Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Hawaii State Art Museum in Honolulu, HI

Hawaii State Art Museum in Honolulu
photo by

Oahu travel doesn't usually include sightseeing the Capitol District in Honolulu, but The Hawaii State Art Museum is worth the trip.

Things To Do in Honolulu

Best of all, it is free. The Museum is about fifteen minutes from Waikiki, located near the Iolani Palace and on the site of what once was a hotel for royal guests. The YMCA later owned the property and in 1928, demolished the hotel to build the current building. Interesting architectural details include tile floors, iron grill work, cast stone, and ornate light fixtures. When The State of Hawaii obtained the historic YMCA edifice in 2000, they decided to renovate and dedicate part of it to The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts (HSFCA). The HSFCA has been collecting Hawaiian art and artifacts since 1967, and has an extensive collection.

Hawaiians are proud of their rich heritage and desired a State museum to house their artwork. The first floor is mainly dedicated to modern art. Much is for sale and there is also an enclosed gift shop in the center. Next to the gift shop is an artistic wooden rack holding a row of pots, which leak water into a row of pots below them, and those pots leak into another row of pots underneath them. The structure acts as a very striking room divider between the gift shop and a deli restaurant.

Fare Buzz Spring Break

Fine art and functional art are offered at reasonable prices. Unusual jewelry made from sand is displayed along with porcelain jewelry, glass bead necklaces for only $16, chiffon dresses with Hawaiian prints, Hawaiian quilts, paintings and prints.

Hawaii State Art Museum in Honolulu

The second floor has a lobby and two walk-through galleries called Ewa and Diamond Head, all totaling 12,000 feet. The first art piece a visitor will notice is a large clay figurine by Vicky Chock entitled "Haniwa Samurai." Another piece of interest is "East and West" by Satoru Abe, a sculpture of a tree made from copper. A large section is dedicated to well known hula dancers, and their photographs grace the walls. There is also a space called the "I Love Art Gallery" for artist wannabes to experiment.

The Museum is is located located near the Iolani Palace at 250 South Hotel Street in Honolulu, and is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. except for State holidays. People can conveniently take The Bus or The Waikiki Trolley to get there if they don't have a car, which is best since parking is limited.

Often tourists to Oahu will purchase a piece of art to remind them of their trip to paradise, but Waikiki and Haleiwa are not the only places with galleries. Downtown Honolulu also provides a wonderful art destination.

Monday, February 27, 2012

How to Go to Heaven, According to the Bible

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The Holy Bible describes itself as "the Word of God." So what does the Word say about ensuring a person ends up in heaven someday? The Book of John, written by an eyewitness and one of Jesus' closest friends, says, "God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, NIV)."

This one sentence pretty much sums up the Bible. So who is Jesus, anyway?

Why Did Jesus Come?

Before Jesus was ever born, early man offered animal sacrifices to God in appeasement for sin, and these burnt offerings were pictures or the precursors of Jesus' substitutional, atoning sacrifice on the cross. Significant animal sacrifices occurred during the spring, and there were many ceremonial rules about how to accomplish the ritual.

Jesus' arrival changed everything. Jesus was crucified in the spring, coinciding with the ancient rituals, and that is why he is known as the Lamb of God. "God spoke to our forefathers through prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by [Jesus] his Son (Hebrews 1:1, NIV)," Paul the Apostle wrote during the early days of Christianity. The entire Jewish law with its animal sacrifices was a training ground to bring ancient people to a mature understanding of what God really demands, which is simple faith or trust in Jesus Christ.


Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me (John 14:6)." He made it clear that getting to heaven was only through faith in Him, and nothing else. He claimed to be the Son of God, the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world. In his book Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis describes the question about Christ every individual must answer: Was He a liar, a lunatic, or who He actually claimed to be, the Son of God? If Jesus wasn't who He said He was, then He had to have been either a liar or a lunatic. If Jesus wasn't crazy, and those who lived during his day never claimed Him to be insane, and if He also wasn't lying, then the only alternative is that He must have been who He said He was, the literal Son of God.

How to Go to Heaven

Religions are cultural systems that try to help man reach up to God's level, but raw Christianity is just the opposite. Christianity is God reaching out to man, coming down from heaven to man's finite level to redeem him. Man doesn't have to do anything except freely accept what God offers, but the result of genuine belief in Jesus Christ is a repentance from sin and an inner transformation.

Afterward the believer in Christ will naturally change his behavior toward the good, some more dramatically than others, however, any outward good works or accomplishments are not what has saved or redeemed the person. It was Jesus Christ's atoning death on the cross alone. Onlookers may mistakenly assume a person's good deeds have earned him heaven, but that isn't the case.

Once a pastor was confronted with a statement that people don't ever really change. He responded, "You are right, because apart from the power of God, they don't." But simple faith in Christ does activate God's power, changing people from the inside out, and their subsequent actions will indicate if their salvation is authentic.

Book Review: "The Water Is Wide" by Pat Conroy

The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy

The Water Is Wide gets its title from a British folk song that describes a vast body of water separating two peoples. The water is difficult to cross without a boat, or someone acting as a bridge to bring the two groups together. The poem resonated with author Pat Conroy, who spent a year during the Civil Rights era teaching Gullah children, descendants of African-American slaves, on an island off the coast of South Carolina. His book is a fictionalized account of his experience, with the original Daufuskie Island dubbed Yamacraw, where he commuted to work by boat.

The Water Is Wide by Pat Conroy

Conroy was an idealist, motivated by white guilt and liberal altruism, but he soon learns entrenched cultures are painfully slow to change. The children of Yamacraw have appallingly deficient pre-school years, most not knowing the alphabet or how to count. They were not exposed to standard English, cultural experiences beyond their island, or even swimming lessons essential for anyone living near water. Teaching them required creative methods, so Conroy employs music, field trips and especially humor. His sarcastic wit carries over into his relationships with Administrators, like his statement, "That night I fired off a rather angry, self-righteous letter to Dr. Piedmont telling him that his cute little schoolhouse on Yamacraw was not worth a pound of cow dung."

The families on Yamacraw are very superstitious, which Conroy finds quite amusing. He particularly mentions a former teacher at the school named Miss Glover, who is a practitioner of voodooism. He promises to relate some stories later in the book, but apparently forgets to include any, leaving the reader not a little disappointed.

The only other teacher at the little school is Mrs. Brown, a caricature of a black person of the times, with expectations so low the children don't have to accomplish anything to meet them. She is unsettlingly proud that she is not from the island, is part Indian and was educated at a private school in Georgia. She feels superior to the locals and outrageously abuses her students verbally and physically.  She is a tragic figure, a traitor to her own people, and loyal to whites who want to preserve racial apartheid. To the reader she appears to be a victim of generational curses handed down from the slave culture.

On the other hand, Ezra Bennington is a white Deputy Superintendent who also keeps the children in a never-ending cycle of ignorance and poverty by his failure to understand them. He appears to be a likeable man that cares, but Conroy reveals his true feelings, which is that he doesn't much care at all. The educational dysfunction of the school is promulgated by its lack of resources and inability to institute real change, but also by Brown and Bennington.

Gullah Culture on Yamacraw Island

The missing component for true educational reform would be before the children ever get to school--by their parents. However, parenting skills that foster healthy early childhood development are sorely lacking on the island. According to the American Psychological Association, "the notion that early attention to physical and psychological development can improve cognitive ability" is supported by research done by psychologists and the former U.S. Surgeon General Julius Richmond. In truth, babies born in emotionally healthy families, surrounded by books and rich experiences, are nurtured intellectually. A child from an enriched environment, ready for kindergarten, has already mastered many concepts, leaving a sad comparison to the children of Yamacraw.

Pittman & Davis

As an example of poor parenting, consider a fisherman named Sam with a misshapen foot in a corrective shoe. Conroy learns that as a baby, he fell out of his crib with his foot stuck in the slats of his crib. His mother had left him alone while she went to the local bar, and when she finally came home and freed him, neglected to take him to the hospital to have the bone set in a cast. The woman evidences an astonishing lack of rudimentary knowledge about caring for a baby or even natural affection for one. With this kind of mothering, it is no wonder the children of Yamacraw arrive at their first day of school woefully unprepared to learn.

Conroy is originally motivated by white guilt, but it morphs through the school year into a genuine concern for the students. He also admits his youthful idealism and outrage against self-righteous people who stand in the way of others' civil rights. He would be happy to know that today Daufuskie Island has come of age, sporting golf resorts and having the Gullah residential section designated as a federal Historical District. The school still has only two classrooms, but it is a nicely rebuilt facility with a fancy school bus.

Daufuskie Island School Bus Today
photo by David Burn

At the end of the school year and the book, Conroy resigns himself to the fact that he didn't "change the quality of their lives significantly or alter the inexorable fact that they were imprisoned by the very circumstance of their birth." Despite his best efforts, he believes his students probably didn't glean much from him, but at least he tried to do something constructive. However, to the reader he was successful because he extended genuine love towards the children, and there is no way to measure that important ingredient.

The Water Is Wide portrays a slice of American history concerning racism during the Jim Crow era. South Carolina struggled with its legacy of slavery even 100 years after the Civil War ended, and Yamacraw Island depicted it well. The story is a well written, enlightening read for anyone who desires to understand the Old South and its lingering culture.


American Psychological Association, Early Intervention Can Improve Low-Income Children's Cognitive Skills and Academic Achievement, April 22, 2004,

Conroy, Pat, The Water Is Wide (New York: Bantam Books, 1997).

National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Daufuskie Island Historic District, June 2, 1982,

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Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Case Against Hawaii's SB 2089

Napili Coast, Kauai

SB 2089 is the Senate version of the House of Representative's HB 1707 legislation relating to Transient Accommodations, or vacation rental homes, currently being debated by the Hawaii Legislature. Its description states that it "Requires any nonresident owner who operates a transient accommodation located in the nonresident owner's private residence, including an apartment, unit, or townhouse, to employ a property manager approved by the real estate commission." The Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection (CPN) will hold a public hearing on the bill Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol, 415 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, in conference room 229.

SB 2089 and Transient Vacation Units in Hawaii

Proponents of SB 2089 are mainly real estate property managers, and their stated reasons for pushing the bill are because they claim vacation rental owners don't have on-site supervision, consumer protections for guests, and above all, don't pay their Transient Accommodations Tax (TAT) or General Excise (GE) taxes. The property managers argue, without any evidence to support their numbers, that independent owner-operators deprive the State of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes. Regarding consumer protections, guests are encouraged by owners to purchase travel insurance or trip cancellation insurance, and most credit cards offer reimbursement in the event of a breach of contract. As for an on-site presence, independent owner-operators are on call twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, but not all property managers provide round-the-clock staff for the units they oversee.

Waianae Mountains, Oahu
The true motivation behind the bill, though, is that real estate property managers are losing profits and market share to owners who choose to self-manage their rentals. The internet has encroached upon the profits of real estate property managers, but it has also had positive effects, lowering prices for consumers and distribution costs for businesses. Just as the Industrial Revolution over 150 years ago rendered blacksmiths obsolete, so the Information Age with its invention of the internet has revolutionized today's economy. Still, it is not the role of State legislators to interfere with competition in the marketplace.

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Successful businesses are competitive and responsive to new developments, including cataclysmic ones like the internet. If property managers in Hawaii struggle to compete with the market changes it has wrought, they should consider reducing their exorbitant 30 to 40% service fees. "Hawaii State legislators have no business interfering with the natural causes and effects of an efficient marketplace, particulary when it amounts to a restraint of trade to create a monopoly for a small minority," said one owner recently.

Many vacation rental owners prefer to manage their own businesses, offering a personal touch while respecting their visitors' private information. Mandating them to provide client lists to a management company invites unauthorized use of their data. A real estate management company could sell the customer's personal information or use it to direct them to rent other properties in the manager's portfolio. SB 2089 will devastate these small businesses and do a disservice to other properties in the neighborhoods because the quality of management will suffer. SB 2089 will not accomplish what it is supposedly intended for, but will violate personal property rights in favor of special treatment for property management firms. It goes so far as to force friends and family members to book their stays through a property manager, a violation of the most basic of individual property rights.

The Road to Hana, Maui

Taxes and Vacation Rentals by Owners

The argument that Hawaii may be missing out on lost tax revenue by tax-evading vacation rental homeowners is the only legitimate one, but SB 2089 and HB 1707 won't ensure the filing of tax returns. And at no level does any government agency require a citizen's salary or income to be received by a third party. This is not a government function the Legislature can unload on the backs of people in the real estate industry. Everyone is bound by law to pay taxes they owe, and if there is non-compliance, those same laws impose penalties of interest, fines, or for fraud, jail time. Hawaii already has laws that require any person receiving income for transient accommodations to collect TAT and GE taxes. If there is non-compliance of that law, the crime is in not paying one's taxes.

Rather than enact a problematic bill like SB 2089 into law, the Legislature must devise a way to discover if nonresident owners are paying all the appropriate taxes. Are there no creative thinkers in the Legislature that can solve this dilemma? Is there no common sense in the hallowed halls of government? In 1830, the Frenchman Alexis deTocqueville wrote in his book, Democracy in America, that the brightest minds in the United States were in business, not government. This certainly still holds true today, especially in Hawaii.

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The State could easily solve the tax problem by perusing their own files. Visitors flying to Hawaii are handed a form provided by the State on airplanes before they arrive, asking where they are staying and for the duration of their visit. Since the State already knows who owns each property and who is paying taxes, it could easily set aside a small clerical staff to compare the data. This would be a relatively simple remedy to implement. Another solution would be to require all TVU owners to submit an annual compliance report indicating that taxes have been paid.

Politics and Hawaiian Vacation Home Rentals

The Senate Committee on Commerce and Consumer Protection (CPN) will hold their hearing to discuss SB 2089 on Tuesday, February 28, 2012 at 10 a.m. at the State Capitol, 415 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, in conference room 229. Concerned citizens can submit testimony online or e-mail written testimony to Communication will be accepted up to twenty-four hours before the committee meets, which is by Monday, February 27 at 10 a.m. Opinions can still be sent after the deadline, but they will be stamped "Late Testimony."

In Honolulu, vacation rental owners have been crying out for years that archaic laws relevant to their industry need to be updated. No new permits for vacation rentals have been issued since 1989, yet the industry has significantly changed and grown since then. Legislators should be devoting their time to establishing a permit process with reasonable guidelines for all to abide by. The proposed legislation is clearly unconstitutional because it discriminates on the basis of residency and will take away the most basic of individual property rights. SB 2089 deserves to go down in flaming defeat.


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Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Build Trust in a Marriage

photo by Derek Bennett

Trust cannot be bought, only earned. Simple acts that generate trust, repeated over time, are the building blocks for a strong and healthy marriage.  Here's some advice for couples to build trust and respect in their union. When the cement of love and commitment are added, the edifice can be formidable.

Make a Marriage Work

Nothing sabotages respect and trust more than by a person failing to keep his or her word. If a husband or wife promises to do something, he or she must follow through even if it becomes inconvenient. Promises must be kept. If someone has to break one, there should be a good reason, clear communication about it, and something to compensate for the failure.

Also, husbands and wives need to be careful when discussing private and even not-so-private details about each other with others. They must especially refrain from sharing embarrassing information. If anyone finds it difficult not to gossip about their spouse, they may find a certain technique quite useful: pretend the loved one is sitting right there, listening in to the conversation. If they wouldn't say the thing in front of his or her face, they should withhold sharing the damaging information, or else reword it in a way that protects the loved one's reputation.
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Let a spouse know how appreciated they are with sincere praise if they look attractive, have completed a task or chore, or are exhibiting a good character trait. Compliments that are heartfelt mean much to a loved one. Better yet, compliment a spouse behind their back and let them hear secondhand the good things said. It is essential, however, to have no ulterior motive to manipulate. People can sense when they are being falsely flattered, and it will breed resentment.

How to Help a Marriage

To build one's marriage, don't place a spouse in the center of one's life. This may seem like a contradiction, but the healthiest marriages avoid idolizing each other. A perch on a pedestal can be awfully uncomfortable as the pose can't be held forever. People are human and fallible, and icons come crashing down all the time. Even if a wife is as beautiful as a goddess, she is still human, and a wise husband will be realistic and cut her some slack. He will feel less disappointment when she inevitably fails to meet his expectations.

Instead, center the marriage on core values such as love, truth, respect, kindness, forgiveness, generosity, patience and hope. Let these values act as guiding principles, especially during times of conflict, and trust will be cultivated in the marriage. Healthy relationships with others is an art, and the most intimate relationship is with one's spouse. Building trust takes determination but the rewards of mutual love, security and having a peaceful home in which to recharge one's batteries are quite worth the effort.

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Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Case Against Hawaii's HB 1707

HB 1707 and Tourism in Hawaii

HB 1707 is legislation relating to Transient Accommodations, or vacation rental homes, currently being debated in the Hawaii House of Representatives. Its description states that it "requires nonresident owners of residential single family dwellings, apartments, or townhouses who rent their property as a transient accommodation for 30 days or less to rent the property through a licensed real estate broker or salesperson who must collect all applicable taxes for the rental of the property. Provides for penalty." Unbelievably, the penalty for not hiring a real estate property manager would be $1,000 a day!

HB 1707 and Hawaiian Vacation Rentals

Many owners of property in Hawaii don't live on the islands, and rent their places to tourists for income. This draconian legislation doesn't even appear to be legal as it would force them to hire realtors to pay their taxes for them, creating a para-government department of taxation enforcement manned by the real estate industry. There are already laws in place regarding the collection and remitting of GET and TAT taxes, so this bill is unnecessary.

The proponents of HB 1707 are mainly realtors, like Dan Monck of Exclusive Getaways, Rob Dalton and Kim Horton, all from the Big Island. Property managers like them typically charge owners a fee of 28% to 40% of their nightly rental rate, then add other fees like housecleaning and supplies. Unfortunately for them, vacation rental owners are getting technologically savvy, renting their places through and on the internet rather than use their services. What motivates them is the fact that Vacation Rentals By Owner and other similar business models are putting a downward pressure on their ability to charge their high fees. The rental property managers have everything to gain with this legislation, especially since they have been sorely hurt these past few years by the depressed housing market.

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Rob Dalton had a blog about HB 1707 on, but he stopped allowing any further comments after about a week in February, 2012 because his position was so shot full of holes by the comments readers left. While the page was up, he randomly pulled a listing in Waikiki and suggested that the individual advertising the listing was not paying his taxes since the ad didn't show the accurate tax percentage. To discover the truth, a reader of the blog called on the listing and made a fake inquiry, whereupon the vacation rental owner offered a price that included the accurate of amount of GE and TAT tax. Mr. Dalton was subsequently informed on his blog about his erroneous assumption the owner wasn't paying his TAT, and that the man's only crime was in not updating his ad.

In 2009, a leading property manager, Property Network in Kona, went out of business, closing their doors and skipping town with a substantial amount of money owed to owners, vendors and renters. This type of large scale failure has the chance of continuing regardless of licensing. When individuals are in charge of their own property units, the most that will happen is one unit will be a problem.

Hawaiian Transient Accommodations Tax

Every government has consequences for citizens' not paying taxes when they are due, interest and penalties on the overdue amounts. If there is willful fraud, a government agency will then pursue criminal action. At no level does any government agency require a citizen's salary or income to be received by a third party. Everyone is bound by law to pay taxes they owe, and if there is non-compliance, those same laws impose penalties of interest, fines, or for fraud, jail time.  Hawaii already has laws that require any person receiving income for transient accommodations to collect TAT and GE taxes. If there is a non-compliance of that law, the crime is in not paying one's taxes.

The claims by the bill's proponents that Hawaii is missing out on lost tax revenue by tax-evading vacation rental homeowners is a ruse to get the law in place, but if tax collection was a true concern, the State of Hawaii could easily peruse their own files to determine who is renting to visitors and for how long. Visitors flying to Hawaii are handed a form provided by the State on airplanes, asking where they are staying and for the duration of their visit. Since the State already knows who owns each property and who is paying taxes, this would be a simple remedy to implement.

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If enacted, HB 1707 would discriminate between resident and nonresident owners and how they manage their units. There is no provision in the law to allow non-resident owners who have been operating legally to be exempt from complying with this new law. It would hurt property values as many out-of-State owners would most assuredly experience financial losses and be forced to sell or possibly lose their houses to foreclosure. The entire real estate market would be affected, costing Hawaii tens of millions of dollars. Hawaii can't afford a law forcing property owners to hire realtor managers and then relinquishing all their rights of management to them.

Many States like Arizona, Nevada, California and Florida are welcoming investors to help them emerge from the bloodbath of the mortgage meltdown and subsequent market collapse. Apparently the only individuals looking to limit the scope of ownership for investors in the United States are to be found in the State of Hawaii. These self-serving individuals and their political allies are doing great harm to Hawaii.


Hawaii State Legilslature. HB 1707 HD2, February 22, 2012,

Jensen, Chelsea. Kona property management firm closes, leaving clients wondering where their money is, The Honolulu Advertiser, March 22, 2009.

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Monday, February 13, 2012

Janelle McKellar's Best Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe

Chicken Cordon Bleu
photos by Janelle McKellar
Organic chicken breasts, sodium nitrite-free deli ham and organic Havarti cheese make this classic chicken breast recipe a delectable entree. Newlywed Janelle McKellar wanted to master some dinner entrees for her foodie connoisseur husband Jabar, and experimented with several recipes. She already had mastered salads and sandwiches to the acclaim of her peers, but hot meals were a challenge.

Best Chicken Cordon Bleu Recipe

McKellar loved a family recipe her mother always prepared called Rolled Cheddar Chicken, but wanted to try her hand at the classic version that recipe was based on, Chicken Cordon Bleu. When she made it the first time, Jabar highly praised the results and she knew she had found a winner.
The tastiness of the recipe is due to using organic ingredients and especially, sodium nitrite-free deli ham. Grocery stores are carrying more organic items than ever, so sodium nitrite-free ham is more easily found. It is healthier and just simply tastes better. Trader Joe's stores in particular carry organic deli ham that is nitrite-free.
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Ready for the Oven
  • 1 organic egg
  • 1/2 Cup of organic parsley, snipped or chopped
  • 4 organic boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 4 slices of Sodium Nitrite-free deli Ham
  • olive oil or coconut oil
  • organic maple syrup or brown sugar, to taste
  • 6 Slices of organic Havarti cheese
  • 1/2 Cup of Bleu Cheese (OPTIONAL)
  • 1/2 Cup of Seasoned Bread Crumbs
  • 1/4 Cup of Granola (OPTIONAL)
  • 2-3 tbsp. organic butter
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and coat a 7 x 11 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Saute the ham in olive oil or coconut oil, and the maple syrup/brown sugar.
  3. Pound the chicken breasts into 1/4 inch thickness with a large metal spoon or mallet to 1/4 inch thickness. They will then be called "chicken supremes."
  4. Sprinkle each piece of chicken on both sides with the salt and pepper and then wash them in lightly battered egg so the bread will stick.
  5. Place 1 slice of cheese, a sprinkle of Bleu cheese, and 1 ham slice on top of each breast.
  6. Roll up each breast and secure them with a toothpick or two. Place in the baking dish and sprinkle the chicken evenly with the bread crumbs and granola. Put a pat of organic butter on top of each chicken roll.

Bake for 30-35 min., or until the chicken is no longer pink. Remove them from the oven, and place 1/2 cheese slice on top of each breast. Return the pan to then oven for 3-5 min. or until the cheese is melted. Remove the toothpicks and serve immediately. This recipe serves four people, and takes about 45 minutes total time. Guests will love it as much as Jabar does!

Another great recipe similar to Chicken Cordon Bleu is Rolled Cheddar Chicken, which can be served at a dinner party. Other dinner recipes always receiving rave reviews are Taco Casserole and Turkey Noodle Casserole, perfect for using up leftover Thanksgiving turkey.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

"The Omnivore's Dilemma" and Healthy Eating

The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan, author of "In Defense of Food" and "Food Rules," examines exactly how food travels from farm to dinner plate in a thought-provoking expose. He delivers an eye-opening voyage into the world of food production that offers great insight to the consumer, leaving no doubt his readers' grocery shopping habits will be affected.

Research on Healthy Eating

Pollan begins his investigation in Iowa, where farms rotate between planting corn and soy beans on huge tracts of land, with the monoculture landscape apparent even in satellite pictures from outer space. Fossil based fertilizers infuse the industrial crops with petroleum, which makes its way through the rest of the food chain and into Iowa's water supply.

Cattle feedlots elsewhere offer the oversupply of corn to their hapless ruminants, who are naturally predisposed to eat grass, creating the need for antibiotics and full-time vets to patrol the herds. They are also closely confined, unable to roam in pastures, and wallow in their own excrement. Pollan was not allowed to witness the slaughter of the cows, but he interviewed people involved in the process to discover its horrors. The picture of the CAFO's (concentrated animal feeding operations) appears pretty bleak.

Pollan also worked for a week at an organic ranch in Virginia called Polyface Farm. The owner, Joel Salatin, through trial and error devised an ingenious method to replenish his depleted soil, sustainably raise an abundance of cattle, hogs and chickens, and produce astonishingly superior products. Polyface Farm's beef and poultry receive accolades from its repeat customers, including the finest chefs in the area.
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Salatin's methods work with nature, "allowing chickens to be chickens" as Pollan quotes him. Salatin considers himself a grass farmer, focusing on making the first link of the food chain very healthy. His cattle graze, leaving their cowpies for the chickens to scratch through for grub, which in turn revitalizes the grass. Polyface is the farm Pollan seems most taken with, by its natural beauty, function and transparency to its customers.

Pollan smirks at what he calls "industrial organic" farms because their products have evolved to take on many of the characteristics the purist would deplore. Organic TV dinners made with preservatives, produce shipped thousands of miles and the continuing cruel treatment of animals caught his attention. The author pontificates much about the morality of eating animals, a struggle he obviously wrestles with. He tells of a vegetarian PETA supporter who desired to eat meat and came to Polyface Farm to slaughter a chicken in person as a form of absolution.

The Omnivore's Dilemma

The meal Pollan concludes his book with is one where he hunted, gathered and cooked everything himself, with a little help from his friends. The ingredients were free, but the prodigious amount of hours he spent on this meal preclude most people from attempting to eat sustainably to the same degree.

The omnivore's dilemma is "What should I eat?" since both meat and the harvest from the land can be eaten. Unlike animals that are either carnivores or vegetarians, human beings can eat everything. Pollan concludes that the answer lies in knowing where one's food originates, and that organic farms and ranches produce food that is highly nutritious for the human diet. He believes the health of a nation's citizens lies in what they consume, and that monoculture farms are hazardous to the environment, the plants themselves, and to the people who eventually eat their produce.

The book is a very interesting read, especially for anyone who believes he is "what he eats." After turning the last page, many readers will probably adjust their eating habits.

Friday, February 3, 2012

The Stoning of Stephen and its Significance

The Stoning of Stephen
photo by Ted Bobosh

Jesus stood in heaven to honor the death of the first Christian martyr.

Jesus Was Sitting at the Right Hand of God

The Old Testament of the Holy Bible often relates the "right hand of God" with the Messiah. Several of the Psalms, including 17, 18, 60 and 78, indicate God saves and sustains His people by his right hand. Psalm 44 says that Israel won their land through God's right hand. Psalm 110, the great Messianic psalm sung by David, shows God the Father saying to Christ, "Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet."

Hours before His death on the cross, Jesus said He was going to go sit at the right hand of His Father, and Mark 16:19 corroborates that He did exactly that. The gospels in the New Testament present Jesus as sitting at this special place near God after His ascension to heaven.

The Stoning of Stephen

Stephen was a godly man, able to perform miracles in the name of Jesus and chosen by the twelve apostles to be one of the first deacons. He was getting a lot of attention in first century Jerusalem, and a group of visiting Jewish foreigners called the Synagogue of the Freedmen were very disturbed. Stephen was boldly teaching about Jesus being the Messiah and calling his countrymen, fellow Jewish citizens, to repent from their sin and follow Jesus, too.

These visitors from the regions of Cyrene, Alexandria, Cilicia and Asia stirred up the local people, elders and teachers against Stephen. He was brought before the Sanhedrin, the judicial body, with charges of blasphemy, which was a very serious offense. Stephen was questioned, and his reply was a long, bold speech about Israel's history leading up to Jesus Christ, and a comparison of the distinguished members of the Sanhedrin to their corrupt ancestors from the darkest periods of Israeli history.

The Sanhedrin members were angry at Stephen's beliefs and audacious disrespect, losing all sense of self-control. They gnashed their teeth in rage, yelled at the top of their lungs, rushed at him and dragged him out of the city. These dignified, elite judges administered Stephen's supposed sentence themselves, quickly and without a fair hearing, breaking his body with stones until he was dead.

When Jesus Stood

Jesus was sitting at the right hand of God while Stephen was being grilled by the Synagogue of the Freedmen and the Sanhedrin. However, the first murder of one of His followers was an occasion to be recognized, and He did something very unusual to show honor to His servant.

He stood.

At that precise moment, Stephen was allowed a special vision, as he "looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:56, NIV)." 'Look,' he said, 'I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." This is the only time Jesus is described as standing at God's right hand, indicating the profound significance of Stephen's sacrifice.

When reading about the early church, it is apparent the Lord regarded Stephen's martyrdom as very holy. The passage shows Jesus acknowledging the beginning of Christian persecution and the high degree of esteem He gives those who pay the ultimate price.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

The Slanted Door in San Francisco

The Slanted Door in San Francisco

The Ferry Building on The Embarcadero
The Slanted Door restaurant in San Francisco, California offers excellent, modernized Vietnamese cuisine in a trendy location, at 1 Ferry Building along The Embarcadero. It sits amidst other amazing eateries and boutique shops that consistently draw food connoiseurs from all over the Bay Area. On the way in, it is difficult to walk by The Farmers Market and Cowgirl Creamery Artisan Cheese Shop without partaking of the free samples they offer to passersby. So much of it is fresh, organic and hard to come by.

The Slanted Door Restaurant in San Francisco

Black Cod With Fuji Apple and Greens
However, diners should save their palates for The Slanted Door, as the food is truly superb. Dishes are served family style and meant to be shared. The Shaking Beef dish comes from grass-fed cows and is accompanied with a fabulous sauce. The Black Cod with field greens, fuji apple and soy sauce is another winner, the fish soft as butter. Saffron colored Squash with coconut milk and a sprinkling of a green herb called rau ram make a tasty vegetarian dish. The squash is tender and has a buttery taste. A great complement is a $2 side dish of jasmine white rice, cooked to fluffy perfection. For only a dollar more, the brown rice has a delightful nutty flavor.
Wine Club

Squash With Coconut Milk and Rau Ram

Brown Rice
The menu lists several herbal teas and the waiter recommends Hong Kong milk tea, a special blend made with sweetened condensed milk. It is a refreshing deviation from traditional black tea and arrives in an elegant little Chinese teapot. Packets of fair trade organic sugar and stevia grace the table, another hint of The Slanted Door's commitment to high quality, healthful food.

The restaurant is immaculate with a minimalist but elegant decor. Tables are made of thick blocks of wood and food is served on durable, earth-colored plates and mugs handmade by Heath Ceramics in Marin. The restrooms are rather unusual: individual unisex stalls with an attendant on hand to open the doors for people, and a tip jar nearby. Patrons run the gamut from tourists to locals to businessmen working in the Financial District, and the prices of the entrees tend to be expensive. Dinner for two will cost around $90, but lunches are more affordable.

View of San Francisco Bay Bridge From The Slanted Door

Executive Chef Charles Phan opened his first diner on Valencia Street in 1995, and it became so popular he expanded to several locations, including The Slanted Door's prime spot overlooking San Francisco Bay. Reservations are recommended, so call (415)861-8032. The restaurant is open every day for lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, and closes at 10 p.m. Though expensive, this San Francisco eatery offers a creative menu composed of quality ingredients, and it is a popular landmark for good reason.

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Hawaii Legislature Discussing Transient Vacation Rentals

Vacation Rental Homes in Hawaii Under Fire

The Hawaii State Legislature is considering four new bills that aim to regulate vacation rental homes, and held a hearing at the State Capitol, 415 South Beretania Street, Honolulu, on Monday, January 30, 2012 to discuss the first one, HB 1707. The Committee on Tourism, led by Rep. Tom Brower, Chair, and Rep. James Kunane Tokioka, Vice Chair, conducted the hearing. More discussion will follow on Wednesday, Feb 1, and the bill will go to the Senate on Thursday.

Vacation Rental Agents in Hawaii
Hawaii State Capitol, photo by Destination 360

The proposed bill would require nonresident operators of transient accommodations to rent their properties through licensed real estate brokers or salespersons. Realtors would have to collect TAT (Transient Accommodations Tax) from their clients and remit them to the State or face stiff penalties. However, The Real Estate Commission's legislatively defined purpose is the "protection of the general public in its real estate transactions," not an enforcement agency. The adoption of Bill 1707 would place Real Estate licensees in a "policing" role on behalf of the Planning Department.

Opponents believe the legislation is a thinly veiled disguise to shut down the mom and pop operations and would impact many families' livelihoods. The bills don't mention establishing a permit process to make the illegal units legitimate, which has been a source of contention, especially in Kailua, Oahu.
Angie Larson, President of Hawaiian Vacation Rental Owners Association, states that her organization requires its members to register with the State taxation board and pay both GET (General Excise Taxes) and TAT taxes. "I read a lot of assumptions about how much money is being lost," she wrote to the Committee. "It is very troubling to see this Bill being motivated without documented facts." She also claims that in April 5, 2007, similar complaints were made, after which the taxation board conducted an audit and found the majority of short term rental owners were paying their taxes.

According to a recent news story by KHON2, "Exclusive Getaways President Dan Monck told the House Tourism Committee Monday the bill would allow the state to collect $27 million to $35 million in taxes that currently doesn't make it to the islands." Monck offered no documentation to prove his numbers, but his business would benefit if the bill is approved.

The other bills up for consideration are:  
  • HB 2078 (RELATING TO TAXATION) requires that ads and solicitations offering transient accommodations display a registration identification number.
  • HB 1760 (RELATING TO TIME SHARE ZONING) authorizes the counties to restrict time share units and time share plans in areas not zoned for times shares.
  • HB 2673 (RELATING TO TOURISM) allows individuals occupying transient accommodations to donate $1 to the Dept. of Land and Natural Resources for the State Park System.
Anyone wishing to add comments can e-mail Representative Tom Brower, referencing Bill HB 1707, at and/or Senator Donna Kim Mercado, referencing Bill SB 2089, at


Hawaii State Legislature, House Committee on  Tourism. (2012, January 31). Retrieved February 1, 2012, from

Unspecified Author. (2012, January 30). Hawaii could collect more vacation rental taxes. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from

State of Hawaii, Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs, Regulated Industries Complaints Office. (2012, January 30). Testimony on House Bill No. 1707 Relating to Transient Accommodations. Retrieved February 1, 2012, from

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