daily prompt: mid-season replacement

I’m sitting in the midst of a mess, because my daughter’s bedroom underwent a remodel. 

Meanwhile, outside the skies grow darker earlier, and remain that way until later the next morning.

I’ve started turning up the heat to stave off the chill indoors. And when walking the dog…I’m all bundled up.

I don’t think I’d want to go backwards to the sunny days of summer. 

That’d only delay the onset of winter…and beyond…the sweetness of spring.

I might have felt differently had this mess not occurred. 

Now that the remodel is done…I’m excited…

…to have friends over for the holidays!…

………hugmamma.

 

michelle’s weekly pet challenge: week #4

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…one of my furry sweeties who’s definitely…one-of-a-kind!…

………hugmamma.

Check out other entries here…

spooky?…or not?

Your call.

For me, it’s a mixture of both.

With heart beating a little faster…eyes peeled for anything unusual…I love to wander through cemeteries, especially old ones.

These photos were taken in Kinnish, Ireland. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck as I wandered the grounds. 

I tread lightly in and around these head stones…there are humble souls dwelling beneath who deserve respect…even in the after-life.

Even the church gave me goosebumps as I toured its ancient interior.

…a heavenly treasure…with souls…heaven-bound.

………hugmamma.

(My inspiration for this post…  http://everywhereonce.com/2012/10/31/photo-of-the-day-new-orleans-cemetery/ )

Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge: Orange

Because today is Halloween…BTW…HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!…I thought I’d join in on this photo challenge. After visiting CEE’s blog and viewing the photos there, I knew I had the perfect ones to celebrate today.…again…HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

………hugmamma.

(Click here for more orange fotos… http://ceeslifephotographyblog.wordpress.com/2012/10/30/cees-fun-foto-challenge-orange/ )

weekly photo challenge: fall

One of the scariest times of the year…Fall!!! And one of my daughter’s favorities! So it’s always a gift of love when I can decorate her apartment to BOOring in the holiday season. These photos are a reminder of some fun times in her previous apartment.

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…trick-or-treat…can’t be beat…give me something good to eat…or else…i’ll make you smell my feet…(not a good proposition)

………hugmamma.  😉

on a mission to clean up the “mess”

Straying from a somewhat healthy regimen the last couple of months had me ending up a mess, literally. While my daughter retained some semblance of her usual diet, I threw caution to the wind and gorged. It didn’t happen overnight; it never does. And it didn’t sneak up on me, not really. My hand and my mouth became best buds. My hand kept shoveling tasty morsels into my open mouth, which just couldn’t seem to get enough. I think Halloween, with its usual tempting delights, got me started, and I never looked back. Beware that first delectable bite! Needless to say, I’m on a mission! 

“Cervical thoracic strain” (doctor’s words), combined with heartburn, had me laying awake a couple of nights several weeks ago wondering if I was in the throes of a heart attack. After spending a restless night analyzing my symptoms, I got the first available appointment with a doctor the following afternoon. Suspecting I might be experiencing muscle pain, I saw my chiropractor first. Her adjustment provided some relief, so that when I saw the internist I had already surmised  that chronic pain was the real culprit. An EKG,  performed just to be sure, corroborated my diagnosis. A much-needed massage a few days later, brought almost complete relief. It loosened up all the tight muscles in my neck, shoulders and back, that had probably been creeping upwards for months, as a reaction to internalized stress over my daughter’s situation, and the holiday crush. I’ve a physical therapy appointment next week. I’m hoping it’ll work out the few remaining aches and pains.

Prilosec works well to resolve my intermittent heartburn. I’ve a few days left of that regimen. But just when one set of issues was minimized, another came calling. Let’s just say it had to do with my “plumbing.” Seniors will know what I’m talking about. Younger folk, like my daughter, would say “TMI! TMI!” All I’ll say is it’s no fun seeking medical help from an ER doctor. Been there, done that, don’t ever want to do that again. Uh, uh, no way.

So while I was recovering from that bad experience, I caught my husband’s cold, and couldn’t stop hacking my head off, coughing and coughing, relentlessly. More sleepless nights until yesterday, when I finally drove myself to a walk-in clinic. The doctor prescribed an antibiotic for a sinus infection, an ailment I suffered annually in the past, but which I’ve not had for a couple of years. Because drugs are hard on the liver, I prefer not to take antibiotics. But it already seems to be working its magic, for my coughing has lessened considerably. As with all things, moderation is the key, and everything has its time and place. Although, the drug I’m taking has also done a number on my “plumbing,” in the other direction. Okay, okay. TMI! TMI!

I’m reading several books concurrently, one of which is “Healthy Aging – A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being,” by Andrew Weil, M.D. On page 1 of its introduction, Dr. Weil says something with which I fully agree. 

 In 2002, I turned sixty. To help celebrate the occasion, friends organized a surprise party for me. After the festivities, there came a time to reflect, and when I did I came to an uncomfortable conclusion: I am closer to a time when my energy and powers will diminish, when I will lose my independence. Sixty is about the time that organs of the body begin gradually to fail, when the first hints of age-related disease begin to appear.

I hardly notice my aging on a day-to-day basis. When I look in the mirror in the morning, my face and white beard seem the same as the day before. But in photographs of myself from the 1970s, my beard is completely black. Looking at old photographs, I can’t help but notice the physical change that has taken place in the course of thirty years. If I pay attention, I can notice other changes in my body: more aches and pains, less resilience in meeting the challenges of traveling, less vigor on occasion. And my memory may not be quite what it used to be. At the same time, despite the evidence, some part of me feels unchanged, in fact feels the same as when I was six. Almost everyone I talk to about aging reports similar experiences.

It’s true, all true. You’re invited to continue journeying with me through the aging process. Perhaps it’ll give you a heads up when your time comes, or maybe you’ll nod your head in recognition of an experience or two that “rings a bell.”

for aging gracefully, huge hugs…and a mountain of effort…hugmamma.

good samaritan #9, a neighborhood of “angels”

The Issaquah Press, our local newspaper, ran an article of an unusually touching “good Samaritan” event. Most of us who live in middle class suburbia probably feel the same way that Angie Allen did when she moved to the Issaquah Highlands. Her children, 4 and 2, “made friends, but in ‘suburbia you kind of just pull into your garage and you politely wave at your neighbors…You might have a talk or conversation here or there.’ ” Tragic circumstances, however, saw a change of heart, so much so that when she moved away to live with relatives, she said ” ‘I almost wish I had stayed there,’…”

Travis Allen had brought his family to the Pacific Northwest because of a job with a concierge medicine company in July 2009. After Halloween he got a bad case of strep throat for which he visited a doctor’s office, and then went home to rest. He didn’t wake up. Concerned neighbors watched as the ambulance lingered for some time.

Mrs. Allen asked neighbor Paul Stephen to look after her children while she spoke with paramedics. Neighbors and a friend of Angie’s congregated at the Stephen’s home. The Allens’ children were understandably stressed, trying to grasp the situation. The adults certainly did their best to calm them, Stephen saying ” ‘You’re realizing that the kids just lost their father and the long-term impact of that…’ ” As a result, the community came together in “an outpouring of support” for the family.

Stephen’s wife and Angie’s friend remained with her through the night, as did another neighbor. And still another picked Angie’s parents up from the airport, while others walked the family pet and prepared meals for them. Deciding it would be best to return to Texas to be with her own family, Angie had to pack up her house, in addition to making funeral arrangements. Unable to sort through and box her husband’s belongings, she allowed the neighbors to help with the difficult task. When Angie returned to Texas to bury her husband, the community she left behind donated boxes and tape, packed the Allen’s household furnishings, and secured a moving company to transport everything. Neighbors also bought Christmas presents for the children so Angie wouldn’t have to deal with holiday shopping. Neighbors who, by chance, happened to be visiting in Texas, babysat the Stephen children during the funeral so that the 21-gun salute to their dad, who’d served in the Air Force, wouldnt frighten them.

Angie returned to Issaquah, inviting about 20 neighbors into her home. She shared the eulogy she’d read at Travis’ funeral. Everyone shed tears, neighbors, now friends, calling Angie a strong woman, and she, in turn, calling them her angels. ” ‘Any cynicism I had evaporated. The outpouring of help and generosity, I was overwhelmed by it. I never expected it…We’ve got to know each other so much better in the midst of this tragedy. They gave me hope and showed me compassion. They really just lifted me up. I just couldn’t have done it without them.’ ”

for a “miracle on 24th avenue”… huge hugs and a blessed christmas for Angie’s family…and their neighborhood of angels…hugmamma.

our christmas “explosion”

My daughter’s favorite description of what our home looks like right now is that “Christmas exploded!”  We literally can’t walk an inch without brushing up against a tree branch, heavily laden with ornaments, or having our eyes come to rest upon any surface not awash in Christmas.

Because we didn’t need to make our usual holiday trek to our daughter’s home for Thanksgiving this year, I found the energy to begin the gargantuan task of decorating for the holidays. I figured if I started ahead of time, unlike last year, I’d be okay removing it all some time in January. Last year’s decor didn’t get taken down until April, about 7 months ago. In fact, when we began the ritual of bringing bins in from the garage, my husband said “Didn’t we just put these away?”

I incorporate Christmas in with my everyday furnishings, antiques, and vintage collections, so it’s a monstrous task piecing together what is literally a household puzzle. Every item finds a new home, somewhere. My brain is agog with a choreography of minutiae. Somehow everything comes together for the holidays. And I try not to repeat the same scenario from year to year. In recent years I’ve used 5 or 6 artificial trees of varying widths, heights, shapes, and styles. Their adornments are changed each Christmas, because I couldn’t possibly remember their exact configuration, even if I wanted.

Holiday vignettes are everywhere, adorning the tops of an antique dresser and an immigrant’s chest, several painted cupboards and a pie safe, lining the shelves of a green bookcase, and an assortment of tables. Open shelving which frames the kitchen window showcase my santa collection, the overflow keeping my husband company in his office. Meanwhile the snowmen are gathered together in a cozy corner of my daughter’s bedroom. Vintage toys rest along the mantle, and before the fireplace. While Christmas stockings line the staircase bannister leading to the front door

I’ve always transformed our home into a magical place for the holidays, whether it’s Easter, Halloween or Christmas. And it was always for my daughter’s benefit. The delight in her eyes, the smile that lit up her face, the love she shared in thanking us, made the time and energy it took, so worth it. No matter that she’s now 24, I still work my magic, and she continues to be delighted, and gratefully loving. Its still so worth it!

sending you hugs for a holiday full of hope, and love…hugmmamma.

“an apple a day,” the costco way

From all I’ve read and heard, apples are one of the best fruits to eat, period! The old saying “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” is not a myth, according to experts like Dr. Oz. It provides the fiber needed to maintain digestive health, and the pectin in the skin of the fruit helps in the prevention of heart attacks. Apples are not my favorite fruit; I don’t think I have any.

Because fruit was readily available, more or less, depending on the generosity of others who “gave to the poor,” as a child, I preferred candy. Not on our family’s short list of  “must-haves,” it was a rarity. That’s why Halloween was high on my list of all-time favorite holidays; it still is. The difference now? I needn’t go house to house looking for handouts.  I can buy as much candy as I like, the kind I like. Eating as much as I like, is another thing. You know, older age= slow metabolism, and too much sugar= arthritic pain.

Helping me remain an arm’s length from my favorite “fruit,” is a tray of apples from Costco that sits atop my microwave. By far the most useful appliance in my kitchen, it’s also my “go-to” when I need reminding to do something like… eating an apple a day. Since our kitchen remodel a few years ago, I’ve stopped using the refrig as a bulletin board. Instead, the microwave serves as my reminder station, but only for important notices like, “Thurs., 9 p.m., Barb Walters/Oprah,” or “no more dog food” or “call cat-sitter.” So putting the apples ON the microwave means they’ll get eaten. If they sat anywhere else, they’d just get moved around, and eventually rot.

You’ll surely eat an apple a day, 

if you do it the Costco way,

just buy a whole tray,

and keep eating away.

It goes even quicker, 

if you share,

so share!!!…hugmamma.

“big aunty” levitates, “trick-or-treat?”

As Halloween’s ghostly hour draws near, prepare yourself for some true-to-life, Hawaiian storytelling. Granted, it’s from accumulated memories, some mine, some my mom’s, and some from my older siblings. A very superstitious people, belief in the supernatural is inherent in our culture. While native Hawaiians today may not speak of the religion of our ancestors, most, including myself, won’t dispute what we were told. I’m certain it’s the same with descendants of other native people, whose beliefs were so closely intertwined with nature.

When I was a pre-teen, I met “big-aunty” for the first time. I’d heard tales about her, so I imagined she’d look and act like a mean, ugly old woman, a hag, a witch. I dreaded having to look at her, scared to death that she’d cast her malevolent eye upon me. I didn’t want to touch any part of her, not even shake her hand. I was baptized a Catholic, but as a frightened kid, I wasn’t sure my religion was going to protect me from a relative imbued with supernatural powers. In truth, I don’t think we children even spoke of “big aunty,” fearful that even our words would draw her attention, and bad luck would befall us.

With great anticipation, and some anxiety, I looked forward to finally meeting our family “Kahuna,” the witch doctor. At a cousin’s high school graduation reception at his parent’s home, my mom introduced me to “big aunty.” If my memory serves me right, my mom’s attitude seemed reverential, as if deferring to someone of higher standing. 

The eyes that greeted mine reminded me of the sea as it washes up onto black sand beaches on the Big Island of Hawaii. While her stare seemed able to penetrate right through me, I felt as though I were gazing into eyes that were dull, dead. I think she was in her 80’s at the time. But I was captivated by my “big aunty’s” small stature, and soft, gentle countenance, framed by thinning, white hair, cut short. By comparison, her younger sister, my mom, was broader, towering over her older sibling by several inches. At that moment, I feared my mom more than my aunt. Strange, I thought, how different the real person, from the one I’d imagined all those years.

Caught up in the celebration, and wanting to hang out with my boy cousins, Lincoln and Martin, whom I rarely ever saw, I didn’t engage in much conversation with “big aunty.” She, of course, spent most of her time mingling with the other adults. From time to time, I would seek her out, just to be near her. Her charisma was evident, even when she was still. In her presence, I felt no evil, only goodness. But I knew from my mom that “kahunas” possessed both; they could cast good spells, and bad ones. They could also remove spells cast by other “kahunas.”

An older brother and sister were favorites of  “big aunty,” from what I’ve been told. Because there were so many of us, she would have them spend the summers with her in Kahakuloa on Maui. While tourists are able to visit that coastal village today, roads were almost nonexistent in the old days. Of packed dirt, they were difficult to travel, especially when heavy rains eroded the soil, leaving behind deep ruts. Electricity did not exist, so nights were lit by kerosene lamps. I can remember only a couple of occasions when I visited the home built by “big aunty’s” oldest son. Being the youngest in my family, I always went with my mom. Thank God! Nights in that house by the beach, scared the living day lights out of me!

There were no screens on the windows, so I’d lay awake watching the flimsy, homemade, cotton, print curtains gently swaying in the breeze. Humid, the still air would make falling asleep difficult, especially with one whose imagination was as active as mine. I’m sure I lay there bug-eyed, anticipating what might happen at any moment.  Listening to the smooth pebbles that blanketed the nearby shore, tumbling over one another as the waves washed over them, added to my insomnia. On one such night as I’ve described, something did happen.

I was but a child, not allowed, and probably not inclined, to witness as much as the adults. But I still remember the overwhelming sense that things were not right, not good, not holy. We were awaken by “big aunty’s” children, whom we kids called aunty and uncle because they were near my mom’s age, even though they were her nephew and niece-in-law. I’m not positive, but I think my two siblings directly above me in age, were with my mom and me.

As the kerosene lamp cast eerie shadows in the darkness, I could hear the adults speaking in hushed, frantic whispers. Beads of sweat appeared upon my mom’s brow; fear showing in her eyes. Uncle left the room, as mom and aunty continued talking in barely audible voices. “Big aunty” was mentioned throughout the conversation. It seemed something was happening that involved her. I think we kids were told to go back to sleep, when they left the bedroom. Easier said than done.

Other than seeing the adults’ reaction, the only picture framed in my memory is the one I have looking out the window at a shack set back towards the edge of the property, which belonged to “big aunty.” I don’t think she lived there, but she would ensconce herself in the shack for days at a time. On this particular night, I could see images walking back and forth inside the shack. For some reason, the light emanating from within was bright, not like the dimly lit rooms in the main house. I don’t know who the figures were. I don’t think they included my mom, aunt and uncle. It seems to me they were watching from elsewhere in the house, that they were not with “big aunty.” My sense was they were staying clear of what was occurring in the shack. The only other thing I remember before finally succumbing to sleep, is hearing wails coming from the shack, ungodly cries. Now, in the comfort of older age and the safety of my home, I can wish I’d been a “fly on the wall” of the shack. Back then I wished we would have gotten the h— out of there.

The next morning at the breakfast table, the adults were still speaking in quiet voices. From what they said, I gathered “big aunty” was exhausted, worn out from the previous evenings occurrences. I don’t remember if we saw her before leaving Kahakuloa later that day. In fact, we may have driven off after breakfast, my mom not wanting to remain any longer than necessary.

Whether I overheard or was told, it seems a woman had visited “big aunty” in the middle of the night. Looking to enlist her help, the woman asked that a curse be placed upon her husband, or the woman with whom he was having an affair. Evidently “big aunty” consented, and what took place involved her levitating off the ground.

From what I understand, “big aunty” derived her powers from the devil. They were “held” within a “special, blue rock” secreted away in a cave in the side of the mountain, overlooking her shack. There was one particular story which my child’s imagination could vividly picture, when it was told to me.

During my childhood, tsunamis seemed commonplace. As my older sister, beloved by “big aunty” told the story, the sea had rolled back toward the horizon, exposing the ocean floor, a normal phenomenon with tidal waves. When the waters thundered back towards the shoreline, they split in time to spare a cow tied to a palm tree in front of my uncle’s home and “big aunty’s” shack. The waters circumvented the buildings as they continued thrashing forward, wreaking havoc everywherelse. I would liked to have been standing alongside my relatives as they witnessed the extraordinary event, from high atop the mountain.

Before “big aunty” died, she attempted to pass her powers along to her beloved nephew, my older brother. My older sister, of whom I’ve spoken, had called my mom from Honolulu, where she and my brother lived in neighboring apartments. He was sick with cold sweats and fever. At night when the moon was full, he claimed to see a spirit enter through an open window, coming to rest on top of his chest. He felt its full weight as it tried to squeeze the life out of him. I think this happened more than once. With the break of dawn, the apparition disappeared. When my mom heard this, she called “big aunty’s” family right away. From them she learned that her sister was very sick. Phoning my sister with the news, she was ordered not to let my brother return to Maui.

My mom felt that “big aunty” wanted my brother by her side before she died, that she wanted to tell him where to look for the “special” rock, wanting him to carry on as “kahuna.” A devout Catholic after converting to my father’s religion, my mom had no desire to have dealings with the devil, or have any of her children involved either. When my brother did not fly home to Maui, I think “big aunty” got better, and so did my brother. I’m not certain when she died, but she did so without passing her powers onto anyone, that I know. Unless she found someonelse, the rock remains hidden in the cave to this day.

I’m as dedicated to my Catholic beliefs, as my mom was when she lived. But like her, I’m a native very respectful of my Hawaiian heritage. As I get older, my roots seem even more deeply embedded in the soil of my culture. When I visit sacred grounds or spend the night lodged near sea cliffs, the hairs on my neck stand up, and I sense, and feel things that others don’t, not even my husband or daughter.  It’s as though spirits of my ancestors know I feel their presence, that I’m sensitive, a potential “medium.” It may be my imagination playing tricks upon me, but my family history makes me feel otherwise.

“Big aunty” wasn’t the only purveyor of curses; my mom would herself seek the help of “others” when she felt someone had put a spell on her. I’m not sure if they were “kahunas,” but they had influence over my mom for sure. I recall that she would refer to those she saw as “holy” people who would “lay their hands upon her,” blessing her, removing any evil.

There were times when my mom would drive to a lady’s home in Iao Valley, after picking me up from school. She’d disappear into the house for hours, while I waited in the car doing my homework, eventually curling up to take a nap. When my mom returned, she’d either recovered from whatever ailed her, or murmured worriedly that it would take time for things to sort themselves out. I never asked what she meant; I don’t think I really wanted to know. Taught by priests and nuns, I couldn’t reconcile my mom’s superstitious practices with my Catholic school upbringing. But the passing of years has a way of altering one’s perspective.

Maturity, motherhood, and a lifetime of experiences changed my perception of what was, and what is. I can accept, in fact cherish, being a native Hawaiian, and all that encompasses. Yet I can still worship God who, in His generosity, created all of us to live our best lives with what He has given us, including nature, its inhabitants and their habitats. God did not tell us how to live, just that we live. He gave us “free will;” and he will determine if we did the best we could.

proud of my heritage, including “big aunty”…hugmamma.

“witch doctors,” do you believe?

With Halloween just around the corner, I’m reminded of something that raised the hairs on the back of my neck. I’m in the midst of reading Orson Welles-A Biography” by Barbara Leaming. Written with his complete cooperation, it really is “a dazzling, intimate portrait of a legend.” Never one of my favorite actors, I must admit that I’ve altered my opinion after reading 396 pages of the 630 page book. Welles was really the genius he was touted to be! Unfortunately his diverse talents overextended him physically and mentally, so that his failures were as huge as his successes, both personally and professionally. But I’ll leave that for another post.

Through a series of fortuitous events, 20-year-old, recently married Orson Welles made his New York directorial debut in the midst of this country’s Great Depression. In 1935, Hallie Flanagan, head of Vassar College’s Experimental Theatre Workshop, was appointed as national director of the Federal Theatre  project. As part of FDR’s Works Progress Administration, the FT was charged with providing work for the nation’s unemployed theatrical professionals. Because Flanagan “was not a member of the Broadway commercial establishment, but an academic with a taste for experimental and regional theater,” and because, by rule, 10% of actors, musicians, playwrights and technicians “could consist of theater people who had not been receiving relief, thereby ensuring the presence of expert professional talent to counterbalance the inevitable amateurs who found working in the theater more appealing than a government construction project,” Orson found himself among this elite class of professionals.

Charged with mounting a classical production, Welles, upon his wife Virginia’s suggestion, chose to stage   “an all-black Macbeth by transposing its action from Scotland to Haiti, a startlingly new setting with important artistic advantages, not the least of them the rich possibilities for music and decor. … Preferring not to anchor the action too firmly in Haiti he had in mind a mythic island more like the fantasy setting of The Tempest than any actual place. But as Orson saw it, there was a significant gain in realism as well: by alluding to Haitian voodooism the production could make credible the role of the witches that modern audiences of Macbeth often have trouble accepting.”

At Harlem’s Lafayette Theatre,  Orson’s Macbeth opened to a mixture of  gang members, respectable black bourgeoisie, and Manhattan’s chic downtown crowd. When the curtain rose on “the intricate jungle settings, piquant costumes, and sensuous lighting,” the audience broke into “wild applause and gasps of pleasure.” And the critics’ reviews were just as ebullient. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times wrote with enthusiasm  ” ‘As an experiment in Afro-American showmanship the Macbeth fairly rocked the Lafayette Theatre, …If it is witches you want, Harlem knows how to overwhelm you with their fury and phantom splendor.’ ” The New York Daily News’ Burns Mantle hailed Macbeth as ” ‘a spectacular theatre experience. …the most colorful, certainly the most startling, of any performance that gory tragedy has ever been given on this continent.’ ”

In contrast, Percy Hammond of the Herald Tribune wrote ” ‘What surprised me last night was the inability of so melodious a race to sing the music of Shakespeare,…The actors sounded the notes with a muffled timidity that was often unintelligible. They seemed to be afraid of the Bard, though they were playing him on their home grounds.’ ” One of the African drummers, who accompanied the ranting of the three witches, made a voodoo doll in the critic’s likeness, hanging it in effigy and sticking it with pins. When told by the lighting director that Hammond was entitled to his opinion, the African replied ” ‘He’s bad man.’ ” Humoring the man over beer and pretzels at a local bar, Orson agreed to his drinking companion’s decision to put a curse on the critic.

“The African made one stipulation: the responsibility for Hammond’s death would be Orson’s alone. As a pretzel disappeared into his mouth, Orson nodded agreement. The rest of the company, Orson among them, watched with amusement as the voodoo practitioners blessed their drums before pounding on them backstage for several days. He barely gave it another thought until, shortly thereafter, he gasped to learn that Percy Hammond had just died.”

One of these times I’ll tell you about my “big-aunt,” who was a “Kahuna,” a Hawaiian witch doctor.

makes you wonder…hugmamma.

not for the “faint of heart,” halloween

The bewitching hour is fast approaching when vampires will arise, walking among us, like leaches hungry for blood; when ghouls will leave off robbing graves, to scare live victims to death; and hobgoblins will run amuck, causing their usual evil mischief. Old black and white horror movies like “Frankenstein,” and “The Mummy,” both with Boris Karloff, and “The Werewolf” with Lon Chaney, and “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi, convinced me that Halloween was NOT  child’s play, or just an occasion to ask for treats to fill my tummy. 

It took me a long time to realize that evil creatures weren’t lurking around every bend, as I played “hide-n-seek,” “chase master,” or “blind man’s bluff,” with my best friend and her male cousins in the neighborhood around the Chinese restaurant owned by their family. Playing under pitch-black skies, intermittently  glimpsing the white sheets we all wore, as we ran between parked cars and around corners of buildings, gave me the “creeps,” or as we kids use to say, “the heejeebeejees.”

When my daughter was very young, 5 or 6 years old, several of us moms, tots in tow, would drive to neighborhoods, park, and wander from house to house. My daughter reminded me that the tradition always seemed to include rain. One year, the medieval princess dress she wore, dripped little, water puddles. Another year her wet, cellophane, hula skirt clung to her tights. Of course I feared she might catch cold, but she was oblivious, only concerned that she kept up with her friends, getting her share of candy.

During her elementary school years, the costumed student body paraded around the circular driveway in front of the school building. One Halloween my daughter was Jasmine, another year she was Belle, and yet another she was Morticia. I sewed all 3 costumes. I must admit, she was always one of the best costumed. Remember, I’m obsessed with an  ATTENTION TO DETAIL!

Later in the evening, we would join several other families, including one whose parents were vets who would bring their horse along to lead our troupe of trick-or-treaters. We would always return to a particularly large cul- de-sac of homes, where one homeowner welcomed us inside for cider and cookies. Another homeowner even treated the horse to a carrot, which he polished off in minutes. I’m not sure the children were as grateful to receive the toothbrushes, toothpaste and floss, given them by the father, a dentist.

During the same time frame, I can remember that the school ran a haunted house, where different families created vignettes in each classroom. It was awesome to see what their imaginations and resourcefulness could concoct. The event was always fabulous! The Girl Scout Troop in which my daughter was a member, took the girls on haunted hay rides through pumpkin patches. One in particular scared the “bejesus” out of us, children and grownups alike. Run by a family, the ride was complete with farm hands bearing scythes and pitchforks, who tried to stop our wagon as it passed them by, or a witch in an outhouse who would scare us as we passed. I don’t think I was as keen as others about that hayride, so we only went the one time.

When I was at the University of Hawaii in the late ’60s, I lived in the dormitory. In my freshman year, the men’s dorm created a frightfully, amazing haunted maze in their basement. It was amateurish compared to others I’ve been through in later years, on the mainland. Constructed entirely of cardboard, the maze still managed to scare us girls out of our wits.

The first thing we had to pass as we made our way through the narrow passages, was a huge, butchered pig’s head. Of course we tried to time it so that we wouldn’t get hit by the head as it swung side to side. I think I crawled past it on my hands and knees. Unfortunately, hands would grab at us through holes cut in the cardboard walls. There was a lot of screaming, some of it coming from me. One girl was so petrified, she ran as though her life depended upon it, wreaking havoc with the maze, knocking it down completely. It had to be closed down, so that the cardboard walls could be reconstructed. For me, once was enough. Talk about an adrenalin rush!

Since living on the mainland, I’ve been through 2 other “professionally” staged haunted mazes. One in California was set up in a vacated supermarket. I was in my late 20’s when I went with my sister-in-law Pat, and her daughter, Selina. Unfortunately for Pat, I used her as a battering ram to forge my way through what would otherwise have been the death of me. Constantly screaming,  sometimes giggling nervously, and always on the verge of crying, I wasn’t sure what my feelings were as I braced myself against the unexpected. I only knew I couldn’t get out fast enough. Poor Pat, I’m sure I was a literal pain in her backside. 

Years later, I did the same thing to my husband when a couple of his sisters and a nephew were visiting from Hawaii. We all went through a haunted house at Hershey Park, Pennsylvania. I followed my husband, the first to enter, and hid my face in his back as I shoved him forward. Our relatives followed close on our heels. Since we were finding our way in the dark, we weren’t prepared for the wall that loomed directly in front of us. Of course my husband ran smack into it, as we all ran into him. Somehow we managed to get out without any further mishaps. Since then my husband has sworn off going through haunted houses.  That was probably 20 years or so ago. I’m certain he’s not changed his mind.

These days, we enjoy driving through neighborhoods where houses are decorated in full Halloween regalia. We get into the spirit ourselves, some years more than others. Last year Frankenstein’s head rested atop his grave, his huge green hands nestled on either side, a huge toothless grin on his purplish, green face. Nearby skeletons dangled from an overturned, rusted, blue wagon.

Tonight my husband and daughter resurrected a tradition from her childhood. They carved pumpkins to look like scary jack-o-lanterns, my daughter’s sporting the most intricate set of jagged teeth imaginable. Setting them out on the back deck, the pumpkins will illuminate the path as trick-or-treaters come knocking on the door. We’ll be ready… unless we eat all the candy before then.

bygone days…great memories, hugs for…hugmamma.

an uplifting “destination”

I’m certain we all have somewhere that lifts our spirits, whether it’s a physical location, or one that exists within our minds, hearts, or souls. Ever since moving to the Pacific Northwest, my “destination” has always been Molbak’s. When I enter its doors into what is a wonderland of sights and smells, a smile spreads across my lips, and seemingly finds its way down to the very tips of my toes.

Molbak’s is a large nursery where plants, shrubs and trees, notable for their beautiful blooms or lovely foliage, share an equally sizeable, neighboring space with items, including gifts, for the home and garden. Nestled in a cozy corner is a cafe that serves up the most delicious sandwiches, soups, salads and cookies.  Homemade, everything is as delicious as it looks and smells, the tomato basil soup, the smoked turkey with provolone and cranberry-avocado dressing on focaccia, and the caesar with grilled salmon salad, among other yummy menu items. As I sit awaiting the delivery of my order, I always sample dessert, my scrumptious peanut butter cookie. Never as great as my mom’s, it’ll do in a pinch. I savor every morsel. Usually downing it with a glass of water, I sometimes treat myself to a latte, or an Italian raspberry soda blended with cream. Sinful, but oh, so divine.

Overhead sprawls a canopy of limbs from a huge tree growing in the center of the dining area. The branches press up against the nursery’s ceiling. Growing plants and a fountain flank the base of the tree, creating a small, lush forest with “bird of paradise,” anthuriums, and torch gingers, peeking from beneath green fronds, here and there. More plants line the periphery of the cafe, creating a comforting, environment where even a solitary diner can while away the time in peaceful serenity.

Gazing beyond the cafe environs, my senses are aesthetically heightened by the colors, textures, and juxtapositions of real plants and silk arrangements, decorative furnishings and yes, artificial trees festooned with Christmas baubles, ribbons, sprays of berries, crystal twigs, and more, so much more. Leaving behind remnants of my lunch, I wander through the gift shop, admiring everything!

 As an amateur decorator, I’m always aware of store displays, appreciative of those that wow me. Molbak’s displays are like magnets whose “pull” I’m incapable of resisting, especially during the holidays. Every Christmas tree has a theme to its decor, be its focal point a color, like copper, or holiday treats, like cupcakes and wrapped candies, Of course, the surrounding shelves are filled to overflowing with the items displayed upon the trees. Making my way from tree to tree, it’s difficult to decide which is more captivating. Luckily I’m able to refrain from purchasing most of what I see in front of me, because my garage is already overloaded with bins full of Christmas decor. I do not need more, in fact, I need to rid myself of some. The question is always “With what can I part?” Not only regarding holiday stuff, but all my stuff. I’m an antique dealer, you see, and a collector, with all manner of collections.

Of course I couldn’t resist a “small” purchase, artificial evergreen sprays sporting small, red bells scattered intermittently along its length. They’ll hang nicely on the painted, green door nailed to the wall by the front door of our house. Other than its appeal as an architectural piece, the green door is always a handy backdrop for holiday decor, or random items that catch my fancy.

Before exiting Molbak’s, I perused the small, designated area of Halloween items. I love their vintage selection, offerings reminiscent of the Victorian era. Ghoulish, without being garish. My eyes fell upon a black, artificial, 4-foot tree, lit with small, yellowish-white lights. If not for Halloween being within sight, I might have carted that tree home to make it the centerpiece of an elaborate, ghostly scene, in my dining room, or living room. Perhaps if it’s “on sale” after the holiday?

No matter the season, a visit to Molbak’s always warms my heart, and calms my spirit. It’s “comfort food” for my soul.

hoping you’ve “somewhere” that uplifts…hugmamma.

party sweets, halloween

Something to think about, and plan ahead. If Halloween’s your “trick-or-treat,” then these might intrigue your guests, and keep the conversation howling.

  • Devilish Drink – pour grenadine syrup (as much or as little, to your taste) into a large glass pitcher. Slowly add chillded mango lemonade or your favorite bright orange juice or drink on top. Let stand—layers will separate. Beautifully delicious!
  • Spider Cookie Sandwiches – makes 12 cookie sandwiches: 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, 1 tube (16 oz) refrigerated cookie dough (softened), 1 brick (8 oz) cream cheese, 1 jar (7 or 7 1/2 oz) marshmallow cream (such as Marshmallow Fluff), Orange gel food color
  1. Knead cocoa into cookie dough in large bowl. Shape into an 8-in.-long log; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate 4 hours or overnight until firm.
  2. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough; cut into 1/4-in.-thick slices (you should have 24). Place 2 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 8 to 10 minutes until set. Let cool slightly on baking sheet; remove to wire rack to cool completely.
  3. Beat cream cheese with electric mixer until smooth. Add marshmallow cream; beat until fluffy. Remove 1/3 cup, tint orange, and spoon into quart-size ziptop bag; reserve. Spread a slightly rounded Tbsp frosting on half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies, pressing gently to sandwich together.
  4. Snip a tiny corner off bag with orange frosting; pipe web design on top and down sides of cookies. Refrigerate until serving.

hugs for ghosts, ghouls and goblins…hugmamma.

attitude adjustment

One day I had occasion to visit a beautiful, upscale mall in sunny southern California, The Costa Mesa Mall. Sprawling over several acres, it was a shopper’s paradise. A favorite phrase,”eye candy,” coined while strolling the cobblestone streets of Venice, seemed just as applicable at this retail complex. Anchoring this shopping mecca, were giants Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Nordstrom’s, Sak’s, and Sear’s. Sprinkled in and around them were other name stores, Gap, BCBG, MaxMara, Mango, Barney’s New York, Abercrombie & Fitch, and a seemingly endless list of other brands. Rolex caught my eye. I’d not seen it in any other mall I’ve visited. In fact, I’ve never seen its storefront before.

My first stop had to be Bloomingdale’s. Our first “introduction” was at 53rd and Lex in NYC in 1976. Several years ago, my daughter and I visited a branch in Soho, New York. There’s a distinct vibe to the retail icon. It’s upscale with a contemporary, youthful flavor. New York is culturally diverse, with Chinatown and Little Italy as neighbors, deli workers commuting alongside doctors on subways, and homeless setting up house across the street from Trump Tower. As a result, Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s caters to customers from all walks of life. Everyone is treated equally. When you enter the store, whether you browse or buy, you’re a BFF (best friend forever).

As I wandered through Costa Mesa’s Bloomingdale’s, the mood was the exact opposite of its “sister” in the east. I felt invisible as I made my way through different areas of women’s wear. Several of the saleswomen were young and Asian. None approached to assist me, instead greeting and speaking with Caucasian shoppers. I took notice because I’m half-Chinese. Perhaps I didn’t appear to have the money to spend. No matter I thought, I’m just browsing. If something “grabbed” my attention, I would’ve made myself known.

In lingerie, I looked at a selection of bras displayed on a table. While fingering one in particular, a lovely, black, young saleslady approached saying “Isn”t that nice!” I replied that it was, but couldn’t find the price. She checked one like it nearby. It too had no price, so she left to make inquiries, indicating she’d be right back. Upon returning with the price, she pointed to another bra that was on sale. Following her to the “sale” rack, I explained that I had been searching for one that I had seen more than a year ago at Free People. The saleslady quickly informed me that the store had a branch in the mall. I was pleasantly surprised that she referred me to a competitor. Her recommendation reminded me of the Santa Claus in “It’s A Wonderful Life.” If an item was not in stock, he sent customers from Gimbel’s, where he worked, to Macy’s where he thought they’d find exactly what they were looking for.

Leaving Bloomingdale’s I pondered what had just happened to me. I was ignored by my own ethnic “sisters”, and treated kindly by a black woman, who reached out in true sisterhood. On my way out of the store, I saw BCBG, a retailer of expensive, designer wear. Stepping inside, I strolled about, stopping to more closely inspect items that were of interest. The 3 young, Asian, sales help never acknowledged my presence. Interesting, I thought. As I made my way from the back towards the exit at the front, I stopped to allow one of the sales women to pass. I noticed a half-smile on her lips as she walked by. Continuing towards the door, I saw a Caucasian customer enter and heard one of the sales ladies call out “Hi! How are you?”

In my 20’s I perceived such affronts as there being something wrong with me. Almost 40 years later, I find such experiences curious. On its face it might seem that the Asian women thought I was “beneath” them and their Caucasian clientele. I was dressed well, but not anything like their regular customers. By contrast, the young, Black woman treated me as an equal or better, since I was a potential consumer. But setting aside what might seem like the obvious, it may be that the Asians were behaving according to stereotype, quiet and shy. And the black woman was, perhaps, more outgoing by nature. Murmuring to myself, I continued on my way.

My next encounter, more pleasant than those previously, added another dimension to the racial question. Sylvia, in DKNY, greeted me with a pleasant smile and “Hi! How are you?” As I wandered from table to rack, looking at Donna Karin designer digs, Sylvia’s eyes followed me. Stepping closer, she commented that I should let her know if I needed any help. I thanked her. When I finally spied a long, grey, sleeveless dress that might fit my daughter nicely, I asked for Sylvia’s assistance. We talked a little about the details of the dress, its fit, its color, its multiple use. I shared a picture of my daughter. Sylvia complimented my daughter’s beauty and her pursuit of dancing as a career. I learned that Sylvia was of Korean-Polish ancestry. I expressed my feeling that marriages between easterners and westerners, can produce attractive offspring. My husband and daughter who are Hawaiian-Chinese-Portuguese are proof-positive. I left in a very good mood, promising to return later that day, my daughter in tow.

Before heading off to get a bite to eat, I stopped in at Free People. Immediately inside the doorway, Ashley greeted me with a huge smile and friendly manner that wrapped around me like a warm blanket. We chatted continually while I moved hangers aside to better inspect each piece of clothing. I couldn’t stop staring at her, wondering who she looked like. After a few moments playing charades, we arrived at the conclusion that she bore a close resemblance to the youngest of the 3 protagonists fighting the “good fight” against the witches in “Hocus Pocus,” a Halloween favorite on the small screen. Throughout the boutique, Ashley met up with me to comment on an item that I’d hold up for a better look. A native Californian, she was the friendliest I’d ever met, and I told her so. She laughed, and thanked me for the compliment. To better explain myself I told her of my experience in Bloomingdale’s. “Oh!” she exclaimed, eyes rolling, “They need an attitude adjustment!” Well, I just loved her absolute candidness. She was too precious, I thought.

It was so refreshing to make small talk with a young person, so totally unimpressed with outward trappings. She was Caucasian, but it didn’t matter. She was a resounding reminder that it’s what a person is like on the “inside” that matters, not skin color, or social status, or age. Because of her innate skills for serving customers, Free People made a tidy sum when I returned with my daughter to make a number of purchases. I felt like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. I wanted to return to Bloomingdale’s and BCBG to say “I was the one you wouldn’t help. Big mistake! Huge mistake! Huge!”

best not judge a book by its cover…hugmamma