Handmade by artist Maria Zuni Plum

Rethinking the Art and Beauty of Christmas


Plumeria Christmas
Plumeria Christmas

There was a time when my husband and I did all our Christmas shopping in one or two marathon, feet-killing days. We’d head off early to a mall, usually Ala Moana, and spend the entire day there, with our list and our walking shoes and our youthful stamina. We didn’t mind it at all. In fact, we were full of Christmas cheer.

Those were wonderful days. When our son came along, it was a bit more challenging pushing him around in a stroller, but we did it. By the end of the day the stroller was laden with bags and boxes and cute sleeping baby.

It was fun.

Then, somehow, we lost our way. I started doing all or most of our Christmas gift shopping online. It was so easy! Free shipping! Point and click! No crowds, no muss, no fuss!

No fun.

After a few years of that, I saw the light and came back around, back to basics. For the past few Christmases, I’ve been shopping strictly local. I patronize local brick-and-mortar shops, and the online sites I buy from benefit

Hawaii artists, craftsmen and businesses.

Maybe it’s because I know of so many talented artists and artisans, and I want to acknowledge their contributions and efforts.

Handmade ornament
Handmade ornament

I’ve recently dipped a small toe into the swirling waters of e-commerce and all I can say is, whew. It’s hard work, no matter how small the enterprise. It’s given me an even greater appreciation for the entrepreneurs and small-business owners I know. They have to be among the most optimistic and brave people I’ve met. I want to support them. I want them to survive, thrive and succeed.

Christmas is such a commercial behemoth that it’s important, I think, to dig beneath the glitter, and there — under the mountains of boxes and gift cards and dollars spent — find the giving, beating heart of the holiday.

I’ve come to believe the way to find true meaning is to go small, not big. Buying local for thoughtful gifts is one way.

Making gifts is another.

Every December, I receive a box in the mail from a dear friend. I see her name and smile. I show it to my husband and he smiles. I tear into the box to find the best shortbread cookies ever made anywhere on the planet at any time in the history of cookie making. I’m not exaggerating. This has been going on for many, many years.

This year, I had something I made myself to give back. I must say, it feels really good.

Cookies and calendar
Cookies and calendar

It’s not about dollars.

Be stress-free this year. Don’t try to impress, unless you’re impressing with love.

Put the Happy back in the Holidays.

Our Christmas Tree

14… 13… 12… 11… 10…

Nooooo!!!!! Say it isn’t so!!!!

Only two weeks until the BIG DAY.  Are you ready?

Well, I finally settled on a card.What do you think?

Yep, Zach is winking at you.
Yep, Zach is winking at you.

I’m thinking about the cookies I’ll bake. Peanut Butter? Chocolate chip? Classic sugar cookies? I usually go a little overboard on the cookies… this is what I did a couple of years ago with my friend, Marifrances.

Yum, cookies
Yum, cookies

So maybe I’ll go a bit easier on the baking this year. I don’t know.

Tree trimmed? Check.

House decorated? Check.

Gifts? Check and check.

I’m giving my best friends calendars this year. I know they’ll love them because they were made with my own little hands. (Well, shot the pictures with my own little hands, anyway)

Flowers of Hawaii 2015 Calendar
Flowers of Hawaii 2015 Calendar

If you’d like to buy a calendar and get it before Christmas, better hurry. You know all about the postal service frenzy this time of year.

Mele Kalikimaka!

Jonipher Kwong & Chris Nelson Wedding

Happy Anniversary, Marriage Equality in Hawaii

Jonipher Kupono Kwong married Chris Nelson shortly after midnight on December 2, 2013– the first day marriage equality became legal in Hawaii.


I have a confession to make: My husband and I lately have taken our anniversaries for granted. We’ve been married 20 years (I think), and when the date comes around we usually look at each other in surprise, then scramble to make dinner reservations.

Jonipher Kupono Kwong and husband Chris Nelson may reach that level of nonchalance someday, but I doubt it. On this, their first anniversary, they feel gratitude and a bit of astonishment. Marriage was something they had to fight for. They were together 16 years before it even became possible, and they’re not likely to take their wedded bliss for granted.

Kwong is the minister at the First Unitarian Church of Honolulu, and as someone who also officiates marriages, he sees a huge difference between same-sex couples and straight ones. For one thing, “It’s actually quite moving,” he says of the gay couples. “Some of these folks have been together for over 30 years. It’s different from straight couples, who’ve maybe been together for a year.”

He hears their stories of struggle, of coming out to their friends, their families and their workplace — and even to themselves.

“It’s so amazing they’ve overcome all those obstacles and stayed together all those years. It just brings tears to my eyes.”

Tears, because he knows what it’s like for each of these partners to be able finally to publicly profess their love for one another.

He has lived the journey from social and religious pariah invisible and unprotected by his own government, to recognized citizen who has the same rights we straight people have the luxury of taking for granted. Now their commitments are recognized not just by the government, but also by “our families, our churches, the people we surround ourselves with.”

According to the state Department of Health, in the one year since marriage equality became state law, there have been 24,955 marriages in Hawaii. Spokeswoman Janice Okubo says 3,015 were same-sex marriages. Of those, 1,034 were Hawaii residents.

And Hawaii isn’t alone. We’ve seen change continue to sweep across the nation since marriage was made equal to all in Hawaii in December of last year.

“It blows my mind,” Kwong says, “at how quickly things have progressed.”

And he says, part of that is the openness that change encourages:

“When you come out to one person, all your friends suddenly know, all your family. It normalizes it so it’s no big deal.”

He has his own story to tell about that. His husband was nervous about telling his grandparents that he was gay and had married another man. He recruited the help of his long-divorced parents to break the news. So his parents planned a dinner to strategize.

“They talked about us for about five minutes. The rest of the time they rekindled their own old memories.”

The upshot? Kwong and Nelson’s love for each other sparked an old flame in Nelson’s parents. They’re now back together and are thinking of getting remarried soon.

As for Nelson’s grandparents, the news, says Kwong, didn’t faze them at all.

“They gave us a wedding present, just like we were any other couple. They attended the reception we had in California like it’s normal. After all, we’d already been together for 16 years. They could see we have a healthy relationship.”

It is normal. And healthy. And no big deal — except, well, love is always a big deal.

“We are on the right side of history,” Kwong says, “and more importantly, we’re on the right side of this moral issue.

“Love transcends fear.” Amen to that.

And congratulations, Jonipher and Chris, on your first anniversary. May you have many, many, many more.



Benefit the Hawaii Foodbank

In the spirit of the season…

Buy a calendar, help the hungry.

This week, December 1 through December 7, I’m donating a portion of all calendar sales to the Hawaii Foodbank. 

Buy a calendar, benefit the Hawaii Foodbank
Buy a calendar, benefit the Hawaii Foodbank


What a great way to turn an act of buying into an act of giving! You can beautify your home while helping to feed Hawaii’s hungry.

Cost: $23.95 plus shipping

For orders of more than 15 calendars please email us for bulk price and shipping or delivery options. You may also email if you need more information.

Merry Christmas and Season’s Greetings to all!


Plumerias in Bowl

Black Friday Weekend Gift!

Why fight the crowds? It’s easy to order my Flowers of Hawaii calendar online.

Flowers of Hawaii 2015 Calendar
Flowers of Hawaii 2015 Calendar

If you order today through Sunday you’ll get a free greeting card with each calendar. If you order two calendars, you get two greeting cards, etc.

"Sunflowers" greeting card
“Sunflowers” greeting card

Each calendar is $23.95.
For bulk pricing and delivery options for 15 or more calendars, email me.

Flowers of Hawaii 2015 calendar