Sunday, August 22, 2010

Room to Grow

For the last six months, moving has consumed my life. From the end of last March when I tore up the ruined vinyl in the guest bathroom, to last Friday when I helped my husband unpack the books onto our new bookcase, every spare minute was taken up by the massive project of transporting seven people from Henderson, Nevada to La'ie, Hawaii.

But now we are here. I have time to breathe and room to grow again.

The house is smaller, but I can clean and sweep it out in a few hours. Sometimes the neighbor children come over and want to sit on my couch and play my ukulele. That's a treat! They sound a lot better on the uke than I do, at least so far. I watch and learn.

If we ever get tired of being indoors, the beach is right around the corner. And when we get adventurous we can hop in the car and find plenty of other beaches to try. There's waves to play in and sand castles to build.

But I'm not going to sit around and listen to music or go hang out at the beach all the time. I'll be teaching college classes and writing novels, building harps and taking hula classes. In short, after six long months of nothing but moving, I'm getting back to being me again.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Build a Quick and Easy Pine Bookcase

When we got to Hawaii we learned from our neighbors that particle board doesn't last here. If you don't want it to warp and fall apart in the humidity, it has to be solid wood. We were glad we'd left our particle board bookcases in Nevada, but we were going to have to replace them with something else. With real wood.

I'd always wanted to build my own bookcase!

We designed a bookcase six feet high and nine feet long. Here's the materials we used:

16 boards of pine shelving, 1inx10inx6ft
10 pieces of wood trim, 1inx2inx6ft
a large pack of 1 5/8" wood screws
about 30 2.5 inch wood screws
1 large bottle of wood glue
a carpenter's square
a circular saw
a power drill
1 quart wood stain
assorted rags
disposable gloves

First, I picked the four nicest boards, straight ones without any flaws. Those became the vertical parts of the book case. I decided how tall I wanted the shelf spaces to be and marked each board with lines where the shelves would go. With the amount of wood I bought, I could make up to 24 shelves.I ended up using 22 shelves and having two extras.

Next, I marked the rest of the boards for cutting them in half into three foot pieces. These I cut with the circular saw.

Then I took the pieces of trim and cut 6 pieces that were 3 feet long, 12 pieces that were 9 inches long, and then 72 pieces that were 2 inches long. These pieces are for holding up the shelves. I could have saved myself a lot of cutting and sanding by buying a little more wood trim and cutting 36 pieces that were 9 inches long instead of the 72 little 2 inch blocks. Oh well.

With all the pieces cut, my next task was to sand the edges. That was the most time-consuming part of the process. But I had help. I went out in the front yard to work on it, and before long the neighbor boys had come over to see what I was doing. I handed them each a piece of sand paper and put them to work.

When all the pieces were sanded, it was time for assembly. I glued the long blocks directly under where the top and bottom shelves would go, leaving a space at the back edge so that I could fit one of the three-foot-long trim pieces running across the back under each top or bottom shelf. The short blocks went two each under the rest of the shelves. I glued them in place, then for extra security I used a short wood screw in each block.

set sides upright, three feet apart
put back trim piece in place
glue shelf on top, then secure with wood screws
After letting the glue dry overnight, I assembled the first of three ranks of shelves. For this part I needed someone to help me hold everything in place. We stood the sides of the shelves up, set one of the three-foot-long trim pieces on the floor at the back of the case, and set the bottom shelf on top. Once I had everything square (checked with the carpenter's square), I put some glue on the top edge of the trim pieces, then replaced the shelf and screwed it in place from the side with the long screws. Last of all, I used a couple of short screws to fasten down the shelf to the back trim piece. I did the same with the top shelf, except that I put the back trim piece in place after the shelf was glued and screwed down to the side trim pieces. The back trim pieces are important to keep the corners of the bookcase squared up.

I assembled the left-hand rank of shelves first, and then the right-hand rank. Last of all, I set the two ranks three feet apart and put in the top and bottom shelves of the middle rank. I couldn't screw these in from the side, so I added another permanent shelf to the middle rank and screwed it in place.
I slid all the shelves into the left-hand rank to see if the design was working. So far so good!

After that I stained everything, using rags and disposable gloves. I did the shelves outside, but when I did the case I made the mistake of doing it just before dinner. The smell was so bad we decided to go out for tacos instead of eating at home with all the wood stain fumes.

Two days later, I used three small L-brackets to attach the bookcase to studs in the wall in back, slid all the shelves into place, and there you have it! It's no great work of art, but it doesn't look too bad, and it will hold all the books.
the finished product

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Te Manahua

I saw the poster for Te Manahua in the window of the local ice cream parlor. A Maori Cultural Arts Competition? Right here at the Polynesian Cultural Center? I really have died and gone to heaven.

Nothing moves me like Maori music. There's a power in their voices unmatched by anything I've ever heard. They also get to throw sticks and swing things around at the end of a string, and instead of mom saying, "don't do that, you'll break something!" it's considered a cultural art.

This performance from the Poi-E competition on Friday night by Tongariro High School was my absolute favorite. Who would have thought you could do so much with a ball and a piece of string?

This morning I took my five children to the Pacific Theater to watch the 2010 Te Manahua. Excellent, excellent performances. Exciting hakas, graceful poi twirling, thrilling harmonies, I loved every minute. The concessions stand was selling New Zealand-style food too - oooh, that meat pie was to die for.

The last group to perform opened with a song about how La'ie is the eye of a needle. The threads of all cultures pass through this place. It is a village where all the tribes of the people dwell together in peace. After sharing in a day of beautiful Maori culture, I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

How to Plant a Pineapple

I learned this trick three years ago at the Dole Plantation, but when I tried it in Nevada the pineapple died. It missed Hawaii too much, I suppose. But now I can plant pineapples outside in my yard!

Step One: Move to Hawaii. Just kidding! You can grow a pineapple anywhere so long as you keep it in a pot and bring it inside in the winter.

Real Step One: Get a pineapple. Pick one with yellow skin and a healthy top.

Step Two: Cut the top off the pineapple. Remove any pineapple flesh, then peel off the bottom leaves to expose about half an inch of stem.

Step Three: Put the pineapple top in a jar of water and wait for a week or two.
Step Four: Pull out the pineapple top and check for new roots. Wow! I love this part. IT GROWS!

Step Five: If you're putting the pineapple in a pot, then fill your pot with a well-drained material, like cactus soil. Pineapples don't like to get too wet. If you're putting it outside, just go outside and dig a hole. It's a good idea to add some cactus soil or vermiculite to your hole so the pineapple can get a good start.

I hadn't bought a shovel yet at this point, so I just used a stick.

Step Six: Put the rooted pineapple stem in the hole and tuck the dirt back in around it. Then water it lightly. Keep the soil just slightly moist so that the roots can continue to grow.

After a few weeks, check to see if your pineapple is still growing by tugging on it. If the new roots hold it in place, things are going well. If the pineapple pops out again, then simply rinse it off and replant it. Pineapples grow slowly, and they are very tough. If the pineapple completely dries up and dies, then go buy another one and try again.

Step Seven: Wait for three years. Then, if you've kept your pineapple happy, it will be big and beautiful and make a new pineapple for you.

Want to give it a try? You can actually order a pineapple for planting on

Whenever I get a new pineapple at the store, I try growing the top. After a three years, I'll have a nice patch like this one. See the baby pineapple growing?

Three years is a long time to wait. Meanwhile, let's build some bookshelves! Next week: How to Build a Quick and Easy Pine Bookcase.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

What I Like About Living in La'ie

1. Tile floors. I never want carpet again.

2. I can walk to the grocery store. I've always wanted to live somewhere where I could walk to the grocery store. The other day I was making coleslaw when I realized I didn't have any vinegar. No problem! I put the chopped cabbage in the refrigerator and went across the street, around the corner, and got some.

3. I can walk to the beach.

4. I can walk to the Polynesian Cultural Center. There I can walk around and visit Tahiti, Samoa, New Zealand, Tonga, and Rapa Nui without ever getting on an airplane.
5. I can walk out my back door and hang out my laundry. Back in Henderson when I tried to hang out my laundry it always came in smelling like desert dust. Here in La'ie when I hang out my laundry, it comes in smelling like tropical flowers.

6. And, at that grocery store I can walk to, the pineapples sometimes go on sale for 99 cents each.

More on pineapples in my next post. I'm going to show you how to plant one.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Scribbler's Cove

Before we moved to Hawaii, before I knew anything about where we'd  be living, I told my husband I wanted a writing room. I needed my own dreamspace, a doorway I could walk through and become a writer, a storyteller, a weaver of words.

I didn't have much hope in this wish. Housing is tight in Hawaii, and I have five children. How could I expect to have a room all to myself? Well, maybe I could share it with my writing daughter, but still, it was hard to justify.

My husband arrived in Hawaii a week before I did. He called me in the middle of the night to tell me about our rental house. It was smaller than we had expected, but, "There's a perfect place for your writing room!"

"Are you sure? Maybe we should use it for another bedroom."

"No, it's too small to be anything else."

At first I didn't believe it. But when I got to Hawaii there it was, just a tiny office room with one big window. For the first week it stored all the extra boxes, but as I finished unpacking I began to set the place up--a desk with drawers to store all my writing files, a book shelf for manuscripts and reference materials, a big tack board for maps, outlines, drawings, research, and other stuff, a mirror so I can study facial expressions, a white board for notes and calculations, a phone line, an internet cable, my laptop computer, some sewing and craft stuff for when I need a change of pace, and my favorite big comfy desk chair.

"We need a really awesome name for this room," my daughter said as she tipped herself back in the chair.

"I agree. The Writing Room just isn't good enough. We could call it The Writer's Den. Or how about The Writer's Cove?"

"Ummm," my daughter wrinkled her nose. My naming wasn't going so well.

"I like calling it a cove. It goes with the island theme. But Writer's Cove isn't enough.  It needs to be something more dramatic. Coves tend to have names with danger and mystery, like Pirate's Cove or Shark's Cove. Dead Man's Cove. Smuggler's Cove."

"I'll think about it," my daughter said.

Late that night, as my husband and I poured over plans for the bookshelves we wanted to build, I heard my daughter coming down the hall.

"You should be in bed," I said without looking up from my notebook.

"I know, but I've just thought of a great name for our writing room. It's so good I had to get out of bed to tell you."

I set the notebook down. "What is it?"

"The Scribbler's Cove!"
Perfect. Now all I need to do is go to the beach and find a piece of driftwood, carve the name on it, and hang it over the doorway. Welcome to the Scribbler's Cove. Some dangerous scribbling is going to happen in here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Day 17

Seventeen days ago, I moved to Hawaii. It struck me yesterday, when I first held my Hawaii Driver's License in my hand, that I'm not leaving. This is a permanent thing.

I live at the center of the Ring of Fire. Life roils like the sea. Clouds blow in, pour down rain, and then pass in a few minutes. Trees spring up in a few weeks, bear fruit, then die and decay. Everywhere rust and ruin, but also new life, strong life, pushing through the rich remnants of the old.

I like it here.

Our cute little cinder-block house is nearly unpacked and mostly in order, but my internal clock isn't reset yet--I'm still surprised by how early in the day it is whenever I check the time. In my crock pot I'm cooking pork ribs with purple sweet potatoes (grown by a neighbor), soy sauce, and garlic instead of my habitual barbecue sauce. We'll eat it tonight with sticky rice instead of bread. Some old things came with me, like my beautiful antique wind-up clock which, even after two weeks of heat and jostling inside a shipping container, still chimes the hours faithfully. It makes the place sound like home. But now instead of piano practice, I hear the children play their new ukuleles in the afternoon (we'll get back to piano as soon as I figure out how much we can afford for a teacher). 

Aloha everyone! I'm off to build some bookshelves so I can unpack the rest of the books!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

I'm Melting

The first time I stepped out of a car here in Hawaii, the pleasant temperature of the air surprised me. I was used to stepping out of a car into the blazing heat of Henderson, Nevada. Here on the windward side of the island, the summer highs hover around 80 degrees F.

But that's outside. Inside is a different story.

My house has no air conditioning. No way to cool off except by opening the windows and hoping the tradewinds will come wafting in from the sea. On my first day here I asked the neighbor girl if they left their windows open all day. She looked at me like I was asking her a trick question. Of course people leave their windows open all day! In Henderson, as soon as it started to get warm in the morning I had to shut the windows down tight. If I did that here in Hawaii, with the tropical sun beating down on the roof, we'd all roast like a pig in a barbecue pit.

Even with the windows open, we're sweating. If I set butter out on the counter, I can spread it on bread in three minutes. And sweating doesn't help much when the humidity is 85%.

So, in the afternoons, we just give up and go to the beach.