Mochi Pounding in Wailea

Taiko (Photo credit: Mapemono)

Usually a couple days before New Years many of us in Hawai’i pound mochi for good luck in the coming year. For the last ten years or so many people congregate in the town of Wailea on the Hamakua coast about 15 miles outside of Hilo. I use the term town loosely as there is only one street. When you turn off the highway, which is an adventure unto itself, you turn on the “main” street and the first thing you see are the many “back in the day” plantation homes. These are the remnants of when sugar cane was king of the island. These rather small houses with their tin roofs housed the mostly Filipino & Japanese workers who helped keep the cane thriving. Once past the homes you enter the “town”. This consists of a “incubator”  kitchen.  Different bakers use the facility for cookies, chips, etc. We bought a bag of chips, but probably unlike most chips you would buy in the Mainland. The contents of the clear bag  with ulu (breadfruit), kalo (taro), yellow sweet potato and purple sweet potato chips are so colorfulDSCN0093DSCN0096.  Across the street from the kitchen is an art center. This looks to be somewhat communal as well. It has easels for painting and different jars of glazes and clays for ceramics. Farther down the street is Akiko’s Buddhist Bed and Breakfast. It was probably once a plantation managers house as it is quite a big bigger home with two stories.  And, that is the town though it does have a very nice park with a baseball diamond. What else do you need?

In front of the B&B was the mochi pounding and Okinawan Taiko. The wonderful Taiko drummers line up in the middle of the street. Several large drums and several smaller drums, a Lion, a martial artist, all part of the group kept people entertained while others pounded the sticky rice in mochi which is sold along with Chicken Hekka and shave ice in front of Akiko’s.  My best girlfriend is part of the Taiko group as a drummer and this was the first time I had the opportunity to watch her work…and work it is! It is very physical! She was awesome!

I took videos of the Taiko and another of the actual mochi pounding, but for some reason the file type couldn’t be transferred (huh?). I will try to put it on my Sew Me Hawaii Facebook page.  But here I will describe the process. Everything starts at about 6:00am when the rice is placed into a big box which sits over a small fire.  Someone keeps an eagle on the water level, etc. As soon as the rice is cooked and sticky it is placed in a large stone bowl. A line of people forms to take a turn to pound the mochi into a smooth sticky dough-like rice substance. Each person picks a large wooden mallet. The mallet itself  is about 16-18″ long with  a long handle.  Each person takes about 10 to 15 swings of the mallet matching each swing after someone turns the rice with their hands. Timing is important to prevent mashed fingers. After the rice is done, it is formed into balls, filled with sweet black bean paste which is traditional, or a new addition of peanut butter (my personal favorite). The balls are flattened on the bottom,  boxed and sold. As the mochi making wound up,  the process was unable to keep up with the requests and was sold out by the end of the afternoon.  The weather was perfect, a balmy 80 degrees, no rain, no wind–absolutely perfect. We headed home by about 2:00 in the afternoon and went to the 5th Av. Grill which is what we call our own lanai. The meals there are far better than what can be found in a moderately priced restaurant.  So, now I’m convinced that 2013 will be even better than 2012.   Kung hei fat choi… Hau’oli makahiki hou…Happy New Year.


I came across this blog just after my post about my Christmas dress. How appropriate. It’s always nice to know that good things can come from bad beginnings.

Tale of Two Earrings

December 26, 2012 by barkingdoggallery

“Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from bad judgment.”
― Rita Mae BrownAlma Mater


I’ve written before about the wonder of mistakes, but this  is an excellent lesson is using mistakes to your benefit.  Mistakes challenge you to think differently, and come up with new and original ideas.  In my case, I had planned to make a pair of earrings.  I textured a piece of copper, and cut out two earring sized circles.  I cut out a second off center circle in each earring.  Unfortunately, as I was drilling a hole for the earwire, one earring cracked.  No problem, I just carved out a few more matching cracks in each earring, and continued on.

Then…. Just as I was placing these still matching earrings in the kiln, one of them cracked on it’s thinner side.  I patched it together, but after firing it was still cracked.  The two matching earrings then became potential unmatching pendants.  Here are pics of the final products — very different from my original plan, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.  Please sent me some pics of your favorite mistakes!

This intact remaining earring because a lovely charm holder pendant.

This intact remaining earring became a lovely charm holder pendant.

I removed more of the copper around the crack, and hung a tiny silver charm from this pendant.

I removed more of the copper around the crack, and hung a tiny silver charm.

The Christmas Fruitcake

A good friend of mine gave me a what I thought was a fruitcake for Christmas. Now, I know most people think there’s only one fruitcake in the entire world and it just gets passed from person to person. But, I LOVE fruitcake especially the dark, fruity, rummy kind. The box had a beautiful picture on the box and I was delighted. But, before I was allowed to open the gift I was told to read the entire box. DSCN0074DSCN0075DSCN0076DSCN0077 So, of course, I complied and carefully read each side. I read about how this fruitcake was not my Grandmother’s fruitcake, it was HER Grandmother’s. This cake had been preserved for over a 100 years by the, YES, alcohol. Whoo-hoo. I was getting so excited. My mouth was watering. Never did it cross my mind that not only was this impossible, but probably downright disgusting. My girlfriend was barely holding it together to keep from laughing as I salivated over MY special fruit cake. When I finally got to open the box, what was inside? Cookies.  Now, I do love cookies especially from Big Island Candy Co.  I wasn’t disappointed I received cookies. I was disappointed I didn’t get a fruitcake! She and her son were so amused that I bought into their “joke box”.  And, I think they were aware it might not work on me since I have such a penchant for fruitcake which made it even more amusing.  I have now scoured the Internet for a fruitcake recipe that sounds perfect and I guess I will have to make my own. Maybe there IS only one cake going around the world.  Oh, How I wish it would make a stop at my house.

Not Exactly a Christmas Dinner

Last night we had friends over for dinner. Preparations started at about 7:00 AM and continued non-stop until they arrived at around  3:00 PM. For some reason I thought it would be fun to fix a Japanese + dinner. My friend is 1/2 Japanese and her son more Japanese than haole (Caucasian or foreigner) and is visiting from the Mainland. Keith, my sweetie, took over most of the culinary recipes as I’ve never cooked anything like these foods. I did make manapua a couple of days prior to the party just as a trial run…not too bad. So, I got up and first made the manapua dough which is a bread type dough that is a tiny bit sweet. Keith worked on the inside pork which is usually shredded with caramelized onion and a BBQ-like sauce.  While the bread is rising and rising I watch as Keith does his thing in the kitchen. For him this is “old hat”. Dim Sum, yeah!  (a variety of little bite-sized filled wonton thingys)–he made a filling for the Su Mai which is like a steamed dumpling using wonton wrappers with pork and shrimp. Then the filling for the HakDSCN0060ka–another steamed dumpling with just the pork and then the filling for the Gau Gee which is a triangular shaped wonton that is crispy fried…sooooo yummy. Then, because we were also having tempura we had to peel the shrimp and butterfly them, cut up the vegetables. While he was doing this I made Creme Brulee. I know, I know, not Japanese, but I like it!  While the custard was cooling in the fridge I started getting the dough ready for the filling. Together we rolled the dough out into little 4×4″ (or so) squares, plopped the BBQ pork into the center, folded the dough over the filling, pleated around in the circle. This is then placed seam side down on a square of parchment paper. It is plump and round and smells heavenly. As you can see, someone tested before even steaming! Who would’ve done that?  Lastly Keith made Miso soup and Sum Choy which is a lovely Chinese vegetable (well, what’s a little different Asian food thrown in?). It is such a bright green and has a bright flavor seasoned with a little oyster sauce and Worcestershire sauce. DSCN0061

So, at 4:00PM we sat down to a sumptuous dinner. It is such fun. We each have our own little rectangular Japanese plate, chopsticks and access to all the little things coming out of the steamer and “Fry Daddy”. The battered shrimp was the best I’ve ever had–crunchy and flavorful!  Everything was perfect. When it was time for the dessert, Keith got out his torch. Thus, the Creme Brulee got its sugar glaze that gave a good “crack” when broken with the spoon to get to the custard.  When the evening came to a close, we were all full and so satisfied

Labor intensive but all in all a marvelous fun meal that everyone enjoyed.

My Christmas Dress

When my hula sisters and I were asked to dance at a nursing home in town we all jumped at the chance to give just a little bit back to our community and the kupuna (elders) who reside at Hale Anuenue. We were told we could wear any mu’umu’u we wanted and one of the halau members volunteered to make us all lei…bright red. I realized that I really didn’t have a long dress with red in it and I didn’t want to wear a short mu’umu’u. So down to the fabric store I went. Searching through probably 50 different fabrics, I found the perfect fabric. It was predominantly red with a wide border of white hibiscus at the bottom. So I bought a couple of yards and took it home.

I had recently taken a marvelous class from the Lutterloh company on pattern drafting and decided this was the perfect time to try out what I learned so I gathered my measurements, pattern paper, measuring tapes, pins, etc. and started to draft. I followed the instructions to a tee. When I held the front pattern piece up to me, it looked like it was going to fit perfectly…I should’ve done the same to the back! When I cut the back piece out it seems a little wider than I expected, but since it had a gathered neck line I figured it would probably have to be a bit bigger to accommodate the gathers. So, I started cutting the fabric. There weren’t too many pieces, a front, back, sleeve and a facing. Done. I began sewing the pieces together, first putting in the zipper. When the two back pieces were sewn together it looked even bigger! But, I continued, certain that it would come out just right in the end. I attached the sleeves which seems to be a little puffy and big as well, but, well, they were suppose to be puffy sleeves, right? Okay, all was together and I decided to try it on. Auwe! Oh my gosh, it looked like a 50’s housedress! Huge. Very huge. Okay, back to the drawing board…took the zipper out and cut two big chunks off the back, reinstalled the zipper and sewed everything back together again. Oops! Looks like I got a little carried away with the cutting of “chunks” and it barely slid over my hips. No way could I ever dance hula in this. At the first ami it would split open like a bean pod! So, back again. It’s a good thing I made generous seams as I let them out a little on each side and voila, it fit. So I put it on and went into the house to show Keith. His reaction? “Whoa, that really looks frumpy!”. I looked in the mirror and indeed that was true. The neck was very high, the sleeves were very puffy, the bottom fell just below the knees. I had forgotten that bordered prints can only be cut one way and the fabric is only 45″ wide, so something had to be done about the bottom. Back to the sewing room. I cut the neckline down, got rid of the facing and sewed on matching red bias tape. Okay, better. I took off the sleeves and cut them to a manageable puffiness. They looked better. Tried on again and still didn’t like the look. Off to the fabric store where I bought a white on white piece of fabric. Back to the sewing room. I gathered the white fabric and added it to the bottom for length. Hmmmm, not bad, but I still didn’t like the neckline, so I cut it down some more and instead of red bias tape, I decided to tie the bottom in with white bias tape. Wow, it was growing on me. I checked it out again with Keith and got a much more positive reaction. Last I decided to add bands to the bottom of the sleeves and narrow red bias tape edge to the bottom of the white hem.

I got it done the day before the performance. I had to stop at the bank and the grocery store before the performance and people were stopping to comment on pretty my dress was. The performance went well with more comments on the dress. At lunch afterwards, people continued to stop me to say how they loved the dress.

I guess perseverance and patience are my strong suits and I guess I finally got it right!DSCN0058

It’s Christmas in Hawaii

New Year Here 2012 002Christmas time is in the middle of my island’s rainy season. I have always found this amusing…a rainy season…as we get rain just about every day of the year. November is usually our rainiest month and this year was somewhat of an exception as many areas were considered to have “drought conditions”. I think this means it didn’t rain every single day. December is shaping up to be a rather chilly, damp month with the sun filtered by clouds and a cool north wind blowing, but alas no snow on Mauna Kea. My down blanket is on my bed at night permanently now. But, the Christmas spirit abounds. Our island is having another Christmas parade. We love parades. Every little town has their own parade–Kea’au, Pahoa, Honoka’a, Kamuela, Waikoloa, Kailua. Since flowers abound in Hawai’i, our parades are like a mini-Rose Parade with floats covered in floral coats of many colors. Santa always appears usually in a bright yellow fire truck or in an outrigger canoe. He wears his Hawaiian floral print board shorts and a lei. For our island keiki (children) this doesn’t seem at all unusual.

I am still wearing my little summer dresses and shorts, only occasionally opting for long pants. When the breezes blow the clouds from the sky it is still a warm 82 or 83 degrees though the nights are dropping precipitously into the 60’s! Hence, the down blanket. My Christmas flowers still haven’t bloomed. The firecracker tree hasn’t yet gotten its buds, the poinsettia still hasn’t gotten its red bracts. The hibiscus and yesterday, today and tomorrows (YTTs) are still prolifically blooming.

My church is decked out in poinsettia and pine and beautiful wreaths. Every year a group of us goes up the mountain to gather local foliage for wreath-making.  We have a potluck, eating while the many talented hands weave the leaves and berries into Christmas lei that eventually decorate the walls of the church.  I always look forward to this time of year. I love the bright colors, the candles that we light each Sunday…the candles for Hope, Peace, Joy, Faith and finally Love. We sing  O Po Kamaha’o  (Oh Holy Night) and Po La’i E (Silent Night). We dress in bright reds, whites and greens and wear flowers in our hair and lei about our necks.DSCN0042 The lights on the tree twinkle and the breezes blowing through the windows  threaten to topple the plants. It is a joyous time of year. DSCN0045 Our kahu reminds us that every day should have the feelings and thoughtfulness of Christmas. We need to face every day with the joy of the season and not take anything for granted. We need to make the most of our time here on earth and have the faith to prepare for our future when our time of earth is apau.

Culinary Adventures

I live with a very good cook. I mean VERY good. In the past 3 years I have been introduced to more new foods than I every thought possible. I’m not a bad cook, but I’m a plain cook. I make meals like spaghetti and meatballs, stew, chili, stir-fry, etc. I can fix an entire Thanksgiving dinner all by myself including from scratch pies. My mother never taught me to cook which in hindsight was probably a good thing as everything she ever cooked was fried. We had fried steak, fried pork chops, fried ham, fried chicken, fried potatoes, etc. My father had fried eggs every single day of his married life. I seldom fry anything other than an occasional tortilla for tacos or a chicken stir-fry using just a smidge of olive oil. But, my cooking skills are limited. My favorite cuisine is Mexican and I make the best tortilla soup ever and pretty darn good enchiladas, but these are things I’ve made my entire adult life. I really never tried to go too far out of the box.

Keith does most of the cooking and likes to do it himself. I’m barely allowed in the kitchen. So, where my culinary skills still need improvement, I have certainly developed a new appreciation for different foods and I’ve upped my game some by trying new things I would never have thought of before.

Day before yesterday we had squid stew. It is actually a french recipe but could easily pass as island. And, although sliced squid is not the most attractive bit to eat, the stew with fresh tomatoes, onions, fresh herbs from the garden and the squid was absolutely delicious. I have had carnitas, stuffed Portabello mushrooms, shiitake risotto, osso bucco and ahi with a wasabi sauce. I have fallen in love with Talapia with a butter/garlic/caper sauce, homemade marmalade, and red bell peppers freshly canned, then used for bruschette. I have developed a new liking for pasta, especially linguini with clams. Amazingly, I haven’t  gained weight. In fact I’ve actually lost some pounds. I attribute this to our different schedule for eating as we only eat one meal a day. We have our main dinner at about 1:oo or 2:00 o’clock in the afternoon. We will have a light snack in the morning and in the evening and this seems to work for us. And, of course, I dance hula three to four times a week so work at least some of it off.