Sunday, November 30, 2008

Dear ______ ,

Dear Pumpkin Delight,

Thank you so much for sending on the recipe for spoon bread, and for re-posting your tortilla soup recipe. The tortilla soup was a smash hit! Blane ate three bowls for dinner and wants it again today for lunch.

Teenage debauchery was so much fun, I have to admit. I think that the best part of being a teenager is going through life without knowing the implications of what you are doing. The blissful ignorance. The braissen outspokenness. The bold gestures. The fearless chance taking.

To be honest, I always hated drinking in that park. It just felt so undignified. Even at 15 I much rather preferred a martini in a skyline apartment with Ella Fitzgerald playing in the background.

Did you ever see the movie Sweet Charity with Shirley Maclaine? Remember when she met the Italian movie star and he took her to that restaurant/nightclub and everyone was wearing black and walking around in typical Bob Fosse fashion? That was have been my dream teenage house party.

By the way, you were right. The jack-o-lantern that I carved was the starry eyed one. How did you know?

Dear Mom#1,

Wow! Can I have what you are on?

I am glad you seem to be feeling better, or at least distanced from the pain! Have you had your surgery yet?

Dear JLo,

Lurk away, gorgeous!

The fall trees were always my favourite thing about growing up in a climate with four distinct seasons. The beauty of it was the one thing I never took for granted.

OK so I am perfectly happy living without having to rake up those leaves every week, but after you are done, and the leaves are in a big pile, you jump in them and throw them around and it makes it all worth it.

Dear Jason

I suppose the viaduct is a bit creepy. I mean technically it would have been the perfect respite for kidnappers, hobos, murderers, child molesters and possibly aliens, but whenever I looked at it all I could see was the history and immense man power and engineering it would have taken to construct something like that over 150 years ago.

Old buildings have always managed to put me in a trance like state. For some reason I feel connected to them. My imagination starts to run wild and I try to experience what the building would have looked like new, who owned it, how it was used and what clothes were they wearing.

PS I guess you have to give snaps to Kim! She called you out, Grandpa!!

Whilst we are on the topic of gorgeous grandparents,

Dear Grandma J,

It is great to see that you have been thoroughly enjoy your Thanksgiving season, and it seems to me that you have a lot for which to be thankful.

Of course I noticed your eyelashes. Do you remember how I said that you remind me of my favourite aunt? Well she always had long eyelashes too. It is spooky the similarities.

In certain parts, that river was deeper than it appears in the photos. Enough to go rafting, but not canoeing. I must first point out that my brother and I never got very far because the blow-up raft we used had a slow leak and we spent most of our Great Adventure floating around half underwater.

Come to think of it, rafting was a pretty stupid idea, we would have had better luck using the old water bed mattress.

Dear Everyone in the World Right Now,

I hope everyone had a pleasant Thanksgiving weekend. We don't celebrate it down here, but every odd year I will throw a big Thanksgiving dinner party to keep the tradition alive for me. This was an even year.

If you celebrate, is it your tradition to put up your Christmas tree and decorations the day or weekend after Thanksgiving? Have you done so? I want pictures!!!!

love, Hula Hank x

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


I am sure everyone who grew up where I did remembers this viaduct. How many bodies were found washed up stream, drowned by attempting to swim in this section of the fast moving Tinkers Creek? I remember a few.

Which is what made this tunnel so fascinating.

You see, not because it was an old tunnel, but the thrill at trying to walk through it without dying!

Which Stuart and I managed to do, at least part of the way until the water was too high on the other end. Plus it smelled a bit like feces in there.

As I stood and looked out onto the creek and the changing autumnal leaves, for that moment in time I was proud of where I was from and grateful to share its beauty.

So many memories came rushing back, like when my brother and I tried to white water raft down this creek in a half deflated raft. Do you remember that bro?

Riding my bike to the candy store downtown, getting a nickel grab bag and then coming down here to eat it.

The toilet block up top that was nothing but a group toilet over a big hole in the ground. The trick was to not look down or breath.

My grandpa used to bring us here a lot as well. I believe he is the one who first took me into the tunnel.

For me, this is a serenity spot.... SERENITY NOW!!

I dare you to look at these next photos and not feel some sense of calm:


Growing up where I did, I was lucky to have lived only a short distance from the most beautiful branch of the Cleveland Metroparks. On summer break, my brother and I used to ride our bikes down here and hang out in the woods.

Later on, in high school a certain section of the Metroparks was where everyone partied, and by partied I mean sit around a get drunk. Of course to get to this section you had to climb in the dark down steep hills and narrow paths, that is if you made it past the cops first.

Now this old party section has become the latest edition of the Metroparks to get a makeover compelete with a proper pathway and signs which tell you all about the area's gristmill history.

Gone is the graffitti, beer cans and stench of teenage debauchery... you know, the good old days.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008


I left off with the big combo day of the early Thanksgiving/early Halloween and Weenie Roast.

My brother knew of a corn maze and pumpkin patch where we could pick up a few cheap pumpkins to carve.

Despite this, the corn maze was, er, aMAZEing. The farmer had carved a maze out of his corn fields which from the air appeared as a barn with a chicken out front next to a windmill and let's not forget a big sun!

The day we went, the maze was closed but as we arrived the farmer was coming down on his tractor and my brother dropped the fact that we were out from Australia which convinced the farmer into opening the maze just for us (well that, and 80 bucks)... and this included a tractor ride to the entrance.

Nothing says "Fall" more than walking around lost through mud and sky high stalks of corn. My oldest sister thought it would be a great a idea to pluck the corn kernels and leave them as a trail so we knew where we had been. This is a wonderful idea if you are Hansel and Gretel, however in a public corn maze,several hundred people had the same idea and the paths were paved with bits of corn.

My sister was particularly fond of these two:

This is the mother load we came home with!

Guess how much these trunkload of pumpkins cost? Nope, you are wrong. All that only cost $10, child included!!

The best part was carving them into jack-o-lanterns. This was Stuart and Blane's first time ever carving a pumpkin. We scooped out the seeds and I roasted them in two different flavours, 1. Ranch and 2. Garlic and Chilli.

Guess which jack-o-lantern I carved.

PS - I don't have any photos of the weenie roast that followed, It was way too dark and after the box of old liquor was brought out nobody wanted any proof of what actually happened on the night.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Dear _______ ,

Dear Pumpkin Delight,

Do you know what it is funny with my family owning most of the town my mother lives in, I don't actually know anyone there besides my grandma, aunts and uncles. At the time when my mother grew up, the town only had dirt road, no electricity or sewage systems. There were also no highways and it took several hours to even get to the city. My mom told me that most of the people that she went to school with no longer live around there because they just wanted to get out and find opportunity.

It is also a strong Amish community and as people moved out, the Amish bought up the properties. On this past visit I noticed that it was a much more Amish orientated, up the street there is now an amish school, market and meeting hall.

So yeah, needless to say, the town really knows how to party... did I just hear crickets?

PS I have just bought the corn meal... all I need now is the recipe! ;)

Live. Love. Eat.,

Welcome! I must admit that I couldn't stop looking the turkeys and wondering how they would taste... but that may have been the margarita talking.
I have been slowly working my way around your blog, and I like your cocktail/food philosopshy!

Dear Jason ,

Oh my goodness! That sounds like a classic photo! It always seems to be about the hand and arm placement, doesn't it? Hands out or on your hips equals gigantic fairy. Hand grasping your chin equals big macho man.

I don't have any photos like that.

Dear Mom #1,

First, I hope that you are feeling better, I know that your dental appointment was put off, but I hope that the pain is gone and even more important, you have a reached a peaceful calm and acceptance about the extraction.

If you are still nervous, I will ask my mother to send you a mostly empty and dusty bottle of 6-year old booze.

PS - If 2007 was all about sin and 2008 is all about reclaimed virginity, what is 2009 going to be about?

Grandma J,

Ever since you told me you occasionally dine on chicken nuggets at the movie theatre, I have been craving chicken mcnuggets.

That is not my cousin, that is my nephew. Thank you for thinking I couldn't possibly be old enough to have a 22 year nephew... but I am. I am a month or two older than he. ;)

Anyway, you are entirely correct, THAT SHIRT would have totally appreciated the day, however I wore it the day before and it was in the wash so I could wear it the day after. I do believe I hung it up on the line so that it could dry and watch the family take photos and eat turkey.

It enjoyed a beautiful sunny day overlooking the autumn leaves and green lawn, which my mother moes herself. She says it takes about three hours to do. For the record, it did not need to be mowed during my trip, or else I totally would have volunteered Stuart for the job.

Dear Everyone Who Left a Comment About MY NEW PUPPY Whom I Mentioned Once and Never Mentioned Again,

Photos to come. He is the coolest dog ever (with the exception of my original pug Mishka)! He falls into the pool and jumps into the spa, eats the cat's furballs and looks like a chenile teddy bear!

Love Hula Hank

PS - Dear Bossy,

Woot! Woot!

Friday, November 21, 2008


As my sister said, this is exactly how she likes her men... on their knees.

The above photo is one of my favourites. I think it is such a beautiful shot of my bro's family. Do I sound all butch saying "bro"?

The brothers.

It is all fun and games until someone puts their hand in someone else's sweaty arm pit. We must have been in to holding people up that day...
My sister brought over a few bottles of some amish wine called Frost Fire or Fire Frost or None of the Above. I don't remember, I didn't even know the amish could drink. Anyway the wine is sickly sweet and gives you a hangover after about one sip. Which is why I had to immediately switch to manhattans.
Actually that is a funny story. You remember how I told you that my mother lives about 78 hours drive from the nearest store?
Well, after we ran out of wine, my mother brings a big box up from the basement. It was filled with Bourbon, Sweet vermouth, Vodka, Bitters, half empty wine bottles and almost empty bottles of tequila and margarita mix. She said that she saved it from the last time I came out... 6 years ago!!!
Well desperate times call for desperate measures. There is nothing left in the box.


For those of you who are still paying attention... Yes, I am still talking about my fabulous four week road trip across the US that happened one million years ago!
We last left off in Cleveland at the Gospel Brunch.

Later on in the week, the whole family got together again for a major combo event of an early Thanksgiving dinner, pumpkin carving and a weenie roast. Before the festivities began we took a few minutes to grab some family shots.

From Left: My oldest sister , my other sister , Myself and my big bro.

My sister's boyfriend and my oldest sister (exactly what is she reaching for??), the figure looming behind my oldest sister is my nephew, then my other sister, the son and my mom. The big flamer behind my mom is me, next to my brother is continued with his fiance-to-be and her son.

The only new face in this one is Stuart... Oh and now you can actually see my nephew's face. Something is happening off to the left (or is the right?) but only my sister and I can see it. Must be dead people!

This photo was taken directly facing the sun so that there would not be any shadows... as you can see it so totally worked!!!


The Sunday after we arrived in Cleveland, we all friends and family piled into a car and went to the weekly Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues.

We were suffering from severe sinusitus due to the drastic downward change of weather traveling from Las Vegas to Cleveland, nothing a good southern food buffet and a few mimosas wouldn't cure!

Everyone gorged on cornbread, chicken and waffles, macaroni and cheese and grits.

On stage our hostess brought down the house with her gospel style and loving ways. At one point we had to turn to a neighbour we did not know and say "Neighbour, I love you and there is nothing you can do about it!"

Stuart was hand picked to go up on stage and do a dance. I did not capture any photos of him getting down, but one of my friends did. They are hilarious! Unfortunately I have not been able to get copies of those photos yet.

It also happened to be around the time of my brother's fiance-to-be and her son's birthday, so they even got up on stage and we all (as the House of Blues choir) sang "Happy Birthday" to them and a few other people who really don't matter.

I tried and I tried bu our hostess did not stay in one spot long enough to get a clear shot.

So earlier I mentioned the food. It was actually surprisingly good considering the fact that it was the House of Blues and it was a buffet. However I especially recommend the cornbread. It has reminded me of my love of spoonbread, which I am now dying to make.

So if anyone has a good recipe, please share with the rest of the class!

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Today we did not see any wild turkeys.

The excitement of today was gathering firewood. Why was this so exciting?
It wasn't except for the son because my mom taught him how to drive a tractor!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008


After a flight from Las Vegas, we hired a car at the airport and drove an hour to my mother's house in the Ohio countryside.

Before I begin, You will need a short history lesson. My Great-Grandma owned half of this town back in the 1910s/20s. She then divided her property up amongst her kids, who then did the same to their kids.

My immediate family grew up in the city but it has always been my mother's dream to escape the city hustle and bustle and build a home on the land where she grew up. About 10 years ago she finally accomplished this dream and built a quaint house on her inherited parcel of land.

This is my mother's house.

If you turn left on my mother's road, you will find my grandma's house next door. This is also the house that my mom grew up in.

If you turn right on my mom's road:

It will lead you to my Uncle Doug's property, which is next to my Aunt Shirley's property, which is next to my Uncle John and Aunt Jan's house, which is next to my Aunt Judy's house, which is next to my cousin's house.

Confused yet? Well on the other side of my Grandma's house begins my Grandpa's side of the family.

The closest grocery store to my mom is over 25 minutes away, and is mainly frequented by the local amish community. So what is the hottest activity to do at my mom's house?

Sit on the deck and look at her backyard.

Sometimes things get crazy when a group of wild turkeys run by.

If you are lucky you will see two groups. We were lucky.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Dear ______ ,

Dear Joseph,

Thank you! Welcome and stop by often! It is great to see a new face!

Dear Grandma J,

A cow walked into your car? Don't tell me that the farmer then tried to milk you.

I wait with bated breath every week to see which movie you choose. Those are the hard decisions in life. Do you ever choose a movie that you then regret seeing and immediately attend the next session of your second choice?

Also, what is your theatre snack of desire? (I was going to say 'choice' but realised I used that word to end the previous sentence.)

Dear Pumpkin Delight,

I was so devasted to miss seeing New Kids on the Block... and why are they still going by that name? I suggest a change to Old Men Around the Block.

It was Cher's last night performing (until later in the year) and I since I missed her 10 other farewell tours, I was bursting at the seams to see this one... until I got the price of the only tickets available.

Dear Katie,

Taking photos all day long is hard work! I don't know how you do it with such ease! I bow to your talents.

Dear Jason,

It's a deal! Did you go to one of the protests this past weekend?

Sorry to make this so short. I have been running around all day chasing MY NEW PUPPY!!!!

lOVE, Hula Hank

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Las Vegas should only be seen at night. This town, whilst oddly placed in the middle of a scorching hot desert, was never meant to be seen in the harsh noon sun.
The lights! The people! The shows! The food!!!

The most famous Las Vegas night time attraction hands down are the fountain outside of the Bellagio. Every 15 minutes the fountain springs to life and dances to music. When you look at these photos, imagine Viva Las Vegas playing in the background.

Speaking of shows, You might be thinking, "Did we see any of the five different Cirque de Soleil shows or Cher or Bette Midler or Elton John or David Copperfield or even New Kids on the Block?"

The answer is No, we went to Vegas and did not gamble drink or see any shows. Just a tip if you are taking kids to Vegas: Vegas is a great place to take kids and Vegas is an even better place for adults, but the two worlds do not meet!

So long story short, if you go to Sin City with kids, be prepared to not partake in any sin.


What is a trip to Vegas without going to Ceasar's Palace hotel?
This immaculately decorated hotel is set up to appear as Ancient Rome. They even have warriors walking around at times. This year Ceasar's Palace's revolving entertainment roster is Cher, Bette Midler and Elton John.

I know what you are thinking? "So what is the decor like Ceaser's Palace?"
Well, the floors are marble and the statues are styrofoam:

The most fabulous of the statues was a giant replica of Michaelangelo's David.

I know what your dirty minds are thinking and I am right there with you:

Friday, November 14, 2008


And here we are in Paris!

Wait. What? Paris? Just before Paris we were in New York, Medevial England, Ancient Rome and Egypt! The great thing about Las Vegas is that they love a good theme hotel and casino!

The Paris Las Vegas is extraordinary and not detail went undone. Take a look at the Arc de Triomphe.

Are you as flabbergasted as I? Inside Paris Las Vegas the casino is set up to look like Parisian streets, complete with streetlamps and trees. The only difference was, you know, thousands of slot machines.

At night we return to our hotel, which is done entirely in the King Arthur theme.

They even had a dinner show with a jousting match! Which we did not go to, instead we rode the roller coaster at New York!