A piece a Week – Our creative family vacay in Maui

We arrived at our Air BnB on Friday the 13th – an ominous day to start our vacay! We arrived on the island and it was very windy and the locals were saying that the winds were wilder than usual. We went to Da Kitchen – to enjoy some tasty Hawaiian fare for lunch. I enjoyed a seared mahi mahi toasted sandwich with taro chips, welcome to Hawaii! The kiddos wanted fish and chips (a huge serving by the way!) and they were very happy. Most of the staff had tattoos and it gave me some ideas before leaving to get a sleeve done! Before we hit our Air BnB at the Haiku Oasis we visited the local organic grocery store Down to Earth with an amazing array of Maui fruits and veges – the lady at the store said try, try and so I did, the papaya and Lilikoi were just so tropical and tasty. We stocked up on Lilikoi (passionfruit), Pineapple, Mango, Avocado and Papaya – foods that are so rare on the mainland they all were such a treat to eat! 
Tropical fruit bounty!!
As it turned out the locals weather report proved to be a crazy wind storm with winds of up to 45 km per hour that blew throughout the whole night while we were tightly snug in our beds. With the ferocious winds tearing down branches and blowing the trees creating such a tremendous noise that we were frightened in the house. I had thoughts of a tree branch falling on the roof and crushing us in the night. Winds were battering the doors and the bamboo blew together and made a scary song! 
This picture looks quite still but the winds were blowing wild!
As it turned out – the morning after proved to be very eventful with no power and with no power at this place, came no running water – as there was a pump to get the water from the water tank! We decided that the whole day we would spend outside exploring Maui. The weather on the Saturday was constant strong winds everywhere we went on the island. It was not just in Haiku – though it seemed that it was the worst hit with all the fallen branches on the road! We had breakfast at the house and headed over to the Upcountry Farmers Market where we found some amazing avocados – bigger than your hand, local Kombucha, OJ and fresh sugar cane in a Mason Jar and Vegetarian sushi made by a local Korean family. The choice of fruits and vegetables was amazing but knowing that we had no power or water we did not want to buy anything to refrigerate. From the market it was a trip Iao Valley State Park which was lovely to see though we got really windblown wandering in the valley to see the big phallic structure. 
I see the phallic rock now!
After lunch we visited the Kealia Coastal Boardwalk in Kihei. Finally we managed to check out the beach at last and it was wild, the waves were terrifying with the wind blowing everywhere! Of course the time was traveling ultra slow with waking up super early and doing our tourist hikes out and about in the wind did not help as we were so windblown and exhausted from a bad nights sleep that we were counting the minutes away. As we were in Kihei I needed to go to the ABC Store to buy a gift for our neighbor – the ABC Store sells alcohol so we scored some red wine to prepare us for our night in with candlelight and no power. 
The answer my friend is blowing in the wind!
From Kihei we wanted to check out the beach in Pa’ia so at least we could get the kids out and about from the car and running on the beach! We drove up to the top of the island from the south to Pa’ia and by the time we got there it had started raining!! Man we were bummed so we just sat in the car and ate snacks checking our phones for the closest dinner plan. In Pa’ia there is no shortage of cafes and excellent places to eat. We decided on pizza which was fabulous at this wood fired pizza place called Flatbread – I highly recommend their Pele Pesto with Maui basil, macadamia nut and garlic pesto with Hawaiian goat cheeses, Haiku tomatoes with olives, mozarella and parmesan, so tasty! The rest of the family had a Mopsy’s Kalua Pork pizza made with free range pork – the biz for meat eaters. 
This plan worked out well though we had to wait half an hour for a pizza due to all the tourists packing in for an early dinner and an escape from the rain. We wandered around for a cup of chai and some hot chocolate and found a super cute cafe called Paia Bay Coffee that would be perfect in sunny weather with its outdoor dining area. They had the best macadamia slice for $5 and their chai was made from scratch and just right. While we were out we did our tourist shopping for our families back home at a store that sold a lot of locally made goodies. I found a beautiful Koa wood bracelet and some decorations for Christmas for family and friends. 
The pizza from Flatbread was perfect with a glass of red wine and while we were in our vacation rental waiting for the sun to go down we were thinking of the plan ahead. What if it takes forever to get the power and water back on, not cool at all! We are on vacation after all so we then decided to look around for alternative places to stay and with a lack of battery on our phones I sent a few emails to see if there was anything available… So this is a winter vacation for a lot of folks, which means that the choices are slim pickings. Saturday night we heard the calming rain and went to bed early as the wind had died down and had a very restful sleep. Getting up to the reality of no water and no power and no battery on your phone meant yikes what the heck do we do  next….
The gorgeous beach in Pa’ia – a surfers paradise
On Sunday we went out for breakfast at Cafe Mambo and as we went in, showered by the rains of the previous day, I asked the lady at the cafe if I could plug my phone in while we had our breakfast. She said, “are you staying in Haiku?” and knew all about the power outage. They had a great choice of breakfast options and some kiddos options such as pancakes and granola with yoghurt that were reasonably priced. I had a fresh croissant with cheese and egg with a cup of chai, that made me happy . I got the phone charged and listened to my voice mail from the owner of the vacation rental and he was very amicable about the situation offering us a free nights stay and apologizing for the situation being “an act of god”. That was great to hear but we had no indication of when the power was coming back on and what is going to happen with no water either. We were in ‘I think we gotta bail now mode!’ I now had half a battery worth of power on my phone to see what is available in Maui as alternative accommodation. We knew that Maui Electric was clearing up the trees and fixing the power in time and apparently that could take two days – our host mentioned in a text. I said to my hubby look there is a room at the Grand Wailea for $600 a night – what do you think? We still had 5 nights left of our holiday and the base rate (a AAA discount deal by the way!) is going to cost us over $3500 in accommodation!!! He was at the stage where at least there will be a pool for the kids, we can relax and we can have running water, power, a fridge and breakfast (we hope?)
Luxury at the Grand Wailea
For the next stage in our Maui accommodation debacle we made a booking online at the hotel and sucked up the cost on the credit card. I then contacted Air BnB HQ to cancel our stay at Haiku. Air BnB were excellent and they refunded our accommodation total and we were out of there. We went back to collect the rest of our luggage and packed the car and headed to the Grand Wailea Resort. As we were checking in there came the reality check – holy shit we are paying over $600 a night in accommodation, there goes the rest of our vacation cash for the whole year!! As my husband and I did not have a honeymoon we justified it as our long awaited honeymoon – after 8 years! Yes it was pretty crazy when we got married and moved to the USA with our 1 year old baby, living in a corporate apartment with crappy cable TV for a month in Cupertino before we settling down at our apartment complex for another 4 years.

Anyhow, that is another story so back to the Grand Wailea – I hesitantly handed over the credit card and then we were stuck in luxury for 5 nights! We were happy to have a room with a TV and 2 twin beds and all the luxuries you could think of but as this was a resort all the added items are charged to your credit card such as a resort tax of 13.42% per night and a valet service at $30 a day. Great, on top of $600 a night more money to shell out, I spoke to the front desk to check if our room rate had breakfast included – nope! We were then truly shafted but hey, we were living large in a fancy hotel with an amazing pool and a gorgeous view of the beach. Yep that is the deal luxury, the view and the relaxation of just chilling out by the pool or the beach all day – certainly a treat! We had to suck it up and do what we could do make our holiday a memorable one! Yes it had been memorable thus far indeed and somewhat stressful! My plan of a true upcountry Maui vacay was done and we were now like everyone else on the island living it up at the resorts. They are definitely a strange beast – a 780 room property full of people from around the world vying for the best place to hang by the pool or hang in your private cabana on your computer for $350 a day.

Looking at the resort and beach – beautiful!
On Monday morning we planned a trip out for breakfast, we landed at Joys Place at Kihei and had a healthy egg sandwich and a smoothie. We were ready to wander out to the Maui Ocean Center for the day, as I had planned it on our itinerary. I thought just a half day trip out there and we will be done but no, the Maui Ocean Center is a wonderful learning experience and we took the kids on a behind the scenes tour for $10 to their lab where we got to see baby turtles and sea horses, an octopus, touch starfish and learn about the invasive moon jelly. We also fed adult turtles, the hammerhead shark and eagle ray in their enclosure. It was fascinating to learn all about Hawaii’s Oceans and all the native names of some of the fish like the humuhumunukunukukuapua and how to pronounce them! 
Baby Honu – so sweet and so close!
We were pretty knackered after a day out so we headed straight for the pool with the kiddos, yes it is relaxing to just have everything at the resort good to go with a collection of pools and a beach right there. The day was done with us in a whirlpool hot tub to relax our feet and tired bodies. That night we found my fave place to eat in Kihei called Coconuts Fish Cafe – here I had an amazing dish of seared tuna with wasabi and a green salad with dried mango, macadamia nights and a pineapple vinaigrette – heaven! My first tastiest Hawaiian meal in days, maybe the fact that it had salad had something to do with it!! That night we wandered down to Kihei and were in time to watch a Maui sunset – that is an experience I will not forget in a hurry! The sun, gentle beach and rocks, a combination of pure contentment. That night we certainly slept well with a full belly and a big day out!
My favorite meal Seared Ahi Salad at Cocnuts
Sunset at Kihei – heaven!
Tuesday we decided that it be the pool and beach day. We had stocked up on supplies for lunch as the menu for the hotel food was pretty much meat based and hotel priced. With the $600 a night to spend unnecessarily it seemed a waste, hehehe!! It was lovely to just relax by the pool and have not a care in the world – let everything float away it was such a lovely way to spend the day. The water slide was a lot of fun and traveling from pool to pool with the mini water slides was super cool too. Missy just wanted to stay in the baby beach pool and practice her leg and arm movements so we tagged parent duties and had some water slide play in between hanging out in a 4 foot beach kiddos pool. We went in the ocean which was lovely and warm and played on the beach for a while, just beautiful and boy did we feel relaxed and warmed by the Maui sunshine.
Because we’re Happy!!
Wednesday I went to the complimentary yoga class and that was just incredible – on the beach doing yoga as the sun comes up is just the BEST thing!! I came back for brekky in our room – yogurt and fresh tropical fruit while the kids enjoyed the TV of PBS Kids. We then wandered down to Sugar Beach in Kihei – absolutely beautiful and not crowded at all with anyone. Gentle waves and a quiet beach with sea stars and a rare octopus in the rock pools. We realized it was the same beach we were at the other day when we were out and about in the wind storm – what a change in the beach, so calm and gentle. After our walk we had lunch at Kihei cafe – I had a fish sandwich and a tasty smoothie, the kids had a Honu pancake (a turtle shaped pancake with chocolate chips covered with chocolate sauce, man what a sugar rush!!) and hot dog with crinkle fries and hubby had a breakfast plate so he was sorted for the rest of the day – as Hawaiian plate lunches is all you need to eat! Mr Ash wanted to try shave ice and he was in for a treat. The Local Boys Shave Ice in Kihei had Shave Ice the size of Ash’s head with lots and lots of flavors like Tiger’s Blood?!? Missy had a small rainbow snow ball with ice cream that was way too much for her and Mr Ash had a large size 3 flavor combo the size of his head. I have to say it really is refreshing on a hot Maui day! When we were enjoying the Shave Ice I spotted our first gecko by the Tiki Bar and what a cutie it was! 
What that is a small shave ice?!?
Green Gecko by the Tiki Bar!
Thursday we had planned a trip on the Road to Hana – friends had been here and said it was a great trip though be prepared for the windy narrow one lane roads and bridges. It was definitely a scenic drive and the roads were very picturesque. Our first stop was Twin Falls a 1.5 mile in and out hike to the falls and back. We stopped at the car park full of cars and a fruit stand that made smoothies, and according to the guide book, we knew we were at the right place. The wander up to the falls was hot and lucky for us the farm there had a lot of beautiful shady trees and places to get cool until the next burst of sunshine. When we finally made it to the falls we encountered a concrete wall to balance upon and then down a couple of stairs to see the little river bed. From here the falls were across the riverbed, mmm OK no one said wear water shoes! So if you plan to do this hike wear water shoes as you are going to cross a small river with rocks on the bottom. We took off our shoes and balanced precariously on the river rocks – I was extremely careful with each step as I was carrying my SLR camera and I did not want to get that submerged! So with the walk across the rocks came a reflexology massage like no other – I felt pressure in the soles of my feet that I could feel hours later. We finally made it to the area where the falls are and took some pictures, ideally you should be in your swimmers here and take a dive under the falls with the other tourists and enjoy the magic. After our pics were taken we headed on back across very carefully as we had to avoid the flood of other people who came across at the same time! Still we made it back put on our shoes and hiked back to the car. We had planned not to do the whole road as we had left late so we did not even make it half way – we saw some lovely sites along the way such as the bamboo forest and the rainbow eucalyptus trees. The road did not seem as curvy as some of the roads in California like Highway 1 in Big Sur and the drive up to Big Basin (that can make you spew!). I can see why the road is so popular with Mustangs as the curves would be a pleasure to drive with your top down enjoying the sites along the way. 
Twin falls in all it’s glory
The precarious walk across to the falls – look out for the tourists!
All in all it was a luxurious trip to Maui and in the end a happy honeymoon with our kids! When I planned the trip I thought OK we can enjoy a cheaper accommodation and enjoy the foods and activities Maui has to offer like whale watching. In the end we enjoyed a relaxing, luxurious and grand vacation in a resort atmosphere that is fine once in a while but as a traveller, I prefer experiencing life as a local and having the Air BnB or Vacation Rental vibe. Staying at a resort is certainly a once in a lifetime experience for us and we have learned a valuable lesson on researching accommodation and locations whenever we go traveling to unfamiliar places.

A piece a week – Emerald stripe shawlette WIP and a Trip to the Emerald city Seattle

This post is a bit late as we were visiting some friends up in Seattle for a week. It was our first time up there visiting the city and it is just beautiful. The sun was shining and the weather was warm. The last time we flew in and drove out of Seattle up the I-5 all the way to Vancouver, Canada to do some visa business and it was raining, cold and not so blue!

This weeks project a super easy knitting project called the Seven and Zero Shawlette (I still have not finished it). I started it just before we left so I could have an easy project to do at the airport and it is an easy pattern to memorize. Oh, it has been a lovely knit and I am looking forward to finishing it as we felt the chill down the park this afternoon, even though it is still summer! I wasn’t up to doing a linen stitch at the beginning so I put a few rows of linen stitch in the centre in emerald green – just like a forest of trees you see from the highways of Seattle. The colour of the yarn is chipolte and is black with deep red throughout, I have a lack of darker scarves in my collection… so looking forward to seeing this for the upcoming season.

While we were in Seattle we visited the Aquarium to see the Giant Pacific Octopus, went to North Bend to go to the Twin Peaks cafe for some cherry pie, went on a bus and travelled on a boat from Lake Union to the Locks, enjoyed a chocolate tour at Theo in Fremont, chilled out by Lake Sammamish and visited the Woodland Park Zoo. It was certainly a mix of fun stuff with friends and very family friendly. After we visited the troll sculpture who lived under the Fremont bridge, I enjoyed the Fremont Sunday market near Theo with an underground car park filled with vintage clothes and other treasures. And on the the streets lot of food trucks and this guy, I really want the ladder back chairs for my table – such an interesting person to talk to about woodworking. I really love Shaker Style furniture as the designs are so practical and timeless.

My Emerald City shawlette in progress

Feeling tentacle of the Giant Pacific Octopus

Monkeys unite at the zoo!

Hanging out with the Komodo dragon

Enjoying one of the many ciders on offer in Seattle

Kids doing what they love – climbing big trees!

Relaxation for the end of the year at Morro Bay and a very Happy 2014!

Happy New Year and it has been a while since posts! I think the idea of holiday was not doing anything except finishing up knitting UFO’s (unfinished objects). We went on a great holiday vacation to the Central Coast of California for some relaxation and chilling out from the regular schedule. 
Heading out on our hike up the beach to the pier

The hike to the Cayucos Pier was long and apparently only 2 miles long, it ended up being twice as long and some! Lucky for us there was food at Cayucos and my hubby had his wallet so we could get some tasty fish tacos at Duckies and some ice cream from the Cayucos Candy Counter.

Christmas Day at Moonstone Beach, Cambria

We had a relaxing Christmas Day and up early with the kiddos to open their gifts from Santa and later in the afternoon we went driving up to Cambria to check out the beaches up there. We found a reserve that we could check out some tide pools with hermit crabs and plenty of kelp. As the sun was going down we headed over to Moonstone Beach to see if we could find some moon stones, instead of moon stones we found some lovely rocks for the garden.

Sassy the cute cat living on the pier

We had checked out what the embarcadero had to offer and went to the visitors center to see what fun stuff Morro Bay had to offer. We wanted to see the sea life so we opted for a cruise as Missy Moo cannot be trusted on a canoe!! The guys who took us on our cruise were the Lost Isle Bay Cruisers with a Tiki theme boat – that I loved! We saw sea otters and their babies and seals and plenty of birds – our captain took us to a a secret beach across the estuary to hang in the sand dunes for some solitude.

Ready for our cruise in the estuary

We knew we were back in Morro Bay when we saw Morro Rock on the horizon – it is huge but it used to be a third bigger until the military blew it up to use the rocks to connect the land to the rock as a tourist attraction many moons ago. Still it is a illegal to climb it and you will be jailed and fined if you do – which is fair enough as it is a burial site for the indigenous people and a nesting ground for a peregrine falcons.

Morro Bay’s icon Morro rock – a volcanic plug

The seals that we encountered on our boat cruise were sequestered to a dock that was built specially for them to hang out on. We found out from our cruise captain that sea lions have ears and that is how you can tell the difference between seals and sea lions.

Sea Lions hanging out in the winter sunshine

We had a couple of friends visit after Christmas so we decided to take a trip down to Pismo Beach to see the Monarch Butterflies over wintering in the eucalyptus trees. What a special thing to see as we saw plenty of butterflies fluttering about in the warm sunshine as we were checking out the butterflies in close up through the huge scopes the visitor center had set up.

Clusters of monarch butterflies at Pismo Beach

I had seen many a monarch flying around but I had only seen the caterpillars in pictures and never in real life and here is one of the superbly designed caterpillars grazing on a leaf of the milkweed.

A Monarch caterpillar – so tiny in real life!

Some wonderful photo opportunities were to be had on Pismo Beach with it’s collection of wind blown eucalyptus trees. Being familiar with eucalyptus trees I did not know that they could grow on the beach and be shaped into tree sculptures that are just perfect for climbing or just hanging out in!

Eucalyptus in the sunshine

There were plenty of sea otter photo opportunities – if only I had a telephoto lens with me!! This is one of the better pictures of the sea otters, I love them as they are so cute and a wonder to watch. They eat 25% of their body weight daily and are constantly grooming their fur to distribute natural oils to repel water. The cuteness of them somersaulting while grooming was such a pleasure to watch 🙂

My favorite animal – the sea otter – doing it’s thing 

Another wonderful bird to watch is the Great Blue Heron – these guys have a stunning coat of feathers and their shape is so distinct.

A great blue heron checking out it’s prey
When our friends visited the older kids and the guys were keen for a kayak the girls did another cruise on the bay to visit the rock and the otters. Here we are on the sand dunes playing around. 

On the sand dunes by the rock

At our vacation rental we had the pleasure of using this vintage gas stove. I loved cooking with gas!!

The gorgeous vintage stove at our vacation rental

The day we left it was sad to leave the beach so we filled our lungs with lots of fresh beach air before we left the central coast to head back to the bay…

Our farewell to Morro Bay