Staying Sane During the Holidays

It’s amazing, isn’t it? It seems like Thanksgiving just passed – and indeed it did, one week ago! – and now the holiday season is in full swing. When Thanksgiving falls at the end of November like it did this year, it seems to be an incredibly fast downhill ride into the holidays, and the feeling of being out of control can quickly take hold. Continue reading “Staying Sane During the Holidays”

ice ice baby!


Ululani's Shave Ice. OMG.
Ululani’s Shave Ice. OMG.

When I was in Maui last fall, I set out on a personal mission to find the island’s best Hawaiian shave ice. Hey, someone had to do it!

Many had told me about Ululani’s in Lahaina. “Get it with ice cream on the bottom,” tweets read. And I thought to myself, “Bleah. Ice and ice cream mixed? Nasty!” But when I got to the window and mulled over the flavor options, I saw another order being prepared, with ice cream on the bottom.

Lee and his Tobi’s Shave Ice.
Lee and his Tobi’s Shave Ice.

OK, I can do this. I ordered a small (you should see the sizes!) passion orange with macadamia nut ice cream on the bottom and a sprinkling of li hing mui powder on top.

Oh. My. Goodness. I was in love!

And craved that shave ice every day of my trip. I did return to Ululani’s several times. I’m not ashamed.

However, as part of my mission I had to try others, and I did.

Local Boys' Shave Ice
Local Boys’ Shave Ice

Before taking on the Road to Hana, Lee Abamonte (a fellow travel writer and driver for the day) and I stopped by Tobi’s Shave Ice in Paia before we started out on the winding roads. It was good and tasty and refreshing, but it wasn’t Ululani’s. (Sorry, Tobi!)

Wendy Harvey, who’s local to Maui and knows her shave ice, raved about Local Boys Shave Ice in Kihei. And so I stopped for a bite when exploring the south of the island. I loved the ordering counter and took the cup filled with yumminess to the beach. What a gorgeous setting! The shave ice was good, but…

I made it back to Ululani’s as often possible during my trip, and even bought my husband a t-shirt (he wasn’t with me on the trip) to remind me of the iced goodness.

I long for Ululani’s and talk giddily about it to others who’ve had the pleasure to experience it. Nothing here in Florida comes close to its soft, silky texture.

Sheraton Maui's adult shave ice
Sheraton Maui’s adult shave ice

And then I hear about an ‘adult’ version of Hawaiian shave ice at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa. What? Imagine lounging by the pool or on the beach whilst indulging in Rum Rainbow, Spiked Pineapple, or Tropical Cactus. Don’t like those flavors? You can create your own!

As if I needed another reason – when’s the next flight to Maui?

Have you had Hawaiian shave ice? Which is your favorite?

temperatures are rising – cool down!


With temperatures quickly rising, we’re all looking for ways to cool down. I saw these incredible looking and tasting drinks developed by mixologist Kerry Mekeel at the Hotel Wailea in Maui. One sip and you’ll be island-bound in no time!

Huli pau!

image002Kula Country Lemonade

2oz vodka of choice
3 spearmint leaves
3 fresh very ripe strawberries
1 cup fresh squeezed lemonade

In a blender add strawberries and lemonade, after thoroughly blended, add to vodka and shake well. Tear the mint leaves to release the flavor and scent, and then add to cocktail.

3 strawberries to one cup of lemonade should make enough juice for 2 cocktails.


image004Liquid Sunshine

2oz vodka of choice
1-2 teaspoons of fresh juiced ginger (depending on taste)
Top glass with fresh liliko’i juice* (passion fruit juice)

Shake and enjoy!

To make fresh liliko’i juice you need 1 liliko’i per 1 cup of water. Use all of the insides of the fruit: seeds, pulp & juice. To sweeten, you can use organic cane sugar, pure honey or agave nectar. If you use sugar add 2 tablespoons per 1 fruit/1 cup water. If you use honey/agave, use 1 tablespoon. Liliko’i can be too tart for some, so make sure the fruit is in ripest stage. Also, add more or less sweetener according to your personal taste.


Pina Colada on the Rocks

2oz silver rum of choice
2 wedges of fresh squeezed lime (discard lime after squeezing, adding it makes drink too tart)
Fresh pineapple juice
Fresh coconut water

Add rum and lime juice to glass, then add 1/4 pineapple juice to 3/4 of coconut W\water, to fill the remainder of the glass. For a sweeter drink, add the juices in equal amounts.

Maui: By Sea


First published on, November 2012

MauiA visit to Maui can’t be complete without getting out on, in, or below the water’s surface. Whether you’re a surfer (board or kite), snorkeler, SCUBA diver, or sailor, the waters that surround Maui and the Hawaiian Islands are spectacular, and certainly command time to discover.

When I arrived on the island, I couldn’t wait to try surfing – again. Traci (of and I took surf lessons in La Jolla, Calif. several years ago, and after a hiatus of all this time, I made arrangements for lessons to try it again. After all, what better place to really learn to surf than where the sport was born and first gained popularity!

There were six of us for lessons at Maui Wave Riders – I was teamed up with Mike from Houston, and Don from Mesa, Ariz., and our surf coach was JB. JB was fantastic! He sat our group down on boards and went over safety precautions and the six steps to get up on the board (I put some of them into yoga terms): cobra, table, lunge, warrior one, look where you want to go, SURF! Looking out into the water, the waves seemed to be tiny, and I wasn’t sure how there’d ever be enough momentum to get up and be pushed along.

Our trio spent about 45 minutes in the water, taking turns paddling out to JB, waiting for the “perfect” waves and trying to catch them. At first, I actually got up and partially rode a few waves in, ending with a back flop into the water each time. But the feeling of gliding across the water’s surface was exhilarating, and addictive! I can’t wait to try surfing again, but before I do, I’m definitely going to strengthen my yoga practice!

Looking back at the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa from snorkeling

I’m an Army brat, and when I was in pre-K through second grade (my life is defined by where I was doing which grades in school!) my family lived on Oahu. Yes, I was a very lucky girl. It was there that I learned to boogie board (Bellows Beach) and snorkel (Hanauma Bay). I’d heard that the snorkeling right off the beach at our hotel, the Sheraton Maui Resort & Spa, was some of the island’s best. I couldn’t wait to don my mask and snorkel and take a look around under the sea!

Living in Florida for more than 11 years, I’m a wimp when it comes to water temperatures: I hardly go in here unless the Gulf is a toasty 85 – 90 degrees. Like I said, wimp! After gasping at the water’s temperature (really, not that bad), I sucked it up (and in!) and started taking a look around. WOW! What visibility, and what sea life just below the water’s surface and right offshore. Brightly colorful fish flitted about, what I call needle fish floated along oblivious to the people around, and cool black and white Black Durgons floated effortlessly through the water.

What I was really hoping to see while snorkeling, though, was a sea turtle. I volunteered for a while at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, working with the rehabbing sea turtles and became enthralled with them. But I had never seen one in its natural habitat.

This sea turtle swam right by me!

On my last day at the Sheraton, I had about 45 minutes to spare, so I threw on my bathing suit and again donned my mask and snorkel, borrowing fins from the resort’s kiosk. As I snorkeled my way out and around the point of Black Rock and its aquarium-clarity waters, I spotted a small, white-tipped shark quietly peeking into the volcanic rocks’ crevices. “Cool!” I thought, and continued along. When I rounded the point, I came to the incredible underwater formations that provide haven for the different fish. And then I saw it – a Hawaiian Green Turtle effortlessly swimming along. I was thrilled – I couldn’t believe it! Several other snorkelers were in the area, and we all enjoyed the magical moments. Until one of the snorkelers touched the turtle’s shell. That’s when my animal activist-self broke free.I stuck my head out of the water and splashed the guy ‘til he came up, too. “HEY! You can’t touch him. DO NOT TOUCH THE TURTLE!” I was livid… absolutely no respect for wildlife on this guy’s part. (I later learned that there’s a $2,000 fine for disturbing sea turtles.)

But I digress…

The group that was watching the turtle pretty much broke apart when he swam away, and I was practically alone. I was about to go back to the beach, when I looked out into the hazy blue of the ocean just beyond. And here came another green turtle. He came right towards me, and then veered off to investigate the rock below. For a few moments of bliss, we swam together, and with the black and gray shark below. It was incredible, and an experience I won’t soon forget. (Watch the video here!)

There is another way to sneak a peak into life under the sea. A friend of mine, Nancy, tried the Atlantis Submarines Maui with huge plate-glass windows that provide views, without getting wet! A good option if you’re with someone who might not be into snorkeling or SCUBA, but still interested in the underwater world.

Back above the water’s surface, seeing Maui from out on the water is another vantage point that shouldn’t be missed. Our group took a sunset sail with the Pacific Whale Foundation (a portion of the proceeds go directly to the foundation to support research). Not only did we have front row seats for yet another awe-inspiring sunset, but incredible views of the island, and parts unseen from land. Of course, I love being on a boat at any time of day, but there is something magical about watching the day end floating above the water’s surface.

A visit to Maui is filled with myriad choices – on land, in the air, and on and in the water. I visited for a jam-packed week and did and saw loads, but there’s still so much left untouched. Whether visiting for a week, a month, or longer, there’s always something new to see and do in Maui. And I can’t wait to get back and continue the experiences!

Maui: By Air


First published on, November 2012

paraglidingMost times, the only way I experience a place by air is when I fly in. But not during my recent trip to Maui! During the week I was on the magical island, I had the chance to experience the island by air – in three different ways!

By zip-line:

I’ve been zip-lining a few times now, the first with my parents in Alaska and again in Denver this summer, and I always take advantage whenever I have the chance. And Maui was no different! GoZip Maui does things a little different than I’d done in the past, and was it ever fun! Rather than having to use my gloved hand to brake prior to gliding into the platform, their gear did all the work — all I had to do was sit back, relax and take in the views. And what incredible views they were!

The course I went on with our group had four lines  – one of the largest in the U.S.! — all offering unique views. The lines were really fun, too, in that they were parallel, so two people could zip at the same time. We glided hundreds of feet above a huge Chinese bamboo forest, and then towards the Pacific Ocean just beyond the coastline. The day was perfect, and we could seemingly see forever as we glided and flew through the air. What made the trip even more fun were our guides Katlyn, James and Rodney — all fun-loving and high-flying!

By helicopter:

Blue Hawaiian has been flying over the Hawaiian Islands for more than 25 years, and I couldn’t wait to take my first helicopter flight with them! When making the reservations, I was asked that oh-so-delicate question: “How much do you weight?” Now, I realize the importance of weight on a helicopter, but still. And then, I was weighed just prior to boarding – after days of indulgent eating! Fortunately, the number on the scale wasn’t disclosed to me, or anyone in my group!

After the weights of all five of us passengers plus the pilot were entered, the computer determined where we’d all sit once on board. I was back row, second in from the door. And off we went on our flight over West Maui and Molokai! Captain Tim showed us vantage points otherwise inaccessible – amazing coastlines, rolling valleys, waterfalls and more. The entire experience was breathtaking. And a little queasy. Now, I don’t typically experience motion sickness, but my stomach did start feeling a little off during the flight! But I’ll do it again, no question!

By glider:

Since high school, I’ve been intrigued with flight, and had even wanted to take flying lessons at one point. That never happened, but when I had the chance to go paragliding, I didn’t hesitate! I got up early one Sunday morning and met Dexter at Proflyght Paragliding. After signing my life away (not really, but there were several initials and signatures provided!), I joined Dexter and a van full of pilots for the 25-minute up the hillside. We passed the 4,500-foot “Echos” Launch and made our way to the 6,500-foot “Ferns” Launch. I didn’t have any hesitation as the van went up, up, up the winding road, and the camaraderie amongst the guys was terrific – they talked about past flights, tips for better flights, and a lot about kite surfing, which many of them were getting into. It seemed to me like a natural fit, anyway.

It’s no surprise Dexter is considered one of the best pilots around – his calm demeanor and voice had me relaxed and excited as we ran (“Faster! Faster! Faster!” he called) off the hillside and into the air. (Watch the video here!) There we were – effortlessly gliding through the air, catching thermals and rising even higher up; sailing down and around and back up again; and all the while, Dexter explained the why and what of what we were doing.When we got to the “Ferns,” I left Dexter to ready our sail. He gently finessed myriad wires into place, laid out the sail for take off, and then called me over. I climbed into my harness, put on my helmet and before I could muster any nerves, he asked if I was ready to go.” Sure!

After about 20 minutes of weightlessness and defying gravity, we came in for an easy landing. And in my mind, I was already planning my next flight. It was – and I don’t say this word often or even at all – awesome.

I’m not sure when I threw any underlying fears aside and took the air in these three different ways without any hesitation or concern, but am I ever glad I did – what a fascinating way to get a different perspective on any destination! And I can’t wait to do all three again – soon!

Maui by Land


First published on, November 2012

rainbowWhen approaching Maui by air, it’s immediately apparent that the island is filled with extreme varieties of landscapes. From the verdant, rolling hillsides to the waves thundering against the hard volcanic cliffs to the roads that weave their way across and around the island. The best way to really see the island, though, is to get onto it!

Driving in Maui can be an adventure in and of itself, especially if you aren’t used to driving on narrow, winding, hill-filled, cliff-hugging roads, like me. Or, when the rental car agency gives you a monstrous Dodge Charger when you regularly drive a Mini Cooper, like me. But it can be fun

There are two famous drives in Maui: the famed Road to Hana and the West Maui drive. Both are filled with those winding, hilly, cliff-hugging roads, and both offer very different, very dramatic and breathtaking vistas. Whichever drive you choose — or even if you choose both — be sure to carve out several hours so that you can really take your time to enjoy all of the stops along the way.

Road to Hana

When we drove the Road to Hana, we didn’t have much time so making any stops was impossible. The road is very lush, winding through the hills and valleys of the eastern side of the island with occasional glimpses of the Pacific Ocean. At the end of the road, and after a slightly perilous 10-minute cliffside hike, we found ourselves at the Red Sand Beach, or Kaihalulu Beach (the Hawaiian name). There’s a swimming area that’s naturally protected from the crashing ocean just beyond, creating a kind of wave pool. A terrific way to spend an afternoon — if you have the time!

West Maui Drive

The West Maui drive couldn’t be more different than the Road to Hana. Rather than lush and tropical, the west side of the island is arid and pretty much void of any plant life, but still incredibly beautiful in its own right. The twist on this drive is, there comes a point on the north side where the state road ends and an unmaintained road begins. Rental car agencies aren’t too keen that their cars be driven on that road, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen. Regularly. Of course, with my behemoth of a car, I didn’t even attempt to make the drive, rather stopping at the end of the state road and turning around.

There are plenty of highlights to stop and see along the West Maui drive, including dramatic overlooks, watching surfers and snorkelers far below, and the Nakalele Blow Hole, which requires a small downhill hike and a bit of a sense of adventure; remember, the hike is uphill on the way back to the car!

The Ocean’s Edge

An ocean lover, I couldn’t wait for my Coastal Walk and Tidepool Exploration with Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ambassadors of the Environment, based at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua. Our naturalist, Chelsea, led my friend Nancy and I along Maui’s western coastline, pointing out nuances of the landscapes, sharing Hawaiian folklore about flowers and plants found along the path, and telling us bits about the history of the island and Hawaiian culture.When we got to the tidepools along Kapalua Bay, that’s when I reverted to being a kid again. And it was fantastic! We crept along the volcanic rock, peeking into the flowing pools and the world below where tiny fish and crabs make their homes. Chelsea was fantastic, finding creatures to show us, and then putting them gently back into their environments. The find of the day was a shingle urchin —  it didn’t look real! I’d never seen anything like it! Simply incredible!

After our coastal walk and tidepool exploration, Nancy and I walked out to the Dragon’s Teeth on Makalua-puna Point — more incredible volcanic formations, and also sacred Hawaiian ground. Mesmerizing!

Maui is just 727 square miles, but there’s so much to see and do, this is but a very small sampling. I can’t wait to return and explore the island even more!

Most times, the only way I experience a place by air is when I fly in. But not during my recent trip to Maui! During the week I was on the magical island, I had the chance to experience the island by air – in three different ways!