Category Archives: Travels in America

Tips for Climbing Diamond Head…and One Strange Sign

I’ve read that Oahu’s Diamond Head is the world’s most climbed and photographed extinct volcano.  This iconic landmark of Hawaiian splendor lures over a million tourists to climb up its verdant crown each year, and although we’ve been to Hawaii many times (mostly for conferences, babies and graduations), we never had the leisure to climb Diamond Head until this last trip.  The forecast was for rain, but our mantra is “prepare for the worst and hope for the best” when it comes to weather. Frankly, I can’t remember any time we’ve been disappointed for forging ahead (particularly since most of the time it’s a do-now-or-forever-miss-your-chance sort of situation), so we went anyway. We were rewarded with a cool morning trek and only misty rain from time to time. Although I wouldn’t recommend trying to climb in a thunderstorm, I was pleased to note that there are sturdy guard rails along most of the difficult parts, and the paved path is as artfully rugged as any mountain trail, forcing you to watch your step or sprain your ankle at all times while still providing quite a manageable, fairly skid-proof walking surface.  I saw a few strollers hiding in the bushes awaiting the return of their owners, and very few small children. Two of our sons carried their kids up on their backs about six years ago, but that’s not a particularly easy way to do it either, since my cell phone recorded our ascent as 36 flights of stairs, 82 of which are steep and narrow.  Furthermore, there weren’t too many grey-haired folks among the crowds, and those who were, were pretty trim.  Finally: When you climb up through the last tunnel and see a sign that looks like this, go left!  Both routes take you to the top, but the trail to the right is extremely steep and narrow, so you slow down anybody coming up behind you who thinks they need to be running. Those steep stairs are much easier to handle on your descent! The trail to the left is open and ever upward but lovely, with areas where you can rest and enjoy the panoramic views (or Facetime with you son, as we did with ours!)  The entire trail is crowded, particularly at the top, but the views make up for the traffic jams!   To the south and west you overlook the lush crater and dazzle of Honolulu,  and to the east and north you’re met with soothing vistas of the Pacific Ocean’s turquoise waters and the Diamond Head Lighthouse far below.  There are several methods for tourists to get to the base of the mountain besides walking: Taxi, rental car, trolley, or bus. For $5.50, you can get a day pass for the entire island’s public bus system, which is an amazing deal!  There is a bus stop right at the base of Diamond Head Monument, and it’s a bit of a climb up to the toll booth (just $1 per person), but just past this entrance there are restrooms, drinking fountains, and options for refreshments. The wind was so strong that my wide-brimmed hat kept taking flight, so Alan bought me a baseball cap (which I will always cherish!)  There are no restroom facilities at the top, so take advantage of what they provide at this way station, and think about saving your water for drinking on your descent!  We also stopped for some passion fruit juice and a rainbow shaved ice upon our return, which revived us until we could make our way to the South Side Grill                                                 for an amazing (and cheap!)  lunch of Ono fish’n’chips. (We also took advantage of our day bus pass by ending at the Leonard Street Bakery’s for some of their famous malasadas for dessert.) All in all, it was a perfect day with only unexpected sight: A blue stop sign. Truly! I have never seen a blue stop sign in my entire life…not even in Disney World. Have you? However, after the surprise of seeing a bright blue stop sign, it occurred to me that it really doesn’t matter what color a sign is. It was the normal size and shape, and bore the same message: STOP. I had to think twice about whether or not it was real, but it was at a juncture where it would be totally appropriate to stop.  Moral of my meditation? We can be taken off guard by a warning that doesn’t fit our normal expectations, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real. Red or blue, “Stop” means “Stop!” If I (or you) have come face to face with a surprising warning, let’s not disregard it just because there’s something different about it (maybe an unusual source or given by someone whom we don’t automatically believe). If we should stop, let’s stop. On Diamond Head or our own back yard!The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it” (Proverbs 27:12, ESV).

The righteous shall see it, and rejoice: and all iniquity shall stop her mouth. Whoso is wise, and will observe these things, even they shall understand the lovingkindness of the Lord” (Psalm 107:42-43).

 

Pineapple Pancakes with Creamy Coconut Syrup

          In Honolulu, we ended up eating at several really fun restaurants,  and my favorite breakfast was at Hatsuhana’s Japanese Restaurant at the Waikiki Hilton Village Resort, which consisted of pancakes, bacon, tossed salad, papaya, hard-boiled egg, and green tea, all for $9.99, which is an incredible deal in Hawaii! Not only was it one of the most unusual breakfast combinations I’ve eaten (outside Asia), it was truly delicious, and one of the highlights was their unique coconut syrup. If you’ve been following along with my recipe blogs, I hope that you—like me—are starting to say, “I could make this!” when you find something you really like. I’ve been making home made and berry syrups from childhood  (https://kathrynwarmstrong.wordpress.com/2017/07/22/blackberry-syrup-reminiscent-of-the-cracker-barrel/ ) so it wasn’t hard to  adapt what I already knew in order to make a very refreshing coconut syrup:

Creamy Coconut Syrup
(serves 6-8)

Add together in a pan:
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup water.
Bring to a boil and then simmer for 5-6 minutes until it just barely reaches the soft-ball stage (about 115°F if you’re using a candy thermometer, although I just go by the look; it starts looking thicker than water).
Add:
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 15 oz. can coconut milk
Light sprinkle of salt
Keep simmering and use a whisk to stir until it’s all milky white and uniform in consistency. Let it cool. It doesn’t need to be warm so can be prepared a little bit ahead, although warm is always nice. It should thicken slightly when it’s sufficiently cool.

Another item I saw advertised at a different restaurant but never tried was pineapple pancakes, which also sounded good, so I worked out a recipe that met with high approval from both husband and son last weekend. I hope you enjoy it as much as we did. It made us all feel a little like we were back in Hawaii! 🙂

Pineapple Pancakes
(serves about 3…at least we ate them all!)

Mix together:
1 cup pancake mix (I use Aunt Jemima’s Buttermilk, but suit yourself!)
1 egg
2 tablespoons oil (or melted butter, or bacon fat)
1 cup milk
1 cup crushed pineapple

That’s really all there is to it! Fry on a well-buttered skillet at about 325° (medium heat…not as hot as regular pancakes, because they take a little longer to bake through). If you really want Asian fusion, I guess you could serve it with hard-boiled eggs, papaya, and tossed salad, but we opted for a more traditional American flair, and even stuck with black tea rather than green.                            However you like it, I hope you’ll try it…and like it!

Then did I eat it; and it was in my mouth as honey for sweetness. And he said unto me, Son of man, go, get thee unto the house of Israel, and speak with my words unto them” (Ezekiel 3:3-4).

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits…Made for Northerners

I went to college “Down South,” where sausage gravy and biscuits were part of every morning’s ample cafeteria buffet offerings. However, being a northerner, I rarely ever tried it, and when I did, it seemed a little bland and heavy. The first year after graduating, I taught high school in North Carolina (also “Down South”) and noticed that biscuits and gravy were popular there as well. Forty years later, I’ve realized that sausage gravy and biscuits are a much loved breakfast offering for about half of America, the U.S. military generally, and I don’t know who else around the world, so I decided it was time to make peace with sausage gravy. The only way I could really do that was to give it a little more kick, and the easiest way I’ve found to do that is to add a little chopped up, spicier brats. Here’s what I’ve done, and it passed muster with my northern family. If you have a really terrific recipe (maybe a secret family recipe from the South), I’d love to have you share it with us as well. After all, cooking is an art worthy of lifetime learning, right?!

Sausage Gravy and Biscuits with a Flair
(Serves 4-6)

Start by baking 8 large biscuits, either from scratch or according to the directions. Once they’re in the oven, start the gravy. (Biscuits take 10-15 minutes to cook, so they should be done just about the time the gravy is done.)Sear in a hot skillet on high heat: 1/2 pound ground breakfast sausage
2 large bratwurst sausages chopped into bite-sized pieces (with whatever level and type of spiciness you might enjoy; I tried one with pepper and cheese and another with mushrooms and provolone cheese, but my guess is that a lot of varieties would add a pleasant flair).Optional: A sprinkling of onion powder and garlic powder. (Being a breakfast item, my husband doesn’t like much of either of these lest it effect his breath during his work day, but they would both add flavor.)  Turn the heat down to medium and continue frying until the meat is completely cooked through and nicely browned. Turn the heat down to low, add  1/2 cup flour and stir until the meat is evenly coated and even the flour is starting to brown. (Scrape with a spatula to keep anything from burning.) Continue cooking, adding 3 cups of milk, one at a time, making sure the gravy mixes smoothly and doesn’t form any lumps.
Salt and pepper to taste (You can even add a little crushed red pepper if you really like spice.)Ladle the sausage gravy over the biscuits and serve piping hot! I think one of the reasons I didn’t like it in college was that it wouldn’t be hot enough by the time I ate it. Congealed gravy is never appetizing. 😦            “Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord” (Psalm 105:3).

The Grand Canyon, Young Earth Creationism, and Answers in Genesis

Guess what percentage of American adults believe the world was created by God in approximately the last ten thousand years? According to a 2012 Gallup survey, 46% (as reported by Wiki, who said that figure had been quite stable since 1982), but in the 2017 poll, it was down to 38%.                                   Does that surprise you? I was very surprised!  Last month, our son Jonathan, along with about 23 other theologians, engaged in a week-long white-water rafting adventure down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. He was given a scholarship to participate in this never-to-be-forgotten experience,                complete with no cell service, sleeping under the stars on cots,          and being constantly in awe of the grandeur of God’s creative genius                   (unless his mind was more drawn to bodily safety issues!  🙂 ).  The adventure was led by Dr. Andrew Snelling, a geologist who has come to believe in Young Earth Creationism (that God created the earth thousands rather than billions of years ago).       Dr. Snelling has been studying the rock formations in the Grand Canyon  and has found evidence in the rock layers (at weird angles, which could hardly happen unless the layers were still soft, such as during or following flooding) and fossils (like these sea creatures) that seems better explained by flooding than by other theories. Jon brought home many resources, but so far, I’ve only had time to watch the lecture on the Grand Canyon.                I’ve found their information very compelling, as did Jonathan. Just this past June (2017), Dr. Snelling received permission to do some geological testing in the Grand Canyon.  I wish I were more astute on this subject and could explain things in detail, but if you’re interested, Dr. Snelling is now the director of research for the AIG (Answers in Genesis) organization, which can be accessed here:

https://answersingenesis.org/

For me, the bottom line is always what the Bible proclaims rather than any current information that comes from man’s exploration, and I measure everything by the Word of God rather than the word of man.  However, I believe that ultimately what is revealed in nature is (or will be with more research) consistent with what the Bible teaches. Either way, what we believe about the origin of the world is an act of faith, because even the best “proof” is only rudimentary and incomplete.  Scientific studies are always evolving and improving. As Alan says about the practice of medicine, “It’s both art and science.” Never perfect, and always changing.

I’m banking on the wisdom of God rather than the knowledge of man.  How about you?

With the ancient is wisdom; and in length of days understanding. With him is wisdom and strength, he hath counsel and understanding.  Behold, he breaketh down, and it cannot be built again: he shutteth up a man, and there can be no opening.  Behold, he withholdeth the waters, and they dry up: also he sendeth them out, and they overturn the earth. With him is strength and wisdom: the deceived and the deceiver are his. He leadeth counsellors away spoiled, and maketh the judges fools.” (Job 12:12-17)

 

 

Big Sable Lighthouse…and Michigan’s 128 other Lighthouses!

Did you know that there are 129 lighthouses in Michigan?  There are 42 on Lake Superior, 43 on Lake Huron, and 44 on Lake Michigan. We’ve seen dozens of them.  (I would have said “most” until I realized just how many there really are).  No two are alike; each is unique, and all of them are picturesque.  Our local favorite is the Grand Haven Lighthouse, which is being totally refurbished and will include a museum when it’s completed.  Did you know that the Big Bay Point Lighthouse on Lake Superior
just north of Marquette also runs a bed and breakfast?* Wouldn’t it be fun to stay at a lighthouse?  Actually, quite a few of the lighthouses have conservancies to help care for them where you can volunteer for a two-week stint in the summer
serving as a host and giving tours.  While we were at Ludington State Park recently,   we visited the Big Sable Lighthouse.  We climbed the stairs to the top   for spectacular views of the Lake Michigan Coastline,  visited their museum and gift shop, watched a video,
and heard tales about rescues and shipwrecks.   Seeing a list of all the ships that have sunk in Lake Michigan
made me appreciate lighthouses even more!  Thousands have shipwrecked and lost their lives because they had no light
to guide them safely through the storms.  Spiritually, God calls us to be like lighthouses to draw others toward Him. 

God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” (1 John 1:5-7).   Are you walking in the light? Can others see the light of God’s presence in you?

“Rescue the Perishing”
Refrain: “Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
Jesus is merciful, Jesus will save.” (~from Fanny Crosby’s hymn, “Rescue the Perishing,” 1869…in the era when hundreds of lighthouses were being built!)

  1. Rescue the perishing, care for the dying,
    Snatch them in pity from sin and the grave;
    Weep o’er the erring one, lift up the fallen,
    Tell them of Jesus, the mighty to save.
  2. Though they are slighting Him, still He is waiting,
    Waiting the penitent child to receive;
    Plead with them earnestly, plead with them gently;
    He will forgive if they only believe.
  3. Down in the human heart, crushed by the tempter,
    Feelings lie buried that grace can restore;
    Touched by a loving heart, wakened by kindness,
    Chords that were broken will vibrate once more.
  4. Rescue the perishing, duty demands it;
    Strength for thy labor the Lord will provide;
    Back to the narrow way patiently win them;
    Tell the poor wand’rer a Savior has died.

(* Photo of Big Bay Point Lighthouse from their website; I took the rest.)

Lessons from Louise’s Kitchen

In Black Mountain, North Carolina,
there’s a perfectly adorable breakfast spot known as Louise’s Kitchen. It has a lot of things that make it unique: five-inch sections of fettuccine that they use for stirring your coffee…playing cards to designate your order number…inspirational thoughts to brighten your day…a pick-your-own, self-serve beverage counter, and a great menu with great prices for food with flair!  It’s a hit with everybody, and the place was jammed by the time we left.(So come early if you don’t want to have to wait!)  I was luxuriating in the ambience and yummy food,  when I noticed that our waitress looked like she might have a hard life, but she was an absolutely stellar waitress, and her genuine warmth really attracted me.  She was (IS) obviously an over-comer, and it didn’t take long to figure out why! Thank you, dear waitress, for letting your light shine! The world needs you!

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life” (Philippians 2:14-16).

“This Little Light of Mine”

“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine,
Hide it under a bushel, no!
I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine

Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine
Don’t let Satan blow it out
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine,
Let it shine til Jesus comes
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine?”

(All photos from Louise’s Kitchen in Black Mountain, North Carolina)

The Inimitable Biltmore Estate

At 178,926 square feet, the Biltmore—the Vanderbilt family’s 8,000 acre estate— ranks as America’s largest privately owned home, and I’ve wanted to visit for about 50 years, particularly after hearing the rumor that we’re related by marriage to the Vanderbilts (many cousins-removed ago). In the early 2000’s (at the height of our family’s musical ministry), I was negotiating with the Biltmore to sing gospel music there one Sunday afternoon           (which they still do, by the way),  although one of my closest friends ended up planning her wedding for that same weekend, and being in the wedding preempted everything else! Nevertheless, the mystique of America’s grandest estate nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains hovered like mist in the back of my mind, and last May, after visiting many of the gorgeous châteaux along the Loire River in France, several of which were the French Renaissance inspirations for the Biltmore,    such as  Château de Blois,        Château de Chenonceau,         and Château de Chambord,         I realized that a trip to the Biltmore was still on my unconscious bucket list. So, when we attended a conference this May just 15 miles from the Biltmore, you can imagine my excitement to see this romantic tribute  to America’s Gilded Age!  Yesterday I shared photos from the gardens (in conjunction with thoughts for pondering how to overcome your past and fulfill your potential),  but today I want to share a few photos from the inside of this grand home,  which would have made a worthy location for Downton Abbey! The Biltmore Estate has 250 rooms,  including 33 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces,  a dining room table that can seat up to 64 guests,   and many novelties for the 19th century,  such as  a 70,000-gallon heated indoor swimming pool  and one of the nation’s first bowling alleys to be installed in a private residence. Only half of George Vanderbilt’s collection of 22,000 books can fit in his library, and while we were visiting, their was a special exhibition of costumes  and information related to movies that have been made  from some of the many first-edition classic books owned by the Vanderbilts. The Vanderbilt family still live in and operate their estate,  but unlike many European grand estates and palaces, the Vanderbilts allow visitors to take photographs of all the home’s treasures,  including many beautifully preserves tapestries  and gorgeous paintings.  On a sunny day, like the day we visited,  one could easily spend their entire day touring the home,  enjoying lunch at one of their stable-turned restaurant venues,  and exploring their vast gardens.  Although we loved visiting, Alan and I both left thinking
how happy we are to live in our snug little “Tanglewood Cottage.”  I’m not even sure “I want a mansion, just over the hilltop.” Do you?  Actually, I don’t care where I live, just as long as it’s with Jesus!

Jesus said, “As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love” (John 15:9-10).

“Mansion Over The Hilltop”

“I’m satisfied with just a cottage below
A little silver and a little gold
But in that city where the ransomed will shine
I want a gold one that’s silver lined.

Don’t think me poor or deserted or lonely
I’m not discouraged I’m heaven bound.
I’m but a pilgrim in search of the city
I want a mansion, a harp and a crown.

I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop
In that bright land where we’ll never grow old
And some day yonder we will never more wander
But walk on streets that are purest gold.” (Ira Stanphill)

(All photos, except the four related to our trip to France last May, were taken this May on our visit the the Biltmore Estate, near Ashville, North Carolina.)