Friday, August 18, 2017

Home is a heaven on earth

My husband and I are asked on a daily basis, “how much longer are you going to stay in Hawaii”?

When we first arrived for our mission, we had a definite answer. As most of you know, we made the decision to sell our home and all of our possessions in order to go on a mission. We were really happy with this decision, realizing that those possessions were literally weighing us down.

So we took the council in John literally to:  “Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor … and come and follow me.” (Matt. 19:21.)

So, when people asked, as they always do “what will your plans be after your mission is over, we happily answered that we were heading to Uruguay for a year.
And then we were going to explore other communities around the world, just to see if there would be that ‘perfect little place for us’.

But something happened along the way. An opportunity opened up that made it impossible to move away from lovely La’ie after our mission ended.

We enjoyed our mission here so much, and my husband definitely found himself to be right where he wanted to be doing exactly what he wanted to do.

But I am a planner. And this was not the plan. I found myself feeling displaced. Lost. Homeless. And Alone.

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Alone because my family is so far away. Alone because poor Ron couldn’t’ figure out why his wife was weepy every Sunday. Alone because the plan that I had researched and written out was not happening.

It takes a while to let go of some dreams. It is especially hard for someone as driven as I am.

Ron and I are currently reading the New Testament. This last week we came across the following verses in Matthew:

Matthew 8: 19 And a certain scribe came, and said unto him, Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.

20 And Jesus saith unto him, The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.

It struck me that this is what I felt like. I had a bed, to be sure – but it wasn’t MY bed and it certainly wasn’t MY house. It wasn’t MY decision to be here.

And that’s why I’ve been crying every Sunday. I wanted to make the decision. I forgot that at the start of this adventure that I had made a far more important decision to be a disciple of Christ. And being a disciple of Christ is not meant to be comfortable or easy. But it always ALWAYS comes with blessings.

I mean, look at me, stuck in a sweet little apartment on one of the best beaches in the world only a 5 minute walk to a magnificent temple of the Lord and spending my days at The Polynesian Cultural Center.

Poor, poor Nina.

And you know when I had my light bulb moment? Yesterday, attending Sacrament meeting. We have been assigned to a student ward, but a couple of months ago the bishop of my home ward, Laie North 4th called me in and asked me to serve as their Sunbeam teacher.

Now earlier that month Bishop had stood up in Sacrament meeting and clearly and firmly said to the congregation “stop saying no to callings. Stop it!” So when the call was extended, I said….’yes sir’.

And yesterday, after a particularly weepy sacrament I realized that these tears were tears of joy. I love my ward. I love the members, I love the bishop, I love my adorable little squirmy class of Sunbeams. People here know my name….my real name… Not that being Sister Jones isn’t an honor, but somehow being called Nina makes me know that I am finally HOME.

Christ’s invitation to become his disciple is universal. He extends it to everyone. His call and promise is “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).

La’ie is my place of rest….. How long, I have no idea. But home is definitely where the heart is, and my heart is here.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Changes ahead - but probably not what you think!

Everyday we hear the question "when will you be leaving Hawaii? What next?"

Our answer is always the same. We shrug our shoulders and say "Lord knows". And we mean that literally, because every time we even start making plans, the Lord steps in and reminds us who is in charge.

Is that changing soon? Nope. 

Ron is back among the employed. After building the work tracking and energy management systems here at the PCC, Ron has accepted a job offer which actually puts the tools back into his hands and perform the preventative maintenance in one of the most beautiful, magical places on earth. Happy day for Ron!

This is the second time my retired hubby 'un-retired'. I think I'm beginning to see a trend.

What this means:

  • We are staying at the Hukilau House and performing as Caretakers on the side - which means still living on the beach, still living in beautiful La'ie. Still enjoying the blessings of the amazing Polynesian Cultural Center.

  • We still get to travel - so expect to see more posts from exotic (and not so exotic) lands.

  • I am NOT employed, and will be remaining a Service Missionary, which allows me lots of I will be visiting the states (specifically this December I will be at Audras helping her and her family welcome baby #3!) Ron will be here, holding down the fort. Anyone looking for a great Christmas vacation spot? We have an extra bedroom. Rent will be spending 24 hours helping Ron clean a great big house......

What this does NOT mean:

  • That we have any plans - nay - even any clue whats next.

Ron loves it this way. 

I am learning not to hyperventilate. 

Friday, June 16, 2017

Aloha Means Hello, Good-bye and We Love You: The Ainu'us

It’s that time again when the bulk of our graduates are heading off. I’ve grown to hate this time of year passionately. Saying goodbye is never easy for me. Having to say goodbye to buckets of people who have become so dear to me is pure torture. My saving grace both last June and this is that we ended up being on vacation both times. I can only do the ugly cry so many times. Coward that I am, this is far easier.

Mind you, I’m happy for our graduates. They have the whole world ahead of them they’ve worked hard for their degrees and now it’s time to fly! I'm thrilled for the senior missionaries returning to their loving families. For those who simply feel that their times to move on is the best decision for their family, I support their decision 100%.

But I'm sure going to miss you....every single one.

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With all these comings and goings, however, I cannot let the opportunity pass without telling you all about two people very dear to Ron and me. How I wish you could all know them….they are a marvel, both separately and together. So, may I please introduce you to Tupua and Jacosa Ainu’u?

The quick and fast way to give you the quick rundown would be to use a bio sketch I put together this last winter when this powerhouse couple came to share their musical talents at one of our Senior Missionary Family Home Evenings:

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Family Home Evening

Jacosa Limutau Ainu’u is the 2nd of 5 children. She is of Samoan and English/Irish descent. She was raised in Sacramento, California. She earned an AA in Jazz Studies, a BA in Professional Music and an MA in Music Education. She has taught music education, along with voice and piano for many years, including bringing the Kahuku Local Motion choir to Nationals last year. Where they earned first place. This year she was the Choir Director at Kahuku Elementary School.

Tupua is 100% Samoan born and raised. He spent much of his childhood in American Samoa. He later moved to Las Vegas, where much of his family is. He went on his mission to Argentina, and speaks Spanish, Samoan and English. He gained his AA in the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in Hollywood, and graduated from BYUH with a degree in Communications with a focus on Peace Building. He is our lead MC at the daily canoe pageant and our evening luaus. Tupua hopes to expand his activing career.

Both Tupua and Jacosa love musical theater, jazz, gospel music and exploring the beautiful island of Oahu.

These are the facts about Tupua and Jacosa. But there is so much more. Those of us who volunteer at the luaus understand that Tupua gives his whole heart to our guests, night after night. His talent and exuberance lifts us. His faith inspires us. His energy, quite honestly, wears us out!

But I know that Tupua is the first to tell you that his greatest joy is in finding the love of his life. Jacosa will hate hearing this, because she is such a humble soul, but this woman is the whole package….beautiful, intelligent, a true woman of God with the voice of an angel. I just love them both so much.

They honor me just by being my friend.

So, no pressure, dear friends, but the podium is now yours.

And for you, brothers and sisters, sit back and relax. It’s going to be a lovely evening.

And we did have an extremely wonderful evening. In fact, we had two! The first time they sang gospel songs. Then, because we all enjoyed ourselves so much, they came back a couple of months later and sang Broadway tunes.

Click here to hear the Ainu'us sing "My Hands" at the 2017 PCC Samoan Devotional:

How we became friends is fairly typical of what happens here. When you live in a small town and work for the largest employer in that town, you are just bound to run into each other….a lot.

I remember the first time Ron and I met Tupua. We help at the luaus at the PCC regularly. One night, we noticed a new Master of Ceremonies. 

Being 6’ 6, he’s a little hard to miss, actually.

Tupua working the luau at The Polynesian Cultural Center

I heard his voice over the loud speaker before I saw him…. that big, smooth voice is as much of a show stopper as his size. But the biggest thing about Tupua is his heart. He loves everyone and everything. I tease him that he's like a big ol' Labrador puppy. He lives life with absolute gusto. It reflects in his presentations, in leisure time and even in his texts and Facebook posts (he loves to write everything in CAPITAL

Click here to read a blog on about Tupua and his work at the PCC

Tupua brings such joy to the luaus. I love walking by in the evening and hearing the laughter and applause. It's impossible not to love this dear and tender man.

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The funniest picture ever - that man looks like a floating head!
That's how tall he is, he's actually leaning over and his feet
are conveniently placed behind each of us.

We knew Tupua for quite a while before we ever met Jacosa. Oh, we heard a lot about I shared before, he loves her beyond measure. But she was busy in her own right teaching choir at Kahuku High School, and later Laie Elementary.

So our first meeting was when Tupua sang Elvis tunes at our Marketplace. Tupua is a big fan of Elvis and Michael Jackson. It's lots of fun to watch.

Anyway, I was a little worried. I thought "it's going to be difficult for this wife of his to live up to expectations". Well, Tupua, I've gotta tell you, you might have fallen short.

Jacosa is ... well, it's difficult to describe accurately. She's like the cool breeze that soothes you on a hot day, or the best friend you wish you had. She is kindness, generosity and talent. Spending time with her makes the whole day brighter.

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He brought Jacosa on stage to sing a duet, and I'm telling you, she has this incredible, melodic, professionally trained voice. I could listen to her sing for hours 
We soon became fast friends. We even went to see the movie Florence Foster Jenkins for date night together. You might remember it's about a woman so rich that her husband paid for her to perform a concert in New York City. Of course, her singing is just horrible.

Apparently, this was a sign of things to come......

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Dinner before our movie.

Last year Jacosa decided to take on some students for private singing lessons. I wanted to see what she could do for me. Oh, she tried so hard. I don't know how she kept humoring me, honestly, but she hung in there for all these long months. It was great fun, mixed with lots of humbling experiences, and I'm so grateful for it.

And now it's time to say goodbye...and we are in North Carolina. Go ahead and call me chicken, I won't deny it. But isn't this so much better? No tears, at least that you can see. No stumbling over words.

But coming back home to a town with no Ainu'us is going to take some of the shine off. Luckily, there is Facebook, and believe me, I will be searching for updates and pictures.

Get ready, Atlanta! Your city is about to get a whole lot more fun!!!!

ALOHA, Ainu'us! (Hello, good-bye, and WE LOVE YOU)

Sunday, May 7, 2017

The miracle of it all

You may have been wondering - have we literally fallen off the face of the earth?

No, but sometimes it feels like it. Our life is so busy, busy, BUSY. Who knew that Paradise was hard work?

At the end of our mission call last June (gosh a whole YEAR?), we made the decision to stay in Hawaii. Why NOT?! They are crazy enough to actually want us to stay, not just at the PCC, but at the house that we are taking care of. What blessings! We love it here, so it did not take much thought.

We simply transferred from full-time Missionaries to what they term "Stake Missionaries". Otherwise, its the same job, the same house, the same nametags!

What has fallen by the wayside seems to be my blogs. That is something I lament constantly. I hope to repent immediately. There are so many stories to share of the amazing people who live and work here. Miracles happen here everyday, and I should be sharing you KNOW that there is a great work amongst men. Ron and I have come to truly understand Heavenly Father's love and involvement in all of our lives. We see it everyday here. You just can hardly believe the amazing things that happen here. I know I gush, but really - its more repentence, since I know that our friends and family could really use good news, great inspiration and proof of the eternities.

So, my dear ones, please don't give up on us.

Also, we'd love even more to hear from you - how you are, what you are doing.....and when you are going to VISIT US!!!! I mean, really, don't you think it's about time?

Here then, because I don't have enough either the time or the room to describe it in words, is our last year in 21 pictures:

Visiting dear friends in Sequim

.....and family

Going on a trip of a lifetime

...and making memories we'll never forget

Hiking the trails along the islands - on our own....

....and with friends

Letting Ron be Ron

And discovering that there are more adventures to be had!

.....even when they're SCARY ones!

Visits from people we love is the best!

Oh, there are so many more memories, but this is what happens when you become a slacker - it just becomes all so overwhelming.

Hope to bring you a great story soon!

Sunday, December 4, 2016

La'ie Finding Refuge From the Storm: Pearl Harbor and Beyond

As part of my service at the Polynesian Cultural Center, I write blogs for the website. This helps to preserve culture and history. It also brings people to the website, which is a great thing. We want the world to know about the Polynesian Cultural Center and the wonderful island nations we celebrate.

My latest series of blogs have been a particular honor to put together - as it led me to meet and work with three wonderful kupunas (honored elders) of our town. In honor of December 7th's remembrance of the 75th anniversary of the Pearl Harbor attack, I'd like to share these short stories with you - my friends and family. I hope you gain some wisdom, both of the effect and fortitude experienced by our islanders back in 1941, and the beauty of family, faith and sacrifice told in these stories...... Just click on the first link to start reading.

God Bless America!

In  remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the start of World War II, we hope you enjoy this 3 part series describing the events of December 7, 1941 and the ensuring war years from the eyes of three local La’ie/Hau’ula residents, Gladys Ahuna, Joseph Ah Quin and Laverne Pukahi.
SEGMENT ONE: La'ie Finding Refuge From the Storm -
SEGMENT TWO: La'ie Under Martial Law; The Military Takes Charge -
SEGMENT THREE: Mixing It Up in La'ie -
We are proud to share their memories and to honor the brave soldiers and citizens of Hawaii, as they faced war in their own backyard.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Imagine, if you would........

I wish, more than I could say, that I was a great painter. It is my passion, and the fact that I have no skills in that vein is a cruel joke on my ego.
That said, I envision a picture. If I could paint it, I would But I'll simply have to use words as my brushstroke.
Imagine, if you can, a tree - a shining white tree - as described in 1 Nephi 11: 8

"And it came to pass that the Spirit said unto me: Look! And I looked and beheld a tree; and it was like unto the tree which my father had seen; and the beauty thereof was far beyond, yea, exceeding of all beauty; and the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow."
I see this beautiful tree, laden with fruit just in the background, a little elevated from your level, as if you (the viewer) have to climb a bit to get to it.. Just in front, I see me. I am walking with great urgency towards the you, my arms outstretched. My face is filled with such joy at the very sight of you. Just a few steps closer is my Beloved bending towards you, with one arm outstretched, prepared to lift you up and onto the level of the beautiful tree.
I'd hope everyone could enjoy and gain peace from such a picture, but it would be no surprise that first and foremost, I would want this to be a reminder that we are here, and will always be here for our family. Dear family, we are here...just like when you were little - Dad helping you climb that seemingly impossible cliff. Me just wanting to hug the stuffin' out of you when you were safe home again. Being a parent/grandparent never changes. We are always seeking our loved ones, calling to them, welcoming and helping them to partake of all the blessings Heavenly Father has to offer.
We are far from perfect - so very, very flawed, in fact - so we can only hope that we are found worthy enough to share this amazing message. We truly find comfort in the knowledge that Heavenly Father loves all of you as much as we do - and MORE! In a world of sorrow and pain, this is the one great truth - love really does ultimately conquer all!
What a wonderful feeling, having this much love to share. I wish I could do this great message justice. I especially hope that whenever we come to mind, it will be this picture that our family sees. We love you so much. We rejoice in you, pray for you, cry with you and ache to know that you truly understand how much you mean to us.
That is my Sunday thought - simple, gushy and really, truly heartfelt.

So, can't show you the picture in my head....but, I love THIS message a lot too

Friday, May 27, 2016

BACKSTORY: The Once Secret Recipe for PCC's Famous Pineapple Bar Recipe!

One of the fun aspects of my service in the E-Commerce Dept., at the Polynesian Cultural Center is helping with the on-line social outreach. I get to work with Facebook, Pinterest, Blogs, and internet sites.

So it was no surprise when I was added as a member of the I Love BYUH (Hawaii) Facebook Group. It has become wildly successful. Alumni and current students and employees alike are busily posting and reading about past and present happenings, memories and pictures. I have become quite involved in answering fun questions, such as "who is in this picture" and "does anyone have....."

What I find really fun is how much our alumni miss the great food they ate while working at the Polynesian Cultural Center. "Does anyone have the recipe for Chicken Long Rice from Prime Dining?" "How about Panipopo?"

Each of these recipes were easy to find and post. But the most requested recipe proved to be the hardest one......a wonderful treat called "Pineapple Bars"

We have it, of course, because we serve it every day. But since we are just starting to enter the busy summer season, it took a few weeks for Chef to find the time to send it over. I opened up the email with great excitement, and then ran into my first hurdle. Let’s just say, if you ever need to feed 100 or more people, I’ve got the recipe for you!

Obviously I needed to reduce quantities. Luckily, there are some awesome apps for that. But I didn’t want to simply trust those measurements, especially since I needed to round off quantities when converting from multiple gallons to measuring cups.

So I decided that I would have to test the recipe first.

Here is where I ran into my second hurdle.

There were no instructions. Zilch. “I’ll just have to figure it out”, I decided.

My third hurdle came in the form of two mystery ingredients.  The first mystery ingredient was ‘modified starch’. That turned out to be cornstarch…..easy enough! The second ingredient is simply called macaroon mix. There is no macaroon mix at the store. I did find a number of macaroon cookie recipes online. They usually call for shredded coconut, egg whites and sugar. So, I made enough cookie dough to equal the required 4 cups, and kept on going with my great, experiment.

Needless to say, my first attempt bombed royally. My pineapple bars came out more like a gooey candy. My husband, however LOVED it and gobbled them up quickly. Still, they weren’t the PCC Pineapple Bar that we know and love, so it was back to the drawing board.

Chef invited me to come down to Food & Beverage to watch them make the cookies. This proved invaluable. For instance, I discovered that the Macaroon Mix is dry. So, putting the egg whites in is the main reason my first attempt failed so badly.

Now I was ready to return to my humble kitchen and try it again. But first, I had to solve the Macaroon Mix dilemma. It turns out that King Arthurs Flour carries a dry Macaroon Mix. Sadly, it is not stocked in any grocery store on Oahu.

So, I went to the King Arthur’s website, where I was able to look up the ingredients listed for their Macaroon Mix. I discovered that it contained shredded coconut, corn starch, sugar and DRIED egg whites. Finding them was a bit of detective work, but easily solved by going to the wedding section of Walmart where they actually stock powered egg white.

I didn’t have any measurements for putting this dried macaroon mix together, of course, so it was back to the kitchen.

After my fourth attempt, and numerous taste testers, I can confidently present to you the TRUE PCC Pineapple Bar recipe. And don’t worry, the experimentation part may have been a little challenging, but the actual recipe is EASY!

·         NOTE: Pan – I suggest a 10 x 15 baking sheet, at least 1 ½” high. I actually ended up using a roasting pan – I know…but it’s what I had and it measured out perfectly.


PCC Pineapple Bars
 Yield 32 pineapple bars

Crumb Mix

4 cups of coconut macaroon cookie mix (available from King Arthur Flour)

*see below to make your own mix!

4 cups of sugar

1 cups of bread flour

2/3 cup of shortening

Place all crumb mix ingredients into a bowl and mix on low until it resembles fine crumbs. Place to the side.

      *Make Your Own Macaroon Mix  

(use if you weren’t able to find Coconut Macaroon Mix):

2 1/2 cups shredded coconut

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/2 cup cornstarch

1/2 cup dried egg whites (can be found in the wedding section of Walmart)

Stir until all ingredients are well combined. 

Pineapple Filling Mix

2 large (20 oz) cans of crushed pineapple – drained thoroughly

1 ½ cups of sugar

1 cup of modified starch (cornstarch)

Mix all the above ingredients together, set aside.


Preheat oven to 320o 

I suggest a 10 x 15 baking sheet, at least 1 ½” high. I actually ended up using a roasting pan – I know…but it’s what I had and it measured out perfectly.

These pictures show how PCC get's the job done! 
Pineapple Bar - step 3

Fill pan up ¼ of an inch deep with approximately 2/3 of the crumb mix. Using a piece of sheet pan liner (wax paper), press down on the crumb mix firmly to make it even.

 Pineapple Bar - step 2

Spread the pineapple spread evenly over the crumb mix.

Pineapple Bar - step 4

Top with remaining crumb mix. Using wax or parchment paper, pat down gently, but thoroughly 

Pineapple Bar - step 1

Bake at 320 degrees for forty five minutes. Cool. Cut into fourths length way, and eighths width way.

Pineapple Bar - step 5