Our recent snowy weather has brought my favorite photographic subject back to the feeder – the elusive red-bellied woodpecker.
© Huffygirl 2016
What do these two things have in common? In 1886, Mr. Dorr Eugene Felt invented the Comptometer, the precursor to the modern-day adding machine. Mr. Felt’s invention was so successful that he soon became a millionaire. Felt used part of his riches to build a summer home for his family on the shores of Lake Michigan in southwest Michigan. The beautiful 25-room “cottage” featured stunning architectural details and every modern convenience. Sadly, Mrs. Felt died shortly after the home was completed, and Mr. Felt shortly after that. The home and grounds eventually took on a storied history, being sold to a seminary, then a prison, and finally, the state police, with the beautiful mansion crumbling further and further into ruin. Eventually the building and grounds became unused, vandalized and in disrepair, not unlike Felt’s dreams of happy family summers on the shores of Lake Michigan. Today, restoration groups have restored the mansion to its 1929 splendor. The mansion and grounds are open for tours and receptions.
I first met the Felt Mansion in the summer of 1971, with a group of friends who were having a beach party on the grounds of the then St. Augustine’s Seminary. Though, at the time I didn’t know the mansion existed, as a large school building had been added between the path to the beach and the mansion, obscuring the home from view. I met the mansion again in about 2012 on a trip to Saugatuck to relieve the beach party years, and discovered the mansion by accident looking for my old haunts. The dormitory had been demolished, leaving a clear view of the mansion, then under restoration. I returned to the mansion again last summer to tour the completed restoration.
The structure is now beautifully restored, but modern additions of a catering kitchen and multiple display cases of Felt’s Comptometer caused me to limit my photos to the architectural details and the exterior, capturing the details most in keeping with the original 1929 mansion.
© Huffygirl 2015
Today the lava is hot, beautiful, deadly. It’s black steamy fingers both scare and fascinate us. Later, it cools and forms mounds of land that become islands and mountains – the land we now call Hawaii.
Haleakalā, which bears more resemblance to the moon than a tropical paradise, shadows over the the beautiful island of Maui. At 10,023 feet, this mountain, the remains of a massive shield volcano, is the highest in Hawaii. Hundreds of visitors a year drive the switchback road to the top to see the beauty of the rock and sand formations, and engage in dangerous activities like biking down the treacherous highway. At this elevation, the weather is chilly and can easily drop into the 30’s by late afternoon. You don’t want to be here unprepared.
© Huffygirl 2014
© Huffygirl 2014
Up until my recent visit to Hawaii, I thought banana bread was something one baked only when one wanted to use up over-ripe bananas. I have a family banana bread recipe that I’ve made in this instance for years. It is okay, but not outstanding. It only takes 2-3 bananas, and actually, it’s a little dry, but adequate. And that is how I’ve always thought about banana bread – something that keeps bananas from going to waste, and is okay, but not great. Until now.
Banana bread is a much sought-after delicacy in Hawaii. Much like I might pursue the perfect chocolate cake or the best chardonnay, Hawaii visitors search for the best banana bread. Guide books list the places that sell banana bread and debate which one is the best. At first, I found this laughable. After all, it’s banana bread we’re talking about here. But then, a trip down on side road off the road to Hana to the Keanae Peninsula lead us to Aunty Sandy’s, home of the best banana bread ever. (Aunty Sandy’s also has shave ice, but that is a story for another day.)
Aunty Sandy’s banana bread was soft, golden and crumbly, with a subtle sweetness and an unobtrusive banana flavor. The loaf was still warm when we bought it, and my initial instinct was to buy two. I should have followed that instinct, because when we came back later to get more, Aunty Sandy’s was closed. But on our return trip we did score some photos of a lava rock beach that we had missed before, and the historic stone church which survived the 1946 tsunami.
Since returning home I’ve been searching for a banana bread recipe that could duplicate Aunty Sandy’s. Apparently everyone else is too, because any internet search on banana bread leads you to blogs and reviews praising Aunty Sandy’s. So far I haven’t found a recipe that equals it yet, so I may just need to make another trip to Hawaii.
© Huffygirl 2014
Hawaii guidebook writers seem to have a penchant for enticing the reader to a spot so pristine, so secluded, that no one else could possibly know about it. “Imagine yourself slipping into your own private, secluded swimming hole,” or “here’s a beach so secret, so hard to find, that even native Hawaiians don’t know about it.” Or, at least they didn’t, until they read this book along with thousands of others. Best Husband and I are not so naïve that we’d fall for this hyperbole, yet, wanting a little adventure, we allowed ourselves to be seduced down the path to the so-called Secret Beach.
The first rule in following the path to anything labeled “secret” is that the journey must be somewhat difficult. If any ordinary traveler could just fall out of their car and stroll to said secret location, there would be nothing special about it, and said location would remain unworthy of the title “secret.” The guidebook’s directions to the secret beach almost seemed too simple for something so obscure, so special. “…turn right off the first Kalihiwai Road, then right on the first dirt road you encounter.” We had already had enough experience with Hawaii’s carefree signage to have just a bit of trouble with this part. Then, we had to interpret the Hawaiian definition of “road.” We’d already discovered that what we might call a path or two-track at home, might actually be considered a road here. Finally after managing this part, we had to tackle the issue of parking. Seems that everyone else who read our guidebook had also showed up that day, and parking was limited on the dirt track.
Next, the directions said: “…take the 10 minute path to the bottom. It’s slippery when wet.” It had rained a bit earlier that day, so we were forewarned.
And so we began. We spent the next 20 minutes or so on a steep vertical wall of red mud, slipping and grabbing on to branches and each other to stop our untimely slide all the way to the bottom. Fortunately, there were plenty of roots and large rocks embedded into the mud to stop us from sliding to our deaths.
At the end of Mudslide Trail, which we later dubbed it, the view was worth it. A long beautiful, sandy beach and surf surging up onto huge black rocks along the shore. Unfortunately, with the surf so rough we were unable to take the second trail along the rocks to the Secret Lava Pools – a trip we’ll save for next time.
© Huffygirl 2014