To follow up on the recent blog about the governor’s “ By Local, Give Aloha” campaign, I made my yearly outing to the Blaisdell Center for the Made In Hawaii Expo held on Thanksgiving weekend. The entry standards for this show are strict because the products must truly be a local endeavor. Therefore, it’s no surprise that many of our “mom-and-pop” businesses show up to sell their stuff at the expo.

Those who attend are bound to find items that aren’t available in stores, so I highly recommend checking out the expo if you’re in town for the holidays. With that said, I put my money where my mouth is and purchased two of my top five favs. Here are my picks, which are also easy to take back home with you on the plane:

1) Cookies…Cookies…Cookies

A Honolulu bakery, Mickey’s Favorites sells homemade, non-preservative cookies from its store, website and by phone. These cookies are as close to homemade as you could find, with the first two ingredients being flour and butter. And they are priced to sell. I bought the shortbread flavor that truly melts in your mouth, but some of the other flavors they’re known for include fuji apple and pineapple coconut cookies. $8-12 per bag •

2) Metalicious Creations

This Windward Oahu business catches my eye every year because of its handcrafted metal and copper sculptures, as well as its hangings ($50 and up). The wall plaques are also exquisite and have a far East feel. This year, I found a small copper lamp shaped like a pagoda ($45), which I considered buying. I spent most of my time, however, looking at his extensive selection of small metal figurines ($20). They represented every and all occupations and hobbies out there. You might have to carry the figurines on the plane since they’re very fragile.

3) Just Add Water

I’m a cook. I don’t often use powders or mixes, so I always walked past this booth. It promises the taste of all-natural fresh coconut, a “just add water to the world’s first powdered syrup mix.” I was still skeptical, but their samples of coconut syrup and haupia tapioca were spot on! I was astounded. The business is located on Kauai’i, but they sell most of their stuff online. That way, you can also get it back home. $8 per pack •

4) Take Flight with Coconut Brooms

Coming out of Hawaii Kai, home of our own Hawaii Aloha Travel, this one-man company makes handmade coconut palm brooms (I own 3!). Coconut Connections recently expanded its business to bamboo walking sticks, which I also purchased after hearing that it can be taken on airplanes and through security. They were selling like hot cakes at the expo. The owner also does a “fitting” if you’re interested in buying a stick and guarantees they won’t split or splinter. $10-40 (brooms and walking sticks) • 808-396-6865

5) J-Craze in the Isles

A wooden toy that traveled to Hawaii from Japan, thanks to this Kauaii business. They’ve been so busy selling and promoting the Kendama at middle schools, that their website is still under construction. For the uninitiated, here is a YouTube video that shows it in action: The video shows off the island at the same time. I wanted one of these, even though I’m not 13 years old, but I decided against it. It is, however, a sweeping trend in the islands that’s headed to the mainland. It’s somewhat similar to the hackie sack or stacking cup craze of the ‘90s. Be ahead of the fad and get a Kendama toy while you’re here. $20-40 •


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