Growing my own; sorry, mister peacock

13 01 2017
  • img_8591Good morning! The larger brussel sprout plant fell over from its weight, and I harvested the leaves. Because the plant uprooted, DH will saw up the trunk. The roaming neighborhood peacock will be disappointed. What to do with the harvest? Rinse like spinach. I’ll discard the tough stems and slice the leaves into 1-inch squares. I’ll blanch and freeze most and steam some until tender. I’ll simmer them in bone broth or vegetable broth with some chopped onion and finish off the soup with some coconut milk (being careful not to boil), salt and pepper. I am so thankful we are growing our own food. Read the rest of this entry »

Dressing like an onion: winter apparel for a Hawaiian

5 01 2010

If you’re warm-blooded and live in Hawaii or another subtropical-to-tropical climate, and you’re headed to where it’s cold and snowing in winter, here are some tips on the art and science of staying warm. If you’re not warm, you’ll be miserable, and that’s no fun!

Winter sports enthusiasts know this, and every first-year college student from Hawaii to North America masters this by year two, but if you’re my age or haven’t been away from the Islands for a few years, perhaps a refresher will help.

I was quite comfortable last month in Austria on a riverboat and on land of the ports of call (see my December 2009 blog posts). It snowed every day. My friends Kaylene and Rosemary asked what I wore and how I kept warm, so here goes.

I learned that:

• Winter apparel is not the same as fall-spring apparel. Leave the fall clothes behind; they are too hot for inside and not warm enough for outside. They just take up space in your suitcase.

• Dressing like an onion works. The layers trap insulating pockets of air to keep you warm. Invest in thin apparel made of new high-tech fabrics. It’s worth it, and you’ll be all set for the next time. Stay away from cotton because it doesn’t wick moisture, like perspiration, as well.

See my layering details below. Five or six layers, count ’em! There are variations, but this is what worked for me. You want thin clothes so you can still move, button your pants around the waist, and have your footwear fit with all the layers on. If it warms up for you, you can shed a layer. Better to have too many than too few.

• You can always go back indoors. Each time you do, be sure to peel off the outer layers of your clothes, if only for a short while. It’s a humbug, particularly when you go to the bathroom, but you’ll get used to it. Then layer back on when you go outside again. If you don’t do this, you’re liable to get sick.

My friend Dave noticed I had to think about it, that is, what layer goes on next?—well, yeah!—versus people from cold climates for whom it’s automatic. You’ll need a few more minutes to get dressed too.

• Lathering your body with lotion after a warm bath or hot shower will keep your skin from drying out and getting itchy. My pharmacist recommended Vaseline total moisture conditioning body lotion. The lotion is for your whole body, not just your face. My momma who went to school in Chicago and Shanghai taught me this years ago.

• You can use a nasal spray or neti pot to keep your nose from drying out and bleeding. Consult the pharmacist.

• Hand warmers, those magical packets of warmth that activate when exposed to air, in your gloves are “life savers.” Mine came from Dick’s Sporting Goods store in Pennsylvania, but you can get them online at

• It’s best to eat just before you go outdoors. Digestion generates heat.

And if, say next winter, you visit the outdoor Christmas markets in Central Europe, head for the glühwein hütte for a mug of hot mulled wine or cider!


Layer 1 (innermost)—Your regular underwear. For women, this includes pantyhose or tights. Apply lotion first.

Layer 2—Long underwear a.k.a. long johns. I brought two sets:  one silk set from REI with long leggings, sleeveless top and long-sleeve top; and one set of capilene from Patagonia. This is your “baselayer.” If it is colder than cold, you can double up on this layer.

Layer 3 — Pullover top (e.g., silk, nylon, polyester), blouse or shirt with long sleeves. Wool trousers with lining. My DH got away with heavyweight jeans, but only with long underwear underneath. Plus a pair of thin warm socks.

Layer 4 — Wool sweater; I wore a long-sleeved V-neck cashmere.  I alternated that with a long colorful Coogi wool sweater vest from Australia (a gift) that covered all the way down over my hips. Smartwool brand knee socks of merino wool; the brand matters. Visit

Layer 5 — Fleece vest with pockets and a little longer in the back below the waist where there is no body fat (on me, anyway). Scarf—mine was pashmina from China—or neck warmer (a tube that looks like the neck only of a turtle neck; I found this easier to wear than a scarf, and you can pull it up to cover your nose). It’s very important to keep your neck comfortably warm, or risk a sore throat. When not wearing the neck gear, you can stow it in the vest pocket. When indoors, my closed-toe slip-on Birkenstocks (I’m unable to wear flats or heels comfortably). DH wore Crocs on the ship.

Layer 6 — Knee length heavy wool overcoat with pockets, or other outerwear jacket, like a ski jacket. Hat. Gloves. Snow boots or waterproof shoes with thick soles.

I inherited the wool coat from my cousin Dee who was a frequent traveler. I preferred this to a fleece-lined, hooded Gortex jacket. I found my Dale of Norway hat at the Salt Lake City airport when I passed through in 2002, a winter Olympics year. The program directors of the ship wore knitted hats with extensions that covered their ears and cheeks and ended up in yarn braids; really cute. My fall gloves were not warm enough, even with liners. Mittens are warmer. At the last minute I bought pop-top mittens designed for hunters from Dick’s in Pennsylvania. (Thanks for finding them, Richard!) These allowed me to remove the mitten half when I wanted to shoot—my camera! The mittens came in camouflage-colored yarn, but who cares when warmth is the objective. I would have gotten them in bright hunter’s orange, but they didn’t have them in my size. When not wearing, stow your hat in one pocket and the gloves in the other pocket. I got my purple lace-up Sorel snow boots many years ago from Lands’ End for my first Alaska trip, and they still work great. I just love them.

Bonus frosting on the cake —Remember to pick up some hand warmers.

If with these tips you still don’t want to guts real winter, well then, lucky you live Hawaii!

Copyright 2010 Rebekah Luke

20 views from my porthole on the Danube

1 01 2010

Greeting you this first day of the new year and continuing to reflect on last month’s winter travels . . .

Cabin 102 on the Viking Europe was “standard” accommodation and much more economical (Category E) than spaces on the higher decks. Small, but more spacious than the sailboats DH and I were familiar with, very clean, and comfortable enough.

Instead of sliding glass doors, we had a porthole that didn’t open. That was perfectly all right, as it was on the waterline and also wintertime, i.e., cold! When in port, the view was the underside of the gangplank, but while underway there were sites to see along the Danube River from Passau in Germany, to towns and cities in Austria, to Budapest in Hungary. Here are 20.

Copyright 2009-2010 Rebekah Luke

Let it snow!

2 12 2009

Where does a Hawaiian island girl go on vacation? To places where it is cold and snowy. To places where I can wear clothes! In a few days I’ll be on my way to central Europe to visit the Christmas markets where I know it will be very cold.  I am wishing for snow.

Somewhere along the river cruise route from Germany to Austria, Slovakia, and Hungary there might be some of that falling white fluffy stuff. Maybe in Salzburg, Vienna, Bratislava, or Budapest? I’ve got my snow boots packed! In the meantime, our WordPress host is accommodating by snowing on Rebekah’s Studio. Cool, huh? (pun intended)

Here’s a picture of a picture of my very first snowman the year I declared, as an adult, that I wanted a winter vacation. It was the first time I deliberately traveled to a cold place. My visit to Anchorage, Alaska, coincided with the Fur Rendezvous festival in Anchorage.

Heather and Sean showed me how to build a snowman in Alaska

A couple of seasons before that, it snowed in the mountains on the San Francisco peninsula in California during the coldest winter since such-and-such year. I was working for Sunset magazine at the time. That winter I remember the first snowball thrown at me at Yosemite National Park where the waterfalls were frozen and the scenery was gorgeous-crisp and quiet.

Throughout our 25 years of marriage, DH and I often visited his parents, brother’s and sister’s families in Pennsylvania during the winter holiday, so often that my friends would ask if I ever went anywhere else besides Pennsylvania.

The last December we went to the East Coast, before this one, was to see his parents at their funerals within two weeks of each other. We huddled under the falling snow and placed orchid lei on the ground in the church’s memorial garden where we buried their ashes.

One weekend we took the train from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. We stayed at the Pen Arts building that is the headquarters for the National League of American Pen Women, the members’ clubhouse. The staff went home for the weekend, and the mansion was ours. To trek around in the snow the next morning, though, we first had to get out of the front door. Thank goodness DH remembered how to shovel the steps and to say, “Yes, thank you!” when a man came by to ask if he should salt the sidewalk.

If you have to live in wintry weather all the time, I’m sure it could be more tiresome than romantic. But if you are born and reared in Hawaii as I was, it’s a novelty.

When I was in Osaka, Japan, one February for the opening of the Oceania exhibit at Minpaku (the National Museum of Ethnology) at Senri Park, Professor Shimizu regretted to tell me, when I asked, that it probably would not snow. A few minutes into lunch, he was really surprised to see the white flakes falling outside the dining room window. But I wasn’t.

Here is the link to Minpaku. The photo you see is an exact replica of Hale Kuai Cooperative store with authentic Native Hawaiian made products in Hauula, Oahu, that I co-founded with Ka Lahui Hawaii. How it got there as the Hawaiian part of the permanent Oceania exhibit at the museum is an amazing story, a real memoir that I’ll share with you someday.

I say it’s fitting that WordPress bless this blog with snow. Please enjoy it warmly in front of your computer! I’m planning to send holiday posts while abroad.

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke

Makahiki, yule and gift giving

9 11 2009

With the winter holiday season upon us, most families are starting to get into the spirit. The signs include that real or imagined cold snap on Halloween night, slick merchandising catalogs overflowing from our mailboxes, store mark downs everywhere, and the lure of local craft fairs and festive events.

Conversations now include, “What are you doing for (fill in the holiday)?” and newspaper features carry tips on how to remain stress free. We want to remember family and friends and hope no one is left alone. As families extend generationally, geographically, and by marriage, there can be many decisions to make.

DH and I have a couple of philosophic ideas and old-fashioned traditions that give us a sense of peace. They link to our respective roots—Hawaiian Islands for me and Pennsylvania (Delaware County) for him.

One is to acknowledge and be mindful of the Hawaiian Makahiki season, roughly from mid-November through January (exact dates depend on the moon). The planting season is over, work is pau (finished), and warring ceases. It is the time of the god Lono.

The best of the harvest is dedicated to Lono in the form of ho‘okupu (offerings). The people give thanks, relax, socialize, play outdoor games, and generally enjoy themselves. No stress. It’s officially okay to play!

The other is adopted from Winterthur, Delaware, not far from DH’s birthplace. As tourists we visited Winterthur, a museum and the former country estate of Henry Francis du Pont. During his life H. F. du Pont collected whole room interiors of various periods, not to mention whole street fronts, and installed them in his mansion.

The museum decorates the rooms of this big house for Yuletide, and visitors can tour them around the same months of Makahiki in Hawaii. The holiday decor matches the period style of each different room. It’s educational and very festive.

When we visited, our favorite room showed how du Pont’s own family celebrated in the first half of the 20th century. The story was told that Yuletide, the time around the Winter solstice, was a time to visit and entertain friends, to rest and to celebrate a successful harvest. Children were seen but not heard.

Decorations consisted of a small table-top evergreen—adorned simply with cookies, candles and strands of popcorn and cranberries—that was set atop a pie crust table. Gifts were exchanged among immediate family members only and placed in a basket for each person. If the children behaved well, they could have the cookies!

We liked the idea so well that we brought home a furniture piece similar to a pie crust table for ourselves, in a nod to the East Coast style and DH’s regional heritage. Each year we hang on a small tree the wooden ornaments crafted by DH’s parents for their first granddaughter on her first Christmas.

At a lost for that special gift?

FOR YULE or any other special occasion such as a wedding, a big birthday, an anniversary, or a move to a new home, do consider giving a painting. Yes, a painting! An original oil painting is special and unique, so unexpected, so memorable. It is a one-of-a-kind piece of art, it’s durable, and it can provide years of long-lasting enjoyment. Support the Native Hawaiian artist! I can work with you now on a selection and a payment plan, if necessary. I will be traveling and away from the studio for a good part of December, so if you are at all interested, please contact me. Click on PAINTINGS in the menu bar to see the images. I’ll be installing additional pieces in the next few days too. Thank you!

Copyright 2009 Rebekah Luke


In years past I have participated in the Makahiki observance on Kahoolawe island. You may read about Makahiki on the Protect Kahoolawe Ohana website:

For more about Winterthur and the du Ponts, click on this link:

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