Archive for October, 2015

Halloween ghost stories

October 30th, 2015

As All Hallows' Evening approaches, I thought it would be a great time to tell a few ghost stories. Here are a couple from my mother, who loved to share this with me.

If you have some, I'd love to hear it! Thanks!


My mother grew up along Fort Street, in the days before it was widened and renamed as Pali Highway. There were two homes on the three-quarter acre property, and several families of our relatives lived there.

Circa Dec. 2008. The house was empty for years before finally torn down in 2008.

Circa Dec. 2008. The house was empty for years before finally torn down in 2008.

The address of her residence was 1735 Pali Highway, though the land's been sold to the Honpa Hongwanji Temple, and the old homes have long ago been razed.

It was a fairly self sufficient compound, with chickens, fruit trees, and a garden. Trees lined most of the property for privacy, and there was a small driveway leading out to the road.

Mom in her front yard. 1735 Pali Hwy.

Mom in her front yard. 1735 Pali Hwy.

This story takes place probably in the 1940's. One twilight, my mother as a teenager was sitting alone on her veranda when she saw a man she didn't recognize walking down the driveway and out towards the street.

He was wearing a white suit and a white Panama hat, which she said seemed out of place. She kept looking at him to try to figure out who this stranger was and why he was visiting their residence, when she realized he had no feet and no  lower legs. It just stopped after the knee.

Artist's watercolor of the house. 2009.

Artist's watercolor of the house. 2009.

She never saw him again, nor did she figure out why he may have been paying their property a visit.


In the middle of that same property was a communal laundry area with a big sink. It was tucked near the back of the property.

My mother says she looked out her bedroom window and in the light of the moon, saw an old Hawaiian woman washing her long, silvery hair in the sink.

That doesn't seem as ghostly to me. What if it was a homeless lady borrowing the facility when she thought nobody was looking?

My mom is convinced it was not that. She maintains this was the Hawaii of old, in the 40's, when there were still under half a million residents in the state, and criminals or vagrants didn't brazenly wander into private property as a common occurrence.

Besides, she reminds me, the woman was slightly transparent.


I am on indefinite hiatus from my jujitsu dojo while I work a morning shift that has me in bed by 6:30 p.m. When I was still practicing with them, though, something weird happened to me one evening.

Claus and me, before I went on indefinite leave from the dojo due to my schedule.

Claus and me, before I went on indefinite leave from the dojo due to my schedule.

They are located in a Shinto temple in Nuuanu. One night there was a demonstration of the arts, and I was videotaping it to compile into a teaching tool for all the students.

I had a camcorder, before smartphone cameras became ubiquitous. The viewing panel flipped open while you recorded, or during playback, for ease of viewing.

I was focused on following the action on the mat, keeping the teacher in frame as he moved back and forth. I sensed, however, someone standing inches behind me, looking over my shoulder to see what I was capturing.

I was sure it was Sensei. The energy felt light, friendly, and curious, and it felt like a man.

When the art was completed a minute or so later, I hit the pause button and turned with a smile to greet Sensei and ask him playfully if he approved of my effort. There was nobody there.

He's pretty quick and quiet on his feet, so I figured he walked elsewhere. I looked around. Nothing.

"Where'd Sensei go?" I asked someone near me.

"He hasn't arrived yet," they said.

"Who was by me when I was taping?" I asked.

"Nobody," they said.

Nobody. I still don't know who that was, but I'm sure of what I felt, and it was somebody.


I made the mistake of taking a rock from a wahi pana, a spiritual place, in Hana. I know, I know. I'm part-Hawaiian, I should know, etc.

So I was dumb. And I'm sorry.

View of Hana, Maui from Fagan's Cross

View of Hana, Maui from Fagan's Cross

A bunch of very inconvenient things happened in short order after I returned to Oahu; namely, a diamond ring was mysteriously misplaced, people got sick, and some other little difficulties. The timing was not to be overlooked as it happened in 36 hours.

My friend in the Hawaiian Studies department at UH told me to pray, apologize, and return it as soon as possible. I did, and told it I'd return it home as soon as I could. The ring was found. The maladies stopped.

My husband and I flew back to Hana, and booked at room at the Hana Kai condos. I unpacked the rock and set it on the table on the lanai where Claus and I were taking in the sunset.

Claus stood up to get something inside. I decided to take the time to address the rock.

"You're back in Hana," I told it. "I'll drive you back to your beach tomorrow."

Claus was behind me and heard me talking to the rock. He kissed the top of my head.

I lifted my chin and looked backwards to kiss him back. Except... he wasn't there. He was still inside.

Maybe it was the pohaku thanking me for bringing it home.

Tainted candy

October 28th, 2015

As my daughter gets ready for another year of Halloween trick-or-treating, I recall a frightening story I heard last year about a dog who ate tainted candy.


Lucky, a 9 year old Yorkie, was a victim of  tainted Halloween candy. In 2013, his owner Kellie was walking him around Kapahulu on the night of October 31, when unbeknownst to her, Lucky ate a piece of candy off the ground.



When they got home, he started having seizures, so at first, Kellie thought it was a reaction to having eaten chocolate, which is bad for dogs. When she took Lucky to the vet, however, they found he had actually eaten a sewing needle, which went straight up through the roof of his mouth and into his brain. Apparently, the needle was embedded inside the chocolate.

Needle visible in these x-rays

Needle visible in these x-rays


"I saw a piece of sewing thread sticking out of the roof of his mouth," describes Dr. John Kaya, DVM. He pulled it out. I'm happy to say the dog has fully recovered - living up to his name.

What a somber reminder to check your children's Halloween candy - and perhaps not to walk your dog on this night!

Grilled Cheese Tart

October 26th, 2015

I don't mean to brag, but I'm kind of a genius. I just invented a new sandwich and I'm sure it's going to buoy me right to the top of the James Beard Awards or at the very least, maybe get me an email from the Star-Advertiser's food reviewer Nadine Kam to say, good job. (Aim high.)

I give you... the Grilled Cheese Tart!

I give you... the Grilled Cheese Tart!

It's a grilled cheese sandwich with a Pop-Tart warmed in the middle alongside the cheese. It's so good, it's stupid.

It was late one night when I had a craving to eat something (and this story does not involve substance usage!), and I was making myself a grilled cheese sandwich when I saw one of my kid's Pop-Tart boxes on the counter.

Hmm, I thought. That sounds good, too. Unable to decide if I wanted now to eat the sandwich or the tart, it occurred to me I could have both!

Why choose? This is America, and I can make choices without limitations on class, caste, religion, race, or crass culinary hankerings! I can have it all!

photo 2

So I had it all. Right on my plate. I plopped that strawberry bad boy on top of the nicely melting cheese and nestled it between two slices of hotly buttered bread.

I felt rebellious against the snobby gourmet revolution. I felt like a firebrand for Best Loved Processed American Foods From The 70s.

You see, the bread was soft and mushy Wonder Bread, perfect for lapping up all the melted butter and without all those trendy grains for fiber. The cheese was Kraft Singles, deliciously uniform and plasticine in its wrapper, and unnaturally orange. And then there's, of course, the Pop-Tart that will stay fresh for ten years until one opens that metallic encasing.

I'm raging against the food machine. I'm feeling sexy! Alive!

I bit into it. I was a little hesitant to find out if I'd just created an atrocity or a marvel, and my taste buds told me with victory that it was the latter.

It's the savory of the cheese juxtaposed against the sweet of the pastry jam. It's tasty!

I was so excited, I went into the bedroom to tell my husband what I'd created. He, with his Michelin aspirations and Zagat bible. He didn't laugh at me. He said he'd like to try it, too!

We looked online to see if this was a whole new invention, and it seems to be. There's sandwiches made using Pop-Tarts as the bread, but there are no sandwiches I found with Pop-Tarts as the filling.

I'm so super impressed with myself! When the James Beard Award committee calls, just let them know I'm working on my next masterpiece. It involves Spam.


October 23rd, 2015

Weirdest nickname ever. I've had a lot of nicknames affectionately given to me but my daughter tops them all.

One day Olivia started calling me Mommy Pastrami, simply because it rhymes - and I like pastrami sandwiches. It came out of nowhere.


I thought it was adorable and of course I respond to it. Then one morning, in the casual way of abbreviated Americans, she simply shortened it to Pastrami.

"Pastrami? Can I watch TV?" I heard the little sweet voice call out.

Without hesitation, I answered, and then I added, "Did you just call me Pastrami? Just Pastrami?"

"Yes," she giggled. Eight year olds.

"Pastrami loves you," I smiled back.

So there it is. I'm Pastrami now.

Pastrami is signing off now. See you on the next blog day.

Sweet career for island chemist

October 21st, 2015

When I first met Dr. Dirk Koeppenkastrop, he handed me one of the oddest gelato concoctions I'd ever heard of: hurricane popcorn gelato topped with furikake. I gingerly tried it on air when I interviewed him live on the morning show, and to my genuine surprise, I liked it!

Dirk Koeppenkastrop

It's the right combination of savory and sweet, salt and sugar, crème and crunch. I might be the only person surprised, though, that any sweet creation coming out of Il Gelato Hawaii is superb.


The secret, aside from decades of corporate business acumen and a sincere passion for this second-career craft, is quite possibly Koeppenkastrop's chemistry background. He has a PhD in physical chemistry from the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Koeppenkastrop and his wife spent a couple decades in their native Germany raising their family, though they had lived in Hawaii for a long time, and had always missed the Islands. He was running 20 large environmental laboratories for Eurofins, the world leader in food, environment and pharmaceutical products testing.

"It was a long-time dream of ours to return to Hawaii after our children graduated from school. One of the things we missed about Europe while we lived in Hawaii was gelato, so I thought it would be perfect to open a gelateria and fill a niche in the market," he recalls.

Koeppenkastrop started taking teacher training course in Italy to learn to make gelato, and "I just knew from the first class that this was what I really wanted to do."

It's the perfect blend of his talents. "Freezing is all about physical chemistry. Adding sugar, reducing the freezing point, adding salt, understanding how fats and solids react" is all in his wheelhouse.

This, he says, "lets me make the best, healthiest, creamiest, all natural, and still great-tasting product." It's an advantage most competitors lack, he says; most don't have chemistry degrees.

Additionally, he says, he brings to the table a deep understanding of the financial savvy needed to make a business run. "I'm very detail oriented, and I'm also very sensitive to the P&L (profit and loss report.) Hawaii is a very expensive place to run a restaurant, so I am able to use my experience at Eurofins to manage my costs well."

Hurricane popcorn gelato

Hurricane popcorn gelato

Today, the Koeppenkastrops have three outlets: the original factory in Iwilei, and two branches in Kahala Mall and the North Shore Market Place in Haleiwa. His wife manages the Haleiwa store and is the Marketing/ HR person.

Dirk is the flavor developer and maestro gelato maker, and here's a taste of some of the new products he's developing for this fall/ winter: German apple strudel, pumpkin stracciatella (hot chocolate mixed in with pumpkin gelato), pumpkin cheesecake, a line of cranberry flavors, champagne/raspberry swirl, eggnog (this is the only gelato we have with egg in it), and candy cane.

"I'm the mad scientist in the laboratory, and the great thing is, I can taste my own creations to see if I like them or not!" he laughs. His own favorite flavor is pistachio with dark gianduja.

Here's another beautiful thing about being his own boss now: he picks his store locations based on his love for kite surfing, surfing, and stand-up paddling. No word on a new store location, but if there is a fourth store, you can bet it'll be minutes from a great beach.


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