365 photo challenge: chummy

…getting chummy with the waiters…in venice…

…looks like I’m trying to…act…and direct….or else I’m trying to spit out an olive pit…

………hugmamma.

365 photo challenge: lark

According to Webster’s Dictionarylark, n. 1. a merry, carefree adventure. –v.i. 2. to have fun; frolic.

…hubby’s idea of going on a lark…

…my idea of going on a lark…

…another one of my hairbrained larks…

 

…our whole family…off on a lark…

…my daughter and her friends…on their own kind of halloween lark…

 

…i think you get the idea?!?……… i’m off on another lark………hugmamma.

365 photo challenge: outside

where i’d like to be right now……………………………outside…………………………….

enjoying the peace, quiet and warmth…………of croatia………….hugmamma.

a “human” cougar

 

Kami-Daigo in Kyoto, Japan

Image via Wikipedia

Events in Japan have put me in a thoughtful mood of late. Decided to lift my own spirits, and perhaps yours, by reprinting the story of Nashi, an elder statesman, who recently passed away. A long-time resident of a local zoo, he seemed to be viewed as one of them, by his human caretakers. Needless to say they mourned him as they would a member of their families. The following tribute ran in today’s local newspaper.

100 px

Image via Wikipedia

The community is invited to Cougar Mountain Zoo to honor the life of Nashi, a cougar transplanted from the woods of Minnesota to the zoo more than 17 years ago.

Nashi died from old age Feb 24. Though he had been showing signs of slowing down for the past several months, the loss was still devastating to staff, volunteers and zoo visitors. Cougar Mountain Zoo General Curator Robyn Barfoot said.

“He was a fantastic cougar. He had a lot of spunk in him,” she said. “He enjoyed talking with the visitors every day.”

The Nashi Memorial Celebration will be at March 26 at the zoo. Instead of holding its traditional cougar lecture, the zoo will open the stage for people to talk about Nashi. Staff members who raised and worked with him will talk about his life.

Cougar“I used to joke around that he’s a rock star, because he is,” Barfoot said. At the zoo, Nashi would model for product labels, television shows and nature documentaries. “He actually sat in the mayor’s chair when he was a cub,” she said. “He definitely made the rounds and left a mark on many people.”

Volunteers and zoo visitors are also encouraged to share their Nashi stories, talking about how he made them feel when he chirped or purred in their presence.

“His purrs were really unique,” Barfoot said. “He had a low guttural purr and he would stick his tongue out. If you got a purr from Nashi, your day was pretty darn perfect.”

A Blackfoot indian on horseback

Image via Wikipedia

Nashi came to the zoo as a cub after he was found orphaned in Minnesota. His full name, Nashidoita, is Blackfoot Indian for Spirit of the Mountains.

“He was a great cat and everyone who worked at the zoo had a relationship with him, not just the people who worked directly with him,” Barfoot said.

My family and I were fortunate to watch Nashi prowl the confines of his Cougar Mountain Zoo hideaway. He looked every bit the master of all he surveyed. And obviously he was.

hugs for cats…big and small…wild and not-so-wild…hugmamma.

“point, and shoot!”

Had a great “date day” with my hubby. After a 20-25 minute drive to a massage appointment that turned out not to be until next weekend, we headed into Seattle.

Recent events of the last several weeks had me rescheduling appointments. Unfortunately I didn’t make the changes where they counted, on my calendar. Seniors know we have to write everything down. I forgot to do that, so we were surprised when a note on my massage therapist’s door said “Closed. Returning at 1 p.m.” Like a scrabble game, my brain started rearranging my thoughts and came up with “OMG! What date is this?” After being told, by my husband, that it was March 5th, we burst into laughter at my senior moment. “Oh well,” I said, “the ride through the countryside was beautiful. Now we’ll be able to enjoy the urban jungle of the city.” And off we went.

The primary purpose of our trip was to see about getting tickets for the musical, “Billy Elliott.” Online tickets were pricey, and the available seats didn’t look good. As always the “doubting Thomas,” I wanted to stand at the box-office window, ask the person sitting there for the prices, and look at the seating chart. I also wanted to query her as to her thoughts about the location of the seats. Which seats are better, these or those? I prefer the human touch, over the computer “clicks.” Call me old-fashioned, or old-school, or just old. It’s a generational thing, whatever you call it.

Pike Place Market in Seattle

Image via Wikipedia

After finding out that the box-office was only open Mondays through Fridays, we cheerily wandered down the street toward Pike Place Market. My hubby will return and check out the ticket situation. If we see “Billy Elliott,” fine. If not, the movie version of several years ago suffices.

As we wandered down sidewalks overflowing with Saturday shoppers, I decided to capture images with my camera. I was fascinated with shops along the way. At Barney’s New York, I stopped to take photos of words boldly written across their over-sized windows. They spoke of backstage happenings. Of course I was captivated.

My daughter’s often spoken of things that occur behind the scenes at ballet performances. One particular incident involved a fellow, male dancer carrying her from the stage “wings” where she was crouching in pain, backstage to the physical therapist’s station, where the “charley-horse” in her calve muscle could be checked out. This prevented my daughter from dancing in the finale. With the help of female dancers gathered around, her costume was quickly removed, and her understudy was just as quickly shoved into it. And as the saying goes, it was “on with the show.”

The sun’s warmth felt glorious! My husband kept up with me as I wend my way in and out of the crowd, stopping to snap pictures of Macy’s windows with mannequins in funky

outfits, a boutique window with artsy graphics, a “Chocolate” shop I’d never noticed on previous visits.

Everything looks delicious when I don’t have to dodge raindrops. I lingered everywhere, on curbsides, in the cozy courtyard of a small hotel near Pike Place Market, and then, of course, the market itself.

People were everywhere, soaking up the unique sights, smells and sounds of food booths, craft booths, flower booths, produce stalls, fish stalls. My absolute favorite is the vendor who sells fresh-roasted nuts. I never leave without a pound of her cashew nuts. Today, I also purchased a pound of toffee-covered nuts for my husband’s “sweet-sour tooth,” a mixture of peanuts and hazelnuts. These nuts are never a disappointment! And I’m a nut aficionado. I love cashew chicken, goobers, “turtles,” chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, almond rocha, almond joy, and on and on.

Making our way back from where we came, the downtown area, I turned my camera on passersby. People fascinate me, all kinds. I wanted to capture Seattlites, although I’m sure they weren’t all city-dwellers. Nonetheless, when I asked if I could photograph them, I said it was to let readers of my blog see the people of Seattle. All but one responded with smiles and nods of agreement.

I’m sure I startled those on the other side of window fronts, a chef preparing ingredients, a couple of guys eating lunch,  and a Sephora makeup artist doing her thing. Caught up in playing amateur photographer, I approached a mother and daughter, a woman waiting outside a shop with her luggage, sales people in the coolest, new clothing store, “All Saints…,” and a street musician.

I was delighted to buy the street newspaper, “Real Change,” from an amiable homeless man. But another homeless person, an elderly woman, stopped me dead in my tracks. I’d never seen a woman who looked like a school teacher, or a librarian, or an office worker, leaning up against a lamp-post, plastic bags gathered around, dressed in an oversized, yellow, rubber raincoat with a long, green scarf snuggly wrapped about her head, cup in hand, begging. Wanting to “tell” her story, I asked if I could take a picture of her. Eyeglasses cast a shadow, while a small smile softened the blow of her emphatic “no,” in response. As we stood, a guy who looked to be in his late 20s, early 30s, pressed a plastic bag containing a boxed lunch into the woman’s grateful hands. He was on his way, before she fully mouthed her words of thanks. Oblivious to my presence, she hungrily removed the bag’s contents, murmuring how she really needed the food. As I pressed a $5 bill into her free hand, her eyes widened in disbelief. I can only imagine that she felt today was a good day. But as I walked away, I wondered about her tomorrows.

My husband said it best when he declared of me…”You dance to the beat of a different drummer.”

he’s right…i come up with my own “choreography”…hugmamma.

“brave the surf,” maui’s ho’okipa beach park

Get an email from owners of a condo in Maui, every so often. They’re always looking for renters. Did consider their property a few years ago, but didn’t book. Thought some of you might be interested in their pitch. Sounds great and the photos are gorgeous.

I have fond memories of Ho’okipa Beach, as mentioned in my post of 9/8/10, “maui, ho’okipa beach park.” You might want to make some memories of your own there.

Aloha!

These are pictures taken at Ho’okipa Beach Park, one of the supreme sites for experienced windsurfers in the world. The conditions here are for pros only because the surf is often very rough. It’s fascinating to go and watch in awe as young and old head out and then, miraculously, return safely. The site is gorgeous, the wind is always howling, and the sound
is amazing. It’s a beautiful spot just to sit and watch or walk down to the water to congratulate the windsurfers as they come in. The youngest we saw was in shot 8. He looked to be around ten and had probably been riding his whole life. In several shots, you can tell by the angle of the sails that the waves were always going in different directions. 

We will take a picnic lunch and always park right down by the action. Shot 1 is taken from the parking lot they have put in up above. You can get a good view of the site before you drive on down to the far end on the beach. This is not a place to go swimming; it’s intimidating even to stand close enough to get your feet wet!

Ask for the Maui Hints if we haven’t already sent them to you. They will tell you exactly how to get there, if you haven’t already been, and will also give you some more background about Ho’okipa and the nearby surfers’ towns of Pa’ia and Haiku.

Head for Ho’okipa on your next trip to Maui!

Anne & Wes

Anne and Wes Burmark
253.549.4064
“HO’ONANEA — To pass the time in ease, peace, and pleasure; to relax.”

  11 Attached Images

 

definitely not for the “faint of heart,” nor the inexperienced swimmer…like moi…hugmamma.

if you go, tell them “hugmamma sent you!”

weekly photo challenge: abundance

full to overflowing…………………………………

full to overflowing………………………………….full to overflowing………………………………….

abundance…in all forms…hugmamma.

“i’ve been interviewed”

Photo“My English Thoughts” kindly decided she wanted to return the favor of an interview with me after I’d done one with her, what she called “a double interview.” Only on wordpress.com can amateurs interview each other, and be published. Thanks, wordpress!

So if you feel as though you don’t know all there is to know about me from reading my posts, you might want to visit “myenglishthoughts.wordpress.com,” and learn a tad more. She will be updating my interview as I finish answering several more questions, and I will be doing the same for her. Although being a young woman, I think her life is a little busier than mine. I think the saying is she’s “making hay while the sun’s up.” Old adages and truisms are not my strong point. I tend to mix them up, like “hitting the nail over the head,” instead of “hitting the nail on the head.” Whatever…

you’re invited to “myenglishthoughts.com”…enjoy the visit…hugmamma.

bilingual, “something in common”

Great news! My good friend Becky (see “coffee with friends, so much more than” posted on 8/18/10), a southern woman with a French drawl, has connected with “My Enlglish Thoughts” on her blog. It’s like a friendship made in international heaven.

Becky has studied French for years, having traveled to that country for pleasure many times. During one of her more recent visits to the countryside, she spent a month living among the natives. That’s the only way to explore another culture, immersing oneself into its daily offerings. Needless to say Becky speaks the language fluently, even attending a luncheon at which she and her fellow students cooked the entire meal while conversing throughout in French. I think I’d have had indigestion, and eaten very little, a good thing for weight loss.

Obviously Becky and “My English Thoughts” will contribute to one another’s increased understanding of two, very different cultures. Especially as I indicated, my friend Becky has a “genteel,” southern perspective about life in America. And I love her for it.

hugs for 2 friends…who are now friends…hugmamma.

postaday2011 challenge: interview

WordPress.com recently suggested a topic challenge, to interview someone, possibly another blogger. The suggestion to “bust out our journalism skills” was intimidating at first, but after further thought I decided to go for it. I reached out to “My English Thoughts,” another wordpress.com blogger. The site’s author intrigued me because while she’s French, she blogs in English. I congratulate her for not letting a foreign language get in the way of free expression. She writes fluidly, without regard for “political correctness.” Good for her! I hope you enjoy meeting my new internet friend, and that you’ll welcome her into your homes, as you have welcomed me.

Why did you decide to blog?

Well that’s a very good question ! I’ve started to blog in October 2009 in French. At time I wanted to interact with other bloggers and share a little piece of my life, my feelings, but it happened that the French blog community is not exactly the same than the English one, so quickly I’ve understand that if I wanted to be read, I had to publish short and kinda unpersonel and superficial. After almost an year, I couldn’t recognize myself in my blog so I didn’t write anymore.

Then one day, I’ve discovered WordPress and the Post a day / Post a week challenge ! I’ve decide to go for it but this time, I will write my blog in English ! First because there is no much French using WordPress, but mainly because I love English and I want to improve it in writing as much as I can.
 

It appears to me that writing in English is so much easier for me than writing in French, no taboo, no censure because members of my family are reading it… Plus the English / Worldwide community is much more fun, welcoming and interesting than the French for what I know. They do really care about what you want to say and not about to be fun / short / superficial….

Have you traveled outside of France? If so, where have you been, and is there a favorite place you’d recommend my readers and I visit, both in France and elsewhere.

I love travelling !! Unfortunately, I can’t travelling a lot because of the money but I’m trying to at least. 🙂

I’ve been in Italy, Firence in Toscana (Florence), Venezia (Venise), and of course to the border line with France ( My Hometown is Nice, French Riviera, so I guess it is normal… ). I’ve been to Geneva in Swiss, Czech Republic twice ( Prague, in Bohemia, Brno, Czech Prachatice, Lednice, Hluboka… actually I’ve travelling all around this country ), London of course too, Namur in Belgium and that’s about it for foreign country.

I would love to visit the Highlands in Scotland, Australia, New Zealand, Viet Nam, Japan, Canada, USA and South America… In fact, there is so many country that I would love to visit !

In France, I’ve been to the south west, south east of course, Normandie, in the French Alps and “Pays de la Loire“. I have to admit I do not know much my own country !

I strongly recommend Prague, Toscana ( both wonderful country ), I fall in Love too with London for the architecture and the mood in the city.

In France, I would recommand you to visit Montmartre in Paris, it’s so lovely and charming ! South East too, there is so many beautiful landscape, the sea is just lovely in the summer time, Pays de la Loire because of the wonderful Castles and the Bretagne ( Britain ), because of the landscape and some wonderful city as Mont St Michel ! French Alps are delightful too !!

 When Americans visit Paris, are there tips you can offer which would make us more acceptable to the French who deal with tourists? I”d heard that Parisians might not be so friendly towards non-French speaking persons.

Don’t worry about Parisians!  Some of them are not welcoming or easy to speak with even with French people !! They are stressed, always on the rush or anything. That’s not an excuse I know, and sometimes it’s even difficult for me too !

But seriously, if you’re visiting France, you will meet too wonderful people. Try to learn few words in French, just like “Bonjour”, “Merci”, “Comment ça va?”… you know the small little basics. There is a community very welcoming with foreigners called ” Couch surfing community “. We use to meet every monday night in a pub !! There is lot of French people but some of my friends are also Mexicans, Argentinians, Lebanese, Australians, English… There is a website where you can contact them and sometimes, they can meet you to have a drink or walk around the city with you to make you discovering some places !

I’m sorry I can’t answer to the following question right now, I have to rush to my job now. 🙂  I will very soon, I don’t know if I could tonight or tomorrow but I will have some time off Saturday for sure !

It’s really a great pleasure to do that, and kinda of unexpected too ! 🙂 I will wrote an post about it as soon as I can and if you could answered too to the same questions, It would be so lovely !! 🙂 a Kind of Double Interview ! So my readers could get to know you too as well.

Hugs
Isabelle

charming…simply charming…hugmamma.


“lobster kona style,” sam choy

In my post “christmas 2011???” I indicated that my husband and daughter prepared our amazing holiday meal. They were my personal gourmet chefs, if only for a day. But I’m not complaining. Each dish tasted as fabulous as it looked. Had I done the cooking, I’m not sure I would’ve fared as well. Sometimes I overfuss; my husband never, ever even fusses. He’s simplicity personified. And my daughter was the perfect sous chef. She fusses, but she doesn’t overfuss.

From renowned Hawaiian chef, Sam Choy’s cookbook, “Cuisine Hawaii,” I found the main dish for our Christmas dinner. I love lobster, especially dipped in warm, melted butter. I no longer indulge in the dripping delight, because of health reasons. Something I’ve spoken about ad nauseam. “Lobster Kona Style” may be a healthier, and tastier, alternative.

In a sidebar to the recipe, Chef Choy told how he and his staff caught the lobsters used in his recipes. I thought it was interesting, since I’d only known of lobster traps in Maine, and elsewhere on the east coast. I thought it was worth repeating. Natives like me might be surprised, and tourists who visit the islands might be intrigued.

Fortunately, lobsters like to gather in the waters right in front of the Kona Hilton, so that’s where my kitchen staff and I go to catch them during lobster season, which runs from September through May.

In preparation for catching the lobsters, we put pieces of fish into our traps, which measure about two feet wide by three feet long. Then we hang the traps over the sea ledge near the hotel, letting them down to between 30 and 40 feet deep.

We leave the traps there overnight, and during that time the lobsters crawl into them backwards with their feelers to get the food. The opening is shaped like a big funnel, with the smaller part on the inside, so once the lobsters get in, they can’t get out. In the morning we return to the traps, which usually have attracted not only lobsters but rock crabs and big eels. The trap holds from six to 12 lobsters.

If  the carapace of the animal is smaller than three inches, or if it’s a mother with eggs, we throw it back. Then we take the keepers back to the kitchen, because lobsters taste best if they’re alive and lively. We move as quickly as possible to prepare them for a gourmet meal like Lobster Kona Style. In this recipe, the rich buttery flavor of the lobster is offset by a tangy sweet and sour sauce. Enjoy!

Years ago when we lived in Redding, Connecticut, a styrofoam chest containing live Maine lobsters was delivered to our door. It was a thank-you gift from one of my husband’s clients. Unable to get my husband by phone, and not knowing what to do with the shellfish, I put them in the freezer. Later that night when my husband arrived home, he informed me he didn’t think I’d done the right thing. Telling him I didn’t want the lobsters to die, he reminded me that I killed them anyway, by freezing them to death. “Oh, yeah right,” I said. Lesson learned,… at the lobsters’ expense.

Without further adieu…Lobster Kona Style…

2 whole lobsters (1 pound each)

Sam’s Seafood Marinade: 1/2 c shoyu, 1/2 c oil, 2 T mirin, 1 egg white (lightly beaten), 1 T minced garlic, 1 T minced ginger, 1/2 t salt, 1/4 t white pepper, 2 T cornstarch, 1  1/2 t brown sugar. Combine shoyu, oil, mirin, egg white, garlic, ginger, salt and white pepper. Mix together cornstarch and brown sugar and stir into shoyu mixture; blend well. Makes 1 1/4 cups.

Oil for deep-frying

Sweet & Sour Sauce: 1/2 c tomato  catsup, 1/2 c vinegar, 1/2 water, 2 t shoyu, 1 c sugar, 1/2 c orange marmalade, 1 1/2 t minced ginger, 1 t minced garlic, 1/4 t hot pepper sauce, 2 T water. In a medium saucepan combine tomato catsup, vinegar, 1/2 c water, shoyu, sugar, orange marmalade, ginger, garlic and hot pepper sauce; mix well and bring to a boil. Blend cornstarch and 1 1/2 tablespoons water to make a smooth paste. Stir cornstarch mixture into sauce. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently until thickened. Makes 2 cups.

Remove lobster meat from tail sections, leaving head attached to tail. Cut lobster tail meat in half, then crosswise into four sections. Marinate lobster meat in Sam’s Seafood Marinade for 45 minutes. Steam lobster shells until shell is bright red; set aside. Heat oil to 375 degrees. Dip lobster meat into Tempura Beer Batter, then deep fry in oil until golden brown. Arrange lobster meat in the empty tail shells. Pour Sweet & Sour Sauce over the lobster meat. Makes 2 servings.

Tempura Beer Batter: 1/2 c flour, 1/2 c cornstarch, 1 t salt, 2 egg yolks, beaten, 3/4 c ice-cold beer. Combine dry ingredients and blend well. Stir in egg yolks. Gradually add beer, stirring constantly, and blend until smooth.

bon appetito!…hugmamma

catholic education, a good thing

Father Brian was not on hand today. He and the pastor of Mary Queen of Peace, in Sammamish, switched parishes today so that our pastor could promote St. Joseph’s School and Catholic education, as an alternative to public schools. A charismatic public speaker, I’ve no doubt Father Brian got his point across, and some.

Of course my antennae were on full alert, ascertaining that Father’s “star” is indeed, “on the rise.” As a result of his impending 3-year review, I’m almost certain he will be moving onward and upward to a larger parish. He is such an asset to the Church’s growth with his youth, energy, intelligence, leadership, people skills, and passion for his calling. He deserves advancement where he can realize the utilization of all he has to offer. I will miss him, as will his entire congregation. But there is need for men like Father Brian in transforming the Catholic Church into a religious institution for today. It has long outgrown its facade of centuries past. We are overdue for another ecumenical movement.

Then again, I may be “barking up the wrong tree.” My husband will definitely be smirking if I’m wrong, and Father stays put. It won’t be the first time. Once I almost convinced my daughter a woman dressed like a beautiful gypsy, sashaying in front of a cathedral in Florence, Italy, was a “lady-of-the-night.” I think I said “p——–e”, but this is a religious post after all. I say almost, because a little later my daughter pointed out that the woman was carrying a flag, leading a group of tourists. That was my daughter’s “aha” moment, meaning mom doesn’t know what the heck she’s talking about. From then on my grown daughter  has questioned my word as being the gospel truth. In fact, I think she starts out thinking I’m guilty until proven otherwise. I jest of course,… at least I think.

As part of today’s homily, a homemade video was shown depicting a day in the life of the students at St. Joseph’s. It was charming, reminding me of my days as a Catholic school student in Maui. Attending St. Anthony Girl’s School from first grade through my senior year in high school, gave me the foundation I needed to overcome barriers that were part of my reality as a person born into poverty. The Maryknoll nuns not only taught us academic skills with which to earn our living as adults, but they imbued us with lifelong values. We graduated as well-rounded young women, prepared to take our places as citizens of the larger community. In today’s world, that kind of education would be a priceless commodity.

I left Mass today, committed to making a donation to both Catholic schools, St. Anthony’s and St. Joseph’s. Just as children need to practice their 3 Rs–aRithmetic, wRiting, and Reading–everyday, so too they need to practice their values.

treating others as we would have them treat us…should be a lifelong lesson…hugmamma.  

  

“last frontier,” holland america line

Rugged Alaska is truly the last frontier, where wide open spaces abound and wild animals still outnumber people. For me its appeal is in a topography that is so unlike Hawaii’s. The extreme cold requires hearty vegetation. Evergreens do not flourish as they do in the Pacific Northwest, the barrier of ice beneath the soil preventing the penetration of tree roots. Most of Denali National Park is comprised of craggy, barren hills dotted with low lying bushes and rivulets formed by melting snow. There it’s possible to see bears, in clear view, ambling up hillsides or wandering alongside the road in search of food. Some with cubs trailing behind, others meandering  in solitude. Moose or elk might be seen, if one looks really hard, standing like statues behind patches of tall trees and brush. They wisely remain safely ensconced, out of range of hunters and their guns. Bears don’t seem to have that same innate dread, sidling up to tour buses sniffing the air hoping for a tasty morsel. Perhaps a “tourist-Mcmuffin?”

A number of years ago, my husband and one of his sisters organized a family cruise to Alaska. Twenty five of us sailed from Vancouver, BC, for a week of fun at sea. We all agreed it was the best vacation ever. Traveling with relatives on a ship meant having companions close by, with “elbow room” to do our own thing when we wanted. We shared formal evening meals in the main dining room. We celebrated our daughter’s high school graduation in the Pinnacle Grill, a very special gathering. My husband hosted a cocktail hour for the entire group in the Crow’s Nest lounge. Other than these get-togethers, everyone ate breakfast and lunch where they chose, in the Lido Restaurant or around the pool. Ship board activities were also left to everyone’s discretion, which included relaxing, shopping, swimming and gambling. Evenings we lounged together in the Piano Bar, the Sports Bar, the Crow’s Nest, the Lido Lounge or the disco. After dinner, most of us strolled to the rear of the ship for a musical extravaganza or a magic act. Some of the men got sidetracked, settling at gaming tables where we found them later, still gambling. A couple might have been big winners, although I’m not sure if they “broke even,” having invested a good amount. What’s certain is that they had a fabulous time.

Shore excursions were a “free-for-all.” A few of the men went fishing, some toured Mendenhal Glacier by helicopter where they landed for a dog sled ride, others walked the ports poking around in museums and shops. My husband, daughter, a friend of hers, and I,  joined a tour to see black bears. We flew a prop plane to a small island, where we stood a short distance from bears feeding at a salmon hatchery. Thank goodness the river overflowed with fish for we never felt threatened, never worried that we were a backup food supply. One outing the entire group enjoyed was whale watching. Other attempts made by my family in years past while living in New England, proved fruitless. Alaskan whales showed up on cue, swimming beneath our boat, breaching alongside, feeding in groups, and displaying their calves proudly. I’m positive everyone took enough pictures to fill 50 albums.

My husband, daughter and I had cruised Alaska a few years before the aforementioned one with family. That trip too was wonderful because it was our first to the “last frontier.” I remained as enamored of Alaska, the second time around. Perhaps there’s a third trip in our future, with family members who weren’t able to make the first oceanic reunion.

Holland America casts its “line” in the hopes that it will reel you in “Imagine giant glacial peaks and massive snowcapped mountains that glisten in the sun. Such is the view from the spacious deck of your five-star ship. Watch for breaching whales, soaring eagles and resting seals as you pass by. In as little as seven days, you’ll have a chance to pan for gold in Juneau and fish for king salmon in Ketchikan.”

With our family we took the 7-Day Inside Passage, Roundtrip Vancouver. We sailed to Juneau, Skagway and Glacier Bay National Park. Watching the glacier “calve” (break off) into the icy, blue waters below, magnificently displayed the power of Mother Nature. The sight was awesome, and humbling. 

  • In 2011, the ms Zuiderdam sails Saturdays: May 14-Sep 17
  • In 2011, the ms Volendam sails Wednesdays: May 18-Aug 31
  • In 2011, the ms Zaandam sails Sep 18

My husband, daughter and I took the 7-Day Explorer, Roundtrip Seattle (originally Vancouver, BC). It sails to Juneau, Hubbard Glacier or Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan, Victoria.

  • In 2011, the ms Oosterdam via Glacier Bay sails Sundays: May 8-Sep 18
  • In 2011, the ms Westerdam via Hubbard Glacier sails Saturdays: May 7-Sep 17
  • In 2011, the ms Amsterdam via Glacier Bay sails Sep 16

“The pleasure of mid-sized cruising – Our fleet of spacious, mid-sized ships makes a big difference in your onboard experience. You’ll feel it in generously proportioned public rooms, elegant staterooms and airy open decks–with plenty of room at the rail to see glorious Glacier Bay. Our ships are large enough to offer the amenities sophisticated travelers expect while preserving a refined ambiance.”

So give your travel professional a call to discuss a one-of-a-kind trip to see the “last frontier.” Or call 1-877-SAIL HAL (1-877-724-5425), or visit www.hollandamerica.com for more information. And tell them hugmamma sent you. You won’t be disappointed. Others I know have given the same “thumbs up” review.

hugs for the great outdoors, on a HAL cruise…hugmamma. 

“aloha,” the meaning

I don’t claim to speak for all Hawaiians, only myself and perhaps a handful of others I know who may share my sentiments. The uproar over a mosque being built near Ground Zero seems to be growing the ever-widening gap among people, in our country and abroad, but particularly here in America. Republicans and Democrats have always been on sparring terms, but added to the mix now are the “Tea-Party” supporters with Sarah Palin seemingly at the helm. An uneasy coexistence among us began when the streamers and champagne glasses were tossed out, after President Obama’s inaugural. Did civility and tolerance get thrown in the trash as well?

Wanting and needing to live a healthy life going forward, for my sake and that of my husband’s and daughter’s, it’s been essential that I adopt a more compassionate, positive outlook toward myself, and others. Diseases, like Alzheimer’s breed on negativity. I’m certain, as survivors of cancer would agree, that dwelling upon the bad aspects of the disease doesn’t help in the fight against and may, in fact, promote its spread. So why would we want to encourage more vitriol amongst ourselves, families, friends, neighbors,co-workers,communities and fellow-worshippers of the same Being whom we all believe as benevolent? Might we not share that same benevolence with our fellow-men and women?

Opponents of both views  in the brouhaha over mosques being built on U.S. soil seem unwilling to share the land, let alone compassion ( “a feeling of sympathy for another’s misfortune” according to Webster) towards one another. Yesterday’s Journal cited several ongoing conflicts around the country. In Temecula, California “Local officials will consider in November plans by the Islamic Center of Temecula Valley for a 25,000-square-foot mosque.” Pastor William Rench of Calvary Baptist Church, potentially neighboring the proposed mosque, is concerned about extremist sentiments expressed by one American Islamic leader.  The Islamic Center of Murfreesboro, Tennessee, plans to build a new mosque and school. Darrel Whaley “A local pastor at Kingdom Ministries Worship Center…has spoken at county meetings against plans for the mosque and recreational facilities.” Meanwhile plans have been approved to build a mosque in Sheboygan County, Wisconsin. President of the Islamic Society of Sheboygan, Imam Mohammad Hamad says “The issue here is not the issue of a religious building, it is an issue of the Constitution.” A supporter Reverend Gregory S. Whelton, pastor at St. John’s United Church of Christ in Sheboygan felt President Obama’s controversial remarks “articulated the same issues of religious tolerance that were at stake here.”

Since Lincoln’s stand against racial prejudice, which cost too much in the loss of human lives, our country has struggled to rid itself of the taint of human degradation, slavery. But it seems to be our lot on earth never to achieve equality for we always keep our hearts and minds closed to others, who are unlike ourselves. Perhaps we fear they will take what we have, leaving us nothing. 

I struggle too, I’m not above the fray. But for the sake of our children and their children, it’s my sincerest hope that we continue fighting for equality of ideas, beliefs, cultures. Politics, it seems, carries the day suffocating our values, our humanity.

Tourists and others comment on the “Aloha spirit” among Hawaiians. It is spoken of as a beneficent state of mind. For the most part, it is. Native Hawaiians under the rule of King Kamehameha wanted for nothing. He owned the land, and the people were granted its use for their daily needs. I think because of this, Hawaiians are not hoarders by nature. Unfortunately this inherent openness toward sharing the wealth and beauty of the islands has enabled others to historically take whatever they wanted, leaving the natives very little to share of their inheritance.

Despite their own dilemma most Hawaiians continue to welcome visitors to their Paradise, the thought being we all need one another to survive. So they continue to share the thunderous waterfalls, the white sand beaches, the warm waters of the blue Pacific, the green canopies of local foliage, the migrating humpbacks and other wildlife that still abounds, the hula dancers telling stories with their hands, their eyes, and melodic voices rising on soft breezes evoking reminiscences of Hawaii’s past, wonderment at Hawaii’s present, and promises of Hawaii’s future.

Hawaiians are not exempt from the trials and tribulations of others, they  would just prefer that everyone get along. There’s an old saying my mom use to pass along when some wrong was righted “No mo pilikea.” We knew then there would be “no more trouble,” “no more worries.”

that’s what I wish for us all…hugmamma.

cemetery scavenger hunt

On a recent trip to California’s Orange County, to see our daughter perform as part of the National Choreographer’s Initiative, my husband granted my only wish for my 61st birthday, which occurred while we were there. We visited Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale. I wanted to see Michael Jackson’s burial site, but also glimpse where stars of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” were buried. I’d picked up a thick paperback from Barnes and Noble, which was like an encyclopedic “map” of historical celebrity sites, hangouts, studios, homes. Hollywood: The Movie lover’s Guide – The Ultimate Insider Tour of Movie L.A. by Richard Alleman, even detailed the specific locations where the famous were entombed. Book in hand we went on our very own scavenger hunt, seeking out dead people.

Pulling through the enormous wrought iron gates of Forest Lawn Memorial Park, we were taken aback by the serenity that greeted us. Yes it’s a resting place for the deceased, but it looked like a park with acres of lush, green grass. It seemed like an oasis in the midst of Los Angeles, for right outside the gates were strip malls as far as the eye could see in all directions. Just inside the entrance was a Tudor style building which lodged a combination floral/gift shop, as well as an information desk and restrooms. From what little I saw during MJ’s private burial ceremony on TV, I expected more security and less warmth from staff members. To my amazement there were no security guards patrolling the compound, and the few workers with whom I spoke, were pleasant and forthcoming with answers to my questions.

Driving on in our rental car, we meandered along tree-lined roads that wound their way through the verdant landscape. I could not stop “oohing” and “aahing.” Along the way we saw a few cars and other tourists, but luckily nothing compared to the likes of Universal Studios and Disneyland, which we vowed not to go near. In his book, Alleman describes Forest Lawn where “there are no rows of ordinary tombstones. Instead, there are acres of gardens and courts, with names such as Slumberland, Lullabyland, Everlasting Love, Inspiration Slope, and Babyland, where flat stone markers scarcely alter the smooth contours of the green lawn. There is a swan lake. There are two mausoleums—one of which resembles a great sprawling Medieval abbey. There are churches that are full-sized reproductions of churches in England and Scotland. Not only used for funerals, these are sometimes the scenes of weddings. In 1940, for example, Ronald Reagan married Jane Wyman in Forest Lawn’s Wee Kirk of the Heather.”

After visiting a couple of the churches and a museum showing works by artist Paul Gauguin, we finally went on the hunt for movie stars, albeit dead ones. At the Court of Freedom, we viewed a 20-by-30 foot mosaic replicating John Trumbull’s famous painting, “The Signing of the Declaration of Independence.” In the nearby Freedom Mausoleum I spied my first celebrity crypts, those of Alan Ladd, Nat King Cole, Jeanette MacDonald and Clara Bow. On the lower level, Gummo and Chico Marx were laid to rest, as was Larry Fine, one of the Three Stooges. Back outside I went in search of Walt Disney’s resting place without success. According to Alleman, “Whether Disney is here or not (and it appears highly likely that he is at Forest Lawn), it seems fitting that he should be remembered in a place that has the same fantasy/reality quality of the great park that his own dreams created: Disneyland.”

The “piece de resistance,” Jackson’s burial site was off-limits to the viewing public. Set apart from the main section of the Great Mausoleum, his body rests in an annex with a guard posted outside the wrought-iron gate. Keeping watch with him the day of my visit, were 3 women in their late 30’s, early 40’s. They seemed contemporary counterparts of the women who watched and prayed on the ground outside Jesus’ tomb. Their eyes hid behind dark glasses. One had brought sunflowers, placing them against a column at the corner of the building where they would go undetected by the guard. I inadvertently drew attention to them when I asked if I could snap a picture, knowing they were MJ’s favorite flowers. Flummoxed, the guard nodded his assent, but added he would need to remove them to another area where well-wishers left keepsakes in memory of the entertainer. I think the woman who brought the flowers was upset that I had pointed them out. Turning on my heel, I heard her plead to have them remain put.

Inside the Mausoleum we were directed to a viewing of the gigantic stained-glass version of The Last Supper, “which is unveiled several times a day at regular intervals complete with special lighting effects, music, and ‘dramatic narration.’” In the same room are reproductions of Michelangelo’s Pieta, Madonna in Bruges, Medici Madonna and Child among others. With a handful or more in the audience, I listened to the beginning of the narration. Antsy to hunt down the stars, I quietly stepped away into the nearby Court of Honor. Unfortunately a metal link chain kept me from moving through the hall for a better view of the names inscribed on the bronze plaques, vertically lining the walls on either side.

Scared that someone would come along, particularly the woman standing at the entrance of the building, I paced the length of the chain struggling to make out names as far as I could, squinting my eyes. I made a preliminary attempt to go around the chain but thought better of it, and returned to where I’d stood. Extremely frustrated to be so close, and yet so far, I tiptoed back to peek at the audience still seated on the other side of the wall from where I was. Hurrying back I sucked in my breath, passed around the chain and raced with determination through the narrow hall, glancing furiously at all the bronze plaques. At the other end was a smaller, separate room where “Gone with the Wind’s” famous director David O’Selznick was buried. Slowly retracing my steps I almost leapt out of my skin with joy, for in front of me were the names of Clark Gable and his wife Carole Lombard. I was in Heaven, absolute Heaven! I raced back out to where I’d left my husband, heart pounding, grinning from ear to ear. He, of course, was not surprised at my antics, but playfully scolded me nonetheless.

As we all moved to leave the building I stopped at the nearby Sanctuary of Benediction where I could see, leaning over the chain this time, the crypts of Red Skelton and Sid Grauman (of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre). I was unable to see around a wall to the crypts of Jean Harlow and others, who were mentioned in Alleman’s book. During the few hours I was at Forest Lawn, I felt I’d made a special trip to Heaven to meet some of my favorite Hollywood movie stars.

Except for the traffic, I had a “maavalous” birthday,“daahhling”…hugmamma.