My Travels: The Road to Hana | Maui, Hawaii

On our last full day in Hawaii (*single tear), which happened to coincide with the husband’s birthday (*smile) A.J. and I drove to Hana, a small town on the east side of the island. Everyone who goes to Maui has most likely heard of this Drive To Hana. We were told that this eight hour drive to and from Hana would be the most beautiful part of our trip, but also the most treacherous.

Although there are lots of Hana tours available, A.J. and I decided to make this drive ourselves using our rental car and a $10 tour CD. How difficult could it be?

Very.

The drive along the Hana Highway is a 68-mile stretch of winding narrow roads amidst the Maui rainforests. It is treacherous because these 68 miles are made up of more than 600 sharp curves, most of which circle around tall cliffs on one-lane roads. Therefore, you have to drive really really slow. We made it, and had A LOT of fun, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that it was a nerve-wrecking experience.

Along this drive, which was originally built for sugar plantation workers, we stopped for pure sugar cane juice and freshly made banana bread, visited a black sand beach and a red sand beach, and took pictures of many beautiful waterfalls. Tour Hana through some of my photos below.

As I said earlier, there were many blind turns. I didn’t get any good photos of them, but here’s a great one from Hawke Backpacking. Scary looking, right? And it’s not even one of the one-lane turns!

There were a ton of waterfalls. Some you had to hike to and some were visible right off the highway. All of them were gorgeous.

Some other must-see sites included the black sand beach (The Honokalani beach, located at the Waianapanapa State Park, is a beach that was formed by a lava flow that fell directly into the ocean while hot, causing the molten lava to quickly solidify and shatter into smaller pieces of black rock sand.); the red sand beach (The Kaihalulu beach, an isolated beach that you have to climb up rocks to find, gets its dark red color from the crumbling red volcanic cindercone hill that surrounds the bay, giving the water its beautiful azure hue.); and the Seven Sacred Pools (Located at the Oheo Gulch, this coastal area just outside of the town of Hana is made up of beautiful trails, waterfalls and small pools that you can swim in if weather permits. You have to pay to visit this specific park, but if you have enough energy left to endure some more trails, it is beautiful and so worth it.).

If you love beautiful sights, visit Hana in Maui, Hawaii. And if the drive scares you, just go with a tour guide. Here are a few tips for your journey.

+ Get plenty of rest the night before.
+ Wake up bright and early. It’s going to be a long day.
+ Eat a hearty breakfast and pack road trip snacks and a healthy lunch. There aren’t many food stops along the way, but there are a bunch of beautiful picnic areas where you can stop and enjoy a sandwich.
+ Bring cash. There are a few stops where you will want cash for fresh Hawaiian treats.
+ Wear a bathing suit under your clothes for impromptu swimming, and bring a jacket as some of your stops will be rainy and chilly. (It is a rainforest after all.)
+ Bring both walking shoes for hiking and sandals for the beach.
+ The trip is long, but it’s not a rush to the finish line. Just take your time on the highway and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Stay tuned for one final post about Hawaiian fashion. So long Hana.

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What I’m Reading: May to June, 2012

I made a little more headway with my reading list these past two months. (Yes, I’m a little late on my reading update. It happens.) This round up includes tales of gothic horror, historical intrigue, passionate pen pals, second chances at love, and unraveling friendships. Let’s dig in.

The Thirteenth TaleThis book, which came recommended by a friend, was an unexpected delight. It started out a little slow as it set the scene for biographer Margaret Lea. One night, Margaret receives a mysterious letter from the elderly, best-selling author Vida Winter. Vida asks Margaret to write her biography, which is a huge deal because Vida’s past has always been shrouded in mystery. Although Margaret is a decent character, her story drags on a little bit. It isn’t until Vida begins to tell her story that The Thirteenth Tale picks up speed and perpetually keeps me on the edge of my seat. In the vein of gothic novels like Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, The Thirteenth Tale digs up family skeletons, uncovers spooky ghosts and captures others’ mad existance. Pick this up if you love a good gothic novel that’s filled with surprise after surprise. 4 1/2 STARS

Wench. Lizzie is a slave in the 1850s. Once every summer, her master takes her to the resort Tawawa House where other slave owners also take their mistresses. Here, 13-year-old Lizzie meets an ensemble of supportive women who are also slaves. While at this resort, these women discuss the possibilities of escaping, and it is here that the depths of these women’s relationship to their master unfolds and reveals its complexities. While a couple of the women resent their owners and long to be free, Lizzie doesn’t, confusing her feelings for love and fearing the unknown. I enjoyed how this period piece told a story from the women’s point of view. Although it was remarkably sad, and sometimes unbearable, I was completely absorbed in the story. Unfortunately, the ending left me feeling unsatisfied. 3 1/2 STARS.

To Sir Phillip, With Love. I love the Bridgerton books from Julia Quinn, and this one was no exception. In fact, it may be my favorite of the series so far. Eloise, the fifth of the Bridgerton children, starts writing letters to Phillip after his wife (Eloise’s cousin) unexpectedly dies. At first she writes a simple letter that offers her deepest sympathies for the departed, but after awhile Eloise and Phillip become cherished pen pals. I think what struck me most about this book was Phillip. Talk about your handsome but tortured soul. This guy had some real demons in his closet that he needed to face, and two adorable children who unfortunately were witness to them. But Eloise, one of my favorite characters from the series, takes complete control of the siuation and brings love back to a house that has been void of it for so long. Another Bridgerton hit for me. 5 STARS

Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand. Love gets a second chance in this adorable story set in a small, British coastal village. Recommended to me by a friend, this book is about Major Pettigrew, a retired widower who recently meets Jasmina Ali, a Pakistani shopkeeper. As their friendship grows, they start to fall in love, but the close-mindedness of their community challenges their love and sets itself up to tear them apart. I definitely found myself rooting for these two characters—although the Major was much more interesting and likeable when he was with Jasmina—but this book was a little hard to get through. While my friend was most likely attracted to the fluid writing, the vivid detail, and the charming characters, the plot wasn’t gripping enough for me. There was too much focus on a pair of hunting guns, and I found it hard to identify with both the Major and Mrs. Ali. The generation gap was too wide for me and the cultural differences were emphasized too much. But check it out if you’re in the mood for a sweet story with a focus on British charm. 3 STARS

Forever In Blue: The Fourth Summer of the Sisterhood. The traveling pants return for one last summer. I picked this book up because I figured, Hey. This is the last traveling pants book of the series and why not read it during the summer. The fifth book, Sisterhood Everlasting, recently came out (which focuses on the girls ten years later), and I have been anxiously waiting to get my hands on a copy. If you’re a fan of this series, you’ll recognize the format and same plot points: drama, trust issues, ridiculously fabulous vacation plans, lots of inner monologues, and lasting friendships. A set of best friends separate during the summer. Bridget goes on an archeological dig in Turkey, both Lena and Tibby face overly dramatic boy problems that could probably have been solved with better communication skills (haven’t we been through this with both Lena and Tibby already?!), and Carmen learns a valuable lesson about self worth while at a drama camp. The similarities in obstacles the girls face is too repetitive when comparing it to the first three books, but go ahead and read it if you enjoy spending time with this particular cast of girls. 3 STARS

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For this post, I linked up with Blonde…Undercover Blonde for Book Club Friday.

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My Travels: Snorkeling in Molokini Crater and Turtle Town | Maui, Hawaii

Snorkeling in the Molokini crater and Turtle Town was definitely the highlight of my trip to Maui, Hawaii. The husband and I heard about it from the staff at our hotel the Ka’anapali Beach Club, and they helped us book a snorkeling trip with the catamaran Quicksilver. Although we had to wake up super early (like every fun adventure in Maui), we had an amazing experience we’ll never forget.

Photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Molokini is an underwater volcanic crater that formed more than 150 thousand years ago. During World War II the U.S. navy used the back side of Molokini for target practice because it was shaped similarly to a battleship. Today, it is protected by a marine conservation, which has transformed it into a seabird sanctuary. This means that people are not allowed to step onto land without government permission. It is, however, a popular port for boats.

The water around this crater is crystal clear, attracting snorkelers and scuba divers alike. The coral reef is lush with sea urchins and hundreds of different fish. It’s fun to snorkel here most of all because of the location. The crater is beautiful and the underwater life is both colorful and amazing. The husband even spotted an octopus! The lifeguard on duty was skeptical at first, asserting that he probably only saw a similar-looking sea urchin, but after a second take she was excited to say that it was in fact an octopus. And one of the larger ones that can be found in that area!

We also visited Turtle Town on our snorkeling adventure. Although Turtle Town is not actually a specific destination, it is the name of the area that attracts the most sea turtles that day, and it’s usually about a mile from Molokini Crater. In my opinion, it was the most exciting of the two places we visited. Not only did I see a handful of sea turtles, but I swam with them for a good half hour. Not to sound too cliché, but I couldn’t believe it. They were so large and just swimming around doing their thing (cleaning their shells, according to our captain), despite all the snorkelers above them staring at their beauty.

This area is also crystal clear and will lend you to see an array of beautiful coral, sea urchins and fish that I couldn’t name if I tried.

If you find yourself in Maui, go on this snorkeling trip. Even if you don’t board the Quicksilver, there are a ton of boats that will take you out to Molokini. However, the Quicksilver comes highly recommended by me and the husband. The crew is very friendly; the boat offers a delicious BBQ lunch; and, best of all, they sell $1 Mai Tais as soon as the snorkeling portion of the trip concludes! What more could you ask for?

Stay tuned for a few more tales from my Hawaii adventure.

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My Travels: Attending a Luau | Maui, Hawaii

Greetings! I hate to have to apologize for my lack of blogging, but I’m going to have to do it. I’m sorry dear readers! But I recently returned from the state of Hawaii and haven’t had the mindset to blog in awhile. (I’ve been stuck on “Maui Time.”) But I’m back and ready to share everything with all of you!

The husband and I decided to get away during this hot (hot, hot, hot!) summer, and an opportunity opened up for us to visit beautiful, sunny, PERFECT Maui, Hawaii. We stayed at the Ka’anapali Beach Club, which is on the north shore of the island, and scored the fabulous ocean view that welcomed you at the start of this post. Not too shabby, eh?

While we were there, we had a few things we wanted to check off our “Hawaii List” (other than sitting by the beach, relaxing and doing absolutely nothing save for tanning and maybe reading pages of Fifty Shades of Grey). One of the things on our list was attending a luau.

We chose the Drums of the Pacific Luau at the Hyatt Regency (only a few miles down the road from our hotel). We were greeted with a shell lei and a mai tai, seated at a long table where we could chat with the other luau attendees, and entertained with traditional hula dancing. What a blast! I wish our seats weren’t so far in the back, but you couldn’t ask for a better venue. We were seated outside in an area across from the ocean.

The show started as soon as the entertainers unveiled the Kalua Pua’a (in other words, the big ass roasted pig), digging it out of its hole and parading it around for all to see. Then they opened up the all-you-can-eat buffet. Delicious! There was Kalua Pork, Huli Huli Chicken, Grilled Fish, Lomi Lomi Salmon and Pacific Ahi Poke, as well as salad, noodles, roasted vegetables, tropical fruits and Hawaiian rolls. And don’t forget the assortment of desserts, including Pineapple Cake and Bread Pudding, or the open bar.

After dinner, the show began. The routine featured dances inspired by Polynesia, Tahiti, Samoa and New Zealand. It supposedly told stories of the islands, but I had a hard time paying attention to those elements as I couldn’t take my eyes of the shirtless men or the dancers’ hips. (How do they do that!?) The show ended with a fantastic fire eater. Ah-mah-zing.

Afterward we just walked around the hotel grounds, hand in hand. You couldn’t ask for a better evening.

Stay tuned for more tales from my trip to Maui!

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Summer Concert Trends | The Thread Affect

{Sarah, me and Kim getting ready for Buzz Beach Ball, 2012.}

I recently wrote a blog about summer concert trends for The Thread Affect, and today it went live.

The Thread Affect is a lifestyle blog by Megan, a 20-something who lives in Chicago. Much like me, she loves to write about food, travel, fashion and entertainment.

Go check it out! Right now! Hurry!

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I’m Always The Hostess: Brunch-Themed Bridal Shower

This past weekend I had the opportunity to throw a bridal shower in honor of my younger cousin, April. And as someone who loves any chance to throw a good party, I started pinning ideas right away.

The Decorations

For ambiance, pastels like light pinks and pale blues took center stage: I crafted a homemade flag banner with leftover cardstock from my scrapbook collection and filled my home with peonies, zinnias and rose of Sharon from the Lawrence farmer’s market and my very own garden.

 

The Food

I wanted to keep everything simple, so I put together a menu that featured all brunch-themed foods. Here is what I included on my brunch-themed menu:

+ Quiche Lorraine (Thanks for the delicious sausage quiches, mom! They were yummy!)
+ Crustless Zucchini & Basil Quiche
+ Maple Bacon
+ Biscuits with jam (Shortcake recipe courtesy Rustic Fruit Desserts.)
+ Donut and fruit skewers (This adorable idea is courtesy Val So Cal.)
+ French Toast Cupcakes






The Drinks

I also put together a mimosa bar. This is the best idea ever, in my opinion. I want one ready for me at all times throughout the day. To create a mimosa bar, simply buy two kinds of juice (I chose orange juice and cranberry-raspberry juice), pour them into decorative pitchers, flank them on either side of a bottle of champagne, and top the bar off with fruit garnishes. This was my favorite thing about the party (aside from the donut and fruit skewers). It was there for the party to make their own mimosa as strong (or as weak) as they like. And the kids loved sneaking away with some of the orange slices.

The Fun & Games

For entertainment I put together a couple of games for the party to delight in: One little game called “The Groom Says,” which is essentially a fill-in-the-blank game that includes statements made by the groom, and another game thta involved toilet paper. This one produced lots of laughs and was definitely the favorite of the afternoon. We adorned the bride-to-be and another one of our cousins in toilet paper in an attempt to turn the toilet paper into a beautiful wedding dress. As you can tell, we failed. :)

Then of course, we ate, opened presents, and celebrated April’s happiness.

 

So that’s a wrap everyone! Everyone seemed to have a great time, and I had a fabulous time planning the whole thing. I can’t wait to throw another party sometime soon. And here’s my advice to anyone throwing a bridal shower: Keep the menu simple and don’t get lost in all the endless food options. Pick a few key dishes and let them really shine. Also, enlist the help of someone special. My husband kept me sane by helping me clean the house and my mom helped out in every possible way. Thanks you guys!

Leave me a comment and let me know what you think!

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My Health: 3 Soda Alternatives

I have a confession. I love Diet Coke. It is a delicious lunchtime refreshment. But it is also the bane of my existence. Everywhere you look, a new study is being published about how bad soda is for you. It has been linked to obesity, elevated blood pressure, kidney disease and certain types of cancer. And just because I favor diet sodas doesn’t mean I’m safe from the risks. Diet soda contains aspartame, and according to WebMD, one liter of an aspartame-sweetened beverage can produce about 56 milligrams of methanol. Ew. Just … ew.

So, I’ve been trying to cut back, limiting myself to one a week. And it’s for the best really, because as Diet Coke and I have spent some time apart, I’ve been able to get acquainted with a few delicious soda alternatives. None of my picks are soda alternatives in that they’re carbonated, but in that they are delicious and much better for me.

1. Green Tea Rejuvenation by Yogi

This drink has been helping me start nearly every morning off right. I like to drink it iced, as hot tea always seems to scald my tongue. This specific green tea is blended with lemongrass and spearmint. And unlike soda, it is antioxidant-rich and has the potential to fight cancer and heart disease, not cause it. Score!

2. Pomegranate juice by POM Wonderful

A somewhat recent study suggests that an acid contained in pomegranate seed oil may actually help decrease belly fat. While I’m not sure if I’ve noticed any difference in that area of my body since I started drinking it, I figure it couldn’t hurt! I never drink too much of this super-rich drink in one sitting—a tumbler-size glass is usually enough for me—because unlike other pomegranate juices I’ve tried, this is pure pomegranate juice. It is made without preservatives and cheap filler juices.

3. Very Vanilla soy milk by Silk

This vanilla-flavored beverage has just as much calcium as regular milk, but it tastes like a sinfully delicious milkshake. Although I am not seeking a dairy-free alternative, or anything, I can’t help but enjoy what is essentially dessert in a glass. Plus, it contains a fair amount of essential fatty acids, proteins, fiber and antioxidants.

What about you? Are you trying to quit the soda habit? What have you replaced it with? Give me some ideas in the comments section below!

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