Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Butterfly Effect Mural at Ho'okipa

The Butterfly Effect Mural 2012 on the "pillbox"
between Ho'okipa and Haiku.

This is my first day blogging again after taking a break. Taking a break is good for the soul. It cleaned out the little spaces between my cells that were stuffed full of emails, pics, vimeo and youtube videos, Facebook postings, tweets, pins, links, and blog dandruff.

This is a beautiful late spring/early summer mural for the Butterfly Effect 2012, a women's stand up paddle event, which happened May 19th, but I'm finally getting around to posting this pic. I had planned to blog about something serious, yes, like cane burning, but the butterfly got to me. Anyhow, this is the latest in a series of posts about the ever changing "pillbox" mural at Ho'okipa.  It seems to get repainted every three weeks to a month by different people. Watch for it. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Haole Koa - Kiawe Lookalike

Haole koa (false koa) looks a lot like kiawe. The trees tend to be slender like most kiawe trees, with small, composite leaves. Unlike kiawe, haole koa is very gentle - no thorns. Haole koa also looks a lot like young koa, a valued native Hawaiian hardwood whose leaves change from composite to slender sickle shapes. Or rather, as I was told, the true koa's sickle shapes are not really leaves but elongated stems. Back to haole koa - the young green seed pods are said to be edible according to sources like David Bruce Leonard, but I've never tried eating them. Not yet.

Anyhow, haole koa is also blooming right now. I love its bumpy little green circular buds. They remind me of strange alien antennae or bumpy pom poms or mini green dryer balls.

For comparison, look at the kiawe blossoms below. The leaves and tree shape are similar but the flowers are very different.

Pipe cleaner like blossoms of flowering kiawe.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Why I Don't Have Sunflower Sprouts

Sunflower seeds and radish sprouts.

I love sunflower sprouts - they're delicious.  Easy to grow but expensive to buy.  They are easy to sprout for most people. And I have sprouted them before, successfully. But time and time again, I have planted the seeds to discover them eaten, a scattering of sunflower shells on top of the tray or the planter.  Living on the edge of a gulch, there are lots of rats that live nearby. It's as much their gulch as ours. Not that it's our gulch either - it extends for miles both ways.  The Maui rats love avocados, cherry tomatoes, and sunflower seeds.

I know they love avocados because they scratch and bite the surface of hard green avocados, clawing their way to a soft spot. If they can find one.  They love cherry tomatoes because every time a cherry tomato was on the verge of turning red, it disappeared in the middle of the night. The rats timed their harvest precisely.  I could smell the tomato getting riper every day, anticipating eating it soon. So did the rats.

As for sunflower seeds, one way to prevent the rats from eating the seeds is to lay another tray on top as the seeds sprout, but I've had mildew that way. The seeds were probably not that fresh so the germination was taking too long.

Despite the cat, the rats still rule. And mostly I get sunflower sprouts from Mana Foods.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Roasting Baby Taro

Baby taro corms in the oven.
A Hawaiian friend claimed that baby taro roots or corms don't have much taste and are not good eating, but I had so many taro keikis (children) and not enough room to plant them.  So in the advancement of culinary experimentation, I brought them home and decided to cook them. I could boil them, which is fairly easy - boil them whole and then peel off the skin. Or I could do something more difficult - roast them and then take off the skin.

Peeled baby taro.
I ended up roasting them because I had already eaten a lot of boiled taro earlier that week.   The taro corms were only a few inches across in diameter, probably not even worth eating because of the trouble to clean them, but I had some free time.

Pile of taro skin.
I roasted them for about an hour, then scraped and peeled the skin. This turned out to be more tedious than I thought. With boiling, the taro skin pops right off, very easily. But roasting somewhat hardens the skin and for this particular unknown variety of taro, the skin had to be coaxed off bit by bit. I found it easier when the taro was warmer and then more difficult as it cooled. I probably could have reheated them but the skin was still pretty firm even when fresh out of the oven.

Then I ended up roasting them again, with garlic and olive oil. The surface became nice and crunchy, so I really enjoyed eating them even though it's not a common way of preparing taro. The texture was also very good for potato style salad. Boiling taro also can work for taro salad if you don't overboil the taro. I liked the firm texture of the roasted taro for salad.

Taro "potato" salad - it looks better than it tastes, really.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Spontaneous Painting

Karin Kowalinka has a discerning eye for color, movement and form. Though classically trained, she enjoys working with paint freely and spontaneously to create abstract, organic paintings. Recently, I had the opportunity to take a class with her.

Karin sees the possibilities for paintings often before the student does and often shares her thoughts from many years of making art.  For devotees of the Artist's Way by Julia Cameron or Life, Paint and Passion by Michelle Cassou, it's a different approach to creativity. While there is play and spontaneity in the class, there is also assessment.

Painting with a huge housepainting brush. 

Different brush strokes, finger painting and splattering.

Repairing a painting by using paint as glue.

Latex gloves, essential for messy painting.

For me, the class raised as many questions as the technique answered. When does a painting work (meaning when does it click, look complete)? When to stop painting? Is this a good painting? Do I need outside approval?  How receptive am I/should I be to external guidance?  Is it possible to paint a good painting with splayed out fingers making parallel lines and curves, the same gesture as fingers scratching on a chalk board?  Is purple such a difficult color for a painting? Is repetition bad?  Is it ok to be boring?  I found myself alternately seeking and shunning external approval. I saw my work as both wonderful and awful at the same time. I found myself grappling with my own creativity demons as much as with technique.

The technique is deceptively simple, and yet not simple. Simple in playing with paint, but then getting out of the way to let the painting do what it will do, and not being too attached to details or colors or forms that will inevitably get painted over. There is both acceptance of inevitable change and attachment to keeping particular details untouched. There is the caution of avoiding repetitive motions.

Tempera paints

Paint can be splashed, drizzled, rotated, dripped, brushed on thickly or thinly, in continuous or broken up motion, wiggled, flicked with hands and moved by fingers. Karin encourages doing motions that are different from what the student may automatically feel most comfortable with. If a student is doing smaller, shorter brush strokes, she will encourage doing longer, continuous brush strokes. If a student is moving the paint quickly, she will encourage the student to sloooow down. She pushes past the comfort zone so that each student can try out a variety of movements and brush strokes. Karin gives each student plenty of attention, and reminds us to walk around the painting and look at it from all angles.

Our paint was liquid-y and gloppy... the brushes were big and thick, like caveman brushes, and the paper was pink, showing under the first layer of white paint. One doesn't always need to start off with blank, white paper. Initially, one plays with the paint, and then looks for forms and a composition to emerge, and then has to make choices - which color to do next, what shape to develop, whether to create more of a symbol or a pattern. While the course can be for beginners, it is also appropriate for experienced artists who want to do something very different. We met at Rebecca Lowell's studio, a beautiful space with white walls and plenty of light. It was nice to meet Rebecca too and watch her style of free from painting.

One of Rebecca's paintings in the background, also at Aloha Cowboy in Makawao.
Rebecca's spontaneous painting

One idea that I did take from class is that a painting can give energy. It doesn't have to be pretty or beautiful or pleasing. It can be intense, like a bolt of energy that can make one jump out of bed. Maybe I need some paintings like that. The paintings can be intensely personal and raw, kind of like childhood.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Moving Auger Shells

I don't normally write about beach-y things, but every now and then see something unusual.  I'm not talking about whales or dolphins which are beautiful but a popular topic since everyone takes pictures of them, usually better ones than I do. My whale pictures look like gray arches on gray water and the dolphins look like poky gray fins on gray water. Nothing special. Turtles also are hard to take pictures of. They often look like gray ovals floating on gray water. 

On a beautiful Maui day, DH and I came across some twenty-somethings bent over golden-colored sand at Po'olenalena Beach, talking excitedly.  As we came closer, I saw one of them holding a clear plastic food container with sand and water inside. There were narrow cone-shaped shells inside, moving deeper into the sand. Occasionally, I could see their pale flesh touch the plastic bottom.  

A living auger shell at Po'olenalena Beach.

We watched them for a while longer while I filmed them moving, and then the guys released them back into the water and they disappeared into the sand.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Overpaying Priority Mail Shipping

Shipping a flat rate priority mail package interisland.

I took a picture of this package to remind me to pay attention to how I mail packages priority mail interisland or to the mainland. The US Post Office has flat rate priority mail shipping boxes that come in at least three sizes and two shapes. 

This particular day, I shipped two loaves of avocado bread to Oahu in a flat rate priority mail box and it cost $11 or so, and it would have been only $5 to ship it priority mail in a plain box. Sometimes it's better to ship a package priority mail using a flat rate box if the items weigh a lot, especially to the mainland. But other times, it's better to ship a package priority mail using a plain cardboard box, especially if it's interisland and doesn't weigh that much. I frequently forget and just use the post office packaging. It's not very pake (local lingo for cheap). Being pake is a useful life skill in Hawaii because things cost so darn much. 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Powder Post Beetles

Mysterious pile of powder under a kitchen chair. 

What’s this wood powder under my chair?

Just when I thought termites were the only thing devouring the wood in our jungalow, recently, I discovered a little pile of wood powder under a kitchen chair. A mini Saharan desert forming. It was very fine, like baby powder, and definitely coming from one source.  Well, I chose to ignore it for a day or two. Maybe it was a hallucination induced by living in a jungalow. 

Predictably, a day or two later, the powder pile became bigger. I turned the chair upside down and yes, sure enough, there was a hole in it. About a quarter-inch in diameter.  So I took it outside and grabbed the Termiticide $45 bottle and went to town spraying all around the hole.

When our Akamai Pest Solutions termite guys came over, after they did some touch-up around the house, I asked if they knew about a bug that left wood powder.

The puka (or hole) that the beetle made. 

Of course they knew. It was the powder post beetle!  David proceeded to give me a little introduction.  Powder post beetles like older wood, and will eat newer wood only as a last resort.  Often, their company gets calls from Filipino families that have brought their nice old wood furniture from the mother country, furniture full of beetles in stasis. The beetles don’t necessarily start munching right away.  We’ve had this dining set for at least a few years and this is the first sign of any munching. The beetles are also, thankfully, easier to kill than termites. They live close to the hole and are sensitive to chemicals. So they can be killed with a strong dish soap, or a bleach solution, or the spray I used, which turned out to be overkill.  

Here's a ridiculously short video of David talking about powder post beetles while doing some termite treatment. A gecko is chirping in the background.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Termites love wicker

Termite holes in the wicker basket.

Termites love wicker, like the French love wine and cheese. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pillbox Mural on North Shore Changes Again

The pillbox got a makeover at the end of April.

If Jean Paul Sartres was into painting murals and public signs, maybe this is what he would have painted. Except without "amen" at the end. 

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Art of Trash Buddha

Landfill Forest Buddha

This was my entry into Art of Trash this year. It received an Honorable Mention.  It started life as a kleenex box that was reinforced and embellished with a Buddha sculpted from modelling clay. I added some tree branches, glued trash around the sides and in the bottom, then entered it in the Hui No'eau Visualizing Green Exhibit last year. It didn't get in. Rejection. Ouch.

Original entry to last year's Hui Noeau exhibit 

But a friend suggested saving it to enter in another show. So I added more trash to it, glued part of a BMW emblem to it, some cutouts from packaging, foil from candy wrappers, glow in the dark stars, and several rusty clips from Lion Coffee packages. It just needed to be trashed up a bit more. The prayer flags from t shirt rags was the final touch. It is truly a reclaimed piece, in that it is a piece of art that was rejected once and then recycled again into another piece with even more trash. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Art of Trash - Is This Really Trash?

Taiko style drum by Bill Stroud - but it doesn't look like trash!
During my volunteer shift at the Art of Trash, many people commented that some of the art didn't look like it was made out of trash.  One woman even said she liked the drum a lot and wondered if it didn't win a prize because it wasn't made out of trash. Well, if it hadn't been made out of some kind of reclaimed materials, then it wouldn't have even been eligible to be in the show!  But her question made me wonder, what was it made of? I couldn't figure it out. Maybe used construction materials that would otherwise have gone to the landfill. 

Partial view of the taiko drum.

Indeed, some of the pieces are not junky looking, and are made of reclaimed or recycled materials and look really nice. I did get a chance to find out from Bill Stroud, the drum maker and here's what he wrote: 

naturally fallen california redwood cut in slats, angled and glued together
nigerian cowhides left over from covering chairs
used metal wire bent for holding the heads on
used climbing rope for stringing the drum
various paint buckets of paint 
casters from some old metal shelves
leather scraps
old shovel handle

various ends of glue bottles
scraps of wood for stand

left-over black electronic tape
a 65 year-old mind full of life experiences

the whole project took about 125 hours

Bill also wrote: "I am considering offering drum-making classes again where a person could pay around 1/2 price what I would charge for a completed drum of their choosing  so I try to make it affordable enough that even people with not a lot of money can have a great experience and a drum they can have for the rest of their lives....I have made over 500 drums in my life and have conducted around 250 drum-making classes where I led the people (ages 12-80's) through all the processes of drum-making and let them do the work themselves so it becomes, truely, their drum and an expression of their creative self, but at my age I am not able to physically work too hard so if I were to go in this direction the best thing for me would be to train some people in the techniques and let them run the classes."  Bill can be contacted via this website or the Art of Trash

Juror's Prize: Sublime Pie by Bob Flint

This was another piece that generated a lot of curiosity. What was the pie made from? It didn't look like trash. One visitor to the show speculated that the piece was made from recycled cardboard and produce crates. The artist's wife answered back: 

It is recycled office paper (gathered from various schools on Maui) with paper dyes on top of a metal mesh frame. The fork is made from recycled wood. 
Yes, it is hollow inside, in fact, it is quite light weight. Bob formed the pie completely in steel mesh (which is structurally very strong) and then covered it with the reconstituted paper (it is a HUGE step up from the process used in crafts). The fork is removable for easy transport. Bob also teaches ceramics at the Hui No'eau Visual Arts Center in Makawao and can be reached through his website: Bob Flint ceramics

Trash art can take many forms. Some pieces looked trashy - the trash was clearly evident - and other pieces looked like they belonged in any "normal" art gallery. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Earth Day Festivals and Celebrations

Here are some beautiful pictures of the Earth Day Festival held in Kahului on Sunday, April 22nd, taken by three different photographers.  The event has that Maui hippie kind of feel - as in Pa'ia town, Little Beach on a Sunday, Sufi Camp, Source Maui... Hang out on Maui long enough and you'll recognize many of these faces.  

Photo courtesy of Luci Hull Photography.

Photo courtesy of Luci Hull Photography.

There were a number of volunteers who worked behind the scenes to make the event happen, especially Bruce and Satya Douglas of Mandala Ethnic Arts in Paia, who have organized the event for a number of years. Many people volunteered to set up, watch children, take down exhibits, make plates out of banana leaves, provide security. An event of this magnitude requires a lot of helpers. To get on Mandala's email list for other events, please visit their site

Photo courtesy of Jim Hall

Photo courtesy of artist Stephanie Clifton

Photo courtesy of Jim Hall

Photo courtesy of Luci Hull Photography..

Photo courtesy of Jim Hall
Photo courtesy of artist Stephanie Clifton

For more pics from the original Facebook albums by each photographer, please click on their names below:
Stephanie Clifton
Jim Hall
Luci Hull

For a video from Earth Day 2011 - here's a clip of Wendy Love.

Meanwhile, there was another Earth Day event upcountry at O'o Farm in Kula. Video taken by Living Maui Social.