Contemporary Hawaiian Quilts: Hilo, Hawai`i

Out of the 3029 passengers on the ship, I suspect we were the only two that went to see quilts in Hilo.  As we are wont to do, we were just wandering around the town to see what was going on.

The big event was the week-long Merrie Monarch Hula Festival highlighted by a three-day hula competition.  It was dedicated to Kind David La`amea Kalᾱkaua who reigned from 1874 to 1891 and is celebrated for his fun-loving support of music and dance.  Unfortunately, one has to make reservations up to a year in advance, so that will have to wait for another trip.

But when we passed the Mokupapapa Discovery Center, we noticed they had a show devoted to contemporary Hawaiian quilts.  We decided to see what they were all about.  Here are a few of the 50 quilts on display.

In a news report, Roberta Muller, who teaches a free quilting class at the Center, said her quilts usually take about 400 hours to make.  The usual process is to appliqué a pattern onto a piece of fabric; that is, to sew it with ornamental needlework.  Then the piece is quilted — two pieces of fabric are sewn together with padding between them using lines of needlework, often in a pattern itself.

Click on images to enlarge and to see the artists’ names.

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“Really Real” flowers: Hilo, Hawai`i

Wandering through Hilo’s farmers’ market, Alie’s eye was caught by flowers turned into jewelry.  The young lady selling them said the process was developed by a friend of her family.  When I got home, I did a little more research.

This post is not an advertisement, but I suppose it reads like one.  I am continuously impressed, however, by people’s ingenuity and creativity.

Peter Honeyman developed and patented the process by which live flowers absorb preservatives.  He advertises “Real Flower Jewelry: Permanent, Flexible…They will not dry out or wilt.  Each has thus been turned into a permanent fresh cut flower!

They can be damaged, however, and should not be crushed.  They are dusted with a clean soft brush or washed with luke-warm clean water.

The preservative protects against ultraviolet light, but a few colors are enhanced to create a natural look.  “Each piece is unique.  Because every flower is real and each piece is handcrafted…While most flowers change colors over the years, ours will be retained, softening in intensity, developing a “patina” or more “mellow” look.

We purchased these for Alie’s sister.

Peterman was successful enough to develop a mass-production facility while working in California, Oregon and Hawai`i.  But in 2005, he scaled back and moved all production to Hilo.  He further scaled back after the 2007 recession.  But you don’t have to go to Hawai`i.  Like just about everyone else today, he has a website:                                         

Click on photos to enlarge.

P.S.  If you are thinking about visiting Hawaii, please do not be deterred by the recent volcanic activity.  The Big Island is the only island with an active volcano.  The others are dormant, have moved away from the “hot spot” and will stay dormant.  Even the Big Island of Hawaii is big.  Most of the island is not effected by the lava flows.  I believe, with reasonable caution, you will be safe.

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Hilo: Hawai`i

Hilo: fog partially due to rain and partially due to volcanic gases.

We flew over the volcano Kilauea April 4.  It was just coincidence last week’s post was just as new fissures and eruptions were threatening homes outside Hilo.  After reading reports, I believe the lava in my photo “lava lake”  suddenly drained causing earthquakes which in turn caused the new fissures.

Hilo, with a 2010 census of 43,260, is the second largest town in the state of Hawai`i and the largest town on the Big Island, Hawai’i.  With an average of 127 inches of rain a year, it is one of the wettest towns in the world.

Liliuokalani Gardens from the air

After our helicopter ride, we took a taxi from the ship into town.  Along the way we passed Liliuokalani Gardens where the original town was located.  In 1946, a tsunami caused by an earthquake near the Aleutian Islands washed through killing 160 people.  In 1960, another earthquake near Chile caused a tsunami that claimed 61 lives.  Low lying areas near the bay were turned into parks, and the town expanded inland in the 1960s.

We spent several hours just walking.  We visited the market.  By chance, it was Wednesday, their biggest day.

Then, on the advice of a woman in the market, we sought a restaurant favored by locals.  Not getting the name correct, instead we ended up in a tea room behind a gift shop.  We were the only patrons at the time, and we enjoyed talking to the clerk, a student at University of Hawaiʻi at Hilo.  We saw more students later.  I can’t imagine a better place to study marine sciences, volcanology or astronomy.

Passing a community center, we saw a sign for a display of contemporary Hawaiian quilts and went in.  Out of all the passengers on the ship, I suspect we were the only two that saw the quilts.  But the volunteer staff were very helpful and the quilts were spectacular.  It will be the subject of a future post.

We stopped in a local market.  I wanted to buy some Kona coffee for my sister but all they had were beans, and she does not have a coffee grinder.  “Oh, we’ll grind them for you,” said the clerk — and they did.

Click on photos to enlarge.

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Volcanoes: Hawaii, The Big Island

Hawaii, the biggest and newest island in the State of Hawaii, is called “The Big Island.”  Five shield volcanoes formed the island.  Two are still active.  Kilauea, currently the world’s longest continually-erupting volcano, has erupted steadily since 1983 and is expected to continue for another hundred years.

Maunakea, rising 14,000 feet above sea level, is dormant now.  It is the only place in the Hawaiian Islands that has snow.  Alie’s sister, Michelle, planned to visit the Keck Observatory at 13,796 feet, but black ice on the road and one hundred mile per hour winds prevented it.  From its base on the sea floor to the top, Maunakea is over 37,000 feet tall, 4000 feet taller than Mount Everest.

Mauna Loa last erupted in 1984; its lava flow stopped four miles outside Hilo, the principal town on the island.

A volcano occurs where there is a ‘hot spot’ under the earth’s crust, a place where molten magma rises close to the surface.  Generally the earth’s crust is thinnest under the sea floor.  At any given time, there are about twenty-five hot spots under the ocean.  One is under the Big Island.  Indeed, a new Island is forming 2000 feet beneath the sea to Hawaii’s south.

A total of 136 Hawaiian Islands stretch 1200 miles from Hawaii to Midway.  All were formed by volcanoes over this hot spot.  The hot spot does not move; the islands do.  They move north about four inches per year as the earth’s tetonic plates slide past each other.

While they move north, wind and water erode the mountains.  With the exception of those still erupting, all were taller at one time.  Kauai was formed about six million years ago; Maui, four million years ago.

Over those millennia, coral reefs form in the shallow waters around the mountain.  In the most extreme cases, the volcanic mountain itself erodes away leaving nothing but the coral reef on top.  Midway Island, furthest to the north, is one such atoll.

The State of Hawaii, about 2400 miles from its nearest neighbors, is one of the most remote spots in the world.  Hawaii has had an unusual amount of rain this year.  But when we had the chance to take a helicopter over  Kilauea, we took it.  Currently, there is no dramatic lava stream flowing into the sea.  But the lava is bubbling up through cracks into lava lakes.

Click on photos to enlarge.

Lava cools dramatically within seconds after reaching the surface.  It turns to rock with a metallic sheen during the first few days and then to gray-black rock.  But beneath this rock, red hot molten lava continues to force its way through tubes.  Pressure builds until it again breaks out, cools on the surface and begins the process again.  It will form a delta next to the sea which eventually breaks off, falling to the base and leaving a cliff through which red molten lava pours into the sea adding yet more land.

Since 1983, Kilauea has added about 500 acres to Hawaii.


The volcanoes of the south pacific are “shield” volcanoes which erupt through cracks.  Those on the Pacific “Ring of Fire” are “strata” volcanoes and often erupt explosively like Mt. St. Helens.

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The Pacific was pacific.

This is our 28th day on the Pacific Ocean.  Once, we encountered 45-foot waves in the North Atlantic.  Even though I knew better, a few weeks before we left on this trip, I let a bit of worry cross my mind.  After all, the Pacific is about twice the size of the Atlantic and is known for its violent storms.  But worry never does any good and just steals peace of mind.  The water on our voyage has been as calm as or calmer than the Caribbean.

While I have no big adventures to relate, we did have many interesting experiences which will be the subject of my posts in the coming weeks.

The moon, sunrise and smooth water.

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Photographic Memories

When Alie’s health was problematic, we decided to pursue our dream of travel.  I retired early [she says I just quit working].  Now here we are years later going strong [if not as strong].

We are grateful for every day.  We are grateful for all the travel memories we have been fortunate enough to make.

We don’t have photographic memories, but we do have photos that bring back memories.

Click on photos to enlarge.

The hard part was choosing which photos to show.

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Three nights and two days in Madrid

Hotel Opera

Recently I read a blog by a woman complaining about her her hotel bathroom.  It reminded me of a time when our hotel’ s sloping bathroom ceiling meant one could stand only at one end of the tub.

We had a couple weeks free, but our budget was limited so we caught a last minute transatlantic cruise to Barcelona and took a train to Madrid.  We didn’t even have a cabin number when we arrived at the dock.

We booked an inexpensive room in the Hotel Opera for our last three vacation nights.  When we got to our room, we realized why it was inexpensive.  One took an elevator to the top floor and then had to climb steps to the attic and our room.  A mansard roof was our ceiling.  We had to stand on the bed to see out small high windows.  It was large and clean, but as mentioned, the roof’s slant over the bathtub meant one could only get in at one end.

Click on photos to enlarge.

However, the hotel was in the heart of old Madrid.  As the name implied, it was across the street from the opera house.  It was within a few blocks of the royal palace and convenient to the Plaza Mayor.  Locations further away such as the Prado were easily accessible by the Metro.  We loved it.

After arriving, we walked the old streets and had tapas for dinner.

The next day we took the metro to the Museo Nacional Del Prado which houses Spain’s greatest collection of paintings.  Then we strolled through the Royal Botanical Gardens before having a glass of wine at Bar Refra, a side walk cafe at the juncture of three small streets.  We ate our dinner at a cafe in the Plaza Mayor.

The Puerta del Sol is a central meeting place in Madrid.  Huge Saturday night crowds of young people were on the streets around the plaza.  We stopped for a late night dessert of hot chocolate and chorros in a chocolateria (the chocolate was thick like American pudding).

On our second day, we took a bus tour.  The tallest building was 44 stories, but most are not more than 8.  The streets are often narrow, and underground parking is common.  An ice cream Sundae was called a “Sandy con topping.”   I noticed that, unlike in the U.S., their Burger King serves beer.  We stopped for a snack again at Bar Refra. But “raciones,” we discovered, are not small plates like tapas.  They brought us a platter of small red sausages and another with meatballs in sauce plus bread and wine.  It became our dinner.  We finished with  dessert in the Hotel Opera bar, and flew home the next day.

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