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Archive for December, 2012

Coffee. (A Flashback Favorite!)

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Coffee growing on Molokai.


It’s one of my favorite things in the world. I love having a freshly brewed cup first thing in the morning.

I also love sipping a cup of REALLY STRONG coffee that has been sitting on a heat source for far too long.

I love it.

And I’m NOT a coffee snob.

I love the coffee from the islands, of course.

But …

I can also totally get down with a “cuppa Joe” from the gas station.

When I was working my corporate gig here in NYC, I would buy a “bucket size” coffee every morning and then drink that until lunchtime. Yes, it would get cold. And, yes, I would continue to drink it as I made my morning rounds.

I can hear coffee aficionados gasping in horror: Sipping a cup of coffee all morning? Egads!

But like I said, I’d order a “bucket size” coffee. It was cheaper than getting a bunch of smaller, fresh cups. And since I’d paid for it, I was determined to drink it all. I’ll admit, it’s an ACQUIRED taste, for sure!

Have you guys been to Coffees of Hawaiʻi on Molokai? It’s a coffee drinker’s paradise. Some of the beans grow RIGHT THERE on the property! Their little café serves up delicious coffee treats. Their gift shop has all sorts of cool stuff—and features work made by local artists! (Which is totally cool because WE’VE GOTTA SUPPORT THE LOCAL ARTISTS! )

And they have LIVE music several times a week!

Coffee, locally produced arts and crafts AND live music. Sounds like heaven, right?

(I’ll be doing a BIG BLOG POST on them soon! But please check out their website here.)

Here’s the irony: I love coffee. And … Molokai has FANTASTIC locally grown coffee readily available for sale and consumption. And …

I don’t drink coffee when I’m in Hālawa Valley.


I know… I still can’t really explain it. The Hālawa Valley cabin is virtually coffee-free. There are a few plasic canisters of the instant stuff tucked away on the shelves. I’m sure it’s only there for the guests who come to visit and/or stay.

But Mom and Pops Solatorio don’t drink it!

They’ve never said that I shouldn’t drink it. They’ve never stood with their hands on their hips and told me that coffee is evil. Or wrong. I think they might have even offered a cup of the instant java to me the first time I stayed there.

But it’s not necessary for them to have a cup of coffee first thing in the morning. Or late in the afternoon. Or right before going to bed at night. They can survive without coffee— EVER!

I was shocked. And I was terrified.

As a coffee lover ( AND as a New Yorker who truly believed that he NEEDED his cup of liquid magic in the morning in order to function as a normal human being) I was blown away that I’d ended up in a coffee-free zone!


It happens every time. I get terrible headaches from caffeine withdrawals. But those pass in a few days. And the wonder of being in the historic and wild Hālawa Valley makes it easy to forget about the pain.


I survive. Every time I go there I think I’m not going to make it. But I do. And don’t even need it—desperately–when we leave the valley.

But of course, when we pass a place that offers it, I take full advantage of the situation and buy the BIGGEST cup of coffee they have.

(BTW: My coffee habit ALWAYS resumes the minute I leave Molokai. I don’t know that I’ll ever be coffee-free!)

I know there are coffee lovers out there. And I want to hear from you!

What is that YOU love about the stuff?



Tuesday, December 25, 2012


This year, we are spending Christmas with the family in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  It’s always a treat to be back where I spent a good part of my “growing up” days.

And it’s always a blessing to be with family.

Over the years, “family” has come to mean so much more than just related-by-blood.  I am so thankful for the family that I was born into, as well as the family that we’ve adopted–or been adopted into!  Ha!

Wishing you all a day of peace.

And may we all pause to think of what we’re grateful for.  To count our blessings.

Right on.


It’s time for a new Video Blog!  And this week, I’m excited to bring you an update on the huge new adventure known as PROJECT NATALIE.

Happy Aloha Thursday, gang.


Aloha, gang!  Reposting a favorite (and very timely!) blog entry today.

Happy Aloha Monday!


- – - – -

Auē!  How has time passed so quickly these last few days?

Wasn’t it only yesterday that we were beginning the 12 Days of Christmas??

It seems like everything is due at once.  Like the pot on the stove has come to a full boil.

And with that–my blood pressure (and my anxiety level!) soars!

Know what that means?

It’s time for a strum break.

Ok… maybe SEVERAL strum breaks.

Ok… maybe several strum breaks EVERY HOUR!

And I need to remember to take deep breaths.

I don’t know about you, but when I get all stressed-to-’da-max, my breath becomes shallow.  And that’s just plain dumb.  I mean, what good is that doing?  It adds to the anxiety!

Oh!  And I need to remember to say, “Aloha” a lot.


I had to run to the grocery store this morning. Standing in line at the checkout counter–a few people away from it being “my turn” to check out–it seemed like everything was moving in SLOW MOTION.  And I’m sure I don’t need to tell you: I NEEDED IT TO MOVE AT LIGHTING SPEED.

Instead of freaking out (which very easily could have happened!) I looked at the people around me and silently said to each of  ’em, “Aloha.” 

Something happens to me–physiologically–when I say it.  It almost always brings a smile to my lips.

Did it help?

Well, I can tell that it sure helped me through a panic-situation.

And maybe that helped everyone around me, too… Even if it was only because I wasn’t freaking out.

Strumming, remembering to take deep breaths and saying, “Aloha.”–that’s how I’m gonna get through these next few days.

How are YOU surviving the holidays??


Aloha, gang!

Still hard at work on Project Natalie.  But I had to take a break and share a little holiday cheer with you.

As you may remember, we have a tradition in our little home: I purchase a new Hawaiian holiday music CD at the start of every Christmas season.

Not necessarily a new CD, but one that’s new to my ever-expanding collection of awesome Hawaiian music. This year, I didn’t labor over the decision of which CD to buy.

One of my favorite Hawaiian musicians, Kuana Torres Kahele (part of the group Nā Palapalai) had released his first Christmas album, HILO FOR THE HOLIDAYS.  

kuana torres kahele, hilo for the holidays, jason poole, accidental hawaiian crooner, hawaiian music, molokai, halawa valley,

Here’s a photo I took of the album’s cover. Note: My camera doesn’t really do it justice.

One word to describe it: AWESOME

One facial gesture to describe it: BEAMING SMILE 

Yup!  I can recommend it without any hesitation.

I’m… well… I’m kind of addicted to it.  In fact, it’s playing right now while I type this post.

It’s too hard to say which track is my favorite. Why?  Well, it changes.  Each listening brings something I hadn’t heard before… And a new favorite emerges.

Today, the favorite is his recording of the Christmas classic, Silver Bells.  Growing up along the East Coast of the continental United States, we had really “traditional” Christmases (at least, “traditional” in the Hollywood movie/Norman Rockwell sense)–most of ‘em complete with snow on the ground!  And this song makes a lot of sense if this imagery is familiar to you.  Knowing what the holiday season looks like/smells like/feels like living in NYC, it’s really familiar.  (I recently read the story about how this song came to be written by it’s composers Jay Livingston and Ray Evans.  Wanna read it, too?  Check out the  book SONGWRITERS ON SONGWRITING.  Fascinating!)  It’s been a favorite song of mine for as long as I can remember.

Hearing Kuana sing it–even though there’s nothing “tropical” or Hawaiian, per se, about his delivery–the song still imparts a Hawaiian vibe.  I can’t explain it.  It no longer feels like a New York Christmas carol.  It’s more universal.

(And yes… I’ll admit it: I got a little choked up when I listened to it earlier this morning.)

Another favorite: ʻEKOLU MEA NUI/HALELŪ.   The first song in this medley is near and dear to my heart.  It’s one of Pops’ favorites.  We sing it all the time in Hālawa Valley.  He says the message is really important to living a balanced life.  And the addition of HALELŪ (penned by Kahele, himself, I think!) is awesome.  A perfect compliment to a Hawaiian favorite.

And another favorite: HALELUIA.  It’s the Leonard Cohen classic melody (Hallelujah) that you know and love–with new lyrics composed by Kuana.  I know… I know… I get goosebumps, too.  Wow!!!

(See?  I told you that I can’t pick a favorite track!  Each one is special in its own way.)

By the way, I heard thru the grapevine that the song HERE COMES SANTA IN A RED CANOE will be heard in an upcoming episode of Hawaii Five-0!

*Super Bonus: The CD comes with fantastic liner notes–including the songs’ lyrics.  I don’t know about you, but I love good liner notes.  And I really appreciate having the lyrics–especially when it’s a recording that I’m not familiar with.  So helpful!

So that’s the newest Hawaiian holiday music CD in the collection. (Although I can pretty much guarantee there will be others added this year, too… There are so many good albums to choose from!)

What are YOU listening to this holiday season?  Is there a musical tradition that YOU have with your family?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you!