Queen Emma

Queen Emma was a fascinating character in Hawaii history. We previously learned that she was a co-founder of the Queen's Hospital, which is today a large and well-respected medical facility in Honolulu. Let's find out a little more about this former first lady.

There was opposition to Emma's marriage to King Kamehameha IV because she was not a full blooded Hawaiian. She was one-quarter Caucasian and seen by some as 'not fit' to become queen. Nevertheless, she and the King were married in 1856. The king and queen had a son, Albert, who was born on May 20, 1858.

During the hotter summer months, the family retreated to cooler Nu'uanu Valley estate. The building that became the Queen Emma Summer Palace was built in Boston in 1848, shipped to Hawaii, and assembled on Oahu. Owned by Emma's uncle, John Young, the house was given to Emma in 1857. The Nu'uanu upland breezes and moisture were a welcome relief for the family from the heat of downtown Honolulu. Beautifully landscaped with many native Hawaiian plants, the grounds frame this restored historic landmark and museum that houses many of Queen Emma's personal possessions, as well as those of her husband and son. Only a short drive from Honolulu at 2913 Pali Highway, the house is a famed tourist spot that features many items of historic interest.

Sadly, Prince Albert Edward Kamehameha died at the age of four in 1862. His grief-stricken father, who blamed himself for the boy's death, died a year later. King Kamehameha IV was only 29.

To ease her pain at the loss of both her son and husband, Emma devoted herself to many causes, among which was organizing a women's hospital auxiliary to assist the patient at the Queen's Hospital. She and her husband had previously established the Church of Hawaii, which was an offshoot of the Church of England. In 1865 she sailed to England where she and Queen Victoria raised $30,000 for the construction of St. Andrews Cathedral. Emma also helped found two schools, St. Andrews Priory School for Girls in Honolulu and St. Cross in Lahiaina on Maui. Queen Emma also had a part in the founding of an Episcopal secondary school for boys, eventually named 'Iolani School.

Known affectionately as the "Old Queen" after Kamehameha's death, Emma never remarried. She uniquely retained many aspects of both the English and also the Hawaiian lifestyles. She was a lifelong friend of Queen Victoria and had many of the characteristics of a typical tea-drinking English lady. She was baptized into the Anglican Church, and yet she wrote chants in Hawaiian and loved fishing and camping. She was beloved by the Hawaiian people and took very seriously her role as a protector of the people's welfare.

King Kalakaua, who succeeded her husband, always reserved a seat for Emma at any royal occasion, but she rarely attended. In their fundamental beliefs, Kalakaua was pro-American, whereas Emma was pro-English. In 1883, Emma suffered the first of several small strokes and died tow years later at the age of 49. She was given a royal funeral and was laid to rest in Mauna Ala, next to her husband and son. Emma was truly the first Hawaiian public figure to live a tradition of cross-culturalism that is a huge part of Hawaii society today.


Tropical Flower Arrangements

Tropical Flower Arrangements

Warm tropical breezes, sunshine, turquoise blue water and the scent of sweet flowers—the romance and beauty of Hawaii is treasured all over the world. What better way to bring aloha indoors than by creating eye-catching flower arrangements? Welcome your guests with a striking display of heliconia, anthurium, ginger or dendrobium orchids along with plenty of greenery. Hawaiian flowers last a long time, so are perfect to adorn your home or office.

The art of flower arrangement began in the East, and supposedly the Chinese were the first to put cut flowers into a container with water. The Japanese people have also created their own form of design as a meditative practice. Hawaii’s myriad selection of beautiful flowers and greenery beg us to create our own indoor floral atmosphere.

Here are a few tips to consider when creating your artistic display.

  • Before you begin selecting flowers, consider where your arrangement will be placed. Choose sizes and colors that will complement their location.

  • Prepare your vase and flowers. Presoak some floral foam, if you will be using it, and cut your flower and leaf stems on a 45-degree angle with a sharp knife or scissors. Some florists recommend cutting the stems under running water.

  • You can use floral tape to create a grid over the opening of the vase to support your stems.

  • When you are ready to begin arranging, start with the flowers that will create the main shape and focal point.

  • Allocate each flower its own space in the arrangement and don’t overcrowd the vase.

  • Balance your colors and shapes into a pleasing arrangement.

  • If you are just a beginner at flower arrangement, a good rule of thumb is to use an odd number of flowers for the basic composition. Then build on this with a variety of shapes and contrasting textures. The natural curves and bends in the foliage and flowers will help you to create a harmonious piece.

Properly cared for, your Hawaiian tropical flower arrangement can last up to 2 or even 3 weeks.
To extend its life, keep it between 65 and 80 degrees F. Change the water and re-cut the stems every other day. Avoid placing the flowers in direct sunlight, close to heat sources or in a draft. Enjoy your beautiful results, and take pride in your accomplishment!




A riot of brilliant color almost year-round describes the beautiful bougainvillea plant or bush. Bougainvilleas love full sun, so thrive in Hawaii, as is evident by the many multicolored displays almost everywhere in the islands.

Bougainvillea is actually native to the coast of Brazil, discovered by the French botanist Philibert Commerson in the 1760s. He named it for his friend, Captain Louis A. de Bougainville, who was an explorer from Canada. They can be grown in many climates, outdoors in tropical areas, or indoors where it’s less warm.

Bougainvilleas are fast-growing thorny plants that are sometimes used as ‘security plants.’ They have spiny, cascading stems that end with colorful ‘bracts’ of red, orange, pink or purple above small white flowers. Because of their thorns and spiky twigs, the plants can create vibrant barriers along property edges, or around other areas you don’t want people traffic. However, don’t plant them too close to swimming pools or parks and playgrounds where bare skin could get scratched and irritated by its sap.

How Do I Grow Bougainvillea?

Soil & Water

Bougainvillea will thrive in almost any soil as long as it is well-drained and fertile. In containers, the plants like their roots crowded for good flowering. Bougainvilleas are salt tolerant, also, so can thrive near the ocean if protected from the wind.

A healthy bougainvillea in a container will drink a lot of water during warm periods, and less when it’s cooler. Inspect your plants regularly, and learn when they are close to wilting. Then give a good, thorough soaking just before the wilt stage. Once established, the plants require little water. If overwatered, bougainvilleas will not flower and may lose leaves or even die from root decay.


Bougainvillea plants grow best with small amounts of nutrients constantly available. Be careful not to over-fertilize. Use a high-phosphorus fertilizer with additional iron and magnesium. Slow or timed release fertilizers are acceptable.


For best results put your bougainvilleas in full sun. If you want good blooming give them at least 5 hours a day of full sunlight. Don’t expect your bougainvillea to flower indoors, though. Even though the plant may thrive, any flowering indoors is a bonus.

Bougainvilleas are relatively pest-free plants, but may suffer from worms, snails and aphids.

Now that you know how easy they are to grow, why not try cultivating these showy plants around your home? Your neighbors will surely be impressed!


The Practice of Qigong

The Practice of Qigong

Have you ever thought about trying Chinese medicine? Like the more commonly-known practice of T'ai Chi, Qigong (pronounced chee gung) is a powerful system of breathing techniques, gentle movement, and meditation used to cleanse, strengthen, and circulate life energy (qi). Qigong practice leads to better health and vitality and a tranquil state of mind. And it can be very easy to learn.

You may be skeptical about claims to ‘balance your energy,’ or techniques that create a healing effect using nothing but your breath and a few strange-looking movements. Qigong is also known as ‘moving meditation,’ and it’s helped people overcome physical, mental and emotional issues - even reversing disease. A few of the conditions treated with success are migraines, sinus problems and allergies, weight loss, diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, digestion issues, hearing and vision problems.

Qigong can be practiced standing, seated, or lying down, and is suitable for young and old.

Here's how Qigong works: You repeat a series of simple movements while breathing calmly and deeply. You use your imagination to guide your breath into the major energy points in your body.

In Chinese medicine, there are energy pathways that connect the different parts of your body, also known as meridians. If you've ever had acupuncture, these are the points used during treatment. Funny thing is... you can actually feel stimulation along these points. It creates a tingling sensation, like an electro-magnetic force is moving along invisible highways in your body.

It’s impossible to explain all the movements and philosophies of qigong here, so this is just an introduction to whet your appetite. Breathing, visualization and imagery are used extensively, along with easy physical movements. Here’s a simple beginning.

Find a comfortable chair and sit upright. In Qigong meditation, both feet must be pointed straight ahead. Your tongue rests against the roof of your mouth, just behind the teeth. The tongue is against the palate because it acts as a bridge for the energy to pass from the top of the head on down through the esophagus.

Your chin should be pulled back so that your spine is straight, to allow a smooth flow of energy. Your hands should rest on your legs, face up.

Proper breathing is from the diaphragm. Though there are certain exceptions, you should breathe through the nose. Let the diaphragm expand downward. It is important to pause between inhaling and exhaling, to collect the chi when you are manipulating its force.

Focus your eyes on a distant point (or on a candle, if you have one), and listen to your breathing. If you like, imagine a rainbow and focus on its colors. Let the stress of the day roll away. If something comes into your mind while meditating, don’t scold yourself; just acknowledge it and push it aside. Then focus again on your breath.

With just a little practice, you too can balance your life’s energy and become more calm and stress-free!


Aloha Wear

Aloha Wear

Is there anything cuter than a visiting older couple walking hand in hand down Kalakaua Avenue, he in a bright aloha shirt and she in a matching mu`u mu`u? Something about our warm breezes and tropical sunshine brings out the romantic in those who only have a short time to experience it.

Aloha attire is Hawaii’s own style of dress, and it can go anywhere from casual boardshorts at the beach to more formal occasions involving long dresses, candlelight and white tablecloths. There’s surf wear, business attire, and more formal aloha dress that features hand-painted designs printed on fine fabrics like silk or cotton lawn.

While most locals wouldn’t be caught dead in the brightly-colored flowered shirts and sundresses that the tourists wear, some actually search out the most gaudy to create their own look. If you go people-watching at the local malls and in Waikiki, you’ll see just about any combination of colors and patterns. Aloha attire isn’t exclusive to Hawaii any more, either! On the mainland you’ll often come across gentlemen wearing Hawaiian shirts where you least expect them.

Aloha shirts worn by local men are usually short-sleeved with collars and often printed in a variety of floral or leaf patterns, Hawaiian quilt designs or tapa. Some newer patterns even feature cars, boats or drink logos. For business wear, shirts are often made with what’s called a ‘reverse print.’ In other words, the shirt is sewn so that the backside of the fabric, which isn’t as bright, is worn outside. It’s not sewn that way by mistake!

Women’s aloha wear is a little more varied than the men’s—you’ll see cap-sleeve blouses, short-sleeve silk shells, above-the knee flirty dresses, knee-length casual prints and longer more formal dresses, and don’t forget the traditional mu`u mu`u in several lengths. Colors range from bright and beautiful to more subdued black with muted flowers. There’s a style for every mood!

Appropriate for almost all occasions in the islands, aloha attire goes perfectly to your friend’s wedding, dinner out with the boss, your nephew’s first birthday party, your cousin’s engagement luau—even your auntie’s funeral, which after all, is a celebration of her life!

There are many stores that offer this special Hawaiian clothing, from less expensive casual shirts and shorts to more exclusive (and pricey!) designs. Some establishments feature intricate custom-made items that are often hand-painted on exotic fabrics. Whether you are a visitor or a local, your search will be rewarded when you find the ideal outfit for your occasion—a fun time at a sports event or a romantic dinner under the stars.