What to Blog About Next?

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It is really hard to keep thinking of things to blog about. Luckily I have a very exciting life for a widow of seventy three.

So this morning when I was lamenting to my boyfriend about having to write a blog and not having any idea what to write about, he gave me some good ideas.

First one was simply to take a break and not write anything for a few days. i simply couldn’t do this. It would not only disappoint my many readers, it would make me feel guilty.

He said he heard that it takes two years for a blog to really ‘take off”. Oh, dear, I have only been doing this for about six months. And I am starting to run out of steam.

His next idea was even more ridiculous. After saying I didn’t know what to blog about, he said, “Why don’t you write about fifteen blogs in one day and then take two weeks ‘off’?”

All you’d have to do each day is hit Publish, rather than write a column. Great idea, but it’s hard enough to drum up material for one column, much less fifteen.

Let’s see, here are some things going on in my life. I have to go buy gasoline. As it is now over $4 a gallon, I could write about that. Or, I could write about the fact that my two daughters just returned from their trips to Italy. One yesterday and one today.

Or, I could mention that I am out of eggs and have to go buy a dozen somewhere. Which market has the easiest parking? Unfortunatly Don Quiote has the least expensive fresh island eggs but the worst parking lot.

I only buy fresh island eggs. Somehow mainland eggs seem like they would be pretty old by the time they got here. If I were having an Easter egg hunt for the neighborhood children, I would probably buy the cheaper eggs to decorate. But there are no children in our condo and I only make about a dozen Easter eggs each year.

When I was younger, the way one dyed Easter eggs was with a little wire wand with a circle to hold the egg. There were six little pills of color that you disolved in boiling water to which you had added vinegar. Paas was the only brand available.

Today there are many choices. There are stickers to decorate the eggs to look like footballs and oval soccer balls. Now there are colors besides the usual red, blue, green, yellow. There are neon shades and if  you follow some special instructions using oil mixed with the dyes, you can make your eggs marbelized in various colors. Check Martha Stewart for these instructions.

Some people are on an organic kick and like to dye their eggs with ‘natural dyes’ such as beets and blueberries. I think it is a lot simpler to just buy an Easter egg dye kit at the market.

I am a big fan of Martha Stewart and she always has great Easter ideas. Odd, because she is Jewish, and Jews aren’t supposed to celebrate Easter.

Anyway, last year I made marbelized eggs ala Martha. If you want to make these, you will need lots of onion skins. I suggest starting to save your onion skins now in a special baggie. Also when you buy onions at the market, scoop up some of the skins that are under the onions on the shelf.

What you do is to wrap the eggs (raw) in onion skins and wrap all of this in some cheese cloth, pull tight and either clip with a clothes pin (remember those?) or a paper clip and drop (not too hard) into water. Boil for half an hour. When you take off the cheesecloth and the onion skins, your eggs will be marbled.

They will all be different patterns, but they will all be the same basic color of gold/brown. This  year I think I’ll try using some red onion skins and see how that looks. Or maybe I’ll mix a few for more variety.

There that wasn’t so hard. But what will I blog about when we actually get to Easter?

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Going to a Funeral

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Luckily I haven’t had to go to too many funerals in my life. 

Just my parents, one or two relatives and a few friends.

All of the services have been in either a church or a temple.

When my husband died, he did not have a funeral.

My girlfriend and her husband were the only two people there

besides me.

We scattered his ashes at Laguna Beach in his favorite cave

and we said a prayer on the shore.

So, yesterday, when I went to a funeral of a friend of the family, it

was the first time I had ever been to a service at a mortuary.

One of my favorite TV shows was Six Feet Under. This was a

great series based on a family who lived in and ran a funeral

parlor.

The hushed carpeted lobby and tastefully adorned room where

the actual services were held, did not prepare me for this place.

The name of the mortuary is Hosoi Gardens and it is on the

edge of Chinatown in downtown Honolulu.

It is on the corner of Nuuanu and Kukui St. and there are

no Gardens.

The parking lot is back to back with Zippy’s, but it is very

difficult to find the entrance.

The parts that go into Zippy’s easy to access lot are chained

and blocked.

When we finally got a place to park in their pot filled parking lot,

we entered the building.

It is a hollow tile structure with a similar style to a public school.

I will say that they had a nice ramp to enter by, next to the three

front steps.

The sliding glass doors led to a brown cement lobby area and

then a folding accordian door led to the actual service area.

There were rows of grey metal folding chairs and harsh

florescent lighting.

The flower arrangements were placed on various wooden

and metal platforms. There was a dark brown wooden podium

and two chairs for the featured speakers.

I don’t know what I was expecting at this point, but I wasn’t

prepared for the beautiful service, which was delivered mostly

in Hawaiian.

The deceased was Hawaiian and a graduate of Kamehameha

Schools in 1952.

Not only were many of her classmates there, but they sang

school songs accompanied by a woman playing the ukelele.

The ceremony was mostly in Hawaiian, with the Lords

Prayer and psalms chanted in the ancient way.

There were about a dozen women who were decendants

of Hawaiian Royalty.

They wore traditional white holomuus, white stockings

and white shoes. The average age appeared to be

around 75 to 80 and almost all the women had

silver or white hair.

They wore royal feather head leis, which I learned have great

significance.

These feather leis are made from special birds and the feathers

are gathered without hurting or killing the birds.

There were four men singers in velvet capes reminiscent of

Kamehameha.

The men and women surrounded the casket and sang

beautiful Hawaiian songs, ending with Aloha Oe.

There was not a dry eye in the house by that time.

Then it was time for her friends to get up and tell about her.

What an amazing life she had and the entire audience

was very moved.

I didn’t know the deceased very well, but by the time the service

was over, I felt as though I did.

In traditional Hawaiian style, food is served in the ajoining

‘dining’ area after a funeral.

It looked like a school cafeteria, with metal tables and chairs.

The food was in steel metal warming trays.

There was rice (of course), macaroni salad, shoyu chicken,

spareribs, noodles and chop suey.

There were forks and chopsticks and the crowd seemed to enjoy

the meal.

So even though the place itself was very simple and plain,

with zero decor, the whole funeral was really lovely and

memorable and one of the nicest services I have ever attended.

Book Reviews

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I like to read books and tell people about them and I like to write book reviews for this column. I often wonder if my taste in books is anything like yours and if you enjoy my book reviews. The main problem that I see with them, is that even if the book is tragic, my reviews are sort of funny.

It all started in 1950 when I was in the seventh grade. English was my favorite subject and in order to raise your grade a notch all you had to do was to read three extra books and write a book report about them. (I guess this was to prove that you really did read them).

Well either I was very smart, or the teacher was very stupid, but I made up three books, and got my grade raised from an A- to an A. My girlfriend and I stayed up late one night inventing three books complete with three different plots.

We used a ‘real’ author’s name to make it look authentic, in case the teacher looked up the author to check on us. My girlfriend liked horses, so one of the books was about a girl who lived in California on a ranch and had a horse.

I liked shopping, so one of the books was about a girl whose family had a shop and she got to work in it. Actually I think the story was sort of autobiographical, as my family owned a jewelry store and I had to work there sometimes when it was busy.

In fact I can remember every Christmas vacation spending almost my entire time at ‘the store’. I was the gift wrapper and counter cleaner. When I got older, I became a ‘saleswoman’, even though I was only sixteen.

Back to book reports. I have always had a ‘thing’ for books. When I was about ten I ran a lending library out of my bedroom. I had a rubber stamp with the date due and little library cards for each book. My clients were my friends, who came to my house and checked out books from my library.

I featured the entire Nancy Drew series, all the Bobbsey Twin books, as well as all my mother’s books from when she was a girl. She was a big reader and got me into it. In fact she belonged to Book of the Month Club and when she was done with each book, I would read it.

I doubt there were many ten year old children who had read Forever Amber. I used to put these books inside my scool books and read them in class. I had the fattest copies of Dick and Jane.

Some of my favorite books over the years are the ones by Jodi Picoult. She is a current novelist who writes about social issues. Some of her books are ‘In Her Shoes’, which became a movie, ‘Handle with Care’, and ‘Nineteen Minutes’. I think of all her books, I would have to say that ‘Nineteen Minutes’ was my favorite.

It was the first one of hers that I read. It is the account of the Columbine school shootings. It not only goes into the actual shootings, but covers the parts that one never hears about. That is the parents of the shooter and how they feel and what happens in their lives.

All of her books deal with very current events and problems in our society. There is usually a family deep in the heart of each book and one really can understand what each member is going through.

Another book I really enjoyed was ‘The Poisonwood Bible’ by Barbara Kingsolver. This is a story of a Baptist minister who is assigned to the Belgian Congo. He is sent to Christianize the natives. His wife and four daughters go with him, from their nice home in the United States.

In the Congo they live in a mud hut with a dirt floor. The stove takes wood to heat it, and between the bugs and the snakes, it is pretty awful. The wife brings some of her nice things with her, but it just seems ridiculous to set the table with china when the food is roasted ants.

This book takes place in the 50’s and is told from the point of view of the mother and the daughters. I couldn’t put it down.

Oh, why it was called Poisonwood Bible is because the father never quite got the Congolese language right and the way he said Jesus Christ, was actually the way the people said The Poisonwood Tree. This was a tree about ten times more poisonous than poison ivy.

So, I guess what I am saying is that all my life books have played a big role. I always have at least one book ‘going’. One of my favorite shopping spots is in Barnes and Noble.

And it always amazes me, when I mention a book I enjoyed, just how many people say, “I never read, I just wait for the movie”.

Going to a Funeral

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Luckily I haven’t had to go to too many funerals in my life. Just my parents, one or two relatives and a few friends. All of the services have been in either a church       or a temple.When my husband died, he did not have a funeral. My girlfriend and her husband were the only two people there besides me. We scattered his ashes        at at Laguna Beach in his favorite cave and we said a prayer on the shore. 

So, yesterday, when I went to a funeral of a friend of the family, it was the first time I had ever been to a service at a mortuary.

One of my favorite TV shows was Six Feet Under. This was a great series based on a family who lived in and ran a funeral parlor. The hushed carpeted lobby and tastefully adorned room where the actual services were held, did not prepare me for this place.

The name of the mortuary is Hosoi Gardens and it is on the edge of Chinatown in downtown Honolulu. It is on the corner of Nuuanu and Kukui St. and there are

no Gardens.

The parking lot is back to back with Zippy’s, but it is very difficult to find the entrance. The parts that go into Zippy’s easy to access lot are chained and blocked.

When we finally got a place to park in their pot filled parking lot, we entered the building. It is a hollow tile structure with a similar style to a public school. I will

say that they had a nice ramp to enter by, next to the three front steps.

The sliding glass doors led to a brown cement lobby area and then a folding accordian door led to the actual service area.

There were rows of grey metal folding chairs and harsh florescent lighting. The flower arrangements were placed on various wooden and metal platforms. There   was a dark brown wooden podium and two chairs for the featured speakers.

I don’t know what I was expecting at this point, but I wasn’t prepared for the beautiful service, which was delivered mostly in Hawaiian. The deceased was    Hawaiian and a graduate of Kamehameha Schools in 1952.

 

 

Ke Ali’i Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop (1831-1884)
Founder of Kamehameha Schools 

In 1883, Bernice Pauahi Paki Bishop bequeathed her entire estate for the establishment of a school to educate Hawaiian children. Today, her endowment supports the largest independent pre-kindergarten through grade 12 school in the United States.  Born December 19, 1831 in Honolulu, Hawai`i to High Chiefs Abner Paki and Laura Konia, Pauahi Paki was the great-granddaughter of Kamehameha I, the warrior chief who united all the islands of Hawai`i under his rule in 1810.

Not only were many of her classmates there, but they sang school songs accompanied by a woman playing the ukelele.

The ceremony was mostly in Hawaiian, with the Lords Prayer and psalms chanted in the ancient way.

There were about a dozen women who were decendants of Hawaiian Royalty. They wore traditional white holomuus, white stockings and white shoes. The average age appeared to be around 75 to 80 and almost all the women had silver or white hair.

They wore royal feather head leis, which I learned have great significance. These feather leis are made from special birds and the feathers are gathered without hurting or killing the birds.

There were four men singers in velvet capes reminiscent of Kamehameha.The men and women surrounded the casket and sang beautiful Hawaiian songs, ending with Aloha Oe.

There was not a dry eye in the house by that time. Then it was time for her friends to get up and tell about her. What an amazing life and the entire audience was very moved.

I didn’t know the deceased very well, but by the time the service was over, I felt as though I did.

In traditional Hawaiian style, food is served in the ajoining ‘dining’ area after a funeral. It looked like a school cafeteria, with metal tables and chairs. The food was in steel metal warming trays. There was rice (of course), macaroni salad, shoyu chicken, spareribs, noodles and chop suey. There were forks and chopsticks and the crowd seemed to enjoy the meal.

So even though the place itself was very simple and plain, with zero decor, the whole funeral was really lovely and memorable and one of the nicest services I have ever attended.

Lemon Bars

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Lemon Bars-Yummmmm

I have a recipe that I think you will like. It is for lemon bars. I have been baking these for years and I usually make half of this amount. But if you are having a party, make the whole thing. These are those great lemon squares you see in the bakery or at Starbucks. (Usually they cost about $2.50 or more each square.) Of course now that lemons are $1.69 each here in Hawaii….

I usually buy a big bag at Costco.

This recipe is from Afternoon Delights cookbook by James McNair and Andrew Moore. What they say about them is “These bars, with their shortbread base and a tangy topping that recalls lemon curd, are a perennial favorite. If using Meyer lemons, reduce the sugar in the topping to 2 1/2 cups.”

crust

1 cup unsalted butter at room temp. (two sticks)

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teas salt

2 Cups bleached flour

Topping

6 large eggs

1/2 cup flour

3 cups sugar

pinch of salt

One cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 teas. lemon zest finely grated

Whisk all this together while crust is baking.

Powdered sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 350. bake in middle

To make crust, beat butter in bowl, then add sugar/salt and then flour one cup at a time. Spread in pan and press plastic wrap on top to press and make smooth. Remove plastic wrap. Bake 20 min till golden brown.

Reduce temp to 325, pour topping on crust, Bake about another 20 min till it feels set in middle. Cool on rack. Cut in squares. Just before serving dust with powdered sugar. Can be stored at room temp for several hours or fridge for two days.

If they last that long.

Yesterday in the Sunday paper was another recipe for lemon bars. These are a little simpler and call for less ingredients, so it makes a more normal size amount. The crust is a little easier and you can just mix it by hand.

Crust: One cup flour, 1/8 teas salt, 1/2 cup powdered sugar, one stick butter melted but not hot. Press in 8 x 8 pan as above and bake at 325 for 20 min.

Topping: Two large eggs, 3/4 cup sugar,1 1/2 tablespoons flour, juice from two lemons, 2 teasp. grated zest. Whisk together while crust is baking.

Add to crust and bake another 20 minutes till just set. Cool in pan a few minutes and then transfer to rack.

There was a good method for getting bars out of pan on this recipe. Take a strip of heavy duty foil 8 x 16 and put in sprayed pan. Spray foil and press into pan, leaving ‘handles’ on two edges. When cooling bars, lift out foil by handles and place on rack.

These are both good, but I think if I had a gun to my head, I would choose the first recipe.

A Good Code

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An easy code to learn

Growing up in the jewelry business, one of the things I learned early on in my childhood was our company code. It was FRENCH LADY. I used to love to transpose numbers to code and see how fast I could do it.

F was one, R was 2, E was 3 and so on. After a while, it became automatic. I was able to rattle off the code from the time I was eight years old.

It was pretty easy and like a mystery language. I could say I was eight years old and just use the letter A. Or I could write our house numbers out at FECH.

Of course when I got to go to Daddy’s store, I could read the price tickets and learn what each item actually cost. That was the real point of the ‘code’.

Then I went off to college and got my first real job. That is a job not working in the family business. It was at a small jewelry store in Westwood, the town in Los Angeles that is the home to UCLA. It is not exactly a college town, as it is the upscale shopping town for areas like Bel Aire and Brentwood.

I got a job at Crescent Jewelers before it became a swanky jewelry store. In 1955 it was a Mom Pop operation. The store was about ten feet wide max. It was nestled between a barbar shop and an alley.

I was the only employee other than the watchmaker. The thing I remember most about those days was their great ‘code’. I have used it over the years whenever I needed to write any numbers in code.

It is very simple to learn. Since it is shapes, it is easy to teach to small children. But it is almost impossible to decipher.

Nowadays writing code refers to computer code, but then it was simply a way to secretly note the cost of merchandise. We had a special pen with a very sharp tip, which was necessary for writing price tickets. Not only did you have to put the retail price on one side, on the back went the ‘code’ and the date of purchase.

I got to write sales tickets as part of my job and so I soon became quite fluent in The Code. Years later when I had my own shop, I used this code on all my sales tickets also.

If the item had zero cost, we would just put 101 on the item, and if we didn’t want to sell it, and it was just for show, we would put SOLD. If putting Sold on an item that wasn’t really sold seems wrong to you, you could put NFS. Not For Sale. In any case, sales tickets were important to get right.

I am always amazed when I go to a thrift shop or garage sale and see how the stickers are placed on the item. Nobody ever taught how to properly put a sticker on an item in school. Usually the sticker is placed directly on the front of a book, directly over the title.

Or if it is a piece of porcelain, right over the name and country of origin on the bottom of the piece. When I go to thrift shops, the first thing I do, is to turn the piece over to see if it was Made in China.

Sometimes I will luck out and find a piece from France or Germany. The craftsmanship is usually much finer. Dishes made in England are usually nice and if you are fortunate, now and then there is a beautiful piece by Spode or Royal Doulton.

Stickers in thrift shops don’t have to have a price code, as everything costs zero. Sometimes there is a date on the ticket, so the store knows when to ‘mark it down’.

If you want to teach your children an easy code, use the one above. The only problem with this code is that you can’t say it to one another. The advantage of a code like FRENCH LADY is that when on the telephone, you could say, “What is the cost”? and the other person could say “FDY” ($190).

When I was growing up, sometimes my father would be at home and get a call from his store to ask about giving a discount. I could hear the conversation and loved ‘knowing’ the code. There is no way you could ‘say’ the code I have drawn at the top of this blog.

It almost looks like Cave writing from the Caveman Days.

 

The Wonders of Makeup

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Ladies, If this doesn’t make your day……nothing can! I vote for Goldie Hawn’s make-up artist. WOW! No wonder it takes a whole team of pros to make these women look so good. Imagine what their teams could do with the raw material YOU present! And you thought they were natural beauties??

Before

After-Me with National Chanel makeup artist after he ‘did’ me

One year later with Lancome makeup artist

Feelin’ better  about yourself now, girls?

YOU’RE DARN RIGHT YOU DO! Now, go and kiss that mirror


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