In Praise of Duckfeet

I expect to be wearing these sandals for years to come.

I don’t often highlight specific products, but in an age where products don’t often meet the hype, Duckfeet is the real deal.

I have very difficult feet when it comes to finding comfortable shoes. Both my feet are wide, with high arches. Thankfully they are not as bad as they were in the past but they are still troublesome at times. I had bunion surgery in 2013 on both feet; one foot was a success, the other not so much, so my feet are now essentially two different sizes. I have tried many well-known, expensive brands of shoes over the years in my efforts to find comfortable, well-made shoes, but those experiments have often ended with one shoe that falls off and one that I can barely squeeze my foot into.

When Meiling was a baby I had a pair of fisherman sandals, made by Rockport if I remember correctly, that I quite literally wore out. They were extremely comfortable, and I walked everywhere in them for nearly three years until the leather fell apart. Every since I have looked for a similar pair but never found any that matched the style and quality of that pair I loved.

Last month Meiling sent me a picture of some sandals she was preparing to buy, fisherman sandals made by a company called Duckfeet. I got very excited when I saw them because 1) They were exactly the style of fisherman sandals I had been looking for over the years; and 2) Duckfeet shoes are naturally built for wide feet with a wide toe box.

Duckfeet are known for their minimalist, foot-formed design that offers ample room for toes to move and air to reach the feet . . . . Each pair of Duckfeet is handcrafted in Europe without the use of synthetic materials . . . . No two pair of Duckfeet are exactly alike. Every pair of boots, shoes, and sandals is naturally tanned and processed by hand, allowing for subtle variations in the leather. These variations are highlighted by the way you wear them, giving each pair its own story.

I had a pair of black sandals on my provisioning list, and since last month was a “Laura month,” I went ahead and bought a pair of Duckfeet black fisherman sandals to try. I was honestly expecting to be disappointed once again, but instead have been happy and impressed with my purchase. I received free shipping and they arrived quickly. They fit both of my weird feet right out of the box. The larger foot was only slightly tight at first but after wearing the sandals around the apartment for a few days it now fits comfortably. In fact, I like the sandals’ fit so much that I’ve added a pair of Duckfeet’s Chelsea boots to my list and will purchase before we leave. I have finally found a brand with stylish shoes that fit my weird feet, that are waterproof, and are built to last. I expect to wear these sandals for years, which is fine by me – the style is classic.

The Roskilde Chelsea boot in black: my next Duckfeet purchase

Duckfeet shoes have been making shoes in Denmark since 1975. Offering many styles, from sandals to boots, each pair is handmade made from high quality leather. The finish on the leather is naturally waterproof, and the crepe soles can be replaced when they wear out. A pair of Duckfeet shoes or sandals are not cheap, but prices are not into the stratosphere either or as high as other brands (like Mephisto, etc.). In spite of their width, they are stylish and come in a wide variety of colors.

I love my Duckfeet. May they give me years of wear and happiness!

Healthcare On the Road

photo credit: Sharon McCutcheon/unsplash

When Brett and I begin traveling next May, we will leave the U.S. with no concrete plans to return. It’s not that we won’t return, but there are no calendar dates are set and no visits planned, at least for the first couple of years.

A big consequence of this is that we won’t be in the U.S. for regular doctor visits and prescriptions refills, or to have dental work taken care of. We are doing careful planning to make sure we can get prescriptions refilled as necessary, see a dentist at least once a year, and get our vision checked regularly as well.

As it is illegal to ship prescription medication into most other countries, we will begin our journey with a six-month supply of our medications. Our regular prescriptions are for 90 days, and we can get a one-time 90-day “emergency supply” as well to carry along with us. But what do we do when that runs out?

We have a few arrows in our quivers when it comes to prescription medication. First, as military retirees we can visit any U.S. military hospital in the world and get a prescription filled, so we will carry written prescriptions from our doctor with us that will get us through the first year as well as a letter explaining the reason we take the medication. When those supplies run out we will have to have a doctor’s visit at a military hospital or in the country we’re in to get a new prescription. Our military health insurance follows us world-wide so those costs can be reimbursed, but a visit to a physician overseas is not the wallet-emptying expense it is in the U.S. For example, we will need to visit a GP when we’re in the UK because it is against the law in there for a pharmacy to fill any prescription that’s not written by a British physician. The cost for the visit to see a GP at a same-day clinic is around $55, and we can get a check up as well as our prescription. The cost for a GP visit is even less in other countries such as France or Italy.

photo credit: Yusef Belek/unsplash

Dental care is another area where we’re doing some research so we know our options before departing. We have been reading a lot about “dental tourism,” or places where excellent dental treatment is available for a fraction of what it costs in the U.S. Two noted areas for quality dental work in Europe are Spain and the island nation of Malta. Having a crown procedure in Spain, for example, is around $500, the same cost as it is in the U.S. if you have good insurance. Thankfully, our dental insurance also travels with us throughout the world, but it’s good to know that if we need any sort of major procedure done we can get it done overseas without breaking the bank, and could even get a side visit to Spain or Malta! Cost comparisons for dental procedures overseas can be found online. Japan also offers good dental care at a lower cost than the U.S. although not as low as in Europe.

Vision care is currently the big unknown. For the past few years I’ve needed a new lens prescription almost every year; it’s been every other year for Brett. Since we have no idea of what an exam and new glasses might cost overseas, we plan to set up a separate vision savings account that will be dedicated to these potential costs, and hope that we estimate too high. I will be getting new glasses next month, and Brett will get new glasses next spring right before we depart, so hopefully this is something we won’t need to worry about for a while. I wouldn’t mind getting new glasses in Japan though – they honestly have the most stylish frames I’ve ever seen.

We’re doing our homework on what’s available where, how much it costs, and how we can keep up with our prescription, but know there are still going to be unknowns. We are extremely fortunate to have good health insurance to take along with us, and several options for care no matter where we are in the world, but the goal as always is to be proactive about staying healthy so that we can enjoy our time as much as possible as we travel.

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (10/3 – 10/9)

Last week would have been a great one for cold weather dishes because it was unusually cold for this time of year. I have always loved fall, and one of my favorite things about it was always the transition to putting warmer, heartier dishes on the menu, things like soups and stews. We’re experiencing what passes for fall, and we’re seeing pumpkins, gourds, and other autumn motifs out in the stores (along with everything Halloween), but we’re mostly still wearing shorts and slippers, so it’s sort of hard to get excited about making or eating soups or other cool-weather dishes, vegetarian or otherwise.

One of the things I’ve realized recently is how little I use my InstantPot since we gave up meat. I would probably have it out at least a couple of times a week if we weren’t eating meatless, but I may only use it once a month or so these days, maybe to make risotto. It would probably be the same now with a slow cooker. The Instant Pot will get a workout when the girls are here at Christmas, but I’ll probably sell it shortly after as Brett and I return to a meatless diet. Funny to realize that something I wanted for so long doesn’t really work for me any more.

We had some tasty meals (and leftovers) last week. Everything was pretty easy to fix which made me happy too.

Sunday: Cheesy tomato, spinach, and white bean bake with baguette slices

Monday: Roasted vegetable ravioli with pesto; steamed broccoli

Tuesday: Tofu patties; steamed rice; namasu

Wednesday: Panzanella with feta cheese & chickpeas

Thursday: Mini pizzas with tomato, pepper, and onion

Friday: Cheese board

Saturday: Mini corn dogs; onion rings; apple slices; namasu

One the menu next week:

  • Chicken tenders; onion rings
  • Spicy black bean bake with corn chips
  • Vegetable yakisoba
  • Chick’n pot pie
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Ina Garten’s summer garden pasta
1/20 of a Costco pumpkin pie is still very satisfying.

We finished off the mochi ice cream early in the week, and are now in the middle of a 10-day Costco pumpkin pie marathon. One-twentieth of the pie is less than 200 calories, and very affordable – the entire pie costs just $5.99, so our servings are just 30 cents a slice. I can barely buy a can of pumpkin on Kaua’i for less than $5! By having one pie now, we’ll be ready for another around Thanksgiving!

We always take one day off every week from walking (usually Sunday) to let our bodies rest, but this week we ended up with three days off due to rain and wind. In spite of some cold and unpredictable weather (walkers were wearing windbreakers and other jackets on Wednesday), we walked the perimeter Monday through Thursday. Friday’s weather was horrid but cleared right when it was time for our walk. However, it was still very windy and we decided a walk on the golf course would be a soggy mess and we’d end up wet and miserable. Saturday the rain was gone but wind was even worse (and louder) if that was possible, and we just didn’t feel like spending nearly an hour being out in it so we stayed home again. We still found 53 lost golf balls though in the four days we walked, an average of 13 balls per day.

Another one of those pesky dark clouds being led by a rainbow. This cloud thankfully headed out to sea and skipped the golf course.

The other day I climbed on the scale to weigh a package I was shipping, and was surprised by the weight of everything (me and the package) – it was much lower than I imagined, but very happy when I weighed solo as it was also much, much less than I imagined, especially for the middle of the afternoon and being fully clothed. Things are apparently still changing! I’ve been feeling more sore in new places following our walks recently and am not sure what’s going on with that – maybe more of a workout these days? – but getting two extra days off last week helped things repair and feel better again.

Sunday Morning 10/10/2021: We Got a Lot Done

Sunsets have been practically non-existent this past week. The sky tried hard on Wednesday, but the above was as good as it got.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

*** If Linda Denton is reading will you please leave a comment so I can get back to you? Your Messenger posts appeared in my feed but disappeared quickly for some reason before I could capture all the information. Thanks! ***

This past week felt discouraging for some reason, at least the beginning of the week, and it put me in mood. Although good things happened during the week, and we were busy and got a lot done, overall the feeling seemed to be one of time standing still, and nothing happening that moved us forward. I’m not sure why I felt so down though as I’m not usually a glum person. Maybe it’s just that I’m just feeling restless and ready to go now. The mood has passed for now but I’m afraid of its return as we move toward our departure.

I found a message via Etsy first thing this past Monday morning that several pieces of the jubako I had sent the previous week had arrived broken. The jubako had been very well packaged for shipment (a box within a box with layer upon layer of bubble wrap around each piece and everything cushioned with loads of styrofoam peanuts), but the photos the buyer sent me showed a box that had been severely mishandled by the post office. The box was crumpled and looked like it had been dropped as well as punctured. I had to refund the purchase and lost what I paid for postage because I had foolishly forgotten to add insurance (I always do but forgot this time). It’s weird and very frustrating that the other jubako I sold and packed exactly the same and sent through the mail (uninsured as well) made it all the way to France in perfect condition but this one to the west coast ended up smashed. Between the movers who packed us out from here in 2018 and now the post office, only two of the seven beautiful jubako we once had have survived intact. Prior to this, all had been moved several times with no issues.

From what I could find out though, having the post office trash an item now and again is a given when selling through Etsy (or eBay), although most packages seem to arrive safely. I read a few threads where sellers told horror stories about the condition some of their packages arrived in (if they even ever arrived). I believe I pack things very securely, but I have to be careful about the package size as the postage from here can be prohibitive, more than the value of some of the items I’m selling! This past week Brett checked the UPS store’s prices for packing a plate I sold this past week: they quoted $34 and 24 hours for the packing, and for the size of the package the postage would have been an additional $90 (!!!) to ship to the mainland using the least expensive USPS option, w-a-y more than my asking price for the plate (which includes free shipping)! So, we strengthened the box we had, added heavy cardboard around the rim of the plate to protect it, wrapped it in two layers of heavy bubble wrap, packed it securely in styrofoam peanuts (hopefully), and shipped for less than half of the earlier quote. The package is insured, but I’ll be holding my breath until I know it’s arrived safely. Sometimes I don’t think I’m cut out for this though because it makes me so nervous.

Our granddaughter turned five this past week. She was still three, just coming out of the toddler stage the last time we saw her, and will be six when we see her again next year. She looks so grown up now, and her English is amazing. She had just a few words when we last saw her, but chatters away now and uses English more than Japanese these days. Our grandson is also growing and changing rapidly and it’s almost impossible to accept that he’ll be in middle school when we see him next. We miss them so much, and have lost so much of the little time we get with them. Next year can’t get here fast enough!

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I’ve been reading Snow, by John Banville, a mystery set in Ireland. I love finding a new (to me) author who has a long list of titles under their name and I’m looking forward to checking out some of the author’s other work because this book is a good one, with a twist on the English “cozy” format (it’s also quite adult). What’s kind of weird though is that the library has no record of me checking out this book! It’s on my Kindle, I’m reading, and yet it doesn’t exist in my library files. Hmmmm.
  • Listening to: If I had to pick a word to describe this past week it would be windy. We have had strong, LOUD wind blowing across the island and around our building and through the yard all. week. long. Wind gusts on Friday and yesterday were in the 30 mph range and we could barely hear each other or the TV inside for all the noise outside. It felt very cool to cold most of he week as well and it’s still quite cool this morning, almost worthy of a sweater. Anyway, it’s still very windy outside but there are brief moments of quiet which are delightful (and almost surprising). Brett’s putting away last night’s dishes and making coffee, and our neighbor is stomping away upstairs (he has grown increasing loud up there over the months), so it’s kind of noisy overall this morning. And, the wind is picking up again . . . .
  • Watching: The new season of Great British Bake Off is underway on Netflix, but it started two weeks ago! So, we caught up with the first two episodes this past Wednesday and Thursday evenings, and then watched the newest episode on Friday. Until a new winner is crowned it will be our Friday viewing for the next few weeks. We’ve moved into Season 3 of Billions, and have been watching two episodes each evening, and we’re still enjoying Only Murders In the Building on Tuesday evenings although I think we only have a couple of episodes left to go for this season. The girls have recommended Squid Game (on Netflix) for our next show.
Boosters were quick and easy procedure for both of us. Brett had less residual pain than I did this time.
  • Happy we accomplished this past week: 1) Brett and I got our boosters on Wednesday. Both of our arms were more sore this time compared to when we got our initial vaccines, but that only lasted a couple of days. 2) I found a great flight schedule at a great price that will bring YaYu directly into Lihue without having to go through Honolulu, so purchased her ticket for December. This was the last flight we purchased for our children – after graduation they are responsible for their own tickets. 3) Brett and I did some downsizing last Sunday on our day off. He went through his things in the closet and put together a bag of Japanese items (books, calligraphy supplies, etc.) that he took to the Japanese teacher at WenYu’s and YaYu’s high school, and I packaged up our son’s collection of Christmas ornaments that we’ll send to him this week. 4) After a lot of thought and research, we figured out how to get a couple of some awkwardly shaped items back to WenYu’s for storage while we travel. They’ll go back on the plane when she and Meiling fly back to Massachusetts at the end of December. It was a relief to figure this out because sending it as baggage will save us a bundle versus other shipping methods. 5) I filed my quarterly Hawaii GET estimated taxes. It was super easy to do and the total due was just $3.52 (because all but two of my sales were out of state and are not taxed by Hawaii). 7) We made a reservation for Edinburgh!
  • Looking forward to next week: We have absolutely nothing on our calendar next week so all I’m hoping for is another Etsy or eBay sale and at least one more thing leaving the apartment, and hopefully good walking weather and maybe a beach day.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: 1) We’re now set for all the girls to be here for Christmas with YaYu arriving the day after WenYu and YaYu! 2) After a few slow weeks with almost no sales, this week I had a sale on both eBay and Etsy; the Etsy sale was another bigger one. 3) We finally have another avocado tree on the way – the seed we have been soaking for over three weeks finally produced a tap root, so here we go again.
We were just to the point of tossing out this avocado seed when the tap root finally emerged.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We reserved our lodgings for our Edinburgh stay using our credit card (then paid it off), and since our card currently rewards rebate points 3X for any travel-related purchases we are looking forward to a BIG jump in our rewards balance at the end of the month. We’re thinking of using our rewards to load up our Kindles with books to take on the road. October is Brett’s month for provisioning and he has ordered a pair of pants and a rain jacket from LL Bean. He got 10% off his order, free shipping, and the order was made through Swagbucks so I will be receiving some extra bucks from the purchase in a couple of months! (Swagbucks has been so much more pleasant and stress free since I gave up doing surveys. I’m saving for a $50 gift card for more free books for our Kindles). We didn’t put anything into the change/$1 bill bag this past week but we ate all our leftovers and didn’t throw any food away except for a rotting sweet potato that had gotten lost in the back of our pantry.
The hand-painted plate that sold was from the famous pottery village of Mashiko. Fingers remain crossed that it arrives safely to its new owner.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: A coffee mug and a large Japanese pottery plate left the house this past week. The funds from those covered the amount lost in the jubako debacle with some to spare. The coffee mug made it safely, but I’m still waiting with fingers crossed on both hands to learn if the plate arrived in one piece. I have another box of golf balls up on our local Buy & Sell but no takers so far.
  • Grateful for: When I’m feeling discouraged I try to make sure to take time each day and remember all that I have to be thankful for: my good health, a loving husband and family, a comfortable and safe place to live in a wonderful location, an ample variety of healthy foods to eat, and a steady income and money in the bank. I have a blessed life.
  • Bonus question: Do you have a travel bucket list? Sort of is my best answer. These days my list is more about revisiting and learning more about places we just touched the surface of because we didn’t have time for more exploration, like Oxford, Strasbourg, and Edinburgh. For all the many visits and time we’ve spent in Tokyo, we never run out of places to see and new things to experience there and elsewhere in Japan – our visits are always an adventure which is one of the many reasons we love going there. Amsterdam and Venice are sort of bucket list destinations, and we are going to make an effort to see those places in the next couple of years. But otherwise, I’ve seen and what I wanted to see and do.
Note the gap across his chest and how blurry the fabric is!

The cool, midcentury modern aloha-style shirt Brett ordered months ago finally arrived this past week. He had had so much trouble communicating with the vendor when the shirt initially didn’t arrive when promised that he cancelled the sale in August and received a refund, but the shirt still somehow showed up this week. And what a joke it was! Although it was advertised as being made from cotton, the fabric was instead a sleazy, shiny man-made fabric of some kind, so thin it had to be lined (with the same sleazy fabric); the design was poorly photo printed onto the fabric and blurry; and although he ordered the size he usually wears, Brett could barely get the shirt buttoned around him! Not sure where the company is located or how they stay in business, but we were so glad Brett had gotten his money back! Returning for a refund would have been a nightmare.

That’s a wrap for another exiting week at Chez Aloha! Actually, it was pretty exciting, and although the week started off in a discouraging place, it ended with exciting things happening so everything is good. We’re looking forward to another busy week, and more good things happening – hope everyone else is too!

Itinerary Changes (or Adventures With Airbnb)

A future view

Brett and I had created what we thought was a perfect itinerary for most of the first year of our upcoming travels: three months in Strasbourg, eight weeks in Oxford followed by eight weeks in Bath. From there we’d head back to London to fly to Tokyo for a 90-day stay.

We found a wonderful, affordable apartment in Strasbourg, submitted our request and were quickly approved. We found another great, affordable flat in Oxford, submitted our request and were quickly approved.

And then we started looking in Bath and things didn’t go so well.

First, rentals in Bath are expensive. Very expensive. Most of what we found for our dates was over our monthly lodging budget, but we eventually found a lovely apartment that we could afford and that had the amenities we were looking for. The reviews for the place were amazing, and the dates we wanted for next year were available, so we submitted our request. Airbnb hosts are required to respond within 24 hours, and the next day we received a denial with a short note saying they would have to check with the owners to see whether they would agree to a long-term stay (even though it clearly stated in the amenities that long-term stays of over 28 days are allowed). Hmmm. That was a week ago and we have heard nothing back from the owners or otherwise.

Two days after the denial, we submitted a second request for another place. It was the same price, the dates were available, etc. but we were quickly denied with a somewhat curt note from the owner saying she “really doesn’t like to do long-term stays” even though in amenities it had once again stated that the lodging was suitable for stays of over 28 days. Although the calendar was open for our dates, she wrote “I have no idea what I want to do next year.”

We were confused. Were we applying too early? Was it something we said? Both of our hosts in Strasbourg and Oxford said they had enjoyed our introduction and were looking forward to meeting us. We’ve never been rejected before and these two shook us.

Brett and I decided that while we may have wanted to go to Bath, maybe Bath didn’t want us. So, we talked some more and eventually decided to look for a place in Derbyshire. We could save enough staying there that we could afford a car rental for a month and be able to see more of northern England. Some of my ancestors come from Derbyshire, but others come from near the Lake District (Barrow-in-Furness), and I have wanted to visit those places.

The cottage outside of Stoke-on-Trent

We found a delightful, affordable cottage to rent outside of Stoke-on-Trent, wrote to the owner, and received a lovely note, but also another denial! This time however it wasn’t us – she was in the process of selling the cottage! The owner/host assured us that the new owners intended to keep it as an Airbnb, but from past experience we’ve learned that there’s a more than better chance that any new owner will be raising the rates. So, we started over again and looked at other rentals in the area, but didn’t see anything that either interested us or fit our needs or budget.

Feeling very discouraged, we had a long discussion about where else we might go after Oxford. We looked over a map of England, checked out a few places, but either couldn’t imagine an eight-week stay in some or couldn’t find lodging that fit our budget or had the amenities we wanted (or we honestly didn’t like the location or the look of some of the rentals).

And then Edinburgh surprisingly came up. We had loved our short visit there in 2019, and only scratched the surface of all there was to see and do, but we had pushed a return visit down the list to “later.” We started looking at Airbnb rentals in the city and were surprised to find several in Old Town that not only had everything we were looking for but at prices that easily fit our budget. Pictures were poured over, reviews were read, prices and locations were compared, and last night we crossed our fingers and sent off another request.

We heard back in less than 10 minutes that we had been accepted! We’re going back to Edinburgh!

We have reserved a beautiful two-bedroom apartment just off the Royal Mile, about halfway between Edinburgh Castle and Holyrood Castle. We’re close to the train station, and know from our earlier visit how easy it is to get around the city from where we’ll be – it’s a superb location. The apartment has every amenity we require and then some (it even has a window seat overlooking the cobbled street below), and both the apartment and the host received five-star reviews. Maybe best of all is that we’ll be paying nearly $1500 -$1800 less than what a rental would have cost in Bath.

Edinburgh may not have been the destination we had originally planned, but we are surprised to be feeling even more excited about a return to Scotland than we were about Bath or Derbyshire. Our plans have changed, but somehow things turned out better than we expected.

My Daruma

The little red guy above that’s missing his left eye used to sit front and center on my desk back in Portland. He watched over me in our bedroom when we moved to Kaua’i in 2014, and went into storage while we traveled. He’s spent most of our time since we arrived on Kaua’i in our bathroom, but recently was moved out to our dining room table. He’s a daruma, one I bought back in December 2008 from the Mitsukoshi store in the Japanese pavilion at EPCOT. Made of papier-mache with two blank eyes, daruma are a symbol of perseverance and good luck in Japan. They’re weighted at the bottom, and their roly poly shape allows them to get back up if they fall over.

Following tradition, I colored in one of his eyes in January 2009 when I gave myself a goal of losing 30 pounds and maintaining the weight loss for at least a year. The other eye would be filled in when and if I kept the lost weight off for a year. That, as always, was easier said than done. Maintaining a weight loss has always been my biggest challenge, and I’ve failed every time.

I am not a naturally thin person, but I am also not a naturally large person. I have a small bone structure, and I don’t carry extra weight well. My body lets me know when I’ve gained too much, and will fight any attempts to adjust to an increasing size. The extra 30 pounds I brought back from our travels felt like much more. The bursitis in my hips came back. I had trouble getting out of our car. I got winded easily. I had trouble rolling over in bed. It didn’t matter that I bought larger sizes of clothing, or was wearing baggy/loose styles; my clothes kept getting tighter and more uncomfortable. I was flat-out physically miserable every day.  I didn’t hate myself for being overweight but I hated the way my body felt, and knew I couldn’t blame it on getting older. In spite of lots of walking during our travels, I flat out overate . . . all the time, and had no one but myself to blame for the extra weight I carried around.

Following my doctor’s advice to lose 30 pounds, last year I once again buckled down. Brett and I begin walking daily. I also began keeping a diary of what I ate each day and planned my daily meals in advance. I counted calories, and my weight began to decrease. However, for some reason along the way, something completely new occurred: boredom and frustration never showed up. Following the rare times I did overeat, I got right back on the wagon. I’ve been able to stick with my new way of eating, and with the record keeping and exercise. The pounds that I lost last year have stayed off this time, for a year now. And my daruma has finally earned his second eye.

I am never going to be what anyone would call slender or skinny; I’m not built that way and it’s never been my goal. I’m not on some nutritional crusade, or have any great insights in what and how people should eat. I try to do what’s best for Brett and me; that’s all. My daruma looks at me now with his two eyes and reminds me every day that I changed how, why, and what I eat to feel good again. And, I stuck with it, I didn’t quit, and I reached my goal! I feel better than good these days. My bursitis hasn’t bothered me in ages. I have more energy, and no problems getting in and out of the car. I don’t even think about rolling over in bed, I just do it. My cholesterol level is a healthy 165. That I can wear a size small is nothing more than an added benefit; it was never the goal.

For most of this past year my daruma has sat at the top our shower entrance. I’ve looked up at him daily for the past year and asked myself, “Are you going to stick with this and finally give that little guy his other eye?” The answer this time was yes, and permanent changes have been made. And to my daruma I say, “thank you for hanging in there for so long.”

Staying Healthy: Eating & Exercise (9/27 – 10/2)

I don’t know when it happened, but eating out doesn’t seem all that exciting any more. Although I don’t like standing in front of a stove these days, I also dislike spending on restaurant meals. Portions are usually too big and too high calorie for the way we eat now, and prices often seem too high for what we get. And, besides the cost and calories, we’re not all that crazy about having to wait in long lines these days for a table.

Brett and I talked the other day whether there were any places we want to eat at again before leaving Kaua’i next year and ended up with a very short list: breakfast at the Tip Top, brunch at the Kountry Kitchen in Kapaa (their eggs Benedict are fantastic), and a burger at Street Burger in Wailua (where we have to share a burger because they’re so big). Those three restaurants are seriously the only ones we could come up with. We’re thinking we may visit all three for our anniversary Day of No Cooking next March!

Our evening meals were simple this past week, and didn’t involve a lot of time in the kitchen, but I did finally make the peanut stew on Sunday and it was delicious. The recipe made enough that we were able to freeze a container for a later meal and still have leftovers to enjoy last week. Nothing else we had required much prep work or time spent in the kitchen. I realized that not only do I feel too tired to cook after our walks, but I also do not particularly like working in our tiny kitchen. It’s efficient and has everything we need, but there’s just not a lot of room to do things without creating a huge mess.

Sunday: Vegan peanut stew; steamed rice

Monday: CookDo chili shrimp; steamed rice; namasu

Tuesday: Mini pizzas with pesto, feta cheese, and onion (we love this combination!)

Wednesday: Better Than Beef cheeseburgers; coleslaw

Thursday: Zaru soba; hiyayakko; cucumber spears

Friday: Cheese board (Manchego, feta, Irish cheddar, & Boursin with garlic & herbs)

Saturday: Broccoli & tofu stir fry with spicy peanut sauce; steamed rice

We’re continuing to use up what we have on hand, but we did pick up a bag of frozen onion rings (Alexia brand) the other day – we’re looking forward to enjoying a few of them with some chick’n tenders we already have. We’re also looking forward to having the Japanese tofu patties again – easy to fix and good! Sadly, there was no more of the roasted vegetable ravioli at Costco, as expected, but we saw they had both butternut squash and portobello mushroom ravioli so those are what will eventually be appearing on the menu.

  • Roasted vegetable ravioli with pesto
  • Chick’n tenders with onion rings
  • Panzanella with beans and feta cheese
  • Cheesy white bean bake
  • Mini pizzas
  • Cheese board
  • Tofu patties

We each enjoyed a microwave s’more for dessert last Sunday evening, then had Pepperidge Farm coconut cake for four days, and we’re now having some mochi ice cream again that we picked up at Costco. The ice cream flavors aren’t as exciting as Bubbie’s, but the mochi is much better. We also picked up a pumpkin pie, and will begin that next week. It’s time.

Last week was another of off and on walking, although mostly on thank goodness. We took our regular day off on Sunday, then walked on Monday but got caught in some rain toward the end. It rained hard enough on Tuesday that we stayed home, but we had a nice, full perimeter walk on Wednesday. It was a beautiful day, but sure enough, about halfway through our walk what should appear but a dark cloud preceded by a rainbow, a sure sign of rain approaching. Grrrrr! Thankfully the cloud moved off to the side and missed us. Thursday was our shopping day so we did our walking in Costco and Walmart, around two hours of it in total. We had lovely walks on Friday and Saturday, and got to talk with many friends we hadn’t seen for a while.

The weather was mostly beautiful at the golf course on Wednesday, although there was that dark cloud that wanted to spoil things. I sat outside on the course while Brett headed into the gully for a few minutes to hunt for balls – he found 7 that day!

The golf course is currently reconditioning several of the greens, and have temporary ones set up in the interim. This means some of our usual spots for locating lost balls are not in play for the time being, and we’re having to figure out new places where balls might end up. In spite of this and there being fewer golfers on the course, we still found a respectable 72 lost balls this past week. We also continue to pick up trash several days a week – there’s a lot less than there was earlier, but we still find stuff almost daily that people were just too lazy to dispose of properly.

I was also able to restart upper body strength training this past week. The bruised rib or whatever that pain was in my chest made it impossible for the past few weeks, but it feels good to be at it once again.

Sunday Morning 10/3/2021: Cooling Off, Heating Up

Wednesday’s sunset was as exciting as it got all week. The sunsets are arriving earlier these days and disappear more quickly.

Good morning! Aloha kakahiaka!

It’s October! Time to break out the pumpkin recipes! We zoomed through September but got a lot accomplished, and we are hoping for similar results this month. There will be more reservations made, and more savings will happen as will other things that get us ready for our next big adventure. This is Brett’s month to provision, but he hasn’t decided what he’ll get for himself.

Now that our departure from Kaua’i has been moved up, I find myself feeling nervous now and again about selling our things. How soon is too soon to let things go? How late will be too late? The local auction company, the one we thought we’d use to sell our big hibachi table, on close inspection does not seem to be a wise choice. It turns out they do not handle single auction items, and only do whole-house deals. That sounded like it could be a plan, but after reading reviews about the company I don’t think it’s for us, especially since we don’t have that much stuff. We would be responsible for creating our own catalog, photographing everything, getting it listed online using their software, and they would take 25%. No thanks. It looks like we will be sticking with Etsy and eBay, Buy & Sell, Craigslist, and a garage sale and hoping for the best.

A rare (these days) post-rain full arch rainbow. Lately when we see a rainbow or part of one up at the park it’s to announce that rain is imminent!

Can I just whine for a moment too that I wish the weather here would make up its mind!?! Seriously, it’s sunny in the morning, rains in the afternoon. Or, it rains in the morning and we spend the day chewing our nails wondering if it will clear. Or, we get a nice day . . . but just one and the next day it rains from morning to night. It’s been crazy windy more often than not. Everything around us is lush and green, but I would like to be able to go to the beach more frequently than once a month . . . maybe. I am very grateful the humidity has not been awful this year, but otherwise every day has been something of a crapshoot when it comes to the weather and it’s getting sort of old.

This morning I am:

  • Reading: I finished the very creepy but very good Sixteen Horses at the beginning of the week – the ending was a shock. I’m about two-thirds of the way through Box 21 and will be hunting for something new today to start when that’s done.
  • Listening to: It’s currently pouring rain outside, and it’s expected to continue for most of the day. Good thing it’s our day off from walking! There’s a flock of chickens in the distance going nuts; they almost sound like geese honking! Brett’s making coffee and puttering around in the kitchen, so other than all the rain it’s a pretty normal, peaceful Sunday morning.
  • Watching: Besides watching Only Murders In the Building on Tuesday it was Billions every other evening, sometimes two episodes. It can be a frustrating show to watch at times because it seems that bad actions are too often rewarded. Money is always the ulterior motive and the foundation for everything in the show, and it does a good job of exposing that, whether the outcome is good or bad. The casting for this show has been superb, in my opinion.
  • Happy we accomplished last week: On top of reserving the apartment in Strasbourg, this past week we also reserved eight weeks of lodgings in Oxford following our stay in Strasbourg – this time next year we should be finishing up our time there and getting ready to head to Bath. It may seem premature to be booking so early but affordable long(er)-term lodgings are few and far between, especially in places like Oxford, so we wanted to book as soon as we found a nice place in a good location that came in under our budget. We’ve also found a wonderful apartment in Bath and one near to our son’s new home in Tokyo. We hope to reserve the Bath apartment in the next couple of weeks, and we communicated with the owner of the Tokyo apartment this past week with a few questions but that reservation won’t happen until sometime next year (Japan is getting ready to lift their emergency restrictions – yeah! – but full opening up will be a slow process). My other big accomplishment for the week was getting my Etsy order packed because of size and fragility, but it’s on its way!
  • Looking forward to next week: Both Brett and I are scheduled to receive our COVID boosters this coming Wednesday – yeah! Otherwise, we plan to take each day as it comes – we’ve given up trying to schedule anything because the weather has been so unpredictable.
  • Thinking of good things that happened: A big shoutout and big thank you to reader MaryAnn who purchased the six Starbucks architectural mugs from us this week! I also had only one sale on Etsy, but it was a big one. I also received a “Star Seller” designation from Etsy this month: This seller sets a shining example for providing a great customer experience, with a history of 5-star reviews, on-time shipping, and quick replies. Yeah me! Everything left in my Etsy shop is now down to one crate and my two hashioki boxes. Otherwise, we had some annoying weather but it was a very good week overall!
My Etsy shop is down to one small crate and the two boxes of hashioki. The upper box contains individual ones, the lower box has the remaining sets or parts of sets.
  • Thinking of frugal things we did: We put the two Airbnb reservations on our credit card and then paid them off, and earned a nice amount of rewards for doing so. We did a mid-size Big Shop on Thursday and did well, all things considered. We went over budget, but by less than $3 and would have been under except for the three items not on our list we picked up for part of the girls’ Christmas presents. $7.03 went into the change/$1 bill bag last Thursday, making the total saved for September $21.42. I made kale chips last week (yummy!) to use up some leftover kale, and all the other leftovers and odds and ends were finished up as well.
I had forgotten how riduculously easy it is to make kale chips and how good they are.
  • Adding up what we sold last week: Six Starbucks mugs and a large jubako left the apartment this past week, and $114.88 went into our travel account. LOL – the $12.88 I received from Etsy last week was my reserve fund thanks to a very slow couple of weeks! Things are still slow on Etsy and eBay, but I’m still getting lots of views, so hopefully things will pick up a bit this month. By the way, all Occasional Nomads readers can receive a 25% discount if purchasing from my Etsy shop, FuruiShibuiVintage (just let me know that you want to order and I will send you a discount code).
  • Grateful for: Once again we are feeling very thankful for our “socialized healthcare:” Medicare and Tricare for Life. I received the statements this past week for my July endoscopy: total costs for the procedure added up to $6,315.88, but Medicare paid most of it, and Tricare picked up what was remaining so we had no out-of-pocket costs. Everyone in the U.S. deserves to have insurance like this and not have to worry about what they’ll have to pay or if it will bankrupt them, either through monthly premiums or excessive co-pays (or whether they’ll be covered at all).
  • Bonus question: What shocks you these days? The older I get, the less shocked I am by most things that happen around me – times change, as they say – but I have to say I remain truly shocked and surprised these days by people who refuse to get vaccinated for COVID and their reasoning for not doing so. I know someone who has refused the vaccine for purely political reasons (the vaccine is Democratic, they’re Republican, so they’re not getting vaccinated – seriously). We learned this past week that the doctor that lives above us refuses to get vaccinated, and believes the vaccine is nothing but a way for the government to control everyone. He told us that he knows what’s going on and that we’re eventually going to figure this out as well – we’ll see, according to him, and regret getting vaccinated. He also doesn’t need the vaccine because he’s never gotten a flu shot and has never had the flu even though he worked in ERs for years (masked, gloved, and gowned of course). The chef and his wife that used to live on the other side of our building also apparently decided against the vaccine; they were supposed to be traveling through Europe right now but can’t get in because no vaccination; they instead have bought a camper van and are going to do a road trip on the mainland. I am honestly shocked by all of this because none of these people had any issues with being vaccinated in the past for smallpox, measles, mumps, rubella, Hep A or B, etc. and yet suddenly, with over 700,000 people dead in the U.S. and people still dying in large numbers (mostly the unvaccinated) from this virus, the COVID vaccine is where they have drawn a line. I honestly don’t get it and continue to be shocked by the intransigence (and sometimes magical thinking) I’ve encountered.

I watched a Rick Steves program this past week, and during the show he talked about a recent trip he took to France this past month. Things are slowly returning to normal there, and he said Paris almost felt like before, but if you are not vaccinated, forget about going. Europe, he said, is not messing around about vaccinations – you either have gotten your shots and can enter their countries, eat in restaurants, visit museums, ride public transportations and trains, etc. or you don’t go. The world for the unvaccinated, as he said, is becoming very, very small (one article I read had only six countries listed where a vaccine is not required). Almost all of Rick Steves’ tours for next year are fully booked and they are looking forward to a somewhat return to normal. However, Hawaii had their worst month for COVID cases and deaths in September, with deaths occurring in some who had no underlying conditions, and COVID deaths nearly doubled in the U.S. from what they were in August. Although there’s a long ways to go, in the U.S. especially, I feel like the world is maybe starting to get this under control, and that the ship of recovery is finally beginning to make its turn, albeit slowly.

That’s all for this week. Not a lot going on here, and yet things are starting to heat up again as we work toward our departure next year. Much is done already, but there’s still much to do. Here’s to looking forward to another great, productive week with good things happening for all!

Moving Into the Fast Lane

Packing again is going to happen sooner than originally planned!

BIG changes have been made and things are happening! We now have only 31 weeks and four days until we depart Kaua’i!

We had planned to leave in December of next year and fly to Japan, but will now leave our island home in early May when we fly to YaYu’s graduation. We’ll be in Pennsylvania for six days helping YaYu move and watching her graduate, but instead of returning to Kaua’i at the end of our visit we’ll instead be departing for a nearly three month stay in Strasbourg, France. After that we’ll head to the UK, staying eight weeks in Oxford followed by another eight weeks in Bath before flying to Tokyo for a 90-day stay and spending Christmas with family there.

Almost two weeks ago Brett and I sat down and crunched the numbers and realized it made little sense for us to return to Kaua’i, financially and otherwise, and that our savings at that point would be more than adequate for us to begin traveling again in May. By departing for Europe from the east coast we will save the cost of returning to Kaua’i and be able to put those savings toward our flight to France. And, instead of paying rent here as we watched our possessions continue to slowly dwindle we could instead be living in France and England. We spent some more time working up a budget and then pulled the trigger.

We have reserved and paid for a charming Airbnb rental in the Petit France neighborhood of Strasbourg. Careful thought was given to whether we should rent again from our former host, but we decided for the length of time there we wanted something a bit larger this visit. The apartment is in a wonderful location, perfect for walking the city and catching the tram, and has everything we look for in a rental except a washing machine. However, we used a laundromat when we were in Strasbourg before without a problem, and know we can do it again. The host gave a nearly 50% discount because of the length of our stay making the rental very affordable.

We are still working out our departure timeline, but for now plans are to move out of our apartment at the end of April, and stay at one of the beach cottages at Barking Sands for our final week on Kaua’i. We’ll hold a garage sale mid-April, and list the furniture and car then as well (we’ll rent a car as soon as it sells). A couple of boxes will be mailed to WenYu for storage but hopefully everything else will be gone before we depart.

Our downsizing efforts will speed up again after the first of the year, but for now we’re focusing on the girls’ visit at Christmas and pulling things together for that. We feel a real sense of excitement though that plans have been speeded up and that we’ve made our first commitment. We have dreamed of returning to Strasbourg ever since we left in 2018, and nearly three and a half years later that dream is finally going to come true, and sooner than we imagined.

Memories of Strasbourg, France

The city of Strasbourg is a delight for walkers.

Strasbourg started as an add-on stop when we created our itinerary for our last Big Adventure. We had been more interested in checking out Bordeaux, but when Strasbourg popped up on our radar we thought it would be a worthwhile destination and we ended up booking a longer stay there than Bordeaux! It remains our favorite city of all we visited, a ranking that’s never diminished.

What did we love so much about Strasbourg?

Strasbourg is not a big city, but we found it had everything we needed, and there was plenty to see and do. It was a very easy city to get around in as well. The area is flat, so it was very walkable. There were loads of cobblestones though, so I had to be careful about those, and loads of bike riders as well that we had to remain aware of, but otherwise it was a very pleasant place to walk. The central city especially was compact enough to get around easily on foot. There was also an amazing, affordable tram system that was easy to use, and buses as well for trips further out from the center. Trains from Strasbourg station went to points all over Europe.

For a smaller city, Strasbourg is very cosmopolitan. It’s home to the European Union Parliament, and has a top-notch university and hospital, so the city is full of and very welcoming to people from all over. It’s also a uniquely beautiful city with a long history. Located next to the Rhine River, the central city is filled with canals, and because of its location on the German border, it melds French and German culture in many ways, from architecture to cuisine. There is a large, wonderful park inside the city, L’Orangerie, complete with Alsatian storks, a small zoo, sculptures, and a forest of trees, worthy of several visits. The park is known as the “lungs of Strasbourg.” Strasbourg also contains several interesting museums – our favorites were the Alsatian Museum, which covers the regions’s culture and traditions, and the Musee l’Oeuvre-Notre Dame, which focuses on the history of the city. Both are located near to the spectacular Strasbourg Cathedral.

We fell in love with Alsatian cuisine, from tarte flambée (a sort of pizza, also know as flammekueche) to charcroute (pork and sauerkraut). The area is known for its wines (mostly white) and it’s also one of the areas in France famous for its fois gras (goose liver pate), made in the Alsace since the 18th century. Other favorites of ours were bretzels, giant pretzels that came in a variety of flavors, amazing gingerbread that also came in lots of flavors and shapes, and creamy nut-filled nougats that were cut off of giant blocks. Our apartment was close to several great markets including an organic one and another one specializing in local products. We ate well while we were there.

Tarte flambée!

Strasbourg is also conveniently located to destinations in Germany – we could actually catch the tram nearest to our apartment and be across the border in just a few minutes. Western Switzerland was only a short distance away as well and a getaway to Lucerne took only 1 1/2 hours by car. Ramstein Air Base is located less than an hour away, which would have been an easy trip for medical needs, if necessary.

Every day we spent in Strasbourg in 2018 was an adventure, and while we went out almost daily we did not see or do everything in the area. We’re eager to revisit and explore the cathedral and the Petit France area again, to stroll through L’Orangerie, to visit the markets and museums. There’s more wine to be enjoyed, and many new variations of tarte flambée to be savored as well as charcroute and other Alsatian specialties. Fresh bread and pastries, cheeses, and pates also are calling us back.

The highlight of our Strasbourg visit was a traditional French meal with our host and family at their home. Sunset was falling over the French countryside just outside of Strasbourg when we arrived at their house.