Thursday, September 29, 2011

17 Mile Drive in Carmel, California

The Lone Cypress on 17-Mile Drive in Carmel, California
photos by Martin Smith

The 17 Mile Drive along the California coast in Monterey is so beautiful it seems straight out of a fairy tale. Pebble Beach Company owns and preserves the area, and charges each car a $9.50 toll just to experience the road. Visitors are strictly prohibited from disturbing, injuring or removing any animal or plant life, and picnicking is only allowed in designated areas. Motorcycles and camping are also verboten. The rules initially give one a feeling of inhospitality, but after touring the area, most would agree the pristine and unspoiled habitat is worth all the effort to protect for future generations to enjoy.

17 Mile Drive at Pebble Beach

Seals and Sea Lions Along the 17-Mile Drive
Five gates allow entry to the road, and its full circle includes seven golf courses, forests, and sublime ocean and mountain views. Famous landmarks are Point Joe, a rocky outcropping where numerous shipwrecks occurred, China Rock, Bird Rock with its attendant sea lions and seals, scenic Cypress Point, a Monterey Cypress bleached white from salt sea spray and wind called the Ghost Tree, Pescadero Point and an Equestrian Center. Near Crocker Grove stands the Lone Cypress, a tree precariously overlooking the Pacific from its rocky perch for over 250 years that has become the trademark symbol for Pebble Beach Company.

Unspoiled Coastline
A great way to travel the road is to either start or end at the Carmel Gate, to browse the unique stores and art galleries and dine at one of the eateries in Carmel-by-the-Sea. Ocean Avenue is the main street of this charming village, leading back to Highway One, but the emporiums on the side streets are not to be missed. Those interested in architecture would probably find joyriding the residential streets intriguing, with its quaint cottages and stunning landscaping at every turn.

Carmel's beauty is a natural attraction for plein air painters, and artists began migrating there during the 1870's. Teachers and students of San Francisco's School of Design could live cheaply in the rural coastland, then spend their days painting landscapes and another favorite subject, scenes from the daily lives of the working class, like Monterey's Portuguese and Chinese fishermen. However, the earthquake of 1906 was the real catalyst for Carmel's status as an art colony, as artists fled from San Francisco to rebuild their lives there, brushes and easels in hand.

BookCloseoutsIn 1907, the Del Monte Hotel opened a gallery to showcase their artworks, while also providing the tourist clientele who would purchase the pieces and then share their treasures when they returned home. The reputation of the budding art community spread, sealing Carmel's fate as an art destination.

The 17-Mile Drive lasts about three hours, but one could easily spend a full day leisurely soaking up all the sights.There is much to see and do in Monterey, but visitors won't be disappointed if they find the time to make the trek from Pacific Grove to Carmel. The route is considered one of the most scenic drives not only in California, but the entire world.


Nancy Dustin Wall Moure, California Art: 450 Years of painting and Other Media (Los Angeles, California: Dustin Publications, 1998).

Bougainvillea Graces
 a Carmel Home
Monterey Flora

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Sunday, September 25, 2011

San Francisco City Guides Walking Tour Review: Embarcadero South

Walking Embarcadero South in San Francisco, California
photos by Dianne Smith

Rincon Center
The walk along Embarcadero heading south from the Rincon Center to the corner of Delancey and Brannan lasts almost two hours, especially when Barbara Davis leads the tour. She brims with knowledge that struggles against brevity, but she is worth every minute of your time. City Guides offers a number of free walking tours around San Francisco, California, used by locals and tourists alike, and the Embarcadero South: Ruth Miller Ramble tour meets at the corner of Mission and Steuart Streets.

Rincon Center on Embarcadero Walking Tour

The tour is named after a woman who saw the potential beauty of this area when it consisted of shipyards and warehouses. Embracing the calm waters of the East Bay and having less fog, Ruth Miller visualized the Embarcadero with residences, a lively commercial district and tourists. Her hunch proved correct as shipping eventually moved to Oakland and the waterfront transitioned.

Ferry Building, San Francisco
The Rincon Center was originally a United States Post Office and is now a historic landmark. City officials wanted to incorporate artwork where there was a lot of foot traffic, so the Post Office was a natural choice to display a set of wall murals. Anton Refregier painted twenty-seven snapshots from  San Francisco's history, beginning with the original Indian natives through the mission period, statehood, gold rush and industrial eras. Many of the huge watercolors depicted controversial subjects, and the dismayed officials of his day forced Refregier to repaint several scenes.

During the 1950's, transit authorities commonly believed freeways were best built circling the major cities, so a double-decker Embarcadero Freeway was constructed along the waterfront. However, the rest of the freeway would slice the City off entirely from the Bay, so a huge outcry resulted and prevented it from ever being finished. Then to everyone's astonishment and pleasure, the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 destroyed The Embarcadero Freeway, opening up the area to scenic views and development.
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An interesting footnote is that three months before the freeway's collapse, Kimpton Hotels contracted to build the Harbor Court Hotel next to the Army and Navy YMCA, one of many stories after Loma Prieta of riches acquired through timing and luck.

Public Art in San Francisco

In addition to the murals of the Rincon Center, several other public artworks grace the promenade. Ruth Asawa, a local artist known for her commitment to art education in the public schools and her pieces in the deYoung Museum, created a circular metallic fountain sculpture called Aurora in 1986. Also, Richard Serra designed "Charlie Brown," a massively tall artwork for The Gap headquarters, its metal forged in Germany. Don Fisher, founder and owner of The Gap, also commissioned another sculpture, a ridiculous, oversized bow and arrow, better suited for a children's playground than its high profile location overlooking the Bay. In an attempt to encourage appreciation, Ms. Davis suggested the group walk on the other side of the steet to view San Francisco through the artistic monstrosity. I did, but it didn't help.

Howard Street Plaque in Sidewalk
Interesting bronze plaques cemented in the sidewalk educate pedestrians about the people whom the streets are named after. Newspaper mogul San Brannan was the first millionaire in California and Beale brought news to Washington, D.C. that gold had been discovered at Sutter's Fort. The walking tour continues to the old Hills Brothers Coffee factory built in 1924, with a statue of their trademark Turk drinking a cup of joe. The company's claim to fame was their creative packaging and innovative method of vacuum packing their beans. It took ten years before anyone else adopted their system.

Hills Brothers Coffee Building
The tour ends at Brannan and Delancey Streets, where the Oriental Warehouse, one of the oldest buildings in San Francisco, still stands. Most of the warehouses and industrial buildings have been renovated into condos or apartments. Nearby is the Delancey Center, a non-profit that helps at-risk individuals develop skills and get back on their feet. The Center acquired their property from the City of San Francisco for just a dollar, built an impressive facility which included a friendly restaurant, and has become a model of success.

Ferry Building Farmers Market
Those taking the walking tour may want to enjoy a meal at the Delancey Center or walk back toward the Ferry Building. Saturday mornings offer a farmer's market and a myriad of sidewalk vendors bearing jewelry and art. The area teems with people enjoying the markets, cuisine and scenery of this lively, historic part of San Francisco, and the City Guides walking tour is a great way to experience it.

Hills Brothers Turk Statue

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Friday, September 23, 2011

Children's Poetry

photo by Dianne Smith

I wrote a couple of poems when my children were small, and they still remind me of those precious little ones now so grown up and independent. If there is anything I have ever done right, it was in raising these two amazing individuals.


There is a place
That is safe and warm
And nothing bad ever happens
I found the day I was born.
It's in my Mama's arms.

When I was small,
There was singing and rocking
And milk and comfort
At the safe place
In my Mama's arms.

When I couldn't sleep
In the dark alone,
I went to the safe place
And the warmth helped me sleep
In my Mama's arms.

When the dog barked and jumped
And made me cry,
I was picked up and held tight.
Then I was safe
In my Mama's arms.

When I rode my new bike
And fell on the ground,
My knees were bleeding
So I ran to the place
Where it wouldn't hurt
In my Mama's arms.

When my friend wouldn't share
And we yelled and pulled,
Mama hugged us together.
Then I shared the safe place
In my Mama's arms.

When I went to school the first day,
I left her for new friends.
But when school was over,
She was waiting for me
And I went to the safe place
In my Mama's arms.

I'm bigger now
But I can always go
To the safe place
That will cover me
And make me brave again
In my Mama's arms.
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There is a place
That is safe and strong
And lots of fun
Where nothing bad ever happens.
I found it the day I was born.
On my Daddy’s lap.

When I want to play games
I go to the fun place
Where we make faces
And tickle and laugh
On my Daddy’s lap.

When I want a story
I sit at the fun place
So he can read
And I can listen
On my Daddy’s lap.

When I don’t know something
And want to learn
I go to the strong place
Where he teaches me
So I will know, too,
On my Daddy’s lap.

When I watch TV
I sit at the fun place
So we can be together
With me on my Daddy’s lap.

When I have a bad dream
I go to the safe place
Where I won’t be afraid
On my Daddy’s lap.

When I’ve been bad
My Daddy tells me so.
I don’t like it
But it makes me turn good.
And when he’s done
I go to the strong place
On my Daddy’s lap.

Daddy showed me how to talk to God.
I fold my hands.
I close my eyes.
I like to pray
At the safe and strong place
On my Daddy’s lap.

I’m bigger now
But I can always go
To the safe and fun place
To be held
And feel strong again
On my Daddy’s lap.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Christianity and Politics

photo by Paragon

Citizens of the United States enjoy the right to freedom of speech, but a moral person would still exercise caution in its use. Unfortunately, the Internet is filled with vitriolic posts against various political figures, some written by individuals who claim to be Christians. One pastor in particular, Steven Anderson of Tempe, Arizona, stated in a sermon to his people he hated Barack Obama and prayed for him to die from something horrible, like brain cancer. Anderson is entitled to his opinion, but his example and others like him in American culture indicate something sorely amiss. The fruits of their spirits are not love, joy and peace, but hate, discord and fear.

To be fair, Christians are usually the victims of incendiary language rather than the non-believers, especially when they stick their necks out and state their views on hot button issues. Dan Quayle was brutally pummeled over his remark about a television show that "mocked the importance of fathers." He was bringing up a problem that assuredly needed sunlight, but watching the treatment he received afterward would give pause to any Christian considering a political career.

Religious Right in America

So what does the Bible say about the subject? When it comes to government, it says "the powers that be are ordained of God "(Romans 13:1, KJV). Rulers have been given authority, and they have a heavy responsibility they must answer for one day about their handling of that power. Those living under the umbrella of their authority owe them proper respect. "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation" (Romans 13:1-2).
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The Apostle Peter also weighs in on the matter when he ascribes a couple of interesting attributes to false prophets. He says they "despise government. Presumptuous are they, self-willed, they are not afraid to speak evil of dignities (II Peter 2:10)," which would include disrespect to elected officials. In Romans again, Paul admonishes Christians to "render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor (13:7)."

A company called Fun Slurp offers merchandise that degrades the President of the United States by selling Obama Toilet Paper. "Make your opinion known by wiping your behind with the face of the 44th president of the United States," their mocking ads say. People may laugh, but what does this do to the honor of the great office this man occupies?

The Christian and Politics

An elderly couple in California, both active members of an evangelical Christian church, spend most of their days watching political commentaries on a television news station. Their daughter laments the unhealthy effect on her parents, as they give in to fear and develop a hatred for certain elected officials. Their attitudes don't reflect true Christian virtues and she feels it cannot be of God. A better way for a believer to respond to the day's events would be to stay informed, fulfill one's civic duty by voting or even running for elective office, and especially by praying for the country's leaders, as one day those politicians must give an account for how they wielded their scepters.

Generally, most believers do know the importance of showing forth Christ to the world and their duty to "honor the king." Others who express hatred in the political arena are in the minority, but they still give a bad name to their more disciplined brethren.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

My Ministry

photo by Existence Church

     I finished the dramatic monologue that preceded the Sunday morning sermon and bowed my head, feeling exhilarated by the congregation's emotional response. After the service, the compliments made me smile with a sense of purpose and fulfillment.
     Drama was my passion. 

     After years of doing mundane volunteer work at church, I'd finally found a ministry that fit like a glove. Our fledgling drama ministry needed me for main character parts and I reveled in the position of primary actress. However, other talented Christians soon signed up. A member from the Screen Actors Guild joined the fellowship and became a major player, and a woman with a Bachelor's degree in Dramatic Arts took over as Director. When the next drama meeting was scheduled, twenty people showed up.
     A jealousy I didn't know I possessed ate my insides. We don't have enough parts for all these people! I thought. How could I share my ministry with others?
     Then the Lord brought some verses about servanthood to my attention. “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow (I Cor. 3:6-7).” It didn't matter if spiritual truth came through me or another player because we were merely instruments in God's service. He alone caused the growth. Acting was my strength, but I still needed to make room for others who wanted to serve with the same talent. “What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe (I Cor. 3:5).” A ministry's purpose is to glorify the Lord, so any praise I received was misplaced.
     When our director next handed out acting parts, I decided to let go of my ownership to allow others a place of service. I had to remember that we were a body made up of many members and each one has gifts to contribute.
     And to God be the glory.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Christian Yoga, an Oxymoron?

photo by Lululemon Athletica

"Yoga is associated with a wide range of physical and psychological benefits that may be especially helpful for persons living with a chronic illness," says  Steffany Haaz, MFA, certified movement analyst, yoga teacher, and Research Coordinator with the Johns Hopkins Arthritis Center. Yoga is defined by the Merriam Webster Dictionary as "a system of physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation derived from Yoga but often practiced independently especially in Western cultures to promote bodily or mental control and well-being." The body needs oxygen and the blood supply needs to circulate, with illness resulting if these flows are interrupted, and yoga poses encourage both.

The poses allow the body to self-heal by oxygenating cells, relieving tension, building muscle strength and achieving balance. Are these healthful results opposed to the Christian faith? Some would argue so, as the practice has historically been intertwined with Eastern Spiritualism. Apparently the 'sun salutation' exercise, which includes such stress-relieving postures as the 'downward dog' and 'forward fold', hold meaning in some cultures as sun god worship.

Yoga 'Downward Dog' Pose
photo by Andy B.
Yoga and Christianity

The esteemed Founder and President of Gospel for Asia, K.P. Yohannan, thinks yoga is very dangerous for the Christian because it leads to idolatry. His upbringing in India and faith in Jesus Christ lead him to a strong denunciation of yoga. However, can the poses themselves be separated from Hinduism, especially to those who don't share Mr. Yohannan's background? Can they benefit one's spirit, developing the Christian virtues of patience, endurance, fortitude and an appreciation for God's amazing creation, the human body?

Satan usually has a twisted counterfeit to anything God has ordained for good. It would be safe to assume that healthful and healing poses have been hijacked by him to manipulate people into the worship of himself. He can also use music to tempt people to worship himself, causing many Christians to condemn entire genres, but music in itself is a neutral medium to be used for good or ill. When it comes to music, though, Christians don't throw out the baby with the bath water. They produce sacred music, and joyfully and unashamedly express themselves in a healthy way.

The early Christians disputed over a similar principle as recorded in Romans 14. They struggled over eating meat that was offered to idols, which they could buy cheaply in the marketplace. Everyone liked the great deals on beef, but they wondered if they were worshiping false idols when they sat down to dinner. The Apostle Paul assured them that meat was just meat, and consumers weren't worshipping an idol when they bought it, only getting a good price on groceries. A Christian would say grace before he ate it, knowing that God had created the cow and provided it for food. It mattered not that pagans had twisted a good thing, as the Christian saw the truth. He merely rejected the baggage associated with his steak.
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Christian Perspective on Yoga

Paul also says, "I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself (Romans 14:14, KJV)," and "Happy is he that condemneth not himself in that thing which he alloweth (Romans 14:22)." So if a Christians' conscience is clear when he practices yoga poses, he is acceptable before God. The rest of the passage discusses how Christians should act toward their brethren over questionable subjects like this. When one sees a Christian brother posing in yoga stances, he is not to judge him for doing so, but Paul also issues a stern warning to mature Christians that they take care to do nothing to confuse or harm a weaker brother. Yet truly, the "weak stage" of a Christian shouldn't last very long. When a born-again Christian studies the scriptures, he will learn of the wonderful liberty he has in Christ, and can slowly wean himself from the milk of the Word to consume the meat.

Beyond physical health reasons, if a yoga practitioner wants to build spiritual strength during his exercises, he should center himself on God, putting Jesus Christ on His rightful throne and taking himself off of it. He should "lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset him (Hebrews 12:1)." He should also meditate on Scriptures like Psalm 8, and praise the Lord for His works, especially His sacrificial death on the cross for the sin of mankind. When considering the universe, the Christian should remember that, "All things were made by Jesus Christ, and without Him was not any thing made that was made (John 1:3)," and that "by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by Him, and for Him: and He is before all things, and by Him all things consist (Colossians 1:16-17)."

There is no mother earth god or truth to reincarnation. Lucifer stole the physical benefits of yoga poses to worship himself, but the Christ follower can resist Satan and reclaim this spiritual ground for the Lord. The simple movements of yoga encourage the body to function better and are a gift from the Creator to humanity. People didn't always have access to surgery and the technological wonders of today's health industry. Sometimes they had to stretch and breathe deeply to work out their kinks.


Haaz, Steffany. "Yoga for people with Arthritis.", June 23, 2009.

Gospel for Asia. "Christian Students Avoid School Yoga Program.", March 15, 2007.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Vacation Rental Enforcement Bill Fails to Pass


The Honolulu Department of Planning and Permitting (DPP) took a revote Sept 7, 2011 on a controversial bill that would enforce a 2009 law banning vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods on Oahu. The votes were three in favor and three opposed, so the bill failed to achieve recommendation. The members who voted in favor were Kaiulani Sodaro, Gayle Pingree and Karin Holma, while Beadie Dawson and Andrew Jamila didn't vote since they were absent. Commission Chairman Rodney Kim, James Pacopac and Arthur Tolentino all voted against the bill.

Vacation House Rentals on Oahu

Honolulu Mayor Peter Carlisle and the DPP had drafted a draconian enforcement bill to rout out small businesses operating vacation rentals and Bed and Breakfast establishments. The Bill to Amend #21, of the Revised Ordinances of Honolulu 1990, as Amended Relating to the Regulation of Certain Visitor Accommodations, established harsh penalties against citizens who open their homes to paying visitors, including jail time. It would have added advertising as prima facie evidence of offenses, fixed fines up to $1,000 per day, and clarified definitions in the current law.
Fare Buzz Vacation Rentals

Proponents for the Amendment argued that listing addresses and permit certificate numbers in advertising is similar to what is required of construction contractors, who must list their license numbers on advertising. However, contractors don't list their home addresses or the fact that their properties may be vacant, inviting criminal activity. This identification would expose the properties to theft and vandalism, especially with internet advertising. 

According to SON, an anti-tourist grass roots organization in Kailua, the enforcement bill was something they had worked on for six years. However, the public hearing begun on August 10, 2011 to discuss the legislation had over 300 people express their opinions, with more than two-thirds opposing the bill. Many citizens felt the enforcement was unfair, especially since no permitting process would be established concurrently, to enable citizens a legal way to conduct business.

No new permits have been issued in the past twenty years despite the upswing in visitors. Many small business operators are at risk, though they provide a legitimate service and contribute to Hawaii's economy. Since 1989, when 2,376 certificates were issued for Transient Vacation Units and Bed & Breakfasts, Oahu has lost on average twenty per year, according to the Department of Planning and Permitting. Only 875 remain of the legal vacation rentals, and only 200 of them are located outside of Waikiki.

It is unfortunate that neighbors are warring with one another, but with livelihoods at stake during a sour economy, the conflict will most likely continue until legal permits are allowed.


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B&B's and Short Term Rentals in Hawaii Fight For Survival


Citizens living in residentially zoned areas in Hawaii who desire to rent their places to vacationers have been legally prohibited from doing so by a powerful minority on the islands. Accountants, lawyers, beauticians and other small business owners are legally permitted to conduct business as usual from their homes, with customers coming and going, yet their neighbors are not allowed to use their houses for home-based businesses if they are to be vacation rentals.

Keep It Kailua (KIK) and Save Our Neighborhoods (SON), two rabidly anti-tourist groups, have resorted to vigilante tactics to ferret out vacation rentals on Oahu. The Hawaii Vacation Rentals Owners Association (HVROA) said it received several reports that a slim, elderly man was knocking on the doors of suspected short-term rentals in Lanikai. He claimed he was looking for a rental for his friend or family member, and he wanted to know who to contact. Later an Asian woman approached other homes with the same story. On one particular property, a handyman told the lady the place was not a vacation rental, whereupon she adamantly stated she knew it was because she noticed different cars in the driveway.

Richard Hagstrom of 367 Lama Place, Lanikai, also apparently decided to take matters into his own hands. In a letter to the Real Estate Commission dated March 13, 2011, he asked for a ban on renting or even advertising of TVU's without a non–conforming use permit (no new permits of this sort have been granted since 1989 so almost none of the operators have them). Hagstrom also submitted formal complaints against a list of travel agents who handle bookings for vacation rentals that he found on the internet.

Oahu Beachfront Rentals

In response, the Real Estate Commission on March 22, 2011 sent Hagstrom's list to the State of Hawaii Regulated Industries Complaint Office (RICO). Since July, this department has been sending letters of warning to the travel agents, stating they may be in violation of the law and to refrain from advertising. Sadly, these folks simply trying to earn a living are caught in the middle of the fray. Then on Oahu's North Shore, two Transient Vacation Units (TVU) were sent cease and desist letters, though their community has had regular vistors for years with no complaints.

A recent New York Times travel article on Kailua elicited a letter to the editor from Merrily Prentiss, a local from Kailua apparently dismayed at the possibility of more tourists visiting her town. She writes, "Lawrence Downes paints a nice picture of my Kailua. The trouble is that Mr. Downes forgot to mention that real Kailuans don’t want tourists at all. There is, in fact, a plan in place to start a 'tourists go home' campaign. Gentrification and creeping tourists have already destroyed what remained of Kailua’s quaintness, and many local folks are being displaced by high rents because of the proliferation of illegal rentals, higher grocery costs and higher taxes."

The writer's husband is Chuck Prentiss, Chair of the Kailua Neighborhood Board. Rumor has it that Mr. and Mrs. Prentiss are each considering running for political office next year. If successful, they will have the political authority to curb tourism, despite the will of many of their fellow citizens.

Hawaii Beach Cottage Rentals Under Fire

However, the battle isn't limited to Oahu. The former Mayor of Maui, Charmaine Tavares, led a massive shutdown of vacation rentals in 2009, causing a great deal of hardship for many citizens. Her mishandling of the issue played a large part in her later defeat for re-election. "So much hardship caused by complete lack of forethought was both lamentable and preventable," said Sharyn Stone, board member of Maui Vacation Rental Association. "An independent economic study put the figure that was taken out of Maui's economy at a most crucial time to be $318,000,000!" Maui's legendary windsurfing championship, the Aloha Classic, had to move to Germany because there weren't any accommodations for the competitors on Maui's North Shore.

Maui's present administration aims to achieve a more balanced approach. They have a Bed & Breakfast bill and are in process of drafting another to allow Short Term Rentals, the complementary side of the industry. They hope to give operators an avenue to become legal with a window of opportunity for them to apply for and receive permits, and only then to work on enforcement. Once a fair law is established, they can enforce it to put any illegal units out of business. Unfortunately, the previous Mayor Tavares had to learn the hard way. First, a fair and rational process needed to be determined, then enforcement, not the other way around. 

Tiffany Hill recently wrote a one-sided article for Honolulu Magazine about TVU's, favoring their opponents. She said her omission in presenting arguments supporting TVU's was due to her phone calls to their owners not being returned, yet Angie Larson, President of HVROA, did not receive any calls from Hill. While the controversy rages in Kailua, spilling over the island and beyond, Larson's perspective is needed to balance the views of the shortsighted.

Read more:


Hawaii Vacation Rental Owners Association

Downes, Lawrence. "My Kailua/The New York Times. September 2, 2011.

Hill, Tiffany. The Bed and Breakfast Battle in Hawaii/The Honolulu Magazine. September 2011.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Remember The Cross on Good Friday

photo by Pip Rolls

     I heard the door open and stood as my husband entered the room. "How was the elder meeting?" I asked.
     "I'm getting off the elder board," he said, shaking his head. "I just can't do it anymore."
     "Are you sure?"
     "Yes," he said firmly.
     Our problem with the leadership at church had been slowly escalating; now the dam was breaking. With a heavy heart, I sat down to type the resignation letter he dictated. I felt he had been unfairly discredited and ostracized, but had hoped he could stand fast and make a difference. True faith and character shine during adversity, but he seemed to be surrounded by those who wanted to snuff out his flame. Quitting the board meant he could do nothing more.
     We had helped found the church six years earlier in a shared dream that the Lord brought to life. How could those we worked alongside with turn against us? As he signed and sealed his formal letter of resignation, 
I trusted that the Lord had a bigger plan that I simply couldn't see. "Well, at least we still have each other," I said, mustering a smile. His arms enveloped me as we encouraged ourselves to act with kindness in the days ahead.
     Church was never the same to us afterward. Rumors flew and the insecure leadership became defensive, yet we tried to remain quiet. "Lord, please help," I prayed. I needed His grace to help me exhibit the fruits of the spirit, especially self-control and patience, when I was tempted to give in to hurt, anger and disappointment.
     After three months, our situation had so deteriorated we spent a day fasting and praying to receive some direction from the Lord. By that evening, we felt His affirmation to leave the fellowship we had loved so deeply. However, I could not as easily leave my pain as I made my way to the door of a new church. Because it was large, I hoped to heal in anonymity. I couldn't give much, but I needed plenty. Listening to the good-hearted pastor, I felt soothing words like salve on an open sore.

Good Friday Sermon

     Soon Good Friday arrived, and I went to the special service needing to be uplifted again. As I waited for it to start, music filled the air. At the front of the church, a large wooden cross held together by ropes was leaning against the wall. 
     After some singing and a sermon, the pastor said, "We will close our service tonight with our annual tradition. Each one of us will come and hammer a nail into our wooden cross as a remembrance of what the Lord Jesus Christ did on Calvary. We would like for this auditorium to be quiet during this and when you have finished, you may leave." Two men solemnly laid the cross down on the altar next to some hammers and a couple of bowls filled with carpenter nails, each tied with a red ribbon.
     My hands began to sweat and my eyes watered. The imagery was too vivid for me. How could I hammer a nail into that cross? I was sitting in a comfortable culture two thousand years away from that dreadful night when the Savior was sacrificed. If I had been there, I would have stopped anyone from crucifying my Lord! Or would I?

     It dawned on me that those who put Jesus to death were not the only ones responsible for the act. Each sinful human being was responsible because it was for their sins Christ had died. I was just as guilty as those who actually did the deed. And yet, He had to die! If He hadn't, I wouldn't have eternal life in heaven! His temporary pain bought salvation for me and all mankind! He knew He had to die, and He willingly did so.
     I stood to take my turn with the hammer. The line ahead of me was long, and I heard only the consistent pounding in the otherwise silent room. Finally, it was my turn. Someone handed me a hammer and I took a red-ribboned nail from a bowl. The large cross was now covered with nails, but there was still room for mine. I raised the hammer and it landed on the nailhead with a thud. I thought of the pain Jesus must have experienced as each blow had pierced Him. Tears streamed from my eyes as I forced myself to hit the nail, hit the nail, hit the nail.
     Then a new thought occurred to me. Not only was my sin nailed to the cross, but also the sins of those who had hurt my husband and me. Jesus had taken the judgment, ostracism and jealous anger others had directed at us, and nailed them to the cross, too. He died for all humankind, including those who had mistreated us. If He could love so forgivingly, would He expect anything less from me? He was flawlessly perfect and completely undeserving of His fate. How could I complain about the sin against us when I was not so flawless?
     I looked at the cross, now covered with nails that represented each person's sin, and suddenly felt lighter. My sin was gone, the sins against me were gone, and I was free. I was finally surfacing from my self-pity to see the reality of God's truth. When compared to the cross, my overwhelming sense of betrayal paled into insignificance. Truly, my bitterness had to be replaced with forgiveness. For my own spiritual health, I needed to let go of the past and move on.

     I handed the hammer to the next person and averted my red-rimmed eyes. The experience had been intensely personal. Jesus Christ had touched my soul.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Easy Chocolate Mousse Bavarian Recipe

Chocolate Mousse Bavarian

Chocolate Mousse Bavarian made with evaporated milk was one of my mother's favorite desserts to serve, and it became one of my fondest memories of her. She loved inexpensive recipes that looked fancy, and this grand finale to dinner certainly fit the bill.

Easy Chocolate Mousse Bavarian Recipe

Use Evaporated Milk in
Chocolate Mousse Bavarian
This version of Chocolate Mousse Bavarian doesn't require the milk, mixing bowl, spatula or beaters to be refrigerated, and that is what makes it so simple. I would update it by using organic ingredients and kosher salt.

  • 1 envelope Unflavored Gelatin (.25 oz or 7 g)
  • 1/2 cup (120 mL) cold water
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar
  • 1/4 cup (30 g) unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 tsp (1.25 g) salt
  • 1 cup (240 mL) + 2/3 cup (160 mL) evaporated milk
  • 1 tbsp. (15 mL) vanilla extract

Stir About 5 Minutes, Until Gelatin and Sugar Dissolve
  1. Put the Unflavored Gelatin in a 1 quart (1 L) saucepan with the cold water, and let the mixture soften.
  2. Stir in well the sugar, cocoa and salt. 
  3. Stir the mixture over medium heat until the gelatin and sugar dissolve completely, about 5 minutes. DO NOT BOIL. Then take the saucepan off the heat.
  4. Stir in 1 cup (240 mL) of the evaporated milk.
  5. Chill the mixture in the small bowl of the electric mixer or 1 1/2 quart-size (1.5 L) bowl until it is firm.
  6. With the electric mixer, beat in at low speed the 2/3 cup (160 mL) evaporated milk and the vanilla extract until the mixture is broken up.
  7. Beat at high speed until the mixture fills the bowl.
  8. Let stand a few minutes, or until the mixture mounds when dropped from a spoon.
  9. Heap into dessert dishes and chill until ready to serve. Serves 4.
Chocolate Mousse Bavarian is wonderful for entertaining guests because it can be made ahead of time and lends itself to an elegant presentation, by topping it off with ladyfingers, sugar cookies or a dollop of whipped cream and chocolate shavings. Another great garnish would be a couple of fresh mint leaves. There is something about chocolate desserts that makes them a fabulous finish to dinner, especially after Italian meals like lasagna or spaghetti. This recipe is so easy it is sure to become an everyday family favorite.

photos by Dianne Smith

Read more dessert recipes:                                          Promo 88x31

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  • Friday, September 9, 2011

    Kings Beach at North Lake Tahoe, California

    Kings Beach, North Lake Tahoe

    North Lake Tahoe, California is known for winter sports, but in the summer offers just as much fun. For those who travel when school is out, the area is a real gem. map

    Summer in North Lake Tahoe

    North Lake Boulevard, the main road along the water's edge between Tahoe City and Incline Village, offers a fabulous public beach with a small pier. Kings Beach is long and sandy, with boat rentals, restaurants and boutique shops catering to visitors. The water of Lake Tahoe comes from snowmelt, making the lake frigid in its center but warm at the shore where the sun can more easily penetrate. Snow capped mountain peaks surround Lake Tahoe, providing a stunning contrast to families frolicking in their bathing suits.

    Horseback riding and golfing replace skiing and snowboarding during summer months, allowing resorts to open year-round. For golfers, there are several world-class courses to choose from in North Lake Tahoe, including Incline Village and Tahoe City Golf Course.
    Fare Buzz Vacation Rentals

    The Fat Cat Cafe in Tahoe City

    Fried Cheesecake Dessert
    For a fun place to eat, The Fat Cat Cafe in Tahoe City offers tasty food, cocktails, and every Saturday night, live music. They also demonstrate a commitment to the local arts community, having Open Mic every Tuesday and Karaoke on Thursdays, and display original works of painters and photographers on their walls for sale.

    Their cuisine is organic and fresh, with generous portions of healthy food. Waiters are very friendly, especially one gal in particular named Whitney.

    Diners may begin with happy hour, which offers shared dishes and delicious appetizers like thai lettuce wraps with chicken and tofu, and fresh caught ahi tuna with homemade chips. The pork tacos are laced with lime, cilantro & edible garnishes that complement the dish, and the sweet potato fries with aioli dip are superb.

    Nothing on the menu will disappoint, but the chinese chicken salad and southwestern egg rolls with homemade salsa deserve special mention. For dessert, try the fried cheesecake w/ ice cream, and dollops of chocolate and raspberry sauces. Patrons will leave this restaurant quite satisfied, as the food is not only tasty but very nutritious. Whatever one selects from the menu, order enough to take some leftovers home. The Fat Cat Cafe is located at 599 North Lake Boulevard in Tahoe City, and can be reached at (530)583-3355.

    Lake Tahoe is a world-class vacation destination with plenty of things to do and see, but for those who dislike cold weather, summers are the absolute best.

    Snowcapped Peaks Loom Over Lake Tahoe