Tag Archives: Islands of Aloha mystery series

Ukuleles, Grass Skirts and…Spam?

What comes to mind when you think of quintessential Hawaiian flavors? Pineapple, coconut, maybe poi? Well, add Spam–that salty, slightly greasy, canned “meat product” from Hormel Foods of Austin, Minnesota–to the list.

Hawaiians consume more Spam per capita than any other place on the planet, with an average consumption of more than twelve cans per person every year! Hawaiian grocery stores have entire aisles stacked high with the iconic blue cans, and you may be surprised to find unique flavors that were created especially for island tastes, including Honey Spam, Spam with Bacon (seems redundant) and Hot and Spicy Spam.

can of Spam

photo courtesy of Hormel Foods

Spam first came to Hawaii after World War II, when meat was expensive and lack of refrigeration made it difficult to transport from the mainland. The canned meat, which didn’t spoil even in the heat of the tropics, had been a staple in military rations and quickly caught on with island cooks as a substitute for ham, bacon and other hard-to-get pork products.

Every year in April, Waikiki hosts the annual Waikiki Spam Jam festival. The weekend festival runs for several blocks down Waikiki’s main street, Kalakaua Avenue and includes live entertainment, Spam-themed merchandise for sale, and food booths—most featuring creative uses for the well-loved meat mélange. This year’s surprise new treat was (drumroll, please) Spam cheesecake!

Waikiki

Waikiki, the home of the Spam Jam Festival

The festival benefits the Hawaii Food Bank and festival-goers are urged to bring food donations (Spam’s always a favorite contribution). In 2012, the festival collected 2,200 pounds of food and almost $25,000 for the food bank.

So, if you want to throw a backyard luau, don’t forget the Spam! Here are a couple of recipes to get you going.

SPAM MUSABI (similar to sushi)
Ingredients:
2 slices Spam Classic
3 oz. cooked short-grain rice (such as Cal-Rose)
1 Tbl. ginger sesame sauce (such as House of Tsang Sweet Ginger Sesame Sauce or Sam Choy’s Cooking Sauce)
1 sheet nori (black dried seaweed, the kind used for sushi)

a musabi press

Spam Musabi Press (available from Amazon.com)

Preparation:
Fry the Spam on both sides until lightly browned and crisp
Place the rice in a musabi press or a small can.
Drizzle the sauce on top of the rice.
Cut a piece of the Spam to fit the size of the musabi press or can you are using and lay it on top of the seasoned rice.
Press down on the rice and Spam until it is a compact square.
Remove the block from the press.
Lay the nori, shiny side up, and top with the Spam mixture. Wrap it around the Spam mixture.  Cut each musabi in half (to make it bite-size).

Your Spam musabi should look something like this:

Spam musabi

Recipe and photo courtesy of Hormel Foods

 An even easier luau favorite is the HAWAIIAN SPAM-BURGER.

Ingredients:
One 12 oz. can Spam (any flavor) cut into 4 slices
Sliced pineapple rounds (8 oz. can or fresh)
Bell pepper sliced into thick rounds
One Tbl. prepared mustard (any kind)
3 Tbl. Mayonnaise
1 clove garlic, chopped
Four slices Swiss cheese (if desired)
Four hamburger buns
Lettuce leaves

Preparation:
Prepare your barbeque grill for cooking burgers.
Grill the Spam, pineapple rounds and green pepper 5 to 7 minutes, or until heated and beginning to char.
Stir together the mustard, mayo and chopped garlic.
Spread mustard mixture on both sides of buns.
Fill each bun with Spam, pineapple slice, green pepper slices, and cheese. Add lettuce.

A Spam burger with pineapple ring

Recipe and photo courtesy of Hormel Foods

Have you every had any of these Hawaiian delicacies? Do you know any other unusual Spam recipes?

Posted by JoAnn Bassett. Joann is the author of the Islands of Aloha Mystery Series, cozy mysteries set in the Hawaiian Islands. She’s a wink-and-nod fan of Spam, but admits she’s got a ways to go in perfecting her musabi technique. You can follow her progress (and see lots of photos of her “research” trips to Hawaii) on her Facebook page as she writes book five of the series.

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Closure – Why Do We Need It?

“Closure” is one of many psychobabble buzz words of recent times. I Googled “why closure is so important” and got almost 6 million results!

Why do we feel the need to have some kind of closure with the past before we can move on?

It sounds like it should be a complex issue, but the answer is really fairly simple. We human beings are programmed to try to understand our environment. We aren’t all that content with the concept of “it is what it is.” We want to know why it is what it is.

door partway open

We humans have to know what’s behind the door, before we can close it and move on. (photo by Eleassar, CC-BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons)

This trait is extremely important to our survival and our development as a species. Indeed, it is probably the single most important factor in why we are the dominant species on the planet! By figuring out why something happened, we can either make it happen again if it was a good thing, or try to avoid having it happen again if it wasn’t so great. This need to understand the what, how and why is often the stimulant for human ingenuity and invention as well.

When we understand what’s going on we can make adjustments, come up with solutions. When we are left in the dark, we are uneasy.

The topic of closure popped into my head as a good subject to talk about this week because I just read JoAnn Bassett’s latest release, Kaua’i Me a River. This book’s a bit more serious than the others in her Islands of Aloha mystery series (although it still has its humorous moments). It is a very compelling story. I believe it’s my favorite of the series (and I’ve liked them all!)

The main character, Pali Moon, is minding her own business, trying to ignore her thirty-fifth birthday, when she receives a not very informative letter from a lawyer requesting her presence at a meeting to discuss an “urgent family matter.” That letter reopens some old wounds and Pali (pronounced Polly) becomes determined to find out what really happened to her mother, who died when Pali was just five years old. She risks a lot to find out what happened and why… pursuing that need for closure.

book cover of Kaua'i Me a River

We may not always like what we find out, but unanswered questions from our past tend to leave us psychologically incomplete. For better or worse, we humans need to understand the past in order to put it to rest and move on.

Have you had times when a lack of closure has left you feeling incomplete or unable to move on?

While you’re pondering that question, take a look at JoAnn’s new release, Kaua’i Me a River. Also the first book in her series, Maui Widow Waltz, is FREE today through Thursday on Amazon!

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Kassandra is a retired psychotherapist turned mystery writer. She writes the Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

HAWAII: One Island Chain, Eight Unique and Beautiful Links

To celebrate the release of the 4th book in her Islands of Aloha mystery series, JoAnn Bassett is going to share some fun stuff about (and great pictures of) Hawaii, the setting of her novels and her home for many years. Each book in her series features a different island, or section of an island.

Take it away, JoAnn!

Joann Bassett, Author We all know Hawaii is a unique place. It is the only state that can claim to have no straight line border anywhere along its perimeter–because it is all islands, 137 of them to be exact.

What I think is most fascinating, however, is that within Hawaii the eight major islands are each unique to themselves. We mainlanders tend to think of the Hawaiian Islands as pretty much all the same. But each of the islands has its own distinct style and vibe. Just for fun, let’s look a bit at each of the eight.

O’ahu is often the first island you think of when you think of Hawaii. Made famous by the TV show, Hawaii Five-O, it is the seat of the state government and home to about seventy percent of the state’s population.

O'ahu skyline

The skyline of O’ahu

Honolulu, the state capital, is the largest city in the world – literally. Because of a quirky clause in the Hawaii state constitution, any of the 137 islands that does not belong specifically to another county automatically belongs to Honolulu. As a result, the city of Honolulu is about 1,500 miles long–longer than halfway across the 48 contiguous states!

Maui hosts the most visitors of any of the Hawaiian islands. It’s home to Haleakala, the world’s largest dormant volcano, and the vintage whaling town of Lahaina. So many celebrities own property and visit the island every year that seeing someone “famous” isn’t uncommon. Oprah Winfrey has not one but two homes on Maui. Most visitors stay and play on the West Side, where resorts sit cheek to jowl along the coastline and the economy is nearly one-hundred percent tourism.

beach on Maui

Ka’anapali beach on the island of Maui

Maui boasts the world’s most loved beach, Ka’anapali, and many of the destination weddings in Hawaii are performed on this island. My wedding planner protagonist, Pali (pronounced Polly) Moon, is based on Maui. The first two books in the series, Maui Widow Waltz, and Livin’ Lahaina Loca, showcase this popular island.

Hawaii is referred to as the Big Island. Much confusion is sparked by one of the major islands having the same name as the state itself. It’s sort of like New York and New York City. But unlike New York, the Big Island does not host the state’s most famous city.

On the Hilo side, the Big Island is very local, laid-back and tropical. This side is the gateway to Volcanoes National Park, a lush surreal landscape of steaming vent holes bordering a massive moonscape of lava.

Big Island steam vent

A steam vent on the Big Island

On the Kona side, the dry side, large resorts have been built along the Kohala Coast to the delight of sun worshipers and golfers. The Big Island also grows many of the crops the state of Hawaii is known for: coffee, macadamia nuts, and orchids, to name a few.

Lana’i also has a confusing name. The word “lanai” in Hawaiian means a porch or balcony. But the name of the island of Lana’i has three syllables instead of two—lah-na-ee, as opposed to lah-neye. This small island is almost totally owned by one man, Larry Ellison, of Oracle software fame. Although the island used to be covered in pineapple plants, the pineapples are all gone now.

Lanai resort

A resort on Lana’i

Due to some unfortunate events at the end of Livin’ Lahaina Loca, Pali finds herself in Witness Protection on Lana’i in the 3rd book of the series, Lana’i of the Tiger.

Kaua’i is the fourth largest of the Hawaiian islands. It is home to the Waialeale Mountain, that averages 488 inches of rain per year and is considered the wettest spot on earth. Called “The Garden Isle,” Kaua’i is green beyond imagining. The sunny south side, anchored by the town of Poipu, is where most visitors stay. Waimea Canyon, sometimes referred to as “the Grand Canyon of the Pacific” is a stunning red, brown, and tan gorge that appears out of place in the lush surroundings.

The North Shore town of Hanalei is where Peter Yarrow of the group Peter, Paul and Mary wrote their famous song about marijuana, Puff the Magic Dragon. That gives you some idea of the vibe of the place. In the 1970’s, a hippie enclave called Taylor Camp was located there.

Kaua'i valley

A valley on the island of Kaua’i.

In my new release, Kaua’i Me a River, Pali spends a lot of time on this island, trying to find out what happened thirty years ago, when her hippie mother died under mysterious circumstances.

Molokai is considered the most “Hawaiian” of the islands that are accessible to the public. It doesn’t have much tourist development and the locals live a quiet laid-back lifestyle. It’s an everybody-knows-everybody kind of place.

The east end of the island is very wet—getting some 240 inches of rain in a year. Most people remember Molokai as home to Kala’aupapa, the place where people suffering from leprosy (now called, Hanson’s Disease) were sent to live in isolation. One of the Catholic Church’s newest saints, Father Damien, died while helping the inhabitants there.

Ni’ihau island is smaller and privately-owned. Only some 200 people reside there. They live in the traditional ways—speaking Hawaiian and without using modern conveniences. Non-residents cannot come on the island, except by invitation or by obtaining one of a very limited number of hunting permits.

Kaho’olawe is the smallest island of the major eight, only 45 square miles. It is a sore subject in Hawaii. Once an inhabited island, for decades it was used for bombing practice by the U.S. military. Groups are trying to restore the island but it will take time and money to erase its sad past.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this armchair tour of Hawaii. If you like all things Hawaiian as I do (or if you just like a good whodunnit), please check out my Islands of Aloha Mystery Series.

Kaua’i Me a River is now available on Amazon. The next book in the series will be set on O’ahu and the last will be on the Big Island. (Also, Monday thru Thursday of next week, Maui Widow Waltz, the first book in the series will be FREE on Amazon. Bookmark it now so you can get it free next week!)

Cover of Kaua'i Me a RiverIt’s her thirty-fifth birthday, but Maui wedding planner Pali Moon is doing her best to ignore it. Then she receives a letter from a lawyer in Hanalei, Kaua’i, requesting her presence at a meeting to discuss an ‘urgent family matter.’ The letter brings Pali’s Kaua’i past rushing back—her birth at a hippie enclave on the North Shore in the 1970’s; her father deserting the family never to be heard from again; and, worst of all, her mother’s tragic death when Pali was only five. What could a Hanalei lawyer possibly have to say that would be worth dredging all that up again? But curiosity and devotion to her mother’s memory win out and Pali heads to Kaua’i. What she discovers on The Garden Island not only rewrites her history but also alters her future.

Posted by JoAnn Bassett. For several years, JoAnn lived in an oceanfront home on Maui, but her husband wasn’t the island rat that she is, so now they live mostly in Southern Arizona. She travels to Hawaii throughout the year, and enjoys writing about life on “the most idyllic islands in the Pacific.”

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

My Next Big Thing (it’s kinda small)

I seem to be the last of my writer friends to participate in this fun Blog Hop called The Next Big Thing. I got tagged by the funny and talented fantasy and sci-fi writer, Samantha Warren. If you don’t think she’s funny and talented, just read her bio here.

My Next Big Thing is actually a little on the small side. It’s my first crack at a novella (about 1/3rd the length of my other novels).

Here’s how this works. I answer ten questions about my work in progress. Then I’m supposed to tag five other authors, but like I said, I seem to be the last one arriving at this party. So if you’re a writer, and you want to brag talk about your Next Big Thing, consider yourself tagged.

1.  What is the title of the work?

The title was going to be “Sal of St. Augustine, A Kate on Vacation Cozy Mystery” but then my daughter-in-law (one of my best beta readers) said that was kind of boring (she said it much more diplomatically than that, but that’s what she meant).

So I’m looking for ideas for a better title. After you’ve read a bit more here about the story maybe something good will come to you. And just to make it interesting, I’m gonna give a $20 gift card to anyone who comes up with a title so wonderful I decide to use it!

2. Where did the idea for the book come from?

I was joking around one day with fellow misterio press author, JoAnn Bassett. Her mystery series is set in Hawaii and her protagonist is a wedding planner (named Pali Moon) whose weddings always seem to go seriously awry.

Why not write a book together? I said. My protag, Kate Huntington, could come to Hawaii for her niece’s wedding (for those of you who’ve read Family Fallacies, wouldn’t Phyllis, Kate’s sister-in-law, make the perfect mother-of-the-bride from hell?) Then Kate and Pali (pronounced Polly) could end up investigating somebody’s murder together.

JoAnn pointed out we’d probably end up like the best friends who become college roommates, and end up hating each other after one semester.

I agreed and the writing it together idea got scrapped. But a seed had been planted in my fertile little brain. Why not write some shorter, lighter stories starring my main characters while they’re on vacation. Thus the concept of a parallel series to my Kate Huntington books was born.

This first one is set in St. Augustine, Florida, when Kate and her family go to visit her parents for Christmas. I have a second one planned, a locked-room mystery that will happen on a cruise in the Caribbean, and then the Hawaii wedding one (JoAnn’s going to be my consultant on that one!)

3. What genre is the book?

It’s a ‘cozy’ mystery, designed to be a light, fun read. (In this case, think Miss Marple meets Alex Delaware.)

4. What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Even on vacation, Kate Huntington can’t seem to stay out of trouble; while visiting her parents for Christmas in St. Augustine, she and her private detective husband get sucked into investigating when her parents’ friend disappears.

(Yeah, I know. I cheated by using a semi-colon to get in two sentences. I’m really bad about following rules.)

5. Which actors would you choose to play your main characters?

Gonna need some help with this one too. I am absolutely horrible at remembering actors’ names (names in general). Who comes to mind to play Kate and/or Skip, folks? I’d love some suggestions, just in case Hollywood ever comes calling with an offer.

Oh, and while I’m asking for help again, here are some pics I took in St. Augustine this past Christmas. I’m considering using one of them as the cover. What do you think?

Too busy maybe?

It’s sunny 362 days of the year in Florida. Wouldn’t you know it, the day I go to St. Aug to take pics is one of the three when it’s overcast! But I can probably get that doctored by a cover artist.

 Please vote for one (or rank them) in the comments. I’m having trouble deciding.

6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

I’m a control freak, so self-published, of course.

7. How long did it take you to write this book?

About three weeks. Granted it’s a novella, but still I’m not usually that speedy. But when I tell myself a project is “just for fun” it tends to go much faster.

8. What other books would you compare this to?

Maybe Mary Daheim’s Bed and Breakfast series (if I may be so bold) in which the protagonist gets caught up in the shenanigans of the interesting (sometimes downright weird) people who come from all over to stay at her B & B. Only in this case, Kate is doing the traveling.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?

I think we’ve already established that it’s JoAnn’s fault. 😛

10. What else about your book might pique readers’ interest?

Part of the idea with this parallel series of cozies is to showcase some interesting vacation destinations so readers can do a little vicarious traveling.

Despite the mild temperatures, no place does Christmas quite like St. Augustine, and the town is chock full of historic sites. A Caribbean cruise and Hawaii speak for themselves. Who wouldn’t want to curl up with a fun book set in one of those exotic places?

Posted by Kassandra Lamb. Check out her Kate Huntington mystery series.

We blog here at misterio press once a week about more serious topics, usually on Monday or Tuesday. Sometimes we blog again, on Friday or the weekend, with something just for fun.

Please follow us by filling in your e-mail address where it says “subscribe to blog via email” in the column on the right, so you don’t miss out on any of the interesting stuff, or the fun!

CHRISTMAS in HAWAII

by JoAnn Bassett, author of the Islands of Aloha mystery series.

Christmas is big in the islands. The beaches are loaded with visitors who’d rather surf than ski, and the local people go full-tilt with gift-giving, ham-baking and tree decorating.

People have asked me, “But don’t Hawaiians have their own holiday traditions? What do Hawaiian people do for Christmas that reflects their unique culture?” The answer is simple: Hawaiian people didn’t celebrate Christmas before the missionaries showed up. And the New England missionaries brought some pretty old-school holiday traditions to the tropics along with their Bibles and their long-sleeved, high-necked cotton dresses. They introduced the Hawaiians to evergreen trees festooned with strings of popcorn; turkey dinner with all the trimmings (including cranberry sauce and yams); and even Santa Claus with his warm fur-trimmed red suit and black leather boots.

As you can imagine, living near the Equator presents some challenges for folks wanting to recreate a Currier & Ives Christmas. In Hawaii, evergreen trees are shipped in from the West Coast, mainly Oregon. They can cost up to three times as much as on the mainland and they only last about one/third as long. Santa is usually depicted on cards and in shop displays as a white-bearded chubby guy wearing sunglasses and flashing a shaka sign (the thumb and pinkie extended, other fingers folded down).

photo by PlusMinus, Wikimedia Commons

But if you take your kid to see Santa at most Hawaiian shopping malls you’ll find him wearing the full-blown red suit with white fur trim and black boots.

And chimneys—what about Santa coming down the chimney?

I can count on one hand the number of chimneys I ever saw on houses in Hawaii, but still the old guy manages to distribute the gifts. In Hawaii, Santa comes in through a window and kids are advised to make sure at least one ground-floor window is unlocked so he can climb inside. Of course it’s Mom and Dad’s job to make sure that window gets locked back up after Santa leaves.

Hawaiians are proud of their culture and their traditions, but they’re also willing to embrace other traditions that celebrate hope, renewal and family. Traditional Christmas customs work in Hawaii not because the missionaries were heavy-handed about the ‘right’ way to celebrate and didn’t allow for variance, but also because Hawaii is a place where all types of cultures and traditions are welcome. Even if all the needles fall off the eighty-dollar tree five days after you bring it home.

Aloha!
JoAnn Bassett, author of the Islands of Aloha mystery series

 

Normally we blog here at misterio press once a week about serious stuff and sometimes a just for fun post later in the week. Our blog is on semi-hiatus for the holidays. There will be another Christmas in an interesting and warm place post next Friday, for your vicarious traveling pleasure. The serious stuff will resume mid-January.

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