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We’re heading off to California!  We are so excited to attend the Anime Expo, and we’ve had a lot of fun making a costume for Myla….here’s a sneak peek of it!  Do you know what she’s dressed up as?  I won’t be blogging for the next while, but when we come back, I can’t wait to show you the behind the scenes of the making of this costume as well as lots of photos from the Anime Expo and the Meet-up!  You can keep up with our adventures on Instagram (@AllAboutAmi)!  Be back soon ❤

We’re heading off to California!  We are so excited to attend the Anime Expo, and we’ve had a lot of fun making a costume for Myla….here’s a sneak peek of it!  Do you know what she’s dressed up as?  I won’t be blogging for the next while, but when we come back, I can’t wait to show you the behind the scenes of the making of this costume as well as lots of photos from the Anime Expo and the Meet-up!  You can keep up with our adventures on Instagram (@AllAboutAmi)!  Be back soon 

Maui Highlights 2014

Two years ago we visited Maui and absolutely fell in love with the Hawaiian island and vowed to return!  The amazing scenery, delicious food, laid back atmosphere and friendly people made our first trip very special and memorable.  We decided to return again this year, this time with our little toddler Myla and the rest of my family!

We revisited some of our favourite spots and restaurants but also discovered some new places as well.  Whenever we go on trips, I love doing lots of research to see where to get the best food and what the most popular attractions are!  I thought I would write up a blog post summarizing what we did in case anyone will be traveling or is interested in traveling to Maui!  I always love living vicariously through other people’s travel photos as well ;)

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On our first visit two years ago, we drove up to the Haleakala Crater to watch the sunrise.  This meant waking up around 3 AM and starting to drive at 4 AM to make it in time…however, since there is a couple hours time difference between Maui and where we live, this wasn’t actually too bad since we did this the day after we arrived.  Watching the sunrise was absolutely breathtaking and one of the most beautiful sights that I’ve seen.  We revisited the crater on this trip but during the afternoon.  Your view really depends on the weather and it was quite cloudy when we went.  It was neat driving up through the clouds though!  Also be warned that it is quite chilly up there as you are at over 9700 feet elevation- we wore every single layer that we brought!

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I was very excited to visit the “Maui Swap Meet" which occurs every Saturday morning from 7 AM to 1 PM!  I was delighted to see tons of vendors when we pulled up to the market- however, we ended up getting rained out as vendors started packing up within an hour when we arrived as their products were getting soaked.  I was sad that we did not get to see everything, but we also found a tiny little craft market beside a McDonald’s that we visited that had plenty of jewelry and dresses for a very affordable price.  Myla enjoyed walking around and shopping for herself as you can see in the picture above!

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Whenever I am on vacation, I love collecting bracelets to add to my collection!  I adore these two peach colour bracelets I got- I think the mini tassels and “love” are so cute!  I also really like the bracelet that I bought by "Indies Attic" (my only buy from the Maui Swap Meet) and it’s special because it’s made from recycled paper!  Also, a portion of their proceeds goes to help children in Uganda, and their tagline is "People Before Profit”!  What an amazing company :)

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We also decided to visit the “Maui Ocean Center" because Myla LOVES animals!  It was smaller than we expected but we enjoyed the exhibits and we found the talks by the naturalists working there particularly interesting and educational.  Myla was totally unfazed by the sharks and enjoyed watching them swim around!

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After visiting the Maui Ocean Center, we dropped into the nearby “Hula Cookies” for their famous ice cream sandwiches!  You get to choose which ice cream flavour and which cookies you would like (you can even choose different flavour cookies for each side).  The cookies were so gooey and soft- it was the perfect afternoon snack and we wished we had gone again!

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Our all-time favourite snack/dessert in Maui is from “Ululani’s Shave Ice”!  They have the BEST shave ice as it is pillowy soft and their flavours/syrups are amazing.  My favourite combination is the “Haleakala" as it is made of coconut and leche topped with sweetened condensed milk and cream.  I always add mochi on the top too!  I could not wait to eat this again as I had been missing it from two years ago….we went almost every single day to get shave ice and made good use of their stamp card!

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Some other treats we discovered on this trip were the delicious mochi from “Maui Specialty Chocolates”.  The mochi itself is so soft and chewy and their flavours such as “Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate" and "Dark Chocolate Truffle" are delicious.  I am a big mochi fan so I was very excited to try them and I was not disappointed!  Another popular Hawaiian delicacy is "Spam Musubi" (spam and sushi rice wrapped in seaweed).  It can be found in many little shops and stores (we got ours mostly from the ABC Stores) and it makes a tasty little snack!  I also found a great recipe for it here and I can’t wait to make it at home :)

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Here is a family picture of us outside a popular restaurant called “Mama’s Fish House”!  The ambiance and location are amazing as it gives you the quintessential Hawaiian experience.  The service was wonderful and the fish was fresh although the entrees are pricey!

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We spent some time walking around a hippie surfer town called Paia.  There were some quaint shops and a delicious lunch spot called “Paia Fish Market" which has our favourite seafood pasta.  We also lay on the beach and watched the surfers brave the waves and also got to see some really cute sea turtles!

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Myla really enjoyed playing in the sand with her shovel and sand toys.  Here she is with her Uncle Corey, digging right into the soft sand of Makena Beach!

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Another popular area with many oceanfront stores is Lahaina, which used to be a whaling town (one of these times we’d like to go on a whale watching tour)!  Two years ago we went to a highly rated and very popular magic show called “Warren & Annabelle’s" and got to see Warren himself perform his sleight-of-hand magic and comedy.  We absolutely loved it and highly recommend it!  We did not go this time but the rest of my family went and thoroughly enjoyed it (you need to be over 21 to attend because of the liquor laws).

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We also found a delightful restaurant called “Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop" that is famous for their sandwiches and pies!  Here you can see Myla picking out exactly which pie she wanted to try :)  We really liked their "Macnut Chocolate Praline Pie" for dessert as it was divine!

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We visited the “Iao Valley State Park" and soaked in the beautiful views with their very short, easy hike.  For us, it was a warm up for the long hike to come shortly after!

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One of the most memorable things we did from two years ago was “The Road to Hana”.  The Road to Hana is a long, narrow and winding road that takes you through the rain forests of Maui.  Along the way, there are many breath-taking views of the coast, forests and waterfalls.  Ryan and I were hesitant and worried about what it would be like with a toddler but overall it went well and I am so thankful that we were traveling with the rest of my family on this trip as they could entertain her!  We stopped off at “Nahiku" which offers the most stunning views of the coast!

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We also stopped off at the “Black Sand Beach”- the sand is actually made of small, smooth lava pebbles!

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On our last full day in Maui we did the hike that we were most looking forward to out of the whole trip: the “Pipiwai Trail”!  It is an amazing 4 mile hike (2 miles there, 2 miles back) that takes you through some stunning scenery.  I was worried what this hike would be like with a toddler too- I strapped Myla to me in a baby carrier and she was asleep for most of the first half.  It was exhausting and grueling for me though as going uphill seemed so much more difficult with the extra weight I was carrying.  I actually seriously doubted whether I would make it and was contemplating turning back….  

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However, I kept pushing myself and just went slowly, taking frequent water breaks.  I am so glad we persevered as we did not want to miss out on the beautiful sights!  Two years ago we took one of my favourite travel photos sitting atop a gorgeous banyan tree that can be found along the hike.  It was neat seeing it again, and this time I got to take pics with our little (sleeping) Myla too!  

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For those of you wondering, we use the Ergo baby carrier and we love it!  It is very comfortable to use as it has a lot of padding and cushioning with multiple carry positions available (front, back and hip).  We were very glad we used our Ergo on these hikes!

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Myla woke up just as we were entering the beautiful bamboo forest!  This is one of my favourite parts of the hike as it is calmly serene as you can hear the bamboo hitting against each other as the wind blows.  Myla wanted to walk a bit too so we took her out of the carrier and let her walk along the wooden planks!  She got many friendly smiles from fellow travelers who were surprised to see such a young hiker make it that far :)

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At the end of the Pipiwai Trail you are rewarded with this amazing site: the stunning 400 feet Waimoku Falls!  It is breathtaking when you first see it and it makes the whole hike worthwhile.  We took a little snack break here and soaked in the scenery before embarking on the journey back!

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We decided to stay a couple nights in Hana so that we could take our time and not have to rush back to the other side of the island.  We stayed at the “Hana Kai Maui" which is the most beautiful place that we’ve ever stayed in.  I was completely taken aback when I first walked into their flagship unit (the "Ka’ahumanu") as I had never before stayed in a suite with such stunning views and panoramic windows.  You could hear the waves lapping onto the beach since we were so close to the ocean and it was amazing being able to fall asleep and wake up to the sound of the waves.  

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The views from our balconies were spectacular!  

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We were so sad to leave this place and drive back to the airport.  Maui is such a beautiful, family-friendly island with so many things to discover!  We had a great family vacation and we cannot wait to return in the future- we hope you enjoyed seeing our photos and what we did!  I will do a quick summary below in case anyone is planning a visit :)

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Hotel accommodations: 

  • Aston Maui Hill (Kihei): great location, spacious unit with fully-equipped kitchen, washer/dryer, perfect for families
  • Hana Kai Maui (Hana): amazing views, great location; pricey though (anything decent in Hana is quite pricey, but it’s more worth it if you’re staying with a large family)

Attractions:

  • Haleakala Crater: beautiful at sunrise (very cold with extreme winds so be prepared)
  • Maui Ocean Center: great exhibits and talks by naturalists; shark tank and underwater tunnel
  • Iao Valley State Park: easy, short hike with beautiful views
  • Maui Swap Meet: open every Saturday morning 7 AM - 1 PM with many vendors and handcrafted godos
  • Warren & Annabelle’s Magic: great sleight-of-hand magic and comedy show
  • Road to Hana (Nahiku, Black Sand Beach, Venus Pool, Seven Sacred Pools, Pipiwai Trail leading to Waimoku Falls)

Food:

  • Ululuani’s Hawaiian Shave Ice: soft, fluffy ice with incredible syrups and flavours
  • Hula Cookies: make your own ice cream sandwiches
  • Maui Specialty Chocolates: delicious peanut butter milk chocolate and dark chocolate truffle mochi
  • Spam Musubi: tasty Hawaiian delicacy that can be found in many shops
  • Mama’s Fish House: wonderful Hawaiian ambiance, great service, fresh fish but pricey entrees
  • Sansei Restaurant: great panko-crusted ahi tuna rolls, shrimp dynamite; get 25% off bill if you arrive before 6 PM at Kihei location
  • Koiso: deliciously fresh sushi; only sits 14 people so you need to make a reservation; the omakase offers a great variety
  • Kihei Cafe: great breakfast place 
  • Paia Fish Market: the best seafood pasta and delicious fish and chips
  • 808 Deli: great sandwiches and potato mac salad
  • Da Kitchen: Hawaiian-style home cooking with very big dishes; Kalbi ribs and shredded pork were delicious
  • McDonald’s: don’t laugh!  They have special local deluxe breakfasts consisting of Portuguese sausages, spam, eggs and rice!  They also have taro pies which are very unique!
  • Leoda’s Kitchen & Pie Shop: sweet and savoury pies; macnut chocolate praline pie was awesome
  • Thai Food by Pranee (Hana): amazingly delicious Thai food with very good prices (limited opening hours so check ahead); a great place to eat after the long Pipiwai Trail Hike (there are very limited food options in Hana)

Maui Revealed" is a wonderful guidebook for the island as it details many stops along the "Road to Hana" and gives very useful information in a humorous tone!  You can pick this book up at a great price at the Costco in Maui (also a great place to stock up on snacks, groceries, water gear and ahi tuna!).

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Please let me know if you’ve been to Maui and if you have any recommendations for us during our next trip there!  I love sharing experiences and swapping stories!  Mahalo and Aloha :)

We’re back, everyone!!!  Did you miss us?  We had a lovely time in Maui and we got to revisit our favourite banyan tree….this time with our little Myla bear (who is strapped onto me in the baby carrier in the photo)!  I will be putting together a blog post showing some of the highlights from our trip including where we ate, what we did and where we stayed in case anyone is planning an upcoming trip to Maui!  Ryan took some gorgeous photos and I can’t wait to share them with you all :) 

We’re back, everyone!!!  Did you miss us?  We had a lovely time in Maui and we got to revisit our favourite banyan tree….this time with our little Myla bear (who is strapped onto me in the baby carrier in the photo)!  I will be putting together a blog post showing some of the highlights from our trip including where we ate, what we did and where we stayed in case anyone is planning an upcoming trip to Maui!  Ryan took some gorgeous photos and I can’t wait to share them with you all :) 

Be back soon!  We are off vacationing in one of our favourite places in the world where the banyan trees are plentiful.  This is one of my favourite travel photos from two years ago when we did the most beautiful hike ever (that’s me sitting on the tree in case you’re wondering :D)!  Can’t wait to go back!
Please be patient as I will not be checking my social media as frequently….you can follow me on Instagram (@AllAboutAmi) and Twitter to see our adventures!  ~Aloha~

Be back soon!  We are off vacationing in one of our favourite places in the world where the banyan trees are plentiful.  This is one of my favourite travel photos from two years ago when we did the most beautiful hike ever (that’s me sitting on the tree in case you’re wondering :D)!  Can’t wait to go back!

Please be patient as I will not be checking my social media as frequently….you can follow me on Instagram (@AllAboutAmi) and Twitter to see our adventures!  ~Aloha~

Why is Myla dressed as Minnie Mouse you ask?  It’s BECAUSE WE’RE GOING TO DISNEY WORLD!!!  As you all know, we are huge Disney fans, and I’ve been visiting the Disney parks ever since I was a little girl…I can’t believe that I get to take my own little girl now!  There is something so nostalgic and classic about Disney.  I love how some rides never change, but there are also new areas and attractions, such as “New Fantasyland”, and we even have dinner reservations at the “Be Our Guest" restaurant in the Beast’s Castle (which were very hard to come by)!  Have any of you visited this new area yet? 

And so, the blog will be quiet for the next while.  I’ll try and post updates about our trip on my Instagram (@AllAboutAmi) and Twitter (@AllAboutAmi)!  If any of you have upcoming Disney trips too, you can crochet your own Minnie Mouse Ears with my tutorial HERE!  See you later, everyone :)

Paris: Desserts & Macarons

Ryan and I both LOVE desserts, so Paris was the perfect place for us to satiate our sweet tooth. I tried to research exactly where we should go and what we should try in order to maximize our short stay in Paris. Armed with our cameras (our DSLR, point-and-shoot and iPhones), we documented our dessert adventures along the way. Ryan and I are both macaron aficionados as we enjoy trying macarons in different cities and comparing different textures and flavours. Imagine our delight and excitement when we got to visit Ladurée, the famed pastry shop along the Champs-Élysées. Louis Ernest Ladurée founded his bakery in 1862, and the pastry shop rose to fame when Pierre Desfontaines, the second cousin of Ladurée, had the original idea of the double-decker macaron in 1930. This is the macaron that we know and love today with two macaron shells filled with creamy ganache.

This place has so much history and is one of the most well-known (if not the most well-known) macaron makers in the world! I loved the beautiful, elegant storefront.

Unfortunately, the restaurant was being renovated while we were there, so we could not dine in for breakfast or for tea. Instead, we picked out some desserts from their shop and had to take them elsewhere to eat. Apparently there is usually a very long line-up, but there was none when we visited (probably because the restaurant was closed).

Everything looked so beautiful and delicious! It was very difficult to choose what to order. Interestingly, Ladurée was the one who made the pastries in Sofia Coppola’s film “Marie Antoinette”- I still remember the scene where the beautiful, colourful macarons are shown!

We were also very hungry this morning as it was our first official full day in Paris. We had had an early start to our morning to take some sunrise shots, so we could’ve gobbled up everything in a minute!

Armed with our delicious treats in hand, we went to go find a warm place to enjoy and savour them.

We ended up going to a nearby McDonald’s! We ordered a tea and coffee to go with these sweet treats. I love the elegant packaging and branding.

My all-time favourite flavours are still pistachio and salted caramel: thus, we ordered these flavours in the larger macarons and also picked up some blackcurrant, raspberry, chocolate and rose macarons.

We were told that their pain au chocolate amande was one of their best-sellers, so we decided to give it a try. We were delightfully surprised as this chocolate almond croissant’s filling was delicious and tasty with its bits of almonds and hint of chocolate. The texture was very unique, and we were really glad we tried this special croissant.

Next came the moment we had been waiting for: trying the famed Ladurée macarons! First up was pistachio! Their macarons were delicate with a crispy exterior. The flavouring was wonderful and the ganache was light and fluffy. Many people hail these as the best macarons they’ve ever tasted with perfect texture. Everybody has their own tastes and preferences, and I myself prefer a chewier macaron. I loved the chewiness of the macarons of Miette Patisserie in San Francisco, but Ladurée’s did have better flavour. I remember also really enjoying the macarons of Bouchon Bakery in New York City as they were both flavourful and chewy.

Mmm….look at all that delicious fluffy ganache filling! The salted caramel also had a wonderful taste, and we ended up saving the others to eat in our hotel so we could enjoy them later.

One of my favourite things to do on the trip was hop into bakeries to pick up some croissants to snack on along the way! This place was near our hotel and along the way to the Metro station.

The croissants were so fluffy, soft, and buttery. Since they were so light, I could eat a lot in one sitting!

This baguette was a delicious snack on the go in the Metro station. The crispy exterior contrasted the soft, warm and chewy interior. Mmm…I love bread :)

Next on our macaron tour was a stop at the famed Pierre Hermé. Pierre Hermé was dubbed “The Picasso of Pastry” and was the youngest person ever to be named “France’s Pastry Chef of the Year”. He worked with Ladurée before opening his own boutique in Paris in 2002. His storefront is noticeably different from Ladurée’s as it is more modern and sleek.

You can see me in the reflection, eagerly anticipating more of these Parisian treats! There was a line-up to get in, but the line-up went fairly quickly.

Once again, there were so many beautiful desserts on display. The “Ispahan”, a beautiful pastry made of rose macaron biscuits with rose petal cream, whole raspberries and lychee flavour is apparently one of Pierre Hermé’s masterpieces (you can barely see it in the back of this picture below- it’s visible in one of my Ladurée pics as they sell it too). I will have to go back to try this next time as I only read about this recently…I suppose I was too fixated on the macarons!

Pierre Hermé is known for his unusual and unique macaron flavour combinations, from olive oil with mandarin orange to chocolate and foie gras. We had to quickly choose which of these unique macarons we wanted to try after the sales associate rattled off all the flavours available.

Once again, we took our macarons to go as we wanted to enjoy them as we continued our sight-seeing of Paris.

We ended up picking four very unique flavours: Mogador (passion fruit chocolate), Creme Brûlée, Truffe Blanche & Noisette (white truffle and hazelnut) and Chocolate & Foie gras.

The colours and presentation of these macarons were absolutely gorgeous! I loved the elegant powder dusting on the macarons- they looked so fancy!

All of the macarons were exceptionally flavourful and intense and unlike anything I had ever tasted. Some have hailed these macarons as the best they’ve ever tasted. The texture of these macarons differed from Ladurée’s as we found the shells to be very soft and much less crispy. Once again, I prefer a chewier macaron, but I definitely appreciated Pierre Hermé’s unique and creative flavours. Look at the beautiful colour inside the Chocolate and Foie Gras macaron!

We also stopped by Angelina, a famous tearoom founded in 1903 near the Louvre and the Jardin de Tuileries that was frequented by many famous individuals, such as Coco Chanel, Audrey Hepburn and King Henry V. There was a very long line-up outside, and since we had to catch our plane in a few hours, we opted to grab a few items from their store rather than dining in.

Angelina is famous for their ‘Chocolat L’Africain' (hot chocolate), and I was so happy that we could take it to go in a portable cup. This hot chocolate is incredibly thick, rich, and dark…it tasted like I was drinking pure melted chocolate! Apparently when you have this in the tearoom, it is accompanied by a bowl of whipped cream to complement it and a glass of ice water on the side to offset the richness!

Angelina is also famous for their legendary Mont Blancs, made of chestnut purée, vanilla chantilly and a merengue base. Don’t they look unique? I had never tasted a Mont Blanc prior to this. The gentleman in front of us ordered 6 of these to go! This was a good indication that they were indeed delicious and were going to live up to their hype…

We ordered one and enjoyed it back at our hotel as we waited for our taxi to come drive us to the airport.

I had no idea how it would taste, and we were excited to dive in!

I managed to snap a quick pic before we completely devoured the Mont Blanc. The chestnut puree ontop had a delicious texture and flavour, and the vanilla cream was incredibly light. The merengue base added a delightful crispy, sweet contrast to the rest of the dessert. Ryan and I were both very pleasantly surprised with how much we loved it, and we actually concluded that it was our favourite new dessert in Paris! I hope that we can dine in and enjoy the full tearoom experience the next time we go!

Writing this blog post has made me incredibly hungry and I wish I had some sweet treats with me now. Thankfully, we actually have some exceptional macaron establishments where I live, such as the Duchess Bake Shoppe and Mirabelle Macarons, so I can enjoy these delightful Parisian treats without having to hop on a plane! My good friend Connie of Mirabelle Macarons has done a wonderful job of perfecting her macaron recipes and has experimented with some very unique flavors too.  I have yet to try making macarons on my own, but I am definitely excited to give them a try :)  Stay tuned for more pictures and posts about the restaurants and other famous attractions we visited on our whirlwind trip to Paris!

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