Musings, Mac Nuts, Mai Tais, and a Little Music

It started with an email I received a few days ago from Ahualoa Farms in Honoka’a, Hawai’i, and ended with a pretty close to perfect Mai Tai last night.

I love connecting the dots. But, before I do, l want to pay a little tribute to Kaulana Pakele the lead singer of Mana’o Company, who tragically lost his life while swimming off Makaha Beach Park on Memorial Day. “Moloka’i Slide” has a special place in my heart because it was the genesis of this wonderful business that has dominated my life for the last 14 years. . . . .another story for another time. I come back to this tune time and again and have always considered it a celebration of a life well lived and one to look forward to. R.I.P Kaulana and thank you.If you want to play and sing along with your uke, here’s the song sheet for “Moloka’i Slide that we use in our songbooks at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat.

Kaulana Pakele and Mana’o Company with my favorite rendition of “Moloka’i Slide,” the song where it all began:

The people. The music. The traditions. The natural beauty of the islands and cultural heritage. I love it all and want to share it with you….including some of our favorite foods. One of the first stops I make on our way to Hawi for the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat is the Waimea Town Market at the Parker School, held  every Saturday from 7:30 am to noon. This is where we first became acquainted with the good folks at Ahualoa Farms in Honoka’a, on Hawai’i Island’s north shore.

If you’ve never had a fresh, and I mean really fresh, macadamia nut grown in Hawai’i, with nothing but a light dusting of sea salt, you are missing one of life’s true guilty pleasures. And while you can get mac nuts with all kinds of spices and seasonings, other than possibly simply coating them with thick, dark chocolate, why would you want to mask that pure, subtle, and wholesome taste of a simply roasted nut?

Granted, macadamia nuts are notably high in fat, 21 grams per ounce! But, oh, what that fat can do! You can read a summary of the many health benefits to be had from eating an ounce of macadamia nuts each day (and a couple of precautions) in Medical News Today.  The hardest part may be limiting yourself to just one ounce.

Suffice it to say that my perfect trail mix, with just the right amount of carbohydrate, fat, and caffeine to keep me powered up for a steep climb ahead is a little 2oz container filled with 1 oz. of Dark Chocolate Covered Coffee Beans and 1 oz. of Sea Salt Macadamia Nuts.

And dang!  I just spread a little of the Macnella Chocolate Macademia Nut Spread on a slice of fresh French Bread and there’s no going back……….

Lucky for us, Ahuloa Farms is having a 20% off sale now through the fourth of July….so this would be the perfect time for you to visit their website and explore.  (Plus, if you hit $80, shipping is free!) Now that I know how good they are for me, I’ll be adding a couple of bags of their Large Pieces to my order to use in my home-made granola…..Let me know if you’d like the recipe.

So, how did we get from there to the near-perfect Mai Tai?

When my last order from Ahualoa Farms arrived here in California a few days ago, I got to pining (again) for Hawai’i, most specifically that moment—shortly after we arrive in Hilo, after we have picked up our rental car and have gotten out of the airport—when we’re sitting at our favorite table overlooking the lovely koi pond at Ponds in Hilo.

Then, I know we have arrived. The weight of the journey (which probably started at 4 am) leaves us and the joy of being back in Hawai’i wraps all around us.

Jordan orders a beer, I order a Mai Tai.  And we share an order of the Furikake Seared Ahi, one of our favorite meals.

If you want to take a moment to get in the mood right now, it really doesn’t get much better than Amy Hanaiali’i singing “In Hilo Town.”  But if that’s a little too slow for you, and you want to play along, skip ahead and join John Cruz singing “Island Style.” (Click here to download the song sheet.)

Amy Hanaiali’i sings “In Hilo Town:”

John Cruz sings and plays “Island Style.”  Grab your song sheet and play along.  You’ll learn to sing it like it was meant to be:

Even with the music, though, it is difficult to recreate that moment at home in California. Believe me.  I have tried numerous times. And I have given up any attempt at duplicating the furikake seared ahi. But, after a bit of trial and error, I have come up with a darn good Mai Tai that uses fresh lillikoi syrup that we used to get at the Farmer’s Market in Hawi, just across the street from the Kohala Village Hub, home of the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat. For me there is no other single flavor on the planet that invokes the gentle sea breezes of Hawai’i more than the tropical scent and taste of fresh lillikoi. (I’m such a sucker.  I just planted two passion fruit plants in my front yard hoping I’ll get some fruit.) In the meantime I’ll substitute Aunty Lillikoi’s “award winning” Passion Fruit Syrup in the following—experimented with, and argued over—recipe for a very close-to-“real” Mai Tai.

The Very Best Mai Tai, ever.


  • 1 ounce Bacardi Gold (or light) Gold Rum
  • 1 ounce freshly-squeezed lime juice
  • ½ ounce Grand Marnier (or Orange Curacao)
  • ½ ounce Lillikoi Syrup (or. . . . .simple syrup, if you must.)
  • 1 ounce Myer’s Original Dark Rum
Combine the Gold Rum, lime juice, Grand Marnier, and Lillikoi Syrup in a cocktail shaker and fill halfway with ice. Shake for 10 to 15 seconds and strain into a chilled rocks glass. Add a few cubes of ice and finish with a dark rum float.

To float the dark rum, place the tip of a spoon perpendicular to the inside edge of the glass with the curve of the spoon toward the ceiling and the spoon pointed downward.Slowly pour the dark rum over the spoon toward the inside of the glass and it should make a nice dark layer of tasty rum on top.Garnish with a wedge of lime and (optional) a sprig of mint.

You will note that this recipe lacks the pineapple and orange juice people often associate with Mai Tai’s and that it does require fresh lime juice. But, the original Mai Tai, concocted at Trader Vic’s in Oakland, in 1944, was a sipping drink, meant to showcase the rum. Replacing the Orgeat in the original (which is difficult to find) and simple syrup with lillikoi syrup is our own take on it. I also add more fresh lime juice because. . . . .well. . . .Vitamin C. Gotta stay healthy!

That’s it for now!  Be sure to order your nuts while you can still save 20% and I’ll be back with more music and Ukulele Adventures news by the time they arrive.

In the meantime, here’s a little IZ and “White Sandy Beach of Hawai’i” to take us out. Assuming you might like to learn this song, I’ve also included a couple of excellent tutorials.  The first one, by Jody Kamisato, is an easy karaoke-style play and strum along.  You can down-load the song sheet for “White Sandy Beach” here. (Hint: If that Bbm is a little tricky for you, just play a Bbm6 instead, by simply barring the first fret.)

The second truly exceptional instructional video, by Aldrine Guerrero (Ukulele Underground) teaches a finger-picking pattern for this tune so you can play a little more like IZ did.  (The finger-picking pattern starts about 2 minutes into the video.)

Have fun!    Stay safe.    And please wear a mask and wash your hands often, so we can all sing and play together again soon.



R.I.P. Courtney Gonzales.  This one is for you.

Karaoke-style tutorial for White Sandy Beach, by Jody Kamisato:

If you like this lesson with Aldrine Guerrero, you can find many more at Ukulele Underground.


New “Special Events” for 2017

As we wait for confirmation from some of our staff members, I thought you might like to see some of the “special events” we’ll be hosting at the Hawai’i Island ‘Ukulele Retreat, October 15 – 21. (These are in addition to our usual round-up of ongoing ‘ukulele, bass, lap steel, and hula classes and individual workshops.) We’ve gt a little bit of everything: star gazing with a pwo navigator, hikes to ancient temples, an ‘ukulele beach party, outrigger canoeing, and more.

Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau 

Those hoping to absorb some local history can join us for a short (1.8 mile) early-morning hike and photo opportunity along the lovely Kohala coast, strolling past inviting crystal clear coves before  a very short scramble up to Maka o Hule Navigation Heiau, an ancient  temple of upright stones that point, with remarkable accuracy, to ancient seafaring destinations thousands of miles away, a testament to the unsurpassed navigational skills of the ancient Polynesians.

At least a century before the Europeans made landfall in the Americas, Polynesians were actively engaged in trade with various peoples in South America and North America, introducing the locals to chicken and returning to Polynesia with sweet potatoes. They voyaged out of sight of land for weeks at a time, navigating thousands and thousands of miles of open ocean without a compass or chronometer, using their encyclopedic knowledge of the sun, the moon, the and the stars, tides, winds, currents, clouds, and ocean swells, animal migration,  weather patterns, and changes in the color of the sea. It is said that a Polynesian navigator could tell by the shape of a mid-ocean wave whether or not it had crested an island in the past 2 weeks.

A brotherhood of experts,  trained to have acute powers of observation and memory, the Polynesian navigators were also priests responsible for conducting the rituals of their profession, invoking spiritual help in their voyages, and passing their profound skill and knowledge on to the next generation.  This they did with songs or chants, repeated until mastered and memorized, at temples such as Maka o Hule, where we will have opportunity to view and appreciate the sacred stones pointing across the vast and tempestuous Pacific Ocean to the islands of Tahiti, the Marquesas and the other Southern Islands.

Optional Outrigger Canoeing

While you wan’t be paddling across vast stretches of the Pacific, through a special arrangement with the local canoe club, we can offer hour-plus rides and paddling instruction down at Kawaihae to retreat attendees for a $100 surcharge.   What a great way to experience Hawai’i as the Hawaiians do and to kick-off our annual Beach Party BBQ and KaniKaPila, held this year at Spencer Beach State Park.

Pu’ukoholā Heiau

But if outrigger canoeing doesn’t float your boat, you can join us for a short walk along the Ala Kahakai, a National Historic Trail, followed by a ranger-led tour of Pu’ukoholā Heiau, one of the best-preserved and most significant temple sites in Hawai’i, built by Kamahameha the Great and dedicated to the war god, Kū.

This is just a smattering of the Hawaiian history to be learned  here…..all within a few steps of Spencer Beach, one of the few white-sand beaches on the Big Island, where, after our tour, we will eat and swim and snorkel and kanikapila until they toss us out.

But wait!  There’s more……

Star Gazing at Kawaihae

“If there are conflicts, the navigator must resolve them; if there is sickness, the navigator’s responsibility is to heal; if there is damage, the navigator must repair it.  His kuleana is to sail and bring back gifts to his home island.”

Remember the Polynesian navigators we were just talking about?  Well, before we head home for the evening, we will be joined by Chadd ‘Ōnohi Paishon, pwo navigator and captain of Hawai’i Island’s own voyaging canoe, Makali’i, and the voyaging organization  Nā Kālai Wa‘a.  As the star begin to fill the sky, Chadd will guide us on a fascinating star gazing voyage through the darkness, a perfect way to cap an extraordinary day at Kawaihae.

How did we ever get so lucky?

And all of this is in addition to daily classes and workshops in ‘ukulele, lap steel guitar, bass, and hula, not to mention ongoing evening entertainment in one of the lovliest locations on the island, the Kohala Village Hub.

Wouldn’t you like to join us?  Registration is now open and we still have rooms available  in all categories.  But hurry, they won’t last.

Register Now