Sunday, March 25, 2012

Grandpa's 90th Birthday Weekend

Now back to Hawaii for our Christmas vacation...

In my last post about our trip to Hawaii, I left you with photos of where we stayed and some idea about what our day to day was like. Now it's time to talk about our reason for getting together in the first place: Grandpa's 90th birthday party!

"Party" is not really the best word to use for Grandpa's birthday events, because it was a weekend of festivities. On Friday evening our family gathered for swimming, grilling and a photo session by my cousin's cousin Sarah. Above, my Auntie Lani, cousin Amy and Sarah pose for my point and shoot camera. All of Sarah's nice photos are below!

Above is one of my favorites: Grandpa with my oldest cousin Amy. Below is the group shot, and everyone is in!

Grandpa has been living for the past few years in Hilo with my Uncle John and Auntie Lani (above) and they take such good care of him. Below are our Portland travelmates: Uncle Don with Grandpa, Auntie Katy, and my younger cousins Sam (17) and Jordan (27).

Gigi and Marcos being lovely, and my Grandpa surrounded by his three kids. John is the oldest, my mom is in the middle and Katy is the youngest. Our family is not very big (if you've seen the group photo up top, you've pretty much seen it all - we're missing a few of Lani's kids and their grandkiddos!) but we're very close, despite living so far apart. I feel so lucky to be part of such a good, loving and relatively drama-free clan of people.

Truthfully, when it was time for the photo shoot we were climbing out of the swimming ponds and looked a bit ragamuffin. However, my cousin Amy and her family showed up darling and ready to go, and their photos are beautiful. Here is her little one Charlie, and her with her daughter Malia below!

The weekend of Grandpa's birthday celebration was also New Years Weekend, so on Saturday morning we drove a stretch to a little town on the Waimea coast, which hosts an annual "mochitsuki" - a mochi pounding festival. Mochi is Japanese sweet pounded rice, and it's said to be good luck to be a part of the pounding. We each took a turn with the heavy wooden mallets to ensure a sweet New Year!

On the way back home we stopped with Amy and Malia at the best mochi store in Hilo to pick up our New Years treat - mochi with all types of fillings. Taro, brownies (!), sweet potato, and all kinds of goodness. Oishiiiiii!

The best part of the weekend was the afternoon we sat together as a family and shared memories about my Grandpa. The original idea was to ask him questions, but after being with him briefly at the beginning of the trip it was clear that he no longer tracks stories well enough to interview him. So, we moved to Plan B, which was for each of us to share stories and memories with him and the group. And you know what? It was lovely, and perfect, and so meaningful.

We started off with a few gifts, and then it was time to do our memory share. In no particular order, we shared memories of Grandpa. For me personally, it was wonderful to hear my family member's experiences with this vibrant man, because it fleshed out for me who my Grandpa is from a few more angles. I had the pleasure of living with my mom in my grandparent's home from first through tenth grade, so there is a part of him with which I am well acquainted, but as a child I understood him very differently than I do now as an adult. He was a beekeeper when I was growing up, so I am familiar with a home of honey harvesting, and epic annual Christmas parties and the even more epic 17-foot Christmas trees we would raise in our living room and Grandpa would decorate, and all of his hobbies - Lalique glass collecting, and ancient Hawaiian artifacts, and the thousands of excavated bottles in rows on our roof, and the Tuesday night poker games.

But I loved hearing especially from my mom and Aunty Katy and Uncle John about their childhood memories of Grandpa. They helped to paint the picture for me of a hard-working man who was raised by a single mother in the corn fields of Nebraska, who had something in him that propelled him beyond the confines of few opportunities, to really make a way for his family in this world. My Grandpa is loyal, and ballsy, smart with his resources, and a hard-worker. That afternoon he laughed at all the right times, and thanked us for sharing our stories. I know he didn't remember most of what we shared, but I think he was tickled to hear stories about himself that were factual, or hilarious or just kind of crazy.

Some of my favorite things that were said that afternoon was when my Uncle said that his dad knew how to make his children feel rich, even without a lot of money.

And when Aunty Katy said that Grandpa always had an answer for everything, even if it was embellished or completely made up, at which he laughed and said, "Well, you didn't realize how stupid I was!"

Or when Grandpa shared earnestly at the end of our afternoon, "I loved our family! A beautiful family!"

At some point I think we were a little nervous about the birthday celebration - how would it be if Grandpa was tired, or didn't have the energy for a memory share, or if he couldn't remember enough to contribute? But it ended up being so perfect. We were all satisfied with how things turned out, which was important for those of us who had traveled so far, and who had such high hopes. Sometimes you don't know when the last get-together with someone will be, so it felt important to all of us to have had a special afternoon to celebrate Grandpa.

The rest of the weekend was, of course, spent swimming, kayaking, grilling, lighting sparklers for the kiddos on New Years Eve, and loving our last few days together as a family. My heart yearns for it all over again when I look at these photos. I have never felt such extreme relaxation as I did that week on the Big Island, at our little rental homes in Kapoho. Have you ever felt so relaxed that the cells in your body literally feel new and refreshed? Without phone coverage and without internet access, it was heavenly. The first day or two we had some withdrawal symptoms, but as soon as we shook it off it was truly the most relaxing tropical dream vacation.

Who is having the next birthday we can celebrate together?


Next - the crazy world of O'ahu!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Très chic!

I teach Gigi things that I care about and think are interesting, and oops! I think she has ended up with a bit of a cosmopolitan slant to her education. She likes to talk about Paris, the Statue of Liberty, and how Michelangelo's David is naked.

The other day I heard Gigi talking and singing to herself over the baby monitor, so I knew she had woken up from her nap and I went upstairs to get her out of her crib. When I walked into her room she was carefully moving her finger around on her bed sheet and she announced, "I'm painting!". I peered into her crib and said, "Oooooooh! What are you painting?". With bright eyes and a sweet smile she looked up and said proudly, "Mona Lisa!".

Recipe Share: Dark Chocolate Cake

I think I have made this cake about five times in the past few months, because it is totally delish and totally my style: low maintenance, has a great texture, and is not overly sweet. To me, overly sweet just means you can't eat half of it in one sitting, so I prefer something I can enjoy more of. I like to decorate it with a toned-down chocolate buttercream frosting (I never add as much powdered sugar as a recipe calls for), and layer the middle with drained tart cherries from a fancy can. Sooo yum!

Deep Dark Chocolate Cake
A recipe from Suzanne Tompkins
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup Hershey's cocoa or Hershey's special dark cocoa (I use Ghirardelli)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking power
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup boiling water

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease and flour two (9 inch) round pans, or one (13x9x2 inch) baking pan.

Stir together sugar, flour, cocoa, baking power, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat on medium speed of electric mixer 2 minutes. Stir in boiling water (batter will be very thin). Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes for round pans, 35 to 40 minutes for rectangular pan or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks. Cool completely. (Cake may be left in rectangular pan, if desired). Makes 8-10 servings.


Gigi is such a Jabberwocky. Someday perhaps she will say very hilarious or profound things, but now I'm just happy that she says anything at all. I've been wanting to publish some of the things she says because my memory is such a steel sieve.

Here are a few gems over the past few months, ages 20 months or so through now (23 months).
  • When Gigi woke up one morning she saw a song book I had left on her bedroom floor, and she told Marcos, "Oh no! Mamãe forgot the book!".
  • A few months ago Gigi told us, "I eat- I ate gapes (grapes)". It was a little scary to hear her catch her mistake and fix her own grammar.
  • At dinner one night Gigi said, "Vovó's having broccoli and corn".
  • And after overhearing a conversation about ice-cream she added in, "Oooooh! Ice-cream! I love it!"
  • Last week when I offered her some of my orange juice she said, "No, I don't want it. That's Mamãe's".
  • Gigi also said her first independent prayer a month or two ago. It went like this: "Pai Celestial, Obrigada pela comida. Obrigada pela comida. Obrigada pela comida. Em nome de Jesus Cristo, Amen". ("Heavenly Father, Thank you for the food. Thank you for the food. Thank you for the food. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen").
  • Recently she has started saying "shall", which sounds funny from a mini-person. "Shall we read a book?", "Shall we cook?", "Shall we play a game?" and when we get into the car, "Shall we listen to music?".
  • Last Sunday when I picked Gigi up from the nursery after church, my friend Margaret reported that Gigi had told her that Boston (her little friend) needed his nappie changed. So they sniffed out the stinker in the room, and it wasn't Boston, so they went through all of the other kids until they came back to Gigi and it was her all along!
  • And then of course as she nears two years old, she has developed a few of her very favorite sentences: "THIS is MINE!", "Gigi do it!" and my favorite when she wants to cuddle with me, "Mamãe hold you?".

Friday, March 2, 2012

Recipe Share: Hummus

I've had a few requests for the hummus recipe that I use, so here she is! This is a recipe lovingly given to me at my bridal shower by one of my friends and mentors in all things family. Her name is TD Thornton, and her daughter Mya peed in my tennis shoes when she was little.

Image via The Cilantropist. Sometimes food doesn't stick around long enough to photograph...


1 can chick peas (note - I cook my own dried peas, and use an empty can to measure for this recipe)
Juice of 1 large lemon
6 Tablespoons of tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Drain chick peas, reserving a little of the liquid. Put the chick peas and liquid into a food processor and blend, gradually adding the reserved liquid and lemon juice to desired thickness. Blend well after each addition, until hummus is smooth.

2. Stir in the tahini and most of the olive oil. Add the garlic and salt, and blend again until smooth.

3. Spoon the hummus into a bowl, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over the top. Garnish with chopped cilantro and olives. Enjoy!