Tuesday, April 30, 2013


No trip to Oahu, Hawaii, should be considered complete without a day spent at Pearl Harbor and the WORLD WAR II VALOR IN THE PACIFIC NATIONAL MONUMENT.  In fact, while immersed in our day there (we opened AND closed the monument that day), I came to a personal conclusion that the site should be a requisite for all American citizens, at least once in their lifetime - it was that powerful.
The Pearl Harbor Visitor Center  is located along the Pearl Harbor shore.  From the grounds of the Visitor Center, you can view various massive ships from our present day naval fleet.  We were fortunate enough to get a close up view of the famed aircraft carrier, the USS Nimitz, leaving port after a week of international training exercises.  The Visitor Center and it's surrounding grounds, as well as the USS Arizona Memorial are free to the public.  There are nominal charges, well worth paying, for visiting some of the other attractions housed within the monument. 
The Visitor Center, in addition to a beautiful museum documenting events leading up to and after that day, has a 23 minute film on the history of the politics, the peoples, and the attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941.  I'm not sure it's possible to stay emotionless or dry-eyed during the film.  From there, you board a Navy operated shuttle boat for a ride to the middle of the harbor - the final resting place of the USS Arizona, and many of the 1,177 American crewmen killed on that day of infamy. 
A humbling experience, to say the very least, the Memorial straddles the ship's hull, still oozing minute amounts of oil after all these years.  Unlike many of the other ships sunk or damaged that day, the Arizona could not be fully salvaged, though the Navy removed parts of the ship for reuse (the anchor from the ship can be viewed on the Visitor Center grounds).  Smaller memorials surrounding the Arizona, mark the positions of other American ships in the harbor during the attack that day.
If you've only got limited time, by all means, and in the very least, see the Arizona Memorial.  If you'd like the whole experience, plan on spending the day and seeing it all (I LOVE history and museums, and could have probably spent two full days here, comfortably).  The BATTLESHIP MISSOURI MEMORIAL, located on Ford Island (along with the airstrip and Pacific Aviation Museum) quite prominent in the harbor, is a huge part of the history of Pearl Harbor.  A short, tour bus ride will get you to the island and the Memorial - there is no other access other than with the tour, as it is still an active base.
On September 2, 1945, in Tokyo Bay (which no American ship had ever entered, to that point), the deck of the USS Missouri was the site of the signing of two copies of the "Instrument of Surrender", by the Japanese Empire, bringing an end to World War II.
A wonderfully informative tour regarding the historical importance of the ship by retired naval personnel will begin your visit, with you being able to roam freely afterwards, if you please. 
Pulling out the big guns...
From there, it's a jump back on one of the shuttle buses, for a quick jog over to the PACIFIC AVIATION MUSEUM
Set in some of the original hangars that survived the 1941 attack, you'll wander through displays of life on the island prior to the attack, and be able to view a multitude of aircraft, both American and non, instrumental in WWII and the Korean War, as well as more modern conflicts.
The hangar windows have been preserved with the original glass - evidence of the strafing from the Japanese planes that fateful day...same can be seen in various spots on the outer walls. 
If you've chosen this portion of the Pearl Harbor experience (and I hope you do), you will be entitled to another highly informative guided tour, but are able to spend as much time walking around on your own as you want, afterwards. 
There's a darling little cafe situated in Hangar 37, where you can relax amid some pretty wonderful memorabilia.  For those that want the full experience, Combat Flight Simulators are also available for an additional fee.
Back at the Visitor Center, lies the submarine, The USS BOWFIN.  Decommissioned in 1947, The Bowfin was acquired and placed in the monument, as a memorial to the U.S. Submarine Force at Pearl Harbor.  There is a small charge for entry to this, but the tour is completely self-guided with the assist of a hand-held audio wand.
Food and restrooms are readily available at numerous locations throughout the Visitor Center, and on Ford Island.  It was suggested to us that we do the USS Arizona first thing in the morning (tickets are free to the Memorial, but are on a first come, first serve basis during the day); The Might Mo and the Aviation Museum on Ford Island next, and in that order; and then back to the Visitor Center to wander through the various other museums and the submarine.  Worked out perfectly and like I said, we were one of the first through the gates when it opened that morning, and found ourselves two of the last to walk back out in the last few minutes of the day.  To say I was moved, beyond words, is an understatement! 
Wear comfortable shoes and clothing - drink lots of water, and pace yourselves...see what is most important to you personally, but see it! Once. At least.  Can't get there?  There's lots of reading materials to take advantage of, and no excuse not to (OK, there's a movie too - you might even recognize the original tower from the Airstrip in a few shots).  And thank our men and women in uniform, past and present, for their sacrifices for our freedoms.

 "December 7, 1941—a date which will live in infamy..."
Franklin D. Roosevelt

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Short on words, but long on sentiment and Springtime good wishes...travelling just down the street this week - figured everyone could use a little "happy", right about now.
The Butterfly House is back this Spring, at the BELLAGIO CONSERVATORY AND BOTANICAL GARDENS.
A 28+ foot windmill, under glass.  Beautiful spring bulbs...
And butterflies!  All housed in their own little greenhouse within a greenhouse.  Big ones, small ones, red ones, blue ones...some perfect - some a little worse for the wear, but all ever enchanting and beautiful!
Re-used and recycled larger elements from displays prior - ALWAYS changed up for a totally new experience, thanks to some master gardeners.
See that big guy in the upper left corner - those big holes were actually transparent spots.
Foxglove, poppies, swans a swimmin', and standing in the rain without needing an umbrella...
Art imitating life, joyously - Spring IS here!
*Here's hoping the flapping of tiny, beautiful butterfly wings here, sends a wave of warmth to wherever you are!
It can all be found HERE...a magical (FREE) oasis in the middle of the Las Vegas Strip, inside the fabulous Bellagio Hotel and Casino.
A slice of Italy, in the heart of the American desert...with a view of France to boot!
Hearts to Boston and Texas, UNITED States of America!  Happy Tuesday - make it count!  Back to travelling next week.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


First and foremost, our hearts and prayers go out to those who lost their lives, and/or had their worlds turned upside down yesterday, by a horrific, senseless, and cowardly act of terrorism committed in the heart of Boston, MA - UNITED States of America.
Above the city of Honolulu, cradled within the rim of an extinct volcano known locally as Punchbowl Crater, sits the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific - 112+ acres of solemn and sacred beauty.
The National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific is one of two hallowed resting places for the recovered remains of World War II dead.  Punchbowl is now filled to capacity with 33,000+ grave sites and, since August 1, 1991, burials have been at the Hawaii State Veterans Cemetery in Kaneohe, on the island of Oahu.
The impressive Honolulu Memorial, situated in the heart of the cemetery, was dedicated on May 1, 1966. It was erected to honor the sacrifices and achievements of American Armed Forces in the Pacific during World War II and the Korean Conflict. In 1980, it was enlarged to include the missing of the Vietnam Conflict. The memorial overlooks the graves area of the cemetery, and consists of a non-sectarian chapel, two map galleries, and a monumental staircase leading from the crater floor to the Court Of Honor and Courts of the Missing.
The tower, which houses the chapel, features a 30-foot female figure, known as Columbia, standing on the symbolized prow of a U.S. Navy vessel. Below the figure is the poignant sympathy expressed by President Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, who lost five sons in battle during the Civil War.
Recorded in the ten Courts of the Missing that flank the massive staircase, are the names of 18,094 World War II heroes missing in action (MIA) or lost or buried at sea in the Pacific (excluding the Southwest Pacific and the Palau Islands - the MIA's from these areas are memorialized at the Manila American Cemetery).  There are also 8,195 listed from the Korea Conflict, and 2,489 from the Vietnam Conflict - 28,778 names, in total.  
Map galleries extend from both sides of the tower, and contain beautiful stone inlaid maps and texts recording the achievements of the American Armed Forces in the central and south Pacific regions, as well as Korea.
As we were leaving the cemetery that day, we realized that there was a walking trail leading from behind the Memorial, up a hill.  Parking the car, and talking a slow, reflective walk up the paved path, led us to various small remembrances along the way...
and an incredible overlook of Honolulu from one side, and the humbling cemetery below, from the other.  A large stone memorial at the top commemorates and remembers "United States military personnel captured by the Japanese in 1942, and forced to work on the Siam-Burma “Death Railway” as POW’s.  133 died due to malnutrition, tropical disease, starvation, medical neglect, and other causes".
"This is not a bivouac of the dead.  It is a colony of Heaven, and some part of us all is buried here."
From a small stone memorial aside the walking trail that day..."These words were spoken by the 6th Marine Division Chaplain at our cemetery on Okinawa in 1945"...
Last stop of the Oahu island tour will be the Pearl Harbor Memorial.  Until next week, may you and your loved ones stay safe, be happy, and remember those who have sacrificed all, and continue to give, to this day, for our freedoms.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


OR...it was all a matter of principal!  Sometimes my arms aren't long enough to pat myself on the back (and rarely, if ever, do I feel the need), but I do have to admit, I can bake like nobody's business.  That was, until my friend Jackie, of ONE CREATIVE CAT, posted a recipe for these damned Lemon Pudding Cakes (props to Linda @ Tastykitchen.com for the original recipe).  "Easy", she said ("VERY easy", to be exact) - why, she even had a beautiful picture on her blog.  Jackie has turned into "Little Miss Susie Homemaker", leaving the rest of us in the dust, lately - this after claiming a lifetime of not being able to cook.  Obviously a ringer!
She told me I needed Meyer Lemons to start with - who the hell has even heard of Meyer Lemons in Las Vegas?!  I'm lucky I can find anything but the plastic squeeze lemons.  I told her I would use regular lemons, instead.  She told me it wouldn't work.  She was RIGHT!  She might be a Gypsy witch!
Tried it a second time, with more determination and gusto, because SHE tried the regular lemons and called to say hers "came out just fine - in fact, they were even better, as they were more lemony".  ARGH!  I adore anything lemony - lemon meringue is my favorite dessert, given a choice.  Blah, blah, blah, Jackie - big deal!  My second go-round flopped just as horribly as the first.  I threw in the towel...until last week...it had to be done - AGAIN!
In dissecting the recipe she kept telling me worked so well, together we hit on the fact that I keep 1% Milk in my house, and not Whole Milk, which is what most BAKING recipes call for...DUH!  I KNOW THAT!  I don't know where my head was at, but it fixed the problem!  It is a very easy recipe - ALL three times I tried it.  Get yourself some regular lemons (or Meyer Lemons, if you're so inclined) and WHOLE Milk, and try it yourself - it WILL work (I promise she only curses mine)!
1/4 C. Flour
1/3 C. Sugar
1/4 tsp. Salt
2-3 Lemons
3 Large Eggs, Separated
2 Tbsp. Butter, melted and cooled
1 C. Milk
1/4 C. Sugar
(plus additional sugar for ramekins)
Preparation Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease four 5 oz. ramekins, and sprinkle with sugar to coat the bottoms and sides. Shake out any excess sugar.  Set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk flour, 1/3 cup sugar, and salt. Set aside.

Grate 1-1/2 Tbsp. of lemon peel, and squeeze 1/2 cup juice. In large bowl, with wire whisk, beat egg yolks, lemon peel and juice. Whisk in butter and milk. Gradually whisk in flour mixture.

In another large bowl, with mixer on medium speed, beat egg whites until foamy. Gradually beat in remaining 1/4 cup sugar until soft peaks form when beaters are lifted - about 2 to 3 minutes.

Add one-third of the beaten whites to the yolk mixture and, with rubber spatula, stir gently until incorporated. Gently fold in remaining whites until just incorporated. With a ladle, divide batter evenly among prepared ramekins.

Arrange ramekins in a large (17-inch by 13-inch) roasting pan. Fill pan with enough hot water to come a quarter to halfway up sides of ramekins, and carefully transfer pan to oven.
Bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until cakes are golden brown and tops rise 1/2 inch above rims.  Remove them from the oven. and allow to cool in pan for 5 minutes.  With a sturdy metal spatula, carefully remove ramekins from the water filled pan and transfer ramekins to a wire rack to cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.  Run knife around edges of ramekins, invert on plate and garnish.
This is Jackie's beautiful pudding cake.  Your little cakes will look like the final photo on the bottom right grouping above (or the second photo at the top of this post) when they are done baking.  When you flip them out of the ramekins is when you see the pudding topping.
My garnish came from an aerosol can...hers was "Food Network creative".  Mine were expected to flop the third time, so I wasn't prepared creatively.  Gypsy witch!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013


 A Sunday drive around the entire coastline of Oahu (there is a highway that cuts through the middle of the island that will take considerable time off your trip) will take you approximately 4 hours of travel time.  Stop here and there to snap off a few photos, eat lunch, and just soak in the jaw-dropping scenery, and you're got a pretty picture perfect day in Hawaii...
Larger than life bronze Hawaiian dancers in the pond at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, that I passed on my walks through Honolulu, daily.  As my husband was working there long-term, we were put up at the Ilikai Hotel - Hawaii's first luxury high-rise hotel, and featured in the opening shots of the old and new Hawaii Five-O shows (that's it on the left hand side of the upper right photo).  The boat harbor sits behind the hotel, and the beach is just a few steps beyond that.
Lighthouses - Oahu has plenty - up close, and afar.  This sits at the Diamond Head Beach Park.
The HALONA BLOWHOLE - about 15 minutes from Waikiki Beach.  The blowhole is a natural occurrence formed by molten lava tubes from volcanic eruptions thousands of years ago. Lava tubes run to the ocean and, when the surf is right, the blowhole in the rocks shoots water up to 30 feet in the air. The larger the waves, the higher the spray.
MOKOLII, also known among locals as CHINAMAN'S HAT, on Oahu’s windward coast. The small island is located at the north end of Kaneohe Bay.
Fairly close in proximity (but actually backtracking here just a bit from Mokolii), is the NUUANU PALI LOOKOUT , which offers panoramic views of the sheer Koolau cliffs and lush Windward Coast. Driving up the Pali Highway through tall trees and dense forests to get to the lookout, you’ll see the city disappear and the tranquil beauty of Hawaii’s natural landscape emerge (OK, THAT's from a travel site, but EXACTLY spot on).  Over a thousand feet above the Oahu coastline amid mountain peaks shrouded by clouds, the stone terrace overlooks the areas of Kaneohe, Kailua, and Mokolii .
KAHANA BAY BEACH PARK - a lot of this surrounding area was used in the filming of the TV series, "LOST".
The shoreline and waves along this entire drive are breathtaking. Another lighthouse on the two upper right photos (squint hard); MANANA ISLAND on the lower left - also known as RABBIT ISLAND.  Look like a rabbit's head to you?  Coincidental - rabbits were raised on the island until 1994 - it's now a protected bird sanctuary.
The local boys my husband worked with sent us to GIOVANNI'S SHRIMP TRUCK, on the North Shore - said it was the best around...they weren't wrong.  Stop, have some shrimp, and leave your signature on their truck.  Down the road from that, they claimed, we absolutely HAD to stop at MATSUMOTO SHAVE ICE in Haleiwa - see that line out the door of the store?  It was twice as long as that at one point.  Obviously THE best spot in town (other shave ice stores right around it, but everyone was at this one) - and definitely worth the entire drive that day, even if it did give the husband person immediate brain freeze!  Sno-cones got nuthin' on these, kids!
WAIMEA VALLEY - lush, tropical, and everything you would expect of Hawaii!  An area of historic cultural significance, the valley, being an important place in Hawaiian religion, includes several historical structures including stone terraces and walls constructed during the time of the Hawaiian monarchy.  A great place to bask in nature, stretch the legs, and walk off garlic shrimp and tropical shave ice!
All this, and much more to be seen - we passed pineapple fields and the Dole Pineapple Plantation on the way back!  Pearl Harbor and Punchbowl Crater will round out the next two weeks - hopefully someone out there will be inspired to visit and snap a few photos of their own.
Wish I was, too!