Rather Than Curse the Darkness, Light a Tiki Torch!

We love to share the occasional Murder Mystery, D&D adventure, or Sci-fi party with friends, not to mention New Year’s Eve, Christmas Eve, Hanukkah and Lincoln’s Birthday.  But it was our first Valentine’s Day without the kids to help plan the party, and share in the fun.

Bea was away at school.

…Eli was visiting her in California…

 …and poor Thom was too sick to venture out of the bedroom.

Romance was out of the question, but that has never been the focus of our Valentine’s Day.  Thom and I find many days and ways to express our romantic feelings for each other.  Valentine’s Day has been a day to share with our wider circle of loved ones, and especially our kids.

I worried that instead of this

…the party would look like this.

Rather than curse the darkness, I lit a tiki torch…

…and celebrated Valentine’s Day with an Aloha Party!

 Aloha is difficult to define.  Literally it means ‘divine breath.’  But it can be used as a greeting, a salutation, a farewell.  It is also used  to express ‘love,’ ‘sympathy,’ ‘compassion.’  It’s as versatile as ‘supercalifragilisticexpialidocious,’ but I like it so much more.

So I tossed the invitations up into the air, lit the tiki torches, set up a goody table, and here’s who the trade winds blew in.

Jim and Aarene came bearing papaya, pineapple, and delicious homemade plum wine.  They are horse lovers, storytellers, and co-hosts of Global Griot, a storytelling program on 90.7 FM KSER.  Aarene is the author of two very well received books, Endurance 101 and Sex in the Library.  Jim served in the navy as a submariner before becoming a professional Santa.  (Which explains the chapeau, and perhaps also why he’s drinking a Bosun’s Mate.)

The party was in full swing when Rick and Sue arrived with a huge Pineapple Upside Down Cake!  I was filling orders for drinks and couldn’t get to my camera, but here they are in their Hawaiian plumage at our 1950s New Year’s Eve party.  They are some of the most creative people I know.  Rick is the art director for WildTangent Studios, and an amazing artist/cartoonist (I own a copy of his book!).  Sue is a prizewinning baker and my exercise buddy, which is only fair, since I have to work off the wonderful treats she brings.  For our sci-fi party, it was an ice creamy concoction they called Ketrecel White, which was tasty but potent!   I can’t believe my good fortune in having so many friends who are unabashed geeks.

See that beautiful cake, just left of the pineapple?  It was delicious!

The best parties start in the kitchen.

Seattle storyteller Norm Brecke and Portland storyteller Anne Rutherford caught us up on their news.  Norm spent the week performing “The Lighter Side of Lincoln,” while Anne had just finished a run of a show called “Scenes From the Future” at The Fertile Ground Festival of New Works in Portland.

What a lovely mix of family, old friends, and new friends too.  My cousins Nancy and Ian…

…brought a carload of people, including my brother Lew…

…and their neighbors, Joanne and Ian, who I met while walking around Green Lake with Nancy and Sue each week.  Joanne seemed always to be walking around the lake one way, and we were always walking around the other way; somehow it seemed natural to just start walking in the same direction.  Joanne is an artist, a quilter, a jewelry maker; every time we talk I find another shared interest.  Her husband Ian has been everywhere, and I particularly loved hearing about his travels in The Galapagos.  It was their first visit to our home, but I hope it will not be the last.

Jim and Megan are storytellers too.  They arrived with their daughter Tara, who I was very pleased to meet (she loves games and is quick to catch on!).

Many of the stories Jim Douma tells are the ones he sings.  He is a folk musician and played for years with the Celtic band, Clay Pipes.  He gave me a copy of his new CD, Flying Blindwhich he made with the help of my friend Rob Moitoza, who also produced and engineered my CDs.

Jim wrote the music and words to this splendid heartwarming collection. His daughters Tara and Meredith sang with him, and Meredith designed this striking and beautiful CD jacket.  Jim and Megan have clearly nurtured and passed on their creativity to the next generation of their family!

I was glad to welcome Gene Gousie and Kathy McMullen.  I did my very first professional storytelling with Gene Gousie thirty years ago!  He came to our wedding with his baby daughter Brie in a snuggly and I swear, he hasn’t changed a bit since then!

The party spilled into the living and dining rooms.  People visited, played games, and once again our home was filled with music and singing.

I was painfully shy as a kid.  I always had a special friend or two, and my sister is and has always been my best friend.  But it has taken me years–decades–to build such a lovely circle of exceptionally kind, funny, creative, and pleasantly quirky friends.  What I love best about a circle is that there is always room for one more.  It gives me such satisfaction when two of my friends who don’t know each other ‘click’ and thus the circle grows.

On Valentine’s Night, the wind was blowing and the air was crisp, but the aloha spirit was alive and well, and kept the darkness at bay.


‘Kākou’ is the word that represents the Hawaiian value of inclusiveness.  ‘Aloha kākou’ means ‘May there be love and kindness between us all.’

Aloha kākou, dear friends!  

All images and words copyright 2014 Naomi Baltuck

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Photo Challenge: Treasure.

Click here for more interpretations of The Weekly Travel Theme: Romance.



  1. scillagrace says:

    Rich treasure indeed, Naomi! The warmth of creative, kindred spirits and the hearth fires of geeks…I’m in your circle in spirit, my friend!

    1. I felt from the very start that we were kindred spirits, dear friend! I am in your circle too!

  2. I especially love seeing the pic of Aunt Rose and Great Grandma Bertha/Betty. All wonderful memories.

    1. Hi Richard,
      It didn’t even occur to me that any of my readers would actually recognize the people n that photo! It always tickles me to see the grand dame of the Aptekar clan (and my Aunt Verna from my mother’s side of the family) wearing their little pointy party hats like good sports who are ready for anything!

  3. What fun you seem to have! Someday I’m popping in…

    1. Dear Lisa,
      There’s always room for one more!

  4. Carol says:

    You have the most amazing life. Thank you for sharing it!

    1. Dear Carol,
      All I can say is thank YOU for caring to share it!
      Except for the occasional travels and parties, I live a very quiet life. I do try, especially since my birdies have flown from the nest, to extend myself further than I might naturally. I am always glad when I do. Thank you for being a part of my circle!
      Aloha, dear friend.

  5. Naomi says:

    What great friends you have! I’m usually content to stay at home and read, but this is a good reminder to me to spend more time with my friends. We like to have dinner together (including the kids), and we make up themes to help us decide what food to make. When too much time has gone by, it’s easy to forget how much fun it is to be together!

    1. Hi Naomi,
      I love dinner parties like that, with themed menus. Like you, we always included the kids. That might be why we share so many interests and still enjoy each other’s company, now that they’re grown.
      Sometimes it’s hard to think beyond the housecleaning we have to do to get ready, but I’m always glad I did, and afterwards we enjoy a house that’s all tidy all at once–at least for a little while.

  6. diannegray says:

    What a wonderful (virtual) time I had here, Naomi! 😀

    1. Hi Dianne,
      Thanks so much for the visit. So glad you could come!

  7. AareneX says:

    It’s always a great party when it’s at your house, Naomi!

    1. Dear Aarene,
      I SO appreciate your company! I still remember the first time you came to one of our parties. It was our 2001 Arabian Nights party, and you and Jim were dressed to the nines, Scheherazade and the Sheik of Araby! You told some great stories that night, and that was the first party I remember where Bea actually got up and told a story.
      Here’s to many more!

  8. Oh you have the best parties! Our Valentine’s dinner of take-out Mexican food is sounding pretty sad now. 😉

    1. I LOVE Mexican food! When the kids were little, we would send out for Thai food, and eat by candlelight on our good china–no cooking, no fuss, and those are some of my fondest Valentine’s Day memories.

  9. Such a great party, Naomi. I’m sure that everyone knows they’ll be having loads of fun if they drop by to your house. Love the idea of the tiki torch. It gives out such a lovely welcoming light. 🙂

    1. Hi Sylvia,
      You are so right about the tiki torch–I have an almost Pavlovian response that whispers into my brain, “Relax. Everything’s okay. It’s tiki time now.”
      I also put them out to greet guests when we have Medieval dinners, but then we just call them ‘torches,’ and hope no one notices!
      Thanks for dropping by.

  10. bulldog says:

    Sounds like my kind of party… any party that begins in the kitchen is a good party, it shows everyone is comfortable in themselves and in the present company… how wonderful…

    1. I never thought about WHY it feels so good to gather in the kitchen, but now that I hear it articulated, I am certain you are right. Thank you so much for the visit, and for giving me food for thought.

      1. bulldog says:

        Friends that feel at ease enough to visit in a kitchen are true friends, almost consider themselves family…

  11. Dorota Rahn says:

    You made me sorry we didn’t come.

    1. Dear Dorota,
      We missed you guys! But there will always be another party!

  12. aschlady says:

    What a delightful look into your world. I love the idea that there’s always room for one more in the circle 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your visit, and for taking the time to share a very generous response. I think that’s why I like circle dancing better than square dancing.

    1. Thanks so much for the pingback! I really loved your post about Treasure.

  13. sue says:

    Being uprooted several times made me feel quite unsettled, ungrounded, and a depletion of spirit. I marvel every day at our extreme fortune in finding you and your fun & loving family when we moved here, Naomi! Friends for life- all 9 of us! The parties will go on and on throughout our life transitions– and it is so heartwarming to be understood. CHEERS!!

    1. Dear Sue,
      I feel the same way about you all. Perhaps because I was such a shy kid, I never took friends or friendship for granted. I also have unusual tastes and interests, and am at least ten years behind in popular culture, so it’s positively a miracle when I find a like-minded soul. So glad we found each other!

  14. Your photos gave me that warm and fuzzy feeling…..a lovely circle of family and friends, Naomi. Aloha kākou ♥

    1. Dear Paula,
      Aloha kākou, and mahalo!

    1. I love your thoughts about this post, and thank you for sharing them. When I wrote it, I never thought of this as being a post about listening or storytelling, but it is very much so. Everyone has a story to share, and I don’t think you can be a very good storyteller if you haven’t learned first to listen. Thank you for bringing your insight into this conversation.

  15. Wonderful story and photos. 🙂

    1. Dear Bea,
      I sure wish you’d been there too! With all your NaNoWriMo pals, we’d have had that much more body warmth to heat the house! It was a good exercise knowing we can still pull off a party with just us old geezers, but I love the good energy you and your friends bring into the house, and we could have used you and your violin in our band.
      Love you so much!

      1. Sorry, wrong number?? I’d hate it if Bea didn’t get this reply. Aloha 🙂

      2. Thanks, Iris–don’t know how that happened, but I appreciate your letting me know.

    2. Hi Iris,

      Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your generous response!

  16. Aloha Valentine’s Party sounds really fun and exciting. Always a joy and an inspiration to see you celebrate life’s moments and holidays with your friends & family. Post after post, each story a beautiful, wonderful unforgettable event. Wishing you and your family all the love & happiness always. Thanks.

    1. Dear Island Traveler,
      I feel the same way about your blog–a celebration of love and life and family! Love and happiness to you and yours–may it always be so!

  17. Madhu says:

    What a special way to celebrate Valentines day! Thank you for the delightful peek into your circle. The shot depicting divine breath is so beautiful. Quite like this post. Aloha kākou Naomi 🙂

    1. Dear Madhu,
      Thank you so much! Last Christmas Thom gave me that tea-light candle-holding sculpture depicting a figure blowing a kiss. The custom of blowing a kiss goes back to when people would kiss holy relics to receive a blessing. When access to the relic or holy place was blocked, people would blow their kiss and hope for the best. For our Aloha party we decorated the statue with a lei, and it seemed a perfect representation of the Aloha spirit–divine breath!
      Aloha kākou, Madhu!

  18. Jamie Dedes says:

    You guys are the kings and queens of party-throwing. (There must be a book in that!!!???)

    1. Jamie Dedes says:

      P.S.: This has given me a hankering for pineapple. 🙂

    2. Dear Jamie,

      That would be a blast. Think of the fun I could have doing practice runs. In my mind I have formatted a book about hosting parties that recreating eras in history. I would call it Past and Repast!


      P.S.Did you get your pineapple?

  19. Divine! A geeky spontaneous party. Just love it 🙂
    My son loves wearing Hawaiian shirts — I think he has four of them and is looking out for more. He hasn’t quite achieved such a distinguished beard, yet, but he’s getting there.

    1. Hi Sarah,
      Something there is about an Aloha Shirt! It tells me a lot about your son–I like him already!

  20. Subhan Zein says:

    That’s a great spirit, Naomi.

    1. Dear Subhan,
      Thank you so much! It is so good to hear from you! I hope you are well!

  21. Beatrice Garrard says:

    I wish I’d been there! Sounds like a blast!

    1. Dear Bea,
      I sure wish you’d been there too! With all your NaNoWriMo pals, we’d have had that much more body warmth to heat the house! It was a good exercise knowing we can still pull off a party with just us old geezers, but I love the good energy you and your friends bring into the house, and we could have used you and your violin in our band.
      Love you so much!

      1. Beatrice Garrard says:

        Thanks, Mom! Love you too!

  22. restlessjo says:

    For a shy kid, it’s all worked out rather well, hasn’t it? 🙂

    1. I do be a lucky ducky! Thanks for the visit, Jo. It’s good to be back in touch.

  23. viveka says:

    I think we all wanted to be at this party … will all those interesting characters – and all that food, singing .. but I miss the dancing. *smile
    Didn’t know you’re living in Seattle, one of my favorite cites .. and I will be going back in near future I hope.

  24. pattisj says:

    I love that you can do this, how blessed are you and your friends in your ever-enlarging circle.

  25. reocochran says:

    Lots of joy shown in your photos of friends and family, Naomi! Love this about your posts! Smiles, Robin

  26. Friends + Food = Perfect Gathering
    It’s a shame so many were unhappy during the party. LOL
    Actually, your photos showcased the joyful gathering beyond words.
    A very nice selection for the challenge, Frizz, hosts. ~~~ : – )

  27. frizztext says:

    hi Naomi, wonderful to see that your home was filled with music and singing!

    1. That is the best kind of party, but you know all about that!

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