Sunday Morning 7/12/2022: Stormy Weather

Good morning!

What a week we’ve had, weather wise, that is. We had several storms pass through with strong winds, lots of rain, and cooler than normal temperatures. It was raining again just a few minutes ago. When I woke up on Thursday I was hard pressed to know I was in Hawaii . . . in July . . . because it was raining so hard, and the winds were so strong. Blue skies eventually showed up, but it didn’t get a whole lot warmer throughout the day. This was not a week for going to the beach or trying to set up an umbrella! The cooler temperatures have actually been a blessing in some ways though, especially making our walks in the late afternoon much more pleasant because there’s always a good breeze up at Kukuiolono. Sunsets this week have been hit or miss, but we enjoyed a few good ones.

Typical daytime view this week: clouds, clouds, and more clouds, and lots of wind to go with them. Rain too.

We got a full refund of our Aeromexico tickets this past week from our bank! I’m so glad we stuck with it and didn’t give in to Aeromexico’s stubbornness and refusal to refund. In the end we got our money returned for all of our flights except for the ones we had on Alaska. I’m glad we took credits for those flights because it looks to be enough to cover YaYu’s roundtrip trip to Pennsylvania in late August and her return home for Thanksgiving! She is definitely going back to school – Brett attended a webinar hosted by the college this past week and we are satisfied with all the precautions the college is putting into place to keep students safe. We are still waiting on the bill for the fall term though – that should come through this week – and news of her dorm assignment. 

Aloha masks

We are now considered “regulars” at Kukuiolono, and we chat and joke almost every day with other regular walkers (and everyone we pass exchanges a greeting). A couple of weeks ago we got to talking with one woman that we see every day, and somehow mentioned we had a big rosemary bush growing in our back yard. She said she loved to make focaccia with rosemary, so the next day we brought her a few sprigs from the bush. A couple of days after that she brought us a beautiful loaf of rosemary focaccia! We had also talked about mask wearing one day with her, and had mentioned we were going to buy a few more, especially for YaYu to take back to school, and this week she gave us four masks she had made for us – two for YaYu, one for Brett, and one for me. Over and over people here have reached out to us, and made it easy for us to connect and share as well. When I think I couldn’t love Kaua’i more, all I have to do is think about the aloha here, and how freely it is given, and my love for this place grows even more.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I am still waiting on books to come off of hold at the library, so in the meantime I’m reading the fourth book in the Harry Potter series, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I finished Citizens of London this past week, as well as the last book in the Inspector Morse series, The Remorseful Day (and got a little weepy at the end). I’m genuinely sad that series is over, but grateful for the advice I got when we were in Oxford to reread the entire Morse books again – so many things made more sense this time, and I could picture locations and other settings as I read.
  • Listening to: It’s quiet inside (Brett is reading, YaYu is still sleeping), but the wind is fairly strong outside, and I can hear water dripping from the recent rain. Lots of blue sky is peeping out here and there so we’ll just wait and see what happens.
  • Watching: We started the third season of Ozark last night – what a wild ride it’s turning out to be!
    Just a tiny piece of peach upside down cake for me last night, without ice cream :(.
  • Cooking/baking: Lots of cooking going on this week! Dinner tonight will be chili pork sauce served over rice, and other dinners this week will be chicken risotto; chicken adobo with bok choy; CookDo mabo dofu; Snake Alley noodles; a Mississippi pot roast: and French dip sandwiches with the leftover roast. The Instant Pot is going to be getting a workout! I made a small peach upside down cake yesterday, and after we finish that in a few more days I’ll make a chocolate-raspberry poke cake topped with white chocolate ganache. We have discovered that a 1/24 piece of a 9″ x 13″ cake after dinner each evening is enough sweet for the day and doesn’t provide too many calories.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I walked six days this week (Brett walked seven) because I took Friday off. I intend to make this schedule a pattern: walk five days, rest one, walk five, rest one, etc. Otherwise, all we’ve accomplished are the usual chores and tasks around here.
  • Looking forward to next week: Our stored items have arrived on Kaua’i and will be delivered this coming Friday afternoon! It will be a mess for a while while we get things sorted and put away, but we are looking forward to it. We’re hoping for better weather next week so we can get to the beach at least once before Friday.

Our yard is blooming!

  • Thinking of good things that happened: Getting those airplane tickets refunded was the best thing that happened all week. It had been a frustrating issue to deal with, so I’m very happy it’s finally been resolved. It was also such good news to get an actual date and time for the delivery of our stuff. Our yard got its “haircut” this past week and is looking lovely (as always) – we’re especially enjoying all the flowers in bloom right now. I’m actually very thankful for all the rain we got last week – it keeps everything green and lush, not only in our yard, but everywhere else around here. The winds, although noisy, have kept the apartment cool as well.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: The ticket refund covered nearly half of the cost of my new computer, so the timing actually worked out well. My old computer was sent back this past week, so fingers are crossed I get something back for it, although at this point I doubt I will get what was originally offered. Other than the farmers’ market, a trip to Costco for another flat of peaches, and a regularly budgeted food shop yesterday we had a no spend week, and we put $9.83 into the change/$1 bill jar. I earned 651 Swagbucks this past week.
  • Grateful for: I am very thankful that giving up Diet Coke has gone easier than I imagined. I honestly haven’t missed it at all, which was a huge surprise for me as I had been anticipating some serious withdrawal pangs. One evening this past week I did a Swagbucks survey that was all about Diet Coke – I was a bit afraid when it started that I might start craving the stuff, but it ended up having no effect at all (and I earned 75 Swagbucks).
    I showed YaYu a few minutes of the show on YouTube – she was too stunned to say anything.
  • Bonus question: What are the top five things you had in the past that you think your kids would not understand at all? YaYu is someone who has grown up with technology and could probably program the space shuttle back to earth on her phone, so it wasn’t too hard to come up with a list of things that would make no sense to her. My top five were 1) The Princess phone, with its illuminated dial. It was the iPhoneX of its time. 2) Train cases. 3) White go-go boots. 4) The technological marvel that was the IBM Selectric typewriter, and 5) The Lawrence Welk show (there is no way to explain this one). Brett and I were laughing so hard while we talked about all these things, and YaYu was confused and skeptical that such items/shows were popular or desirable. Other things we came up with that were a “thing” in the past were Spalding saddle shoes as a fashion statement, Wang computers, floppy disks, skate keys, and Gilbert chemistry sets that had real and sometimes dangerous chemicals. We decided not to get into all the ins and outs of TV watching back in the day including getting up to change the channel, having only three stations, B&W versus color, etc., all of which are completely unimaginable for her.

So far things have been going well with the lifestyle changes I’ve made and my new eating plan – it hasn’t been too difficult to stick to 1200 calories a day, and I haven’t had to resort to special foods or dishes. It’s all just been a question of eating less, using the MyFitnessPal food diary to keep track of things, and walking five to six days a week. Is it making a difference and have I lost any weight? Who knows? Our scale is coming in our shipment and so maybe next week I’ll have a better idea if weight loss is one of the things I’m accomplishing. The most difficult part of all of this has been living on one cup of half-caff coffee a day. I thankfully haven’t had to deal with headaches, but I do feel like I have less pep than I did before. I am sleeping better though, so that’s been a positive change, if nothing else. Brett has pretty much given up coffee as well. It has taken him a little longer to get adjusted, but he’s living with one cup of half-caff as well. 

That’s a wrap for this week! Here’s hoping it was a good one for all, that lots of good things happened for you, and that you’re looking forward to the week coming up!

I Can Barely Think About Travel

(photo credit: Outside Magazine)

I’m sure glad we like where we are right now because I currently can’t even imagine getting on a plane and going anywhere. I don’t even know if it’s safe or healthy these days to even think about going anywhere.

When we first arrived back in Hawaii, all I could think about was getting back on the road again even though I knew it might be a while. But these days I wonder how long that while might be, and wonder if travel will ever be truly safe again. Because of our country’s initial and continuing mismanagement of the disease from the top on down, Americans are now persona non grata all over the world, including Japan, where our family lives. How long? I wonder now, will it be until we can see our grandchildren again?

For a while after we got here I had fun planning “big” trips, things like long driving trips through New Zealand and Ireland, but the fun wore off of that pretty quickly. They were just too far out there, almost beyond reality. I also began to realize that I didn’t want to be away from home for so long. I’m enjoying being settled again, and so is Brett. We loved our two years on the road and weren’t ready for it to end how and when it did, but we love being back on Kaua’i, with our suitcases fully unpacked and living with our own stuff again. We’re not as eager to hit the road again as we initially thought we would be. For now our primary goal is to stay safe and healthy, and Kaua’i is a great place to accomplish those things. When we left the island in 2018, we weren’t sure if Kaua’i was our forever home, but now we know it is.

We have our sights set on 2022 for our first venture off the island, to YaYu’s graduation in Pennsylvania in the spring. We also hope to do a six-week visit to Japan in the fall, and then go back again in the spring of 2023, with a short visit to one of the other islands in-between.

That’s as much as I can dream about now. Two trips to Japan each year, beginning two years from now, is enough for me to mentally and emotionally handle. Even those seem like a huge reach at present, but they give me something to work toward, financially and health-wise. We want to see our grandchildren.

In the meantime we will work at staying safe, and hope and pray our country can get it together to overcome this scourge.

Sunday Morning 7/5/2020: What I Did On My Vacation

Most of the sunsets were uninspiring, to be honest, but we did get a few good ones these past couple of weeks.

It is good to be back!

I enjoyed my time off, and managed to keep busy the past couple of weeks. We walked almost every day over at Kukuiolono and went to the beach a few times. We walked, usually at Kukuiolono, but one day we drove up to Kapaa and hiked out to the Pineapple Dump, always a beautiful place. We did our food shopping and went to the farmers’ market on Wednesdays. I read. I cooked. I played games on my phone. We occasionally watched TV, and greatly enjoyed Hamilton this past Friday, a bit bittersweet as we didn’t get to see it on Broadway in May. I did some thinking about whether I wanted to continue blogging, but the answer was always yes. I may not be writing these days as much as I did in the past, but I missed it and am glad to be back at it again.

We started off week before last with news from our bank that our chargeback claim with Aeromexico had been denied, supposedly because it was simply a “billing error” on Aeromexico’s part. The letter gave me a number to call for details, and after speaking with someone from the dispute department it turned out they had never gotten an actual receipt for the tickets, so all they saw was the cancellation letter from Aeromexico and figured I had gotten another flight (or that’s what Aeromexico told them). I still have the receipt for the tickets though, and what we paid, so the bank agreed to reopen the claim and we submitted the receipt along with all the other original paperwork. So, we are waiting again, and hopefully we will finally get those tickets refunded.

Our storage shipment is scheduled to arrive on Kauai on Friday, July 10!! That means we should get delivery sometime the week after – so exciting! And, my new glasses were finally ready for pickup this past Thursday. I don’t know what the problem was, but getting them took nearly five weeks from my exam. The prescription is much stronger than the previous pair, and it’s going to take a while to fully adjust to them (I was warned about this). The only unknown left is when the dining chair pads I ordered through Etsy will arrive. They were supposed to be finished and shipped by June 9, but I got a message from the store owner that she was swamped and they would be shipped on the 16th. The actual shipment date ended up being June 25, but at least they are now on their way. The pottery bowls I ordered arrived last week, and are beautiful and getting plenty of use.

This shallow bowl size and shape is very useful, and these ones will fit in perfectly with the other dishes we kept.

Finally, this morning as I write I am enjoying my final Diet Coke. I feel a bit sad, and am going to miss them, but I am also ready to let them go.

The last one

Anyway, this morning I am:

  • Reading: I am slowly working my way through Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood With Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour. I somehow had the impression that this was a less dense book, but I can read for an hour an only get through a few percentage points on my Kindle. Thankfully it’s well-written and very readable, and interesting as well. I put several other books on hold at the library, but will have to wait for most of them.
  • Listening to: It’s kind of a noisy morning outside here. Lots of birds singing and there’s a strong (and cool) breeze blowing through the trees. A few roosters are doing their thing as well. YaYu is still sleeping, and Brett’s reading. One thing I realized this morning is that there is no barking! Constant barking, nearly 24 hours a day it seemed, was always in the background when we lived here before, but I don’t think I’ve heard even one dog bark in this neighborhood since we’ve been here (and many of our neighbors have dogs).
  • Watching: We are still watching Ozark, and are close to finishing up the second season. We took a break last Friday to watch Hamilton, which was better than hoped for.
  • Cooking: Costco currently has big tubs of marinated mozzarella on sale, so we picked one up last week and tonight we’re using some of them in a Caprese-style salad which we’ll have with grilled Italian sausages and rosemary-garlic focaccia (made by YaYu). Also appearing on the menu this week will be chili pork sauce over rice; Costco’s enchilada casserole (two nights); breakfast for dinner (scrambled eggs, bacon, fruit, and toast); butter chicken and rice; and spaghetti with homemade marinara.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: I got my annual fasting blood work done this past week and everything was good so my prescriptions have been ordered for another year. We also got all our paperwork (HIPAA Permits Disclosures and Advance Health Care Directives) ready to be turned in to the clinic. Brett walked every day these past two weeks but I only got in four days this past week (six the week before). I got all of my activity cards filled in for the past two week, and charted my eating every day on MyFitnessPal (and stayed within my calorie/macro allotments too!). We had bought YaYu a case of ramen when she arrived back in March, but she said it was too much so we mailed off what was left to WenYu and Meiling this week – they are looking forward to it because it’s the “good” stuff, Sapporo Ichiban, which is supposedly difficult to find and expensive where they are.
  • Looking forward to next week: The chair pads should be delivered this coming week although the way things have been going I’m not entirely counting on it. We’re especially looking forward to some good weather, another couple of days at the beach, and some more good walks.
    Finally: a short haircut (that’s already trying to curl), new glasses (with special blue screen lenses), and lots of freckles once again – I’m happy and back to living my best life on Kaua’i!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: Getting my new computer, getting my new glasses, and learning that our stuff will be here soon were all very good things, and they all happened on the same day! I’m glad that we were able to reopen our claim again Aeromexico – fingers are doubly crossed this time that we get our refund. Summer fruit season has “officially” started: dragonfruit appeared at the farmers’ market for the first time this year – it’s one of our favorites – and Costco now has ripe peaches and nectarines. Watermelon and pineapple are also available at the farmers’ market, but they are expensive, so we’ll wait until later this month to get them at Costco.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We spent about $35 over our food budget last week, but we’re OK with it as we somehow had ended up with a LOT of non-food items on our list (shampoo, conditioner, toilet paper, probiotic, aspirin, contact cleaner, and so forth – it added up quickly). We put just 50¢ in the change/$1 bill jar these past two weeks, but our travel account now has $673.97 in it! I earned an additional 1075 Swagbucks during the past two weeks and am growing ever closer to our first $100 Southwest gift card. We have done a phenomenal job finishing our leftovers if I do say so – no food has been thrown out!
    This past week’s bounty from the farmers’ market: kale, ginger, two cucumbers, two dragonfruit, basil, limes, eggplant, four papayas, and a big bunch of bananas, all for $25.
  • Grateful for: We are beyond thankful, as always, for the abundance of produce grown on Kaua’i year-round, and the ease of procuring it at the weekly farmers’ market for an affordable price. We have always been good about including fruits and vegetables into our diet, but we are able to have so much more here.
  • Bonus question: How has the humidity been so far? As of now I am happy to report that it hasn’t been bad at all! Those of you who read this blog in the past know that humidity was my chief nemesis when we lived here before (and it was pretty bad when we visited last January), and I suffered mightily from it. Our new location though has made a world of difference – we get wonderful breezes through the apartment all day which keep it cool and don’t give the humidity much of a chance to settle like it did in our former place. The only thing that moved the air there was the ceiling fans – the house had hills on two sides, and its windows were not placed to catch any breeze at all keeping it continually humid, sticky, and hot inside. I also think it just may be less humid down on the south side of the island where we are now. We have had only a couple of days with high humidity, like yesterday and one the week before last. Both times big, heavy clouds settled over the area, but both times it eventually rained, the clouds passed, and the breezes came through again and all was well. If the trade winds die off again this summer though things could get sticky here, but so far it’s been very pleasant and a world of difference from what we experienced last time.

Hawaii is now planning to open to visitors on August 1st if they can get a testing regime in place even though the virus has already returned to the islands. Visitors with proof of a negative Covid-19 test from an approved tester (CVS, Rite-Aid, Walgreens, Kaiser for now) can avoid quarantine, but without test results they will have to undergo the 14-day quarantine with no car rentals, etc. No one is sure how this is going to work or even if it will work, especially since in most places on the mainland tests aren’t available unless you have symptoms – you can’t get one just because you want to go on vacation to Hawaii. Things are continuing to slowly open up though in anticipation of visitors coming back. Our upstairs neighbors just finished their 14-day quarantine this past week – the police and/or national guard were by every day to check on them so the quarantine enforcement is still taken seriously here. We also watched security approach a few people at the farmers’ market and remind them that masks are still required outside as well unless you are exercising. Kaua’i now has 36 active cases of the virus, all within three families – those seem to have come from inter-island travel and then spread within the families and their friends. All contacts are being monitored and known positive cases have been isolated. They appear to be contained (for now) but it is still unnerving, especially with the thought of visitors returning to the islands in possibly significant numbers.

YaYu continues to look for work but has almost given up hope, especially since she will probably only be here for another couple of months. Her college still plans to open, and she has already filled out a request for a private dorm room. The fall semester bill will arrive within the next couple of weeks (ugh) and she will re-register again for classes (the entire previous schedule that she register for last spring has been changed and upended in order that social distancing can be maintained).  WenYu is also looking for employment back in Massachusetts, and Meiling is up for a promotion at her job in New York! We are tentatively planning to gather here for Christmas this year if things are better and travel is possible, but we all realize it may not happen, and we’ll have to postpone any reunion until next year.

How was your Fourth of July holiday? We got together with our neighbors and another couple yesterday evening for a barbecue, with Cary the chef manning the grill, and then did fireworks out in front of the house afterwards. We supplied the dessert, a peach cobbler and ice cream.

That’s a wrap for my two weeks away! I hope the past couple of weeks have provided lots of good things for you all, including good books and good food, and that you accomplished a lot and are looking forward to the week coming up.

Technical Issues

I am going to be taking the next ten or so days off from blogging (and many other computer-related activities) while I wait for a new laptop to arrive from Apple. Beginning last Saturday, I started having multiple issues with my current Macbook, such as it shutting down for no reason and also refusing to start up at times. At one point on Sunday it took nine tries to get it to boot up, and this morning it finally flat out refused to start. YaYu spent well over an hour with Apple Help on Sunday trying to resolve the issues, but the end result was the recommendation I take it to the Genius Bar. 

There’s no Genius Bar on Kaua’i, just a small Apple retail store that sends Macs somewhere off island for repairs. After some discussion about the best way forward, Brett went ahead and ordered a new Macbook Air for me. It is scheduled to arrive at the end of next week, between July 1st and the 3rd. YaYu is already excited about setting up the new arrival, but she has been an invaluable help in keeping this one going as long as possible so we could get as much as possible off of it before it died.

Blogging on my phone doesn’t work for me, but I can answer comments. I’ll be back in a short while, as soon as everything is set up again. Thanks for understanding!

Sunday Morning 6/21/2020: Father’s Day!

The last pretty sunset this past week was on Monday.

Here’s wishing all the dads, both those with us and those in our hearts, a happy Father’s Day! YaYu got up this morning and is baking two kinds of scones for Brett’s breakfast: cranberry-white chocolate and blueberry, and I’m fixing a special seafood dinner tonight of panko-crusted fish (a gift from our downstairs neighbor, who goes fishing every evening), jasmine rice, and coleslaw with miso dressing. YaYu and I are also baking him a triple chocolate cake topped with ganache. She and I went together on his gift: Two bottles of gin, Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray Rangpur, and two four-packs of Fever-Tree elderflower tonic, which we found at a local market. Brett enjoyed it when we were in England, so this was a no-brainer once we had decided to give him gin. We were also going to give him a Day of Doing Nothing, but he was up ahead of both of us and already doing things. Meiling and WenYu sent him a box of fancy biscotti but unfortunately, it won’t arrive until next week.

Father’s Day libations! We now are pretty well set for G&Ts for the next several months.

This week started out with great promise and then sort of went downhill from there. We drove down to the Barking Sands base on Monday and enjoyed having the entire beach to ourselves for over two hours. Brett stopped at the exchange on the way in and purchased the beach chair of his dreams, complete with a side table for his drink and book, and all of us took long walks in the sand (did you know that walking in sand increases the calories burned by anywhere from 20% to 50%? I do now!). On Tuesday we woke to high winds and rain, both of which hung around for the rest of the week, most of the time anyway (Friday and Saturday were especially miserable, although it did clear enough in the afternoon for us to walk on Tuesday and Friday). The sunsets started off nicely but then turned fairly insipid as well. I have been having a tough time reconciling the weather we’ve been having with the fact that we’re approaching the end of June! Usually, by now it is hot, sunny, and humid, but it’s been unseasonably cool instead – great for sleeping, but less than ideal for going out.

YaYu has been out pounding the pavement this past week looking for a job, even if it’s only a for minimum wage. She is bored hanging out at home all the time, and would like to earn something this summer to contribute to her upcoming college expenses – that bill is coming up in a couple of weeks. She went to a job fair on Wednesday and then visited several other places on Thursday asking if they were hiring. Nothing has turned up so far, but there are jobs available and she plans to go out again this week.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’m still reading The Daughters of ErieTown, by Connie Schultz, although I’m almost finished. It’s very good, very well written, but not really my style. Citizens of London: The Americans Who Stood with Britain in Its Darkest, Finest Hour, by Lynne Olson, came off of hold at the library yesterday and was downloaded – I am eager to get started on it.
  • Listening to: Brett is rustling around in the kitchen making coffee, while YaYu is anxiously awaiting her turn to get in there to make scones. Since it’s not raining, there are lots of birds singing in the trees outside, but one noisy rooster is trying to get into the act as well. While we have woken up to wild winds the past few mornings, this morning’s gentle breeze through the trees this morning is a nice (and less noisy) change.
  • Watching: Same old, same old again this past week, but we finished Line of Duty and Dead to Me and started Ozark. We haven’t watched enough to have much of an opinion, but so far it’s got our attention.
  • Cooking: Fish dinner tonight, and then we’ll be having Snake Alley noodles (although we’re all having it with zoodles instead of pasta), California roll salad, Vietnamese-style salad rolls, chicken tacos, Instant Pot mushroom risotto, and beef Polish sausages with a three-bean salad during the rest of the week.

Things I saw on our walks this week.

  • Happy I accomplished last week: In spite of the not-very-good weather, we got in five days of good walks. I also finished up my first set of tracking cards, and got every day filled in – those five weeks went by quickly. My next five weeks’ set is ready to go!
  • Looking forward to next week: Hopefully, I will finally be getting my new glasses! I called this past week to see what was up, and was told “they didn’t pass the final inspection” but I think that really meant they forgot to send in the order – oops! Packages are due from Etsy as well – our seat cushions as well as some handmade pottery salad bowls I almost forgot I ordered, but I checked the tracking information and both are moving through the system very slowly. Fingers are crossed that we get another couple of beach days this coming week!
    K’s first harvest of green beans from her garden!
    M & C checking whose hair is longer. M hasn’t shaved or gotten his hair cut since he started working from home in February.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: I have short (very short) hair again and that is a very good thing! I did love wearing my hair longer and curlier earlier in the year, but it’s a style that does not work for me here (an understatement). We had a long video call with our son and family on Friday. Boy, have the grandkids grown in the last few months! K chatted right along with us in English too. She attends a nearby international school where she speaks English full time, and that has made all the difference. We miss them all terribly. I bought yet another Oxo hand-held spiralizer, our fourth, found on sale for a ridiculously low price at Macy’s. I thought our third one was the charm, but no, we left it in the cupboard back in Japan.
    This one is not leaving the apartment.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: This was not a particularly frugal week. Not a crazy week, but we spent more than usual (haircut, spiralizer, beach chair, Father’s Day gifts). We put $10.74 into the change/$1 bill fund (recycling week). We didn’t throw away any food, and all the leftovers were eaten. I earned an additional 565 Swagbucks.
  • Grateful for: I’ve said it before, but I am continually grateful for the companionship and help of my partner-in-crime, best friend, and the love of my life, Brett. Beyond being thankful for his daily help at home, and his willingness to do many of the tasks that I dislike or don’t feel like doing, he has been and is a wonderful, loving, involved father with our children, rising above his own less than ideal upbringing. He has always made sure we have what we need, and has been the steady hand on the tiller through all the ups and downs we faced over the years. 
  • Bonus question: Do you have, or have you ever had a nickname? When I was very little I was called Laurie, but apparently, when I was three years old someone called me “Laurie” and I announced my name was Laura, not Laurie, and I’ve been Laura ever since, with two exceptions. One of my high school math teachers was a good friend of my mom (she was also a math teacher) – he had known me since I was little and still called me Laurie; I let it slide. My childhood next-door neighbor always called me “LR.” I was sort of afraid of her, so I let that one go as well. My older brother and sister had nicknames for me, but I don’t acknowledge either of those anymore. My brother’s nickname started out as a putdown and I’ve always disliked it, and I am no longer am close with my sister so that doesn’t get used either.

Kaua’i recorded its first active case of Covid-19 in nearly two months this past week. There has been an uptick in new cases in the state as inter-island travel has reopened, but almost everyone here continues to practice social distancing, mask-wearing, and so forth. A few more visitors seem to be coming to the islands these days as well, and we have seen a few people out and about without masks and assume they are visitors. Most venues however have someone there to remind people to wear a mask, places like stores or farmers’ markets. Fifty-seven percent of the households on Kaua’i now have someone who has lost a job because of the virus, and it is affecting the overall mental health of island residents, especially as businesses are only slowly reopening here, and the visitor quarantine has been extended until the end of July. Our upstairs neighbors returned from the mainland this past week and both are worried that they will soon be laid off permanently; both are already applying for jobs back on the mainland. They are currently under quarantine here, getting regular, but unscheduled visits from the police or National Guard to make sure they are staying home. As with many places, things are currently stuck between a rock and a hard place here. Open the state and there’s a high risk of a catastrophic infection rate, overwhelming the islands’ health care system. Stay closed and the state’s economy craters, maybe beyond ever reviving again.

Once again, that’s all for this week! I hope it was a good one for everyone, with good weather, good food, good books, and lots of good things happening. Happy Father’s Day as well to all who are celebrating today, and here’s to a good week coming up!

Not a Poodle

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(I’m still no longer trying to be a poodle, but I continue to find the message of the video below inspirational. I want to lose weight (again) because I want to feel better, and that’s all. I have accepted I will never be thin, but in spite of my average height I have a very small frame, and carrying around 25 extra pounds gets difficult, and can be painful at times, hence the doctor’s recommendation. This was originally posted on April 25, 2016.)

This past December, as Brett, the girls, and I were heading out to dinner with our son and his family, I made my usual obligatory remarks about my weight, that I had gained too much, that I was changing shape again, yada, yada, yada. The girls replied, “Mom. Stop trying to be a poodle.”

A what?

A poodle. Why, they asked, was I trying or wanting to become a poodle all of the time? We don’t expect dogs to change their breed’s characteristics, even though they’re all dogs, so why do we expect to be able to change our own?

I was not born to be tall or lean. I do not have long legs or slim hips and have always erred on the side of being overweight. I have small, wide feet. I have thinnish curly hair that grayed prematurely. I have blue eyes, fair skin with freckles, and I sunburn easily. Why couldn’t I be happy with who I am? the girls asked. They thought I looked terrific, and Brett agreed with them.

When we got home that night, WenYu shared the following video with me. She had used it as part of a presentation she gave on body image, and women’s seemingly unceasing need to make ourselves over into something we are not, pushed along by both science and society.

The video was a genuine attitude-changer for me and has helped me look at myself in a whole new light. I eat a wide variety of healthy foods, limit my alcohol intake, and get enough exercise. I am not obese. I am in good health, both physically and mentally. I have a loving family and good friends and am living where and how I want, with little to no stress. And that should be good enough.

It is these days. No more diet plans, no more scales, no more worrying about my size. It’s been positively freeing. I am not a poodle, I don’t want to be a poodle, and I am not trying to be a poodle anymore.

Recently, there’s also been some icing on the metaphorical cake (so to speak). Scientists now think that being overweight, or slightly obese, can actually protect your health.

Staying Healthy: New Rules

I’m grateful for views like these – they make walking a joy these days!

I had a great visit with my new doctor last week. She spent quite a bit of time with me going over my three biggest health concerns: my continuing stomach issues, beginning osteoporosis, and my weight. Together we came up with plans for managing all three, meaning some big changes in how I do things going forward.

I’m basically in very good shape for my age (68). My blood pressure and other vital signs are right where they need to be; my blood pressure is low. I am overweight though, and although my stomach issues have improved they are not doing as well as I would like. I am doing the right things to manage my beginning osteoporosis, but the doctor added a couple more things I can do so that the condition doesn’t deteriorate further.

Here are the new rules:

Weight

  • Aim to lose 25 pounds . . . again. Sigh. This is going to be the most difficult thing to accomplish of all the things the doctor and I talked about, but I am going to give it my all. Since losing weight takes forever these days, my goal is to reach my new weight by the time YaYu graduates in 2022.
  • Take in no more than 1200 calories a day, and pay more attention to the macros (carbs, protein, fat, etc.). I was previously eating around 1500/day (or a bit more), so I’m having to find ways to eliminate those extra 300 or so calories. I signed up (again) with MyFitnessPal – it’s free and does a great job of tracking everything.
  • Drink lots of water. I am already doing this, so easy-peasy. 
  • Walk at least two miles five days a week. We’re already doing this as well.

Osteoporosis

  • Add calcium, at least 1200 mg additional a day. I am making sure to take at least two Tums/day – each tablet has 650 mg.
  • Continue to take a Vitamin D supplement along with my daily vitamin. Even in sunny Hawaii, I need the extra now for bone strength.
  • Add a strength training routine to my day, and carry weights when I walk.
  • Continue taking medication to help increase bone density and reduce the risk of fractures. For some reason, taking this weekly pill is a real pain for me but it matters.

Stomach issues

  • I have developed a highly acidic stomach for some reason and probably also have a hiatal hernia. Keeping a food diary will help me figure out what foods seem to increase the production of acid (cookies, crackers, chocolate, and wine all seem to be triggers right now, for example).
  • Cut back coffee (half-caff at that) to one cup a day. SOB!!
  • Add a daily probiotic and prebiotic in order to regulate my gut flora.
  • Work to reduce my current prescription acid blocker through diet change to “as needed” rather than taking it twice a day.
  • GIVE UP DIET COKE COMPLETELY! Nooooooooo! I almost cried when she said I had to do this. I currently only have one can a day, in the morning, but it now has to go completely. We still have one and a half cases on hand and she said we could use those up (Brett is helping) but then NO MORE. She also noted that getting rid of it should also help me lose weight. I am heartbroken. I love Diet Coke (and am probably addicted to it) – it’s been my only “vice.”

So far MyFitnessPal is working well, and although I don’t enjoy planning in advance everything I’m going to eat every day, it does a very good job of helping me track not only calories but those macros as well. I just ordered a set of hand weights from Amazon and will start with one pound in each hand, increasing the weight as soon as they no longer provide resistance. The pre- and probiotics already seem to be making a difference, so I am happy with that, and I’ve gotten the acid blocker down to one almost every day, taking it in the evening before bed. My daughter-in-law is sending me a case of mugicha (roasted barley tea) tea bags from Japan – it will make a decent substitute for Diet Coke, and contains beneficial minerals, but no caffeine nor calories.

Grower older is no tea party, but I am determined to not only stay healthy but improve my health. Brett and I plan to travel again and we want to be in the best shape possible when we set out again. Coming back to Kaua’i was a good move for us in that respect – it’s easier for us to exercise year-round, we eat better here, especially adding more fruits and vegetables to our diet, and our health just seems to improve overall. 

So . . . onward, new rules and all!

Sunday Morning 6/14/2020: Stormy Weather

Nothing spectacular, but we still had several satisfying sunsets this week in spite of the weather.

This past week was not one for going to the beach. There’s been rain, high winds, lots of clouds, and cool temperatures. It’s been hard at times to believe it’s June. On the plus side, we’ve been enjoying the cool breezes flowing through the house (such a change from where we lived before) and walking has been more pleasant in the cooler temperatures. We only got rained out of a walk once this past week, but otherwise have managed to fit them, sometimes between downpours. The Kukuiolono Park and Golf Course has turned out to be a great walking venue, and we’ve met many nice people there and are already being recognized as “regulars.”

YaYu learned this past week that her college will re-open in the fall, but with several changes to ensure student safety. Some students will continue distance learning, and student arrivals to the campus will be staggered so that they and their families will be able to stay distanced from others while students move in. Mealtimes in the dining halls will also be staggered to allow for social distancing, and classes will be spread out longer during the day to avoid crowding. Along with handwashing, masks will be required at all times, and every student will be required to maintain a contact journal. Even with all the new restrictions and some fear, YaYu is excited about going back. She is now eligible for a private dorm room and has her fingers crossed that happens, but most of all she wants to be with her friends again, and learn in a real classroom. She understands that all the above may not happen depending on conditions at the time, but for now, we are all hopeful things work out. The term has also been shortened – fall break will be eliminated, and instead of returning home close to Christmas, she will instead be back here right before Thanksgiving.

Several things that were supposed to arrive this week didn’t, like my new glasses, and the chair cushions I ordered. I noticed on Etsy that the order for the cushions didn’t actually occur until nine days after I was charged for the goods and wasn’t sure if that was normal or not since I have never ordered anything through Etsy before (love to look though!). I wrote to the store owner and she got right back to me to apologize and let me know she had gotten snowed under but was finishing my order and it will be shipped on Tuesday. Yeah! Anyway, I’m especially hoping my new glasses are ready this week – I need them!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: The new book from Connie Shultz, The Daughters of Erietown, arrived in my Kindle this week, but I’m still reading Just Mercy, although I’m getting to close to the end. It’s a gutting read and completely lays bare how the justice system (actually lack of justice) works for black versus white citizens in this country, as well as other marginalized people. I finished The Prisoner of Azkaban earlier in the week, and after I finished decided to go back to reading one book at a time versus two, even if it means I don’t reach my goal of 52 books this year (then again, is anything in 2020 turning out the way we thought it would?).
  • Listening to: The wind has died down some – last night it was wild – but it’s still a very cool morning and softer breezes are moving through the house. It’s quiet outside too – I can hear the birds singing this morning (I hadn’t been able to hear them all week because of the wind). YaYu is sleeping, and Brett is reading, so it’s still quiet inside. I was hoping for blue skies, but the sky is mostly filled with clouds so I’m not entirely sure how the day is going to go other than we’ll get out for a walk in the late afternoon.
  • Watching: No changes from last week – Brett and I have two more seasons of Line of Duty to go (they’re only six episodes each though) and YaYu and I are finishing up the second season of Dead to Me.
  • Cooking: YaYu has been baking to keep busy these days –  this past week she made some fantastic focaccia bread and on another day a batch of tasty pizza bites. She is excited to try making no-knead artisan bread, but we have to wait for our stored items to arrive in order to have a pan for baking it. In the meantime, she says she’s going to try a chocolate cake. I’ve gone back to cooking in the evening, most of the time anyway. Tonight I’m fixing carnitas in the Instant Pot, which will be used to make burritos. I’m going to make a few extra as well to freeze for later meals. This week we’ll also be having a chili relleno casserole along with leftover carnitas; pork & pepper stir fry, chili shrimp, potstickers, and rice; Instant Pot butter chicken with basmati rice (I am super excited to try this!); chicken adobo with bok choy; and stuffed peppers.
    The surf was rough on the east side from all the big winds this past week.
  • Happy I accomplished: We’ve taken advantage of the weather to get lots of reading done, and other chores around the apartment. We did manage to get out and walk every day except for one, including one walk on the eastside beach path. One day we literally closed the car doors to come home just as the rain started coming down in torrents! I got everything else filled in on my weekly tracking card. We ended up doing our food shopping on Thursday – we had been planning to go this coming week but ran out of too many things. I wish we could do “big shops” again, but we no longer have room to store much, especially in the refrigerator and freezer.
  • Looking forward to next week: I am getting my hair cut on Wednesday! Finally! Otherwise, there’s nothing special on the calendar, but we’re hoping the weather will improve so we can get back to the beach a couple of times. 
  • Thinking of good things that happened: YaYu finding out she will be able to return to school in the fall was very good news. We love having her with us, but we know it’s difficult for her here with no job (although she’s always looking) and nothing much else to do. We’re of course worried about her possibly contracting the coronavirus, but weighed against everything it’s better for her to be there than here (for now, anyway). In other good news (for us), karma showed up for our former landlord and he lost in court this past week – big time. He had pulled the same stunts on the tenants who lived in the house after us as he had with us, and wouldn’t return their deposit claiming they damaged everything, so they sued him in small claims and not only got their entire deposit back ($2400) but also an additional $700 for the hassle he put them through and all court costs! The house is now also registered with the county as a commercial property, but because he had been claiming it as a personal residence versus a rental property he will owe years of back taxes (county tax rates are different for residences and rentals).
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We had a no-spend week except for our trip to the farmers’ market on Wednesday, where we spent just $19, and our food shopping on Thursday. We put $270.70 into our travel account (phone payment from WenYu and credit card reward), and $1 into the change/$1 bill jar. I earned 623 Swagbucks last week, and am now nearly halfway to earning my first $100 Southwest Airlines gift card.
    Kale, tomatoes, cucumbers, green onions, bananas, zucchini, fresh basil: every week we fill our shopping basket with freshly harvested local produce for less than $20.
  • Grateful for: I am thankful for the wonderful abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables available each week at the farmers market, and how affordable they are. I think if I had had to pick the one thing I missed most about Kaua’i while we traveled, it would have been the ease of acquiring great produce, the huge variety available, and how many more fruits and vegetables we ate because of those things.
  • Bonus question: Do you enjoy gardening? Sadly, no. I have had gardens, great ones, but my work and enjoyment of them has been minimal. Growing up, my Dad always made gardening pure drudgery for me (and my siblings, as far I could tell). We pulled all the weeds (he didn’t), hoed furrows for planting (he didn’t, but complained if they weren’t right), and were assigned mundane, boring tasks like pulling leaves out of decorative wood chips. Choosing which plants to grow, watering, harvesting, etc., were all jobs reserved for adults only. Anyway, I came to intensely dislike anything having to do with outdoor gardening and refused to learn more about it once I was on my own and could have had fun with it, cutting off my own nose to spite my face, in other words. These days both Brett and I especially appreciate having someone come and do cleanup and other garden chores (it’s included in our rent). I always think our yard here looks great, but after it gets a “manicure” I can’t get over how much better it looks.

It took a bit of research to figure out this variety of palm trees. They line the road to the clubhouse at the Kukuiolono golf course.

As much as I dislike gardening and working outside, I do love plants and learning more about them. Thankfully, Hawaii has an abundance of interesting plants, many new to us, to keep us busy for a long time. For example, in the past couple of weeks, I became a bit obsessed with the variety of palms that line part of our walk in the golf course, and after some research, I figured out they are mature bottle palms (because of the sort of bulbous nature of their trunks). I’m still on the hunt for more hibiscus varieties, and I also want to know more about these pine trees that fill a wooded area we walk through on the golf course – their soft needles cushion the path. Thinking about plants also makes me remember my mother as well – she was a botany major and would have loved the great variety of plants and flowers here as much if not more than I do (I don’t think she ever came to Hawaii though).

My new mission is to learn more about this wispy pine tree. It’s found all over the island, but I don’t know what it’s called, and I’d like to know where it came from and when.

That’s all for this week! I apologize for the lack of hibiscus pictures, but I sadly didn’t spot anything new this week. I hope you all had a great week, with great weather, that lots of good things happened for you, and that you’re looking forward to the week that’s coming up.

Baker’s Dozen: My Personal Favorite Photos from the Big Adventure

I took a lot of photos during our travels. A lot. I go through them fairly frequently these days, to look up something or just to remember and reminisce. The other day I gave myself the task of picking my top ten favorites – impossible! I started with a total 42, then got it down to 25, and eventually, with a great deal of thought and effort, was able to winnow it down to the 13 photos below. That was it though – I couldn’t remove any more off my list of absolute favorite.

These photos all carry a flood of memories with them, beyond the time and day the picture was taken. For some of them, I just happened to be in the right place at the right time. Other times I got a little help and was able to catch a special shot. Two of them are even from the same location!

I do have a favorite – it’s mentioned below – but otherwise I didn’t rank these photos; they’re in chronological sequence of the places we visited. 

Brett and I both sought out and discovered street art in every place we visited, and never failed to be amazed and awed by the talent and beauty we were privileged to see, created by both the famous (Banksy) and the unknown. The works appeared all over too, and in unusual places – we never knew where and when we could be surprised by a piece of art. The picture above, from Montevideo, Uruguay, was one of those surprises (always look up!) and remains my favorite. 

The Eiffel Tower was our last stop on a busy, hot day in Paris. We had started with the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a walk down the Champs Elysées, a picnic lunch in Jardins de Champs-Elysées, and a visit to the Louvre to see the pyramids in the courtyard before finishing with the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon. It had been a particularly hot day, with temperatures in the 90s, and so we sat in the park in front of the tower with a couple of cold drinks to wait until it cooled off a bit before we headed back to our apartment and to watch the lights on the Tower come on. The sunset behind the Eiffel Tower was a special reward, an unexpected piece of magic at the end of a wonderful day.

Strasbourg remains our favorite of all the cities we visited on our travels. We spent three weeks there, living in a tiny studio apartment (less than 300 square feet) and sleeping on a sofa bed (which had the most comfortable mattress of the entire trip!). We walked all over or used public transportation to explore all the city had to offer, from the historic Petite France neighborhood to the European Union Parliament buildings. On one of our last days in Strasbourg, we finally got around to visiting the Musée de l’Œuvre-Notre-Dame, located across from the Strasbourg Cathedral. Housed in a building from the 14th century, the photo was taken from the top of its spiral staircase, still used to get to the exit.

The view from our kitchen in Florence reminded us every day of our month there that we were in Italy, in Tuscany. A look out the window was better than a painting, both timeless and yet never static.

We had a crazy time getting up to the Cinque Terre for a quick getaway. Bad weather initially delayed the trip, and when we could finally go we kept getting things wrong, including getting on the wrong train after lunch in Monterosso and ending up all the way down in Spezia before we could get off and make our way back. We finally arrived in Vernazza in the late afternoon where we strolled through the village down to the waterfront, just in time to catch the sunset over the Mediterranean.

Both Brett and I came down with bad colds when we were in Rome. Other than a longish (but fantastic) small-group walking tour of the Colosseum, Palantine Hill, and the Roman Forum, we limited ourselves to exploring places we could walk to from our apartment, located just five minutes away from the Vatican. Coming back from a visit to Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, we walked along the Tiber River up to Vatican City. It had been a wet day but the rain had stopped and the clouds were breaking up. I snapped this picture of St. Peter’s right as the lights at the Vatican were turned on for the evening. Of all the photos I took during our travels, this one is my favorite.

I was walking back to the exit at the end of our visit to the Taj Majal and kept turning around to take pictures, trying to get that last perfect shot. An older man grabbed my elbow and said, “come.” He took my arm and started walking away with me, which frightened both Brett and me, but he brought me to this point at the end of one of the pools, where he turned me around and said “here.” It was exactly the picture I had been hoping for, catching the reflection of the monument in the fountain pool. I said thank you, he raised his hands and bowed his head, and then blended back into the crowd. 

I spotted this group of women in their colorful saris just before we passed through the exit at the Taj Mahal, waiting for family members to come back from their sightseeing. I asked if I could take their picture, our guide translated, and the question from all was “why?” I told them they were so beautiful – when that was translated they laughed at me, but then except for one who was still laughing, they all put on a serious face and let me take my picture. They’re still beautiful to me.

Hong Kong is a very modern city, but one with deep traditional roots. We passed this poster advertising Chinese opera every day on our way through the subway tunnel back to our hotel, and on our last night in the city, I quickly snapped this picture as we walked by, not only as a reminder of our time there but also of the deep traditions and roots that form the foundation of the city and its people.

I think we saw the Opera House from every angle possible when we were in Sydney – from the water, from the Harbor Bridge, and inside and out close up during a tour we took with my brother while he was there. We had a great guide on that tour, someone who knew his subject well and how to present what could have been merely dry facts in an interesting and entertaining manner. At one point he asked us to look up, and there was the Sydney Harbor bridge mirrored in the windows of one of the theaters. A little bit later and it would have been rendered invisible by the angle of the sun.

One of the outings we took with our family in Japan in 2019 was a trip to the Mt. Fuji Five Lakes area. We lucked out and had beautiful weather on our second day there, with Mt. Fuji visible the entire day. One of the last places we visited was Sato Nemba, rebuilt in 2006 on the site of the original village that had been washed away in a landslide in 1966. These days the traditional thatched buildings contain various shops and workshops, including spaces for the public to interact and practice traditional crafts. At one point, as I stopped to admire the view of the mountain, I noticed the last visitor in front of me had walked around the corner, giving me a scene that could have existed a hundred years earlier.

Our summer in Portland last year turned into a great stop during our travels. We had a wonderful apartment, attended Meiling’s graduation, took some lovely side trips, got together with friends, got in shape, and explored the city as tourists all summer, seeing and doing a few things we hadn’t done when we lived there. One of the things we enjoyed the most was hiking through the forest in the Marquam Nature Park, located a very short distance from our apartment. Always beautiful, we usually had the trails to ourselves, and the forest always offered a cool, quiet respite from the hot summer weather and the bustle of the city.

A visit to the village of Broad Campden was on our bucket list of places to visit during our stay in the Cotswolds. Located halfway between our village of Blockley and the market town of Chipping Campden, Broad Campden had a lovely collection of thatched-roof cottages as well as a well-regarded pub where we enjoyed lunch before walking over to Chipping Campden. As we left the village, this group of freshly shorn sheep, with their identical cutting patterns, stopped and posed for this perfect Cotswolds scene. 

Which one of these is your favorite? I’d love to know!

Just the Right Size

My favorite thing in the morning is to sit on the sofa with a cup of coffee and look out the French doors at blue skies and palm trees. The sofa has enough room for everybody – there’s no need for additional seating.

Perhaps the best thing Brett and I learned on our travels was that we could get along in a very small space and with very little. We learned we didn’t need a fancy place either: a comfortable bed, decent kitchen equipment, good WiFi connection, and a location that allowed us to easily get out and around to explore, and we were good to go. 

Before we set off on our travels, during our four years on Kaua’i, we had also discovered we didn’t need as many things as we had once thought we did, and by the time we departed we were more than ready to let most of our possessions pass on to others. Traveling full-time only reinforced the enjoyment of having less, and we embraced a more minimalist lifestyle.

And then along came Covid-19 and the end of our Big Adventure. We returned to Kaua’i, found a place to live, and needed to acquire things once again. It’s not how we expected things to turn out, but in the past few months, we’ve managed to put together a home that will allow us to live simply and comfortably, in a small space that’s just the right size for the two of us.

We have only three pieces of furniture in the bedroom: a comfortable bed and two nightstands. This is the first time in our 41-year marriage that we have had matching nightstands and lamps! The lamps have USB ports – very useful!

The small size of our apartment has guided our purchases this time around. Everything we’ve bought since we arrived back is not only useful and used regularly, but was chosen not to overwhelm the space.

We’re not quite there yet when it comes to having everything we need, but our stored items will fill the remaining gaps once they arrive. I can’t wait to have my cookware, knives, and utensils to work with again, and the dishes we’ve collected in Japan over the years. I can’t wait to have our art hanging on the walls, and my jubako out again, the one collection I held onto.

Our kitchen is small but mighty! There’s room for everything, and the small sink has turned out to be less of a problem than we imagined.

Although we have only around 500 sq. feet of indoor living space these days, we’re not minimalists by any stretch. We’re not feeling the least crowded either. Big mirrors were strategically placed throughout the apartment by the landlord – they give a feeling of spaciousness, as do the French doors at the front of the apartment and big windows throughout. The deck and backyard also make the whole living area seem bigger than it is. There is a surprising amount of closet space and storage area in the apartment as well. The massive bathroom, chandelier and all, has turned out to be an amazing luxury and also makes the apartment feel larger.

It’s all exactly what we hoped for this time around – a small footprint, but just the right size for us.