Return to Hawaii

Hey all! It’s been a while, but I wanted to share a bit from my most recent adventure.

The pandemic brought a lot of changes to my life, including a leap from my stressful teaching job to working freelance at a science education non-profit. I can’t say that I’ve missed having to work in a school environment every day, but occasionally I get pangs of regret that I don’t get to work with students on a daily basis.

The month of June was great because it allowed me to dip my toes back into teaching temporarily. The school I worked for was nice enough to invite me back to help teach their summer school marine biology class. The class is designed for two weeks on campus, followed by two weeks in the field in Hawaii. The class hasn’t happened for the past two years because of the dangers of traveling through a pandemic, but with the state of vaccines and more mild symptoms of the current variant, the school decided it was time to run the class again.

The two weeks on campus was a relaxed version of being a teacher and it was great to be back in the classroom, challenged with student questions and surrounded by student curiosities. I’m not looking to get back in the classroom permanently, but it was nice to connect with students again.

The two weeks in Hawaii was expectedly stressful, but felt more relaxed than previous years. I’m guessing my lack of on-paper responsibility (no school credit card, no access to health forms, no school email address) had something to do with it.

The trip was the same as in previous years, but I made a point to discover new tidbits of information and different ways of looking at the same views and vistas to keep myself entertained. Below are a couple of my thoughts during the trip:

6/17 -
The sun peaks through the isthmus here on Maui, lighting up the road to Lahaina. The water in front of the condos stays dark and still while sunlight starts to dance over the tops of the dunes. I can just see Molokini popping up out of the water in the distance. The temperature is a comfortable 70ish degrees with an expected high of 85, no where near the 100 degrees predicted at home. An outrigger canoe paddles past. I can hear the calls to stroke from my seat on the lanai; they cut through the cooing of the mina birds in the palms lining the beach. There's a calm in the soft waves caressing the shore, an invitation to come and play for the day or maybe just an invitation to stay a while.
The hike this morning was wonderful. The air is dry. There are sharp contrasts between the blues of the sky and sea, and the browns and yellows of lava rock and pili grass. It's a classic mediterranean lava field where everything seems dead, but it's really just thirsty.
Lahaina Pali Trail
6/18 -
The skies were clear and the air hot. Clouds capped the north Maui mountains, far enough away to not threaten rain, but not close enough to cool things off. Coolness could only be found under the cook pines with the memory of young branches etched into their trunks. I could hear sporadic bird calls beyond students talking about native Ti and invasive Strawberry Guava. In the shade it was relief.
Waihe’e Ridge Trail
6/20 -
The path is rocky and sandy under the Milo and Kiawe trees, until the the trek out to the point, and suddenly I'm transported to hot lava fields of rust-red rock. It's all a'a lava and I imagine my thick-soled tennis shoes crying out in pain with each step. The trek is worth it, out to the end of the world - or at least it feels that way surrounded by cliffs of lava rock, a crashing ocean hundreds of feet below, and a mile and a half out on the trail after driving to the literal end of the road. The wind is over-powering, screeching in my ears and trying to throw me off balance. I can never pass up an angry ocean. It churns below me, whipped to a frenzy as wind and waves wrap themselves around the southern end of the island.
La Perouse Bay

Like I said earlier, one of my goals was to connect with Hawaii in a different way than I had on previous trips. I made an effort to really look at my surroundings and then did some drawings each day of what I saw. All were made with Viviva Colors Colorsheets (watercolors), Copic 0.1 black pen, and pencil.

Maybe I’ll be headed back to Hawaii again next year, but also maybe not. Either way, I think I’ll be happy.

Check out my past posts if you want to see more pictures from Hawaii: 2019 Post 2, 2019 Post 1, 2018 Post 1, 2018 Post 2, 2018 Post 3.


Fall and Winter Creative Pursuits

Hope everyone had a good end to 2021. I haven’t posted in a bit, so here’s a catch-up on some creative activities from the past couple of months!

I love to carve pumpkins near Halloween. This year’s sea turtle pumpkin was inspired by a photograph taken on a trip to Hawaii and printed on metal. It’s hanging in our dining room and I happened to look up when I was trying to decide what to carve. The graveyard scene was inspired by my desire to practice my carving technique. Both pumpkins were carved using linocutting tools and there are very few sections that are actually carved all the way through the flesh. Super fun!

My next creative endeavor involved edibles (not that kind;). My friend holds a holiday treat exchange each year around the holidays. Each person makes something festive and brings six of the treat for each person attending the party to take home with them. This event has ended in many a sugar coma for me. This year I had some time and my parents were in town, so I convinced my mother that she wanted to help me make six different batches of cupcakes and icings. It was delightful baking with her for two days and the resulting cupcakes turned out delicious. Most of the cupcakes and frostings were based on recipes, but I used my tried and true “taste as you go” method for making tweaks. If anyone wants recipes, let me know in the comments and I’ll post them as best I can replicate.

  • Chocolate cherry cupcake with chocolate cherry bourbon buttercream frosting
  • Apple-lemon cupcake with rum buttercream frosting
  • Banana cupcake with dark chocolate drizzle
  • Carrot cake cupcake with cream cheese frosting (GF)
  • Pumpkin spice cupcake with ginger buttercream frosting and candied ginger sprinkles (GF)
  • Vanilla chiffon cupcake with peppermint buttercream frosting and crushed candy cane sprinkles

Our family had a bit of a hard time with Christmas presents this year. What do you get someone who can easily buy what they want themselves, or someone who just doesn’t want much? Well, I went with the, ask and then modify, strategy. My mother requested some highball glasses for the house. Lucky I took her with me shopping, because what she decided she really wanted were some double old fashioned glasses. Well this is what they turned into:

I used multi-surface paint (FolkArt seems to be the most common brand out there and the only brand at Michaels) and then baked them in the oven for 30 minutes to cure the paint. Supposedly they are top rack dishwasher safe, but I’m not sure we’ll ever actually risk it. I used a collection of online images I’d found as inspiration and then free-handed the designs on the glasses. Think I might need to do this with some of my own glasses. Next time I’m going to try birds! Or maybe more flowers!

The last creative endeavor I want to mention is my 2021 Creative Writing Challenge, that I finished on December 31. In 2021 I challenged myself to do some creative writing. Last January I created 52 prompts for myself to work from. I drew a prompt randomly each week and then wrote something in response. It could be in any format, fiction or nonfiction, poem or short story, and could be any length. Most turned out to be fictional (fantasy, sci fi, and contemporary) short stories between 600 and 2000 words. A couple are longer and I might turn them into full length novels or novellas. If you’re interested in reading some fun creative writing, they are all posted on my other blog A Cup of Creative. Here’s a couple of teaser prompts to pique your interest:

  • Write about someone who gets proposed to five times on Christmas Eve
  • Write about a character who makes a dramatic life change to pursue a goal they’ve secretly always wanted
  • Your pet dragon turns into a person
  • Start your story with two characters deciding to spend the night in a graveyard
  • Missed connections: Craigslist – find something to inspire a story
  • Write a space adventure story that features a visit to an alien marketplace
  • Start your story with someone admitting a secret and end it with someone telling a lie
  • Quickly write down the first five words that come to mind. Create a story using these as the main ideas (time, motorcycle, dog, playhouse, dolls)
  • Write a post-apocalyptic romance
  • Write something inspired by a recent dream you had
  • By the time you got outside, the leaves were on fire

Here’s to more creative endeavors in 2022!

The World of Nations Celebration

Last weekend Asa and I and Asa’s mom, Merrill, went to the World of Nations Celebration here in Jacksonville. The festival has been in existence for a good 20 years and is a great place to go and experience some 30 different international cultures. Each country was set up in their own tent where they displayed crafts and doo-dads for sale, sold authentic (for the most part) food, and stamped passport documents given to each visitor. A main stage central to all the countries exhibited entertainment and ceremonies from each country and local stages had live bands or dancing.



Each year the World of Nations Celebration is open on thursday and friday for elementary and middle school students to come learn about different cultures. Asa fondly remembers going to the celebration when he was a little tyke.

We had a great time wandering around, sampling local cuisine, and people watching. We even got to sample some empanadas from Colombia which were very different from the ones we had in Uruguay.


Some fun facts we learned:

– The Ethiopian calendar follows the Julian calendar which has 12 months of thirty days each and a 13th month of 5 days. The calendar is 7 years and 8 months behind the Western calendar.

– The Taj Mahal only took 17 years to build with workmen working every single day.


– Nollywood is what Nigeria’s booming film industry is called.

– The South Korean flag has a representation of yin and yang surrounded by depictions of the four elements: heaven, earth, fire and water.


– Angel Falls in Venezuela is 19 times the height of Niagara Falls.

Montevideo Shopping

We now live within walking distance of Montevideo Shopping, one of the few shopping malls in the city. To get there it’s a nice 20 minute walk through residential neighborhoods.

The mall has a Tienda Inglesa in it. There are a couple of these stores around Montevideo and they specialize in getting and having American goods (of course marked up in price because of the import taxes). On our first trip to Montevideo Shopping our goal was to obtain a surge protector/converter that would function with our electronics (the plug shape here is three prongs in a line) and we knew we could find it at Tienda Inglesa.

The rest of the mall was a little confusing. We found the food court, which is a bit smaller than the one at the Punta Carrettas Shopping mall. It seemed that the shape of the mall was a large square with a space in the middle and the floors only connected at the corners. There also seemed to be one bathroom. No matter where we were the bathroom signs inevitably led back to the food court.

There were lots of shoe stores, book stores, and clothing stores, just like anywhere else.

In front of the mall there is a nice plaza with a couple of restaurants and bank offices. There are art exhibits/statues featured in the plaza which I found particularly interesting.

Montevideo Graffiti

Graffiti seems to be an art form here in Montevideo. Various creatures and drawings appear all over the city, sometimes with the same figure appearing multiple times. Graffiti can be found on building walls, bus stops, stairways, and public spaces. The following are just a few of the many pieces of art that I’ve seen in the city.