Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (1/16 – 1/22)

All the walking and hiking we’ve done over the past two years, and the changes we’ve made in what and how we eat in the last six months have made a real difference. Both Brett and my lab numbers this year were better than they’ve ever been and the doctor is very happy with our current weight as well. More than our appearance, the fact that our eating and exercise these days has made such a profound improvement in our health is what really matters to us. We feel like we’re heading overseas this time in our best shape ever, complete with vaccines, boosters, and our cholesterol and other numbers in a very good place. We’re determined to keep it going!

With the girls gone Brett and I are back to having to finish up lots of leftovers. The curry I made last week provided days of leftovers as did the broccoli & tofu stir fry. I guess it’s one of the curses of eating smaller portions these days. Other than the risotto we’re going to have next week though, everything this coming week is a one-and-done meal. Both Brett and I enjoy having leftovers available for our lunches, but day after day of the same thing is something we always hope to avoid.

We have once again using the dishes we bought when we arrived in 2020, before our storage shipment arrived. We had put them away for YaYu, but she doesn’t really want them and we figured it will cost us less to give her what we would have paid for shipping them and let her buy something she likes. We can either sell these dishes at our yard sale or take them to the thrift store. Anyway, photography has been a challenge. I miss our Japanese dishes but they have now either been packed for storage or sent on to Meiling and WenYu.

Sunday: Japanese curry with tofu & vegetable; brown rice

Monday: Chopped vegetable & barley soup; Parmesan toasted bread

Tuesday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry in spicy peanut sauce; brown rice

Wednesday: Chick’n pot pie; roasted zucchini

Thursday: Vegetable potsticker soup with spinach

Friday: Cheese mini pizzas

Saturday: Chili shrimp; brown rice; namasu

We enjoyed small pieces of the chocolate mini cakes all last week but finished them last night. This coming week we’re having lemon meringue pie again!

Next week’s menu goes around the world: We’re having Japanese, Chinese, Mexican, Italian, and American dishes, all without a bit of meat!

  • Zaru soba & hiyayakko (chilled tofu)
  • Vegetable spring rolls with rice
  • Poblano enchiladas
  • Mini pizzas
  • Vegan corn dogs & onion rings
  • Turk’y cutlets with gravy
  • Risotto with peas
Farewell to Kukuiolono, our walking venue for nearly two years.

Monday through Wednesday we walked the perimeter of the golf course – the weather and temperature were perfect, and my foot barely hurt at all and was getting better. As we got near to finishing our walk on Wednesday though, the groundskeeper (not our favorite guy) rolled up to us in his golf cart and told us he would ignore our walking that day but going forward there would be NO further walking on the course allowed until after 6:00 p.m. and he would be enforcing the “new rule.” He was very unpleasant. There was not a golfer in sight at any hole on the course, and we don’t go out on the course if there is, so we’re not sure what changed or why, but Brett and I decided it was the last straw for us and we would walk elsewhere for the rest of our time on Kaua’i. We have loved walking at Kukuiolono, but we are not willing to get into it with some guy on a power trip (our favorite groundskeeper ignores the rule if there are no golfers out) and we’re not the types to sneak around. The park closes at 6:30, so there’s no longer a way to get in a perimeter walk in if we come at 6:00 either.

We enjoyed beautiful views from the Maha’ulepu trail on Wednesday.

So, on Thursday we headed over to the Maha’ulepu heritage trail. That hike didn’t go so well. We had come directly from my skin check appointment and my blood sugar was low, and we hadn’t brought a snack. It was also hot and humid, and I had forgotten my hat. Finally, we walked too far into some very rough terrain which set off the neuroma in my foot and the bursitis in my hips. By the time we got back to the car I was a wreck! Still, the views were beautiful and we decided to give it another try on Friday, this time equipped with snacks and hats. We turned around before we reached the rough part, ate our snack at the turn-around, drank a lot of water and we both felt great when we finished. Best of all, my foot and hips didn’t hurt at all. We thought rain might keep us from walking there on Saturday, but the trail was dry and although the humidity was a bit high, the temperature was cool and there was a nice breeze. The trailhead for Maha’ulepu is located fairly close to us, and as it’s a beautiful walk along the shore it’s where we’ll do our walking until we leave. We got in a full six days of walks/hikes this past week, something that hadn’t happened in a while.

Sunday Morning 1/23/2022: Ups & Downs, Good & Bad

There were either too many clouds or no clouds this week, so no sunsets . . . usually just a lovely glow.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

As if we needed another big expense before we go, last weekend I was eating something soft, and bit into something hard and discovered the top of a crown had broken off! The crown goes over a back tooth that is anchoring a bridge I had done back in 2000, but thankfully the bridge is holding firm. I am already seeing the dentist next week and they’ve added some time to my appointment to see if it can be fixed. Best case scenario, although expensive, will be to have a new crown made before we leave. Worst case scenario is that the whole tooth, bridge, etc. will need to be removed and replaced with implants, and there’s currently no time for that. We know that it’s possible to get high-quality dental work done overseas for a fraction of the cost here (and our dental insurance can be used overseas) so however this turns out I’m going to be investigating dental tourism in the coming days and possibly weeks.

The “mailing center” is beginning to take over the living room.

Otherwise, things are moving along as they should. Packages are getting packed, things are being sold, and so forth. It’s almost hard to believe that next weekend marks the end of January leaving us with only three more months to get everything finished up.

We enjoyed another beautiful week, but appointments, errands, and other tasks kept us from getting to the beach. Still, we got in lots of walking, sold some things, and kept moving forward on our departure from Kaua’i. Brett and I continue to make progress with French even though Duolingo is less than ideal (let me count the ways). We’re into Level 3 now, and can read most sentences easily and make only a few mistakes. However, we struggle with understanding spoken French and can only create the most basic of sentences when we try to speak, and our pronunciation is awful. I remember feeling the same way before we traveled in 2018, and yet I was able to understand more than I thought I could and even made a couple of appropriate comments in French toward the end of our time, so I’m hopeful the same will be true for Brett and me this year. We plan to continue studying while we’re in Strasbourg.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Girls In the Garden last Monday, another good mystery, although I sort of had things figured out before I finished. I’d like to read more of Lisa Jewell’s books though. I’m now almost done with The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee, the third in his detective series set in 1920s India. This past week I cashed in some Swagbucks for a $50 Amazon gift card, gave Brett half, and I am going to buy two books this coming week, Crying In H Mart and Dial A For Aunties. I put off reading them last year as neither fit with the mystery theme, but the current wait from the library is too long for both books and I’m dying to read them. In the meantime, as soon as the Mukherjee book is finished I’m going to read 1979, by Val McDermid, then Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny, the next book in the Inspector Gamache series – they both finally came off of hold from the library on Friday.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a very quiet morning. There’s only a very light breeze outside and other than some birds singing nothing is going on out there. Even the chickens have quieted down. Inside Brett is reading and finishing his breakfast, so I’m in my happy quiet morning place with a hot cup of coffee in front of me.
  • Watching: We finished all available episodes of You this past week, but there will apparently be another season coming up! Such a creepy show, but well done. We’re still enjoying Kim’s Convenience, but started rewatching Call My Agent this past week to hear spoken French and hopefully improve our listening skills a tiny bit. They all talk very fast but we usually can understand at least one expression and a few words here and there. I guess that’s progress.
I would have kept the All-Clad cookware except it weighed too much and was too awkward to mail.
  • Happy I accomplished: 1) I ordered our free home COVID tests for Brett and me. We plan to use them when we’re in Pennsylvania in May as that’s when we’ll be around and involved with the most people. 2) We dropped off another load of stuff at the the Habitat for Humanity thrift store yesterday and I filled four more boxes to be mailed for storage; I’m close to getting finished with packing everything for storage although some things will have to wait until nearly the end of next month (i.e. the rice cooker). 3) Brett and I cleaned and polished the entire set of All-Clad cookware and listed it on Buy & Sell at the beginning of the week; it sold in less than half an hour (with several back-up requests), pretty good for a 30-year-old set of cookware! We are now using the nice big skillet and saucepan from when we arrived back in 2020 – they will be sufficient until we leave. The cookware buyer also made a deposit on our sofa, dining table and chairs, and market umbrella, but won’t be picking them up until after the first of March. 4) We took our big suitcases out of the closet to air out before we depart, as well as Brett’s sports coat and my leather tote bag (which somehow thankfully did not mould).
I hope the rest of the furniture sells as easily and quickly as the table & chairs and sofa.
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) I’m not sure I can say I’m looking forward to going to the dentist this week, especially with this current issue looming over me, but at the same time I would like it all resolved, or at least know what my options are. 2) I booked a surprise brunch date for Brett and me next weekend. We haven’t gone out for a very long time and where we’re going should be fun (and delicious)! 3) We also have our fingers crossed that we can get to the beach again one day.
We took advantage of the weather and hiked the Maha’ulepu Trail this past week.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) This past week, our son received the package we sent with his baby book, a few pieces of his earliest baby clothes, his first pair of shoes, and some other paraphernalia and paperwork. He and his family had fun going through everything, but his message to Brett and me at after finishing his baby book was, In all seriousness, I could feel the love. 2) Our daughter-in-law sent us another big bunch of photos and videos of the grandkids. They continue to get older and bigger and we miss them terribly. 3) I met a long-time reader, TexKauai, at Kukuiolono park one afternoon this past week when Brett and I were walking!! She usually walks there in the mornings, and we walk in the late afternoon, but the other day she and her husband were there in the afternoon – lucky me! They are also moving off island about the same time we are, so we had some stories to share. So very happy to have met her before we left. 4) I had two Etsy sales, always a good thing. 5) My final skin check went well; one small spot on the side of my temple (from sun exposure as a child!) was burned off but otherwise the dermatologist said I have beautiful skin for my age. My lab results from last week’s blood draw were also great in spite of my forgetting I was supposed to have been fasting. 6) We had lovely weather almost all week.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) We have been thinking several clothing items were going to have to be dry cleaned ($$$) before we left, things that had gotten musty in the closet they’ve been stored in these past two years. Brett’s sports coat is now getting lots of fresh air and will be fine before we go. I tumbled our Edinburgh cashmere scarves in the dryer on low heat with a Bounce sheet and they smell fresh again, and washed a couple of sweaters by hand and all the musty odors are gone from them as well, so that’s money saved. Everything else that’s been in our storage closet the past two years can and will be washed before we pack. 2) We returned a pair of flannel pajama pants I had ordered for Brett that (finally) arrived this past week but he didn’t need any longer because Meiling gave him a pair for Christmas! 3) Brett ordered himself a pair of Duckfeet boots and saved $40 using a discount I had received for answering a survey for Duckfeet. We both now have all the clothing we need for travel. 3) We had a very low-spend week: just some spinach, a bunch of green onions, a can of beans, and nigiri tofu from Big Save. 4) We put $5.48 into the change/$1 bill bag, ate all our leftovers, but sadly had to throw away a block of firm tofu that had gotten pushed to the back of the fridge when the girls were here and was well past its prime.
  • Adding up what we sold: Besides selling the cookware this past week, I had two Etsy orders and $266.26 will go into our travel fund this week.
  • Grateful for: Both Brett and I are feeling very thankful at this point in our lives for the good health we currently enjoy. Our teeth have been problematic, but we’re grateful to have good dental insurance.
Brett and the birthday girls at Epcot
  • Bonus question: What’s the biggest surprise you’ve ever pulled off? In early 2006, Brett and I decided to take the girls for a week’s vacation to Walt Disney World in January of 2007 for their birthdays (which all fall together within a period of about one month). We wanted to surprise the girls, so while we saved and saved (we paid cash for the entire trip) and plotted all year we never let them know what was coming up. We used a travel agency that specialized in Disney vacations; they helped us get lodging, meal reservations (including breakfast with the princesses in Cinderella Castle), and other treats for the girls at bargain prices. We gave each girl a carry-on bag for Christmas, supposedly for “sleepovers,” and after the new year I began to secretly pack them. We contacted the girls’ teachers to let them know; they kept the secret and set up a fun assignment for each girl to do while they were there (journaling, etc.) The travel agency had sent Disney identification tags for our luggage along with big birthday buttons for each of the girls to wear, and after they fell asleep the night before our departure, still having no idea what was going to happen, Brett and I finished packing their carry-on bags, attached the Disney tags, and set all the bags at the foot of our bed. The next morning, Brett surprised the girls when he woke them up – he would have usually already been on his way to work – and told them to go wake me up for a change. When they came into our bedroom and saw those bags and tags . . . oh WOW!! At first, all three girls burst into tears! “Are we really going to Disney World?” “Today?” Then the laughing, screaming, and jumping began, and there was absolutely no hesitation that morning getting them dressed, down to breakfast, and in the car to go to the airport. We had an absolutely wonderful trip to WDW from start to finish. Just turned six-year-old YaYu cried the day we left – she had never imagined such a place existed – and she still has her luggage tag and button from that trip. The girls’ reaction that morning though was something I’ll never forget for as long as I live. Best surprise ever, even if it took nearly a year to pull it off!

I was very scared the other day when the doctor’s office called to tell me he wanted to speak with me personally. Usually after lab work is done someone calls and says everything is fine and within normal range and that’s that. However, this time I thought something awful had been discovered in the results and he wanted to tell me in person. I was so nervous when he called, so you can imagine my relief to hear that not only were the results of my lab work okay but that the numbers were better than ever and all the efforts Brett and I have made to improve our health through exercise and eating better had made a discernible difference! Of course I still have this major dental issue to resolve, but now I remain hopeful the news won’t be as bad as it could be.

And that’s a wrap for another week at Chez Aloha! Shows watched, good food eaten, good books read, good news received (along with a bit of not-so-good news), and tasks accomplished. We’re hoping for the good things to continue into next week, and I hope everyone out there is looking forward to the week coming up as much as we are!

Traveling Frugally: Travel Hacking

The best definition I’ve found of travel hacking comes from a post I found on Mom and Dad Money:

Travel hacking is essentially the process of signing up for a new credit card, spending enough to earn the sign-up bonus, using the points you earn to book free travel, and basically repeating that process over and over again.

Using credit cards benefits to earn free flights, free hotel stays, and other travel benefits is a popular way to save big on travel expenses. Travel hacking has been around for a while, but these days it typically involves using multiple cards at the same time to reap the most benefits. Most major airlines offer big rewards when you sign up for one of their credit cards and reach a certain spending goal during a specific period (usually within three months of signing up). Bank cards also offer similar big travel rewards: every iteration of the Chase Sapphire card, Capital One’s Venture, and American Express Gold Card, among others, all offer substantial travel rewards after signing up and charging a certain amount within a set period of time. Hotel chain credit cards rewards include free stays, discounts, and other perks for signing up and charging a pre-set amount within time limits.

These deals are especially easy to acquire when signing up for the first time. We know of people who set out on their travels with over 500,000 airline miles banked, all acquired from sign-up bonuses they received. Of course, they had to spend quite a bit to get those bonuses, and they also risked damaging their credit score because of all the new card sign-ups (multiple hard credit inquiries in a short period of time, and greater credit risk because of multiple credit lines). If they use the cards responsibly though, neither of those should be a problem. Experienced travel hackers however recommend signing up for different cards over a long period of time versus all at once or within a few months.

There is no “perfect” travel card – each one offers something different and the goal in getting started should be to find ones that work best to achieve whatever travel goals have been set. There are some important things to look for though when applying for a travel card:

  • No fee or low annual fee
  • No foreign transaction fees
  • A large (i.e. huge) initial bonus
  • Low required spending minimum
  • Special perks for travel-related items
  • Added points for special spending categories (i.e. groceries, gas, restaurants)
  • The bonus is something that can actually be attained.

Travel hacking is a great way to acquire some significant travel benefits but only if you already use credit cards responsibly and pay off your balances every month. If you don’t, they’re an easy way to quickly descend deeply into debt. Tracking all open cards and their accompanying expiration dates and spending limits also requires real effort, although a newer app, Award Wallet, helps track all awards in one place, including deadlines, and notifies the user when deadlines are approaching.

Besides free travel benefits, the big pro of travel hacking is that it’s easy to get started and find good deals; lots of points to cover flights and other travel costs can be acquired quickly.

A big reason against travel hacking however is that after acquiring the good upfront deals, finding new ones gets harder and harder. Points earned can become more difficult to use and the money spent to acquire all the upfront points may be more than expected or afforded. If too many sign-ups are done too quickly, one’s credit rating can be damaged, and credit card companies have been known to cancel accounts for those using too many cards of the same brand.

Our primary credit card when we travel is the Chase Sapphire Preferred. We took advantage of its sign-up bonus years ago, but we still use it to rack up generous reward points (which we usually redeem for a cash deposit to our bank account). It also provides some serious benefits that match those that come with travel insurance (car rental insurance, missed or cancelled flights, lost luggage, and a few others). Every month since we’ve been back on Kaua’i we’ve received a sign up offer for the Delta American Express card, with a bonus of 75,000 miles if we spend $2000 within three months after receiving the card. Delta is our preferred airline but we haven’t bitten. All Delta flights only go to and from the U.S.; we can’t use them to fly between international destinations. Also, we’ve had American Express cards in the past, but rarely used them, and honestly don’t think we need another card to track while we travel. Still, we think from time to time that it would be nice to have those miles banked if we need them.

It’s Complicated

Gone are the days of buying a ticket, getting to your flight on time, and then setting out to see the sights on a trip to Europe. While I’m grateful we are able to travel to France once again (as there are still many countries we cannot enter), these days a visit to a European country requires several more steps and hoops to jump through than it did in the past, and things will be different once we’re there.

France has sorted countries using a traffic light color scheme based on the how well COVID is being handled in each country. Although the United States is currently a “red” country, Brett and I are still welcome to come to France for tourism or any other purpose because we are fully vaccinated and have received our boosters (and may hopefully get another before departing), and are willing to be tested in the 48 hours preceding our flight’s departure. If a traveler is unvaccinated, even if they have had COVID and might have immunity, they have to show a compelling reason why they need to come to France from the U.S. Those reasons are extremely limited. A traveler must be a French national or 1) previously enrolled in a French program in France; 2) already have a long-stay visa; 3) work in a necessary job in the transportation sector; 4) transiting through France for less than 24 hours; or 5) work in a diplomatic or consular position. Without one of those reasons, if you’re not vaccinated you cannot enter France.

One of our very first tasks up arrival in Strasbourg will be to take our vaccination cards and test results to a pharmacy that will provide us with the Pass Sanitaire, a QR code that proves our vaccination status (not every pharmacy does this either). The code is loaded our phones and will allow us to enter markets, museums, restaurants, trams, trains, and so forth. The cost for the Pass is 36 Euros each (approximately US$41). I’m hoping the most difficult part of this will be finding the closest approved pharmacy to where we’ll be staying in Strasbourg.

Another possible hurdle for us after arriving in Paris will be making our connecting flight to Strasbourg without the Pass Sanitaire. From what we can find now, it appears we can get on the next plane with our passports, negative test results, and vaccination cards, but we haven’t found a definitive answer to this, especially since the connecting flight will be a different airline which might require the Pass Sanitaire. There are three pharmacies in DeGaulle airport, and we may be able to the passes done there if necessary. Otherwise we’re going to have to spend a day or two in Paris taking care of this before heading to Strasbourg.

Mask wearing is de rigueur and enforced in France, and only surgical quality masks are considered adequate; cloth masks are not (we have a stockpile of KN95 masks that will be going with us). If you’re not masked and don’t have a Pass Sanitaire with you, getting into in pretty much anywhere is not going to happen.

We will follow the lead of the French government as to what’s required as things still continue to change. It all seems so very complicated, but we know we can and will manage. We’ll be out and about more there than we’ve been here – there is much to see and do and we don’t plan on stayed holed up in our apartment. We’ll figure it all out.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (1/9 – 1/15)

While the girls were here there were an awful lot of snacks around, but now that it’s just Brett and me again they’ve disappeared. I didn’t go crazy snacking, but the macadamia nut caramel corn, mochi peanuts, the Kaua’i Kookies, and other Hawaii/Kaua’i treats were definitely a distraction, especially since they all were left out in a corner in the kitchen so the girls could easily grab something.

Brett and I do snack, but they are measured and in my case, recorded and limited to once a day. Our favorite afternoon treat these days are Nature’s Bakery fig bars (original, blueberry, or raspberry – 200 calories per pack), but I’ve also come to love Thinaddictive’s Cranberry-Almond Thins (100 calories per package). Both provide a nice boost in late afternoon when my blood sugar is dropping. Brett also eats a small dish of roasted peanuts every day, but we have stopped buying them and when the current container runs out, that’s it. Snacking has been our downfall in the past but over the past couple of years we’ve changed our ways and are counting on new habits to see us through while we travel.

Last week’s meals involved finishing up odds and ends of things we had on hand before YaYu left while making sure she got to enjoy things she loved, with Stouffer’s macaroni and cheese at the top of her list.

Sunday: Chopped vegetable & barley soup; toasted cheese sandwiches

Monday: Fried rice with surumi & vegetables

Tuesday: Vegetable egg rolls & potstickers; steamed rice; sweet & sour coleslaw

Wednesday: Macaroni & cheese; roasted mixed vegetables

Thursday: Crispy chick’n patty sandwiches; leftover namasu; fruit salad

Friday: Mini cheese pizzas

Saturday: Cheesy white bean-tomato bake with zucchini

We enjoyed three evenings of olive oil orange cake at the beginning of the week, and then I discovered a last six-pack pack of All-American fudge cake cupcakes at Costco and snapped those up. We have been having just a quarter of one of those for our dessert and it’s plenty – it’s almost too much chocolate, if that’s possible.

I cannot imagine eating half of one of these mini cakes, let alone a whole one. It makes my teeth hurt just to think about it. A fourth of one is just right!

Brett and I have returned to vegetarian/vegan meals and get to enjoy a few favorites this week, especially since Meiling brought us a few greatly-missed items from Trader Joe’s. We’re especially looking forward to the potsticker soup, made with TJ’s ginger-miso broth.

  • Vegan burgers
  • Chili shrimp
  • Curry with tofu, cauliflower, & carrots
  • Mini pizzas
  • Broccoli & tofu stir fry in spicy peanut sauce
  • Chick’n pot pie
  • Vegetable potsticker soup with bok choy

After a week off from walking for me, we walked every day this past week mostly around the perimeter of the golf course, approximately two and a half miles, and at a slightly slower pace than we do on pavement. I was happy to find that while my foot was a bit sore while I walked, it never really became outright painful, further proof (to me, anyway), that the uneven pavement and fast pace we had been walking were what brought on the Morton’s Neuroma. We avoided looking for golf balls unless we found them right under our feet, and only brought home six last week. Brett has cleaned them up and they’ll be given to our favorite groundskeeper next time we see him.

Scenes from around the golf course this week: a floral carpet after a windstorm; storm clouds in the distance; a air fern growing in the roots of a giant fiscus tree.

My walking shoes are also part of the problem with my foot – they are almost completely worn out – and if we were leaving in less than four months they would be replaced. But I’m not taking along walking shoes this time. I have two pairs of Sketchers, my Duckfeet boots, and my blue suede boots and red slip-ons and those should be enough for our usual walking. IF I feel I need some dedicated walking shoes while we’re overseas, I will buy them there.

Sunday Morning 1/16/2022: Just the Two of Us Again

Sunsets didn’t happen this past week . . . there were no clouds.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

YaYu headed back to Pennsylvania (and cold weather) on Friday, and the apartment feels very empty and so big without her. We loved having our girls here for a month, together or in different combinations, but once again it’s back to just Brett and me. YaYu’s departure was bittersweet for her; Kaua’i has been her home, even when we weren’t here, for the past seven years. Her time here got her to where she is now, but she has no idea when or if she will ever be able to return. She asked to go to the beach one last time on Thursday to swim in the ocean once more and the weather obliged and we returned to Salt Pond beach for a long, lovely afternoon. She was thankful to be able to eat all her favorite local foods when she was here, and had lots of quality time with Allie the cat during her stay. And, her flight gave her one last beautiful view back at the island as she departed, an emotional moment for her but a wonderful memory. She told us before she left that Kaua’i is the place where she always knows where she is and how to go somewhere and come home. We reminded her that even if she doesn’t make it back for 20 years she will still know where she is on the island and how to get to wherever she needs to be no matter what has changed – that’s what’s so special about Kaua’i.

We feel the same way about leaving Kaua’i, wondering if we’ll ever be able to come back, even for a visit, but feeling very grateful for all our time here. It has been a most wonderful period in our lives, with or without COVID. Brett and I admitted that if things were different we could happily stay, but because we can’t we’re looking forward to traveling once again. We hope to be able to get together the girls in an overseas location one of these days and we talked a bit about that when they were here. They all said they plan to come to visit Japan whenever we get there, and my fantasy is having our entire family together there one year for Christmas.

Although we are moving along with all that needs to be done before the end of April, on some days it all seems to be too much or we’ll remember something that needs to happen and add it to a growing list of Things We Have To Do. I hope we can remember it all. Right now our efforts on focused on getting the items we want to store packaged and ready for shipment, and making sure we have all the provisions needed to get started (shave cream, curl cream, deodorant, etc.). Everything came together before and I’m mostly confident it will again but when I think of all that needs to get done it still puts a knot in my stomach some days.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished The Last Thing He Told Me on Tuesday – great book! – and am now reading The Girls in the Garden, also very good. I hope to finish it early next week so I can get going on the last book from the library.
  • Listening to: For some reasons there were loads of chickens going on about something outside when I woke up. Not right in our yard, but in one of the yards behind us. Thankfully that was over quickly and now it’s blissfully quiet. It’s a beautiful morning too – blue skies, light breezes, and not too cool. Brett’s sort of banging around in the kitchen though because he’s making pancakes for our breakfast!
  • Watching: Dexter: New Blood’s final episode last Sunday was a satisfying ending, and Cobra Kai’s last show for the season left us eager to see what comes next (we’ll be able to stream Netflix overseas). The plot/premise of You took a twist in it’s third season, and we’ll finish it either tomorrow or Tuesday. We watched the movie Encanto with YaYu on Monday (great music, story not as good), and then three nights of the documentary, The Beatles: Get Back. I’m so glad we had the chance to see it . . . so may memories for Brett and me, so much we didn’t know about their final months together. YaYu liked it but it took her a while to figure out who was who! However, when she visited us in England in 2019 she didn’t even know the Beatles were British, so I guess we’ve made some progress.
We will pick up another carry-on at the thrift store for the rest of YaYu’s things. She is not ready to part with any of her things. Both bags will contain many items from elementary school that she is not ready to let go of.
  • Happy I accomplished this past week: 1) All of YaYu’s packages were mailed back to Pennsylvania – they’re scheduled to arrive the same day she does. The rest of her stuff will go into a couple of carry-on bags that we’ll check and carry with us when we go to her graduation. The cost of checking the bags is less than what it would cost to mail everything. 2) I packed six more boxes for storage and we are going through packing supplies like water. 3) I went through my sewing box and created a small travel kit with thread in six colors, needles, a small pair of scissors, 10 safety pins, a few buttons, and some snaps. The rest of my old kit will go to the thrift store. 4) Never my favorite thing, but I got my blood drawn on Friday for my annual cholesterol check – I’m always happy when that’s over. I should hear from the doctor next week and get a new prescription to carry along with us. 5) We did our Big Shop last Wednesday (a week early) as we seemed to have run out of everything at once, especially produce. Other than having to buy some more produce in a couple of weeks, Brett and I are good to go though until the end of the month. 6) I finally finished my last goal with Swagbucks, a $50 Amazon gift card which I’ll use to buy a few books for my Kindle. After over a year of heading to their website every evening, I am very glad to be done with it.
The storage box area is filling up – I try to work on it every day. Currently I’m waiting on two cartons of styrofoam peanuts to arrive so I can finish packing a few more things that are otherwise ready to go. Our goal is to have everything for storage ready to mail by the first of March, and then send everything at once. Each box is/will be numbered and the contents recorded so we will know they all arrive safely (or what possibly went missing or was damaged).
  • Looking forward to next week: 1) I’m getting my annual skin check done this week, the next-to-last health-related matter to take care of before we leave (I still have a dental cleaning and exam the last week of this month). 2) We were so happy to have our girls here and spend time with them, but are also glad to have the apartment to ourselves again, especially with all we have to get done in the next few months.
We had about as perfect a beach day as one can have at Salt Pond last Thursday.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We had another wonderful, long beach day last Sunday at Salt Pond beach park, and then again on Thursday, giving us four beach days in a ten-day period. That’s something that’s never happened before! 2) I had one sale on Etsy, again unexpected but always a good thing. I have so few hashioki left (somewhere around 50 now) that any sale these days is a reason to celebrate.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) Brett had some expensive dental work done last Monday. We paid cash and saved $30. 2) I’m not sure whether I can call our Big Shop last week frugal or not. We spent more than usual but that was expected because we bought more non-food items than usual, some of it for packing (bubble wrap, tape, boxes) and other things we’ll need when we travel (vitamins, shaving cream, deodorant, etc.). I couldn’t get over how many things I walked past at Costco that I used to always buy, but are now too big for us to finish before we go. 3) I found three $1 pills buried in a pocket in my purse – I have no idea where they came from or how long they’d been there – and we turned in all the bottles and cans we’ve been collecting for ages and got $6.35 for those so $9.35 went into the change/$1 bill bag this week. 4) There were no leftovers and no food was thrown away.
  • Adding up what we sold: I sold five hashioki and $31.09 will be going into our travel account tomorrow. I am going to keep the Etsy store open until the end of February and then shut it down. WenYu had agreed to keep it open for me, but it will be easier all around to close it for good and put the remaining chopstick rests for sale at our yard sale.
  • Grateful for: Brett and I are both so very thankful for the wonderful time we had with our daughters in December and this month. We had all missed each other so much and had so much fun together. We are so proud of the accomplished young women all three have become, and can’t wait to see them again in May, at YaYu’s graduation.
  • Bonus question: What are your favorite and least favorite household chores? I enjoy doing the laundry, from the sorting all the way to folding things and putting them away. I always feel when I’m done as if I have truly accomplished something important even though I know that I’m going to be doing it all again in a few days. My least favorite chore is dusting, something else I know I am going to have to do again in a couple of days. Thankfully because our apartment is at the back of the our building and away from the road we get far less dust here than any place we have lived in the past (and for a small island in the middle of the ocean, Kaua’i generates an awful lot of dust). Anyway, I prefer just about any other chore there is to dusting.
Allie the cat waiting to see if The Girl will come out.

After we returned from the beach on Thursday, Allie the cat was waiting for YaYu in the driveway and they spent over an hour relaxing together one last time. Allie was positively despondent on Friday and yesterday though when she came by and there was no YaYu. She tolerates us (barely) but the two of them forged a genuine bond. We have always wondered who feeds Allie because she has always been fairly chonky for a street cat, but we learned this past week it’s our next door neighbors! They also give her a safe place to sleep when the weather’s bad which is why she has remained in such good health. We were all so happy to learn that she’s cared for but for being loved there was no one for her like YaYu.

And that’s a wrap for another week! Four months from today we will be on our way to France – our remaining time on Kaua’i is moving along very quickly. I hope everyone enjoyed an equally productive week, one filled with good things, and is looking forward to the once coming up!

Home Cooking: Namasu (Japanese Pickled Cucumber Salad)

This refreshing, easy, and healthy cucumber salad from Japan has become a big favorite with our family. It doesn’t take long to put together, and makes a great side salad, especially with Asian dishes. The cucumbers are also delicious on sandwiches.

The secret to making namasu is slicing the cucumber super thin – I aim for 1/8-inch slices. A mandoline slicer makes short work of this, but I use nothing more than a sharp knife and it doesn’t take long to get two cucumbers sliced and ready to marinate. Japanese or English cucumbers are best as the peel is edible, and a little peel left on enhances the green color of the pickles.

Some namasu recipes call for the cucumber slices to be salted before mixing with the dressing, but I’ve found I get a crisper salad when I don’t salt ahead of time. The salt draws out moisture from the cucumber and makes them limp, so without salting first there is more liquid at the end but crisper slices.

The amount of sugar called for almost seems too much, but it balances perfectly with the vinegar and ginger so that the dressing is neither too sweet or too sour.

NAMASU (Japanese Pickled Cucumber Salad)

  • 2 large Japanese or English cucumbers
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 TBSP grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 to 1 tsp salt
The dressing can be mixed right in the measuring cup

Mix together sugar, vinegar, and ginger and allow the sugar to dissolve completely.

Wash cucumbers and peel, letting a little peel remain. Slice the cucumbers approximately 1/8-inch thick. Place in a large bowl – a low, almost flat bowl works best.

Thinly slicing the cucumber is critical.

If salting ahead is preferred, sprinkle the salt over the cucumber slices and let sit for around 20 minutes to remove some of their water. Afterwards, rinse the cucumbers well and squeeze out as much moisture as possible before placing back in the bowl.

After marinating for an hour, the dressing will completely cover the cucumber slices.

Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and let sit at room temperature for at least one hour, although two hours is ideal. The dressing won’t initially cover all of the cucumbers slices, but as the salad sits the cucumbers will wilt and eventually all will be covered by the dressing. If the cucumbers were not salted ahead, add only about 1/4 tsp salt before serving.

Namasu can be served at room temperature or chilled. Remove the cucumbers from the dressing to serve.

Several things can be added to namasu to kick things up a bit, if desired. Some of the more popular additions are below and can be used individually or mixed and matched according to taste:

  • 1 1/2 TBSP toasted sesame seeds
  • 1/4 tsp dark sesame oil (our preference – it’s added to the dressing)
  • 1/4 cup grated carrot
  • thinly sliced onion
  • mung bean sprouts
  • thin strips of kamaboko (Japanese fish cake)
  • wakame seaweed, reconstituted in water, then drained

Could You Travel Full-Time?

Brett came to embracing the idea of full-time travel a bit later than I did, but living on the road and seeing the world was a long-time dream for me. We sort of stumbled into our decision to travel full time back in 2017 after we’d come up with a list of places we wanted to visit and were trying to prioritize them. At one point Brett mused aloud, “I wish we could see them all.” We looked at each other and I asked, “Could we possibly do that?” From there we started investigation, crunched numbers for a couple of weeks, figured out what we would have to do to make traveling full time a reality, came up with an initial itinerary, and the first Big Adventure was born.

For us, it was an ideal time in our lives to travel full time. We had already sold our home before coming to Hawaii and were renting. Our children were grown and independent for the most part: our son and family lived permanently in Japan, and our three daughters were in college and getting ready to start their careers. Other full-time travelers we met along the way were in similar circumstances; that is, not tied down with family obligations (either had no children or their children were grown and independent) or in a couple of cases, we met whole families that were traveling full time.

We initially decided to give the experience around a year and see if and how we liked it. We sharpened our itinerary, created a budget, put some of our things into storage and sold everything else, and set out in August of 2018 after getting YaYu settled at college. We began our journey in South America (Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay) then headed to Europe (Paris, Normandy, Strasbourg, Lucerne, Bordeaux, Florence, Rome, and Lisbon) before returning to the U.S. for Christmas with our daughters. Then it was off to India, Hong Kong, Australia, and New Zealand followed by a three-month stay in Tokyo. We came back to the U.S. for the summer to provide YaYu with a location so she could work during her break, but she ended up going to Japan for the summer and we ended up playing tourist in our old home town of Portland. In late August of 2019 we flew to England and spent three wonderful months in the Cotswold village of Blockley, visiting the area as well as London and Edinburgh, then returned to Portland one last time for another Christmas with our daughters. We followed that stay with a short visit to Kaua’i and then headed on to Japan for what we thought was another long stay. COVID had other ideas though and in late March 2020 we returned to Kaua’i to wait things out and stay safe. After working through lots of other ideas the past two years we finally realized we wanted to return to full time travel, but a bit more slowly than before, and we will set out again in around four months on another Big Adventure, fully vaccinated and boosted, and armed with additional tools and knowledge that we hope will keep up safe.

Brett and I fell in love with full-time travel because we enjoyed not only the experience and adventure of it, but also the minimalism required, and after 40 years of raising children we loved having the time and freedom to explore and see places we had only previously been able to dream about. Many travelers we met, like us, didn’t start with an idea of indefinite full-time travel, but also grew to love it, especially the ability to travel at a pace that worked for them. COVID certainly turned things upside down, limited the places an American can go, and changed travel forever. However, we’ve found it’s still possible to create a travel itinerary, domestic or international, and make it happen. Many “travel bugs” are already back on the road once again.

There are as many ways to travel full time as there are people, and no way is the best. Some people (like us) stay in Airbnb rentals, but other housesit, house swap, or travel in an RV. Some take advantage of couch surfing or staying with friends, while others stay in hotels full time or even live on a cruise ship! We’re going to be traveling slow(er) this go around, staying in Airbnbs again for at least two months in each place to give us more time to get to know an area. Our goal is not to see everything and every place in the world, but to have a deeper experience and greater knowledge of the places we do visit.

If you’ve ever dreamed of or just thought about traveling full time, Brett and I came up with a few things to consider:

  • Can you give up having a permanent home? This is where most stop when it comes to traveling full time. It’s definitely a major step to consider, let alone take. However, living on the road does not mean having to sell or permanently give up your home. Many travelers rent their homes while they travel, or return home for short stays in between longer jaunts. Some full-time travelers do house swaps. Some find after a while that they want to relocate overseas, and some discover that they no longer need or want to keep their home at all, and plan for a later, smaller purchase when the travel stops. Lodging choices around the world run the gamut from sleeping on someone’s sofas all the way to luxury apartments and homes, with everything in between, and how you choose to live on the road is completely up to you and your budget. We’ve stayed in some pretty wonderful places for not a lot of money.
  • Do you have a way to support yourself when you travel? Food, lodging, transportation, as well as possible sightseeing and so forth all still need to be covered during travel. Some have to be paid in advance, like deposits for lodgings or airline tickets. Some full-time travelers save as much as possible ahead of starting out and then stop and work for a while as needed or stop traveling when the funds run out. Some take advantage of travel hacking to save on travel expenses. Others, like us, have a reliable, steady income that we supplement with savings, and some full time travelers work remotely as they travel.
  • Are you in good health? No one needs to be in perfect health to travel full time, but you should be able to do things like move a (potentially heavy) suitcase around, climb stairs now and then, walk a bit, and so forth. If you take medication you need to plan for how to keep prescriptions refilled, and be willing to visit a doctor or dentist, if necessary, in another country. Health insurance for travel is a non-negotiable necessity and should always be included in any planning or budget creation.
  • Are you able to stick to a budget? This is absolutely critical. Living full time on the road means figuring out ahead of time how much you can afford to spend for things like lodging, food, transportation, miscellaneous costs, etc. and then sticking to that budget just as you would if you were not traveling. Some things – mortgage payments, utilities, car insurance, and such – may go away, but others, like getting from one place to another, pop up. It’s important to know your daily spending limits, set up a spreadsheet or maintain a daily journal, and be willing to track expenses for everything, every day. We eventually figured out that an envelope method worked well for us at each destination, but there are loads of ways to make sure you’re not overspending.
  • Can you save, save, save ahead of time? Unless you have unlimited funds, it helps to figure out ways to boost your savings before setting out and then possibly use those funds to help the adjustment into a full-time travel budget. Savings can come from many directions, including selling your things, even possibly your home. We learned that having savings we could rely on ahead of time went a long way when it came to getting our footing as we began our travels.
  • Are you flexible? While some planning for travel is necessary, are you able to change quickly if necessary? Travel planning means putting a foundation in place, creating an itinerary, and setting goals but it doesn’t mean scheduling every moment you’re on the road or knowing everything you’re going to do ahead of time. Things do and can change, go wrong, or not go as expected from time to time. I know of some full-time travelers who plan things out about six weeks ahead, others just a week or so. Brett and I are more the six months ahead types but we have an emergency fund, always have a Plan B and Plan C, and we can change on a dime when it’s called for without falling apart.
  • Are you willing to embrace minimalism? Full-time travel requires learning to live with what can be carried in a suitcase or even just a backpack. Minimalism does not mean having to get rid of everything, including your home, but it does mean letting go of your stuff at least for a while.
  • Can you and your travel partner’s relationship withstand the give and take of living on the road (if you’re not traveling alone)? Full time travel allows you to play to skills you already have as well as discover talents and strengths you didn’t know existed. Brett turned out to be a superb logistician – he has an uncanny sense of direction, and always got us where we needed to be when we needed to be there. He also loved tracking the daily minutia of travel including our spending each day, how far we walked, etc. On the other hand, I’m good at and enjoy planning, discovering bargains, keeping us fed, and finding entertainment, so those tasks typically fell to me. We made a great travel team! It was also important that we have a solid, loving relationship and enjoy spending time with each other. That being said, our marriage is better and stronger because of our travels.

After we first asked ourselves that fateful question, “could we do that?”, the above were the things we asked ourselves and investigated before we committed to traveling full time. A few were unknowns that we discovered as we traveled, but most of the above were examined carefully before we finally decided we could manage living on the road. The one thing missing from above though? Finances – but that’s a subject for another post.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (1/2 – 1/8)

I’ve really enjoyed cooking with YaYu these past few weeks. She and I make a good team: I create the mise en place (i.e. do all the chopping and other prep) and then she comes in and magically puts it all together and seasons everything perfectly. All three of our daughters have become good cooks, but YaYu is the one who enjoys it the most.

With YaYu leaving at the end of the week, Brett and my new motto going forward is “use it up.” We will still shop and continue to follow a vegetarian diet, but our main goal will be to finish up the many things we have on hand in the pantry and refrigerator, like condiments or baking supplies. There’s not a lot and it’s going to take some creativity, but hopefully we will be able to use everything and not have to replace anything. I doubt we’ll be buying much at Costco before we leave other than travel supplies, produce, and a couple of other things we use regularly, but I’m still hoping we can keep to a healthy well-balanced diet while not blowing up our food budget.

Meals last week were fairly simple. The spicy Singapore noodles YaYu made were amazing, and because she and I did it together it didn’t require as much effort as it would have for either one of us on our own. The cheeseburgers and grilled ahi tacos were also exceptionally good.

Sunday: Pasta with marinara & plant-based meatballs; roasted squash

Monday: Vegetarian cheeseburgers; 3-bean salad

Tuesday: Vegan corn dogs; onion rings’ 3-bean salad

Wednesday: Spicy Singapore noodles with shrimp

Thursday: Grilled ahi tacos with fresh mango salsa

Friday: Be’f pot pies; garlic roasted cabbage

Saturday: Vegetarian meatball mini pizzas

Our dessert almost all week was the remainder of the pecan pie we started the week before. It was very delicious, but also very sweet and sticky and it will be a l-o-n-g time before we need to have one of those again. We made s’mores outside one evening, and enjoyed a Pepperidge Farm coconut cake the rest of the week (the orange cake will get made this week).

Next week’s dinners will continue to be easy to put together, with YaYu making her yummy fried rice for us one more time. Brett and I will have the spring rolls and mini pizzas after she departs. We’re going to miss our girl and all her spicy concoctions (she adds lots of red pepper flakes, sriracha, or chili crisp to every on her plate, sometimes in combination. We don’t know how she does it, but she loves the heat.

  • Fried rice with imitation crab & vegetables
  • Chick’n patty sandwiches
  • Vegetable spring rolls with rice
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheesy white bean & tomato bake
  • Macaroni & cheese
  • Vegetable barley soup & toasted cheese sandwiches

Breaks in the weather at the beginning of the week allowed us to walk up at the park last Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. By the time we finished walking on Tuesday though I knew something was seriously wrong with my right foot and took the rest of the week off to let it rest. We went to the beach on Wednesday, and on Thursday Brett and YaYu took a hike in Waimea Canyon while I stayed home and got things accomplished. On Friday we went back to the beach at Barking Sands, but all of us took a long walk on the sand versus using the Waiokapua Trail as usual. The sand was much easier on my foot, and sand walking burns at least half again the calories of walking on a hard surface. On Saturday Brett and YaYu went for another hike, this time on the Maha’ulepu Trail while I again stayed home and continued to rest my foot. It still hurts a bit, but nothing like it did last Tuesday.

Kukuiolono was beautiful on Tuesday after all the storms. Lots of interesting and pretty mushrooms had appeared in all the damp ground around the park.

Ever since Brett and I stopped hunting for golf balls and walking the perimeter of the golf course we have been quite literally pounding the pavement doing two pavilion loops and then up the road to the clubhouse and back down. Constant soreness in my hips returned, and I apparently also developed a Morton’s neuroma in my right foot. Toward the end of our walk last Tuesday the pain was excruciating, shooting through my foot and up my ankle as we walked down the road from the clubhouse to the car – I wasn’t sure if I could finish the walk or not. I want to continue walking though so we have decided to return to perimeter walks in the park later in the day as the soft terrain is easier on my foot. We will also walk at a slower pace as the brisker walks on the (very uneven) pavement were also part of the problem, even for all the calories burned. Hopefully my foot will improve as I’m not sure what can be done otherwise in the time we have left here other than possibly a cortisone injection.

Sunday Morning 1/9/2022: A Beautiful Week

As the storms cleared out on Tuesday, we were rewarded with this gorgeous sunset. There were none the rest of the week however – because there were no clouds!

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

After an absolutely soggy week between Christmas and New Year’s Day, the first week of 2022 year turned out to be a very nice one here on Kaua’i. There was still a lot of rain and a big, loud thunderstorm one night early in the week, but that mostly happened while we slept (the thunderstorm woke us all up though). The rest of the week there were blue skies and soft breezes, and we took advantage and got out as much as possible for hikes and afternoons at the beach. We were going to visit the Kaua’i International Center today but may go back to the beach instead.

The village of Colmar, named as one of the most beautiful villages in France, is a required stop on the Alsatian Wine Route.

I had a fun doing a little travel planning for a couple of side trips while we’re in Strasbourg. We’re already planning to take a short three-day getaway over to Mainz, Germany (via train), and up the Rhine River for some castle viewing, but we also would like to make a four- or five-day drive south of Strasbourg on the Alsatian Wine Route for some tastings, sightseeing, and hiking. Also, it’s a very short drive from Strasbourg to the Black Forest, so we hope do an overnight visit there as well, or maybe just a day trip. All of these will of course depend on whether there will be restrictions in place because of COVID, but it was still fun thinking about where we might go, stay, and what we’d like to see and so forth. We heard from our previous Strasbourg host this past week and we’re both excited about getting together again.

We finally got our mail released this past Wednesday. Brett went to the post office on Monday, but they still would not give the mail to him without the neighbor’s permission. So, Brett messaged the neighbor once again. The neighbor finally seemed to grasp that this was his doing and emailed a letter to the post office (with a a copy to us) authorizing them to release the mail to Brett. However, the post office still needed the code they had sent him, but he had thrown away it away (!), so the mail was stuck. The postmaster finally agreed to release the mail to Brett after calling the neighbor back in New England and getting verbal permission while also warning him to never do anything like this again. It turned out over 50% of the mail being held was ours, not only our packages but some other things as well, like my voter registration. The neighbor has delayed his return to Kaua’i, and we were afraid he might have gotten COVID, but he says it’s because he’s stopping in Portland to set up a household goods shipment with his girlfriend. Whatever – it still means a few extra days of peace and quiet upstairs for us.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: The library released three books off of hold this week: The Girls In the Garden, by Lisa Jewell, The Last Thing He Told Me, by Laura Dave, and The Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee. It never rains but it pours. I had been #2 on the waiting list for The Girls In the Garden for nearly six weeks, #3 on The Shadows of Men list for the same amount of time, and last week was in the #142 position for The Last Thing He Told Me (I started at #832), but they all showed up on the same day! I’m thinking possibly 140 people in front of me got tired of waiting for the The Last Thing He Told Me and either bought it or got it as a gift for Christmas. Anyway, I’m reading it first because it was on hold the longest, then will move on to The Girls In the Garden with The Shadows of Men in anchor position.
  • Listening to: We’re enjoying a beautiful, quiet morning. The skies are blue, the sun is shining, there’s a soft breeze, birds are singing, and otherwise nothing but peace and quiet outside. Allie the cat has already stopped by and she and YaYu are out on the deck in the sun. Brett is reading, so it’s also quiet and peaceful inside, a lovely way to start the day. YaYu is going to make some scones in a little while which we’ll have with vegan sausages for our breakfast.
  • Watching: Our viewing didn’t change much from last week: We’ll finish up Dexter: New Blood tonight, but finished Only Murders In the Building last night. We have another season of You to go and have almost finished the current season of Cobra Kai. YaYu wants us to watch a few movies with her this week, starting with Parasite.
Another mammogram completed!
  • Happy we accomplished last week: 1) I got my annual mammogram done (everything normal – yeah!) and my blood work ordered for my annual cholesterol check, which will happen this week. 2) I finally got my online prescription account untangled. Previous signup attempts with the program never worked and no one seemed to know what the problem was, but the technician I spoke with this time tried something new and voila! So glad to have that done before we travel. 3) We took several more bags to the thrift store and I packed seven boxes of things to (eventually) be mailed for storage. I would have done more but we ran out of packing materials. 4) We purchased YaYu’s ticket for her flight back to Pennsylvania; she’ll be leaving at the end of this week for her final term. 5) I deleted over 1200 photos off of my phone last week. There’s more to do, but this was a good start.
  • Looking forward to next week: We don’t have a lot on the calendar (I don’t think a dental visit counts as something to look forward to) so we should have a quiet and productive week with YaYu before she leaves. We’re all hoping for more beach weather!!
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) Beach days! Two of them! Wednesday was absolutely beautiful so we headed down to Shipwreck Beach and spent a few hours lolling on the sand under our umbrella. It was as glorious as hoped for. Friday’s weather was even better so we headed out to Barking Sands for the afternoon and were not disappointed. We were able to do some whale spotting on both days, mostly spouting but we also observed a couple of flamboyant full breaches. The weather remained nice enough on Wednesday evening that we enjoyed a fire outside and made s’mores. 2) The weather was also great on Thursday, and Brett and YaYu did a long hike in Waimea Canyon. I got a lovely, long day to myself to recharge and take care of some things that were difficult to do with everyone here. They hiked the Maha’ulepu Trail yesterday while I got more storage packing done. 3) One of the packages from our mail hold was a pair of travel umbrellas for Brett and me, a gift from YaYu! Umbrellas were the one thing we forgot before we started off on our last adventure, a mistake we didn’t want to repeat. Brett also got a new pair of Apple ear buds, YaYu’s screen protector and case for her new phone arrived, and some additional KN95 masks came as well (they’re very hard to find here). I also received some simple bullet journals I plan to use going forward rather than recording my daily tasks on 4×6 cards. 4) I had two Etsy sales, both unexpected this past week but always a good thing.

Brett and YaYu had a fantastic hike on the Waimea Canyon Black Pipe loop trail on Thursday (photo credits: Brett & YaYu)

  • Thinking of frugal things we did: 1) By buying YaYu’s tickets to fly here and back separately, we saved approximately $300 from what we would have had to pay for a round-trip ticket during the holiday season. Her return ticket was the final one we had to purchase for our children. Once they finish college they’re responsible. 2) We had a fairly low-spend week: some packing materials, gas for the car, and a few bits of produce from Safeway (we hate shopping at Safeway because it’s so expensive but they always have what we need/want in stock). 3) We put $4.18 into the change/$1 bill bag, all the leftovers were eaten, and we didn’t throw away any food.
We really don’t want to sell this lamp, but it’s very heavy and would cost a small fortune to pack safely and mail.
  • Adding up what we sold this past week: I had two sales on Etsy: six hashioki left the house and $35.07 will be going into our travel account tomorrow. I listed our sake jug lamp on Buy & Sell but know it’s going to take a while to sell.
We’ve enjoyed some very beautiful days almost all week. It’s been cold at night though.
  • Grateful for: We’re so very, very thankful for the beautiful weather we enjoyed this past week. After December’s horrible weather it was a wonderful way to start the New Year.
Heavy clouds out at Mont St. Michel
  • Bonus question: What was the funniest thing that happened during your travels? 1) In late September 2018 Brett and I went to visit Mont St. Michel on our last day in Normandy (or, as our GPS insisted on calling it, Mont Saint Mitchell). We drove there from the little village where we were staying, but it was raining so hard that for a while we could barely see the road in front of us. We unfortunately didn’t have umbrellas or even hats, although we stopped at a couple of stores along the way to check if we could find some (nope). It was so miserable we decided if it was still raining when we got to our destination we would turn around and skip the visit. 2) When we arrived at the Mont St. Michel parking lot, although it was still very overcast, the rain had stopped! Quelle surprise! We were able to quickly get on one of the big buses that would take across the causeway, but we were still nervous and unhappy because we didn’t have umbrellas. 3) The bus driver started the engine, closed the doors, and the heavens immediately opened up again with the rain harder than ever and with added heavy winds this time. We were now trapped and going across the causeway whether we liked it or not. 4) As we stepped off the bus we were immediately glad not to have umbrellas! Everyone else from our bus was wrestling or struggling with theirs in one way or another, and it was almost like being in a Mr. Bean movie. The umbrellas, if they weren’t immediately flipped inside out, were dragging people along the causeway. Fabric was being ripped from some umbrellas and blowing away, leaving people with just empty metal ribs, and in a few cases the fabric had attached itself to people’s faces like an octopus. Brett and I started laughing and couldn’t stop even though we were getting soaked – the whole scene was crazy. However, we stepped through the stone gate at the entrance and . . . the rain and wind stopped again, just like that! 5) The first shop we went into sold umbrellas and we each got one, but never needed to even open them the rest of that day although it stayed very overcast. We both still start laughing and can’t stop whenever we think of that scene on the causeway.
The Prince Genji print, in the handmade paper mats used when it was framed in 1981. The print is around 14″ x10″ in size.

During our first tour in Japan (’80 – ’83), there was a great little antique store on the Yokosuka base. I didn’t go there much because we lived in Yokohama, but whenever I had business in Yokosuka I made a point to stop by. On one visit I found a colorful old woodblock print in the back of the shop, behind some other things. It was priced at $45, not bad for an old print, so it came home with me. A few months later I took it to a nearby Japanese gallery to have it framed, and the owner gasped when he saw it: Where did you find this? He looked it over very carefully, checked a couple of books, and told me I had an authentic Toyokuni III print, and gave me a value that was quite a bit more than $45 (I don’t remember what that was though). The print was of Prince Genji, from a series Toyokuni III did in 1858 from the famous novel, The Tale of Genji. Anyway, I had the picture framed and it has hung in every one of our homes ever since. Fast forward to last year when we decided I would sell it in my Etsy shop, we thought for around $100 or so, completely forgetting everything we had been told about it in the past. I got lazy though and never got around to listing it. None of the girls wanted it either, so we decided to keep it. When we took it out of its frame last weekend, there was the authentication slip on the back, which I had completely forgotten about. I looked up the print online to try and determine its value now and although I did not find ours, similar ones are valued between $500 and $1700! Prince Genji is going to remain with us, needless to say.

The authentication

We’ve enjoyed a beautiful week, with beautiful weather and lots of good things happening. It was a great way to start the new year as well as one of those weeks that makes me sad we’ll be leaving Kaua’i. Here’s to another good week for all, filled with good things happening, good weather, good books, good food, and good friends. And, here’s to better days for all of us in 2022!