; and for my family members who make me proud to be their mama, grandma, and great-grandma, sister, cousin and aunt!

Finally, I’m grateful for my little Katrina, a sweet and photogenic joy in my life! Doesn’t she look pretty in blue?

A hui hou!

Mask Making

On Halloween afternoon, a group of women from my part of the island gathered to celebrate the occasion, or what the Celtics refer to as Samhain. Or maybe we simply wanted to gather for eating and chatting.
The table was ready with spider web dishes filled with edible goodies …

… and sparkly spiders watching votive flames.

Scattered around the room were other feathers and flames to set the scene.

After a scrumptious meal of pork, salad, breads and other goodies, we cleared the table and got to work. Each of us brought miscellaneous baubles and beads to share for decorating our masks.

Our hostess continued work on a feathered mask she’d already started before we arrived. Another artist created a fully encrusted and bejeweled mask, fit to rival that of any queen.

Each woman there had her own idea of how her mask would represent her inner … what? Goblin, ghost, ghoul, gremlin???

Some were still in process as I went around the table to take pictures of our creations. I had finished first, so my simple mask is the photo at the head of this post.

At last the entire group gathered to show off their art work. This is a beautiful group of women! Can you identify any of them?

A delightful time was had by all, as we sat around the table sharing stories and other sentiments. It’s at times like this that I miss my handsome black cat, Kaimana.

A hui hou!

Happy Halloween from Katrina!

When I checked my website this morning, I realized it has been over 2 weeks since I last posted something. Fall semester is my heaviest term, and as a result, school prep has come first. Now that we have passed the middle of the semester, I may be back on a regular basis again.

On September 4 of this year, I brought home a new kitten. As near as the vet could figure, she was born somewhere around the middle of June. This past week she was spayed by the Humane Society, and is doing fine. I took this shot of her with my cell phone about a month ago.

I have taken several pictures of her and like most proud owners of the feline species, I will be posting these periodically. Several of you have known about her from the beginning and are interested to know how she is doing now.

Katrina has several places where she likes to sleep – or survey her world, like the picture at the top of this post.

Her favorite place of all is across the red pillows of my chaise.

It’s not easy to get a shot when she’s asleep. The minute she hears me approach, even in her sound sleep, she is awake and watchful.

Then of course, there’s the big yawn and the question, “How dare you wake me up?”

She has found the ledge on my kitchen window.

What a brave, adventurous girl!

Like most playful kittens, she loves to pretend she is hiding. Can you find her?

Not only is Katrina a mischievous kitten, but she thinks she’s a dog! In a few weeks, I’ll try to post a little video of her playing “fetch” with me!

Happy Halloween!

Oktoberfest in Hawai`i

When I was in high school, my father was the first English speaking pastor of a church that had once been considered a “German church.” Everyone spoke German, I learned Christmas carols in German, and the food was always German. No wonder I had trouble in gaining weight!

Every Thursday, the women met to quilt and served sauerkraut, spare ribs, and mashed potatoes. They always saved a plateful for me to eat as soon as I got back from school. Then I would sit down and quilt with them, trying to imitate their tiny stitches.

On October 1 of this year, I had the pleasure of attending an Oktoberfest at St. Jude’s Episcopal Church here on the Big Island. Instead of spare ribs, we were served a long Bratwurst; instead of mashed potatoes, we received a big boiled potato, but we did receive a big helping of sauerkraut and a bottle of non-alcoholic beer (St. Pauli N.A.). Apple strudel finished off the meal.

There was a wonderful 7-piece polka band, complete with several accordions, a string bass, trombone, clarinet, piano and drum.

The Fraulein servers were authentic. . . .

. . . and the dancing was exuberant.

You never forget how to dance a polka! But when I asked a friend to dance with me, she said she didn’t know how. I easily taught her, however, and we took off in a whirl.

We were taught several German songs. One was “Hock Soll er Leben,” or “Hail to the Host,” which we sang several times during the evening, each time raising our beer bottles to the host.

This Musik Meister led us in song, and also played one of the accordions.

Another tongue-twister song was “Oh Du Schöne Schnitzelbank,” a song we were told was never sung in Germany, but was local only in America.

I brought home a plate of leftovers from the church kitchen and relished the meal again later.

A hui hou!

Thoughts for the Day

Canterbury Cathedral
Canterbury Cathedral

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin was not only a Jesuit priest but he was well known as a palaeontologist. Among other accomplishments, he was involved in uncovering the skull of the Peking man. As someone with a mind of both the spiritual and the scientific worlds, he has inspired me in several ways.

A birthday can be a good time for reflection, so it is on that occasion I think about one of Teilhard de Chardin’s primary concepts. The way I understand it, we constantly are evolving or spiraling to a higher and higher state, which he called the Omega Point. He described it as a “transcendent centre of unification,” a convergence, rather than a divergence.

As I apply that concept to myself, I see that I have evolved over the past decades, although perhaps starting that process later than I might have wished. As he put it, in my life there was “a clear pattern of a rise of consciousness…a continual heightening, a rising tide of consciousness.”

Like his description of Time and the Universe, “in any period of ten million years Life practically grows a new skin,” I have grown a new skin throughout my own quest. More than ever before I am aware of how my action or inaction affects my traveling companions, aware of the world around me and of its cyclic nature. It is my personal evolution – “a condition of all experience,” he would say.

There is another quote attributed to Teilhard de Chardin, although I’m not sure which of his books it is in. I use it as my own mantra.

“Our duty as men and women is to proceed as if limits to our ability did not exist.”

In his Hymn of the Universe, he writes “Happy the man [sic] who fails to stifle his vision.”

For the next several decades, I want to continue an upward evolution without stifling my vision!

A hui hou!

Last of Summer Gardening

Nothing spells the approach of autumn better than a bright orange pumpkin patch. How my daughter manages to get such beautiful pumpkins is beyond me! Many of you have been keeping up with my daughter Inga’s gardening in Boise, Idaho. Here is an update on what’s growing in her yard, including the pumpkin above.

Her yard is full of orange and yellow blossoms, just ready to produce fruit, but beautiful in their own right.

I have an old wooden ladder in my shed. I need to drag it out and use it as a backdrop for some plants (if the drought will let something grow)!

She finds odd bits of metalwork to add a fanciful touch to her garden.

I love the brilliance of sunflowers – another touch of the approaching fall season.

She tells me of all the wonderful fresh veggies she brings in for her supper.

But the biggest envy I have is for her “taters!” Inga and I just love our fingerling potatoes, sliced and fried in butter with fresh eggs!

I promise her (and myself) that I will get to Boise next summer and enjoy the garden with her.

A hui hou!

A Season of Changes

It has been a summer of emptying old boxes full of junk, planting seeds, watering because of (or perhaps in spite of) the drought, reading delicious murder mysteries, writing a little here and there, and even spending some time being totally slothful.

Now on this sixteenth day of August, 2010, I am officially back to work as a full-time instructor in a community college. A week from now, classes will begin, each class full of students eager to learn. Well, I think most of them are.

At one point, I was working so hard to catch up with chores here at home that I was ready to go back to teaching so I could relax. By the end of summer, those chores were (mostly) completed and I had more opportunity to kick back, have a little fun.

So while I’m looking forward to the first day of classes, some new faces, some familiar faces, several students looking toward graduation so they can either go off to a four year school or get into a depressed job market.

Summer isn’t officially over, first day of autumn is still a month away, and winter is practically nonexistent here in Hawai`i, although there are seasonal changes. In the area where I live, the plumeria (frangipani) loses its leaves, there is a bit of briskness in the morning breeze coming down from the mountain, the hens are not laying as profusely, and I am delayed by school buses that manage to get ahead of me.

All of this rambling leads me to say that I’m a mixture of reluctance, anticipation, joy, relief, sadness. Through all the changes that happen in life, I hope I will continue to inspire even a handful of students to become who they are meant to be. Isn’t that what teaching is all about?

A hui hou!

Seven-Link Challenge

One of the blogs about blogging I read is ProBlogger. That’s a mouthful, isn’t it? This week, there was a challenge to respond to seven categories. I decided to take part, mostly because it requires some thinking about my posts in the past and where I’d like to go in the future. Here are the seven categories:

1) My first post.
I started this blog as a record for myself only. I was trying to make soil from compost and other materials in order to get something to grow on this acre of rocky lava we call a`a.

2) The post I enjoyed writing the most.
The reason I enjoyed this post is that it is about a special family event I wasn’t able to attend. My first granddaughter got married in October on the mainland and I couldn’t get away from teaching to fly over. Also, I didn’t take the pictures, but it showed several of my children and grandchildren. Needless to say, I shed a few happy tears as I put it together in a post.

3) A post which had a great discussion
I’ve written about lilikoi (Passion fruit) several times and each post brings more discussion than anything else I write about. Mainland readers probably don’t have a clue what lilikoi is, so it’s mostly Hawaii residents who get into great discussions about this fruit with an unusual flavor.

4) A post on someone else’s blog I wish I’d written.
My brother writes a blog that is way more popular than mine, and he tells of great things to do in and around the Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg area. Like me, he writes about his travels. He and I had just been to England, and we both loved London. I absolutely love this post he did all in black and white photography. It gave me an entirely new perspective to London.

5) My most helpful post.
This post was about a little book that has guided my life and the lives of others over and over. If you are looking for a way to set goals and objectives for the next year, this is the book that will help you.

http://rcm.amazon.com/e/cm?t=lujotast-20&o=1&p=8&l=as1&asins=0446675474&fc1=000000&IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr

6) A post with a title I am proud of.
I think the reason I’m most proud of this title is because it represents several decades of waiting to have my book of the same name published. It is about a book I used in my psychology practice and with students. It can also be a self-help book by exploring some hidden meanings in your life.

7) A post that I wish more people had read.
This was posted to honor AIDS Day, and invites us to look at our lives and how we respond to unexpected events in our lives. AIDS awareness is growing, but still not enough.

It took me a while to decide on each of these categories. There are so many posts that would fit into each category. After looking at these seven posts, I get a good sense of where my pleasures reside in writing this blog. My topics have evolved quite a bit over the past two years, and on an unconscious level, I think I have been going in the direction that most suits me best.

I hope you are finding these rambling posts helpful when you garden or cook or travel or reflect on life.

A hui hou!

Aloha!
Feral Fables, my newly published e-book, will be available for a special promotional price of $2.99 until August 1, 2010. Go here to to buy or sample Feral Fables. Use the promotional code “SL25S” (not case sensitive) at checkout.
Mahalo! (Thank you!)