This past weekend my favorite local author Toby Neal held a book signing at Barnes and Noble in Kahului. Naturally I had to go.
I came across Toby Neal’s mystery romance novels a few years ago at the Kihei public library. I have loved reading these mysteries, set in the Hawaiian islands in many places I have been to. It makes it just so much more personal.
I met her a few years ago quite by accident and had the opportunity to chat with her. Since then I’ve followed her on facebook and when she’s blogged over the years. And I’ve read all her books on my kindle (many are ‘free’ if you subscribe to Kindle Unlimited).
This past year she published her memoir Freckled – A Memoir of Growing up Wild in Hawaii. It is Toby’s incredible story of growing up as the daughter of hippy surfers on the island of Kauai, spending much of her childhood either homeless or living off the grid. It also touches on some of Hawaii’s social issues. I highly recommend it!
Unfortunately for Maui, Toby and her photographer husband Mike Neal moved to California a few years ago to take care of an aging family member. This person has since passed away, and I keep hoping they will move back to the islands. Maybe one day.
She has a couple murder mystery series. I overheard her telling another reader that her personal favorite is ‘Unsound‘. It’s been a while since I read this one, but it takes place in Haleakala crater valley. Have you ever driven up Haleakala (Maui’s dormant 10,000 foot volcano) and gazed into the crater valley? Did you know you can day hike but also camp (in designated huts)?
It’s that time of year again – hurricane season. In the Central Pacific (as in the Caribbean) hurricane season runs from June to November. However our most active months are definitely July – September.
With that in mind, we have two hurricanes currently on their way to visit Hawaii. We’re just such a popular vacation destination. I kid.
Hurricane Erick looks like it’s set to miss hitting us and is forecast to pass to the South of the State of Hawaii. However, they are forecasting dangerous surf, some wind and possibly rain.
Hurricane Flossie is on Erick’s tail, possibly arriving Sunday or Monday. She was recently downgraded to a tropical storm. has a much more direct forecasted path which currently looks like it will pass across the Hawaiian Islands, or at least very close. However, as at last night’s new forecast model, it looks like she may cut to the North of us.
What does this mean for Maui?
In 9 years of living on Maui, we have been very fortunate and have not experienced a direct hurricane hit. Numerous hurricanes have been obliterated by Big Island’s two large shield volcanoes (Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa). Also, hurricanes have in the past typically slowed down and dissipated prior to actually arriving. Of course, every storm is different and so you do need to watch and monitor them and be prepared.
Possible rain: to be honest, we are praying for rain. Rain would be wonderful as Maui is so dry (hence the fires we’ve been having recently). However be aware that rain can cause run-off into the ocean, creating murky water conditions at the beach. If the water is murky, stay out! There is an increased risk of getting an infection should you have any cuts/abrasions (who knows what is in the water) and sharks come closer to land to check out the run-off.
Expect storm surge and changed ocean currents. Besides getting pummeled by unpredictable wave action, ocean currents can drag you unexpectedly out to sea. Best to stay out of the water. If you must, go to a beach with life guards present and ask them for their advice PRIOR to going into the water. If in doubt, please don’t go out.
Definitely expect humidity. Storms passing Hawaii block our wonderful trade winds which often keep the worst of the humidity at bay. Without those winds, the humidity can be here in full force.
A week ago we had a pretty bad brush fire here on Maui. It started on Wednesday July 10th near Waikapu and spread rapidly across the Central Valley coming very close to North Kihei (and our Sugar Beach condo). The fire ended up burning 9000 acres of brush land. This is mostly former sugar cane land.
As you may recall, A&B finished their sugar cane operations on Maui with their final harvest in December 2016. Since then the land has mostly been fallow, with sugar cane regrowth, weeds and of course kiawe trees growing wild. During their sugar cane operation A&B would irrigate the fields regularly, keeping them nice and green until about 2 years in, when they would have controlled burns and then harvest the sugar cane. These controlled burns would of course generate their fair share of ash particularly in North Kihei. Locals called it ‘Maui Snow’, black ash on cars and roads in the morning. However, A&B would then work up the fields within a few days and things would settle down again.
Last year A&B sold 41,000 acres of sugar cane land to Mahi Pono, a joint venture between a California agricultural group and ironically one of Canada’s largest pension funds. They have very slowly been starting to work up some acres and planting. Unfortunately it’s been an incredibly slow process. We were so used to the green central valley. It’s been brown and dry ever since cessation of the sugar cane operation now. In fact, there have been brush fires the past few summers, prompting the landowners to work up or disk buffer zones near roads as a form of fire break.
On July 10 the fire came so close to North Kihei, our guests at our Sugar Beach condo were evacuated. The Mokulele Hwy (now known as Veterans Hwy) and North Kihei Road to Ma’alaea were both closed due to the fire and heavy smoke and people missed their flights (including me – we had an inter-island flight to Oahu for a hockey tournament). The community pulled together, opened shelters and eventually everyone got to where they needed to go.
In wonderful news, there was no damage to inhabited buildings at all. To our knowledge, noone died in the fire. The police have an ongoing arson investigation for both this fire and a smaller fire which was started between the new Kahului Safeway and Target and the Sugar Cane factory on July 11.
What to expect when you come to Maui?
You’ll noticed the burned area in the central valley as you fly in – in fact, I would love to see your pictures! You’ll see the burned area as you drive across the central valley. You will see the dust blowing badly in the central valley and into North Kihei during certain times of the day. Here in South Kihei we are still getting some ash on our lanai.
However, fire fighters brought the fire under control within two days and are working to put out any flare ups that occur. We are so thankful for these men and women!
Our Sugar Beach condo is fine – no damage. There is still a lot of dust, we apologize. Join us in praying for rain. I’m not sure what else to do to help calm the dust down.
If you are on Maui, you will have seen some of the hundreds if not thousands of missing person posters. Local physiotherapist and yoga instructor Amanda Eller went missing on May 8th, eleven days ago. Police found her car the next day at the popular Makawao Forest Reserve. Since then family and friends have mounted a large search and rescue operation. For much more information and daily posts by the search and rescue volunteers, check out the facebook page FindAmanda.
Makawao Forest Reserve is a popular hiking, off-road biking and horseback riding area in upper Makawao with a series of trails, gorges and pools. It is a large area. From what I gather volunteers have been systematically searching the area. Unfortunately searchers discovered Amanda’s phone in her parked car. If you read through the many comments on the posts on the FindAmanda site, you will see that there are several theories in what may have happened. Officially police have not released any information indicating that there may be foul play involved. If you want to help, check out the FindAmanda page – they are looking for volunteers to help in their efforts, and also food donations for the volunteers searching.
Praying that Amanda is found – very soon!
Missing Persons on Maui
Ironically the Missing Person wall on the weird building at the World War II era airport site along the highway was painted over a few months ago. For as long as I can remember, this building has always been covered in graffiti. About two years ago or so, someone painted it black and then covered it with the names of Maui’s missing persons. In recent years two missing persons cases really stick out, Moreira (Mo) Monsalve and pregnant Charli Scott who went missing months apart from eachother in 2014. Heart-breakingly Mo is still missing. Charli’s jaw bone was found and her ex-boyfriend convicted of a horrible crime.
For the past few weeks we’ve been hearing about winter stories on the US mainland and Canada. My cousin in Edmonton looked up the temperature in Antarctica and told me Edmonton had matching temperatures the other day (one day I would love to go on a cruise to Antarctica – not for the temperature, but just to SEE it, even just from a distance).
Here on Maui we heard about your suffering and decided to join the club. Well, not that we had anything to do with it. There is some sort of low pressure system to the north of us bringing cool temperatures and strong winds. This morning the temperature was a frosty 60F (roughly 15.5 Celsius). Those of you who know me know that I hate heat (I know, I live on Maui – what am I doing?). I am cold. I am actually wearing a hoody and have closed the windows in an effort to preserve heat.
Maui County has closed the South Maui (Kihei) beach parks because of danger of large swell. North Shore beach parks have also been closed. Apparently we are expecting waves up to 60 ft (that would be on the North shore, not in Kihei). Today is a good day to stay inside or go shopping.
Haleakala National Park is closed due to high gusts of wind (up to 80 mph). Also apparently it’s snowing with a forecast of up to 3 inches. Remember your rental car does NOT have decent tires, please don’t drive up there. There are no emergency services, snow plows, salt/sand trucks. Plus there will be local families eager to see snow – some for the first time 🙂
We aren’t going to die.
Yes, this is unusual, even for Maui winter. But we aren’t going to die. We aren’t even going to freeze. Since we don’t have a furnace, we’ll just dress a little warmer. If you are on Maui, please stay out of the ocean until the storm dies down and waters have stopped churning. Remember, stay out of the ocean if it is brown or murky. This is particularly when sharks come out to feed. Plus you could get a nasty infection from run-off in the water.
I’m sure the weather will go back to normal and warm up soon. At least that’s what we’re hoping for!
Let me preface this post by saying this – nearly everyone on Maui has a Costco card. Our store is considered one of the busiest in the US, with both locals and tourists stocking up on groceries, liquor and gas at this discount warehouse store.
my spot in the Costco gas line
Yesterday afternoon was my Costco-time. I’d been running errands all morning, and now it was finally time to hit Costco. When I got there just after 2pm, there was not a parking spot to be had. None. I don’t actually remember that happening before. Usually at least the unpopular stalls on the other side of the drainage area or in back by the gas station entrance are at least still open. But not yesterday. Everyone and their dog and their neighbors’ dogs was at Costco. I kid, I don’t recall seeing a single dog in Costco, but it was just a little nuts. I do suspect, based on the groups of adults shopping in the store, that a few airplanes’ worth of tourists were in the store. But who knows.
I decided to hit the gas station first. At $2.79/gallon this is the cheapest place to fill up on island. After putting in my time in line, I did find a spot close to old Kmart. My list wasn’t long. I needed a new blender for one of our condos plus a few groceries.
Considering all the cars in the parking lot, it wasn’t too horrible. The main traffic jams were caused around the sample ladies and of course by tourists not familiar with our store’s layout. And then ‘those’ people who insist on going against the flow of traffic (you know who you are).
I do have to give Costco employees credit. No matter how crazy the parking lot, how bad the jam-ups in the grocery department, they always have the right number of stalls open (usually ALL) and the lines move quickly and smoothly. All the check-out stalls were open, with no more than 2 or 3 shoppers per line. Thanks Cos
What are my favorite things to buy at Costco?
I love my Costco coffee – more specifically Kauai Coffee. Sig has been to this coffee farm several times on the island of Kauai. And did you know, often you can get this coffee in Western Canada Costco stores also.
Pineapples. They used to carry Maui Gold (which are amazing). A year or two ago they switched to Dole. Hint – yes you do judge a pineapple by its color (yellow) and smell (if it doesn’t smell ripe, find one that does).
This is also a great place for dairy, meat, some seafood, alcohol…
What is Costco
Costco is a members-only discount warehouse store. You do need to be a member to shop and buy gas at Costco. The membership cost is $35 annually. If you do not have a membership and there is no store near where you live, just skip this. I don’t know that I would bother. Also, please note that everything sold at Costco is in HUGE sizes. If you are just here for a week, shopping at Costco will leave you with many leftovers and a lot of waste.
I love this time of year – getting together with friends and family, the lights, decorations and all the Christmas music, reliving memories. Yesterday we attended two family style Christmas recitals. I know – it seems like a little much, but both were held in really neat locations and we went to support family and friends.
Keawala’i Church in Makena
The first was a local piano teacher’s piano recital held at the historic Keawala’i Congregational Church in Makena. If you have the opportunity to attend a church service or a concert at this church, do. This church was built in the mid-1800s (exact date unclear to me) out of coral and wood. Nowadays we know not to even step on the reef, but back then people sometimes used coral as a building material. The walls are a foot or more thick and white washed, and there are beautiful native wood floors. The church itself is quite plain, and yet just beautiful. Decorations consisted of two Christmas trees and poinsettias – plain but beautiful. Outside the church you can find a small cemetery (please be respectful) with a beautiful view of the ocean. Check here for an interesting history of the church.
This is an operating church and no, it is not open to visitors during non-service hours. If you stop by when it’s closed, just admire from the road.
The Grand Wailea Resort
In the evening we attended another concert in an entirely different setting, the Grand Wailea hotel lobby. A friend and his neighborhood ukulele band (mainly retirees) performed various Christmas and Hawaiian songs with a few other audience favorites thrown in. It was a family style Christmas concert – our friend is one of the higher ups at the Grand Wailea performing for his employees and friends, another employee danced hula to several of the songs. The band recruited members of the audience to play tambourin now and then. It was overall a lovely evening.
The setting in the Grand Wailea is of course beautiful. Totally different than at the church, the Grand Wailea hotel is one of the fancy hotels here in Wailea and decorated to the nines. If you have the opportunity, do wander through the hotel grounds. Check out the giant ginger bread chair in the lobby, the beautiful decorations and (my favorite) the more than 7 miles of Christmas lights wrapped around trees in the driveway.
We were fortunate to be able to participate in an imu again this year. An imu is an underground oven, a traditional Hawaii style of cooking. For much more information and ‘how to’, check out this link. When you go to a luau, typically a whole pig is roasted in an imu and unearthed during a special ceremony. One of the schools built an imu as a fundraiser – a few parents, teachers and the kids did all the work, while I happy bought my tickets, dropped off my prepared turkey yesterday evening and then picked it up again this morning. Here are a few pictures for you to enjoy! It’s a really neat experience.
A few tickets? Well…. I thought we’d do a turkey and some pork (two wrapped containers) but as Sig pointed out – we had two turkeys in the freezer, so why not just cook them both? The good news is – our Christmas turkey is carved, packaged and in the freezer!
How is it?
The meat is deliciously moist. It has a bit of a unique smell – a bit smokey from the keawe wood fire, and a little different from the banana stalks/leaves. It is absolutely delicious. If you ever have the opportunity to participate in an imu, do! Also, word to the wise, choose a smaller turkey. Our friends’ 20 lb turkeys still needed to spend some time in the oven while the meat just fell off the bone on my 13 lb bird.
This September we took advantage of an opening at our Palms at Wailea condo and moved in for a little staycation while tackling a two week floor installation project at our own home. After all, why try to live through a remodeling project when you can escape it (and the dust) altogether. By the time we needed to move back home, the demolition stage was over and the upstairs of our house (including kitchen) was completed.
I am thankful we had a condo to move into, even if it was a little stretch for a family of five. Our kids are used to their own rooms, at the condo they shared. I am used to my own bed and kitchen. A staycation at your own condo is always the ultimate test as a vacation rental owner. It’s not actually a vacation, but another project. What needs replacing, fixing or doing?
The master bed was amazing. Guests have told us they love the bed, but it was lovely to sleep in it myself, possibly better than my bed at home. I loved the shower – we remodeled the condo 3 years ago and this is one of my favorite parts of the remodel. So big and luxurious. And I love the large tile flooring – almost made me wish we did that at our home instead of the vinyl planking we chose, but then I remembered how much we hate grout lines. It took me a while to get sorted in the kitchen – different space, different places to store things. I did buy nice new pots, the old ones were getting weary. And who keeps using metal utensils on the non-stick frying pans? I have to replace them at least yearly.
Sig’s staycation projects
Sig had his own list of annual maintenance projects. He’s a perfectionist and can’t sit still, so between painting baseboards (at home) and overseeing the flooring installation, he also
drained the hot water tank,
replaced cabinet hinges (slow close),
acid washed and re-sealed the 350 sq ft lanai (patio) and entry,
did some deep cleaning,
replaced filters on taps,
arranged some service work on the dishwasher and fridge,
did some work on the BBQ etc. etc.
He particularly enjoyed sitting in the condo complex hottub at the end of his long days.
Despite all the work (the other condos, my office job, school for the kids, the home remodel, living in a smaller living space etc) I really enjoyed our staycation. I love the privacy of the location – we hardly noticed our neighbors – and the large green lawn with distant ocean view. For now it’s nice to be home again, but we’ll have to plan another staycation.
I thought I’d post a short update on Hurricane Lane on our blog.
August 24 5 PM update. It turns out Hurricane Lane is no more. Thankfully the storm has been weakening and is now ‘just’ a Tropical Storm with maximum winds of 70 mph. Wow. What an incredible ride. We had 2 hours of steady rain this morning and word that the hurricane had stalled at speeds of 2 mph – more delays while it deteriorated. Don’t get me wrong – we are incredibly thankful. Just three days ago we were staring at a Category 5 hurricane headed straight at us. After days of preparation and stressing, today was quite anticlimactic in Kihei. I went for a nice walk in the rain this morning along South Kihei Road (about a third of stores/restaurants were open). Then we did some necessary de-cluttering in our home.
At noon neighbors who were also feeling stir-crazy asked us to join them for lunch. So we had a pre-hurricane lunch at Nalus. I had been snacking (on hurricane supplies), so I wasn’t terribly hungry. I had their fruit bowl while my son enjoyed the mac nut pancakes. Delicious and fun and a good distraction for us all.
August 24 7 AM update. It’s been a quiet peaceful night here in Kihei. We left the bamboo wind chimes hanging on our lanai as it would be sure to wake me if we got wind. Nothing. It’s overcast and dry with no wind. This has got to be the slowest moving hurricane ever. The good news is it’s now at Category 2 status – with winds at 110 mph.
In other news on island – last night a brush fire started up near Lahaina. It’s been windy up there with gusts up to 50 mph, and the fire has spread badly. Officials had to move the emergency shelter out of harms way and entire neighborhoods are being evacuated. The highways encircling West Maui have been closed which means there is no way for anyone to get to the hospital (in Wailuku) other than by helicopter.
August 23 9:30 PM update. It’s been a slow day here in Kihei. It’s been overcast and there’s been some drizzle. Upcountry there were about 2000 people out of power and apparently Kahului airport (OGG) lost power also. But so far we are still waiting. The hurricane’s speed has slowed some more. Moving at only 6 miles an hour, this means that even though the intensity has come down, the storm has even more time to unload moisture and rain. Parts of Big Island got doused today. Soon it will be our turn. In the mean time, here’s what sunset looked like in our part of Maui.
Currently in Kihei (it’s 3:50 AM HST on Thursday 8/23/18) it is calm and quiet. Yesterday afternoon we had some gusts up to 30 mph according to my husband’s weather station. We went for an evening walk down to the beach yesterday and were caught in rain shower.