Posts tagged ‘Pahoa digs’

August 24, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Channel your inner scientist with molecule jewelry

Jewelry inspired by nature is not hard to come by. Flower and seashell rings, dolphin necklaces, and bird-in-flight earrings are common, but what about the composition of everything in nature?

The serotonin necklace proves to be Hanna's bestselling item. Photo Credit: Raven Hanna

Raven Hanna creates jewelry centered around exactly that: a jewelry line devoted entirely to molecules, called MadeWithMolecules.

Hanna is a self-proclaimed “scientist-turned-artist.” While many artists struggle to find their niche, the idea for molecule-focused jewelry came to Hanna while reading a book about neurotransmitters.

A picture in the book depicted the serotonin molecule. It stood out to Hanna as beautiful – both in an aesthetic and symbolic sense – and she wanted a necklace to highlight that molecule.

“We all could use a little bit more of just like, ‘I’m OK, I’m satisfied, I’m happy, everything is good,’ which is what serotonin brings,” said Hanna.

Hanna scoured the Internet in search of a serotonin-molecule necklace, but to no avail.

Having kept a sketch book for years, she decided to take it upon herself to create the serotonin-shaped necklace, which is now her best-selling jewelry piece.

She acquired her undergraduate education from the University of California, Santa Cruz, graduate education from Yale University, postdoctoral education from UC Berkeley, and another year of postdoctoral studies classes back at UCSC.

Hanna discovered during her postdoctoral studies that she was unhappy doing laboratory work. On a trip to Hawai‘i after her three-year post-doc, she looked out into the Kaua‘i ocean and thought, “Wait. I don’t want to be a scientist, I want to communicate science.”While she originally aspired to become a scientist, she loved the idea of being a science communicator more.

“[The experience on Kaua‘i] really changed the course of my professional life,” said Hanna.

The sterling silver caffeine necklace can be purchased for $90. Photo credit: Raven Hanna

Little did she know the serotonin necklace she created would unlock the opportunity to communicate science in a creative way.

Friends urged Hanna to sell her jewelry.

She first took the idea of opening a jewelry business seriously when a high school girl approached Hanna about the necklace in a Gap store.

“It suddenly occurred to me, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m giving someone a science lesson in a Gap store in a mall. This is science communication!’ It sort of struck me that this thing that I had made was [the] science communication that I was looking for, because I was looking for creative ways to communicate science,” said Hanna.

Hanna was making a living off of the MadeWithMolecules jewelry line in San Francisco when she came to a sudden realization.

“I can live anywhere with a post office and Internet connection. … And that got me thinking, where would I want to be?”

Hanna finally moved to the quiet town of Pāhoa on the Big Island last October in search of a place that enabled her to live off the grid, closer to the land and a more “green” lifestyle.

“I’ve made some crucial decisions while I was in the islands that have kind of changed my life, so I’ve always felt a connection [to Hawai‘i] that way.”

She still is involved with science writing, freelancing for Stanford University and UC Berkeley.

But, less than two years after founding the company in 2005, Hanna committed herself to working full-time onMadeWithMolecules.

“I am spending more than full-time hours doing it!” Hanna said laughingly.

Hanna takes custom jewelry orders as well. What’s the most unusual request she’s had? A chemist on the team of Viagra inventors ordered sildenafil citrate, the drug sold as Viagra.

Other molecules available for purchase are dopamine, caffeine, theobromine (chocolate), resveratrol (red wine) and estrogen, among many others.

Endorphins, the molecule that causes a natural high in humans, inspires this beautiful choker. Photo Credit: Raven Hanna

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August 2, 2011

Pahoa digs: Off the beaten path

Musicians, dancers, yogis and yoginis harmonize their beats to form an unlikely band Sundays at Kehena Beach on the Big Island.

Citizens of Pahoa and a few visitors who have strayed off the beaten track play flutes, beat on bongo drums and strum guitars every week on the unofficial “drum circle” day.

Uninhibited souls dance to the smooth beats, and yoga enthusiasts sync their asanas (yoga poses, for the less yoga familiar) to the tunes.

Did I mention that approximately half of the partakers are buck naked?

Kehena, located in the Puna district of Hawaii, is one of the few beaches in the state of Hawai’i that is considered a clothing optional beach.

The black sand beach welcomes all beachgoers: short, tall, big, small, those in bikinis or board shorts, and yes, even those who prefer to go au naturel.

Meeting some really funny characters is inevitable on the shores of Kehena. People from around the world visit, enamored with the secluded location and easygoing aura. Don’t worry though, the general atmosphere of the beach is friendly. It is not uncommon to be offered a freshly-cracked coconut or to be the recipient of someone’s surplus of papaya or mountain apples.

On good days, dolphins can be seen frolicking through the waves. Some strong swimmers take advantage of the opportunity, grab their snorkels and swim out to see the dolphins up close. And, if you’re really lucky, you may be able to catch a glimpse of a whale jumping out of the water.

However, the current at Kehena is not to be taken lightly. Caution is urged when the waves look choppy. A California man drowned in the ocean in December 2006, according to a media release on the Hawaii Police Department website.

A piece of advice that is always good to follow, from the State of Hawaii Department of Public Health: “If in doubt, DON’T go out!”

Despite the possibility of the occasional rough day, the surf at Kehena can be calm and swimmer-friendly. Crowds of people wade in the water for instant refreshment on warm, sunny days. Trees create cool, shaded places to lounge for the ocean-shy, while other treeless areas satisfy sunshine-hungry sunbathers.

Making the trip to Kehena is a unique and rewarding experience. Forget about the fast-paced world, listen to the waves caressing the shore, slow down a bit and melt into the laid-back Hawaiian lifestyle.

This is volume 3 in the Pahoa Digs series. Interested in reading previous installments? Pay a visit to or for the full series.

July 25, 2011

Pahoa digs series: Ning’s Thai Cuisine serves curry, memories

Aromatic spices of cooking curry tickles my nose; a pleasant Thai melody fills my ears with ambient noise. Taken on a journey across the years by the familiar atmosphere, I rest assured that Ning’s Thai Cuisine will give me a delicious dinner that will make my taste buds tingle.

My table orders a slew of different curries: green, red and pineapple. We also order both sticky rice and brown rice. A real likeable aspect of Ning’s is being able to try many different dishes; everyone receives separate plates.

The pillow of rice goes onto the plate, followed by a heaping of vegetable-filled curry. The sauce absorbs into the rice like a sponge, but the rice remains just right, with a certain amount of softness and chew. The smooth coconut milk in the sauce marriages perfectly with the blend of spices.

If there is one thing you learn from reading this article, it is to not pass up the curries if you visit Pahoa town. To do so would be a crime ending in non-delicious demise. The curries are the highlight of the menu.

Don’t forget to order a Thai Iced Tea, which is described by the menu as “a sweet and creamy orange tint drink.” The blaringly orange beverage is a thick, sweetened black tea topped with coconut milk or cream.

Star anise, crushed tamarind and cardamom are occasionally added to Thai iced tea, according to

Ning’s Thai Cuisine is a choice dining spot for locals, and tourists who drop by aren’t quick to forget their experience.

“I had it [Thai food] in Wisconsin, and I had it in Illinoi

s and in Kona, but one thing I can say certainly is that Ning’s surpassed all of them,” says Austin Cole, a visiting University of Minnesota Twin Cities student.

“If you’re taking someone on a date, [the prices] are all good,” adds Cole.

Asked about the atmosphere of the restaurant, he answers and laughs, “the atmosphere… I would say it was casual… But I think everything in Hawaii seems casual coming from a straight-laced Wisconsin kid.”

Not counting desserts or beverages, the menu consists of 45 different dishes: appetizers, soups, curries, entrées, seafood, rice and noodles. Ning’s has it all: sweet or savory, mild, medium or hot. And, believe it or not, nothing costs more than $13.95 on their printed menu. There are so many options, but they all share the same outcome: tasty food and pure satisfaction.

Come in before 4:30 p.m. to partake in the super lunch deal: one of three entrées and a choice of rice for $8.95 with tofu, chicken, beef, or pork; or $10.95 for shrimp, scallops, or squid. The deal entrées change daily. The dinner deals aren’t too bad either: $14.95 for an entrée with rice.

Pumpkin curry makes a cameo appearance from time to time on the specials menu, though not listed on the print menu. Curious foodies can try this delightfully creamy dish at the Maku’u Farmer’s Market, where Ning’s sells several varieties of curry on Sunday mornings.

A webpage is the closest Ning’s Thai Cuisine has to an official website, where they have a neat four and a half stars based off of 37 reviews. It’s definitely an ode to the exceptional food served at the restaurant.

As the day dims to night, the strand of festive, albeit unseasonal, Christmas bulbs flicker punctuated every few feet by a dead bulb, and I think to myself in a state of taste-induced bliss: Yep, it’s just as good as I remember it.

Ning’s Thai Cuisine is open Monday through Saturday 12pm to 9pm and Sundays 5pm to 9pm.

This is volume 2 in the Pahoa digs series. Interested in reading the previous installments? Pay a visit to or for the full series.

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