Should I Write a Book?

Back when I graduated from high school, my senior English instructor predicted that I would someday write the “great American novel.” I’m now nearing the end of my seventh decade and I’m here to say that is not going to happen. I do not have a novel in me . . . at all.

However, I have been thinking of writing another sort of book, and Brett and I have been talking the past few weeks about whether I should write one based on what I’ve covered in the blog over the years: getting to retirement, setting goals, making plans, traveling, and making our dreams come true on a not very big income. I enjoy writing, and it’s not like I’d have to invent the wheel or anything, mostly pull things together, organize it all, and polish everything up a bit. I have a tiny bit of experience writing a book with chapters: my Master’s thesis had over 400 pages, nine chapters, and an appendix. I’m not sure that counts for anything now, but the research, organization, and writing took months and taught me quite a bit about the process. In some ways it could be a similar effort for the type of book I would write now.

I’m not anywhere near to getting started on anything though, and haven’t the slightest idea right now of how to get published if I was to decide to write something. Actually, that would probably be my first task as I have no interest in paying to be published nor self-publishing. I also have no desire to write a travelogue, nor a how-to book – there are plenty of good ones out there already.

That’s really all I have to say about it now, but I’d like to throw a few questions out to you all:

  1. The BIG question: Do you think there’s a book in all of this?
  2. If yes, what aspects of our story do you think would make for a good book? Our getting out of debt? Moving to Hawaii? Our life on Hawaii? Our Big Adventure? How we set goals? How we manage our finances to reach our goals? All of this? Or maybe something more focused?
  3. Is there a way you think a book like this should be organized (chronological, by theme, or in some other way)?
  4. Anything else?

I look forward to reading your comments, suggestions, and opinions, even if it’s thumbs down. I have the best readers ever, and have appreciated your thoughtful comments over the years and know I will get good, solid advice from you that I can trust.

I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

Sunday Morning 11/29/2020: Heading into December (finally)

There were sadly almost no photo-worthy sunsets this week: either there were too many clouds or no clouds at all, and the sun seemed to disappear very quickly. We did get some breathtaking views out to Niihau and Lehua though from the top of Kukuiolono Park during our walks.
Saturday evening tried, but this small effort only lasted a few minutes and then turned completely gray.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

The end of a rainstorm almost always means there’ll be a rainbow. We could see where the pot of gold was located with this one.
A fully-arched rainbow is always enough to get us to stop and stare for a few moments. This one was a double!

We’ve had a lovely week, even with the crazy weather that started off the week. Rain, wind, cold temperatures (for here) – we got it all, but on Friday we woke up to blue skies and sunshine, and a normal level of wind. It has stayed cold though – yesterday morning it was 63° which is break-out-the-down-parkas weather here. We’re very much enjoying having YaYu here with us, although she is still suffering a bit from jet lag. She goes “back to class” tomorrow, and will be waking up at 3:00 a.m. HST to log into her 8:00 a.m. classes in Pennsylvania. Classes will continue for the next two weeks, but I wear ear plugs at night so should be able to sleep right through her early rising. I’m not so sure about whether Brett will be able to sleep through it though – we’ll see.

YaYu relaxing on Thanksgiving Day with some adult coloring. I love her hair color – it’s actually blue but has a greenish tinge in this photo.

YaYu’s Hawaii returning resident COVID test, taken last Wednesday, was negative, so thankfully she hasn’t had to quarantine except for the first few days home. However, she is still very nervous about possibly having picked up the virus on her journey, and wants one more test before she can relax and feel safe going out, so she will be doing that today. She did go and walk with us at the park this past week, but it’s a very socially distanced activity so she felt safe. Kauai’s COVID cases have climbed into the upper 20s, and there has been one death, an 80-year-old man who unfortunately had underlying conditions. There are so many visitors on the island now – Brett and I were frankly shocked and dismayed on our farmers’ market trip last Wednesday by how many there were. Thankfully most people were wearing masks, but we saw a few people who I guess didn’t think the rules applied to them (even with signs everywhere reminding people that masks are mandatory). Hawaii is going to do away with their testing protocol this coming week – all visitors and returning residents will once again be required to quarantine for two weeks. Too many with the virus were slipping through and cases were climbing here, so the state is going back to what worked before. We continue to not go out much, and the park where we walk is not a tourist destination, so hopefully we will all stay OK. We are going to Costco and Walmart tomorrow and I’m sort of scared of how many people may be there but we will be armed with masks and hand sanitizer.

I can barely believe however that December will finally arrive this week – one last month to get through in this crazy year. I’ve been allowing myself to at least think about the coming year, what I would like to do and what I would like to accomplish along with what isn’t going to happen (travel) and how we’re going to manage that. Some of what I’ve been thinking about has been coming together and there will be some posts coming up about where we want to go and how we’re going to get there. 

This morning I am: 

  • Reading: I am nearly half of the way through Caste. Thought-provoking does not come close nor do justice to the effect this book is having on me. The descriptions and examples of how we deal with race in America and why go beyond horrifying, shocking, disgusting, and rage-producing because they’re unfortunately all too predictable.
  • Listening to: Brett is reading and YaYu is quietly listening to a podcast on her phone, and while there are blue skies outside there a nice breeze blowing so our background noise is rustling palm trees once again this morning. It’s delightfully cool though, and the humidity is low.
  • Watching: We finished The Crown (Charles was awful – there, I’ve said it), and we’re now binge-watching Schitt’s Creek and loving it. We had our traditional viewing of The Descendants on Thanksgiving, and of course the final of the Great British Bake Off on Friday (and our favorite won!). I’d love to see GBBO go back to its roots next year though, and get away from some of the weird and unnecessary things/themes it’s been doing this season, like “Japanese Week.”
    I think we have a new Thanksgiving tradition! Hamura’s lilikoi chiffon pies are legendary. The filling is flavorful but light as a cloud, and melts in the mouth. Pure heaven.
  • Cooking/baking: It’s beans and rice night but this week we’re having the curried pumpkin chickenpeas with lime that I fixed and froze a few weeks ago. We’ll add lots of cilantro this time and also some chilis to spice it up a bit for YaYu’s tastes. We’ve still got quite a bit of leftover ham, so we’ll also having three-color Chinese salad (hiyashi chukka) this week to use up some more of it. Other things we’ll be having this week are hamburgers; chipotle chicken tacos; farmers’ market pasta (if I can get zucchini and basil at the farmer’s market); and pepperoni pizza. Ham sandwiches will figure frequently on our lunch menus. We’re finishing up our Thanksgiving lilikoi chiffon pie tonight and tomorrow I’m going to bake a chocolate cake which YaYu will top with her homemade ganache.
    The Hanapepe posters came from Hanapepe (!) – one of our favorite Kaua’i towns. They were the perfect finish to the kitchen and our home decor.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We got a lot done this past week, or at least it seemed that way. 1) The frames I finally found for our two Hanapepe posters arrived this past week and Brett got those hung in the kitchen over the stove. With that task done the apartment is finished – there will be no more decorating or other household purchases. 2) In spite of some really awful weather this past week, Brett and I were able to walk every day with a minimum distance of three miles most days, and longer walks on Thanksgiving, Friday, and Saturday. We’re not sure of the distance we walked on Thanksgiving because the app was acting up, but we walked for a full hour and have decided to use time as our measure versus distance. 3) Brett finally got the coconuts we brought from the park opened up; we shredded the coconut meat to use for cooking and baking and have been enjoying the coconut water. 4) We got Meiling’s and YaYu’s Christmas presents mailed off, a more expensive proposition than we imagined but a necessary one. 5) I finished Level 5 of Japanese on Memrise and began Level 6. Level 5 was very difficult, and included lots of Japan-related political terms and such that I had difficult remembering. I am doing much better at remembering kanji overall, but worse it seems at remembering vocabulary. My grammar level seems to be holding steady though – some of it I get, some of it I don’t.
    We have lots of coconut now; I just need to think up some ways to use it.
  • Looking forward to next week: We’re happy that YaYu will be regularly going along with us to the park when we walk next week – so many friends we’ve made there have asked after her, and we know they will be happy to see her again (and she’ll be happy to see them). We’re going food shopping tomorrow, always a fun outing for me, and we will start getting some things for our Christmas meals – fun! 
  • Thinking of good things that happened: We had a lovely Thanksgiving Day in spite of rain off and on for much of it. The lilikoi pie was as delicious as hoped and has been such a wonderful treat. YaYu’s negative test this past week was of course the best news, and made for three negative tests in a 10-day period. Hopefully today’s test will be the last of it. 
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) I signed up for a free one-week trial of HBO Max so we could watch The Descendants for free on Thanksgiving, then cancelled the subscription the next day so I wouldn’t forget and be charged. 2) It’s sometimes difficult on Kaua’i to find pantry/fridge staples at reasonable prices. For example, a 10-oz bottle of Kikkoman low-sodium soy sauce costs between $5 – $6 in stores here (if we can find it, that is). That’s too much for me as we go through soy sauce fairly quickly, so I went ahead and ordered a 64-oz bottle available on Amazon for less than $17, a savings of nearly 50% overall, especially with free shipping. 3) I made a shopping list for our trips to Costco and Walmart tomorrow and we will stick to the list! 4) There was nothing this past week for the change/$1 bill jar – we spent our entire $20 again at the farmers’ market, and other than that trip we had a no-spend week. 5) I earned 2172 Swagbucks – with the holiday it was a somewhat difficult week to earn but I kept at it and reached my weekly goal of 2100 SB. 6) Leftovers here are disappearing at a fast pace now that YaYu is home, and nothing is being thrown out.
  • Grateful for: I’m feeling very thankful for the good weather that returned this week and the cooler temperatures – it makes walking up at the park so pleasant and it’s much easier to add to our time and distance. Not having to dodge rain clouds, nor feel drained by heat and humidity after a couple of laps feels pretty darn nice.
    A clean desktop keeps me very happy and calm. This picture of Catalina Island is very calming too.
  • Bonus question: How much email is in your inbox? How many apps/icons are on your desktop? I’m one of those who tries to keep my email folder as empty as possible. I get lots of ads and other requests these days and almost all of those go right into the trash as soon as I see them. The only things that stay in my inbox for more than a day are reminders of some sort, like for a doctor’s appointment, but as soon as I don’t need them they’re deleted. Right now, for example, the only thing in my inbox is reminder I sent myself with ideas for future Sunday bonus questions. I keep a “saved” folder for things I need/want to keep track of, like YaYu’s flights, for example, and while we traveled I had a special folder filled with reservations for Airbnbs, flights, train trips, etc. but that folder has been deleted for the time being. My desktop is always clean – it drives me nuts to have stuff sitting there. My desktop photo is a shot from the Apple file of Catalina island. We used to be able to see the island from the kitchen window of our family beach house, so the photo brings good memories for me and I like to keep it clutter free.
The Iron Deer sporting some holiday finery!

And now we turn our eyes and hearts toward Christmas. We’re looking forward to having a very simple holiday here with just the three of us, and are starting to make plans for meals that day, and the very little bit of shopping we still need to do. I don’t think we’ll have a tree this year – there’s really no room in the apartment, and neither Brett nor I have seen anything we’re interested in getting. YaYu and I will be going out in the next couple of weeks to do our shopping for Brett – we’ve got a few ideas up our sleeves. I’m already thinking we’ll grill some steaks for our Christmas dinner this year, and have the rest of the menu to plan around that (stuffing has already been mentioned as everyone loved it). Our Christmas morning brunch will be different this year as well as YaYu is not crazy about bagels nor cream cheese (our traditional Christmas morning breakfast), and Brett and I don’t really want one either – too much bread for the both of us. It’s looking like we may have scones with some kind of curd (Tahitian lime? lilikoi?) along with smoked salmon and fruit. In the next couple of weeks YaYu and I are going to go through all our ornaments and divide them up to send to everyone next year. It will be an all-day job for the two of us, but it needs doing.

It was a very good week, if I do say so. Lots accomplished, frugality reigned, a good book to read, and our little family group together and well for Thanksgiving. I sincerely hope it was a lovely week for everyone as well – here’s to another great week coming up!

Home Cooking: Thanksgiving Leftovers

photo credit: The Washington Post

I’ve always thought that one of the best things about Thanksgiving was the leftovers, and in the past I always made sure we roasted a turkey big enough to give us several days of meals following the holiday. Even if we ate at someone else’s home, or went out to a restaurant, I would still either roast a small turkey or buy some roasted turkey breast, and make the sides so we could enjoy “leftovers” for a few days following Thanksgiving.

My favorite leftover dish has always been a nice, big hot turkey sandwich, very easy to prepare using leftovers, and 100% comfort food. Ron Paul’s restaurant in Portland always had a hot turkey sandwich on the menu, and it was what I always ordered whenever we dined there, no matter the occasion. Hot turkey sandwiches were always our dinner the day after Thanksgiving, usually followed in order by turkey divan casserole (my version was adapted from a much fancier recipe), turkey Waldorf salad, a turkey pot pie, and we always ended our turkey binge with turkey noodle (or rice) soup, made with a rich broth and filled with lots of meat and tasty vegetables. Our daughters especially love the turkey divan casserole, and it’s still requested any time we get together, no matter what time of year. The Waldorf salad is also good no matter the season, and a complete meal when served with a good crusty bread, like fresh sourdough or French bread. The pot pie is based on a recipe I saw in a magazine one year and although I keep my version pretty basic, there are loads of ways to adapt it.

Below are the recipes for our four favorite ways to use up Thanksgiving leftovers. None of them is complicated or fancy, but all are very, very good:

photo credit: Pinterest

Hot Turkey Sandwiches (for four)

  • 4 big, thick slices of good sourdough or French bread
  • 4 thick slices of turkey breast, enough to cover each slice of bread
  • Leftover stuffing
  • Leftover mashed potatoes
  • Leftover turkey gravy
  • Leftover cranberry sauce

Lightly toast bread slices and place one slice on each plate. Top with warm leftover stuffing and turkey slices. Reheat mashed potatoes and place a large scoop on each plate, then top everything generously with hot turkey gravy. Serve with leftover cranberry sauce.

photo credit: bettycrocker.com

Laura’s Turkey Divan Casserole

  • 1 16-oz bag frozen broccoli florets
  • 2 cups turkey, either cut into 1-inch cubes or shredded
  • 2 10.5-oz cans cream of chicken soup
  • milk
  • 1-2 TBSP curry powder
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1 16-oz bag eggs noodles
  • 2 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350°. Cook broccoli florets according to package directions; drain well. Cook egg noodles according to package directions; drain and set aside. In a large bowl mix together the cream of chicken soup, a small amount of milk (enough to create a thick but creamy sauce), at least 1 TBSP of curry powder (more if you want), and salt & pepper to taste. Add cubed or shredded turkey and 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese to the sauce and mix well. Add the cooked broccoli florets and noodles to the turkey mixture and combine well. Pour into a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and top with remaining 1 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling and the cheese is melted and browned on top. 

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Easy Leftover Turkey Pot Pie

  • Crust for 2-crust pie (premade crusts are OK)
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded or diced turkey
  • 3/4 cup frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup carrots cut into 1″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup potato, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1/2 cup diced onion (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mushrooms (optional)
  • 2 cups leftover turkey gravy
  • salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare crusts for a double-crust pie. Line the bottom of a 9″ pie plate with one crust. Steam together the peas, carrots, and potatoes until tender but not soft or mushy (or use already cooked leftover vegetables instead). Combine the vegetables and turkey in the pie plate up to the top edge, then pour turkey gravy over everything (you may not need all the gravy). Cover the pie with the top crust, crimp the edges to seal, and make five small cuts in the top to vent. Bake at 400° for 30-35 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the pie is bubbling. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving. Serve with cranberry sauce, if desired.

photo credit: simplyrecipes.com

Turkey Waldorf Salad

  • 1 large apple, washed, cored, and cut into 2″ pieces
  • 2 ribs of celery, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 3/4 cup red or green grapes
  • 1 cup turkey, cut into 2″ cubes
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves or large pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup non-fat plain yogurt
  • 1 TBSP curry powder

In a large mixing bowl, combine apples, celery, turkey, and walnuts (and dried cranberries, if desired). In a separate bowl mix together mayonnaise, yogurt, and curry powder until well blended. Pour over salad and combine all. Serve chilled with some good crusty bread.

Other great leftover turkey recipes are Kentucky Hot Brown sandwiches (turkey and bacon on toasted bread with a big tomato slice on top, then covered with either a Mornay sauce or cheesy rarebit sauce); Goodbye Turkey casserole (a creamy turkey and rice casserole), and of course, a big pot of turkey noodle or turkey rice soup! 

So Very Thankful

In spite of everything 2020 has thrown at us, Brett and I have much to be thankful for this year. Plans and dreams were thrown to the wind back in March when the pandemic began to rear its ugly head, both while we were in Japan and in the U.S., but in spite of some roadblocks that have popped up now and again we’ve had a very good year overall.

Gratitude for all that we have is what has kept me sane this year, and I have much to be thankful for:

  • Health: I am extremely grateful for our continued good health, the health of our children and their significant others, and our grandchildren. Also, who knew at the beginning of the year that this would be the one where Brett and I finally got our act together as far as diet and exercise? We’ve at last figured out a way exercising that we enjoy doing and that works for us, and we’re getting in shape and losing weight. We’ve also set goals that make sure we maintain and improve on what we’re doing now.
  • Family: We are also truly blessed that all of our family is thriving, and in spite of not being able to get together this year following our departure from Japan, we’ve all done more than a good job of staying in touch and checking up on each other. We’re feeling hopeful and optimistic that we’ll be able to put together a reunion next year. As always, I’m grateful for the love, support, friendship, and companionship of my husband, Brett. I got lucky with this one.
  • Kaua’i: Our sudden return to Kaua’i last March was frankly a shock to our system, but now we couldn’t be more happy that we decided to come back, and are beyond thankful that our kids encouraged us to return and settle here again. This time we seem to be better at appreciating what we have here, and are more appreciative of our quiet lifestyle. While not free from the virus, Kaua’i continues to be an extremely safe place to be during the pandemic, and we are grateful for the commitment of those who live here and now visitors about wearing masks, maintaining social distance, and practicing other safe behaviors. While we enjoyed the months we had this year without visitors and traffic, we’re genuinely glad to see businesses picking up again and people going back to work, and are thankful that Hawaii’s testing protocol and quarantine seem to be keeping the virus at bay.
  • Many blessings: Both Brett and I have received many blessings this year, from spending time with friends here on the island to a long stay near our family in Japan at the beginning of the year to finding a great place to live when we unexpectedly returned to Kaua’i (and the good fortune of being able to buy back our old car). We’re blessed to have a solid, dependable income, always enough to eat, and to be able to live in such a beautiful part of our country. 
  • My readers: I have the best readers in the world, and I am always thankful for all who continue to visit the blog and read whatever I have to say. I’m grateful as well for the advice, support, and kind comments I receive. I am lucky beyond measure to have met several readers in real life and become friends with them, and hope I am able to meet many more in the years ahead.

Wishing all my readers, their friends and family, a very happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a wild ride this year, but worth remembering that “It’s not happy people who are grateful, it’s thankful people who are happy.” 

Sunday Morning 11/22/2020: Tanned, Rested, and Ready

Last Sunday’s sunset looked like a painting in the sky.
Thursday’s sunset never reached its potential – the clouds all turned gray.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

While I am rested and ready to get back to writing, I’m sure not very tan (and this week’s weather sure didn’t help either). I’ve gotten used to being asked if I’m enjoying my visit whenever I wear shorts as my legs are pale enough that they glow. But, I feel rested again and ready to move forward. I had very a pleasant week off and thought a lot about what I wanted to write and when. I’ve decided that for the time being I’ll continue to write on travel topics now and then, and about all the other things in the blog header (plans, goals, Kaua’i, and so forth). The posting schedule I’ve been using works well for me right now as well, so I’m going to stay with the Sunday Morning posts, have something else up on Tuesdays or Wednesdays, and recipes on Fridays for the time being. The response to the recipes has frankly been a pleasant surprise as they’re simply ones our family has enjoyed over the years, ones I’ve collected from all sorts of places. I’m feeling grateful that I put almost all of them online several years ago because my cookbooks were in the box that was lost in the move.

YaYu in full travel regalia

Our baby girl is home, but once again her journey nearly turned into a logistical nightmare. Sometime last week Alaska changed her schedule, and had her flying from Philadelphia to Chicago on American Airlines for the first leg of her flight versus the non-stop we had booked into Seattle. Their email informing her of the change went to her spam filter for some reason and she didn’t see it until Friday. The new Alaska flight out of Chicago had her arriving later into Seattle than the original reservation, so her flight into Honolulu had been changed to one that didn’t arrive there until 9:00 p.m., long after the final connecting flight of the day to Lihue on any airline had departed – she would have had to spend the night in the Honolulu airport! I got on the phone with Alaska, explained the situation, and they quickly changed her to a non-stop flight to Lihue from Seattle at no extra charge. However, that left us with the Honolulu to Lihue Southwest ticket that we had booked for her back when Hawaiian changed their schedule, but I was surprisingly able to cancel that ticket for a full refund right at their website with a click of a button – so easy. Hopefully YaYu didn’t catch the virus from the huge crowds that were at the Philadelphia and Chicago airports, but we will be practicing social distancing and mask wearing here at home for the next few days just in case. She wore both a mask and face shield during her travels, and was very conscientious about wiping things down and cleaning her hands so we hope all will be OK.

The Eastside beach path views never disappoint

It’s been another week of wacky weather, running the gamut from sunny and hot to rainy, cold, and damp. The ceiling fans haven’t been on all week, and on most evenings it has been cold enough to put on a sweater (it gets downright chilly here when temps drop into the low 70s, and frigid in the upper 60s). It rained all day Wednesday, too much to even try to get to the farmers’ market; but on Thursday we walked one lap before the rain arrived and soaked us. We thought Friday was going to be a bust as well, but the rain stopped long enough in the late afternoon for us to walk a couple of miles. Yesterday we woke up to heavy rains and gale-force winds again with gusts above 20 mph all day, there were torrential rains falling horizontally at times. We caught a break in the late afternoon though and were able to get in an hour’s walk, although we had to skip the trail through the woods because of the mud. However, last Monday was lovely – warm, sunny, and with a nice breeze. We were up in Kapaa for my haircut and decided to walk out to the Pineapple Dump, and ended up going beyond it to check out Donkey Beach. On the way back though the breeze stopped, the sun was beating down on us, and shortly before we got to the car I started feeling strange: my legs felt like they were made from jelly, I started having cramps in my chest and abdomen, and I began feeling very dizzy and foggy. I had apparently become dehydrated and was also suffering from low blood sugar as I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in a few hours, and combined with the heat I got pushed fairly close to heat exhaustion. Once in the car I finished the entire contents of our water bottle, Brett got the A/C in the car turned on me, and by the time we got home I felt fine again. It was a scary experience though, and I won’t walk that distance again, especially when it’s hot, without taking water breaks along the way and making sure I bring along a snack. Lesson learned!

A big surprise this week was the arrival of the box our son and daughter-in-law sent to use back in July. I sort of jokingly guessed when they sent it that the earliest we could expect it to arrive would be Halloween, so that ended up being not too far off. Packages into the U.S. from Japan can only be sent by surface mail right now (i.e. a slow boat) and then have to clear customs, creating a long, long delay. The package contained 10 packages of mugicha tea bags, which will hopefully last until we get back to Japan and can get more, as well as several spicy sauce mixes and some spicy chips for YaYu, and three packages of Japanese cookies for us, including our favorite asparagus biscuits (not made from asparagus, just shaped like spears of asparagus).

This morning I am:

  • Reading: My current book, Caste, is powerful, excellently written and researched, with the truth of what the author says difficult to read some times and anger-producing as well. America is a special case in the world when it comes to race, and this book lays out clearly and in a compelling fashion what that is and how we got here.
  • Listening to: The wind is howling loudly once again but at least it’s not raining . . . for now. Brett is making coffee, YaYu is reading, so it’s quiet inside but outside it is LOUD. Hopefully this storm or whatever it is will blow though today. LOTS of visitors arrived last night on the plane YaYu came in on and I’m pretty sure this weather and noise has to be discouraging for them.
  • Watching: We watched five different shows this week, six if you count Friday night’s Great British Bake Off semi-final episode (Patisserie Week). We’ve started off each evening with an episode of The Crown, followed by Young Wallender (which we finished), and then either Bordertown (which we finally also finished) or Unsolved Mysteries. With Young Wallender and Bordertown finished we started The Valhalla Murders, set in Iceland. We think The Crown has been fairly brutal and quite unflattering to the royal family this season. 
  • Cooking/baking: It’s Thanksgiving week, but we’re skipping the turkey this year as YaYu doesn’t care for it. Instead, our Thanksgiving meal will be ham along with herbed stuffing and sautéed green beans on the side. Dessert will be a lovely, fluffy lilikoi chiffon pie from Hamura’s Saimin in Lihue. Tonight’s dinner will be bean burritos fill with Mexican cowboy beans, leftover pulled pork, seasoned rice, shredded cabbage, and salsa. Other dinners this week will be noodles with pork sauce; mabo tofu; ham fried rice; soup with ham and cheese sandwiches, and of course leftovers if there are any although with YaYu home things should be eaten up more quickly. I won’t be baking this week although YaYu might feel like making something. Brett and I finished up our chocolate cake last Thursday, but instead of picking up a pumpkin pie at Costco we got some more Bubbie’s mochi ice cream and have been enjoying a couple of those with a two Japanese cookies for our dessert. I’m going to make an olive oil orange cake tomorrow though to get us through Wednesday and then we’ll be having a small slice of the lilikoi pie on Thursday and for a few days after before I bake something again.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We ended up getting in six days of walking this week, even if not as much or as long as usual on some of those days. We got all the food shopping done for Thanksgiving and don’t have to go again until December 1. We also got Meiling’s and WenYu’s Christmas presents packed up and ready to go to the post office early this coming week. Brett got our avocado tree transplanted into a big pot (he chose one from the collection of pots under our porch) and it will now continue to grown outside. We still can’t get over how big it got growing in the jar.
    The little tree that could.
  • Looking forward to next week: Besides spending time with YaYu again (at a distance), I’m honestly looking forward to not going anywhere next week except to the farmers’ market and up to the park every day for a walk. Stores were already getting crowded last week because of the upcoming holidays and I’m dreading going shopping during the next month or so. I’m wondering now if our fire pit brought a curse along with it, but fingers are crossed for better weather next week as well so we can be outside more (also because we have everything to make s’mores now).
    Single eggs Benedict for both of us yesterday: traditional for Brett, kalua pig for me.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Besides finally 1) receiving the package our son sent, and 2) having YaYu home with us, we 3) got big news from WenYu that she had been hired as adjunct faculty at a tech school in Boston to teach web design and another web-related course! The job pays well and is a perfect fit for her, and still gives her time to create items for her Etsy site as well. Currently all courses at the school are being taught online, but she will eventually teach in a classroom once it’s considered safe enough to reopen the school. We’re so very, very happy for her, especially that she found something in her major field! 4) I had my six month eye exam on Friday, and learned I don’t need new glasses . . . yet. I will be going for a consult next spring however for cataract surgery as the doctor feels it’s best for me to get it done early rather than wait. 5) Brett and I finally got out for our breakfast date yesterday morning at the Kalaheo Cafe. The food was delicious, we were appropriately distanced from others, and we had a good time! 6) The week has been a mostly gloomy one, but on the plus side there have been lots of rainbows spotted, including a couple of full arches. They are glorious.
    Saturday afternoon’s rainbow show

Sunday’s rainbow was a spectacular full arch. I should have taken a panoramic shot – it was huge, and especially bright.

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This past week was not a particularly frugal one as we overspent on food, but that was because we decided we did not want to go out at all this coming week so we bought the things we would have bought next week. Finding room for everything in the pantry, freezer, and fridge has been a challenge. We finally received our settlement from the moving company for the box they lost. Their initial offer was an insulting $22.80 but I told them that was unacceptable considering this wasn’t a couple of broken items but an entire box that they failed to load into our shipment. They then offered us $100, which we accepted. It doesn’t cover what was lost, but I knew that was the best we were going to get from them based on the coverage we had purchased. The check went right into our travel savings. I earned 2,352 Swagbucks, but we didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill jar again last week because we didn’t get any change back anywhere. We had more than the usual amount of leftovers this week for some reason but they were joyfully eaten, with no food wasted.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are both so thankful that our girl is safely home once again and that she was able to arrive as planned and on time. We’re also thankful BMC paid for her Hawaii-required COVID-19 test (@$139.95) as it was required for her to come home and not have to endure two weeks of quarantine. We’re going to take things easy for the next couple of days, although she got a negative result again on her preflight COVID test (second in a week). She will be tested once more on Wednesday (free for island residents) and if that’s clear then we can stand down here at home. For the time being though we’re staying masked full-time and are keeping ourselves distanced as much as possible.
    This was my location from randomstreetview.com: Hamnvik, Norway. A little isolate, a little rocky, but looks lovely in the summer. Not too sure about winter though.
  • Bonus question: If you were given five million dollars, with the condition that you had to live in first place you clicked on randomstreetview.com, would you do it? Could you do it? This was another fun question that popped up on Twitter this past week. The location selected for me was Hamnvik, Norway, located up near the Arctic Circle. I’m not so sure that $5 million would be enough to get me to live at this spot as it’s so far north. The view is spectacular though, and with $5 million I could probably afford to build a gorgeous house on top of that rock formation with a state-of-the-art heating system, but winters would still be extremely problematic, especially since I’d be coming from Hawaii. Also, I’d have to learn Norwegian – not sure about that although it’s probably easier than Japanese. Still, the $5 million dollars is quite tempting – after the house and other needs are met, there would probably be enough money left over to travel as much as I desired, and I could go live in the south of France or back here on Kaua’i during the winters!
Wearing a pristine white apron, my great-x11-grandmother, Priscilla Mullins, serves turkey to Squanto on the first Thanksgiving, while her future husband, John Alden, stands ready with the sweet potatoes. Miles Standish, in full uniform, stands to the right. Sadly, there is nothing remotely accurate about anything in this picture other than those people were actually there.

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday – no presents, no expectations (at least not in our family), just good food and being together and thankful for all we have and have been blessed with. This year it will just be the three of us, and our meal will be very untraditional, but that’s the way things seem to be going this year. We’re planning on sleeping in on Thursday, and will take a walk out to the Pineapple Dump if weather permits, a tradition we started when we lived here before. In the evening we’ll have our annual holiday viewing of The Descendants (last year we watched it early when we were in Edinburgh). Sometime during the day we’ll have a chat with Meiling and WenYu, and maybe will get to talk with our son and family, although the time difference is always an issue and it doesn’t sometime happen. No matter what, it should be a lovely day. 

And that was the week that was (mostly)! It was a very nice one too, and I’m looking forward to our simple Thanksgiving and the rest of the week coming up, and hope you are too!

Sunday Morning 11/15/2020: Blowin’ In the Wind

Last Sunday’s sunset was a showstopper!
The only other sunset was on Thursday. There were no clouds to the west, but the eastern view glowed.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

YaYu arrives home this week for her two-month winter break! She was tested on campus for the virus yesterday, and then will have a second test on Thursday that meets Hawaii standards. She’ll quarantine here for a couple of days, until she can get the results online from the Thursday test and submit them, but should otherwise be good to go. We talked with her the other day and could tell she is nervous. She has been exceedingly careful, but remains terrified of bringing the virus home to us. We don’t have any other options though and would prefer her to be here for these next two months. She still has no idea when she’ll go back to school in January, but hopefully she’ll hear soon as return flights from Honolulu to Philadelphia are currently very inexpensive. We were able to get a credit from Hawaiian Airlines for the flight we had reserved to get her from Honolulu to here next week as they had changed the time of the flight making it impossible for her to make her connection to Kaua’i – it will be used in January. She’ll instead be coming over on a later Southwest flight. I asked her the other day if she had snacks, etc. for her long trip and she said yes, but that she couldn’t imagine taking down her mask to eat or drink during the day. She says she will wear double masks during her journey, and she is a fanatic about wiping things down, disinfecting, and using hand sanitizer so we think (and hope) she will be OK.

This week in the park has been windy and cool. There have been more than few rainbows. And chickens. Lots and lots of chickens.

This has been one of those “be careful what you wish for” weeks. Just a short while ago I was moaning about the missing trade winds, but they came back, and with a vengeance this past week. Seriously, we had near gale-force winds on several days, enough that it’s been cold (for here) and we haven’t needed our ceiling fan on. There have also been several short but torential rainstorms along the way as well, and thunderstorms too. On Friday the house next door was being tented for termites, and the poor guys trying to get the tent on were almost blown off the roof a couple of times. Things have been blown over in the house because we keep the windows and the French door open almost all the time, but walking up at the park was a treat in spite of the wind – it was nice and cool all week. I had to give up wearing my visor though as it kept being blown off my head. On the plus side too the winds took care of some dead palm fronds that were hanging from a tree in our yard, but on the down side we still haven’t been able to use our new fire pit. Maybe next week

Can I say once again how incredibly frustrated I am not to be able to comment on Blogger sites? I have tried numerous permutations and NOTHING works. For a short time it seemed as if I would be able to comment using my phone, but that only worked with one blog and didn’t last. I don’t comment often, but it’s maddening not to be able to comment at all these days.

I am going to take the next week off from writing. I’ve been feeling like my muse has been off doing something else for a while, and that I need a few days to refocus my thinking and let inspiration flow. I’ll be back next Sunday though.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished reading Climb, and overall I give it a score of 3.8. I enjoyed the book, but it seemed more of a travelogue overall, although Susan’s personal journey of finding strength and building a new life for herself along the way is documented. That’s just my 2¢ though – Brett loved it. I’ve just started reading Caste and have a feeling it’s going to be more than merely eye-opening.
  • Listening to: I’m enjoying a very quiet morning, especially as there’s only a gentle breeze blowing. It’s about time! There are blue skies too, another nice change. Brett’s fixing his breakfast in the kitchen, and some birds are signing outside, but otherwise there’s not a sound to be heard. I love it.
  • Watching: We finished The Queen’s Gambit this past week. It was absolutely pure viewing pleasure from start to finish, and one of the all-time best series I have ever watched. We’ve got three more episodes of Bordertown to go, watched Dessert Week (the quarterfinals) on the Great British Bake Off last Friday, and started Young Wallender on Netflix last night. Season 4 of the The Crown starts tonight (Princess Diana!) so we plan to watch an episode of that each evening as well. We’re also watching an episode of Unsolved Mysteries every evening – it’s more interesting that we imagined. Brett especially has really gotten into it.
  • Cooking/baking: Tonight’s dinner will be A Dozen Cousins Trini curried chickpeas, served with jasmine rice and a cucumber salad. Also on this week’s menu will be chili pork burritos; barbecue pulled pork sandwiches with cole slaw; and grilled teriyaki chicken with simmered kabocha pumpkin. We’ll also eat leftovers and other odds and ends we want to get out of the refrigerator before YaYu comes back. We plan to pick up another big pumpkin pie at Costco this week and along with YaYu hope to have it finished before Thanksgiving as we have decided on lilikoi chiffon pie from Hamura’s to go with our holiday meal. I’m greatly looking forward to YaYu helping out in the kitchen again – she’s a very talented cook!
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: We walked every day this week even though a couple of days were pretty sketchy weather-wise. On Friday we got caught in a shower for a few minutes but decided to carry on and the rain thankfully stopped. On two days we were able to push our distance to 4.5 miles, and will go for three days at that distance next week. All of the girls’ Christmas presents have been wrapped, with Meiling’s and WenYu’s box almost ready to send back to the mainland – we just need to pick up two more small things to tuck into it first. 
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) YaYu’s homecoming is at the top of our list, of course – we can’t wait to have our baby girl home again! 2) I also can’t wait to get my hair trimmed up tomorrow – it needs it. 3) We’re hoping the cooler temperatures remain, and that we can walk every day, but also that the wind doesn’t feel the need to blow quite as strongly as it did this past week. 4) Brett and I are planning to have a breakfast date again the week at the Kalaheo Cafe, sometime toward the end of the week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) I’ve lost another five pounds and am very happy about that, especially since I’ve now met the amount my doctor’s wanted me to lose. I plan to keep on doing what I’ve been doing for a while longer though and see where it takes me. 2) Meiling steeled herself this past week and asked for a raise . . . and got it! We’re so proud of this girl and all she has accomplished and is accomplishing. She has set some solid goals for herself and is on her way to accomplishing all of them. 3) We’re getting a new stove! The large burner on our current one has been acting up and now only has two temperatures; high and melt-the-pan high. And, the knob started smoking the other day as well – scary! A repairperson came to look at it, but wanted so much to fix it that the landlord decided it was more cost effective to purchase a new stove. The stove has to be special ordered because of its size, but should be here in two to three weeks. In the meantime, no pan goes unattended on that burner, and I avoid it as much as possible (it’s great for stir fries though). 4) Since my “political” post last Sunday, my daily readership has climbed by over 500% per day for the week. It’s been kind of fun but I know it’s not going to last for long.
    Lots of great produce for just $20: apple bananas, a big dragonfruit, some rambutan, a bag of green beans, cilantro, two papayas, and a kabocha (Japanese pumpkin).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We put nothing into the change/$1 bill jar this week because the only spending we did was at the farmers’ market where we spent every dollar of the $20 we took with us. 2) I wrapped the Christmas gifts with the sheets of Japanese newspaper the dishes we bought during our 2019 stay had been wrapped in and that I had saved for some reason. I added red and green ribbon to the packages and they’re very pretty. 3) I earned 2,411 Swagbucks this past week. It was a slog, but worth it as I’m getting very close to earning my first $500 Delta gift card. 4) Aside from those things we did all our other regular frugal things: ate leftovers, didn’t throw away any food, etc.

A year ago today we walked a mile and half down to where the old Blockley station used to be. It was downhill going and uphill the whole way back on a cool, overcast November day. We stopped at the Blockley Cafe before going home for some cake and tea.

  • Grateful for: I took so many pictures last year and the year before, and Apple has been throwing up a memory each day from our travels, using pictures from my photos file on my phone. I sometimes wondered if I was taking too many pictures, but now am so grateful that I did take of all we saw and did, and the memories we made.
  • Bonus question: Two music questions this week – What’s the first album you bought with your own money? and What’s an album you can put on and listen to all the way through? I don’t really remember the first album I bought with my own money, but it may have been either The Doors or the Beatles White Album. I honestly can’t remember but I know we had those two early on. The Doors album’s Side B was mistakenly pressed with a different artist from the Doors – we had no idea who it was and never figured it out, but it definitely wasn’t The Doors. My older brother and I still wore out the A side (“Light My Fire” and all). The first album I owned on my own though was Herman’s Hermits (a gift for my 13th birthday), and the first 45 single I bought was “The Letter” by the Box Tops. We wore that out as well. I haven’t listened to an entire album in years, but a few older ones that I could still put on and listen all the way through are Mad Dogs and Englishmen by Joe Cocker; B.B. King’s Indianola Mississippi Seeds; Introducing the Hardline According to Terence Trent D’Arby; and Ladies of the Canyon, Blue, and Court & Spark by Joni Mitchell. There are others but these are the first ones that come to mind. By the way, does anyone remember being able to go into a listening booths at music stores to “preview” singles? I used to stop by our local store several times a week to listen to records I couldn’t afford to purchase otherwise.

This past week we had to change the route we take to go over to the park because of three very close calls last Monday. We were almost hit head on not once but twice as we headed up the hill to the park – two large pickup trucks came speeding around sharp corners in the middle of the lane, assuming I guess that no one would be there, and pushed us off into the side of the road. That was scary enough, but on the way back home another truck came along in the middle of the lane and pushed us up against a bridge we have to cross. That was, as they say, a bridge to far for us, and we now are taking a longer route but with a wider road, and fewer curves and blind spots. Not sure what was going on last Monday, but it was a very unnerving experience and we feel lucky to have come out OK. Hopefully those truck drivers were a little bit unnerved as well.

This is the strangest thing going on in our yard right now.

A Hawaiian ginger plant in our yard has started sprouting out of its blossom – so strange. We’re thinking of cutting off the blossom and planting it for more ginger plants. Also blossoming in our yard are several ti plants, something I never knew happened. All of our plants currently have a long drooping blooms sprouting out of them, all in a shade of pinkish lavender – they’re lovely.

Blossoming ti plants

That’s a wrap for this week! Other than ferocious winds, it’s been a very good week, and I’m looking forward to the one coming up and hope you are as well. I’ll be putting things back together again and will be back next Sunday!

 

Home Cooking: Quick Farmers’ Market Pasta

photo credit: food network.com

I don’t often watch Food Network (because we don’t have cable), but one day a few years ago I happened to come across Tyler’s Ultimate when he was making this pasta recipe. It was just the kind of dish my family enjoys eating, and that I enjoy fixing. It’s easy to make, contains no processed foods, and doesn’t cost that much to make or require any strange, expensive ingredients. The sausage can be purchased bulk or links used. Depending on the time of year, the tomatoes, zucchini, and basil can actually come from a farmers’ market or right from the garden, but they’re also easy to find year-round in any supermarket. On the show Tyler actually peeled and added fresh artichoke hearts, but canned work just as well.

Having made this several times, I’m not so sure I would exactly call this recipe “quick,” but it’t not difficult to put together. The results are, as WenYu put it the first time we tried it, amazing. Not one bite is ever left over at our home, and everyone in our family considers it one of the best pasta dishes we’ve ever had.

The recipe as written uses an incredibly large amount of olive oil in my opinion, nearly one cup. I cut back the oil back to four tablespoons (1/4 cup) and it comes out fine. I use two tablespoons to cook the tomatoes, and the other two to saute the zucchini and artichokes and it was more than enough. The only other change I’ve made is to cut back on the amount of sugar added to the tomatoes. Our family all thought the sauce turned out a little too sweet when I used the full tablespoon. One teaspoon of sugar would probably be enough, especially if the tomatoes are fresh and naturally sweet from the garden or farmer’s market.

QUICK FARMER’S MARKET PASTA

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup olive oil plus more as needed (I use 1/4 cup)
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 TBSP sugar (or less, if desired)
  • 1 pound penne pasta
  • 3/4 pound pork Italian sausage (chicken or turkey Italian sausage can be substituted)
  • 2-3 small zucchini, sliced
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained well and cut into quarters
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • fresh basil leaves (optional)

Place the sliced garlic and tomatoes in a large, heavy saute or frying pan, and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Place the pan over low-medium heat and cook slowly until the tomatoes are falling apart and the juices are mixed with the olive oil, about 35-40 minutes. Using the back of a spoon, squash the tomatoes to make a chunky sauce; mix in the sugar and set aside, keeping warm.

Cook the pasta according to package directions; drain.

In another large saute or fry pan, add some olive oil and saute the sausage until brown. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add a little more olive oil to the pan, and add the zucchini, sauteing until caramelized around the sides, then add the artichoke hearts and cook an additional 2-3 minutes. Add the sausage back to the pan, then toss in the pasta and tomato sauce and mix over medium heat to make sure everything is heated through.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and shredded  fresh basil, if desired.

Thinking About Long Term Goals

Brett and I have some firm goals for the next two years, and even have some ideas already for 2023, but this past week we began taking about some longer term goals to get us into and through 2025, when Brett will turn 75 and I will be 73 years old. Most of what we’ve been discussing is based on how we see the next few years unfolding, or would like to see it unfold, and on our staying healthy and active, but at the same time accepting that we may need to or feel like slowing down. Things that are easy for us now might not be so easy in five years, or hold the same appeal. We also think it’s a good idea to have a general picture of where we’d like to be at that point so that other choices going forward feed into that picture.

Based on what we know as well as how we imagine things will be going in the next few years, we have come up with four long-term goals that should get us to where we see ourselves landing 2025. 

  1. Staying healthy and active remains at the top of our list. We currently see no reason to change or cut back our current way of eating or the amount of exercise we get, and will continue to remain vigilant about testing and maintaining the other healthy lifestyle choices we practice. We know however that one’s health can change on a dime, but for now our goal is to keep doing what we’re doing now and stay focused.
  2. Continue to visit Japan every year, make one mainland visit each year to see the girls, one in-state visit, and do one other “big trip” through 2025. Because of the virus, this won’t “officially” go into full effect until 2023 at the earliest, but at that point we can reassess how we feel, see if our budget can handle all this travel, and make changes to or slow down if necessary. However, there are still places we want to visit, or revisit, and we intend to be in Japan at least once a year to stay connected to our grandchildren as long as we can make the trip(s). We want to continue taking an annual “big trip” as long as we can, and feel that in five years we’ll have a good idea of how we’re doing and what we can handle.
  3. Buy a more comfortable car in the next two years. Our current car runs great, gets great gas mileage, and we plan to hold on to it for the next couple of years, but it’s becoming increasingly uncomfortable for both of us as the seats are low and there is no back support – both Brett and I occasionally get backaches after riding around for a while, and it’s not as easy for us to get in and out of as it was in the past. So, we are starting to think now about getting something more comfortable, something efficient, and a car that will see us through for many more years (we hope). This is going to be a major expense for us, and will most likely mean having a (small) car payment again, so a lot of thought and planning will happen before we make a purchase.
  4. Not quite a firm goal yet, but we’re getting there – should we purchase a condo or continue to rent? We’ve decided that owning a house at this stage of our lives is out of the question because we’re not interested in dealing with the maintenance, yard work, etc. that comes along with home ownership. Also, houses on the island are just flat-out too costly and too big an investment for us at this stage of our lives. There are several small (same size as our apartment now) condos around the island though that could work for us, with affordable HOA fees, giving us a permanent home to age in. We’re not in any sort of hurry now, but plan to keep our eyes open to possibilities and will go forward if it feels right in 2025 (or maybe even before). For now we’re content to rent.

These longer-term goals are all rather nebulous for now; and we’re not actively working on any of them or planning anything and don’t see that happening for another couple of years. We like having goals to work toward though. The important point for us now is to get our ideas out there, talk about them, and find out what we agree on and what we don’t, as well as what’s feasible and what isn’t. As always, stay tuned!

Sunday Morning 11/8/2020: Change In the Air

These were the two best “sunsets” we had this past week. It’s been gloomy.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

It’s over . . . finally. Brett and I started watching election results at 4:00 p.m. here last Tuesday and lasted until nearly midnight, both of us nervous wrecks. We put together a big plate of sushi to eat while we watched but were too anxious to even get through half of it (we ate what was remaining for lunch on Wednesday). The initial results were not everything we hoped for here at Chez Aloha, but the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris was finally called yesterday. Some states were flipped from the last election, and there’s still a chance for big things to happen in Georgia in January. The overall turnout for this election was amazing and heartening, and I hope it continues going forward in future elections. I have no illusions that things are going to magically change for the better, or change quickly, but there will be changes, some of them faster than others, and I am heartened that getting the pandemic under control will be the top priority. I am especially thrilled that our new VP will be a woman – it’s been a long time coming and long overdue.

Normally we would have had no problem taking care of most of this, but nerves got the best of us on Election Day and we didn’t even finish half.

We finally got YaYu’s travel plans sorted and arranged, and she will be home on November 21 and with us for Thanksgiving as originally planned. It looked for a while like her homecoming might be delayed because of the testing requirements, and she was making plans to stay with a friend in Seattle for a week or so to get her pre-flight testing done there before coming to Hawaii, but the friend’s parent are both physicians and have been assigned to the COVID-19 area in their hospital this month, so it turned out not to be a good time for hosting anyone in their home. However, YaYu made arrangements with a friend in Pennsylvania to take her to be tested the day before she leaves, and she will quarantine for two days once she gets here and then submit the results online and follow up with back-up testing here on Kaua’i. Cases of the virus are rising here on Kaua’i – as of Friday there were nine active cases on the island with two of those hospitalized. One good bit of news though – the first flight of visitors from Japan arrived in Honolulu yesterday, the first foreign visitors allowed back into the state. Our son has said that once a vaccination has been tested and approved, they will come to Hawaii. We are all hoping for that to happen in 2021.

We had a weird/disturbing thing happen this past week: On Monday, Brett received a U.S. Bank debit card . . . and we don’t have a U.S. Bank account. We did some investigating, and the card was apparently filled with hundreds of dollars of unemployment benefits! We learned this is a major scam that’s been going on all around the U.S., apparently run by some Nigerian outfit (the prince?). Retirees have been targeted, and their names and addresses used to file for unemployment benefits (because in some states all you apparently need is a name and address) but sometimes the cards have ended up going to the actual retiree named on the card, like what happened with us. Hawaii is in the mix of states affected, so we have no way of knowing whether the fraud happened here or in another state, which seems more likely as U.S. Bank does not operate in the state of Hawaii. Brett filed a fraud alert with the bank, and with the card issuer, and we went over our credit records with a fine-toothed comb but found nothing irregular. We will be watching things a bit more carefully for the next few months though. 

We had another stormy, crazy weather week, with cloud cover most days and several days of very high humidity once again. It was not a good week for picture taking. The trade winds broke through when they could, and we got out to walk as much as possible, but also spent a couple of days stuck inside. We were hoping to have a celebratory bonfire in the yard with our neighbors as we bought some firewood this past week, but it looks like that’s going to have to wait. Fall weather has always been sort of messy here, and winter is coming, even in Hawaii.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m about halfway through Susan Spann’s Climb and enjoying it. It makes me wish I was in Japan. 
  • Listening to: There’s a strong, cool breeze blowing outside this morning – it’s wonderful listing to the sound of the trees moving in the wind again. Humidity is very low or at least it feels that way. Brett is in the kitchen making his breakfast, and our neighbor has been rustling around upstairs, but otherwise it’s a perfect, quiet morning.
  • Watching: We finally finished Homeland, got through “80s Week” on The Great British Bake-Off, and are now watching The Queen’s Gambit on Netflix – it’s so, so good. We’re also alternating between episodes each an evening of Unsolved Mysteries on Netflix and Bordertown. WenYu had been watching Unsolved Mysteries and thought we would enjoy it as well (and she was right).
  • Cooking/baking: It’s Sunday, so beans and rice for dinner tonight – Cuban beans this week but with roasted sweet potato, fried banana, and a little salsa for a sort of Cuban bowl vibe. This week we’re also going to have grilled fish (ono) tacos; subuta (Japanese style sweet & sour pork); grilled smoked chicken sausages and sauerkraut (we want to finish up the big container we bought at Costco last month); and InstantPot chicken adobo with bok choy. We finished up the Blue Bunny ice cream yesterday, so I’ll be baking the dark chocolate cake this afternoon for our dessert tonight.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: Because of this week’s weather we only got in five days of walking up at the park – we were rained out last Sunday afternoon and this past Wednesday. We almost had to scrap our plans to increase our distance this week as well, but Thursday afternoon there was a wonderful cool breeze blowing during our walk, we felt good, and we got in the extra amount and walked a little over four miles. We’ll be going for two days of that distance this week. I finally got our pantry better organized this past week using some OXO containers, and it’s wonderful not having to dig through everything to find needed items as well as have the extra space the organization created (we’re fortunate to have a pantry in our tiny kitchen, but it’s very narrow and had been difficult to arrange things in any sort of practical way).
    Can’t believe how tall our little avocado tree has grown, or how long the taproot is.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am so hoping we can get through a whole week without a storm and its accompanying humidity, or at least if there has to be one it comes in the middle of the night and is gone by morning. Our avocado tree has leafed out and we’re looking forward to transplanting it into a pot this week.
    Currently Christmas is in chaos. Order will hopefully be restored this week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Even with the days of counting, the election results were worth the wait. 2) On Friday our neighbor brought us some fresh fish he had caught (he cleaned them too), two blue snapper and one gold snapper. We tucked them into the freezer and will roast them with lemon and rosemary when YaYu is home. 3) All the Christmas presents we ordered for the girls arrived this week so all Brett and I need to do now is get them wrapped, packed (if going to Meiling and WenYu), and sent off by the end of the month. I love wrapping presents so I’m looking forward to this. 4) Rambutan was available at the farmers’ market this week. They’re like fuzzy litchi, but so, so good. The ones we got are big and sweet.
    Dragonfruit are becoming harder to find, but it was thrilling to see rambutan arrive at the farmers’ market.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: While we underspent on our food shopping at Costco, Walmart, and the farmers’ market this past week, and put $18.61 into the change/$1 bill jar, the week ended up being an expensive one as we restocked our gin collection for the next several months. We bought giant bottles of Bombay Sapphire and Hendrick’s at Costco at a higher up-front price but lower overall price for the quantity than buying it elsewhere. Although those two bottles upped the amount we spent now they will save us overall in the long run. Otherwise we had a no-spend week. I earned 3,016 Swagbucks, which included my 681 SB October bonus. All our leftovers were happily eaten, and no food was thrown away.
    The Chez Aloha gin joint is back in business! This is several months worth of cocktails for us.
  • Grateful for: I am unabashedly grateful that the majority of voters in our country stepped up and chose democracy and decency and rejected outright authoritarianism and yes, fascism. There is much work to be done going forward, many things to be fixed, and the journey will not be easy, but I am grateful that our country will be stepping back on the right path again.The message below expressed perfectly to me of what was lost these past four years, and a big reason why we supported Joe Biden in this election.
  • Bonus question: What is your weakest claim to fame?  This was another fun question that popped up on Twitter this past week and the answers were fun. Basically, it asked what was your most mundane interaction with a celebrity. Most of my moments meeting celebrities were thrilling, but the most mundane was selling a newspaper to Stacy Keach in 1987 at the Casa Marina hotel gift shop in Key West, FL. I usually staffed the hotel clothing boutique, but that morning I was fill-in in at the general gift shop for some reason. I recognized him immediately even though he looked like hell, sold him his paper and handed him his change without saying a word, and that was that – so very mundane. Now, if it had been Eric Clapton buying a newspaper (he had stayed at the hotel the year before), I would be telling a very different story!

One of the things I’ve read about, heard rumors about, and will be watching for when Biden takes office will be possible changes affecting student loan repayment. I have been paying back the federal student loans I took out to finish my bachelor’s degree and attend graduate school since 2000, for a degree that was required for me to work in my field. Every month since then several hundred dollars have been automatically removed from our bank account, except for the nearly three years I took classes again to earn a certificate in Conflict Management and received forbearance (the college I worked for covered my tuition). As of now I have made payments equaling what I borrowed, but I still have another 13 years to go before the loan is paid in full, and I have always had an interest rate less than 3%! The total amount I will have paid at the end of the loan period will be nearly double what I borrowed. My loan is nothing unusual or out of the ordinary, and students today are holding far more debt, and at much higher interest rates. So, I am going to hope beyond hope that some forgiveness might become a reality, not just for me but for so many others who struggle to pay their loans and who cannot more forward because of them, and that the whole student loan business model is refigured. Forgiving student loans, or some portion of them, will provide a huge boost to the economy, more than many other changes that can be made, and more than people realize, I believe.

The day lily above is one of many that have sprouted in the woods recently at Kukuiolono Park. The photo above does not capture how much its orange color actually glows – the color is almost DayGlo because it’s so bright. We saw earlier in the week that some of the lilies had been dug up, probably by other visitors/walkers, but these past few days more were bursting out in the area. I’m not the biggest fan of day lilies, but these ones are nothing if not eye-catching, and the color gorgeous.

I’m frankly glad this week – this election! – is over. The election itself and the following vote count caused so much anxiety, and even though the ending turned out well for the majority I know there are still hard feeling and they will continue. I also understand the disappointment many are feeling now as we experienced the same in 2016. But, here’s to a good week coming up and better times, and to the start of some healing for our country.

Home Cooking: Autumn Apple Cheesecake Torte

photo credit: tasteofhome.com

If you have ever thought that cheesecake and apple pie might not go together, then this could be the recipe that changes your mind! Set in a cookie crust, this torte combines a creamy cheese filling with spiced apples and nuts for an absolutely delicious autumn dessert.

This recipe is another from the old Ron Paul’s restaurant in Portland. I have served this as a Thanksgiving dessert, but it’s good any time. The only change I’ve made to the original recipe was to halve the shortbread ingredients and have the crust only on the bottom of the torte versus up the sides as the recipe calls for. I’ve used both sliced almonds and walnuts for the nuts and both work well.

In spite of what looks to be an intimidating list of ingredients and steps, this torte goes together easily and more quickly than one might think. While the shortbread crust is chilling and then baking, both the apple topping and the filling can be prepared. The torte is then easily assembled and put back into the oven to bake. Surprisingly, the longest step is chilling the finished cake. Because the filling sets during baking though, the torte could also be served warm, if desired.

AUTUMN APPLE CHEESECAKE TORTE

For the shortbread crust:

  • 8 oz. (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups flour
  • pinch salt

For the cream cheese filling:

  • 12 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

For the apple mixture:

  • 3 tart apples, cored, peeled and sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice

For the nut mixture:

  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts or slivered almonds
  • 1 TBSP brown sugar

Grease a 9″ springform pan. To make the crust, blend butter and sugar at low speed in mixer or food processor. Add flour and salt and mix until dough forms a ball. Press the dough on the bottom and up the sides of the pan, then place in the freezer until the dough is cold. While it’s chilling, preheat the oven to 350° and prepare the apple mixture. Core, peel and slice apples, then toss with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and lemon juice; set aside.

Bake the cold crust at 350° for 10-15 minutes, or until golden. While the crust is baking, prepare the filling. Cream together cream cheese and sugar until smooth, then add in the eggs and vanilla.

When the crust comes out of the oven, pour in the cream cheese filling, then top with the apple mixture (you can either arrange the slices in a pattern or casually place them on the top). Mix together the nuts with brown sugar and spoon over the apples. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until the filling is set. The torte can either be served warm or chilled, with whipped cream if desired.